Tag Archives: hiking

Partners in the Parks – Great Basin National Park

Standard

Like many of my “adventures,” I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to spend a week in a national park I’ve never even heard of in the Partners in the Parks program. Would I be spending all day with a group of strangers that didn’t know how to have fun, instructors that made us write an essay a day and tried to make this into an actual class, eating awful camp food and finding nothing of interest in this park to excite me?

I’m glad all my worries were proven to be as far as possible from the truth.

P1040166

Snake Valley.

P1040176

All around, the week I spent in Great Basin National Park, NV, was one of the most memorable weeks of my summer. The park itself was a beautiful oasis in the desert, with a huge diversity of wild life and terrain. It even had a glacier. In the middle of Nevada. Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. Over the course of the week, I discovered that Great Basin is truly a hidden gem in the National Park Service’s portfolio. Boasting some of the darkest night skies in the country, you can easily find the solitude in this park to truly gaze in uninterrupted wonder at the thousands of stars spilling across the sky in the Milky Way.

P1040180

Our campsite!

P1040231

Watermelon cooler.

Now, even set in an amazing and unique location, a program like this where you spend all your time with a very small group of people can easily be spoiled by a few bad eggs. Fortunately for all of us, there was none of that in the Great Basin! At only four students, we were a tiny group. I would like to thank the general obscurity of Great Basin for that blessing. Having such a small, intimate group really helped us get to know each other really well and move through all our plans relatively hassle-free. And the group leaders, two amazing professors from Southern Utah University, made learning anything and everything about this park and living outdoors into something to look forward to. There really is no better setting for learning biology and “leave no trace” than the natural habitat of the subjects of study.

P1040193

Rattlesnakes galore!

P1040520

If it was not for having such a cohesive and enjoyable group, I don’t know if it would have been possible to accomplish all that we did and stay in such great spirits. We would not have had the flexibility or drive to accidentally do a 6-7 mile alpine hike past two beautiful lakes, up past 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees, and up to the glacier at over 11,000 feet in elevation in the rain. We probably would not have been able to go electrofishing in Lehman Creek to survey their fish population, which ended up being one of the coolest things ever. And don’t even get me started on how much better it is doing an overnight backpacking trip, ascending over 3,500 feet up steep mountainsides carrying a third of your body weight in essential supplies, when everyone is on the same page.

P1040600

Snake hunting!

P1040625

Electrofishing.

I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to take part in a Partners in the Parks program. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to get out and explore the beautiful wonders we have in our own backyard that often get forgotten behind our busy daily lives, school, work, friends, and technology. I almost wish I wasn’t graduating this winter just to be able to participate in another Partners in the Parks program. Almost.

P1040579

P1040263

P1040471

The hikes we did:

Alpine Lakes Trail à Bristlecone Pine Tree Grove à Glacier

Approx. 7 miles, 1,100 feet, 6 hours

This was a gorgeous loop, passing by two alpine lakes (Stella and Theresa) before connecting to the Bristlecone Pine Trail. The Bristlecones Pines are spectacular half-dead, half-alive ancient trees, possibly the oldest living organisms on Earth. Some are 4,000-5,000 years old. From the Bristlecone grove you can connect to the trail to the rock glacier, rising up to 10,800 ft in elevation.

P1040254

P1040313

Theresa Lake.

P1040327

P1040340

Stella Lake. 

P1040449

Majestic Bristlecone Pine.

P1040394

P1040347

P1040478

The glacier…wayyy back there.

P1040480

Osceola Ditch Trail

0.3 miles, 100 feet, 1 hour

We walked out to the Osceola Ditch, an 18 mile long channel dug by gold miners for water, to get a primer on the history and purpose of the National Park Service in a natural setting. Much better than sitting in a classroom!   

P1040518

Lehman Cave Tour

0.5 miles, no significant change, 1.5 hours

The cave tour was a great treat to end the trip! The caves holds a huge variety of structures, including my favorite, the jellyfish.

P1040950

P1050109

Jellyfish!

P1050086

What happens when you bring a UV light into a pitch black cave.

P1050047

Cave bacon.

P1050039

P1050038

Johnson-Baker Loop

13.1 miles, 3,290 feet, overnight

This was probably the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life. We took the South Fork Baker Creek trail up past two beautiful meadows to the Johnson Lake mine site. The, we passed over the Pyramid Peak ridge rising up to our maximum altitude of 11,290 feet between Johnson Lake and Baker Lake. We camped by Baker Lake and had an early start the next morning to catch a stunning sunrise. The hike back down the Baker Lake trail was an easy change from the day before and we passed through many Aspen forests while we descended back down to the trailhead.

P1040695

P1040676

P1040692

P1040722

P1040745

P1040775

Johnson Lake. 

P1040777

It was so steep! I died.

P1040890

P1040499

The trees are watching you. 

This hike in particular really emphasized one of the greatest aspects of GBNP. In 13.1 miles, we only saw two other people hiking and saw two other people camping across Baker Lake. Solitude and peace is something you will find more than enough of in this beautiful oasis. An opportunity to connect to nature, yourself, and your companions in a very genuine way.

P1040847

Sunrise at Baker Lake. 

P1040853

P1040877

Baker Lake. 

P1040908

Advertisements

The Great Southwest USA Roadtrip 2013!

Standard

And thus, the great Southwest USA Roadtrip 2013 begins.

I fly into San Diego on a beautiful Monday morning to pick up the car that will be my home and way for the next two weeks. The guy who I’m picking it up from picks me up from the airport and lets me play with his two kittens for a little while before heading out on the road. I got a way later start than anticipated (I blame the kittens), but the moment I sit down in that car and take a look at the coolest, most welcoming dashboard ever I knew it was a good sign. Seriously, this dashboard is something else.

P1040148

My zen ride. 

photo (4)

KITTENS.

The drive from San Diego to Springdale, the entry town to Zion National Park, is somewhere around eight hours. I was only right past Vegas around 10:30pm when a cop pulled me over… Turns out, I was driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit so therefore I was an immediate suspect for drug trafficking. At least, that’s what I gathered from his litany of questions about who I am, where I’m going, do I have my boarding pass from earlier today, etc. Also, “Do you have anything illegal in the car? Marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, guns, knives.” “Um…I have a kitchen knife?” Needless to say, he let me go, but since I was clearly tired told me to pull over at the rest area ahead to catch some ZZs.

Sleeping in your car in a well-lit rest area surround by massive trucks is awkward, to say the least.

P1020782

P1020916

P1020495

Since I was still a couple hours away from Zion, where I meant to be starting early in the morning, I woke up at 5am to continue driving. Within a couple hours, I was parked, fed, packed, and ready to start my first day in Zion National Park. The hike I chose went up to Observation Point, along the side of the canyon off the East Rim where a 4 mile one-way hike up steep switchbacks and through the mysterious  Echo Canyon leads you up off 2,100ft above the canyon floor with a sweeping view of Zion. This was a stunning and impressive introduction to Zion, strenuous but very manageable thanks to some good cloud cover with the occasional drizzle to keep me cool. By the time I started heading back down, the clouds were clearing up and I could see why rangers don’t recommend this hike on a sunny summer day. It was hot and exposed. I was also surprised by how few people I encountered on this awesome hike when the rest of Zion was teeming with tourists and hikers everywhere. Zion receives around 3 million visitors every year, a huge bulk of that being in the summer, yet once I got up to the main trail to Observation Point I saw no more than 10-15 people for the rest of the hike. The solitude was welcome.

P1020525

After the first set up switchbacks up to Observation Point.

P1020557

Echo Canyon.

P1020589

Interesting rock color and form. 

P1020600

Almost to Observation Point! The views along the path are spectacular.

P1020622

P1020641

P1020677

Made it!!

P1020666

Looking at the famous Angel’s Landing from the top of Observation Point. 

P1020671

What did they find so interesting??

P1020700

P1020710

On the way down I met a family who just got out of the Hidden Canyon, who recommended a side-trip up into its shady and cool territory. I was ahead of schedule and decided if I was up there I might as well. The route up was fun, besides another set of switchbacks. One part of the trail was along a narrow canyon ridge where you don’t have any choice but to use the chain attached to the side of the wall to pull yourself along. Where the trail ends, you can continue walking down through silky sand to an impressive free-standing arch. There, the park is trying to restore some vegetation so there’s a sign indicating you may go no further.

P1020714

P1020739

P1020752

 

Observation Point

8 miles, 2,1000 ft elevation gain, 4.5 hours

Hidden Canyon

3+ miles, 1,000+ ft elevation gain, 1.5 hours

 

After eating my lunch is the Great Lawn at the Zion Lodge and resting my weary muscles, I drove over to Kolob Canyons to try to do a hike there before sunset. Unfortunately, my little detour in Hidden Canyon cost me some time and I couldn’t do the hike I wanted to before sunset and a last minute thunderstorm blocked a nice sunset from even happening. There was some pretty intense lightning though.

P1020769

The Great Lawn. 

Because of my tight budget, I was trying to save money whenever possible. This included sleeping in the car off the side of the highway a lot. Fortunately, there are quite a few exits around Zion that lead to nothing and let me get away without detection.

After day of some wins and some fails, excited for what tomorrow holds, I fell into a deep sleep with the soothing sound of the storm lulling me to sleep.

On The Edge of the Earth

Standard

Driving on small, winding mountain roads, not being able to see 30 feet ahead because of the fog, this is how we crept upon the fairytale land of El Torcal de Antequera. El Torcal is part of the mountain range Sierra Torcal in southern Spain, formed by tectonic plates smashing together and the high formations being eroded down by wind and water, creating an imaginative collection of carved rocks.

P1210156

P1210136

Though the fog cut short our time at El Torcal and kept us from exploring on the many footpaths in the area, it gave the craggy gray land a stunning and mysterious air. At the viewpoint near the visitors center, looking out over the railing was looking out over the rock to the absolute edge of the Earth, a solid white wall of nothingness.

P1210134

P1210140

The edge of the earth.

P1210127

P1210144

Mirador de las Ventanillas

Whatever disappointment I felt missing the explorations was completely assuaged by the views I encountered. El Torcal is definitely a place I would love to return to and explore further.

P1210122

P1210176

The sunset lit this field on fire.