Trip Report: Hawaii Big Island

Waipio Valley, note the waterfall on the cliff!

Views like this one of the Waipio Valley confirm Hawaii’s status as a world renowned tropical paradise

The Big Island of Hawaii is a land of contrasts. You can spend the morning hiking some of the lushest rain forests you’ll ever see and walk dry lava fields with miles stark black rock after lunch. You can explore lava tubes below ground and sip hot chocolate to stay warm while stargazing on a mountain top.

I recently spent a week exploring the Big Island and field testing some Merrell gear, and was amazed at the diversity of terrain and climates I found on this spectacular island in the middle of the Pacific.

MODERN HIKER JEEP

Some of my favorite trail guides can be found on ModernHiker.com, including the Kilauea Iki trail.

With views of an active volcano, stunning rock formations, thick jungle and great hiking trails, Volcano National Park was a great way to start our trip. We especially liked hiking across a crater on the Kilauea Iki trail, using the printed trail guide we were able to study and marvel at the ground below, which simply didn’t exist sixty years ago – it was liquid lava!

Rainbow over the Kilauea Iki crater

Rainbow over the Kilauea Iki crater

Exploring the crater floor, KW

Exploring the crater floor with our Merrell hats and my Highgate reversible shirt.

The ground is covered in rocks hinting at a violent and fiery past.

The ground is covered in rocks hinting at a violent and fiery past.

Near Kilauea Iki is the Thurston Lava Tube, an underground tunnel created by lava that you can explore.

Near Kilauea Iki is the Thurston Lava Tube, an underground tunnel created by lava that you can explore.

Exploring the rain forest at Volcano National Park

Exploring the rain forest at Volcano National Park

You can’t go to Hawaii without seeing a waterfall, and ‘Akaka Falls sprays a mist of fresh water among the green jungle.

Kristen watching the water fall at

Kristen watching the water fall at ‘Akaka Falls state park

Taking a break from the adventure, an afternoon of relaxing at the beach is highly advised.

Not a bad place to read a book

Not a bad place to read a book

Watching the waves and blocking sun rays with my Capra Hat and Merrill buff.

Watching the waves and blocking sun rays with my Capra Hat and Merrill buff at Hapuna Beach.

The Big Island is home to a Big Mountain, Mauna Kea. Do to it’s distance from any light pollution and clear skys, the summit houses some of the worlds most advanced astronomical equipment and researchers. We drove to the visitor’s center one night and enjoyed the sunset and the stars.

The Maunakea Visitor Station is a great place to watch the sunset and an even better place to view the stars

The Mauna Kea Visitor Station is a great place to watch the sunset and an even better place to view the stars

At 9,200' feel in elevation, the Mauna Kea Visitor Station gets cold, time to bundle up!

At 9,200′ feel in elevation, the Mauna Kea Visitor Station gets cold!

But my favorite part of the trip was being able to see an active volcano in action. From the rim of the crater we could watch the steam rise and fire glow as the earth burned and melted and morphed below.

Watching the lava glow from the deck of the Jagger Museum in Volcano National Park

Watching the lava glow from the deck of the Jagger Museum in Volcano National Park

Between the stunning beaches, world class hiking and amazing views, the Big Island of Hawaii is an amazing place to visit and a great place to field test some Merrell gear.

In this land of contrasts one thing remains consistent – this small island holds the potential for incredible outdoor adventure.

Day-Hiking Mount Whitney

On an early morning this past June some friends and I set off for an epic day-hike to the highest point in the lower 48 states – Mt. Whitney. Along the way I was able to field test some of my favorite Terramar Gear. Because Whitney tops out at about 14,500 feet we needed to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Like other mountains in the Sierra Range, Mt. Whitney is prone to cold and fast-changing weather, so being well informed and fully prepared was essential for a successful climb and it was important to have enough layers to stay warm, dry, and comfortable for the 18-hour hike.

The sun rising over the Eastern Sierra

The sun rising over the Eastern Sierra (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

At about 2:30 AM we start our hike in the dark on very little sleep but with a lot of excitement. At 22 miles long and gaining over 6,000 feet in elevation, the trip from the trailhead is no walk in the park. But I had done a lot of research and some training, and as fate would have it we did our climb on the summer solstice. In more ways than one it was the longest day of the year!

For the entirety of the climb I wore my trusty neon-green Helix Crew. As I’ve written about before this dry-wicking shirt is really comfortable. It performed well as a foundation of my layering system, along with my comfortable and flexible Terramar boxer briefs. I won’t get into too many details about the boxer-briefs but I’ll say they are breathable, stay in place and don’t cause any chafing issues.

A view of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental US. (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

A view of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental US. (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

Hours went by and the sun slowly hinted at its arrival. In the blue-gray, early-morning light we started to see the immensity of the stone walls to our left and right. The size and scale of the shear faces was incredible. It’s enough to make you stop and wonder. It’s enough to make you feel tiny.

At a few of the stream crossings, we took a break to filter the flowing water into our camelbaks. We snacked and snapped a few photos. It wasn’t long before the sun peeked over the White Mountains to the East and we’re basking in daylight. Above 10,000 feet the wind and sun can be draining, but we made sure to keep layered up, hydrated and covered in sunscreen.

Keeping warm in the quiet early-morning air (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

Keeping warm in the quiet early-morning air (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

To keep warm and to protect myself from the sun I wore my orange Microcool Long Sleeve Crew. This shirt is flexible, soft, and light. It also fits my long torso and wicks away moisture. When every ounce counts, this shirt was a great asset in keeping me dry and comfortable during the climb.

Soon after a sunrise we got our first view of the summit. Glowing amber in the early-morning light the sawtooth peak to the west looked more like a painting than a tangible goal. Seeing the top was simultaneously daunting and motivating: While it was hard to register distance and scale, I thought to myself, “It doesn’t look easy, but at least the end is in sight.”

Green grass and slow melt along the 22-mile trail (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

Green grass and slow melt along the 22-mile trail (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

Along the trail we saw spots of snow, bristlecone pines and wildflowers. We passed creeks, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls and some of the greenest grass I’ve ever seen. With a steady pace, we continued to climb at a rate of about 2 miles per hour, and before we knew it we had covered 6-miles to an area known as Trail Camp. Stopping for a break, we enjoyed the warm sunshine while leaning against boulders. We ate our breakfast at the edge of a small alpine lake with several tents pitched near-by. The bright orange and yellow nylon contrasted against the desaturated stone above the treeline. The lake is the last water source before the summit, so we filtered enough for the climb and descent back to Trail Camp, which was a good thing because I was drinking as much as I could all morning to stay hydrated and combat any potential effects of altitude. So with four liters of water in my pack for the next 10 miles, we continued on to the top.

As we gained elevation I relied on my trusty Terramar black half-zip. Rated a 2 out of 3 on Terramar’s insulation scale, this medium weight long-sleeve is clutch when the wind picks up or the temperature drops. The collar keeps your neck warm, and the zipper helps regulate heat when steep inclines raise your core temp. This is one of my favorite and most used base Layers, and I can’t recommend enough.

Keeping warm in my Terramar 1/2 Zip base layer

Keeping warm in my Terramar 1/2 Zip base layer

The last two miles to the summit offered unparalleled views in almost every direction. As we skirted along the edge of the mountain face, I was impressed by the sheer-vertical drops to our east and the millions of scattered boulders to our west. The trail became more challenging here as we navigated over large jagged stones. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped, and our lungs reminded us of the reduced of oxygen in the air. We put on the rest of our layers, hats and gloves, and slowly made progress step by step.

Twhtney orange shirt

The last 2 miles to the summit are very steep and rugged (Photo Courtesy Nick Flohr)

The summit was a joyous atmosphere. About 40 fellow hikers were relaxing, taking photos, eating lunch and enjoying conversation. Others found a quiet corner to take a nap. Under a clear blue sky we could see for miles and miles in every directions. It also happened to be Father’s Day and we saw sons with their dads, arms in arms, celebrating together. There was even a guy wearing nothing but a fanny-pack doing yo-yo tricks while a friend took video with his phone. Only in California!  

From the summit we could see for miles and miles

From the summit we could see for miles and miles

It took us about as long to get back down to the bottom as it did to reach the top. The descent was a long haul and we certainly felt the distance on our legs, knees, and feet. But just as the sun began to set we made it to the camp store minutes before they closed. A few minutes later, sitting together barefooted at picnic table full of junk food, we cheers bottles of cold beer to a mission accomplished. Despite the aches, blisters and sweat, we couldn’t help but smile as we recalled the events of the day. With the goal of climbing Whitney now checked off our list, there are two more goals I couldn’t  wait to achieve —  a nice, hot shower and a good night’s sleep.

After The Storm

My college career was book ended by two terrible events in our nation’s history. The hijackings of 9/11 took place during my first week of freshman year, killing thousands of innocent people in a senseless act of terror. Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf during my road trip home from college, causing an astonishing amount of damage and taking almost 2,000 lives.

Like many Americans I witnessed both events unfold on TV, in the paper and on the radio. I felt sympathy, confusion, anger and exasperation. As a freshman I watched the aftermath of 9/11 from a distance and wanted to help, but didn’t know how. But with Katrina, I as able to actively contribute and work first-hand in the recovery efforts. That is because as fate would have it, I started my service term with AmeriCorps*NCCC about a week after the storm made landfall. Although I only spent a few months in the gulf coast during late 2005 and early 2006, the experience, memories and lessons I learned will stay with me forever.

A snapshot of the miles of storm damage

A snapshot of the miles of storm damage

When I first arrived in the gulf that fall many places around New Orleans were without running water, trash collection, or any open businesses for weeks or months. My team 12-person team worked alongside the National Guard, FEMA and various local organizations. We stayed in temporary compounds known as tent cities, sleeping on cots in huge tents and using port-a-potties for weeks at a time.

In a flash, some lost everything

In a flash, some lost everything

It was very humbling to be surrounded by mile after mile of utter destruction. It was sobering to stand on a slab of concrete where an entire house had recently been washed away. I will never forget the respect I gained for the ocean after seeing an iron beam folded in-half against a telephone pole like a twist-tie. The debris, stench, and silence were a haunting reminder of the storm surge’s violence. Simply put, huge portions of the gulf looked like a war zone.

My team Green 5 along with Green 6 working with a home owner in the fall of 2005

My team Green 5 along with Green 6 working with a home owner in the fall of 2005

I’ll never forget the feel of the thick, humid Louisiana air or the smell of the rotting trash and vegetation. I remember the weight of the mud and seaweed I shoveled out of someone’s kitchen. Under plastic hard-hats we would clear yards, our sweat saturating our cotton tee shirts. Behind steamed-up facemasks and respirators we removed moldy drywall from bedrooms and living rooms; the floodwater stain on the walls was often over our heads. We took care to preserve anything we could salvage, from family photos and heirlooms to household goods. The residents thanked us by giving us hugs, preparing us lunch or with kind words and eyes full of tears.

“Mucking” houses in St. Bernard Parish

In the spring of 2006 my team and I worked at the “Made With Love Cafe” in St. Bernard Parish. We served thousands of free meals for returning residence and relief workers each day alongside a very eclectic collective of volunteers. Under a series of tents that more closely resembled circus big top than a kitchen, we helped prepare, cook and serve a variety of food from dawn until nightfall.

Alisha, Amanda, Matt and Jordan at the

Alisha, Amanda, Matt and Jordan at the “Dish Pit” in the ‘Made With Love Cafe’

I’ll always remember listening to jazz on WWOZ while we cleaned dishes as the sun rose over the horizon. We would scrub pots and pans in a ceramic bathtub for hours, working at the collection of makeshift sinks that comprised the “dish pit”. I remember when an afternoon thunderstorm unleashed a torrential downpour from above, with wind gusts threatening to blow down the huge dome-shaped dining tent.

Me, Chance and Jerry at the Made With Love Cafe

Me, Chance and Jerry at the Made With Love Cafe

I remember hippies yelling AmeriCorps, F&@#-YEAH!!” like the song from Team America World Police. There was drum circles, a bike collective, a herbal remedies tent and a myriad of characters like Benja, Bright Eyes, and Chance (with his trademark tricycle). It was a surreal experience and proved to be one of our most memorable projects of our service term.

The dinning tent at the 'Made With Love Cafe

The dinning tent at the ‘Made With Love Cafe”

This was before ubiquitous smartphones, so for entertainment we relied on each other, books, ipods and writing letters – yes, actual paper letters! We would take time off to goof around and let off steam. We played frisbee on the lawns near camp, drank beer at a beach bonfire and enjoyed the music and strong drinks along Bourbon Street. We would spend weekends in the French Quarter eating beignets in Jackson Square, singing along at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and dancing down the sidewalk on Frenchmen Street.

Jerry, Alisha and I biking to the French Quarter on an off day

Jerry, Alisha and I biking to the French Quarter on an off day

Despite all the destruction and pain the storm caused, Katrina opened my eyes to a lot of beauty that I’ll never forget. The sun setting over the slowly flowing Mississippi; the smiles on the faces of volunteers from all over the country; the gratefulness of those we helped. My story is similar to the thousands of other AmeriCorps members, and I feel lucky enough to work alongside them as part of these recovery efforts.

I’ve been back to the New Orleans area many times since 2005 for work, vacation and to volunteer. I can honestly say that it is one of the most interesting, diverse and invigorating places I have ever been. Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, I had never been to the Gulf before my AmeriCorps term, but that year I fell in love with the people, music and food of creole, cajun, and New Orleans culture.

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Green 5 – Lora, Becky, Jordan, Mark, Trevor, Alisha, Matt, Tara, Trish and Amanda at the Made With Love Cafe in St. Bernard Parish

You can’t always control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you react and move forward. Americans really came together in those early months after the storm and AmeriCorps mobilized to help out in many important ways. As time goes by and the Gulf moves forward I know that I will never forget the storm or it’s aftermath. August 29, 2005 It was a very dark day for America, but I take solace in knowing that no matter what challenges lay ahead, we can continue to make things better, together.

-Trevor Brightman

AmeriCorps*NCCC, Western Region Corps Member

Class XII, Green 5

More information: 

AmeriCorps*NCCCMade With Love Cafe , #Katrina10

I highly recommend reading 1 Dead In The Attic by Chris Rose for more on life after the storm.

Better yet, go visit New Orleans and chat with a local. Trust me, they’ll have something to say.

Top 5 Air Travel Insider Tips!

insider tips

1. Make sure to be in the final boarding zone and carry-on as much luggage as you can. If your over stuffed-roller bag won’t fit in a tiny overhead space, just keep shoving. Although common sense and the basic laws of physics may tempt you into giving up, it’s more than likely that a just a few more shoves will do the trick, so pay no mind to the line of people that undoubtedly is forming behind you.

2. Once seated, speak at a volume roughly double the normally socially acceptable level. This will assure you can be heard by those you’re speaking to, but also those well in-front and behind you. Many airlines have limited entertainment options these days, and your cabin mates will certainly cherish the unavoidable opportunity to hear your insightful rambles.

3. This is a really important tip – When you need to stand up, feel free to go ahead and give the chair in front of you a strong, unannounced yank. The person napping in front of you shouldn’t mind. They’ll just think, “Surprise! Free chiropractic adjustment!”

4. Only get up to use the bathroom while drink service is going on. Sure 75 percent of the time the aisles are clear, but shoot for that 25 percent sweet spot. While making your way back, go ahead and give each of the people sitting along the aisle a nudge as you pass them. We can’t have them sleeping and unalert in case of an emergency. Just think, who would be able to help if you are unable to open your 1 ounce bag of pretzels?

5. Here’s one last insider traveler secret – after you land and taxi to the terminal, make sure to unbuckle and stand up immediately when the seatbelt sign is turned off . Pay no mind to the fact that it will take five to ten minutes until your row is able to start exiting into the aisle. You’ll want to stand uncomfortably with your neck tilted at a full 90 degrees and head against the air vents. Being up high will assure that everyone around will be able to see you roll your eyes when a passenger ahead struggles to retrieve an overstuffed roller bag. “Some people,” you’ll be able to proclaim, “how can they be so rude?”😉

Randomizing the Routine

My left calf is spasming at random. My spine feels misaligned. My muscles ache and my throat, nose and voice are still raw. It’s the day morning after a surreal few days, and I wonder to myself, “is this what my body will feel like when I’m 80 years old?”

And yet these are the symptoms I bring upon myself. Many of us do. The triathletes rash, the crossfitters blister, the joggers sprained ankle. Through use and abuse we push our bodies beyond the comfort zone to prove that goals are worth achieving and challenges are more meaningful when they’re difficult. When you focus on that, then the pain, exhaustion and discomfort become secondary. This a few weeks ago my goal was to participate in the Southern California Ragnar Relay, and trust me, there was plenty of pain, exhaustion and discomfort along the way.

Van 1 at the start #socalragnar #terramartribe #thighlightreel

A photo posted by T B (@tjbrightman) on

Ragnar Relays are a series of events in which teams of 12 people run a designated route in a series of individual legs. Once the race starts, one member from each team runs to a checkpoint where the second team member is awaiting a handoff, and the running continues so forth. I participated in the 2015 Southern California race between Huntington Beach and San Diego. Much like the increasingly popular Tough Mudder and Color Runs, Ragnar Relays appeal to active people seeking a novel experience, a physical challenge and camaraderie with teammates. Our team was split into two groups of six, each occupying a rented Chevy Tahoe.

My group crammed into our SUV with runners and gear and food and supplies in stow, and darted from checkpoint to checkpoint. We each of took a turn running as a cool Friday morning warmed up into the a hot afternoon. My first leg took me down a suburban bike path and along some industrial buildings, eventually crossing through some neighborhoods and ending at a local school. Along the way I got a some cheers of encouragement from a few strangers and a few high-fives from some random kids.

After handing off the snap bracelet (which acts as a baton), I caught my breath and headed back to the SUV. From there we drove to the next exchange, where the next runner was handed the baton. It continued like this for much of the day until all six of us had finished and the other SUV of six people took over for a few hours.

During this break, time seemed to slow down. After we had cooled off and changed clothes, the day seemed pass much more slowly. We stopped at a local burger place for lunch and drove to the start of the next round at a beachfront parking lot in Oceanside. A jukebox played random music as we enjoyed some fries, a few beers and a few rounds of darts at a local bar. Then the sun went down some of us went to the beach to lay down and relax.

Laying flat on the cold sand, hearing the waves crash and trying to stay warm, we chatted and watched planes cross the sky high above. I wasn’t able to get any sleep, but it was nice to be able to take a few moments and be still, quiet, and to experience something so unusual. We talked about the importance of keeping life interesting. We agreed that it’s good to find ways to break the routine and surprise yourself every once in a while.

Flash forward a few hours later I’m running down the sidewalk of a seemingly endless hill in the middle of some residential neighborhood near Vista, CA. I’m wearing my race-mandated reflective vest, my trusty Terramar Helix Tee and equipped with a headlamp and blinking taillight. It’s probably close to midnight as I pass the houses filled with sleeping families before climbing a very challenging hill, and ending at next exchange and my team.

It’s about 2am by the time the six of us are done with our second shift, and at this point we’re all very exhausted. After we parked at the headquarters of Taylormade Golf in Carlsbad, I grab a sleeping bag in hopes of getting a few hours sleep. I was directed to the “Designated Sleeping Area” by volunteers, located in the middle of a driving range across the street. The grass is wet with dew but I find a quiet spot, take off my shoes and start to relax.

PSSSSSSSTTTT Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick! Suddenly I’m jarred awake by a sound I don’t recognise, at first I think a neighbor’s air mattress has punctured. Then somebody yells “RUN!”, something you never want to hear when you’re sleeping or in a crowd for that matter. The sprinkler system had turned on and suddenly a oscillating jet of water was drenching everything in its path. Fortunately I was able to gather my things and scramble out of range, but some other people weren’t as lucky.

After the adrenaline of being jarred awake had passed, I set up in a new location, and moments later the entire scene repeated when different sprinklers kicked-on nearby. Grumpy and dead-tired I gathered my things and walk back to the parking lot on essentially zero sleep. I spent the rest of the night sitting on a curb and in line for hot chocolate, waiting for sunrise.

At about 5am our SUV’s group begins running again, commencing our final shift. At about 7 o’clock I was handed the bracelet and I ran into the early morning light. The air was cool, but clear, and it was a perfect morning for a jog. I ran due west and ended at the beach just north of Torrey Pines.

I think there’s something inside all of us that instinctively knows when the ocean is near. Maybe it’s the salt in the air or the flatness of the horizon, but when the hills became flat and grass turned into marsh, knowing that the ocean was around the corner was a huge motivation for the final push. I totalled about 14 miles during my the three runs in 19 hours, our team completing the 182 miles over 29 hours (197th place out of 732 teams).

Next morning, as I struggled to walk straight, I’m comforted by the memory of a crazy weekend. I have some photos, a finisher’s medal and a tee shirt, and the pride that comes with accomplishing something mentally and physically challenging. I’m not a rich man but what I do have is a treasure trove of life experiences. It’s times like these that add to my vault of memories, evidence of my unyielding desire to expand the resume of my life.

It seems I’m fueled by random. I see virtue in experiences that are strange, unexpected or challenging. Because when I’m 80 years old, my body slows and it’s my time to check out, I don’t want to regret a single missed opportunity. So as much as it sucks being awoken by a sprinkler in the middle of a golf course at 3 in the morning, I realize it could be worse – I could be at home in a warm bed like every other night that week.

LA’s Backyard

Who needs a bed when you've got views like these

Established over a hundred years ago and covering over 700,000 acres, the Angeles National Forest is a massive undeveloped area on the northern edge of LA’s sprawl. The forest contains the San Gabriel Mountains, several campgrounds and hiking areas. The numerous peaks and valleys, chaparral vegetation, quiet dessert-like climate and lack of development make you feel like you’re out in the wild, despite being less than an hour drive from downtown (depending on traffic of course!).

Looking West from Chilao Campground

Looking West from Chilao Campground

It’s a sharp contrast to the strip-malls and freeways, and also to the glitz and sparkle of the LA’s beach life. If the western-facing beaches are LA’s front yard, the quiet eastern peaks of the Angeles National Forest acts as it’s backyard.

And like the backyards of our youth, the forest is great for reconnecting with nature. Recently some friends and I spent a night camping at the Manzanita Loop of the Chilao Campground. We pitched our tents on soft sand on the leeward side of some rocks, protecting us from the occasional wind. We stoked a fire and enjoyed cold beers and watched the sun slowly paint the sky as it descended far across the valley and below the distant horizon. At an elevation of 5,300′ the temperatures dropped significantly as the night progressed, but my Terramar Climasense Ecolator layers kept me warm and dry, especially the 1/4 zip fleece and full zip hoodie.

Terramar's 1/4 zip fleece with

Terramar’s 1/4 zip fleece with dual surface knitting system (high loft grid channels for enhanced breatability and effective layering for cold weather)

Terramar Full Zip hoodie with heavyweight thermoregulation comfort technology kept me warm as the temps dropped

Terramar Full Zip hoodie with heavyweight thermoregulation comfort technology kept me warm as the temps dropped

The morning day we continued up Route 2 and did some hiking along the Islip Saddle, logging some (snowy) miles on the Pacific Crest Trail and stopping for lunch at the Little Jimmy Campground.

Who needs a bed when you've got views like these

Who needs a bed when you’ve got views like these

Although I’ve only visited a few times, I highly recommend visiting the Angeles National Forest for a scenic drive, a day hike, a backpacking trip or just to get out of the city. It’s a great resource for residents of Southern California and visitors alike alike, and serves the purpose of any great backyard – a place to go and play outside.

A visit to Death Valley National Park

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Death Valley National Park, located a few hours north east of Los Angeles, is a part of the country I’ve always wanted to visit. It’s a massive national park that encompasses many natural wonders, including the lowest elevation point in North America (282 feet below sea level). It’s a place with the hottest recorded temperature (134 F), and given it’s remoteness and lack of development, it sorta feels like another planet.

I recently spent the day exploring the park and doing a few short hikes.  Because it was January, the cooler weather allowed me to test out some Terramar Sports base layers in the field.

Death Valley National Park

The valley floor is about 5,000 feet below

After driving for about 2 hours from the Las Vegas strip, I entered the park from the east on Route 190. Our first stop was Dante’s View, a viewpoint atop a series of switchbacks. Looking down at Death Valley and the surrounding mountains, it’s hard to get a sense of scale, but easy to get a sense of the park: vast, quiet, dry and still.

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Looking northwest from Dante’s View in my Climasense Ecolator 1/4 Zip

I was happy to have an extra layer at Dante’s view because the wind was blowing strong and steady, and my blue Terramar 1/4 zip worked out great. After a short hike and some photos, we continued to the valley floor, some 5,000 feet below.

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Looking north at Badwater Basin

After a brief stop at Furnace Creek ranch, we continued south to Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America and the site of vast salt-flats.

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Salt and mineral deposits in Badwater Basin

Here the wind was gone, the sun beat down, and I could only imagine the unrelenting heat that one must feel during the summer. We walked around and took photos, and my green Terramar dry-fit Helix Tee kept me cool and comfortable (and visible!).

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Wondering around and keeping cool at Badwater Basin in my Terramar Helix Tee

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Fun fact: salt flats taste salty!

A highlight of the trip was a detour along Artists Drive, a 9-mile loop through multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills.

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View along Artist’s Drive

“This is a place that hints of secrets, that tucks its beauty deep inside narrow canyons, buries its treasures beneath tones of earth, hoards its water beneath the soil. And continues to attract a never-ending stream of humans intent upon wresting those secrets from their hiding places. In the process, they venture far into dark, secluded canyons. They dig deep into the earth. They explore holes in the ground. And as some seek riches, others search for the mysterious. The unknown. The Mythical.” – John Soennichsen

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Death Valley National Park

Near the center of the park we visited Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a beautiful and picturesque collection of dunes and brush, the highest one is about a hundred feet tall.

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Dunes in central Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells

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Exploring the dunes in my Terramar Ecolator 1/4 Zip

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Our final stop was a trailhead down a long, unpaved road on the western edge of the park. Racing the sunset we started a short, flat hike up a canyon to a creek bed. The dry earth slowly became a trickle of water, then a small stream, and eventually a series of pools and small cascades. Hoping between rocks and scrambling over a few boulders, we ended our hike at a waterfall called Darwin Falls. The water was flowing, and it was a nice quiet place to sit for a few minutes before leaving the park. On our way back to the park we even saw a bat circling some water, no doubt searching for a sunset snack.

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I recommend visiting the park to anyone who cherishes the outdoors in one of it’s purist forms, however I’d recommend spending at least one night in the park because it’s so large.  For those interested in learning more about the ecology, history and inhabitants of Death Valley I highly recommend Live! From Death Valley by John Soennichsen