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The climate is ‘a changing. After this winter’s record high temperatures around much of the U.S., there’s not much room for argument from global warming skeptics. Nine states in the West had one of their top 10 warmest winters on record. So there’s that.
While Washington skiers bemoaned the lack of snowpack this year, hikers can rejoice that many area trails and campground are opening unseasonably early, including Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP). This year, mountain trails and passes at Mount Rainier are opening earlier than ever before due to exceptionally low snow pack.
Aerial view of the Caldeira de Sto. Cristo from the hillsides
One of the most visual ways to describe the island of Sao Jorge in the Azores is to say it is like an aircraft carrier, long and narrow and sporting dramatic cliffs that dive down into the sea. While most of its coast is still accessible, the steep cliffs and ocean combine to create isolated peninsulas in certain locations, much like the "golden cage" of Kalaupapa that we loved so much on Molokai. One of our favorites on Sao Jorge was the village of Caldeira de Santo Cristo, located on the north side of the island and only accessible via foot or a small four-wheeler/ATV.
It is here that you can really see and feel the influences that make the Sao Jorge coast what it is. The wet and foggy climate, active seas, rocky coastline, and tropical vegetation combine to provide a mix of a western Scandinavian fishing village with tropical Hawaii. Visitors will see stone-built houses, surrounded by stone-wall property liners, against the backdrop of lush, wet hillside terrain.
Photo Gallery / Adventure Travel / Hawaii Travel / Kauai Travel / Na Pali Coast / Hiking / Kalalau Trail / → All Tags
Our campsite on Kalalau Beach at the end of the Kalalau Trail on Kauai
Just about a year ago, we hiked the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail on Kauai's Na Pali Coast, calling it one of the prettiest coastal hikes we had ever walked while showing off the photos. After such an impressive experience, we decided to return to tackle the entire trail and spend two nights at Kalalau Beach before hiking back out.
Although the 11-mile hike begins and ends at sea level, the Kalalau Trail gains and then drops a total of 5,000 feet in elevation via a series of rolling valleys along the Na Pali coast. In addition to the rigorous ups and downs of the terrain, the trail is very narrow at times with unstable footing, especially when it rains, right along the cliffside. It doesn't require any technical experience, but it does require that you are able to maintain good balance with a full pack.
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Last week, we went on a six-day excursion and hiked several sections of the Larapinta Trail, a walk that runs 139 miles through the Northern Territory of Australia. In the past few years, it has become known as one of the country's top treks due to its beautiful desert landscape and challenging rocky terrain. It starts in Alice Springs, is broken down into 12 sections, and is meant to take the average hiker 10-14 days to complete.
We did just over 60 miles of it over the course of the week, walking between 8 and 12 miles each day. It was an ideal time to tackle it, with the weather transitioning from winter to spring in the desert. Clear nights and moderate temperatures allowed us to sleep outside our tents under the stars, and it was hard to find a cloud in the sky on most days.
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Our photo gallery of Havasu Falls highlighted the stunning beauty that awaits adventure travelers who make the journey into the Grand Canyon, and from those you can see that milky turquoise water, stretching canyon walls, and jagged rock formations stole the show for us visually. But there were also many interesting and unexpected aspects of the area that surprised us, some that provided context that enhanced our trip and others that, simply put, surprised the hell out of us.
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Havasu Falls at the end of the Havasupai Trail in the Grand Canyon
Most people only see the Grand Canyon from above, looking out from a viewing platform on the South Rim near the visitor center. But getting down into this Wonder of the World provides an incredible perspective on its size and scope, not to mention its beauty.
Adventure travelers have been immersing themselves in the Canyon for centuries, backpacking rim to rim or rafting their way along the Colorado River. Last week, we took one of the easier routes of submersion, hiking the 11-mile Havasupai Trail to what we consider to be the Canyon's, and perhaps North America's, best oasis.
Wish You Were Here / Adventure Travel / Hiking / Grand Canyon Travel / Arizona Travel / Havasupai Falls / → All Tags
We're down there... somewhere.
Most people only see the Grand Canyon from above, looking out from a viewing platform on the South Rim near the visitor center. For those that need a reminder of its "grandness," the canyon is 277 "river miles" long, one mile deep, and 18 miles at its widest point.
It's an amazing sight, for sure, one of which we need a much closer look. This weekend, we're headed off on a multi-day backpacking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, making our way to Havasupai Falls, about an 11-mile hike from the top of the canyon.
When this writer went to the small town of Damascus in western Virginia to research a few stories, I basically ran myself into the ground, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail in the morning and biking the Virginia Creeper Trail in the afternoon. Before my visit, when I was explaining to friends where I was going, I told them that Damascus sat alongside the App Trail. I was wrong about that. Turns out, the trail goes right through it.
Like, really through it, as in the sidewalk down the center of town is part of the trail. This in itself is what makes Damascus such an interesting place. Every person that hikes the Appalachian Trail - which is 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine and takes the average person 6 months - must walk through the town of Damascus. You meet some interesting characters to say the least, from the hikers to the people in the town who help them out. It's not unusual to see tents set up in front yards, locals taking in the weary walkers for a night or two.
Saba Travel / Caribbean Travel / Island Travel / Island Hopping / Hiking / Adventure Travel / → All Tags
We told you about the lack of beaches, the memorable airport, and the pristine, world-class diving, but there’s much more to love about Saba once you scratch the surface and go beyond the headlines. Here are five more awesome things we discovered that helps to define life on this tiny Caribbean island:
You Can Hitchhike Without Worry
If you walk down the road outside the main drags of town, you probably won’t even need to stick out your thumb – locals will most likely pull over and ask if you need a ride. During our trip, we met a Canadian who told us a great story about arriving to Saba and hitchhiking to his first day of work. He found himself in the back of a truck, sitting on the metal floor next to a goat, the animal sliding against him in the moving vehicle. When the driver asked where he was going and what he did on the island, the man said he laughed out loud before responding, his hand on the goat to keep it at bay, “I’m a doctor. I’m going to the med school.”
A doctor might be a respected and prestigious position in North America, but no one is above riding in the back of a pickup with the local wildlife on Saba.
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As we learned, Saba certainly isn't known for its beaches, shooting straight up from the sea in dramatic, volcanic fashion. On the coastline, you will definitely see the rocky nature of the island, but at the center of Saba sits lush rainforests.
On our recent visit, we hiked to the highest point on the island and were rewarded with sweeping views of the town of Windwardside on southeast corner of the island. Coming down on the other side, we caught a glimpse through the trees of Saba's capital, The Bottom. The view from the hills above the airport is a great one, too, especially if you can time it with the landing of a plane. It is from there that you can also see up to a half dozen islands in the distance: St. Maarten, St. Barth's, Anguilla, Nevis, St. Kitts, and St. Eustatius.
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Question: When was the last time you went to an airport for a drink when you didn’t have a flight? Turns out, Saba’s claim that it has the shortest commercial runway in the world isn’t the only reason to visit its airport – it’s also a damn good place to grab a drink and chat up some locals.
But first, the runway itself. It’s one of the main reasons, in conjunction with the fact that it has no beaches, why the island has remained so protected from mass tourism. At a mere 1,312 feet long, nothing larger than a small prop plane can land (as a comparison, Denver has the longest commercial runway in the U.S. at 16,000 feet).
Adventure Travel / St Maarten Travel / St Martin Travel / Caribbean Travel / Hiking / Orient Beach / Simpson Bay / Maho Beach / → All Tags
Pic Paradis is the highest point on St. Martin (1,391 feet), and those who make their way to the top are rewarded with 360-degree views of the island. You can either hike or drive to the top, so the beauty is open to all ages and abilities.
The view was a bit hazy in certain directions on our recent visit, but it is an absolute must-do for visitors with a few days to explore. You have to change positions at the summit to see the whole island -- it will be obvious -- but its perspective will not only show you the beautiful green-blue contrast of the land and the sea, but allow you to gain a feel for the different corners and layout of the island thanks to a labeled map at top.
We start with a above and below looking southwest towards Simpson Bay and Maho Beach: