Port Crescent State Park: Boardwalk and Dunes Nature Trail

Port Crescent State Park

Port Crescent State Park sits at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb along Lake Huron. It’s also off of the M-25 scenic byway. It offers many activities such as a modern campground, over 5 miles of hiking trails, a birds of prey observation platform and is designated a dark sky preserve. There are also 3 miles of shoreline that you can walk, along with a wooden boardwalk that meanders through the sandy dunes and offers up scenic views.

The park is actually on the site of a former ghost town. Port Crescent was once a bustling timber community, but as the timber became scarce due to fires or clear cutting the town soon declined. There’s a lot of great information for history buffs out there about its history. I’ll share some links at the end of this post.

Port Crescent Boardwalk and Dunes Nature Trail Hike

My miles: 1.2

Elevation Gain: 23 ft

From the day use parking area near the birds of prey and dark sky preserve areas, I went just beyond the pavilion to start walking along the boardwalk.

The sand has shifted and you’ll find some of the viewing platforms covered. There are several access areas to the shore and on an overcast Spring day, I pretty much had most of it to myself.

I followed the boardwalk until it met up with the hiking trails, doing a counter clockwise loop of the Dunes Nature Trail. However, you can access it from the parking area. For the most part, it is accessible, though I did find there were some unmarked trail connections that led off to the non-accessible areas – so it can be just a little confusing. Also the informative signs displayed about the environment were faded or parts were missing. In most cases though I was able to get the gist of the message and follow along.

After completing my short loop, I got back in my car and headed to the other side of the lot so I could check out the birds of prey observation platform.

This is definitely a place I would like to come back to for some summer stargazing and to stay at the campground. Beach front sites fill fast and seem to be better suited for pop ups or travel trailers, but as a tent camper, there are some nice sites along the old Pinnebog river channel that offer some tree cover and shade.

Have you made your way to Port Crescent? Drop a comment about your favorite part of the trails, campground or park.


Michigan’s Thumb: Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

Michigan’s Thumb is too often ignored when people recommend places to go for Michigan hiking. In the next couple of blog posts, I want to put to rest the assumption that the Thumb isn’t a hiking destination.

Being from Michigan, I’m used to showing off where I live by pointing to a spot on the palm of my hand. It’s a rite of passage of being a Michigander. We are the Mitten State, you know. However, I barely make it over to the Thumb region. I’ve gone to Port Huron very few times outside of crossing over into Sarnia, Ontario. I have hiked around Metamora and Ortonville but those areas are quite different than typical thumb terrain.

From a March 1st trip to the Thumb. Flat farmland and wind turbines abound

On May 2nd, I decided to do my own day of Thumb hiking adventures. Since I am working on my Michigan State Park Challenge of visiting all of the Michigan state parks, I decided it would be great to incorporate a visit to the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park.

Sanilac Petroglyphs Nature trail

The park, also known as ezhibiigadek asin (Ojibwe for “written on stone”) consists of 240 acres in Greenleaf Township, Sanilac County, in Michigan’s Thumb. It contains the largest collection of Native American petroglyphs in Michigan. The carvings were created in the pre-Columbian era and represents aspects of Native American spirituality. There is also an interpretive hiking trail within the park along the nearby Cass River (source: Wikipedia).

The lot is not paved and has plenty of parking. In fact I was the only vehicle there. I got out looked at the signs describing native plants and more info about the petroglyphs.

Learning about native plants in the area
A sign at the trail that shares more info about the petroglyphs

I also grabbed a photo of the map describing the hike. I always take a photo of the trail map just in case I need to reference it later! It’s a great tip for longer trails that may not be well marked or blazed.

The trail map legend and lots of flies

At the trailhead there was a sign posted that the petroglyphs would not be open for viewing until after Memorial Day. *facepalm* That’s what happens when you don’t research a trail thoroughly and head there on a whim.

The petroglyphs hidden from view

The petroglyphs were behind a fence and protected from the elements. At first I was really disappointed, but I also understand the fragility of the environment and how the sandstone must be protected from not only the elements but humans. There is a history of the area being vandalized and someone actually cut out one of the carvings.

“The sandstone slab in which the petroglyphs were carved is fragile and subject to weathering and other environmental forces. It has been walked upon and vandalized with graffiti over the years; someone, long ago, chipped out an entire symbol and the surrounding rock for a keepsake. The most recent act of vandalism occurred in 2017 when three images were carved on the rock by unknown individuals. This human activity combined with natural weathering has made the actual petrogyphs difficult for visitors to see, and there is concern that unless more is done to preserve the carvings better, they will be gone by the late 21st century (source: Wikipedia).

And this is why we can’t have nice things…ugh.

I know you are curious about what the petroglyphs look like and how to see them. Me too! Check out the official state park information I found here.

Even though I couldn’t get any sort of view of the petroglyphs, I wanted to still hit the trail and learn more about the history and geology of the area.

Potholes on the trail

I hiked the trail counterclockwise. For the first half the trail was pretty much in the woods. First following the river and eventually crossing it a couple times.

At about a tenth of a mile in you will come across a geological formation called potholes. One of the interesting features on the trail are the bowl shaped holes (potholes) caused by glacial erosion. I found a very interesting tidbit on potholes from a geocaching site. Check it out!

You’ll have to watch your step on this rocky path. This is definitely a trail you could twist an ankle on if you aren’t paying attention closely to your footing.

The trail will follow a stream for a short bit

The rock outcroppings are really cool, especially as you see the trees growing around them and sometimes in between them. Another thing not to miss is the lichen and moss on the slabs.

At about half a mile in you will cross the bridge pictured above. It looked like it had recently been updated and was in great shape.

A boardwalk keeps your feet dry and out of the mud.

At just under a mile, you’ll come to an area full of slab rocks and boulders. It’s a great spot for any of the littles to climb on, for you to rest and even have a snack or picnic lunch. I read that around this area was once a Native American village.

The highlight of my walk was seeing this large “survivor” pine at around the one mile marker (I mean, I didn’t get to see the petroglyphs!). There’s an interpretive sign that tells about the Great Thumb Fires of the late 1800s. If you listen to my podcast episode, I read it and share more about the devastation that occurred in this area.

You’ll cross the river again by traversing a sturdy bridge and make your way back to the pavilion where hopefully you were able to see the petroglyphs. After that, you walk along the path that brought you from the parking lot.

For more information and details about this hike, I recommend checking out the Hiking Michigan book by Roger E. Storm and Susan M. Wedzel

Hike Stats

Length: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 20 ft

Location: 8251 Germania Rd. Cass City, MI 48726

Hiking Michigan’s Highbanks Trail along the Au Sable River

Listen to Hike’s podcast episode on the Highbanks Trail
Highbanks Trail Sign

On May 1st I went out to do a day hike on the Highbanks Trail. I didn’t know anything about this trail, except that I had some familiarity with the Au Sable River from kayaking near the Grayling area. This section of the river was totally new and unfamiliar to me. Little did I know how incredible this hike would be – full of surprises and natural beauty. And even some inland dunes! Did you know there are inland dunes in Eastern Michigan? Me either

When most people think about hiking or backpacking a river trail in Michigan, their first thought is the Manistee River Trail (MRT) or Manistee River – North Country Trail loop. It’s the place I first tried out solo backpacking at last May. It’s a great beginner trail to cut your teeth on if you’re new to backpacking. I’ve been hearing that the MRT has been extremely crowded as of late, especially on the weekends.

As part of my spring and summer hiking series on the Hike podcast, I also wanted to check out as many “new to me” hikes as I could. I picked up Jim DuFresne’s 50 Hikes in Michigan book and the Highbanks Trail caught my eye. I was intrigued also by the rustic camping along the river and that this hike had some interesting history along the way.

Highbanks Trail Overview

The Highbanks Trail is a 7-mile point to point hike along the bluffs of the Au Sable River. It provides hikers with dramatic views of the Au Sable River. Hikers are able to see out over the river view and even glimpse Lake Huron in some spots.

During the summer hikers may see bald eagles that nest in the area, along with many other wildlife that inhabit the area.   During winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers looking for ungroomed trail will find it on the Highbanks Trail (source: US Forest Service).

How to Get there

It’s located in Michigan’s Huron-Manistee National Forest. The linear trail begins 15 miles outside of Oscoda, with access areas and parking at Iargo Springs, Lumberman’s Monument, and Sid Town.

It’s also along the River Road National Scenic Byway. “The twenty-two mile River Road National Scenic Byway extends westward from Lake Huron into the Huron National Forest. It parallels the historic Riviere aux Sable (River of Sand). The Au Sable River was a major transportation route for floating Michigan’s giant white pine from forest to the sawmill towns on Lake Huron. You can learn more about this lumbering history at Lumbermen’s Monument Visitor Center that sits at the center of the byway” (Source: US Forest Service).

Source: Michigantrailmaps.com

Iargo Springs

Iargo is the Chippewa word for many waters. Native Americans used the springs well before European settlers as a meeting place and for the cold, clear waters. There are several observation platforms that both take you above the springs flowing below and also to vantage points along the river. For those who may not want or be able to do the stairs, there is a large viewing platform at the top with signage.

The Western Terminus of the Highbanks Trail is at Iargo Springs. There is a large parking lot and restrooms available (vault style). So in theory one could park there and just hit up the trail (the trailhead is hidden a bit from view when you’re in the parking lot, but it’s behind the restrooms). However, you’ll want to explore Iargo Springs first. Plus the 300 stair descent onto the boardwalk and climb back up gives you a great warm up to the hike.

You’ve been warned!
What goes down must come back up…the Iargo Springs stairs

The stairs wind you through a beautiful cedar forest and the tranquil sounds of the springs as you make your way to several signs that explain more about the history of the springs and it’s impact on the surrounding areas.

Iargo Springs

The trail signs have seen better days but I still enjoyed reading them all
Iargo Springs
View from Iargo Springs Observation Deck

Heading out on the Highbanks

As you head out on the trail, the path is wide and well marked by blue diamonds. You’ll follow along the bluffs and get peeks of the river down below on the left side as you continue along the path.

Blue Diamonds mark the trail

There is some power line corridor walking that you will do. I didn’t find it too distracting. But this doesn’t last too long and you will dodge back into the trees until you reach the mid point of the out portion of the hike.

You will come out at Canoer’s Memorial Monument.


On the Highbanks Trail
A peek of the Au Sable River from trail side

Canoer’s Memorial Monument

Canoer’s Memorial Monument

Canoers Memorial was erected to honor canoers who have participated in the Au Sable River Canoe Race held each year. The Au Sable River Canoe Marathon was the idea of two men, Harold Brubaker and Frank Davis. They conceived the idea in 1947 as an aid to tourism. The first race took place in Sept. of 1947 in canoes made of wood and canvas. There were 46 teams entered, 15 teams finishing the race. Allen Carr and Delbert Case of Grayling finished first with a time of 21 hours and 40 minutes.

There is also a panoramic view of Cooke Dam Pond.

View from Canoer’s Memorial Monument

You’ll pick up the trail again on the other side of the monument.

The trail on the other side of Canoer’s Memorial Monument

You’ll have a stint in the woods but eventually do more power line corridor walking before ducking into the woods. Also, there are places where you definitely can hear the road noise. If that bothers you, I suggest bringing some ear buds to listen to some music (hey, or even a podcast!) or plan your hike very early in the day or midweek where traffic might be lighter.

You head into the woods again and come across a burn area starting at the power line corridor.

I did some research after my hike and learned the burn occurred just a week prior to my hike. Here’s some info from the Iosco News about the prescribed fire of just over a 1,000 acres which escalated into a wildfire that burned over 5,000 acres. It didn’t get fully contained until around the day before my hike. You definitely could tell it was a very recent fire while walking through it.

Walking through the burn area

The burn line ends right before heading into the Lumberman’s Monument area.

Where the burn ended

Lumberman’s Monument

After a couple of miles of mostly solitude on the trails, you will come out into a picnic area and see the visitors center of the Lumberman’s Monument ahead of you.

I recommend taking a break at one of the picnic tables and having a snack or your lunch since at this point you’re about halfway done with the hike and you’ll want energy for the upcoming stair climb and dunes overlook. You’ll see a lot of day visitors, but it’s unlikely you’ll see anyone else with a pack on.

Make sure you check out the exhibits that are in the area. There’s one that talks about the CCC and some of the devastating fires the area had seen and how the timber rebuilt many cities – including the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. There’s also a small gift shop and restrooms with running (but not potable) water and flush toilets. In the center, you’ll come across some large displays and the Lumberman’s Monument.

The Lumberman’s Monument is a monument dedicated to the workers of the early logging industry in Michigan. Standing at 14 feet, the bronze statue features a log surrounded by three figures: a timber cruiser holding a compass, a sawyer with his saw slung over his shoulder, and a river rat resting his peavey on the ground. The granite base of the statue is engraved with a memorial that reads “Erected to perpetuate the memory of the pioneer lumbermen of Michigan through whose labors was made possible the development of the prairie states.” It is also inscribed with the names of the logging families who dedicated their time and efforts to the industry in the area. It was built in 1931 at the cost of $50,000 and dedicated in 1932.

The bronze Lumberman’s Monument

Go past the monument and down the stairs to see a replica of a wanigan at the river’s edge. A wanigan is a cook’s raft that kept the river rats fed during the logging drives.

The Wanigan replica

There’s also some interpretive signs to read and places to rest for a few minutes on the long climb back up to the monument area.

That dune on the right is where you’re going next by the way

And don’t forget to check out all the other signs and exhibits before heading back out on the trail!

Example of the signage at Lumberman’s Monument

From the stair climb, you’ll want to get back on the Highbanks Trail and take it to the left. You’ll soon come to a gravel path that heads to my favorite part of the hike – the Au Sable Dunes.

Au Sable Dune Overlook

This is your view from the dune overlook

I can imagine this is a very popular place during summer and fall, especially on the weekends. It’s not a long walk from either the Monument Campground or the parking area of Lumberman’s Monument. However, even around the lunch hour on a beautiful day, there was less than half a dozen others at any given time and I had plenty of solitude to gaze outward.

Au Sable Dunes

It was hard to pull myself away from the dunes, especially since I knew I had to backtrack back to Iargo Springs. Overall though, the backtrack didn’t bother me. It seemed to go faster as I was focused on getting back to my vehicle. I did take one diversion down the side trail to the banks of the Au Sable. It was a steep descent (which of course meant I had to tackle a climb on the way back up).

I’ll be back to explore this side trail later
A view from the riverbank

I followed the banks for a little bit and wondered if it would take me back to the main trail. But after a day of hiking, I didn’t want to risk getting too far off and having to backtrack or bushwhack up the bluffs. But it’s something I might explore later on with fresher legs and more food in my back.

And 10.3 miles later I was back at my car in the Iargo Springs parking lot!

My All Trails recording / hike stats

I definitely recommend hitting up this trail if you are near the Oscoda or general Au Sable River area. Hike to the dunes and also consider staying in one of the more than 100 rustic campsites along the river (you can even boat into some of the sites!). If you are looking for more amenities, check out Monument Campground. Either type of camping can be reserved at recreation.gov.

Hike Explores Michigan

Last March COVID quarantines changed my world. It changed all of our lives. I had just started a new position which would take me back to Georgia up to three weeks out of the month. With my free time, I’d be in the North Georgia mountains and hitting up Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge and of course the Smokies.

On March 10th, it all changed. That was the day I showed up to the office to an eeriely empty parking lot. The office was closed. And I ended up spending my last 48 hours in the North Georgia mountains. I thought I’d be back in a few weeks. And now over a year later, I don’t have a date of when I’ll be going back.

What the time in quarantine taught me was that even though I didn’t have the mountains in my backyard anymore, I did have trails. And it was time to explore them and appreciate the beauty of Michigan.

I’ve thought a lot about ways to showcase some of the Michigan State Parks to my listeners. I’ve sprinkled topics in here and there. I’ve shared some amazing Midwest hikes and stories of fellow Midwestern hikers. But I kept feeling like I needed to do more. That’s where the Michigan Explorer idea became more than just a thought that I tossed around in my head from time to time.

Hike in all of the Michigan State Parks over the next year. Okay…hike in as many of the Michigan State Parks over the next year that I can. Learn about the history of the parks. Put up my tent in both rustic and modern campgrounds. Find some local gems along the way as I take to the road. And finally…share it all with you.

Hike Explores Michigan is coming in May 2021. It’s a special season that’s dedicated to my home state. I have no idea where this adventure is going to lead, but I’m excited to bring you all along on it.

5 Tips to Setting Goals in the New Year

Create, track and meet your goals using five simple tips.

1 – Identify your goal and the motivation behind it.

It’s not as simple as just putting a goal out there, but you need to make it personal and figure out what the motivation is behind that goal. Tapping into that motivation will help keep your goal front and center and keep you focused.

For example:

Goal #1: I want to do a 52 hike challenge this year. Why? I want to be able to explore new trails, build up to longer hikes and make a weekly commitment to being on the trail.

2 – Break your goal down into smaller objectives or tasks

Just saying that I want to do something doesn’t just make it happen. So I’m going to break down my goal of hiking 52 weeks in 2020 by setting up some smaller goals. Setting smaller goals will make it less daunting and not put too much pressure on me at once to figure out how I will achieve it. It’s easier to take my bigger goal and look at it in four parts. I’m going to break it into 13 week chunks of time

For example if I’m using the 52 hike challenge goal:

In the next 13 weeks, I am going to identify at least 6 new trails I want to hike and schedule out four weeks of hiking at a time. The best day and time for me to hike is on the weekends – early mornings.

3 – Visualize all of it

I’m a strong believer that visualizing each step along the way. I think visualizing things are a big part of being successful in meeting goals. There’s a lot of information out there about using this technique and the science behind it.

So in this scenario, I’m going to visualize my weekend morning ritual of getting up early, packing my daypack and grabbing a coffee as I head to the trail. I’m going to picture how good it feels to get there early with the dew still on the grass and in many cases the trail all to myself. I’ll think of the smells of pine trees, the sounds of leaves under my feet and the coolness of the crisp air on my skin.

I will picture writing in my journal about the hike and then ticking off the box of another hike finished.

4 – Be accountable

Saying your goal out loud to someone, writing it down and and sharing it in a public forum are ways to help you be accountable. Finding at least one person to share your goal with is in my opinion going to help you make that goal. I think it is because when you give your word or make a promise, you don’t want to break that.

Also it provides a way for others to support you in what you’re looking to achieve. Thousands of other people might be doing the same goal as you are – like in the example of the 52 hiking challenge. Using a common hashtag or participating in a forum or group gives you a built in support system.

5 – Track progress and reassess regularly

You can do it on a spreadsheet, an app, spiral notebook or whatever makes sense to you. But make sure you are tracking your progress. Being able to track your progress and then on a monthly basis reflect on what you’ve done allows you to:

  • See your accomplishments
  • Know when you might be off track
  • Make any changes needed to realign goals and action plans

For example:

If I look back at my prior four weeks and realize that I only put in 2 hikes, I know that I won’t be able to get in a weekly hike, but I might still be able to meet my goal of 52 hikes in a calendar year.

Remember to do what works for you, including reassessing and modifying goals. Life happens and being flexible is important.

What are your tips for meeting goals? Leave me a comment below.

Walking among the Giant Sequoias

Have you walked among the giant sequoias? It’s always been a wish of mine, to wander among some of the world’s biggest trees. I’ve always admired big trees. I just moved into a house that is on a city park and my office windows face a soccer field that’s dotted with a few old growth trees. Trees with gnarled limbs and bark. Tree limbs that must span a hundred or more feet across. Trees that beg to be climbed with perches to rest on.

Seeing the sequoias has always been on my bucket list. I thought I would get up to Redwood National Forest actually first, but luck would have it that I found myself outside of LA.

While a lot of people save up vacation time or have enough to take a week and spend it inside a park, that’s not really what fits my life right now. I had two and a half days. With such a short time available, is it really worth it to try and cram as much of the park as possible into a list? After my visit, I would definitely say yes.

I spent two and a half days of exploring, camping and looking up in awe at trees that are over 2000 years old. Trees that have had generations of families and native Americans gather around them. Time marches on, but these giants stand tall.  But visiting Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon is so much more than just visiting the giant sequoia groves. And you can pack a lot into a couple days.

The first day was traveling into the park and setting up camp. I left about mid morning because I knew the drive would be close to six hours and I wanted to be able to get to my campsite with plenty of daylight time.

Driving in from Visalia and heading through Three Rivers, you’re going through a lot of foothills.  And believe me, I was anxiously anticipating the moment when I would finally see the tall trees.

I have to say the highway past Potwisha Campground was super curvy. Actually if you have a vehicle over 22 feet long or with trailers, it’s not recommended that you use the road from  . And once you drive it you’ll figure out why.

But as you crawl out of the foothills, you’ll begin to anticipate what’s to come.

Once I got to the Sequoia Park Boundary I picked up my map, entering through the Ash Mountain entrance . Make sure you take care of it because I had heard that to conserve resources, only one per car is given. It’s likely you won’t have cell service in the park, or will only get service in specific areas. However, there is complimentary wifi at the first visitor center you get which is the Foothills visitor center.

Besides a photo op of the National Park Sign, you might want to check in and ask questions. And for those people who want to visit Crystal Cave and didn’t get your tickets online – which is highly recommended – you can find out if there are spots open.

When you drive through Generals Highway, there’s this turn where all of a sudden you’re there – among the Giants. It’s the say out loud, “stop the car, I need to get out and walk among them”.  And then you realize, it’s just me on this trip.

Luckily there are pull offs along Generals Highway for people to get out and marvel at the ancient trees. To crane your neck and look up. And up. To wander on over 40 feet of trails in sequoia groves and see trees that are well over 200 feet tall and twenty feet or more at the base – like the worlds largest tree by volume. The General Sherman Tree.

But I drove past the turnouts for some of the most famous tourist spots for visitors – like Moro Rock, Tunnel Log, the Giant Forest Museum and General Sherman Tree. I was trying to make it to my campground to set up my tent and get situated before it was too late in the day.

I decided to stay my first night at Lodgepole Campground. It’s a great base for exploring the Giant Forest area of the park. It’s also pretty crowded. It’s like a small city. Over 200 campsites with full facilities such as a camp store, post office and even showers and laundry. However, I lucked out and secured this semi-private site where I truly did feel that I was on the edge of the wilderness. Also some great trails can be accessed from the location.

Setting up my tent was actually not so bad. If you listened to my Tips for Solo Camping episode, I go into more detail about the camping experience – including prepping for it.

After getting set up, I decided to head to the Sherman Tree Trail. This trail leads to the largest tree in the world by volume – The General Sherman Tree. While many people make a beeline to the General Sherman Tree and then head out, I’m going to give you a couple reasons to branch out a bit.  First, the trail is paved and it’s a half mile down to the trail. However there’s lots of exhibits along the way that explain the natural history of the giant sequoias. Since the walk back to the car is all uphill, you might want to save some of that for breaking up your return.  A quick tip. If you’re looking for a more serene route to the trail, use the Lodgepole Sherman Tree trail that you can get from the Lodgepole campground. It’s travels 2.8 miles from the trailhead to the Giant Forest and you’ll definitely have more solitude for part of the journey.  On the Sherman Tree Trail, there’s definitely more to see than just the General Sherman Tree.

One of my favorites was the Tough Twins with fire damage at the base of the trees.  One thing to also think about is acclimating to the elevation. This trail is at 7000 feet. I decided to leave the crowds behind and explore the adjoining Congress Trail which is also a paved loop. It’s a pretty quiet trail overall. And if you’re like me and seek out solitude in nature – I definitely look for any ways to get away from the crowds. And you’ll find that even in a busy park like Sequoia, there are ways to do this.

After this, I went back to camp and decided to scout out a couple of the trailheads that are located centrally at Lodgepole campground. There’s Twin Lakes and Topokah Falls trails. Twin lakes is about 7 miles one way hike and Topokah Falls about 2 miles one way. Given that I wanted to have some opportunity to explore a few other places the next day, I settled on Topokah Falls. I lingered for a moment at the beautiful Marble Fork Kaweah River at golden hour and then walked back to my campsite to settle in for the night. I planned for an early wake up, to hit the trailhead right at the morning light.

I didn’t sleep too well. At 7000 feet, it was pretty chilly. But I slept in my hat, base layers and even my puffy. It was my first time ever camping on my own. Morning was coffee and oatmeal with a few snacks in my backpack for along the way.

I realized that even with a lack of good sleep, I felt more well rested than I had in a very long time. There weren’t many other campers stirring at 6 in the morning, but I loved the idea of having the trail to myself on this crisp June morning in the Sierra Nevada.

A little bit about Topokah Falls. So the trailhead sign says it’s a 1.7 mile trek one way. Online I’ve read that it’s 4.2 mile roundtrip. My Garmin InReach Mini tracked close to 5. Topokah Falls is actually the tallest waterfall in Sequoia National Park at 1200 feet. But it’s not a free falling waterfall, it’s a series of cascades.

The trail follows the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River for a bit. You’ll see some campsites along the other side.  The trail goes through a forest of tall pines and some pretty meadows. There were gorgeous pink wildflowers that carpet the floor of the forest. And the river flows over large rocks and boulders. A little less than half hour into the trail, the Watchtower Peak rises up over 1600 feet above the valley and it’s a striking view.  I have links to my photo album in the show notes.  Prepare for some small stream crossings and before you get to the Falls, you’ll exit the woods and come into an exposed and jagged boulder filled section of the trail which leads up to near the base of the falls. You’ll also commonly see marmots along this section of the trail. There’s close to 600 feet of elevation gain through the hike.

During Spring and early Summer, there will be a lot more water flow than later in the year.

There’s a huge contrast between the huge sequoias that I just visited the night before and this trail. But the glacier carved granite canyon, alpine meadows and pine woods. It actually gave me a taste of what was yet to come in Kings Canyon. 

While this isn’t as busy as General Sherman Tree trail, this is a very busy trail since its not too difficult.

I enjoyed the views and solitude. It’s an Out and Back trail, so I headed back to camp to break down my tent and hit the Generals Highway to find my way to Kings Canyon. Actually to the very end of Kings Canyon National Park.

The drive to Kings Canyon from Lodgepole will take you first into Sequoia National Forest, then into Kings Canyon, back into the National Forest and then into Kings Canyon again. Along the way there are vistas, beautiful meadows, trails and campgrounds and a whole bunch of change in elevation. On my agenda for the day was checking out Grant Grove Village and the General Grant Tree. It took me a couple of hours to get to General Grant grove where the third largest tree is.

The trail itself is less than a mile and unlike the General Sherman Trail, there’s little change in elevation. Take note to pick up a trail guide for a buck fifty at the trailhead. It will lead you through a guided hike with information on fifteen numbered stops. What’s pretty cool about this hike is that you actually get to walk through a Fallen Monarch.  Be sure to take the entire loop around The General Grant Tree so you can see the fire scars. Also as part of this trail you can view a reconstructed cabin originally built in 1872 by the Gamlin family. I think the most poignant part of the hike was viewing the Centennial Stump which was cut and a 16 foot section reconstructed for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.  Another cool feature of the trail is the Twin Sisters where two trees are fused together.  This trail isn’t difficult but it is popular. Prepare to be among the crowds.

The drive from Grant Grove village to Sentinal Campground had to be one of the most beautiful and scenic I have ever been on. It took me an hour and a half to get back to the Kings Canyon National Park border and signage, dropping over 3000 elevation along the way.

The mighty South Fork of the Kings River is one of the most awe inspiring and powerful rivers I have seen. Sheer cliffs and jagged mountains rising up, made this a jaw dropping drive and a little nerve wracking. Keep your eye on the road. You might just see a mule deer and also have to avoid some fallen rocks – like I did. I made a few stops for photos but finally got to Sentinal Campground a bit after 4. Camping here was definitely not as private as the Lodgepole site, but nonetheless a decent spot.

After setting up camp, which I might add was getting quicker for me, I decided to head down to Zumwalt Meadow. I found that when I went to the trailhead, an alternate route was suggested. Because half of the loop trail was closed due to flooding. A sign instructed me to go to Roads End and take the River Trail to the red bridge and turn right then follow the river downstream and at the loop junction keep left for some great views. And then turn around when you hit water.  Even more so than Topekah Falls, I truly felt that I was in the wild. While the trailhead was packed, I found out those cars were likely for Roads End – where you can go to Mist Falls and also get backcountry permits.

For much of my hike, I was alone – maybe seeing less than a dozen others. And the views were absolutely incredible. Strewn boulders, rocky outcrops and rising granite all around. And then a gorgeous meadow right smack in the middle. I finally came to the Trail closed sign and turned around, still taking my time to marvel at the views of the Sierra front country. The hike itself was around 2 and a half miles and took me less than 90 minutes – with a lot of stops for photos and taking in the view. The skies were strikingly blue that day and it was gorgeous weather.  This is a pretty easy hike except for some rocky parts – watch your footing.

I decided after to do another drive from Cedar Grove area to Grants Grove – to get some cell service and a few souvenirs. Along the way I pulled off at Grizzly Falls. Grizzly Falls has a little picnic area and a very short walk to the falls.  If you come during peak snow melt, you’re going to have a thunderous wall of water and mist coming off of it. It was pretty spectacular.

The mist was refreshing and cool on my skin and a nice spot to take a break before the long drive through the canyon and into Grant Grove Village. Following the South Fork of Kings River for a ways, there are a couple of spots along the river to pull off and camp in the national forest. On my way out, I stopped for a photo with the Kings Canyon National Park sign.

The next morning I was up early and ready to hit a trail. I stopped to marvel at Horseshoe bend. There are numerous pull offs along Kings Canyon byway. I rarely saw many others on the road. The Kings Canyon section of the park is much less populated than Sequoia. So if being away from the crowds is important to you, you’ll want to focus your time on this area of the parks.

Take some time to read the placards and informational signage along the pullouts where you can learn more about the geology of how Kings Canyon was formed. Also you’ll see some beautiful wildflowers hugging the roadside and even sprouting from the cliffside walls of rock.

I decided to do another short hike to Buena Vista Peak. There were just a couple other cars at the trailhead when I arrived around 9am.  Buena Vista Trail is a two mile out and back and gives you incredible panoramic views from the summit.

The short hike through a mixed conifer forest is not too difficult and rewards you with views of Redwood Canyon, Sierra crest summits and Kings Canyon high country. Wildflowers are abundant. Vibrant hues of pink and orange dotted the way as I rose from lush green to granite summit. After a little break at the summit to have a snack and appreciate the solitude of having it to myself, I came back to the car and then drove out of Kings Canyon and back to Sequoia National Park…and the crowds.

A couple hours later and I was in the very crowded vicinity of the Giant Forest Museum. From that location though. You can drive up to Crescent Meadow though a narrow paved Crescent Meadow road that also takes you to Moro Rock. Along the way, I stopped at the Auto Log which fell in 1917 and was a tourist attraction where cars drove on it. It’s not safe for cars now, but you can walk along it. However, this afternoon my destination was Crescent Meadow which John Muir once called a Gem of the Sierras. Crescent Meadow is also the starting point for the High Sierra Trail, a route from the Giant Forest to Mount Whitney and one of the most striking backcountry trails in the country. The trail was built between 1928 and 1932, and joins the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails along the way. If you want to hike the High Sierra trail and do an overnight, you’ll need to get a wilderness permit.

So at that point I took a photo of the trail marker and made a mental note that this trail is going on my hiking bucket list.

