Inks Lake Overnight – 11/30/19 – 12/1/19

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.

Lakeside camp site
Nice fire
Tired Biff back at home

Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP 11/2/19

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Tuolumne Grove – Yosemite NP

Ian and Court

3 miles

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.

buried road sign

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.

Court way in the distance for scale

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.

Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP 10/31/19


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Mist Trail – Vernal and Nevada Falls – Yosemite NP

Ian, Court, Kelly, Ryan

10 miles

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.

Obligatory park sign
This is what we were supposed to do the day before

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.

Good fall colors

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.

Looking back from the stairs
Vernal Falls – in the summer the water spans a much wider swathe
Final steps to the top of Vernal Falls
Top of Vernal Falls

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.

Nevada Falls upper right

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.

Liberty Cap and bridge over the top of Nevada Falls
Trees growing through the rocks with flat trunks

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.

End of trail pic

Mt Hoffmann – Yosemite NP 10/30/19

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mt. Hoffmann – Yosemite NP – trail to May Lake and unofficial trail to summit

Ian, Court, Greg, Todd, Kelly, and Ryan

6.3 miles

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.

Hoffmann is actually behind those two peaks, so disregard that commentary
Ryan and reflection
Heading up from the lake. Court and Dr. Seuss tree

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.

First view of Half Dome

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.

Getting steep
More Half Dome

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.

Trail flattening out

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.

Heading back down to May Lake

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.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve – Carmel, CA 10/27/19

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.


Riverplace Nature Trail 10/19/19

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hike: Riverplace Nature Trail

Weather: HUMID

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.

Dry ferns
Dry creek
A little water, but not much

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.

American Beautyberry
Toothleaf goldeneye, according to my plant ID app
Ferns at a spring
The most quiet place on trail

Bull Creek Greenbelt 7/27/19

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bull Creek Greenbelt

Ian solo

2.6 miles

Just a few early morning pics from a quick hike at Bull Creek a few weeks back. August has been mostly 100+ every day, so hiking is not really in the cards. May try and hit up a trail early this coming Saturday, as it’s been too long.

Hamilton Greenbelt – Lakeway, TX 6/23/19

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hamilton Greenbelt – Lakeway, TX

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Humid, but nice

2.8 miles

Another trip out to Hamilton Greenbelt. Great little trail out in Lakeway that isn’t crowded and winds around through the woods and streams and eventually drains into Lake Travis.

Water was flowing well today and the dogs loved it. Saw one young deer with small velvet antlers.

Yellowstone NP – Mystic Falls Hike and Old Faithful 6/7/19

Friday, June 7, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Mystic Falls Hike and Old Faithful

Mystic Falls – 3.5 miles

We woke up early again to try and get to Grand Prismatic Spring, which I was super excited about, but it was too steamy to see it. This was my biggest disappointment of the trip, but that just means I have to come back!

Too steamy, but still pretty

We moved on to the Fountain Paint Pots and saw a few other geysers and such before dropping Doc and Suz off at the hotel.

Court and I then went on a hike at Biscuit Basin to Mystic Falls. The beginning of this hike is actually part of the official Continental Divide Trail, so I have now stepped foot on each of the Big 3 National Scenic Trails!

On the CDT!

The hike was beautiful. The beginning is a boardwalk with many more geothermal features.

Bacteria mats

Once into the woods, we climbed up to an overlook and saw Old Faithful erupting from a mile or more away.

Starting into the woods
Climbing up
Old Faithful from afar
Overlooking Biscuit Basin and the valley

Mystic Falls was at the far end of the loop and was very beautiful, as expected.

Mystic Falls
Court on the Wooden Throne

We closed the loop and headed back to meet back up with Doc and Suz for lunch at the historic Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904. The interior is just awesome.

After lunch we saw Old Faithful erupt, which is pretty impressive.

Old Faithful

We spent the rest of the day hanging around Old Faithful and the Visitor Center. It wasn’t nearly as touristy as I expected and was a lot of fun.

Old Faithful and the Inn

The next morning we woke up to a blizzard in June! We got 8 inches in two hours! We had planned to drive out the south entrance of the park past the Tetons again, but with the storm, all roads were closed except for the west entrance. Luckily we were staying at Old Faithful because otherwise we would have been trapped and missed our flight back from Salt Lake City. It was fun driving in the snow and the scenery was fantastic. Snow in June. Crazy.

Outside the hotel
Driving out of the park

Once again we had an amazing trip with Doc and Suz. This was my first time to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and it lived up to every expectation. We will be returning, especially to see Grand Prismatic Spring!

Yellowstone NP – Norris Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone 6/6/19

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Norris Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone

We drove from Canyon Village over to the Norris Geyser Basin on our way to Old Faithful. This side of the park was really interesting and definitely had the most geothermal activity compared to what we had seen so far.

Steamboat Geyser, which is the largest currently active geyser in the world, was set to erupt at any moment (it’s averaging every 5-6 days right now) and we stopped for a while to see if we could get lucky. The Geyser Gazers (those who follow geysers, waiting for them to erupt) were all there, but sadly it didn’t go off. We found out it went off that night around 1am.

We also saw Beryl Spring, which was neato, Gibbon Falls, and a quick side trip to Firehole Falls.

We got to Old Faithful Snow Lodge and checked in, but headed over to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel where we had dinner reservations. This was not only beautiful and classic, but was one of the best meals of the entire trip. We will be staying here when we come back one day.

Elk with antlers

On the drive back to Old Faithful we got caught in a bizarre storm. It wasn’t raining that hard, but the sky was green like right before a tornado and the sunlight was still peeking through the trees. It was really eerie. The next day would be our last and we would make the most of it.