Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eastern Sierra Hiking

I spent a lovely weekend hiking and camping in the Eastern Sierra Mountains at Pummice Flat Group site #2 in the Mammoth Mountain resort area near Devil's Postpile with the Loma Prieta Gay and Lesbian Sierrans.

Wednesday night I packed my car with my camping and hiking gear. I got off work at 11 am on Thursday and started my drive to Pummice Flat. The drive was very relaxing and easy. There was not too much traffic getting out of the San Francisco bay area. I arrived in Oakdale at about 1:30 pm and had a late lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. I ordered a foot long sandwich and ate half there and the other half would be my dinner once I arrived in camp.  After lunch, I made the drive up 120 to Groveland where I stopped to fill up the gas tank and then continued on to Yosemite where I popped in using my National Park's pass.  The drive through Yosemite to Tioga pass was awesome per usual. After descending the Tioga Pass to 395, the drive continued to be stunning with views of the Dana Peak, Mono Lake, and the Eastern Sierra's rising steeply to my right. I soon hit 203 and headed to Mammoth mountain where I stopped at the entry station where only people camping in the area are allowed to drive. I showed my National Park's pass again in lieu of the ten dollar entry fee. Then I crept down the twisty mountain road to the campground arriving at about 5:30 pm. About six people in my group had already arrived. I unpacked my camping gear and set up my tent and then ate the second half of my foot long sandwich for dinner while happily conversing with my camping buddies.

My humble abode for the weekend
On Friday, our trip leader had a 14 mile round trip hike to Ediza lake and back planned leaving from the Agnew meadow trail head.  Eight of us tumbled into two cars and drove from the campground to the trail head arriving at about 9 am.  We were all in long sleeves and long pants at the start of the hike as it was a chilly morning (~37F at breakfast) but within 15 minutes or so of hiking and the sun beating down on us we were stopping to strip off our layers and soon were all in shorts and smeared with sun screen!  We hiked past Olaine lake and enjoyed the reflections of the mountain in the lake.

Olaine Lake reflection
After Olaine we started heading up hill a bit more to Shadow lake.  Before Shadow Lake we hiked next to a water fall and at the top had a marvelous view of Shadow lake.

Hiking next to the water fall under Shadow Lake
Shadow Lake
We hiked next to Shadow Lake and soon picked up the creek that flowed into Shadow Lake on the other end of the lake that we would follow to Ediza Lake.  The views just kept coming and coming on this hike.  It was hard to stop taking pictures and just hike!

Ediza Lake

We finally arrived at Ediza Lake and five of us decided to go for a skinny dip.  I got naked but decided to leave my glasses on thinking I would just sedately swim along with a calm breast stroke.  That was a big mistake.  The minute I waded in I forgot I had my glasses on as the cold lake water took my breath away.  I realized that I wouldn't get in by just wading and needed to dive in.  So I plunged in and it was mighty cold and I didn't remember about my glasses till I surfaced spluttering and shaking my head.  Somewhere in that move, my glasses fell off and that was the last I saw of them.  For 15 minutes we stared at the water where I dived in and tried to find them to no avail.  I felt like such a bone head and was bemoaning my stupidity and how much it was going to cost me. I wear very expensive glasses.  This stupid move would end up costing me roughly $590.00.  Ug.  Oh well. I managed to come out of my blues and have fun the rest of the hike.

The hike back to the cars was just as beautiful if a slight bit more fuzzier for me without my glasses, but I could see well enough to hike normally.  I didn't have to worry about seeing my footing.  I had no trouble scrambling on the rocks next to the falls nor stepping over logs, etc. etc.  We got back to the cars at about 6 pm and headed back to camp to make dinner and have a nice couple of hours chatting and socializing.  After dinner as it got dark, we all headed to our tents and said good night.

Saturday we had an even longer hike planned, 16 miles.  8 miles to Minaret Lake and 8 miles back.  I knew I could do another long hike but I also knew it was going to wear me out.  I almost passed on the hike but our leader convinced me that although it was more miles that the hill climb was not as steep and the trails not as rocky as the day before so she actually considered it easier than the previous day's hike.  This hike began at the Devil's Postpile trail head area.

