Category Archives: Hiking

Hiking The Vindicator Valley Trail

Throughout the state of Colorado, the landscape is dotted with memories of the silver and gold mining industries of the late 1800’s.  A high concentration of abandoned mines can be found about an hour outside Colorado Springs.  Miners came to the area trying to reach the Cripple Creek and Victor mining districts with the promise of wealth to be found in the area.   There is a great trail system in this area called the Trails of Gold where you can hike past the remnants of this interesting part of American history.

On this day, we hiked the Vindicator Valley Trail.  This trail is located off Rt. 81 just outside the little town of Victor.  It combines two of my favorite things…ghost towns and hiking! And it is great for photography.  Ok, three things!!

Vindicator Valley Trail Start

The trail is about 2 miles long is a fairly easy hike with some small rolling hills.  The scenery is spectacular!

Part of the Trail

The trail is bordered in most sections by split rail fencing which protects the ruins and hikers from unseen dangers.  Posted signs warn to stay on the trail and keep an eye on kids and dogs.  One never knows where an abandoned mine might lay as more than 500 mines once could be found in this area.

Longfellow Mining Company

Many buildings along the trail have historical information markers.

Vindicator Valley Trail - Abandoned Cabin

I really wished we had been just a couple weeks earlier so that we could have seen the aspens.  It must be even more beautiful in the early fall.

Vindicator Mine

 

Powder Magazine

This is one of a few powder magazines that have survived.  The explosives were safely and separately kept in these buildings far from the mining operations.

Vindicator Valley Mining

Vindicator Valley Trail Mining Building 1

Vindicator Valley Trail Mining Building 2

Our trip to Colorado was a short one and the Vindicator Valley Trail was the only hiking trail we were able to do this day since we had limited time.  There are nine trails in this area and I hope to explore more in the future.  Check here for trail descriptions and maps.

Stop by Victor for lunch after a day of hiking!

Jersey Goes West Pt. 8 – Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Postpile

After our visit to Manzanar, it was getting a little late and we were ready for dinner.  We found this restaurant in Bishop.  It was a nice “home-cooking” type restaurant.  I had fried chicken and the hubby had meatloaf.  Both meals were huge portions and quite tasty!IMG_7384

It was close to 10 pm when we arrived at Mammoth Lakes.  We planned to go to Devil’s Postpile National Monument in the morning and wanted to stay as close as possible, so I chose to make reservations at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. They have pretty affordable rates during the non-ski season.

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We were given an upstairs room in a wing near the main lodge and were told to take any food or smelly items out of the car and into our room as the bears had been quite active lately.

Going from -200+ feet below sea level to 10,000 feet above sea level in a few hours has its issues!  I remember telling my husband that I was out of breath just from brushing my teeth.  The other thing that I totally didn’t expect, was that our clothes in the luggage were soaking wet!  For the life of me, I couldn’t not figure out why our clothes were wet when the luggage was dry.  Then it finally dawned on me, that it was so hot in the desert that our clothes heated up and then cooled so quickly that water condensed on them within the luggage.  We had clothes hung up all over trying to dry them out!

Unfortunately, we were only staying in this beautiful place one night.  We fell exhaustively into bed.

The next morning we had breakfast in the main lodge.  The food and service were wonderful!  After breakfast, we needed to find the ticket office to buy passes to ride the shuttle bus to Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  During the busy season, no cars are allowed up the road to the monument unless you are going early in the morning or late in the evening.  The road is narrow and they try to limit traffic going to the monument.  They sell tickets near the sporting areas at the inn.  I took a few shots while trying to find the tickets.  More than once, my husband said, “We are coming back here and staying for more than one night!”.  He did not want to leave!

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The day was a bit smoky from the wildfires in Sequoia and Yosemite.

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We finally found a little stand that was selling excursions and asked about shuttle bus tickets.  Turns out, that yesterday was the last day for the shuttle bus, so we were free to drive up to the monument!  With that, we said goodbye to Mammoth Mountain Inn and hello to Inyo National Forest.

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Devils Postpile National Monument is located within Inyo National Forest.  When driving, there is an entrance fee.  I think it was $10.  The shuttle is a bit more expensive.  The drive was a little scary as there aren’t many guardrails and the road is narrow.  Downhill drivers are supposed to give uphill drivers the right-of-way and there are some turnouts for photos and to allow faster drivers to pass.  I am a chicken when it comes to mountain roads so hubby did the driving.

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It was a short walk to the postpile from the parking area.  On the way, we passed this beautiful meadow with the San Joaquin River running through itDevils Postpile_Inyo_7448

Devil’s Postpile is located a short easy walk (about 0.4 miles) from the parking area.

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This awesome geologic structure was once a lake of basaltic lava.  As the lava cooled it formed these jointed columns. What was left was a mountain of cooled basaltic columns.  These columns were hidden until glaciers eroded the face of the mountain and left the impressive columns exposed.  If you visit Devil’s Postpile, make sure you climb to the top!  It is a short 15 minute uphill hike and well worth the effort.  Nature is amazing!  The top looks like honeycomb of stone.  It looks like someone laid paving stones here.

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If we are ever able to visit again, I would like to take the longer hike to Rainbow Falls but it was longer than we were prepared to take today. We wanted to make it to Yosemite in time to see a few things before nightfall.

A couple parting shots as we hiked back to the parking area…

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After leaving, we stopped back in Mammoth Lakes for lunch. I am sure the locals had fun watching this Easterner trying to open a bear-proof trashcan.  I was a pro by the time we left Yosemite!

Stay tuned for our few days in Yosemite!

 

 

Jersey Goes West Pt. 7 -Death Valley

Yes, we braved Death Valley in the summer and lived to tell about it!  One thing I search for before we left was information on touring Death Valley in the summer.  I wasn’t sure that we should even attempt it, but after reading that people actually do visit in the summer, we decided to go.  I am really glad we did!  We heeded safety warnings, brought plenty of water, did not do any long hikes and stayed within sight distance of the car. We only had a partial day to spend at the park so it was a really quick tour and we only hit some of the highlights.

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We started out at Harmony Borax Works.  The famous 20-mule teams were used for the difficult task of hauling the borax out of Death Valley to market.  The Harmony Borax Works played an important part of the history of Death Valley and the settlement of the Furnace Creek area.

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Next was a short stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center.  Check out that temperature!  It was about 11 am.  It is definitely a dry heat!  Make sure you drink plenty of water.  With the dry heat, you do not sweat and may not realize that you are becoming dehydrated until it is too late.

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On to Badwater Basin and the salt flats!IMG_7267

Badwater Basin was as far as we went in the southern section of the park. We turned back toward Furnace Creek and stopped at Devil’s Golf Course.  Crystallized salt was deposited here by ancient oceans and then shaped by wind and rain leaving a sharp, ragged landscape that was said a place where only the devil could play golf!

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Next stop on our whirlwind Death Valley tour was the Artist’s Palette Loop Drive. The colors on this drive are spectacular.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.  It was early afternoon when we drove the loop.  It is supposed to be even more scenic in the late afternoon or early evening sun.

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We began to slowly make our way west towards the western exit of the park.  Before reaching Stovepipe Wells Village, we stopped at Mesquite Sand Dunes.  This place (according to literature at the visitor’s center) is one of the most dangerous places in the park.  The dunes look much closer than they actually are and most of the deaths in the park have been because people try to hike to the dunes in hot weather and become dehydrated and disoriented. We stayed close to the car and admired from a distance since the temperature had reached close to 120 degrees.

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Our last stop in Death Valley was at Stovepipe Wells Village for some refreshments.  We needed to be in Mammoth Lake that night so we couldn’t stick around too long.

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I really enjoyed Death Valley despite the heat.  I hope to plan a trip back one day, hopefully in February or March when the wildflowers are blooming.  There are so many more places to explore and I hate that we had to make it a super fast trip through, only skimming the surface of what the area has to offer.  It is possible to tour Death Valley in the summer, not optimal conditions, but it is possible!  Take A LOT of water with you and heed the “Turn Off Air Conditioning” warning signs when leaving the valley.  As you climb, the car can easily become overheated.  We had no problems, but did turn off the AC and had the windows open.

Coming up next….a stop at Manzanar, the Japanese Relocation Center that was in operation during World War II.

 

 

Jersey Goes West Pt. 4 – Valley of Fire (one last time)

Today is just a short post to finish up Valley of Fire.

When last I left you, we had visited the White Domes at the end of White Domes Rd.  We drove back towards the main road towards the East entrance.  On the way we passed the Seven Sisters which are seven lone, tall rocks.  There  is a little picnic area in this spot.  We continued onwards toward The Cabins and Lone Rock.

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This image was taken near Lone Rock which is kind of what it sounds like.  It is a large lone rock which a picnic area has been set up near.  We hiked back towards a little canyon and took a picture inside one of the little mini caves that dot the rockscape within VOF.

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The light was fading, but I wanted to see the Cabins, which I had missed during my visit last December.

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These cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 to provide shelter for travelers and campers that came to visit the newly established Valley of Fire State Park.

I originally had planned to bring my tripod for some sunset shots but totally forgot it in the hotel room!  This one was captured hand held as the sun started going down.

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It was a beautiful end to our day at Valley of Fire State Park!

Jersey Goes West Pt. 3 – Valley of Fire (continued)

After hiking to Mouse’s Tank, we returned to the car and continued up White Domes Road  to Rainbow Vista.  Rainbow Vista is a provides a great colorful panoramic view of the area.

Rainbow Vista View

There is a short hiking trail in area.  The trail led to this beautiful multi-colored rock formation.  This is what Valley of Fire is all about!

 

Rainbow Vista Sandstone 2

We hiked back to the car.  Next stop,  Silica Dome and Fire Canyon.  Off White Domes Road is Fire Canyon Road.  A short drive up Fire Canyon Road leads to a view of Fire Canyon and Silica Dome.  There is a small lookout area but no hiking trails in this area.

Fire Canyon

The sandstone formations that are prevalent in Valley of Fire are made from grains that are almost pure silica. Silica Dome is the best example in the park of such a deposit. The change in color towards the base of the dome occurs when small amounts of iron in the rock produce the rust stain color.

Silica Dome

After our visit to Silica Dome, we made our way to the Fire Wave.   The Fire Wave hike is about an hour long  out and back and it is not recommended (actual warnings posted at the trail head) to do this hike in hot weather.  We took water with us and planned to only go a short way.

The trail starts with a downhill trail going towards this large rock formation.

Fire Wave 1

We walked along the large sandstone outcropping and soon found this beautiful formation.

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This flat smooth sand stone was made up of the most vivid beautiful colors.  Pictures really don’t do it justice.  At this point, we decide to just do the whole hike.  We didn’t know when we would be able to make a trip back here and we felt good despite the heat.

The only way to follow the trail at this point were cairn markers that were set up on the rock.

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After a half mile of hiking, we finally came to the Fire Wave.  What an awesome natural piece of artwork!

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After a little rest, we hiked the half mile back to the car.  The hike back was a little more tough since it was uphill.  I am so glad we did it though! It was about 5 pm by this time.  We hopped back on the road and drove to the end of White Domes Road to see……the White Domes of course!

The sun was getting lower in the sky and the lighting wasn’t that great so my images reflect that.

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There is a hiking trail in the area but we were both pretty beat from the Fire Wave hike so we enjoyed the view close to the car.

I thought I could wrap up Valley of Fire in 2 parts, but that’s all the time I have tonight.  Stay tuned for more!

Jersey Goes West Pt. 2: Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park lies about an hour outside Las Vegas off Interstate 15 at Exit 75.  There was a $10 entry fee to the park.  I highly recommend having a full day to explore the park.  I visited last December for a few hours and only had time to see a few sites.  I knew I wanted to go back to explore more and my husband has had this park on his list of must-sees for a while.

Valley of Fire gets its name from the large red sandstone rock formations that are found in the park.  These rock formations were formed by huge shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago.  The valley was home to the Basket Maker people and later, the Anasazi Pueblo farmers.  Prehistoric petroglyphs are visible in many sections of the park.

We left Vegas shortly after 8 am and arrived at VOF a little before 10 since we had to stop at a grocery store to load up on water, ice, a cooler and some snacks.  There is only one gas station/convenience store close to the west entrance of the park.  Bring food if you want to eat while there.  The visitor centers sells some drinks and packaged snacks but is very limited.

The day was already getting quite hot and was already close to 90 degrees when we arrived.  The first area we visited was the Scenic Loop Road.  It is a short (2 mile), mostly paved loop that passes two main sites of interest, Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock.

Scenic Loop Road - VOF
Scenic Loop Road – VOF

Arch Rock is the first site you pass on Scenic Loop Road.  We got out to do a short walk in the area.

Arch Rock - VOF
Arch Rock – VOF

While we were hiking in this area, I heard some rustling in the bushes near the rock outcroppings.  I couldn’t see what was back there and I all could think of was “I hope there isn’t a mountain lion back there.”  I then heard a loud thwacking sound and the rustling stopped.  All of a sudden out of the bushes popped out a few Bighorn Sheep.  They were way too quick for my camera.  I only saw their butt ends as they disappeared around the corner of the rocks.

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Hiking near Arch Rock – VOF
Dan has caught the camera bug!
Dan has caught the camera bug!

Next stop was Atlatl Rock.  This one site enables you to get a close look at the prehistoric petroglyphs.  The park service has constructed stairs so you can climb up the rock to view the artwork.

Atlatl Rock Marker
Atlatl Rock Marker
Atlatl Rock
Atlatl Rock
Atlatl Petroglyphs
Panoramic View from Atlatl Rock
Panoramic View from Atlatl Rock

There is a picnic area at Atlatl Rock.  These cute little antelope ground squirrels were quite bold and begging people for food.  Unfortunately, too many people were obliging.

Antelope Ground Squirrel cools itself.
Antelope Ground Squirrel cools itself.
Antelope Ground Squirrel
Antelope Ground Squirrel

After a quick visit to the visitor’s center, we drove up White Domes Road to hike the Petroglyph Canyon Trail.

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This 3/4 mile round-trip trail leads to Mouse’s Tank.  Mouse’s Tank is a natural basin within the rocks that collects rainwater.  The water can last in the basin for months and had quite a bit of water when we took a peek.  Mouse’s Tank gets its name from an 1890’s outlaw who was believed to survive in the desert by using the water in the tank.

The Petroglyph Trail to Mouse's Tank
The Petroglyph Trail to Mouse’s Tank

The tank is located in the triangle shaped area towards the bottom of the picture.

Mouse's Tank
Mouse’s Tank

This out and back hike is an easy mostly flat hike  to the tank.  Keep your eye out for numerous petroglyphs along the trail.  It was a bit tough this day as the temp by this time had reached 100 degrees.  We took water with us and were fine, but be mindful and know what your body can do especially in hot weather!

More from Valley of Fire coming up! I will also be posting additional pictures on my Flickr page which can be accessed on the side bar of this blog.

Apple Pie Hill

So, I am ashamed to say in all the years that I have lived in the NJ PIne Barrens, I have never been to Apple Pie Hill.  I had always said that I needed to get out there and then plans would change or I would run out of time.  Excuses, excuses!  Last weekend, I decided to finally take a trip out there.

Apple Pie Hill is the highest point in the Pine Barrens at 205 feet above sea level.  There is also an un-used fire tower here that you can climb for a wonderful view of the pine barrens.  On a clear day, you can see the skylines of Philadelphia and Atlantic City.  Unfortunately, the day we went was cloudy and overcast.  Despite the weather, the views at the top were well worth the climb even if you are slightly squeamish of heights like me.

Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower

Apple Pie Hill - View 2

 

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As it was a very cold day, we decided to drive to the tower.  It is car accessible and is a couple miles into the woods from Rt. 532.  The road was snow covered and we were easily able to navigate it in a 4×4 truck.  I don’t know what the road would be like during normal conditions.  The sand can be tough for cars.  Due to its easy accessibility, there is some vandalism evident at the site.  There are many hiking trails in the area.  I am looking forward to warmer weather so that we can better explore the area!

DIRECTIONS FROM NEAREST HIGHWAY:  From Route 563 South at the intersection with Route 532 at Chatsworth fire house, turn Right on 532 West. After 1.4 miles turn Left through old brick gateposts onto Ringler Avenue. Continue on paved portion of Ringler Avenue for 0.3 miles. When the road curves left, continue straight onto the sand road. This road appears as New York Avenue on some maps. Continue through intersections with other sand roads for approximately 1.7 miles to the parking area by the fire tower at top of Apple Pie Hill.

This site has some more great information on Apple Pie Hill.  http://www.njwildlifetrails.org/PineBarrensTrails/Sites/tabid/1698/Scope/site/Guide/PINEBARREN/Site/250/Default.aspx

Bear Creek Preserve

Today I took a short trip to the Bear Creek Preserve located on Lower Bank Road just north of the Lower Bank Bridge over the Mullica River.
Bear Creek Preserve

There is not much of a parking area. No motor vehicles are allowed in the preserve so I parked outside the locked gate and walked in. The sandy road starts in a wooded area and follows Bear Creek as it makes its way to the Mullica. There were turtles and ducks in the wooded area of the creek and I even saw a common yellowthroat but no one wanted to cooperate for pictures.

After a short walk through the more densely wooded portion of the road, the landscape opened up to the marsh area.
Bear Creek Preserve Trail

A male mallard was much more cooperative with a short photo shoot before I moved on.

Male Mallard

Spring was trying to make an appearance. Most of the trees were only budding but the red maples were full of their bright red “helicopter” seed heads.

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Red Maples in Spring

As I walked, I heard a lot of birds singing but they were shy and did not want their picture taken. The tree swallows were out in droves hunting for insects. It was nice to be out here without another person around. The marsh grasses rubbed against each other creating a symphony of eerie but interesting noises.

Marsh Grasses

I came across this bird blind but couldn’t go inside as the doors appeared to be nailed shut. Too bad, it would have made a cool spot to sit and look for birds.

Old Bird Blind

This trail is a really beautiful trail. If I had gone a bit earlier in the morning, it may have been a little more active with birdlife. Wildlife seen today: red slider turtles, a snake which slithered into the grass to quickly for an ID, catbird, Canada geese, common yellowthroat, mallard, and tree swallows.

Bear Creek Preserve Road

Estell Manor Park

This winter has been a tough one for South Jersey. We are not accustom to having 17 winter storms in one season and I was going stir crazy from having been cooped up most of the winter. I wanted to explore a place that I had not been to before. I was short on time so I chose someplace close to home – Estell Manor Park.

I had no idea that the park was so large. They have about 20 miles of hiking trails which are perfect for birding as the trails encompass many types of habitat from upland forest to cedar swamps to marshes. The skies were gray and cloudy which didn’t make for perfect photo-taking opportunities but I made the best of it. I knew that Estell Manor was home to a glassworks during the 1800’s but I had know idea that it also was home to a munitions plant during World War I. Bethlehem Loading Co. operated the plant from 1918 – 1919. I happened upon one of the towers during my hike. The foundations of the old buildings are found throughout the park.

World War I munitions plant tower
World War I munitions plant tower

The Estellville Glassworks were in operation from 1825 – 1877. All that remain are some crumbling arches and foundations.
Estellville Glassworks

As I was making my way home, I came across this cool old church, the Estellville Methodist Church built in 1834.

Estellville Methodist Church - built 1834
Estellville Methodist Church – built 1834

If you are ever in the vicinity, this park is a must visit. Aside from the hiking trails and historic sites, the park boasts ballfields, free bikes to borrow, a nature center, veteran’s cemetery, picnic facilities, a playground and much more.

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