Posts tagged National Park

Volcanoes National Park Afternoon

We drove the 18mile long Chain of Craters Road, originally built in 1928, then rebuilt, rerouted, rebuilt multiple times as lava flows inundated the roadway. There are stops  along the road at a series of craters – large pits where the surface ground collapsed into the gap left by a lava eruption or magma chamber. Here’s Loa Manu crater:

Huge sections of the road look like burned moonscapes, where old, solid lava leaves a jagged black surface:

But life… finds a way:

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Stopped for the short hike to see the Mauna Ulu eruption fissure, explained in the trail-guide:

“In the pre-dawn morning of May 24, 1969, residents and visitors were jarred awake by window-rattling earthquakes. A large fissure had opened up in a quiet forest along Chain of Craters Road. Soon red-hot lava burst forth to announce the start of a new eruption, the birth of Mauna Ulu (growing mountain). In the five short years of this eruption, roads, cultural sites, and coastal grasslands were burned and buried in the lava’s relentless flow to the sea. A succession of flows transformed vast forests into an eerie landscape of desolate lava fields. Today Mauna Ulu looms over this surreal landscape, where lava trees stand after the surrounding flows drained away.”

Hard to believe this vast black landscape was ever a forest. Note the Lava Trees, stands of lava that formed around trees which soon died, leaving just the hardened lava in the trees’ shape:

This is a photo from the trail guide, showing a lava fountain in 1970. Some of the fountains reached 1770′, more that 500′ taller than the Empire State Building!Screenshot-2018-1-28 Mauna Ulu Eruption Guide - mauna_ulu_trail_guide pdf

Lava flows have increased the Park’s size by hundreds of acres. When we were there, the lava flow had moved so that it’s no longer visible flowing into the ocean -and about a 10 mile round trip hike to see the movement over land.

Drove further to the Kealokolu Overlook where you can see the blackened landscape, and new land, above the ocean:

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At the bottom of Chain of Craters Road is the overlook to the Holei Sea Arch, formed when some of the hardened lava eroded faster than other sections. The arch is under 100 years old, and will fully erode as other arches form:

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Back on up the road to hike to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, “a very sacred and religious place for many of the people of Hawaiʻi , used ritually for over 500 years. It is the largest petroglyph field in the State of Hawaiʻi. Puʻu Loa is geologically dated between 1200-1450A.D.  There are more then 23,000 petroglyph images, mostly “pukas” (cupules), about 85% of the total, in which a portion of the umbilical cord of a newborn was placed to ensure long life. Motifs of circles, other geometric designs, as well as cryptic designs of human representations know as anthropomorphisms, canoe sails, and even feathered cape motifs.”  Pu’u Loa means “Hill of Long Life.

The nearly-mile-long hike over lava rock feels longer – sturdy shoes recommended. You then reach a short boardwalk that circumnavigates the bulk of the petroglyphs:

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Love the wrinkle/ripple patterns in the lava, as well as the human-made designs:

Next stop – Thurston Lava Tube, formed when the lava on the outer edges of a red hot river of lava cooled before the inner lava did. Discovered in 1913 by newspaper publisher Lorrin Thurston.You get a nice hike through tropical forest before reaching the lava tube:

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Final stop, up at the Jagger Museum as sun sets to see the glow from the caldera. Arrive early to get a parking space – as we left, the line of traffic to be allowed to drive up the Museum was crazy

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Off to the town of Volcano, outside the Park, for some Thai food:

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – January 2018

Volcanoes National Park is about a 2-hour drive from Kona, but what a drive!

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We stopped at Punalu’u Bake Shop for a snack and devoured some malasadas – a variety of sugar-covered filled donuts, with orange guava, purple taro, and yellow lilikoi:IMG_0877

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You can see the huge Kilauea caldera, and the steaming Halema‘uma‘u crater in the center, from the deck at the Volcano House lodge.

