Returning to the South Pacific

Later this year, we plan to return to the South Pacific to carry out some additional hiking and snorkeling.  After our 2015 trip to the Cook Islands and 2016 trip to French Polynesia, we were very impressed with the scenery found in the beautiful islands located in the South Pacific.  For this upcoming trip, we plan to return to Bora Bora and visit four new islands — Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Easter Island.  I’m most excited about traveling to Easter Island and carrying out some hikes during the one week we will have there.  But the other destinations will be outstanding as well.  I even have an idea for an additional hike on Bora Bora that I missed out on last year.  This trip is still fairly far off, but I thought I would post a note on our upcoming travels which might result in new hiking reports here on the site.

On another note, I’m testing out some minor adjustments to the site.  The adjustments are: (1) switching the maps from Google Earth route maps to topographical maps and (2) switching the GPS coordinates to Decimal degrees.  The reason for switching the maps over to topographical maps is because satellite imagery is always being updated and I need to have the maps be in a format which will be more permanent.  The reason I didn’t do this before was because only recently I obtained software which provides seamless topographical maps when used in conjunction with Google Earth.  The GPS coordinates are being converted to the format that most people use today.  You can check out a test sample of the updates on the Tucki Mountain hiking report (currently listed as #7 on the site’s Main Page).  Please write in and let me know if you have any opinions or suggestions regarding these matters.

Backpacking in Iceland this summer

Just a quick post that I have confirmed plans and plane tickets to finally accomplish my goal of backpacking the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland this summer.  We plan to hike the entire 48-mile route from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork including the extension to Skogar.  I’ve been hoping to do this hike for several years now but it never worked out.  I’m mentioning this here because the Landmannalaugar area has colorful rhyolite hills that are somewhat reminiscent of areas within Death Valley.  It certainly will be nice to be back in Iceland for the first time in 10 years.  If the hike is successful (a lot will depend on the weather), I am considering hiking the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland the following year.

On another note, don’t look for the new Death Valley reports anytime soon.  I’m going to be extremely busy in March and April and it is unlikely that any of the reports will be put together before May.

DV Feb 2017 Hike 4: Pothole Canyon

We wrapped up our short trip to Death Valley with a late afternoon hike out to upper Pothole Canyon.  We were able to fit this hike in since it begins not far from where the Cottonwood Slot hike begins.  This hike was quite fascinating as it started out on Cottonwood Canyon Road near the well-known giant cave.  We had to attain the eastern ridge above Cottonwood Canyon by gaining a quick 500 feet in elevation and then we headed southeast across a plateau with numerous drainages.  Eventually, we dropped into a wash which flowed into the wash of upper Pothole Canyon.  The narrows in the upper canyon were outstanding all the way to the pour-over into the first pothole.  Sadly, we ran out of daylight before we could circle around the ridge to get some nice views of Pothole Dry Fall.  But we did the best we could and were glad to have seen the beautiful upper narrows.  Here are a few teaser images from the full report which will come later (probably in a couple of months when life slows down just a notch).

A picture of me taken in the early part of the upper narrows
Beautiful canyon narrows with great variety on display
I love the smooth surface of this canyon wall
The canyon walls had great height to them despite this being considered a somewhat minor canyon
View at the end looking over the edge into the lower canyon wash far below

DV Feb 2017 Hike 3: Cottonwood Slot

Our third hike was into Cottonwood Slot.  Cottonwood Slot is virtually unknown to those who are not long-time Death Valley hikers.  However, frequent visitors to the park have heard of it and some have even hiked it.  Cottonwood Slot was a 5-hour hike for our group.  We first explored the 1st Narrows by hiking up them while climbing 2 medium chockstone dry falls.  The passable canyon ends at a major dry fall which cannot be climbed.  We then used the advanced high-difficulty bypass found before the 1st Narrows to drop into the middle canyon.  Hiking back down the 1st Narrows, we were able to climb down 4 medium chockstone dry falls.  We were finally stopped by a major chockstone dry fall that cannot be climbed down.  And, in fact, some hikers have gotten stuck in the canyon by attempting this.  A word of caution is in order here in case somebody reading this blog post attempts this hike.  Do not hike through these narrows alone and make sure that someone knows where you are going in case you get stuck and do not return.  Climbing down the 4 chockstone dry falls to get where we did becomes continuously more difficult as you go and there is a possibility that you may become trapped by not being able to climb back up them.  We only accomplished this by giving each other boosts and a helping hand to pull one another up.  This is a very challenging area.  I will expand more upon this in the full report to come later.  We next finished the hike by hiking all the way through the 2nd Narrows until the interesting portion of the canyon ends with rolling dirt hillsides all around.  Here are a few teaser images.

The passable 1st Narrows ends here when heading up canyon
Beautiful polished white marble narrows
Shades of pink on the white marble
Tiffany finding a Bighorn sheep horn in the 2nd Narrows

DV Feb 2017 Hike 2: Grapevines WSA Canyon

For our second hike, we did an epic hike into the northern Grapevines to explore a major canyon that had never before been documented.  This was by far the most isolated area of the entire range that I had ever hiked.  Reaching the starting point for the hike either requires backpacking in from Scotty’s Castle Road or driving up a 4WD road which starts from Hwy 267 outside of the park boundary.  We almost didn’t even get to do the hike because the first dirt road we checked was signed as closed.  But then we found a second dirt road which was open and went through.  Just before reaching the starting point for the hike, the road follows along what I call the “Rim of the World” portion of the drive, where you are 500 feet above a canyon wash looking over in awe the whole time (this is the east fork of the main canyon).  After we hiked down to the canyon floor, we were able to explore an incredible tafoni slot canyon and then move over to the main fork of the canyon.  The hike up the canyon had spectacular colors and scenery as we hiked toward the huge trees at the end of it.  A highlight was being followed up canyon by a huge flock of playful Gray-crowned Rosy Finch birds.  We then crossed over and looped back down via another canyon, which ended a mere 1 mile from where Grey Wall Canyon is generally considered to end.  You can see a sample of the colorful panoramic area in this canyon by checking out the secondary header currently being tested on the site’s main page.  I am informally calling the main canyon we explored Grapevines WSA Canyon for identification purposes because the east fork crosses from Death Valley into the Grapevine Mountains Wilderness Study Area.  Here are a few teaser images in advance of the main report to come later.

This picture shows the east fork of the canyon we hiked into along with the “Rim of the World” drive (top left side)
Grapevines WSA Slot #1 had spectacular narrows
A Gray-crowned Rosy Finch keeping watch on us
Tiffany and I with the northern Grapevines (7932T and P8460 ft area) behind us
Heading into the colorful area of the canyon we looped back in