Ice, Ice, Baby

On February 18th, I went into Yosemite early so I could have enough time to do some hiking and sightseeing before the Firefall. I was going to try to hike to Mirror Lake and the Vernal Fall footbridge, but I only ended up having enough time for Mirror Lake.

Tunnel View

The park was unbelievably crowded, a stark contrast from the day before. I had to park about a mile away from the Mirror Lake trailhead. Instead of taking the road, which was shorter, I took the Valley Loop Trail to Mirror Lake. That turned out to be not such a great idea. I thought the Valley Loop Trail was flat(ish), but apparently not the segment to Mirror Lake.

Ice on the trail

Not only did the trail have various inclines, there were also large sections that were covered in ice and there was no way to avoid it. I left my micro spikes in the car because I didn’t expect to need them on an easy hike to Mirror Lake. I find it surprising that as many times as I slipped, I never completely wiped out.

Half Dome towering above Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

When I arrived at Mirror Lake, I scoped it out to find a way to get to the other side so I could hike the paved road out, but I couldn’t find a place. I ended up on this beach area where I met two guys who were putting their shoes and socks back on. I asked if they had gotten in the water and they said no. I guess they were just getting rocks out of their shoes.

I asked the guys if they knew of a way around to the other side and they said they saw some people walking through the lake. It was a shallow, calm section so it was crossable. It’s just that the water was freezing. However, I was determined not to take the same trail back and have to go on those somewhat steep descents on ice, so I took off my shoes and socks and braved the frigid water of Mirror Lake. The guys thought it was “sexy,” in their words.

Crossing Mirror Lake

I’m sure that in the summertime Mirror Lake feels awesome, but as I was crossing this time, in the middle of winter, I couldn’t feel the lower half of my legs. Thankfully, I made it safely across and onto the snow on the other side. As soon as I put my socks and shoes back on, my feet warmed up again. Those new winter boots did the trick. I’m so glad I bought them. I was also glad that I didn’t mess up my new PowerStep insoles which have provided outstanding support for my plantar fasciitis.

Textured rocks above Yosemite Valley

The next part of the adventure was finding parking to get to the Firefall as I was racing to catch the sunset at this point. I should have stayed where I was parked because I ended up having to park at Curry Village, about four miles away from the Firefall. I took the shuttle to the Firefall and barely made it in time. I suppose I could have just skipped it. No thanks to some late afternoon haze, there was no real Firefall.

Firefall, Friday, Feb. 17

I had set up my DSLR and had it on the tripod ready for the show. But when I noticed the lack of lighting and people leaving, I broke my setup down and my new friends and I headed out. As we walked away, we heard people cheering behind us so we turned around and saw a little sliver of light on the Firefall. All I could do was take a few pics with my phone at that point. It was nothing like Friday’s sunset, but still, it was something.

A smaller group of spectators watching the Firefall

One thing I should mention. The official name of the Firefall is Horsetail Fall. They call it the Firefall because many moons ago, they used to pour fire lit logs down the fall to create the effect. They stopped that due to environmental concerns but even without fire being poured over the fall, the way the setting sun hits it with the right conditions (only in February), it naturally creates the effect of a fire fall, so it’s still known as the Firefall.

At Lower Yosemite Fall

Hiking “The Wave”

When I returned to work and my boss asked me how the hike was, the first word out of my mouth was “extraordinary.” He was like, “Wow, extraordinary!?” That is the best way that I could sum up this experience with one word. It was the most amazing trip of my life because I had never seen such a terrain that was so historical and unique in every way. It was like stepping into a different age.

Heading toward the entrance to The Wave.
It had rained a couple days before, so there was quite a bit of standing water like this little pond.

I do admit that I was a little worried about doing this hike in the middle of August, but thankfully we were blessed with great temperatures. It only got up to about 91°, which is much cooler than it was when I went to Zion in June. When we started out at about 6 AM, the temperature was in the 50s. When we made it to the Wave there was a nice, cool breeze blowing and it wasn’t very hot.

Walking into The Wave.
This pond of water at the Wave’s entrance made for a cool reflection shot.
This feature had some amazing textures.
The Wave.

Beyond the wave, we explored Second Wave and the Boneyard, rounding out the loop with the dinosaur tracks, which were really cool and made me feel like I had gone back into the Jurassic Age. I opted not to go up to Top Rock, which I really wanted to see, but I decided that I just wasn’t up to that type of climbing and didn’t want to tire myself out. I just wanted to experience that beautiful place, live in the moment and enjoy just being there. I was in a constant state of awe the whole time.

Strange looking rocks in the “Boneyard.”
A #4-shaped rock in the Boneyard.

I had the pleasure of hiking with a professional photographer, Amy, from Action Photo Tours, who was very experienced with the terrain and knew all of the other sites outside of the Wave that I wanted to see. I also was able to learn photography skills and how to use the more advanced settings on my camera. Before this trip, I had purchased a new ultra wide zoom lens just for the landscape aspect of the trip and I was so excited to use it. I’m very pleased with the photos that I took.

Dinosaur tracks.
More dinosaur tracks.

Walking in the Wave itself was quite a trippy experience. It’s hard to describe the feeling that I had while being inside the Wave. It looks one way in the pictures and you think that the pictures online are all extraordinary, but there is nothing like actually being there and seeing it up close and in person.

A towering spire.
The features of The Wave may look soft and delicate, but they are actually quite sturdy and rugged.

I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude with each moment that passed and I just wanted to hold onto it and never let it go. I couldn’t help but remember what was going on in my life a year ago when I had my back issues and then the surgery and I just couldn’t stop giving thanks for the experience and for being able to walk this path and have this be a part of my life‘s journey. I’m just so grateful. I hope you enjoy these pictures and I also hope that you also get a chance to experience this wonderful place for yourself. It’s not easy to get a permit, but it is so worth the process.

Walking inside The Wave.
Photo by Amy O., Action Photo Tours.


Virgin River Narrows Solo Hike

I was introduced to water hikes by a good friend and hike leader back in 2009, shortly after I began hiking with his group. I was hooked on water hikes after the Santa Paula hike, which was my first adventure with the group and my first ever water hike. My first trip to Zion and to The Narrows was with my friend and his crew, so I couldn’t help but think about him and the other good friends I lost in a tragedy years at Zion.

Walking the Narrows.
People of all ages enjoying the hike.
Waterfall not far from the entrance to the river.

I didn’t plan to do this hike alone. My friend Neenah bailed due to concerns of the water quality and Jodi had to leave the trip a little early to get back home. Candice and her boys did the hike and started later, but I didn’t make it to the trailhead until 1:30-ish, so I met them briefly on their way out when I was about halfway into the canyon. I was never truly alone as the canyon was quite crowded for at least the first two miles or so.

The canyon walls are so majestic.
The water was only calf deep in some places.
The water level was relatively low due to lack of a good rainy season.

This turned out to be a memorial hike of sorts and I carried the memories of my fallen friends in my heart the entire way. My first time in this canyon nine years ago was an indelible experience that I will never forget. This time it was different. Certain parts of the canyon felt vaguely familiar and I remembered places where we stopped for breaks or I turned to take a picture of one of my fallen friends as he made his way through the water with his stick. The water was his happy place. I felt comforted by those fond memories so I never felt truly alone, even when I had parts of the Narrows all to myself deeper in the canyon where the crowds thinned out.

The crowds thinned out further into the Narrows.
The water also seemed cleaner further into the canyon.
It’s a beautiful walk, but trudging over these rocks is quite taxing.

Prior to this trip, I had seen so many posts of people complaining about the crowds in places like the Narrows and Angels Landing, Zion’s more popular attractions. Yes, there were a lot of people in the canyon. At one point, I found myself wondering just how many dang people could this canyon hold because as I was walking in, hordes and hordes of people were heading back. But then I realized we were in the middle of a dangerous heat wave with temps in triple digits all week, so why wouldn’t people head into a canyon where it’s 20 degrees cooler with lots of running water? For once, the crowds didn’t bother me. I was happy to see so many people enjoying that beautiful place just as I was. There was room for everyone who ventured in.

