Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hotel California

It's a been a while, I'm sitting in the preverbal Seattle Coffee shop, catching up on my photos and blog.. here are a few thoughts and happenings...

* I had been living out of my tent for the past bit and it has been beyond awesome. I'd wake up in the morning and look at a map and go 'Where do I want to spend the night tonight?' and the only constraint was that I had to pick up Patrick in San Diego Wednesday, May 7th. I had 3 and a half days to work with, it was fun! Spent one night in Big Basin SP, one in Big Sur SP (agressive squirrels), and one night in Jalama Beach, camping one dune behind the beach.

* I went into LA to check out the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign. I drove down to where Vine met Hollywood Blvd. Found a parking spot nearby and parked, had 1 hour parking. Walked real quick, took lots of pictures and I headed back to the car. About a block away I saw a traffic cop writing me a ticket. So I ran over as fast as I could and talked to him. I knew I was under 1 hour, so I asked him what was up. He said I was parked illegally, but I pointed out the 1 hour parking sign and the white T's on the road for the parking spot. He said it was a Red Curb (which means no parking) and a bus stop. $300 fine he says, we argue a bit, finally he agrees to write it down to $70 and tells me to take pictures and go argue my case with the courts. Take a look at the picture and tell me what you think... I personally think it's scam by either the cop or the city...

* I saw some elephant seals basking in the down the California Coast. It's something I heard about but never experienced, and never would've thought I'd see. A beach full of seals, take a look at the pictures, even my best description can't match that.

* Joshua Tree is so otherworldly. I've had it described to me before but seeing it is just different. Even pictures have difficulty capturing the weirdness of it. The best description I've heard is "it's like a Giant's Sandbox, where the Giants stacked rocks on top of each other in the most bizarre way." That is just the way Joshua Tree is, you have some of the most precariously balanced boulders I've ever seen; someone must have placed it there.

* Yosemite was just packed. Patrick and I got tired of Joshua Tree, our hands were raw from climbing sandstone so we figured we'd give Yosemite granite a try on a Saturday night. Turned out it was a bad idea. Every campsite, every hotel, every motel within 20 miles was booked for the night, we were really lucky that we did find one that had vacancies, for $129 a night. Even with the crowds I'd highly advise everyone to visit this place; the valley is just beyond-BEYOND gorgeous.

* Patrick and I (yes Patrick, we BOTH made a decision) to climb Snake Dike (5.7R) on Half Dome on our 2nd day. It's a 8 pitch 800 ft climb. With a 3-4 hour approach, 6 miles and 2500 ft in elevation change, 3-4 hour climbing and a 3-4 descent at 8 miles. So at a minimum it was a 9 hour day, to probably an average a 12 hour day. For us, it was a 16 hour day. We started hiking from the car at about 7:45, 4.5 hours later we arrived at the base of the climb at 12:30 or so. This was after some strenuous bush whacking as we could not find the trail the first time. We had a party ahead of us just starting to climbing, some people who worked for Google in Ireland. Now, the day started sunny and beautiful, by the time we got to the base of the climb it was partly cloudy and windy. Half way up the climb it started hailing on us, about small bead size hail... Lucky for us, the R sections of the climb was 5.4 so I didn't have too much issue leading it, but it didn't make me happy. I was also underdressed for the hail storm... However, as the theme of the trip has been so far, close to disaster but in the end, everything works out. Cause in the end, we summited in clear blue skies. We descended via the cables- however the uprights weren't there, so it was a bit hairy. So, in summary in 16 hours we climbed Half Dome in a hail storm, Patrick led a pitch of it, scrambled 800 ft to the summit, and hiked 8 miles back to the valley. Over all a good day.. ;)

* The day after Half Dome Patrick and I took it easy and did the tourist drive. We were so sore, the old ladies were looking at us weird while hobbled up and down the stairs. So at night we dropped by the Ahwahnee Hotel to check the place out. The place, in my mind, is the ORIGINAL high end wilderness lodge. All those resort lodges you see in all those ski resorts are just wannabees. This hotel is just stunning- big fire places, uniquely and originally decorated rooms and even the faux candles added to the atmosphere rather then detracted from it. The dining room was full of people in dinner dresses, high heels and sport jackets- who brings high heels to Yosemite? The dining room itself reminded me of the vaulted dining rooms of old English castles; the whole place was lit by faux candles, which again made it even more tasteful. On top of that each room costs at least $439, Patrick and I paid $5 each for a campsite at Camp 4.

* So in the theme of close calls. We had 1-ish flights from San Francisco. It's 180 miles from Yosemite to San Francisco, so we figured 3 hour drive and we budgeted to be there by 10am, giving us 3 hours... First we started late, instead of 7am, it ran into 7:30. Then Yosemite had road construction, some of the roads had 35mph speed limits and then we hit traffic. We got to the car return place at noon, got to the terminal at 12:30. So we were both very worried about catching our flights, Patrick's was 1:10 and mine was 1:30. Lucky for Patrick, his flight was delayed to 1:30 and for me, there was no line at the check-in or at security, so we had more then enough time to catch our flights. So again with the theme of things, close calls but all is well in the end.

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