When hiking at Catcoctin Mountain Park in Maryland, I felt like everything was easy. There were some rocky paths and steeper climbs, but I was just enjoying it so much that I didn’t notice the difficulty of the terrain or the 8 miles we walked. The things I noticed were the beautiful scenery, the great weather, and having good conversations with a friend. It’s easier to notice all the good things when you’re in a better mood, and I noticed these really cool flowers once we returned to the trailhead after a great hike.
On a side trip from our main hiking destination we headed to Allamuchy State Park for a quick day hike around a lake. The landscape changed quite frequently on the overly flat trail through the woods. The changes in landscape were a nice surprise that kept the otherwise normal trail interesting. I especially enjoyed the fern-filled section near the end of our trail. It feels like you are totally engulfed in the plants while standing off the side of the trail and the green overwhelms your vision.
A welcome cool breeze blows over the raised platform overlooking the mountains of northwest New Jersey just before sunrise on a Tuesday morning. The clouds dance in the sun’s pastel painting, illuminating the rolling hills in a soft glow. It doesn’t feel like the state known for farmland and suburban sprawl. It feels lonesome in a good way. The morning has given me energy that seems to only come with the joy of nature’s beauty and its unique scenery. At this point it feels like I could do anything.
Passing through places I’ve never been I often find unexpected areas of beauty that lead to quiet reflection. This barn scene at Capitol Reef National Park was a place that caught me off guard on a day where I needed some time to think about myself and why I had been feeling the way I was. The serene meadow surrounded by the red rock cliffs was a perfect place for a time out among the horses and light traffic before heading up into the canyon for more adventures.
I’ve grown accustomed to leaving New Jersey at the start of summer, and, even though it hasn’t been too long since my last visit to the southwest, it get harder every time I return. The red rocks of southern Utah remain the place I desire most often, and my plans to return have already begun to materialize. The next couple of months have already planned themselves out, and then it’s time to go back to where the sun is hot and the humidity is not. It might be a long summer on the East Coast, but sooner than I think I’ll be back among the landscapes of the desert.
It was late in the day when I decided to hike the Lost Mine Trail at Big Bend National Park. It had been a day without a lot of physical exertion and it was set to stay that way with possible storms coming. I felt like I really needed to do it, so I got myself up and hiked very quickly up the gently steep trail. The views along the way were incredible as well, but the nice payoff at the end had me viewing into the canyons that surrounded me and past our campground. It was a beautiful feeling and I jogged down the trail back to my car after taking in the view for a few minutes.
On a drive through Utah from Park City to Provo I just happened to pass by some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen on the side of a road. This open pasture was just too perfect with grazing horses and a flowing stream, but to top it all off the snow-capped mountain range in the background makes the scene. This is just one of many amazing roadside attractions I wanted to stop and spend the rest of my day at along the way. If anyone wonders why I want to spend more of my time in Utah, this is the answer.
It’s amazing how serenity can be found in places built out of perpetual chaos. The waves at Portland Head pounded continuously as I perched on the edge of slippery rocks at sunset. The deafening crashes surrounded me and allowed me to bask in a moment where nothing else existed except the waves, the sky, and myself. Some places surprise you with their beauty, and some places let you down; Maine is exactly as you expect it to be. The ocean meets the rocky shoreline like a 19th century maritime painting, and you are transported to another world in which your problems don’t exist.
Being up before sunrise has an energy that is invigorating. There is potential to the day while you wait for the sun to break the horizon. Staring at snow-covered mountains towering in every direction around you in the blue tones of early morning is magical. And when the first warm glow hits the peak of the tallest point, it radiates with life-affirming color while it slowly swallows up the darkness and ushers in the morning.
Due to my being very sick over the past weekend and having to travel for work, I haven’t been able to post any new photos and I’ve been slow getting this one posted. I actually haven’t had any desire to take new photos with how I’ve felt, so I went back into the archives and pulled out this one from the roof of the Divine Lorraine in Philadelphia. This was one of the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, partially because of the colors and clouds but also because I was sitting on top of this gorgeous old relic of a building in center city Philly looking west over the whole town along with a handful of other adventurers who found their way up there on a warm autumn night. Perfection.
Anyone reading this probably already knows that Utah is my favorite place to visit. The National Parks are astounding, but the view from any given drive on a backroad, state highway, or even an Interstate can leave you speechless from the unmatched beauty that rises up all around you. The red rocks paired with the often blue sky seem to exist in perfect harmony and play off one another, creating the most rich, brilliant versions of either color that you will encounter in nature. Everything else seems just a little more dull after crossing the figurative state line.
The midwest has an emptiness that becomes hypnotic while driving through it. Endless fields lead out to distant horizons, dotted with a few trees and tumbleweeds rolling across the highway. The manmade structures are often the most dominant thing in view, and wind turbines are quite beautiful to me. The way they spin separate from each other and the silhouette against the orange sky at sunset is something I’ve always liked seeing when we pass through the vast open spaces that allow for their use.
The landscape of the American Southwest is amazingly varied and unique. Driving through the desert regions you could be among high mountains with snow then surrounded by endless flatness with dry bushes, tumbleweeds, and Joshua trees dotting the landscape. It is endlessly beautiful no matter where you go during the day, and the stars come out at night almost lighting up the pure blackness as the strange silhouette forms rise up on all sides.
The Jungle Gardens on Avery Island are an amazing area covered in old trees covered in Spanish moss lining the swamp waters filled with gators and birds. We saw so many alligators and water birds during our drive through the grounds that it became unsurprising after a while. There were a lot of great places to stop and walk to see more of the natural wonders. It was a perfect thing to do on a somewhat rainy day since we could retreat to the car whenever necessary. We definitely got lucky since the weather was more of less friendly during our visit.
We got to see a lot of beautiful places in Austin, and Ladybird Lake was one of my favorites. Just off the busy streets there is a little park along the water where cyclists, runners, moms with strollers, and people like us, who want to dip our feet in the water and play Phase 10 in the shade, can get away from the noise. We enjoyed a couple of hours on the banks and in the grass, escaping the hottest part of the day in the shade with a great view over the water. Not a bad way to spend a day on what some might call a vacation.
Arches National Park is one of my favorite places for several reasons. I love that you can walk right up to these amazing natural structures and interact with them. I’ve been coming here on every trip I take out west for the last five or more years and every time I manage to find something new. I’m not sure how I missed this one during my previous visits, but Double Arch is very close to a parking area and easy to climb up to. I checked out two other new areas while we were there also. I’ll always look forward to more when I come back.
Some people enjoy familiar surroundings and the comfort of home, but for me, waking up to a new sunrise in a different place every day is perfect. Opening the tent and seeing a colorful sky over Lake Powell was a great surprise since I didn’t set an alarm or plan to wake up. The colors briefly streaked before the sun came over the tops of the canyons and began to shimmer in the lake water.
Death Valley is an incredible National Park with so much more to offer than I ever knew. The sand dunes are some of the most surreal and amazing things I’ve ever seen in the morning light. The shadows play in such strange ways that it’s hard to tell what is real. This was an amazing way to start the day before hiking in slot canyons, up mountains, and along high ridges. This is definitely a place I’d love to visit more often.
Detours can be one of the best parts of a road trip, and yesterday we decided to head to Death Valley instead of Moab. We got here in time for sunset, and seeing the low sun on the amazing landscapes here was crazy. The biggest surprise to me the first time I came to Death Valley was how much colorful, varied formations were here. Everything is beautiful and carved by wind and water over centuries. This is one of my favorite places at Zabriskie Point.
It’s been a fun week spent in Park City, Utah skiing, hanging out with friends, and sitting in hot tubs. It was a resort experience without having to stay at a resort. Sort of. Either way, this place is full of fun stuff to do and there is beauty in all directions. There is a hill in the middle of town called PC Hill, named for the big “PC” letters that adorn the side of it, visible from most anywhere you are in the city. We hiked to the top of the hill last night to watch the sun go down on this great place one last time before we leave. This paints a nice pictures of a very Utah kind of city.
Everyone says skiing in the western U.S. is much different from the east. Unfortunately my first chance to ski in Utah was during the worst season they have had in many years. The snow was slushy and patchy, but it was still fun to be skiing no matter what. Oh, I can see one difference between the east and west right here: the views. The mountains in the distance are so amazing that we took easy trails just so we could get better views. It was a pretty good day of skiing, but an amazing day for scenery.
Day one of road tripping has been successful. We made it from New Jersey to Chicago without much incident. Even throughout the emptiness of much of the interstate highways between here and there, not being alone made it so much better. The drive seemed long at times, but now that I’m looking back it hardly seems like it was over twelve hours of driving. As the snow was vaporizing and creating haze over the farmland of Indiana, the trees took on an even more solitary look. It was a beautiful scene driving across an otherwise empty landscape.
I can’t get enough of the snow-covered trees at the tops of mountains. The tranquil beauty of the soft, silent snow laying heavy upon pine needle-filled branches just makes for a pretty picture. I spend too much time with my hands out of my gloves shooting photos when I should be skiing. This shot is from Stratton, near the top of the mountain. I like the gradient followed by the abrupt shift form sky to the foreground trees. It’s a sharp contrast in an otherwise soft image.
Last week, my friend and I went to Vermont for a long weekend skiing several of the best resorts in the Northeast. Smugglers’ Notch gets high scores from a lot of reviewers, and I it was a lot of fun. Definitely not my favorite resort, as that honor goes to Okemo or Stratton, but you can’t argue with these views. The conditions were pretty great all weekend, and the fresh snow made for some great covered landscapes with the coniferous trees. More to come!