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Posts Tagged ‘mountains’

Yosemite

Next stop was Yosemite.

We drove in from the east, which turned out to be the wrong decision for pictures – all the pullouts/vista parking lots were on the wrong side of the highway, so we barely got to stop for any valley/mountains/river views.

The main campsites were full, so we kept driving west until we found one that had some empty spots. After setting up camp, we had just enough time for a quick jaunt up an easy trail near the Tuolomne Meadows.

The light was absolutely gorgeous.

We also had our first two encounters with deer, which around here seem to be completely tame. We tread softly trying to get as close as possible for pictures, but the deer barely batted an ear. I got as close as maybe 10-15 feet to one, and only then did it calmly start moving away.

On the way back to camp, at sunset, we were treated to picture-perfect views of Half Dome.

At two nights, this was the longest we’d stayed anywhere since the wedding. On the second night, we discovered that the dad and son at the next campsite over were originally from Ottawa – this was discovered through a hilarious Kanata/Canada (this will only be funny to people who actually know Ottawa, I think) conversation which I overheard Dan having with the dad.

The following day, we headed to the valley to see a number of different waterfalls.

Rest of the pictures are here.

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After the desert it was on to White Mountain Peak.

Having been denied a permit for Mount Whitney back in April (because permits for the hike are allocated on a lottery basis, not because they decided that Canadians are too crazy to be allowed on the mountain), I set about trying to find another worthy baggable peak. Mount Whitney distinguishes itself by being the highest peak in the contiguous United States – but afterwards, I found out that it’s actually not that great of a hike. White Mountain Peak, on the other hand, is the third-highest peak in California, is only 250 ft shy of Mt. Whitney, is supposed to be a much better hike (I can’t compare, but it was a lovely hike in its own right) – and it doesn’t require a permit.

That day (Tuesday?) we ended up driving all the way from Death Valley to a campground in the National Forest adjacent to the peak. We got to our campsite near dusk, and had fun trying to set up a tent under some creepy scraggly trees.

The next morning, we started on the long car approach to the trailhead. Both Dan and I agreed that at somewhere around 16 miles, this was probably the longest access road we’ve been on for a hike.

Given the state of the road, it took us over an hour to get to the start of the trail.

The trail itself is actually an old road that goes quite literally to the top of White Mountain Peak. Granted, for about the last 1/3 of it you would need a heavy-duty 4×4 with a good driver, but even so the grading and clearing of such a wide patch along length of the trail definitely made the hike more bearable.

The air at 14,000 ft, however, did nothing to make the hike more bearable. By the time we reached the top, this is the best attempt at an over/under that Dan could muster up.

We also saw lots and lots of marmots and chippies.

Some of them were even sporting man-made jewellery!

Head here for more pictures of adorable critters and stunning mountains.

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Tuesday was wonderfully clear and sunny – of course, it was also the day we had to leave! We did the touristy thing and drove up to the top of Mount Revelstoke, with amazing views both along the way and from the top.

Can you believe how cute the little fire tower is?

Unlike in many other places, the main reason for forest fires around here is from lightning strikes (and not people), so the tower was kept in operation into the late ’80s, when planes and satellite tracking took over. Still 7-8 lightning strikes per km^2 per year seems like a lot – good luck keeping it under control, Revelstoke!

We also saw the peak Dan had planned the original scramble for.

The drive back to Kamloops was very sunny and pleasant, with stops for ice cream, wine,

and a salmon run. Have you ever been?

No? Well, let me tell you – it’s exceptional! BC is having the largest salmon run in 100 years, and the viewing platforms were bus-ay. Lucky for us, we got there towards the end of the day and on a Tuesday – I can only imagine what it was like on the weekend before! What you see is pretty incredible – salmon upon salmon, in places packed almost as close as in a can.

This is the area where they come to nest, depositing the eggs and then promptly dying. To do this, they travel up shallow and fast-moving mountain rivers, hugging the shores en masse, and then making a break for it when they’ve rested enough for the next leg.

Why are the parks officials not worried about poachers, or people trying to pluck salmon out of the water, since they’re so easily accessible? Well, once they start their run up the river, the salmon stop eating, all their energy going to the production of sperm and eggs. Their bodies are actually decaying as they travel upstream, and so they die as soon as they’ve done the deed. All together now – ewwwwww.

At this point, they are inedible, and possibly poisonous. Which is why on the drive back we stopped at a little stall selling delicious smoked salmon made from fish caught very early on in the Fraser, before all this happens. Oh, the things you learn on vacation.

We’re both looking forward to visiting BC again, and hopefully not getting quite as shafted on the weather. Now, anybody want to step up to the challenge and set a wedding date? 🙂

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On Sunday morning, we got up early and skipped brunch plans so we could get to the trailhead early and start our overnight hike.

Or, at least, that was the plan. What actually happened was we got to the turn-off for the road we were supposed to take, and then spent the next hour and a half driving up and down a logging road looking for the start of the hike.

