Yosemite and Hiking Cloud’s Rest

26 Oct

Now that we have a car, it’s much less hassle to do road trips within Northern California. We decided to visit Mammoth (our first time there in the Summer!) and break up the drive with some cycling/One Wheeling in Yosemite National Park.

Because of Covid they were only allowing limited people inside the park so we had to get a permit (which was good for four days). I’d heard it was quite difficult to get reservations, but we went mid-week so didn’t have any problems. Though maybe there were some last minute cancellations because the air quality that week was quite bad – though we got lucky with the smoke clearing the day we arrived.

They had closed some of the roads to car traffic so it was really, really nice!

PXL_20210817_225702618 (1)We had originally planned to just spend one day at Yosemite, but checked the air forecast and impulsively decided to come back the next day for a hike. An outdoorsy friend and his equally outdoorsy girlfriend recommended Cloud’s Rest, which they described as “easier than Half Dome – doable without training if you’re reasonably fit”.

Having now done the hike, I feel like they undersold its difficulty! It was very, very hard. I guess it was “doable” in that we did it – but we were absolutely wrecked afterwards. It’s a 14.5 mile (23.3km) round trip with about 2000 feet of elevation gain that people online said took them 6-8 hours but took us (well, me – with James walking at my pace) 9.5 hours.

Our friends didn’t undersell how beautiful the hike was though. Part of my slowness (maybe 30 minutes’ worth?) was stopping to take photos the entire way up. We started in a forest near Tenaya Lake, and continued to a super steep series of switchbacks. The switchbacks were maybe a mile and a half long and something like 50% of the hike’s elevation gain.

The camera flattens the steepness of the mountain, but you can get an idea of just how much slope we had to climb.

PXL_20210818_162835659Up, up, up!

PXL_20210818_163958089Going up wasn’t too bad, but I had a hard time going down. I have really short legs, so the shallow steps were fine, but the majority of it was big, bouldery steps that took forever to walk down, even with hiking poles for support. 

PXL_20210818_164524956While we were walking up I remember thinking “this is going to be a pain in the arse on the way back”. But that was a problem for Future Kaye. 

In-the-Moment Kaye had beautiful granite views all the way up.

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We reached the end of the switchbacks then headed through a largely flat forest area, with a couple of slight downhill portions that we knew we’d be making up for later.

Also we met a woman who was very excited to show us something she called a “sooty grouse” which, as far as we could tell, was some kind of forest chicken. 

PXL_20210818_173426023Cloud’s Rest was in sight!

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Obviously we still had awhile to go, but it was a morale boost to finally see our destination.

From this point onward it was a constant steep uphill climb. I was pretty knackered by then, and must have looked really pathetic because several people on their way back were like “keep going, you’re almost there!” FYI we were not almost there, and I was filled with false hope while we were still over an hour away!

Luckily the scramble up Cloud’s Rest was quite fun, and knowing it was the final push gave me my second wind. And the incredible views definitely helped.  

The final part of the hike was a rocky ridge with scary drops on both sides. At 9,926 feet (3,025 meters) we were higher than Half Dome (which you can see in the background).  

PXL_20210818_200726568I chatted with a woman who said she wasn’t normally scared of heights but couldn’t bring herself to do the ridge, so I was very proud of James for doing it. He’s afraid of heights and was quite nervous (especially when the wind blew!) but made it across with no problems.

And this was the view in the other direction.

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You can see a bit of haze in the distance, but a day earlier or later and the air would have been too unhealthy for us to do the hike (and also the visibility would have been crap).

PXL_20210818_195416828We were very fortunate with the air quality and had clear views across the whole valley. 

PXL_20210818_195657764In hindsight, we should have brought a lunch and eaten it there. I’m never hungry during exercise, so I need to be more mindful about eating when I hike. We just had some fruit and Clif Bars, but it was such a long and strenuous hike that we really should have fuelled ourselves better – we only drank half the water we had brought. =(

It definitely contributed to the second half of the hike being way more gruelling than the first half, even though it was downhill. It turns out I’m way worse at descending steep climbs than I am ascending. I spent forever on those goddamn rocks, slowly hobbling my way down. There was another couple that I thought was having a similarly hard time until the guy said to us “I don’t know which is worse, going up or going down” and then I knew they were frauds.

It took us 4 hours to get up to the summit of Cloud’s Rest and 5.5 hours to get down, which makes it the longest hike we’ve ever done by a fair margin. Really, I don’t know what we were thinking! Everyone else who was on that hike looked awesomely fit, and it was definitely a case of biting off more than we could chew. Or biting off exactly the amount we could chew – eventually – with a great deal of discomfort.

My knees, hip joints and feet were aching for the last few hours of the hike and I was so, so glad to finally reach the car. When I sat down I actually moaned in pleasure because it felt incredible being off my feet. 

Having said that, the views were awe-inspiring and totally made it worth it … but oh my God, the pain.

But also, oh my God, it was so pretty.

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A General Update

29 Sep

Covid Life

San Francisco has been >70% vaccinated for almost 6 months now. Unfortunately with delta we’re back to a mask mandate in indoor public places. A friend who is a nurse at UCSF said that they’re very understaffed/overworked right now, and pretty much every shift is down 2 nurses – she said not to get into any car accidents. =O

But otherwise it feels like things are slowly getting back to normal, even if it’s not as fast as we would have thought pre-delta. We’ve been hanging out indoors with vaccinated friends. Last week we ate at one of our favourite restaurants and they were checking vaccination status for indoor diners. Lap swimming at the pool is busy again. Traffic is definitely back.

Google sent James an in-home rapid antigen Covid tester, so we’ve been testing ourselves whenever we feel a bit more run-down than normal – thankfully all negative so far!

Our doctor friend thinks things will get worse again in winter. =(

One Wheel

One of James’ favourite purchases the past few months has been the One Wheel – a sort of electronic skateboard. Here he is riding it at Fort Mason – it’s a bit hard to see him but he’s near the top left of the path (also look at how freaking empty it was back then):

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And Yosemite. =)

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We’ve been doing a bunch of little daytrips so he can go zipping around in car-free areas, and I just ride my bike behind him.

In related news, I’ve been trying to buy a new bike, but the one I want has been out of stock for over a year now due to Covid-related supply-chain issues. =(

Friends!

James has continued his weekly disc golf adventures with Dan and Will. I’m not into disc golf, so I usually just take his One Wheel and go for a scoot around Golden Gate Park. =)

Also last weekend we hung out with friends at Oktoberfest at the Park Chalet.

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In addition to the set menu, they also accidentally sent us an extra $40 worth of food (not pictured, but it was two bratwurst plates and some extra pretzels) so in addition to a fun afternoon it ended up being not bad value for money! Plus we also got commemorative steins. =)

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Stuff We Had Been Putting Off

We finally got rocks and mulch and stuff for the garden. Look how much we managed to bring home in our little car.

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Speaking of home beautification, I had several prints that I’d been meaning to frame for months (and in some cases, years). I finally got off my butt and went to a local framing store to get them matted and framed. The framer said that like everywhere else, there have been supply-chain related delays, but he was optimistic that I’d have everything back before Christmas.

PXL_20210916_214820154Also, all that random Covid paranoia paid off and we finally got around to setting up a living trust. Contacting all the banks and stuff is a massive pain in the butt, so we feel somewhat validated in putting it off for so long.

The Cats

We can tell that Kyoto is getting into his twilight years, so James has been making sure he gets all his favourite flavours of cat food. His favourite thing is following us to the bathroom in the middle of the night, demanding fresh water from the tap, then slowly considering drinking it while we wait behind him, still half-asleep.

Here he is coming home from one of his regular vet check ups:

PXL_20210325_232400622(If I don’t let him stick his head outside of the cat carrier he screams the entire car ride)

Also I can’t remember if I’ve told you guys about Leonidas! He is a Singapura like Mousey was, and we got him late last year. Here he is helping James make a gingerbread house:

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He and Kyoto have been getting along surprisingly well given how clearly annoyed Kyoto is by him. We think maybe Kyoto is just picking his battles in his old age.

My attempt at a group selfie:

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2021 Group Trip: Craters of the Moon

2 Sep

This was our last full day in Idaho, and by this stage it was just us, Kyle and Ximena (Matt was obviously still in Idaho, but had gone back to work). An outdoorsy friend of ours had highly recommended Craters of the Moon, so we decided to go for a day trip. It’s a giant lava field with a bunch of cool volcanic features and has some pretty unique geography.

Much like Yellowstone, the park had a driving loop that took us past all the major attractions, though unlike Yellowstone you could comfortably see everything in a day. It was also not nearly as busy.

We started at the Visitor Center where we got permits to hike the lava caves, then drove to The Devil’s Orchard, a short walking trail through some cinder beds.

