Colorado Trail Southern Terminus – Junction Creek 7/27/20

Monday, July 27, 2020

Colorado Trail Southern Terminus – Junction Creek Campground

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Cool, partly cloudy, mid 50s

6 miles

We took a road trip to Colorado with the dogs to escape the monotony of Covid life. What a strange time we are living through.

After driving to Santa Fe the first night (that’s a long drive) we drove up through Pagosa Springs to a campround at Junction Creek, just outside of Durango.

Here’s my Australian nature show video as we unpack the car.

This also happens to be where the southern terminus of the Colorado Trail is located. I made reservations at the campground a few months back without knowing this is where the 486 mile trail from Denver ends. This is now the 3rd southern terminus I have visited of the longer trails. PCT, AT, and now CT.

After breaking camp and loading up the car, we drove the few hundred yards down to the trail head. We actually started about half a mile in on the trail, but went to visit the actual terminus at the end of the hike. The crisp morning mountain air was such a nice contrast to the heat of Texas that is in the annual blast furnace phase back home.

The trail followed the north side of the valley formed by Junction Creek and then dipped down to cross it on a wooden bridge. After crossing to the other side, we were confronted by a series of switchbacks that brought us up to the top of the south side and a spectacular view at Gudy’s Rest.

On the way up, we came across two sets of thru hikers that were about to finish their long journey that started all the way back in Denver several weeks earlier! I got all jazzed about thru hiking again after seeing how dirty, tired, and yet supremely happy and satisfied these trekkers were. Such an accomplishment.

At Gudy’s Rest we sat on a log and ate a late breakfast that Court had packed of sandwiches and trail mix while we enjoyed the view down the valley back towards Durango.

After getting back to the trail head, we drove down to the actual terminus and got a quick photo before hitting Starbucks and driving through the mountains to Telluride, via Silverton and Ouray.

End of Trail

Colorado Trail Southern Terminus

Tuolumne meadows – pct 11/1/19

November 1, 2019

Tuolumne Meadows – Pacific Crest Trail

Yosemite National Park

1.5 miles

Not sure why I didn’t include this in my original Yosemite postings from last fall, but hey, better late than never.

Court and I were in Yosemite for Greg and Cat’s wedding (awesome venue guys!) and we took a day trip up Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows to get a quick hike in on the PCT. Tuolumne Meadows is at roughly mile 941 on the PCT and is a resupply point for hikers during the season. During the fall, however, all of the accommodations and stores are shut down and it is deserted. It was kind of an eerie feeling, but the silence and stillness was nice.

We just did a quick jaunt on the trail of about 1.5 miles from the Tuolumne Meadows lodge parking lot to Twin Bridge and back, but hey, chalk up another 1.5 miles on the PCT for me!

The Tuolumne River was already icing over in the early fall.

Tenaya Lake on the way to Tuolumne Meadows

Steiner ranch nature trail system 6/13/20

Saturday, June 13, 2020

We were actually supposed to be camping up at Possum Kingdom with our friends Ryan and Kelly this weekend, but they ended up having to come to Austin instead, so we got a quick morning hike in with them out at Steiner Ranch. With the pandemic still in full force (and growing now, good work Texas), Steiner is a decent place to keep away from crowds and still get some good hiking in. Reservations for the state parks are impossible to get and are required for dayhiking also. The greenbelt in Austin is just packed, so we are avoiding that for a while too.

I’ve blogged parts of this trail system multiple times, so this isn’t anything really new, but the May rains are still running off and the water is flowing fairly well in the ravines and kloofs (look it up). The pups made a new friend in Darcy, Ryan and Kelly’s giant schnauzer.

The crew

We got out to the trail early enough that the heat wasn’t bad yet and there was a lot of shade, so the pups did fine. We also managed to get a little lost, like we do about half of the time we come out to these trails, so had to road walk the end back to the car, but good times were had by all.

Hill Country State Natural Area 5/23/20

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hike: Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera, TX – Wilderness and Spring Branch Trails

Weather: Partly cloudy, breezy, HOT, mid 90s

Hikers: Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Length: 4 miles

First hike of the Covid Era! We finally broke out of our quarantine and got out to some trails this past weekend. We drove out to Hill Country State Natural Area, one of the few places in Central Texas that we hadn’t experienced, near Bandera, just west of San Antonio.

The State Parks are allowing a limited amount of day passes right now that you have to reserve online in advance. As Texas starts to open up, people are flocking to outdoor areas. We got the last available pass for Saturday afternoon at HCSNA, but I think a lot of passes went unused, as there were still a dozen or so waiting to be picked up when we left the park to come back home.

The good old Texas heat is starting to hit and the dogs (and humans) haven’t acclimated yet, so this hike got cut a little bit shorter than originally intended. I did bring a ton of water, so the pups were well hydrated, but tired.

We started off on the Wilderness Trail, which was marked as “moderate”, but was really a pretty flat jeep trail for most of the way. This is prime snake country, but we didn’t see any on this day. HCSNA has a lot of trails that we need to explore, but we only did parts of two. We cut the Wilderness loop short and hopped onto the Spring Branch trail, which was more challenging, but also prettier.

There were plenty of lizards scurrying about, much to Finn’s excited delight. We had to stop and take a few breaks in the shade and drink plenty of water. The views were nice and the breeze coming down the hills was a welcome respite from the heat.


After a 4 mile loop, we were back at the car and cranked the AC for the 2 hour drive home. It’s now what I call “sunrise hiking” time in Texas, where you have to start early in order to avoid the heat. Hoping to add more hikes to the blog soon as we start up a delayed hiking season.

COVID – 19

As some may know, my PCT hike for 2020 was postponed. I actually made the call before the COVID outbreak, but this definitely would have sealed the deal.

One of the bloggers I follow who is also a doctor posted the following and I feel it’s good to pass the info along. I’ll be back to updating this blog for the spring hiking season in Texas. At least my favorite hobby isn’t impacted (much) by these weird times we are living in.


As a physician (Internal Medicine and Ophthalmology), I try to separate my work from this blog, but at a time like this, I feel the need to spread the message to as many people as possible.

Although it is still very early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the world will never be the same. As the SARS-CoV-2 makes it way around the world, we will all experience our version of the pandemic at different times. Healthcare workers scramble around the world to contain the virus and minimize casualties. The battle against this virus will not be won in the hospital wards and in the clinics, it is fought in our homes and neighborhoods with prevention. The soldiers in this battle are the people who live in this country. by staying home, you are contributing more than you will ever realize. That is our main weapon. With such…

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Hiatus – NEW SITE!

A quick note to the tens of followers on this blog, I am going to stop posting new content for the next few months here, as I am documenting my PCT thru hike on my new blog:

I’m starting from the southern terminus on March 23! Holy crap!

Inks Lake Overnight – 11/30/19 – 12/1/19

November 30 – December 1, 2019

Annual Thanksgiving Trip

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

We took our annual Thanksgiving trip out to Inks Lake for an overnight. We had originally planned on doing two nights, but the weather the first night was not looking fun (40s and wet) so we only went the second night when the weather was a lot better.

As always, the lake was pretty, the hiking good, and the dogs loved it. Finn got a little chilly overnight and was restless, so we are going to need to figure out a solution for him on the colder nights. Biff gets to snuggle under the quilt with us, but Finn is far too big for that.

Lakeside camp site
Nice fire
Tired Biff back at home

Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP 11/2/19

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP

Ian and Court

3 miles

For a quick hike before Greg and Cat’s wedding, we headed down to Tuolumne Grove to see some sequoias. Court and I first experienced the majesty that these trees convey back in 2016 when we went to Sequoia National Park over Labor Day weekend. There are fewer trees in Yosemite, but they are still just as impressive.

This trail is fairly short, but includes what was one of the original roads in the park, back in the late 1800s. This is also when the famous tunnel tree was made, which would certainly not be allowed now, I don’t think.

buried road sign

When one of these trees falls over you get an even more up close sense of how huge they really are. They make you feel quite small in the world. It’s a sensation that can only be experienced in real life.

Court way in the distance for scale

Next time we come back we will go to the Mariposa Grove, which is much larger, but is located on the southern end of the park so we didn’t have time to make the drive. This smaller grove was a worthy consolation.

Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP 10/31/19


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP

Ian, Court, Kelly, Ryan

10 miles

This hike is the beginning of what would have been our hike to Half Dome, but as I mentioned in the last post, we had to cancel that trip due to weather. This is a tough hike, don’t let anyone fool you. 10 miles round trip from the parking lot at Curry Village.

Obligatory park sign
This is what we were supposed to do the day before

I had looked at the topo map before the hike, but wasn’t expecting it to basically start to go straight up from the very beginning. Get ready calves! The trail starts off paved, but at about a 30 degree angle for a while and then it evens out until you reach the long set of stairs heading up to the first set of falls on this hike, Vernal Falls. Since we were there late in the season the falls were not flowing very strong, but they were still beautiful.

Good fall colors

The stairs were a real life version of the stairs up to Cirith Ungol (nerd alert) in Lord of the Rings. There was no Shelob at the top though.

Looking back from the stairs
Vernal Falls – in the summer the water spans a much wider swathe
Final steps to the top of Vernal Falls
Top of Vernal Falls

After a quick rest at the top where we fended off the well-fed squirrels trying to get at our snacks, we continued on and soon got our first glimpse of Nevada Falls.

More steps were to come.

Nevada Falls upper right

But we made it. I erroneously thought that the rock formation in front of us was Half Dome, but it was actually Liberty Cap. Gotta get better at reading those topo maps.

Liberty Cap and bridge over the top of Nevada Falls
Trees growing through the rocks with flat trunks

Had we climbed Half Dome we would have kept going up from here, but instead we took the John Muir Trail back down to the valley. There was a short section that was pretty icy and will probably be closed in the next few weeks due to treacherous conditions.

The trail switchbacked all the way back down to the valley and we were glad to have our trekking poles to cushion the descent, as we were going at a pretty quick pace to try and get back to the visitor center before it closed, which we did. This was a beautiful and challenging hike that everyone who goes to Yosemite should do if they are able.

End of trail pic

Mt Hoffmann – Yosemite NP 10/30/19

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mt. Hoffmann – Yosemite NP – trail to May Lake and unofficial trail to summit

Ian, Court, Greg, Todd, Kelly, and Ryan

6.3 miles

Well, today was supposed to be the day we were going to climb Half Dome with the cables down, but the weather overnight made us cancel. The forecast was in the teens at our campsite (Little Yosemite Valley) and almost single digits on Half Dome, so we made the call and bailed.

However, this hike was recommended by Kelly’s ranger friend and it was a fun challenge with some great views. A group of us got to the trail head around 1pm and headed up into the Sierra.

About a mile or so in, we hit May Lake and the camp there, which was closed for the season. We got some good photos and continued around the lake to start the unofficial trail up to Mt Hoffmann.

Hoffmann is actually behind those two peaks, so disregard that commentary
Ryan and reflection
Heading up from the lake. Court and Dr. Seuss tree

A lot of this trail was route finding, looking for cairns among the rocks as we steadily gained elevation.

About half way up we could see views of Half Dome way down in the valley.

First view of Half Dome

We turned up the mountain and the ascent got quite steep and difficult. There were multiple cairns to choose from and we basically had to just make our own route and use our best judgement. The altitude became a bit too much for Ryan and Kelly, so they chose to hang back while the remaining four of us continued up toward the summit.

Getting steep
More Half Dome

Just a hundred yards or so after we left Ryan and Kelly, the trail flattened out quite a bit and the remaining trek to the base of the summit wasn’t nearly as steep. Greg and Todd went for the actual summit while Court and I decided to forego it and chose a smaller peak just below to rest and eat lunch on.

Trail flattening out

After enjoying the view for a bit we knew we had to start down to try and get back to the trail head before dark, or at least close to it. The journey down was a bit more treacherous than going up, as we were having to again pick our way through cairns, but this time downhill on unstable rocks. We made it back to the lake after a long journey and met back up with Ryan and Kelly while we waited for Greg and Todd to catch up.

The alpenglow was starting to hit the rocks and the light made for some stunning pics.

Heading back down to May Lake

Once everyone was back together we hiked back down from May Lake to the trail head, stopping multiple times to get pics of the sunset and the encroaching dusk. The sunsets out here are incredible. We don’t get much in Texas like this.