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NateKat · California

California

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Our Thanksgiving tradition is to visit Nathan’s family in San Diego.  It’s only a 4-day weekend, but we always try to make the most of it.  San Diego is a great city to visit, packed with a variety of activities.

San Diego La Jolla Tour

Nathan’s dad is also a certified tour guide so we took a great informative tour of the La Jolla coastline learning about the history, geography and current events in San Diego.

 

 

 

 

Wild Animal Park

We’ve been to the famous San Diego Zoo many times, so we thought it would be interesting to see the Wild Animal Park this time.  The exhibits are more spread out, so it was pretty exhausting, but we saw more young animals since this is the zoo’s breeding facility. The new tiger exhibit was also pretty cool in that it really let you see the Tigers close up.

 

 

 

Lobster Fishing

A few years ago we went lobster fishing and were really successful, catching several lobsters per person.  Ever since then, we’ve been trying to beat that experience, or at least match it. Unfortunately this year it was unusually windy, which meant we had to stay closer to the shore, likely hurting our chances. We caught three legal sized lobsters, but had more fun playing cards in the cabin between pulling pots.

 

 

 

Horseback Riding on the Beach

As a special treat, Nathan’s dad arranged for us all to go horseback riding on the beach! There are only a few places that still allow you to ride horses on the beach in California, so we were glad to get the opportunity.  We took a 2 hour ride along the Mexico border and out on to the beach.  It was fun to see how the horses personalities played out during the ride, even following the same track they always take. Despite our inexperience and some conflicting horse-human personalities, we all managed to stay safe and enjoy the ride. But two hours was more than enough for our unconditioned butts… we couldn’t get out of the saddle fast enough!

 

 

It was another great trip to San Diego, we are already thinking of what to do this year… maybe a trip out to the desert in Anza Borrego Park.

Day 13-15: Redwoods National and State Parks (8/16-18)

 

The drive from Shasta to Redwoods took much longer than we expected (in part due to brush fires shutting down the 5 freeway), so we arrived to our campsite in the dark (again, as usual). Even in the dark though, it was immediately obvious that we were in a different climate. The campground felt like a jungle, with a dense canopy of trees over our heads and much more humid air than we are used to. Also, lots of mosquitos! Nathan immediately put on bug spray, but still got a few bites while Katharine remained untouched even without any bug spray.

On Friday we woke up and were amazed by the lushness all around our campground. We had a sense of it the night before, but it was more impressive in the daylight. There was moss everywhere and giant old growth trees towering above us.

 

Our first stop was at the visitor center. Redwoods is a combination of national and state parks that are managed together as one unit. But they still have distinct areas and are not contiguous, so it was a bit complicated to research ahead of time. The rangers gave us some tips for hikes and pointed out the areas with old growth forests. We decided to start with the southern most park (farthest from our campground) which turned out to be the national park section.

 

 

We did some scenic drives through the forest then emerged into a meadow where we hoped to see Roosevelt elk. Sadly, there were none to be seen, but the meadow and rolling hills were still fun to explore.

 

We also stopped and did a quick hike/walk through the Ladybird Grove of Redwoods. The forest was so lush, with giant clover (technically redwood sorell), tons of ferns, and again, moss is everywhere!

 

That night, we enjoyed another night in the forest and had our first campfire of the trip, complete with marshmallows!

 

The next day, we planned to do the middle section of the park, Prairie Creek Redwoods SP. We had a couple hikes planned out and some other scenic stops, but after a long drive down there (long due to the 101 having a couple one lane sections that were backed up), we were disappointed to find the park closed. Apparently there was an armed robbery and car jacking, and the armed suspect was somewhere in the park, so they closed it while they searched for him. At that point, we didn’t really have many great options for the day, so we returned to some of the meadows where elk tend to frequent. Sadly, no elk, but there were tons of blackberries!

 Katharine was very excited for berries

We picked a few, then headed back to our campground, stopping for a quick walk through the Stout Grove.

 

For dessert that night, we enjoyed our fresh picked blackberries and ice cream!

 

The next morning we got up a bit earlier to do the first real hike of our time in Redwoods to the Boy Scout Tree in Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP near our campground. It was only 5 miles, but had some decent elevation gain so we felt like we finally got a bit of a workout.

