We woke to a peaceful morning on the second day of our hike in Grand Gulch. Quiet surrounded us as we filtered water from the creek near Junction Spring.
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To create this spectacular coffee table book, we hiked the entire 2660-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Living in the wilderness for over five months, Chris photographed the starkly beautiful deserts of southern California, the deep blue alpine lakes and snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the volcanoes and lush forests of Oregon and Washington. The journey was challenging, inspiring, and visually stunning.
Chris’s landscape photographs portray the essence of each section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Every image is powerful. Viewed in sequence, these photographs take you on a journey through some of the most beautiful and compelling landscapes in the world. You can learn more on our book page. The book is a great gift for you or a friend.
Wishing you a fantastic holiday season with family, friends, and time in the great outdoors. Here’s to awesome adventures in 2017!
In late April we embarked on a backpacking trip in Cedar Mesa, BLM land in southeastern Utah. We planned to hike from the Kane Gulch ranger station to the Bullet Canyon trailhead in four days. The area is renowned for its concentration of Ancestral Pueblo (previously called Anasazi) ruins and rock art.
We picked up our backpacking permit and got information about current water availability at the Kane Gulch ranger station. Since we were doing a one-way hike, we then drove to the Bullet Canyon trailhead and left our car there, then hitched back to Kane Gulch.
With everything in order, we began our descent into Kane Gulch.
In early October we went on a backpacking trip in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. We experienced some gorgeous fall weather and colors, but also rain, snow, and ferocious wind. The weather sure changes quickly in the mountains!
Today’s post is all photos. Enjoy!
So far our trip has consisted of idyllic backpacking on Day 1, fearsome wind and fog as we hiked across the island on Day 2, and being stranded on the island, holed up in an empty ranger station on Day 3. That brings us to Day 4 when a short break in the weather might finally allow the ferry to reach us before we get cut off from the mainland again.
Overnight the brutal wind gusts felt like they might blow the roof off the barracks as we slept. Fortunately, morning brought calmer winds. We used the ranger station’s internet connection to view NOAA’s marine weather forecast. It indicated that the wind would pick up throughout the day, then stay high for several days. If the ferry left the mainland soon, it might be able to get us off the island today. Otherwise we might have to spend several more days on the island, including Christmas.
All 15 stranded campers gathered in the main ranger station house. Joe picked up the mic. He was getting good at the radio lingo and protocol: “Dispatch, dispatch, this is Santa Cruz visitor…”. The National Park Service and Island Packers ferry service responded over the air.
Island Packers said they would attempt to make a pickup this morning. If conditions were so bad that the ferry couldn’t make the crossing or dock on the island, then they would turn back around. If the ferry pickup failed, there was talk of calling “Aspen”. We later learned that the USCGC Aspen is a large Coast Guard cutter with a crew of 50.
Somehow the authorities had determined that there were two people still at Del Norte campground (the backcountry campground without water on the far side of the island). If all went according to plan, the ferry would stop at Prisoner’s Harbor to pick them up first. Then they would motor around the island to pick us up at Scorpion Harbor.
We packed up our stuff, then took everything down to the beach to await the ferry. Joe stayed by the radio in case there were any updates. We were anxious given the strengthening winds predicted by the forecast.
We waited on the beach, scanning for boats and wildlife. We spotted a seal! We’ve seen so much amazing wildlife on this trip.
High winds made for a very noisy night on Santa Cruz Island. Gust after gust whooshed down the valley, rocking trees and sometimes cracking branches. As the sun rose, before everyone else woke, Chris decided to explore the cliffs above Scorpion Campground. Up there he found a perfect mix of drama, beauty, and solitude.
The wind remained fierce. When Joe and Becky emerged from their tent, it immediately blew away with all their gear still inside. They quickly retrieved the tent and collapsed it, preventing it from turning into a kite again.
We had planned to kayak through sea caves today, but that trip had been cancelled due to the bad weather. Now our hope was to catch the emergency ferry back to the mainland at noon.
Over the past two days (see Day 1 and Day 2), we heard so much conflicting information regarding ferry times and weather that we didn’t fully trust anything people told us. We decided to be on the safe side. We packed everything up and walked to the dock, planning to wait there all morning in case a ferry arrived before noon.
While we were eating breakfast on the beach, other campers came by and informed us that they called Island Packers and were told that the emergency noon ferry had been canceled. There would be no ferry service to the island at all for today. We were shocked, and to be honest, a bit skeptical because of past misinformation. We decided to hike up to the cliffs ourselves, hoping to find a cell signal to call the ferry service.
In our last post, we were enjoying beautiful Santa Cruz Island, seeing lots of wildlife, and having a great time hanging out with our siblings. Unfortunately we were told that due to an impending storm, our trip was going to be cut short and we would soon have to take a ferry back to the mainland. For more details, read the full Day 1 blog post.
Things got stranger on Day 2 (December 21). This map of the island will help orient you:
Our second day on the island began early with a variety of birds chirping around the Del Norte Camp. Ever curious, we got up and tried to spot them.
We found a loggerhead shrike as the morning sun pleasantly illuminated the hills and water.
After breakfast, we went on a short out-and-back day hike on the Del Norte trail.
The views were amazing. We saw an island fox, a spotted towhee, house finches, and several other birds.
We went on a sibling backpacking trip in Channel Islands National Park this past December. Chris’s sister Becky and Anna’s brother Joe joined us for the adventure. We were very excited to spend some quality time with them, and to explore a new place at the same time. We planned two days of hiking, a day of kayaking, and a half day of snorkeling before heading back to mainland California. We could never have guessed what surprises the park held for us!
We woke early, piled gear into Joe’s car, and headed about an hour north of Los Angeles to Ventura, CA. We arrived at the harbor on time, checked in, and put our packs below deck. It was a sunny, gorgeous winter day. The only odd thing that morning was a terse email from Island Packers ferry service stating “We are running the trip to Prisoners Harbor today. The crossing to the island will be rough.” That couldn’t have been farther from the calm, sunny weather we were enjoying on the shore.
Minutes into the ferry crossing, the captain got on the loudspeaker, slowed the engines and started taking about a Stellar sea lion he’d just spotted. He explained that it was rare to see a Stellar sea lion in Southern California waters because they mostly live near Alaska. It was huge, much bigger than the California sea lions we’d seen before. The captain also explained that the large semi-circular scar near the sea lion’s tail was likely from a shark bite. The sea lion made a deep call and even stuck out its tongue at us as the boat drifted by.
Farther from shore, the wind picked up and the waves grew taller. The ferry started to rock and roll. As we rode wave after wave high into the air, then fell into an empty void below, it felt like we were on a roller coaster. Salty spray drenched the boat as the fierce wind chilled us. Dolphins seemed to like the waves and the ferry. For a few minutes, several swam playfully alongside us, even jumping occasionally. They were so beautiful and graceful.
The ferry ride was turning out to be part of the adventure, not just transportation to the island! The first stop was Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. The majority of passengers, many of them birders, were to disembark here. Unfortunately the dock at Scorpion had recently been damaged by a mix of climate change-induced sea level rise and a king tide. With the dock unusable, passengers had to be skiffed to shore six at a time.
Our stomachs started to feel uneasy while waiting over an hour on the bobbing ferry. We watched the horizon to fend off seasickness.
Finally, the ferry started moving again. We passed steep cliffs and grand arches carved into the rock. Whitecaps kept the boat rolling. We were glad when we arrived at Prisoners Harbor, and set our feet on solid ground.