While exploring Mojave National Preserve, we made a brief stop at Kelso Dunes. We didn't do any hiking as we've done a few other more prominent dunes before (Great Sand Dunes National Park & White Sands National Monument), but we did take some photos to share.
The Rings Loop Hike is a one-mile hike located near the Hole-In-The-Wall Visitors Center and Campground in the Mojave National Preserve.
The Preserve is located in southeastern California on the border with Nevada's southern tip between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It contains 1.6 million acres of protected land and varying landscapes.
This hike is a short, popular hike for anyone that gets off the pavement enough to check out the Hole-In-The-Wall area of the park. The rings in the walls of the short slot canyon section provide the hike with its name.
After our morning hike - Rings Loop Trail - in the Hole-In-The-Wall area, we ventured out to a different area of the Mojave National Preserve.
The Preserve is huge and has so many different types of terrains and attractions. However, the number of developed trails is pretty small considering its 1.6 million acres.
One of those is the Lava Tube.
The Dripping Springs Natural Area is a popular recreational area in the recently established Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. It's located east of Las Cruces, New Mexico in the western foothills of the Organ Mountains.
In addition to the natural beauty, there are historical structures and hiking trails. The goal today was to visit all the points of interest and hike all of the trails. Mission accomplished.
The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was established in 2014 and consists of four sections in southern New Mexico near Las Cruces - the Organ Mountains, the Desert Peaks, the Portrillo Mountains, and the Doña Ana Mountains.
Today, we hiked what some call the most scenic trail in the Organ Mountains - the Pine Tree Loop.
It was our first trip to the White Sands National Monument and though it is a large park - the largest gypsum dunefield in the world - there is only one eight-mile road and there are few designated trails. We were able to drive the road and hike all the trails in this unique natural area in a day.
While traveling west, we stopped in the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama. A little research determined that there are several waterfalls in the area, so we set out to do some hiking and see if we could get some photos of some of them.
While doing some research on hikes in Alabama, I came across the Walls of Jericho, a three-mile out and back, six-mile roundtrip hike with waterfalls at the end. It was listed as one of the better day hikes in the state, and it is located on the Alabama/Tennessee border somewhat near where we would be making our next stop with the RV.
Clingmans Dome Sunrise & Hike From Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Well, 2017 to this point had been a quite unusual year for us for many reasons. We hadn't hiked nearly as much as in years past, and I needed to get out. So the plan was an early morning start to watch the sunrise from the Great Smoky Mountains highest peak, and then an 8-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Final, peaceful morning paddle as I completed my solo trip in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
It was a six-mile paddle from Mixon's Hammock up Minnie's Lake Run through one of the prettiest sections of the Okefenokee to reach the Minnie's Lake Shelter where I spent the night in the middle of the swamp.
Lot's of HUGE alligators, a nice paddle, solitude, and sleeping in the woods to the sound of nature. Just what I was looking for.
After my father passed away in late 2016, and after spending two months flying around speaking at RV shows, I needed some nature time. Our RV was parked in Linda's sister's yard in Jacksonville, Florida and Linda was helping with projects, so she suggested I do an overnight trip in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia, a place we have enjoyed in the past.
On our 2016 summer tour of upstate New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, one of my goals was to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop in the White Mountains. It was a little too strenuous and ambitious for Linda, so I went solo. The weather wasn't ideal for photos and I wasn't carrying my usual DSLR camera, opting instead for a lighter-weight point-and-shoot, but it was an amazing, challenging hike, and I hope to do it again someday as part of a longer multi-day trek.
We spent about a week and a half in the Adirondacks in New York doing some paddling and hiking. I took on three "high peak" hikes on my own, and this was the best and most rewarding of them all.