How to beat the heat

Fear of hiking in the desert? Heat is part of the game. Embrace it and you’ll be fine. Yes, desert hiking can be dangerous, but if you plan ahead, then a travel in the desert can be an adventure. I’ve done a lot of summer hiking in the American Southwest, and I’m fully aware of all the hazards. I had to learn from scratch as I’m from a country where the weather is totally harmless, and the landscape is nothing special either. My first steps in a desert came as a shock, and then it turned into fascination. I always have a fun time in the desert. Obviously, a multi-day hike requires more planning than a day hike, but some tips goes for both.

Tips for Day Hiking in the Desert

1. Water. The hiking rule of thumb is to carry plenty of water, 1 gallon per day, per person. I personally often carry more than a gallon. When it gets really hot, the need for water intake increases dramatically. Signs of dehydration include headaches, fatigue and nausea. Drink before you are thirsty. I keep myself hydrated by drinking small sips of water throughout the day. Never ration water, that’s what I’ve learned. Water will only do you good if you drink it. It’s better to turn back if water is half gone. Final tip: Keep some cool water in your car for your return.

2. Snacks. No food, no fun. Snack is fuel and makes a difference. I bring salty snacks, power bars, sandwiches, jerky and trail mix. Besides water, I also bring some few sodas just for the moment of pleasure at the summit or at the main viewpoint. After all, why not make yourself comfortable and have a good time.

3. Clothing. Proper clothing for fun in the sun includes broken-in boots or hiking shoes, light colored cotton shirts, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Sunscreen is a must too. I sometimes forget some of it, so I’ve had my sun burns. Even in a desert it can get cold, so if you hike late in the afternoon, be prepared for a significant temperature dip when the sun goes down. Sometimes extra warm clothing is necessary as desert temperatures in winter can drop below freezing.

4. Weather. On sizzling hot days you’ll want to hike early and late in the afternoon. If that’s not an option, hike at a higher elevation. When I want to hike during the day I try to choose a trail that provides some sort of shade. A sudden change in weather can turn into a disaster for the unprepared. It doesn’t rain often in desert areas, but when it does, trails can be slippery and sometimes dangerous. Most dangerous are the flash floods as a result of thunderstorms many miles away. The desert soil does not absorb much of the water, so the runoff cascades into canyons and washes, picking up mud, boulders, trees and other debris. Flash floods can occur in the southwestern states at any time of the year, but summer is high season, so keep an eye on the weather forecast.

5. Trails. Know where you are going. I love maps and like to do my research and study the trail before heading out. All right, I’ve had a few times where I got lost, although just for a short period of time. I often see trail brochures and signs warning people about hiking alone. I think it’s a matter of comfort. Most people can handle a solo hike. If possible, tell someone where you’re going. Why? Watch the movie 127 Hours and you’ll know why. Do your research, be cautious, be smart, and enjoy.

Coping with the Heat

5 must-see bridges

Going on a road trip? Check out these 5 bridges.

  • Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos (New Mexico). At 650 ft above the Rio Grande, it’s the fifth highest bridge in the USA. Rio Grande Gorge is a rift valley and a stunning landscape. There’s a nice hiking trail along the rim. The bridge has appeared in several films like Natural Born Killers, Twins, Wild Hogs, and Terminator Salvation. The sad story about this bridge is the number of suicides committed here, more than 115 in the past 20 years.
  • Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (California). As one of the recognized symbols of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see attraction in Northern California. It’s already the most photographed bridge in the world, so go ahead and shoot some photos too. Walk across or ride a bike if you really want to feel the majesty of this bridge.
  • Navajo Bridge, Marble Canyon (Arizona). Navajo Bridge is actually two bridges similar in appearance spanning the Colorado River. These two bridges, one historic and one new, crosses the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon, which marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon. The bridge is also where I did my first bungee jump. My initials BGJ are to be found somewhere midways on the bridge railing.
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha (Nebraska). This is by far the coolest pedestrian bridge I’ve ever seen. The footbridge across the mighty Missouri River is a new landmark of Omaha. The bridge is 3,000 ft long, including the landings, and it’s the longest pedestrian bridge to link two states.
  • Bridge to Nowhere, San Gabriel Mountains (California). You can’t reach it by car, you have to hike. The Bridge to Nowhere was constructed in 1936. It has never been in use as there’s no road leading to the bridge. You have to do a 10 mile round trip hike to reach the site. If you want to feel a rush like you’ve never experienced before, jump off the bridge with Bungee America.

My 5 Must-See Bridges

Hiking in Vegas

Yep, you can hike in Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon is only a short drive from the bustling Strip, and it’s actually the perfect place to go if you need a break from the festive and euphoric sounds. For a quick fix of peace, choose the Calico Tanks Trail. It’s a great 2-3 hours hike. The trail is rated moderate with some scrambling over and around boulders. You’ll hike through a colorful landscape of jumbled sandstone, and you’ll pass a hidden water pocket and several unique geologic features. At the end of the trail, your treat is the super cool view of Las Vegas Valley. On your way back, think of the huge evening buffet that awaits you at the hotel. It’ll keep up your pace.

Trail Photos

Salt Lake Overlook

Salt Lake City is lovely, but I’m also the kind of person who can’t stay too long in a big city. If you feel the same way and need to get away from cars and concrete, SLC has plenty of hiking trails in the nearby mountains. I was in Salt Lake City during the record hot month of July 2013. Some said it was too hot to go hiking, but it wasn’t for me. I was in the mood for an afternoon hike. The Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake Overlook is perfect in summer as it’s very shaded. At the overlook you can see the entire metropolitan valley, or most of it. Behind you, as you would have noticed on the way up, is the magnificent Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

The trail is 4.8 mile out and back, and rated easy to moderate. There are lots of switchbacks and you gain roughly 1,300 ft, so it takes some uphill work. Actually, the trail goes further and can be combined with other trails. The overlook is a perfect place to sit down and eat a snack, and to me it was the best way of saying goodbye to Salt Lake City before moving on to the south.

Overlook Photos

2 days in New York

I actually like to visit big cities, just for a few days, and I don’t mind doing all the touristy stuff. I’ve been to New York City twice, and I’ll probably come back again. This is my 2 cents on what to do in The Big Apple.

People Watching. It’s practically impossible not to be among people in New York. You’ll see all types of people, so why not make it to an activity. You can do it at Times Square, just keep in mind that you’ll probably see more tourists than New Yorkers. There are other cool places, Central Park and Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, just to name a few.

Landmarks. They’re all over the city. Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, the list goes on and on.

Look Down. Skyscrapers are the mountains of New York. Get up and look down. For a breathtaking view in all directions, head to the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center. This is known as the Top of the Rock. Go all in and buy a Sun & Stars ticket.

Look Up. By looking up, the city becomes even more spectacular. It also sparks new photographic angles.

Money. Wall Street, the infamous Financial District of New York City. This is Gordon Gekko-land with suit and tie as dress code, although there are lots of tourists as well. Anyway, don’t’ forget the bronze sculpture Charging Bull in Bowling Green Park. The oversize sculpture is a real Wall Street icon.

Memorials. Strawberry Fields in Central Park. This area is dedicated to John Lennon. The former Beatle and his wife Yoko Ono had their residence in the Dakota Apartments adjacently located to this area of the park. He was murdered and shot dead in front of his home on December 8, 1980.

Politics. United Nations Headquarters. You’ve probably seen the iconic building in the news. Walk up to the area, maybe you’ll get a glimpse of some world leaders. There’s also a visitor center.

Diversity. If you’re looking for immigrant enclaves and ethnic communities, you’ve come to the right place. Let your personal interest decide which ones to visit, but Chinatown is worth a visit. It’s one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities outside of Asia.

Food. Grab a hot dog! Street food is just the way you eat in New York. Want to sit down? Say hello to Big Daddy’s, a hip 80’s styled diner with tasty food to fuel your day.

New York Shots

Yes, I got The Wave

Finally! I’m going to hike the Wave this year in May. After four failed attempts, I finally won a permit in the online lottery. Hiking The Wave is the ultimate photo-adventure. Obviously I’m excited about the hike but also the opportunity to photograph one of the most stunning places in the world.

Expect the wild! There are no established trails in Coyote Buttes North, where The Wave is the main geological feature. It’s a remote area within the Paria Canyon/Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

These permits are hard to get. The odds of getting a permit in the online lottery are about 4-5%. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) only allows 20 people per day into Coyote Buttes North, and 10 of the permits are issued online through a lottery. The other ten are issued as walk-in permits, also through a lottery held at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center (long name) in Kanab, Utah. To enhance your chances, apply for weekdays. Normally they tend to get fewer applications.

PHOTO: In 2013 I did my best to win a permit in the walk-in lottery, but without any luck. Those guys ahead of me won, lucky them.

Morning hike in Montana

Spontaneous hiking! I think it must be what I did in Helena, Montana. I was getting ready to leave the city early in the morning, but before doing so, I decided to cruise the streets. What really caught my attention was the mountain visible from every direction. I wondered how to get there, because I would love to hike up for a super view of the city. The mountain is named Mount Helena and is part of Mount Helena City Park, a huge and popular area for runners, mountain bikers and hikers. Being persistent helped me to get closer to this intriguing mountain and a trailhead. I found one at LeGrande Cannon Blvd.

There was no information on how to get to the summit, so my hike started into the unknown. My first shot was the Ambrose Trail, but a local runner told me it wouldn’t take me to the top. I walked back and followed Swaney Trail and then Prairie Trail. At some point I could have taken the 1906 Trail, but instead, I decided to follow what appeared to be a trail. Soon after, I must have gotten off trail. I didn’t meet anyone, and it got really steep. I had to scramble a few sections but managed to reach a highpoint that I believed to be the summit. Now it was just a matter of deciding for a spot to settle and enjoy the view. The hike back down was a challenge because of the steep descent. Later on I realized that I might not have been at the official summit, and there’s probably an easier way to the real summit. Anyway, my view was picture-perfect and I had a great morning hike in Helena.

Trail Photos

Red Rock Wonderland

Ask me why I love to travel in Utah, and I’ll show you my photos of Arches National Park. This dream-like landscape of contrasting colors is simply why I find Utah so attractive. I’ll describe this park as surreal, kinda like a Dali painting. Here you’ll find thousands of stone arches as well as hundreds of pinnacles, fins and balanced rocks.

To me, the main attraction is Delicate Arch. During my full day at Arches I made it to Delicate Arch twice. I spent several hours at the arch in the late morning, and then also in the evening when I went back to shoot sunset photos. The hike is a 3 mile round trip, strenuous but not difficult. It’s actually a nice trail with wonderful scenery all the way to the arch. The arch is heavily visited, so don’t expect a solitary experience.

During the sunset, some photographers became clearly annoyed because people were standing beneath the arch. Although I understand a photographers mind, I also find it important to be courteous to other visitors. Besides, people can add scale to a photo of this 65-foot-tall landmark. I got plenty of photos with and without people. The hike back in the dark with hundreds of people using headlights was a magic ending to a perfect day. During the day and in between my Delicate Arch visits, I roamed the park to see some of the other arches and stone features. Most attractions in the park require only a short hike. There are lots of hiking trails, most are considered easy to moderate, but there are also some few strenuous trails, which I’ll consider for my next trip to Aches.

Arches National Park

Bungee from Navajo Bridge

What a thrill, my very first bungee jump. It was actually a night jump from Navajo Bridge, 467 ft above the Colorado River. I can’t think of a better place to debut my inner jumper.

I had booked my jump in advance and was told to meet with the jumpmaster and 20 fellow adventurers on the bridge at 9pm. At that time it had already turned dark. Jumps were scheduled to start no later than 11pm, but were put on hold because of gusty winds. The waiting time wasn’t bad since we had music, full moon, and nice temperatures in the upper 80’s. Past midnight, jumpmaster Chris declared wind conditions to be tolerable, although it was still quite windy. I was jumper number five and at 1am it was my shot.

I got up on the railing for a countdown. Needless to say, I was super excited. My biggest concern was to hit the slack cord on my way down. We were told it could knock one out. Anyway, time for countdown, arms out, and into the dark. I’m not sure whether I looked like a clown or performed a proper jump style. The downward acceleration was really amazing, even though the free fall seemed to last forever. When the cord finally began to stretch, my mind switched from tenseness to joyfulness. After bouncing for a while, I ended up hanging head down only a couple of feet above the Colorado River. It was rather surreal; I’ll never forget the beautiful silence of the river as well as the vertical rock walls on both sides.

People on the bridge hauled me back up, and I stayed to watch the rest jump. At 4 in the morning, it was all over. Luckily I had to walk for just a few minutes to get back to my motel. I got 4 hours’ sleep before I went back to the bridge to shoot some photos, and then I took off to Grand Canyon for a 10 mile hike, but that’s another story.

Navajo Bridge Bungee Jumping

Where to spot the cheap gas

Who doesn’t love cheap gas? It’s not a secret that gas is cheap in the USA, although Americans at times believe they’re paying too much. Coming from Europe, American gas is always cheap. Roughly speaking, when a gallon of gas is $7.64 in Denmark, it’s only $2.90 in the USA. Nevertheless, gas is still a cost. Using, I can estimate how much I’m going to spend on gas. I use the website when I’m planning my trip, and I use the app when I’m on the road. It can pinpoint me to the cheapest gas. I’m not a slave to GasBuddy, but it’s nice to get an indication of the cost. I’d rather spend my money on food than on fuel.

As of 2018, GasBuddy is an U.S. exclusive app, which means I can’t access the site and app from an IP-address in Europe.

USA National Gas Price Heat Map (2014 prices)