Friday, December 30, 2016

New Zealand: Ship Cove to Resolution Bay on Queen Charlotte's Track

 Standing on ground trod no doubt by Maori long before Captain Cook landed in 1770. 

In January 1770 Captain James Cook landed his ship The Endeavor at what is now known as Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand. While he and his crew spent over s year there we would use it as our starting point of a 9-mile-long hike on the Queen Charlotte Track. Forest, birds and bays dominate this enjoyable hike. The boat ride to and from Picton is enjoyable too. Ending the hike with a nice drink, though pricy, at Furneaux Lodge is a bonus. 

 Resolution Bay. Somewhat over a mile into the hike. It starts moderately steep gaining easily 700 in a mile. But it gets easier and the occasional climbs away from the Bay are all much shorter after the first one. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Zealand: Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 Red Crater at the highest point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. 

 You gaze down on Emerald Lake as you slide walk down loose stone and dirt. It's a bit like descending a sand dune or scree field. 

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered by many the best day hike in New Zealand. It is certainly a tough one. Great views in an interesting area compete for your attention with the hordes of people tramping the trail with you. It is a hike of extremes. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

New Zealand: Waimangu Volcanic Valley

The Waimangu Volcanic Valley features numerous geothermal features. Mount Terawera erupted June 1886 destroying everything in the area and totally reshapedpp q the land. Lake Rotomahana grew 20 times in size and became North Island's deepest lake. The famed pink and white terraces vanished beneath the water or were destroyed. The world's largest hot pool, Fryingpan Lake, was born. Today a fantastic mixture of re-emergent flora and fauna combine with the landscape to create a stunning special place.

More re photos and video coming  


Check out this episode

Video of the Waimangu Valley with much the same audio but so much more visually compelling you should watch even if you listened to the audio show. 


Today we tackled the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It's a 12-mile trek with over 2,700 feet of climbing and nearly 4,000 feet long f descending. It is a tough hike. But it does have some exceptional views. I'm not sure it's the world's best alone day hike as some say because the last handful of miles are a real slog with joys hard to find (but no seeming end to the steps) but it is certainly going to be memorable. 

Emerald Lake is a bit more than halfway. We are descending loose ground, akin to scree or a sand dune with huge sand grains, to get there. The vast bulk of ascent is done and the vastly greater descent has started. A tough trek indeed. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

New Zealand : Devonport and Rangitoto


Our last couple of days in Auckland we explored on our own and joined the HF Holiday group for the rest of our New Zealand trip. We visited Devonport and Rangitoto. 

Teaser: we spend a couple days in Rotorua. The prominent feature of this city is the lake with sulfurous vents. The smell of sulfur wafts through sections of the town. I can smell it here at my hotel. Nearby is the youngest, and maybe largest, thermal hot pool in the world. We visit Waimongu Volcanic valley. We also visit a redwood forest and Maori village. 

waimongu thermal pool 

waimongu thermal pool 2Maori village  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Zealand: The Coast to Coast Trail

The Coast to Coast Trail runs between Waitemata Harbor and Manukau Harbor in the city of Auckland, New Zealand. It is 10 miles long and does have some modest climbing , mostly up and then down Mt. Eden, the local high point. This is an urban walk but don't let that fool you. We saw a lot and were very pleased with this hike through neighborhoods and parks. Enjoy the audio diary.

You can learn more about the trail in many places. Here is just one that includes a map.

coast to Coast Trail info





Check out this episode

Sunday, December 18, 2016

New Zealand: the first two days

We have now been in Auckland for two days.
Our first day we spent wandering around town: visiting the harbor, walking through some parks including part of what might be the largest park in Auckland - Auckland Domains -and getting a sense of the city. Once you get off of the main streets things get quieter and there certainly are neighborhoods to be found. One thing that struck us is that the vast majority of the people we are seeing seem to be fairly young. I'm not sure how many of them are locals and how many of them are tourists, students from abroad, or workers from abroad but the general trend seems to be towards younger people. We have also noticed a large number of people especially from Pacific Rim countries which I suppose make sense if those people are coming here to work, travel, or study. Our second day we explored a little bit more of the city and also took the harbor tour; featured in the bonus material you'll find at the end of the podcast. Both days the weather has been A bit cloudy and warm. When the sun does break through the clouds it feels quite a bit warmer. So far, we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here. We have even managed to find some rather nice places to eat which sometimes is a challenge for us.



