Sunday, 20 May 2012

First Kayaking of the Year

The first time out on the kayaks for the year is always one of my favourites! Today we just did our usual short trip down the back alley, across the park, across the road, into the water, up to the weir, and back again.

The water was running swiftly and the wind the against us going out. Which made for a lovely and leisurely drift back to the start. Saw some rabbits (Andrew got a good action photo!) and a few geese but only one baby goose. I expected to see more babies this time of year. Maybe next time out!

See the baby?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Skyline Arete

As we are winding our way towards home we had two sunny days of climbing near Bozeman, Montana.

We haven't climbed around here before so stopped at Northern Lights and got some advice from one of the staff members. We'd kinda already looked at Skyline Arete via Mountain Project and he agreed this was a great climb. The guidebook says "Not only is Skyline Arete the longest route in the (Gallatin) Canyon and one of the easiest, it is also one of the best."

The Skyline Arete
An hour hike brought us up to the bottom of the route. Andrew led the first pitch -- which for "only" a 5.6 I thought was a bit tough. A short rappel brought us down to the start of the second pitch. I got the second lead. If I'd paid more attention to the route descriptions I might have volunteered for the first pitch! 

"Climb the fun chimney (I hate it when guidebooks say something is "fun"!) to the chockstones at the top. If you are skinny (Ha!) and trail your pack, you can squirm through a hole at the top to a good ledge or grab the rail on the right and hand traverse out around the chockstones."

Well, I did lots of grovelling up the chimney. It was not pretty and about the furthest thing from graceful that you can imagine! A lot of it involved putting your feet against one side of the chimney and your back against the other and squirming upward. (I managed to make apple sauce out of the apples that were in my backpack but the baguettes remained amazingly unsquished!)

Before the grovelling begins.
Then I got to a comfortable little cubby hole where I could rest and decide if I was going to go through the chockstone hole or around it. Unfortunately, I consider myself more of a "medium build" kinda girl so trying to wriggle through the chockstone hole, and then being embarrassed when I didn't fit, was not my first choice. But going out and around didn't look appealing either! After humming and hawing for a bit I took my pack off, put it on a long sling, and decided to try to get my larger-than-skinny butt past the chockstone. . . and once I got the gear rack out of the way, it was all good! 

Looking down the chockstone hole.
Coming up through the chockstone hole.
A couple pitches later I made "a chimney move into a unique corridor. Easily follow this up and through a hole at the top".  You've got to be kidding?!?!  Again!?!?  This one didn't say you had to be skinny but I actually found it a bit more awkward than the first one!

Looking back down the "unique corridor".

Andrew popping up through the hole at the top of the corridor.
Andrew led the final easy pitch to the top and we did one rappel off to get back to the steep trail down. An awesome day! 

Rappelling off the summit pinnacle
Foot bath a la Gallatin River

Now, the next morning, it's snowing!! Our road trip has again been amazing! 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sequoia View Winery and Bed & Breakfast

While thinking about leaving Sequoia National Park, Andrew did some internet searching for wineries in the area. We both just happen to love a good glass of wine! Or two! :-)

He found Cedar View Winery and Sequoia View Bed & Breakfast located at Sanger, California. A quick email conversation learned they would have room for us on the night we wanted.

We arrived mid afternoon and sampled a zinfandel and their award winning alicante bouschet. 
Our flagship wine, Alicante Bouschet, is a Rhone style grape that is steeped in history and grown on-site. Alicante was the number one wine grape in California before prohibition and is unique because of its dark juice. Only 900 acres remain today in California. 
Jim & Debbie were excellent hosts.

Our room was the "Winemaker's Suite" which was located above the wine making area and the tasting room. The view from the balcony was beautiful and we spent a relaxing and enjoying couple hours there.

Beautiful roses were everywhere!

Although a rural setting, we walked just a few minutes down the road to the School House Restaurant and Tavern -- which really did used to be an old school house built in 1921. The decor and food were both excellent and the chef did a special vegetarian dish for us since options on the menu were limited. It's so nice when restaurants/chefs take the extra time to do this this!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Death Valley and Sequoia National Park

Heading away from Vegas and climbing at Red Rocks, we drove west with the plan to do a multi-day hike. An employee at REI had raved about Cottonwood Canyon on the eastern side of Sequoia Park. He had no doubt the road and trails would be open as they’d had such a small amount of snow this year. So away we went.

Our path took us through Death Valley, which was really stark but beautiful.

Unfortunately when we got to the Visitor Center/Parks Office at eastern Sequoia, they told us the road up to Cottonwood wouldn’t open for another week. But they would also highly recommend the hiking if the road weren’t closed! We stayed at Onion Valley and did a day hike into Golden Trout Lakes, gaining a fair bit of elevation (11,000 ft+).

One of the Golden Trout Lakes
Lone Pine (the film site of many Western movies, including Maverick) was a good base for coffee and ice cream.

Over the next couple days we drove south to get around to the west side of the park and then back north via the Western Divide Highway (#190) and through some of the most scenic and winding roads I have seen in a long, long time. It’s slow going (there’s hardly a straight stretch of road in sight!) but I would highly recommend it for anyone in the south California area.  When it’s Andrew’s turn to drive I usually get out my book and read for a bit but the sights around each corner were enough to hold my attention all day.

We put in a lot of miles on foot, hiking various trails along our way through the park. The sequoia trees, and the abundance of all the other trees, were absolutely amazing. One of the really interesting things we learned was that starting in the early 1900’s the area around the Giant Forest (where most of the sequoias are located) was rapidly being developed with cabins, campgrounds, restaurants, stores, etc. for all the tourist industry. At one point they cut down a sequoia because they were afraid it was going to fall on a bunch of cabins. A very forward thinking parks superintendent at the time pushed for less development and eventually all the infrastructure was moved away from the Giant Forest area. Quite amazing! We didn’t know this until after we’d been there and were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t see any evidence of buildings ever having been there! As Andrew pointed out, can you imagine today if someone suggested that the Chateau Lake Louise, for example, be torn down for the betterment of the park and environment!

Andrew trapped inside a sequoia tree!  :-)

A "tunnel" in the road.

Andrew on a fallen sequoia tree. 

A McKinlay at the McKinley Tree (note different spelling)

Look up. Look waaaay up!
The places we’ve stayed the past few nights included some nice campgrounds (especially Buckeye Campground within the park) and the Wuksachi Lodge. Even Andrew and I couldn’t finish the Lodge's triple chocolate ganache cake with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream!

Andrew is the photographer in the family. His great photos are here.