Thursday, June 6, 2019
Yellowstone NP – Brink of the Lower Falls and Ribbon Lake hike
Ian, Court, and Doc
About 4.5 miles total
Another early wake up call had us at the Brink of the Lower Falls trail head with only one other car in the lot. It was chilly, but beautiful. Also, 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Fitting that I was at Yellowstone, which those men fought to make sure we will always have.
The hike is short, but very steep, with many switchbacks. Being right at the brink of the falls is quite thrilling.
We then headed back to Artist Point to get some better shots of the Lower Falls in the morning light before hiking out to Ribbon Lake.
The best part of the hike to Ribbon Lake is actually at the beginning as the trail follows the canyon and gives some more amazing views.
Once you turn into the forest it gets very marshy and there is even some volcanic activity on the trail, with springs bubbling up in the puddles and bacteria starting to grow.
Ribbon Lake was not that impressive, but the hike was nice. We headed back, got Suz from the lodge, and drove on to Norris Geyser Basin and then Old Faithful, where we would stay the next two nights.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Yellowstone NP – Lamar River Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs
We woke up at 4:30am to make the 1.5 hour drive to the Lamar River Valley and catch the animals at sunrise. I was super tired, but it was beautiful and we saw some great wildlife. No wolves, sadly, but several bears, countless bison, elk, and pronghorn antelope.
We even saw a herd of bison crossing the river and one of the babies got caught in the current and started floating downstream. Its mother separated from the herd and went after it, finally guiding it to the side of the river where it was shallow and the calf could get back on its feet and rejoin the herd. It was like our own little nature documentary, complete with high drama.
Around 8am we turned back and headed to the Roosevelt Lodge to grab a coffee before we turned toward Mammoth Hot Springs on the north side of the park.
We made a quick stop at Undine Falls. Yellowstone has more waterfalls than any other National Park.
Mammoth Hot Springs was a lot cooler than I anticipated. The travertine features are so unique and they are always changing, as earthquakes and other forces change the underground plumbing, causing water to flow in different places over the years. The terraces are all accessible only by boardwalks and they are fairly steep in parts.
We then got to one of my favorite parts of the park (ok, there are a lot of favorites): The Roosevelt Arch. This Arch was built at the north entrance of the park at Gardiner, Montana and was dedicated in 1903 by Teddy. The iconic words at the top are a symbol of what the National Parks represent and how lucky we are to have them preserved:
For The Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People
Sorry, I geek out over Teddy.
After having lunch in Gardiner we headed back to Canyon Village and caught some views of the Upper Falls and also the Lower Falls from Artist Point. The light wasn’t the best, so we decided to come back again early the next morning.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
Yellowstone NP – West Thumb Geyser Basin and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
We drove from Teton Village to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park via the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway and had to wait in line about 45 minutes to get into the park, but after that it was smooth sailing. There was still a lot of snow on the ground in many places, which was unexpected. We also drove through a large burn zone from the 1988 Yellowstone fires.
We headed on to West Thumb Geyser Basin and saw our first of many geothermal features that Yellowstone is known for.
Afterward we headed up through Hayden Valley, some more geothermal activity, and then to the lodge at Canyon Village.
The views of the canyon were spectacular. When we stopped at the first viewpoint on the way to Canyon Village I rounded the corner and the view of the falls and the multi-colored canyon walls took my breath away. It felt like someone had hit me in the chest and now I know how Rudyard Kipling felt when he wrote these words:
“All that I can say is that without warning or preparation I looked into a gulf seventeen hundred feet deep, with eagles and fish-hawks circling far below. And the sides of that gulf were one wild welter of color — crimson, emerald, cobalt, ochre, amber, honey splashed with port wine, snow white, vermilion, lemon, and silver gray in wide washes. The sides did not fall sheer, but were graven by time, and water, and air into monstrous heads of kings, dead chiefs — men and women of the old time. So far below that no sound of its strife could reach us, the Yellowstone River ran a finger-wide strip of jade green.”
We drove on to the lodge and prepared for an early morning drive to the Lamar River Valley in hopes of seeing a lot of wildlife. It would not disappoint.
June 2-3, 2019
Grand Teton National Park
After hiking to Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point we packed in the car, turned on the Gypsy App, and continued on to the various amazing points of interest around the park. The Gypsy app is the same thing we used in Canada a couple of years ago. It is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the various National Parks it covers. We have affectionately named the guide on the app Albert, after Alberta, where we first used it.
We took a side road up to Signal Mountain and got some amazing views of Jackson Hole. The entire valley was laid out before us and we saw a few elk grazing below. This may have been one of the best views in the park.
We went to grab a small lunch and drinks at the Jackson Lake Lodge. After enjoying the views and more elk from the patio, we went up Lunch Tree Hill where Horace Albright brought the Rockefellers back in the 20s to share his “Dream” of protecting the entire Jackson Hole Valley. This was one of my favorite spots of the entire trip. The views of the Tetons never get old.
We made a quick stop at Colter Bay and then continued the loop south back toward Teton Village and Jackson, seeing our first Bison of the trip.
We stopped at the spot where Ansel Adams took his famous picture of the Tetons. The trees have really grown since then.
Also got the ubiquitous shot with the Mormon barns and a couple of beautiful creek shots. Again, these views never get old.
My birthday was the next day and Doc and I got up early and took the tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in Teton Village to go paragliding. It was an amazing experience. I went skydiving when I was 18 and this was kind of similar, though not as intense of course. It was a beautiful morning with clear skies and the views from up in the air were fantastic.
Suz and Court met us at the landing zone and we went and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, which had another great visitor center.
We were going to do a quick hike, but decided to save it for another time. That afternoon we headed back to the top of Rendezvous Mountain to try the famous waffles at the hut at the top and maybe get a short hike in, but the weather was coming in and it was COLD up there, so we made do with some hot chocolate and came back down. We spent the rest of the evening in the hot tub with some wine. Not a bad view for my birthday.
We would get up the next morning and head to Yellowstone!
Sunday, June 2, 2019
Grand Teton NP – Jenny Lake Shuttle Boat to Cascade Canyon Trailhead then to Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point
Ian, Court, Doc, Suz
This was the beginning of our week long visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Doc, Suz, and Court went when she was a kid, but I had never been to either park and both were phenomenal. We did 3 hikes total, but I’ll blog a few of the other days as well to document the highlights of the trip, as there were many.
After driving in from Salt Lake City to our cabin in Teton Village the day before, we started off the morning at the Visitor Center in Moose, which had great views of its own, as well as a ton of great information about the park. I love National Park Visitor Centers. They are always very well done. I got a photo of the Stephen Mather plaque that is at every park. The last line is so good.
Afterwards, we headed to Jenny Lake and took the boat across to hike up to Hidden Falls. Jenny Lake was pretty, but a little underwhelming. Maybe I was just expecting too much after having been in the Canadian Rockies a couple of years ago where every lake was the stunning glacial blue color. I’m probably splitting hairs though.
The hike up to the falls was beautiful and followed a fast moving creek. There was still some snow on the ground in places, but it was melting fast, sometimes turning the trail into a small creek itself.
The falls were only about a mile in from the trail head. It was a bit crowded, but the falls were great and after hanging out for a few minutes and getting pictures, we continued up to Lower Inspiration Point, which had great views back across Jenny Lake. Court saw our first bear of the trip on the way up. Court saw it the whole way, but I just caught the back end of it as it scampered into the woods up the hill. This would be one of ten bears we would see on this trip. No pic, sadly. Did get a marmot pic though!
The remainder of the trail to Upper Inspiration point was closed, so we headed back down to catch the shuttle back across the lake. We would spend the rest of the day in the Tetons and it was gorgeous (continued in next post).
Monday, May 27th, 2019
Pedernales Falls State Park – Trammel Crossing Trail
Partly cloudy, warm, upper 80s
I finally got out to Pedernales when the river was low enough to cross over to the other side for the 5 mile loop known as Trammel Crossing. I had tried this a couple of times over the years, but never had been able to safely cross. The water this time was about knee high and was still pretty strong. I didn’t have my trekking poles, which would have been helpful, so just took it slow and steady with small steps. This will be good training for fording creeks on the PCT as well, so I’ll probably come back here later this year or early next year.
The trail on the other side was mostly double track with the wild flowers still going strong.
Also saw a military helicopter flying overhead. Fitting since it was Memorial Day.
I got to the scenic overlook, but it wasn’t all that great, and two girls were there bogarting the viewpoint anyway, so I took a quick look and turned around to head back.
I crossed back over the river and sat down on the other side to wring out my socks. My shoes dry fairly quickly, but wringing out the socks makes a huge difference after fording a river.
Pretty nice trail overall. Will be back later with trekking poles to aid in crossing the river.
Sunday, May 19th, 2019
Reimer’s Ranch – Mountain Bike Trail – partial
HUMID, hot, upper 80s
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
Only about a mile
This will be a fairly short entry, but had to get it in. We headed out to Reimer’s Ranch for a hike and to test out some new clothing that I am planning on using for the PCT, specifically the Southern California section in the desert. We decided to try out the mountain bike trails, which we had not done out here yet.
