It’s National Park Week!

23 04 2012

Yes, it’s here again. A full week of free admission to all 397 National Park Service sites, through Sunday, April 29. Not sure if there’s a site close to you to visit? Check the website, and search by state. Now is the perfect time to visit sites that you’ve overlooked or return to old favorites. So get out there, take some tours, hike some trails, and enjoy the incredible work that the National Park Service does year round.

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You Might See Whales

9 02 2012

On Tuesday, I told you about a walk I took on a short hiking trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve. One of the reasons I kept that visit brief was because I had other plans: I wanted to get out to the Cabrillo National Monument as well.

Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.

I have a thing about National Parks. in 2004, when I was driving cross country, I made the decision to make hiking and camping in National Parks the theme of the trip. This was partly because it was an inexpensive theme. Camping = cheaper than hotels, and a National Parks Pass was only $50 at the time, providing unlimited admission to the parks. But I fell in love. The sites themselves are amazing and well-maintained, the visitors centers are good, and the rangers and volunteers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and informative. While on the trip, I bought a walking stick and proceeded to cover it with medallions from the National Parks I visited.

See?

This isn’t all of them — some didn’t have medallions, especially the smaller sites, but then a couple of years ago I discovered the National Parks Passport. I love collecting things, so this was awesome for me. I don’t have some Ahab quest to get stamps from all of the sites (there are 391-ish, depending on the source), but I do like to collect them anyhow.

Which was why, on Monday, I decided I just had to visit a National Park site while I was out in California. Some day I’m going to do a California National Parks trip, and go to Joshua Tree and Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic and…

Back on topic. Cabrillo National Monument!

The Monument, which was established in 1913 to commemorate the life and explorations of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, is at the tip of Point Loma, just past the naval base (so, a good place to see men in uniform as a bonus). Juan came to the Americas in the early 1500s, and in 1542, he set off from Mexico on an expedition on behalf of Spain to claim land and (surprise!) find a route to the Spice Islands. (Those explorers, so intent on getting spices.) On September 28, 1542, Juan and Company landed in a harbor he described as “a closed and very good port.” This very good port is now San Diego. Thus, the Monument in Juan’s honor.

From the well-staffed visitor’s center — which has a gift shop/information desk, a museum, and a theater, as well as snacks and restrooms — walk up the path to the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. You’ll be treated with a spectacular view of downtown San Diego on one side and the ocean on the other.

After that, walk up the hill towards the Point Loma Lighthouse. You can go inside and see rooms laid out as they would have been when a lighthouse keeper lived here with his (or her! they had female keepers here too) family.

Continue past the lighthouse and up to the Whale Overlook, where, if you’re lucky, you can do some whale watching. I stood there a while and didn’t see anything, but I’ve also had so-so luck on whale-watching trips, so maybe it’s just me.

Then you can loop back down and venture onto the Bayside Trail, which is a 2.5 mile walk descending 300 feet to the beach below. It’s a little steep, but not terrible. I walked on it a little ways, but decided not to do the whole loop because of time.

If you’re looking for something a little different, there’s also an exhibit on old defense systems, and tidepools to visit. Cabrillo is a small site, but the rangers there are as enthusiastic and knowledgeable as anywhere, and you might see whales! It’s worth a visit if you have the time.





Happy 2012!

6 01 2012

Well, hi there, Happy Her Side Hikers!

Yes, I’m back. I was on a self-imposed hiatus for some time for personal reasons, but it’s a new year and time for a fresh start.

Yay, snow!

First, I wanted to alert you all to some big events coming up. Tomorrow, January 7, is Winter Trails Day. What is Winter Trails Day, you ask? It’s a day where all over the country (where it’s winter, I guess) you can find a location to try out snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for free! Here in the Boston area, the Weston Ski Track is hosting, so get on down there and fall in love with snowshoes.

If that wasn’t enough, on January 14-16, the National Park Service is hosting a FREE weekend in the National Parks in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day. There are lots of parks to choose from, so if you’ve never been to a National Park or if you haven’t been in a while, next weekend is the perfect weekend to change that.

