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Posts from the ‘National Parks’ Category

Glen Aulin High Sierra Trail

The Glen Aulin trail leads to one of five High Sierra Campgrounds in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  Starting  from the east end of Tuolumne Meadows the trail follows the Tuolumne River downstream to the Glen Aulin campsite.

Just over 13 miles round-trip, the path starts next to small, colorful pools known as Soda Springs, before winding through rolling woodlands as the Tuolumne River winds across meadows, providing spectacular high country views.  Quickly, the trail transforms to a boulder-strewn granite slope, forming river falls, cascades and deep, clear pools, as the terrain on most sides becomes steep and mountainous.

The views are awesome.

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Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite National Park

Last week Kelly and I spent a few days camping at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, our second visit to this wonder nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada’s Mountain range.

Our spot 37A

Our spot A36

Open only during the summer and fall, the Tuolumne Meadows area is far less crowded than the very popular Yosemite Valley.  With fewer people come fewer amenities, resulting in a more rustic camp setting.

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

For the first few days we would be camping alongside fellow Airstreamers Advodna, before being joined by Kelly’s brother.  Having never camped with the Advodna crew, it was nice to spend a couple of days with them. With two small children in the mix, there were no epic hikes with them, but we did spend time relaxing at the campsite, walking dogs, sharing good eats (and beer).

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

Of course, the real catalyst for our visit to Yosemite was to spend some time hiking trails in a mountain setting.  Living steps from the ocean is fantastic for sure, but Kelly and I love the mountains and were excited to be at altitudes in between seven and ten thousand feet.  Once Kelly’s brother arrived, the hiking began in earnest and Yosemite in Autumn does not disappoint.

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Kelly, Chris, and me wishing we had Kayaks

Kelly, Chris, and me at Dog Lake wishing we had Kayaks

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

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Ellery Lake

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Avoiding Groundhog Day

A year ago Kelly and I completed our longest tow day ever – 11 hours on the road only to go nowhere.  I’ve detailed events of that fiasco previously, but suffice it to say, I do not advise towing a fully provisioned trailer along a very crowded HW1 on the 4th of July, especially without a campground reservation securely in hand.

Determined not to make that same mistake this year, Kelly and I finalized holiday weekend reservations at Pinnacles National Park well in advance.  This would be our second visit to America’s newest national park and our plan was to spend a few relaxing days hiking the trails we didn’t complete during our visit last fall.

Knowing the weather would likely be hot, our plan was to be on the trail by 7am each morning in order to be back at the trailer a few hours later, before temperatures rose to triple digits.  Just as planned, the following morning we arrived to the trailhead around 8:30am.

Bathroom at the trailhead

Bathroom at the trailhead

I’d categorize the first trail as ‘ok’.  The trail took us through rolling sections of tree cover and skirted some cool ravine areas before arriving to sketchy  stairs carved into a rock face leading to a giant reservoir … which as far as I could tell, was inhabited mostly by snakes, frogs, and turtles.  But mostly, the trail lacked in ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps I’m starting to become spoiled with the abundance of ‘wow’ scenery in California, but for me, this hike – while certainly pleasant, wasn’t the best I’ve seen, nor the best the park has to offer.

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Headed over there somewhere

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Kelly pauses for a look

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climbing up towards the reservoir

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Reservoir low on water – another victim of the severe drought conditions

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Lots of snakes relaxing under the warm sun

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Pinnacle rock formations

Day 2 started off a bit better – that is to say we arrived to the trailhead by 8am, but still sufficiently late for our 7am target (hey, it’s vacation, cut us some slack please).  Anyway, our plan was to complete one of the larger loops which would take us to what one park ranger referred to as the “money shot” section of the park.  Having seen the western side of the park during our last visit, I concur with the spirit of his comment – the area is stunningly beautiful, but I would prefer that ranges refrain from describing anything as being a money shot when conversing with me.

The weather seemed to be warmer than the day prior, and with no cloud-cover in sight, we knew to expect high temperatures for much of this unshaded hike.  However, before we would face any of the high heat, we first had to navigate through one of the park’s three caves.  Technically, these are not caves per se, rather  hundreds … perhaps thousands of boulders which have toppled onto themselves, creating a cave-like effect.  The result is a section of trail that is completely dark, damp, and very cool (temperature-wise).  Oh, and a lot of fun.

The park literature and signage approaching all of the park’s caves strongly advise the usage of a headlight(s).  Myself, I cannot imagine attempting to navigate the caves without lighting, but I’m sure some dumb-ass has tried.

