In which we round out the National Parks tour with Rocky Mountain and Wind Cave

Whew – we made it to Minneapolis! Since our stuff does not get here until next Monday we’ve been camping out in the living room and exploring our little neighborhood before work starts next week. To round out our National Park tour:

On Monday we left Boulder and headed to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park:

7th National Park and it's its 100th anniversary!

7th National Park and it’s its 100th anniversary!

The park has great vistas across meadows to the Rockies beyond.

The park has great vistas across meadows to the Rockies beyond.

Since it's so close to a major metropolitan area and summer is the high season we were stuck behind a lot of cars.

Since it’s so close to a major metropolitan area and summer is the high season we were stuck behind a lot of cars.

Our only stop was to Bear Lake, which turned out to be more nature trail than hike. The parking lot was full when we got there and we only ended up grabbing a spot because they opened up some later ones as we were leaving - talk about lucky!

Our only stop was to Bear Lake, which turned out to be more nature trail than hike. The parking lot was full when we got there and we only ended up grabbing a spot because they opened up some later ones as we were leaving – talk about lucky!

We didn't see any bears :(

We didn’t see any bears 馃槮

Lovely conifers

Lovely conifers

thumb_DSC_0955_1024

thumb_DSC_0940_1024

Reminds me of higher elevation version of Cades Cove in the Smokies

thumb_DSC_0950_1024

Since the park was so crowded, we decided to see if we could make it to Wind Cave the same day and cut the next day’s driving to Minneapolis down.

Forgot we needed to get through Wyoming to get to South Dakota - so here we are picking up a bonus state: #7!

Forgot we needed to get through Wyoming to get to South Dakota – so here we are picking up a bonus state: #7!

Starting in Wyoming and continuing through South Dakota we kept running into motorcycles, both of the individual and gang variety. It came to a massive slowdown in Custer and we creeped along through the sea of them at 5 mph. Apparently the world-famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was happening in two days and we were caught up in the beginning of it.

State #8

State #8

And done: National Park #8

And done: National Park #8!

Most of Wind Cave National Park, is as you could probably guess, in a cave. There is a lot of the park aboveground however and it preserves vast swaths of natural grasslands:

thumb_DSC_0006_1024

thumb_DSC_0004_1024

We looked, but did not see any bison.

thumb_DSC_0007_1024

The cave part is only accessible by a ranger led tour and we were fortunate to catch one of the last ones of the day:

thumb_DSC_0003_1024

Our only option was the Natural Entrance Tour which is the usual one. Other tours explore slightly different areas of the cave or use only candles like early explorers.

Our only option was the Natural Entrance Tour which is the usual one. Other tours explore slightly different areas of the cave or use only candles like early explorers.

Golden ticket

Golden ticket – no selfie sticks!

Stairs down into the cave.

Stairs down into the cave. It’s a good tour – well lit, easy to walk.

Taking pictures in a cave is weird. Bare with me on these next few.

Taking pictures in a cave is weird. Bare with me on these next few.

thumb_DSC_0989_1024

Wind Cave is the 6th longest cave in the world and the densest maze-type cave (measured by passages per cubic mile).

Our tour had about 30 people on it and the ranger was great about telling stories of the cave's earliest explorers.

Our tour had about 30 people on it and the ranger was great about telling stories of the cave’s earliest explorers.

thumb_DSC_0973_1024

Those rocky lines are known as boxwork formations. 95% of the world’s known boxwork is in this cave.

It was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world.

It was the first cave to be designated a national park in the world.

My cave photography sucks.

My cave photography sucks.

The flash makes it better

The flash makes it better

thumb_DSC_0974_1024

More boxwork.

The cave responds to barometric pressure and so

The cave responds to barometric pressure and so “breathes” with whatever the weather is doing outside. Hence the Wind part of the name.

thumb_DSC_0973_1024

thumb_DSC_0995_1024

After learning聽out about the Sturgis rally and finding no hotels under $500 left in southwest South Dakota, we made the decision聽to drive as far as we could towards Minnesota after the tour. It made for a long day, but we grabbed the last room between Rapid City and Sioux Falls in Oacoma, SD (and shared it still with plenty of motorcyclists):

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 8.49.20 PM

643 miles, 3 states, 2 parks, and 1 motorcycle rally

We understandably slept in the next morning and made it to Minneapolis聽in the early evening (another 6 hours away):

Hard to get a shot of this sign as it was past the exit ramp of a rest area.

Hard to get a shot of this sign as it was past the exit ramp of a rest area.

I hope to do a re-cap of our adventures, just in case anyone else is stupid crazy enough to try this. For now, we’re settling into our new home and awaiting the arrival of our things.

In which we visit Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks

This trip reminds me of an eight-course meal at a fancy restaurant. You don’t get a large portion of each dish, but you get enough to peak your interest, enough to taste its聽subtle nuance, and enough to want more.

We started the morning off at Capitol Reef National Park. Since I had trouble finding much information on this obscure park we settled for the scenic drive portion and were not disappointed in the views:

thumb_DSC_0788_1024

National Park #4!

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee.

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee. Also excuse the fog – I had cleaned my filter with a solvent and replaced it before realizing it wasn’t fully dry. Fortunately fixed this before taking the rest of the day’s pictures. But it’s kinda dreamy, isn’t it?

thumb_DSC_0790_1024

Unbelievable rock faces in stunning red and browns punctuated with green.

thumb_DSC_0796_1024

thumb_DSC_0789_1024

Rising in a slanted direction into the distance.

thumb_DSC_0794_1024

We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by NPS.

We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the historic orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by them. You can even pick fruit in season for a nominal fee. The cinnamon rolls were perfect. The coffee made by Mormons, not so great.

thumb_DSC_0797_1024

Jeep is still going strong!

Jeep is still going strong!

thumb_DSC_0801_1024

Loved these sedimentary rock formations

Grand Wash canyon. We headed the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent.

Grand Wash canyon. We heeded the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent (also we were on a time crunch).

Grand Wash

Grand Wash – Called a wash because it was not a stream or creek or river yet. Not until it rains. Signs of road damage could be seen all along the drive from previous flash floods.

thumb_DSC_0810_1024

The red color was spectacular - I couldn't get enough.

The red color was spectacular – I couldn’t get enough.

thumb_DSC_0815_1024

For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect.

For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect and because we started early, we had it mostly to ourselves.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs - these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs – these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

Capitol Dome from which Capitol Reef takes its name. It's supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The white Capitol Dome towering above the Fremont River. This is from which Capitol Reef takes its name as it’s supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

We headed out of the park towards Arches and kept being greeted by awesome canyon and rock formation views. It seemed otherworldly:

thumb_DSC_0831_1024

We stopped for聽iced tea and directions at a聽gas station carved into the rock:

thumb_DSC_0834_1024

And finally made it to Moab, UT where we grabbed lunch at the Moab Brewery:

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial - both helped wash down chicken sandwiches.

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial – both helped wash down delicious chicken sandwiches.

Today was ambitious: I had planned two parks in one day! But at the last minute I almost added a third. I didn’t realize Canyonlands was so close to Arches – they’re 20 miles apart which is a minute speck聽in national park distance terms. I really didn’t even know until we hit the exit for Arches and it said “One Exit: Two National Parks” and my heart immediately sank. What is wrong with me?! This whole trip was carefully mapped out, researched,聽planned. It was tight already. I spent lunch going over our itinerary – do we stay the night here and try to do both? Do we nix another one in favor of Canyonlands? And do we try to squeeze this one in without any preparation? Do we just drive to the gate, get the map and leave to say we’d done it?

