Photo Friday

14 05 2010

One of the things I love most about hiking is that the work (and there is work) is well-rewarded.  Here’s a photo in which you can see the reward coming…

The trail down to the closest viewpoint at Lower Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY, circa September 2, 2004.  Yes, you then have to go back up, but you’re so amazed you don’t think about it as work anymore.  At least, I didn’t.

Happy Friday!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Back on Schedule

12 05 2010

Bonjour, faithful readers.  I’m so embarrassed.  Have you missed me?  I’ve missed you!

The last month has been a busy one for Her Side, culminating in being away with limited internet access for the past week-and-a-half, and a nightmare return transatlantic flight in which we flew around the volcanic ash that is wreaking havoc over the ocean.  But I’m back, and no more excuses.  While I recover from jet lag and get back on track, here are a few tidbits to keep you occupied.

In the coming weeks: gear and food reviews, the completion of the Rule and the Good Stuff, and the unveiling of a new and exciting project…

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Meet Ranger Doug

14 04 2010

“The American people feel that their National Park System is the basis for a kind of religion. And that the national parks are the cathedrals where they come to worship. And the people in the big hats are the high priests who have been given the responsibility to protect these sacred land trusts.”

— Doug Follett, National Park Ranger

It’s a big year for Ranger Doug Follett.  The big 5-0.  Half a century.  Half a lifetime (if you’re lucky enough to live for a century).

No, he’s not turning 50 years old.  He’s actually 84 this year.  The “50” refers to the number of years Follett has been a seasonal interpretive ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana.  And he’s still going strong.

The National Park Service recently interviewed Follett.  The first thing that struck me about his interview, which you can read here, is his comments on the disappearing glaciers.  He says,

“Then one spring I noticed six inches of red rock at the end of that Glacier snowfield. And I said to myself, ‘Next year that will be covered up, because Old Mother Nature knows that if she doesn’t put more snow on top, we won’t have glaciers, and our sign at the entrance says we’re a glacier park.’”

The next year, it wasn’t covered up.  The glacier had shrunk further.

The second thing that struck me was the passion that the National Parks inspire.  Follett, and many other rangers like him, return to the parks year after year, loving simply being a part of the parks and dedicating their lives to helping others discover and explore them.  We should all be lucky enough to find one passion in our lives like that.

Watch the short video of excerpts of the interview, with incredible contemporary and historical photos of Glacier National Park, below.

National Parks Magazine presents Ranger Doug Follett from Wild Collective on Vimeo.

National Park Week starts this Saturday, April 17 and continues through Sunday, April 25.  Take advantage of the special programs and free admission to the parks near you!

A Request…

31 03 2010

For the past almost seven months (yikes!), I’ve tried to pass along advice, information, funny stories, and helpful hints that could inspire you to try solo hiking and camping.  Now, it’s time for me to ask for something in return.

You see, I’ve never been to California.  (I’ll wait while you gasp in disbelief.)  I know, I know, it’s a tragedy.  Even on my cross country trip I just didn’t make it that far west.  I promised myself that, one day, I would fly out to San Diego, rent a car, and drive to Seattle, hiking, camping and sightseeing along the way.  I just haven’t managed to make that happen — but things are about to change.

I’ll be spending some time in San Diego this spring and summer for work, and will probably be able to squeeze in some leisure time to explore by extending my trips for weekends here and there.  I know I must see Joshua Tree, of course, and if I can manage to get north of LA, I know Yosemite calls, as does Death Valley. 

But I need specifics!  What trails/campgrounds/nature sights do you recommend?  What’s a not-to-be-missed?  What is your sense of how these trails and campgrounds would suit a solo female (population, skill level, security, etc.)?  What can be accomplished in one- or two-day trips from San Diego?  Heck, I’ll take restaurant recommendations too…

Thanks!  And as I explore this area that is new to me, I’ll keep you posted!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Anticipation Round-up

29 03 2010

Ah, springtime.  Here in New England, that means rain, rain, followed by a teaser couple of warm sunny days, and then more rain (and last Friday, in Boston, snow/sleet).  At least the temperature is rising, and I have hopes that the spring hiking can soon begin in earnest.  In the meantime, as I look out at the rain and gloom, I’m focused on the anticipation of the good outdoor weather.  Here are five things to get you in the mood for a great hiking and camping season:

  1. The National Park Service celebrates National Park Week, April 17 – 25, by waiving entrance fees.  That’s right, free!  Do you really need another excuse to check out the National Parks near you?
  2. The National Park Foundation has teamed up with with a great incentive program that helps the National Parks.  You can now book your next vacation on Expedia through the National Park Foundation website, and for every flight, hotel, or rental car booked in this way, Expedia will donate 50% of its profits to the NPF. 
  3. Got some winter weight to shed?  Is 2010 the year you’ll become the buff, healthy woman you’ve always wanted to be?  Does the treadmill at the gym make you scowl?  This month’s issue of Outside Magazine has a great article on re-energizing (or discovering) your fitness regimine with jazzed up walks in the park.  I’ve looked it over, and I think you can do it on a hiking trail, too.  (The article does not yet appear online, so you’ll have to ferret it out elsewhere).  It involves short 2-3 minute walking bursts with reps of exercises that can be done with the assistance of a park bench or a fallen tree.  Check it out or make up your own!
  4. Are you a student with some time this summer, or an executive who can take a leave of absence?  Check out the seasonal employment offered by the National Park Service. 
  5. Are you a writer?  Would you like to be?  Creative Conferences is holding a series of conferences in Boulder, Colorado, this August and September, covering memoirs, magazine writing and digital photography.  These two-day intensive workshops — and the possibility of publication in Women’s Adventure Magazine — will give you a jump start, connections in the industry, and a wealth of information.  Plus, hanging out in Boulder?  Not too shabby.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

26 03 2010

Today, instead of a sweeping wilderness or wildlife photo, I’m giving you the best National Park warning sign I’ve ever seen.  National Parks are kind of funny about warning signs.  They tend to be a little ridiculous looking.  This one was in Shenandoah National Park, and different from most, looking handmade.  My friend made it into a t-shirt for me.

Happy Friday!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

19 03 2010

TGIF!   The weather in Boston is finally gorgeous, and I intend to spend tomorrow morning on my inaugural hike of the 2010 spring season, before the weather remembers that it’s March and gets crappy again.

Today, I give you a photo of a hoodoo in Queen’s Garden of Bryce Canyon.  This hoodoo is the reason it is named Queen’s Garden.  Can you see why?

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Tiny Triumphs, Puny Pleasures

18 03 2010

Today, on Go Girl, I write about the little things that make incredible trips unique and memorable.  That, and looking up George Washington’s nose.

Check it out here.

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Photo Friday

12 03 2010

Yep, that’s a buffalo.  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.  Happy Friday!

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.

Daydreaming About Zion Again

5 03 2010

As promised, Her Side presents:

Zion Trip Tips: Part Two

On Wednesday, we talked a little about what to do in Zion National Park itself.  Today, let’s explore outside the boundaries of the main section of Zion Canyon.

Staying in Springdale, on Zion Park Boulevard, is convenient and fun.  The main street is lined with hotels, motels and private campgrounds to fit all manner of budgets and persnicketiness.  I have stayed at the Driftwood Lodge, and found the staff delightful, the rooms clean, and the views incredible.  A major benefit of staying on Zion Park Blvd., however, is its proximity to the west entrance of the park, and the free shuttle that runs along the Blvd. and drops you off at the entrance (where you can switch to the Zion shuttle with no fuss).

Zion Park Blvd. also has a wide assortment of art galleries (paint, photo, and sculpture), artisan shops, rock and crystal stores, and souvenir shops, so you can poke around to your heart’s content.

Hungry?  No problem.  Check out Zion Pizza & Noodle Co., with mouthwatering pizza, pasta and beer (and next to a friendly outfitter so you can plan your excursion to the Narrows after you’re stuffed full of carbs).  In the mood for something spicier?  Stop by the Bit & Spur for margaritas, microbrews, Tex-Mex fare and pool.

Once you’ve had your fill of the main area of Zion National Park (though that will never happen, so perhaps I should rephrase), it’s easy to venture farther afield.  The other, less-visited section of Zion is Kolob Canyons, located a 45-minute drive northwest of the main canyon.  Kolob has a very different feel from the main canyon.  It is quieter, more peaceful.  Arrive early, bring plenty of food and water, and embark upon the 14-mile out-and-back hike to Kolob Arch.  You’ll first descend nearly 700 feet into the canyon, and then trek across barren desert, lush forest, and wild fields before reaching your destination 7 miles in.  The entire round trip takes approximately 8 hours.  It isn’t a particularly strenuous hike but it requires endurance and preparation, since the Utah heat can make you grossly underestimate your water needs.  Also make sure to bring your snake-bite kit.  Chances are, you’ll encounter at least one rattlesnake…but it’s a hike well worth the effort.

Finally, for something completely different, drive the hour and a half to Bryce Canyon.  Bryce is spectacular in its own way, a giant bowl of orange and white hoodoos that will take your breath away.  If you can manage it, plan to arrive before sunrise, station yourself at Sunrise Point, and surrender yourself to awe.  Once the sun has risen, descend into the canyon and take the Peekaboo Loop.  It’s only 5.5 miles, but because of the steep descent at the beginning and ascent at the end, it’s considered a strenuous hike.  Early in the morning, the trail will be clear of the horse and mule riders, and you’ll be able to enjoy the way the sun hits the hoodoos and they appear to glow from within.  **One note: roadwork on the Zion — Mt. Carmel Highway is about to start, and park officials are warning travelers to expect delays or seek alternate routes to get to Bryce from Zion, which would add significant time to the journey.

One additional planning tip.  The internet is your friend.  Check out these websites:

Whatever you choose, Zion (and Bryce) are a great destination for a hiking vacation.  Enjoy!  (PS — Now that I’ve posted this, I’ve decided I need to get back out there, so I’ll be planning my own trip, which will be my third visit.  If that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what else to say.)

© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.