Cramped Up, Get Out: Hit The Road Four

A Little Longer, Get Out, Just A Day, Misc., Trips, Weekends

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Part Four: Stormy skies, hot springs and other wonders of the great divide.
Summer storms. The power of rain torrentially pouring down upon you, a dark sky ever looming in the distance, threatening to blow your tent down, the most epic rainbows, and lightning’s strobe-light show, slapping loudly not-so-high up above. At any moment the weather can change, really change, drastically, and after five years in California, and a couple weeks in the desert, this was a gloriously welcome addition to our lives.
We burst into Colorado and you could feel the moisture in the air nearly upon crossing state lines. The world was green and the air cool and dewey. After much needed (free) hot showers at Mesa Verde, we started a journey up and across the state, driving through 11,000 foot mountain tops, exploring picturesque old mining towns, and finally landing ourselves in hot bubbling waters beneath the big Colorado stars.
Teetering on the edge of the Great Plains and the Continental Divide, we found ourselves stunned when the Grand Tetons suddenly emerged from behind a poof of clouds with all their jagged glory. We had our first sightings of buffalo, first rumors of bears, and took in the epic views, winding our way up to the most popular park in our country’s system, Yellowstone.
Upon arrival we felt disappointed. The lines of cars, the crowds of people stacked with selfie sticks, and the seemingly zero fucks being given about the reality of where they were besides snapping your photo with Old Faithful, made you think you were at Disneyland rather than America’s greatest natural park. But we soon realized that the moment you make the effort to walk further than a quarter mile on one of the many trails the park offers, you are in absolute solitude and the great wilderness we were promised is anything but disappointing.
After some adventuring we hopped back in the car, and made our way deep into Montana. We got away from the crowds and more glamorous sites this country has, and instead found lakes and rivers we’d never heard of, throwing in a line or two. We found hot springs we got hot tips about, quirky ghost towns, and we drank Banquet Beers at a small town rodeo in Belt, MT. We stood on the spot where Custer had his last stand, and drove by those faces up in the rocks because we didn’t feel like paying for parking.
As we descended from the Rockies into the Great Plains where the buffalo roamed, and hopped on more highways rather than winding roads, the world got a bit flatter, but never less interesting. Our journey was approaching its end with our plan to fast-track across the Eastern half of the states, but we still had a few adventures left ahead of us before we’d be settling down.

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Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Plains below Grand Teton mountain range; looking out above Silverton, CO; mountains near Ouray, CO; power lines; through the trees at Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park; Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park; Buffalo and the Tetons; Log cabin, Tetons; Beaver at Jackson lake, Tetons; Storm and thermal in Yellowstone National Park; Thermal creations in Yellowstone; Land of steam in Yellowstone; Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone; road in Montana; Hot spring in Montana; Rodeo in Belt, MT; Buffalo at Custer State Park in SD; Abandoned roadside in South Dakota near Badlands; Sunset at Jackson Lake, Grand Tetons.
Photos taken on Canon AE-1 with 35mm film and on Canon Rebel SL-1.
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Cramped Up, Get Out: Hit The Road Three

A Little Longer, Get Out, Just A Day, Weekends

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Part Three: Roadside companions
Sometimes on a road trip, it’s the little things rather than the big views that bring you the most satisfaction.  Upon our exit from a horrendously hot and demoralizing experience of backpacking in the Grand Canyon, we were fortunate enough to have an oasis of sorts to go home to, hang our Roo’s and have a cold beer.  Our oasis wasn’t necessarily physical to start, but rather a couple sweet, sweet unicorns that were also road tripping around the southwest at the same time we were.
Our friends, Risa and Michael, offered some much needed comfort, some killer cooking skills, and just the companionship we wanted at that moment.  Over the next week, we made our way up and out of Arizona and into and across southern Utah, zipping through all those Utah state parks that without fail cause a shortness of breath and the occasional tear.  We caravanned through desert, mountains, and even took refuge from the heat in a pine valley, a cool valley of pines, happily accompanied by the name “Pine Valley”.  We saw nature in full Kodachrome, constantly astounded by the colors flying by and taking shape as the sun laid down for another southwestern evening, putting on a show and casting golden hues across our smiling, satisfied and full faces.
Our friends cooked, and when we say they cooked, THEY COOKED! They made meal after meal, carefully crafted on cast iron, heated only by the fires we tended, maybe a stove or two as well. Regardless, we were healed through food, fixed through friends, and when the time came to part there was a palpable bitter-sweetness to leave our comrades.  And so we did, on to Colorado separately, while our friends stayed to explore more of the Mormon wonderland by way of Moab and Arches.
Fast forward 3 weeks and 3000 miles.  We had figured we wouldn’t see our dear friends for quite some time, but as fate would have it, South Dakota had a different plan and we were once again greeted by Risa and Michael as well as an evening of crackling lightning, deafening thunder, and rain drops so thick they sting with their weight.  An evening soaked in fear and soaked in a tent, and we were left a little tired, but happy to grab some diner breakfast and continue on our separate journeys. We said our goodbyes (for real this time), and each moved on to newer, literally greener pastures along the rust belt, every day pushing a little further East.

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Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Camille taking pictures in Bryce Canyon; Zion National Park geology; Risa at Bryce; Bryce through the pines; Desert tree; Bryce Canyon rock formations; Desert flower; The depth of Bryce Canyon; Ty walking into Bryce; Bryce Canyon big view; Ty at Bryce sunset with camera; Risa’s Bryce sunset; Home at Pine Valley, UT; Michael cooking a feast; Ty’s Bryce sunset; Glen Canyon view; Camille standing in Zion; Desert sage and cactus in Utah; Risa and Michael at Bryce.
Photos taken on Canon AE-1 with 35mm film and on Canon Rebel SL-1.

Cramped Up, Get Out: Hit The Road Two

A Little Longer, Get Out, Just A Day, Trips, Weekends
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Part Two: Hot road lifestyle adjustment.
You forget what it truly means to be on the road. You are rich in places to sleep, yet essentially homeless. Your car is your home. Your car is your kitchen. Every national forest is your home. Your hammock and tent, your nest. Every Walmart parking lot, a potential home if all else fails. You create systems inside your car that only you understand. Everything has a place. Five inches of space are as valuable as a whole room in your house. You become one. Your seats start to smell. The dashboard is thick with dust and dirt. You brought a bunch of clothes, but you wear the same every day. There’s a collection of rocks starting to grow already. Cold beer is god.
We alternated between trail and road. Sweaty then showering down in the campground bathroom. Or a bath in the creek, any cool water would do. The heat penetrated our souls as we careened across the south west of our country, and some days we felt like we may never be cool again. We began to deeply and carelessly long for our future in Maine; the notion of cold winter and icy fingers became an every day daydream.
A hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon brought us to our knees far away from the comforts of civilization. We struggled in a new way, but that discomfort made the reward that much sweeter: friends awaiting us at the rim with a campsite we’d call home where we hung our hammocks, drank cold beer and ate not-cliff bars. We slept like babies (until one of us was nudged by a burro in the night), and awoke refreshed, ready to find new roads to explore and new places to lay our heads for a night or two.
The options were endless, we chose the way. This was our new life.

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Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Roadside stand east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; Crossing the Colorado River near Marble Canyon; Hermit Creek trail inside the Grand Canyon; Vegetation inside the Grand Canyon; Dreamcatcher on AZ Rt 89; The vast Grand Canyon National Park; Dealing with the heat inside the Grand Canyon; Rocks in Arizona; Comfort at Desert View Campground, Grand Canyon; Roadside stand flags east of Grand Canyon on AZ Rt 89; View of the Colorado River from the Tonto Trail inside the Grand Canyon.
All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

Cramped Up, Get Out: Hit The Road One

A Little Longer, Get Out, Just A Day, Trips, Weekends

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Part One: Our last hurrah in California.
In May we packed up our San Francisco studio apartment – the one which has kept us “cramped up” – and we busted out of the Bay Area with one thing in mind: to get out.
We got out of our routines, out of our jobs, out of our apartment, out of our comfort zones. Outside, out of town, on and off roads, in and out of our typical notion of civilization. Five weeks zig-zagging our way across the United States, knowing it was only the beginning of an entire three and a half months we would spend on the road; plane tickets awaited us on the East Coast, bound for Europe.
But first this. Our first week was spent working our way down the 395 through the great state of California, our now former home, enjoying its beauty and slowly preparing to detach. Quickly remembering what it feels like to roam free.

