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NateKat · Hiking

Hiking

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Acadia National Park has been on our must-see list since we moved to the East Coast and we decided to make a trip in October, trying to time our visit with the fall colors. Of course, the fall colors were unusually late, so we missed the peak color, but we still had a great trip and enjoyed exploring the park.

We spent 3 days and two nights in the park. We stayed in Bar Harbor since the weather can be a bit unpredictable and the potential of camping in cold fall rain didn’t sound too appealing. But Bar Harbor is a really cute town, and very convenient for accessing the park, so it turned out to be a great choice and allowed us to experience a small coastal New England town. Also, lobster for dinner!

 

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

Hikes to lighthouses, waterfalls, peaks, and sunsets

We also spent a couple half-days in Portland with Katharine’s friend Kate. She gave us a tour of the city with stops for blueberry beer, and we made a trip out to the famous Portland Head Light.

 

We really enjoyed the ocean views and challenging hikes of Acadia. Another National Park checked off the list!

2/18 Perito Moreno Glacier

On our return to Punta Arenas we spent a day in El Calafate and took a tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier.  We booked a Mini-Trekking tour that included plenty of time at the viewing decks and a guided hike on the glacier.  It’s about 30 minutes to the Los Glaciares National Park by bus and an additional 30 minutes to the Glacier viewing decks.  Our tour was scheduled so that we could eat lunch on the viewing decks and watch the glacier calve.

We were fortunate to see the 200+ foot tall glacier wall calve several times in the first 15 minutes.  You could hear the ice cracking, then massive portions of the wall would separate, appearing to fall in slow motion.  It’s hard to put into perspective how big the pieces of ice are that are falling.

RvCYkI

 

It seemed like the lake water had a delayed reaction to the ice falling, waiting until the majority of the ice had been submerged before exploding with a spray of water.  The blast pushed any floating icebergs out into the open water leaving an eerie calm in the water.

The viewing deck is built so close to the ice wall that it is impossible to view the entire glacier at one time.  The glacier wall is 3 miles wide and extends about 240′ above the water, but over 300′ of ice lies beneath the water’s surface.

We watched a couple people jump the railing and try to get a closer look, but they were quickly chased by the park rangers.

After lunch we headed to a small boat that took us across the lake and to the edge of the glacier.  It gave us an interesting view point to see the glacier in profile from a lower view point.

The guides tied the rudimentary (but effective) crampons to our boots and then led us out onto the glacier in groups of 15. They gave us a few tips and little training, but overall the tour felt quite lax in terms of safety compared to what we’d expect in the US.

We made several stops looking down into the deep blue crevasses.  The hike climbed up and over small glacial ridges that had been exposed to the air and sun and had been melting for some time.  The melting had reduced its density causing the ice to lose its blue color and look and feel more like snow.

Guide Surveying the Crevasse

Katharine looking down a crevasse as the guide holds onto her backpack for ‘safety’

 

We spent a couple hours on the glacier traversing up and down small hills. It was amazing to see the bright blue revealed in the crevasses while the rest of it resembled whipped cream or meringues.

The hike ended at a small table in a valley where the guides scooped up glacial ice in tumblers and poured everyone a celebratory whiskey toast.

We’ve seen a number of glaciers in Alaska and Montana etc., but this was by far the most impressive and memorable.  The vast ice wall was stunning, and of course the hike was an unforgettable experience.

 

 

 

2/14-2/15 Traveling from Chile to Argentina

Before we could recover from our 4 day backpacking trip we were faced with trying to buy Argentinian bus tickets from Puerto Natales (Chile) to El Calafate (Argentina) and on to El Chalten (Argentina).  El Calafate was hosting a week long music concert driving up the cost of hotels and booking all the buses in and out of the city.  To us it was just a layover to get to the small remote hiking/climbing town of El Chalten.  We finally managed to get tickets to El Calafate arriving around midnight, but still couldn’t get tickets for the next leg of the trip in Argentina. After many failed attempts at trying to contact Argentinian companies from Chile we surrendered and decided to have dinner.  We were giving advice to an Australian couple and Irish traveler about the W-loop in Torres del Paine when we mentioned our bus predicament.  Luckily for us they mentioned a website where you can buy Argentinian bus tickets!

