Archive for the 'Hiking' Category

Pika at Gaylor Lakes in Yosemite National Park

Posted on 26th June 2014
Under: Parks, Wildlife, Hiking, National Parks | No Comments »

Geeky Maps and Calorie Counting

I updated my Maps page to include some trails I’ve mapped on a site called Gmaps Pedometer. This site lets to map a route, calculating distance and calories. It even takes elevation into account! This is pretty handy for tracking my calories burned which I started doing on SparkPeople a few weeks ago. I also track my nutrition and calories consumed. At the moment my goal is to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year. My SparkPeople page is BlueValhalla.

Join me at: SparkPeople.com

Posted on 7th November 2009
Under: Personal, Food, Hiking, Miscellaneous, Geek Stuff | 1 Comment »

Point Reyes 15th Anniversary Hike

On Sunday, Mary and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary. We observe our anniversary on October 11, which was the day we went on our first date to Point Reyes National Seashore so many years ago. Nearly every year since then, we return to Point Reyes in October to celebrate. This year we wanted to go backpacking there, but all the campsites were full. We had to settle for a day hike instead.

Starting our hike from the Palomarin TrailheadWe had hoped to backpack to the Wildcat Camp from the Palomarin Trailhead (on left) at the south end of the park. Since the camp was full, we decided to do it as a day hike. As a bonus, the trail would pass near Alamere Falls, which we had never been to before.

To get to the trailhead, we took the Olema-Bolinas Road off of US 1, just south of the park. Just before Bolinas, there’s a right turn on Mesa Road which becomes a dirt road and eventually dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot. Funky eucalyptusA short set of stairs climbs up from the parking area to the main trail, the Coast Trail. The sky was overcast and a fine mist hung in the air, but we set out on our anniversary adventure.

Palomarin BeachThe trail passes through a grove of eucalyptus trees, some of which look like hydras (on right). They have wide, rough bases topped with many smooth, slender trunks. I had never seen eucalyptus look like this. It was almost as if the ground had dropped 15 feet and exposed a common root structure for the trees.  After passing a spur trail to Palomarin Beach, the Coast Trail lives up to its name by hugging the coastline. The views (left) were quite beautiful despite the dismal weather.

Pelican LakeAfter a mile of walking along the coast, the trail turns inland for a bit. We passed the Lake Ranch Trail followed by a number of ponds and lakes. Bass Lake and Pelican Lake (pictures on right) are the largest lakes along this section of trail. It’s pretty cool to see lakes so close to the ocean. We had expected to see a lot of raptors along the trail, but I guess the mist kept them grounded. We did eventually see a red-shouldered hawk fly across one of the lakes as we passed by.

Mary and the middle fallsThe Alamere Falls trail is officially closed since the access to the falls and beach is eroded and a bit treacherous. There’s no mention of closure on the trail sign, only that the trail is no longer maintained. A few people still use the trail, but the first part is overgrown with a variety of vegetation, including poison oak. Fortunately we were both wearing long sleeves and pants.

Alamere FallsIn less than a half mile you reach the top of a bluff and have to scramble down drainage trenches. After the first 40 feet of scrambling, you are awarded with two nice falls covered in green (one pictured on left with Mary). Form here there’s an even steeper scramble to the beach and a view of Alamere Falls (right). There’s not a lot of water this time of year, but at least there’s some. It’s pretty neat seeing all the greenery around the creek and falls. Quite a contrast to all the golden-brown grasses on the hills and along the trails.

Wildcat BeachWe had some lunch at the falls, then headed back up to the main trail. A bit further along the trail we took a left fork for the Ocean Lake Loop. This trail passes a few more lakes, then joins back with the Coast Trail just before Wildcat. The camp was quite full. There seemed to be a large youth group occupying most of the sites. We spent a little time at the Wildcat Beach (left) then started back.

Mule Deer

On the way back we stayed on the Coast Trail, passing Wildcat Lake, Ocean Lake, and others. At the edge of one clearing, we saw a mule deer stag resting in the grass (right). Near the overlook for Palomarin Beach, we stopped for another snack, then returned to the car. Even though the weather never did improve, we both enjoyed the hike. We ended up hiking about 12 miles in all. We were glad that neither of us seemed to have had contact with the poison oak and we both appeared to be tick-free. What more can you ask for on your anniversary?

There are more pictures in the Point Reyes Gallery.

