Tag Archives: hiking

A Walk in the Woods






The Summit

This morning we finished the hike we started three days ago. Kristen, Heather, Roxie and I reached the summit of the First Flatiron overlooking Boulder. To get an idea of the path we took, look a few posts down at “First Taste of Colorado.” It took us about an hour and a half to reach the end of the 1.2 mile trail, which put us 1,500 feet above the city we started in. We climbed a little beyond the trail’s end, but cresting the final 40′ of the mountain requires a rope and climbing shoes.

Still, the view of Boulder, the surrounding plains and the mountains in the distance was incredible.


Rocky Mountain High

We found the Rockies today. Heather was nice enough to lend her VolksWagon to me and Kristen for the day, so we took a road trip.

We drove north of Boulder, through the village of Estes Park and into the Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent four hours driving 29 miles along Trail Ridge Road – the main scenic highway through the park. We came out of the park alongside Grand Lake – a centuries old mining town and resort area, grabbed lunch at Maverick’s Grill and then hooked up with I-70 to head back to Boulder.

The mountains in the Front Range near Boulder are unlike any I’ve seen before, with their red-brown faces and prarie grass hills, but while we were in Colorado Kristen and I really wanted to get a glimpse of the craggy snow-capped peaks that our nation’s western states are famous for. The Rocky Mountain National Park didn’t dissappoint.

What has really stood out to me about the Rockies is the diversity of the terrain. In one drive we saw stony flat mesas; pale red cliffs of dried lava; 8,000-foot peaks covered in spruce and fir trees standing alongside barren, 13,000-foot mountains still cloaked in a remnant of the ice and snow that fell months earlier, all separated by endless plains of prarie grass and piles of clay boulders that loomed over our lime-green Beetle.

Seeing the Rockies for the first time, I instinctively want to compare them to the mountain ranges I’ve already experienced. At first glance, I want to say they are more impressive than the Appalachians and not quite as breathtaking as the Alps. Neither of those statements are really true. The more I travel and experience places, the more I realize just how unique every spot on Earth really is.

For a skier or rockclimber, the size of the Rockies will certainly add to their draw. For the casual observer, day hiker, photographer, vacationer or general mountain nut, I would have to say that the mountains of Colorado are no more or less attractive than their East Coast counterparts. They are just completely different, and definitely worth seeing for yourself.


First Taste of Colorado

Following an uneventful day of flying, Kristen and I arrived in Denver at 5:20 Monday afternoon. Sam and Heather were waiting for us at the gate. Sam is starting his last semester at the University of Colorado this month and we wanted to take the time to come visit before they move back to North Carolina.

Neither of us had been anywhere near the Rockies before and we were a little surprised that we didn’t see a single mountain on our way to Denver. We were even more surprised that we didn’t see any on our way from the airport to our hosts’ apartment in Westminster.

After living in the Appalachian Mountains for four years, I had imagined Colorado to be just like the mountainous areas of the East Coast, only more so – twice as windy, twice as cool, with scenery twice as dramatic. Not neccessarily so. For the few people out there who, like me one day ago, don’t already know, the eastern half of Colorado is as flat as Kansas and hotter than North Carolina. The high today in Boulder was almost ten degrees warmer than at our home in Benson. These surprises weren’t dissappointments though. It’s always exciting to experience a new place, and to gain so much new knowledge off the bat reminds me why I wanted to travel in the first place (besides catching up with great friends, which was the main point of this trip).

This morning we did get to see some mountains. The foothills of the Rockies are just visible from Sam’s and Heather’s balcony. Heather took Kristen and I to see the Flatirons on the outskirts of Boulder while Sam was at work. We hiked around the base, but we got too late of a start and didn’t bring enough water to make it to the top. The mountains are not the image of snow-capped peaks and spruce trees that come to mind when thinking of the Rockies but they are just as dramatic. They are called the Flatirons because three of the large rock outcroppings look like the bottom sides of clothes irons.

After the hike we met up with Sam, lounged around at the pool, fried fish and played a friendly game of monopoly. I won.


Mischief Managed

Clouds Over Grandfather

Clouds Over Grandfather

We made it back from the camping trip with nothing put a set of sore legs, a half eaten box of oatmeal and some good memories. I don’t believe I’ve really spent a whole weekend vacation with my mother and brothers in the five years since I graduated from high school, and so it was good to have the whole family together in my old stomping ground in the western part of our state with nothing on the agenda at all.

After much coaxing, I was able to get the group to set off on a hike of the Boone Fork Trail — a five mile loop that should take two to three hours. During the first three hours we tried unsuccessfully to find a spur trail off of the loop that would lead us to a waterfall / rock formation we had only driven to before.

Zachary frolicking over the falls

Zachary frolicking over the falls

Then Zachary, my 19-year-old brother, disappeared up the side of a mountain and into the woods. We didn’t think much of it for a while and continued on down the trail, but after 30 minutes or so when he didn’t show up, we began to get worried and set off looking for him.

By this time we had given up on finding our missing waterfalls and were just hoping to find Zach and get back to camp before nightfall. Jacob and I set off into the woods about 1/4 mile from the spot on the trail where we lost Zach, hoping we would head him off. He heard us calling for him and shouted back. He had no idea how he’d done it, but while trying to find the trail again, Zachary stumbled into the rock formation we’d spent all day looking for. The boys played around some and then we got back to camp just in time to get a fire and supper started before the sun set — six hours after we’d started our hike.

julianbreakfast  008

At The Village Cafe in Blowing Rock

Earlier in the day, Kristen and I set out on a hunt for breakfast. I decided not to tell Kristen what we were doing and just lead a walk from our campsite alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Blowing Rock, where we had a formal brunch in the outdoor garden of The Village Cafe. Our smelly camp clothes stood out in sharp contrast to the waitstaff and tourists that sat around us, but after walking more than five miles to get to our table, we felt like we deserved a good breakfast just as much as the next guy.

As far as photographs went on this trip, I was pretty captivated with the cloudy skies over the mountains at every vista. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to shoot the mountains in sunny weather and generally tried to avoid taking the camera out in the rainy months. After the first night, we never had much rain on this trip but the scattered cloud cover hung over us the entire weekend, creating some neat sunburst scenes and really providing a powerful atmosphere that matched the prominence of the landscape.

Reading by the lake

Reading by the lake

Jacob. Lost.

Jacob. Lost.

Dusk on the river

Dusk on the river

Camp stove

Camp stove

On the way to breakfast

On the way to breakfast

Parenthood

Parenthood


Birthday In Blowing Rock


In addition to being an incredible teacher, a great listener and the best friend I could ask for, my wife also has the ability to pitch a tent in less than five minutes, in the middle of the night, without a flash light after driving three hours on a mountain road. Yeah, I’m lucky.

Last night we left Sanford at 9:30 with a packed car and an already car sick dog. We got to Blowing Rock and set up our tent a little before 1 a.m. and settled in for the night. An unexpected rain shower woke us up a few hours later and we scrambled to get our rain fly on the tent and make sure the dog was alright, but then I had the soundest nights’ sleep I’ve ever had in the woods.

My mother and brothers had come to camp earlier in the day, planning to stay the weekend as a birthday treat for Jacob. We had said we didn’t think we could come, and when I was abl e to get the day off of work, we kept the secret until the next morning when my mom found our tent set up next door.

Our first full day was spent laying around Price Lake, reading, fishing and paddling around. I’ll see if I can’t get some more strenuous activity out of the family tomorrow.


Wilson Creek

This post was originally published as a gallery page on April 20, 2009. It has been moved into the blog for archive purposes.

Kristen and I spent two nights in the Wilson Creek wilderness area, just south of Grandfather Mountain, over Easter weekend in 2009. We had intended to stay for longer, but, being freshmen backpackers, we weren’t able to accurately pace ourselves using the rough map of the area.

Click any image in the sequence to open up a slideshow viewer.

At least we started the trip on the right note. This was our first time backpacking together, and the first real outing we used our new Canon 450D.

At least we started the trip on the right note. This was our first time backpacking together, and the first real outing we used our new Canon 450D.

 
Our trail followed the Lost Cove Creek for the first four miles. The lightly blazed trail crossed the river every few hundred yards, usually with no 'easy' way across.

Our trail followed the Lost Cove Creek for the first four miles. The lightly blazed trail crossed the river every few hundred yards, usually with no 'easy' way across.

 
We didn't start hiking our first day until about 5:30 p.m., giving just a couple of hours to get familiar with the terrain before we had to set up camp.

We didn't start hiking our first day until about 5:30 p.m., giving just a couple of hours to get familiar with the terrain before we had to set up camp.

 
Kristen managed to find the sun, despite cloudy skies and thick rhododendron overhead.

Kristen managed to find the sun, despite cloudy skies and thick rhododendron overhead.

 
Having not passed anyone but a group of a day hikers who started at the same time as we had, we just set up camp on the trail by the creek our first night.

Having not passed anyone but a group of a day hikers who started at the same time as we had, we just set up camp on the trail by the creek our first night.

 
Posing together after breakfast.

Posing together after breakfast.

 
Much to our surprise, barely 100 feet from our camp site was a beautiful set of waterfalls we lounged by the next morning.

Much to our surprise, barely 100 feet from our camp site was a beautiful set of waterfalls we lounged by the next morning.

 
In April the water was still too cool for swimming, though it was tempting.

In April the water was still too cool for swimming, though it was tempting.

 
wilson-creek-201

Water crashing off a rock

 
wilson-creek-241

We spent hours baking on the cool rock, reading, eating grapes and listening to the rushing water on Easter Sunday.

 
wilson-creek-211

Waterfalls feed a whirlpool perfect for soaking.

 
Kristen and Dulles romping on the rocks.

Kristen and Dulles romping on the rocks.

 
Another mile or so down the trail and we came across this towering blue waterfall that emptied into a multi-tiered lake.

Another mile or so down the trail and we came across this towering blue waterfall.

 
Kristen rests after reading by a mountain lake Sunday afternoon.

Kristen rests after reading by a mountain lake Sunday afternoon.

 
We camped just above this waterfall, which poured down another tier before emptying into a crystal lake.

We camped just above this waterfall, which poured down another tier before emptying into a crystal lake.

 
Camping in the Blue Ridge.

Camping in the Blue Ridge.

 
A mountain watering hole.

A mountain watering hole.

 
Loaded up and ready for the home stretch.

Loaded up and ready for the home stretch.

 
The only crossing where staying dry was an option.

The only crossing where staying dry was an option.

 
Days well spent.

Days well spent.


Backpacking

Kristen and I spent a few days backpacking in the Wilson Creek wilderness area over Easter weekend. While we take day hikes and go camping pretty often, this was our first foray into backpacking. Wilson Creek is a beautiful area, but the trails are definitely the most technical hiking either of us have ever done, making the pictures and memories that much more rewarding.

A personal album of waterfall photos and portraits from a backpacking trip in Wilson Creek.

wilson-creek-111

wilson-creek-331

wilson-creek-271

wilson-creek-401