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  1. Tephanie H.

    Tephanie H.

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  2. Aaron

    Aaron

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  3. Susan Dragoo

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  4. balzaccom

    balzaccom

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Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 04/29/2020 in all areas

  1. 2 points
    I'm so elated to have my very first hiking blog posted on Trail Groove! Thanks so much Aaron!!
  2. 1 point
    There is a huge effort being put into opening up professional sports during the Covid19 crisis. Many of the arguments in favor of opening up the games center around the many employees of the stadiums, and how they depend on revenue from the games. So. I did a little research. About 17 million fans attend NFL games each year. Another 22 million attend NBA games. And Major League Baseball attracts nearly 70 million fans to the stadiums each year. Wow, you must be thinking. That’s a lot. Do you know many people visit our national parks each year? Over 300 million—about three times the number that attend NFL, MLB and NBA games combined each year. Another 800 million visit the various state parks throughout the country. Between state and national parks, ten times as many people visit those as attend all professional sports games in the USA. Of course, our president doesn’t watch our national parks on television, so that must explain why our parks don’t get as much attention…sigh.
  3. 1 point
    While standard freeze-dried meal fare will often find us eating rice or pasta based meals in the backcountry, it’s nice to mix things up every now and then. With the Mountain House Spicy Southwest Skillet Meal we can throw something that’s quite different into our food bag, while also adding an option that’s equally at home for dinner or breakfast in a pinch. The Mountain House Spicy Southwest Skillet Meal comes in a 2 serving package, but at just 490 calories total I would consider this a single serving option that is best used as just a (main) component to a larger backcountry meal. The meal is based on potatoes (shredded), combined with shredded beef, black beans, green chiles, and corn to name some highlights. After adding 1.5 cups of boiling water, everything is ready to eat in 9 minutes. The meal is also gluten free, and offers some respite from the rice that dominates gluten free backpacking options, if you’ll be focusing on such a dietary approach. The meal also comes in the new packaging style from Mountain House, which features rounded corners which won’t puncture anything in your food bag, an OPSak, etc., without having to trim corners and which features a shallower design that’s easier to eat from. Before rehydration A bit of a fresh take on the previous Breakfast Hash offering from Mountain House, which I always ate for dinner on trips, I found this meal to be less dominated by the chunky beef of the former meal, and as could be expected from the name, the meal is quite spicy. Hot sauce is already built in, along with green chiles (which I really wish were more detectable texture wise), plus black pepper. As someone that packs various spices into the backcountry, this was not an issue for me…in fact if you like spicy meals this meal is one that won’t require any further doctoring. However, the spice level may be too high for many palates. Regardless, the meal tastes great; although from the beef I believe, there’s a slight funky, earthy, upfront hit to the senses but it’s tolerable and seems to dissipate with subsequent bites and as you chew. Overall I found this to be a great mix-it-up freeze dried option for backpackers who appreciate a healthy level of spice in a dish, and especially if you’re looking for something a little different. More green chiles offset with less hot sauce would be a plus for me, along with larger chunks of beef vs. the shredded beef now found in the meal. For more mass appeal, perhaps a separate hot sauce packet included in the meal would make things easier to dial in for all eaters. However, the meal is called a spicy southwest skillet after all, so we are definitely getting what we paid for here. The Mountain House Spicy Southwest Skillet Meal retails for around $10. You can find it here at REI and here at Amazon. As always, REI offers 10% off backpacking food when you purchase 8 or more items with their backpacking food discount.
  4. 1 point
    Hi, I am Tephanie. I reside in El Paso. Texas. Home of the Franklin Mountains with the nickname the Sun City. It's quite sunny most of the time but it also gets crazy windy but no one really speaks of that. My bucket list hike is the Guadalupe Peak. I haven't hiked that far yet but hope to in the near future. Anyways, I'm happy to be part of the group. Oh yeah, I want to add a photo to my profile but I don't see how. If anyone can share that, I'd appreciate it. Best, Tephanie
  5. 1 point
    I'm from East Texas and I've only been out to Guadalupe Mountains once. It is beautiful for sure and it is definetly a hiker's park. If I remember correctly there is a state hwy that kinda travels around the east side of the park and that's it. No vehicle access to the park past the campgrounds. That's a good thing, but be prepared for it. I'd like to get back there. We went in February and woke up the first morning to a couple inches of snow and 14 degrees. Pretty sure we had the whole park to ourselves! Have you been to Big Bend? Love that park and have been numerous times. Check it out.
