Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sequoia National Park

This post is a little longer than normal, so I broke the trip up into a few days.


Adi and Chris recently bought a used RV.  This trip had a few goals (in order of importance).
  1. Adi’s birthday.  Every year we take some kind of a trip on his birthday, and it is always a crazy fun time.
  2. Dry run of the RV for burning man.  Over the course of this trip we put 600+ miles on the RV.  It did overheat and breakdown once.  But now we know more about the RV.
  3. Work out a plan for Burning man logistics

Day 0 - Thursday

I went to work, and caught the Giants vs A’s baseball game with my teammates.  After "work",  I flew from SF to SNA, and I ran into Drew going through security.  Adi picked us up from the airport, and we crashed at his place.  Always good to reconnect with old friends.

Hard at work.

Day 1 - Friday

So we were supposed to drive away from Huntington Beach at 6am to beat traffic, but everyone overslept.  I think we left around 10am.  The drive to the park was mostly uneventful.  

Riding in the RV
After entering the park, there was a section of road that gains a lot of elevation(4000+ ft) very quickly.  The RV couldn't handle it, and it broke down beside Round Meadow.  A random dude stopped, and asked us if we needed help.  The guy turned out to be a mechanic.  What luck!  We were at least 1.5 hours from the nearest auto shop, and a stranger offered his services for free.  The car had overheated from the long drive and vertical climb, and just needed some time to cool off.  While it cooled we hiked the Big Trees Trail at Round Meadow.  I learned that Sequoias are awesome.

Once the RV cooled down we headed up to the Dorst Creek Campground.
The RV at our campsite.
After the drive we setup camp, we introduced some new members to the game of Challenge(we are always looking for new recruits).  And we drank a lot of beer.

Day 2 - Saturday

I am not a good enough writer to express how amazing this day was.  We went on a day hike to Muir Grove.  We figured it would be somewhat crowded, because it was a short hike and relatively close to a busy campground.  We were almost perfectly secluded the entire time we were at Muir Grove, which was probably about 3-4 hours.

The hike started off pretty standard, and then after a couple miles...BAM!  An absolutely monstrous tree.  Then a whole bunch more.  Near the entrance of the grove, there is a circle of Seqouias.  I named it the Circle of Elders, and the name caught on with the rest of the group.  We stayed in the grove for a few hours just mediating and watching these trees.

The circle of elders.
Many of these trees had openings large enough to climb in or even through.
Straight up.
Eventually we decided it was time to explore some more, and see where the rest of the trail led.  We ended up scrambling around on a bunch of rocks.
Climbing on the rocks past the grove.

Day 3 - Sunday

So the group split two ways.  Adi and both Ryans went to watch the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina.  Drew and I went on a super long day hike.  As a group we had been talking about hitting up an Alpine lake to go swimming.  Drew found a suitable pair on the map called “Twin Lakes”.  From our map, Drew estimated it was ~5 miles out and back.  So a 10 mile day hike, thats not bad.  When we got to the trailhead, it turned out to be 7.5 miles out and back.  And then 1.5 miles past the lakes, there is a vista on Silliman pass, which gives a great view of the Sierras.  So our 10 mile hike grew into an 18 mile hike.
Map at the trailhead.
Cahoon Meadow
About to take a dip in the Twin Lakes.
This lake is close to 10k ft elevation.  We thought it would be cold, because of the altitude and being made of snow melt.  But due to our severe drought, there wasn't any snow up there.  The water was perfect.  We took a nice swim, and caught some sun out on the rocks in the middle of the lake.

After the swim, we hiked up to the top of the pass to get a good view of the surroundings.

Views from top of the Silliman Pass
The view of the lakes from above.
Silliman Peak
On the way down, we spotted Cahoon Meadow below us.  While we stopped to look at it, Adi called us on the walkie talkie.  At that point, we were about 5 miles away, so I think it was blind luck that we got any signal.  Just as he tried to call us, we were at just the right spot to receive the signal.
View of Cahoon Meadow from above.
After we got in touch with Adi, we continued to make our descent back to the trailhead.  It started to get pretty dark, but we both packed headlamps so we weren't that worried.  As it got darker and darker, more and more animals started coming out.

We ended up getting back to the trailhead at 9pm.  8.5 hours after we started.  The RV picked us up, and we drank some ice cold Budweisers.  Later we had some of the best barbecued chicken that I've ever had.

Day 4 - Monday

The return to civilization.  On the way out of the park, we stopped at the General Sherman tree.  This is the world's largest tree.  While it is cool, it is a touristy area and not too exciting.  While we were leaving the site, Adi talked his way out of a parking ticket.  Sweet!

Group picture in front of the world's largest tree.
Drew and I didn't anticipate that the drive from Sequoia National Park to John Wayne airport would take a terribly long time so we booked a flight out around 7pm.  Well we ended up getting back to the edge of LA at 5pm on a Monday.  Rush hour.  So pretty much the worst possible time and place for traffic.  Adi had absolutely no faith that he could get us across LA in time.  On the way, I received a notification that the plane had been delayed by 25 minutes.  But even with that delay, we still barely made it to the flight.
Some critics argue that this movie is actually a metaphor for LA traffic.


Tremendous success.  The RV is super fun.  It can be a little more work than I expected.
Note to self: "Bring a real camera, and stop using a camera phone."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Arroyo Seco

This was a fun trip.

Josh and I were drinking on a rooftop near Coit Tower at a 4th of July party.  Josh asked me if I wanted to go camping the next day.  He sold me on the fact that there is a good cliff jumping spot.  I agreed without hearing the rest of the details.

I assumed we were going to be car camping.  So I bought beer, donuts, and some random supplies.  Well when we got to the trailhead, it came up that we were backpacking.  It's a good thing I packed light, because I had to farmers carry my 12 pack of beer and sleeping bag for ~2-3 miles.

It was a pretty short and moderate hike along a fireroad, but it was super hot.  The trail runs parallel to a small river in a really deep gorge.  Eventually we came to a place to scramble down the gorge into a swimming hole.

The gorge was beautiful, and the water was so refreshing.  We spent the rest of the day swimming, napping, cliff jumping, and climbing.  Just a fun and lazy day.

There is a camping spot right at the swimming hole, but there was another group already there.  There was room for us as well, but Brandon and I went to explore to see if there was anything more private.  We scrambled along rocks downriver for about 10 minutes without finding anything.  I assumed that we were out of luck, but we then found the perfect spot.  Everywhere else on the sides of the river was filled with sharp rocks, but the spot we found had a nice sandy bottom surrounded by a ring of rocks.

Our perfect camping spot.
This new spot also had some really fun climbing a little further down river.  So we pitched camp there, made some dinner, and slept out under the stars.  The next morning I woke up before everyone else, and went for a climb down river.  The rock in the gorge was super cool.  The sides of the gorge were layered in bands of different kinds of rock.  It made the climb really interesting.  All kinds of holds.  Pinches, crimps, side pulls, friction, etc..  I went for a morning swim, and then I heard everyone else waking up.  Sound travels in a gorge.

Josh doing some climbing before dinner.
When I heard everyone else waking up, I made my way back to camp.  We chilled for a bit, ate a little breakfast, packed up camp, and went back to the swimming hole.  Then we just repeated the activities of the previous day.  Cliff jumping, swimming, and just relaxing.

Eventually we had our fill, and decided it was time to return to civilization (and BBQ).  On the walk back, a stranger told us that it was 106° F.  I realized that none of us had even thought about the weather, since we all assumed California was just going to be nice and sunny.

Group picture of the crew.