Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: hiking

A Nice Vigorous Hike: Purisima Creek

Since moving to our new place, we’ve been trying to find some good places to hike. Hiking in the Peninsula in the Bay Area is very different from hiking in the East Bay. It’s hotter, more exposed, and browner, I find. I’m missing the East Bay hikes (Tilden Park, Wildcat Canyon, etc.). But we’re determined to find something!

So we found Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. Bay Area Hiker is a great website for finding hikes in the Bay Area, and this suggested hike was quite nice. We found it easily, and though the parking lot was crowded on a late Saturday morning in the fall, we were able to park on the side of the road. This is listed as an easy hike, but we noted that the description says there is a 1200 foot decline and and then the loss is regained, so it ended up being more of a moderate hike, I’d say. We worked up quite a sweat because it was pretty warm for a fall day (in the 70s) and in the direct sun it was almost hot.

Some of the nice aspects of the trail was that it goes through forest and then hits open space. There are some really nice views of the bay at the beginning of the trail and then of the ocean later on. You can see Half Moon Bay at a point.

The hike description talks about an open space for a picnic, but it was just too hot that day to stop there, so we went down the trail about another quarter mile or so and found another clearing that was temporarily shaded. At least it was shaded for long enough for us to have a nice picnic lunch.

The North Ridge Trail ends; it’s not a loop. I think we’ll be back to this area for more hikes in the future.

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A Year-ish Ago: Yosemite and Half Dome

Last June (2014), my parents, my friend (who went to the Grand Canyon with us), and I went to Yosemite National Park to tackle Half Dome. It started with some conversations with my parents the winter before about going to Yosemite. Followed by an email where my dad said he had secured a heated tent cabin reservation at Curry Village. And then another email in March saying he had submitted an application for a permit to Half Dome, following the process outlined which enters you into a lottery to “win” one of 225 permits granted each day during the season when the cables are up. Unlike the Grand Canyon trip I blogged about in the previous entry, I was totally along for the ride on this trip – my dad did all the research.

Sadly, we didn’t get a permit through the preseason process. As my dad emailed, “We’re out of luck. Accept w/ humility and God knows our desires.” But he didn’t give up and aimed for the daily lottery in which you apply two days before to hear back a day before whether you get one of the 50 daily permits that are given to go up Half Dome. We set our plans to go to Yosemite in June anyway, hoping we’d get a Half Dome permit but also being prepared to do other hikes if we didn’t get it. And in June, we got the permit on the day we arrived in Yosemite. We were so excited and yet not fully believing that we were to go up Half Dome the day after arriving!

The four of us arrived in Yosemite Valley, in awe of the views of the famous rocks – El Capitan, Half Dome, the beautiful sheer walls of rock rising above the valley floor. We settled into our tent cabin in Curry Village and turned in early. The next morning, we arose around 4am and hit the trails by 5:15am, leaving Curry Village for the Half Dome trailhead on the Mist Trail. I had no idea what was in store for this 14.2 mile, one-day, grueling hike; and that’s a good thing, otherwise, I probably would not have gotten out of bed that morning.

It was a crazy long, crazy strenuous, crazy beautiful, and crazy worth-it hike. We had day packs because we were going up and down in one day. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold and just gorgeous.

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We hit Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls along the way up and back. We ran into people of all shapes, ages, sizes going up the trail (all seeming to pass us – were we really that slow?). And we just kept on trudging along. One step at a time. Stopping for snacks and breaks. I won’t go in detail of the long long trek. But we made it to the bottom of the cables, and I was about to give up. It had been such a grueling hike, and then we were supposed to risk our lives climbing a sheer vertical cliff, pulling ourselves up by these cables? No way! In the photo below, see that line that goes up that rock? Look really closely – that’s a line of people going up the cables!

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With a lot of pep talking each other, we decided to keep going. After all, isn’t that what we came for? And we made it to the top. It was an amazing feeling, and we rejoiced! And then we had to go back down. I’ve never been so tired and so semi-conscious on a hike in my life.