It still took us 2 days, a really short but expensive hotel stay, and many hours riding on a bus full of backpackers to reach El Chalten.  That afternoon we hiked to Las Aguilas and Los Condores view points.  The Fitz Roy and Torre ranges were socked in with clouds, but it was nice to stretch our legs.

Rock climbers walking through town – a common sight in El Chalten

2/16 Day Hike to Fitz Roy

We had decided not to backpack in El Chalten since nearly all the trails can be day-hiked and the weather and wind are unpredictable. So when we woke up in our hotel and saw it was rainy, we were glad for the comfy hotel, and were happy to take the chance that the storm would pass, which it did by mid morning.  Other photographers in our hotel decided to take the day to sort through photos and sadly missed out on a spectacular view of the mountain.  We got a shuttle to take us down the road so we could hike 14 miles back to our hotel.  The hike started in an open forest shading the intense sun, but we could catch glimpses of Fitz Roy through the trees.  Eventually after 3 miles we reached a view point of Piedras Blancas, a glacier fed lake on the back side of Fitz Roy.

 Piedras Blancas

Side of Fitz Roy

We continued hiking 3 miles across the open landscape with the iconic Fitz Roy range (used in the Patagonia clothing logo) on the horizon.  We made it to Poincenot, a popular backpacking campground, hidden in the trees and last bit of shade before the push to the top.

We’ve found on steep inclines it is better to take it slow but rarely stop.  We play the tortoise in the classic story, while other hare-like hikers storm past us.  On a long climb like this we often ultimately reach the top first as they continue to feel the pressure to stay ahead of us, it always satisfying when we overcome them as they are exhausted trying to rest in the hot sun.  We both know the game that is being played and we usually smile as we pass them for the last time, and they usually smile back knowing they’ve lost.

There is always someone more hardcore, like this couple who carried their baby up to the top!

The view point of Fitz Roy is incredible with the green Laguna de Los Tres at the base of the large granite spires. We were lucky the clouds cleared for us to take a few…162 photos of the peaks.

After we ate lunch we watched the clouds engulf the peaks so we turned around and headed back down almost 8 miles and 2,500 feet to El Chalten.

We stayed in the Poincenot hotel while in El Chalten and took advantage of the local restaurants and enjoyed a lot of lamb, steak, and wine!

2/17 Day Hike to Cerro Torre Range

The next morning it was cloudy, but it was our last day so we wanted to make the best of it.  We hiked 7 miles out to Laguna Torre and had lunch.  We watched pieces of ice from the Glacier Grande wash ashore.

After completing another 14 mile day of hiking we were glad it was the last of our hiking, but also sad that our trip was coming to an end.  It felt like we were just getting used to traveling in South America.

 

This year was really our first full fall season on the East Coast, so we tried to do a few hikes and activities to enjoy the weather and changing leaves. The warm weather of summer lingered this year, which extended the fall foliage season, but also meant there wasn’t a real ‘peak’ to the color. Still, before we knew it, the leaves were falling and winter was setting in! So we were glad to get out on the trail a few times.

Tohickon Creek Gorge & High Rocks Trail

Tohickon Creek Gorge is over an hour north of Philadelphia near the New Jersey border.  This was a short 4.5 mile hike starting from the Pleasant Valley Park parking lot winding through the woods to the High Rocks Trail.  There were a few nice views overlooking the Tohickon Creek Gorge, but the best colors were at the edge of the creek.

 Overlooking Tohickon Creek Gorge

 

Pulpit Rock & Pinnacles Loop

This hike is about an hour and a half northwest of Philadelphia.  This was a longer 8.7 mile loop with 1,300 feet of gain.  Much of the trail follows the AT (Appalachian Trail) including the two best views on the entire Pennsylvania stretch!

