Monday, December 28, 2009

Yosemite December 26, 2009

Who can resist the crisp cool air of winter in the mountains? That distinct tang or pure oxygen, pine trees and fresh snow. I know I can’t, so when my roommate mentioned that he was taking his parents to Yosemite on Saturday I pretty much begged to go with them.
The four of us piled into my dad’s SUV and drove up the windy mountain roads to the winter wonderland of Yosemite National Park. I have not been up there in the winter in at least 8 years, maybe longer.
It was beautiful, the contrasting white with the gray granite and green pine trees. Neither Jeremy or his parents had ever been to Yosemite before so I got to give them the grand tour. We started at Bridal Vail, because where else do you start in the park. There was a little bit of water still flowing from the falls but no mist.
The paved path had large patches of ice from all the foot traffic but it was an adventure slipping and sliding along the path. From there we headed to Curry Village, stopping briefly to check out the skating rink. We passed that up for some lunch over in the Curry Village. It was different seeing everything covered in snow, only the indoors eating was open. The other thing I have not gotten used to is the cabins being closed. I looked over there and spied the stone crushed wood of the cabin we stayed in when I did Half Dome.
After lunch we hitched a ride on the bus to Mirror Lake. We walked the mile to the lake, which is more of a large river basin. It was a easy hike other than trying to traverse the icy patches on the path. But the view was new, even for me. The trail brings you directly under Half Dome. It made the face look oddly obtuse, and added to the grandeur and mystic of the mountain.
I look forward to taking the trail further in the summer when it opens up and you can view Half Dome from the left side. After the stroll we made our way back to the car via the bike path instead of the bus. Then we drove to the Ahwahnee to see it all decked out in snow and Christmas decorations. It was super crowded in there, probably because everyone was trying to stay warm. After that we headed home. It was getting late in the day and we did not want to get stuck driving after dark.
The entire trip was a blast. We laughed most of the time as the Cole family recounted family anecdotes and crazy relative stories. And the most fun was just to get out of Fresno, even if it was just for a few hours.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympic National Park Sept. 4-7, 2009

Another Labor Day weekend spent up in the Seattle, WA area with Amy and the family. We flew there on Friday night and drove to Silverdale, WA for the first night. The next morning we met Amy (since she took a ferry over) where the 3 & 104 meet. We drove to Port Angeles for Breakfast and then it was time for the National Park tour. The main Visitor Center is located just outside of Port Angeles on the road up to Hurricane Ridge. We stopped in for some information and then took the road up to the ridge. I made Amy stop so many times because the scenery was just gorgeous, to which Amy replied, this is how Washington always is. Those of us from dry, hot Fresno were impressed. It was pretty cold, windy and cloudy at the top so we didn’t get to see any of the glaciers or Olympic Peak (we never did see the mountain). We headed to the next destination, Crescent Lake and Marymere Falls (See hike description below). We went to the Crescent Lake lodge after, it made me feel like I was in the 50’s or on the set of Dirty Dancing. We had dinner there on the patio looking out over the lake, it was beautiful. Then we went along the winding Highway 101 by Crescent Lakes. We took the road up to Sol Duc Hot Spring and Sol Duc Falls (See hike description below). After the hike we went to check out the Hot Springs and Resort. It was a very nice facility. Then we drove to our hotel in Forks, yes, it is the Forks from Twilight.
By happy coincidence my dad booked us a hotel there without even knowing the significance. The guy who checked us in was a great resource. He knew all the great trails in the area and recommended some restaurants. He had to be around 70 and was telling us that he wanted to hike the Seven Lakes Basin one more time before he wasn’t able to. Now that is something to aspire to, backpacking at 70. After we checked in, us girls went to the local market to pick up dessert since Brandon had been promised some goodies. We decided to pick up some breakfast and snacks as well. However we discovered that the hotel room had no dishes or silverware so we ran to the local gas station and got plastic cups and spoons.
The next day we let mom and Brandon sleep in and Amy, dad and I went to hike the Hoh Rainforest River Trail (See hike description below). It was raining constantly while we were in the rainforest, which was appropriate. We met up with Mom and Brandon in time to catch the Ranger talk and walk through The Hall of Mosses (See hike description below). Then we headed back to the hotel to get dry, take showers, take a nap, etc. We did stop in one of the Dazzled by Twilight stores just to check it out but I got out of there as quickly as I could. We headed over to La Push to get some dinner. I do have to say, the one Twilight thing I liked was, when entering La Push, there is a sign that says, “No Vampires Allowed Past this Point” “├čTreaty Line├á” And I also like being able to bring to life some of the scenery from the book. We ate at the Three Rivers Restaurant which was recommended by the hotel guy, and was a great little place over the ocean with a great view of the nearby islands. We left the restaurant at sunset and the clouds had lifted enough to give a nice color. Inspired by this my dad decided to have us hike down to Second Beach to catch the sunset. But by the time we parked and started to hike we missed the main part of the sunset, and the trail was really strange because it wound away from the beach. We ended up turning back and walking to a little observation platform to see what remained of the sunset. Then we headed back to the hotel and played some Phase 10 before bedtime.
Monday the hikers once again took off early and we hiked the third climate of Olympic NP, the beach. The hotel guy had highly recommended Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Rock (See hiking description below). We made it back to the hotel in time to shower, change and throw our stuff into the cars. We drove to Kingston to catch the ferry to Edmonds and then drove into Seattle. The main purpose of going into Seattle was because Brandon had specifically requested we eat at the Pink Door. However, they do not serve dinner until 5pm so we perused Pikes Place Market until that time came. I had this aflredo mushroom dish, Brandon had his much anticipated Seafood Bisque, Amy got their famed lasagna, Mom got their clam linguini, and dad got one of their specials. It was delicious as usual. As soon as we left there, it was time to drive say our farewells to Amy. At the airport we ran into Rich Wathen and his family who were traveling back on the same flight. Unfortunately, they checked in after us and were told that the flight had been over booked and Rich would have to stay behind for the next flight.
It was a wonderful weekend of hiking, friends, family, beautiful scenery and another NP to check off my list. I am really looking forward to returning next Labor Day weekend for a long backpacking trip to be able to explore some more of the park.

