Red Rock Sprint to Yosemite

First hike after Art's was up San Jacinto, first by way of one of the world's longest tram rides and then by foot. We were shooting for the peak but ran out of time.

After Art’s in Palm Springs we climbed San Jacinto, first by way of one of the world’s longest tram rides and then by foot. We were shooting for the peak but even with long days we ran out of time.

What to do between visiting Art in Palm Springs and climbing Half Dome in Yosemite?
Why not sprint through a stretch of Red Rock Country? Book ends to the sprint could include epic hikes. And why not? This was trip with my road-ravaging, outdoor-trekking, college-bound super daughter Kelsey! Continue reading

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Virgin Islands National Park

It was a day for wearing white and orange it seems. And why not? We were on vacation!

My wife is smart. After years of planning vacations she’s become really good at finding the right vacation destinations. In this case it was a Caribbean island which was conveniently a part of the U.S., had all the beach resort amenities that my ladies enjoy and lots of outdoor activities which I prefer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is two thirds National Park! It has dramatically beautiful beaches, tremendous hiking trails, great undersea coral gardens, historic ruins and all on a compact  island. Seriously, there was plenty to keep me busy while they baked in the sun. Of the 20 official hiking trails within the park I hiked almost two thirds of them. One took Kelsey and me to the sea where we swam to cool off before returning to our mountain starting point.

We had a great time and may be where we head with grandkids … some day.

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The Illusive Mount Lemmon

The Illusive Mount Lemmon

You’re right; this picture has nothing to do with Mt. Lemmon in Arizona. Instead it’s a visual description of how I attended a family reunion in Oregon the evening before ... via FaceTime.

Twice previously I’ve tried to get to the top of Mount Lemmon but its 25 mile drive, its 6,400 foot climb, its weather all proved obstacles given my time constraints. That wasn’t going to happen this time. Today I was making it my hightest priority; other priorities would be sacrificed.

So why? What’s the big deal with Mount Lemmon? I suppose I’ve become intrigued by sky islands, where one experiences change through elevation. With this ascent one climbs from desert to alpine, the equivalent of going from Mexico to Canada. At stages throughout there are remarkable changes. Continue reading

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Ninth Time Across the Continent

Bumble Bee Plane

Is there any way that looking at this world-record tiny plane won’t prompt the thought of a bumble bee? Believe it or not it does fly with crazy-cramped quarters for the pilot; but it doesn’t buzz.

Having driven from NYC to Yosemite in 72 hours going west during my eighth crossing this year I was content to take my time going east on my ninth crossing. I managed to spend three days in Arizona and New Mexico and a fourth day in Colorado. Then I heard that my new iPhone had arrived and within three days I was home again. It’s nice to be back.

While I loitered, I saw many things but I’ll only mention four here now. Continue reading

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Avalon Area Hikes with Cliff

Casino from Hilltop

This vantage point above Avalon gives perspective on the island. It juts out of the water with force and is quite unforgivingly. It is an island with strong character, not some sandy mound that barely surfaces.

The island tempted me to hike its length in stages. First I enjoyed walking around Avalon between sessions of the JazzTrax Festival. Later I ventured out to hike around the ridge of the valley around Avalon and from the “Airport in the Sky” to Avalon. Having 2/5 of the island under my belt I decided I should tackle the recently completed enchilada, the TCT.

My scheme was to tempt my uncle by leading him down the same path.  Continue reading

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Hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail

Travis on the TCT

Happy to have succeeded I rewarded myself with a giant cookie from the Airport Cafe. It’s a little mental motivation I gave myself to finish the Trans-Catalina Trail. Another great adventure complete!

The trail was 38 miles long but I hiked over 45 to make it happen. From the top of Catalina at Starlight Beach to the bottom at Pebbly Beach I hiked and hiked and hiked. Logistics were a bit of a challenge. Weather interrupted my progress for a day. However today I completed my goal: I hiked the TCT!

So how did this compare with other hikes? I was surprised by how difficult the trails were and it took me a while to figure our why. I’ve hiked many steep mountains but they rarely have felt this challenging. Then it struck me. Those who designed the TCT very rarely used switchbacks to make climbing easier. Instead they simply took you straight up a mountainside which, of course, is shorter but takes much more effort. But for the 35 pound pack on my back I wouldn’t have minded.

I’m not going take you on a blow-by-blow of my days of adventure. It was in many ways a walk across a desert island with sea and sky almost always in view and more often than not the coastline too. There were animals I did not recognize, bison often too close for comfort and beautiful landscapes. 

I leave you with my favorite impressions: harbors, beaches and coves. Continue reading

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Camping with Pirates at Two Harbors

Pirate Pier

I did not expect to find hundreds of pirates when I arrived in Two Harbors. Sure, it was the end of Buccaneer Days but I had no idea the zeal to which people got into costume. There was “Argh” aplenty!

Camp sites had been unavailable prior to my arrival. This harbors town in the north of Catalina Island was flooded with 3,000 visitors from the mainland. With no more than a hand full of hotel rooms in the area, everyone had to camp. Not till they left could I reserve a space. Today I caught the exodus.

Flirtatious Pirate

Two Harbors was my base of operations at the start of my hike along the length of Catalina Island on a trail called the Trans-Catalina Trail (or TCT). I started my day in Palm Springs, drove to Long Beach for to the ferry to Avalon where I left my festival clothing, and then boarded a bus for the ride north to my campground. The air was thick with tired reverie, hoarse voices and residual inebriation. Buccaneers had come to have a good time with apparent success. I’d come for an entirely different type of good time and hoped to have similar success. The first stop: set up camp.

While dry and dusty, this desert campground was a stone’s throw from the harbor. What a joy to be in such a beautiful setting. As I assembled my tent I could hear sails luffing, metal clanging against masts, and happy boaters winding down their visit. The place would be quiet by night as everyone went back home and I would have the place to myself.  Continue reading

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Mt. San Jacinto Thunder and Lightning

San Jacinto Thunder

This storm delivered a localized punch. So concentrated was the area of downpour that I could look through it to sunny mountainsides in the near distance ... while I was drenched in heavy rain.

I like being at the tops of tall mountains. However, my preference is to be at the top of the world when there is NOT an electrical storm. This is exactly what swooped in when I was atop Mount San Jacinto.

My focus between Yosemite and Catalina was getting to know Palm Springs. One famous feature of the area I had visited before: Palm Springs Tramway. On that visit all I accomplished was the 6,500 foot ride up the tram, a walk around the visitor center, and a ride back down. This time I wanted to hike to the extra 2,300 feet of elevation to reach San Jacinto Peak at 10,842 feet.  Continue reading

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Yosemite’s Many Sites

Mary Lake

Some old roads can still be found especially if they serve a modern purpose. The ancient road to May Lake was built early last century. From its condition I’d guess that’s when it also saw its last repair.

Hetch Hetchy, Glacier Point, Tunnel View, Mirror Lake, and a myriad of ancient roads are side trips I took during this visit. Any one of the biggies I’ve written about already would be reason enough come to Yosemite but there’s so much more to see. Some of these are worth setting apart and mentioning.

The water supply for San Francisco comes largely from behind a dam built at one of Yosemite’s great canyons. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, Hetch Hechy within Yosemite was the wildly controversial selection of location to create a huge reservoir. The city was growing rapidly; it needed a large and dependable supply of water. Not only was water important for daily life but also for fire control. Steps needed to be taken to preempt another out-of-control fire such as the one that destroyed the city.

Clouds Rest in Yosemite

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Olmsted Point to the Valley

Half Dome from Olmsted Point

I guess I was a little fixated on Half Dome because I seem to have shot it from many angles and in lots of different lighting. This is a late afternoon perspective from Olmsted Point with the sun reflecting off the wall.

Within Yosemite I’d always either hiked around the valley or along the Tioga Road highlands. What I hadn’t done before was hike between the two regions of the park. Today’s hike was designed to make this connection.

The challenge I faced in planning this hike was logistics. I’d have to drive to my trailhead at Olmsted Point, then hike down into the valley, and finally get a bus ride back to my car. Simple enough but for the fact that the bus ran only once per day at 5:00 PM. If I missed it then I’d be seriously stranded as my bus was the very last ride till Spring. To make sure this didn’t happen I’d have to start at a crazy-early hour! Today was shaping up to be a long and worrisome day.

Well, I made it with plenty of time to spare but not until the bus actually let me disembark at my unsanctioned stop did I really heave a sign of relief. The driver was good about being flexible and letting me get off where he shouldn’t have stopped but I got the idea he wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Fifteen hours after leaving my hostel I finally returned to a shower, a delicious dinner and a black and tan beer. Another major Yosemite goal achieved.  Continue reading

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