A spectacular bloom of wildflowers is underway at Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California, and by the middle of March, it’s expected to just get better and better, according to park officials.
The area has been deluged with rain this season and the Borrego Desert is full of green with flowers in stages of both bud and blooms, a press release issued by the park is reporting. “We are on the ‘uphill side’ of the peak bloom and experiencing more open flowers with each passing sunny day,” the release states.
According to park officials, there are many locations where open flowers can be seen, especially for those willing to wander among the buds and blooms throughout the park.
“A top location is anywhere within a two-mile stretch of the Coyote Canyon Jeep Road, north of the north end of DiGiorgio Road with abundant Peirson’s Primoses and others, including a few remarkable Desert Lilies,” the park reported.
Patches of pink sand, verbena, dune evening primroses with wide white petals, yellow desert sunflowers and desert lilies can all be found throughout the Henderson Canyon Road area.
“Around Borrego Springs, roadsides are lined with yellow Desert Dandelions and other wildflowers. These flowers are best seen in the morning, as some blossoms close in the afternoon,” the release states.
One place to start the Camino de Santiage is along “The French Way,” the branch of the Camino that unites various routes through France and across Spain. It is one of the oldest and most-walked trails in the world, dating back by most estimates to the 9th Century.
The Camino de Santiago is said to have begun when the bones of the apostle St. James were discovered by a farmer on a starry night in Galicia, Spain. People from all across Europe came to see the remains, dragging their feet through the same dirt that you can today.
As you walk, you pass small villages where you can refill your water, buy fruit and bread, and collect a stamp in your “pilgrim’s passports.” Walkers are required to receive a stamp in these booklets in two different locations each day to receive the coveted compostela upon reaching the Pilgrim’s office at the end of the walk.
If the office finds that you have walked at least 100 km, which many people accomplish by starting in Sarria and completing the last three days of the journey, you earn the compostela — a scroll covered in Latin, congratulating you on your pilgrimage.
The Camino is full of treasures, and it brings walkers through landscapes that feel ancient and untarnished, but the concrete sprawl and neon-glow of Santiago are creeping back along the route at an alarming rate.
Thankfully, spring is almost here. It’s a great time to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer. One of the best ways to get your exercise and see wonderful natural surroundings is hiking and riding a bike.
Here is a collection of 13 amazing trails in Alabama State Parks. Hiking these trails offers a chance to see waterfalls, expansive vistas and abundant wildlife. The descriptionss offer details about the trail, difficulty, length and what you can expect to see on your hike. Some trails can be shared by hikers and bike riders.
For example, the most popular trail at Cheaha State Park is the Bald Rock Boardwalk. There are 3 paths that lead out to Bald Rock Outlook; a boardwalk and a dirt trail, on either side of the boardwalk. The boardwalk leads to an amazing vista at the Bald Rock Outlook.
Or, Chewacla State Park has a great partnership with Central Alabama Mountain Peddlers (CAMP) that offers a great trail system to the public. The park offers 28 miles of trails shared by cyclists and hikers. One trail, the “For Pete’s Sake Trail” is 8 miles long.
For two decades, Florence Williams could sit on her porch at night and watch the alpenglow on the Rocky Mountains. Then she moved from remote Colorado to Washington, D.C., and started noticing the changes.
“I felt disoriented, overwhelmed, depressed,” she writes in her recent book, The Nature Fix. “My mind had trouble focusing. I couldn’t finish thoughts … and I wasn’t keen to get out of bed.”
Williams was suffering, she says, from nature withdrawal. She spent the next three years digging into the science of how nature works on our brains. In short, it makes us more relaxed, more creative, and more socially connected. She traveled to Japan and Finland, the deserts of Utah and the urban forests of Singapore, to study just how much we stand to gain by bring nature back into our lives.
At a time when more than half of all humans live in cities, the influence of the natural world is at a low ebb, while our understanding of its importance keeps growing. In a recent visit to the Grist offices, Williams talked about how writing this book led her to appreciate the role nature can play in our personal lives.
Congaree National Park visitors not only look out across a flood plain swamp but up as well. Up into the forest canopy that rises to 160 feet high. The Congaree canopy, formed by towering old-growth trees, is taller than that of any forest in the East.
The giant trees include a 167-foot-high loblolly pine. It’s the tallest tree in this wet-and-dry park, the biggest tree of its kind anywhere.
A sky-seeking cherrybark oak and a swamp tupelo fall short of the pine by just 5 feet. The former is the biggest such oak in South Carolina and the latter is a national champion, the biggest tupelo of its species.
Congaree preserves these super-sized trees and thousands more in this bottomland hardwood forest near the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree rivers south of Columbia. The trees were spared from possible logging when a public campaign to conserve the privately owned forest succeeded. Congress in 1976 created Congaree Swamp National Monument with 15,000 acres. In 2003, legislators upgraded the preserve to a national park, which now covers 26,715 acres.
Visitors may hike on 2.4 miles of elevated boardwalks and along 37.8 roundtrip miles of trails, fish Cedar Creek and oxbow lakes and tent camp in a campground or in the backcountry.
The exuberance of spring is impossible to ignore. And for fair-weather walkers, brushing cobwebs off boots and searching out walking poles, it’s like a love affair renewed. Spring walking is a welcome assault on the senses – warmth, light and colour replacing the damp greys and browns of winter.
Everyone has their favourite local walks, but these 25 circular routes have all been chosen for features in the landscape which come alive in spring, whether it be woodlands carpeted with bluebells, wildflowers along river valleys, moorland peaks, coastal paths or National Parks.
Between three and nine miles in length and of varying difficulty of terrain, they stretch from Friston Forest in Sussex to Grizedale Forest in Cumbria, from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Arran, and from the coast of Cornwall to the coast of Northumbria. These hikes will put a spring in the step of wanderers everywhere.
The Allegheny National Forest chapter of the North Country Trail Association will hold its eighth annual Allegheny 100 Hiking Challenge (A-100) on June 9-11, 2017.
The hike will take place throughout the Allegheny National Forest, and is billed as an endurance challenge of individual stamina, determination, and resilience. It is not a race.
Hikers will traverse 100 miles, 75 miles, 50 miles or 25 miles of trail through rolling hills and stream valleys in a fifty-hour time period.
Event organizers remind those who are interested that this event is for anyone, regardless of skill level, who wants to test him or herself against the trail. Event organizers also note that cell phone reception is spotty along the length of the trail.
For the 2017 challenge, hikers will travel north to south, from the state Route 346 trailhead, near Willow Bay, to the state Route 66 trailhead, between Marienville and Vowinckel.
Those who are interested should note that the A-100 is an unsupported hike. There will be no first aid or water stations.
Do you follow the North Star? For those sunny days when you’re hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where the night sky is unfortunately unavailable to assist you with navigation, make sure you’re on the right heading with proper adjustment to your compass.
Did you know your compass needle doesn’t point directly to the north? The earths geomagnetic field exerts varying degrees of influence on your compass needle as it swings around in search of the elusive North Pole. Magnetic declination, a critical map tool for hikers in the know, is the angle of deviation between true north, and what your compass needle is pointing towards.
Magnetic declination within the park is measured in the west, or negative direction, and ranges from -5.6 to -6.3 degrees. Most compasses do not have the ability to delienate tenths of a degree, so you’ll have to “Kentucky Windage” your compass sightings to just to the right or left of the 6 degree mark. You will have to hike a very long distance, on a straight line, to realize any error manifested by a few tenths of a degree.
The map here gives the magnetic declination for many areas in the park as of March 1st, 2017.
Head to Lantau’s southeast to tackle the 18.5 km Chi Ma Wan Country Trail for secluded bays, sweeping panoramas and scattered hamlets along deserted paths.
If you’re heading to Lantau Island for a wild outing, the chances are you’ll be bound for the central hills – to climb either Sunset or Lantau peak, or both – or aiming to stride along nearby stretches of the Lantau Trail. But to the island’s southeast, there’s another area that’s easily overlooked, yet can make for a fine day outing: the Chi Ma Wan (Sesame Bay) Peninsula. The landscape is fashioned from a mass of granite, forming a hilly interior and coastal headlands between small bays.
The Chi Ma Wan Country Trail, at 18.5km, is the longest country trail in Hong Kong. It starts in the north and makes a looping circuit above shorelines and up and over the peninsula’s highest point, Lo Yan Shan. Although it takes eight hours or more to complete the circuit, there are options for following shorter routes.
Although you could explore the peninsula without getting higher or more challenging than hillside contour trails, doing so would mean missing out on the best parts: Lo Yan Shan and the nearby craggy hilltop. At 303 metres, Lo Yan Shan – Old Man Mountain – is the highest point on the peninsula. It affords fine views over the sea east of Lantau, with Hei Ling Chau in the foreground and Peng Chau beyond.
Several mountains are within striking distance of Mexico City. Nevado de Toluca, Mexico’s fourth-highest mountain, rises to the southwest. To the east, climbers can try their luck on the Paso de Cortés, which cuts through the two towering volcanoes Hernán Cortés traveled through when he first saw the Valley of Mexico. Then there’s the closest of the bunch: Ajusco, a nearly 13,000-foot dormant volcano that is actually within the city limits.
Though it’s not impossible to take buses and taxis to Ajusco’s trailheads, the road to the mountain has a reputation for being dangerous and can be complicated if you don’t know the way. If you feel in the mood for a hike, hire a driver who knows the route and can wait for you while you hike.
Tackling Ajusco requires a reasonable level of fitness. Depending on where you start the trail, the entire hike could take up to six hours, so make sure you set aside enough time so you won’t be rushed. Because of the relative remoteness of the mountain, it’s probably best to hike with at least one other person.
Mexico City lies more than 7,000 feet above sea level. The hike up Ajusco includes 4,000 feet of gain, and with the already heightened elevation, it can be more strenuous than flat-landers might expect. Give yourself a few days to acclimate before tackling any mountaineering, and make sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen.
You see that big tree looming over you? Or over your house, your car? Or along the trail at your favorite park?
It could be what we call a “widow maker.” That is, a big tree (or limb) about to fall. Saturated soil that can’t hold upright the weight of big trees has led to a stunning array of downed trees in parks, backyards, front yards… in other words, everywhere.
This week park rangers closed the No. 1 Trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and return loop route on the Sunset Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The trail leads to Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls and the Golden Cascade in one of the prettiest canyons in California.
A week ago, rangers counted 15 fallen old-growth redwoods on the trail en route to the falls and another 10 on the way out. Later, ranger Alex Tabone assessed the damage again and said the number had grown to 50. That includes one massive section on the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, he said, that has been interrupted by a landslide roughly 400 yards long and 400 yards wide that tossed old-growth redwoods in a heap.
“There’s this big pile of old-growth trees,” he said. “There’s a trail under there some place. I saw this guy on the other side, trying to figure out how to get through, and decided we have to close this trail down.”
The 220km-long Sinai Trail, or Darb Sina, is part of a Middle East-wide hiking network voted the number one new trail in the world by National Geographic. It’s neither the longest nor the hardest of the world’s long-distance routes, but hiking a landscape steeped in history, guided by Bedouin whose lives are intertwined with the same land, is definitely one of the most rewarding.
These days life is hard for the Bedouin of Sinai. Generations past had led pilgrims through the mountains to the ancient monastery of St Katherine, or beyond to the holy city of Mecca. More recently desert knowledge translated to guiding tourists. But the Arab Spring, revolution, coup d’état, insurgency and airliner bombing has curtailed tourism in Sinai. “This trail creates work in a difficult time,” says trail guide Mussalem. “But not just any work…”
“We are worried a little bit about our culture. The young Bedouin, they don’t know much,” said another guide, Nassr. “We want to keep travelling, living the simple life. We want to keep our tribes, our families together. Training new guides means there will be others to carry on.” The Egyptian government has had no hand in supporting the project; the trail is a collective endeavour of three Bedouin tribes, and has been championed by local volunteers and an NGO.
The route usually takes 12 days, ending on the summit of Egypt’s highest mountain, Jebel Katarina.
Fell running has been around since the 1800s, necessity demanded that shepherds could navigate hilly and mountainous terrain quickly, in all weathers. Events began to be held where locals would pit their skills against each other, and the sport of Fell Running was created.
The Lake District in the UK is the ideal place for Fell running, or even simple hiking, with a multitude of routes and an active fell running community. There are more gentle routes for those just starting out and contrasting, more challenging runs, including the Fairfield Horseshoe, which draws some of the best fell runners in the UK for an annual run in May.
The guide below is aimed at those new to fell running. Maybe you’ve heard about it but aren’t sure what it entails. Or perhaps you’ve decided to give it a go but aren’t sure where to start. This guide will give you all the information you need to begin, including advice on gear, trails and tips for tackling your first route. Lace up your boots and get ready to hit the trails.
The following infographic from Georgia Davies at Craig Manor Hotel shows the benefits of running or hiking on the beautiful Fells of Great Britain.
The 40th anniversary celebration for North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail will kick-off March 24-26,2017 at a Friends of MST annual meeting in Elkin.
On September 9, 1977 Howard Lee, then Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, proposed a “state trail from the mountains to the coast.” The annual meeting, called the Gathering of Friends, will be the first in a series of events this year to commemorate Lee’s speech and recognize the progress made on creating the trail.
Friday March 24 there will be a Hiking Boot Gala for members and a review of milestones in development of the trail.
The March 25 annual meeting will focus on long range planning and recognize those who have thru-hiked the 1,175-mile trail this year and in the past and outstanding volunteers. Jennifer Pharr Davis of Asheville, a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, will be the keynote speaker.
The gala and annual meeting will be in Coley Hall at the Liberty, a restored tobacco warehouse and event space on Elkin’s Main Street.
Throughout the March 24-26 weekend the Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA) has organized Trail & Town Excursions, including seven guided hikes, Moonshine and Still search, REI mountain bike clinics, and winery tours. The area also has a variety of self-guided cycling and paddling trails.
To register for Gathering of Friends and learn more about Friends go to mountainstoseatrail.org. Trail & Town Excursion registration will open in the coming weeks for those who are registered for the Gathering.
Where will you be on August 21, 2017 when the solar eclipse casts its shadow across the United States? At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials are planning a party to help you both view and understand the science of the eclipse.
The park is offering an opportunity to experience the total eclipse through a special, ticketed event at Clingmans Dome as well as informal eclipse viewing sites at Cades Cove and Oconaluftee. The park is partnering with NASA, Southwestern Community College, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to provide a special program with featured speakers and storytellers that help explain the science and cultural connection to this unique natural event at Clingmans Dome.
At 6,643 feet in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and offers the unique possibility of seeing the moon’s shadow approaching across the landscape. The area will be closed to all public vehicle traffic to better accommodate a safe, memorable experience for about 1,325 ticketed participants. The parking area will be converted into the special event site that will include a Jumbotron screen for participating in a national NASA TV broadcast, telescopes, educational exhibits, and stage for special featured speakers.
Beginning on March 1, 2017, tickets will be available for purchase on a first come first serve basis through www.recreation.gov for $30 each. You must have a ticket to attend the event at Clingmans Dome. Participants will be shuttled to the site from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina, by coach bus. The Clingmans Dome tower itself will be reserved for the media and live broadcasting teams to share the experience with the widest audience possible. Special presentations and activities will take place during the approximately three-hour period in the afternoon when the sun will be partially and, for a brief time, totally obscured by the moon.
Two pipelines are planned to intersect the Appalachian Trail. The 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline will cut across the A.T. near Virginia’s Peters Mountain Wilderness Area. The 550-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline pipeline also is planned to cross the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia’s Augusta and Nelson Counties. Both pipelines will require clearing a 200-foot-wide right-of-way and building new roads through sensitive habitats to service the pipeline.
Beginning in West Virginia, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will span 300 miles from Wetzel County, W.Va., to Pittsylvania County, Va., and will scar views, watersheds, and habitats in George Washington National Forest and in the Roanoke area.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline will also pass through Jefferson National Forest in West Virginia and Virginia before entering the Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail Corridor and ultimately the Peters Mountain Wilderness Area. In its wake, iconic viewpoints such as Angels Rest will look out across denuded clearcuts.
In addition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline, other pipelines are planned throughout the region in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida. Protests around each of the pipelines are building momentum.
A new initiative in Bavaria hopes to improve integration among newly-arrived refugees by introducing them to the “alpine” way of life. Locals volunteer as guides on the mountaineering tour.
Many refugees who arrive in Germany have never seen snow in their life. A trip to the Bavarian Alps is therefore an unprecedented experience. But it’s not only the snow that is new. Bavaria’s alpine tradition and way of life are also very specific to the region.
The “Alpen.Leben.Menschen” project took off in mid-January, when the DAV youth hiking group “Climbären” was joined by a group of refugees from Syria and Eritrea. They went on a camping trip in Tennengebirge, a mountain range in Austria’s Eastern Alps.
The project aims to give refugees the chance to make new friends and feel welcome in Germany, while also to raising awareness about nature and environmental protection. Taking care of hiking paths or planting protection forests is traditionally part of the DAV’s mission.
Suffer from seasonal allergies? Depending on where you live, you may already be sneezing, sniffling and rubbing your itchy eyes. And you may be in for a whopper of a spring.
The first pollen culprit each year is typically trees. If rainfall was good the year before, resulting in solid tree growth, that typically means healthy trees. Combine that with relatively warm forecasts with no more freezing temperatures on the horizon and it’s a perfect storm of pollen-filled trees.
Right now in late February, that means the spring pollen allergy season has already kicked in for most of the Midwest and Southeast, says Charles Barnes, Ph.D., director of the allergy and immunology laboratory at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.
“We’ve noticed this year there are pollen counts coming in even earlier than last year,” says Barnes. “It seems that the Midwest and Southeast are early and high, but the Northeast and far West are about normal.”
The spring allergy season has been starting earlier for years now, Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director at Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.
“In general over the last 10 years or more, we’ve seen an earlier start to the spring allergy season by about two weeks,” Bassett said. “Each year is different. You’re mostly seeing a longer season spring through fall because of warmer temperatures.”
To check the pollen counts so far in your area, check out the National Allergy Bureau reports.
The eighth annual Allegheny 100 Hiking Challenge (A-100) is set for June 9-11, 2017. according to a news release from the Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association.
The A-100 challenges hikers to traverse 100 miles, 75 miles, 50 miles or 25 miles in a 50-hour time period. This challenge is for anyone, regardless of skill level, who wants to test themselves against the trail.
Those who pre-register starting March 6 will receive a membership in the North Country Trail Association, shuttle service to the start of the hike and a T-shirt. The pre-registration period for the A-100 ends May 12 or when 150 hikers have signed up.
In 2016, a record number of 100 milers — 25 — completed their challenge. Perfect weather was a big factor. Four hikers completed 75 miles. Fifty-two hikers reached 50 miles, and another 19 completed at least 25 miles. Many met their personal challenge and many more vowed to be back this year to attempt to achieve their goals.
For more information or to register, visit the NCTA website.
Romania is developing its range of offers for tourists. Organizers are increasingly relying on tourism that’s close to nature, such as guided hikes in the Carpathian Mountains – with encounters with brown bears.
The snow is deep at an altitude of 1,700 meters (5,577 feet) in the Carpathian Mountains. There is no sign of a hiking path, but Radu Zaharie knows his way around here. The sun is shining and the moment is perfect. “We now have a clear view to the north. To the north-west we can see the Depression of Sibiu, and way off you can see the eastern Carpathians. On really good days, especially in the winter, when we have these really cold days, there is a chance to see the entire Carpathian Mountain range all the way to the Ukraine, a vista of over 600 kilometers,” he explains.
“If you think of crossing the Carpathians, then some for instance want a ridge walk in the Fagaras Mountains, which means hiking from hut to hut in the Piatra Craiului Mountains National Park. But then there are also packages designed for those guests who say they want a little more comfort. Rather than spending the night in a mountain-ridge hut on a plank bed, they prefer a nice guest house with a steam bath. And where they can watch wild animals, like bears, and more.”
Encountering bears while on a hike is a distinct possibility, but tourists should not be afraid of them, says our expert: “For brown bears, humans are of no interest whatsoever. Humans would have to do a lot of silly things for a bear to pose a threat to them. Remember we are talking about European brown bears. These are not to be confused with Grizzly bears.”