Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Death Valley Adventures

My trip to Death Valley started out with me stumbling out of my bed, getting dressed, and hopping in my car at 6:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I drove till around 9:00 a.m. when I stopped for coffee, a Cliff Bar, and gas somewhere on highway 5. My next stop was at noon in the town of Pearsonville on highway 395 where I had a Subway sandwich for lunch, got more gas, and headed off on the last leg of my journey to Death Valley. I arrived at the Furnace Creek group site H at 3:30 pm. No one else had arrived yet so I had first choice of where to locate my tent. I got a nice spot in the shade of a one of the few trees at the site. By 4:30 pm four of the five others joining me on the campout had arrived at the campground. Everyone got set up and we made our dinners and then enjoyed an evening of chatting and some star gazing once the cloud cover went away. I went to bed around 8 p.m. and while I was asleep the last person arrived.

Friday I had agreed to lead an 8 mile and 3300 feet elevation gain hike from Dante’s View to Mt Perry. G. and S. decided to join me and the C., T. and J. decided to spend the day relaxing in camp. We set off in my car at 8:45 a.m. to drive to Dante’s View. We got to Dante’s View around 10 a.m. The view from the parking lot of Bad Water was amazing!

We set off on the Dante’s Peak trail towards Mt Perry. We passed by Dante’s peak and found the use trail to Mt Perry. A use trail is a trail created because so many people use the same route to go to a destination. About 2.5 miles into our hike, I lost my balance for reasons unknown to me and took a hard fall onto the rocks. I fell mostly on my right side and gouged my knee on a rock, scraped my right forearm, and got a bruise on my right elbow. G. and S. ran over to be sure I was OK. I sat there for a bit doing an inventory of my body and felt like I was OK to get up. I got up and saw the gouge on my knee. I got out my first aid kit to take care of the cut. I washed it with an alcohol swab and then put a bandage on it (click if you want to see a pictures of the boo boo) and on the scrapes on my right forearm. I walked around a bit and determined that I was OK to hike a bit more.

After about half a mile though I decided that it was a bit much for me to continue on with the hike so asked G. and S. if they were OK with having lunch and then turning around and heading back to the car. They were fine with that. We admired the view of Mt. Perry and hoped to tackle it in another year. 

The hike back was uneventful and beautiful. We had hiked mostly down so we had lots of exercise on the way back going back up! We got to the parking lot at 3 pm and headed back to the campground.

G. and S. headed off to check out the Furnace Creek visitor center and stores while I settled down to remove my bandage and do a more thorough job of cleaning my wound and putting antibacterial goo on it to prevent infection. I finished up my cleaning and then settled back in S.’s comfortable camp lounge chair and had a nice nap in the shade to escape the 96F heat at the campground. I woke up for my nap and was heading to the bathroom when C. showed up at the campground. She had run into G. and S. at the visitor’s center and came to check to be sure I was all right and invite me to go to the visitor’s center to escape the heat. We ran into more of our gang there and C., T., J., and I ended up at the saloon for a beer. That was fun. We laughed and drank in the cool of the bar until someone put on loud music on the juke box that drove us back to camp. At camp we all started in on cooking our respective dinners and then settled in for another nice night of chatting and star gazing. 

On Saturday we split up into two groups again. C., G., S., and I decided to go to Ubehebe crater, Scotty’s Castle, and Titus Canyon. J. and T. headed off for a hike at Golden Canyon. After an hour or so in the car we arrived at Ubehebe crater and decided to hike around the crater rim first and then descend to the bottom of the crater. 

The hike around the rim took about forty five minutes and was awesome! When we finished our circuit of the rim, C. decided she wasn’t up for descending into the crater so she remained at the top while G., S., and I descended to the bottom. The trail down to the bottom was very gravely loose dirt. It made the descent very easy on the knees to sink in the gravel instead of jarring the knees against hard packed dirt. At the bottom we ran around like little kids and enjoyed the views. G. decided to pretend to be exhausted and lay down prostrate on the ground and had S. take a picture. Unbeknownst to us, C. on top was watching us with her binoculars and she was panicking that G. had hurt himself and was rehearsing in her head what she needed to do to rescue us if G. turned out to be hurt. Fortunately we decided to head back up and so she could see that G. was OK. The trip up was tough because of the loose gravel. It was one step back for every two steps forward. But we persevered and made it up to the top in 23 minutes. 

Next up in our day was to see Scotty’s Castle. It was a short 15 minute drive from Ubehebe crater. When we arrived at the Castle we were pleased to see a shaded lawn with picnic tables. We parked and snagged a table under the shade of a tree and ate our packed lunches with a marvelous view of the Castle in the cool shade. 

After lunch we decided to not tour the Castle as none of us wanted to pay for the tour and we wished to remain outdoors. We did pay a visit to the visitor’s center and I purchased a post card there to send to my parents while G. purchases a topographic map of the park. We then checked out what looked like a moat of the Castle but turned out to be an old swimming pool that is no longer full of water or used and that slaked our collective curiosity about the Scotty’s Castle and we ready to be off to our third location of the day, Titus Canyon. 

We arrived at the mouth of Titus Canyon at about 2 pm. It was hot and we were glad to enter into the Canyon and find shade. As we hiked we saw cars, other hikers, lizards, and beautiful tall canyon walls! Titus Canyon is open to four wheel drive cars so as we hiked we had to step aside to let the cars pass. 

One car stopped to ask us if we were all right. Apparently they had trouble figuring out that some people like to hike on foot in the canyon! The canyon goes a long way so we decided to hike till 3 pm and then turn around and head back. On the way back we realized that we had been hiking slightly up before and were now hiking slightly down. It was a small relief as it was getting quite hot and we were getting tired. We arrived back at the cars satisfied with our adventures and ready to get back to camp to relax.
When we got back to camp we dropped S. off at the visitor’s center and the sign out front declared that it was 100F. Oh my! When we got back to camp some of us dunked our heads under the water faucet at the sink and then put our chairs in the shade to cool off! That felt good! I also took my bandages off my cut to check on it and it seemed to be healing and not infected so I cleaned it again and put on more antibacterial goo and put on a new bandage. We then had another pleasant evening of cooking dinners, talking, and star gazing.

I was up at 6 a.m. on Sunday, my travel back home day. I got all packed up by 6:30 a.m. and started my trip home. I was the first of our gang to leave. I took my time traveling on 190 and stopped to take pictures of the Devil’s Cornfield, the Mesquite Dunes, and the Eastern Sierra mountains on my way home. After leaving the desert area I did my usual hardly stopping driving till I got home at 4 pm. It was good to be home in the cool air and be able to shower and relive the memories of my the Death Valley adventure by downloading all my pictures! 

Mesquite Dunes
Devil's Cornfield in Death Valley
Highway 190 View
Eastern Sierra Mountains from highway 190

Monday, March 11, 2013

Double Dose of Hiking

I did a double dose of hiking this weekend: Windy Hill on Saturday and Garin/Dry Creek park on Sunday.  Both hikes were about 8 miles long with blue skies, sun, and temperatures in the low 70Fs just about perfect hiking weather.

I was nervous about Saturday's hike.  I was a first time leader for the San Francisco Hiking Club and due to park rules about group hiking, I had to limit the hike to 20 people.  I spent last week fielding RSVPs and hoping that I did not get more than 20 people wanting to come on the hike.    I was also fretting about the fact that the parking lot at the Portola entrance fills up by mid morning and the hike was due to start at 10 am and I wasn't sure if people would find parking on the street if the lot was full.  In the end 15 people RSVPed and the parking lot did fill up but we all found parking either in the lot or on the street outside the lot.

Three cars (myself included) took a gamble and parked on the street despite a sign that said that overflow parking was .4 miles down the road and to not park on the street.  I decided that the place I parked was off the street enough to not count as parking on the street.  It was a little sketchy to assume that but in the end I did not get a parking ticket and neither did any of the other participants.  Its a fact of life you get used to in California that parking lots will fill up and you'll have to scramble for finding alternate places to park.  I do prefer to lead hikes to places where parking is not a problem so I may put this park on my list of parks where I will not lead big hikes.

Windy Hill

Once all 15 of us got to the park successfully and were safely parked my nerves calmed down considerably and we were off on our 8 mile hike.  We started the hike on a flat bit of trail through the meadow and past Sausal pond and then started our ascent in the warm sun on the Spring Ridge trail.  The further up the trail we hiked, the more views: Stanford University tower and dish, Mission Peak, Moffett Field, Mt Diablo, San Francisco, Oakland, and the San Francisco bay.   When we reached the top of Windy Hill we could see both San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean on the other side of Skyline ridge.  We had lunch up on top.

On the way down after lunch we saw some daffodils on the hill side.  One of our party told us that a gardening group got permission a couple of years ago to plant the flowers and he was the one who spotted the flowers.  Later on Hamms Gulch trail we saw trilliums and hounds tongue wild flowers and enjoyed the cool of the forest out of the bright sun light.


Hounds Tongue

We finished our loop at 1:50 pm and I basked in the glow of lots of compliments about the hike from the participants.   Its always nice to get thank you's from the participants after a hike is done especially for a hike that I was nervous about leading!

Sunday's hike with Loma Prieta Gay and Lesbian Sierrans at Garin/Dry Creek park was more mellow for me.  I was just a participant on this hike so did not have to worry about logistics or who would show up.  I just had to get myself to the car pool location and then head to the park and enjoy the hike!

