California Adventure

I bought a friggin annual pass to Disneyland!! My people and I went last week, and it was awesome. It turns out the Tower of Terror is too short of a ride for me to get motion sickness on. Star Tours, not so much. But since I have a pass, I might just do another visit after taking some of my prescription strength motion-sickness meds. I will be listless and apathetic, but I at least I will not barf on anyone.
It was crazy overcast yesterday when we got there, and I took this pic of the submarine ride which I think aptly conveys the gloomy weather.

It was way too gloomy for D-Land, so I fixed it on my Photoshop app. I’m recalibrating my memory to match the updated version:

This is my favorite sign in a long time:

Speaking of children at the happiest place on earth, we passed a guy who was screaming at his little girl from a distance of about two inches from her face. I can only guess her age, but she was in a stroller. She was either four or a small five, and she was already crying. The dad was pushing her stroller on its two back wheels, and just as we were passing them, he dropped the stroller, causing her crying to get louder, and he came around and screamed at her in a barking style, I guess trying to shock her into shutting up. We were all too surprised to stop or say anything. This is what cell phones and threats of putting people on YouTube are for. For the rest of the day, I appreciated the parents who were showing patience and maturity while their little ones had tear-soaked meltdowns. Because, what else can you do? Join in?
It really was a good day to be there. Summer’s over, and the marine layer let up after a few hours giving us a few good hot hours to ride the wet rides and then dry off. I don’t remember anything being such a foodfest. We ate our way across the park. I mean, part of it is the constant presence of vendors, but I’m sure we were burning calories at a faster rate that we could consume them. I can see why they make it so easy to get a passport, because they make plenty of money off of people just being inside the park and having their wallets with them. I bought a little Mad Hatter hat, too, which I think in some schools of thought (mine) obligates me to throw a tea party.
California Adventure Park is pretty cool. It’s got little nods to California everywhere, like vineyards, the Grizzly river run (The Sierras?) some bay area references, an amazing IMAX-style airplane ride, Hollywood Tower of Terror which, pleasantly, is an homage to old Hollywood and not today’s. My friend said there used to be a Golden Gate Bridge when you first walk in, and I don’t know why you’d want to take that away. They are replacing it with Missions, which I guess means exploiting the natives, so I can see why it fits. It’s a rich, proud history.
Real California, fake California, I love California. I love Disneyland too, and I love spending time with my family.

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Backpacking in the High Sierras

My mom invited me to go on a backpacking trip with her, and I jumped at the chance, but I was also a little afraid because I’ve never backpacked for more than one night. My fear of the unknown kept making me look for excuses not to go, and I had to remind myself that I will get to spend some quality travel time with my parents and also see parts of California that I would never otherwise get to see. So I got a backpack and a checklist and realized that I am savagely unprepared yet to hike with the pros. I borrowed a sleeping bag from Tim, with the assurance that he’s used it to sleep in the snow. Later I learned that you shouldn’t take a sleeping bag recommended by someone who never sleeps with more than a thin comforter. I borrowed my sister-in-law, Jeannie’s, hiking pants and a trekking pole, and borrowed another pole from my parents. I’m SO glad I had trekking poles. The pants were cool, too, because you can unzip and remove the bottom half of them and you don’t even have to remove your shoes. I also had a lot of good REI freeze-dried meals in my earthquake kit, as well as a nice collection of energy bars.
There were five of us: Mom, Dad, my two new friends Rob and Joan, and myself. Rob and Joan are a couple that my parents have been going camping with for several years now. We went to Big Whitney Meadows, Rocky Basin Lakes, The Siberian Outpost, and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
This was the view of the trail from the visitors’ center, where we stopped to get our back country passes:

We started at 3:00 on Monday. I was wearing a 28 pound backpack, and it was only that light because my parents were carrying the stove and more than their share of the food. I borrowed a tent from Rob that was extremely light. I don’t know how people did it in the early days of backpacking, because they didn’t have super light tent stakes and luxury designs on the backpacks. The pack is built to allow airflow between it and my body! You can also put a camel pack in that area, which then stays cool for a long time, keeping your back cool. In spite of this, my back was hurting immediately. I think I spent the first several hours staring at the feet of the hiker in front of me, just trudging forward and afraid that I was in for a world of pain. We had our first break about an hour in, and I though, I can do this, as long as we stop this often.

Early on in the hike I discovered I had Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breakin My Heart” stuck in my head. We must have heard it in town when we were having our last lunch at Subway.
The first day had us trekking up switchbacks and gaining 1200 feet in one day. My feet weren’t that sore, but my calves were burning. Think: taking the stairs for 2 straight hours, with an occasional 10 min break, and a heap of cross-country walking thrown in. Later in the trip I learned that I actually do better on uphill than on cross-country. I have no idea why this is the case. Whenever we were in level terrain, I would eventually start lagging behind everybody.
The first campsite was alongside the trail. Thinking about it right now, I kind of miss it. We set up next to a little stream that made a soothing sound all night long. My Mom, Dad and I had Miso soup and then a noodle soup with Tuna, and I had to put them under the mosquito mesh to eat them, so I looked like a desperate hobo who was afraid of getting his food stolen. Thank God for the tent! I mean thank Rob. Everything was great about the site except for the mosquitoes.
It was during this first night that I discovered that my sleeping bag was desperately inadequate. You know how you can get comfortable and then you don’t want to get up for anything, even when you know you have to, like if your bladder is too full? I woke up comfortable but cold and had to sit up and readjust things every 1 or two hours, pulling a new piece of clothing out of my pillow and putting it on my body.

The cold was rudely pushing into my bones while I lay there and shivered and couldn’t find a comfortable position. Also, that Elton John song just kept blasting in my head whenever I’d wake up.
This first night of little sleep also gave me an opportunity to lay in bed thinking about the fact that I was sleeping in a tent in bear country. Every now and then I’d lift the covers off my head and lay there listening for bears. This fear had lessened the second night, and so on, which led me to wonder how many days it would take until I passed out in my tent with a fragrant peanut butter sandwich hanging out of my mouth, or maybe I might fish for dinner and leave the leftovers next to me in the tent.
The next day we got on the trail at around 9. My calves were incredibly sore, and I was dirty, but I do love waking up in a tent, and I love walking through the woods and coming out into a beautiful meadow. At that elevation, the grass is pretty and green, and there are little flowers sprinkled everywhere. There were streams that meandered through the meadow that we had to find our way across. On the second crossing I managed to jump over the creek, but felt like I tore my calf muscle in the process. I was limping after that, and was so afraid that I was going to ruin everybody’s trip by having a big injury, or would have to turn around and hike out. I just resigned myself to walk slowly and not limp. Also, I think my calf muscles are pretty tough. If it was any other muscle in my body, I wouldn’t have as much faith in it healing so fast.

We crossed that big giant meadow and then gained another 400 feet in elevation, mostly switchbacks. I was only able to keep up with the others when we were hiking uphill. I don’t know why that was the case. I stretched out my calf muscle, too, and it was actually feeling better when we got to the next camp. Somewhere along the way I got the theme song to Growing Pains stuck in my head, too. Each of the two songs would take turns dominating my brain.
We set up for two days next to a small lake that was nicely nestled into the mountains. My mom and I jumped into the lake and got clean. It felt so good to jump into that pretty lake.

The first night by the lake was pizza night (!!). It was delicious. We used fresh pita bread from the Greek vendor at Farmer’s Market, and there was pepperoni, roasted cashews, a Parmesan-herb mix, pepper jack cheese, dehydrated mushrooms and olive oil. It was delicious and we were beyond full.

Day 3: I woke up fully refreshed after a good night sleep, grateful to camp among lakes and pretty scenery, and also felt like I could forgive Growing Pains for having such a bad theme song. We spent the day day-hiking around 4 beautiful lakes.

The trees up there look like Bristlecone Pines, but taller and just a little less gnarled. Their trunks are a beautiful blonde. Everywhere we went, these pretty trees had pushed their way out of the ground between huge granite rocks, sometimes their roots are still holding onto boulders after they’ve tipped over. The rocks are still gripped by their roots, held up in the air now and waiting for the tree to rot so the rock can tumble back down to the ground.

Every tenth tree seemed like it was violently split open by lightning, cracked open and charred black all along the insides of the split.
On the evening of Day 3, I had an interesting find. Rob and Joan had retired to the tent and my mom and Dad and I were walking through the trees about 30 feet or so from the trail, and I found a camera on the ground, in a black case. I think it caught my eye because it looked like my dad’s, which was usually hanging from his neck. It was an almost new Canon Elph, and it started right up. We started looking through the pics, and the last time stamp was from 3 weeks earlier. There were some beautiful pics from India in the beginning of the memory card, and the recent pics were from what looked like a full backpacking trip. I think they were headed in the direction we came from, since they’d already been to the upper lakes and the Siberian Basin. I spent an hour looking at the pics after I’d gone to bed, searching the photographs for some kind of personal information so I could track down the owner.

There were over 2000 pics, and they appeared to have done a huge amount of traveling in the last 2 years.
In the morning, it turned out that Rob and Joan recognized some of the people in the photos. So it wasn’t going to be hard at all to track down the owner, and Joan might even have their e-mail address. And then it wasn’t until later that morning that I realized I should use the camera, since there’s plenty of room on the card and the battery was doing well. In fact, it would have lasted fine if I hadn’t been sitting up late the night before draining it.
Folks, the brain doesn’t work that well at that altitude.
So I photographed my way across the Siberian Outpost, plus a nice side hike that took us to a high plateau for lunch.

I also took a cue from the owner of the camera and took a few photos through the binoculars.

We took an S-shaped hike along what we could have done in a straight line with minor altitude changes. This was not clear at all from the beginning, but totally clear from the other side. We hiked fairly close to the stream all day, occasionally walking on the sandy parts that were sprinkled with pretty purple flowers. At the end of the day the purple-pink flowers all across the Siberian outpost (or meadow?) were lit up for just a little while with the setting sun.
This was also that time of day that my mom would say, “Hey, you want some chocolate?”
I don’t know how I’m going to ever be able to go backpacking without my mommy and daddy. She also fixed a nice warm soup every evening before dinner, just as it was starting to get cold. Dad worked tirelessly at pumping water through the filter for all 3 of us every day, and carried a huge load on his back, including the bear-proof container.
It was a beautiful sunset over the meadow, lighting up those blonde tree trunks.


We spend our 4th, and what turned out to be our last, night in lightly forested foothills where deer seemed to have been everywhere. We also had a marmot hanging around in the distance, peeping over at us like a little prairie dog. If there were a bear story in this trip, it would have taken place on this night. However, there wasn’t, because you see, we were lucky. Also we were very diligent about the bear canisters. So luck, bear canisters, and bears’ healthy fears of humans.

Likely bear dookie. Definitely a carnivore. And fresh. Note the small quantity. A hungry bear? A baby bear?


The next morning we got out bright and early and got on the Pacific Crest Trail, which by then was 2/5 of a mile away. Our goal was to get to Cottonwood Pass and hike just a little longer, then find a nice place to camp before finishing the last few miles in the morning.
The Pacific Crest Trail is beautiful!

You definitely feel how populated it is, by passing people every hour or two. But it’s beautifully maintained, and makes a person want to just follow it forever. We kept getting glimpses of the meadow we had just hiked in, and the one we hiked across on day two.

Here is a pic of the Siberian Outpost from both sides, with the red arrow indicating where the other picture was taken:

It was a nice way to round out the hike. We also started being able to see thunderclouds and rain in the distance. It was one of those tidy little Adams Family rainclouds that was just hitting one spot really hard.

We got a few drops and contemplated putting our rain gear on, but then decided to just put it in the tops of our packs so it would be handy. We trudged along, ready to get ready for any change in the weather. I also sort of desperately tried to get a Paul Simon song stuck in my head, just for a change of pace. It worked, a little.
Then, as we rounded the crest into a pretty view of Chicken Springs Lake, we started getting bigger drops.

We stopped for lunch near a couple that was gearing up for rain with their 18 month old in a backpack, and we finally decided to gear up. My dad has a very efficient pair of rain chaps. I put my rain coat on, a pair of windbreaker pants, and put a Glad bag over my backpack. I don’t recommend that.
We stopped taking pics at this point and started jamming, to get off the crest. Just over the other side of the Cottonwood Pass, the switchbacks started right up. Looking back, this was probably the point in the hike that was going to determine whether we should hike our or consider staying another night. We were practically skipping down the mountain, passing people on their way up who were slowly trudging their way up, and they looked so tired. We were full of energy, but then again, gravity was on our side.
We had a mini-meeting when we were getting towards the bottom of those 1200-foot drop in elevation switchbacks, and decided to go ahead and hike out. We didn’t get rained on much that day, but we just missed a big storm in the Horseshoe Meadows area. The stream had surged, and there were big frothy puddles to walk around.

The last mile seemed to take forever, because I was getting what we call ‘hot feet’ in a way that I hadn’t during any other part of the trip. I kept seeing things through the trees that I swore had to be the parking lot, but they were just big blonde tree trunks, made brighter by being wet.
When we finally did make it to the car, I was actually glad it took us so long. There had been a fierce rain storm, causing rocks and mud to fall onto that incredibly steep mountain pass. The pass with no side rails.
We topped off the afternoon with a huge meal at Mt Whitney Restaurant, and I wondered to myself, how long did it take John Muir to turn right back around and go back into the mountains for more adventures? High Sierras, we’ll see you again soon.
Thank you, Joan, Rob, Mom and Dad for being my guides to such a nice adventure in the Sierras!

The rest of the photos are on Flickr.

The land of the ice and snow

Happy almost 2011! A significant year, if you think of 2012 as the end of days. Maybe that will be a good way to spend the year. Maybe we should all treat this year as our last, just to switch things up. I promise I will drink more and swear more.
We had a nice holiday with my family in Truckee. It’s been below freezing for most of the time we’ve been here, and I got to experience my first snowstorm. It was close to blizzard conditions, and we were outside for some parts of it. It barely limited our visibility, but was plenty chilly and I felt like I was on Planet Hoth as the white snowflakes whirled around and stuck to my clothes.
We haven’t really been into Christmas in our family these last few years, since it’s a Christian holiday and we’re so not Christians, and there are no kids in the family besides Christian (hey!). Most of the traditions of late December are Pagan traditions anyway, though, and we might as well take advantage of the days off. SO we exchanged a few gifts, and it was Ian and Missy’s turn to get a stocking from me. The stocking buying is my favorite part of the holidays anymore.
We made an awesome sled run off the back porch, and took turns popping the sledding inner tubes that were meant for children. We did some snowshoeing, and a couple of us also made it out snowboarding. We also got some of our annual Jenga games in, and a crushing game of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. Tim and I have been learning to bake artisan bread this past year, and earlier this week Tim baked one of the best loaves I’ve seen so far.
This morning I went snowboarding again, and was only reminded that I should either go way more often, or stop going. On my last run, I tried to find a route that was more boarder friendly, because I kept ending up with all of these skiiers. Since when has there been a resurgence of skiing? I took the wrong lift and ended up on the top of the mountain, and the route down was not at all my skill level. I was doing cautious switchbacks the whole way down the hill under the threat of somersaulting my life away. My thighs and knees were on fire, and I was whimpering loudly into my scarf and cursing everything. Tim, however, made sure I had a new pair of super warm mittens with wrist braces underneath. So my hands were nice and cozy warm during my sad ordeal.
We also both bought Camelpaks, since we plan to do some hiking this year. When I got on the lift for my first run, I went to take a drink, quite pleased with myself for planning ahead and taking care of my hydration for the day. That’s when I discovered that the tubes were frozen and completely useless, at least for that morning. Bonus, I got to be that dork walking around with frozen tubes sticking out of my jacket.
We stopped next to Donner Lake on the way back to the cabin and checked out the water. The lake is just on the verge of freezing for the season. It looks glassy all the way across and has these ripples of steam coming off of it. I only brought my little point and shoot, and I wished I could have spent hours down there photographing it with a big camera and a tripod.
Anyway, Happy New Year, friends and Fam!

Late fall and feels like winter

I just realized that if I don’t post soon, i will only have a few posts between last Christmas’s Truckee post and this Christmas’ Truckee post. We’re supposed to go up there for Christmas with my family, and I can’t wait.
I also picked out an internal frame backpack as my Christmas present. Tim was about to buy me a coat at REI, and I was like, why buy a coat at REI when I can get a backpack? Tim already has one, and I was all jealous.
So yeah, I’m going to need to plan some backpacking trips.
In the meantime, I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my place this year, and so I’m planning out my shopping list. I’m hoping to be a little more organized than that one year when I was so busy cooking that I forgot to shower and get ready, and I spent the evening hiding from the cameras.
Tim is in NorCal this weekend, so I’m using the time to get my place ready and to play Black Ops (just kidding, OMG!).
I’m going to be making Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples with Thyme, Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and chives, Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Cauliflower, and hopefully some kind of rolls. Lisa is bringing up the Turkey, and helping me with stressing, I mean cooking. We can stress together. And if it gets to be too stressful, well there’s always a jacuzzi for after dinner.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to make a paper corsage for a prom I’m attending tomorrow.

The pretty blue shiny thing

So I got stung by a jellyfish today, but it was only my fingers. The remarkable part was that I was warned, and my friend had already gotten stung. I thought I would be unable to get in the water if there were jellyfish in it, but we’re in Cabo, and it’s 87 degrees, and the water is beautiful! I put on some goggles and went out there, determined to be careful and look around me. I mean, you know how Jellyfish are all cartooney and big and white and obvious. Or not. In the meantime, I saw this thing that looked like a fishing lure, and it even looked like it had a metal part, so I thought I’d grab it and put it in the trash on the shore so that nobody gets hurt. Grabbing that little fishing lure felt like grabbing an electric fence with razor wire, and that’s when I realized that I’d reached out and grabbed a jellyfish. It HURT! I had to go straight to the bar and ask for ice, and then I rejoined my friends in their cabana next to the pool. It didn’t hurt, as long as I kept my fingers in my cup of ice. Grocery shopping was on our agenda after the beach, and I was about as useful as Captain Hook.
Later in the evening I was walking along the beach at sunset with one of my travel companions, Tracy, and we saw some tiny blue things on the sand. More pretty fishing lures? We both realized they had to be jellyfish, and Tracy said she remembered an Australian girl at the pool saying that the jellyfish here are blue something. We looked them up when we got home, and found jellyfish that matched the description of the ones we saw on the sand. They’re called Blue Bottle Jellyfish. Then I typed that into Flikr, my current favorite website, and some of the images in the set were also of Portuguese Man of Wars. Tim came up behind me while we were looking at the images, and he’s like, “you got stung by a Portuguese Man of War?” And I’m like, “No, they’re just in the same photo set because they’re blue and they’re like Jellyfish.” Then we looked up information about the Blue Bottles, and we found out they ARE Man of Wars. What the hell!! So we were stung by Man O Wars. It looks like the ones in the Atlantic are much worse than these ones, and that’s where they get such a bad reputation. These are TINY.
So yeah, I didn’t just get stung by it, I reached out and grabbed it, and got stung by it.

Additional, better photos of these beautiful bastards can be found here.

Engaged!

So, I’ve been living in Playa for 10 months now. I’m loving it, and Tim and I got engaged back in May. I dove deeply into Bikram Yoga, starting with the 30 day challenge in January. I did the challenge again in April and July. Sweating for 90 minutes eats up most of my evening time that I used to spend blogging. That, and we both like to do a lot of cooking.

It’s a beautiful art deco ring with a miner’s cut stone. The ring is from around 1910, from Tim’s mom’s aunt.
It was a nice overcast day, with blue sky peeking at us in places. This was what the beginning of our hike looked like:


But in my memory, it looks like this, because that was the day we got engaged, and I’m a gooey, fluffy romantic at heart:

Here are some other pictures from our engagement in Sycamore Canyon, just north of Malibu.