In the end, I let it be. This trip is already pushing the quantity limit of quality. Not that we could just nix four parks and spend two days exploring聽each instead – it’s a lot of distance to cover聽and our stops are聽spaced so that we can achieve聽that distance. If we had driven straight to Minneapolis from Seattle it would have been 24 hours of driving. Our current concocted plan works out to around 52, so it would not have allowed extra time to linger. We need to be there on time so we can get settled and Jeff can work. No, I had to let this trip be what it is: a marathon taste-test. We’ll be back.

National Park #5

National Park #5!

Driving in past the Three Gossips - perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

Driving in past the Three Gossips – perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it's called Balancing Rock.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it’s called Balancing Rock.

Like I alluded to earlier: I’ve carefully planned our experiences in most of the parks. Fern Canyon in Redwoods, Bumpass Hell in Lassen,聽visiting the bristlecone pines in Great Basin, etc. Each excursion was chosen to represent the character of the park and give us the maximum effect in our limited time. That’s why I ultimately couldn’t just add Canyonlands – I had no idea what to do there. A quick glance said there would be too many cool things, so I let it go. We’ll save it for another time. As for Arches, I picked the famous Delicate Arch (which also happens to be currently gracing the Utah license plate):

thumb_DSC_0871_1024

It was hot - 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

It was hot – 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

thumb_DSC_0849_1024

Queen of the world!

Queen of the world!

thumb_DSC_0863_1024

I am adding this to the growing collection of pictures of my boots in different environs. I’ve had these since sixth grade.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

Worth the climb!

Worth the climb!

thumb_DSC_0857_1024

Delicate Arch!

Going back down was so much easier.

Going back down was so much easier.

We detoured to see a few more petroglyphs. These, like the previous ones, were carved by the mysterious Fremont people before they disappeared from the record.

thumb_DSC_0867_1024

thumb_DSC_0866_1024

I would love to come back and see the 2,473 other arches we didn’t see, but, the sun was high and we needed to move on.

State #6!

State #6!

We checked for places to stay near our next stop, Black Canyon, but came up empty. Our original plan to camp along the way has been聽thwarted by the tiredness we’ve been feeling as a result of the long drives with no AC. We’re not the twenty year old explorers we used to be.

The closest place we could find was an hour and a half away in Grand Junction, CO, so we’re bunkered down here for the night. I’m beginning to believe we might actually make this crazy itinerary of eight parks, eight states in eight days, work.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 9.32.15 PM

An easy 261 miles today, but we completed two parks, so I’ll take it.

In which we visited Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park lies about an hour east of Ely, NV. I wasn’t sure exactly what this basin was before we found the visitor’s center, but it now know it describes the depression between the Sierra Nevada and Wastach mountains (amongst other geographical things) and looks like this (thanks Wikipedia!):

GB-Definition-Map

(and thanks Great Basin visitor’s center!). This national park not only preserves important landmarks, it also celebrates the unique culture of this desolately beautiful place.

If anyone wonders how we get photos of the two of us - I have a remote for my Nikon D3300. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes you get silly outtakes like this one.

If anyone wonders how we get photos of the two of us – I have a remote for my Nikon D3300. Sometimes it works great. Sometimes you get silly outtakes like this one.

Never mind the previous outtake. This is the real sign at the entrance to the park.

National Park #3! Never mind the previous outtake – that was the visitor’s center. This is the real sign at the entrance to the park. Wheeler Peak is in the background.

I wasn’t planning on hiking in this park, but the main thing I came to see required a short, out-and-back jaunt.

thumb_DSC_0724_1024

Bristlecone pines are the longest living non-clonal organisms on Earth and this park is home to several rare groves of them. They can live up to 5,000 years!! You have to specify non-clonal because there is a group of聽quaking aspens in Utah that is聽believed to be over 80,000 years old – though the individual trees are only 130 years or so.

thumb_DSC_0735_1024

Even when they die, the trees are so hardy that they can last another 1,000 years in the same spot without rotting.

Hiking up to the grove - we wore plenty of sunscreen since the sun was out and we were above 10,000 feet!

Hiking up to the grove – we wore plenty of sunscreen since the sun was out and we were above 10,000 feet!

thumb_DSC_0733_1024

At 1.6 miles past the trailhead there was a lovely exhibit teaching you about different trees in the grove.

At 1.6 miles past the trailhead there was a lovely exhibit teaching you about different trees in the grove.

Many had great informative plaques like this one. Hard to believe that some of these trees are contemporaries of the pyramids of Egypt.

Many had great informative plaques like this one. Hard to believe that some of these trees are contemporaries of the pyramids of Egypt.

Jeff pointing out the living part of this tree.

Jeff pointing out the living part of this tree.

View of Wheeler peak from the grove.

View of Wheeler peak (highest summit in the Snake Range: 13,065 ft) from the grove.

thumb_DSC_0745_1024

I know they look dead – but I promise they are not. Many had green needles sprouting from their branches that just get lost in these photos.

Beautiful, smooth bark

Beautiful patterns in the smooth bark

thumb_DSC_0750_1024

Thankful that someone will indulge my not-so-inner biology nerd.

On the way down we made a small detour to Teresa Lake (in honor of you, Aunt T!):

thumb_DSC_0756_1024

thumb_DSC_0758_1024

Beautiful little alpine lake.

Beautiful little alpine lake.

thumb_DSC_0760_1024

It was an unplanned, but lovely 3.2 mile hike. I would definitely love to come back and do more glacier hikes and explore the Lehman Caves. After this we headed down Wheeler Peak, on to Utah:

View of Wheeler Peak

View of Wheeler Peak

State #5!

State #5!

This stretch of road began a long series of beautiful views. I'm convinced there isn't a bad site in Utah.

This stretch of road began a long series of beautiful views. I’m convinced there isn’t a bad site in Utah.

Great Salt Flat in the distance

Great Salt Flat in the distance – you can follow this all the way to the Great Salt Lake

thumb_DSC_0776_1024

More Utah through the front windshield

Look at the scenery behind Jeff - it's just breathtaking.

Look at the scenery behind Jeff – it’s just breathtaking.

Better view of that exact spot. This road trip is mostly about seeing national parks, but it has the lovely residual side effect of taking us through some of the prettiest, most unique places in the US.

Better view of that exact spot. This road trip is mostly about seeing national parks, but it has the lovely residual side effect of taking us through some of the prettiest, most remote places in the US.

Our first glimpse of Rim Rock, right outside Capitol Reef National Park and our home for the night.

Our first glimpse of Rim Rock, right outside Capitol Reef National Park and our home for the night.

It looks like we're driving into a painting. Just amazing!

It looks like we’re driving into a painting. Just amazing!

I wasn’t sure what Capitol Reef was going to be like and with this preview聽I can’t wait to see it tomorrow. We’re settled in for the night in Torrey with Mexican food in our bellies and wi-fi for our devices.

301 miles

Short driving day: 301 miles

In which we visited Lassen and drove the loneliest highway in America

Remember when I signed off the last post about it being a good night? Bad news: we discovered while rummaging for some lost contact solution (turns out we left it in the hotel in Crescent City) that our boat battery had tipped and spilled all over the back of the Jeep. Good news: baking soda neutralizes the sulfuric acid. Bad news: everything closes after 9pm in Chester, CA so we couldn’t do anything. Good news: The grocery store opens early for the fishermen. We spent the morning scrubbing and neutralizing what we could.

Here’s hoping that the bottom of the Jeep doesn’t fall out anytime soon! Also figured out I’ve developed shingles (am I 80??) – but that is a story for another day. First – on to Lassen!

thumb_DSC_0660_1024

National park #2

Lassen Volcanic National Park聽is like聽Glacier and Yellowstone had a baby. The peaks reach the sky, but the area is bubbling with geothermal activity. It’s the southern most part of the Cascade Range and its Volcano, Lassen Peak, last erupted 100 years ago. Give that our time was short, we chose to do the Bumpass Hell trail, one because of the name and two, because it gave great views of Lassen’s mountains and showed off the beauty of the Tehama caldera. It’s funny moniker comes from serious incident. Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a local miner聽who was聽exploring the area, broke through the thin mud crust and scalded his leg badly resulting in its eventual amputation. Yikes. thumb_DSC_0695_1024 thumb_DSC_0666_1024

These beautiful purple wildflowers were in bloom along the trail.

These beautiful purple wildflowers were in bloom along the trail.

thumb_DSC_0673_1024

I love the color the sulpher, thermophilic algae makes the water.

thumb_DSC_0686_1024

Good reason to use the boardwalks (also a federal law).

Good reason to use the boardwalks.

thumb_DSC_0683_1024

About 16 acres of hot springs, fumaroles (steam vents) and boiling mud pots

thumb_DSC_0677_1024

Beautiful mud and algae above the boiling mud pots. Pictures don’t quite do it justice.

thumb_DSC_0675_1024

Our hike didn’t take as long as planned, so we drove around a bit more of the park to take in the scenery:

thumb_DSC_0690_1024

View of Brokeoff Mountain

In front of Lassen Peak

In front of Lassen Peak

View to the Cascades beyond

View to the Cascades beyond – this reminds me of the Appalachians聽outside Asheville.

thumb_DSC_0691_1024

thumb_DSC_0702_1024

The is the highest point on the highest road in the Cascades

We had a long drive before us, so we headed out. I would definitely come back to Lassen again (and hike the Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak!). On the road again:

thumb_DSC_0708_1024

Somewhere in California

Crossed the border and drove through Reno - it made me miss all the Burners who would fly in through here to go to Burning Man soon. Our route took us no where near the Black Rock Desert, which was probably for the best. It would make me miss it too much.

Crossed the border and drove through Reno – it made me miss all the Burners who would fly in through here to go to Burning Man soon. Our route took us no where near the Black Rock Desert, which was probably for the best. It would make me miss it too much.

Once through Reno we started driving on Nevada Highway 50. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was named聽“The Loneliest Road in America”聽by Life magazine in 1986. I get why: we crossed long stretches of desert valleys punctuated by desolate mountain ranges with little to no sign of civilization for close to sever hours. It was long and hot and I’m very thankful we had a car to do it in (despite its lack of air conditioning) because this is the route the Pony Express took and I can only imagine how hard it was for them.

Beautiful, but lonely.

Beautiful, but lonely.

Desert valley stretch. Note all the bugs we've accumulated.

Desert valley stretch. Note all the bugs we’ve accumulated.

Eventually we pulled into Ely, NV, the biggest settlement we’d seen since leaving Reno. It’s a little modern segment of the聽Wild West: advertisements for roping lessons, casino-hotels galore with stuffed rattlesnakes decorating the lobby, steakhouses and blackjack dealers smoking cigarettes they bought out of a vending machine.

Downtown Ely, NV

Downtown Ely, NV

We stayed in a hotel-casino that was built on the site of the old jail – so naturally it was called the Jailhouse:

thumb_DSC_0716_1024

497 miles

497 miles

Long day, but we survived and we’re getting there – on to Great Basin next!

In which we visited the Redwoods

Redwood National Park encompasses a narrow band of land along the northern California coastline. The national park (established 1968) is combined with several state parks (Jedediah Smith, Prairie Creek, and Del Norte Coast) and together they protect almost 50% of known redwood trees.thumb_DSC_0584_1024 We started the morning escaping driving out of Crescent City, south along the coast on Highway 101. The 101 hugs the Pacific Ocean聽from LA to the Olympic Peninsula and has always been something I’ve wanted to drive. Viewpoints like this confirmed my suspicions on how gorgeous it would be: thumb_DSC_0588_1024

Dipping my feet in to say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean.

Dipping my feet in to say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean.

We also had the chance to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams: driving through a redwood. Yes, I know this sounds weird, but in some elementary school textbook there is a picture showing a car driving through a tree聽(probably this one)聽to illustrate just how gigantic redwoods are and I had to do it. There are actually three trees near (but not in) the park that you can drive through – we chose the聽Tour Thru Tree聽(silly lawyers can’t let them say “drive-thru” for liability reasons) for no other reason other than it was close to our itinerary.

They have quite a nice racket: Entrance is $5 and there is little to no maintenance on the thing.

They have quite a nice racket: Entrance is $5 and there is little to no maintenance on the thing.

thumb_DSC_0604_1024

This is an approximately 750 year old living redwood. The tunnel was carved out in 1976, carefully avoiding the critical life sustaining parts.

Jeff drove, I took pictures. You can really get out once you're in it.

Jeff drove, I took pictures (you can’t really get out once you’re in it). So many milestones for the Jeep this week!

After this detour we zipped back into the park and drove through majestic groves of redwoods. It’s easy to spot which ones they are – their ashy grey trunks draw your eye upwards and they tower over every other tree; they are the tallest on Earth. Sequoias may have more volume and be more round, but they don’t scrap the sky like these giants:

thumb_DSC_0609_1024

They won’t fit completely in my camera frame – I took this picture lying on the ground.

thumb_DSC_0611_1024 thumb_DSC_0613_1024

thumb_DSC_0627_1024

Meandering through the giants

thumb_DSC_0620_1024

thumb_DSC_0623_1024

We had most of the drive to ourselves which was nice so I could go slow and crane my head through the window to look up.

thumb_DSC_0626_1024

thumb_DSC_0628_1024

There was a sign that said this was Big Tree – so we pulled off to see it. She seems just as large as a lot of other ones, but with a sign she must be special. Estimated age: 1500 years. Height: 304 feet. Diameter: 21.6 feet. Circumference: 66 feet.

thumb_DSC_0635_1024 Our itinerary did not leave much time for lingering, though this is a national park I’d love to revisit. We continued on to Fern Canyon in the southern (and Prairie Creek controlled) section or the park. Since it’s not technically part of the National Parks System we had to pay an $8 day use fee, and although it was a quick jaunt,聽it was worth it.

Our little trek took us about three-quaters of a mile.

Our little trek took us about three-quaters of a mile.

thumb_DSC_0645_1024 thumb_DSC_0637_1024 thumb_DSC_0642_1024

Possibly my favorite picture from today.

Possibly my favorite picture from today.

After that we headed out, we made a brief stop in聽Arcata, CA for a delicious lunch at the Kebab Cafe (get the gyro itself or gyro burger – so good!!). If you didn’t know, California is in the midst of a terrible drought聽and I felt like were were driving through kindling as we drove Hwy 299 through聽the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It’s less a “forest” and more a lot of dried trees, cracking brush and dirt that look ready to ignite any second. It was also hot as blazes out there:

thumb_DSC_0654_1024

We haven’t seen 100 degrees since before we moved to Seattle.

thumb_DSC_0657_1024

OMG and then it got even hotter! We eventually reached 112 before the sun went down and gave us some sweet, sweet relief. Between us we have two bachelor’s (from a top ten university), a law degree, a dental degree and two master’s degrees- why again are we driving an unairconditioned Jeep across the US in July?!?

When we were in Arcata we called ahead to Chester, CA and got the last room at the Cedar Lodge Motel.聽We’re planning on camping at some point, but Jeff needed the internet for work this evening. The folks who run this Motel and RV Park are so nice, our聽room is clean and we’re very close to Lassen for our second national park of the trip. We were also given a complimentary newspaper detailing the local fishing report – adorable. Fun fact about Chester: Chuck Norris’s wife is from here and they have a house nearby. Tonight is good: Lake Almanor is steps away with a refreshing breeze, we have sandwiches from the local hippy market packed for tomorrow’s hike and I’m just really thankful聽there’s no foghorn.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 8.44.51 PM

Today’s trek encompassed聽almost the entire width of California – 314 miles

We’re off to hike in Lassen tomorrow and then if we stick to the itinerary will be in Ely, NV tomorrow evening. Having internet each night has been nice, but not sure if we’ll get as lucky from here on out.