  6. 1 point
    I must admit I started a like affair with hiking around 1993. I did not know I was hiking since I was mandated to do it, along with some fellow Army comrades, while stationed in South Korea. When your company commander says to take that hill, you take it, or as I would like to say, “hike it.” I do not remember the specific area where we hiked, but I know I was surrounded by lots of trees, large leaves, and some trickling of water. I remember almost falling into the water, and guess what, I can’t swim, so that would not have been a good end to my hiking journey. I also recall being captivated by the smell and sound of nature; it was delightful. Fast forward 20 years, and remember: I said I started a like affair with hiking. Well, I met this guy through an online dating app as I was feeling out the dating scene after my divorce. He reintroduced me to hiking. I did not fall in love with him, he was cute, but I fell in love with hiking. We hiked the Aztec Cave in the Franklin Mountains. It was only .7 miles, a moderate hike. I must admit it was not moderate for me; it was challenging because I was not in my best shape. But when I reached the top of the mountain over the entrance to the cave, and I saw the view of the rest of the mountain, it was absolutely stunning. I was in love with hiking! Hiking in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve But you know, love takes work, you just can’t fall in love and be content. You have to work on it. It’s like being married. After the honeymoon, that’s when you realize it’s not all kisses and cuddling. You must work at it. So, I worked on my passion for hiking by hiking more. I took my first getaway hiking and trip with Fort Bliss Morale, Welfare, and Recreation – an organization that provides recreational programs for military families – around 2015. I was so excited to visit the place I’d seen on nearly every computer screen saver. Do you know what that place is? It’s Antelope Canyon. It’s literally a screen saver for most computer screens, or at least back then it was. Antelope Canyon is in Page, Arizona, owned by the Navajo Tribe. We got there early and waited a bit before our tour guide came, but it was worth the wait. Made of sandstone, the bright orange canyons are carved by many years of wind and water erosion. Side note, orange is my favorite color, but that’s not why I love the canyons so much, but it might be. I remember nervously descending into the canyon, but that faded when I saw the sun so brightly reflecting the orange sand. I was absolutely mesmerized. The Slot Canyon tour was fascinating. The tour guide was outstanding; he told us all the spots to take the best photos and shared some history of the tribe as well. Hiking always takes me to another level. It brings out the sunshine in me. It makes me feel like a ray of hope, and joy is radiating through me. It’s so uplifting when you make it to the top, or the bottom like in Antelope Canyon. It may sound cheesy, but when I hike, I feel like I have a “pocketful of sunshine.” You know, like the song by Natasha Bedingfield. Since that hike, I’ve hiked numerous places like the Tom Mays Unit in El Paso, Texas, the Willow Springs in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I hiked at Joshua Tree National Park just to name a few. But what I noticed with all the hikes is, I was usually the only one that looked like me, an African American female. According to the 2018 Outdoor Participation Survey, there continues to be a gap between the diversity of outdoor participants and the diversity of the U.S. population. The survey also found that all non-Caucasian ethnic groups reported going on far fewer outings in 2018. However, I thought that since Outdoor Afro, a national organization that encourages hiking amongst minorities, was introduced, I’d see more people like me out hiking. I really noticed it when I visited my son in San Diego for Christmas in 2018. I went to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to hike. My son didn’t come because he had to work, so I went alone. There were a lot of people hiking there that day, but nobody looked like me. I must admit I was somewhat fearful because the world can be a dangerous place for a single woman, let alone an African American single woman, but I proceeded anyway. If you know me and I know you all don’t, I can strike up a conversation with nearly anyone. So, I saw a couple, and I said hello and introduced myself, and we began talking. I asked if they cared if I tagged along since I was by myself, and they said, “yes,” I could. We had a great conversation, and I found out they were not an actual couple, but they were just a couple of friends who grew up together and came back to San Diego to visit. I was glad to have the company and on our hike together that day, the sights and the sounds in the park were truly dazzling. The smell of the ocean was breathtaking, and listening to the shorebirds was music to my ears. It was a gorgeous hike surrounded by the rarest pine tree – Pinus torreyana, or Torrey pine, that only grows in San Diego and off the coast near Santa Barbara. The park preserves not only the trees but also one of the last vast salt marshes and waterfowl refuges in Southern California. I must admit it was tough, but a fun hike and the views of the ocean were awe-inspiring. With the recent COVID-19 preventative measures that are in place, I can’t really hike like I want to right now. But my love is still very strong for hiking. While there are challenges we all face in life, I won’t let race get in the way of my passion for the trail. I hope that minorities, others that look like me, or those that don’t look like me but haven’t yet tried hiking due to any roadblock they feel they might be facing, can head to the trail and fall in love with hiking too. That way, they too can smell the scent of the ocean, hike through the canyons, see the vast views from the mountaintops, and hopefully, find friendship on a common trail. Hike on!
  7. 1 point
    Very nice blog. I’ve hiked Tory Pines, beautiful place. I moved to EP from CA about 6 months ago and I’ve been exploring hiking areas here too. You are right about it taking maintenance work. I’ve done Aztec cave and am working towards doing Guadalupe peak when it opens. As far as diversity, I’m not a minority but I am over 60. Anyone can hike and if more tried I believe they would fall in love as well. I much prefer nature to a sweaty gym.
  8. 1 point
    Spring comes slowly to the high country of the Rockies and other mountain ranges in the western United States. As the days get longer and temperatures rise, summer backpacking season seems tantalizingly close. But between the snow melting and the summer wildflowers blooming is a period of time colloquially referred to as "mud season". Depending on elevation and latitude, mud season might last from mid-March to late May, give or take a few weeks... We define mud season along with hiking tips that can help to deal with this time of the year - take a look in our Issue 45 Jargon installment: Jargon 45: Mud Season Issue 45 Page 1
  9. 1 point
    A new dinner from Mountain House, their Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal brings backpackers, hikers, or considering the current situation we've been facing here in the spring of 2020 just about anyone a decent Mexican themed meal that's also compatible with gluten free diets. And while normally we don't dive too much into packaging here at TrailGroove, in this case it deserves mention with a redesign that not only includes an artwork update but important updates to functionality as well for 2020. The Mountain House Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal offers 2 servings and 570 calories total, in a meal that is dominated by rice, beans, and chicken with accompanying vegetables in an Adobo style sauce. While personally I must admit that I'm not an Adobo sauce expert, what I can tell you is that the meal very much reminds me of the rice side dishes you’ll get at an authentic Mexican restaurant – each place has their own unique recipe – with, in the case of this meal some pinto beans thrown in (reminding one of refried beans and rice), plus chicken. As such, I think of this meal as a good Mexican rice and beans combination plate. Before rehydration What really sets this meal apart is the vegetables Mountain House has thrown in here: specifically tomatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower – all things that we don’t normally get on a backpacking trip. The tomatoes deserve special mention. After rehydrating the meal (1.5 cups of boiling water and 9 minutes) you could have told me the tomatoes in the meal were fresh. I just wish there were more. Overall the meal rehydrated well with only a couple of the pinto beans somehow escaping the water added to the meal and still having a dry consistency. The overall taste of the meal is good: I wish there were more vegetables and chicken to really make it more of a “meal” however. As the meal stands out of the bag, it comes across as more of a side type dish to me. However, by adding cheese and some tortillas, this is easily solved while adding a very nice calorie boost as well. Spice level here should be manageable by just about everyone. When I purchased this meal I thought the new artwork on the package was just that, but with their newer meals Mountain House has thankfully eliminated the sharp corners of their pouches; they are now nicely rounded. No longer will I have to trim the corners of every meal (from Mountain House) I take on a trip so that they don’t puncture the OPSak that I keep my food in. Additionally, the pouches are shallower, so our spoon or utensil (and fingers) will stay all that much cleaner, and the packaging also has a split corner on the bottom that seems to add some stability. The improvements are quite welcome. The Mountain House Mexican Style Adobo Rice and Chicken Meal retails for around $10 and can be found here at REI. You can also get it (plus a few more meals) all at 10% off using REI’s bulk backpacking food discount. You can also find the meal (when in stock) here at Amazon.com.