 

 View of Lehigh Valley

 Pulpit Rock

After reaching Pulpit Rock and Pinnacles we headed back down along Furnace Creek.

 AT

On our way back we ran into a couple lost kids about 10 years old who got separated from their mom and other siblings.  Luckily we were able to point them in the right direction, and their mom was eagerly waiting a mile down the trail.  The boys were only wearing shorts and looked very cold, definitely not prepared to spend the night out there!

This was our first hike over 5 miles in almost 2 months, so we were feeling pretty out of shape, but we kept a steady pace and still had smiles at the end!

 

Canoeing the Brandywine River

Nathan’s parents came to visit us and see the fall colors in October.  We thought what better way to see the leaves then from the slow moving Brandywine River in our own backyard!  This was our third time down the river this year, but it was our first time with the autumn colors.

 

 

Making it Challenging

Paradox Winery

We also all met up with Katharine’s parents at a local winery and enjoyed a few fall activities.

Nathan’s parents first corn maze after living in Iowa for almost 30 years!

Pedal Go-Carts!

Corn Cob Sling Shot!

Corn Cob Air Cannon!

It was a great fall season, but felt like it went too fast… We already have ideas for what we want to do next year!

Check out some of the other photos.

For the final days of our trip, we had to cover a lot of mileage, but we still managed to fit in a few interesting stops along the way.

Day 65: Amarillo, TX to Host Springs, AR (10/7)

We spent the day driving 568 miles east across the pan handle of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  The drive and scenery were uneventful.

Day 66: Hot Springs National Park, AR to Nashville, TN (10/8)

Hot Springs National Park is essentially main street in Hot Springs.  It is a row of bath houses that draw on the natural springs in the area and were once very popular in the 1800’s before modern medicine.

 

 

The many springs in the area are combined into one supply producing over 750,000 gallons per day.  The water temperature is about 143F and is potable without additional filtering and is publicly available at several fountains.

 

We tried some of the water, but because it was so hot it took a while to cool off.  We spent the day walking up and down the main street, but weren’t able to explore the visitor center / museum because the federal government was still shutdown. The privately-run bath houses were open, so Katharine was able to try one of the traditional treatments. It was an interesting experience, but not something she’d want to do on a regular basis.

Overall, Hot Springs was definitely our least favorite National Park, which is not surprising given that it really seems like it should be a National Historical Site. After a few hours we were ready to leave Arkansas and head to Tennessee. We decided what better place to stop for BBQ than in Memphis.  We ended up at Corky’s BBQ, which did not disappoint.  We ate a full rack of baby back ribs along with hushpuppies, baked beans, coleslaw and pie for dessert.  Not only was the food amazing, the prices were low, and the, service was prompt, humorous and refreshing.  We knew our trip was on the right track again as we left for Nashville

Day 67: Tennessee (10/9)

Considering Nathan enjoys the occasional Jack and Coke what better place to visit than Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN.  It’s about 90 minutes outside of Nashville, but it’s a beautiful drive through the Tennessee country side, which was dotted with well maintained horse farms.

We didn’t know much about how Tennessee sipping whiskey was made until after our extensive, entertaining and educational tour. Our guide, Jason, took us through the process and history of Jack Daniels from the original iron-free cave spring water that is still used today to the building that houses the barrels of whiskey.

The tour was memorable and we still try to impersonate Jason and his Tennessee accent while saying “Our whisky mellows through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal, because we aren’t making bourbon here… we’re making Tennessee sipping whiskey”.

 

The amount of history you learn on one of their tours is amazing.  You can’t take pictures inside their distillery, but you can outside where they make their own charcoal.

Only famous people get to sign the walls.

 

They also still have an REO speed wagon, which was once part of their on-site fire department.

 

You also learn about Jack’s stubbornness to go to the doctor after kicking his safe, which would later lead to his death.

 

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a small tasting of different varieties of JD whiskey. We are now loyal Jack Daniel’s customers and whenever we order whiskey we think of our visit to Lynchburg.

 

We then headed back to Nashville and stood in line outside the Bluebird Cafe.  For those of you into country music (or watch the TV show Nashville) you know the Bluebird is a well known cafe/ bar where musicians like to frequent to try new music and play in a round.  This unique style puts the musicians in the middle of the room while everyone else enjoys dinner and drinks along the outside, but it is a small and cozy space only fitting a hundred people or so.  We enjoyed the evening listening to Pam Rose, Lisa Carver, Liz Rose and Jill Johnson.  They sang some of their old classics while trying out some new songs.  It was refreshing to see four talented women singing and playing acoustically for fun instead of large scale produced concert.  We loved the experience and hope to find more opportunities to hear live music in a small setting.

 

Day 68: Louisville, KY (10/10)

The next morning we drove 175 miles north to Louisville, KY.  The original plan was to visit Mammoth Caves National Park, but with the government still shutdown, we enjoyed an afternoon walk along the waterfront of the Ohio River.

 

Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront Park

It was a perfect day for a walk as we strolled across a old rail bridge that was refurbished into a pedestrian bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio.  The renovations weren’t quite finished so we couldn’t step foot in Ohio to add another state to our list.

 

 

We enjoyed some fine dinning and Kentucky bourbon while we reflected on the trip as it neared the end.

 

Day 69-70: Natural Bridge State Park, KY to Pennsylvania (10/11-10/12)

We drove 130 miles from Louisville to Natural Bridge State Resort Park where we took a ski lift and a short hike to see the unusual rock formation.

Under the Natural Bridge

 On Top of the Natural Bridge Looking Toward Lookout Point

The hike was short since we had to get back on the road.  We then drove 600 miles through Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and a corner of Pennsylvania!  We arrived late that night / early the next morning completing the Epic Trip just in time for Will’s (our nephew) 1st birthday party! 

It was crazy to think that the trip was finally over… luckily our photos and memories will last a lifetime!

Day 64: New Mexico (10/6)

After 63 days of exploring the west it was time to head east.  The original plan was to visit a number of National Parks along our route to Pennsylvania, but the federal government was still shut down.  So while in Gallup, New Mexico, we visited Red Rock State Park for a quick hike. The park was pretty empty and we lost the trail several times since the ‘trail’ was mostly rock scrambling across the red sandstone.

 

 

 

The trail eventually leads to Church Rock, but we had to get back on the road. The goal was to cross New Mexico and stay the night in Amarillo, TX!

 

After 2 hours of driving some of the most visually spectacular terrain (sarcasm) we stopped at a McDonald’s in Albuquerque to use the bathroom. As we sat in the car checking our map, Nathan looked up and saw a newspaper dispenser displaying a free paper, which had a hot air balloon on the front.  We knew Albuquerque has a huge balloon festival, and had even discussed wanting to visit it at some point, but thought what are the chances it’s going on the day we happen to be passing through Albuquerque?  We did a quick google search and discovered that it in fact was! Not only that, there was one of the best events going on that night. As we drove through a quiet downtown, we were amazed to find not a single sign, banner or indication of the massive balloon festival just a few miles away!  We finally found out where the open field was, which most likely was where the entire city’s population was hiding.

 

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest balloon festival in the world! The first festival was held in 1972 with only 13 balloons. Over time it grew to more than 1000 balloon, but in 2013 the festival limited the balloons to 600 and has various events over 9 days. The day we visited was the launching of the helium gas balloon long distance contest and the balloon glow.

 America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race – Launching

The winner of this year’s competition landed in Ontario, Canada a couple days later covering 1,430 miles!

The balloon glow is a spectacular event where the balloons stay on the ground, but light up the night sky with their brilliant colors.  It was fascinating to watch the small teams unravel and inflate their balloons.

 

 

 

There were a mix of colors, shapes, and sometimes corporate sponsored balloons.  At first it was just a few teams and as the sun started to set, we wondered where all the other teams were.  The spectators gathered around the first few balloons as they fired their burners and breathed hot air into the thin fabric.

