Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Twenty Lakes Basin Hike

Steelhead Lake, Twenty Lakes Basin, Lee Vining, California

How to go here:  From the town of Lee Vining, leave Hwy 395 at Hwy 120. Follow Tioga Pass Road toward Yosemite. At about 9 miles, turn North onto well marked dirt road to Saddlebag Lake.

Best Time of the Year to Hike: All summer; whenever Tioga Road is open (closed most time of the year due to snow accumulation ). Early of summer season, high water, wet meadows, and deep snow may make the hike difficult. We hiked this trail July 5th, 2013. There were less know because the past winter was one of the driest winter the Sierras had.

Trailhead: Saddlebag Lake, east of Yosemite National Park, in the Hoover Wilderness Area.
Saddlebag Lake
Mileage: 5- 8 miles.
option 1: 8 miles from Saddlebag Lake Resort area.
option 2: take a water taxi to the upper end of Saddlebag Lake across the resort, the main loop is about 5.5 miles.
option 3: take water taxi to the upper end of Saddlebag Lake across the resort, take the trail on the left side of the loop for a 3-mile easy (very gentle slope here and very well defined trail) out and back hike to Steelhead lake.

Change in Elevation for the complete loop: 400 ft (but it all depends since there are some trails that could go higher for more exploring )

Because it looked like the walk from the south end of Saddlebag Lake to the north or upper end seemed to be simply meandering around the lake without much change of scenery, we decided to cut our hike by taking the water-taxi to the main trailhead and only hike the 5-mile loop. While waiting for the water taxi, which runs every 30 minutes, we enjoyed our time throwing stones on the lake and doing some photoshoots. :)
Skipping Rocks @ Saddlebag Lake
During our ride in the boat taxi, we were told that there are three options to enjoy Twenty Lakes Basin Hike:
1. An easy 3 mile out and back hike to Steelhead Lake, starting from the left side of the loop trail. This is advised for people with kids, who may not be able to handle some rocky and undefined trail sections in the right side of the loop.
2. Complete 5.5 mile loop, they advised to take the counterclockwise direction, that is starting from the right side of the loop first. Reasons for this, we are still not tired when we reach the loose rock area and undefined rock scrambling area because it is in the earlier part of the trail and we go downhill on the steepest and rockiest part. 
3. Complete 5.5 mile loop with adding a little bit more mileage to the hike by exploring Lundy Canyon (out and back), then, go back to the main loop trail.

We decided to follow #2 ( complete 5.5 mile loop hike in counterclockwise direction), then, add more miles to explore some parts of Lundy Canyon ( #3). However, by the time we reached Lundy Canyon, the very strong chilly wind stopped us from continuing further Lundy Canyon, we went back to the main loop for a more FUN hike. 

Here are some pictures from our hike ( counterclockwise of the main loop trail):

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Excited Earth

It's time for Blogging for Fun, which is about letter E. The first thing that came to my mind is "Elizabeth" :) However, as I think of what "Elizabeth" likes, I thought of "Excited Earth". Why Excited Earth? Well, there is always so much to rejoice in Earth, we are happily and wonderfully blessed with Earth's wonders.
Here are some of my excited Earth pictures:
1. Reflections of Fall
Bishop Creek Canyon, Eastern Sierra, CA

North Lake, Bishop, CA

Nature Happiness

Rock Hopping @ Sand Harbor State Park, Lake Tahoe

"Nature happiness" - I was reminded by this phrase by my blogging besties, Zen and Cher, as they were describing my immeasurable joy whenever I am out in nature. Indeed, nature has a very strong rejuvenating power in me that clears my thoughts and body from the stresses of daily life. I was not always into "nature happiness" though. My childhood reveled in the utmost joy of nature, but college and early years of professional life drew me away from it. For a while, I was absorbed in the pulsing heart of a dynamic city. Going out then meant watching movies, watching theater plays, eating out, feasting on galleries and museums, shopping and more shopping, watching concerts, jazz and other music clubs hopping, and whatever this modern world has to offer. Until I slowly was finding myself.....
1. Getting tired most of the time.
2. Constantly bothered by headaches, migraines, allergies and colds.
3. Burnt out, not only from work, but from almost everything I was doing.

Slowly, I started going back to the joyful life I've known as a child.
I started going to the beach or the river or the mountains more often. I would spend more time running or walking to the park, or swimming than going to the mall or to the cinemas. There, I found a joy that stays with me even am back indoors. I found that going back to nature was going back to myself. I found self-peace, contentment and happiness that could never be compared to a silver ounce or gold.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zion- Great Basin - Lake Tahoe- Eastern Sierra Road Trip From San Diego

We recently took a road trip from San Diego that covered three main areas: Zion National Park (UT), Great Basin National Park (NV), Lake Tahoe (NV and CA) and the Eastern Sierra(CA). Here is the itinerary of our 10-day trip for those who may be looking for an adventure filled vacation.

Day 1- Long Drive from San Diego to Zion National Park, Utah ( 470 miles, about 7 hours drive Northeast)
The Virgin River with Angel's Landing in the Background ( by the Grotto Trailhead )
How do we make long drive feel shorter? We entertain ourselves with roadside scenery and we talk about anything under the sun. We make stops if needed, so the 7 hour drive went by so quickly. When we reached Zion National Park, we did not feel like hiking from the long drive and also because of the heat, instead, we just took the Zion Bus and tour the park like most tourists do. We stopped in several points, such as the Grotto trailhead, to simply enjoy reminiscing the hike we did before, that is Angel's Landing, that tall, thin monolith in the background. Hiking Angel's Landing is one of our favorite National Park hikes.

we stayed at: Zion National Park ( 1 night )

Day 2: Hiking The Narrows, Visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, and then, drive to Beaver, Utah for one night.
A. Hiking The Narrows
We have hiked "The Narrows" before, we loved it so much that we always dreamed of doing it again. Though this was our 2nd hike in the Narrows, it totally still was very enjoyable and provided us with different experience.
Hiking The Narrows ( this is already at Orderville Canyon), Zion National Park, Utah
B. Drive from Zion National Park to Cedar Breaks National Monument ( 75 miles, about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive North )
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Our stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument is just very strategic for us, since we are moving North to Great Basin National Park, in Nevada ( but close to Utah-Nevada border). We did not want to drive long in the dark, so we chose Beaver, Utah as our stop-over for a night of rest. 
C. Drive from Cedar Breaks National Monument to Beaver, Utah ( 50 miles, about an hour drive North )

we stayed at: Beaver, Utah ( 1 night )

Day 3: Drive from Beaver, Utah to Great Basin National Park, Nevada ( 115 miles, about 2 hours drive )
One very positive observation we had when driving on this road to Great Basin, people were not in a hurry, no reason for road rage, no one attempted to pass us despite we wee enjoying the scenery of the drive ( meaning, we followed every speed limit posted, where in most highways, if you drive at the speed limit, you are slowest and people blow horn at you!). When we reached Great Basin National Park, we first reserved for Lehman's Cave tour, had lunch at the park cafeteria, then, it was our time to explore Lehman Caves.
 Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park, Nevada 
After the cave tour, we drove the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and hike the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail.
a hike is never complete without taking photos :) this is at Teresa Lake, and you can see the Wheeler Peak in the background
After the hike, we did a lot of photographing at Wheeler's Peak Scenic Drive, taking in the serenity of the Great Basin ( a desert basin) below. Because I try to limit the length of this post, I will share more details of our exploration sometime later.

After sunset, we checked in our hotel, and had dinner. After dinner, we checked the stars outside, and to our amazement, stars were just everywhere. It also was our first glimpse of the Milky Way. 
The Milky Way, Great Basin National Park, Nevada
How excited we were to see the Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our solar system. For my husband's niece, it was a long time dream of her to see and experience the Milky Way. The joy was priceless on seeing the Milky Way for the very first time, a real treat for us who lives in the city, where the Milky Way is no longer visible due to city's light pollution. 

we stayed at: Baker, Nevada ( 5 miles from the Great Basin National Park entrance, the nearest place for lodging from the park ) for 2 nights

Day 4: @ Great Basin National Park, we hiked the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail ( 6 miles round trip, 1200 ft ascent )
 Left: Several Thousands Years old Bristlecone, Right: A baby bristlecone, at maybe 400 years old
This hike is such an eye-opener for us. It has always been in my bucket list to be up close this ancient forest, where the oldest living things on Earth still live. The oldest bristlecone is more than 5,000 years old, and amazing to see them in such rocky region, full of glacial moraines. We learned these amazing trees hardly die from disease, they mostly outlive the mountains where they stand, dying only when all the soil erodes exposing their roots. Amazing, that in this desert, the oldest living things continue to survive all the harsh tests of time, and a glacier (mostly buried in rocks or glacial moraines), still continue to thrive and shape this land. 
Hiking to Rock Glacier, Great Basin National Park, Nevada
From afar, it may look like all eroded rocks ( eroded by erosion and glacier ), but looking deeply, there were beautiful wildflowers adorning the rocks! Nature's garden, at its best!
 What does the bristlecone trees tell us? That the oldest living thing on Earth is not the one who lives in the most pleasant conditions, but is the one who is able to withstand all the harsh tests of time! Exposed to harsh elements, it's amazing that a baby tree is already 400 years old! Indeed, 400 years old is a baby compared to 5000+ years old! More about this trail and bristlecone in my later posts.

Again, we ended the night watching the Milky Way, and it was such a lifetime treat!

Day 5: We left Great Basin National Park for a long drive to Lake Tahoe. ( 400 miles, about 7 hours drive West )
From the oldest living thing on Earth and Nevada's only glacier, we passed a sand mountain along Highway 50, on our drive to Lake Tahoe from Great Basin.
Sand Mountain, Nevada
The 7 hour drive went very fast, before we knew it, we are already in the Lake Tahoe area.
Emerald Bay State Park, South Lake Tahoe, CA

we stayed at: Minden, Nevada ( stayed for 2 nights), because of last minute accommodations, we could no longer get accommodations anywhere in South Lake Tahoe.

Young Peregrine Falcons

Last weekend, these baby peregrines could hardly leave their nest.....they were trying to spread their wings, but still could not fly.
Their parents still had to bring them food. Look at their excitement on seeing what dad has brought them for lunch.
One weekend later, these young peregrine falcons, do not only spread their wings......
but had left their nest and are now enjoying their flight, to soon grace the air at fastest speed. 
How time flies. In a matter of one weekend, this young peregrine falcon was showing us already what mighty speed is, and why they are the fastest animal on Earth. We were told that these juvenile peregrines left their nest to practice flying for the first time Thursday. We went to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Sunday, and we were lucky to witness these young peregrines practice flying. They were flying very fast already it was almost hard for me to follow them. They will stay with their parents for about a month or two for survival and hunting training, then, they will fly away to build their home somewhere. Their hunting training with their parents are mostly on flight, since peregrines hunt by mostly chasing their prey in the air. The birds they chased have a 66% chance of escaping.
Hoping to bring you more of these young peregrines as we will try to follow them at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, my favorite hike in San Diego.
Here are some more photos of these young peregrine falcons that I took yesterday while hiking at Torrey Pines.
 Juvenile Peregrine in Flight, looking down 
  Juvenile Peregrine: ( you looking at me?) 
 Juvenile Peregrine, calling out to his/her siblings
Today, only hubby spent time watching them from Guy Fleming Trail North View Point of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. In some of my next posts, I will share more photos of these falcons that hubby took while I and cousin were enjoying our own time together hiking, photo shooting, jumping, and boogie boarding. 
More about these juvenile peregrines later......

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Relaxing in Nature and Music Turned into One Great Summer Adventure Vacation

June 20, I was preparing for our flight to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for our much awaited Canadian Rockies adventure vacation. Then, the news of evacuation and closure of highways in the area we would be exploring broke out. As we watched the news, we felt sad for the people who had to be evacuated, and at the same time, relieved we were still in the safety of our home. With a heavy heart, I started calling the airline and hotels we would be staying in for cancellation. Thankfully, we were given credit ( not refund), the same amount as we paid, which we could use for booking later. At least, we did not have to pay penalty or lose the money entirely. 

The next day, to ease my mini-disappointment from a cancelled vacation, I took a relaxing walk at Balboa Park, to enjoy nature, culture and music in one park.  
Me, In Front of Fountain and Natural History Museum
My favorite museum in Balboa Park is the Natural History Museum, and Museum of Man. As you can tell, even in museums, my interest still leans toward learning and understanding more about our natural world. I was there a little bit too early for the museums to open, so I had the time of my life walking around the park first. From the fountain, I walked towards the lily pond, which is right next to the Natural History Museum.
Lily Pond, Balboa Park ( with the Botanical Building in the background)
There were already a lot of people enjoying time with their family and friends at the Lily Pond. By the lawn area in front of Botanical Building, there were a group of young teens setting up their band, preparing to play their music for the crowds in the park. Whenever I see group of teens enthusiastically playing their music, it brings me to dreamland of being able to play my own acoustic bass guitar too. It reminds me of my high school days where I and my small group of friends would pretend we were "The Beatles", and would sing to our heart's content. I sat in one of the benches and listened to the music played by the teens for a while in the grassy area. While listening to them, some monarch butterflies were fluttering across me, tempting me to get out of my seat. Slowly, the butterfly won, I was out from my seat to take pictures.
Monarch and Milkweed
While I was snapping photos of butterflies and flowers around and at the same time listening to the music, suddenly, the tiredness and mini-disappointment I was feeling from the cancelled trip started to disappear. I soon found myself snapping pictures of flowers and critters around.
Apparently, my happiness is very cheap! :) Just give me a few pictures, and all my disappointment gone! :) After a while, the museums already opened, so I slowly put my camera away to get lost in  The Natural History Museum. I love this museum because it allows me to see  and learn the changes in our natural world, how the scientists are working to keep the balance in our natural world. Sometimes, watching the movies about nature make me cry too and that's when I usually start planning for nature trips to get to know more about our natural world. Anyway, inspired again by what I learned from the exhibits and naturalists activities, I went home with a target in mind: create a last minute adventure vacation centered on Great Basin National Park, Mono Lake, and Milky Way.
The Trip I Planned in lieu of the cancelled Canadian Rockies trip
We really had been wanting to check out Great Basin National Park before, but because it was so out of nowhere, very far from major cities, we usually put it aside for later trips. Even if we fly to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, Great Basin would still be quite a long drive, thus, I decided we take a road trip instead, where instead of driving directly to Great Basin, we would drive first to Zion National Park, and hike the Narrows. And instead of going directly to Mono Lake from Great Basin, I decided to spend 2 days at Lake Tahoe too. So, we ended up with San Diego- Zion National Park- Great Basin-Lake Tahoe-Mono Lake-San Diego trip, as shown in the map above.
Here are a few pictures from our main stops:

Four years and 7 days Ago, Somewhere in California

Reminiscing....4 years and 7 days ago, taken June 21, 2009. This was my first hike on all snow covered trail on a summer day. The trail led us to a wide basin of fumaroles, boiling pool, steaming ground, boiling mudpots, where Fire and Ice meet. Could you remember from my older posts which place is this in California?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Milky Way

Milky Way @ Great Basin National Park, Nevada
The Milky Way @ Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve, Lee Vining, California
This is my very first post about our recent summer road trip, because frankly, I still do not have all the energy to blog because all I do after getting home is sleep, sleep, and well, BEACH ( 10 days away from the ocean makes me miss it and my first ocean breeze back home was helping me recuperate from the tiredness)!  One of the highlights of our trip is experiencing the dark sky and seeing our galaxy, the Milky Way. We sure had a wonderful 10 day hiking and exploring the wonders of nature, but the icing of the cake at the end of some days at Great Basin and Lee Vining was seeing the Milky Way. 
Us and The Milky Way @ Mono Lake South Tufa State Reserve, California
(my cousin and friend joined us in the last 3 days of our trip at Lee Vining, California, whereas the first 7 days at Utah and Nevada, there were just the 3 of us, hubby and his niece)

About a century ago, almost everyone could see the Milky Way from their backyard, but these days, the Milky Way can only be observed in places with very dark sky, meaning, has less light pollution from the big cities. Thanks to hubby's niece, for making the Milky Way part of planning for this trip, it surely was such a wonderful experience, that for now, all I could do is dream of dark skies again to see the Milky Way. 

The Milky Way Description below is from Wikipedia:

"The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System.This name derives from its appearance as a dim "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky, in which the naked eye cannot distinguish individual stars. The fact that this faint band of light is made up of stars was proven in 1610 when Galileo Galilei used his telescope to resolve it into individual stars. In the 1920s, observations by astronomer Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy 100,000–120,000 light-years in diameter containing 100–400 billion stars. It may contain at least as many planets. The Solar System is located within the disk, around two thirds of the way out from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of a spiral-shaped concentration of gas and dust called the Orion Arm. The stars in the inner ≈10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars". - source: Wikipedia

Monday, July 15, 2013

Devil's Bridge Hike from Chuckwagon Trail

 Devil's Bridge From Below
( can you find me? )
 Devil's Bridge From The Top
How did we climb up the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona area, called the "Devil's Bridge"? The answer is not a direct climb from below the bridge, but a gradual ascent on a trail to the right of the bridge.


Trailhead: Chuckwagon/Mescal Mountain Trails Parking Area
Distance: 6 miles round trip. You can hike shorter if you are willing to feel the very bumpy ride on a 4-wheel drive to Devil's Bridge trailhead. However, when we were walking on the 4-WD road to Devil's Bridge trailhead, we felt so happy we chose to take the longer hike because the holes and rocks on the dirt road were something we both know we have no experience driving. We don't think we would be able to get our 4WD- SUV to the destination if we chose the shorter hike. Plus, we are happy hikers.  

The start of the hike is relatively flat in the middle of a pine forest, the steep ascent starts near the bridge already, climbing maybe 400 ft in such a short distance, but very doable. Over-all, this is an easy hike, if compared to Cathedral Rock hike, another hike we did in Sedona, Arizona. 

Below are some of our pictures:

 My Personal Photographer and Hiking Partner For Life :)
 See? So Many of Us, It is Not as Scary As what the picture says
(as long as no one is crazy enough to get at the very edge and do very crazy things, this bridge is so safe to cross )
 My Personal Photographer's Turn For Photo Opps At Devil's Bridge :)
 and he did a Tebowing pose
From the trail, where you start seeing people on top of the bridge, there is a junction where one trail goes to your right, and the other trail goes to your left. The trail that goes to the right goes uphill, which will end up at the top of the bridge. The trail that goes to the left goes downhill, which will bring you at the bottom of bridge. 
Getting to the bottom of the bridge from the junction is not that far, it's really worth it to see Devil's Bridge from below and also from the top.

Despite its name, the view from the top of Devil's Bridge and the entire hike is heavenly! I highly recommend this hike for a magnificent reward in such an easy-moderate hike.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Inspirational Quotes To Remind You Why Money Isn’t Everything

These days it seems like everyone is stressed about money. Whether bills are piling up, or you're approaching retirement, taking the time to remind yourself that money isn't everything can relieve the stress and help you to focus on the more important things in life.

"You make a living by what you earn; you make a life by what you give."

This quote reminds us that the value we place on friends, family or even strangers is not defined by how much they take from the world. Their value is determined by what they give back. Being a generous spirit may cause those around you to make more of a conscious effort to be generous as well.

"Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination."

The stress of money management is not only taxing on your pocketbook, it can also be taxing on your state of mind. This quote reminds us that by seeking out happiness while on the road to success you can maintain a positive attitude and achieve your goals simultaneously.

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein

The pursuit of money often requires diligence and concentration on the task at hand, leaving little time for creative or artistic pursuits. This Einstein quote suggests that a life filled solely with work can cause you to miss out on experiences that will stimulate your mind in unforeseen ways, possibly even improving your ability to perform at work. Taking the time to visit an art gallery or just taking in a movie can not only remove stress from your hectic schedule, it could also lighten the mental overload of a long work week.

"In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed." - Sid Caesar

This quote builds off of the previous quote from Einstein, but the difference in Caesar's quote is that you don't have to actively seek out art or music or film to make your life more fulfilled or meaningful--just pay attention to the world around you! Take five minutes out of your day to sit quietly by yourself. Give yourself a break; you deserve it!

"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life."

There is one way you can achieve all your financial goals while still satisfying your ambition in the working world, and that is to pursue and attain your "dream job." This quote is trying to say that you should strive to achieve the job you've always wanted in order to feel less anxiety when planning for the future. If you're doing what you love, the road to each of your goals won't seem so long. Though money tends to distract us from what we really enjoy, we can't help but think we would be happier if we had more of it. The next time you reach your boiling point over financial stresses, remember that taking a minute out of your busy day to slow down and take in your favorite inspirational quote can remind you what's really important in life. Think of any of these five quotes when you think you may be in danger of forgetting that money really isn't everything.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Touring Santa Ynez Valley

 Rolling Hills and Mountains at Santa Inez Valley
The Santa Ynez Valley is a beautiful wine region encircled by mountains on four sides. The valley is a mix of vineyards, ranches, horse farms, open spaces, rolling hills and small towns. This is one of the popular quiet escapes from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, California.
@ the Vineyard
Perhaps, to most people visiting Santa Ynez, a visit here is not complete without wine tasting. If you take a look at wine tasting tours app, you will find that California accounts for 90 percent of the country’s production, selling $22 billion annually in the United States. California’s wine industry traces its roots to Franciscan missionaries in the late 18th century. California wineries gained international recognition after the Judgment of Paris in 1976, a blind tasting that surprised the world when two of the state’s wines: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1973, beat their French counterparts. 
Through Wine Trail Adventures social media app, it is now easy not to miss wine sampling of some of the best wineries in the country when you travel. Wine Trail Adventures is a Social App for wine lovers to share wonderful experiences from over 5000+ wineries across the nation. This Social App makes it easy to make plans for trips with some of the best vineyard stops because you see the strategic locations of the wineries with reviews, and what else to do in the area.
What I like about visiting vineyards, is that it is not all about wines in a bottle. Instead, you see the progression of wine making from the vine to the bottle. My favorite part of course, is seeing the grapes on the vines. :) Have never been surrounded by too many grapes before, and seeing so many grapes in a vineyard makes me just as giddy as seeing wildflowers in the hiking trails. :)
Wine Tasting Next to the Grapes