Friday, August 28, 2009

Point Reyes

reyes-1This post should catch me all up :). Over this last weekend I did a two night backpacking trip in Point Reyes with Donna. August has been a crazy month of camping and backpacking and all the preparations in between. Great way to end the summer.

This would be Donna's second time backpacking. Her first trip was only 1.2 miles in, downhill, but with a ton of insects and generally not a very good experience (post 'Eaten Alive by Lions'). Lucky for me she was willing to give it a second try in a cooler coastal setting, but 4.6 miles to camp.

Taking off for Glen Camp at just before 5pm from the visitor center parking lot, the sun was still very hot. It was shady most of the way, but not breezy enough to keep from overheating. The first 1.5 miles is a very gradual uphill and then 1.5 miles of almost level downhill.

Three miles in the Glen Trail splits off and goes uphill steep. It was a little hard on the legs and the going was slow but I took comfort in the fact it was going to be nothing like the uphill I experienced in the Ventana Wilderness the weekend before. Plus hiking out from camp would be much more enjoyable than in.

We got to our camp with about 1 hour of daylight left to set up and cook. The campground has 12 sites, a water spout, and a pit toilet. There is a picnic table at each site, which was nice. Our camp was on a hill overlooking most of the other sites and surrounded by bush for a little privacy. It looked like one of the best sites there.

During the night we could feel the moisture in the air and I was either cold or very hot, there was no happy medium. We woke up to a ton of fog around us and in the trees. The fog never cleared during the trip, which made it a sort of strange fantasy land. We took off for a hike after 9 AM but the fog made it feel like it was hours earlier.

The photo at the top was taken during this trip. There is no color processing done to it and you can see what I mean by fantasy land. The hike took us to the coast and the area known as "Arch Rock" which you can supposedly get down to and walk through. It was near high tide and if there was any beach area it was now under water. We managed to climb down to the arch but the water was very violent moving through it and we could not get very close.

Determined to get to a beach we set off on another trail north, hoping the beach on my map was actually accessible. We were in luck. It was a small beach and very private. Nobody else was around. I took the opportunity to set up a tripod with the camera, turn it to auto fire, and propose to Donna on the beach.

I wasn't sure it would work out because moments after I set up, the tide came in and decided to try to help me level the sand around the tripod.

The entire weekend was perfect. Although the moisture in the air meant drying anything was near impossible, it kept us nice and cool.

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oh and she said yes. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pine Valley

IMG_0678August 14-15th. Overnight backpacking trip I did with some friends. I think the idea was supposed to be just to try out backpacking and get out for a little while. We looked at the Ventana Wilderness for some possible short destinations and my printed map recommended Pine Valley as a popular trip so we agreed on that.

It was a pleasant enough trip overall. The trailhead was up a well maintained dirt road, and I always love driving on dirt roads in my Amigo, which we managed to get 4 guys and 4 backpacks into.

The trail itself is very exposed. There is a little to no shade the entire way. It follows a ridge which offers spectacular views of the wilderness around you. Most of the trees we passed were damaged by fire and dead. The trail into the campsite is nearly completely downhill and we knew that it was going to be a harder hike out, but I'm not sure we know just how much harder.

The campsite itself had a few people already there and visitors before us definitely didn't follow the "pack it out" philosophy. I guess it can be expected on a "popular destination". We managed to find a decent enough spot to set up camp and with plenty of daylight left we decided to continue down Pine Creek to the falls. They were less than a mile away so it shouldn't be too bad to get to, we thought.

Well the trail to the falls pretty much follows the river and requires a lot of scooting around on your butt or using your hands. It is debatable whether or not it is faster just to rock hop your way down the river. It was certainly more fun, until I tried to scoot down a slick rock, slipped and ended up on a water slide adventure that landed me in what I thought was a very small pool, maybe 2-3 feet in diameter.

I was fully expecting to find more rock a foot under the water I was sliding towards and I braced for impact. My feet went in, followed by my legs, my waist, and I nearly disappeared myself. I'm not quite sure if i ever touched the bottom or not, as I quickly pulled myself out, completely soaked up to my neck. The casualties in my pockets included a few jolly ranchers, a half eaten odwalla bar, and my company cell phone. Luckily the map, gps, and camera in my pockets were all waterproof.

The next morning we hiked out. Slowly. Check the elevation data in the GPS track below and you'll see how much fun we had. Add to that the facts that it was VERY hot, humid, I was pretty miserable from an allergy attack, and I had never ran out of water before in my life, so naturally this was to be the first time.

Despite the hell I went through to get back to the Amigo, I would do it again. This time with allergy medication.

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Click for Route:
click for gps track

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Southern Utah

utah-9July 31st to August 9th. Little late on the update, as it's been a busy month and took forever to go through all the photos (I'm still not done). Flew back to the SLC for my friend Nick's wedding and then we spent seven days camping in southern Utah. It was an awesome trip but much too short. I think I could spend months in southern Utah and not be satisfied.

I took hundreds of photos with two cameras, including my new Canon D10 which I had purchased as a camera that can be abused and be used in the water. I picked out 13 of my "keepers" and made a flickr set. The photo to the right might be my favorite one, its hard to choose. Most of the picks were from Bryce because it's very photogenic and the colors stand out really well on their own. I did the trip without a tripod (except a gorilla pod) and it finally convinced me I cannot keep hand-holding landscape shots, and need to give high priority to a packable tripod.

We spent 4 nights just outside the town of Escalante, in the petrified forest state park camp, and then 3 nights in a camground in Zion National Park in what might be the longest time I've spent living out of a tent in recent memory (there might have been some scout trips that were longer.)

It was a helluva trip with quite a bit of hiking. Hikes in the Escalante area included Calf Creek falls (the "utah-3" photo on the flickr set was during this hike) and the petrified forest loops. Most of the time it was insanely hot in the Escalante area, until the clouds and some light rain came in after our 3rd night.

utah-12The original plan was to transfer camp to Bryce Canyon National Park, but we decided since it was close enough to our Escalante spot–which was uncrowded and had showers–that we'd just stay there and shuttle to the Park. At Bryce we combined the Navajo Loop hike with the Peekaboo Loop hike into a sort of figure-eight so we'd only have to hike down into the canyons once. It was a very scenic hike and all the Bryce photos in the flickr set came from this hike (6 to 11). It was so scenic we were probably spending too much time taking photos and had to pick up the pace to make it out of there in good time.

The only other hike we did in the Bryce area was the short Mossy Cave hike. Despite not living up to it's name, it was a good hike and included some more waterfall play.

Packing up camp(in the rain), we moved on to Zion National Park, the entire reason we planned the trip. We managed to secure a backcountry permit for hiking the zion canyon narrows from top to bottom, a 16 mile hike through–as the name implies–narrow river canyons. It starts out crossing the river what feels like a hundred times and the last three miles are so narrow, with 1200 canyon feet walls on both sides of you, and nowhere to hide from a flash flood. At this point you are no longer crossing the river but wading through the river, sometimes waist deep, and over slick polished rocks.

I've done the hike before with my father about 10 years before (maybe to the day) and he describes the last three miles as "amazing and beautiful but walking on wet bowling balls never ends and you just become annoyed" and that still seems true to me too. It's a wonderful hike and I'd do it every year if I could. This time the water was much higher than it was 10 years ago and there was some spots where swimming was necessary.

Donna is turning out to be an amazing sport when it comes to following me around and trying out some of my hobbies and this is by far the most adventurous thing I have put her through. She was quite shaky with all the slippery river wading and crossings and we had to take our time with them, but she was getting it down towards the end.

It was a near-perfect trip and I wish i could do it all over again. It was a much needed vacation from work and much better than spending it at a resort or in a hotel. I can't think of many things I'd rather do than spend a week in a tent in the Colorado Plateau. I've been to Zion a few times already and it still meets my expectations and beats any of the other amazing places I've visited this year, and that includes Big Sur.

Calf Creek Falls:
click for gps track

Navajo and Peekaboo Loops:
click for gps track

Monday, August 24, 2009

August Craziness

beach.jpgLate on updates this month. It's been a crazy month, with a 10 day trip to Utah on July 31st, and then two backpacking trips. One of which I got engaged on. :) Hopefully there will be updates soon.