Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Exploring Northern California: Redwood National and State Parks


Light rays streaming through the Avenue of the Giants

Northern California has so much of the Golden State’s beauty. There are stunning beaches as well as some of the most magnificent, mature and tallest coastal redwood trees in the world. If you’re into natural beauty, and enjoy a good forest hike Redwood National Park is great place to spend a few days.


Sunset view in along the coast in the Del Norte section of Redwood National Park

And visiting in the winter means mild weather and virtually no crowds.


Even the stumps are impressive at Redwood National Park

The trees are so tall they are challenging to photograph!


A fallen log the the Boy Scout Tree Trail 

Redwood National Park consists of three California state parks–  Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. If you’re visiting the area, it’s also worth visiting The Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 31 mile drive through the old growth forest of  Humboldt Redwoods State Park off the 101 Freeway.


Looking up at some redwoods

There are a lot of great hikes in the area.  The easy 1. 4 mile Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop hike  is relatively flat but a nice place to start and gives you a sense of the park. My favorite hike was the moderately difficult 2.8mile Boy Scout Tree Trail Hike, where we only passed one other pair of hikers in early December.


Dwarfed by trees

We flew into the Arcata Eureka airport (ACV) in Humboldt County, rented an SUV and drove up the coast to the Jedediah Smith Information Center to plan our days. SUVs are recommended as not all the roads in the parks are paved.


Trees of Mystery

Forest hikes aren’t all Redwood National Park has to offer. The Del Norte section of the park includes some spectacular west coast scenery, sandy and almost empty beaches and fabulous moody sunsets. I visited Redwood National Park with my friend Zan in December and enjoyed the area’s extremely chill vibe.


Looking up the trunks of giant redwoods

In addition to the Redwood Coast’s National Park, there are some fun other tourist attractions including the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.


A humorous sign on the Redwood Coast

If you’re planning a visit, Crescent City can make a great base to explore the northern parts of the park. It’s also a good place to grab a bite to eat.


Hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)


Giant Redwoods have shallow roots



Left: Zan is little compared to the giant sequoia tree stumps Right: Pine needles make the trails springy 

45% of all remaining Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are in the area that stretches through Humboldt and Del Norte counties.


A quiet moment on the Boy Scout Tree Trail


Zan enjoying the pleasant climate in the Jedediah Smith section of the park

Roosevelt elk and sea lions can also be found in the park.


Heart shaped stump in Prarie Creek Redwoods state Park


Moss on the trunk of a giant redwood


Enjoying the beach in Redwood National Park

If you want to #findyourpark in Northern California, check out Redwood National Park.


Redwood National Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

and don’t miss the scenic Avenue of the Giants drive through  Humboldt Redwoods State Park


Crescent City Visitors Center

1111 Second Street, Crescent City, Calif. (Corner of 2nd and K Streets)

Hours of Operation.

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm.

Winter: Open 9am to 4pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Closed: New Years day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.


Jedediah Smith Visitor’s Center

US Highway 199 at Hiouchi, Calif.

Hours of Operation

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm

Winter: Subject to staffing.

Phone 707-458-3496.

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Exploring Northern California: Trinidad State Beach


Sunset among the rock pools at Trinidad State Beach

There are many beloved beaches in California so it’s hard to say there any single one is best. The best known beaches stretch from Big Sur south to San Diego. But Northern California has some lesser known gems. Discovering the stunning beauty of Trinidad State Beach in Humboldt County last month was quite a surprise.


Sunset stroll on Trinidad Beach

Located almost 400 miles north of San Francisco, Trinidad State Beach is closer to Oregon than the Bay Area. It’s the mix of the Pacific Northwest geography  and soft golden sand that makes it quite magical.


Sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Located on a cove in the small city of Trinidad (population approximate 400), Trinidad State Beach is the gateway city to the California Coastal National Monument. I stumbled across it during a trip to Redwood National Park. It is also one of California’s smallest incorporated cities.


Low tide + Sunset

Trinidad State Beach has soft sand, coastal bluffs, sea stacks, and waves strong enough to entice surfers.


Pretty from every angle

The best time to visit is sunset, when the tide is low enough to walk your dog and enjoy stroll along on the sand.


Enjoying the sunset view 

The secluded location of Trinidad State Beach means it’s never that busy. Visiting in December, the weather was pleasant enough to hike along both Trinidad Head as well as along the coast.


Scenery like this is usually reserved for beaches in Oregon and Washington

The tiny town of Trinidad is rather charming. The Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery is a great local spot to stop for a breakfast burrito and cup of coffee before exploring the area or venturing to Redwood National Park.


Rocks + horizon

The historic Trinidad Head Lighthouse was located here until it was moved on January 10th, 2018.


low tide views 

Visiting during low tide allows you to explore behind the rocks and get views of Trinidad Head.


Sun about to dip below the horizon

If you want to stay in the area, I can recommend the charming View Crest Lodge, where I stayed for two nights. The cabins are cute with modern amenities and located just a few miles from the beach on Patrick’s Point Road. Patches of the road are rough, and it’s not lit after dark so an SUV is recommended.


Random amazing view #12 on Trinidad State Beach

If you’re looking for the best beaches in California or things to do in Humboldt County, Trinidad State Beach is definitely worth checking out. It’s as gorgeous as better known beaches in Big Sur and significantly less crowded. My friend, Patrick McGowen, who grew up near the area, told me it’s his favorite beach and turned me on to the area.


This view reminded me of Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock

The scenery reminded me of what you find at Ruby Beach (located in Olympic National Park) or Oregon’s famed Cannon Beach.

Sunset and sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad State Beach

Getting there: Trinidad State Beach is located 19 miles north of Eureka, CA just off Highway 101. From north- or southbound 101, take the Trinidad exit (Exit 728). Turn west on Main St and proceed to Stagecoach Rd. Turn right; the park entrance is about 200 feet north on the left. There is another entrance about 1/2 mile north on Stagecoach Rd, also on the left.

Trinidad Bay Eatery & Gallery

607 Parker St
Trinidad, California 95570

View Crest Lodge

3415 Patricks Point Drive. Trinidad, CA
(707) 677-3393
Rates from  $95


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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Road to Hana Highlights– the Venus Pool


Jumping for Joy at the Venus Pools

Some the best highlights on Maui’s famed Road to Hana are beyond the town of Hana. While most guide books will claim you can do this scenic Hawaiian road trip in 3 hours, I’d suggest taking at least two days. Spend a night (or three) in the Hana area so you can explore the area at your own pace and linger at the places you like.


Hiking through sugar cane to the Venus Pool

One of the definite highlights of the area is Waioka pond, better known as the Venus Pool. The trail to this beautiful spot can be found on the ocean side of the Hana Highway, just past Mile Marker 48 and before the bridge. The hike is easy and interesting and it takes about 10-15 minutes of walking through sugar cane and lush greenery and past a weird looking shelter (that is an old bread oven) before you see the stunning blue pool fringed by rock.

Slo motion Venus pool goodness

If you plan on visiting the Venus Pool, be sure you bring shoes that can handle water and have traction. Some of the rocks can get slippery. Sunscreen and a towel are also useful.


Splash at the Venus Pool (waioka)

We visited in late morning it was glorious. Based on the number of locals who showing off their cliff diving prowess, it is a gem appreciated by locals and visitors alike.


rock climb, dive, repeat

The Venus Pool is a stunning shade of blue in the late morning light. The water here is slightly brackish since it partially filled by a spring and not just the ocean.


It’s one of the most magical swimming holes I’ve ever seen. The Venus pond is deep enough that visitors jump and dive from various rock outcroppings


Into the blue of Waioka (aka the Venus Pool)

I loved the Venus Pool so much I wanted to come back again. It’s a great spot for swimming, hanging out, or having a picnic. If you didn’t bring lunch, head back towards Hana and grab a bite at Bruddah Hutts BBQ, one of the best food trucks in the area.

Waioka (the Venus Pool)

Trail head located just past Mile Marker 48 on the Hana Highway.

Hana, Hawaii 96713





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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Portland and Seattle with High School Students


UHS Faculty member Maggie Beckman hiking Portland’s Forest Park

I’ve long held the belief that travel is the best kind of education. So when my friend Wes Priest, an English teacher at University High School in Indiana, told me that he was bringing a group of students to the Pacific Northwest with his colleague, art teacher Tasha Barger, I agreed to join them and give a few photography tips.


Wes and the JTerm students at the Witches Castle in Forest Park (photo credit: Maggie Beckman)

These 23 teenagers spent the first part of January studying the art, photography and literature of the Pacific Northwest with Wes, Tasha, and faculty member Maggie Beckman during their school’s January Term (J-Term). During J-Term, the students take a break from their normal studies to immerse themselves in a single subject that interests them. This interdisciplinary class culminated in a trip to Portland and Seattle.


PDX snowpocalypse in Forest Park

I met up with the group in Portland, Oregon while the city was still pretty much shut down after experiencing the biggest snowstorm in 20 years. As a seasoned traveler, I know plans how often plans go awry and you need to embrace that. But I had no idea how a group of teenagers would handle it. Their upbeat attitudes and lack of complaints caught me off guard. It was refreshing. There really is nothing you can do about the weather and the students got to see Portland in a really unique way.

Time lapse of the students working on zines in Portland. What a cool class.

Spending time with this group taught me a lot of great things to do with teenagers in Portland. We hiked through snowy Forest Park to the Pittock Mansion to get a view of the city. We hit legendary Portland institutions including Powell’s City of Books and Voodoo Donuts.


Hiking the Upper Macleay Trail in Forest Park

I learned donuts are very popular with high school students. Top Pot Donuts in Seattle was also on the week’s agenda. The students documented their trip with cameras and used photos and found items to create hand bound zines. It was fun to watch so many young creative minds get busy making art.


Snoqualmie Falls

Spending the week with this group of students was both exhausting and inspiring. They appreciated both cities as well as the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and they reminded me of what it is like to have a youthful perspective.


Eating Ramen at Pine Market in Portland (photo credit: Wes Priest)

Eating Ramen at Pine Street Market was a big hit with this crew on a cold night in Portland.

Watching the students document their trip made me want to include some of their photos and impressions on this blog. Featured below are some images the UHS students shot on their trip to the PNW and their own captions.


I took this photograph of my friends’ and my feet right before our hike at Twin Falls.”- Kathryn Papp

These students came prepared and learned the best way to handle the Pacific Northwest’s moody weather is by dressing correctly. Every one of these students was wearing appropriate footwear. It made for a cute photo opportunity and I was excited that one of the students captured it.


Lily in Capitol Hill in front of graffiti- Erin Webb

The students wandered through Portland, checking out local record stores, thrift shops, and the Portland Art Museum.


I took it because its kind of a perfect depiction of the Seattle vibe. Everyone and everything is accepted, except for lack of acceptance- Lily Hunter

The students broke up into groups and explored different neighborhoods in Seattle, which prides itself on being progressive and a Sanctuary City. I wasn’t surprised the teenagers loved Pike Place Market and my personal favorite, MoPop  (formerly known as the EMP).

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 Gorgeous water fall at Snoqualmie falls in Washington” – Kenzie Binford

Seattle’s weather cooperated with us and the group got to visit Snoqualmie Falls and went for a great hike in Twin Falls.


 “A different perspective of a piece of wood art at Portland Art Museum”- Drej Cosby

It was my first visit to the Portland Art Museum and I thought it was both user friendly and a nice size. There was lots to see without it being too overwhelming.


 “Meowtropolitan cat taking some time to chill”- Drej Cosby

Some of the students visited Seattle’s Meowtropolitan, a Japanese-style cat cafe. I’m allergic to cats but was interested in their take. They really enjoyed it, and seemed to think it was quite a bit of fun for the price point!


 Red and Boji”- Maddie Compton

I was impressed by the student’s genuine appreciation for the post-modern architecture of the the Seattle Central Library. They made me remember just how cool the Rem Koolhas and Joshua Ramus-designed building is.


 “The Seattle Room at the Seattle Public Library”- Elise Zaniker

Seattle’s Central Library is also a great location to take photographs and the kids got some eye catching shots.

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 The modern built Seattle Public Library is home to many of writers and artists that open a portal of literary bliss to anyone. I felt that this was a good representation of the modern architecture that houses the classic tales of our time.”- Serena Patel


  “This was on the bus ride from Portland to Seattle. It was just a nice, quiet moment I wanted to capture.”-Kathryn Papp

The students impressed me with their keen interest in the Pacific Northwest, their manners and the general lack of drama. Travelers have always been de facto ambassadors, and this group certainly made University High School look good.


This bridge that served as our entry point into Forest Park felt like a gateway or portal into another world. Once I crossed under this bridge, I felt like I was in an entirely different universe of snowy bliss. Almost like Narnia.”- Livi Nichols

Spending a week with these kids strengthened my belief that travel is great education. It forces you out of your comfort zone, makes you to think on your feet and switches up your perspective. It was fun being able to share the experience of exploring the Pacific Northwest with these students. Their enthusiasm and curiosity was contagious.


  Michaela laughed as she hoisted herself up to get a better view of Elliott Bay. It was our first day in Seattle and the rain and fog only added to our ‘authentic’ Seattle experience.“- Livi Nichols

I did not just learn from the students. Wes, Tasha, and Maggie are passionate educators who are dedicated to helping young minds develop. They worked hard to plan this trip and make it a positive experience for all involved. I hope these students know how lucky they are to have such fantastic and accessible teachers.


“It was really spiritual and one of the best moments of my life because everybody was helping everybody else. People were cold and tired, but everybody stayed positive and struggled together to get the best feeling once we hit the very top.”- Eli DeBrota

The whole J-Term concept is a really cool idea. Where were classes like this when I was in high school?


The JTerm Crew on the waterfront in Seattle

I have to confess I missed this group once they left Seattle. Hopefully some of them with return to visit. I promise Portland is an entirely different experience without all the snow.


Wes and Tasha at Snoqualmie Falls

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Day Hike to Kvalvika Beach in Norway’s Lofoten Islands



Dramatic clouds and scenery on the hike to Kvalvika Beach

Norway’s Lofoten islands are known for their dramatic landscapes. But the handful of gorgeous sandy beaches came as a real surprise to me as a first-time visitor to the area.


Clouds reflected in a pond

An unexpected highlight of my recent trip to Norway was the scenic hike we took to Kvalvika Beach. Located onMoskenesøy and only accessible by foot, the day hike is popular with families and photographers. It’s easy to see why.



Looking down at Kvalvika Beach

After about an hour of minutes of pleasant hiking with some slick patches due to the wet grass and natural oil oozing from the land, the mountain landscape opens up to reveal a glorious crescent shaped beach with waves crashing against the golden sand.


Ana taking in the view from the hike

The hike itself is interesting (and popular) throughout the year. During the summer, campers head to Kvalvika Beach to spend the night under the midnight sun. In the fall and winter, photographers and families head up for the dramatic views.


Kvalvika Beach, possibly the prettiest spot in Norway’s Lofoten Islands

We wound up being led on this hike by Alex Conu, who we hired from Colors of Lofoten to be our photo guide for the day.


Red grass and pink clouds on the hike to Kvalvika Beach

It’s worth the effort for the scenery alone. You’ll pass fields of red grasses and lakes before getting a bird’s eye view of Kvalvika Beach.


Otherworldly landscape in the Lofoten Islands

I appreciate unusual landscape and the moss, rocks, oil, and mountains made this one of the most visually satisfying hikes I’ve ever taken.


Oil oozing from the Lofoten Islands

There are some step sections, and hiking boots are key to handling this terrain.


The landscape before dusk looked drastically different

We took this hike just before dusk, when the colors and light were changing quite a bit. Views looked dramatically different on the way back than they did on the way up, We opted to retraced our steps to save time, since we were prioritizing photographing the Northern Lights that evening rather than take the long way back.


Portrait of Ana in the outdoors

Kvalvika Beach was featured in a documentary called North of the Sun, about two surfers (yes, arctic surfing is a thing) who spent nine months there catching waves. You can watch the film on iTunes.


Clouds reflected

If you’re headed to the Lofoten Islands and fit enough to handle a reasonably easy hike with some moderate altitude gain, I’d highly suggest taking the hike to Kvalvika Beach.


Portrait  of Ana in pastels on the hike to Kvalvika Beach

Getting there:

From any location on Lofoten, take the E10 to Fredvang. After leaving the E10 and crossing the twin bridges, turn left into Fredvang and continue along the road through the village. After approximately 3 kilometers (from the turn) you will see a red boat shed on the left near the water. Immediately past this is a paved parking turnout large enough for 10-15 cars. Park here.

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