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.
Posts tagged ‘wilderness’
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!
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.
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.
We don’t own a car so we walk and bike everywhere in town. Biking is fun and it keeps us in great shape. There was even a cool article in Bicycling Magazine recently about how Chris inspired a co-worker to start biking to work. Basically, we love bikes!
As readers of this blog, you already know that we love spending time in nature. We’ve always wanted to combine these two loves, bikes and backcountry camping, into one trip. This is the story of our first bikepacking trip. Not everything went as planned, but we definitely came away with good lessons we can apply on future trips.
On a Friday night in August we pulled out all our normal backpacking equipment, minus the backpacks. Instead we packed our gear in panniers. Then we added some additional bike-specific items: a mini pump, tube repair kit, tire lever, spare tubes, a multi-tool, bike water bottles in place of our water bladders, mountain bike shoes for easy walking and good traction, padded bike shorts, bike locks, and helmets. We also included a full 10-liter dromedary since our destination wouldn’t have any water sources.
Saturday morning we were filled with excited and nervous energy as we headed out for a new type of adventure. We rode north on the Poudre River Bike Trail. It’s a paved, flat path with great scenery. We were off to a good start.
Crossing one of the bridges on the bike trail, we met a cool multi-species team out for their own Saturday adventure.
After 7 miles on the bike trail, we turned left onto County Road 23. One and a half miles later we made a right onto County Road 25. The rolling hills in this section had us working harder, especially with the added weight of the camping equipment and water in our panniers. We considered the extra challenge a good excuse to pause and look at the rock formations and birds around us.
One of the first bike camping difficulties we noticed was that our cameras, stashed in our panniers, were hard to access quickly. We ended up using them less than we would have on a hike, where they’d be close at hand on our backpack hip belts. Instead we took lots of phone pictures, since our phones were always in our pockets as we rode.
The Icefields Parkway winds through the Canadian Rockies, connecting Banff and Jasper National Parks. We stopped at many viewpoints and did several short hikes off this scenic road when we visited in September.
At Bow Summit we hiked up a trail about 15 minutes to get an excellent view of Peyto Lake.
Looking in the opposite direction from that same viewpoint, Peyto Creek beautifully squiggled across an alluvial fan before reaching the lake.
A group from a tour bus arrived at the Peyto Lake viewpoint shortly after us. They wasted no time taking hundreds of selfies. Five minutes later they were gone. It was pretty comical actually.
Our next short hike took us to Mistaya Canyon. Here the Mistaya River transitions from flowing through a valley into a deep gorge.
North Fork Cascade Canyon to String Lake Trailhead (11 miles)
We scrambled up onto a large boulder overlooking our campsite and ate breakfast. We packed the remaining food into our now almost empty bear can, just enough for our final day in this awesome backcountry.
Chris’s altitude headaches and fatigue from previous days were completely gone. He was thankful to be back to normal.
A storm loomed in the forecast, so we packed up a little earlier than usual. We wanted to make sure to cross Paintbrush Divide, our high point for the day, before the storm broke loose. Marmots basked in the sunlight as we set off.
Lake Solitude, though early in our day’s walk, was so nice that we opted to stop and and enjoy the view for a while. The water was clear enough to watch fish moving in its depths.
Death Canyon Shelf to Sunset Lake (4 miles)
The sun hit our tent. We quickly woke and crawled out, eager to see the light pour into the canyon below us.
It’s not every day you wake up on the edge of a canyon. We drank in the view, then went back in the tent and enjoyed our honeymoon suite.
It was a hard campsite to leave, but we did have a few miles to cover. We ate breakfast, packed up, and started walking.