We headed off to hike the short ‘Iliahi trail which leads through dense lush forest, then comes out on the rim of the caldera, and leads to the Steam Vent trail, where volcanic steam seeps out of cracks in the ground:

Steam Vents lead to Sulfur Banks trail, where you can see and smell the yellow sulfur deposits:

It’s kind of amazing that with all the steam and volcanic fumes, there are flowers and greenery:

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Yellow sulphur on the hills and rocks:IMG_0903IMG_0904IMG_0905

Followed by picnic lunch near the visitor center:

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Sequoia National Park – 6/4/17

We stayed in the town of Three Rivers, about 10 miles outside the south Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park.

You’re at about 1700′ elevation at the entrance, sitting in traffic:

but climb to over 6,000′. We counted over 25 switchbacks/hairpin turns on Generals Highway with speed limit at 10 – 15 MPH. Because the road looks like this on the GPS:

Park map, and signs, say “Vehicles longer than 22 feet (including trailers) not advised.” Glad we never did this road at night!
First stop this day was Crescent Meadow, which you get to on the shuttle, passing this tunnel log.
John Muir called this meadow the Gem of the Sierras – the meadow leads to a lovely woods trail:

And wildlife! A black bear (with brown fur) just 20 yards off the trail:

The trail continues in among the sequoias:

We got to Tharp’s Log, a cabin built out of a hollowed-out fallen giant sequoia log in the Giant Forest. Hale Tharp grazed cattle in the meadow, and led early battles against logging in the area.  John Muir visited and stayed at Tharp’s log cabin.

Meadow near Tharp’s Log:

And the Giant Forest beyond:

More wildlife – a deer on the trail, and he just kept hiking near us:

We crossed the High Sierra Trail, but didn’t take the 60 mile trek to Mt. Whitney:

The rings on a cross section not only tell the tree’s age, but also the weather each year – narrow rings mean dry years, wide rings were damp:

Headed straight to General Sherman, the largest tree (by volume) in the world:

You can’t zoom out enough to photograph the whole thing:

From General Sherman, we took the Congress Trail, so named because of the clusters of sequoias – dubbed the House and Senate groupings. And hiked with another deer:

Many of the trees had fire damage, but this one was burned dead:

There’s a little waterfall along and under the path:

You can see a tree tunnel on the far side:

And then we reach The President tree:

This group is The Senate:

And The House:

And this might be Lincoln:

Fallen sequoias make great playgrounds, as we reach that tunnel tree:

Little lavender flowers blanket the forest floor:

How big? See this medium-sized tree outside the Museum? It would be 9 yards short of a football field, and would block 3 lanes of traffic on a highway.

On our way out, I loved these mosaic stone walls (that kept us from crashing over the edge on all those switchbacks), and then we got the view of Moro Rock, which lots of folks climb.

Near the exit, we stopped at Hospital Rock, which, according to Wikipedia, was once home to 500 Potwisha Native Americans, as early as 1350. In 1860, Hale Tharp and John Swanson were exploring the Giant Forest when Swanson injured his leg. Swanson was transported here where his injury was treated by local Indians. Tharp gave the spot its name after a second similar incident.

That red marking on the straight rock wall? Petroglyphs!

This “Community Kitchen” slab was where the native women ground acorns into flour – you can see the grinding indentations:

Then there’s a trail down to the waterfall, with stone steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corp:

Shrimp enchiladas for dinner:

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Kings Canyon National Park – 6/3/17

Kings Canyon National Park is less than 3 hours south of Mariposa. We stopped at one of the roadside fruit stands for a pile of peaches.

We reached the ‘thumb’ of Kings Canyon at the Big Stump Entrance, hit the Grant Grove Village Visitor Center, and headed behind the camping to Panoramic Point – a great spot but not even on the map!

Sat on a bench, enjoying the panorama, eating our sandwiches.

A gecko:

Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are managed together as one park, set aside to protect the massive sequoias, most of which were destroyed by greedy loggers, who went bankrupt:

With this tour bus in view, you can get a sense of the scale of these sequoias:

Took in the North Grove Loop to Sunset Trail:

You really need a panoramic lens – or a wide angle – to capture the size of these sequoias.

This view of dogwood blossoms, sunlight, and sequoias felt like I’d fallen into a Monet – what would he have done with this landscape?

