Monday, July 9, 2012


Half Dome
The Cables
Everyone play along please.  Pull out your engineering protractor and find the line that indicates 45 degrees from the horizontal surface.  Oh, don't have a protractor handy?  Fantastic, because my story will sound more death defying without the visual indicator that 45 degrees is not actually 90 degrees.  Yet climbing the Half Dome Cables in Yosemite National Park seemed as if the granite face we climbed was every bit of 90 degrees steep.  Especially when all you have to grasp onto are two half inch stainless steel cables.  We had forgotten to pack our gloves, but luckily for our non calloused hands, there was a pile of donated gloves at the bottom of the cables for those people who were not informed.     

Did I mention we had all ready trekked 11 miles, rising a total of 4801 feet to get to get to this spot?  Do the math friends, that is 480 feet shy of a vertical mile.  Lets just call it an even mile.  The views along the road were beautiful.......  

Vernal Falls                           
Trail View
Yet the views from the top of the Dome were the best.  Hands down one of the most beautiful landscapes we had ever scene.  That's me getting too close to the edge for Denise's comfort. 
Small me Big Valley
Ah beautiful......what's that, I am sorry, you are going to have to repeat yourself.  They are not sending a helicopter to pluck us off the mountain?  How the hell do we get down then....oh shit.....  
I guess some would say, and did say as we passed them on the way up the cables, that it is much easier getting down off of this wretchedly beautiful piece of granite than on the way up.  Something about "gravity doing all the work" is what they said.  Honestly, I think with all the teeth clenching and heavy panting on the way up, I don't think I heard them correctly, or else the helicopter would have taken us back to the valley.  Moreover, according to Denise's new found fear of heights, gravity was on her shit list.  Who would have thought, lonely gravity, the thing that keeps oxygen in the atmosphere for us to breath on her shit list.  
Since I am righting this, you may have guessed it.  We made it down safe.  Success was ours to savor.....ON THE 8 MILE RETURN HIKE!  What the?  We finished our hike having trekked a total of 19 miles, climbed countless stone steps, gasped the air at 9000 feet, and felt the freedom and beauty of Yosemite.  That was day one at Yosemite.
We settled into our Camp Curry Yurt (canvas tent lodge) that night pondering over the accomplishment we had just completed, falling asleep without any questions.  The next morning, the muscles in our legs asked the questions:  WHY?  Walking was a task and Advil was our friend. 
Camp Curry Sign 
The rest of the week was not only for rest and recovery.  We visited Tuolumne Meadows, which was a short drive from the main Yosemite Valley floor.  Our hike here was on the short end considering our Half Dome hike.  I think we did 7.5 miles, and saw some of the most fantastic landscape in the world.  We hiked atop Lembert Dome, and over parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trial.
Tuolumne Meadows
Lembert Dome


In between our two big hikes, we walked all over the Yosemite Valley visiting Mirror Lakes, Yosemite Falls, and had a beer at the Ahwahnee Lodge.  We even had a chance to take in a performance of an actor playing John Muir.  It was actually an extremely moving performance.  And come to find out, John Muir is the reason why Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park are preserved in their beauty, and here for us to enjoy.  
Ahwahnee Lodge
We had a fantastic time on our little outdoor adventure.  I did not even get to mention the part about attending Adam and Eva's wedding in Palos Verdes, nor the 3 bears and two coyotes we saw.  All of these were seen in the wild, including Adam.  Ah....maybe next time perhaps.  For now, I leave you with big trees.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Frenchman has landed

Whomever was paying attention to our adventures in New Zealand may be a bit disappointed in the fact that I have not posted anything in about 6 months, and I can only say I am embarrassed. My sincerest apologies. I guess I have been distracted by just about everything, or just completely lazy.
Anyway, I guess I have been taking things for granted over the past few months, not believing that anything could top our year in New Zealand, but as I look at where we are and where we are headed, I am encouraged to realize that we have many more things to see and experience.

So here is kicking off a bit of dust on the blog. Here's the new chapters...perhaps all out of order...