I meandered along the trail circling Crescent Meadow, Log Meadow and also made a stop at Tharp’s Log. Tharp’s log was a fallen sequoia that became a home to Hale Tharp. You can peer into it and see the table, bed and the rest of his living quarters. As you make your way through the forest, there are plenty of giant sequoias to explore – including the hollowed out Chimney Tree. Crescent Meadow itself isn’t open to hikers, but you can sit along the edge and take in the lush green grasses. You can also do a longer 5 mile round trip hike from the Crescent Meadow Trailhead to the General Sherman Tree.

After leaving, I decided to definitely do the tourist thing and drive my car through the Tunnel Log.

A tunnel was cut through a fallen sequoia in 1937 and I got to admit I felt the glee of a little kid going through it.

And by mid afternoon,  I was leaving Sequoia National Park and headed back to Los Angeles. A little wistful, a little tired from trying to pack so much into so little time but a good tired. After all, this had been my first time seeing a giant sequoia and my first time camping solo. While I didn’t get to do long mileage hikes, I got a taste of both parks and truly enjoyed my experiences. I also made some mental notes of what I wanted to explore on my next visit. Sequoia and Kings Canyon, I will be back and hopefully my boots will be on the High Sierra Trail next year.

Thanks for reading about my experiences. Have you  walked through the Giant Forest or laughed like a kid driving through the Tunnel log? What did you enjoy about these two national parks? Drop me a comment about your own adventure.











Ten Tips for Your First Time Solo Camping

Lodgepole Campground – Site 172

Whether you are new to camping or just new to camping alone, today I’m going to share my tips and what to consider based on my recent experience at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

When I was little I didn’t get a lot of time out camping in the woods. In fact, I’ve probably only gone a handful of times. And most of those I was too young to remember.  One of the most memorable was the summer between junior and senior year. A bunch of us high school friends decided to go camping. Let’s just say the boys got kicked out of the campground, there was one couple who spent most of it fighting and I’m not even sure we got to make s’mores. I might try to dig up a photo or two and post it on my Instagram.

So why go camping alone? I think part of my desire to get out there on my own was to build my outdoor confidence. Sure I feel very confident as a day hiker, but what would be like to be on my own and be self reliant from setting up a tent to making breakfast – which I had never done on my own.

Also I want to work towards spending some nights on my own in the backcountry. Next year I am planning to spend a week on the High Sierra Trail or something similar.

Here are ten tips to consider as you determine if you’re ready to get out into the woods on your own.

1. Do your research.

Talk to some friends or experts about camping. Don’t be afraid to hit up your local outfitter, a message board or reach out to a friend.

I spent some time researching blogs and articles about what to do and not to do when you’re a first time solo camper.  I can say that I found lots of great tips out there. Some are just common sense. I also found a lot of tips that didn’t quite apply to my situation – and that’s the important thing to consider if you are thinking about first time solo camping or have a friend who might be. Each person has a different skill set and background – what works for me might not work for them. One tip said not to do your first solo experience far from home. I was thousands of miles away from home and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I thought I would share how I prepped for my camping, what gear I actually took, what went wrong and all the things I would recommend to anyone thinking of going out alone.  For those of you listening who are experienced campers – I want to hear what you think about solo camping. What are your tips – whether it’s car camping or the backcountry.

First of all, I needed to identify where I was going. Since I knew I’d be in Southern California, on my short list was Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree and Death Valley. Given the time of year I decided I wanted to hit up higher elevations – and hopefully avoid some crowds. I had read that Kings Canyon had a lot of the feel in places of a Yosemite without the crowds. So Kings Canyon became my focal point. I was lucky enough to get a reservation pretty late in Sentinal Campground at the last minute. And at the very last minute I decided to add another day in my stay at Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia when a spot opened up. And once you know where you are staying, you’ll want to assess whether you need to pack all your water in, what the amenities are and so on.

Some additional items you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of are basic wilderness safety and camping etiquette. I’ve referenced some great resources in my show notes. The main thing to remember is that you should know how to properly store your food and anything scented like tooth paste, deodorant and so on – if you’re in bear country you might be required to use a bear canister, hang a food bag or store all your food and scented items in a secure locker. Additionally never leave food in your tent. Even when you’re not in bear country there are lots of critters that will destroy your tent in the search for food. Also a key thing is to practice leave no trace. Leave your campsite better than how you found it.

Choose your location based on what you might want to do. Try to research enough so you have a sketch of a plan, as in what trails you might want to hike or what points of interest are in the area. For me, I chose Lodgepole to be near the Giant Sequoias and General Sherman tree and then Sentinel so I could have time in the canyon.

2. Stay flexible – whether it’s about where you are pitching your tent or the trip itself.

I wanted to have a reservation but there are walk up campgrounds. Being flexible and not having to stay at the same site allowed me the opportunity to see two vastly different areas and I had entirely different camping experiences as well.

So now that I had reservations, This trip was becoming more real. Real enough that I started to panic a bit. Would I be able to set up my tent all by myself? That tent which has been in my closet unopened for a year?

On this trip, the hike I anticipated doing was partly flooded and half of the trail was closed. So keeping a mindset of staying flexible was important for me to not get too stressed. Remember, not everything is going to go according to plan but that’s why its an adventure.

3. Make sure you have the right gear and clothes for the trip.

Part of prep is also making sure that you have the essentials for the trip.

First I’ll go into what I did for prep.  I had my basic camping gear – tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag – and of course the 10 essentials. I’ll post a list of my gear in the show notes and of course, there are tons of resources out there. I’ll post a couple of the ones I found most valuable.

What I didn’t have…a stove and cookware. Not entirely essential for car camping in a national park that has a camp store and restaurant. However, I wanted to make sure this was good practice for the backcountry.  I picked up a GSI outdoors Glacier Camp Stove which worked out quite well besides me almost starting a fire in my backyard – make sure you don’t tip the fuel can and keep it on a level surface. I also purchased a very basic 1 person cookset from Coleman. And I can tell you that you definitely get what you pay for. The fry pan didn’t make it out alive. So now I am definitely on the hunt for some reliable cookware and perhaps something I can use both at a campground and in the backcountry.

You’ll want to bring layers and even if the weather forecast shows sunny skies, bring a pair of rain pants and rain jacket just in case. In a lot of my experiences when I’m changing elevations throughout the day, I’ve realized it’s critical to have layers. A good base layer and both my hiking boots and some camp shoes or sandals. Remember it also can get pretty chilly at higher elevations. I slept with my hat, jacket and base layer on underneath clothes.

4.  Set up your tent and check your gear ahead of time to make sure all are in good shape. 

Since I had never set up a tent all by myself, this was about to get interesting. I just moved into this new place, so I’m also just trying to figure out my bearings. Getting used to things. Well I went out to the side yard and proceeded to figure out how was this going to work. Thankfully no one was going to come to my rescue, because this was a struggle I needed to make me feel more confident. I have a 2 person Marmot Tungsten and putting the x bar together in those grommet holes. Bending them just right and then realizing that two just popped out. There is a trick to all of it. At least in setting it up alone and balancing things just right. Luckily I got it. And after that, everything was a snap. Attaching the fly, staking out the vestibule. So while I was nervous about what the actual moment would bring, I knew if I had done this at least once on my own – I would find a way.

So in checking out your other gear, make sure your sleeping pad inflates if its the kind that does. Make sure you have fresh batteries for headlamps and lanterns and that all work. If you’re bringing along an emergency communicator, make sure you have the right plan you need and you’re going to want to test it out. I did a practice run with mine in Sleeping Bear Dunes.

5. Write out your itinerary as best as you can.

Share with at least one person back home.

You may not know which hikes you’re going on and the exact time you’ll make it to camp, but at least give some of the basic info to someone who is expecting an all is okay call or message from you by a certain point in time.

Also if you are taking some hikes that require permits, you’ll want to check in with the ranger. For this camping experience, I didn’t do anything in the backcountry so I ended up just needed to check in at my campgrounds.

For my upcoming backcountry hiking trip that I’m starting to plan, I have tons of research to do. There’s permits, knowing where water is (water crossings, water resupplies, water purification) I’ll need to know how to pack lightly but enough to manage six nights out in the wilderness alone.  But that’s a different blog post!

6. Arrive to the campground or site early and plenty of time before sundown.

You don’t want your first time putting up the tent to be rushed or in the dark. Assess the site. Make sure you aren’t putting up a tent under a dead tree or dead limbs. And realize that your practice run is going to be different than the real thing. The soil composition is going to be different. What may have come easy in my backyard might not be so easy at the campground. One key thing for me was bringing along a rubber mallet to help drive the stakes in. However, that may not be a great idea for the backcountry – at least the bulky one I picked up. And that’s going to happen. You’ll realize that some gear worked well and some didn’t. And you’ll adjust for next time.

And here’s where I have to share a little bit about the campgrounds that I stayed in. First night I was at Lodgepole Campground. This is probably one of the most popular campgrounds in both national parks. I mean, there are shuttle buses and it feels for better or worse like a small city.  However, one cool thing about Lodgepole was the post office. I got to mail out a postcard from there.  I have to say though that site 172 felt like I had my own little piece of private wilderness. I would really recommend reserving it.  What I realized the next day at Sentinel is how lucky I was to get that camp site, because the Sentinel site was less private and therefore compared between the two – the lesser camp site experience. However, from a park perspective I enjoyed Kings Canyon more. So staying at Sentinel afforded me access to more of a remote feel for hiking and trails. As with everything, there are always tradeoffs.

7. Don’t stress the small stuff or the big stuff.

I couldn’t get a fire started on the second night and I was so tired and starting to get frustrated. I realized there was more to go into fire starting than I thought, and I hadn’t spent time prepping for that part. But the important was that I was enjoying myself. I was getting to know myself over these two days. More than I ever anticipated or imagined. I didn’t need to start a fire thankfully. And so now I have some time to practice my fire skills before the next trip.

8. Prepare to be alone.

Traveling and camping alone brings a lot of alone time. Some people aren’t all that comfortable with that much space. For me, I really needed it. While there were moments I sorta wished I could have someone next to me drinking coffee and sharing in my pitiful attempt at scrambling eggs in the burnt fry pan. Okay, maybe not the eggs…I also had a lot of time to reflect on life and feel at peace.

I suggest doing something like bringing a book, a journal to write it, some type of craft or art project. Because you might just get inspired being out in nature.

9. Take time to appreciate the moments of struggle and success.

While there’s no one to high five when you successfully put up your tent for the first time by yourself out in the woods, or to console you  or talk you down when you get frustrated or can’t sleep – all of these things are intrinsically rewarding and growing you as a person. Thinking back now after a little bit of time has passed, I can see my confidence has grown and that this trip really was a milestone. Something special I’ll always remember and be able to tell my kids about – or maybe their kids. Mine just roll their eyes when I talk about camping. But someday they will know that their mom really tested herself on that trip. And its in those moments we know what we’re made of.

10. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work.

For me, I wish I would have brought a pen to journal, a good book and had practiced starting a fire beforehand. What worked was doing a lot of what I talked about today. Being prepared, researching, staying calm and flexible.

And realizing that not everything will go to plan. It’s like life. Letting go. Knowing that you can’t control everything and understanding that as part of life…about the only thing you can control is how you respond to a situation.

In conclusion, spending two days at Sequoia and Kings Canyon I was able to walk along the giant trees, see these beautiful vistas, feel the force of waterfalls in my bones, be in awe as I drove along Kings Canyon byway and feel so small in the canyons – staring up at the granite domes and walls. My hikes were amazing, but they were just one small piece of this wonderful journey. Whether you’re young or getting older, all of us can enjoy these wild spaces and it’s never too late to start. So I hope this post resonated with all of you. It’s just a piece of my longer journey. A journey to appreciating life more and growing and sometimes that’s painful. But it’s always worth it.

Thanks for following along. There’s still so much more to share about my trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I’ll be sure to add a blog post soon about my visit and what it was like on the trail.

So until next time, see you on trail.













Hiking Vickery Creek Trail – Roswell, GA

Vickery Creek has everything I was looking for in a urban trail hike.

  • Easy to access
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Hills/Elevation
  • Historic aspect

I was excited to spend my first evening hike at Vickery Creek Trail. Waterfalls? Covered Bridge? History? All this and then some.

I actually started my hike at one of the most picturesque spots. At first I had intended on hiking up to the Falls and Covered Bridge but I am glad I both started AND ended there.

Here is a link to the official trail map.

After descending down a concrete path from the Roswell Mills parking lot, you can go left to check out the historic mill buildings or right onto the trail via the covered bridge. I chose the latter.

The covered bridge is newer and you can read more about it and Old Mill Park and Roswell Mill ruins here.

The bridge has an amazing view of the rushing rapids below.

One last look at the bridge and I started up the concrete stairs to join the path at the VC15 marker. I followed the trail leading up to a ridge above the water which takes you to the Falls (VC19).

Once I got to the falls, there are signs posted to stay off the dam but on both sides of the water, there are areas to scramble a bit down on the rocks. I didn’t have too much of an issue, but the rocks weren’t too slippery.

