Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Day 76: Forecast calls for…mud (and some amazing views)

August 14, 2010 11 comments

Location: Palmer, AK

Miles Driven: 170

Total Miles: 17,726

James had the day off, and had agreed to go hike a nearby mountain, Mount Marathon.  I met him at his house in the morning, and a few hours later we were on our way.  Although it was another overcast day, the forecast did not call for rain (at least not in the late morning when we were going to hike).  We were looking forward to a strenuous hike which promised some good views both along the way and at the peak. Also, James had completed the hike once before, so it was good to go with someone familiar with the route to the top (there were no markers or clearly-defined trails, like other hikes I’ve been on).

Mount Marathon, 3000 feet in height

I did not take a lot of photos on the way up, as I needed both hands to help me along the way.  The muddy paths were slick, and made worse by rain that began to fall when we were about 1/4 of the way up.  A couple times I wouldgain 10 feet of ground or so, just to quickly lose that same ground by sliding back to where I started.  It was, indeed, a muddy (and slow) affair.  James had a much easier go at it – he credits that to a strong equipoise. 

But our spirits remained high and we wanted to see how far we could make it, hoping the slick paths wouldn’t deter our route to the top.  There were some great views of Seward and Resurrection Bay not far into the hike, also.

Eventually the slick, muddy, forested paths give way to gravel (note the gray section at the top of the mountain).  The gravel was a bit easier to move around on; however, the climb became significantly steeper in this section. 

The top looks deceptively close, but trust me, it was not

There was still about another hour to the top once we reached the gravel section.  It was tough, but worth it when we arrived at the peak of Mount Marathon.

A little muddy and soaked, but happy to be at the top

James at the peak. Noticeably less muddy and drier than me

Great to hang out at the top and take in the views.

Can you believe those mountains??

The weather at the top was getting a bit cold, compounded by my wet clothes.  It was time to head down.  The route down was a bit tricky, but fun.  It’s gravelly most of the way, and steep, so James likened it to slalom skiing skiing, but just in boots – run a bit, slide on your feet, run a bit, slide on your feet, etc.  Fairly challenging, but less so than going up.  And before you know it, you’re halfway down the mountain.

Later the path cut through a long stream, and we encountered more muddy paths.  It was a veritable “slip N slide”, and I had never gotten that muddy in my life.  But I was able to keep on the path for the most part, and it wasn’t long before we returned to James’ truck.  It was about two hours to the top of the mountain, and I think about 50 minutes down.

Every Fourth of July in Seward, a race is held here at the mountain.  I cannot even fathom how people run up and down (well, I kind of understand the down part, now) this mountain, with or without slick paths.  Congrats to Megan who has run it before.  I still think it is somewhat insane.

Arrived back at James’ place a soaking mess.  James kindly let me shower and use his washer and dryer, but first we needed to document the price I paid in this climb:

Look on the back left of the shorts. There is a dry patch! How that occurred is beyond me

Very much worth it.

I was able to get everything (including myself) cleaned up, and just before 5PM I was on the road, heading out of Seward.  My route was north to the city of Palmer where Megan’s sister, Susan, lives.  Susan wasn’t planning on being home, but kindly offered me the house for as long as I needed it.  Very generous.  While here, I will keep an eye on her dog, a friendly Springer Spaniel named Vegas.  Susan started to defrost some halibut for me, as well.  Once again in Alaska, I had a great dinner.

This trip to Palmer marks the near-end of my stay in Alaska.  After another night or two here, I head east, to eventually link up again with the Alaska Highway and work my way back into Canada.  I just realized that means I have shifted into phase four of this trip – the “indirect” journey home.  It will still be a long while before I am back in NY (especially after you understand the route I’ll take), but it’s another milestone, and the last major one on this trip.  Kind of sad, but still thrilling to know how far I’ve made it, the spectacular places I’ve been, and the wonderful people I’ve met up with along the way.


Days 62 and 63: Vancouverian Wanderings

August 1, 2010 3 comments

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

I have been pretty spoiled since crossing the border on Thursday night.  I’ve had Will’s apartment to use as my own, and I’ve quite enjoyed having a base to operate out of for the past few days.  Travis, Will’s brother, has kindly taken time out to show me around the area and share in a few meals.  Travis and I get along real well, and he’s taught me a lot about the area and about Canada, in general, and even answered my stupid questions:

  • What is a ‘Canuck’?
  • What’s the significance of the maple leaf?
  • Is Steve Nash a national hero?

Speaking of Steve Nash, I showed Travis one of his great Vitamin Water commercials.  For your enjoyment:

One of my favorite lines: “People say, hey, you don’t want to swim with sharks. But I’m faster than sharks, so it’s not a big deal.”

