12/30/16: Snowshoeing

We got up before 8 today which was a nice change. We got ready & headed out the door with our destination being the Badger Pass Ski Area where we intended to do some snowshoeing. We entered the Park & took the turnoff towards Bridalveil Falls. That road took us through the tunnel and we stopped before entering at the viewpoint looking over the valley. I’d forgotten about this view but it’s likely the best view in the park. You can see El Capitan, Half Dome & Bridalveil Falls from there. Very nice view! There were plenty of parking spots when we got there but all were gone soon after. It looked to be another busy day in the Park.

Tunnel View photo op.

Once through the tunnel we steered towards the 41 which took us up to the turnoff to Glacier Point. The road is closed right at the ski area for the winter but we had very little ice going up. Once there we grabbed our snowshoes and headed for the Nordic Ski office to see where we should go. We got some advice & a map an we headed out towards the Dewey Point Lookout. We started out on the fire road which was groomed for cross country skiing so the going was pretty easy. My ankle that I bruised yesterday ice skating was killing me again today and the snowshoes didn’t help that at all. Anything off camber would cause my boot to press against my ankle which was pretty painful. We got down maybe 2 miles and came across a bathroom which we used. At this point we saw people going off on a trail to our right. My ankle hurt enough that I didn’t think I could do that so we continued on the groomed trail thinking that it would take us to Dewey Point. About another mile & a half further we found out talking to others that the trail we were on was Glacier Point Road & not something that would lead us to Dewey Point. We decided to eat lunch there since it was 1:00 at that point.

Joyce on the groomed trail.

The elusive snow spider.

Sasquatch tracks.

After lunch we looked at the map & the turnoff to Dewey Point was actually off to the left when we were at the bathroom. We took off walking back towards the car and when we got to the turnoff to Dewey Point Joyce wanted to go in a bit. It was 2:15 or so then and the trail was 2.5 miles one way so it would be a 5 mile hike plus the distance back to the car. So likely about 7 miles. I felt it was too late to start but Joyce wanted to try a bit of it so in we went. This trail was much more uneven since it wasn’t groomed at all. It wasn’t too hard to find our way since the trail was beaten down into the snow. The trail hurt my ankle worse than the groomed trail and at about a mile in the trail started going up. It was 3:00 then and again worried about it getting too late to be able to get out before dark I said we should turn back. I checked my headlamp and it seemed the batteries had drained but I had it on lockout so once I unlocked it I got light so that gave me some comfort knowing we would have a light to use. Joyce went ahead to check out a bit more of the trail & I ended up following and the next thing I knew we were hiking on again. I think I tried to turn back another time but Joyce seemed to want to finish so we did get to the Point at about 3:40. We took a few photos and the view was beautiful. If we had more time we would have climbed out onto the point but we took a few photos and were out of there by 3:50.

The missed trail marker.

Joyce forging ahead onto the Dewey Point Meadow Trail.

Money shot #1.

Money shot #2.

The sun was going down by then and we made the return trip as it continued to get darker. The trees are marked with yellow signs where the trail goes so these helped up to navigate when we were uncertain about where the trail was heading. As it got darker we had a tougher time seeing where the snow was beaten down and relied on the yellow signs on the trees. We did finally make it back to the groomed trail as it got dark and we were able to follow that back to the car despite the dark. We got back to the car about 5:45 and I was glad since my hands were starting to get cold. It was 31 degrees at the car so pretty chilly for me. The final tally on my GPS was 10.1 miles and 2,550 ft of ascent/descent. This is a pretty big day for us. We got our stuff into the car and headed out before the roads could get icy. We stopped & got a bit of gas on the way. I didn’t fill up all the way since the prices were pretty bad but we have enough to get out of here tomorrow.

Don’t let the sun go down on me.

Back in the hotel we snacked a bit and then ate some spicy Korean ramen in the room. After that we packed up and I took some stuff to the car so we can get an earlier start tomorrow. The forecast is for rain tomorrow & there could be snow on the Grapevine so I’d like to get over that before there are any issues. I don’t want to be on the road too late tomorrow since it will be New Year’s Eve.


12/29/16: Half Dome Village & Lower Yosemite Falls

We got up about 8 after a well-earned good night’s sleep. Since we didn’t pre-make breakfast yesterday we had to do it all in the room which got us out the door late at about 10:15. We drove up to the park and there was a bit more traffic going into the park. We took the turnoff for Bridalveil Falls as our first stop. There were plenty of parking spots when we got in and Joyce thought we should put on our shoe cleats since the parking lot was icy. I said it was a flat, short 20 minute hike & we would not need them. I was wrong. The path up started fine but soon got very icy until, at the end, it was covered in a thick slab of slippery ice. People were falling & sliding all over the place. Nobody got hurt but there were some very near misses. Joyce actually fell twice. Once was while she was filming others sliding and was laughing at them. While she was laughing she went down and it was caught on video. I was able to climb up some rocks to get a better view of the Falls but we weren’t able to scramble over the rocks to get under the falls like you can in the summer.

