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The last time I was in California was a long 10 years ago. After hearing about a friend’s recent trip I made a last minute decision to travel to Northern California, Nor Cal as the locals call it, and part of the Central Cal coast. My plan was to explore places I’ve heard of to get a feel for these areas making the trek as economical as possible. A few days later out came the camping gear, cookware, clothing and necessities. Off I went not knowing where I’d be staying the first night.

Campsite in Santa Rosa, Spring Lake State ParkWaking at 3:30AM to for a 7 o’clock Boston flight was difficult, but landing in San Francisco then driving 2½ hours to Santa Rosa thinking good intentions for a campsite was even more challenging. Luck was on my side with Spring Lake Regional Park campground having a site available for the next three nights. By the time I set camp and finished my last Power Bar I was famished. I must have looked it since a neighbor asked if I was interested in joining him and his wife for a grilled wild salmon dinner. I believe I said Meals on Wheels“Sure!” before he finished asking. Carl and Jan were from Alaska and if anyone is going to know good salmon they would be the ones. This is the kind of friendliness you can find at campgrounds. You do get a fair share of commotion too and that’s what noise cancelling headphones and iPods are for…

Looking south in Bodega BayThe following days were spent investigating Santa Rosa and the surrounding towns of Sebastopal, Petaluma, Sonoma, Windsor and others. Time was taken to see beautiful places including Bodega Bay, Sonoma Coast State Park and Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve. Route 1 passes through Bodega Bay following the coast of Cali to Oregon where the rugged coast is greeted by the dramatic Pacific Ocean. My Northern travel on Route 1 went as far as the mouth of the Russian River to see seals and their pups. Having a kayak would have been ideal, a sport I was introduced to over a year ago.

Sepia of the Mighty RedwoodsArmstrong Redwood Forest was a short drive from Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay. Walking among 1,000 year old, 250 plus foot “standing talls” as the Native Americans call them (and all trees) is inspiring and awesome. Thankfully some are still standing in the preserve after millions were harvested during the early settler timber boom.

Matt the BelayerWith the week coming to an end and 250 miles later I met a fellow climbing enthusiast from Massachusetts near Lake Tahoe, a sacred lake to the Washoe Indian Nation. Matt and his climbing partner were outside of Truckee high above Donner Lake at the most elevated climbing routes I’ve experienced. I slid on a harness and squeezed my feet in climbing shoes to make an easy/moderate 5.8 climb keeping it simple after the tiring drive. Completing a few more climbs the three of us went to Tahoe City for refreshments. Being high season all campgrounds were full and Matt’s belayer recommended an area in the Tahoe National Forest where I could disperse (primitive) camp the next few nights. The area was near the Ellis Peak trailhead which was as remote and quiet as you can get. Mt. Tallac (9,739 ft) was a recommended hike to get a great view of the southern part of the lake.

East Lake TahoeThe next morning I began a 75 mile drive around the 1,645 foot deep Lake Tahoe stopping at the more beautiful and rugged east side in Nevada. Large boulders, quicker dropping depths and graduated deep blue colors of the water made this side more appealing than the west side. I HAD to jump in for a morning swim in the calm clear water since by afternoon waves from the day’s increasing wind and recreational craft caused rough choppy waters. The southern area of the lake was congested with casinos and restaurants which I painstakingly crawled through. Rounding the Lake Tahoe Dam and Troutlower west side was slow until I passed Camp Richardson which looked like a small city with tents upon tents and camper to camper. I was situated in paradise compared to the congested campgrounds. Continuing to Tahoe City I stopped at the only exit of the lake where large trout were swimming in the liquid glass current.

"Good" Ramen Noodles and TunaBack at camp a few hours later cookware was laid out along with the Peaceful Pathfinder staple of Ramen Noodles and tuna! (At least on this trip they were of the organic type.) After finishing the not too interesting dinner and packing away the food I took in the silence and watched the stars before journaling and falling into a deep sleep only to be awoken by some critter outside of the tent. Was it an elk? Deer? Bear? I wasn’t sure and laid quiet. In the morning I looked for signs but with the soft forest floor it was difficult to make distinctive tracks.