More trail, showing blackened bark. Old growth sequoias have such thick bark that fire seldom kills these trees; and fire is necessary for new growth – sequoia pine cones don’t open and drop their seeds without the heat from forest fires.

Most folks who hit this section of the park skip the near-solitude of the trail we just did, and head straight to the 1/2-mile paved path to the General Grant Tree.

The tree was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army general and the 18th President of the United States. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” on April 28, 1926. On March 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared the tree a “National Shrine”, a memorial to those who died in war. It is the only living object to be so declared.

The trail has other points of interest, including this Fallen Monarch tree trunk, big enough to walk through upright:

Centennial Stump was left after this 24′ diameter trunk was sliced up and transported east for the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876 –  where the easterners thought it was a hoax:

Grant Tree itself – the 2nd largest in the world:

Driving out to our hotel in Three Rivers, we get the views:

Moonrise over the pool and spa at Western Adventure Lodge:

 

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Yosemite – Bridal Veil Fall, Tunnel View, Sentinel Dome, and Mirror Lake 6/2/17

Headed straight for the short walk to the base of Bridal Veil Fall.

Early June, and we’re in peak flow season.

Morning view across from the Fall:

The trail gets steep, and soaking wet as you approach the Fall, so that the paved path is running like a stream:

Then off to Tunnel View, which gives a spectacular panorama of the whole Valley, plus an actual tunnel to drive through:

Down to Glacier Point Road to Sentinel Dome, a hike recommended for its full 360 views. This warning is for the Taft Point trail, we’ll go the other way:

There is a little snow on our trail, at the very beginning, but then we cross a stream and the snowy patches have melted:

Oh. My. Goodness! We can see the Dome! And there are little tiny people on top! How am I going to climb THAT!

The trail has a number of beautiful Jeffrey Pine trees, big, red bark, and a distinctly fragrant resin – stick your nose up between the plates of the bark and you’ll smell butterscotch!

By now the trail has left the soil path to traverse the rocky surface approaching the Dome. Cairns mark the path:

The path has taken us around to the less-steep, but shaded side of the Dome, where the scramble to the top is through a snow field!

Couldn’t take photos while trying to climb up slippery snow. A little scary, but oh so rewarding. We’re eye-level with Yosemite Falls:

Above Half Dome:

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevadas:

And there’s El Capitan:

This is Ansel Adam’s photo of the lone Jeffrey pine on top of Sentinel Dome:

And this is that same tree now, after it died from a drought in 1977, and finally fell in 2003:

There’s still life growing up here:

Elevation at the top of the Dome is 8,117 ft. It’s easy to wander around the dome, from view to view to view.

But it’s time to head down, back through the snow. You’ve got to dig your heel in to grab a foothold, one heel at a time. One grandpa helped his little granddaughters down by sitting on the snow, propping one girl on each thigh, and sledding them down on his butt – fast, scary ride for them. But as soon as they reached the bottom, they clamored to do it over and over!

Back down from the Dome, and we drove over to Glacier Point, where the views just keep on coming – including a view of yesterday’s Vernal Falls hike:

Back through Tunnel View, where the light has changed the scenery:

Then back up to the Valley to the Mirror Lake trail which crosses and skirts Tenaya Creek:

Half Dome looms above the lake:

We were here:

Folks resting on the rocks above the roaring creek:

A last view of Yosemite Falls through the trees:

Back to Mariposa for a one-man band in the Art Park:

And a little western flair:

 

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Yosemite Valley 6/1/17

It’s an hour drive from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley, winding road, one lane bridge, along the Merced River. This may be the rockslide that closed the road, requiring the 1-lane crossing:

We started at the Valley Visitors’ Center, and strolled this native village display, telling the story of the Ahwahneechee people who called this area home (before the Gold Rushers displaced/killed  them):

Morning hike – Yosemite Falls, tallest in the Park (and 20th tallest in the world) drops 2,425′ from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. You can see the falls from nearly every spot in the Valley:

There’s a lovely Falls View spot (doubleclick any photo to enlarge):

This is a good view of the upper fall to the right and lower fall on the left – the middle cascade can’t be seen from the Valley.

