A16's National Park Road Team

Posted by Adventure 16 | 07.27.2016

AUGUST 22, 2016

Giant Trees and a Giant Lake

Traveling from coastal giants to the deepest lake in North America
by Jordan Gardner, A16 San Diego store Assistant Manager

Traveling through the Redwood National Park one can only marvel at the trees around you.  While the groves of Yosemite and the kings of sequoia are big trees, nothing can compare to the enormous size of Redwood tree.  The main park itself is located a little south of the California Oregon border, although the trees stretch much further North and there are many surrounding state parks in the area that are commonly associated with the national park.  Last time I visited the national park I stayed in Elk Prairie Campground inside of the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park.  I had originally planned on staying there again but after a delayed departure and decision to live life a bit more carefree, a KOA RV park an hours drive in land was chosen.  While not ideal to the "camping" life style, these have proven to be invaluable to us because of our need for a bit more electricity than had originally been anticipated.

walking thru fern valley
Walking through Fern Valley, the trail walls are covered with thousands of ferns.

    Elk Prairie campground is a great location to base camp out if you are car camping along the 1 or if you are backpacking the coast trial.  Fern valley, one of the most popular attractions in all of the area, is a days hike away from the campsites.  It winds through a valley encountering massive standing, and fallen redwoods.  The hike was somewhat difficult due to the duration but the terrain never had a drastic elevation change.

Logsof old trees strewn about creek
Walking through Fern Valley often called for log jumping and puddle jumping.

    Once arriving at Fern Valley we encountered logs stuck from past rainfalls flash floods, and the walls covered in tiny waterfalls from moisture running underground.  Although it was a hot day, immediately we were relieved by the cool mist air and walking through the small creek running in the middle of it.  After walking through Fern Valley we arrived at the Pacific ocean and took a break on Gold Bluffs beach to eat our packed lunches.  Taking a different way back on a trail located a short distance south along beach proved to be a bit more difficult but allowed for new views along the way home.
    This time around opting to come in from Oregon on HWY 199, it wasn't quite as scenic from approaching along HWY 1 but still brings you as close to the trees as possible.  Near the border of Oregon and California is….

Deepest lake in North America

Crater lake on top of Wizard Island
Inside of Crater lake on top of Wizard Island


    Finally getting to the base of the inside of Crater Lake, waiting for our ferry to cross the lake so we can hike Wizard island it was all I could think about "I'm going to have to hike back up this."  It was a thought that was stuck in the back of my head as I peered over the rock out droppings trying to see as far down as I can into the blue water.  Watching people jump off the rock into water was very enticing but seeing as I had three hours to explore Wizard island, I opted to stay dry and wait till the end of our day before hiking out of the crater.

Wizard Island, Crater Lake
Wizard Island: A second set of eruptions caused this cone to develop in the center of the lake


    One would think that the park would have the ferry for Wizard island be as close as possible but in reality it is on the opposite side of the lake.  The boats that are used were air lifted into the crater and are by no means fast.  It takes about 45 minutes to ride across the water to Wizard Island.  On the island there are two options to do, swim in Crater lake or hike to the top of Wizard island.  It is a quick 2.2 mile trip so I would suggest snacks and lots of water since there are none on the island.  After doing the hike (hiking poles strongly encouraged) we met a ranger stationed on the island for the day and learned some fun facts:

1.) The gentlemen who helped turned the land into a national park, William Gladstone Steel, hiked up and over rim with a bucket of trout in one hand, and salmon in the other to begin stocking the lake.  You can still fish in the lake without a permit but you have to take the fish out if you catch it.

2.) The crazy trailhead and monument names come from the belief that the uniqueness of them would draw more attention.

3.) The lake's blue color comes from nothing being in the water to absorb the white light from the sun as it goes deeper into the waters.  Blue is in the middle of color spectrum and most widely scattered, therefore is easiest for our eye to see.

4.)  There are believed to be two still active vents inside of Crater lake

    Wizard Island was a blast to explore and the park ranger was very helpful with any questions we had.  After returning to the base of the rim, it was time to jump in the water.  There is a great rock cropping that acts a diving board, or you can take the steps down to the water if your more for just dipping your toes in.  Before beginning the mile hike back up the rim, a well deserved jump into the water was necessary.


Getting ready to take a dip in Crater Lake
My wife and I jumping into Crater lake after our day spent in the sun on
Wizard Island. Shot on a GoPro Hero Session camera




Vantage point from Phantom Ship overlook on the East Rim of Crater Lake
Do you see the "Phantom Ship?"  Vantage point from Phantom Ship overlook on the East Rim of Crater Lake


Plume of smoke coming over the rim of the crater.
Plume of smoke coming over the rim of the crater.  Every morning it wouldn't be there but as the day progressed the smoke from the fire would become worse.  The ranger on Wizard island had informed us that the park was briefly raised to a level 1 alert for full evacuation possibility. 


Girls jumping off a nearby rock ledge into Crater Lake.
Girls jumping off a nearby rock ledge into Crater Lake.  The water was very cold and almost took your breath away.  I instantly thought about the polar bear plunges I would partake in at camp while I was a kid as I entered the water.


Crystal clear waters below the dock on Wizard island.
Crystal clear waters below the dock on Wizard island.  Still was taken from a video shot with my GoPro Hero Session camera while it was underwater.


AUGUST 3, 2016

Boils, Boulders & Caves
A miniature geological wonderland
by Jordan Gardner, A16 San Diego store Assistant Manager

When I first started planning this trip last year, I never thought of visiting Pinnacles National Park in southern California or Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.

Due to some delays in departure, a change of plans needed to be made. Western Mountaineering in my earlier post was a great starting point because it brought the road team close to the Pinnacles, a park that was only just introduced to our National Park system in 2012 by President Obama. It is a very unique park located in central California that very few think to visit, unless you're into rock climbing.

Adventure16 Road Team Vehicle

Adventure16 Road Team Vehicle

Originally we approached the park from the east entrance and discovered that you can not drive through the park and that the only way to traverse the entire park is via a 30 mile hike, something I was not about to attempt in 95+ heat. The original goal was to see a cavern in area of the park called Bear Gulch, unfortunately half of it was closed. On one of the friendly ranger's suggestion at the visitor center, on the western entrance (1-1/2 hr drive around the park) a short hike called “Balconies” was decided upon. Keep in mind it was 95+ heat, so hearing that a cave was part of the hike, just like Bear Gulch, made it an easy choice.

Hiking into The Balconies Cave

Hiking into The Balconies Cave

It was a mile hiking along giant boulders before approaching the large fin-shaped rock pictured above. There were numerous climbing routes along the hiking path.

Climber's access marked on the trail by way of carabiner signs.

Climber's access marked on the trail by way of carabiner signs.

Not having any climbing gear, except for my shoes, I opted not to walk up to any of the walls, and instead kept heading towards the cave. As the sun beat down we started getting closer to the base of the fin, the boulders became immense and dwarfed anything I had seen around my hometown of San Diego.

Nearing the balconies Cave

            Over-hanging boulder perched on the boulders below. Just beyond it was the gated
                                                  entrance to the Balconies Cave


At the gated entrance to the cave, our headlamps were put on only to find out that one was dead. I quickly grabbed my external light for my DSLR to act like a flash light.

Gated entrance to Balconies Cave in Pinnacles National Park

Gated entrance to Balconies Cave in Pinnacles National Park


Steps down into the darkness after passing through the gate

Steps down into the darkness after passing through the gate


Lighted section of Balconies Cave

Lighted section of Balconies Cave

The cave exploring was amazing. Both of the caves have one-way directional arrows with no side areas. It is difficult to get lost, but without a flashlight you would certainly hurt yourself because it's PITCH black.


And onto Lassen Volcanic National Park


While visiting Pinnacles National park and staying in near by Morgan Hill, it was only fitting that a stop was made at Western Mountaineering. It was an awesome visit and I encourage you to check out my post about the quality craftsmanship that goes into their items. The next stop was at Lassen Volcanic National Park, located about 3 1/2 hours drive north past San Francisco and then east at Red Bluff were it was 100+ degrees.

Lassen volcanic National Park Sign

There are two entrances into Lassen Volcanic National Park, one on the south and the other at the north end. Entering the southern side of the park put us right into the sulfur pits and the smell of rotten eggs.


Boiling sulfur pits near the southern entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park

Boiling sulfur pits near the southern entrance to Lassen Volcanic National Park

There are numerous things to see in the park, it is the only location were you can visit all four types of volcanoes that exist (Shield, Composite, Cone, Dome). This is a thermal hot zone and there are boiling pits inside of the park. A popular hike to do inside of the park is called Bumpass Hell. It is one of the original reasons the park was founded. The story goes that a miner, Kendall Bumpass, was walking through the area when he discovered the sulfur and pyrite pits pictured below. Unfortunately as he was exploring the area his left leg broke through the crust, and was so severely burned, it could not be saved. He did however get the area named after his experience.


Entrance into Bumpass Hell.

Entrance into Bumpass Hell. There is a boardwalk to prevent park visitors from stepping in the wrong area

Sulfur-diluted water running down stream from Bumpass Hell

Sulfur-diluted water running down stream from Bumpass Hell

Kings Creek Falls

Kings Creek Falls

After exploring Bumpass Hell, which is a very short hike, we opted to skip Lassen peak and venture to Kings Creek Falls. It is also a short hike; there aren’t many long hikes through the park, however the PCT does cross through the park and has an official stop at Old Station near the northern end of the park.

Kings creek falls hike was up and down a steep hill in the sun so if you are interested in doing it I recommend a little more water than you think. Yes I know you are going to a waterfall but as soon as you leave the cool mist you WILL bake. Luckily I had dunked my buff into the cool water and wrapped it around my neck to help keep me cool during the exit.

All and all both of these parks have amazing beauty and their own spectacular reasons for being apart of our National Park system. Pinnacles is a climbers dream outside of San Francisco, and is host to the returning California Condor. Lassen Volcanic National park not only contains boiling pots demonstrating that Earth is an active body, but was also some of the earliest donated grounds to protect trees and the environment from clear cut logging that was occurring.I would recommend both of these parks and any of the hikes I mentioned. Depending on the time of year, be sure to stop by any of the visitors information centers at the parks to find out what is happening around the park, especially about closures. 



A16 Road Crew vehicle

JULY 25, 2016

Looking into the Crystal Roadtrip Ball

by Jordan Gardner, A16 San Diego store Assistant Manager

For the next four months I plan to live on the road, traveling around the country towing a 18ft trailer to see as much of our beautiful country that I can.  All through college, I seemed to always have something going on, something that would stop me from traveling with my friends.  This has caused me to live with questions about missed adventures and when I began working at a store with the word adventure in its name, I vowed to never let an opportunity pass me by again.  Listening to guides speak about Africa, New Zealand, Mt. Whitney, and so on encourages me to get lost and see things before it’s too late.

When my wife and I drove HWY 1 along the coast we fell in love with being on the road and moving around seeing new parts of the country. I’ve never found driving to be a huge problem for me like some people do. I like being on the road actually. It allows me time to think, observe, slow down (usually because of construction), and see new places while meeting people along the way. There is a rough outline to this trip, to keep me moving, but what happens between those stops…I don't know yet. I’ve been using the “National Geographic Adventurer Edition Road Atlas” and it has been an amazing piece of material to use. It not only has information about each National Park but also National Forests, State Parks, and tons of points of interests that pertain to the adventurous crowds.

Road Atals 


  My main piece of planning equipment. It has campsites
  and all of the parks and major attractions 
marked out.
 I can't recommend this old-school  method of pen and
 paper strongly enough.



We were originally to leave July 1st but with a family emergency happening, my wife and I needed to stay around for a few weeks extra.  This has caused us to change our trip slightly, instead of Yosemite being the 1st site to visit, Western Mountaineering is now the lucky winner to take that spot.  Going to the corporate headquarters will be amazing and I can’t wait to show you all what it looks like inside the factory.  After hanging at Western Mountaineering for a day, observing how their bags and coats are produced, Lassen Volcanic National Park and the lava fields are up.  This all be an entirely new place to us so I have no idea whats in store.  Cutting across California to the coast takes Kristen and I to the Redwoods National Park to stay at Elk Prairie Campground on the southern end of the National Park there.  Another place I have gone but is so cool that I couldn’t give it up.   


Kristen standing in the middle of Fern Valley Trail
Kristen standing in the middle of Fern Valley Trail. A lush green valley with water falling off of the plants on the wall. It is located a short hike from the trail head you can drive you to along the ocean It can also be hiked into from the backside starting at Elk Prairie campground.


Spending a short time in the Redwoods National Park, driving to Brookings, OR grants us the chance to see the tail end of HWY 1 in California.  Cutting back and fourth across the northern tip of California, will cost me some gas but it takes me to a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite sometime, Crater Lake National Park.

While the 100 year anniversary of National Park system has caused us a few problems in finding camp sites close inside of the national parks, staying right outside can be even more enjoyable. I found a site nearby at the Mt. Thielsen Campground, less than 15 miles from the park. There is a small island in the middle of Crater Lake that you can take a ferry to. It is in many of the classic advertisements of Crater Lake, but besides that obvious attraction, the number of waterfalls in the surrounding area on the scenic byways will be the secondary attractions (sounds terrible right?).

I plan to continue writing for Adventure 16’s National Park Road Team blog and building a place for all employees future National Park travels to be documented. We always have customer’s asking us about our adventures and what we do in our free time.

One other question I get quite often while I have told people about my trip is where do I go to book campsites and look for alternatives to major campgrounds that tend to fill up quickly. I have used recreation.gov and ReserveAmerica.com. They are two awesome sites that have tons of information and have been helpful whenever the road atlas has pointed me in the rough vicinity. One other site we have been exploring as an option for higher quality lodging, we have been looking at are Kampgrounds of America, or KOA as it is better known.

View from Glacier Point. Half Dome is in the distance with Vernal and Nevada falls also in the picture.
View from Glacier Point. Half Dome is in the distance with Vernal and Nevada falls also in the picture. Those two falls line the mist trail before leading the way to the “cables” that take you up the back of Half Dome for those brave enough.


Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail
Vernal Falls along the Mist Trail on the East end of the Valley.  This trail leads to the JMT and also to the cables up the backside of Half Dome.