Socotra Island, Yemen

Dark Roasted Blend linked to some amazing pics of a place they call The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth.

I’d love to hike there. Check out the incredible vegetation.

larger version – flickr – jan_vandorpe

larger version – flickr – jan_vandorpe

… Socotra is considered the “jewel” of biodiversity in the Arabian sea. The long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora (which may, therefore, be vulnerable to introduced species such as goats and to climate change). Surveys have revealed that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species of Socotra are found nowhere else. Botanists rank the flora of Socotra among the ten most endangered island flora in the world. The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for ecotourism. …

The island was recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world natural heritage site in July 2008. …


The beaches look pretty sweet, too.

Qalansiyah beach
Qalansiyah beach

larger version – flickr – Valerio Pandolfo

A friend of mine (Canadian who spoke Arabic) traveled in Yemen decades ago. And loved it.

There are some trekking tours listed on the internet, including Socotra Guide.

more photos – Dark Roasted Blend – The Most Alien-Looking Place on Earth

hiking the Marin Headlands in California

A few pics from my hike today with Tom Mangan of Two-Heel Drive.

We headed across the Golden Gate Bridge en route to Point Bonita Lighthouse, touted in my guidebook the “most sensational easy hike in the Bay area”.

Tom concurred.


It’s only open a few hours each day, access blocked by a locked tunnel. Once through the rock, you need cross a suspension bridge deemed so untrustworthy that only two hikers (or three) should cross together at one time. If it collapses, this is what you face below.

sea arch

We wandered several more miles, enjoying the atypically sunny Spring Sunday.

California Poppy
California Poppy

California Quail

See the rest of my photos from this hike on flickr.

Tom’s excellent trip report and photos.

my Alakai Swamp trail run in Hawaii

I like the route Lonely Planet Hiking Hawaii recommends for Alakai Swamp:

Kalalau Lookout trailhead > Phea Lookout > Kilohana Lookout. And back.

That’s maximum bang / mile, I think.

It’s a brilliant hike, too, by the way. Don’t be deterred by the name “Swamp”.


OK, it’s a swamp. But it’s so weird and unexpected after the sunny, hot coastal beaches, that I was instantly won over. Many hikers are. For some it’s their favourite hike on Kauai.

The highlight is not the swamp. Not pounding miles of boardwalk in my running shoes.

Some come specifically to see indigenous Hawaiian flora and fauna.

But for most, the highlight is the drop dead gorgeous 4000ft vista looking over Na Pali (The Cliffs). One of he great lookouts in the world.


see all my photos from this hike on flickr

learn more – Alaka’i Swamp Trail – Trailspotting

Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park

Almost everyone has heard of a small Park in California because of the hit album by Irish Rockers U2 called Joshua Tree.

Anton Corbijn photography December 1986 – via Brad Biringer

I’ve been wanting to get here for YEARS.

Best hiking destination in the Park, no doubt in my mind, is Lost Palms Oasis. That’s 7.5mi (12km) return from the trailhead to the Palms.

Count on at least another half hour wandering the Palm grove. And another half hour scrambling Mastadon Peak, a nice sidetrip. There’s the Cottonwood Spring campground as seen from the top of Mastadon:


The walk is scenic, varied desert environs, until suddenly a huge palm oasis appears far below trail level:


In early March, most everyone in the park was shooting Spring wildflowers. Including me.



more of my photos from this hike – flickr

Autumn hikes in North America

The Adventure Blog links to a Backpacker Magazine article. And editor Kraig adds some recommendations of his own:

We’re into October now, and that means that Autumn is in the air and soon the green leaves of Summer will give way to the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of Fall. I know that it’s a perfect time to hit a trail and enjoy the cooler weather and stunning scenery, and so do the folks over at Backpacker Magazine where they’ve compiled a nice list of suggestions on where to go depending on how much time you have to spend.

… they recommend Lowe’s Bald Spot in New Hampshire, or Lost Maples State Natural Area here in Texas …

read more … The Adventure Blog: Autumn Hiking Suggestions

In Canada it is almost too late to see the larch trees turn golden at Lake O’Hara in the Rockies. I planned to head up there myself last week — but decided, instead, to fly to Mexico for dental work.

more photos from our Fall 2006 trip – flickr

top 10 Fall forest walks USA

Having just returned from hiking wonderful Inyo National Forest, this post caught my eye.

As selected by GORP:

1. Willamette National Forest, OR
2. Inyo National Forest, CA
3. Coconino National Forest, AZ
4. Gunnison National Forest, CO
5. Chequamegon-Nicolet N.F., WI
6. Mark Twain National Forest, MO
7. Pisgah National Forest, NC
8. Allegheny National Forest, PA
9. Green Mountain National Forest, VT
10. White Mountain N.F., NH – ME


GORP – Autumn Escapes: Fall’s Best Forests

(via The Adventure Blog)

hiking the oldest trees in the world

While acclimatizing to altitude in preparation for an ascent of 14,000ft+ Mt. White in California we spent two days hiking photogenic Ancient Bristlecone Forest – Inyo National Forest – out of Bishop.

The Schulman Grove Visitor Center is situated way up at 10,000ft.

The oldest known live tree in the world is dubbed “Methuselah”. But the exact location is top secret. The Methuselah Trail passes within site of this tree. But you must guess which it is.

An even older one, nicknamed “Prometheus”, was cut down in 1964.

Great Basin Bristlecone Pine – Wikipedia

Studying weird, warped trees is one of the great highlights of hiking the Sierras.


Patriarch Grove – my favourite of the established day hikes

all my photos of hiking Bristlecone – flickr

Nature Ali (Alison Sheehey) also has a nice Bristlecone page:

I am on a quest to discover, identify and photograph all of the conifers of California. Part of my quest led me to the oldest living tree on earth. Estimated at almost 5000 years old, the most ancient of bristlecones are considered one of the oldest continuously living plants on earth.

But watch out, they are surpassed in age by the 11 to 12 thousand year old creosote bushes (clones of the original bush) in the nearby Mojave Desert. Amazingly many of the oldest living things on earth occupy a very small niche in central and eastern California.

Ancient Bristlecone Forest – Inyo National Forest

BEWARE Devil’s Club when hiking

Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus, Araliaceae) is a large shrub native to the Pacific Northwest coastal forests of North America. Also known as Devil’s Walking Stick, it grows to 1-1.5 m tall normally, however instances exist of it reaching in excess of 5m in rainforest gullies, with the erect stems covered in short, stout spines. …


The brittle spines break off easily and contain a chemical that may cause dermatitis. The fruit is considered poisonous, …


Photo is George negotiating the Devil’s Club near Whittier, Alaska. (Unfortunately he lost his shirt on this scramble.)


We were extracting spines for days afterwards.

Buttes, Mesas and Tepuis

The buttes and mesas of the Colorado Plateau remind me of those other “islands in the sky” — the tepuis of South America.

tepui art –

I’d really love to climb Roraima in Venezuela:

• bordering Venezuela, Brazil & Guyana, Roraima is remote
• it’s in the world’s largest national park — Canaima
• the highest tepui at 2810m (9219ft)
• 6-day, 5-night round trip trek to the summit
• no mountaineering skill or gear needed
• the impressive Prow of Roraima was not climbed until 1973
• unique dreamscape at the top: weird rocks, gorges & gardens
• a full day needed to explore on high
• many unique species found only atop tepuis
• inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World
• same trip visit nearby Angel Falls, world’s highest 979m (3212ft)

Our Roraima information page.

hike Negro Bill’s Canyon, Utah

My interest was tweaked when I kept seeing an unusual little day hike on “best hikes in Utah” lists.

The name is surprising too: Negro Bill’s Canyon. (I will lobbyinglobby for a name change to Mitt Romney Canyon if he wins the Presidency in 2008.)

It’s popular for a number of reasons:

  • very close to Moab, Utah
  • running water year round
  • many refreshing stream crossings required
  • leads to impressive Morning Glory Natural Bridge
  • offers more shade than any other hike in the area
  • abundant wildlife
  • Despite the plentiful poison ivy, this is a very popular hike for those owning dogs and/or children.

    Ultimately, it’s a nice change from the dry, hot desert environment outside the canyon. And 3.2mi (5.15km) is a nice distance for a short walk.

    Morning Glory Natural Bridge … or, more accurately, …

    This is not a natural bridge, but it is a very large alcove arch. Robert Vreeland measured the span of this arch and reported it to be 243 feet in Volume 5 of his book series, Natures Bridges and Arches. This volume is now out of print. Jay Wilbur of NABS has confirmed this measurement.

    Natural Arches

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