Sunday, October 30, 2016

Afternoon Adventure Hike with Friends

 How far from home to you have to go for a fun adventure? Not far, especially if you're with friends willing to think outside the box! The kids had a somewhat random day off school last Thursday, so we had some friends join us for a little hike in Great Basin National Park. I told my friend Chayo that it would be an easy walk, tranquil. Not quite!

It started out like most hikes, on the trail, with kids hiking in whatever order they wanted.

We stopped to pick up some pine nuts. It's so fun finding edible treats while hiking!

Then one boy asked if we could go off trail. Sure, why not?  What could happen? This little spur trail happened to lead to the creek. And we decided why not cross it?

The crossing was challenging, with slippery rocks.

And ice! The water was cold.

Nevertheless, we all made it across, about half with wet feet. Then it was time to head upstream and eventually find another way back across, which left the other half of the feet wet. Fortunately it was a warm, sunny day, and we just laughed about it.

The kids were delighted to climb up fallen trees and pose.

And once we reached the trail and started heading back towards the vehicle, we had had so much fun going off trail on one direction that we went off trail on the other side. The kids ran to make their discoveries and share them with their friends.

They loved being in charge and leading us.

This little guy, the youngest of our group, was kind of grumpy when we started the hike. But once he got wet, it all became fun. He asked his mom if he could get on the bridge. Then he asked if he could jump off, and was delighted to hear yes. He jumped right into the little water channel.

Then he climbed a tree that he had refused to climb when we were starting the trek.

Meanwhile, Desert Boy was doing his best imitation of a monkey.

The kids found creative ways to perch on rocks surrounded by water.

And then our little guy found something he couldn't resist:

A mud puddle! He totally embraced the mud.

Our last sight was some wild turkeys. The kids wanted to catch one. (They weren't successful.)
Letting the kids lead and find their own adventures made this a most successful outing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Highway 4

After a day of seeing beautiful sites in eastern California and the Sierra, and two days caving, we woke up bright and early and were on the road by 7 am from Murphy, California, with our first stop not far away: Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We went for a hike through the North Grove and had it all to ourselves due to the early hour. This is the place that the giant sequoias were discovered in California, the largest trees in the world.

We were immediately impressed. Desert Girl tried to hug a tree and couldn't get very far around it.

We enjoyed the interpretive booklet pointing out sights along the trail.

And we kept craning our necks to take in the very tall trees overhead. Coastal redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, but their cousins, the sequoias (sometimes called Sierra redwoods), get pretty tall too.

Some of the branches so high up are bigger than most tree trunks. This wouldn't be a good place to go in an extreme wind storm.

Most of the trees grow with a spiral. This one was especially obvious.

The trees were often spaced out, so we could see way up high. I was glad I had my wide-angle lens!

The kids had so much fun walking through this old tree.

And they were happy to check out the inclined bench, made to make tree viewing easier.

This fallen sequoia gives some good scale of how big the trunks are.

We managed a photo of the three of us.

This part with the meandering boardwalk was magical!

So what do the leaves on a sequoia look like? We found some younger trees where we could actually see the needles. They are kind of feathery and reminiscent of some junipers.

Desert Girl could actually hug a young sequoia and get her arms all the way around!

It would be fun to return in 100 or 200 years to see what these young trees look like.

Several plants were in the understory, including dogwood.

What does a sequoia cone look like? It's not super photogenic or impressive. The tiny seeds sure can produce big trees, though!

Some trees (not just sequoias) also had amazing lichens on them.

The kids were eager to spend their money, but the visitor center was closed. So we had to make do with a photo next to this neat sign. There are two campgrounds in the park, and maybe one day we'll get to hang out more with these amazing trees.

On this day, though, we needed to get home, so we continued on Highway 4 over the Sierra Nevada. I was quite surprised when the middle line disappeared and a one-and-a-half lane road appeared, weaving around hairpin turns, with steep dropoffs and no guardrails, next to scenic lakes studded with granite boulders. And there was more traffic than I thought there should be for this type of road on a Monday morning!

We made a quick stop at Ebbetts Pass, elevation 8,730 ft.

Although some thought this pass would become a major one, in reality it's a minor one, closed in the winter.

Nearby is the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We hiked on it for about a minute. Some day I'd like to come back and spend lots more time on it.
The kids were great travelers and we made it home by dinner time, with a couple stops in Carson City and a stop at the amazing park in Austin (check out the obstacle course on the far side of the softball field!). It was a terrific trip and so nice to connect with friends and see some beautiful sights. I love traveling and learning about new places, it feeds my soul.

Monday, October 24, 2016

NSS 2016 Western Regional, aka Caving with Friends in California

When I heard about the NSS Western Regional being the second weekend in October, I thought how much fun it would be. Then I got busy and didn't think much more about it until some friends asked if I would be going. I decided it would be worth it to see some caves in a part of California I had never been caving in before. I took the kids, and we headed off towards Sonora, California, with fun stops on the way (see this post). We arrived Friday evening and set up our tent, then a big group of us went out to eat in Sonora, a very touristy town in the Motherlode area in the foothills of the Sierra.

The next day, we met our trip leader and group to go to one of the Western Cave Conservancy (WCC) caves. The WCC works to protect and conserve caves. I've been a member for years, but had never been to one of the WCC caves, so was eager to go. The cave entrance was easy to negotiate, and we let the kids go first. They have quite a bit of cave experience. Plus, this trip for me was all about making sure the kids were having a good time and enjoying caving.

The kids loved being the leaders, but they gave up on tight passages a little too quickly. I'd have to tell them to keep going, and then they would get to a bigger room. They got better as we went on and showed us how easy the challenge crawl was (only one adult made it, and she had to take a shoe off). I was glad to see the kids interacting well. The cave was quite dusty and full of belly crawls, so I didn't get many photos. But we spent most of the day there. And then, on the way back, we stopped for some promised ice cream, and that made the day even better!
 The kids and I skipped the business meeting to go to church, as that ends up being difficult to get to where we live. Then we returned to the Motherlode Fairgrounds for a delicious dinner, followed by a slideshow presentation of caves in Spain and Vietnam. Then came an entertaining auction. The party continued, but the kids were ready for bed and I decided to join them in our tent on some comfy grass.

The next morning was a little leisurely, but eventually we got breakfast and packed up and headed to another cave. This one had a limit of six people, so our group was much smaller. We drove down a long gravel road with amazing views, then had a short hike to the hidden cave entrance. We belayed the kids at the entrance.

Then we were exploring the cave, along with some big millipedes.

The cave had fantastic decorations.

This time I took a couple extra flashes and from time to time got inspired to try to set up a cave photo. The pros make it look so easy! (I still have a lot to learn!)

Desert Boy was glad to follow Ron into a secret passage.

We all enjoyed the beautiful speleothems.

Some were nearly translucent.

We saw teeny tiny crystals as well.

And beautiful draperies.

This interesting area might have been a streambed that had washed away during a flood event. Katrina made a very nice mode.

The draperies almost looked like teeth!

Even though the kids were the only ones on the trip, Ron and Teresa made them feel extra special, and they were having a great time.

Desert Girl checked out more speleothems. She seemed happy to pose for photos.
We got out of the cave while it was still light, but not by much. We passed signs for tourist caves that would be very fun to visit. In fact, I would have really loved an extra day in the area! We ate dinner at a tasty place in Murphy's, and then decided to spend the night there before beginning the long trek home the next day. be continued...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates