Tag Archives: Hiking

DAY 171 – 02/28/2013 – Sequoia National Park, CA

We are now in California, home of some of the largest trees in the world. The Giant Sequoias are right down the road from the Mojave Desert, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

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The Voyage of the Tramper has included some superlatives, for sure. And the ancient Sequoias are super big, super old organisms. They are majestic and dignified. The oldest trees are 2,700 years old (National Geographic scientists say they are even older)!

We were visiting Sequoia at the end of the winter. There was snow on the ground and a chill in the air. But the weather was sunny and clear.

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Visitors were few. Walk ½ mile into the woods on any trail and you are completely alone with the silent giants.

It was awesome to be among them. You look up and see the massive tree reaching for the clouds. Walk right up to any one of them for a closer inspection.

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Except for the tree called General Sherman. At 2.7 million pounds, it “the largest living organism on the planet by volume” according to the National Park Service.

Undisputed King of the Forest, The General has a fence around it to protect the tree from people. Some would touch and love the tree. Others may try to take a souvenir piece of bark. Heresy! A hideous act!

You can just about see me in the bottom of the photo

You can just about see me in the bottom of the photo with the General Sherman

Yet, most people would take a piece of the tree without thinking about the implications of thousand – millions – of visitors doing the same thing. The magnificent General Sherman would be no more.

There are many other Sequoias; about 8,000 specimens in the Giant Forest at Sequoia NP. Lots of them are very nearly as big, and as old, as the General Sherman. I felt honored be among living things that have been alive for almost 3,000 years!

We drove through the silent forest first, stopping now and then for a closer look.

Then, we got out of the car and hiked back into the trees, and saw them standing quietly, regally, in the snow. Each one awesome: a miracle. Looking exactly as they did when John Muir campaigned for their protection in 1875.

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A forest meadow, ringed with Giant Sequoias.

The trees themselves were their own protection. When cut down, early West Coast loggers found that they fell apart, into unusable chunks good only for scrap and pulp. Yay, Sequoias!

The Sequoia has natural protection, in it’s amazing bark, from insects. Fire doesn’t destroy Sequoias, either. Thick bark protects the inner tree and branches are high above the flames. New bark slowly grows over the burned base.

Survivor of many fires and still growing!

Survivor of many fires and still growing! David lends a bit of scale.

Some of these trees show scars from big fires that occur every hundred years or so. At 2,000 years old, that’s a lot of fires!

Here’s me, tree-hugging!

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Tree love!

What a great experience. There are no trees this big on the east coast. Everything back East was logged out at some point during the last three centuries. The trees in Maryland are beautiful but very young. Young, at least, compared to the Giant Sequoias.

– Jane

DAY 169 2/26/2013 Mojave National Preserve

Our driving has been through desert after desert.  Acrid open land with dots.  Bushes, scrub, and Pinyon really, and then tumble weeds when wind or conditions demand.  We’ve seen the dots of Texas,  New Mexico, Arizona and even Colorado.  Now we drive South in search of warmth and to see more desert, yes, and more dots.  If you’ve flown West, you’ve seen them.  Hillsides are dotted, most have no forest, just dots.  Bushes of many size and shape.  The forests are at higher elevations and cling in valleys.  If you’ve driven West you’ve seen the wind-blown tumble weeds trapped in barbed wire.  Trying to reach the other side they gather on the fences.

But seriously the desert is alive.  Very alive!  Even the soils in many of these areas is a beautiful symbiosis of cyanobacteria, fungi, green and brown algae, lichens and mosses.  We saw Cryptogamic soil in a variety of arid settings from Big Bend, Texas to Betatakin, in AZ.  This fragile crust lives and stabilizes the soil itself.  A protection against soil loss to the elements, erosion and wind.  But just stepping on it disrupts this and can takes years to repair.  Lesson; stay on the trail!  Soil really is more valuable than gold.  It supports our food chain.  The dustbowls of midwest attest to the crucial part soils play.  We also see, over and over, where water is life.  Water makes a town.  Water makes tourism.  Water is food.  Communities thrive near water and move when trouble comes or wells dry up.  Lesson; conserve water.  Really.  We can’t believe people water grass back home.  (and even the golf courses or hotel lawns out here!)  Summer grass is meant to be dormant and a bit brown, grow less and allow you more time for Summer fun.  Really.

