Misadventures on the Road from Joshimath to Leh

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Ever wonder what’s the best way to cure the hiking blues after finishing an amazing trek? Starting another one, of course!

With so many incredible hiking destinations to choose from in the India Himalayas, we had to take advantage of being halfway around the world and do another trek in this fabulous alpine locale before heading back to Chicago. So, after completing the Nanda Devi Alpine trek, we planned to meet up with friends in Ladakh, a region in the far northern India known as the “roof of the world.” (more…)

Discovering Uttarakhand: India’s Hidden Himalayas

Discovering Uttarakhand_3

The summer of 2014 was a banner hiking season for us. We’ve already told you about our amazing Wonderland adventure in Mount Rainier National Park, but, believe it or not, that trip was just the icing on the cake. We actually began our hiking adventures in India, of all places. That’s right, India! As soon as school let out, we headed to India’s Uttarakhand, where we spent 11 glorious days trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas. (more…)

Chicago Is for the Bird(er)s!

Chicago for the Birders2

As nature photographers and hiking enthusiasts, we are often bemoaning the fact that we live in Chicago. Now, don’t get us wrong. Chicago is an amazing city with tons of fantastic cultural offerings at our fingertips. But as far as hiking and wildlife opportunities go, we’ve always found it to be lacking. With skyscrapers providing the only change of elevation and pigeons being the predominant fauna, this urban setting is a little less than ideal in the nature department.

Or so we thought…

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Big Fun in Big Bend

Big Bend National Park in far west Texas is an amazing place. Snuggled into a big bend of the Rio Grande on the US-Mexico border, this park is known for striking sun-kissed scenery where its three distinct habitats of mountains, desert and river meet.

Mountains, Desert, River

Even though this park is undeniably gorgeous, it seems to be a well-kept secret. At over 800,00 acres, like all things Texas, Big Bend is huge, yet it only sees an average of 300,000 visitors per year. Compare this to the 8-10 million people who visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you’ll feel like you have this desert paradise all to yourself.

Why such a difference, you ask? In a word: Isolation. (more…)

Exploring the Natural Wonders of the Evergreen State

Iron Creek Falls, Mount St. Helens

For those of you needing a quick brush up on your state trivia, the nickname of Washington is the Evergreen State. While I am fairly confident that the moniker was intended to honor the abundant amounts of evergreen trees found in the state’s natural areas, sometimes I’m not so sure. Could it be that the forefathers of that great state had me in mind when the epithet was chosen?

You see, although I love spending time in Washington state, I have to admit that deep inside I am crazy jealous whenever I am there. Washington is a dream come true for any nature-loving, photograph-taking, outdoor-seeking person, and being there makes me “ever-green with envy.” Do Washingtonians realize how fortunate they are to live in such a beautiful place? Is it really fair for one state to have so much?

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The Wonderland Diaries: Exploring the Enchanting East Side

The Enchanting East Side The east side of Mount Rainier was the final four-day segment of our Wonderland adventure, and, in many ways, it felt like we had saved the best for last. Beginning on the south side of the park, we admired many beautiful trail-side waterfalls in the forested lower elevations before climbing back into the higher elevations of the east where a veritable alpine paradise awaited us. Spending our last two nights on the trail at Indian Bar and Summerland, two of the most beautiful camps in the park (if not the entire country), was a fitting end to the amazing experience of completing the Wonderland Trail. By the time we were through exploring Rainier’s enchanting east side, we wished we could turn around and do it all over again! (more…)

The Wonderland Diaries: The West Side Wander

The West Side Wander

The Wonderland Trail on Mount Rainier’s west side has a lot to offer the intrepid backpackers who venture here. This section of the trail is not easily accessed by road,  so few day hikers reach this quiet corner of paradise. A couple of monster ascents through old growth forest will have you huffing and puffing, and the stunning views of the mountain from Klapatche Park and Emerald Ridge will take your breath away. St. Andrew’s Lake offers a picture-perfect chance to cool off in ice-cold waters while a couple of dramatic river crossings are sure to get your adrenaline flowing. If you’re lucky, you might catch a gorgeous sunset from above the tranquil Golden Lakes. Wildflowers abound as you stroll through Indian Henry’s old hunting grounds on your way to your next cache and a well-deserved hot meal at Longmire.
A wander down the west side is well worth your while! (more…)

The Wonderland Diaries: Navigating the North Side

Desolate Pass Tarn

We began our Wonderland adventure traveling counter-clockwise on the north side of Mount Rainier from White River Campground heading toward South Mowich River. Filled with sweeping vistas, enchanting alpine meadows, photogenic lakes and a few hair-raising bear encounters to boot, this alluring section of the trail was the perfect introduction to the Wonderland—a magnificent visual feast from beginning to end. It had us at hello… (more…)

A Guide to Backpacking the Wonderland Trail

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
which face of Mount Rainier
is the most fabulous of all?

If you really want to know the answer to this question, of course, you’ll have to discover it for yourself. And there’s no better way to do that than by backpacking Washington’s iconic Wonderland Trail. This 93-mile loop circumnavigates the entire mountain, giving you a non-stop parade of jaw-dropping alpine scenery, all with the mighty 14,410 foot glaciated peak of Mount Rainier as the backdrop. What more could you ask for? (more…)