 

 

We were so fixed on this one balloon we didn’t look around to see 20 to 30 balloons being inflated all around us. What was an empty field just minutes ago was suddenly filled with trucks, teams, and balloons. It was chaos trying to capture all the different balloons while the sun was quickly setting.

 

Soon there were over a hundred balloons in rows.  There was no way to see all of them so we picked a row and watched as the flames lit up the balloons.

 

 

Soon all the balloons were inflated slowly swaying in the night sky.  We could hear a countdown over the loud speaker as we looked at each other puzzled.  Suddenly the roar of hundreds of propane takes and flames broke the silence and lit up the field.  It was visually stunning, but hard to capture in a photograph.

 

 

Right when you think your camera settings are right the glow would stop and you would be standing in complete darkness.  Luckily we had our headlamps and could see as we walked down rows of balloons.  The occasional solo balloon burn would light up the ground, keeping the balloon from deflating too much.

 

 

 

We could hear the count down again.  We froze, adjusted our camera settings, and aimed at the balloons.  This time the balloons alternated giving a flashing pattern as flames pulsed across the field.  After hundreds of photos we paused and stood together in a field of balloons and just watched pointing out different ones.

 

 

There was a coordinated burn every so often for about an hour before it was over.  As fast as the balloons appeared, they also disappeared.  They were deflated in the dark and quickly rolled up, and soon the field was empty again.  Although the backpacking and wilderness part of our trip was over, the Epic Trip continued to live up to its name. This was definitely one of our favorite coincidences of the whole trip!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 64
  • Miles driven: 7,903
  • Photos taken:  12,426
  • Miles Hiked: 239
  • Hot Air Balloons: 650!

Day 61-63: Havasupai, AZ (10/3-10/5)

We saved an amazing experience for the last backpack of our Epic Trip. Havasu Canyon, a part of the Havasupai Indian Reservation, is known for its remarkable blue-green water and beautiful waterfalls. We had seen pictures of it before our trip and couldn’t believe the water really is that color, but it really is that blue! It did not disappoint, it’s an amazing place that we highly recommend.

The trip does require permits for camping overnight which can be hard to get in the peak season (particularly long weekends like Memorial Day), and sometimes it can be difficult to reach the Havasupai Tribe’s tourist office on the phone, but back in May Katharine was able to get permits for October. We decided to reserve 2 nights so that we would have plenty of time to explore the canyon. After we finished the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim earlier than expected, we were even able to move our reservations up by a couple days, so apparently they weren’t totally sold out. In the end, that worked out great for us because we hiked out on Saturday, which allowed us to avoid the apparent weekend crowds.

Since the government shutdown was still in full-force, we were very glad that this amazing place was on tribal lands and still accessible. It is possible to hike to the Colorado River and enter Grand Canyon National Park, and while we considered doing it just to be in the park briefly during the shutdown, we decided it wasn’t worth the extra 8 miles of hiking. Instead we enjoyed a very leisurely 3 day backpack.

 

A view from Hualapai Hilltop, the start of the trail to Supai

This adventure starts by driving down the remote Indian Road 18 to a parking lot with a helipad in the middle of the desert on Hualapai Hilltop.  The only way to the Supai village is hiking or riding a mule 8 miles through a canyon or via helicopter. All supplies and everything needed in the village are transported one of those ways.

The trail descends about 2,000 feet to the canyon floor, most of which is in the first couple miles.  The canyon walls were the traditional red sandstone, but after backpacking Zion and Grand Canyon we weren’t as impressed.  We only took a few photos of the hike to the village, which definitely improved our hiking time.

 

There were a few differences we noticed from hiking in the Grand Canyon and other National Parks.  For example, the mule trains supplying the village were much larger and the mules were loose, relying on herding techniques. Of course the canyon walls do much of the herding, but there are several areas where the canyon is rather wide and there are multiple different paths to follow, so sometimes the gear-laden mules would split up and the herder on horseback would go one way and rely on his dog to go the other. This was fun to watch, but did force us to take cover behind rocks or climb up a small ledge to get out of the way. This is not a trail to put on headphones while you hike… you need to be alert!

