Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Rushing Waterfalls and Spectacular Vistas: Yosemite in the Spring

Friday, March 16th, 2012

David Wimpfheimer (Photo courtesy of Susan Colletta)

David Wimpfheimer is a biologist and a professional naturalist with a passion for the natural history of the West and a special interest in birds. During his 25 years as a guide, David has lectured on trips to Death Valley, Baja California, Yosemite National Park, and more. This spring, David will return to Yosemite to lead a Smithsonian group. In his post below, David discusses his plans for this upcoming trip and what makes Yosemite, designated a national park in 1890, so special.

Yosemite. The very word conjures up many vivid images, thoughts and feelings. Huge, thundering waterfalls, an incomparable valley of sheer

Giant Sequoia (Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer)

granitic cliffs and domes, groves of giant sequoias, birds, bears and other wildlife.
I have visited Yosemite National Park every year for the last thirty. I never get tired of going there. How could I with so many varied landforms and organisms?

This June, I will be taking another Smithsonian group to Yosemite. Last year, the Sierra experienced one of the greatest accumulations of snow in recorded history. While that made for a great show of waterfalls, deep snow actually prevented us from walking out to some of our destinations. 2012 is just the opposite, a very low year for snow. Don’t worry, the waterfalls will still be spectacular, and we’ll be able to walk to Sentinel Dome. This is a moderately easy mid-elevation walk through open montane forest of fir, pine, and juniper to spectacular views of Yosemite Valley and the Sierra crest to the east.

Waterfall (Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer)

With less snow in the mountains all the park’s roads will be open. Glacier Point, towering thousands of feet above the cascading waters of Nevada and Vernal Falls, is a place that never fails to impress me. The views are there, but I enjoy sharing the smaller details; spiky seedpods of a Chinquapin bush, the ethereal song of a Hermit Thrush, or even a Sooty Grouse calling from the bough of a majestic Red Fir. Tioga Pass will be open allowing us access to the dramatic alpine zone. Mono Lake lies just to the east in a spectacular sagebrush basin. This is an awesome place that I hope to show our group.

Yosemite is the kind of place that is really more than just the sum of the words describing it. A photograph of a giant Sequoia can never do justice to its size. That’s why we’ll take a walk through the historic Mariposa Grove. The spirit of John Muir seems to call out from this unique place. Our June visit will be a good time to see the huge white blossoms of azalea here while chickadees, warblers and other birds are in full song.

There is so much to share with participants, but I want you to have your own special experience of Yosemite. It may come on one of our group walks, but you’ll also have the opportunity to just sit by the bank of the Merced River and take in this glacially carved landscape on your own. Like most national parks, there are many choices here. We’ll guide your explorations, but always allow room for more discoveries.

Half Dome (Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer)

Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer

Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer

Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer

Photo courtesy of David Wimpfheimer

Volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010


File:MSH82 st helens plume from harrys ridge 05-19-82.jpg

Mount St. Helens on May 19, 1982. Photo: US Geological Survey.

Located only 50 miles from Portland, Oregon, Washington State’s Mount St. Helens is seared into our memories for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980. The eruption took life, property, and the summit of Mount St. Helens, which is now topped by a large crater. While Mount St. Helens is the nation’s most active volcano, the Pacific Northwest actually has a long history of volcanic activity, centered on the Cascades mountain range.

At Oregon’s Newberry National Volcanic Monument, visitors can explore the Lava River Cave, a lava tube formed after a volcanic eruption when surface lava cooled and hot lava continued to flow beneath. The underground channel where this lava flowed now forms a long cave. Crater Lake, also in Oregon, the deepest lake in the United States, was also formed by volcanic activity.

Of course, there’s more to the Pacific Northwest than volcanoes. Join us next September for our Pacific Northwest Hiking experience to learn about all of the state’s stunning natural wonders and biodiversity, as well as the delicious food and wine of Oregon and Washington.

Where’s your favorite place to go hiking? Please share.

Did you know? The Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program tracks volcanic activity worldwide, and you can click here  for more on Mount St. Helens.

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…)