Archive for the ‘Camping’ Category

After the very slow lazy day floating down the Merced through Yosemite Valley, we were ready for a little more exertion on day 3 of our car camping trip to Yosemite. Our original plan was for some of the group to hike to the top of vernal while the more ambitious folks hiked to Half Dome from the valley floor. I hike to the top of Half Dome in 2011 from Little Yosemite Valley, but wanted to do it the more traditional and more difficult route all the way from the valley floor. In 2011 we had back country permits and backpacked from Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley the day before hiking to Half Dome. The good thing about getting back country permits is that you automatically can request permits for Half Dome. If you want to go from the valley floor you have to enter the seasonal and/or daily lottery for permits. We had done both, but unfortunately we did not get selected in either lottery. Hiking the Mist Trail and having lunch above Vernal Falls is not a bad consolation prize.

Our group got separated at the beginning of the trail, into 2 or 3 smaller groups. We had driven separately and some of us took the shuttle and others walked from the parking lot at Curry Village to the trailhead. We had agreed to meetup a short distance up the trail. Our group was pretty diverse when it came to conditioning and even desire to do a tough hike. I was just glad we all made it at least to the rally point. It was a fairly hot day, and the first part of the trail, even though it is paved, is pretty steep. We were hoping to get everyone to at least the bridge below Vernal Falls, but a couple of people decided today was not the day to do that. A few people took off quick, a few went at a moderate pace (me included) but the biggest group hung together at a slow but steady pace. The trail is fairly level until you get to the High Sierra Loop Trail sign not too far from the road. I like to get pictures of this so I don’t have to look up the distance that I hiked!

Sean by the High Sierra Loop Trail sign

The planned hike to the top of Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail and back down on the John Muir Trail would be about 4.5 miles, however, a few of us would go back down the Mist Trail and a few would end up doing several extra miles. Once you get past the sign and start up the fairly steep pave trail, you start to see why this is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite. There are trees and boulders along most of the trail.

Jenny heads up the paved part of the trail to Vernal Falls

And the Merced can be heard and sometime seen tumbling toward the Valley as you climb the trail.

The Merced tumbling toward the Valley beside the Mist Trail

Although the trail is steep, it is really not far to the bridge below Vernal Falls.

The bridge below Vernal Falls just ahead

The views here are terrific and there is fresh water to fill your water containers. If you have friends who aren’t sure they want to sign up for a big hike, get them to sign up to at least hike to this bridge it is only .8 miles from the start of the trail. The best part of this point in the hike is you can see just enough of the falls to entice them to go further!

View of Vernal Falls with Sentinal Dome behind from the bridge

Just get them this far, take a snack break, then point out that the views closer to the falls are spectacular and it really isn’t that much farther to get up close.

Note: I noticed after I got home that all 500+ pictures I took with my Nikon camera had a smudge on the left hand side of the photo. For many of the pictures in the posts for this trip I was able to crop out the blur/smudge. I couldn’t bring myself to crop out Sentinel Dome in the above picture. Unfortunately several pictures that could have been awesome were completely ruined. Lesson learned: clean the camera lens daily!  Note2: The camera lens was actually damaged not smudged but I would not realize it until after our trip to Maui 4 months later.

We took a break to refill our water bladders, use the restroom, and have a snack. As usual, anywhere with food, there will be squirrels waiting for a chance to nab some of your food!

Squirrel near the bridge below Vernal falls nabs some accidentally dropped snack

The trail as you leave the bridge area on the way toward Vernal Falls is not overly steep, runs right beside the Merced, and is shaded at first.

Mist Trail Yosemite just above the bridge toward Vernal Falls

While you’re still in the shade you will pass a sign that marks the point that the John Muir Trail splits off. We planned to come back on this trail from the top of Vernal Falls for a couple of reasons. First that trail is more gentle (although longer) and easier on the knees on the way down. Second, there are some terrific views of the falls from the trail that connects the Mist Trail to the John Muir Trail a short distance above Vernal Falls.

Eventually the shade goes away and the trail turns into granite stairs that lead you up and past Vernal Falls.

Granite stairs below Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail Yosemite

This is my favorite part of the trail and the reason this trail is called the “Mist” Trail. When the falls are going strong there is a constant mist everywhere along this part of the trail. I’ve been on this trail a couple of times before, both times it was later in the summer, but this year the falls had the least amount of water I’d seen. Still not too bad, just less mist.

Vernal Falls Yosemite

I frequently forget to look back when I’m hiking uphill, especially when there is something as spectacular as Vernal Falls in front of you. We weren’t planning to come back down this trail, so I looked back several times on this stretch of the trail. I’m glad I did. You can see the river far below and across the valley Glacier Point and the start of the Panorama Trail.

View back down the Mist Trail on the stairs as you approach Vernal Falls

As you approach Vernal Falls, the views of the falls get even more spectacular. There is a spot before you turn to go up even more steps that is perfect for getting pictures. I took this picture of Sean while we waited for the rest of the group at that point.

Sean Rial hiking to the top of Vernal Falls 2015

Sean took this picture of me and Jenny at the same spot.

Jenny and Eric Rial Vernal Falls 2015

Because it had been such a dry winter and spring, the falls were the lowest I had ever seen them. I know they go even lower than this, but I wanted to feel more of the mist. We noticed at one point that a lot of people were taking a side trail to get closer to the falls. I probably would not have done it if the falls were heavier, but with less water/mist, we decided to check it out.

Trail leading to rocks just below Vernal Falls

This turned out to be my favorite part of the hike. It was a very cool experience!

Going off trail at Vernal Falls Yosemite

When we headed back to the main trail, there was a Ranger there discouraging people from leaving the main trail. I’m glad we got there before she did and experienced the falls up close.

Of course the big payoff with getting this close is to get in the shot. That is a little easier said than done. The lighting is not great, the angle to get the falls and people in is tough, and the lens of your camera will get wet. It was easier to do this with the camera on my phone, than my other camera, so we did get one good shot.

Jenny, Sean, and Eric Rial on the rocks above the pool at Vernal Falls Yosemite

After cooling off in the mist of Vernal Falls we were ready to finish the climb to the top of the falls. One of the last good shots I got of Vernal is through the trees, so you can’t see the top of the falls, but it is a good view of the pool below the falls.

Vernal Falls through the trees near the top

I don’t have any good pictures of the last part of the trail to the top of Vernal Falls, so I’ll just describe it. The trail curves to the left toward the falls and as it nears the top it narrows. The last 30-40 yards of the climb to the top are on a very narrow trail carved into the side of the granite wall. Luckily there is a pipe handrail to hold on to. Even with that if you have a fear of heights this is unlikely to be enjoyable. Once you get to the top, you will come to a large open granite slab that leads down to a point right above Vernal Falls.

Granite slab above Vernal Falls

This area is a good place for a group picture, but you may have to get in the queue. If you go to the point closest to the falls, you can get a great shot of the falls from the top by holding your camera out past the railing.

View of Vernal Falls from above

Some of our group was way ahead of the rest, had already finished their lunch and decided to head straight back down the Mist Trail. The rest of us headed upriver a ways to find a shady spot for lunch. We decided on a spot next to a part of the river that slides down a granite shoot into a pool. It’s not generally safe to get in the river above the falls, but if I had swim trunks with me I might have tried this slide out.

Slide and pool a ways above Vernal Falls

We ate our lunch on a rocky spot in the shade with a good view of this slide.

We had lunch in the shade above Vernal Falls

We were planning to cut across above Vernal Falls to the John Muir trail after lunch. This adds quite a bit more climb and about another 1.5 miles to the hike, but it is a much gentler descent and there are some terrific views of Vernal Falls from above. I ended up not going this way, but most of our group did. Here’s a shot of Vernal Falls that I took in 2011 from that trail.

View of Vernal Falls from the trail connecting John Muir Trail to the Mist Trail

This time I was feeling just a little more ambitious. We had been planning to hike to Half Dome, so I was feeling like I want more than to go just to the top of Vernal Falls. While we were eating lunch in the shade I decided to ask my son if he felt like hiking further up. He was in, and so was my wife’s cousin Charles. So after lunch the three of us headed the rest of the way up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls.

Since we would be going a couple of miles further than the rest of the group we decided to take off as soon as we were done eating. The Mist Trail and the trail toward the John Muir Trail split on a sloped granite slab. Both of them are a little hard to follow at that point. The Mist Trail heads down slope toward a bridge that crosses the Merced. I got this shot of the river as we crossed the bridge.

Bridge crossing the Merced above Vernal Falls

I took this picture from the other side of the bridge looking back on the trail we had just walked on.

View of the Merced tumbling down toward Vernal Falls from the bridge crossing the river above Vernal Falls

There are a lot fewer people who continue up the Mist Trail from this point, although we definitely weren’t alone. The trail starts out fairly gentle with some shade.

Sean hiking up the Mist Trail just past the bridge above Vernal Falls

Although we wanted to go up the trail quickly, it is fairly steep and the top part of the trail is mostly in the sun, so we took a couple breaks on the way up. On one of these breaks I decided to go off trail for a little bit to get this shot of Nevada Falls head on.

Went off trail to get this blurry shot of Nevada Falls

Unfortunately, the top of the picture turned out to be in the smudged part of the lens. it was the best picture I got of Nevada Falls from this angle so I decided to include it anyway.

We enjoyed the shade as long as we could, and this part of the trail was actually shadier than I remembered.

Last section of full shade on the way to the top of Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail

Although the views of Nevada Falls from the trail were “from the side”, it was still pretty inspiring.

Nevada Falls from the side through the trees from the Mist Trail

I have to admit that Vernal Falls is my favorite though! Toward the top of the trail the shade ends.

Last good view of Nevada Falls near the top of the Mist Trail

The trail at this point is just an organized pile of rocks.

The Mist trail is an organized pile of rocks near the top of the Mist Trail

Then you turn a corner and you are at the top. We took a break at the top to fill our water bladders and enjoy the view. Here are a few shots I took while we hung out.

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

Sean and Eric Rial above Nevada Falls

Sean and me above Nevada Falls

We didn’t hang out long though as we didn’t want the rest of the group to have to wait for us at the bottom. To take the John Muir Trail down to the valley you have to head toward Glacier Point for just a bit. The first part of the trail is a gentle climb…

Hike up John Muir and Panorama Trail from Nevada Falls

then it levels off…

Sean hike along the John Muir and Panorama Trail

before the John Muir trail branches off hugs the side of the wall for a ways. This is one of my favorite parts of this trail. There is a granite block wall on the outside of the trail and some great views of Nevada Falls and Sentinel Dome.

Stone wall along the John Muir trail with a view of Nevada Falls

The trail beyond that point heads downward, but has switchbacks that take you back toward Nevada Falls and more great views as you descend.

Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from a switchback on the John Muir Trail

The last good view of Nevada Falls is can be seen if you look along the trail that heads back toward Vernal Falls from the John Muir Trail. If you don’t look back you’ll miss it.

View of Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from John Muir trail at the branch with the trail back to Vernal Falls

We caught up the group a little further down the John Muir trail in a shady set of switchbacks.

Shady section of the John Muir trail descending toward Yosemite Valley

Just a little further down the trail we came to the merge with the Mist Trail.

John Muir trail approaching the juntion with the Mist Trail

After a glance at the Yosemite Trail sign at the junction of the two trails…

Yosemite Trail sign at the Junction of the Mist and John Muir trails below Vernal Falls

and a quick thought about future trips and adventures deeper into Yosemite, we turned to head back down the way we had come up from that point.

I enjoyed the entire trip to Yosemite, every minute of it, but this day was my favorite! I love hiking this trail. I guess I’m a sucker for waterfalls, and this hike as two spectacular falls just a couple of miles apart.

Back at camp it was Charles turn to provide dinner. He brought carnitas. A couple of carnitas fajitas plus a cold beer was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Having a couple fajitas for dinner at our campsite in Hodgdon Meadow Yosemite

The next day would be our last full day in Yosemite. We decided to do something completely different… but I’ll put that in another post!

We got all settled in to our campsite in Hodgdon Meadows the day before, and decided to rent a raft to float down the Merced on our first full day in Yosemite.  The Merced River winds lazily back and forth along the valley floor.  It’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours and take in a ton of great views along the way. In 2010 we brought our own raft. Although we saved some money on the ride, because we rafted on one of the busiest days of the year, July 4th, the logistics of two cars and moving the raft were not really worth the savings. This time we rented a raft. They charge per person, not per raft, so don’t feel the need to crowd into one raft. We had 2-4 people per raft, which worked just fine.

Carrying the raft to the launch point is the most work you’ll do for the next few hours. Once you get to the river, one of the employees for the raft rental company will give you a hand launching the raft. Randy, Ellen, Brian, and Haley were in the first boat.

The Smiths getting started on the Merced Float

Stacy, Katie, and Candice were next and then we put our boat in. There are no rapids, no big hazards, and very little shade on this float. Be ready to relax and put on plenty of sunscreen!

Sean and Jenny Rial at the start of the Merced River Float Yosemite Valley

John and Brad were in the last boat into the water. The view of Half Dome behind them is just a bonus!

John and Brad Atwell floating the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

Actually there are views of either Half Dome or Yosemite Falls at different points all along the float. Even though it was a busy weekend in Yosemite, the river wasn’t overly crowded. We got started about 10:30 AM and finished before 1:00 PM. I snapped one more picture of Half Dome just a little ways from the launch point.

View of Half Dome near the start of the Merced River float

Due to a lack of snow and an extended drought in California, the river was very low for this early in the year. That was another good reason not to overload the boats.

Sean in the front of the raft very shallow water near the start of the Merced River float

We got our first glimpse of Upper Yosemite Falls about 30 minutes into the float.

Our first glimpses of Yosemite Falls after floating about 30 minutes

Don’t pass up a good picture of the falls, but don’t worry about missing them either. The river meanders quite a bit and just when you think you have passed seeing them, there they are again!

Sean got plenty of practice rowing/steering the raft.

Sean Rial paddling on the Merced in Yosemite Valley

And I got lots of rest!

Stretching out on the Merced River float with Yosemite Falls behind us

We pulled over lunch around 11 at a beach by House Keeping Camp. This place was perfect for lunch. There was a nice beach, some shade, and bathrooms! We ate lunch under some interesting looking trees.

We ate lunch under these trees near House Keeping Camp

And we had a great view of Yosemite Falls.

Upper Yosemite Falls viewed from Merced River about 30 minites into the float while we ate lunch

After lunch as we pulled away from the beach I got another view of Half Dome and some people enjoying the beach, the river, and even one guy sleeping in the raft.

View of Half Dome about an hour into the Merced River Float

Except for the one shady stretch of river…

One of the few shady spots on the Merced River float Yosemite Valley

Most of the rest of the float was about the same. Lots of smiles to go around.

Lewises and Candice floating along the Merced in Yosemite Valley

Plenty of relaxing and the beautiful Yosemite Valley all around. At the end of the float the rental company loaded the raft onto a truck we got on a bus, and headed back to our cars. This is definitely the way to do this! After rafting we stopped at Yosemite Village to call to check on the daily Half Dome Hike permit lottery. Not our lucky day. Since we would not be hiking to the top of Half Dome, we decided to stick together as a group again, but to be a little more ambitious and hike to the top of Vernal Falls. I’ll add another post soon to share our hike and the rest of our visit to Yosemite.

Here are some more pictures from this awesome river!

Jenny and Sean on the Merced Float with another Half Dome view

Jenny and Sean near the start of the Merced Float with another Half Dome view

Eric Rial floating the Merced River Yosemite Valley

Me taking it easy on the Merced River Yosemite Valley

View of Half Dome and a bridge over the Merced 90 minutes into the Merced River Float
View of Half Dome about 2 hours into the Merced River Float

An odd expression on my face and a great view of Yosemite Falls about 2 hours into the float

An odd expression on my face and a great view of Yosemite Falls about 2 hours into the float

A trip to Yosemite is never disappointing! Some trips might be disappointing if they don’t go according to plan, but Yosemite is different, it is just too much of a special place to ever be disappointing. We had hoped to hike to Half Dome from the valley as part of this trip, but we didn’t get permits as part of the seasonal lottery or as part of daily lotteries while we were in Yosemite, but this just freed us up to do other things, with everyone in our group. We had also originally planned this as a chance to get our kids all together for a vacation, camping seemed like a good way to be flexible and low-cost. However, that didn’t work out either. When you have a big family it is hard to plan a group vacation. Last year the local beach staycation worked like a charm. All our kids made it to the condo we rented to stay for at least one night. This year college, work, moving, babies, and pending marriages (yeah!) made it hard for our kids to commit and in the end none of them could make it. We’re not giving up on a trip like that, it just didn’t happen this year. However, we had opened the trip up to other family and friends and we had quite a large group (12) squeezed into two of our 3 reserved campsites, and our food and coolers spilled into the bear locker of the 3rd campsite.

We started our drive to Yosemite in a caravan from San Diego with Jenny’s good friend Stacy, her daughter Katie and Katie’s friend Cadence on the 20th of June and stayed in a hotel in Fresno for the night. This made it possible to get to Yosemite fairly early in the day on the 21st. We came into the park from the south, near the Mariposa grove of Sequoia. I’ve never been to this grove of Sequoia, but now that they closed the parking lot and bus people from Wawona, I’m not sure when I will ever see them. It is very inconvenient. Especially when there are so many other things to see and do. Maybe if we visit in the winter when it is less busy we’ll be able to see them.

We made the obligatory stop at Tunnel View. I love seeing Yosemite Valley from here. I’m hoping one day I’ll be here right after a rain when the air is clear and crisp. Even with a little haze this view is inspiring!
Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View

We had plenty of time so we decided to drive through the valley and spend a little time there before heading to our campsite in Hodgdon Meadows. Our first stop was at Bridal Veil falls. This falls is visible from tunnel view and we could tell that it was barely flowing. This is one of the first falls to dry up in the summer. With the lack of snow in the mountains we were lucky there was any flow at all in June. The parking lot was completely full with a line of cars waiting for spots, but we managed to get a couple of spots after only waiting about 15 minutes. This was my first time to actually walk up to see Bridal Veil falls closer. The trail is short, not too steep, and shady. The falls were a bit of a disappointment… really more of a mist that a falls at this point. Also the sun was just above the falls from the view-point so it was hard to get a picture. I put my hand over the lens to prevent glare on the lens. I thought I would be able to crop my finger out later, but decided to keep all of the view including my hand in this photo.

Bridal Veils Falls

I’ll definitely have to revisit these falls later in the evening when the sun is in a better place and at a time of the year when there is more water flowing!

We headed over to Curry Village when we got back to our cars. The traffic was OK, but the valley was very busy. Luckily there is a large parking lot by Curry Village. We found parking with only one loop through the lot. The Curry Village area is in a beautiful part of the park with views of the nearby granite walls and of the Half Dome.

Half Dome viewed from Curry Village

It took a few minutes to find the ice cream parlor. It is kind of tucked in around a corner in the main cafeteria. It was worth the wait! We looked around the gift shop before heading to camp to set up. We had reservations at a campground outside the valley. I stayed in the same campground, Hodgdon Meadows, during my trip to Yosemite in July of 2010. In fact 2 of our 3 campsites were right next to the site we stayed in 2010. Although that campsite, site 22, is on a slope, there is large level area on the lower level of the campsite.

Hodgdon Meadows site 22

I really enjoyed Hodgdon Meadow in 2010 and it was good again this time, but there were a couple of things. First there was a major fire, the Rim Fire, in the North Part of Yosemite in 2013 that damaged large swaths of the forest on the road between Hodgdon Meadows and the valley. Second, I had not noticed the slope of the campsites as much in 2010. There are some level sites in the middle of the campgrounds, but on the outer edge where we wanted to be, many of the sites are on slopes. On one of our two campsites that we had for the whole week we were barely able to set up one small tent. Even that tent was not on a very level spot. Luckily the other site was closer to the bottom of the slope, so we spread out and were able to set up 3 fairly large tents on this campsite.

Hodgdon Meadows campsite 2015

A couple of months before this trip the inflatable mattress we normally used sprung a leak. I had repaired it, and it seemed to hold air fairly well, but I decided to bring some backups. As I was going through our combined camping gear, I found that my wife had a double height queen sized mattress. It seemed to be a good quality mattress, so I decided to use that and keep the repaired mattress as the backup. We had a couple of flannel lined sleeping bags zipped together for bedding, but I also like to put a fitted sheet on the mattress for extra comfort when car camping. I was setting up my son’s bed when my wife started laughing. Apparently I had brought a dust ruffle instead of a fitted sheet! On the double height mattress, it made our setup very homey! When Jenny showed it to our sister-in-law Ellen, she had a good laugh too and asked where our chandelier was!

We enjoyed a very easy dinner of sloppy joes on the first night and had a great fire. One of the best parts of camping for me is sitting around the campfire, having a few adult beverages, and sharing the experience with friends and family. At bed time we got a less than happy surprise. The double height mattress was not as firm as when we set it up. We were pretty tired though, so we decided that it must be “because it was colder” than when we set it up. So we climbed in and were asleep in minutes. About 2 hours later we woke up to an even worse situation. The mattress definitely had a slow leak. With a normal air mattress when you have a slow leak you slowly get to the point where you feel the ground. With the double height mattress, we were still well above the ground, but we had both slid toward the middle of the mattress. We were in a deep rut/crevasse in the center of the mattress and completely squished together! It was a very uncomfortable situation – definitely not going to work! It was the middle of the night, but I decided to get out the spare mattress so we could sleep through the rest of the night.

In the morning while getting coffee going I notice a pair of what looked like red-headed woodpeckers on the trees near our campsite. I grabbed my camera and followed them around until I was able to get this shot.

A pair of Acorn Woodpeckers

Once we got home I did a little research to try to identify the birds. My best guess is that they are Acorn Woodpeckers, which are found in that area.  We decided as a group to float down the Merced on our first full day together. This is the second time I’ve rafted (floated) down the Merced.  The views are amazing and I got tons of pictures.  I’ll put the Merced float in my next post in this series.

Lunch in Laguna Beach

We had already planned to schedule fewer vacations in 2015. We ended up having to turn down opportunities to do things with friends and family because we were so busy in 2014. Then early this year, I changed employers and as usually happens the new job will start with fewer hours of vacation for the first few year. Luckily we had only planned a couple of vacations this year. Unfortunately, due to the new job, we might still have to turn down other opportunities. Next year I will have some hours “in the bank”, so we will be able to plan more. We are glad the two vacations we have planned are with family and friends to Yosemite this summer and with friends to Maui this fall.

Although I’ll get much fewer hours of vacation the first few years, I do have an alternate work schedule that will give me every other Friday off (usually). We don’t want to plan out something for every one of those weekends… there are times when being so busy can start to seem routine. However, we will plan and do a lot more weekend getaways over the next few years than we have in the past. We live in Southern California and there are tons of things to do over a 3 day weekend.

Weekend getaways are very flexible. They can be a romantic getaway or a getaway with family or friends. They can be road trips or regional flyaway trips. You can hotel it, car camp, or backpack into the wilderness over a weekend. Over the past few years we’ve gone on several weekend getaways to Los Angeles, Santa Catalina, and Las Vegas. So this won’t be a new thing for us, just something we will plan to do more often.

Romantic getaways are a great way for a couple to recharge their love life away from the day to day routines and distractions. Although this kind of getaway does not have to have a fancy destination or any events planned, after all the idea is to spend time together, it doesn’t hurt. I like to plan for a romantic location and a shared experience like a play, a concert, or a unique destination.

Los Angeles is a great place to getaway with your significant other. The possibilities are unlimited. There are tons of plays at multiple large and small (my favorite) venues. Los Angeles also has some very unique concert venues. I love the Hollywood bowl…

Hollywood Bowl

and so do a lot of big name acts. We’ve seen both Fleetwood Mac (2013)…

Fleetwood Mac at the Hollywood Bowl

and James Taylor in 2014.

James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl June 2014

There are also some great smaller venues and tons of great music throughout the year. Some of these venues are iconic like the Palladium and the Greek Theater. We’ve been to the Palladium to see Sara Bareilles in December of 2011, but the Greek Theater is on the list for a future getaway (hopefully soon).

The Los Angeles area also has some great destinations. We’ve only been to a few so far: Santa Monica…

Santa Monica Pier

Griffith Park…

Hiking near Griffith Observatory

The Reagan Library (Republican or Democrat who can argue with a place that has Air Force One hanging from the ceiling)…

Air Force One at the Reagan Library

and the Getty Museum.

The Central Gardens at the Getty Museum

We won’t have to look too hard to find lots more to do in Los Angeles.

Another favorite destination for us over the past couple years has been Catalina Island. It is a quiet place, but an undeniably beautiful place to spend a romantic weekend!

View of the Yacht Club and Casino Avalon

You can hang out in Avalon or go on tours to other parts of the island. There are hiking trails near Avalon, or you can hike all the way across the island. The trails are well maintained and the views are spectacular.

Hiking on Catalina 2013

There are lots of other places I will be planning romantic getaways to over the next few years. We’ve been through some of them like Santa Barbara…

Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara

and Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach

I would also like to spend more time touring local and not so local wine countries. For weekend getaways there are wine countries in San Diego County, a couple of areas in Riverside County, and then all along the central coast from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and California’s most famous wine countries just north of San Francisco. All of these would work for either a road trip, or a flyaway long weekend.

For getaways with family and friends those same areas will work, but we also like to get out of the hotel sometimes. We’ve tried beach camping nearby, but many of the beach camping sites between San Diego and Los Angeles are very near the coastal train right of ways. Sharing the views with the trains is OK, but them sharing their noises all night long can be a problem. I guess we could try this again, but with earplugs? A little further up the coast may be a better choice. Pismo Beach has tons of fun things to do, although it may be a bit overcrowded. I’ll be doing some more research for beach camping locations that we can enjoy over a long weekend.

