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Journey to the Center of the Earth: Subway Cave (Day 15)

July 28th, 2009 No comments

Heading north out of Lassen, stopped at the infamous Subway Cave:

subway cave near lassenIt’s not actually infamous.

Bullet points:

  • The last cave I was in was at Mittelbau Dora in Germany. I kept thinking this cave should also be a solemn tragic place, and so was probably much more reverent toward it than it deserved.
  • Subway Cave was the result of lava flows and slave labor never built V-2 rockets inside.
  • It was dark when you turned your flashlight off.

bkd

Categories: west coast Tags: , ,

I, Mountain Climber: Lassen Peak (Day 15)

July 28th, 2009 3 comments

Fully acclimated to the extreme elevation (8,500′ at the trailhead), I went ahead and hit the peak trail. The Lassen Peak hike is notable for being one of the easiest-to-access 10K+ foot peaks that exists anywhere. It’s a 2.5-mile (each way) trail — but it gains 2,000 feet in elevation, so it’s a little steep.

brokeoff mountain and friendsThe Three Stooges — or something like that. The one on the left is Brokeoff Mountain again and this view is the hike’s constant companion as the trail switchbacks all across the south slope of Lassen.

lassen peak trail lake helen

Lake Helen, the hike’s other constant companion. The lake is right next to the three peaks above, just that you (I) can’t get them into the same photo frame.

lassen peak topLooking ahead to the final assault!

shasta from lassen peakMt. Shasta from the final Lassen Peak snowfield.

lassen peak me at topMade it! My head is higher than the highest point on the mountain, which I’m calling good enough. Even if I weren’t acrophobic, I’m still not stupid (based on recent GMAT scores).

Other random notes:

  • I think I’m getting better at hiking uphill. Which I suppose makes sense.
  • There was a surprisingly large bee population at the peak.
  • This is the highest peak I’ve ever climbed, easy hike or no.
  • And it’s only easy in terms of length…

Out.

bkd

Bumpass Hell Trail, Lassen (Day 14)

July 26th, 2009 3 comments

Was originally planning on hiking up Lassen Peak, but I got to the parking lot, couldn’t breathe, realized I was at 8,500 feet, and decided to give myself another day to acclimate. So I went and did something easier, instead: hiked the Bumpass Hell Trail to Bumpass Hell (the name kept me thinking about the movie A Christmas Story — I think the Bumpasses were the neighbors with the dogs) and then continued on to Crumbaugh Lake (8 mi. r/t).

bumpass hell from aboveEr, so in case it wasn’t obvious from the name (?), Bumpass Hell is this sort of geothermal fumerole place, apparently named after its discoverer who fell in twice and ended up losing a leg. So it’s more of a personal hell than a universal one.

bumpass hell fumarolesAnd, yes, it smelled like rotten eggs.

bumpass one-armed gunfighterAnd then I was confronted with the shadow of a one-armed gunfighter.

crumbaugh lake lassenCrumbaugh Lake — looks idyllic when you aren’t there to hear the bugs in your ears (no, that’s not a Kafka reference).

brokeoff mountain lassenBrokeoff Mountain (actual name), where Northern California’s gay cowboys would be going to get married if Prop 8 hadn’t passed.

lassen peak from bumpass trailView of Lassen Peak from the Bumpass Hell Trial Trail (just a typo, not a Kafkaesque slip).

Bumpass Hell was pretty cool-looking, well worth the first half of the hike. Going on to the lakes was fine, but I would’ve been okay without it. Maybe just because I’d seen more picturesque lakes very recently.

And now I should probably leave before the Taco Bell employees in Klamath Falls get nervous about me being here for an hour and a half.

bkd

Tahoe to Reno to Lassen (Day 13)

July 26th, 2009 No comments

Woke up late, had breakfast at the Red Hut in Stateline or whatever the Nevada part of South Lake Tahoe is called. Fantastic bacon. Really, just exceptional bacon. If I could have bacon again like that some time before I die, I’ll consider myself lucky.

Spent the afternoon at Pyramid Lake with Hal Brown’s wife and kids. It should’ve probably been more awkward than it was.

Then headed up to Lassen Volcanic National Park for camping and all that.

highway 89 to Lassen national park

On the drive up to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The photo kind of reminds me of those glass birds they used to sell at state fairs, the kind that you put layers of colored sand into. Maybe it’s just me.lassen peak californiaLassen Peak, the 10,500-foot volcano the park’s named for.

It was oddly like coming home to drive into Lassen — moving from the Sierras to the Cascades. The landscape looked more familiar and like what a mountain “should” look like (based on growing up in Washington).

bkd


Categories: west coast Tags: , , ,

Half Dome Hike Details That the Photos Don’t Convey

July 24th, 2009 2 comments

Communicative, sure, but photos are inexact and not necessarily comprehensive. A few notes:

  • Woke up at 2:45, on the road at 2:55, parking at the trailhead parking lot at 4:30.
  • This is where it would’ve been nice to have been camping somewhere closer to the actual valley.
  • Everyone talks about the cables. More people should talk about how long this hike is. By my route, it was around 17 miles, and a lot of those are steep miles.
  • Almost 5,000 feet in elevation gain (!).
  • The hike up wasn’t crowded per se, but you were never alone on the trail for long.
  • The lower half of the return journey *did* get crowded per se, with all the shuttle bus partisans making their Big Hike up to Vernal Falls and back.
  • Horses should not be allowed on hiking trails. Or, if they are, then hikers should be allowed to shoot them on sight just so there’s an opportunity for retribution.
  • The hike is more about pride and accomplishment than it is about fun. It’s too long, too steep, too uphill, too early, and too hot to be all that much fun. (It’s pretty, though.)
  • My car and food were situated (bear boxes!) and I was hiking to the trailhead by 4:45. The people coming up the trail who were probably 60-90 minutes behind me were clearly miserable from the heat.
  • Hiking in the dark (about the first half-hour of my hike) isn’t as fun as it’s made out to be.
  • I didn’t bring a hat on the hike — I had three in the truck. I blame waking up at 2:45.
  • If I were ever to have to do this hike again, I’d start at Glacier Point — makes it a couple miles shorter, deprives it of 1,000 feet of elevation gain, and adds a waterfall to the trip, without taking away any of the scenic parts of the Happy Isles starting point. Only downside is that it then becomes a shuttle hike and I’m not sure the park operates a bus to Glacier Point from the valley.

bkd

Categories: west coast Tags: , ,

Glen Alpine Trail to Aloha Lake (Day 12)

July 24th, 2009 5 comments

My big activity in Lake Tahoe — other than laundry — was taking this hike up into the Desolation Wilderness. It was on Backpacker magazine’s Top 100 Day Hikes list from a few months back. Good call on their part! The route I took ended up being about 14 miles (it included a side-trip to Grass Lake and went all the way to the far end of Aloha Lake), but it was a fun 14 miles and this is probably a Top 5 hike for me at this point (we’ll see what the rest of this trip brings).

glen alpine grass lakePlus, if you start the hike early enough, you can get to at least one lake before the wind kicks up and ruins the reflections. This was Grass Lake, first stop on the tour. If you look hard enough, there’s a waterfall back on the mountain.

glen alpine wildflowersRight, so: wildflowers.

glen alpine lake susieLake Susie, a lake.

heather lake desolation wildernessHeather Lake.

glen alpine lake aloha (1)And the big one, Lake Aloha. Pretty alien-looking place, mostly above the tree-line. The Pacific Crest Trail runs alongside the lake.

lake aloha rocksHeadin’ in! (But not before going back and putting my camera away, and then choosing a put-in point that doesn’t involve me bashing my head on one of these rocks.)

heather lake sunglasses reflectionAnd my new goal for the trip is to take a reflection-in-sunglasses photo that, like, works.

Good:

  • Sound of running water the entire length of the hike.
  • Only a few co-hikers — only saw one until I got to Susie Lake. Made me feel like I owned the place, which, well, I like to feel when hiking.
  • The hike hits four lakes (including Grass), and each of them are pretty different.
  • A lot of wildflowers.
  • Lakes have good entry opportunities for swimming.
  • Starting to think that beginning hikes at daybreak is a good idea.

Bad:

  • BUGS! Until about 10 AM, the bugs were crazy. Almost aborted because of bugs and hiking in a Deet cloud isn’t as fun as it sounds.
  • Didn’t bring any sun screen (not technically the hike’s fault).
  • Didn’t bring my fishing pole (ibid). Although I think I’ve learned the conditions for hikes on which I should bring the pole, so: next time.

bkd

Categories: west coast Tags: , , ,

Finally in Tahoe, the Thrills Continue (Day 11)

July 24th, 2009 No comments

Key activities:

laundry in tahoeIndustrial washing machines! $1.75 a load! Clean clothes ahoy!

blogging in tahoeMe, trying to sharpen a blog post another 18-20%.

Seriously, this was my day yesterday:

  • Sleep in.
  • Do laundry.
  • Write blog post.
  • Eat lunch (all-you-can-eat at Round Table).
  • Take nap.
  • Write another post.
  • Take another nap.
  • Buy frozen burrito at grocery store.
  • Eat dinner.
  • Write another post.
  • Read the Grant Wahl-Beckham slam book.
  • Sleep.

It still felt like a busy day.

bkd

Half Dome, Full Hike Photo Report (Day 10)

July 23rd, 2009 1 comment

IMG00061

half dome hike in the dark

muir trail merced river crossing

half dome view from trail

nevada falls and liberty cap

vernal falls in morning light

silver apron between falls

nevada falls from river

half dome at distance

half dome granite trail

little yosemite valley

half dome cable section

looking up at the cables

cable section final deliberations

top of hike

half dome trail back down

chipmunk eating grass

other emerald pool

nevada falls in bright sun

silver apron tourist playground

mist trail below vernal falls

Checklist of Clicheed Yosemite Valley Photos! (Day 9)

July 23rd, 2009 3 comments

Figured I should play self-locomotion-unable tourist for a day. No hiking, no rafting, no biking, no swimming, just riding the shuttle bus around the valley and taking the most typical photos I could find. For a day. For one very hot, very crowded day (it was basically like being in Mexico City, but with waterfalls).

Here ‘goes.

yosemite black bear on roadThe blurry bear-on-road photo: check!

yosemite falls merced riverLong-distance shot of Upper Yosemite Falls: check!

yosemite falls and selfPhoto of bus-riding tourist in front of Yosemite Falls: check! (Check out the long hair — lousy hippie!)

yosemite falls pathwayPhoto of other tourist(s) taking photos of Yosemite Falls: check!

yosemite washington columnShot of the river, because there’s a river there: check!

yosemite el capitanPhoto of El Capitan taken from the cleverly named “Valley View” turn-out: check!

yosemite tunnel viewPhoto of tourist taken from the tunnel viewpoint: check! (Oh, sorry, “vista point”.)

yosemite bridal veil fallsTypical shot of Bridal Veil Falls, with oddly cropped co-tourists: check!

half dome and falls from glacier pointPhoto that tries to capture everything in Yosemite Valley all at once, as taken from Glacier Point: check!

yosemite half domePhoto of Half Dome by itself, as if to accentuate its perceived profundity: check!

105 degrees, wall-to-wall people. Yosemite is fantastically beautiful, no doubt, and the valley presents it all on a very large scale. But man, the crowds…! Vince and Tammy recommended the Hetch Hetchy area, Sri talked about Tuolumne Meadows — I’m guessing I’d head there instead of the valley if I’m ever in the area again.

bkd

Rafting the Tuolumne: We Got Swimmers! (But Mostly Paddlers) (Day 8)

July 22nd, 2009 2 comments

When I got to Shalini and Raj’s loft in San Francisco, it turned out they and some of their SF friends were planning on rafting in Yosemite at the same time I was planning on being there. Then they invited me on their rafting trip with them. This is the story of that trip.

Actually, more just another blog post with photos, not so much a story. Trying to find the meet-up place for where the trip was supposed to begin *might* be a story, and props to Shalini for keeping the faith that I would make it on time (or close enough), a faith based on the fact that she and Duncan and I had found each other in the middle Cologne with, well, no fall-back options or connectivity possibilities. And it was well-placed faith. But probably still not much of a story.

Anyway, Chander-Bhan and their gang apparently try to one-up themselves with the next-harder rafting trip every year. This is the third year they’ve done it, so the river was selected because it was Class V. I think the Buller River in New Zealand might have been Class V — the level of death-likelihood seemed similar.

There is no plot line to this post and no amount of random fact-regurgitation on my part is going to change that. May as well get on with photos. Please note that the photos are not of the good parts of the trip. During the good parts, you’re usually paddling, holding on, and getting a face full of water, any of which preclude good photography.

tuolumne river team photoOne of these kids is not like the others. Actually two aren’t. But on the plus side, I now know how to say “you have a head wound” in Punjabi, Gujarati, and Tamil.

tolumne river raft crewSri, Dennis, me — 60% of our rafting crew. I’m guessing Shaan’s swimming somewhere and our guide is smoking a joint in an air pocket under the raft. Image is slanty in order to imply something’s happening — like in a Bourne movie.

tuolumne valley raftingThe wet lens probably conveys something accurately.

tuolumne lunch break raftsLunch break. This happened just right after the wildest part of the river — which would’ve been a better photo, if only I wasn’t paddling, holding on, and getting a face full of water.

tuolumne cliff jumpingThe bad part is that this isn’t Sri — my photo of him didn’t take until he splashed (apologies!). Cool shadow, though, IIDSSM.

Other random facts that don’t make this post a story:

  • The run starts below the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and is only made possible by whoever it is releasing water out of the reservoir.
  • The scariest part of the trip was the bus ride down the steep, one-lane dirt road to the put-in point.
  • Despite being Class V, it didn’t seem all that daunting to me. OTOH, I suppose anything that you survive readily enough without cracking your head on anything seems un-daunting in retrospect.
  • Still, rafting down the Skagit is going to be like the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland by comparison. Or maybe the Tuolumne was Jungle Cruise and Skagit will be It’s a Small World.
  • Ours was the only boat without any accidental swimmers.
  • But we did seem to get stuck on rocks a lot.
  • I still wonder whether the accidental swimmers don’t get more out of the experience.
  • I got a pretty good sunburn on my legs — next time, wear pants!

Fine with me.

bkd

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