06 September 2014

Hiking Trip on Yosemite National Park

August 2014


Had completed Ansel Adams' autobiography book and felt ready for a trip to Yosemite National Park.  The idea was to go hiking there. However, getting hiking permission was one task but the main issue was uncertainty of how to behave on a bear country. No experience of it what's so ever.

Had joined Sierra Club some months back, was looking for suitable hiking trips to bear country.  Found one, applied for it, was interviewed and eventually got a place in a small team. The trip was not too demanding, some 50km on four days on Yosemite Wilderness.  Maybe a good introduction for local flora and fauna.

Day 0

Met team members at Bridalveil Creek. Getting to know each other and spending the first night on tent already brought good spirit and switched to the right atmosphere.  Great outdoors' dinner tasted good, too.

First evening exercise with packing all smelly or even a slightest scent of item/stuff into bear canisters and food lockers gave an idea for the following days. It's taken seriously, not just something but all.

Sierra Club had a style where cooking was done centrally for the whole team. It mean that the whole crew was split into smaller groups, where group one started with preparing breakfast, doing dishes, preparing lunch and dinner, and yet a breakfast for the following day. Second group started cleaning dishes after day 2 breakfast, continuing until the following days' breakfast and so on.  It also meant each of us had to carry commissary stuff in backpacks. Backpacks became heavy, not the ideal though.

A sneak peek of Royal Arches, North Dome and Half Dome

A new tent feels cozy (using two hiking poles)

Day 1

The first morning. Temperature was about +3C. Quite a drop from yesterday's +33C. Few of us prepared breakfast, coffee and oatmeal with fresh berries. Ready to go!

The hike started from the trailhead of Chilnualna Falls, near Wawona, at about 1250m altitude. It was already hot. Backpacks' weight was not sumptuous.  Steep climb on nice trail near the so called falls.  So called because falls were practically without any water. This became too real on almost all water sources along the trail.

Lunch at the top of Falls. Nice scenery along Wawona valley. Wawona Dome on left, massive conifer forest everywhere else.

Continued in heat only a short distance. Finding some water on Chilnualna Creek was the key to stop.

Setting up tents, getting water sources filled, using filters and purifying tablets, relaxing a bit and ready for a dinner. First group had prepared the dinner (as well as earlier lunch). Boy it all tasted good!

Had a plan to shoot stars (with a camera) every evening on clear skies but plans were all ruined by early sleep.  Of course first two nights one tried to listen carefully any strange steps or sniffing near tent (bears in mind though), but nature was covered by completed silence.  Couldn't believe first how silent it was on every night.

Gorgeous Wawona Dome

Almost at Chilnualna Falls

Day 2

After packing tents and enjoying breakfast started duties, group two cleaned dishes. Yak.  Again fresh morning, +4C, after extremely hot day felt refreshing.

The plan was to hike via Chilnualna Lakes to Buena Vista Lake, from the altitude of about 2100m to 2700m.

Cool weather made it easier to carry heavy packs.  Yesterday's bugs and mosquitos were mostly gone.  Few breaks made ascending much easier.

Duties of preparing a cold lunch. Nice to serve other hikers!

After crossing a few completely dry creeks arrived at Chilnualna Lakes, first of them.  They all did look nice.

The whole trail went on a deep and massive conifer forest. But when we arrived at the junction of trails the whole scenery opened for us. Mount Starr King, Half Dome and other closer peaks were in sight.  One still couldn't see over 4000m peaks on High Sierra, as they were further east.  Despite them, the scene was gorgeous, no doubt.

Short hike and arrived at the next camp, along the Buena Vista Lake. We had arrived at the highest point of our hike, at about 2700m.  Turquoise color water attracted few of us for swimming. Bloody cold it was!

Pasta for dinner was easy to prepare.

Some Grouse walked near by the lake but was too afraid of the camera lens. In the evening saw a few bats flying here and there randomly.  Again sleepy feeling won over night sky photography.

Granite gets loose

A fish gets fresh air on turquoise water
Half Dome on others under 12000ft mountains

Buena Vista Lake

Day 3

Fresh morning again, +4C.  The early sun warmed nicely. Preparing breakfast for the last time cheered up, and not need for doing dishes even more.

Day's schedule was descent. Sounded so good after two days of constant ascending.

Via Buena Vista trail headed via conifer forests and open meadows. Some meadows had aspen trees, still in bright green.  Few creeks had a little bit of water left. What was amazing was the fact that each small creek that had some tiny amount of water left in them, had some small trout living in them.  Constant dry season would not leave them much hope to survive though.

Hadn't seen much other people during the hike. Once arrived at the next stop to camp, popped into another hiking group, which were planning to hike on top of Half Dome. Really enthusiastic people.

