Category: United States

San Diego Rose Garden

I splurged and got a new camera! My goal was to find one which was small enough to fit in the front pocket of my backpack so when I hike I have quick access. I also wanted something with a good zoom. After a short time in the local camera store I walked out with a Sony Cyber-shot  DSC-HX90V. I don’t know much about cameras, but I love taking pictures. I’ve been using this camera for 2 months now and so far it’s great.

The day after I got my camera I was itching to see what it could do. This was the perfect opportunity to head to the San Diego Rose Garden, as KB had been telling me to do for weeks. He was absolutely right, because my goodness did I enjoy myself! I’ll let the roses speak for themselves.

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It was typical gorgeous San Diego day. 70 degrees, wonderfully sunny, and with a slight breeze. First I was greeted by yellow roses. The bees were buzzing, calmly ignoring me and going about their business. They certainly got into plenty of my photos.

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The roses looked beautiful against the big blue sky. I felt like I should skip down the path and frolic through them. Good thing I didn’t have my GoPro or I just might have.

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After moving away from the yellows I went towards the pinks. I couldn’t believe how many different roses there were. Certainly not the couple options you find in the grocery store.

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I know you’re thinking it, and the answer is yes – the roses smelled AMAZING. I’m sure I looked silly smelling every other one, but I couldn’t resist.

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The actual name of the garden is Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. According to their website, the garden has about “1,600 roses of more than 130 varieties.” That’s amazing!

DSC00072This white and pink speckled rose was one of my favorites. It looked like someone spent months carefully painting it.

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It was difficult to get a good shot of the bold red roses. They were such an incredible red, most of the pictures would blend everything together. However, I got close enough to where I  could finally make out the individual red roses. They look like velvet.

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SD Rose Garden

And because purple is my absolute favorite color, I’m going to put 2 purple roses here. We also have another cameo of Mr. Bee.

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The San Diego Rose garden is opposite the street of the San Diego Zoo parking lot. There is a cactus garden too, which is also lovely. Check out information on the San Diego Rose Garden yourself. I would absolutely recommend it!!

 

Mission Trails Regional Park

If you want to do any decent hiking in San Diego, you need to drive at least 45 minutes from the main hub. Which is fine, except when you want a quick jaunt through the wilderness on a suddenly free afternoon. This is when I go to Mission Trails Regional Park . http://www.mtrp.org/

Mission Trails

Mission Trails is my backyard playground. It takes 20 minutes to drive there, and there are just enough hiking options to not get bored. Now while Mission Trails does consist of Cowles Mountain, I’m rarely caught on this over-used, selfie-filled, ridiculously congested hike. On the rare occasion I do hike Cowles, I hike it from the back-side, which has fewer people, and continue 2 more miles to Pyles Peak. Typically there are only a few people on the trail when I leave the top of Cowles and head towards Pyles.  So it’s a good way to lose the crowds.

That being said, I’m here to talk about the less-congested West side of the park. I prefer this side because you can easily get away from the crowds, and there are plenty of great trails to choose from. It’s easy to get great views, a good workout by adding extra miles, and of course my favorite part – flowers. The flowers are not year-round, but because of San Diego’s consistent 70 degree weather, there are plenty of months that offer flowers for your viewing pleasure. I always try to make a special trip in the spring specifically for the flowers. This year’s trip was especially wonderful because of  the increased amount of rain San Diego got.

Mission Trails

My two favorite hikes in Mission Trails are North Fortuna from the back side of the park, and South Fortuna from the front side. North Fortuna is my shorter option (I want to say 3 miles from Old Mission Dam, but don’t quote me on that), while South Fortuna is a 6-mile loop that has more to offer. 

When I first began to hike 5 years ago, I started with the North Fortuna trail. Although it’s fairly short, it is steep. This hike was a great way for me to build my incline muscles. I always know I’m in good hiking shape when I can hike the entire uphill part without stopping for a break. As I got more comfortable hiking, I tried the South Fortuna loop. It is just as steep as North Fortuna, but includes railroad tie steps and more variety in terrain. For my spring flower visit, I took my sweet time and did South Fortuna.

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I usually park my car in the lot before the turn into the visitor’s center. Before I start hiking, I go through my mental checklist as I do for every hike. This is assuming I have already packed the correct amount of water, snacks, and the 10 essentials.

  1. Apply sunscreen
  2. Put on hat
  3. Wallet/ID (so I can be identified in case of an accident)
  4. Phone (in case of emergency)
  5. Music Device/Headphones
  6. Camera
  7. Sunglasses
  8. Car keys

Then I’m ready to go! I begin walking along the Visitors Center Loop and cut across the San Diego River.

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Soon the trail turns into a steep, hot, shadeless utility road, but at the top of the hill there is a nice downhill stretch. Of course this means you have to go back up to get to South Fortuna Summit, but it also means there’s plenty of variety.

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Continuing downhill, the trail runs along a little river bed. There are always plenty of flowers to stop and admire here. This part also offers some shade from an otherwise treeless landscape. In the summer the park gets very hot, which makes this a perfect spot to take a break if I’m overheating.

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I’ve always loved California poppies. In addition to being the state flower, poppies are absolutely gorgeous! Whenever I take a picture of poppies they always look fake because they are so thin and velvety.

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Mission Trails always has a lot of purple flowers for me. I never get tired of flowers, and I certainly never get tired of purple, so the combination always leave me feeling fairly elated. These flowers were beautiful and had a lovely whisper of purple in them.

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I see these big guys frequently when I’m hiking in Southern California. They are yucca plants, and particularly beautiful when they flower. I’ve found that the more purple the flowers, the more bugs it has in and around them.

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Mission Trails

After a short walk by the river bed the trail starts to go uphill again. According to a passerby I had just missed a rattle snake, but that part of the trail had plenty more to offer.

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Everyone knows purple is my favorite color, so I enjoyed these beauties. They’re fragile though, and it took a minute for them to come into focus against the breeze.

There is a steady uphill climb with nice views of the summit for the next half mile. At the base of South Fortuna, I get a nice view of the steep uphill section. I take a short breather before I continue on and pretend to enjoy getting my butt kicked by the wooden steps and rock scrambling.

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Once at the top, I tried to reach the summit before taking a break, but got distracted by this pretty little thing. I was pleasantly surprised when she stayed still long enough for me to get a decent picture.

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I took a snack break when I reached my usual perch at the top of South Fortuna. A storm was coming in the next day, so unfortunately it wasn’t a nice day for views. Normally I can see downtown San Diego, but it was a hazy day.

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When the trail reaches the saddle of the Fortunas and starts going downhill there isn’t much in terms of flowers. It’s a dry, windy area with no shade. However, when the trail flattens out and turns back South, it meets up with the river bed again.

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This is my favorite section to hike if I’m looking for flowers. It never fails to impress, even if I have to keep an ear out for cross-country bikers while I’m bent down taking pictures. Many of the trails here are biking trails, and I’ve almost been knocked off the trail more than once. But the bikers are always having so much fun that I can’t be mad at them.

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While I happily walked through my favorite flower-covered area, I heard a loud buzzing. I looked in the direction of the culprit and saw a HUGE bee! The picture doesn’t do him justice, but this bee was the size of a golf ball. I didn’t want to get too close, and of course jumped back hurriedly when he started flying towards me.

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He buzzed lazily past me and ignored my presence. I guess I wasn’t the only one enjoying the flowers! I hiked on and climbed the last uphill part of my hike with enthusiasm.

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I was back on the utility road trail. Typically this part of the hike doesn’t have anything exciting on it, but I spotted this flower at the bottom of the hill. I don’t know how I missed it at the start of the hike, but it was a very nice way to end my spring flower hike.

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For anyone in the area I would absolutely recommend visiting this park. Although I avoid it in the summer because of the heat, Mission Trails is wonderful at all other parts of the year.  Just bring plenty of water and sun protection because there is little shade. Most importantly, enjoy the flowers!

My First Backpacking Trip – Glacier National Park

Looking back at my first backpacking trip I can’t help but laugh. I laugh at how little I knew. I laugh at how cool I thought I was. But you have to start somewhere right? My boyfriend at the time, IG, was a backpacker. He was itching to go on a trip (an itch I am now all too familiar with), and I wanted to join him. After lots of planning on his part, and lots of nods and uh-huhs from me, who had no idea what was going on, I found myself at Glacier National Park on my first backpack. I wish I could remember all of the gear I had brought with me. IG of course helped me organize my gear, but I would love to see the difference between my pack then vs now. I wore regular tennis shoes and brought a really heavy $10 Target sleeping bag. The only thing I remember having in terms of proper gear was my new backpack.  In fact, it is the same Deuter backpack that I have today. Compared to my 21 lb base-weight I have today, I wouldn’t be surprised if my pack was closer to 40 lbs on my first trip. Ouch!

First Backpack

I had always liked the idea of backpacking. I loved seeing pictures of people backpacking in the middle of a beautiful wilderness. I wanted to see views like they did. I wanted to know how to survive on my own with just the basics. The nature, the weather, the wildlife. All of these things were something I wanted to experience in their raw entirety. I was very excited about the whole concept of backpacking, so I was eager to jump on the backpacking train. IG had figured out everything for our trip. The cooking, the itinerary, the tent… I was really just tagging along, hoping I didn’t die, and hoping it was everything I imagined it would be.  

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We began our tip in Calgary, flying in on a beautifully sunny morning. About 3 hours later we were in Glacier National Park. My goodness was it beautiful! It was the first time I had ever seen mountains like this. Or at least that I could remember. To this day, Glacier is my favorite national park. I’m sure this is partially due to the nostalgia of my first backpacking trip, but nobody can deny the park is breathtaking. Going-To-The-Sun Road gives you views that are hard to beat, and they get better and better as you drive further along.

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First things first, IG and I went to the ranger station to get a permit. We had to watch a video about backpacking in bear country, what the acceptable locations to do your business are, and other educational necessities. We also had to book our campgrounds in advance and leave the itinerary at the station. This was so the rangers could keep track of us in case of an emergency, and to limit the amount of people in each campground. Our plan was to enter at Loop Trail Trailhead, end at Goat Haunt Campground, and loop back around through Fifty Mountain Campground back to Loop Trail Trailhead. I was a little sceptical about the 17.4 mile day, but heck! If IG thought I could do it, then it wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe backpacking was going to be easier than I thought.

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We drove through more of Going-To-The-Sun Road and parked at Loop Trail Trailhead. Next thing I knew our adventure had begun. My very first backpack! Soon after we began I already started to have problems. My backpack kept hurting me. The backplate was poking my spine, and I couldn’t seem to fix it. At first I didn’t want to seem like a wuss, so I kept going and didn’t say anything to IG. Maybe all backpacks are fairly uncomfortable? We stopped for our first break and I threw my pack down, very frustrated with the pain. I kept trying to adjust the back plate, but nothing I tried worked. Angry, I manhandled the backpack and slammed the backplate. Success!  I just needed to use a little more force and the backplate went exactly where I wanted. Relieved, I was ready to continue on.

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It was a hot day. The recent forest fire had burnt down the trees, and therefore the shade. We started hiking uphill, and although the incline was not huge, it was steep enough to make a difference with the high temperature. Trying to ignore the heat, I trudged along in my own little world, thinking about who knows what. My first major backpacking mistake was not paying attention to how my body was feeling. Suddenly, the world around me got strikingly bright. My vision closed in, and I was blinded by the bright green colors in the meadow around me. I couldn’t hold myself up, and I couldn’t see. I slowly lowered myself to the ground, grasping at anything I could to sit down. IG rushed over and realized something was seriously wrong.

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An attempt to show you what I experienced


First BackpackAlthough I was clueless in that moment, this was my first real encounter with heat stroke. I sat down for several minutes while IG fanned me and put some water on my head. My vision slowly started to return and I started to realized how bad I felt. I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gone from pleasantly hiking to instantly feeling like I was going to vomit up the world. After resting for several minutes, IG convinced me that while he carried my pack, I should try to walk as far as I could, and sit back down again. I felt strong enough to try, so I began to walk. Just a few steps followed by a break. Then a few more steps and another break. The breaks got shorter, and my steps got longer until I felt good enough to take my pack and continue. Although IG asked me several times if I wanted to turn around, I insisted that I was not going to
end my first backpack before it had even begun. So we kept going.

We continued towards the campsite, which thankfully wasn’t much further. However, in a strange twist of mother nature irony, a storm came in. It began to rain. The rain turned into hail. Although IG did not think it was very funny, I couldn’t help but laugh. Here I was, not a half hour ago a victim of heat stroke, and now it was hailing… it was just something that I had to laugh at. Plus I’ll admit the cold felt wonderful on my face.

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We picked up our pace and made it to camp by late afternoon. Someone had set up a tarp over the camp kitchen, and we chatted with our new neighbor while waiting out the rain. Once the rain stopped, we set up our tent, made dinner, said goodnight to the local deer wandering about, and went to bed. Perhaps I had been wrong about how easy backpacking was going to be.

This night was the start of what would be a long time of being cold while sleeping. I just assumed being cold was the consequence of sleeping in the wilderness. I wasn’t so cold that I couldn’t sleep, but cold enough to be absolutely uncomfortable. (Now I have “my baby.” A Western Mountaineering 10 degree down sleeping bag). When I woke up the next morning I was very thankful to IG for making me hot oatmeal. From that point on, oatmeal has been my staple backpacking breakfast meal.  It’s fast and you can warm up water for your tea at the same time. However, there is no better way to warm yourself up than by walking.

Today was going to be the most difficult day. We had 17.4 miles to go, and after my heat incident the day before, I was not super motivated. Grudgingly, I started to walk. I quickly began to warm up. The landscape started to get more beautiful. Then the sun came up. I still remember how wonderful it felt to have the first rays of the day shine on my face. I stopped to enjoy the moment. This was the point where I realized I was surrounded by nothing but nature. The road was miles away. The further I walked, the more enthusiastic I got. With every step I was getting further and further away from civilization, and I loved it. I reveled in it! It was a beautiful day, and so far everything was going very well.

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A few miles in, we ran into our first predator. A grizzly bear! IG was the first to notice him, and the bear was… well not exactly how you’d imagine a fierce predator. He was exactly how you would picture a grizzly bear frolicking through a meadow. It was quite a sight! We were close enough to see him clearly, but far enough away that we were comfortable watching for a while. He rumbled through the meadow, lumbered over logs, and gnawed at the grass enthusiastically. He was not the biggest bear, but impressive he was. After several minutes he wandered away and we continued on.

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Reading helps us forget about our sore feet!

Right around here is the spot where I have an incredibly vivid image of hiking. It was so windy that I was getting pushed off the trail. We were hiking through a field, so green and beautiful, and I was experiencing pure bliss. That moment is what I had imagined backpacking would be like. Weather, nature, and wildlife were surrounding me on all sides. It’s little moments like this that make not showering for days worth it.

Our goal for the was to reach Goat Haunt Campground, which is next to Upper Waterton Lake. This is also the least-used border between the US and Canada. Though the hike had been pleasant so far, IG and I still had quite a ways to go.

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We passed through a campground, a beautiful meadow, and made our way to a huge valley. We stopped here for lunch and looked down at the beautiful vista before us. We also made friends with a marmot. He was keeping a lookout for visitors on the trail and gave us a head-bob greeting.

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Quietly munching on granola bars, IG and I realized the sky was slightly darker than it was when we had originally perched ourselves over the valley. When we started walking again it got even darker, and not long after we started down into the valley, the clouds were a very ominous black. The park ranger had told us there was always a 20% chance of rain in the forecast. The weather could change in a second, and we should never trust what we thought was going to be a beautiful day. She could not have been more correct. It had been beautifully sunny not half an hour ago, but the quickly darkening skies were going to prove otherwise.

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We continued down into the valley, and sure enough it started pouring. It rained and rained, and rain some more. We did not stop and wait it out because we couldn’t. There was no shelter anywhere. We were on multiple switchbacks going downhill, with a steep upward incline on one side and a sudden drop on the other. The only thing to do was keep walking, albeit carefully. It must have been an hour or more of constant, torrential rain. Only once we got to the bottom of the valley did the rain let up. We stumbled on a little shed, and right as we opened the door the rain stopped completely. Tired, we took a long break to get our spirits up again. The sun made an appearance so we went back outside and aired out our clothes. My base layer was orange, and I soon learned that butterflies love orange. Two butterflies fluttered over and landed right on my shirt! It was a moment that I thoroughly enjoyed, because we all know how much I love butterflies. After admiring the butterflies and conversing with a couple who had waited out the rain in the little shed, we continued to our final destination.

First Backpack

Unfortunately, IG and I proceeded into what I am convinced is the biggest mosquito population on planet Earth. It must have been the mixture of the rain and walking on the edge of a riverbed. At that time I did not have any mosquito netting to put on (however I purchased some after the trip). We tried to convince ourselves it wasn’t so bad, but IG and I quickly gave up and jogged through the mile or so of remaining mosquitos. We were eaten alive! It certainly didn’t help that I’ve always been a tasty treat for mosquitoes. Once we were safely past we slowly trudged the last mile to our campsite. I can’t remember my feet ever hurting so much. First thing I was going to do when I got home was purchase hiking shoes.

When we arrived, IG and I didn’t take in much of our surroundings, but immediately set up camp. I was not in a favorable mood because of the mosquito bites covering my entire body. Most notably my face. And oh how itchy they were! After a quick dinner I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and went to sleep. What a day it had been. We let ourselves wake up slowly the next mornig and sleep in (well I always wake up slowly). After spending the morning lounging around and admiring my dozens of mosquito bites we went down to the lake. Only then did we realize what a magnificent spot we were in.

First Backpack

The mountains were beautiful, and the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. I had the idea to put my sore feet in the lake. This was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had! It felt so good to have my feet in the nice cold water, and it was just like an ice bath. IG followed my lead and we enjoyed ourselves for quite some time, feet in the water, taking in the view. It was one of the most beautiful views I had ever experienced. Finally we decided it was time to pack up and do our quick 3 mile hike to Kootenai Lake Campground.

First Backpack

The Ranger had told us Kootenai Lake was the best spot to see moose. Seeing a moose in the wild had always been on my bucket list, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. Thinking about the moose, I started the short 3 mile hike enthusiastically. This quickly changed to lugging myself along the trail at a snail’s pace. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from backpacking, it is to never tell yourself it’s just a “quick” walk anywhere. You will easily become unmotivated because it’s always more of a walk than you think…or at least than I think. To this day I always mentally prepare myself for a 20-miler, even if I’m only going 2 miles.

We took a fork to the campground where a sign stated we had .6 miles left. I still remember that sign, and I still remember how long that .6 miles felt. When we got to the campground I felt just as I had the day before. Exhausted and frustrated. IG and I set up camp and parked ourselves right at the lake shore. Sadly, no moose came, but looking out at the lake was lovely in itself. It put my frustrations out of my mind. Sunset came, and so did the mosquitoes, so we ate dinner and called it a night.

First Backpack

We had far to go the next morning, so IG and I got up early.  Well, it wasn’t necessarily the length of the hike, but the incline. We had to go back up the valley that we had come down in the pouring rain. Luckily the mosquitoes were not out in as much force as before, and we enjoyed the first few miles of the day. Before I knew it we were at the bottom of the valley. IG told me to take it slow, so at every switchback we took a quick break. 

First Backpack

It was absolutely beautiful looking out at the valley. You could see so far without the rain! I enjoyed the hike back up and we got to the top  much sooner than I thought we would. We had kept a steady pace and the breaks were just long enough to keep me going strong. When we got to the top of the valley IG and I took one last look into the valley. I looked down at our trail going to the right.First Backpack

At that moment I promised myself that I would come back one day and take the trail to the left. Where did it go? What is just as beautiful as the trail we had taken? Was it more beautiful? I had to know.

We didn’t have much further to go that day, so we took our time getting to Fifty Mountain Campground. We said hello to our marmot friend and got to the campsite in no time. Tomorrow was a 16 mile day, so we had some dinner and went to bed soon after we arrived.

First Backpack

The next morning IG and I got up before sunrise. At first it was difficult to find the trail in the dark because it was heading up a rocky hillside. The sun started to come up when we found the trail on the ridge we would be hiking that day. Unfortunately the views were not great because of the cloud cover, and the big issue was the wind. I tried to keep my spirits up, as this was the last day of our hike, but I can honestly say this was the coldest I have ever been. I was absolutely chilled through, and the wind was relentless. The plan was to stop for lunch, but it was so cold I couldn’t think of stopping. IG also wanted to hike an offshoot trail and try to see a glacier on the other side of the mountain pass, but I was simply too cold. I needed to keep moving, and I needed to warm up.

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You can see the trail in the distance on the far left.

At some point the wind finally died down and the rain began. Even with the rain I was very thankful that the wind stopped. The rain was not as cold and I got a chance to warm up. We arrived at a campground right outside of Granite Park Chalet and took a snack break. I needed to use the restroom, so I excuse myself and took a little path to the pit toilet. I consider this to be the best bathroom that I have ever used. I even snapped a picture and took my sweet time so I could enjoy the scenery. The background is unfotunately washed out, but you get the idea. To this day, I still think about this pee whenever I think about this trip.

First Backpack

We still had a couple miles to go, so I grumbled, put my pack on, grumbled some more, and continued on. The trail started to go downhill and the grade got steeper and steeper. Suddenly IG and I were motivated to quicken our pace because we saw the road! I was so relieved the hike was almost over. It had definitely been a trying day, and the downhill slope was so steep that my knees started to hurt.

First Backpack

Then the trail suddenly turned away from the cars. Just as quickly as the trail turned the wrong way did my motivation shatter. The car was out of sight and we kept walking away from the direction of the car. Kept going, kept going…  Did we miss a turn? After some time of second-guessing ourselves the trail finally turned back in the direction of the parking lot. Completely ready to be done with the hike, the road came back into view. When I finally put my pack down I was frustrated, tired, hungry, and hurting, but I loved it.

First Backpack

Now I’ll be the first to admit this was not the most successful backpacking trip, especially for a first-timer. IG even admitted that it had been a tough one. In 4 days I had been through heat stroke, a hail storm, torrential rain, a mosquito orgy, and absolute cold. Not to mention incredibly sore feet. At first I was worried that all backpacking trips were like this – full of bad weather and blisters. IG promised me that this was not representative of a typical backpack. Knowing that, I felt that if I could make it through this trip without any previous experience, I could make it through anything.  Although I have done my share of backpacking trips since Glacier, this trip still presented me with the most obstacles I have ever faced. Even with the gear and experience I have now, it still would not have been an easy trip. Yet, my trip to Glacier had been everything I’d imagined. Fierce weather, great wildlife, fantastic views, and the feeling of absolute accomplishment.   

First Backpack

Death Valley Superbloom

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this trip ended up being the perfect International Women’s Day celebration. I had heard about the super bloom in Death Valley through a shared article on Facebook. I learned that the super bloom is a rare event that takes place about every 10 years. Over the winter, El Niño helped Death Valley get just the right amount of rain for this spectacular event to take place. I shared the article with one of my hiking friends, KN, and jokingly asked her when we were going. Two weeks later she texted and asked if I wanted to go the following week. Of course I did! I had three days off in a row and timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We were fortunate enough to be an easy 5 hour drive away, so we simply couldn’t pass up the chance.

Death Valley Superbloom

We left San Diego at 6:30 AM and had an uneventful drive to the park. The first thing we did once we arrived was set up camp. We rushed to put up our tent and headed over to the visitors center. After speaking with a helpful park ranger we went to the recommended location to see the wildflowers. What KN and I had initially expected were a decent amount of flowers here and there, and perhaps bigger clusters every now and then. We were happily proved wrong. When we drove up Beatty Cutoff, a beautiful yellow carpeted the entire hillside. The color stretched all the way to the base of the mountains.

Death Valley Superbloom

When we got out of the car we realized there were not only yellow flowers, but also purple flowers, white flowers, pink flowers, flowers flowers flowers! Surprisingly, there were not as many people as we thought there would be, but there were photographers aplenty. Initially we had tried to borrow a nice camera for our trip instead of using our phones. However, we did not have any luck finding one and were sadly left to our own devices. That did not stop us from taking way too many pictures though. After exploring the area directly around our car we decided to walk away from the road and see if the flowers really did get as dense as they looked. Boy did they ever! Suddenly what we thought were dense flowers were not dense at all. They started to stretch out in every direction and you could not walk anywhere without the fear of stepping on one. It was then I realized this trip was really going to exceed my expectations.

Death Valley Superbloom

The sun was soon to set, and we had already spent more time with the flowers then we had planned. We hopped in the car and went to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes to watch the sunset. It was almost a bust because of the clouds, but the sun ended up peeking out right above the mountains. After watching the color scatter cross the sky, we played around in the Sand Dunes.  KN and I were very tempted to try for the tallest sand dune 2 miles away, but we didn’t have enough daylight. Instead we headed back to our campsite and filled our bellies with hotdogs. After looking at the stars over some tea, we went to bed. 

Death Valley Superbloom

The next day we woke up at 4:45 AM. We are not the pair to typically be up this early, but we wanted to watch the sunrise from Dantes View. I was very happy we made this decision because we had a perfect view into the valley and the colors just got better and better. The sun slowly crept across the top of telescope peak and the surrounding mountains. Which were by the way, covered with snow. I took a moment to appreciate that the combination of snow, desert, and flowers was certainly a unique combination.

Death Valley Superbloom

After we spent a good half hour watching the colors the morning had to offer, we brought out the Coleman Grill and began cooking eggs and bacon at 5,475 feet. It was windy and took a little time for the bacon to cook, but do not fear! No bacon was wasted. Once our bellies were full we geared up and headed out for a hike. The plan was to do Dante’s Ridge, but we had a lot on our agenda for that day and planned to go as far as we could with our allotted time.

KN and I didn’t make it very far once we started hiking because there were so many new flowers.  After all, the whole point of this trip was flowers! So we took our sweet time and plenty of pictures.

Death Valley Superbloom

When we finally realized how slow we were going, KN and I sped it up and knocked out 3 miles. The views from the ridge into the valley were incredible. The air was so clear, it seemed we had picked the perfect day to do this hike. We got to a good turnaround point and decided to head back to the car. On the way, KN came up with a term called PPM, or pictures per mile. After looking at her GPS to see how slowly we had gone for the 1st mile, she came up with the good idea of implementing the PPM system. Sounds like a good excuse for walking slow to me! We got back to the car around noon and headed to our next stop, which was the second ranger-recommended flower field.

Death Valley Superbloom

This field was supposed to be south of Badwater Basin. We did not know how far south, but we did not need to know. After driving a few minutes past the popular tourist site we suddenly saw the yellow. So much yellow, KN and I started squealing for joy. It was better than we could have possibly imagined. We got out of the car and started unpacking our lunch. Although the day was hot, we decided to bring out my handy old beach blanket and sit smack-dab in the middle of the flower fields while enjoying our sandwhiches.

Death Valley Superbloom

This wound up being a great decision because to be surrounded by the fields, versus simply walking through them, makes for a surprisingly different experience. Walking through the flowers fields didn’t give me me as good of a perspective as getting down low. Sitting down for an hour made me appreciate just how many flowers there were. After lunch, and once again taking too many pictures, we drove back to Badwater Basin. Both of us had already been there so we did not stay long.

Death Valley Superbloom

After taking a few goofy shots we headed off to Artists Palette. We stopped at the first site, which neither of us were very excited about. We simply thought there was going to be more color for something called Artist Palette. We left somewhat disappointed, but after driving for a little while longer we saw the actual Artists Palette. It was beautiful! So many colors! I have no idea how nature can make a simple hillside so pretty.

Death Valley Superbloom

Realizing we were once again running out of time, we headed to Zabriskie  Point to catch the sunset. We did not quite make it in time for the actual sunset, but the colors were stunning nonetheless. We still got to see the best part, which was the light slowly going down across the colorfully-banded hills. We enjoyed this view until it got dark, and headed back to our campsite. After a dinner of enchiladas and hot cocoa I gratefully flopped into our tent. It had certainly been a long day.

Death Valley Superbloom

This was the morning KN and I were going to sleep in. So why I was up at 7:30 AM, I’m not sure, but we were going to take advantage of it. The original plan for the day was to go to the race track (where “moving rocks” leaves trails in the dirt), but finding out that we needed a high clearance vehicle for a 2 1/2 hour drive changed our minds. We did not have the time nor the vehicle. We decided to go back Zabriskie Point and explore the area more thoroughly. The idea was to do a quick 4 mile loop, but we ended up looping all the way to Golden Canyon, making for an 8 mile trip.

Death Valley Superbloom

The vistas, colors, and general scenery made me very thankful that we decided to hike the longer loop. There were so many amazing things to see, and the views never got old. Though there was lots to keep me distracted, I was very aware that we had been hiking longer than expected, and the day was heating up. 

Come 1 o’clock we had almost made it back to the car. However, with my history of overheating, I was getting worried about my water situation and the high temperature. We started to get a good pace going, and made sure our PPM was zero for the last mile. We quickly made it to the car and thankfully KN had a Gatorade stashed in the cooler. I took the courtesy of dumping my leftover water on my head, which felt amazing and cooled me off immediately! Then I took a nice big swig of Gatorade and felt normal again.

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Sadly, it was time to head home, but that does not mean we drove out of the park right away. We still had a few stops to make. After getting gas for an outrageous price, KN and I stopped at Salt Creek to watch the pupfish play. Pupfish are little fish that can survive in high saline water and very high temperatures. After reading the boardwalk’s explanation of the pupfish behavior, it was easy to see that these playful looking fish were simply trying to get through their tough little lives.  We didn’t stay long, but quickly made our way to the market in Stovepipe Wells. After enjoying our sandwich and lemonade lunch in the shade we headed to Mosaic Canyon. Since we still had one more stop to make after this one we promised to make it a quick stop. After we started walking for a few minutes, KN realized she had done this walk on her last visit. We were in luck, she remembered! The interesting things to see were all in the 1st mile.

canyon save

We admired the marble and the beautiful colors the sunset was shining on the stone, and headed back to the car. Even though we did not stay long, it was certainly worth it. I was impressed simply because it was there. How can something like that wind up in a place like Death Valley?

Our last stop was Darwin Falls. This was a must do for us because we had no idea that there was a year-round waterfall in Death Valley. It seemed too bizarre to be true. We drove to the edge of the park and took a left-hand turn down a 2 1/2 mile dirt road. The sun was going down, but the hike was only a mile long. It was a pretty, although windy, walk along the river bed. As we got closer to our destination, the wind thankfully died down. The last quarter of the hike was very nice. We stepped over little streams, navigated over rocks, and quickly found our waterfall.

Death Valley Superbloom

The waterfall was much bigger than I had imagined. I had assumed a waterfall in Death Valley was going to be a lame trickle of water down a vertical slope. This was not the case! I was impressed by how much water was flowing, and how lush and green the surrounding area was. We relaxed for a few minutes to simply enjoy our surroundings. KN and I had rushed through so many parts of our day that we wanted to take this one in. After hydrating and eating a few snacks we decided it was finally time to go home. We made it back to the car just before dark and enjoyed our long drive back to San Diego.

Death Valley Superbloom

Collage courtesy of KN

We had seen people from all over the world on our Death Valley trip. They had come from so far to see this rare and beautiful super bloom, but KN and I had simply hopped in the car and made a quick three-day trip out of it. I am so very glad that we did because I would not have wanted to miss this.  If we had only gone to the ranger-recommended flower locations and nowhere else, I would have been satisfied with the trip. A few days after we got back, KN looked through our pictures and counted 42 different flowers. How amazing is that? The last time I was in Death Valley everything had been dead and desolate. To see all of the color and life from the superbloom was truly a wonderful experience. Although I wish I had brought a better camera, the trip was certainly a success. Great scenery and great company are hard to beat.

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