Friday, May 13, 2011

Endless Summer

 California is, well, simply magical.  Its variegated landscape, eclectic climatic zones, and geographical diversity make exploring its length and breadth a pleasure.  From the tumultuous breakers pounding the coast, to the ice clad High Sierra, to the rolling foothills prolific with oaks, down to the lowest point in North America (Death Valley); there are so many aspects and faces to the State of California.  It truly boggles the mind.

From a climbers perspective, its a Candyland of opportunity.  The Needles, Yosemite, Tuolumne, the Eastside, Donner, Lover's Leap, Calaveras Dome, Jailhouse, Joshua Tree...Idyllwild, and a zillion other crags &  boulders make this place a destination within a destination.  I've been making recurring visits since the late 90's.  In 99' I finished a Bachelors degree at the Master's College in Santa Clarita.  During this time I cut my nascent climbing teeth at places like JT, the Needles, and Talkitz.  Though limited to climbing the odd weekend, it wasn't long before I fell in love with the sun, the warmth, and the ubiquitous rock walls of Cali.  After college I was able to spend a few summers working as a wilderness instructor for Summit Adventure.  This  position rewarded me with amazing community and opportunity to traipse the High Sierra, roam in God's country, and postpone bigger questions like "what am I going to do with my life?"  The thought of career had zero traction for me at this point, and I was just fine living hand to mouth, enjoying a carefree peripatetic existence.  This cycle has brought us recently back to California for yet another chapter.

Those familiar with our last blog know that we've been living in the Bay Area for the last few months.  Around the third week of February we pulled into Palo Alto for Tiff to begin a 13 week Nursing contract with Stanford.   Since then, we have taken a hiatus from blogging.  Though we love sharing our travels, we thought that one blog at the end of our stay would suffice, and give a needed reprieve from the rigors of blogdom.   So here we are, with only one more week!  Where did time go?  I'd say that these last months went by way faster than our previous 6 months on the open road combined.  Why is that?  Is it the system, pattern, routine existence inherent to normal living?   I wish there was a way to S-L-OOOOOW things down a bit.   Let us know if you possess some secret 'slow down' tonic.

Too much has transpired to drag you through the details of our entire California manifest of adventures; so I'll mostly let some images paint the bigger picture.

Our more significant mini trips included skiing Squaw, trail running in groves of massive Redwoods at Big Basin, hiking coastal trails around the Bay Area, day trips to Santa Cruz to patronize the Patagonia Outlet and quaff Bubble Tea, hiking in Yosemite and climbing around Sonora with our new and old friends.  We also spent an amazing day skiing in the sunshine at Kirkwood.  Most recently, we went down to Big Sur and backpacked to the Sykes Hot Springs.  They were incredible.  It was the perfect ending to our California epoch.

Taken from near Castle Rock State Park, coast range.

John Schmid hiking up to Jailhouse.
Yours truly figuring out the moves on Big House 14a.

Jailhouse rock near Sonora.  About 200 ft tall and very steep.

Tiff riding the big tram at Squaw.

Rachael and Kati Buckingham joined us for a wonderful weekend of San Francisco sight seeing.

Hmm, can you smell the pot?

Yes, we took a ride, and it knocked our socks off.

The wildflowers at Red Hills BLM land are stunning in Spring.  

For those climbing around Sonora, the Red Hills offers free camping and some great trails.  If you catch it in Spring,  you will find babbling brooks, wildflowers galore, and brilliant sunsets; though I can't guarantee the latter.  Did I mention Jailhouse is only 15 minutes away...

Just another evening wandering the Red Hills.

"Buster" takes on his first horse.

Pete Chasse, unstoppable. 

Gorgeous lake below the Grotto/Gold Wall area.
Gold Wall.
Snowfall this winter in the Sierra was substantial.  As a result, the ensuing spring melt and seepage precluded us from climbing anything while in Yosemite.  We still had plenty of fun riding our bikes around, hiking, and gaping at the monstrous walls.

Half Dome veiled (upper left).  The infamous Porcelain Wall revealed.  

This was the first time I'd had a bike in the Valley.  It was actually lots of fun and a great way to get around the Valley floor.  Tiffers here showing me how it's done.

After getting up at 630 for a Sunrise outdoor Easter Service in the Lower Pines, we found near solitude on the Yosemite Falls Trail.    This has to be one of my favorite Valley hikes.  

Yosemite Falls flowing at 175% of normal.  Breathtaking. 

After some time hiking through snow in our sneakers, we found the overlook to Yos Falls.  

Taking a lunch break while skiing Kirkwood.  We spent the night in the parking lot the day before and witnessed a 'wild' black bear running around.  Exciting!  

Inside the luxurious Ahwahnee  Hotel, Yosemite.  We elected to stay in the Vansion instead.
This Natural Cave and Ceiling form a 'natural' bridge 400 feet long.  In warmer weather one can hike/swim through the chasm.

Big Sur.  

Sections of the California Coast really stand out.  This is certainly one of them.  

Mcway falls.

Temperatures for our hike to Sykes Hot Springs were ever so pleasant.  Mostly, we were shielded from the sun by trees or low clouds.  On occasion that the sun came out, we found reprieve via shade or the cool ocean breezes that blow up the Big Sur river valley.  

Here's some unsolicited advice.  If you're ever planning on visiting Sykes, don't head in on a Sat.  We sauntered in on Sunday and counted at least 60 people on their way out.  Much to our delight, we had the place to ourselves.  

It was around this point on the way out that Ben witnessed a Condor sighting.  It was BIG.

Sykes is comprised of four different pools currently.  The one pictured here is the hottest and largest.  It probably would fit 4 people.  But, we thought 2 was the perfect number.  It was plainly evident that much love & toil has gone into Sykes.  I'd wager that this tub made of river rock and mortar will eventually get washed away in a flash flood.  Enjoy it while you can.  We certainly did.  Temperature must have been around 100+.  

Campsites are in abundance.

Packing has become, a science.

Another view of our favorite soaking tub.  Oh, and remember to take intermittent soaks in the river.  We found it super refreshing!

We'll leave you with this parting shot.  
We're excited to be moving out of our Palo Alto digs and back into our Van next week.  Prospects for our future travels are limitless, and there is no better feeling than the open road, with no itinerary, and a continent of adventure on the horizon.