Jul 17, 2014

Roadtrip week through California and the Redwoods

We left our campsite in Bishop CA, and began heading northwest towards the Redwoods. It was no state park, but the sky was always pretty there!

Lenticular clouds

Goodbye, Mono Lake. Bowie is typically unimpressed with the scenery, but he's always interested in the water.

We had to cross the Sierra Nevadas somehow...we chose Monitor Pass and Luther Pass. Ol' Hodor did us proud going up and over those mountains.

And down

We kind of just blew through the whole state of California. It was a bummer, but we were getting desperate for affordable camping (and food!). We made a reservation in an Oregon State Park, and were making our way up and over to the coast. At the halfway point, we stopped at a county park in Yuba City, it was a really nice place, we had a creek-side campsite, and only wish we could have stayed a little longer.

California Countryside

Getting closer to the coast

There it is

We made it to edge, now we turn right!

Dark sand

We were so happy to be here. To hear the ocean roaring and see the mist drifting in over the green forests was such a comfort. We had been a long time coming through the desert and I can't fully describe how reassuring and refreshing this sight and these trees were for us.

And just a bit further up the coast, The Redwoods. Ah, woodland paradise. I've been wanting to see this place for a long time. We were sad that our visit was so brief, but we'll never forget it. We've seen the biggest, the oldest, and now the tallest trees!

We got to check out a few trails, see a bunch of elk, hug some trees...of course, the pictures do no justice to the last of these ancient wonders. You can't fully recognize their enormity without being there. It's funny because like the sequoia grove in Yosemite, most of my photos just look like a regular old forest - even the ferns offer no scale because they are huge too! 

We talked with a ranger who recommended the Trillium Falls trail for our short stay. Walking into that forest was nothing short of a spiritual rebirth.

"This trail leads you through the misty hallways of an ancient redwood forest. Along the path, families of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce reside beneath the shade of the world's tallest trees. The forest floor creates a moist sanctuary for red tree voles, Pacific giant salamanders, and banana slugs. Listen for the high-pitched hoots of the spotted owl or the rapid trills of the ever-present winter wren.

Along the creek, scattered patches of silky white trillium bloom in the spring. Near the waterfall, the heavy, sloping limbs of big-leaf maple reach out in every direction. The Sun's rays attempt to blaze through the foggy sky, sprinkling beams of light upon Trillium Falls, a 10-foot cascade flowing over rocks covered in deep-green moss."

Hello, friend

everything green

Walking through the tall trees

Back on the road, more pretty coast along highway 101

I think we were in Oregon at this point. I think we had parked in a casino RV lot for the night.
It's all blurring together! This was our picnic spot of the day.

We finally arrived at Bullard's Beach State Park which would be home for the next 2 weeks (and dare I say forever in our hearts??) We loved it there. Stay tuned, readers! And thanks for reading ;)

Jul 16, 2014

Treasure Lakes in the John Muir Wilderness

“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.” -John Muir

Our last hike into the Sierras. We took this same trail before, but had to turn around to beat the sunset. This time we got an early start on Sunday morning, and came prepared to hike up to the Treasure Lakes, where I would find my new favorite place on earth.

Seems there's always a fat chipmunk at the trailhead.

This quote was on the map at the trailhead

"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
-John Muir

 ...lost the trail

...found it!

Lost it again (on purpose this time) and found the perfect picnic spot. That mountain in the center is where we're headed.

"We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us." -John Muir

Unspoiled beauty. This place. Is. Incredible.

"A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself." -John Muir

Headed back out. It was so, so hard to leave. Treasure Lakes sure do live up to (and far surpass) their name.

Jul 15, 2014

Gaylor Lakes in Yosemite

The Gaylor Lakes trail starts at 9,950 ft elevation just past the Tioga Pass entrance, then it's another 600 ft elevation gain to the basin. We followed the stream to the upper lake, then went further up to Gaylor Peak and explored the old silver mining ruins. 

Starting out in Dana Meadows

Going up

Looking down on Dana Meadows

Middle lake

Upper and Middle Gaylor lakes

Pretty flowers and lichen way up in there in the cold thin air

Heading back down. 

We all know the water cycle. It's one thing to just learn and know this, but to actually see the entire process in action has given us a whole new level of understanding and fascination. Hiking to the top of a snow covered mountain, seeing the path that the melting snow takes as it drains into a lake, and following the stream further down into other lakes, rivers and waterfalls, is a lot more exciting than a textbook illustration.

This journey has been one giant field trip for us! We're learning so much about human and natural history everyday, that we've taken to calling our expenses tuition.

Glacial erratics in Tuolumne Meadows

Granite cliffs at Olmsted Point. Activist and conservationist Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park in NYC, and is considered to be the father of American landscape architecture.

We took one last drive to Yosemite Valley, explored a few short trails and hiked up to see Vernal Falls.
(UP as in 1.6 miles uphill the whole way!)

We didn't see any forest spirits, but we did see a big brown bear when we reached end of this walkway! 

We crossed paths with him, maybe 25 feet apart. He glanced up at us, and continued on his way, unimpressed. I wasn't expecting a bear in that spot because there were so many people and cars around, but Yogi Bear is based on the truth, in that bears just want to steal your sandwiches. We heard they break into mini-vans more often than other vehicles - think little kids and cheerios on the floor.

 More Mather

On our drive back towards home, we stopped again at Olmsted Point to watch the full moonrise from behind the mountains. I've never seen a brighter night. The whole place lit up with the moonlight glinting off the white granite cliffs.

Jul 9, 2014

Methuselah Trail

We drove out to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest one afternoon to meet the world's oldest living (singular) things. The road up into the White Mountains is a fun, hilly, curvy, pretty drive. We decided to hike the Methuselah Trail, starting at the visitor center. 4.5 miles? No problem. We're pretty used to these crazy elevations by now, after hiking Zion and Bryce Canyons. The visitor center was closed, and the brochure box at the trail head was empty - double bummer. Whatevs, we saw the largest trees ever, now it's time to see the oldest trees ever!

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Along the trail

See how close together the rings are

It is humbling to consider all that these elders have lived through. Time seems a bit off on that trail, and the sky changed from overcast, to blue, to stormy gray while the white mountains glared in the sunlight. There is a 900 feet elevation loss and gain. We wandered slowly down the trail at first, inspecting all the little details of these gnarled beasts. After awhile, we realized the trail did not seem to be looping back to the visitor's center. How long have we been out here?

Many of these trees look dead at first glance, but as long as they have a single strip of bark running up the trunk, they are able to survive. The exposed wood makes beautiful colors and patterns.


This was about the time we felt the fear creeping in - high elevations, low blood sugar, little shade, running out of water, fighting nausea, the ever present knowledge of our finite human existence...we had not passed any fellow hikers since leaving the almost empty parking lot.

We took it slowly and continued up the trail. It brought us to the top of this mountain where you can see all the way to Death Valley. We found a bench along the trail and stopped to take in the scene and eat some trail mix before pushing on again. We passed two fellow hikers!

Pine Cone River

One mile to go!

The clouds part above us

Almost back to the car

We became dangerously low on gasoline driving up, but were able to coast the whole way back to town...

..and back into Rusty's Saloon, our local Checkerboard equivalent.
Cheers to surviving our ill-planned adventure!