Cascade and Porter of the ADK46

This Sunday, April 22nd, we set out to hike our first two of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks.  Steve and I hiked the 48 New Hampshire 4,000 footers over the past few years when we lived in Boston, so now that we are in upstate New York, this seemed like the perfect list to tackle next.

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Since this has been a long winter, we were hesitant to start climbing mountains this early in the season.  However, I’ve been feeling restless from many months without the great outdoors, so we went for it.  I had been reading trail reports and facebook posts to try and figure out what the trails would be like. Some people said snowshoes were needed. Some people said not to hike without crampons and an ice axe. I was a bit nervous. However, microspikes and trekking poles turned out to be enough for a solid hike up the mountains. The trail was icy on the way up and slushy on the way down.

The Hike

I will share some of the details and statistics from our hike.  Some of the information is based on the AllTrails app data and may not be perfectly accurate.

  • Time started: 9:45am
  • Time Ended: 1:45pm
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Total Distance: 5.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,297 feet

We started at the Cascade Mountain Trailhead on route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene. There were a few small parking lots right along the main road.  I assume this probably gets quite full during the summer months!

Alltrails Map

We took the Cascade Mountain Trail and then at the junction we took the Porter Mountain Trail to hit the summit of Porter first.  This ascent took 2 hours.  The summit of Porter had some lovely views of mountains in one direction and beautiful snow covered trees in the other direction.  There was only one other couple up there and we took our time enjoying the quiet and the beauty around us.  We then hiked down to the junction and then up to the summit of Cascade.  This took another 45 minutes including taking photos and having snacks at the top of Porter.  We spent some time alone on top of Cascade enjoying the incredible 360 degree mountain views.

After 15 or so minutes at the top, we made our way down.  The descent to the car from Porter took less than an hour.  We passed a lot of inexperienced and unprepared hikers on the trail. Make sure to do your research when hiking in early spring! Microspikes and poles were needed for a safe day on the mountain.

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This was a beautiful hike and a great introduction to the Adirondack High Peaks. Even though the ice was a bit slippery and slowed us down a bit, the scenery was incredible.  We also didn’t face any crowds or bugs, which was a plus! I can’t wait to hike more high peaks! 2 down, 44 to go!

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What to do in Northern Norway

The northern part of Norway are less visited than the famous spots in the south.  However, northern Norway is absolutely worth a trip.

In case you missed it, I wrote a blog post with tips for traveling to Norway: Norway Travel Advice and another post describing my favorite spots in Southern Norway: What to do in Southern Norway.

To get to northern Norway, you can fly or take a cruise, but we chose to drive our rental car.  We had some very long 8-10 hour drives, but the views made every moment in the car worth it!  While in northern Norway, we spent our time in Lofoten and Senja.  This blog post will include photos and a quick description of some of our favorite hikes and viewpoints in the northern part of Norway!

 

#1: Kvalvika

  • This is a secluded beach in Lofoten than can only be reached by hiking.  We packed our bags and hiked in just before sunset.  As we descended down to the beach, the sky lit up with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  Once we got down to the beach, we set up our tent on the shore and fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.  We were almost alone, sharing the beach with a handful of other campers and dozens of sheep.

 

#2: Reinebringen

  • This was a steep, challenging, and slightly dangerous scramble to a breathtaking viewpoint above the town of Reine.  The trail was washed out and was mostly slippery mud and dirt- be sure to check posted signs, trail conditions, and a weather report before doing this hike.  The views from the top were some of the best we saw in all of Norway.

 

#3: Festvågtind

  • This was another steep and precarious scramble in Lofoten that led us to amazing views! If you do this hike, I highly recommend you check out Henningsvær, an adorable fishing village nearby with tons of cute shops and restaurants!

 

#4: Segla

  • The photos I have seen of Segla on social media blew me away! Sadly, we went when it was too foggy to see much.  I am also not 100% sure we were on the correct hike to view the famous huge rock that we had hoped to see. Nevertheless, the hike was wonderful and being above the clouds was an incredible experience!

 

#5: Rago

  • This is definitely a hidden gem in Norway! The exact location is complicated to describe here and took us a lot of research to find. The hike was a little confusing, and I would not recommend it in the rain like what we did.  This was still a beautiful place and if you want more information about how to find it, please feel free to send me an email or DM me on Instagram!

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Aside from these hikes, there was a ton of natural beauty and peaceful solitude in northern Norway!  We visited adorable fishing villages and white sand beaches that looked like the Caribbean, we camped for free on the seashore, and enjoyed the scenic drives and viewpoints along the coast.  Some other photos from our visit to northern Norway can be seen below!

What to do in Southern Norway

I hope you enjoyed my blog post about advice for traveling to Norway! If you missed it, the link is here: Norway Travel Advice

In this blog post, I will share with you my favorite things that Steve and I saw and did in the southern part of Norway! Next week I will do a similar post about northern Norway.  To be clear, Steve and I went to Norway with the goal of hiking and seeing natural beauty, so my list doesn’t include any museums, restaurants, or city attractions.  I am sure there are plenty of those, but we chose to focus on the great outdoors!

So let me start with a quick overview of our trip. We flew in and out of Oslo and rented a car for the full three weeks. We drove west to the fjord areas in the south, then drove north all the way to the Lofoten Islands and Senja, and then back south to the fjords and back to Oslo.  

Before the trip, we made a custom google map with pins for each hike or attraction that we wanted to see. I highly recommend doing this before taking a big trip!  It helped us plan our route and made sure we didn’t miss anything.  We even color coded the pins (yellow = cities, tan = beaches, green = hikes, etc).   If you want any tips or have questions on creating a custom map or traveling to Norway, feel free to email me (carrieoutdoors1@gmail.com) or message me on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).  Here is a screenshot of our Norway travel map:

Norway Map

Alright, now time for our favorite parts of the trip!  This includes hikes and viewpoints. I tried to put them in order starting with the best spots, but there was no science that went into the rankings.  Everything we saw and did in Norway was AMAZING, so ranking them was tough!
#1: Trolltunga

  • It was a 13.6 mile roundtrip hike.  We did it in one day and it took around 10 hours including a lot of stopping for photos.  Though we didn’t camp, we saw a bunch of tents near the end of the trail.
  • We started this hike at 5am and were so glad we did. When we got to the destination, there were only a handful of people there and we had plenty of chances to take photos. On our way back to the car, we passed hundreds of people heading in. I have heard stories of people waiting in a line for HOURS for a photo! If you go, go early!
  • If you walk out onto Trolltunga, be VERY careful. I heard that someone fell a few years ago.

 

#2: Kjeragbolten

  • It was a 7 mile roundtrip hike to this incredible boulder that is stuck between two rock walls and hovering thousands of feet above the fjord below.  The hike included a lot of ups and downs, was very exposed, and had some steep and slippery rocks.  Wear good hiking boots and bring sunscreen if you do this hike!
  • Go early! It was very crowded at the rock and there was a long line forming by the time we got there in the middle of the afternoon.
  • Be very safe and careful if you decide to step onto the rock.  I had someone hold my hand because I was so terrified.

 

#3: Preikestolen (aka Pulpit Rock)

  • This was a much easier hike than the first two hikes on this list at only 5 miles roundtrip without much elevation gain.  We hiked up to the top on the same day that we did the Kjerag hike.
  • We brought our tent and camped up at the top (we set up our tent far from the edge).  There were only ten or so other campers who spent the night, which is amazing considering I have see photos with hundreds of people up there! We woke up early and scrambled up above the rock to watch the sunrise over the fjord below. It was absolutely incredible.
  • PLEASE leave no trace when you visit (or during any hike)! There was a lot of trash and food left along the trail and even on the Pulpit Rock itself.  Don’t forget: even banana peels and apple cores need to be packed out!

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#4: Bondhusvatnet

  • This might not make most Norway top ten lists, but it was one of the most beautiful spots we visited on our trip.  It is a short, flat hike to a peaceful glacial lake.  We went in the rain and were treated to a beautiful foggy scene with perfect reflections!

 

#5:  Trollstigen

  • This is not a hike, but the drive up the hairpin switchbacks is just as exhilarating! There are several viewpoint platforms at the top to enjoy these incredible views.

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#6: Besseggen

  • This is a beautiful ridge hike with gorgeous views of mountains and two brilliant blue lakes.
  • There are three options for doing this hike.  You can hike there and back, hike to the end and take a ferry back, or take a ferry to the end and hike back.  We chose the last option.  We took the ferry ride down the lake to Memurubu and then did the four mile hike back.
  • The hike was pretty tough but the views were breathtaking.  Be sure to arrive early because the ferries sell out quickly!

 

#7: Lovatnet

  • This is not a hike, but a beautiful glacial lake that you can drive to.
  • We could only stay for a little while but we were able to sip delicious coffee at an adorable cafe and take a handful of photos by the dazzling turquoise water.

 

#8: Romsdalseggen

  • This is another beautiful ridge hike in Norway.  To do this hike, you can hike there and back or take a bus to the end of the hike and hike back, which is what we did.  If you choose this option, be sure to book your bus ticket ahead of time and don’t be late!
  • This hike had stunning views of the valley below and included some tough spots for hiking.

 

#9: Lysebotn

  • This is not a hike but an adorable fjord town that you can drive to!
  • We stayed at the campground, enjoyed beers and burgers at the charming restaurant, took walks along the misty fjord, and watched base jumpers soar down from the cliffs above.

 

#10: Geiranger

  • This is a beautiful fjord with an adorable town! It was packed with tourists but was stunning nonetheless.
  • We stopped at some of the viewpoints and took a boat tour through the fjord to see the beautiful waterfalls.
  • We had some unbelievably delicious pizza in town!

 

Stay tuned for the next blog post which will describe my favorite viewpoints and hikes in central and northern Norway! As always, you can find more of my photos and stories on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).

Expectation vs Reality

After spending months planning our cross country van travels, I had a lot of different expectations for the the many spots we would visit.  For some places I was brimming with excitement and prepared with plans for photos I couldn’t wait to take.  Other places were added to the map as an afterthought or I was worried might be too crowded.  In many cases my expectations were spot on.  However, a few times I was completely surprised!

There were times the reality greatly exceeded our expectations and and we discovered some amazing beauty and serenity in places we never imagined.  Occasionally, however, the reality didn’t live up to the hype and the experience was a a bit of a let down. I wanted to share a few examples of each of these. Have you ever been pleasantly surprised on a trip? Have you been disappointed by a place you were excited about? Let me know in the comments!

Kind of a Let Down…

  • Mesa Arch – To be fair, I didn’t do a ton of research on this spot before we went, and if I had I might have been more prepared for the reality.  I had seen amazing sunrise photos of this arch which made it look like a huge natural structure hidden deep in the remote desert.  The photos of this arch were just so incredible that I had created a narrative in my head for what the experience would be like.  In reality, the arch is only a 5 minute walk from the road and therefore was swarming with people.  When we got to the parking lot, multiple tour buses were unloading with dozens of tourists.  It is also known as a sunrise spot, so when we arrived at the arch in the early morning hours, there was already a line of photographers in front of it, blocking the view for any latecomers. Luckily we were able to elbow our way in and found some room to snap a few photos.  I will say that the sunrise through Mesa Arch was an incredible sight.  The rays of sunlight caused the arch to glow in a brilliant shade of orange, with amazing shadows cast on the desert scene behind it.  However the whole thing just felt a little phony .  It was crowded, loud, and felt more like a photo shoot than an  authentic natural experience. 
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Expectation
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Reality
  • Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs – Okay, so don’t get me wrong, these hot springs were pretty great. But they didn’t quite live up to my expectations. The first time we tried to go was on a Thursday evening. When we arrived, the parking lot was almost completely full and there were loud, drunk young people everywhere. They were laughing, yelling, and blasting their music. I know, I sound so old right now! But we were looking for a quiet, peaceful soak…not a wild party! So we decided to skip the springs that day and try again on a Sunday. The second try was better, but the hot springs were still pretty crowded. Also, the photos I had seen showed a low flowing river of bright blue water and I was so excited to see and photograph it. However, when we were there, the river was raging with water that was brownish gray and not blue.  I guess we were there at the wrong time of year! The springs were still lovely and hot, but the experience was pretty underwhelming.

 

Better than Expected

  • Monument Valley – I knew that Monument Valley would be a nice place to visit and I had seen a lot of great photos of the place. However, the experience of being there was much more special than I had imagined. It’s hard to describe, but the valley had a peaceful and serene feeling to it and I just genuinely enjoyed being there, despite the fact that we didn’t even do much. I loved that the scene was the same and yet completely different as the sun moved across the sky and altered the lighting on the monuments. I also think we were there at the right time of year because there was hardly anyone else camping there and the whole place was relatively quiet, considering it is such a popular spot. We also happened to be there when the mitten shadow is on the other mitten, which apparently is a rare occurrence, and wasn’t something we planned for! (Click here to read more about this part of the trip!)
  • Alabama Hills – this is a spot that is photographed by a million instagrammers so I had assumed it would feel like a phony photo shoot spot swarming with young kids with their iPhones and cameras. What we found was an incredibly beautiful landscape with almost no people and tons of empty free campsites. The famous photo spot with the road leading down into the snow capped Sierras was empty at sunrise! I sipped coffee and hung out there all morning without seeing a single soul. This was one of the most beautiful scenes and peaceful moments of our cross country adventures and greatly exceeded my expectations. (My blog post about the Alabama Hills can be found here!)

Point Reyes National Seashore

Hello again!

Before heading into Yosemite National Park, we stopped for a day at Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, CA. I had seen photos from this area and was looking forward to checking it out but Point Reyes ended up being so much more incredible than I had imagined or expected. The drive in was long and slow, but the views were magnificent! Below I will highlight some of the wonderful things we saw at Point Reyes!

 

S.S. Point Reyes Shipwreck

We almost drove right by this spot, but on your right hand side as you drive toward the Point Reyes Lighthouse, you will find the shipwreck near the town of Inverness, California. I did a little research for the history of this ship, but it sounds like it was just a boat owned by a local who never got around to fixing it up. Not a very glamorous story! However, the ship was really neat to photograph and it was a very peaceful spot.

 

Cypress Tree Tunnel

Our next stop was the Cypress Tree Tunnel – a short road leading to a white building, which I later found out was home to the KPH radio station. The road is lined with beautiful and giant cypress trees that form a canopy above. This is another popular spot for photographers that I had seen on Instagram and wanted to check out! We stopped here for a few minutes and walked up and down the road. There was not much else to do in this spot, but it was still pretty neat!

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Cypress Tree Tunnel

 

Point Reyes Lighthouse

We continued down the long and winding road to the lighthouse. We passed by many cows and some small ranches until we got to the lighthouse parking lot. There were only two other cars there on a weekday evening in June and we were happy to be some of the only people at this incredible spot. Just after stepping out of the car, we saw one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. The wild and rugged coastline stretched out for miles in front of us, wind whipped our hair, and we listened to the sounds of the waves crashing below us.

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View from the Point Reyes Lighthouse parking lot

After soaking in these incredible views for a while, we continued down the path to the lighthouse. It was a really lovely stroll but very windy and quite chilly! We stopped at the leaning cypress tree to capture our own version of the classic photo below.

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@walasavagephoto at the leaning cypress tree

We finally got to the lighthouse area. There was a small visitor center which was closed, a handful of small worn sheds, and a huge gray whale skull.

When we got to the lighthouse itself, the stairs down were closed! We got there a bit too late.

We were a little bummed out that the stairs down were closed but the views of the lighthouse from the viewing platform above were still wonderful. We stayed there for an hour or so to watch the sunset. It was a breathtaking view and a magnificent experience.

 

I highly recommend Point Reyes to anyone who is nearby! There were a few other hikes in the area that we didn’t have time to do and I definitely want to come back here again some day to do more exploring and have more adventures!

Our next stop was Yosemite which will be my next post and right now we are decompressing up in central Oregon. If you have any recommendations for Washington and Oregon, please let me know on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors)!

Samuel H Boardman

After our lovely time in the redwoods, we made our way to the coast of southern Oregon. We found a nice rest area near Brookings to park overnight while we explored some beautiful beaches and viewpoints along the shore. The rugged coast dotted with rocky outcroppings and sea stacks was incredibly beautiful and I highly recommend this spot to anyone who is in the area!

 

Harris Beach State Park

Our first evening, we went across the street from the rest area to Harris Beach State Park where we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. It started with the sun lighting up the sea stacks and bathing them in golden light.

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Golden Hour at Harris Beach State Park

We waited and watched as the scene kept changing as the sun sank below the horizon. Suddenly pink puffy clouds spread across the sky and reflected in the ocean over the incredible and unique rocky coast. This was an unforgettable sunset.

 

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

The next morning we woke up early to explore Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor. I had been wanting to see this area for a long time after seeing some incredible photos on Instagram, and the amazing scenery we found did not disappoint! Many of the viewpoints were easily accessible and we found pit toilets and picnic tables at the Arch Rock Viewpoint.

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Natural Bridges

We started with the breathtaking Natural Bridges area. There was a small sign indicating the parking area, but no other signage was to be found. We first walked the short trail on the left to the viewing platform. Unfortunately, the view from the platform was not great as it was quite far from the natural bridges and there were many trees blocking the view. I also noticed that this was not the angle I had seen in other photos.

We returned to the car and then followed the unmarked path on the right side of the parking lot which took us down a narrow trail through the woods. The trail was steep, muddy, and challenging (and surrounded by poison oak). We slid and scrambled down toward the shore, so please be careful if you attempt this descent. Finally we got down to the rocky outcroppings and were blown away by the scenery. This was the view we were looking for! We spent a few hours here, taking photos and soaking in the beauty.

This was my favorite photo from the day!

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Me and Steve at Natural Bridges

 

Arch Rock Viewpoint

We hiked back out and continued driving down the main road, stopping at various pull-off spots and viewpoints. We enjoyed a nice meal at the picnic area at the Arch Rock Viewpoint. There was a very short and easy trail to some lovely views (but we had to hop the fence in order to get unobstructed views of the rocky coasts and sea stacks).

 

Secret Beach

Our last stop was Secret Beach. We did not see signs for this spot, but had read on a different blog to find the parking area behind a guardrail that was on the right as you head south from Arch Rock (the blog said it was the third pull-off but we counted that it was the second). We parked in the unmarked dirt area and took the short, slippery path down to the beach. The views when we got down there were some of my favorite views of all time. Wow. We went at low tide and were able to walk the length of the beach. It was incredible to walk among the towering sea stacks rather than seeing them from above!

 

Overall, Samuel H. Boardman was a very beautiful area and I highly recommend it! Our next stop is to head back to California, where we reserved campsites at Yosemite National Park. If you have any recommendations on what to see and do in Yosemite, please leave me a message on here or on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).