A morning cruise through the heart of Moscow begins at the Kievskaya Metro station and continues past the sports complex, Sparrow Hills and Moscow University, Gorky Park, the Kremlin and Red Square. The view of the city and its landmarks are excellent from this vantage point. The central university building is visible from anywhere in the city, but the boat floats within a few miles of its Sparrow Hills location. To the left is the sight of the Moscow Olympics and to the right, Gorky Park, with its somewhat dated amusement rides and it dysfunctional space shuttle. A Peter the Great statue separates a tributary before the just finished Christ’s Cathedral comes into view. Beyond the cathedral, the red brick Kremlin walls with bright yellow government and museum buildings and several more churches enclosed, mark Mockba’s origins. Beyond the eastern wall, Red Square and that definitive Russian symbol, Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
Located in Julia Pffeifer-Burns State Park, McWay Falls splatters onto a pristine beach cove below. Sheer cliffs deny access to the cove by foot and violent waves crashing against a violent central California coastline make access via kayak equally hazardous. Furthermore, since the cove is part of California’s system of state parks, McWay Falls is considered a protected area and therefore trespassing is against the law. Nevertheless, a short hike from the parking area beneath State Highway1, and the trekker will reach the magnificent Pacific Ocean and the first view of the falls. This rocky coastline, from San Simeon, all the way north, even beyond the Arctic Circle, has some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. The trail is nestled between a sheer cliff and a pine forest, and ends at the ruins of the Waterfall House, built by early owners of the property. Late afternoon visits are encouraged since it will take most of the day for any sunshine to eliminate the cliff’s shadow and burn off any coastal fog.
There are three options to climbing Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Range. From a starting point in Sequoia/King’s Canyon National Park, plan a five-day cross country trek around pristine alpine lakes and across 10,000 foot mountain peaks, reaching Whitney’s western slope. There is also the option of accessing the mountain from its eastern slope at the Portal, which at over 8,500 feet, makes the 14,496 Whitney climb doable. With two camps strategically positioned along the way, one can pack up for two day, climb the peak on the third, and return on the fourth and fifth day. The day trekker may decide the third one-day option: a pre-dawn starting time on a long August day after much of the seasonal snow has melted from the peak, and then returning to the trailhead within an hour after sundown. Be sure that back country permits are in order, which is administered by the National Forest Service, and that high altitude limits have been tested. Make sure to bring along a hiker’s headlamp to accompany the hydration bag and walking poles. Also, prepare for a worst case scenario and pack necessary survival gear. The trail loops its way up from the Portal and crests at Lone Pine Lake. It then follows the stream up to an elongated meadow where the first camp is located. The trail winds up to and beside Mirror Lake, and takes a sharp left, and onto a series of switchbacks, some marked only by cairns. The general rule is to have returned to Mirror Lake by dusk or otherwise risk remaining on the mountain overnight without a tent or bag, since cairns can’t ne navigated in darkness. Consultation Lake hosts the second camp; a jumbled rock field and the foot of a climb known as the 99 switchbacks. After the switchbacks, the trekker crests at the saddle, where at just 1000 feet below the summit, one can view both the Owens Valley to the east and much of the Sierra Nevada Range to the west. The long, slow mile to the summit requires the trekker to negotiate a moonscape of sizable boulders, rock jumbles, slippery scree and melting snow fields. The final stretch, with the stone cabin in sight, challenges every aching muscle as well as one’s lung capacity, but the view is priceless. On the return, trying to reach the Portal before sunset will only increase the risk of injury—and even the slightest injury has serious ramifications here. Also, a quick dissension will not allow the body’s metabolism enough time to settle resulting in light headedness, nausea, or diarrhea.
The Mattole River in northern California flows through the King’s Range before reaching the Pacific shore. One of the few areas left in California sans freeway, parking lots, and convenience food, the Lost Coast is fittingly named. Accessing the Lost Coast Trail requires taking a narrow road, one-lane at times, through the King’s Range and past some farming settlements before reaching the river and following it to the sea. The trailhead begins on the dark sand beach where small flowers bloom on dunes and brace themselves against the persistent winds. This volcanic soil is spongy to the step. This consistent step, sink, and step out can get quite monotonous, and can challenge less developed muscle tissue. The trail follows the beach southward across ravines where trickling water had just recently dropped as falls from the coastal foothills. During spring, wildflowers will awash these hills with color. A day trekker can plan to make the trip to Punta Gorda Lighthouse and return if conditions are right. Opt for a hike to the lighthouse in the morning, chancing the coastal fog. Accept the fact that visibility to the lighthouse may be diminished on the way there, yet wait for the fog to lift before the return trip. Once the coast is clear, literally, head back, savoring every moment. Note that by mid-afternoon the wind force can be severe. Punta Gorda is a make-shift campsite for those continuing down the trail. The antechamber of the lighthouse is often used for storage. After exploring the white-washed structure, squeeze up the narrow spiral staircase and through the even narrower opening up to the light room where there are simply amazing views.