Monday, July 30, 2012

San Francisco on 4th of July

Don't attach too much significance for the title except for the last few photographs of fireworks.  I didn't capture any photographs related to 4th of July celebrations or anything, it's just that we went to San Francisco on 4th of July evening.  Vivek, Liyan, Chinthan and I thought of seeing the 4th of July fireworks from bay front and head to San Francisco, but in the end it happened that we had to watch it from a narrow street close to Coit tower but not from bay front.

We first stopped at City Hall square and walked around the area which is home to neo-classical buildings - Van Ness-Mc Allister-Hayes-Market st area.  It was a pretty sad scene due to holiday, the Market st. was almost closed down and empty except for a Starbucks where we stopped for a coffee.  We head to Alamo square to meet the Seven Sisters.  Alamo park was busy with people basking the warm afternoon sun enjoying beers and barbecue.  Seven sisters were pretty with a warm sunshine on them with the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline as the backdrop.  

Our next destination was Twin Peaks, we drove up drooling over the houses on mountain top with a terrific view.  To control crowd, a cop had stopped the cars way below the peak, we had to struggle to find a parking on a narrow street.  It was windy and very cold and we wore nothing more than a flimsy tee-shirt.  We ran up the mountain pushing the stroller to warm up but that didn't help us much.  The view of the city was breathtaking, though a bit hazy as usual.  After getting enough of views, we were almost dying of cold before we started running down towards car.  


We had to spend atleast 30 minutes to find a parking before we sat down at New Lun Ting Cafe for dinner, suggested by Yelp.  It took another 40 minutes for them to serve the food which messed up our waterfront view of fireworks.  Dinner, no doubt was great and it was quite sometime that I had Tsing Tao beer.  By the time we finished dinner and walked out, the sky was already lit by the fireworks.  We rushed towards Coit tower to get an elevated view, roads were too crowded, I just had to pull over in some place to watch the fireworks.   It was only for about 10 minutes we watched before it came to an end and we were a bit disappointed that we couldn't watch the fireworks from waterfront, however the evening was well spent and below are the photographs.






























































Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tioga Road and Mono Lake

After a tiring Half Dome hike, the second day in Yosemite was spent driving on Tioga road all the way upto Mono lake.  Tioga road has got innumerable lakes, some of them along the road and some could be reached after a hike.   It also houses many vista points (Olmstead point being the famous one) , trail heads and the famous Tuolumne Meadows.  The section of Highway 120 in between Big Oak Flat Road and Highway 395 is Tioga road and this section is closed during winters.  We did an easy drive stopping at many vista points and lakes, while our final destination was Mono lake.  By the time we reached Mono lake, it was about 2 in the afternoon and sun was shining hot and bright.  We entered the lake from South Tufas which has an entry fee of $2 per person.  We grabbed some beers and watermelon to the lake which is about 15 min walk from the parking.  The specialty of Mono lake is gigantic Tufa columns (somewhat like stalagmites) and its special eco-system of brine-shrimp and alkaline flies which forms major food source for birds.  We spent about an hour and a half at the lake guzzling beers and finishing watermelon under the burning sun, before starting our journey back.  

I was quite disappointed in terms of photography for the day was extremely bright and with no traces of cloud, the sky looked very boring.

Half dome from Olmstead Point on Tioga Road

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake
 
Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Tufas at Mono Lake

Elery Lake

Trace of snow even in summer around Elery Lake

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Half Dome Hike

During our first visit to half dome in winter, we decided that we were gonna come back for Half Dome, the trails of which were closed for the season.  We missed the big lottery pool for permits by just a couple of days, we applied for a permit on Friday night to hike on Monday (to avoid crowd) and waited all day on Saturday while we shopped for the trip.  The shopping list was huge and by no way it looked like a backpacker's list - charcoal, firewood,  meat, bread, lettuce, tomato, ham, avocado (for gourmet sandwiches), tortillas, salsa, beers, carrot juice, lemons, shallots, chips, watermelon!....  By Sunday morning we still had not heard back from recreation.gov about our permits, no mail, no phone call, we just went.

We had a reservation at Crane Flat camping grounds which we cancelled in the last moment when we got space at Camp 4 camping grounds very close to Yosemite valley.  The evening was spent with a small hike to Mirror Lake followed by raising the tents and beers and barbecue.  

An alarm in the neighbouring tent woke me up at 3:30AM while mine was set to 4:30.  I tried to fall asleep but couldn't, just spent an hour lying in the bed till my alarm fired.  By 5:30, we were ready, all packed and prepared for the hike.  My knapsack consisted of 2.5 liters of water, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of Ensure protein drink, 2 sandwiches, lots of energy bars, some fruits and my 20D with 17-40/4L and 70-200/4L.  We drove from Camp 4 to Happy Isles and started our hike exactly at 5:50AM on dot.  The first part of the hike was the easiest, a walk from parking to John Muir trail which was super plain and easy.  Then a stretch of steep tarmac, with mountains on one side and river on the other, leads to the bridge which gives a first sight of Vernal fall. The 0.6 mile Mist trail starts after the bridge with John Muir trial deviation as well.  The Mist trail is called so due to the mist generated by Vernal fall.  The view of the fall is terrific and the trail has many steep steps to climb before it takes you to the top of the fall.  This trail is closed during winter, Vernal and Nevada falls could be reached by John Muir trail then.


Nevada fall is another 20min easy stretch from Vernal fall.  We didn't stop too long at any of these places since we had done it during our previous hike.  We continued to the top of Nevada fall and took a break to see around.  The next part is an easy, sandy stretch along the Merced river in Little Yosemite Valley floor after which the steep trails run through the forests.  After hiking about 3 miles and shooting a bear, we reached the bottom of the subdome where we were stopped by the ranger to check permits.  He checked for our names in his tablet, he couldn't find and he didn't let us in.  He was kind enough to give us another option to check with hikers if they extra permits, they could just hitch hike us in.  We had to wait for half our to find someone who had extra permits. 


The sub-dome hike is a tough one with countless number of steps with a very steep elevation and completely open with no trace of shade.  We were at the cables once we climbed the sub-dome.  You find a pile of gloves discarded by hikers at the start of cables you could pick any that fits you and start the most interesting part of the hike - the cables.  The terrain is vertical and two cables run parallel to each other using which you gotta conquer half dome.  It's exciting! You feel as though you're climbing to the top of the world using these cables.  It's scary if you've got fear of heights, it's tiring especially for the hands for it has to haul the weight of your body up.  It took us exactly 20min to reach the summit of half dome.  All the pain and tiredness disappeared magically once we were on the top.  The view from the top is breathtaking.  Rocky mountains all around, some with traces of snow on them even in peak summer, some covered with pine trees, most completely bald and open.  The area on the summit is quite big offering views of Yosemite valley, El Capitan and many other small domes.  We spent a quality hour on the summit - clicked few photos, had our sandwiches, fruits, walked around before we head back to the cables.


The descent was definitely more scary and dangerous than ascent.  The rocks were super slippery and our hands couldn't be just removed from the cable even for a jiffy.  It was almost like a controlled, slow motion bunjee jumping.  It took 8 minutes to descend, the very thought of the return journey reeled our heads and tired us more.  The sub-dome descent, the long descent down to Little Yosemite valley, the slow gait on the sands of valley floor, going down two waterfalls and the last stretch of tarmac, walk back to parking were all still pending for us to finish the hike.  We walked back slowly taking enough breaks.  The mist trail felt just heavenly in the afternoon sun, it mitigated the tiredness to a great extent.  At 6:10PM, I pressed the unlock button of my car key!  Our legs were lifeless but the very fact that we ticked off half dome from the "To Do" list elated us.  We came back to Camp 4 and hit the shower at Curry Village which was followed by beers and barbecue.















































Below are some videos shot from my iPhone: