Stuff from 2013 about Which I Never Posted

2013 wasn’t much of a blogging year. Trying to make up for it I guess. Or, just, I’m going through my all-day allergy shot desensitization process and what else am I going to do? Besides research, I mean. Always research.

Posted a bunch of stuff about the ski trip to Tahoe in March already. Don’t think this one made it in, though.

As good a through-the-windshield photo as I took last year.

As good a through-the-windshield photo as I took last year.

In May, my brother and his wife came and visited with their daughter. I always feel weird about posting photos of other people on the blog (without their permission or their having done something stupid to deserve it), but I guess that doesn’t apply to people under three.

My niece, not impressed by Heinz Chapel.

My niece, not impressed by Heinz Chapel.

Or by the Monongahela.

Or by the Monongahela.

It was cool. More people should visit Pittsburgh. It’s underappreciated.

Some time in July I went to a symposium in Boston where I was the discussant for a hardcore economics modeling paper written by people of whom I’d heard. It rained most of the time and I didn’t take a lot of photos.

A photo of Boston that I took.

A photo of Boston that I took.

On the way back, I stopped off at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and took a short tourist hike to see a waterfall.

Dingman's Falls in the Delaware Water Gap NRA.

Dingman’s Falls in the Delaware Water Gap NRA.

So when you go there, there’s a main viewing platform at the base of the falls. On that platform, there is one prime corner that is the closest corner to the falls itself and the only place that affords a full view of the falls without full view of a bunch of other co-tourists.

So, of course, this delusional amateur has set up permanent residence in The One Corner.

So, of course, this obviously very important guy has set up permanent residence in The One Corner.

I’m sure his stunning photo of this walk-up waterfall is going to motivate gallery audiences to tears. Totally worth preventing anyone else from experiencing The Corner. Plus he’s got a vest on, so you know he must be a professional high amateur guy who wears vests. (He was camped out there for the entire half hour or so I was at and around the site.)

On the rest of the way home, I went to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Here’s evidence:

It's unprepossessing.

It’s unprepossessing.

Not sure what I expected. More than this, obviously. That said, I’m not sure what else they can do with the scene of an air catastrophe. Flaming wreckage? Would have been nice. They actually do a good job of keeping things factual in their displays, rather than appealing to baser emotions. Still, there’s just not a lot to experience here that you can’t get from reading the Wikipedia article or watching the movie.

I also went down to Beckley, W.V. in September. I used my other camera for these. I still think I might write a whole post about the experience, but in case I don’t:

New River Gorge Bridge, with Clouds

New River Gorge Bridge, with Clouds

It used to be the highest bridge of some sort, but it isn’t any more. I was not there for Bridge Day either.

Then in November, after two months of appointments and waiting for appointments, I got tested for allergies.

Allergy TestTurns out I’m allergic to dust. I’d been trying to tell them I was allergic to dust, but thanks to this test, they agreed. The two dust mite pricks were itching after about 30 seconds, but it took the medical staff another 20 minutes to accept this particular reality.

Finally, one more picture from Milan that didn’t make it into the other article (and the story that goes with it!):

Always set to 25.

Always set to 25.

Every day, I’d come back to my hotel room in the evening and find that housekeeping had re-set the thermostat to 25 (about 77° Fahrenheit) at which point, every day, I’d turn it back down to 20 (68°). They never got the hint. Or, I guess, *I* never got the hint.

And then it became 2014.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

Maui: Welcome to Compromise Island

I suppose the headline is unfair-ish. Just that:

  • If you want adventure, Kauai is way better.
  • If you want shopping and restaurants in a tropical setting, Waikiki/O’ahu is way better.
  • If you want volcanoes, the Big Island is better (I’m assuming).

But if you want B-versions of the above all in one place, well, that’s Maui I think. IMHO of course. At which point I release a big photo dump and hope for the best.

Kahakuloa Church

The church in Kahakuloa.

Blowhole Trail

This is the place where they tell you to respect the a'ina, although they don't really explain how you do that exactly.

Sailboat and Lava

Some sailboat as seen from the trail that takes you to the blowhole that does not blow (when I'm there).

Olivine Pools -- you swim in 'em!

Rental car's a-comin'!

This is what my parents look like.

Waymarker on a beach near the La Perouse light station.

Kings Highway End Beach

End of Kings Highway

Waianapanapa Beach

Waianapanapa Beach, which has black sand.

Venus Pool, which ended up being too shallow to reasonably access from the trail that day.

The beach at the bottom of the "Sacred Pools" (that didn't seem all that sacred without much water in them).

Just FYI, if there hasn't been much rain on Maui, most of the waterfalls kind of suck. This was as good as there was anywhere on the Hana side.

hana highway past hana

The Hana Highway if you take it past Hana (note: it's not a dirt road).

dragons teeth maui

The dragon's teeth. Which dragon? Difficult to say.

lahaina prison

The Lahaina Prison -- they named a road after it (in Lahaina; it's called "Prison Road").

Worthwhile photo captions seem so last-vacation.

Also went on the Pipiwai Trail up to the big ol’ waterfalls, which were barely trickling. I’m guessing that 90-percent of the time, this hike is by far the best one on Maui. It has variation in foliage (including a bamboo forest), is relatively short, has several highlights along the way (waterfalls and pools unless there’s no water) and has a massive waterfall at the end (unless there’s no water). Anyway.

I’m tired and don’t remember much from this vacation. A shame, yes.

bkd