Nature’s Beauty

My Week Shadowing Storm Chasers in Oklahoma

Have you ever seen a tornado? I paired up with a group of storm chasers for a week and have a newfound appreciation for them. We pulled off at a Kum and Go gas station to fill up the tank. Road rule: pee at every stop. Mike recalled how his best tornado video was ruined by someone chanting, “I’ve gotta pee,” like a mantra. Fortunately, I have a capacious bladder, but Dean keeps a roll of toilet paper in his glove box, just in case. Back in the car, Dean was refining our target area near Gotebo, checking RadarScope and the real-time Doppler radar, which tracks the location and velocity of storms, and referring to GRLevelX, a data-processing, and display program. His cell phone pinged with text messages from chaser friends in the area. By midafternoon, the National Weather Service had issued a severe weather warning on NOAA Weather Radio, and our …

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See Some of the World’s Oldest Trees at Great Basin

Visiting Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada is like teleporting from the arid desert to the high alpine in a matter of minutes. After a six-hour drive along Highway 50, dubbed “the loneliest road in America,” I cruised through the tiny town of Baker, then found myself transported into a lush pine forest. Beautiful Scenic Drive to Great Basin National Park I took a sharp right onto Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and parked among the bright marigold-colored balsamroot blooms near Upper Lehman Creek Campground. A brisk wind occasionally tussled my hair as I packed up my things to hike. It was going to be a long day. Not five minutes after I started on the trail, I passed a ranger doing maintenance work. “You going up?” he hollered. “Not all the way,” I replied, “Just hiking to the bristlecones.” “That’s like 5.5 miles each way!” he said. “I know! It’s gonna be …

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Colorado – An Adventurer’s Guide to the Front Range

This article is brought to you by Tentrr. Visitors to Colorado’s Front Range can spend the day exploring, then spend the night at one of the great Tentrr site options nearby, for a truly unique evening of camping or glamping in Colorado. So, whether you’d rather climb to the highest peaks or you watch elk in the valleys, the Front Range of Colorado has something to offer every adventurer. Rich in human history stretching back for thousands of years, it’s easy to see why people have been drawn to these mountains for generations. Pack your bags, book your campsite, and get ready to experience the magic of the Front Range. The Front Range of Colorado boasts many of the state’s most popular adventure destinations and some of the most rugged mountain peaks in the country. More importantly, this southern section of the Rocky Mountains has a colorful past of human …

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The 6 Best Hikes in Oahu – Natural Beauty

Steeped in natural beauty and incredible history, Oahu is one of the best places in Hawaii to go hiking. Check out our top six recommendations for the best hikes in Oahu to get you out exploring. Oahu is the most visited island in Hawaii, and one of its claims to fame is its amazing hiking trails. The landscapes, flora, and fauna are unique on every hike, and there’s no shortage of beautiful views, historic landmarks, and fun activities. Plus, history buffs will find Oahu really interesting for its extensive WWII history, some of which you’ll encounter on the trails. Koko Head Crater Trail Photo credit: Remi Yuan via Unsplash Located in Koko Head District Park, this hike was the only trail that came recommended on nearly every single Oahu hiking guide. So it tops our list too. This trail will definitely put your fitness to the test, with a 1,048-“stair” climb to the …

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Monsoon Photography In The Southwest

Lightning over Natural Bridge formation in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Monsoon season in the Southwest is truly something to experience. The sky darkened and the lightning flashed. I set my camera on my tripod for a stable platform, attached a lightning trigger to my flash connection, engaged mirror lockup to eliminate delay, and waited. The storm cell moved toward me, the air took on a greenish tinge, the sky lit up and a tremendous thunderclap exploded. My reward was a dramatic monsoon photo of lightning striking Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon. With the air still glowing green, and me being the tallest point in the parking lot and standing next to a metal tripod, I decided to make a fast exit to my Jeep. Welcome to summer monsoon storm photography. It’s challenging and can be dangerous if you don’t respect the elements. It requires some special equipment to capture …

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South Carolina’s Congaree National Park

Located in South Carolina, just a half-hour’s drive from the capital city of Columbia, Congaree National Park preserves the largest remaining old-growth bottomland forest in North America. Congaree isn’t exactly a swamp, because most of the time no standing water covers the floor. However, the Congaree River floods the area about 10 times per year. This lesser-known and uncrowded park combines the watery environment of the Everglades with the towering old-growth forests of the West. It’s a small 41 square miles, but you can’t explore it by driving. Hiking and canoeing are the only ways to immerse yourself in the primeval forest. Congaree National Park Located Near Columbia, SC Starting from the visitor center, the flat, easy 2.4-mile Boardwalk Loop Trail is the obvious introduction to the park. The first section is elevated as much as 6 feet. While the second section rests directly on the forest floor, offering a …

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Rafting Grand Canyon: Something Magical

Our group had landed a prime campsite just across the Colorado River from Deer Creek Fall. We weren’t about to let a little rain dampen our spirits. The rain continued as I spread my tarp, assembled my cot, and looked skyward for relief. While the sun was still buried in dark clouds, a patch of blue growing on the western horizon gave me hope. As the blue sky approached, I could see that the sun would soon be released and that we—and, more importantly, the falling rain—would be bathed sunlight. Rafting Grand Canyon provides a totally new perspective on this iconic national park, and sometimes something magic happens. Setting up Camp Double rainbow and Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park. Rain, sunlight, and a low sun angle are the ingredients for a rainbow. Though I’d always dreamed of photographing a rainbow arcing above the Grand Canyon. I tried not to …

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Northern California’s Rugged Lost Coast Trail

When most of us picture California, we think of Hollywood movie stars, desert landscapes, Yosemite, sunny beaches, and amusement parks. Seldom visited, California’s mountainous north coast provides a stark contrast to everything else you may know about the state including the Lost Coast Trail. There are towering sea cliffs, rough hills, and tranquil beaches that are hemmed by vast redwood forests, miles of wilderness, and frequent fog. Furthermore, it is populated mainly by sea lions and hauntingly remote, you’d be hard-pressed to find movie stars or even road access along much of the rugged northern coastline. Hiking The Lost Coast Trail At 56 miles long, the Lost Coast Trail provides you with a thru-hike straight to the heart of California’s north coast. Whether you want to power through in three days or roam for a week, pack your bags and get ready to experience California in a new way. The …

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Milky Way Panorama On The Coast Of Maine

The Milky Way arcs over the rugged coast of Maine on a clear night. First, I love being out under the stars, and for me getting there is often half of the fun. For example, this shot involved hiking a few miles round trip in the dark, through wet coastal hiking trails with lots of rocks and exposed roots that can easily trip me up even in daylight. But it’s all worth it when the sky is clear and the Milky Way is in just the right spot! Technical Details Nikon D810A with NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm and f/2.8 for all shots. Blend of two panoramas, one for the sky and one for the foreground, 6 exposures each. The sky exposures are 20 seconds each at ISO 3200. And the foreground exposures are 2 minutes each at ISO 4000. All shots were taken in the same spot on …

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Take a Trip to Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness

Tucked into the foothills, between Denver and Colorado Springs, lies a mighty expanse of wilderness. Named for the perennial stream that empties into the South Platte River, the Lost Creek Wilderness has largely escaped development projects, due to its rocky and rugged landscape. This 119,790-acre wilderness area is unlike your typical Colorado natural area of jagged 14,000-foot peaks and high alpine meadows. Instead, Lost Creek is a wonderland of rounded granite domes, natural arches, and other interesting rock formations that make it well worth a visit. How To Get To Colorado’s Lost Creek Wilderness The Lost Creek Wilderness is located south of the town of Bailey and can be reached via Highway 285 South, from Denver. The Goose Creek Trailhead is a common entry point into the wilderness area and is located 38 miles south of Bailey. The dirt roads leading to the trailhead are generally accessible with a standard …

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Gila National Forest – Enchanted Hidden Gem

With relatively warm winters, cool summers, and millions of acres of forests, rangelands, and mountains, there is truly something for everyone in the Gila National Forest. Furthermore, Gila’s versatility made an impression on the Mogollon people 800 years ago when they decided to leave their nomadic lifestyle and call the caves of the Gila River home. They moved in, carved out rooms, and lived exclusively in these caves for 20 years. Ultimately, they did move on to other homesteads, but they left behind plenty of evidence of their two-decade habitation in the caves. Then today, this National Forest is a prime destination for those interested in natural history, wildlife, and outdoor activities on land and water. In total, the Gila National Forest encompasses 3.3 million acres of wildland; made up of mesas, rivers, deep canyons, and forest. Here are our tips and suggestions for how to get the most out …

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Best Cameras – ƒ/8 And Be There

If you’ve been into photography for any length of time, you’re likely familiar with the expression ƒ/8 and be there. It originated back in the days of film and was coined by the famous street photographer Arthur Fellig, AKA Weegee. Simply stated, back when earlier cameras and lenses were manufactured, ƒ/8 provided the sharpest aperture at which a photo could be made, hence the ƒ/8 aspect. The “be there” part refers to the fact that potentially exciting events unfold constantly, but to capture them in a photo, one has to be there to make the image. In this week’s tip, I explore how the famous quote relates to a play on words: ƒ/8 = fate. Fate is defined as the development of uncontrollable events that are predetermined by a power beyond one’s control. It’s destined to happen in a given way. In simple terms, if it’s meant to be, it …

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The Appalachian Trail Hostels That Will Not Close

David Magee is not so sure how much he should say about running a hostel along the Appalachian Trail. This year when the coronavirus pandemic has dashed all but a few thru-hiking dreams. For three years, Magee has owned The Station at 19E, a compound-like hostel along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. He begins, off the record, with a litany of grievances. For example, how the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) caused a panic when it told hikers to go home. How people in the wider trail community lampooned him for staying open and putting his financial health over public health. How townspeople have called to threaten his business. After a few minutes, Magee decides he wants everything to be on the record; he reckons his renegade actions warrant documentation. “I am doing what I have to do to protect my community—and the hikers who aren’t leaving,” he says. “I’m going to …

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Adventure Dog: Take your Dog on an Epic Adventure

Is your Dog an Adventure Dog? Turn your dog into an adventure dog! Taking your dog on with you on your adventures is one of the best experiences that a dog can have! You can bet that any time that I’m heading out into the wild, my dogs are going coming along with me. It’s important to keep safety in mind, though. I wouldn’t recommend that you take a senior dog or one with other health concerns. If you want to make it a memorable experience for both you and your pup, you need to ensure that you are well prepared before your departure. What to Bring for your Dog on your Adventures What you need to bring with you depends entirely on how long you’re planning on being away. When I was in the Army, I was a dog handler and always had to prepare my dog for the …

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Add Guadalupe Mountains to Your Must-Visit List

Believe it or not, I grew up in Texas. I didn’t love it. It was flat, hot, and humid. In summer it felt like I was sucking warm steam through a straw just to breathe. Boy, I wish I had known about Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Located in a far-flung corner of West Texas, just 30 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns, the park is a magical respite from the arid tract of the Chihuahuan Desert to the south. Much like the state’s only other national park, Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains possesses that rare, island-in-the-sky vibe that makes hiking through it feels otherworldly. The big vistas, ponderosa pine forests, and high-mountain wildlife that I yearned for as a kid were all there in spades. The park’s main attraction is 8,751-foot Guadalupe Peak, the top of Texas, which many people climb. The Perfect Day for a Hike I got a late start one morning …

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Find Stillness at Carlsbad Caverns

It was quite the adventure on my way to Carlsbad Caverns. Driving through West Texas oil country at night felt like stumbling into some dark occult ritual uninvited. Huge fireballs dotted the horizon in every direction. Each one surrounded by a semicircle of big chrome machinery. Floodlights blinded me in the pitch-black. My tires screeched to avoid hitting a lone coyote in the chilly 28-degree winter air. It was a rough entry into New Mexico. The next morning, I drove through the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico to pay a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. I was immediately struck by how developed the entrance was. Unlike most other parks on my list, the main attraction here is the central cave itself. This means that the ticketing window, restrooms, gift shop, restaurant, and elevator to the cave are all housed together in one giant building. It feels more like a scene …

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COVID-19 Nationwide State Park Closures

Campground Closures in the U.S. Due to COVID-19 First, we are actively compiling tips from our community on the latest campground closures, limitations, and re-openings for campers due to COVID-19. Submit a suggestion below.   Open and Closed Campgrounds due to COVID-19: Overview National Parks and Forests Firstly, park officials at all major NPS sites are taking precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at parks, and a majority of parks have closed visitor operations, including welcome centers, ticketing offices, and more. Several parks, listed below, are entirely closed to visitation for the time being. Subsequently, these parks do not permit visitation for day-use or overnight stays. There are a majority of national forests, managed by the US Forest Service, are operating on a case-by-case basis for day-use and overnight stays remaining open. Check your state below for more information on national forests open or closed due to COVID-19. Update …

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The Eternal Traveler – South America Edition

My family has always referred to me as “the eternal traveler.” This is mainly due because I have been fortunate to have been able to do a lot of traveling at a young age. So, if you ever get the chance to take a trip to South America, Peru is a destination that you will want to add to your list. A few years ago, I had the privilege of spending ten days or so in Peru, and I had a fantastic time! This was my first time being in South America, and I found it to be a destination that everyone should have on their bucket list! Being able to see the different cultures that they have is what made this trip one of the best I’ve ever been on. Arrival in Lima The first couple of days were spent in Lima, which is the Capitol of Peru and …

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Chimney Rock – A Midwest Treasure

If you happen to find yourself traveling through the Heart of America, sometimes referred to the Heartland or Midwest, be sure to stop and look at one of Nebraska’s famous landmarks and historic sites, Chimney Rock. I know that to some, the Midwest is dull and flat, lots of cows, and corn. Being from Nebraska, I’ve learned to appreciate the cows and corn, but I do like to share some of the hidden beauties the Heartland has to offer! It’s no secret how this rock formation got its name, but what is interesting is the number of times the name has changed. Early on, the Native Americans, Lakota Sioux, referred to the landmark as “Elk Penis.” And underwent several euphemisms similar to that before finally, Chimney Rock stuck. Nobody is entirely sure who should be credited for the name, but many speculate that Fur traders were the ones to coin …

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Texas Bluebonnets are only in the Lone Star State

It’s that time of year where the Texas Bluebonnets are in full bloom. Late March and early April is the prime time to see the official state flower of Texas, the Bluebonnet. There is a myth that the Spaniards brought the flower with them when they began to expand and colonize what is now Mexico and Texas, but all signs pout to that being false. You see, Texas is the only place in the world that you can see the Bluebonnet. And what a sight they are to see! You can see fields of blue that stretch for miles. It’s truly an experience! Once you head out of the large metropolitan areas, you will be stunned just how beautiful Texas is. And the scent of the flower is so sweet and rich that you can’t help but to stop and smell the flowers. Another myth surrounding the Bluebonnet is that …

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