Archive for May, 2009

Redwood National and State Parks

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

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After a long day of driving on twisty, turny, and hilly roads we arrived in the Redwoods.  We found a little mom and pop campground for a reasonable price in Klamath, CA (known for the Klamath River and it’s Chinook Salmon and Steelhead).  Unlike the weather in Shenandoah, it was 50, cloudy, and foggy upon our arrival and when we woke up Saturday.  Not letting the weather stop us, we headed out in search of some big trees.  We found them… The Redwoods are known for being the tallest trees in the world.  The forests were actually quite amazing, especially with the coastal fog, which gave them a rain foresty feel.  We lucked out on timing as the rhododendrons were in bloom adding some great color to the lush, green, mossy forest.  We had fun trying to capture the sights on camera, each taking shots from a different perspective.  Our first day ended with a Salmon BBQ back at the campground.  The salmon was very tasty and we had fun around the fire chatting with fellow travelers.

Sunday brought another gray, cool day but this didn’t stop us from continuing our exploration of the Redwood National and State Parks.  We took short jaunts to see the “Corkscrew Tree” and the “Big Tree”, which were less than impressive, but after the Sequoias we may be a little jaded.  Our plan was to hike to the “Tall Tree” grove, home of the tallest trees in the world.  The Ranger talked us out of it as the Tall Trees are at the end of a newer growth forest that isn’t too impressive. She also shared that the “Big Trees” aren’t marked, so basically they would look much like any other in more interesting groves.  We opted to take a 3.5 mile loop through an old growth forest, which was quite pretty.  It was interesting to see all of the memorials along the trail.  Apparently, naming groves and trees is popular in the Redwoods. We found several interesting creatures on the trail… There were huge snails, banana slugs, jumbo beetles, and centipedes.  Our feature creatures of the day had to be the elk.  There were several herds posing for us in Elk Meadow (go figure).

Monday brought more poor weather. We took a trip into Eureka to find new hiking shoes. We have actually worn out our Keens. After shoe shopping, Chris had to visit a couple of local microbreweries. The Lost Coast and The Six Rivers Breweries were fun stops. We ended the evening with a fire with our new friends in the campground. Weather will continue to be an issue for the next few days. Grey and rain for the whole coast. Looks like we will finally have time to finalize our Alaska plans.

 

Shenandoah Valley

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

We spent our last few days in Yosemite laying low due to the holiday weekend crowds.  We managed to enjoy the local attractions taking  a few short hikes to local waterfalls and swimming holes, reading our books, doing some housekeeping, changing trailer tires(picked up a nail)…  Our original plan was to go to the famous Napa Valley to sample some California wines. After getting some advice from Ralph, we decided to head toward the Shenandoah Valley instead, as it sounds like Napa has become very expensive and touristy.

Home sweet nuclear home

Home sweet nuclear home

On Tuesday, we arrived at our new home, Rancho Seco Recreational Area and Nuclear Extraveganza… OK… It was actually a decommissioned nuke plant that had a beautiful lake, cheap camping, and great views in a convenient area for the wineries.  It was also way less expensive ($15/day) than the only other game in town($50/day).  It was a beautiful area with TONS of wineries within close proximity.  The best part was no tasting fees and some really great wines!

Dobra winery

Dobra winery

We spent the past few days tasting the local Zin’s, Barberra’s, Sangiovese’s, among other local varietals.  We had a great time chatting with the vintners and making friends with the tasting room pourers.

Villa Toscano

Villa Toscano

After two days and 10 wineries… we were ready to move on.  Can’t fit any more bottles in the camper or afford any more in the checkbook 🙂

Yosemite, Day 5, 6 and 7

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
The start of the Panorama Trail...wonder where the name came from?

The start of the Panorama Trail...wonder where the name came from?

After a day of rest and housekeeping we set out once again into the park.  One of our last ‘to do’ items was the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to the valley floor.  This 8.5 mile hike is one way with a 3,200 foot elevation change.  We chose wisely, and started at the top, working our way down to the valley and past three impressive waterfalls.