A weekend backpacking in the mountains is a great way to getaway. We’ve backpacked the Vivian Creek Trail on San Gorgonio a couple of times as training trips for other backpacking trips. Although we went there to train, the beauty of the place makes it worth going just to go.

Backpacking San Gorgonio

There are two campgrounds on the Vivian Creek Trail, Halfway Camp and High Creek Camp. We’ve backpacked to high creek camp twice, but either camp would work as a starting point to do an easier day hike to the summit. There are also other trails on San Gorgonio and several other Southern California mountains we could easily go backpacking on over a long weekend. There are also a few longer trails on my list of San Diego County hikes that would be better done as at least 2 day backpacking trips. Here’s a short and incomplete list of other backpacking trips I hope to checkout as weekend getaways over the next few years.

– San Jacinto (we have considered this in the past but never done it)
– Agua Tibia Mountain (a long Afoot and Afield Hike)
– Eagle Crag (another long Afoot and Afield Hike)
– Indian Canyon & Borrego Palm Canyon Traverse (a shorter hike but recommended as a 2 day backpack in Afoot and Afield in San Diego)
– Trans-Catalina Trail (we loved hiking on Catalina and would love to do more of it)

Since all of our kids will be over 21 next month, Las Vegas can be a fun place for a family weekend. There are lots of good shows, good food, and more than a few good pools. None of our kids are big gamblers, so Las Vegas is fairly safe for us!

View of the Bellagio during dinner in Las Vegas

Although I’ve lived in Southern California a total of 19 years, there are still many places I have yet to explore. I’m excited to start planning and taking more weekend getaways!


2013 Collage

Last year, 2013, was a very good year for me. Although it will be hard to beat I’m hoping for an even better 2014!

In 2013 I checked a major accomplishment off on my Bucket List, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and had a great time in Washington DC that weekend! In order to make that happen I ran over 500 training miles including two half marathons, the San Diego Half Marathon in March 2013, and the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in June.

We had a great time camping near Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park with family. Although I’ve been many times, this was my first trip to Idaho with Jenny. We spent our first anniversary enjoying downtown Boise, went white water rafting, and biked the Boise green belt on the 4th of July, then headed north for a couple days in beautiful Stanley Idaho. For my birthday we had a terrific weekend on Santa Catalina Island. the trip started out fast with my first zipline experience, and we also had a terrific time hiking in the hills around Avalon and just relaxing in our hotel and at the Descanso Beach club.

We enjoyed our third year of Green Flash Concerts at Birch Aquarium and lots of other live music including a few of my favorites Sara Barelles and One Republic at the SDSU Open Air Theater, John Mayer and Phillip Phillips at Sleep Train Amphitheater, Steve Miller at the fair, and Fleetwood Mac at one of my favorite venues – the Hollywood Bowl.

We closed on our new house on 31 December 2012, so we had all of 2013 to get settled in. This inspired me to start a new category for my blog: Weekend Project. Although I got a good start on the house, there are plenty more projects to tackle over the next few years.

For 2014 I will do this a little differently than last year with a top 10 count down of predictions for 2014!

10. Week-end project – install surround sound speakers!

9. Develop an Android App and publish it to Google Play.

8. Weekend Project – Improve the storage in our garage so we can park 2 cars in the garage at once (novel idea)!

7. Our 4th consecutive season of Green Flash Concerts at the Birch Aquarium.

6. Bucket List (progress) – Complete at least 35 new (never been on hikes) in San Diego County.

5. Bucket List – Walk across the Grand Canyon not once but twice on a rim to rim to rim hike!

4. Check at least one item off my Bucket List in the travel section. Need to coordinate this with a few people so I’m not picking one now…

3. Visit family and friends in Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, and even here in California!

2. One of my daughters will get engaged! (OK cheating on the prediction side of things as it happened on January 2nd.)

1. Bucket List – rock a grandchild to sleep in my arms!

I hope your 2013 was unbelievable, and your 2014 is unstoppable! Happy New Year!

Fishing in Stony Creek
On day three of our Sequoia and Kings Canyon trip we slept in and our plans for the day were much less ambitious than our previous day of hiking in Kings Canyon. After breakfast we packed a lunch for a quick trip to Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock. The last time I was in Crescent Meadows you could not drive up and park, it was too busy. Everyone had to take a shuttle. This time we were able to drive up and park. On the way up we saw a bear having his way with an old log. He was shredding it with very little effort.

Bear along road to Crescent Meadow Sequoia National Park

Sugar Pine Trail Sign to Moro RockWe missed the turn-off to park at Moro Rock but saw a sign for the Sugar Pine Trail near the Crescent Meadow parking lot, so we decided to take this short 1.5 mile hike. After the 9.2 mile Mist Falls trail the day before this would be pretty easy. The trail was less traveled than most, and slightly overgrown. There were a lot of fire damaged trees on the trail, but it was a fun way to get to Moro Rock. Once we got to the base of Moro Rock we had a snack, then climbed the 350 stairs to the top. The stairs and flat sections of the trail to the top of Moro Rock are often on the edge of the rock. Great views, but watch your step! Here are a few pictures of our climb and descent.

The path is narrow for much of the way to the top. This is one of the narrowest parts.

Narrow Stairs Moro Rock

Here is me and Sean on the same stairs.

Me and Sean on steep stairs of Moro Rock

Big smiles, but it is… a long way down!

Moro Rock - a long way down

Jenny stayed on the same stairs to get this picture of me and Sean further down.

Descending Moro Rock

A little further down the path you can see the view of the valley and mountains behind us. The peak of the mountain across the valley was in the clouds.

Me and Jenny on Moro Rock

Sean wondered aloud how long this tree had been leaning against the rock… it looks like it has been there a long time.

Large dead tree resting against Moro Rock

We rode the shuttle back up to Crescent Meadow for lunch. We took a group picture at the Crescent Meadow sign

All of us at Crescent Meadow

and then hiked to the Fallen Giant for lunch sitting by its roots.

Sean getting comfortable on the fallen giant in Crescent Meadows for a quick lunch

Finishing our walk across Crescent Meadow on the fallen giant after lunch

Then we headed back to camp for homemade spaghetti and some family time around the camp fire.

On day four we spent the day fishing and swimming at Stony Creek, just a short hike from our campsite.

The trail across the first meadow, which stony creek meanders through, was very green and there were more blooms than I remember from the same time 2 years before.

