This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
— John of the Mountains (1938)

Appalachian Trail-iversary: One Year later

One year ago I had landed in Atlanta, Georgia and was giddy excited to start hiking the Appalachian Trail.

I miss the following things about the Appalachian Trail

  • Meeting people of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the country. People I never would have met otherwise. Not discussing politics. 
  • Wearing my hair in braids for weeks at a time
  • Wearing the same skirt and shirt every day. 
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • camp food
  • town food
  • carrying everything and cutting down on base weight
  • smelling awful and scaring away townies without even realizing how truly awful we smelled
  • laughing until my stomach hurt
  • Green tunnel
  • foggy mornings
  • rainy mornings
  • sunny mornings
  • humid nights
  • campfires
  • wet shoes
  • dry shoes
  • filtering water
  • wildflowers
  • the people. oh god I miss the people. 
  • lazy trail town days
  • resupplying
  • determining if the county we were in was a dry county, and if so, where the nearest liquor store was... will it be a reasonable hitch?
  • hitch hiking
  • hostels with questionable cleanliness
  • hostels that were unquestionably tidy 
  • curling up in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day and spooning with a stranger in the shelter
  • spooning Little Santa in the tent during giant thunderstorms
  • bear bagging my food
  • never doing dishes
  • moving my body all day every day at whatever pace I wanted
  • Bears hate Jimmy Buffett, thinking of other things that bears hate. Using these things as bear repellent
  • seeing tiny towns in Appalachia with nothing but a Dollar General and a church. Wondering what their lives are like, and how they are different from mine
  • listening to Little Santa talk about his plans and ideas
  • hugging Cheeks
  • teasing Wook
  • Laughing with Commando
  • Listening to Packrat
  • Watching Shades run her fingers through her short hair
  • wondering if I would regret cutting all my hair off
  • eating a burger from a gas station sitting on the curb outside
  • looking for power outlets
  • turning your phone off airplane mode in an attempt to post a photo to instagram and having service.
  • never having service. Never talking to the outside world. 
  • laying in bed with headlamps on checking AWOL's guide to see what the elevation was going to be like the next day
  • planning out how many days of food we wanted to carry out of town. 
  • feeling like it was all going by so fast
  • feeling like we had been on the trail forever
  • passing 100 mile markers
  • reading shelter journals
  • writing in shelter journals
  • singing loudly to myself to try to scare away bears, turning the corner and realizing I had reached a very full shelter
  • peeing in the woods and not having a stranger come along to catch me.
  • that one time a stranger did catch me.
  • then that stranger was in the same shelter as me for like the next week because we were hiking the same pace. No longer a stranger. Still a bit strange. 
  • rhodo tunnels
  • blooming everything
  • The Great Smoky Mountains for making me tough
  • The Shenandoah Mountains for being easy
  • every swimming hole I didn't swim in
  • Rhododendron leaves being used to spout water at a water source to make it easier for me to fill my bottle
  • squishy mud
  • wet mud
  • sticky mud
  • dried out mud (just kidding, this doesn't exist)
  • the whole damn thing. 

Dancing Into Spring

It's been a quiet winter. Things have moved slowly and life has slowed to a halt. But right now the world is in a thaw.  

 

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I spent this Saturday exploring the wild spaces around UCSC with one of my oldest friends to celebrate her birthday.  

 

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Santa Cruz is alive with color this time of year. The air is humming wi new life and heavy with the scent of flowers.  

 

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Breathing in the warmth before Eric and I launch into the still winter-y Appalachians.  

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First Timers Club

I remember my first time REALLY backpacking.

I remember carrying my backpack. But I don't remember the weight of the pack on my back. I remember stopping to smell a Douglas Fir, and a Ponderosa Pine on the side of the trail. I remember huffing and puffing up switch backs and the incredible feeling when we reached the top. I remember arriving at camp and realizing, we had made it. I remember slinging off my pack and pulling a seemingly endless supply of goods out of it. We had everything we needed. Honestly, we had far more than we needed. I remember my numb fingers filtering water in the river, and I remember knocking over a water bottle that was nearly full and coming close to tears because I had worked so hard to pump it. And I remember all these things with a big, huge smile on my face. 

