Ernie Maxwell Trail in Idyllwild, California

Do consider going to Idyllwild if all you want is to escape from the city, go to a low-key place and hike. Its almost 2 hours drive east from Los Angeles. We stayed here for the weekend and this one was our closing hike.

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It’s a 5 mile out and back or 2.5 mile one way. Both the ends are trail-heads and we ended up parking a car at either end (yes how lame!). It has a relatively higher foot traffic and is easy. Picturesque, but my pictures dont do justice. I need a better camera than my phone.

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Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, South India

In December 2012, during my visit to India, mom and I hiked inside the Periyar forest in Thekkady, famous for its wild-life especially tigers and elephants.

Periyar forest

Day 1 was a short 2 hour 5 mile hike with a forest-guide.

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The dirt-road accessible only to ranger vehicles

The guide mentioned that bears were the most dangerous since they tend to charge at you as part of their defense mechanism; whereas elephants and tigers keep distance. Well (un)fortunately we only spotted bisons, tiger scratch marks and elephant poop. And I am not kidding, that was fun too!

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot 'They are their own enemy'.

Tiger marks its territory boundaries by scratching against trees. I kept hearing this a lot ‘They are their own worst enemy’.

Spot the worm

Spot the worm

Bison. They like to stare

Bison. They like to stare

Day 2 was a trek+bamboo-rafting group adventure deeper into the forest with some forest guides and a gunman.

I finally got to see the beautiful Periyar lake – a man-made lake with a dam, built during the British colonial rule.

Periyar Lake

The lake submerged all the trees in its path and their stems now stick out when its not too deep.

And yay! We spotted an elephant :)

Elephant

Noon pastime. Playing with water and mud.

Deer skull

Deer skull

Elephant jaw bone.

Elephant jaw bone. You can guess the age by counting the number of teeth.

Tigers are the most difficult animal to spot within the forest. There are cameras inside to track them and the estimated number as of now is around 45. Well, we did manage to see their footprints.

Tiger footprint. I was glad I could spot something of this beast.

Tiger footprint.

Finally, I found the spirit of the forest-rangers, naturalists, locals very touching and inspiring. Over the years they have overcome the problem of poaching and now they actively take part in it’s conservation.