Category: Hikes

WALKING TOWARD LA LUZ

As many of you know, I often accept speeches in areas where I can pursue my love for hiking. For that reason, returning to Albuquerque, New Mexico was an offer to give the keynote at the Judicial Conclave that did not need to be repeated. New Mexico is an amazing state with some of the most challenging but spectacular trails in the world. I used my free day on Saturday to tackle the famed La Luz Trail that runs through both the Sandia Mountains and the Cibola National Forest & National Grasslands. This is a punishing trail that can be extended to 13 miles. It is not for the faint of heart. It is a steady and sharp climb for miles under the beating sun of New Mexico. You literally walk to toward the light on La Luz. Much like my Pino trail hike a few years ago, I was entirely spent by the end of this hike.

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Hitting The Heights At Harper’s Ferry

On Monday, I went on my traditional birthday hike and decided to tackle Loudoun Heights trail at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. I hiked around other Appalachian Trails and around Harper’s Ferry for a 16 mile trek. It was wonderful, though these old bones were rattling by the end of the day. I wanted to share some of the pictures with the blog.

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Behold The Majesty Of The Arches

I am returning today from speeches in Texas and Utah. As many on the blog know, I tried to use such travel to do some hiking. Utah is one of my favorite places on Earth. You could spend a lifetime hiking this state and only scratch the surface of the natural beauty and wonders. I have hiked all part of this state and expect to do so for many years to come. This trip was tough however because a cold front came in the day I arrived (after 70 degree weather) that dumped more snow on an already heavy snow season. With the rain and snow, most of my selected hikes (and even my backup hikes) were no longer advisable due to slippery rocks and mud. I tried to find a trail on Friday with limited success so I decide to “go big or go home” on Saturday. I decided to drive over three hours to the Moab where snow and rain would not be an issue. While once covered by a prehistoric ocean, this area receives less than 10 inches of rain a year. It proved to be an awesome experience hiking Arches National Park, one of the great gifts of this state to the world. While many of us often hike deciduous forests, these desert hikes hold tremendous beauty and Western parks offer views that can go 100 miles or more.

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THE WONDERS OF THE OLD RAG

As many on the blog know, one of my favorite hikes is the Old Rag trail the Shenandoah National Park.  Depending on your trail, it is roughly 11 miles to the parking area and is one of the most challenging hikes in the area.  Due to my travel schedule, I had hoped to see the fall foliage on Friday but the trees are not ready to their annual show.  Nevertheless, it was spectacular.  I followed my usual practice of starting at dawn as the sun was rising. (That means leaving Northern Virginia at 5 am to make it near the trailhead in Sperryville, Virginia). Continue reading “THE WONDERS OF THE OLD RAG”

Day 10: The Wonder That Is The Nā Pali Coast

IMG_8722Our tenth day in Hawaii was the most memorable with a trip up the awe-inducing Nā Pali coast of Kauai.  Parts of Nā Pali are only accessible by boat though some trails and roads reach this unique area.  You may be familiar with the coast without knowing it since the almost prehistoric look of its cliffs and valleys have been featured in films like King Kong.  It is far more inspiring in person and we signed on with the leading boat tour  outfit for the coast, Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures.  We took one of the company’s custom 65′ Star Class luxury catamarans for the tour of a lifetime.  Nā Pali is one of the true wonders of the Pacific with plentiful sea creatures and wondrous cliffs. Continue reading “Day 10: The Wonder That Is The Nā Pali Coast”

Day 8: The Wonder Of Waimea

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It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Waimea Canyon on Kauaʻi was one of the highlights of this trip.  It is a 3,000 foot park is one of the most spectacular natural settings on Earth.  We planned an entire day with a guide from Kauai Hiking Adventures. We were incredibly fortunate to have Jeffrey Courson, a Californian who came to Kanai decades ago and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the island’s planting, animals, history, and topography.  Above is my son Jack at the very end of a cliff overlooking the canyon. Continue reading “Day 8: The Wonder Of Waimea”

Rescue Me: How A Challenging Hike Turned Into An Embarrassing California Adventure

IMG_8093 (1)Below is a slightly longer version of my Hill column on my recent hike in the Cleveland National Forest outside of Santa Ana, California.  It was the beginning of the heat emergency that is still gripping the area with massive fires and dangerous conditions.  I have stayed in contact with my new friends at the Orange County Fire and Rescue and they were kind enough to send some pictures of the rescue.  I am told that their biggest problem is that people often do not want to be rescued because they are afraid to be hit with a bill for the rescue. They do not charge. They just want people out of harm’s way and safe.
I have previously criticized the charging for rescues in parks because it is  discourages people from calling for help. I also view this is one of those essential jobs for the government that is supported by the public through their taxes. Of course, I never thought I would end up being the guy dangling from a helicopter.  As I have previously written, these incredible heroes deserve our support and greater funding in doing their critical work as first responders.  These men and women are truly inspirations in how they put themselves in harm’s way for others. Where the natural instinct is to run from danger, these people run toward it to help others.  They show an unflinching and unyielding courage day in and day out.
In the meantime, I am currently on vacation with my family and we have repeatedly thought of the Orange County Fire and Rescue on this trip.  As I spend time with my family, I remember that image of Jim Slikker descending into that ravine.  I will never forget it or the debt that I owe him and the Orange County Sheriff’s Fire and Rescue team.
Here is the column:

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Day 4: From Diamond Head To Pearl Harbor

IMG_8212Day Four of our trip to Hawaii started early with a trip to the Diamond Head crater.  This was my second hike up the crater, but the first such venture for the family.  We then had a great lunch at Duke’s restaurant in Waikiki and journeyed on to Pearl Harbor. We finished the day with an evening dip back on the North Shore.  It felt wonderfully decadent.   Continue reading “Day 4: From Diamond Head To Pearl Harbor”

Day 3: The Waterfalls, Water Lilies, and Waterdrops Of Oahu

IMG_8161Our third day in Oahu was spectacular.  We started by driving to the magnificent the Waimea Valley and the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  We then walked to the nearby Waimea Beach where kids jump off a high rock into the surf.  It was a great day of hiking and just lying on the beach.

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My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest

IMG_8073As is often my practice, I used an out-of-town speech this week to experience another of our wonderful national parks.  With my keynote to the Ninth Circuit scheduled for Monday, I used Sunday to explore the rough remote areas of the Cleveland National Park. I decided to get up early an hike the San Juan and Chiquito Falls trails.  It would turn out memorable beyond all of my expectations.  With a heat wave hitting the area, the hike in the desert environment was well over 100 degrees with no shade. Despite bringing over a gallon of water in my camel back, I ran out of water on the return of the long hike and ended up with heat stroke . . . and had to be airlifted out after taking a tumble into a ravine. More of that rescue later.  All I can say is that I can never repay the Orange County rescue team of the Sheriff’s office and fire department.  While I wish I was not the subject of their work, meeting these incredibly heroic first responders was an inspiring experience. I will be writing about that experience separately.  While I am now recovering from heat stroke in my hotel, I wanted to share some of the pictures before my embarrassing failure just short of the trail head. Continue reading “My Wonderful, Inspiring, and Embarrassing Hike In the Cleveland National Forest”

Spokane In Full Fall Splendor

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I am leaving Spokane, Washington this morning after a glorious time exploring the woods of the Pacific Northwest. After coming out for a speech to judges and lawyers in this district, I was able to get in three days of hiking.  Spokane is one of those cities that is a dream for hikers. In literally just 20 minutes, you can find yourself in the hills and mountains of Washington.

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Dawn on the Billy Goat

img_5806As many of you know, I like to do dawn hikes particularly on the Billy Goat Trail outside of Washington.  I had to share this amazing turtle from this morning.  While it is hard to gauge its size, it was huge for a river turtle (almost three feet in length). Indeed, the biggest I have seen outside of the Pacific islands. It was well inland on Bear Island on the side of a boulder.

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Day 11: Hawaii

img_7135Day 11 was my hiking day in Hawaii.  In the morning, I did one of Hawaii’s famous waterfall hikes followed by a second hike to a crater.  I then climbed Diamondhead overlooking Honolulu.  I ended the long day by going swimming at Waikiki. I did not wait for changing into a swimsuit.  After the three hikes, I was dying to go into the warm green waters and dove in as soon as I made it back.  It was great to float in the surf as the sun went down over Waikiki.  After cleaning up, I then went back to Waikiki to watch the evening fireworks.  They were awesome. You can just lie on the beach and they fire off truly impressive fireworks from a small lagoon.  I loved it.  It was a great way to spend my final night on the island.

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Day 4: Saipan

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My fourth day in the Northern Mariana Islands was spent on Saipan. As a military history buff, Saipan has been a dream of mine to visit for many years.  The battle for Saipan remains one of the most important and brutal battles in U.S. history.  The island itself is a jewel of crystal blue waters and lush jungle.  Like Guam, the Saipanese are incredibly generous and warm with visitors.  While I was distressed to see a massive, gaudy casino being built for Chinese tourist (a monstrosity that dominates part of the island), the rest of the island remains wonderfully understated and tranquil.

I arrived on an early flight from Guam (which is only 40 minutes away).  I then went on a wonderful hike through the jungle with Chief Judge Ramona Villagomez Manglona, Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy and Jim Benedetto, Assistant U.S. Attorney. Behind Jim’s house in Saipan is jungle that he routinely explored with machete in hand.  Years ago he discovered the remains of a B-29 that crashed after a return from a bombing raid on Japan in World War II.  It took three weeks for Jim and his friend to cut a path into the jungle but he took us to see the wreckage in the dense jungle.  It was an amazing hike and Jim could easily find a calling in the outback should he abandon the whole legal gig.
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