Seneca Creek Hike: West Virginia Looks Like West Virginia

Finally went to West Virginia. It looks like what you would expect.

Pretty much exactly.

Went down there with a dude from school for an overnighter hike. The drive down from Pittsburgh features a lot of scenic valleys and countryside (it was disconcerting how rich Maryland looked in comparison to Pennsylvania), then we stopped at one of the most outlandishly lavish only-open-four-days-a-week National Forest Service visitor’s centers I’ve ever seen, located in Seneca Rocks, W.Va. I used the restroom there. After that, we drove up the eventually gravel road to the Seneca Creek trailhead. It’s the sort of gravel road you can take a first-gen Prius on without concern.

Trailhead parking lot with first-gen Prius.

And from there things generally got easier. Most of the hiking guides suggest starting at the Lumberjack Trail trailhead, then taking that trail up and around past the falls to the campsites along Seneca Creek. Many online reviewers commented that the Lumberjack Trail is awful and boring, however. As such, we opted instead to do the hike as mostly an out-and-back along Seneca Creek. Posterity will want to know this.

So: we headed down-river (-creek). We soon came to a bunch of cool campsites and tidy little cascades. This area has some of the nicest campsites I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing how much better national forests (and recreation areas) are with regard to camp sites as compared to the national parks. This was our site:

The hike eventually brought us to Seneca Falls, which looks very much like the kind of waterfall you would expect to find in West Virginia:

From there, we backtracked back to the campsite and set up shop for the night. Next day we left our gear at the site and hiked up and around the High Meadows (this took us on part of the aforementioned Lumberjack Trail, which was expectedly awful due to its swamp-like condition). There wasn’t a lot to see up there — mostly trees and hillsides covered in trees. It would probably look better when the leaves are changing, but whatever. We looped back around past the falls again, back to the campsite, then picked up our gear and high-tailed it out of WV.

Some other notes:

  • As Thomas keenly noted, there was an unsettling lack of birds there.
  • There are a bunch of stream crossings on the hike, although the one immediately before the falls was the only one that got over ankle depth.
  • Our trip was on a Wednesday-Thursday; we saw no other hikers whatsoever (although there were two other cars at the trailhead when we got back).
  • This hike would probably be pretty awesome during peak color season. Might even make the High Meadows component worth hiking.
  • While the campsites are great, this would be a very reasonable day-hike if you wanted to work it that way.
  • Just to be clear on our route… Day 1: We took the Seneca Creek Trail to Seneca Falls, then backtracked to one of the campsites. Day 2: We backtracked to the Judy Springs Trail (after you cross the bridge from the Seneca Creek Trail, TURN LEFT to continue on the Judy Springs Trail — this was confusing), turned right onto the Huckleberry Trail, then turned left onto the Lumberjack Trail, which turns into the High Meadows trail, which eventually curls around and meets up with the Seneca Creek Trail at the falls; we then took the Seneca Creek Trail back to our campsite to pick up our stuff and then back to the waiting first-gen Prius at the trailhead.
  • This is a pretty easy hike.
  • The food at Dairy Queen is always a lot better than I think it ought to be.

bkd

PS, For some reason this WordPress theme can’t handle the concept of centering photos in a consistent manner.

Hana Waterfalls (Two of Them)

I don’t even know the names of the waterfalls. I didn’t drive, I wasn’t the one planning, so I took very little responsibility for knowing anything. The one was at the top of a two-mile (each way) hike that was named after some gorge. There was a bamboo forest. I’ll look it up. Later.

Everything pictured here is somewhere on the other side of Hana. I like Hana better than the rest of Maui. The hippie vibe is refreshing compared to the tourist vibe of everywhere else, plus it rains more there so it looks greener.

The bridge below those falls:

The gulch is called Oheo Gulch by the way. The trail goes through a bamboo forest. The forest looks like a bamboo forest.

And the falls are the Oheo Gulch Waterfall. Clever. It’s a high waterfall. Sorry about all the portrait-orientation. Waterfalls and trees, I guess.

 

Dennis took a really sharp photo of me hanging out in the waterfall pool, but I’m afraid it’d end up on some  porn site somewhere. If everyone were Mormon, I wouldn’t have to worry about that. It’d just be a photo of a guy giving a thumbs up from the bottom of a waterfall. Maybe I should move to Provo. Or Saudi Arabia.

Not always a fan of the species.

Also in the gulch:

This is a view of the “forbidden part” of the Hana Highway. The part that’s beyond Oheo gulch. It’s drier there.

So there you go. I think the highway has some other name on this side of Hana also.

In January, Pittsburgh is colder than there.

bkd

Maui Red Sand Beach

Dennis had told me about this secret beach in Hana and stuff. It’s pretty. Not sure anyone would ever swim at it what with the rocks and all. There’s a journey vs. destination story here as well.

The beach is sort of on private property or requires you to cross through private property or something. There’s a hotel there that has signs posted that declaim any responsibility for you killing yourself while trying to get there. Not without reason.

A few photos I guess:

The beach itself:

Red Sand Beach, Maui

And I got about 50 more photos that are some variation on that. The tree is in all of them. Seriously, like *all* of them.

On the hike:

  • It’s not very far — maybe 3/4 mile from the place where you park.
  • But: the trail is pretty dodgy. There’s one part where the footing is poor (sandy and loose pebbles), and the trail is narrow (ca. 12 inches) and slanting off the edge of a cliff (20-foot drop). It’s about a 10-foot stretch, but that’s about all it takes.
  • I was wearing flip-flops, which did not grant me goat-like powers of ground adhesion.
  • Ended up gashing the side of my foot.
  • Alternately, there’s a trail spur that bypasses this section. It takes you off the cliff and down to the beach, then goes back up onto the ledge above. Would’ve been smart. Would have.
  • And then coming back up, we came up one trail too early. This too-early trail goes to the cemetery and is steeper than you want it to be. With loose, sandy pebbles.

Cemetery is like this:

For some reason all the stones had Japanese writing on them. On the interesting scale, I’m guessing the story behind that (unknown to me) rates a 3.

bkd

PS, This was a purely Google-driven headline. Thanks, search algorithms: you’ve destroyed blog post headlines forever.

Glacier Lake Fishing (Beartooths, Montana)

It all starts looking the same. I should probably delay publication of this one for two weeks just to get a little air between this post and the last one. Fine, there, I’ve done that: an artificial two-week delay. Now maybe these photos will look exciting, fresh, or, whatever it is that they otherwise wouldn’t look.

So there’s a miraculous story here that explains how I ended up going to Glacier Lake at all. My cell phone (with Virgin) gets no reception between Minnesota and Spokane. That is to say, it doesn’t work in Idaho, Montana, or the Dakotas. When I was heading from Tacoma to Montana, I stopped in Spokane to call my brother in South Dakota to see if he wanted to join me for fishing in Montana. He said he couldn’t make it, so I figured I’d leave Montana Saturday after finishing the Lake Fork hike.

But then when I got to Butte or so, I checked my phone and it had received a text message. Somehow, *somehow*, despite being in coverage no-man’s land, my phone had gotten a text message from my brother saying he could make it after all. And then I found a pay phone and confirmed plans. Yes, they still have pay phones. Everyone who saw me using it was also surprised.

(And: I said the story was miraculous, not that it was interesting.)

Fishing at Glacier Lake was great. The guy at the hotel in Red Lodge recommended it. Good job, guy!

Garry crossing a creek.

 

Elevation: 10,000'.

Ibid.

Glacier Lake shoreline.

Fishing was, as said, good. Used dry flies trailing behind a plastic float. Mostly 12- to 15-inch cutts. Caught one 12-inch brookie. All were good fighters. Also caught this:

The largest trout I've ever seen.

Two pounds? Two and a half maybe? It was a big trout. Caught it on four-pound line and apparently my knots don’t suck. Took probably 10-15 minutes to get him ashore. He took a lot of line. Awesome fish, mad respect.

Gebrüder (I'm not really six inches shorter than him).

Emerald Lake (in Wyoming!), just below Glacier Lake.

  • This is a short hike, btw. Two miles each way.
  • But steep (ca. 1,500 feet in elevation gain).
  • And at high altitude.
  • Glacier Lake is a perfect fishing lake: no grass, plenty of shoreline, lots of places to sit.
bkd

Beartooths: Keyser Brown Lake, September Morn Lake, and First Lake

And then I woke up. Ended up hiking up to September Morn lake (decent climb!). It’s a cool lake and would’ve been a better place to camp (better sites) if not for the fact that it’s another two (three?) miles from Keyser Brown and another 1,000+ feet in elevation climb. Das Leben ist ja schwer.

Morning reflections in Keyser Brown.

September Morn Lake, where I presume Neil Diamond danced until the night became a brand new day.

A 12-inch brookie I caught there.

A 120-inch brook I crossed there.

View of Keyser Brown and First Lake from the trail above.

First Rock Lake (with rocks).

Big Thunder Mountain.

  • Should have spent more time fishing at September Morn.
  • Not having a working watch is hard.
  • Had serious line problems, but was able to salvage enough to jam knot a couple strands together for fishing up at September Morn.
  • Then lost most of the rest of my line hiking back from First Lake and, thus, was out of the game.
  • There was a nice fishing hole for nine-inch cutts at the bottom of a cascade between First Rock and Keyser Brown. I thought someone should know.

bkd

PS, More SEO fodder in the title. Sorries.

Beartooths: Lake Fork Trail Hike and Fishing (Day 1)

Mal sehen how that title works out for the SEO.

Originally planned to hike up to Black Canyon Lake and probably to Sundance Pass, camping, I dunno, somewhere. After about a mile of hiking, I realized that I’d just spent seven days at sea level and was now at 8,000 feet and climbing. Objectives were toned down accordingly.

The Lake Fork of Rock Creek.
Teeth of bear.
Broadwater “Lake”; the fishing guidebook says there are fish in here, but I saw none.
Called “Thunder Mountain”, although there were no trains, no dinosaur bones, and no bobble-headed turtles (as far as I saw).
Smoky Sunset on Keyser Brown Lake.
  • So ended up camping at Keyser Brown Lake — about seven miles from the trailhead and 1,500 feet of elevation gain (I think the lake is at a little over 8,000 feet).
  • Just about passed out trying to get my tent set up.
  • Took about 45 minutes trying to get my food appropriately hung.
  • Trail follows the river most of the way, although there are some miles where there are trees that get in the way of seeing the river.
  • Some dude coming down the trail said he saw a grizzly, but I’ve pretty much determined that grizzlies are merely legendary like, z.B., Sasquatch.
  • There was one other dude camping near the lake. He was from Minnesota and so, naturally, he helped me get my rain fly on tighter than it was. I told him he was only reaffirming the stereotype.
  • Mountain House lasagna is good, but it’s hard to get all the cheese off your fork.
  • The good campsites are all on the back side of the lake.
Fished a little bit here. Keyser Brown has a ton of five-inch brook trout in it, so if you’re into that kind of thing, you know, here you go. There’s also a weather thing in the area where every day (apparently) it’s nice all morning and early afternoon, then clouds begin rolling in around 2, then it rains lightly off and on until the next morning, sometimes with wind and thunder and lightning. Never rains hard enough to get anything too wet, though. So it’s got that going for it.
bkd

Mt. Robson and the Berg Lake Trail

I’m just gonna throw a bunch of photos up. Two nights, two days essentially. Park up in British Columbia, borders Jasper; Mt. Robson is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies iirc. Iffy weather. Photos.

Highway 16 running through Mt. Robson Provincial Park (Fraser River at left).

The goat welcomes, the clouds warn.

You can ride your bike for the first 3.5 miles -- but no further.

Bridge over Robson River near Kinney Lake in-flow.

Disappointingly stable.

Lunch-time view from the shelter at the Whitehorn campground.

Whitehorn Mountain and the Robson River: the money shot.

Same place, other money shot.

Photo of the Falls of the Pool

View from the Emperor Falls campground.

Berg Lake and Berg Glacier from the trail up Toboggan Falls.

Mt. Robson and Mist Glacier and clouds.

 

Outflow from Berg Lake.

 

It's sort of like the waterfall is dreaming of the mountain. It used to live there after all.

The bottom of the steep part.

The river below Kinney Lake.

Enough.

  • Camped first night at Whitehorn, second night at Emperor Falls.
  • There are a lot of people backpacking in this area. Many are friendly. It’s supposedly the most popular back country trail in all of Canada.
  • It was way less crowded than Banff/Jasper.
  • Very nice, very well-maintained camp sites — there are pads with bark and benches and stuff.
  • Have to make reservations a month or so in advance.
  • Took my point-and-shoot camera, which doesn’t do well with bad lighting; i.e., it’s prettier than these pics make it look.
  • On second day hiked up to Emperor Falls, set up camp, walked down to Lake… eh, I forget. Some lake on the Jasper side of the line. Then hiked up Toboggan Falls (probably worth it), then went back to camp and played solitaire.
  • Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki is pretty good.
  • The two miles between Whitehorn and Emperor Falls is the steep part, but you pass by three big waterfalls, which sort of breaks up the horror.
  • The first three miles (to Kinney Lake) is a tourist hike. I saw a Mennonite family biking up to the lake (the women were wearing dresses, it was sort of cool).
  • I think the weather there is usually iffy.
  • I don’t like breakfast.
  • A&W in Canada (the restaurant) is awesome. Just really, really awesome. No joke.

bkd

Mt. Edith Cavell Is Sort of a Hike On Which You Can Go

Or I went on a hike at least. The hike is to Cavell Meadows and is in Jasper National Park and pretty well encapsulates why hiking in Banff and Jasper is kind of counter-productive. To wit: (1) there are a lot of people on it; (2) it’s very steep; (3) it offers the same view for its entire length; and (4) the view gets less interesting the higher you get.

It’s not the mountain’s fault. Or the glacier’s or the marmots’. I mean not as such.

Mt. Edith Cavell waits to swallow the unwary.

The lower part of the trail looks like this.

The One View.

That photo was basically the peak in terms of photography (lighting aside). The peak in terms of topography came two hours, five miles, and 3,000 feet later.

The view from (near) the top.

So I was walking back down and there was this family stopped on the trail ahead of me and the guy gives me the *shh* sign, so I sneak in quietly expecting to see a moose, bear, big horn, or cougar, only to find out at the family has been paralyzed by a small rodent. "Is that a marmot?" the guy whispers to me. Yes, sir, that is a marmot.

Back at the bottom, a great view of a pond with ice bergs.

And then I went back to my campsite and watched TV on my iPod for two and a half hours.

bkd

Twin Falls Hike in Yoho National Park

This was a hike on which I went. FWIW, it was the most worthwhile day hike I went on in the greater Banff-Jasper area (although it’s in Yoho NP, a little ways west of Lake Louise). Cool hike, a solid A-minus, etc. I guess this post is a review now.

Hike starts at Takakkaw Falls, then heads up the Yoho Valley along the Yoho River for which the Yoho National Park was Yoho named. I just hiked up to Twin Falls and then came back via Marpole Lake, so it was sort of a lollipop hike and about 10 miles. (Supposedly making the hike longer by taking in part of the Iceline Trail and/or heading up Little Yoho Valley is also worthwhile, although I’m distrustful of recommendations regarding hikes anywhere near Banff/Jasper, especially when they add 2,500′ in elevation.) My hike goes up the river, passes a couple of small waterfalls, then passes the bigger Laughing Falls, then continues up-river until you get to Twin Falls, then comes back down via Marpole Lake. Ten miles round-trip and iirc 2,000′ or so of elevation gain.

Here are pictures:

Yoho River near the trailhead somewhere.

Falls, laughing.

Shadows on the Yoho.

I used to live in Twin Falls, Idaho, but those looked different from these.

Evidence that I was there and that my hair was messed up.

Same falls, more down-river.

Marpole Lake.

A wild marmot.

Takakkaw Falls = back to the start.

I dunno. It was nice. There’s a lodge at the falls where you can I guess stay the night or get tea or lunch. I’ll have to do that one time somewhere.

Okay.

bkd

Crypt Lake Hike: A Study in Group Dynamics (and Fear)

I didn’t actually study group dynamics while on the hike, but it sure lends itself to some theorizing. Crypt Lake, then. This is sort of THE HIKE at Waterton Lakes. It’s the Half Dome of the place. I suppose you don’t *have to* do it, but then again you don’t *have to* hike Half Dome either. I think they’re analogous.

One way in which they are *not* analogous, however, is that the Crypt Lake hike trailhead can only be accessed by taking a boat over from the Waterton Townsite harbor. The boat runs twice in the morning, then picks people up again in the evening. Thus the group dynamic: when you get to the trailhead, there are 50 or so people arriving at the same time and, thus, starting their hike at the same time. And when they do, it looks like this:

And the dude right in front of me had those stupid "bear bells" attached to his walking sticks. And he flailed a lot.

Speaking of bear bells, the first mate on the ship advised hikers against using them since bears do not associate bell sounds with danger, instead associating them with the bottom of the food chain. To little avail.

Everyone hikes together in a line. It’s like the Grand Prix of Monaco. Whoever starts out in front is going to stay there because the trail is too narrow to pass ever. And no one is going to move over to let you by since you’re all on the same lap. Exactly like Monaco. Anyway — enough crowd dynamics. Suffice it to say that you never walk alone (on this hike).

Some other details:

  • It’s an out-and-back.
  • 11 miles round-trip.
  • 2,500′ (iirc) elevation gain, although I think that’s a simple high point-to-low point measure.
  • The sun is always in the wrong place. This is probably endemic to being on the east side of the Rockies.
  • There aren’t any water sources until you get to the lake on top.

Also, if you don’t have your hiking legs, your altitude lungs, or your foot callouses, it’s a pretty solid warm-up hike.

Photos:

Twin Falls -- and, no, I don't know where the other one is either.

This is the valley (canyon?) you hike up.

As the woman in front of me in line said, "maybe you can Photoshop it".

Then, once you get past there, the trail gets “interesting”, as (maybe) shown in the following photograph:

Note: Photo not taken for its aesthetic value.

You might have to click on that one a couple times to see the people there on that ledge/trail. If you get it zoomed in (click on the photo, then click on the photo again on the resulting page), you’ll also notice that the trail appears to dead end. But it does not!

And: 5 miles from the trailhead and we're still bumper-to-bumper.

So there’s kind of that hole at the end, right?

This is what the valley (canyon?) looks like from the ledge, btw.

Anyway, then, there’s a ladder that gets you up into the tunnel.

As evidenced by this photo.

But then, the tunnel’s not quite as big as it looks.

It gets tighter from there. Kind of like that one ride they had at Disneyland in the 70s.

View from the end of the tunnel.

And then when you get out of the tunnel, there’s *this* ledge:

This is the less-hairy part. I wasn't taking photos during the portion where I was holding onto the cable with both hands and dangling my feet over the abyss.

Seriously. Although, to be fair, it wasn’t bad going up. Coming back down, though, when you can’t look at where you’re stepping without also seeing how far you’re going to fall if you miss your step, is somewhat more fear-inducing.

Oh wait, here’s another view:

It's a long ways down.

And I’m kind of an acrophobe. Like, my palms used to sweat when I’d play Marble Madness on the XBox. Anyhoo:

Another mile, another waterfall. That's not Crypt Lake at right, btw.

*This* is Crypt Lake:

Which basically looks like other lakes that you can drive to.

It’s a little anti-climactic is all. And then you hike down the way you came. At the tunnel, you meet the people who came in the later boat. It’s awkward. Much dangling. And eventually the boat picks you up and takes you back to civilization. Everyone rides back together.

bkd

PS, The bottom 2.5 miles of this hike (each way, = 5 miles total) really suck due to tree prison issues. It’s an amazing set-up whereby the trees manage to block your view, but don’t block the sun. Stupid trees.