Second, here’s a preview what’s coming to Her Side in 2012:

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Boston: I found this book, by Helen Weatherall, published by the American Hiking Society, that details hikes close to Boston. It came out in 2008, but it’s new to me. The hike descriptions are my favorite kind: chatty and interesting while still providing information necessary to figure out what you’re getting yourself into and where you’re going. The hikes in this book range from Boston’s Freedom Trail (more of a walk in the city than a hike, but since I love the Freedom Trail I’m not complaining) to 8 mile hikes in state forests. Join me as I tackle these one by one (or two at a time, in some cases) over the coming months. First up, I’ll venture into one of the seaside hikes next week (don’t you love the beach in the winter?), take lots of photos, and let y’all know how it goes. Time to break out that winter hiking equipment, which we’ll also talk about.

Tasty Trail Food: Last year, two people gave me this book, by Laurie Ann March, that details make-at-home treats to take with you while backpacking. Because life gets in the way, I never got around to trying it. Some of the recipes lend themselves more to camping in the backcountry rather than simply packing lunch or snacks for a day hike, but I’m going to give some of these a try and let you know what I think in terms of ease of preparation and location of ingredients, ease of packing and carrying, and tastiness. Also, since I somehow ended up with two copies, I’ll be hosting a contest a little later on this year, and you can WIN the other one!

Also, in early February I’ll be taking a trip to San Diego to audition the area as a potential new place to live, and I’ll be sure to get in a good hike while I’m there. Suggestions welcome!

So I’m pretty excited about all of this — are you?





Photo Friday

18 06 2010

Zion Canyon, from the Middle Emerald Pools Trail.  Stunned me then, stuns me now.

Happy Friday!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Ideas and Innovations

16 06 2010

Last night, President Obama called for new ideas and innovation to decrease our dependence on oil and turn to new energy sources.  That Obama, he’s always calling out to the public for ideas.

For example, on April 16, the President established America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to “promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors.”¹  Well, that sounds pretty good to me.  How?

Step one seems to be to start a countrywide conversation-of-sorts about promoting and preserving outdoor spaces.  No, really.  The powers that be want to know what you think.  First, there are “listening sessions” being set up across the country, the first being Annapolis, MD, on June 25, from 1-5PM.

Can’t attend one?  You can submit your ideas and innovations (and read and vote on those submitted by others) at the America’s Great Outdoors idea center.  Check it out, there’s a lot of interesting stuff on there.

A lot of people seem to like the idea of creating a “master naturalist” volunteer program, based on the Texas program of the same name, in which individuals would rack up volunteer hours and undergo training to obtain a certification as a “master naturalist.”  Texans seem to like their program, and it seems to do a lot of good.

Less well-liked (or maybe just more controversial) is this suggestion to revamp Smokey the Bear.  I wonder if the number of “demotes” (think the oft-wished-for “dislike” button on Facebook) on this suggestion is because people love Smokey or because forcing poor Smokey into retirement at the age of 65 hits a little too close to home for some people?

Which ideas do you like?  What do you think of the “conversation”?  Is Obama’s tendency to solicit ideas from the public increasing democratic involvement and allowing for real innovation that might otherwise have been stifled, or is it just another way for well-funded organizations to lobby?  (Oops, that last question is a little charged.  Have at it anyhow.)

¹ Glunz, Christine, et al.  April 16, 2010.  “President Obama Launches Initiative to Develop a 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors.”  Retrieved from http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/Press-Release.cfm.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





The Answer, As Always, I’m An Idiot

11 06 2010

But you don’t have to be, because I’m here to help you not make the mistakes that I made when I started out hiking and camping solo.

On Wednesday, I posted this photo, of me at the end of my very first solo hike, on the teeny, easy little Door Trail at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.  I asked you what was wrong with the picture — in other words, could you tell from this photo all the rules I was breaking and mistakes I was making?

Well, you guys did great!  It’s a little embarassing, but here are the answers:

  1. I’m wearing the wrong shoes.  If you look closely, you’ll see I’m wearing Teva sandals.  Why are these wrong?  Let me count the ways.  First of all, they don’t provide the support needed for “real” hiking.  Second, they leave my feet (including fragile toes) completely unprotected.  They might be cooler than boots, but jagged rocks and sticks and rocks could do a number on my poor exposed feets.  Because this was a very short, easy hike, this wasn’t really a problem.  Would I do it again?  Not if I had never hiked the trail.  If I knew the trail well, I might, but without knowing the lay of the land, that was dumb.
  2. I’m not wearing a hat.  This is open, arid land.  There ain’t no shade anywhere in sight.  A hat is really really really a good idea.  But even worse…
  3. I’m not wearing sunscreen.  Now, you can’t see that from this photo, but trust me, it’s true.  I didn’t get too burned.  I actually think I had put on sunscreen that morning, but at this point it was early afternoon and it was time for some more.
  4. I’m wearing the wrong shirt.  Yes, that is a cotton t-shirt.  I like that t-shirt.  But it isn’t hiking-friendly, particularly not in hot, arid, South Dakota in August, when I was sweating just standing around.  This isn’t a fatal mistake.  I spent years hiking in regular old t-shirts before I discovered the wonder of wicking, and now I live in my hiking clothes in the summer.  But since we’re picking out things I would do differently with the experience I have now, this goes on the list.  Oh, and Josh is right: while somewhat minimal here, lighter colors and the desert are usually better companions.
  5. I’m not carrying my first aid kit.  Oops.  Now, I have said it isn’t strictly always necessary to carry your first aid kit, if you’re doing a really easy, short hike that you’ve done a million times and there’s a decent population there with you.  I don’t bring my kit when I traipse around Walden Pond, for example.  But here, in a part of the country I knew nothing about, on a hike I had never done, which could have rattlesnakes (something that wasn’t even a little bit on my radar at this point), not carrying the kit is stupid.  Thankfully, this was such a short hike, and there were a fair number of people there, so I wasn’t really in any danger from this mistake.  The next hike I did, immediately thereafter, however, I was the only one on the trail, and it involved climbing.  Not having the kit there was especially especially stupid.
  6. As Dad and Deborah noted, I also don’t have a pack.  This means my water is limited to my Nalgene bottle, and I don’t have any of the other essentials with me (cell phone, whistle, compass, etc.).  For this hike, again, it was short, easy and well populated, so it wasn’t a problem.  But for the next hike, what was I thinking?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking.  I pulled off the main road and into the trailhead parking lot.  There were a lot of people there.  I was so excited, because I knew this was going to be my first hike of the trip.  I got out of the car, pulled my hair into a ponytail (it was very hot), and grabbed my Nalgene bottle.  I went to the trunk and looked at my hydration pack, which was filled with hiking essentials, and my boots, and then I looked at all the totally non-hiking dressed people headed out on the trail, and decided it was all overkill.

I was sort of right.  The Door Trail is very simple.  The first part is handicap-accessible, for goodness sake.  But in retrospect, and especially when I headed out for the Notch Trail, I should have geared up.  If I didn’t want to fill my hydration pack with water, or if I didn’t want to carry too much, I could have at least put the boots, sunscreen, and hat on. 

Here is another photo of me, from several weeks later.  As you can see, I was learning my lessons, hike by hike, trail by trail:

This is on a hike in Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah.  As you can see, I’m more appropriately geared.  Those are pants (and yes, I did see a rattlesnake on this trail).  I’m wearing a hiking shirt, and a hat.  I am wearing sunscreen (though you probably can’t tell).  I’ve got my hydration pack filled with 2.5 liters of water, first aid kit, cell phone, compass, etc. etc. etc.

Thanks for playing.  Remember, we all make mistakes when we don’t know any better.  My goal is to help you avoid them as you embark upon your own solo journeys.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.





Photo Friday

4 06 2010

Today, some color for you.

Badlands, South Dakota.  Have a colorful weekend, everyone!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.