Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter Wonderland in Hinsdale County, Colorado


           Hinsdale County, Colorado is the perfect place for winter fun and adventure. Use the town of Lake City as your base for winter exploration in the county, 97% of which is public land.   Hinsdale County grooms 112 miles of trails every winter for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing, and also offers four backcountry yurts, accessible during winter on cross-country skies or snowshoes.  
           Tim and I traveled to Lake City last weekend and drove south of town to the summit of Slugullion Pass on Highway 149.  The 11,500’ summit provided acres of fresh powder for snowshoeing.  Enjoy these pictures from the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado.
           Happy New Year to all!  The adventure continues in 2012...


Two of the San Juan's 14,000 ft. peaks are visible from this 
viewpoint—Uncompaghre on the right and Wetterhorn to the left.

Ready for the Descent, from the Top of the World.


Living on the Edge.

Rabbit Tracks in the Snow.

Merry Christmas from Colorado.


Learn more about the Hinsdale County yurts here:  http://www.lakecity.com/index.php/winter-activities/hindale-haute-route-back-country-hut-system
Plan your trip to Lake City and Hinsdale Country on this website: http://www.lakecity.com/index.php

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oregon's Coast: Cape Lookout State Park and The Channel House Inn


          This post was originally published in March of 2011.  I've added additional pictures with this re-publication.  As always, click on a picture to enlarge.   


        If you’re planning a trip to the Oregon Coast, then The Channel House Inn in Depoe Bay is the place to stay.  A luxury Inn, the Channel House is perched at water’s edge.  Jacuzzi tubs on the balconies offer bird’s eye views across the Pacific.


With a private balcony like this one,
you could check in and never leave.
          Tim and I are here on December 16th, celebrating our wedding anniversary.  After breakfast this morning we leave The Channel House and drive north on Highway 101 to today's destination—Cape Lookout State Park between the towns of Pacific City and Tillamook.


Table for two in the breakfast room at The Channel House.  
  
We arrive at the State Park, find the trailhead for Cape Lookout Trail and enter the forest.  A stiff breeze blows from the south and the cedar and spruce boughs sway and creak.  The forest here is primeval; at any second one expects an ogre to jump out from behind the moss-covered trees.  When the trail breaks out from the forest we're treated to commanding views of the seacoast.  The 2.4 mile trail switch-backs through the woods, hugs steep cliffs and skirts coves churning with waves.  Trail’s end appears on a point high above the sea; a conveniently located bench beckons and we heed its call, relaxing while we scan the sea with binoculars and snap a few photos.  Blissful solitude accompanied us on the trail today—we encountered only four other people on our three hour walk.


Ocean View from Cape Lookout Trail.


Trail through the forest in Cape Lookout State Park.

         Back at The Channel House we fill the jacuzzi tub and soak our sore muscles. Ahhhh, It's nice to relax in the tub while the last light of day filters through the clouds.  Boats ply the open ocean this afternoon but we don't spot any seals or whales.  We’re told there is a resident population of 50 gray whales in the Depoe Bay area, but they spend their winters far off-shore.
We do see wildlife however, in the form of a California Gull visiting our deck.  He appeared this morning on the rail of the deck outside the kitchen/living area of our suite and now, here he is again on the deck rail by the tub.  We’ve affectionately nicknamed him “Orey”.  “Orey” I say, “someone’s been feeding you from this suite, haven’t they?”  (Hey, wait a minute... why does Tim look so guilty?)

"Orey" Waits for a Handout.
         Our anniversary dinner reservations this evening are for Restaurant Beck in the Whale Cove Inn.  The Whale Cove Inn is located at the south end of Depoe Bay.  It’s a stunning location—waterfront views from a new and nicely appointed dining room.  Our waiter shows us to our table by the window and tells us we have the only reservations for dinner tonight.

