Mount Arab

5/29/18

I’ve slowly been attempting more and more difficult peaks to get back into hiking shape, so when I’d decided to attempt the Tupper Lake Triad a few days before, I though, OK, I’ll get to sleep good and early so I can get out there early morning and have a great time! So I’m in my bed, trying to fall asleep around 11:30pm the night before, and I feel something *ping* onto my head. Naturally I jumped up in a panic flailing my arms around and shaking out my hair, and through my blurry semi-blind eyes I see an inch-long SHAPE scuttling across my bed from my pillows. With horror-filled realization I immediately knew EXACTLY what it was despite not being able to see. That’s right. A centipede managed to FALL ONTO MY HEAD while I was trying to fall asleep. Literally ANY other creature wouldn’t have bothered me too much, but centipedes are my #1 most hated insect in existence. So OF COURSE that’s what fell on my head. Juno was absolutely no help, so I did what any rational human would do and launched a hard-cover book at it and hoped for the best. I screamed and jumped out of bed to put my glasses on, because at this point the battle was raging and I needed all of my wits about me. Slowly, silently I moved back toward my bed in enemy territory, searching for the intruder….and I couldn’t find it. I COULDN’T FIND IT, PEOPLE! I calmly removed the covers from my bed (read: I tore every damn linen off of my bed while shouting profanities), waiting for hell’s own creation to come darting out with it’s too-many-damn legs….and nothing. I stood there for a while, unsure of what to do, and unable to stop scratching my head feeling like there wereΒ things on it. After tossing my covers again, I finally gathered all of my sheets around myself in a make-shift cocoon and hours later managed to fall asleep in this burrito-style fort, with dreams of creepy-crawlies running through my mind.

So. I did not get an early start. Despite the traumatic events of the previous night (I seriously might need therapy after that), I still wanted to climb these three mountains today, perhaps even more so than before just to get away from my apartment. So I packed up my things and headed out around 8:45 to reach the trailhead and start the trail right at 10am.

I signed in at the register, happily noticing that I had the mountain to myself for now, and headed off.

This trail is a short 1 mile jaunt to the summit, and it starts climbing almost immediately, though the climbing is only moderate at it’s worst. The ground was dry and the path was very easy to follow, making this a great family hike.

I was thrilled to be back in the woods for a day on my own. There’s something about solo hiking that brings me so much fulfillment. Hiking with friends and dogs is great, but I really need time alone in the woods to de-stress and become myself again. I was even happier to see how GREEN everything has become!!

Wildlife was abundant today, especially toads and tree frogs. These things were everywhere! And so cute and plump! But they are not the greatest escape artists…I couldn’t keep track of how many times I’d nearly step on one before it sluggishly rolled out of the way.

After about 20 minutes of steady, easy climbing, I had a feeling I was starting to get close when the terrain became rockier.

Sure enough, just a moment later and I was up on a ledge with this adorable little bench overlooking the scenery. Time at summit: 10:25am (25 minutes from trailhead).

The flies were BRUTAL today so instead of resting at the bench, I carried on to the restored 1918 fire tower, passing the observer’s cabin (in which there is a little museum, but it was closed when I was there) on the way.

Ok. So notice how that image above of the firetower is super blurry? It took me a moment to realize this, but I thought, “it’s not like me to take such a lousy firetower shot, what happened here?”…Take a look at the pic below. This is how bad the black flies were; they literally interrupted my shots!

So with that lovely in-focus shot of a fly in hand, I zoomed up the tower to escape the clouds of angry flies. I opened all 4 windows and closed my eyes to feel the bug-free breeze through my hair.

The views were stunning. I love when there are some clouds in the sky to add texture and shade!

There were these cool plaques in the tower to show you what mountains you’re looking at in the distance. This is excellent for someone like me who is terrible at identifying the peaks! See if you can figure out which peaks are in the shots below.

