national parks

Travel log: Utah’s Mighty Five minus one (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, then Antelope)

2700 miles and 8 days can’t really justify a roadtrip circling the Utah’s Mighty Five (minus one, we couldn’t plan anything in the capitol reef due to lack of time). But the stunning memories of rock and ice beauty would forever be your cherished possessions. Touring the Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands National parks have certainly elevated my spirits, may be because I personally believe, if I ever have to visualize my heart and mind in a comparative form, that would be rocks and ice in monumental sizes ;):P #cold #rock I would say.. hehe.. Jokes apart, it was a wonderful tour covering so many great geological features and nature’s sheer beauty that its extremely hard to compile it all into a single blog post.

  • My first solo hike in -24°C is the most beautiful so far
  • Kolob canyons made me drive backwards in snow for a quarter mile in the exact track I went ahead. Rear view mirror is your only source. No other option.
  • We did our first family hike in sub-zero temperatures at -7°C
  • We hiked the hoodoos in winter #navaho #loop #bryce
  • We were stuck in a passing snow storm and took 1 and a half hour to drive 2 miles in blinding snow fall with no trace of a human or any tire marks on a valley road. And that so happened on one of the most scenic drives between Zion and Bryce. Not scenic at that time ;(
  • Another family hike to the Delicate Arch, the slick rock, the ridge walk and the slope to the Arch are so very tensively beautiful
  • A family self-rescue on a very slippery icy track to Landscape arch, thanks to my crampons, hike unfinished.
  • Walking the slot canyons will take you back in time by a million years for sure, as we did the Lower Antelope Canyon.
  • Getting away from civilization will teach you the importance of a social life ;):P
  • Driving through the Monument Valley is like driving into a movie set

Take a look at the pics. I better be brief in words but I sincerely wish you take the same journey to appreciate and experience the amazing states of Utah and Arizona.

the beginning of it all..No hiking on first day as all trails were closed.

the beginning of it all..No hiking on first day as all trails were closed.

the famous entrance to the zion-carmel-tunnel, once was the largest of its kind, its thru a solid mountain.

the famous entrance to the zion-carmel-tunnel, once was the largest of its kind, its thru a solid mountain.

where is the road? which way to go? come on... try it.

where is the road? which way to go? come on… try it.

count your last minutes in heat.. Now we know why the Sun is a God.

count your last minutes in heat.. Now we know why the Sun is a God.

Lucky deers.. lots of freedom, lots of snow.. exactly what I want.

Lucky deers.. lots of freedom, lots of snow.. exactly what I want.

Get away.. please.

Get away.. please.

you feel like getting down everywhere, but you can't of course :)

you feel like getting down everywhere, but you can’t of course 🙂

please please get away.

please please get away.

And that one pic for my bumble bee :)

And that one pic for my bumble bee 🙂

lesson lesson everywhere. Too much play in snow is a lesson.

lesson lesson everywhere. Too much play in snow is a lesson.

upclose with the Thor's Hammer at -7°C

upclose with the Thor’s Hammer at -7°C

you would love driving those roads.

you would love driving those roads.

zion to bryce via carmel tunnel is my most memorable drive so far.. so memorable that i drove back there again during daytime after the storm and checked the road that pulled my balls into the mouth a night before. What happened was a bollywood movie plot

zion to bryce via carmel tunnel is my most memorable drive so far.. so memorable that i drove back there again during daytime after the storm and checked the road that pulled my balls into the mouth a night before. What happened was a bollywood movie plot

my first hike at -24°C is the most beautiful so far

my first hike at -24°C is the most beautiful so far.

Don't slip. Stay to your right. Use your poles. Tight ridge walking to the Delicate Arch.

Don’t slip. Stay to your right. Use your poles. Tight ridge walking to the Delicate Arch.

Do you see the Ms.World  2017 in this picture?

Do you see the Ms.World 2017 in this picture?

Kids' 10th hike is to the famous Delicate Arch

Kids’ 10th hike is to the famous Delicate Arch

get away, get away.. pl pl pl.

get away, get away.. pl pl pl.

canyon bed from the needles overlook.

canyon bed from the needles overlook.

noone in a 25 mile radius.. why do such places attract me all the time?

noone in a 25 mile radius.. why do such places attract me all the time?

Monument Valley scenic drive is like a movie set

Monument Valley scenic drive is like a movie set

veiled Woman. More than the rock, its the eye of that artist which first caught it that I admire most. :)

veiled Woman. More than the rock, its the eye of that artist which first caught it that I admire most. 🙂

Sunset at the Rocky Mountains

Sunset at the Rocky Mountains.. another classic from the slots.

the fish

the fish.. this is my best in handling the light shades.. of course the guide will help you with all this ;):P

Laughing Dolphin

Laughing Dolphin

getaway.. getaway.. u.

getaway.. getaway.. u.

Balanced Rock is real and yes unbelievable.

Balanced Rock is real and yes unbelievable.

At 7am in -7°C in 7

At 7am in -7°C in 7″ snow, what the heck do some people do?

We hiked the Hoodoos.. Kids' 9th hike is the famous navaho loop in bryce. Our first sub-zero family hike. Thats lot of, really lot of preparation.

We hiked the Hoodoos.. Kids’ 9th hike is the famous navaho loop in bryce. Our first sub-zero family hike. Thats a lot of, really a lot of preparation.

Categories: friends, fun, hike, my, national parks, outdoors, roadtrips, travel, utah | Leave a comment

To the bottom of the great Grand Canyon — South Kaibab and Bright Angels trails

Awesome! is only a word and no camera, no photo, no blog nor any article can ever justify the true beauty of this geological marvel that is actually visible from space. You should see it with your own eyes..um if only you love rocks ;):P  Yet another bucket-list item coupled with months of preparation, a solid plan, plenty of water, salts n food in your backpack, a very steep trail that takes you all the way down to the greenish white waters of the Colorado and then another UNENDING trail that winds all the way up again to the edge of the rim.. all these make another dream coming true for me.

DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AS A DAY HIKE or you must be very well prepared with thorough training, proper exposure to altitude changes, clear understanding of the odds and a super strong will to push yourself to the limits without risking your own safety.  Do your research before you take your first step.  YOU are WARNED.

Every year, scores of unprepared hikers, lured by initially easy downhill hiking, experience severe illness, injury, or death from hiking in the canyon.

We took the South Kaibab Trail  (SK) which almost ‘slides’ you into the colorful canyon with its red white yellow brown black crimson walls of sliced rock but trust me, not a piece of shade from the scorching sun right from the morning. And there is NO WATER available anywhere on the SK.  Reaching the ‘Black Bridge’ is exhilerating for sure with the all the stunning views you have already captured.  Feel the the cool and flowing Colorado waters and brave your heart for the actual journey you need to take back up.  Don’t forget to gift yourself a quick nap, it would give you good mileage when you are coming up.

The Bright Angels Trail (BA) is probably the most under-estimated trail in all of the discussions I read so far. Don’t get fooled to read that its not as steep as SK. Thats a language trap. BA is easy most of its stretch and there is lots of shade but when its tough, its really tough. It has two sections that are EXTREMELY difficult for a novice hiker that can stun/surprise even experienced folks. Reaching the Indian Campground would take all your juices away… And then starts your actual tussle with the Canyon. After hiking almost 14+ miles , you will stand before the last piece that challenges you and breaks you down properly.  I bet you will forever remember the last 2-3 miles as one of the valuable stretches of walking you have ever done on the Earth.. seriously.

I did it all so you can too. But don’t kill yourself. please.  
Route 66 — Are you too obsessed with the road numbers?
Route 66 -- Are you too obsessed with the road numbers?

Switchbacks — is probably the sweetest word in Dictionary 😉
Switchbacks -- is probably the sweetest word in Dictionary ;)

It takes to understand why the Grand Canyon is Grand.
It takes to understand why the Grand Canyon is Grand.

i love ridges with slopes on both sides..
i love ridges with slopes on both sides..

Finally! The Black Bridge… yey!
Finally! The Black Bridge.. yey!

I did it.
I did it.

Thats the cute little bridge you will remember forever.
Thats the cute little bridge you will remember forever.

Plan your timing to avoid mid day heat.
Plan your times to avoid mid day heat.

the suspension bridge with the black bridge in the background
the suspension bridge

Indian campground
Indian Campground

I couldn’t take any pictures beyond this point. I waited like hell to reach this place and then the actual hell broke loose and then the darkness of the night surrounded and then the temperatures started dropping (like from 93F mid afternoon to 38F midnight)..

We took 5 hours to go down with many breaks and photoshoots.. and then another 10+ hours to come back up. Please note there is water available at Indian Campground and one emergency resthouse at 3 miles from the BA trailhead and another one at 1.5 miles from the same trailhead. You will thank NPS for keeping a 911 landline there just in case you bump into any emergency when you are about to finish a hike of your life time.

Lemme conclude: Be careful and be prepared for the last 4 of the 17 miles.

Thanks for reading and happy hiking. Go figure out why the Grand Canyon is Grand.
-balu

Categories: 2016, friends, hike, my, national parks, outdoors, sun, trails challenge, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

hiking the half-dome cables in yosemite

Put a hard deadline by which you should summit and if you don’t reach by that time, turn back.

This is the top rule when you are hiking particularly when the routes/summits are strenuous, dangerous, long and lonely.  And thats one rule that prevented me to turn back from the foot of the cables 😦 I was very sad and missed the peak only by a mere 400 meters but I now have a better understanding of this ruthless trail, of the lacunae in my planning and my very own limitations. Of course, I will work on these points and surely go again. I will carry more than 4L of water, no extra wait, will eat more and try to avoid muscle cramps, next time.

Cables on Half-dome is no doubt one of the best and strenuous hikes I did in the last many years. Its a hiker’s paradise with stunning views, steep granite and a thorough mental challenge.  A grueling 16 mile hike with limited access to water, the staircase with huge steps along side the Nevada and Vernal Falls, the never ending John Muir trail, the risky slopes on the sub-dome all would only make it more beautiful if you ask me 🙂

Parking Tip:

Trailhead parking is usually sufficient for day/night hikers but there are few slots at the Happy Isle too (closed when we were there). And if these two are overflowing, then the nearby Curry Village parking (now Halfdome village) is huge enough for a thousand cars.
 
Cables on half-dome:
cables on half-dome

Trail Map:

View from the sub-dome:
view from the sub-dome

Nevada and Vernal Falls:
nevada fallsvernal falls

A granite bargain:
a granite bargain

 

John Muir trail:
John Muir Trail to halfdome

Try this all out. You would love it.

Thanks for reading.
B

Categories: 2016, california, hike, my, national parks, national parks, outdoors, sun, trails challenge | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Log: 1400 miles of our Alaskan roadtrip is just thrilling

Alaska is no doubt one of the most beautiful places on the Earth. The stunning Glaciers, large lakes, enormous mountain ranges, diverse wildlife and museums with rare collections etc certainly make it one of the bucket list items for any traveler. We did a week long circular road trip of ~1400 miles from Anchorage ->Denali ->Fairbanks ->Delta Jn ->Paxson lake -> Matanuska -> Seward -> Anchorage and thoroughly enjoyed it that we want to go back again 🙂

Day-1 started with a quick hike to the Thunderbird Falls:
thunderbird falls hike

Glacier Ruth — you will surely feel like dancing when you land on it:
dancing on glacier Ruth

Horns Everywhere:
horns everywhere

That was the first time we saw a ‘moose’:
moose

10pm sunlight and the sunset still an hour or so away:
10pm sunlight

Hatchers Pass:
Hatcher's pass

End of the Alaskan Highway mile 1422 at Delta Junction:
End of the Alaskan Highway mile 1422 at Delta Junction

Denali National Park and Preserve:
Denali national park and preserve

Every moose belongs to the Earth 🙂
Every moose belongs to the Earth :)

That was a ‘wild’ bear with two cubs, came so very close 🙂
That was a 'wild' bear with two cubs, came so very close :)

flightseeing was super fun:
flightseeing was super fun

Mount Denali from a flightseeing air taxi:
Mount Denali

wild and bald eagle 🙂
wild and bald eagle :)

look into his eyes, he can read a scribble pad from across a football field 🙂
look into his eyes, he can read a scribble pad from across a football field :)

holgate glacier (that is a flowing ice river, if you don’t mind):
holgate glacier

one house that I always wanted:
one house that i always wanted

designer musk ox (he was just shredding):
designer musk ox

never saw a bear claw that close:
never saw a bear claw that close

wood bison:
wood bison

woolly mammoth skeleton is so huge and the video that shows how painful it is for them to excavate the fossils is just mind blowing:
woolly mammoth is so huge

post card sceneries:
post card scenaries

Road Road Road:
road road road

road road road

road road road

road road road

Doll’s porpoise playing with the tourists on board the Glacier Express:

orca group Ak-6 on the Seward shores:

And the last but not least, a humpback breaching the water surface. You should see it with your naked eye and understand how exhilarating it is to watch the world’s biggest mammal known doing that flip on open ocean:

Thats all for now. Thanks for reading.
Balu

Categories: car, family, fun, hike, my, national parks, outdoors, roadtrips, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel log: Journey to the HOTTEST place ever recorded on the Earth

The HOTTEST place ever recorded on the Earth;
The LOWEST elevation below sea level in the entire Western Hemisphere;
The DRIEST place in the Western Hemisphere;
The TALLEST place in all of the lower US states;
The LARGEST National Park in the USA;

It may sound like crazy that I wanted to visit these places but the privilege of a Californian is to be able to cover them all in a day or two, so why not on a long weekend?  🙂 Yes, I am talking about the famous “Death Valley National Park” which is the largest (in fact larger than Yellowstone, yes, yes).  I never thought it would be so beautiful even though exhausting and dehydrating. We drove through the heart of the valley, its all a dry and barren land with extreme temperature and aridity but God made it “hellafa” beauty, I vouch.

  • Furnace Creek and Stovepipe are aptly named 🙂
  • Badwater Basin is a bold beauty and drains all the water out of you. It was 109°F (43ºC) when we were there
  • Natural Bridge intrigues you sure
  • Mesquite Dunes mesmerizes you
  • the “Death Valley Scenic Highway” is certainly scenic with multiple stops for water and pictures 🙂
  • Mount Whitney stands tall and makes all this rain shadow region what it is
  • Family trek to the Lone Pine Lake at 10k

And we didn’t actually get time to visit many other places like Zebriskie point, Devil’s cornfield, Ubehebe crater and Eurake Dunes etc.. Next time 🙂

Trip tips:   Carry lots and lots of water with you, sun screen, cooling glasses, hat, umbrella and whatever else that can protect you from the scorching sun and dehydration.

My Kids tried to breach the 10k elevation mark but had to turn back at 9153 due to bad weather. It still was a 4 mile hike on the slopes of Mount Whitney. We got two new friends and the 3 year old “Ashrita” was the most energetic:
Untitled

Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level
Untitled

Bumblebee’s “Off road” to the “Natural Bridge”:
"off road" to the "Natural Bridge"

“Salt Carpet” at the Badwater Basin
"Salt Carpet" welcomes you

“Natural Bridge” — It was cut thru by flowing water, once upon a time 🙂
Natural Bridge, Death Valley National Park

“Mesquite Dunes” — a desert in the heart of “redwood” state
Untitled

Another 1200 miles in the log.. um..and special thanks to Manoj and Punnami for accompanying us.

thanks for reading.

Categories: 2016, california, car, family, hike, kids, my, national parks, national parks, outdoors, roadtrips, summer, sun, trails challenge, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The first thing I do with my tax refund and you should too!

Its not actually the ‘first’ thing  because I am doing this directly from my tax deductions without even receiving the refund. This time I used TurboTax and came across this wonderful feature to be able to donate directly from the refund while filing the returns itself.. And here is my fav list:

$100 -> Emergency Food For Families Fund

$195 -> State Parks Protection Fund/Parks Pass Purchase

$100 -> Keep Arts in Schools Fund

$80 -> America The Beautiful – National Parks Annual pass (ordered separately)

That takes a cool big chunk from my total refund but I am happy and thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to donate.  I never want to boast about myself but it just gives me good sleep if I do this 🙂 and probably I can inspire a rich aahs to beat me in this someday 🙂

B

Categories: california, my, national parks, state parks, suggestions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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