Posts Tagged With: hiking

Backroads Across America: Black Hills Give It Up

 

The drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial gives visitors several frames for one of the world’s most spectacular engineering achievements. When you steer along Iron Mountain Road, go counterclockwise if you want the four presidents in your windshield.

A quick detour: Can you name the four presidents? (Answer below)

The 17-mile road was designed to connect three one-lane tunnels blasted in the rock. It features 314 curves, 14 switchbacks and three pigtails.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum’s presidents measure 250 feet across and each head is 60 feet tall. Why were these four chosen? George Washington, for leading the struggle for independence. Thomas Jefferson, the idea of government by the people. Abraham Lincoln, ideas on equality and the permanent union of the states. Theodore Roosevelt, the emerging role of the U.S. in world affairs.

On our way to see the four stone heads, we explored the 71,000-acre Custer State Park. This place alone would be worth a visit to South Dakota’s Black Hills. We walked around Legion Lake, one of several lakes in the park, then picnicked next to a creek.

We began our day by hiking to Cathedral Spires, one of the park’s many treks that vary in length and degree of difficulty. They share a location as beautiful as any we have seen on our journey, which is nearing 8,000 miles.

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Backroads Across America: Views from Sedona

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During two days in the Sedona, Arizona area, we have enjoyed stunning scenery and great weather. A bit warm (low 80s) for March, but we are not complaining.

After an early morning look at Bell Rock (top photo), we grabbed a coveted parking spot at Cathedral Rock for a steep scramble. Two photos show a ledge on the back side at the end of the trail. Reg on the ledge was not a happy site for Sue. It was bottoms down for most on the decline as hikers seemed to prefer sliding to slipping and falling.

As for Sedona, the town, we give it a thumbs down. It feels like an upscale resort. We expected a more rustic atmosphere.

 

 

 

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Alas, spring arrives in Rogue Valley

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A warm spring day welcomed us to Upper Table Rock, a U-shaped mesa overlooking the Rogue River near Medford, Oregon. Friends Jeff and Lan hiked with us on the 2.8-mile loop that climbs 720 feet. Wildflowers, vernal pools as well as views of Mount McLaughlin and the Siskiyou Mountains made the trip well worth every step.

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Coastal Trail reveals hidden beauty

The Coastal Trail weaves like a thread along the rugged Pacific Coast, stringing together scenic viewpoints, state parks, hidden coves and dense forests. The trail also offers numerous opportunities to stretch one's legs, which is exactly what we did while sightseeing on our most recent camping trip on the South Coast of Oregon.

Armed with our Coast Trail and Travel Guide and a picnic lunch, we drove north from Brookings, Oregon one day and south, into California, on another day. The beauty stretches for miles in both directions. The views are easily visible from the road, but I'd encourage you to take a short (or long) walk and enjoy all the Coast Trail has to offer.

The Pacific Ocean appears endless from the cliffs above.

A window to the rocks below.

A misty fog is a familiar sight along the Pacific Coast.

Driftwood creates patterns along the beach.

Forest growth is so dense that it creates a tunnel along the Coastal Trail.

It's hard to resist climbing a tree like this!

Reg is dwarfed by soaring evergreen trees.

A splash of color.

 

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Going Green on the Oregon Coast

When we reserved our Harris Beach campsite last week, the weather report for the south coast of Oregon called for several days with mostly blue skies and temperatures in the mid-sixties. The perfect opportunity to sneak in, what might be, one last trailer trip before winter weather arrives.

As promised, temperatures have warmed up each day, allowing us to comfortably explore, but the sunshine we were hoping for has remained scarce. Although the gray skies haven't slowed us down, they have served as a reminder of one of the reasons Oregon continues to be such a beautiful, green state.

In celebration of my green theme, I thought I'd share a few photos from our Riverview Trail walk along the Chetco River, in Alfred A. Loeb State Park.

Reg pauses to check out the curtain of moss dangling from a fallen tree.

The Riverview Trail eventually turned uphill and past a cascading creek.

As we left the river and climbed higher we entered a Redwood forest.

Lots of green...everywhere!

As a couple fishermen quickly floated down the Chetco River, we noticed it too was a unique shade of green.

We stopped to look for a four-leaf clover, but couldn't spot one. Can you?

 

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Smith Rock State Park – A Commanding Presence

We chose the Misery Ridge Loop Trail, opting to begin along the banks of Crooked River.

We packed our lunch with us, which turned out to be a good decision. Lots of water is also a must when temperatures soar.

Bursting from the high desert floor, Smith Rock State Park offers outdoor enthusiasts 650 acres of breathtaking recreational opportunities.

With its towering rock formations, Smith Rock, 25 miles north of Bend, Oregon, has become a popular destination for rock climbers of all abilities, attracting enthusiasts from around the world.

For those of you who, like us, prefer to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, there are miles of hiking trails around and through the park.

Smith Rock State Park is another example of how volcanic activity shaped the Oregon landscape.

As we approached Monkey Face, our trail took a steep turn uphill...and the misery began.

Climbers are dwarfed as they climb towards the top of Monkey Face.

At an elevation of 3289 feet, we found a shady lunch spot at the summit of Misery Ridge Loop Trail.

 

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Tour du Mont Blanc: Spirits Lifted

Muddy hiking boots are removed and left in the entryway of Refugios, and Crocs are provided for inside wear.

 

 

 

 

We awoke Sunday morning (day 5) to more clear blue skies, and after a 6:30 am breakfast packed our things and started our trek.

The hike down from Refugio Elisabetta eventually leveled out onto a wide pathway of relatively easy walking…a welcome relief to the relentless ups and downs of the last few days.

We were pretty sure the easy walking would not last, and of course it didn't. We soon found ourselves headed up and out of the area known as Vallée des Glaciers. Anticipating two nights and a day of rest in the village of Courmayeur, we figured it wouldn't be too tough.

 

We soon found ourselves high above the valley floor with no end in sight. Our path took us by several piles of rubble, described in our guidebook as abandoned buildings.

The hillsides are covered with the most amazing display of wild flowers I have ever seen. The camera doesn't do them justice.

From across the valley we can see Glacier du Miage, which must have once reached the valley floor.

Onward we trekked, hoping to catch our first glimpse of Courmayeur around the next bend.

The village of Courmayeur is a charming place to kick back for a much needed rest.

Our itinerary called for an eleven mile day. After what seemed like at least that, if not more, we arrived at another Refugio situated on a ridge above our destination.

Trail markers pointed us steeply downhill for what was estimated to be another two hours of walking.

Ski lifts to the rescue. We purchased our tickets and hopped on the lift down. Best purchase of the trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We discovered this cute little lunch spot that served delicious crepes.

And they had outdoor seating!

 

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Tour du Mont Blanc: After struggle, the mountain rewards

It was pastoral calm as we began the third day of the Tour du Mont Blanc.

We had a quick snack before heading into the snow zone. We planned for lunch in a bit, but it never happened.

Ah, a little snow at the col looks fun. At the top, all changed quickly. A late winter and snow just last week has made July feel like anything but summer.

 

From my bottom bunk looking out a small window in a wood-paneled room, I see a glacier and Alpine peaks high above. Our home for tonight, the Elizabetta hut in Italy, is at about 7,500 feet, two miles from the Italy-France border.

The only way we could get to this place, as remote as you can get on the Tour du Mont Blanc, is by walking. Sue and I are in day four of the Tour. Day three was beautiful, grueling, treacherous and much more. More than 8,000 feet in elevation change hardly tells the story.

After we had climbed for four hours and 4,000 difficult feet up on Friday, we reached the col (pass) at 8,100 feet, thinking we had 3,000 feet downhill to our refuge, or hostel.

I looked up and could make out moving figures far above, climbing through the snow to another pass.

“I am so glad we don't have to do that,” I thought.

Think again. Two hours later, we had endured slippery snow banks and rocky passages, and were so exhausted that taking photographs was just too much. There were moments when we wondered why we were here.

Today, we had four hours of steep climbing, but very little snow. It took us to an 8,200-foot col, at the Italy-France border, and as we arrived, so did our view of Mont Blanc, at 15,770 feet. It appeared close enough to touch, outlined by brilliant blue sky. While eating our picnic lunch, it was crystal-clear why we were here.

Reg heads up, toward the second col. The conditions got much worse and the camera took a break while we focused on making it to the top.

Day four started after a night at a remote refugio at about 5,000 feet.

 

We were awe-struck at our introduction to Mont Blanc. We are about halfway to the top of the 15,770-foot mountain. It looked much more imposing in person.

A baguette, cheese and Mont Blanc made a perfect picnic combination.

Refugio Elizabetta is a rustic remote outpost on the Tour. Trekkers are packed into the small building, with triple bunks and single mattresses pushed right up against each other. We lucked out with a private room.

Refugio Elizabetta is nearly lost in the Alpine landscape in the photo above.

The Elizabetta offered rustic accommodations, but a good, three-course evening meal.

 

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The way to Chamonix: Trains and costly surprises

Glaciers are revealed, but the clouds hide Mont Blanc in this view from our hotel this morning.

 

Naïveté, bad luck and good fortune all had parts in our eventful journey from sunny Strasbourg to rainy Chamonix in the French Alps on Monday.

Three trains were to take us on the nine-hour trip, but a bus and a very expensive taxi ride saved the day in the end.

The second train ride, meant to take us from Lyon in southern France to Saint Gervais, started well. But, when we got to the end of the line, we discovered we were in Evian! (Try that word backwards.)

Our hotel, La Chaumiere, in Chamonix. A nice breakfast buffet and a bottomless cup of coffee (our first on this trip) were a great start to the day.

We had lost half our train! It turned out that at one of the stops, the last three cars decoupled and they went to Saint Gervais, without us.

It was 9 p.m. and we were in Evian, a long way from our hotel room. We found the train engineer and he found us a bus, which took us back to Annemasse. He said to tell the folks at the train station what happened and that they would call a taxi to take us to Chamonix. A Japanese photographer in the same boat followed us.

We pulled into the Annemasse train station about 10 p.m. The bus driver spoke little English, but had been told of our plight and waited while we sought help.

However, the station was deserted. Now what? The benches looked like last-resort beds. Ouch!

Sue tried calling a taxi, but the first call went unanswered and the second got a recording in indecipherable French. The driver needed to go. We needed a taxi. A bilingual woman on the bus hopped off and called a taxi for the three of us.

It was nearly 11 p.m. when we pulled into Chamonix. The meter read 240€. As Sue and I approached the locked lobby of the La Chaumiere Hotel, tourists from London unlocked the door. An envelope on the counter welcomed the Spittles, our key inside!

It has been raining all day in Chamonix; our Tour du Mont Blanc begins tomorrow with more rain forecast. We will begin, rain or shine.

In Scotland, they might say “It never rains on the trail!”

 

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A walk to Germany and back in half a day

A view of the Rhine River from a pedestrian bridge connecting France and Germany, with a Viking cruise ship docked next to the German bank.

We head for a suspension bridge, our path to Germany.

If you are a traveler, there is a lot to like about the European Union. The euro makes managing currency so easy as you go from country to country. Then there is the seamless movement across borders.

So, today, we walked to Germany. No passport necessary. Easier than going from Oregon to California (no stopping at the border to confirm you don't have fruit).

We are staying in Strasbourg, part of the Alsace region of France tucked against the Rhine River, the border with Germany.

We took a city electric tram to the end of the line, then walked about a mile to Jardin des Deux Rives, the Garden of Two Banks, where we found a spectacular suspension bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists. It led to the other bank, in Germany.

After climbing a viewing tower for a distant look at the Black Forest, we had a relaxing riverside picnic before heading back to our home in France.

What's not to like about Europe!

 

Two hundred steps to views of two nations.

Look closely to the left for the Strasbourg Cathedral spire. The Rhine and the pedestrian suspension bridge are in the foreground.

 

Looking out for wildlife in Germany.

 

I have to admit, it was fun to have a picnic in Germany.

 

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