A few weeks ago, on our way up to the Bay Area, we made a detour to visit Pinnacles National Park. It is one of the newest parks, just converted from a National Monument in 2013 and is quite small in comparison to some of the other parks in California. You could hike all the way across the park in a day if you wanted. The rocky landscape was formed by a combination of volcanic activity, movement of the tectonic plate and erosion. Red rock pillars jut into the sky and fallen boulders make caves throughout.
We wandered the trails through the park, making our way through the caves and up to the reservoir built in the 1930’s. There weren’t a ton of people out and we found most of them relaxing by the reservoir. There were quite a few rock climbers and it was exciting to see them high on distant peaks.
The place felt old and mysterious. We joked that we were stepping into Picnic at Hanging Rock. At the end of summer the place was still hot and sort of desolate feeling. Though it would be difficult to get lost in the clearly marked trails, you could imagine in an earlier time one of your party going missing.
There’s a feeling that this place is just crossing over from remote tourist attraction to a protected park. The campground was not very enticing, more of an RV spot than anything, though it oddly had a swimming pool. If we had more time, I would have liked to hike more of the trails. Still, it was fun to picnic there and climb through the caves, exploring nooks and crannies with giant boulders overhead.
I had these photos squirreled away from our trip to Yosemite in February. My friend, Erin, has requested more Sequoias so this post is dedicated to her.
Maripsoa Grove is the largest grove of giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. We were fortunate enough to visit when the road to the grove was open, but shuttles were not yet running through the woods themselves. We walked the various trails snaking through the trees up to the fallen tunnel tree at the far end of the grove. A tunnel was cut into the base of this tree in 1881 so that tourists could drive horse drawn carriages (then eventually cars) though it. Because of the massive hole in its base, the tree fell in 1969, helping to spark more conservation efforts for the Sequoias.
It’s hard, even in their presence to comprehend the size and age of these massive trees. They have survived thousands of years and will outlive all of us. In theory of course. Numerous giant sequoias were cut down in the late 19th century before they were protected. In some areas, like where we camped last year, you can climb up on the stumps of the long ago felled trees. At times it seems only when they are lost can we comprehend what they were. It would be easy to say that they are now safe, but even with the national park protection, humans have a way of destroying things. In April someone set fire to the Fallen Goliath Tree in King’s Canyon. It’s not known whether it was intentional started, but now only charred pieces of the ancient tree remain. This is just one event of many of incidents of humans continuing to destroy that which should be preserved. It’s too sad to list more.
The hike itself was not terribly strenuous but I found myself fairly depleted after an uphill stretch in the exposed sun. I watched some kids bound ahead of me on the trail and I felt so slow. Though I’m building strength and tolerance, altitude of any sort does not agree with me. I suppose that is what I get for living near sea level my entire life. We stopped and ate sandwiches on the steps of the then closed museum. Nearby was the only snow we saw on the trip, just enough for someone to make a small snow man. We hiked back on a different route, passing the faithful couple, two giant sequoias that have grown into each other as they sometimes do.
In the past few months we’ve tried to do as much hiking and outdoor adventures as we can but I think this year is going to be landmark summer for excursions. As the warm weather rolls in I find myself longing to be outdoors even more, dreaming of walking for miles amidst the trees, along creeks or up mountains (well maybe just some hills). I know this blog will eventually circle back to more creative things but for now it seems like it should have a subtitle of something like “Alix in nature.” Hope you don’t mind.
Last weekend we took a little trek up to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for a little backpacking adventure along with Kyle and our friends Jenn and Scott. It was the first time backpacking for all of us besides Shawn, so it wasn’t anything terribly strenuous, just far enough that we could get away from everyone else and test out our gear. We started out with a hike up to Moro Rock to enjoy the views of the valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. From the top we could even see the place we planned to hike to later. So many wildflowers were in bloom, even growing in the crevices of the rocky ascent.
We hiked down into Redwood Canyon late in the afternoon. It was like being in a magical wonderland, hiking between massive trees. Even with the physical exertion of climbing with a giant backpack, I loved the whole thing. I love to go on adventures but I have to admit that I have a lot of fears (fear of getting elevation sickness, fears my car getting stuck on a dirt road, fears of getting dehydrated and blacking out, all fears that have happened to me) that sometimes inhibit me from doing what I want to be doing. This trip I was so excited I decided that I could not let any of these things get in the way of my fun. Miraculously they didn’t and all went swimmingly.