         We inquire about the bright lights moving across the ocean’s horizon and the waiter informs us that those are the lights of crabbing boats.  The Dungeness crab season lasts for only two months and in that time these crabbers will harvest 45 million dollars worth of crabs.  The boats are out there 24/7, their gleaming yellow lights announcing each boat’s position in the sea. 
         After hearing that story I had to try the Dungness crab entree.  Exquisite—a  perfect ending to a perfect day along the Oregon Coast.



Interested in visiting the Channel House?  Visit channelhouse.com

For more information on Oregon State Parks go to:  oregonstateparks.org

Reflections on solitude.

The Oregon Coast on a December's Day.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Arches National Park in Winter


“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break....I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.” 
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) may be southeastern Utah’s most well-known spokesman.  He traveled and worked in canyon country before paved roads, before Arches became a national park, before the mining town of Moab transformed itself into a tourist mecca.  Ed Abbey despised industrial tourism; ironically his non-fiction book, Desert Solitaire, received critical acclaim and introduced countless travelers to the magic of canyon country. 
         Arches National Park in southeastern Utah is a geological treasure.  A vehicle-friendly park, its wind-carved arches and brilliant red rocks may be viewed without leaving the comfort of your car.   But... if you'd rather not cheat your senses, leave your 4 wheels behind to walk beneath massive spans of rock, to breathe the sage-scented air, to gaze at the azure sky.  
         The park is heavily visited much of the year and hordes of tourists can detract from the eye-popping scenery.  Tim and I visited Arches one snowy, fog-shrouded day and, in our own Desert Solitaire moment, had the park to ourselves.  These are the images from that January day:


Park Avenue.

The view from Park Avenue overlook.

Juniper in the snow.

Striking a pose in front of balanced rock.

Don't try this in May—you're likely to be flattened
by bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Clearing skies reveal the contrasts between snow and rock.


Have you been to Arches National Park?  Do you have a favorite hike or cherished spot in the park?  
Learn more about Arches and the town of Moab by visiting these websites:  http://www.discovermoab.com/archesnationalpark.htm and http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

When in Moab be sure to visit one of my favorite independent bookstores:  Back of Beyond Books.  

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey (1994)





Thursday, November 17, 2011

24 Hours in Canyonlands National Park, Utah


         “Quick, snag that campsite!”  We zip into one of the last two available sites in Squaw Flat campground on a Friday afternoon.  Years ago when we traveled to southern Utah in late fall we had the parks and campgrounds mostly to ourselves.  Not anymore—southern Utah has been discovered.

Riding into the sunset on our bicycle-built-for-two.

          We erect the tent, change into our biking clothes and head out for a ride.  Even though the campground is full, the roads are nearly deserted as we leave the campground and pedal into the sunset.  We snap a few pictures of our lengthening shadows, ride to the visitor center and then return to the site; it’s a beauty—red rocks rise from the sand and giant junipers shade the picnic table and tent pad. 
           This evening’s clear and calm weather is perfect for tent camping.  Sure, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing, but we’re prepared with down sleeping bags and blankets.  After our mac & cheese with tomato soup dinner—a camp-out staple—I pull out my little portable GE radio and find ESPN on the AM dial.  It’s game seven of the World Series and the Cardinals are ahead of the Rangers 5-2.  Who needs a smart phone when you’ve got a transistor radio?


The miracle of radio—listening to the World Series in the wild.


         Tim and I relax by the fire with cups of hot tea and gaze at the night sky. Our campfire casts a luminous glow on the underside of the giant juniper’s branches, its needles shimmering a silvery green.  Brilliant, sparkling stars twinkle through the juniper’s crown, as if they’re dangling from the heavens.  It’s gorgeous—this radiant holiday wreath above our heads. 


Our picture-perfect campsite in Canyonlands.


          Preparing to crawl into the tent, we first stow our food and cookware in the truck—we don’t want to tempt any critters into visiting our site tonight.  As we walk to the truck we marvel at the milky way, stretching across the sky from horizon to horizon.