 

After that, we took a quick shower and headed to our first stop outside of California on our Epic Trip, Crater Lake NP, OR.

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 15
  • Nights in a tent: 12
  • Miles driven: 1544
  • Miles hiked: 67
  • National Parks: 4
  • Number of bug bites: 5 (all on Nathan)

 

 

Currently we are camping in in Olympic National Park, WA.

 

Day 11: Mt. Shasta Area (8/14)

 

After a restful night in the hotel, we felt ready to take on another hike. Katharine had researched some hikes in the area with views of Mt. Shasta, so we decided to do one of the longer ones to Mt. Eddy via Deadfall lakes (10 miles). Mt. Eddy (9,025 feet) is the highest in the Trinity Mountains, but it’s mostly ignored since Shasta (14,162 feet) towers over it just a little ways away.

Mt. Shasta

The hike started through a beautiful wooded trail and our legs were feeling fresh. We quickly covered the first couple miles which were pretty much flat and reached Deadfall Lake before we were expecting. We didn’t want to lose our momentum, so we only made a quick stop for some photos. We agreed that this would make a really nice backpacking location since it’s a quite easy hike in, but gives you the opportunity for hiking beyond.

 

We continued on the trail, which quickly began to go uphill, and soon became quite steep. The last mile to the summit is rocky switchbacks exposed to the elements.  We passed a few other groups headed down who encouraged us that we were almost there, which we were, but the last 10-15 minutes was definitely the hardest.

Finally we reached the peak and got our first views of Mt. Shasta for the day.

 

We had a very clear day and really good visibility, so we had lunch at the top even though it was extremely windy. There was a small collection of rocks that people had made into a bit of a wind shelter which helped, but it still felt ridiculously windy.  At one point the wind blew the top rock off a cairn.

 

Nathan’s hair gives evidence of the wind!

Cairns at the top of Mt. Eddy

Soon it was time to go back down and leave Mt. Shasta behind us. The trail back down to the lake was steep, but we kept up a decent pace and still felt pretty good. At that point we had done about 8 miles and our legs were starting to feel the fatigue. The last two miles, which should have been quite easy, felt never-ending to our legs and feet. Of course we eventually made it back to the car, but it once again confirmed our typical experience – beyond 8 miles in a day, it becomes less fun.

This hike, along with many others so far on our trip, is a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs from Mexico to Canada. Several days later when we were in Crater Lake, Oregon, we saw a bunch of people taking a break from through-hiking the entire PCT. It would be cool to compile all the small sections of the PCT that we’ve hiked over the years (in the LA area or on this trip) and see what percentage we’ve completed… most likely less than 5% of the 2,600+ miles.

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 11
  • Nights in a tent: 8
  • Miles driven: 1112
  • Miles hiked: 57
  • Photos taken: 2098

Day 10: Drive from Lassen NP to Mt. Shasta area (8/13)

After camping for 9 nights straight, we were ready for a hotel and a real bed, so we were excited for two nights at the Comfort Inn in Weed, CA under the shadow of Mt. Shasta.

We only had ~120 miles to drive, so we made a couple stops along the way.

The first was Subway Cave, a huge lava tube in Lassen National Forest. We had seen a picture of it in the Lassen NP museum / visitor center, but figured it was in some remote part of the park so we didn’t bother asking about it. But on our drive shortly after leaving the park, Katharine noticed a sign for it, so we pulled over and it was just a quick walk from the parking area.

The lava tube is very impressive… it is massive in diameter, but also so long and has several bends that it is pitch black through most of it. We took almost an hour to explore the whole thing and take photos. It was definitely a worthwhile stop and highly recommended if you are in the area!

 

 

After the Subway cave, we headed to McArthur Burney Falls, a ridiculously beautiful waterfall.

 

We were surprised and happy to see it flowing at what seemed to be normal levels (at least in comparison to the example photos) given the really dry winter and summer this year.

After taking sufficient photos and video, we made the final leg of the drive to Weed, CA. We took advantage of the hotel’s pool and spa, then enjoyed nice clean and warm showers before treating ourselves to dinner at a restaurant. We definitely appreciated the real bed that night as well as the chance to do some laundry!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 10
  • Nights in a tent: 8
  • Miles driven: 1253
  • Miles hiked: 47
  • Caves explored: 2

We are currently driving from Portland to Seattle. Here’s a look back when we were still in California…

 

Day 9: Lassen Volcanic National Park (8/12)

We took our time leaving Yosemite, making a quick stop at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir region of the park, so we arrived at Lassen after dark (which is starting to be a trend for us). We spent the morning driving the main road through the park, checking out the impressive views and spending some time in the museum, which was excellent. In 1914 and 1915, Lassen Peak erupted multiple times including one particularly huge eruption that exploded the mountaintop and devastated a mile-wide section of the mountainside. B.F. Loomis captured the eruption in photos and, as the first major and documented volcanic eruption in the US, his photos captivated the public and made way for it to become a National Park in 1916. Today, the effects of the eruption are difficult to see because the area has recovered over time, but Lassen Peak is still considered an active volcano and there are many geothermal areas.

Lassen Peak

 

We really liked this meadow, so we spent a decent amount of time taking photos here, but had quite the experience with Katharine’s brand new camera. Here’s Nathan’s version of the story:

As many photographers know, you sometimes have to risk the camera to position yourself for the perfect shot- whether it’s dangling the camera over a cliff or grabbing a quick shot in the rain, it’s usually worth it. But I often remind Katharine to be careful with her camera, afraid she’ll drop it off a cliff or something. For the photo above there was a nice turnout in the road and many people were taking photos from the left side of the stream. As the other people left the area, Katharine and I wanted to get more of the serpentine creek in the foreground, and to do that, we had to cross the stream (10 feet across and a few feet deep) to a higher view point. We looked and decided the log jam nearby would be the best place to cross.  Katharine enjoys taking landscape photos, so her cameras are outfitted with our widest angle lens, so of course she would be the one risking her dry clothes and dignity by crossing the precarious log jam.  Since she needed her hands free to climb across, we decided it would be better for her to cross, then I throw the camera case with camera over the creek to her.

After a few well placed steps Katharine made it across, then came the first camera toss.  I erred on the side of overshooting Katharine and the creek and landing in the tall meadow grass behind her, which it did and the camera survived no problem.  Katharine took a few photos (including the one above), and then successfully tossed the camera back. She underhanded it to me like a softball, but harder than I thought so I sort of juggled it after it hit my stomach with some force. So the camera survived safe and dry and now it was Katharine’s turn to cross back. I set her camera down to watch, but then I got a photo idea in my head of Katharine crossing the sun bleached wood log jam with the water mirroring her and the meadow and volcano in the background… this was going to be great.

I quickly ran down the side of the creek and crouched down to get the best angle… I adjusted my shutter speed and ISO and sat waiting for her to hit the middle of the natural balance beam. Just as she started to cross I noticed a black bag in my frame –  her camera bag was ruining my shot!  I quickly got up and ran to the bag, and like runner tagging up at first, I grabbed the camera bag while changing directions to run back to my photo spot before Katharine passed the halfway point.  As I turned and shifted my momentum in the other direction my hand with the camera bag whipped around.  The weight of the camera in the bag and my long arms surprised my fingers, and I launched the camera bag into the creek! “Noooo”, I yelled as I slid to the water’s edge watching the bag semi-float in the water.  Katharine looked up from her balancing to see me lunging and grabbing the small camera bag, but with enough speed and force to submerge the bag for a half second. I quickly un zipped the bag pulled out the soaked camera, removed the battery, and began feverishly drying off any water I could see.  Katharine was still standing on the log and was yelling and laughing “what is going on?!”  I tried to explain while I was knelt down on my wet knees with her camera in my hands “I wanted to get a photo of you crossing…and the bag…I threw it…I don’t know!”  Of course trying to explain why I sacrificed her new camera to get a photo of her crossing a log seemed silly now.  My adrenaline was pumping and Katharine was laughing at me “you threw my camera into the water…hahhaha.”  Luckily she could find humor in the situation, but I couldn’t bare to smile about it until I knew it worked again.  After letting it dry for a couple hours, we turned it on and thankfully everything worked!  Now all that is lost is my dignity (as well as the chance to get that picture of Katharine crossing the stream!), and Katharine is able rightfully to remind me every time we are near water “be careful you don’t want to throw your camera in the water!”

 

After the camera excitement, we did a short hike (3 mi) to Bumpass Hell, one of the most impressive geothermal areas in the park. It was named after Bumpass, a guy who discovered it and hoped to make his fortune from the minerals and tourism, but instead just lost his leg when he broke through the ground crust into boiling water while exploring it.

Looking down on the Bumpass Hell geothermal area

 

The fumaroles were constantly hissing and spewing hot air.

The yellow sulfur crystals made the area very colorful.

As usual, the thermal areas smelled like rotten eggs from the sulfur.

Since the boardwalk limited your path, there was no escaping when certain fumaroles put out an especially bad burst of hot smelly air. This made for some unpleasant moments.

On the hike to and from the geothermal area, we passed through some nicely wooded areas and a couple meadows with some birds (likely grouse) foraging in the lupine.

 

After the hike we took it easy, set up our hammock (a gift from Nathan’s parents) and stayed up to watch the Perseids. The meteor shower wasn’t quite as impressive as we hoped (or we just didn’t have enough patience), but we always appreciate the dark skies of the national parks and the opportunity to see the Milky Way.

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 9
  • Nights in a tent: 8
  • Miles driven: 1054
  • Miles hiked: 47
  • Cameras thrown in the water: 1

 

We are currently enjoying the lush forests in Redwood National and State Parks in the far northern area of California. But here is a look back at our last days in Yosemite.

Day 5-7: Yosemite National Park, Backpacking (8/8-8/10)

The major highlight of our time in Yosemite was the three day backpacking trip we did from Cathedral Lakes to the valley floor via Clouds Rest and Half Dome. It was definitely a tough three days of hiking about 30 miles, and if we had been in better hiking shape, we probably would have enjoyed the last few miles a bit more, but it was absolutely worth it.

Our first day was a long 10 mile hike from Cathedral Lakes trailhead to Sunrise Lakes. We had a decent amount of elevation gain (2400′), but it was split up into various ups and downs, so it didn’t feel quite so bad.  We took our first break at Cathedral Lakes, which was a nice alpine lake, but the wind made it really cold, so we didn’t stay too long.

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The trail passed through several beautiful meadows, and it was interesting to see how well-worn the trail was. We were traveling on an early section of the John Muir Trail, so it must see a lot of hiker traffic, but we were actually surprised how few people we saw all day. We realized the crowds of Yosemite don’t seem to venture much into the backcountry.

 

 

Finally, just before sunset we made it to our camp for the night at Sunrise Lakes. There were a couple other groups camping there and doing a little fishing, but we were so tired we just ate a quick dinner and pretty much collapsed.

 

 

The next morning we got a pretty early start and started the climb to Clouds Rest, one of the best viewpoints in Yosemite at 9,926 feet. The trail to the top wasn’t as hard as we expected because it was nicely switchbacked and not too steep, so we had some extra time to soak in the views and watch the chipmunks beg for food. We were also able to see Half Dome from the side where the cables go up, which made us only slightly more nervous for our climb the next day.

 

 

On our way down from Clouds Rest, we were feeling good and cruising at a pretty fast pace. Suddenly Nathan stopped short in his tracks, practically falling to the ground. Luckily he kept his balance (thanks to his trekking poles) and backed up quickly, because he had stepped just inches next to a Rattlesnake. The snake was not pleased with being disturbed, and it continued to rattle as Nathan recovered from the adrenalin rush and then quickly started taking photos.

 

 

Luckily we were able to pass it by safely and continue on our way down to meet back up with the John Muir Trail. That night we camped right near the trail along Sunrise Creek.

 

 

We selected our campsite based on its proximity to Half Dome (only 2.5 miles away) because we wanted to climb it first thing in the morning the next day before the crowds got to the cables. Most people hike Half Dome as a day-hike, starting at the Valley floor and hiking straight uphill for 7-9 miles (depending on the route). The very last part of the climb to the top of Half Dome, is the infamous cables section. The cables help you ascend the very steep part of the back of the dome and are quite dangerous, especially as they get crowded. About 400 people climb it every day, so at the peak of the day the cables are apparently quite congested with people trying to go up and down on the same cables. When we were at Clouds Rest, we had chatted with a couple who had climbed Half Dome the previous day and they told us the first wave of day hikers seemed to arrive around 9:30 am. Based on that, we planned to get up and on the trail by 5:30 am, so that we could climb Half Dome and get back down the cables section before 9:30 am.

We managed to get on the trail just a few minutes behind schedule (despite Nathan’s alarm being set for weekdays only… at it was a Saturday) and we quickly covered the 2 miles up to the sub dome. The sub-dome is sort of like a shoulder on the side of Half Dome, and the trail is very steep with huge granite steps and requires some rock scrambling at the end. It is the first sign of what you are about to get yourself into.

 

 

Around 7:15 we reached the base of the cables and had our first up-close and personal look at the cables. They were actually more intimidating and looked steeper than Katharine expected, but Nathan was pleasantly surprised to see 2x4s between the posts, acting like a ladder and giving you a place to ‘rest’ along the way. (As usual, Katharine already knew about these rungs from all her research for the trip). We finished our breakfast as we watched a few people start the climb up the cables and developed a strategy for our own ascent.

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Finally we felt mentally prepared, put on our mechanics’ gloves (an absolute must for the cables), and started up. Katharine was in the front, and we alternated as we each went up one rung at a time. The cable poles and rungs are about 6-8 feet apart, so this was a pretty slow way to do it, but kept us focused and since there was no one else around, we didn’t feel rushed. We stayed just one or two rungs apart so that we could talk throughout and keep each other on track. Neither of us looked down once during the ascent. We were more concerned about our safety, so we didn’t take any photos while we were on the cables.

 

 

The middle section of the cables is the steepest and most challenging. You are ascending almost entirely using your arms pulling yourself up on the cables, and the granite is smooth and worn from so many people before you that your feet tend to slip and slide. Each 2×4 rung was a welcome relief (although a couple were not quite as stable as we would have liked) and you still have to always hold on tight to the cables. The span between each rung was slightly different due to the rock face and how the cables were strung, so we never really got comfortable with what we were doing.

As we were almost done with the tough middle section, two guys passed us coming down. They were very encouraging and considerate as they passed, making sure to do so safely, which we greatly appreciated. Other than that, we didn’t come across any others on our way up.

After about 30 minutes of mentally intense climbing, we reached the top safely! The sense of accomplishment (and relief) outweighed the amazing views from the summit. There were only 5-7 other people at the top when we arrived, so it was nice to have plenty of space, but also other people to share the experience and take photos for each other.

 

 

Just when you think you are crazy, someone else is willing to go a little farther.

 

Before we knew it, we had already been up there 30 minutes and it was getting close to the time that we expected to start seeing the crowds of day-hikers so we got ready to head back down. We were almost more nervous to go down because you have to look down at where you are going, but you actually go down backwards as if you are rappelling down. Once we got our technique figured out, it really wasn’t too bad though. On our way down, we passed a guy headed up by himself who was doing it for the fifth time. He said he does it about every other year, which gives him enough time to forget how scary it is. He also mentioned that before they implemented the strict permit system, the cables were so crowded that people going up were between the two cables and people going down had to be on the outside. Just the thought of stepping outside the cables made our stomachs churn.

When we got to the bottom we both looked at each other in relief and agreed we’d probably never do it again. It was a rewarding experience, but we think once is enough.

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At the base of the cables, we watched as the day-hikers started to arrive and start up the cables. We noticed one couple that didn’t seem to have gloves, so we insisted they take ours. They were very grateful, but we’re sure they were even more thankful halfway up. We also realized that if we had been 30-45 minutes later, we would have had to pass three times as many people on the way down. As we headed back down the sub-dome, we started to see much larger groups of people and everyone was asking how crowded the cables were. We could definitely tell that soon it would be very different from the calm experience we had on the cables.

Once we got to the base of the sub-dome, we were greeted by two park rangers checking for permits with an iPad to cross-reference. We had started up so early in the morning that we had beaten them there. We did see them turning away anyone without a permit, including a guy who came all the way from France.

