Death Valley in Winter – Landscapes, Stars & Flowers

This gallery contains 31 photos.

February 2016 It’s astounding that a landscape so forbidding and dangerous in the summer can, in early February, be so dramatically transformed and show its softer side. As a visitor, I greatly appreciated that the high temperatures for the two days … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Death Valley Superbloom – A Gallery of Flowers

This gallery contains 33 photos.

February 15, 2016 The vaunted Death Valley ‘super bloom’, as some of the rangers have described recently, was as bountiful as advertised. I drove from the Bay Area on Sunday & Monday (2/7 & 2/8) to camp in the valley … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

2015: My Year on the Trails (better late than never)

This gallery contains 2 photos.

January 19, 2016 My official lame excuse for an end of the year compilation a lofty 19 days into 2016: By writing mine at the end of the year – when everyone else is writing one; when TV shows are … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another ’25 Days’ Gallery from the John Muir Trail (Landscape Edition)

This gallery contains 25 photos.

December 8, 2015 Starting off with the gallery and a touch of narrative below. Happy Holidays. Christmastime and another great year (personally) winds down. I insert the parenthetical because I sometimes feel guilty to enjoy so many blessings against a … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 3 on the John Muir Trail (Sunrise Camp to Tuolumne Meadows)

This gallery contains 18 photos.

Note: for those who want to skip the Day 3 narrative and just look at the photos, feel free to scroll down to the gallery at the end of the post and click on the first photo to begin the slideshow. … Continue reading

Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 2 on the John Muir Trail – (Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Camp)

071715_1838r

Back side view of Half Dome

My John Muir Trail adventure continues: First a quick note about the opening  photo of Half Dome. Photo was taken a little before the JMT/Half Dome junction. From this vantage, you can barely make out the line of hikers going up the cables to reach the top. 

July 17, 2015, Yosemite National Park

I woke up knowing that the day ahead of me would likely be one of the hardest of the first half of the trail. Day 1 featured 2,000′ of elevation gain, but I only had to cover a little over five miles. From what I’d heard from other JMTers, the climb up Sunrise Mountain ranked as one of the hardest days on the trail. I’ve learned from my two trips on the JMT that it’s preferable to do my hard climbs in the morning when possible. Unfortunately, this was one of the days when I had to do my hardest climb after my mid-day lunch break. Being only my second day on the trail, it truly kicked my ass. And looking back on my 25 days on the trail, I’d rank it as my second hardest day on the trail. #1 was my final full day on the trail from Crabtree Ranger Station to Mt. Whitney and down to Trail Camp.

071715_1823R

Juniper tree growing from a boulder

photo note: in recent years, as I’ve spent increasing amounts of time surrounded by nature, I’ve become ever more curious about the natural world beyond just photographing it and reveling in it. Geology, botany (wildflowers & mycology, especially), the effect of wildfires and drought on the landscape, why certain ecosystems exist where they do and so much more. My educational training is more liberal arts than scientific, so my wonder and observations are those of a layman. So when I saw two different trees seeming to fight for the same spot coming out of the cracked boulder, I found it fascinating. As did the close up detail of the rock below. 

Piece of granite with imbedded crystals

Piece of granite with imbedded crystals

Weather wise, the day was glorious…almost too glorious. I would’ve preferred it about ten degrees cooler. Early on, upon leaving Little Yosemite Valley, once I rejoined the main trail just past 7:15, I started encountering quite a few day hikers heading up to Half Dome. I was happy to get past the junction and the remainder of the day, I enjoyed relative solitude on the trail.

Furry beast guarding the trail. I uttered the password and she let me pass.

Furry beast guarding the trail. I uttered the password and she let me pass

Rocks, trees, animals, and of course wildflowers: 

Western azaleas along Sunrise Creek

For more than an hour, after reaching the next junction (Clouds Rest), the views were somber as I hiked through the area damaged by last September’s Meadow Fire. I knew I’d come across it, but to walk through the charred landscape was sobering. Some take solace that fire is a part of the natural cycle of a forest’s life, but it saddened me nonetheless to realize that I’ll likely not live long enough to witness the forest’s full rebirth. It’s also sobering to realize that the Meadow Fire burned a significant amount of forest (close to 5,000 acres) yet the Rim Fire of 2013 (Yosemite) and this year’s Rough Fire (Sequoia) were both more than 20 times that size.

