Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

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2020 – What a year

I feel so fortunate that we were able to visit and hike at Grand Canyon South Rim, Death Valley (wow!), and Joshua Tree National Parks in early February before what I’m calling “The Great Pause.”  The memories of that trip have sustained my spirits for the rest of this year.

What’s that saying… “The best laid plans…”

I had planned a 6-state road trip for hiking this summer that I cancelled with mixed feelings. Instead I decided to lean into the Big Pause the world is in right now and stay closer to home this summer, hiking, camping, and backpacking locally instead. I’m grateful that I and the people I love are safe and healthy, and that I have beautiful areas close by that nourish my heart and soul.

~~ Andrea ~~

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William O. Douglas Wilderness

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

I get restless this time of year, knowing hiking/backpacking season is coming to a close. I crave wilderness time, solitude, Mother Nature, wild beauty, silence, connecting with the natural world around me. It’s how I recharge my batteries, replenish my soul, and give myself a much-needed break from civilization. Time slows out here as the light changes throughout the day.

Spending days away from people, sleeping in a tent, staring at a campfire, waking up to incredible views like this… it’s where I’m the best version of myself.

Food tastes better out here. Air smells so much fresher. Everything looks crisper, colors are more vibrant. I hear whispering breezes and birds and insects I would not be able to pick up at home. All senses become more heightened.

The first night it got to freezing, and the 2nd night it was 28 degrees. And I was warm and cozy with my layers of fleece and down, tucked inside my extra-puffy down sleeping bag in my tiny little cocoon of a tent. I usually sleep deeply in the wilderness, one more way it helps me restore and refresh.

I can’t describe how glorious it was to see the full moon rise over the mountains and to feel the morning sunshine reflecting off the lake as it warmed me up.

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Mazama Ridge, MRNP

It’s a 2-hour drive from my house to the Paradise area at Mt. Rainier, one I usually avoid in the non-snow months because of crowds. But, every once in a while I make the drive to look for wildlife, and this trip did not disappoint, even though there was haze from wildfires.

I first stopped at Reflection Lakes to take in the beautiful views of Rainier, and then headed to Faraway Rock, which is a fantastic place to look down onto Louise Lake and across to the Tatoosh Range south of the volcano.

I headed up toward Mazama Ridge and the Sluiskin/Van Trump/Stevens Memorial, commemorating the first climb of Mt. Rainier in 1870. Though wildflowers were spent for the season and fall colors were setting in, the views are wide open and beautiful from this area.

Near the memorial I saw the biggest, fattest black bear I’ve ever seen in my years of hiking these trails, foraging for berries and getting ready for his long winter sleep. I saw him again in a different area on my way back to the car some time later, still working his way through fields of berries. I also played peek-a-book with a beautiful deer near Faraway Rock.

Mt. Rainier – every time I hike here, I have a feeling of coming home, of being in the place where I’m the best version of me and where I belong. I never take her for granted.

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Let’s talk Yoga

Not exactly about hiking and traveling, but as many of you know another passion of mine is teaching yoga. I’m so thankful to be back to teaching in-person at my local YMCA, and I’m also now offering classes online via Zoom.

I teach Hatha and Yin yoga, with a realistic approach that works for anyone regardless of age, size, or ability. I encourage a lot of yoga props, and offer alternatives and options for poses so that you can decide what works best for YOU.

If you’re interested, please register here for any of my weekly classes (Pacific Time). I’d love to meet you on the yoga mat!!

Online Hatha and Yin Yoga class schedule

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Carbon Glacier, MRNP

Our original intent was to hike the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood this summer, but we decided to stay closer to home and spent 2 nights at Ipsut campground instead, with a beautiful day hike out to the Carbon Glacier.

To get to Ipsut campground is a 5-mile hike or bike (I chose bike) on a gravel road that is closed to vehicles. It’s luxury backpacking since it used to be a car campground, so there are 2 bathrooms (with toilet paper!!) and bear lockers at all the campsites. It’s along the Carbon River, perfect for an evening read sitting on a log listening to the water rush by.

On our full day there, we hiked just over 9 miles from Ipsut to the Carbon River suspension bridge (bouncy, bouncy) which we crossed and scrambled up some rocks for a beautiful picnic lunch spot. The river was raging and we thank the NPS and rangers who put in log crossings.

Not far from the suspension bridge is the terminus of the Carbon Glacier, the lowest elevation glacier terminus in the lower 48 states. It’s amazing to be able to look into the mouth of a glacier and see the birth of a river right before your eyes. On cue the clouds above parted and we had a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier and Willis Wall directly above Carbon Glacier.

On our way back to camp for the second night, we saw a mama bear with 2 cubs, mama was foraging for berries and the cubs were practicing tree climbing. No good photos as the underbrush is very thick here and they were too fast for us to focus on. Later on we saw a solo bear right on the trail, and gave him several minutes to decide which way to head off before we continued on.

Again, so fortunate that I’m able to do things like this so close to home. 🙂

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Burroughs Mountain, MRNP

A couple of weeks ago I had a wonderful hike up to Second Burroughs in the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainier. I specifically was looking for mountain goats and I hit the jackpot! So thankful I had my camera with zoom lens with me. I’m also very thankful that I was able to spend about an hour alone at the stone bench at Second Burroughs before others started showing up (that’s why it’s so worth it to me to get up early). Wildflowers were at their prime, always an added bonus.

I heard reports that there were goats on First Burroughs, so I hiked up as quickly as I could. By the time I got to First (there are 3 Burroughs mountains, FYI), the goats were heading up to Second. I hightailed it and slowed down part way up Second where the herd was across the trail. It was me and a herd of 30, and I spent at least 20 minutes photographing them and thanking Mother Nature for being able to spend time with these beautiful animals.

I decided to take the trail down the back side of Burroughs to get back to Sunrise, with only one sketchy snow crossing along the trail, and beautiful views down to Emmons Glacier and the White River.

Near the bottom, I heard from a ranger that there was a bear at Shadow Lake, so for the third time that day I hiked as quickly as possible, and I was again able to spend about 15 minutes alone with my zoom camera and a beautiful juvenile bear munching his way through the wildflowers meadow. (Note: I was not too close to Mr. Bear, I used my zoom lens to get these photos.)

What a day, what beauty, what good fortune that I can call Mount Rainier my playground.

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Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Joshua Tree National Park rests in the mountains above Palm Springs. Some of the most interesting rock formations I’ve ever seen are here, along with Joshua trees, cholla, ocotillo, and many other desert plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh environment. Since I love scrambling on rocks, Joshua Tree NP is a perfect playground for that.

We played on the rocks around Arch Rock, but unfortunately it was very crowded and many people were intent on climbing the arch, not allowing photos for the rest of us.

We next headed to Split Rock Trail, and had a wonderful time watching rock climbers, exploring the area, and getting off the main trail for a quiet lunch spot in the rocks.

We drove to Keys View, only to find that it was so crowded we had to wait 20 minutes to park, with no way to turn around. The view down into the Palm Springs valley is impressive, but also many times covered in a haze that is a combination of marine air and L.A. smog.

We ended our first day by wandering in the cholla cactus garden and the ocotillo area. Very surreal, and also incredibly easy to impale your shoes with cholla barbs!!

On our second day we decided to try to get away from crowds, so we chose to explore the Wonderland of Rocks area, and it was a great decision! We started on the Boy Scout Trail, veering to the right on the Willow Hole Trail. We saw very few people, and spent the day exploring the area. The trail was very easy, and we spent a long time scrambling on rocks and taking in the views.

Like Death Valley, Joshua Tree can be brutally hot in summertime. February was a perfect time to visit, sunny skies, mild temperatures, and a surreal and beautiful landscape.

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Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley National Park stole my heart! I never imagined that more than 3,000,000 desolate acres could be so beautiful and amazing. Our timing was perfect in February, with cold mornings but wonderful afternoon temperatures and a lot of sunshine. In summer the heat is brutal, so late winter/early spring is a perfect time to visit.

We love scrambling through canyons, so our 2 choices for this trip were Mosaic Canyon and Desolation Canyon. We also walked miles in Badwater Basin, drove the scenic Artist’s Palette Drive, and visited the Devil’s Golf Course. So much to see and do here, and this is a park I will definitely get back to some day!

Mosaic Canyon was our first hike, with 2 roadblocks of a boulder jam and a dry falls that we knew ahead of time how to get past thanks to information from the Death Valley NPS website. In this canyon the rock is incredibly slick, the walls have been scoured smooth by millennia of flash floods. If you take the time to stop and look around, you’ll see many different rock colors that are beautiful!

Zabriskie Point is definitely worth a 10-minute drive to get to a viewpoint above the valley floor.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The ground looks like snow, but it’s a huge salt flat that goes for miles and miles, and is wonderful to walk around on. Walking a few miles out into the basin helps to give perspective on how huge this valley really is. There is a sign on the cliff above the parking area that is sea level, helps put things into perspective.

Artist’s Palette Scenic Drive showcases beautiful colored soils and rocks. Mother Nature truly is an artist, and she shows it off here. This is a one-way drive, take your time and take it all in.

Desolation Canyon is aptly named, and a beautiful hike that involves scrambling up two 6-8 foot walls that are easy enough to maneuver, especially with help from a hiking partner. Once you get to the ridge up top, there are expansive views of the valley below, and you realize that you are literally standing right above the Artist’s Palette Scenic Drive. For being so desolate, this was a phenomenal canyon hike and one we would definitely recommend.

Natural Bridge is a great easy hike if heading far into rocky canyons is not your idea of fun. It’s easy and short, we saw many people with children on this hike and would suggest it for anyone. The most impressive dry fall we saw was just after the Natural Bridge – it goes to show the incredible power of water in the desert.

Devil’s Golf Course is named very well … these spikes of heaved soil and salt deposits are 1 to 2 feet high and as sharp as razors. A fall here would not be fun. It was surreal walking among these formations.

Lastly, I can’t finish without mentioning the local wild burros that greeted us early one morning as we were driving to the park 🙂

Overall, Death Valley was a huge YES for us, a place we will definitely spend more time exploring sometime in the future.

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Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Nevada

Just outside of Las Vegas is a wonderful gem, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The bulk of the area is a one-way drive with many stops along the way, wonderful rock formations like the Calico Hills, sweeping views, and canyons to explore. We spent quite a bit of time scrambling around the rocks at Calico Hills, then hiked into Icebox Canyon, very appropriately named since we found puddles of frozen water in there. It’s a beautiful area, and well worth exploring it if the lights and noise and frenzy of Las Vegas don’t suit you (like me!)

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Valley of Fire State Park, NV

I’m not much of a fan of Las Vegas, but there are some beautiful areas to explore outside of the city. Valley of Fire State Park is a must-see if you ever go to Vegas. One of my dreams has been to hike The Wave, but honestly I’ll probably never get a permit or get there. The Fiery Wave at Valley of Fire S.P. is a pretty good alternative and easy to get to.

We were fortunate to see a herd of bighorn sheep on our return from the Fiery Wave, I’ve seen them before from further away, and was able to get some better photos this time.

There are also many other places to hike, including Mouse’s Tank which is a canyon with hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the walls. We didn’t get to spend much time here, and would definitely like to spend more time exploring on another trip.

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Grand Canyon South Rim

Well…. I’m ashamed to say I’d never seen the Grand Canyon until 2 weeks ago. In my yearly need to chase the sun by February (think permanently dark, gray skies 95% of the time in the PNW all winter long), I decided it was high time to finally visit.

Wow… just WOW! That’s a huge hole in the ground! We tried hiking down the Bright Angel Trail but much of it was just an ice slide, so we were content looking down into the canyon from the rim. The light was perfect, and the angle was different at every point we stopped or hiked at. We hiked part way down the Hermit’s Rest trail (no ice) and were able to have a solitary long lunch with amazing views, soak up the sunshine, and just relax. We walked the rim, had fun in the Geology Museum, went out to the Desertview Watchtower, soaked in the scenery at Pima Point, and just gave ourselves time to soak it all in.

Visiting in February can be very cold, we had on multiple layers of clothes, down jackets, gloves, and wool hats, but it was so beautiful and there were very few people there, which was just right for us.

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