The 1.6 MILLION-ACRE Mojave Preserve varies from about 800 feet elevation near Baker to a spine  of mountains including 7929′ Clark Mountain.  These features create at least 30 identifiable habitats.  Moisture, elevation, wind, soil and sun exposure create such a variety.  Pinyon Woodlands, Joshua Tree Woodlands, Cactus-Yucca Scrub, Desert Dunes, Creosote Bush Scrub and Desert Wash ranging from the higher elevations down create a surprising array.

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Staying randomly at Hole-in-the-Wall Campground we were treated to some of this variety.   We especially enjoyed the dirt road we followed leaving the park.  We drove 30 or 40 miles of Mojave Desert dirt road and even saw a bicyclist entering the preserve alone there.  The Western slopes were full of Joshua Trees.  A fellow camper said there are more here than in Joshua Tree National Park.

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We hiked a cool trail called the Rings Trail which carries you around a smaller mountain or butte, then up through a slot canyon of sorts.

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There were no warning signs and just subtle NPS trail markers to follow “keeping the butte on your right all the way” as the ranger suggested.

The animal life too, is varied.  Lizards, Mojave Rattlesnake, and the Colorado Sidewinder can be found (but mostly avoided by us).  We saw the big eared Blacktail Jackrabbit, birds, Quail, and raptors, scat from fox or coyote.  The kit fox is the size of a house cat, sure wish we’d seen one.  The Desert Tortoise is a protected species out here.  Brochures and signs suggest checking the shade under your car in Summer.  Even the tortoise seek shade, but need your caution as you prepare to leave.

So yes, there are more than dots in the desert.

-David

DAYS 164 to 168 – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

02/21/2013 through 02/25/2013

Millions of people from all over the world have visited the Grand Canyon. Billions of words have been written about it’s beauty and awesome-ness. So, we’ll try to limit our words and mostly give you pictures.

Here are some of our reactions to the canyon:

JANE: We arrive at the canyon’s edge as night falls. I’d been told that the Grand Canyon would be amazing, but I really didn’t know it would be beyond words! How to describe standing on the rim? (and you can stand right on the rim; there are few railings here) I’m crying now as I write this, thinking about seeing the canyon for the first time – and every day after. I have to stop and struggle for the right words. It’s beautiful. It’s breathtaking. It’s bigger than you could possibly imagine.  My soul follows where my eyes look and soars over miles and miles of the multicolored, impossible landscape. That such a thing could be, in this world, is awe inspiring. Looking at the Grand Canyon, you get the feeling that anything is reachable. My spirit was transported to the highest pinnacle, the lowest chasm. How could this small, fragile vessel of a human body contain a thing so huge? Wow! I have no other words to describe it.

Take a look at the slideshow. Make it big! Turn it up! These pics needed some music…

In such a place, it’s no surprise that we met some new, great friends. Eva and Robert. They were enjoying something that I have no stomach for: sleeping in the back of a pickup (with a cap) in zero degree weather and snow. And yet, as you’ll see in the photos, they were happy and beautiful! Stronger than me, they are for sure. We shared meals with them and a fantastic hike down into the Canyon with them. They were a joy! We hope to see them again somewhere, sometime.

The Grand Canyon belongs to all Americans. You should go and see it – soon!

DAVID:  One of my favorite things was watching families and couples take pictures of each other.  It looked trite at first, then I saw the beauty.  The beauty of sharing that first reaction that keeps hitting you for days and every time you turn around.  The light, ledges, shadows and sheer heights all grab you over and over.  Its hard to walk away.

I am a speck.  A speck in space and time.  The canyon is SO big, vast, as a barrier you must travel hundreds of miles in either direction to get around it.  You can’t see it all without turning or tipping your head.   Neither breadth, nor height.  It is not a spectacle, just to be stared at; you can walk in.  You can walk WAY in.  For hours you can walk down.  Then for more hours, you can walk back up and out.  Switchback trails go down for hours into millions of years of geology lessons and multiple climates and wildlife zones.  You HAVE to VISIT yourself!

Here’e the slide show:

– Jane & David

DAY 128 – 01/20/2013 – In Which We Hike in the Snowy Woods with the Livingstons

We have but one neighbor in the Heart of the Rockies RV Park and they are as much fun as we could want. The Livingston’s are traveling with their 4 young sons in an RV and, like us, chose to stay in Salida and ski for a while. You can check out their blog, Livingston Family Adventures, here.

