West 2018 Day 13 – Death Valley

Friday 5/25/18

I don’t recall where exactly we stayed that night – some random hotel between Yosemite & Death Valley.  I do recall a late-night stop at a McDonald’s on the way out of Yosemite for coffee and to use their WiFi to find a hotel.  We had a late flight out of Las Vegas (10:30) so we had a pretty full day available.

Our last stop on the journey was Death Valley, the lowest, hottest, possibly most hellish places I the world.  Given that description, we didn’t plan on doing any super huge hikes, mostly just a drive through to hit a few of the points of interest.  We drove in the west entrance to the park and progressed east with a diversion to go south as far as Badwater Basin in the middle.  I think this allowed us to see most all the aspects that the park had to offer.

We started with the dunes, which are much different (shorter and more wind driven) than dunes in Michigan.  It was 97F when we hit the visitor center, so we loitered there a bit in the AC before heading down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the US.  There’s a fun little placard on the cliff side above pointing out where sea-level is and a lot of salt.

On the way back we stopped off at Artists’ Drive to see the colors from minerals other than salt.  We took a quick hike there, fighting the wind – I’m aware that the salt flats are known for the wind, but this was pretty impressive.

Our second stop on the way back north was to chance the off-road drive out to Devils’ Golf Course to see the salt boulders.  Maybe I should have been more concerned about this – there were lots of warnings about tire damage due to heat and sharp rocks, but I figured it was a moderately traveled dirt road, so we just took it slow and made the trip fine.

Our last stop was at Zabriskie Point looking back over the valley on our way out before heading toward Vegas.  There was some trail from Artists Drive to Zabriskie Point that we could have hiked, about 4 miles round trip, the heat had sucked some of our motivation out so we skipped that.

We got to the outskirts of Vegas just before sunset and stopped for some dinner and to do some final organization before the flight then drove into the city for our departure.

West 2018 Day 12 – Yosemite Day 2

Thursday 5/24/18

We could only afford the $200/night yurt for one night, so we checked out in the morning and drove out to the “end” of the valley near the Upper Pines campground.  The goal was to hike one or both of Vernal and Nevada falls, an area of the park we had not explored at all on the last visit.

The day almost got derailed when I dragged the car across a rather large but inconspicuous rock in the parking lot.  I didn’t see any oil leaks, but it is possible that the life of the oil pan was reduced slightly by the mishap.

Vernal falls is the first falls heading up the Merced river out of Yosemite Valley.  It’s steep, but paved up to a bridge where you can view the falls, so it gets a lot of foot traffic.  The trail to the falls itself was a bit more rugged, but there were still a lot of people, particularly as things slowed down right around the falls.  The slower moving also meant it was going to be nearly impossible to get through without getting pretty wet from the falls.  We both had raincoat options with us, and it was a relatively warm day so it wasn’t really an issue. Continue reading

West 2018 Day 11 – Yosemite Day 1

Wednesday 5/23/18

We knew that Yosemite was going to be busy even though it was early in the season, every information website we found told us so.  But, they have first-come camping at Camp 4 that we thought we’d get in line for when they opened as we had done at the Grand Canyon.  So, we got up early, dumped the tent in the car and headed up to Yosemite.

We pulled in just before 9:00 when they opened only to discover that the line had apparently started some time before.  We got in line anyway.  The story from the others in line was that there were 69 spots and numbers had been given out up to 65.  Counting, we were somewhere in the low 70’s in line.  It appeared they were assigning spots as people checked out for the day, so we would have had to wait until 11:00 or so just to see if we could get a spot.  This forced the big splurge of the trip in booking one of the Yurts in Half Dome Village for the night at almost $200 / night.

There is no way the Yurts or staying in the village was worth $200, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it.  The biggest benefit was access to the showers (also accessible for $5 regardless of campsite), which was admittedly nice since we had camped the two nights prior.  The benefits to having established a place to stay was that we weren’t going to have to drive an hour or more out of the park to find somewhere to sleep that night and we were free to actually make use of the day rather than stand in line to play the odds on getting a camp site. Continue reading

Maine 2017 – Acadia Day 4

8/25/17

acadia_map

After two days of kayaking we decided to do a bit of hiking. We went back to the Park Loop and found our way to the Precipice Trail. This was reportedly the most strenuous climb and involved a lot of scrambling and a good number of ladders and ledges. I’m not much for heights, but I like the climbing part so I figured I’d see how far I got before deciding we needed to turn back. We ended up making it to the top – nothing quite so bad as the walking along a ridge style of Angel’s Landing. We descended via the Orange & Black Trail which was the recommended route to avoid a lot of crossing paths and having to navigate around hikers coming up.

Overall the trail wasn’t too bad, but to my entertainment, we crossed paths a few times with a couple who apparently were not in agreement about either how far the hike was going to be or how concerned one of them was about the climbing.  There were several stages of a somewhat stressful debate observed over the course of the hike.

Continue reading

Murano Glass Shop

Glass Blowers

A different kind of picture from Italy.  Taken from Murano Island off of Venice where much of the fancy hand blown glassware that the place is famous for is made.  I didn’t make it out to the island when I was in Italy in 2001, so it was kind of my goal to get out there in the 2011 version of the trip.  I think it’s kind of a cool picture of the shop, and I’m entertained by the apparent lack of concern by anyone to the cigarette hanging out of the one worker’s mouth.

Pictures taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 17-85mm lens @ 66mm, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, ISO 400

Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

By the time we got to Riomaggiore it was pretty much night – we went into town and got a few beers, walked back out to the point to watch the sunset and drink our beers and then hiked up the hill over the town while waiting for the train.  I suspect Riomaggiore was the smallest of the towns and the least touristy, you can see the train station is pretty minimal.

Pictures taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 10-22mm lens @ 10mm, f/3.5, 1/13 sec, ISO 1600

Cinque Terre – Vernazza

Vernazza

OK, last one of Vernazza… Looking back as we were hiking out of town.  I’m not sure why I have a disproportionate number of pictures from Vernazza – must have been the most picturesque town of the five.

Pictures taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 10-22mm lens @ 17mm, f/16, 1/160 sec, ISO 400

Cinque Terre – Vernazza

Vernazza

Merry Christmas!

A shot from on the brake wall from the previous picture.  You can’t really make out a trail thanks to the vegetation, but the trail comes in from the upper left here.

Pictures taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 10-22mm lens @ 10mm, f/16, 1/400 sec, ISO 1600

Cinque Terre – Vernazza

Vernazza

Apparently I tagged a bunch of pictures form Cinque Terre for posting, but never post them… so we’re going to have a few more of those to round out the year.

This is another of Vernazza from above as we were coming down into the town.

Pictures taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 10-22mm lens @ 14mm, f/16, 1/80 sec*, ISO 100

* I’m pretty sure I deleted two of the three shots that went into the HDR composition, which makes me feel dumb.  The one I have was shot at 1/80 sec, but I’m not sure if it was the mid or the under exposure.