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Approaching the cave

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

Just inside the cave, looking back towards the entrance

The picture below was taken using a flash, but trust me, it’s absolutely dark in these caves.  Note the guide arrow (pointing to the right) above Kelly’s left hand.  Also, check out the size of the boulders – they are  huge!

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Kelly, cautiously making her way forward

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Dave descending into the 2nd set of caves

Once through the cave section, the trail winds through a series of giant boulders and other rock faces before opening onto an expansive meadow.  We then connected to a trail that winds atop some of the higher points (2500-ish feet) of the park, affording fantastic views.  Total hike was about 8.5 miles.  July isn’t the best time to visit – it’s crazy hot, dry, and much of the plant life is burnt to a crisp.  With better planning on our part, I would expect springtime to be glorious … wild flowers blooming everywhere.

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BIG rocks wedged everywhere

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Transitioning from caves to meadows

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More pinnacles as we hike towards the highpoint of the trail

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Not long after we returned to the trailer, the air conditioning failed.  Quickly, the inside temperatures of the Airstream soared to a sweltering state, but we managed to make the best of the situation … including Kelly’s usage of an ice pack to cool her aching head.

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Turns out that the failed AC was caused by a tripped GFCI bathroom breaker … probably due to heavy load.  Foolishly, I failed to consider this simple fact as part of my troubleshooting, so we had no choice but to sweat it out with many others for hours until the temps broke.  Fortunately, I did notice GFCI after work today (Monday), which was easily reset with the push a button.

So it turns out the misery you see in the photo above could have easily been avoided had I noticed tripped outlet.  Sorry Kelly.

 

Time is Flying

Home from Lake Mead for a full week, I’m inexcusably late in this post … which at this point seems excessively post factum.   Nevertheless, I feel a sense of obligation to draft some thoughts, if nothing else, to keep my mom abreast of our holiday travels to the desert.

Typical desert sunset during our visit

Typical desert sunset during our visit

As mentioned in my last post, Kelly and I ventured to Lake Mead Recreation Area chiefly to spend the holiday week in the Las Vegas desert with a few of our Airstreaming pals.  The front half of the week, while not particularly eventful, was great.  Working remotely, just like working from my allegedly hip Silicon Valley office, is still a drab corporate gig, but the change of scenery and evening meals chatting with our well-traveled friends made for a welcome change of pace.

Remnants of damn good vegan brownies

Remnants of damn good vegan brownies

Thanksgiving Day morning Kelly and I took a hike along the historic Railroad Tunnel Trail.  Built in 1931 for the purpose of transporting materials and equipment necessary to construct the Hoover Dam, today the trail is frequented mostly for recreation purposes (and on this day a Turkey Trot 5k & 8 mile race).

Approaching one of the five tunnels

Approaching one of the five tunnels

Wooden beams support the entrance from further destruction

Wooden beams support the entrance from further destruction

Inside one of the tunnels

Dressed as if it were winter, Kelly inspects the wall; another tunnel in the background

Overlooking the lake

Overlooking Lake Mead below

Thanksgiving dinner was hosted in proper fashion at a decidedly welcoming home, complete with all the usual fixings.  More, as there were three vegans in the house, the menu offerings had been interestingly expanded to accommodate the plant based eaters amongst us.  Suffice it to say, the meal and all-around good company made for a fantastic gathering.

Also, as evidenced within this photo, I had an opportunity to display swordsman-like carving skills.

In dire need to shed our gluttonous post T-Day meal fog, our desert gang went for a hike through a maze of slot canyons not too far our campgrounds.  Sufficiently in the middle of nowhere, and mostly accessible with high-clearance vehicles (less one overly ambitious Prius driver), these were spectacular hiking grounds, and nowhere I would want to find myself in need of a quick ambulance rescue.

A bit of scrambling required

A bit of scrambling required

Swiftly navigating the wash, Titanium Ranger and his mistress pushing the pace

Leigh finds a sliver of slot canyon sun

Leigh attempts to find her zen in a sliver of slot canyon sun

Lingering, post hike

Lingering post hike

Before we knew it, a few days accumulated themselves into a full week and sadly, it was time to leave this wonderful place and our good company behind.

Fortunately, our retreat to HMB is limited.  In two weeks we’ll hitch the Airstream and once again travel to the lovely southwest desert – this time our destination being Arizona.  Celebrating Christmas with Kelly’s family and rolling into 2014 someplace not yet determined, she and I will undoubtedly be contemplating how is it that another year has passed so quickly.