We found a place to camp just as the sun was setting. As we erected our tents, a sound rang through the trees, louder than anything we had heard throughout the day. It took a long while for us to realize it was an owl and not anything more ominious. It was dark by the time we had set up our tents and got around to eating. I had a leftover burrito that was slightly heated, while the rest of the gang had more exciting camp meals. I realized that it’s best for me to keep my meals simple and plan to do more rehydrated foods on future trips. All our food was stored in bear cannisters overnight and remained untouched in the morning. We did catch a look at a young bear the next day as we were leaving the park.
Since it wasn’t too long of a hike, and because it’s the only one we have, we brought our massive tent. It’s much more suited to car camping but wasn’t so terrible to carry. Overall, I wasn’t bothered by the weight of my pack, which was not particularly light. I did have some knee problems that started when I was walking down the stairs at Moro rock, sans backpack. I’m confident though that with some strenght training it won’t continue to be an issue. Kyle had by far the largest and heaviest pack as he was stuck carrying a zero degree sleeping bag, a full tent and the bear cannister for himself, Jenn and Scott to share. I’m aiming to lighten my load in the future but don’t expect that I’ll be an ultralight backpacker in the forseeable future. For breakfast, I had some super delicious oatmeal (no joke, I really like oatmeal) and Shawn made his signature tofu scramble.
One of my favorite parts of the whole experience, besides being alone in nature, was feeling totally self sufficient. We had more food than we needed, a filter for water and shelter. I’m sure if something had gone wrong it would be terrifying on some level but I felt more comfortable than I sometimes do on day hikes. I also accepted that I will probably always look pretty dorky as a backpacker but comfort really is more important to me than style. Mostly I can’t wait to go on more backpacking trips!
Oh hi. It’s been awhile. There’s no excuse really. Things have been quiet here as I’ve had nothing particularly notable to say. Life has just been rolling along and I question what’s really worth sharing. I had meant to post these Yosemite photos but I thought you might be tired of them already. Yet I’m posting them anyway, for myself if nothing else.
I’ve been saving my words for fiction; I’m working on another script. It’s not the first feature I’ve written but the first I’ve written on my own. It’s different than when Shawn and I have collaborated on scripts together as there is no discussion, no handing it over to let someone else fill in the blanks. Instead it’s all in my head. When I question something, I have to travel down some path in my imagination and see how it might play out. There’s no debating someone else’s idea, just an internal argument with myself about what works.
It is a struggle and a relief simultaneously to put the words down for a story. Relief because they are no longer swirling around in the back of my mind, haunting me. Relief because I’m doing something valuable, even if only on a personal level. A struggle of course because creativity and words are never easy, even when they are. Some nights I find trudging through pages is like wading through mud. Soon it will be finished though and it will be on to the next thing (or back to the last thing, however you want to look at it).
In the mean time, the blog has fallen to the wayside, but I don’t think this really affects anyone to be honest. I’m still around though and will continue to be, in case you were worried. Which I’m sure you weren’t.
We planned a hike to Mirror Lake and around the interior edge of the valley. Because I thought the shuttle route would be closed in winter, we started a bit father from the trail head than we meant to and had to make a few river crossings to get to the start. Once on the trail, the path was a little bit like walking in an elven wonderland, with old stone paths and boulders covered in moss. It was warm and sunny when made it to the lake and little kids were running through the water. We decided to cross ourselves and head down the trail back into the valley. The water was calm but icy cold. We ate our lunch by the lake before heading back on the trail.
As we walked back, we came across a deer on the trail. All the deer we encountered were surprisingly docile but this one particularly so. I walked slowly past it, trying to keep my distance, and it just calmly continued grazing.
It wasn’t long before it started getting dark and we found ourselves at the Ahwahnee hotel. We ventured inside for a bit to check out the place. It was strangely reminiscent of the Overlook hotel with massive fireplaces and red elevator doors.
We walked around the village a bit more afterwards before driving back out of the valley with the most brillian pink sunset.