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Posts Tagged ‘valleys’

Travels through Hillbilly Nation: Blue Ridge Parkway (Day 83)

October 10th, 2009 No comments

Ways in which Blue Ridge Parkway is different from Shenandoah National Park:

  • It’s not a national park. It’s a road with protected lands on either side of it that is administrated by the National Park Service.
  • It’s hills are 40% steeper than Shenandoah’s.
  • It has lakes and rivers alongside the roadway.
  • It’s further south.
  • There are remnants of a lost civilization along the route.
  • The locals have a much stronger accent.
  • Way-cooler place names (“Peaks of Otter”? You can’t beat that.)
  • It’s 4.5x as long.
  • Better campsites.
  • Lower visitor density.

Camped at the Beaver Creek Campground (so nicely creek-situated and wooded I’d have thought it was administered by the Forest Service) and went to the camp restaurant for food in the morning. Walked inside and the place is almost full with what appear to be locals. The six at the bar are engaged in a vigorous discussion over “red-eye gravy” and their drawls do not seem ironic. And with that, I realize that I’m in The South. Never been to The South before.

Blue Ridge Parkway, IMHO, > Shenandoah National Park by a good ways. The hills are more pronounced and interesting, the running water is a plus and gives you something to take a picture of if you have to, the abandoned hillbilly structures are kind of cool, and, like I said, there are fewer people. I only drove the Virginia part of it, though. I’m saving the state of North Carolina for another day (Day 88 actually).

blue-ridge_otter-lakeDon’t remember the name of it and it’s not on the map, so there.

blue-ridge_peak-of-otterSharp Top, one of the two Peaks of Otter. It’s near Bearwallow Gap. Man. And there was, in fact, an otter in the lake (which is not called Lake of Otter, sadly). (It would make the otter insufferable thinking it had been named for him.)

blue-ridge_abbott-lakeI think it’s called Abbott Lake.

blue-ridge_parkway-curveDismayed by yet another photo of a road with trees on it, the crows flee.

blue-ridge_valley-belowThe valley below — this goes on for 460 miles or whatever.

blue-ridge_fence-roadWhat with the fence and all, it could pass for a Civil War battlefield.

blue-ridge_hillsideAh, fair Appalachia, long may your hills yet roll!

blue-ridge_mabry-millMabry Mill, a “functioning” water mill (it functions in that water turns the wheel).

blue-ridge_flumeIf a flume leaks in the woods and no one’s around, does it actually get anything wet?

Another day down. Blue Ridge Parkway has most of the same problems as Shenandoah — or at least, the one big problem: there’s nothing to do there but look at stuff. The Appalachian Trail runs through both of them, but apparently the AT is just a walk in the woods for not apparent reason — at least until it turns serious up in New Hampshire, I guess.

Based on perceived scenery, the PCT hasta be about 100x the trail the AT is.

Ah, well. I also remind myself frequently that the alternative is sitting in a gray-walled cube, at which point time spent in 2,000-foot mountain ranges without anything to do but drive and look start looking better. OTOH, what about the *opportunity cost*?! I should’ve spent another couple days in New England. Now I’m stuck taking that bitter failure to the grave. Eh — have to take something, I guess.

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