Tag Archives: hiking

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 4/18/14 – 4/21/14

Great Smoky Moutnains National Park, Clingmans

Great Smoky Moutnains National Park, Clingmans Dome (highest point in TN)

We made the short drive, only about 3 hours, over the hills to Knoxville, TN. We checked into the Riverside RV Park in Sevierville, about 30 minutes east of town. We chose this park for one big reason, only about a 30-40 minute drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The RV park was nice and open, and not very crowded, still off-season for many areas.

Our first venture was to downtown Knoxville and to the Univ. of Tennessee. I had read/seen/heard many times that their college football stadium rivaled the UW in beauty, as it was located on a river, much like Husky stadium is located on Lake Washington. As we drove up, I did not get that feeling at all. It is right next to the river, but it is totally enclosed, and there are no river views unless you are on the top row looking out, somewhat of a disappointment. We also stumbled upon a softball game in progress (shout out to Coach Pflu!). We wandered around town for a while, and found a couple of nice little tiny micro-neighborhoods that looked inviting, but for the most part we both thought that the town just felt old. Lots of really old looking brick buildings, not a lot of energy, just a little blah. Plus it was raining, so not a great day for walking around.

Univ. of Tennessee

Neyland Stadium, Univ. of Tennessee

On Easter Sunday, we headed out to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We thought maybe it would be less crowded, but many others had the same idea. The weather had shifted and it was a gorgeous spring day. We stopped at the ranger station and got a good idea on a couple hikes. Our first stop was an observation tower at Clingman’s Dome, (highest point in the state of TN) a half-mile journey up to the deck. After a fairly steep ascent, we arrived to a 360-degree view of the Smoky’s. Again, a little underwhelming, especially since we have some massive peaks at home in the NW, and we have visited the Rockies in both the USA and Canada, but the Smoky’s are the oldest mountain range in the country and they have eroded a lot over the centuries. We were just on the cusp of spring opening up all the trees, and the views seemed a bit hazy that day, so it does not show well in pictures, but you can’t control mother nature. Actually, we learned that is why they are called the Smoky Mountains, because there always seems to be a haze or smoke surrounding them. Our next stop was a 4-5 mile hike along the Alum Cave Trail. This was very cool, as we started out winding through 12-15 foot high Rhododendrons, unfortunately not yet blooming, for the first mile or so. Eventually we got above the low canopy of Rhodies, and into a bit of elevation with peak-a-boo views through the trees at many of the neighboring mountains (hills). We returned to the car, both a lot more tired than we thought we should be, but this was the first time we have been at any elevation in almost 6 months, and it hit us pretty hard. We headed home for a nice steak dinner and some Abracadabra wine from Brian Carter and slept well!

Our hike

Our hike followed a beautiful river – notice the Rhodies

Going through caves

Part of the hike involved going through this cave

The Appalachian Trail winds through the park

The Appalachian Trail winds through the park – only 1,972 miles to Maine

The parks spans into both TN and NC

The Park spans into both TN and NC

The next day was one for shopping and projects. Traci has been on the hunt for a dress to wear to the Kentucky Derby, and she thinks she finally found one at the Outlet mall that was nearby. I spent much of the morning doing little projects, organizing, and the little maintenance stuff that is never ending. It is funny how we have accumulated so much more than we left with, and the challenge is now finding room to store things. At home, we would take a huge load to Goodwill, but here we are trying to make sure what we do buy is needed, and will be able to be stuffed somewhere into our home on wheels. We head to Nashville next, and then a quick jaunt over to St. Louis, before our trip to the Derby!

Yosemite (sort of…) – 9/29/13 – 10/1/13

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

We left Lodi and headed to the hills towards Yosemite. Nice day for a drive, but I did not do a lot of research into our route. It seemed pretty straight forward, just go east and you will get there. We traveled mostly back roads or 2-lane highways, a couple areas were nice and open, one or two were not so much. The real “fun” began when we started to head up the hill on Hwy 120. Again we got the signs that the road was not recommended for large vehicles, but there is only one road in and out of the area from here, so up we went. (There is actually another road up for cars-only which the locals know about, but we could not go in the MoHo). Straight up 5 miles of 15 and 20 mph corners on the side of a canyon, super slow going for sure. These are the roads that Traci hates, and I have to really concentrate, as there is very little room for a mistake. Then you put very few pullouts along the way and you get lots of upset drivers behind us pushing us to go faster, sorry folks, but we are not a Ferrari! We got to the top of the hill and finally it eased up a bit toward Groveland. We traveled another 17 miles to the campground at Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes. Along the way we started to see some of the devastation from the fires this summer, and it really is sad. It seemed that every road leading off the highway was closed, and there were piles of fallen burnt trees in every pullout or viewpoint. The fire crews were still very present in the area working on hot spots and cleanup. GPS wanted us to turn down one of these closed roads, we couldn’t, so we just kept going for another mile and there was a much better entrance road to the campground. We arrived for our four-night stay and got set up and relaxed with a cold one, the drive was short, but technical.

Fire Devastation near Yosemite

Fire Devastation near Yosemite

The next day we were off to Yosemite National Park (we would normally link to the NP page, but with gov’t shutdown, the websites are all down); got to the gate about 9:45AM. The ranger at the gate asked for our park pass, and warned us the park may be closed tomorrow…huh?! (I had the TV on that morning and heard something about a govt. shutdown, and now it was making sense.) She said the park would be closed if the govt. shutdown occurs the next day. Fine, whatever lets just get in and go explore. (Political rant here…come on you children, get your act together and figure this out! It seems like someone wants to take their ball and go home and not let the rest of the kids play, absolute joke! If I had my choice, all of those people in politics would only get to serve 2 or 3 terms total, for their entire lifetime, no more career politicians, it just does no good for the long term.) We drove into the park and headed to the Yosemite Valley, as we were hoping to be able to explore more of the park later in the week if it was open. We got to see our first sightings of El Capitan and Half Dome, massive to say the least! We parked and decided to take a hike up to Vernal Falls, a short 2.4 mile round trip, but 1,000 foot elevation gain. A nice paved path leads up the side of the hill. We got to the bridge and we both wanted to continue to the falls, but it was a bit of a climb to here. (There is a note on the hiking map, the last half-mile is up a granite wall of over 600 steps, and it may be wet with water spray from the falls depending on the time of year.) It was dry, but oh my goodness was it straight up! We both took several breaks on the way up, as it was a lot more than 600 steps. We finally got to the top and were tired, so we spent some time relaxing in the sunshine and had some lunch we packed in. The view was amazing up top and completely worth it, but we were dreading the descent back down those same steps. Coming down is always way more difficult, as you have to control your movements or you could tumble. We got down some 100-150 stairs and both of us already had jelly legs, and our balance was not good. We powered through it and knew we were going to be sore the few days, but had no other choice to get back down. Even the last portion that is paved is really challenging as we were exhausted, and our legs were spent. We hadn’t hiked in awhile and our bodies were feeling it! A.G.E. We headed out of the park with a quick stop at El Capitan to watch a few of the mountain climbers on the rock wall doing their crazy thing on the granite face. (You have seen the pictures of this type of climbing I am sure, but if not Google it and you will see why my camera could not even pick them up). Back to the MoHo for spaghetti and wine, we were in bed by 9:30PM exhausted.

Hike up 600 granite steps!

Hike up 600 granite steps!

Vernal Falls - this was halfway up.  We ended up at the top of the falls.

Vernal Falls – this was halfway up. We ended up at the top of the falls.

Look closely - there is a climber in blue near top right and a climber in red bottom left.  Crazy!

Look closely (click on photo to make larger) – there is a climber in blue near top right and a climber in red bottom left. Crazy!

