Summer of 2017 – Part 5- Independence Day

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3qq

On Independence Day, July 4th, my dog Skooby and I decided to be little independent and go for a morning hike at Almaden Quicksilver County Park.  The park is just a stone’s throw from my house and  one of the several park entrances is a walkable distance.  With Skooby I did not want to walk on the main road although major portions of the road did have a footpath.

PART 5: July 4, 2017 : Tuesday: Independence Day
The day started off well, sunny but cool with a nice breeze.  Skooby, being a good dog, decided to do his morning ritual at the start of the trail, thereby releasing me from the burden of carrying his load throughout the hike.  Starting of the trail had a steep gradient, but the path to the next junction was short and shaded.

I had in mind a short hike, about an hour and half up and half an hour down. But Skooby had different ideas. He wanted to have some side trips. I had to keep him on a tight leash as I heard a rattler (rattlesnake) about half a mile into my hike. This was a first in this trail in many years of hiking. Another hiker who was coming down the trail told me that he had also heard one when going up the trail. I was cautious after that. But when we came to creek with flowing water, it was difficult for me to stop Skooby. He had to explore and being a good, conscientious dog, he decided to add to the water volume of the creek. As per his request I did not photograph him on the act, though the gently flowing creek with soothing, gurgling sound assured me that it did not mind Skooby’s indiscretion. There was Skooby on the bottom right of the photo on the right, happily exploring.

Skooby’s act was for good measures as after this creek with flowing water, we were greeted by one dry creek after another.  A disappointed Skooby searching for water on the photo at bottom.

As we were climbing up, it was becoming humid and Skooby was panting. He was still game but seemed to be getting tired.  At eight and half years of age, the heat and the steep grading must have been tiresome for him.  In previous hikes he would always try to go in front of me trying to explore every bush.  Today he was just content to walk by my side or follow me.  I just may have missed a turn on the trail but the trail I took rewarded us with great vistas.

Reason for making this hike a short one was that we had a lunch invitation to attend to. But somewhere during one of Skooby’s side trips, I must have taken a wrong turn. It was getting warmer and I had to make a few stops to ensure that Skooby drank enough water. It was getting much longer than I anticipated. But every cloud has a silver lining. Longer hike resulted in a roaring appetite to do justice for the ensuing lunch party. Also the view of our lovely valley from the hilltop was fantastic.

By the time we were back to the parking lot, it became a ~ six miles hike, 1200 ft elevation and a good three hours of hiking.

A hike can’t be complete without a selfie. So here it is (just to prove that Skooby did not hike alone).
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May be continued as summer unfolds.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Summer of 2017 – Part 4- Family Time

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3oj

Sunday, July 2nd, I had to wiggle out from my weekend hiking to spend the day with the family. Normally our weekend hiking takes about three hours but including the drive back and forth, nearly the whole morning gets spent.  On Saturday, kids were talking about playing board games. One thing led to another and by the time we had some free time on our hands, everyone was tired.  It was a gorgeous summer day and we ended up with a nice pool side pre-independence day barbecue party with family friends.  All around us we could hear our neighbors enjoying the beautiful day with their own backyard parties.

PART 4: July 2, 2017 : Sunday: Family Time

After a leisurely breakfast, kids brought out some 10 different board games.  We had to vote to select two of them.  I have to confess that I am not an enthusiastic board game player.  I like scrabble but can’t keep my interest for very long playing other board games.  The two games that got selected, I had never played before.

Morning started out cool and the patio table by the poolside provided a good location for the four of us.  Once my son and daughter explained the rules, I did not find the games of “Exploding Kittens” and “Epidemic” that difficult to master.  But as the sun started moving in its trajectory towards the west, the day started to become hot.  Thankfully there was a cool breeze blowing that made it palatable.  Watermelon pieces and ice cold water was getting consumed first.  I volunteered to supply snacks and lunch.  With plenty of leftovers from the day before, arranging for food was not much of an issue.  However, I had an ulterior motive.  It provide me with an opportunity to go inside the house from time to time to cool off sufficiently.

By the time few rounds of Exploding Kittens and one really long round of Epidemic was over, it was nearly 3 PM.  We really had a good time but before the next round could start, I proposed driving to San Francisco.  Kids dragged their feet a little but ultimately agreed. Our dog Skooby was of course game for a drive, as always.  By the time we started for the 60 mile drive to San Francisco, it was nearly 5 PM.  My daughter, who drove the first 40 miles or so, was reluctant to drive in San Francisco and we switched in a vista point on HWy 280 with beautiful view of Crystal Spring reservoir to the west and San Francisco Bay to the east.

Surprisingly traffic in san Francisco was really light.  May be because it was already around 6:00 PM when we arrived near the ferry building, but I would always take light traffic in San Francisco compared to the regular maddening traffic.  However, being a Sunday and late evening, parking places along the piers were closed for the day.  Cruising around and looking for a suitable parking place ( and also trying to avoid the sky high parking rates of san Francisco), we ultimately found a place near pier 39 for a flat rate of $15 after 6;00 PM.  I did not have any intention of visiting pier 39.  Done that many times before.  It’s nothing but a tourist trap though it offers beautiful view of Alcatraz Islands  and surrounding areas during days that are not foggy.  Unfortunately for us, it was a cold evening.  Though the temperature officially was 54F, with wind blowing I thought it must be hovering around 40F.  All the watermelons and icy cold drinks  of the day and the sudden cold acted in tandem to hasten nature’s call.  Unfortunately, may be for the first time, I was greeted with long lines in Men’s Rest Rooms.  It was not a pleasant experience. Thankfully no harm done and from that point onwards, it was an enjoyable evening of sightseeing, eating and of course  taking photos.  By the time we returned back home for a well deserved rest, it was nearly midnight.


To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Summer of 2017 – Part 3- To the Mountain

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3n2

During our last hike on June 25, there was a discussion regarding the imminent opening of Tioga Pass on Hway 120 for 2017.  Tioga Pass, at an elevation of 9943 ft, remains closed to public during winter. Due to heavy snow during winter of 2016 – 2017, we were not sure when the pass would open for vehicular traffic.  We decided to keep in touch and visit at the earliest opportunity.  Fellow hiker, Rajiv , emailed on Tuesday night that the pass would open on June 28 and we should plan to go either on Thursday or Friday.  It was a short notice. I did not see the e-mail till Wednesday morning.  Quick phone calls and e-mails followed and we decided to go on Friday morning.

PART 3: June 30, 2017 : Friday: To the Mountain

As luck would have it, I had to remove one of my wisdom teeth,my first, on Thursday morning (narrated here :  http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3lD ). My wife was reluctant to let me go as I was in much pain the whole of Thursday.  Luckily the bleeding stopped late at night though I was having difficulty eating anything except liquid food. Boy, am I glad I decided to go.

Three of us were driving separately to our friend Amit’s house and from there taking his car  for the journey starting at 5:00 AM.  I decided to wake up early enough to take care of my tooth (or the open cavity ) and have some breakfast as I was famished from my liquid diet of the day before.  Though I started from home early enough for the 15 minutes drive to Amit’s house, in the dark and most probably due to lack of sleep, I took a wrong turn on the exit from the freeway.  Luckily the wrong turn led to a dead end to a small shopping complex and I realized my mistake before going on a wild goose chase. No harm done except for a few minutes of anxiety and frantic calls from my wife and Amit trying to figure out my whereabouts.  To make a long story short, we started about 20 minutes lates from our planned starting time of 5:00 AM.

Journey was uneventful.  There was not much traffic on the road to Yosemite National Park so early in the morning.  We reached our planned breakfast point near Oakdale and then realized that we were so early that very few establishments were open.  Thank God for the fast food restaurants.  We had a quick breakfast at a Burger King and proceeded towards Yosemite.  As I had to show some TLC to my lost wisdom teeth, I stuck to soft food only and had to forgo the temptations of Indian snacks.  We arrived the gates of Yosemite national Park quite early and took the left turn to HWay 120 towards Tioga Pass and arrived at Olmsted Point (8300 ft) around 9:30 Am.

Olmsted Point is visited by so many visitors every year and there are so much information available that it is an wastage of time blogging about it.  As the crowd at Olmsted Point was already sizeable and there were tour buses and tour guides busy explaining about the vistas, we decided to cross HWay 120 and hike up the mountain on the opposite side of HWay 120.

I am always amazed at the natural stone tile formation at Olmsted point.  Did humans learn about tile work from nature?
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As we started hiking up the mountain, people were thinning out.  Soon we four were the only ones left out there to enjoy the vista.  And what a vista was that.  We were rewarded with views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Lake Tenaya and snow capped mountains of eastern Sierra.

A few  marmots were playing hide and seek and keeping company.
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Here and there were nature clinging to the bare stone faces of the mountain.  Flowers blooming at such high elevation and such barren place sang the resilience of nature.


After climbing up about 600 ft and hiking for an hour and half, we decided to call it a day as the fresh mountain air was making all of us hungry.  Lunch was calling and we still had to drive about 30 miles past Tioga Pass to Lee Vinings for our lunch.  Before the sun bore down on us with its full strength on a clear day at the mountain top, with a heavy heart we started our descent.  As we were descending, stone formations chiseled by millions of years of erosion,cold, heat, wind and water were visible all around us.

Thankful for nature’s bounty and realizing that a day trip did not do justice to our effort of a nine hours round trip drive, we started driving towards Lee Vining for lunch.  Myriads of water falls cascading down the hill side fed by molten snow filled our heart with joy but our empty stomachs were growling for food.  One last stop near half frozen Tioga lake and off to Lee Vining we drove.

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To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Summer of 2017 – Part 2- A New Trail

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3ml
Summer of 2017 had been quite unpredictable.  There were a few days of triple digit ( fahrenheit ) temperature followed by mild, even cool for summer, temperature.  So when the leader of my weekend warrior group of hikers suggested a new trail, we decided on one that will be in shade for much of the hike just to be on the safe side.

PART 2: June 25, 2017 : Sunday: A New Trail

I would have missed this hike like many of the hikes that I missed during the last few months.  After the kids left for college, need to get up early in the morning was no longer a priority. Specially during weekends, it had now became a habit of sorts to scan the social media in the morning. Normally the group that I hike with drive to one meeting point and then bundle together in one or two cars, depending on the number of hikers, to the chosen trailhead for that day.

During all these years we had hiked many trails in the area around Castle Rock State Park but did not hike this particular trail. On this day our group was small, only four hikers.  At the start of the journey we were greeted by a mystery, an old VW Bug that 20170625_085518must have skidded down from the highway above and stuck for all these years in a tree. Wheels were long gone, paints were faded but there was no mistaking the shape.  After the perfunctory selfies and photographs, we proceeded on our hike, leaving the bug and its mystery to be solved by some other mystery blogger.

 

No more mysteries followed but the trail rewarded with us views of majestic oak groves as the trail meandered up and down the hills.  Due to the orientation of the early

morning sun with respect to the hill we were on the shade for majority of the hike.  We sent our silent thanks to the weather gods because a few sections where there were no shade, sun was brutal at the hilltop.

This new trail was a joy to hike.  Elevation gain was about 400 ft, but we started at a high point of about 2500 ft. We made a loop of the trail, retracing only a few hundred feet of the of the trail at the end of the hike.  Definitely a trail worth going back to.  We could still see the remnants of wildflowers clinging to the side of the trail in many places.  Surely there would be a bounty of wild flowers during spring.

A wild mushroom fulfilled our appetite of photographing wild flowers. Satisfied, we bid adieu to the trail with a promise to come back next spring.

 


To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Summer of 2017 – Part 1

When I started this blog, I promised to myself that I will not turn it into a diary of my daily activities.  However this summer a few unplanned activities had provided me some photo opportunities that I would like to share with my readers.  Readers beware, this is not a post about poetry. So if you decide to proceed no further, I will understand.  I never claimed to be a good narrator or a writer of prose. So the description below may come out flat and boring. My apologies.

PART 1: June 15, 2017 : Thursday:

I was hoping that the kids were to be picked up from their dorms by Saturday morning only.  Even before the summer had actually started, days were getting really warm and I was not looking forward to this duty.  Suddenly on Thursday morning, I was told that the kids would need to be picked up by 8:00 PM latest by Thursday night as the dorms would close for summer by Friday 12:00 noon. To make matter worse, we could not be there before 2:00 PM as they had finals.  So there we were in two cars ( for two kids ), hoping that everything would be packed before hand and we should be able to start back before the traffic starts.  Well, we hoped.  Estimated two hours turned out to be nearly five hours, with last minute packing, cleaning, locking room keys inside the room, elevators that took an eternity to come up ( or down) and other events that I would not bore my readers with.  And then I hurt my back helping my son carry a most unwieldy load from the elevator to one of the car.  When we had dropped them in their dorms nine months back, everything was loaded in one car.  How can one accumulate so much stuff in nine months is beyond my comprehension.

To make matter short, I cooled off my heels sitting under a tree, enjoying a cool breeze from the ocean while my wife helped my daughter in packing up.  I took this opportunity to take some photos and sharing  these here.

And this visitor from the wild enticed, enticed by a girl with some food.

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To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.

Hiking Amongst Wildflowers

I wish I could have written Wordsworth’s famous line ” I wandered lonely as a cloud”. What to do, there was hardly any clouds to be seen on the azure sky.  No daffodils, but flowers aplenty. It was a beautiful morning, perfect for1000864 hiking. Bright, sunny morning with a cool breeze.  A morning when you don’t feel the necessity of sunscreen to keep the sun away from your face, but rather want the golden rays to kiss your face to warm you up. Neither I was lonely, rather enjoying the company of my better half and our lovely, four legged companion, Skooby.  Three’s Company, indeed.

Skooby was straining at the leash, begging me with his doleful eyes to let him be relieved of the undue constraint.  But trail rules are strict, dog on leash at all time.  So, rather reluctantly, I had to restrain Skooby from his enthusiastic endeavour of running after the butterflies and bumblebees.

Ah! the butterflies and bumblebees. The hills were ablaze with wildflowers.  A good rainy season after five long years of drought and mother nature resplendent on her most regal beauties. Alas, this bonanza is not going to be long lasting.  1000842As spring will slowly make its way to summer and the landscape will start to become golden brown, lovely wildflowers will give way to dried grass. Better to enjoy when I can.

Try as I might, I could not take a photo of any butterflies.  They were so lovely, with the 1000843luminescent, fluttering wings catching the sun rays.  I think they also must have realized how short lived nature’s bounty is going to be.  I tried to emulate their example and enjoy nature as much as I can.  But from time to time, I could not restrain myself from trying to capture the abundance all around me in the confines of my 1000853digital camera.  What a waste of time and futile attempt to confine the panoramic canvas in a few megapixels of digital memory.  Try as I may, I could not do justice to what my eyes had seen in my photographs.  I will never be Wordsworth and I realized that I am a lousy photographer of nature.1000872

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Hiking in Almaden QuickSilver County Parks