Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim

Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim


Today was a tourist day for me as I stopped at many of the viewing spots on the rim. A strong wind was blowing and as the day progressed the temperature dropped to a point just above freezing.

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DSC_8036-RavenOverhead, clouds were moving in and across the canyon. The result was ever-changing lighting patterns on the many Canyon faces as some parts would be lit by sunlight while others were obscured by low flying clouds. At this time of the year, the roadway to Hermit’s Rest is open to public vehicular traffic. During the busier months the only way to get to the Hermit’s Rest is via public shuttle or via a long walk along a path that skirts the rim.


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DSC_8097-jay DSC_8095-jayLater in the afternoon those clouds began to shower remaining tourists with pelleted snow in ever-increasing quantities.

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After some discussion and a review of the weather forecast, I canceled my plans to hike down the Bright Angel Trail to greet and photograph my kayak paddling trio as they passed by on the Colorado River. I figured that even with snow falling the 5 – 6 hour hike down to the river today wouldn’t probably be too bad but hiking back up out of the canyon on dampened trail would probably been about 8 hours and messier than I would have liked so instead, I headed south to the warmer surroundings of Sedona, Arizona.

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As I left the park offices, pelleted snow (a.k.a. “GRAUPEL”) was falling pretty steadily.  Certainly lessened the fire hazard but unfortunately also increased the chances of traffic accidents. Before reaching the park gate, I found myself waiting in line behind a pink jeep tour vehicle as police and ambulance attended to a two vehicle mishap on the slippery roads. I was not looking forward to two hours of such driving conditions so thankfully the c0onditions somewhat a few miles further south.

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I was running a bit low on fuel but not worried since the route from the rim of the Grand Canyon  is mostly downhill (great fuel economy :-)). I arrived at Williams without further incident, filled up the fuel tank and took a whirlwind tour of this Route 66 town where almost every establishment included “Route 66” somewhere in their name or advertising.

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Once I had filled with fuel, stretched my legs a bit and down the quick tour, I was back on the road again heading to Flagstaff, Arizona.  It wasn’t long before I encountered adverse driving conditions once again.

DSC_8158-Flagstaff-weatherHappy to report that I stayed out of the ditch and ro9ads and skies cleared a bit before I encountered the 3 miles of 7 degree slope and switchback corners on the scenic route south into Sedona. Definitely scenic in the daytime but not on a night like this! Certainly happy to find a motel in Sedona and settle into bed for a good night’s rest.

Photos will be added later.

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2011

It was St. Patrick’s Day and this year I found myself contemplating a day of snowshoeing on the snow-covered slopes of the mountain trails maintained by the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont. Certainly different than my plans and surroundings when we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans in 2009.
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Stowe, Vermont

We started off the morning X/C skiing at the groomed trails of the Trapp Family Lodge located on a mountainside above Stove, Vermont. There was still lots of snow in the woods but since the weather has been warm during the day and then freezing overnight, the trails, although groomed, were rather hard and granular in the morning when we first started out.  As the temperature increased, the snows softened and skiis became more manageable.
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Driving Snow – Cortland, NY to Ithaca, NY

Driving Snow – Cortland, NY to Ithaca, NY

While the east coast of the United States was getting hammered by a winter snow storm, we were driving along in mixed sunshine conditions until we reached Cortland, NY and stopped for a bite to eat. While we were eating our lunch, the weather outside worsened and we ended up driving from Cortland to Ithaca is some rather nasty driving conditions as a strong wind from the north caused a combination of lake effect snow and drifting snow. Visibility at the end of the Ithaca Airport runway was pretty limited but after getting through Ithaca, the driving conditions began to improve.

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Ottawa to Morrisburg – a bit of snow and a few stops

Ottawa to Morrisburg – a bit of snow and a few stops
The weather forecast said that the weather would be nice in Morrisburg so when Jeremy and I left Ottawa we weren’t expecting to encounter any tough sledding during the drive to get there. Mother Nature decided to test us a bit with a bit of a snow squall when we approached the junction of the 416 and the 401 highways. We decided to avoid the 401 and take the more leisurely route along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, stopping for a few photo breaks along the way. I was happy that the snow squall didn’t follow us and we were soon away from the adverse weather.
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Potential for a White Christmas is now HIGH!

Potential for a White Christmas is now HIGH!

Snowfall over the past few days has now all but assured us of a White Christmas. My backyard table recording system says so :-).

Another Snow-free Fall day – Kanata/Nepean, Ontario

Another Snow-free Fall day – Kanata/Nepean, Ontario

It was a nice day (-3C) to be outside in the fresh air as long as you found a bit of shelter from the wind. Unlike other parts of North America, the area around Ottawa has escaped any serious snowfall (so far!). Had a good rainfall this week though, so lots of puddles with coatings of ice and interesting ice patterns.

As I was driving along one of my unmaintained trails, I came to a spot where the rain had flooded a bit of the rutted road and decided to turn back. Couldn’t trust that the frost had firmed up the spot enough and certainly didn’t want to walk a mile to the nearest farmhouse!
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Snowshoeing up to Mt. Marcy, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Snowshoeing up to Mt. Marcy, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Joined up with Tom Bissegger of Brampton, Ontario for a weekend winter camping and snowshoeing trip to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The goal was to camp out at Marcy Dam on Friday evening and then the next morning don snowshoes again and hike to the summit of Mt. Marcy.

Despite the -15C temperatures and forecast breezes, I made the mistake of overdressing by a layer or two and overheated early on. I had to reduce my speed substantially to keep my body temperature down.  That meant that I had more time for photography but ended up making much slower progress along the trail. As seen in the photos, most of the trail was well wooded and I had anticipated a bit more of the trail to be open to the breezes. Oh well, will know better for next time. Had a good time anyway and the scenery was fantastic with all of that fresh snow.

There were a few side trails that would have been open in the summer but during the winter the snow quickly blocked all but the well traveled trails. Lots of tree markers too so unlikely to get ‘lost’ but some do every year in the High Peaks Region and require rescuing.

As the heavy snow causes the spruce boughs to bend in over the trail, it is important to keep your head and neck covered or else a gust of wind will drop a load of snow on the unprepared hiker.

The initial few miles of the trail is through fairly thick bush so tough to see the sun but once we reached this spot on the trail, at the Indian Falls cut-off, it was nice to get out in the open for a bit to see the blue sky and the surrounding terrain. A biting wind made for a very short break and getting back onto the sheltered trail was soon the goal.

With about 1.5 miles to go to the summit we began to encounter shorter and shorter trees as we got closer to the tree line. There would be a few ups and downs before we actually got above the tree line but by this point we were beginning to notice that there was a decent breeze blowing to further cool us off.

Tom had gone on ahead when I had decided to slow down due ot overheating. WHen I reached this spot and could finally see the summit, I knew that with my energy fading and time beginning to become a factor, I wouldn’t likely make it to the top on this trip. When, a short distance later I came upon another sign indicating that I still had 1.2 miles to go and a good climb as well, I knew that I knew for sure that I wouldn’t make it to the top this time around.

From this point on I just followed the trail upward so expecting to meet Tom on his way back down. The snow caked on the trees and the bright blue skies made for a beautiful time and I was on a section of the trail that, although open, was relatively sheltered from the biting wind.

It wasn’t too much further along on the trail, when I met Tom on his way back. Although he had made pretty good progress, he found that the wind right into the face, once he got above the tree line, was making things just a bit too dangerous to continue.

As we headed back down toward Marcy Dam, a look out over the scenic landscape confirmed that we had come quite a way and climbed quite a bit but the peak would have to wait for another day.

Trail info (from ADK High Peaks Region guidebook):

Van Hoevenberg Trail to Mt. Marcy

Distance from Trailhead (one-way):
To Marcy Dam – 2.3 miles
To Indian Falls – 4.4 miles
To Summit of Mt. Marcy – 7.4 miles

Ascent: 3166 ft (965 m)
Elevation: 5344 ft. (1629 m)

How far did I travel on snowshoes?
On the Friday – 3 trips between parking lot and Marcy dam = 6.9 miles
On the Saturday – just short of the tree-line from Marcy Dam and then back to the parking lot = approximately 10 miles.

A couple of Tom’s photos to show what it looked like a bit higher up.

Edit: I went back a few weeks later. Weather wasn’t quite as nice but I got closer to the peak before turning back.




Hiking to Marcy Dam

Hiking to Mt. Marcy Dam

When I arrived a the trailhead, it wasn’t snowing. After I went inside to register and pay for parking, I came back out and could barely see my car due a very heavy snowfall that had swept into the valley. Thankfully, the storm didn’t last long but it did turn everything pristine white. With a 60+ pound pack on my back and snowshoes on my feet, I headed up the 2.3 mile trail to Marcy Dam where I planned to tent for the night.

When I got to Marcy Dam it was beginning to get dark so I pitched my tent and then went looking around to see if there was anyone else in the area. No one! Not a soul! I was all alone on the side of the mountain. Not often that you can experience that at this popular Adirondack Mtns site. My hiking partner was scheduled to arrive from Toronto about 7PM but, as the night ticked on, I decided to hike back down to the parking lot (another 2.3 miles but downhill) in the dark with just my head lamp for lighting. Part way down, I met a skiier coming up, but not Tom, so continued on to the parking lot. As I arrived at the parking lot, about another dozen hikers and back-country skiiers arrived, each with their own headlamps to light their way. Very interesting to see that many twinkling headlights moving along the trail and off into the darkness. Tom had encountered three hours of tougher than expected snowstorm driving conditions coming from Toronto so was happy to be eventually arriving and changing from business attire to alpine trekking attire.

The trail was well marked and had been well traveled so there was very little chance of getting lost even though it was late in the day and daylight was diminishing. At this time of the year skiis or snowshoes are mandatory on trails in the High Peaks Region.

Crossing a foot bridge over a small mountain creek on the trail to Marcy Dam.

Although cool (about -15C), snowshoeing supplied lots of body heat so the hike back to the dam was pleasant. By the time that we got back to Marcy Dam again, I was tired and slept soundly despite the -15C or so temperature outside of my tent. Tom and a couple of others decided to share the available lean-to and another chap dug a spot in the snow for his tent to be sheltered. (Lean-to photo by Tom the next morning).

For the Friday – 3 trips between parking lot and dam = 6.9 miles.

The next day.

Heading out to High Peaks Region

Heading out to High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks

As I left Ottawa on my way to a winter climb of Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in the Adirondacks, the weather conditions for driving were definitely not optimal. I would be meeting up with Tom Bissinger from the Toronto area and I would find out later that he would be driving through worse snow conditions than I was. The next day was supposed to be much better but today was a driving day. To enter the USA, one of the choices is to cross the St. Lawrence River via this toll bridge which leads into Ogdensburg, NY.  From Ogdensburg, I travel to the Adirondacks (Lake Placid, NY) via a combination of county and state roads and highways.  I had hoped that the weather might have improved by the time I reached the border but it didn’t and travel was not unsafe but a bit treacherous from time to time.

This spot on the bridge is more or less half way between the Canada Customs and the US Customs offices and high over the St. Lawrence River.

Once I crossed over the St. Lawrence River and got through customs, I had to chose between two routes but other than that it was just the weather that I had to contend with and although it was only snowing slightly, there was a stiff wind blowing. Thankfully the snow had been heavy and wet and was not blowing around too much. I was traveling in Amish country and the sight of a horse drawn buggy was fairly common.

The saying “Not fit for man nor beast” came to mind as I passed this horse with its back to the wind and the snow.

Stopping in Potsdam to photograph the river and weir gave me a chance to relax a bit and stretch my legs. Driving to this point had been a bit tough but not as bad as I thought it might be. Despite the cold, the icy waters were still flowing over the weir at Potsdam, New York. I saw this shot but needed to get closer so I climbed atop a hard-packed snow bank beside a nearby parking lot.  Still not close enough, so I took a few more steps and instantly found myself waist deep in the soft, white, fluffy stuff.  Liked the shot though, so not too bad a sacrifice.

I was driving my Subaru with its All Wheel drive so wasn’t too concerned as long as the roads had been viisted by a plow overnight.

The next leg stretch was at St. Regis Falls where there is a camping spot in the summer, some nature trails and a nice little falls on the river. Each time that I pass through the hamlet of St. Regis Falls, NY, I stop for a short look at the river and the falls after which the area is named. Not a huge falls by any measure but a beautiful location nonetheless.  The area to the right of this shot is a campground, park and community recreation area and is connected to woodland trails by a beautiful foot bridge that crosses the river below the falls.

The geometric lines of this playground structure against the stark whiteness of the soft untouched snow caught my attention in the playground area of St. Regis Falls, NY, so once again I left the roadway to wade through deep snow to get the angle that I wanted.

Meanwhile back in the car my floor mats were getting wetter and wetter as I transported lots of that snow clinging to my pants and boots back to the warmth of the car after stopping for each photographic moment.

What!!! Oh no!!!! Closed for the season!!!!

Once I had reached Saranac, my driving for the day was almost over. The weather had begun to improve and things were definitely looking promising for the rest of the weekend.

Wall murals created with ceramic chips adorn a few of the walls of Saranac, NY.  This example is on the wall of the public parking area across from the Saranac volunteer fire station.

Made it to Lake Placid without further problems. Lake Placid, NY was the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and is only a few miles north of the trailhead for the climb up Mt. Marcy, New York State’s highest mountain. Although the skies had cleared and the sun was peaking through the still lingering clouds at this point in my trip, that wasn’t to last and clouds and more snow moved in before I reached the trailhead.

Next stop the ADK LOJ parking lot.