Friday, June 15, 2012

Hiking Devil's Postpile National Monument, California

The Devil's Postpile is a geological wonder of the world.
The John Muir and Pacific Crest Trails meander through this natural monument
Unique formations in Devil's Postpile
Of all the sights to be seen on the John Muir and Pacific Crest Trail, the Devils Postpile National Monument is perhaps the strangest and most unique. For those who are traveling the famous Route 395 along the Eastern Sierras, this is also a destination which cannot be missed. Fortunately it is easily accessible from the nearby town of Mammoth Lakes, California. 

The wonderful part about Devil's Postpile is that it is easily accessible and the hikes are rather short. There's a couple of sights you can't miss:
  • Devils Postpile Hike: This is a 0.4 mile walk from the visitor's center and is well marked and flat. The trail will bring you to the base and you can hike to the top or circle around the monument. If you're coming from the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, the monument turn-off is well marked. However, the JMT/PCT do not travel nearby the actual postpile.
  • Rainbow Falls Hike: From the parking lot at the visitors center, its a 5 mile hike round trip but you can also park at Reds Meadow and take the JMT/PCT trail to the turnoff to cut out a little of the distance. This trail is also well-marked and you can see it on the map above.
  • Ansel Adams Wilderness: If you follow the JMT/PCT trail northwards out of the park, you will travel through the infamous Ansel Adams Wilderness which has some stunning sights such as Thousand Island Lake, Garnet Lake and the rugged Ritter Range. These locations are all within about a 2-day backpacking trip.
Some perfectly hexagonal structures on the top of Devils Postpile
Devils Postpile, at the bottom
Backpacking through Ansel Adams Wilderness. Ritter Range and Thousand Island Lake
So there are all kinds of options if you go to Devils Postpile. If you're looking for short hikes, there are plenty of them. Its also a great place to start an epic backpack trip. Of course, if you're on the Pacific Crest Trail, this will be one of your highlights as you hike up to Canada. Whatever your pleasure, the Devils Postpile will certainly amaze. 

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Biking Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada

After taking an extended kayak trip around the island, I decided to explore the coast and interior on two wheels and two boots! I saw a completely different side of the island and enjoyed the pleasant maritime climate and dense forests. The island supports many rivers and waterfalls as well as wildlife which were easily marked and accessible.
Grand Manan Island, best seen on fat tires, boots or kayak!
I was quite tired from completing the kayak circumnavigation of Grand Manan, but I was also hungry for some land-lubber adventures. While on the North End of the island, I explored a couple of hiking routes that were marked with the spray-painted tops of tin cans. I wasn't sure what the significance was at first, but the locals later let me know that those are public trails maintained by the island's tourism board. As it turns out, there are dozens of trails which offer different views of the vast interior and rugged coast.

Biking to Dark Harbour and the Interior of the Island

My land-based adventures started with a bike from Castalia to Dark Harbour by the only paved road which crosses from the West side to the East side. It was a grueling trip! The road heads straight up the mountainous interior but there are several opportunities for photos and side trips. Snowmobile trails become mountain biking trails in the summer and there seemed to be endless options. 
Riding through the interior
Eventually I came to the crest of the road and began the speedy descent into Dark Harbour. I was hoping to catch the sunset which can be a rare sight on such a foggy island. It took no more than 20 minutes to get from the crest down to the harbor and I took in the sunset. There are roads that circle the harbor which are always covered up during high tide (plan accordingly!) These roads are very rough so I would attempt them on anything other than a bike or a 4-wheel drive.
Circling Dark Harbour (this trail gets covered up in high tide!)
Dark Harbour is very much a laid back and local hangout for the island's residents. There are perhaps four dozen "camps" which are just weekend cabins that many of the locals share. Its a great place for short walks and catching the sunset. I spent a lot of time with some friendly folks who invited me up for a beer and I learned a lot about the wonderfully relaxed lifestyle that is island living. Grand Manan Island is such a welcoming place!
Sunset over the herring fishing grounds
Telephone poles are used to make herring pens
Biking Route 776, the Grand Manan's Main Road

The next day I biked down the one highway on the island which is a coastal, two-lane route. Its a surprisingly hilly and somewhat challenging ride with views all along the eastern coast of the island. The most spectacular ride was towards the southern terminus of the road which takes you by the sea and then up the massive cliffs that form the Southern Head. It was also nice to ride through the lobster/fishing towns of Grand Harbour and Seal Cove which are still very active.
Biking the coastal route to Seal Cove
Once I arrived on the Southern Head, I admired the view of the massive sea cliffs. Indeed, this is one of the most photographed parts of Grand Manan Island. The crystal green and blue waters combined with the rugged and curiously shaped cliffs are unique and serene. Several hikes permeate this exquisitely beautiful coastline and you will likely run into some photographers and people doing yoga. Its the perfect place for both.

I was on somewhat of a tight schedule so I couldn't thoroughly hike and explore this section as much but I will head back here next time I'm on the island!
Curiously shaped cliffs and large tides
One of the more photographed parts of Grand Manan Island
There's just so much to explore on Grand Manan. Even with my five days, I couldn't get enough of the island with all the hiking, biking and kayaking. I say this about everywhere I go but I'm positive I'lI return to this little slice of paradise in the Bay of Fundy. ts a small island with big adventures.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!