Jacob W. Frank: Blog https://www.jwfrank.com/blog en-us (C) Jacob W. Frank [email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Sat, 04 May 2024 01:48:00 GMT Sat, 04 May 2024 01:48:00 GMT https://www.jwfrank.com/img/s/v-12/u749270601-o621644733-50.jpg Jacob W. Frank: Blog https://www.jwfrank.com/blog 120 73 Custer Gallatin: Porcupine Cabin https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2024/3/porcupine-cabin This winter has been fairly lackluster as far as snow goes. Before this trip we only skied four times, compared to last year we had nearly three weeks by now. We were pumped to get some fresh snow earlier in the week, and the weekend was calling for an even bigger storm.

This is our first winter cabin trip on the year. We had another one planned a couple weekend ago but I got sick and had to cancel. This is the third of the three cabins in the area, we skied to the other two, Crandall Creek Cabin and Ibex Cabin, last winter. 

We parked at the winter trailhead and set off to ski the short two miles into the cabin. It was a sunny. bluebird afternoon.

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We arrived at the cabin late afternoon and got a fire going to warm up the cabin. We made dinner and drinks and then waited for the sunset, which turned out to be pretty nice.

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The next day we ate some homemade coffee cake for first breakfast and washed it down with a few cups of coffee. The weather hadn't rolled in yet, so we decided to try to get a short ski in for the day. Since we were on the front end of the storm, the temps were too warm for our skis, so we ditched them and headed into the forest for a hike instead.

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We got back to the cabin in time for lunch and DRT (designated rest time). After our nap, we woke up to a HUGE snowstorm. We made some hot apple cider and watched the storm blow out the window.

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Before dinner we got a break in the storm, but we were surrounded by clouds. It was like being in a giant white bubble. Not long after the wind and snow picked back up, so we spent the rest of the evening in the cabin relaxing.

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The next morning, we woke up to 8" of powder and fog, but after an hour or so it started to burn off. We skied over to the woodshed to chop and haul wood.

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Once we cleaned up and restocked the cabin with wood, we grabbed a group photo before skiing back to the trailhead.

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The stoke was high with the downhill and fresh powder.

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Trip notes: Porcupine Cabin is HUGE and sleeps eight people. Most of the cabins we visit are a single room, but this one has two bedrooms in addition to the living space. The snowpack and weather kept us from exploring too far from the cabin on our layover day, so it would be nice to go back another year with better conditions. Overall it was a great trip and I'd definitely recommend it!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana photography ski https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2024/3/porcupine-cabin Wed, 06 Mar 2024 00:31:25 GMT
Custer Gallatin: Star Lake and Lulu Pass https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2024/2/star-lake-lulu-pass Some friends from Florida visited this past weekend and I finally checked off a to-do that been on my list for a long time. Snowmobile up into the Beartooth Mountains. We headed out to Cooke City early morning and saw the typical winter sights: bison, moose, and a few deer and elk. We arrived in Cooke City suited up, and headed up the Lulu Pass Trail. Unfortunately, this winter has been the warmest and driest in decades, so the snowpack was extremely low at lower elevations. That meant that we needed to stop often and cool the sleds. Eventually we made it to Mud Lake where there was deeper snow and it was pretty much game on for the remainder of the day. 20240202-jwf-069620240202-jwf-0696NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20240202-jwf-073820240202-jwf-0738NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20240202-jwf-074620240202-jwf-0746NPS / Jacob W. Frank

From Mud Lake we continued up to Round Lake, which has great views of Sheep Mountain. We took the opportunity to finally open up the throttle a bit, to see what these new sleds can do. They are REAL fast.

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Once we got a feel for the sleds our guide, Cole, took us up the Goose Lake Jeep Trail where we had some great views of the Spires, the same mountain we saw this past summer backpacking to Aero Lakes.

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Eventually we made it to Long Lake, which had some smaller hills we were able to climb.

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I told Cole I'd be happy to take some photos of him if we wanted to tear it up. So he did.

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The views weren't too shabby either.

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From there we headed up to Star Lake at the edge of the Wilderness Boundary where we were able to get in some first tracks.

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Even though snow levels were significantly lower than normal, we were still able to explore a lot of the terrain up there no issues.

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After everyone getting stuck multiple times, wallowing in powder, and digging ourselves out, we figured it was time to head back to town. Instead of backtracking, we headed northwest from Long Lake around Sheep Mountain to hook up with the Lulu Pass Trail again. The views along the backside of Sheep Mountain were expansive.

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Once we made it to Lulu Pass it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home. Back in town we hit up the Miners Saloon for a celebratory pint before we headed back home.

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Trip notes: It's not cheap to rent sleds and hire a guide. Especially when you compare it to backpacking. But it was worth it. You work a lot harder than you'd think, especially if you're a new rider. Even if you don't fall, which you most likely will, you have to jump around on the sled and really use your body to stay upright. When you do fall, you're trying to dig your sled out in waist-deep powder for at least a few minutes, sometimes longer. We rented through Beartooth Mountain Adventures and I'd definitely recommend them. Our guide Cole was great and was worth his weight in gold. Not only did he take us where we needed to go, but we'd still be stuck up there without him. Definitely a team sport.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana snowmobiling https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2024/2/star-lake-lulu-pass Sun, 11 Feb 2024 21:15:55 GMT
Yellowstone: South Boundary Trail to Thorofare Valley https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/9/thorofare We just got back from our 6-day, 78-mile trip into Yellowstone's Thorofare. It's touted as the most remote location in the contiguous 48 states. There are three trails that lead you to the area starting in the park, and the shortest trail is about 32 miles one way. This is the longest trip, both in duration and length that I have ever done. 

After years of talking about it, and then six months of planning it, the week finally arrived. The weather looked clear but windy for the first few days, then starting to deteriorate after that. Our plan was to catch a shuttle across the lake to Terrace Point, then hike south into the Thorofare and back to our car at the South Entrance via the South Boundary Trail. Here's how it went.

Day 1: 12.5 miles, 1,415 ft elevation gain

We loaded up our gear on the boat and set off from Bridge Bay Marina. After about 30 min on the water, that "clear but windy" weather made it clear to us that we weren't getting across the lake today. So after turning around we debated our options back on shore. We decided that we wanted to take shuttles/hitchhiking out of the equation, so we changed our itinerary and would hike in and out via the South Boundary Trail. That means our 55-mile trip would now be closer to 80.

By the time we made it back to the South Entrance and set off, it was 1pm. We forded a clear Snake River and hiked through a mostly nondescript landscape for the first 6 miles. Eventually we reached an open meadow where we met up with the Snake River again and Snake Hot Springs.

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Eventually we came across our second and last river crossing for the day. We took a break along the river before hiking the final two miles to our camp.

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Day 2: 12.25 miles, 3,001 ft elevation gain

With our late arrival in camp the night before, we didn't get hiking until about 9am. Today was supposed to be the most challenging day of the trip. The hike over Big Game Ridge takes you in and out of the park and offers views all directions when you're over 10,000 ft elevation. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, which also meant that we were exposed. 
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Eventually we gained enough elevation where we could see the Tetons to the south starting to rise up from the hills.

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Once we gained the ridge, the views of the Grand and the entire Teton Range were spectacular.

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We continued along the ridge with more spectacular views to the north and east, including Heart and Yellowstone lakes, the Absaroka Range, and even Electric Peak.

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Just before we started to descend, we decided to grab lunch with a good view.

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Eventually we made it off Big Game Ridge and were back to another crossing of the Snake River, just before we reached our spot for the night.

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Day 3: 14.25 miles, 2,202 ft elevation gain

I woke up with a sore hip flexor, which isn't uncommon for me when backpacking. When we set off it took a little adjusting to get my pack in a comfortable spot. After walking for about 5 minutes, my hip/leg muscles were tighter than I thought. I stretched for 10 minutes, and I realized that my hip felt fine as long as I didn't have my pack's hip belt on tight. It was great I figured that out, but not great to realize that I was going to have to hike the day with a pack without using my hip belt.

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We gained our way through the woods and eventually to Mariposa Lake.

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As we continued east, we started to descend along Lynx Creek. There were many small water and bog crossings. In the mud we started seeing lots of bear tracks, both big and small, black and grizzly. At one point along the trail while making noise, we both were hit with the smell of a rotting carcass. We both immediately picked up the pace until we were out of the area and could no longer see any tracks. (More on this during the following day)

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After about mile nine we could finally see the mountains to the east of the Thorofare Valley. 

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At mile 10 we made our way to the valley floor and stopped to rest before we had to ford the Yellowstone.

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After scouting a few options, we found a good spot to ford that was only over our knees.

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After a few more miles we finally made it to our destination, the Thorofare Ranger Station. We had seen photos of it, but it was pretty cool to see in person. We also explored the barn and the most remote outhouse. 

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We hung out on the porch, reading the visitor log of those who made the trek before us, waiting for the sun to set.

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Day 4: 14.25 miles, 2,340 ft elevation gain

Now that we had hike the 39 miles to get out here, we were only half way. In our initial plan we were supposed to have a layover day in the Thorofare, but with the new itinerary we would be hiking every day. So we woke up early so we could take in the sunrise before starting our 14 mile day. This morning I noticed that in addition to my hip, my achilles was swollen and it was hard to get my boot on. No biggie, we only had 39 miles to go. Corrie offered to take extra weight and put me on the "mountain skittles" (ibuprofen) regimen to keep the swelling down.

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We hiked back across the valley taking in the views, which were spectacular.

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On our way back across the Yellowstone, the wind had died down from the previous afternoon so much that we were greeted to a nice reflection.

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I mentioned earlier that the previous day we had hiked near a carcass on the trail. On our way back through we were expecting to come across the same smell but didn't. So our guess is that it wasn't a carcass, but more likely a bear that we hiked past. Bears, especially grizzlies, can be very smelly. Since we were seeing lots of tracks and scat in the area where the smell was, and there was no smell the following day, we think there was probably a bear in the area. Eventually we made the climb back out of Lynx Creek to our camp, where we could see tomorrow's objective, Big Game Ridge, rising above the trees in front of us.

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Day 5: 12.25 miles, 2,438 ft elevation gain

We had another early morning and took in the sunrise again. Achilles still swollen, we set out.

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We crossed back over the Snake River and made our way up Big Game Ridge as the clouds slowly started to build.

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This time our views at the top were obscured from a low cloud ceiling. We could see Yellowstone Lake but not the Teton Range. Just as we were finished eating lunch, we heard our first roll of thunder. We packed up and kept heading west.

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Just as we got off the ridge the rain started...and it didn't really stop until we made it back to the car the following day.

Day 6: 12.5 miles, 698 ft elevation gain

This day I only took one photo since it was raining all day. But as we made it back to Snake Hot Springs, it was too pretty to not take my camera out. The cold temps had caused the hot spring to steam.

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The last six miles of the trip was through a flooded trail and deep mud. We called it the "swamp of sorrow" and occasionally felt the need to yell "Artax!!!" After getting home and googling it, I realize that it's actually the "swamp of sadness." When we finally made it to the final crossing of the Snake, we didn't even bother changing shoes. We were covered in mud up to our knees, so we took the opportunity to use the crossing to wash all the mud off.

The trip was a lot of type-2 fun, but now that we are on the couch eating homemade muffins and looking at photos, we can look back on the tip and say it was a good time!


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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/9/thorofare Fri, 08 Sep 2023 19:10:15 GMT
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Aero Lakes https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/8/aero-lakes Aero Lakes has been on our list since 2018. For whatever reason, it didn’t line up for us to put on the books until last year, 2022. In June there was the flood and access was difficult so we pushed it to this summer. Then the weekend we were supposed to do it, it was like 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms so we pushed it back one final time. 

We started from the Lady of the Lakes upper TH and set off for a camp spot at Upper Aero Lake. The trail was mostly through the forest with occasional views along the Zimmer River.

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Once we crossed the river, the trail gains about 1,000 feet in a mile as you approach Lower Aero Lake.

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Near the foot of the lake, the trail turns into more of a route as you navigate around the lake.

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Our plan was to camp at the upper lake, but we were starting to get tired and it was nearing dinner time. So once we made it to the head of the lower lake, we decided to see if we could find a nice camp spot, which we did. The spot came with views of two waterfalls and a reflection pond with a backdrop of Mount Villard.

Once the tent was up, we cracked our beers and went for a swim, then made dinner as the sun dipped below the horizon.

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The next morning I woke up to some spectacular scenery. The wind had died down and the sun was just starting to come up.

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After taking in the sunrise, we ate breakfast and headed out for our layover day. The plan was to head to the upper lake, and both saddles between Rough and Sky Top lakes.

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Once we made it to the pass above Sky Top Lakes, we decided to eat lunch and take in the views of Montana’s tallest mountain, Granite Peak. The wind picked up and the clouds started to build, so we decided to head back to camp.

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The hike out was a little windy, but our packs were lighter and the views were incredible with blue skies.

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We really enjoyed this area and it seems that there is a ton to explore. We were happy with our camp spot and we could stay in the same location for a whole week and do different day hikes each day. Here is the profile from the trip in one direction to our highest point.

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Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the photos!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/8/aero-lakes Fri, 18 Aug 2023 17:04:58 GMT
Yellowstone: Sky Rim https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/8/sky-rim-trail Backpacking trip #2 of 2023 is complete! The Sky Rim Trail has been on our list since 2018. We had plans in place in 2019, but the week we were supposed to go I was injured and needed surgery. So we were excited when we saw that the weather was predicting clear skies for the weekend. We started our big day early in the morning, and decided to do the loop counter clockwise. We were on the fence about which way to go, but we decided to do the uphill through the trees in the coolest part of the day. We made our way through the fields of delphinium, filtered water, and filled up our packs because the Sky Rim is without water. With our packs full of water, we hiked through the subalpine forest and the hillsides of heartleaf arnica until we reached the tundra of the alpine.

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The Black Butte Trail eventually hooks up with the Sky Rim Trail, where we would be on the boundary of Yellowstone and Custer Gallatin National Forest for the next 5+ miles. We decided to hike the ridge over to Wickiup (or Bighorn Peak depending on which map you look at) to take in the views and drink our summit sodas at just a bit under 10K ft. The flanks of the peak offer dramatic views with interesting geology. This area of the park and forest is also where many petrified trees are found. From the peak we were able to check out views into Paradise Valley and Gallatin River Canyon. 

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After our snacks and refreshments, we headed back to the Black Butte Trail junction to continue the hike. We assumed that once you gained all of the elevation by hiking in the direction we did, that the remaining portion of the trail would be relatively downhill and/or flat. That assumption was a bad one! There was a significant amount of downhill, but it was immediately followed by more uphill. With all the ups and downs, we climbed nearly a vertical mile in addition to the huge distance we traveled.

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In between the steep ups and downs, there was the occasional flat sections of trail with expansive views off the trail in both directions.

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The day was hot and the trail is exposed, so we decided to take a break in the shade and grab some snacks. As we ate we realized that we sat in the middle of an archaeological site full of lithic scatter. It's likely that the same reason we rested here, is the same reason that American Indians did also: shelter from the wind and sun and spectacular views in all directions. It appears they sat here crafting their stone tools, presumably watching for wildlife.

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About the midway on the trail between the Daly Creek and Black Butte, directly above Tom Miner Basin, we started hiking my favorite section of the trail. The ridge walk was relatively flat and the views are spectacular.

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As the day went on we started running low on water and regulating our temps were getting challenging without any shade. So when we found a small patch of snow we took full advantage to cool off before continuing along.

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Eventually we came across the Daly Creek Trail junction and started our descent. This is also about the time that we ran out of water.

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Eventually we made it back to the creek where we filtered water and cooled off in the shade. The bugs were fierce, and we weren't the only ones who thought hanging by the water was a good idea on this hot day.

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Here is the profile of the hike. It was a haul, but I think it would be much more enjoyable if we did it again in the fall when the temps are cooler and the bugs are gone. Overall, the Sky Rim is probably my favorite trail in Yellowstone to date. Our to-do list of trails is still long, but if you're into mountains and big views, I would highly recommend this trail. Make sure to bring a filter and lots of bottles to hold water. Thanks for reading, cheers!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Montana Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/8/sky-rim-trail Sat, 05 Aug 2023 18:08:19 GMT
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Elbow Lake https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/7/elbow-lake-MT We kicked off our backcountry season this year (July 7-9) with a new spot for us, Elbow Lake. Our friends who had been before all had great things to say. Here are my favorite photos from the trip, enjoy!

We started off early to beat the heat since it was going to be uphill the entire 8 miles to the lake. There was plenty of water for the dogs along the way which was great.

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Once we started to climb out of the forest, the views of the valley keep getting better and better. The wildflowers were great, but I think we missed the peak of the balsam root by a few days.

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With breaks and lunch, it took us about 6 hours to climb the 3,400 ft and 8 miles with full packs. When we arrived, we were the only people at the lake. We picked a spot to throw up our tents, made dinner, and watched the sunset while enjoying hot apple cider and bourbon.

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The following morning we woke up at sunrise to a completely still lake. We made coffee and breakfast along the shore and watched the light slowly creep down the face of the giant granite walls. There are a few lakes in the basins above Elbow Lake, and our plan for our layover day was to explore the basin to the east of Cowen.

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We started to pick our way up through the boulders and along the creek between the two lakes.

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After taking in the views along the upper lake, we decided to hike up to the ridge for our turnaround spot.

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It was a spectacular day in the mountains. The weather held out all day and we were able to swim back at Elbow Lake before the sun dipped behind the ridge. Around that same time another group of friends showed up in time to eat dinner with us. At sunset we started a fire and passed around the bourbon until it was gone. A great end to an even better day.

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The next morning we were treated to another great sunrise. We ate breakfast while our gear dried out in the morning sun. Eventually we packed up and headed back to the car.

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Overall we had a blast, and it's likely that this will turn into a yearly visit. There are a ton of areas to explore above the lake, so each visit can be a little different. I think a push for the Cowen summit is also likely in the future. Here's the profile of our trip including the layover day, from the trailhead to the highest point we reached. 

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Thanks for dropping in, Cheers!


[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/7/elbow-lake-MT Sat, 29 Jul 2023 13:42:24 GMT
Lava Beds and Tule Lake National Parks https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/7/Lava-Beds-Tule-Lake After our visit to Oregon Caves and Redwoods, Corrie and I headed to Lava Beds and Tule Lake. It was our first visit to these parks as well.

Lava Beds National Monument

We arrived just in time to grab one of the last remaining campsites. We shared it with a nesting Bullock's oriole pair and a few other new birds for us. After dinner we went out for sunset. We had beautiful views of Mount Shasta and learned about the Modoc Indians of the area.

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The next morning, I woke up early with the sunrise and went for a little walk from the campground. We made coffee and we set out early to hike to the off-trail caves. We explored the lava tubes and pictographs, found new birds, and explored our favorite cave of the park, Golden Dome. It has a bacteria that shines gold with a headlamp. We spent the heat of the day underground until our tent received shade from the nearby tree in our camp spot.

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Back at camp we took naps, made dinner, and set out again for sunset. This time we planned to hit nearby wildlife refuges for birding and also catch the sunset at Petroglyph Point. The Tule Lake area used to be completely underwater and was drained for farming. This rock was once surrounded by water and Modoc Indians would float out to it and leave their mark. It's one of the highest concentration of petroglyphs in the US. The refuges are now in place to make up for the lost aquatic habitat lost when the lake was drained. On the way out we came across a rattlesnake in the road, saw tons of nighthawks, and had it essentially all to ourselves. We were able to stop in the road for photos whenever we saw a bird or other wildlife.

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Tule Lake National Monument

Before heading back to the airport, we took a tour at the new Tule Lake National Monument. They have a brand new visitor center that gives tours of the only building left of the Tule Lake Segregation Center, the prison. We were both fairly unfamiliar with the story of the relocation centers, and the tour did a great job of exposing us to another harrowing story of the history of America.

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I enjoyed visiting all the parks, but I have to say that Lava Beds and Tule Lake were the standouts for their natural and cultural resources, respectively. Carlsbad Caverns really got me interested in cave parks, especially those with off-trail caves, and Tule Lake has such a powerful story.

If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time and I'll be sure to share more blogs this summer as we have some cool upcoming trips planned!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) California Lava Beds National Monument photography Tule Lake National Historic Site https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/7/Lava-Beds-Tule-Lake Sat, 01 Jul 2023 23:33:00 GMT
Oregon Caves and Redwoods National Parks https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/6/Oregon-Caves-Redwoods My wife and I recently visited Oregon Caves and Redwoods national parks for the first time. We flew into Medford, excited to leave the airport, shop, and immediately head to Oregon Caves to camp in their campground. When our bags didn't arrive, we called an audible and rented a hotel in town while we waited for our camping gear and clothes to arrive. Not gonna lie, showering and sleeping in a bed after a day of stressful traveling was welcome.

Oregon Caves National Monument

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We hit the road the following morning and stopped at the visitor center in Cave Junction so I could pick up a junior ranger booklet and map of the park. We tried to do some reading as we drove up to the park, but the road is scenic and winding. We arrived early for our cave tour, so we walked around and checkout out the exterior of their historic lodge, which was unfortunately closed for renovations.

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We made our way through the cave in about 90 minutes on a guided ranger tour. The cave is made of marble, apparently only one of three in the US. The other two caves are in Sequoia and Great Basin national parks. There are a few grand rooms, but a majority of the cave is tight quarters, and the secondary formations are not as intricate as other limestone caves like Carlsbad Caverns. We hiked a short trail to warm up after the cave tour and headed on to Redwoods. We would have stayed longer, but the off-trail cave tours had yet to start for the season. A reason to return!

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Once we got out of the cave we hike up to check out the view from the Cliff Trail.

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Redwoods National and State Parks

We camped in Jed Smith Campground for three nights. The first day we kayaked the Smith River where we saw a family of river otters eating a lamprey, plus lots of new birds for us, including a black-crowned night heron eating a salamander. Our goal was to kayak the river to the ocean, but as we neared the estuary, the tide started coming in and the wind started howling. If we stopped paddling full speed, we started moving upriver. We tried to get out of the wind on the other side of the river, but the waves were cresting over our bows, so we bailed back to the other side of the river and let the wind blow us on shore. We used our map to find an alternate take out and had the shuttle meet us there. Once we were out of the water, I was able to confirm that there was a hole in my boat, which was causing me to drag. Needless to say, we were excited to be out of the water after that adventure.

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Back on dry land we headed to the campground where the park was hosting a Tribal (Tolowa) event on the shore of the Smith River. They roasted salmon by fire on redwood spears and made sand bread in the pebbles heated from a fire. The Tribe was also shaping a kayak from a redwood log and teaching the public about the cultural significance. After a short speech and prayer from a Tribal leader, we all ate together on the shore of the Smith River. It was a pretty spectacular event.

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After the event we explored the groves, Stout and Titan. The Stout Grove is one of the most iconic groves, where Star Wars was filmed.

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The Titan Grove is accessed by a brand-new trail and boardwalk system.

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The Following day we headed south to hike the James Irvine / Fern Canyon / Gold Bluffs loop. The hike is about 12 miles and leads you through multiple ecosystems as you make your way through the forest to the coast and back. Near the coast is the popular Fern Canyon, which is basically the only place we encountered any people, other than a few groups hiking the whole trail with us.

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Our final morning, we got up early for sunrise because it was our only opportunity for tide pooling. We drove out and hiked down to Endert's Beach where we explored sea arches, sea stars, anemone, birds, and a dead seal being scavenged by a turkey vulture. This was my first time exploring tide pools, it was a lot of fun to try and find interesting shots while dodging the incoming tide.

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After the tide pools we headed back to camp to pack up and head to Lava Beds National Monument.

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) California kayaking Oregon Oregon Caves National Monument photography Redwoods National and State Parks https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/6/Oregon-Caves-Redwoods Thu, 29 Jun 2023 22:00:00 GMT
Custer Gallatin: Ibex Cabin https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/3/ibex-cabin This trip to Ibex Cabin was our first to the cabin, but our third ski trip to a cabin in Custer Gallatin National Forest. We skied to Crandall Creek Cabin earlier in the winter and went to Trail Creek Cabin the previous winter. 

After the long drive to the trailhead, we got an even later start when our car got stuck in a snow bank. Fortunately, there were some locals who were sledding for the day and threw us the keys to their truck so we could use it to get ourselves out. "Just park it and put the keys in the center console." This is the kinda stuff why I love living out west. We threw a couple beers in the snow near their truck as a thanks before we set out on the six or so miles to the cabin. 

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The views were SPECTACULAR and since it was so late in the season, we had some great conditions to crust cruise. We stopped for lunch after a while, and eventually dropped down to the meadow where the cabin was located.

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We unloaded all of our supplies and relaxed for the evening. Since it was St. Patrick's Day weekend, we skied in a corned beef, some Guinness, and supplies to make green mimosas. We were pretty excited.

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That night I got up to hit the head and noticed that the Milky Way had just risen over the horizon. I didn't bring a tripod with me, but I was able to figure out how to stack a bunch of logs in a way that I could take a few snaps of the stars from the front porch.

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The next morning was another cold, bluebird day so we made coffee and breakfast to let it warm up a bit before we set out for the day to explore.

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There are a few hiking trails from the cabin so we picked one and headed out. Hiking trails aren't the best for skiing always, but we were able to make it work until we got a point where the trail was too steep to follow.

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We turned around, skied back to the cabin and decided to explore the trail on the ridge above the cabin. The views up there are pretty awesome. You can basically see all the way to the Beartooths.

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Back at the cabin, we hung out for the rest of the evening, relaxed, and played games. The next morning we had another great sunrise. We made breakfast and started packing.

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We chopped and hauled wood, did chores, and hit the trail back to the car. But not before we grabbed a group photo on the porch.

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The ski out was great. You have to do the initial climb out of the meadow, but once you're back on the ridge, it's mostly downhill. It was a fun, fast ski back to the car.

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Trip notes: This cabin was about the same size as Trail Creek Cabin, but with the best views of the cabins in the area that we had be to so far. We skied about 16 miles total, 12 of them being in and out from the cabin. I would definitely go back to this cabin again. We aren't big backcountry skiers, but we did see a lot of people in this area with snowmobiles. So if that's you're thing, I think this is a popular spot.

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) cabin Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana ski https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/3/ibex-cabin Sat, 25 Mar 2023 19:25:00 GMT
Custer Gallatin: Crandall Creek Cabin https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/1/crandall-creek-cabin We just got back from our first cabin trip in the Crazy Mountains to Crandall Creek Cabin. We all skied to Trail Creek Cabin in Paradise Valley last winter, but this was the first trip to Crandall for all of us. It was a bittersweet trip because our friends were getting ready to move to Alaska, and this was our last trip together for the foreseeable future. We loaded up our pack with tons of food and alcohol, and started the six or so miles we had to ski into the cabin.

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The winter trail is an oversaw road that is well traveled by snowmobiles. This meant the ski was fairly fast without having to break trail.

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We learned that there is a pretty extensive road system to get to the cabin, which is probably pretty fun if you have a snowmobile to explore the area.

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After winding and climbing through the forest, we arrived at the cabin in an open meadow. We used to small cabins that sleep four people max, so when we opened this cabin we were pleasantly surprised at the size and cleanliness. 

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After unpacking we got a fire going to melt some water and make some drinks. One drink turned into two, and two into six. 

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The next morning we were all a little slow to stir, but we made coffee and breakfast and headed out to ski out the rest of the booze in our system.

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The roads around the cabin were great for skiing since they are better graded than most hiking trails. We founds some nice views of the cabin and surrounding mountains.

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It eventually started snowing on us, which made the skiing a little sticky. So we headed back to the cabin for some DRT (designated rest time). Once we all woke up from our naps, we spent the rest of the evening hanging out at relaxing.

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The following morning we woke up to some beautiful morning light. 

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We packed up the cabin, chopped wood, and grabbed our group photo before heading back to the cars.

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Since most of the ski was downhill back to the car, we made great time even though we made frequent stops to take in the morning views.

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Trip notes: Overall we skied just shy of 19 miles over the three days, with 12 of them being to and from the cabin. The cabin sleeps 6 people with three bunks, and there is a Hugh dining room table with plenty of space for everyone. This is the first of the three cabins in the area that we plan to visit and we would definitely come back here again. Maybe just drink less on day one.

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) cabin Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana ski https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2023/1/crandall-creek-cabin Sat, 21 Jan 2023 20:25:00 GMT
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Lake Fork to Sundance Pass https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/9/sundance-pass Fall means it's time to explore the Beartooths! During last year's trip on "The Beaten Path," the forest ranger we met at Rainbow Lake recommended that we check out Sundance Pass. Our initial plan was to do a through hike starting at Lake Fork and coming out the West Fork, but after the floods in June, we decided to go in and out Lake Fork to avoid the extra 8 miles of road hiking. 

The road in Lamar Valley was also washed out, so we drove through Billings to get to the Trailhead. We spent the night in Red Lodge to get an early start, but also to financially support the town in our small way. On this trip it was myself, Corrie, Toklat, our friend Chris, and his girlfriend Brielle. This trip was her first backpacking experience! The first section of the trail was mostly nondescript, until we got closer to Broadwater Lake. We stopped for lunch and to take in the views.

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As we continued up the trail we crossed the Lake Fork before we started our ascent to September Morn Lake, where we planned to camp for the evening.

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After the steep climb we made it to the lake and found a nice spot on the east shore of the lake to pitch our tents. Once we were settled we grabbed our food and headed to the lake to watch the sunset, make dinner, and have some cocktails.

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That night I woke up to use the facilitrees, and noticed that the stars were out. I didn't think to bring my tripod on this trip, so I made do with a stack of rocks.

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The following morning we woke up with the sun to check out the views and make breakfast. The plan for the day was to hike to the pass and then see where to go from there. 

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Once we climbed out of the trees it was spectacular alpine scenery on a perfect bluebird day. Eventually the tundra was replaced with bare rock as the trail switchbacked its way to the pass.

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At the pass we stopped for snacks, looked at the map, and decided to hike north along the ridge towards Silver Run Peak.

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Occasionally we would walk to the edge to look into West Fork drainage. If it weren't for the flood and impacts to the trail, this would have been the route we would have taken. 

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As we got higher, we started to see familiar mountains, including features like the Bears Tooth. It's always fun exploring a new area but still recognizing features even though you're seeing them from a new vantage point.