                                                             ****

The morning dawns cold and clear.  We reluctantly emerge from our sleeping bags, light a campfire and start water boiling for coffee.  Soon bacon and eggs are sizzling on the camp stove—there’s nothing quite like the smell of bacon frying in the great outdoors.  

Ready for breakfast.
         After breakfast we ride the length of the scenic drive and stop at the end, admiring the view north and west into the vast wilderness of Canyonlands National Park.  We return to the campground and meet another tandem-riding couple.  Karen and Joel have ridden their tandem bicycle all over the US and have even taken their bicycle to Ireland for a group ride.  Sounds like fun.

Viewpoint at the end of the scenic drive.

          Although more crowded with tourists than it used to be, red rock country still works its magic, charming visitors with clear skies and stunning vistas.  We’ll be back.
If you have only 24 hours to spend in a national park you can’t go wrong in the Needles District of Canyonlands NP.  For more information on Canyonlands National Park visit this website:  http://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm


Spectacular scenery abounds in Canyonlands Needles District.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Vancouver to Jasper on VIA Rail, Canada


             “Trains do not depart: they set out, and move at a pace to enhance the landscape, and aggrandize the land they traverse.
— William Gaddis, The Recognitions (1957)

The mood is festive in the VIA Rail Station in Vancouver, Canada.  Eager travelers mill about the station as live music plays; hot cider and mixed nuts are served, compliments of the railway.  My twin sister, parents and I are here with World Wide Country tours and we're preparing to board the Canadian for an overnight trip to Jasper, Alberta. 

VIA Rail's Western Canada Routes.

            "All Aboard!"  The call comes and the four of us search the long line of silver cars, looking for #232.  We climb on board, enter our rooms and stow our bags.  In each 2-person compartment we find armchairs facing a large picture window.  We settle in and relax for a few minutes before receiving dinner call.
            The dining car is 4 cars away and this is my first time walking through a moving train and passing between the cars.  I have visions of old movies—outlaws and law enforcement officers jumping from car to car as the ground rushes by; to my relief (and to that of my parents) the cars are connected by fully enclosed, sturdy walkways.

VIA Rail's Canadian.
             Service in the dining car is quick and attentive and the meal is delicious.  I dine on sesame crusted chicken accompanied by soup and salad.  
             After dinner we return to our rooms and discover that our porter has transformed the sitting areas into sleeping quarters.  The bunk beds are spacious and cozy; each bed is equipped with a reading light as well as pouches for watches, books and glasses.  A small sink stands opposite the beds, and baskets beside the sink offer soap, shampoo, mouthwash and towels.  The toilet has its own small closeted room.  Really, everything you need is here in a 7’ by 6’ space.
We arrange our things and then walk to the domed observation car.  Although the skies are dark we can discern snow-covered hills and trees as the train casts its light across the landscape.  A few hours later we retire to our bedrooms and turn in for the night, the swaying of our car on the rails gently rocking us to sleep.

View from the observation car.

               The following morning we view frozen waterfalls and snow-capped mountains during breakfast.  After eating we enjoy views of Alberta’s winter wonderland from the observation car.
The train pulls into Jasper station and we disembark, looking forward to our stay in Jasper Park Lodge and to attending their annual 'Christmas in November' 
celebration—several days of holiday cooking, eating and decorating seminars.   For more information on Christmas in November, click here: http://www.christmasinnovember.com/

Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

          I'm excited about the overnight return trip to Vancouver.  Train travel has proved a wonderful experience—more fun and adventurous than I thought it would be.  These words from The Great Railway Bazaar sum it up:  “A train journey is travel; everything else—planes especially—is transfer, your journey beginning when the plane lands.”
VIA Rail information may be found on this website: http://www.viarail.ca/en
I don’t typically travel with a tour company but I can recommend World Wide Country Tour's Christmas in November trip.  Read about it here:   http://www.countrytours.com/2010/Tours_Canada/CIN/resForm.asp?RefURL=&KeyCode=&tdate=&PMCode=&OrgURL=

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's Easy Being Green... in the Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park

         Ask ten people to name their favorite color.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Did anybody say green?  I didn’t think so.  

