Kungsleden Trail Sweden – Part 2 – Kebnekaise Fjallstation to Salka

Female hiker with mountains in distance, Ladtjovagge, near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Leaving Kebnekaise Fjällstation under sunny skies, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Kebnekaise Fjällstation to Singi: 14km – Singi to Sälka: 12km

[This is part 2 of my hike along the northern section of the Kungsleden trail, Sweden from Sept 11 – 20, 2012.  For part 1 CLICK HERE.  For a general overview of hiking the trail in autumn, CLICK HERE ]

As morning came to ebnekaise Fjällstation and we prepared for our third day on the trail I had already seen more sun than my entire 10 day journey in 2009.  With an easy 14km to Singi hut, we lazed around for a bit, not taking to the trail until mid morning.  This goes slightly against my normal advice to take advantage of good weather when you have it.  It is never a question of if it will rain, but rather, when.  And so in tempting fate, we hiked west into the Ladtjovagge while surrounded by some of Sweden’s highest peaks which already carried a dusting of the season’s first snows.

About an hour into the day we came across a group heading our way.  “You have three options – wet, wet, or wet.”  The warning from a Swedish woman who had just passed through the particularly flooded and boggy section along the trail, which we now faced.  Another couple from their group sat on the side of the trail putting their boots back on, having given up any attempt at keeping their feet dry and preferring a barefoot crossing of the river.

So there I stood in my light trail runners, still fairly dry at that point, looking for any sort of weakness in the in 100+ meters of Swedish super bog interlaced with series of small rivers that needed fording.  The following few minutes weren’t particularly elegant:  a quick hop onto a slightly submerged rock, almost slipping into knee deep and ice cold water.  Another long step saw me onto a broken bush, the bog creeping up around my shoes with every second my foot remained.  Moving fast I found another, more secure bush with which I could use scout out my next few moves.  More steps and more cursing as the mud crept up around my feet, the first hints of moisture beginning to penetrate though.  Another small stream to hop across and then I came to the final section with no way around.  I put my trekking poles as far forward as possible and did a sort of flying leap into another clump of small bushes.  My poles flexed and sank as I used them like crutches in a desperate attempt to keep from sinking past my ankles.  Finally across I surveyed the damage: left foot somewhat wet from taking the worst of the bog, right foot muddy, but overall pretty dry.  Success.  Or at least success for my preferred use of trail runners in a country where people often hike in wells.

The next hours passed uneventfully as the valley narrowed and we hiked in the shadows of mountains and along crystal clear rivers and waterfalls, everywhere.  We passed another large group of school age kids taking a break on the side of the trail.  My thoughts immediately diverted from the scenic terrain to one of dread; that we might encounter another such a group at Singi, where they would literally take over the whole place.  While I don’t go to the Kungsleden expecting some isolated wilderness experience, I also don’t expect to share a small mountain hut with 19 (yes, I counted) teenagers.  It’s good to give kids an outdoor experience, but I feel such large groups have too much impact on their surrounds in an isolated mountain area and the small huts that shelter us.  So it came to my relief as we arrived at Singi just prior to the rain that we would have the place almost totally to ourselves, just an elderly Swedish couple across the hall in a separate room.

Morning arrived to clear skies once more, but a fresh, to put it nicely, wind was coming from the south and I knew it wouldn’t be long before some not-so-nice hiking weather would arrive.  So before 8:00 we were back on the trail, this time heading almost perfectly north, towards the Sälka hut, 12km away.  This part of the journey was now familiar with me, as Singi had been my southernmost point while on the Kungleden in 2009 when I hiked from Abisko to Singi and back to Abisko again after I learned there were no more busses running from Nikkaluokta for the season.

With the wind at our backs, I wasn’t paying much attention to the weather behind us until I stopped for some quick photos and saw a wall of snow quickly heading our way.  Having taken chances in the morning and not wearing rain gear, we we both in for a rather chilling change of clothes on the side of the trail.  Minutes after our backpacks were back on a terrible mix of snow, sleet, and icy rain hit us with a fury.

A couple more hours of hiking saw us arriving to a warm fire at Sälka.  It is here that I learned some wisdom from the hut warden: wood warms you twice.  Once while preparing it for the fire, and once while in the fire.  It was also at Sälka that I learned that I was somewhat known in this part of the world, as a nice young Australian couple at the hut had read my blog about my 2009 journey.  Cool!

I knew Sälka to be a nice place.  I knew there to be some good potential for photos in the area, but once again, like 2009, the weather chose otherwise.  This is a frustration that I, and we, as landscape photographers often face I think; that I’ve hiked several days to get to an isolated place, only to be shut down by the weather.  I made the most of the light and conditions that I could, but already put a note in my mind that I’ll have to come back once again, not that I would complain!

And so our 4th night on the Kungsleden arrived as we sat warm and dry from the heat of a glowing birch wood fire.

Female hiker leans on bridge in Ladtjovagge Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Enjoying the day, Kunglseden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking trail in Ladtjovagge with Tolpagorni - Duolbagorni mountain in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Autumn colors fill the landscape in Ladtjovagge, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Panoramic view of Ladtjovagge viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Mountain peaks surround Ladtjovagge, Kungsleden Trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Singi hut Kungsleden trail Sweden

Photo: Night arrives at Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Singi hut Kungsleden trail Sweden

Photo: Candlelight at Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail Sweden in Autumn

Photo: Autumn colors and snowy mountains; late season hiking on the Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail Sweden in Autumn

Photo: ‘Mountain sidewalk,’ Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Hiking boots rain kungsleden trail sweden

Photo: Are your feet wet? Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

River at Sälka mountain hut along Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: A river flows near Sälka Hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Small river flows south into Tjäktjavagge, near Sälka mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Photo: A river flows near Sälka Hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Kungsleden Trail Sweden – Part 1 – Berlin to Kebnekaise Fjällstation

Autumn view over STF Kebnekaise Fjallstation mountain hut, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Kebnekaise Fjällstation mountain huts in Autumn, Lapland, Sweden.  Sept. 2012

Days 1-2 Berlin – Kiruna – Nikkaluokta – Kebnekaise Fjällstation

[This is part 1 of my hike along the northern section of the Kungsleden trail, Sweden from Sept 11 – 20, 2012.  For a general overview of hiking the trail in Autumn, CLICK HERE ]

Beep, Beep, BEEEEEEPPPP! WAKE UP!!!  My imaginary mental alarm wakes to the 4:00 am darkness of Berlin.  My real alarm wasn’t too far behind; my head likes to give me a bit of a warning so I have a moment of brief calm before the day begins.  Showered (would be the last one for a week) and packed, we head out the hostel door into the mild morning air barely 12 hours after we’d arrived in Berlin the previous afternoon.  Hopping on the U-bahn, we ride with the early morning commuters, most looking like they wouldn’t have minded a few more hours in bed.  But despite our tired faces our backpacks give us away.  Just passing through…

At 7:00 am we were in the air heading north to Stockholm.  A few hours later, we were landing north of the Arctic Circle, under the grey, misty skies of Kiruna, Sweden.  Though it doesn’t really ever appear on any schedule, or at least not the two times I’ve flown to Kiruna, there seems to be a bus that appears from somewhere mysterious and takes you to the city center.  The last guy to get on the bus asked if there would be another one later that night, as his girlfriend would be arriving on another flight.  ‘Nope,’ the driver replies.  ‘Only one bus today.’  That seems to be how things work in the north, and I’m always wondering if the info I read, especially if found online, is accurate.  Does the bus actually come when the schedule says it will?  Or do they just go by their own rule.  Luckily, the bus taking us to Nikkaluokta did show up at the bus station in Kiruna and by late afternoon were were deposited at the trail head. The next 120km would be by foot.

The clouds hung low in the valley, concealing the peaks around us.  A light drizzle fell from the grey sky.  One of those rains that temps you not to put on rain gear, but then ends up getting you unexpectedly wet somehow.  After taking shelter to change into full waterproofs, we took to the trail for several hours of uneventful hiking into the fading afternoon light.  At the estimated halfway point, I found a nice flat spot amongst the autumn birches and setup camp.  I did put a little effort into trying to find someplace slightly scenic, trying to remain optimistic that I could put my camera to work at sunrise. As morning came heavy drops pelted the tent, a bit more sleep seemed the best idea.