My first full day in Vancouver, Friday, I spent some time down near the water and walked along Jericho Beach.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, but it was the first time I ever sat at a beach and saw snow-capped mountains in the distance.  Pretty amazing, and the weather at the beach was great.  Travis later told me that there are times in Spring where you can golf, go to the beach, and go skiing all in the same day. 

I met up with Travis later in the day and after dinner we did a good amount of walking, touring the downtown area.  Vancouver is a very pedestrian-friendly, very bike-friendly city.  Never before did I see so many cyclists out at midnight on a Friday.  And the city is quite clean and easy to get around in, if you don’t mind a few hills here and there.

We had plans on Saturday to do some hiking, but that wasn’t until later in the day so it allowed me the morning to run some errands.  This apartment I’m staying in is quite conveniently located, and I could easily walk to the post office, a couple fresh fruit markets, and a photography store where I needed to get a photo for a travel visa.  Coincidentally, the people running the photography store were from Taiwan, so I had a nice time conversing with the folks about my time in their country.

In the late afternoon we made our way to Grouse Mountain.  Travis drove, so I got to take some photos of downtown Vancouver as we made our way to the mountain.

The hike was to the top of Grouse Mountain, called the “Grouse Grind.”  I was warned beforehand by my brother Mike about how strenuous the hike would be, and I was told I’d be soaked with sweat not long into it, but also was promised the views at the top were well worth it.  So I was somewhat mentally prepared, but it still was quite a beast of a hike.  Not terribly long, mile-wise, but just always going up.

Travis before the hike

Feeling optimistic about the Grouse Grind

So we set off for the top.  Fortunately it wasn’t incredibly hot out, because in no time we were sweating.  Not only does it go up and up, the steps are often fairly high up so you’re taking big steps each bit of the way.

up and up

we were both pretty soaked just a 1/4 of the way up

keeps going

the light at the end of the tunnel

Made it!

As I was told earlier, the hike up to the top was well worth it.  About an hour and 20 minutes after starting the hike, we were treated to the outstanding views of Vancouver, the English Bay, and Vancouver Island.


We spent some time walking around the top of the mountain.  There were giant wood carvings to check out, a grizzly bear habitat (unfortunately no grizzlies to be seen), and a ski lift that took you to the very peak of the mountain.

Windmill at the peak

View near the windmill

The ride back down the lift was particularly scenic.

the mountains of Vancouver Island in the distance

Fortunately, Grouse Mountain has a gondola system, so we didn’t have to hike back down to the bottom.  We took the gondola, got back in the car, and made our way back to Will’s.  Saw this nice sign as we got closer to downtown:


Found some great pizza for dinner, and then it wasn’t long afterwards I was ready for bed.  On Sunday, Will’s landlords – Rose and Peter – offered to take Travis and me out for Dim Sum brunch.  Haven’t had Dim Sum in forever, so that will be a great meal before this trip goes further north.


Day 55: My favorite place in the world….plus mosquitoes, and a close call

July 24, 2010 7 comments

Location: near Crater Lake, OR

Miles Driven: ~260

Total Miles: 13,719

I’ve been spoiled by my stays in Northern California.  At Kevin’s in Santa Rosa, I had my own bed to sleep on, and same here at Mara’s in Redding.  We planned to go do a hike at the nearby Whiskeytown Recreation Area, and by 10:30 or so we were out there in the nice weather.  It was a 1.7 mile hike to Whiskeytown Falls.  Not a bad hike, but uphill, so got a little bit of exercise.  Also, it was enjoyable being out there with a group (Mara, her husband Andrew, and the kids – Jack, Emma, Gavin) on a hike, as opposed to just by myself.

Andrew, Mara, and Gavin (hitching a ride)

It was a great day to be outdoors.  Despite a temperature in the 90s, it was pleasant to walk in the cool woods.

Getting closer to the falls

It wasn’t too long before we arrived at the Whiskeytown Falls.  Very impressive.  The first waterfall I’ve seen on this entire trip, and it was better than I anticipated.

Mara and me near the top of the falls

Skilled hikers Jack and Emma

We were back home early in the afternoon, and I got my things together to start the journey north out of California.  Thanks to the family for all the food and goodies they sent with me, and thanks to Mara and Andrew for a great stay.

I headed north on I-5 towards Oregon.  I had not taken this route before, and it was one of the most memorable drives I’ve had on this trip.  Very scenic.  Part of the drive was on the Umpqua scenic highway.

Mount Shasta ahead

I linked up with Oregon Hwy 62 near Medford, OR, and headed northeast towards Crater Lake National Park.  As I mentioned before, Crater Lake is my favorite of the national parks (of the 20 or so I’ve seen so far since 2005).  In fact not only is it my favorite national park, I also consider it, after traveling on four separate continents, my favorite place in the world.

Getting closer to Crater Lake

The story of Crater Lake is pretty amazing.  The lake was formed after a volcano, Mount Mazama, collapsed on itself. Over the centuries, precipitation in the form of snow and rain fell into the crater that was left over from the explosion.  There are no underground sources of water, and so the water of the lake has few impurities in it and has retained the ink-blueish color for ages.

The Native Americans in the area, the Blackfeet, considered it sacred and purposefully did not tell white settlers about the place for fear they would disturb it.  The Blackfeet also said that the bluebird was gray before it dipped its wings into into the deep blue water.

And the story of how Crater Lake became a National Park is pretty fascinating in itself, thanks to the efforts of William Gladstone Steel.  From

William Gladstone Steel is considered to be the “Father of Crater Lake” and was instrumental in preserving the Cascade Range Reserve.

He was born in 1854 in Ohio, where his parents ran an underground railroad stop. They eventually moved to Kansas and then to Portland, Oregon. It was in Kansas that Steel claims to have first read about Crater Lake in a newspaper used to wrap his lunch. Right then he vowed to see it — and 15 years later, he finally did.

So awestruck by what he saw, Steel made it his life’s mission to preserve the lake as a national park

If you saw this place, I think you can understand why Steel become so dedicated to preserving Crater Lake.  This was my third time at the park, and each visit never fails to disappoint.

I first stopped near the gift shop area to get a view from the southern side of the lake.  I just stood and marveled at it for minutes.

The water looks like a mirror

It was nearing 7PM at this point, so I wanted to go hike in my favorite area before it started getting dark.  I made my way north on Rim Drive, and stopped along the way to grab a shot:

good view of Wizard Island from the side

I found the spot near the side of the road I’ve parked before, and remembered quite well the area I had hiked up twice before.  The first time was back in 2005, and then I brought my parents down here from Portland in 2007 (and kudos to them for completing the hike I did not prepare them well for).

My way to the Northern Rim of Crater Lake

When I had first thought about this trip, in the very early stages of planning, one of my goals was to be taking pictures of the night sky along the rim of Crater Lake, and I already knew the perfect area for it (from my previous travels there).  The one thing I did not account for – the moon. Just a little bit of unlucky timing, as the moon was near full this day and just rising above the horizon as I arrived.  A full moon will wash out a lot of the stars in the sky.  But no worries, I can’t complain about the moon when I’m here in this beautiful area.  “Who knows,” I figured “maybe I can get some nice shots of the lake and moon.”  And definitely can’t argue with the clear skies I had.

The hike was more strenuous than I remembered.  The thin air up in the Cascades hit me hard, and you find yourself breathing heavy after walking 20 feet.  And this time I was hauling a backpack and my tripod, so a little extra ballast probably added a bit to the difficulty.  It was fun, though, being back on this walk I’ve done twice before.

Looking back towards the North

The climb continues up

It’s easy to get fooled as you climb up as there are a series of ridges you have to go over to get near the lake.  You think you see the final ridge ahead, but turns out the hike just goes further up.

And I turned my video on near one of the ridges to show everybody, and this is what happened. Warning, some of my language NSFW.

So beautiful.  I spent a good amount of time up there as the sun was going down.

Closeup of Wizard Island

full moon rising

I looked back towards the mountains and caught the sun going down.

The 93% full moon allowed for some dramatic effects.

Looking back North again

As it was getting darker out, I found myself not being bitten, but rather, attacked by mosquitoes.  I could not escape them, and despite wiping bug repellant on me before the hike, I had them all over me.  Lesson learned: keep my mosquito nets in my backpack.  I grabbed a few more shots of the lake before I couldn’t stand it any longer.

It was becoming increasingly frustrating, as I could not even hike down at a rapid pace without the mosquito swarm after me.  It seems they were all going for my head, too.  I found myself getting angry for the first time in a long time.

Snapped a picture of the trees and Venus in a free second away from the bugs

I hustled back to the car, killed a few more mosquitoes in there, and then began the drive to leave the lake area around 9PM.  It was an unsettling end to my visit, but a good visit, nevertheless.

This roadtrip almost came to a screeching halt about 30 minutes later, as I narrowly avoided a deer on Hwy 138.  I’m talking a matter of inches.  The deer appeared in my lane on this empty two-lane highway.  I couldn’t veer right as it would take me down a small embankment.  I veered the car left as I applied the brakes, and thankfully the deer turned right.  He did dart back to the left, but fortunately I had just passed him in enough time.  Ugh.  Real close call.

I was fairly shaken after that experience and had little desire to continue driving.  Fortunately, I was near an intersection of two highways (138 and 97) and there was a motel there.  I got a cheap room (their last one available), and crashed.

I couldn’t help but think – maybe the mosquitoes were there attacking me for a reason?  Chasing me off the rim so I could get in the car before I was too tired, and thus not affecting my reaction time when encountering the deer?

I probably think too much, but in any case, I am happy to be safe and have a car in good working order.  I guess one deer encounter in about 14,000 miles is rather lucky.