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After boulder hopping our way up the ridge we found a great place to relax, crack our beers, and take in the views. We pulled out the map again and decided that instead of backtracking, we could probably make our way down the draining directly north of September Morn Lake to get back to our campsite. On the climb up we got a good look at the drainage and noticed that it was mostly tundra and "green means it goes."

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After some route finding and slow going we made it back to camp after a full day of exploring. And since most of the day was off trail, we were all ready to grab our camp chairs, jump in the lake, and relax for another sunset.

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The next day we packed up and hiked back out to the car. On our way out we did a little scouting of the next drainage over, with First and Second Rock lakes.

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Trip totals: We did about 24 miles with just under 6,000' of elevation in three days. It was definitely one of those trips that allows you to check one thing off your to-do list, but then you add three more. Highly recommended!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/9/sundance-pass Thu, 15 Sep 2022 02:58:00 GMT
Yellowstone: Fawn Pass https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/8/fawn-pass We had a long weekend open up last minute and wanted to head into the backcountry. The only hiking we had done in the Gallatin Range up to this point was Sepulcher, Electric Peak, and Beatty Gulch, so Fawn Pass area sounded like a cool new area to explore. We set off from the Glen Creek TH and walked past a single day hiker, the last person we would see in three days. It was VERY hot and exposed hiking into Gardners Hole, we had to take a beat once we hit the trees to cool off and refuel. Once in Gardners Hole it's a flat hike to hook up with Fawn creek. The hike from there is a slow and steady climb to the pass with beautiful views.

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The following day we decided to hike up to the pass and check out the views. There's a small pond at the top of the pass, where Fawn Creek originates. From there we followed the trail a little further until the views opened up to the west. We were overlooking the Big Game Pass Trail and the Upper Gallatin River drainage.

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After a nice lunch and rest at the pass, we turned back to head back to camp. We were a little past peak wildflowers, but there were still plenty of late-season blooms. 

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That night there was a HUGE storm that blew over Mammoth and glanced us, but we could hear the thunder roaring up the valley all night. The following day on the hike out, it was a little wet, which made it somewhat humid once the sun came out.

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We stopped for a snack in the trees in the same place we did on the way out. This time bull #24 walked pretty close to where we snacking to get some food of his own. On the hike out, he actually caught up to us and we had to move off the trail to give him space to pass. Side note: this is the dominant bull in Mammoth during the rut, and he showed up the following week to start the rut. Kinda cool to see him in his summer range.

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We made short work of the last part of the trail and were back at the car around lunch. 

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Trip notes: We hiked around 26 miles in 3 days with just shy of 3200' of elevation gain. With very few campsites, and the pass about 12 miles away, there's not a ton of people out there. The trailhead is close to the North Entrance too, which means the drive to the trailhead is only like 20 minutes. One of these days we will have to hike it through to 191.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/8/fawn-pass Sat, 20 Aug 2022 06:33:00 GMT
Custer Gallatin: Trail Creek Cabin https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/1/trail-creek-cabin This was our first trip to a cabin in Custer Gallatin National Forest and Toklat's first cabin trip. Normally each winter we like to plan a weekend down at Old Faithful with friends, but the cost of doing that has gotten more and more expensive in recent years. Corrie knew about these cabins and suggested this as a change of pace. You have to book the cabins like 6 months in advance, so by the time it rolled around we almost forget that we booked it. There are a few ways to reach with cabin, but we decided to go the short way which is a hiking trail. That doesn't always guarantee an easy ski, which it wasn't in places. Near the trailhead I actually took my skis off because it was steep, icy, and full of rocks. Once you get out from under the trees, the trail improved and not too much longer we arrived at the cabin.

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Since it was only a couple miles in, we decided to drop our packs and explore around the area. There seemed to be a few trails and roads to choose from, so we decided to head north west from the cabin on a trail, so that we could save the longer ski along the road for tomorrow. The trail climbed out of the forest and for a short while we had some great views back towards the Absarokas and Paradise Valley.

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The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out to explore.

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This time we skied along the road to the northeast of the cabin. When you first leave the cabin there is a short descent before you steadily climb for a few miles.

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Once we got to what appeared to be the top, we decided to ski back to the cabin because our friends could only stay one night. Best thing about skiing uphill all day usually means that you have to ski back downhill. It was a lot of fun to see Toklat get after it.

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Back at the cabin we grabbed a group shot, and then hung out on the porch the rest of the afternoon having drinks in the sun.

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The next morning we enjoyed the peachy sunrise before taking care of cabin chores and then heading back to the trailhead.

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The trail was in a little better shape on the ski out since it was still early and we were able to crust cruise.

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Trip notes: This cabin was very similar to many of the other cabins that we have stayed. Small, one room, decent for two people and cramped for four. I also think the forest is planning some work on the cabin so they will be taking it offline for a bit. Hopefully once they are done with the rehab, the cabin will be in better shape than when we visited. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely needed some TLC. Overall fun trip any time you go to a cabin!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) cabin Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana ski https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2022/1/trail-creek-cabin Sat, 22 Jan 2022 20:25:00 GMT
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Clarks Fork to East Rosebud https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/9/beaten-path Note: We took this trip in 2021, the year before the flood, but I just got around to doing this writeup. Enjoy!

We moved to the area in November of 2016. Our first few summers were spent mostly hiking in Yellowstone. It's crazy that it took us FIVE summers to finally get into the Beartooths. We figured that we would start with a fan favorite, "The Beaten Path." It's aptly named for the high amount of traffic it receives. We planned to do the trip in four days, which meant that we would likely have a day head start on all the people doing it over the holiday weekend in three days. Our friend Chris joined us. This trip was the first overnight in the AB Wilderness for all of us. Also, we can't forget that this would be our new pup Toklat's first backcountry trip also.

We shuttled our cars to East Rosebud the night before and stayed in Red Lodge for the evening. When we woke up we drove over the Beartooth Highway to get to our trailhead, the Clark's Fork Picnic area. Once we made it, we packed up and hiked towards Kersey Lake. The trail was in great shape and the fall colors were looking nice.

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We stopped for lunch at the base of a large granite wall and found what appeared to be a scent tree for bears. We continued along the trail until we hooked up with Russell Creek and followed the trail to the lake, our stopping point for the evening.

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Once we made it to Russell Lake, we found a spot to pitch our tents, grabbed camp chairs, and headed to the lake to relax. We made dinner and drinks and took in a beautiful sunset over the lake.

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The next morning we woke up with the sun and set out early. Our final destination was Fossil Lake, and we read that it could be difficult to find a good camp spot if it was busy.

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This section of the trail led us above tree line and near a handful of lakes, including one of my favorites, Skull Lake.

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Eventually we made it to the pass, which meant that the majority of the climbing for the trip was done. We could see Fossil Lake in the distance, but still needed to hike a couple more miles to get to the area we planned to camp.

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Since we arrived early, we set up tents and decided to take a nap in the warm sun. After our naps we explored around the area a bit and looked for a good place to watch the sunset and have drinks.

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The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise, my favorite moment of the trip. Watching a sunrise from high elevation is always beautiful, the light pops in a way that's hard to explain.

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Once we were all packed, we set out into the East Rosebud drainage. When we told some friends that we were doing this trip, they recommended that we do it from south to north for two reasons: 1) it's less elevation this direction, and 2) save the best views for last. That turned out to be solid advice.

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As we descended into East Rosebud we made it to the first big lake, Dewey, where we stopped for lunch. The views along the lake were spectacular. 

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We heard there was a cool waterfall, Inpasse Falls, but we didn't know how big it was supposed to be. So every little fall or cascade we saw, we debated if that was it or not. Eventually we made it to the actual falls, and we immediately knew that this was the correct falls. The trail takes you right to the brink of the falls where you can overlook Duggan Lake and the entire drainage. Even though we had just stopped not too long ago, we decided that this was well worth another stop. We took a few photos from the brink and then stopped for snacks at the lake below.

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The last section of trail between us and our destination of Rainbow Lake took us along Lake at Falls. From there we would descend the many switchbacks until we made it to the camping area for Rainbow Lake. 

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Now I fully realize that this was Labor Day weekend, but HOLY MOLY was this place crowded. Not exaggerating, there had to be at least 30 groups of people hiking around the lake ranging in size from 2-10 people. It was like spring break at some of the camps with coolers and people grilling out. The ranger working the site said that the site was so heavily used that they were starting to see coliform bacteria in water samples in Rainbow Lake. He actually recommended that we filter water from the inlet creek versus the lake. So it's safe to say that we were ok with getting out of there ASAP. The following morning we woke up early and hit the trail. Again, the views were spectacular and we could see why the trail was so popular.
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Eventually we made it past Rainbow Lake and were greeted to more views of the valley and Rimrock Lake below.

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Once we passed Rimrock Lake, the last stretch of the trail would descend through towering granite walls on both sides. 

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Eventually we would make it to the last lake along the trail, Elk, where we stopped for a brief bit to water the dog and take in the views.

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On the final stretch of the trip, we neared East Rosebud Lake. More granite, small waterfalls, and mountain vistas.

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When we made it to East Rosebud Lake it was early afternoon. We still needed to drive back around to the trailhead and pick up our shuttle vehicle so we didn't waste much time at the trailhead. Also, this area is a popular day hike trailhead so there were lots of people. Just another reason to boogie.

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Trip notes: In total we hiked just shy of 27 trail miles and climbed about 3,600'. As long as you plan to arrive early, Russel and Fossil lakes are both great camp spots. You'll need a bear can for Fossil since it's above tree line. If you're looking for a Wilderness experience, I would avoid Rainbow Lake if possible. There are a few spots along Rimrock Lake, but there are less of them. The trip was awesome, but since it's so busy and there are lots of cool places to explore in the Beartooths, this might be the only time we do it. Definitely worth a visit if you've never been.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/9/beaten-path Thu, 16 Sep 2021 02:58:00 GMT
Yellowstone and North Absaroka Wilderness: Sunlight Basin to Lamar Valley https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/8/sunlight-lamar We planned this trip for a couple years after hearing great things about the east side of the park and Hoodoo Basin. There's not a ton of alpine terrain in Yellowstone that's easily accessible, so I was excited at the prospect of exploring above tree line in the backcountry. We had a couple friends from Utah, Will and Susan, come up to join us for the trip.

We dropped a car at Lamar River TH and shuttled around to Sunlight Basin. We were able to get within a mile of the Wilderness boundary. There seemed to be a trail crew who had come through recently, but there must have been a recent wind storm after that effort because there were downed trees everywhere! It took us about three hours to go two miles. In places we would have to climb stacked jackstraw that would be 8-10' high with full packs. It was fun but challenging.

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Eventually we reached our Sunlight Creek crossing, the last water on the route for the day, so we stopped for lunch and filtered water before we started our climb to the park boundary.

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Once we climbed out of the trees, the views were spectacular. It was a little hazy that day from fires to the west of us, but it wasn't so bad that it totally obscured views or made it hard to breathe.

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At the boundary we decided to take a break and enjoy the views in all directions. 

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The next day our plan was to hike from the eastern boundary of the park to Miller Creek. This section would also take us through Hoodoo Basin, which is the area we were most excited to visit. The only issue was that there was a low cloud ceiling, and since we were at 10K feet elevation, we were hiking in the clouds.

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Even though we were in the alpine, it was still extremely slow going because the trail was only marked with cairns and blazes every so often. We tried a handful of strategies to navigate, including one person standing at the last known trail marker while the other three people wandered into the clouds to look for the next one. This did work, but since we had such a long day of travel, we ultimately decided to break out our GPS to get us through the clouds until the trail was more well worn again.

After a little while longer, hiking through trees and still more clouds, we decided to take a break in what appeared to be a small clearing. As we hydrated, the clouds parted slowly revealing that we were actually sitting in Hoodoo Basin. We decided to take advantage of this serendipitous moment and explore the area a little more closely.

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As we were getting ready to leave the clouds started rolling back in. As we hiked out of the basin the hoodoos were once again completely obscured. It was one of those Yellowstone magic moments. Had we been there any earlier or later, we may have walked right through the area without realizing it. As we walked through the pass near Parker Peak we noticed lithic scatter everywhere, which makes sense that people would sit there and lookout for wildlife to hunt.

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After the pass the trail was mostly flat or downhill, which finally took us out of the clouds. 

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Eventually we could see Miller Creek below us, we just had to hike down the switchbacks on the feature colloquially known as "Parachute Hill." It was a little muddy so we had to take our time. We rolled into camp, made dinner, and hit the sack not long after.

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The plan for this day was to hike out of the Miller drainage to the confluence with Lamar River. It was overcast, but at least it wasn't raining. The views along Miller Creek were mostly in the trees but occasionally we did get some views of the creek, and to our surprise a HUGE petrified redwood tree stump. We also came across some fairly fresh bear tracks.

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Eventually we made it to the confluence and both Miller Creek and Lamar River were extremely turbid from all the rain. The sliver lining is that it knocked any smoke out of the air we had the couple days before.

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We made it to camp, set up tents, and shortly after we were visited by this bison. We were able to watch him from our camp as he used this tree as a scratching post. We were also treated to a nice sunset along the river.

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The last morning of the trip we woke up to clear skies along the river. We packed up early and hit the trail, headed back to our car at Lamar River TH.

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We made it to our final creek crossing of the trip, Cache Creek, and it was basically a bison highway. The trail through the trees was like 12' wide. Once we were on the other side we found ourselves in Lamar Valley proper with the thousands of bison in the valley for the rut. It was a pretty awesome way to end the trip, watching the bulls chase cows throughout the valley as the sound of their bellows filled the air.

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Trip notes: the total trip was just over 36 miles and 6,200' of elevation gain. This is a really cool route because of the diversity of ecosystems you get to walk through. Hiking the eastern boundary in the alpine and Hoodoo Basin were my two favorite parts of the trip. If we had better weather, it would have been fun to explore more in the alpine. Even though we were hiking on "trail," I'm glad we had backup navigation tools for when the weather didn't cooperate. Some of the longer days hiking through the mud, we did encounter some type-2 fun, but overall this was a great trip and is now one of our favorites that we have done in Yellowstone.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking North Absaroka Wilderness Shoshone National Forest Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/8/sunlight-lamar Thu, 26 Aug 2021 02:58:00 GMT
Yellowstone: Heart Lake & Mount Sheridan https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/7/heart-lake Hey everyone,

After talking about it for a few years, we finally made the plan to hike out to Heart Lake and Mount Sheridan. We drove the two hours to the trailhead from the North Entrance and got on trail about 10am. The first few miles of the trail are fairly boring, since it's a sandy trail and through thick lodgepole forest. Eventually we popped out of the trees and we could see the lake in the distance. We also started to see some of the many thermal features in the area.

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Once we made it off the ridge, we descended down to Witch Creek and followed it out to the lake the rest of the way.

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Once we arrived at the lake, we hung out at camp for a little bit until it cooled off. We took the opportunity to explore around the lake and check out the Heart Lake Ranger Station.

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The next morning I got up for sunrise to get some photos of first light on Mount Sheridan, which we planned to hike that day.

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Unfortunately, a little haze from fires in California had drifted into the area. It wasn't so bad that you could feel it while hiking, but it did affect our long-distance views. 

