Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP

Monday, Sept 27th – We left Yosemite NP headed towards Sequoia, driving some VERY winding roads down the mountain. Very scenic, but slow going…. and then some very winding roads back UP the mountains heading into Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon. We got to the campground around 2pm…. set up….then headed out to explore………

The main feature at Sequoia and Kings Canyon is, of course, the giant Sequoia trees, with their massive trunks and tops which soar above all the other trees.



The Sequoias are very long lived trees, with many of them living more than a thousand years.The longest lived Sequoia on record is 3,200 years old. Because of their massive girth and height, the Sequoias are the largest tree (by volume) on earth.

The Sequoia has a bark that can grow up to two to four feet thick. it is light and spongy, similar to balsa wood.


The bark lacks resin, which makes it fire resistant, and contains tannin, which resists insects. The grain is very tight with growth rings very close together. The heart wood is also has a high tannin level, which makes it very rot resistant.


Fire scars, such as this one, can be seen on many of the Sequoias. Fire may damage a Sequoia, but not kill it. The Sequoia groves actually depend on regular fires to open the pine cones and allow new Sequoias to grow. After 100 years of fire suppression in this park, officials realized that it was beneficial to the overall health of the Sequoia groves to allow smaller, more frequent fires to burn naturally.

We hiked the trail around the General Grant Tree (some of the largest trees are named). The General Grant is 267 feet tall and 107 feet in circumference and is 1,700 years old.



It is a massive tree, but you could not get that close to it, and nothing really allows you to judge the scale.

As we walked on around the North Grove trail, we were able to get closer to the trees.


And fully appreciate their size….



This is the root end of a fallen Sequoia…..


We were able to walk upright the length of this log…..


This is the same fallen log viewed from the side.

And some trees are famous even after they are cut down….



It seems a shame to “celebrate” by cutting down one of these majestic trees…….

After hiking around the giant trees, we drove up to Panoramic Point….


And sat and enjoyed the view…..



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yosemite NP – The Ahwahnee Hotel

We have enjoyed our experience of the many different grand lodges of the National Parks. the Ahwahnee Hotel is one of those lodges. We did not spend the night, but we enjoyed their hospitality and dinner in the Ahwahnee dining room on Saturday evening.




One of the lounges of the hotel……


The dining room was beautiful….massive stone pillars, timber frame construction, and wrought iron chandeliers…..

After a hard day of hiking, it was the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy our last night with Laura and Dave.

Sunday morning …...Laura and Dave have to head back to law school and jobs……It has been a great visit and so hard to say “goodbye”…..We just wanted to say “thanks”, again, for the hospitality…….and that most precious gift…….of time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yosemite NP – Cathedral Lakes Hike

Sept 25th - On Saturday, Fred, Laura, Dave and I drove up to Tuolumne Meadows – a 1.5 hour drive to the High Sierra’s in the upper area of Yosemite - with breath-taking scenery all along the way. Our destination was the Cathedral Lakes trailhead - and a 7 mile  round trip hike, with 1,000 feet elevation gain -  to upper Cathedral Lake. I am not sure of the starting elevation for this hike, but we guessed it to be around 7,000 feet.  We were all feeling the effects of the higher elevation - a bit of light headedness and increased breathing with less effort. But, up we went…..and as we continued, we began to feel better.

The trail progressed up the mountain without any really spectacular views………


Until we got to the Cathedral Lake – That’s Cathedral Mountain in the background……..


Well named….as you can see…..


Cathedral Lake was beautiful….pristine…..and we were there, by ourselves, to enjoy it……



We found several nice boulders to settle on and enjoy our lunch……. and stretch our toes a bit……



As we were enjoying the view, we spotted (with the binoculars) several climbers WAY UP on the very top of Cathedral Mountain. How they got there…or how they get down……was something to ponder….. I’m just glad that WE did not have that far to go to get down!  To be honest, the two days of uphill (and down!) hiking had taken their toll on all of our calves, legs, feet and knees…….

Monday, September 27, 2010

Yosemite NP – Hiking to Vernal Falls

Laura and Dave joined us at Yosemite NP for the weekend. On Friday, Sept 24th, we hiked up to Vernal Falls – a 6.8 mile round trip hike with a total 1400 ft elevation gain. The day was beautiful…not a cloud in the sky….a bit cool. but warming up to the high 70’s.



The Sierra mountains are just awesome!…….


This is Vernal Falls from the bottom….


And closer…….it always amazes me what power water has! Carving the rock….


And creating rainbows…….


To get to the top of the falls….one has to climb… this case, over 600 steps up the granite face (that’s what the book said, I did not count them!) this picture was taken from the top, looking down.


This is taken from the top of the falls…….


Just past Vernal Falls was a beautiful pool…..a perfect spot to have lunch.


We were joined by a blue jay…..somebody called this a Stellar Blue Jay?  


Further up the trail, you could see a great view of Half-Dome mountain. This mountain is well know  to rock climbers for its difficulty -   we met several people at the park who had climbed it.


Heading back down…this part was a loop trail so we did not have to climb down those 600 steps (thank goodness)!


A wonderful hike….and back to camp by 4 pm…. We fixed pizza for supper, and enjoyed a campfire (with roasted marshmallows, of course).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Emeryville, CA- Visiting with Laura and Dave

Sept 17 – 23rd – We have been spending this week in the Emeryville/Berkeley, CA area visiting with our daughter, Laura and son-in-law, Dave. It has been a wonderful change of pace with quiet days revolving around their routine of study and work (Laura’s Law school and Dave’s computer programming work) and, of course, the kitties. We also checked out the neighborhood Baskin Robbins as well as the Safeway, and I enjoyed making some oatmeal cookies (I have been missing my kitchen).



Patches, the black and white cat, has enjoyed the new addition……..


Peanut….a 9 week old kitten….


On Sunday afternoon, we all took a break and got out for a walk around Lake Merritt…..

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Which attracts ducks and geese, pelicans and all sorts of birds……

On Monday and Tuesday, Laura had to be out of town for job interviews (they start interviewing now for this coming Summer!) so Fred and I checked out the local REI, Trader Joes and a few other stores, and also got much needed hair cuts.

On Wednesday, we caught back up with Laura and spent a bit of time getting ready for this weekend. That evening, we joined Laura and Dave for a class that they have been going to on Buddhist meditation. It was very interesting, and the meditation time was relaxing.

Today (Thursday) we are headed to Yosemite NP for the weekend. Laura and Dave will join us this evening through Sunday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hiking Grand Teton NP – Paintbrush Canyon

Sept 12th – Cascade Canyon joins Paintbrush Canyon to form a loop trail 19 miles long that many people hike as a 1-2 night backpacking trip. Since this trail crossed the mountains at Paintbrush Divide with 4900 ft total climbing and the use of an ice axe recommended, we decided NOT to hike these canyons as a loop, but rather to hike each canyon separately, as out-and-back day hikes, avoiding the pass and the highest elevations.

We set out Sunday morning to hike the Paintbrush Canyon. This was to be an out-and-back hike. We had no particular goal in mind, but knew that an alpine lake, Holly Lake, lay 6.5 miles and 2900 feet up the canyon.


We were blessed with another beautiful day. The trail started out walking around String lake.


With a more brushy area and the mountains on the other side of the trail.


We came upon a whole group of these quail? crossing the path….

This hike was a steady climb up Paintbrush Canyon…….



…..with wonderful views, the higher we climbed.



Again, we had to cross a bolder field, the rocks are left by receding glaciers which sculpted this area. Hiking across rocks like these, makes for tedious hiking and tricky footing.


As we approached an elevation of about 9,000 feet, we found SNOW.


We stopped for lunch, then hiked on a bit. We had felt fairly acclimated to the altitude at 4,000-6,000 feet, but we were feeling the effort at 9,000 feet. We were not really sure how far from Holly lake we were, but the trail kept going up in steep switchbacks, and we decided that our legs (and lungs) had had enough. We turned and headed back down.

On our way back down, we were rewarded with a chance sighting of a red fox.


He was trotting right down the middle of the trail…..


When he spotted us, he just looked at us…..and kept on coming towards us……..until he got about 10 feet away….


Then, he turned and headed back away……

Out-and-back hikes are tough……we find ourselves wanting to keep going……wanting to know what is around the next corner……yet knowing that for each mile further out, we have to walk that same mile back.  When we got back to camp, we looked up the info on the trail and realized that we had been only .5 - .75 miles from Holly Lake when we had turned around. We had hiked a total of 11.5 miles and 2700 feet up Paintbrush Canyon.

It has been a lesson for us to keep practicing…… life is not a race, nor a competition……it really IS about the journey….not the destination……

And what a journey this is………     : )