Hiking Fern Lake to Cub Lake Rocky Mountain National Park in Fall

Fall is in full swing in Rocky Mountain National Park this week! We headed back and hiked up Fern Lake Trail and looped around past Cub Lake. Here are some of the photos:

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Thanks for looking!

Luke

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Hiking Beaver Meadows Rocky Mountain National Park

This past weekend we headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park to see how the fall colors were progressing and took a short hike around Beaver Meadows. We ran into some elk right in the trail and heard a bull bugle off in the distance. The colors had started changing and I think will peak over the next few weeks. I will let the photos do the talking!

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Backpacking Rawah Wilderness

After getting married and leaving Los Angeles to move to Fort Collins, Colorado just two days after our wedding we were excited to have some time to relax and enjoy ourselves. Once we had gotten settled in for a few weeks we decided that it was time to get into the mountains. We packed up and headed into the Rawah Wilderness on the West Branch Trail for a quick one night backpacking trip. Our goal was to make it to Island or Carey Lakes.
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The unusual amount of rain that Colorado got during the spring made all the growth come to life. It was cloudy and drizzly for most of the trip, providing more water to the plants, soil, and streams.
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There were signs and the musky smell of elk all over the trail and on the trees. At one point we came around a bend in the trail to hear the crashing of elk through the trees, but the trees were too dense to get a clear view.
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We might have been a little too anxious because we arrived at the snow line within a few miles of the trailhead. We didn’t make it to our desired location due to a freezing cold and fast moving creek crossing.

 

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We backtracked a mile and set up camp surrounded by some trees. All night we could hear the rushing water of the closeby creek. It was our first time using Sierra Designs double sleeping bag. We were warm and cozy all night and stayed dry in our Sierra Designs Lightning 2 tent.

 

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The next morning we went on a quick hike up a branch trail before packing up and heading back to the car. I am hoping to explore this area more in future summers.

 

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Camping Yosemite National Park Half Dome

Since our wedding is quickly approaching and we most likely won’t have much time to take off between now and then we decided to get out of LA and go somewhere we had talked about going for a long time, Yosemite National Park. It also happened to correspond with Valentines day which was perfect. It was my first time there and I was not disappointed. Here is the first view of the valley we got after driving through the tunnel.

Friday night a few friends joined us, Keane, Melani, Ryan, and Pru. Saturday we headed up Half Dome and couldn’t have asked for more prefect conditions. We didn’t see many people and the weather was perfect for hiking. We took the Mist Falls Trail, choosing the shorter and steeper trail, over the John Muir Trail. Here is the first view of Vernal Falls.

The Mist Trail is appropriately named as everything is moist while you walk past the falls.

Haley found a perfect tree to enjoy the views from the top of Vernal Falls.

Once we met back up with the JMT we got our first view of the back of Half Dome.

The trail then continues around to the North side of Half Dome.

First we went up some switchbacks on the subdome before reaching the cables.

Going up the cables we used harnesses and klemheist knots since the cables were down and the boards were removed for the winter.

The views from the top were incredible.

Since it was valentines day.

The sun was starting to set and we had to make it all the way back to the cars still so we booked it on the way down.

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Backpacking Mount Whitney 4th of July

I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the fourth of July, I had won the lottery and would be celebrating my independence on the top of Mount Whitney! This would be my second trip to the tallest mountain in the lower 48, and I couldn’t wait, which was saying something considering how miserably sick I’d been the first time I summited. I knew altitude and I didn’t get along, two years had past since my first trip, and that pain was still fresh in my mind. I am no glutton for punishment, but there is something to be said about pain that comes from an activity that pushes you to your mental and physical limits. In retrospect, that pain brings a kind of pleasure, which is often referred to as, Type 2 Fun. Most people have their own slightly varying definition of Type 2 fun, but for me, it’s best summed up as an activity that is painful and often miserable while you’re at it, but when over, was actually awesome, empowering, and worth doing again. Mount Whitney is my epitome of Type 2 fun, and so, with nothing but excitement, I invited two couples to join my fiance and I on the trip.The trip would span three days and 46 miles, taking us up Mount Whitney, north on the Pacific Crest Trail, and out over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley.
We picked up the permit and shuttled our car on the 3rd. This didn’t give us anytime to acclimate, but with full time jobs, it seemed acclimating was a luxury we couldn’t afford. We simply hoped for the best, ate a quick breakfast, weighed our packs (mine was around 65 pounds) and hit the trail. About a quarter of the 65 pounds on my back came from my photography equipment, but that was one thing I was sure was worth the weight.
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The first 5-6 miles up to trail camp went extremely quickly. We fell into a comfortable rhythm, and I wasn’t feeling the altitude at all. I began to think this trek would be a breeze, needless to say, that thought was a bit premature. The second we started up the dreaded 99 switchbacks, I felt light headed, nauseous, and my legs began screaming at me for more oxygen. Every step took an incredible amount of effort, I hurt everywhere and at times, I didn’t think I would be able to keep going. With encouragement from my fiance, constant breaks for oxygen, water, and snacks, we made it to the saddle, where we dropped our packs before tackling the final 1.9 miles to the summit. Never in my life has 1.9 miles felt so long. I had envisioned us celebrating our successful summit with energized hi fives and hugs, and maybe a firework or two in the background, but that was not our reality. I managed to snap a few quick photos on the top, and steal a few kisses from my fiance, but otherwise, I was too tired to celebrate. More than anything I felt relieved I’d made it, and anxious to start the trip down to Guitar Lake where we would be staying for the night.

