Monthly Archives: January 2017

Hiking to the Beautiful Larch Plateau at EC Manning Park

I don’t think I will ever be able to say or write enough great things about Manning Park in B.C. and all the views, hiking trails and opportunities for exploring that it provides. Manning Park is one of those destination places that is worth going back to over and over, year after year to see and explore.

And that brings on another great hike in this park along the same trail as Frosty Mountain but doesn’t quite reach the same ending.

The Larch Plateau is a hike done for the vistas and for viewing the alpine larch stands in their magnificent glory.

This hike is best done in September or October when the larches have turned a gorgeous golden colour. It can also be done in a day but I highly recommend overnighting it at the Frosty Mountain Wilderness Campground part way up the mountain. This just makes the hike more enjoyable and leisurely if you have the time. The total trip for this hike is approximately 18 kilometers.

Start your hike from the day use area at Lightning Lake near the far east end of the lake. The start of the trail is made of narrow switchbacks that are fairly steep for the first few kilometers. As you are hiking you will notice the meadows begin and it doesn’t take long before you reach the first point where the views of both Lightning and Flash Lakes are clearly visible. The surrounding mountains provide an amazing view worth stopping to admire.

Heading up the trail you will see an abundance of wild flowers including red columbines, yellow arnica and beautiful blue lupines. The trail almost appears to be cut in the middle of the subalpine meadows.

As you pass through the Wilderness Campsite area which hosts an old log cabin you then cross the Frosty Creek and after another few minutes will come across another gorgeous viewpoint. Here is where you take the trail to the left instead of heading to the top of Frosty Mountain. You will soon come across the 8 kilometer marker and shortly after that you will come across an open plateau of the alpine larches. This is home to the largest number of alpine larches in south western B.C. and some of the oldest trees, some of which are over 2000 years old.

Viewing the alpine larches is best done in late September or October when they turn a beautiful golden colour.

The Larch Plateau hike can be done as a day hike but for a more leisurely and enjoyable hike I highly recommend taking the time to camp at the Frosty Mountain Wilderness Campsite and spend more time exploring and enjoying the views and larches.

This is a gorgeous hike that doesn’t involve reaching the highest peak but does provide magnificent views and a hike through the golden larches of Manning Park. Well worth the effort.

Reviewing Danner’s Mountain Light and Mountain Light II Hiking Boots

In this review I will be talking about the Danner Mountain Light and Mountain Light II boots and my overall experience with and love of Danner Boots. I remember the first time I saw a pair of Danner boots when I was 13 or 14. I was a Boy Scout at the time, and I was on a trip with my troop. I remember that one of the dads had a really cool looking pair of somewhat beat up boots that he was wearing. He was ex-military so a lot of my fellow scouts looked up to him, including me, and I remember asking him at some point on the trip what kind of boots he was wearing. I think I had on a pair of beaten up tennis shoes, hardly the best thing to wear on an outdoor hiking trip, and I had been wanting a good pair of hiking boots for awhile. He told me his boots were made by a company called Danner, and that he had them for a long time.

To this day I can’t remember what model of boots they were, or even if he told me what model they were, but I do remember them looking pretty cool. I really wanted a pair like his, but when I got home from the trip I found out how much they cost; a small fortune for a 13 year old at the time. I wasn’t able to get my pair of Danner boots then, but my love affair with Danner had begun.

It wasn’t until I was in High School that I actually got my first pair of Danner boots. They were the Mountain Light model, and boy did I use the hell out of them. I would still have that pair today if my feet had not grown out of them. Today, I own a pair of Mountain Light boots and a pair of Mountain Light II boots. I have had the Mountain Light boots for 5 or 6 years, and the Mountain Light II boots for 2 or 3 years. Both boots are great and have served me very well, and in most cases are not a whole lot different, although I do use the Mountain Light II boots more often. This is primarily a personal choice, and because my Mountain Light boots are more worn down (they probably could use a re-crafting). The main difference I see between the two boots is that the Mt. Light II are slightly lighter and have a more modern look and feel. Other than that, there isn’t a big difference between the two.

Lets take a look at the original Mountain Light boots and my assesment of them. Like a lot of Danner’s products, these boots are made in the US by expert craftsmen and women in their factory in Portland, Oregon. They weigh 4 pounds, so are not exactly the lightest hiking boots you will come across, but are very comfortable and durable. You will have to break them in a bit; it only took me a couple times of use to break them in over a 3-4 week period. They are built with a 100% waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex liner that has come in handy many times on weekend trips and around town when it is rainy and wet. They are remarkably breathable considering the waterproof lining, as most waterproof lining and construction is by nature not very breathable. Their construction is solid and very durable.

Danner uses a stitchdown construction, which increases stability for your feet and makes the boot recraftable(again something I should probably do with my boots). What I mean by recraftable is that these boots- and any other Danner boots that are recraftable- can be sent to Danner’s facilities in Portland, Oregon and essentially re-done to be made almost new again. This means the Vibram outsoles can be replaced, as well as other aspects of the boots. This is a great service Danner offers, especially if you have had a pair of boots for a long time, and means that you can re-craft your boots several times if need be.

The Mountain Light II boots are a little lighter than the Mountain Light boots, clocking in at 3lbs 8 oz. If you are looking for a pair of hiking boots that are super light, then neither of the Mountain Light boots are probably what you are looking for. Having said that, the Mountain Light II boots are surprisingly light considering their size and construction, and offer many of the same benefits and features as the original Mountain Light. As I mentioned earlier, I use my pair of Mountain Light II boots more often than my other pair, simply from a personal choice, not because they are superior to the other.

I have used them on weekend trips, on extended hiking and backpacking trips and adventures, as well as for daily use. They are perfect when it is raining and wet outside and I need something to protect my feet from the elements. At this point they are fully broken-in and have molded themselves to the shape of my feet and are still really comfortable. Both the Mountain Light and Mountain Light II boots have a more narrow fit than normal, so I would be aware of that when ordering them. If your foot is more wider than normal, consider getting them in a “EE” size. Also I would suggest trying them on to find the right size before purchasing them or testing them out inside your home for a few hours if ordering them online.

Hiking the Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains in Phoenix Arizona

White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Waddell Arizona USA, offers many family activities. You’ll be overwhelmed by opportunities for hiking and biking, the nature trails, camping, horse back riding, mountains, cactus, rocks, desert shrubs, hieroglyphics, birds, dry waterfall canyon, children’s playgrounds, picnic ramadas, handicap trails, trees, washes, Indian artifacts, and interesting rock formations. White Tank Mountain Regional Park at over 29,000 acres is the largest of the Maricopa County regional parks. White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 22 miles of excellent shared-use trails. The hiking trails range from easy to difficult. There are handicapped accessible trails available in the park which makes the park all the more user friendly.

Mountains

The range, often referred to as simply the White Tanks, is a moderate sized mountain range whose peaks rise to an elevation of around 4,000 feet (1,219 m). The Park has both mountain and desert environments and includes most of the White Tank Mountain range. Two handicapped accessible trails at White Tank Mountain Regional Park allow visitors in wheelchairs to take in the splendors of the area as well as visit Petroglyph Plaza. During seasonal heavy rainfall, accumulated water tends to rush rapidly through the steep canyons, over time scouring out a number of depressions or “tanks” in the white granite near the base of the mountains. These white “tanks” are the source of the mountains’ name.

Trails

Waterfall Trail is in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park and is a popular place for family hiking. The trail will take you past Petroglyph Plaza, where you will find some 1,000-year-old pictures on giant boulders, symbols left behind by the Hohokam Indians who inhabited the mountains until about 1100.

The range, deeply serrated with ridges and canyons, rises sharply from its base to peak at over 4,000 feet and provides wonderful opportunities for hiking on established trails and includes facilities for picnicking throughout the park. The park offers a variety of hiking trails, nature trails, 35 regular campsites, picnic facilities and special programs throughout the year. There are about 22 miles of hiking and biking trails at all levels of difficulty. The White Tank Mountains Park does not have a trail to the top, and they discourage people from ‘visiting the towers’ with mild threats that it is patrolled by law enforcement. Horseback and mountain bike riders are welcomed, although caution is stressed as some of the trails may be extremely difficult.

With so many amenities, this is a park that receives many visitors in the cooler times of the year. You’ll find people of all ages on the hiking trails and many of them will have their family pets along for the day. As with any hiking in the desert Southwest regions of the U.S. you must be careful to drink plenty of water. The air is so dry that you don’t even notice that your body is losing moisture at a rate that is much faster than usual. Be sure to bring drinking water in containers that you can carry along with you as you explore this beautiful mountainous park.

Hiking Trails in the Catskills Mountains of New York

Grab Your Hiking Boots and Let’s Go!

Hiking is perhaps the most popular activity in the Catskills.

The origin of many hiking trails in New York State have their roots in the Native American-made paths to various seasonal hunting grounds. Later, loggers with ponies pulled hemlocks out the Catskill forests to make tanning solution and bluestone quarriers dragged out huge slabs of this dense blue-grey rock to pave New York City. The intrepid artists of the Hudson River School used these trails to find beautiful panoramas to sketch and later paint in their studios. Naturalists such as John Burroughs recorded the variety of flora and fauna unique to the Catskill High Peaks while Ralph Waldo Emerson is inspired to write his groundbreaking essay Nature by the very same Catskills.

Fortunately for today’s Catskill hiker, there is a wide variety of hiking trails ranging from the most easy such as the paved and flat like the path along the Ashokan Reservoir. to extremely difficult three mountain loop of Devil’s Path or the ascent to Slide Mountain. Whatever the hiking level you desire, we have chosen the best of Catskills hiking that gives beautiful views; the payoff for what can be a most vigorous exercise!

How to Plan for a Catskill Mountain Hike

There are a few sensible precautions that need to be considered before embarking on a hike whether in New York or anywhere else. While the Catskills can be easily traveled to and are close to New York City, knowing your terrain is guaranteed to make for a more pleasant day. Not sure about hiking in the mountains on your own? Add some luxury and amenities to your New York getaway; look for local area resorts such as the Emerson that offer hiking packages with guided hikes and lodging.

What You Will Need To Hike the Catskill Mountains:

1) Water: Bring plenty of it as natural sources can be contaminated with giardia- unless it is marked as a natural spring.

2) Bugs: The hiking trails of the Catskills are cool and damp, so expect mosquitoes. And while lymes-disease carrying ticks generally prefer hot and dry conditions, its good practice to tuck pants into socks and use a strong insect repellent.

3) Gear: Do wear good hiking shoes with sturdy socks to prevent blisters. Dress light but carry a sweatshirt and rain poncho in your pack as the weather can change suddenly. A walking stick can be an excellent stabilizer if the terrain should get rough.

4) Animals: The Catskills are full of wildlife and none are dangerous as long as you respect their space. Bears are only a nuisance if you are camping with lots of unprotected food. Bears tend to be shy but if encountered; make some gentle noise and they should run off. Another concern can be snakes but if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. If you should see a rattler, admire it from a distance. Snakes are most often found on the sunny side of cliffs among large rocks and boulders.

5) Plan: Make sure you let someone know before you go off into the wilds. Take a map and don’t expect to rely on your cell phone GPS.

6) Respect: Lastly, bring out what you bring in. Paper and plastic have no place in nature.

Where to Hike: Choosing the Perfect New York Getaway in Nature

Very Easy Trails: Ashokan Reservoir & Colgate Lake
These hiking trails are good for families from grandparents to kids who need a level walking surface without dips or climbs.

• Ashokan Reservoir:
The Ashokan Reservoir’s two long walkways, one an actual promenade and the other a closed road the public now uses, provide a panorama of the Catskill Mountains and the pristine Ashokan Reservoir that serves as the drinking water for New York City.

Great for bicycles, walkers and wheelchairs, the two paths are beautiful stretches of wide paved paths that curve for 3 miles along the Ashokan Reservoir. To get to this wide mountain vista, travel to Winchell’s Corners on Route 28, turn onto Reservoir Road. At the junction of “BWS road” make a left and at 28A, make another left. Travel ¼ mile and make the next left and at the end of the road is a roundabout parking area for both paths.

• Colgate Lake:
A magical hidden gem off of Route 23A near Tannersville, this pristine, man-made lake is open for swimming, although there are no lifeguards or roped in areas so visitors need to take appropriate precautions. There is a small trail that circumnavigates the entire lake that is bowled in by mountains. Caution must be used around Colgate Lake as there can be poison ivy.

Easy NY Hiking Trails: Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, and Diamond Notch Falls

• Kaaterskill Falls:
The two tiered falls of 175 and 85 feet are the highest waterfalls in New York State. The lower Kaaterskill Falls is reached by a trail beginning on Route 23A. Driving east from Tannersville and Haines Falls, park on the area to the right before the highway makes its steep descent down the mountain. Then, walk carefully along the road until you reach a hairpin turn and the falls are seen on your left. To reach Kaaterskill Falls from the top, travel east on 23A and make a left onto Country Rd 18 by the Twilight Deli and then, about a mile later, a right onto Laurel House Road. Park at the end of the road and follow the trail 1/5 of a mile to a worn bank supported by wooden beams.

This is the top of Kaaterskill Falls and extreme caution must be used to descend onto the huge boulders to get a look at the valley below. We do not recommend a descent as the ground is slippery and there are many injuries, but there is a small short trail that runs to the right. Walking with care, you can get a nice side view of the falls and the natural amphitheater it has carved out over the centuries.

• Escarpment trail North-South Lake:
The short hike to the site of the Catskill Mountain House provides the reward of incredible vistas of the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires beyond. Longer and more strenuous hikes can bring you to such spots as Artist’s Rock, Sunset Rock, Newman’s Ledge, Boulder Rock, and the Kaaterskill Hotel and Laurel House sites. Follow the well-marked trails and maps to lead you where you want to go. Swimming is permitted at North-South Lake, but only when there is a lifeguard present.

• Diamond Notch Falls:
This hike has an amazing variety of indigenous, native plants and flowers that grow along the path. Please note that any digging or picking of greenery is strictly prohibited. The walk is steep in places, but not difficult to navigate. The waterfalls add a special interest and there is a wooden bridge above the falls that offers a different view of the cascade. Travel up Route 214 to Lanesville, turn left onto Diamond Notch Road and park at the very end. The trail starts at the far right corner of the lot.

Moderate NY Hiking Trails: Hunter Mountain, Overlook Mountain & Giant Ledge-Panther Mt. Trail

• Hunter Mountain:
For a unique experience, take the Sky Ride from the Hunter Mountain Ski Center. The lift will take you up a 1600 foot vertical from the valley floor. A 2 mile hike from there will take you to the fire tower with beautiful views of the Catskill High Peaks, but this is a steep challenge. Less active hikers may want to enjoy the view from where the Hunter Sky Ride leaves you off and just hike back down to the base.

• Overlook Mountain:
This popular hike is located a couple of miles north of the Village of Woodstock. Take Rock City Road north from the Village Green all the way to the top of Overlook Mountain where it will change its name to Mead’s Mt. Road. Parking is on the right and the trail is to the left. The climb is steep and uphill for 2.5 miles but the 360 degree view from the fire tower at the mountaintop is the best in the Catskills! Also note an abandoned ruin of a stone hotel from the 1930s about 2 miles up. Great for dramatic photographs or an eerie romantic picnic!

