Texas Hidden Gem – Palo Duro State Park

When you get a recommendations for a possible hidden gem to check out, you check it out!

No lie, Palo Duro State Park is definitely a hidden gem for Texas!

If you’re near the panhandle of TX stop by and check out the Lighthouse trail. It’s a 6 mile round trip trail that is pretty easy. What may get you is the Texas heat! I was lucky and had perfect weather conditions today in the mid 60s.

Don’t have time for the whole 6 miles? Then there’s a sweet view spot that’s fluffy Pup approved! About a 1/4 mile in you’ll get a closer look of beautiful color formation of Capital Peak.

Albatross at Kaena Point – Hawaii

Watching Albatross in flight was pretty spectacular!

There were hundreds of them at Kaena Point the afternoon I set out for the hike. Some of the Albatross seemed to be showing off their skills by gliding around like speeding bullets with the ocean wind. You probably can’t tell in the photos, but these beauties have the largest wingspan of any bird – up to 11 ft.Beginning to hunker down for mating season soon, I got to watch one male try to start a courtship with s female. I’m not sure if the female was having any of his strutting and wing flapping since she blooped down to only watch him swagger around.
There’s a semi funny story about the natural reserve area, Kaena Point, these Albatross are living. The reason there is a fence around the area is to keep out bird predators like the mongoose. Funny part about the mongoose, they are an invasive species brought to Hawaii in the late 1800’s by sugar cane plantation owners to help control the rat population. Problem with that idea was rats are nocturnal while mongoose are active during the day. Bad move by humans…haha. The albatross began to take a small dip in numbers before eventually being put on list for conservation.

I’m just happy I got a couple good flight photographs of these big birds!

Moanalua Valley Trail Run

Today I had the honor of getting to run with Brandon on an epic run to the top of Moanalua Valley. We had clear sky’s and views of both sides of the island!Not only is Brandon part of the Orange Mud Team but he proudly serves this great country of ours. Grateful to have spent the morning getting to know you on the trail on Veterans Day and to meet your family afterwards for lunch…or as his son Asher corrected us brunch.Also, thank you to all the Veteran’s for your service to this country which allows me the freedom to explore this beautiful land of ours! Happy Veterans Day!

Hawaii here I come – State 49 of 50!

How many of you want to see pictures from Hawaii? Or more so, who wants to see photos from one of the top 20 most dangerous hikes in the world?

November 7th I’ll be flying to Hawaii for three weeks to explore three of the islands. For two of the three weeks I’ll have Michelle from Restless Wanderess to help check off state #49 for both of us. For those that don’t remember I met Michelle and her kids in Wyoming for a hike as they were headed to the Pacific Northwest. We’ve both finished the lower 48 this year so I’m grateful to have her with me to experience the epic Kalulua Trail as well as a few others in state 49.
I should be packing for my trip but I stumbled across these gems! Here’s a taste of what National Parks I’ve visited the last two years in the lower 48 and I’ll for sure be checking off another one at Volcanos NP in Hawaii.

Terry Badlands Wilderness Area – Montana

What you don’t see when you’re driving along Interstate 94 in Southeastern Montana is the beauty! Natural Bridges, Chimney Rock and most of all solitude.

Of course to see it all there is only one way there, across a sketchy old train bridge. The old train tracks that once traveled through the area is what gives this trails its name, the Calypso Trail. Let’s say you brave the sketchy bridge you’re next obstacle is the gumbo mud back roads if it’s previously rained. Google search Terry Badlands Wilderness and you won’t find much. Especially on how to get to the actual trailhead location.Lucky me (not) it rained the day I got to Terry Badlands. I then opted to park in the grass off the maintained gravel road for the night so I could run early morning. The couple pages I did manage to find on the area gave only a vague descriptions on the trail length to the natural bridges. I don’t run with a gps watch so I normally go off mileages from maps and my phone. With no map to help I base the run off my phone data. I ended up with 19 miles round trip from where I parked. *Remember I am not near the trailhead due to bad roads. It’s not a difficult trail what so ever. Basically an old road that wanders through the designated wilderness area.If you’re ever in Eastern Montana and looking to hike or run let me know, I’ll gladly point you in the right direction of this cool hidden gem.

Help Wanted: Trail Runner Needed For Surprise Proposal!

Over Memorial Weekend I had the honor of being part of a couple of my favorite peoples life memory. My best friend asked me a couple months back if I could help him with a surprise proposal to his girlfriend. We discussed the ideas he had and what he needed me to help with. Two things he asked for: 1: a beautiful view on top of a mountain. 2: if possible a little off trail away from people. Coincidence he asked his best friend who is a trail runner to help with this part…I think not! 😉

We were meeting in the Black Hills of South Dakota so I already had a spot in mind. My first thought was, Harney Peak, the highest point in South Dakota. Only problem was it’s a 7 mile round trip hike from the south side or 13 miles from the less traveled north side with connector trails. Last year in September I was here and boondocked at the trailhead on the north side. All I could remember was there being a sweet view just a couple miles below the actual lookout tower, which still marks it at roughly 10ish miles. I know what you’re thinking, he asked to be at the top of a mountain so it’s going to take some miles. True true. Quick side note there is also going to be three kids with us (Dane, Kyn, Vail), two of which are adorable little princesses. Adorable little princesses don’t hike 10 miles. Chelsey (my best friends soon to be fiancé if she says yes) made all the arrangements for where we’d be camping. Turns out the campground is literally just down the road from where I was last year! Too perfect and convenient!Off of highway 244 you see a gravel road on the south side that leads to the Norbeck Wilderness and Palmer Creek trailhead. Since Mt. Rushmore is the main destination point when driving down this highway not many people know this dirt road exists. Making it the perfect spot on a busy weekend to fulfill one of his requests.

Early morning of the day we were meeting I set out for a run to scope out the trail. The weather was like any other typical Memorial Day weekend in South Dakota, cold and raining. As I was started to run up the trail the sky became dark with a lite sprinkle. Then after about a mile and half up the lite sprinkle turned to pea sized hail with some thunder. Being electrocuted and looking like a meat grinder hit me in the face was not what I set out for so I took cover under a pine tree just off the trail. Waiting for the storm to pass I noticed a lightly worn trail through some downed trees to a bunch of large rocks. I ventured over to the area as the clouds broke…yep Jeff’s second request was fulfilled!
A quick Dirtbag shower in the trailhead parking lot, a hike with Pup and some catch up on social media it was time to go meet up with Jeff and the family. After getting the the car unloaded Jeff and I went to get “ice and firewood”, code word for talk. Not wanting Chelsey to become suspicious a proposal may happen Jeff let her pick what to do most of the weekend. The plan was to sneak in the hike the next day in between what was picked.

A tour at Jewel Cave National Monument was at the top of Chelsey’s list. Let’s be honest, I was with her all weekend, it was the only thing on her list…haha. Love you Chels! Looking at the weather report for the next day Jeff needed to get super lucky if we did the hour and half tour at 11:30am. It was suppose to rain all day after 1pm.A hearty all you can eat pancake and bacon breakfast started our big day before we headed to Jewel Cave. Tickets were only given in person the day of so we aimed to be an hour early before the 11:30 tour time. As we drove to the cave the suspense was killing me! We should be hiking right now! The sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. This is the moment you insert the lucky golden horse shoe into Jeff’s rear defrost (censored)! The tours were all sold out for the day! Plus the weather forecast changed to dang near perfect all day.

It was time to convince the adorable princesses to go on a short hike. Included in the princess category was now Chelsey since the cave was a no go for the day. Needless to say with a little bribery the kids were all for going on a hike. Chelsey not so much because I think she knew she’d: A: being carrying a princess or B: carrying rocks that the princesses collected. For the sake of a longer story she was right about both.It was only a mile and half up I swear but man did it feel like it took forever. Being a trail runner I didn’t account for just hiking up the climb. The youngest was getting tired but we were so close with just a couple more switchbacks. We all took a break in the shade for a minute when I said “Dane and I are going to trail run a bit.” This was my hopes to entice them to continue. It worked when Dane and I finally got to the spot where he yelled from the top, “OH MAN YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS VIEW!”

Jeff nodded his head in approval as he approached the rock formation and caught a glimpse of the view. He whispered to me that the spot was going to be where Chelsey picked for a family picture. Then I would tell her to turn around because I have a cool picture idea with the kids. She picked a spot and I repeated my said lines. With Chelsey turned around I pulled out four little decorative chalkboards from my bag. You could tell the nerves were setting in as Jeff shook the liquid chalk marker a little to hard causing it run as we wrote the four words he was about to say to the love of his life. To buy time, I was rambling words about the clouds and lighting trying to not let on what was about to happen. My act meant nothing, I could hear the tears she was holding back.With the three kids arranged Jeff asked Chelsey to turn around. With tears in her eyes the four of them stood there holding the nerve drawn chalkboards reading: Will U Marry Me. Then on bending knee, he express his love with what I am sure were rehearsed and unrehearsed words, then asked will you marry me?

You could feel the love overflowing the mountain top when she said yes and Jeff slid the ring on her finger. Some of their friends might say it’s been a long time coming but I say it was the perfect time. The hail storm to point me to the spot. The tour being sold out. These are just a couple of the things I shared that prove the path was meant to happen when it did.

I have been all over this country searching for the meaning of life. Wondering if there’s an answer to true happiness. The one thing I have learned is we never figure life out. We do however have the power to create our own happiness. Who we choose to let into our life’s. How we decided to live our life’s day to day. It’s that simple.Congratulations Jeff and Chelsey! Can’t wait to be a part of the next step in the rest your life’s!

JAdRunning meets Restless Wanderess

As a wandering traveler sometimes I get called crazy, sometimes I get called inspirational. The crazy part I can understand but the inspirational part is hard for me to wrap my head around. I only have myself and a dog to worry about. I have a bed in a van, eat junk food, drive to trails and run. Only thing different now then my old life is I quit my job to live in a van to travel until the money I saved runs out.Insert the “crazies”, or as I see it “normals”, from the picture above into this story. A single mom with three kids (4, 5 and 10) and two dogs traveling the country in a SUV. Now that’s inspiring! I was scared to death when my dream started to fall into place…I can only image what it must have felt like for Michelle to live out her dream!?

Our first interaction was when my aunt shared Michelle’s Facebook page, Restless Wanderess, with me. I reached out telling her if she had any questions about the part of the country she was going through at the time, I could try to give suggestions. From there we followed each other on social media wondering if our paths would cross at some point? Well, a year later we happen to be crossing the same path. I was headed east and she was heading west.

Ethan has great photograph skills. Photo Credit: Restless Wanderess

Long story short we finally got to meet up for a hike in Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. In true wandering spirit form we clicked like long time friends. Michelle later said she wasn’t sure how I’d react to her rambunctious group. But, it didn’t phase me a bit. On the contrary I felt like a I was being a bad role model when I’d laugh at the funny things they would do and say.Topics of the hike: Snow White the hamster with cool black strips, dare devil trail running youngster, feeding the prairie dogs, their cross country journey, grown little man child needing a ride in mom’s back pack even with two bags of potato chips at the end of the hike to motivate him, tent vs hotel camping and a whole host of fun things.Coolest part about meeting Michelle and her family is that I got to see again another example that following your dreams is possible. I truly do understand that things may get in the way of what you want. Took me three years to finally pull the trigger to live out my dream. It can be a new car, traveling the world, getting in shape, or whatever your imagination creates just keep working towards the dream!

More pictures from out hike on my JAdRunning Facebook Page

Cool But Not Cool – The Sighting Of A Mountain Lion

Want to know something cool about this picture below?I was running along Salmon Creek Trail when I came across a patch of wild flowers. It wasn’t the first patch of flowers I ran pass as I climbed the switchbacks of the Los Padres NF trail in Big Sur California. It was however the first spot on the top of the ridge that I noticed a perfectly placed rock that would be a great spot to setup my phone to capture the beauty.

After three takes (every runner knows two takes is not enough) of bending down to hit the camera timer I got a weird feeling, a feeling of being watched. I told myself to stop being stupid bending over so many times this far out in the mountains alone. I picked up my phone and started to run the amazing single track again. Shortly after coming into a fully tree covered section I stopped to walk after hearing a noise and getting that feeling again. Maybe it was the creek flowing, or just a bird or squirrel, at most a deer I told myself.

Going the short distance to the creek crossing I stopped again to check my phone for the time. At this point I had been gone for an hour and half so I decided to head back to the van to get pup. As I put my phone away and turned around I was greeted by a mountain lion 25 feet in front of me! “Holy sh*t you’re big” I yelled! The expression on the lions face once it noticed I noticed it was almost cartoonish. With out hesitation it took off down the trail and up into the brush. As it ran away I yelled again, “NO! That’s the way I need to go!” I stood there for a few minute in shock. It seriously looked dumb founded I turned around…was it stalking me? It just went the way I need to go back…how long do I wait?

I grabbed a fallen branch and broke off a chunk incase I had to fight. After waiting several minutes I began to walk down the trail. I started talking to the lion, or myself mainly, if it could hear me. “Thank you for letting me see you, I appreciate being one of the lucky few, but I do not want to see you again!” “You are a beautiful creature, I am not scared of you, but I will kick your ass!” “I don’t like that you went the same way I need to go but I am just going home, I live in a van and taste horrible.” “I am in the middle of a detox from a fast food diet so you’re better off eating a deer that taste good.” “This makes it two times now that I have seen a cat on the trail, you are much bigger then the panther I saw in FL. I am bummed I didn’t get a photo of you but I really, really do not want to see you again to get one either.”

Pup at the Salmon Creek Waterfall

I walked waving the branch and talking nonsense until I came to what I remember would be open trail back to the trailhead. Remember, don’t bend over a bunch of times on the trail for a silly picture. Don’t run solo for hours on end in bad cell phone reception areas. Pssh, who am I kidding…just make sure you don’t get eaten by a mountain lion!

**Disclaimer** No running shorts were soiled during or after the sighting of the mountain lion.

Death Valley NP – Darwin Falls Run, Hike, Climb…

Without a picture how do I tell you a story about my run in Death Valley National Park to Darwin Falls? How do I tell you about how I got to the second, third and fourth waterfalls while rock climbing on dangerous cliffs? How do I tell you about the loose gravel trail that wanders through a wash in the canyon leading to the first waterfall? How does one explain the soothing sound of the rushing water as I get near? How do I tell you about the lush green California desert oasis as I rounded the corner to the first waterfall?

Lower Darwin Falls
Without a picture would you believe my story that I convinced a photographer to climb cliffs with me to what I hoped was another waterfall? Would you believe it when I said that with the slip of a foot the fall down would be severe? How about if I told you I had a hugging hold grip around a boulder, on the edge of a cliff, and my hand started to sweat as I tried to pull myself across? What if I told you the photographer trustfully handed me his 60 lbs pack multiple times instead of doubling back? How do I describe the relief as I jump down from a cliffs edge and noticed there was a second waterfall?
Second Darwin Falls
Third Darwin Falls
Again, without a picture would you believe there was a third and fourth waterfall tucked away in a narrow slot canyon? Could you imagine now climbing up a slope of crushed rocks to try and find a path for a better view? Then can you imagine finding a path over the third waterfall to an amazing view of a towering 80 ft tall free falling waterfall?
Fourth Darwin Falls
So the question remains, how do I begin to tell you with only a few pictures the things I have done just to see four waterfalls?