Up Through Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon, Crater Lake National Park, lake

Overlooking Wizard Island from the rim of Crater Lake, Oregon.

In late June we visited my uncle and cousins in Ashland, Oregon for a few days, then made a quick drive up through the state. Our first stop on the way was Crater Lake National Park, where we hiked with my uncle up a crumbly peak to the high point along the rim of the crater. This spectacular caldera lake at over 6,000 feet elevation was formed when the Mount Mazama volcano collapsed about 7,700 years ago, and subsequently filled with water. The lake is the deepest in the United States — 1,949 feet at its deepest.

Mount Hood, Oregon, Trillium Lake
Trillium Fog : Prints Available

A quiet foggy morning at Trillium Lake near Mount Hood – June.

From Crater Lake we took a scenic route past the Sisters mountains then up towards Mount Hood where we spent a night near Trillium Lake. Early in the morning I walked to the lake, which was shrouded in fog. As I sat there peacefully at the calm and misty lake, a bald eagle silently swooped down and grabbed a fish out of the lake in front of me! The ease and grace of the eagle’s catch was awe inspiring… and then it came back a few minutes later and did it again, making it look like the easiest thing in the world. So magestic. Welcome to the northwest!

Mount Hood, Oregon, Trillium Lake, duck
Trillium Duck : Prints Available

A local duck swims in Trillium Lake with Mount Hood (11,250 feet) towering behind – June.

Later in the morning the fog lifted, revealing a glorious view of Mount Hood above!

The Redwoods

California, Founders Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, redwoods

Hiking through the giant redwoods in the Founder Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.

California, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, redwoods, hiking

Hiking through redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California.

California, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, Stout Grove, redwoods

Giant redwoods in the Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith State Park, California.

After leaving Tahoe we drove west to the coast then spent several days walking and hiking in the magnificent redwood forests of Northern California. Words and even photos can’t really do justice to the sheer immensity of these giant trees and the raw feeling of power they emanate as you walk amongst them!

Lake Tahoe

California, D. L. Bliss State Park, Lake Tahoe
Tahoe Shore : Prints Available

A tall pine along Lake Tahoe at D.L. Bliss State Park.

After driving across Nevada we arrived at beautiful Lake Tahoe where we camped for a couple nights. We enjoyed a sunset and some wine at the beach at the quiet D.L. Bliss State Park on the west side of the lake, then the next day hiked the famous Rubicon Trail along the lake both ways.

California, Lake Tahoe, Rubicon Trail

View along the Rubicon Trail on the west side of Lake Tahoe.

California, Eagle Falls, Lake Tahoe, sunrise
Eagle Falls Sunrise : Prints Available

Sunrise light illuminates Eagle Falls – June.

Yet again our backpacking hopes for Tahoe were dashed by too much snow still in the high country, and with high winds still in the forecast we bailed after our second night and continued into California. Gotta come back to Tahoe again someday!

Across the Great Basin

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Storm : Prints Available

Ominous thunderclouds over Notch Peak in the House Range of eastern Utah.

In mid-June during the first week of our road trip we took a zigzagging route through the Great Basin of western Utah and Nevada. The Great Basin gets its name from the fact that no rivers flow out of the region; there are few rivers or streams, and any flowing water collects in broad lakebeds or salt flats where it eventually evaporates. Encompassing most of the state of Nevada and the western portion of Utah, the Great Basin is characterized by a seemingly endless series of rugged north/south ranges with broad, empty desert valleys in between. Our first stop was the remote House Range near the western border of Utah, where Notch Peak soars dramatically over the desert with a sheer 3,000 foot vertical north face.

Notch Peak, Utah, lizard
Collared Lizard in House Range : Prints Available

A collared lizard in the House Range, Utah.

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Clouds : Prints Available

Clouds shroud Notch Peak, Utah.

We had hoped to hike a ridge route up to the top of Notch Peak, but a forecast of high winds and thunderstorms quashed that plan, so we moved on to nearby Great Basin National Park just over the border in Nevada. Here the same relentless high winds also convinced us to abandon our plans to hike up Wheeler Peak, opting to not spend a day getting blasted by chilly gusts on the high ridgeline. But we did enjoy a tour through the famous Lehman Cave, a beautiful cave system under the base of the mountain.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 1 : Prints Available

A path through Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 2 : Prints Available

Inside Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains
Island Lake Hike : Prints Available

Hiking the Island Lake trail at the head of Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

Next we drove north to the Ruby Mountains, the most “alpine” of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. We drove up Lamoille Canyon on the west side of the range, and were immediately awed by the super rugged peaks soaring precipitously above the valley on all sides. What awesome mountains!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Sunset : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

We’d been hoping to do a backpacking trip in the high Ruby peaks but were also expecting that there would probably be too much snow still. Indeed, the high peaks still had a substantial snowpack and the high lakes still frozen, so we camped a few nights in Lamoille Canyon and did smaller day hikes instead. We will have to return another year for some backpacking in this incredible mountain range!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Flowers : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

On the Road Again

Alaska Road Tripping

After a long, cold winter, the moment we’ve been looking so forward to has finally come! We’re all packed up and tomorrow we head off into the great wide open for a 3½ month road trip to Alaska and back!

We don’t have a specific itinerary, but here’s the rough plan so far: First, we’ll take our time driving west through the Basin and Range country of western Utah and Nevada. Next, over to northern California to see the redwoods, then up through Oregon and Washington to visit some relatives and friends in both those states. We’ll spend a few weeks in Washington, hopefully doing some backpacking there in the Olympics and Cascades. By early to mid July we’ll venture up into Canada, over towards and through the Canadian Rockies. Then the long haul up to Alaska, where we’ll be for most of August, perhaps doing some backpacking in the Wrangell-St.Elias and Denali areas. By late August to early September we’ll head over through the Yukon, then back home to Colorado by the end of September.

Of course we intend to do lots of hiking and backpacking treks along the way. Speaking of which, if there’s any experienced backpackers reading this who’d like to join us for a wild trek up in Alaska or Canada, we’d be happy to have your company! Give me a shout and perhaps we can rendezvous at some point.

Spring Snow in the Ruby Range

Colorado, Crested Butte, Ruby Range, Augusta Mountain, May

Southeast face of Augusta Mountain (12,559 ft.)

The ski area of Crested Butte oftentimes suffers from lower-than-expected snowfall amounts, but just 9 miles to the west/northwest the Ruby Range gets hammered with some of the highest snowfall totals in Colorado. All winter long I’ve gazed wistfully at the snow-smothered Ruby Range peaks, tantalizingly out of reach for those of us without snowmobiles. In late May now that much of the lower access roads have melted out, yesterday I finally had the chance to get out for a spring descent up in these mountains. Daniel and I hiked up and skied/rode down Mineral Point, the prominent pyramid-shaped peak visible up valley as you drive into the town of Crested Butte.

Colorado, Crested Butte, Ruby Range, Purple Mountain, May

The south face of Purple Mountain (12,958 ft.) in late May, begging to be skied.

Later in the afternoon back in town sipping beer in the sun, I gazed up the valley at the peak we just descended, pleased to finally be thinking “I just rode that!” instead of “I wish I could ride that!”

A Night Above Crested Butte

Colorado,Crested Butte,tent, moonlight, Ruby Range, Elk Mountains, dusk
Winter Camp over Crested Butte

Winter camp at dusk above the town of Mount Crested Butte, with moonrise light illuminating the Ruby Range and Elk Mountains – April.

Lately I’ve been itching for a camping adventure but have been too busy to do anything too ambitious or far away. Since we live across the street from Mt. Crested Butte, yesterday I figured what the hell, I might as well just skin up the ski slopes and camp up there for a night! It wasn’t exactly a wilderness experience (I could actually see our condo down below), but it was still nice to spend a quiet evening under the moonlight gazing at the mountains.