We made it back to our campsite for lunch and took an hour or so to relax and rest our feet before starting the long backpack down to the valley floor. Although it was only 7.5 miles, it was incredibly steep downhill with tons of granite steps along the Mist Trail. We knew the John Muir trail would have been an easier (less steep) option, but the Mist Trail was our last chance to see a waterfall in Yosemite, so we took it. The jury is still out on whether this view of Vernal Falls was worth the pain. We can say for sure that the trekking poles from Katharine’s coworkers were a lifesaver!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 7
  • Nights in a tent: 6
  • Miles driven: 627
  • Miles hiked: 44

 

Day 4: Yosemite National Park, Glacier Point (8/7)

On our second day in Yosemite, we spent most of the morning preparing for our 3-day backpacking trip.  Our gear and food was organized for car camping and we had to readjust for backpacking sorting through all our gear and food, double checking we didn’t forget anything.  We rode the shuttle around the village picking up backpacking permits, food, and fuel, which gave us a better sense of the crowds and shuttle stops. We also made a quick photo stop at Valley View, which has a great shot of El Capitan and the Merced River.

Valley View

In the afternoon we made the drive towards Glacier Point, which gives you an amazing view of the Valley and Half Dome. On our way, we stopped to do a short 5 mile loop hike to Sentinel Dome and Taft point. The hike had some outstanding views as well as some bold deer along the trail, and it was just what our legs needed after the long hike the day before.

View from Taft Point

As it got closer to sunset, we headed to Glacier Point and set up to do some time lapse photography of Half Dome in the evening/sunset light. The sun didn’t fully cooperate, but we got a short period with nice color on the face of Half Dome.

Half Dome during sunset

While we were there, an energetic and experienced ranger gave an impromptu 20 minute explanation on how the Yosemite Valley was formed, engaging kids as props to act out different geological events. As is often the case in the evenings, we were properly bundled in down jackets and hats, while many others were shivering in their t-shirts and shorts.

It was a great way to spend the evening and gave us a bit of a view of where we would be backpacking for the next 3 days.

 

Trip Stats:

  • Days: 4
  • Nights in a tent: 3
  • Miles driven: 627
  • Miles hiked: 14

We are currently in Weed, CA near Mt. Shasta, enjoying a couple nights in a hotel (first real bed since we left San Diego over a week ago!). We finally have reliable internet, so we can post some of our previous stops including Yosemite.

Day 3: Yosemite National Park, Upper Falls Day Hike (8/6)

We arrived in Yosemite in the early evening after a pretty long drive from Pinnacles and were glad to set up camp in the daylight and get organized for a couple of days of day-hiking. The first thing we noticed besides the beautiful granite cliffs was the number of people in Yosemite Valley. It was definitely more crowded than when we were there a couple years ago in the snow and we definitely saw a lot of families with kids. But we’ve always heard how crowded Yosemite is in the summer, so we expected it, and really, it was pretty similar to any popular place in LA so it wasn’t that bad to us.

On our first morning in Yosemite, we woke up and made a hearty breakfast of eggs/omelette/scramble and packed lunches for the trail. We decided to do the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls since at ~7 miles with 2700′ gain, it would be a decently challenging hike to get us in shape for our backpacking trip in a couple days. The first few miles went well and we enjoyed some views of Half Dome and the Valley below.

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But as we got our first view of the falls, we were disappointed to see it was barely a trickle.

Can you see the very small stream of water?

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We probably should have known that ahead of time given the very low snowfall this year, and it almost made us just head back and try another hike, but luckily we continued on because it was worth it.

When we finally got to the top of the falls after what seemed like a never-ending climb in the heat, we were treated to some amazing views of the valley.

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We had our lunch and were considering heading back when a couple came up some steep stairs near the edge and told us that there were some really nice swimming pools below. We had seen people who had clearly been swimming and a couple people had mentioned them, but it wasn’t exactly clear where they were (or if we’d have time to hike to them). But with this new info, we quickly decided to check it out, and it turned out to be a highlight of the hike.

There were two beautiful deep pools in the small valley where the river would typically be rushing through just before going over the cliffs.

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Since the water was so low, we could actually enjoy them safely. The water was shockingly freezing, but we each jumped in, immediately climbed out, then dried off on the warm granite rocks. I think we agreed getting to go swimming here was worth not seeing the waterfall.

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After sufficiently cooling off in the water, we started the hike back down to the valley floor. Even though it was only 3.5 miles, the downhill took a toll on our knees and feet and we were completely exhausted at the end. That made us a little nervous since the first day of our backpacking trip would be 10 miles with similar up and downhill, while carrying a heavy pack, but we figured we’d deal with that when we got there a couple days later.

We had to rush to get back and shower at a nearby campground because we had dinner reservations at the Ahwahnee Restaurant to celebrate our 2 year anniversary. It’s a pretty fancy place (especially for a lodge in a national park, it even has a dress code for dinner), so we were excited for some good food after our tough hike. Unfortunately it was kind of a disappointing experience. The dining room was freezing cold, the service was very slow and not particularly friendly, and the food was only decent. At >$150 for dinner, we definitely were expecting something better. But oh well, we were just glad to be celebrating our 2nd anniversary in Yosemite.

Happy Anniversary to us! (our wedding cake topper)

 

Later that night Nathan did some star photography on our way back to the campground. The moon was nearly new, so we were able to get a silhouette of Half Dome with all the stars over head.

Click on the photo to enlarge. Half Dome is on the right

 

Trip Stats:

  • Days: 3
  • Nights in a tent: 2
  • Miles driven: 578
  • Miles hiked: 9
  • Waterfalls: 0

 

We are currently driving to Lassen Volcanic NP after several days in Yosemite, but our first stop was Pinnacles National Park earlier in the week. (Updated Map)

Day 2 – Pinnacles NP (8/5/13)

On Sunday night we arrived to our campsite in Pinnacles National Park after dark, so in the morning we woke up and got to see it for the first time. We could see some of the reddish pinnacles (rock formations) from our campsite, so we quickly had breakfast and got ready for a hike to beat the heat. On our way to the trailhead, we came across a huge covey of quail and a fawn that surprisingly weren’t too shy, so Nathan got some nice shots.

 

 

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Then we started the hike towards Bear Gulch Cave and Reservoir.

 

Rock tunnel on the hike

 

The hike was a short 2 mile loop, just enough to get our legs warmed up. The cave is seasonally closed to protect the bats that live there, but it was open most of the way when we were there, which was great. It’s pretty impressive, and has some quite dark areas so headlamps/flashlights are required.

 

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We had fun climbing through the caves and around the rocks. It’s definitely a highlight of hiking in the park.

 

 

 

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After emerging from the cave, we continued on to the Reservoir. It made for a picturesque snack break, and it’s a great place to photograph some threatened Red-legged frogs (that now seem to be recovering after being re-introduced to the reservoir area).

 

 

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The final portion of the loop goes along the Rim Trail, with wider views of the landscape and the Pinnacles themselves. Overall, it was a great warm up hike for our trip and we really enjoyed the solitude. We didn’t see a single person on the hike.

 

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Afterwards, we packed up our tent and car to start the drive to Yosemite. On our way out, we stopped at the visitor center where a gang of turkeys was gathered, again not bothered by the people checking them out. Then some deer came to join the party. Eventually the camp host shooed them away from the visitor center and swimming pool area, so the deer and turkeys headed up the hill together.

Although we had a very short visit to Pinnacles, we were really glad we were able to add it to our itinerary. It’s definitely worth a visit, but since it’s a pretty small park, it seems like a day or two would be enough to get the experience. Next time we’d like to see some of the California Condors that live there!

 

Here’s a map of the short hike we did through Bear Gulch Cave.

View Hiking Tracks – Natekat Epic Trip in a larger map

 

Trip Stats:

  • Days: 2
  • Nights in a tent: 1
  • Miles driven: 384
  • Miles hiked: 2
  • Wildlife: Quail, deer, frogs, turkeys
  • Caves explored: 1

 

On Memorial Day weekend, we originally planned to go backpacking, but life sort of got in the way so we decided to do a local hike up to Inspiration Point with some of Nathan’s coworkers. We followed Modern Hiker’s route, which is a strenuous 10.5 miles with 2700′ gain. We’ve been up as far as Echo Mountain before, but we’ve always wanted to go all the way to Inspiration Point, especially since the trailhead is only 10 minutes from our apartment.

Luckily we got an early start and enjoyed the shade most of the way up. The climb was tough, but the group kept a nice pace and made good time.

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The view from Inspiration Point really is great and worth the extra effort although it was pretty foggy when we were up there. There are a bunch of viewing tubes which would have been fun on a clearer day.

 

View-tube humor

We also appreciated that there are much fewer people willing to go so far, so you can enjoy some peace and quiet (while Echo Mountain is more of a zoo).

The hike back down felt a bit long, but the views overlooking Pasadena were great and kept us going.

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It was a perfect day in the local mountains, thanks to Nathan’s coworkers for joining us!

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