Check out this episode

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fall Paddle: Argo Pond to Barton Dam 2016

It is a partly sunny afternoon. The temperature is warm enough with just a hint of coolness in the modestly blowing breeze. It's the last day Argo Canoe Livery will be open this year and I am taking advantage of the fine afternoon for one last paddle to Barton Dam and back. This is an easy paddle of just under 4 miles round-trip. You don't really have anything to worry about on this stretch of the Huron River unless you somehow ignore the presence of the dams. While I am sure people can get hurt (I recall a woman did drown in this area years ago) it's hard to imagine. It's hard to imagine even getting stuck though there are shallows, naturally enough, by the banks. It is a thoroughly lovely easy paddle marred only by the roar of nearby traffic.

Photos viewable in an album from Apple iCloud (no captions) or from Google (captions).

The not geese

Reflections on the Huron River


Check out this episode

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Into the Earth: Icelandid's Lava Tubes

Our final  excursion in Iceland would be to explore a lava tube. We didn't really Know what to expect. I think I was  expecting to be part of a large tour group  walking through some large cavern-like cave. What a surprise it was when aN SUV arrived at our driveway with just the guide inside. Victoria works for Iceland Excursions. We were her whole group: just us five and her. Surprise number two would be waiting for us at the lava tubes which are located in the dramatically named Valley of Death. I never did quite catch the Icelandic name of the lava tube or the valley itself. A five minute walk across a barren lava rock strewn plain took us to a hole in the earth. A modest scramble, nothing for those with good vision to worry about, and you are in the mouth of the lava tubes. Helmets secured and headlamps on we began our journey into the 2,000 year old lava tubes. The floor is pretty smooth though you still do have to mind your step. You are more apt to hit your head on the ceiling though and you quickly will begin singing  praises to your helmet. I'm very glad we had a chance to to do this journey. Victoria was a great guide who clearly knew her stuff. Sure you have the scuttle over some rocks and you had best wear clothing to deal with the wet and chill climate in the cave but it's worth it.

 We entered the lava tube under an overcast sky with spitting rain. When we emerged, about 76 minutes later, we found the skies had changed quite a bit. While rainbows seem to be common in Iceland this was our first truly blue sky. Lovely.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Iceland's Blue Lagoon


Just outside the main building that will lead us to the heart of the Blue Lagoon. This is a cold water pool. Given the weather conditions it's no wonder the pool is devoid of people. 

Today we sallied forth to what is perhaps Iceland's best known location: The Blue Lagoon (Blaa Lonio - I am leaving the diacritical marks off). You can learn a considerable amount about these geothermal pools yourself. I'll just note here that the pools span something like 5,000 square meters and about 6,000,000 liters of water enters the pools from the deep hot springs every 40 hours renewing the pools with fresh silica rich water. It is certainly a tourist spot, a tourist trap perhaps, but that doesn't detract from their quality.

It is overcast and spitting rain. The wind is blowing strongly enough that you can easily feel it pushing you along just a bit when it is at your back. When we stepped out of the changing rooms , damp from cleansing showers, the light rain and wind combined with an ambient temperature that likely wasn't above 55F struck with a vengeance. We couldn't get into the pools fast enough. What warmth. We moved through the milky light blue water passing through slightly cooler and warmer spots. At the hottest I believe the waters touch 100F and the cooler places are noticeably cooler but far from cold. Of course, your exposed back and head are being pelted by wind and rain  that is quite a contrasting feeling. Getting out would be tough. Along with hundreds of others we enjoyed ourselves under the heavy gray skies. I actually think the unpleasant weather made the experience more exciting and memorable.

If you  visit the Blue Lagoon  you may want to give extra consideration to renting a towel from them. We lost 3 towels. They will also rent you a bathing suit but be warned they don't have a wide range of sizes (small, medium and large) and they run small. However, they provide plastic bags for you to put your own wet bathing suit inside so carrying your own suit along and then back home is not a problem.


Clare, Robert, Ken, Judy and Jonathan visit Iceland's Blue Lagoon. It is a remarkable place.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Amsterdam Day 1 - August 5, 2016

 Clare and Robert playing on the I Amsterdam sign. 

 Bikes, bridges, boats and canals are icons of Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam Day 1 - August 5, 2016
Our first day in Amsterdam has come to a close. We spent it exploring beyond the immediate neighborhood. Our apartment is located near museums including the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Somewhat farther away we found , in due time, Central Station and even the location of the apartment Mom, Dad and I stayed in 16 years ago when last here. Yesterday we spent a couple of hours exploring the immediate surroundings; today we wandered farther afield. Amsterdam is certainly walkable but you had best pay attention to the countless cyclists and motor scooter riders. While the vast majority of them follow the same rules of the road that cars do their bike lane is right next to the sidewalk and easy to stray into. It is certainly an extra challenge for anyone with low vision , let alone blind people; walking here can be a real trial even though traffic lights have audible warnings for when you can cross or not.