The wildflowers are still out in force and the trail was nice to start out. This ended up being the most humid day of the year so far and it was scorching, with heat index in the upper 90s at least. It was already uncomfortable and we had to make sure the dogs stayed hydrated too. It’s officially time to start sunrise hiking in Texas. Basically if you don’t hit the trail by 7 or 8 am in the summer it gets way too hot, especially if you have dogs.
The big surprise of this hike came only a half mile in on the trail. I was in the lead with Court and Finn following behind. Biff was in the lead and pretty much stumbled right onto a rattlesnake. He did NOT rattle, which was annoying, but luckily also didn’t bite. I saw him at the last second coiled almost in the middle of the trail, right before Biff was about to step on him, and I was able to yank back on the leash and get Biff out of harm’s way.
This is the first rattler we’ve seen in Central Texas in dozens of hikes. We saw a couple when we lived up in Dallas where the snakes seem much more numerous. After this encounter we just felt the trail had some bad juju and decided to end the day early. We tried to take the dogs down to the river to cool off, but that was way too muddy and so we just packed up into the cool AC of Donquita and headed back to town.
Not every hike is perfect or super enjoyable and sometimes you just have to know when to bail. Got the adrenaline pumping and glad the pups weren’t hurt.
Sunday, May 5th, 2019
St. Edward’s Park – various trails
warm, partly sunny, humid
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
Another trip out to St. Edward’s Park, one of Austin’s hidden gems. It was Finn’s 2nd birthday and he’d never been here. Water was flowing really well due to all the rain we’ve had this spring. Mosquitos are getting nuts, but hopefully it keeps the heat down this summer a bit.
Muddy trails, but pretty and always a good hike. We found Courtney’s favorite spot with the waterfall, which she refers to as her own little Terabithia.
Saturday, April 27th, 2019
Canyon Lake, TX – Madrone Trail
warm, sunny, mid 80s
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
Hey, we found a new trail! New to us anyway. We drove out to Canyon Lake, near New Braunfels, and did most of this loop with the pups on one of the rare sunny weekends we’ve had lately.
The trail basically meanders around one of the bigger peninsulas on the lake. Trail signage is spotty at best, so the Alltrails app came in handy, along with my ever present Gaia GPS.
The trail was single track most of the way and the terrain varied from dense woods to more scrubby, open grassland near the water.
Court mentioned that I stopped reporting the wildlife we see on hikes, so I’ll take this chance to say we saw a lot of lizards, which Finn was absolutely fascinated by. Also, at one point several vultures that were circling low enough that their shadows would project through the trees and onto the forest floor as we walked, which was a strange phenomenon.
The wildflowers put on a great show and the pups had a blast exploring and getting in the water.
We would have done the entire 7 mile loop, but the day got warmer and the dogs aren’t used to the heat yet, so we decided to cut it a little short to not push them too hard.
After the hike we got some pizza and beer at a great spot near Wimberley. The next day we would come back out to the same area to a couple of wineries and then hit up The Salt Lick for bbq. We may not have mountains and glaciers in Texas, but we make up for it in other ways.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
Barton Creek Greenbelt – Full Length
Perfect weather – sunny and 70s
Ian, Court, Brian, Biff, and Finn
I have never done the full Greenbelt end to end so we decided to tackle it with my buddy Brian this weekend. The Greenbelt is overly crowded these days, so we tried to avoid the most traveled paths as often as possible.
I also hiked with my full pack (Osprey Exos 58) that I will be using for my thru hike of the PCT next year. I don’t think I’ve officially announced that on the blog, but here we go! Planned start date is March 9, 2020, subject to permitting of course. I packed everything I will be taking on the trail, minus a few odds and ends, and ended up with a pack weight of just over 21 pounds. This includes 2L of water and food for roughly 2-3 days. Pretty happy with that, but will refine my pack and gear more over the next year.
We met at Brian’s house off South Lamar and his wife dropped us off at the trail at the absolute western end (yes Mom, WEST) that I didn’t even know existed. I had always thought it started at the Hill of Life, but you can KINDA start a little further at Lost Creek Blvd. It’s a little bush-whacky to start, but we made it through.
The water was flowing great and the trees are green. Perfect spring weather in Texas. We passed Sculpture Falls, Twin Falls, the Mopac bridge, then the 360 bridge.
We crossed over the creek several times, most of which Biff had to be carried over, which was sometimes tricky whilst carrying a full pack. Finn was not a huge fan either, but the water felt good and our shoes dried fairly quickly.
We got down past Gus Fruh and took a side trail out that led up to Barton Hills Elementary so we could make the walk back to Brian’s house. We skipped about the last mile of the trail, but the road walk made up for it.