The Civil War and Eastport, ME

Welcome to Eastport, Maine, home of Shackford Head State Park and the easternmost city in the United States! Located on the Bay of Fundy, this quaint coastal town has all the charm you would expect from a small east coast city, but don’t let its size fool you- Eastport has some big time sightseeing destinations that make this city one of the coolest places to visit in Maine.

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The main reason that brought us to Eastport was Shackford Head State Park, because state parks are wonderful and I have a mighty need to see them all.

Shackford Head features an interconnected trail system that leads you through lush woods to a rocky headland, passing by beaches and protected coves along the way. From the overlook at the top of the headland you can see Cobscook Bay and parts of Canada. It is also a great park for wildlife viewing, particularly several species of birds including bald eagles!

You can stop at some of the beaches to swim if you want (and the weather permits); while it was much too cold for swimming when we were there, I was still super excited to get to touch the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

And to make the park even cooler, it has some pretty awesome ties to history as well (keep reading for more info on that!).

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My first time touching the Atlantic Ocean!! 😀

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The Shackford Head Interconnected Trail System, 2 miles round trip

“The Shackford Head and Overlook Trails (1.2-mile roundtrip) provide fantastic views of Cobscook Bay and surrounding peninsulas. If you enjoy challenging terrain with additional overlooks, continue on the Ship Point Trail (an additional half-mile loop) and return to the parking lot via the Schooner Trail for a total of roughly 2 miles.” (Maine Trail Finder website)

So basically, in just two miles you can hike all of the trails in the park. Win!

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Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Be careful when exploring the beaches – tides fluctuate at more than 20′ and move in quickly.
  • During the spring and summer, keep an eye out for ticks, which carry Lyme disease. Check yourself for bites after your visit.
  • Swimming is permitted at all the beaches, but isn’t recommended at Cony Beach due to being the site of Civil War ship demolition (more info on that coming).
  • This park is not staffed by rangers, so take extra caution while hiking and exploring as there is no help nearby.
  • And definitely be cautious on high bluffs and cliffs. There are a lot of slick surfaces in this park.

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Boardwalks!

For a list of all the trails in Shackford Head State Park, visit the Maine Trail Finder website!


The thing that really sets Shackford Head apart from other state parks though is its ties to the Civil War (ah, the post title finally makes sense hehe).  In the early 1900s, five Civil War battleships were burned here at Cony Beach to salvage any usable brass and iron.

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We had to cross the barrier of squishy old seaweed swarmed by gnats in order to reach the alleged Civil War battleship remains. That is determination, y’all.

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Sea critters!

We had heard that some of the remains of the ships were still left on the beach, so naturally we had to investigate…

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We definitely found some interesting structures, but were they part of the old Civil War ships? I don’t know. It seems odd that any left over pieces would survive over 100 years of tides, weather, and visitors, but you never know…they did look an awful lot like ship pieces…

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But old Civil War ship remains or not, they were still fascinating to look at and formed some cool tide pools, whatever they might be.

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And Cony Beach itself is beautiful and worth seeing even if it may or may not contain a piece of Civil War history. East coast beaches are so different from the beaches back home in LA. And I love them.

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Even if those weird structures on the beach aren’t pieces of old battleships, Shackford Head still has Civil War historical sights to check out.

In the large grassy area across from the parking lot, there is a memorial for all the ships that were burned here at Cony Beach, as well as informational plaques with photographs:

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I mean, based on the photos, the things on the beach very well COULD be pieces of the ships. I like to think that they are. It’s amazing to think of all the things these battleships have seen and experienced over their nearly 200 year old existence, from the day they were built, through the Civil War, to their final resting place on a beach in Maine. A lot can happen in 200 years.

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Location: Off Route 190 in Eastport, close to downtown Eastport, ME. Turn onto Deep Cove Road, and travel 0.8 miles to the entrance of Shackford Head State Park (a gravel drive on your left just before the campus of the Maine State Marine Technology School).

Hours / Season: Open all year; 9:00 a.m. to sunset daily unless otherwise posted at the gate.

Fees (per person at time of publication): Adults 12 and older $4 (non-resident), $3 (Maine residents)

Seniors 65 and older $1 (non-resident), free (Maine residents)

Children 5 – 11 $1, Children under 5 free

For more information on Shackford Head State Park, visit the official website!

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The City of Eastport:

Shackford Head is obviously really cool, what with it’s Civil War history and beautiful views of the coast and all, but it’s not the only reason to visit Eastport. Here are a few more reasons to check out this small coastal town:

  • It’s the easternmost city in the US (the actual easternmost point is in West Quoddy Head State Park, and is just a rock out in the ocean)
  • Awesomely fresh and delicious seafood
  • Old Sow Whirlpool

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First let’s talk about the seafood (priorities). After spending the early part of the afternoon exploring Shackford Head, we went into town to warm up with some clam chowder! We found a great little restaurant right on the bay, and fresh clam chowder and hot tea were the perfect remedy for this cold day. Eating seafood right where it’s caught is the best. Period.

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Now let’s talk Old Sow. Old Sow is the biggest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, and the second largest in the world.

What is a whirlpool, you might ask? Here is a brief description from the Bay of Fundy website:

“This powerful whirlpool is formed when the rising tide passes both sides of Indian Island, takes a sharp right turn around the southern tip of Deer Island to flood the Western Passage.”

Basically, the currents push the water in a way that causes it to move in a circular motion, creating a large funnel leading to the ocean floor. Old Sow has clocked speeds of up to almost 7mph, which is pretty damn fast for ocean water to be spinning in a circle.

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We tried really hard to see this whirlpool. First we tried booking a harbor cruise, but it was cancelled cause the water was too rough. So then we tried to see it from the shore. I think I might have seen it, but it wasn’t very active that day and the photos look like a whole lotta nothing. To see what it looks like on a good day, do a Google search of “Old Sow Whirlpool”…it’s pretty impressive.

How can you view Old Sow?

“Old Sow is reported to be most active about 3 hours before high tide. This activity continues for about two hours and takes the form of a collection of small gyres, troughs, spouts and holes, and on the rare occasion will form one large funnel. This area, which has been reported to be as wide as 250 feet in diameter, can best be described as turbulent water. However, during spring tides (high water tide caused by a full or new moon) combined with high winds or a tidal surge will increase Old Sow’s activity causing more intense funnels and formations.” – Bay of Fundy website

The best views are from a boat (like the harbor cruise we tried to take), or from Deer Point in the Deer Island Campground, near the ferry landing at the south end of the island.

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Add in being the easternmost city in the whole country, and you’ve got one pretty awesome place to visit. For more info about all the great things to see and do in Eastport and to look for hotels, visit the Maine tourism website!


 

 

 

Watching The Sun Rise On Cadillac Mountain

Out of all the places to watch the sunrise, what is the big deal about Cadillac Mountain?

.

.

.

It’s the first place to see the sunrise in the whole United States!

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Enjoying apple cider doughnuts to help wake me up during the long car ride to the summit.

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Cadillac Mountain (in Acadia National Park in Maine) is able to boast this title due to not only being located in the easternmost state, but by also being the tallest mountain on the whole east coast (standing at 1530 feet). And the best part? No hiking required for this summit!

The summit is reached via a 3.5-mile winding mountain road leading to a fairly large parking area. From there, a brief walk will lead to the overlook. Once at the top, visitors have excellent unobstructed views of the coast and of course, the sunrise.

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Things To Know Before You Go:

  • Be sure to check current sunrise times and weather conditions. If it’s super cloudy, maybe try for a different day when visibility is better.
  • To keep in mind: “sunrise” is defined as the point when the leading edge of the sun is first visible even though this is some minutes before the sun actually rises above the horizon. (From Physics Stack Exchange)
  • It can get crazy ridiculous crowded at the summit, so get there early. In fact it can get so crowded, the park rangers will occasionally close the entrance road and stop allowing people up in order to restrict the amount of visitors up there for the safety of the flora and fauna.
  • Plan to check out the sunrise early in your trip, just in case conditions are bad or rangers won’t let you up. That way, you’ll still have other days left to try again. It would suck saving it for your last day, only to find the rangers have closed the road.
  • It takes awhile to drive to the summit, especially if there is traffic. And finding parking can be a nightmare. Allow more time than you think you’ll need.
  • To keep in mind: The road is closed from December through April 14 and whenever weather conditions (such as dense fog or ice) require.
  • Dress warm! It is super cold up there, especially while it’s still dark.
  • Be cautious of the plant life. Cadillac Mountain has seen substantial vegetation and soil loss due to high volumes of visitors. Try to stay on rocky areas.
  • Bring snacks and a warm beverage to keep you company. You’ll be up there for awhile. Blankets are nice too.

