​Joshua Tree National Park

Having to be in San Diego the week of June 2, I opted to fly out early (actually bypassed home for the weekend) and spend the weekend at Joshua Tree National Park.  I arrived in San Diego about 7:30 Friday evening and then drove over to Palm Desert, CA which is just about a half hour drive from the park.

Saturday morning I headed into the park just taking the drive from the West Entrance Station through the park to the south entrance.  I stopped for pictures at several places and took a couple of short hikes.  Scoped out a slightly bigger hike for Sunday.  Can’t figure out why people want to live in the middle of the desert – it was 90 degrees at 9am and 108 by the time I got back to the hotel.  At least the part is a bit cooler due to it’s higher elevation – temperature peaked in the low 90s.

Sunday morning I headed back to the park via the opposite route – things always look different the other way ’round.  I stopped for a short hike through the Cholla Cactus Garden.  These are also called Teddy Bear and Jumping Cholla.  They look soft from a distance, but in fact are comprised of roughly inch long brittle spikes.  If there is any doubt as to the true nastiness of these guys, watch this clip from the Saguaro National Park episode of Motion.

My primary objective for the day was to hike Ryan Mountain which offers views of the surrounding valleys within the park.  It’s just a 3 mile round trip, but the first half up to the peak is an elevation gain of about 1,000 ft.  It wasn’t too bad, and definitely worth the effort.

After the hike, it was out of the park through the North Entrance Station at 29 Palms which was a route I hadn’t yet covered and back to the hotel to just relax.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Well, I’m back in the Bay area this week to wrap up some stuff.  I came out on a Sunday again in order to take in some more sights.  This time I decided to visit Point Reyes National Seashore.  The route there took me past Muir Woods so I got to drive the twisty Hwy 1 drive – lots of fun.  Oh, and my rental car this week is a Beetle convertible!

I stopped at the Muir Beach scenic overlook but it was still really foggy so there wasn’t too much to see.  Then it was up into the seashore.  I stopped at the visitor center first and took a quick stroll through the “earthquake trail”.  The San Andreas fault runs through this area and there is a fence that was broken during the 1906 earthquake – the two sections are separated by about 16 feet – which is how far the fault slipped.

From there I drove out to the lighthouse and made the walk up to the visitor center.  From there it is 300 some steps down to the lighthouse on the other side of the point.  Then back up again.  It was incredibly windy and still foggy.  Once down at the lighhouse it clears up for some great views of the coast.

Muir Woods

Well, I’m in San Jose this week for work.  I flew out on Sunday morning in order to visit Muir Woods National Monument which is a short drive north of San Francisco.  I arrived around noon, grabbed some lunch and then found the Muir Woods shuttle bus.  The park has very limited parking and with its proximity to the Bay Area it fills up early, so the shuttle is perfect, and for 3 bucks round-trip you can’t beat it.  The shuttle takes a slightly different route than cars as the car road is apparently a bit too twisty.  Even so, the route the shuttle takes is like a roller coaster!  The bus route gives you a glimpse of the ocean (Muir Beach) and then it’s up into the woods.

The monument is actually located in the center of a California State Park and it offers an easy 2 mile loop hike along a stream through the woods and access to numerous other trails.  I visited on a beautiful Sunday afternoon so there were lots of people.  It’s quite a magnificent place to take a stroll with all of the enourmous trees.  There was a pair of deer enjoying the day as well.

Definitely worth the visit!

Day 17

Monday was another driving day, this time from Eureka, CA up to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.  I got going a bit late as I felt like sleeping in, so I was on the road at 10 o’clock.

The drive north out of Eureka took me back through Redwood National Park and a number of California State Parks, also dedicated to Redwood preservation.

I pulled into Crater Lake NP around 4 o’clock and had planned on camping, but I thought I would run up to the Lodge just to see if they had any rooms available as I am getting a bit tired of sleeping in a tent and thought it would be cool as the lodge sits on the rim of the caldera, which offers an excellent view of the lake.

But the there was no room in the lodge, so I went down to the campground and found a site to my liking.  For the first time during the whole trip, I had to break out the bug spray as there were a few too many mosquitos.  I got settled in, made some dinner and then went and listened to Ranger Karen give a talk about Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh my! On the way back to my tent I happened to look up and noticed it was an absolutely clear night, the stars were amazing as the sky around hree is quite dark.  Then I crawled into my tent for the night.

I woke up this morning (Tuesday) about 5 o’clock and was freezing.  Last night the temperature had been in the mid 60s which is typicaly for Crater Lake, they say they have two seasons here; winter and August.  By the time I crawled out of my tent at 7 it was still freezing.  I didn’t feel like making breakfast in the cold, so I went to the camp restaurant and ate there and more importantly warmed up.  I rolled out of there about 8 and it was finally a decent temperature and seemed to be warming up.

My plan for the day was to take the scenic rim drive from the south side of the lake to the north side and catch the boat tour of the lake.  After that a hike up Scott Peak to view the entire park.  I got up to the north side of the lake shortly after 9 and secured the last ticket on the first boat out, which also included a two hour stop on Wizard Island.  From the parking lot it’s just over a mile hike, about 700 ft down the caldera wall to the boat dock. This wasn’t so bad, but of course the reverse is required to get out.

The tour started with about a half hour ride out to Wizard Island, with a few stops to point out some of the geology of the caldera.  Wizard Island is a cinder cone volcano within the lake and it rises about 700 ft above the water surface.  So that’s what I did, hiked all the way up, took some pictures, and after decending into the crater I hiked back up and then back to the boat launch.  That pretty much killed the two hours.  The other option was just to hike around the lake to a bay and look at some rocks, which didn’t sound too interesting.

On the way up the crater, I met a guy from St. Paul who teaches Earth Science at Humboldt Junior High.  He hadn’t been impressed with all of the ranger’s geology explanations, but oh well.  He did inform me why I had been so cold this morning – it was between 34 and 36 degrees!

After Wizard Island, there was about another hour on the boat with some more interesting information and great views.  Then it was time to climb out of the caldera.  It took about a half hour, which wasn’t too bad, but by this time it was already 2:30 and I was beat.  The Scott peak hike was five miles round trip and I decided that would have to wait for another visit.  Instead, I completed the rim drive loop and then drove out to an area called the Pinnacles.  The Pinnacles are another geological formation due to the volcanism in the area.  Basically, they are the remains of vertical lava tubes which have been exposed by the erosion of a river.  I snapped a couple pictures, but I was so tired I then took a nap in my car before heading back to camp.

Bottom line, another wonderful National Park!

Day 15 – Catching up

I’m hanging out in Eureka, CA this weekend.  On Friday I drove from Yosemite over to San Francisco and was able to visit Claus and Ingrid and meet their new baby, Markus.  I think this was the first time I had seen them since their move to SF, so it was great to hang out with them again.  After driving through some of the most desolate parts of the country during the last week, the congestion of the bay area (even at non rush hour) was a bit of a shock!

I drove up the coast Saturday morning from Petaluma (just north of San Francisco) and arrived here about 6 in the evening.  It was a nice leisurely (slow and winding) drive up the Shoreline Highway (California 1).

I had woken up to an apparently typical foggy/misty/drizzly morning in the bay area and was not looking forward to breaking camp with everything being wet.  I hung out in my tent for about an hour, watching an episode of SG-1 (portable DVD playerslaptops are awesome!), and by that time things had dried out enough to make it bearable.

By the time I hit the road, about 9 a.m., it was stilly cloudy and not very pleasant.  By about 11, I had gotten far enough north andor the sun was finally able to burn off some of the cloudsfog and it turned into a beautiful day on the coast.  My car is a blast to drive on all of the curvy, steep roads I’ve been on for the last week or so!

It had been pleasantly cool along the coast, around 80, in the bay area, but here in Eureka, it was even cooler – only in the upper 60s but with clear blue skies and down to the upper 40s at night.  It’s fantastic!

This morning, Sunday, I drove up to Redwood National Park which is about 45 minutes north of Eureka.  The trees here are the Coast Redwood, which are related to the Giant Redwood (Sequoia) that I saw in Yosemite.  While the Giant variety is the largest overall (volume) tree, the Coast variety is the tallest, by at least 50 feet, but only about half as big around.  These things are just enormous.  The Coast variety is just as limited in its range as the Giant.  It only grows in an area about 450 miles north to south and about 25 miles wide and below an elevation of 3000 feet.  Also, unlike the Giant variety, the Coast Redwoods were heavily logged.  Of the 2 million acres of Old Growth forest that were present when white folk arrived, only about 100,000 acres have now been preserved in state and national parks.  They are still being logged today, but at least there are now areas where recovery is occurring.

Most of Redwood Park is only accessible via unpaved roads, so my visit there was fairly short.  But, to be honest, once you’ve seen one humongous tree, you’ve kind of seen them all.  It’s definitely something to see though.  So after a quick hike I headed back to the camp to do a load of laundry and just relax.  I’m on vacation but I’ve been going steady for two weeks and realized I need a day to just sort of hang out.  This is a great place for it as the weather is perfect – it’s 68 degrees and sunny with a nice breeze blowing in off the ocean – my campground is just off of Humboldt Bay, which is separated from the ocean by just a narrow strip of land.  I feel for all of you back in the midwest with the near 100 degrees – but you do have AC so it’s not that bad!

I hope to have my website all caught up this evening as that’s how I’m actually relaxing. This is the first chance since I left Yosemite to work on it and the next few days I won’t have internet access in order to do any updates.

Day 12 – Yosemite Day 2

I spent the morning in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia.  These are the largest organisms on the planet.  There are trees that are taller, and there are trees that have larger trunks, but these have the combination that provides the largest volume.  They are ginormous!

What I thought was going to be a quick jaunt through the forest to look at a couple of trees, turned into an all morning, something like 6 mile hike.  It was worth it though as I made it to Wawona Point overlooking Wawona Valley.  Pretty nice view.

From there I headed over to the Glacier Point drive and stopped off to hike the Sentinal Dome.  That was just a leisurely 2 mile hike to the top of Sentinal Dome, and oh boy, was it ever worth it!  Sentinal Dome is on the south rim of Yosemite valley and gives you a panoramic view of the entire valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.  This is the place to see it all.  I could have spent all afternoon there, but nature calls, as it were…

I finally made it out to Glacier Point and what do you know, more great views.  From here, the only major feature not visible is El Capitan and since it’s lower down the valley wall then the Sentinal Dome, the surrounding mountains aren’t visible, but spectacular shots of Half Dome are easily had.

By this time, it was 4:30 and time to start the drive back to the campground.  Yosemite is such a huge park, 1.2 million acres, at least  6 separate entrances and seemingly endless possibilities.  This is definitely someplace everyone should see and I’ll definitely be coming back.  I want to hike to the top of Half Dome, but didn’t have the time on this short visit.