Entering the fire damaged part of the forest

Entering the fire damaged part of the forest

Single-stemmed groundsel

Single-stemmed groundsel

I photographed the groundsel above when I stopped to refill my water bottles along Sunrise Creek in the middle of the burn area. I was worried that the water might not be the cleanest because of the amount of ash and possibly latent fire retardant chemicals in the vicinity, but the water seemed to be fine (and I used extra drops of Sweetwater after filtering).

071715_1863r071715_1866r

071715_1874r

Ghoulish looking pond in the middle of the damage

Ghoulish looking pond in the middle of the damage

Pussy paws were one of the more prevalent wildflowers to re-establish in the damaged area

Pussy paws were one of the more prevalent wildflowers to re-establish in the damaged area

Nearing the end of the damage, looking south

Nearing the end of the damage, looking south

It was a relief to finally re-enter green forest, but my relief was short-lived as this was also around the same point where I started the long steep portion up Sunrise Mountain. Although I did part of the JMT in 2014, starting from Glacier Point in early August, I had to skip the section from Little Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows to return to Yosemite Village for a new stove. (I blew up my MSR Whisperlite in a spasm of unexpected stupidity my first night on the trail. This year I had a lighter, more Idiocy-proof Pocket Rocket with me and I avoided any similar mishaps.)

After my lunch break of tortillas, salami & cheese, I pressed on, ready for the climbing to begin. I admit that although I steeled myself for a hard climb, it was even harder than I’d imagined. Over the previous months, I was careful not to overtrain like I felt I did in 2014. So although my back and legs were sound and injury-free this year, I did pay the price in perhaps a little less endurance. But from what I knew of the terrain ahead of me over the next week, I knew that this would be my hardest day in that span by far and I was right.

Mariposa lily

Mariposa lily

Asters near Sunrise Creek

Asters near Sunrise Creek

Lupines and forest

Lupines and forest

Alpine lily

Alpine lily

Entering Long Meadow southeast of Sunrise Camp

Entering Long Meadow southeast of Sunrise Camp

During the climb, I had to keep stopping much more than I’d wanted to and the heat was taking a toll, but eventually I made it to the crest and then it was a nice descent to reach Sunrise Backpackers Camp by 4:00. I initially walked past the Backpackers Camp and went to the High Camp center.  I’d never been to any of the Yosemite High Camps so even in my momentary exhaustion, I was happy to explore the rustic facilities. I even bought some candy and a lemonade which was an unexpected treat. And although it was only Day 2 on the trail, I found the idea of sleeping on a cot in a tent cabin with a wood burning stove very enticing. It made me want to plan a future visit. Once I made it back to the Backpackers’ Camp, settled on a site, set up camp and had my dinner, I was happy to discover that I still had energy to walk around the nearby meadow with my camera. As the sun set behind me to the west, I sat for an hour at the western edge of Long Meadow watching the fading light paint the peaks to the east.

Bistort at Sunrise Camp

Bistort at Sunrise Camp

One aspect of this year’s trip that I found gratifying was that after finishing my hiking for the day I seemed to have much more energy to find better quality sites. Last year, there were quite a few times that I just grabbed the first site I stumbled upon because I was too exhausted to look further. This caused me to sometimes camp on uneven surfaces or sites exposed to wind and the elements.

Creek through Long Meadow

Creek through Long Meadow

071715_1973R

Last light of Day 2

Last light of Day 2

Posted in John Muir Trail, Miscellaneous, Mt. Whitney, Wildflowers, Yosemite | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

25 Days of Landscapes on the John Muir Trail

August 31, 2015

A companion piece to last week’s wildflower blogpost. I’ve been off the John Muir Trail for three weeks now and it’s funny how even after such a short time, my ever so selective memory continues to reassess my time on the trail. I told myself that although I had an amazing time on the trail, it was something I wouldn’t attempt again. For a week after I got home, I had a hard time walking erect, my feet and ankles swelled, a gargantuan bruise developed on my right thigh and glute (almost alarming enough to send me running – or limping – to Kaiser’s urgent care), my clothes fit me like a scarecrow, and I felt even more haggard than I looked in the mirror. And now, reliving my memories through my photographs, journal entries and map notes, I can’t wait to try it again one of these summers. I do consider myself lucky in so many respects. First, just being able to take the time off to do such a trip two successive summers is a blessing. And now with so many other hikers being forced off the trail because of smoke from California’s wildfires, and many others rethinking or canceling their trips outright, I realize I was fortunate I finished before the smoke got really bad. Please enjoy this gallery and join me in praying, chanting and doing a rain dance for an early, wet rainy season for the western US.

Posted in John Muir Trail, Mt. Whitney, Yosemite | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment