Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo – A Canine Adventurer

A Dog Resting Atop Sharkstooth

We’ve been making the pilgrimage to the top of Shark’s Tooth Trail in south western Colorado on a semi-annual basis for as long as I can remember. The hike is a stunning one and starts about halfway up the mountain. The drive to get there is almost as much of an adventure as the hike itself. Winding up and out of Dolores, eventually we split off and leave pavement behind for well maintained gravel. After another few miles we leave the well maintained gravel behind for a 4×4 only rugged, rocky, and pothole (small crater?) filled mountain road that winds up past beaver dams, beautiful high altitude lakes, past giant scree slides and across several small streams.

The hike itself is magical. It wraps its way up the mountain side past old growth trees so large you can’t get you arms around them, past wild strawberry and raspberry plants, then over a series of small snow-melt streams with crystal clear water. The view periodically opens up offering incredible sights of the nearby mountains and creating perfect spots to pause for a breather or light snack. The path also forks past an old abandoned mine and what is left of the old miner’s log cabin. The flowers in Spring and early Summer are always in full bloom and an explosive mixture of colors. Eventually though, both the trees and the flowers give way to odd plants and hardy grasses as you pass above the tree line. From there it’s just another final push before you reach the end of the trail head and the saddle offering a view over the back side of the mountains.

That’s where this photo was shot, as we rested and hid from the wind. One of our Canine hiking companions decided to pause his explorations long enough to join us as we laid back and enjoyed the view at 11,936 feet from the top of Sharkstooth Pass.

Love this photo?  Make sure to check out previous week’s Friday Feature Photos!

Tierra del Fuego National Park

The End of the World - Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Having limited myself to two full days in Tierra del Fuego I quickly decided that the National Park was a must-visit during my second day. Admittedly, it was a difficult decision given it was the park or traveling via a day trip out to the lighthouse which would have presented the opportunity to witness elephant seals and more time spent boating the Beagle Channel. In retrospect I’m glad I made the choice I did as the weather was beautiful, the flowers in bloom, butterflies out and about, and the hike was absolutely gorgeous.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The morning of I stumbled down to the front desk, checked my watch, and was able to walk on the shuttle out to the national park.  While technically a tour, it was basically an organized bus to/from the park and cost (if memory serves) around 50 Pesos.  The park is about 11KM outside of Ushuaia which makes for a fairly short trip.  En route we paused at the entrance gate to pay the park’s admittance fee of around 50 Pesos (for international travelers) before identifying which of the four walking paths we were interested in hiking.   The bus driver strongly recommended the seaside path and eventually convinced the majority of us to opt for it.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As the bus pulled away I took in my surroundings. I was along a coastal channel, had beautiful partly cloudy skies, and quickly noticed a small dock/hut offering the ever popular and terribly gimmicky tourist passport stamp.  Seldom one to indulge, I made an exception and paid the $2 for a massive  “Fin del Mundo” or end of the world stamp complete with several stamps, dates and a large sticker.  As I went through the process, I continued to strike up a conversation with several American guys my age and a gal who they had already befriended.  Before long we’d joined up for the hike and merged into one cohesive group. In retrospect it worked out beautifully, as it might have been a somewhat lonely/long hike otherwise despite the incredible beauty.  the path was, after all, some 8km long.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As we made our way along the coast I was once again struck by the natural richness of the region.  It’s easy to forget that you’re near the southern most tip of the worlds major continents and in a region and climate which is brutally cold, barren and harsh the majority of the year.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The path was awash in life.  From a plethora of flowers in bloom, small butterflies and rich green moss the air hung with the fresh scent of perfect, clean air lightly salted and flavored by the ocean’s gentle kiss.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As the path wound along the channel it was constantly framed by a beautiful winding maze of tree branches. Fighting for sunlight and similarly growing to stand against the region’s violent storms they snake upwards, outwards and at times sideways in their pursuit of the perfect position.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As our group wound along the gently used earthen path we found ourselves pausing regularly in our stories to take in our surroundings.  The distractions varied, but usually consisted of flowers in bloom, odd branches, or old gnarled trees.  All the while we worked to combine our collective knowledge to identify what little we could manage.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

When I say that nearly everything was in bloom, I’m barely exaggerating.  Of the multitude of plant species we ran across, I’d guess that at least 10-20 species were either in bloom or bearing berries of some sort.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Throughout the first half of the walk we had an excellent view of a beautiful, snow capped mountain range across the channel.  The mountains and far half of the channel are actually in Chile and for those interested, near the end of the hike one can make their way up to/along the border.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As the path continued on and along the vegetation thinned slightly as it wound down onto and among the narrow stone and rock beaches that lined the channel.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

From there it was back in along a small stream which then wound up a steep embankment and eventually spilled us out on top of a small cliff which offered a beautiful overlook back along the way we’d hiked. The view also made it easy to see just how clear, rich and clean the water was. Crystal clear with blue hues to it, it had the look of cold near arctic water but still felt alive and awash in sealife.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The colors weren’t just limited to the flowers in bloom. Many of the trees offered their own fanciful display, mixing together different species and various parasitic vines for brightly colored combination’s.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The tidal zone served as home to a mixture of different creatures. Most prolific, however, were huge colonies of miniature horseshoe mussels and limpets. Covered in small barnacles they decorated the region’s blue green rocks in massive blanket-like clusters.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Though mostly disguised by moss and lush foliage we’d periodically stumble on evidence winter’s harsh hand. The left over skeletal remains of shattered trees, cracked trunks, and splintered branches created beautiful portals full of contrast and depth.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Where there was sunlight there was life. The above image highlights how even among a bed of dead leaves flowers flourished and small sprouts had begun to take hold.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Others harbored a more alien appearance with long finger-like blooms that looked extraterrestrial in nature. Some stood alone, others combined with large bushes to create whole walls of vibrantly colored, red spear-esque flowers.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

And then there were the odd circular parasitic/fungal growths which decorated many of the trees. Grown out of gnarled knots in the trees, these silver dollar sized orange balls had a spore-like nature to them, were squishy, and seemed more like some sort of delicious candy than wild growth. Most decorated the trees, but some had fallen to the ground. Note the deep black color of the soil in the image above.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

In some areas the balls were so common and brightly colored that they gave the illusion of some sort of odd Fae colony hiding a bustling ferry civilization from prying human eyes.

Shortly after taking the above photo we all paused at a large tree which had naked branches running out parallel to the ground.  Once there we climbed into it, and spent a good 30 minutes monkeying around.  Literally.  From hanging and posing on tree branches, to using them as swings we had a good go of it before pausing for a final “hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil” photo op.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As the path prepared to head inland for the final 1/3 of the hike we paused briefly for a snack and to rest our legs. The wind had begun to pick up and the temperature was dropping, but still generally pleasant. As we sat and played with our cameras a large hawk landed near by. Fairly tame and familiar with tourists he allowed us within 3 feet of him, all the while turning a wary eye to us. With a stout body and beautiful coloring he was a an impressive creature.

ATierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Even as we sat and relaxed I turned to the left, only to notice a small plant in bloom. Sandwiched into little more than a tiny crack in the rocks, it embodied the balance between rugged climate and the beauty of life.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

From there it was up a steep embankment and then through several thick stands of trees which were decorated by thick moss and delicate white blossoms.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The forest would break periodically for small bog-like areas. These were mossy and looked like tundra with small streams flowing through them. Most were broken periodically by the sun bleached, skeletal fingers of long dead trees.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

As we made our way across one such marsh, I was surprised to see the beige and brown grasses give way to a beautiful set of lily-esque leaves set just beneath a gorgeous old wooden walkway.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

Tired, footsore, hungry and cold we eventually reached the end of what had been a spectacular hike. While Tierra del Fuegno National Park may not be as impressive as what you’ll find in Patagonia and Southern Chile it is a fantastic introduction to the region and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. Just make sure you’ve got the time and weather to enjoy it properly!

Hiking Preikestolen The “Preacher’s Pulpit” in Norway

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

For years I’d seen photos of a stunning rock cliff face that leaned out over a massive fjord.  The sheer majesty of the formation and the presence it conveyed – even in photos – captivated me.  I knew at some point I’d have to track down where the images and videos were shot and find my way there.  The spot has been featured in base jumping videos, wingsuit videos and more than a few rugged adventure photo sets. Despite it’s relative popularity, the actual name and location of the spot was anything but easy to track down. In many ways it’s one of Norway’s worst kept secrets.  Once you know what to look for it’s easy to find – but until then it’s not something you’ll just accidentally stumble upon.

As my Norway trip started to take shape, I knew that if at all possible a stop at what I later came to learn was commonly referred to as Preikestolen or the Preacher’s Pulpit  was an absolute must.  To my surprise I learned that Preikestolen was best accessed via a mid-sized Norwegian town I’d never heard of: Stavanger.  The city is the 3rd largest in Norway and regularly hailed as the Nation’s Culture Capital due to its thriving music scene.

Eager to see Preikestolen, I based my Norway visit around a stop in Stavanger even though it meant I had to cut out my planned exploration of the Northern half of Norway and a return to the Arctic Circle.

The Fjord - Stavanger, Norway

My morning began with a hint of uncertainty.  Taking advantage of the private room and a quiet night in, I’d done my laundry in the sink/shower the night before.  As experienced travelers no doubt are well aware that means clothing hanging from every possible surface and a room that looks like it has been struck by a tornado.  According to the website, I’d be doing a Tide.no tour.  For 200 NOK the self guided tour included round trip ferry transport from Stavanger to Tau, then Bus transport from Tau to the Hotel/basecamp which is located about 3.8KM and 1,000 feet in altitude from Preikestolen. The catch?  I wasn’t entirely sure which side of the old port in Stavanger the ferry left from.  Even after doing a bit of research online I was still somewhat uncertain.  Though, luckily, I remembered wandering past what looked like a Tide ferry terminal the day before.  Using that as a base, I caught the bus and struck out for what I hoped was the 9:30 ferry.

The Fjord - Stavanger, Norway

Sometimes its better to be lucky than smart.  As it turned out, a combination of the two worked to my favor.  I arrived shortly after 8AM, slightly out of breath, found a ticket window and got directions.  The attendant informed me that tickets for “Tour 4” could be purchased on the boat and that it would be departing at 9.   After a moments hesitation and confusion over the 9AM departure time (all of their paperwork said 9:30) I forded across a nearby street, wading through the heavy flow of traffic and found a small SPAR supermarket selling a relatively cheap hotdog.

Eventually I found myself on a large car ferry. The ferry itself was nice and offered a great view from the top deck as well as fairly comfortable seating inside for those eager to escape the sun or light ocean breeze.  As it turns out, there are actually two ferries that make the Stavanger – Tau trip.  One at 8:45 and the other at 9:30.  The 9:30 aligns directly with the Tau -> Basecamp Bus, but both are equally convenient.

The Fjord - Tau, Norway

The trip to Tau was gorgeous.  The weather was perfect.  Slightly cool, crystal clear blue skies, with a slight breeze to keep you feeling refreshed and invigorated, I couldn’t help but relish every moment as our ferry (turned budget cruise ship) wound its way through several small channels cut between beautiful rock islands.  Many of which had small lighthouses or picturesque villages sandwiched into tiny coves.  From time to time I’d spot a small sailboat making its way across the fjord’s flat waters – each looking as though it was an old oil painting come to life, all set to the backdrop of large mountains turned a light blue by distance and the ocean’s haze.