In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part III: Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do in Maui that doesn’t involve a beach or volcano. Hana is a tiny hamlet on the very eastern edge of the island, and聽like most things in life this journey聽wasn’t about the destination.

We started off early, myself driving the curvy roads to stave off the motion sickness and Jeff with our handy Maui Revealed counting mile posts to look out for sites. Over breakfast in the Kihei Caffe聽(food was meh) we had marked out places we definitely wanted to stop at while leaving plenty of room for chance.

There’s plenty to do on the road to Hana, in Hana and the surrounding areas and we couldn’t come close to seeing it all, but I thought we got a pretty good sampling. Here’s what we saw:

The Four Falls of Na’ili’ili-Haele

After researching this hike when we returned to Seattle I found out it is probably the hike that requires the most helicopter rescues in all of Maui. The Road to Hana is famous for it’s waterfalls and we had skipped the first pull out for Twin Falls for this one.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I'd ever seen.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I’d ever seen.

thumb_DSC_0433_1024

thumb_DSC_0428_1024

We emerged from the thicket to the first waterfall:

thumb_DSC_0440_1024

The trail past it, to the second waterfall was up a steep, muddy hill that fortunately had a rope to help you climb. We thought we were adventurous getting to the second falls because there were only two other people there. We were planning on stopping at this point since the guidebook described the rest of the trail as “difficult” and swimming was involved. The couple insisted that we could do it and that it would b completely worth it to keep going – and I’m glad we did!

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn't void my disability insurance!

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn’t void my disability insurance!

The rest of the “trail” was boulder hopping up the stream.

thumb_DSC_0442_1024

Until we got to a place where the valley walls closed in on us and we couldn’t boulder hop anymore – it was time to swim:

Boots overhead (turns out we didn't need these).

Boots overhead (turns out we didn’t need these).

It wasn't far, but we couldn't touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

It wasn’t far, but we couldn’t touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

I risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it's okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook.

I did not risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it’s okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook – which can’t do it justice.聽

I am so glad we went – it was gorgeous! About 100 ft high falling into a sparkling pool that we had all to ourselves. It was perfect – the quintessential Maui waterfall. We stayed for a while and then headed back down the stream.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

thumb_DSC_0449_1024

After emerging from the bamboo forest we continued on – stopping occasionally for hidden waterfalls and gorgeous outlooks:

thumb_DSC_0466_1024

We shared a sandwich at Halfway to Hana Snack Shop聽where we met a gentleman from Missouri. He informed us that here at the midpoint, he “had got the gist” and was turning around. We decided to continue on and I’m so glad we did. Next stop:

Pi’ilanihale Heiau

The Pi-ilanihale Heiau (or聽Hale O Pi’ Ilani聽Heiau)聽is the largest heiau (hey-ow) in all Polynesia and one of the best preserved. Heiaus were places of worship and where chiefs lived. It sits among a garden representing聽plants that ancient Polynesians brought with them in canoes across the Pacific and it was stunning. We explored the grounds, having them to ourselves and being careful not to get too close to a coconut tree. My pictures don’t do it justice.

thumb_DSC_0485_1024

The heiau is the black structure in the back. The thatched roof sheltered canoes. The volcano looms over it all.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build. The wall you can see here is only the first side of it and doesn’t show you how massive the structure really is.

I can't escape dentistry even here!

I found some dentistry in paradise!

We had to be careful!

We had to be careful so these coconuts didn’t fall on our coconuts.

After re-filling our water bladder we continued on to Hana and:

Wai’anapanapa State Park

This state park whose name means “glistening fresh water” is one of the last ones before you reach Hana and is home to a small, black sand beach. Jeff found another hike in the guidebook, one that went in the opposite direction of everyone admiring the black sand.

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again - I'm glad we stuck with it!

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again – I’m glad we stuck with it!

thumb_DSC_0505_1024

There wasn’t so much a path as a scramble over black lava.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

thumb_DSC_0491_1024

This day trip is all about dangerous ground – we weren’t scared!

thumb_DSC_0488_1024

We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

Stones have been laid so that we didn't trod on sacred ground.

Stones have been laid so that we didn’t trod on sacred ground.

Overlooking the Pacific.

Overlooking the Pacific.

After this little sojourn it was almost dinner time. We continued into Hana and ate a much needed dinner. I didn’t take any pictures, probably because I was beat after our adventures, but Hana is small and peaceful and definitely warrants further exploration. Most everyone around us was there for the night, but we had to head back, so we couldn’t linger.

The road to Hana is lush, two-laned and winds through the rainforest. The road away, on the leeward side of the island, is drier and one lane for both cars – it’s a completely different world:

The Road From Hana

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we're talking.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we’re talking.

thumb_DSC_0517_1024

We were in a race against dark, so we didn’t linger.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Sunset against the volcano

Sunset against the volcano

Lava arch

Lava arch

Dusk setting in

Dusk setting in

Bridge over a gorge

Bridge over a gorge – this doesn’t look like a tropical island.

thumb_DSC_0531_1024

We rounded the last of the curves and the road widened just as we lost our light.

What a fun trip!

In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part II: West Maui

The day before we left I picked up a couple of books for Jeff to read on the beach at our local used book store. On a whim I threw an old copy of聽Maui Revealed聽into my basket as well. We had never used a guidebook before, but I’m so glad we did. It took us off the beaten path to see some remote, breathtaking sites – we will definitely be using guidebooks for our future trips! One caveat – try to pick up an up to date book. Our morning trip to go snorkeling off of La Perouse Bay in an area called the Aquarium and Fish Bowl that were described in our 2008 text were thwarted because the area was now off limits. Oh well. We headed back to the car and decided to explore West Maui instead.

IMG_5038

Exploring the lava fields

After lunch at聽Aloha Mixed Plate聽in Lahaina, we headed north on Hwy 30 to just before it became the one-lane 340. Following the directions to look for the yellow fence (now painted green) through a pineapple field (now grown over) – we found one of our favorite sites in Maui: The two-tiered pools at Honoloa and we had them all to ourselves.

Hiking down

Hiking down

Overhead shot of the pools - the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

Overhead shot of the pools – the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

thumb_DSC_0371_1024

Exploring the pools

Exploring the pools

We found cool fish!

We found cool fish!

thumb_DSC_0397_1024

Loving my Hawaiian themed sunglasses from Target.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

From the pools we headed down the road a little to see the Mushroom Shaped Rock and explore the lava blanketed coastline. thumb_DSC_0366_1024

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that - not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that – not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

thumb_DSC_0419_1024

View to the north and west of the Mushroom Shaped rock

thumb_DSC_0410_1024

thumb_DSC_0406_1024

Lava Arch

thumb_DSC_0425_1024

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring little coves and tide pools in the lava and had the entire hike to ourselves. We almost made it down all the way to the Olivine pools – we could see them and hear people at them, but were cut off by a deep cove.

Since we were so far from Lahaina and on the map it looked closer to take the tiny winding road from Kahaluloa to Kahului, so we kept going in a clock-wise direction around West Maui. The road was very tiny! One lane. For both cars. With a lot of blind turns cut into the cliff side. This would turn out to be a reoccurring theme on the island. {Kahakuloa is marked as large on the map, but in actuality it is a tiny hamlet.聽A tiny hamlet with delicious banana bread that we bought to support the local church. Bake sale food is the best!}

Our day's wanderings - no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue

Our day’s wanderings – no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue