Road Trip – day 18 (Ben Lomond and Willard peaks; Utah)

Back to our adventures.  I went hiking this day and Debi and Toren went to a birthday party with one of Toren’s cousins.

Having completed most of the highpoints in the region around Utah, and after quite the adventure last year, Mark, Tom, and I opted for an easier, local hike – Ben Lomond.  It was a hike I’ve always wanted to do as it is the summit above where my father grew up and where his parents lived.  We used to visit his parents regularly – at least once a month – and when I was younger (from about 6 to 16) I worked in the cherry orchard just below this summit every summer for about a month and a half.  So, I grew up around the summit and had always wanted to climb to the top.

We found a route that made the hike particularly easy. notes that there are multiple routes up the mountain.  The standard route is about 16 miles and frequented by mountain bikers and motorcycles and starts from the North Ogden Divide.  We opted, instead, for the Willard Basin trailhead, which requires you to drive to Mantua and then turn south and follow dirt roads all the way up to just below Willard Peak (which is actually the taller of the two mountains, but doesn’t look like it from a distance).  Interesting side note: it’s alleged that Ben Lomond is the basis for the mountain in the Paramount Pictures logo.  The drive took a while and really does require a four-wheel drive vehicle (or at least a vehicle with high clearance). We took Tom’s SUV.

From the Willard Basin, the hike to the summit is a relatively quick ~3 miles.  You climb from the basin to the ridge, then follow it around Willard Peak, then onto the ridge between the two peaks and up to Ben Lomond.  It took us about an hour to an hour and a half.  The summit was actually quite busy and a number of people were up there on motorcycles and mountain bikes.  But it is well worth the hike.  The views are remarkable.

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Ben Lomond from I-15 as we were headed toward Brigham City.
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The three of us at the trailhead.
Tom and I on the way up.
Tom and I on the way up.
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Tom and I with Ben Lomond in the background. And, yes, that is a balloon I challenged Tom to carry to the summit.
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The balloon made it to the top and is now a permanent fixture of the summit.
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The three of us at the summit.

And here are a couple of panoramic shots from the summit:

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looking east (click to enlarge)
looking west (click to enlarge)
looking west (click to enlarge)

Since we made good time, we decided to climb to the summit of Willard Peak as well.  It is much less trafficked; we were the only ones up there when we hiked up, and we couldn’t even find a discernible trail.  But it was a good addition to the hike.

Here’s a GPS map of our hike.

Our total hiking time was about 3 1/2 hours.  After we were done, we drove to Roy and got ourselves a Big Ben at the Burger Bar (it’s a huge burger that everyone should try at some time).  It’s only after hiking that I get to eat like that, so I took advantage of it.

After my hike, I drove back to Salt Lake to meet up with Debi and Toren.  The rest of Debi’s family was coming into town that day, so we moved from her parents’ house to her sister’s house.  She and Toren had attended a birthday party earlier in the day, and the same family (which lived a few houses down from her sister) was having a second party for family, but they invited Debi’s sister and her family (and us) to join them.  They had a bouncy-house with a water slide set up, which I ended up playing on with a bunch of random kids who decided I would be fun to get wet and hit with squishy balls.  We did that for a couple of hours then headed back to the house for a relaxing evening and bed.


daily mileage: 50; total mileage: 5,178

states visited: no new states; total state count: 22 (plus 1 district and 1 other country)

 43 total views

Road Trip – day 14 (Michigan, Illinois, and the long drive west)

We still weren’t sure exactly what we were going to do this day, but we weren’t in a huge rush.  So, when we got up, we went for a hike, climbing to the top of a sand dune called Mt. Pisgah.  The trailhead was in the campground and it made for a very nice morning hike:

Debi on the summit of Mt. Pisgah
Debi on the summit of Mt. Pisgah

From the campground, we headed south, around Lake Michigan.  As lunchtime neared, we were headed into a town called Benton Harbor. Debi looked for a restaurant on the way and found Charlie’s Piggin’ and Grinnin’.  With a name like that, you have to eat there.  So, we stopped.

Not the best picture; my camera started shorting out from the dip in the water
Not the best picture; my camera started shorting out from the dip in the water

It was good (not amazing).  We also got gelato at a place nearby, that was also good.  Perhaps even more interesting was the racial divide in the town.  We stopped for gas in Benton Harber, on the northern side of town, and almost everyone was black.  But once we crossed the river that ran through the middle of the town, almost everyone was white.  Race still matters in the US!

We continued around the lake and then crossed into Indiana and then Illinois, heading toward Algonquin, IL, where Debi’s brother and sister-in-law live with their three kids. We stopped by their house and spent the evening with them.  They were very gracious in offering to let us spend the night, but we had another idea: why not drive through the night, taking advantage of Toren sleeping?  Between Chicago and Utah we didn’t have anything else we wanted to see and figured we could just push to Utah to spend a few days there relaxing.  So, we left their house around 8:30 once their kids were asleep and started driving.  Thus began the long drive west…


daily mileage: 1,573; total mileage: 5,128

states visited: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah; total state count: 22 (plus 1 district and 1 other country)

 41 total views

ME-Mount Katahdin

Summit Date

June 14, 2013; around 12:30 pm


Ryan Cragun and Rick Eason

Trip Report

The number of people allowed to climb Mount Katahdin is restricted, so you have to get there early.  Plus, it’s a serious hike, so you’ll want all day to do it anyway.  We got up around 4:00 and left by about 4:30 so we could be on the trail by around 6:30 or 7:00 and make sure we got a permit to climb the mount.  Even by the time we arrived, the parking lot was filling up and we certainly were not the first people up the mountain.

My hiking companion had ascended Katahdin over 40 times and was intimately familiar with the various routes.  Basically, from the trailhead, everyone has to hike up the same route until you’ve gone two to three miles.  There is one trail that splits off the main trail (this is the spur to Hamlin Ridge, which we took on the descent), otherwise, the main trail continues to Chimney Pond:

Chimney Pond, where you have to choose your ascent route to the top of Katahdin (click for full size)
Chimney Pond, where you have to choose your ascent route to the top of Katahdin (click for full size)

From here, you can choose one of the several routes up the mountain, depending on what you want in your hike.  There are shorter and easier trails or longer and more adventurous ones.  Rick suggested we take the Dudley Trail, which is largely scrambling over boulders with a fairly steep ascent.  This is the trail you have to take if you want to cross the razorback from Baxter Peak to Mount Katahdin.  It was fairly rugged, but I quite enjoyed it going up the mountain (it would have been pretty tough on my bad knee going down).  Plus, I always like razorbacks, and there were only a few spots on this one that were very harrowing.  The trail is well-marked with blue blazes:

Scrambling up Dudley Trail
Scrambling up Dudley Trail

And you can get a photo like this if you dare climb this boulder jutting out of the mountain:

Enjoying the views near the top of Baxter Peak
Enjoying the views near the top of Baxter Peak

Here’s a photo on the razorback:

hiking the razorback
hiking the razorback

Once you traverse the razorback, it’s a relatively short hike to the summit:


Rick and I on the summit
Rick and I on the summit

We spent about thirty minutes on the summit, then headed out, hoping to beat any afternoon storms.  To mix things up, we took the Hamlin Ridge Trail down, which added some distance but offered different views.

Unfortunately, we didn’t beat the rain and got rained on just as we were headed off the Hamlin Ridge.  It wasn’t a lot of rain, but enough to slow us down a little.  The only other issue I had on the hike was the terrible black flies.  I must have been bitten over 50 times on my legs, arms, neck, and hands.  If it weren’t for the black flies, this would have been a perfect hike.  Even so, it was a very nice hike.  If you’re planning on hiking this, wear pants and take bug spray to keep the flies away.

Directions from Bangor to the trailhead in Baxter State Park

View Larger Map

GPS Track


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NH-Mount Washington

Summit Date

June 13, 2013; around 11:00 am


Ryan, Debi, and Toren Cragun

Trip Report

This is another mountain that I probably would have hiked if it were not for the fact that I was traveling with my wife and son.  Because I was, I opted for the easy route up the mountain – driving.  There are a variety of options for this.  There is the train, which is expensive but seems like it would be cool.  There is the toll road, which you can drive up yourself (most days), or the same company will take you up in a tour van (for about $30.00 per person).  We originally planned to go up to the summit on June 12th, but the weather was nasty and the toll road company wasn’t letting anyone drive to the top.  And since the train only runs a couple of times a day in June and we’d missed those times, we couldn’t get to the summit on the 12th. Instead, we spent the night in Gorham, NH, and hoped for a nice day on the 13th.  Turns out, it was amazingly nice – one of the nicest the guide had ever seen (the summit has some of the nastiest weather in the US).  However, it was also motorcycles only that day, so we couldn’t drive our car to the top and, instead, had to pay to be driven to the top in a tour van.  That was okay, though, we still made it.

There is actually quite a bit to see on the summit.  There are a couple of museums and a restaurant, as well as the highpoint and great views.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours on the top and visited the museums, then got back in the van and headed down.

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The three of us on the summit


Directions from Gorham, NH

 38 total views

VT-Mount Mansfield

Summit Date
June 12, 2013; around 11:00 am

Ryan Cragun

Trip Report

Had the weather been cooperating, Debi and Toren would have done this hike with me.  But with the entire mountain shrouded in clouds and wind gusts making it hard to keep your feet, I opted to go it alone.  I’m sure, on a nice day, the views from the top would be amazing, but this was not a nice day.  And since my wife and son were waiting for me, I didn’t make this a big hike.  We paid the fee to drive to the top of the mountain and parked.  I then followed the Long Trail from the parking area to the summit.  I met one other person on the trail, a highpointer as well.  The trail is well-marked with blazes on rocks.  It was quite pleasant, despite the weather.  I was completely covered in rain gear, so I wasn’t wet, and the cooler temperature kept me from sweating.  It took me about 1 hour and 15 minutes to make it to the summit and back, moving fast, without a pack or water.

Right as I reached the summit, I reached into my coat for my phone and my phone slipped out of the pocket, dropped onto the summit, and into a pool of water.  It was the only camera I had and it was completely submerged!!!  I grabbed it quickly and dried it off, then hoped it wasn’t ruined.  I hit the on switch and it turned on.  I managed to snap a couple pictures of me surrounded by clouds and being pummeled by the wind, then turned off the phone, figuring I should dry it out before I used it anymore.

After that, I cruised back to the parking area and got in my car.  I’d like to do this one again, on a nice day.

Me on the summit in the blustery wind and light, misty rain.
Me on the summit in the blustery wind and light, misty rain.

Various websites indicate there are a variety of ways up the summit.  The Long Trail was the ideal one given the weather, but would be pretty easy on a nice day.

Directions from Stowe, VT

View Larger Map

My hike from the parking area

 38 total views

MA-Mount Greylock

Summit Date

June 11, 2013; around 5:00 pm


Ryan & Toren Cragun

Trip Report

We hiked Connecticut’s highpoint earlier in the day and drove to this one in the early evening, arriving just before the gates closed.  There really isn’t much to say about this one – we drove up the very nice road and it was raining at the top.  Debi wasn’t really interested in the 2-minute walk to the tower at the top in the rain, so I grabbed Toren and we jogged to the top.  We took a couple of pictures, then headed down.  It was rainy and cloudy, so we didn’t bother to take a panorama.  It was a highpoint, but not a very scenic one.


Toren and I on the summit of Mount Greylock
Toren and I on the summit of Mount Greylock

Panorama (not mine)

Directions from Pittsfield, MA

 38 total views

CT-Mount Frissell (south slope)

Summit Date

June 11, 2013; around 12:00 pm


Ryan, Debi, & Toren Cragun

Trip Report

I originally attempted to climb to the highest point in Connecticut – Mount Frissell (south slope) – in March a few years back and the summit was snowed in.  I should have known better, but learned my lesson.  This was my first chance to attempt the summit again.  Debi was willing to give it a try and Toren would be riding on my back.  My guide book says that it is just a mile or so each way from the trailhead, which is pretty close to accurate, but this is not a particularly easy hike.  That was even more the case since I was carrying my son on my back and the trail was basically a stream since it had been raining pretty much non-stop for the previous week.

We drove in from Poughkeepsie, through Salisbury, CT (see below) and had no problems on the road in our Prius.  We arrived at the MA/CT state marker then backtracked to the spot where you can park (by a gate with a sign in a tree).

Here is where you park. The trailhead is 100-200 feet north.
Here is where you park. The trailhead is 100-200 feet north.

We geared up and then headed to the trailhead to see this:

the lower 1/5 of the trail was a stream, ankle deep in parts
the lower 1/5 of the trail was a stream, ankle deep in parts

I had nice hiking boots that are waterproof up to the laces so I was fine, but Debi’s feet were soaked almost immediately.  Even so, we pressed on, until we got to a really rocky section.  The red blazes in the trees were easy to follow until we got to the top of the rocky section when we lost them.  We searched for about 10 minutes for blazes but couldn’t see any.  For the first time in my hiking career, I got so turned around that I actually mistook one of the blazes we had already passed for the one we were supposed to follow and we ended up going back down the steep, rocky section thinking that was where we were supposed to go.  Eventually, I checked my GPS and realized we were backtracking, so we turned back around, re-ascended the rocks, then found the red blaze.  From there it was another 30 minutes or so from the highpoint.  By the time we finally made it, we were pretty tired since it was wet, muddy, and we’d hiked the worst part twice already!

Here we are at the top:

The three of us at the highest point
The three of us at the highest point

For those hiking this, make sure you know that there are blazes on rocks as well as trees (that’s what we missed).  We didn’t stay long as a storm was blowing in.  We hiked back out pretty quickly and made it back just in time for the storm to hit.

Here’s a record of our GPS on the trip (including our backtracking):


Here’s what you can see from the highpoint:

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(click for larger file)

And a video of the trailhead:

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Plenitud – Puerto Rico Trip – day 5

This was our first of two excursions during the service trip.  I voted (well, strong-armed) the students to do this excursion over some of the others – it was a trip to El Yunque National Forest.  It’s the only tropical rainforest in the United States.  We got up early and hit the road, as it was basically all the way across the island from where we were volunteering.  Most of the students signed up to go ziplining just outside of the National Forest, but I knew what I wanted to do – hike.  A couple of students and one of the staff from Plenitud opted to hike with me.  We dropped the rest of the students off at the ziplining location and headed into the rainforest.  We hiked to the highest point in El Yunque and had a good chat the whole way.

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Selfie on the top of El Yunque.

After our hike, we headed back to ziplining place and picked up the rest of the students.  They wanted to see El Yunque too, so we drove back into the rainforest and stopped by a few of the lookouts.  We also heard from one of the Plenitud staff members that there was a set of waterfalls that were off the road, so only Puerto Ricans knew about them, the Juan Diego Falls.  We had okay directions to find the Falls and eventually did.  They were pretty cool.  It’s actually a series of three waterfalls and the middle one is quite big and the pool below is rather deep, so the students all waded in.

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Our group at Juan Diego Falls in El Yunque.

After Juan Diego Falls, we headed back to San Juan for dinner at a supposedly authentic Puerto Rican restaurant, which was good.  After dinner, we headed back to Plenitud, arriving quite late, since the roads are so narrow and I was driving a veritable bus.

Here are some videos of Juan Diego Falls.  The first two are of the lower falls, which aren’t all that popular:

This next one is of the middle falls, which is where most wade into the water:

This last one is from above the middle pool.  Not many people go up here, but it is accessible:

 50 total views

hiking in Colt Creek State Park

Toren and I did a little hiking a few Sundays back at a new park.  The layout was odd and the maps they had didn’t align with the actually trails as far as I could tell, but we did get to hike around a lake (Toren made it most of the way) and actually saw an alligator drop into the lake and swim across.  Pretty cool!

Here are a couple of clips of Toren hiking.  In the first, he mentions rhinoceroses.  It was actually pretty funny what happened.  We were walking along a 1/4 mile nature trail with informational signs.  After reading one to him, Toren turned to me and said, “I be the next sign says ‘beware of rhinoceroses.'”  So, that’s what I was asking him about in this video:

Here he is hiking by the lake with the alligator in it:

He hiked the longest he has yet, about a mile, then I put him in the backpack and hiked him back to the car.  Here’s our route:

 31 total views

Alafia River Corridor hike

We tried out another new hike from the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s website: the Alafia River Corridor.  This was one of the first hikes we’ve done here in Florida where I felt like I was really out in the middle of nowhere.  From the parking lot to the wider trail by the train tracks felt like untouched Florida wilderness.  Here’s Toren doing a little hiking (he did about 1/2 a mile before he wanted in the backpack):

But once we got to the train tracks, it was clear a lot of construction had taken place in the area.  There was a gas pipeline running parallel to the train tracks and the remains of a concrete bridge on the side of the trail.

Even so, there were hills!  Yep, HILLS!  Okay, these were rather small hills, but it was elevation gain, which is absolutely unheard of in Florida.  I’m not sure if the hills are natural or were constructed.  The aerial view of the hike gives me the impression they may have been constructed.  For what, I’m not quite sure, but they are a good 30 to 40 feet higher than the surrounding area.  We also saw a pack of wild pigs.  We were walking along the top of one of the hills and I saw something moving in the distance, about 80 feet away.  I stopped and we saw about 15 feral pigs or boar rooting in the ground.  I should have thought to film them, but I was more concerned for our safety since there literally was not another person for miles at that point, so I banged my walking poles together a few times.  The pigs paused, looked up, then took off down the hill.  As we started toward where they were, the daddy boar came up over the other side, looked at us, crossed the trail, then followed the rest of the pack.  Pretty cool!  I think that’s the first time I’ve seen wild pigs.

Here’s the trail and the stats:

View Alafia River Corridor in a larger map

Name: Alafia River Corridor
Activity type: hiking
Description: Nice hike.  Saw boars.
Total distance: 7.18 km (4.5 mi)
Total time: 2:16:47
Moving time: 1:44:19
Average speed: 3.15 km/h (2.0 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.13 km/h (2.6 mi/h)
Max speed: 19.80 km/h (12.3 mi/h)
Average pace: 19.04 min/km (30.6 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 14.52 min/km (23.4 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 3.03 min/km (4.9 min/mi)
Max elevation: 23 m (76 ft)
Min elevation: -21 m (-69 ft)
Elevation gain: 246 m (808 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 01/20/2013 9:39am

 22 total views