Category Archives: National Park Adventures

Stories and images from my many hiking, backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, and family adventures in national parks in the U.S. and around the world.

October 19, 2017 Above the West Fork White River, Northern Loop, Mount Rainier National Park.

3-Minute Read: Completely Alone on Mount Rainier’s Northern Loop

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

By Michael Lanza

“There’s absolutely no one out here.”

I was just a few hours into a solo backpacking trip around Mount Rainier National Park’s 32.8-mile Northern Loop when that realization hit me. It was a cool, clear day in October. None of my usual hiking partners had been available to join me. So I decided to do the trip alone, something I’ve done more times than I could count and felt comfortable with. I had no idea that this time I’d face the kind of situation that solo hikers think about but can never anticipate: a threat that shrinks the margin of safety in the wilderness down to nothing. Continue reading →

October 18, 2017 South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: How’s November For Hiking in the Grand Canyon?

In Ask Me, Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment

Hi Michael:

During the second week of November, a buddy and I are considering a rim to river to rim hike in the Grand Canyon. We are planning to descend South Kaibab Trail, walk along River Trail, and ascend via Bright Angel Trail. Plan would be to start early and complete the hike in the same day. We will carry survival gear. Neither of us has been to the GC. One of us is very experienced (and in excellent physical condition), and one of us has moderate experience (in very good physical condition).

We would appreciate your comments on hiking in November—weather, trail conditions, and anything else that may assist us. We both prefer not to hike in the wet, and neither of us wants anything to do with snow! Also, if November is the wrong month to do this, we would delay until next year. Continue reading →

October 16, 2017 Rock climbing at Idaho's City of Rock National Reserve.

To My Kids: Yes, the Worst Can Happen. Be Careful Out There

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   6 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Hi Nate and Alex,

There was a tragic story in the news recently of yet another accomplished young climber who’s now dead. He actually survived an avalanche that killed his girlfriend while they were backcountry skiing in Montana, but he could not endure the avalanche of grief and pain that followed. He took his own life the next day. He was 27, his girlfriend was 23. They were both way too young. It’s unspeakably awful.

This story will probably fly off your radar soon, I know. But I can’t avoid thinking about that terrible double tragedy. For me, it’s a stark reminder of the inherent danger in many outdoor activities I’ve done with you two since you were little—a danger only magnified if we let all that’s fun and rewarding about what we do blind us to the darker reality. A story like this one throws a harsh light on a contradiction I’ve grappled with since you both could walk: The very experiences I know are helping shape you into wonderful young adults also pose a real risk to you. Continue reading →

October 15, 2017 On the summit of Mount Luxmore, Kepler Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Best, Uncomplicated Hut Trek: The Kepler Track

In Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The forecast for New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park looks particularly grim, even for this chronically wet region that receives more than 30 feet of rainfall annually—or about 10 times as much rain as Seattle. A “Southwesterly,” a fierce and not uncommon type of storm that blows in from the Southern Ocean off Antarctica and can offload several inches of rain, will slam into Fiordland’s mountains and fjords over the next couple of days. With that kind of forecast, locals just hunker down indoors and wait it out what they refer to as a “weetha bum” (Kiwi for “weather bomb”). My friend, Jeff, and I, however, are going hiking. Continue reading →

October 10, 2017 Day two in The Narrows, Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows

In Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The sound of rushing water increased in volume as we walked downstream in the calf-deep North Fork of the Virgin River, where walls press in close and reach toward the clouds in The Narrows of Zion National Park. Turning a bend in the canyon, we came upon one of the most incongruous sights in the desert: a waterfall pouring from cracks in the canyon’s sandstone wall. Known as Big Spring, this oasis of cascading water and greenery clinging to a redrock cliff is just one of the many wonders awaiting backpackers in Zion’s Narrows. Continue reading →

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Grand Canyon Hiker