Start of the trail to Stony Creek

The rest of the trail was pretty much the way I remembered it and the creek is beautiful but a little unnerving with the steep granite slopes on both sides.

Stony Creek

It was a hot day, well over 80 degrees, so the first thing we did was hit the water. I knew from my previous visit that we would be sliding over the smaller of the two falls into very “refreshing” mountain stream water (read that as really, really cold!). A couple of years ago I had been a little reluctant as diving, jumping, or sliding in to dark pools of water is not really my thing. But this time I was eager. There was less water, it was a very warm day, and the 7-year-old did it first!

After the first time I started a little higher up, to get a better slide.

Preparing to slide over the falls

and a couple of seconds later over the edge I went! Only about a 6 foot drop from the bottom, but including the slide it’s about 12 feet.

On the way over the falls and into the pool

Here’s another angle showing my brother-in-law getting ready to slide down the falls.

Randy sliding down the falls

We had a great time at Stony Creek Campgrounds exploring Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park.

Read about the first part of this trip here: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Part 1 – Kings River, Cedar Grove, and Mist Falls Trail – June 2013)

Kings Canyon along the Mist Falls Trail

We arrived in Sequoia National Park in the early afternoon. Our first stop inside the park was at the Kings Canyon Overlook. Although there are a lot of pesky trees in the way, the view of Kings Canyon and parts of Sequoia National Park, like Buck Rock, are a great way to kick off your visit.

Kings Canyon Lookout - Sequoia National Park

We planned to camp for four days, two on our own, and two with my wife’s brother and his family. We left the joint part of the trip unplanned, but I did a post to plan some hiking at the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park on our the first full day in the park.

View of Buck Rock from the Kings Canyon LookoutThere was also a great view of Buck Rock from the Kings Canyon Lookout. From this angle you can see just how high the fire lookout cabin is. We climbed the stairs to Buck Rock, from the other side, in 2011 and I would definitely recommend taking the time to check this historic place out. It is still manned 24 hours a day by the National Park Service as a working fire lookout.

After stretching our legs and enjoying the view for a few minutes we climbed back into the Jeep and continued the drive to Stony Creek Campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest. This is the same campground we stayed at in 2011, and it is terrific. The camp host was friendly, the sites are large and ours was a very private one near the back of the campgrounds. There is a small creek that runs along the side of the campgrounds that eventually becomes one of our favorite fishing and swimming areas (although it is difficult to get to and can be a hazardous area – use caution).

Deer at our campsite - Stony Creek Campgrounds

There were two deer eating some purple shoots on the side of our campsite. They were almost constant visitors. I’m not sure what the shoots were but the deer seemed to love them. There were deer within 10 feet of our tent almost every morning. We didn’t see any bears at the campsite, but as usual while camping in the Sierra Nevada’s we kept all food in a large metal storage locker.

On the first evening we set up our camp, ate a large dinner, and sat around the camp fire until late. In the morning we had a full breakfast (pancakes and bacon) and packed our hiking gear into the Jeep for our day trip to the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It’s about a 32 mile drive past Grants Grove to the end of highway 180 in Kings Canyon. The road is narrow, winding, and you would have time for one last conversation before hitting the bottom if you make a bad turn – it is a big drop! I’ve never been to Kings Canyon, but my wife had been there quite some time ago. She thought it was drier than she remembered on the way down, but as we got to the bottom and came along side the Kings River the scenery was more of what she remembered.

We stopped across the road from Boyden’s Cavern and scrambled down to the river and out on to some rocks. Here are a couple of pictures.

Checking out a rock in the Kings River - Kings Canyon National Park

Jenny sitting on a rock by the Kings River

Unlike some of the other National Parks I’ve visited in the past, there were no hiking trail maps available on the NPS website. We bought one for the Cedar Grove area at the Grant Grove area gift shop on our way. I had planned a couple different hikes in my planning post, but of course I didn’t print it out and there is no connectivity in Sequoia National Park. One easy hike I had planned was to the Raging River Falls. It is a very short, paved trail, and the falls are pretty cool. We were getting hungry so we brought our lunch with us to the falls. We relaxed on some rocks across from the falls, ate our sandwiches and took a few pictures.

Raging River Falls - Kings Canyon National Park

Although the pool under the falls was very inviting, there were numerous warnings along the trail, and a fast-moving outlet down some rocks and into a rocky stream below the pool. There have to be better/safer places to swim than this in the area.

After eating I had my son sit under this tree. It was a large tree with impressive roots, and seemed completely stable growing on top of the rocks.

Pine Tree growing in the rocks across from the falls

It was a small redwood, but I liked the view of the falls from this angle.

Small Redwood with the Raging River Falls in the background

After lunch we looked at the map and decided to hike to another waterfall – Mist Falls. The map listed the hike as 4.0 miles round trip, and since it was already well into the afternoon we wanted to just do a short hike. This trail is at the end of the road in Kings Canyon. There is a permit station there and a medium-sized parking lot. We parked, put on our hiking boots and set out on the trail. At the trail head we noticed a sign with several destinations, Mist Falls was one of them. The sign listed 4.6 miles, which would mean a 9.2 mile hike round trip. This was not what we planned, but we decided to do the hike anyway. The first two miles were flat with some trees and a couple of small streams. A larger stream was running beside the trail, but it was usually 100 yards or more away. The first interesting place we came to was “strange tree land”.

Strange Tree Land on the Mist Falls Trail

There were several strange-looking trees in this one area. In the above picture you can see a dead tree with a very narrow trunk near the bottom, and if you look a little farther down the trail and up you’ll see what we called the “Chair Tree” although my son didn’t want to take a picture sitting in the “chair”. Just in front of it was this tree…

One of the Strange Trees

Sean did walk into this one, but not until he looked it over real closely for creepy crawlers.

At the two-mile mark the trail splits and just past the split there is a bridge across the stream/river on the trail we weren’t taking. We took a couple of pictures on the bridge and then headed up the other trail toward the Mist Falls.

Sean and Eric on a bridge just off the Mist Falls trail

Jenny and Eric just off the Mist Falls trail

The trail toward Mist falls immediately became more narrow and headed uphill. There is about a 600 foot climb up the remaining 2.6 miles of the trail. It is a beautiful trail that continually changes. There is a stream running beside the trail all the way to the falls.

There are sections of forested trail…

Forested part of the trail to Mist Falls

mixed with rocky areas…

Rocky area of the trail to Mist Falls

and some granite dome sections of the trail.

Granite Dome part of the Mist Falls Trail

Our favorite part of the trail was Mist Falls though. The falls are large and the mist can be felt at least a hundred yards away.

Mist Falls Kings Canyon National Park

Another Mist Falls photo Kings Canyon National Park

It is hard to tell the scale of the falls even with us in the shot.

Eric and Jenny at Mist Falls

After enjoying the falls we headed back down the trail. On the way back down we saw two small snakes (one King snake and the other was an unidentified dark snake) and a bear cub. The bear cub was about 30 feet from the trail and headed our way. The cub didn’t seem to mind us being there and just kept coming our way. We snapped a quick picture and continued down the trail and out of the cubs way in case Momma Bear was not far behind.

Bear cub just of the trail on the Mist Falls Trail

On the way back we passed a large rock with a flat face that was pointed toward the stream. On the way up the trail I had noticed the way it reflected the sound and mentioned it to Jenny and Sean. As I came around the bend they were standing in front of this rock having a good time making fun of Hubbie/Dad… something about tired and delusional…

On the mist Falls Trail - this rock reflected the sound of the stream from below

I always love going in a different direction on the same trail and noticing what you missed on the way up… an absolutely gorgeous mountain view! The shot at that top of this post is from the same angle.

Heading back on the Mist Falls Trail

The longer than planned hike caused us to drive out of Kings Canyon fairly late, we decided to stop for dinner somewhere if anything was still open. Luckily the restaurant and pizza parlor at Grants Grove was open until 9 PM. The pizza hit the spot and we hit the sack as soon as we got back to camp. The next day we slept in… more than just a little! You can find out about the rest of our camping trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon in this post: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Part 2 – Moro Rock and Stony Creek – June 2013).

Nice Double Waterfall near Stony Creek Campground Sequoia National Forest
We’re heading up to do some camping in Sequoia National Park again this summer. It’s been a couple of years since our July 2011 Sequoia National Park trip and I’m more than ready for some more camping, hiking, exploring, and family time. We’re camping with my wife’s brothers family, but plan to get there a couple days early, so we’ll have some time to explore. On our one full day I would like to do some hiking and see some new places. I’ve spent less time in Kings Canyon National Park, so I’m focusing my planning on that park. The drive from Stony Creek Campground is long, but should be very scenic. We’ll get an early start. Cedar Grove is my first preference for hiking, we could easily tackle a couple of medium length hikes in one day. Zumwalt Meadow trail appears to be both scenic and easy hike, as does the very short Roaring River Falls trail. I would also like to see the canyon so the Cedar Grove Overlook trail is appealing. However, I love hiking by water though so the Sheep Creek Cascade may replace the Cedar Grove Overlook trail, especially if it is a hot day!

General Grant Tree - Kings Canyon National ParkWe should also have a couple of partial days to explore. It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from San Diego, but we may go at least halfway there on a Friday night so we have more time on Saturday to set up camp and enjoy the park. We have family just north of LA and heading there Friday will be close to half way plus bonus time with family! If we leave Friday we’ll have almost a full day on Saturday. If we’re eager to see some big trees we can go a little out of the way and visit Grant Grove on the way to the campgrounds.

Stony Creek Campgrounds July 2011When we stayed at Stony Creek Campgrounds a couple of years ago we loved it. It’s a beautiful location with a stream running through the camp grounds. We’ll be staying close to the same spot we had last time, but closer to the creek.

Crescent Meadows Trail July 2011There are a couple of hikes I would love to do in Sequoia. I want to take the short trail to Moro Rock, it should be a great view. Last time we visited I notice a sign for a trail from there to the Giant Forest. There are actually a couple of trail options from Crescent Meadows to the Giant Forest. I would prefer hiking back down rather than riding the shuttle, especially if it gives us a chance to see a few more Sequoia. One of the trails, the longer way, takes you past the Washington Tree, which would have definitely been worthwhile before 2005, but it lost half its height between the lighting strike in 2003 and a hard winter in 2005. Still it may be interesting to see a tree that used to be one of the top 10 largest trees in existence that was just recently brought down by natural causes.

Buck Rock Lookout July 2011A favorite from our last visit was Buck Rock. Since my wife has never been there, I would definitely be up for another climb to the top. Based on what I learned on our last visit, I may skip the walk around the decking around the cabin though unless it looks like it has been replaced. If it’s not new, it is somewhere around 2 decades since they replaced it… and it’s a long ways down!

On Monday some family is arriving so we’ll be doing things together, and having a great time at camp I’m sure. I’ll post the details of this trip when we get back.

Until then, if you’d like to see some more info on our last trip to Sequoia see my post: Sequoia National Park (July 2011) – (Part 2 – Buck Rock Lookout and Grants Grove)

Flying East December 2012 like the clouds
I’ve been in (not just the airport) 45 states but still have 5 states I have not visited: Alaska, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Some were fairly quick drive throughs like Delaware and Connecticut, but that counts for my purposes. Some I’ve driven across too many times, like Nebraska! In addition to having visited 39 states, I’ve lived in 6 states: Iowa (20), North Carolina (2), California (18), Minnesota (3), Hawaii (4), and Maryland (1.5). The years don’t add up to my age because I also lived overseas for a few years. Visiting all 50 states is on my Bucket List and it’s been years since I added a new state to my list (Delaware in 2001), so it’s time to plan a visit to the 4 northeast states I have not been to. I will definitely visit Alaska some day soon, but I today I want to put together the beginnings of a plan for the Northeast states on my “haven’t been there yet” list. I could do a quick drive through these states to “mark them off”, but if I’m flying all the way there I want to really check these states out and do some things that I enjoy. The weather in the Northeast will definitely be best in the early summer. While I’m up there I would love to have a sail, so I’ll try to work that in if we have a sunny day with good wind. I love national parks and hiking, so spending a day or two in Acadia National Park sounds like a perfect thing to do in Maine.

I’m planning to do the Marine Corps Marathon in 2013, so if this happens in 2013 we’ll have to work around that race. Originally I planned to look at an earlier, Golden Ticket race (guaranteed entry to the Marine Corps Marathon), this year that is the Marine Corp 17.75K run on March 23. There were a couple issues with this run for me. I have a run that I always plan to do around that time, the Race for Autism in San Diego. Also, I scheduled two half marathons in San Diego as “training” runs, so another longer run no longer fit into the plan for 2013. Not sure I’ll want to do a road trip right after the Marathon (may be a bit sore), so we’ll see where else it might fit this year, if not it’s a bucket list thing and can happen in 2014 or even later.

