Yesterday I did my highly anticipated hike of the world famous Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii. It was incredibly beautiful from beginning to end and I had an unforgettable day. The trail passes through the Na Pali Coast as it heads for Kalalau Beach. This trail had everything– difficult challenges, amazing views, grand scenery, and an awesome finale. Although this is usually done as a 2 or 3 day backpacking route, I day hiked it. Day hiking the Kalalau Trail turned it into the most difficult hike of my life, surpassing both Mount Whitney and Dry Mountain on the difficulty scale. These are not typical trail miles, but extremely hard miles due to constant ups and downs, very muddy and slippery conditions, and high heat and humidity. You simply cannot hike fast or you might slip off a cliff and tumble into the ocean if you do this hike in the midst of rainy weather. Upon returning home, I will work on a trip report for this hike to share here on the site. The final stats of my hike of the Kalalau Trail were– 264 photos, 278 ounces of water, 23 miles, 17 hours 40 minutes (beginning at 6:20am and finishing at 12:midnight).
This past Wednesday on January 15, 2014, John Dobson passed away in Burbank, California. Many people worldwide are familiar with his invention of the Dobsonian telescope and the group that he founded known as the Sidewalk Astronomers. Those of us who have been visiting Death Valley for a long time, however, also know him for the wonderful star program that he would hold every year during the last week in December at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. From the period of the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, my family and I always made it a point to be in Death Valley during that particular week and attend his program. That led to my friend Joe and I working as volunteers for John and the Sidewalk Astronomers during those programs, where our job was to assist the public with telescope viewing through the telescopes set up on the Furnace Creek Visitor Center lawn. We got to know John quite well and also spent time with his assistants Donna (Managing Director of the Sidewalk Astronomers) and Katy (Vice President). One of my most special memories of John was spending the evening late into the night sitting around a campfire with him at the Furnace Creek campground and listening to his stories and thoughts on the universe. Due to failing health, John was not able to make the trip to Death Valley to hold his program over the past few years. It was a program that we really missed and always will miss. In memory of John, I have added a picture of him and Joe onto my Introduction Page just below the picture of John and I that I have had posted there ever since I began this site.
John had been coming to Death Valley yearly since at least 1969. Some of his visits to the park were quite long, where he would spend 9 full days and nights sharing telescope viewing with park visitors. You can read an article he wrote about some of his experiences in Death Valley here. In explaining why he brought his telescopes to Death Valley and other places, John said: “Everyone should see. Everyone should understand. What we do for ourselves is a waste. What we do for others is beauty.” Thank you for the wonderful memories in Death Valley, John, and for the wonderful programs you put together for several generations of park visitors. What you did was beauty.
Today I received my copy of the January 2014 DVNHA E-Newsletter. One of the articles in the new newsletter is entitled “Natural Bridge Discovery” and shares a brief paragraph about my new co-discovery of Sunlight Bridge along with one of my photos of Sunlight Bridge. It was certainly nice of the DVNHA to include the discovery of this major natural bridge within their newsletter. It should definitely reach tens of thousands of people and help promote hiking and searching for new discoveries within the park. Just to clarify things, though, there were a couple of factual inaccuracies within the short article. For one thing, I was improperly credited as the person who discovered and named Moonlight Bridge. That information is not correct. My friend and fellow Death Valley explorer Kauri Jacob was the person who discovered and named Moonlight Bridge all by herself. Also, she co-discovered Sunlight Bridge along with me. I wanted to clear that up as Kauri works really hard on her hiking and exploring of the park and then shares what she finds for the benefit of hikers everywhere. She recently spent an entire two weeks in the park exploring undocumented areas and reporting on them. You can read all of her reports at the link located here.
Last summer, we spent a good amount of time in the Canadian Rockies. One of our favorite hikes was the Plain of Six Glaciers which starts out at Lake Louise. I finally finished up my report which includes 82 photos from our hike to the end of the trail as well as up a secret spur trail which leads to the foot of Upper Victoria Glacier. I hope you enjoy the report, which can be read here. Links to all non-Death Valley related hiking reports are always kept on my Introduction Page. Along with my upcoming planned hike of the Kalalau Trail this month, we are considering our hiking options for this summer. Early thoughts are perhaps to do some hikes in mainland Alaska, Bella Coola, or Utah.
Just a brief note to let you know that I have fully updated my Sidewinder Canyon report. The updates include 60 brand new pictures taken inside Slot #1, Slot #2, and Slot #3 during my last trip. The previous version of my report did not showcase the slots or major natural bridges very well, so I mixed in pictures from both my hikes into Sidewinder Canyon during November of 2013 to improve this. I got some really good pictures of the slot narrows which I am sure you will enjoy. Also, it is nice to see that my Sunlight Bridge report is generating so much interest with over 100 views since it was posted a couple of days ago. I’m glad to see that many of you enjoy checking out the major natural bridges as much as I do.
Today, Kauri and I both released our trip reports documenting our discovery of Sunlight Bridge. I also updated my Natural Bridges Page to include Sunlight Bridge officially as natural bridge #14 in Death Valley. My trip report on Sunlight Bridge includes a detailed introduction discussing the discovery of the bridge, lots of photos of the bridge, photos of the main canyon, and a few photos of the Sunlight Slots, which are tight side slots off of the main canyon. I hope to cover the Sunlight Slots in more detail on an upcoming trip. Sunlight Bridge Canyon is currently trip report #120 on the main page of the site. Click here to read the new report.
On another note, I am currently preparing my hikes for my next trip to Death Valley, which will take place at the end of February. I will not be releasing my planned hikes in advance of the trip this time, but I will likely be posting live updates from the park during the trip. Before that happens, though, I will be traveling to Kauai, Hawaii in order to attempt a hike of the Kalalau Trail. Whether or not I will have a successful hike there will depend on the weather during my visit and also the current degree of exposure along the trail. Hopefully, I will be able to complete the entire 23 mile hike and write up a report upon returning home. I will next check in a few weeks from now from Kauai.
Kauri and I are happy to announce that we have discovered a brand new major natural bridge in Death Valley. As many of you know, we have both spent a lot of time hiking in the Grapevine Mountains searching for previously undocumented major natural bridges. It was last April when Kauri made the stunning discovery of Moonlight Bridge which made big news within the park. Now we can tell you that by working together, we have found another one which is equally as impressive. The new bridge has some similarities and differences to Moonlight Bridge. Like Moonlight Bridge, the new bridge is also found in the Grapevine Mountains and it has a similar rock texture on the backside. But the canyon setting, structure, and coloring of the bridge is much different and quite unique. The name that we have chosen for our new major natural bridge is Sunlight Bridge. This coming Thursday, we will be releasing side-by-side trip reports documenting our discovery of Sunlight Bridge from our own perspectives. This will give everyone a chance to appreciate the discovery through our own eyes and have a better perspective for both how we were able to accomplish this and what it meant to us. We will also explain why we named it Sunlight Bridge. Kauri will be publishing her trip report on her site and a link to that will be provided within my report. This new co-discovery initially took place back in mid-November but was not revealed publicly at that time. Check back in on Thursday when our reports are scheduled for release for the entire story of the discovery of Sunlight Bridge. Until then, enjoy this special top-to-bottom panoramic photograph of Sunlight Bridge.
I’ve been getting an unusually large amount of blog views over the past few days, so I thought I better post an update about the upcoming announcement. My best estimate is that the announcement will be made sometime on Tuesday January 7. The announcement is indeed for something very special that Kauri and I have found in Death Valley. After the announcement, we both will be releasing simultaneous trip reports on the finding within the week, perhaps as early as Thursday January 9. Check back soon.