Under the Desert Sky

Under the Desert Sky

At the center of the fight for public lands, lies the most stark, and arguably the most beautiful landscape in the continental United States - Utah.

Many think of the desert as wasteland - a place of death, nothingness. That is far from the truth - sure, there may be few trees, few lakes, and seemingly little wildlife in the desert. But when we look closer, we find that the desert is teeming with life, diversity, beauty.

Wild River Wilderness: Where Beauty is Pain

Wild River Wilderness: Where Beauty is Pain

21 miles is easy. Easy when you are hiking on perfectly compacted, rock-free, root-free trails of Yosemite, Glacier, or Olympic national parks. When it comes to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, 21 miles is a grueling marathon, an improbable, if not impossible ordeal even for seasoned hikers.

I took a bit of a hiatus from backpacking last summer so hiking the Wild River wilderness was my first backpacking trip since Glacier National Park two years ago.

The Wild River Wilderness is located at the northeast corner of the White Mountain National Forest, on the border between Maine and New Hampshire. It is very remote and rugged with but a few trails segmenting the wooded landscape. There are not a lot of campsites in the entire Wild River Basin, and only one on the Carter Range - Imp Campsite. 

Katmai National Park: Bears, Scenery, but Mostly Bears.

Katmai National Park: Bears, Scenery, but Mostly Bears.

Alaska is known for the number of national parks and national forests and their size. For most people visiting the 49th state, Denali and Kenai Fjords national parks are at the forefront of the places to visit and are the most-visited national parks in the the northern part of the state. 

When Larisa and I were originally planning our trip to Alaska, we didn't even consider any other parks due to their remote locations, high cost, and low popularity. I started doing more research and talking with people who have been to Alaska, I've discovered that the true gem of a park is actually located several hundred miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula - Katmai National Park and Preserve. 

Katmai National Park, established only 35 years ago in 1980 to protect the area of extreme geological interest and the prime salmon and costal brown bear habitat is located 235 air miles from Anchorage and getting there isn't easy.

Denali National Park: Into the Wild

Denali National Park: Into the Wild

With an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, Denali offers enough space to cover the distance as far as the eye can see in all directions. Denali is the king of all the National Parks. We were slated to spend three days in the park - a tight schedule considering the sheer geographic area. 

Denali National Park and Preserve is located about four hours north of Anchorage. Having been warned about wildfires along the Parks Highway, we made sure to leave early on Monday morning to make it to Denali at a decent hour. Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic, nor wildfires on the way up, and we even got a glimpse of Mt. McKinley from a viewpoint just south of the park. We were hoping that we’d get a much closer view of the mountain from inside the park, but later we’d be grateful for having at least seen it on the way in.

Going Deep on the Final Frontier: Alaska Itinerary

Going Deep on the Final Frontier: Alaska Itinerary

So I’m going to Alaska in July with my girlfriend and a couple of friends. This is a trip I’ve wanted to take for many years. After all, Alaska is that special, magical place everyone talks about, kind of like Iceland. 

We’ll be gone for 10 days from July 3rd to July 13th. In the week and a half that we are there, we will be going to four key areas of the state: Anchorage (think cool galleries and shops), Kenai Fjords National Park (think whales and glaciers), Denali National Park (think sweeping views of tundra and Mt. McKinley), and Katmai National Park (think bears, lots of bears). 

Spring in Acadia National Park

Spring in Acadia National Park

Sweeping 360-degree views consisting of azure-blue water, islands, mountains and trees, rugged coastline, the ringing of the lighthouse in the fog, endless carriage roads and hiking trails - those are the things that define Acadia National Park. 

Acadia was the first National Park I've ever been to. As an 11-year old kid, I was mesmerized by the rugged coastline, the evergreen-covered mountains, and numerous, crystal-clear lakes of Mount Desert Island, and most importantly, the fall foliage. That was my first visit to Acadia in 2001. Since then, I've visited the island several times and this spring, while trying to figure out what adventure to go on for Memorial Day weekend, I've stumbled upon the last remaining campsite at Blackwoods campground in Acadia.  I asked Larisa if she wanted to go and given her love of Maine, she couldn't be more excited. 

So we packed up the car, loaded up the bikes on the roof, and headed up to Maine on early Saturday morning. 

Sunset Hike Series: Kicking Off

Sunset Hike Series: Kicking Off

There's something extraordinarily special about sunset and sunrise hikes - not only being one with nature and experiencing the scenic wonders of the world, but also celebrating the goodbyes and hellos that the sun gives to the landscape. 

I've done a few sunset and sunrise hikes in the past, and every time, I am more and more tempted to make it a more regular ordeal.

Last weekend my friend asked me if I was down to head to Mt. Monadnock, an hour west of where I live, and two hours west of where I work - after work. I'm no stranger to hiking at odd times of the day, so I said, why not. 

Opening up the 2015 outdoor climbing season at Rumney

If you were in the atlantic northeast this weekend and you didn't get outside, you missed out big time. It was a perfect weekend to go outside and explore. Larisa and I took the opportunity to miss the crowds and enjoy this beautiful 85-degree weather in the White Mountains. It was a blast. 

Saturday, despite Larisa's initial hesitation about climbing outside (having mostly indoor experience), we headed up to Rumney to get a few climbs in and kick off the season. 

As second year climbers, this season is going to be an exciting time where many new opportunities are within our comfort zone. Last year we've visited Rumney a couple of times, but having little experience with lead climbing and climbing outside, the nerves were on the edge, and climbing outside seemed scary and complex. 

Last year, I've came to the crag without any route guides or information, climbing purely based on the look of the route - didn't work out well. This time around, I've came prepared with a few pages from the Ward Smith's Rumney guide - thanks to my friend Sharon who so kindly provided them to me. I've been trying to purchase the entire book myself, but as most people know, it's been out of print and is very hard to come by. The pages from the book were extremely instrumental in guiding us to the routes that we knew we could climb, and providing useful description about the condition of the routes.

Since this visit was our first real foray into outdoor climbing after getting quite a bit of indoor practice this winter - we decided to not push our nerves and go with 7's and 8's which we felt comfortable with. 


The Parking Lot Wall happens to provide a few nice routes at that level, and it's only a 5 minute hike away from the car. The first route we both took on, was Shealyn's Way (5.7) - a juggy, fairly flat route that provides a lot of opportunities for resting and definitely doesn't push you. It's a good starting point to warm up to climbing outside. 

The next route we took on was slightly harder, but still a 5.7 - Rise and Shine. A little steeper, a little more exposed, the route actually require a little bit of strategic foot placement. 


A lot of these routes at the Parking Lot Wall are marked as popular, so coming here in May and enjoying them crowd-free was a real pleasure. 

After leading Rise and Shine, we clipped the adjacent Egg McMeadows (5.10a) and top roped it - and gladly so, because neither one of us felt comfortable leading it at that point. Hopefully by summers' end. 

Next we've taken on Glory Jean's (5.7) - a somewhat easy, but awkward route that requires a traverse. Clipping while traversing is something to get used to since the rope is a lot harder to pull than on more vertical routes. I was ok with the route, Larisa wasn't a huge fan. Not every route's for everyone. 


The last ascent of the day was the best climb - Chloe's Breakfast Special (5.8). The route does cross a few wet sections in the beginning, especially this early in the season, but after you get past the wet section - the 11 bolt span (longest at the Parking Lot Wall) is truly breathtaking. 

After a fun day at the crag, we crashed at Campton Campground only a few miles from Rumney. Since school season isn't over, the campground was practically empty, proving ample opportunity to sit by the fire and listen to the crickets. And opening the s'more season, of course. 


Sunday was a terrific day for a hike, but we had to be back home by the afternoon so we decided to do a somewhat short, but scenic Welch-Dickey loop (4.5 miles). The two short peaks just a few miles east of Campton offer sweeping views of the Sandwich Wilderness to the south. A lot of open granite slabs making this hike very reminiscent of some of the places in California.