The trail up to the lower falls viewing spot crosses the river, and gets into the spray:

Since Yosemite Falls is mostly snow-melt, the Falls can be completely dry or just a trickle by September. Not likely this year, after the record snowfall in the Sierras. We walked back towards the open valley, and kept turning back for different views of the Falls:

Next trail was across Swinging Bridge to the other side of the valley:

Areas of the meadow valley were flooded, turning sections of the trail into dead ends. And the view of Yosemite Falls just keeps coming:

Across the valley from the Falls is Yosemite Chapel, the oldest building in the Park, from Yosemite Village 1879, although moved to this location in 1991:

We took the park shuttle to the Happy Isle stop, and walked to the Vernal Fall trail. Happy to rely on the shuttles, by the way. Not yet peak season, but the parking lots were nearly full when we arrived early morning. The shuttles get you all over most of the park, without worrying about finding a parking space. There are shuttles from the nearest towns, to get you into the park. Glad to have the shuttles cutting down on the emissions from idling cars – good place to be good to the planet. But first, a picnic lunch along the Merced:

There’s also a starting point for the hike up Half Dome – but the cables were out (like that’s the reason we didn’t do it!):

Onward to the Vernal Fall, all uphill, and a real challenge for my sea-level lungs, just to the footbridge at the base of the waterfall. Lots of stops – and views – along the climb.

The trail continues up to the top of the fall along the Mist Trail – wet, slippery, steep, and dangerous. Lots of signs in the park about the deadly dangers of slipping into the rushing waters. Didn’t tackle it.  Headed back down to the Valley. Don’t know what this “free speech” sign is about, but there were no groups there at the time.

Half Dome from the valley:

On the drive out we stopped at the El Capitan viewpoint. Some folks had set up camp chairs to sit and watch the climbers through binoculars – tiny specks of color and movement against the massive sheer wall:

I’ve never been good with heights, but I still can’t imagine someone looking at this and thinking “I should climb that.” And this guy just did it in 4 hours without ropes.

Long drive back to Mariposa, which has a nice little western town feel. Their Arts Park has this memorial to 9/11. The rusted steel is salvage from NYC’s twin towers:

 

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Bodega to Napa to Yosemite – 5/30/17

Headed into to the town of Bodega, CA, where Hitchcock filmed that scene of the schoolchildren being attacked in The Birds:

The Potter School (1873) is still there, a private residence:

 

Back on the road, with a stop for fruit at a market, right next to the Guayaki Yerba Maté factory – we’ve had that!

One of the great things about racking up miles on the rental car is that we get to search out places to check out to break up the long drives. Santa Rosa is a great stop, where we toured the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, a national historic site. Burbank (1849 -1926) was born in Lancaster, MA but settled in Santa Rosa and spent his 50 year career as a horticulturalist. He worked to expand the world’s food supply, and introduced more than 800 new varieties of plants — including over 200 varieties of fruits, many vegetables, nuts and grains, and hundreds of ornamental flowers – including the Shasta Daisy. The gardens are free, and lovely:

 

Next stop, The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, once the largest stone winery in the world. Gorgeous building, with oranges growing in front, and a crazy corkscrew collection on display:

 

 

Back on the road through Napa Valley, surrounded by grape vines climbing hills or filling fields.

 

The town of Napa has a nice riverfront park, and lots of restaurants – but we hit the supermarket for sandwiches to go.

 

From grapevines to windfarms, until we’re climbing higher:

 

And then Yosemite as the day is waning:

We’re just driving through on a long, winding road to get to our hotel in Mariposa, and stop at an overlook. An overwhelming, my cup runneth over overlook:

The winter’s heavy snows have turned the Merced River and waterfalls (or is it just snowmelt?) high, fast, and wild:

 

Drove through a tunnel to a waterfall at Cascade Creek:

 

An info panel showed this early 20th century ad for 36-hour wagon trip to Yo Semite:

Can’t blame them for enduring a 36-hour drive to see this place – What a planet!

 

 

 

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