The next day we were stuck, as we figured. We had stayed up late the night before long enough to watch the news channels and find out that the govt. was closing all the national parks. This was really too bad as there was so much more of the park that we wanted to explore. I guess we were fortunate though to have spent one day here as our neighbors traveled from England and didn’t get the chance to go in. We stopped by the campground office to find out if we could get a refund if we left a day early since there really isn’t much to do here with the park closed. There was a sign right inside the door, no refunds for early departures. Great, we can at least ask, right? I think we caught the manager at the right time, as he let us cut our stay a day short, just fill out some paperwork and he will give us refund due to the park closure. We headed back into Groveland for some cell service and lunch. We ate at the Iron Door Saloon – the oldest continuously running Saloon in California, open since 1852. Back to the MoHo for the rest of the afternoon. We took a venture around the area to see how close the fires got to the place, amazing work done by the firefighters to save this campground. Dinner in and another early night, bodies were still revolting against us from our hike the day before! Heading to San Jose area tomorrow, our base for the weekend of golf and two college football games to attend on Saturday; WSU @ Cal. at 1:00PM in Berkley, and the UW @ Stanford at 7:30PM in Palo Alto. Going to be a busy weekend!

p.s. I think the ants are gone!

Here are more pics from Yosemite.  Notice the ones showing the fire damage and look very closely at the ones that just look like a closeup of the mountain – there are actually rock climbers  on the face!

Hello Colorado! – 6/24/13 to 7/5/13

DSC06644Well, we have been busy the last week or so, sorry it has been quiet on the blog front. This post may be a bit long as there is lots to catch up on! Hard to believe we are already into July and are 6 weeks into our trip! Our first stop was Ouray, CO where we spent a nice quiet three days in the Ouray RV Park. Ouray is likened to the Swiss Alps, a very small mountain town that has a rich mining history in the area. There are lots of little shops and restaurants to visit, and a ton of people using this as their launching point to the wilderness areas around the town. This is the starting point from which many people take off-road trips in Jeeps and other vehicles into the backcountry for several days.

The quaint town of Ouray

The quaint town of Ouray

On our first day, we headed over the pass to the south of Ouray to the mining town of Silverton. Just outside of town, we missed a pullout to see a nice waterfall, so I pulled over about 200 yards further up the highway. We jumped out to see if we could see the falls from that point, and somehow I/we locked the keys in the car – while it was running! Long story short, we got back in the car 3 hours later with a coat hanger and pry-bar from the county Sheriff – glad it was only 75 degrees out that day. Silverton was just what you would expect from a mining town of 100+ years ago – 6 to 8 streets, mostly gravel, a few shops on the main drag, most of which are full of tourist goodies, and a few restaurants. We ate lunch at Grumpy’s – fitting after the car episode!

The next day we decided to finally get out the golf clubs – 5 weeks on the road and no golf yet – why?! We went back up the road about 25 minutes to Ridgway to the Divide Ranch & Club (it is not worthy of a link). This was one of the worst maintained courses in the history of the golfing world. I know most of the area is in a bit of a drought, but it looked as if there had not been a drop of water put on the course. Really sad because this place had amazing views of the Rocky Mountains and a lot of potential for a great resort type setting. The only water on the course was used for the greens and tee boxes – really good thing we were in the right mindset – otherwise I would have probably gone back and asked for a refund!

This is the fairway!

This is the fairway!

The next day we were off to Salida. We stopped in Gunnison to have a quick visit with Traci’s brother’s former sister-in-law Jenny. Met for a smoothie and visited for about an hour, great to see her! Gunnison is a very cool spot. We decided to skip Salida, and just go on to Manitou Springs. Long drive, but Salida was just going to be an overnight spot to break up the trip, so we pushed through and got to the Pikes Peak RV Park about 7pm. Nice people, great locations and really well run. We went the mile into town, and found a nice little Mexican place, the Loop Mexican Restaurant (great Marg’s and Tequila selection). We noticed when we were walking through town, lots of sand bags outside many of shops. Apparently they had some massive fires last year, and when it rains hard, the town gets over-run with flash floods because the vegetation is so devastated it can’t hold the water. Cute town, wish we could have spent more time here!

The next day, we ran some errands, and then decided to drive up Pikes Peak, “America’s Mountain.” For those who are not familiar, it is one of the highest places in the continental US that you can visit via car and where the song America the Beautiful was written after.  Just so happens that we were there on a Friday, and they were setting up for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb; a road rally race for speed. Each participant tries to drive as fast as they can to the top. (The road is about 18 miles long, but the race is only the last 6 miles or so). We paid our $12 to enter and started up. One of the first signs we saw was that they recommend at least a ½ tank of gas – we start up with just above 1/3. (Yes, we were staring at the gas gauge all the way up, but it all worked out fine). This drive is not for the faint of heart – or heart condition, or small child, or any other health issues. Climbing to an elevation of 14,110, you are really high up and it gets challenging to breathe. I felt it! We stayed for about 30 minutes and it was time to get back down. On the way down, there were signs everywhere that drivers need to go down in first gear. I went down in second, in an automatic transmission, weird to do. There is a ranger station about 1/3 of the way down to check the temperature of your brakes. We registered 399 degrees! If you are under 300 degrees you are fine. Otherwise, like us, you are asked to pull over for 15 minutes to cool the brakes. We did as asked, and then proceeded down and all was good. An amazing drive, and it was cool to see the road set up for a race. Lots of hay bales, and all the signage for the race was in place. The race is the second longest continuous race in the USA, at 91 years running. We did not get to see it in person, but learned that the guy who won this year averaged over 87 MPH! We did most of the course portion at 25-30 MPH, and that was scary enough.

At the top of Pike's Peak

At the top of Pike’s Peak

On Saturday, we headed out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. We took the free tour, and I was very disappointed with the quality of the facility. It felt like we were in a high school gymnasium; I expected to see much better facilities for the athletes to train at. We ended the day in Castle Rock to visit Traci’s sorority sister, Lori Johnson and her family – Bill and daughters Taylor and Abby and dog Sonny, for dinner at their home. We pulled up and the girls had a welcome message in the driveway for us in chalk; the whole driveway was one huge message – very sweet! Dinner, visiting, wine, and we decided to spend the night. Next morning we all went out for a nice breakfast, then headed to Denver for some sightseeing. We checked out Red Rocks, a very cool amphitheater for concerts, which I’m sure rivals the Gorge in Washington. We got a tip from a former co-worker of Traci’s (thanks Joe!) to try out his cousin’s brewery in Denver, Wits End Brewery. We had a few samples, I bought a growler and then headed back to the MoHo in Manitou Springs.

The Johnson's - Bill, Lori, Taylor, Abby and Sonny

The Johnson’s – Bill, Lori, Taylor, Abby and Sonny

The next day we headed up to Vail to meet up with an another college friend of Traci’s, Ron Webert and his wife Stacy and son Tyler at their mountain home. The drive crossed back over the continental divide, up to some passes over 10,000 feet and back down. While on the drive, we got a text message from Traci’s friend Lori whom we were just with in Castle Rock that there was a severe thunderstorm in the Manitou Springs area and the fire and police were evacuating the Pikes Peak RV Park. We had just left there about 8 hours prior – fortunately it was not significant damage to the park, but Manitou Springs got hit hard – lucky we left when we did.

While in Vail, we “boondocked” in Ron & Stacy’s driveway, as we could not find any openings in nearby RV Parks. This worked out perfectly and they certainly treated us right at the Webert B&B! They took us on a ‘little’ hike from the Beaver Creek ski area near their place. We started at about 8,200 feet and hiked up to 9,800 feet to Beaver Lake where enjoyed a couple of cold ones when we finally made it up. That hike was a bit tougher than we expected; 1,700 feet up and back down and 7 miles; our bodies felt it the next day for sure. Had a nice dinner that night in the Vail village, and a nightcap (or two or three…) at the Red Lion (not the hotel chain) listening to some great old tunes played by the local guy, Phil. Long night, but great fun.

Hike to Beaver Lake with Ron and Stacy

Hike to Beaver Lake with Ron and Stacy

We left Vail the next morning and headed to Broomfield to visit another friend of Traci’s who she used to work with at Holland America – Jen and her husband Rod and their kids, Jordan & Bella. Again, we were fortunate to park in front of their house since we weren’t able to find a place to stay. Apparently 4th of July is quite a busy week! We had a great BBQ dinner at their house and had fun catching up. They took us to their local neighborhood fireworks celebration that night and it was pretty impressive! The next day was 4th of July. We golfed with Rod & Jen that morning, then headed into Denver for the Rockies game at Coors Field. My friend Matt who works for the Mariners scored us some great tickets behind home plate. It was a perfect night for a ball game, the Rockies won and the night ended with a killer fireworks show right in the stadium!

Rockies game at Coors Field

Rockies game at Coors Field

The next day we headed into Boulder for the day. A very cool, hip town with lots of character and full of restaurants and breweries. Had a great day then went with Rod, Jen & Bella to an Art Festival in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. Apparently the richest zip code in Colorado. Ate some good food, drank some wine, listened to some music and soaked it all in! A very fun last night with friends.

Cherry Creek Art Festival with Rod & Jen

Cherry Creek Art Festival with Rod & Jen

Today, we head north to Estes Park which is kind of the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It has been a great past 10 days catching up with old friends, especially for Traci. It has been nice to have some interaction with people who know us other than small talk with fellow campers or just talking to each other. So far, Colorado has been a definite highlight. We really wish we had more time here especially in the Denver area. We didn’t make it to Golden to the Coors Brewery or to a concert at Red Rocks, which we would have liked to have done – next time!

Moab, UT – Arches NP and Canyonlands NP – 6/18/13 to 6/21/13

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

We arrived to some heat, 98 degrees here, but it is a dry heat as “they” say in the desert. The drive here was another spectacular trip. Only about 180 miles, but still awesome at every turn (and I notice every turn when I am pushing 31,000 lbs. down the road, and towing another 4,500 lbs.)! As you can guess, I need a cold one or two after the drive, so we headed to the Moab Brewery. As luck would have it, it was Tuesday night and from 4-6, all chicken wings were $.25 each; can you say HEAVEN!! (Weird Utah laws, no happy hour’s for alcohol at any of the dining establishments, but “nightly specials” for food are allowed).

We stayed at the north end of town at the Moab RV Park, nice gated place that has really easy access to town, would come back for sure. Our first full day here we decided to go to Arches NP. Everyone has seen some photos of this place, and after spending the last two weeks here in Utah it seemed familiar as we entered the park. (We entered twice, I forgot to turn on the AC, so we had to go back and turn it on; that would have been a devastating return to the MoHo in this heat late in the day). We got to see some 8 or so arches on the hike we chose, and each one was amazing in its own way. They all have cool names like North and Sound window, Delicate arch, Landscape arch, Double O arch, etc. Some small, some large, all distinct, and amazing that they are still standing. We drove through the park the rest of the day, and took in some of the more easily accessible arches. Some of these things are massive! It shocks me to see these wonders of the world in person, another place the pictures just do not do the justice that the naked eye can see.

The next day was our day to cool off, a float down the historic Colorado River! We chose a ½ day trip, with lunch, transportation and equipment. The river is not running too high now, so it was more of a float like the Yakima River for those of you who know what I mean, but still a bit of rapids here and there to get you wet. They also had 2-person blowup kayaks called “duckies” that we got to use which we took advantage of. A great group of people on the trip and we would recommend Canyon Voyages Adventure Company if you are in the area. We ended the evening with a really great dinner at Pasta Jay’s, a Boulder, CO company that has a location in Moab. Great sidewalk table, and more food than anyone could eat — there are going to be some great leftovers.

The last full day we headed to Canyonlands NP. Much smaller of the parks, as there was only one “pay” station at the entrance, and it was unattended, the honor system. (We bought the yearly pass to all the National Parks for $80 back in Crater Lake, so now we are getting in for free, so to speak). This area is about 6,000-7,000 feet in elevation, so a bit cooler than Moab – by about 10 degrees. We decided to go to the end of the road and take our hike in the “Islands of the Sky” region to see this area from above. (We had met a couple of teachers from Missouri on our raft trip the day before, and they said if you have not seen the Grand Canyon, this will give you an idea of what it looks like). We did a short 1-mile hike out to the end of the bluff, and you better not be afraid of heights here, as it is a long way down to the area I would call the “subfloor.” (There is a 100-mile drive through this subfloor area, called the White Rim road that is for 4-wheel drive only, high clearance vehicles. They recommend you take two days to do the drive, and you can see much of the road from up here). From the subfloor area, the Green and Colorado rivers have carved this place up and you get the complete picture of why it is called Canyonlands NP. You can see for some 35-40 miles in almost all directions, truly awesome to be there. We finished our day with a quick stop at a local winery in Moab, Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery – one of 11 wineries in the state. Similar hot and cold weather to our Eastern Washington, but the soil is a lot different.

Canyonlands National Park - it's a long ways down!

Canyonlands National Park – it’s a long ways down!

Next, we are on to Bluff and our last few days here in Utah. We both agree, this state needs to step up their marketing within the US of what they have; these parks are incredible. We found that most of the people we encountered in the parks were foreigners, which surprised us. We had very little knowledge of what was here, now we will never forget and tell everyone we know this is a must for the bucket list!

Pics are HERE for Arches National Park
Pics are HERE for Canyonlands National Park

Capitol Reef National Park – 6/15/13 to 6/17/13

We headed east and continued on Scenic Byway 12.  Our destination was Torrey, jumping off point for Capitol Reef NP.  We only needed to go about 100 miles, but it took us close to 3 hours.  A very windy and hilly road.  At one point we climbed to 9,400 feet and then had to come back down at 8-10% grades downhill.  Not fun in the MoHo, but Mike did great.  The views were absolutely fantastic.  There was another spot called Hogsback where we were literally driving on a ridge with steep drop-offs on either side.  Sitting up high, I could really feel it, but the vistas were amazing!

We arrived at Thousand Lakes RV Park (great location, setting and amenities!)and decided to just take it easy for the day and get the lay of the land.  Drove out to the visitor center to get our maps to plan our hikes for the next few days.  Then hit the General Store for food and stopped at a local Greenhouse.  Very cool!  We picked fresh peas, onions and cut a variety of lettuce for a mixed green salad – $5 for everything.  The gardener suggested a spicy arugula, which is native to the area to add to our salad, which he basically cut off of a volunteer plant growing in the parking lot.  Random.  But, the salad was so fresh and  delicious, it will be hard to go back to store bought, and that arugula made it!  The spice was a flavor I have never tasted.

While at the Greenhouse, a local couple suggested a hike for us for the next day – Sulphur Creek Trail.  We took them up on their suggestion!  It was a hike through a steep-walled canyon with most of it through the creek.  We put on our water shoes and it was a great hike to stay cool on a hot day.  We ended at the visitor center and hitched a ride with an older French couple back to our car at the trailhead.  When we got in their car the wife’s iPhone was playing loud music and she couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  She handed it back to Mike and he promptly opened iTunes and hit stop.  Funny thing is the phone was in French, but it obviously worked the same as ours.  We definitely had a language barrier with them, but lots of smiles and a ‘merci beaucoup’ when they dropped us off seemed to be all we needed! Home to the MoHo to watch the final round of the US Open – watching golf is one of our indulgences.  Phil didn’t pull it out, but we were happy that Justin Rose won.

Woke up the next morning and I was definitely sluggish. The heat and all of the hiking were catching up with me I think.  But, had to kick it in for our last day here.  Drove into the park along the “Scenic Drive” to the Capitol Gorge Road for our hike.  We chose the Golden Throne Trail.  A strenuous, 4 miler, with 730 feet of elevation.  It was a good one and the views at the top stunning.  We ate our lunch then headed back down.  Explored a bit more in the park, including a stop for ice cream at the historic Gifford House, and a jar of local pickles and salsa.  Yummy!

Capitol Reef was definitely less busy than Zion or Bryce. On our first day’s hike we didn’t see anyone else and on the second day’s hike, only 2 people.  Kind of nice to be away from crowds.   Driving to and from this park and within the park has been the most scenic so far.  The area itself is just full of jaw-dropping views.  We would definitely recommend this less visited NP.  We head to Moab tomorrow, which will be our home base for the last two National Parks of Utah – Canyonlands and Arches.

Click HERE for pics of our two hikes in the park!

Bryce National Park – 6/12/13 to 6/14/13

Note:  We have had VERY spotty wi-fi, so can’t upload images.  Go to the bottom of the post for links to photos if you are interested.  Thx!

We left Zion and headed to Bryce thinking we can’t top what we have already seen in Utah. Well, Bryce may not have topped it, but is sure was damn close! We arrived at the KOA in Cannonville, nice park, got set up early and decided to go back and check into a tourist info place at the start of the canyon area, Red Canyon. On our way, we stopped at a turn off and decided to take a quick check into the Mossy Cave trail. Great choice, as we found a nice little creek and waterfall that was part of an irrigation canal that was put in by Mormon settlers some 125 years ago and still is working, amazing. We saw some of the most incredible Hoodoo’s in the area, but needed to get moving to our goal, Red Canyon. We got to the Red Canyon area and took a short hike and saw some amazing topography. The pictures will never do this area justice; you just have to see it for yourself. The next day we headed to Bryce Canyon, the main destination of this stop on our trip. We decided to take a hike that was rated moderate to difficult. Thank goodness we got out early, the heat was on and we were feeling it. We hiked down some 500-600 feet to the canyon floor, and then met up with some other easier trails and headed back to the rim. The hike was Bryce Point to Sunset Point, and an ass kicker to say the least. On the way out we stopped for a moment and spoke to an older local guy who said we probably picked the best hike in the park! We got lucky and we will never forget how amazing this area was. Hopefully the pictures can portray the amazing scenery that we saw. The next day we decided to take more of a drive (off road) and less hike into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We did a little slot canyon trail that was scenic but not really what we were hoping for. We stopped at Grosvenor Arch, and this place was really cool, but it was hot and we were tired from yesterday. We took a few quick pic’s, and then onto the local state park around the corner, Kodachrome Basin State Park. (Named for the film that Kodak came out with in the late 1940’s.) We took a short 1.5 mile hike here, and it did not disappoint! This park is a great little gem in the Cannonville area that should not be missed. Many little outcroppings that will make your heart beat, but well worth taking a quick visit. We are headed to Torrey and the Capital Reef NP next!

Day 1 pics HERE (Mossy Cave Hike and Red Canyon)

Day 2 pics HERE (Bryce Canyon National Park)

Day 3 pics HERE (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument & Kodachrome State Park)

Zion National Park – 6/11/13

The Narrows

The Narrows

Wow! Wow! Wow! The pictures in the link below will never do this place the justice it fully deserves! I can’t say it enough — anyone that has not been here needs to make plans to come. I had read and seen lots of pictures and info about Zion, but till you see it with your own eyes, you think it is not real.

We did the Narrows hike yesterday. The publications indicate to bring some water shoes  and be ready to get wet. There was a short one-mile walk to the river, and we got there early at 10am, as the temps had been in the high 90’s. This was where the real hike began and where everyone was crossing, so we followed. Within a few hundred yards we realized this is a bit more amazing than we thought. After about an hour, Traci looks to me and says, “this is the most amazing hike I think I have ever done!” We talk to several other first timers to the canyon and they repeat the same exact phrase, unprovoked. We spent almost 6 hours in the canyon and our feet were feeling it, a couple blisters, but it did not matter, there was no way to bring us down from this amazing place.  We estimate that we hiked in about 3 miles of the full 5-mile trip only to be stopped because we would have had to swim and this wouldn’t work with all of our gear. Traci’s pedometer for the day read 23,214 steps! This was the perfect hike for a hot day though as we were in and out of the water most of the day and shaded by the canyon.

Today, we got out earlier than the day before because of the expected heat.  We were on the trail by 9:20am and hiked to the Emerald Pools, which was a much shorter one than yesterday. However this hike was more uphill and in the heat. Wow, we were already tired; our recovery from the Narrows indicates we are not in our 20’s anymore (or 30’s)! Our legs felt like bricks, heavy and slow. We trudged up to the upper pool and I was sweating like I just ran a 5K run, it was already hot and it was only 10:30am. We hiked back, took the shuttle to the car and drove into the small town of Springdale on the South end of the park (We are staying at the Zion RV and Campground just outside the East entrance – much less croweded). We enjoyed a couple very cold beers and headed back to the MoHo to relax for the rest of the day as we are heading to Bryce Canyon tomorrow.

Hike to the Emerald Pools

Hike to the Emerald Pools

p.s.  We can’t say enough about the National Park Service here. The shuttle service to the various hikes was so well organized and of course everyone was so friendly and helpful.  How could they not be when they work in paradise?!

For additional pics, click HERE.  Warning – over 100 pics, but we cut it down from over 400!  The pics are high resolution so will take some time to load.  Just click on one of them and then you can scroll through them.

Lamoille Lake Hike – 6/4/13

Lamoille Lake

Lamoille Lake – the view we were rewarded with after our intense hike!

We decided to take a drive to the Humbolt National Forest today – golf course was hosting a tournament so we will play golf later this week if we can get on. I was looking through a travel book that Traci’s friend Kindra gave us for our trip and it had a scenic drive that was very close to our place here in Elko. We took off about noon, and headed up to the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway. This canyon is huge. It feels like Glacier National Park in Montana, only a bit smaller. They call it the Grand Canyon of Nevada. It is extremely deep, with walls that must be at least 3-4,000 feet around us, very impressive. We drove to the end of the canyon, about 12 miles, passing several lookouts and a campground along the way. (The Thomas Canyon Campground looked really nice with very private sites and water running through the entire campground…for future reference).

Lamoille LakeThis is not our picture, but shows what the lake looks like after ice/snow meltsThis is not our picture, but shows what the lake looks like after ice/snow melt

We got to the parking lot and I had planned for a hike; brought our shoes, some food, lots of water, backpack, etc. We looked at the legend and thought we would go up hill vs. down hill, towards what we thought was Dollar Lakes. There were a few other groups out there and we started following a family with several children and fishing poles.  There are supposedly some nice Brooke Trout in these lakes – and where is my fishing gear – back in the MoHo. We passed two other groups on the trail, and shortly after the second group, the trail seemed to be very poor at best, probably because it is still early in the season. We kept trudging on as I thought I could see something here and there that resembled a trail. We knew from the terrain that there had to be a small lake ahead up over this little ridge. The surroundings got thicker, and now it was clear we were not on the trail anymore. After a good 30 minutes of trying to relocate the trail, we stopped for a moment and used the binoculars to take a longer look around. We saw two other groups of hikers, one to the left across the creek, the other group way to the right up on the side of a hill. We decided to head towards that hill, and in about 20 minutes we finally found a trail again that those people were using, no more foraging through the brush and marshes. This trail was heading straight up, switchbacks and eventually into several ice/snow fields. Now the trail was hidden again, but at this point I was not going to just give up and Traci was game for the challenge. We came over a ridge and there it was, the lake we had been looking for, only it was 99% covered in ice still! Absolutely stunning and not another person around. We stopped for a snack and some pictures and then it was time to head back. (My back had been sore the last 45 minutes or so, not sure why? A-G-E)

We followed our trail back through the snow and relocated the trail we came up.  It was much easier to follow this very well defined trail back to the car. When we got to the parking lot, we saw that there was a sign for the horse trail that we must have missed when we arrived. We looked back at the legend on the map, and we clearly hiked to Lamoille Lake, up at almost the 9,740-foot level! Holy smokes – that is why we were so tired – there is some thin air up here. We got back to the car and had the celebratory cold beverage, and now my back was killing me! No Advil in the car, so just had to suffer back to the MoHo. Got home and the back is in full inflammation, time for some pizza, good drugs and cold beers before bedtime.

The mountain above Mike's head feeds the lake that we hiked to.

The mountain above Mike’s head feeds the lake that we hiked to.Traci hiking through the snow on the way to lake.Traci hiking through the snow on the way to lake.

If you are interested in more pics, click HERE!