Southern Utah has numerous very famous natural attractions such as Bryce National Park. In addition to those you can find some amazing places that aren’t as crowded.
One of those is Willis Creek Slot Canyon. One potential reason is the road to the trailhead is a fantastically bumpy, at times steep, dirt road. We travelled 5-6 miles down this road, and found the parking lot empty at 8 AM, although next door was a group of about 10 horses and riders who had just finished their adventure.
After chatting with their leader and getting guidance on the hike, we set off.
We quickly dropped down into the canyon and it’s eponymously named creek. Fortunately despite some recent rains Willis Creek was quite small on this day so we were able to hop back and forth across it.
It didn’t take long for the canyon walls to narrow and rise to a height of about 10-20′.
The young lady who had lead the horse riding group had advised us that we would go through 4 separate slot canyons on our hike. This first one remain with walls up to about 20′ high.
As we continued downstream we would pop in and out of slot canyons.
Eventually the creek ran dry and the hiking became easier. Most slot canyons require some level of scrambling over boulders, but not here – just a casual hike down the canyon.
Eventually the walls rose to a height of up to 100′.
After about a mile and a half we ran out of slot canyons and made the decision to turn back there. The return trip was just as interesting as the morning sun changed the look seemingly every minute.
On our return trip we passed about 6 other groups of hikers, reaffirming my belief that if you want solitude in nature get going at the crack of dawn.
Willis Slot Canyon is a great hike for anyone, with a fun drive to get there.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is about 100 miles east of El Paso, near the New Mexico border. It is about 45 miles from Carlsbad Caverns, making it a perfect day to visit two parks in one day.
The visitor center is one of the few structures in the park. It is conveniently located near the campground, as well as the start of the primary trails.
One trail goes all the way to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. We chose a different trail, the Devil’s Hall Trail.
After a couple of miles you reach the wash that leads to Devil’s Hall. The wash is full of rocks and boulders, which for me, was too much to overcome to make it to Devil’s Hall. Still it was a scenic workout.
Madera Canyon is less than an hour south of Tucson, but a world away from an ecological perspective. While the base of the canyon is around 3500′ elevation, you can easily and quickly drive to over 5000′, and if you are energetic (I was not), you can hike to the top of 9456′ high Mt Wrightson.
We chose to hike around the lower areas of the canyon, which were beautiful, offer views from desert to fall tree colors.
With minimal travel we had a weekend hiking close to home that gave a few photo ops of downtown Columbus, as well as nearby Licking County.
The trip to Licking County included a hike in Blackhand Gorge Park. Named for a (now long gone) Native American petroglyph the hike goes through a small ravine along a creek. The sandstone cliffs have a variety of vegetation growing on them.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the backroads of the county.
We came across this fantastic abandoned schoolhouse. As I approached for a closer look the bird came flying out adding to the excitement.
Los Glaciares provided a chance to do something I had never done – gone hiking on a glacier.
To get there we took a short boat ride across the lake in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier, and ‘docked’ – which was really a stop along rocks shaped somewhat into steps.
We headed across the rocks and beach toward the huts to get prepared – the huts looked tiny compared to where we were headed.
As we were standing on the beach getting some background on how glaciers work a 70 meter (210 foot) high wall of ice came falling down (aka calving). It was very cool – but I do not have room for the 30 or so photos I managed to take in burst mode!
Finally we reached the hut and received our crampons.
The wall of ice was daunting – but we were headed for a more gradual rise.
We were broken up into English speakers and Spanish speakers, then further into groups of 15. Our leader was Ceffi.
And we were off…
Before long we were in the middle of the ice going up, down and over obstacles.
The staff was very helpful, making sure we didn’t fall into crevasses.
The views were fantastic.
Near the end of our 2 hours on the ice we celebrated with a whiskey on ice – straight from the glacier. Ceffi and the rest of the staff were excellent – fun, informative and foremost making sure everything was done safely.
And with that we returned to the starting point where we could reflect on how awesome the hike had been – on top of this massive glacier.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike was America’s first ‘superhighway’. Built primarily along a disused railroad right of way in the 1930s, it set the standard for all interstates to come after.
When first built it passed through 7 tunnels as you make your way through the Appalachian Mountains. Originally the 4 lane highway narrowed to 2 lanes for each of these tunnels, but they always caused traffic jams, so in the 1960s they added a second tunnel to have a continuous 4 lanes across the state.
During this expansion there were 3 tunnels that were bypassed by building the highway up over the mountains. Two of these are in a 13 mile stretch that was completely abandoned. About 20 years ago the Turnpike Commission deeded them over to the Southern Allegheny Conservancy, and it now serves as one of the more unique bike trails in the country.
After a 2 mile hike we reached the first tunnel…
At 2500′ long it was one of the shortest on the turnpike…
You likely can make it through without a lantern but we went about 1/2 way in and decided to head back…
The second tunnel further on up is the Sideling Hill Tunnel, which was the longest on the turnpike at almost 6800′ long. Clearly we need to come back with bikes and really bright lanterns.
Instead we enjoyed the graffiti display…
And headed back the 2 miles to the car. It is a really interesting experience walking along this old road, knowing how many million cars, trucks and people had traveled along this same route.