We walked around for several hours with notable breaks to take in the Van Gogh Museum. He certainly led a troubled life and yet during his productive career, just ten years, he would have a large impact on the world of painting. It is a remarkable museum even if it is somewhat crowded.

Later in the day, a pleasantly warm partly cloudy afternoon, we took a canal boat tour. You get a bit of a sense of the city's age when doing that. You pick up a few tidbits of information along the way too. It is a nice change of pace.

We wrapped our day up with a jazz concert at the Concert-Gebouw. That was a very fine way to top off the first full day here in Amsterdam.

Check out this episode

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sequoia and Kings Canyon, May 2016: Video Part 1

Last May Andy Mytys and I spent 8 days in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. For the bulk of the trip we would be backpacking in the area bounded  by Road's End trailhead and the area of Rae Lakes. We fully expected to have an adventure. We weren't disappointed. In this video we cover the first three days of the trip. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Adventure May 2016, Days 1 through 3

Andy and Ken at Sentinal Campground with our full packs on for the first time.SEKI Adventure Show Notes

Part 1

Andy and I start our adventure in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI). There are many reasons a trip can be an adventure and only some of them ares strictly physical. I certainly would experience several of them during the trip. In part 1 we get things going from our flights from Michigan to California, initial meanderings through the mountains in search of a campsite and stove fuel, and then the actual backpacking portion of the trip itself. 

Getting deeper into the mountains. With the rain coming down now and then sometimes things seem better in monochrome.

We saw this huge bear from easily a quarter mile away. This picture was taken a little closer than that but not a lot. He is a huge animal.You can see the complete trip journal in the A Wandering Knight blog ( Photos are presented in several different albums and you can find those referenced from the trip journal. 

You can find complete photo albums that document the whole trip in Apple (doesn't show photo captions and EXIF data), Flicrk, and Google (same photos different presentations).


Check out this episode

Here is the video

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sequoia and Kings Canyon, May 2016 - Days 7 and 8

Flowers on the Road.JPGTaken by Andy Mytys. One of many spots along California 180 between Road's End and Grants Grove.

We tossed our gear into the car and sped down the road to the nearby campground to ensure we would have a place to stay. We had decided that if we could splurge and stay in a lodge we would but if things didn’t work out we’d have a campsite to stay at. With my Golden Access card it just cost us $9 so we wouldn’t be giving up that much money if we did not use the campsite. We managed to get site 42 again which was nice. By the time we got things settled it was edging past 14:00 and we still had plenty of time to use as we wished. It was a lovely afternoon and we were in no hurry to get anywhere.

There is one road: CA 180. If Sequoia and Kings Canyon ever saw a big surge in attendance I suspect traffic jams would be a real problem. Maybe they’d never rival a place like Yosemite as I rather doubt you could ever have large animals like bears crossing the road which is cutting through steep mountains (OK, there are places where this isn’t true) but it’s just a two-lane road. It’s a two-lane road with fantastic vistas. In May, at least during our visit, the vistas were enhanced by plenty of blooming wild flowers. Over the next two and a half hours we crept towards Grants Grove. A modest number of cars would pass us by as we were pulled off at one spot or another to photograph the fantastically tall yucca, or spray of small yellow flowers clustered at the edge of a cliff, or the one spot of purple flowers clustered in a small place, and so much more. Often we weren’t at a “official” viewpoint and even when we were we found ourselves pretty much alone. A car would pass by now and then but clearly few people were pausing at anywhere near the rate we were. I’m so glad we did this.

Andy and Super Yucca.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. We thinkt his is a yucca but aren't completely sure. It is a remarkable plant whatever it actually is.

Flowers 6.JPG

Taken by Andy Mytys. More flowers on CA 180.

Flowers and Mountains.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. The slow drive along CA 180 continues as the breezy afternoon passes on by. Just pull off the road and admire the wildflowers and mountain vistas - you'll be glad you did.

Mixed wildflowers.JPG

Taken by Ken Knight. I've no idea what these flowers are but they're pretty and that is enough for me.

Purple Flowers.JPG

Taken by Andy Mytys.

Somewhere along the journey I realized I’d forgotten retrieve the stuff I had left in the bear storage box at Road’s End Trailhead. By this time we were near, or perhaps past, Grant’s Grove. Going all the way back to recover a shaving kit and some toothpaste seemed like a poor use of our time. Someone was going to get lucky and I’d suffer slightly for my mistake (still feel a bit bad that I left the hairbrush that I’d had for ages and whose bristles just felt right). At Grant’s Grove we , well Andy, were able to make some phone calls to check in. We tried to make a reservation anywhere and quickly discovered that whoever the company is that manages that was really pretty cruddy. We were able to sneak into the visitor center and get some information and make a purchase or two before they closed and we continued on our way. After all, we had to go to Wuksachi Lodge for dinner. We had at least managed to get a reservation there though I think we’d both have been fine just eating in the lobby area. We had a few hours to play with and that meant more time to explore a bit and do a couple important things like find a place to get gas for the car. Along the way we figured out that rooms were not available at Wuksachi but still couldn’t determine the status of other places. At least we learned that a gas station existed at Hume Lake and that turned out to be a nice little place to see. It’s some sort of christian camp/resort. I think people go there who are looking for a christian studies retreat type of place. It looks like it is a nice place and if that is your cup of tea you’ll probably find it restful and enjoyable to place to relax and learn.

After dinner, pricy but tasty, we continued looking for places to stay and that took us to the John Muir Lodge and another place. Failure greeted us in both cases. By the time our travels had exhausted all possible places to stay it was edging past 23:00 and there was no way we were going to drive more than an hour back to Sentinel Campground. We settled in a Lodgepole Campground and quickly learned that the tent sites are awful. Gravel and gravel and more hard gravel. Not at all conducive to setting up Andy’s Oware pyramid. We were tired and it was midnight so we just pulled out sleeping bags (well I just grabbed mad own jacket) and curled up in the car. It wasn’t going to by our best night’s sleep by any stretch of the imagination but since we were stealth camping I suppose that’s the price we paid. At sunrise we shoved the down into the backseat making a nice mountain, hit the bathroom, and then drove on other to Wuksachi Lodge for an early breakfast to start our final day off with properly fueled bodies. We had hoped to hit showers but they weren’t open - I don’t think we had much hiker funk about us.

Saturday dawned bright and cold. We finally were experiencing a properly cold day. It was just a bit above freezing. No doubt higher in the mountains it was quite a bit chillier. We settled into seats in a corner, was that because we looked rough compared to Wuksachi Lodge guests, for breakfast. It was an adequate breakfast but I agree with Andy that the buffet lacked professionalism. The food wasn’t always hot or well prepared. The staff just didn’t seem to care as much as they should. We had seen signs of that the previous week with the seeming lack of concern the hostess evinced when getting people sorted out for dinner. It’s a bit of a shame because the place you are at is so nice that it certainly deserves to be well represented by the staffer who are taking care of the people visiting. when we finished our meal and left, breath steaming in the air, we were ready for our last day of exploration.

Above the Clouds - Muro Rock.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. We are climbing up Muro Rock. Clouds are rising from below and the sky is clear above. You get some great views from this huge rock and it is therefore well worth the 200-foot climb.


Taken by Andy Mytys.

We had no real specific notions of where we wanted to go. At least I did not have any hard and fast ideas of where to go. We drove to Muro Rock, a place I had never been, to see how the views would be. Euro Rock sprouts out from the ground rising perhaps a couple hundred feet. There is a paved trail of ramps and steps that winds around the rock sometimes passing through gaps in the formation as it climbs to the top. Walls rise a few feet along the edge, some with metal railings especially where steps are to be found, so you aren’t going to fall off the rock. You can gaze out across the valleys that fall away and we were in a position to watch the sun, still modestly low in the sky, rise past rising mists and lowering clouds. We felt sure as we climbed through the still chilly air that the mist and cloud formations we were seeing would dissipate but as we neared the top it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. As we talked with a variety of people from all ver the world the clouds we thought were going to move away or burn off thickened and soon the sky which had been clear was overcast. Views of the valley below vanished in the gray-white swirls of clouds. It wasn’t threatening weather but it was certainly not weather to inspire you to hang about. Even though the weather was far from visually ideal plenty of people continued to ascend and descend the trail. I find that heartening as you will certainly know you’ve done some work to attain the pinnacle of Muro Rock and so many people would probably just stay near their vehicles especially when the visual glory is obscured by the weather.

Giant Life Small Life.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. Until you stand among them you don't really grasp how large Giant Sequoia can be.

Walk on the Sequoia Side.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. This downed tree spans the width of Crescent Meadow. If you have normal vision and average balance you'll have no trouble walking across the tree. Getting down , by the root ball, is a bit of a challenge as you are easily 7 feet off the ground.

Ken and the Roots.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. Andy must have been better positioned because I had to keep my right hand against the tree to avoid slipping down the smooth bark.

The Root Ball.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight.

