A Return to Death Valley National Park

My first visit to Death Valley National Park was in January 2014. At that time, I noted that “…I would like to return—soon—and visit many of the other wonderful locations in Death Valley National Park…” Well, it turned out “soon” was more than three years later but we finally made a return visit.

With the significant amount of rain that has occurred across the American Southwest this winter I was hopeful that there would be another wildflower “super bloom” comparable to that which occurred in 2016. But either we were too early or it just doesn’t happen two years in a row. So we were disappointed with the scarcity of wildflowers.

Dante's View of Panamint Range and Badwater Basin.
Dante’s View of Panamint Range and Badwater Basin.

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Summer Vacation 2016—Part IV: Mount Baker

It was finally time to move to another area in the North Cascades and we decided that Mount Baker would provide some interesting hikes.

We departed the Cascades Pass Road and returned to Marblemount NPS Ranger Station to refill our water bottles. Unfortunately, their water system had problems and was not safe to drink. It’s interesting that all the campsites and campgrounds we visited either had no water or had water problems. Luckily, we carried a 5-gallon jug of water and still had enough for a few more days.

We stopped at the USFS Ranger station on our way to Mount Baker to get water…and it was closed for scheduled maintenance. But there was water available outside so we finally had a chance to refill.

Panoramic view on the start of the trail with <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shuksan' target='_blank'>Mt. Shuksan (left)</a> and <a href='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Baker ' target='_blank'>Mt. Baker (right)</a>.
Panoramic view on the start of the trail with Mt. Shuksan (left) and Mt. Baker (right).
Wildflowers along Ptarmigan Ridge Trail.
Wildflowers along Ptarmigan Ridge Trail.

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Summer Vacation 2016—Part III: Northern Cascade Mountains

We thought that we were almost there and that it would only be a short trip from the Columbia River Gorge to the Northern Cascade mountains. Wrong, again. There’s a lot of terrain to cover between these two locations. So we drove east on I-84 until we could cross the river on Highway 97 then north to Yakima, Washington. We stopped to load up on current maps (our highway maps of this area are old!). The good folks at the Visitor Center recommended a visit to Leavenworth—a Bavarian-style city. So we did. It was…um….interesting.

And, still, we had a long ways to drive.

We stopped in Winthrop—which had a nice grocery store—to stock up on food supplies for the next several days. Heading west we encountered several campgrounds—all full to capacity. It’s the beginning of the weekend so we weren’t too surprised. We finally drove down a Forest Service road to a trail head and decided this would be our camping spot for the night.

We’re finally in the Cascades. Dang—that took a long time to get here!

Sunrise on Liberty Bell Mountain.
Sunrise on Liberty Bell Mountain.
Sibley Creek on Cascade Pass Road.
Sibley Creek on Cascade Pass Road.

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Summer Vacation 2016—Part I: Sierra Nevada mountains

This summer we travelled through several western states over a period of about three weeks. Major attractions included watching the Perseid meteor shower in the Nevada desert, backpacking in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains of California, viewing the waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, and hiking in the northern Cascades of Washington. The weather was good with light rain on two days and heavy rain once—and that was on the drive home.

Here are some photos from Nevada and the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Car camping near <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Peak_(Nevada)" target="_blank">Boundary Peak</a> in the Nevada desert. This was the peak night of the Perseid meteor shower and the dark skies resulted in a great show.
Car camping near Boundary Peak in the Nevada desert. This was the peak night of the Perseid meteor shower and the dark skies resulted in a great show.

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Biking and hiking in Durango

After an early start to the summer rainy season, the pattern reverted back to hot and dry across the southwest. And not just for a day or two but for more than a week. Two weeks, even.

With continued warm and dry weather expected we headed to Durango, Colorado, for a few days of mountain biking and hiking. We already had a few ideas for trails and we figured we’d get more while in town.

On our first day of riding we did the Dry Fork–Colorado Trail–Hoffheins loop with an extension on the Colorado Trail to the local “high point” giving us a total of about 17 miles. There were plenty of wildflowers along the Colorado Trail section along with occasional views of distant peaks. We also saw a family of wild turkey but, as usual, they were easier to see than to photograph.

The start of Dry Fork Trail under a stand of oak trees.
The start of Dry Fork Trail under a stand of oak trees.
Dry Fork and Colorado Trail intersection. The map says this is "unmarked" and "easy to miss." Need to update the map!
Dry Fork and Colorado Trail intersection. The map says this is “unmarked” and “easy to miss.” Need to update the map!

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