Approachable Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows

Throughout the park are sites named “Flat” or “Meadow” but finding the level spot can be almost impossible. At Tuolumne it was plain as day as the meadows run flat and level and ran very wide.

Tuolumne Meadows is highest easily-accessible area of the park. It’s so high that half the year it’s closed because the roads are impassible due to snow. My last full day was spent in these meadows where glaciers staged themselves for the carving ride down into the valley. Good timing too. It was the Visitors Center’s last day open and all the gift shop items were on sale at 50% off!

What makes Tuolumne Meadows special has to do with its terrain and its elevation. This is the largest flat space in Yosemite and very high at 8600 feet. Still sub-Alpine, trees and grasses grow abundantly and crystal-clear rivers gently flowed through meadows and forests. It was a peaceful place where after visiting you feel refreshed.

My favorite spots were bridges along the Lyell Fork of Tuolumne River. The water there is perfectly clear. The air is crisp and dry. The trees stand tall and strong agains the coming winter. It’s a special place. In addition the path I hiked was part of the Pacific Coast Trail which next to the Appalachian Trail is probably the long-haul trail which most interests me. 

Below you’ll see  pictures taken along my hike and around the meadows.  Continue reading

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Training on Iron Mountain Loop

Iron Mountain Loop

Another segment of the Appalachian Trail was part of the Iron Mountain Loop trail. We’ve hiked many stretches but we’ve only made a small dent in the 2,100 mile long granddaddy of hikes.

Kelsey returned from Alaska a seasoned backpacker. Woven into the National Outdoors Leadership School programs are outdoor education, survival training, and leadership development. The program was conducted over the course of a month-long hike with heavy backpacks that were carried over 100 miles. It’s trial by fire and she learned a lot. This outing was about knowledge transfer: Kelsey to me.

Coming up soon I have several hikes planned. One is a four-day hike along the length of an island just off the coast of Los Angeles on a trail called the Trans-Catalina Trail. It’s relatively new and is 38 miles long though it’s a logistics challenge because it’s remote and support resources are few. Consequently, if I want to hike the trail I’m going to have to backpack and Kelsey was going to train me.  Continue reading

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Hiking Variety at Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry

Just look at this outdoor girl. She’s all decked out in boots, hiking clothes from head to toe and a bladder pack filled with water and munchies. This girl is set to hike!

Kelsey’s flight to Anchorage was days away after which this girl with no backpacking experience was going to spend a month in backcountry Alaska. We were nearing the end of our “toughening her up” agenda and mixing it up with a little variety of location. Most of our training had been up Old Rag but after many ascents, variety was called for. Harpers Ferry was today’s answer.

Hiking around this little gem pulls lots of fun stuff together. There’s a section of the Appalachian Trail to be hiked. There are three states to tread in: VA, MD and WV. There is a National Park with great exhibits and services. There are wonderful vistas from the hills on all sides above the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. And there’s a wonderful little town with shops, history, and sites worth visiting such as the AT HQ and Storer College, America’s first black university. While weather could have been better, we faired well.

As you can see below, we liked the view so much from a Maryland cliff looking across to Harpers Ferry in WV and the mountains of Virginia that we took two vanity pictures. Enjoy!


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Twenty One Falls and Electric Light

Scranton Electric Light

Home of the TV show “The Office” Scranton was first famous as a railroad and steal town ... and for having the first electric trolly car system. A wonderful museum can be visited at Steamtown.

New places to hike and build strength, that’s what Kelsey and I were looking for when we decided to visit Rickets Glenn. I knew it wasn’t too much of a challenge from my previous visit but I love the idea of hiking a trail which took us past 22 named waterfalls. When last I visited there was little running water and hence small falls but this time water was aplenty.

It’s too far for a one-day round trip so we stayed in Scranton. There really isn’t a convenient town to Rickets Glenn and though we wanted to camp the weather wasn’t looking promising. Secretly I also wanted to show Kelsey the history of Scranton at Steamtown, a wonderful National Historic Site built in a converted train roundhouse. Between steal and coal and trains and trollies there’s much to see and do in this wonderful town.  Continue reading

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Climbing, Climbing Yosemite Falls and Point

Yosemite Falls

As I write this I realize that the top of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Point are really, really far off and very high. As I write this I’m thinking to myself “Just exactly what was I thinking to hike up there?”

The park is Yosemite National Park. The river is Yosemite River. The falls are Yosemite Falls. Given the prominence of these fixtures in this park. Given I’d taken pictures of them during each visit. How was it that I still hadn’t climbed the trail leading to these sites called, appropriately enough, Yosemite Falls Trail? It was time to right this wrong!

To be fair, during some visits the river was hardly flowing making the walls barely wet. To be fair, during other visits, just visiting where the falls landed in the valley floor was a satisfying, bone-rattling excitation. Still, I couldn’t be in love with this park and not experience its namesake sites. Today I did.

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Charging up the Arch

Poor weather can’t take away from the grandness of the Arch, the visual cue most prominent of St. Louis. I’d driven by it too often to count but that wasn’t going to happen this time because I learned where to park my car!

From the outside the Arch is to be admired. From the inside it’s for the practical purpose of riding an elevator to the top to look out the windows. From beneath it’s to visit the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, run by the National Park Service. I came for the views.

Having recently visited to tour the Memorial I knew how to get into town, do my business, and get out of town. Given it was a Sunday, given it was early in the day, given I was downtown I figured this of all days would be a efficient opportunity to visit, and I was right. Today I’d ascend the Arch for the first time in over 40 years.  Continue reading

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One Great Adventure with Courtney

Court at the Grand Canyon

She’s almost 21 years old, almost finished with her undergraduate studies, and almost flown the coop but she’ll always be my first-born daughter, always a remarkable young lady, and someone I’ll love forever.

It was Beth’s idea that for Spring Break Courtney and I should do a road trip and after 26 years I’ve learned to listen to her. However, a college student is still of a mindset that spending time with Dad is far less enjoyable than romping on a beach with her buddies. Well, I can’t say she was wrong in her thinking but I told her I’d try really, really hard to not be boring. In the end and much to my excitement she accepted. The stage was set.  Continue reading

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A Varied Path Home

Museum of the Appalachia

Museum of Appalachia is a living village of farming life. It reflects the simple but difficult life of those eking out an existence in mountains of eastern WV, Kentucky and Tennessee during the 19th century

Often the last leg of my trips is simply about getting home. However, this time I wasn’t shooting to break land speed records so I wove in a few interesting distractions into each day. Given the new path I had chosen for my return, finding new things wasn’t difficult. 

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Touring Western Living

Two Headed Cow

Everyone needs to see the two-headed calf. This kind of oddity would get talked about and draw people into businesses. In this case, the stuffed contrivance was used by a pub in Boise to attract patrons.

Time to meander home. Why “meander”? The fact is that all the primary east-west routes via the Interstate Highways I’ve already explored. Sure, there’s alway more to see but they’re not the rich passageways as they once were.  By taking secondary highways and especially diagonal highways I come across abundant new veins of discovery to mine.

Not in keeping with the above, I started down the Columbia River Gorge which I love, love, love to drive. However, once I emerged on the east side of the Cascade Mountains I jumped on a quiet road, the John Day Highway, to the National Monument I had once visited too briefly. Then I cut east through the Blue Mountains to historic Baker City Continue reading

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway tried to cross the Rockies by way of the Gunnison River but found the Black Canyon impassible. Still, it did arrive at the canyon's mouth at Cimarron.

Great Hike: Gunnison Trail (caveat: this is only for experienced hikers) 

Nature created conditions where a powerful river cut a deep and narrow slice out of a hard granite terrain. The result is a canyon whose walls are very steep and access to the river below is very difficult. One consequence for visitors wanting to hike in the park is that there are few trails of any length. Almost all the trails are short and lead to overlook points along the rim road. One of the few exceptions is the Gunnison Trail which descends 1,800 feet in just one mile. Along this trail you actually hike from the rim to the Gunnison River’s shore. There was little doubt that this would be my pick!

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