Sunday, April 27, 2014

Footnotes and Reflections

Our rest days have given us time to really catchup with the blog, photos, mail, phone calls and the scrapbook.  I want to add some notes on a few of the posts recently sent.

1. I mentioned that the elevation of the western states has surprised me. From Google I got these numbers of mean elevation of the states we have visited:

New Mexico. 1700
Colorado.      2100
Utah.             1860
Arizona.         1300
Nevada.         1700
California         880

Comparing these numbers to the State of Maine at 150 you can imagine the difference we discovered on roads and trails.

2.  It is very important for me to acknowledge the debt that we as Americans owe to the many people who recognized the value of these amazing natural sites and worked to protect them.  What a privilege we have to visit these amazing places.  Sequoia NP is the second oldest national park (Yellowstone was first) and we thank John Muir among others who worked against the lumbering that would have wiped out the giant trees.

This is a section from the handout pamphlet from the park.  In addition, he quickly recognized the treasure of Yosemite and with the help of Theodore Roosevelt worked to save this Valley and eventually the land that surrounded it.

We are grateful to him and all those with the vision to save, protect and to make them accessible to most people of the world.

3.  We found this neat postcard that we plan to send to the grand kids and thought you might enjoy this comparison in picture form.

We learned that although the Redwood of northern coastal California is taller, the older Sequoias of the high Sierras contain much more volume of wood and are therefore larger trees.  Indeed, they are considered the oldest trees on earth as well.

4.  San Joaquin Valley was another surprise and I just want to give a shout out to the farmers and growers who manage this "food basket of the world".  This is an amazing wide valley that includes the cities of Fresno and Bakersfield.  But the agriculture stands out. Here grows most grapes for raisins, cotton, asparagus, pistachios and almonds, and much of the fruits we associate with California.  It was beautiful to drive through the field and vineyards, but we failed to get pictures.  These wildflowers lined the roads however.

5. The last note is about Latona.  As I mentioned, she always seems to find hearts everywhere!
I mentioned this in a discussion with some other hikers in the Grand Canyon.  One young woman looked at us and said, "you must be very tuned in."  We can all agree that she is very tuned into the heart.  I am grateful that we are on our journey matter where, no matter what!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Three of Three - amazing and awe-inspiring!

So much of going new places is learning new things. That seems obvious I'm sure, but coming from the East there have been a lot of surprises.  I have been amazed to learn about the higher elevations of the western states, the multitude of spring flowers, and the familiar and not so familiar resident birds, the wide open spaces almost everywhere we have been, and now with warmer temperatures, the number of rattlesnakes I need to watch for while hiking.  We have been thrilled with the elk, the mule deer and the antelope. In addition, I have been surprised to see many ravens and robins. Another new awareness has been the tall trees at high elevations.  On many peaks, tree line seems to be opposite from home.

After our visit with Marmot, early Easter Monday we ventured onto the dreaded freeway to begin the journey to Sequoia NP. Quickly, I learned that we needed to drive high into the Sierras to find these giants.  Up and down and in and out we went on these mountain roads with many hairpin curves.

The Sequoias only grow at elevations between 3500 and 8000 feet. We learned that the usual way they die is from falling over.  The bark on these trees is so thick that they are naturally protected from invading insects and even fire.  In fact, fire is an necessary part of the life cycle since the seeds need the heat to open and generate.

I had seen a television special about these trees many years ago and couldn't wait to be in their presence!

I had to wait another day!  We camped in a site that night that was filled with Acorn Woodpeckers and squirrels and mule deer and a warning about the bears.  The brown box beside the van was the bear box.

    Mule deer cleaning the grill.

    Acorn woodpecker busy in the hole of the broken branch.

    Heading for the forest of giants!

   We found them!


General Sherman is thought to be the oldest and largest tree on earth.  The picture is only the bottom fourth of the tree.

     Of course, we also found a heart on one of the trees!

Heading north, we camped the night before going into Yosemite NP.  It is quite close in miles from Sequoia and Kings Canyon.  We had a nice surprise visit from some California Quail.

Now, another place I couldn't wait to see and visit.  Yosemite !  By the way, those who know of my National Park Passport book can only imagine how many new postmarks I have now,  smile!

There is little to say about the spectacular views of the granite monoliths and mountain meadows of Yosemite.  We loved each water fall, visited the Yosemite Village in the valley, saw Ansel Adams gallery, and marveled at each turn of the River that shaped this land.

    The "next" sight was El Capitan and it took away my breath. 

    The famed Half Dome.

    In the village, I spotted this Steller's Jay foraging in a ranger's front yard.

     Snow Flower

   Wild Lupine

Leaving these amazing experiences in Sequoia, Kings Canyou and Yosemite, we passed through one of many national forests we had visited, and felt like we had seen so much of the natural world in the western states that had only been words before.  

Now we can say we felt it, and saw it, and now call it "home" in our memory.

Two of Three - LA with Marmot

The traffic increased and the roadways added more lanes the closer we got.  The trusty GPS took us right to her door, and we found a good parking place for the van right on the street in front of her apartment.  Now I can take two things off my bucket list - drive California freeways and sleep on the street!

We had not seen Marmot (her trail name by the way and now part of her legal name) for almost ten years, I think.  We hiked the AT from beginning to end with her in 1991, and also spent six weeks with her in Vancouver when we started our trip around the world in 1995.  She has hiked all three classic long distance trails in the USA, the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail.  This has earned her the title Triple Crowner. She is an artist for a big studio, but continues her long distance hiking when she gets hiatus from her work.  We hit the timing well and after catching up for hours and hours on Saturday, she told us she had a day planned for us tomorrow if we would like to go to the beach!  Indeed we would. First thing we have to be feet in the Pacific and then brunch!


   We had so much fun on this Easter Sunday. A sample of some of the images of Venice Beach, the boardwalk and the Santa Monica Pier:


    Cleaning his surfboard.  You don't see that everywhere.

     A yoga class on the beach.

    The Willet joined in!

     Heading to the pier.

    We ventured onto the carousel.

   Ultimate beach comfort!

    Murals and color everywhere.

   We enjoyed fruit from this vendor.

   This Venice has canals too.
It is impossible to share all that we enjoyed this day.  Music was everywhere, people surfing or jogging on the sand, children building the classic castles and our friendship renewed as we walked the beach. We are grateful for the time we had to share with our special friend in this special place.

Funny footnote! (Ha what a pun.) When we got back to Marmots we realized we had picked up some souvenirs on our feet from the beach.  A bit of scrubbing took care of it!

PS   Three of three coming later today...Sequoia and Yosemite!  Happy trails.  Love and hugs...