Vulture in a tree at Garin Park

The hike started with a sighting of vultures circling in the air and then a vulture sitting in a tree with wings spread.  I have seen cormorants do this but never a vulture.   It was rather exciting and a little menacing!   After the vulture sightings we had a nice hike through a meadow on a few narrow bridges to cross creeks.  We stopped at Jordan pond for a snack break.  Then we headed up hill for nice views and some good

Jordan Pond

exercise.  At the top we saw piles of rocks scattered about and expounded upon theories as to why the rocks were so organized into piles.  We could not figure it out.  The best guess was farmers had moved the rocks to clumps to clear fields of the cows to graze in.

Piles of rocks at Garin park

We enjoyed hiking along the ridge to Gossip rock where we had lunch.   Its called Gossip rock as there are holes in the rock where Indians used to grind stuff and they would also gossip as they ground items!

Cathy at Gossip Rock

After lunch we descended down back to the parking lot through a more shaded part of the park.  We saw some wild turkeys and perhaps a red winged hawk and lots of poison oak!

Lots of poison oak growing off the trail!

We finished up the hike at about 2 pm and had hoped to walk through the gardens near the parking lot but discovered the garden was not open on Sundays.  Bummer!  So we made our way to our cars and said our good byes.  It was a wonderful mellow hike with lots of unique things to see and good conversation with the other participants.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

March Exercise Goal

I have made a goal to exercise for 52 hours in March.   Why 52 you ask?  Because I'm going to be turning 52 on March 24 and because it was close to exercising 1 hour a day on week days and 3 hours a day on weekend days.  I have not been exercising enough lately and I'm hoping this will motivate me to do it.  I have only been exercising on weekends and saw the need to get exercise on week days.

So ... the tally so far

March 1:   0.000 hours
March 2:   4.000 hours hiking at Pinnacles National Park.  8.5 miles!
March 3:   2.000 hours walking at Fremont parks looking for geocaches!  5.5 miles!
March 4:   1.083 hours on elliptical, 375 calories, 3.5 miles.
March 5:   1.033 hours on treadmill, 3.6 miles, 791 feet.
March 6:   1.180 hours hiking at Shoreline, 4 miles.
March 7:   1.620 hours on treadmill and elliptical, 5.8 miles
March 8:   1.080 hours on elliptical
March 9:   3.000 hours hiking at Windy Hill
March 10: 3.400 hours hiking at Garin/Dry Creek
March 11: 2.000 hours walking to work and on elliptical
March 12: 1.000 hours walking to work

TOTAL:   21.480 hours

So I'm 41.3 percent to my goal.  I'll be reporting my progress on my blog as the month continues by editing this entry over and over!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book vs e-book

I have owned a Kindle since July 24, 2012.   What motivated me to buy an electronic book reader was my desire to be able to travel with lots of reading material that didn't take up large parts of my luggage space.  I picked the Kindle brand because I shop mostly at and since Amazon makes the Kindle its nicely set up for me to buy e-books through them.   I also hoped that since it was also one of the first electronic readers to come out that they have smoothed out all the kinks.  The Kindle brand has been a good choice for me.  I'm happy with how it operates, how it looks, the ease at getting electronic books on it, and purchasing books for it.

The big question for me though was how it would compare to regular books.  Here is what I have found out so far since I started using the Kindle and continued to read regular books.

Book advantages:

  1. I can leave a regular book sitting on a chair or table or beach blanket in public and not be terribly worried about whether its going to be stolen while I'm away unlike leaving my Kindle in these spaces. 
  2. I can pick up a regular book and quickly envision my progress based on where the book mark is located.  I don't get that same kind satisfaction from looking at a bar chart on the bottom of the Kindle as to what percent progress I have made.  
  3. With a book, I can give it or loan it to a friend quite easily or I can trade it in to a used bookstore for credit.  I'm not sure I can do that as easily with an e-book.
  4. Not all books are in e-book format yet.  An example is I wanted to read Roger Zelazny's Dream Master book (published in 1966) but it was not available on in e-book format.  
  5. There is a short time period on airplanes where you can't read e-books but you can read regular books.
  6. My library does have e-books available but often the book I want is not in e-book format while it is on the shelf!
  7. A book can sometimes serve as conversation starter and I have had fun discussions in waiting rooms or airport gates with someone about how they are enjoying their book or how I like my book.  This has not happened to me with an e-book.
  8. I still prefer the touch and feel of a real book to the touch and feel of my Kindle.
E-book advantages:
  1. I can buy new e-books just about anytime I want.  I don't have to wait for a bookstore to open or wait for the book to come in the mail after ordering it online. Its really fun to want to read a book and be able to buy it and start reading it in literally minutes!
  2. It is handy to be able to set the text size for an e-book.  I can't change a book's text size.
  3. An e-book is great for reading hefty sized books (think War and Peace).  The Kindle is small and light like a paper back book but you still have the entire hefty book inside it!
  4. Its much easier to carry around lots of e-books than books!
I don't think I'm going to give up regular books any time soon.  I'll keep my Kindle and use it in the situations where its handy like while traveling or when I want to get and start reading a book right away, but for most of my reading I will probably continue to stick with regular books.