A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about rivers

Two Thousand Miles in 22 Days: On The Path Of Sacred Pools

The Road to the Hot Springs, Enjoyment of the Canyon, and The Sacred Pools

semi-overcast 49 °F

On the Path of the Sacred Pools

I awoke at dawn to the smells of cold dew covering the ground of a wet pine forest, and of robins singing their sweet morning songs. I looked out and saw three deer foraging not more than fifty feet away, the pickings were good.
DSC_1978.jpg
After rising, I underwent some of the fundamental routines that all mankind embraces in the morning. I set about to French press some coffee, to accompany my breakfast. I thoughtfully watched the deer munching grass, and noticed the light had intensified the colors of the forest around me. I thought about the hot spring that I was going to visit that morning. I vaguely remembered it from a brief visit two years ago. All I could remember was a pool on the far side of the bluff down near the river. The pool had a hot waterfall that dropped about 25 feet into it. This hot spring has haunted me ever since.
DSC_2007.jpg
I wanted to take a morning soak. I finished my morning chores, and slid into the driver’s seat and headed east along the valley road. My visual senses were keen. I am usually perceptive to interesting light, and I had not driven very far through the valley before I started to recognize the unique qualities of the day. The sun was still low in the sky, occasionally blocked by the valley walls, and sometimes shining down into it. There were many fast moving clouds in the sky that played with the sunlight. At times, they totally blotted out the intense rays, or partially dulled down the light creating fantastic light on the valley below. There were occasional pockets of mists that would rise through up from the river added to the scene. Finally, the rugged river canyon was very interesting. It was a mix of tall mountain meadows, gigantic boulders, steep rocky cliffs, and the surging river running swiftly at the bottom.
DSC_2009.jpgDSC_2023.jpgDSC_2039.jpg
I saw a scene stretch out before me that I had to stop and take in. Luckily, as this was a scenic byway, there was a small pull off on side the road. I stopped parked, hopped out of Marvin and climbed up to the top of a giant boulder for a better vantage point. I looked down at the river and saw the roaring white water of rapids rolling along side the cliffs. High above the river, the road I had been traveling was bathed in light that Ansel Adams would have loved. Hell, any photographer would have loved the crisp intensity and changing dynamics of that morning’s light. I chose sepia for these images because I liked the warmth the brownish hues added, compared to shooting in true black and white.
DSC_2053.jpgDSC_2031.jpgDSC_2028.jpg
I jumped back in my van and started up the road again, only to pull over at the next spot that I could. I began to see a pattern forming, and since I wasn’t in a hurry, I embraced the beautiful morning. I don’t think the Middle Fork of the Payette ever looked better. Surrounded by tall pines and towering rock cliffs the gorgeous light made the river shine.
DSC_2077.jpgDSC_2079.jpg
At one point, I looked up river and saw my destination. The billowing clouds of steam from the hot spring rose up along the canyon wall, and I knew I was not far from soaking in that haunting pool. I drove on to the trailhead, parked, and packed a daypack. The air was cool, somewhere around fifty degrees (F), the trail was worn, covered in a layer of pine needles. It felt good on my feet, and I set off down the path to the sacred pools.
DSC_2103.jpg
I walked along side of the river, and the sights, sounds and smells were that of a robust river in spring. It was a pleasant walk through the pines. I found the spring area as I remembered it. The hot spring seeps from an exposed rock cliff on the side of the canyon. It runs down the rock in a series of small waterfalls, and is collected into pools made by rearranging rocks and damming up the flow.

As I neared the toe of the cliff, I saw another American Dipper sitting on a rock head high rock singing its morning song to me. I think Dippers and I are kindred spirits. We appreciate beautiful rivers, and we spend a lot of time around them. I took this as a good sign that I had chosen my day’s path correctly and began to look for a pool to immerse myself. There were shallow pools at the base of the cliff, but they weren’t what I was looking for. I started climbing the cliff, and found the best route was up the waterfall that ran down the rocks.
IMG_0727.jpgDSC_2093.jpg
About thirty feet up, I found what I was looking for. A beautiful pool of crystal clear water, hot, and wonderful. At this point, I figured that this would be a two soak morning. I would spend quality time in this pool, and then move on to the waterfall pool when I tired of this one. It sounds like a rough morning, I know. I stripped down (a bit), and eased my body into the hot water. It was perfect. The builders of this pool had done well for themselves. It was about 15 inches deep, maybe 12 feet long in an oval. It sat above the river on the cliff by about thirty feet or so. The river rushed along below rounding a small bend and giving me a pleasant white noise to listen to. I shut my eyes and relaxed. This was better than I could have imagined, and I was enjoying this moment to its fullest.

I went in search of the second pool. I had climbed across the top of the bluff where the springs originated and looked down on the far side of the cliff. I could see faint tracks of other hikers that descended a talus slope and I knew that was where I wanted to go. I made my way along the edge of bluff, it was precarious, but I was careful and I made it to the trail with little difficulty. I made my descent, and the waterfall and pool grew larger as I grew closer.

It looked incredible. The water collected in a large pool perhaps 15 feet long and 10 feet wide. It was about 15 inches deep and was fed by an amazing waterfall. It was a hot water waterfall. I felt it and started laughing aloud. I eased my body under the waterfall. The deluge of hot water massaged me. It was the best hot spring experience of my life. It felt incredible. I felt like that Irish Spring dude who took his bath under a cold-water waterfall, except I knew mine was better.
IMG_0745.jpg
The thing about waterfalls is they are very powerful. It’s hard to open your eyes when you are under one, and I kept mine closed. I eventually sat back against the cliff and looked out and the gorgeous river canyon around me. What a moment. Have I told you I am haunted by hot springs? I could not have dreamed a more sublime experience than what I was living.

After awhile, I knew it was time to prove my meddle. I gingerly made my way down the rocks to the river. I found a spot out of the current that I knew I could get in and out of in a hurry. The air temperature was about fifty degrees. The temperature of the water was much colder. This was winter snowmelt rolling by. Without thinking about it, I stepped into the ICY water, waded to a spot I knew I could submerge myself and lowered myself to my knees. My body went into a spasm and I began to try to negotiate with myself, but before I gained any sense, I dunked my body underneath the surface of the river. I came up fast, clutching myself and speaking in some high-pitched language that only dolphins would understand. I remember thinking to myself, “Do it again. Prove it.” So I dunked myself again, and came up croaking, “Proven.” Then I hustled my way out onto the rocks and scampered back up to the waterfall to soak again in hot water. I’m weird like that.

I spent a couple of hours in that spring. I even dunked myself in the river twice more to cool off between hot soaks. I was purified, and I was cleansed. I don’t think I have ever been cleaner in my life. It felt amazing. My body tingled, and felt wonderful for the rest of the day.

“It is said that if you go to a sacred spot, you yourself become sacred." ~Bear Heart

I felt sacred.

Posted by Rhombus 07:54 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls trees rivers canyons photography hotsprings idaho roadtrips Comments (0)

Two Thousand Miles in 22 Days: Beginnings and Central Idaho

Morning Bliss, Road Trips, Chasing Spring, River Roads, and Fine Hiking

semi-overcast 60 °F

Do you know how good it feels to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping all around you? Do you know how luxurious it feels to be bathed in fresh air all night long after a year and a half of the dank air of a ship? Do you know how intoxicating the smell of fresh green grass is, laced with the earthy potpourri of the nearby river chuckling steadily over the rocks? Do you know how pleasant it is to open your eyes and look in any direction, and see charismatic trees standing about you, almost waiting for you to awaken to appreciate them? Do you know the pleasure I feel in preparing a leisurely breakfast, making coffee in my small percolator, unpeeling the hard boiled eggs, slicing the aromatic oranges, and undressing the lemon poppy seed muffin?

These questions epitomize my ideals of waking up in this world, and let me say that I have almost reached the apex of morning serenity. The only thing lacking is a sweet soulful lady to share it with, but nine out of ten is good enough for me.

I am in Idaho once again, a state that calls me back time and time again. As it is April, I’m chasing spring around the state from north to south. The trip so far has been going very well, so far, and I am embracing my freedom, my emancipation from the clock, and my newly reacquainted love affair of traveling across the US by van. Things are good around these parts.

After stocking up in Coeur d’Alene on food, gasoline, sunglasses, and meeting my landlady, I was ready to head out onto that open highway and get this trip underway. However, since it was near lunchtime, and I was a bit hungry, I decided to stop in at the Moon Time for a Lamb burger and a Mac and Jacks. I didn’t know when I would be back, and I couldn’t pass up the lamb burger. After polishing it off in under five minutes, a new record, usually I have it gone in three, I told my waitress, “As you can see, I could barely choke it down.” She laughed and complimented me on my vacuum like skills.

I paid, jumped in my van and headed down the road. I didn’t make it too far, before I started to get very sleepy. It was as if they put a knock out drug in my burger. I pulled off the highway onto a little roadside park I knew about and hopped on my mattress to catch a siesta. The trip was off to a great start!
DSC_2030.jpg
I should mention that I drive a GMC Safari van named Marvin. Marvin is a she, and a very good van. I have custom designed and built the back of her to where I can comfortably travel out of it. I have a feather mattress, storage for food, clothing, water, computer, banjo, grill, a wok, a frying pan, a cooler, a book box, toolbox, utensil box and a tent. Organization is the key, there is a place for everything and everything goes in its place.

After awhile, my sleepiness wore off, and I got up. It was a beautiful spring day, well into the upper sixties with the sun shining bright on the land. I pulled out my banjo and set down to have a go with it. My fingers were working well, and I was thumping my way through one of my favorite songs when a big old’ diesel truck rolled down and parked. A dude got out and walked over to me. He introduced himself and his friend (Tommy and Dal) and told me to keep playing.

I played, and we chatted, it turns out they had specifically stopped because they wanted to hear me play. They cracked beers, didn’t offer me any, and we talked of Idaho, fishing, hunting, antelope, the banjo, the mandolin, and northern pike. I liked them. Dal was a bit negative, and he was packing a gun. Tommy was pretty chill and a big fan of the banjo. When they left, we wished each other well, and he said I had made his day, just by playing the banjo. I smiled. The banjo has that affect on people.
IMG_0686.jpg
I rolled on. I set a book going on my mp3 player and settled into my seat. This was more like it! I watched the miles of pines, small meadows, weathered mountaintops, small towns, and ranches roll by. It was getting on toward evening, and I still didn’t know where I was going to be staying that night. Part of the fun of vanning is figuring out where to camp. It gets tricky in early spring, because some of the forest campgrounds are still closed for the season. So, even though there is a tent sign on my map, it does not necessarily mean it’s going to be open. I had already struck out twice, driving off into the forest, only to be denied by snow, mud, or gates. I eye balled my map, and decided I wasn’t far away from Hells Gate State Park, just outside of Lewiston. I had stayed there on a previous trip and remembered it was a nice place. I aimed the van that way passing down into the Clearwater River valley. I passed through towns like Kendrick and Jullieta before catching Hwy 12 west to Lewiston. I noted that it looked like the good people of Kendrick and Jullieta had put in a nice asphalt trail that looked like it would be fun to ride my long board on.

I pulled into the park just after sundown. In the gloam, I set about to make some food, that being my favorite food of chili, for dinner, and some hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. It was well past dark by the time I finished cooking, eating, and cleaning up. I settled in for the night, with my windows wide open listening to the river, feeling the fresh air roll over me, and I was out.

My morning routines have been returning. I like to wake up to the birds, as there is no better alarm clock. I figure if the birds are late, than that is reason enough for me to be “late” in getting up. If I am hungry, I’ll make breakfast, if I’m not, I’ll do some yoga. After that, I’ll read or get my slack line set up and work on my balance.
IMG_0668.jpg
Eventually, I packed up and headed back east to Kendrick. I wanted to go long boarding, and so, I did. I love long boarding in springtime. There is a feel of complete freedom to be gliding through the warm fresh scented air in the sunshine. Everyone about me was at work or on some mission, but I felt like I was playing hooky from school. I soaked in the springtime sensations, and smiled. It was a good trail that followed a rushing river. Fresh grass grew along side of it, and the trees were budding. It was warm in the sun, and pleasant on the board. I felt great.
DSC_1885.jpg
I moved on, not making particularly good time. I kept pulling over at many of the roadside dirt “pull offs” that frequent the river roads in Idaho. Pull offs are usually just a small section of gravel large enough to park a couple of cars. They are frequented by fishermen, drivers who want to catch a break, or myself, who likes to take their sweet ass time getting anywhere. Idaho’s roads mainly follow rivers, as they are the easiest places to build roads in this mountainous state. I love both rivers and roads, and so I was constantly following my urges to stop and admire the river, or to keep going and enjoying the twists and turns of the road. The roads I’ve followed through this state have ran along the St. Maries, an unknown branch of the Clearwater, the Clearwater, the Salmon, the South Fork of the Salmon (I think), the Rapid, the North Fork of the Payette, the Middle Fork of the Payette, the Payette, and the Snake Rivers. I’ve loved all of them. The spring melt is causing them to run high and fast. They are surging, and gushing, roaring their way over rapids, rocks and bedrock. It is impressive!
DSC_1897.jpg
Along the Salmon River are numerous anglers’ campgrounds and access areas. I pulled into one of these sites, found a beautiful site right along the banks of the river with seven big Red pines to keep me company.
DSC_1902.jpg

The next day I left in the morning and made my way down to Riggins, ID. I was on the lookout for either a ranger’s station or a outfitter’s store to get some information on hiking in the area. Instead, I spied the city park. It was covered and green grass and had nicely spaced maple trees growing there. I pulled over and executed a U-turn. My other plans would have to wait, it was time to get my slack line out, and have a morning session.
IMG_0707.jpg
After that, I found my outfitter’s store, it was one of those little bit of everything places that sold rafting trips, t-shirts, espresso, a little bit of camping gear, and ice cream. They didn’t have anything I was looking for, so I asked for a dirty chai to go. The barista looked at me quizzically. “What is that?” She asked. I told her it was a chai latte with a shot of espresso, and she said she had not heard of that before. I told here it was good, and she ought to try one. I paid and thanked her, and went on down to the ranger’s station for some hiking info.
DSC_1915.jpg
About my only option for hiking that was open was the Rapid River trail, and since it sounded good, I opted to go. I was not disappointed. I went on a 8 mile day hike following the banks of the beautiful river into the mountain canyon. The river was roaring, and the steep canyon walls had limestone cliffs that towered above me. I wondered if there were any caves in them and it looked like there were.
DSC_1933.jpg
Young spring flowers had begun to bloom all along the path, and I saw many different kinds of flutterbys out enjoying the spring warmth, and sweet smelling flowers.
DSC_1925.jpgDSC_1922.jpg
I had stopped to take a break, and had sat down on two logs that lay across the river. I was sitting midstream enjoying the gushing river and sipping some tea when I heard the beautiful song of a Dipper not far away. I watched it jump from a low stone into the river, diving deep to pluck out a worm. Then it hopped back on to a rock, fluttered to a small waterfall, and ate it.
DSC_1947.jpg
Why do Dipper’s keep showing up wherever I am? I am beginning to think it is more than mere coincidence. This isn’t the last time I was to see a Dipper on this trip. More on that later. I enjoyed the show, and after resting for awhile, I decided to make my way back to the van. I had decided where I wanted to camp that night, and I had some distance to go before I was going to get there. As I walked down the canyon, a terrific wind kicked up and began gusting through the canyon. With it, came some rain. I could not remember the last time I had seen rain, and I laughed at the novelty of it.

I ate a late lunch at the van, and changed out of my dirty clothes. I hopped in the van, and pointed it south heading for a campsite east of Banks. I was heading into hot springs country, and this particular campground had a beautiful hot spring pool right across the road from it. I don’t even have to say this, but the first thing I did upon parking in my spot was to grab my towel and march off to the spring for a good long soak. It was awesome.

Little did I realize just how good the hot springs were going to be the next day…

There’s more to come from this adventure!
DSC_1878.jpg
Thanks for reading.

Posted by Rhombus 20:27 Archived in USA Tagged rivers hiking roads camping spring photography idaho vans longboarding roadtrips Comments (0)

The Long Road to Idaho: The Montana Sessions

Breakfast of Champions, Ten Degree Air Temperature, The Boiling River Hot Springs, To Idaho

sunny 10 °F

Saturday February 4th: Elk, Hot Springs, Bozeman, and a Return to Idaho

I woke up before 6 a.m. It seemed excessively early, but I got up anyway. My plan was to head down to Yellowstone national park to take a soak in the Boiling River hot spring. I left just after six, stopping at McDonald’s for coffee, and a grocery store bakery for some donuts. It was a breakfast that I have researched extensively. I have run many trial tests, and have decided that this combination meets my high standards for my nutritional needs.

I was heading south, flying fast through the Yellowstone Valley, the sky lightened closer to dawn. A large range of mountains to the east blocked any chance at seeing the sunrise. I listened to my book, sipped my coffee, and I felt good. I love road trips, and my van (Marvin, who is a she) and I have traveled these roads many times. It is to the point where I can say to her, “Marvin! Go to Montana!” and she will take off heading west, smoothly and sweetly. I think she likes road trips as much as I do.

I reached Yellowstone National Park just as the sun was edging over the mountains. A crisp white light lit up the elk eating their breakfast on the distant hillside. I pulled out my national parks pass, showed it to the ranger, and proceeded on into the park.
DSC_0037__2_.jpg
I drove slow, watching the foraging elk for a while, before driving to the trailhead to the hot spring. I parked, noting that the temperature was 10 degrees (F), grabbed my backpack, zipped my keys inside and headed up the trail.
5DSC_0016__3_.jpgDSC_0017.jpg
For as many times as I had been here, I’ve never brought my camera. Today is the day to remedy that, and I pull out my camera to photograph my way up the trail. It isn’t long before my fingers are frozen. It is COLD out. My thin down jacket isn’t enough, and I realize that I really didn’t dress properly for the cold. Not a big deal, but I know that I would not last long if I had to spend a lot of time out in the cold. I pick up the pace, and as I near the pools, I see a huge billowing cloud of steam emanating from them. I hike the last 200 yards, rounding around the seep in the earth where the Boiling River emerges from the earth.
DSC_0020__3_.jpg
The billowing steam inundates everything, and a thick hoar frost has formed on the boardwalk, wooden rails, and grasses around the river. It’s very beautiful and fragile. I compose a few photos, before my frozen body cannot take anymore, and I head to the first pool. The first pool is in my mind the best pool. For one, it is close to the trail, and when you visit in 10-degree weather, it’s good to be close to the pool. Secondly, it is a lot warmer than the lower pools. Actually, that is not quite right, the lower pools are very nice, but they have more flow from the Gardner River, which sends more cold currents through those pools.
DSC_0027__4_.jpg1DSC_0022.jpgDSC_0028__3_.jpgDSC_0031__2_.jpg
I strip down. My body is cold, and very clammy to the touch. I’m shivering, and my fingers have lost their dexterity. I manage to get down to my shorts, decide to leave my beanie on my head, and step into the pool. It’s very painful. It hurts, and I have to sit on a rock and pull my legs out of the hot water. I realize that there is probably a hundred degree difference between the air temperature and water temperature. I dip my toes tentatively, and then my ankles finally my knees. I can stand the heat, and I wade out to a good sitting spot and begin to lower myself in.

My first thought, is that this feels amazing. I love hot springs, and this one has always been one of my favorites. Then my nerve center in my chest seems to flicker, like a slight interruption in electric service, and I think to myself that this might not be such a good idea. It feels like there is a thunderstorm going on in my body, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. Hot springs are known for their therapeutic properties, but this seems a little extreme. I figure I either added three years to my life, or took away five. I’m still not sure.
DSC_0029__3_.jpg
It was a good soak. I wanted to stay until the first rays of sun hit me, but it was not to be. The conditions were too extreme to last a long time. Either I was overheating, boiled like a potato, or frozen solid. My arm hair would freeze if I left it out of the water for too long. I planned my moves, and got out of the spring. I dried off, put on my socks, boots, shirt and jacket. I left my wet shorts on, as I had planned to change in the van. The park service prohibits nudity at this spring, and it was just as well. I probably would have fallen over trying to hop into my underwear and froze instantly to the ground. Not a pleasant thought.

I began to walk back to the van. My shorts froze. They became a solid chunk of ice that began to wear against my thighs. It hurt, and I realized I probably was going to get frostbitten on my legs if I didn’t hurry up. I looked around for buffalo, and didn’t see any. This was a relief, because I really didn’t want to have to either wait on them to move off the trail, or bi-pass around them.

I saw a bird fly out to a rock in the middle of a river. It was a small bird, and I knew it had to be an American Dipper. For some reason, I see a lot of Dippers here on the Gardner, almost every time I visit. This one seemed to be showing me up, as it took a sip, and then dunked its entire body into the freezing river water before emerging and doing it a second time. I think that its chirping had an offensive tone to it, probably calling me a pansy.

I got back to the van, and changed into my warmest clothes. I put on long johns, jeans, my wool socks, and my Nepali wool sweater with reindeer dancing across the chest. I jumped into the driver’s seat, and pondered my next move. I decided to go to Bozeman to get a bite to eat before I knuckled down and drove the last stretch of highway that separated me from my destination.

I stopped in Bozeman, and was really looking forward to eating at my favorite restaurant. When I pulled in there was a sign that said they were not open until 4 pm. Damn! I opted for Burger Bob’s, which “offers same day service. At Burger Bob’s you get the food you ordered the day you order it.” I can appreciate a man with a sense of humor. I had a burger and a beer (I’m such a dude), and headed back onto the highway. It was a beautiful day to burn some rubber. The sky was blue, and the sun was out. There before me lay hundreds of miles of high plains valleys and mountains. My chariot was running smooth, and a ribbon of asphalt was my golden ticket. I was exactly where I wanted to be.

I drove to Kellogg, Idaho some two hundred miles distant. I met my landlord, and moved into my new temporary home. I turned my thoughts to skiing, and settled in for the night.

Posted by Rhombus 18:31 Archived in USA Tagged birds rivers hiking photography trails yellowstone hotsprings montana roadtrips Comments (0)

Big Bend Country

The Rio Grande, The Window View, Rain in the Desert, The Best View in Texas

sunny 75 °F

I rambled on down to Big Bend Country in southwest Texas. Big Bend Country is so named after the big bend that occurs in the Rio Grande, that famous, well storied muddy crossing that separates the United States and Mexico. I like the Rio Grande. In a parched desert where water is scarce (especially this year), it was good to see a cold-water stream cheerily chuckling through the rocks, desert and canyon.
0DSC_0072.jpg
When looking at a map, the boundary marking the border looks like an imposing river of great magnitude. Something on the size of the Amazon, or even the Mississippi, clearly marked, well guarded and defined. When I stood on the gravelly desert shoreline under the glare of the noonday sun, I saw a river that was far less imposing, defined and guarded than I ever would have figured.
4DSC_0079.jpg8DSC_0061.jpg
The river level is way down this year due to a lack of rain. Despite having all of my expectations dashed (usually a good thing, especially when traveling), I still thought the river was charming. It was cloudy blue, gurgling healthily through the rocks and between the giant river cane. The giant river cane was impressive, a towering reed that rises well over fifteen feet above the river growing in a thick forest of reeds. This plant is a non-native species (originally from Asia), invasive, having been introduced several hundred years earlier perhaps by the Spanish, though that is mere speculation among scientists.

From what I could tell, the U.S. border isn’t as well guarded as one would think, what with all the news stories of recent years highlighting the problems of drug runners, “illegal” aliens (what a horrible name), and border crossings. I didn’t see much of a presence from the border patrol, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t there. They are a sophisticated bunch using hidden cameras, stings, and other unseen ploys.
DSC_0037.jpg
I saw Mexicans crossing into the U.S. on two occasions. We were walking along the sandy path to the 105-degree hot spring outside of the Rio Grande Village, I saw three Mexicans wading across the river. This made me slightly alarmed, as there was a large sign warning visitors of car break-ins (I admit this was unfounded, and I apologize. It could‘ve been anyone). Since it was a busy day, we continued on to the hot spring and had a good soak. As we steeped, one of the Mexicans, ran up, hurriedly grabbing his inventory of beadwork trinkets, minerals and walking sticks, before running back to the bank and crossing back over to Mexico. He was selling his wares on the U.S. side, plying for cash from sympathetic tourists. A couple of minutes later, a park ranger ambled by, mostly keeping a presence of law to keep the Mexicans honest, and on their guard.

I figured the reason there weren’t any border patrol guys running around was that this probably wasn’t a hot spot for illegal crossings. In Big Bend National Park, you are still a long way from any population center, and therefore not the target market. The Mexican’s I witnessed had no troubles crossing and re-crossing the border. It looked as though a couple of guys kept an eye out for rangers and the border patrol, while one man crossed to make his sales pitch.
DSC_0043.jpg
It was novel to see Mexicans cross the river. I bet these guys have a lot of fun with it, so long as they aren’t caught. I had no interest in the knickknacks they were selling, but enjoyed watching them play cat and mouse with the rangers.

First Takes on Big Bend National Park
DSC_0147.jpg
At first glance, Big Bend National Park is somewhat intimidating. It’s a huge park. The map they give you is gigantic, with lots of options for adventure. I had never been to Big Bend before, and I hadn’t done much research into the place. As we drove into the park, I had my eyes mostly on the map, trying to do some quick planning on what I wanted to see. We stopped at the Panther Junction Visitor’s Center, to get some information.

After perusing the photo books, postcards, and trail guides at the visitor’s center, I came up with a half ass plan to our visit. Visitor’s centers are great places to get information on most national parks, and this was no exception.

The first thing that caught my eye was the trail to the top of Mount Emory, the highest point in the park. At 7,795 ft, it seemed a worthy challenge, and a good way to introduce ourselves to the park. There is nothing like plodding slowly up a mountain to give one the feel of the place.

Since it was already past noon, we decided to find a campsite, hike out to see the view from “the window” and start early in the morning to take on the summit.
6DSC_0014.jpg
I also wanted to see the giant rock arch hidden somewhere up in the Grapevine hills. The photos and postcards of the arch were beautiful, and I wanted to see the place for myself. Besides the arch, the boulders around the valley looked climbable, and could be a fun place to play.

The Window View and the Rain
0DSC_0087.jpg
The hike out to the window view is a short one, about three miles round trip from the campground. It’s an easy hike. It was enjoyable cruising along on the wide flat path. It was a nice to be able to look away from the path unlike our treks on the rocky paths of the Guadalupe Mountains. The path followed the course of a dry wash, surrounded on all sides by high rocky canyon walls and Mt. Carter looming just to the west.
DSC_0071.jpg
The Playboy Bunny of the Prickly Pear
Near the trailhead, there were many signs warning of mountain lions and bears. BBNP does not mess around when it comes to wildlife signage. On every trail we passed in the Chisos Basin, there were signs warning hikers of the dangers of wildlife. The bears and mountain lions are probably flattered to receive so much attention. It seemed unnecessary to me. I would be thrilled to see a mountain lion, but for as much time I’ve spent in the wild, I’ve only found their footprints, scat, and kills (a deer).
6DSC_0106.jpg7DSC_0078.jpg
Along side of the trail grew the largest agave plants I’ve ever seen. The agave is a cool looking plant. It has greenish gray, stout stems that come to a lethal point. If you are ever falling out of an airplane, do not aim for an agave to land on. The other interesting thing about the agave is their reproductive stalk. Towards the end of their life cycle, agave will send up a tall flowering stalk that grows well over fifteen feet high. In short, it reproduces and dies, but it goes out with a bang.
DSC_0072.jpgDSC_0105.jpgDSC_0088.jpg
The trail followed the course of dusty dry wash. The canyon walls closed in on the trail, and we were soon walking through a rock canyon that twisted around boulders, rock shelves, and dry waterfalls out to the edge. The window view was on top of a high, dry waterfall. It was awesome. I would have loved to see the view, and listen to the roar of the falls if water was running. A spur trail runs down to oak canyon for a view of the falls. If you find yourself in Big Bend during the wet season, go check out these falls.
2DSC_0101.jpg
It began to rain.

As we walked back to the campground, the rain began to fall harder, and it was a beautiful sound. We stopped twice along the way back to sit down on a trailside bench to listen to the rain. Rainfall on a carpet of parched papery leaves is a beautiful sound. Tendrils of scent, the smell of rain, penetrated through the dusty air, and it smelled wonderful.

Conversation overtook the silence, and the smells. We chatted amiably for a quarter of an hour letting the conversation choose its own course. Eventually, we moved on, but not before we had enjoyed the experience of sitting through a rainsquall in the desert.
DSC_0149.jpg

The Best View in Texas

The hike to the top of Mt. Emory was pleasant. The park service had recently updated the trail, making it a bit more user friendly to hiking. At this point, we were in great hiking shape and we cruised up the switchbacks through the cold morning shadows. At one point we stopped for a water break, and a small flock of Mexican Jays showed up. They had the look of beggars, handsome, fluffing their pretty blue feathers in hopes of fleecing some dumb hikers out of a pistachio. They had played this game before, but so had I. If they wanted my pistachio, they were going to have to pose on my hand for a picture. It was a tough bargain, but a fair one. We moved on.
DSC_0188.jpg8DSC_0203.jpgDSC_0193.jpg
The higher we climbed, the more beautiful the scenery became. There were fat puffy clouds moving quickly through the blue skies, and the Chisos Mountains were on display in all their grandeur. The final thirty feet of the hike was more of a scramble up a rock wall. You have two options: left or right. Both scrambles go to a high point, but the right hand scramble rises a bit higher than the left peak.
DSC_0230.jpg
Sitting atop the right hand peak and overlooking the incredible mountain scenery was probably the highlight of my trip. It was awesome. It is easily the best view in Texas, bar none.
DSC_0234.jpg
I laid down on the rocks, and closed my eyes, listening to the wind. Beautiful.
DSC_0497.jpg
After an hour of watching the clouds pass us by, we retraced our steps back down the mountain to the lodge store. We bought ice cream, knowing full well that it is probably the best food to eat after a ten mile hike. It was a fine day, and I was really starting to like Big Bend National Park.

Posted by Rhombus 11:10 Archived in USA Tagged mountains parks rivers hiking plants photography texas philosophy Comments (1)

A Week of Photography of the River Lands

A Dozen River Views.

semi-overcast 67 °F

I don't have much to say this week. It's been a good week on the river, and I've been making the best of my time here. Of late I've been viewing the river scenes through the lens of my new camera. All in all, I'm happy with it, and I hope you continue to enjoy my takes on this amazing planet of ours. Without further ado, I give you a weekly dozen of delicious delectables courtesy of planet earth.

Cloud In Pastels.
DSCN5789.jpg
This cloud had a good vibe floating around on a sunny afternoon.

Vintage Picture
DSC_0041__2_.jpg
Portland used to be a wild west town, full of violence, corruption and sin. This is a picture of one of the many saloons from the 1800s. When the Willamette River would flood, the shop owners would build scaffolding sidewalks and carry on their business as usual. This is a great picture of the era, showing the patrons of the saloon going to great lengths to get their booze.

I learned all of this by taking an interesting "Walking Tour of Portland". I went on the Portland Underground Tour which talked a lot about the darker side of early Portland. It was cool, and I'd recommend it if you are into history and want to learn more about the Old Town, and China Town of Portland.

Fountain of Old Town
DSC_0035.jpg
I like this fountain a lot. In years past it was a watering hole for horses and men.

High Desert Wrinkles
DSC_0025.jpg
Eastern Washington and Oregon is an endless landscape of highlands. It is quite beautiful to see these open lands. I had forgotten how expansive the western landscapes are.

Highland Landscape
DSC_0024.jpg
Along the Snake River are beautiful bluffs and overlooks. I want to hike to the top of this bluff to see what lies beyond.

Me and the Big Tree
DSC_0016__4_.jpg
This mammoth tree can be found on the little island park near Cascade Locks. The Pacific Northwest is home to giant trees and this one made for a good climb. Long Live Giant Trees!

Sun Dappled Park Scene
DSC_0016__3_.jpg
This is my favorite park in Clarkston, Washington. I've spent a lot of my time here, hanging out, slacklining, reading, eating breakfast, and contemplating the finer things in life.

Kite Surfer
DSC_0015.jpg
Wind Sports are very popular on the Columbia River as the wind is tunneled down through the gorge at very high speeds. This kite surfer was tearing it up catching rides of up to five seconds through the air.

The New Bell
DSC_0013__2_.jpg
The Sea Bird has a new bell after we finally polished a hole in the old one. It only took 30 years. This one is a beautiful piece, crafted in Italy. It has a very warm tone that lasts a long time when tapped with the knuckle of a finger. I took this photograph one morning at dawn, and I'm quite pleased with it. It does the bell justice, and makes the sunrise far more interesting.

The Elder Statesman
DSC_0012__3_.jpg
A peaceful scene on the Columbia River. The little park near the river at Cascade Locks is beautiful, and full of spectacular trees. This is one of them.

"Red Sky in the Morning.."
DSC_0009__2_.jpg
The sky caught fire again. When the sky is red in the morning, it often signals low pressure and possible storms. In my experience the old addage proves correct more often than not.

The Tent City
DSC_0008__2_.jpg
If you want to live in a colorful tent city and protest everything the government is doing, come to Portland and chill out in the park. I dug the tent city and wanted to join, as tent cities are a lot of fun.

Posted by Rhombus 08:10 Archived in USA Tagged parks rivers fountains oregon columbia photography washington Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 20) Previous « Page 1 2 [3] 4 » Next