We continued our explorations by visiting the start of the High Sierra Route that we had hiked back in 2009. We found a few people out and about and some who were planning, though it seemed to me they hadn’t actually planned much, who were going to do a bit of backpacking. With the clouds thickening more the area in the forest around us, full of tall conifers with plenty of moss hanging off them (Old Man’s Beard perhaps) was taking on an etherial quality. Sounds change in this environment too. With Gandolf-style staff in hand I followed Andy as we climbed towards an overlook we knew would be socked in by clouds. It was still a nice little hike. We returned via Crescent Meadow and Tharps Log and along the way met more interesting people and encountered a cinnamon-colored black bear , a young male we figure vastly smaller than the BFB of several days ago, who was trying to take a nap. I expect we were well within a 100 feet of him which really is closer than you probably should be. But he just stuck his head up from time to time and then settled back down to try and rest. News must have slowly been spreading about the bear because people slowly accumulated on the path to gaze across the meadow beyond the downed log the animal was resting behind.

Our wanderings slowy consumed the morning and then early afternoon. The temperature slowly crept upward but it never really got warm. Both of us were wearing our down jackets for at least some of the morning. Finally a day where the temperature was more in line with what we had planned for. Of course, we were about to leave the area for points far lower in elevation. As we left Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks the skies cleared and the temperature soared. By the time we reached Fresno we were in a wholly different world with high blue skies and boiling temperatures. A few dozen miles and a few thousand feet of elevation lost can make a huge difference in the climate you must deal with. It’s good thing the hotel room has AC.

Our trip ended pretty much as I think we expected it to end. We spent what no doubt seemed like an age getting ourselves sorted out and cleaned up in the hotel room before heading out to a favored restaurant for dinner. After that and early, more or less, bedtime so we could get up very early for our 06:15 flight. Outside of the rush to get through the Fresno airport because security screening was so slow everything went pretty well. Our travel day was easy if tedious. The adventures of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National park had come to an end.

You can find complete photo albums that document the whole trip in Apple (doesn't show photo captions and EXIF data), Flicrk, and Google (same photos different presentations).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Work on the North Country Trail

Check out this episode


It’s time for summer trail maintenance on the North Country Trail (NCT). Andy and I maintain a section between 13 Mile road (Cleveland Drive) and 16 Mile Road in Newago County. The section also includes the side trail to Highbanks Lake Campground. All told the section is easily 6.5 miles long. This year we hoped to do a lot of re-blazing. Circumstances would rather dramatically affect our plans. Trail maintenance can be saticefying but it can be hard work too. 

Learn more about the North Country Trail at their website Andy and I are part of the Western Michigan chapter.

Get a visual sense of what things can be like from this short video on youtube.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sequoia and Kings Canyon, May 2016 - Days 4 - 7

We were a bit slow to get ourselves going on our third morning. It was a bit cooler though still nowhere near as cold as either of us was prepared to deal with. The high overcast showed signs of waning as the morning wore on and we slowly packed up camp.  Our plan was to hike to somewhere well within range of a morning day hike to Dollar Lake the next morning. While we might have been able to day hike to Dollar Lake on this day we wouldn't have gotten there until later in the afternoon when the snow would be pretty soft and thus more treacherous to traverse. We didn't see any reason to rush even if we were capable of doing so. 


Vistas Opening Up May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. The first two days we sepnt steadily ascending through pine forest. Now and then an open vista would appear like the descent towards the meadow with the BFB. But until we neared the PCT Junction big views like this were definitely the exception.


Woods Creek Suspension Bridge May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. Andy tried to keep his hand off the railing but , like me, that did not last. Still I believe the bridge swayed less as he came across than it did for me.


Woods Creek Rest Stop May 2016.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. We spent over an hour here and some of that time was spent hatting with a few fellows attempting to thru-hike the PCT. We met Sprocket, a fellow who hadn't gotten a trail name, and I believe Sam I Am. These are tough folks dealing with the vanishing trail above snow-line to say nothing of the day-to-day challenge of covering the miles. I wish our packs were as light as their packs. I suppose we're less willing to deal with tough conditions. Sprocket was carrying a quilt rated to 20F (and who can say how accurate that is) and I'm sure my sleeping bag is vastly warmer (and heavier). That's just one example.