Remember to leave no trace or shoe behind

After spending a few minutes at the falls, I continued my hike.

That Georgia red clay…

If you stare long enough, you see things

Coming back from doing part of the inland trails, I came back down across the bridge and to the ruins side of the creek. There are lots of signage that gives you a historical perspective and background of the Mill and how it impacted the local community through the years.

Educational signage posted along the path

Broad concrete paths and wooden overlooks make this a more accessible option for people who are unable to hike or prefer not to have such a rugged trek.

The path takes you through some of the ruins.

There are also spots where observers can scramble a bit down the rocks to get closer to the edge of the creek and falls. After four miles on the trail, I decided to stay put on one of overlooks.

What I loved about Vickery Creek trail is that anyone can enjoy the falls as there are wheelchair accessible paths. If you just want to come for the view, you can do that. If you want to get your heart rate up with a run on the hills, you can do that too. Learn about history and marvel at the power that was harnessed by the rushing water falling beside you.

The surrounding area has plenty of shops and places to grab dinner after you’ve worked up that appetite.

Don’t forget to hydrate, wear trail appropriate shoes, apply bug spray and bring a camera.

Kephart Prong Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains

(Article originally published in the Fall Issue of Hike Magazine. Order here)

Kephart Prong trail isn’t one you’ll commonly hear about when hiking in the Smokies. It doesn’t have ridgeline views or waterfalls to speak of, but it’s not lacking in beauty and historical features. It’s a shorter hike that’s easy to moderate which allows for a nice add on hike after you’ve done something challenging such as Chimney Tops or Mt. LeConte.

The hike starts by crossing a bridge over the Oconaluftee River. Take a moment to listen to the water as it rushes over the rocks strewn in the riverbed. The trail follows the Kephart Prong from where it meets with the Oconaluftee River to the Appalachian Trail. If the Kephart names sounds familiar, its because it was named after writer and park advocate Horace Kephart.

At .2 miles, the trail takes you through the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corp camp so you’ll see relics and artifacts such as a water fountain, fireplace and old rock frame for the camp signage. The camp was one of a few in the Smokies which held conscientious objectors during World War II.

A favorite part about hiking this trail is all the water crossings over the footlogs and bridges.

You’ll cross four as you make your ascent up to the termination point of the trail which is Kephart Shelter. One of them bears the mossy stonework from the CCC construction from over 80 years ago.

What I noticed about this particular hike is how green and lush everything was during the summertime. Also it’s one of the quieter hikes in the park, and you won’t find it as crowded as other trails. Some hikers use this trail as the start of an alternative route to Charlie’s Bunion so it avoids the throngs who take the more popular route from Newfound Gap.

The trail follows an old railway and the grade is moderate. Be on the lookout for some old railway irons during the final .2 miles of the hike. These are remnants from the logging that was done in the 1920s.

At 2.1 miles you will the reach the Kephart Shelter where the trail ends and intersects with the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail and the Grassy Branch Trail. Take some time to explore the shelter before retracing your steps back to the Kephart Prong trailhead, making for a nice 4.2 mile hike.

This hike combines historic features, streams and a gentle grade which makes it a nice introductory hike for someone new to being on the trail or who might not be up for a more strenuous hiking experience. So if you’re up for some exploring a bit of Smokies history, consider taking this lesser known trail next time you head to the park.

To learn more about the CCC’s time in the park, listen to my Hike podcast.

Hike your own hike

As I think back upon 2018, the one thing that stands out is the need to hike your own hike (HYOH). There is no one size fits all to hiking. Just as no two trails are the same.


At the root of it all, HYOH is meant to signify that you don’t need to conform to what everyone else might be doing but simply to focus on your own hiking experience without comparing yourself to others. Of course this doesn’t mean that one should be disrespectful, ignore leave no trace principles or do something dangerous on the trail.

So this is what HYOH means to me.

The miles I put in on a hike are enough for me.

I know how much my body can handle. When other hikers or people push me to go further, I know what’s in my limits. Stretch goals are fun and great….and necessary. However, I’m not less of a hiker or my accomplishment not worthy because I didn’t match someone else’s time or distance. So instead of comparing ourselves to others, it’s important to understand our own bodies and work hard to improve what we can.

The gear I needed wasn’t always the gear I wanted or that everyone had. 

I returned a backpack twice because I was too impatient to wait to get fitted. Lessons learned. I spent forty five minutes working with an outfitter who fit me for shoes. He even showed me the best way to tie them so they weren’t coming undone every other mile on the trail. I could read all the reviews, watch videos, and scroll through influencer feeds. But in the end, I realized being comfortable and familiar with my gear was essential to the hike.

It’s okay to go it alone and it’s okay to not go it alone.

Hiking is such a personal activity. Being one with nature, observing surroundings, gaining mental and physical strength each time on the trail. There is a lot of fulfillment I’ve found personally in solo hiking. At the same time, I learned that there is also something beautiful in a shared experience of the hike. Camaraderie of having another person to stumble over roots and rocks with. Someone to share a summit beer with or simply inspire you to keep on going when your legs ache. For me, I’ll continue to have both solo hikes and partner hikes, and it feels like it gives me the ability to have the best of both worlds.

I still have a responsibility to hike ethically. 

Hike your own hike doesn’t mean I can blaze new trails, throw trash and my worries to the winds or put myself knowingly in danger in the name of individuality. I need to always have the 10 essentials, know the trail I am embarking on and the weather conditions, and also practice leave no trace. And I also have a responsibility as a member of the hiking community to share that knowledge. Whether I volunteer time, money or other resources – it’s important as give back as a way to help maintain our trail systems for generations to come.

At the end of the day, the number of “likes” don’t count.

My hikes are just as meaningful when I don’t share them on social media. There were many times that my hikes didn’t end up with photos shared or tagged. But those were some of my most intimate and favorite hikes. I still bagged those peaks and took in those vistas, even if it was simply myself or just my hiking partner who knew.  It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of comparison when looking at some of the perfectly curated Instagram feeds out there, and start to feel this inner pressure to somehow get as many likes, followers, etc. When I start feeling that way, I take a step backward to remember why I’m hiking in the first place and the unique message I can share as part of it.


I didn’t tally up the number of miles I hiked in 2018, but I may end up doing that in the next few days. It would be great to say that I accomplished a certain goal (a mile a day, a hike a week, or some number of miles in my favorite national park), but right now I think I’m just going to let myself focus on my New Years Day hike.

Thank you for following my adventures on the trail. I wish all of you the happiest of New Years.