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Grand Canyon hiking

Grand Canyon hiking

In January 2020, I had the amazing fortune to score a cabin with friends at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully  Hike from the Rim to the River―and Back: Wenk, Elizabeth: 9780899974910: Books

We used the excellent guide “One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Hike from the Rim to the River―and Back” by Elizabeth Wenk. Based on her tips and recommendations, we took the South Kaibab Trail down, then the Bright Angel Trail back up. I highly recommend the book because it details the trail mileposts along with giving you all the training, preparation, and other information you could possibly need. I made copies of her maps+guide to bring with us and they were spot on.

Additional Amazing Trails

Besides hiking down in the canyon itself, I also found a really good article by Annemarie Kruse from REI Adventures. We only had time for our Phantom Ranch hikes, but there are many different trails that can be even more amazing at the right seasons and times of day. She gives her expert opinion and list of trails – along with the best seasons and times to do them. I found them so good, I wanted to include them here too in case the article goes away.

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Cape Royal Viewpoint

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: 0.6 miles (round-trip) from the parking lot
Best time to do the hike: Sunrise, especially from July to September (monsoon season) for incredible cloud drama
Highlight from the trail: Sweeping views to the eastern edge of the Canyon, and out toward the rocky badlands of the Painted Desert and Navajo Nation
Best for: Beginners who want an easy win with memorable sunrise views

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Kolb Studio via the South Rim Trail

Where: South Rim
Distance: 2.5 miles one-way from the Grand Canyon visitor center (check to see if the free shuttle is operating so you can take it back to your car)
Best time to do the hike: Mid-September, when air conditioning at the visitor center offers a respite from the heat and the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit partner, typically kicks off its annual Celebration of Art. Nearby Lookout Studio (pictured) also affords views, and a gift shop, naturally
Highlight from the trail: Passing through the Trail of Time with its geology exhibits en route to the perilously perched Kolb brothers’ photography gallery built in 1905, now a hub for artists exhibiting works inspired by the Canyon
Best for: Beginners with a penchant for art and human history

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Grand Canyon Lodge via the Transept Trail

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: Four miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: September–October to walk amid changing, fiery-colored aspen groves
Highlight from the trail: Hiking directly from the popular lodge to the edge of the Canyon, alternating between dense woodlands and killer cliffside views of the Transept tributary and Bright Angel Canyon
Best for: Beginners looking to get their feet wet hiking at North Rim’s high elevation

Grand Canyon

Toroweap Overlook

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: Two miles round-trip from Tuweep Campground
Best time to do the hike: May to June, before the muddy monsoon season
Highlight from the trail: Backcountry vibes off the tourist map and the chance to stare down the edge of an abrupt gorge and a 3,000-foot sheer drop, the tallest in the Grand Canyon
Best for: Any level of hiker craving a rugged, remote option and prepared for the rough drive (a high-profile vehicle is a must)

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Ken Patrick Trail to Point Imperial

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: June for spring wildflowers
Highlight from the trail: Hiking through a wooded alpine climate to the highest overlook point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet
Best for: Intermediate hikers who prefer minimal elevation changes

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Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground

Where: South Rim
Distance: Nine miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: October to December for minimal crowds, color-changing cottonwoods, and a festive finish with holiday cocktails outside on the veranda of the historic El Tovar Hotel
Highlight from the trail: Descending into Native American history with rock pictographs en route to the turnaround point of Indian Garden campground, a lush, creek-fed oasis once farmed by the Havasupai
Best for: Intermediate hikers who want a solid introductory descent into the canyon

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South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

Where: South Rim
Distance: Six miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: November–October (though it’s good anytime but April, when high winds can overcome this exposed hike)
Highlight from the trail: A quick, switchback-laden descent opening up to a ridge and 360-degree panoramas with views to the North Rim, across the river corridor, and then, from Skeleton Point, a rewarding perch about 1,000 feet above the rarely spied Colorado River
Best for: Experts looking for jaw-dropping views of the canyon and the river below

A view of The Grand Canyon Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa

Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa

Where: South Rim
Distance: Six miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: September–October and March–May for comfortable, snow-free temperatures on a challenging hike
Highlight from the trail: One of the most remote trails from the South Rim, this rugged backcountry route doesn’t lead to Phantom Ranch or take you from rim to rim, but does offer an uncrowded option through signature Grand Canyon scenery, deep into the desert and high up to a forested mesa sprinkled with pioneer mining history
Best for: Experienced hikers with between a few hours and a half day to explore

Grand Canyon Rim Trail to Hopi Point Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Rim Trail to Hopi Point

Where: South Rim
Distance: Five miles round-trip from Bright Angel Trailhead
Best time to do the hike: June through July, when shade under the pines offers respite from a blazing summer sun
Highlight from the trail: Accessibility may be the draw, but sweeping views of the West Rim from the wide Hopi Point promontory will impress every level of hiker
Best for: Beginners and those who’d rather trade elevation for a flat, well-maintained trail

Kyoto Jidai Matsuri Festival

Kyoto Jidai Matsuri Festival

I was lucky enough to see this parade on one of my trips to Japan. I didn’t know so many of the characters had such colorful back stories and it covered such a long period of Japanese history.

Giant LED Wave

Giant LED Wave

The Gangnam-gu area in Seoul is the Korean version of Times Square and it’s the country’s first outdoor advertisement zone. Mega-size LED screen displays have been installed on the walls of large buildings which create an electronic display for 18 hours a day.

One of the best known buildings is the COEX artium, also known as the mecca of K-pop. Featuring an electronic display measuring 80 meters in width and 23 meters in height, this massive screen wraps the building and is currently showcasing the korean wave designed by District.

Virtual Tour of the Winchester Mystery House

Virtual Tour of the Winchester Mystery House

Due to the Covid-19 virus, many famous sites are closed – such as the Winchester Mystery House. But now for a limited time, you can take a video tour that is pretty much the same one an actual visitor gets when they visit.

Take the video tour here

The Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose, California – and has a much storied past. It’s mostly known for it’s sprawling, confusing, and often ghost-rumored history. There was even a recent ghost movie called Winchester.

I’ve taken a tour of the house myself, and found it to be less a den of mystery and ghosts than the somewhat sad reality of a house that was under constant re-construction by a reclusive, eccentric woman that had the very common and superstitious spiritualists beliefs of her era. Combine this with decades of self-ascribed ‘ghost hunters’ and mystics with … shall we say ‘inventive’…re-interpretations of Sara and her house, and you have something that takes a life of it’s own.

In my opinion, the architectural oddities can almost all be attributed the constant additions and renovations – as well as to her health and superstitions. I found the outside of the house much more beautiful than the often spartan and sometimes unfinished interiors. A number of rooms were simply never fully completed – some even sitting with bare plaster lathing. Shockingly, this is especially true in those rooms in the front of the house damaged during the great San Francisco earthquake. She got trapped in her room when the door was pinched shut and simply boarded up the rooms out of fear of going back in them. They sit today with broken, exposed plaster lathing.

Many oddities are very simply explained as modifications when her failing health required changes – like tearing out steep stairs and replacing them with easier stairs. For example, changing out a simple staircase to a long winding one that had 7 bends and 42 steps. This becomes easy to understand for an older woman that’s 4 feet tall and has advanced arthritis. There is an elevator, but the old technology meant it went terribly slow (a minute or more to go one floor). Today people would put in a ramp or a lift chair. Other oddities simply came about from the constant re-construction and whims of a woman that didn’t always finish projects before a new one began.

The famed ‘staircase leading to nowhere’ was often described as being built to confuse spirits. This is pure conjecture by modern ghost hunters as there is nothing in Sara’s writings or stories to suggest that was her goal. Sadly, I think like many things, you get a lot more press from shock value than actual truth.

But most of all, Sara Winchester was also a spiritualist -a fad popular with many early 1900’s era middle and upper class folks. A spiritualist convinced her to keep building her whole life – which lead to a building that was put together more like a patchwork quilt than one with any kind of plan. Today, most people would call these beliefs superstitious and the people charlatans; their tricks were much explored and discredited by people like Harry Houdini himself. With all the resources at her disposal, one wonders what good she could have done helping the living over spending those decades hiding from the ghosts. Her memory might be completely different today – much like the Gates foundation or the Carnegie libraries that were provided to untold generations.

The fact she added things on wherever and whenever was convenient explains much of the rest. Anyone that’s seen farm out buildings or software projects built this way can tell you that finding doors into walls, stairs that got cut off and go to the ceilings, or exterior windows that now find themselves turned into interior windows are common in these kinds of hap-hazard constructions. And these oddities are very much the exceptions rather than the rule. The majority of the rooms are well constructed and at least partially complete.

While the house is very empty for tourists today – with only a few rooms with furnishings surviving – when she died, it took 8 truckloads a day for 6 1/2 weeks to empty all the furniture and items from the house. Today, we might call this kind of thing ‘hording’.

While definitely a good tour and worth a visit, I think a lot of the ‘mystery’ is generated from conjecture and quacks as there is very little proof of their claims. I honestly left the house feeling quite sad for her and what good she could have done in the world. Instead of a robust life, she lived one of fear, isolation, and superstition.

What it’s like to go through a 9.0 earthquake AND tsunami

What it’s like to go through a 9.0 earthquake AND tsunami

This video footage has been making the rounds. It shows what a 9.0 earthquake is like, and then after that is done, the resulting tsunami that comes in.

Requisite warnings – nobody is injured/hurt in the footage, but knowledge that thousands died during the event and the violence of the experience mean it might not be for everyone.

Carbidschieten – A Netherlands New Year’s tradition

Carbidschieten – A Netherlands New Year’s tradition

In the Netherlands, New Year’s Eve means partying hard. And partying hard means carbidschietendetonating calcium carbide in a milk churn:

Basically, a small chunk of calcium carbide and a little bit of water is placed in a metal milk churn. The carbide decomposes into acetylene and a flame is held up to a small hole in the milk churn. The resulting explosion sends the lid of the milk churn across a field and much fun is had by all. Just be sure to wear proper ear protection. 🙂

Art Nouveau Villa Majorelle reopens

Art Nouveau Villa Majorelle reopens

I’m a big fan of the dreamy, ethereal feel of art nouveau. I saw a lot of great works in Prague (especially the grand Municipal House that miraculously survived decades of Soviet occupation) done by Alphonse Mucha and became captivated by the style.

While not one of the grandest examples, the Villa Majorelle is an iconic art nouveau building designed by architect Henri Sauvage for the furniture designer Louis Majorelle. Located in Nancy, France, it was designed around 1902. The historic monument recently underwent exterior renovation. Now the interior renovations have just been completed, and looks like they did a great job.

villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration
villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration
villa majorelle, the iconic home of art nouveau in nancy, reopens its doors after restoration