{Yosemite} Yosemite Falls, Junior Ranger and Bridalveil Fall

I took so many photos in Yosemite, and I am having a tough time picking through them, so I'm on to the second day of Yosemite pics.

After our walk to the top of Vernal Falls we had appetites for more waterfalls.

Yosemite Falls were dry, but the new loop trail that gets you there was quite lovely. And since there were only a couple other people on the trail, we had the whole place to ourselves.

Working on Junior Ranger activities while waiting for the bus.

When I moved to Montana, I was surprised at how skinny all the trees are. Now back in California, I remembered what "normal" size trees look like.

Yosemite Falls without any water. It rained while we were there and by the next day the falls were running again.

The next day it was time to declare Junior Ranger status by taking the oath and getting the badge.

Official Junior Rangers of Yosemite National Park.

The rest of the day was spent cruising the Valley Loop. We took a short walk to the base of El Capitan --a 7,569-foot a vertical rock formation. Besides running through the trees and leaping over rocks, we gawked at the granite cliff towering above us.

Fall is gorgeous in Yosemite. There's color everywhere you look.

Walking to the base of El Capitan.

El Capitan from the bottom.

El Cap in a puddle.

A couple stops along the way and we were at Bridalveil Fall.

620-foot Bridalveil Fall

Boys at the base of Bridalveil Fall.

That night we had dinner with a friend from college who is now the park geologist, and his wife, the park ornithologist, and their daughter. It was a great way to end an awesome trip.

We can't wait to go back.

View of the valley as we drove home.
Permalink 12/15/14 12:17:00 am, by Mel Email , 305 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Hikes, Anders, Finn ,

{Yosemite} Merced Grove and Vernal Falls

During our November roadtrip one of the many highlights was a few days in Yosemite. I mentioned in my last post how familiar and wonderful it felt to be back in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Now it's time for some pictures.

Our first stop was the Merced Grove to meet some Giant Sequoias.

Nature art on the trail.

Approaching the first Sequoias.

Must always carry stick. Little boys in the big tree grove.

Sequoia top.

We slept in the tent cabins in Curry Village. Not quite camping, but not a hotel either.

Our home for three nights.

The next day we walked to the top of Vernal Falls. This is a walk my mom, brother, and I always did when I was a kid. Scott and I traveled this way to get to the top of Half Dome. My friend Jen and I slogged up here after driving all night from Humboldt State University. There have been backpacking trips and day hikes that started here. My point? This is my trail. Despite the pavement and the crowds (not in November!), I love this walk.

King of the World...and a photobomber.

Happy on the trail.

Climbing rocks about halfway to the top.

A little peek at Vernal Falls.

Many, many granite steps along the Mist Trail. Not much mist while we were there.

Overlooking the falls.

Lunch break and a cuddle on a slab of granite by the river.

Lunch view.

More photos here.

Permalink 12/11/14 02:02:00 pm, by Mel Email , 244 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Hikes, Anders, Finn ,

Reconnecting in California

Our California trip was all about re-connecting for me. The timing was due to our good friends� Disneyland adventure, but the real impetus was to see my grandma, now 95-years-old and in failing health.

The last couple times I've seen her were quick. Because she lives in an assisted living apartment (small, not really appropriate for little visitors), and because I had two young boys, I spent more time chasing them than visiting with her. This time, the boys and I chatted, played Skipbo, shared donuts, and had a relaxed time. I don't know if I will see grandma again, and I am so glad we could spend time with her now.

The boys and their greatgrandma.

Finn creams us in Skipbo right after grandma teaches him to play. Anders attempts a photobomb.

Connections. We played with my brother, my mom, and my dad and stepmom. We stayed near San Luis Obispo with my friend Missy from high school. While she and I caught up on the last 10 or 15 years, our boys made new friends around a bonfire at the beach.

Boys, bonfire, and my dear friend Missy.

Missy and me with the three boys we could wrangle into a photo.

We toured a science museum, tried made-on-the-spot ice cream, climbed rocks, and engineered gumdrop creations with Jen (my first college roommate!) and her family. Most importantly, we talked and joked. I "see" these friends on Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally, talk on the phone, but the real connection, of course comes from face-to-face interaction.

And then there were the landscapes. The Pacific Ocean is an old friend whose waters I touch only once a year, if I am lucky. The sand through my toes and warm sun on my back as I walked its shoreline, brought back memories and sparked new thoughts.

Re-connecting with Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountain range while introducing them to my kids was amazing. On a lark, I stopped at the Merced Grove just inside Yosemite. We walked the 1.5 miles to the grove, and no one else was there. The boys and I attempted to hug a Sequoia tree, just as I did as a kid. They were genuinely thrilled and in awe of the big trees. While I greeted old friends (really old!), Anders and Finn made new ones in a moment I think we will all remember.

Little boys, big trees.

When we came around a corner and spotted Half Dome for the first time, a flood of familiarity filled me. From camping in the Valley with my mom and brother, to trips with college friends, to jobs working in these mountains, it all came back. Well, almost. It took a few days of walking trails and looking at maps to recall the names of plants and landmarks. We're not as close as we used to be, the Sierra Nevada and I, but we are starting to reconnect. We just need more time together.

This summer we ventured to Portland and the Oregon Coast. Again, it was about catching up with friends, as well as exploring new places. The connecting, and reconnecting, has meant so much to me. I want to hop in my car and come visit every one of you.

Our friend Kelly spent a year driving around the country connecting with people. And she came out of it a changed person (and I think, the people she met were all positively affected, too. We were!). Read about her trip and her new book here.

Permalink 11/25/14 09:28:00 am, by Mel Email , 585 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Essays, Anders, Finn ,

Nordic Ski Trails in Montana

This is a piece I wrote for the Great Falls Tribune last winter.

At Homestake Lodge, east of Butte, skiers kick, glide and skate over nearly 40 kilometers of groomed trails. School groups don skis for the first time, women’s groups hone their skills on skate skis and kids’ groups learn to ski recreationally and competitively.

Families and individuals breeze through aspen trees and around beaver ponds and cruise up and down the conifer-lined trails beneath granite cliffs.

Seven years ago, this Nordic center was nothing but trees, boulders and a few dirt roads. Now families, exercise enthusiasts and hard-core Nordic skiers get their cross-country fix, meet up with friends and enjoy a bowl of homemade soup in front of the fire.

“We had a vision of a place with great trails and a communal aspect,” said Chris Axelson, who owns Homestake Lodge with his wife Mandy.

They’ve made that dream come true.

With an eye on minimizing their carbon footprint through the use of passive solar heating, thermal masses, photovoltaic panels and other eco-groovy techniques, Homestake Lodge is a perfect place for a day — or a weekend — out of town.

Montana is loaded with Nordic skiing opportunities. From full-fledged lodges, to parking lots that lead to miles of trails — where there is reliable snow in Montana, there’s a cross-country ski trail system.

Bigfork Community Nordic Center and Blacktail Nordic Trails

The North Shore Nordic Club maintains trails for skiers and snowshoers in the Flathead Valley. They groom 6.5 kilometers at Bigfork Community Nordic Center and 43 kilometers at Blacktail Nordic Trails.

Bigfork trails are located at the intersection of Foothill and Jewel Basin Road north of Bigfork. Blacktail trails are along Blacktail Road east of Blacktail Mountain (alpine) Ski Area.

Bohart Ranch Ski Center

Thirty miles of scenic trail system on private and Forest Service lands loop through terrain well suited for all levels of ability. Bohart Ranch is known for impeccably groomed trails, big hills, biathlon training and wildlife. The center is located 16 miles northeast of Bozeman.

Chief Joseph Trail System

Chief Joseph’s 25 kilometers of groomed trails receive reliable snowfall every year, and is usually skiable earlier and later than many of the other Nordic trails in the area. There is a warming cabin, with a rentable loft. It’s located at the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley.

Double Arrow Resort

This resort in the middle of the Seeley Swan Valley has 15 kilometers of groomed trails to fit a variety of experience levels. Beyond the trails, backcountry skiing lures the well equipped and avalanche-savvy.

Elkhorn Hot Springs

More than 20 miles of ski and snowmobile (separate) trails beckon at Elkhorn Hot Springs in the Pioneer Mountains. From the lookout at Solarium Point, gaze south three miles to the ski runs at Maverick Mountain and beyond to the Big Hole Valley. To the north and east, the mountains — Highboy, Comet and Saddleback — dominate the skyline. Soak in the hot springs pools après ski.

Forest Service Trails

Throughout the state, the U.S. Forest Service maintains a network of hiking/biking/horseback riding trails that double as ski trails. Check with the local district for the best trails to ski on.

Glacier National Park

Winter ski and snowshoe trails throughout Glacier offer access to spectacular scenery and uncrowded recreational opportunities. From Apgar, Lake McDonald and North Fork on the west side, to Saint Mary, Marias Pass and Two Medicine on the east side, both groomed and ungroomed trails crisscross the park.

Homestake Lodge

Nestled at the top of Homestake Pass between Butte and Whitehall, Homestake Lodge superbly grooms 37 kilometers of trails for classic and skate skiing. Ten kilometers of trail are dog-friendly. A yurt, cabins and bunkrooms are available for rent.

Izaak Walton Inn

This historic inn bordering Glacier National Park in Essex has 33 kilometers of ski trails, which are groomed daily. The trails wind through gently rolling, forested terrain with views into Glacier National Park. Guided backcountry ski tours provide amazing adventures.

Lone Mountain Ranch

Voted No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine, the dependable snow, 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed trails and epic views create an unrivaled ski experience in Big Sky.

MacDonald Pass and Bill Roberts Golf Course

The Last Chance Nordic Ski Club maintains trails in two areas near Helena. The 13 kilometers of trails at MacDonald Pass offer stunning views of the Big Belt Mountains through the sheltered forest area. The city golf course offers convenient skiing in town. MacDonald Pass trails are about ½ mile east of the MacDonald Pass summit in Highway 12, the golf course is in Helena.

Mount Haggin Nordic Ski Area

Nearly 28 kilometers of groomed ski trails (10 kilometers for skate skiing, and all of the trails with the exception of the Spire Loop groomed for classic skiing). Ski trails also can be used as access to backcountry skiing along the Continental Divide. Find it 11 miles south of Highway 1, near Anaconda.

Red Lodge Nordic Center

More than 15 kilometers of groomed trails are laid out to take advantage of easy-going nature of the terrain just outside of Red Lodge. Well-groomed trails skirt meadows and wind through aspen groves; the hills are challenging, but easy to avoid.

Rendezvous Ski Trails

Easily accessible from West Yellowstone, the Rendezvous Ski Trails consist of more than 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows. Situated at just more than 6,800 feet, the trails provide perfect conditions for high altitude training or recreation. A 22-lane range is available on a self-serve basis for Biathlon training.

Silver Crest Winter Trails

More than 20 kilometers of trail wind through trees and meadows at the Silver Crest trails located in the Little Belt Mountains south of Neihart. Benches and shelters dot the trails just where skiers need a rest.

Stillwater Mountain Lodge

The 20 kilometers of Nordic trails wind through old growth forests, roll over ridge tops and meander through meadows eight miles from Whitefish. Trails are groomed daily. The lodge offers three suites for overnight guests.

Whitefish Mountain Nordic Trails and Whitefish Golf Course

Glacier Nordic Club grooms and maintains 13 kilometers of flat-to-rolling ski trails at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course and 10 hilly kilometers on Whitefish Mountain.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is at its best in winter. A blanket of snow, steamy geysers and hot springs, wildlife hunkered in the valleys, and the lack of summer crowds make skiing in Wonderland delightful. Find groomed or blazed trails at Mammoth, Tower, Old Faithful, Northeast, Canyon, West Yellowstone, and along Highway 191 in Gallatin Canyon.

Permalink 11/20/14 12:47:00 am, by Mel Email , 1084 words, Categories: Montana, Yellowstone, Hot Springs, Cross-Country Skiing, Seasons ,

Beach Day

After an awesome day at Disneyland we were ready for some real relaxing. My brother went to work, my mom drove down and we hit the beach.

Running in the sand, digging to nowhere, chasing waves, and hanging out with mom/grandma-- a perfect day.

We started the day with a swim in Uncle Scott's pool.

Rose petals in the surf.

And we ended the day with another swim in the pool.

Permalink 11/10/14 12:49:00 am, by Mel Email , 71 words, Categories: Anders, Family, Finn ,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ... 176 >>