  10. 1 point
    “Build a railroad right through these mountains? You can’t do it, man; you can’t do it. You might as well try to build a railroad on the Devil’s eyebrow as to undertake to build one in such a place.” And so the words of a pioneer gave a rugged sandstone formation in northwest Arkansas its name. The year was 1880, and surveyors were doing preliminary work on the location of the Frisco Railroad. The railroad was built, the name stuck, and today “Devil’s Eyebrow” is one of 75 Natural Areas managed by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC), which protects the last remnants of the state’s original wild landscapes. Devil’s Eyebrow is the only confirmed site in the state to contain the rare black maple tree, and is a large and well known winter roost for the bald eagle. Multiple stream crossings create intriguing wading possibilities. Old logging roads comprise the trail system through this 3,000 acres of deep ravines, clear streams, and limestone bluffs located at the north end of Beaver Lake along Indian Creek and its tributaries. Halfway between Rogers and Eureka Springs in the Ozarks, the Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area is more than 3,000 acres of bluff-lined hollows separated by steep ridges. While hiking here, the word “diabolical” often comes to mind, with the image of an acutely arching devil’s eyebrow providing a fitting symbol for the topography. Sharp declines plummet to tantalizing streambeds but what goes down must come up, and the climbs – straight up, no switchbacks – are lung busters. A small cascade in a deep ravine makes a steep climb out worthwhile. On my first hike at Devil’s Eyebrow, just after its 2013 opening, there were only a few miles of trail available. But now, there’s an out-and-back trail that extends 5.9 miles from the trailhead just off U.S. Highway 62 to the shores of Beaver Lake, with several spur trails along the way. On my most recent hike there, I took one of those spurs to explore a year-round spring situated amid fern-lined bluffs. Its breathtaking beauty made the (literally) breathtaking trudge out of the ravine well worth it. From the trailhead to the spring, the distance is about 1.5 miles. Winter offers a wide-open view of the area’s limestone outcroppings. Just 2.3 miles from the trailhead, a broad streambed provides a perfect spot for a rest, or a good turnaround point. Along the way, numerous stream crossings are worth exploring, each encouraging the hiker to ignore the perils of wet boots and slippery rocks, probing ever more deeply into the beauty of this place. And, a loop trail of 1.4 miles circumnavigates the top of Trimble Mountain, at 1,720 feet elevation, the area’s high point. The trail is also accessible on its south end from the shore of Beaver Lake. I have the feeling that hiking the steep ups and downs of Devil’s Eyebrow is a little like childbirth: right after you’ve done it you think you’ll never do it again, but then the passage of time drapes gauze over the memory of the pain and eventually it seems like a good idea to repeat the process. Devil’s Eyebrow’s beauty is what drew me back a second time with only vague memories of long climbs and indeed I found it was worth the effort. Information: Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area is open to the public for hiking, bird watching, photography, and hunting. Travel is limited to foot traffic. The trail is very strenuous and you should be in excellent physical condition to tackle the steep climbs. Getting There: From the town of Garfield, travel east on U.S. Highway 62 four miles to the town of Gateway. From the junction of Highway 62 and Highway 37 at Gateway, continue east on 62 for one-half mile to the gate on the south side of the highway. This is the entrance to the natural area. Best Time to Go: The period from late October to late April offers the best conditions for hiking in Arkansas. Summer brings ticks, poison ivy, and hot, humid weather, but the weather is generally mild the rest of the year. Maps: Maps and other information can be found here. For navigating to and from this and other hiking destinations in Arkansas, an atlas like the Delorme Arkansas Atlas and Gazetteer can be useful.
  11. 1 point
    With time rapidly running out to hike one of the big three trails this year or having run out already, it may be time to consider a shorter long trail once the present situation with COVID-19 becomes settled, hopefully sooner rather than later. Trails like the Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, and Long Trail (see Thru-Hiking: the Junior Version) will certainly get plenty of attention after social distancing regulations are relaxed and when current closures come to an end, but there are lesser known hikes, such as the Sheltowee Trace, worth considering once things return closer to normal. The Sheltowee Trace, known as Kentucky’s Long Trail, begins north of Morehead in the northern part of the state. From there it meanders south and west 333 miles all the way into Tennessee. Most of the mileage is within Daniel Boone National Forest with additional distance in multiple state parks and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; the southern terminus. Most of the route is dedicated hiking trail. However, as a newer route, there are some portions on Forest Service roads and a few significant road walks. The Sheltowee Trace Association (STA) manages the trail and is continuing to work to put additional miles on dirt. Geologically, the path travels through the Cumberland Plateau and the Cumberland Escarpment. This formation is known for impressive sandstone cliffs, numerous waterfalls and even stone arches. Historically, the area is interesting as well. In 1775 Daniel Boone and a large group of axmen began cutting the “Wilderness Road” through the Cumberland Plateau, opening the area to European settlement. In fact, the trail is named after Boone. Legend has it that Boone was captured by the Shawnee and eventually adopted into the tribe by Chief Blackfish. He was given the name “Big Turtle,” or Sheltowee. The trail also runs through the site of the Battle of Camp Wildcat, one of the first Union victories of the Civil War. Starting in the north it soon becomes clear that despite not being in a mountain range, there are still significant elevation changes to deal with. While steep at times, the climbs and drops are rarely more than 400-500 feet. After some ridge walking there’s a road walk to cross I-64 and some miles on Forest Service road. These will not be the last stretches of road walking. It is quickly apparent that the trail is generally well blazed with either diamonds or turtle symbols. However, the map set came in handy on more than one occasion. At 24 miles, the blazes take you right through the town of Morehead, a very handy resupply location. Despite the occasional road walk, the Sheltowee Trace provides a parade of highlights that, for me, get more impressive along the way. Cave Run Lake has some great overlooks with camp options nearby. Less than ten miles further is Furnace Arch, the first of many natural sandstone arches along the route. By mile 65 the trail hits Clifty Wilderness and heads into Red River Gorge. Designated a national natural landmark and national archaeological district, the area offers impressive views, cliffs, and additional arches. There are also creek crossings to deal with in the gorge. Most are shallow, but a couple will be well above the top of a hiking boot. All major stream crossings throughout the trail are bridged, but there are numerous smaller creeks that aren’t. With the many stream crossings, running out of water is rarely a concern. Immediately down the trail is Natural Bridge State Resort Park with its namesake sandstone arch that’s 78 feet long and 65 feet high. The nearby lodge has a restaurant as well as rooms. It’s a great place to take a break without needing to leave the trail. Another state park on the route is Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The Sheltowee Trace takes you right past this “Niagara of the South” and the 70 foot drop of the Cumberland River is impressive. Interestingly, the constant mist generated by the falls, combined with a full moon, provides one of the few locations on earth where you can consistently see a lunar rainbow, or moonbow if you time things right. For my money though, the crown jewel of the Sheltowee Trace is Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BSF). The trail first reaches BSF nearly 100 miles from the terminus and the falls, arches, and overlooks within the park are second to none. As with all national parks, there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife sightings. Bear bag your food! Despite being close to the finish, now is not the time to hurry. There’s too much to enjoy, and the trail gets too steep at some points to hurry even if you want to. Elevations range between 900 and 1500+ feet; more than once making that change in less than a mile. In a couple spots there are cables or ropes to help you through the extreme topography. The extra effort earns you more rewards though. Just as an example, the last 20 miles of trail take you along the Clear Fork and Big South Fork Rivers, past imposing overlooks, near seven waterfalls, four arches, and through Boulder House, a huge jumble of, you guessed it, boulders along Honey Creek. For those looking for a shorter adventure than a thru-hike of the Sheltowee Trace, there are nearly 200 miles of hiking trails within BSF’s 125,000 acres. Several link up with the Sheltowee Trace and can be used to create loop hikes of varying lengths. Several of the more popular overnight hikes are listed on the National Park Service’s website. Options utilizing the Grand Gap Loop or the park’s own John Muir Trail would be my initial recommendations. Information: A good starting point to research the trail is at the Sheltowee Trace Association website. It contains general information about the trail along with specifics on availability of shuttles and resupply as well as contact information for trail angels. In general, resupplying is not difficult with options 60 miles or less apart. In addition, the STA has an active volunteer base and several will go so far as to accept a mailed resupply box and bring it to you on your hike. Camping is allowed throughout Daniel Boone National Forest and BSF. A permit is required to camp in BSF but is only $5 per group of 6 or less. The permit is available at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center. A permit is also required to camp in Red River Gorge. Contact the Forest Service, Cumberland Ranger District at (606) 663-8100 for that one. The occasional road walks and hiking through private property/state parks does mean some planning is needed for picking camp locations. Best Time to Go: September or October work best from my point of view. The weather tends to be dryer and more temperate. The fall color can be outstanding as well. However, the trail can (typically) be hiked year-round. As you would think, winter means you have the trail to yourself. Spring rains means both waterfalls and wildflowers are in top form though the trail can be muddy. I’d avoid summer unless you enjoy sweating and ticks. Getting There: Northern terminus, take I-64 approximately 50 miles east of Lexington, KY to exit #137. Turn north on Rt 32 then right on Rt 377 to the trailhead. Southern terminus, from Oneida, TN, US 27 south to right on Old US 27, left on Mountain View Rd, right on W. Robbins and left on Honey Creek Loop. Maps and Books: Paper map sets can be found here and an interactive version of the map is available here. For more on hiking in Kentucky and this area in general, see this Falcon Guide and Day Hiking Daniel Boone National Forest, plus the Trails of the Big South Fork book.
  12. 1 point
    It's an early December afternoon in Yosemite National Park, and I'm watching a bobcat padding down the trail in front of me. In his mouth is a lifeless gray squirrel, so large that he drops it several times. He turns and surveys me with the lazy arrogance of a house cat who's proud of his kill. I'm unsure if I should be following this wild creature down the trail. I think of how animals are protective of their food. Still, the large cat and I are headed the same way, so I continue at a distance. Eventually he turns off the trail, and I draw closer and look up the embankment where he stands. The bobcat and I both freeze as a large, shaggy brown bear appears from around a rocky outcrop behind him. The moment slows, the sight too surreal. Then the bear spooks and disappears as suddenly as he appeared. I look around in search of other witnesses, but there are none. As a woman, so many different people in my life told me that I shouldn't be in this wild place alone. My mother. My friends. Various family members, and various strangers. From the man that rented me the car to the lady that shuttled me from the airport. These encounters filled me with wonder. Wonder and gratitude at the kindness and compassion of strangers, but also wonder and frustration at the fear that blooms around a woman walking alone into the woods. Eventually I just stopped discussing my trip with strangers. Back in Yosemite Valley the morning after the bear, I walk along Sentinel Meadow. Three coyotes lope through the mist that rises from the snowy grass. Beyond the winter-worn trees ahead, the granite walls of the North Rim loom over the valley, broken by the ribbon of Yosemite Falls. Today I will ascend to the top of these falls, the tallest in North America. The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is one of the oldest and most iconic in the park, but on this chilled morning it appears abandoned. The bottom half of the trail is crisp but clear, the views expanding around every rocky switchback. Half way up the cold settles in, covering the granite in slick hard-packed snow. My progress slows as my feet slip continuously, too unwilling and fingers too cold to dig my microspikes out of my pack. By the time the trail levels out at the top, I've entered a pristine