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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Entries Tagged as 'Hiking'

North Park‏

August 5th, 2010 · 3 Comments

My friend Sharon and I took a chance on the weather this week. The weather prediction for North Park called for it to be overcast and wet, but we made a photo safari there anyway.

While we did get a lot of rain, we also lucked out on enough sun to make the photographs that we wanted. I wanted to return to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, which I had most recently visited three years earlier. I wanted to see the waterfowl there.

Although Sharon also loves to photograph birds, she most wanted to see moose. Colorado has about 600 moose, almost all of which are in the North Park area. Walden, the only incorporated town in Jackson County, which covers most of North Park, is — by decree of the Colorado Senate — the “Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado.”

With a population of about 700 — half of Jackson County’s residents — Walden has most of the county’s accommodations. We got rooms in downtown Walden’s old and pleasant Antlers Inn.

North Park isn’t a park in the usual modern sense of a place set aside for human recreation and enjoyment. Instead, it is a park in the sense of a broad, fairly level valley between mountain ranges. About three hours northwest of Boulder, North Park sits at between 8,000 and 9,000 feet.

Covering 1,613 square miles, North Park is grassland, brush, and streams. It’s the headwaters of the North Platte River.

We made several visits to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, which is just a couple of miles south of Walden. There and in the surrounding area I saw the waterfowl that I went to see as well as raptors and hummingbirds.

Between the refuge and the town we saw a lake of amazing beauty. A part of the Walden Reservoir or just next to it, this lake is covered with a water flower, perhaps a water lilly, that neither of us had ever seen before.

Sharon and Flowers

Sharon and Flowers

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Closeup

Closeup

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Pawnee National Grassland‏

July 24th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Although my SUV broke down on my way back home from the Pawnee National Grassland this week, I’m still a lucky man.

I was lucky to break down in Greeley, Colorado, the only sizable city on my route between the grassland and my home in Boulder. My Toyota Highlander stalled at a busy intersection, so I called AAA on my cell phone and told the operator that I smelled gasoline. She considered it an emergency and called the fire department, the police, and a tow truck driver, who quickly arrived in that order. They discovered that I had a hole in my SUV’s fuel tank. This was result, I guess, of driving almost 1,000 miles in the previous four days on dirt roads that were often muddy and where I may have bottomed out on some rock.

The Toyota dealership in Greeley was just a mile from where my SUV stalled. After the tow truck driver took me and my SUV there, the dealership quickly gave me their diagnosis — an estimate of $1,050 and a four-day wait for the parts. After renting a 2010 Corolla from the dealer, I was on my way home just two hours after my SUV stalled.

Years ago on a lonely road in Africa I was able to fix a leak in my car’s fuel tank with soap until I could get to a mechanic who repaired it. Nowadays, we replace, not repair.

But I was lucky this time too. The experience was expensive, but it was only money. I got through it safely and with very little loss of time.

I was also lucky this time as I explored the Pawnee National Grassland looking for photographic beauty. I found what I sought, although my best shots kept me waiting until the last moment.

This was my first extended visit to the Colorado’s prairies. I explored the 30-by-60 mile area where this national grassland protects 193,060 acres of shortgrass prairie. This is the western end of the Great Plains, that broad expanse of North American prairie, steppe, and grassland running about 500 miles from east to west and 2,000 miles from north to south.

A View of the Prairie within Pawnee National Grassland

A View of the Prairie within Pawnee National Grassland

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A Rainbow During a Rain Storm in the Grassland

A Rainbow During a Rain Storm in the Grassland

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Great Basin: Lexington Arch‏

July 15th, 2010 · No Comments

My friend Mark and I bid farewell to Great Basin National Park in Nevada with our hike on the evening of Monday, July 5, to Lexington Arch. We set off to the arch at 4 p.m. and reached the overlook three hours later after driving about three-quarters of an hour to the trailhead and then making a rather easy but continuous climb of 1.7 miles. We reached the trailhead at 7,440 feet up a dirt road south of the guest ranch where we stayed. Then we hiked 830 feet to the overlook.

We had carefully planned the timing of our visit to the arch, but we hadn’t been able to learn what direction the overlook of the arch faced. Our first view of it disappointed us. The trail took us from the east, and our first view of the arch looked into the sun. We were not able to see through the arch to the sky beyond. Still, we did see bright sunlight streaming through the arch.

Lexington Arch from the Overlook

Lexington Arch from the Overlook

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The arch is the equivalent of six-stories of limestone on a hillside above Lexington Creek. Although I have seen and photographed many natural arches and bridges in the West, sandstone, not limestone, form almost all of them.

At the overlook, we noticed a much less obvious trail leading down toward the arch. Hoping that the trail would take us to the west side of the arch before the sun went down, we immediately set forth and went perhaps another half mile. We were in luck. There was the arch — mostly in shadows — but partly in the sun with the valley below in view through the arch.

Valley View

Valley View

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Next, Mark and I took turns shooting each other standing under the arch itself.

Mark under Lexington Arch

Mark under Lexington Arch

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Me Under Lexington Arch

Me Under Lexington Arch

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Returning to the overlook, which has a bench as well as  view, we ate our picnic dinner of cold cuts. Finally, we hiked back down the trail to my SUV in the dark, reaching the guest ranch most before 10. Both of us have headlamps and needed them.

We had the arch to ourselves, not seeing another sole the entire evening. The hike was a fitting conclusion for our visit to Great Basin National Park, one of the most isolated national parks in the lower 48.

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Great Basin: Alpine Lakes

July 14th, 2010 · No Comments

My friend Mark and I hiked the three-mile loop trail to two alpine lakes on the north flank of Wheeler and Jeff Davis peaks on July 5. This was the hike in Great Basin National Park that we postponed from the previous day because of drizzly weather on the mountain. But we had clear weather for our hike.

Jeff Davis Peak, Elevation 12,771, and Wheeler Peak, Elevation 13,065

Jeff Davis Peak, Elevation 12,771, and Wheeler Peak, Elevation 13,065

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Teresa Lake, Elevation 10,230

Teresa Lake, Elevation 10,230

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Stella Lake

Stella Lake

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Parry's Primrose Grows by a Stream

Parry's Primrose Grows by a Stream

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This was a hike worth the wait.

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Posted in: Hiking, Photography

Landscape Arch‏

April 19th, 2010 · No Comments

When I got into Moab, Utah, on Friday I noticed a newspaper clipping posted in the office of the motel where I am staying. It says that Landscape Arch in Arches National Park is the world’s longest. Immediately I decided that I had to photograph it.

Landscape Arch has a span of 290 feet, three feet more than Kolob Arch in Zion National Park. Rainbow Bridge is the world’s longest natural bridge, but has only the sixth longest span. Sipapu Natural Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument, which I photographed on Thursday, ranks seventh.

The entrance to Arches National Park is only two miles from Moab. Its proximity probably has a lot to do with how popular this desert town is with tourists. Visitors booked every hotel and motel room in town on Friday.

Since the park is so close to Moab, as soon as I settled into my room I drove there on Friday afternoon. But the ranger at the visitor center told me that the morning just after sunrise was the best time to photograph Landscape Arch.

So I waited. Meanwhile, I toured other areas of the park, looking especially for scenes best photographed in the late afternoon sun.

These sandstone fins, which early settlers named Park Place because they reminded them of city skyscrapers, was the first place where I stopped.

Park Place

Park Place

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Next, I visited Fiery Furnace. Why these fiery red rocks got that name is easy to understand when seen in the late afternoon sunlight.

Fiery Furnace and the La Sal Mountains

Fiery Furnace and the La Sal Mountains

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Posted in: Hiking

Delicate Arch‏

April 10th, 2010 · No Comments

The sky over Moab that had been crystal clear turned overcast this afternoon. That could have either been great for sunset photography or awful. A cloudy sky can be more interesting or it can make the scene look dull when it blocks the sun. I took a chance that the sun would break through just before sunset, and again I was lucky.

I decided to return to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. This morning I viewed it at a distance, but I wanted to take the three mile hike up to it, like I did in February 2009. Earlier today I wrote that I doubted if I could improve on the shot of the arch that I took then. But this evening I decided to try anyway.

In the past 14 months since I was here last I have learned a few things. Today I stayed until the last light faded; for the second shot below I used a prime lens, which is inherently sharper than a zoom lens; I used a tripod and cable release; and I processed the images with HDR. Plus, I had a more interesting sky today.

Since I can’t decide whether I prefer the horizontal or vertical orientation for the image, I will share one of each.

Delicate Arch and the La Sal Mountains

Delicate Arch and the La Sal Mountains

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A Vertical View of Delicate Arch

A Vertical View of Delicate Arch

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I think that I succeeded in improving on the shot of the arch that I took on my previous trip. That image is online at http://www.mendosa.com/fitnessblog/?p=3181 so you can be the judge.

Delicate Arch is the most photographed arch in the world. It certainly is the one that I have shot the most, especially after taking 57 images this afternoon in order to show you these two.

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Posted in: Hiking

The Needles‏

April 10th, 2010 · No Comments

The Colorado and Green rivers divide Canyonlands National Park into three districts. Last year I explored the Island in the Sun District, which is close to Moab. On Friday I explored the Needles District. Some day I hope to explore the Maze, which is the least accessible district of Canyonlands because of its remoteness.

The Needles is a landscape of sculptured rock spires, arches, and canyons. The Needles — rock pinnacles banded in red and white — dominate the land.

Since I arrived at midday, the light was harsh. To compensate for it I processed all my images with high dynamic range (HDR), which lets me combine three images taken almost simultaneously but at different exposures.

Canyonlands also has arches. One of them in plain sight on the horizon looks just like a huge wooden shoe.

Wooden Shoe Arch

Wooden Shoe Arch

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The image below is of one of many rock formations and doesn’t have a name. But it reminds me of a chimney.

A Chimney Rock

A Chimney Rock

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Here are a few of the thousands of needles for which the district takes its name.

Needles on the Horizon

Needles on the Horizon

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This is truly a wilderness. It is a wilderness of rock.

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Posted in: Hiking

Natural Bridges‏

April 9th, 2010 · No Comments

Natural Bridges National Monument exists because of three huge natural bridges. I visited all three of them Thursday.

Leaving the Sierra Club outing to Grand Staircase-Escalante a couple of days early gave me the chance to explore other areas that I hadn’t seen before. I thought about the Canyon X slot canyons near Page, Arizona, but I still didn’t have enough time. I have to be in Denver by Sunday night to start a weeklong consulting contract that will take me to the Keystone ski resort — where we will work, not ski.

When I told Dave Hammack as we rode together in my SUV back from Broken Bow Arch that I was leaving that afternoon, he offered the suggestion that I followed. He recommended that I take the Burr Trail from Boulder, Utah, to Bullfrog at Lake Powell to get to Natural Bridges. I had wanted to see that southeast corner of the state, but hadn’t considered that route and any other route would take me far out of my way.

A sign told me that the Burr Trail — which nowadays is a road — was 75 unpaved miles with steep grades and sharp curves. In fact, only 16 miles are now unpaved and, while steep and sharp, they are well maintained.

The Burr Trail — named for a rancher who developed it to move cattle back and forth between winter and summer ranges — is quite scenic and runs through the south part of Canyonlands National Park. The drive took me through four federal recreation areas, all of which allowed me free entry with my interagency senior pass.

I arrived at Natural Bridges in the late afternoon in perfect time for photographing its three natural bridges. I had especially wanted to see natural bridges after seeing Broken Bow Arch the day before and Hickman Natural Bridge en route to Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Natural bridges and arches are different. The erosive action of flowing water form natural bridges. Other erosional forces — mainly the action of frost and the seepage of moisture — form arches.

Sipapu Bridge here is the world’s second largest after Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon. The span of Rainbow Bridge is 275 feet. But Sipapu is close, with a span of 268 feet.

Sipapu Bridge might not look all that big in my photo below, because you can’t see any humans or anything else that we are familiar with which to make a comparison. I shot Sipapu Bridge from the overlook. The trail down to the bridge is blocked by heavy snow and ice.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

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Broken Bow Arch‏

April 8th, 2010 · No Comments

My second night in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was even more miserable than the first night. The temperature dropped to the mid-20s if not colder. I was cold all night long in my sleeping bag, although it is rated to keep me warn down to 15 degrees.

Then, the only choices for breakfast were bagels, muffins, cereal, and melon slices. This offered me nothing to eat on my very low-carb diet, even though I had told the Sierra Club about my diet preferences when I signed up for the outing.

That’s when I decided to leave early. But I waited until after we returned from the day hike down Willow Gulch into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We drove 18 more miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road from our base camp 27 miles into Grand Staircase-Escalante on that long dirt road through the center of the monument.

En route we stopped at Dance Hall Rock. Its smooth floor, sheltering alcove, and natural acoustics kept up the spirits of Mormon pioneers, when they rested from their labors of building Hole-in-the-Rock trail from Escalante to San Juan in 1880.

The Tiny Figures of People Show the Size of Dance Hall Rock

The Tiny Figures of People Show the Size of Dance Hall Rock

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We rested from our labors from time to time too. This was one place where we stopped and admired the view.

An Oasis in the Desert

An Oasis in the Desert

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Our destination was Broken Bow Arch, a moderately difficult six-mile roundtrip hike down Willow Gulch. Where we could see a trail, it was faint, unmaintained and unmarked, and often required us to push through willows and other brush.

But eventually we got to the arch. When we arrived, I was surprised that it wasn’t a broken arch. Actually, it got its name when a local teacher found a broken Indian bow under the arch. It’s big, with a span of 94 feet and a height of 100 feet.

Broken Bow Arch

Broken Bow Arch

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When we returned to base camp I made my good-byes, struck my tent, and drove back Hole-in-the-Rock road to Escalante. I went to the same motel that I stayed at a year ago, and I greatly enjoyed the warm room and bed.

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Posted in: Hiking

Canyons of the Escalante‏

April 8th, 2010 · No Comments

This is canyonland. The beauty of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument shines most intensely in its canyon.

The Sierra Club outing that I took here hiked our first full day down a canyon known as Harris Wash, a name that hardly does justice to the location. We hiked along and on the creek that runs through the wash for eight easy miles. Our hike took us out of the national monument into bordering Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

We crossed and recrossed the creek maybe 100 times as we walked through the narrow canyon. Sometimes the water was almost a foot deep, leading me to appreciate my new waterproof Sorrel boots that I bought for my New Zealand trip all the more.

The vegetation in this dry place is sparse. However, a few flowers were already in bloom, notably this lilly.

A Lilly Along the Trail

A Lilly Along the Trail

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Animal life was correspondingly scarce. This black rosy-finch was the only bird I saw.

A Black Rosy-Finch at Home in the Wash

A Black Rosy-Finch at Home in the Wash

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Posted in: Hiking