Tag Archives: Recreation

Wear Your Helmet

by Jim and Melanie

It was a little past 7 pm. Dinner was finished. The three of us decided to go to the waterfront park for the evening to enjoy the bay and watch people.

“I rode 65+ miles yesterday morning with the bicycle group. My legs are tired from that hard ride. I could use a slow ride to stretch and relax. You two go ahead to the park and find a bench in the usual place. I’ll follow up and meet you a few minutes later on my bicycle.”

We drove down the steep hill to the waterfront. I could see him farther back in the distance in the rear-view mirror going slowly down the rough streets. We reached the parking area and crossed the street to get onto the walkway. It was a beautiful evening. Many people and some other bikers were out. Cars were going along the street, some entering and leaving driveways to restaurants. One car leaving in front of us backed up a few feet to allow us to walk past. We waved our thanks.

We were perhaps 20 feet past that driveway when we heard a strange crashing noise behind us. A bicyclist was sprawled face down on the pavement where we had just walked. He was not moving. The car that allowed us to pass was still sitting there, waiting to see what he would do. Then the realization hit us. That was our son on the pavement!

What happened next?

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Snow Hike | First Time This Year

by Jim and Melanie

It snowed about a foot last weekend. The temperature dropped to -3˚F with 35 mph arctic winds by the next morning. Today, it warmed up to 25˚ with no wind. We strapped on the snowshoes and headed for the trail behind our house. Trails in town wind through the neighborhoods of town and make for great excursions all year long. Join us on this hike.

Strapped on and ready to go.

 

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Taos | Hiking to Lake Williams

by Melanie and Jim

If you’ve been following our posts for the last few days, you know we’ve been vacationing in the Taos, New Mexico area. On our way here, we stopped at the Capulin Volcano. Once in Taos, our sunset hike along the Rio Grande River Gorge helped us acclimate to the elevation. We’ve hiked the Devisadero Peak Loop. And we’ve enjoyed our casita accommodations, some amazing food, and the San Francisco de Asis Catholic Church.

Sunday broke with a forecast for more mixed weather, including the possibility of rain. We wanted to take in one more significant trail before heading east into Oklahoma again. The trail we chose was the Lake Williams trail. As with the Devisadero trail from last week, the Lake Williams trail resides within the vast Carson National Forest.

The trailhead elevation is at approximately 10,200 feet in the Taos Ski Valley, north of the city of Taos. It is an out and back trail of 1.9 miles each direction, or a total of just under 4 miles. The highest elevation is just before the lake itself, at 11,142 feet. The footing was difficult in some places with jagged rocks and exposed roots. In other areas it was reasonably smooth. The elevation was the most difficult aspect, and we didn’t have much trouble with that. Taking breaks as needed, going at our own pace, got us to the lake very comfortably.
Click on any individual picture in the gallery to see them larger. Then, below each is a view full-size button.

There are more pictures and video below.

Taos | Hiking Devisadero Peak Loop

by Jim and Melanie

For months, we have hiked ever increasing distances and terrain to prepare for hiking in the mountains near Taos. This day, we chose to hike the Devisadero Peak Loop trail just to the east of Taos. We look out the windows of our casita to see these mountains as the sun rises over them in the morning. We arrived soon after 8 am. It was still about 48˚F. The climb was from 7200 ft up to 8300 ft. The trail continued after the peak. It looped around and followed the contours of the mountains back down.

We reached an early vantage point early in the climb which looked out over the town of Taos and the valley beyond.

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A lot of prickly pear cactus grew along the trail. Care needed to be take not to bump your ankles onto it.

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We were pretty well acclimated by now to the elevation. It was a reasonably strenuous climb. But, we made frequent stops for shade and water.

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There were a lot of switchbacks in the trail. We ascended on the left trail and continued on the right. Footing was sometimes smooth and easy. Other times it was loose and rugged. Parts of the trail had larger steps of rock ledges. Closer to the top we got into an area with a lot of round granite rock. We needed to be more careful not to twist an ankle.

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Step back just a little bit farther…farther…one more step. Oooooops!

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It was a challenging climb to the top for two flat-landers from Iowa. We don’t encounter elevation above 800 ft in our neighborhoods. We were proud of how strong we felt. It was a good feeling to be fit and able to make the climb without feeling exhausted.

The climb down was not as easy as we hoped. Melanie felt a fair amount of pain in her knees. She wore a brace which helped. It took a lot longer that we expected to descend. We got all the way down with no falls or stumbles and no permanent injury. Today we feel fine. We may get one more big hike in before we have to go.

Violets | Blue, White, and Yellow

by Melanie and Jim

Violets were abundant along the path where we hiked in the wooded wetlands along a local river. We stopped, surrounded by hundreds of them. The only way to be close enough for a photo was to get down on hands and knees among them.

It is surprising how many different species of violet there are in the world. Wikipedia says there are as many as 600 in the viola genus of the family Violaceae.

We were blessed with these three fine examples. Each is 1″ across.

Enjoy.

Oklahoma Hike | Glass Mountains State Park

by Jim and Melanie

Drive 45 minutes west of Enid, OK and you reach the Glass Mountains State Park. It is small, only 640 acres (1 mi2). Sometimes referred to as the Gloss Hills, their name comes from the sheen and sparkle of selenite crystals, or gypsum. The tops of the mesas are thick with them and appear light gray and green. There are also thin layers of selenite in the red dirt of the Permian soil in these “Shining Mountains”. Click this Google Maps image to do some exploring.