Posted on 13th October 2009
Under: Photography, Hiking, National Parks | No Comments »

Road Trip: Oregon Coast and California Redwoods

When my niece, Maggie, finished up her summer job at Glacier National Park, she decided to make her way to California. She would be driving from Northern Montana over to Portland, OR then down the coast to Southern California. I decided to take a few days off and join her for part of the drive, so on September 30, 2009, I flew up to Portland to drive the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake National Park and the Redwoods of California.

Day 1: Portland to Tillamook (September 30, 2009)

San Francisco from my flight to PortlandI had a 7am flight from San Jose to Portland to meet up with Maggie. I took a quick photo of San Francisco when we flew by (see left). The flight landed in Portland around 8:45am. Maggie and her friend Dan picked me up. We grabbed some breakfast at a nice diner in Portland, hit up the local REI for a couple items Maggie needed, then hit the road. We weren’t in Portland very long, otherwise I would have liked to catch up with my friend Darren.

Astoria BridgeRather than head straight for the coast, we decided to head Northwest to Astoria, OR and the mouth of the Columbia River. About half of the drive to Astoria was actually in Washington. On our way through Astoria, we picked up some food, stopped for a view of the Astoria Bridge (on right) then headed to the fort Stevens State Park at the Northwest tip of Oregon. We walked along the Columbia River for a bit and took in some ocean views. We ended up having lunch at Coffenbury Lake in the park.

Canon Beach from Ecola State ParkFurther down the coast we stopped at Ecola State Park. Here we saw some of the rocky beaches the Oregon Coast is famous for, including Cannon Beach (left). There are lots of great views like that all along the coast. We stopped occasionally to take in a few. It was getting dark as we neared Tillamook. Rather than drive the rest of the coast in the dark, we decided to stop for the night even though we were really less than 2 hours from Portland. Besides, we were both interested in stopping at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

We had been using Google Latitude on my iPhone so a few people could track our progress. The main problem with the app on the iPhone is that it only updates our location when I run it (it doesn’t work in the background). So we could only post updates when we stopped somewhere with a good data signal. The other problem was that from time to time Latitude would report that we were somewhere near Eugene even though we were not.

Day 2: Tillamook to Crater Lake (October 1, 2o09)

Cape Meares LighthouseIn the morning we stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a self-guided tour. The tour consists of a couple views over the top of the factory floor. Seeing 40 pound blocks of cheddar rolling along the conveyor belts was a sight to see. We sampled a few different versions of the cheddar at various stages of aging. The un-aged curds were actually pretty good.  We also tried some Tillamook ice cream. It was quite a breakfast.

After the cheese factory we hit the road. Our first stop was Cape Meares to see the lighthouse (left). It was still a bit overcast and chilly, so we didn’t stay long. We were off of US-101 for a while driving along the coast. It was slow going, but views were amazing. We reconnected with the Oregon Coast Highway (US-101) somewhere around Cloverdale.

Yaquina Head LighthouseThe highway winds along the coast, sometimes away from the ocean, and sometimes right along the cliffs. A ways down the coast we stopped at Yaquina Head. By now the sun was shining. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse (right) was the nicest one we saw along the coast, maybe because it’s one of the tallest.Yaquina Head The views from Yaquina Head are pretty amazing as well (left).

We made a few more stops along the coast, including the Sea Lion Caves (though we didn’t go in since the sea lions were all out on the beaches). After that, we cut inland to head for Crater Lakes National Park. We took the Umpqua Highway, which is a beautiful drive along the Umpqua River. There’s an elk reserve along the way where we stopped for a few photos. As the sun was setting we hit I-5 and continued East toward the park. By the time we climbed up to Diamond Lake just outside the park, the temperatures had dipped down to freezing. Fortunately we managed to get a room at the Diamond Lake Resort where we were quite comfortable. We would worry about the temperatures tomorrow.

There are additional pictures from the Oregon Coast in the gallery.

Day 3: Crater Lake (October 2, 2009)

Icicles at Crater LakeIt was still freezing when we got up in the morning. We bundled up in our warmest clothes and headed into the park.We entered the park at the north entrance (stopping at the park sign for a photo of course). We passed through the Pumice Desert, left over from the eruptions eons ago. Our first view of the lake was at Merriam Point. The icy wind blasted us as we viewed the dark and moody waters of Crater Lake. We drove along the West Rim Drive to the Rim Village. There were icicles on the eaves of the information pavilion near the village (left).

