The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

The first forty miles – Campo to Mount Laguna April 30, 2012

Filed under: hiking,PCT — Amanda @ 13:29
Tags: , ,

I made it to the top of Mount Laguna! I’m still only an hour and a half drive away from San Diego, and it’s taken me two and a half days to get here.

I started out at the border on Friday morning, and hiked the twenty miles into the kickoff party at Lake Morena. That was the longest day hike I’ve ever done, and I was very happy to see Chuck at around mile 17 – he had hiked up from the lake to meet me for the last few miles, a much-needed morale boost.
After a day off for the party, I started out yesterday at around 7:30 and hiked 12 miles up to Fred Canyon Creek, where I called it a day around 2:30 and relaxed in the shade. There were about 16 of us camped there, and I cowboy camped for the first time – no tent, just my ground cloth, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. I wasn’t attacked by any creepy crawlers, but there were some little twigs falling out of the tree I was camped under.

This morning I finished climbing up to Mount Laguna, about 3000 feet of climbing in 11 miles. The trail climbs gently, so I was able to keep up a steady pace. I’m disappointed that I haven’t seen a rattlesnake yet, but the bushes were abuzz with bees this morning, and I was glad to escape unstung. I’m now relaxing at Burnt Rancheria campground where hiker Griffin and his dad are hosting hikers, after a great lunch at the Pine Hill Tavern, which was open especially for PCT hikers today – amazing how a restaurant meal feels like an amazing luxury after only two days! Will be heading off for another six or so miles to the next campground. Afternoon beaks are definitely the way to go.

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Book Review: Becoming Odyssa January 18, 2012

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,reading — Amanda @ 6:56
Tags: , , ,

Continuing my fascination with trail memoirs, I recently read Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis, her story about a solo thru-hike of the Appalachian trail.

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian TrailBecoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Becoming Odyssa is another great trail memoir that inspires me to get out and hike! Jennifer Pharr Davis does a good job of balancing the details of her daily life on the trail with the personal growth she experiences while hiking. Compared to the Barefoot Sisters books (which I also recommend), Becoming Odyssa feels grittier – it stays closer to the trail with less of a filter.

I’d suggest skipping the preface and forward until after reading the book so they can be enjoyed in better context – the author matures into their praise during the story, but some passages come across as extremely self-absorbed and even unkind, reflecting the youth of the author at the time of her journey. Like any journey, Odyssa’s thru hike had good days and bad, she presents them to us authentically while telling a great story about her life.

 

Hiking Mt Woodson July 9, 2011

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,San Diego — Amanda @ 13:45
Tags: , ,

In need of a quick hike to do as part of our Mt Whitney training, and wanting to hike something other than Iron Mountain, Chuck and I conquered Mt. Woodson in mid-June. The hike climbs about 1500 feet in 1.5 miles, so it’s a short but reasonably steep climb.

The trail is that way!

The trailhead is a couple miles north of the Iron Mountain trailhead on route 67, near the driveway of a fire station. There are helpful signs like the one above that point the way to the trail. After following a short path that parallels the highway, we turned onto the main trail up the mountain (basically a fire road, paved with varying degrees of smoothness), and started winding our way up.

Wildflowers along the trail

There were more wildflowers than I expected along the trail – maybe because I’m more used to hiking in the fall, when several months of dry heat have toasted all the plants, but I’m always surprised to see wildflowers surviving into June and July in the coastal desert areas.

Mt Woodson trail

Mt Woodson is very recognizable from the road, as a boulder-strewn mountain topped by a bank of antennas. The boulders are just as fun to see close-up, except when they look like they might crack and fall on you:

Cracked boulder hovering over the trail

One of the boulders is nearly cubic – evidence of cracks long since cleaved.

Boulder on Mt Woodson

Some of my favorite rocks are the ones with the honeycomb-like impressions (fossils or water features?):

Fun impressions in the rocks

After winding our way around the switchbacks (the last few feel the steepest!), we found ourselves at the summit amidst the antennae. After a quick stop at the top, we started back down, retracing the path back to the trailhead.

View of the summit from the trail

 

Yosemite Hike: Clouds Rest September 20, 2009

Yosemite Flashback #5: Clouds Rest, September 20, 2008:

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Clouds Rest was the final long hike (and final overall hike!) of our Yosemite trip. Because our hiking guide claims that it is 14 miles rounds trip and over 3200 feet of elevation gain, I was really kind of dreading the hike, but the sheer joy of climbing the final ascent of Clouds Rest and the incredible views from the top, where it feels like you’re looking down on the whole world, made it all worthwhile.

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

This was another hike that started near Tuolumne Meadows, so we woke up early and left the lodge around 7am to arrive at the trailhead around 8:15. The trailhead was already crowded when we arrived, a mix of day-hikers getting an early Saturday start and people camping in the wilderness and even in the parking lot.

Scenery near the trailhead

Scenery near the trailhead

We started from the Sunrise trailhead, as our hiking book seemed to suggest a phantom “Tenaya Lake” trailhead that we were simply unable to find. We started our hike, with the initial sign promising us 7.1 miles to Clouds Rest, starting off in a pine forest as so many of these hikes do. We passed a mini-meadow, traipsed along a flat trail, then descended a little bit after about half a mile.

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

the other end of the alpine pond

the other end of the alpine pond

After some minor undulations, we began the first of two eeevil uphill sections that I had been dreading based on the trail profiles in our book – this ascent was shown as a mile and a half of steep climbing. It started out on a mild ascent, a sandy pine-covered trail climbing slowly onto a rockier ridge. After some climbing on the rocks, we soon came to…steps! I do really dislike steps on trails, but I was already in ultra-slow mode, prepared for the mile-and-a-half long slog I believed this to be. We made our way ever so slowly along the rocky trail, stairs intermingled with rocky inclines, upward and onward until finally the ascent started to lessen, rocks and stairs fading into another shady wooded trail. Right about then, when I had hope of reaching the top soon, the top of the ridge in sight, Chuck said that we still had almost half the climb to go, and I fell into despair at the thought. Alas it was a false panic, created by the ridiculous exaggeration of our hiking book, and we truly were only about a tenth of a mile short of the ridge.

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

We reached the junction at the top at 2.5 miles from the trailhead, instead of the 2.9 miles the book would have us believe, and took a break for a snack on top of the hill. Shortly after the junction, we descended steeply for about 300 feet of elevation – it wasn’t nearly as steep as the descent to the base of North Dome, but we could tell it would hurt a little on the way back! From there the trail had a few more undulations, past a peaceful looking pond (well below its high water mark so late in the season) and a few “creeklets” that actually did still have water; we then climbed steeply up again for a few minutes before settling into a more gentle slope for our final long ascent to the base of Clouds Rest.

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

As we passed the final trail junction, we noticed something peculiar – according to the trail signs, the distance to Clouds Rest from the trailhead kept increasing! First it was 7.1 miles, then 2.5 to the trailhead and 4.7 to the summit (for a total of 7.2 miles), then finally it was 5.3 miles to the trailhead and 2.5 to Clouds Rest – a total of 7.8 miles! Either someone is bad at math, or the Clouds Rest trail exists in some sort of space warp. That was both odd and somewhat discouraging, but we kept trekking onward.

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Before too long, we got our first glimpse of Clouds Rest from the trail, and it certainly appeared to be close enough to inspire us to keep moving!

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

We rounded the ridge and started approaching the east shoulder of Clouds Rest, ascending up the rocky shoulder then dropping a little to the side until we came to a spot just below the summit trail, where some hikers waited for their companions to return from the top. From the summit trail sign location it was perfectly clear that reaching the summit would be ultra-fun, and much less scary than Half Dome.

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

The ascent stretched out before us, a series of ever higher granite pillows flattening each other as they led up to the top. We set off on the summit path gleefully, each slowly finding our path up the final ridge. For a while I stuck to a lower path on the right, but as I became more comfortable I started to walk along the highest part of the ridge. That was quite exhilarating, as the cliff edge seemed to fall away rapidly on either side.

View from top of CLouds Rest I

View from top of CLouds Rest I

I was still enjoying the top-of-the-world feeling as we reached the summit, where we again had amazing views of Half Dome (to our west this time) plus the Sierras and the previously unseen Merced River valley.

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from the top of CLouds Rest III

View from the top of Clouds Rest III

We fought off some bees as we ate our sandwiches at the summit, and enjoyed the windy views for a while before heading back down.

Me at the top of Clouds rest

Me at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

As we descended, we passed a few more people making the trek out to Cloud’s Rest, and tried to give them encouragement to reach the top. (The summit, by the way, was only 6.1 miles from the trailhead according to our GPS, nearly a mile shorter then the most conservative sign claimed – bizarre!).

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

On our way down, I almost stepped on a chipmunk that Chuck spotted – it was upside down with hind legs sticking our of a hole on the trail, then it suddenly broke free and darted right past me to hide in a tree.

Gooey sap on tree trunk

Gooey sap on tree trunk

We made sure to stop for lots of pictures of the high sierra scenery on the return trip – topping out at over 9900 feet, this was our highest hike by about 500 feet over Lembert Dome.

High-Sierra scenery

High-Sierra scenery

We fortified ourselves with some beef jerky before the big ascent back to the trail junctions, and only stopped to let descending hikers pass as we trudged up our last big hill.

an alpine meadow

an alpine meadow

Moments later on the perilous (to my ankles) mile-long descent, I was actually surprised that I made it up that ascent with so few stops along the way. Certainly descending was faster than the steep climb up, but picking our way safely through the rocky switchbacks was still tiring going downhill.

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

Once we reached the bottom, we had only a few minor undulations and a tricky trail junction (I almost went the wrong way! GPS to the rescue) left, and we found our was back to the car triumphantly, happy with the twelve mile trek and our cloudless trip to Clouds Rest.

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

 

Hiking Torrey Pines State Reserve June 14, 2009

Cliffs and breakers, Torrey Pines

Cliffs and breakers, Torrey Pines

A few weeks before our trip to San Jacinto, I spent a wonderfully cloudy (apparently there are some people in San Diego who do not like May Gray and June Gloom, our famous late spring coastal fog phenomena, but I love them!) Saturday afternoon exploring some of the trails at Torrey Pines state reserve. I’d been to the park before, but only walked along the beach, so this was my first time exploring the sandstone cliffs that overlook the ocean.

There are quite a few trails on top of the cliffs, and I wanted to hike them all but chose just two loops since I only had a few hours to spare. The first hike I chose was the Guy Fleming trail, which was enthusiastically described on the web site. At 0.7 miles with only minor ups and downs it’s a quick walk, but there are so many opportunities to stop and take a closer look along the way! I was happy to see that there were so many wildflowers blooming in mid-May, and I stopped to take a lot of pictures as I made my way along the trail.

Guy Flemming trailhead

Guy Fleming trailhead

erroding sandstone  peaks, Guy Fleming trail

eroding sandstone peaks, Guy Fleming trail

bench overlooking the beach

bench overlooking the beach

view of the beach from Guy Fleming trail

view of the beach, looking north from Guy Fleming trail

Wildflowers on the cliffs

Wildflowers on the cliffs

Another field of flowers

Another field of flowers

Cliffs and beach, looking south from Guy Fleming trail

Cliffs and beach, looking south from Guy Fleming trail

After finishing my Guy Fleming loop, I walked up to the top of the hill and took the three-mile Beach Trail/Razor Point Trail/Broken Hill Trail combo.The trail to razor point itself was closed for maintenance, which was kind of disappointing, but I still had fun walking through the incredible sandstone formations and enjoying the flowers along the way.

Map of the Torrey Pines trails

Map of the Torrey Pines trails

Cactus and orange flowers

Cactus and orange flowers

trial markers

trial markers

caves forming in the cliffs

caves forming in the cliffs

razor point from the beach trail

Yucca Point overlook from the beach trail

sandstone formations on the way to the beach

sandstone formations on the way to the beach

You can get there from here: Flat Rock from the beach trail

You can get there from here: Flat Rock from the beach trail

Flower, cliffs, and waves

Flower, cliffs, and waves

My favorite flowers - lavendar and dreamy

My favorite flowers - lavender and dreamy

tiny blue butterfly

tiny blue butterfly

I thought my tiny blue butterfly might be an El Segundo Blue butterfly, (as found by a Google search on “tiny blue butterfly“), which is on the national endangered species list and has only started increasing in population in the last few years according to the articles I found online, but there were no references to the El Segundo blue as far south as Torrey Pines, and this article burst my bubble by saying “Some populations found on the immediate coast, as at Point Loma, strongly resemble the ESB in appearance. This pattern is in all likelihood a convergence and does not represent monophyly with the ESB (Mattoni, l989)“, and then I was sad, and also still not entirely sure what kind of butterfly I saw. But at least I got a good picture, even if my dreams of finding a new population of endagered species are dashed for the moment.

Another wildflower closeup: orange

Another wildflower closeup: orange

sage plant in bloom

sage plant in bloom

Broken Hill trailhead - the end of the trail for me

Broken Hill trailhead - the end of the trail for me

More trail info

More trail info

It’s certainly not the most hardcore hiking destination in San Diego, but the trails at Torrey Pines are definitely worth the trip, especially when the flowers are blooming. I took about two hours to hike about four miles, with lots of stops for scenery gazing and picture taking.

 

In Which My Hiking Boots Fall Apart June 6, 2009

Yikes!

Yikes!

One week before our backpacking adventure to San Jacinto Peak, Chuck and I went for a training hike in Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the best hiking locales in San Diego. We hiked up Cowles Mountain, one of the most popular trails in the county, and then added another three miles to our hike by taking the trail to Pyles Peak, which is 200 feet lower than Cowles but accessed by a trail that goes down and up, and then climbs steeply to reach the summit. It was a little warmer than I would have preferred that morning, but the trails were fun and I was happy to see that wild flowers were still in bloom in the park in late May. Despite the crowds on the main trail to Cowles, the extension to Pyles Peak was almost empty – the only other people we saw on the way out were members of the San Diego triathlon club, and they were trail-running all the major peaks in the park in one day (wow! and also, crazy!).

The most significant part of the day for me however, was the disintegration of my hiking boots. I usually wear a pair of lightweight Merrils for day hikes, but on this hike I was wearing my more hard-core hikers, an eight-year-old pair from LLBean. By the time we reached Pyles, I noticed that the soles were separating from the boot on the inside of both boots; by the time we reached the bottom, a four-inch long piece of metal had fallen out of one shoe and I felt lucky to make it to the bottom with the soles still attached, even if I did almost trip on them a few times!

Old boots!

Old boots!

Sole barely attached...

From fine to falling apart in one day!

Hmmm…so I definitely wasn’t wearing these boots on our trip to San Jacinto! I was just glad they fell apart on the training hike instead of during our three-day weekend trip – I’d last worn them on our Yosemite trip last year, and hiking 3 miles with falling apart shoes was bad enough – if we were on the ten-miler it might have been better just to switch to bare feet (or the flip-flops I brought along as camp shoes).

So, one week to go until our hardest weekend of hiking EVER, my hard-core hiking boots have fallen apart, and my comfy lightweight Merrils are not quite backpacking caliber. Luckily, there was still one day left in the REI Anniversary sale, and I had a 20% off one item coupon to burn. So I headed off to my local REI and tried on three types of hiking boots, finding my almost-perfect match in the Asolo Power Matic 250. They were ultra-comfy when I tried them on in the store, and didn’t feel too bulky or heavy despite being a pretty serious pair of backpacking boots. There was no way I was wearing these on a big trip without at least attempting to break them in (a few websites recommended wearing new boots for 50 miles of dayhiking before using them for backpacking, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen in one week!), so I woke up early that week and went hiking twice in the mornings before I went to work. I first tried out my new boots at Florida Canyon in Balboa Park, a pretty easy three mile trek, but enough to start getting a feel for them. (Also, I got to see the velodrome – smaller and more run-down looking than I was expecting, but I still want to go watch the racing there!) I also went out to Mission Trails again and hiked Kwaay Paay peak, a short-but-steep hike starting accross the street from the Mission Dam parking lot (it took about an hour and a half, but only because I wandered around the summit trails for a while trying to figure out where the true summit was…).  I got in enough hiking to know that my new boots are pretty comfy, but need to be tightened often, and tend to give me blisters on my pinky toes if not well-tightened while going downhill – just enough info to get me through our three day adventure!

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My New Asolos

 

Wildflowers in Anza Borrego: Palm Canyon Trail April 3, 2009

After our tour of Galleta Meadows and lunch at Carlee’s (home of yummy burgers and yummier homemade potato chips), we headed out to Anza Borrego state park to claim our campsite and do a bit of hiking. We headed out on Palm Canyon trail, the most popular one in the park, and the same one that we started on on our backpaking trip last fall. Anza Borrego during the wildflower bloom is a lot different than Anza Borrego during late fall – more water, more green plants, and way more people. The flowers themselves were pretty impressive once we got about half a mile down the trail – almost every leafy plant in site was blooming, and the buds were just starting to come out on the cacti. We were sad to see a troop of boy scouts playing strange gladiator games and running amok over the delicate desert landscape (I thought the point of camping during scouting was to learn to like and respect nature, not destroy it, but apparently times have changed), but otherwise had a good time exploring the canyon and taking pictures of the flowers. We hiked a little beyond the oasis to a small waterfall, and then took the trail less-traveled on the way back to camp, hiking along the western edge of the canyon. Even though the main trail was pretty crowded, there was no one else on the longer trail back to camp, and we almost lost faith a few times when it took counter-intuitive twists, but ultimately stuck with it and enjoyed the alternate view.

 

 
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