I sat down for a bit to enjoy much lunch, when I realized I FORGOT MY VICTORY CHOCOLATE! The horror! SO instead I enjoyed a nutricious victory babybel cheese πŸ™‚ Good enough.

While I sat, I looked at the graffiti marring the tower. Most of it was obscene or stupid in some way, however one bit of writing really resonated with me. “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” I love this, and it’s exactly how I feel. I may not have a lot of money, but I feel so lucky to have everything that I do, and to be able to enjoy the splendor of the mountains in my free time. I know who I am, and I’m at peace with that. What else could I ask for?

I started to make my descent at about 11am, but not before taking one last pic for the road.

The way down was uneventful and seemed to fly by (well I guess it did; it only took 25 minutes after all).

I’d been fortunate to have the mountain to myself the whole time, and only met one couple just starting out when I was leaving. Time out: 11:30am. On to the next peak!

Mount Arab: 2545′Β  Elevation gain: 764′

Round trip distance: 2 miles

Total duration: 1.5 hours (including 30 minutes at summit)

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used unless with express permission.

St. Regis Mountain

05/13/2018

A few friends and I had decided today would be a perfect day for a hike, so at 8am we packed all three of ourselves plus two doggos into my Subaru and headed down to St. Regis Mountain. Though I’ve climbed this one twice before, neither of them had done it and myself and one other are still recovering from knee issues, so I thought it would be a perfect climb for today. We arrived at the trailhead at about 9:15am, took our starting photos, and headed off.

The trail initially follows a wide path/road before reaching the register. We signed in, noticing the few groups ahead of us already, and continued on our way.

On the drive down, we had remarked on how much foliage was already blooming on the trees, but here in the mountains most trees were still bare. Se we enjoyed the warm sun on our shoulders and the semi-occluded views through the trees. There were plenty of water sources early on the trail including a flooded section of a valley and the pups enjoyed splashing around in them whenever possible.

For about an hour, the trail meandered slowly up and down while reaching up toward a bit of a ridge. It’s a very nice warm up before starting the actual climbing up the mountain, and my knees were grateful. After about an hour of walking and chatting, we reached the bridged stream crossing that I recall being the last point before the trail begins to climb. We took a break here, letting the dogs soak themselves (well, Juno did of course, but Vas-y wasn’t so sure of swimming) and having a snack.

That is, until the pups began a rousing game of fetch/tug/chase. One of them would find a stick, the other would grab on, and they’d run around together holding it until one of them got it, then the chase would begin.

We lingered here for ~10 minutes letting several other groups pass us, then slung our packs back on. Up until this point the trail had been quite dry but we starting getting creative to avoid stepping in mud and having our boots slurped off (something one of my unfortunate companions still experienced today!). Of course Juno ran right through the nastiest puddles and LIED DOWN IN THEM. Oh well. At least she’s already black! I distracted myself by looking at the beautiful spring wildflowers in bloom.

On this mountain, a tell-tale sign that you’re starting the real climb is the presence of larger and larger rocks and boulders. Some are even arranged in a sort of staircase to make life a bit easier!

After about an hour of climbing since we left the bridge, the foliage started thinning out into juvenile Birch trees, and it was then that I knew we were close.

While climbing, we began hearing a LOT of chattering voices up to our lefts, so we knew we were getting close to the summit, but they were so loud we opted to visit the offshoot in the trail first to hang out at a peaceful overlook for a few minutes.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of how photogenic Vas-y is! Juno is so freaking hard to photograph; not only is she rarely sitting still, but even when she is she just shows up as a dark shadow in the picture. I mean look at how regal this guy is!

Although she does take a nice picture when she feels like it πŸ™‚

After a few minutes of this we decided to join the raucous crowd at the summit and have some lunch. Just a hop and a skip and we were on the summit of St. Regis at 11:45am!

The pups made a new friend with a golden retriever and tried to steal food from anyone they could. Juno was surprisingly on her best behavior today though! She obeyed every command I gave her! Go us!

This mountain is seriously awesome. Just a little work for a huge reward, you really can’t beat it. For us, it’s only an hour from home, the climb is really quite easy, and the views…

After enjoying my victory chocolate and a bit of lunch, all 5 of us decided to climb up the fire tower to see the 360 degree views.

Holy Cannoli was it WINDY up there! It was turning out to be a nice warm day (73 F at the summit!) but even with that sun the wind was making me chilly, so I snapped one last pic and Juno and I headed back down.

I have to say, I’m so proud of my little pup. Once at the bottom, she noticed that Vas-y was too scared to come down and refused to move (something she was familiar with once herself). So she ran all the way back to the top and led him down! She ran over to me so pleased after to have helped her friend.

We all sat back down to have a rest; or so I thought, before the dogs were up again playing their stick game and spilling literally all of their water.

 

At about 1pm we finally decided to make our way down. We had a few close calls with the slippery mud, but fortunately no major incidents. As we neared the bridge however, and Juno was of course off chasing some chipmunk a few dozen yards away, we all caught wind of the same unmistakable skunk scent. My eyes went wide and I yelled for Juno to come back, thinking she’d actually been chasing a skunk and omg how would we ride for an hour in the car with her?! Fortunately, she came right back sans scent and we quickly retreated before pressing our luck any further.

At this point we were all hot, sweaty, and thirsty, and were ready to get back to the beginning of the trail so the pups (especially my black sheep) could cool off in the flooded valley again.

We reached the “pond” about an hour and a half after leaving the summit and lingered for several minutes enjoying watching the dogs play in the water.

We left when black flies started to become irksome and 20 minutes later (3pm) we were packed back in the car, smelly, and taking our leaving photo.

~A muddy dog is a happy dog~

Happy hiking!

St. Regis Mountain: 2874′ Elevation Gain: 1260′
Round Trip Distance: 6.6 miles
Total Duration: 6 hours (including 1.25 hr at summit)

Day 6 – Sedona and Phoenix

The next morning, we woke up excited for another day of hiking. My mom and grandma were doing Part 2 of their trolley tour, so we dropped them off in town and headed back up to that Route 89A with the intent of hiking the West Fork trail. This trail is supposed to be the iconic Sedona trail through a slot canyon following a river. I thought it would be good especially since there’s no climbing involved and my knee wouldn’t hurt. Turns out, the rest of Arizona thought it would be a nice trail too, as there were HUNDREDS of cars parked along the road. We definitely didn’t want any part of that, so we wandered around for about an hour just looking for a trailhead. Trailheads around here are incredibly poorly marked, but finally we found one called the North Wilson Mountain trail and headed up it. Right away the views were stunning, and we even had some tree cover and shade for this hike.

We were heading towards those dark cliffs in the distance, and I couldn’t wait to see it up close. We encountered one small group of people during our time on this trail, and that was it.

We continued on for about an hour, and entered into the cover of trees, which had stunning fall foliage.

We sat and enjoyed our lunch at the base of the huge cliffs. It was sort of a sad moment as we realized this would not only be our last hike for this trip, but our last hike together for quite a while.

After that short break we decided to head back down the mountain. It took about an hour, and surprisingly, I had no knee issues! I finally mastered the art of hobbling down mountain trails!

We got back to the car, went back to town, picked up my mom and grandma, and started the trek to Phoenix. This portion of the trek was uneventful. We didn’t stop for any photo ops, instead just carried straight through to Phoenix. During this time we saw REAL desert, with towering saguaro cacti and tumbleweeds. We arrived around dusk and got settled into our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. My grandmother and I were on the top floor, and when we opened the curtains of our room, we saw this:

We looked at each other and just laughed, it was the best hotel room view we’d had all week (or probably ever). That night, I went to investigate the pool, which was totally empty, and went for a perfect nighttime swim.

The next day there was no time for exploring as I was presenting my poster at the BMES conference. My mom and grandma hung out by the pool all day while my father explored the city; meanwhile I was walking around in 100 degree weather in my fancy clothes.

That night, we enjoyed one last sunset in the endless sky, and went to bed early to catch our flight early the next morning.

After a long couple of days of travelling, I made it back to New York and reunited with Juno. This trip was absolutely incredible, and I’m so grateful that my family was able to go with me. Can’t wait to go back for more!

Day 5 – Sedona

The next morning, we got up, ready and excited to explore the area. We were all a bit bummed because that 89A road is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the country, but of course we travelled it in the freaking dark. A typical thing for our family to do. So my Mom and Grandmother embarked on a trolley tour of the area while my dad and I filled our packs and headed out to hike….somewhere. We didn’t know where to go, so we went to the gas station across the street and got a map. As we were looking at it, we had to laugh because we saw the road we came down on….It looked almost cartoonishly twisty and curvy, like a bowl of spaghetti spilled on the floor.

Anyway, we took the advice of a kind gentleman we met there and headed off to the Airport Loop trailhead. It was a lot longer than we expected just to walk to the trailhead, but we finally got there and set off on our way.

I have never seen so many cacti in my entire life. I recognized that they were prickly pear cacti, and that many of them had ripe, plump, reddish-purple fruit on them, so naturally we had to investigate further. We each plucked a fruit from a cactus, I immediately dropped mine because they apparently have super tiny sharp hairs in clusters on the fruit themselves that stick right into your hands! My dad managed to get his fruit open though, and we each had a bite…Those things are FULL of super hard seeds! It tasted delicious, but we each only had a nibble. Unfortunately for my dad, he got one of those tiny sharp hairs in his mouth and had to deal with that for the rest of the day! At about 2pm, we came across a junction where we could either continue on our way or we could take a short detour by climbing up a…small mountain? Rock? Mesa-thing? I’m not sure what it was, but it was well worth the climb.

That woman was doing some yoga-meditation thing, swaying side to side, but it made for a nice picture!

I was really feeling like I had entered into some prehistoric landscape, and half expected to see Littlefoot and Spike walking the trails with us.

So we were quickly learning just how unforgiving this landscape really is. The air was so dry it just sucked the moisture right out of our skin and mouths, and we went through our water way faster than we thought we would. We left that perch with half the water that we started our hike with, and more than halfway to go to return to town. This fear of running out of water was completely new to me. In the Adirondacks, if you run out of water, you just refill at one of the 8 million streams, lakes, and rivers that you’re bound to come across. Out here, we’d have to resort to sucking the moisture out of more prickly pear fruits, and neither of us really wanted to do that. Luckily, the trail we had embarked on wasn’t super long, only about 4 miles round trip, so we were’t too worried.

 

The trail we followed is visible, cutting right across the rock.

 

We left the summit and followed the trail around the edge of the small mountain, on top of which was the Sedona Airport. This route was extremely exposed, with little to no areas of shade, but it offered incredible views the entire time.

After climbing and climbing, we reached what we thought was the top and sat beneath a rare tree to enjoy some lunch and guzzle more water. Shortly afterward, we heard helicopters overhead and saw that we were right beneath the airport!

We started descending after this point, and quickly made it back to town. My knee was irking me, but luckily the pole I had borrowed from my father made it much more bearable. We went back to our hotel, walked into the lobby, and asked if they had any drinking fountains where we could refill our water bottles. We’d both long since ran out, and were quite parched. We must have looked pathetic and about ready to drop, because a manager took one look at us and led us back into the employee break room to fill up from their water cooler. That was the most delicious, COOOLD water I’ve ever had! We were there for probably 10 minutes filling up our bottles, drinking, and filling up again. Finally hydrated, we took a much-needed dip in the pool.

Day 6 – Sedona and Phoenix

Day 4 – The Grand Canyon

The next day, we packed our things and set out for the Grand Canyon. The initial plan had been for my dad and I to hike to the bottom from the North Rim, stay the night, then hike back up via the Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. We ended up deciding not to do it since we just didn’t have enough time in our mini vacation to do it; good thing too, because my knee was not in great shape for descending.

On our way there, we took this scenic route (89A), and stopped numerous times to take in our surroundings: the Vermillion Cliffs.

 

The moon, always visible

 

We stopped again shortly later at some cliff dweller ruins where two Navajo women were selling gorgeous handmade jewelry and pottery. My mom and grandmother perused the items on display while I took the opportunity to snap some photos (of course).

Throughout the whole trip, the conversation theme tended to be “How on Earth does anything/anyone live here? Where do they get their water??” Alas, it’s a mystery we never solved, as every single creek and riverbed we passed along the way was bone dry. The world may never know (except for those that live there >.<).

After a few hours of driving (and stopping, and driving, and stopping), we finally made it to the Grand Canyon! We parked the car and went into the visitor center for our first glimpse.

 

The Colorado River

 

I was, believe it or not, a little bit underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I think I had such high expectations of it, but when I was actually standing there, amidst droves of noisy tourists snapping selfies left and right, it just didn’t feel real. It felt like we were looking at a backdrop of a movie set. I think the real problem is that we didn’t hike down into the canyon. That makes all the difference. Just standing on the rim, walking along the ledge, you see pretty much the same view the whole time and you really can’t grasp the enormity of it. Regardless, after almost immediately losing my mother and grandmother, my dad and I set off along the rim trail.

Along the way, the crowds thankfully thinned out a bit, and we were able to enjoy the walk a little more.

We walked for more than an hour, thinking we were getting close to the Bright Angel trailhead which leads down into the canyon until we saw this view from a rocky outcropping:

To clarify, I’ve overlaid the path in red:

That’s the trail. It was about this time that I started to realize just how massive the canyon is. I couldn’t even see people on the trail from up there.

Despite how disappointed I was in not having the time or the knee function to be able to climb all the way down and back up, I was also a bit relieved because I hadn’t realized how incredibly wide the canyon is. I couldn’t even be sure where the other side was (and the layer of smog on the horizon didn’t help). After one last snack at an overlook, we turned and headed back to the visitor center.

The whole day walking along the trail, the most wildlife we spotted were a couple of brazen squirrels trying to steal things from peoples bags. Then, back at the visitor center, there is a family of Elk just hanging out in the middle of the square!

We left a bit before sunset and started on our way to Sedona. As it was getting dark, we turned onto scenic route 89A (same name as the one we were on earlier, but not the same road?). During this ride was probably the most car sick I have ever been in my entire life (which is really saying something). I was in the back of the car, and I swear we were just driving down a spaghetti road. We would all yell “WOOOOAH” going around tight turns that never seemed to end, and of course we really couldn’t see anything at all since it was dark out. We FINALLY made it to the bottom and to our hotel for the night.

Day 5 – Sedona

Day 3 – Kanab and Bryce Canyon

The next morning, we got up early to prepare for our day in Bryce Canyon. On our way out, we spotted a little museum that contained the sets from many old western films that were shot in the area. We just had to check it out.

All of the building had been relocated to the site of the museum and reconstructed beautifully.

We left the museum and arrived at Bryce Canyon after about an hour and a half of driving. My dad and I were so excited to hike here, and were eager to climb all the way to the bottom and hike some trails from the inside of the canyon. Luckily for me, he had brought two trekking poles, so we each took one and I was able to put my weight on it instead of on my bad knee. Bryce Canyon also uses a shuttle system, so we hopped on and took it to the farthest point, Bryce Point, and headed down amongst the hoodoos.

This place was full of these strange twisted trees

It’s unbelievable how all of these formations were created. Millions of years ago, all of that land used to be ocean. Then the sea receded and the land crunched together to create jagged moutains and mesas. When ice and snow accumulate around the rocks in the winter and thaw in the summer, the ice melt takes away bits and pieces of the rock, creating those spires called Hoodoos. As we saw many of these hoodoos, my dad would remark what they looked like to him, and I had to laugh because I was bothered that I completely saw the same crazy things. Great minds think alike, I guess.

We thought that hoodoo in the middle looked like Snoopy

The trail we took to the bottom was called the “Peek-a-boo” trail, and we quickly surmised that it was so named because every time we turned a corner, we saw an entirely new and incredible view.

We kept noticing as we were walking that there were huge boulders precariously perched over our heads. Even worse was the rubble around the trail where rocks had tumbled before! We kept joking that the road runner would come topple those boulders onto us.

Wile E Coyote

We decided to stop at one particular overlook (though really the entire trail was an overlook) and have a bit of lunch. It was FREEZING in the morning when we started our hike, but thankfully the wind had begun to die down and the sun was warm.

We finally made it to the bottom where we encountered a tour group on horseback and followed the trail as it meandered through the forest.

The loop we were on eventually joined up with the Navaho Loop trail. We took the middle path (of three) to make our ascent and view the Two Bridges formation along the way.

The Two Bridges

We ascended via switchbacks all the way back up to the ridge, where we took one last look from the edge.

We followed along the ridge, passing sunset and sunrise points along the way, finally back to the Welcome Center where my Mom and Grandma would be waiting.

We happily left Bryce Canyon after fulfilling our desire to get in a nice long hike, and headed back to Kanab. Later that night, we headed up the road toward the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to view the stars, and boy we were not disappointed.

Day 4 – The Grand Canyon National Park

Day 2 – Zion National Park

After a restless night of sleep adjusting to the jet lag and new environment, we got up the next morning and headed for Zion National Park.

Not understanding how the shuttle system worked, we ended up driving almost all the way through the park before turning back to park and take the shuttle to the various hikes and sightseeing opportunities. We saw some beautiful sights along the way though!

(Photo courtesy of my Grandma)

My father and I wanted to do some more serious hiking, while my mother and grandmother preferred to spend more time relaxing and taking in the sights, so we split up after taking the shuttle to Weeping Rock trailhead. The path was paved, and after a short easy climb we reached the top, where there were hanging plants and water filtering through the cracks in the rock.


We stopped beneath a walkway to investigate a small creek, then set off to our next destination.

We were a bit disappointed because we really wanted to do some incredible hikes, in particular Angel’s Landing, but we just didn’t have enough time before the shuttles stopped running for the day. So instead, we decided to do the Emerald Pools loop. The trail was very flat and sandy, and very easy to follow.

Despite how simple the trail was, my knee was already starting to bother me. It’s all the more frustrating because I walk a lot at home, I exercise a lot with squats and lunges and knee intensive moves, but GOD FOBID I walk on a trail. A trail, mind you, that VERY out of shape people are walking on in flip-flops. Despite the persistent pain, I was determined to do all of the hikes that we had planned for this trip. So I hobbled my way along the Emerald pools trail until we got to THE emerald pools, which were honestly a bit lackluster, but cool all the same.

We made our way back to the Zion Lodge, where my mother and grandmother were perusing a gift shop and some friendly deer were hanging out on the lawn.

At this point we really didn’t have time to do any more trails before the shuttles stopped running (unbeknownst to us, we were all an hour behind because we didn’t realize we crossed a time zone on the way from Vegas! So we were REALLY close to the shuttles stopping!). So we hopped on the shuttle back to the car, and made our way out of the park.

We made our way out of the park just as the sun was beginning to set and drove the 45 minutes to our hotel in Kanab. I was getting so excited because I could tell that the stars out there would be AMAZING. The sky in UT and AZ is just enormous; you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction.

Day 3 – Kanab UT and Bryce Canyon National Park