Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oakland, I Love You!

So I moved, quit my job, got a new job, quit new job, got married, and am now moving again (this time across the country), and starting a new job.

I haven't been adventuring around Big Sur since moving to Oakland. I dearly miss Big Sur, but I've fallen in love with Lake Merritt, and Mt. Tamalpias (post coming soon). I live within walking distance of the lake (at least for the next two weeks), and it's wonderful. There's Fairy Land, the Lake Chalet, the Botanical Gardens and bonsai collection, and the park itself is just beautiful. My favorite thing about Lake Merritt is that it's actually not a lake, but an estuary. So every time I go walk around the lake my husband is terrified I'm going to fall in because I walk right on the edge and stare into the water. The algae, fishes, invertebrates, and birds that you'll see in and around Lake Merrit are just about the very last things I ever would have expected smack in the middle of Oakland.
Oakland skyline as seen across Lake Merritt, Oakland CA   
Along side the exceptionally large Canada goose population that seems to be resident and non-migratory, you'll see more black-crowned night herons than anywhere else in the bay area. They just happened to be one of my favorite birds, with their compact little bodies and long white feathers decorating their heads.
Canada geese being picturesque at Lake Merritt, Oakland CA 
I've only been living in Oakland for about 4 months, but I'm sad to be leaving this city. Oakland still has a bad reputation, and it's not completely unjustified. Luckily, that bad reputation keeps the rent lower than San Francisco, which in and of itself may have contributed to Oakland's gentrification. As San Francisco gets more and more expensive, the East Bay gets more and more attractive to young professionals and artists alike. Oakland is probably the most hipster city in the bay area - which has it's ups and downs. The downs being it's full of hipsters, the upside being it's full of hipsters and their incredibly cool restaurants and businesses. There are some really fantastic restaurants here, and I am most sad that 4 months is just not enough time to eat my way through my neighborhood, let alone the entire city. And talk about vegan/vegetarian food! Oh, so much meat-free goodness. There always seems to be vegetarian food wherever I travel, but that doesn't mean it's good. Oakland's vegetarian food is done right. I have seriously not had anything that wasn't worth eating. If you're vegan/vegetarian you'll know exactly what I mean.
Fountain in the Botanical Garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland CA
Well, there's too many good things to say about Oakland to put them all in one post. It boils down to this: If you live in the Bay Area - you should come spend some time in Oakland. If you're planning a trip to the Bay Area - you should spend at least a day in Oakland. And you won't experience Oakland fully unless you eat some delicious food at a spectacular hipster establishment, check out Lake Merritt, and imbibe in some locally made wine, beer, or spirits.    

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Been Lazy (and Busy..)

So I've been neglecting my blog. I don't really know what to say for myself other that I've been busy, and when I'm not busy I'm really lazy. So there you have it. I'm in the midst of quitting my job, moving, and getting married so any down time I have is usually spent doing whatever the hell I want. Which lately has been staring at the wall and eating cookies.. Then I feel guilty because I figure I'm going to get fat and I've already ordered my dress, and how awkward would that be if it didn't fit on the big day.

I'm still adventuring around Big Sur, we actually had quite a bit of an adventure last weekend when we tried to hike to the Circular Pools. The hike is really easy for anyone who hikes a lot. Even if you don't hike a lot, I would imagine the most challenging part of this hike is the stream crossings. Right now, because of this awful drought, the crossings were really easy. The water is shallow, and if you don't mind getting wet you can just sort of trudge across the river quite safely. However, I did witness two people fall while crossing the river - one who was in our party had to be taken to the hospital. Before you freak out though, the person in our party isn't a hiker. She doesn't like hiking, she's never really gone hiking, and this was the first time she's hiked in a year. In fact, if her boyfriend hadn't tricked her into going -  she probably would have chosen to stay home. The point is however, be careful while crossing streams. I'm a total klutz so I ALWAYS pay attention while doing ANYTHING in the wilderness. Because our friend fell and hit her head before we got to the pools, we never actually made it. Although I'm determined to try again. It's a 8 mile round trip hike, so if you're not in shape it's probably going to be a bit strenuous, especially considering the streams and downed trees. The trail after Fish Camp isn't the best but certainly isn't the worst either. In terms of elevation change, it's relatively flat, and extremely flat by Big Sur standards. I am eager to try again, especially because it was so beautiful. The trail follows the Little Sur River, and you just kind of wind through the canyon. There were trout in the river, the river banks were so mossy they looked almost like something out of middle earth, and there were ferns and big trees galore. All I can think is that if the hike getting there was as pretty as it is the circular pools must be gorgeous. I'll update soon with pictures. I believe my Fiance has commandeered the flash disk that they're currently trapped on, but I'm not sure...   

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tassajara To Arroyo Secco

This was Brutal.

I'm not kidding. Brutal. It was hot, steep, dusty, 8 or 9 river/stream crossings, snakes, bugs, poison oak, trees and rocks to climb, you name it.

Our plan was to hike from Tassajara Zen Center to Arroyo Secco, where our friends would meet as at a drive in camp site with our gear. Then we'd all play for the day at the swimming holes, camp at Arroyo Secco that night, then Kevin and I would backpack our way back to Tassajara where we would rejuvenate ourselves in the hot springs. Sounds great right? Well...

We had a few problems with this trip. First of all we thought it was only 7 miles each way. It's more like 10.5. To be honest, we're not exactly sure how far we hiked this weekend, but we know it was closer to 20 miles than to 14. The trail maps for this area of the Ventana Wilderness are dodgy at best, and the trail signs and the maps did not match in terms of distance. Everything is fairly clearly marked however, so even if you weren't expecting a 20 mile trek, it would still be difficult to get lost. That is if you can manage to follow the remarkably unkempt trails that tend to disappear into the surrounding shrubbery every time there's a turn in the trail.

We had planned on starting early in the morning so we could take our time with the trip. We got a later start than we had hoped (which is usual), and we knew the road to Tassajara would be difficult and long, but it was more difficult and longer than we had allowed time for. All this meant we started hiking about midday. If you have ever spent any time at all in the Ventana Wilderness during the summer, you know what this means: unbearable heat. It must have been at least 85F with no shade for most of the hike. And due to our gross underestimation of the trip mileage, we had not brought enough water.

The trail starts out on a steep climb, which in high heat and no shade was enough for us to almost turn back after a particularly terrifying dizzy spell I experienced on a highly eroded section of the trail. However, after a moment to collect myself and a ton of water and salty snacks to raise my blood pressure, I decided we should press on. This hill is the most difficult part of this trail in both directions. Once at the top of the ridge, it goes right back down again; both sides of the hill (or should I say mountain?) the trail is fairly treacherous follows along exposed switchbacks. But once this part is over, the rest of the trail is great.

I wish my camera hadn't died because there were waterfalls, wildlife, wildflowers, and dramatic views of Los Padres National Forest. In fact, this might have been one of the most exciting trails I've done so far because of the sheer natural beauty of the Arroyo Secco River Gorge. It really felt like no one had been out there in years. Sometimes it even felt like no one had been there at all, and we were simply following deer trails through a remote wilderness. I saw at least 10 colorful garter snakes, and a slough of wildflowers I'd only ever seen in books before.

The Arroyo Secco Campground was definitely your standard county park. It'd be great for a group or family camp out since you have all the convinces you want, with plenty of swimming holes for entertainment. After hiking at least 10 miles in scorching heat, swimming in the river was beyond heavenly. I wanted to cool off so desperately I was actually the first one to dive in, leaving everyone else to carefully test the water with their toes.

The trip back was less harrowing, although I have never needed to take painkillers in order to hike out before. But at least we had plenty of water, and we knew what to expect. We made it to the Zen Center just in time for the last serving of lunch, which was vegan and amazing. Usually vegan food is the last thing I'm craving after a long hike, but this was definitely satisfying and left me feeling less disgusting than when I binge eat a large pizza by myself. Once we'd had time to eat and clean up, we explored the Zen Center and indulged ourselves in a long soak in their hot springs. It was absolutely beautiful. The grounds of the Zen Center would inspire even the most highly strung person to stop and take in the scenery. The hot springs themselves are spa style and sex segregated, with partitioned outdoor pools alongside the river. It was certainly a pleasant way to end what we had affectionately began to call a death march, and I'm sure those hot tubs eased our aching bodies even more than I fully realized, seeing as Monday morning was not nearly as dreadful as I'd originally anticipated.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Big Sur River Gorge, Swiss Camp , and Partington Cove

This is the perfect weekend length adventure, although as it turns out...it's not an official campsite anymore so I highly suggest you don't do it.

