Category Archives: Reflections

Top 10 Most Beautiful Wildflowers on Our Trip

Theresa and Shadow hiking through a wildflower field in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Theresa and I try to visit a national park each year.  But we usually travel in autumn when the weather is still nice, crowds are thin, and prices are low.  As a result, we’ve rarely seen the spectacular wildflower displays for which our national parks are famous. 

But on our RV trip in 2012, we “followed Spring” from the desert southwest to the Rockies and Great Plains, then up into Canada and Alaska, and down to the Pacific Northwest.  We were treated to one wildflower show after another from February through September, and we saw over 120 species of wildflowers. 

Choosing the most beautiful wildflower is like choosing the sexiest supermodel… it’s rather subjective, and there is no wrong answer.  Following are the top 10 most beautiful wildflowers we saw on our trip:



Our New eBook: Wildflowers of Western USA, Canada and Alaska

We are proud to announce the first eBook from our cross-country adventure in 2012:  

Click here to download our eBook

“Wildflowers of Western USA, Canada and Alaska” by Timm and Theresa Martin.  The beauty of nature captured in over 100 full-color photos of wildflowers from a 2012 hiking trip across the western United States, Canada and Alaska.  Flowers are presented in the order we encountered them, with their common name, date and location.  Parks include Chugach, Denali, Joshua Tree, Kenai Fjords, Kluane, Mt. St. Helens, Olympic, Theodore Roosevelt, Waterton Lakes, and Yoho.  Published June 2013, 134 pages, iPad iBooks format for the Apple iPad and iPhone.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who enjoys beautiful wildflowers.

Download eBook: Wildflowers of Western USA, Canada and Alaska

Top 10 Favorite Hikes of our Trip

When I went through the hiking log from our trip to come up with our Top 10 Favorite Hikes, I ended up with a list of nearly 40 trails.  Which just goes to show what an amazing adventure we had in 2012! 

What makes for a favorite hike?  The combination of many or all of the following: spectacular views, solitude, quiet, wildlife, wildflowers, heights, and good weather.  After much debate, I managed to whittle the list down to the top 10 truly iconic hikes on our trip.  Listed below each photo are the location of the trail, total round-trip length, total elevation gain, and the time it took us to complete the hike.


1. Crow Pass

Theresa, Darby and Shadow admiring the view of the Chugach Mountains

Chugach National Forest, Alaska
8.4 miles, 2080’ elevation gain, 5.8 hours

This trail is so good that it’s the only trail on our trip that we hiked twice.  We found out just how important weather is to enjoying a trail.  On our first Crow Pass hike, it was cold, cloudy and rainy.  We couldn’t see the hanging Raven Glacier, but we did get to watch a juvenile black bear rummaging around across a divide.  Just two days later it was sunny and 70s, so we hiked the trail again.  That time we could see the magnificent glacier and the massive valley below.  The Chugach Mountains are some of the prettiest in the world, especially in early summer when the foothills are green and the mountains are accented with large patches of snow.




Top 10 Volcanoes on Our Trip

Mountains tend to sit in ranges and are usually surrounded by other mountains.  Whereas volcanoes are typically solitary masses that rise straight up from the surrounding plain.  As a result, volcanoes make an imposing feature on the landscape.  The height of the volcano’s peak above the plain is known as its “prominence.”  For example, Mt. Rainier in Washington has a prominence of more than 13,000 feet and is visible from Seattle 60 miles away.

But it’s not only the size of a volcano that makes it daunting.  It’s the possibility that a volcano could blow at any time and rain destruction down on everyone and everything in the vicinity.  Fortunately most volcanoes give plenty of seismic warning before becoming a real threat to people and property.

Following are the Top 10 Favorite Volcanoes of our trip:


1. Mt. St. Helens

Tree debris in Spirit Lake below Mt. St. Helens

Type: Active stratovolcano
Last Eruption: July 10, 2008
Last Major Eruption: May 18, 1980 (57 deaths)
Elevation: 8,366’;  Prominence: 4,605’
Location: Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington

On the clear morning of May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted in a violent fury that became the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in United States history.  57 people were killed.  250 homes, 47 bridges, 185 miles of highway, and 15 miles of railroads were destroyed.  This was our favorite volcano of our trip because evidence of its destructive power was still quite evident everywhere we looked, from the flattened forests, to the tree-filled Spirit Lake (shown above).  It was both exciting and unnerving to realize that if we had been standing there 32 years ago, we would’ve been instantly seared to death by ash and hot gas travelling 670 miles per hour.



