Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Near Zumwalt Meadows, where we paused our hike for a picnic lunch

Last week Andrew & I went on our summer vacation together to King's Canyon & Sequoia National Parks. It was amazing. Four nights, lots of hikes, lots of deer (bucks with antlers), and one bear sighting.

The drive out was quite long, through Gilroy, Los Banos, and Fresno. We stopped at a beautiful reservoir before entering the truly desolate wastelands that are Los Banos and Fresno. We might be biased -- it was like entering an oven when we stopped in Fresno for last minute items and Jamba Juice.

As we got nearer the Sierras, the land entered more dry hills, and we passed things like this:

Then we climbed up into the Sierras, and suddenly it was lush, cool forest. We had to drive quite a ways before getting to our campsite, which was a short walk up a hill. Everything had to be in bear boxes at all times, which really complicates your life. It's as if you had to enter a locked fridge not only for milk, but also for tea, toothpaste, and soap. The first night we settled in, took an evening walk, and ate tofu dogs, vegetarian baked beans, corn, and zucchini. Stuffed. And of course, the evening campfire with s'mores.

Tuesday, our first full day: Started with a trip to Lodgepole village, from which we went on a hike to Tokopah Falls (which was down to a trickle), ate lunch, drove to King's Canyon & waded in Hume Lake, walked through the giant Sequoias (including the widest, General Grant), and returned home for dinner. The fire didn't go well, which put me in a bad mood -- missing my stove and shower.

Wednesday was dedicated to Cedar Grove in King's Canyon. We got an early start for the 1.5 hour drive (complete with tea and coffee) and hiked from Roaring River Falls to Zumwalt Meadow (4+ miles). Saw a deer, and then, when Andrew was a bit behind me, I spotted a bear walking about 150 feet away from me. I gestured to Andrew to hurry over, and he caught a quick glimpse. We *needed* to see a bear after all the hassle of using the bear boxes.

The river and meadow were beautiful, and we made trail-side tuna fish sandwiches before making the meadow loop. No more bears on the way back to the car. We then drove to Cedar Grove village, drank water/tea and shared a double chocolate haagan dazs ice cream bar while sitting on the porch. We'd been wanting to get in the water, so we explored some areas along King's River. Finally, we stumbled upon a deserted spot with a deep little pool. I decided to swim in my underwear and top, and then convinced Andrew he needed to go swimming, too. Lovely little spot.

Then we were ready for a shower... so we returned to the village, and then made our way home up the canyon (with plenty of stops to enjoy the views). Luckily we had an easy dinner -- a pre-made jambalaya mix that we just had to heat over the fire and put over avocado. With more of the ever-plentiful zucchini on the side.

Thursday was our last full day, and we decided we were in the mood to take a longer hike. We again went toward Lodgepole, and did the Lakes Trail to Heather Lake. It was 4.1 miles one way -- and mostly uphill. The trail meandered through forest, up to stark cliffs overlooking the Tokopah Falls area from the Watchtower, and ended in an alpine lake setting. A number of European couples/ families were hiking the same path, but we had the lake to ourselves for awhile. More trail side sandwiches, and then I gradually forced myself into the water (it wasn't so much a problem of the lake being cold, as the weather not being all that hot). It was the perfect setting, from the rocks into a drop off in the lake -- I didn't have to deal with any mysterious muddy lake bottoms (which kind of freak me out). Andrew napped in the shade, while I swam about and then sunned off. Then we explored a new way out from our rocky lake-overhang, as the way in required walking and balancing on a log over a muddy marsh.

The way back down was still long, but we made much better time as we were going downhill for so much of it. And we ran into a marmot, which didn't hurt anything.

After all that, we wanted another shower... and then we went home, changed for dinner, and after quite a bit of driving around looking for food (and at the lights from towns down below the Sierras, and the stars up above), we ended up at the beautiful lodge: where we were able to have spicy sweet potato soup, Asian salad, and seared mahi mahi. Ahh, it's nice not to cook over a wood fire!

Friday morning we packed up camp, took one last hike to the Buena Vista bluff (awesome 360 views of the area), and started our descent. We stopped for a tour of the Sierra Cat Haven, where we saw about 10-15 different species of cats, many endangered. Reminded me of what Mer's doing this summer, and it was cool to get some more perspective on it.

Then we had to get to Fresno. Returned the crappy knife/ saw I'd bought there that definitely *did not* cut kindling. Had the ever-faithful Subway veggie delite for lunch, and jamba juice for dessert. Well, and a cookie.

Then it was back through Los Banos & Gilroy... where we stopped at the bizarre Casa de Fruta, and realized we were very lucky *not* to be going the opposite direction. We breezed past the outgoing traffic, saw one very confused coyote on a hill overlooking the highway, and made it back to Palo Alto in time to pick up food at the market & make dinner (after unloading all the crap from the car, putting it away, and showering). Lemon basil rice mix w/ tomato & eggplant saute.

It was kind of nice to have my own clean shower & kitchen back, but very sad to see our camping extravaganza over, and the summer together that much closer to over.

But we made the most of the last weekend -- returning the rental car on Saturday, biking to the farmer's market, doing about ten loads of laundry in the afternoon... Made a more elaborate dinner of falafel, salad, and a yogurt dill dressing. And then in the evening, Andrew's retro date: Dial M for Murder at the old Stanford Theater, and dessert (ice cream & a chocolate malt shake) at the Creamery. Yum!

Sunday we had a day in the city, as we hadn't gone there since Andrew's Dad visited us. Wandered around in Golden Gate Park (Shakespeare's Garden, which I loved; the "lake" that's really a moat around a little island/ hill; the botanical gardens; the rose garden), ate lunch at the Museum cafe (quinoa salad with figs, but I had a bite of Andrew's grassfed sustainable burger) and returned for chocolate cake after wandering, and walked through the Haight (around the McDonald's is a scary place), where I found one CD, but not a single pair of jeans.

On the way home, stopped for coffee, last minute items from TJ's... made pasta, garlic bread, and a pepper/spinach saute for dinner. Followed by our version of homemade s'mores (marshmallows over the range, chocolate fondou) and watching the rest of our Degrassi DVD.

Monday was mostly dedicated to packing and last minute errands... with a trip up to the top of Hoover Tower (where you can see everything: the bay and the city, the campus, the foothills...), and dinner out (yummy burritos).

And Tuesday we got up at 3:30 am to go to SFO together... Andrew off to Wisconsin, and I to Oregon. I slept the whole time. Went blackberrying in Washington with Mum... settling in at home... making two batches of jam... a walk along the ditch... a much needed nap... dinner on the porch, with the mountain and the sunset... talking till it was dark.

And somehow I'm going abroad on Saturday.

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