The only thing worse than setting up a tent in the rain is taking down a tent in the rain.  And the rain was falling, and falling as the morning hours passes.  Finally tired of waiting to see if the storm would relent, we packed up camp and continued along the trail.  In my best swag (scientific wild ass guess) of an estimate, we’d reach Kebnekaise Fjällstation is about 3 hours, around noon or so.

The rain was relentless a we continued down the sloppy trail and through forests of golden birch trees.  We passed the ghostly silhouettes of hikers, hoods up and heads down, more closely resembling waterfalls than men.  My (supposedly) waterproof shoes soon began to show their submission to the weather, and my thin fleece gloves left my hands wet and cold.  We continued in silence towards the dream of warmth and of fire, of a place to dry off and relax, of an expensive bunk at Kebnekaise Fjällstation.

And then, out of nowhere, the clouds parted and a brilliant blue filled the sky!  My first thoughts where that we should have waited in the tent longer.  My next thought was that it probably would have rained for a week straight had we waited.  I think the North sometimes likes me to suffer a bit before she offers me any rewards.  As we neared the surrounds of hut, my thoughts drifted to finding a nice place to camp and maybe a few nice camping photos.  And then reality reminded me that the tent was completely soaked, sleeping bags were damp, clothes were wet, and most importantly, if I set up my tent, it would rain again.  And so I forked out the 500 SEK for a bunk bed and went even more extreme and bought myself a beer or two.  And since I was carrying a laptop for no other reason than I had no place to leave it, I even made use of some internets.  Luxury in the mountains.

Kebnekaise Fjällstation turned out to be a busy place, or at least much more so than I imagined, it being so late in the season.  And entering the guest kitchen I was presented with the dilemma I always seem to find myself in: Yummy free food to eat or the beginnings of a lighter backpack.  A mix of both would do on this night.  And so my head hit the pillow that night, full, dry and warm.  Luxury in the mountains…

1662 meter Tolpagorni - Duolbagorni rises above Ladtjovagge viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjallstation, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: 1662 meter Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni rises above Ladtjovagge viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Lapland, Sweden.  Sept. 2012


Autumn tree with summit of Tolpagorni - Duolbagorni in distance, viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjallstation, Ladtjovagge, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Autumn tree with summit of Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni in distance, viewed from near Kebnekaise Fjällstation, Ladtjovagge, Lappland, Sweden.  Sept 2012

Rannoch Moor – Scotland

Sunrise at Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Photo: Loch Ba sunrise, Rannoch Moor, Scotland.  January 2013

On a dark January morning, in one of the most photographed places in Scotland, Rannoch Moor, I was alone.  Even I hadn’t planned to be there, or at least not until the following morning.  But there I was, wet feet and all, walking around the boggy shores of Loch Ba as a hint of pink formed, then brightened, then grew on the southern horizon.  The following 10 minutes were probably the best light I’ve ever seen in all my travels of Scotland.

After a week of grey sunrises and grey sunsets I was beginning to get a little depressed.  It had been another bleak and stormy New Year’s journey to the Scotland’s Outer Hebrides; to be expected, but not what I was hoping for.  The plan for the drive home had been to spend one night on the Isle of Skye and then the final night in Glencoe before making the 8 hour drive south to Wales from there.  But as we departed the ferry in Uig, an unrelenting rain fell from above.  And when you walk into the supermarket and overhear the old women talking about how terrible the weather has been lately, it’s generally not a good sign.  So at that, I said goodbye to the islands and drove into the fading afternoon light that is January in Scotland.

Hours later the rain was still falling as we pulled into my favourite car-bivy spot on the road to Glen Etive, just next to what is perhaps the most iconic, and overshot, photo in Scotland, Buachaille Etive Mor.  Soon however, stars were to be seen, and a glimmer of hope arose.  But as the first hints of dawn began to break, they sky was back to cloud.  Although for the first time in a week, there was no wind.  And so I rose.

Sunrise at Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Photo: Loch Ba sunrise, Rannoch Moor, Scotland.  January 2013

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis in night sky behind Olstind mountain peak, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

10 Best Landscape Photos 2012

Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Night comes to Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February

-10˚ C with not even a hint of wind, the end of an absolutely perfect winter day on Lofoten.  This was the first clear night after a week on the islands, so I was waiting around the Reine area in hopes of seeing some aurora’s later that night, but first, I was presented with this scene as an extra gift.  Perhaps my favourite image of the whole year, as well as the coldest day of 2012 on Lofoten.

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis in night sky behind Olstind mountain peak, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Aurora behind Olstinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February

I had been waiting a week for the right conditions to hopefully make this photograph.  To me, the pyramidical peak of Olstinden, as is rises out of the cold waters of the Kjerkfjord, is an icon of the Lofoten Islands.  The Aurora wasn’t as big as I was hoping for, but it’s a start to an image that I hope to refine over my next journeys to the islands.  I think the clouds make it almost look like an erupting volcano.

Å I Lofoten, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Approaching storm, Å, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February

My last full day after two weeks on the islands was one of winter storms sweeping the lands.  One of those days when you watch the snow heading towards you, take shelter for 20 minutes, then rush out again between flurries to hopefully grab a few photo.  The cliffs here, past the village of Å, and looking west towards the end of Lofoten are one of my favourite winter locations on the islands.

Lofoten Islands winter, Norway

Photo: Ice flower, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February

Warm temperatures brought snow melting rain to the islands.  My hope of ‘snowy mountain landscapes’ was lost and I was left searching for other interesting elements of winter to photograph.   Here, in a small tidal bay near Eggum, a rock had created a ‘flower’ like shape as the ice receded.  Now that the snow was gone, this added an element of interest to what would otherwise have been a fairly flat and mundane scenic.

Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Olstinden winter panoramic, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  February

In the cold and the calm of this evening the surface of the fjord began to freeze over.  With the inner waters still, Olstinden reflects in near perfect symmetry.  I wish there had been a bit more interesting light to work with, but I think the subject is still strong enough for me to like this image.

Mount Whintey, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

Photo: Camping beneath mt Whitney, California.  April

I like the contrast of my yellow tent and the deep blue of the evening sky while camped at Iceberg lake on the mountaineers route to mt. Whitney.

Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August

Horseid is a brilliant, Isolated, beach on the northern coast of Lofoten.  I hiked several hours through rain and whiteouts that at first I thought I had made a mistake heading there.  But by the next morning, the rain had stopped while the dramatic skies still hung over the mountains.


Summer evening twilight, Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Summer twilight over Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August

Even in late August, Lofoten’s sky still glows at 1am as the next day quickly approaches.  I took an evening stroll up the hill behind the hostel to check for auroras but found this scene instead.  I just stood there for a while in the stillness, glad to once again be in the north.

Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Photo: Autumn on the Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden.  September

I can feel the cold in this image (as well as remember it).  The bright reds and oranges or the small scrubs in the sub-Arctic tundra of northern Sweden’s mountain, combined with snow covered peaks and grey skies are what the Kungsleden trail in Autumn is.

Offersoykammen, Vestvagoya, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Afternoon light on Offersøykammen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  October

After an unsuccessful afternoon of chasing light around the islands, I finally decided to head up the small peak of Offersøykammen and see what cards the weather would deal me.  As the sun neared the horizon, clouds began to rise around the mountain.  But before I was enveloped in a gray so thick I could hardly follow the trail back down, the mist lit up in the sunlight shining a golden light across the Autumn mountain landscape.

Time for another year to draw to a close, though truthfully, I can’t say it comes too soon.  2012 was a difficult year for me,  one of more setbacks than accomplishments.  A few dreams have fallen through the cracks or been put on the the back burners indefinitely, with little hopes of revival.  I also didn’t get out photographing nearly as much as I’d planned (as I write this now, I haven’t touched my camera in almost in 2 months.).  If it wasn’t for a few trips to Lofoten, I’d basically have nothing to show for the whole year; 8 of 10 images here being from the islands, although maybe that speaks more about the brilliance of Lofoten.  I felt I was often stuck in the paralysis of inaction, unable to make any decisions or move myself or my career forward.  Maybe I put myself under more pressure to return with something ‘good,’ and ironically, chose locations to travel to where this is less likely to happen.  Or maybe I’ve simply raised my standards to something that I can only rarely achieve; and thus that lack of apparent achievement continues the cycle ad infinitum.  Who knows.

On the positive side, I do think there are a few good images here.  Maybe even a couple that I’d say are some of my all time favourites.  Although I’m not sure if this isn’t more based on my memories than of the actual photo.

In a couple more days I head north to Scotland to bring in 2013 on a small little island at the edge of the world.  So here’s to a good start of the new year; one that hopefully I can find some focus and kick some ass in!

German Photo Gallery Update

Watzmann Berchtesgaden national park, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: Dawn comes to Watzmann, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany.  October 2012

I forgot to mention in Monday’s post that I’ve added a few more images to my German photo archive -CLICK HERE-  Other than a week in the Alps in October, I really haven’t photographed much in Germany since I left in 2009.  So I guess I was a bit overdue to add a few new images.

Evening sky over Aggenstein Allgaeu, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: Indian summer twilight at Aggenstein, Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany.  October 2012

Berchtesgaden alps germany

Photo: Afternoon light across the Alps from the summit of Schneibstain, Berchtesgaden national park, Germany.  October 2012



Islands in the Sky – Allgäu Germany

Breitenberg,  Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: Alpine foothills rise above fog, from summit of Breitenberg, Allgäu, Germany.  Oct 2012

At the end of October I found myself cruising around the Alp foothills along the German – Austrian border.  In what is somewhat typical autumn weather in Germany, a heavy layer of fog hovered over the lowlands of Bavaria.  Luckily it only rose to about 500 meters, above that it was glorious sunny weather with temps in the mid 20’s (˚ C) with hardly a cloud to be seen.  It was actually a bit too hot for me, only having somewhat warm pants that I had used for hiking in northern Sweden where I had already experienced snow storm in the middle of September.

One of the days I headed up to Breitenberg, a small peak near the village of Pfronten.  I stayed at the Ostlerhutte, which to my surprise, I ended up being the only guest which actually felt a bit awkward for me.   In the afternoon I headed up Aggenstein, the highest peak in the area. I thought about sticking around up there until sunset, but I also didn’t want to get back to the hut too late (this was before I knew I was the only person).  Breitenberg proved to be a fairly decent spot as the fog came up right to the base of the mountain.

Breitenberg, Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: A sea of clouds and islands of mountain, Breitenberg,  Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany.  Oct 2012

Mountains emerge above inversion layer fog, from summit of Breitenberg, Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: Evening light from Breitenberg,  Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany.  Oct 2012

mountain shadows on inversion layer fog, from summit of Breitenberg, Allgäu, Germany

Photo: Mountain shadows in late afternoon, Breitenberg,  Allgäu, Bavaria, Germany


Mount Dana – Yosemite National Park

Mount Dana, Yosemite national park, California

Photo: Summit of Mt. Dana, Yosemite national park, California.  July 2012

Trying to avoid being too lazy while spending a few days in the Yosemite high country, we decided to head up Mt. Dana, the 2nd highest peak in Yosemite national park.  The forecast was for mostly clear skies, but things began to cloud up as we headed up in mid afternoon.  I had initially though of staying up there for sunset, but conditions looked a bit risky.  Heading up we even had a few minutes of snow/hail as some clouds passed over.  Once back off the mountain, thunder rumbled though the sky.

For some reason I’ve never been up Mt. Dana before.  I once had plans of climbing Dana coular, but those fell though.  In reality though, I don’t spend that much time in Yosemite as I mostly stay further south in the Sierra.  There were some nice views from the top, so I’m glad I finally made it…

View over Mono lake from Mt. Dana, Yosemite, California

Photo: View over Mono lake from summit of Mt. Dana, Yosemite national park, California.  July 2012


Hiking mount dana yosemite california

Photo: Descending the loose talus slopes of Mt. Dana, Yosemite national park, California.  July 2012

Ophir Pass Colorado

Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Photo: Stormy skies over San Juan Mountains from near Ophir Pass, Colorado.  June 2012

After getting down from Mt. Sneffels we headed south, looking for a place to camp for the night.  We ended finding a nice little place on Ophir pass with some decent views only a short while away so my tired knees didn’t have to put in much effort, just letting nature do the work.

Next up: Ice Lake Basin.

Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Photo: Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.  June 2012


Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Photo: Mountain views from Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.  June 2012


Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Photo: Last light, Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.  June 2012


Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Photo: Ophir Pass, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.  June 2012

Mount Elbert – Hightest Colorado Mountain

Hiking mount elbert south ridge trail, Colorado 14ers

Photo: Heading up Mt. Elbert.  Still a couple hours away.  June 2012


Mt elbert summit, Colorado

Photo: On the 14, 433 ft summit of Mt. Elbert, the highest point in Colorado.  June 2012

After Handies Peak, we were a bit indecisive on where to head next.  We were thinking of the twin summits of Sunshine and Redcloud, just down the road from where we already were, but driving past the trailhead, the area looked like a zoo, and it still being early in the morning, the cooler running out of ice, and not wanting to sit in the back of my truck all afternoon, we hit the road.  Initially we had planned to hike Scarp ridge the next day, but the photos in the guide book proved to be somewhat more scenic that what we found, so motivation was mostly lost.  And there was a fair bit of smoke filling up the sky so the thought of carrying my camera gear all day when I knew I probably wouldn’t be taking any photos didn’t inspire me much.  So after spending the night up there, it was off to Mt. Elbert in the morning.

Being Colorado’s highest mountain at 14,433 feet, I was expecting it to be a bit more crowded, but as we pulled up to the trailhead it was mostly empty.  Another night camping in my truck and then at the crack of dawn we were headed up the mountain.  It was another day with a fair amount of smoke and haze from the wildfire’s so I didn’t take to many photos.  It was still nice to at least be the highest person in Colorado for a few minutes.  The hike down was hot and dusty. Passed a few groups of some sort of scouts with way too heavy packs and sweating away under the hot sun.  Hope they at least found some water to fill up their bottles.

Next up: a stormy day on Mt. Sneffels…

Mt elbert panoramic photo

Photo: Panoramic view from summit of Mt. Elbert, Colorado.  June 2012

San Miguel Island – Channel Islands National Park

Cuyler harbor san miguel islands channel islandsPhoto: Panoramic view of anchorage at Cuyler Harbor, San Miguel Island, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012

Last week was a double first for me: my first time on a sailboat and more importantly, my first time on the Channel Islands.  Despite looking at the islands nearly every days since I was born, it took me 31 years to finally get out there.  They where always some place that I’d wanted to go but plans never really worked out or I’d head up to the mountains instead.  Well now at least I can say I’ve had a ‘proper’ islands trip.

We left the Santa Barbara harbor on a Sunday at midnight with the compass set towards San Miguel Island and motored the 40 nautical miles by stars and moon.  My buddy Tim and I pulled the 4am to 7am shift.  Taking 20 minute turns at the wheel in the damp, cold night air we navigated by stars until Island fog crept in and then we had to use the moon as best we could to keep position.  Just before dawn, after a six and a half hour crossing, we pulled into Cuyler Harbor which would be anchorage for the day.  The fog cleared just enough for a fantastic sunrise over the Santa Barbara Channel and then I headed back below deck for a little bit more shut eye.

In the late morning we launched the dinghy and headed to shore.  We had an appointment to meet the island’s ranger up at the station and then she led our group on a 3 mile hike out to Harris point.  On the way we saw an Island fox hunting and catching something at a pretty close distance, most likely a mouse, which is a pretty rare sight.  On the way back we also came across two juvenile foxes standing right in the middle of the trail.

We were back aboard the boat by around 5pm and then set sail towards Santa Rosa Island and our nights anchorage at Becher Bay.  More on that and the rest of the trip in the next days…

Cuyler harbor dinghy landing

Photo: Heading to shore on the dinghy for a beach landing, Cuyler Harbor, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012


Cuyler harbor beach dinghy landing

Photo: Landing the dinghy on the beach, Cuyler Harbor, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012


Northern elephant seal san miguel island

Photo: Northern Elephant Seal pup, Cuyler Harbor, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012


San miguel island cuyler harbor beach

Photo: Passing seals on the beach (they where everywhere!), Cuyler Harbor, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012


San miguel island cuyler harbor beach

Photo: Looking back towards the beach as the trail begins to climb, Cuyler Harbor, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012


Harris point san miguel island

Photo: Scenic view from Harris Point at the end of the hike, Channel Islands National Park, California.  April 2012