While we are doing our best to be productive and helpful to others during our time at home our thoughts invariably turn to travel: over coffee we began to reminisce about trips we have taken over the years. This post is a photo essay of some of our favorite trips. We hope you enjoy the photos and are inspired to make the journey to a place you have dreamed of visiting.
When we last posted we thought we were heading to Eastern Oregon but…….98-100F temperatures in the Alvord Desert caused us to reconsider. Ultimately, we opted to head north to McCall, Idaho where the daily high temperatures were in the 80F range.
McCall is a summer resort town sitting on the eastern shore of beautiful Payette Lake and nestled at the southern base of the mountainous Payette NF.
The drive north from Boise on the Payette River Scenic Byway is splendid as the road winds north hugging the rapid filled Payette River.
We camped at Ponderosa State Park for the first couple of nights before heading up into the Payette NF ahead of the Labor Day weekend crowd. The night sky from our mountain top campsite in the Payette was absolutely stunning. We were transfixed by the enormity and brillance of the Milky Way, the consellations and the numerous satellites and rockets criss crossing the sky.
Additionally, our stay here was most pleasant since we were able to bike into town from our camping location at Ponderosa SP and drink cappuccino and tea and then cycle back to our campsite.
The highlight of our stay in the McCall area was our kayaking trip on the North Fork of the Payette River. We were treated to great beauty, solitude and the magic of observing deer and birds of prey along the banks of the river.
We honestly never thought we would spend three full weeks in Idaho but it is beautiful and the weather was perfect. Nonetheless, time to move on…..current plan is to head to Hells Canyon on the border of Idaho and Oregon and then explore the northeastern corner of Oregon.
Be seeing you!
Biking Peninsula Trail, Payette Lake
Kayaking, North Fork of Payette River, McCall, Idaho
Camping with a View, Outlook Creek Rd, Diamond Ridge, Payette NF
After departing JTNP we spent a day in the town of Joshua Tree just north of the park. JT, like many other small and remote towns or name places we have visited, emanates a quirky, free thinking and independent vibe.
We have met a number of artists – painters and scupltors – who were originally passing through a town but ended up staying or coming back. Clearly, many artists find the setting in these towns or areas conducive to pursuing whatever form of art it is that they have a passion for without regard to commercial success – perhaps just the opposite.
An additional observation is that there also exists in JT and many of the other small towns we have visited a freely expressed deep and fundamental belief in God and Country. This is just a general observation based on what we have seen and the people we have met – we are not expressing an opinion or personal point of view in making this comment.
Changing gears: We left Joshua Tree and drove north through the Mojave Desert and then turned westward to climb up into the San Bernadino Mountains on the Rim of the World Highway (CA 18, 38, 138). The road gains almost 5000 feet in elevation in just a matter of several miles and then provides breathtaking views as you eventually cross the entire range before descending down into Cajon Junction and leaving the SBNF.
We will be moving north along the coast of California again over the next week and then tackling Death Valley NP. We included some photos below from the beach in Carpenteria where we are staying for a couple of days.
Thanks for continuing to follow along and allowing us to share our experiences, observations and opinions as we wander about our amazing country. 0152
The Southern Arizona landscape is dominated by cacti. However, we never realized until we began exploring in this area that there are more than two dozen species of cactus living here. The most well recognized is the Saguaro. This species can live to be 200 years old, grow to 50 feet in height and weigh six tons. We have identified six species during our hikes: saguaro, barrel, teddy bear, ocotillo, prickly pear and cane cholla.
Saguaro National Park + Tucson Mountains
We hiked Kings Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak loop trail. Wasson Peak is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains and provided us with tremendous vistas. We were able to clearly see Mt Lemmon, Mt Wrightson, Kitt and Picacho Peaks as well as the city of Tucson. This hike is a bit on the strenous side at eight miles with an elevation gain of over 1600 feet but well worth the effort. In addition to the views the trail was awash with wild flowers.
Looking to rest our legs between hikes we spent an afternoon making the drive from Tucson up to Mt Lemmon and the village of Summerhaven via the Sky Island Scenic Byway. The road winds up through the Catalina Mounatains with an elevation gain of more than 6000 feet. As you leave Tucson you are in the desert and by the time you reach Mt Lemmon we found ourselves driving through connifer forests. The temperature drop was more than 30 degrees. Picture below is a view of the San Pedro River Valley from an elevation of apx. 8000 feet above sea level. This byway is a beautifully engineered road with incredible views and scenery. The general store is Summerhaven can provide you with ice cream and fudge as an added incentive to go all the way to the end of the drive.
Picacho Peak State Park was our base of operation for six nights. This location provided easy access to Tucson proper (coffee and tea!) and plenty of hiking in Saguaro NP and the Coronado NF. The added bonus was that Picacho Peak presented us with several challenging hikes without needing to leave the park. We photos below are from our hike on the Sunset Vista Trail.
Pima Air + Space
As we are both aviation buffs we kicked off our stay in the Tucson area with a visit to the Pima Air & Space Museum. Pima has a large collection of primarily military aircraft. We were able to see two aircraft (pictured below) that we had never seen in person previously. The Convair B58 Husler (left below) was the first USAF bomber capable of Mach 2 flight and was operational with SAC during the 1960s. On the top right is the Boeing B36 Peacemaker. The B36 was used from 1949 until 1959. It was the largest piston engined plane ever built. It was powered by six pusher props and four jet engines and had a wingspan of 230 feet. It is ugly but could travel 10,000 miles without refueling and carry 87,000 pounds of nuclear bombs. Two rare aircraft that we were pleased to have the opportunity to see in person.
We also took a tour of the “boneyard” located within Davis Monthan Air Force Base. The boneyard is home to more than 3000 military aircraft not currently needed operationally. A portion of the aircraft staged to be ready to operate within 24 hours while others are being cannabilized for parts to keep active models of the same aircraft flying.
Our next stop is Kartchner Caverns State Park located at the base of the Whetstone Mountains, located about 50 miles southeast of Tucson.
Lastly, please continue to follow the coffee and tea adventures of our good friends @fikawithfiona on Instagram.
Route 16A , also known as Iron Mountain Road, is a very exciting drive on a narrow winding road which climbs through and over Iron Mountain. The drive presents distant views of Mt Rushmore as you exit tunnels and from overlooks along the way.
Iron Mountain Road is only 17 miles long but has 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three pigtails and three tunnels (pigtails pictured below).
Seeing this monument is far more impressive in person than the photos you have seen all your life. The history is just as fascinating as the entire genesis was to boost an ailing economy by creating a tourist attraction. During the 1920s the mining based economy in the area was ailing. Initially this effort was completely a private endeavor until President Coolidge became a supporter and pushed funding through Congress. Today the monument draws three million people annually so I would have to say that it was a heck of an idea. Fourteen years in the making and not a single worker fatality (obviously a former insurance underwriter)! 0040
Custer State Park
CSP is the largest state park in the United States and would stack up well against many national parks in regard to scenic beauty, wildlife and opportunities for recreation (hiking, biking, horseriding, kayaking, canoeing and ohv). 0038,0039
Mickleson Rail Trail
This 109 mile trail runs through the heart of the Black Hills NF. The trail is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad which came about as the result of the gold rush which started in the 1870s. This particular line was abandoned in 1983.
We biked several sections of the trail and were treated to many spectacular views and the opportunity to bike through rock tunnels and across numerous trestles. 0037
Finishing our time in the Great Lakes region with a couple day stay in Duluth. Perhaps because we are easteners we never comprehended the magnitude of the maritime traditions and sheer volume of commerce that has been enabled by these massive inland seas. Below you will see photos of one of the hundreds of “Lakers” that ply the Great Lakes carrying iron ore, copper, coal and grain. Some of the Lakers are as long as 1000 feet. We also were surprised to find that there is some pretty good surfing on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
While in Duluth we enjoyed several great meals and some very scenic biking along the Lake Superior shore line. Heading west through Minnesota for some camping and hiking in the Chippewa NF and then on to North Dakota.
The “Beast” continues to garner a lot of attention everywhere we go. We have the talk track and tour down pretty well at this point.
Arriving in Traverse City marks our completion of the 117 mile long M22 which follows the Lake Michigan shoreline of the Leelanau Peninsula. The M22 is a beautiful scenic drive offering great vistas of Lake Michigan and the Grand Traverse Bay. 0014,0015
Traverse City Coffee Scene: Higher Grounds + Planetary Coffee. We have been disappointed with a number of the coffee roasters/shops in Western Michigan. Arriving in TC has brought us a couple of notables with Higher Ground Coffee Roasters and Planetary Coffee (serves Half Wit beans). Erik Harms owner and barista (pictured below) at Planetary is a long time roaster having previously roasted at Higher Grounds and the well regarded Dogwood Coffee in Minneapolis. Erik has provided us with several recommendations for the UP which we are excited to try over the next week. 0015,0016
Biking the Leelanau Rail Trail TC-Sutton Bay-TC. 0015
Hiking the dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Camping at Leelanau SP. 0014
Kayaking on the Pere Marquette near Lake Michigan. 0013
On our final day in Pennsylvania we hiked in the Hickory Creek Wilderness Area within the Allegheny NF. 0004
Today we biked a portion of the 65 mile Pine Creek bike trail. The bike trail was formerly a rail line intially operated by the Jersey Shore Railway then a succession of failed endeavors until eventually taken over by Conrail. Conrail abandoned the route in 1988. 0003
First Hike of our current road trip. East rim of gorge down and back. 0002