Archive | May, 2010

Heading out to Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon

25 May

I hope to have some incredible images for you all when I get back in two weeks. We’ll also continue with the top 10 best parks to visit in the summertime. Looking forward to sharing with you soon. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. God Bless!

Top 10 US National Parks to Visit During the Summer #9

14 May

9. Olympic National Park, Washington http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

Pros: diverse scenery/topography,  incredible camp sites,  jaw dropping marine life, pleasant temperatures, Swains General Store

Cons: inconsistent weather, overcrowded, poor park layout, bugs

date(s) visited: August 2009

Olympic National Park is the most diverse National Park in the lower 48. It is the only park that can tought: beaches, mountains, and rain forests. It is pretty incredible when you think about it. All this diversity comes with a price though…It is also one of the most visited national parks in the country. We stayed four days there spending most of our time at the beaches coupled with a night in the Hoh Rainforest. We skipped the Hurricane Mountains, one of the park’s premiere attractions, because the park was in the midst of having one of its worst bug seasons in decades.

The best part of our trip, by far, was spending the night on Second Beach. That was absolutely incredible and I would highly recommend it. You can camp right by the Pacific Ocean among the driftwood, star fish, and sea stacks. If the weather is pleasant, you really can’t ask for too much more out of a camping trip. What’s even more, the tide pools and seas stacks there are covered in Star Fish, Sea Anemone, and other fascinating, little, marine critters.   I really can’t say enough good things about it.

Unfortunately, the weather changes on a dime and it virtually impossible to predict using your own judgement. The rest of our time at the park was marred by very inconsistent weather. Periods of intense clouds and fog miraculously turning to sunshine only to turn to clouds and fog again a couple of hours later. And when its cloudy there – it’s quite dreary.

Also,  the park was excessively crowded. For example, during our much-anticipated visit to Sol Duc Falls - one of the park’s signature locations – we got there, took a couple of snap shots, and turned around and went back. There were literally hundreds of people there and on the trail. It was an absolute thoroughfare. We experienced about the same thing at the Hoh Rainforest. You’d see less people walking around at the mall. There is really only one major trail that leads into the rainforest and just about every tourist and their grandmother was on it when we went. Obviously, the farther in you go the less people you see and we still enjoyed our time there.  The place has a very unique and rugged feel to it. You just know you are in the Pacific Northwest and not anywhere else. Overall,  as your can probably tell, I was actually a little disappointed with my Olympic Park experience.

The park is nestled in the northern corner of the Olympic Peninsula and doesn’t have any roads that go through it; so you actually have to travel around it. What’s worse, is that most of the driving doesn’t actually involve being inside the park – so it is a lot of clear cut logging forests and trailer parks. This is also true for the park’s hiking trail system. Some of the major parks have intricate networks of hiking trails – so you coud literally hike hundreds of miles around the whole starting at one trail. This isn’t the case at Olympic where major trails generally don’t connect, so long distance backpacking trips have limited options, even though the park has a lot of trails.

One place that is definitely worth stopping is Swain’s Sporting Goods/General Store in Port Angeles, WA just miles from park headquarters. It was recommended to us from an incredibly helpful gentlemen working at the backcountry desk at the visitor center and we are glad he did. If you are in the area, be sure to stop – they have an incredible selection of items and unbeatable prices. We stocked up on sweatshirts, footwear, tent stakes, and beef jerky.

Overall, Olympic cracks the top 10 because of its diversity and beach camping. It is worth the trip alone for those significant traits of the park.  It’s a wonderful park with enough attractions to accommodate even the most discerning of visitors.

Top 10 Parks to Visit During the Summer

11 May

Today, we are going to start with our first ever Top 10 List, the best parks to visit during summer travel. My goal is to make these posts as fun and informative as possible. Starting today, with number 10  – we’ll count down in our blog to the number one national park in the lower 48 to visit during summer travel.

 Please keep in mind, I define summer as the period of days starting on June 21st and ending on September 21st.  Before we start, one thing I’d like to make clear is that I have not visited all the national parks – so for the sake of this list I am only including the parks I have visited during the summer. Also, I am unable to access some of my computer files right now so I will update each park on this list with a picture sometime in the near future.  I hope that makes sense! Without further a due…

10. North Cascades National Park, Washington    http://www.nps.gov/noca/index.htm

pros:  small crowds/solitude, pleasant temperatures, world-class scenery & adventure

cons:  inconsistent weather, poorly maintained roads, unusually dangerous terrain, limited amenities and services

date(s) visited:  August 2007

I have only had the privilege to visit this park one time and it was at the end of August a few years ago. I was there to do a charity climb for the non-profit group Big City Mountaineers. I spent about 4 days there and the weather was extremely erratic. The first day and half it was beautiful – sunny skies, highs in the 80’s…let me give you a picture. Snow capped mountains, dramatic vistas, glacial fed lakes, incredible waterfalls, lush greenery, endless beauty. The night after our climb of Mount Shuksan, I was awakened to the sound of snow cascading off a 1000 foot cliff. It was amazing. 

Then it started to rain. And it rained, and rained, and rained. It actually never stopped. And it rained hard. It wasn’t a drizzle that you can go out and walk about in.  I actually had to leave early because I just couldn’t anything it was raining so hard.

Despite all the spectacular scenery, the one thing that left the most lasting impact during my visit was the lack of crowds. I visited the main visitor at 4pm on a Saturday and it was practically dead. I couldn’t believe it. What a surprise!

One other thing that really got my attention was the topography of the land. It is extremely rugged and dangerous. You really can’t hike off trail. It is just too overgrown with thicket hiding unexpected drop offs. The rocks around the water here are extremely slippery. Just writing this conjures up so many incredible memories of this place.  Because its been a few years and I have only visited it once, I think this park would move up the list before it moved off.  It is certainly that special.

How to Watch TV in the Wilderness

7 May

Today, our discussion involves one other potentially important item of business while vacationing in our National Parks – television programming. Now, I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy sports. And occasionally, when I am on the road, there is a sporting event that I’d like to catch. So one could say I have a lot of experience in this subject matter.

Let me give you a quick story to illustrate this post. At the end of last summer, I found myself in Capitol Reef National Park hiking and photographing on the weekend leading up to Labor Day. Coincidentally, it was also the start of the college football season. Because I was camping in the park I ended up missing the first game of the season, Boise State v Oregon. It turns out Boise State won the game, which wasn’t that great, but you might remember Oregon’s star running back, Legarrette Blount ended up sucker punching onr of Boise State’s players after the game, and long story short, and a melee ensued.

That was on a Thursday night and on Friday my fiancée and I were trying to figure out where to watch the Ohio State (my alma mater) game on Saturday. It was their first game of the season against Navy. We didn’t want to get a hotel room in Hanksville and we thought maybe we could watch it at a bar or restaurant. Our initial plans were to head up to American Fork Basin just south of Salt Lake City spend Friday night in the wilderness and then stay in a hotel room Saturday and Sunday in Salt Lake.

The problem was the Ohio State game started at 12pm EST on Saturday. There was just no possible way to make it work. We didn’t have time. We thought maybe we could spend an extra night in Capitol Reef and stop somewhere on the way to Salt Lake City, but for those who haven’t been to Capitol Reef – it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. And there just isn’t much between it and the two hundred and some miles to Salt Lake. Also, between either backpacking and or driving we figured there was no way to drive to Salt Lake by 10am and find a place that was open with ESPN. I mean, this isn’t New York City, it’s Mormon country. In the end, we ended up driving to Salt Lake on Friday and getting a hotel room Friday and Saturday night instead of Saturday and Sunday. It worked out well, because the game was very exciting and Ohio State won 31 – 27.  That’s what this post is all about – how to watch TV in the wilderness.

 However, this isn’t all about sports though…it can apply to whatever it is on television that you are interested in watching. What’s the best way to go about doing this when you can’t get any TV reception in the park even at a hotel? Well, I am going to list out some comprehensive guidelines to understand. Follow these and your won’t miss your favorite show or sports broadcast while on vacation in the parks.     

1)      The amenities at every park hotel are different. For instance, in Death Valley NP you can get cable television at the hotels, while in Yellowstone NP there are no televisions at all.

 2)      Don’t assume the hotel you are staying at has the channel you want to watch. Call them and find out! I’ve been burned on more than one occasion because of this.

 3)      Make sure you know the dates ahead of time. This applies to the time of the show or event, and where you’ll be staying on that date.

 4)      If you are staying at a campground inside the park – plan on driving to the nearest town to watch your show. There are some notable exceptions to this rule – make sure you call the park and find out if there is anywhere in that area to watch TV.

 5)      Be fully aware of which time zone you are in. When traveling around the Southwest between Nevada, Arizona, and Utah this can be particularly confusing.

 6)      If possible, try to stay in a hotel the night you really want to watch television. This takes a lot of planning, but it usually worth it in the long run. It’s also the best tip I can offer and it works great for sports. Because many sports, like football, get played on the weekends, we usually stay in hotels then and in campgrounds or the backcountry during the week. This is best of both worlds because the parks are much more popular during the weekends, especially the campgrounds, and it’s the perfect time for some peace and quiet in a hotel.

 7)       Have an equal amount of planning, preparation, and flexibility. Unforseen circumstances can easily come up and its good not be locked into too tight a schedule. For example, road construction, natural disasters like forest fires, or even a flat tire or a bystander in need of some help. Always err on the side of caution when planning commute times and activities.  In my opinion, it is good to tentatively plan out most of your trip, but be mentally prepared for change if necessary.

 Hopefully you’ve picked up some good tips from this list and we will continue with the list theme on my next post when I talk about the 10 best parks for summer travel in the lower 48. We’ll see you then. God Bless!

Planning Ahead to Ensure the Best Time Possible

3 May

Today we are going to discuss another important nuance in planning your exciting vacation to America’s Greatest Idea, our national parks. Here’s the concept: make sure you plan appropriately for contact with the outside world because things work a little differently inside our  parks. Allow me to show you what I mean in mathematical terms: no televisions + no cell phone coverage + no Internet = no contact with the outside world.

Now, it isn’t that extreme in all the places, all the time. Of course, there are some areas where communications are similar to our everyday lives, but at some point in time, you will deal with this potential issue one way or another. So let’s examine how to prepare and addresss this situation.

Mentally, this is how I recommend you approach it: embellish, embrace, and love it! It is an absolutely wonderful thing. No longer will you worry about work, bank accounts, stocks, news, sports, family, business partners, etc. And the best part about it is there are no excuses, you can’t help it if you don’t get cell phone reception and you need to drive forty plus miles just to make a phone call.  It really is an essential part of getting away from it all and refocusing your priorities. All you need to do is just change your voicemail before you leave and you are good-to-go.

Hopefully I’ve sold you (if you weren’t already so) on this idea of the power of not having power, so to speak. However, there are times when these technologies are vitally important and it can take appropriate planning and knowledge to utilize this to your advantage while vacationing. Let’s go over a few scenarios where you may need access to technology at a specific point in time and how to plan for it in advance.

  • Reaching out to loved ones on an important birthday, event, or holiday. In all of these circumstances, it’s always best to plan ahead. Try to know exactly where you are staying and on what dates and attempt to verify ahead of time whether the place has cell phone coverage. Remember, even if there is no cell phone coverage  you may be able to find a pay phone to use. So bring some pre-paid calling cards with you. Otherwise, bring along lots of extra cash because you’ll need it for that expensive, long distance, pay phone call.

 

  • Attending church services. Most of the major national parks do have some  limited theological services in the summer time available to visitors. These are usually run by young adults and normally pertain to the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and LDS denominations of faith. Again, planning is your best bet so make sure that you’ll be close to the area where the services are taking place. Remember, some of the parks are huge and you could have a considerable drive if you don’t know where you’ll be and where you need to go. So don’t cut corners or you could pay for it later, take the time to study maps and estimate mileage and drive times.

I am feeling a little under the weather today, so we’ll stop for now and I’ll finish up this thread later in the week as we continue examine more scenarios and talk about even more solutions. Until then, have an awesome week and God bless you.

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