Turns out that the logging road had been reactivated since the book we had was published, and so various turnoffs had been added. When we did finally find what was supposed to be the start, we got all of 10 minutes into the hike before we came upon a collapsed bridge across a mountain stream slightly larger than that in Men in Tights. We hummed and hawed for a while, Dan explored.  We even went down to the railroad to see if we could use that bridge to cross, but this route would involve a good half-kilometer of uphill bushwhacking to get back to the trail. But eventually we decided against it and turned back (since this wasn’t the only bridge we’d have to cross, and this one was quite sketchy as it was).

Driving back to Revelstoke, completely dejected, we perked up a bit when we managed to find a good-priced suite (With a jacuzzi!) in a nice hotel.

Oh, the advantages of visiting ski resort towns in the off season. Although, their hallways were filled with pictures of heliskiing on pristine powder which took my breath away and made me quite jealous.

Our choices for dinner, in downtown Revelstoke on a Sunday night, were between Chinese, Chinese, or Chinese. The other options were two pubs (of which I was sick of by then) and a very expensive-looking restaurant in the hotel. We settled for the second Chinese option, and returned to our hotel room to nurse a bottle of local honey ale (Atilla the Honey, tee hee) while sitting in the jacuzzi. Now that’s what I call a vacation! 😉

The next morning dawned cloudy, but we decided to persevere and took to the Parks office for guidance.

We settled on going to the Glaciers National Park, a 45-minute drive away, to do a promising hike. The weather got only worse as we drove there, and a light drizzle had started by the time we left the car.

We bought our pass and chatted with the friendly ranger, who told us this was a very nice hike. Imagine our surprise when, a few minutes into a hike, we see a sign telling us that the bridges had been removed for the winter halfway through the hike. Oh-kay. Thanks, Mr. Not Helpful Ranger. We thought we’d try it anyway, since the parks often put bridges in places where they are not necessary by the end of the season.

The first half of the hike was actually very nice. It started in old-growth forest along wonderfully large trees.

We soon got more into the open, hiking through rock fields deposited by the receding glaciers and (probably) landslides. Through the clouds, we got views of the rocky river valley below and above us, with glimpses of what may have been our destination. When we got to the first bridge, it was as we expected, crossing the stream without TOO much effort.

Of course, then we had to get to the second bridge, which posed much bigger problems. This little river had carved a mini-gorge, with 10-15 foot dropoffs on each side, followed by a small waterfall downstream – definitely not a safe place to cross.

We tried going a bit downstream, but this was a fuller and faster river than the previous once, with no easy place to cross – and then we’d have to scramble up a slippery rock slope overgrown with brush. Oh, and did I mention it was really starting to rain by this point? Yeah, it didn’t sound like much fun to us, either. So we beat a retreat yet again. Stupid bridges foiling our plans!

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Hiking pictures!

I keep forgetting to mention this, but I’ve finally edited and uploaded the pictures from our White Mountains hiking trip.

Go take a look!

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For the August long weekend this year, I was finally able to convince Dan to try hiking in the Appalachians. And by “convince”, I mostly mean “plan and book everything, and then tell Dan that we’re going”. 🙂 You see, after Vancouver, he’s been under this impression that there are no mountains worth climbing out here. I think he was pleasantly surprised!

We started our drive on Friday afternoon, choosing to avoid Montreal and go along quiet country roads and through Cornwall instead. The views from the scary bridge at Cornwall were fantastic, but try not to look at the road too closely. Shortly after crossing the border, we had our first Amish sightings, including two buggies and a few roadside vegetable stands.

In addition to the Amish, New York seems to be a patriotic

and environmentally-conscious state.

What I didn’t know when I mapped out the drive was that our route involved a cute little ferry between NY and Vermont. A lovely evening made for smooth sailing, and we were on our way in under 15 minutes.

Our plans to have dinner at a small-town restaurant on the way were thwarted by the fact that that’s what EVERYONE in those small towns does on a Friday night, so everything was packed. We gave up after two attempts.

Hiking trips are usually much more interesting if you don’t have to double back to return, so we caught a convenient (but expensive) hiker shuttle to our starting point. We’d be hiking up and across the Presidential Range, and then back down to our car.

Saturday involved a 2-hour hike up to the tent platforms where we’d be spending the night. After a quick lunch and tent setup, we left our main packs with the tent, and set off to summit Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams. Both are conveniently accessible from the Madison Hut (which will gladly cater to your unheated bunk-bed, dinner and breakfast needs for an un-thrifty $108 usd/night/person). Both peaks are within 30 minutes to an hour from the hut, making for a lovely afternoon hike with our little day packs. The trails are all well-maintained and, while you sometimes feel like they maybe overdid it on the cairns, there’s definitely no danger of losing the path.

On the way back to the tents, we took the ridge trail, which both of us found much more interesting than the forest trail we took up to the hut. Guess which trail we took the next morning?

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Northern Peru

Flying to Lima from La Paz, we almost immediately hopped on a pre-booked bus to Huaraz (plane landed at 7 p.m., bus departing at 10 p.m.). The plan had been to do a nice 4-5 day trek up near Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca, said to be one of the most scenic ranges in South America. Well, no such luck. The rainy season was upon us, and Dan wasn´t feeling that great, either. The annoying part about the start of the rainy season is that while there isn´t enough rain to deter serious hikes (it only drizzles in the late afternoon/evening), the low clouds are constantly present due to you being trapped in a valley between two high mountain ranges – so there is no view to speak of. Only to the next foothills, and then everything past that is covered in billowing white clouds. And at that stage – what´s the big point of doing a hike renowned for the vistas it offers?

