The Towpath Trail runs 20 miles through the national park following the original 308 mile Ohio & Erie Canal which was built between 1825 to 1832. The canal ran from Lake Erie near Cleveland south to Portsmouth on the Ohio River. We began bicycling north from the Boston Mill Visitor Center past Lock 32, one of many well-maintained locks with wayside exhibits. The canal is actually full of water in many areas and two of the locks are used to demonstrate to visitors how they rise and lower water. At one point along the bike trail we had the canal on the east and the fast-moving Cuyahoga River. We biked north past the Frazee House to the Canal Exploration Center and turned around after eight miles. We headed back south passing the Boston Mill Visitor Center to the Peninsula Depot where the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train stops to pick up passengers. The railroad tracks paralleled some of the Towpath Trail as we biked south. We reached the historical Hunt House Park Farm and Beaver Marsh about 9.4 miles south of Boston Mill. We relaxed at the wetland habitat overlooking a lily covered pond looking for fish, beaver, and turtles.
We biked north a half mile and turned left onto Everett Road where we biked a half mile to the haunted Everett Covered Bridge. I conducted a paranormal investigation there which is a separate adventure which you can find under the Paranormal Category. We eventually biked back to the Towpath Trail and biked nine miles back to the Boston Mill Visitor Center. Overall, we bicycled about 35 miles north and south on the Towpath Trail.
After a 32-mile bicycle ride on the bike path we returned to the Boston Mill Visitor Center, locked up our bikes, hiked past Lock 32 and began a 3-mile hike on the Buckeye Trail. The trail went up and down small hills through thick woods and past narrow ravines. A mile into the hike we came to beautiful Blue Hen Falls. After a break watching the water cascade down, we finished the remainder of the hike through the woodland habitat.
This south rim trail took us to the canyon’s highest point at about 8,400 feet through cactus, pinyon pine and juniper trees some 600 to 800 years old. Although it was a moderate trail, it really tuckered me out as the temperature rose to 92 degrees. This 1.5-mile trail gave us canyon views on one side and views of the Black Canyon valley on the other side. The trail was quite diverse, up, and down, twisting and turning, sometimes in the open and sometimes under the cover of trees. Afterwards, driving back towards the visitor center we stopped at Cedar Point Overlook and took photos across the canyon of Painted Wall, a 2,250-foot wall above the river that looked like pink colored veins of pegmatite or lightning bolts running through the darker gneiss and granite rock.
This 1.7-mile trail gave us great views of vistas the canyon and river far below. We were out in the sun the entire time as this relatively flat, rocky, sandy trail took us along the cliff edge. In some places along the sheer cliff one slip could send us on a long fall to the rocks and river far below. Sagebrush, grasses and occasional juniper trees dotted both sides of the trail with some trees somehow growing in the cliff crevices below us. The temperature had climbed to 86 degrees making it a tiring but beautiful hike. We saw several eagles fly overhead. This was the first hike on the entire trip that Rosie got overheated and tired due to the combination of hot temperature and high altitude.
We began hiking this south rim 2.3-mile trail which was rated difficult as it dropped 400 feet into the canyon down to about 7,800 feet elevation. It was a steep trail, open to the sun at first with lots of sage, wildflowers, and then thankfully it became shaded with aspen trees and Douglas fir trees. We saw many chipmunks, heard the whistle of marmots and the occasional trail opening gave us spectacular views of the canyon far below. Although we didn’t see any, we were watchful for bears, mule deer and porcupines. Carrying a heavy backpack containing lots of water, I was gasping for breath as we ascended back up the trail in the 84-degree weather.
This national park in western Colorado, founded in 1999, is one of America’s most breathtaking scenic treasures. Carved through solid granite, the dark canyon walls plunge 1,800 feet to 2,700 feet to the Gunnison River below. The river is wild and rocky and only for experienced kayakers. The river drops 34 feet per mile through the entire canyon. The national park contains 12 miles of the 48-mile river. The canyon gets its name because parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight each day. The road through the park took us along the south rim canyon and many lookout points. We toured the visitor center and then hiked on three challenging trails.
We had astounding views from the canyon rim at the visitor center at an elevation of 8,200 feet. I wish we would have returned at night as the canyon area offers some of the nation’s darkest night skies with excellent views of the galaxies, stars, and planets.
At around 10,000 feet, we left the Bristlecone-Glacier Trail and hiked onto this incredible interpretive trail of some of the oldest trees on planet Earth. These uniquely shaped and colored ancient pine trees have learned to survive in harsh weather and bad soil. The high winds at these high elevations have twisted the trees into almost human-like forms and shapes but beautifully sculptured, colored, and polished. The trees slow growth makes the wood very dense and provides resistance to insects, fungus, rot, and erosion. There were many interpretive signs in the grove and Rosie, and I posed with the Oldest Tree in the World, a bristlecone pine tree that was 3,200 years old (born in 1,230 BC). Scientists took five cores from different sides of the tree to obtain a complete sequence of its growth rings.
Park rangers described this national park as a place where you experience desert heat down in the basin and alpine cold all in one day. We were about to experience the worst of that real fast.
Rosie & I wanted to leave the grove and continue hiking 500 feet higher to the Wheeler Peak Glacier (which is predicted to melt and disappear in 20 years), but we saw dark clouds coming over the mountain peak. I have never seen Rosie hike faster than I did that day as the storm approached. We descended the two miles to the trailhead in record time and hopped into the truck. At the 10,000-foot elevation road sign, ice pellets hit our windshield and strong winds buffeted the truck. I drove slowly and cautiously down the winding mountainside. At 9,000 feet the pellets turned to slush and thankfully, at 8,000 feet the slush turned to rain. It was still treacherous driving down the wet road past the overlooks of the great basin far below. Back at the campground our small travel trailer was slammed by high winds and rain throughout the night. That was to be only the third day it rained during the 43-day trip. The stormy night caused us to miss an incredible night sky galaxy viewing.
This was one of our favorite and challenging hikes of our 43-day trip. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive took us up from 4,500 feet to 10,000 feet. A short distance later we parked at the Bristlecone Parking Area at 9,600 feet to begin the Alpine Lakes Trail which branched into the Bristlecone-Glacier Trail. Although we have been hiking in high altitude for around 25 days, this 4.5-mile trail was still very challenging. Rangers warned hikers of the possibility of altitude sickness which was more prevalent over 10,000 feet where the air was thinner.
The trail gradually climbed over 500 feet beginning in a forest area. After about two miles, the trail dramatically changed to a steep rock trail of quartzite boulders and other rocks exposed to the open sun. We witnessed beautiful views of the mountains, ravines, twisted bristlecone trees, and patches of snow on the distance heights. Had we continued this trail we would eventually have come upon a clear alpine lake hollowed by a glacier and a small icefield. Instead, after this difficult climb we turned north and began hiking on the famous bristlecone pine grove interpretive trail.
Prior to arriving at Great Basin NP, we had camped 66 miles away in Ely. The rain in the distance created a beautiful rainbow which I photographed with an Indian teepee in the foreground. After breakfast at the Hotel Nevada, a prohibition era gambling hall where they had a great Roy Rogers display, we walked the town viewing the many artistic murals.
Great Basin is in eastern Nevada near the Utah border. It is one of the newest national parks founded in 1986. The park rises from a sea of sagebrush to treeless rocky summits along Snake Range. The difference in the parks highest and lowest trails is more than a mile – 6, 235 feet. The highest part of the park is Wheeler Peak at 13,060 feet and the lowest trail is at 6,825 feet. The park is known for its groves of ancient bristlecone pine trees, the oldest known living non-clonal organisms. We saw hawks and eagles, deer, chipmunks and heard the whistling of marmots. Sadly, we did not see any ermine or ringtail cats.
The visitor center was in the metropolis of Baker, Nevada, population 68. Baker was down in the great basin, a flatland called a high desert, but still that was at 5,300 feet elevation. Our campground was on the state line about thirteen miles away. Our travel trailer was in Nevada, but the restroom/showers butted up to the Utah. One step farther and we were in a different time zone. Four miles from the visitor center we started the drive up the mountain on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, a scary road with lots of turns and switchbacks but with an incredible view across the thirty-mile basin. We passed Lehman Caves and then enjoyed drove up the winding mountain road to our hiking trail in search of the world’s oldest trees.
This 1-mile hike was a combination of the Hat Creek Trail area and the Devastated Area Trail. Damage in this area was from the 1915 volcano eruption and from the 2021 Dixie Forest Fire. Burned trees plus rocks thrown from the volcanic blast covered the area. Several kiosks told the story of the devastation and recovery efforts. The good news, many trees from the fire were already showing signs of re-growth. Wildlife have returned to the fire area as we saw several eagles fly overhead.