We noticed that backpackers were in the minority here… while we only saw a few people riding mules, most people used the mules to transport their gear. Given that it’s a pretty long hike for most people (10 miles to the campground) with a lot of elevation loss/gain (depending on your direction), we totally understand why most people use the mules to transport their packs.

 

 

After 8 miles (which felt longer since there was a lot of sand to hike through), we reached the village of Supai, where we checked in at the tourist office to get our wristbands and permit tag for our tent. The village was tough to walk through because although it is located in an internationally-renowned hiking destination, it is also a grim reminder of the poverty and remoteness of the village.  We didn’t take any photos in the village because many of the conditions were so poor, and we felt it would be disrespectful. Mostly there was a lot of trash, but we also saw malnourished horses and many wild (but mostly friendly) dogs roaming the dirt roads hoping for food hand outs. On the other hand, the school building was very well maintained and the grocery store had a lot of postings for community events. We couldn’t imagine living in such a remote community.

The last 2 miles from the village to the campground seemed like they took forever, but we were encouraged by the blue water of Havasu creek and finally knew we were close when we came to Havasu Falls. The turquoise water pouring over the cliff into a beautiful deep pool was as amazing as all the pictures show it. We decided to leave exploring the falls for the next day since the sun was setting behind them, so we continued on to the campground.

Havasu Falls

At the campground, there were some obvious differences between the National Park and the tribal lands. Here there were no assigned campsites, and a recent flash flood had completely reshaped the area and left many picnic tables stranded in the river. We were amazed how many picnic tables they had made or transported down there, and the campground was clearly meant to hold hundreds of people, which was definitely more than the NPS would have allowed, but certainly makes getting permits easier. Limiting access to protect a place like this is such a tough trade-off, especially when tourism is the main source of income for the tribe. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of trash left by all the campers, which is always such a shame to see. On the other hand, the tribe had an impressive number of solar toilets that were quite good shape and we noticed they were serviced every day. They also did check permits on every tent to make sure that everyone had checked in. As rule-followers ourselves, we like to see permits enforced because there are plenty of people who ignore the system on the chance they won’t get caught. We’ve only had our permit checked in a National Park/Forest once in all our years of backpacking (it was in the Grand Canyon actually).

 

Picnic bench washed away during a flash flood

Lasting effects of the flash flood

The campground was also different because there were lots of dogs roaming from campsite to campsite begging for food. We didn’t feed the dogs, but others did which would cause more dogs to gather at their campsite and sometimes break out in small skirmishes over food. Luckily though they didn’t seem too aggressive, and there were plenty of people, so if you didn’t give them attention they left pretty quickly.

 

We had the entire next day we to explore Havasu Falls and dayhike to Mooney and Beaver Falls (8 mile round trip).  The water in Havasu Creek percolates through layers of limestone picking up high concentrations of magnesium and calcium carbonate, which gives the water an unusual blue color and builds striking travertine dams.  The 100 ft Havasu Falls is quite a sight, and we were glad to return to explore it a little more, but the 190 ft high Mooney Falls was even more impressive. The surrounding walls are minerals built up over many years and the water changing its flow around the walls.  The falls were named after a miner who fell to his death on the falls in 1882.  They were never able to retrieve his body, and it is now encased in the walls.

Mooney Falls

Reaching the bottom of Mooney Falls is actually quite a challenge, especially for those with a fear of heights. It requires climbing down the walls through a series of tunnels, chains, and wooden ladders, all of which were cold and slippery due to spray from the waterfall.  Once again we were reminded that this is not a National Park, and the maintenance and safety of the trails are not guaranteed. All hiking beyond the campground is at your own risk.

 

 

The narrow tunnels and ladders can get crowded and we watched as many people became stranded in the cold spray from the falls.  Keep in mind, most people are headed down in the morning and up in the afternoon.  Trying to go up in the morning will be nearly impossible.

 

But once you get to the bottom, you realize the climb was well worth the wait and effort.

 

We ate a quick lunch and switched to our water shoes to hike to Beaver Falls.

 

 

The creek flow and depth varies and some areas are easily traversed while others are quite deep.  Our Zion backpacking trained us quite well to identify deep pools and find unique routes around them.

 

 

The trail is unique since it crosses the small water fall travertines, fields of vine-like bushes, makeshift bridges, and ladders.

 

 

 

 

After hours of photography and hiking we reached Beaver Falls in the afternoon.

 

It’s almost impossible to get lost because you are just following a canyon, but you can get on the wrong side of a deep pool or waterfall making it more difficult to continue on to Beaver Falls.  One of the only directions we heard was to look for a single palm tree.  You want to make sure you hike on the side with the tree and at that point you’re getting close to the falls.

The single palm tree

We saw a lot of people turn around before reaching the falls, and by the time we reached the falls many people had left and we had them all to ourselves! Unlike Havasu and Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls is more of a series of smaller falls, which makes it easier to explore and get up close.

The view from above Beaver Falls

Many people also just enjoy the view from above Beaver Falls, but we hiked down to the bottom then back up the travertines.

Yes, we hiked with our tripod and remote!

As the sunset behind the canyon walls we made the lonely hike back to the campground.

Keeping with our desert hiking tradition, we also saw a snake.  It wasn’t a rattlesnake this time, but still startling.

After our long 8 mile day hike, we made it back to the campground and enjoyed some local fry bread!  The local vendors are just outside the campground and are very friendly.  To our surprise, the young locals we talked to had never been past Mooney Falls!  We were shocked that you could listen to thousands of people from around the world rave about the creek and falls and never go explore them in your backyard.  We were also surprised to find the two fry bread vendors were quite competitive and did not work together to fix prices… the stand we went to was relatively new and had driven prices down. The fresh fry bread was less than $5 and tasted amazing after a full day of hiking!

We left early on a Saturday morning passing almost a hundred college-age kids backpacking down the canyon.  It definitely seemed like the campground would feel very crowded that night, so we were glad to be on our way out. The hike out wasn’t too bad, but it definitely got hot once the shade disappeared.

When we got back to our car, we found a tribe member sleeping in the shadow of our car, apparently waiting for someone/something!  Nathan gently woke him up and pointed him toward the next shady spot, which he crawled to and went back to sleep.  Just another reminder this was a different world!

We highly recommend visiting Havasupai… and since the mules can carry you and/or your stuff, it’s quite accessible for anyone. They even have a lodge in the village if you aren’t up for camping.

Although we were sad that this was our last time camping as part of our Epic Trip, taking us to a total of 33 nights in a tent, this was definitely a great place to finish it off! And we were still excited for the final leg of our trip, taking 6 days to make the remainder of the drive from AZ to PA.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 63
  • Nights in a tent: 33
  • Miles driven: 7,475
  • Photos taken:  11,834
  • Miles Hiked: 237
  • Water crossings: countless

Check out some more photos of this amazing place! 

Day 59-60: Sedona, AZ (10/1-10/2)

What do you do when you got a couple extra days of vacation in northern Arizona and the federal government is shutdown? You head to Sedona! Since we got our permits for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim so early, we had a few bonus days before our scheduled permit for Havasupai. We initially thought we would go check out Petrified Forest National Park, but with the government shutdown, that wasn’t an option. But we have always heard great things about Sedona, and it did not disappoint.

We spent an afternoon hiking around Cathedral Rocks, which turned out to involve more rock scrambling than hiking.

 

 

We hiked up to the base of the towering rocks and admired the red walls as they started to glow in the late afternoon.

 

 

We then hiked down and around the rocks to catch them at sunset.

 

As we were being eaten by mosquitos and running down the trail we ran into this bug…!

 

Still not sure what it was, but it moved really fast and was about 6 inches long! Definitely a creepy-crawly…

 

After dinner we returned to the rocks to capture the milky way over Cathedral Rocks.

 

The next day we spent a few hours at Slide Rock State Park.  Although the water levels were low and temperatures weren’t ideal, we braved the cold and enjoyed the natural water slide. It was really fun and quite the ride.

 

 

 

 

It was nice to have a couple unscheduled days to explore and take it easy (aka let Katharine sleep-in). We can definitely see why people love Sedona!

 

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 60
  • Miles driven: 7,375
  • Photos taken:  11,441
  • Miles Hiked: 209
  • Scary bugs: 1
  • Runs on the waterslide: 6

 

Day 50-51: Great Basin National Park, NV (9/22-9/23)

In our quest to visit all the National Parks at some point in our life, we figured this was a good opportunity to visit Great Basin National Park.  It’s located near the Nevada Utah border, basically in the middle of nowhere.  The Great Basin itself is actually much larger than the park and includes most of Nevada and Utah along with parts of OR, CA, ID, and WY. It’s a unique area because the water does not drain into a ocean.  It is the largest contiguous endorheic watershed in North America!

As a small, not well known park, we were a bit surprised by all it had to offer including some nice high elevation hikes through aspen forests and around alpine lakes.

 

 

 

 

 

We also hiked through a grove of bristlecone pine trees which are some of the oldest trees in the world.  We had also seen these trees in the White Mountains of CA during some of our high altitude hiking training for Mt. Whitney.

 

 

Although it is a very dry climate, there was a steady stream running near our campground from the mountain snow melt.

 

The campgrounds were quite nice with several options, and we finally were able to enjoy a campfire.  On a side note there is only one place to get firewood in the Great Basin NP area and that is in the “town” of Baker just outside the park entrance.  There is a high school/college age guy with various locations you can buy wood from on the honor system.  Be sure to check all the roads leading into town since some of the bins may be empty.  There are also some well stocked stores that carry a variety of beer and wine.  We ate tons of marshmallows and drank until the fire was out and it was too cold to sit under the stars.

 

 

The next morning we were awaken by a gang of 20+ wild turkeys walking through our campsite.

 

Although it is a far drive to Great Basin NP no matter where you are coming from, there are enough things to entertain yourself for a few days and the scenery is beautiful, especially in the fall. There is also a cave that they give tours of, but we didn’t have time for it.

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 51
  • Miles driven: 6,477
  • Miles from our old apartment in Pasadena: 551
  • Photos taken:  9,702
  • National Parks: 12
  • Miles Hiked: 166

Gallery:

By Katharine

We have finished with our Epic Trip! We made it home late on Friday night (10/11) and have been settling in to our new life rather than updating our blog and finishing up trip reports. But finally we are getting back into it, so here’s a write up on a few days of hiking in the Tetons with my family back in early September. There are still a lot of Epic Trip posts to come after this… Teton Crest Trail, Yellowstone NP, Great Basin NP, Zion Narrows, Grand Canyon, Balloon Fiesta, Jack Daniels Distillery, and more! So stay tuned 🙂

Day 40-43: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/12-9/15)

Nathan took a break from the Epic Trip to visit his ill grandmother in San Diego while I stayed in the Tetons with my family. While the guys did another day of fishing, the girls did a nice hike around String Lake with baby Will (the cutest nephew a girl could ask for) in tow.

Alex was a champ carrying Will the whole way.

 

Will seemed to enjoy the ride, taking a nap at the beginning and then smiling the rest of the way.

 

 

Another afternoon we all hiked about halfway around Jenny Lake to Hidden Falls.

The whole family made it together, with rainbow colored backpacks!

As we were having lunch at Hidden Falls, it started raining pretty hard, so we hurried to the boat dock and took the boat back to the trailhead. It cut the afternoon a little short, but we managed to avoid getting soaked, so we considered it a win. It was a great day in the Tetons and great to get the whole family out!

 

 

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