Mills Lake Hike and Rocky Mountain National Park

This happened a long time ago. Before I did my dissertation defense. Before my niece even got married. A long time ago.

Rocky Mountain National Park is a National Park located in Denver. There are a ton of people since in Denver (fine, “in Denver”, where “in” means less than 90 minutes away). The Mills Lake Hike was one I found out about online. It was pretty good. Get to the trailhead early to ensure parking and that the way up the trailer won’t be in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I stayed at some campground just outside the park. It cost $26 because it’s in Denver.

Here’s the payoff from the hike:

Mills Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

Nice, right? I think it’s probably the highlight of the whole park.

On this photo, I think the horse’s head should be crossed out:

No Horses Sign

And somewhere along the way you see this:

Alberta Falls at RMNP

I think it’s called Alberta Falls. There’s no better angle without a helicopter and wires. Sorry. They should have angled the waterfall differently, I agree.

I actually remember thinking it was a great hike three of four weeks ago or whenever it was I actually did itt. I’m just a little jaded right now since I’ve been outside for the last week and seen a lot of mountains and lakes. Tomorrow I will see more mountains and lakes. We’ll see how disappointing they are. Here’s another photo of Mills Lake sort of with some mountains behind:

DSC_3914.NEF

There was an ice field you had to walk across close to the lake. I got to the parking lot by like 8:30 or so. No problem finding parking and not too crowded on the way up. On the way down, all of Denver was on its way up. And most of Denver is part of one of a variety of youth groups. Then some dude commented on my hat so he could get to his punchline about how dumb it is for Under Armour to make pink camouflage underwear for girls.

After the hike, I drove through the rest of the park. Given that it’s located in a major metropolitan area, the drive over the crest of the park (parks have crests now) was conducted in heavy midday traffic and looked like this:

The top of RMNP

Vorwärts. Immer vorwärts nur.

bkd

 

Snow on Snoqualmie and Mt. Rainier (and Mt. Adams I Guess)

One good thing about being a student is that you get a holiday break and you can take it for granted and no one’s gonna think you’re ungrateful. Except I was still working on my one paper, but whatever. By the time I turned the paper in, the weather was sunny, cold, and clear, so I took some pictures and stuff.

From Snoqualmie Pass (my dad and I went skiing there New Year’s Eve; I’d never been there before when the skies were clear AND the snow was decent):

My dad’s lift ticket cost $12. Mine was somewhat more than that.

Drove up to Mt. Rainier. The Guardians of the Nanny State wouldn’t let us past Longmire without chains in the Jeep (not on, just *in*), but the area from the Park Entrance to Longmire was pretty nice.

Then because it got mentioned in the title, here’s Mt. Adams (from Hwy 12):

I guess that’s it.

bkd

Snow on the Hoodoos: The Bryce Canyon Story

When I was at the Capitol Reef visitor center last November, apparently some sort of 2010 Southern Utah calendar had come out and one of the rangers had just gotten ahold of one. Speaking to the woman running the bookstore, she said, “Why do they always show Bryce for their winter pictures? The other parks look good in winter too! But I guess not as good as Bryce.”

It’s spring now, but anyway:

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Haleakala: Sunrise, Summit, and Sliding Sands

I figured no one had ever been to see the sunrise at Haleakala before, so I better do it and take photos. Certainly no one has ever taken photos of it before. Woke up: 3 AM. Left Kahana: 3:10 AM. Arrived at summit: 4:55 AM. Realized I should’ve slept another hour: 4:55 AM also. Nah, earlier. Probably more like 3:45 AM is when I realized it.

It’s cool that they close the pre-dawn gate once they’ve allowed enough cars into the park to fill the parking lots. Wind: strong. Dressed: warm. Slept in car while waiting in the parking lot: maybe half an hour. Sky started glowing: 6:10. Looked like:

Haleakala Summit before sunrise with Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

This. It's Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (the Big Island) in the distance. Well, stars also in the distance. The implied sun is also distant.

Photos taken: 450 or something like that. For the entire day, not just the sunrise. Entire photo-day: spent at Haleakala.

I’m not a connoisseur of sunrises, so I don’t really know why this one is special, or if the particular one I saw was, in fact, special. It’s interesting to note, though, that the sky starts glowing 45 minutes before the sun actually crests the horizon.

haleakala sunrise

The sun, actually cresting the horizon.

To the naked eye, it was already broad daylight, though, no matter how that photo looks (I have some much darker ones taken much later — heck, I can take an under-exposed photo *any* time of day; it’s a talent I have).

Sunrise at Haleakala Summit in January

The sun: exposed.

I don’t know much about sunrises, but watching it at Haleakala brought me to a stark, sudden realization: the sun is one big ol’ bright, fiery round thing. Seriously.

Haleakala road at sunrise

Should've just uploaded this one and not the previous one. Oh well.

They also have an observatory at the summit that looks like it’d be a cool place to work. And windy! I didn’t see anyone working there, though.

haleakala summit observatory

No one.

Once the sun got finished rising and I walked around the summit a little (there were pink clouds, and a few rocks and ridges), I headed down to the visitors’ center and the crater to go hike along the Sliding Sands trail. It’s the trail that the now too-famous Maui Revealed guidebook says is The One Trail on Maui. Like, if you only hike one trail, it should be this one.

Sliding Sands Trail

The top part of the trail.

Silver Sword

Silver sword plants along the trail -- none in bloom.

Ka Luu o ka Oo Trail

I hiked to that place out there where the trail ends, Ka Luu o ka Oo. I think.

Haleakala Crater Lava Flows

The bottom of the non-crater crater.

Haleakala Crater

The crater within the crater.

horseback riding at haleakala

Scourges of the park trails.

colored sands at haleakala

*Swirling* Sands is more like it! (Har!)

Haleakala Crater Ledge

Seriously: if you could get a big river flowing off of that ledge? Dang near perfect. Alas.

Evidence that I was there.

  • It’s like walking on Mars (I imagine).
  • Except with oxygen and reasonable temperatures.
  • It’s also sort of like being at Death Valley.
  • Only it’s in Hawaii.
  • It’s kind of a tourist hike, although the more of a tourist you are, the sooner you turn around.
  • I also wish there were a rain forest at the bottom of the crater. I’m hoping to get final edit on all future terraforming activities.

Pretty scenery, so long as you like rocks (and sand). I ended up hiking maybe five or six miles total. Thing about the hike is: the best views are at the top. So the further down the crater you go, the more repetitive it becomes and the more you’re going to have to hike back up. It was pretty and, especially for what I’m used to seeing in Hawaii, unusual. But it seemed like the more effort you exerted, the less you got back from it. Diminishing returns is what they call that.

Done typing,

bkd

Elwha Valley, Humes Ranch Loop, and Goblins Gate (A Six-Mile Hike)

It may have been less than six miles. Part of the route was washed out. I think. It was hard to tell. There were signs, there were counter-signs. Anything was possible and therefore nothing mattered.

It’s inside Olympic National Park, in the Elwha Valley area-thing.

Here’s the picture that I’ve decided I want to have show up at the top of the homepage (until I post another article at which point it will be replaced by that article’s picture):

Goblins Gate - Elwha River

You can almost *smell* the goblin!

Right, so that’s the Goblins Gate. Or Goblin Gate or Goblin’s Gate. I’m guessing the Parks Service doesn’t really know either, so I’m not gonna worry about it. Point being, it’s the best part of the hike and the only real Sehenswürdigkeit there. IMHO. Basically there’s this river and then it makes a sudden right turn and immediately after making this right turn, it has to go through this narrow part where the goblin is. But about half the river misses the turn altogether and has to seethe in fury, churning anti-clockwise in desperate agony just because it ended up in the wrong lane a half-mile back and there weren’t any signs saying that it was going to have to make a right turn eventually.

It’s like driving on the east coast.

Here’s a picture of the seething. It may not look angry, but, trust me, if you could *see* the undercurrents here…

Elwha River at Goblins Gate

It's like trying to get out of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.

So the part on the top of the photo is the raging vortex.The main river is coming from the left. That little stream pouring into the vortex is just a little stream that pours into the vortex. It’s not a good photo.

Here’s another picture of the gate, which I liked, and in particular a rock that makes up the gate, which I liked.

A rock at Goblins Gate on the Humes Ranch Loop Hike

Already pictured.

Other than that, though, the hike was like a well-written eulogy: gloomy but coherent.

There are trees and moss and clouds. It’s dark. In most places, yes, I’d call it a tree prison. Here are some trees with moss.

Humes Ranch Trail

But mostly the hike's not this pretty.

Just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression there. Mostly there are trees on either side of you and nothing to see but trees. When you’re down on the river, all there is is a river and then some mountains covered in clouds.

I suppose it might look different with better weather.

When I got off this trail, I decided to go down the nearby Mills Lake access trail. The lake will disappear soon as it was created by a dam that’s getting busted in the near future, though probably not by Lancaster bombers. The parks service isn’t that cool. The hike down to the lake was short but strenuous (read: steep). At the bottom, you mostly saw a river (the lake is further down as it turns out) and mountains covered in clouds.

There’s also this little fellow:

Waterfall at mills lake.

It's 15 feet tall!

IMHO: the only remarkable thing about this waterfall is that you have to walk through a knee-deep creek to get to it. The water there is cold in the winter. It had probably been snow a couple hours before I stood in it. I probably should have taken a photo of me standing in it. Battery was low though. Barely even got this shot off. And now you get all the benefit of being there without the hassle of having to later chip ice off your boots just so you can get your feet out.

And then I left there and ate at Wendys in Port Angeles on the way home. Am still amazed that you have to pay $4 to get over the stupid new Narrows bridge. Man. Seems like renting a private helicopter to airlift you over the Sound would be about the same price and, if you scheduled it in advance, potentially more convenient.

Nice to get outside though.

bkd

The Indistinct Redwood National Park and a Bunch of Other Indistinct Little Parks

So after the coast, the trees. Y’know, on my cross-country road trip, during which I visited a bunch of parks, it came to my attention that not every national park is like the national parks in Washington state. The parks in Washington state make sense to me. They’re big, there’s a lot to do there, they have visitor’s centers, they’re where the important topographical features are, and when you’re in the park, you’re in the park. Some of the other parks violate these guidelines.

Redwoods, for instance — well mostly you just never know if you’re in the park or not. Many of the most “important” trees are in state parks that adjoin the national park for some reason. I dunno. There’s a reason: people got worried about the ability to protect redwood forests, some of which were already part of state parks, and so lobbied a then-friendly federal government into buying up a bunch of random plots of land (so ungefähr).

Plus it’s just trees.

highway 101 near redwoods national park

No redwoods are actually included in this picture.

redwood trees in california

These trees' souls have now been stolen.

avenue of the giants -- redwood trees in california

"Avenue of the Giants", which I don't think ever passes into land that's technically part of the national park.

They don’t charge to enter the national park, either, which on the one hand seems appropriate since I’m not sure anyone ever *does* enter the park, but on the other hand they charge for all the parks in Washington state, which is where the *correct* national parks are located. Or something.

fallen redwood tree

It's sort of easier to appreciate how tall the trees are when they're lying down.

Up to 300 feet is how tall they are, tallest living things in the world. They’re not the biggest in volume, though (the sequoias are). ‘Course, they’re a little more normal-looking than the sequoias. Not that there’s anything not-wrong with that.

Oh, and:

california camping fees

In case you didn’t quite catch that, that’s $35 that the State of California is trying to charge for a night of camping. Surprisingly, the campground was empty.

bkd

National Parks List — Mostly Visited

Posted this list originally here. Now updating!

I no longer think that I necessarily need to see every single US National Park before I die. The hamburger list has left me a changed man. OTOH, I’m pretty interested in going to Samoa now, so, you know. Things change. Alpha by park and I bolded the ones I visited while on the recent cross-country road trip:

  1. Acadia: visited on road trip.
  2. American Samoa National Park: not visited.
  3. Arches: visited! A few times, back in Utah days. Very pretty. I like Canyonlands better, though. There can be only one.
  4. Badlands: not visited.
  5. Big Bend: visited on road trip.
  6. Biscayne: not visited.
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison: not visited.
  8. Bryce Canyon: visited! Very photogenic and pretty small for a western-US park.
  9. Canyonlands: visited! Way prettier than I expected and seemingly less crowded than the other Southern Utah parks.
  10. Capital Capitol Reef: visited on road trip.
  11. Carlsbad Caverns: visited on road trip.
  12. Channel Islands: not visited.
  13. Congaree: visited on road trip.
  14. Crater Lake: visited on road trip.
  15. Cuyahoga: I sort of drove through it. Half credit?
  16. Death Valley: visited! Went last November and took photos. I didn’t think it was so amazing when I was there, but some of those pictures make it look dang pretty.
  17. Denali: not visited.
  18. Dry Tortugas: not visited.
  19. Everglades: not visited.
  20. Gates of the Arctic: not visited.
  21. Glacier: visited on road trip.
  22. Glacier Bay: not visited.
  23. Grand Canyon: visited! And I’ve always meant to go back to hike and see what there is to see on the northern rim. Some day, some day. For that matter, some day I’m going to buy a scanner and scan all my conventional photos from pre-digital days. Just not today.
  24. Grand Teton: visited! Another one I should probably go back to in order to actually explore. The family reunion we had there didn’t involve much of the park. (Visited again on the road trip, fwiw.)
  25. Great Basin: not visited.
  26. Great Sand Dunes: not visited. (Seriously? “Great” Sand Dunes…? I should probably visit just to confirm/refute my skepticism.)
  27. Great Smoky Mountains: visited on road trip.
  28. Guadalupe Mountains: visited on road trip.
  29. Haleakala: not visited. Next Hawaii trip though. Maybe.
  30. Hawaii Volcanoes: not visited. February! (Hopefully.)
  31. Hot Springs: drove through it on road trip and, since that’s about all there is to do there other than getting naked and bathing, I’m counting it. I ate lunch there.
  32. Isle Royale: not visited.
  33. Joshua Tree: visited! Was interesting enough the first time, but the second time, well — I kind of figure that my second trip to Mars will also reveal the destination to be a desolate, ultimately uninteresting landscape.
  34. Katmai: not visited.
  35. Kenai Fjords: not visited.
  36. Kings Canyon: visited! (So they are separate parks!)
  37. Kobuk Valley: not visited.
  38. Lake Clark: not visited. Is there any part of Alaska that’s not a national park? And I sort of get the sense that they have all these parks because there was no one who wanted to live there anyway.
  39. Lassen Volcanic: visited on road trip.
  40. Mammoth Cave: visited on road trip.
  41. Mesa Verde: visited! I remember being hot and very, very sleepy — but a fun trip with Fresh Goat and ErinJ and at least one of the goatlings. I think JA was on that trip too.
  42. Mt. Rainier: visited! Many times, but most recently evidenced here. Also visited on road trip.
  43. North Cascades: visited!
  44. Olympic: visited! Some day I want to go when it isn’t fogged over, though. And I should probably go to the beach and rain forest side of it one of these days. Re-visited on road trip.
  45. Petrified Forest: not visited.
  46. Redwood: not visited. Probably this weekend though.
  47. Rocky Mountain: not visited.
  48. Saguaro: not visited. I don’t think — although this photo was taken really, really close to the park entrance.
  49. Sequoia: visited! Big treesBig trees.
  50. Shenandoah: visited on road trip.
  51. Theodore Roosevelt: visited on road trip.
  52. Virgin Islands: not visited.
  53. Voyageurs: not visited.
  54. Wind Cave: visited on road trip (again, just drove through it, but I saw caves in the area, looked at *more* bison in the park — I’m counting it).
  55. Wrangell-St. Elias: not visited.
  56. Yellowstone: visited! I was a kid, though, so mostly I remember the smell of sulfur and a geyser. Visited again on road trip.
  57. Yosemite: visited on road trip.
  58. Zion: visited! And the Virgin River Narrows was the best hike ever.

Okay, so: barely mostly (31 1/2 of 58). Still technically correct.

bkd

National Parks List — Mostly Unvisited

So yeah, I sort of have this idea that I should see every US National Park before I die. Although I’m not sure I should have to count the one in American Samoa. I got a long way to go (alpha by park):

  1. Acadia: not visited.
  2. American Samoa National Park: not visited.
  3. Arches: visited! A few times, back in Utah days. Very pretty. I like Canyonlands better, though. There can be only one.
  4. Badlands: not visited.
  5. Big Bend: not visited.
  6. Biscayne: not visited.
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison: not visited.
  8. Bryce Canyon: visited! Very photogenic and pretty small for a western-US park.
  9. Canyonlands: visited! Way prettier than I expected and seemingly less crowded than the other Southern Utah parks.
  10. Capital Reef: not visited.
  11. Carlsbad Caverns: not visited.
  12. Channel Islands: not visited.
  13. Congaree: not visited.
  14. Crater Lake: not visited.
  15. Cuyahoga: not visited.
  16. Death Valley: visited! Went last November and took photos. Y’know, I didn’t think it was all that amazing when I was there, but some of those pictures make it look dang pretty.
  17. Denali: not visited.
  18. Dry Tortugas: not visited.
  19. Everglades: not visited.
  20. Gates of the Arctic: not visited.
  21. Glacier: not visited.
  22. Glacier Bay: not visited.
  23. Grand Canyon: visited! And I’ve always meant to go back to hike and see what there is to see on the northern rim. Some day, some day. For that matter, some day I’m going to buy a scanner and scan all my conventional photos from pre-digital days. Just not today.
  24. Grand Teton: visited! Another one I should probably go back to in order to actually explore. The family reunion we had there didn’t involve much of the park.
  25. Great Basin: not visited.
  26. Great Sand Dunes: not visited. (Seriously? “Great” Sand Dunes…? I should probably visit just to confirm/refute my skepticism.)
  27. Great Smoky Mountains: not visited.
  28. Guadalupe Mountains: not visited.
  29. Haleakala: not visited. Next Hawaii trip though. Maybe.
  30. Hawaii Volcanoes: not visited. Ibid.
  31. Hot Springs: not visited.
  32. Isle Royale: not visited.
  33. Joshua Tree: visited! Was interesting enough the first time, but the second time, well — I kind of figure that my second trip to Mars will also reveal the destination to be a desolate, ultimately uninteresting landscape.
  34. Katmai: not visited.
  35. Kenai Fjords: not visited.
  36. Kings Canyon: visited! (So they are separate parks!)
  37. Kobuk Valley: not visited.
  38. Lake Clark: not visited. Is there any part of Alaska that’s not a national park? And I sort of get the sense that they have all these parks because there was no one who wanted to live there anyway.
  39. Lassen Volcanic: not visited.
  40. Mammoth Cave: not visited.
  41. Mesa Verde: visited! I remember being hot and very, very sleepy — but a fun trip with Fresh Goat and ErinJ and at least one of the goatlings. I think JA was on that trip too.
  42. Mt. Rainier: visited! Many times, but most recently evidenced here.
  43. North Cascades: visited!
  44. Olympic: visited! Some day I want to go when it isn’t fogged over, though. And I should probably go to the beach and rain forest side of it one of these days.
  45. Petrified Forest: not visited.
  46. Redwood: not visited.
  47. Rocky Mountain: not visited.
  48. Saguaro: not visited. I don’t think — although this photo was taken really, really close to the park entrance.
  49. Sequoia: visited! Big trees. Big trees.
  50. Shenandoah: not visited.
  51. Theodore Roosevelt: not visited.
  52. Virgin Islands: not visited.
  53. Voyageurs: not visited.
  54. Wind Cave: not visited.
  55. Wrangell-St. Elias: not visited.
  56. Yellowstone: visited! I was a kid, though, so mostly I remember the smell of sulfur and a geyser.
  57. Yosemite: not visited.
  58. Zion: visited! And the Virgin River Narrows was the best hike ever.

If I ever get around to the 48-state trip, I should be able to knock a bunch of these off the list. And then I’ll have to do that driving trip up to and through Alaska. Then I can die. I mean, eventually.

bkd

Trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park(s?)

They refer to each separately, but only give you one map, thus obfuscating the truth, which is their way.

Went to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park or Parks over the weekend — left Thursday, came back Saturday. Camped for a couple nights. Hiked a little bit, took pictures of trees (see previous post), drove in concentric, ever-widening circles, wore rain pants in anger, used the new generator, and failed to strike up a conversation with a deaf girl from New Hampshire (based on her license plate).

Some photos, not so much of trees this time:

 Marble Falls Trail through Deep Canyon

Note rain gear — the pants were more effective than the jacket. The Marble Fork is the riverlet down below — the falls up above there were cool and flowed over marble, but they were hard to photograph in a way that makes them look appropriately cool. This hike is at lower elevation, so: no snow, no trees.

 My truck in the Grant Grove parking lot, getting snowed on.

Higher elevation, thus: snow, trees. I’m happy for my truck when it gets to do real truck things, like drive in the snow.

 Dinner at Rainy Potwisha Campground

Sure it was too wet to sit down and sure I was eating off of a frying pan with a pocket knife and a spatula, but you have to admit that’s a pretty properly fried medium-rare sirloin.

Potwisha Bear Box

 A bear box at the campsite — sadly, no bears were inside.

 Sequoia National Park Entrance Sign

An Indian head on a sign for a national park named for a Native American of the Iroquois tribe who lived 3,000 miles away from the park, around which is gathered an Indian family, from India, one of whom has just cracked his head open on the black metal arch holding up the sign and is bleeding profusely. 

Good:

  • The last mile of the trail to Marble Falls hike was pretty nice.
  • And I was impressed with myself for taking rain gear in my pack up to the falls since it was really sunny the whole way up. I like impressing myself, although it’s easier to do than it probably should be.
  • I was not responsible for the parks service having to kill any bears (I don’t think).
  • The rural area just to the west of the park (Hwy 180 and Hwy 245) was really pretty with steep green hills and wildflowers — didn’t look anything like California.
  • Slipping around on snow-covered trails to see really big trees is more fun than it probably sounds.
  • Successfully tested my power inverter and generator.
  • The steak was good.
  • I found chocolate Charleston Chews and Full Throttle Fury at the Christian camp general store at Hume Lake.

Bad:

  • The first 2.5 miles of the trail to Marble Falls was full of the same scrubby chaparral that we have in Orange County and that makes me never want to hike here.
  • The Potwisha Campground that I stayed at lacked charm. And the neighbors’ kids lacked boundaries.
  • What with the snow and all, most of the A-grade hiking trails were inaccessible.
  • $18 a night for camping just seems steep to me, especially when you have to spend all your time there worrying about whether or not you’ve hidden all your food from the bears.

The bear boxes are kind of a downer. So long as you’re obeying the rules, you can’t really do stuff like take food with you into the back of your truck that you may or may not eat before falling asleep, for instance. It really had me ticked off that I was having to go so far out of my way to keep the bears from raiding the campsite until I saw what the bears were doing to keep us out of theirs. Boy, do we owe them bears a big ol’ Thank-You.

Good trip, though. Should go again some time when the snow melts and I can hike up to the lakes and waterfalls.

bkd