Tiny creek and a small waterfall felt like luxury.  Filters and purifier tablets were in heavy use.

Dinner under evening sun tasted good again.  Eyebrows became heavier and heavier after sunset. Night sky photography had to wait as Mr Sandman was waiting for with his films already.  Good night!

Conifer forest getting back in shape after fire

Yosemite Wilderness

All Aspen trees still on pure green

A pole with branches

Almost all creeks were lack of water

Biggest waterfall seen in short distance

Majestic colours over Mount Starr King

Day 4

Last day. Chilly morning, +3C.

The final stint was to descend a while and then to start to ascend to Glacier Point, which was the end point of the trip.

Somehow heavy backpack felt more lighter than before even though was carrying more commissary stuff.

Mount Starr King dominated scenery until Half Dome came into sight.  Ascending higher one started to see more and more, longer and longer.  There was a fire somewhere east from us, bringing some smoky flavor.

Arriving Glacier Point was a climax of the trip.  Such a beautiful scenery over Yosemite Village, Half Dome and other top mountains and valleys.

Winding meadows

All trails had proper signs on trail junctions

(Un?)controlled smoke towards Half Dome

Mandatory picture of Half Dome, taken from Glacier Point

A sign set in a place where a bear was killed by car.  Saw too many signs


Epiloque

This was a quick and handy learning curve for how to behave in a (black) bear country. Don't mess with them though most of them, who behave naturally, will try to avoid human beings. But those who have lost such behavior, will seek food using easier methods.

Didn't see much wildlife. No bears, only few deers, few eagles and hawks, lots of tiny birds.  Dry season had made creeks dry. Seemed something was missing from the usual Yosemite, though saw it now for the first time.

Good team members made the whole trip much better. Honored to meet such nice people and hike together with them.

After hiking trip spent the following day on Yosemite Village and Tuolumne Meadows. Captured some photos and enjoyed scenery. Oh, and visited Museum of Ansel Adams at the Village, too. Nice place.

Wishing the next hike would be on High Sierra. One can always dream.

El Capitan and Half Dome in morning haze

El Capitan, 900 meters of rock climbing

Merced River

Mule Deer crossing the river

Cathedral Rocks



03 August 2014

Exploring San Elijo Lagoon


July 2013


On San Diego North County, at the city of Encinitas, there's a preserve area called San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. It's namely a lagoon or a kind of salt marsh, which provides peaceful living conditions of variety of animals, mostly for various species of birds (some information told there's 300 different species of birds in there ...).

It's a pretty good place for human beings, too. There's a Nature Center, some self-guided trails, and especially over 5 miles of trails on the edge of the lagoon (trail map here). It seems to be popular for trail runners (no wonder it's quite flat and there aren't many flat sections near by).

Been few times there, at Nature Center and on its guided paths, but mainly on trails at lagoon itself. Going back and forth, one gets easily 15-20km at one go (plus two memory cards full of photos if one stays too long).

The east side trailhead is shadowed by massive eucalyptus trees. Trees and bushes there offer good shelter for various species of birds. Soon terrain changes and one start to see pine trees, very similar to ones at Torrey Pines.

The trail goes slightly higher than the lagoon, giving good sights across of it. Fairly easy to spot white Snowy Egrets or Great Blue Herons on grassland.

For birdwatching it's almost a paradise. As long as you've got patience staying calm and wait, you'll usually be awarded. From Hummingbirds to Ospreys, all sizes between them, various tones from almost screaming like, Woodpecker's monotonic knocking to beautiful singing.

There seems to live other species as well, signs at trailheads warn about Mountain Lions and Rattlesnakes. Former haven't met yet on live, though latter ones on multiple occasion.  A Raccoon being the latest mammal on the met-once-list.

Though thousands of cars, which roar on Interstate 5 by crossing the lagoon, bring huge noise, one doesn't notice noise once you start to observe nature there. That's an unscientific fact.

All in all, it's a pretty good place to relax, get in better shape, charge your batteries or observe nature (or do all of them). Worth visiting (every now and then). And hey, gorgeous beaches on Solana Beach and Encinitas are just a couple of minutes away.


Some random photos

More snapshots here.


Welcome!

Self-guided trail at Nature Center

2x bzzzzz

Opened up

Singing lessons

Twisted neck

Cormorant drying wings

Lunch captured!

Building a nest

Snorkeling

And you think all mammals can read this? 

Police, Police,  egg's stolen!

Shadows

A demo of Trail Running

Mourning Cloak

Anna's Hummingbird

Cooper's Hawk

Goldfinch

Forced time-out

Approaching landing

Great Blue Heron

Finch in pair

Lunch in mind

Twins

Curlew

Osprey

Raccoon

Monarch

Got it