This lush forest wonderland on the Oregon coast is one example of the stunning state coastline that is well known for its temperate rainforests, burly sea cliffs, and challenging hiking trails. Packed with quad-burning ups and downs, we tackled a dog-friendly route that included portions of the Clatsop Loop Trail, which traces some of the ground taken by the Lewis and Clark expedition and a segment of the Oregon Coastal Trail.
We finished off the hike with a chilly dip at Indian Beach – a popular, car-accessible beach nestled between two rocky headlands.
Yosemite – Half Dome
The vertical granite face of Half Dome towered more than 5,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor and was an awe-inspiring natural wonder from any angle. To hike it involved a 14- to 16-mile uphill trek through subalpine forest and along exposed rock faces with only a few streams to fill a water bottle. Hikers negotiate the final 400 feet to the top using an anchored pair of parallel steel cables as handrails, by far the most dangerous portion of the hike. This section rightfully required a permit issued by the National Park Service in an effort to weed out less-experienced and often accident-prone hikers.
Unfortunately, we were denied Half Dome permits when we applied about a week before our arrival at the park, and most of the other trails would not accommodate dogs, as is the case at most national parks. A backup overnight trip that would have given us access to Half Dome fell through when we failed to find a decent kennel to board Bowie.
Nevertheless, I decided to see how far I could get on the Half Dome trail without a permit, while Samantha thankfully agreed to stay behind with the dog. It was about 90 degrees when I started hiking, and I burned through water quickly. I started at approximately 8 a.m., well past the recommended dawn start time, but figured my previous hiking experience would make up for the delay.
On July 13, after more than three hours, I reached the park station at the foot of the granite crown where two rangers were checking permits, and I promptly suffered my inevitable letdown. I was quick to collect myself, however, and enjoyed the still stunning scenery from the shoulder of the mountain.
Via points Vernal and Nevada waterfalls alone were worth the trip, with their clear water cascading hundreds of feet from Yosemite’s other lofty stone walls.
Grand Canyon – Bright Angel
The famed mule path into the Grand Canyon was well-maintained and wide enough in most places for wary hikers to avoid the stomach-wrenching stares to the canyon floor roughly a mile below the south rim. I was dead to the world after several restless nights with a severe case of poison oak; it was a miracle this hike happened at all.
Again, I set out much later than anticipated, a recurring theme in a five-week road trip where anything and everything caused delays. I was bleary-eyed and dreaming of sleep the majority of the way down, somehow managing to avoid rocks and other missteps that here would cause an untimely death.
I descended about four miles from the South Rim trailhead when the coming sunset forced me to turn around well short of Phantom Ranch, the National Park Service outpost at the canyon floor along the Colorado River. Even in the early evening, the temperature increased considerably as I descended into the canyon, like being lowered into a furnace. The trail itself was a sight to behold with countless switchbacks carved into the sheer red stone walls. Another four miles from my farthest advance, the relative comforts of Phantom Ranch offered a break from the brutal canyon sun for multiday trekkers.