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Also do you see that badge on my hat? It’s a Junior Lunar Ranger badge. =D You can get them as souvenirs at a bunch of national parks by filling out some activity sheets (but I just asked for one). How did I never know about this?? And yes, I am aware they are for children.

After our short walk we went to the awesomely named Inferno Cone, which was a cinder cone that people could walk up.

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The ground was made up of little volcanic rocks.

PXL_20210727_223150714We had fantastic 360 degree views of the rest of the park. In the background you can see the spatter cones that we would visit next on our itinerary.

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More views walking back to the (nearly empty) parking lot:

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Next we drove to the spatter cones. They looked like mini volcanoes and were formed during the final stages of a volcanic eruption.

PXL_20210727_231225346Then we drove to the Caves Trail, which was a collection of underground lava tubes, and was everyone’s favourite part of the day by far. It wasn’t a long hike to get to the caves, but it was very exposed to the sun … and just so happened to be the one hike we didn’t bring water bottles because we didn’t want to drag our backpacks around in a bunch of caves. Big mistake – we were so freaking thirsty at the end.

On the plus side, it was nice and chilly inside the caves. Another thing we should have brought were headlamps (especially for Boy Scout Cave) but we managed OK with just the torches from our phones.

Dewdrop Cave. It actually still had some snow leftover from the winter.

PXL_20210728_001340277Next up was Indian Cave. It was by far the longest (almost 1000 feet) and the ceiling had collapsed in multiple spots, creating skylights that made it much brighter than the other caves.

PXL_20210728_003014410It was my favourite of the four caves because of all the rock scrambles from the collapsed ceilings. It’s a bit hard to see James, but he is there in the centre-left to give you an idea of scale.

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In the middle of the cave we found a ledge that you could climb.

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We got to the end and emerged from the cave via this hole:

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Then to get back to the main trail we walked on top of the lava tubes, following a series of markers. We both thought it was really fun, and it’s quite different to the sort of hikes we normally do.

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On the walk back we even managed to see Kyle and Ximena getting their photo taken near the start of the cave – you can see our blurry figures at the top!

235943588_523988045502683_8521299380037741728_nThe next cave was the Boy Scout Cave. Here is James at the (teeny tiny) entrance.

PXL_20210728_012000915This was James’ favourite cave because it was the darkest and cave-iest. We would have really liked headlamps, but managed to get all the way to one end without.

There was no light inside the cave, so all my photos (that turned out) are at the entrance.

PXL_20210728_014017307The final cave in the area was Beauty Cave.

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It was also very dark, but only really rock-scrambly at the entrance (where there was plenty of light), so it wasn’t difficult to walk through using our phones as torches.

PXL_20210728_015258864.NIGHTAnd that was it for our visit to Craters of the Moon! We walked back through the field of lava tubes, and when we got back to the car we drank all the water we had brought with us.

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James said he actually liked Craters of the Moon more than Yellowstone (more than the Petrified Tree???) I don’t know if I would go that far, but it definitely exceeded my expectations, and it is for sure worth a visit if you’re in Idaho.

(Also, our outdoorsy friend that recommended Craters of the Moon? He hadn’t even hiked the caves – he’d just camped there and liked the terrain! We told him he had missed out)

2021 Group Trip: Yellowstone National Park

13 Aug

We had planned to be on the road at 7am to head to Yellowstone but Kyle and Ximena took awhile to get ready so we didn’t get started until 8:30am. Luckily we had two days at the park!

We split our days into the South Loop and the North Loop, following a two day itinerary that I had found online. The South Loop has most of the really famous stuff (Grand Prismatic! Old Faithful!) so if you only have one day that is definitely the one to do, squeezing in Mammoth Hot Springs if you can. All the main attractions are easily accessible by car but you can go off the beaten trail if you want (we didn’t, since we only had two days).

South Loop

We started the day with a scenic detour called Firehole Canyon Drive. At Firehole Falls we stopped to take photos and stretch our legs.

PXL_20210723_172733976.MPOne of the handy things about Yellowstone was that all the attractions had parking, so even if you didn’t have an itinerary you could do alright just driving the loop and stopping if you saw a bunch of cars.

After the canyon we headed to the Fountain Paint Pots, a series of hydrothermal pools and vents linked by a boardwalk.

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The steam from the vents was quite tall and impressive, even though it smelled like sulfur (ie. rotten eggs). 

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It was windy and a couple of times we got unlucky and had the wind blow the eggy steam our way.

Afterwards we headed to the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s one of the biggest attractions in the park so was reasonably crowded, though I expected it to be way worse.

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The vivid orange colour is from the heat-loving bacteria that live in the spring.

PXL_20210723_191942101The nearby Excelsior Geyser was also gorgeous. Even knowing the water could boil me alive, it still looked so inviting!

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The runoff from the hot spring fed into the river, which you can normally swim in but was closed because of covid. =( We stuck our hands in, and depending on where you were the temperature ranged from cool, to warm, to pretty freaking hot! 

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Afterwards we headed to the Old Faithful Geyser, which is probably the most famous attraction at Yellowstone National Park. It’s not the largest geyser but it is the most regular, which makes it much very dependable to visit if you want to see a large geyser.

Thar she blows!

PXL_20210723_212448009We had wanted to do a hike up to a better vantage point, but had to skip it since otherwise we wouldn’t be able to finish the loop before dark. =(

Instead we drove to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It’s along the shore of the beautiful, pristine Yellowstone Lake. (Also I didn’t realise at the time, but we were all kind of colour coordinated that day)

PXL_20210723_224631994.RESTOREDYou could see little pools bubbling away along the shore – apparently back in the day, people used to catch fish in the lake and cook them in the hot springs!

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Black Pool with the boardwalk and Yellowstone Lake in the background.

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It’s called Black Pool because there used to be an orange bacteria in it that combined with the blue water to make it look black, but in 1991 some thermal energy shifted and heated up the water enough to kill the bacteria, leaving the pool a very pretty blue.

It wasn’t too busy, which was nice, and I liked seeing the lake in the background of everything.

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The next stop on our itinerary was Mud Volcano, named such because *gestures in the direction of the photo below*.

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The highlight of this stop was the Dragon’s Mouth, which was a hot spring boiling out of a cave. We are doing our best dragon impressions btw.

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Oh and also this massive bison that walked right up to us! (Note Will and Brian in the background admiring the bison)

220164812_357308425771270_2503706851398536685_n (1)We saw a ton more bison on our drive to the next stop on our itinerary. There were literally hundreds of them in the distance, and we pulled over to the side of the road to check them (and the occasional elk) out. We couldn’t believe how many there were – we weren’t sure whether this was just an area with a ton of bison or whether they came out in the early evening when it wasn’t as hot.

PXL_20210724_013851907.MPThen on our way to the next stop we got stuck in one of Yellowstone’s famous traffic jams.

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Our final stop was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This was one of the highlights of the day because we hadn’t been expecting anything and it was utterly spectacular.

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I got to the first lookout and was like “wow”, and Matt and James were very pleased because they said that had been their reaction too. Then I got to join them as each one of our friends arrived and said “… wow”

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We all agreed that the guide we were following had massively undersold the Grand Canyon! It was especially picturesque since it was around sunset, and an amazing way to end our first day in the park.

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North Loop

We got stuck in a bison traffic jam almost immediately after entering the park, so I took some photos out the window of the nice scenery we were passing.

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We weren’t able to do the full North Loop because of road closures and decided to stop at an attraction called the Petrified Tree so we didn’t have to backtrack basically the whole loop. The description of the Petrified Tree sounded kind of lame but James said that maybe it would be a sleeper hit like the Grand Canyon … but more on that later.

Our first stop was Gibbon Falls. Here I am, trying to muscle my way into James and Brian’s couple photo:

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The first disappointment of the day was the Obsidian Cliff. If it hadn’t been marked on the map we would never have known we were at anything significant since it looked identical to all the other cliffs surrounding us. There was an apologetic sign saying that the cliff used to be more impressive, but over the years people had taken the obsidian as souvenirs.

It was so shit I didn’t even take a photo – there was a rock in the parking lot that had more obsidian in it so I took a photo of that instead.

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The next stop was Sheepeater Cliff, which was a columnar cliff formed from cooling lava.

PXL_20210724_181910062.RESTOREDIt was next to a river and we decided to go for a quick wade. Although the water was nice and cold, the ground was quite rocky and hard to walk on.

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After our little wade we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. It’s the biggest attraction on the North Loop and well worth going to since it’s visually very different to anything else at Yellowstone. Instead of spewing into the air like with the geysers, the hot water flows from one basin to another, gradually eroding them and forming the terraces you see here.

PXL_20210724_195753105There was a boardwalk for people to walk around and look at the different terraces.

Will said these formations reminded him of Oreos.

PXL_20210724_201623417We liked the contrast of the bleached white parts and the brown parts with live bacteria.

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The Upper Terrace:

PXL_20210724_203807273Jupiter and Mound Terrace: 

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The next attraction was Blacktail Plateau Drive (only one stop to go before the Petrified Tree!). It was a dirt road detour that was supposed to be full of wildlife, but alas we didn’t see any and just got the cars dusty for no reason. =( We thought maybe it was still too hot and you could see more animals at the start and end of the day when things were cooler.

Aside from the Mammoth Hot Springs, the North Loop wasn’t nearly as spectacular as the South Loop. After the disappointing Blacktail Plateau Drive, James was like ‘this tree had better be awesome“.

PXL_20210724_223439912It was so, so shit.

We could see a single, crap tree from the parking lot and James said “oh no, is that it?”

It was only a 20 meter walk from the cars so we figured we might as well look at it since we’d come all this way and James had so been looking forward to it. We were all trying to stay positive, but it was pretty underwhelming, and we couldn’t believe that our itinerary had given this dinky tree equivalent weight as places like the Grand Canyon and Mammoth Hot Springs.  

James said “North Loop sucks” in a small, bitter voice, and we just lost it. We just laughed and laughed that we had driven so long to look at this awful tree and the weird cemetery fence they had erected around it. Every time more people came to look at the tree and were disappointed (and believe me, there was a steady stream of them), we cracked up again. One woman walked up then turned straight back around, and we howled with laughter.

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One last group shot. Even though the Petrified Tree was one of the worst attractions at Yellowstone, it ended up being the most memorable.

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It was actually kind of a perfect way to end our final day. =) 

2021 Group Trip: Idaho Falls

2 Aug

In 2020 we had optimistically planned a group trip to visit our friend Matt in Idaho Falls. Unfortunately covid numbers kept getting worse, and since we were all coming from different cities (with layovers) we decided to postpone.

In 2021 we were all vaccinated! We planned a couple of short trips out of Idaho Falls, including Yellowstone National Park, but the main purpose of the holiday was to see our out-of-state friends again. =D

Matt had a disc golf course right next to his house, so as soon as we landed everyone headed there to play. Well, the others played and I hung out with Matt’s dog, Walter.

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I was desperate for Walter’s approval, but he only had eyes for Matt.

Our first group shot!

PXL_20210723_000221352.RESTOREDAlso I had forgotten how much I hate hot weather. At least it was a dry heat (with occasional nice breezes) and cooled down in the evenings, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

We went out to dinner and played some Drawful afterwards. James had the prompt “party monster” and drew this:

2021-07-23I submitted “drunk wizard” and James said as soon as he saw it he was like … oh no. 

And to cap off our first night, Kyle had even organised a Taskmaster-style competition for us. =D 

We had to guess the flavour of these soft drinks. We were all horrible at this, except Matt, who was able to figure out the maple syrup and ranch.

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FYI the ranch was disgusting – I can’t think of anything I’ve eaten that has tasted worse.

Our second task was to make the tallest marshmallow and uncooked spaghetti tower. We had 2.5 minutes, but if you started before the halfway mark and had the tallest tower, you were disqualified.

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The third task was to draw a Drawful-style prompt with twizzlers and a random condiment. Then everyone else had a chance to submit a fake description of the drawing to steal points if other people thought it was the correct one.

PXL_20210723_070051154Ximena
Walter Getting Pulled Out of a Hat, 2021
Mixed Media (Twizzlers and Mustard)

Some condiments were more useful than others – anything viscous with a nozzle (siracha, mustard, chocolate sauce) was pretty good, but poor Brian ended up with tabasco sauce.

We ended up getting back to our hotel at 2:30am, with a planned start for Yellowstone at 7am. =| I’ll do a separate post about our Yellowstone trip since we saw a ton of stuff!

On the way back from Yellowstone, we took a slight detour to Mesa Falls, which is a gorgeous waterfall on the way back to Idaho Falls.

PXL_20210725_014911001For dinner we had Mexican food. Here is James with a cantarito cocktail for two:

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The next day we headed to Lake Rigby to rent paddleboards and go swimming. After everyone had returned their paddleboards, we all just hung out in the shallow part of the lake and Kyle taught us all a ninja game – when someone said “3, 2, 1, Ninja!” we all had to freeze on a ninja pose. Then going around clockwise we each had one movement to try and slap someone else’s hand (the victim could move to try and dodge the attack). It was way more fun than it sounds, and we spent ages trying to slap each other in the water.

Also we spent another morning at the local zoo, and while we waited for Kyle and Ximena to arrive, Matt suddenly said “3, 2, 1, Ninja!” and we all automatically assumed our ninja poses.

Land Ninja.

It was actually quite late into our trip that James actually got to explore the town of Idaho Falls. We were waiting for Kyle since he had a morning meeting before our day trip to Craters of the Moon, so we walked around the Greenbelt, which was near our hotel.

A nice pedestrian bridge.

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We kept seeing different waterfalls and wondering whether they were the eponymous Idaho Falls.

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Our current theory is that these were the Idaho Falls. 

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The top part is manmade but the bottom half on the left looks natural. Also, bonus Mormon Temple! (The Mormon influence in Idaho Falls was pretty interesting – since they can’t have coffee and tea, in our hotel breakfast area there was a soft drink dispenser. =/ Super weird)

The greenbelt also had some nice wildlife topiary. Unfortunately for us, these were the only bears in the wild we saw.

PXL_20210727_174142739.MPIt was nice finally getting to see where Matt lived. We were quite jealous of his easy access to Yellowstone which, as you’ll see from my next blog post, was pretty spectacular!

A Hike to Bass Lake plus Oysters

12 Jul

A friend of ours is a nurse and works most weekends so we don’t get to hang out as often as we used to. But she set aside last Sunday specifically for us, so a few of us decided to go for a hike to Bass Lake in Marin.

James drove us to the Palomarin trailhead, which we’d previously been to when we hiked Alamere Falls. We were worried the parking lot would fill up so arrived a bit after 9am – I think we would have been fine arriving later, but the timing ended up working out well.

The hike to Bass Lake was the same as Alamere Falls but we only had to go half the distance (5.2 miles or 8.4km round trip). On the way there were lots of nice little animals (lizards, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies and even a couple of bunnies) plus tons of blackberry bushes. I read that the lake was swimmable so we packed some snacks, plus bathers and towels to go for a swim.

Bass Lake!

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I had imagined the lake as having a flattish shore where we could easily picnic and hang out, but the trees went right up to the water so it was actually quite tricky to find a comfortable spot to sit.

Despite much of California being in a heat wave that day, it wasn’t particularly warm where we were (around 20C) so I was the only one who initially wanted to swim. To be honest, I mainly didn’t want to have packed the towels for nothing, since they took up so much space in my backpack. But you know what? The water was lovely. I’d assumed it would be similar to Aquatic Park, which I find bracingly cold but bearable in summer, but it was the perfect swimming temperature! I wish I’d brought my goggles so I could go for a proper swim, but even so it was really, really nice.

Eventually James also decided to get in, since I’d been going on about how great the water was, and Dan followed soon after.

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I was surprised by how deep the lake was. I couldn’t tell the depth and didn’t want to smash my feet on the bottom if I jumped in. My initial plan was to carefully lower myself down via that giant branch to the left, but I have horrible balance and ended up just falling in. Whatever works, right?

But I needn’t have worried – once I got more than 10cm from the edge, I couldn’t touch the bottom if I tried. I looked it up on Wikipedia – Bass Lake’s average depth is more than 17 meters or 57 feet. No danger of foot smashing! (But also if you’re not comfortable swimming or just don’t want to spend the whole time treading water I’d recommend bringing something to float on).

Later that afternoon James and I agreed that we were really glad we’d swum because was significantly more fun than we had expected based on how the lake looked. =)

It was sunny and warm for our walk back, and the fog had cleared so we enjoyed beautiful ocean views while Dan frantically tried to find out the Euro Cup score.

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After our hike we went to The Marshall Store since we’d enjoyed it so much the last time we were in the area. Unfortunately the warm weather hadn’t reached Point Reyes and it was quite foggy and cold when we arrived. But this wasn’t our first rodeo, so we were prepared with hoodies, and we brought out our car blanket for Robin (who had optimistically worn shorts).

We ate barbequed oysters with giant chunks of garlic bread. Delicious.

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(I just realised the edge of the table makes that photo look like two landscape-oriented photos jammed together).

But yeah, even though it was pretty classic Bay Area early summer weather, it was a great day spent with great friends. =)

Hiking the Eagle Peak Loop at Mount Diablo

18 Jun

Earlier this year for my birthday we decided to hike Mount Diablo. On a clear day you can see the mountain from our street and we’ve been meaning to go ever since we moved to San Francisco.

We got there in the morning as soon as the park opened. There was a weird little system where we had to fill out a form with some cash for parking, and drop it in a box (they also accepted cheques lol).

The journey begins!

PXL_20210321_151652250Since we started at 8am it was still quite chilly – I was freezing in the carpark while I waited for James to go to the bathroom. We’d looked at the forecast the night before and it had quite a cold low (maybe 0C?) so James had panicked and dressed extra warmly, which in turn made me panic and add extra layers, but the ascent warmed us up pretty quickly. 

Well it warmed me up – you can see James on Mitchell Rock, still in his hoodie and gloves. Gloves!

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We continued our ascent.

PXL_20210321_160454492I think this was the Twin Peaks summit. We got lucky with the weather and it was beautiful day, with gorgeous views across the East Bay. 

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Also James finally ditched his hoodie!

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You can’t see in the photo (though might have guessed), but he also ditched the gloves.

Almost there!

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The final climb before we reached Eagle Peak.

PXL_20210321_162432271Finally at the top – 2380′ above sea level! (Hoodie back on for James because it was a little windy)

PXL_20210321_165508825We found a nice little spot for a lunch break, and for James to take his turn in an online game he plays with our friends.

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It was a super clear day and if you looked hard you could see all the way to the Sierras (though unfortunately they were too faint to see in the photos I took).

Also James had put his backpack down, and while we were eating it started rolling down the mountain. Luckily a bush stopped its fall because as you can see, it could have been a lot worse!

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(OK it doesn’t look so impressive here – the bag looks a lot closer and the hill a lot shallower in the photo than in person!) But anyway, disaster averted, we started the return half of the hike.

I like this photo because it looks like James is doing a happy little hop.

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Also here lol.

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I don’t have a lot of photos of the return trip. This hike was a bit weird in that half of it was like a proper hike and the other half was mostly a gradually descending dirt road – I’m glad we had the more interesting terrain first and the less challenging road for the descent. We did find this huge pine cone though.

PXL_20210321_173656737.MPI said “that’s a huge pine cone”, James looked and was like “that is a huge pine cone” and then he made me stand next to it (and point to it, so you could spot the huge pine cone) while he took a photo. 

We actually started to get pretty warm during the descent, and I finally shed my base layer. There was pretty much no shade on the entire hike so it was a good thing we went in the morning. 

This was a photo I took of Eagle Peak about an hour from the end of the hike – we went down a fair way!

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A lot of people online recommended walking the trail clockwise because it’s a more gradual uphill, but we went anti-clockwise since I prefer going up steep, uneven terrain rather than down it. I have worries of slipping, breaking my tailbone and forcing poor James to carry me all the way back.

So anyway, that was my birthday hike. =) There are a couple of other hikes around Mount Diablo I’m keen on doing, but we’re heading into Summer now so I’d rather wait until the weather is a bit cooler.

Vaccinated!

2 Jun

Last Thursday James took the day off and we went to the ostrich farm in Gilroy. If he takes five days off this quarter Google gives him a bonus day – I guess because people have been hoarding vacation days? It was also two weeks after our second vaccination, making us fully vaccinated!

Near the ostrich farm there were tons of farm stands with fresh fruit. The star attractions were the ridiculously cheap (albeit ridiculously tiny) avocados. We bought 6 for $1, then saw another stand that had 10 for $1 and stopped there as well.

This photo shows the smallness of the avos – the left is a regular avo ($1ish from Costco I think), then the 6 for $1 avo, then finally the 10 for $1 avo which was about the size of a lime.

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Even before getting to the ostrich farm, the day already felt like a success!

Since it was a weekday we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, which was nice because it wasn’t a massive farm. They had ostriches, llamas, sheep, horses, cows, goats, chickens, rabbits, emus and pigs, plus a ton of squirrels running around. We got a bucket of feed included with our ticket.

The ostriches were … quite terrifying. We had to use special dustpans to feed them (versus most of the other animals, which nibbled gently from our hands) because they were such aggressive peckers. I found that out firsthand when an ostrich pecked my phone from my hand.

Seconds before the phone peck:

PXL_20210527_183320870Every photo we have of the ostriches they look full of barely suppressed rage. Even the ones where they’re eating and presumably happy.

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Look at those pellets fly!

We were initially excited that the farm had emus. But they like, didn’t know how to eat or something. They kept pecking at empty parts of the pan and missing all the food, then getting angrier and angrier, pecking furiously at the empty part of the pan. Eventually we left, embarrassed at the incompetence of our fellow Australians.

Look at this guy! He knew it was food – he just didn’t know what to do with it.

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James really liked the miniature llamas and horses.

PXL_20210527_184229595This one tried to join the photo at the last second and didn’t quite make the shot.

PXL_20210527_185430080This group of animals were quite nice – they let us pat them while they ate and were excited about the food without being overly pushy.

PXL_20210527_185332249Unlike these desperate goats.

PXL_20210527_190649947The goats were quite sweet though, and I liked their bleaty goat sounds. 

There was a little piglet who escaped his enclosure. He clearly wanted to get back in because he kept running around the pen looking for a way in, talking with his pig friends, then running around again looking worried.

PXL_20210527_190859217He was suuuuper scared of us. =( We were standing at the corner and whenever he ran past us he would get visibly nervous and speed up, making these cute rapid little pig trotting sounds. We were just about to go inside to let the employees know when he finally made it on his own!

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Also lol.

PXL_20210527_192138601.MP(Different pig, I just thought it was funny).

Afterwards we went to Gilroy and had burritos for lunch, then picked up some garlic/artichoke bread from Pescadero. We got back to the city around 4pm and were stuck in a horrendous rush hour traffic jam – I definitely didn’t miss Bay Area traffic during covid. But with almost 70% of the city fully vaccinated everything is definitely picking back up!

A Quick Land’s End Hike and the General Niceness of the Outer Sunset

10 May

Hiking is one of the things that we’ve been doing more of during iso since it’s outdoors, physical, and easy to socially distance. Since we got the car we haven’t had to plan in advance to get a rental, so can go whenever we want, which has been nice.

On this particular day we chose to stay in San Francisco and just do an easy hike at Land’s End.

PXL_20201017_163505351I always forget how pretty it is! The only downside is that the combination of views and convenient location means it’s always busy, but we went in the morning so it wasn’t too bad. 

The hike has detours down to several little beaches if you’re feeling up to climbing a bunch of steps. I don’t know why, but there is one beach that always has a ton of cairns.

PXL_20201017_164901454I like the picturesque tunnel these trees made.

PXL_20201017_171045262It was a nice, sunny day and we were feeling quite spry so we continued the walk through Seacliff to admire the clifftop mansions and hang out at the beach. 

Also for a comparison shot, this was Outer Sunset the very next day – super foggy.

PXL_20201018_233627304That road is normally a highway but they’ve closed it off to cars during iso, so it’s become a really nice place to cycle/run/skate. That day was unusually foggy and I remember the condensation dripping off my bike helmet and handlebars even though it wasn’t raining.

Also, have a photo of the nice bison hanging out at Golden Gate Park:

PXL_20201212_170945641We’ve been hanging out at the park a lot this past year, since James and our friends have started disc golfing more. I’d rather be able to travel and see our families, but in terms of quality of life during covid we’ve probably been in the top 0.1%. Even so, we’re looking forward to getting our second vaccinations this week and things hopefully starting to get back to normal!

A Whale Washed Up on the Beach

26 Apr

(Warning: contains some gross but interesting photos)

On Saturday afternoon a fin whale washed up on the beach in Fort Funston. Someone posted about it online and I decided to jog there in the afternoon while James was playing disc golf.

It was maybe 10km away, which is a long jog for me, but much of it was on the beach so it was pretty nice. The tide was starting to come back in so at a couple of points I had to run strategically to avoid the water.

PXL_20210425_004329229Also there were a ton of dead crabs on the beach. I probably saw 30 or more crabs which I wasn’t expecting. I came here for whale, damnit!

I smelled the whale before I saw it. I stopped running and said “holy shit” even though I was on my own because the smell was pretty freaking strong. It actually smelled like fish sauce, but way more intense. I was glad I had my face mask!

PXL_20210425_011728126.MPThe whale was autopsied in the afternoon by marine biologists, hence the whale bits everywhere (it was intact when it arrived on the beach). The birds were definitely having a good time – I saw a crow flying away with a giant chunk of whale in its beak.

I thought the blubber was interesting up close – it was so thick!

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Guts everywhere. There were also smaller clusters of whale guts down the beach that some birds were pecking at. 

PXL_20210425_010453938The whale was pretty big – maybe 8 or 9 meters long. When James saw this photo he was like “it looks like when your family orders fish at a Chinese restaurant!”

PXL_20210425_011347841I thought the teeth were pretty interesting as well.

PXL_20210425_011102883I saw a picture of it the next morning and it was pretty much gone except for the tail. I guess either the tide or birds disposed of it during the night. 

Sorry if this grossed you out, but I thought it was pretty interesting!