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So When Is Sunrise?

Well, it changes every day. For current info for the day of your visit, click here!

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And now, a bunch of sunrise progression photos, taken with my Nikon Cool Pix point and shoot camera! As is always the case, the photos don’t come anywhere near close to representing how amazing this was to see in person, but at least it’ll give you idea until you can go out there and see it yourself…

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And it’s up! Quite a different landscape in the light. Hello fall foliage! Good morning!

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I totally won’t judge you if want to go back to bed after this. Being up before the sun is just TOO EARLY. Or maybe go grab a giant cup of coffee from Jordan Pond House (once it opens). Maybe a quick car nap then coffee? You deserve it…you were just one of the first people in the whole country to see the sun come up. AND you survived the crowds and chilly temperatures. Bragging and celebrating is completely justified.

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For additional info on Cadillac Mountain or Acadia National Park, visit the official park website!


 

 

 

How To Spend A Weekend in Kings Canyon National Park

So by now you have already seen all my posts about Kings Canyon, breaking down each part into pieces and offering up specific details. And if you haven’t, you should, cause they’re awesome ;-). You know which trails to do and where to camp, but how do you put it all together?

Of course there are hundreds of ways to see Kings Canyon, and tons more to do than we saw on our trip there. So go wild and create your perfect itinerary! But if you need some inspiration, here is a sample itinerary of what I believe to be the best things to do in Kings Canyon, fit into an extended weekend trip.

This is how we did it:

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Day 1:

  • Arrive in the Grant Grove section of the park just after lunch.
  • Check out the visitor center in Grant Grove to pick up maps, souvenirs, and ask the rangers any questions you may have. And definitely check out all the exhibits while you’re there.
  • Visit the General Grant Tree and walk the loop trail
  • Hike the North Grove Loop.
  • Head to wherever you are staying for the night and enjoy a relaxing evening.

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Day 2:


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Day 3:

  • Have a leisurely morning at camp – there is no need to rush today. Maybe brew some camp coffee using the GSI percolator.
  • Hike the Buena Vista Peak Trail.
  • Check out any scenic overlooks in the Grant Grove area that you haven’t seen yet.
  • Drive to Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Forest.
  • Enjoy the rest of your day hanging out at the lake! Rent boats or mountain bikes, check out some of the hiking trails, dip your feet in the water, lay out and read a book…Taking time to just relax on vacations is important too!
  • While you’re there, treat yourself to some ice cream!
  • Return to your lodgings and have a chill night around the campfire.

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Day 4:

  • This is your last morning in Kings Canyon…make an awesome breakfast and take advantage of those last few hours in the campground.
  • If you have any last things you wanted to see or do in Kings Canyon, now is the time.
  • Pack up camp and return to civilization.

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And there you have it- 4ish days of adventuring and relaxing. If you want more detailed descriptions of all the awesomeness in Kings Canyon, check out all my other posts! And if you want even more specifics, visit the official park website!

And as always, if you have any questions or want extra itinerary help, drop me a line! Info is on the Contact page.


 

 

 

Visiting the Easternmost Point of the United States

Welcome to the town of Lubec, Maine, nestled on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, and home to the easternmost point in the Unites States!

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Lubec is indeed so far north and east that it is practically in Canada. You can see Canada across the bay, and the whole time we were there our cellphones kept jumping between international and domestic roaming. So if you visit Lubec, keep an eye on your phone, cause international roaming charges are the worst.

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The town itself is rather small. You won’t see many chain places here, but you will find lots of small-town charm. We arrived late in the evening, still jet-lagged after a two-day travel fiasco trying to get to Maine from Los Angeles, and totally starving. Our first stop? Dinner at Water Street Tavern!


This is definitely the best place to go for some of the freshest seafood in the whole country! My friend Joe ordered lobster, and so the chef went out and caught one in the bay and brought it to the table still alive to show off his catch before cooking it up.

That’s pretty fresh.

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Not pictured: I ordered the most amazing lobster mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten. You just can’t beat Maine when it comes to lobster.

Also not pictured: Joe wasn’t sure how to tackle a full lobster, so our server came out to help crack it open. In doing so, lobster juices flew everywhere…but mostly landed all over our friend Jim.

Not gonna lie… that’s kinda my favorite memory from our trip to Maine hehe.

Click here to check out the Water Street Tavern and Inn!

