Tag Archives: Mountains

Huangshan – Nine Dragon Waterfall

ninedragonUpon rising with the ever-honking buses and loud speaking maids outside our door, at 6am we were up and ready to blow the joint. Passing up the breakfast from yesterday, we decided to head out for Hangzhou and Mike added a scenic route on the roadway that found us at the Nine Dragon Waterfall trailhead. At the entry was a sign saying this was one of the seven most famous waterfalls in all of China. How could be pass up viewing that? All was good until we realized there was the dreaded  S T A I R S … again. Oh, the kids were ready to hang it up. But I so wanted to see it so I convinced them to push on. I told them, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and this fat lady is not singing!” It made them laugh and figure if Mom can make, they can.

We took the trail as far as it was open, which allowed us to see a good portion of the waterfall. All 984 feet of it. Very impressive. The water was clear and the air was fresh. What I loved was the ancient Buddhist Temple at the base of the big climb. Its days are numbered because on the other side of the river, they are erecting an astounding, jaw dropping new temple. Not even done, and it gave me goose bumps. By the looks of it, it will be completed this year. Oh, found another cute butt picture… This was of a little one not even old enough to walk on its own.

After leaving here we continued to Hangzhou and West Lake, our hotel was very nice, but the amount of people and the dreary weather left us going… what?! The sky was gray to the ground and never have seen so many people in my life. More than we saw in Beijing. It was unreal. So the next morning, we walked out to the lake and fought our way back to the van headed home to Suzhou. Obviously, Labor Day weekend was not a good time to visit West Lake. From what we heard, it never is. Hope you enjoy the photos…

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Huangshan – Yellow Mountains

huangshanReputed to be the most beautiful mountain range in the country, the peaks of Huangshan have for centuries been celebrated by poets and painters. Although the main peak is under 6,200 ft, the 70 sheer rock cliffs are a challenging hike with the people-crowded, winding concrete steps that go on forever up and down. They say even when shrouded in mist, the scenery of the peaks and ancient pines are awe-inspiring. Unless, of course, the mist is thick clouds and the sky rains continuously throughout the day.

Yep! That was the weather conditions we visited this place in. We never got a good view from the top peaks. The weather was a thick pile of mush… hmm… or was that us? Both, actually. 🙂 Well, what we could see was moving and we could easily tell this has to be one of the most incredible mountain ranges ever. No wonder it is so heavy poeted and painted. We have never seen anything like it before and wish a bit of clearing would have graced the landscape, but we still had an eventful time.

We started the day with a Chinese breakfast with Rice Porridge, sticky buns, soy sauce soaked hard-boiled eggs and tea. Then we hiked across town to the bus station that took us to the entry of the Park. (Couldn’t drive there.) After arriving and paying the hefty fees for entry and gondola ride up the first 2,000 feet, we became the stair-masters of stairs. We thought Mt. Emei had a lot of steps. Not! This place was tops.

China does not keep normal walking trails, like we find in our mountains. They instead concrete a pathway all over the darn place. Stairs, stairs, and more stairs. Some of the stairs even had sheer drop offs on one side with little railing protection. Yikes! Mike and I agree. We can walk all day on normal paths, but stairs wear us out too fast. The funniest part about this hike was we were only a small walk over to a gondola that would have taken us back down. But no, we made a wrong turn and took the steepest and longest route down the mountains to a much lower gondola, which we barely made in time before it closed. Always an event for us!

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Western Adventure, Day XXIII – Utah at Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Another nice day in UT. We headed southwest to Zion National Park. If it wasn’t for our wonderful navigator for the day (me), we would have been in Zion much sooner. I sent us on a scenic drive through Dixie National Park on Highway 14 to Cedar City. We spent a lot of time on the road. Oops! All was not lost though. We did get to spend a bit of time at the top of the pass on Highway 14 in the snow at Navajo Lake. At this time, UT was still at 200% on snow totals for the year. Much of the pass was entrenched in deep snow. The dogs and kids loved it.

Interestingly, on this road there were numerous lava fields with no apparent volcano. Our curiosity was solved when we saw signage explaining that at numerous locations in the Dixie there have been recent (in the last 1500 years or so) lava fields formed from lava just coming out of the ground.

In Cedar City, we found a tasty Mexican food restaurant and a health food store that carried goat cheese. Yeah! We were so close to the north entrance of Zion called Kolob Canyon, we headed there first. The entrance is also the exit… a dead end. Not many people were at the this entrance. I imagine most wouldn’t take the time to come here for only a short 15 mile drive. But the views… wow! Most of the views didn’t look real. The roadway was paved neatly in the same color as the rock. Gorgeous.

The South entrance was significantly different from the North. Where you can drive yourself in the North, at the South you have to park and take a shuttle up the canyon. The shuttle is free with your park pass. There were steep cliffs on each side of the South Entrance with the Canyon floor having enough room for a road, the river and a bit of land here and there. Conveniently the bus stops almost everywhere along the way up to the final stop of Temple of Sinawava. At the Temple, there was a nice paved 1.5 mile walk up to the Narrows, which we walked. The trail was full of wildlife.

The Narrows is probably the most famous of trails here. It is the trail that leads into the canyon on the river. Since the river was flowing about 6500 cubic feet per second, the Narrows was closed. Normally it runs under 70. According to the bus driver, he said it flows at the rate of 15 to 50 in the summer. Did you know that last December they had the worst flooding on record? The Virgin River was flowing through the valley at over 60,000 cubic feet per second. It was the first time they had to close the park for flooding.

Returning to the bus stop, after walking the trail, we discovered tons of people. We didn’t feel like waiting for the bus, so we headed down the road on foot. Oddly the canyon got foggier as we walked, and then we came upon our empty bus stopped. The shuttle driver told us a large amount of rock fell right in front of him. He said it was the first time in his twelve years to happen. The boulders were the size of three man rock and there were white marks on the ledges above marking the path the rocks took as they fell.

The driver wouldn’t let us continue on foot, nor did we want to. So we got on the bus and headed back to the truck since it was getting dark. Our last goal of the day was to drive the one mile long tunnel. We managed to get back to the trailer by 11pm. Long day.

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Western Adventure, Day XX – Arizona at Navajo Bridge and North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Newest bridge is on the right

Newest bridge is on the right

A bright, lightly winded day in AZ today. We had planned on taking a tour through the lower Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Reservation. Little did we know it would cost so darn much to enter the canyon to only have one hour to take photos and explore.

Since we didn’t have enough cash, we decided to change our plans and travel to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We never did plan on seeing the GC this trip, but Mike asked if we could find the time he would love to. So today, it is…

Our first stop on the way was the Navajo Bridge which extends over the Marble Canyon and Colorado River. There are two bridges there now. One is the original built in the 1920s and the other was just completed in the late 90s.

The old bridge is now just a foot bridge. I did make it mid span and turned back. As usual, my troublemaker, Nathan, was busy trying to freak me out.

This was a great place to stop. The gift shop was excellent: Lots of good books, art and helpful people. The architecture was beautiful. The staff recommended we stop by the Glen Canyon Park on this side of Marble Canyon.

Wow! We felt like we had stepped onto another world, like planet Mars. The terrain was nothing we have ever seen before. One rock was so huge, it remiinded us of the Jawas Transporter from Star Wars. It may be hard to tell in the photos, but some of the rocks were over 30 feet in diameter on little pedestals.

We did find access to the river. The dog got to get their feet wet only. The river was too fast for them to swim in.

Heading to GC, the most amazing thing happened to us… we found trees. Old, large pine trees… The kids and I had not realized how long it had been since we had been in the woods. Tears glistened in my eyes at the sight. As the Badlands was spiritual for Zachary, the trees were for Nathan.

The first thing Nathan did, getting out of the truck, was to lay on the ground… then he went and hugged a tree. So emotional for him. He spent a good amount of time off on his own, just enjoying the trees and such. When he was ready, he returned with a big, refreshed smile on his face. He also informed us he did not want to go back to the desert. Trees only for him.

I took over 500 photos. It was windy. It averaged 20 mph with gust over 40. So a lot of our photos have flying hair and wind filled coats. At times, we would have to stop and just hang on until the wind slowed, so we would not get blow off the the trail. Mike was a crazy guy in some of the photos… hanging off the edge and such.

We stopped at the Visitor Center for a bite to eat. Did you know there are cabins available right next to the canyon? What a vacation it would be to see the sun rise and set over the canyon right from your front porch.

We left the main visitor area and drove down a road that called us. We found a lookout that was fantastic called Point Imperial. As the sun started to set, we took off and drove to the Condor release site in the Vermillion Valley. We had hoped to catch sight of this bird with over an eight feet wind span. No such luck. But we did watch the sun set in the valley before we headed back to the trailer.

A high wind advisory for tomorrow?! Yikes! 40 to 70 mph. How much wind does it take to blow over a trailer? We discovered it would be best to stay put and hold tight for day before leaving AZ for Utah (UT).

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Western Adventure, Day XI – Colorado at Cheyenne Zoo

Zachary, Briana and Nathan at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Zachary, Briana and Nathan at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado

We were eager to head out today and explore some parks in the area of Colorado Springs. Last night was a flood from the skies. I was amazed at how fast our awning filled up… dumping every five minutes throughout the night.

As of the morning, the weather had shifted to mostly cloudy. We figured we would go to Seven Falls. It was touted as the most beautiful canyon in the world. From what we would see upon the drive in, we agreed. But due to the significant rainfall, the trails were closed and the staircase next to the falls were closed too. The ranger suggested we try tomorrow.

Since we were close to the Zoo, we decided to make that our next stop. Its claim to fame was the only zoo in the mountains. And it was in the mountains, on a hill side to be exact. The Zoo had five tiers. We climbed up one side and came back down the other. Their best exhibit was the giraffes. There were over 20 of them and we could even touch them. Briana was especially giraffe crazy. It was hard to pull her away.

We liked the interactive bird display the most. Zachary had been missing our bird, Maximus. When we saw one in the bird area, he became a bit melancholy. To our delight, and his, the Zoo had a budgie room full of parakeets, cockatiels and canaries. The kids had a blast! We stayed in the room for over an hour and the zoo gal Kay spoiled the kids by giving us more sticks, full of food, than we paid for. Kay even allowed them to hold the birds. One bird in particular hung with Zachary… a cockatiel. Kay found a feather from one of the cockatiels and gave it to him to take home. To say the very least, Zachary was extremely pleased. We also got to see one of my favorite zoo animals the Okapi. I first saw them at the San Diego Zoo some years ago. I just love how they look. They’re a close relative to the giraffe and have their infamous 18 inch long purple tongue.

As it started to storm, we went inside the food court for some ice cream and watched it sun, then rain, then snow, back to sun, and then to cloudy. We purchased tickets for tomorrow’s first showing of the Pirates fo the Caribbean IV at the local theater and went to bed early.

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