Wild Jellyfish - Tau Harbor, Norway

Tau Harbor was simple.  A long cement quay for the ferry to land at, an old industrial looking structure along one side of the harbor, and a secondary sailing harbor backed by several picturesque homes hidden across the harbor behind a second, smaller breakwater.  It was anything but exciting but a great place to relax for 30 minutes.  I took the opportunity to explore the water’s edge.  The water was a rich green but also crystal clear and full of fish, seaweed and a number of Jellyfish.  In truth, just about every harbor in Norway I visited was full of Jellyfish.  Some were small, most were pancake sized and others the size of a soccer ball.  Though no doubt a pain for locals, the Jellyfish added an exciting curiosity and other-worldly beauty to the overall experience.   Note the incredible clarity of the water in the image above.  I snapped it from the small dock pictured in the previous image, right before being driven off by two full sized Swans and a mid-sized gray Swanling.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

From Tau the Bus drops you off at the basecamp (not sure of its actual name).  It sits overlooking a beautiful lake and is home to a large parking lot, hotel, cafe, bathrooms, a small treat and tourist knickknack store and of course the start of the Preikestolen Trail.  From start to Preikestolen the hike covers 3,800 Meters (just under 12,500 feet) and is about 3.8 KM each way.  From the parking lot to the top of Preikestolen there’s a 1,090 foot altitude difference which the map above showcases fairly accurately.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The path is well maintained but challenging.  In addition to steep inclines it consists of a mixture of lightly graveled paths, wooden boardwalks, natural terrain and large piled rock fields.  While the majority of the path is doable without the use of your hands there are more than a few spots where you’ll find yourself using hands to stabilize yourself as you scramble from small boulder to small boulder. Despite the path’s difficult nature there was a wide cross section of people hiking the trail.  Some old, some young.  Some thin and fit, others not so much.  The biggest deciding factor seemed to be pace and water.  When hiking the trail, make sure you take more than enough water with you and move at a pace you’re comfortable with. Don’t rush.  I had a liter as well as a 20 oz soda and was thoroughly parched by the time I finished the hike.  Having enough water, and taking your time on the treacherous footing should allow just about anyone to make the hike assuming – of course – that they’re up for a7 (almost 8) KM hike over rough terrain.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The path is what I’d call a sprinter’s path.  It sprints up large inclines quickly before leaving hikers to meander along relatively flat spaces across beautiful boggy meadows or polished granite hilltops with incredible views of lakes or fjords stretching out towards the horizon.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

As you break through the halfway point you’re forced to make one final great push.  The hill pictured above is slightly steeper (if only slightly) than some of the other areas.  You can see the moss covered, fern decorated rocks which make up the path and perhaps get a feel for what to expect during the “sprint” phases of the hike.  Mind the ankles – it can be a bit dangerous.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The reward, however, is well worth the effort.  After completing the last difficult scramble, you find yourself upon the spine of one of the hills.  You’ll also get to enjoy your first view of the Lysefjoren.  It’s spectacular. There’s really no other way to describe it.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Well, when I said final push…I didn’t truly mean final, final.  Once on the spine of the mountain, you wind your way up a far more gradual incline.  With only one or two relatively small rock scrambles, you wind through a mixture of scenery like that in the photo above and lush green forest before getting dumped out next to three small lakes in an area largely devoid of trees. The lakes double as swimming holes for those brave enough to risk the frigid Norwegian water and were home to massive schools of tadpoles.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

With the lakes to my back, I began to make my way towards what I hoped was getting close to Preikestolen.  Shortly after the lakes I was greeted by a wooden sign with two options.  One was the cliff top path, the other was the hill top path.  I opted for the cliff top path, which looked like it would wrap around the remaining crest of the mountain, instead of cutting up and over it.  A decision I’d suggest anyone making the hike consider.   The hill top path makes for a far better return trip as part of a giant loop.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Though most of the remaining path was fairly easy, there were a few challenging spots.  There’s nothing that gets the heart pumping quite like a chain link hand rail, uneven rocks and a several hundred foot drop to the left.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The weather was incredible.  Hardly a cloud in the sky, relatively survivable humidity and a gentle breeze – which while absolutely perfect was more than a little toasty.  By the time I reached the 2/3 point I’d surrendered my shirt and was relishing every step.  There’s something spectacular about a good hike in an amazing setting surrounded by crystal clean air with blue skies in every direction.  Throw in a few spectacular cliffs and a massive fjord in the background and you’ve got paradise.  As I continued along the cliff top the path cut inland briefly, turned a few corners…

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

…and then rounded a ledge and stopped me in my tracks.  The sheer cliff face fell away to my left, some 1,800 feet down to the Fjord and there ahead of me I could just make out the small dots of fellow hikers exploring and enjoying Preikestolen.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Even though my final destination was finally within eyesight and reach I still paused briefly to rest and take in the cliff I was standing immediately next to.  I knew that Preikestolen itself would be incredible, but couldn’t help but be awed by the sheer drop off I was standing next to.  So, I did what anyone with a reasonable fear of heights would do.  I sat down, swung my legs out into the breeze, tried not to whimper like a little girl, and took a photo…then paused and enjoyed the moment and view of the fjord below.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Still feeling a bit light headed from my glance over the cliff I collected myself, dusted my pants off and started towards Preikestolen.  I didn’t have to walk far before being greeted by the cliff in its full majesty.   Keep in mind that what you’re looking at in the image seems tall, but loses some of its power and scale.  From clifftop to water is about 1,900 feet.  If you figure 10 feet per story, that’s the equivalent of 190 story building.  Not half bad ehh?

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The fjord that sits at the base of Preikestolen is the Lysefjorden and is accessible from Stavanger via a variety of fjord cruises though I have to admit, after seeing it from above, I doubt that I’d be satisfied taking a ferry based tour.

As I settled in on top of the 82×82 foot flat top of Preikestolen to enjoy my lunch I couldn’t help but pinch myself. This is why I’d come to Norway.  This is what I’d dreamed of – and the best part?  It was living up to every ounce of my expectations.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Preikestolen is effectively a giant square which protrudes from the surrounding cliff.  The cool thing about this is that it also has one corner which is perfectly laid out to serve as a seat.  One very lofty, heart pounding, slightly windy seat (pictured above).   So, not to miss out on a once in a lifetime experience I gathered up my courage, overcame my fears and carefully scooted my way out to the point, then dropped a leg over either side and sat straddling the point.  Luckily, I’d befriended a Korean couple on the ferry and run into them again at the Pulpit, which left me feeling comfortable enough to trust the husband with my camera.  No small feat (or request on my part) since it required he backtrack a few hundred feet to another smaller point to take the photo.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

After spending an hour or so at the Pulpit I started my trip home.  For the return trip, I decided to take the hill top path knowing it would take me up onto the remaining portion of the mountain, which overlooks Preikestolen.  The 100 or so foot climb up above the Pulpit was well worth it as there was a series of stone cairns which decorated the top of the 2nd cliff.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

As you can see in the image above, the Pulpit’s surface area is of a decent size, but not overly large.  It was also somewhat busy, but not bad when considering how incredible the weather was and that it’s effectively a world famous landmark.  Still, I can only imagine how stunning it would be to stand out on it alone under a full moon at night.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The hike back down over the top of the hill offered a spectacular view of the Fjord/bay back towards Tao and Stavanger.  It also brought with it a bit of excitement.  As I crested the final hill and prepared to wind back down towards the lakes I was greeted by the sight pictured above – a rescue helicopter circling the lakes, and preparing to pick someone up.  A small crowd had gathered around what I can only imagine was a hiker who had slipped and broken a bone, or perhaps feinted from the heat.  Either way, the helicopter settled in next to one of the lakes in hover mode, dropped a cable, and picked up the injured individual before winding them up, and then heading back towards town.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Beyond a gently rolled ankle and feeling terribly parched the rest of my hike back down to the base camp was every bit as beautiful and delightful as the trip up had been.

The hike as a whole was spectacular and a must do for anyone visiting Norway. It was truly incredible.  If you’re thinking about doing it and have any questions (or comments) or have done it yourself please leave a comment!  I’d love to keep the memory alive with continued discussion!