Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Hiking (Page 1 of 4)

Wordless Wednesday: La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

Wordless Wednesday: El Yunque

El Yunque Mountains

Hiking El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque Vista

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. El Yunque is located near Rio Grande and is a 35-minute drive from the San Juan area. El Yunque is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Just like many of the national parks we visited last summer, a $2 reservation is required to drive into the National Forest. Reservations can be made up to a month in advance at Recreation.gov.

Posing at La Coca Falls

Once you get into the national forest, there are several places to get out and explore. The first is La Coca Falls (left), which is a large waterfall right at the side of the road. With an 85 foot drop, La Coca Falls is a great introduction to the rainforest and a wonderful photo opportunity.

The next stop is Yokahu tower (right). Built in the 1960s, Yokahu tower offers a 360-degree view of the rainforest and the coastline. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Virgin Islands. The forest service offers a concession stand in the tower and if you have a National Park passport, they have a stamp here.

Yokahu TowerWhen planning this trip, the La Mina Falls trail looked like one of the best, easier hikes in El Yunque, but unfortunately, it has not reopened after hurricane Maria. So, we decided to hike the Mt. Britton trail. When we visited, the road through the forest was closed at the picnic area, so that added an extra mile to this hike. According to the forest service’s Facebook page, the road should be closed farther down than it actually was when we visited. The roads through the forest are steep and winding and hiking on the road felt more difficult than the trail itself. If you are planning to hike the El Yunque or Mt. Britton trails, just be aware that the road closure adds additional mileage.

Mt. Britton TowerOnce on the trail, it was a beautiful trek through lush, tropical greenery. The trail is a 1.3 mile hike (0.8 miles each way) with 650 foot elevation gain. The forest service says this hike takes 45 minutes each way, but we went down much quicker than that! This is a steep hike so it can be tough on the knees. Make sure you have shoes with good traction as rain is frequent in the rainforest. The Mt. Britton tower (left) at the end of the trail, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and offers beautiful views of Puerto Rico, The Caribbean, and the Atlantic. The view from the top (top) makes the climb worth it!

Mt. Britton Tower from Below

We climbed all the way to that tower!

If you are staying in Puerto Rico for any length of time, you definitely have to check out El Yunque! With the current road construction, the forest service is limiting reservations even more. If you are unable to get a reservation, there are many tour companies that take visitors to El Yunque.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower

Devils Tower National Monument is located in the northeastern corner of Wyoming, only about an hour and a half away from Rapid City, South Dakota. Signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt on September 25, 1906, Devils Tower was the first National Monument in the world. The monument is a popular place for rock climbers as well as hikers and others who just want to see this unique geological feature for themselves.

When planning this trip, I originally wanted to visit Devils Tower on the way from Custer to Yellowstone, which would’ve had us arrive mid-morning on a Saturday. Then, I learned that the parking lot fills up early, especially on weekends, and it is not uncommon to have to wait a while for a spot. Since we had quite a bit of ground to cover that day, I decided it would make more sense to make it a day trip from the Black Hills, and that way we could also see Spearfish Canyon on the way back.

We left Custer after Chris got off work and arrived at Devils Tower around 5 pm. There were only a handful of people around and we had no trouble parking. The visitor center closes at 6 but I was happy to see that the passport stamp is outside so that if you arrived when the visitor center was closed, you would still be able to get a stamp. Because we wanted to see Spearfish Canyon before sunset, we didn’t have much time to explore the monument, but we did get to walk a little bit of the Tower Trail.

Roughlock FallsSince this was our last day in the Black Hills, I may have tried to cram too much in, especially with the three-hour round trip drive to Devils Tower. But, we did enjoy the GyPSy tour of the Northern Black Hills and the drive through Spearfish Canyon. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive that follows a river that has cut through these high rock walls. Spearfish Canyon is an absolutely beautiful area that just blew me away! There are several places along the way to stop and enjoy the beauty of the canyon. We got out and stretched our legs at Roughlock Falls (left). Several scenes from Dances with Wolves were filmed in this area and maybe recognizable to fans of the film. We had planned to checkout Deadwood this day, but the road was closed for a parade or something so we just kept driving. I guess we will just have to come back with more time to explore the Black Hills!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Hiking Balcones Canyonlands

The view of the Colorado River from Warbler VistaThe drive from Fredericksburg back to Austin was the longest driving day of our Hill Country Road Trip. In terms of some of the road trips we’ve taken, an hour and forty-five minutes drive are not that bad, but it doesn’t hurt to get out of the car and stretch your legs and take in some natural beauty.

To stretch our legs on this day, we decided to stop at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Located near Marble Falls, Balcones is about an hour drive from Austin and would be a good place to get away from the city and get into nature. As a National Wildlife Refuge, this area is popular with birders. We stopped at the Warbler Vista section of the park which offers three fairly short trails to explore. If it’s not obvious by the name, this area is prime warbler habitat.