After a trip last month to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park I’d like to lobby for the color green, the most under-rated and taken-for-granted color on the wheel.  Shades of green vary from an almost-yellow chartreuse to a not-quite-midnight dark pine.  Can any other color do that?  

The mallard presents to the world a wholly unique shade of green.
I call it "rich teal-dark spruce" green.


         The word “green” describes the undesirable human conditions of jealousy, inexperience and ill-health. Green in the 21st century means earth friendly and, while a noble cause, I fear the phrase “going green” is suffering from overuse to the point of being meaningless.


Mosses overhang a stream full of greens.


           Let’s return to the real meaning of green—the color of fields, forests and meadows.  Take a walk through the Hoh, a place that receives from 12 to 14 feet of rain every year. Two easy trails, Hall of Mosses and Spruce Nature Trail, allow visitors to experience the rain forest.  Here you'll observe green in all its shades of glory—an enchanting sight.


The Hall of Mosses Trail.


          For the record my favorite color is...blue.  But I’m giving green some serious consideration.  How about you?
Information on the Hoh Rain Forest may be found here: http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm
http://www.portangeles.org/hoh-rain-forest.html



These downed giants line part of the path
on the Spruce Nature Trail.




Sword ferns, highlighted by the sun.



Growth along a "nurse log".  These downed tree trunks support
the next generation of spruces, hemlocks and firs.




Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Hungry Bear—Enter If You Dare!

          It’s mesmerizing, this steady beat of the windshield wipers as we travel along rain-slicked Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula.  Tim and I are on our way to Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park on a dreary October morning.   
         “We should stop at an espresso stand for hot chocolate on a morning like this", Tim says, “Espresso stands seem to be everywhere in Washington, there should be one around here somewhere.”  
         The rain continues and we motor west along Highway 101, but no espresso stands appear on this lonely stretch between Port Angeles and Forks.  Near the Rialto Beach turnoff we pass an eating establishment—The Hungry Bear Cafe.  It looks good enough to turn around and go back.  
         Halloween flags decorate the front of the cafe; we enter and find a life-sized Dracula inside the door.   A diminutive, grandmotherly woman behind the counter sweeps her arm:  “Sit wherever you’d like.”

Have a howling good time on Halloween!

          “Oh, we’re just here for a couple hot chocolates.” I say, as we glance around the empty cafe.  Whoa!  We’re standing inside “Grandma’s House of Horrors”—werewolves, skeletons, witches and monsters lurk in the corners and beside the tables; severed arms hang from the salad bar.
         The Hungry Bear Cafe is full of the scariest Halloween mannequins imaginable.  There’s Dracula, a pumpkin-head monster, a witch hovering over a caldron containing a severed head, a chainsaw massacrer, a man strapped to an electrocution board, a werewolf, and other spooky creatures. 

Whatever you do, don't order the soup!


Frankenstein reaches out for unsuspecting patrons.
         
         The cafe’s owner, “Grandma”,  tells us that she and her husband collect the mannequins and her son maintains them.  “We’ve been collecting them for years.  Some of them were quite expensive and several were featured in Hollywood films.”  Grandma steps out from behind the counter and hands us our hot chocolates.  “Go ahead, step on the buttons at the base of the mannequins.”  We do as we’re told.  The mannequins move, talk and shriek; the chainsaw massacre “man” moves and follows us with his life-like eyes.
        This impromptu stop on a misty October day is better than any haunted house. And to top it all off, this creepy cafe’s hot chocolate is delicious. 


I'd think twice about using the restrooms;
these two guard the entrance.


"Would you like a slice of pumpkin pie?"

"Welcome to the Hungry Bear—how about a hug?"

   
"I think I'll see if I can find something toxic on the menu."