Laurent, our crazy French friend that we met in NZ came to visit us in Richmond Va. We decided to be tourist n our own town, and also find out how much colder the mountains are than in the tidewater area around Richmond in December.

We decided to go for a hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains a short drive from Richmond. Although it was a beautiful sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky, the temperature topped out at around 37 degrees F in the sun, and much mush colder in the shade and wind. We made a bold move to take a short hike to Turk Gap along the AT.
Despite the frigid temperatures, the hike was great, and gave all of us a hanker'n for more strolls thought the mountains. The summit was breathtaking

Here is a picture of all three of us. It took a bit of magic to secure a place for the camera without it being blown over by the wind. Not the greatest picture, but a great memory...

We sad on the sunny side of the mountain, had some lunch, and stared onto the valley. It was great.

Besides that, we took Laurent to the historic Byrd theater to see the classic organ player rise from beneath the floor, and saw the feature film that followed the concert. "Burn After Reading" happened to be on at the time, and it was hysterical. We also ate some great food at the local Richmond restaurants, and caught up on stories over a few beers. Can't wait to do it again.

Anyway, start looking for new posts again. Who knows what sort of adventure is next....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Moeraki Bolders and Wanaka

Early in the morning, around 10:00AM, we woke up with cricks in our necks scrounging around to find a source of caffeinated beverage. Coffee.....? Caffeine, done! Now on to the Moeraki boulders! The town of Moeraki is famous for these giant granite boulders that are firmly set in a small stretch of sand along the coast line.

These boulders are mammoths, and almost perfectly spherical in shape. I could actually fit inside this one. The interesting phenomenon is that they are only found on a short stretch of the beach, and that over time, the seas have polished them into their current shape. I reckon that the seas must have been a bit angrier several thousands of years ago to move these behemoths.
From Moeraki, we traveled up to Omaru, a historically preserved town with heaps of charm. We stumbled upon a whiskey maker in town and went on a tour through the barrel house. That was sort of the highlight of the visit to Omaru, but there were a lot of antique shops and boutique art galleries to keep us busy for a while.
It was now time to fast track across Central Otago to the west coast of the South Island heading toward the mountains again. We stayed that night in Wanaka, a popular water skiing and snow skiing area just before you enter into glacier land.
The lake and waterfront area were great, and the town was charming. The weather was nice enough that we decided to stay another day and go on a hike up to Roy's peak to get a panoramic view of the Lake Wanaka and mountains that surround it.

Again we woke up early, sometime after 10:00Am, and started our trek. No, that is not the peak that I have so proudly conquered in the picture above......that was just the beginning...

The hike up to Roy's peak was spectacular,.... spectacularly excruciating on the legs. There were no flat portions to this hike, in fact, there were no soft grades to the trail at all, it was flat out hands on knees hiking the whole 2.5 hours to the summit. But you can't beat the views can you?
We packed a lunch that we quickly scarfed down as soon as we arrived at the summit. Denise was getting our bearings and pointing out what everything was around us. That is Wanaka township behind her.
Directly opposite of Wanaka on the other side of Roy's peak was the great beyond, snow capped mountains and blue sky.What's that saying, 'with great effort comes great reward?' This hike tested out that theory, and proved that our struggle to get to the top of the mountain was well worth the spectacular views. The trip down however seemed to be just as hard on the legs, and the only reward at the bottom of the mountain was to climb into our stinky camper van...........