Bridalveil Falls.

Anyone have some crampons I can borrow?

Once out of there we drove to Half Dome Village and found parking easily. It was about 11:30 so we grabbed our skates and walked over to the rink where we found the next session started at 12:00. We put the skates back in the van & I talked to a guy who wanted a van himself while Joyce changed her shoes. We walked around the village a bit and found a bathroom and then went back to the van to grab our skates. When we got to the rink we found we needed to buy tickets from a booth near where the bathroom was so back we headed to get those. Once we had tickets in hand it was back to rink where we dominated the ice with our mad skating skillz. The rink was small & similar to the one they set up at the Hotel Del in San Diego. The ice was pretty bad & it got crowded but it was a good time. We decided to let others have the ice around 1:30 since the ice had really deteriorated by that point & the crowds were getting worse. We walked back to the van and ate our lunch inside. While eating we had some van looky-loos checking out the van outside. I don’t think they knew we were in there. That happens to us fairly often.

Joyce is walking in a winter wonderland.

Joyce with Half Dome in the background.

After lunch we grabbed a shuttle and took it over to stop #6 where we picked up the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. This was an easy hike but there was lots of ice so our traction devices were deployed. This hike has great views of both the Upper and Lower Falls at the same time which is unique since most views around the valley only have views of the Upper Falls. The trail was roped off with yellow tape before the viewpoint due to snow covering the paved path. Everybody was crossing the tape so we were joiners and followed along. We had to walk over quite a bit of frozen snow to get there but it was worth it. Once at the Falls we had great views of the Lower Falls crashing down & the runoff flowing out towards the Merced River. In some spots the snow was about 8 ft deep which was surprising and the runoff flowed underneath the snow and was visible in a couple of spots where holes had formed in the snow. The trail then led off over a bridge where another strip of yellow tape was blocking the trail. Again people were crossing so again we followed. This trail led back to Village I think so we just hiked in a bit and then turned back. The trail at points was covered in icy snow so we made good use of our shoe spikes. We followed the trail back out the same way we came in and then walked back to the General Store where we picked up a shuttle at stop #10 and took it back to Half Dome Village. The ice skating ended up hurting my right outside ankle where the boot pressed against it. I had to loosen the laces near the top of my boot in order to hike semi-comfortably.

The view of both Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls.

Lower Yosemite Falls.

The runoff flows under the snow.

The snowy trail past the Lower Falls.

We ate dinner at the pizza place there and it was surprisingly decent. My right outside ankle became very sore at this point due to pressure from my ice skates. I forgot that they caused that problem for me. After dinner we walked back to the van and made the now familiar drive back to the hotel. Traffic was pretty much non-existent at this point. This was surprising since traffic was bumper to bumper while we hiked near Lower Yosemite Falls. This was a great day in Yosemite and the weather was nice as well. Definitely cold but the sun was out. So far the Ibex Woolaire jacket & Rab gloves are working out for me.

12/28/16: Upper Yosemite Fall Hike

Our plan for the day is to hike the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail which is a hike I did maybe 20 years ago. I remember liking it and wanted to do it the last time we were here but we didn’t get it done. We were up around 8 again but, since we planned ahead, we were able to get ready and leave much quicker today. We packed our stuff into the van & drove to the park where we parked in the same lot we did yesterday. We used he microwave in the van to make our breakfast & then walked to the shuttle stop & got off at #7 to hike the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.

This trail isn’t easy & gains 2,700 feet vertically over the 3.5 miles to the top. It was harder than I remembered it and it was made worse due to the snow, slush & ice on much of the trail. Joyce’s new traction devices worked great for her and mine did their job as well. Joyce slipped once & fell onto her butt but, luckily, was not hurt. The trail started off with a pretty steep set of switchbacks that didn’t let up for quite a while. The trail is rocky as well so it was far harder than a similar set of switchbacks, such as the Angel’s Landing trail in Zion National Park, which is steep but paved & smooth. On the way up we were given great views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls & Yosemite Valley. Joyce did a great job on the trail and was able to push to the top despite a huge elevation gain and the poor trail conditions. We started the hike at about 10:30 and summited at about 2:30. I was a bit worried about the late time since we still needed to descend. We ate our lunch at the top and I climbed down to the spot where you can look at the river pouring over the edge on its way down to the valley. This was a bit tricky due to the ice on the trail. Joyce decided not to make the trip down to the view point.

View of Half Dome from The Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.

Yosemite Falls…still need to hike to the top!

Joyce cranking up the trail.

Another view of Half Dome along with the Falls.

Finally at the top!!

Joyce where the river tumbles over the edge.

The river where it starts to tumble over the edge.

This is the end…they really need to remove that tree!

Everything looks small from up here! 

Once we were done with lunch we started our descent. I was afraid it would take us a long time due to the snow & ice but it wasn’t too bad. We took off our traction devices about 1/2 way down and we had some slips but no falls. It was a tough descent due to the steepness of the trail as well as the rockiness & ice but we made it down to the bottom about 5:00. Along the way we saw some snow shelves slipping off the canyons as well as a few rock falls that let out huge booms as they came off the walls. Once we heard the noise we would look up and see softball sized rocks falling down. Luckily none were too near us. We were lucky and got a shuttle right away & took it one stop where we ate at a food place in the park rather than cook at the hotel. We were in line for burgers but the line was crawling so we went over to the other line where nobody was & Joyce got some trout & I got some potato & rice sides since I didn’t want to spend the dough for something better. It was all pretty good but everything tastes good when you’re starving. Once done with dinner we grabbed a shuttle back to our van and hit the road back to our hotel. Traffic was much better tonight & there was no backup at all. Road conditions have been decent & I have used 4×4 mainly as a safety. I think I could get through without it.

Joyce dominating the icy trail on the way down.


12/27/16: Yosemite Day 1

We got up around 8 which was kind of late. We got ready & made some egg sandwiches in the room for breakfast. We also made some sandwiches to pack for lunch. Once we were done with all of that it was even later and we got our stuff together and loaded into the van and drove into the park. It is about 8 miles from our hotel to the park gate and then another 8 miles or so to Yosemite Village. I had forgotten how pretty Yosemite is. I always fear the crowds and so don’t make going there a priority but it really is a scenic place.  Think this is our first time to be there when there is snow so it is a different experience for us. On the drive in to the Village we stopped & took in views of some waterfalls & the Merced River and then ended up parking near the General Store which is by the Visitor Center. We ended up hitting both of them to check them out. We bought a topo map for the trails while we were there & Joyce bought a water bottle.

Joyce dwarfed by the van.

Winter wonderland.

Joyce and the Falls from the road into Yosemite.

I think I found a Hobbit in Yosemite…

Once done with that we grabbed a shuttle to the Mist Trail which was the trail for viewing Vernal Falls. It was a nice trail but it was icy which required us to put on our boot traction devices for parts of it. I used my ancient pair while Joyce used her brand new LL Bean beefy crampons. Both kept us from slipping but Joyce felt hers could possibly be a bit aggressive for use on trails like we hiked today. Once we got up to the turnoff for Vernal Falls we found that the trail was closed due to falling rock danger. This was a bummer but we decided to hike part of the way up to Nevada Falls and then decided at some point to turn back. We ate our lunch on the trail before we hiked back to the trailhead.

Joyce on the Mist Trail.


We grabbed a shuttle back to where we parked the van but it was early so we decided to hit the General Store where Joyce bought some traction devices similar to mine. They are better due to having more studs and I would have replaced mine as well but they were out of the size for my Sasquatch feet. Once out of there we decided to walk along the bike route which took us along the valley and provided great views of Yosemite Falls & Half Dome. On the way back we almost hiked the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail but it was almost dark & Joyce’s new boots were hurting her calf so we called it a day. We walked back to the van and then drove off towards the hotel. Traffic was hellacious getting out of the park. Some roads were closed it seems so it was stop & go for a few miles until traffic broke up & we were able to move. Back at the hotel we made some spicy Korean ramen for dinner and then thought ahead and made breakfast for ourselves for the morning along with sandwiches for lunch. We will just use the microwave in the van to heat our breakfast once we get into the park. This worked well for us in Glacier & Yellowstone. After that we called it a day…after I had a Peppermint Victory At Sea that is.

Visitor Center with a nice view.

Nice view of Half Dome.

Victory in the hotel room is more like it.


12/26/16: The Road To Yosemite

Nothing too exciting today. I got up around 7 & loaded the car and then drove to Vons to pick up ice & some bread for the trip. Once back home Joyce was about ready and we left around 8:30. We grabbed a greasy breakfast at Jack in the Box somewhere North of San Clemente and then continued our journey. LA traffic was horrible as usual and it took about 1 1/2 hours to get through. Traffic finally broke somewhere around Magic Mountain. Lunch was at some Pho place near Fresno that Joyce used Yelp to find. It was actually good Pho. Phoking good Pho I would say. The route was basically 5 N to 99N to 140 W. Our hotel was right on the 140. Joyce’s phone routed us through some local streets for some reason but we made it. Check in was busy since it looked like there was a Chinese tour group checking in. We got our room and all was good though. Our room has a large fridge which is nice since we intend to cook here rather than find food somewhere. After a victory beer or two it was time to sleep. It was nice driving the van again.

Thanks LA!


10/22/16: Going Home

We woke up with the alarm without issue despite Joyce not sleeping well due to the engine noise throbbing in our room. This was likely the pool equipment that seemed to be near our room. We got ready quickly & left for the airport. It was still drizzling but wasn’t very cold even though it was early in the morning. We got to the airpost & parked the car in the Dollar Rent A Car section of the parking garage and dropped the key in the box at the desk since nobody would man the counter until 6. We checked our bag in and went through security without issues. Once at our gate it was a short wait to board the plane to JFK where we would catch our transfer plane back to San Diego. The flight was an easy hour and we landed on time in NYC.

At JFK we grabbed some coffee along with some egg sandwiches at the Starbucks near our gate and the boarded the plane for the last leg home. The flight was uneventful but the iron bladder failed me and I had to hit the bathroom on the flight. I blame the coffee. Once in San Diego we retrieved our checked bag and the found the ride share area and had an Uber driver pick us up. Our ride home was a Prius which got us home safe. Once home we unpacked, did laundry and went through the stacks of mail waiting for us. Back in the land of the green & the brown.

10/21/16: Driving Back to Burlington

I set the alarm for 7 but didn’t hear it so we got up a bit past 8. We got our stuff ready to go and then packed the car and dropped they key off at the desk & we were off. It was drizzly in Bar Harbor and our plan was to drive down the 1 to Portland, hit Allagash Brewery there and then hit the interstates for the rest of the drive to Burlington. We grabbed breakfast at a Denny’s a few miles away from the hotel and it was a giant step down from the other spots we got breakfast on the trip. Not because it was a Denny’s since they are usually decent but this one sucked. My over hard eggs were runny & everything was cold. Coffee was ok though. After we ate we found the 1 and we were off.

The road out of town on the 1 was a two lane road but there wasn’t much traffic so it was a nice drive With great scenery and occasional views of the coast. We also crossed many rivers which we saw empty into the ocean as well as many lakes. I could find lots to do out here. We stopped to check out Camden, ME about 1.5 hours into the drive since it was supposed to be a nice Maine town and it was. It was small but scenic and it had a nice harbor to walk around. We grabbed a beer at the Good Dog Brewing Company mainly to use their bathrooms but the pumpkin ale I got was good. We checked out some nice homes along the 1 that had really nice trees that were turning color out in front of them. After an hour or so we hit the road again and took the 1 most of the way into Portland but did turn off onto the 95 & other highways in Ryder to route ourselves to the Allagash Brewery. We ended up on some toll highways in order to get there but it was only $1 so no big deal.

“Downtown” Camden, ME.

The Camden harbor.

Nice fall colors in Camden.

Once at Allagash we found that it was in the suburbs so not really in Portland itself. The brewery was fairly small but had a nice tasting room and they gave you a token as you entered which allowed you to get a taster set of four beers which was very generous. It was pretty busy as well so they gave away a lot of free beer while we were there. We shared a table with a couple from Waterbury, VT who said they lived about a mile from the Ben & Jerry’s factory there. He works in the beer industry in some fashion so maybe he was doing some reconnaissance on the brewery. We each finished our tasters & both liked all of the beers we had. On the way out we picked up a hat & t-shirt to kick back for the free beer and then it was off to grab a late lunch before getting back on the road to Burlington. We ate at a Pho place near the brewery and it was very good. We each got the rare steak soup and I had to get an Allagash White Ale since they had it on tap. Once done with lunch we hit the road and had no stops planned before Burlington.

The Allagash brewery in Portland, ME.

The crowd at the Allagash brewery in Portland, ME.

East coast Pho.

We took the major highways the rest of the way with some toll roads included. At a couple we seemed to hit lanes that routed us through without paying. At one I saw a light flashing so I’m wondering if we had our picture taken skating through without paying and our rental car Company will get a ticket. We’ll see if I get charged for that. It started raining pretty heavily soon after Portland and didn’t let up until Burlington. The highways didn’t have reflectors on their lane stripes so it was pretty hard to determine where to drive with the rain coming down so hard. We got some fog as well as lightning to add to the fun. We stopped for gas once and got into Burlington about 10:00. We filled up the car near the hotel so we would not need to do it in the morning and then checked into the hotel and got our bags ready to go for the flight home. I packed so that all I would need to carry on the plane was my day pack. We ended up skipping dinner and just ate some bars we had brought. Our flight leaves at 5:40 so we set the alarm for 4 which will give us enough time to return the car & check our bag.