Sunday, May 28, 2023

Kayaking Lower Etna Pond (Etna)

Temperatures reached the 90s today so I went for the first kayaking trip of the year, paddling Souadabscook Stream to the lower portion of Etna Pond.   The first part was great.  Although I battled a strong headwind it kept the air cool and I figured I could take advantage of the wind on the return trip.   I saw several dragonflies and thought it was odd since there were hardly any bugs for them to eat....

After exploring the shoreline of the pond and venturing up a side stream, it was time to head back.  It was then that the wind died and I was besieged with gnats.  On the plus side the gnats turned the trip into an excellent cardio workout .  

Prior to the gnat assault there were some positive moments - dozens of songbirds filled the marsh along the stream and I heard a pair of barred owls calling to each other in the woods near the pond.  The total distance kayaked was 2.8 miles. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Parkman Mountain Trail (Acadia National Park)

I hiked the Parkman Mountain Trail after work today.  It was 60° and sunny, yet I only saw three other people on the trail.

This is a great hike involving some scrambling.  There is a 360° view at the summit of the mountain.  The total distance was 2.5 miles roundtrip.   

Sunday, May 21, 2023

A. Murray Young Path (Acadia National Park)

I set out today hoping to hike the Dorr Ladder Trail in Acadia but instead discovered the A. Murray Young Path (Murray Young), a beautiful trail running between Dorr and Cadillac Mountains.

I started hiking the first 1/3 mile of the Ladder Trail.  The hike features three sets of ladders - steel rungs attached to rock - and is considered an advanced non-technical climb in the Falcon Guide "Hiking Acadia National Park."  On a good day this hike would be challenging for me, given that I have a fear of heights.  Today several sections of the trail had water flowing over them, presumably from the rain last night, and by the time I reached the first ladder my feet were soaked.  I had concerns climbing with wet feet so turned around.  

Near the start of the trail I took the Kane Path to Murray Young.  I had seen Murray Young on maps of Acadia but had no idea how beautiful the trail was.  It runs adjacent to and frequently crosses Otter Creek as the creek descends over waterfalls and rapids.  I took the trail approximately one mile until reaching a large waterfall at which point I turned around.   

The total hike (including 1/2 mile for the Ladder Trail) was 4.8 miles.   Despite being at Acadia, 76° and sunny, I saw only 12 other people during my hike.   

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Birdsacre Sanctuary (Ellsworth)

Birdsacre Sanctuary is a 200+ acre preserve and wildlife rehabilitation center in Ellsworth.  The preserve has miles of well maintained and well marked trails.  My son and I visited Birdsacre today and hiked the trails.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Santa Fe National Forest (Las Conchas Trail) and Valles Caldera National Preserve (VC02)(New Mexico)

I spend my last day hiking two trails - the Las Conchas Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest and the VC02 Trail in Valles Caldera National Preserve.

The Las Conchas Trail is a beautiful four mile roundtrip hike following the East Fork Jemez River.  The trail travels through rock canyons and grassy meadows.  
My second and last hike was the VC02 Trail at Valles Caldera.  The trail was a double track road that gradually ascended for the first 1.5 miles.  The trail then climbed more steeply to a saddle between two mountains, where VC02 split off to the right.  I elected to take an unmarked trail to the left until running into a large amount of downed trees.  I then hiked off-trail around 100 yards to a spot providing an overlook of the caldera.   The total roundtrip distance was 4.3 miles.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Bandelier National Monument - Upper Frijoles Canyon Overlook Trail (New Mexico)

I picked Viv up after work and we went hiking at the Upper Frijoles Canyon Overlook Trail in Bandelier National Monument.   The 2.2 mile trail showed extensive damage and subsequent regrowth from wildfire. 

Bandelier National Monument - Main Loop/Alcove House/Frijoles Canyon & Burnt Mesa Trail (New Mexico)

I spent the day at Bandelier National Monument while Viv worked.  Remarkably I saw few other people my entire time in the park.

I arrived at the park's visitor center at sunrise and headed out on the paved Main Loop Trail, which passes several pueblo ruins from 1200-1500 AD.  The Alcove House Trail is an extension of the Main Loop and goes to the Alcove House, where I climbed 140 feet of ladders to view a cliff dwelling.  From there, I hiked an additional 2.5 miles into the Frijoles Canyon wilderness.  The Frijoles Canyon Trail travels through the canyon, crossing the Rito de Los Frijoles river multiple times over log bridges and rocks.   Shortly after entering the wilderness I encountered a black bear walking towards me on the trail (fortunately it fled quickly).   This was an incredibly beautiful 7.1 mile hike made more amazing by the fact that I didn't see another person until leaving the wilderness area after having hiked 6 miles by that time.  Being able to explore the ruins and Alcove House entirely by myself was unbelievable.  
After eating an early lunch at the park's cafe and checking out the visitor center, I headed to my second hike of the day, the 6 mile (roundtrip) Burnt Mesa Trail.  Although not nearly as dramatic as my first hike, this trail offered solitude (I didn't see anyone else the entire hike), a different environment (the hike travels across the top of a mesa through grasslands and scattered stands of trees and brush), expansive views, more pueblo ruins (they are not labeled), and a view of the confluence of two side canyons at the end of the hike.  

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Pecos National Historical Park and Valles Caldera National Preserve (New Mexico)

We arrived in New Mexico today, visiting Pecos National Historical Park on our way to the northern part of the state.

Pecos preserves archeological ruins ranging from pueblos from 1100 AD to a Spanish church built in 1717.  The park visitor center contains a museum with exhibits about the history of the people that lived there, and a 1.25 mile trail provides access to the ruins.   
We arrived at the location where Viv will be spending the summer, and while she set up her apartment I explored Valles Caldera National Preserve.   I started at the visitor center to get information and orient myself to the trails in the park.   I intend on coming back to Valles Caldera this week for an entire day, but I did explore the 1 mile Pond Trail while here today.  As might be expected, the trail leads to a pond, but what made the trail interesting is that it runs through a very active prairie dog town.   

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Palo Duro Canyon State Park and Buffalo Lake NWR (Texas)

We continued our journey west today, stopping at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States.  Sadly due to the rain all of the park's trails were closed all day to prevent erosion.   We drove the park's roads and took photos in the rain at park overlooks.   
Seeking to get a hike in, we travelled to nearby Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge and hiked the Prairie Dog Trail and the Cottonwood Trail.   The Prairie Dog Trail is a short 0.4 mile roundtrip trail out to what at one point was likely a prairie dog town, although there were no prairie dogs in sight.   It was a nice walk however.
The Cottonwood Trail is longer - 2 miles roundtrip.  I hiked it one way for a mile and Viv picked me up at the end as it was raining hard at this point.   The trail travels through a short grass prairie with views of some small canyons.   

Friday, May 12, 2023

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)

As we continued our trek to New Mexico we spent this afternoon at the 59,020-acre Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. The USFWS refuge provides habitat for Bison, elk, deer, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, and Texas Longhorn cattle.

It was 95 degrees when we arrived, so we spent the majority of our time driving around and watching wildlife from the road. We saw numerous bison, long horn cattle, lizards and prairie dogs, and also spotted a coyote in the distance. We also drove to the top of Mount Scott and took in the excellent 360° views.  

Despite the heat we did hike an one mile portion of the Narrows Trail into a canyon but turned back before completing the full hike due to concerns about heat sensitive gear we had stored in the car.

This was by far the best wildlife refuge I have visited.