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At the top, we also got to meet a little pika friend living under the Fire Lookout. He was nervous at first, but after a while he came out to grab some food.

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We did the same. We cracked the beers we packed in, sat in the shade of the fire lookout, and ate our snacks taking in the views.

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On the way down, we decided to take a different route. Instead of taking the trail the entire way, we cut off just before we got back to the campground so we would have the opportunity to look down on the Heart Lake Geyser Basin.

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Back at camp it was crazy hot, so we jumped in the lake to cool off. As we were drying off, a 10" leech swam by. Glad we didn't have a Stand By Me moment. The next day we hiked out the same way and stopped in the Grant Village area to get some ice cream. Best way to end a trip in the backcountry!

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Trip notes: We hiked around 24 miles over the three days, about eight miles each day. We have some friends that did it in two, but that sounds more like a suffer fest to me. It would be cool to go back and spend more time exploring the Heart Lake Geyser Basin.

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/7/heart-lake Tue, 13 Jul 2021 03:27:00 GMT
Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/3/rocky-mountain-winter A buddy of mine had a birthday coming up and I was able to fly to Denver for a long weekend. I've spent a lot of time in Rocky in the summer, but I had never been in the winter. So we made a plan to stay in Estes for a couple nights and snowshoe into the mountains for a couple days. We arrived  too early to check into our hotel, so we hit the climbing gym in town and then the bar for a couple beers. We decided to head to Sprague Lake for sunset, which was nice. Normally it's so crowded in the summer but there were only a few of us walking the trail.

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The following morning we drive up to Bear Lake so we could hike up Flattop Mountain. I've done this hike in the summer a few times, and I knew it was fairly safe from avalanche danger.

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Eventually we started to climb out of the trees and got some nice views of the mountains, including Longs Peak. Unfortunately, climbing out of the trees also meant the wind picked up. Substantially.

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As we climbed out of the Krummholz and into the alpine, we were completely exposed. It was straight wind in the face as we climbed up the mountain. Occasionally the wind would gust and completely obscure the views.

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It was slow going with the wind and the snow. As we neared the top the weather came in and we decided ti find a spot to crack our beers and have some snacks. 


On the way down we came across a few groups of ptarmigan in winter plumage. It's crazy how close we got to them before we noticed them.

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We made it back to the trailhead in one piece and hit Ed's for some killer Mexican food and margaritas. We had one more day to explore around but we were a little sore from the day before. So we headed back to Bear Lake but instead of climbing, we hiked out to Nymph, Dream, and Emerald lakes.

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On the way back to town we had to stop and get a nice photo of Longs Peak and the Diamond. Overall, it was a short but great boys birthday trip!


[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Colorado Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoe Winter https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2021/3/rocky-mountain-winter Mon, 22 Mar 2021 02:44:00 GMT
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Moab, UT https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/10/Grand-Staircase-Escalante Just got back from 2 weeks in the high desert with Corrie and Toklat. We had plans for Corrie's 40th birthday to spend a couple weeks in France, but covid had other plans. Since we added the pup to our pack we had to avoid national parks when we wanted to hike. That meant hitting mostly USFS and BLM spots. It was nice exploring new trails in familiar areas. Having the pup also forced us to get up early to beat the heat which meant we got to watch the sunrise on our hikes without having to share the views with crowds. The first on the list was to hike Corona Arch. 

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After hiking in the morning and relaxing during the afternoon heat, we decided to do a picnic dinner up in the iSky district of Canyonlands. Once we made it out to the end of the road, we cracked open the wine and charcuterie and took turns staying in the parking lot with Toklat since pets weren’t allowed on the overlook or trail. When it was my turn, I saw someone on the paved overlook with a dog who walked right past the “no pet” sign. I thought to myself, “whatever, it’s just along the sidewalk portion of the overlook.”

I shrugged it off and set out down the trail to snap a few photos. When I was hiking back up the trail the dog owner I saw earlier was coming down the trail with his dog so I politely said, “you might have missed the sign (he didn’t), but pets aren’t allowed on the trails.” He responded, “sorry I didn’t want to leave my FAMILY member at the trailhead.” For whatever reason that really rubbed me the wrong way. As a new pet owner I’m just now starting to notice how limiting parks are when it comes to pets, but we don’t get to pick and choose what rules to follow in parks. And while I’m on my soapbox, people who falsely claim their pets as service animals is also crap. I’m curious if anyone else out there feels the same way or if I’m the only one.

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The following morning we headed out to Fisher Towers for sunrise. This was a new hike for all of us. It's super fun, but there are a few ladders that might be tough for bigger dogs since you have to lower them up and down the ladders.

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At the end of the trail we found a nice spot overlooking the canyon and cracked some breakfast beers.

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The rest of the day we spent along the river to keep cool, and then went out for our anniversary dinner. The next day we drove over to Escalante and checked into our campsite.

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After our quick stop in Moab, we headed west to Escalante where we camped for the week. The first day we decided to drive around the area and pop into a few places, including Bryce Canyon since my buddy Chris had never been. No matter how many times you see the Amphitheater, it never gets old. We didn’t hike this time because we had Toklat with us, but it was nice to soak in the views from the rim.

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On the drive back to camp we saw a sign for the Toadstool Hoodoos Trail. We were sick of being in the car so we decided to hike the short distance even though it was a little hot outside. We around plenty of water to make sure everyone stayed cool.

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The following day was a trip to Zebra Canyon. Chris' cousin Brian met up with us and its was a new hike for everyone. This place had been on my list since I lived in Moab, eight years ago. We set out early and were the only people on the trail.

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We didn't know what to expect, but when we got to the canyon there was about three feet of standing water. We all took our shoes off and made our way though. We also took turns passing Mr. T through obstacles so he didn't get stuck of have to get wet. Lucky boy.

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Eventually you get to the back part of the slot where you can tell how the canyon got its name. It's not very big, so if it were crowded I could see that being an issue, but it was cool to have it to ourselves.

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On the hike out we came across a few groups so it seems like we planned it perfectly. From there we headed over to Devils Garden to check out Metate Arch.

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Back at camp we grabbed showers and relaxed before heading out to watch the sunset.


Another day and another hike, this time to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The cool morning air filled the canyon and the cottonwood trees were just starting to change color.

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There was a good amount of people at the falls, but it didn't feel crowded. We chilled our beers in the water and took a swim to cool off. It's pretty crazy how lush this canyon is compared to a lot of the surround areas. Gotta love water in the desert.

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Chris had to peel off this day, so it was just the three of us again. This time we planned to hike the Willis Creek Narrows. The road to get to the trailhead was too much for our Subaru to handle, it was only jeeps and trucks at the trailhead. That didn't stop us though, we just had to walk the road for a mile or so. And we were glad we did because this canyon was freaking AWESOME! It's not as narrow as Zebra, but it's like three miles long. It's a great place to escaped the heat and plus there was water for the dog the entire time. I would definitely go back here again.

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Back at camp we hung out, drank beers, made a fire, and relaxed. 

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Today's adventure we planned to hike "The Box." There are a few ways to do this hike, the most popular being a shuttle and hike it all downhill. Since we didn't have two cars and we were limited on mileage with the pup, we decided to just hike it from the lower trailhead.

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It was a lot of creek crossings and neither of us wanted wet feet so we stopped a lot. Eventually you climb out away from Pine Creek and get cool views of the canyon.

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Once we figured we were far enough, we found a spot in the shade to crack beers and have lunch before turning around. It would be nice to do this hike again with the shuttle.

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Our last day in the area we decided to hike out to Escalante Natural Bridge. Fall colors were looking nice and this time we hiked in our Chacos because we knew we were doing a lot of river crossings.

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Eventually we made it out to the natural bridge, which was cool, but we also unexpectedly came across a petroglyph panel. I think this was my favorite part of the hike.

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There was also some ruins next to the panel, not sure how people got up there to build a dwelling.

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After the hike we drove over the Burr Trail Road to Singing Canyon, a nice walkable canyon right off the road. All the way at the back we heard some voices and as we got back there we saw some people canyoneering. The dude was coming off a HUGE rappel. 

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After the hike we drove back to camp and made a few pit stops to take photos from the overlooks.

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We were bummed that we weren't able to do the France trip, but this was a nice consolation prize. I really love the Colorado plateau and I hope to spend even more time there in the future!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument hiking Moab photography Utah https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/10/Grand-Staircase-Escalante Sun, 18 Oct 2020 03:45:00 GMT
Yellowstone and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Hellroaring Creek to Coyote Creek https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/7/yellowstone-and-absaroka-beartooth-wilderness-hellroaring-to-coyote-creek This trip starts and ends in Yellowstone National Park, but both nights of camping are outside the park's northern boundary in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. We had never been to the area, so we weren't sure if there were designated camp spots or not. But we had a few areas in mind that would make a good camp spot if we could find a clearing. The hike was uneventful until we decided to stop for a snack around the Montana/Wyoming border. Once we sat down in the shade we were immediately bombarded by mosquitoes. We threw our rain gear on and sprayed some bug repellant. Little did we know that this wouldn't be the last bug encounter on this trip.

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After a couple hours on the Hellroaring Trail, we made it to the northern boundary and it was heavily forested. We were a little worried about finding a spot, but it turns out there is a hardened site with hang pole and all. We were pleasantly surprised. AND it even had a nice swimming hole to jump in for a swim and cool off.

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The next morning we woke up early to beat the heat and started our climb. The wildflowers were blooming and the scary beautiful. Not a ton of shade so the day started getting hot as the sun rose higher.

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Eventually we made it to our first trail junction and bridge crossing. There was a gigantic log jam at the base of the bridge. We couldn't help but think that was an accident waiting to happen if there was a flood.

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We also stopped by the Historic Hellroaring Station, built in 1925, for a snack break and photo.

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From here we would cross over Hellroaring Creek again and start our climb up and around Bull Mountain. By this time in the day we are starting to drag a little bit, the wind died down, and the temps were warm. As soon as we started our climb we entered into a forested and swampy area that was FULL of mosquitoes. It was too hot for rain gear, and the bug spray only did so much. The only thing we could think to do was to hike as fast as we could to get out of the trees and find a breeze. 

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Just as we were about to bonk, we gained the saddle around Bull and were greeted by a glorious wind in our face. We took the time to sit in the shade to cool off and refuel. While we were sitting we saw two people ride by on horseback in the distance; the only people we saw for the entire three days of the trip.

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Our goal was to camp as close to the boundary as possible, near reliable water. Since we were kind of winging it, when we came across a flat spot under some big trees, we figured that would work as good as any other spot. We dropped our packs and set up camp.

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The following morning the wind died completely and we could hear the mosquitoes buzzing outside our tent, waiting for their next meal. We decided that having a leisurely breakfast was a bad idea, so we ate breakfast as we walked in circles in rain gear attempting to keep bugs out of our face. Then we packed up and headed back towards the park along Coyote Creek. We reached the boundary after a mile or so and it was mostly smooth sailing back to the trailhead. As we neared some of the park camp sites, it started raining on us a bit, but nothing torrential.

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Right before we crossed the Hellroaring Bridge over the Yellowstone River, a black bear sauntered down the trail forcing us to jump off the trail to keep a safe distance. On the climb out back to the car we saw another black bear and cub. Apparently it's a very berry area!

Trip notes: Other than the bugs, the 22 miles and 3,300' elevation gain was a real treat. I think my favorite part of the trip was the section along the Hellroaring where we camped and got to swim. We also hiked by the Buffalo Plateau area and I think we need to explore in that area a little more. Overall, fun trip and great to see a new area!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/7/yellowstone-and-absaroka-beartooth-wilderness-hellroaring-to-coyote-creek Thu, 02 Jul 2020 03:31:00 GMT
Yellowstone River: Point of Rocks to Mayor's Landing https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/5/point-of-rocks-to-livingston Only a few months into lockdown and with spring trying to emerge, we decided that a river trip was just what the doctor ordered. After packing up the food, beer, and gear we arrived at the Point of Rocks put in just in time for it to start snowing. After a very short debate of whether or not we should still go, we unloaded boats and shuttled vehicles to Livingston. When we got back to Point of Rocks, the weather had changed for the better and we shoved off for 40 or so river miles ahead of us. The river was high and flowing fast, which meant we should arrive to camp fairly early.

Along the river we had excellent views of all the spring birds including bald eagles and osprey fishing along the river. We even got to see some baby mergansers floating with mom.

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Even though it was a little chilly, the sun came out and Paradise Valley was living up to its name.

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About halfway on the run, we found some islands where we planned to camp for the evening. We unloaded the boats, gathered firewood, made dinner and drinks, watched the sunset, and relaxed by the fire.

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The following morning was a beautiful sunrise and a beaver swam by camp for a visit. After breakfast and mimosas, we shoved off for another beautiful day on the river.

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It was a perfect bluebird day, so we just sat back and let the world drift by.

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Once we reached Livingston, we unloaded the boats and headed home. A great trip in our backyard to kick off the summer season adventures!

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Notes: The trip was around 40 miles in length and it took us about 8 hours on the river to float the entire stretch. You don't need permits to float this section, but it is a popular day use area, especially in the summer.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) float trip Montana Yellowstone River https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2020/5/point-of-rocks-to-livingston Thu, 28 May 2020 02:58:00 GMT
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness: Lake Abundance Creek to Wolverine Creek https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/9/lake-creek-lost-wolverine-loop We heard about this loop from some friends the year before. Our friend Patrick decided to join us on this overnight trip. Unfortunately we were given some incorrect information and didn't take the time to follow up on it. We thought our first day was going to be about 10 miles and all flat or downhill, so we didn't feel the need to get a super early start. So after driving to Cooke City, MT, and up to the trailhead we started out on the 4x4 road until we made it to the Wilderness Boundary. A few groups on ATVs passed up but they were all just going to Lake Abundance.

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Eventually we made it to the boundary and the Lake, and that was the last of people we would see for the day.

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We were surprised with the fall colors in the high country, the weather was still still warm. It made for a hot day of hiking without any exposure.

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At around 10 miles we made it to the Slough Creek Valley, but the miscommunication was that it was about 3 miles between the two valleys. So instead of stopping, we kept hiking along looking for our trail junction. After hiking an hour longer than we should have, we all started bonking and decided to stop and refuel. After a brief rest to ee rolled into our camp spot just before sunset.

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I had read that there was a chance for northern lights so I decided to set an alarm for the evening. I'm glad I did, the stars were gorgeous and we did get a small glimmer of aurora looking up Slough Valley.

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The following morning we got an early start because we knew it was going to be a difficult climb out along Wolverine Creek.

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It was another blue sky day and again, not much shade. So when we took breaks, we took advantage of the shade we could find. This section of the trail didn't have as much fall color, but the views of the mountains were better in my opinion. Along the trail all we could talk about was hitting the gas station in Cooke City and getting an ice cold gatorade with a bag of chips.

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We made it back to the car early afternoon, plenty of time to hit the store and take our time driving home through the park. As we were driving back to US212, we were first on scene for an ATV rollover accident. Since Corrie is an EMT, we stopped and offered the person medical attention while their son drove into cell service to call 9-1-1. Meanwhile, while all this happening we are sitting out in the hot sun, exhausted, without water, waiting for EMS to airlift the patient to the hospital and move the crashed vehicle from the road so we could drive home. The lady who crashed ended up being ok, just some bangs and bruises. Crazy end to the trip.

Trip notes: We hiked just shy of 23 miles with 3,300' of elevation in two days. In an area that doesn't have a ton of loop routes, it was fun to be able to start and end in the same place without backtracking.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness backpacking Custer Gallatin National Forest Montana https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/9/lake-creek-lost-wolverine-loop Thu, 05 Sep 2019 02:58:00 GMT
San Juan National Forest: Ice and Island Lakes https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/8/ice-island-lakes Our planned backcountry basecamp spot was only about 3 miles in. Beyond that was above tree line and we didn't want to be too exposed. From our basecamp we would day hike in the surrounding area and return to camp each night. Since it was such a short (but steep) hike in, we were able to convince our friends without backcountry gear to hike in for the day and explore with us. Also, since they didn't have heavy packs and are badasses, we convinced them to hike in with some beer for the day. It was a great plan all around.

The following morning we woke up, broke camp at 6 am and headed to the trailhead. Once we had a parking spot secured we could make breakfast and pack for the trip. Good thing we did because the entire trailhead parking was full by 7 am. We housed our breakfast burritos and set off.

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We made short work of the 1900', 3 mile climb and found a great spot to set up camp. The flowers were OFF THE RAILS. They were the biggest, densest, and tallest patches of wildflowers I think I've ever seen.

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We explored the lower basin, and enjoyed the sun while it was around. We grabbed naps, then dinner, and decided to hike to the upper basin to scout plans for sunrise. The upper basin was gorgeous, but the weather wasn't great. We had some beers and whiskey for the sunset and then headed back to camp for the evening. 

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The next morning we woke up for sunrise and headed back to the upper basin where we would meet up with our day hike folks.

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We made out way back up to Ice Lake and holy moly was it a SPECTACULAR sunrise up there. As soon as we crested the high point of the trail and the lake came into view, we were greeted to a COMPLETELY different view from the night before. Cerulean blue lake, surrounded by the colorful San Juan mountains.

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After about an hour of relaxing and swimming, the beer team showed up. As they pulled all the beer out of their backpacks, they revealed that they had carried about 25 beers up! It was only 8 am in the morning but we all cracked one to celebrate how lucky we felt to all be in this beautiful spot together.

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From Ice Lake we continued to Island Lake, where we planned to spend the day relaxing and drinking beers.

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When they initially pulled out 25 beers I was a little worried that we weren't going to be able to finish them all. But by 11 am we were already running low. After going back and forth with each other, I was dared to try and swim out to the island. Being a fan of cold water and a few beers deep I decided to try. I'm pretty sure I only made it about 1/3 of the way before I could feel the blood draining from my arms causing them to cramp. Next time I need to bring up a little boat or something.

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After a bit of swimming the clouds started rolling in and since the beer was mostly gone we figured that was our cue to head back to the tents anyway. About halfway back to camp the sky opened up with a mix of hail and rain, but no lightning. We said bye to the half of our group that wasn't overnight camping and laid down for a nap. The rest of the day was non-stop rain. I took advantage of being extra relaxed from the multiple IPA's at 12K feet elevation to lay down and listed to the sounds of the rain on the tent. It was such an awesome day.

The next morning we broke camp and the sun came out enough for us to dry out before packing up. In no time we were back at the trailhead where fresh clothes and cold beers awaited us. After loading up the trucks we headed to lodge, it was wedding time!


Trip notes: You can easily do the hike as a day hike, but we thought it would be nice to wake up in the backcountry. If we have a chance to go back, I think I would probably climb up Grant Peak and check out the views. If you have a 4x4, there are also some sweet trails in the area like up to Clear Lake and Ophir Pass.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Colorado San Juan National Forest https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/8/ice-island-lakes Sun, 11 Aug 2019 06:05:00 GMT
Grand Teton: Owen Spalding Route https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/7/climbing-the-grand Have you ever had an idea or goal that you always wanted to accomplish, but life kinda got in the way? Or maybe the idea was was a little too big and you just wrote it off as a pipe dream? Well that goal for me was climbing Grand Teton. When I moved to Jackson in the winter of 2008 it was my first time living in the mountains. I’d never been hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, or anything outdoorsy other than car camping, really. That winter living in the mountains set me on a different path though. I knew that’s where I wanted to be, even though I was a fish out of water. When I left Jackson that spring and drove back to Florida, I remember visiting the park one last time for sunrise and thinking how awesome it would be to experience standing on top of that mountain.

During the 11 years that followed I slowly picked up more outdoor skills as I traveled the US: hiking, backpacking, climbing, and caving. Then last winter my buddy Chris got into mountaineering and asked if I’d be interested in joining him on an expedition. "Hell no... but I have always wanted to climb the Grand.” So, over [one too many] beers @cmferrante, @andyustinphoto, and I agreed that we would make a run at it this summer. 

The day had finally arrived. The plan had us hiking to the Lower Saddle to camp, summit, and then hike out. The advice we got for the approach was to start early, hike slowly, and enjoy the views. So the night before we packed our bags, divided up my extra weight I couldn’t carry (I HAD A DOCTOR”S NOTE GUYS), and loaded up the POWERWAGON!!! We arrived at the trailhead, moved the coolers into the cab of the truck, and vowed to return a few days later to consume the contents in celebration. We were off.

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We slowly made our way through the meadow, up the foothills, stopping often to drink water and eat snacks. A few weeks earlier, when I found out I needed surgery, I called the team and gave them the opportunity to back out. Both said as long as I felt good enough to hike that they were in to carry the extra weight. Since my pack was only supposed to be 25 lbs, that meant Chris and Andy were carrying close to 60-65, even though I was over my limit. So it was definitely slow going.

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Eventually we made it into Garnett Canyon where the trees and grasses were replaced with granite walls. The trail also petered out and became more uneven. We made our way through boulders, over moraines, across snowfields, along waterfalls, and up scree, until we reached the crux of the hike known as the “headwall.”

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Once we all made it safely up we felt a single drop of rain, so I suggested we duck under a nearby glacial erratic to let the storm pass. Our timing couldn’t have been better. For the next 30 or so minutes it hailed nearly 2”, then rained, then hailed some more. It was a perfect opportunity to grab more snacks and watch and listen to the lightning and thunder roll over our heads. Once the storm passed we were greeted with a spectacular double rainbow.

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The last 10 minute push and we arrived at the Lower Saddle. We filtered water, made dinner, drank whiskey, watched the sunset, and studied the route we planned to tackle in the morning.

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I went to bed nervous, doubts were flowing through my head. I wasn’t sure if I was healthy enough to climb. It’s the first time in a long time that I thought I may have been in over my head. The next day we woke up to strong winds and rain. Since our permit allowed us more time, we decided to take a layover day and not push for the summit. We checked the weather for the following day and it called for clear skies. So we just hung out in camp for the day and took in the windy views.

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Eventually the clouds parted and we were greeted to a spectacular sunset. I took the time to get Chris a new Tinder photo.

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The next day my alarm went off at 3:30 am. Coffee and breakfast by headlamps. My nerves were on edge as we watched the guided teams leave one by one ahead of us. We filtered water, loaded up our gear, and I made sure we each had our summit soda for the top. As we picked our way through the route it was slow going. I read the route enough times that everything was memorized, but doing it in the dark was challenging. Black Dyke, check. Chockstone chimney, check. Eye of the Needle, check. Just as we made it to the Central Rib I looked back to check on the guys. The beautiful pink light that hits the mountains first thing in the morning was here, and it wasn’t thousands of feet above us, but below us, enveloping the Middle Teton. 

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Once we gained the Upper Saddle Chris took over. He had been training for weeks for this moment: his first lead climb. Pitch after pitch, Chris led us through icy chimneys until we arrived at the final slabs.

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As we gained the summit ridge I was overwhelmed with emotions I haven’t felt many times in my life: the first time I saw Denali or Halema’uma’u under the Milky Way, flying over Glacier, and watching my wife walk down the aisle. As we took in the cloudless views from the 13,770’ peak, I was covered in goosebumps.

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As we cracked our beers and toasted the accomplishment, our celebration turned back to focus: we were only halfway.

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We picked our way down, rappelled, and scrambled our way back to camp.

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We arrived just in time for the best sunset of the trip.

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The following morning we slept in til 8, packed up camp, and hit the trail. I'd like to say our packs felt lighter, but the food weight we carried in was replaced by our crap-filled wag bags. At least the weather was spectacular.

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Looking back, I still can’t believed it all happened. Teamwork definitely makes the dream work! Here's to the next adventure!

Trip notes: Getting to the Lower Saddle is fairly straightforward, but a difficult hike. The Owen Spalding Route is also very doable for novice climbers, like myself, if you study the route and have the right gear. We were fortunate with a good weather window and that's likely the only reason we were able to summit on this trip. Guided trips the day before us turned back due to fog and snow.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking climbing Grand Teton National Park Wyoming https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/7/climbing-the-grand Thu, 18 Jul 2019 02:58:00 GMT
Australia: The Land Down Under https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/4/australia I've been wanting to visit Australia for a while, but when we found out our friends from Melbourne were getting ready to move, we figured it was time to finally pull the trigger. We took off on Friday night and landed on Sunday morning. Our friend's picked us up at the airport and took us to their place downtown. We spent the day exploring, snacking, and bar hopping, trying to stay up as late as possible to avoid jet lag. The following day we jumped in the car and headed west to the Great Ocean Road. On the way through Great Otway National Park we saw our first wildlife sighting: a koala was walking across the road. We couldn't tell what is was at first, but when we finally realized what it was, I screamed to pull the car over and jumped out of a quick photo.

Koala climbing a treeKoala climbing a tree Koala checking us out through the treeKoala checking us out through the tree

When we stopped for a coffee and a bathroom break, there were crazy birds we've never seen before. You'll notice a lot of bird photos throughout this blog.

Masked Lapwing - Vanellus milesMasked Lapwing - Vanellus miles Galah Cockatoo - Eolophus roseicapillaGalah Cockatoo - Eolophus roseicapilla Silver Gulls - Chroicocephalus novaehollandiaeSilver Gulls - Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae White-faced heron - Egretta novaehollandiaeWhite-faced heron - Egretta novaehollandiae

Eventually we made it to our destination for the day: Twelve Apostles Marine National Park. It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived. We explored the boardwalks and trails until we saw a big storm cell coming in off the ocean.

Afternoon sunshine at Twelve Apostles (wide)Afternoon sunshine at Twelve Apostles (wide) Afternoon sunshine at Twelve ApostlesAfternoon sunshine at Twelve Apostles Waves crashing into the Twelve ApostlesWaves crashing into the Twelve Apostles Twelvele Apostles alternate viewTwelvele Apostles alternate view Arch at twelve apostlesArch at twelve apostles

Our next big exploration day we headed out to Dandenong Ranges National Park. As soon as we got our of the car we were surrounded by exotic birds. Super colorful birds that you only see as pets in the states were all around us. We spent the day hiking through the forest, looking for birds, kangaroos, and wombats. Sadly, we never saw a wombat, only the square poops they left behind.

The sun shines through the DandenongsThe sun shines through the Dandenongs Crimson Rosella Parrot - Platycercus elegansCrimson Rosella Parrot - Platycercus elegans Sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) in flightSulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) in flight Grey Fantail - Rhipidura albiscapaGrey Fantail - Rhipidura albiscapa Australian King Parrot - Alisterus scapularisAustralian King Parrot - Alisterus scapularis Superb lyrebird - Menura novaehollandiaeSuperb lyrebird - Menura novaehollandiae Laughing Kookaburra - Dacelo novaeguineaeLaughing Kookaburra - Dacelo novaeguineae Sulphur-crested cockatoo - Cacatua galeritaSulphur-crested cockatoo - Cacatua galerita Yellow wattlebird - Anthochaera paradoxaYellow wattlebird - Anthochaera paradoxa Pied Currawong (2) - Strepera graculinaPied Currawong (2) - Strepera graculina Eastern Yellow Robin - Eopsaltria australisEastern Yellow Robin - Eopsaltria australis Long-billed Corellas - Cacatua tenuirostrisLong-billed Corellas - Cacatua tenuirostris

When we were't doing trips our of the city, we would hit up the city parks. A super cool spot was the Royal Botanic Gardens. Lots of cool plants and birds to check out including my favorite bird of the trip, the Rainbow Lorikeet.

Rainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus moluccanusRainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus moluccanus Nymphaea LilyNymphaea Lily Pied Currawong - Strepera graculinaPied Currawong - Strepera graculina South Australia state flower - Sturt's Desert Pea - Swainsona formosaSouth Australia state flower - Sturt's Desert Pea - Swainsona formosa Rat Tail CactusRat Tail Cactus

Another great day in the city day we jumped on the tram and headed to St. Kilda Pier. We were hoping to get a glance at the smallest penguin species in the world: the fairy penguin. We found out that during the day they head out into the open water to hunt so we didn't have much luck. But after looking in the jetti rocks we found one hanging out in the shade. As we were walking back from the pier we did catch a glimpse of one fishing. They are awesome swimmers and extremely hard to get photos of them. The other cool species we saw was the arctic tern. We had previously seen this bird in Alaska and Iceland, but always cool to see it in an entirely different place.

Fairy penguin - Eudyptula minorFairy penguin - Eudyptula minor Fishing Fairy Penguin - Eudyptula minorFishing Fairy Penguin - Eudyptula minor Fishing Fairy Penguin (2)Fishing Fairy Penguin (2) Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) with Melbourne SkylineArctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) with Melbourne Skyline Arctic Tern in flight - Sterna paradisaeaArctic Tern in flight - Sterna paradisaea

The Australian Grand Prix was happening while we were in Melbourne, so we couldn't explore Albert Park until after the race. We hit a couple jogs around the lake and saw so many birds that we grabbed our cameras and went back just to take some photos. It's so cool that in such a big city there is so much green space for wildlife. Our friends are big birders, but by the end of the trip we had them sending us cool bird spottings.

White-faced heron hunting - Egretta novaehollandiaeWhite-faced heron hunting - Egretta novaehollandiae Australasian swamphen - Porphyrio melanotusAustralasian swamphen - Porphyrio melanotus Blue-billed duck on Albert Park Lake - Oxyura australisBlue-billed duck on Albert Park Lake - Oxyura australis Crested Pigeons - Ocyphaps lophotesCrested Pigeons - Ocyphaps lophotes Black Swan on Albert Park Lake - Cygnus atratusBlack Swan on Albert Park Lake - Cygnus atratus Black Swan - Cygnus atratusBlack Swan - Cygnus atratus Pied Stilt reflections - Himantopus leucocephalusPied Stilt reflections - Himantopus leucocephalus Red-rumped parrot - Psephotus haematonotusRed-rumped parrot - Psephotus haematonotus Crested PigeonsCrested Pigeons Pacific black duckPacific black duck Australasian swamphen - Porphyrio melanotusAustralasian swamphen - Porphyrio melanotus

The last of the things we saw around Melboure was heading out to Fort Nepean. We explored the fort and saw an echidna. What cool little critters.

Fort NepeanFort Nepean Short-beaked Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus aculeatusShort-beaked Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus aculeatus

We spent two weeks in Oz, and for the middle weekend we decided to fly out to Adilaide and take the boat to Kangaroo Island.