• Giant Ledge-Panther Mt. Trail:
This trail starts out easy with yellow markers and then switches to the more challenging blue markers after the spectacular view of Giant Ledge. Giant Ledge is located roughly 1.6 miles up the trail and afterwards, the trail follows a North-South Ridge for another mile that offers more lovely Catskill Mountain vistas.

Difficult NY Hiking Trails: Slide Mountain & Devil’s Tombstone

• Slide Mountain
Another tough hike, but the Slide Mountain Hiking Trail is also the most rewarding! With an elevation of 1780 feet and a 5.4 mile round trip, you will need lots of water and good hiking boots. Slide Mountain is the highest peak in the Catskills, so the view from the summit is unparalleled. To get there, drive to the end of Woodland Valley Road off Route 28 near Phoenicia and travel to the very end to the Woodland Valley Campground. The trail head will be on the left with parking on the right.

• Devil’s Path:
Also known as Devil’s Tombstone, this trail is known as the toughest hiking path in the Eastern United States. Nonetheless, hikers are drawn to it as it allows them to cover 5 mountain peaks in one excursion. The Devil’s Path is a self guided trail that can be done in three sections or combined. The first section, Plateau Mountain, is 8 miles roundtrip and it culminates in a nice view over to Hunter Mountain. Then the trail levels out (hence the plateau) and the highest point is at the far eastern end about 2 miles away. Continue on a short distance from the summit and a view of Sugarloaf Mountain opens up. The Hunter Mountain Section is 4.15 miles and the West Kill Mountain Section is 7 miles for a total of 24.20 miles of hiking. The best access is to drive from Phoenicia 8 miles north on Route 214 and park at the Devils Tombstone day use parking area on the left. The trail head starts on the right after the enormous rock that purports to be the actual Devil’s Tombstone.

Hiking The Rwenzori Mountains

The legendary mist covered commonly known as Mountains of the Moon on Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo lie to the north of Queen Elizabeth National Park and cover an area of approximately 90 Kilometers north to south and 50 kilometers from east to west at their widest. The Rwenzori National Park protects the spectacular scenery and unique vegetation of these mountains.

The high points of the Rwenzori Mountains consist of seven individual massifs each with a number of separate peaks which remain permanently snow and glacier covered. Margherita peak on Mount Stanley, at a height of 5109 meters, is the third highest mountain in Africa. Complex networks of rivers drain the glaciers and collect the continual tropical downpours, carving deep gorges and valleys through the mountains. The annual rainfall received around the mountain is in excess of 1500 millimeters which results in luxuriant montane forest on the lower slopes, up through zones of bamboo and tree heath to the fro- alpine zone at about 3000 meters.

The Rwenzori is known primarily for its challenging hiking and climbing possibilities, but the range also supports a diversity of animals, including 70 mammals and 177 bird species, several of the latter being Albertine Rift Endemics. The National park is the only place in Uganda where the Angola colobus has been recorded. The mountain is divided into several zones. The forest zone is a home to a diversity of birds including Rwenzori turaco, barred long tailed cuckoo, long eared owl, handsome francolin, cinnamon Chested bee eater, Archer’s ground robin, white starred forest robin, Rwenzori baits, montane sooty boubou, Lagden’s bush shrike, slender billed starling, blue headed sunbird, greenbuls, aplis, illadopis, flycatchers and crimsonwing.

The Rwenzori offers treks of walkers and climbers of varying abilities. Trips are normally arranged for 6-7 days and preparations can be made either through a tour operator in Kampala like Trinita Safaris. Mountain guide will be hired from mountain Rwenzori mountaineering services who will guide you to incredible breath taking landscapes, fresh waters, flora and fauna that make Rwenzori a unique world heritage site. Potters and equipment and purchase food in Kasese town. The best period to hike Mount Rwenzori is during the months of January and February and June to August during which the weather conditions are at its best. A trip to Rwenzori is a memorable experience to last a life time. Hikers are recommended to carry with them a copy of the Rwenzori Mountain.