Much of the country is currently experiencing frigid weather, but Kelly and I have managed to essentially dodge the dangerously brutal cold. In fact, wandering around Joshua Tree National Park today, she and I momentarily forgot the Polar Vortex was even a thing.
Despite the government partial shutdown closing many areas of Death Valley National Park, Kelly and I did manage to find a few places that remain open and accessible for hiking.
The Mesquite Sand Dunes and Mosaic Canyon we’re easily accessed from our campground and brought us two contrasting experiences.
I’ve never been the off-roadding truck/Jeep type. Rather, I’ve always viewed my truck strictly as a ultitlity – something that carries me and my belongings safely from somewhere to somewhere else. Definately not a vehicle for pleasure.
This view of mine changed somewhat the other day when my buddy Gus convinced a few of us to go explore Death Valley’s Titus Canyon with him. It turns out, driving the trail was was pretty fun and I can see how people get hooked driving and exploring deep into a canyon. The canyon is absolutely stunning and my stock truck did just fine on the trails.
Kelly had a miserable time – way too much bouncing around he her.
The entire time I kept thinking to myself I would have much rather experienced the canyon from my mountain bike – doing so would have really been fun.
And, while the above photos Gus took are great, just image how cool they could have been had he captured me on my bike.
Anyone visiting Death Valley can expect to see military jets training overhead.
Those willing to hike to the top of Star Wars Canyon will be rewarded with the incredible vantage of viewing the planes from above as they descend into the canyon, rolling and twisting as they pass.
My friends and I sat at this point for hours watching.
Usually when out hiking, Kelly and I simply eat bars, gels, and sometimes fruit or trail mix.
However, in a change of routine, today I decided to pack a backcountry stove and #mountainhouse meal. Not sure why, but for some reason I thought a hot lunch might be a welcome treat – which it was.
A few hours into the hike, we enjoyed a warm lunch and hot tea in the shadow of a backcountry church (denominationn unknown).
Here in western North Carolina fall colors are in full swing, daytime temperatures are lovely, and the hiking has been wonderful during our first visit to Smokey Mountain National Park.
The hike to Jaques Lake was supposed to be a solo backpacking trip. In the process I would shakedown loads of new backpacking gear I’ve been slowly assembling.
Weather forecasts had me envisioning a night – sans rainfly – peering endlessly at the stars before peacefully drifting to sleep. Instead, what I got was a ferocious rainstorm … and confirmation that my new tent and rainfly performs like a champ.
Also unexpected, were the trio of moose who came to graze outside my tent in the wee hours of the nights once the rains stopped. While I’d seen them earlier in the day in the lake, I didn’t expect them to so boldly enter camp. Simultaneously terrifying and amazing, I could hear the huge beasts chomping at grass and bushes just outside my tent.
Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be left alone or eaten. With either scenario being out of my control, I settled comfortably into my sleeping bag, awaking both alive and unscathed.
The area is beautiful; I can’t blame the moose for making this serene location their home.
We arrived to Jasper National Park on Wednesday.
According to #ParksCanada, Jasper is home to arguably the best trail network in the world, consisting of kilometers and kilometers of well-connected and maintained trails.
That is a very bold claim – one I intend to validate thoroughly over the coming days.