Tag Archives: swimming

Road Trip Diaries: The Trek to Mt. Sneffels

A few months before our month-long road trip, Joy and I did some research to create a list of places to hike, camp and backpack. Seeing all the National Parks around the Pacific northwest and southwest were give-ins. However, after years of reading a lot of Backpacker Magazine, I was fairly determined to see stunning turquoise lakes of Mount Sneffels, a “fourteener” located in the southwest corner of Colorado.

So after our visit to Mesa Verde National Park, we made our way along some stormy mountain roads towards the City of Ouray.

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On our way to Ouray. This photo can’t do justice to the views.

We arrived in town around 10 pm. Since everything was closed, we crashed a local campground to rest up and prep for our trip the next day. All I remember was that our “campsite” was a small, rectangular plot — similar to a large parking spot — that was covered in rocks and gravel and had a picnic table and a grill. I made a beef and bell pepper stir fry (my typical quick dinner for this trip) before we went to sleep in our tents. We were out by 6 am the next morning.

Joy is much more adventurous than me, so she was immediately down to backpack Mount Sneffles. I’m a much more cautious backpacker (AKA: scared shitless), so I made sure to visit the ranger station and get a map of the area before venturing out into a wilderness that I had absolutely no knowledge of.

SIDE NOTE: As a California native, I never even knew that storms and monsoons could happen in the middle of the U.S. during the summer. Backpacking the Blue Lakes of Mount Sneffels was our first introduction to this regional seasonal phenomenon. While we weren’t doing an “alpine start” (we didn’t plan on hiking the entire Fourteener) we knew that we needed to end our hike before 12pm in order to avoid Colorado’s summer lightening storms.

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Great Basin National Park: Aspen Trees and a Rock “Glacier” in Nevada

Confession: almost titled this blog post: “Nevada: Nothing to See Here Folks…Almost”

WOW. I have to admit that I don’t get why anyone would live in the state of Nevada. Sorry, I admit that I’m a Cali snob. There’s nothing out here for miles sometimes. Seriously, NOTHING. Lots of dirt and desert-like plants, but I think that most other deserts would be a lot more aesthetically pleasing than this dry armpit of a state.

meth equals death

The best part about Nevada: the constant state signs warning people to report “suspicious odors” and that “METH, CRACK, COKE, SPEED = DEATH”. Joy loved it all because she loves watching Breaking Bad.

Ok, so I’m being a bit harsh and am exaggerating a bit.

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Nevada’s nothingness along Highway 50

Sometimes it’s great to be driving out in the open with nothing to watch or oogle at for as far as the eyes can see (I took many photos of the “nothingness” because it’s actually quite impressive). There’s a bunch of quaint little towns with populations of 250 or below that look like a throwback to old Western times. There’s some gorgeous sunsets due to the constant atmospheric haze across Nevada’s wide dirt plains. And there’s a cute little place called Cave Lake State Park just outside of Great Basin National Park that I really liked (the landscape is kinda interesting and the campsites allow you to camp on the land sometimes, but the lake that people fish at looks tiny. Like the boats look like toys in a baby bathtub kind of tiny. Plus all the people out here are really nice and courteous, even though (or maybe because) we’re two little Asian girls traveling across the country in one car.  Okay, so I’m not that little, but Joy is.

Our My Little Pony travel mascot at Cave Lakes State Park

Our My Little Pony travel mascot at Cave Lakes State Park

After leaving Cave Lakes State Park (more nice people over there, esp. the rangers) we drove over to Great Basin National Park nearby. At first it didn’t look like much. It looked like yet another dry mountain with some trees on it? NOT impressed at all. And the glacier that we had heard about before was a “rock glacier” (what the hell is that?). But as we drove up the mountain, rising 7,000…8,000…9,000…10,000 feet – all the way to the top campground near Wheeler Peak, I was in for a pretty pleasant surprise.

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Road Trip, Days 1-3: Blue Lakes Campground

Joy striking a power pose at Twin Lake near Blue Lakes campground, CA

Joy striking a power pose at Twin Lake near Blue Lakes campground, CA

OH MAN. The interwebs out here is so terrible. I just wrote a whole long blog post about this campground (bumming free wifi from a grocery store near Zion National Park) and then it ALL crashed and erased. It’s 10 am and I’m attempting to blog again from the inside of our car (in an underground grocery store parking lot, because even though it’s early it’s still crazy fcking hot outside) while Joy takes a nap in the driver’s seat. Also: no one out here likes Credo mobile. I never have service! Sorry mom and dad, you’ll have to get updates about us from Joy’s phone.

Joy, Rob and Mey loungin at the edge of Lower Blue Lake

Joy, Rob and Mey loungin at the edge of Lower Blue Lake

This campground here is the shit. Just look at the photos. Nothing but clear sunny skies, the bluest waters…and swimming and floating and more swimming and more eating bomb ass food all day long (aged cheeses and bread, watermelon beer, fish tacos, raisin bread French toast, Reem’s “fool” dish made of fava beans).

Ah YEAH

Ah YEAH

Dinnertime

Breakfast: french toast with strawberries, smoked sausage, and egg scramble with spinach.

Just remember to bring lots of mosquito spray and a vehicle with high clearance (to handle the rocky dirt roads) and you’ll be having the time of your life. OH. And don’t forget to bring floaties. We had to haul 5 people to a granite island on 3 small floaties.

The swim over to the islands

Naptime

Naptime

You can’t see it in the photos, but Reem and I had to float/swim “Princess J” over to an island for one trip while he sat on the cush spot on top of the donut floatie. It’s pretty hard to swim when you’re hysterical and laughing that hard.

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Backpacking Diaries: DESOLATION WILDERNESS Part I!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Lake Aloha and the Crystal Range

Lake Aloha and the Crystal Range

DESOLATION WILDERNESS is my FAVORITE PLACE on earth.

Desolation Valley

Desolation Valley

I came here on my first backpacking trip ever. They say that you never forget your first love.

2012 was the year of a lot of firsts for me. I started organizing and leading my own backpacking trips (I never trusted myself to do that before), did my first five-night backpacking trip, and organized five camping trips in one summer. Despite the occasional headaches from organizing trip logistics, it was pretty damn fun. This Deso trip included five friends that had varying degrees of backpacking experience – including Rob, who did his first trip with us!

DAY 1: The Hike In

At 5 pm, Darrel and I met up at the Glen Alpine trailhead to review our gear and weigh our packs. My pack: 32 lbs. His pack: 43 lbs. He’s not exactly a light backpacker.

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Pre-hike sparring

At 7 PM, we began hiking and made it to Susie Lake by a little after 9 PM (about 4 miles). While it was pretty dark after 8:30 PM, the wilderness and lake was absolutely gorgeous at night. We set up camp and I took a photo of Susie lake with the stars reflecting in the lake below:

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Stars in the sky, as reflected in Susie Lake

DAY 2: Susie and Heather Lakes

We decided to take it easy the next day since Darrel did the 4+ hour drive to Tahoe right after working a 10 hour day. So we blew up our floaties, loaded our dry-sacks with gear, and floated/hauled ass over to one of Susie Lake’s many islands, where we pretty much slept and ate and swam all day. He even had the solar panel charger for the iPod dock. There’s just nothing more refreshing than laying on a granite rock in the sun, listening to the wind, in one of the most beautiful places on earth! At least in California 🙂

Susie Lake, glistening in the morning

Susie Lake, glistening in the morning

Heavely

Heavenly

Despite enjoying the serenity of the lake, I still like to be active each day and hella wanted to go hiking. So we make a VERY short trip (less than a mile one way) over to nearby Heather Lake. I got on my floatie and paddled over to a few of Heather Lake’s islands. One has a pretty tall, almost mini-mountain on it. I climbed up and started yelling to Darrel to get his attention.

Where's the pool

Where’s the pool

Then the most amazing thing happened…

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Backpacking Diaries: Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur

When a friend of mine suggested that we do our first backpacking trip of 2012 to Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur’s Ventana Wilderness, I said:

“HELL. yeah.”

Into the Ventana Wilderness

Into the Ventana Wilderness

Hiking and camping in Big Sur is always one of those must do’s for any native Californian.

The trip didn’t start off very well, unfortunately. Since we settled on going Sykes just a month before the trip, finding a vacant base-camp campsite up and down Highway 1 was pretty much impossible. EVERYTHING was booked up (we also went the weekend before the 4th of July, BIG MISTAKE). However, since I had just gone camping in Big Sur in 2010, I remembered a very small and far away campground called Botcher’s Gap –I was pretty sure it would have vacancies – it’s mostly a camp for backpackers.

After the long and winding drive up and down the mountain to Botchers Gap camp (whenever I go there, I always think that I’m getting lost! Just turn off of Hwy 1 onto Palos Colorados Rd. and you’ll be fine) we finally found ourselves a base camp – albeit a far away and uneven one.

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We BBQ’ed our veggies, ate our tamales, enjoyed our fire, and went straight to bed.

Pluses of Botchers Gap: cheap, guaranteed vacancies, beautiful views if you’re lucky to get one of the 3 spots on the edge of the valley, easy access to one section of the Ventana Wilderness (not near Sykes though). Downsides: uneven ground, sites close together with no privacy, STANK-ass pit toilets, all sites are rimmed with poison oak. Don’t roll off your site!

In the morning, we woke and made the drive down the mountain to the Sykes hot springs trailhead at the Big Sur Forest Service Station. To get to Sykes Hot Springs via the Pine Ridge Trail, it’s about a 10 mile hike.

Notes about the hike:

Despite the fact that the initial part of the trail that ascends through a lush green forest, the first 3 miles of the hike kinda suck. It’s almost all uphill, most of it is very exposed to the sun, it’s narrow, there’s lots of poison oak, and the trail is deteriorating at times. Do it in the early morning before it gets really hot and dry on that dusty trail. Luckily, after the first 3 miles, it becomes much more enjoyable.

A typical view on the Pine Ridge Trail

A typical view on the Pine Ridge Trail

There’s a few good camps to stop off at, so if you get tired, arrange to make your pit stops there!

Filtering water at Terrace camp, five miles in.

Filtering water at Terrace camp, five miles in.

Halfway through the day, our group decided to go to a camp at the 8 mile mark and save Sykes for the next day, because we didn’t think we would want to do 10 miles straight in one day (our group was a mix of 1st time backpackers and people who haven’t backpacked in years). But we missed the turn off for the earlier camps and went straight to Sykes. It turned out to be the best decision.

The campgrounds at Sykes are numerous – besides the first ones you see on the right when you go do down to the river, there’s tons as you follow the river to your left. As we ventured on and on to find a site, a bunch of naked circus hippies wearing tu-tu’s and hula hoops approached us…

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Hiking Diaries: Marin Headlands and Muir Beach

Muir Beach has to be one of my all time favorite Bay Area beach day / hiking areas. When you just don’t feel like driving all the way to Stinson Beach, Muir Beach is great place to stop at instead. Families come to Muir Beach all the time to picnic, swim, have bonfires, and hike around the surrounding trails. And if you worry about parking availability, Marin has a shuttle that takes visitors from Sir Frances Drake Blvd. to the Muir beach and park areas. Awesome!

A view of Muir Beach from the trail above

The hike is great for those who enjoy 1) amazing views of California’s coast, and 2) a fairly decent (not too easy, not strenuous at all) hike. You can do a short loop or a much longer hike (you can even go backpacking and camp at one of the designated sites along the way). After the initial ascent up the mountain, it’s nothing but rolling hills along the coast, up and down all the way.

California coastin’

Make sure to bring long sleeves though. There’s always poison oak lining the trails. It’s not too bad, but it’s always nice to have a bit of a barrier. I HATE POISON OAK. My aunt got it once from her dog after she let her dog go off leash in a park. Her poison oak was so bad, it turned her skin black! Lesson learned: be careful about letting your dog roam off-leash; AND – if you’re a hiker, don’t pet the dogs, they carry all sorts of bush-nastiness.

The gorgeous hike, lined with wildflowers (and poison oak)

About a mile from the top of the trailhead, hikers can descend to a small beach for a quick picnic. It’s dope, I highly recommend it!

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Camping Diaries: GLORY HOLE Recreation Area!

I discovered this campground a couple of years ago when I was looking for a campground near the Bay Area. I can’t help but love the fact that it’s called GLORY HOLE RECREATION AREA. How awesome is that! It’s not as dirty as it sounds (I think that a “glory hole” is technically a mining term).

Glory Hole!

I’ve been here on numerous trips – I can tell you that it definitely has some strong pluses and minuses as a campground and “recreation” area – which I’ll get into more detail below.

Roger brought the Shake-weight on our Glory Hole camping trip

One of my favorite memories of Glory Hole happened during a camping trip with the non-profit youth group that I work for. I took them on a “night hike” and soon found out that they were pretty much scared of everything that moved – or didn’t move.  At one point we were all just running and screaming hysterically down a trail after a few of them spotted some glowing deer eyes in the dark and got freaked the hell out! Good times.