Trail through trees

We started our visit at the end of the road at the sunset viewing platform (above). This overlook gives a view of the Hill Country as well as Lake Travis. After taking in the view and enjoying the (once again) warm Texas sunshine, we embarked on the 1.25 mile Cactus Rocks loop trail. We began on the northern branch of the trail which was significantly flatter and easier than the southern portion which had more elevation change. Overall, the trail was a pretty easy hike in the Texas wilderness. If you are looking to escape the city and get back into nature on a trip to Austin or just a place to stop between Fredericksburg and Austin, this park is quiet and off the beaten path.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

D.H. Day Campground in the Off Season

Empire Bluff Overlook

Back in 2019, we managed to score a campsite at one of Michigan’s most popular campgrounds right when they were first available to be booked in advance. Of course, I’m referring to D.H. Day Campground and when we first set up camp, we understood the hype around the campground. First of all, it is located in the amazingly beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Second, the campsites are big and private and the campground is quiet. Third, it is located in a great spot to explore all the fun things on Leelanau.

Camper from the dunes

View of our mini camper from the dunes

With campgrounds being closed longer than normal due to COVID, we didn’t attempt to get a prime summer reservation in 2020. Instead, we waited until late in the season when the campground goes back to sites being available on a first come first serve basis. This was Halloween weekend and I was nervous the campground was going to be busy and we were going to have a hard time getting a spot. Well, snow was on the forecast, and being a rustic park there is no electric service to heat up your campers in the freezing temperatures. When we pulled in there were maybe only three or four other sites that were occupied.

We did what any D.H. Day loving camper would do in that situation and we took one of the coveted and near impossible to reserve in the summer waterfront sites. It was very cold and the wind was strong so it was hard to enjoy the beach, but on the other side of the dune, it was a wonderful campsite. We discovered that many sites in this section involve some dune climbing to reach so there are only a few that are accessible to RVs or trailers. Those sites would be AMAZING for tents, though.

If you have been struggling to get a site at D.H. Day, try going offseason. It will be even quieter than in the summer and you may even be able to score a waterfront site. If you go in the fall you’ll also be treated to a show of fall colors on Leelanau. You’ll just need to bring extra blankets and maybe some hand warmers to keep warm.

While in Sleeping Bear Dunes we had to hike the Empire Bluff Trail (top). The last time we had been to the park, we tried the Alligator Hill trail and it did not live up to Empire Buff. I have heard really good things about the Pyramid Point trail and we will have to try it next time but I just needed another chance to soak in that Empire Bluff view before I try another trail that may or may not be better.

To try your hand a reserving a site at this very popular campground, visit Recreation.gov. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Hiking Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls Kentucky

After booking our campsite for Cumberland Falls, I discovered an Only in Your State article describing Eagle Falls as the best waterfall in Kentucky. So, after our first night in our new camper, we put on our hiking clothes and hit the trail.

The trail to the falls is a mile and a half round trip moderate hike. The trail from the parking area to where you cross Eagle Creek basically has you climb up and down a substantial hill. Once you get to the highest elevation on the trail, there’s a marker for an overlook in .1 miles to the top of the hill. Don’t be tricked by this, there is nothing up there except some old playground equipment. There is no view to be seen from there. Save yourselves the steps when you get a stunning view of Cumberland Falls from the main trail.

Once you cross the river, there is some rock scrambling following paint on boulders. It can be tricky to get your footing, but by the time you get to the falls, it is totally worth it. We got there early and it was after labor day so we were able to sit on the rocks and just watch the falls for a bit with the place completely to ourselves. It was nice way to relax before climbing back to the parking area. Somehow, the trail felt easier on the way back to the car. Maybe Eagle Falls refreshed me.

This is a very popular trail so going early or during the week would allow you to beat the crowds. Going off-season doesn’t hurt either. In the heat of the summer, people flock here to cool off in the pool under the waterfall. It was not warm enough for that when we visited but I can imagine it gets busy in Kentucky heat.

Overall, if you are in the area and have the time and ability for this hike I definitely recommend it. Sitting by the base of a waterfall without another soul around is a very special experience!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Hiking Pictured Rocks: Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock

While camping at Tahquamenon Falls, we decided to take a day trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore has blown up in popularity the last few years after being featured on Good Morning America. We used to refer to Munising as a food desert because if you didn’t bring it with you, you weren’t eating it there. With increased visitation, new restaurants and shops have popped up outside of the park. This was the first time we had been back to this area since our UP Road trip in 2015 and it was really good to see some life in this area!

Chapel FallsThe downside of the increased visitation is that the trails and parking lots were jam-packed with people. We decided to hike to Chapel Falls and there were so many cars on the side of the road to the Chapel Falls parking lot, it took us an hour to drive 3 1/2 miles to the lot. Being a holiday weekend, we were expecting crowds, but we weren’t expecting this level of crowds.

The hike to Chapel Falls (left) is about three miles round trip. The trail is on an old rail bed so it is relatively flat and a pretty easy hike. Somehow, when we got to the falls, Chris convinced me to double the length of our hike and continue on to Chapel Rock and Lake Superior (top). The rest of the trail was just as easy as before and the added mileage meant the crowds dropped off significantly. Overall, I’m glad we did the whole hike, but my legs were jelly by the time we got back to the car.

 

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If you plan to visit Pictured Rocks, definitely take some time to check out the revitalized downtown Munising. There are now many highly rated places to eat on TripAdvisor. If you plan to do this hike, arrive early, or pack your patience. We arrived after lunch and were able to get a spot in the lot, but as I mentioned above, it took a long time to get all the way there.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Chapel Rock Pinterest Graphic

 

Camping at Ludington State Park

Ludington State Park Sunset

After our journey across Lake Michigan, we made our home for the final night of our trip at Ludington State Park. Ludington is easily one of the most popular parks in Michigan, with the campground filling up six months out. With a beautiful Lake Michigan beach, a lighthouse, several inland lakes, a river for paddling or tubing, and miles of hiking trails, it’s no question why this park is so beloved.

As I mentioned in my last post, it was late by the time we finally got our car off the ferry. We stopped for dinner and ice cream at House of Flavors and by the time we made it to the park, the sun was setting. There is something special about watching the sun go down on those dunes along Lake Michigan. The sky really put on a show for us that night.

It began to rain early the next morning causing us to get a late start. We were going to hike to the lighthouse, but by the time we finally got going, it was about time for us to check out. Oh well, just an excuse to get back to one of our favorite Michigan state parks!

As I mentioned above, this park is really hard to get into. We got lucky and were able to book this site about a month in advance. The Beechwood campground was scheduled to be closed in 2020 for a bathhouse renovation. Because of COVID, the DNR got a late start and decided to open the campground up for the season, allowing us to get a site only a month or so in advance. The downside of that, of course, is that the bathhouse at this campground was very outdated, but for only one night, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Beechwood is open for reservations for 2021 as well, so they must have decided to put that plan on hold for now.

One thing to note about camping at Ludington (and many Michigan state park campgrounds, honestly) is that all of the campgrounds are pretty much located in a big open field. The sites on the inside of the loop are pretty small and lack privacy. The sites on the outside of the loop back-up to woods and dunes giving them much more privacy. The inside loop is great if you are camping with a group and reserving multiple sites, if it’s just you, try to get an outside site. You will feel much less cramped.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

Peninsula State Park

Boat on Green Bay Sunset

Sunset from Peninsula State Park

Door County, Wisconsin has been on my list of places to visit since I first discovered it when I was in college. I quickly realized that from Michigan, its not the easiest place to get to and it got pushed to the back burner. But, this summer when we were planning to visit the far western end of the U.P., it finally made sense to visit Wisconsin’s peninsula in Lake Michigan.

The Door Peninsula is the easternmost part of Wisconsin and separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. This is a very popular vacation destination for people from the Chicago area as well as other parts of Wisconsin. This area is home to several lighthouses, several historic sights, and plenty of freshwater for water sports.

When planning to camp in Door County, there are five state parks to choose from:  Newport State Park, Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, Whitefish Dunes State Park, and Rock Island State Park. Rock Island State Park was closed this year due to high water levels. We were late to the game planning this trip and there was one spot open at Peninsula State Park so that made the decision pretty easy.

Sunset over Green Bay

Peninsula State Park, located north of Fish Creek, is the most popular park in the Wisconsin State Park system. This is a huge park with over 460 campsites, a golf course, beach, lighthouse, and miles of trails to explore. This is a popular sunset viewing location. I loved watched the go down each night over Green Bay. I felt like the two nights we had to explore here where nowhere near enough.

The rustic campsites in the Tennison Bay campground were some of the nicest we have seen. The sites were wooded and very private and for the most part it was a quiet and calm campground. Even though 2020 was a big camping summer and the campground was full, it felt like we were the only people there.

The way the Wisconsin State Park service handled COVID left something to be desired. A few days before we arrived we received an email saying the bathrooms may or may not be open; showers may or may not be available. And the kicker, we had to buy an annual state park pass even though we were only going to be there two days (day passes are not sold this year). We were already several days into our trip at this point and considered completely changing our plans because of this. We are tent campers, we need bathrooms and I have no interest in carrying around a portable toilet. Luckily, when we got to the park, the bathrooms were open and clean, but there was not a single ranger to be found. So, I’m really glad I bought that annual pass that no one even looked at.

Overall, I would return to Peninsula State Park. There is still a lot of that park left to be explored. I just wish they I didn’t have to buy an expensive, out of state, annual park pass that I used for two days.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out our Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Peninsula State Park Pinterest Graphic

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