Wednesday, November 4, 2015

North and then West

I've been in Seattle a little over a week now.

It's currently an overcast day in the mid 50s, slightly breezy, and I love it.

I left Estes Park with bittersweet thoughts on my mind.  I was excited to meet up with my brother and start this next season in a new city, but it's always a little saddening to leave such a beautiful place you've called home and the dear friends you've made there.  Having a great selection of tunes for the road trip really helps.

From Estes I headed north then west, spending time in Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks.  I saw deer beyond count, bison, bighorns, pronghorns, mountain goats, grizzly bears, coyotes, and even wolves.

Experiencing the wolves in the wild was the highlight of my entire trip.

On my last morning in Yellowstone, I woke up early and headed for the Lamar Valley, an area in Northern Yellowstone that supposedly had a lot of wolf and grizzly activity.  I parked my car in a pullout next to a river overlooking the valley and waited in the early morning darkness.

I waited.

And waited.

Listening.  Scanning the horizon.  Straining my eyes and ears for any signs of wolves.


Then I heard a loud grunt from behind my car.

I turn around and see an entire bison herd slowly approaching me.  As the sun continues to rise I see more and more of them on either side of my car, surrounding me as they graze in the frigid morning.  The frost sparkles on their woolly coats and their breath crystallizes as they grunt just beyond reach of my vehicle.

I sit in wonder from the inside of my vehicle.  Windows down.  Frigid cold.  The sun finally peeks over the mountain ridge and spills its light into the Lamar Valley.

No wolves, but I am content with this bison herd.  Pretty amazing stuff.

I start my engine and head back the way I came.

A few minutes into my drive I see a wildlife jam of some kind up ahead, but instead of animals on the roadside, I see people with telescopes and binoculars aimed at the distant hills.  YES.

I pull over and saunter over to the crowd.

"What are you guys lookin' at?"

"There are two grizzlies feeding on a carcass with a wolf pack nearby."

WHAT?!  And almost on cue, a chorus of wolves echoes towards us from the distance.

Several of the wolf spotters graciously let me peer through their spotting scopes and binoculars.  I was able to see one wolf and the two grizzlies feeding on the carcass.  I gotta say, it was one of the neatest things I've witnessed in a National Park.  After about an hour of hanging around and listening... I continued on.

I'm thankful for safe travels and the wonder of creation I was able to experience on this trip.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

14,259 feet above

The Keyhole Route is a climb that requires
scrambling on exposed narrow ledges, loose rock and steep slabs.
Sudden changes in weather may create high winds, lightning, rain,
hail, snow, freezing temperatures and ice covered rock at any time.
A slip, trip, or fall could be fatal.
Rescue is difficult and may take hours to days.
Self-reliance is essential.
Stay on route and be willing to turn around at any time.

- NPS warning sign as you enter the Boulderfield

Climbing Longs was definitely one of the most exhilarating hikes I've ever done.  I'd rate it right up there with climbing Mt. Madison in the Whites with the clouds crashing over us at sunset.  However, unlike hiking up and over Mt. Madison, Longs Peak emitted a foreboding that I couldn't quite shake until I made it off the mountain.

Considered to be one of Colorado's most deadly mountains, the fourteener claims somebody's life almost every year.  Thankfully there haven't been any fatalities this season.  And I am incredibly thankful for the perfect weather and protection I had back in July when I made my summit.

It truly is a wondrous mountain and was a humbling experience to set foot on the top.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Over the Divide

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

- JRR Tolkien

Wow, this summer is flying by.  Already August 11?!  I can't believe it.

A few weeks ago my little brother came into town and stayed with me for a few days.  He's currently driving cross country on his way to Seattle to start a new phase of his life.  Gosh I love that guy.  We had some good times catching up and sharing stories over plenty of Chinese food and good beer.

The highlight for me was our two-day trip hiking over the Continental Divide from Bear Lake to Grand Lake, over Flattop Mountain and down the Tonahutu Trail.  Breathtaking views.  Grueling, rugged terrain.  Exciting wildlife and frigid alpine skinny dipping.  The entire time we were out there, I felt like we were trekking through Middle Earth.  Two hobbits bumbling along the beaten path, through forests with meandering brooks, over the misty mountains and into lush, green meadows.  The wildflowers were popping all over the place with bright bursts of color and variety.

Truly awe inspiring.  We live in a beautiful country.

It was pretty funny as we were trying to hitchhike back.  Ben tried showing some leg to no avail.  We also had an American flag (MURICA) with us and thought that might help.  As it happened, some of my park ranger friends just happened to be driving by at that moment, though they almost didn't stop because they thought we were waving a Confederate flag, haha.

It was an unforgettable adventure that will go down on my list of all time favorite hikes.

Next up will be the video I shot climbing Long's Peak.  I'm a little behind on my editing, so stay tuned!  Cheers.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Tomorrow is July 4th.

Man, this summer has been flying by.  I realize I haven't posted in a while, but it feels like I've only been back at Rocky for a couple weeks.  It'll be September before I know it.

Yesterday I hiked up to Sandbeach Lake in Wild Basin for my backcountry patrol day.  Sandbeach will always have a special place in my heart.  It was the first trail I hiked in RMNP two years ago, and despite the lung crushing steady uphill to the lake, it remains one of my favorites.

As I was coming down from the lake (after dismantling FIVE illegal fire rings) I stopped in at the Hunter's Creek campsite to talk with the campers staying there.  They were four young guys from Louisiana on an epic National Park roadtrip to the west coast and back.  They were telling me about the bear tracks they spotted the day before and asking me what bear scat usually looks like.  I told them they'd be pretty lucky to see one of the park's few bears, and as long as they store their food properly, they shouldn't have anything to worry about.

"Alright, see you guys later!  Have a great trip."

30 seconds later I nearly walk into a black bear waiting just uphill from their campsite.

I managed to whip out my phone and snap a few shots and video before the curious bear sauntered off down the trail.


It's always so exciting to see a bear.  I immediately returned to the Louisiana campers and told them what I had just seen.

"Are you f***ing for real?!"  A mixture of excitement and worry in their voices.

I showed them the video and wished them well again, throwing in an extra reminder to secure their bear canisters. 

Sandbeach Lake will always have a special place in my heart.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Acworth - Estes Park

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Estes Park, Colorado.

I arrived Thursday afternoon after four days on the road, and it's been so nice reuniting with old friends and catching up.  In many ways it feels like I never left.  At the same time, I had almost forgotten how massive and majestic these mountains are.

I begin work tomorrow in the Back Country Office, and it's already looking like a great season to come.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A look around

A perfect day to relax on the back porch and test out a little timelapse rotation device I made.

I like it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Big Frog

I'm thankful for father/son(s) camping trips.

We try to do at least one a year, but it's simply not enough, and this is the first time in a long time that I can remember all three of us being able to take off together.

I think we all needed it.

From my journal...

Big Frog Wilderness...
Ben, Dad, and I left the house around noon yesterday and made the two hour drive up across the GA/TN border to the Low Gap trailhead.  Steady uphill hike, steady rain.  Pitched our giant tent at the intersection of the Benton Mackaye Trail.  It is such a beautiful morning.  Rained all night with water pooling inside the tent.  Dad and I have had our coffee and breakfast – Ben is still wrapped up in his sleeping bag like the hungry, hungry caterpillar.  We're gonna try to get up Big Frog Mountain today.  Hopefully the weather stays like this!  We are on a ridge with fog in the valley below us, the sun is shining with the outlines of mountains surrounding us.  A light breeze.  It feels great to be back out here.

Our last morning in the Big Frog Wilderness. Overcast. Windy and cool. The ash from last night's fire swirls around us as we eat our breakfast. The sun is trying to peek through the clouds and shine through the tree tops. Dad reads out loud from Proverbs and relates it to working at Delta. We are just about out of water, which is perfect since we're heading back and the closest water is straight downhill. 

This has been a wonderful trip.