Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

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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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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New Zealand

I recently got home from a phenomenal trip to New Zealand. It’s been on the top of my bucket-list for many years, and I finally spent 5 weeks exploring both islands. I’m so thankful I was finally able to get there.

I hiked the Milford Track, much of the Abel Tasman Track, and I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I also spent time visiting geothermal areas, going on riverjets, swinging on ziplines, kayaking, walking through redwoods canopy, visiting with family, and hiking several areas around Kaiteriteri and Takaka.  Overall I hiked over 92 miles. The Milford Track was the best multi-day hiking/backpacking trip I’ve ever been on, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was the best dayhike I’ve ever done in my life. Click on the “New Zealand 2019” page to the right for more photos and comments.

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Winter Forest Therapy

It’s harder to hike in winter. Finding a day in Western Washington where it isn’t rainy is hard, so when they come you have to grab them and go! We had a lovely 7-mile hike from Greenwater to The Dalles campground and back with V. and J. and their new pup Tooka, who is quite the adventure dog! We even got about 3 minutes of sunshine!

Beaches and oceans are beautiful, but I am definitely a forest and mountain girl to the core. There is nothing better than a day of forest therapy in good company, surrounded by Mother Nature.

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Summerland, Mt. Rainier MRNP

10 miles R/T, 2500+ feet elevation gain, beautiful sunshine, autumn colors, spectacular views, hours of complete solitude. So peaceful!

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Grand Park, MRNP

No words needed, other than to say this is how I spent my Saturday 🙂  It doesn’t get much better than this!

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Naches Loop, Chinook Pass WA

RIOTS OF COLOR!!!  That’s what yesterday was.

Naches Loop is a short, sweet, easy hike at the top of Hwy 410 at Chinook Pass. It’s hands-down my favorite autumn hike for brilliant colors. Weather conditions could not have been more perfect, and it felt amazing to have the sun shining on me while I got to soak in the incredible colors all around. Days like this are good for the soul…

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Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier

I was just 5 days out from shoulder surgery yesterday (scar tissue cleanout and hardware removal), but the weather was so perfect that I had to get out on the trail 🙂  Fall colors in the Paradise area at Mt. Rainier are amazing, and that’s what I went to see. I hiked the High Skyline Trail and really took my time, a lot of rest stops, a half-hour meditation with the best view in the world, a flask of hot tea, several marmots, and such incredible views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood. You don’t need to go far from the parking lot to see incredible autumn colors, the best spot is just behind the lodge along the Edith Creek Basin trail 🙂  Such a good day, achy for the shoulder, but good for the soul!!

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