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Lyons Ranch Trail

Lyons Ranch Trail

Redwood National Park

Towering redwood trees. That’s what you think of when you come to Redwood National & State Parks. Our first hike in the park though? It would feature no redwoods. Lyons Ranch, a National Historic Site, has an easy 4.5 mile loop trail and features wide open prairies, dramatic views, and historic structures. You can see more than just trees at Redwood N&SP. Lyons Ranch Trail is in a remote section of the park called Bald Hills, near the park’s southeast…

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Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Loop Trail

Dark Hollow Falls and Rose River Loop Trail

Shenandoah National Park

Rose River in Shenandoah National Park has been on our to-do list for awhile. Several attempts in the past floundered due to laziness or something coming up at the last minute. We’d made it to Mathews Arm Campground for the weekend, so we took the opportunity to finally hike Rose River Loop. The hike is located off Skyline Drive in Shenandoah’s Central District, across from Big Meadows Campground. We decided to make a 5.1 mile loop that included Dark Hollow Falls.

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Backpacking Overall Run & Beecher Ridge Trails

Backpacking Overall Run & Beecher Ridge Trails

Shenandoah National Park

I had been wanting to check out Overall Run Falls in Shenandoah National Park for some time.  At 93 feet, Overall Run Falls is the highest waterfall in the park, but you don’t hear as much about it as other waterfalls like Dark Hollow Falls or White Oak Canyon.  So on a warm spring day, we went to see for ourselves.  We planned for a one-night backpacking trip to see the falls and make a lollipop loop with Overall Run and Heiskell Hollow Trail.  Our plans changed slightly during the hike, and we returned on Beecher Ridge Trail instead of Heiskell Hollow Trail, creating an 11.6 mi lollipop…

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Garwood Trail

Garwood Trail

Saguaro National Park

Our intention was to visit as much of Saguaro National Park as we could.  Crisscrossing desert trails in the northwest corner of the Rincon Mountain (east) District are known as the Cactus Forest.  We wanted to hike somewhere up there, so we reserved a full day for it.  Our initial plan was to do a longer loop, but we were exhausted after backpacking to Manning Camp, so we decided on a shorter hike.  A ranger at the Rincon Visitor Center recommended a 4.0 mile out-and-back on Garwood Trail…

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Backpacking to Manning Camp

Backpacking to Manning Camp

Saguaro National Park

On our second to last day in Saguaro, we went to a “Star Party” at the Rincon Visitor Center.  We like astronomy, planets, and stars, so we made sure to go.  Before going outside to stargaze, the ranger at the visitor center gave us a rundown on the history of the park.  He explained how the park was created by President Herbert Hoover as a National Monument.  The ranger then said, “The park has a lot of diversity, not just the desert environment, but also the Rincon Mountains at 8,000 feet.  Up there is Manning Camp, but nobody really goes there.”  We sat there feeling slightly miffed, but also smug, because we had been at Manning Camp just two days before…

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Wasson Peak via King Canyon Trail

Wasson Peak via King Canyon Trail

Saguaro National Park

On our first full day in the Tuscon Mountain (west) District of Saguaro National Park, we decided to do a day hike to Wasson Peak, the highest point in that district, at 4,687 feet.  When we left for the hike at 8:30 a.m., it was already HOT.  We wished we had left earlier.  But there was no turning back, since we were only there for a week.  Multiple trails go to Wasson Peak, but we chose to go via King Canyon…

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Gilbert Ray Campground

Gilbert Ray Campground

Saguaro National Park

There are no car campgrounds in Saguaro National Park.  It’s unfortunate, but thankfully there is one close by.  Gilbert Ray Campground is inside Tucson Mountain Park, which is run by Pima County.  It’s adjacent to the southern border of the similarly named Tucson Mountain District (that’s the west district) of Saguaro National Park.  The campground is only 3 miles away from Saguaro NP, so it’s practically part of the park.  We used it as our basecamp for the time we…

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Saguaro National Park

As a teacher, I’m always ready for a vacation by the time spring break rolls around. Since it’s only a week, we usually plan on a park that we can really explore in that time frame. In 2017, we ditched a chilly, windy April in DC for a week in Tucson. It felt pretty good as we left the airport and felt the arid climate for the first time. We headed to Gilbert Ray Campground to check in for our…

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Planning and Overview Spring 2017

Planning and Overview Spring 2017

Saguaro National Park

When you think about our national parks, Saguaro probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  Unless you live in Tucson, Arizona, since the park straddles the city.  Established in 1933 as a National Monument, and upgraded in 1994 to a National Park, Saguaro was formed to protect its namesake – the Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea).  Pronounced Sa-WAH-ro, the cacti grow very slowly, but can get as tall as 40 feet and live for more than 150 years…

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Hawksbill Summit Loop Trail

Hawksbill Summit Loop Trail

Shenandoah National Park

We’ve explored Shenandoah quite a bit, but there are many hikes we haven’t made it to.  The southern district springs to mind, as we usually frequent the closer north and central districts.  There are hikes that we haven’t done that are (according to popular opinion) some of the best the park has to offer.  If you search for best hikes in Shenandoah, Hawksbill is usually on the list. So, we traded in a humid summer day in DC for cooler…

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