Tag Archives: hiking

Photo Review: Manti La Sal National Forest – Indian Creek and Newspaper Rock

Most of these photos were taken during my bike/run/hike adventure on Indian Creek Trail in the Manti La Sal National Forest near Monticello, Utah a week and a half ago.  We decided to camp along Indian Creek and try biking the trail in the morning.  The trail is designed for dirt bikes / motorcycles, so we were hoping it might work for mountain bikes as well.  Unfortunately, the trail turned out to have a lot of deep sand and it was very slow and frustrating on the bike.  So… I ditched my bike and decided to hike while Jay turned around to find a better mountain bike trail.  Soon, I was inspired to run.  It was 6 miles one way to Newspaper Rock (a well known petroglyph site).  I really wanted to be able to make it the whole way so I started running all of the downhill and flat sections.  I made it there in great time but was definitely hurting some on the way back.  Not to mention I was more than an hour later than I had expected to meet up with Jay.  It was just such a beautiful trail that I wanted to complete the whole thing.  Hope you enjoy the photos.

Abajo Peak in fall colors

beautiful fall colors on the Abajos

Cottonwood trees in Fallclouds over Indian Creekindian creek

indian creekindian creekindian creekplants in Indian Creekindian creek

Newspaper Rock

Anazazi petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock

buffalo petroglyph at Newspaper Rock

buffalo petroglyph at Newspaper Rock

National Trails Day 2011: North Country Trail, Allegheny National Forest

North Country Trail signMy hands are still sore as I am typing this, and we put down our tools more than 36 hours ago.  Saturday was National Trails Day.  For us, it meant an easy chance to get involved in trail building and to camp out with other volunteers in the Allegheny National Forest in northern Pennsylvania.

We found out about the opportunity through the nationwide listing on American Hiking Society’s site.  Using the directions on the project description, we made our way to the Amsler Springs Shelter just as it was getting dark on Friday night.  There were already several people there and we were greeted by two dogs, barking at us with a mix of excitement and watchfulness.  Keith, who we found out later was the Allegheny National Forest Chapter President, called off his dog, Bear and welcomed us to the site.  The guys, Keith, Burt, and Jeff, were talking shop about the North Country Trail.

amsler springs shelter sign

Amsler Springs Shelter sign

Annual service events such as National Trails Day are a great opportunity to bring people together and build a sense of community around the work that goes on all year long.  The group that built trail on Saturday included dedicated trail workers such as Kay, Tom, and Patty, as well as people who are new to this group, like us and Jode.  In addition, college students spending their summer on a Student Conservation Association crew joined us.  As we worked side by side slinging pulaskis and McLeods, we shared stories about our favorite hikes.  Jode was preparing to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (over 2,000 miles!).  He was getting advice from a thru-hiking alum, Burt.  Meanwhile his stories about preparing for the trip were inspiring the rest of us to think big about our future adventures.  We listened and laughed as we slowly chopped away at the hillside.  Unfortunately we had to hurry off the trail early when an afternoon thunder and lightning storm blew in.  An early exit just turned into an earlier dinner at Cougar Bob’s, the favorite (and only) restaurant nearby.

allegheny national forest campsite

I haven’t thought a lot about my graduate course work since leaving on this trip, but sitting around the campfire after the trail building and sharing tips, stories, and laughs reminded me about what Mark had to say about how knowledge is shared.  I don’t think anybody actually enjoys 5 hours of back breaking trail construction.  The tools are heavy, the motions are repetitive, the work is slow.  But the camaraderie is outstanding and it can only be created through working hard together and then celebrating and relaxing afterwards.

Jay and Sharon at Niagara Falls

Wearing our National Trails Day shirts at Niagara Falls on Sunday -- see Burt and Keith, we did make it across the border!

Scenes from Winter Camping

Jay and I enjoy camping.  It’s a good thing, because in order to be on the road for a year, we need to spend most nights either camping or staying with friends and family.  So far of 10 nights on the road, we spent 2 camping, 7 with friends and 1 night in a free hotel thanks to my mom’s rewards points.

Congaree National Park, near Columbia, South Carolina

Tent at Congaree National ParkThe first night we camped in Congaree National Park, near Columbia South Carolina.  My cousin Peter gave us a National Park Pass for Christmas, so we were eager to use it and check out a National Park that we had never heard of.  Turns out that it is free to enter and free to camp at Congaree so you don’t need a pass, but at least we got to get our first “passport stamp” for the book that my mom got for us.

We got to the park close to dusk and had just enough time to set up the tent and hurry back to the board walk trail that runs for two miles through an old growth floodplain forest.  It was eerie to walk along a wooden pathway, suspended above the muck as the light was disappearing.  My eyes were straining to tell the difference between tree roots and snakes.  At one point we did see an animal close to the trail, moving gingerly through the flooded forest.  We couldn’t tell what it was, but Jay guessed that it was probably a possum based on size and gait.

boardwalk in Congaree National Park

Boardwalk trail in Congaree National Park

I tried to keep my cool and appreciate the beauty and stillness that the forest offered at night.  But I mostly kept my eyes peeled to the boardwalk and focused on not losing my balance.  Jay stopped me to point out that the moon was reflected in the waters of the swamp (see picture below).  This was truly a unique place and the boardwalk gave us an opportunity to explore a habitat we never could have observed without it.

Moon reflected in the swamp at Congaree National Park

Moon reflected in the flooded forest at Congaree National Park

Oak Mountain State Park, Birmingham, Alabama

After a night inside in Atlanta Georgia thanks to my high school friend Brett Goodwin (thanks Brett!), we headed back to our tent, this time at a nice campground in Oak Mountain State Park on the edge of Birmingham.  We had only intended to spend the day at the park.  It offers several miles of single track for mountain biking, and Jay needs to ride every few days or he starts to twitch.  Once we got to the park, the late hour and attractive campsite lured us in.  Unfortunately, camping in state parks can get expensive – this one cost us $16 (in addition to $4 to enter the park).

tent site in Oak Mountain State Park

Tent site at Oak Mountain State Park

With an overnight low of 28 degrees, the downside of winter camping is obvious.  The upsides though are surprisingly plentiful: no crowds, easy pick of the best tent site, no bugs, and easier wildlife viewing without leaves on the trees.  This campground had the added benefit of heated bathrooms with a hot shower!

yoga mat at Oak Mountain State Park

My site for yoga in the morning

In the mornings, to wake up and work out the kinks from sleeping on a mat all night, I like to do some light yoga.  It was somewhat difficult what with the 3 layers of clothing I was wearing to combat the 30 degree temperatures, but you couldn’t beat the view.

Deer at Oak Mountain State Park

Young Buck at Oak Mountain State Park

I had just barely started my Sun Salutation, when I heard leaves shuffling on the hillside to my left.  At first I assumed it was another camper, off for an early hike.  It took me a second to realize it was far more likely to be an animal.  I got my camera ready and soon spotted this buck making his way down the hill.  He didn’t notice me until after I had snapped a few pictures.  He scurried up the hill and I went back to finish my routine.  In a few minutes, the smell of bacon lured me back to the campsite.

bacon and reflected trees

Our morning bacon

The inside of our rain fly, covered in frost

After a great breakfast of oatmeal, bacon, and freshly brewed coffee, we broke down the tent, shaking the frost off of the INSIDE of the rain fly!  We are glad to be headed towards the desert and southern California where we may see some less frosty nights.

Overall our two nights under the stars were fantastic.  We look forward to spending many more nights sleeping out throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Lake near our campsite

Pocohontas State Park, south of Richmond, VA