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Trip Destination: National Park | Preserve | Monument

National Park | Preserve | Monument

I've Missed Death Valley (Mar 2024)

It's been more than a year since I last visited Death Valley. Hit hard by Hurricane Hillary, nearly the entire road system of the Park was closed, and it's taken a long time for it to re-open. In fact, even today, many of my favorite trails - the ones that shuttle intrepid explorers to the far reaches of remote valleys - are still closed. I've tried to satisfy my desert appetite with places a little further south in the Mojave, and even the lower lying Colorado deserts, but there's something special about Death Valley for me. I can't take it any…

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Does it Always Snow in Joshua Tree? (Feb 2024)

With the Pacific Northwest winter in full swing, both @mrs.turbodb and I were itching for warmer temperatures and a bit of sun as we planned our trip to the far southern reaches of California and Joshua Tree National Park. I'd visited for my first time almost exactly a year earlier, and this would be an introductory visit for my companion, one I hoped she'd enjoy given the heavy emphasis on hiking - and the nearly-complete-lack-of-driving - that I had planned. Plus, with surroundings composed of rock wonderlands and sunny skies, I Was reasonably confident that we'd be pleasantly entertained. As…

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The Vacation Adventure (Dec 2023)

This wasn't a typical adventure for us. There were no tents, only a few miles of dusty roads, and not once did we yearn for the day when we could finally hop in the shower. In fact, this adventure was so vacation-esque that I had no plans to write a story, and even contemplated leaving my camera at home. And yet, as we found ourselves exploring the big island of Hawaii - a new-to-us destination, since we've traditionally enjoyed Kauai - the things we saw were familiar but new, and as exciting as ever.    

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Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (Jul 2023)

As always, we wanted to run a BDR this summer, and I'd had my eye on Colorado or Utah as both are always beautiful states through which to travel. With record snowfall across the west, we realized a few weeks before our departure date that Colorado was completely out of the question, and even portions of the Utah route could still be blocked by snow. Still, the Utah BDR is an iconic route. Meandering 871-miles through the Valley of Gods, climbing the Moki Dugway, picking the perfect route through the rough roads of Lockhart Basin, and winding through four mountain ranges…

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Three Days of R&R (Apr 2023)

I've been itching to get out of California for a while now. Over the last 16 months, a full 15 of my 24 trips have been to the Golden State, and I'm starting to miss the variety offered by places like Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. Of course, the high elevations and northern reaches are still snowed in, but there's never a shortage of amazing hiking and exploration to be done in the Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa area So, with a few days to burn, I'm headed out in search of history. With more than 30 miles of trails, it'd…


Rock Art Three Ways (Mar 2023)

We didn't plan to go to the Mojave. In fact, I've felt as though - over the last year - I've spent too much time in California, and I've had an urge to find myself back in places like Utah and Colorado. Alas, with a fantastic trip planned to hike the canyons of the Grand Gulch and Cedar Mesa, the weather did not cooperate. Snow - and lots of it - blanketed southeast Utah, rain spread across much of the lowland south. And so, at the last minute, I whipped up an itinerary to the only place I could find…

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My First Time in Joshua Tree (Feb 2023)

In all the years I've been exploring the deserts of southern California, I've never made it to Joshua Tree National Park. The reason - if a little lame - is also simple: it's just too far away. Now, I know what you're thinking - they drive 20+ hours from Washington to Death Valley on a regular basis - and Joshua Tree is too far? Yes. It's a few more hours, and even I have my limits for what are usually 5-day trips where we leave at 8:00am and need to get at least a few hours of sleep before starting the…

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Left Behind, Again (Feb 2023)

Almost exactly a month ago, we headed south to Death Valley. Our goal - to explore a handful of places we've left behind over our years of exploration: There are several places that I've wanted to check out in Death Valley for quite some time, but that haven't fit into the route or schedule for previous trips. Hoping to knock off a bunch of those places that I've "left behind," I set about planning a route that would take us along West Side Road and the eastern escarpment of the Panamint Mountains. From there, we'd repeatedly climb into the canyons,…

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Left Behind (Jan 2023)

There are several places that I've wanted to check out in Death Valley for quite some time, but that haven't fit into the route or schedule for previous trips. Hoping to knock off a bunch of those places that I've "left behind," I set about planning a route that would take us along West Side Road and the eastern escarpment of the Panamint Mountains. From there, we'd repeatedly climb into the canyons, exploring the mines, narrow passages, and vistas that each had to share. It would - I thought - be a lot like our trip along the Nadeau Trail,…

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Inyo East (Dec 2022)

Preserved as a 205,000-acre wilderness adjacent to Death Valley National Park, the Inyo Mountains rank among the most formidable and majestic mountains in the California desert. Forming the western backdrop of Saline Valley, they rise in just a few miles from an elevation of a little over 1,000 feet at the valley floor to above 11,000 feet. Very few places in the desert are this steep over such distances. From Saline Valley, this abrupt wall appears to be impassable - and it is nearly that. The few roads that make ingress into this sheer wilderness of stone are short but…

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Panamint City via Surprise Canyon (Nov 2022)

Let me share something that may not be obvious given my love for hiking: I, personally, hate hiking with a pack on my shoulders. It's uncomfortable - both while hiking and after - and so rarely do I embark on any journey carrying more than a day pack that rests on my hips. For more than a year I've been trying to get to Panamint City. Despite requiring a 7.2-mile (one way) hike with more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain, trekking to-and-from this ghost town high on the western slopes of the Panamint Mountains isn't the issue. Rather, the…

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Highway Hikes [on CA-190] (Nov 2022)

Generally, when I visit Death Valley, my goal is to explore the more remote regions of the park. Long lost dirt roads, canyons that entail as much climbing as hiking, and days without seeing another soul (with the exception of @mrs.turbodb) - these are the places we spend our time. As such, exploration of Death Valley proper - largely along CA-190 - has been light. Sure, most of the major tourist attractions have been seen, but surely in a place this inhospitable, even CA-190 holds special places that are only infrequently visited. Remote despite their proximity to pavement. With a…

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Olympic Peninsula Passages (Sep 2022)

In all of our exploration, we've done relatively little in our home state of Washington. Partly, this is because the weather window here is relatively short each year; partly, it's due to our desire to explore lands further afield; and partly it's due to the landscape. Western Washington is so wet that finding a route that is more than simply a tunnel through trees can be challenging. Roads are quickly overrun with brush, structures rot away in the blink of an eye, and with much of the land owned or leased by logging companies - the roads gated and locked,…

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Almost Stranded (Mar 2022)

For the last four months, my sole destination has been Death Valley. This would be my sixth trip to the National Park, and with temperatures warming up elsewhere, likely the last visit of the season. I couldn't wait. Ever since December, when I'd ventured up Pleasant Canyon and South Park on the Back for More trip with my buddies Mike @Digiratus, Zane @Speedytech7, and Monte @Blackdawg, I'd been trying to get back. I'd planned an entire trip around that loop in early January, but snow levels turned out to be low at the time, and we were forced to change…

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Hiking Saline Valley (Jan 2022)

More and more I've found that I enjoy hiking more than driving in Death Valley. Getting out into a canyon, walking across the desert, hiking up a sand dune - these are the times when I really find joy in the beauty of this grand place. And so, for the fifth time in two months, I'm headed back. The plan this time is to hike for three days, to three very special places - places that not many people visit, and that I'll do my best to keep a little more obscured than normal. if you find them, I encourage…

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Lipstick on the Pig (Jan 2022)

Exploring Death Valley during the winter months is usually a good choice. Given the wintery-cold temps and snow elsewhere, the relatively cooler - but still pleasantly warm at 60-75°F - days in the desert a welcome break from the dreary days in the Pacific Northwest. It was with this in mind that I decided to plan a trip to the southwestern Panamint Mountains to explore the area I'd discovered along the Pleasant Canyon-to-Lower Park loop on my previous trip just a month before. We'd rushed that section a bit - completing it in about four hours, and I hoped that…


Back for More (Dec 2021)

I'm one lucky dude. Having just gotten back from two trips to Death Valley - (Lowest Peak in the Park) (Highest Peak in the Park) - over a three week period, I'm now headed back for my third trip in a month! But, frequency isn't the only reason I'm excited. Every year, a few buddies get together for an annual outing - usually in early fall - to explore and hang out. For me, it all started when I tagged along on my first major trip - The De-Tour - and I've been hooked ever since. This year, truck problems and…

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Highest Peak in the Park - aka Pushing into the Panamints (Nov 2021)

The 20-hour drive home - that concluded our Lowest Peak in the Park - aka Into the Owlsheads trip - gave me a lot of time to think. The trip had been brilliant, with some predictable highlights, and some unexpected surprises. And I have to admit that joking around as we climbed Owl Peak - that it was the lowest in the park, perfect for the serial underachiever - had been a lot of fun. But it also got me thinking. In the nearly four years that I've been visiting Death Valley, Owl Peak is the only summit I've ever…

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Lowest Peak in the Park - aka Into the Owlsheads (Nov 2021)

I have no better way to describe this trip than Michel Digonnet has so expertly done in Hiking Death Valley. One read of this, and I was sold - it was time to visit the Owlshead Mountains. At the south end of Death Valley, between the imposing Panamints and the mysterious Avawatz Mountains, the land gathers up into a colorful aggregate of low ranges collectively known as the Owlshead Mountains. Believed to be the eroded and partly collapsed remnant of a once much taller range, they consist of a roughly circular arrangement of hills surrounding two dry lakes. The name…

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One Night at Mt. Rainier (Jul 2021)

Having had my week-long trip to Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains cut short by smoke, I wasn't really sure what to do with myself. Then, I realized that the answer was in my own backyard - or at least nearby! We've been lucky so far this year to not have a ton of smoke in Western Washington, so what better place to go hang out than the forests around Mt. Rainier. Great weather and clear skies would make it the perfect place to just go hang out and enjoy the outdoors!

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