Tag Archives: hiking

Camping at Fremont Peak

A gallery of pictures here from a camping weekend (October 5-7th) with Erin, Greg, Merritt, Resi, Troy and Aiden at Fremont Peak State Park.  (Darlene had to skip it as she had just gotten sick.)  No campfires allowed but we got in a bit of hiking in this tiny little park and everyone enjoyed peeking through the telescopes on Saturday night.  Thanks for organizing, Erin!

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Frie Family Visit in Tahoe

Darlene’s brother John, his wife Sandy, and daughters Joslyn and Carlyn came out to visit in Tahoe for a week.  We were able to finish up our road trip to join them for some activities including hiking, kayaking and climbing in the trees at the treetop adventure park in Tahoe Vista.

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Colorado National Monument

Continuing on our way home from Wisconsin, Darlene and I came across Colorado National Monument just outside of Grand Junction and decided to have a look.  I’d never heard of this place but the scenery was gorgeous and there were fantastic views and rock formations in every direction throughout the park.  We ended up spending a couple of days to check it out and do a little hiking – click through for the full gallery:

      

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Passing through Colorado

On our return trip from Wisconsin, Darlene and I made our way down through Iowa and Missouri and across Kansas with one overnight stop and then into Colorado stopping off in Denver but failing to find anywhere nearby to grab a campsite.  (Ended up in a motel parking lot north of Boulder.)  We stayed a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking.  The long views weren’t all that great because the smoke from the huge California wildfires were filling the skies even in Colorado.

  

Heading south, we found a spot to camp for a couple of nights in national forest land outside of Winter Park and got in some high altitude (10,000′) mountain biking.  We visited Dave and Martha at their new home in Evergreen before continuing west on I-70.  We camped out a couple of nights and did some trail riding in the hills above Eagle and had to wait out the mud in the morning in order to get the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle™ safely down the mountain again.

We also took some time to ride along Glenwood Canyon and tried to hike up to Hanging Lake late in the evening but ran out of time.  We came across a mama bear and her two cubs climbing in the trees near the trail though:

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Badlands of South Dakota

Continuing our trek out to Wisconsin along I-90 and across South Dakota, we visited and hiked around a bit in the Badlands National Park and encountered some bighorn sheep.  The park campgrounds were full but we found dispersed camping (with lots of other folks) just outside the northwest entrance.

We weren’t able to visit some of the other interesting sites in the nearby Black Hills area (like Jewel Cave or Wind Cave National Park) because a severe thunderstorm and hail warning drove us north out of the way.  The next day I dropped Darlene off at the Rapid City airport so she could fly home to make her doctor’s appointment (she’s currently on medical leave due to a hip injury).

I continued on with Pan and Hera and visited the Minuteman Historic National Monument, which was well worth the stop.

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A Close Encounter with Devils Tower

After stopping over in Portland to visit Glenn and Michele and make a couple of repairs (as well as visit Outside Van), we finally turned east to truly head for Wisconsin.  Two of the few tourist stops we made along the way was the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana and the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  The Museum of the Rockies has a few rotating exhibits but its showcase is its dinosaur collection which includes “some thirty-five thousand specimens, including the world’s largest collection of Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, along with America’s largest collection of dinosaur eggs, embryos, and babies”.

Continuing on but before we came upon Devils Tower, I had to sit Darlene down the night before our arrival to watch “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.  We arrived early the next morning (before 7 am) to beat the crowds.  (Apparently it gets crazy busy there everyday from 10 am to late in the afternoon.)  Darlene slept in on the early morning drive and awoke to this view out the campervan window:

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Visiting Crater Lake

We made a bit of detour starting our road trip out to Wisconsin by swinging up through Oregon, but I finally got to visit Crater Lake after having passed nearby so many times over the years.  We stayed a couple of nights, did a little bit of hiking (Darlene’s still recovering from an injury) while circumnavigating the lake and we took one of the ranger-led boat tours around the lake.  Very nice!

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Hoan’s Family Visit to Tahoe

Hoan’s extended family came up to the Tahoe house for 4th of July weekend and Darlene and I were able to join them.  Six adults and six kids at the house!  Over the course of four days, we caught the fireworks at Donner Lake, checked out the nearby North Tahoe Regional Park, hiked up to the vista point on the Tahoe Rim Trail above the house (and Brockway Summit) for a sunset view, kayaked from Homewood to Sugar Point State Park (and back), hiked from Donner Summit through the old train tunnels and hung out a bit at Kings Beach.  Hoan, Samantha, Justine and Phong also gave one of the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Parks a try.  (One of them is just a mile or so from the house.)

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October Road Trip

I made a number of additional miscellaneous stops on my October road trip with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, including along a section of historic Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, on the road in northern Arizona and southern Utah, mountain biking outside of Zion National Park, and taking the tour of Hoover Dam.  This was over the course of two weeks (October 4th-19th, 2017).

Mojave Desert outside of Baker, CA

Looking down Hoover Dam

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Here are the other separate galleries for this trip:

And here’s a video montage of my drone flights over the trip, including my last flight where I lost control, crashed and was forced to leave it behind:

What happens when the Mavic Pro doesn’t have GPS lock and you’re too high for the down-facing optical sensors to work is that the Mavic becomes unable to hold its position and it starts drifting all over the place.  I was trying to compensate and keep it away from the walls but I was not at all successful.  It almost crashed into one wall but halted itself when it’s forward-facing sensors detected the wall.  As it started drifting towards the opposite wall, I had just decided to try to get it up and out of the shadow of the canyon entirely to hopefully gain GPS lock and regain control but it was too late – and this time it wasn’t facing the wall and didn’t detect it.  It crashed and fell to a point immediately below me.  While it was only like 35 feet down, it was a sheer drop with only a couple of narrow soft ledges.  Without rope and climbing gear, I would have been risking my neck to try to retrieve it.  Yeah, very sad to have to leave it behind, though it looked pretty busted up anyway.

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Vermilion Cliffs / Paria Canyon

The Vermilion Cliffs / Paria Canyon National Monument in northern Arizona and southern Utah includes a huge area of amazing rock and sandstone formations, including what may be the longest slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch (15 miles!).  During my October road trip, I got to experience a little taste of the canyon from the Wire Pass trailhead but it would take an overnight trip and gear to do the whole thing.  (Here’s some details on what it involves.)  I would definitely like to come back and do that as well as try to get a permit to go visit “The Wave” (restricted to 20 people per day via a lottery system) and some of the other formations in the Coyote Buttes area.  I tried to get out to the White Pocket formations but the road turned out to be too sandy for mountain bike access, too far for day hiking and certainly too much for the current incarnation of the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle.  Some serious 4WD required.

 

Another cool multi-day adventure trip in the area is backpacking all the way through Buckskin Gulch and following the Paria River Canyon out to Lees Ferry and the Colorado River over 4-5 days.  This whole wide area is a really cool region to explore and there’s plenty to come back and see.

Click through for the full gallery, including hiking a canyon wash above Soap Creek (and losing my drone!), visiting Lees Ferry and the start of the Grand Canyon at Marble Canyon, checking out Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam and a couple of little detours into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

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North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Continuing my October road trip and coming straight from Bryce Canyon National Park, I was lucky to be able to snag the last remaining campsite on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon without a reservation – otherwise I would have had to drive all the way back out of the national park bounds to camp somewhere for the night.  The North Rim is pretty cool though in that it gets only 1/10 as many visitors as the south side of the canyon.

I was surprised to find that the North Rim campground is right on the edge of the canyon – not a good place to go sleep-walking! ;-)

On arrival that evening, I hiked the Transept Trail over to the viewpoint by the Grand Canyon Lodge as the sun went down. The next morning I made it out to Bright Angel Point before returning to break camp and spent the rest of the day checking out all the amazing and varied vistas along the Cape Royal Road.

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Bryce Canyon Visit

As part of my October road trip to Utah and Arizona (with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle), I finally visited gorgeous Bryce Canyon National Park.  I stayed a couple of nights at the Sunset Campground and walked or biked to the nearby viewpoints and trailheads to avoid the packed parking lots.  I definitely suggest that the prime hike to experience is the Peakaboo Loop trail (and I suggest going clockwise).  It was fantastic!  And you should combine it with the Navajo Loop trail (don’t skip “Wall Street”) and/or the Queens Garden trail.

   

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Backpacking in the Enchantments

Leprechaun Lake (6875 ft) in the Enchantments core zone

The Enchantments is a popular backpacking destination in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area of central Washington state.  It’s popular enough that you have to submit an application via a lottery system many months in advance (much like the Mt. Whitney trailhead).  We managed to score a permit for the “Snow Lakes Zone” and I was able to join Glenn and Michele and several of their friends (John, Kyle and Fritz) last week in Leavenworth to start our four-day adventure.  Unfortunately, Darlene had to bow out for a work-related conflict but we were able to make another backpacking trip to the High Sierra the week before.