Light gray areas are tops of 150 ft high mesas.

Light gray areas are tops of 150 ft high mesas.

At the lower left of the map is a turnout from highway 412 into a parking lot. From there, you can take the trail up the steep 150 foot climb to the top of the largest mesa.

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Roadside entrance sign.

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Outdoor Activities | A Handy App

We have become more involved in outdoor recreational activities, especially hiking. We have a lot of trails and paths in our neighborhoods interconnecting them. Bikers and hikers use them a lot. Our local parks offer many more challenging trails for off-road bike enthusiasts. We make a point of looking up the trail systems in our state parks when we go somewhere. Nothing beats having input from people who have actually been there and can offer insight to the quality of activity the trails offer.

As we travel farther from home, the best and recommended places to play are less familiar. We found an app that can tell us what local things are available. It is called lo•ca•lei•kki. Their web site, here, says it means play local. In their words…

We want to help people be active no matter where they are. localeikki is a database of recreation locations that are publicly accessible and locally recommended. Input an address & your activity choice and localeikki will find local running/cycling locations others have shared. Not only will you know where to go, you’ll also know what it looks like & what amenities are available (e.g., bathrooms, drinking water, parking). Want to find a regularly scheduled ride or run? We have that information too! You can find us on the web and as an app for your mobile devices.

It is simple to use. Open the app. It finds your location. Click on the kind of activity you want. It shows them, what they offer, and how far they are from you.

The content of their database of places is crowdsourced. You can add your own places to the database with their easy form. If you are an outdoors person, take a look at this app. It is a good tool for your next activities. Here are two screen shots.


In the interest of full disclosure, a co-founder of this app is married to our niece.

Hocking Hills Winter Hike

After our visit in West Virginia with a daughter and her family, we headed west toward home. At the end of day one of our drive, we stayed overnight in Logan, OH. It is near Hocking Hills State Park. The next morning we planned to hike a couple of trails in that park before continuing our drive toward Iowa.

Overnight a light snow had fallen. The car needed to be brushed off. We drove out of Logan on a snow-covered county road about 10 miles southwest. At the park headquarters, we parked next to the only other car in the lot. The driver said he had been here many times. He was getting his camera gear ready. We asked his advice on the trail we were going to take to Old Man’s Cave before we departed in opposite directions.

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Signs were posted about the dangers of ice and falls in the park. This was going to be a little more challenging than we originally thought.

Our plan was to visit the headquarters, view a map, and use the restrooms. The building was closed. A map was posted on the door. Portable toilets were available nearby. The snow was falling steadily, but still light. We went down the stairs toward the deep gorge visible at the bottom. Part way down we stopped to take in the view and talk about safely walking on snow-covered icy trails and stone steps.

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The trail went farther into the gorge. A sign gave us the choice of going upstream or down. We headed downstream toward Old Man’s Cave. The cave seemed to be lit, giving an other-worldly glow. The source was the opening above, the grey winter light brightening even under the rock ledge.

This is interesting. Show me more.

Hickory Hill Park Hike

by Jim and Melanie

This morning we hiked in Hickory Hill Park within Iowa City. It is surrounded by residential properties. There are thick stands of old growth hickory, walnut, oak, locust, maple, ash, and others. We met a few other hikers with their dogs and one runner. We had the park mostly to ourselves.

The weather was great today. This morning dawned with a temperature of 54˚. Three days ago the high was 101˚. What a difference a cool front makes. Thank you, Canada. Still no rain.

Iowans Conquer California High Desert

joshuaDuring the week of Thanksgiving 2011, we traveled to the southwest to vacation. After an over night in Vegas, we drove to Ridgecrest, CA, to visit friends for two days. On one day we were taken on a mountain climb. We drove an hour north up the Owens Valley on 395. , We were told it was a small range and would be a leisurely climb. We are from Iowa. Anything above 800′ elevation gets us into the thin upper reaches of the stratosphere. See the slope behind those Joshua trees? The first leg was a 700′ elevation gain from 5100′ on a slope just that steep and with no trail. We made it, last in a party of eight.

We are headed for the ridge way up there.

Once on the ridge, we reached the first peak at 6020′ without as much heavy breathing. There, we paused for water and a snack before heading along a ridge toward another peak at 6400′.

After another hour of rocks, loose sand, gravel, pricklies, burro poop, snow, mud, etc, we faced the final ascent. We were way behind and out of sight of all but two people in the party. I yelled for them to stop. I told them we are not going up there.

We waited among some nice boulders in the sun and had a rest and ate our lunch. We watched the rest of them reach that peak and have their rest and lunch. We enjoyed the scenery and peace as we waited for them to recover us on the way back down.

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We were told to beware of the Joshua tree spines.

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A sample of the dried plants while we waited for the return of the others.

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Someone called this Mormon Tea.

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This might have been a pretty flower at an earlier time of the year. Our host said they have about 3-4 weeks of green in the spring and then it all dries up.

The descent want not much easier than the ascent. We had no hiking poles, the things that look like ski poles. They add stability in the loose footing. So, we had to be more cautious. We were last again.

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On the way down we saw a large two foot wide boulder with a dished out top. There was a pool of water about 6″ across in the dished out area. Submerged was this rock and these 1/2″ long pellets. They were soft. Maybe animal droppings?