Marymere Falls
1 mile roundtrip
Starting from Crescent Lake the trail gently goes up to Marymere Falls. This was our first taste of the mossy beauty of the Olympic Rainforest. Amy, dad and I took the high loop that takes you up 400 feet to just level with the output of the falls. The falls was not very big but it had its own beauty. There was a tree jutting out from the top of the falls and many more trees at the base that had been washed down and were creating a natural dam for the water. At the bottom viewing area there was a tangle of roots from all the trees, covered in moss and dirt, just beautiful.

Sol Duc Falls
1.6 miles roundtrip
Starting from just past the Sol Duc Hot Springs resorts and campgrounds you take a path that is pretty level to the falls. It winds through the forest of tall spruce, cedar and pine trees that are common to Olympic NP and Northwest Washington. The clouds were getting lower with the evening drawing near and it made a very eerie look, but as most thing in this region, a beautiful look as well. We walked over a small creek and past a shelter house (we had many theories about what the shelter house was for). The trail we were on is also the trail to go to Seven Lake Basin and into the whole of the Olympic Park. We are planning to come back and do this trail, starting at Sol Duc Falls and coming out at the Hoh river trail. We came to the falls, which are three tall off shoots that go down into a ravine. The green of the foliage, black of the rocks and white of the water was a stunning contrast. Amy and I had fun taking pictures there. Then we hurried back because the cloud cover was making it pretty dark.

Hoh River Trial
4 miles roundtrip
This trail starts at the visitor center and winds its way along the Hoh River. The river was this massive fast flowing body of water that was gray with silt. Later on a ranger told us you did not want to get your water from the river, better to get it from a stream. The entire time we were hiking it was raining, but like Amy said, It would almost be wrong if it wasn’t raining in a rainforest. The scenery on the hike was amazing, moss over everything, giant mushrooms, green everywhere and giant trees covering the sky. We came across several backpacking groups leaving the rainforest and most were just miserable with the rain, but one group was enthusiastic just to be hiking in the rainforest. We hiked a short while with a musician who was up for a few performances and we got to talk with him awhile. A lot of the trail reminded us of the movie “Romancing the Stone” because it looks like where they got stuck in the land slide. Our plan was to hike in for an hour and then hike back out for that amount of time in order to meet up with mom and Brandon. It worked out perfect.

The Hall of Mosses
0.75 mile loop
This trail started from the visitor and took off from part of the Hoh River Trail. It took us up on a little hill where we could really see the full growth of the rainforest. It was raining even harder during this hike than on the River Trail and I was the only person with an umbrella. The Ranger was really great on our walk/talk, giving us all kinds of little tidbits about the rainforest. Things such as, when a tree dies the new trees grow over it drawing the nutrients from it. And this creates an interesting effect that I can’t describe, the best is to show you the picture. Then she told us some funny things like, there is a disease the trees get called “Cubical Butt Rot” which we thought was awesome and used as a phrase when we hiked Rialto Beach. Then we got to The Hall of Mosses, which is a stunning area of trees and moss all over the place, hanging in all shades of green, yellow and brown.
Rialto Beach to Hole-in-the-Rock
3 miles roundtrip
This trail is all the way at the end of the road in La Push on the north side of the rivers. We got there at low tide so that we could walk through the Hole-in-the-Rock. The beach was full of drift wood, but this isn’t your typical drift wood, it was whole trees upon more whole trees. The sand was a beautiful black coarse rocky shore and the fog hadn’t lifted when we started the hike, making the scenery (once again) stunning. About half way we came to a small river that we had to cross. Amy and I didn’t want to take off our shoes and we saw some drift wood making a helter-skelter bridge. We attempted to get across and it proved incredibly difficult as the wood was all slimy. It took us a significant amount of time to cross and some very dirty pants (here entered the Cubical Butt Rot). Let’s just say that on the way back we took off our shoes. All along the way we saw groups of backpackers on the beach, just waking up. However, after this short hike I told my dad that hiking the beach was not an option for next year, it was more tiring than any of the other hikes of the weekend. We reached Hole-in-the-Rock, which was beautiful, with a nice tidal pool at its base with all kinds of colorful creatures in there. We skedaddled back after that because we were running short on time. Not ignoring the wonderful scenery that was starting to show up out of the fog. We had hoped to attempt the Second Beach trail as well but ran out of time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Marble Falls - July 25, 2009

The Stats
8 miles round trip (or so we think)
Somewhere between 1,500 and 2,100 feet elevation gain (we had conflicting sources)
90 degrees at the bottom of the trail
Animals Spotted: 1 goat, a gazillion squirrels, 1 snake, a few lizards
In attendance: Jeremy Cole, Callie Burruss & Me

We set out from Clovis over to Sequoia National Park’s south entrance.
The trail starts you right off with a quick couple of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Then for the majority of the trip you are going along the side of the canyon steadily up, but it is not down by the river. Jeremy said the trail was recommended in Spring, which I would probably agree with. The scenery was nice, but I could see in the spring it being really lush and green, with a lot more water. And Great Blazes, it was hot. It was still worth it though. I had a moment of weakness in which I stated I might not make it because of the heat, but luckily for me Jeremy kept pushing on and about 2 miles in the trail went under more trees and altitude made it a little cooler. As we started to get closer the rock turned from the expected granite of the Sierras to white marble. It made it really beautiful to come across an outcropping of bright white rocks. Then we got to the falls. It was more of a cascade but it was cascading over enormous boulders of white marble with huge pools of green river water. We immediately took off our shoes and walked through some water up to a place to put our feet in. It felt so good. It was nice and icy cold. Jeremy did some exploring while I sat in the shade and enjoyed the water and scenery. There was a really cool waterfall that fascinated me because it went through this split between 2 boulders and the water did a streaming thing (I don’t know if I can explain it to you so I will show you). After about 30 minutes we zoomed back down the trail. The closer we got to the car and further down we were the hotter it got. It was ridiculously hot by the time we met up with Callie back at the car. We decided to go over to the river by the car and put our feet in. We ran into a family from Hawaii in the river and there was this great spot right below a mini waterfall. The water felt like a Jacuzzi tub on the toes. Then we headed home. It was a pretty quiet ride home as I think we were all tired from the hike and heat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River - July 2 to 6, 2009

The Stats:
30 miles over 5 days one way
134 songs played on the iPod over 2 days
Goal Met - Multi Day Backpacking Trip
In Attendance - Kevin & Courtney Castanos, Mark & Nancy Wathen, Mike & Sherilee Nimon

After many months of planning we finally started our hike through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. Originally there was going to be 12 of us and slowly people started dropping out with lame excuses like, My Grandfather died, I can’t miss school, etc. The hike starts from Tuolumne Meadows in Upper Yosemite National Park, a lovely 3 hour drive from Fresno.
The first day after driving up to the park, getting our permits, renting some bear canisters and repacking our food and hygiene items in said bear canisters, we were off like a herd of turtles. Actually the first day was fairly easy and our shortest day. We went from Tuolumne Meadows to just past Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp (about 5.5 miles). On the way we were swarmed by mosquitoes, passed many beautiful waterfalls and enjoyed the general splendor of the meadows and granite mountains. We reached Glen Aulin and polled the group to see if we wanted to continue on or stop there for the night. We decided to stay away from the crowds and continue on. We didn’t get that far though because just past Glen Aulin was a hill you come down and at the bottom was a really nice campsite that we decided to grab.It was right next to this great wall of water and had a nice fishing hole and lots of flat ground for us to put our tents on. We saw Marmots running around the hill all evening, they looked like beavers. We had a lovely dinner hosted by the Castanos’ of sausages and crepes with chocolate sauce and fruit. It was delightful! That night we put out bear canisters up the hill from us. We had a few last minute items to put away but Mark didn’t know where the canisters were so he went and put them up on a rock (butter and some camp soap).
The second day we got started a little on the later side, we took our time packing up. The Marmots got our butter and soap. It was 10:30 by the time we put our packs on and started hiking down the valley. We followed right along the river passing huge pools of water and climbing over granite pathways and bridges. On this day we passed the famous falls called Waterwheel. The granite under one set of waterfalls is shaped in such a way that it makes the waterfall hit the groove and flip back up on itself.
We were kind of slow moving that day. Nancy and Courtney were looking for quartz. Kevin and Mark were stopping at every fishing hole to see what they could catch (11 fish in all). My dad and I were being awed by the scenery, the canyon seemed new with every corner that you went around. At 4pm we realized that we were taking a little too long hiking and needed to get at least another 2 miles before we set up camp so my dad and I busted a move down the trail. We suddenly dropped from granite passways along the river into a forest of trees, where the trail was all barky and soft. The mosquitoes started to get more abundant as we got further into the forest, I was spraying Deet like crazy. Then my dad saw a little rabbit trail heading down by the water, he went to go check it out for a campsite. That is where we landed for the night (about 6.5 miles). Now the ranger who gave us our permit told us to only camp at previously impacted sites, meaning places that others had already camped. My dad found one little burnt briquette at this site and we decided it looked good.Not too soon after Nancy and Courtney joined us at the site. We all planned to get into the water to wash off, but then realized that Kevin had the canister with all the hygiene items in it. My dad dug out a tiny quarter full bottle of dish soap and all four of us used it. We went into the river with all our clothes on so that we could rinse the sweat off. It was very frigid snow runoff water. But Courtney and I got all the way under the water just to wash. It was so cold you had to let out a yelp when you got in. After that, us girls sat out on the rocks in the river until the last bit of sun was gone and then we went and stood around the fire. By then Mark and Kevin had joined us. My dad and I started dinner of chicken stir fry and the Wathens provided humus for an appetizer. We did not stay up late that night due to the mosquitoes and being dog tired. We actually went to bed just as the sun was really starting to go down, about 9pm.
The third day as we were getting ready and starting breakfast we saw another hiker and then realized that it was a ranger. This young man came down the trail to talk to us. We kept him there for about 30-45 minutes just asking him questions and talking about the trail. He informed us that we had not gone as far as we thought we had, we were about 1 mile short of where we wanted to be. That motivated everyone to get a move on, but we didn’t leave the campsite until 11am. Luckily for us though, we knew there would be a trail marker at the next place we needed to stop because it was a trail junction. We started out the hike strong, with everyone really clipping along. Then we came upon the difficult part of the trail. We ran into one small rattlesnake that my dad set rattling. I nearly had an anxiety attack right then and there, but he went back into his hole. Just past there was a 3 mile section that we had to go straight up the side of the mountain and then come back down on the other side. We all did it, but it was crazy difficult, it was a good taste of what we would have to do the next day for 4 miles. We stopped at the very top to enjoy the view and some lunch. We went straight down the mountain after that. We came across a creek that had a waterfall coming off of it. We stopped to refill our water containers and then we had to cross the stream with our shoes off as there was no bridge.
It was really nice to cool down my feet in the river after the crazy up and down we had just done. Then we kept on blazing the trail. We were able to look back and see why we had to do the 3 mile leg, because the river carved a very thin canyon and there was no place for a path. We ran into several groups along the way 3 going the opposite of us and 1 group that was doing the same trip of as us. 3 miles more and then we came to a place where the trail had been washed out by the river. The only options were climb over the boulders or ford through the water, we decided it would be easier to ford the water because it only went up to our knees. From there it was only another mile or so to our campsite. The site was just before the bridge and away from the water (about 9 miles). When we arrived Mark had already set up the tents. Mark and my dad went to go refill water bottles and the rest of us pulled our soap out and dirty clothes and went down to the river to wash up for real this time. The water here felt great, it was still really cold but we were either too hot to really care or it had had a chance to warm up a little because it was bearable. It felt so good to get clean and smell like soap instead of Deet and sweat. The mosquitoes were not so bad at this location thanks to the bats. We had a wonderful meal of gourmet cheese, salami & crackers with gnocci and pesto for dinner and oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert. It was the best meal we had all week. That night we decided to head out at sunrise the next day so that we could hike in the cool of the day. So we went to bed early again and I had the best night of sleep yet.
The fourth day began just as the light hit the sky. We packed up and were on the trail by 6:30am, the sun was shining bright enough to see the path. We went about a mile on a gradual uphill trail along the river. We ran into one rattlesnake on the trail but he was slow and not too interested in us so I didn’t have to run too fast to get past him. Then we went through a swarm of mosquitoes that seemed to really like Courtney. After that point the trail was up. Just up with more up and for the fun of it, more up. I stopped a lot along the way but there was beautiful scenery and very quickly we got high enough that I wasn’t too scared that a snake would pop out at me. Along the trail I could see the valley we had just hiked through and the river getting smaller and smaller. The boys were ahead of us but Nancy and Courtney waited up for me. We reached a point where you could look down at all of Hetch Hetchy and then we kept going up. My dad left the water filter behind at one point so that we could refill our water bottles, and it was perfectly timed as I was just about out. Along the way we met a man coming down the hill who said they had seen a bear the day before but we never saw the bear. Then when we reached the very top of the hillside/mountain/canyon wall we had been climbing we found the hiking pole they had left behind that lead to our camp. There was much rejoicing from us all. We made it to the top just before noon (about 4.5 miles). All of us stripped off our packs as fast as can be and headed down to the creek that was running next to the campsite. It felt so good to stick my feet in and wash my face. Then I went and took a nap in the tent for while. We all kind of lazed around the campsite until dinner time reading and talking and sleeping. Nancy made humus, we found 6 carrots left over from the second night’ dinner and we had pita bread, it tasted so good. Then my dad and I boiled water for our freeze dried lasagna dinner from REI. Everyone added their leftover dried veggies and we made a great dinner, or at least it was food, and we didn’t really care if it was good or not. Then my dad and I broke out the chocolate truffles and red port that we had brought for our dessert. Kevin and Mark pulled out their last cigars. It was fantastic. We decided that the next day everyone was going to get up early and hike out so that we could catch the bus back to the car. Originally it was only going to be my dad but then we had to still return the bear canisters to the ranger station in Tuolumne Meadows, a 45 minute drive one way in the wrong direction. We went to bed even earlier that night with full stomachs.
The fifth morning stared at 4am in the dark of the morning. We packed our bags without eating breakfast and were on the trail by 5:15am. This day I was not moving very fast. My legs and glutes were screaming at me for doing this to them 5 days in a row. My dad stayed back with me. The trail went up for a good 2 miles like the day before. Then the last 3 miles were fairly flat through a wooded meadow. I was slow going uphill but on the flat my dad and I booked.

We passed a sign saying 0.8 miles to White Wolf and then we really started walking fast. Suddenly we could hear a humming of the generator at White Wolf and soon after my dad turned to me and said, “Look, cars and tents.” Just past him was a bunch of campsites. I have to admit that my eyes got a little watery when I saw that. Then not far from there the trail ended in a parking lot with a great view of the White Wolf dining hall. We made it to White Wolf in exactly 3 hours. When we got there everyone was just sitting down with food from the breakfast buffet. We were talking to them and my dad realized that my pack was still on and helped me out of it. I got a lot teary eyed then because I realized that I didn’t have to put that back on again. They told us to go get our food. But there was a story, when they got to the restaurant they realized that no one had brought any money or credit cards so Courtney talked to the Assistant Manager to see if we could work out a deal. The gal was nice and said that she had come at the perfect time because they needed register tape from the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. So the deal was that we had to leave a few people and backpacks, send someone on the bus to bring back the tape and money to pay for breakfast. That was the best breakfast ever. And I mean E-V-E-R! Eggs, potatoes, bacon, fresh fruit, biscuits & gravy, coffee and fresh squeezed OJ. After that we waited for the bus to come at 9:30. We emptied all our bear canisters and piled them up for my dad and Courtney take on the bus and the rest of us sat in the sun on the porch, talked, read and hung out until they got back with the car. Then we loaded back up and were on our way home.
It was a once in a lifetime trip. The views and scenery is stuff that few people get to see and I felt pretty well up to the trip. Actually the 9 mile day was worse than the uphill day. All in all it was hard but worth it with a great group of people to do the hike with.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beryl Lake Hike

The Stats:
3 miles roundtrip
38 songs played on the iPod
Goal Met - Hiking with no trail
Elevation of 8,750 feet
Temperature Low 20s/High 50s

For Father’s Day weekend we took my dad backpacking. I was able to convince Brandon to join us with the plea of “The perfect Father’s Day for dad would include his two kids and doing his favorite activity.” We went up to Tamarack, which is just above Shaver Lake, where there are a gazillion 4 wheeling trails. We drove into Brewer Lake and parked the jeep. There was no real trail into the lake we were headed to. A coworker of my Dad’s, Freddie, had recommended this lake because it is his favorite fishing hole. So we clambered out of the car and put on our packs, took our little map and began to blaze our own trail. Mocha tried to be in the lead and kept getting lost, she is a trail dog but it is a little hard on her when there is no actual trail. We knew we needed to follow along this ridge past 2 lakes and then we were supposed to be looking for a fisherman’s trail. We got almost to Beryl Lake before we started spotting cairns. When we got the lake my dad and dumped our packs and decided to hike a little further because according to the map we were really close to Coyote Lake, which we had been to once before by 4 wheel. The hike to get there was going up a ridge and over, once again there was no trail. When we got to the top of the ridge, which was practically straight up a hill side, probably 250 foot vertical in 400 feet, it was freezing and windy so we decided to turn around and head back to the fire. We set up camp and hung around the fire the rest of the afternoon. We tried out some backpacking food for dinner in order to test stuff out for our Grand Canyon of Tuolumne trip in a couple of weeks. We had Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. The temperature kept dropping as the day wore on, Brandon went to bed early just so he could get into his sleeping bag and warm up. Then as soon as the sun went down, my dad and I grabbed the lantern and some cards and crawled into our bags to keep warm and played Phase 10. That night I woke up shivering uncontrollably because the temperature dropped really low, our best guess is that it was in the 20s as my sleeping bag is a 15 degree bag. Needless to say none of us got a great night of sleep.
The next morning Brandon and I didn’t roll out of our sleeping bags until 9am when it was a little warmer outside. We tried Mountain House Scrambled Eggs and Bacon for breakfast and it was horrible. So we made some pancakes and my dad had caught a fish so he and Brandon ate that too. Then we packed up and heading back to the jeep. This time though we followed the cairns all the way back. It was a follow-able trail in the sense that once we got to one cairn we looked for the next and so on and so forth until we got back, but better than the trail blazing through brush that we had done to get there. We had to cross the river at one point and I chose a bad path and ended up getting up to my knees in water. But luckily by then we were almost back to the jeep where I could change into flip flops and jeans.
We stopped at our usually place, the Burger Hut in Shaver to eat a late lunch as we were all really hungry. It was a really cold windy drive back into Fresno and when I got home, despite the fact it was 85 degrees outside I took a really hot shower and crawled under all my covers and vegged for a few hours. Then we went to my parent’s house for dinner to celebrate Father’s Day. After all of that it was to bed early that night and a great night of sleep all warm in my bed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life is Good

Liz and I finally got to hang out for the first time in about 3 months. We have seen each other a couple of time but it was more in passing. So she called me on Saturday looking for ideas of where to take her brother-in-law, Jeremy, to show him the Fresno Area, I suggested Bass Lake, because it was getting a little late in the day to do Yosemite. She said they might do that. After that I was thinking, I should totally go with them. I texted her and said I wanted to go. And to make a long story short after several hits and misses in the planning they came and picked me up and we went up to Bass Lake for the afternoon.
It was a lot of fun to just spontaneously do something, get out of Fresno and the heat and enjoy the company of friends. We did a bunch of catching up in the 45 minute drive up the mountain while poor Josh was doing work. Once we got up to Bass Lake the plan was to eat lunch up there and just explore, maybe do a hike. We ended up walking down to the docks by Ducey’s and Josh checked into renting a boat, but it was too expensive. So we ate Lunch at the little restaurant they have, the Lakeside Grill. And after about 3 hours up there we came back into town, which was no big deal because it was fun just to do it. Then Liz invited me to do dinner and a game night. So we went grocery shopping and headed back to her house to hang. I got to play with Baxter and we had fun cooking together (where we did our normal and cooked way too much food). Jeremy made this awesome drink with Malibu Coconut Rum, Lite V8 Splash Mango & Peach, Pinapple Juice and a splash of sprite, can I say YUMMY! Jeremy, Liz and I played a game of scrabble while Josh read. I could not have asked for a better Saturday if I had planned it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yosemite Falls Hike

One of my personal goals this summer was to climb to the top of Yosemite Falls, for several reasons. It has been something I really wanted to do after seeing Soarin’ Over California for the first time. They have a scene where they take you over Yosemite Village and then to the top of the falls, but you can see hikers along the trail to the top of the falls. That inspired me. Also, before doing Half Dome last year my dad and I had thought about doing the falls as training. I am kind of glad we didn’t though because I think it would have discouraged me from doing Half Dome.

The Stats:
7.2 miles round trip
6.5 hours hiking time
2,700 foot altitude gain
88 songs played on the iPod

The hike starts at Camp 4, which is where all the El Capitan climbers camp. The trail is extremely strenuous and it doesn’t ever let up on you. From the first 0.1 miles you start going up switch back until you are about ½ up the granite wall, then it takes you along the wall, until you come out to a lookout. Someone long the trail told me it was 1 mile in. My guess would be a little further, like 1.5 miles. This overlook lets you look down both sides of the valley. It was beautiful, even if it was cloudy and overcast. It comes out on a cliff directly over Yosemite Lodge. The view of Half Dome along the entire trail was one of a kind.

I stopped and rested for a good while there. From there the trail goes up for a little while, then the dreaded thing, it went down quite a bit as the mountain had run out of dirt. So there was a granite wall on one side and a little bit of dirt on the other with a granite cliff below. I was cursing the path builders for this because I knew I would have to go back up that. Once you come down it brings you right to the base of Upper Yosemite Falls. This view is quite spectacular. I would recommend that if you are not in shape to do the whole hike that you go to at least this point. I think it is so great because most people don’t get to see the upper falls in the same perspective as Vernal Falls or Bridaveil Falls.
This point gives you a perspective of how far you have come up and how much further you need to go. So I kept plugging on. More switchbacks up and up and up, they take you along the side of the falls, so there is plenty of time to see and appreciate this huge wall of water. About ½ a mile from the top (but I didn’t know where I was in perspective of things at the time) I was really losing steam. A nice gentleman and his family stopped to encourage my by pointing out where the trail ends. On the left side, at the very edge was a little granite shelf with people standing on it. I kindly smiled and thanked them, then I thought to myself, ‘I am never going to make it.’ For a while I had been going one switchback and stopping to breath and then another, my glutes were fire (not just on fire anymore), and my energy was running low. But slow and steady I kept pressing forward. About 5 switchbacks from the top of the trail a couple of gentlemen encouraged me by saying I was only 30 minutes from the top. I got a little hopeful. At that point the trail went behind the granite face of the falls. I was so tired I was thinking, ‘It would be ok if the rest of the group has been up at the top for an hour and they turn around now, I would be ok with that, I’ve gone far enough.’ But I kept pressing forward. Soon I came to the top of the trail and took the hard right that headed to the edge of the granite wall and the falls. I had made it, despite complete and total exhaustion. When I reached the edge the rest of the group was there. They told me they had only been there about 30 minutes, so I hadn’t been that far behind them. They pointed me in the direction of the overlook. The overlook is a very thrilling decent to a granite ledge about 30 feet below the top ledge. In order to get down you come down several sets of stairs to a staircase carved out of the granite wall, where there is cliff on one side and a railing on the other.

Once you are down the hair-raising stairs the view is breath taking… or maybe that was all the energy I just put into getting to this point. The only two thoughts on my mind at that point were, ‘It was worth it’ and ‘This is so beautiful. I am one of few people who get to see this view!’
It was really cold at the top of the falls so I didn’t spend a ton of time there, especially since the rest of the group had been there for a while. Phil convinced us to hike over to the bridge that crosses the river. That was worth the extra effort as well. Then it was all downhill from there…well mostly. I was once again cursing the person who had us go up and then down at the base of the falls. And the constant straight down was not feeling great on my thighs or knees but it was much more welcome than the uphill ascent. It did give us time to make friends with a group of hikers who were going at our pace. It was a dad and mom backpacking a kid in and their friend. We had lots of interesting conversations. I love how that happens when you are hiking, it doesn’t happen anywhere else any more. We eventually made it to the bottom of the trail with much rejoicing.
Over all it was a great hike, I am glad I accomplished it. But like Half Dome, I may never do the hike again. It was just as strenuous of a hike as Half Dome, but half the length. If I were ever to consider it, I would need to be in a lot better shape, with someone else who really wants to go and it needs to be several years from now so I can forget the pain of the hike.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Climb

I hate to admit this but I love the new Miley Cyrus song “The Climb”. I feel like the song speaks to me.
I had a rough day today and I put the song on in my car at lunch and just blasted it. It actually made me a little blurry eyed because it reminded me I have dreams that are beyond my current job, my current coworkers, and my current situation. That this struggle that I am going through isn’t forever but it also isn’t my last struggle. That I need to keep plunging ahead on this path. But most importantly, that even with what is going on now, I need to keep my dreams in front of me and I need to keep pursuing them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ode to an Old Friend

I still remember the first time I claimed you as my friend, I told my mom I was too embarrassed to have the big red guy so she sent me you. You took me everywhere. I fondly remember the summer we followed Callie around because the law said we were too young to drive together. The laughs Callie and I had over our two boats of a friend. Then you took me to college. I remember the awe when mom and I came onto campus for the first time to check it out and you just hummed. Because you knew there were greater things awaiting me. When I decided to come home every other weekend you encouraged me. You had cool air and loud tunes to get me home. But when it was time to pile in 5 more friends you just squeezed us into your heart. The time we drove to Pismo in the pouring rain. Then Jacob had to pee really bad on the way back, that I will never forget. The night of our first accident, coming back from Disneyland with the gang at midnight and the 5 was getting backed up. We were alright, but you got a little hurt and you never really recovered. And I initiated you with 2 bumper stickers after that first year of college. And every year after that you were as faithful as ever even though I gave you a few more bumps and bruises and put many miles on you.
Then we came home after college and you took me to interviews. You calmed my nerves by letting me sing out loud where no one else could hear. You got me to my first job and every day after that for 3+ years. That awful moment when I found out your windows would not go up and down. But we still had many laughs about it, especially with the drive thru people at Rally’s. You endured the hit of the little red, fast car even though that scar will never go away. And though we had a few tiffs over little things like rubber, electricity, speakers and waking up in the mornings, you were the constant in my life. You stood up with pride despite all the cruel insults from people who thought you were too old be alive.
When I was forced to leave my job you gently caught my tears as they poured forth that afternoon. You took me to more interviews and sat and waited patiently when I didn’t drive you as much. You got me through 3 month at my new job.
Then you started to cough and heave. You were not well my friend. I tried to put off that you were very sick, but you finally told me you were tired and had nothing left to give. So now I am forced to move on to a newer friend. But always know that you will not be forgotten. You got me through so many years. And all those wonderful first time things and lasting memories, those you can call your own because they can never be with anyone else. You have been great, faithful, a place to rest my weary legs, a shoulder to cry on, and a confidant when I needed one. 9 years and 75,000 miles of friendship is a long time for a friend as old as you.

Bonnie, you will be missed.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Travel Bug

Life has been pretty uneventful. I have really been getting the itch to go something and do somewhere... wait that is backwards. Anyway. I really don't want to be here at my apartment for another weekend. Unfortunately no one wants to go anywhere with me. :-( 'Sigh' So I have to be satisfied with doing things in my backyard and hold out for Memorial Day weekend, which is my next known trip. A surprisingly long time for me, as you all know.
Last Saturday my dad, Mocha and I went on the first hike of the season up at Millerton Lake. Yeah! It felt great to get out and stretch my legs (quite literally). I got a little burned, but it is now brown (thanks Hawaiian blood). And Mocha was a totally tuckered pup. I am trying to get some miles in because I am hoping to get the time off and go on a 5 day backpacking trip over Independence Day weekend. It is going to up in the Grand Canyon of Tuolumne. They describe this as the Yosemite Valley that is not been destroyed by human traffic. There is this cool thing at the start of the hike called "Water Wheels" where waterfalls come off of these rock features that make the water loop up into the air making them look like water wheels. Sounds interesting. The stats: 28 miles one way, mostly gradual downhill with the last leg being straight up the canyon walls. We have a group of about 10 going so far and we are trying to get as ready as we can. I hope I can get the time off to do this trip.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some Tidbits

My spring and summer are slowly getting filled up with weekend getaways, hiking and 4x4 trips. I am getting excited about getting out of town. I have spent a few too many weekends in town. And as nice and relaxing as they have been that is just not my kind of weekend. Maybe once a month to have a weekend like that, but I feel like between the lay off and now this I have been home way, way too much. I am ready to see the open road, feel the dirty beneath my hiking boots and have the sky as my limit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New Years Resolution

Last Year's Resolutions

Spiritual: Finish reading through the bible

- In doing so I gain a better knowledge of God and his purpose and will for my life.

Physical: To train and reach the physical stamina needed to top Half Dome

- In doing so I improve my stature in a healthy way that avoids all of those fad diets, etc.

Personal: To become more aware of those around me in order to help those who need it in what ever way I can.

- I was inspired by the resent visit of some friends to seek out those around me and help where I can, monetarily, physically, in friendship, in assistance, etc.

An Achievement: Hike to the top of Half Dome

- In doing so I achieve the physical capability to do so but also face a fear of heights in the climb to the top.

A Learning/New Experience: This is yet to be determined for me, but I have something in mind it just hasn't played out yet.

This Year's Resolutions

Spiritual: Reading through the bible

- I did not accomplish this last year. But this year my dad is going to do it with me and keep me accountable.

Physical: To lose 20 pounds with going to curves, improving my eating habits, etc.

Personal: I am thinking about taking a class or two maybe in a foreign language. (I'll keep you posted)

An Achievement: To complete a multi-day backpacking trip.

A Learning/New Experience: I want to ride a horse for the first time in 15 years. This is all about facing fears. But I would really love to learn how to really ride a horse versus just sit in the saddle. I know there is an art.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hiking Zion NP

I have a small obsession with National Parks as of late. When my dad told me we might have time to visit one on our way back from Colorado I was all over that. We landed on Zion NP several reasons: It was on the way and Bryce was basically closed for the winter.
We got lucky with Zion. It happened that it was the first time in 10 years that the snow had stayed on the ground. This made the scenery beautiful!We slipped and slid down several trails, like the Riverside Walk (Pictured Above). The gateway to the world famous Narrows, where in the summer you can travel 9 miles up a slot canyon where the walls narrow and you are inching your way along between them. So great, we do that in Lake Powell. The weather was too cold for us to do that.
Next on our travel was the Weeping Rock (pictured above). A phenomenon that takes place all year long. The sandstone rocks of the Utah desert soak up the snow and rail and them it seeps down through the rock and rains out. But Weeping Rock is unique in the fact that you can stand directly under the rock and not get wet because the water flows out sideways and creates a really big waterfall over head. The trail was interesting because it goes straight up for .2 miles but by then the temperature was warming up and the snow was getting a little slippery and icy. Still worth it.
We also traveled to the Emerald Pools via the Kayenta Trail, where you travel along the edge of the canyon, about 20-30 feet up, over looking the Virgin River. The trail into Echo Canyon was great, sunny, dry, and then we got to the shady part where there was still snow and it got a little hairy. Plus we took a wrong trail because we followed everyone else's foot prints (see picture above, it shows how easy it is to see where others have been, red dirt on white snow). That wrong trail ended up being up a steep area where it was so muddy and slippery we had to go really slow. Picture the scene from Romancing the Stone where they go sliding down the hillside, now picture our wrong turn. But we did find the right way eventually and it made the trip worthwhile.
Our last trail was Pa'rus (pronouced pa-roos) the only place in the park that dogs are allowed to go... on leash (hahaha, I laugh because Mocha was on leash about 10 seconds of the enitire trail, but there was no one else there). We took the trail at sundown as suggested by the Park Ranger for the beautiful views (see picture). It was a perfect end to the day.
Total Miles for the day (including wrong turn) = 6 miles