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We arrived just in time to set up our tents, take a few photos of the fading light, and eat dinner before everyone quickly fell asleep. Crawling into my sleeping bag and laying down I could still feel my whole body working extremely hard to process the days activity. Thankfully my nauseousness and headache was gone and I was able to fall right asleep.

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The next morning, feeling a little worse for the ware, we threw on our packs and soldiered on,  heading north on the John Muir Trail. I knew studying the map, that this was going to our most physically demanding day. Not only were we tired from the 16 miles the day before, but we had another 16 to go, were still at altitude, and our day would conclude with crossing over Forester Pass. While it was indeed a challenging day, it was also a beautiful one. We hiked past high alpine lakes, meadows, and trekked through forests. The scenery was constantly evolving, and I was able to put that heavy camera gear to good use. Once we hit the 12,000 foot mark though, I had to put my camera away. I was sure my head was going to explode, all the nausea and cramping I had experienced the day before had returned with a vengeance. I was convinced I couldn’t keep going, but somehow I made it over the pass, and I was immediately rewarded for it. The top was covered in sky pilot flowers, which smell even more beautiful than they look. They are only open for a few days out of the year, and only grow above 1200 feet, and in that moment, I felt incredibly lucky to be where I was, regardless of how much my body hurt.

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After descending down Forrester pass, my feet made it clear that they were done for the day. We had completed our planned sixteen miles, and with only fourteen remaining for the final day, we decided it was time to camp. Over dinner, we agreed to an early start the following morning. Everybody had a long drive home after our hike the next day, and nobody wanted to be doing it in the dark.
20160202_WhitneyFourthJuly_0013We started the next morning at 5:00 AM, eating our breakfast on the go. My body was feeling pretty battered and bruised at this point, and we were all ready to get back to the car. We continued down through Tyndall meadows, which was surprisingly green and lush. Everytime we tried to stop and appreciate the beauty however, we were swarmed by mosquitoes. After several hours of walking and swatting, we hit the junction that would take us toward Kearsarge Pass, which was accompanied by a furious rainfall. At that point, I was close to labeling the trip Type 3 Fun, which isn’t fun at all, and no amount of retrospect makes it so. We were now half running, half swatting. By the time we made it to the top of the pass, the rain had stopped and the mosquitos were gone. Buoyed by the knowledge we were only four miles away from the car, I found my second wind and cruised downhill to the car.
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After driving home, I mustered up the courage to inspect my body. The results were gruesome. I had enormous blisters on my feet, black and blue toenails, skin rubbed raw from my pack, and aches in muscles I didn’t even know existed, but I was also inexplicably happy. And I was proud. Proud that I had pushed through the pain, proud of my friends, proud that we accomplished something none of us actually knew we could manage. I had spent the weekend in a beautiful place, and with people I love. I know there were many times when I cursed Mount Whitney (and myself for planning such an asinine trip), swearing I would never go near this mountain again, but I’m already planning my return trip, and I can’t wait to do it again.

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Backpacking Sequoia National Park Pear Lake

A main reason I love adventuring, is because of the inherent unpredictability that accompanies it, and my most recent trip to Sequoia National Park was no exception! On a Friday after work, I drove up from Los Angeles to Three Rivers where my close friend and fellow adventure junky, Wyatt, was meeting me. We had organized a meet at 10:00 PM that night, picking a random town and gas station to join up.  Despite neither of us having any cell reception to confirm where we were, or if we were going to be at the meeting place on time, neither of us ever questioned whether the other would be there… and when going on an adventure, that’s the kind of friend you need to have.

Excited to get started, we headed towards the Franklin Lakes trailhead.  When we arrived, we found the road closed, and sign that instructed us to check in at the Foothills Visitor Center if we wanted to continue on. Being that it was now the middle of the night, we decided to set up camp on the side of the road and head to the visitor center first thing in the morning.

At the first crack of light, we packed up our things and headed out.  Once at the visitor center, they informed us that they could let us through the gate, but that there would be a second gate about 6 miles from the first one that they wouldn’t  be able to open. Since Franklin Lakes was no longer a viable option (and no adventurer quits that easily!), we decided on Pear Lake.  Pear Lake had come highly recommended because we were still set on packrafting and fishing, and they said it could accommodate both.

We went on our way, stopping to check in at the Grant Grove Visitor Center in order to pick up a permit for Pear Lake and to learn more about the current conditions.  The ranger we spoke to mentioned there was some snow around the lake. We had been thinking it was going to be a warm and sunny weekend.

The first one and a half miles of the trail were dry, but by the second mile, snow patches surrounded us.  By the third mile, we were lucky if there were patches of dirt!  In order to stay on the path, we followed yellow triangle tree markers,  and the tracks made by previous backpackers (who had clearly been wearing snowshoes). The last three miles of the trek took twice as long as the first three, postholing, warm weather, and a little drizzle slowed us to a crawl. Neither of us had brought snowshoes or rain gear.

Once we made it to the lake, we devoured our lunches before climbing into my Sierra Designs Metor Light tent. The sound of the rain landing on the rain fly in conjunction with our full bellies put us right to sleep. We woke up a few hours later, and only dared to leave the tent so far as the rock we had set up our camp on.  There was no way we wanted to put back on our wet socks and shoes! After making some dinner, we sat on our rock and watched the sun set. As soon as the sun dropped below the peaks, the temperature plummeted. We took that as our cue to return to the tent and call it a night.

By morning, the snow had become a sheet of ice. Since we had hauled our packrafts up this far, we decided we needed to use them…lake or no lake! Using the packraft as a sled, we made the best of the unexpected weather conditions.

Once we had had our fill of sledding, we decided it would be smarter to hike out while the snow was still frozen enough to support our weight. The trek out was sunny and beautiful.  We even encountered another group that was hiking in with fishing poles…clearly we weren’t the only ones a little too excited to get a start on the season!

Once we made it back to the car, we drove down to the Foothills and went for a swim in the Kaweah River. This was more the climate we had been expecting, and we finally got the chance to take a swim.

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Canyoneering Middle Fork Lytle Creek

This June, I am lucky enough to be joining a few friends for a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon.  After failing to win a permit the past couple of years,  I’m twice as thrilled to have a friend win who is willing to take me along.  That being said, its also been a couple of years since I’ve rafted or gone canyoneering (a main attraction for us in the Grand Canyon) so it’s time to get in shape. In order to be at our best for the trip, we decided to tackle canyoneering the Middle Fork of Lytle Creek.  It turned out to be the perfect refresher course, and has me more excited than ever about the trip.

The Middle Fork of Lytle Creek is often described as one of the most beautiful canyons in the Los Angeles area, and that assessment is dead on.  Being as beautiful as it is, its also a very popular trail, which made the path well worn. Apart from being beautiful, the water is also cold, so I would recommend wearing wetsuits. The route from downtown Los Angeles to the trailhead is shown in the map below. I would recommended using a car with high clearance, there are some serious rough patches toward the end of the drive.

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The hike up to the start of the repels was relatively easy, taking us about two hours. The trail starts by the creek, following it up for about 2.2 miles before passing a tributary that enters on the left hand side of the trail. We eventually repelled down that tributary, but first, we followed the trail up for another hour or so, before dropping down into the creek.

The first rappel was pretty straightforward, the anchors were easy to find, and the pool at the bottom of the waterfall was only ankle deep. After our first rappel, we hiked about 15 minutes downstream before reaching a lower set of waterfalls. This set consisted of three waterfalls; the first about 60 ft, the second about 70 ft, and the third around 100 ft. You can repel into the pool between the 60 ft and 70 ft waterfall. There is a bolted anchor at the lip of 70 ft waterfall, so you aren’t stuck. You can also single repel down both at once from the far side of the creek (opposite to where the trail was). We chose to split them up into two repels and enjoyed hanging out in the sun on the rocks between the two.

The last repel is about 100 ft, and not completely vertical as shown in the pictures. This was one of my favorite repels.

After finishing up the final repel, it took us about ten minutes to reach the main gorge that we had hiked up initially. From there, it was a straight shot back to the car.

If you are contemplating this trip and want more information on it, shoot me an email, and I will do my best to answer any questions you have. Happy hiking.

 

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Camping Big Sur

Growing up in Jackson Wyoming, I developed a deep appreciation and passion for the outdoors. I would ski Teton Pass before work, and kayak the Snake River after closing. After completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Wyoming, I pursued my masters at the University of Southern California. While in Los Angeles, I still enjoyed the outdoors by backpacking in the Sierras and exploring the coastline. I felt it was important to record the beautiful places I was exploring, and so my passion for photography developed.  My most reason trip took me and a few of my buddies to Big Sur. We left LA at 8:00 PM and by midnight had reached “Elephant Seal Beach”. This is the time of year where elephant seals give birth, so there were plenty of seals to take pictures of being illuminated by the full moon. 

We arrived in Big Sur at around 3:00 AM. The first two campgrounds we’d hoped to stay at were full, and we were too tired to look for anymore spaces, so we decided to just pull over to the side of the road and sleep for a few hours. We got up at 6:00 AM to take pictures of the setting moon and the rising sun at McWay Falls.

After watching the sunrise, we drove to a campground up the coast and set up camp. When we arrived, the sun was shining through the trees and catching the smoke from the morning campfires.

Once camp was set up, we drove up the coast to explore the beaches and alcoves along the way. As sunset approached, we drove to The Keyhole and did handstands on the beach until dark.

This was a truly incredible trip. It showed me that if you live by the Give’r mentality, the unexpected is fun, and changes to the plan are what make an adventure. No matter where you are, sometimes you just have to Give’r up and learn to love the ride.

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Camping – Engagement – Thanksgiving in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving after work I came home and had a quick dinner before getting in the car with Haley and driving to Zion National Park in Utah. We left at 7:00 PM and by the time we got to our campsite it was 3:30 AM. We had considered sleeping and then leaving on Wednesday, but I had other plans in mind for Wednesday morning. After sleeping for only a few hours we got up early and hiked up Angels Landing. Luckily we had the place entirely to ourselves and I asked Haley to marry me. She thought I was setting up the camera to take a picture of us by using the self timer and didn’t know that I had started recording video. The video can be found in the link below. Warning there is a lot of kissing!

Here are few pictures from the top and hike down as well.

After That we met up with JoAnn, Savannah, and Jordan. We had some champagne to celebrate and ate some lunch before hiking up to the emerald pools. The light was flat and I didn’t get any great pictures of the pools. Crossing the bridge over the Virgin River on our way back to the Zion Lodge there was a young buck crossing the river at the same time.

The next morning we got up early and drove to Bryce Canyon. We were hoping to hike the Fairyland loop trail, but there was simply too much snow. However, it was far from a disappointment; the whiteness of snow made for an amazing contrast with the red rock, and we couldn’t help but stop at every pull-out to take some photos. About 200 photos later, we drove back to Zion to have a great thanksgiving dinner at the lodge.

Early the next morning. we went on an 4 mile hike up to Observation point, which offered a beautiful but hazy view of Angel’s landing and the river below. as well as the chance to work off some of our massive dinner from the night before…

The last full day of the trip we spent in The Narrows. The trail starts from the last bus stop and goes up the Virgin River. We rented shoes, drysuits, hiking poles, and gloves from Zion Adventures. They were a huge help. I would rent from them again and recommend them to anyone looking for information about Zion.

After spending some quality time on the trails in Zion, I think the hikes to do are Angels Landing, Observation Point, and The Narrows.  The Narrows offered some of the most challenging and exciting hiking we did during our trip.  Trekking waist deep in 40 degree water,  while feeling like a space invader in a full dry suit is not your everyday experience. And while I think the Narrows would have been a bit more enjoyable in warmer weather, the dry suits did their jobs! This was a trip I will definitely never forget and I hope to repeat.  I can’t wait to go back.

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Packrafting Catalina Island

Wyatt came down from San Francisco to LA to work on selling SeedTabs. After a week of selling it was time for us to go on an Adventure. We decided to go camping and packrafting on Catalina Island and boarded the ferry with little clue what to expect. On the ride we relaxed with a beer and some wine. By the time we made it to Avalon it was dark so we decided to grab a beer at the bar before heading up to our campsite. The drinks turned into singing karaoke. Right after the song started it abruptly stopped because we had embarrassingly missed the entro. They graciously started it over to give us another chance. When the singing was over we were congratulated on the worst performance many people had ever seen. I think we were the youngest people in there by about 15 years.

After the karaoke disaster we decided it was time to go back to our camp. We picked up some pizza and hitchhiked in the back of a golf cart the mile up the road to our campsite. In the morning we packed up and headed into Avalon to get some breakfast. It was a lot of fun to paddle around all the impressive boats in Avalon Bay.

Once we got to camp and had everything set up we hiked up to an overview to check out the view of the coastline and search for the famous Catalina buffalo. The only one we found was decaying at the top of the overlook.

The next morning we got up early and paddled back to Avalon to catch the ferry. It didn’t take us very long to paddle back so we killed time swimming around in our drysuits checking out the fish and aquatic life that live in Avalon Bay. If I do this trip again I will be sure to bring a mask, snorkel, and a fishing pole.

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