Gohana on the side of the roadGohana on the side of the road Koala resting in a treeKoala resting in a tree Jewel Spider and webJewel Spider and web Black swans, Australian Shelducks, banded stilts, and eurasian coots at Murray LakeBlack swans, Australian Shelducks, banded stilts, and eurasian coots at Murray Lake

When we are on the island we headed out to Seal Bay Conservation Park and took a tour out to the beach to see the Australian Sea Lions.

Australian sea lion yawningAustralian sea lion yawning Australian sea lions nappingAustralian sea lions napping Australian sea lionsAustralian sea lions Males sea lions sparring at Seal BeachMales sea lions sparring at Seal Beach Australian sea lion sleepyAustralian sea lion sleepy Australian sea lion in the surfAustralian sea lion in the surf Australian Sea Lions snugglingAustralian Sea Lions snuggling Seal Beach, Kangaroo Island panoramaSeal Beach, Kangaroo Island panorama Whale bones on the beachWhale bones on the beach

The other day on the island we headed out to Flinder's Chase National Park and hit a few trails. The first was out to Admiral's Arch where we saw a few New Zealand Fur Seals.

Cape du Couedic lighthouseCape du Couedic lighthouse Souther Ocean from Flinders Chase National ParkSouther Ocean from Flinders Chase National Park Overlooking the Great Australian BightOverlooking the Great Australian Bight Southern Ocean tidal zone in Flinders Chase National ParkSouthern Ocean tidal zone in Flinders Chase National Park Admiral's Arch in Flinders Chase National ParkAdmiral's Arch in Flinders Chase National Park New Zealand fur seal on the rocks in Flinders Chase National ParkNew Zealand fur seal on the rocks in Flinders Chase National Park New Zealand fur seal pupNew Zealand fur seal pup

Then we explored Remarkable Rocks.

Overlooking Remarkable RocksOverlooking Remarkable Rocks Remarkable Rocks indeed.Remarkable Rocks indeed. Remarkable Rocks indeed (2)Remarkable Rocks indeed (2) Remarkable Rocks indeed (3)Remarkable Rocks indeed (3) Remarkable Rocks indeed (4)Remarkable Rocks indeed (4)

After grabbing a snack we headed out on the Platypus Waterholes Walk. Since it was the dry season, the chances of seeing a platypus were extremely low but we rolled the dice anyway. No platypi, but we did see a goanna and cool birds. 

Goanna in Flinders Chase National ParkGoanna in Flinders Chase National Park New Holland Honeyeater (2) - Phylidonyris novaehollandiaeNew Holland Honeyeater (2) - Phylidonyris novaehollandiae White-faced heronWhite-faced heron

Since the weather was still nice we decided to hit a short walk along the Heritage Walk Trail. We wouldn't have picked this hike as a top pick since it's was only about a mile long, but we hit the motherlode of animals. On this short trail we saw wallabies, koalas, kangaroos, more birds, and an extended interaction with an echidna looking for food. It was definitely the highlight of the trip.

Wallaby blepWallaby blep Wallaby sitting under a treeWallaby sitting under a tree Splendid Fairywren - Malurus splendensSplendid Fairywren - Malurus splendens Kangaroo Island Short-beaked Echidna walking through duff - Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatusKangaroo Island Short-beaked Echidna walking through duff - Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus Kangaroo Island Short-beaked Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatusKangaroo Island Short-beaked Echidna - Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus Koala in Flinders Chase National ParkKoala in Flinders Chase National Park Scarlet Robin - Petroica boodangScarlet Robin - Petroica boodang Australian Magpie Portrait - Cracticus tibicenAustralian Magpie Portrait - Cracticus tibicen Grey Kangaroo on Kangaroo IslandGrey Kangaroo on Kangaroo Island Cape Barren Geese - Cereopsis novaehollandiaeCape Barren Geese - Cereopsis novaehollandiae Kangaroo SunningKangaroo Sunning Moon through the gum treesMoon through the gum trees

Not pictured in the blog were all the great restaurants, dessert shops, bars, cafes, night tours, and DRT (designated rest time) naps we had. It was really awesome to visit a city with personal tour guides. City traveling is not usually what we set out to do, but it was a great change of pace. It was also great spending time with friends and catching up. What I also learned about OZ is that it's big: about the size of the US. So that means there's much more to see and do. We have some other places we want to visit in the short-run while we can still hike and backpack, but I definitely think we will be back in the area again. We also have to hit New Zealand and Tasmania. Standard: cross one thing off your travel list and then add two more.

I hope y'all are doing well, we're getting ready for winter here in Montana.


[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Australia photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2019/4/australia Thu, 04 Apr 2019 02:58:00 GMT
Iceland: Laugavegur Trail https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/laugavegur-trail Welcome to the last of the Iceland Honeymoon blog! If you didn't read about Hornstrandir and The Golden Circle check those out! 

The off-road bus picked us up in downtown Reykjavik and we were off to Landmannalaugar. The route turned from highway, to dirt road, to what resembled a dirt road, to braided rivers, and riverbed. We arrived to Landmannalaugar, this remote location was a bustling hiker city. I was surprised at the amount of people. When we hiked in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, the few people that we did run into mentioned they noticed a huge difference in the amount of the people between the two locations. We were stoked to get there, but decided to go for a hike and have dinner away from the crowds. When we were eating a group of Icelandic horses rode by. I had a feeling we were in for a great trip.

Horseback ride through the river at LandmannalaugarHorseback ride through the river at Landmannalaugar

Our planned itinerary was as follows:

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur

Day 4: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

It averaged a little less than 9 miles per day which would allow us to arrive at camp early, drop gear, and explore the surrounding area by day hiking.

Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

Thermals along the Laugavegur TrailThermals along the Laugavegur Trail

Day 1 arrived, which happened to be my birthday, and we woke up to spectacular weather. We wanted to get ahead of the crowds so we got up with the light and were one of the first groups on the trail.

Hikers near a thermal feature on the trailHikers near a thermal feature on the trail Colorful formations near the thermalsColorful formations near the thermals Corrie and colorful formations on the Laugavegur TrailCorrie and colorful formations on the Laugavegur Trail Colorful formations on the Laugavegur TrailColorful formations on the Laugavegur Trail

Immediately we were greeted with spectacular views. Colorful geology and hydrothermal features dotted the landscape. It was a hybrid of Yellowstone and Denali: two of my favorite places.

Morning light on the colorful formations of the Laugavegur TrailMorning light on the colorful formations of the Laugavegur Trail Corrie takes in the views of the thermals along the trailCorrie takes in the views of the thermals along the trail Thermal areas and mountains along the Laugavegur TrailThermal areas and mountains along the Laugavegur Trail Birthday self-portrait along the Laugavegur TrailBirthday self-portrait along the Laugavegur Trail

Around each new bend in the trail was another photo op. Since we only had to do about 9 miles, we were in no hurry. The trail to Hrafntinnusker was uphill and eventually we hit snow fields.

Laugavegur Trail hikerLaugavegur Trail hiker Corrie hikes the trail to HrafntinnuskerCorrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker

Seeing the contrast of white snow and black volcanic sand was pretty awesome.

Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (2)Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (2) Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (3)Corrie hikes the trail to Hrafntinnusker (3)

We arrived to Hrafntinnusker around noon and spirits were high.

Corrie arrives at HrafntinnuskerCorrie arrives at Hrafntinnusker

I went to the warden hut to check in and pay for the night. Just then a winter storm warning came in over the radio. The storm was headed our way on what would be the morning of our third day. The warden recommended pushing on to the next spot because strong winds were expected to arrive before the storm and there was no cover in this location. I went outside and talked it over with Corrie. After some deliberation about our ability to do 18 miles with a full pack in a day, we decided that it was probably best to keep hiking since the days were long and the weather was good. So we ate lunch strapped on our packs and continued along the trail.

Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn

Hikers head to Álftavatn from HrafntinnuskerHikers head to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (3)Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (3) Corrie takes in the views along the trail Álftavatn from HrafntinnuskerCorrie takes in the views along the trail Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2)Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2) Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5)Views heading to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5)

In the 8 or so miles we hiked to get here, the landscape had completely changed. Even though it was late season, there was green vegetation near the melting snowfields. The section was mostly high plateau hiking with views in all directions. I still couldn't believe that there was this much snow in late August. I'm curious what it's like doing this hike early season.

Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5)Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (5) Hikers crossing a snowfiled along the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2)Hikers crossing a snowfiled along the trail to Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker (2) Corrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from the passCorrie hikes the trail to Álftavatn from the pass Waterfalls from the pass between Álftavatn from HrafntinnuskerWaterfalls from the pass between Álftavatn from Hrafntinnusker

Eventually we reached the highpoint where we could see our destination: Álftavatn. From here it was all downhill or flat. 

Views along the trail to Álftavatn from the passViews along the trail to Álftavatn from the pass Álftavatn from the passÁlftavatn from the pass

As we descended from the pass, the miles started to take their toll. We needed to stop more frequently for breaks and food.

Corrie hikes the trail dropping down to Álftavatn from the passCorrie hikes the trail dropping down to Álftavatn from the pass Corrie arrives at ÁlftavatnCorrie arrives at Álftavatn

We made it and were one of the first groups to arrive for the day. We found a nice flat spot to set up our tent and then headed over to the warden hut to celebrate. As we were enjoying our freeze dried dinners, a local guide came over to say hello. He had just finished making Icelandic meat soup (lamb stew) for his guests. He said they had too much and asked if we would like some. I offered him a trade: meat soup for some of the bourbon we brought on the trip. He was more than happy to help lighten our load. As we sat there having second dinner, drinking bourbon, enjoying the birthday Oreos that Corrie packed, it began to lightly rain. We had timed our day perfectly. It was time to hit the sack after 18 miles. We decided that we should get up early, hike to Emstrur, recheck the weather, see how we felt, and make a decision to stay put or to push all the way to Þórsmörk.

Campsite at ÁlftavatnCampsite at Álftavatn

Álftavatn to Emstrur

We woke up around 6 am and the wind had picked up. It had stopped raining so we took advantage of packing our gear when it was still dry. We moved over to the hut, ate breakfast, and the rain began to fall. The low clouds and rain had brought out the vibrant color in the vegetation. Bright green on black soil. This particular stretch would be the longest of the 4 we were covering so we made sure to keep a good pace.

Views between Hvanngil and Emstrur (2)Views between Hvanngil and Emstrur (2) Corrie crossing near HvanngilCorrie crossing near Hvanngil Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from HvanngilCorrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil

After a couple miles the rain stopped and the sun started to poke through the clouds on occasion. Again, this section of the trip was drastically different from the previous two. Black volcanic rocks with green vegetation patches on the steeper hillsides. This section of the trail was also lower in elevation and the rivers were much larger. This allowed us to filter more often so we didn't need to carry as much water.

Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2) Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2)Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (2) Waterfalls along the trail to Emstrur from HvanngilWaterfalls along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (3)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (3) Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (5)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (5)   Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6) Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6)Views along the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (6) Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (7)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (7)

Eventually the clouds raised enough that we were able to see Eyjafjallajökull in the distance. 

Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (8)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (8)

Just as we were debating whether to stop and each lunch or try to push on to Emstrur, the warden hut came into view in the distance.

Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (9)Corrie on the trail to Emstrur from Hvanngil (9)

Upon arrival we checked in with the warden and the storm was supposed to hit around 10 the following morning. We were pretty exhausted at this point. We figured we should make the call to stay or go after lunch. After going back and forth and chatting with some other hikers, we decided to make some coffee and push on. Again, the weather was on our side at the moment and the days were long. We figured it was better to do the hike tired in good weather versus rested in snow. 

Emstrur to Þórsmörk

Not too long after leaving Emstrur, the landscape changed again. Giant glaciers backdropped the trail and rivers roared through canyons.

Hikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from EmstrurHikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4)Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4) Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5)Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4)Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (4) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5)Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (5) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (8)Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (8)

The weather continued to stay dry until we hit mile 15 for the day. We could see the rain in the direction we were headed although it hadn't reached us yet.

Hikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (2)Hikers on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (2) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (11)Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (11) Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (14)Views along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (14)

When it did reach us, we decided it was a good time to stop and take a break. We were about 34 miles into the hike with a few more to go, but we were toast. Since we were carrying 4 days worth of food with us and didn't want to carry the food for no reason, we decided to sit there and start housing it. It was really hard getting up after that break. Tired legs, sore feet, and full bellies made the last few miles extremely slow going.

Corrie not not smiling along the trail to Þórsmörk from EmstrurCorrie not not smiling along the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (6)Corrie on the trail to Þórsmörk from Emstrur (6)

Ahead of schedule and nearly 40 miles later, we made it to Þórsmörk. The rain cleared up for the rest of the day and we celebrated with more Oreos and bourbon. It had been a long time since we had hiked that hard. The bonus is that we made it ahead of most of the other groups, so we were first on the waitlist to catch the shuttle out 2 days early. 

Corrie smiling as we arrive at ÞórsmörkCorrie smiling as we arrive at Þórsmörk Our campsite at ÞórsmörkOur campsite at Þórsmörk Views at ÞórsmörkViews at Þórsmörk

The following morning, as we got on the off-road bus, the storm finally arrived. We were lucky to be off the trail only having to deal with slight rain.

Trip notes: The section of trail we completed is about 33 miles long with 4,600' elevation gain. If we had the opportunity to do it again, it would have been nice to do it in four days versus two, so we could explore around camp once we arrived. But overall it was a diverse and exciting trail, and I highly recommend!

Screen Shot 2024-01-01 at 10.32.28 AMScreen Shot 2024-01-01 at 10.32.28 AM Screen Shot 2024-01-01 at 10.32.47 AMScreen Shot 2024-01-01 at 10.32.47 AM

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Iceland Laugavegur Trail https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/laugavegur-trail Thu, 29 Nov 2018 03:58:00 GMT
Iceland: Snaefellsnes, Golden Circle, and Southern Coast https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/Golden-Circle Welcome back! If you didn't read about Hornstrandir, I recommend going back for that to give you some context from the first week of the trip.

This week was planned to be more relaxing and to see the sights near the roads. Some days the weather didn't cooperate so I wont give a day-by-day, but rather a general overview of the things we saw during the week. 

We picked up the car and headed out of town to the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Corrie was navigating and we had no planned route.

Gerðuberg basalt columns with hikerGerðuberg basalt columns with hiker

This house was featured in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. We didn't realize it until we came back and rewatched the movie. That's kinda neat.

Stykkishólmur coastlineStykkishólmur coastline

I was pretty excited to see Kirkjufell, but when we got there it's literally off the side of the road. I was pretty surprised how that was the case for many things in Iceland. Because of that, you have multiple tour busses full of people sharing the view with you. I definitely fell victim to how people portray these places on Social. Still a cool spot though for sure.

Kirkjufellsfoss and rainbowKirkjufellsfoss and rainbow

From there we hit more waterfalls and headed out to Snæfellsjökull National Park. It was socked in and raining that day, but we did enjoy the views of the beach.

Svödufoss from downstreamSvödufoss from downstream Skarðsvík BeachSkarðsvík Beach Skarðsvík Beach and coastlineSkarðsvík Beach and coastline

After the peninsula we headed back towards Reykjavík on our way out to the southern coast. Þingvellir National Park is beautiful and holds some pretty awesome history of the country. It's essentially where the first courts of the country were held. Before the times when written word was common. They would read the laws out loud for everyone to hear and would hold courts. In fact one of the rivers was used to carry out the death sentences. It's also where two continents meet: known as Silfra. This is visible throughout the country, but in this park you can actually dive down between the continental plates. Þingvellir is definately worth the trip if you go.

Þingvvellir National ParkÞingvvellir National Park Öxarárfoss at ÞingvvellirÖxarárfoss at Þingvvellir Geology at Þingvvellir with sunburstGeology at Þingvvellir with sunburst

From Þingvellir we headed out to Gullfoss, one of the larger waterfalls we saw on the trip. The water coming off this thing was nuts.

Gullfoss and Hvítá riverGullfoss and Hvítá river Gullfoss and rainbowGullfoss and rainbow

And living so close to Yellowstone we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see some sights that reminded us of home...

Strokkur Geyser eruptionStrokkur Geyser eruption Krýsuvík thermal areaKrýsuvík thermal area Cloudy black pools in KrýsuvíkCloudy black pools in Krýsuvík Boardwalks through KrýsuvíkBoardwalks through Krýsuvík Gunnuhver Hot SpringsGunnuhver Hot Springs Gunnuhver Hot Springs (2)Gunnuhver Hot Springs (2)
Views along the shore of KleifarvatnViews along the shore of Kleifarvatn Road along KleifarvatnRoad along Kleifarvatn

After we hit Reykjanesfólkvangur we headed out to the coast to take in some views that we weren't familiar with.

Krisuvikurberg CliffsKrisuvikurberg Cliffs Sandvík continental platesSandvík continental plates Coastline near Reykjanes Lighthouse (2)Coastline near Reykjanes Lighthouse (2) Coastline near Reykjanes Lighthouse (3)Coastline near Reykjanes Lighthouse (3)  After crashing in the worst place on earth, Selfoss (its a long story I'll get into later), we started to make our way east along the southern coast. The further away we got from Reykjavik the more amazing the sights got. We saw some pretty kick-ass waterfalls.

HjálparfossHjálparfoss Hjálparfoss and mountainsHjálparfoss and mountains Seljalandsfoss from the foot bridgeSeljalandsfoss from the foot bridge Seljalandsfoss and double rainbowSeljalandsfoss and double rainbow Corrie hiking behind SeljalandsfossCorrie hiking behind Seljalandsfoss Þjóðvegur viewsÞjóðvegur views Skógafoss and rainbowSkógafoss and rainbow

With all the glacial melt, there were tons of braided rivers that reminded us of Alaska, but with smaller mountains. 

Eyjafjallajökull views near SkógarEyjafjallajökull views near Skógar Eyjafjallajökull views near Skógar (2)Eyjafjallajökull views near Skógar (2)

But Iceland has horses...good looking ones.

Icelandic horse and EyjafjallajökullIcelandic horse and Eyjafjallajökull

That night we soaked at our BnB during the sunset. I got up that night to see about the aurora. It was out a little, but too cloudy for any decent views.

Corrie and I toes soaking at Hotel LambafellCorrie and I toes soaking at Hotel Lambafell Hotel Lambafell and auroraHotel Lambafell and aurora

The next morning we continued further east. We arrived in Vik pretty early in the morning and explored the beaches and watched lots of puffins fishing along the coast.

Katla VolcanoKatla Volcano Dyrhólaey from Reynisfjara BeachDyrhólaey from Reynisfjara Beach Reynisfjara BeachReynisfjara Beach Sea stacks at Reynisfjara BeachSea stacks at Reynisfjara Beach

From Vik we continued on to Skaftafell for some hiking and more waterfalls and glaciers.

Svartifoss from the platformSvartifoss from the platform Svartifoss and basalt columnsSvartifoss and basalt columns Corrie hikes in Vatnajökull National ParkCorrie hikes in Vatnajökull National Park Walking a glacier tour road in Vatnajökull National ParkWalking a glacier tour road in Vatnajökull National Park

Since the days were so long we weren't ready to call it quits. One of the highlights we were excited to see was Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon. This place was amazing. The wildlife and scenery was top notch.

Jökulsárlón and icebergsJökulsárlón and icebergs Jökulsárlón in evening lightJökulsárlón in evening light Jökulsárlón and icebergs (2)Jökulsárlón and icebergs (2) Corrie hiking at JökulsárlónCorrie hiking at Jökulsárlón
In addition to the lagoon with giant glacier background, you could walk across the street to the black sand beach known as diamond beach. Huge chunks of ice would wash up on shore as the tide came in and out. We could have spent more time in that area for sure.

Diamond Beach icebergsDiamond Beach icebergs Diamond Beach icebergs and sunsetDiamond Beach icebergs and sunset Waves crashing at Diamond BeachWaves crashing at Diamond Beach

But it was time to head back to Reykjavik to get ready for another backpacking trip. We also had planned to splurge and do a fixed wing flight to take in some of the sights from the air.

Driving towards Vatnajökull National Park.Driving towards Vatnajökull National Park.

On our way back through Selfoss our rental car broke down. They told us that a rock had hit the radiator and we would need to pay for it. So after cancelling our overflight, we waited for the tow truck to take us the rest of the way back to Reykjavik. I guess it was a good thing we didn't take the flight, because the bill for the tow and the radiator was like $1,700. But we weren't going to let it ruin our good time. We eventually made it to our AirBnB where we would relax and prep for the Laugavegur Trail. Little did we know it was going to be the highlight of the trip, even though we were about to unknowingly hike 36 miles in 2 days. Once we completed that trip, the remainder of the trip we would be at Blue Lagoon. Since we were staying at the hotel we had a private pool to soak in. We spent the following days soaking, eating, and drinking. We still had a bottle of vodka that we needed to finish and nothing to do. Well, except our appointments for our in water massages! 

Corrie soaking at Blue LagoonCorrie soaking at Blue Lagoon Sunny morning at Blue LagoonSunny morning at Blue Lagoon Sunrise sunburst at Blue LagoonSunrise sunburst at Blue Lagoon Colors of Blue LagoonColors of Blue Lagoon

It was the perfect ending to a spectacular honeymoon in Iceland.

Corrie and I at Blue LagoonCorrie and I at Blue Lagoon

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Iceland photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/Golden-Circle Thu, 22 Nov 2018 03:58:00 GMT
Iceland: Hornstrandir Nature Reserve https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/hornstrandir Hey everyone,

It's been a LONG time since I've put together a blog post. I've had a bunch of people asking for photos from our recent honeymoon so I figured it was a good time to dust off the keyboard. We've been home for a few weeks now, but trying to edit 3 weeks worth of photos and video has taken the back seat to other work trips and projects. Since there are so many photos to share I am going to break it up into 3 parts. Hover over the photos for more info on them. Here goes...

After a long trip to Iceland we landed in Reykjavik. From there we jumped on a bus, transferred to a bus, and then caught a domestic flight to Isafjourder. We grabbed pizza and beers, packed our bags, and hit the sack. The following morning we woke up and headed to the docks to catch our boat to Hornstrandir. 

Ísafjörður morning reflectionsÍsafjörður morning reflections

It was a beautiful morning and we were excited to get our first glimpses of the country after so much travel and poor weather. Spirits were high especially after we finally got a good night's rest.

Boat ride out to the HornstrandirBoat ride out to the Hornstrandir Sea arch in West FjordsSea arch in West Fjords Sea arch in West Fjords (2)Sea arch in West Fjords (2)

After an hour or so of boating and soaking up the scenery, we arrived at our first stop. Our boat was equipped with boat-on-boat technology so the captain unloaded the zodiac and the dayhikers all jumped on.

Our trusty steed in West FjordsOur trusty steed in West Fjords Dropping off hikers with the zodiacDropping off hikers with the zodiac

After the first drop, we headed to Veiðileysufjörður where we would start out hike. When the boat finally left, Corrie and I just sat on the shore and started laughing. It had taken us over two days of traveling by car, planes, trains, busses, taxis, and boats to get here, and we were finally able to enjoy it. After shedding layers and grabbing some snacks we set off for the pass. The plan for the day was to hike from one fjord to another by going up and over a pass.

Zodiac head back to the boatZodiac head back to the boat Leaving veiðileysufjörðurLeaving veiðileysufjörður veiðileysufjörður reflectionsveiðileysufjörður reflections The sound of musicThe sound of music Our first unnamed waterfallsOur first unnamed waterfalls Waterfall and veiðileysufjörðurWaterfall and veiðileysufjörður Away we go from veiðileysufjörðurAway we go from veiðileysufjörður Historic cairns along the trailHistoric cairns along the trail

After a few hours on the trail we finally made it to the pass. The weather was so nice and I was still jet-lagged so I dropped my pack and took a nap. We knew that today's weather was going to be the nicest of this leg of the trip so we weren't in a hurry. Eventually we decided to move on so we could set up camp. As we made it to the other side of the pass we could see the Horn, the destination of the following day's hike. 

veiðileysufjörður from the passveiðileysufjörður from the pass Heading towards Hornvik from the passHeading towards Hornvik from the pass Crossing snow bridgesCrossing snow bridges

As we dropped into the Hornvik area the entire valley was ringed with waterfalls. As we were nearing camp we were discussing how much we hoped we would see an arctic fox. It's an animal that neither of had seen before. Just as we made it to camp I said, "hey look at that!" as an arctic fox ran past us. It wasn't close enough for a photo so we were a little bummed, but we didn't know that we'd be seeing many more up close.

More waterfalls along the trailMore waterfalls along the trail

The next morning we woke up to a low ceiling. We had the advantage of long days on our side so we slept in hoping that the weather would improve. That cool feature that we planned to hike out to today, the Horn,
was completely hidden in clouds. We decided that we should hike out there anyway and hopefully the weather would improve. Since it was high tide we decided to hike out and cross the river where it was wider instead of near the ocean.

Private residence in HornvikPrivate residence in Hornvik Hiking to the HornHiking to the Horn Hiking to the river crossingHiking to the river crossing

Once we made it to the river we took off our shoes and started across the chilly water. On the other side the trail took us past some spectacular waterfalls and black cobble beaches.

River crossing at high tideRiver crossing at high tide Moody views along the Horn trailMoody views along the Horn trail More waterfalls with CorrieMore waterfalls with Corrie Corrie on the Horn TrailCorrie on the Horn Trail

As we pushed further out to the Horn the weather started to improve behind us. The trail ahead was still in the clouds, but we were finally able to see our camp and where we had come from. 

Corrie Climbing up the Horn overlooking HornvikCorrie Climbing up the Horn overlooking Hornvik

As we made it to the Horn you could barely see the Arctic Ocean below or the views ahead. So we decided to sit and see if the weather would improve. Lucky for us, it did.

Corrie on the edge of the HornCorrie on the edge of the Horn Corrie hiking the Horn as clouds roll over the edgeCorrie hiking the Horn as clouds roll over the edge

The trail took us along a beautiful, lush ridgeline that looked down on the Arctic Ocean. As we made it to the pass we could see all of Hornvik and the sea of clouds rolling in from the north. It was such an awesome view to take in.

Corrie overlooks Hornvik from above (panorama)Corrie overlooks Hornvik from above (panorama)

I was slightly behind Corrie on the way up and once she hit the ridge where she could see into the next valley all I heard from her was "Oh fuck yea!" When I made it there a few seconds later I shouted something similar. We were staring at this awesome knife-edged geologic feature with clouds rolling up and over below them. This view was one of the main reasons that we wanted to visit this area and we knew that we had lucked out with the weather. So I pulled out our bottle of Woodford Reserve and we just sat there by ourselves and enjoyed the view.

Corrie and I at HornbjargCorrie and I at Hornbjarg Whiskey views at HornbjargWhiskey views at Hornbjarg Hornbjarg rising above the cloudsHornbjarg rising above the clouds Wildflower and Hornbjarg as clouds roll over the cliff (3)Wildflower and Hornbjarg as clouds roll over the cliff (3)

We knew that we were going to get hungry for dinner eventually so we decided to push on. The trail was along some of the craziest terrain. It was awesome.

Corrie hikes the trail out to HornbjargCorrie hikes the trail out to Hornbjarg A cliff of green rises above an ocean of cloudsA cliff of green rises above an ocean of clouds Corrie hike the trail to Hornbjarg in the distanceCorrie hike the trail to Hornbjarg in the distance
Corrie taking in the views of HornbjargCorrie taking in the views of Hornbjarg

We stopped often to take photos of the scenery, flowers and foxes playing. There was still plenty of sunlight but we were running out of snacks for the day so we looped back around the ridge and backtracked our way to camp. 

Private residence along the coastline of HornvikPrivate residence along the coastline of Hornvik Cottongrass and the HornCottongrass and the Horn

On the way back it was low tide so we decided to cross the river at the ocean this time. The day was still warm enough that I decided to go for a swim. After that the last couple miles home was along a black sand beach, no shoes needed.

Black sand beach at HornvikBlack sand beach at Hornvik Sunset beach walk back to campSunset beach walk back to camp Corrie walking on the beach back to campCorrie walking on the beach back to camp

After dinner we had a visitor. 

Curious arctic foxCurious arctic fox

Needless to say it was a long but amazing day.

Hot tea after a great day of hikingHot tea after a great day of hiking My babooshkaMy babooshka

The next day we woke up to rain.  That would be our reality for the rest of the trip. Every once in a while the weather would quit long enough for me to break out the camera and take a few shots, but overall it was extremely cold and wet. 

Corrie on the trail to HloduvikCorrie on the trail to Hloduvik Moss-covered cliff along the trail to HloduvikMoss-covered cliff along the trail to Hloduvik Trail sign to RekavikTrail sign to Rekavik

We weren't the only ones that were cold and wet. I'm sure a lot of what we hiked through was awesome looking, but at points the visibility was so bad that we had to split up to find the next cairns. All part of the adventure I guess.

Arctic fox curled up to stay warmArctic fox curled up to stay warm Hiking to Hloduvik in the cloudsHiking to Hloduvik in the clouds Corrie coming down from the passCorrie coming down from the pass Corrie hiking the trail to HloduvikCorrie hiking the trail to Hloduvik Following the cairns to Hloduvik (2)Following the cairns to Hloduvik (2)

Day 4 we woke up to more rain. My sleeping bag had finally dried out from my body heat but I was not looking forward to putting wet clothes and shoes back on. We made breakfast in the tent, a luxury not afforded to us normally because we camp in bear country, and then continued on through rivers and marshes and over more mountain passes.

Corrie taking one last look at Hloduvik before heading outCorrie taking one last look at Hloduvik before heading out Corrie and river crossings on the trail to HesteyriCorrie and river crossings on the trail to Hesteyri Corrie and waterfalls on the trail to HesteyriCorrie and waterfalls on the trail to Hesteyri

At one point I was so cold and tired that I started to get the "umbles." All of my gear was soaked. Either from sweat or rain. It was so wet and windy that the only gear that would have kept us completely dry would have been like rubber fisherman slickers. So when we finally made it to the pass where we could see our final destination we were both extremely happy.

  Corrie hiking down to Hesteyri from the passCorrie hiking down to Hesteyri from the pass Hesteyri and cairn from the passHesteyri and cairn from the pass Corrie hiking to the campgroundCorrie hiking to the campground

We made it to camp, set up our tent, and magically the rain stopped long enough for us to have dinner and hang our stuff out to dry. We also found out that there was a small coffee shop where we could grab some coffee and sweets and get out of the elements for a short bit. 

Our campsite at HesteyriOur campsite at Hesteyri
Corrie enjoying Rhubarb cake in HesteyriCorrie enjoying Rhubarb cake in Hesteyri

Hornstrandir was an awesome trip. We got to see the area at it's best and it's not-so-best. When the weather is good it's mostly easy hiking if you're in good shape and have some navigational skills. When the weather is bad you better have lots of high-calorie food, good rain gear, and excellent navigational skills.

When the boat came the following day to pick us up were weren't too sad to leave, only because we were ready for hot showers and non-dehydrated food. We grabbed dinner and beers back in Isafjourder, hit the sack, grabbed a taxi the following morning, and took the plane back to Reykjavik. From there we planned to rent a car and explore The Golden Circle and southern coast

Trip notes: We hiked a total of 31 miles with 7,700' of elevation gain. Spectacular area and I would love to go back. The logistics are complicated to get there, but it's worth it!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) backpacking Hornstrandir Nature Reserve Iceland https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/11/hornstrandir Sun, 18 Nov 2018 19:03:38 GMT
Isle Royale National Park https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/9/-isle-royale Hey Everyone,

I just got back from a week in Minnesota and Michigan where I visited Isle Royale National Park for the first time. We took a boat from Grand Portage across the lake. We base camped out of Windigo for the entire trip, but we did explore around the southern permitter of the island. Here are my favorites from the trip.

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Isle Royale National Park Michigan photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/9/-isle-royale Mon, 01 Oct 2018 02:43:00 GMT
Glacier: Going-to-the-Sun Road https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/6/going-to-the-sun-road Hey Everyone!

When I lived in Columbia Falls, MT, one of my favorite things to do in Glacier was bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. The benefit of living there, is that each week you can bike as far as the road is open. As the plows get higher and higher, you get stronger and stronger. Well, this time we only had a long weekend so we were biking to the top straight off the couch, with no training. Turns out that's much harder to do.

From Avalanche Campground, the first few miles are fairly flat. Eventually you start to climb and it doesn't stop until you get to the top.

One of the popular turnaround spots is The Loop, the only switchback in the entire 50-mile road.

But if you keep going, the views only get better and better.


Then higher we climbed, the closer and snowier it got. Eventually we we made it to the waterfalls along the road. The most popular being the Weeping Wall. We pulled over and put on rain gear to protect us from the wind and water.


One of my favorite things about riding up the road early season, is that the guard rails aren't installed yet.


After 16 miles and about 3,000 feet of climbing, we made it to Logan Pass. It was cold and CRAZY windy, so we only stayed long enough to drink our beers and eat snacks.

The benefit of all uphill on the way up, means it's all downhill on the way back. We only stopped a few times for more photos. 


It takes us about 4 hours to climb to the top and like 40 minutes to get back to the car. That whole 40 minutes you're basically flying. It's the greatest. If you have the chance to do it, go for it. I'd recommend waiting until the afternoon once the traffic dies down a little bit. Plus if you leave in the afternoon, you can watch the sunset from the top and then ride down before it gets dark.


[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) biking Glacier National Park Montana photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2018/6/going-to-the-sun-road Sat, 02 Jun 2018 22:35:00 GMT
Denali: Unit 4 Savage River https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/9/savage-river Denali turned 100 years old this year and the park was hosting a celebration open to the public. Since Corrie and I met there, we decided to make the trip back for a week and catch up with friends in the area. As part of the trip, we headed to the backcountry office to see if we could snag a last minute permit. Unfortunately there weren't any permits in an elevation with tundra, but we were able to get one for unit 4 along the Savage River. The fall color was beautiful, but it's a LOT of bushwhacking unless you're on a game trail or in the river.

We started out at the Mountain Vista Trailhead and started walking up the Savage River. As predicted, lots of bushwhacking, but the views of Fang Mountain in the distance were pretty sweet.

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Eventually we jumped out of the river corridor and picked up a game trail on a bench to the west. The views on the bench looking up valley were gorgeous.

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We started seeing signs of wildlife with lots of moose sheds. We also found some grizzly tracks and what appeared to be an old cache site.

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Eventually we had to drop back into the river corridor and vegetation was double overhead. We made sure to make lots of noise because we couldn't see far at all.

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After about 6 miles the river bar opened up and we found a nice place for out tents that didn't appear to be directly on a game trail. We made dinner, had beers, and enjoyed the sunset before heading to bed.

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The following morning we walked around camp to check out the views before packing up and heading back to the road. The weather was nicer the day before, so we didn't stop much for photos.

20170903-Denali-12620170903-Denali-126 20170903-Denali-12920170903-Denali-129

Once back at the road we stopped for a few photos of the fall colors, which seemed like they were peaking. We also had a pretty great view of the area we just hiked to.

Fall Colors and FangFall Colors and Fang Golden Aspens and Pyramid Mountain (2)Golden Aspens and Pyramid Mountain (2) Golden AspensGolden Aspens

Unrelated to the backcountry, that night the aurora came out. It was a bit cloudy, but I was able to get some decent shots as the clouds passed overhead.

Aurora September 11, 2015 (8)Aurora September 11, 2015 (8) Aurora September 11, 2015 (10)Aurora September 11, 2015 (10) Aurora September 11, 2015 (14)Aurora September 11, 2015 (14) Aurora September 11, 2015 (15)Aurora September 11, 2015 (15)

Trip notes: We did just over 12 miles with 600' of elevation gain. Not a huge fan of bushwhacking, especially with an overnight pack. Since it was the only permit we could get, I'm glad we went. But I much prefer backpacking at higher elevations in the tundra. With so much wildlife, it's nice to be able to see in the distance and not worry that you're going to walk up on a bear or worse, a cow moose with a calf. Overall, another successful trip to my favorite national park!

Disclaimer: Denali is a trail-less Wilderness. These maps are approximations of our routes. Please don't take this blog and map to the Denali Backcountry Information Center and say, "I wan't to do this exact trip." They will take good care of you like they did for us. Thanks!

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[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Alaska backpacking Denali National Park and Preserve https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/9/savage-river Sat, 09 Sep 2017 06:05:00 GMT
Craters of the Moon: Total Eclipse https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/total-eclipse I received a call from a friend who invited me out to Idaho for the eclipse. I had never been to Craters of the Moon or see a total solar eclipse, so it seemed like a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I spent the day driving from Wyoming and arrived just in time to make one trip around the park to get my bearings, watch the sunset, and scout a few locations for some night shots.

20170818-jwf-777120170818-jwf-7771NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170818-jwf-778320170818-jwf-7783NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170818-jwf-7822-Edit20170818-jwf-7822-EditNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170818-jwf-7833-Edit20170818-jwf-7833-EditNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170818-jwf-7891-Edit20170818-jwf-7891-EditNPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170818-jwf-7908-Edit20170818-jwf-7908-EditNPS / Jacob W. Frank

The following morning I drove out early for sunrise and hiked up the Inferno Cone. I was fortunate to be the only person up there and had a great 360 degree view.

20170819-jwf-791320170819-jwf-7913NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-791920170819-jwf-7919NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-792120170819-jwf-7921NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-792520170819-jwf-7925NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-792820170819-jwf-7928NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-793420170819-jwf-7934NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-794520170819-jwf-7945NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-795820170819-jwf-7958NPS / Jacob W. Frank

After sunrise, I hiked explored around the Spatter Cones area and eventually the Wilderness Trail for a few miles to bird before it got too hot.

20170819-jwf-799620170819-jwf-7996NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-800220170819-jwf-8002NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-805020170819-jwf-8050NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-807120170819-jwf-8071NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-808220170819-jwf-8082NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-808720170819-jwf-8087NPS / Jacob W. Frank 20170819-jwf-811820170819-jwf-8118NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Once the heat picked up, we headed to the caves to explore and find some shade.

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After a few hours in the cave we headed back to camp to take a nap and relax. Once it cooled off again we headed back out to explore more trails and take sunset photos.

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The next day was the big day for the eclipse. We did another sunrise hike before driving a few miles from the park into the path of totality.

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I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have seen a handful of partial eclipses so I thought I knew what I was in for, but I was wrong. Once we were in the shadow of the moon and I was able to take my sunglasses off it was so surreal. There was a 360 degree sunset. Bats and nighthawks started flying around and the temperature dropped by at least 20 degrees, almost instantly. I tried my best to take photos but at the same time watch with my eyes because I knew it might be something that I never see again. 20170821-jwf-899620170821-jwf-8996NPS / Jacob W. Frank

After a couple short minutes, the sun started to reappear behind the moon and it was time to put our glasses back on. We were literally yelling and high fiving each other with all the excitement. I can still feel the goosebumps I had as I am typing this up. 

"The Diamond Ring" after totality 2017"The Diamond Ring" after totality 2017

Overall, our trip to Craters was spectacular and I would love to go back with more time to spare. The fact that we also had the opportunity to see this rare celestial event made it that much more special.

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Craters of the Moon eclipse Idaho photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/total-eclipse Fri, 25 Aug 2017 22:02:00 GMT
Glacier: Reynolds Mountain https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/Reynolds Hey everyone!

After a successful summit of Mount Siyeh, I still had a few more days in Glacier. The weather wasn't really cooperating, so I was mostly road based taking photos of the clouds.

After a couple days of rain, the smoke cleared out and the evening's sunset looked to be promising. I called a few friends and asked if they wanted to climb Reynolds with me for sunset. We left from Logan Pass around 5pm once most of the cars cleared out. We slowly made our way up the glacial horn, and had another goat sighing.

The climb is mostly a trail, until the last part where you hike up a big scree field until you reach a set up benches. There is one 10-foot class-3 pitch that's easy to climb, but it's in a no-fall zone. 

After that it's an easy walk to the summit, which is a rounded ridge with a big flat top.

The views from the top are stunning, especially for sunset.

We cracked our beers and hung out and waited for the sunset. The light kept getting better and better.

We didn't feel like hiking down in the dark in case something happened, so we started down after the light was mostly faded. 

The next day, a big lightning storm sparked the Sprague Fire and smoke started to pick back up. I figured that was a sign that it was time to leave. Just had to hit my final favorite spot before making the long drive home. Overall great trip in the old hood!


[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Glacier National Park hiking Montana photography summit https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/Reynolds Wed, 09 Aug 2017 22:35:00 GMT
Glacier: Mount Siyeh https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/mount-siyeh Hey everyone,

You may remember that I moved from Columbia Falls, MT, last fall. I still had a few to-do's on my list for Glacier, so when I had a week off I decided to head back to my old stomping grounds. The further north I went, the smokier it got, but it was a beautiful drive anyway. Most of the crops were in bloom including a huge field of sunflowers.

We drove up the North Fork for the night to camp. We found a nice spot to take in the smoky sunset. One of the things I wanted to do while up here was to summit one of Glacier's 10K foot peaks, Mount Siyeh. But if it was going to be super hazy, I was starting to second guess the idea of climbing into a haze. Both seeing and breathing are high on my list for things I like to do when hiking, and smoke doesn't help with either of those.

The next morning I made my way to Lake McDonald before sunrise, up to Logan Pass, and parked at the trailhead. The weather looked like it was better than the day before, so we packed up beers and made our way for the summit.

Once we made it to Floral Park the sun just started to peak over the ridge.

We could finally see our target, Mount Siyeh, and its summit just above 10K.

We slowly picked our way up the talus chute, walking back and forth along the ledges. The down valley views just kept getting better and better. We even had some decent wildlife encounters on the way up.

After a break or two, and an hour or two of route finding, we gained the ridge. From there we just needed to follow it to the top. Looking behind us, we saw that we weren't the only ones climbing that day.

At the top we were greeted to new views of one of the most iconic lakes in the park, Cracker Lake. I've hiked and backpacked to the lake a couple times, but this was a whole new level of awesome. From the summit, it's a nearly vertical 4,000-foot drop down to the lake, and you can sit on the edge. I've heard of horror stories about the wind, but there was ZERO wind on our summit day AND the views were better than we had hoped. 

We cracked our beers, sat on the edge and soaked in the views. Which are basically 360 degrees.

After a while, the other group made it to the top. Always fun to share a summit with cool people!

This summit had been on my list since 2010, when I first visited Glacier. I had tried a few other times but got weathered out every time. It was nice to finally reach the summit and the stoke was high!

After a while we decided that we should probably head down so we could drive to East Glacier. No summit day is complete without some margaritas and loaded nachos at Serrano's. Overall spectacular day. Wildflowers were popping to boot!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Glacier National Park hiking Montana photography summit https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/8/mount-siyeh Sun, 06 Aug 2017 22:35:00 GMT
Alcatraz Island https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/7/alcatraz Hey Everyone,

We just got back from a week in California. Corrie's cousin got married and we decided to visit some friends in the area and hit a couple parks while we were there, Alcatraz Island being one of them. I visited once about 15 years ago, but I didn't really appreciate where I was. This time we took a ranger tour and got to see some behind the scenes areas of the island.

Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz Island

The first of the areas was the original entrance and sign of the island, dating back to 1857.

Alcatraz Island 2Alcatraz Island 2

Then we explored some of the courtyards and buildings. Apparently there is a volunteer botanical club that manages the grounds. The flowers and grounds were beautiful.

Alcatraz Island 3Alcatraz Island 3NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz IslandNPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 7Alcatraz Island 7NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 8Alcatraz Island 8NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 9Alcatraz Island 9NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Then we had the opportunity to head up into the lighthouse. The views of the bay were beautiful. 

Alcatraz Island 10Alcatraz Island 10NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 11Alcatraz Island 11NPS / Jacob W. Frank

After the lighthouse we walked around the island checking out the views of the city and all the birds that roost on the island.

Alcatraz Island 12Alcatraz Island 12NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 13Alcatraz Island 13NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 14Alcatraz Island 14NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 15Alcatraz Island 15NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 16Alcatraz Island 16NPS / Jacob W. Frank Alcatraz Island 17Alcatraz Island 17NPS / Jacob W. Frank

We headed back inside for the final tour of the jail. We got to also see some rooms of the facility that are used for temporary exhibit spaces. It would be an awesome place to play capture the flag at night.

Alcatraz Island 4Alcatraz Island 4
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Every time we go to a new park, I'm always blown at all the interesting stories they tell. Alcatraz is no different. If you get the chance to go, I recommend!

[email protected] (Jacob W. Frank) Alcatraz Island California Golden Gate Recreation Area photography https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/7/alcatraz Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:21:00 GMT
Glacier: Top 100 from 2016 https://www.jwfrank.com/blog/2017/1/Glacier-top-2016 Hey everyone! Things have been pretty hectic these past few months but I finally found some time to sit down and share some photos. I just finished my first week of work in my new job and my feet are a little sore from our hike yesterday, a perfect time to write my last blog with photos from Glacier. This last year was awesome. I couldn't have planned it better. We had an awesome group of people to ski, bike, hike, camp, climb, boat, and hang out throughout the year all over the park. I will definitely miss the area and the community of people. I suspect that I will be back again in the near future, but until then I look forward to seeing the park through the eyes of all the people I have met these past two years. 

Here are a few of the highlights of Glacier from 2016. I hope you enjoy!