Potential Trip Itinerary:

Flying options, having multiple choices and being flexible about the starting point will give us the option to seek out the cheapest flight from the west coast.
1. Fly into New York and spend a day or two in the big city. There is tons to do and I’ve never been there with my wife. It would also add to the road trip feel.
2. Fly into DC and really add to the road trip feel. I’m in DC often and it is one of my favorite places. I’ve never been there with my wife, but this would add a lot of driving time.
3. Fly into a major city in one of the states and just kick it right off.

Drive through and see each of the four northeast states I’ve never been to.

Rhode Island Options.
1. It would be great to spend a couple of nights on Block Island – take a moped or bike around the island and enjoy the day.

Maine Options.

1. Explore the coast line. One of the Marines I worked with in Hawaii was from Maine. One of the things he mentioned was that Maine has more Coastline that California. So there is lots of coast to explore. One of the places on the coast that I will be sure to check out is Acadia National Park. It looks like a terrific place to hike, with tons of scenery. Camping is an option, but it will depend on the season. Summer would be the best time for camping and an extended visit.

New Hampshire Options.

Flume Gorge State Park
White Mountain National Forest. We could spend anywhere from 2.5 hours driving through to 4 days hiking in this forest. This will depend on the season and the focus. The more research I do the more I think one trip may not be enough.
Can’t miss the Flying Yankee, while we are in Lincoln, a restored 1935 train.
A train ride on the Conway Scenic Train would be cool too.

Vermont Options.

Got to stop in Stowe Vermont to worship… I mean tour the Ben and Jerry factory. There are also several hikes along the Long Trail in Vermont near Stowe that would be good (might help burn off the Ben and Jerry’s samples). And if we get nostalgic we can tour the nearby Trapp Family Lodge (yes the family from the Sound of Music).

Any “got to go here” suggestions?

Sunset on the South Rim - Grand Canyon
It’s been a couple years since the last time I hiked across the Grand Canyon.  I knew when we finished that I would do it again.  In fact it was really just a learning experience although a really challenging and fun one.  Although I’ve added a couple of posts for that trip, I planned it before I was doing my “planning” posts for bigger trips, so I don’t have it all written up, but I do have several emails to review and I’ll understand the information on the park’s website much better than someone who’s never done it before. One of the key lessons learned from my last Grand Canyon Rim to Rim was to plan earlier. Although we started planning for the trip early in 2010 and did not do the hike until October, this was not soon enough. Lodging reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance and because there is high demand during the very short “sweet spot” for hiking rim to rim in the fall, we were unable to get lodging at the North Rim. Because we didn’t have rooms at the North Rim lodge we had to change our plan, taking the shuttle from the South Rim to the North Rim no longer worked, and we ended up driving from the north to the south rim twice. So this time I’m starting planning earlier, so even though we plan to do this in May 2014, I believe it is not too early to plan for this trip. There are only about 4 months left before we need to make reservations.

Near the top of the North Kaibab Trail
Since we did it in the fall last time we’ll shoot for the spring this time. It will be interesting to see how things are different. Other than that, we plan to do it very much the same. One change could be to stay at Phantom Ranch rather than camping at Bright Angel campgrounds. This will allow us to skip setting up duffel service for tents and other camping gear and may make catching the shuttle easier. On the downside it will make the composition of the group less flexible as much of Phantom Ranch lodging is male and female dormitories so we will be locked in to the male/female mix that we come up with in the original plan. However, there are some 4 person cabins, so that would be our first choice at Phantom Ranch.   Also we can make Phantom Ranch reservations 13 months in advance and change to camping reservations as late as 6 months in advance if our group make up changes. We could even do a mix of Phantom Ranch and camping if we get a larger group to join us.

Jenny and Eric hiking in Mission Trails Park North Fortuna Trail.jpg.08
Another change for me will be doing the hike with my wife! She is an avid hiker, although she is not a big desert hiker (me either). I’m positive she will love hiking the Grand Canyon. It is dry and hot. However, at the right time of the year, it is more like hiking in milder desert climate of San Diego county than further inland in the drier deserts of Southern California.  The climate is especially mild at the right time of the year at the North Rim.  The canyon floor always has the potential to surprise you, in 2010 even though we were hiking in late October, the last minute weather forecasts were for 100 degree temperatures on the canyon floor.  Luckily for us on day one we got afternoon showers which lowered the temperature, and on the way out there was morning cloud cover until we had climbed to higher, and cooler elevations.

The hike plan:

  • Drive to the South Rim, arriving in the mid morning, will require staying overnight somewhere nearby.
  • Drop duffels to the Livery Barn.  (The deadline is 4 PM the day before you hike in)
    • If we are staying at Phantom Ranch this may not be necessary (no tents or sleeping bags), or we may only require 1 duffel instead of 2.
  • Catch the shuttle to the North Rim Lodge.  (The shuttle leaves the south rim at 1:30 p.m. and arrives at the north rim at 6:30 p.m.  The fare is at least $85 and reservations are required.)
  • Stay at North Rim Lodge one or two nights.  It would be great to have a day to spend exploring the North Rim.  There are several choices of cabin style or hotel rooms.
  • Take the hikers shuttle from the North Rim to the North Kaibab trailhead.  Departs at 5:30 and 7:00 am.  The early start is preferred.
  • Hike to Phantom Ranch.
  • Stay at Phantom Ranch.  One of the 4 person cabins is preferred, but we could consider the dorm rooms also.  We will also need to consider if we want to spend two nights in order to have a day to explore the Phantom Ranch area.  A camp site will work with the duffel service to take tents/sleeping bags in for us, but I would like to try out Phantom Ranch rather than staying at Bright Angel campgrounds.
  • Hike up Bright Angel trail to the south rim.
  • Stay at the South Rim lodge for one night.
  • Head home…

Picnic and seating area at Phantom Ranch

Reservations for this trip will happen on May 1st 2013, for lodging at North Rim, South Rim, and Phantom Ranch.  I believe the meals at Phantom Ranch can be reserved at the same time.    A backcountry permit is NOT required for people staying in Phantom Ranch dorms or cabins.  If we camp we’ll need to get backcountry permits (this is to ensure there are enough campsites).  If a campsite and backcountry permit is required, the request would be submitted on 1 January 2014.

View of the Bright Angel Trail from near the top of the South Rim

This post started as a plan to hike the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim “again”. Even though I’ve been looking forward to doing this hike again, I always thought of it as just doing the same hike one more time. However, as I did the planning, it didn’t feel like planning to do the same hike again. It will be a different hike, with different experiences, and I’m much more excited about it after doing this initial planning than I was when I started the planning. This will be a great trip!

Update 20 August 2013: We got our reservations and things are coming together for this trip. I’ve posted a follow-up planning post: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim (June 2014 – Intermediate Planning)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)