There’s no new snow right now at Monarch Mountain, so we decided to take a hike together.

From left are Mason, Asher (with his eyes closed), dad Gabe, Adin, mom Marcie and Mark

From left are Mason, Asher (with his eyes closed), dad Gabe, Adin, mom Marci and Mark

The sky was cerulean blue and much, much warmer (mid 30’s and sunny) than it had been a couple weeks ago.

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The Colorado Trail is 486 miles and runs past our campground home, just a couple miles up the mountain road.

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The boys are pretty small but they can hike! Mason rode on Gabe’s back and the other three were troopers.

We signed in; necessary to find you if you don’t come out! Also, keeps track of trail usage.

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The boys each carried their own backpack and were wearing snowpants and boots. Asher led the way:

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We had some nice views:

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We saw animal tracks.

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The paw print could have been someone’s dog but we preferred to think of it as a wolf or coyote track!

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We walked into the woods quite a way, but the boys started to get a little cold and tired. Besides, snow that only comes up to my ankles is knee deep to a child!

Adin

Adin

A yummy alfresco lunch back at the car:

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Mason, Adin, Asher and Mark

The boys still had some hiking left in them so we headed up the snowy road in search of a geocache.

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Some scrambling was required. Gabe had an opportunity to give the two older boys a little rock climbing lesson:

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Sadly, no cache was found, but lots of fun was had!

– Jane

DAYS 99 & 100 – 12/22-23/2012 Hiking Big Bend National Park

THE STARS AT NIGHT – ARE BIG AND BRIGHT -(clap, clap, clap, clap) – DEEP IN THE HAAAARRT OF TEXAS!

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I couldn’t resist adding that! Because, the stars really are big and they really are bright here in Southwest Texas. Of course, anywhere in the world the stars are bigger and brighter out in the country with little or no lights. But Texas is one of those Western states where the sky is really big; the better to enjoy the nighttime display.

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We camped at 5,400 feet above sea level in the Chisos Basin at Big Bend NP, the southernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains. All around us was the Chihuahuan Desert, arid and hostile to life.

The Chisos Range provides an oasis of sorts, protecting small scrubby trees and hardy plants and catching water from the infrequent rains.

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At the Pour-Off. Careful, it’s slippery and a long way down!

Arriving from Marathon in the afternoon, we set up camp and took a short hike on the Window Trail. The window refers to the Basin “pour-off” where rainwater drains out of the valley to the desert below.

Western bluebird, anticipating the falling of crumbs.

Western bluebird, anticipating the falling of crumbs.

The campground was nearly full. Camping for Christmas seems so odd to me but, I come from an area where it’s cold and damp in the winter, sometimes snowy.

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Here in south Texas, the days are in the 70’s to 80’s and the nights get only cool. So, camping at Christmas is a treat that probably takes them a little out of the holiday frenzy.

Next day, we took on the Emory Peak hike; 11 miles and 2,500 ft elevation. It took us six hours to complete the circuit.

Iris tags along

Iris tags along

The day was gorgeous and the people we met on the trail were delightful. Of course, everyone was on vacation, doing something fun and challenging so of course we were all happy!

At the top of Emory Peak, highest peak in Big Bend.

At the top of Emory Peak, highest peak in Big Bend.

Vista from the Emory Peak hike. The Tramper is down in that valley. If you squint really hard (or click on the pic) you may see a white dot on the valley floor, which would be one of the campers in the campground.

Vista from the Emory Peak hike. The Tramper is down in that valley. If you squint really hard (or click on the pic) you may see a white dot on the valley floor, which would be one of the campers in the campground.

There’s no mountain biking in the national park, so we set out for Big Bend Ranch State Park.

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You drive through the desert to get there, through tiny, sun-baked towns. We met a transplanted Marylander in a small grocery store in Terlingua. She and her Texan co-worker agreed that not everyone who decides to leave their home and move to South Texas stays.

Terlingua cemetery

Terlingua cemetery

It’s quite a different world. No shopping to speak of, no movie theater, no gym, no hospital, no big sports venues, no new car dealer, etc, etc. Baking hot summers. Isolation aplenty.

– Jane