Ancient Survivors: Redwood State and National Parks

The massive and ancient Coast Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) are master survivors from a prehistoric time. They are built to withstand fire, to ward off insects, and, most impressively, to regenerate themselves through burl sprouts.  When a redwood is distressed from, say, fire, the cells or burl sprouts within it react by shooting out sprouts which can become new trees!  It is not uncommon to see a redwood, dead or alive, with a younger cloned tree shooting up from beside it or even from within it!  Is there any other species on this planet that has the ability to clone itself in such a way?  While looking up a massive trunk to the tree branches and the reiterated trees sprouting from it, I said “This…this is higher power.”  These trees have survived thousands of years because of their design. I am not a religious person, but being out here, I don’t doubt that there is a creator. Here, in nature, is where my church lies. Come out here yourself, and maybe you will be reminded that it is by honoring nature that we honor our maker.

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The thickness and dampness of Redwood bark protects the trees from wildfire

Aside: I feel blessed to have spent a full month in the Canadian Rockies.  I still have more to write about the area, as well as the amazing Olympic Peninsula, but for now I just wanted to skip ahead to Redwood National Park due to the level of influence it has on me.

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Smoke on the Rockwall: Kootenay National Park

Even before the wildfires in Banff started, the locals knew they were coming. We had just taken a relaxing dip in Radium Hot Springs at the south end of Kootenay National Park, after which we bought some snacks in town and I gave in to my bad habits and bought my first pack of Canadian cigarettes. As I lit one on a bench located on the boulevard between the filling station and the road, a small gas station attendant came frantically toward me. “If you’re going to smoke there, be very careful” she pleaded. “We have a small ashtray on the pavement you could use instead. We are very worried. Storms are coming.” “I understand,” I told her. I relocated myself outside the station.

Then, on our drive back into Kootenay, we noticed the fire danger sign now read “EXTREME”. This was a strange sight indeed, as I’ve never seen a Minnesota fire danger sign exceed “Moderate”. Sure enough, that night, as cracks of thunder echoed over the blazer where we were camped in Kootenay National Park, a burst of lightning started a wildfire near Sunshine Village Ski Resort, not 30 miles from where we slept. Fortunately for us, we had only just finished our hike to Egypt Lake. All the trails we had explored for the past three days were hereafter closed due to wildfire.

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Most of my Rockwall Trail photos are shrouded in smoke

 

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Stories from the Backcountry: Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks

I cannot stress enough how amazing the backcountry is. Camping in the backcountry brings us away from the crowds and into the heart of the wilderness, where natural beauty is, to a certain extent, unobstructed by man. Out in the backcountry, we are visitors to a gorgeous wonderland home to bears, elk, deer, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks, birds, and many more fascinating creatures.

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Loons in the Backcountry – Glacier National Park

Another benefit of the backcountry is the great people we meet out here. My goal from the start has been to get away from people altogether, but snow and water have prevented us from achieving complete solitude very often; we always end up staying with one or more other groups. As it turns out, this has been much more a blessing than a curse. In the month that we’ve been travelling in and out of backcountry paradises, we have not met one soul who has not been wonderful. Fellow backpackers share many common interests with us, and, best of all, they are full of amazing stories as well as great recommendations for local hikes and hot spots. Continue reading

Unknown Wonders: Idaho

Idaho is known by many for its potatoes.  It’s even on their license plate: “Famous Potatoes”.  Also on their license plate is “Scenic Idaho”, and it is this impression that I took from visiting Idaho. I’m fairly confident that many have no idea just how amazingly scenic Idaho actually is.

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Sawtooth Wilderness – Idaho

In fact, over 60% of Idaho’s land is owned by the federal government, and most of the federal land is managed by either the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service.  The result is a treasure trove of beautiful places. Maybe I’m a jerk to Idahoans for letting their secret out, but SERIOUSLY, Idaho is the place to visit. Still don’t believe me? Listen up. Continue reading

Where the Wild Things Call Home: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Yellowstone is significant because it became the nation’s first National Park in 1872. The land was chosen because of its mysterious thermal features and other natural wonders.  When you think of Yellowstone, you probably think of geysers such as the famous Old Faithful. And indeed—such features are truly wondrous and the main thing that most people come to see.  The real value of Yellowstone, however, is its wildlife. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large and wild enough to allow for a diverse ecosystem to survive and thrive.  In fact, it holds the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states.

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Killdeer – Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone

We spent our first two days in Yellowstone in the backcountry, leaving from Blacktail Creek trailhead and hiking along the creek and then the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone backcountry is a very peaceful and refreshing place; we ran into more marmots than humans.

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