I made it to the top of Half Dome that trip. I don't even remember the top, because I had terrible altitude sickness. But I remember the confidence that came with being able to say that "I did it." I remember sitting at the bottom of the cables and looking back up at the summit and knowing I was capable of so much more than I had given myself credit for. 

My cheerfully backpacking father. 

I summited Half Dome again this summer. This time, Eric was making his first ascent. Again, we hiked down from Glacier Point, across the Illouette Creek. We skipped Panorama Cliffs and went an alternate route to Little Yosemite, but we were back. I breathed it in. 

I've never been a breakfast eater, or a morning jogger, or someone who catches the sunrise. 

But there I was, 3am, stuffing my pack with enough water to get me through the 7 miles of hiking I would be doing that day, and contemplating putting on a beanie. Because this is what I love, more than anything, this is what I love.

We  summitted with the sun. I was prepared this time. I had taken some medication to stabilize my altitude sickness and I remember every glorious moment of it as though it were burned onto my brain. I close my eyes and I can watch the sun rise over Clouds Rest. I see my shadow cast on the Dome and I am in ecstasy. The chill of the moments before first light is in my bones and the warmth of the sunrise is in my blood. There is nothing better, nothing more beautiful than sharing a moment like this. 

You can see our shadows cast on Half Dome, as the three of us stand on top of the Sub-Dome

up we climb...

up up up

The Shadow of Half Dome cast on the wall beneath Glacier Point. 

We made it! 

Time to go back down! This is the scariest part...

 because this is your view.

because this is your view.

"We were up ~there~"

I love introducing people to new things in the outdoors. I was lucky enough to introduce Eric to backpacking, so I felt so blessed to take him on top of Half Dome for the first time as well. He's not convinced there will be a second... those cables are scarey! 

A Beary Spooky Yosemite Trip

The weekend before Halloween I gathered a group of friends and forced them to join me for a spooky pre-halloween gathering. Costumes Required. 

It went remarkably well. 

The next day we drove up to Sentinel Dome to hike, and made a pit stop at Tunnel View along the way. After an expertly cooked breakfast of course. 

The hike to the summit of Sentinel Dome is one of my favorites in Yosemite. It's rarely overcrowded, and it's short and easy. Anyone can do it. The views though, are what makes the hike truly spectacular. El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Mt Star King, Clouds Rest, Nevada and Vernal Falls are all visible from the summit. 

 A very dry Yosemite Falls. I'm thrilled to hear that it is flowing again, and the snows have been falling. 

Too soon it was time to go home, and I fear this was our last Trip to Yosemite before we leave for the Appalachian Trail. My heart breaks, wishing to be back in the valley, and above on the Granite Peaks and domes. But these memories will warm me when the missing grows too large to bear. 

Indian Summer

In the fall, something wonderful happens. All of the tourists leave, and the fog lifts, and Californians are given two months of perfect summer days. 

“Following a trail, over crunching oak leaves, the world covered in dust, and the sun casting the bright golden light that only can happen in the fall. California Indian Summers.
— Journal 2015-10-10

There is nothing we can do to hurry the rain, but to enjoy the sun and heat while it lasts. 

This to me, is what its all about. Laughter around the campfire, under the starts, sun kissed and glowing with the light of life.
— Journal, 2015-10-10

The days may be shorter but they are filled with joy. 

Feeling the love of the universe big time today
— Journal 2015-10-11

The Sierras, at Last

Summer has long past, but I still find myself dwelling in the peace of this long week in mid-July. 

It started with a drive in the dark through the Central Valley of California to the Sierra. My body was humming with electricity. In the car was my boyfriend Eric, and good friend Malina. Waiting in Yosemite was a large portion of my extended family. When I was a kid we would meet along the Merced in the valley every summer for a week. Many of my most treasured childhood memories come from these times. 

My Mom and I in Yosemite, late 90's

Something happens and the magical summers of childhood are washed away. Still, I often think about nights past my bed-time gathered around a campfire, or laying on a Sandy Beach of the Merced as my Gramps pointed out stars to me. I remember the smell of dusty pine baking in the heat of a Sierra summer sun as I wiggled between gargantuan boulders with my cousins. 

We spent the first morning exploring the large meadow across the road from Curry Village with my cousins.

Afterwards we all traveled with the throngs of tourists to Glacier Point. 

Tunnel View is the classic introduction to Yosemite, but you have to fight the other tourists to get your shot.

We climbed Sentinel Dome in the midst of a brewing distant thunderstorm. 

Later that week we ventured up the other wall of the valley and explored Tenya Lake. Of course, by explore I intend you to understand that we played in meadows, swam in crystal clear lake water, and perhaps even awoke a creature from the deep. We also rafted down the Merced and jumped off a bridge. 

It's almost enough to make me miss summer. 

Joy

My Grandma died when I was in high school. I remember finding out. I remember my mom receiving the telephone call and before she even said it I knew. I remember dropping to the kitchen floor and sobbing. I remember my best friend picking me up and taking me to the ocean. I remember the sinking, heavy feeling in my heart that stuck around for weeks, months, that sits with me still. 

The day before my grandma died she had called my mom and asked if I would teach her how to use an instant messenger so that she could talk to us. I didn't have time. I don't remember what I did that day.

I remember the memorial service. A whole church filled to the brim with people I didn't recognize. I remember my cousins, who are all much younger than I am, running around, knowing, but not understanding what had happened. That was the last time my family was all together. 

I remember sitting in my french final and collapsing into tears the next week. My teacher came over to me and put her hand on my shoulder. There was nothing else to be done. 

I miss my Grandma Joy tremendously, now, years later whenever I remember the times she wasn't there. She wasn't there when I graduated high school, wearing a smile from ear to ear. She wasn't there when I went off to college, packing all of my belongings into my parent's Honda Pilot. She wasn't there when I graduated college, walking into a big stadium and looking frantically around for my mom and dad. She wasn't there on the first day of my first job, nervous and excited at the same time. 

She won't be there when I get married, laughing, and playing ukulele. She won't be there when my kids are born, hugging and kissing them and telling them stories that they need to hear. 

I miss my Grandma because she was the best person in the whole world. She smiled bigger, laughed louder, loved harder, and cared deeper than anyone. There was no person on the globe for whom she didn't have compassion. There was nothing that she didn't believe I could do. 

I miss my Grandma in selfish ways. I miss the lemonade that she made me on hot summer days when we would come back from the beach. I miss sitting on her couch and watching a DVD she had just got in the mail from Netflix. I miss her Christmas cards which she carefully designed on her computer, which she took classes for at the Apple store on a regular basis. I miss the shower at her house, where I would push beach sand down the drain. I miss the dinners she used to make and the presents she used to give and I miss her big feet and short hair and ruby red lipstick. I miss driving around with her in her red mustang convertible. I miss getting hot chocolate at the harbor. I miss newly knit sweaters. I miss her garden and all it's color and wonder and smells and nourishment. I miss her. 

I miss her when I go camping and I miss her at the beach. I miss her when I work on a math problem that I just can't figure out. I miss her at Thanksgiving when I make mashed potatoes I won't eat. I miss her when I see my mom or my Aunts smile, because their smile is just like hers. 

She was a math teacher that taught kids, and then their children years later. You couldn't go anywhere without running into someone who knew her, even hundreds of miles away from the town where she had lived her adult life. She would stop and wave her impossibly long arms and shout their name and they would smile and they would talk about... everything, their parents, their pets, their hobbies. And she always remembered. 

I miss my Grandma more and I miss my Grandma less every year. I miss her more because I need her. I need her to know that I made it, I'm doing something right, I am loving people well. I miss her more because I need her to know I'm struggling, and sometimes it's really hard and I am still so angry about things that shouldn't matter. I miss her more because even now, all these years later, I can't believe that she's not just a phone call away. I miss her more because as I grow older I come to realize what a rare and beautiful person she was. I miss her more because I'm tired of being kind and I want her to tell me that kindness isn't earned, it's given freely. I miss her more because I don't know who I am but I want to be like her but sometimes it's hard to remember. 

I miss her less because time passes, and you stop picking up the phone and thinking you'll give her a call. I miss her less because it is too hard to miss someone this much. I miss her less because sometimes missing is like picking at a wound and all it does is hurt.

I miss her, my Grandma. The world isn't the same without her. Her memory is so much joy and love. Her memory is good food and laughter and silly songs. Her memory is salt water and sunsets and sails taut in the wind. Her memory is a warm hug and cold glass of lemonade. Her memory is birds of paradise and campfire smoke.

I miss you. 

Catching Up

Life gets really crazy. And I mean really crazy. It's not necessarily the fun parts of life either, though those have been plentiful. It's the work, it's the commute, it's the getting everything done and still having the motivation to sit on a computer and reflect. I've been really bad at that. So in the future, maybe I'll write a separate blog post for each of the adventures I've been on since Easter (there have been many, and they have been wonderful), but for now here is a highlight reel. 

We spent Easter on top of a Mountain in Big Sur and saw Yucca in bloom and watched the most amazing sunset

We flew kites in Berkeley with a few good men. 

We spent an evening at a Lake in Kings Canyon where a man disposed of his wife's body in the the early 90's.

We attended Boonville Beer Festival

We celebrated my birthday in Point Reyes National Seashore (for which I forgot to put the battery in my camera... So iPhone photos sufficed)

We enjoyed the celebration of a friend's birthday followed by Bay to Breakers and a magical evening spent celebrating Wavy Gravy's Birthday with a few hundred people in a business park in Rohnert Park. (no photos. I'm not even sorry about that)


We visited friends and family in San Luis Obispo County. 

I spent a weekend in Carmel with my best friend

Floated down the American River

I organized a birthday party of my dad. 

Celebrated the fourth of July

And made our way to Yosemite. But that gets a post of it's own. Stay Tuned! 

So many wonderful, beautiful things have happened. I honestly can't even explain half of it. But I hope these photos makes you understand, there just hasn't been any time. 

On the Road Again

Imagine yourself here

I grasp on to this place with everything in my heart. I hold these moments of pure unadulterated joy close to my soul. 

Rewind to the weekend of Easter. Spring was fresh and new. I traveled south, yet again, to Big Sur to experience freedom from the monotonous, and tiresome. With a group of friends I celebrated life, and was renewed by beauty of a rugged coastline and beautiful friends. 

It started, as it often does, on the road. We sped past miles of the beloved Pacific. The day was bright and clear and beautiful, and I was in the company of the most wonderful friends. 

We stopped at Sand Dollar Beach for lunch and sunshine. 

I lay baking in the sand and let the warmth of the first April rays soak into my skin. The water was clear and blue and the world felt fresh and right.  We left the beach and drove to the fabled Camp Cloud. But that, dear friends, is a story for another time.  

On being a homebody and an adventurer

There is no reason that a weekend at home should be anything less than a weekend in the Sierras, or Big Sur. The inevitable ebb and flow of life requires that for every heart pounding, dancing moment that I spend overlooking incredible vistas requires that I also spend time grounding myself in who I am and where I'm from. I am a born wanderer and I am a born homebody. On weekends like these I find myself centered and encouraged, ready to set off for another adventure. 

 A narrow bit of trail runs against a moss covered cliff with a sharp drop off to the other side.

A narrow bit of trail runs against a moss covered cliff with a sharp drop off to the other side.

Staying home is inevitable on some weekends, and it is absolutely essential that those weekends not be wasted. Back in January we spent a few hours one such weekend hiking through the lush Redwood Forest in Niscene Marks. 

 The trail to Maple Leaf Falls follows the creek through a narrow canyon for the final mile. It requires more rock scrambling than most trails in coastal California, but the trail is not unpopular, indeed it can become quite congested for a 8 mile round trip hike! 

The trail to Maple Leaf Falls follows the creek through a narrow canyon for the final mile. It requires more rock scrambling than most trails in coastal California, but the trail is not unpopular, indeed it can become quite congested for a 8 mile round trip hike! 

 My Dad embarrasses my mom at Maple Leaf Falls

My Dad embarrasses my mom at Maple Leaf Falls

In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
— Wordsworth, Tinturn Abbey 108-111

Camp Cloud- February in Big Sur

I don't get tired of Big Sur. I think it is impossible. The incredible grandeur of cliffs jutting out of the cerulean waves isn't an effect that wears off. The quality of the aesthetic is apparent in the number of cars pulled off at every turn out, with folding chairs and binoculars. I appreciate these folks, that stop and relax and enjoy the view along the way, and nowhere else are their numbers so vast as along the highway in Big Sur. 

Still Big Sur's Ventana Wilderness is one of the most rugged backpacking regions in California. Water is scarce, slopes are steep, and hazards are plentiful. Though this trip was purely a "car-camping" excursion, it wet our appetites for the back country. It's pretty easy to get off the beaten track in Big Sur if you know the way. 

Not quite off the beaten path yet. Our first stop was Garrapata Beach in Northern Big Sur. We stopped here in January and hoped that the beloved calla lilies were still blooming. We were in incredible luck. 

We lingered and explored a small section of the beach, but soon we hit the road again. We were in Big Sur with two "first-timers" so we were hoping we would be able to get down to Pfeiffer Beach. Anyone who tells you that Pfeiffer Beach is off the beaten path is lying to you THROUGH THEIR TEETH. While the one lane road that takes you there certainly feels rustic, the parking lot is often full to capacity early in the day, and otherwise requires a 2-mile walk down aforementioned one-lane road. But it is a GREAT spot, and we got very lucky to be there early enough to snag a spot in the parking lot, where we unloaded picnic supplies and helped ourselves to a small patch of picnic worthy sand. 

Amy digs for picnic supplies in the back of GBOOP. 

It was an overcast day, but stunning all the same. 

Once we had chowed down it was time to get really nuts. We drove past miles of beautiful coast until we reached our turn off. A beautifully steep fire road in Los Padres National Forest. If you didn't know already, fire roads often lead to remote and desolate places, but are generally open to the public for "dispersed camping." Bring your own water and toilet supplies though, all you'll find is a patch of cleared dirt on which to pitch a tent. No plumbing here. 

Up up up. We were chasing blue skies, trying to escape the dreary cloud-covered slopes below. 

Above the clouds. 

There was someone already parked at our usual spot, and while they invited us to join them (thanks guys!) We decided to give them the privacy they deserved and went in hunt of a new pullout. The clouds raced up to join us during our search. 

We found a perfect spot! We dubbed it Camp Cloud, due to the fact that we were completely enshrouded upon arriving. 

The clouds rolled in like waves. A constant in and out. Perhaps swiftly moving tides works better. We were in the clouds one minute, and the next... 

We were sitting above the clouds, surrounded by early spring blossoms. 

Rosie harvests some early blooms. This is a two-handed task, so the beer and the phone had to be stowed under arm.

Yeah. Magic. 

We enjoyed the night, but once we woke up, we were in the clouds again. We couldn't tell if it was a cloud, or rain, or some other previously unknown source of precipitation. We packed up, nervous that excessive moisture could turn the rugged roads from difficult to impassable. None of us had any problem being stuck on the mountain, but our bosses may have felt differently. 

 

But we broke through the bottom of the clouds! And there were blue skies and bright sunlight waiting for us. 

Captain Mike and Bear, the fearless Taco Pilots. 

Los Dos Tacos. (Captain Mike and Bear call their Toyota Tacomas "Tacos")

We were rushing to get home for prior engagements, but we had to stop at Henry Miller Memorial Library. If for no other reason than they have flush toilets. Even after only one night in the woods, it is nice to come down the mountain and enjoy the modern amenities. 

It was here in Big Sur I first learned to say Amen!
— Henry Miller

And for our final stop in Big Sur we checked out the Albino Redwood. Definitely one of my favorite Big Sur attractions! Scientifically very intriguing, after all a plant that cannot produce chlorophyll essentially can only exist within a parasitic relationship (in the case of the redwood, it is parasitic to the "mother tree" and other trees within its root network.)

The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we will never give enough of is love.
— Henry Miller

I'm sure we will be back soon (in fact, we already set a date!). Big Sur calls us. Be sure to check out the trip soundtrack via the link below!

Yosemite... Again

Yosemite is a part of me. Sometimes I feel the pull of the Merced, or the Tuolumne in my veins. Sometimes I smell the hot, dry, pine needle air of summer when I'm nestled into bed in the depths of winter. Sometimes I am transported to a place in my heart where my hands rest on sun-warmed granite. 

Half Dome hides. No Sun-warmed granite on this trip. Yosemite teased us, showing soaring granite cliffs only to cover them with fog within moments. 

These things are ingrained inside me as surely as my mother's face, or my brother's laugh. I am drawn there, and I often feel as though my life is measured by the rhythmic draw the place has on me. Sometimes in life it is stronger than others. It waxes, it wanes, but it is always present. 

Thank you for indulging me Bear. I love you. Happy Anniversary. 

Nik Naks and General Miscellany

In the winter, I leave my house when it's dark, and return home as the sun is setting. The reality of my life is that I sit in a cubicle, or work drilling wells and soil boring for environmental clean up in gas station parking lots at least 40 hours a week, and then proceed to spend an additional 10 hours a week driving to and from work. 

I am overflowing with gratitude

But I have little moments every day when I get to be immensely grateful for my life. I have the most beautiful, and compassionate family. I have a kind and encouraging boyfriend. I have the resources to spend my weekends escaping to my day dreams. I am overflowing with gratitude. I have been coming home just in time for sunsets like these. I have driven over the summit just in time to see the first rays of sun peak over the horizon. These moments are sometimes feel like nik naks compared to some of the things I've seen. But they fill my life with moments of complete happiness and serenity, and that is worth the world to me. 

Riverside in Big Sur

The smell of the sea melds with the many varieties of sage, drifting through the air on a cold wind. This is Big Sur in the winter. It is a tender scent, lacking the musk of summer. There is dampness too, which is new. Wet earth, fresh green grass, and the beginnings of the first blooms of spring. No one seems to have told the plants that it is January. 

Artemisia californica, California Sagebrush (I think I properly identified this) overlooks one of Big Sur's most photographed destinations. I'll let you guess which. 

 I'm captivated by the hoards of people moving through Big Sur this time of year. stopping at every pullout with folding chairs and binoculars to catch a glimpse of migrating whales. I am entranced by the hills, as they turn noticeably green with the first winter rains. I am in love with the creeks and streams as the swell to their banks, full of water, and life. The sparkle of the winter sun seems more crisp, more icy than the beating glare of summer.  The moon, nearly full, lights the world at night. We set out to explore Big Sur once again. 

Salina and crew pull into the campground. 

Bear admires the cobbles and flowing Big Sur River, which, by the way, is frigid. 

We met Catie and Caitlyn at the Riverside Campground, and from there headed further South to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It was a complete zoo, countless people speaking at least three distinct languages, gathered at the overlook. It seemed like every single one of them was carrying a GoPro on a stick, but perhaps my memory is being clouded by prejudice. 

Captain Mike takes in the scar left over from a major landslide that provided the source of sand for the beach under the falls, and many other beaches south of this spot. 

Waves swell over kelp covered rocks, and the color is beyond explanation, or imagination. 

The people and the lenses are thick at the overlook to the falls and the coast. It is understandable, the view is something out of a dream. It is certainly not a sight to be missed, especially since we were accompanied by some who had never seen it before, but for some of us, the crowds put a sour mood on the viewing. To cure this, we turned to the hills. 

This creek feeds the iconic falls. It is small, but swift. Walking alongside it, it seems as though the whole thing is one long riffle tumbling recklessly through Redwood Groves.

Though the falls are crowded, the trail following the creek back into the canyon is significantly less populated. 

There is something inherently good about exploring the outdoors. It enlivens, it refreshes. It encourages play. 

Captain Mike enjoys his Simpler Times Lager at the climax of the hike.

 Bear was meeting a friend in a bar near our campground, so it was time to return. Catie and Caitlyn recommended the Maiden near the River Inn, where they had warmed up the night before. We bolstered down on worn out barstools. 

As dark fell, we made our way back to camp. I do not enjoy the cold, but there is something authentic about gathering around a campfire because of a need to stay warm. With the right supplies, and the right people, you are warmed by laughter, as well as wood. 

Morning comes too soon, but groggy sleepers move slowly as the day breaks. Catie and Caitlyn departed before Bear and Captain Mike were roused from their tents. The chill adds magic to a morning campfire.

Breakfast cooked over the fire. 

Bear and I love making french toast when we are car camping. For this batch we baked some Challah bread at home, and cooked it in my dad's cast iron skillet over the fire. 

Extra Strong Big Sur Blend

With full bellies, we loaded up Salina and headed north

Back to the coast. Bear gets credit for this photo, he was enthralled by the seagulls on this rock. 

While we were driving south a flash of white caught my eye. I was determined to find what it was once we were making our way north. 

Maybe I overuse the word magic. Maybe not. 

We climbed to the bluffs to admire the Pacific, and try our luck looking for whales. The plant life was abundant and diverse, but the sage and yarrow stole the show. 

Yarrow is a relatively common plant that can be used medicinally on cuts and scrapes. It also carries a light and sharp smell that is one of my favorites. 

As we stood on the cliffs, looking out over the Pacific, dozens of migrating whales were spouting in the distance. Watching whale spouts doesn't grow old for me. For some reason, each spray of misted sea water and air is as exciting as the last. Maybe it is the anticipation, looking out across the endless blue, hoping you spot it at the right moment to catch a glimpse of the great grey creatures. I couldn't say. But the whales are migrating, as they have done for centuries past, and we stood on those cliffs as a witness to their journey. I suppose that is enough. 

And with that we said goodbye to Big Sur, until next time. 

Fall in Yosemite

Yosemite is crowded. Yosemite is busy. Yosemite is impossible to navigate, impossible to get reservations. But not in the offseason. And in the offseason, Yosemite is still breathtaking. I hadn't ever seen Yosemite in the fall, and when I invited Bear to come along, he couldn't resist. Late Friday night we took to the road, and found ourselves in Curry Village

Drove in Friday after work. 

It is surprisingly easy to get reservations for Curry Village in the offseason. The park felt empty, compared to the overcrowded summer months. I woke up early on Saturday. I wanted to look at the park before the rain started falling. 

 Early morning, before the rain. 

Early morning, before the rain. 

It started raining early. We sought shelter and rocking chairs to eat breakfast. 

And set off exploring in the rain. 

 Bear and I enjoyed Happy Isles in the rain. 

Bear and I enjoyed Happy Isles in the rain. 

Happy Isles, and Yosemite Falls. 

 Bear admires the falls

Bear admires the falls

 The falls started flowing. 

The falls started flowing. 

 Yosemite Falls had no water on Saturday morning, but with the rain comes the flow. 

Yosemite Falls had no water on Saturday morning, but with the rain comes the flow. 

It got dark early. Since it was cloudy, we turned in, and got cozy. 

 Reading is an essential and joyful part of travel, Bear is reading the Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. 

Reading is an essential and joyful part of travel, Bear is reading the Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. 

 bed time

bed time

The next morning we hiked to the top of Vernal Falls. The rain had stopped falling. We packed a picnic, and a few beers for the top. 

 The ravens, the stairs on the Mist Trail make you wish you could fly. 

The ravens, the stairs on the Mist Trail make you wish you could fly. 

 Lunch Time

Lunch Time

 The falls are running low. The Mist Trail is not so misty right now. 

The falls are running low. The Mist Trail is not so misty right now. 

We had to drive home.  

 I final stop to admire the granite cliffs. 

I final stop to admire the granite cliffs. 

 I have to shout out to my trusty road stead, Salina. This babe is the best. 

I have to shout out to my trusty road stead, Salina. This babe is the best. 

Leaving is always the hardest part. At least I have some more fuel for daydreams. 

The Dragon House.

Perched on a hill in Northern Big Sur, a man named Don Luis built a wonderland. You cannot drive there. The only way in is on foot. I can only imagine the thousands of trips he made hiking up the steep ravine to bring supplies and tools to his abode. Two structures on his land are available for visitors. The Dragon House and the Rainbow House. It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't seen it. It's hard to explain. It's hard to understand.

The Rainbow House.

These trails connect everything that Don Luis has built, or plans to build on the land. 

Garrapata Beach. Like all places I've been in Big Sur carries a weight of magic. The air seems different. The water seems more vibrant. The world feels full of color. 

The kitchens are small, but well thought out. Everyone piled in to make dinner. 

Good friends never let a cup run empty. 

There is something immediately cozy about playing cards with friends around a table. 

The feeling is amplified by the surroundings. Warm wooden beams, cushions and couches. And windows. There are windows everywhere. 

As with most things in life. The best parts weren't captured here. Tropical gardens in the midst of a redwood forest. The smell of sage drifting through the windows. Hidden couches in scarf wrapped tents on the hillside. Laying on the porch built into the roof in a pile of pillows looking at the stars. Cold fresh air. Laughter. 

When I woke, it all felt like a dream. 

Even now, the memories don't seem real. And I can't stop daydreaming. 

Rain Check

Reflections on Sword Lake

Autumn is short in the mountains. The backcountry will soon be snowed in. This realization hung heavy in the air as we packed our backpacks for a last Sierra adventure of the season. We took Friday off for a late October trip to Sword Lake in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness of Stanislaus National Forest. 

Fellow backpackers picking up their permits. 

A horse trailer was moving slowly up a grade on 108 out of Sonora. Cars filed past it one at a time, speeding to the next destination. Four strange looking ears peaked over the side at us when we zipped past. They caught up at Summit Ranger Station in Stanislaus National Forest to pick up their permits. They were going to Gum Lake, so this would be the last we saw of them. 

Entering the wilderness.

Bear takes in the scenes from the trail.

The trail in was devoid of any other hikers. Hiking in the fall is utterly unlike hiking in the spring or summer. Everything is dry and dusty but incredibly still and quiet, aside from the roaring gusts of wind. The world is holding it's breath.  

Descent towards the lake. 

Used to soaring, sharp peaks, the Dardenelles are an unusual Sierra formation. The ancient necks of volcanoes stand the rain and wind longer than the softer rock that once surrounded them. 

Bear carried a full bottle of wine in his pack. It was his idea, but I wasn't complaining. I have yet to fully commit to the ultralight backpacking style. I don't think it's my thing. 

As often happens when pulled away from curtains, alarm clocks, and the necessity to rise, we woke with the sun.

Bear enjoys a cup of Yerba Mate with the sunrise in the shadow of the Dardanelle. 

 Lake water; Nothing tastes better, I swear. 

Lake water; Nothing tastes better, I swear. 

After a freezing dip in the frigid waters of Sword Lake, we ate lunch. As the crackers and cheese disappeared ominous clouds rode the wind over the horizon. Knowing rain was in the forecast, we moved to fill our water bottles and prepare for an autumn storm.  

The rain drops started falling the moment we put our supplies back in the tent. 

Welcome rain

The rain fell all afternoon. We spent the storm in my 18 square foot tent. The noise of rain became the backdrop to laughter. The afternoon passed quickly and joyfully. 

Rain check.

The rain ceased at sundown. The air was cool and calm. Sleep came quickly. 

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2. Kept us dry and cozy, though in the heavy winds, the rain fly did press against the tent, which can lead to condensation. We remedied this by propping up the rainfly with my trekking poles. 

In the morning we woke slowly.  Fog and clouds covered the Dardanelles, and shrouded the trees on the ridgeline. The dust had all been washed away and there was a tangible stillness in the air.

Lazy like Sunday Morning

We took our time packing up, but the inevitable can only be postponed for so long. Monday came too quickly and jobs and cubicles and packed lunches waited for us at home. 

Sword Lake.

The worst thing about Sundays is that they are followed by Mondays. 

The hike back to the trailhead passed too quickly. We were too soon driving down the dirt road that leads to the highway. Too soon driving down the highway to my cul-de-sac. Too soon unloading the car. Too soon getting into bed. Too soon waking up and driving to work. 

 

I can't stop daydreaming. 


Limekillin' It

Early morning Big Sur Coastline.

In order to refresh whatever it is that gets worn down from traffic and smog and computers and air conditioned atmospheres, one must get away.  To that end Big Sur never fails to disappoint.

It's not every day that your car thermometer reads 97 driving through Big Sur. This weekend was that of a California Indian Summer. 

Lunch Time

Bunk beds

Escape the heat

Limekiln Beach

The drought in California has done away with campfires. Christmas lights hooked up to a car battery were a worthy substitute. Despite the heat, fall hangs heavy in the air. Mulling spices heated with wine encourage the feeling. 

Campfire Restrictions

Mulling Wine on the Coleman two burner.

On Sunday the low tide at Sanddollar Beach allowed people to walk a hundred yards through ankle deep swells to rock outcroppings, normally surrounded by thundering waves. The water's clarity is tropical, but the temperature is definitely Californian. 

Sanddollar Beach

Nepenthe

The finale was Nepenthe, the legendary Big Sur establishment overlooking the coastline. As the evening fog began to gather down the coast, we drank our last beers, and imagined Henry Miller,  and John Steinbeck smoking cigarettes on the back deck, overlooking the infinity of the Pacific. 

The Road Goes Ever On

 Backpacking near Glen Aulin, Yosemite National Park. 

Backpacking near Glen Aulin, Yosemite National Park. 

 

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

 

(Tolkien)