The trail runs by the side of both Nevada and Vernal Fall.

The trail runs by the side of both Nevada and Vernal Fall.

The views were outstanding throughout (go figure, Panorama Trail…).  Again, we couldn’t get away from Half Dome.  It was really cool hiking “into” the view we were enjoying.  The falls in the background are Nevada (top) and Vernal (bottom), which we will finish our day with.

Illilouette Fall

Illilouette Fall

Along the way we passed Illilouette Fall, where we enjoyed a PBJ on the rocks and a brief rest.

Descending down Nevada Fall

Descending down Nevada Fall

The next stop was at Nevada Fall, where we enjoyed another snack on the rocks, this time looking out toward Glacier Point where we started our day.  The hike down along the Nevada Fall was steep and offered some great views of the crashing water.

In front of Vernal Fall...still dry

In front of Vernal Fall...still dry

From Nevada we hooked into the “Mist trail” that brought us to Vernal Fall, our last stop for the day.

Now we know what is at the end of the rainbow :)

Now we know what is at the end of the rainbow 🙂

We had fun trying to capture the rainbows at the bottom of Vernal Fall.

Soaked again, this time by Vernal fall on the Mist trail

Soaked again, this time by Vernal fall on the Mist trail

Ok, mist trail is a misnomer… We think rain trail, torrential downpour trail, shower trail, etc… may be more appropriate.  Once again we ended our day damp but happy!

Since this was a one way trail we had to jockey the truck and a motorcycle to do it.  After each of us drove 6 hours roundtrip to make it work (Yosemite is huge and our campground is 25 miles outside of the park), with a 9 mile hike in between, we were pooped.  We stopped for a quick bite at a lodge on the way home since neither one of us were in cooking shape.

Our first Yosemite beat, a brown 'black' bear

Our first Yosemite beat, a brown 'black' bear

The last section of the park we wanted to see was the Tioga Pass road.  When we first arrived it had yet to open, as it is closed in the winter (November-May).  As luck would have it, the pass opened up yesterday and we were excited to see what the upper elevations had to offer.  As we made the turn onto the Pass we saw our 1st Yosemite bear in a meadow hanging out.

The storm cometh

The storm cometh

After hanging out in the Valley and at Glacier Point, we were a bit disappointed with the Tioga Pass.  There were some good views, snow, marshy meadows, etc… but nothing too exciting.  There was a storm that rolled in as we drove through, which we tried to capture in a picture.

Our second Yosemite bear, a cinnamon 'black' bear

Our second Yosemite bear, a cinnamon 'black' bear

We made it to the other side of the park and checked out Mono Lake and Mammoth Mountain.  On the way back through Yosemite, we stopped at the meadow where we saw our first bear and he was gone.  We couldn’t believe our luck when there was a different bear there in the meadow to take its place.  How cool…two Yosemite bears in one day!  Don’t worry mom, we kept our distance this time.

Yosemite, Day 3 and 4

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

 

Half Dome reflected in Mirror Lake

Half Dome reflected in Mirror Lake

Day three was a Monday and we set off into the park once again, hoping for lesser crowds.  Since it was supposed to be in the 90’s again, we decided to take a less strenuous hike than originally planned.  The Mirror Lake Loop trail was the perfect ticket.  Mirror Lake is known for its reflections, specifically of Half Dome. We did the best we could to capture the reflections on a cloudy afternoon.

Trail devastation from a recent rockslide

Trail devastation from a recent rockslide

Once on the trail we found out that it was closed part way through due to a rock slide on March 28, 2009.  The slide caused damage to several hundred feet of trail.  We hiked as far as we could get which was where the slide occurred, pretty impressive.  There were tons of boulders and trees strewn everywhere. 

Relaxing over the Merced River

Relaxing over the Merced River

It was a nice trail and crossed a raging river that fed Mirror Lake. Thunder was heard in the distance our whole way back. We made it back to the visitor center just before the skies opened up.  

