In the last month, over three different weekends, we’ve hiked 55+ miles. Do you have any idea how many steps that is? Neither do I, but I assure you, it’s a lot.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we honored the fallen soldiers by enjoying the freedom for which they so bravely fought by hiking and “camping” in Yosemite. Or as Olga calls it, phonetically, Yose-might.” We (Olga, Alex, Gates, me and our favorite fifth wheel, Meg) set our expectations appropriately about the impending crowds. These guys:
Our accommodations: Evergreen Lodge. One cabin. One room. 5 people. One bed. One blowup mattress. One pullout couch.
Our plan: try to have as authentic of a National Park experience as possible. Think National Lampoons Griswald family vacation.
Day one, after check in and a thorough scan of our Evergreen community, which included a tavern and bar, ping-pong table, bocce court, pool, hot tub, fire bit and game room (real hard core camping, ya know?), we headed into Yosemite Valley for a late afternoon hike up to Misty Falls (3.6 miles round trip).We drove past the smooth and enormous El Capitan, a popular destination for intense rock climbers around the world. I climbed up in less than two hours, taking a short nap in my cantilevering hammock mid way through.
Yep, just scrambled right up that.
Misty Falls is called Misty Falls because once you get within sight of the waterfall, you get soaked by the mist coming from the falls. Appropriate name. The highlight was an incredibly crisp and colorful rainbow at the base of the waterfall:
Here we are at the top:
Next morning we woke bright and early, and then waited patiently, and then not so patiently for our breakfast sandwiches to be made. Despite the fact that they were cold, wrongly labeled and just generally bad, they fueled us up nicely for our 10 mile round trip hike up to Glacier Point. The rigorous nature of the hike filtered a lot of the Asians, ahhemm, I mean other tourists, which was nice. Problem is, you can also drive up to Glacier Point, which means the lack of crowds on the trail is balanced out by the tour busses full of fanny pack and visor wearing folks waiting for you in the parking lot up top.
We enjoyed the incredible views of the Valley while eating a lunch of PB&J’s, power bars and of course, a few boiled eggs that I’d trucked up with me : )
We tried to stop at The Ahwahnee, an historic lodge in the valley, for a drink on our way out but were basically laughed at by the security guard/traffic director and told to keep moving. This disappointed me quite a bit because I have a real thing for old lodges, not to mention this particular old lodge was used in the filming of The Shining…. I know.. bummer. But also kindof understandable that they didn’t want riffraff like us coming in, making a racket and disturbing all of their fine guests.
Monday. Alex, Olga and Meg hit the road back to SF while Gates and I took advantage of one more morning of hiking: a completely untrodden trail leading to a lookout point that gave us a different view of the park, and a nice stroll into q Sequoia grove with over 25 giant, hundred year old trees. I can now say I’ve seen the two biggest types of trees in the world, and they are quite impressive beasts.
We climbed through the belly of this one:
The weekend after Memorial Day, Gates and I decided to wake up at the crack of freakin’ dawn on Saturday and drive down to Big Sur, where we’d heard of a nice long trail leading into Sykes Hot Springs. We prepared the day before by making chicken salad, tracking down some water purifying tablets, buying a bunch of power bars and other little munchies and, of course, boiled eggs and a small box of wine. This was our first camping trip together, and my first camping trip in as long as I can remember…. Maybe ever. Luckily Gates knows what he’s doing.
Anyway, we arrived at the trailhead around 10am only to discover that somebody didn’t screw the top of the camel back bladder on correctly (can’t imagine who that might’ve been….) so we let my pack dry out in the morning sun for a bit while lathering on sunscreen. Pack dried out and secured, and with plenty of energy leftover from the delicious 5am egg veggie scramble breakfast that Gates made for me, we started off on the 10 mile hike.
Long story short, because I’m getting tired of writing, we found a perfect spot, set up camp, and went to find the hot springs, which were somewhat crowded (obligatory naked man included) but very nice and relaxing after the 10 miles in. A few hours of soaking and we were rejuvenated enough to make dinner: Annie’s mac and cheese + leftover mayo soaked chicken salad + avocado + tomatoes = why I can hike endlessly without losing any weight : ) A chocolate bar and bottle of wine later and we were playing cards and settling into bed. I wasn’t that comfortable, but after a day of hiking, I can sleep almost anywhere, anytime (I guess that’s similar to a day without hiking…)
Next morning we ate breakfast, packed up and hiked the 10 miles back to our car. It just so happened that the Sykes Hot Spring trailhead is only a few miles north of two luxurious hotels/watering holes built into the craggy cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We couldn’t decide which one to go to, so we went to both. After an al fresco lunch at the Ventana Inn, we drove across the street to the Post Ranch Inn for post hike beverage. Bourbon for Gates, wine for me. Here’s the view. There’s water out there.
And that was that. Back in SF by nightfall.
Finally, our most recent jaunt in the woods was Crater Lake, where we would celebrate the birthday of this great nation. We left Thursday afternoon to avoid 4th of July traffic, but ended up not avoiding 4th of July traffic at all because apparently this idea wasn’t that unique and everyone else in the Bay Area was leaving Thursday as well. We arrived at the Prospect Historic Inn late Thursday evening and rested up for a full day of exploration.
Crater Lake might just very well be one of the most spectacular national parks I’ve been to, so I’m very glad we left Thursday, giving us two full days to explore. The lake is an old volcano, Mount Wazama, which erupted 7,700 years ago, and under the weight of the pumice and ash, imploded and became a huge hole, which eventually filled up with run-off water from the 500+ inches of snow that the park gets every year.
Friday morning we ate breakfast at the Crater Lake Lodge, which is a big old rustic Inn located right on the rim of the lake (pictured above). We fueled up on mediocre food and panoramic views and set off and up two and a half miles to a vista point overlooking the lake. We then drove, well actually, we put the car in neutral and coasted (we were low on gas and there were still a few sights to be seen before fuel was within reach) to a canyon to check out the Pinnacles. Pinnacles are weird phallic mud spikes sticking straight up from the earth, caused by gas tunnels from the molten hot lava of the volcano (or something along those lines – I’m no Volcanologist!). Look it up.
After a quick look, we used some more gas to get us partially around the lake to Mount Scott, where we scurried up 2.5 quick miles, got a different lake view, then scurried back down and straight to the gas station.
Dinner at the Historic Inn was Tantalizing and Hearth, or so that’s how it was advertised online. I’d advertise it as decent.
Saturday morning we ate breakfast at the Inn, then headed back into the park for an 11.5 mile hike into Stuart Falls. Can you find me in one of the pictures?
Whereas the day before we were passing families of Indians (the Eastern kind) left and right, today we passed only two other people for the entire 11 miles. The hike was pretty flat, which was leisurely, but the sun was beating down on us and roasting our faces and shoulders. It was a relief to finally walk into some shade and dip our hands into the freezing cold water at the base of the waterfall. We had lunch sitting on a log downstream.
We had only one final thing to do before retiring for the night and leaving the next morning: leap from the jumping rock into the frigid 38 degree lake. So we drove around to the swimming hole, changed into our patriotic American flag bathing suits, hiked a mile down to the rock, held hands and flew. I’ve never experienced anything so cold in my entire life, except for that time when Gates thought nothing of leaving me standing on a frozen-over lake in Vermont in December in negative degree temps while he played pick up pond hockey with his shirt off…. Anyway, the jump was exhilarating and the ice-cold impact was torture. But a few great pictures were snapped and we were told that we won the Patriotic award because of our bathing suits.
And here’s one that really shows our suits:
One wet mile later we were back at the car. On the way home, Gates sledded down a snowy hill on his raincoat (because he’s an Eskimo), we stopped at a BBQ truck on the side of the road for “take out,” ate dinner on the patio at the Inn, and watched an episode of Game of Thrones before turning in.
Before leaving Prospect on Sunday, we took a short stroll over to the Avenue of the Boulders, where enormous rocks flew over 25 miles when Mt. Wazama exploded:
On our way back to SF, we had lunch in a hippy town called Mt. Shasta, where we purchased this lovely wall hanging pottery of a bear eating a fish:
Our very first housewarming gift for our very first home together.
And so there you have it, over 55 miles since the end of May. And many more to go!