Trans Catalina Trail

Trans Catalina Trail, Catalina Island, California

Earlier this April, Claudia and I trekked the Trans Catalina Trail – a 45 mile hike across the entire length of Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California. Below are some photo highlights and a brief trip report of this interesting trek.

Avalon, Catalina Island, California, sunset

Avalon : Prints Available

Postcard view of the town of Avalon at sunset.

Catalina Island is only a one hour ferry ride away from Los Angeles, but it’s a world apart. Unlike the hectic, traffic-clogged city of millions, Avalon just oozes a relaxed vibe, kind of like the Californian equivalent of a quiet Mediterranean seaside town. We spent a relaxing evening here before getting an early start on the trek the next morning.

Trans Catalina Trail

The first day of hiking from Avalon to the Blackjack campground was a killer – 15 miles of ups and downs following the main ridge crest of the island. The entire trail, for that matter, is almost never flat – just constant up and down hiking! With a full pack and hot sun, those 15 miles pretty much whooped my butt!

Catalina Island, California, Blackjack, sunset, Pacific Ocean

Blackjack Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean, as seen from the top of Catalina Island near the Blackjack campground – April.

The Blackjack campground is located high on the island, right below the tallest mountain, Mt. Orizaba which is 2,103 feet above the ocean. Despite our tired legs and sore feet we walked a short ways over the hill to watch the sun set over the Pacific.

Lots more below the fold! Continue reading “Trans Catalina Trail”

Jackal & Fowler/Hilliard Huts

Jackal Hut, Gore Range, Mt. Elbert, Sawatch Range, Colorado, winter

Winter at the Jackal Hut, in the southern Gore Range, with a view towards Mt. Elbert (left) and the Sawatch Range.

Last week we spent four days and three nights on a 10th Mountain Division ski hut tour in the southern Gore Range of Colorado! The first leg of our trip took us to the Jackal Hut, which is perched on a high ridge with expansive views towards Leadville and the highest peaks of Colorado in the Sawatch Range.

Jackal, hut, Gore Range, Mount of the Holy Cross, March, Colorado, moonlight

Prints Available

Snow covered Jackal Hut in the moonlight with a view towards Mount of the Holy Cross – March.

Our trip coincided with the full moon, and it would have been a perfect night for some moonlight skiing but we were too whooped from breaking trail up through Pearl Creek to the hut to motivate. Lesson learned: stay at least two nights at each hut so you can spend a day skiing… that’s the whole point after all!

After one night at the Jackal Hut, we made the grueling 7-mile trek to the Fowler/Hilliard Hut – again breaking trail all the way up from Resolution Creek to the ridge of Resolution Mountain. Normally putting in a skin track isn’t so bad, but it’s a different story with a heavy pack!

Continue reading “Jackal & Fowler/Hilliard Huts”

Yurt Weekend

yurt, stars, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, winter, march, night, snow

Yurt Under the Stars : Prints Available

A cozy backcountry yurt in the snow on a winter night in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Some friends of ours kindly offered us their backcountry yurt for the weekend, and we gladly accepted! Situated atop a hill above Red Mountain Pass and surrounded by heaps of intermediate ski terrain, the yurt provided a perfect base for two nights and three days of relaxing and skiing.

Skinning Up

Claudia skins up the mountain…

Backcountry skiing

…to enjoy some cruisey powder turns.

yurt, interior, Colorado, evening, winter, march

I apologize in advance for the cheese-factor of this photo, but I couldn’t resist showing how cozy it was in the yurt! After two nights like this, I’ll probably never want to winter camp in my tent again!

Backpacking Into the Grand Canyon

Tapeats Creek, Grand Canyon, Arizona, hiker

Looking into the Tapeats Creek canyon, a side canyon of the Grand Canyon.

At the beginning of November, Claudia and I were excited to go on a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon, which neither of us has seen before. It was a great introduction to walk down all the way down into the heart of it, and WOW, we were impressed!

Our loop route took us down from Monument Point on the North Rim, down the Bill Hall Trail, over the Esplanade, across Surprise Valley, down into Tapeats Creek, along the Colorado River, up the Deer Creek Trail, then back up to the top again. All in all, more then 5,000 feet of elevation drop, and then back up again! Along the way we saw some of the most incredible sights, springs, and waterfalls we’ve ever seen in the desert.

Deer Creek, waterfall, Grand Canyon, Arizona

Deer Creek Waterfall : Prints Available

The spectacular waterfall of Deer Creek that pours out right near the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Below are more photos of a few of the many highlights along the trek! Continue reading “Backpacking Into the Grand Canyon”

At the Racetrack

Watching the race at the Racetrack, Death Valley National Park, California
Watching the race. Not quite NASCAR.
Racetrack, Death Valley, California, National Park, sunset

Sunset at the Racetrack : Prints Available

The Racetrack is a mysterious and fascinating location in Death Valley National Park – a flat dry lakebed playa in a remote desert valley where large rocks seem to have moved around by their own volition, leaving random tracks in the dry mud revealing their path. How did these rocks move?

Racetrack, Death Valley, California, National Park

Moonrise at the Racetrack : Prints Available

The theory is that given just the right conditions, rain will flood the playa, then freeze, and then once the ice starts melting a little, strong winds will blow the ice-bound rocks around on the slick mud underneath. It’s hard to believe, but the tracks are there – something made these rocks slide all around the playa!

Racetrack, Death Valley, California, National Park, moon

Racetrack Curves : Prints Available

These particular tracks – illuminated by the setting moon – are especially interesting. At first glance I assumed that they were car tracks – that some idiot had driven his car out there. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that no car in the world could make tracks like this! Even more mysterious is that about a hundred feet away from these tracks are an almost exactly identical pattern, but aligned facing a different orientation. It boggles the mind!

Eureka Dunes

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley, California

After leaving Bishop, we headed to Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park. These dunes are just about as tall as the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but are basically one single big dune, instead of an endless repetition of them. Another striking characteristic of the Eureka dunes is their absolute pristine remoteness – there is nothing out there in that valley! No lights, no distant towns, just one dirt road and absolute silence. Very cool.

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley, California, October

Eureka Dunes : Prints Available

Dusk light atop Eureka Dunes - October.

Any regrets about leaving the cold and snowy Sierras vanished as we enjoyed a perfectly calm and warm desert evening atop the highest dune, with our bottle of wine and my camera of course.

A Taste of Winter at Ice Lakes

Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, October, icy, ice, dawn

Ice Lakes Icy Dawn : Prints Available

Dawn light in Ice Lakes Basin on a chilly October morning after the second snowfall of the season.

Excited by forecasts of a brief but intense snowstorm, on Friday I headed up into Ice Lakes Basin for a couple nights of camping with hopes of catching some photos of the fresh snowfall around the not-yet-frozen lakes once the storm broke. I set up camp amongst the trees in the lower basin, since I could see that the weather was hellish up in the upper basin, with big plumes of snow swirling around the tundra. Turns out the first night of camping was fairly pointless, since the storm was howling all night Friday and all day Saturday. I spent most of my time those days either reading in the tent, or wandering around aimlessly in the windy weather, bundled up in all my down clothes.

Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, October, icy, ice, sunrise, Golden Horn, Pilot Knob

Ice Lakes Icy Sunrise : Prints Available

Orange sunrise light on Golden Horn and Pilot Knob (13,738 ft.)

On Sunday morning I awoke to calm wind and starry skies, and eagerly hiked in the dark up to the lakes in the upper basin, where I watched the dawn grow brighter and brighter, finally painting the peaks in brilliant orange sunlight. After two cold, dreary, stormy days in the mountains, the storm had vanished completely and the crystal clear bluebird skies had me feeling ecstatic!

Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, bluebird, October, snow, lake, blue, Golden Horn

Bluebird at Ice Lakes : Prints Available

Golden Horn (13,769 ft.) reflection in Ice Lake on a gorgeous calm bluebird October morning after a two-day storm.

This was the second time I’ve camped up there in early winter conditions; see photos from Ice Lakes in November 2009 here.

Fireworks Above Ouray

Hayden Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, tent, October

On Saturday I was feeling antsy for an adventure, so we went out camping up on the “Bridge of Hayden”, a high ridgeline overlooking Ouray and the Sneffels Range. Early in the night we were laying in the tent when we heard some booming sounds echoing in the valley below. Was it mining operations up valley? No. A plane crash? No, it’s fireworks!!! We quickly scrambled out of the tent and ran to the overlook.

Ouray, Colorado, fireworks, Octoberfest, Hayden Mountain

Stupid me, I had no idea of the Octoberfest party happening down in Ouray! I felt like the Grinch up on the mountain, looking down on Whoville. Apparently Ouray still had fireworks left over from 4th of July show, which was cancelled due to the drought conditions, and so they set them off for Octoberfest instead. It’s so funny that we just happened to be camping on one of the highest Ouray overlooks on the night of a fireworks show below!

I love watching fireworks in Ouray more than anywhere else – the booms echoing through the deep mountain valleys are as impressive as the fireworks themselves! And it was pretty cool to see them from almost 4,000 feet above!

Autumn Tundra

Stony Pass, sunrise, Silverton, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Stony Pass Sunrise : Prints Available

A spectacular sunrise over Stony Pass, east of Silverton - September.

Desiring a leisurely change of pace after our recent tiring backpacking treks, Claudia and I decided to go car camping this weekend up on Stony Pass east of Silverton, Colorado.

Stony Pass Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, Grenadier Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Stony Pass Peak Sunrise : Prints Available

Sunrise atop Stony Pass Peak, looking over the high rolling tundra of the northern Weminuche Wilderness towards the Grenadier Range - September.

Nearby Stony Pass Peak provided an easily-accessed wonderful vantage point over the rolling tundra of this area and the rugged Grenadier Range in the distance to the south.

Stony Pass, autumn, tundra, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, September, abstract

Stony Pass Abstract #2 : Prints Available

The contours and textures of the tundra around here make for fantastic abstract photo opportunities with a telephoto lens, especially with the golden autumn colors!

More photos below! Continue reading “Autumn Tundra”

The Lime Loop

Needle Mountains, Weminuche, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, hiking

Over Labor Day weekend some friends joined us for a strenuous 3-day loop trek in the Weminuche Wilderness, south of the area we hiked through last week.

Turret Peak, Emerald Lake, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, reflection

Emerald Cloud Reflection : Prints Available

The weather was a bit wacky during this trek – ominous clouds threatened rain and thunder during the days, but the rain only came during the night.

More photos below! Continue reading “The Lime Loop”