Sunday, May 30, 2004

First Live Entry

Last night at the end of our block party, I was putting Dawn's bike (my old mountain bike, which still needs a little more modification to be properly sized for her) away and Rachel wanted to come, so I let her sit on the top bar with her feet on the neck & holding the handlebars as I ride-walked it around for a bit. She LOOOOOOVED it! Bought and installed one of those bike seats for her today, got her a helmet (they always make kids look EXTRA dorky, as compared to adult helmets which just make us look dorky) and we went for a ride today. She was a little nervous about actually getting on; it's a contraption, after all; so, as I am not above some occasional bribery, I told her that if we went for a bike ride we could go to Barney's and she could have some milk shake. That did the trick.

I'll tell you what. Even having dropped almost 30 lbs in the last 2+ months, putting 15 lbs of bike seat and 25+ lbs of Rachel on the back had me thinking I was going to die after just 4 blocks of low grade incline up our street. I got more used to it after that, but, MAN am I out of shape! All told we did probably just shy of 3 miles round-trip. We all had a grand old time and we're going to be putting stickers on Rachel's seat starting tomorrow! I'm hoping that after a ride tomorrow maybe she'll be ready for me to take her to school on it, but we'll see. I figure that dropping her at school and then taking the new bike overpass over I-80 to the frontage road to get to work is substantially safer than the way I have used in the past, which involves such delightfully busy streets as Stanford and Powell. I think it was sometime last summer I was on the Powell overpass over the train tracks in the left lane (preemptively to avoid having to change lanes amid the psychotic merge under the I-80 overpass that comes right after it) when some woman called me suicidal. Interestingly, when I pulled up next to her at the light, she rolled up her window and locked the door and did her best not to look at me with this terrified look as if I were some deranged sociopath. Go figure.

Monday, May 24, 2004

The Yosemite 7, Monday, Day Four

Slept like a rock last night. Stopped writing about midnight and went to sleep. Woke up what seemed like a little after sunrise and looked at my watch. Lo, and behold, it finally died at about 4:40. Now, this isn't really surprising, and it wasn't that it froze - the battery's been on it's last legs for a couple of weeks. Sadly, the battery didn't last even half as long as the original that was in there before this one. Oh well. Anyway, I don't think I even moved over night - my little cap had moved slightly, but other than that, I don't think I moved.

We did our quickie breakfast again; hot chocolate and 2 hard boiled eggs for me. Headed out for our hike at 10 sharp. Wow, imagine that.

We walked to the trailhead straight from camp, which is pretty far to the east side of the Valley already. No point in waiting for the shuttle bus. When we got there, we discovered that the trail starts on the other side of the river from where it used to. In '97 there was a rock fall into the Happy Isles area. If I remember correctly, it killed a few people; because of the huge amount of newly fallen rock, I think they built a new trail on the other side of the river. Could be wrong; maybe this is the way it was then too and we just don't remember correctly.

The hike didn't seem as hard as we remember it being in '96. Although I don't remember being truly drenched, as Dan and John seem to, we did get wet. I'm glad I didn't listen to them beyond having ziplocs for some of the things I didn't want to get wet (like the camera and radios); if I'd put shorts on instead of my jeans, I think I'd actually have been a little chilly for a pretty good portion of the hike. John frowns on jeans, or any cotton really, while hiking. I've never had a problem, even when it gets wet.

Parts of the trail were hard for me than for others - the curse of the large feet & boots big enough to fit them. There are a number of places where the trail consists of what to me seem to be small steps or stones, and I tended to catch the backs of my boots on them at times. Had to be very careful to avoid falling forward. I admit I'd had a problem with my right ankle at one point, but I really wasn't having trouble with an injury on this trail. I appreciated some of the guys making sure not to get too far ahead of me, though; it's nicer to hike with them. Chris had more trouble on this trail than he had on Dewey point; I think we all did, actually, but he was taking it at a good and measured pace. Blamed me for letting him get into such bad shape. I could say the same to him, I suppose, but he is the one who moved off to Reno. He's also the one who got me started trying to average my 10k steps a day and using the pedometer. Not that I've been getting to that number on a regular basis. He and Dan and I all agreed that we would make a concerted effort to be in better shape by next time.

The hike was great. Hung out at the top for a while. Had lunch, more MREs for everyone else, including Dave, who came up with 2 vegetarian entrees, and more veggies, hard boiled eggs, and salame for me. Took a picture of the sign that says, and I quote, "If you go over the falls, you will die." I'm convinced that in '96 there was a sign in essentially the same place that elaborated further ("... and your family will be billed for the recovery expenses"), but I didn't take a picture then. One of us talked to a guy up there who was here last year (I think) when someone decided to cool his feet in the river. Apparently, one moment he was standing there ankle deep in the water, and 30 seconds later he was gone. Gone, gone. Over the falls. Someone called for help on a cell phone, but of course there was no rush. The rangers landed a chopper at the top of the falls, but... well... he was dead, no need to hurry. I'm vaguely surprised they bothered to start the thing up. And still we saw two or three people jump down on the other side of the falls from us; down a short, maybe 4 foot high ledge, but heading toward the water. Darwin will take control of them eventually. One actually went down to his hands and knees; I think he only barely checked his fall.

Daniel hit on some woman up there. Went back to get her number... right when her parents showed up. Ugh. She was from LA, but gave him some story about not knowing if she'd be there any time soon when he asked for her number. But then he bumped into another woman on the way back down... turns out they were in a play together in college. Fourteen years ago! They had a nice chat, and Daniel's planning to invite her to a party he and his cousin are throwing in the City in July. She lives in the City, but is from LA... maybe she's sincere and will show up. She certainly seemed to me to be excited to see him. She was here with her class (middle school), so Daniel refrained, at Dan's urging, from inviting her to have pizza with us.

When we got back to the bottom, we had that pizza and daquiris. Yum. I'm tired. And sore. And very content. Good night.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Yosemite 7, Sunday, Day Three

Yeah. I woke up at 2:30 when Dave got up for a couple of minutes, looked at my watch thinking it might be 4:30. Next time I remember being conscious, the sun was up. Oh well. Everything we see will stll be gorgeous, and once we're in the vallye we can possibly arrange to be somewhere near sunset and we won't hae so far to go for sunrise either.

Dan made omelettes and potatoes (none of those for me and no omelette for John). Excellent breakfast! Ran out of propane in the middle of the first omelette and had to scramble to attach a new can. Also, we were trying to use a griddle, which isn't the best for omelettes. The eggs tended to run all over and didn't cook very quickly. Took us a while to figure it out - the cooking was from not having enough propane left and arranging the ingredients in a circle can keep the eggs in (though they can leak out).

After breakfast, we spent a bit over an hour cleaning up and breaking camp. Not bad, but as much as I enjoyed staying somewhere besides the Valley floor, but moving camp is a pain. We basically wasted about four hours of daylight on the move, between breaking camp, getting to the new site, and setting up again.

'On the way' to the valley, we all went over to Glacier Point. There were a lot of people there, and a ton of cars parked around the trailheads we used on Friday and Saturday. We all agreed that we were glad we did those trails on other days. I have a feeling that Saturday was for arriving and doing little bits, and now Sunday is for bigger hikes such as Dewey and Sentinel.

The views from Glacier Point are, of course spectacular, even with all the people and cars. I took another panorama and some other shots, including some good ones of some or all of the group. I called and talked to Dawn briefly - had a full digital signal, as I did on Sentinel Dome and at Dewey Point. I'm convinced there's an AT&T digital cell site in the Vally, although the coverage in the valley is still inconsistent. I had a full signal in the middle of Cook Meadow, but only a partial signal at our Upper Pines camp site. Rachel was napping as I expected, so I didn't get to talk to her, but Dawn and I had a nice, if brief, conversation. I get to talk to them enough that the missing isn't HARD, just missing.

Frank talked to his wife, Sigute, Dan talked to Karyn, and Daniel talked to a friend named Becky, all on my phone. Dan's is GSM and Daniel's is either analog or not AT&T, I'm not sure which. I'm glad I have a national plan with lots of minutes, courtesy of my job. I don't even have to worry about whether I'm on an analog roaming network - if the call goes through it's just minutes.

This is, of course, a boys-only trip. I've barely mentioned that before. There were two women sunbathing near where we sat for a snack, and several of the guys enjoyed ogling them. When the guys seemed disappointed to leave after our snack, Chris and I decided to tell them that we had talked to them and they were named Heather and Ginger and might meet us at the pizza place at Camp Curry tonight. It was total bullshit, but they ate it up. Unfortunately, Dan and Frank weren't there when Chris told them. It's probably just as well about Dan; he probably would have known I was full of it.

En route to the Vally, John decided to go back to Wawona to get gas, so we separated briefly. Dan, Frank, and I headed for the Valley, followed by Chris and Dave, stopping just past the tunnel on 41 for a grand vista. Absolutely spectacular views that really show the shape of the Valley; you know, from that angle, you couldn't even really tell that there are roads, parking lots, and a bunch of buildings down there.

Unlike at Wawona, we really do have two sites for tonight and tomorrow; they're each a little bigger than the one at Wawona, they're next to eachother, and the bear boxes are bigger. After getting set up, Dan, Frank and I went to the store right after John and Daniel showed up. We picked up garlic bread, steak and more salad stuff. Oh, and A-1 steak sauce. Turns out I like that stuff; it's not like most BBQ sauces, which I don't tend to like.

I also picked up a refrigerator magnet for Dawn and a cute t-shirt for Rachel. If only she'll wear it. I would like to get her a Go Climb a Rock shirt, but they don't seem to have 4T, only children's small, which is still way too big for her. I still want to get a couple more things, either hats or sweatshirts, so maybe I'll ask about smaller sizes then. Don't really need to spend tons of money, so I'll try not to get too many things.

After dropping off the food, we picked up Daniel and drove over to the base of Yosemite Falls. It's gorgeous as always. Not running as strongly as I've seen at this time of year, but certainly fairly fast. After that, we walked to the aforementioned Cook Meadow and saw deer and more views of various parts of the park. I really was waiting for some sunset pics of Half dome. I'm not sure I really got what I wanted, but if the little LCD is really any guide, I've got at least a few great pictues on there, if I may say so.

Talked to Dawn some more while waiting for the sunset shots. Told her what was up and the plan for tomorrow (Vernal & Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail, followed by pizza and liquor at Camp Curry). Talked to Rachel a bit as well. She was very excitedly eating dinner with Dawn and our friend Kara; they were having strawberries at that point, which Rachel simply loves. She hasn't seen a strawberry she wasn't falling all over herself to eat. My little strawberry fiend.

Dinner was good. Had some trouble cooking the garlic bread; we tried to cook it on the grill over the fire pit, but if we got it close enough to get hot it seemed too much in danger of catching fire, so we wound up using the griddle after we finished using it for the steak. For dessert, we had chocolate cake with TONS of frosting given to us by our neighbors in the next site. They have a cute one-year-old, whose birthday (today) they were celebrating.

Finished off the day with a drive out to a spot where people start their climbs up El Capitan. Gazed at starts, including the ones in El Cap. Of course, those aren't stars - they're climbers making camp right up on the wall. Some of them probably in the thousands of feet above ground. Maybe someday. Right now, I'm just hoping to be able to start climbing again in a gym, nevermind El Cap.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Yosemite 7, Saturday, Day Two

OK. I miscalculated again. Didn't think it would be this cold. Or, at least, I thought my sleeping bag was rated for lower temps. We’re figuring it’s getting down into the low 40s, high 30s at night, but I was cold. Had to put my sweatshirt and pants on at some point. Of course, since I was already cold, they didn’t really help all that much. I’ll put them on to start with, tonight. And my little Giants knitted cap.

I think I was up by about five, but I didn’t actually bother getting out of the bag until almost 8. Probably shouldn’t have waited so long – better to get up sooner and start some hot water for a drink to start warming up.

Oh, I don’t think I mentioned Chris’ tent – we’re calling it Tent Mahal. It’s this huge 5-person, “3-room” thing that’s wider than the tarp we put it on. We’ve got 3 air mattresses in it, one for me, one for Chris (it’s his tent, after all), and one for Daniel.

I got to call Rachel and Dawn before dinner. Read two of our favorite Pooh poems to Rachel. Tried to read Forgiven too, but the copy I had (not this link) from the ‘net is wrong. Missing a line, I think. Completely screwed me up because I couldn’t quite remember the line but knew it was missing. Sang the good night song and gave her 3 daddy kisses. Very cute. She seems to be handling my absence pretty well so far, though I know bedtime was harder that normal Thursday night.

We weren’t up very late last night. We had tacos (sans tortilla and cheese for me). It took a while to get cleaned up from it. I hear that trying to clean beef grease off things in ice water (all that’s available at the tap) is a pain in the neck. Glad I wasn’t on that part of the cleanup detail. I was on site cleanup, getting the dishes to the washers, clearing trash, and helping Daniel get everything packed back in the bear locker. Too bad we only have one. Two would be so much more convenient.

Today, we decided to do the trail to Dewey Point. It starts from Glacier Point road about 7 miles or so from 41, and before the Sentinel Dome trail we took yesterday. The trail actually intersects the trail to Taft that starts where we were yesterday. It’s a pretty nice trail – meadows, creaks, lots of trees and blue sky. Gorgeous weather. There seems to have been a fire around 5-7 years ago, and now a lot of the dead trees are starting to fall. The 4ish mile trail has at least 7 or 8 places where fallen trees are blocking the way. There’s also a place where the trail crosses a stream that’s presently a couple of feet deep over the trail.

My guide book (revised and updated in 1994) says there’s not much elevation gain or loss, which is true, certainly as compared to a climb out of the valley or falling off the top of El Cap, but it certainly isn’t FLAT as we managed to interpret that to mean. There were comments about wanting to meet a woman that my guidebook would describe as being flat. Dewey Point also doesn’t seem to have any perspective on Bridalveil Falls, even though the guidebook specifically says that the view is one of the most interesting perspectives of them! Looking at a drawing in the guidebook and a map, it’s hard to tell whether it should have been off to the right (guidebook) as we faced the valley and very obvious, or falling directly away in front of us (the map) and not obvious. I think my interpretation of the map is right, because we didn’t see it, and I was looking for it.

Anyway, the trail was quite nice, though harder than expected and the views spectacular. I made myself go out carefully to the end of the point, once. Another hiker, a woman, who came out there while I was there said, looking down, “don’t be afraid of heights, I guess”. I said, “I am afraid of heights!” She told me I was being very brave. Perhaps. I took a few pictures and high-tailed it (rather slowly) back to wider, seemingly safer ground. I wanted to take another panoramic set of pictures, but I was having too much trouble seeing the overlay and gave up.

Everyone besides Dave and me ate MREs that Chris brought. It was funny to watch him showing them how to use them and everyone having varying levels of success. Interestingly, in spite of their being ‘Meals, Ready to Eat’, Dave and I were finished with our lunches long before anyone else in the group. He was eating cliff bars and I had a zucchini, a hard boiled egg, and some salami. I suppose our meals were more ready to eat.

The hike back was easier because it was more down than up. We did have to make a pit stop, for Daniel to find a place and “move his bowels”, though I doubt he used such a so-called discrete description. I really shouldn’t have stopped to wait; I’d gained some great energy from lunch, but started to stiffen up while sitting, and the rest of the trip back seemed much harder.

We were actually back at camp by 7, which was more or less when I expected when we left Dewey Pt. at 4. Dinner was sausages, beans, & salad. Quicker than last night, marginally easier to clean up after. We’re starting to have more room in the bear locker so that it’s not so hard to get everything in. Though we still have some stuff in the extra locker, we should have plenty of room when we get down to the Valley and have two at our sites, which we know are together. We particularly have been making a concerted effort to finish off some of the copious amounts of liquor we brought with us. I think John’s the only one who’s gotten really noticeably drunk so far, but we’ve all been working on it.

I didn’t get to talk to Rachel tonight, but I left two messages at home, one for her and one for Dawn. I read Missing and sang a little bit of the good night song and gave her two Daddy kisses. It was probably bath time.

Dan, Frank, and I played a little cribbage, while everyone else (except for Dave, who sat snoozing by the fire) had a heated political debate. John was at least very tipsy and amusingly gets a very high pitched voice when he debates, especially when drunk. I almost double-skunked Dan and just beat Frank by 1, playing both of them simultaneously. Frank could have been cheating for all I know; I wasn’t giving either game my undivided attention, obviously. Then we played 3-hand, and I almost managed to come back from WAY behind; I think I was down by 30 at one point, and lost by only 8.

One thing I figured out today is that 1000 steps is about half a mile. I finally calibrated the pedometer for my supposed average stride length of 2 ft. 3 in. earlier this week. The manual comes with very detailed instructions for measuring 10 steps and then dividing by 10 (even gives examples of this); I’d just never got around to it before. The mileage measurements it comes up with matched today’s trail markings fairly closely. Not perfectly, but that makes sense. I did a total of about 21000 steps today, including the 9 mi round trip (3.9 each way on the trail and about .6 each way from the trail head to where we parked).

Daniel, Dan, and I talked about getting up early and driving out to Glacier Point for sunrise. Unfortunately, that meant getting up at 4:30. We (which is to say I) agreed that if I happened to be up at that time, I’d get them up and we could go. Yeah. Right. Guess we’ll see.

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Yosemite 7, Friday, Day One

Dan, John, Daniel, Dave, and I all left my place at about 7pm yesterday; including stopping at the airport to pick up Frank & at In-n-Out in Livermore for dinner, Dan, Frank and I (driving) hit the Bug at 11. We even missed two exits along the way, but still arrived just a few minutes behind John (driving), Daniel, and Dave, who stopped at a Denny's somewhere, but not the airport. Don't know if they missed any exits.

Rachel was very cute when I called from the In-n-Out lot; wanted five "Daddy kisses", so she got them. After we got off the phone, she decided she wanted to say she loved me after hearing Dawn say it, so they called right back. Rachel’s ability to understand talking on the phone has been a godsend already for the last few weeks, but it’s going to be especially great this weekend.

The tent cabins at the Bug are nice enough. Simple, clean, 3 beds each. We played 'bullshit' (card game) at the picnic table between the two for a while before bed, using an electric lantern and trying to keep the motion sensor light on the other building near us on as much as we could. Shared a cabin with Dan & Frank; read a few stories from a book of strange/silly bits from court proceedings. Some were lame, but others were funny enough to make it worth the lame ones. Dan snores, but not too badly.

It was chilly overnight, but the sleeping bag was more than enough; I didn't even zip it up all the way. The bed was reasonably comfortable, and didn’t creak every time I moved the way those horrendous wall-mounted cots did when I stayed in the Housekeeping Camp back in 1996. I think I first woke up around 4:30 or 5 and kind of dozed on and off until just before 7.

In the idle observations department (as if this isn't ALL about that), the Bug's restroom (at least the one I used) seems to have a tin roof. I realized this because there was water dripping on it; in fact, there were two separate drips, one at slightly more than twice as fast as the other. Evidently I was easily amused this morning.

It's great to be back up here, near and heading for Yosemite. Lots of birds, fresh air, the smell of trees. The road into the Bug is a bit of a rough fire trail, basically. I love having 4-wheel drive on my truck. Wasn't the least bit necessary, but it definitely improved the ride in and out. I guess I just don't understand buying a vehicle as big as, or bigger than, an SUV or small pickup that has 4WD available and not getting it, unless it is exorbitantly more expensive. I mean, unless you will positively never use the 4x4. And I don't mean 'hardly ever'. Same with towing capacity. I could undoubtedly have gotten away without the 4WD & towing and saved maybe $1500, but I seem to make some use of them at least 2 or 3 times a year. Not counting when I find the occasional severely cratered city street and bounce around to 'exercise' the 4WD.

We left the Bug at around 10am after having breakfast in their cafe. Breakfast was OK, not great. Daniel's vegetable omelet came with only momentarily warmed vegetables, but he didn't seem to mind. I'm not sure whether I would have or not. Probably not in that case. Dan ordered his food right before I did, but ordered the same thing as Dave, who ordered last, and didn't say anything when the waiter gave Dan's to Dave. So much for the little numbered flags they gave us after ordering; you'd think they would expect the number to be near the person who got it with their order. Or maybe they just knew that all these things were going to the same big table? Not a big deal, but it amused us anyway.

Par for the course, we missed the turn into the Wawona campground, but we found the reservation office instead, right about check-in time: noon. Walk into the reservation office and tell them my name. Oh, they say. Maybe you can explain this note. Hu (that's what the name tag said, anyway) turns his clipboard around for me to see my note indicating that I want two sites together. Yes, I was hoping we'd get two sites together. How can we give you two sites when you only reserved one? One? That's interesting, I told the reservations web site I had 12 people and wanted 2 sites. Thought at first that he was being (or going to be) a jerk about it, but they were pretty nice and just having some fun with us, which was OK, as long as they didn't cause us any major problems. It is lucky there were only 7 of us - they said we could still all camp at the site, and that we could put our third vehicle in the overflow lot. You'd think they'd have called me about it, or that when I called on Wednesday and the woman on the phone read me the note, maybe she'd have pointed out that we only had one site reserved? I think I’d have raised holy hell if we had really shown up with more people than they would allow on one site. No. Really. I reserved two and your “reservationists” should have done something about it, so you can find someone who reserved after I did and find them someplace else to stay. Anyway, as I said, they were pretty good about it.

Went on down to Wawona itself. Our site is fairly big. We could probably fit at least 4 or 5 tents, which is plenty, but we told them 3, so we'll stick with 3. The overflow parking is, happily, right across the 'street' from our site. The big problem has been having only one bear locker. We have to get ALL of our food, toiletries, drinks, etc. into it. Again, luckily, they have an extra near the ranger station at the entrance to the campground, and let us use that. Even so, we had to spend a bit of effort on getting everything in our one after we put a few things we weren’t going to need as much in the one by the entrance. That was mostly Daniel today, with me doing some kibbitzing and passing things to him.

After getting more or less situated, we had lunch, such as it was, and then drove over to a parking lot on Glacier Point Road where the trailheads for the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point trails are. As we arrived, it started raining a little. There was some talk among us, both in my truck and over the walkie-talkies, of waiting it out. I waited maybe 30 seconds before deciding I was going anyway. Everyone else followed without further comment, and it stopped the drizzle within a few minutes. We took the Sentinel Dome trail. In all the times I've been here, I don't think I've ever been up there before. It was awesome. The whole park always is, but... wow. From the North side of the dome as we walked up, we were treated to simply staggering views of the valley, especially Yosemite Falls. I think I got some great pictures, including one that Daniel took of the rest of us with all of Y Falls in the background.

I really like that I can see the pictures as soon as we take them on my new digital camera (Pentax Optio 555 w/ 512M SD Ultra II chip), but the LCD screen is pretty small and it isn't all that easy to be sure just how good the picture is. You get a reasonable idea of whether the exposure is OK and what the composition is like, but it's hard to see much real detail.

From the top of Sentinel Dome is a 360 degree view of the Valley and a lot of the rest of the park. Just fantastic, even with the overcast we had today. I want to see if I can convince anyone to go up there again before we move down into the Valley on Sunday, if the weather gets better. I tried out the panoramic picture feature on the camera. It's pretty cool; you tell it which way you're going to rotate and then after each shot it shows you part of the picture so you can line up the next properly. Would be better with a larger, brighter LCD, or using the viewfinder (which doesn't ever seem to show any of the data shown on the LCD). Certainly the lighting didn't help...

There's an interesting rock up there that looks like a seat. Well, really, a funny looking toilet seat, particularly if you're in a group of 7 men aged 27 to 35, going on 16. With this group, it wasn't long before someone was daring anyone else to drop their pants and sit on it. John did, even pretending to read my Yosemite guide. Very funny, and at least one of the pictures looks really good. He missed out on the bet ($5) because he only took down his shorts, not his underwear as well.

The total trip for this hike was about 2-1/4 miles. It's easy to get in 10k steps on your pedometer when you're doing a bunch of hiking; got 10,500 today, and that wasn't a particularly long hike. Chris says that the 4k to 4500 I usually get in a day without doing any deliberate walking is pretty good for an office worker. I guess it is. I always thought it was pretty bad.