trip report: New Zealand – Mueller Hut Route, January 2020

The steep but short hike up to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is typically hiked as an in & out day hike with plenty of time to make the long drive back to town for a good meal. Being someone that is more about the views than just camping, I usually prefer just a day hike. However, it pays to take it easy and smell the roses sometimes. Rather breaking the hike up, camping on the top of the world, and under the stars was a worthy experience. From our tent, we could hear the surrounding glaciers crack and had a perfect view of the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. 


This is the seventh entry of our Australia and New Zealand trip series covering our tramp of to Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

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virginia hikes: Stiles Falls – March 29, 2020

If you are looking for an easy hike that provides for plenty of cascading stream views, the hike to Stiles Falls provides for a high views to work ratio. So it is a great hike for beginners or kid friendly hike. But it is a busy one for those same reasons.


The hike was closed shortly after we hiked here back in March, so I delayed in writing it up until now.

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virginia hikes: Angel’s Rest – October 24, 2020

During peak foliage season, popular hikes like McAfee Knob can become very crowded. It seemed like standing room only up there just this past weekend (reddit). For such reasons, I only hike to McAfee during the weekday and for either sunrise or sunset. For the weekend, there are plenty other options along the Appalachian Mountains with outlooks. Angel’s Rest is such a place located about 30 minutes west of the Virginia Tech campus, yet we had plenty of time at the two major viewpoints all to ourselves during this peak hiking season.


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virginia hikes: Buzzard Rock North – August 18, 2020

Here in Virginia, especially northern Virginia within the reaches of Washington D.C., the best way to avoid crowds on the popular hikes is to hike over the weekdays. So we visited the popular Buzzard Rock to break up the drive down I-81 on a Tuesday.


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virginia hikes: Carvins Cove & Hay Rock – May 30, 2016 & July 30, 2020

The Triple Crown of Virginia is a small portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Roanoke, Va. It includes the proment points of Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker’s Cliff, and the most photographed outlook on the AT of McAfee Knob. For the typical backpacker of the Triple Crown of Virginia (RATC), it is hiked in a loop that involves rather mundane North Mountain (alltrails). However, I would recommend setting up a shuttle for a point to point hike instead so you can include a lesser known outlook through this section of the AT, Carvins Cove & Hay Rock.

The original hike report of Carvins Cove & Hay Rock was of an early summer hike in 2016 where we were joined by our friends Kevin, Shannon, Mat, and Vrushali. This re-post includes new pictures of the trail since then, a video, and updated formatting.

Our friend Mat at an overlook of Carvins Cove in 2016

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trip report: Patagonia – Parque Nacional Queulat & Ventisquero Colgante, January 2019

The vastness of Patagonia contains many spectacular mountains, valleys, glaciers, and lakes. Many of these areas are untouched by trails and very difficult to access without extensive skills. It may be one of the hopes of the Chile’s Route of Parks initiative to eventually expand accessibility for hikers and tourists to these hidden vistas. But for now, we would only catch a glimpse of the glacier spilling out between the rock faces. That sums up my descriptions of the popular Ventisquero Colgante, one of the only established and open hikes in the area around Parque Nacional Queulat.

This is part 6 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted. Read More

trip report: Patagonia – Mirador Laguna Cerro Castillo, January 2019

Cerro Castillo is one of the rare multi-day backpacking (trekking) opportunities that is well established along the Carretera Austral. We had tentative plans to do just that, but lingering health issues and the logistics in planning a point to point backpacking trek that would rely on hitchhiking or buses when we didn’t speak Spanish brought us to the alternative day hike options. In the end, I don’t feel like I missed out and at the same time, I look forward to returning to do the trek.


This is part 5 of my Patagonia and Carretera Austral trip report series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.  Read More

virginia hikes: Flat Top & Fallingwater Cascades, May 20 2017

Previously, I had covered Sharp Top, one of the two peaks making up the Peaks of Otters. This is one of the more popular spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Earlier this year, Meg, Mark, and I headed up the second peak, Flat Top (FT) and tacked on an addition loop to the Fallingwater Cascades (FWC).


  • Flat Top (FT) & Fallingwater Cascades (FWC)
  • type: FT – in & out; FWC – loop
  • distance:  6.8 mi
    • FT – 5.4 mi
    • FWC – 1.3 mi
  • elevation change: 2443 ft ascent and descent
    • FT – 1954 ft
    • FWC –  489 ft
  • time: 2:45 hours moving (3:15 hours with breaks)
    • FT – 2:10 moving (2:30 with breaks)
    • FWC – 0:35 moving (0:45 with breaks)
  • location: Jefferson National Forest
  • This hike can be broken up into 2 separate hikes. There is also an alternative way up to Flat Top from the Sharp Top parking lot, see this recording from Alltrails.


We started from the parking lot that is shared by both Flat Top and Cascading waterfalls. It is a few minutes east of the information center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


The beginning of the trail starts upwards right away through the green tunnels that’s typical of Virginia Mountains. Similar to Sharp Top, the hike is pretty much a climb up to the peak. However, the trail for Flat Top continues upwards with a series of switch backs rather than a straight up winding around the mountain.

At the end of the switchbacks, there is an outcrop with your first view of the valley to the east.


The trail continues along the ridge of the mountain passing a set of large rock formations before a split. The right trail heads to the true peak of Flat Top, which is shrouded by trees.


We bushwhacked further on toward the endpoint of the other trail to find the large outcrop rock


with a view out toward Bedford and Lynchburg.


After returning to the car, we decided to hike the additional short loop to the Fallingwater Cascades. We headed clockwise on the loop heading down hills at first until we reached the lower crossing of the cascading stream.



The trail then follows the stream upwards


with a couple points where you can cool your feet.


The trail crosses the stream once again at the top with a wooden bridge before looping back. It will first pass the separate dedicated parking lot for Fallingwater Cascades before reaching the shared lot.


ratings (1-5; link for detailed breakdown)

  • views:  2. For the most part, the hike is among the green tunnels of VA with not much to see. Of course, it may be different in the other seasons, but the leaves were completely in during that spring day. There were a couple vistas at the top of the Ridge, but most of the views were out toward the flat regions of VA. The Fallingwater cascade mixed it up with a nice running stream, but it was very small.
  • difficulty: 2. The way up Flat top were purely switchbacks. Some endurance is needed for the elevation change.
  • technical: 1. The trail is well marked with no technical aspects.



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