Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Celebration Continues in New York

The day after my birthday Forrest drove me to Grand Junction, Colorado so I could catch a flight to meet up with my sisters in New York. (He continued driving my car to Michigan via Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands.) I arrived at LGA airport about midnight and after a dinner at a local diner (ending at 1:00am), my older sister informed me that we’d be leaving at 5:00am to drive to our lesson in goat cheese making. …. No sleep for us!
We awoke with stinging eyes at 4:15am to ready ourselves for the goat cheese journey. However, goat cheese turned into a surprise hot air balloon ride!
Saturday Morning, August 20, my little sister and I went up, up and away! My older sister quickly arranged the surprise after discovering the planned out ride in Moab was canceled due to weather. What a sister. Here are a few photos from the adventure!

We also went to a few wineries along the Shawangunk wine trail for taste testing. We had some amazing food at the Brotherhood winery.

Our wonderful sister weekend ended with a surprise visit from Aunt Nancy, who lives an hour outside of Boston. We all went to a fabulous champagne brunch. It was quite memorable and hilarious, especially when your sister gets egg yolk accidentally squirted on/in her purse.

We had a wonderful time in New York. I also got to see my brother-in-law (BIL) and my little niece (crouton).

30 Years!

I turned 30 in Moab, Forrest had planned this trip even before we knew we were moving to New Zealand, because he knew how much I wanted to ride in a hot air balloon.

We woke up at 4:30am on my birthday, got ready, and met with the chase vehicle for the hot air balloon ride. As fate would have it, the balloon ride was canceled, due to high wind.

It’s funny, even with the last four months of planning, not once did it cross my mind that we wouldn’t be riding in a hot air balloon to celebrate my birthday, so I was pretty crushed.

I took a few photos of the sunrise, since we were up anyway.

Instead we waited until 7am for a breakfast place to open, and we considered our options over eggs Benedict and coffee. In the end we decided to take a half day rafting trip down the Colorado River over Class 1 and 2 rapids (since it was late in the rafting season, classifications are lessened). Please enjoy a few laughs over the following photo.

Then Forrest treated me to a birthday cake appetizer and a wonderful dinner at Desert Bistro, in Moab. The food was amazing! I also had the best dirty martini, ever. (sorry Pammikins, had to do it without you)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Arches, Canyons, Moab!

After our brief stay in the wilderness, we headed west to Moab, Utah.
Moab is quite beautiful, but amazingly hot in August. go figure.
Aside from sweating a great deal, we also visited Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, a small version of it is Canyonlands, I believe this to be a fair comparison. To be honest, several hundred vacationing Europeans and I enjoyed Arches more than Canyonlands. Arches NP is sort of an unbelievable bit of science and wind created landscape. Here are a few of my favorite photos.

Mesa Arch (Canyonlands)

Dead Horse Point (just outside of Canyonlands)

Delicate Arch (52-ft tall)

Landscape Arch (as long as a football field)

Double Arch

Thursday, August 18, 2011

John Muir Trail - Recap

Day 1, Friday: We hiked over Bishop Pass (11,972 ft) and down into Dussy Basin. Mosquitoes were pretty terrible at Dussy Basin, but the campsite was lovely.

Day 2, Saturday: We hiked from Dussy Basin up to Lower Palisades Lake. This hike was 12 miles. This hike was so hard!!! In those 12 miles we gained about 2,500 ft in elevation from Le Conte Canyon up to the approach for Mather Pass. Good news, the mosquitoes were following us too. The campsite at Lower Palisades lake was really quite amazing.

Day 3, Sunday: We hiked from Lower Palisade Lake over Mather Pass (12,100 ft) and down through Upper Basin to our campsite on the banks of the South Fork of the Kings River. Mather Pass was really difficult for me, because it was covered in snow, and well, i basically have no snow hiking experience, so i was terrified I'd become a human snowball and fall down the pass to my demise. Good thing for Forrest! Helped me every step of the way! This day was very memorable to us because some nice guys from Michigan and Illinois gave us a bottle of 100% Ben's Deet, you know, for our friends, the mosquitoes.

Day 4, Monday: We hiked from the South Fork of the Kings River, Over Pinchot Pass (12,050 ft) and down to the Twin Lakes. This day we also started eating more, which helped our energy levels. I fell in the snow a few times today, but came out unharmed. We also started having happy hour, which improved spirits even more (and helped with the pain of my 3 new blisters).

Day 5, Tuesday: We hiked from Twin Lakes to Arrowhead Lake, which is in the Rae Lakes area. The heat was really getting to me today, so Forrest put up the tent for lunch and we rested in the shade for a few hours, until the temperatures got more tolerable, for walking around with a 35 lb pack on your back. Arrowhead Lake was a beautiful place to make camp, and we saw the most people on this day of any day we had hiked.

Day 6, Wednesday: Today we got going a little late, because it was planned to be our "day off" from hiking. Except, we didn't take a day off. We hiked from the Rae Lakes area up to Glenn Pass (11,978 ft) and down to the approach for Kersaige Pass (11,823 ft). I will never, ever forget Glenn Pass. I will never, ever forget how surprised I was on top of Glenn Pass. I will never, ever forget how amazingly difficult this back-country backpacking experience was, it was physically and mentally challenging and it was also one of the biggest moments of my life. I am sure by now you've heard that at the top of Glenn Pass Forrest proposed! It was truly one of those magical moments where you're not quite sure what happened, but you're exceptionally happy it just did.

Day 7, Thursday: In light of recent, life changing events, I was really happy we decided to cut out the last 25 miles of our hike and save the Mt. Whitney hike for another time. Today we hiked up to Kersaige Pass (11,823 ft) and down to the trailhead at Onion Valley. Our car was parked at Whitney Portal so we didn't have a vehicle at this point. We weren't stranded for long, a great guy from southern california gave us a ride into Lone Pine, then an man that could have been Paul Harvey drove us to Whitney Portal for our car. Then we had beers and cheeseburgers and rested the remainder of the day!

The trip was truly memorable and life changing on so many levels. We hiked 60 miles!! I haven't ever hiked that far before, never. We hiked over 5 passes that were at or above 12,000 ft! that's amazing too! Also i was in the wilderness! without any technology or a shower and had to dig my own "toilet" any time i needed to use the facilities. at least i had a little shovel!

And now, I have the most amazing fiance! Forrest took exceptional care of me in the wilderness, he made sure i wasn't ever scared (for too long), i wasn't cold, i didn't go hungry, i didn't get eaten by bears (didn't even see any) and he encouraged me every step of the way. Forrest is truly a wonderful person (which i already knew) and if you are ever headed into the wilderness without a Forrest caliber person, well, good luck to you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Forrest, Sara, John Muir and 100 miles

We are about to begin our hiking adventure into the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks along the John Muir Trail. Distance to hike is estimated at the end of each day. We won't have cell phone service, but will be transmitting our GPS location to a few family members/friends so they know we are safe.

We will start at South Lake trailhead on August 4th or 5th and hiking over Bishop Pass

Day 1: Le Conte Canyon, John Muir Trail junction, 11.5mi
Day 2: Palisade Lakes, 10.0mi
Day 3: Lake Marjorie, 11.0mi
Day 4: Arrowhead Lake, 12mi
Day 5: midway up Bubbs Creek Canyon, 10mi
Day 6: Tyndall Creek / Shepard Pass trail junction, 9.6mi
Day 7: **floating rest day** (i like this idea, perhaps if i made the schedule i would have increased it's frequency)
Day 8: Guitar Lake, 11.4mi
Day 9: Whitney Portal parking lot, 9.9mi (w/ side trip to Mt Whitney summit, +3.4mi RT)

End at Whitney Portal on August 12th or 13th

We're carrying everything on our backs (food, cooking and camping gear, clothing), I will post later the division of weight per person. I suspect John Muir won't be carrying much. Most of this is hiking at about 8,000 ft or above, which will be a new adventure for me. I am most excited about the possibility of no mosquitoes.
The photos below are a food/drink items for our packs!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blisters, Bridges and Bumpass Hell

Forrest and I returned to San Jose from our adventure in the Klamath National Wilderness volunteering with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Our original start date was July 24, however on our drive up to NorCal we received word that our work would be postponed until July 25. So we stopped by Chico to see Amy, Chris and Toby. Our gracious hosts showed us a few prize spots in Chico such as Burgers and Brews, Sin of Cortez and Bidwell Canyon park.

After our weekend in Chico, we drove almost to the Oregon border to Seiad Valley, CA and then drove back-country on a dusty dirt road for 2.5 hours to our waaaaaay back-country "front-country" campsite (we had our car nearby but still had to dig our own "restrooms"). We joined an existing 5 person crew that was part of the Student Conservation Association working on PCT locations from May through December 2011 for about $2000 total stipend (let us pause to reflect on how happy we are that we are not still college aged and impressed with $2000 total salary for 6 months!!!) The trail maintenance is being funded in part through the governments American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which is also fueling public works projects throughout the country, including some infrastructure improvements I've worked on in Boston.

The work days started around 8am and ended by 5pm with almost non-stop sweat dripping labor. We worked on trimming trees, clearing brush and weeds, building rock walls and retreading trail sections. As a reward for volunteering the SCA crew fed us for the week. We were informed that the menu would be vegetarian, so we were unsure what to expect. Breakfast was pretty basic with bagels, fruit and coffee. Lunch was a random selection of cheese and vegetable sandwiches (I missed the meat) and also fruit and trail mix. Dinners were fish tacos, egg sandwiches and roasted potatoes, tofu lasagna and tofu vegetable stir fry with quinoa. I was most impressed with their use of a dutch oven over the open fire, wise purchase. I was left to wonder how the tofu made it through the scorching summer heat, my stomach thought perhaps it had reached it's prime sometime before I consumed it (read into that what you will).

Forrest and I ended up with about 8 total blisters on hands and feet, not too bad. One of the volunteers asked me if I would ever consider committing 6 months to this type of program and I answered pretty quickly "no..... but I'm impressed that you are doing it." I guess since I've been in grown-up land I have come to appreciate my bed, toilet, shower and non-cowboy style coffee.

We headed south on I-5 on Friday since my glasses melted in the car one of the days. After getting them replaced at LenCrafters ($$$), and checking out the famous Sundial Bridge, we crashed for the night. Redding isn't such a bad place, we made it out alive.

Saturday we checked out Lassen Volcanic National Park, since it was "on the way" home to San Jose. The park was quite busy but very beautiful and worth the trip. There was a significant amount of snow melt left (even mid summer!) and we enjoyed the cool temperatures. It is exceptionally ironic that we could not hike to the top of Mt. Lassen due to .... trail maintenance. We did hike to Bumpass Hell, an active geothermal area.

Today we checked out the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, CA. We tried some calamari, garlic fries and garlic ice cream! In case you are wondering, now, 8 hours after consuming that much garlic, I can still taste garlic.