Posts Tagged ‘National Park’

Road-trip 2017, Days 18 – 21

Having gotten our fill of urban exploring, we headed out of LA and back into the deserts.  After a stop at Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant (a western chain) for a bite of breakfast, we motored on to Mohave National Preserve in southeastern California where we spent a perfectly delightful few hours hiking about.  The preserve is expansive at about 1.6 million acres.  We could have spent a lot more time here, but the Grand Canyon was calling.

Motoring on, we paused for the night in Williams, AZ, staging for an early morning visit to Grand Canyon National Park.  This stop was on our “must do” list for this road trip as neither Mike nor I had been here.  It would not disappoint.

The following morning we drove up to Tusayan where we parked the car and caught the free shuttle into the National Park.  Though our schedule would not allow for a hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon (Mike’s edit: nor would our old legs), we thoroughly enjoyed our morning trek from the south rim, part way down the Kaibab Trail and back up.  Our afternoon was spent shuttling about the central part of park, walking part of a paved rim trail and generally gawking at the views.  Back in Williams, we had dinner at the Historic Brewing Barrel and Bottle.

The following morning we were up and out early for a drive back into the south end of the park, and out towards the east end to explore the Desert View area.  We enjoyed more amazing views of the canyon in the morning light, poked around the Tusayan Museum and took in the architectural detail and fascinating artwork of the Desert View Watchtower.  The tower was designed by Mary Colter, a renowned architect of the time; find more history and some photos, including of the interior,  on the NPS page for the tower.

As with other places we’ve visited on this road trip, we could have lingered a lot longer, but we’ve got miles to cover and some more family visits on the calendar.  We headed out of the park at mid-day, stopping for lunch at a little Mexican place by the airport and some photos ops in downtown Winslow, AZ.

From here we picked up the pace to cover some miles.  After an overnight near West Mesa/Albuquerque we enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday Brunch at the Slate Street Cafe, took a quick pass though Albuquerque’s Old Town (mostly closed on this holiday morning) and headed on into the vastness of Texas.


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Road-trip 2017 Day 10

After a serviceable breakfast at the very retro Courtesy Coffee Shop (Lounge by night) in Blythe, CA, we headed on for a last bit of the wild before finishing up our drive into Los Angeles.  Joshua Tree started its life as a National Monument (proclaimed so by FDR in 1936) and was renamed/redesignated  Joshua Tree National Park in 1994, and protects 792,510 acres of mostly wilderness where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge.  It proved to be a fine place to stretch our legs a bit.

We started our explorations in the southeastern part of the the park, part of the Colorado Desert, with elevations of less than 3,000 ft above sea level.  From near the Cottonwood Springs Visitors Center, we opted for the Mastodon Peak trail which did not disappoint.  Desert wildflowers and cacti blooms were abundant, although the intense sun of late morning made for some challenging photography. (ID help welcome!)

A few lizards also captured my attention.


As we made our way north and west in the park, we passed through what is referred to as a transition zone entered the Mojave Desert with elevations above 3,00 ft.  We stopped along the way for some shorter hikes.  It was at these elevations that we found expanses of the the park’s namesake, the Joshua Trees.  Tough and curious things, they’re not trees at all, rather belong to the yucca or agave family.  They have spiky succulent leaves that are kind of bayonet-shaped and every bit as sharp.

Of course in reading about the Joshua tree, I couldn’t help but stumble over references to the 1982 U2 album of the same name.  This Irish rock band was quite captivated with the deserts of the American southwest and found the landscapes to be quite fitting with the theme/songs of the album.  The cover photo however was not taken in Joshua Tree National Park, rather at another location in the Mojave Desert some 200 miles away.  While the actual tree fell some time ago, there is reportedly a plaque placed for those who go searching.

LS_20170405_171212 road snacks, Mexican-style

We left the park in the late afternoon with a plan to be at Duncan and Daniela’s place in LA for a late dinner.  A search for a milkshake or some such thing took us to a brightly lit place called La Michoacana in Beaumont CA where we picked up a couple of mangonadas, a kind of sweet, spicy, party-colored Mexican fruit drink with tamarind-coated straws.  Not bad really.   In any event, they quenched our thirst and tided us over to LA.

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After a month or so in the Coconut Grove area, with a short jaunt over to Key Biscayne, we decided to get a bit further flung in our exploring.  A couple of seasons ago we spent the better part of the winter in the Florida Keys, but had arrived in the area on a weekend and decided to get out of the madness that is Miami on a weekend as fast as we could.   That meant we missed much of the Biscayne Bay National Park area.  A week or so ago, we decided to remedy that.

photo cred: NPS site

photo cred: NPS site

Biscayne Bay National Park is a huge area, nearly 173,000 acres, 95% of which is water.  Stiltsville, which I’ve blogged about previously, is within the boundaries, as are a number of islands accessible only by water. The  park stretches from just south of Key Biscayne to just north of Key Largo.  Biscayne Bay dodged a bullet with regards to development;  I quote from Wikipedia:

Originally proposed for inclusion in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay was cut from the proposed park to ensure Everglades’ establishment. It remained undeveloped until the 1960s, when a series of proposals were made to develop the keys in the manner of Miami Beach, and to construct a deepwater seaport for bulk cargo, along with refinery and petrochemical facilities on the mainland shore of Biscayne Bay. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fueled power plants and two nuclear power plants were built on the bay shores. A backlash against development led to the 1968 designation of Biscayne National Monument. The preserved area was expanded by its 1980 re-designation as Biscayne National Park.

Scary stuff.  Find more details in the full Wikipeia article here.

So, planning for a mid-week excursion and with Duncan and Daniella aboard, we slipped loose of our mooring ball for few days and headed out.  We had a lovely afternoon sail down to Elliott Key.   We anchored near the northern part of the island, out far enough to avoid the no-see-ums and mosquitos rumored to lie in wait for unsuspecting visitors, anchor down just before sunset.  The following morning we took the dinghy ashore to do a bit of hiking.  Apparently the north end of the island is “the road less travelled” (the education center and camping facilities being farther south); we were unsuccessful in finding the trail that supposedly runs south through the island, however the mosquitos were very successful in finding us.  Plan B: back to Cheshire for a day of swimming and kayaking from the boat in some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen.  (Sorry, no photos as I had a SD card malfunction in my camera that day.)

The following day, after a yummy breakfast aboard, we headed down to check out Boca Chita Key which we’d seen in the distance the previous day.  It turned out to be an awesome stop.  Boca Chita at one point in time was a private island belonging to Mark C. Honeywell, of Honeywell, Incorporated fame.  In the late 1930’s, early 1940’s, he built some structures on the island, entertained some friends, etc.  One of the structures was a lighthouse, a pretty one in fact, which was lit only very briefly; turns out he never cleared this project with the Lighthouse Service who promptly declared it a hazard to navigation and ordered it extinguished.  The tower still stands however and is quite pretty.  (Interesting side note:  Honeywell pretty much abandoned his Boca Chita project after his wife died from injuries sustained in a fall on the island.  His second wife apparently died in a house fire of suspicious origins some time later.)

Today, some of the structures remain, along with some stone walls, and most notably, the tower.  The island is accessible only by boat, and for a fee, overnight camping and/or anchoring.  We tied up to the seawall for the afternoon (free!), and did a bit of a walk-about, checking out the historic markers, and a short hiking trail before enjoying a picnic lunch in one of the pavilions.  It also turned out to be a great birding spot.  Numerous Royal Tern were a real treat.

The short hiking trail gave us peeks at some wading birds…

Nearer to Cheshire, this palm seem to be popular with a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I also had what I hoped to be some good shots of the gorgeous perimeter of the island, but they too were casualties of the SD card malfunction.  (So we’ll have to go back at some point so I can try again.)

We had another lovely sail back to Dinner Key in the afternoon where we off-loaded Duncan and Daniela and started preparations for our next round of visitors.  Being out on the water again has got us antsy to get moving again.  Projects are almost complete, so we should be on the move again shortly.  As always, stay tuned.

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So, after meandering our way from the Chesapeake Bay to Bar Harbor, we caught up with friends, 3 other couples, from central Ohio for a few days of hiking and exploring in the beautiful Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine.  We’d been in the area a couple of times before on bicycle trips , but never with gear or time to do much hiking.  This trip was different for it was planned to be all about the hiking and exploring.  We had absolutely perfect weather, crisp clear days with comfortable temps for hiking by day, donning sweaters/jackets for our walks in the evening, nice sleeping weather as well.  For the most part skies were clear as a bell, except for our last day which brought us some misty morning fog, fairly typical for these parts this time of year.

We based in Bar Harbor at a simple but nice place called the Moseley Cottage Inn and Town Motel.  The inn was a lovely B&B, though we stayed in the motel adjacent.  Worked just fine for our purposes.  One of the coolest things was the Island Explorer system, a whole fleet of propane-powered shuttle buses over 8 routes to move folks all over the park and surrounding towns.  For free!  Kudos to L.L.Bean for 10 years and counting of major support for this eco-friendly endeavor.  We caught it each morning at the Village Green in Bar Harbor, with the luxury of being able to plan point to point hikes without worrying about where we left the cars or having to spot cars, etc.  In the end, we covered a lot more trail miles than we would have otherwise.

I’ll spare you the details of our hikes, except to mention a few of the trails by name for those who might have been or may plan a trip.  We had four days to play with, starting and finishing, days 1 and 4, with fairly challenging hikes with some elevation changes and the amazing vistas that go with same, and the two days in between meandering the shoreline trails, finding one more lighthouse and staring into a lot of tidal pools.

Day 1 was a climb of Cadillac Mountain, elevation 1530 ft at the summit.  We started near Blackwoods Campground, caught the Cadillac South Ridge Trail, looped Eagles Crag before reaching the summit.  The summit complete with parking lot, snack bar and gift shop, though I’ll tell you that I personally don’t believe you quite appreciate the view as much if you haven’t climbed it on foot.  Our decent took us down the North Ridge Trail which included an awesome view of Eagle Lake.

Day 2 we caught the shuttle bus to Sand Beach near Newport Cove, and hiked the fairly tame Great Head Trail.  Back at Sand Beach, we caught the shuttle to Jordan Pond.  Jordan Pond is another popular spot in the park where the tradition as recommended by a family member of one in our group, is to eat popovers.  Yes, popovers, along with some other tasty things, with a very nice view of the pond.  We walked off our lunch with a subsequent hike around the 3.5 mile Jordan Pond Path.

Day 3 we opted to drive to the southern end of Mount Desert Island to see Bass Harbor Light and do some short hikes.  The shuttle buses actually do run down there as well, but on a very sparse schedule in the late season… I guess the southern end of the island isn’t as popular as some other parts.  We however found some lovely spots.  The lighthouse wasn’t much to look at, surrounded by green scaffolding while undergoing some restoration, but we had a grand time climbing on the rocks at the shore, enjoying the morning light and catching sight of a couple of magnificent old sailing vessels on the water.  Nearby we walked Ship Harbor Nature Trail and the Wonderland Trail, the latter of which had some phenomenal tidal pools.  Following our hikes we headed for Southwest Harbor for a bite of lunch and a bit of exploring in a town not quite as touristy as Bar Harbor, then motored back north and down Sargent Drive along Somes Sound, stopping again in Northeast Harbor for a wander around the marina.

Day 4 found us back on the more challenging trails.  We caught the shuttle to Monument Cove where we picked up the Gorham Mountain Trail up to the Gorham Mountain summit at 525 ft, on to Halfway Mountain and around a really pretty pond known as the Bowl, then caught the Champlain South Ridge Trail to the Champlain Mountain summit at 1058 ft.  Our views for this climb were clear enough to see the water, but with enough fog and mist for a bit of interest.  Spectacular really.  And unlike Cadillac Mountain, if you were on top of Champlain Mountain, you’d gotten there by climbing.  No parking lot, no gift shop.  Our decent took us around Huguenot Head down Beachcroft Trail which had its own amazing views.  We spent a wee bit of time poking around the Nature Center near the end of the trail, but mostly we were spent.

All in all, it was a successful trip.  We had no injuries or disasters, lost and found hiking sticks a few times, enjoyed each others’ company both on the trail and relaxing at day’s end.  And of course there was the food.  I have to say that Bar Harbor has plentiful restaurants, and we found a few that we enjoyed enough to visit more than once.  In case you go, some of our favorites were Poor Boys Gourmet, Cafe This Way (we visited for both breakfast and dinner… check out the lobster pics below), Side Street Cafe, which we gave mixed reviews but who had a Lobster Mac and Cheese that was very yummy, and last but not least, the Morning Glory Bakery for tasty pastries which we enjoyed on the Town Green while waiting for the morning shuttle.

Saturday morning had us saying good-byes, the rest of the group headed for Woodstock, VT while Mike and I headed south.  For our return trip, we opted to skip the $40+ tolls and took in the sights of US1… which was pretty in Maine and got interesting/ethnic through New Jersey and metro New York.  Toll costs for the return trip: $0.  Food highlights:  Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, ME  for breakfast on Saturday (though more for the ambiance than for the food) and a decent little Irish Pub in Stratford, CT called McCoy’s Pub for dinner that night. We were pleased to find Cheshire still floating when we returned, have spent the last few days getting some things sorted out, laundry done, etc and are starting to plan for our journey south beginning later this month.  Stay tuned.

And the photos… plenty this time.  The ones noted (BP) are compliments of our friend Bob who is an awesome photographer.  Thanks, Bob!

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