It was looking sketchy with all the smoke from the wildfires across the northwest this summer, including a small wildfire burning in another part of the Enchantments area (closing off the other half), but we lucked out with some not-completely-unbreathable air the week we were there and even a remarkably clear day on our second day.

Ready for a nice long climb from the Snow Lakes trailhead

On our first day, we hiked from the Snow Lakes trailhead at about 1400 ft and climbed about 4000 ft over eight or nine miles to the far side of Snow Lakes.  It’s a lot of elevation but it’s spread out fairly well and, except for a couple of large rockfalls, the trail is in good condition and there’s plenty of opportunities to get water.  Part of Snow Lakes is used as a reservoir and it was down some 20-30 ft when we arrived – apparently drained like a bathtub by an underground aqueduct that shoots a huge jet of water out the side of the mountain above Nada Lake.   We camped alongside some of the exposed beach of Snow Lakes for two nights.

Working through the rockfalls between Snow Lakes and Nada Lake

Glenn and Fritz “volunteered to keep watch” over our campsite the second day as the rest of us headed up over the western ridge from Snow Lakes to the “core zone” of the Enchantments area.  That turned out to be not so much a trail as a rocky mountain goat path, scrambling up over granite outcroppings.  It was hard to picture carrying a full 40-pound pack over that but many people do the Enchantments as a 18+ mile through hike.  The craziness of that trail aside, the many lakes of the core zone were lovely, though we only went as far as the shore of Perfection Lake (while looking for mountain goats) before making our return to our camp.

Climbing the pass from Snow Lakes up over the ridge

On our third day, we packed up camp late in the morning and headed down the short distance through the rockfalls to Nada Lake, with a brief sojourn to the more natural looking half of Snow Lakes – where we stumbled into a small herd of deer who were remarkably unconcerned with our presence.  We camped along Nada Lake at the base of a huge rockfall of massive boulders that extended all the way up the mountain.  And on our last day, we got a close encounter with a family of mountain goats as we made a leisurely hike all the way back down to the trailhead.

Camped at Nada Lake (4900 ft)

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Backpacking the Silver Divide

I had promised Darlene a substitute backpacking trip when we found out she would no longer be able to go on our upcoming backpacking trip in Washington state.  We were able to take four days over the Labor Day weekend and I picked out a promising area that I hadn’t been to north of Lake Thomas A. Edison that would give Darlene another taste of the High Sierra.

We took off Saturday afternoon amid some unusual high temps as well as heavy smoke that had blown down from numerous wildfires in Oregon and Northern California.  It was a five and a half hour drive to get to the trailhead, including an interesting drive over a very rough, one lane road from Huntington Lake that goes over Kaiser Pass at 9184 feet.  We found a spot to camp along the road near the High Sierra Ranger Station on Saturday night and to wait to get a wilderness pass in the morning.

A meadow along Silver Pass Creek

We had our pick of numerous trailheads near Lake Edison but settled on doing a loop up and over part of the Silver Divide by following the John Muir Trail / Pacific Crest Trail over Silver Pass and then returning via Goodale Pass.  (View map.)  The smoke from the distant fires was still pretty heavy and worrisome on Sunday morning but we managed to just barely catch the backpacker’s ferry boat across Lake Edison and that cut out four miles of hiking our way around the reservoir to get started.  From the ferry landing (7643 ft), it’s about nine miles to the top of Silver Pass (10,900 ft).

Our room with a view over Chief Lake at 10,400 ft.

There’s lots of small, alpine lakes scattered along the divide and we found a lovely spot to spend two nights overlooking Chief Lake just below Silver Pass at about 10,400 ft.  Thankfully the smoke wasn’t too bad at altitude and it mostly cleared out overnight with the winds and occasional brief showers.  Not much to see in the way of stars though with a very bright full moon on display.

Sunset skies over the distant Minarets to the north

In the morning, we were treated to views of the distant Minarets (part of the Ritter Range) up near Mammoth.  There were a good deal of mosquitos in the morning and evening but not as much as I had feared given our really wet winter this year.  The weather alternated between periods of sunshine and heavy clouds with brief sprinkling while we ventured up a nearby ridge on the Silver Divide to get some more stupendous views of our surroundings.