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Catlands and Dunedin

The Catlands is a natural reserve in the South Island along the southern coast. The reserve is littered with beautiful waterfalls and natural streams. Mclean Falls below was one of the larger falls nestled deep in the forest. We took a short 30 minute hike to visit this one.
Denise and I spent some time here, exploring a bit and hiking around the falls.
It was a fairly rugged area as you can see. Denise was brave to be standing at the edge!
The next set of falls we visited was one of the most photographed in New Zealand, Purakaunui Falls. We have seen it in a bunch of photo books about New Zealand and we were happy to get our own original Purakaunui Falls picture.
By the time we arrived at Purakaunui Falls dusk was setting in, so we decided to find a place to camp for the night. Up to this point, the campsites we chose were absolutely fantastic, unique ,and picturesque. This evening was no exception. New Zealand does not disappoint in the category of beautiful and picturesque, and our campsite that night was one of my favorites. We drove our little camper van up the hill to the area overlooking the beach. I suppose getting up the hill was an adventure on its own. By the time Denise could get out the words "do you think we can make it up the hill", I was full throttle, white knuckled, and hoping like hell the van would not get stuck in the mud. PS, don't tell the camper van rental company, it might void our rental agreement.......
Anyway, the gamble to brave the muddy road up the hill payed off in full! We watched the Moon rise over the limestone cliffs that night. It was awesome!
The next morning was equally spectacular with the sun cresting over the horizon. That morning we headed up the east coast to Nugget Point. Nugget Point is home to a light house and a series of enormous boulders bulging out of the ocean. The boulders provide a comfortable home for heaps of seals as well.
Onward we went up the coast to Dunedin, a good sized city originally settled by Scottish settlers.
We walked around town for the day, popping in and out of coffee shops and cafes.
Dunedin, as I said before, was founded by Scotsmen. Early on in the cities development, the planners decided to emulate the Scottish city of Edinburgh, right down to the layout of roads and the names that were given to those roads. As a result of grafting Edinburgh's road map onto the rugged landscape of the South Island of New Zealand, Dunedin is home to the steepest road in the world.
Trust me, it was steep..!
Dunedin is also home to the Speights brewery, who's motto is "Pride of the South." We stopped by the brewery to take a tour, and were amused by the signage....
The tour was really good. The picture below is of the original brewery equiptment with the copper kettles and mash tuns used back in the day. Speights still uses the original equipment to make special batches of beer every now and again.
We had another day of beautiful weather, and we decided to head out to the peninsular just outside the Dunedin city limits. We stopped at Larnoch Castle, the only castle in New Zealand, paying way too much money for the tour of the castle interior. But we were allowed to climb up to the castle tower and snap a few photos. The view was breathtaking.
I think at that point we had exhausted all we wanted to do and see in Dunedin, and started to head out of the city, further up the east coast. By the time the sun started to set, we were getting a bit nervous about a place to settle for the night. Luckily in New Zealand, they have what is called 'freedom camping', in which you can pick a spot along side the road and stay for the night without charge or harrassment. Our freedom camp was right on the beach..... Below is a picture of the moon popping over the horizon. I love this place......!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sausage, baked bean, and olive night

It was Sausage, baked bean, and olive night... who's hungry? We traveled all day down through Motutapu and through Invercargill for a relatively uneventful journey. We stopped in Invercargill for lunch, but decided there wasn't too much to do in town, and made tracks further east along the southern most coast of New Zealand. We finally stopped to camp at Monkey Island, a free camp site right on the beach.

Did I also mention it was Gin night as well. Mmmmm.....Gin.... The beach was calm, and the weather on the way was wicked. It was a perfect setting for getting goofy on Gin.
A front was moving in on us, ominous clouds formed just off the coast, moving in with the same frequency of the waves crashing on the beach. It looked like we were in for a long night of storms.
Yet, even though we could see the rain off in the distance, we never got wet. As the head of the front passed the beach, the wind gusted, blew over our chairs, and rearranged our dinner setup.

And just as quickly as it started, the front had past, we were no worse off that before, and the sun set on the remaining clouds behind the front causing them to glow orange and peach in front of a blue sky canvas. The sky in New Zealand was enormous that night. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the layers of cloud, some being so low that you think you can touch it, and some being so high that they seem like that are in space, create the illusion of endless depth and grander.
Anyway, the next day we were to head into the region known as the Katlands. Our first encounter in the area was at a light house on the coast.
At the time we arrived at the scene, this huge seal was chasing a group of British tourist up the hill from the beach. They were quite afraid. I kept my distance and was as polite as I could be.....It was a bit scary, knowing that as we explored the area for a bit, there was an angry seal hiding somewhere in the bushes looking to attack an unfortunate tourist. He could have hid withing the shelter of these wind shaped trees for all we knew. These deformed trees were quite common along the coast.
By this time of the trip, our pictures were getting more and more goofy....