We started out on Saturday by hiking up to the Big Sur River Gorge. I had a hankering for a summer swimming hole - and this satisfied that desire perfectly. It's about a mile hike round trip from the parking lot to the Gorge, only some of it is on a trail so I highly recommend wearing good water shoes so you can easily scramble over rocks and wade through the river. Once you're at the Gorge, it's beautiful, lively, and fun. It's a popular spot, so don't expect to be alone! But if you're looking for some fun in the sun - this is the perfect place to go.
Big Sur River Gorge

After the Gorge, we stopped at Nepenthe for drinks and appetizers on the front patio. The view is amazing, but the menu is expensive. Drinks and appetizers are less expensive than dinner, and are just as filling! Plus on a nice afternoon it's far more enjoyable to sit outside and enjoy the Big Sur Coastline.

Tan Bark Trail
Our Camp at Swiss Camp
After refueling, we headed south to Partington Cove. The trail head for the Tan Bark Trail is located on the East side of Highway one, directly opposite Partington Cove. We took the Tan Bark Trail up to Swiss Camp (which has been renamed, and is also not an official campsite anymore) where we camped for the night. Despite the fact that it was only about three miles to reach camp, it felt more like five. There's about a 1900ft elevation gain between the trail head and Swiss Camp. Basically, if you're worried you're heart might explode, do not attempt this hike.

We continued up the Tan Bark Trail (amazingly it continued uphill for about another half mile) to the Tin House, which was a pretty cool little detour. After exploring the Tin House, we headed back towards the where the Tan Bark Trail dead ends into a fire road (which finally starts the descent) that leads back to Highway 1. The last three-quarters of a mile on this loop are along Highway 1 to Partington Cove. It's a little sketchy, but in general I thought it would be a lot scarier than it was. As a bonus, while we were walking along Highway 1 we saw about five California Condors perched just above the highway.
 
Partington Cove
Waterfall at Partington Cove

Once back to where we parked the car, we ditched our gear, hydrated, and then did the short walk down the Partington Cove. We went up Partington Creek to the waterfall first, and then followed the trail back down and took the left fork across the bridge and through the tunnel to the cove.

In total it was probably about seven or eight miles total (the Swiss Camp Loop was about six of those). It turned out to be just about the perfect distance for us, seeing as we both had to return to work on Monday morning.

In summation: we will definitely be visiting the Big Sur River Gorge again, most likely with a six pack in hand for a lazy day at the river. And Partington Cove? It's the perfect picnic spot! However, due to the fact that we now realize that we were most likely squatting on public land - we won't be returning to camp at Swiss Camp. Having said that I highly recommend the hike to the Tin House (it has a great view and is just plain cool), especially via the Tan Bark Trail because it was so very beautiful. Just be prepared for downed trees and some unmaintained sections of trail since this trail was only reopened in 2012.

   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Monterey in the Rain



It had been stormy all day, and finally around sunset there seemed to be a break in the weather. Mid-walk, the weather blew back in and I got caught in the rain. Fortunately I didn't get soaked for nothing; I was treated to a beautiful twilight display.


Del Monte Beach in the Rain at Sunset, Monterey, California

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cats Fish


Getting Snuggles
This is Little Shit. Yes, that's her name. She is the resident cat on board the Capt John, a commercial fishing trawler based out of Moss Landing, California. She lives on board the boat in an effort to ward of mice, a centuries old tradition which apparently doesn't work too well if your cat gorges herself on fish.








Watching The Catch Being Unloaded
Moss Landing is surviving piece of Monterey Bays rich history of commercial fishing. You can still walk down to the dock and buy fish wholesale, sometimes straight from the boat.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Piece of Castroville


I pass these trees on my way to work in Moss Landing. I've nicknamed them the 'Dr. Seuss Trees.' You can see them along Highway 1 in Castroville, California, a town famous for growing artichokes.