Fairbanks, AK

I recently went to Fairbanks to visit with family and friends. Admittedly, it’s been a long time. Too long in fact. I seemed to be in a pattern of always wanting to make the trip, but never making it a top priority. “I’ll go in the spring,” or “I don’t have the money right now,” became typical excuses. I found myself getting comfortable with those excuses though, and “next spring” turned into 7 years, then another 6.

I’m from Fairbanks, and even though it had been a while, it felt natural being there. I like the people from Fairbanks. They enjoy their personal space (and don’t enjoy unexpected visitors in that space), they generally know how to work hard (at least the people I associate with), and they are genuine. Meaning, if someone says they are a hunter, a welder, or ride their snowmachine across the lake, they’re usually pretty passionate about it.

Golden Heart Plaza

I got there late afternoon on a Saturday. It was beautiful out, I gained an hour of time, and 4 or 5 hours of daylight. Sweet!! On Sunday we had a BBQ get together with family. It was really nice seeing everyone again, and even better seeing my Dad struggle on the grill haha! The food actually turned out excellent. I also learned a new way to cook chicken from Jan (my step-mom). All you do is boil the chicken til it barely starts to fall off the bone, let it cool, put it in a gallon ziplock bag with some BBQ sauce or whatever seasonings you want, then grill it as you see fit. Pretty simple, but it was new to me. My Aunt Liz also made a killer potato salad. After all the potato salad that I’ve eaten over the years, I think writing about it in a blog post is a first for me haha. I probably should have taken a picture of it (DAMN!).

Monday and Tuesday I spent knocking around town checking things out and getting the updated lay of the land. On Tuesday I popped into Pike’s Landing for a beer and saw a familiar face (Chad Wing), so I was happy to hang out with him. Callie flew in on Tuesday night, so on Wednesday Jan took us around town to see the sights. Callie has never been to Fairbanks, so it was really awesome that Jan was able to show us around and take the day off to hang out with us. She took us out to see the pipeline, Alaskaland, and all the way out to Angel Rocks.

A section of the pipeline with a "pig" inside of it. They send those down the pipeline to clear out any blockage.
A section of the pipeline with a “pig” inside of it. They send those down the pipeline to clear out any blockage.
The beginning of the hike to Angel Rocks was a bit wet!
The trail was rocky and wet, but nothing we couldn't handle.
The trail was rocky and wet, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
The first viewpoint at Angel Rocks about 1.5 mi in.
The first viewpoint at Angel Rocks about 1.5 mi in.

On Thursday we went to the Cabin. A lot has changed since the last time I was there. I had previously mentioned that I was away for 7 years, and then another 6 after that. My grandfather (Merlin Barkdull) passed away in 2009, so that was the reason I was back in Fairbanks. There was no time to go to the cabin or do too much of the other things I wanted to do, so this trip to the cabin was my first since 2002.

Let's go to the cabin!
Let’s go to the cabin!

The river has changed, but that’s to be expected I think. They are building a bridge across the river at the landing (which is currently on hold due to a lack of funding), so that was a little bit of a disappointment. My Dad drives the same old boat. It’s refreshing really. I learned to drive that same boat when I was 5. I’m 32 now, so I think it would be horrible if he ever got rid of it at this point.

The bunkhouse
The bunkhouse
The Teklanika River. This picture was taken late in the evening looking down river with my Dad's "Blue Canoe" in the foreground.
The Teklanika River. This picture was taken late in the evening looking down river with my Dad’s “Blue Canoe” in the foreground.

When we were up there we did a little bit of work on the bathhouse, which will function as a building to protect and heat a legitimate shower, toilet, and washing machine. Apparently a drier isn’t needed. My Dad says that they’ll use a method called “freeze drying.” What you do is take your recently washed clothes and string them up on a clothes line outside. They freeze solid, then you beat off all the ice, theoretically leaving a dry piece of clothing behind. I’d like to see that haha!

It was a bummer to leave the cabin, but on the way down we stopped at a friend’s cabin (Pat McGraw), to visit with him and his son Curtis. I grew up as good friends with Curtis so it was really good to see him. I hope I get to see them again soon. Pat took Callie and I on a four wheeler ride out to some of his moose hunting stomping grounds. It’s mostly thick brush and bogs out there, so it got pretty wild at times. I got the four wheeler that Callie and I were riding stuck in the mud. We didn’t have any choice but to step off the four wheeler at that point, and the mud was about knee deep. That made for a chilly boat ride back to the landing, but I’m really glad we went out there.

Sad Callie. This was taken just after we got out of the mud.
Sad Callie. This was taken just after we got out of the mud.

I’m thinking that the next trip we make up North should be in the winter time. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a snowmachine, and it would be a lot of fun getting back up there with a change in scenery. Maybe a trip back up to the cabin or even Artic Man.

I got to see some of the people I’ve been missing, but unfortunately not all. I ran into a couple of people accidentally and it was really nice seeing them too. For those that I missed, know that I’m sorry. I still miss you and love you. See you soon!

Table Mountain 

It’s perfect out. It’s not hot or cold, there’s a gentle breeze, and our nearest neighbor is 50 yards away. Callie’s grandad sent us a field guide for the Sierra Nevada Mountains and we’ve already identified three different plants and a bird is in the works. I fear that Callie will enjoy the discovery process maybe too much. Time will tell.

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We used Reserve America to reserve our site, but there must have been a disconnect somewhere because there was someone in our spot. It worked out though because this new site is on the edge of a ridge looking down at Jackson Lake. (Bird identified: it’s a White Headed Woodpecker). The stillness is soothing and even the squirrel like tendencies of our distant neighbors is trivial.

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Mt. Whitney

Intro: I wrote this blog in two parts. The first part is in present tense from Trail Camp, and the second part is written in past tense on the car ride back to Huntington Beach. The trip spanned 4 days: Thursday, June 18th through Sunday, June 21st.

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Joe Wuest, Jake Wuest, Callie Beebe, David Barkdull, Justin Wuest

Thursday (written in present tense): It’s been an interesting trip so far. We picked up the leader of our hiking party (Jake) from the Long Beach Airport and headed straight for Whitney. We met up with the rest of the crew at Boulder Creek RV Park. They were road tripping from Coeur d’Alene, ID and they had a 5th wheel to make the trip more comfortable.  It was ridiculously hot at the RV park. It was at least over 100 degrees today.

The route: Beginning at Whitney Portal and continuing to Trail Camp, 99 Switchbacks,m Trail Crest, the backside of Mt. Muir and Keeler Needle, up to Mt. Whitney.
The route: Beginning at Whitney Portal and continuing to Trail Camp, 99 Switchbacks, Trail Crest, the backside of Mt. Muir and Keeler Needle, up to Mt. Whitney.
Justin, stream crossing.
Justin, stream crossing.
Lone Pine Lake
Lone Pine Lake

Today (Friday) has been incredible. I’m writing this from Trail Camp. We’re a ways above the tree line so there’s no shade and the wind is blowing pretty good. There are no clouds in the sky and from here you can see Mt. Muir, Keeler Needle and Mt. Whitney very well. It’s hard to imagine people looking up at that and thinking, “Hmm, that looks like a good idea.” What about in the early 1900s? The equipment back then was nowhere near what it is today and there was no trail. No modern water filtration or fancy light weight tents. It gives you a whole new level of appreciation when you look at it from that perspective.

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“Sunset” behind Mt. Muir

Sunday (written in past tense thinking back on the experience): We left Trail Camp at 5 am on Friday. Others had left earlier (One group said they left at 1:30 am), but we found that 5 am was a good time for us. The sun was beginning to rise so there was no need for a head lamp, but it was nice and cool out. Leaving Trail Camp, the next section of trail is called the 99 switchbacks. As you’re climbing, you can see Trail Camp below and out to the valley below. Whitnessing the sun rise from that exposed section of the mountain was nothing short of incredible. The sun shone off Mt. Whitney creating some nice lighting.

Sunrise from the 99 switchbacks.
Sunrise from the 99 switchbacks.

It’s important to be careful when you’re climbing the top portion of the 99 switchbacks because the water runoff inevitably follows the trail down, creating some icy spots. There’s actually a spot where they put in some cable railing and I remember thinking, “Is this a joke? What do we need this for?” The snow packs along the inner side of that section and the runoff hits the outside, so there’s lots of ice. The other side of the railing features a rapid decent down to the bottom.

Callie hiking through a particularly icy section of the trail.
Callie hiking through a particularly icy section of the trail.

Trail Crest

After the 99 switchbacks we got to Trail Crest which was great because the sun was high enough in the sky at that point that the wind whipping through there was good for cooling us down. Looking off the backside, you see Sequoia National Forest and a few lakes including Guitar Lake. I don’t know the names of the others, but the way that the sun was hitting the range we were on, cast a shadow on the mountains on the other side, but the tops were still getting the sun too, so there was a strange reflection on the lakes below that I’d never seen before.

Trail Crest looking off the backside into Sequoia National Forest.
Trail Crest looking off the backside into Sequoia National Forest.

At this point we were a little over 2 miles from the top, but it was a fun 2 miles. Despite my 110 bpm heart rate beating in my head, the experience pushed us forward at break neck speed. We slowed at the gaps between mountains though. There’s a nice gap on the far side of Mt. Muir and Keeler Needle that we stopped to take pictures at and also catch some more of that wind pushing through.

Jake at the Keeler Needle gap.
Jake at the Keeler Needle gap.

The Summit

The last section of trail is pretty uneventful. Lots of rocks, but still some pretty nice views of Sequoia. We got to the summit at 8:15 am and spent the next hour soaking in the views. Since our hiking group was split into two groups, Justin, Jake and I got to the summit about 45 minutes faster than the rest of the pack. This gave us time to take a generous amount of panorama photos and take a nap. Seriously though, the rocks up on top are very big, flat and slightly sloped, and we weren’t the only ones who noticed this.

Catching my breath at the top.
Catching my breath at the top.

An interesting thing I found on the top of Whitney, was the benchmarks. There were a few of them, but none had the elevation listed. It seems that the actual elevation of Mt. Whitney is debatable. People say that the mountain is still getting taller, so the number changes from time to time. I thought it would be interesting though if the benchmarks had the elevation on them, that way you could see what the elevation was on that particular year. There is a sign that has the elevation, but I’m told that that number is out of date now too. If you take a look at one of the benchmarks below, there’s no elevation listed on it.

Benchmark U43  from 1926 with elevation missing.
Benchmark U43 from 1926 with elevation missing.
Callie and I on top of the world!
Callie and I on top of the world!
Callie taking a rest and enjoying the views.
Callie taking a rest and enjoying the views.

We made it back down to trail camp in about an hour and 45 minutes. We got there about an hour faster than the rest of the group, so we were able to break down camp, refill all the water and get ready for the last 6 miles out. At that point our joints and muscles were pretty tired, but we made it. It was sweltering hot, but the motivating thought was that there were hamburgers and ice cold soda waiting for us at the trailhead. Another trip in the bag and some memories we’ll never forget.

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Next up: The John Muir Trail.

San Bernadino Peak

Next week we are hiking Mt. Whitney. Before we do that though, we wanted to help prepare ourselves for the next step. We originally wanted to climb San Gregornio, which is the tallest mountain in Southern California, but we were late on getting a permit. A great alternative for us was to camp just below Anderson Peak. The elevation gain is comparable to that of our first day of hiking on Whitney. The second day on Whitney will be a bit of a grueler, so we paired up our second day of this trip with a 13 – 14 mile hike passing San Bernadino Peak and a few other noteworthy places along the way.

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We found a nice campsite at Trail Fork camp. We put our tent close to the edge of the hill where fewer trees could obstruct the view. From here we’re looking down into the valley and can see Big Bear Lake in the distance. We can also see the desert from here, so the view is pretty killer.

Tomorrow we are going to try to head further down the trail to hit a couple of the 10k + peaks in the San Gregornio Forest, then head back down to John’s Meadow to complete the loop. Callie tells me that the flowers are beginning to bloom at John’s Meadow (reported by a blogger last week), so hopefully we’ll get to spend a little time there too.

Callie has been struggling with finding the right pair of boots lately. She bought some Vasques which seemed good at first, but the size was off. Then after exchanging them for a different size, they were too narrow. She then took those back for some Keens, which she is currently using, but blisters are now on the attack. It pains me to see her walking to gingerly, knowing that it’s effecting her experience in a negative way.

Thankfully, now that we’re back at camp it’s warm enough to simply wear flip flops, kick back and enjoy the view. The sunset was incredible. I guess it pays to be on one of the biggest peaks around. Unobstructed views! As the sun was setting, a storm was rolling in, so in some of the pictures we took, you can see the clear sky to the West and how it turns gloomy to the right side of the pictures.

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Sunday

Today we actually skipped hiking Anderson Peak. There’s no real trail to the top, and as we were trying to save Callie from blisters, we skirted the top and headed further down the trail to San Bernadino Peak. More great views!

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After descending San Bernadino Peak, there’s an interesting spot called Washington Monument where much of the surveying of Southern California was conducted. I’d end up butchering the story, so give these a read:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Bernardino_meridian
http://www.clui.org/section/san-bernardino-meridian

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Overall, the hike was about 20 miles. Bedtime is coming early tonight, but I’m confident in our Whitney trip and that was the overall goal with this trip.

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Jennie Lakes Wilderness

Saturday Night

We brought too much food. I’m writing this from inside the tent. We just got back from the bear hang and the 13L dry bag I use barely fit each of our snacks, food and cook set. Live and learn. Jennie Lake is remarkeable. I took a few pictures with the nice mountain reflection on the water. I guess we’ll see how they turn out in a couple of days.

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This camp is very crowded. There were only a few parties that filled out the register at the trailhead, so we were a bit surprised at the boomtown population when we got here. People try to find the quickest camp that will suit their needs, and they end up (in Bruce Lee’s words) missing all that heavenly glory.

We walked only a few hundred feet further and found a nice camp. It’s been pretty wet here, so starting a fire was a waste of time. I spent more time trying to keep it alive than I did spend enjoying it. All that work kept me warm though so it’s not a complete failure.

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I brought my iPhone on the trip mostly for the convenience of picture taking, but here I sit in the tent before bed listening to Josh Ritter’s new(ish) album. I find myself recalling John Muir quotes that Callie was reciting earlier in the day and Ritter’s lyrics that further strengthen the grasp that the wilderness has on me.

Sunday

We left Jennie Camp at the crack of 8:30 am despite waking up at 6. Leaving camp we had to go through Jo Pass which has quite a bit of snow still. It was only about 6-12 inches deep, but more of an issue was trying to find the trail in some spots. Multiple times we wandered off course.

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The info we found on this section said that it was a little over 8 miles to Weaver Lake, but we found it to be about 10. Maybe that was the wandering.

Weaver Lake is beautiful. Just like Jennie, but actually less crowded today. As I write this there are 3 tents about 25 feet from ours, so there’s that. Only about 3.5 miles back to the car tomorrow. We’re trying to get an earlier start so we have time to go visit a different section of the Sequoias which Callie tells me has some of the oldest living trees on the planet.

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Monday

It was a pretty quick walk out. We left at 7:30 am even though we skipped breakfast and woke up at 6. I’m glad it was easy getting out though because we were pretty sore from the last 2 days of hiking. We’re slowly working our way up to the next level.

Going to the Sequoias was a nice treat. Finding a cup of coffee was a trick, but we made it happen at Lone Pine. I’ve always thought that Redwood trees were the biggest trees, or maybe some other exotic species in the Amazon. Turns our the biggest trees in the world are only about 5 hours away from where we live.

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The main attraction of Sequoia National Park is the General Sherman Tree. It’s not the tallest or widest tree, but it is the heaviest and has the most volume of any other tree on the planet. Sequoia trees own most of the other records you’d care to know about too.

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I find myself saying that each trip I take into the woods is my favorite. I think that it might turn out that the woods are my favorite.

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Monday Morning Interjection

While I was out to get the bear hang I didn’t have my journal on me, so I used a recording app on my phone. “The morning has an eerie still to it. The campfire smoke from last night clings to the trees, mocking the forest. As if to say, ‘We’re here to appreciate you, but we can still burn you down.'” It’s a sad truth that I wish didn’t exist. Let’s take care of the land so it can continue to heal us.

Islip Saddle

On our trip to Portland I bought a Rite in the Rain all weather pocket journal. I like it a lot so far. I bought it because I wanted to write these blogs with better detail. Sometimes it can be difficult to sit down and recall everything that happened over the last few days and put words to paper that do the trip justice. So I’m writing the following paragraphs from the present tense.

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Islip Peak

Made it to the top of Islip Peak. The views are excellent. Lots of cloud cover below, but we are above it all. It was a very enjoyable hike in. Only a little over 2 miles to the camp and another mile to the peak. There was a fairly good sized storm that passed through the last couple of days. It rained down below, but up here it snowed a fair amount. Worst case scenario, we can collect some of it and boil it up at camp.

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We passed a group of people on the trail with enormous packs. Must have weighed 75lbs a piece. They were friendly though! Almost everyone on the trail is though. You have to love that about coming into the woods, if nothing else.

The Next Morning

I hate sleeping in a bivy sack. I bought it last year when we backpacked into the Grand Canyon. I thought I would get used to it, but that hasn’t happened. When you close it up, it’s too hard to breathe. They make them so they are waterproof, so that prohibits airflow. Knowing that, I vented the bivy (unzipped the waterproof shell halfway) and it was still horrible.

I fell asleep and a short while later woke up panting as if I was sleep jogging. I opened everything up after that. It was freezing, but at least I didn’t suffocate.

Now after breakfast, we are hiking a short stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

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The Trail to Throop Peak

We met a very interesting man on the trail today. As he was passing us on the trail he asked where we were headed and we told him we were headed back to Islip Saddle where we parked. Callie then asked him the same question to which he replied, “Canada.”

When we got back to the saddle where the car was parked, he was there. He came up to us and struck up a nice conversation about hiking and whether we were going to hike the full PCT. We asked him how long it took (5 months), how many miles per day he hikes (25 miles). We thanked him for the conversation and mentioned how nice everyone on the trail is.

I’m paraphrasing, but I’m not making this up. He said he hikes because of the beautiful serenity of the faces on the trail, because we have been given the freedom and ability to enjoy the trail, and that he didn’t have to destroy anything but his fear to make it happen.

Thirty Two

I turned 32 on April 28th. For my birthday, we took a trip to Portland on a mini vacation. I’ve always heard nice things about Portland and we wanted to check it out. To be completely honest, there was an ulterior motive. The company I had been working with for almost 5 years, got acquired by Arthur J. Gallagher. I was scared. I didn’t know what it meant for the future of the employees at the company, and I didn’t know what it meant for my career.

Portland was an opportunity to look around and explore the “what ifs” that exist. What if I lose my job? What if we lived closer to family? Lots of life altering questions were swirling around in my head and I think the trip was an opportunity to calm my nerves.

Japanese Gardens and Rose Garden

We got into town early afternoon on Friday and picked up our rental car. We weren’t able to check into the hotel until 4 (!!) so we had a little time to kill. My mom and sister also met up with us in Portland (it was really nice to see them), so all 4 of us went to the Rose Garden. Portland is famous for its rose garden, but it’s too early in the year for roses, so that part of the park was simply well arranged bushes. The Japanese Garden had a bit more going on. I think it was something like 7 bucks to get in, but what are you going to do..not go in? Yeah right.

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That night we went to a quaint restaurant called Mother’s Bistro & Bar. You should probably go there. I had the chicken and dumplings. It seemed like an odd thing to be on the menu, but if they were going to put it at the top of the entree list, it had to be good. On a rainy evening, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have now.

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Portland Saturday Market

Our hotel was only a couple of blocks from the market, so on Saturday morning we wandered down there expecting to find some kind of farmers market with vegetables and trinkets for sale. It was a bit more than that. It’s kind of like when you go to the fair and see the craft booths set up with vendors selling things like wood carvings and handmade jewelry. The Saturday Market is kind of like that, but 10 times better. Rogue had a tent there and for some (excellent) reason, the city let them serve beers there.

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The guy in the below video is ridiculously good at playing the ghetto drums. After I took this video, I walked over and put a dollar in his bucket, and he then started singing, “Thank youuuuu, for the dollar, thank youuuu for the dollar, for the dollar.” It was pretty cool because it was unexpected, sounded good, and earned him quite a few more dollars from the other people standing around.

Forest Park

My mom and sister had to drive back to Coeur d’Alene on Sunday, but we wanted to make sure that we got some hiking in before the weekend came to a close.

Forest Park was a great option for us because it’s so close to town and seemed like it would be tough to pass up. This hike was so incredibly green! Almost all of Portland is though. Dreary weather = lush vegetation.

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Multnoma Falls

Since Multnoma Falls is on the way back to Coeur d’Alene, we decided to go. It’s fairly crowded, but the views are worth it. There is a trail that takes you from the bottom that winds around for maybe a quarter of a mile to the bridge. The bridge is a pretty cool spot because you can see the upper falls and the lower falls together and feel the spray of the waterfall. Looking up at the waterfall and the walls around the falls is a pretty awesome sight.

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From the bridge you can take a trail up to the top of the falls. There’s a viewing deck up there, so it’s safe. The creek that feeds the falls is quite beautiful as well, and I think I enjoyed that part of the walk more than the viewing deck. The trail is only a mile long, so it’s not too bad at all.

Bridal Veil Falls

After we parted ways with my mom and sister, we headed back West (only a couple of exits) to the much less traveled Bridal Veil Falls. It’s a fairly short walk (less than a mile), and surprise surprise, the entire walk is beautiful. Once you get to the falls, there’s a viewing deck where you can get a good look at the falls. I think there might be more water flowing over Bridal Veil than Multnoma, so it seemed more powerful I guess. This picture below is from the steps of the viewing deck looking down at the creek just downstream from the falls.

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The viewing deck doesn’t hang over the water, so you can actually go in front of the deck and down to the water. In the picture below, I’m taking the picture from the edge of the water. If you look up on the rock, Callie is sitting there taking in the view. The way that the water flows over the falls, it drops and pools up in the area in front of me and then flows around the rock that Callie is sitting on before heading downstream in the picture above.

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My mom did an excellent job of coming up with places we should visit while we were there in the Portland area. We also went to Powell’s Bookstore, a couple watering holes, and hit up pretty much all the outdoor retail stores. If you need any gear at all, you should probably pass up all the usual spots that you would think of (Mountain Hardware, North Face, Patagonia, Columbia) and go straight to Mont Bell. That’s where people who actually need gear, go to get it. The other spots are catered more to the people who don’t go into the woods.

The trip was successful on many different levels. I think it did a good job of calming my nerves, answering some “what ifs”, and providing some R&R. I’m sure that whatever happens, we’ll be just fine. The world is a beautiful place worth exploring. If we end up moving it will be an adventure, and if we end up staying it will be an adventure. We’ll make the most of it wherever we are and keep kicking ass.

Dodgers vs. Rockies

I love going to Dodger Stadium. I have a good time every time I go. We usually try to find tickets in the $30 – $50 dollar range. We did the same this time and ended up with tickets in the very first row of section 45 (field level in left field).

Today, Scott Van Slyke was in left field. I’ve always liked Van Slyke and I suppose today contributed to that going 3 – 4 with a home run.

I’ve always thought it would be awkward being on the kiss cam, or being responsible for a strange dance when “Who Let The Dogs Out” was playing for the jumbotron, but today I was chosen for a mini game-show they have and it wasn’t too bad. It’s pretty basic and rather silly. You have to guess what a particular member of the team would have guessed with the same question.

I was given this question, “What is Yasmani Grandahl’s favorite president on Mt. Rushmore?” He’s from Cuba and he’s our starting catcher haha. Here’s what happened:

I think I was chosen because I was sitting at the very front of the section and on the very edge of the row, making it pretty practical for a TV camera and a microphone.

They made me sign a release form and told me whether I won or lost the game, I would be given a free pair of shoes. New Balance was sponsoring the contest, so thanks are in order to them. I also had to agree to be very happy about winning and be of the rah rah sort haha!

I almost said no, but they showed me the shoes and they were trail running shoes, so I agreed. I later found out that I can basically have any New Balance shoes I want, and in any color. I want to get Callie some trail running shoes so she can help me gear up for the Grand Canyon, so I think this whole thing will help the cause. Go Dodgers!

Crystal Cove Run

We were torn this weekend between going to the Long Beach Grand Prix and doing something local today to go along with the Dodgers game tomorrow. We opted for something local and went out to Crystal Cove. I’m glad we did.

First off, we go to Laguna Beach fairly often to go hiking and to the beach once in a while, and there’s a spot along PCH where the road dips just before it goes up a hill and into Laguna. If you follow that hill out to the water there’s a beautiful house on the rocks. I’ve always wondered what a sunset would look like from that house. The beach right along that stretch of PCH looks pretty impressive too, and I’ve always wanted to go there. What I didn’t realize is that beach is part of Crystal Cove. I didn’t realize this until we were already into the hike, but it was a very nice bonus to the trip.

As for the hike/run, I had a very good time. I’ve gone a little ways into Crystal Cove a few years back and I was unimpressed, so it’s been a while since i’ve been open to the idea of going back. Part of my reasoning of wanting to go back was because I need to get myself into better trail running shape.

Crystal Cove Route
Callie’s route in yellow. Dave’s route in green

Since I’m focused more on running and Callie is not, our paths are a little different.

I’m running the Grand Canyon this fall (rim to rim), and I need to seriously up my game now, before I get in over my head. The outer loop of Crystal Cove is about 9 – 10 miles, so the distance was a good fit, but I was also happy with the amount of elevation change. It’s up and down quite a bit, so that’s pretty nice. Sometimes when you’re out there and the trail is all up or all down, it can be draining and not as much fun for someone like me who is probably in over their head (I have a few months to turn it around).

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Elevator to the right. Slow n easy to the left.

A little word of advice: Avoid the “Elevator” section of trail if you are going up hill. It’s steep as hell and I had to be pretty careful on the way down.

Last stretch of trail before getting back to the parking lot.

The views were great, the trail is wide, but like a lot of spots in Southern California, Rattlesnakes are abundant. We were just walking along and passed an older lady who asked us, “Did you see the snake?” To which we replied no. In getting lost in conversation, Callie and I had walked about 2 feet from a Rattlesnake and didn’t even realize it. It didn’t rattle, didn’t do much of anything, and when the lady asked us about it, we were clueless. She then threw a small stick at it to see if she could move it off the trail. It made me wish that I was jogging in cowboy boots.

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Down in the bottom of the canyon. Lot’s of nice shade through there.

All things considered, my previous opinion of the area was completely wrong and I believe I’ll use this spot quite a bit to gear up for the Grand Canyon. Now all I need to do is be able to run the loop about 3 times and I think I’ll be ready.

Santa Anita Canyon

This weekend we took a trip to the Santa Anita Canyon. We’ve been following a local blogger (Modern Hiker) and this area came highly recommended. I love how accessible this hike is. The trailhead is only 5-10 minutes or so off the 210 freeway, so it’s pretty easy getting there. Conversely, because it’s so accessible, there are tons of greenhorns at the trailhead.

Once you go a little further into the woods, people become more sparse though; just the way we like it.

Saturday:

  1. We started out at Chantry Flat.
  2. Before we started the main part of our hike, we hiked about 1.2 miles in to Hermit Falls.
  3. From there, we took the Gabrielino Trail past Sturtevant Falls and camped at Spruce Grove Trail Camp.

Sunday:

  1. Continued on Gabrielino Trail to Sturtevant Camp.
  2. Just after Sturtevant Camp, we took the Mt. Zion Trail.
  3. After hiking up Mt. Zion, you drop down into Hoegees Trail Camp
  4. At Hoegees Trail Camp you can choose either the upper trail or stay in the bottom. We chose the Upper Winter Creek Trail because if you take the lower trail, you’ll have to walk on a bit of pavement and fight the crowds to get back to Chantry Flat. Plus the upper trail pretty much spits you out where the hamburgers are haha.

Santa Anita Canyon Trail Map
Hermit Falls: A lot of the people who walk in are looking for this spot. It has a couple of deep pools that make for a good spot to jump in. The lower swimming hole is pretty dangerous and not recommended to jump into. A couple of people have actually lost their lives there over the last year or so. We were talking to one of the guys there who runs a mule pack station and he let us know that the bottom pool is deceptive. The water looks deeper than it actually is, and over time, sand and dirt slowly fill in a portion of the pool making it that much more shallow and dangerous for jumping.

The bottom of the canyon is filled with tall trees giving just the right amount of shade. There’s also a lot of ground cover, so you’re fully enveloped in greenery everywhere you turn.

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Sturtevant Falls: This was a bit of a bonus for our trip. Looking at the map that I posted above, you can see that the trail actually bypasses Sturtevant Falls and just keeps on heading to Spruce Grove. We found a little billy goat trail from the main trail down to the falls. I followed it down 50 feet or so, but didn’t end up going all the way to the water. If we were looking for a spot to jump in the water, I think I would actually prefer this spot to Hermit Falls.

Spruce Grove Campground: We set up camp at Spruce Grove Campground, which is a pretty nice spot. There are about 5 or 6 sites, but if things get tight, (I’m told) people don’t mind if you set up camp in between sites. The guy who had set up camp next to us ended up getting crowded out of his space and ended up sharing a campfire with us in our area.

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In the picture above, you can see the relative space between the sites. There was one more site that was just uphill from us also. You can see where the creek runs by following the trail of rocks on the left.

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This picture is taken from the top of Mt. Zion. If you look to the far right of the picture, you can see where the city is.

Last note about this trip: don’t pass on the “Kick-Ass” hamburgers. The pack station is run by people who have transformed the private residence into an area that sells small luxuries such as hamburgurs, hot dogs, (variations of each), beer, soda, parking passes, etc. After a long day of hiking, it was amazing to sit in a regular chair and have an old fashioned hamburger and a coke. We’re not big hamburger enthusiasts, but after a good hike, it’s damn near impossible to pass on a legitimate hamburger.

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Piedro Blanco Hike

Hi everyone (Mom). This is some GoPro video that I’ve been meaning to post, but have been too busy to do so until now. I’m really liking the GoPro to help document our adventures. I’m also doing the music on this one. It’s a cover of The Head and the Heart’s “Down in the Valley.” Go easy on me, I recorded it in the hall.

Sespe Wilderness

This weekend we drove North to the Los Padres National Forest for a short backpacking trip. We started at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead and headed to the Twin Forks Campground.

Map to Piedra Blanca Camp

Sespe Wilderness Sign
Sespe Wilderness Sign

It’s only about 3.2 miles in, but it was a great trip. It was my first time to Sespe and it was absolutely gorgeous.

We’ve avoided the Ojai are in the summer because of the heat, but I think that has been a mistake. Either way, Sespe in the spring time is amazing. The small town vibe of Ojai is pretty great too.

On Saturday it rained like hell for a while, then it let up, but then it rained pretty much all night. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We’re waterproof.

Raining at Piedra Blanca
Raining at Piedra Blanca

Twin Forks looks like it’s been thoroughly used, but it was refreshing because there wasn’t really any garbage laying around and people seemed to try to take care of the place. There was a few small bits of glass on the ground, but honestly I think that’s pretty good for Southern California.

Twin Forks Camp
Twin Forks Camp

I made a big mistake with our food waste. Normally we seal it up and hang it quite a ways away from the tent, but not this time. It was just a couple of empty freeze dried food bags and a leftover tortilla, but it didn’t matter. I also sealed it all in a gallon ziplock bag and put it under my sleeping pad. Around 5 am, I had to go pee. So I go, but when I’m walking around the side of the tent, I almost tripped over a raccoon (named Rocky now). He was trying to get to the food. Stupid me.

I think I scared him as much as he scared me, and he scurried off, but he soon came back. As I said earlier, it was raining all night, so our packs were on the outside of the tent, but underneath the rain fly. Rocky crawled under the rain fly and started sniffing around, promptly making me spring up like a ninja.

We started to pull all of our gear inside the tent, but Rocky went to the other side and started tearing into Callie’s pack. She got into a tug of war with Rocky which I strongly advised against in a high pitched voice (like this guy from I Love You Man), but she came out on top.

The raccoon kept sniffing around and wouldn’t go away, so we were up at 5 am and waited there for sunrise. So it was about an hour and a half of fending off Rocky with a flashlight.

The next day was amazing. The rain was actually snow in the surrounding hills so all the rain and raccoon fighting suddenly became more than worth it.

Enjoying Piedra Blanca
Enjoying Piedra Blanca
Trail to Piedra Blanca
Trail to Piedra Blanca

 

Trail to Piedra Blanca
Trail to Piedra Blanca

 

Piedra Blanca
Piedra Blanca

We took our sweet time walking out, and for good reason. Just about every spot of the trail was a great photo op.

We’ll be going back before long, and I’m thinking that we’ll up the ante the next time around. We talked to a group of people on Saturday night who said they started from the Reyes Creek Campground and hiked to Haddock, then continued on to the Piedra Blanca Trailhead. It’s almost 20 miles, but is definitely doable in a weekend.

Map of Piedra Blanca Trail
Map of Piedra Blanca Trail