Trip Shot: Rocky Arbor State Park

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If this wasn’t surrounded by water and marsh, I’d be climbing it.

Sometimes life’s little obstacles can open new doors. Such was the case with Rocky Arbor State Park in Wisconsin.

For years I’ve wanted to visit Witch’s Gulch, a canyon off of the Wisconsin River in The Dells, and this year I put it on our itinerary as a quick morning hike before a day of touristy stuff. But as I sat in our hotel room the night before trying to find directions to the gulch, I discovered the old drive-up, hike-in route was no longer available, and the only way to access it was to book a private boat tour at the cost of $30 per person.

We hadn’t budgeted for this, and I’m not too fond of tours that put exploring on a schedule, so I looked around for something similar and came up with Rocky Arbor State Park.

Tucked off of Highway 12, the park is a 500-million-year-old sandstone gorge with a playground/picnic area, a campground and a one-mile hiking trail. The trail skirts a marsh and low bluffs — below the cliffs one way, then a small climb and it loops back around on top of the cliffs.

Along the lower trail, we came across an isolated chunk of rock that looked like it had wandered away from the cliffs and waded into the swamp. It sat alone, surrounded by water and mud, trees and saplings growing from it, and I couldn’t resist the urge to climb it. I charted out a course — jump over to the large log to avoid the muck, ascend the north face, only about a dozen feet of challenge, then the going would get easy — but decided the idea reeked of a “hold my beer and watch this” moment that would leave me at the top with no real way down. Imagining the park ranger rescue that would follow, I decided to keep hiking.

Admission is $5 per car for an hour, $11 for a full day or free with the purchase of a $28 state parks sticker ($38 for out of staters), which grants entry to other state parks.


Trip Shots: Cliff Dwellings

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IMG_0808 It’s a short uphill hike to the lower cliff dwellings of the Tonto National Monument located just outside Theodore Roosevelt Lake in Arizona.

Built in the 14th Century, the site is one of the last cliff dwellings of the Salado people in the Southwest. Sheltered in large cave overhang, the lower dwellings contain about a dozen rooms made of quartzite rocks bonded with adobe laster and accented with sycamore wood and saguaro cactus ribs.

Tonto National Monument also has an upper cliff dwellings site that is available only through guided tours with a reservation.

More  on the dwellings and their former residents can be found here.

Trip shot: Walking under waterfalls

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Middle North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park has 10 waterfalls tucked into a lush 9,000-acre rainforest in north central Oregon. Three of the more spectacular falls are accessible by car. South Falls, North Falls and Winter Falls all have their own designated parking lots. To get to the remaining seven, you have to hoof it down dirt trails, up hills, over creeks and past cliffs. Ten waterfalls in a seven-mile loop. The cool part: You get to walk behind some of them.

My 13-year-old son and I stuffed granola bars and rain gear into our hydration packs and took off counterclockwise down the path, keeping a good pace to be mindful of our non-hiking companions who planned to mill around the main South Falls complex with its lodge snack bar and gift shop (cool purchase: trail map on a micro fiber lens cloth). I handed my son an orienteering compass and the paper map so he could practice his navigation skills. To shave off two miles and three falls, we took a shortcut at Winter Falls. So, seven waterfalls in about five miles.


Drake Falls, apparently a 27-foot drop

The first one we came to was Winter, which was unimpressive at the time, only a slight trickle. It was summer, so perhaps Winter Falls is more of a winter waterfalls. From there we darted north, crossed the north fork of Silver Creek and followed it downstream to Middle North Falls. Again, this wasn’t at full flow but had more water falling compared to Winter. We took the side path behind the falls, taking in a little of the spray and ending up under a cave-like overhang on the other side.

Back on the main path, we passed Drake, Lower North and Double Falls, skirting some cliffs and a viewing deck. After crossing the north fork again and waiting out a short bottleneck of hikers (some in flipflops), we followed the creek for another mile before we made a miscalculation at the confluence with the south fork where the trail split.

On paper, the Maple Ridge Trail is only one mile, compared to the 1.3 mile west branch of the Canyon Trail, with both trails ending at the trailhead. Again considering the non-hiking folk who were into hour two of milling around, we opted for the shorter Maple route. Which turned out to be uphill, and uphill, and uphill some more. Switchback after switchback. Figuring in the time to make the elevation gain and the rest breaks, the Maple trail probably took as long as the longer Canyon trail, but the Canyon trail probably had a better view.

From there, the hike ended at the centerpiece South Falls, which also boasts a walking path underneath.

More on Silver Falls from Oregon State Parks.


FBI: Embezzlement suspect hid on Appalachian Trail

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Courtesy FBI

 In February 2009, James T. Hammes was called to his employer’s headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, to answer questions about a possible fraud scheme inside the company. A long-time, respected controller for a family-owned beverage bottling company, Hammes handled all his business division’s vendor accounts and payments.

During the interview, conducted by the FBI, Hammes repeatedly denied any knowledge of the fraud. But shortly after he left the company’s headquarters that day for his home in Lexington, Kentucky, the 46-year-old husband and father disappeared without a word.

More here.


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It looks like the hiking pants I ordered won’t be arriving in time for the trip. 

Missing hiker

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Authorities are looking for a hiker who got separated from his group in the Grand Canyon. Here’s the latest from the National Park Service:

Hiker missing in western Grand Canyon

June 24, 2016

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – Floyd E. Roberts III of Treasure Island, Fla., remains missing in a remote area of western Grand Canyon. Responding rescue teams and resources to date include ground teams from Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Mohave County, Coconino County Search and Rescue, and aerial support from Mesa Verde Helitack Crew and aircraft. The search area covers over 10 square miles and is in an extremely remote, rugged area of the canyon. Transportation to the area takes several hours and has made rescue operations and communication a challenge.

Roberts is described as a 52 year old male, 170 lbs, 5’11” tall, brown/grey hair, brown eyes and was last seen wearing a red long-sleeved shirt, blue denim jeans, multi-colored mesh Nike Free sneakers, large blue Lowe Alpine Contour backpack, and white-rimmed sunglasses with orange lenses.


Photos: Abandoned cement tumblers

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Some people call them junk in the woods, but for me the abandoned cement tumblers are pieces of history.

I marched the kids and two of their friends out to the site a few weeks ago as spring was fighting to take hold. The tumblers were a great place to take a break, have some snacks and let the kids climb around and jump from one to the other.

The slightly rusty cylinders are relics from the days when the nature preserve was gravel and sand pits for a cement operation. The pits have since become lakes, and trees and vegetation have reclaimed the land. 


Photo: Red Fungus

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Red fungus, (c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

Red fungus, (c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

Forget robins, scarlet elf cups are my favorite signs of spring. Blooming in the late winter or early spring, the fungus (Sarcoscypha coccinea) can usually be found hidden under overgrowth on rotting branches. The jury is out as far as edibility.

We found these a few weeks ago along one of our favorite trails.

Red fungus, (c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

Red fungus, (c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

Centennial bridge

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(c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

(c) 2016 J.S. Reinitz

(c)2016 J.S. Reinitz

(c)2016 J.S. Reinitz

I noticed this during one of our snow hikes in February. Not far from the trailhead where we parked was an old bridge, and carved into its capstone was “1916.” The bridge was built as part of a rail line that used to cut through the forest (parts of this are still around). Today, the 100-year-old bridge serves a recreational trail.

Bear encounter at Glacier

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A Wisconsin man escaped serious injury thanks to his bear mace when he stubbled into a grizzly and her kids while hiking off trail at Glacier National Park in Montana. Fall is the time of year when bears are binging to prepare for winter hibernation, and park officials said a shortage of berries in the park is drawing bears into inhabited areas.

Hiker injured by grizzly in GlacierSept. 30, 2015

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – A hiker was injured by a grizzly bear on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, at approximately 5 pm in Glacier National Park. His injuries were not life threatening.
The 65-year male hiker from Wisconsin was hiking alone off- trail near Mt. Henkel in the Many Glacier Valley, where he surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs. The hiker was grabbed and shaken by the bear during the encounter. The man successfully deployed his bear spray, causing the bear to release him and leave the area. The hiker received puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

The man hiked back to his vehicle in Many Glacier and drove himself to the emergency room at the Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cutbank, Montana. He was treated and released later the evening of September 29, and continued on with his travel itinerary. He called Glacier National Park Dispatch to report the incident. Rangers are still investigating the incident.

According to park rangers, the bear’s response to the hiker was defensive in nature and consistent with a surprise encounter with a hiker.

Boulder injury at Grand Teton

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A rolling boulder injured a Wyoming man’s arm while he was hiking the Upper Saddle at Grand Teton, prompting a helicopter evacuation. Here’s the National Park Service’s Morning Report on the incident:

Hiker Injured By Dislodged Boulder

On Tuesday, July 21st, a large boulder dislodged and rolled over the arm of a hiker, causing severe injury to his limb and prompting a helicopter-assisted rescue by Grand Teton National Park rangers.

Tucker Zibilich, 26, of Jackson, Wyoming, and his partner were on their descent after making a day trek to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton when he was injured by the boulder.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call for help at 12:40 p.m. from Zibilich’s partner and several other climbers, and park rangers immediately initiated a rescue operation. A backcountry ranger and a retired Jenny Lake Subdistrict ranger happened to be approaching the base of the headwall, just below the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton, when the call came in. They advanced to the Lower Saddle, picked up gear at the park’s backcountry rescue cache, and ascended another 1,200 plus feet to the accident site. They reached Zibilich at 2:15 p.m., assessed his condition and provided emergency medical care until additional park rangers could arrive.

Due to nature of Zibilich’s injury and concern about attempting to hike him downslope over steep and rocky terrain to reach the Grand Teton’s broad and somewhat flat Lower Saddle for an aerial evacuation, a decision was made to use the Teton Interagency contract helicopter to instead short-haul Zibilich directly from his high elevation site on the Grand Teton to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache on the valley floor.


Injured hiker rescued at Badlands

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A hiker was rescued and evacuated by helicopter following a 125-foot fall near Badlands Nations National Park in South Dakota.

Below is the account that was posted on the National Park Service’s Morning Report:

Hiker Rescued After 125 Foot Fall

July 11, 2015

The Badlands search and rescue team responded to a mutual aid request by the Oglala Sioux Tribe mid-day on July 11th to assist with an injured hiker.

The 26-year old man had been hiking with three others and fell approximately 125 feet into a rugged canyon on Sheep Mountain Table, later determined to be on the boundary of Badlands National Park and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

SAR team members Tyson Nehrin and Ryan Frum repelled down and conducted the initial patient assessment, noting significant trauma to the patient’s head and an altered level of consciousness.  A paramedic from Black Hills Life Flight also repelled down and provided advanced life support.

The incident commander  requested a Black Hawk medivac through the South Dakota National Guard to conduct a hoist operation. The visitor was successfully lifted into the Black Hawk along with the flight medic and transported to Rapid City Regional Hospital.

Responding agencies included the Oglala Sioux Tribal Police Department, Badlands SAR, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, Interior Volunteer Fire Department, Pennington County SAR, Rapid Valley Fire Department, South Dakota National Guard and Black Hills Life Flight.

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