Hike to Eagle & Symphony Lakes

We spent our final day in Anchorage during our vacation to Alaska last summer doing the hike to Eagle & Symphony Lakes. One of the great things about Anchorage is that there are several great hikes that begin very close to the city, some from literally within the city limits. This was a flat, easy hike (relative to the other hikes we had done during our vacation) through a valley which ended at the above mentioned lakes. While the lakes were a bit of a disappointment, the hike itself was very nice, though the trail was a little rustic in spots, like in the photo below.

Dirt trail leading through a valley in Alaska

Utah

Up until a few years ago, I had never been to Utah and had never really wanted to Utah. I had no idea the state had so many great national parks within it and after visiting once, it is high on my list of places I want to go back to. We only had time to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion, both of which were amazing, but are hoping to get back sometime in the not to distant future to see more of Zion and Canyonlands, Arches, and everything else the state has to offer. This photo was taken in the main canyon of Zion, from a well placed bridge that crosses the Virgin River.

Main canyon of Zion National Park in Utah

Fall Colors at Holy Hill

Holy Hill Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, or just Holy Hill as it is commonly known, is a Roman Catholic shrine and basilica located northwest of Milwaukee, WI. Holy Hill attracts 300,000 visitors, many of whom visit during the fall. Since Holy Hill is located on a glacial kame that is one of the highest points in southeastern Wisconsin, the views of the fall colors can be quite spectacular. Visitors can climb the 178-step observation tower to get better views and during peak weekends, the line to climb to the top can be more than an hour.

Fall colors from Holy Hil

Glacial ice from Tracy Arm

Southeast Alaska is amazing. Correction, Alaska is amazing. We have been fortunate to spend two vacations in Alaska and I imagine we will be back. Our most recent vacation was an Alaskan cruise. One of the stops was in Juneau, from which we did a tour to Tracy Arm, a beautiful fjord with an amazing glacier at the end. As we approached the entrance to the fjord, there were scattered icebergs floating in the water. Their intense blue color was in sharp contrast to the rather dull colors of everything else around on this cloudy day.

Large iceberg floating in the water.

Morning at Bear Lake

This photo was taken at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park has gotten extremely popular in recent years, with a 42% increase in visitors in the last 6 years. While it is great that so many people are out enjoying the park, it means that the park gets busy. Very busy. Parking lots in the park being completely full busy. We avoided this issue by started our hikes early every morning, before the crowds of people arrived. On this morning, we arrived at Bear Lake on the first shuttle, then did the 10 mile hike to Fern Lake, before taking the shuttle back. The park is popular for good reason, the views along this hike, and basically every other hike we did, were amazing.

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking through the sand

Does this look like the Grand Canyon? If I didn’t know better, I would say no. When most people think of the Grand Canyon, walking along a sandy trail is probably not their first thought. But the first section of the hike from the Colorado River back up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon is along a wide, relatively flat, sand covered trail. It’s a nice way to start what is a relatively challenging, but rewarding, hike.

Hiking along a sand covered trail in the Grand Canyon

Expanse of Denali National Park

One of the amazing things about Denali National Park is its expansiveness, which becomes even more apparent when you hike up any of the mountains within the park. If you reach a peak, all you see in every direction are mountains, mountains, and more mountains, with valleys and rivers down below. And unless you’re near the entrance, the visitor’s center within the park, or near the park road, it’s likely that there isn’t another person in sight. It is an inspiring yet peaceful experience to be surrounded by so much untouched nature with such incredible views, yet to have the quiet solitude that visits to most popular national parks don’t offer.

Expansive views of Denali National Park

Train to the top of Europe

Jungfraujoch

Located 3,454 meters above sea level (or 11,332 feet, for those of us not used to the metric system), Jungfraujoch is a long ways up. Located in the Swiss Alps, it is known as the “top of Europe” even though its elevation is far from the highest in Europe. It is, however, the highest train station in Europe, straddled between two of the 4,000+ meter peaks in the Swiss Alps, Jungfrau and Mönch. Jungfraujoch is a popular tourist attraction known for its panoramic views on clear days, its ice palace, and its snow park, which provides fun in the snow, even in the middle of August.

Our trip to the top

During our short stay in Switzerland, the weather did not want to cooperate. It was not horrible by any means, but cloudy enough that Jungfraujoch (and across the valley, Schlithorn) was hidden behind the clouds most of the time. However, one morning we woke up early, checked the webcams (isn’t technology great?), and saw that the skies were clear. We got ready as quickly as possible and headed for the train station to get on the next train to the top from down in the Lauterbrunnen valley where we were staying, in the process completely changing out entire plan for the day. We arrived at the top before lunchtime, stunning views in every direction. After exploring, we went into the restaurant to sit down and have lunch and it wasn’t long after that the clouds rolled in and the views disappeared. We felt bad for all of the people who were arriving just after the views had completely disappeared. After lunch, we went out to the snow park to do some snow tubing and while the views looking down were long gone, the peaks of the nearby mountains were still visible. At least for a few minutes, until the clouds really rolled in and we found ourselves in a dense fog with snow falling down on us. In August. We headed back down the mountain to do the hiking we had planned on doing in the morning, but we didn’t realize until it was too late that our change of plans meant the cable car we were going to take down to the bottom of the valley would no longer be running by the time we arrived there, resulting in another crazy adventure before the day was over.

Mountains of the Swiss Alps alongside a train

Fall colors…but not in the trees

Spring is just arriving but it’s never to early to think about fall colors. I’m not a fan of cold days and short days but the changing of leaves during the fall is something I really enjoy. The thing about this photo that I like, and what makes it different from most of the other fall colors photos I have taken, is that the photo was taken later in fall after most of the trees had lost their leaves. The shrubs and other plants that grow closer to the ground still had their leaves and the brilliant reds stood out in contrast to the mostly brown colors elsewhere.

Fall colors in a state park in Wisconsin, the trees are mostly bare but the smaller plants have bright colored leaves.