Hiking down to the boat landingWe continued our drive around the Rim Road, stopping for stupendous views like Cloudcap. Near the northern rim, we hiked down the crater wall to the lakeside below. There’s a boat launch there (right) and we were able to touch the clear blue waters. The hike is about a mile with an 800 foot descent. We managed to work up a sweat on the climb back up despite the temperature.

Ed and Maggie on Garfiled Peak

We finished driving around the rim and ended up back at the Crater Lake Lodge. From the lodge we hiked  up the 8,054 foot Garfield Peak. The hike is about about 1.3 miles each way with a climb of about 1200 feet. We had a small snowball fight along the way. The views are beautiful from the top (left). There were only a few other groups on the trail. On the way down a golden eagle soared right over our heads. Pretty cool.

After the hike we stopped at the gift shop then headed for California. The drive from the park out the south entrance to I-5 was quite scenic. From I-5 we hopped on US-199 heading southwest. We crossed into California after dark. Even in the dark Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park was impressive. It was a nice preview for the following day. We ended up in Crescent City for the night.

There are additional pictures in my Crater Lake Gallery.

Day 4: California Redwoods (October 3, 2009)

Mouth of the Klamath RiverIn the morning we stopped at the redwood visitor center in Crescent City. From there we decided to continue south on US-101, stopping for pictures but not bothering with any long hike. We figured we would push all the way to San Jose. We drove through the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park admiring the trees from the comfort of the car. Our first stop was an overlook for the Klamath River (left).

Maggie an redwood at trailhead

South of the river we passed through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We stopped for a short walk through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park. Here we managed to get up close and personal with the redwoods (right). The loop through the grove is only about a mile. It was colder than we expected, so we walked through a little quicker than we had wanted to. There are more pictures from the grove in my Redwood National Park gallery.

We passed through Eureka, then on to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In Humboldt we got off US-101 and drove along the Avenue of the Giants. This is a really great drive through the redwoods. There are tons of huge trees and views of the Eel River. Of the 180 redwoods over 350 feet, 150 of them are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. There’s a video of part of the drive below.

After Humboldt, we pressed on to San Jose. We made it there shortly after 9pm, in time to have dinner at home with Mary. I had a great time with Maggie, but I was glad to be home. Maybe we’ll get another chance for a road trip. Hopefully next time Mary and Molly will be able to join us!

Posted on 6th October 2009
Under: Parks, Photography, Wildlife, Hiking, National Parks, Travel | No Comments »

Glacier National Park (Part 5)

Day 7: Driving from Waterton to East Glacier (August 21, 2009)

Kingfisher at Maskinonge LakeWe really enjoyed Waterton, but it was time to move on to East Glacier and the Two Medicine area of the park. On our way out of Waterton, we decided to make a quick stop at Maskinonge Lake. This lake is supposed to be a haven for waterfowl as it is at a junction of multiple flyways. It seems we weren’t there at the right season to see many migrating birds, but we did see some resident birds such as a belted kingfisher (on left) and woodpeckers. We even saw some sort of little weasel near one of the picnic areas, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of the little bugger.

Two Medicine LakeWe drove back across the US boarder, getting fully interrogated by the border patrol. Back in the US, we made a beeline for East Glacier. We checked in to our home for the next two nights, Mountain Pine Motel. It was a hot day and we didn’t much feel like hiking in the heat, so we rested in our room for a couple hours. When it had colled down a little, we drove into the park to Two Medicine Lake (photo on right).

Mary and twisted treeWe had planned to catch a boat across the lake then hike to some falls, but we founf out we would have to pay for a round trip ticket, though there would be no return trip. Since this would be the last trip, we would have to hike all the way back around the lake. We decided to pass and instead went on a different hike to Scenic Point, a 6.2 mile round trip. It was already 4:30pm, so we would have to keep moving.

Ed and Mary at Scenic PointThe hike starts on the Mount Henry Trail in a wooded climb out of the valley. We quickly left the trees behind, hiking on a rocky slope towards the Appistoki Creek Valley. Part of the trail passed though a forest of twisted pine tress (photo on left). Leaving even those twisted trees behind, we topped a rocky ridge then traversed it to Scenic Point (photo on right). It was a steep, hot climb, but the views from the top were quite nice. We could see past East Glacier into the plains of central Montana.

More rays of sunOn the hike back down, we were rewarded with great views of Two Medicine Lake (left).  We made it back to the car shortly after 8pm. On the drive back to the motel, we spotted a black bear along the road, but didn’t have any where to stop for a better look.

We met up with Maggie and a few of her friends at a Mexican restaurant in East Glacier. We had a nice dinner and chatted over beer and margaritas. After dinner Maggie headed back to Lake McDonald, planning to come back again for dinner the following day. Mary and turned in for the night.

More pictures from Day 7.

Day 8: Hiking in Two Medicine (August 22, 2009)

Rising Wolf MountainToday we planned to catch the boat across Two Medicine Lake to hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake. Dominating the north shore of the lake is Rising Wolf Mountain (left). There’s supposed to be a really nice hike which circumnavigates the mountain, but we were not up for a nearly 20 mile hike. Half of Twin FallsThe boat trip across the lake was only 15 minutes or so. From the trail head on the far side, we headed into the woods.

The trail to Upper Two Medicine Lake is 4.4 miles from the landing. A short way up the trail there’s a spur trail to Twin Falls (right). There were a few  families at the falls, so wedecided to push on to the lake. We were able to sample more berries along the trail which passed through some forests and meadows. Upper Two Medicine LakeThe meadows were full of wildflowers. We reached the lake (left) by noon and stopped there for lunch. On our way back down the trail we heard some people had spotted a black bear. We were on the lookout for it, but never did see it. We got back to the landing and waited for the next boat.

Mary and Ed at Aster FallsAfter the boat ride back, we decided to hike to Aster Falls (right), a 2.6 mile round trip.  I had read that there are a number of beaver ponds along this trail. We did see a number of ponds and even found a beaver lodge, but my guess it the lodge was abandoned long ago. The falls come out of the middle of the cliff faceThe falls were nice in any case. We stopped there for a photo op and a bit of a snack.

After Aster Falls, we drove to the Running Eagle Falls Trailhead. This is a short, 0.6 mile trail to an interesting water fall (left). It’s interesting in that the water comes our of the middle of the cliff rather than from the top. Apparently during the early Summer, the water flows over the top of the cliff, covering the lower fall. Only for part of the year is the lower fall visible. For this reason, Running Eagle Fall is also called Trick Fall.

Back in East Glacier we grabbed a coffee at Brownies and waited for Maggie to arrive. We had a nice dinner at Luna’s Cafe. Luna is from Pittsburgh, PA which was obvious with all the Steelers paraphernalia on the walls and the fact that the salads had french fries on top. We said another goodbye as Maggie headed back across the pass, and called an end to another great day. Tomorrow would be our last chance to enjoy the park.

More pictures from Day 8.

Day 9: Driving from East Glacier to West Glacier (August 23, 2009)

Hidden Lake TrailIn no hurry to leave Glacier, we got a slow start on our last day. We had breakfast at the Whistle Stop Restaurant, famous for their huckleberry stuffed French toast. After breakfast, we headed back up the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass (left). The day was clear, so the views were fantastic. Cousin It flowersWe wandered around the visitor center enjoying the views, the squirrels and the wildflowers, especially the flower we affectionately dubbed the “Cousin It” flower (on right).

We decided to get in one more hike before leaving the park, so we headed for the Avalanche Lake Trailhead. It was a busy day in the park, so the drive down was a bit slow. We didn’t mind too much. On the way down from the pass, we saw a mountain goat with a kid lounging by the road (left).  Mountain goat kidThe views and the waterfalls were amazing all along the drive. We would have loved to try the Highline Trail again on such a clear day.

We managed to find parking at the fairly crowded Avalanche parking area. We started the 4.4 mile round trip hike to Avalanche Lake by following part of the Trail of the Cedars. Had it really been a week since we walked that loop? Feeling pressed for time, we kept moving up the trail. Avalanche LakeIn spite of all the people, it’s a really nice trail. The lower part of Avalanche Creek is really nice, and the woods are well shaded. We saw a couple deer along the way. We stopped for a late lunch at the lake (right), the headed back to the car.

By the time we made it to the Lake McDonald Lodge, Maggie had already headed off for a backpacking trip. We did get to say goodbye to Molly who was working at the front desk. On our drive back to the airport we stopped at the Huckleberry Patch for some huckleberry pie. It was quite tasty! At the airport in Kalispell, we returned our trusty steed (the Nissan Rogue) and checked in for our flight. We were sad to leave glacier behind, but at least we have all these photos and memories to remind us of one of the greatest national parks in the world!

More photos from Day 9.

All photos from Glacier National Park.

Posted on 8th September 2009
Under: Photography, Wildlife, Hiking, National Parks, Travel | No Comments »