Top 25 Wildlife Sightings on our Trip

Sea lions, gators and bears, oh my…

We were blessed on our trip to see just about every major species of wildlife that one could hope to see while traveling in the western USA, Canada and Alaska.  Seeing and hearing wildlife in its element was a highlight of our trip.  Following are the Top 25 favorite wildlife sightings on our 10-month trip, our favorite sighting for each species.


1. Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bear standing upright in Denali National Park

Denali National Park, Alaska

The most exciting wildlife encounter was when a grizzly bear in Denali stood up, spotted a couple of backpackers, and took off after them.  I started snapping photos and shooting video from the safety of our bus, but I was worried that I might be making a snuff film.  Fortunately the young couple hopped on the bus in front of us before the bear could eat them.  We saw a total of 8 grizzlies on our trip, all in Denali National Park.



Top 10 Favorite Dispersed Campsites

Dispersed camping is camping for free outside of established campgrounds on public land, typically on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, national forests or national monuments in the United States, or Crown Land in Canada.  We dispersed camp about 1/3 of the nights on our trip.  Not only did this save us thousands of dollars in campground fees, it greatly extended our nature experience.  Instead of being surrounded by people, buildings, lights and noise in a campground, with dispersed camping we got to enjoy wide open skies, sights and sounds of wildlife, remarkable natural features, privacy, peace and solitude.

Following are our top 10 favorite dispersed campsites.  It wasn’t difficult to choose our top favorites, but it was challenging to limit the list to only 10 places.  We judged dispersed campsites based the criteria stated in our article, Top 10 Reasons We Prefer Roadside Camping.


1. Yoho National Park

Wapta Falls Rec Site (3 nights)
Crown Land just outside Yoho National Park
British Columbia, Canada

View of Wapta Falls from our RV

Our campsite had a spectacular, unobstructed view of the wide Wapta Falls, which was only 1/3 mile away and roared loudly.  Behind the falls rose two 10,000+ foot glacier-covered mountains.


Blogging About Life in the Country

Timm driving the tractor

We went from camping in the middle of nowhere to living in the middle of nowhere!  Our RV trip of a lifetime is over, and now we’re settling in to our new home on a 180-acre nature preserve in Daniel Boone National Forest in southern Kentucky.  If you are interested, please check out our blog about life in the country:

Little Wolf Nature Preserve

Life After Trip

Timm saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon

On November 5, 2012, we hiked the final hike on our adventure of a lifetime.  We had hiked 835 miles over 292 days, and this hike was our grand finale in the Grand Canyon.  On that final day, we felt sadness that our year-long vacation was coming to an end.  We also felt a great sense of accomplishment, having visited 94 parks in 17 US states and 4 Canadian provinces.  This was even more than the 65 parks we had planned to visit on our very ambitious itinerary.  But most of all, we felt gratitude that we were fortunate enough to fulfill a lifelong dream, something that not everyone is able to do.


Facebook Running Narrative – Part 3

In addition to writing this blog, I post a steady stream of comments and photos on Facebook.  Since my Facebook posts are visible only to my family and friends, I’ve replicated them here for all to enjoy.  You can read Part 1 and Part 2, which chronicle the start of our trip January 26 through September 30.  The following posts are listed in chronological order from October 1 through the end of our trip on November 12.  These posts provide a nice running narrative of our trip.


Smith Rock State Park is a "climber’s park." We spent the afternoon watching people risk their lives hanging from a 1/4" rope. This photo shows climbers tightroping over to the Monkey Face, a 350-foot tall granite monolith.


Our Adventure is Over

Timm saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon

We have hiked the final trail in the final park on the final day of our adventure.  We hiked the Grandview Trail deep down into the Grand Canyon and sat just above the Horseshoe Mesa, where we enjoyed our lunch and a spectacular view of the canyon.  We said goodbye to this amazing place and also to our adventure of a lifetime.

Our nation is blessed that our forebears set aside so many natural lands for future generations to enjoy.  And Theresa and I are truly blessed to have visited so many beautiful places over the past year.