The Merced River under an angry sky

The Merced River under an angry sky

Wow! It got very dark, and the wind, rain and hail came down.  Thunder and lightning entertained us as we had a snack in the village.  We got soaked running back to the car.

Yosemite Falls - See the overlook at the top?

Yosemite Falls - See the overlook at the top?

Tuesday, we set out to tackle our next major goal in the park,  hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls.  The 8 mile roundtrip brought us to the top of the largest waterfall in the United States and the 5th largest in the world. 

Part way up...Half Dome in the background

Part way up...Half Dome in the background

This hike was crazy strenuous.  There was a 2,700 foot elevation change with switchback after switchback.  Good thing the views were worth it!  We just can’t seem to get away from Half Dome.

Halfway point, Upper Yosemite in the background

Halfway point, Upper Yosemite in the background

By the halfway mark the Upper Yosemite was calling us.  The rumble of the falling water from Yosemite Creek was incredible. 

Wow!
Wow!

Our favorite shot of the day was this one of Upper Yosemite Fall and Half Dome.  Nice pic Chris! We ended our day sore, and at a new local establishment that has wireless internet. Good food, good beer, good atmosphere and a good end to the day.  Yea!

Yosemite Day 1 and 2

Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Above the valley floor from Tunnel View

Above the valley floor from Tunnel View

We settled into our new ‘home’ Friday night, just outside of Yosemite National Park. Nice campground, but we are without cell/internet coverage once again. Internet access is miles away, so updates may be few over the next week or so. Our first day in Yosemite was a Saturday and we rode in on the motorcycles with high expectations for the day. Unfortunately, Yosemite on a Saturday much resembles Los Angeles or New York City during rush hour…After getting over our initial shock of the crowds we decided to make the best of the day. This was easy to do as the views are incredible at every turn. Bridalveil Falls was easily captured from a roadside turout.

Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

 

We thought going to Glacier Point would provide a less crowded stop.  The 32 mile roundtrip off the main road to Glacier Point was well worth the ride.  Although far from “less crowded”, we managed to grab a few pictures away from the masses.  Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls were prominent features in the vista.

 

 

 

 

Vernal and Nevada falls again

Vernal and Nevada falls again

 

Half Dome

Half Dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

The Bachelor and the Three Graces
The Bachelor and the Three Graces

 We decided to make a loop of the day and went home through the southern section of the park.  Yosemite also has a giant Sequoia Grove (the Mariposa Grove) which we stopped at briefly for a break from the bikes before our long ride home.  We were pretty tired and hot! It was in the mid 90’s today.

 

 

Falls at Hetch Hetchy
Falls at Hetch Hetchy

The second day we swore off the motorcycles.  It is just too hot to suit up for safety.  It was supposed to be in the mid 90’s once again.  We headed out to check out Hetch Hetchy.  This area of Yosemite is a lesser traveled and more remote area.  The Hetch Hetchy reservoir was beautiful. 

Hetch Hetchy Reservior
Hetch Hetchy Reservior

While there we had to hike up to Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls (6 miles rountrip).  What a great hike!  The views of the reservoir were outstanding and you could see Rancheria Falls in the distance flanked by the mountains (a longer hike then we had time for today).

Yes, the falls are flowing this time of year
Yes, the falls are flowing this time of year

When we finally got to Wapama Falls, we were pleasantly surprised.  There were a series of bridges to access the trail on the other side.  Due to spring run off, the falls were kicking and we got soaked as we made our way across. 

...and it is really cold!!
…and it is really cold!!

Since it was 95 degrees, we were glad to be able to cool down.  Boy was that water cold.

More of Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Kim at the bottom of Tokopah Falls

Kim at the bottom of Tokopah Falls

On Kim’s birthday, it was off to Tokopah Falls and Crystal Cave in the Sequoia NP.  Again, we headed out on the motorcycles, as the riding is great around here. The 3.5 mile round trip to the falls was a nice walk and, of course, we had to stop for photo ops. 

The trail to Tokopah Falls

The trail to Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Falls was pretty impressive. We tried to show scale with a timer shot along the way. 

Gate to Crystal Cave

Gate to Crystal Cave

After the falls, it was onto the Crystal Cave.  This is the only guided tour in the park.  It was a 1/2 mile walk down a steep trail to the cave which meant a 1/2 mile out. We impressed oursleves on the way out by staying ahead of the Law Enforcement Rangers who were hot on our tail.  Guess we are not that old, or at least not that out of shape.  The cave itself was a bit of a dissapointment after some of the other ones we have visited, however, it was a good addition to the day. 

Relaxing over the Kings river

Relaxing over the Kings river

For our last day in the parks, we headed into Kings Canyon to “Road’s End”, where our goal was to hike the 9.2 miles to see Mist Falls (one of the largest in both parks). Again, it was a great motorcycle road and we had a great ride in. We stopped a few times along the way to check out the sights. The Kings River was amazing. We couldn’t believe the amount of water and speed of the flow. 

View down the beginning of the Kings Canyon

View down the beginning of the Kings Canyon

The views along the trail were amazing.  The Sierra Nevada mountains are beautiful in the distance.

One of the many waterfalls on the Kings river

One of the many waterfalls on the Kings river

More views… Check out that run off!
Mist Falls

Mist Falls

Mist Falls, at the end of our hike ,was a little dissapointing since we were following the river and seeing beautiful falls the whole way. It was very misty though! 

More of Kings Canyon views

More of Kings Canyon views

We had to take this timer shot on the way back.  Even in person, this looked fake.

Kim models her new line of Sugar Pine earrings

Kim models her new line of Sugar Pine earrings

We are always looking for ways to quit our day jobs. On the way back, Kim spotted some Sugar Cone Pines.  If the Sotol business doesn’t work out, we figure we can go into the earring business!

It was a great last day.  Very long… 5 hours on the motorcycles (170 miles) and the 9.2 mile hike, we were pooped when we got back to town.  We decided cooking was out of the question (already 7:45), so we tried the local Pizza joint.  Yum!  Tomorrow we are off to Yosemite.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Well, the trip from Bryce was long but uneventful.  We stopped at the California/Nevada border for the night and experienced our first night of “casino camping”.  It was 98 degrees when we got there so we enjoyed our time inside the air conditioned facilities.  The dinner buffet was good, we shopped at the outlets for a few needed items (yes, Chris shopped), gambled minimally (lost only $20), and called it a night when the temps went down to 85, figuring we could fall asleep.

We arrived in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area on Monday evening, where we found a very nice campground just outside of the park.  Today we decided to take the motorcycles into Sequoia and loop around through Kings Canyon then home.  We both agreed that this loop was one of the best motorcycle rides either of us had ever been on.  The roads were perfect for a variety of skill levels and offered a scenic rollercoaster riding experience. 

We stopped at several points of interest along the way.  The Sequoia’s were quite impressive.  We rode through Tunnel Log, hiked up to Moro Rock for the views, visited the Giant Forest Museum, walked though the Giant Forest, and stopped at both the General Sherman Tree (the largest tree in the world) and the General Grant Tree (third largest tree in the world with the largest footprint at 40.3 feet). While walking in the Giant Forest we happened upon a bear that was drinking from the creek running through the meadow. We got pretty close (within 10 feet), as we wanted to capture a good picture for posterity.  He was a pretty agreeable subject until he started to growl, at which time we picked up the pace and headed on down the trail.  Shortly after our encounter, a ranger came by and closed the trail keeping other’s at bay- good timing.  We’ll do anything, including risking life and limb, to get blog worthy shots. Ok- so we aren’t that bright.  

It was a great first day and we are looking forward to spending the next few days exploring the parks further.  Tomorrow, KIM’S BIRTHDAY, we plan on visiting the Crystal Cave (guided tour) and hiking to Tokopah Falls. 

By the way, we do not have cell service but do have internet. 

Bryce, More of Bryce

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

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We spent the past few days exploring Bryce and the surrounding area further.  Chris took another motorcycle ride (had parts to pick up about 100 miles away) and Kim braved another solo hike, this time  along the rim of Bryce Canyon.  One day was devoted to checking out Red Canyon, not far from Bryce.  Although our high hopes of a mountainbike ride were squashed by our lack of skills, we did manage a nice hike on the Arches trail which gave a good overview of the Red Canyon area.  After a short visit we headed back to Bryce to check out all of the view points we hadn’t hit yet.  The southern part of the part offered grand  panoramic vistas while the northern end showcased the best views of the hoodoos.

Although we had already hiked several trails in the park, we heard good things about the Fairyland Trail and were looking forward to tackling the 8 mile loop.  On Friday we had a great afternoon hiking in Fairyland and taking pictures (something different).  Earlier in the day, a neighbor from a previous campground showed up and we had made friends with our current neighbors.  Dinner with our new friends and a fire were in order and made a nice ending to the day. 

Today is our last day at Bryce, and actually in the Grand Circle area.  We are looking forward to watching the sunset and moonrise over Bryce tonight.  It will be a fitting end to a very scenic and enjoyable month. Tomorrow we hit the road heading west  to California once again.

Bryce Canyon NP….WOW!!!

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
View from inside Bryce Ampitheater

View from inside Bryce Ampitheater

Well, we came back to Bryce for the day like we planned.  We filled our day with a combination hike that brought us to Queens Garden, the Peek a Boo Trail Loop, and the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop (6.5 miles of many elevation changes through the hoodoo’s).  We thought we were impressed when looking down from Bryce Point the other day, however being in the Bryce Ampitheater was even better.  After only seeing about 1/3 of the park and loving everthing we were seeing we decided to head back to the camper, pack up and move to Bryce for the next few days. 

 

Escalante and a hint of Bryce

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

The weather was supposed to be sour, however when we got up it was actually pretty nice.  We decided to try and hit several different highlights within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  Our first stop was a 6 mile hike to Calf Creek Falls.  The walk to the lower falls took us through a canyon below the Hog Back section of route 12. It was a good walk and proved somewhat challenging with the sand.  We even encountered desert rain and some hail. The most memorable part of our hike happened on the way back when we heard loud cracking and sliding noises to our right.  As it turns out, part of a cliff near where we were walking let loose and a section fell. Pretty amazing to be so close to a major geologic moment and scary too!

Devil's Garden

Devil's Garden

After leaving Calf Creek we took the long way back to our next destination, Devil’s Garden.  There are several back country roads that cater to OHV’s and cars. We took the Hells Backbone route, which took us through the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness.  Although the road itself was fun, there wasn’t much picture action.  From Hell’s Backbone we hooked up with another backcountry route called Hole in the Rock Road.  About 13 miles in we found Devil’s Garden, which was very cool.  We had a great time taking pictures and scrambling around on the hoodoo’s.

Timer shot in Devil's Garden

Timer shot in Devil's Garden

Metate Arch in Devil's Garden

Metate Arch in Devil's Garden

Devil's Garden
Devil’s Garden

Devil’s Garden was a great way to end the day.  From there it was home for dinner.

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch

On Sunday we headed out on the motorcycles to check out Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grosvenor Arch, and take a peek at Bryce Canyon National Park.  The state park was a bit less exciting then we expected so there are no pictures to prove we were there.  We did take a short hike to Shakesphere Arch, again not worth reporting.  Our ride, on dirt, to Grosvenor Arch was more rewarding.  The double arch was quite impressive. 

Bryce

Hoodoo you think your foolin'..... name that song

The “piece de resistance” for the day was definitely our first look at Bryce (sorry Diarmuid).  We both agreed that this may be one of the most impressive sights so far.  Chris tried to spice things up by pretending to throw me off the cliff to get a good smile for the timer shot of  the day (it worked).

Bryce

View from Bryce Point

This is just a taste of what we saw.  We can’t wait to come back and spend the whole day exploring the canyon and hoodoo views.