Posts Tagged ‘california’

Exploring the Natural Wonders of Yosemite

Monday, July 20th, 2009

David Wimpfheimer, Study Leader of our popular Yosemite in Spring program, has been a guide, biologist, and naturalist for more than 25 years. Here, David recalls a hike from our Yosemite outdoor adventure. Click here for more information on David and traveling with him.

El Capitan, one of Yosemite's signature granite formations

El Capitan, one of Yosemite's signature granite formations

The last several hundred yards of our hike meandered across the broad granitic expanse of Sentinel Dome. Patches of snow and our shortness of breath were indicators of the lofty elevation here, over 8,000 ft. above sea level. As we paused to rest, our gaze was drawn to some of Yosemite National Park’s iconic landforms.

To the west the huge slab of gray rock, El Capitan, towered above Yosemite Valley while the curving face of Half Dome dominated the view in the opposite direction. Although we had seen many wildflowers and migrant birds on our Yosemite in Spring program, huge gray clouds and the snowy jagged peaks of the Sierra crest seemed to confuse the season.

Thousands of feet below us, the Nevada, Vernal, and other waterfalls full of fresh snow melt thundered away. A gnarled old Jeffrey Pine grew out of a crack in the rock where we were standing, without a hint of its age. Just the day before we had walked under massive giant Sequoias, marveling at their size and beauty. These awe-inspiring sights were just some of the wonders we enjoyed on our Smithsonian adventure.

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Death Valley – Land of Diversity

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Fred Ackerman is Founder and Chief Shepherding Officer of Black Sheep Adventures, a multi-sport adventure tour operator based in Berkeley, California. A graduate of MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering, he found his true calling in adventure travel or as he sometimes calls it “leisure engineering.” Click here to learn more about Fred.

Hiking through Death Valley. Photo: Fred Ackerman

Hiking through Death Valley. Photo: Fred Ackerman

We’ve just concluded another successful Smithsonian Journeys walking tour in Death Valley. At the start of the trip, one of the participants shared with the group what a friend had asked her, “Why would you choose to go to Death Valley?!” All twenty of us laughed for we each knew why we were there, but each of us had a different reason.

Despite its dark and foreboding name, Death Valley offers a diverse range of attractions. First there’s its obvious appeal for those with an interest in geology. Our Study Leader, Kirt Kempter, an expert geologist, delighted us in sharing his vast knowledge of the region’s many noteworthy geological formations such as snow-capped mountains, narrow marble walled canyons, towering sand dunes, volcanic craters, and the lowest spot in the western hemispherethe salt flat at Badwater, 282 feet below sea level. Geologically the range of attractions is terrific, and there’s so much more. (more…)