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Showing posts from 2016

Coldwater River Nature Trails

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Below Arkabutla Dam are a series of trails through the mostly bottomland hardwood forest along the Coldwater River developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Much of these trails overlap, and they form 1, 2, 3, and 5-mile loops.


Hiking counterclockwise, the trails begin by the Arkabutla Dam outlet and follow a drainage ditch before soon arriving at a "beaver pond" (I saw no evidence of any beaver activity). The trail continues along the drainage ditch until crossing state highway 301. The five-mile loop continues up a small hill before returning back down and joining the three-mile loop.


After crossing a small bridge, the trail continues on what looks likes a small stagnant stream before returning the the trailhead. On a cool, but very nice morning on November 20, 2016, most of the trees still had leaves, and some had just begun to change color.

See my track here on All Trails or more photos here.





© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.







Witch Dance Horse Trail

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The Witch Dance Horse Trail is a series of interconnected trails amounting to 18 miles through Tombigbee National Forest in Mississippi. The trail network can be hiked in a series of loops, but aside from a photograph of a poor map on All Trails, I couldn't find any actual map of the trails.


I began my hike at the Witch Dance trailhead along the Natchez Trace Parkway and started hiking on a clockwise loop that lasted for over 2.5 hours and 9.0 miles. The trail was very poorly marked with red and blue plastic plates nailed to trees at various points on the trail. There were numerous intersections that split into as many as five different directions with no descriptive signage. I therefore relied on Google Maps and my original location to keep track of where I was and where I had to go back to.


For the most part, I stuck with the strategy of staying to the left whenever I arrived at an intersection. About four miles into the hike I reached an intersection that I turned right on and…

Sipsey Wilderness

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On November 5, 2016 I went on a loop hike of about 9 miles through the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama. This wilderness is part of William B. Bankhead National Forest, was the first wilderness in the eastern U.S., and is still the largest in area east of the Mississippi River.


I began the hike at the Randolph Trailhead and followed trail 202 for 3.4 miles until it reached trail 209 (see a map here). Trail 202 followed what was once a small road along the hill tops before descending into the valley along the Sipsey River. As the trail descends into the valley is passes some eastern hemlock trees, which are found here at the extreme southern extent of their distribution. As the trail continues down into the valley, it passes what would be a fairly high waterfall, but because of the severe drought encompassing the region, this waterfall and many of the streams in the wilderness were completely dry.


The drought made crossing the Sipsey River easy, requiring hopping across only a few rocks. …

Beijing

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My last stop in China was Beijing, where I arrived on the morning of October 6, 2016 on an overnight train from Xi'an. After dropping my bags at the hotel, I went a few blocks to to Tiananmen Square and walked from there and throughout the Forbidden City until mid-afternoon. I had lunch on my way back to the hotel to check in, shower, and rest a bit in the late afternoon.


In the evening I made my way around to Nanluoguxiang, an old city street that now has many shops and restaurants. On my way I went by the Beijing drum and bell towers and later went to Great Leap Brewing, which was the first craft brewery in Beijing and the best beer I had during the entire trip in China.


On my last full day in China I went to the Great Wall at Huairou, where it was cloudy and raining. The walk up the mountain to the wall was shorter than I expected (you can take a cable car up too), but the walk along the wall had just as much elevation gain up and down between the hills.

On October 8, I spend …

Xi'an

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I arrived in Xi'an on the morning of October 4, 2016 on an overnight train from Yichang. I was able to drop my bags of the hotel but couldn't check in, and I had arranged for a guide to take me from the hotel to the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum that morning. This mausoleum is located just north of the city and is a much less visited site than others around Xi'an.


As the burial place of Emperor Jing, the mausoleum consists of two large burial mounds and several burial pits. Some of the pits have been excavated and are open to tourists inside of a building hidden below the ground around the largest of the mounds. These pits are filled with many small figures of various objects, and it took perhaps an hour at most to traverse through the entire building.



Back in the city, I went to the Muslim Quarter, where there are many small vendors and unique street foods available. Most of the vendors and restaurants are situated along one pedestrian street, but there are also several side s…

Chongqing to Yichang on the Yangtze River

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I arrived at Chongqing International Airport around noon on September 30, 2016 after spending the previous two days in Yangshuo. A waiting bus took me from the the airport on the 40-minute drive through traffic into the city to the Yangtze River where the river cruise ship Victoria 5 was docked below the Qiansimen Bridge. That evening I would depart Chongqing and spend the next few days, until midday on October 3, cruising down the Yangtze.


Official check in wasn't until 6:00 pm, but they let me aboard and into my room anyway. I dropped my bags off and then headed back ashore for lunch at a small restaurant a few blocks from the boat. I spent the afternoon exploring the city, which was remarkably difficult to navigate as the city center is situated on a relatively narrow strip of hilly land between two rivers.

The overall feel of Chongqing was drastically different than all the other megacities I've visited in China. Chongqing definitely isn't much of a tourist destinatio…