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All in all, here are the stats:

  • 14.2 miles round trip
  • 4800 feet elevation change
  • 14.5 hours
  • no blisters
  • lots and lots of aching muscles

I’m glad I did some training beforehand (running a few miles once or twice a week, practicing yoga once or twice a week, walking the stairs wherever I could) otherwise, I don’t think I could have done it. It was amazing.

The next day, we did the Upper Yosemite Falls trail – another challenging hike. This was a 6.8 mile round trip with “only” 2700 feet elevation change, and it took us “only” 8 hours. This trail is notorious for its infinite number of switchbacks (in reality, about 60, but it sure felt like a neverending number!). No rest for us who came from far away to see the beauty of Yosemite National Park!

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Our final day, with muscles aching and energy spent, we drove up to Glacier Point, opting out of the Four Mile Hike which would have been a pretty strenuous hike. Thank goodness we just drove – there’s a lookout point, and an ice cream shop; it’s pretty touristy – definitely not a rewarding summit after a long hike. But we got to see a panoramic view of the hikes we had done the days before. Wow. In the photo below, Half Dome is the big bare rock on the left. And Vernal and Nevada Falls are on the right – that’s all part of the Mist Trail that we did.

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Grand Canyon Hiking Expedition

I just got back from four days at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was there with four of my favorite people, hiking and camping and challenging myself. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a little bit of moral support, confidence, and training.

My parents had done this hike – down to the canyon floor – seven times already, so they were pros. The others of us were new to this particular hike but are all hiking lovers. And it was an amazing experience for all of us, both the novices and the veterans.

For those of you wishing to do this yourselves, here is how it all worked.

There are two choices for staying on the canyon floor – Phantom Ranch or Bright Angel Campground. For Phantom Ranch, you need to call a year in advance, and from what I’ve heard, you’re on the phone for hours, on hold, using multiple phones at the same time, hoping to get through. Knowing this would be too difficult, we opted for applying for a camping permit. There’s specific timing for when you need to fax in your permit application, so since we knew we wanted to get dates in March, we submitted our application in November (four months before). Check out the link for Bright Angel Campground above and all the details are there.

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We got accepted for our request about a week after we submitted the application. And all together the permit cost us $40! Pretty good deal!

Once we got our dates set for two nights (the maximum allowable) at Bright Angel Campground, we started planning – travel to Phoenix where we met up, camping equipment, plans for our meals, our itinerary.

Here was our itinerary:

Day 1: Drove up to the Grand Canyon National Park, about a four hour drive from Phoenix. Once we arrived, we went to Xanterra Livery Barn where we dropped off duffel bags that would be carried down by pack mules which had all our camping and cooking gear and food. This was a luxury we chose to indulge in because we knew it would be a challenging hike down, so instead of carrying all our stuff down on big backpacks, we used the mule duffel service. If you’re not a hardcore backpacker, this is a great option. For the rest of the day, we walked around the main areas in Grand Canyon Village, catching views of where we were headed down the next day. That night, we slept at Maswik Lodge, one of the many accommodations available in the national park.

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Day 2: We awoke around 5:30am to catch the 7am shuttle nearby to get to the South Kaibab trailhead. It was a brisk morning, but we knew it would warm up through the day as we descended into the canyon, so we just made sure to have lots of layers. All we carried on our backs were our snacks, lunch, and water for the day (about 3 liters per person) for the day. It was a little over a 6 hour hike down the 7.2 mile trail. The trail going down is pretty steadily downhill, not too steep but just a continuous downgrade, which did a number on our legs and a few of us had knee challenges. It warmed up pretty quickly, and the trail was really dusty, so it wasn’t the easiest hike. But we enjoyed the views, ran into some mule packs and friendly fellow hikers, and made it down in one piece. Boy, were we tired!

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Once we got to our campground, we set up our tents, got situated with our whereabouts, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, getting used to the gurgle of Bright Angel Creek, enjoying the lack of mosquitoes, and congratulating ourselves that we had made it this far. We had our first meal that evening (pretty early because we weren’t sure when it would get dark. You’re not allowed to have campfires down there, so we were going to have to rely on our headlamps after dark). Each of us brought something different – instant soup, freeze dried meals that you just add water to, and Trader Joe’s indian curry in a bag that you can heat up in boiling water. We used these great Jet Boil stoves that heat water in something like 10 seconds. And that was our day! We were exhausted, so we went to bed pretty much right after it got dark!

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Day 3: We had a leisurely morning, comparing muscle soreness, hobbling around the campsite. And after breakfast, we walked the River Trail that loops around the Colorado River, just near the campground. We crossed two bridges – Black Bridge and Silver Bridge and were able to witness the mighty force of the Colorado River.

After a lunch of homemade bread and cheese, we went deep into the canyon, following Bright Angel Creek upstream on the North Kaibab Trail. The trail goes through a box canyon with beautiful canyon walls towering above you. We walked over four bridges, not quite making it to Ribbon Falls which we heard was really pretty but was just too far for us to manage, with sore legs and tired bodies. It was a nice flat walk, following the creek in a mix of sun and shade.

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We got back for dinner. And this time, some of us got to eat the Phantom Ranch canteen. When you make your reservation to go down into the canyon, whether to the campsite or Phantom Ranch, it’s fun to call ahead to see if you can get a meal in the canteen. They serve pretty good breakfast and inner, all family style. You can only dine there with a reservation, so it’s best to do that when you get your permit. We managed to get a few reservations, and enjoyed some vegetarian chili, beef stew, fresh salad, and chocolate cake!

Following dinner, we sat in on a ranger talk, which they do twice a day. This talk was about the history of Phantom Ranch and was a well-told story. Here’s a video that captures some of the story the ranger told. And in fact, I think our ranger was the one in this video.

Before bedtime, we marveled at the expanse of stars we could see, including the Milky Way (though some of us could not see it!). Living in a city, I don’t get to such a multitude of stars, and I have this cool app on my iPhone that allowed us to see what constellations there were in the sky. You hold your phone up to the sky and it connects the dots of the constellations for you, even if you don’t have cell service! A must-have when traveling to places where you’ll see lots of stars.

Day 4: Our last day, we arose at 4:30am because we had to pack up all our things for the mule duffel service drop-off at 6:30am. We got our tents and sleeping bags rolled up, packed up our food which we had been storing in metal lock boxes, and wheelbarrowed our duffel bags to the drop off point at the ranch. After breakfast, we started the ascent up Bright Angel trail.

The 9.5 mile hike took us about seven hours. I was prepared for horrible, grueling, and impossible and instead was pleasantly surprised that it was just strenuous at points. The trail was prettier and more interesting than South Kaibab and was a little more of a gradual grade. We stopped at the various rest points and enjoyed the views both ahead of and behind us. The higher we got, the more amazed I was at how far we got in pretty short time. We hiked with the sun and the sky was a perfect spring blue.

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The only thing that wasn’t so pleasant about the hike up was that the higher elevation we got, the more crowded it was. March is a popular time for tourists – spring break, perfect weather (before it gets too hot) – and Bright Angel trail is a popular trail for tourists to meander down for a bit before heading back up to the top.

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We got to the top and celebrated with an ice cream cone and hot dog at the Bright Angel Lodge. We made it! We survived!

I highly recommend this trip if you’re into hiking and seeing the natural wonders of the world. It’s such a different experience to see the Grand Canyon from down below, a trek that they say 1% of the visitors to the park actually make. It’s beautiful and peaceful at the bottom.

Backtrack Travels

It’s been a loooonnngggg time since I last blogged.  It may be the longest I’ve gone in between posts since I started this blog 154 posts ago!

I’ve done a bit of cooking and traveling since December 17th, so here’s the first bit.  A friend visited right after Christmas, and we did some fun activities: a sculpture garden tour in Sonoma Valley and a wonderful hike in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  So I wanted to share some of the sights we saw as well as the logistics, so you, too, can enjoy what we did!

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

I’d heard that Big Basin was THE place to go see the redwood trees instead of Muir Woods which is often overrun with tourists on a weekend.  So because I’m not a fan of big crowds, I took people’s word for it, and we did the two hour drive from Berkeley on New Year’s Eve to the Big Basin park headquarters.  It was a beautiful (and windy, especially at the end!) drive.  One thing to note if you’re going to do this hike is that you have to pay $10 for the entrance fee to the park.

We did the popular waterfall loop trail, which is about 11 miles, pretty strenuous in parts, but do-able for a pair of pretty fit people.  In all, I think we took about 5 hours, with a short break to eat our almond-butter and jelly sandwiches.  Along the way, we saw the beautiful, breathtaking redwoods:

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It’s amazing to think how old these trees are.  To think who’s come before us and seen these trees and who will come after to see them.  And they just keep doing their thing – growing, reaching for the sky.  As we walked through the forest, we noted that there weren’t many birds or other critters filling the area with little noises.  It was very quiet, and we rarely came across other hikers.   We’re not big talkers, so we were just caught up in our thoughts and nature’s majesty all around us.

We also came across some waterfalls, which weren’t flowing in large amounts but enough to appreciate:

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The only thing I was hoping for was more views outside of the forest.  There was a point (I think it was the midpoint) where there was a clearing and we could see other hills around us.  But that part was short-lived.  The forest was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I like to have top-of-mountain views as payoff for lots of climbing steep switchbacks.

Regardless of that small disappointment, it was a wonderful, rewarding hike.  I would definitely do it again.

Do-It-Yourself Sculpture Garden Tour

We spent another day driving up to wine country, not to drink wine but to see outdoor sculpture gardens!  I was doing some research on fun, free things to do in wine country; and I found that there were some outdoor gardens at wineries as well as stand-alone gardens that seemed like fun.  I chose three destinations for this self-guided tour:

Cornerstone Gardens: 23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, CA

A really great outdoor garden/ museum.  We easily spent almost two hours or so walking the grounds and exploring the little stores.  All the sculptures made use of the environment in some kind of interesting way.  These were two favorites – a big head of garlic (well, that’s what it looked like to me – that’s not what the artist titled it) in the middle of a small pond.  And a desert scene with clouds made of wire mesh and crystals resembling raindrops.

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Matanzas Creek Winery: 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA

There wasn’t a sculpture garden at this winery, but there was a beautiful lavender garden.  We just saw lots of dark bushes of all sizes, but I could imagine what it would look like in the spring, a landscape of purple.  This constituted a short stop, but it was enjoyable, and the views from the winery and the lavender garden were worth it.

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Paradise Ridge Winery: 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr., Santa Rosa, CA

This was the last stop on our tour, and what a nice way to end it.  There were two sculpture gardens that were at this location: one is named Marijke’s Grove and seems to be the more permanent of the two “exhibits.”  The other was a temporary exhibit titled The Spirit of the Man.  Both had some pieces that really struck me.  And we spent another hour-plus at this place.  Taking fun photos, engaging with the art, musing about the meaning and the sculptor’s intent… you know, all the things you do when you walk through an art exhibit.

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One of the nice things about our whole tour was that there weren’t too many other people around, in fact, zero at some places.  So we got to enjoy all this wonderful art and scenery by ourselves.  I highly recommend this tour if you’re not a wine drinker or if you just want to be outdoors and see some interesting art.

A side note is that we stopped in Santa Rosa for lunch at Flavor Bistro and had a throughly enjoyable meal.  That part of Santa Rosa looked like it had a cute main street that we could have walked down if we had more time.

Happy 2014!

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