         For me, a serendipitous find like The Hungry Bear Cafe is what travel is all about.  Have you discovered a novel eatery on your travels?  
         If you ever find yourself in the Olympic Peninsula, look up the Hungry Bear.  Here’s their website:  http://hungrybearcafemotel.com/

The cafe's benign exterior belies the horrors
waiting within.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns." 
                                                                                          ------George Eliot


           The above quote, copied from a recent post on the blog http://www.1happyhiker.blogspot.com , is an excellent sentiment for those of us enthralled with fall.


          Over the years I've traveled throughout the US and Canada with the express goal of viewing fall foliage.  This past month, in my own version of George Eliot's successive autumns, I've posted photos from Colorado and West Virginia.  This week I celebrate the hardwood forests of the midwest with pictures from the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.


Tahquamenon Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Along a lonely highway in the UP.



Lake Superior in an angry mood.


         Visiting Lake Superior always feels like coming home; her sighing waters serenade me with songs from a life I long to have known.


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along
the south shore of Lake Superior.




Reflections on a pond in Seney National Wildlife Refuge.





Fall foliage in the Upper Peninsula.


Lake Superior is my favorite body of water.  Readers, do you have a favorite body of water?  A place that speaks to you as Superior does to me?


Visit this website for more scenes from the lake the Ojibwe called "Shining Big Sea Water":
http://www.google.com/search?q=Lake+Superior&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&prmd=imvnsu&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=tLGcTuTDA4zZiAK4teWACg&ved=0CHwQsAQ&biw=1182&bih=633

Facts about Lake Superior may be found at this site:  http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/superior/superiorfacts.html

To learn more about recreation and travel in Michigan's Upper Peninsula go to this address:
http://www.uptravel.com/

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis West Virginia

         The Wicked Witch of the East’s shriveled feet must be under the porch somewhere; I open the cabin door this morning and it’s as though I’ve awakened in the land of Oz, seeing the world in color for the very first time.  Splashes of brilliant red, orange and gold appear over my head, framed by October’s bright blue sky.

Gazing skyward in Blackwater Falls State Park.

          It’s autumn in Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia.  We arrived last evening after dark, too late to notice the riot of color awaiting us.  This morning a fire crackles in the hearth as I plan the day’s activities with sister Diane and friends Shirley, Patti and Tina.  After a breakfast feast of ham/broccoli/cheese casserole we’re ready for a short hike.
Balanced rock trail leaves from the cabin area.  We’re hiking, not on the yellow brick road, but on a carpet of red and orange leaves.  The trail winds its way through deep woods with lush ferns and rhododendrons lining the path.  We arrive at balanced rock and pose for pictures, then cross the road and walk to the lodge for a view of Blackwater Canyon. 
At the lodge we learn it's “Astronomy Weekend” at Blackwater Falls and the park is hosting a star-gazing party tonight.  We listen in on a somewhat boring lecture on meteor spotting and then duck out—we’ll search for real meteors later.
After lunch we drive the park road to several lookouts spots.  A wedding is taking place at one of the overlooks.  The bridal party is framed by colored hardwoods, deep green pines and spruces—nature’s cathedral.  
We find The Falls Trail and descend 214 steep steps to Blackwater Falls overlook.  Leaves swirl in the water below the falls, creating an ever-changing autumn mosaic.

Scene from the trails in Blackwater Falls S.P.
         Back at the cabin Tina cooks braised eye of round with mashed potatoes; homemade applesauce accompanies the meal.  After dinner we treat ourselves to blueberry cake and cider donuts.  As darkness falls we take a short walk around the cabin area, glance skyward, and notice a dazzling, star-filled sky.  As we’re watching the stars two meteors streak across the heavens.  Astronomy weekend’s agenda fulfilled.
As I snuggle under the covers tonight I look forward to another day of wonder—in this technicolor land of Oz.

Cabin in the magical woods of Blackwater Falls State Park.

Country roads, take me home..... near Davis, West Virginia.

Interested in planning a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park next fall?  Check out this website: