Monday, December 26, 2011

Strive for a sane life

That was my response to a Facebook friend's poll for 2012 goals.  Colored perhaps, by our immediate condition of aiding, abetting, instigating Susan's 100 (101 in Jan) year old mother's move from independent living to emergency, to rehab, and as we speak, to a assisted living facility, all over a few days time where we had no expectations other than the usual goodwill and conflict of our seasonal family gatherings. God grant me a long and happy life, followed by a painless not waking up some day. My images are of life's collections, spoons on the wall, a grandmother's stitchery, and then the spartan walls of the later stage facility. Nice, caring people, but an existence under observation 

We keep hiking, maybe a little slower, but still enjoying the process. The glimpse of the life ahead is not a pleasant one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A damp and misty morning - King Canyon Loop and Beyond

California Newt - Taricha torosa, unless it is Taricha granulosa
The comfort of our home has been keeping us close these days, as the fall rains roll through the area. Our walking has been curtailed, and our legs are getting more and more restless. Finally we just wrote "long walk" on the calendar, and when that day arrived, "manned up", "womaned up", put on our rain gear and went out the door, prepared for whatever the day brought.

It brought wet but wonderful walking. We headed for Kings Canyon Loop, a local hike on watershed land, that has a very steep dirt down slope on the normal return path. Normally it is just a chastisement to the knees, but with wet weather turns into the slide from hell, multiple falls guaranteed, fractures likely. Considering the weather, we examined Google Maps and found an alternate return route, longer but safer.

Fortunately, witches brews are less common than in Macbeth's time, so the demand for eye of newt is low, and wet weather brings them out in force, fearless of the stew pot.

It wasn't too long after the newt, that we met Old Spotty, another lover of the wet weather. We used to have a half dozen uniquely identifiable ones in our yard, but they have objected to our current landscaping efforts and migrated elsewhere.

Now bigger creatures like our yard. Sorry about the window screen over the image. If you don't see three, you are not looking closely enough.

Back to the walk again. The first three miles or so parallel a reservoir.

A short while after the trail leaves the reservoir, you reach a junction. Left takes you to the slide from hell, right takes you through a gate, and shortly thereafter, to Rancho Laguna Park. Across from the park is another alternate return that avoids the steepest slippery slope, but not all of them. We opted for a walk down the road - Camino Pablo, and the foot path that parallels Pinehurst back to Valle Vista.

I'll close this post with images from the return route:.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Once More, fate intervenes with our hiking

I didn't expect my next post would lead with an image of Cunard Line's Queen Elisabeth, but there she is in Quebec City. We rearranged our Appalachian Trail backpack at the last minute to give flood waters from Hurricane Irene time to recede. The plan was first drive to Quebec City and Montreal and then back to Connecticut to hike its section of the AT. That part worked.

This was my first visit to Quebec, and it made quite an impression on me. At an intellectual level I knew they spoke French, but had always thought of them as a part of English Canada. Now I know in my gut that this is a different place. They are so thoroughly French, not as in France, but a different French speaking country. A sign at the cathedral in Quebec City welcomed pilgrims. It wasn't till I got home that I found out that there are many pilgrimage shrines in French speaking Canada.

Towards the end of our stay in Montreal, Susan had a 3am visit to McGill University Hospital emergency, where she stayed for some 15 hours. All is fine now, but that experience plus some powerful meds  made us decide that the Appalachian Trail hike could wait for another year. We converted our hiking trip into a drive around New England, but did manage to at least do a day hike on the Appalachian Trail, so we have set foot on it, but not yet did an overnight.

So, no more planned hikes for the year, but who knows!
Appalachian Trail - River Road in Connecticut

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Trip planning again with trepidation

This has been the year of weather impacted trips for us. In the spring in Spain; rain and high water forced us to cut our trip short. In August late opening trails in Glacier National Park caused a reroute which we ultimately decided was unfeasible. OK, maybe the prevalence of grizzly bears in that part of the country had something to do with it. Not to worry. There were still relatives back east, so we planned a little trip on the Appalachian Trail in time to see the fall colors. That time is soon coming.


That little red line is about where our trip is planned. That big white thing is Hurricane Irene. We keep checking trail conditions. Words seen in reports are impassable, high water, washed away, detour, trespassing, arrested . . . , but we persevere. Flood waters drain quickly, right? We are used to crawling under and over fallen trees from our PCT days.  At least the fall colors should still be there. Is it going to be hot and miserable, cold and miserable, wet and miserable, all of the above? Tell me again why we keep doing this.