Enjoying the panorama perched on a ridge above Silver Pass

Monday night was tough to sleep through as we had hours of heavy gusting winds but eventually it quieted down.  Our return journey on Tuesday was about 12 miles over Goodale Pass (10,997 ft) down to the Vermillion Resort on Lake Edison.  However, it was clear my boots were not going to make it – the soles were completely disintegrating.  They’re probably also why I lost my footing and ended up crashing into a creek when I attempted to push off one rock to leap to another.  I ended up using my shoelaces to tie the soles to the bottom of my shoes and keep them from coming completely separated before reaching the end of the trail.  I might need some new boots now though.

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A Total Eclipse of the Sun

Darlene and I managed to meet up with Glenn, Michele and Seaerra in Eastern Oregon this past week to experience the total solar eclipse together.  We snagged a nice dispersed camping spot in the Malheur National Forest in an area I had scouted out back in June and we arrived four days early to get ahead of any potential crowds.  As it turns out, we were in a remote enough area to only see a scattering of other campers.

We were also very lucky with the weather as there were a number of distant wildfires filling the skies with smoke days before and then it turned cloudy Sunday afternoon.  But on Monday, the day of the eclipse, we had clear blue skies!  (And smoke-filled skies the very next morning.)

A short video montage of the eclipse viewing experience (2.5 minutes)

And yes, seeing a total solar eclipse is truly an amazing experience.  There’s the hour or so of build up beforehand as the light turns queer and dim and the heat of the sun fades away but then, as the last thin crescent splinter of sunlight disappears, you pull off your eye protection and… boom!  The sun’s gorgeous corona suddenly appears streaming all around the pure black disc of the moon.  It’s an incredible sight to behold.  The sky was dark enough to reveal a couple of planets and a few brighter stars.  The sky doesn’t go completely dark because of both the sun’s wispy corona and scattered sunlight from 35 miles away or less in every direction, outside the shadow of the moon.

The view was entirely captivating but, before we knew it, our two minutes of totality was already ending: a small bright bead of light starts to form which quickly brightens to create the stunning “diamond ring” effect.  And then back on with the solar filters and glasses.

I had several cameras set up and recording different perspectives: one with a telephoto lens, one on a drone hovering out-of-earshot, one focused on the scene of us and one on my telescope to capture a much closer view (an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with a focal reducer to widen the view) and I’m so glad I did as we were able to see several solar eruptions in progress around the edge.  Gorgeous!

Darlene and Michele also took some nice pics and video with handheld cameras.  Click through for the full gallery of pictures and videos:

     

Here’s Michele (my sister-in-law)’s take on the experience: Midnight Sun


Update:  Somebody asked me about our white sheet spread out on the ground and whether we had managed to see the elusive “shadow bands”.  The answer is no, but this question prompted me to go back to the video that was rolling the whole time to see if I could find them.

They’re supposed to be very faint, thin, moving shadows (aka, “shadow snakes”) that are difficult to see and more difficult to record.  We had looked specifically for them on the sheet about a minute before totality and then of course we were completely distracted by the amazing show in the sky afterward.

However, examining the video recording more closely and turning up the contrast, I think I may have found them:

Shadow bands?

 

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On the Mendocino Coast

Last week, Darlene and I were able to spend six days following the Mendocino Coast (with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, of course), continuing north from where we left off on the Sonoma Coast in December, just north of Fort Ross.  We discovered that all the state park campgrounds were full going up the coast for the coming days but we kept managing to find something.

We stayed the first night at Stillwater Cove and then snagged a spot in an overflow area at Salt Point State Park, where we spent an afternoon mountain biking up to the top of the park and part of the morning flying the drone around.  We visited the Point Arena Lighthouse, which turned out to be more interesting than I expected and we snagged a nice spot in another overflow area on the beach at the Van Damme State Park.  We were able to grab a vacated spot in the park the next morning and then headed out to explore the Mendocino Headlands.  We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park.

This area around Mendocino has a lot of cool sea caves – we’ll need to come back some time and book a guided sea kayak tour to check them out.  Fort Bragg turned out to be pretty uninteresting and we just passed through, stopping at MacKerricher State Park instead for lunch and to walk around.  Our final and fifth night was at Westport Union Landing State Beach overlooking the bluffs.  At this point, Highway 1 turns inland and you leave the coast for good.  Our last day was essentially spent just getting back home to lots of traffic jams.

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