Big Bend National Park, Texas – May 2019

Big Bend National Park is one of the more remote parks in the continental United States, but with some effort – we arrived!




The early morning drive down from Marathon provided an excellent sunrise, giving the mountains great coloring.








Eventually we made our way back down to the Rio Grande River Valley.



Our west Texas days constantly provided interesting cacti views.



The Rio Grande in this area is really just a decent size creek, but the kayaks were setting out for the day.



Our first choice for hiking along the river, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, was closed due to wildfires, so we headed instead for the Boquillas Canyon Trail.




As we made our way along the river an elderly man on the Mexico side serenaded us with songs in an effort to get us to come down to the river bank so he could sell his wares.



The canyon walls continually closed in until we couldn’t go any further unless we went in the river.




We returned to cross the border into Mexico (detailed on the next post) passing more colorful mountains along the way.




With wildfires closing a number of the more popular spots in the park, we chose to go up into the basin and check out the Window View Trail. Again we were treated to interesting vegetation.








Being in the basin we were surrounded on all sides by the mountains.




This view is ‘The Window’.




While it was disappointing that the wildfires impacted the park, there was plenty to see and do for the day.






Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 17 The Road To Hana (and Beyond)

The Road to Hana is a famed Maui attraction. Winding for 52 miles from Kahului, it passes over 46 one lane bridges, and has over 600 curves.

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It basically runs up and down the gulches throughout east Maui, with many of the gulches featuring waterfalls.

It was raining fairly hard as we made our way down this early morning, so some of the falls were more impressive than normal. The good news was our early start meant we missed most of the very slow tourist traffic on the way down.

Unfortunately unless you had a 4WD high clearance vehicle you had to come back the same way, which we did later that afternoon.

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Eventually we reached Hana, and continued on to the portion of Haleakala National Park that is on the ocean. As we passed into the park grounds we were met with another great waterfall.

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Our main destination for the day was the Pipiwai Trail.

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This trail takes you up the mountain past the Seven Sacred Pools.

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Through an amazing bamboo forest.

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After clearing the bamboo forest you are presented with the highlight – the 400′ high Waimoku Waterfalls.

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After returning back down the trail we started backtracking up Hana Highway. Just beyond Hana is the Wai’anapanapa State Park.

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The seas were angry that day, and the waves were high and frequent.

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The blowhole at the park was more impressive than any of the others we saw elsewhere.

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Even the birds seemed excited.

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As we continued our journey back to Kahului we passed an area where numerous cars were parked along the road. Following the others we made our way down to an overlook where everyone was checking out the waves.

They were reported to be 20-30′ high here, which brought out locals as well as the tourists.

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The only surfboards we saw that day were lining the parking lot of the shops.

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As we made our way back to the hotel for the night we passed this architecturally interesting temple. We were fortunate that despite quite a bit of rain we remained dry for our couple hours of hiking, as well as the visit to the state park.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 16 From Maui to the Moon

Early on a Sunday morning we took off and headed up the tallest mountain on Maui.

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Up we went until we were at the same level as the clouds.

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And the road kept going – we could see Molokai in the distance, and we kept going.

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we were looking down on the 5000′ high West Maui Mountains and the clouds now. Where could we be going?

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The moon!

No not really, it is Haleakala Mountain (and National Park). The buildings are an observatory.

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But if you could visit the moon in shorts this is the place (to be fair it was in the upper 50s but it is Hawaii so I am wearing shorts).

Haleakala is a volcano, and the top is the crater with numerous cauldrons. They like to point out that while it is officially 10,023′ above sea level, there is another 19, 680′ below sea level, so it is taller than Everest (but shorter overall than nearby Mauna Kea).

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There are numerous cauldrons in the crater, which is a deceptive 2600′ deep.

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While barren of vegetation, the crater floor is full of color, as this series of photos will show. These are some of my favorite photos of all time, all from the same place!

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We went down the path into the cauldron for about 45 minutes – resulting in a 2 hour hike back up. For me this was one of the tougher hikes, it is 10,000′ in elevation, it is continuous, without shade (and I likely only went down 700-800 vertical feet)

It is an incredible place, and we were fortunate that it was a very sunny day the day we visited, as the clouds often obscure the mountain (at least parts), and later in the day and for the rest of our time in Maui, it was at least partially obscured.

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We returned to Maui (aka sea level) and went for a drive to Kahakuloa. While most people drive the famed road to Hana (we did – later), this road was far more impressive and challenging. It was mostly a lane and a half, often clinging to the cliffs to the ocean, with minimal guard rails.

It was great!

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Great unexpected views would just pop up without warning.

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The road passes through a couple of little towns.

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Eventually you make it back to a road with state highway maintenance (aka – two lanes), but the views continue.

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We stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole.

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Another north shore coastline (note the road running along the top of the hill).

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Maui’s north shore is known for the surfing. We watched a number of them catch waves before calling it a day.

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Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 5 Volcano National Park

Having arrived after dark the night before, once the sun came up in the morning we found ourselves facing Kilauea. Showing my ignorance at some things in nature I always thought that a volcano was the huge cylindrical cone where everything came shooting out the top.

On this day I learned that they can be very different. For Mauna Loa, there have been numerous cauldrons/craters that have erupted over time. Even the most recent this spring, didn’t erupt in the cauldron, rather the lava lake that was in Kilauea disappeared as the lava exited lava tubes miles away, leaving this cauldron empty, except for the steam vents.

To me it looked like an abandoned strip mine with steam.

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Our visit continued with a drive down Chain of Craters Road, so named as it passes numerous craters from previous eruptions over the last 100 years.

Each crater has a different look depending on age.

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We stopped along the way and took a great 3 mile round trip hike across lava fields to Pu’u Huluhulu.

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The amount of vegetation that grows in what seems like impossible conditions is amazing, and beautiful. We found these berries growing everywhere.

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Through every available crack.

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Also interesting were the different surfaces, some were smooth, some with swirls, and this one with thousands of little indentations.

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Having completed our hike, we continued our drive towards the sea.

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Once we reached the ocean you could again see how volcanic activity forms all of Hawaii.

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The Holei Sea Arch is a 90′ high natural arch formed from the erosion of the lava cliffs from the pounding of the surf.

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Returning to the main part of the park (and people), we went for a walk along the steam vents. Unlike Yellowstone where there is a strong sulfur smell, these just felt and smelled like you are standing outside of a house in the winter where the drying vent is running – only much more so.

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The steam vents were all over the place.

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Many had offerings to the volcano gods to ask them to behave themselves.

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As with most of our days in Hawaii, it ended with a great sunset.

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Port Angeles, Washington – September 2017 – Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park makes up most of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Our visit took us up a long hike to the top of Hurricane Ridge, which offered excellent views of the mountains, as well as back across the Straight of Juan De Fuca to Victoria.

The 17 mile drive up the mountain featured a few tunnels.

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The views at the top were great, as was the weather.

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Port Angeles and beyond.

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The trail was long, but worth it.

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Mountain Flowers

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Mt Baker in the distance.

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Banff National Park – September 2017 – Canada’s First National Park

Established in 1885 Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest. Set in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, the park itself it a natural wonder surrounding the town of Banff.

The town itself is nice, filled with the typical tourist shops, but kept nicer than most. A visit to Banff is highly recommended.

 

Views from Tunnel Mountain

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The famed Fairmount Hotel

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The waters are turquoise due to mineral content.

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There were a few hoodoos.

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Lake Minnewanka provided the setting for a boat tour.

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An eagle kept an eye over the boat tour.

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Empire, MI – August 2008 – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes is a National Lakeshore located along Lake Michigan in the upper part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. It features massive sand dunes along the lakeshore.

This park is one of the great jewels of the midwest. The scenery is spectacular, providing numerous places for enjoying it. The 2 mile + hike each way to the lake through the sand was the hardest hike I have ever done. It goes up and down the dunes, with poor footing. I was exhausted by the time I got back to the car.

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