An unforeseen consequence of these trip disasters is that we've been home more than usual, and have been really enjoying that. We're staying more in touch with our friends, and most recently have been hearing and seeing some remarkable musical performances. Oakland has a strong blues tradition, and we caught a couple of festivals featuring local artists. Then, two performers from my youth visited the area in small venues. Out of New Orleans, Dr. John put on a great show at Yoshi's, a jazz club. Last night we Saw Judy Collins in San Francisco at the Rrazz Room. If she ever gets to your area in a small venue, be sure to catch her performance, at least if you are old enough to remember the 60s. Her voice is as good as ever, and she has a real rapport with the audience. Most are her age peers, and she relates to them as peers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CDT - Southbound - Glacier National Park section hiker's reconnaissance

You have a couple of choices for a southbound CDT route through Glacier. The first starts in Waterton Lakes National a Park in Canada, crosses the border at Goat Haunt, and follows the Highline trail through Glacier. This route is open at the earliest around Aug 1, as it depends on snow conditions and the Ahern Drift trail segment being blasted out.

The second starts at the Chief Mountain Customs Station. The trailhead is about 50 yards south, and has a large parking lot. When we were there around 7/21 there were about 40 cars there. This route goes to Belly River, then Elisabeth Lake. After that you can go via the Ptarmagan tunnel if it is open, or the longer route via Poia Lake to Many Glacier (a resupply point with store, motel, etc.).

There is not a lot of car access to the park. It is divided north south by the Going to the Sun Highway, which starts in St. Marys and ends at West Glacier. The CDT crosses this highway at two different points, depending on your route. You can probe the east side of Glacier NP at three points - Many Glacier in the north, at St. Marys in the middle, at Two Medicine in the south. East Glacier is the town at the far south east. The train goes through West Glacier and East Glacier.

The shuttle systems can get confusing. The park service runs three free shuttles across the Going To The Sun Highway. There is a shuttle for the west, middle, and east, so it takes three rides to get all the way across the Going to the Sun Highway. They do run frequently - every hour or so. See the park service schedule. There are also for fee shuttles running up and down the east side, as well as pay shuttles to connect to to the nps shuttle at St. Marys from Many Glacier or Two Medicine. The cost was $10 for each link, i.e. East Glacier to Chief Mountain $40 per person, on to Prince of Wales Hotel, $50. There is one shuttle that goes all the was from East Glacier to Chief Mountain. It leaves East Glacier at 11am and gets to Chief Mountain, I think at 1:45pm. They go more often between St. Marys and Two Medicine and Many Glacier. The East side shuttles are on a first come first served basis, so you can't rely on getting on - may be full already. Don't have any answer to that problem. Don't know if it is a realistic problem, or just hypothetical. The bus exists to shuttle train passengers who have a Prince of Wales Hotel destination to that hotel. Excess space is available to hikers.

If you have to leave a car in Many Glacier, you can leave it in the big lot behind the hotel, also, I think, in the lot in front of the Swiftcurrent Motel. We stayed at Whistling Swan Motel in East Glacier, and they were willing to let us leave our car there, as we had a reservation at the start of our trip, and the day we exited Glacier.

If you have a trail angel who can drop you and pick you up in various places, you could slack pack from Many Glacier to Going to The Sun Highway, also from East Glacier to Ahern Pass. They could also drop you at Chief Mountain earlier than the shuttle would..

Resupply - we were able to drop a package at Swiftcurrent Motel (Many Glacier) with the promise that we would pick it up in three days. Don't know if they would accept mailed packages. The store at Many Glacier had freeze dried dinners plus the normal type of things you might buy for resupply.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Passing Days

Just back from a road trip to Glacier National Park. It is in Montana and borders Canada for my European readers. The plan was to start the Continental Divide Trail. We didn't put a foot on the ground with a backpack on, but that's another story.

Nowadays we Google our route options, and then use a navigation device in the car to keep us on track. Google said from Oakland, CA, go north through Spokane, WA as fastest choice, a close second was northeast over the Sierras and through Nevada. We were packed and ready to go via Spokane when a last minute check of the weather page showed the jet stream dividing the routes. Oregon Washington was all t-storms and jagged lightning symbols, the Nevada route smiling sun symbols. So, off we go, over the Sierras, through Reno, Nevada, and those little towns from my childhood, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, Elko, Nevada, and Twin Falls, Pocatello, and Idaho Falls, Idaho.

I say from my childhood, as this was the traditional route we took, from Yellowstone Park, where Dad worked, to California, where all the kin were. The trips I remember were mostly in the 1944-1950 time period, when almost every year we would spend the limited vacation days driving this route, seeing all the relatives in California, and then returning.

This trip, the Nevada - Idaho section is almost all on Interstate 80, at least two lanes in each direction, flat, and straight as an arrow for 60 to 70 miles at a time. I set the cruise control on the speed limit 75 mph and go that way for hours. During those days of driving from Yellowstone, there was one lane each direction, still straight as an arrow, but undulating, dipping into and climbing out of gentle valleys. There was no white line signalling a safe passing area. The road would look clear of cars for 20 miles, and all of a sudden one would pop up a few hundred yards ahead, hidden in one of the valleys.

This made passing a matter of great concern. There weren't many cars. Those that were there moved along about fifty to fifty five miles per hour. If the car reached 60 mph it began to roar and sound like the engine was getting ready to fly through the hood. Dad was a careful driver, but he liked to go along at about the speed limit (55),  so he had a strategy for those slow drivers that would be thwarting his driving rhythm.

You could see them ahead of you, first way down the road, and closer and closer as you overtook them. The important thing was to minimize your time in the lane with oncoming traffic. So, Dad would make his move. About a half mile before the offending car, Dad would stomp on the gas. Nothing happened instantly, but we would be gaining speed. At the same time, Dad would be watching down the road, trying to guess where the next long stretch with no dips would be. He would time it so he would hit the start of that long stretch at the same time as he came up to that slow moving car, whip to the left into the oncoming traffic lane, pass the car going about 30 mph faster than it was, and whip back into the safe lane, decelerating to a normal speed. We kids thought it was great fun. Mom must have had total trust in Dad because she took it in stride, but looking back, I suspect that it must have aged her a little.

When we returned from this recent Glacier trip, we took the Washington Oregon route, much of which is on US 97, a one lane each direction highway not a whole lot different than those of Nevada in the 40s. I thought about Dad's technique  few times, but the newer cars have a little more get up and go, so I was content to wait for a very safe opportunity or a passing lane. Of course, I'm about thirty years older than Dad was during his passing days, so there might have been a testosterone basis.

One last variant of Dad's method was what he used in Sequoia National Park, and taught to me. There was a sixteen mile extremely curvy road from where we lived at 3000 feet elevation, up to the primary park area at 7000 feet. This road was a continuous series of S curves, limiting you to about 15 mph on outside curves, and 20 on inside curves. Each outside curve was totally blind, but you could see a long ways up the road. Once you have memorized the road, you can tell from looking up the road whether there is a car coming or not. So, if a car was not coming, Dad would just pass the car ahead of him on an inside curve, terrifying the other driver, who thought a car might appear at any second. I learned to drive on this road, and soon used the same technique. Never have had a road since where such a move would be appropriate.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ohlone Wilderness Backpack - Once Again

I forget (block out?),  over time, the more trying aspects of a trip. Unless, of course, it was so terrible that I have a story to tell at appropriate occasions. We have a story to tell for part of this route, that I will hold for another time, or possibly never tell. However....

We are blessed (that word has religious overtones, but I just mean an earlier, intelligent set of voters), with a vast system of regional parks, home to coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, raptors, rattlesnakes, newts, spittle bugs and beetles, to name a few. Berkeley was the scene of radical politics in the 60s, and those matured radicals still have a positive effect on their local environment, though the fuddy-duddys are gaining.

I digress. The Ohlone Wilderness Trail has a segment between Del Valle Regional Park and Sunol Regional Park that is about twenty miles long. Starting from Del Valle, at about 750 feet elevation, it is ten miles to Maggie's Half Acre campsite at elevation 3480. This is by any standards, a non trivial hike. Add to that the fact that in the middle of the ascent, there is a four hundred foot drop into a canyon, and then an ascent out, altogether about a 3000 foot climb in ten miles. From Maggie's half acre out, it is another ten miles, but mostly down, with quite a few PUDs in between (pointless ups and downs). We did this as an overnight backpack in 2007, and again a few days ago. This time it was near 80 degrees F. Consequently I took no pictures until we were near the top of the climb. It was a b--- buster, or make your own euphemism.
Finally near the top

Near the top the trail levels off; you walk through a pine forest, and interspersed are these huge oak trees, I estimate eight feet in diameter. For this country, that is huge. I saw the trees last time, but again this time, I was so exhausted that I couldn't raise my camera. Once more they go unrecorded.

