Loving life in Death Valley

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Daniel and I recently returned from an awesome Christmas-time trip to Death Valley National Park.

I highly recommend making a winter trek to the desert. It’s amazing! If you go, here are some recommendations:

It’s a six-hour trip from Fresno to Death Valley, so enjoy the journey. Take the time to appreciate Red Rock Canyon State Park and to stop by the quirky jerky shack in Olancha.

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Take a hike! We were wowed by Mosaic Canyon. I’m no geologist, but I’d choose to spend Christmas surrounded by rocks, instead of eating Chinese food and seeing movie, any year!

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Wander a desert ghost town. We visited Rhyolite, and checked out some weird desert art nearby.

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If you visit Scotty’s Castle (and we don’t really recommend you do) then be sure to also check out the Ubehebe Crater nearby. Amazing!

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People say Death Valley has great sunrises and sunsets. I glimpsed my favorite sunrise when I stepped out of our tent at the Texas Springs Campground.

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We visited Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the country, on Christmas morning. We had the salt flats all to ourselves.

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Then visit one of the higher spots in Death Valley – Dante’s View – for a majestic sight. Or, meditate there.

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Play a round in the Devil’s Golf Course. Or, meditate there.

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Death Valley is huge, so you’ll spend a lot of time in the car. Don’t hesitate to pull over (safely, of course) and get a good picture.

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But don’t spend all your time in the car. Sip some mate, and make plans.

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If you have a couple of days in Death Valley, check out the Amargosa Opera House. If you’re lucky, the receptionist at the decrepit hotel nearby will give you the keys to the opera house, so you can check out the theater’s murals on your own.

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Savor the local flavor! We sipped cream soda from Indian Wells Brewing Company while we ate peanut butter and prickly pear jam sandwiches.

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On the drive back, appreciate California’s splendor and diversity. You can drive through the desert, while gazing into the snow-covered Sierras.

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‘Sweet’ adventures in Kings Canyon

 

“I want to go on an adventure!” Nacho Bear thought to himself when he woke up last Sunday morning.

He called his friends Moby Bear and Zooey Bear and they agreed to join him on the adventure. Moby Bear packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salami, cheese, and Sour Patch Kids into a backpack, and the trio set off for Kings Canyon National Park, where they intended to hike the popular Mist Falls Trail.

“On second thought, Bears, let’s make this a multi-sport adventure,” Nacho Bear said, as he drove from Fresno to the park, bobbing his head to the new Grizzly Bear album that streamed through the stereo. His paws began to sweat with excitement as he drove past the park’s tall trees, gushing rivers, and granite slabs, and imagined all the fun they would have that day.

They hit the trail, and began the 8.4-mile hike with enthusiasm and energy, powered by the sticky Sour Patch Kids in their pockets. But then Nacho Bear careened to a halt: He had found the perfect rock to climb.

“Bears, will you spot me? I’m just going to boulder this rock,” he said. “Sweet!” said Zooey Bear.

Once Nacho Bear flashed the route, they continued along their hike. Until, that is, Zooey Bear spotted the perfect place to wade into the river. It was secluded enough that the Bears could peel off their sweaty hiking clothes and jump – naked – into the cold water.

“The cold water feels so refreshing on my fur!” Zooey Bear exclaimed, as she begged Moby Bear to join them.

Finally, Nacho Bear, Zooey Bear and Moby Bear made it to the top of Mist Falls. From their vantage point, they could see the cascading water falls, leafy trees, and many mountains beyond.

“I could be eaten now, and I would be happy,” said Moby Bear, as he sighed, took Zooey Bear’s hand, and gazed out to the horizon.

The Bears agreed to pose with Daniel at “the end of their adventure”… or, before he ate them.

 

4 reporters, 2 lawyers, a scientist and an engineer walk into a campsite…

What happens when four journalists, two lawyers, a scientist and an engineer spend a weekend camping at Edison Lake?

They begin their days with coffee and the best hotcakes.

They hike to the Devil’s Bathtub, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and to Corbett Lake, in the John Muir Wilderness.

They swim in water so cold, and so life-affirming, that they have to sunbathe, lizard-like, to warm up again.

They debate the merits of the First Generation and Second Generation homemade granola bars.

They act goofy.

They feast on post-hike pie and beer. Then they feast on wine and charcuterie, and then couscous and roasted vegetables.

 

They pass around flasks and bottles of bourbon by the campfire, and express their gratitude for old friends and new ones.

They pack up the cars, and head over the Kaiser Pass, happy, sun-burned, and bug-bitten.

Good Reads: Adventure Slide Shows

 

For your weekend viewing pleasure, here are three adventure slide shows definitely worth clicking through!

Hot Tub, Ice Machine – Ice Climbing in Ouray Ice Park (New York Times)

Competitive Yoga – Scenes from the New York Regional and National Yoga Asana Championship (NYT)

The Nutropolitan Museum of Art – Peanut butter inspires art (Peanut Butter & Co.)

Enjoy the weekend!

Good reads: Taking leaps, avoiding processed food, climbing Half Dome

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are links to three articles I’ve found thought-proving this week.

  • How many times have you dreamed about escaping your real life and responsibilities to, I don’t know, travel around the world and climb rocks?

On her blog The Traveling Writer, Alexis Grant provides some tough-love advice on how to make following your dream financially viable.

“If it was easy to make a living doing what you love, everyone would do it,” she writes.

She doesn’t dissuade seekers and schemers from following their dreams. She just encourages them to think hard and creatively about ways they can make money, while pursuing their dream.

“Having the determination and ingenuity to find the intersection of your passion and your income is where most people fail,” she writes. Or, she writes, it’s always a work in progress.

If there’s a leap you’ve been meaning to take in your life, sign up for Grant’s e-mails. They seem to arrive in my in-box every time I need a gentle kick in the pants.

  • I eat mostly vegetarian and I shop the perimeter of the grocery store. In terms of avoiding processed foods, I thought I was doing pretty well.

That is, until I read this Grist article, which lists five packaged foods you never need to buy again. Right now, three out of five of those items are staples in my kitchen.

I’ll take the challenge to stop buying vegetable broth, canned beans, and hummus, and prepare my own. What changes are you making to eat healthier and support the environment?

  • If climbing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is on your Bucket List, don’t miss this: The Fresno Bee reports that a new lottery system should make the process of obtaining permits to climb the granite peak more fair.

Here’s an excerpt from The Bee:

One online lottery will be held in early April at recreation.gov to acquire permits for the 2012 season, scheduled for May 25 to Oct. 8. (Those dates could change depending on conditions.)

The lottery replaces a first-come, first-served system that was plagued by scalpers who created automated programs to snap up permits the instant they became available, then sold them on the Internet for several times their value.

Lottery applications will be accepted during March at recreation.gov or by phone at (877) 444-6777. Applicants will then receive an email in early April notifying them of the lottery results, or they can get them online or by phone.

What are you reading this weekend?

Bouldering: A treasure hunt

You know what I love about bouldering? Once you start looking at rocks as large toys, the forest becomes your playground.

And when you are walking through a forest, looking for rocks to climb, a hike becomes a treasure hunt.

That was the case this Sunday, as Sora, Jeff and I arrived at the Lewis Creek Trail, located less than an hour from Fresno, between Oakhurst and the gates of Yosemite National Park.

Steps from the parking lot, we reached a fork and had to make a decision: Would we find our treasure – boulders to climb – by continuing straight, or turning right?

We turned right, and began scoping out places to climb.

Could we climb this? No, but that’s some interesting hieroglyphics.

Could we climb this? No, but it was worth a shot.

The great thing about this treasure hunt is we found things we weren’t even looking for.

Like the surprisingly stunning Corlieu Falls.

Or a pony named On the Rocks Three Shots of Dazzle.

We eventually turned around, returned to the fork, and this time continued straight on the path.

We crossed a quaint bridge (that I couldn’t resist performing yoga tricks upon) and then another small bridge.

Finally, we found our treasure: A cluster of climb-able boulders, spotted with climber chalk, nestled along a stream.

We climbed.

We relaxed.

We appreciated life. #Lovelife

Thanks, Sora, for a few of these photos!

2012: Year of the Adventure

2012!

We rang in 2012 with adventure.

Daniel, Sora, Jeff, Julie, Sam and I spent New Years Eve day exploring Big Sur. We hiked the Buzzards Roost trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, visited Pfeiffer Falls in the same park, and caught the last, amazing sunset of 2011.

 

This year, I resolve to seize the qualities that made that day of adventure great, and live them in my daily life.

Share quality time with friends.

Cherish family. (Hi, sister!)

Reach for new heights. (Jeff climbs everything in sight.)

Search, learn.

Play! (Silly Danny!)

Welcome a new perspective.

Celebrate differences.

Blaze your own trail.

Love. (Sora and Jeff)

Love. (It’s worth repeating.)

 

To kick-start this resolution, I am participating in 31 Days of Adventure. There’s nothing like starting a new year with new perspectives and new challenges.

Onward!