Finger lake is an unknown gem that gets over looked because of its popular neighbor, the 7 lakes loop which includes second lake and temple crag is known to fill summer quotas early in the season. If you know me well, I like my solitude and go where its not busy. I do extensive research looking for stunning yet relatively unknown places to go. Finger Lake is one of those places. Mind you, this hike is not a walk in the park but the reward of witnessing this small and narrow turquoise blue lake, palisades ridge towering over the lake, and view middle palisade glacier, is well worth the struggle.
I have been envisioning the Minarets for years now. I remember the first time I discovered them via Google Maps, I knew I had to go. The question was when? Finally the time for the trip came. I reserved the wilderness permits months prior to the October trip date. Usually later in the year, the Sierras can get wild and weather patterns change in the matter of minutes. I knew it was going to be chilly but I could not pass up this opportunity.
Nestled deep in the Sierra National Forest hidden from the average tourist, away from the hussle and bussle of everyday city life, lies Balloon Dome. I dubbed it "Half Dome's Sister" from the original Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Only the true adventure enthusiasts will make the effort to witness untouched beauty that rivals many in the National Parks you see today. Balloon Dome stand 6879 tall with a killer steep gorge which the San Joaquin River rushes through. We could hear the cascades all day and night.
After I discovered this place online through google maps, I spent hours and multiple days researching about this hidden gem. There is very little information about this area so I knew this was going to be a bushwacking adventure. There is an overgrown trail that leads to a bridge, however it does not lead to a summit where I wanted to camp and soak in the views very few have witnessed before.
We drove over 5 hours from our home in Vacaville, California which led us deep into the national forest. The closest town is Oakhurst which is roughly 30 miles away. After you head into the forest, there is one town to get some food which is called Jones Store. Nothing but roads and more side roads after that so this last minute stop will ensure you have everything you need. I found it weird that in the middle of the national forest there was private property with a small village of cabins near here. Many of their backyards were meadows. I need to move here ASAP!
Once we made it down the sketchy 4x4 5S84 road to the Cassidy Trailhead, we got everything set up and started our hike. The beginning takes you over the Granite Creek bridge and then you head right into the Ansel Adams Wilderness in Sierra National Forest. There is a quota for overnight camping of course so make sure you get your backcountry permit if you are staying overnight. I embedding the route we took to reach the summit of an unknown peak. It is short but half the hike was off trail. Once we made it to the top, it was well worth the research, time put in, and the hike to enjoy the incredible views.
One downfall of this was it was very foggy, we had about 20 minutes total visibility to view Balloon Dome then the fog would roll in. It stayed until we woke up in the morning. I set up a time-lapse to capture the insane cloud movements
1. Ensure you have a 4x4 vehicle heading the road down to Cassidy trail. If not you will extending your hike 5+ miles most likely.
2. If you are looking to summit Balloon Dome, at around 9-10 miles you can make it in a day and back. Do a little more research and you will find a trail online to give you guidance on how to do so.
3. Plenty of creeks for refilling your water. Just stay away from the stagnant pools in my opinion.
4. Bears are prominent in the area. Hike at your own risk. Bring a bear canister as well.
5. If you want to have a camp fire make sure there are no restrictions on the National Forrest website.
Since I picked up a camera back in September of 2015, I've always been fascinated with Bryce Canyon National Park. It may be small in size but the views are incredibly vast. Located just 50 miles away from Zion National park in the southwestern part of Utah. Elevation at the rim varies between 8,000 and 9,000 feet. Even though it is not a canyon, Bryce is known for its amphitheaters of hoodoos that have been formed over millions of years of erosion.
Neuschwanstein Castle is a Romanesque dramatic palace with lofty fairy tale towers. The palace served as a model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland. Without a doubt, one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Germany. Over 1.4 million visitors a year flock to this lavish castle. You are thinking, just for a castle? Well, my friend, when you set eyes on this beauty then you will know why. It is absolutely stunning and once you go inside for a tour, the attention to detail and the paintings on the walls are as magnificent as the exterior of the castle.
Zion is an adventurer's paradise with tons of hiking, canyoneering, and sightseeing everywhere you go. Angels Landing was a hike we had to do along with a few others we had in mind. It is voted one of the most dangerous hikes in America. Danger you say? I like to live on the edge so why the hell not and defy death on this stunning yet dangerous hike?
I have been on a mission to conquer the best swimming holes northern California has to offer. This adventure is about Seven falls not to be mistaken for the seven falls in Colorado Springs which is awesome by the way or seven falls in Santa Barbara. This swimming hole consisted of 7 plus waterfalls that plunge into their own swimming hole. Stunning emerald-green water, cliff jumping, and the roaring sounds of the waterfall was an incredible peaceful experience.
When do you ever get the chance to hike a tunnel? A tunnel that speaks volume of history and that allowed emigrants into California from the East. Yes, Donner Pass is named after the Donner Party. If you don't know anything about the Donner Party, click the link for a quick history lesson. I found out about this hike the night before, and immediately knew this was a must do hike! I did some research and the next morning I packed up Joose (my dog) and off we go, day trip with the pup
One of the best parts about living close to the bay area is the influx of outdoor activities whether it's a leisurely stroll through the presidio or grueling uphill hikes throughout the bay. Each with incredible views at the top or along the way. The bay area has it all. Hundreds if not thousands of trails with dozens of waterfalls throughout the vicinity. I compiled a short list of my favorite day hikes in the bay area. All within an hour drive from San Francisco. If it has a view, I'm there or it's on my list. Enjoy.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Sedona, Arizona then jump on it. The scenery around town is to die for. Stunning red rock formations everywhere. The town is full of local art galleries, craft stores, world-class resorts, I swear every commercial building blended in with the rust-red like landscape, and beautiful southwest style homes line the streets throughout the town.
I don't know about you but I am not a fan of tourists wandering around aimlessly getting in someones way. If you haven't been to Santa Cruz, well its just that. This was my second time visiting and the first time was a complete mess during the summer. People from all over the world walking around with a beer in hand and a funnel cake in the other. (Don't get me wrong, I fucking love funnel cake.) They get in your way because A. They are hammered and stumbling everywhere. B. Foreigners do not know that we as Americans are supposed to walk on the right hand side of the sidewalk. Unfortunately, half of Americans still have not figured this out. :-(
Now, if you want to enjoy the beautiful pristine beaches and natural beauty of coastline, without the hassle of a busy crowd, check out Wilder Ranch State Park. My girlfriend and I decided we wanted to get away from the busy city one day and head south to Santa Cruz. A short hour drive from Oakland. Well, depending who drives right? She is a go-with-the-flow type of girl so I suggested this place and of course she was totally game. No questions asked. Women love the sun, beaches, and the ocean. Win Win!
Wilder Ranch is located roughly five minutes north of Santa Cruz right off the famous Pacific Coast Highway Route 1. One of the most scenic drives in America which I highly recommend to anyone. This is a State Park so there was a $10 Car pass to get into the park. Why can't all parks be free?! There are multiple hiking trails here but the one we hiked which is relatively flat the whole way was the Old Landing Cove Trail which connects to Ohlone Bluff Trail. At 7.6 miles out and back, this a very easy trail to hike with the lil chaps (children) or grand parents.
When you first get to the ocean during the hike, there is Wilder Beach to your left which apparently is privately owned and were not supposed to go there. Rules are meant to be broken and i am not going to let a sign stop me to enjoy pristine views of a beach all to ourselves. The hard part is climbing down which wasn't too bad. Once you get down there, there is a cove that goes about 10-15 feet deep that looks into the ocean (see photo below).
The trail offers astounding views of the cliffs to gaze at along the way. You want to get close to the ocean or get in it safely you say? Well you are in luck my friend. There are a few beaches you are able to walk down a path to catch some rays, have a picnic, roll around in the sand or jump into the bitter cold water. Your choice! Here is the Brochure they offer on the website so you have a better idea of the layout of the park. Another spot to stop at is Natural Bridges State Park as well. Murica!
Time to hike to our camp site off the west rim trail. Another 5 miles and part of it is the treacherous Angels landing trail in the scorching heat! Hey, can't stop now. Sounds like a blasty blast! Not! But I love it. It's all about the journey. This is why I do it. Along with it, comes peace, tranquility, solitude and my favorite, freedom. After a 2 mile hike to Scouts Overlook. We took a left to continue onto the west rim trail to our campsite which is a other 3 more miles of ascent. For a guy that works out 6 days a week, this is no walk in the park. I'm exhausted, soaked in sweat as I type this part resting under a tree waiting for my 3 hiking companions. Almost 6 hours later we finally made it to the top and I'm cramping so bad. I look at my calves and it looks like a bad chemistry experience going on in my legs. It's crazy looking. I have to say my view from my hammock is fucking awesome. 6500+ ft with an incredible Canyon views. I'm ready for an ice cold beverage and a steak dinner but unfortunately I get to live off of rationed water and snacks from the store until tomorrow morning. I got my photos, my friends,and this view. It was crazy how we encountered deer. They would come up within 10 feet from us. Finally the sun set and the stars came out. Wow what a sight to see! I going on break! Murica!
Its 4pm. It's about time we get started. It's time to hike Angels Landing, one of the most scenic hikes with the best views of zion national park. As we took the shuttle to weeping rock where our trailhead was. Known for being one of the most dangerous hikes in the world because of the 10" path with just a chain to hold onto with a 1000 foot drop off cliff. Here I am, halfway to the top of angels landing. Holding onto chain rails for dear life as I look either to my right or left, it's a frightening thousand plus feet drop on either side. I can see the tiny little shuttle buses on the road and people look like ants. Time to continue. Another break. Wow this is exhausting,but the mission must continue. It's always nice to have small talk with the random travelers. Just talked to some people from Montana doing a thirty day adventure which was pretty sweet. Finally made it to the top! I'm exhausted but it was so worth it to see the incredible views. Now it's time set up my hammock. I have been thinking where I could hang my hammock the whole time and I found a spot at the very top. Perfection! I have to say it was so badass to just relax in my hammock enjoying one of the most amazing views in the world with not a care in the world. As I set up my hammock, someone saw mine and said I beat him to hanging it up. We ended up talking and he was a freelance photographer that's been trying to make it. We talked the whole way down the rest of the trail talking about traveling, solitude, adventures, and life in general. It was pretty sweet, I made a friend today. Murica!
Its 0900, my favorite orange ultra zero monster in hand, backpack ready to roll, and here I am waiting on Jd. Where the hell is he? Oh, he's late. Who would've thunk?! The man that basically got me all hyped up on mountain dew about hiking and going on these adventures. He just got back from his deployment from Jordan and the first thing he tells me when I pick him up from the airport, "Bro! Let's go on a roadtrip!" Well, you don't have to twist my arm to have a good time. I'm easy to please. So we rummaged through Roadtrippers (which I used for my Oregon Roadtrip where I will be posting about it in the near future) and put together a sweet roadtrip from northern California to southern Utah, Grand Canyon and northern Arizona. It looks like we will be picking up his sister and she's bringing a friend. Oh great, two females to slow us down. Jd and I are always on a mission and we don't like being held up by a slow herd of cattle causing traffic. How do I know this? The hike that sparked it all was last year with Jd, his sister that just got back from Japan serving a tour over there, and myself. We decided to hike mission peak which is by fremont, California. Brittany is an awesome girl and we gave her such a hard time about how slow she was and weighed us down but its ok, She can handle the heat so she's allowed in the kitchen. It's all in fun:) After hours of driving through the so exciting central Valley, (insert sarcasm here) we end up taking a detour because death Valley was farther than we expected. We found Red Rock Canyon that had cool rock formations as our first stop. Which was alright but nothing to go crazy over. As we make our way over to Las Vegas for the night, driving through the Mojave desert, it was interesting by itself. Nothing but abandoned homes, desert, extreme blistering temperatures year round, and so much emptiness. We came across Lake Dolores rock-a-hoola Waterpark that has been abandoned for over a decade. Makes me think, what was it like 50 years ago? Was the area prospering? What happened?