Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Finding the Fall Foliage

Every fall, the leaves turn.  Where you are in the world depends on what that view of the turn looks like. With the annual leave turn typical comes color temperatures and the promise of little white snow flakes to begin falling somewhere other than where I live.  There is something special about a crisp, cool fall day that always ranks high on my list on the 365 day calendar.  It's a time a year I always try to hold on and capture because with a blink of an eye it ends, and in the south we are left with cold, damp winter days. This fall I made effort to get out and hike as much as I could and capture the fall landscape from beginning to end. Like a crescendo in a great song, the end result was worth the build up.

Cloudland Canyon State Park, Georgia - September 10, 2016

A great day hike located roughly two hours from Atlanta, Cloudland offers great views and hiking of similar nature. This visit to Cloudland was early September, which in the state of Georgia still feels and in some part looks like the back end of summer.

Cloudland Overlook

No signs of fall color this early, but clear signs of  severe drought where a waterfall should sit.

Acadia National Park, Maine - September 16 -18, 2016

From low 90's and high humidity to low 70's and no humidity, Acadia was a perfectly timed visit to follow up Cloudland.  Located on the shore of the southern Maine coast, Acadia National Park is a must visit for any enthusiast who loves the outdoors, National Parks, or incredible landscapes this world has to offer. Rugged shore line surrounded by some of the highest peaks on the east coast, there is good reason this place is a National Park. Finding the fall foliage wasn't the scope of the trip, but the signs of what was to come provided all the more reason to come back.

Finding some fall mix outside the park

When your in a place like Acadia, whether the leaves are turning or not is not relevant. 

Sweetwater Creek State Park, Georgia - October 16, 2016

The least strenuous hike of the fall,  maybe more a stroll. A classic hike nonetheless just outside the Atlanta city limits that allows a city escape without going far.

Slight signs of  fall colors starting to line Sweetwater Creek

Naturally, you want a 420 or IPA after visiting this place 

Lake Toxaway and Rainbow Falls, North Carolina - October 22 - 23, 2016

Finding the fall turn in the North Carolina mountains is a great place to do it. Late October in the 'mid south' is the ideal time to find the peak of the fall turn.

Fall colors nearing full peak

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina - October 29, 2016

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a special drive any time of year. During peak leaf turn in the fall, it's certainly something to not soon forget. With plenty of turn offs to soak in the views and nice day hikes right off the parkway, it's not a bad way to hit fall in it's peak foliage.

Savor every turn on the parkway as each one will give you a new perspective of fall  
Until next fall

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Resort Powder Day: Timing is Everything

Assuming you don't live in a ski town or out west, the ability to time a powder day at a ski resort can be considered a fine art; maybe more so than an aged bourbon or bottle of red wine. As a current resident of Atlanta, I  ski once or twice a year so you can only hope that it snows while you are on the hill out west. A real powder day for a vacation skiing powder hound is the equivalent of the power ball for any other  normal person who doesn’t know the beauty of skiing an untracked turn.

 When I lived in Jackson Hole for a winter, I got spoiled because I could pick and choose when I wanted to ski. If it hadn’t snowed in awhile I might not necessarily go out. But when it did snow, I was out. I had ten to twelve really good powder days (in bounds) encompassed into a full winter at one of the world’s great playgrounds.   Now I am fortunate to have one powder day in a ski trip. I had not had a resort powder day since I lived in Jackson. Thankfully that changed on the weekend of January 22, 2016. 

 My dad I spent and extended weekend at Snowbird, Utah. For seven to ten days leading up to the trip, I was and I spent  an inordinate amount of time checking the expected forecast. Every time I checked, the weather forecast, the chance of snow seemed to increase. Sure enough, the forecast proved accurate and the goods delivered.

Saturday began with an auspicious start. Winds upwards of 100 mph kept a large portion of Snowbird closed for majority of the day. The valley weekend warriors were out being it was Saturday. With most of the mountain closed, Gad 2 was the highest on the mountain you could go.  Soft snow and nice lines could still be found parallel to the lift line trees, which is where most of our time was spent.
Finding some soft snow in the trees before the storm set in. 

The treck over to ATLA was pretty creepy. A total white out with winds probably howling between 40-50 mph.  A few minutes of vertigo had us questioning our move to the new mountain. As we regained our senses, we made a transition to the lower half of the mountain and spent most of the afternoon running trees off Collins. The good news is that the storm had moved in around 11am and continued to pickup throughout the day. The turns were getting really nice in the afternoon filling and starting to fill in tracks. The temperature dropped and the snow came down harder. Does it get any better?

As the lifts stop spinning and day one came to an end the snow continued to come down and accumulate. Everything was setting up nicely for an epic Sunday pow day in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Sure enough, our fruitions came true and we woke up early Sunday morning to a total of eight inches over night on top of what the storm had delivered the day before. 

We decided to skip the Bird and grab the bus over to ATLA for the day. Wise choice. The laid back crew at ALTA drank coffee, chattered and wondered what the day would hold. We scattered up to the lift 20 minutes before opening and found ourself on the 20th chair up or so. 

Sunday morning goodness at Alta. Waiting for the lifts to spin and untrack turns to be had.

I couldn’t help but compare to my Jackson pow mornings where crowds stretched and winded and began lining up early in the mornings. It was a thing of beauty. Knee to waste deep untracked goodness from top to bottom. The snow was a little heavy and the legs were burning, but we certainly weren’t complaining. Face shots through the trees and untracked lines on the groomers to the bottom of the hill; it was something so rare for for a resort visitor and something that I had not experienced in some time.

The day continued to deliver. After running one more at Collins we transitioned over to Supreme where there was no crowds and more untouched goodness to be found. We had three to four runs at supreme of untracked and ran the lift until mid afternoon still finding pockets of really nice snow. Let me make sure I said that right - mid-afternoon and pockets of untouched snow - yea, that's when you know it's good. 

After a few more runs at Collins we decided to make the move back over to Snowbird. One of my favorite all time runs on either mountain is the keyhole. Don't tell anyone, because it's a little off the beaten path and a great spot for locals or skiers who know Alta/Snowbird well. 

If you want the goods on a powder day: Take one of the all time classic Alta lifts, Wildcat, take a short hike to what could be a powder paradise. 

Riding the storm out on Wildcat.

Some of the steepest terrain you might find also leads to some of the best-unkept snow on the mountain; seriously, don't tell anyone.  Sure enough The Key Hole delivered for one of the best runs of the day. Waste deep for a large portion of the run and untouched all the way down. 

No action Pow shots, but a moment to take in one of the best Key Hole runs in some time. 

After a few more runs it was time to call it a day and what a day in that. With a half day left skiing before heading back, to the concrete jungle, could the storm possibly continue to deliver? Absolutely.

With all the snow from the storm we actually began Monday morning in inter lodge; meaning you cannot actually leave the lodge due to the avalanche bombing going on. We started the morning at the Bird and caught the first tram. They only had one run open off the tram, a blue cruiser, Regulator Johnson. But when a blue cruiser has 6-8 inches of untouched snow on it, it becomes a whole different ball game. 
First tram. First tracks. Snowbird delivers. Heading up Little Cloud here to get the remains. 

After two untracked runs, we mozied our way over to Gad 2. The groomers were beginning to become tracked up, so we ventured off the beaten path to Tiger Tail, boom. Incredible untouched turns. We looked over the first drop in at an untouched powder field. It was a thing of beauty.  Such a beautiful thing I decided to get some pictures of my Dad going down. The group behind us was pushing us and I was anxious to get down and back up as well. Back on the lift I realized I had dropped my phone instead of putting it in my pocket. The phone is still on Tiger Tail somewhere and was likely found sometime this summer. In retrospect, I would have lost my phone 10/10 times to have access to what we skied that morning.

It was a pretty incredible two and a half days of skiing. To have two consecutive days of untracked powder at a resort is not very common and something I will not soon forget. When it comes to powder days at resorts, timing is everything.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

An Opposing Mountain View of the Concrete Jungle

For as much as I seem to tear down the concrete jungle (ie: Atlanta) it's important to look at the focus of this post; the concrete jungle.

One of the primary places you hear people say to go if they visit Atlanta is Stone Mountain, and rightfully so. Just thirty'ish minutes outside of the city, Stone Mountain is something everyone should see. An impressive massive rock formation which offers easy access to hiking, cycling and golfing. Having lived in Atlanta a few years, I have taken part often in the aforementioned activities.

The hike up Stone Mountain is gradual and then steep for the later half. It offers a unique view of 'the cities within the cities' as I like to call it, that make up Atlanta:

Overlook from a top Stone Mountain. Focus your eyes, or get a magnified glass and you can see Kennesaw Mountain over to the far right. 
On a clear day with no smog from the thousands of people sitting in traffic, the view atop Stone Mountain offers a great view of tree's, concrete structures formed into buildings, and the not so distant mountains; one of which is Kennesaw Mountain.

I had Monday off from work, which should be noted takes place in a concrete building filled with hundreds of other people like myself who elect to look at a computer screen for the majority of their day, so I decided to check out Kennesaw Mountain. For some reason, this was my first trip to Kennesaw Mountain which is a similar distance in the opposite direction of Stone Mountain and rises up from the Marietta/Kennesaw landscape.

 You really could not ask for better hiking conditions in my opinion, low 30's and clear blue skies. The start to the primary hike known as Pigeon Loop Trail takes you up switchbacks to the summit for some odd 1,800 feet. It felt like a  hike through history as the park stories many of the Civil War battles fought here and it's neighboring sister mountain, Little Kennesaw Mountain:

Both Stone Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain offer a unique historical perspective. Kennesaw Mountain feels like a walk through history as it  stories the many Civil War battles fought here. 

The remainder of the full loop takes you across Kennesaw Mountain and carries moderate switch backs over Little Kennesaw Mountain. The full duel mountain loop carries about six miles; I elected to backtrack at the three mile marker as the remainder of the hike stretching back to the visitor center carries the lower third of the mountain and looked flat.

On the treck back, I looked down from a top of Kennesaw Mountain and took in a unique perspective of it's city cross neighbor mountain, Stone Mountain:

The D750 offers a unique perspective of a distant view of Stone Mountain, as seen from Kennesaw Mountain caught between two trees.

It was interesting to look at the comparative similarities between both mountains. First and foremost, both mountains lie a short drive in opposite directions outside the concrete jungle. If you happen to live in Atlanta, and want a solid day hike without a long drive, these are both great options. They both offer vertical incline  that you can't get anywhere else within a 45 minute proximity to the city.  Both mountains also carry a historical perspective. One of the first things you probably see entering Stone Mountain is confederate soldiers carved into the mountain which highlight the three Confederate hero's from the Civil War. The span of the sculpture stands larger than Mount Rushmore. Kennesaw Mountain highlights it's historical significance with signs and detailed markers acknowledging the battles that took place there. Atlanta does a find job of paying tribute to the historical land markers that formed the city into what it is today.

My primary takeaway was that you can climb one mountain and peer out to the other. While it's not the Rockies or the Tetons, both hikes offer an uphill climb and a easy opportunity to get outside and take in a new perspective.

 Should you move to Atlanta for these mountains? Absolutely not, if that's your take away you missed the point here. If you happen to be in Atlanta and want to take in some history and climb a hill, then these are the places to go.  If you time it right, you might be able to not sit in traffic on the way there, though I wouldn't put money on that.