Category Archives: National Parks

Seawall Campground – Acadia Nation Park

We are off on a new adventure to Coastal Maine and on to Quebec.  We spent last night in the Parking lot of the L L Bean Outdoor Store in Freeport, Maine.  Beans is one of those places that allows truck campers to stay overnight in their lots, though it always seems they make out financially from the deal as we spend way too much time in store.  There’s always something we or the camper need.  From Freeport we traveled Downeast along the coast.  For those who are not familiar with the term “Downeast” it refers to travel in a Northeasterly direction along the Maine coast.  Most folks would say “Up” the coast, but in Maine, which most definitely has a mind of it’s own, the term is “Down” the coast.  This is because in the days of sailing vessels, the prevailing winds in the Gulf of Maine ran from Cape Cod, south of Boston, along the coast to far eastern Maine.  Thus one sailed “Down” to Maine and “Up” to Boston.  To this day ask a Mainer, traveling south on I-95, where he is going and he will tell you he’s going up to Boston.

Natural Granite Seawall at Acadia National Park

Natural Granite Seawall at Acadia National Park

We have been to Acadia National Park before, but never camped at Seawall.  Seawall, which is named after a natural granite seawall that runs along the coast, is on the southwest lobe of Mount Desert Island, far from the crowds of Bar Harbor and the major attractions of Acadia.  We arrived at Seawall to meet up with some friends before heading further Downeast to the very eastern edge of the United States. Seawall is a great place for some quiet camping, hiking, a bit of auto or bike touring, and sunrises.

DSCN0026-spectacular sunrise

First Peek

Geese at Sunrise - Seawall, Acadia National Park

Geese at Sunrise – Seawall, Acadia National Park

Sunrise, Coffee, Friends, Beach...Yes!

Sunrise, Coffee, Friends, Beach…Yes!

The Bass Harbor Head Light is one of the attractions of this part of Acadia National Park.  Built in 1858 the brick lighthouse stands 56 feet above the water at high tide.  The lighthouse is not generally open for tours, but there’s a small hiking trail to get different views of this most photogenic lighthouse.  The light, now on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Bass Harbor Head Light Station”, is now automated with a fourth order Fresnel Lens which makes it visible for 13 Nautical Miles.  The US Coast Guard owns the light, but it is situated in the National Park.  This is the first of Many lighthouses we expect to see on this trip.

 

Bass Harbor Head Light

Bass Harbor Head Light

Bass harbor

Bass harbor

DSCN9959-low tide at lobster pier-Bass Harbor

Bass harbor at Low Tide – A Working Harbor

We rode our bikes from the Campground to Bass Harbor Light and on the way back stopped for a short hike to Ship Harbor.

Ship Harbor.

Ship Harbor.

The hike to ship harbor was a loop hike, and on the return leg we found a Rock Gnome Construction Site.

Rock Gnomes

Rock Gnomes

DSCN9986-Beach gnomes

It has become quite common in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, and on the Coast of Maine, to find extensive installations of rock gnomes.  People spend hours, sometimes days, working on these stone sculptures.

Beach Roses on the Wonderland Trail.

Beach Roses on the Wonderland Trail.

Beach Roses / Rose Hips.

Beach Roses / Rose Hips.

 

Glacier NP – Scenic Point

Glacier National Park, one of America’s oldest parks was established in 1910, but archeology tells us that Glacier has been regularly inhabited for over 10,000 years.  We have visited Glacier several times over the last decade, but on this trip we visited The Two Medicine area in the southeast corner of the park.  Two Medicine has a campground on the shore of a small pond adjacent to Two Medicine Lake, a ranger station, and a small park store.  Far away from the summer crowds in the park at this time of year Two Medicine is, to my reckoning, the spiritual center of Glacier National Park.  And, it’s great place to see the summer wildflowers of the Northern Rockies.

Trail to Scenic Point.

Trail to Scenic Point.

We could see Scenic Point from the shore of Two Medicine Lake.  At 6.5 miles round trip this would be a relatively easy hike from the campground and promised magnificent views of the east side of the park. We rode our bikes, loaded with daypacks and hiking poles, to the trailhead about 1/2 mile away from the campground.  We often ride to the trailhead if the distance is reasonable rather than drive.  It saves fuel, builds muscle, and parking is easy.

Trail to Scenic Point.

Trail to Scenic Point.

The trail was rugged and steep, covered with loose shale and gravel, but beautiful. This was going to be a tougher hike than we had supposed.  The trail wound up the valley between two peaks and as we got higher we could see Lower Two Medicine lake to the east.

We reached a saddle (low place between two hills or mountains) and found that we still had a mile to go to Scenic Point.  This was feeling like a very long 6.5 mile hike.

Trail to Scenic Point – the point is out of the picture at left.

From Scenic Point we had good views to the east and the north.

Two Medicine Lake and Rising Wolf Mountain from Scenic Point.

Lower Two Medicine Lake from Scenic Point..

On the way back we had a big and pleasant surprise when we crossed the saddle.

Bighorn Sheep – Ram (Photos, courtesy of Elliot Hammer)

Six rams were grazing on the side of the trail. Cheryl had camera trouble but to our great good fortune we were hiking with  a couple from New Orleans and they got these great pictures of the sheep and were kind enough to share them. Thank you Elliot and Elizabeth.

Grazing Rams.

These Rams are quite willing to share the territory at this time of year, but in a few weeks, when the rutting season begins, they will be banging their heads together for mating rights.

Bighorn Ewe.

Bighorn Ram descending a cliff.

As we descended, the rams crossed the trail and descended the steep cliff face on the north side of the saddle so we hurried back up to catch a view of them going down.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – Retrospective

Seventeen Days we have been in the Park and it feels like we could stay for another 17, but other things call us away. There are a few things we did while camped at White River Campground for 10 days that didn’t quite fit in to the other posts, but I wanted to share some of Cheryl’s wonderful pictures.

Mount Rainier – 5:45 AM

Mount Rainier at 5:45 AM. At this point the day’s climbers are well up onto the mountain and with a bit more light will be in view in our binoculars.

Along the banks of the White River.

Pretty Good Campsite, eh?

First Light

Late Afternoon / Strange Clouds.

Some of our Hikes from White River.

Historic Park Ranger’s Patrol Cabin. These were placed a day apart on the 93 mile Wonderland Trail.

Rare Stormy Day in July.

Trail Bridge on the White River.

The heavy load of silt and glacial flour (very finely ground up rocks suspended in the glacial ice} cause the river to be various shades of grey and brown depending on the temperature and the rate of melting. This day the pale gray fits the name White River.

This is the last post from Mount Rainier and the last post of our westward journey. We will head east with possible stops at North Cascades National Park and Glacier National Park.

This will be the last time I send an email announcing new posts, so if you haven’t signed up as a blog follower either do so or check back regularly for new posts on our way back home and future trips. thanks for joining us, Ted & Cheryl.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – Wonderland Trail to Summerland

Summerland doesn’t quite look like summer yet, but it will soon. the snow is still hanging on the trails, but as you can see the flowers are getting ready to pop along the sides of the trail.

The hike to Summerland was pretty easy so we decided to continue along the Wonderland Trail towards Panhandle Gap at 9,000 feet, just to see what was on the other side of the gap. We were pretty sure the snowfields would be too steep to get there, but there was still lots of hiking we could do until then.

Wonderland Trail above Summerland.

After the park called Summerland the whole area opens up, free of the forest, and into the open bowls of the upper mountain. Most of this terrain is still snow covered, but the warm spring sunshine has made the snow soft and easy to traverse. The Wonderland Trail in this area was mostly snow covered, but we could find enough of it to stay on track.

A herd of 41 Mountain Goats crossed the snowfield above us.

Shortly after reaching the top of the Summerland area and heading up into the snow fields we passed a large open bowl.

Temperatures were in the upper 70s, the hiking was great, and we made up into the last bowl below Panhandle Gap before the terrain got too steep to continue.

Way too steep.

Panhandle Gap is around that last corner in the upper center of the picture. We made it to where you can see other hikers at the left.

This is about as steep as we felt we could safely handle with the equipment we had with us.

The side edge of Emmons Glacier’s accretion zone, from above Summerland.

A Hoary Marmot – Sunbathing.

Anemones just starting to open.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington-3rd Burroughs / Winthrop Glacier

The Way Up.

While we could have hiked to Third Burroughs when we were hiking First and Second Burroughs, we didn’t because there is another way to Third that looked a lot more interesting, if a little bit longer. We would hike up the Glacier Basin Trail again, cutting off after 2.4 miles to hike 1.7 miles up to the saddle between Second and Third Burroughs. From there it’s a quick mile to the summit of Third Burroughs. Adds up to 10.2 miles – Yikes! Oh Well.

Elegant Jacob’s Ladder. (not to be confused with Showy Jacob’s Ladder – another flower entirely).

Climbers above Glacier Basin on the way up Steamboat Prow to Sherman Camp on the Inter Glacier. These climbers will rest a full day at Sherman, then get up at midnight to start the summit climb. Note the ski tracks around the climbers and to the right. There are some hard core backcountry skiers in the Northwest.

Winthrop Glacier from Third Burroughs.

Winthrop Glacier’s Ablation Zone.

Crevasses

This is why glacier climbing is so dangerous. These crevasses are hundreds of feet long, who knows how deep, and as you can see some of the snow bridges that render them invisible are still remaining here in late July. This is Winthrop Glacier from Third Burroughs Summit.

Being chased by a Giant Cloud Chipmunk – very dangerous critter.

The view west from Third Burroughs.

Twenty-nine Mountain Goats seen on our way down from Third.

Steamboat Prow to the right, Mount Ruth to the left, climbers near the saddle.

We’ve got one more hike to do here, to Summerland, before we leave Mount Rainier National Park and end our westward journey.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – Mount Burroughs / Emmons Glacier

From the visitor center area at Sunrise we could access the Mount Burroughs trail. Named after the naturalist John Burroughs (a contemprary of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt and author of many fine books on the natural world) the Burroughs Mountains are a small range containing 3 peaks, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Burroughs between the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers, two of the largest glaciers on Mount Rainier. From sunrise we will hike 1st and 2nd Burroughs and hope to finally see some Mountain Goats up close and personally. Word is there are several herds hanging out in the area.

In the picture above Burroughs 1 & 2 are marked, as well as the trail back down to Sunrise. As you can see, much of the snow is gone in this area although there are still several rather large snowfields we will have to cross.

Frozen Lake

The Northern route which we will take out to Burroughs meets the Burroughs Trail at Frozen Lake (perhaps half frozen lake at this time of year)

The trail proceeds up along the flank of Burroughs 1 in a series of long switchbacks to gain altitude.

One of the snowfields we will have to cross. It doesn’t look like much but the slope of that snowfield is sufficient that falling would definitely mean a long slide if you had no means of arresting yourself. We have our hiking poles (an Ice Ax would be better) and figure they will be enough for these short crossings.

Looking down into Berkely Park, a plateaued valley north of Burroughs. It’s an especially lush valley and often filled with flowers at this time of year.

The upper slopes of First and Second Burroughs are mostly comprised of steep debris fields of hard slatelike rock. It’s difficult to walk on the unstable plates of rock and easy to stumble on, so we’re always thankful for well trod trails.

Even in this harsh environment the flowers always find a way to spring forth. It’s truly marvelous to walk along these forbidding mountain trails and find these meadows of brilliant wildflowers looking like someone had just planted them.

As we crested Second Burroughs we got this fantastic View of the climbing route from Glacier Basin. The large arrows outline the route up through the glaciers. The little arrow in the center points at 3 climbers crossing an Ice Fall on Emmons Glacier.

The Route Down.

Looking down into Glacier Basin from Burroughs 2. The Arrow shows the high point of our hike in Glacier Basin a couple of days ago.

Mountain Goats

Heading down on the south side of Burroughs 1 we finally found our goats. A small herd of 7, including 2 kids, was grazing away contentedly on the very sparse vegetation.

Looking back to the White River and the Campground from the Sunrise Rim Trail.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – Glacier Basin

Climbers planning to summit Mount Rainier from the Sunrise area use the White River Campground as a starting point. From the campground they hike up to one of the established base camps higher on the mountain. Anyone can hike to the lower camps, but you need a permit to camp, and you need a permit to even access the camps that are on the Glacier. We decided to hike to Glacier Basin Camp, and perhaps a bit higher into the “Wedge” if the overcast weather allows it.

The Glacier Basin Trail rises from 4,400 feet at the campground to about 6,000 at the camp and possible to 7,000 if the weather holds. The Glacier Basin Trail, here in late July, is starting to come into full bloom and is relatively clear of snow.

Monkey Flowers

Anemone seedheads, sometimes called “Mice on a Stick”.

A Profusion of Wildflowers.

Heather (Pink, Yellow, and White) and Magenta Paintbrush.

We made it to the camp and though the clouds were hanging low we continued on for another mile or so to reach the basin, just at the bottom of the cloud layer and at the bottom of the “Wedge”.

Climbers descending the “Wedge” from the summit.

Notice the pinkish – red hue to the snow above. This is caused by an algae commonly called Watermelon Snow.

Back out of the Clouds.

We managed to get to about 6,500 feet before the clouds closed in on us. At that point the climbing was still manageable, but visibility dictated a retreat.

The clouds followed us down the mountain and we were nearly back to Glacier Camp before we got ahead of them.

Anemones in Bloom.

Truly, you don’t need a blue sky day to enjoy time in the mountains, sometimes the less clement days are some of the most marvelous adventures and you get to see the peaks in a whole different light. The clouds and soft light take away the shadows and the natural contrast of the terrain and highlight features unseen in the bright sun.

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