winterscape. I follow the footprints left by the intrepid before me, wishing to keep the snow out of my shoes and the trail under my feet. The sound of falling water grows, and the hill crest ahead reveals nothing beyond but fog. I've made it to the falls, but I must travel down two snowy switchbacks to the cliff's edge to see it. The first switchback bellies right up to the top of the falls, the pooled water disappearing ominously over a 2,425-foot cliff. As the trail turns, I'm faced with a snow-slickened rock ledge, hardly wide enough for one. Beside it, a single metal rail of unknown age and integrity protrudes from the cliff wall. Here I wait as a couple passes single file, the three of us clinging to the rail like a lifeline. It is my turn, and I descend carefully like a cat on a window ledge. I step down to the empty viewpoint and the expansive sight of Yosemite Valley from the top of the falls. Exhilaration washing over me like a wave, I can hardly believe I have this moment entirely to myself. I savor the experience for as long as I can, but standing still eventually lets the cold creep in. I wrestle my traction onto each shoe with stiff, clumsy fingers, then shove my gloves back on. Continuing to Yosemite Point is literally walking through clouds. Up this high, with the ground cloaked in snow and the mists swirling around me, the entire world is winter white. The silence is both peaceful and eerie, broken only by snow falling from branches and the occasional ice break down Yosemite Falls behind. I cross Yosemite Creek on a wooden bridge, snow covered and adorned with shimmering icicles. The trail is now a suggestion, a slight flattening out of the drifts. I know for certain I'm alone out here; the only tracks those of deer and birds. I think back to earlier this morning in the valley below, snapping photos of El Capitan and the Three Brothers near the Merced River. I came across bear prints so fresh, I checked over my shoulder for the animal that left them. Picturing the harsh gashes left by its claws, I shudder and hope not to see those here, or worse, cougar prints. The many warnings bestowed upon me creep back in, and my complete solitude suddenly feels heavy. But I've come this far and worked this hard, all these miles of climbing, feet slipping, thighs and lungs burning. These doubts are not even mine; I've only borrowed them from others. I dismiss them and forge ahead. Finally, the trees fall away, and then the world falls away as I approach the ancient metal railing of Yosemite Point. There are many more famous, more photographed, more sought-after views in this great valley. But this is my view, my precipice that no other dared adventure to in this untouched snow. Down below is the park in miniature, the silver road looping through, and out beyond are the looming walls and frosted peaks of the south rim. These are memories I know I'll carry forever, standing here grinning and heart pounding, just a woman alone in the woods. Information: No permit is required for day hikers, though all visitors to Yosemite National Park are charged an entrance fee. Wilderness permits for Yosemite Wilderness are required for overnight stays. Best Time to Go: Views of the waterfall are most impressive during the spring and early summer, when the falls are at their peak from winter runoff. The trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is open year-round. Traction and hiking poles are recommended during the winter months, however, when parts of the trail are covered in snow and ice. While most of the trail is not exposed, falling rocks and ice are a potential hazard. Climbing down to the lookout at the top of the falls is exposed and requires extreme caution when the path is frozen. Getting There: From the park entrance, follow Highway 140 for 6.5 miles until the road splits. Keep right and follow Southside Drive, turn left onto Sentinel Drive, and left again onto Northside Drive, following signs for Yosemite Lodge. Park anywhere around Yosemite Village or Yosemite Lodge. The trailhead is located behind the lodge at the Camp 4 area. The hike to Upper Yosemite Falls is 7.2 miles roundtrip. To continue to Yosemite Point, follow signs east towards North Dome. This adds another 1.6 miles to your hike. Those looking for an even greater challenge can head west from the upper falls to Eagle Peak, the highest point on the north rim, adding another 5.8 miles roundtrip. Maps and Books: The National Park Service’s Yosemite Valley Hiking Map details the hike to the upper falls as well as Yosemite Point and Eagle Peak. National Geographic also offers their Trails Illustrated Topographic Map of Yosemite. For further reading, Hiking Yosemite National Park: A Guide to 61 of the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures offers a thorough guide to this hike and many others in the Yosemite Valley, while providing information about safety precautions, logistics, and other trip planning information.