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Full of amazing lobster and completely exhausted, we headed to our hotel, Cohill’s Inn. For lodging, there isn’t a ton of options in Lubec. But even if there had been 100 hotels, I would still tell everyone to stay at family owned and operated Cohill’s Inn. It’s small (think only 9 rooms), but the rooms are quaint and delightful, and it’s located right on the waterfront. Plus the staff is super friendly, and they have a tasty complimentary continental breakfast served in the pub downstairs.

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Since we were there at the very end of their season we didn’t really get the full Cohill’s experience, but that’s ok since we were just passing through anyways. But it looks like a lovely place to stay during the summer season! Fresh food and craft beer in the pub, warm coffee out on the deck while watching for seals and bald eagles, bike riding along the bay… you know, basically an idyllic east coast summer getaway.

To check it out or make reservations, click here!

Cohill’s is located at 7 Water Street, Lubec, ME – 04652
207-733-4300

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So why Lubec? Because it is the closest town to the easternmost point in the United States! After a quick breakfast at the inn, we headed out to go find it…

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And where is the easternmost point? Well, officially, it is a rock just off the coast of Maine called Sail Rock. But you can’t exactly swim out there and take pictures on the rock.

So for tourism and visitation purposes, the easternmost point is located at West Quoddy Head State Park.

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This is the best State Park I have ever been to, no joke. It had the most stunning views, and such vibrant colors! Here’s how we explored Quoddy Head:

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Coastal Trail, 4 miles round trip

“The Coastal Trail (4-mile roundtrip) affords more challenging terrain (and spectacular ocean views), with some steep and rocky sections. This trail passes Gulliver’s Hole (a narrow chasm formed from the erosion of a vertical fault in the volcanic gabbro rock); High Ledge (a 150-foot-high bluff); and Green Point (a large ledge outcropping where hikers can reach the beach).” (maine.gov)

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There are five trail options at West Quoddy Head, but we picked this trail because it is a combination of most of the other trails and offers the best collection of what the park has to offer. Four of the park trails connect with each other, so you can more or less combine them in any way you want to get the experience you are looking for.

Click here for a list of all the trails in the park and a trail map!

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Keep in mind though, that when the trail descriptions mention bogs, they aren’t kidding. Be prepared for a muddy and soggy hike!

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One of the coolest parts? WE SAW ACTUAL BALD EAGLES.

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Joe was leading the hike, and when he went around a bend, there were two of them just chilling in the middle of the trail! Of course they flew away immediately, so this was the best picture I got, but man, what a cool thing to see! Talk about once in a lifetime experiences.

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The bogs were actually super cool too though, featuring sub-arctic and arctic plants rarely seen south of Canada. Plus you guys know how I feel about interpretive trails on boardwalks (I think they’re totally awesome, for any of my new Wanderers :D)

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And then of course there is the lighthouse itself, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson back in 1808. The light still shines (two white flashes every 15 seconds), visible from up to 15-18 miles out to sea. The 15 red and white stripes were added to the tower in 1858 to make the station more visible in snow and fog.

The tower is closed to visitors, but there is a cool museum and giftshop inside the house.

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Here are some tips to make your visit to Quoddy Head safe and fun (obtained from the official park website):

  • The Park is often wreathed in fog that forms when warm, moist air from the mainland meets masses of cold air over the surrounding waters. Fog and sea breezes can make for chilly conditions, even in the height of summer, so bring extra layers. Be prepared for low visibility and carry a park map with you when hiking trails.
  • Exercise caution and supervise children when walking on cliffside trails or by the shore. Tides can fluctuate more than 20 feet and flow in quickly.

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Don’t forget to take a photo at the official plaque marking the easternmost point in the United States!


Location: 973 South Lubec Rd, Lubec, ME 04652 (Four miles off Route 189 in Lubec).

Contact: May 15 through October 15: (207) 733-0911
Off season: (207) 941-4014

Hours / Season: Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset daily from May 15 to October 15. Visitors may continue to enjoy the park during the off season by parking outside the gate and walking in during these same hours. Please be aware that facilities are closed during the off season.

Fees (per person at time of publication): Adults 12 and older $4 (non-resident), $3 (Maine residents)

Seniors 65 and older $1 (non-resident), free (Maine residents)

Children 5 – 11 $1, Children under 5 free

For more info, visit the official West Quoddy Head State Park website!


 

 

This Is Halloween! Hiking to Pumpkin Rock

High in the hills of Norco overlooking the Jurupa Valley and the 15-freeway lives the iconic Pumpkin Rock. This hike is a seasonal favorite for locals, and it’s the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit!

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The trailhead in George Engalls Equestrian Park

I recently went on this hike and wrote a piece on it for Weekend Sherpa, so I won’t get into too many details about it on here.

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I just wanted to share my photographs with all of you because I like how they turned out and only a few of them made it into the published story.

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This hike was super fun, and very easy. Only around 2 miles or so. And it’s really easy to get to, being only a few minutes from the freeway. But for full details and directions to the trailhead, check out my story on Weekend Sherpa!


 

 

Great Basin: Hiking Around Wheeler Peak

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Great Basin National Park can sorta be thought of in two pieces: the area surrounding Lehman Cave, and the area around Wheeler Peak.

To get to the Wheeler Peak portion you have to follow the whole scenic drive from the park entrance until it ends at the Bristlecone parking area. It takes awhile to get up there, but it is worth the effort because this is where all the best hikes in Great Basin are located.

Besides Wheeler Peak itself, here are my top picks for hikes in the Wheeler Peak and Bristlecone parking lot area:


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Sky Islands Forest Trail, 0.4 miles round trip

“This gentle, wheelchair accessible, trail winds through a high alpine conifer forest. Interpretive signs explain how this forest exists, cut off from other forests by distance, elevation, and time. Begin at the Bristlecone Parking lot at the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.” (NPS website)

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Nice and easy trail, perfect for kids and handicapped folks

No matter which national park I go to, I always do all of the short little nature trails. Because why not? They are short and easy, plus they always lead to interesting sights. Doing this trail will only add a few minutes to your day, which is totally worth it once you see all the beautiful trees and little alpine streams.

This is a great hike for those who are unable to do the full Alpine Lakes Trail.

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Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, 2.7 miles round trip

“The trail passes two beautiful alpine lakes, Stella and Teresa Lakes, with great views of Wheeler Peak. Begin at the Bristlecone Parking Area, near the Wheeler Peak Campground.” (NPS website)

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This is a very pretty hike. It crosses over beautiful alpine meadows, with the imposing Wheeler Peak looming in the background.

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STELLA!!!!!!!!!!

It is also relatively flat, making it a good hike to do to help you acclimate to the higher altitudes in the park. And it leads past two stunning lakes. Total win.

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Trying to find the trail underneath the snow drifts…much butt scooting required.

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Stick your hand or feet in the water…it is impressively cold. I mean, it is basically just melted snow still surrounded by frozen snow, keeping it chilled.

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Teresa Lake, aka literally the coldest water I have ever felt

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More snow butt scooting.


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Bristlecone and Glacier Trail, 4.6 miles round trip

“Interpretive signs in the bristlecone pine grove explain the lives and significance of these ancient trees. The Glacier Trail is the continuation of the Bristlecone Trail. It continues beyond the bristlecone pine grove to the only glacier in Nevada, nestled beneath Wheeler Peak.” (NPS website)

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This hike was super cool and a lot of fun. The trail starts at the same trailhead as the other two hikes, and then splits off towards the glacier and bristlecone pine grove. It isn’t a difficult hike, and is absolutely a must-do when in Great Basin, especially for the bristlecone pines. They are the oldest living things on the planet, and don’t grow in many places.

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To get to the bristlecone pines, follow the trail towards the glacier. After a while you will see the Bristlecone Pine Grove Interpretive Trail to your left. It is just a quick little loop, but will put you up close and personal with these ancient trees (and by ancient, we’re talking over 5000 years old). Pretty awesome.

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The Bristlecone Pine spur trail

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The hike to the glacier was a bit more of challenge. After the bristlecone grove, much of the trail was covered in snow drifts (we were there in late June, for reference). However, you could see the trail pick back up after each snow drift, so we knew we wouldn’t get lost if we wandered across the snow. Plus other people had already crossed the snow before us, so we knew it was safe as long as we followed their footsteps. Literally, haha.

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Lots and lots of snow was still covering the trail to the glacier when we were there in the end of June. Be careful if you decide to cross snow drifts!

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Seriously though, really do be careful when crossing snow drifts…you never know what is underneath them, or how deep the snow goes.

Was it worth it? Yes. Did it make for some really cool photos? Definitely yes.

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The glacier!! and backside of Wheeler Peak

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All three of these hikes start from the same trailhead, and could easily be done in one day. Normally I try to give you my pick of the best hike in the park, but it is hard to choose between these. If time permits, seriously try to do all of three of these hikes. They will give you a really good sampling of all the coolest stuff to see in Great Basin. But if you can really only do one hike, pick the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail. That trail will take you to the only glacier in Nevada, nestled at the base of (arguably) the tallest mountain in Nevada, and past the oldest living things in the world. That’s a pretty epic round-up for just 4.6 miles!

And be sure to check out those scenic overlooks as you drive back to camp or wherever your next destination may be!

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Scenic overlook

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Click here for a list of all of the hikes in Great Basin National Park.


 

 

Afternoon Tea at Jordan Pond House

If all your exploring in Acadia has left you hungry, stop in for some popovers at Jordan Pond House!

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Nestled right next to the lake, Jordan Pond House is an idyllic spot to warm up (or cool down) after adventuring around the park, or perhaps grab a romantic dinner.

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It has been serving its famous popovers to guests since the 1890s, making it a historic site of interest within the park.

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But foodies shall rejoice as well, because the food here is INCREDIBLE. The menu is full of mouth-watering locally sourced and seasonal food options, such as fresh Maine seafood and Maine blueberries. Yum!! Click here to view their whole menu.

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The famous popovers

The delicious popovers are served with Maine strawberry jam and butter. They may look huge, but these things are light, airy, and mostly hollow inside. And insanely addicting.

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This place gets very busy and the wait times can be horrendous, so you should definitely try to make a reservation. Click here to book online, or call (207)276-3316.

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If you are unable to get a reservation or decided to go spontaneously, the shortest waits for tables are before 11:30am or after 4pm.

Jordan Pond House is only open seasonally though, so be sure to check the website for current operating hours before you go.

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The Lobster & Crab Cakes, made with blistered corn and an oven-dried tomato and white bean salad, served with a lemon chive sauce. Totally amaze-balls.

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Pastries the size of my head… yes please!

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Lobster Stew made with fresh Beal’s lobster, butter, sherry, and cream. Just OMG. I could eat this everyday.

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An amazing meal served in a perfectly beautiful atmosphere… life doesn’t get much better than this!

P.S. the blueberry iced tea was delicious and refreshing. Trying foods and drinks made with blueberries is a must when in Maine!

LOBSTER + BLUEBERRIES = The taste of Maine.

For more information and to check operating hours, click here!


 

 

Kings Canyon: Hiking in Cedar Grove

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In case this is my first Kings Canyon post you’re reading, I should start by saying that Kings Canyon is divided into two halves, Cedar Grove and Grant Grove, with a long scenic drive through Sequoia National Forest connecting them.

Cedar Grove is the much bigger half, but it’s also less developed and less accessible. But you have to go in order to have the complete Kings Canyon experience. Each half contains very different features of the park, and it is the combination of both that makes Kings Canyon such a unique park. Grant Grove is full of the enormous sequoias, and Cedar Grove has waterfalls, granite canyons, and rushing rivers.

Here are my top picks for hikes in Cedar Grove:

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Roaring River Falls, <0.25 miles

“A very short, shady walk to a powerful waterfall rushing through a granite chute. 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the Village road. Paved, relatively accessible.” (NPS website)

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You can’t visit Cedar Grove without stopping at Roaring River Falls. The parking area for this “hike” is right next to the main road, and the trail is very short and easy. It’s so short, there isn’t even mileage listed for it on the park website. You can do it all in less than 10 minutes if you’re pressed for time, but you may find yourself mesmerized by the waterfall and lingering longer than that.

The waterfall itself is just ok. I mean it’s obviously cool, but nothing spectacular. The thing I found most interesting about this waterfall is how turbulent the water at the base is. It was actually a little scary. Definitely no swimming at this one!

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Zumwalt Meadow, 1.5 mile loop

“This 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail passes high granite walls, lush meadows, and the Kings River. Trailhead parking is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) east of Cedar Grove Village road. Purchase a trail guide at the visitor center. Allow 1 hour. ” (NPS website)

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This hike was a lot of fun! It’s mostly flat, and the views change drastically throughout the short 1.5 miles. Zumwalt Meadow provides a good sampling of all the things that make the Cedar Grove half of the park cool, so if you only have half a day to spend there, this is the hike you should do. And if you have more time, then you should still do this hike. It is a very peaceful stroll through breathtaking meadows, forests, and canyons. Super cool.

At one point the trail forks and you have to choose which direction to do the loop. There is no wrong choice; they both circle back to the same place. But I think the progression of sights you see is more impressive when you start on the left fork, heading across the meadow on boardwalks first.

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Mist Falls, 9 miles round trip

“This sandy trail follows the glaciated South Fork Canyon through forest and chaparral, past an impressive show of rapids and cascades, to one of the largest waterfalls in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The first part of this 8-mile round trip is relatively flat; during the last mile to the falls, the trail gains 600′. The average time for this trip is 4 to 5 hours.” (NPS website)

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This looked like a perfect spot to swim. The water was so calm and clear!

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Ok, the website says it’s 8-miles round trip, but every other map and sign in the park calls it 9. So I’m going with 9 too, cause I say it’s always better to prepare for a longer hike and be surprised if it’s shorter, than to plan for a shorter hike and be stuck out on the trail for longer than planned, for safety reasons.

Despite its length, it’s actually a pretty easy hike and it goes quickly. We finished it faster than the website estimates, and we never felt rushed and took several breaks. I wish we had started it earlier in the day though, cause there were a couple spots that would’ve been PERFECT for swimming, but we didn’t have time. So my recommendation? However long you think you’ll need to do the hike, add an extra hour and bring your swim stuff!

Also, there were more little gnats on this trail than I have ever seen in my whole life. Be prepared, and take whatever you need to repel insects- bug repellent, face shrouds… trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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All of these trails can be done easily in one day. Get an early start though! I would suggest starting with Mist Falls, do some swimming on your way back from the falls, break for lunch, do Zumwalt Meadow, do Roaring River Falls, and of course, stop at all of the scenic viewpoints along the drive! That would be my perfect day in Cedar Grove.

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For a complete list of all the hiking trails in Cedar Grove, visit the official park website.


 

 

Kings Canyon: Hiking in Grant Grove

So as I mentioned in my Scenic Drive Through Kings Canyon post, the park is split into two sections, with a big stretch of national forest dividing them. Grant Grove is the considerably smaller of the two, and also the more easily accessible and more frequented. But don’t let its smaller size fool you; some of the coolest sights in the parks can be found here, like forests full of majestic sequoias, the largest trees in the world.

Here is a list of what I consider to be the best things to see and do in Grant Grove:

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General Grant Tree Trail, 1 mile loop

“One of the world’s largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926. Visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile (.5 km) paved trail. North and west of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.” (NPS website)

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If you are looking for the most iconic or most popular sight in the park, this is it. This trail is unbelievably crowded, complete with giant tour buses and all, but the General Grant Tree itself does not disappoint. It is GIGANTIC, and beyond impressive to see. And incredibly difficult to photograph. There is no good way to capture the enormousness of these trees on camera… you just have to see it. It’s an easy loop, with lots of spur trail options to add on to your hike if you feel like doing more exploring. Despite the crowds, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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North Grove Loop, 1.5 mile loop

“This lightly traveled, 1 1/2 mile trail provides an opportunity for a close look at the big trees. Enjoy a quiet walk past meadows and creeks, through mixed conifer and sequoia forest. The trailhead is at the Grant Tree parking area.” (NPS website)

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The North Grove Loop starts in the same parking lot as the General Grant Tree Loop, so if you have an extra hour or so and want to see more trees, this is a good choice. It is much more secluded than the General Grant Loop and is a great place for a quiet walk through the forest. The views aren’t that spectacular though, so I wouldn’t go out of your way to do this one. This hike is perfect though if you have spare time and want to seek some peace and quiet. Maybe some woodland meditation or yoga?

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Buena Vista Peak, 2 miles round trip

“The 2 mile round-trip hike up this granite peak begins just south of the Kings Canyon Overlook on the Generals Highway, 6 miles southeast of Grant Grove. From the top of Buena Vista Peak, a 360-degree view looks out over the majestic sequoias in Redwood Canyon, Buck Rock Fire Tower, and beyond to a splendid panorama of the high Sierra.” (NPS website)

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Ok, this was easily the best hike in the Grant Grove area. I love hikes that pack a lot of bang for your buck, and this was definitely one of those hikes. Only 2-miles round trip, but look at those views!!! Pro tip: skip the King Canyon Overlook and just do this hike instead. The views are 100 million times better.

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And all of these hikes can be done in half a day, leaving plenty of time for other adventuring!

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For a full list of hikes in the Grant Grove area, visit the Kings Canyon official website!


 

 

Touring Lehman Cave!

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of Lehman Cave. Nor did you know there were any caves in Great Basin National Park. Or have even the slightest idea what is in Great Basin at all. It has somehow stayed under the radar, which is surprising after discovering how seriously cool this park is. It has so many distinct features that are unexpected to be found all in the same park, let alone in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.

Lehman Cave is one of these features. The only way to see the cave is by booking a tour, so here is what you need to know:

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Behind the visitor center, where the cave tour begins

Cave tour options (from the NPS website):

Lodge Room Tour

Lodge Room Tours are approximately 60 minutes long. The Lodge Room Tour travels 0.4 miles, and is ideal for families with young children. The Lodge Room Tour highlights the Gothic Palace, Music Room, and Lodge Room sections of Lehman Caves. Tours to the Lodge Room are limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.

Grand Palace Tour

Grand Palace Tours are approximately 90 minutes long. The Grand Palace Tour travels 0.6 miles, and children must be at least 5 years old to join the Grand Palace Tour (except on tours November through February). This tour visits the Gothic Palace, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, Inscription Room, and the Grand Palace sections of Lehman Caves, including a chance to view the famous “Parachute Shield” formation. Tour is limited to 20 visitors. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory.

 

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The natural entrance to the cave

All of the following photos were taken on the Grand Palace Tour. Cause in my opinion, if you’re gonna tour the cave, you may as well go all in and see as much of the cave as possible! It’s only a couple bucks more than the Lodge Room tour, and covers almost twice as much of the cave. Worth it.

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General Cave Tour Tips:

  • There are some stairs and narrow passageways, so visitors should be in somewhat decent shape.
  • It can get pretty cold (in the neighborhood of 50°) inside caves, so dress in layers!
  • The ground can also get wet and slippery, so wear shoes with tread.
  • They won’t allow you on the tour if you’re wearing clothes that you have worn inside any caves or mines at any point in time, so if you do frequent caves, wear something different this time to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome.
  • Leave all bags, food, and drinks in the car, but be sure to bring your camera!

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Cave Tour Schedule*:

Fall Tour Schedule: September 5 to October 31, 2017
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am & 1:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
11:00am & 3:00pm
Winter Tour Schedule: November 1, 2017 through March 8, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (Open to all ages during winter schedule only)
1:00pm Monday – Friday
9:00am & 1:00pm Saturdays and Sundays
There are no tours available on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years Day.Spring Tour Schedule: March 9, 2018 – May 24, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am & 1:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
11:00am & 3:00pmSummer Tour Schedule: May 25, 2018 – September 3, 2018
Grand Palace Tour (90 minutes, ages 5 & up)
9:00am | 11:00am | 1:00pm | 2:00pm | 3:00pm
Lodge Room Tour (60 minutes, all ages)
8:30am | 10:30am | 12:30pm | 2:30pm | 4:00pm

 

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According to the park website, tickets can either be purchased in person at the visitor center on the day of your tour, or in advance online. But here on The Whiskey Wanderer, I’m going to say the only way to get tickets is to make a reservation online. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I saw get turned away at the visitor center, being told that the tours were not only sold out for that day, but also for the following two weeks.

The tours WILL SELL OUT (each tour is limited to only 20 people), so if you want to be sure you get to go on a tour, plan ahead and make a reservation.

Click here to book a tour.

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Ticket Prices:

Lodge Room Tour
(60 Minutes)
Grand Palace Tour
(90 Minutes)
Adults
(16 & older)
$8.00 $10.00
Youth
(5-15 years old)
$4.00 $5.00
Infants & Toddlers Free N/A
Golden Age/Senior Pass
(cardholder only)
$4.00 $5.00
Golden Access Pass
(cardholder only)
50% off 50% off

 

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Early visitors to the cave would write their names on the ceiling in soot

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Seriously though, this is one of the must-see sights in Great Basin National Park, and for good reason. This cave is super cool, and no visit to the park is complete without seeing it. Great Basin has four features that make it a ridiculously cool park, and this is one of them (the others are coming in other posts… stay tuned!). It’s definitely worth the time and money.

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For more information on Lehman Cave and Great Basin National Park, visit the official website.