I Was Also in Bern

This is going back to the Europe thing. After the conference in Milan, I went up to Bern, Switzerland and had a couple of great days with Thomas and  Christine. The day before we went skiing, we went out sight-seeing in Bern. Here is evidence of the aforementioned.

The Glockenspiel, which looks probably more impressive in this photo than it is in actuality. It does more than nothing, but not by a lot.

The Glockenspiel, which looks probably more impressive in this photo than it is in actuality. It does more than nothing, but not by a lot.

A street. The one with the clock tower on it.

A street. The one with the clock tower on it.

Overview of the city and the Aar river that hems it in.

Overview of the city and the Aar river that hems it in.

  • It was rainy.
  • Pretty city, though.
  • One hears it’s possible to see the Alps from there.
  • Also, just happened to run into Dave and Rahel from Pittsburgh 7th, who were in Basel visiting her parents for the holidays.
  • Had rösti at the restaurant by the bear pit.
  • The bears weren’t viewable, though. Hibernation I guess. Bears.
  • Rösti seems like it should be a breakfast food.
  • Swiss German remains unintelligible.
  • The Zürich airport is super nice.
  • Many things in Switzerland are expensive. A Whopper value meal at the airport, for instance, costs about US$20.

Event now herewith recorded,

bkd

 

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.

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.
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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

Assorted Other Tourist Photos from Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay

Banff and Jasper are the ultimate in drive-up outdoorsmanship. So few reasons to go more than a hundred yards from your car, all packed into a 200-mile highway. It’s brilliant in its way.

Emerald Lake in Yoho NP -- so I shouldn't blame Banff/Jasper for this one.

And this guy was in Kootenay NP -- but still.

And so was this -- but all the rivers look the same there anyway.

 

This is Marble Canyon, but there isn't even any real marble there.

Another interchangeable river view (Bow River, Banff NP).

The mountain peaks are likewise interchangeable.

Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield, the ultimate drive-up glacier experience.

Athabasca Falls, which is mostly covered by a highway overpass.

Maligne Lake + Bad Lighting = Tourist Nirvana.

 

Maligne Canyon and by trying to get as few tourists in the shot as possible I totally missed the story.

And when I finally left Jasper for the last time, heading west into the unknown wilds of Mt. Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, it was with a profound sense of relief.

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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.

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Takakkaw Falls Is a Great Drive-Up Waterfall

I think it’s probably top-five among drive-up waterfalls anyway. I’m thinking Niagara, despite all those hotels on the Canadian side. Multnomah probably is in there. Huka Falls in New Zealand was pretty striking. Snoqualmie. Yosemite. Wailua’s nice. Takakkaw is very, very tall. It may or may not be the tallest waterfall in all of Canada! (Canada being a large country with a lot of waterfalls.) I’m guessing it’s top three probably. I’ll let my vast readership debate which the other two are.

Takakkaw Falls is located in Yoho National Park, which is in British Columbia and adjacent to Banff National Park (in Alberta). It’s kind of surprising how the tourist population decreases by half immediately upon crossing that line.

My pictures do a poor job of conveying the waterfall’s epicness. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it’s taller than Holy Jim Falls.

The falls and the Yoho River.

Note the lack of people in the photo. The glorious, fantastic lack of people.

Same falls, different view.

I probably should have waited around for some different light and bluer skies, but I’m not a very patient photog. If I can call myself a “photog”.

Then I went on a worthwhile hike.

bkd

Banff without Getting Out of the Car

There’s a lot of drive-up scenery in Banff. Conversely, there appears to be next to none that is not drive-up. Here are some pictures of drive-up scenery in Banff.

They have trees and clouds there.

Bow River and assorted mountain peaks from the Bow River Parkway.

Moraine Lake is this color.

Moraine Lake also has trees and clouds.

...And tourists and their cars as far as the eye can see.

My friend Terry once told me about the reporter who was sent to cover the story of the Hindenberg landing. The reporter came back to his editor later that day and explained that there was no story there since the Hindenberg didn’t even land. Point being that if one arrives at Banff (or Jasper) expecting the story to be “getting away from it all in the rugged loneliness of high peaks and natural settings”, one isn’t going to get that story there. Downtown Pittsburgh is lonelier than anywhere worth seeing in Banff in August. Unless the Pens are playing.

Another unexpected story in the Canadian Rockies: the sun is always in the wrong place.

And there's only so much Aperture (bzw. Photoshop) can do.

That last photo is Lake Louise btw. I tried to get money in the ATM at the hotel there, but the ATM told me it couldn’t reach my bank. Coupled with my cell phone not working north of the border, it was times like that when I realized I was in a foreign country. That and when all the signs were half in French.

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Ohiopyle State Park

What adventure! It’s a state park, it’s in “southwestern Pennsylvania”, not real far from Uniontown, real close to Falling Water and some other Frank Lloyd Wright house I’d never heard of — which would basically be all of them other than “Falling Water”, which I’ve only heard of because it’s in all the Pittsburgh tourism collateral. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Ohiopyle is a state park because it has a river (the Youghiogheny), some waterfalls, hiking trails, part of the rails-to-trails bike route from Pgh to DC, and a small “town” whose economy appears based on selling convenience store items and renting bicycles.

I didn’t take a photo of the town. My bad.

Sometimes kayakers go over these. Just not when I’m there.

I dunno. It was kind of pretty and all. I probably should have gone there this last weekend rather than three weeks ago, might have had good leaf color or something. Went on a sort of hike while I was there, which took me to two other waterfalls, but they were mostly dry and therefore unimpressive.

Western Pennsylvania looks like this a lot. It’s not exactly breathtaking, I mean, not like the Sierras or Cascades or Southern Utah or whatever. OTOH, it makes up for quality with sheer volume. I don’t mean that backhandedly. It’s pretty cool that everything is valleys and rivers and lakes and trees here. Tons and tons of valleysriverslakestrees.

Anyway,

bkd

Utah’s Paria Canyon, An Overnighter

Hike started at the Paria Townsite, about 30 miles east of Kanab. The townsite was an actual town until 1900 or so and then was later used as the site for some (purpose-built) sets for a few western movies (of which I’ve only seen The Outlaw Josey Wales). Headed up the Paria River and through the canyon until I got tired and set up camp. Camp looked like:

Pretty area. Nothing really in terms of landmark, must-see stuff, but otoh, I didn’t see anyone else in the canyon/on the river at all over the 16-or-so miles I hiked. Kind of a muddy river. Spent maybe 20-percent of the time actually in the river (max: knee-deep). Was probably a good thing I took poles.

Ended up doing this hike because I didn’t really want to do the “big hike” I’d signed up for (Buckskin Gulch and the *Arizona* Paria). Mostly because four days was going to be too long to be sleeping on the ground and too short to have a good time on a 48-mile slot canyon hike through a river. I’ll do it on purpose some time, take my truck so I can park at one of the Utah-side trailheads, and go in at Wire Pass and out at White House. Some day.

bkd