So while Dan was recovering, I explored Huaraz itself and took two day tours. Huaraz is a cute little town but not much to speak of, although I did find one cafe which would put Canadian coffeehouses to shame – 3rd and 4th levels of a building, with an open middle and mostly-couch seating along the outside of the ¨second¨ floor which offered great views of the surrounding mountains (where there were no clouds, that is).

The first day trip was to Laguna Llanganuco, with a few interesting stops along the day. On the first stop we visited the town of Yungay, the site of an avalanche on May 31, 1970 (a result of the Ancash earthquake) which killed most of the town´s inhabitants. The earthquake dislodged a large glacier shelf at the side of nearby Huascaran Mountain, and the multi-million-cubic-meter-strong mass tumbled towards the city, avalanche-style. The debris demolished the city and buried the remains, the force of the impact instantaneously killing nearly all of the inhabitants. The only exceptions were people up in the cemetery (a hill with a giant Jesus statue) and the stadium (natural features upstream of the stadium diverted the flow just enough for the avalanche to bypass most of the stadium). Due to debris settling with age, the city is now buried in around 5-10 meters of debris, and the whole area has been declared a cemetery by the government – no excavation is permitted. This used to be a very rich area, with brides decked out in multiple golden decorations on their wedding day, so numerous fortunes have been lost. A lone palm, old but only with a few top meters sticking out of the rubble, is a poignant reminder of the disaster. It used to grow in the central square of the town, and is about the only thing that survived the force of the avalanche intact. Pieces of the cathedral and a few twisted bus frames also litter the landscape, amongst small memorials erected by families in approximate places where houses uses to be located.

The lake itself was very scenic, with a few glacier-covered mountains in the background, and the drive was just as good – a nearly infinite serious of switchbacks up the mountain. On the way I also got to try two local snacks – steamed corn with some fresh cheese over top (the corn here is like nothing I´ve ever tasted), as well as papas rellenas (mashed potato patties, stuffed with bacon, onion and cheese, and fried on the outside). Have I mentioned yet I love Peruvian food?

The second trip was to Chavin, the site of a ruin of a ceremonial site of the Chavin civilization, build in 1,200-1,300 BC. After another nearly-full day on the bus, I felt like I had gone for a good hike, with my whole body aching – it turns out it takes quite a few muscles to keep you upright on a bumpy road!

Our first stop, after a bit of a scenic climb, was Laguna Querococha, a lovely little (but deep, up to 80 m) lake below a cute peak. One thing I find interesting here is that the source of canyons in the mountainsides is very obvious – large funnel-shaped deposits of rubble litter the slopes right underneath most canyons. Getting back on the bus, we drove past an area where the rocks make fairly obvious shapes of animals – much less imagination required than usual. I saw the dinosaur and the monkey, but not the elephant. Eventually, we got to Cahuish Tunnel, a very impressive tunnel carved right through a mountain – 500 m long, all of it still with the rough look of a just-dug-through-tunnel, and water dripping down from the roof and walls in some places. Coming out of the tunnel, we were greeted by another large status of Jesus, looking over the valley into which we were about to descend.

I ran out of patience at this point, since I was getting tired, so my observations of the Chavin architectural park will have to come in point form. Here are some notable things about the site:

1) The main plaza is perfectly divided into a north and south half, a division which extends into the main temple, as well. The main steps leading up to the temple are divided by this line, with one half being made out of white (well, grey, in the rain) stone, and the other out of black. Same goes for the outer walls of the temple. The Chavin really believe in symmetry.
2) Underground water drainage systems, leading away from the temple to the river. Guess it rained a lot back then, too. They are shaped in a zig-zag instead of a straight line in order to slow down the flow of water, and include small aeration shafts in order to keep the water flowing when necessary.
3) A stone with 7 circular bowls cut into it, which are thought to have been polished smooth, filled with water, and used as (magnifying?) mirrors to observe the stars. The whole site is supposed to have been an astronomical observatory used to predict which crops should be planted next year, used by farmers from far and wide – and the priests were paid in agricultural product. Clever, huh?
4) The underground tunnels. Very cool. Various tunnels used for everything from storing meat (cold storage) to a maze used in religious rituals. Another subset is called the Gallery of Columns (or something to that effect) and the archways are formed by giant slabs of stone resting overhead. Actually, that one was just a bit scary since some of the stones were cracked, and held up by makeshift wooden supports.

So, a bit of scenery and some history lessons. Not bad. But not as much as I had wanted to do, either. I kind of regret not having put Huaraz first in the list instead of last, when we were closer to the dry season, and weren´t as tired or sick. A pity. This would be another good reason to come back to Peru some day, but with all the other places we keep talking about visiting, I don´t know if that will ever happen. Guess we´ll see. Maybe a 20th anniversary trip to retrace our honeymoon steps? 🙂

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