On Mt. Talac Trail Time was calling to put my legs to use and I was off to the Mt. Tallac trailhead in Desolation Wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest. The 10+ mile, difficult rated hike has soul touching views of Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountains which are currently under siege of forest fires as I write this. The mountain and hiking time were a litmus of how I was going to hold up being a support runner for 30 miles in the Wasatch mountains in Utah early September. I finished in good condition, just depleted. The lake was calling and it was time to rejuvenate with a meal and a swim. This time on the west side. While kicking back relaxing, semi newlyweds married last October asked if I would take a few pictures while they floated on inner tubes. Simple enough. The reward was a gracious gift of a beer. I gladly accepted since a good Belgian style ale after an exhausting hike is like offering candy to a child. A few Morgan and Sergiohours later they drifted back and asked to join them at their campsite for dinner. We pooled our food of grilled naan bread pizza, corn tortillas and fresh avocados. Morgan and Sergio, from San Diego, work for Saucony and run competitively placing or winning varied distance races up to ½ marathon distance. Sergio has won ½ marathons in San Diego so no more needs to be said of his ability. Morgan has an impressive resume herself. After the long day and storytelling around a campfire it was time to return to the peacefulness of my secluded camp.

Time in and around Lake Tahoe was fulfilling and the next day was taken to relax before returning to Santa Rosa continuing on to the central Cal coast for some of the best views and places of the trip.

Up next…The rugged coast of Big Sur and a true place of paradise…

Peace – Greg

“In the depths of stillness all words melt away, clouds disperse and it vividly appears before you.” – John Daido Loori

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Takoda Leaving Yellowstone was bittersweet since there was much more to see only being there a short four days. Plenty of area was covered and I had entertaining experiences seeing wildlife and intriguing natural resources. The wolves, Selway of the Gallatin Packboth wild and captive, were the highlight of this stop on my journey since they’re my spirit animal. I plan to continue learning the diverse traits these advanced animals have. Impressive also, was the animal of abundance to the Native Americans, the bison with their raw strength and casual demeanor.

Gardiner, MTI had excitement going to Bozeman, a city I’ve heard much about and wanted to spend enough time there to see if this would be a place I would consider living. As I hoped for, a café was just outside of the park in Gardiner, MT. The aroma in High Country Trading and Espresso spiked my craving for a large dark brew. With java in hand and after taking a quick stroll throughView to Bozeman this tiny western town that gets buried with snow in the winter I hopped in the truck for a short scenic drive to Bozeman. Highway speed felt strange after the relaxing pace in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Welcome to BozemanThe first stop in Bozeman was to the visitor’s center to find a local campground. I chose Bear Canyon Campground on the outskirts of town keeping close to see what the city had to offer. This stop was different than the others staying in a busy environment and reconnecting with the general population. The family style campground offered more than found at the national parks and includedBear Canyon Campground laundry and showers, a bonus since most showers have been from a gallon container with cool water. The hot showers were excellent and it was time to wash well worn clothes!

Sunset Over BozemanBozeman has the western feel you think it would. The wide Main Street had a variety of shops, cafés, museums and restaurants. I toured the small city and found the area to have a pleasant atmosphere. After a few days hearing the light roar of Route 90 from the campground it was time to visit at least one of the six different mountain ranges that surround the area. I found a local climbing shop to query With my shadow overlooking I-90experienced locals to find a rigorous hike. The decision was made to hike Sacagawea Peak(9665 ft), the highest point in the Bridger Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains and visible from Bozeman.

Road to Fairy Lake CampgroundI took an investigative drive to the Gallatin National Forest and Fairy Lake campground. The drive was hilly before the long dirt road to the campground located at the base of Sacagawea Peak. I saw both  wildlife and “domesticlife”, a curious cow, on the slow drive in and captured a section of the Bridger range which is on the Peaceful Pathfinder homepage. The crystal blue water of Fairy Lake and the bare mountain range looked and felt perfect for the next few days. The campground was empty being a weekday now that families were Evening Entertainmenthome with school underway. This was the spot I’d return to the following day. The next afternoon I broke camp at Bear Canyon and made the one hour trek back to the secluded campground. When camp was set I gathered enough firewood for a few nights of entertainment and meditative medicine from a warm fire.

Looking north at Sacagawea PeakWaking to a cool crisp morning with an orange sky I prepared oatmeal and coffee before donning the backpack for the short steep two plus miles to the peak. The moderate to strenuous hike matched the rating of the guide shop and I decided to continue along the ridge encountering a few risky areas that weren’t difficult to maneuver. No mountain goats could be seen roaming the ridge, but a large black and red hairy tarantula was almost under foot. Turning back after encountering a section of the ridge that was too risky to scramble I stopped at the summit to take in the Tarantulaviews and serenity where the absence of sound was peaceful. The quick, steep return to camp left plenty of time to hike around Fairy Lake before sunset. Arriving back at camp a fire was lit and enjoyed for a few hours before ending a rejuvenating day.

Fellow Adventurers Larry and MollyThe next afternoon I checked back in at Bear Canyon Campground meeting fellow adventures and climbers Larry and his wife Molly. We exchanged travel stories and the generous couple offered a place to stay if I was in the area of Glacier National Park. Glacier N.P. was the favorite park of my most preferred college professor Richard Picard who I learned passed Richard Picardfrom a very coincidental encounter with his widow Anne at an Appalachian Mountain Club function in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I had the opportunity to tell Anne a few great stories how Richard prepared us for the real world awaiting us after graduation. I wish I had the chance to join him in the mountains. Aho Mr. Picard!

Gallatin National Forest (South)Saturday of the last weekend in Bozeman I hiked another beautiful area of Gallatin N.F. south of the city, then on the overcast Sunday made a three hour drive northwest to Missoula. The small city was quiet and most stores were closed except for a cavernous café with a beer and wine selection from around the world. I knew which beer was calling after meeting Belgian friend Oliver in Grand Teton National Park. Westmalle! I purchased the beer along with the proper accompanying beer glass.(Different shapes of Belgian beer glasses complement varied styles of beer enhancing aromas and showcasing appearance.) Four months in Belgium taught me plenty about the best beers in the world. The Belgian treat Westmalle!was saved for dinner the last night in Montana NOT to include Ramen noodles and tuna! This time jambalaya and extra sharp cheddar cheese were cuisine of the night. The taste bud trio more than satisfied my pallet and eating outdoors with a beautiful sunset added that special touch to the meal.

Preparing to leave Bozeman a disappointing realization set in that travel would be eastward from here back to New England. There was still more to see and the next stops to Devils Tower National Monument and Badlands National Park were places of intrigue since the formation and landscapes were to be different than anything I’ve experienced. Locating the campsite at Badlands at night eerily sits in my bones today.

Stay tuned for Badlands and powerful Native American lands…

– Greg

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  – Helen Keller

Driving to Wyoming I played the first CD of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (Dan Millman’s international bestseller about the universal quest for happiness) audio book Pam offered before leaving Boulder. The journey, U.S. Tour, wasn’t just about seeing friends and great places it was also a time for looking inward to connect with my soul desires. I had endless time on the roads, trails, and journaling to think about important aspects of life and career direction, companionship, where to live and thrive, and find purpose giving attention to family, friends, and relationships. The deepest times for expression were while journaling looking back on the day and life experiences. My personal journey will continue with the interest of growth walking a desired path Native Americans call the Red Road.

On the road …

PronghornTo have manageable road time I drove to Rock Springs, Wyoming keeping to daylight hours after being forewarned of pronghorn dashing across roads at dusk. Three hundred miles and six hours later this small trucker town just off of Route 80 was roaring with big rigs. Not interested in the fast food stops and diners I unpacked the camp stove and cooked dinner outside my room at an aged, never updated, “Bates” motel. The tent would have been preferred over this shady looking place but I made the best of it throwing the sleeping bag on the bed getting a few hours of sleep. Checking out early with an hour’s drive down the orange sun lit road I entered the Wrangler Café for breakfast and conversation with locals. The Connecticut plates would draw the comment, “Connecticut?! You’re a long way from home!” These are places of meeting interesting down to earth people and hearing talk of local and The Wrangler Cafénational issues. The smell of bacon and seeing biscuits and gravy leave the kitchen made me order the hungry man’s special while drinking too many cups of coffee before sliding into the truck.