Glory Hole’s Positives:

You Can Float In the Lake ALL DAY LONG

When my friends and I came here, we loved the fact that the weather was usually pretty nice (much warmer than the Bay Area), and that the water’s pretty calm. New Melones Lake is a huge body of water that many use for boating and fishing, but the brochures never mention how great it is to float on the water for entire afternoons. After working my non-profit job day in and day out, there’s nothing more cheap and relaxing than a leisurely float. I think we passed out for 2 hours uninterrupted.

Tranquility

The Boating Is Pretty Fun

If you get 10 friends to throw down $15 each, y’all can have yourself a speed boat for an entire day and drag your friends behind you on a raft. It’s pretty much my childhood dream come true. However, if you’re more like me and a bit more broke, you and a friend can pitch in $15 instead and get a double kayak for a whole day. I highly recommend the latter. There’s some fun little islands on the lake to explore, and you can also paddle from beach area to beach area during the day.

Plus…how can you not appreciate the fact that…

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Day Hiking to Alamere Falls, Pt. Reyes

Every year, my friend Bo takes a trip back to the Bay from his home in Shanghai and wants to do something “outdoorsy”. On his first trip back, we camped in Yosemite and did the monstrous all-day hike to Half Dome. The next year, we camped in Tahoe and did a day hike to Susie Lake in Desolation Wilderness. The next two visits were short trips, so we only had enough time to do day hikes to Mt. Tamalpais and Pt. Reyes. While I love Mt. Tam and Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes has to be one of my all time Bay Area favorites.

Bo wanted to be exposed to some of the best hiking that the Bay Area has to offer, so I thought I’d take him on the scenic (albeit mild) hike to Alamere falls (he usually wants a longer and a more rigorous hike, a la Half Dome – but I know of very few enjoyable and SCENIC hikes of that caliber within two hours of Oakland. If anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way).

While the hike was not that challenging, it didn’t matter – we couldn’t have asked for more amazing weather or a more picturesque day!

The famous Pt. Reyes shoreline

The view from the Coast Trail

To get to the start of the hike at the Palomarin trailhead, you basically go towards Stinson Beach but keep going up Hwy 1 until you reach the town of Olema. After that point, you must drive on an unpaved dirt road (bring the 4 Runner!) for a mile or so until you reach the trailhead parking lot.

At Palomarin, you have a few options…

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Car Camping: Calaveras Big Trees State Park

This past February, I began planning three car camping trips and two backpacking trips for the summer of 2012 – because I thought I would be jobless and on funemployment by June. That didn’t happen…and through the course of planning those five trips for myself and my friends, I discovered that organizing that many camping trips with multiple groups of people is like herding ferral cats.

However, the experience did help me discover Calaveras Big Trees State Park on the edge of the Sierras – it seems to be the closest way to get to the Sierras from the Bay Area. And it’s purrty.

About the park and campground:

1. The Oak Hollow campground is much nicer than the North Grove campground, IMHO. The sites in the lower loop can be pretty spacious (if not gorgeous) and are not as close to each other as the sites in the North Grove section.

Oak Hollow site #105 – notice the matching Campdome 4 tents and the morning sunlight through the trees

2. You can swim in the Stanislaus river where everyone goes fishing, just be careful. If you don’t watch yourself you’ll just float down the river. The campground doesn’t officially condone it, but swimming is pretty feasible when the river is calmish. The rocks around the edges of the river are perfect for passing out in the sun; plus there’s some decent rock jumping around the boulders near the bridge/cascade area.

Loungin all day long. Check out the guy sitting in a chair on the rocks.

Swimmers can also get a natural cold spa treatment if they’re brave enough to scoot across the shallow rapids to the middle of the cascade.

Just make sure to clear the rocks when you jump

3. If you camp here, you must do the North Grove “hike”. It takes you on a gorgeous walk through various giant redwoods, including the most famous one that started the park. The South Grove loop, on the other hand, is a short walk through nothing scenic (my friends and I somehow got lost on this short trail, and ended up walking through the parking lot and up the street to find our car).

When the settlers first “discovered” these big trees back in the day, they chopped down the biggest one and displayed it at fairs. It’s a damn shame.

4. There’s apparently a lot of bears around this park, but don’t worry about them too, too much.

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