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.
As you drive across the flatlands of Oklahoma one feature you do not expect is a redish mesa rising 200 feet above the prairie, but that is exactly what Gloss Mountain does.
In fact there are a few of these features in the area just outside of the small, appropriately named town of Fairview.
The hike up the mesa was on some sketchy looking stairs, but they worked – from the top you have a panoramic view of the area.
These unique features were formed long ago when the area was under a sea that left behind layers of shale and siltstone, with a top layer of gypsum. There is something known as selenite in gypsum that is glossy, hence the name.
The mesa’s were formed from erosion over thousands of years.
From here you have a seemingly endless view across the flat lands.
Once you reach the top you pass numerous fields of wild flowers.
Gloss Mountain – an unexpected and fun hike in the middle of Oklahoma.
With winter hopefully coming to an end soon it was a good day to check out Hocking Hills State Park, and the numerous waterfalls throughout the park.
For this hike we started at the top of the gorge, where the aptly named Upper Falls is located.
As we made our way downstream we passed numerous ice formations on the gorge walls.
While the icicles are all bumpy, the icy spots on the trail were perfectly smooth, and very slick.
The day was mostly cloudy but we did have a peak of the sun highlight the lower falls and rock formation near one of the trails exiting the gorge.
Much like snowflakes, it seems no two icicles are the same.
The stream continues down the gorge with numerous small waterfalls.
We reached the lower falls before heading off for other trails.
Broken Rock Falls is at the end of a short side trail. Despite the narrow path for the water to travel over the wall, it came down with significant noise.
We moved on to Cedar Falls where the path to the falls took us past more interesting formations on the gorge wall. It seems the ice here was ‘stuck’ to the wall, as opposed to the numerous icicles elsewhere, although there were some here too.
The light mist that comes over the edge causes the light coating.
Cedar Falls is one of the nicer ones in the park.
Another waterfalls was hidden around the corner from the main falls, and all of the people. Note the two logs framing the sides covered in ice as well.
Our final stop was Ash Cave. We saved this for our ‘grand finale’, however the cone at the bottom wasn’t nearly as tall as in previous years.
Still it is an impressive falls.
A close up of the ice ‘cone’ at the bottom with the mist of water barely visible in the center.
All in all it was a great day in the park, and my phone says I climbed the equivalent of 54 stories of a building! Exercise and photography, what could be better.
Our final stop on our tour of North Shore Mansions was Sands Point Preserve. This estate contains two primary mansions, the Hempstead House and Castle Gould.
Castle Gould was built to be a replica of Kilkenny Castle.
Which from a distance has a strong resemblance.
As with the other estates this one too borders the Long Island Sound. While these mansions remain much like they were 100 years ago, the others nearby have been torn down and replaced with modern houses.
Back up on the hill you again get a nice water view.
The Hempstead House features well kept gardens, although large tents mar the view (for all of those brides from Planting Fields I guess)
This home too features a large turret.
The entryway has massive wooden doors, with a smaller side door for actual use.
Clearly if you are going to visit Long Island Mansions of the past, don’t do it on a Tuesday – they are all closed to tours.