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Photo Locations (from top to bottom): Route 62 driving east from Joshua Tree; Yosemite National Park; Hike near Lake George in Mammoth Lakes CA; Crystal Crag from trail in Mammoth Lakes; Shepherd’s Hot Spring in Mammoth; Fossil Falls off CA395; view off Route 62; Desert life in Joshua Tree National Park; Friend’s re-furbished trailer in Joshua Tree; Warm sunset in Joshua Tree; Plant silhouette in Joshua Tree; Ready for bed in friend’s trailer Joshua Tree; Joshua Tree starry night.
Photos taken on Canon AE-1 with 35mm film and on Canon Rebel SL-1.

Escalante: The Trail Less Traveled

Just A Day, Trips

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Escalante River Trail

Escalante River Trailhead to Natural Arch – 4 miles out and back
We were overwhelmed. After failing to find somewhere to camp – let alone to park -in Zion National Park (no offense, you are beautiful, but man are you crowded!), and a gorgeous but busy stay in Bryce, we mosyed our way over to the lesser known Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and found ourselves free of the crowds, free of charge.
Though it lacks the admirable National Park title of the other famed parks of Utah, you find yourself asking why as you stare out at the 1.7 million acres of dramatic natural bridges, slick red rock walls, slot canyons, ruins and petroglyphs you can get intimate with, and the bonus on a hot June day: a plentiful river running along the trail shaded by cottonwoods. And did we mention that there is nobody there?
We spent the day rambling along the flat valley of the Escalante River, speeding along through the desert sage, splashing around in the cool river water which we got to cross multiple times, and enjoying this rare opportunity to spend alone time with the southwest’s sensational scenery. One day we’ll go deeper into its millions of acres of unspoiled land, but for now we’ll be content with our small but eye-opening taste of this Utah underdog.

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All photos taken on a Canon Rebel SL-1

Amongst the Wildflowers, Away from You

Just A Day, Trips

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Ridge Trail from Mesa Road – Bolinas – 7 miles out and back
We’re social people. We like friends. We like meeting people. And we even like making new friends out in the wild. But when you get to the trailhead for a certain Alamere Falls trail on an overcast Saturday and encounter 300 cars and possibly every active person that lives in the Bay Area, it’s just too much.
So we froze bewildered, briefly, then chose another trail that was hidden behind the wall of parked cars. A trail that led to nowhere in particular, that went an unknown distance. We chose solitude and uncertainty over notorious sights and big crowds. We were rewarded with all of the wildflowers and lush woods that our eyes could soak in, free from the masses just a few miles away.

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All photos in this post taken on a Canon Rebel SL-1.

Walking on White: South Lake Tahoe

Just A Day, Trips

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Goal: Snowshoe day hike to Cathedral Lake in South Lake Tahoe (typically 4.4 miles roundtrip on foot)
Reality: Made it somewhere halfway (hiked about 5 miles total)
When you have a destination in mind, it’s hard to not reach it. You’re looking at the map, and you know you’re close-ish but the sun is starting to drop and you forgot a lighter to cook your hot trail meal, so you’re hangry, and you know you just have to turn around.
That’s how it went on this day hike snowshoe trip a few weeks back. In the snow, the trail takes on a new life. It’s no longer where it should be. It winds around side to side, up and down. It’s longer. It causes you to truly trust those who came before you, hoping that they knew where the hell they were going (a trust that was broken the following day in an attempt to hike to Big Meadow off Rt. 89). Plus you go snail-slow on snowshoes compared to walking. These elements made it so that we’d hiked as long as we had time for, and were still at least 45 minutes from our lake goal.
But the frustration of missing out on your idealized trip quickly fades as the views and beauty come back into focus. You’re romping through pillows of white, and as your beaver-tale-of-a-foot plunges into the white powder, you find yourself floating, with few, if any, people nearby, and the glistening blue waters all around. We didn’t need our destination; we had already gotten what we came for.

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All photos in this post taken on a Canon Rebel SL-1.

Trials on Snowshoe

Just A Day, Trips
Cramped Up Yosemite Merced River Valley
New year, new…. activities? Sure, why not! That wasn’t exactly the plan. We’ve been wanting to try out snowshoeing for over a year now, but last winter’s extreme lack of snow, and our poor efforts to seek it out, resulted in a year-long delay. So for the first weekend of the year, after the Sierras have been appropriately dumped on for a couple months now, we decided to take our snowshoeing ambitions to the white mountains of Yosemite at Badger Pass.
Yosemite. A love-hate relationship. We love it for its beauty, its history, its ability to inspire a love of nature in anybody. We hate it for those three things, too, because they have an annoying ability to attract droves of tourists with selfie sticks. But the other glorious thing about Yosemite is the moment you go about a half mile away from any trailhead, you’re usually in relative solitude.
And that is what we found on our turned-out-to-be-too-short first snowshoeing trek. We explored the back-trails of Old Glacier Point Road and found deep, snowy trails, so insulated and quiet. Fresh snow all around, and small trails leading every which way. A decent climb led us to a view of the peaks surrounding us. And an expansive meadow turned out to be a perfect place for lunch.
We began our return trip, and found ourselves back at the car all too soon; and back in the Yosemite crowd madness. We were left wanting more. We had found something new; a new way to explore the backcountry that we loved, and that was exciting in itself. Next time we’ll just have to choose a longer trail…

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All photos in this post taken on a Canon Rebel SL-1.

Mono Lake: Fissures Atop a Hill of Ash

Just A Day, Trips

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Its dry, hot, dusty, cold, windy, snowy, rainy; unforgiving.  Its big, grandiose, epic, awesome, righteous; spiritual.  The Eastern Sierra kind of rules all of California, reigning over it from the east side and laughing in the face of those in the west who think the trip is too much work; the east doesn’t want you, the east doesn’t need you, and most importantly, the east doesn’t care.
The area in and around Mono Lake is full of secret hot springs, craters, and fourteeners no one has heard of.  It boasts memories of our presence and departure through abandoned towns, mines, cave dwellings and petroglyphs.  This area tells us the story of its history through volcanic shapes and remnants.
The Fissures are a kept secret of the East side; hidden in plain view atop a hill made of volcanic ash just waiting to be explored and treasured.  They are a series of slot canyons 20-50 ft deep and 2-6 ft wide, shaped volcanically telling an intrinsic piece of the geological history of the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake.  Finding them can be tough but is worth the short jaunt for such a massive reward.

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Cramped Up Mono Lake fissures plants

 

All photos taken with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.

A Warm Winter’s Hike

Just A Day, Trips

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Winter. It can mean different things to different people. It represents the end of a year, a time to hibernate indoors, and a chance for the plants and animals to take a rest before the cycle starts a-new. It means unimaginable cold temperatures in most of the country, where you don’t dare go outside unless you absolutely must. In these places in January, you know you’re only half-way through this season, and you’ll have to wait until April, or even May, before you’re hanging around in a t-shirt again.
In California, winter is just a New England’s Autumn day, yet it’s cold feeling when you’re used to temperate weather all year round. But every year since we moved to this great state we are granted a few weeks of real warmth and sunshine right smack in the middle of January. It’s like clockwork, and maybe it didn’t used to be like this, and maybe global warming is to thank, but we appreciate the thaw and the chance to enjoy some beautiful places that are usually bitter cold (by California standards) this time of year.
Hike to Upper Yosemite Falls – Yosemite National Park – 7.2 miles round trip
This is North America’s tallest waterfall at 2,425 ft.

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All photos shot with 35mm film on a Canon AE-1.