Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lime Kiln Trail - Granite Falls

The Lime Kiln Trail near Granite Falls is a fairly easy, 7.2 mile, out and back hike.  There is no toilet at the trailhead so plan accordingly.  The trail starts as a wide, well maintained path that wanders through trees dripping with moss.  Follow the signs to stay on the main trail.

 After entering Robe Canoyon Historic Park, look for the turnoff to continue on the Lime Kiln Trail.  Here the  trail can be narrow and eroded in sections with uneven ground and downed trees to navigate. Blackberries and nettles make longer pants a good idea. Be prepared for mud in wet weather.

Watch for rusted logging artifacts leading up to the limestone kiln. The kiln appears to be in decent shape despite its age. Continue past the kiln to reach the trail end and an optional river loop.

A short spur out to the old railroad bridge marks the end of the trail. There is not much to see beyond the concrete abutments where the bridge once crossed the Stillaguamish river.

The short river loop is steep and narrow along the NE rim. Hike down to the river and back along the SW rim if you're afraid of heights.  Find a nice rock to sit on a have a snack or soak your feet before retracing your steps to the trailhead.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Pahoehoe and 'A'a - Craters of the Moon

For an example of what happens when there is a crack in the earth's crust and lava flows out, head to Craters of the Moon.  Major events occurred around 2,000 and 4,000 years ago that covered the land with pahoehoe flows, cinder cones, lava tubes, and other volcanic formations.  Today 53,500 acres of this land is protected.  

Visitors can hike to the top of cinder cones, walk along pahoehoe flows, and venture into caves created by collapsed lava tubes. There are several loops that provide educational opportunities to learn about the various volcanic features present in the park.  I recommend visiting during the off season or be prepared to experience ground temperatures exceeding 110 degrees.

Land Under Pressure - Yellowstone

My first trip to Yellowstone ended with a trip to the hospital and a broken shoulder due to an unfortunate meeting of my snowmobile and a lodgepole pine.  This time around I stuck to hiking and had a much less eventful trip.  We did have a bison take a stroll through the campground, but it stuck to the lower loops and left us alone.

Yellowstone has been ravaged by wild fires, and contains large areas of hostile and caustic geothermal features, but if you look, you'll see new growth and life thriving in the unlikeliest of places.  We learned all about thermophiles (organisms that thrive in heat), extremophiles (organisms that thrive under high pressure and temperature), and acidophile (organisms that thrive in acidic environments).  Lodgepole pines fill in the burn scars and provide new layers of soil to nurture other plants.  Bison, bears, wolfs, marmots, beavers, and other wildlife seem unfazed by the inhospitable environment and flourish.

You are constantly reminded that the ground underneath the park is still very active and what you see could change dramatically at any time.  An earthquake in 1959 significantly shifted many of the thermal features in both location and activity.  It is highly likely that a similar event will happen again in our lifetime.  I was continually amazed (and a little frightened) at the beauty and power of the geothermal activity that shapes Yellowstone.

Upper and Lower Geyser Basin including Old Faithful

Artist Paint Pots

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Falls and Gibbon Falls 
Mammoth Hot Springs

Examples from Norris Geyser Basin, West Thumb, and Grand Prismatic Spring

Charismatic Megafauna - Grand Teton National Park

Hiking in Grand Teton I was strongly encouraged to carry bear spray and have it handy.  Both Grizzly and Black bears are present in the park and they were competing for scarce food with new cubs in tow.  While our only bear encounter was a mama grizzly with her two cubs crossing the road, we did have the opportunity to see moose, elk, marmots, chipmunks, ground squirrels, hawks, and many other birds.

I was a little disappointed to not see a bear in the wild, but the dichotomy of Grand Teton made up for it.  We enjoyed hikes along grassy plains and lakes that abruptly stop at towering peaks.   Head out to Jenny Lake to capture the classic reflection shot.  For a better chance at viewing charismatic megafauna, try Two Oceans Lake in the early morning or late evening.
Jenny Lake - South Shore

Jenny Lake - Near String Lake Cutoff

Inspiring Hikes - Canyonlands

When hiking in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands you can't help but be a bit overwhelmed with the scenery.  From mysterious craters and domes that challenge your nerve, to layered canyons as far as you can see, it is immense.

Hikes can vary anywhere from quarter mile loops to multi-day adventures in the lower canyon.  Hit the highlights in a day, or take more time to explore deeper.

Here are some of my favorite spots:

Upheaval Dome

Whale Rock

Grand View Point

Go Out in Style - Dead Horse Point State Park

For those who remember Thelma and Louise, here is the view from the iconic ending scene at Dead Horse State Park.  

For those who haven't seen the movie, you won't be disappointed.  Hike along the rim trails for amazing views of the canyon and peekabo glimpses of the Colorado River.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Arches - The Second Time Around

I recently visited Arches National Park for the second time.  The first time around I was on my own and had a limited amount of time.  I drove around, saw the highlights, and did a few short hikes.  This time my husband came along and we decided to do a couple longer hikes to see even more of the park.

If you're not too afraid of heights and have a dry day I recommend doing the full Devil's Garden loop hike.  It's 7.2 miles long with a few side trail options for additional viewpoints.  Being terrified of heights, it took me a few tries and a couple panic attacks to complete some of the sketchier portions of the trail, but the payoff was worth it.  Be prepared for scrambling up steep inclines, walking along exposed spines, and some primitive trail finding.  You will be rewarded with sweeping vistas and uncrowded views of some of the more difficult to access arches.

If you decide to tackle the hike up to Delicate Arch, plan to do it either early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the worst of the crowds.  The narrow ledge at the top of the hike and the walk out to the arch itself can get fairly congested so plan ahead.