Meadow near Devil's Postpile trail head
As with the day before, we started all bundled up but quickly stopped to remove layers and put on sun screen.  We then hiked at a steady pace till we reached a rest stop our leader had found when she scouted the hike.  The rest stop was in a collection of rusty colored rocks with a creek and some pools.

Rest stop on the way to Minaret Lake
We continued on after the rest stop to Minaret Lake.  We hiked next to another water fall although it was not the Minaret Falls but the nameless falls that originate from Minaret Lake.

Hiking next to a nameless water fall
We were getting to higher altitudes at this point (Minaret Lake is at 9800 feet) and I was starting to slow way down.  The leader was checking with me often to be sure I was OK.  I was fine but the nature of my hiking is when I get to high altitude and up hill I just slow way down.  I am very much a tortoise when it comes to hiking!  I just keep plodding along at a steady slow pace!  I was glad when we reached Minaret Lake and  we sat down for a nice rest and lunch!  I passed on the skinny dipping this time but two dived in the lake and said it was colder than the day before but the views as they were swimming were incredible.

Minaret Lake
View of Minaret Lake from our lunch spot
Cathy at Minaret Lake -- no glasses :-( 
It was about 2:30 pm when we finished lunch and realized we should start back as we had said we would be back at the campground around 6:30 pm.  The hike back was lovely and a bit easier being all downhill.  My feet were sore and I was getting very very tired but the beauty of the area took my mind off my soreness and tiredness!  We got back to the cars at about 6:30 pm and back to camp shortly.

Sunday was my day to drive home but I decided to check out Devil's Postpile before I started my drive home.  I got up at 6 am and had my breakfast and then broke down camp and got all but my food packed in my car.  I left the food in the bear lockers so I wouldn't have to worry about a bear breaking into my car at the Devil's Postpile parking lot.  I got onto the short half mile trail to the Postpiles by about 8 am.  I quickly hiked to the Postpiles and had fun photographing them and looking at them for a few minutes.

I was admonished by the gang at the campground to hike to the top of the Postpiles so I did and got the shot below of the hexagonal shape of the posts.

It was worth the little 1.3 mile hike to admire the uniqueness of the Devil's Postpiles.  I also saw that there was a passport stamp area at Devil's Postpile so I ran to my car to get my National Parks passport and get the Devil's Postpile stamp! Then I drove back to camp to fetch my food and start my drive home. I borrowed a friend's glasses that corrected my vision just enough so I could read road signs with them and would put them on when I was approaching junctions.  I stopped at Olmsted point on the way through Yosemite's Tuolumne meadow area to get this shot of Half Dome.

The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful.  I ran into the usual traffic jams at the junction of 120 with 205 and on highway 580 just before exiting to 680.  I put NPR on my radio station and enjoyed listening to the shows while I waited through traffic.  I got home at about 4 pm with plenty of time to unpack the car, get a shower, and post my pictures online.  All in all it was a fantastic trip if you leave out the losing my glasses fiasco!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Sam McDonald hike

On Saturday August 2, I was off on a hike with the Gay and Lesbian Sierra Club section of Loma Prieta.  I was looking forward to this long 9 mile hike as I was not the leader and could be a little more relaxed and not have to watch out so much for others.  I always do watch out for others when I hike but not as intently when I know there is a hike leader also doing the job.  It was nice to know that I could stop when I wanted and get that lovely picture and not have to worry about keeping an eye out on the gang so much.

Sam McDonald park is located near La Honda California about 10 miles from the Pacific coast.  Its a wiggly drive to the park from Silicon Valley.  The drive went smoothly and there wasn't much traffic.  We arrived at the park just before 10 am.  Six other folks showed up for the hike.  We set off on the Big Tree trail and very soon thereafter got on the Heritage Grove trail, a lovely shaded trail through the redwood trees perfect for a hot summer day in the bay area.

Heritage Grove Trail at Sam MacDonald County Park
I hiked along with my friend D. and we caught up with each others doings.  Then the group sort of shifted places and I ended up catching up with new friend, L.  It was very pleasant.  After 30 minutes or so we reached the hill up to the Sierra Club hut and ran into another group of hikers going down the hill.  It turns out they were another Sierra Club group, the Black Mountain group.

When we got to the top of the hill we made our way to the Sierra Club hut for a water break on the deck and so the hikers who had not been here before could take a look at the hut.  It appeared there was a group staying there that weekend but they were not around so we used the deck for our break along with a collection of about 5 women hikers who were also just passing by the hut and not staying there.

Sierra Club Hut in Sam McDonald park

I realized at our hut break that I had forgotten to put on sun screen so I rubbed sun screen all over my now slick with sweat face, arms, and legs.  I also removed the pants legs from my convertible pants to turn them into shorts as it was a warm day.  We all agreed though that although it was hot it was not too hot!

Our next stop was at the bench with a view.  S. and I decided to find a geocache that was near here and D. got mock mad at use for sneaking off to find it!  We found the cache and then joined the gang to admire the view.  Shortly after that we stopped at a picnic table for lunch.  Its always nice on a hike when a picnic table happens to be right about where you want to stop for lunch!  After lunch one of our hikers signed out and headed back home as 9 miles was just a bit much for her on this day.  The rest of us started our descent down to Jones Gulch or as the hike leader, D., likes to call it "Fiver Fingers gulch" as the creek is covered with five finger fern plants.

Five Finger ferns

Cathy in Jone's Gulch

We stopped at Five Fingers gulch to explore the gulch and have a little rest break.  Then we headed back up the hill to the Towne trail.  D. warned us that this hill was a very gradual up but seems to go on forever.  He was right.  The trail does these long switch backs and towards the top I did keep thinking that this was the last switch back but then there was another one and another one and another one!  We did finally reach the top and there was a bench just crying out for us to sit on it!  As we were sitting there S exclaimed that there was a geocache here.  She reached under the bench and found the cache right under where she was sitting!  We had a little rest and then took off for the last mile or so on flattish fire roads and finishing off on the Big Tree trail back to the parking lot.

I was tired and my feet were a bit sore at the end of the day but it was a marvelous hike with good company. And S. and I added two more geocaches to our long lists of finds.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Blogher'14

The good was the voices of the year readings.  I enjoyed all the readings.  I did not expect as much emotion as I witnessed in the readings.  The blogs were obviously near and dear to the reader's heart and no one just stood up and read it.  They infused it with the emotion that doesn't always come through with just reading something on line.

The good was Tig Notaro.  She cracked me up and educated me a little bit about breast cancer and how folks react to it and what it entails.

The good was running into two women who buoyed up my ego by being amazed at my profession and how long I have been at it.  One was near my age and reminded me how much work it involved to become a software developer when I did in the late 80s and how it was indeed an impressive achievement.  It seems rather an ordinary achievement to me.  The other was a bit younger than I but so impressed with me that she asked me "may I touch you" twice!  Once when I revealed to her that I wrote software for satellites and once when I mentioned that I worked at NASA Ames Research center.  Who knew that I would walk away form Blogher'14 with a sense of wonder that people were impressed with what I have accomplished in my professional career.

The good was hanging out briefly with Denise, Tarrant, and Karen.  The good was meeting Laurel and Jenna and having good chats and meeting scores of others whose names I have forgotten but who lightened my day by chatting with me.

The good was the ending party and how I was able to overcome a bit of my social anxiety and dance like no one was watching way off in the corner to get away from the very loud speakers!

The bad was being bored at two of the sessions.  Not bad for Blogher'14 but bad for me personally.  I realized I really have no desire to improve my blog or learn how to monetize, or how to publish a book, and any myriad of things the sessions covered and so I was bored.

The bad was when my social anxiety did get the best of me.  It did at the Friday parties.  I just felt like a fish out of water.  I tried to engage with people and never felt  relaxed.  It did at the beginning of the closing party.  I wandered around the party three times looking for where I could plop myself down to eat my McDonalds.  I finally did plop down on the ground and felt sort of lame that I was all by myself.  But then some other folks sat down with me and I was back on track.

The ugly was when the Saturday lunch food did not agree with me and neither did the midlife mini-conference.  I ended up deciding to leave the mini-conference as it wasn't going in a direction I liked and I really needed to make a trip to the bathroom.  Fortunately, I chased the ugly away with a wonderful nap on the fake green grass outside the convention center!

All in all the conference was a mixed bag for me but with slightly more positives than negatives!