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Tag: hiking

Utah, Sierras and 360 degrees

Doing some research for our upcoming trip out to CA this summer, I ran across this site that provides 360 degree panoramas of different areas in Utah. I looked around this site for 30 minutes and still can’t get enough. If these don’t convince you to put Canyonlands on your todo list, nothing will. Julie and I haven’t gotten this far East in our exploration of Utah, but it’s on the list and until then I’ll have to simply make due with these virtual attempts to be there.

Here are my favorite:

Mount Whitney part of the Sierra Mountains in California

In regards to the CA trip, an opportunity to possibly climb Mt. Whitney just came up so I did some searching on that as well. Wouldn’t you know it… some 360 degree panoramas of that as well.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7QtvUF8qso (video panorama)

We are also planning on taking the girls on their first backcountry trek (2 nights) during our visit to Yosemite. It’s turning out that while our first week will be the annual family reunion, the second week will be filled with adventure after adventure in the Sierras. Can’t think of a place I would rather be than in the mountains surrounded by my girls and family. SO PUMPED for this trip.

Banff / Jasper – The Hikes

We did several hikes while in the Rockies. The girls (6 and 9) were with us for all the hikes so they are all family friendly. I tried to rank them based on the uniqueness of the hike, if what we knew about the hike turned out to be true, and my general feeling about it. I also have several more pictures of all of these locations so if you are interested, just email me.

Banff National Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.00048a0869ee923b4f2db&ll=51.351201,-115.944214&spn=0.51461,0.823975&z=9&output=embed&w=300&h=300]

Bow Falls (1 out of 5 stars)

Just outside of the city of Banff. It’s right in town and it was raining when we arrived to town so we felt like this would be easy enough to do and hopefully raise our spirits. It’s not worth it to try and view from the east side. Cross to the west and there is a nice view of the falls from an access road. The river rafting folks drop in just south of the falls and you can watch them from the viewing location.  Bow Falls seemed more like rapids, than falls.

There is a short hike to the top of the falls from the parking lot but the view wasn’t great and the pictures confirm this. On the plus side, it’s right next to town, on the downside, it’s hardly worth the effort.

Johnston Canyon (3 out of 5 stars)

The canyon was pretty nice but it felt a little wrong when we were walking from the parking lot and got to hear a tour guide explain the rules for the stop to a group of 70+ yr old folks that were about to do the same hike we were. It’s a really easy hike and the canyon is very interesting. There is a lodge right next to the trail at the beginning with an ice cream stand that made it feel pretty touristy which made me a little disappointed. There is a very, very cool little hole at the end of the trail that you can walk through and be right next to the falls. The kids loved that!

Lake Agnes Trail (tea house) (4 out of 5 stars)

This was a 3.5 km one way hike. It starts just to the north-west of the chateau and we didn’t realize it before we started, but you can actually see the tea house from the chateau. It’s way up there, but you can clearly see it.

The entire 3.5 km is all up hill and fairly steep. We had to keep Brooke motivated to keep moving but she finally made it. I was proud that she decided to push on to the tea house after reaching Mirror Lake since her attitude seemed to be turning for the worse. The tea house was very nice and the young folks that work up there were great. We did get to experience some foreigners being incredibly rude to the staff of the tea house which was sad and funny. Here we are, up in the woods at this cool tea house and there is one server for a fairly large crowd and this old man felt like he wasn’t being served fast enough. This gentlemen walked into the kitchen to tell them to hurry up with his order. Odd, you think he would have been happy to just be served hot tea in the middle of the damn wilderness!

It was a quick hike back down. The major let down for me was that this hike only provided one view of Lake Louise. I was hoping to get some nice wide-angle pictures but didn’t get any. If you want to get elevation above Lake Louise, don’t hike this trail to do it. The trail also started to get a little crowded on our way back down (around 1pm). It looks like this is popular since the start is so close to the chateau, at least that is my guess.

Did I mention there was a fair amount of snow? Nothing like a little snow-softball to break up the hike.

This is the only view you get of the lake during the hike.

Jasper National Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.00048a0869ee923b4f2db&ll=52.549636,-117.647095&spn=1.002084,1.647949&z=8&output=embed&w=300&h=300]

Athabasca Glacier (4 out of 5 stars)

Yeah, we did the mass-tourist thing better known as The Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience. We originally thought of hiking up to the foot of the glacier and just walk on, but there is a stream of water between land and the actual glacier. We were also advised against trying it (by some parks folks, but it felt a little like they were working for the Sno-coach people…). So we signed up to take the bus out to a transfer station where we moved onto the Sno-coaches and out onto the glacier.

You only get 20 minutes on the glacier to walk around which felt like way way to short of a time considering the $50/person cost of the trip. It was also a little sad to see the massive road they had cut into the glacier in order for the Sno-coach to drive on it. I understand that it raises awareness of global warming, but it felt a little anti-environment instead of respecting the glacier.  Julie felt the same way, cringing as we rode in this $1 million huge, gas guzzling Sno-coach but it was the only way onto the glacier.  It was a cool experience nonetheless.

We also filled up some water bottles and enjoyed some very, very cold and fresh tasting water. We have a few bottles left in the fridge!

Athabasca Falls (3 out of 5 stars)

You can tell this is a popular tour bus stop when you pull up. Lots of crazy angles from the various bridges that go over these falls allow for a pretty dense population of people to view the falls at the same time. We needed to fight for a few key photo taking locations when we got there. It was later in the day when we got here so the sun was high overhead and did not lead to any ideal lighting conditions for taking pictures. The kids hiked around a little and it was an overall nice stop.

This is the view if you turned around from the falls and climbed onto a road. This was a pretty nice payoff for looking the other way.

Kootenay National Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.00048a0869ee923b4f2db&ll=51.078508,-116.021118&spn=0.258833,0.411987&z=10&output=embed&w=300&h=300]

Stanley Glacier (4 out of 5 stars)

Stanley Glacier was our first real hike of the trip. When we got out of the car at the trailhead, the temp was a nice a cool 36 degrees. Needless to say, we had on multiple layers, gloves, hats, the works. This hike climbs up for the first 1.5 km and then levels out as you get into a valley between two mountains. It was a cloudy day when we started but the sun came out when we reached the valley. It was a really pleasant hike with small water falls cascading off from the tops of the mountains where the snow was still melting. We were hoping to be able to hike up to the glacier, but it was really really high and we were not going to push the kids on the first hike.

We stopped for lunch at the top and had a little snowball fight. We were first on the trail when we went out but a few others showed up as we were hiking back down.

Marble Canyon (4 out of 5 stars)

This little gem of a hike we heard of from another couple while we were in Johnston Canyon. It is a km or two past the Stanley Glacier hike and we had some time in the schedule so we decided to go for it. What an awesome surprise!! This canyon is in the process of being formed and instead of hiking in the canyon like at Johnston, you hike on top of it and can look down to see it being formed. At some points it looks like you might be able to jump across it or would simply miss it if it wasn’t marked, but when you look down into the canyon it falls a couple of hundred feet at some places.

This area was very well blocked off with nice fencing to keep the kids safe. It looks very new and we guessed it was in response to some type of accident based on a sign we read at the end of the hike. This was only a km or two round trip.

Notice the nice railings!

Yoho National Park

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&t=h&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.00048a0869ee923b4f2db&ll=51.356722,-116.332083&spn=0.01608,0.025749&z=14&output=embed&w=300&h=300]

Lake Ohara Shoreline Trail (5 out of 5 stars)

The best hike of the trip in my view. From the moment we walked up from the bus drop off, I loved this lake. Close your eyes and try to imagine the perfect mountain lake: the color, the views, the smell. That is Lake Ohara. I thought about this lake as we were driving home after the whole trip was over and I think I would go back to Banff just to spend a few days hiking the Lake Ohara area. I liked it that much.

This was highly recommended by a co-worker and needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. You have to call the park service a few months in advance to get a bus ride up to the lake and the day we went was the first day it was open for the season. They had been snowed in at the lake as recent as a few weeks before we were there.

We just did the basic hike around Lake Ohara but there are numerous hikes that shoot off from here and there is a lodge as well. The cabins looked really really awesome but when we looked into the price, it would be something like $700/day for our family to stay there. Just a little above our price range (yikes!). The water was clear and the sky was sunny with some clouds to add contrast. The hiking was easy and very enjoyable for the kids.

There is a little shop where you can get something to drink and a t-shirt if you want, but it’s pretty rustic. We took the 10:30 am bus and came back at 2:30. They only run the return buses every two hours so you have to plan ahead a little.

On the move

I got a couple more Spot updates from the Utah trip and updated the google map to indicate the new positions. Thanks to Google, we can get an idea of what the area they were hiking in yesterday looks like.

GPS location Date/Time:04/26/2010 16:59:22 GMT

GPS location Date/Time:04/27/2010 02:49:26 GMT

For some reason, the embedded google map isn’t showing the right zoom level. Zoom out once on the map below to see the new markers.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.000484fdba4a1a267ff71&t=h&ll=37.326405,-111.555315&spn=0.49255,0.67011&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

Somewhere in Utah

I got an email notification from my brother and dad from the spot that they are carrying with them. This cool GPS type device allows you to send out a ‘we are ok’ message to family and friends or a ‘we are in deep crap’ message to a central service that they dispatches local help. This thing is great and the coordinates it gave for their location are:

GPS location Date/Time:04/24/2010 15:40:12 GMT

Throwing that up on google maps, you get this:

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.000484fdba4a1a267ff71&ll=37.57268,-111.25769&spn=0,0&t=h&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

They were planning on going canyoneering, so I can only imagine that the canyon in the map is where they went. I woke up this morning thinking about what they were up to today and if they made it out alright. We’ll see where the spot reports their location next…

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 4

August 3rd

It’s 6 am and Julie has to use the bathroom. She gets out of the tent quietly and I drift back to sleep. Suddenly, I hear the zipper pull quickly and I sit up. Julie gives me this crazy look and tells me to get out of the tent quietly.

It turns out there are a couple of Elk right next to our tent… and I mean RIGHT next to it. Here is a shot of one of them walking up to our van. My camera does not do well in this low-light so I had to try to steady it. It was so awesome. We loved the Moraine campground and had been here 13 years ago when we were last in Rocky Mountain NP. You can’t get much closer to nature when you are car-camping than this!

Julie dreams of climbing Long’s Peak someday… but not today… not today.

We woke up and got moving shortly after the Elk incident and made our way back over to the Bear Lake area to do the Alberta Falls hike. This would give the girls a better taste for hiking on a real trail and see a cool river/waterfall at the same time.

When we were leaving the parking lot after the hike we ran into Cowboy Brad. Turns out, he is a park ranger during the day. The girls were so excited and he asked if we were coming back to see him that night since he was playing again. I’ll give you one guess where we were headed that night?? Brooke had a crush on him.

The weather looked questionable and we were not sure about having a 5 yr old go horseback riding for a couple of hours, but we did it anyway. How many times are you going to get a chance to do something like this? The stables that are right next to Moraine campground were very well run and the staff were excellent. We had a great ride and the weather held.

And here we are, ending our awesome trip with Cowboy Brad and dancing the evening away.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 3

August 2nd

Day 3 we started the morning by packing up camp at the KOA and heading into Estes Park. We were not able to get all our nights in the park because we decided to go on such short notice, but Julie was able to get us in the Moraine campground for 2 nights so it was time to move. Since we couldn’t claim our campground until later in the afternoon, we drove up to Bear Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the park because it’s beautiful and easily accessible.

All the guide books/online sites/and rangers told us to park in the mega parking lot a few miles from the trail head and take the big shuttle bus to the top. This would have been sound advise since there are only 100 or so parking spots (estimation) and they fill up really really early in the morning. But who are we to listen to EVERYONE that we asked about this… so we drove up to the top and BAM! Got a spot. Nailed it!

So if you are going here, I would recommend at least trying. There are very nice rangers stationed in the parking lot and they will not let you just wait for a spot to open or keep driving in circles. One trick I didn’t try, but would probably would have worked, would be to tell the ranger your kid has to use the bathroom so you can wait a little longer for a spot to open…. it’s worth a shot because that damn tram ride up did not look like any fun.

The trail is just a big circle around the lake. Nice, easy hiking and paved most of the way. I could tell the girls were itching for something a little more adventurous but that would have to wait until the following day. For now, it was great to just enjoy the weather (3rd day in a row of fantastic weather) and take in the beauty. Brooke did happen to find a snake that all of us missed except her. How cool is that? She was so proud.

One thing you can kind of see in this shot of the girls are some dead trees. This is one of the saddest things we saw on the trip. Rock Mountain NP has been devastated by  a mountain pine beetle epidemic. It’s very, very obvious when you drive through and on TRR. Not a whole lot they can do at this point, but you can just imagine all the green and how awesome it must have looked before the beetle arrived.

Mountain Pine Beetles

That night, we went back into Estes Park and went to hear Cowboy Brad. This guy plays free concerts in the main square a couple of nights a week. He is great family entertainment and seems like a really nice guy. He played songs just for the kids and some great classic western music. He got the whole family hooked on John Denver for the next couple of months. Rocky Mountain high baby… rocky mountain high.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 2

August 1st

For day 2, we planned on spending the morning driving up Trail Ridge Road and then heading back into town in the late afternoon to spend the evening in downtown Estes Park. We had one more night at the KOA so we had to head back into town at some point.

A short ways up the road, we found a really nice pull off that had a view of Long’s Peak. The girls jumped out of the van and before Julie could get her bearings, the girls were climbing up and over a rock pile.

Once we caught up, we got this snapshot thanks to the self-timer and mini-tripod (JOBY). Places like RMNP are made for kids to get out and run around. It’s true freedom and with so much space and not too much fear of them getting hurt, it’s great to let them do some exploring on their own and find cool things.

Starting up the drive on TRR, there were two things that became clear very quickly.

  1. This is BIG COUNTRY. The air is clean and the mountains are big.
  2. There are some frickin’ insane people that bike this road and want to share it with cars. Does it look like there is room on this road for you??? This just makes for a dangerous situation for not just the bikers but drivers too. There were LOTS of bikes on the road.

View of Trail Ridge Road as Julie and Maddie climbed up the back way to this hiking path. It was very cold and windy. Above the tree line was very exciting for everyone and with the weather you can easily see why little grows up here. There were piles of snow, even in late July, right off the road.

You can see where this USGS survey marker is in the map below:

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=104267311669100252934.000484dba2dddf444ac85&ll=40.363604,-105.606422&spn=0.100861,0.235433&t=h&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

We stopped at the visitor’s center/gift shop that they had at the top for a few minutes. This was a cool place and it’s only open for a few months out of the year. They have some pictures inside of what the road looks like during winter and needless to say, the entire building we were standing in and what you see in this picture is not visible during winter months. Another fun activity while at the visitor’s center was to watch the people driving up the old Trial Ridge Road, what is now called Old Fall River Road. People who chose to head up this way did NOT seem happy at the top. It looks very stressful and the men driving looked like they had taken a physical beating on the way up… still, I enjoyed watching.

We drove down the backside of TRR to have lunch and go on a short hike to…. wait for it… the Colorado River. That’s right, up here the river is just a shallow stream and you can walk in it. Julie took this opportunity to look for a few choice rocks, of course, and loaded up her pockets to the point where her pants couldn’t stay up.

On our way back we stopped at the main Visitor’s Center for the park near the entrance and got a call from Julie’s uncle who rode up to see us for the afternoon so we bailed on any afternoon plans and went fishing on Lake Estes. There is a place on the north side of the lake, near our campground, where you can rent boats of all types. This was a real highlight for the kids as they got to drive the boat around while the adults just relaxed. Now that I think about this, we were probably violating a few rules about the age of boat drivers, but who cares… it was fun.

That night, while shopping in downtown Estes Park, Julie got a cowgirl hat. She said she didn’t want one, but hey… we are in Colorado… you need to get a hat. So we made our way to Craftsmen In Leather and picked out a very cool hat that you will see in upcoming pictures.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Day 1

July 31st

We were pretty beat when we finally arrived at camp in the late afternoon. As we pulled into the Estes Park KOA, we were feeling good… until we opened the door to the car and realized our campsite was next to a stable, the Sombrero Ranch Stables. You can clearly see this in the google maps view of where the KOA is but we didn’t know where the campsites were on the grounds before we left. NOTE TO SELF: Julie is not fond of the smell of horse crap.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=40.369828,-105.499992&spn=0.19147,0.407867&t=h&msid=104267311669100252934.000484dba2dddf444ac85&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

We decided to make the best of it and just setup camp and then head into town to do some grocery shopping and grab some dinner. We also made a stop at this very cool and EXTREMELY CHEAP gear store that is right across the road from the KOA named the Estes Park Mountain Shop. We ended up with some new gear… and here’s the shocker… it was North Face.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Intro

In June of 2009, we decided to make a trip that the girls and Julie were taking to visit her brother in Kansas a little longer. I flew in to meet up with them on July 30th and we drove to some town just east of the Colorado border on Thursday night. The following day we stopped at Julie’s uncle’s place to in Golden, CO and then headed up to Estes Park. We knew we wouldn’t have much time in the park, but decided that three and a half days in the Rockies were better than three and a half days in Illinois and that was all it took. This was going to be the national park #2 for Julie and I in 2009 (we did Volcano’s N.P. in March).

On the way up, we got to drive through Boulder, CO. Instead of going around the town, we went right through the middle to check it out. I’ve never seen so many bicycles in one town. Everything seemed very laid back and mellow… shocking.

This map highlights key locations from our trip including the campgrounds we stayed at and hikes that we took.

[googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=40.369828,-105.499992&spn=0.19147,0.407867&t=h&msid=104267311669100252934.000484dba2dddf444ac85&output=embed&w=425&h=350]

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