A small group passed me as they were aiming to get to Big Spring, about five miles in.
I enjoyed having some of the most beautiful segments of the canyon all to myself.

This time, I didn’t make it to Big Spring as I did on my previous visit. I stopped about a mile before that due to a section of high water that I didn’t feel comfortable navigating. I saw people coming through it holding their backpacks above their heads and realized that was going to be the turnaround point for me. The water would have been about to my chest. Plus, I knew I still had a ways to go and couldn’t move that fast heading upstream against the current. I needed to be back in time to catch the last shuttle at 8:15. So I turned around and enjoyed a peaceful walk with the beautiful sights and sounds of the Virgin River Narrows and fond memories of the friends I lost in my heart.

Another glimpse of pure beauty.
An enchanting little waterfall.
My smile says it all.

These pictures were all taken with my iPhone. The one of me was taken with my GoPro, except the selfies. I brought my Canon DSLR but kept it in the dry sack the whole time as it was just easier to use the phone and GoPro. Good thing I had the dry sack because I face planted in the water once. I wasn’t hurt, just embarrassed because I fell in front of a lot of people.


All Aboard the Subway!

This hike was quite a doozy and at first I said I would never do it again. Now that some time has passed and my body and mind have had some recovery time, I would say I may do it again at some point. Just not anytime soon. That was one of the reasons I took so many pictures. I was of the mindset that I might not want to pass that way again. But we’ll see.

Starting our adventure.
It was a steep rocky path down to the creek.
It’s a tough hike, but the scenery is worth it.

I hiked with my friends Jodi and Neenah. Jodi charged ahead and left me and Neenah in the dust. Neenah could have charged ahead with her but I was glad that she stayed and hiked with me. I was grateful for the company. It was hot so we took our time and soaked in the creek a couple of times along the way to cool off. The water was great! We also observed quite a bit of healthy looking trout in the creek. Too bad I didn’t have a net. I felt like I could have scooped them right out!

Neenah cooling off in the water.
Trout swimming in the water.
Me cooling off in the waterfall.

When Jodi went to collect the permits for the hike, the ranger told her that it was bouldering the whole way and the hike was rated as “hard” on All Trails. I thought that was interesting because I didn’t remember the hike being super difficult with that much bouldering. However, my last time out there was nine years ago and I’m sure the area has endured its share of landslides and flash floods that have redesigned the terrain over time.

The closer we got to the Subway, the more the water flowed creating cascades like this.
Another cascade.
Neenah walking in the creek past some boulders.

The hike was nine miles and it took us about nine hours to complete it. We didn’t start until almost 10:30am but we should have started much earlier. Several people we met on their way out of the canyon said they had started around 5:00am, which was smart to beat the heat. We just didn’t want to get up that early.

The path goes right up the cascades, a welcome treat on a sweltering day.
Almost to our destination.
Another beautiful waterfall.

One thing I learned is that I should have either packed 4 liters of water instead of 3, or brought a filter to get water from the creek. Although, I’m not sure that even filtering water would have been a good idea with the high levels of Cyanobacteria in the water. Maybe North Creek is okay and it’s just the Virgin River that the warning is for, but we weren’t sure.

The entrance to the Subway.
The sound of running water was so relaxing.
There were lots of natural pools to soak in.

We were keeping an eye on the sky during the hike as some clouds started to build downstream later in the afternoon. I was also keeping an eye on possible escape routes in the event of a flash flood. There was no rain in the forecast, but storms can develop anytime in the summer, particularly in the afternoon. Thankfully, no storm materialized out of those clouds, but the cloud cover did provide some much needed relief from the brutal sun and heat for a while. By the time we left the Subway, the clouds had dispersed and the sun emerged with a vengeance.

Inside the Subway.
Looking back toward the entrance to the Subway.
Leaving the Subway, Neenah leading the charge.
The Subway.

All in all, it was a great day and we felt so accomplished afterwards. The Subway is a spectacular adventure.


Taylor Creek and Kolob Canyons

After finishing up our Kanarra Creek hike, we headed over to Kolob Canyons to do a second hike. It was fairly short at a mere five miles round trip, but it felt so much longer due to the heat. It was a little cooler up there but the temps were probably still in the 90’s. There was a creek, but it had very little water and it was nothing to take a dip in and cool off.

Wood log steps at the beginning of the hike.
A trickle of water in the creek.

I told my friends Neenah and Jodi to go ahead because I didn’t know if I wanted to go all the way. I didn’t research this hike much as it was one of Jodi’s suggestions, so I wasn’t sure if the Double Arches were a worthy payoff at the end. I trekked on figuring I’d just turn around when I met up with the ladies heading back from the arches.

Entering the Zion Wilderness, although not part of Zion National Park.
Neenah walking ahead.

The hike didn’t get that interesting for me until I arrived at the first cabin. I actually would have missed it had I not seen a guy coming from that direction as the cabin is situated slightly off-trail right at a turn. Had the guy not been there I would have just been focused on the trail sign that indicated turning right to follow the path.

Larson Cabin.

There was another cabin a little further up the trail. Both were cool to see and pretty interesting due to their construction and the fact that they were just out there in the middle of this canyon with nothing else around.

The further into the canyon we ventured, the more water we observed in the creek.
The Arch.

I eventually made it to the arches where I met back up with Jodi and Neenah. It was absolutely worth it to keep going because the Double Arches were pretty spectacular. I’d love to go back and do this hike at a cooler time or when there is lots of water flowing in the creek. We crossed the creek at least 20 times during the hike, so with flowing water it would have been a lot of fun.

Women's pants banners for Fall 2022

Hiking Kanarra Falls

In June, my friends and I hiked Kanarra Falls near Zion National Park in Utah and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. It was hot but the water was cold. This is now a permitted hike, which I am grateful for because it limits crowds on the trail. When I first did this hike nine years ago, no permit was needed, but that apparently led to the area becoming overcrowded and trashed since the hike became more popular.

Ready for a great hike!
Walking into the canyon.

One thing I remembered from doing this hike years ago is that the water was feet-numbing cold. This time, I came prepared with a pair of neoprene socks that I purchased from REI the night before I left for my trip. They really came in handy. When we checked in at the ranger’s station at the start of the hike, I asked him how cold was the water and he said 49°. When we got further into the canyon and my feet felt that water, I stopped to put on those socks and they made a huge difference.

Walls of fire.
The infamous rickety ladder.

This canyon was even more beautiful than I remembered it. It was also a treat to introduce friends to it that had never experienced it. Everyone enjoyed it. Afterwards, we went to the Snackery just up the road and enjoyed snow cones and root beer floats. Then it was on to our second hike of the day in Kolob Canyon.

My friends walking through the canyon.
The last waterfall where we stopped. No ladder here.
Me in front of the last waterfall.

A permit is required to hike Kanarra Falls and can be obtained at this link where you’ll find all the information that you need to do this amazing hike.

While I was on this trip and right before my friends and I did water hikes, I discovered that I left my water shoes at home. I had to go to an outfitter in Springdale and buy a pair of shoes. They didn’t have the brand that I normally wore and the ones that I liked best out of what was available were the Teva Women’s Omnium Sandals. Those sandals were so comfortable and performed so well on my adventures in and out of the water that they are now my go-to water shoes. I even took them on my recent trip to Brazil and wore them in the Amazon jungle. Check them out at the link below.


Exploring Hot Creek

Hot Creek near Mammoth, CA is a place to marvel at geology in action. Boiling water bubbling up from the creek bed, fumaroles and periodic geyser eruptions at Hot Creek attest to the chamber of hot magma which lies about three miles below the surface of the earth in this area.

Steam emitting from the pools at Hot Creek
There is a sign warning people to stay out

The steam you see along the Hot Creek drainage is created when water percolates deep into the ground and enters a complex underground plumbing system. The water is heated and pressurized before it rises to the earth’s surface. It is believed this journey takes around 1000 years.

Scalding hot pool
View of Hot Creek from the hiking trail

Earthquakes can cause sudden geyser eruptions and overnight appearances of new hot springs at Hot Creek. Water temperatures can change rapidly, and so entering the water is prohibited.

Some have referred to Hot Creek as a mini Yellowstone. I’ve never been to Yellowstone yet, so I can’t say whether or not I agree with that. I’d like to just appreciate this beautiful place for what it is.


Visiting a California Ghost Town

Before summer’s end, I finally got to visit the Bodie ghost town, known officially as Bodie State Historic Park. Today, only about 5% of the buildings remain from the town’s 1877-1881 heyday, most having fallen victim to time, fire, and the elements. Designated a California state park in 1962, it is now preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” This means that buildings’ roofs, windows and foundations are repaired and stabilized, not restored.

It was smooth sailing on pavement most of the way there, but the last several miles or so were on dirt.

Following the 1849 Gold Rush, mining declined along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Prospectors, ever hungry for the next big strike, crossed the Sierra Nevada to prospect the eastern slopes.

Methodist Church. This church, built in 1882, is Bodie’s only church still standing. A Catholic church, also built in 1882, burned in 1928. E.J. Clinton, head of a mining company at Bodie in the late 1920’s, restored the church with his own funds and often preached sermons. An oilcloth with the Ten Commandments, which once hung behind the pulpit, was stolen (Thou Shalt Not Steal”).

W.S. Bodey, from Poughkeepsie, New York, discovered gold here in 1859. He died months later in a blizzard, never seeing the town that honors him. Bodey’s bones were re-discovered in 1879 and then “misplaced” after burial. His final resting place is now thought to be somewhere on the hill above the cemetery, which I skipped, but could see from the dirt road leading to the parking lot. The town‘s name came to be spelled “Bodie.”

D.V. Cain House. Built in 1873, this was home to David Victor Cain, son of James S. Cain. The Cains sold Bodie to California State Parks in 1962. In 1904, D.V. Cain married Ella M. Cody, a Bodie schoolteacher who later founded the Bodie Museum.

Mining in the district progressed at a slow pace until 1875, when a mine collapse revealed a rich body of gold ore. Word spread fast, and Bodie’s boomtown days began. While period accounts estimated Bodie’s population as high as 8,000 and later writers claimed 10,000, census records do not reflect these high numbers. Bodie’s peak population probably ranged from 7,000 to 8,000.

Inside the morgue.

During 1877 – 1881, Bodie’s mining district included 30 different mines and nine stamp mills. Along with miners and merchants, Bodie attracted a rougher element, who gave the town a reputation for bad men and wild times. There were more than 60 saloons, many near Bonanza Street prostitutes’ “cribs” and opium dens in Chinatown. The boom years were over quickly as unsuccessful mines began closing. The population dropped quickly and continued to dwindle into the 1900s. Mining continued until 1942.

Remnants of a home.
View from the hill at the end of Green Street.
The Standard Mill.

The family of Bodie’s last major landowner, James S. Cain, hired caretakers to watch over the town and protect it from looters and vandals. In 1962, California State Parks purchased the town to preserve the historic buildings and artifacts.

Looking across town.

I enjoyed my visit to Bodie.

Women's pants banners for Fall 2022

Forest Lessons, “Tarzan,” and…a Caiman?!

Our second day at the jungle lodge was pretty busy. We started the day with a hike into the jungle led by our guides Lima and Rivelino, who we later nicknamed “Tarzan” due to his extraordinary strength and agility. During the hike, our guides taught us some survival skills and showed us how to make some crafts.

After the hike, we returned to the lodge for lunch and some relaxation before taking to the waters again to explore more of the igapó and watch the sunset at the end of the day. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, we took the boats out again after dinner and went out searching for alligators. We ended up with quite a surprise.

This is one of the longer videos in this series at nine minutes, but I hope you stick around until the end. With Halloween upon us, there are some elements that I find quite fitting. I had so much fun filming and editing this piece of a most extraordinary adventure. I hope you’re enjoying this series. The best is still yet to come.