When we reached the suspension bridge spanning Woods Creek we had already decided to take a long break there and then continue on. That turned out to be a good decision. The sun broke through the clouds and began heating the granite which makes a fine place for drying clothing. My Paramo  Mountain Shirt was still damp from. yesterday's rain and my mediocre rain jacket. We relaxed on the warming rock and just enjoyed the morning. We were able to spend some time chatting with three hikers who are attempting a PCT thru-hike. Sprocket, a fellow from the UK, seemed to be having a grand time and was traveling very light (willing to tolerate more than I suppose we were but perhaps when you're in thru-hiking shape you can tolerate more). Another fellow hadn't taken a trail name and also seemed pretty confident. The third guy, Sam I am I believe, also seemed to be having a good time. One, not Sprocket, had snapped a trekking pole so was going to hike down to Road's End and try to replace it. I wonder how that went as there is nothing at Road's End - the nearest general store that might sell staffs that would be little better than a stout stick is probably at Grant's Grove more than 35 miles away on CA 180. I wish I had broken out the audio gear and done a little recording with those intrepid hikers. It was fun chatting with them. They told us what the snow was like ahead and that was useful confirmation of what we expected.


SNow Field May 2016.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. Patches of snow snowed me down. I was always cocnerned about breaking through or sliding. I suspect I'd have been easier in my mind had my pack been lighter.


Leaving early afternoon after a pleasant long lunch break we began the hike through more open country ever upward. Before Woods Creek junction you really feel like you are mostly in forest. While the mountains are still well forested you spend more time strolling through more open terrain with  conifers farther away than before. By this time you also start to encounter patches of snow. None were particularly large but you still had to take some care with each to avoid sinking up to your knee or  slipping and taking a fall. Somehow Andy always seemed to find the best path through the snow and I did adequately well myself. Toss in a couple stream crossings that required changing of shoes and the few miles we had to walk all of a sudden took longer to cover than you might guess. Not that it mattered too much as we had hours of light to use.


During a rest break just below a stand of trees that would remind us of terrain you might find in the Upper Peninsula a couple young guys carrying minimal day hiking gear came on by. They had set up camp at Woods Creek and were going to go as far as they could during the afternoon. They really did not seem that prepared for the conditions but maybe youth can compensate for some of that. We watched them leave hoping all would be well and figuring we would see them later as they returned passing by wherever we were camped. We found a campsite in the Michigan-like forest nestled in a flat-ish area strewn with razor-edged small pine cones, not too terribly far from accessible water (farther than we thought as Andy discovered when toting a full bucket back to camp. That's when he met the young guys returning from their day hike - not sure how far they got though I doubt it was beyond the snow line). This campsite would be our high camp of the trip, about 9,400 feet above sea level, and so it should also be the coldest. While the nighttime low probably was the coolest we would see it was still nowhere near as cold as it could have been. I doubt the temperature dipped all that much below 40F.   We had a thoroughly enjoyable third day - we didn't try to do that much and we were ready for the assault of Dollar Lake the next morning. That doesn't mean we, at least I, expected it to be easy even if I was not going to carry a pack as Andy was going to haul our day hiking gear.

Ken at High Camp May 2016.JPG

Taken by Andy Mytys. This is our high campsite. We are settled down in the forest, a little farther from a creek than we want (Andy had a slow trek back with his bucket full of water). It's in some ways our best site at about 9,450 feet above sea level. Best means flattest. Once you spent minutes clearing sway the ridiculously sharp pine cones that littered the ground we had good places to sleep.


Taken by Ken Knight. Somehow An dy has a neater looking camp set up than I do..JPG

Taken by Ken Knight. Somehow An dy has a neater looking camp set up than I do.



 Waking up at sunrise we packed up camp quickly (for us) and began ascending through the forest climbing steadily towards the snow line. It was sunny, clear, and  a bit cooler. It got colder, well felt like it, when we changed into our water crossing shoes and forded a truly frigid stream that obviously was full of just-melted snow. You grit your teeth and move on through it trying to get through it as quickly as you can but taking care not to put a foot wrong as drenching yourself would be a terrible thing to do.  Over the next not-quite-two-miles we would ascend about 800 feet with half of that being above the snow line meaning we just made our own trail. The snow was firm and that made travel easier and safer than it would be later in the day. The forest thinned out a bit as we climbed under deep blue clear skies. In the distance, coming down a steep route, a couple PCT hikers (one, or maybe both, from Austria I think) were coming down. They wanted to catch up to Sprocket. I rather doubted they would. We forged on through the snow, taking a break at a nice rock outcrop in a foxtail pine grove, but in time we reached the highpoint of the trip. It was a tough 2.5 hour climb (maybe we could've done it more quickly and no doubt the only reason we went as fast as we did was because Andy was schlepping the gear for both of us) but boy was it worth it.


Andy Climbing Through Snow May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. We've forded an incredibly cold almost knee-deep stream, corssed a few patches of snow, and we are now ascending pretty firm snow as we creep towards Dollar Lake. The snow-line was at 9,800 feet above sea level.


Ken in the Snow May 2016.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. I am trying to follow in Andy's footsteps.



Dollar Lake is not particularly large but it is pristine and with mountains surrounding it it represents an iconic high alpine lake. Formations like Fin Dome stand out in the distance casting wonderful reflections in the clear,, no doubt icy cold, water. A small copse of trees border a part of the lake. Amongst the trees the snow vanishes and you can easily find places to sit and soak in the scenery. We settled down to do just that. An idyllic quiet place to spend time and we hung about the lake for a bit more than an hour before deciding that we had to head back down the softening snow to our campsite to retrieve the gear we had left behind.

 Dollar Lake and Fin Dome May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. It took a couple of hours to cover the not quite 2 miles (and about 800 feet elevation gain half of which was through snow). It was worth it.

Andy and the Snow May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. Both Andy and I have acquired snow in our boots by now. You posthole, punch through snow to varying depths, frequently as the snow softens. But that's a small price to pay for views like this.


That softening snow did pose a bit of a challenge. We could definitely see where snowshoes would have helped prevent us from post holing sometimes up to our crotches (well felt that way for me). Snow invaded our boots and we  worked our way down the slopes doing our best to not break through the snow. Now and then we paused to take spectacular photos and have some fun. After all, you can make excellent progress sometimes on your butt  sliding down the mountain. Andy was particularly adept at that.  Even with time for pictures and fun we  made it back to our campsite in considerably less time than it had taken to ascend to Dollar Lake.  By this time, early afternoon, the day had warmed considerably and we had a lazy lunch at our old campsite knowing we only had a few miles to go to get to Woods Creek where we planned to camp. 


That handful of miles went by remarkably easily. Our packs were definitely feeling lighter and we were now descending out of the high places. It was a glorious afternoon and we made decent progress along the good trail only really slowing down at the inevitable stream crossings. There is no way to deal with those quickly if you want to keep your primary shoes dry. It just takes a while to take shoes off, secure them to your pack (or, at least to each other to carry around your neck), put on water shoes, cross the water and return things back to your standard walking attire. Andy is faster at all this than I am. I suppose if we were true tough men we would just plow on through the icy water with our hiking boots on but why do that when you don’t have too. I thought we wouldn’t get to Woods Creek until sometime between 18:00 and 19:00 (6:00PM to 7:00PM) and figured it would be later rather than earlier. I think we actually got there just before 18:00 though the last bit winding through the forest just before nearing the camping area seemed to last a lot longer than I thought it should. Perhaps that is always the case when you know you are nearing a destination: the last piece just seems to drag. As we settled in to camp at least one other group, I bet the father and son duo, got a campfire going. Smelled awfully nice. Neither Andy or I ever seem to have the desire to do what is required to make a campfire. We will enjoy someone else’s but I don’t think we have ever made one on a backpacking trip. 


According to the trail sign the trailhead at Road’s End is 15.1 miles distant. We had plenty of time to cover that distance. I’m sure a strong hiker could trek out in a single long day. We planned to take a couple days. We would go to at least Middle Paradise Valley and if we felt good tack on the extra 1.2 miles and go to the last campsite we could at Lower Paradise Valley. We figured we’d get a nice early start rising at sunrise and thus have plenty of time to trek the potential 9 or so miles and down about 1,900 feet.


The day dawned pleasantly. It had never gotten anywhere near chilly. A bit before 08:00 we hoisted our somewhat lighter packs and bounced across the swaying suspension bridge that spans /Woods Creek.  It was going to be a nice day and we were able to enjoy our hike as we headed towards our stealth campsite of a couple days before. The morning was so much nicer than the damp rainy afternoon of day two as we passed the small glade we had camped in. We wound our way past the site and then continued more steeply down off the ridge leaving the area of Castle Dome Meadow behind. The sun continued to climb into the sky and Andy pulled ahead. In time I caught up to him in the vicncinity of BFB meadow where he was trying to figure out what that huge bear had been devouring a few days ago. It’s a lovely spot and likely a good camping site though water might be hard to retrieve. I think if you were looking for a place to take a short break this spot would serve pretty well though Woods Creek  is less than two hours hiking distant. We left the meadow to ascend out of the valley before dropping right back down to cross a raging creek that really should have a name but doesn’t seem to. After all, it’s sizable, deep, and cold. It was not quite noon when we finishing the whole process of fording the stream. We weren’t in a hurry and as we hoisted our packs once more to begin the descent we saw the two young fellows we’d met yesterday who had much heftier packs than us. They’d returned to Woods Creek having decided  the conditions weren’t safe enough for them to attempt crossing Glenn Pass (we’d learn later that was a cause of some division between them). The taller fellow, certainly a few inches taller than Andy, eventually caught up to me and I was quite surprised to see him so quickly. It turned out he just walked through the stream. He has much taller boots than either of us and said he found rocks he could use as stepping stones. No way I could’ve done that. His boots must’ve been quite tall and that’s not something I’d want to wear but it worked for the vigorous young man and he quickly strode out of sight. His partner wouldn’t appear for several hours - they were taking time out from each other I guess.


BFB Meadow in the Morning May 2016.jpg

Taken by Andy Mytys. When we last passed here it was raining lightly and the meadow was inhabiited by a staggeringly huge black bear. This morning, about 90 minutes after leaving the junction, the meadow is empty and despite some big puffy clouds the day is really lovely.


I think what irked us the most, and perhaps that’s too strong an adjective, were the occasional slopes we had to ascend as we generally descended towards Paradise Valley. They just popped up now and then. Toss in a stream crossing or three and the day seemed to get longer. The afternoon sported some fast moving high clouds but overall it was a very fine day. We took nice breaks at intervals to relax and now and then replenish our water. Along the way we encountered some wildlife: a rattlesnake rattled at me from well out of striking range. What a relief. That’s twice in six weeks and the one in Tucson was very much within its striking range. It must have just found its way on to the side of the trail as Andy had passed by the same spot only a minute or so before I did.  We found ourselves passing through Middle Paradise Valley, the campsite with the privy with a view, around 15:30. We were feeling good and so decided to push on the approximately 1.2 miles to the last campsite we could use: Lower Paradise Valley.  We found ourselves a nice campsite and slowly got our shellers set up. After slowly setting up and a leisurely dinner we ventured over to another campsite. I’m sorry at this date I don’t recall the fellow’s name, Paul perhaps, but we spent a nice hour or so just after sunset around his campfire chatting. He was on a Great American Road Trip and driving throughout the west before returning back south to, I think, Tennessee and his home. We gave him some ideas of places to visit and I’m sure we all had a good time chatting. 


Swimming Hole May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. Perhaps halfway between Middle and Lower paradise Valley you will pass this fine pool. If you mind the current I am sure it would make a nice swimming hole.


The Last Supper May 2016.JPG

Taken by Ken Knight.


Our final morning we again awoke at sunrise and packed up in reasonably good time. It was perhaps our coolest morning of the trip so far but that’s not really saying all that much. Still we both were wearing extra layers of clothing to block the breeze and keep our heat where it belonged. Andy pulled steadily ahead and I tromped on alone down the switchbacks that had taken so much longer to ascend on our first day. On May 14 it took me well over two hours to trek from Mist Falls to Lower Paradise Valley. 6 days later I descended that distance, Lower Paradise Valley to Mist Falls, in quite a bit less time. It was considerably cooler this morning and the sky was completely overcast though it was a high overcast. Mist Falls threw off its large amounts of mist as it poured torrents of water down towards the valley below into the King River. On the map I think they call this section Glacier Creek but that seems like too small a name for all that water. It was a great place to take a break and we enjoyed it (Andy for somewhat longer). Then we continued on down more switchbacks as the sun slowly broke the overcast apart and the day warmed up. We reached the trail junction somewhat before noon and at that point we had about two miles to go and on the first day those two miles had required about an hour to travel so we figured they’d go that fast now that our packs were considerably lighter. We’d have been out by 13:00 if I’d not tripped on a slightly bulging out of the ground stone and plummeted to the wide hard trail surface. That hurt. I took a few minutes to catch my breath and then we had to take a few minutes for that last stream crossing. Without a pack on I’m sure I could bounce across the thin log bridge that spans the stream but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that with my pack on so off with the shoes and all that. A little after 13:00 under now mostly clear skies with a temperature that had risen quite a bit from the morning chill we tossed our packs into the car. The bulk of our trip was now over and we had plenty of time still to enjoy ourselves before driving into Fresno sometime Saturday afternoon.

Mist Falls Mist and Andy May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. The mist coming off Mist Falls is omnipresent today. Perhaps we are feeling it more because it is cooler and overcast. The sun is trying to break through but hasn't managed it yet.

Forest and Ferns May 2016.jpg

Taken by Ken Knight. I am quite sure the ferns were nowhere near as abundant just six days earlier.


You can find complete photo albums that document the whole trip in Apple (doesn't show photo captions and EXIF data), Flicrk, and Google (same photos different presentations).

One more part to go: Andy and I have one final night in the National Parks and we’ll spend our remaining time exploring and turning everything into an adventure that I hope will surprise you.