Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bears and Squirrels







Gallup, NM 9:50 am

When we pulled up to Yosemite Nat'l Park, we were both a little down-trodden and ready to be out of the car. I was mostly worried about finding a campsite inside the park, a task which we accomplished successfully. It was the middle of the afternoon, so we decided to check out Yosemite Valley to see what options awaited us there. As we drove down that windy road, huge granite walls rose mercilessly in front of us and waterfalls cascaded down them. We wanted to stop at every turn to take pictures, but each new corner held a better view. We did a short hike that afternoon and drove around to get our bearings. We vowed to stay another night, do a long hike, and breath in a little more of the mountain air.
The next morning, we set out to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in the US. On the way to the trail head we saw a bear! Cory said it was a black bear although it was brown, but I guess I believe him because what do I know about bears? It was pretty awesome to watch the bear from a distance. He was just minding his own business chomping away with his head down in the grass. I think I would have been a little more excited if he wasn't so close to our campsite.
The hike up the falls really felt good after spending so much time cooped up in the car. It's funny, every time I start along a trail my mind invariably moves to stone pathways, castles, and princesses. I know exactly where these thoughts come from- they are a direct flashback from perhaps the first place I ever did any hiking, Brownwood. I remember stepping onto a path that led into the "woods" that was actually not too far from our cabin. I thought I discovered a whole world full of castles complete with moats and dragons. (In reality it was some tables and chairs carved out of stone, and a stairway that lead to some rocks overlooking the water of the lake.) Whenever I think of Brownwood, it's still carved in my mind this way- a castle, my castle that I discovered. I remembered my family all under one roof, playing dominoes and feasting on chili beans and s'mores.
As we were getting closer to the top, the trail seemed to be getting steeper and I wasn't feeling as hard-core as when we started. By the time we were looking over the edge at the falling water I was feeling a little woozy- which I attributed to the altitude (reminding me of another memory- involving a ski trip and only donuts for breakfast). I propped myself up against a rock for a rest, and sat there for awhile letting the mist from the waterfall sprinkle me. Then I noticed a ground squirrel getting awfully close to me. I was eyeing him warily, hoping he would leave, but he started to run at me. Since I didn't have a coat to throw over it or a hammer to smack it with, I jumped up and gave a few warning stomps to let him know I had no qualms about kicking him off the ledge. That did it; he was running away in fear after that.
We finished up our stay at Yosemite planning a return visit and wishing we had longer to stay, and all of you guys here to share it with us.
We spent all of yesterday repacking and driving. We had some half-hearted intentions of driving through the night until we got home, but we were still 18 hours out. We stopped in at a hotel and finished the drive today. (I'm actually finishing this post from my home computer!) We are back in the lovely and sunny Texas, and now must rummage through all the junk we have stored in the car for the past two weeks, a task that may take us as long as the road trip.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Seattle Recap


What Day is it again?
Redding, CA


So I’ve let the blog slack a little bit, and at a time when I had perfectly good internet access, too. I’m feeling a bit remorseful of that. We are now on our way homeward, somewhere back in California, but before I get into that, I’ll give a short recap of our Seattle adventures.
It seems that almost everyone in the Pacific northwest is a mountain biker, and Jason is no exception. He picked out some trails he thought Cory and I might be able to handle, of which we selected the easiest one since I ride a little clumsily on flat ground and have never fully grasped the ability to switch gears. We drove out to a park area which encompassed a small lake area, waterfalls, and numerous glorious trees. It was raining on us at first, so we were feeling really hard-core. Just as we got on the main part of the trail, though, the skies opened up, the sunshine broke through, and we had the most beautiful weather for bike-riding that ever there was. It was really one of my favorite things of the trip so far, and it made me want to move somewhere with actual hills and not just mounds of brown dirt. We ended up riding a round trip of over 17 miles, and lived to tell the tale.
This was also our anniversary day, so we went out to a fancy-pants restaurant called Salty’s. It had a fabulous view (see above pic) which was absolutely perfect except for that it was slightly obstructed by a huge ugly barge with no redeemable qualities except for it’s somewhat amusing name (Seaspan). We ate steak and crab legs, drank Pinot Noir, and pretended to be real folks of high society.

Our last day in Seattle, we took an underground tour of the city and learned about Seattle’s quirky history. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Pioneer Square (the old part of the city), shopping in stores like North Face and REI, and stopping in at little bookstores and coffee shops periodically. We briefly revisited the market (we just couldn’t stay away), and before we knew it we had passed 6 hours just walking around.
That night, we all loaded up and rode the bus to the Mariners’ baseball game. The stadium was really impressive with a convertible-like roof that retracted if the sun came out and closed when it started raining. The Mariners won with a dramatic come back in the 7th inning which inspired many middle-aged men to do strange dances that I suppose could never be seen except for at a professional sports game. The food was also unique. In addition to the classic hotdog and beer, patrons could also buy fish and chips, clam chowder in bread bowls, or garlic fries.
On the bus ride home, we got to experience the down side of public transportation as two just-out-of-high-schoolers argued loudly; a conversation I’d like to relate here, but I’ll have to save for another time.

Finally, I am caught up to today. We headed out this morning, once again trekking all the way across Oregon and back into CA. I’m feeling a little bad about that because it really is a beautiful state, and I feel like I should give it a little more than just some Interstate time. We did get some good pictures of snow-capped Mt. Shasta, though. I believe the next stop is Yosemite, if I don’t get crazy and just decide to keep driving all the way home. My maintaining-sanity-while-driving-long-distances well is starting to dry up, and my tolerance for getting lost and driving around looking for campsites is lessening. There’s only so much you can shake off in the name of adventure. But the wheels are pointed south, and we’re both getting that crazed determined stare in our eyes. Texas, we’re on our way back to you.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weekend


Days 8-9: Seattle, 3:20 pm


The evening of our arrival, Jason and Stacy cooked out for us. They live in Kirkland, which is a place we wanted to see anyway, and after dinner we walked along the waterfront and ate some Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The sun was setting, and we walked out onto a dock and around a park just staring at the boats and people-watching.

Saturday we ate breakfast at Chinook's, which has a beautiful view of the water, boats, and a draw bridge. I was adventurous and tried their famous salmon patties with my eggs and potatoes. Then we went to Pike's Place Market, which I loved. It is full of people, food, fish, and flowers. Make that folks, food, fish, and flowers for alliteration's sake. We got to look around and try free samples in a tea shop. I admired all the colors in the huge stands of fruits and vegetables and was surprised by all the different kinds and colors of pasta. Tomato basil pasta was red and cilantro lime pasta was green. There was even some tangerine pasta that was orange. We sampled different flavored honeys, browsed paintings and artwork of the Seattle shore and skyline, and narrowly averted buying various items (it was hand-made earrings for me and sheepskin slippers for Cory....we may have to go back to pick these up, in fact.) The peonies were taking up most of the flower spaces, which was delightful for me. I bought a mug from the original Starbucks, and got to try coffee at other places like Seattle's Best and Tully's.


Which brings me now to Sunday...this morning we went to church and got to hear Jason preach. He did an excellent job, and I think Cory liked telling all the members with a sly grin that he could tell them a few stories about Jason. We're taking it kind of easy this afternoon, and I think we're going to a fancy restaurant tonight. I'm really missing everyone, and I find myself talking about you even more often than normal. Hope everyone is having a good weekend!


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tall trees and windy roads





Days 6-7: San Francisco--Shasta Mtns.--Seattle

When we got our bill from the Holiday Inn in San Francisco, we were a little disappointed to have close to $60 of unexpected fees and taxes tacked on. We felt a little like Ross from Friends when we were trying to eat a huge continental breakfast, take the apples up to our room, or take all the complimentary soaps, shampoo, and pine cones with us to make up the difference.

On the way to Muir Woods, we were beginning to think that my dad had sent us on a wild goose chase as the roads wound down and around, through hills and valleys. However, when we arrived, it was worth the twists and turns and slight motion sickness. We took a short tour given by a park ranger who appeared to be as old as some of the trees there. He talked a little like the guy on the Clear Eyes commercials except it was obvious that the one thing he got semi-excited about was trees. And with good reason, as these trees are really breathtaking. Some are over 250 ft. tall and have been growing for hundreds of years. I seemed to be exceedingly clumsy as I walked through the paths; the trees would distract me with their grandeur, and when I'd be gazing upward, mouth agape, they would slip the toe of a root up to trip me. Mischievous trees.

We were able to stay on the board walk paths or hike some of the trails- some of which were 2 or 3 miles long. Walking into the park was almost like walking into a cathedral; the serenity and reverence for the history there made you want to only speak in whispers. We stayed for hours, and when we finally left we were stuck in the traffic trying to get away from SF.
(Cory would also like to include that Teddy is the major reason that many of these kinds of parks were created. He would like to dedicate our trip to Muir Woods to Teddy, in fact.)

We spent the night in the Shasta Mountains, arriving just after dark. We were up early and drove the rest of the way to Seattle. We drove straight through Oregon, of which my first impression is that it is a pretty laid-back state, with lots of green rolling hills, trees, and slow drivers. All the people in the entire state live in Portland, which makes it difficult to drive through there, but fairly easy to get anywhere else. Now we are here, in the lovely Seattle, ready to stay a few days and see the sights.