Inspiration Point & Jenny LakeA few hours later I was in Jackson Hole stopping for supplies and the Craig Thomas Visitors Center collecting information for the stay in Grand Teton National Park. Shortly after entering the park and selecting a campsite near the Grand Teton Lodge I hiked around Jenny Lake to calming area at Inspiration Point before sunset. In need of good rest before climbing Middle Teton (12, 804 ft.), camp was set and the lantern was out early after dinner. The following morning, rising before the sun, forcing down a few packets of instant oatmeal, cheese and coffee I made way to the Lupine Meadow Trailhead passing more than a dozen grazing elk. Boots were laced, the backpack slung over my shoulder and I started on the trail just as the sun was breaking over the eastern hills. A short time into the hike I met my first friend. She didn’t say much but was willing to lead the way with a funny walk. After a few minutes I asked if this was the correct trail to Middle Teton. There was no answer.  What did I expect from a two legged feather friend, the Ruffed Grouse. Food was more important than companionship to this bird!

AscendingNot far back was the trail junction to Garnet Canyon Trail where I connected with three men from Idaho who welcomed me to their team after a quick introduction. During this non technical climb, we hiked packed dirt, rock, scree and crossed a few snow fields to the base of the final ascent where we visually marked the best line to take. The final ascent was slow due to loose talus and being ready to duck or move to the call out of “rock” when some became ajar, which they did. A helmet would have been a good idea through this area. We scrambled the final boulders and formations to make the summit where a misstep could mean tumbling Geodetic Marker (Unfortunate Writing)down 1,000 plus feet. Six hours and 6,000 feet of elevation gain later the summit geodetic survey marker was within reach. Our team stayed at the summit having lunch and taking in the views causing times of vertigo in the calm 65 degree day. The descent was fairly quick and uneventful except for foot glissading down a few snow fields. At the trailhead thanks were given for the invitation to join before they returned to their home state and I back to camp. This was a truly incredible and epic day.

Nibbled Reese's from a StowawyTaking the backpack out of the truck I noticed signs of a stowaway since a few mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had been nibbled on. After a quick look and being too tired the critter could stay for the night to finish the treat it started. The stove was lit and dinner was a few packs of Ramen noodles, a staple for the trip, always having a chunk of cheese to enjoy with the meal. I slept deeply and awoke to birds and quiet sounds of a new camp neighbor before French pressing coffee, asking a new Belgian friend Oliver to join. Spending four months in Belgium earlier in my career gave us plenty to talk about since favorite foods, chocolate and beer are from the small quiet With Belgian Cyclist Olivercountry. Friends made in Belgium were inviting especially in the historic town of Lier where there’s a plethora of restaurants and cafés. I made note of Oliver’s favorite beer, Westmalle Trappist Ale, (remember this for the upcoming Montana post!) and even though it was breakfast we both could have enjoyed one at that moment. We sipped two brews of fresh coffee and told a few travel stories before I broke camp and he headed into the back country.

Two Ocean's Lake with TetonsWith the stowaway still enjoying the Reese’s I packed the gear and drove north to Lizard Creek Campground on Jackson Lake to reserve a campsite. Two Ocean Lake Trailhead wasn’t far down the road where a leisurely hike was a nice change from scrambling steep talus. The trail wasn’t always next to the water’s edge and decided to bushwhack through a small wooded area to make it to the lake. Noticing huge moose tracks and bedding areas thought came to mind it was probably best to stick to the trail and leave their territory.Two Ocean Lake Closed Trail With slight nervousness and caution I stalked back to the trail since outrunning a bull moose or worse a grizzly wasn’t going to happen. I realized how risky my action was after encountering two Park Rangers closing the trail, one with a loaded and drawn shotgun when they asked if there was sign of an elk carcass from a grizzly kill nearby. Thankfully there wasn’t and I was now at a safe area.

Jackson Lake and the TetonsBack at Lizard Creek I set up the tent, AGAIN, made Ramen noodles and tuna, AGAIN, then relaxed for the rest of the evening spending much of the time at the shoreline of Jackson Lake listening to the water wash upon the rocks and viewing the north faces of the Tetons. The stowaway stayed comfortable in the truck Orb Web Weaverand I in the tent waking to a new friend the Orb Web Weaver. Company was everywhere and anticipation set in that morning knowing just fifteen minutes further north was the next stop to one of America’s most visited national parks, Yellowstone.

Next…Wolves, bison and hot springs…

-Greg

“Balance is implicit in the Red Road. When you’re on the Red Road, you are in the center. Yet, you do not go to either extreme, and you allow both sides to exist. This is accomplished by continually postponing surrendering to temptation, whatever it may be. It is saying `later’ instead of `no.'”

— Dr. A.C. Ross (Ehanamani), LAKOTA

 

Coyote CantinaReturning to Boulder I was seeing the same landscape for the third time passing Great Sand Dunes National Park, Collegiate Peaks and the eclectic looking Coyote Café. I decided to forgo the café and stop at Hog Heaven, a great barbeque restaurant a short distance up the road. Eating there on a previous trip my taste buds were ready for ribs, jalapeno cornbread, beans and bread pudding. The heavy food would last me a long while.

Mountaineering Museum, Golden, CO

I detoured to Golden, CO, home of the Coors Brewing Company but more importantly (for myself anyway), the home of the Bradford Washburn Mountaineering Museum dedicated to the climbers, technology, culture and spirit of mountaineering. Mountaineering caught my interest ten years ago and has brought challenging climbs ever since. The museum displays exhibits on climate, science, cultures and the humanities as they relate to mountains. Bradford Washburn was an American explorer, mountaineer, photographer, and cartographer who A Bradford Washburn photograph of Mt. Huntington’s Incredible North Face. Alaska, April 2, 1978established the Boston Museum of Science. He and his wife, Barbara, the first woman to summit Mt. McKinley (Denali), lead incredible lives  spending much time in Alaska pioneering the use of aerial photography of mountains and glaciers.

After looking at exhibits and early clothing and gear mountaineers used it’s easy to realize today’s mountaineers are spoiled by high tech gear allowing many to go beyond their capability where some will never leave mountaintops such as Mt. Everest. Having good gear is necessary, but experience and common sense keeps you alive!

Roosevelt National ForestRoosevelt National Forest was an hour and a half drive, the end following the same mountainous route I rode the bike on making me think how crazy, but accomplishing the ride was. I signed in at the park, selected a camp site and set out to get in a quick evening hike. Taking that time before sunset was a nice way to ground myself after an exhausting day of driving and sightseeing. Finishing the Hog Heaven leftovers I was ready for a good night’s sleep before continuing on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Elk Outside of Estes ParkNo time was wasted breaking camp in the morning for the short one hour drive to Estes Park, CO where elk can overrun the town during the rut (breeding season). Being a few weeks early the town was elk free but many were roaming just on the outskirts. I entered the park with a seasonal Interagency Annual Pass then studied a map to see the lay of the land to best make my way through the park the next few days. “Home” was at three different campgrounds, Longs Peak the first few nights, Aspenglen the next, and lastly Timber Creek.

HomeLongs Peak is a tent only campground having platforms at each site. No RVs in this area means no running generators which owners are required to turn off at night. After constructing the tent and purchasing firewood I drove to nearby vistas, taking a hike and returning a few hours later for dinner, a fire and journaling. This was the first campfire of the trip surprisingly enough. Nights were cooler being at a higher elevation (9,500 ft.) than at Roosevelt N.F. making the fire great to get warm before slipping into the sleeping bag.

Grazing Bull Elk

Deciding to see as much of the park as possible I opted out of back country camping moving campgrounds to appreciate more vistas and see more wildlife. Aspenglen campground was the next stop a few mornings later to reserve a tent site before the possibility of a full campground with late season vacationers. Elk were expanding roaming areas as each day of the mating season came closer bringing a massive majestic bull elk close to the road that was undeterred by a train of vehicles.

Elk Grazing in Campground

Final camp was the barren Timber Creek in the southwest corner of the park having almost no trees due to the mountain pine beetle killing tens of thousands of pines. This area of the park was quiet and I met a few friendly travelers, Leroy and his dad out for father and son bonding, two recent college grads on a bike tour of the Midwest and a wildlife photographer. Rising early on a quiet starry morning I walked along a watershed hoping to see wildlife and was fortunate to see moose, deer and elk.

Tom and His Father Leroy

Meeting good people and seeing wildlife was a perfect way to end the stay in Rocky Mountain National Park. I savored a burger and fries just outside the park before the next destination of Grand Teton National Park.

 – Greg

“In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks.” – John Muir

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