Picture of the Day: Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

A beautiful waterfall made famous by the tv show Twin Peaks!

We got to stop by Snoqualmie on our way from Seattle to Mt Rainier and it was worth every second!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park is a beautiful clear lake right next to the Lake Crescent Lodge. After a few days of backpacking and roughing it, there is nothing better than a night at a National Park Lodge. I really enjoyed my stay here and being near the water made it all the better!

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent Lodge

Sunday Hikes: Ernst Tinaja

Big Bend National Park is a wonderful place! Collectively I have spent over a month exploring the park’s near 1,300 square miles (that’s 10x the size of Atlanta). Each new visit brings new places I had never even heard of to explore. One could spend a lifetime in the Big Bend country and still have more to explore. On our last trip one of these places was Ernst Tinaja.

Ernst Tinaja is by no means a secret but it is tucked away in the less visited eastern side of Big Bend National Park. The trailhead is located off the Old Ore Road about 5 miles from the south entrance near Rio Grande Village. Old Ore Road is considered a 4×4 high clearance only road but as long as it is dry most vehicles can make it to Ernst Tinaja driving carefully (if it has been rainy I would not attempt it, visit Panther Junction visitor center for road info). Along the way are beautiful views of the desert and Chisos Mountains.

Chisos from Old Ore Road

Along the road are a few landmarks starting with Candelilla campsite (one of my favorites), then Camp De Leon campsite and the nearby grave of Juan De Leon (a mysteriously murdered mexican man from the area’s more lawless times). Soon after Camp De Leon is Ernst Tinaja campsite and trailhead marked by a small stone sign. If you hit the La Noria campsites you’ve gone too far.

Grave of Juan de Leon

The trailhead is marked by a small metal sign like most others in Big Bend.

The trail starts in open desert and moves into a valley that then narrows into a canyon. In the valley are large stone ridges running across the trail with small pools of water (after rains anyways). Like many places in Big Bend the past is evident in the geology of the area and it is very clear a river flowed through this area creating the valley and canyon.

As the valley narrows into a rocky canyon there is a relief of shade created by one of the canyon’s walls during most of the day. When the temperatures can regularly reach the 90s even in the winter, any respite from the sun is welcome. The ground is loose and gravely like most dried up desert creek beds until quickly and suddenly turning to smooth pinkish brown limestone with a slight climb up.

Inside the limestone are three ‘Tinajas’, pockets of water collected from past rains (Tinaja literally means Jar in spanish).

I had fun playing with the tinaja reflections

The climb up and around the tinajas is fun and can feel a little sketchy (especially when you’ve heard accounts of mountain lions drowning in the very tinaja you are scrambling by).

Just past the Tinajas on the left side of the canyon is a fascinating force of nature captured in rock where presumably whatever water once flowed through distorted and twisted the limestone wall into a small cave (another place to hide from the sun).

At this point there are two options: turn back or carry on. The canyon continues for miles eventually hitting Ernst Valley (or at least the hills before Ernst Valley, I have not explored this far). With what seems like endless desert to explore turning back wouldn’t be a bad option either.

PSA: Anyone hiking here should know their limits and pack accordingly to their trip. Over 400 people die in National Parks every year with a majority of these deaths being because of drowning or heat exhaustion (both very possible in Big Bend). Visit the Panther Junction visitor center to get info from rangers on how to explore Big Bend safely.

To sum it all up: Ernst Tinaja is incredible and is a highlight of that trip for us now. If you have the ability to hike there, you should. Be careful and have fun! 🙂

Thanks!

– Josh

Picture of the Day: Seattle From Space Needle

Looking down on downtown Seattle from the Space Needle! You can see the mountains in the distance and the Space Needle’s reflection in the glass!

The line seems long but moves quickly and has interesting history of the Space Needle along the way. I would recommend a visit to the top for any Seattle tourist! More info here.

Thanks!

– Josh

Sunday Hikes: Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Armstrong Redwoods is a great option near San Francisco to go see Redwoods without the crowds and appointment necessary at beautiful Muir Woods. Located in Sonoma County northwest of the wineries in the valley, this park is still convenient but is away from the tourists.

Conveniently located at the Visitor Center parking lot, is a series of shorter trails that connect and go by several large Redwoods. If you do the Pioneer Nature Trail plus the spur Discovery and Armstrong Nature trails you can see the named features and hike 1.5 miles total.

Visitor Center area trail map

The trails are wide and well maintained. The Colonel Armstrong Tree and Parson Jones trees are very large for this part of California.

Beginning of the Pioneer Nature Trail

Parson Jones Tree

Colonel Armstrong Tree

I did learn from talking to the volunteers working the trail about the difference between diameter and circumference. Depending on the tree and where you are in California, some trees are marked by diameter and some by circumference. Diameter is the distance thru the tree traveling directly thru the center. Circumference is the distance around the outside circle of the tree. I should’ve paid attention in high school geometry.

More Redwoods

In any case, this is a relaxing and easy hike and I recommend it especially if you are looking to see some Redwoods within an easy drive of San Francisco without all the crowds. Thanks for reading! rk

Picture of the Day: Sunset in Everglades National Park

Had a wonderful dinner with loved ones as the sun set in Everglades City, FL.

Took a few more pictures from the Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center.

Everglades National Park is a great park for kayaking as long as being surrounded by alligators doesn’t frighten you. We saw some really big ones.

As always, thanks for reading! rk

Picture of the Day: Navy Circle

Navy Circle is a part of the Vicksburg National Military Park. It is conveniently located right next to the Mississippi rest area.

During the Civil War, the Confederates located cannons here to fire on Union gunboats in the Mississippi River. Nowadays it’s a great view of the Mighty Mississippi.

I especially liked the view between the two bridges over the Mississippi River. rk

Sunday Hikes: The Chimney Rock Trail

Chimney Rock sounds to me like a hike you would find in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or maybe in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. However, in this case, the Chimney Rock Trail is located in Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

Chimney Rock is a 1.75 mile round trip hike out to a popular whale spotting overlook. The trail gets its name for a small rock island in the ocean visible from the overlook. In addition to whales, the trail promises lots of opportunities to spot elephant seals and sea lions.

The trail starts thru a grassy section heading uphill. I promptly spotted my first wildlife with a rattlesnake crossing the trail about 5 feet in front of me.

Quickly you come to a crest in the trail with a gorgeous view of the coast off to the right. You can see sea lions lounging down below.

Sea Lions are pretty lazy

Continuing to follow the trail up and over the crest soon you are surrounded by ocean on three sides. It is a very beautiful spot to just soak in the views.

Right above the view of Chimney Rock is the best spot to see whales. Remember to bring binoculars! We were lucky as a pod of whales was passing by a few miles offshore. With the naked eye I could see their spray and with binoculars I could see some fins and their backs as they swam by. Pretty cool!

Chimney Rock. My iPhone camera couldn’t pick up the whales sadly.

Looping back, I noticed that there were quite a few elephant seals lazing about on the opposite side of the shore of the peninsula we were on.

Going downhill now, I arrived at the parking lot in short order. There is another shorter trail on the far side of the parking lot with leading to an overlook with a huge population of elephant seals. Some of these were playing in the water so it was good to see some actually moving about.

More elephant seals.

Point Reyes and Chimney Rock didn’t disappoint. I recommend checking out this trail and the rest of the National Seashore if you are ever in the area. Thanks for reading. rk

Sunday Hikes: Tom’s Creek Falls

Tom’s Creek Falls is located in the Pisgah National Forest north of Marion, North Carolina. The hike itself is very short at only one mile round trip with a flat gravel trail that is very easy to traverse (there were multiple people in wheelchairs on the trail when I went in March).

The trailhead is located a mile-ish off of highway 221 on a maintained dirt road. It was midday when we started our hike and thanks to the recent spring rains there were loads of wildflowers at the trailhead. And thanks to the first warm weekend of the year the small parking lot was full (Like 5 or 6 cars).

The trail starts flat and wanders through the woods for a bit before reaching a small stream. With the stream to our left the trail got a little steeper with a few easy switchbacks. After the switchbacks the trail straightened up and here is the first view of the waterfall. I was surprised when I first saw it, the 80 foot cascade pours off a cliff into a rounded and rocky area before draining away into a small stream.

The trail ends at somewhat of a split in the road, to the left is a wooden balcony with benches for viewing the waterfall, and to the right is a small hill that is probably twenty feet above the balcony and has a nice view of the waterfall. We went right and scrambled up the small hill and then down into the round and rocky area below the waterfall. From there we could not see or hear anyone and despite the trail having decent traffic it felt very secluded.

The Tom’s Creek Falls trail is a short and easy hike with a lot of reward! If you are ever in the area it is definitely worth the time.

 

Thanks – Josh