In early June we flew to Cusco, Peru for some mountain adventures south of the equator. Our first hike was the famous Salkantay to Macchu Picchu trek. Of course Macchu Picchu is the #1 tourist destination in all of Peru and perhaps all of South America for that matter. The most famous way to walk to Macchu Picchu is the Inca Trail, which is extremely popular and requires reservations months in advance – something that we hadn’t planned for. A popular alternative for trekkers is the Salkantay trek, which passes over a high alpine pass below the glaciated peak of Nevado Salkantay, then traverses around several jungle valleys until reaching Macchu Picchu. There are several possible itineraries for this trek; we opted for a guided 5-day version. Continue reading >>
This last weekend in mid-May I hiked almost 50 miles over three days around the Sneffels Range all the way from Ouray to Telluride. Continue reading >>
After our trek through nearby Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon, we made the long, sandy drive to Coyote Buttes South (also within the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness) which we had permits to explore for a couple days. I honestly didn’t have much expectations for this place, but figured we might as well go check it out since we were already in the general area. Well, it’s safe to say my mind was blown once we hiked into the buttes! I’ve never seen such a sandstone fantasy land, with its psychedelic formations and swirling sandstone, all infused and painted with a spectrum of bright colors. This is nature at its most artistic, the exquisite result of eons of random geology. Continue reading >>
With 15 miles of continuous narrows, Buckskin Gulch in southern Utah is renowned as the longest slot canyon in the world. Buckskin flows into the even longer Paria Canyon and hiking through both these canyons forms a famous backpacking trip showcased in numerous guidebooks and coffee table books, requiring permits reserved months in advance. Twice before we’ve had permits but had to cancel last minute due to rainy forecasts and potential flash flood danger. This April we had permits for a third time and the weather forecast was nice and sunny, allowing us to finally experience these amazing canyons. Hiking through Buckskin and Paria is an unforgettable experience, like a sacred journey into the heart of the Earth. Continue reading >>
In mid April we hit the road again for more desert time, and spent a week camping and hiking through various narrows and slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in central southern Utah. This has long been one of my very favorite parts of Utah and I was happy to return and check out a bunch of canyons new to me. This was also the first time I’ve returned since the monument size was controversially reduced by 46% last year, and I have a few words to say about that below along with the usual trip report. Continue reading >>
Sunrise behind a forest of saguaro cacti.
Our final destination for our desert road trip in late March was Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. We spent two nights at the campground near there and enjoyed visiting the “forests” of saguaro cacti (pronounced like “sa-waro”), as well as a bit of touring through the city of Tucson. Continue reading >>
‘Stonehenge’ campsite surrounded by rocky pinnacles in the Superstition Wilderness. Though it looks kind of like sunset, the clouds are actually illuminated by the light of Phoenix.
After our time in the Kofa Mountains in March, we drove east through Phoenix and immediately embarked on a two-night backpack trip through part of the Superstition Mountains. We hiked a clockwise loop from the Peralta Trailhead around the prominent Weavers Needle spire via the Peralta and Dutchman’s Trails. I imagine that this popular route is probably often done in a day by trailrunners, but as usual we wanted to savor the scenery so we camped two nights along the way. Continue reading >>
Sunrise light and Squaw Peak in the Kofa Mountains.
In the remote Sonoran desert of southwest Arizona rises a rugged volcanic mountain range called the Kofa Mountains. In March we spent four days camping and backpacking in these awesome desert mountains. Continue reading >>
While the vast majority of visitors to southern Nevada only see the bright lights of Las Vegas, there is actually an abundance of wonderful wild desert lands surrounding the city which will please any nature lover. In mid-March we escaped the cold winter and spent a week camping around in the much warmer weather of southern Nevada, enjoying locations including Valley of Fire State Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Muddy Mountains Wilderness, and Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. Continue reading >>
On the last morning of January there was a lunar eclipse over much of western North America; here in Colorado the eclipse happened right at moonset, just before dawn and sunrise. This was a perfect scenario for us photographers, since photographing the eclipsed moon near the horizon is far more interesting than when it’s high in the sky. With this rare celestial lineup I had an ambitious plan to hike up to a 13,000-ft ridge to hopefully shoot the eclipse right behind Castle Peak in the Elk Mountains.
My friend Ann Driggers joined me and we backpacked into the mountains and set up a base camp in the snow at 11,600 ft. At 2:30 in the morning we woke up and hiked in the moonlight up a pass and along a long windswept ridge to 13,000 feet, only to have our hopes dashed by a thick layer of clouds blocking any potential for the dream shot I had in mind. Not only that but the brutal wind grew worse with sideways blowing snow, so we had little choice but to retreat and navigate back down via GPS.
Of course I was sorely disappointed to miss this rare photo opportunity that I had envisioned, but at least we put in a valiant effort!