Monday, June 30, 2008

Backpacking Adventures

This past weekend Josh and I had planned to go backpacking in Yosemite. It is rare that we actually plan a backpacking trip. Generally, we pick a place and go with little planning. In the past, this lack of planning has caused us to hike ridiculous routes in which the elevation increased 4000 feet in two miles, not brought ample food and forgotten essential equipment. For these reasons, we decided to plan, and plan we did. We had the perfect route, a checklist of food and equipment, and even planned out what we would have for each meal. Last Thursday morning we left smokey Sonoma, and headed to what we thought would be beautiful Yosemite. Given the fires throughout California we did check Yosemite's website, and they did not mention fires or smokey conditions as of Thursday morning.

The trip there was awful. Google directions brought us through small towns where you prayed to God that your car wouldn't break down. We missed a turn, got lost, but continued to stay positive given our destination. As we got closer to Yosemite and the smoke was still everywhere in sight I began to get a little nervous. Finally, we arrived near our trail head in Yosemite.

This is what Yosemite looked like last Thursday. We chatted with a park ranger who told us that there was fire about a mile from where we were going to begin our hike. "The trails are still open, but the air quality is not too good." No kidding. We turned around and started driving away. Josh and I were both quiet and disappointed. Finally, we pulled it together and tried to come up with another plan. We had everything in the car we needed to go backpacking, therefore, we must go somewhere. After some brainstorming we came up with Tahoe since that is where Kam (Josh's sister) works or Lassen.

Once we were in cell phone range we got through to Kamren. She told us Tahoe was fine. Twenty minutes later she called us back to report it was a little smokey. We had her look up the conditions at Lassen, and their website immediately said, "smokey conditions," and advised against strenuous hikes. How helpful. We didn't have to drive all the way to Lassen to discover the smoke ourselves. Despite some smoke, we drove to Tahoe. After nine hours of driving, we reached Mountain Camp, where Kam works. It was smokey. Not as bad as Yosemite, but not ideal.

One of Kam's coworkers helped us plan out a new route. We were set. We had a map, a plan, and all of our supplies. We drove to a trail head about 10 miles from Mt. Camp, and set off into Desolation Wilderness. We were ready.

This is us looking ready. We hiked about four miles towards Lake Sylvia. The hike was a nice gradual climb to a beautiful lake surrounded by granite walls. We stopped at the lake for awhile and enjoyed the peacefulness and serenity of it for about five minutes. Then we continued on. We then went off the trail as instructed by Kam's friend, and followed the creek up to a second small lake that was a steep 1200-1400 feet climb. It was beautiful, and we thought about setting up our tent there, but it was still mid-afternoon, and we thought we could make it over the peak that was ahead of us, and down to Aloha Lake, which was on the other side of the peak. We rested for a bit before we set off to climb the peak. And then, we climbed. It reminded me a lot of Half Dome, but without the cables to hold on to.
After many near falls, and what seemed like hours, me made it to the top of the peak. It was incredible, and at the same time disheartening. We essentially climbed up to a cliff, with no way down.

It was absolutely beautiful; however, we could find no way down to the lake. Even if we found a more gradual way down, the mountain was covered in snow. After realizing that there was no way down, we made the difficult descent back down to Sylvia Lake.

We set up our tent here, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Our second attempt at a backpacking trip was again, not what we expected. We decided not to press our luck anymore, and Saturday morning hiked out, and drove back to Kamren's camp. Despite the many changes in our plan, we still had a great time. I'm sure we will get to do our original plan in Yosemite soon, probably less prepared than we were this time, but we will get there.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Camping in Santa Barbara

This past weekend Josh and I went to a friend's wedding in Santa Barbara. A few months ago, Josh had the brilliant idea that we should camp on the coast after the wedding. We both envisioned a peaceful campground on a beach that we would go to after attending what we knew would be a beautiful wedding. Things turned out to be slightly different than we had imagined. We arrived at Gaviota State Beach Campground (about 30 miles north of Santa Barbara). Our welcome to the campground was a young man who looked to be about 16. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I am going to say it was his first day on the job. As we pulled up to the booth he looked at us as though we were the first to arrive at the packed state beach. He said, "uh, camping?" It might not have been that articulate. We then drove another 100 yards to the "campsite." And by campsite, I mean a large parking lot with many tents splattered all over the place. Our reserved spot was filled with a city of tents and people. Josh and I just stared. It turns out that a rather large family set up camp and decided to use our 10 feet by 10 feet reserved space. In the spirit of generosity the man whose family set up a city on our spot offered to help us move the picnic table so we could set up our tent. I thought Josh was going to lose it, but I guess after reading Thich Nhat Hanh's, Peace is Every Step he was able to take a few deep breaths. To make a long story short, we set up the tent, used Olay facial wipes to clean ourselves off, put on our pretty clothes and headed to the wedding. Here is a picture of our tent (while it was still standing):

Note the amount of tents nearby. Also, the fire pit was almost inside our tent. Probably not safe.

The wedding was indeed beautiful. We had so much fun and I got to witness Josh's break dancing skills. Pretty remarkable. Obviously he learned the skills from me. After the wedding we returned to our campsite ready to crash, and instead found that our tent has actually crashed. With up to 50 mile per hour gusts of wind, our tent had blown over. Furthermore, smoke and ash from nearby campfires blew into our tent. At that point we decided the campground wasn't meant to be. Josh packed up the tent, and at 1 am we began driving north in hopes of finding a cheap hotel. It turns out that every hotel along the 101 was full on Saturday evening. Josh, being the trooper that he is, drove us all the way to Santa Cruz. We pulled up to Kam and Anne's house (his sister and her wife) around 5 am. The take aways from this adventure are:
1) Don't try to camp when attending a wedding. It's just never a good idea.
2) Don't try to camp on a large parking lot.
3) Don't camp when large signs say "no refunds due to wind."

Summer in Sonoma

To be honest, I thought I would stop blogging after my technology course. Now that I don't have to blog, I actually want to blog.

Josh and I have been renting a cottage in Sonoma for a little over a week now. Our place is so cute and incredibly peaceful. We decided to rent this place because I am working on my Master's at Sonoma State and wanted to take a few classes this summer. Despite the classes, I still feel like I am on vacation. My morning are what I have dreamt about this past school-year- sleeping in, sipping tea, doing yoga on our patio and relaxing until around noon. Then, I usually go for a run or a bike ride. After all of this is done, I do attempt to do some school work, but given the fact that my class doesn't start until 4 it is very easy to procrastinate. I love our schedule here.

Life in Sonoma is fabulous. Josh and I might just stay here for the year. If only we were both (consultants like some of our friends), we could just work from our cottage.