Tag Archives: Hiking

Official Spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny.  It's a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. It’s a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen.  I didn't make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is a California state park, located in Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. The park offers a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount Saint Helena from which much of the Bay Area can be seen. I didn’t make it to the top. Not in my shoes.

Nineteenth century writer Robert Louis Stevenson has done as much as anyone for popularizing Pirate Lingo so, of course, he’s my choice for spokesman for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19. There’s a lot of pirate talk and bravado in Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.”

Stevenson was from Scotland, but he traveled widely and spent some time in California.  He honeymooned in a cabin with bride Fanny, sleeping on hay, on Mt. Saint Helena in Napa County in the summer of 1880.

A year ago, I trekked to the site of the Stevenson honeymoon cabin, which is now gone but is marked with a granite book monument in a California state park named after Stevenson. My husband decided to read in the car, so here I was hiking alone, not a good idea, but it was a lovely late afternoon in a beautiful forest. I knew it was going to be a steep mile up the mountain, so I shouldn’t have worn flip flops, even though they were sport flip flops. I also worried about spotting mountain lions, or worse still, mountain lions spotting me first.  And on top of that, we didn’t leave any time during our visit to Napa (wedding!) to visit wineries, but I was determined to see this memorial — all for you, dear readers.

The Granite Book Memorial Says:

On the left side:

THIS TABLET PLACED BY
THE CLUB WOMEN OF NAPA
COUNTY MARKS THE SITE
OF THE CABIN OCCUPIED IN
1880 BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
AND BRIDE WHILE HE WROTE
THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS

On the right side:

DOOMED TO KNOW NOT WINTER
ONLY SPRING, A BEING TROD
THE FLOWERY APRIL
BLITHELY FOR AWHILE
TOOK HIS FILL OF MUSIC,
JOY OF THOUGHT AND SEEING,
CAME AND STAYED AND WENT
NOR EVER CEASED TO SMILE.

                                                R.S.L.

 To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.  The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain.  I only made it to the memorial.


To Stevenson Memorial is 2 miles round trip; to summit of Mt. Saint Helena
The trail to the Stevenson Memorial is two miles round trip from the parking lot of the Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park. The trail to the summit of Mt. Saint Helena
is 10 miles round trip with 1,300-foot elevation gain. I only made it to the memorial.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn't find any information about when this memorial was placed.

The Club Women of Napa County placed this memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson on Mt. St. Helena near the site of a cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new bride, Fanny. I couldn’t find any information about when this memorial was placed.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

A bench is a welcome sight on the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Trail on Mt. Saint Helena in California. The first part of the hike is a series of steep switchbacks.

To read my 2012 post about “Talk Like a Pirate Day” click on “Robert Louis Stevenson Talks Like a Pirate.” In that post is a link to an earlier post I wrote about the origin of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

About Robert Louis Stevenson in California.

About Robert L. Stevenson Memorial State Park.

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Filed under History

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas

A view of the sunset from Cameron Bluff Overlook in Mount Magazine State park in Arkansas.

Visiting the Cameron Bluff Overlook at sunset in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas is a great way to end a day.

Sometimes we take our neighbors for granted.   The state line of Arkansas is about four hours from my house, but I’ve visited that state just twice until this May when my husband and I and some friends went to Mount Magazine State Park.

I shouldn’t have waited so long!  It’s gorgeous.  Mount Magazine  is the highest point in the Arkansas with sweeping views of river valleys.  The weather was volatile while we were there with lots of fast-moving clouds, some thunderstorms and tornadoes to the south and west. The park’s Lodge overlooks the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake.  From the balcony in our room, we could see the clouds sweeping past, and during a storm, lightning flashed in the clouds almost at eye level. I’ll let my photographs do the rest of the talking. I’ll also be posting about a day trip to Little Rock, where we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and the Arkansas state capitol building, and also a post on Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

You can find great photographs, trail maps, wildlife and plants facts, lists of activities, lodging and camping details and other information at the Mount Magazine State Park Website Wildlife viewing is great in the park.  Many brochures with wildlife checklists and other information are available at the Lodge and at the park’s visitor center.

About the Arkansas State Butterfly — the Diana Fritillary.

About the Arkansas State Mammal — the Whitetail Deer.

From top left, clockwise are a chipmunk, white-tailed deer, zebra butterfly, Diana Fritillary Butterfly and the ruby-throated hummingbird.  I photographed these animals in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas in late May 2013.  The White-tailed  deer, the Arkansas state mammal, is feasting on a white oak leaf.  The Diana Fritillary Buttery is Arkansas' state butterfly.  This poor butterfly is very tattered, as is the Zebra butterfly, which is the state butterfly of Tennessee. It's a hard, hard life for butterflies.

From top left, clockwise are a chipmunk, white-tailed deer, zebra butterfly, Diana Fritillary Butterfly and the ruby-throated hummingbird. I photographed these animals in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas in late May 2013. The White-tailed deer, the Arkansas state mammal, is feasting on a white oak leaf. The Diana Fritillary Butterfly is the Arkansas’ state butterfly. This poor butterfly is very tattered, as is the Zebra butterfly, which is the state butterfly of Tennessee. It’s a hard, hard life for butterflies.

Here's a view from Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Here’s a view from Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Pink roses grow among the rocks along Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

Pink roses grow among the rocks along Bear Hollow Trail in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

These sassafras trees in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas are some of the tallest in the state.

These sassafras trees in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas are some of the tallest in the state.

This young sassafras tree stands beneath some of the tallest sassafras trees in Arkansas.  Sassafras extract from the roots was a primary ingredient in root beer.

This young sassafras tree stands beneath some of the tallest sassafras trees in Arkansas. Sassafras extract from the roots was a primary ingredient in root beer.

A model of Mount Magazine is on display in the Lodge.

A model of Mount Magazine is on display in the Lodge.

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas truly is an island in the sky.

Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas truly is an island in the sky.

A section of the Lodge in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

A section of the Lodge in Mount Magazine State Park in Arkansas.

We climbed to Signal Hill on Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas.  It's surrounded by trees so there aren't any panoramic views from this spot.

We climbed to Signal Hill on Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas. It’s surrounded by trees so there aren’t any panoramic views from this spot.

 This survey marker plaque on Signal Hill of Mount Magazine from the U.S. Department of Interior indicates the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet above sea level) and sits in a 400 square feet stone map of Arkansas.  The stone map was built to a scale of one foot equals 13 miles.  On the stone map, the survey marker is positioned on the location of Mount Magazine.

This survey marker plaque on Signal Hill of Mount Magazine from the U.S. Department of Interior indicates the highest point in Arkansas (2,753 feet above sea level) and sits in a 400 square feet stone map of Arkansas. The stone map was built to a scale of one foot equals 13 miles. On the stone map, the survey marker is positioned on the location of Mount Magazine.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker birds made hundreds of holes in this sugar maple tree.  Sap oozes from the holes, attracting insects, which the sap-suckers eat. Very clever!  Settlers harvested sap from these trees to make maple syrup.  Forty gallons of sugar maple sap is needed to produce one gallon of syrup.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker birds made hundreds of holes in this sugar maple tree. Sap oozes from the holes, attracting insects, which the sap-suckers eat. Very clever! Settlers harvested sap from these trees to make maple syrup. Forty gallons of sugar maple sap is needed to produce one gallon of syrup.

There are many beautiful hiking trails on Mount magazine.

There are many beautiful hiking trails on Mount Magazine.

The dining room in the Lodge at Mount Magazine is beautiful with beautiful views.

The dining room in the Lodge at Mount Magazine is beautiful with beautiful views.

Here’s a video with many views of the Lodge at Mount Magazine.

Click on any thumbnail photo to see a full-size version in a new window.

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Filed under Photography, Travel

Awesome Utah

A thunderstorm rolled in, splashed Zion Canyon with a little rain, and soon transient waterfalls streamed in narrow ribbons down the sheer walls of the canyon.
A thunderstorm rolled in, splashed Zion Canyon with a little rain, and soon transient waterfalls streamed in narrow ribbons down the sheer walls of the canyon.

Not much can top the Grand Canyon in Arizona for an awe-inspiring example of geology, but southern Utah comes close.  It’s one awesome view after another.   Sorry for the adjectival pile-up, but it’s incredible, monumental, expansive, panoramic, spectacular, magnificent, ancient, jaw-dropping, gorgeous…You get the idea. (A map and links to cards I designed, videos and websites about the parks, geology and other fascinating facts are at the bottom of this post. All photographs are copyrighted.  Some are available as greeting cards, mouse pads and other products at It’s a Beautiful World! Thumbnails are at the bottom of this post.)

On November 1, my husband and I flew into Las Vegas, rented a car and headed northeast to Zion National Park.  Joshua trees stood like sentries along the highway that cut through the bright, bleak, arid landscape.

The Virgin River cuts a swath through Zion Canyon.

The Virgin River cuts a swath through Zion Canyon.

We left Nevada, crossed a corner of Arizona and headed up the Virgin River Valley in Utah at dusk.   The trip didn’t take long, but night comes early in November.  The setting sun cast a warm glow on the mesas, but it was dark by the time we arrived at Zion Lodge, where we checked into a cabin.

A pair of California Condors chase each other in the Big Bend area of Zion National Park.  Hopefully, baby condors will result.

A pair of extremely rare California Condors chase each other in the Big Bend area of Zion National Park. Hopefully, baby condors will result.

During the night, we heard rain pelting the roof.  “Uh, oh.”  Zion Canyon only gets about 12 inches of rain a year, and we were lucky enough to witness an inch of it.  We got our first view of the gorgeous peaks as the storm clouds boiled in and drifted like smoke between the crags.

We took a shuttle, required during the high season, from site to site.  We waited at the first shuttle stop until the rain passed, then started up a path.  Soon lightning flashed, and almost immediately thunder cracked like cannon fire.  Standing under the trees didn’t seem like a very safe place to be.  Luckily the storm passed, and sunlight revealed the vivid golds of the cottonwoods and the brilliant red of the maples.

A shuttle passenger told us about a pair of California Condors he’d spotted at the Big Bend area.  We were excited to see these endangered birds, which were re-introduced to Zion.  They have the largest wingspan of any bird in North America, but they were still difficult to see. One condor seemed to be chasing the other from tree to tree.

The California Condors are some of the rarest birds, with only 332 known in existence, including 156 in the wild, as of August 2008.  In 1987, there were only 22 California Condors, all in captivity, but a captive breeding program has increased their numbers. We were lucky to see them.

The "pulpit" on the left and the "altar" on the right are natural rock monuments in the Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road in Zion Canyon.  A riverside trail continues along the Virgin River until the cliffs narrow and further hiking has to be done in the water.

The "pulpit" on the left and the "altar" on the right are natural rock monuments in the Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road in Zion Canyon. A riverside walk along the North Fork of the Virgin River continues until the cliffs narrow. To continue, you have to hike in the water.

I promise I won’t make this a minute by minute account of this trip, but let me just say that my mouth was hanging open half of the time, amazed at the number of exquisitely beautiful ways that rocks can erode.  Southern Utah is called color country, and I was reminded of my tubes of oil paints. So many lovely earth tones, the rocks and the vegetation were so beautifully color-coordinated: Russet, naples yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, lavender, unbleached titanium, olive, green, cadmium orange, rusty, pink, salmon, beige, gray.

Mule deer were the most common animal that we saw in Utah. They were busy browsing day and night.

Mule deer were the most common animal that we saw in Utah. They were busy browsing day and night.

Here are the parks we visited or at least drove through, making a big loop, November 1-7:

  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Grand Staircase National Monument
  • Capital Reef National Park
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (the White Canyon area)
  • Canyonlands National Park (Needles and Island in the Sky sections)
  • Arches National Park
  • Dead Horse Point Utah State Park
  • Zion National Park (again)

Zion National Park will celebrate a hundred years as a protected area in 2009.  After leaving Zion, we drove through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which at 1.1 miles, was the longest tunnel in the United States when it was dedicated on July 4, 1930.  Traffic can only go through one way at a time, because of the tunnel’s narrowness.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, you view the canyon from the plateau’s rim, rather than at the bottom as you do at Zion.  You can take trails to the bottom, but we didn’t because it was cold and windy.  At Zion, you start from the valley floor, hiking to the top of the mesa — if you get that far.

Hoodoo close-up.

Hoodoo close-up.

Everywhere in Bryce Canyon are hoodoos, which are pillars and spires of rock, usually in a fantastic or odd shape, created by erosion. The hoodoos are a wide range of hues of reds, pinks, salmon, yellow and white.  The Bryce Canyon hoodoos have been called grotesque, eerie, even whimsical. One definition of hoodoo is “to cast a spell,” which they definitely do.  Was I enchanted?  Absolutely.

Technically, Bryce isn’t a true canyon, because it wasn’t carved by flowing water, such as a stream or river, but etched by acidic rainwater and altered by freezing and thawing.  The acid dissolved the limestone, rounding the edges of the hoodoos. Freezing and thawing of water did most of the sculpting, which happens about 200 days a year.

Bryce Canyon is full of fantastic hoodoos.

Bryce Canyon is full of fantastic hoodoos. Here is a view from Inspiration Point.

Heading east, beyond Bryce Canyon, we climbed into mountains, where the beauty of fall had already passed.  The aspens had all lost their leaves and were ghostly skeletons on the mountainsides.  We drove mile after mile down into valleys, where water and wind had carved more mesas and buttes.  We passed through a few small mountain and high desert towns, but then for a couple of hours, we saw no sign of humanity except the black ribbon of asphalt that curved through the ancient landscape.  We only saw a little of the Grand Staircase National Monument, but enough to see that it’s aptly named.  We also saw some of Capital Reef National Park, which does look like an ancient ocean reef stranded on land.

The strata of millions of years were visible as the forces of the earth create rock and then wear it away in an endless cycle. Sometimes, a lone building would stand in a deep shadowed valley by a narrow river, lined by a profusion of trees and shrubs.

Mountaintop.

Near Canaan Peak, 9,196 feet, between Henrieville and Escalante, Utah.

A homestead in a dry land.

Mormon pioneers in the 19th century carved out farms and orchards along rivers in this very arid land.

The road rose and fell, curved and cut through ridges that looked like a row of mastodon teeth or the undulating vertebrae of an ancient serpent.  We took the road along the White Canyon, crossing over Glen Canyon, as we headed toward Moab.

Glen Canyon.

A section of Glen Canyon near Hite, Utah.

We stopped for the night in Monticello, Utah, where we ate at a family-run business.  The hostess/waitress/owner asked how we came to be so far from home.  Maybe she forgot about all of the amazing scenery just outside her door!  Her young son solemnly asked whether he could remove our empty dishes.  I hated to disappoint him when he asked us whether we wanted dessert, but we were stuffed.

You don't see many cattle in this arid land.  The few there are wander freely on the range, and you need to be careful that you don't hit them when they cross the road.  These are cattle at the historic Dugout Ranch, south of the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

You don't see many cattle in this arid land. Most are free range, wandering across the land. Signs along the highway warn you to watch out for them. Here are cattle at the historic Dugout Ranch, south of the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

The Needles of Canyonlands National Park march across the horizon.

The Needles of Canyonlands National Park march across the horizon.

The north section of Canyonlands National Park is the mesa in the center.  This photograph is taken in the Needles district of the park in the Pothole area. Shallow potholes in the rock in the foreground, when filled with rain or melted snow, provide homes for a variety of animals.

The north section of Canyonlands National Park is the Island in the Sky mesa in the center. This photograph is taken in the Needles district of the park in the Pothole area. Shallow potholes in the rock in the foreground, when filled with rain or melted snow, provide homes for a variety of animals.

You feel really small at Arches National Park.

You feel really small at Arches National Park.

This balancing rock at Arches National Park reminds me of a Disney cartoon. The rock on top is the size of three school buses.

Balanced Rock at Arches National Park reminds me of a Disney cartoon. The rock on top is the size of three school buses.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is the unofficial sympbol of Utah.  See the tiny person underneath.  We hiked uphill a half a mile to see it from this vantage.  Others hiked several miles to hike underneath.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is the unofficial symbol of Utah. See the tiny person underneath. We hiked uphill a half a mile to see it from this vantage. Others hiked several miles to hike underneath.

Landscape Arch in Arches National Park is one of the longest natural bridges in the world -- as long as three football fields.  Pieces keep falling, so that the thinnest area is only three feet wide. Find out more about Landscape Arch in a link to a movie about Arches National Park below.

Landscape Arch in Arches National Park is one of the longest natural bridges in the world -- as long as three football fields. Pieces keep falling, so that the thinnest area is only three feet wide. Find out more about Landscape Arch in a link to a movie about Arches National Park below.

The soft red sandstone of Arches easily erodes, returning to the original sand of millions of years ago.  The wind whips it up, swirling it around, until it gets into every orifice on your head.  The geologic features of Arches and the other parks in Utah are a testimony to the ancient forces of the earth.  These features come in an amazing array of styles from spires to fins to crags to buttes and mesas, as well as arches.  There are more than 2,000 known natural sandstone arches in Arches National Park. They take eons to form, but can quickly collapse.

In Arches National Park, this arch near Landscape Arch collapsed in August 2008. Hikers found the rubble the next day.

In Arches National Park, Wall Arch, near Landscape Arch, collapsed on August 4, 2008. Hikers found the rubble the next day. Wall Arch was the first major arch to fall in 17 years.

Guidebooks suggest getting to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park at sunrise for the best view.  The park was more than thirty miles from our hotel in Moab, the temperature was in the thirties, there was snow on the ground, I didn’t bring warm enough clothes — as usual. Sunrise?  Not gonna happen.

But I couldn’t sleep.  We were dressed, packed, ate breakfast, checked out and on the road by 7 a.m.  It was freezing, so I shot up the more than half-mile trail to the arch, hoping to get there as fast as I could so I could get back to the warm car.  I started snapping photographs as soon as I saw the arch.  It was about 8 a.m., and the early morning sun cast a fluorescent orange glow on the arch.  Golden light splashed the valley below.  It was an incredible view.  I could hardly make myself leave.  I forgot I was cold until we started walking back to our car.

Mesa Arch glows just after sunrise in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Mesa Arch glows just after sunrise in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

We hiked to this strange geologic feature in Canyonlands, which looks like a crater. It could be a meteor crater from 60 million years ago or a salt dome.

We hiked to this strange geologic feature in Canyonlands, which looks like a crater. It could be a meteor crater from 60 million years ago or a salt dome.

The Canyonlands and Arches area gets about ten inches of precipitation a year, half of it in snow.  We saw some of the snow that morning and had to brush it off the signs.  After Canyonlands, we went to Dead Horse Point State Park, which is nearby.  The point sits on a plateau at an elevation of about 6,000 feet above sea level. You can see 300 million years of the earth’s geologic history. On the canyon rim you can see the Colorado River below.  There are 8,000 feet of geologic strata visible from the peaks of the 12,000-foot-high La Sal mountains reaching to the river below.

I’m gratified that you’re read this far.  I’ve barely scratched the surface…..But I’ll give you a break.  We missed so much, too, including Monument Valley and some great Native American pictographs.   There wasn’t enough time — and time is something you’re very aware of in southern Utah, even when it everything seems so timeless.   Zane Grey’s pioneering 1912 novel, “Riders of the Purple Sage” was set in this area.

Many movies were filmed in southeastern Utah, so that these photographs might look familiar to you, but no movie or photograph can capture the majesty of the place.  I’ll write “More Awesome Utah” in a week or so with some Las Vegas thrown in for contrast.  Be sure to check out the links to websites and videos below the photo at Dead Horse Point, where 19th century cowboys corralled wild horses, which sadly died from thirst.

The Colorado River takes a sharp turn at Dead Horse Point State Park.

The Colorado River takes a sharp turn at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Links to websites and videos:

Here is a collage card I designed of nine beautiful Utah scenes.
Click on the card thumbnail.

Utah and surrounding states.

Utah and surrounding states.



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Filed under Animals, Bird-watching, Conservation, Environment, Life, National Parks, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Random, Travel