Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Beyond the Caldera – Back to the Beartooths

In 2011, I spent barely 30 minutes crawling around a patch of outcrops on the road to Lulu Pass.
In 2012, I took eight hours to drive the 64 miles across it, stopping to take a picture approximately every 30 feet.
In 2013, I slept overnight in a dimly lit motel room on it, on top of the world.
In 2014, I drove across it again while following a geologic road log, then slept in my car in a rain–drenched rocky canyon.
Earlier this month I reconnoitered two of its high–country trails and told myself that I would be back before summer has faded to autumn.

Island Lake, Beartooth Plateau

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lesser Known Yellowstone - Desolation in Hayden Valley

Everyone so often in Yellowstone I find myself off the beaten path, on an older track less traveled, sometimes by choice and sometimes by accident (and hopefully not face first into a hot spring). A few weeks ago, my path took me beyond the boardwalks and well-traveled trails of the Park, into an area of Hayden Valley where few people venture. 
The old road less traveled in Hayden Valley

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Step Back in Time – Missouri Headwaters State Park

I am still here. I have not fallen off the edge of the earth. However, for a few months I was afflicted by a serious case of writer’s block along with symptoms of mental inertia. I found it impossible to put pen to paper…or in this case, fingertips to keyboard. My lame excuse is that I spent most of March, all of April, and half of May binge–watching “House of Cards” on Netflix. That is not to say I didn’t actually go anywhere. Canyonlands called and I answered. An eight–day raft trip down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon overwhelmed my senses; before succumbing to photographic exhaustion, I snapped over a thousand pictures. I drove back to Yellowstone for my summer rangering job. In addition, I went to Montana for a day. Some things just need doing, and so you (eventually) do them.
A sign welcomes you to Missouri Headwaters State Park

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Can’t Get Enough of Canyonlands

For someone who can’t get enough of a place, I certainly don’t go there very often. I went maybe thirteen years ago to visit friends living in Moab, Utah, and to watch the Perseid meteor shower on a moonless night in Arches National Park. It is not that far from my home, really, as far as western distances go – just over 300 miles away, barely five hours and change. My friends still live there.
Shafer trail takes off near Island in the Sky visitor center - La Sal Mountains in distance

Monday, March 30, 2015

Skiing Bryce Canyon

Before the lamb of March turns into the showers of April, there are unanswered questions from my previous post that must be addressed.
1) Will we make it out alive before the amphitheater erodes completely?
2) When exactly does the sun go down over the yardarm?
3) Will we ever put on those skis?

Monday, March 23, 2015

To Ski…Or Not To Ski?

Spring has sprung at last, but it seems as though it has been here for months already. Usually, snow can linger well into summer, up on the high plateaus of southern Utah. Several weeks ago, two friends and I hoped it would last at least through the middle of March. We wanted to ski, and we wanted to ski at Bryce Canyon. To ski you need snow, and there has been a noticeable lack of it this winter. Temperatures have been higher than average here in Utah, with conditions great for hiking but abysmal for skiing (click here for that story). The generally thick blanket of snow we know so well had morphed into slightly more than a veneer. We could only hope for the best as John, Cathy, and I stuff our skis, suitcases, and snack items into the back of my car and drive off in wild anticipation of the miles of cross–country ski trails that Ruby’s Inn grooms just outside the Park. We would spend two nights at the Inn and get in as much skiing as our little hearts desired.
Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon National Park

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wild Weather on the Wildcat Canyon Trail

Generally, “February” and “Wildcat Canyon” are not words you hear in the same sentence around southwest Utah, except for maybe in this sentiment: “Wildcat Canyon? You can’t hike there in February. There’s too much snow!” Or perhaps in this little nugget: “Wildcat Canyon? On the Kolob Terrace road? You need a snowmobile to get up there!
No snow on the Kolob Terrace Road in February?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rocking the Watchman Trail

I have never met a trail in Zion National Park that I did not like. Long, short, steep, level, paved, rocky, hard sandy slickrock or soft forest soil, it does not matter. I will hike wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. A few weeks ago when I had to be in the Park for a 1:30pm volunteer meeting, just such an opportunity appeared. Dizzy and hyper after snacking on a German chocolate brownie during the drive over, I left my friend Lucy happily napping on a picnic table in the early February sunshine. When I exited my meeting two hours later, we headed for the Watchman Trail.
Watchman trail

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Winter Road Tripping – Lost Palms Oasis

In the waning hours of my two–week “2014 Winter SoCal Adventure” last month, fate offered up a gorgeous southern California Christmas Eve Day hike. Barely 20 miles up the interstate from my condo in Indio, I found exactly what I was looking for once more in the fan palm oases of Joshua Tree National Park.