November 30 – December 1, 2019
Annual Thanksgiving Trip
Ian, Court, Biff, Finn
We took our annual Thanksgiving trip out to Inks Lake for an overnight. We had originally planned on doing two nights, but the weather the first night was not looking fun (40s and wet) so we only went the second night when the weather was a lot better.
As always, the lake was pretty, the hiking good, and the dogs loved it. Finn got a little chilly overnight and was restless, so we are going to need to figure out a solution for him on the colder nights. Biff gets to snuggle under the quilt with us, but Finn is far too big for that.
Saturday, November 2, 2019
Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP
Ian and Court
For a quick hike before Greg and Cat’s wedding, we headed down to Tuolumne Grove to see some sequoias. Court and I first experienced the majesty that these trees convey back in 2016 when we went to Sequoia National Park over Labor Day weekend. There are fewer trees in Yosemite, but they are still just as impressive.
This trail is fairly short, but includes what was one of the original roads in the park, back in the late 1800s. This is also when the famous tunnel tree was made, which would certainly not be allowed now, I don’t think.
When one of these trees falls over you get an even more up close sense of how huge they really are. They make you feel quite small in the world. It’s a sensation that can only be experienced in real life.
Next time we come back we will go to the Mariposa Grove, which is much larger, but is located on the southern end of the park so we didn’t have time to make the drive. This smaller grove was a worthy consolation.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP
Ian, Court, Kelly, Ryan
This hike is the beginning of what would have been our hike to Half Dome, but as I mentioned in the last post, we had to cancel that trip due to weather. This is a tough hike, don’t let anyone fool you. 10 miles round trip from the parking lot at Curry Village.
I had looked at the topo map before the hike, but wasn’t expecting it to basically start to go straight up from the very beginning. Get ready calves! The trail starts off paved, but at about a 30 degree angle for a while and then it evens out until you reach the long set of stairs heading up to the first set of falls on this hike, Vernal Falls. Since we were there late in the season the falls were not flowing very strong, but they were still beautiful.
The stairs were a real life version of the stairs up to Cirith Ungol (nerd alert) in Lord of the Rings. There was no Shelob at the top though.
After a quick rest at the top where we fended off the well-fed squirrels trying to get at our snacks, we continued on and soon got our first glimpse of Nevada Falls.
More steps were to come.
But we made it. I erroneously thought that the rock formation in front of us was Half Dome, but it was actually Liberty Cap. Gotta get better at reading those topo maps.
Had we climbed Half Dome we would have kept going up from here, but instead we took the John Muir Trail back down to the valley. There was a short section that was pretty icy and will probably be closed in the next few weeks due to treacherous conditions.
The trail switchbacked all the way back down to the valley and we were glad to have our trekking poles to cushion the descent, as we were going at a pretty quick pace to try and get back to the visitor center before it closed, which we did. This was a beautiful and challenging hike that everyone who goes to Yosemite should do if they are able.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Mt. Hoffmann – Yosemite NP – trail to May Lake and unofficial trail to summit
Ian, Court, Greg, Todd, Kelly, and Ryan
Well, today was supposed to be the day we were going to climb Half Dome with the cables down, but the weather overnight made us cancel. The forecast was in the teens at our campsite (Little Yosemite Valley) and almost single digits on Half Dome, so we made the call and bailed.
However, this hike was recommended by Kelly’s ranger friend and it was a fun challenge with some great views. A group of us got to the trail head around 1pm and headed up into the Sierra.
About a mile or so in, we hit May Lake and the camp there, which was closed for the season. We got some good photos and continued around the lake to start the unofficial trail up to Mt Hoffmann.
A lot of this trail was route finding, looking for cairns among the rocks as we steadily gained elevation.
About half way up we could see views of Half Dome way down in the valley.
We turned up the mountain and the ascent got quite steep and difficult. There were multiple cairns to choose from and we basically had to just make our own route and use our best judgement. The altitude became a bit too much for Ryan and Kelly, so they chose to hang back while the remaining four of us continued up toward the summit.
Just a hundred yards or so after we left Ryan and Kelly, the trail flattened out quite a bit and the remaining trek to the base of the summit wasn’t nearly as steep. Greg and Todd went for the actual summit while Court and I decided to forego it and chose a smaller peak just below to rest and eat lunch on.
After enjoying the view for a bit we knew we had to start down to try and get back to the trail head before dark, or at least close to it. The journey down was a bit more treacherous than going up, as we were having to again pick our way through cairns, but this time downhill on unstable rocks. We made it back to the lake after a long journey and met back up with Ryan and Kelly while we waited for Greg and Todd to catch up.
The alpenglow was starting to hit the rocks and the light made for some stunning pics.
Once everyone was back together we hiked back down from May Lake to the trail head, stopping multiple times to get pics of the sunset and the encroaching dusk. The sunsets out here are incredible. We don’t get much in Texas like this.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Ian and Court
On the way out to Yosemite for Cat and Greg’s wedding, we spent a few nights in Carmel. We had gone to Monterey three years earlier before our Sequoia trip, but didn’t get to spend much time in Carmel, so we figured we would make that our home base this time.
We made the short drive down to Point Lobos early one morning to avoid the crowds that we had seen the day before in the afternoon. Mornings are always better anyway and we have learned over the years that you don’t have to get up that early to beat the crowds anywhere. Usually if you show up by 8am you have the whole place to yourself, wherever you are.
We took a short path through the scrubby dunes out to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific.
The water was rough this morning! I got some good shots of the waves crashing into the rocks and sending spray skyward. The video below was originally in slow motion and way cooler, but I couldn’t make it happen here for some reason.
We also got a curious Harbor seal, whom we named Gerald, poking his head out of the water to check us out.
We explored around the shore for a little longer before heading on to the 17 mile drive and the Monterey aquarium, which we also did the last time we were here, so I won’t document that again.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Hike: Riverplace Nature Trail
Hikers: Ian solo with full pack
Length: 6.5 miles
Hey it’s been forever since I last blogged, but I’m not dead! Here in Austin we had a really hot August and then the hottest September on record, where most of the month was over 100 degrees every day. This makes for really not fun hiking conditions, so most of my exercise was done inside on the Peloton.
I finally got back out on the trail this past weekend to train for my upcoming hike in Yosemite and Half Dome. My buddy Greg is getting married in Yosemite and, much to the dismay of our spouses and/or fiancees, four of us have decided to hike up to Half Dome and climb it with the cables down. Normally the cables on Half Dome are elevated on poles so they form a bit of a railing for people to hold onto while climbing up the 45 degree incline, but the poles are taken down in the offseason and the cables lie flat against the rock.
I actually think the way we are doing it is safer than with the cables up because we will be roped in and have two points of connection at all times. A woman actually died falling off the cables a couple of months back while they were up because she wasn’t roped in. That said, it’s going to be a tough hike and I’ve been training pretty hard for it and then my forthcoming PCT thru hike in the spring.
Well that certainly was a lot of words. On to the hike for this blog post!
Riverplace is the best and hardest trail in Austin. Unfortunately, the HOA out there has started charging people $10 per head to hike it and not only that, they also charge $10 PER DOG. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told them they can’t do this and that the fees are excessive, but apparently it is still being litigated in some fashion. I personally think it is ridiculous to charge for dogs, but whatever. These people have to live with themselves and I’m only out there a couple of times a year anyway.
So after a bit of chiding the money-takers at the beginning of the trail and getting my wristband that proves I paid, I started off down the trail. I brought my full pack that I will be using for Half Dome and my PCT hike. I was missing a couple of small pieces of gear and clothing, and actually doubled up on a couple of others, so it wasn’t an exact replica of my full gear list, but I think I was within a couple of pounds either direction. Base weight was right about 17 pounds without food or water.
We have also had almost zero rain for the past couple of months, so the trail was very dry, with only a few ankle deep puddles here and there.
The stairs were tough, especially with a full pack, but I persevered and was pretty proud of how I handled the steepness. Peloton has been paying off I suppose.
The views at the top are always nice too.
And a few of the local flora to finish it off.