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.