The climb from there was more gradual to Maggie's Half Acre, so by the time we setup camp, I had the energy to take a few pictures. I skipped the outhouse, which was colorful, but gross. This location has three campsites (which you must reserve in advance). #2 was ours, #3 was nearby. Both were ok, but the next morning we finally saw #1 - the best location for ambiance, but farthest from the water.

This is the tent we carried for Camino Mozarabe, but never used

Evening View West

The evening at campsite
The next morning, took some shots as we worked our way down. The following are from that morning:

The next morning

Obligatory Morning Shadow Picture
Wildlife of the herp variety
Not so wildlife
Morning Trail
End of the Trail
Don't know what this was - fawn, calf? no skull around.

This whole trail is an hour's drive from my house to one end, where we drop a car. Drive fifty minutes and we are at the other end, ready to start. Just a sample of what we have to offer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camino Mozárabe Images and Moments 2011

The name was exotic, and southern Spain was unknown and beckoning. We didn't quite throw a dart at a map, but similar. It was a pilgrimage route in Europe, the length was right, we had the time. If we could deal with the heat we could do it, so number one priority was to start early enough in the year. I documented the planning in an earlier blog entry: Camino Mozárabe - Planning - a work in progress   At first we picked April 17 as a start date in Granada. Then I reread James Michener's Iberia - Easter is a huge deal in Granada, no chance of finding reasonable accommodations at this late date, plus it would be crazy to be there at Easter and then leave without experiencing the whole Easter week. So, we moved the date to April 27th. Got to Málaga saw a few sights, slept, and caught the bus to Granada. Pouring rain on the bus, but just showers by the time we arrived around noon. Into the hotel to drop our stuff and then out. Found where the Camino Mozárabe route started. (Marked by a plaque). Walked it to the point closest to our hotel, to avoid having to search for it on departure day. The graffiti in Granada was up to the standards of Spain. I did a separate youtube just on the colors of Andalucia

The big deal in Granada is the Alhambra, palaces and grounds dating from Moorish times but used by the Catholic monarchs as well. However, don't neglect the little things, like manhole covers.

We missed Easter, but hadn't realized that the saints have to go home. The various saints are cared for by associations confraternities? and brought to church for special occasions. The process of getting there is elaborate, with a procession, a band, various groups of people. What we didn't realize is that the return home for the saints is also a major event, and we managed to see several of these.

After a day plus in Granada our walk begins. Rain threatening but not happening. City suburbs are not all that exciting. You have to seek it out. In this part of Spain, abandoned industrial buildings are the thing of interest. Susan is still nursing some knee problems from a hike a few weeks ago, so we stop every couple of hours if we can find a dry enough place. We reach Pinos Puente for the night and find the next day that rain is likely. Still, the contrast of the red poppies, the green and the wet is striking.

Enroute to Moclin

olive groves are NOT boring
silo de aceite - trail landmark
In Baena we saw lots of cars with trailers, no pickups
Baena's San Francisco
We didn't see pickups, but saw lots of trailers

the mosque in Cordoba
This is our end point, from here we went to Cadiz, Sevilla and Madrid

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How many years does it take before abandoned objects become art?

I often find myself photographing the old and broken down, but it requires a number of years of aging to get the proper amount of rust, enough broken windows, or whatever symbolizes the conquest of nature over our small efforts.

We are in that cautious hiking stage where a trip is soon enough that we don't have time to heal if we do serious hurt to ourselves through improvident exertions. A couple of weeks ago we did the falls loop on Mt. Diablo and managed to stress Susan's knees, so since then have kept walking, but on flatter terrain.

This walk was through Round Valley Preserve, a ranch purchased by an Irish immigrant, Thomas Murphy, in 1873, and finally sold by his grandson in 1988 to the East Bay Regional Park District for open space.

Our route kept to the valley floor, just right for healing knees. Here and there as we passed along, were rusty pieces of farm equipment, sitting or fallen in their place of last use.

Some examples:

There were of course, numerous flowers, ground squirrels, raptors, vultures, etc. Those you'll find in Susan's images. This trip I chose rust.