Archive for the ‘Living It’ Category

This was my fourth time in Yosemite in 6 years and fifth time overall. Although the place was the same, each visit was unique. This trip was planned early in 2016 as a quick car camping trip. Although our trip in 2011 had been in August, and this was just one month later, we knew that the visit would be much different. In 2011 there had been tremendous amounts of snow, so we had to delay our planned July trip to August to allow the snow to clear from the back country trails we planned to backpack on. With all that snow, the waterfalls were still roaring in August. We knew that 2016 would be very dry as we were coming off not one but four years of drought. We love the waterfalls of Yosemite, but that is not all we love. Yosemite valley is the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited and that was no different in September 2016 than it had been any of my previous visits.

The reason for the timing of our trip was that our friends Wendy and Dave Claman were coming to Southern California to visit with family at Disneyland. We would meet them immediately after their visit to Disneyland and drive together to Yosemite. We had car camped in Yosemite in 2010 and 2016 at a campgrounds well outside the valley, Hodgdon Meadow. In fact the campsite these 2 years were right next to each other. Hodgdon is about 20 miles from the valley, but it is a beautiful campgrounds and was, at least in 2010, a beautiful drive to the valley. By 2016 two major fires had devastated the areas both north and south of Hodgdon Meadow campground. However, we made reservations there again as that was the only campgrounds available when we finally decided to “do it” and worked out the details.

When we arrived in Yosemite’s southern entrance we had to skip seeing the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias again as the grove was closed for renovations designed to protect the huge trees. I’ve seen the other 2 groves of Sequoias in Yosemite the Tuolumne and Merced Groves, but wanted to see the Mariposa Grove one of these days. We planned to head straight to the valley, but decided at the last minute that we would turn toward Glacier Point before heading to the valley.

Glacier Point has some of the most spectacular views anywhere in Yosemite. It is almost surreal all of the spectacular things you can see from there. It is hard to put a scale to all that you are seeing. Of course Half Dome catches your eye right away.
Half Dome Tenaya canyon and Clouds Rest from Glacier Point

To the right of Half Dome you can see well into the distance many of the high Sierra snow-capped peaks.

Take a closer look lower in the same view and you can make out both Vernal and Nevada Falls and parts of the Mist Trail.

Although I’ve been to Glacier Point before, it was usually a quick trip or the start of a hike or backpacking trip. I’ve never taken the time to explore Glacier Point beyond the area right in front of the gift shop. That first area you walk up to from the parking lot is actually the trail head for the short paved trail to Glacier Point. The views don’t change much as you walk toward the point, but there are “things of interest” all along the short trail if you walk back toward the true “Glacier Point”.

The first stop on the short hike is the Geology Hut. It is a small stone structure with awesome views.

Wendy-and-Jenny-at-Glacier-Point

Dave-and-Wendy-kissing-Glacier-Point

If you watch close along the trail you are likely to see some wildlife even though it is a paved trail with tons of people walking on it. I got a good shot of this raven taking a rest.

Raven-with-a-view

There are lots of opportunities for pictures when you get to the actual “Glacier Point”, but you’ll have to squeeze in to the crowd.

There are a few places to pose for pictures that are less crowded, like the famous overhang rock just a short walk off the end of the Glacier Point trail.

Overhang-Rock-at-Glacier-Point

I found another way to cut the crowd out though…

Glacier-Point-view

and as you can see with the “crowd” back in the shot, it was much safer than overhang rock.

https://herestoafulllife.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/safer-than-overhang-rock.jpg

Jenny humored me and posed on a flat rock between the upper and lower viewing areas at Glacier Point.

Jenny-Rial-Glacier-Point

While at Glacier point we decided to see if there was any “space available” at the Bridalveil
Creek campgrounds which is beside the road on the way back down from Glacier Point. That was a very good idea! Since we got there relatively early on a Thursday we were able to choose from quite a few camp sites. We got a nice site near the middle of the campgrounds, but very private. Bridalveil Creek campgrounds is a very nice place with plenty of large trees and some areas of rocks that are pretty cool too. We initially wanted a site by the rocky area as they seemed even more private, but they were also smaller and we had two vehicles to park and planned to set up 2 fairly large tents for the 5 people in our group. But in the end we loved the site we finally selected. There was plenty of room to park, level ground for our tents, and a reasonable walk to the bathrooms.

Bridal-Veil-Creek-Campground

We set up camp, collected some fire wood for the camp fire, made dinner, and settled in for the night. I love sitting around the campfire sharing memories and making new one. I’ve been friends with Dave for more than 40 years, so there are lots of memories to talk about. One other thing was a bit unexpected about this trip and this campground. It can get really cold at Bridalveil Creek Campgrounds at night in September. The unexpected cold weather cut our campfire time down a bit, but still a great time. We would head down into the valley in the morning, but I’ll do a second post for day two.

Check out this page listing all of my Yosemite National Park posts: Yosemite National Park Posts

We slowed things down for the last couple days in Maui. We spent both days at the beach and tooling around Lahaina. On Friday we spent most of the day at Black Rock Beach. We got very lucky at the small public parking lot near the Sheraton Resort. Just as we pulled in a car was leaving, so we nabbed a terrific parking spot. We set up our chairs on the beach and hit the water. We headed toward the black rock area. There were several people jumping off rocks there. I was not interested in climbing up there but my friend Dave jumped off a couple of times. I had bought a disposable underwater camera, one of the few things that still uses film. I tried to get pictures of him as he hit the water, but the camera was not that sensitive. In fact I had a really hard time telling when it actually took a picture – no click!

Jenny got one picture of me under the water.

Eric diving under the water

The other pictures we took like that did not turn out. We really have grown used to being able to look at the pictures we take immediately on our digital cameras. At some point I would like to get a good underwater enclosure for my digital camera. Until then I’ll have to go back to hoping the pictures I take are good.

We swam over past the end of the protected area of black rock beach to an area with nice coral. The coral was not the best I’ve ever swam above, but it was pretty nice. The waves “fairly gently” moved us in and back out from the shallows near the edge of the water. I say fairly gently because every so often a bigger wave would come in and push quite a bit harder. I backed off regularly to be sure that I would not be pushed into the rocks.

I love gliding over coral. It feels like you are visiting a different world. I’m very comfortable in the water and could spend hours floating in an area like this. Twice while I floated in this area a turtle passed by. Both times I followed behind the turtle as it swam over the coral. My goal was to get a picture of a turtle and the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a together in a single picture. I didn’t miss my chance to get several shots of the turtles while I waited. I got a couple good shots of the first one as it passed over the coral.

turtle-gliding

turtle-passing-over-the-coral

I really like the lighting for this shot of the second turtle.

green-turtle-gliding

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to get the turtle and fish together, but I did get this picture of the humuhumunukunukuapua’a swimming near a bluespine unicorn fish.

humuhumunukunukuapuaa-and-a-bluespine-unicorn-fish

After a couple trips into the water and plenty of time on the beach we decided to get drinks and pupus at the pool bar at the Sheraton. I definitely recommend spending some time there the next time you are in Maui!

That night we had dinner at Kimo’s in Lahaina. I really recommend this place for the food, the location, and the service. The view from our table wasn’t too bad either.

view-from-our-dinner-table-at-kimos

On our last full day in Maui we decided to really go casual. We grabbed the boogie boards and drove away from Lahaina along Honoapiilani Highway until a spot grabbed us. This was the unlikely spot we chose to hangout, swim, and boogie board along Honoapiilani Highway.

The beach was a bit rocky, the road a bit close, and the surf a bit shallow, but we had a great time and managed to slow the day down as much as possible. Although it might not look like much from the road we had a place to set up the chairs without walking far, and without fighting a crowded beach. There was one other family near us, but that was it. We were also able to set up under a tree, so we had some shade. The tree also helped frame some nice shots of the beach.

playing-in-the-water-at-a-roadside-beach-in-maui

getting-some-boogie-boarding-in-on-our-last-full-day-in-maui

But it was more a day for relaxing than taking pictures. Right before we left unfortunately Jenny cut her foot on a rock under the water. It was a pretty bad cut. The only good thing about it was it didn’t happen on our first day! We got some first aid items on the way back to the condo, fixed her up and enjoyed the rest of the night visiting and doing some last minute souvenir shopping in Lanai.

On the last day we had arranged to meet a local man at the airport to get a turtle he carved for us during the week. We had met him on the street in Lahaina. I was a bit unsure of how well the turtle would turn out but we were very happy with the end result.

maui-carved-turtle-souvenir

We decided to give him a nice tip on top of the agreed upon price.

It’s been a year since we went on this trip (yes I’m way behind on my blog posts). I’m really glad we decided to visit all the different islands rather than just going back to Kauai again. We loved Kauai and will definitely visit there again, but our next visit to Hawaii will most likely be to the big island of Hawaii and Hawaii Valcanoes National Park. It may be a year or two before we can put that on the schedule. Until then we’ll have lot’s of good memories from this trip.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We decided to hit the beach again on day three in an area that we had not visited yet. We had considered some of the condos available on VRBO for the Wailea area. Wailea is in the southwest part of Maui at the base of Haleakala. This part of Maui has lower priced condos, hotels, and restaurants than Lahina, and the beaches north of there. It is less tourist focused, but still has some terrific beaches.

We initially decided to get a late breakfast at Kihei Caffe across from Kalama Beach Park. However, it’s a popular place and had a very long wait. On the recommendation of the hostess we changed our plans and went around the corner to a much less busy, but still highly rated South Shore Tiki Lounge. Our late breakfast turned in to an early and very relaxed lunch. We drove by a couple beaches that did not quite do it for us. Not enough beach or sun, but still a little bit of paradise.

Small bay cloudy morning Maui

We finally got to the end of civilization as the road started to be surrounded by lava fields and cactus. We decided to turn around and checkout Mekena State Beach park. This was a winner. There was plenty of parking, and a (long) path to the beach. We took some chairs, boogie boards and the rest of our stuff with us and set up on the beach. There were still pretty thick scattered clouds when we got there.

Makena State Beach Park scattered clouds

But it didn’t take long for the clouds to clear away, except a few hanging over Lania. The sky turned a beautiful blue and we settled in for a nice long afternoon at the beach.

Makena State Beach Park a few clouds over Lanai

Of course it was still unusually hot and humid for October in Hawaii. The sun was very bright in the late afternoon.

Bright afternoon sun on Makena State Beach Park

But we had the cure for the heat and the sun right in front of us. The beautiful warm waters of the Pacific Ocean. We went back and forth between relaxing on the beach and swimming and boogie boarding in the water. A classic day on a tropical beach!

As it got later in the afternoon, it was time to head out. Dave and Wendy had wanted to try the Mai Tai’s at Monkeypod Kitchen, so we stopped there on the way home. We had been eating and snacking at the beach so we just ordered pupus. The mai tais were definitely unique with a honey lilioko’i foam on the top. We enjoyed the mai tais a bit more than the pupus, but that was OK, as I said, we weren’t really that hungry. We got one group picture…

Relaxing at Monkeypod Maui

before heading outside to see the sunset.

Sunset as we were leaving Monkeypod Kitchen Maui

Then we drove back to our condo in Lahina to rest up for our next day in Maui. Although we planned to visit a well rated snorkeling place in the morning, the weather would not cooperate with those plans. The nice thing about Maui though, at least during our visit, is that it might be raining hard in one area, but sunny and clear in another. My next post will cover what we did instead of snorkeling.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

Panoramic photo from the Marin Headlands

We started the day enjoying the full kitchen and views from the condo we had rented on VRBO. After enjoying breakfast, processing 4 people through the single bathroom, and visiting for an hour or two… we decided to see if we could catch the cable car down to the Fishermans Wharf area. After waiting just a few minutes we decided to start walking along the cable car line toward our destination. It was mostly downhill and just a little over a mile walk. I love the Victorian style row houses that line the hills on many of the residential streets in this part of San Francisco.

Victorian Row houses climb the hillsides in San Francisco

So many examples of historic and well maintained homes really give San Francisco a unique atmosphere that I haven’t found anywhere else in America. As we got closer to the water, we decided to forget the cable car and take a more direct route to Pier 39. The older part of Fisherman’s Wharf is interesting too, but I like the food options, and general buzz of people on Pier 39.

Pier 39 San Francisco

We did a little shopping in some of the shops and then decided to have lunch at Neptune’s Waterfront Grill & Bar (no longer the same restaurant) at the end of the pier. We got a table with a great view. We could not only see Alcatraz Island…

View toward Alcatraz from our table at Netunes Waterfront Grill and Bar

we could also see the sea lions basking on platforms beside the pier.

View of the sea lions basking from our table at Neptunes Waterfront Grill and Bar

The food was good, the beers refreshing, but this meal was really about the view of the bay!

Lunch on Pier 39

After lunch we decided to head back to the condo to get the car so we could go checkout the Marin Headlands area. To get to this park, take the first exit (Alexander Ave) past the Golden Gate Bridge. Then go left toward 101 South (under the highway). Don’t go back on the highway – take Conzelman Rd instead to get to the Marin Headlands. There are other things to see here and some decent hikes, but we were there to see the spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, and San Francisco. We made a couple stops, the first was about halfway up to the main view area. There were some nice flowers growing here on the side of the road.

Flowers and view of the Golden Gate from the Marin Headlands

But the best views were from the top of the road, just before the tunnel. The only problem we had was that a marine layer of low clouds/fog was continually blowing past us, making it hard to get a clear picture. While it might not have been the best conditions for good pictures, it was very cool to be there under those conditions. With patience I was still able to get some good shots including the panoramic picture at the top of the post, this view of the Golden Gate Bridge…

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands - 27 July 2014

and a similar view with a couple of familiar faces.

Jenny and Eric at the Marin Headlands with the Golden Gate in the background

We drove through the rest of the park, but didn’t make any stops. We would love to do some hikes along the coast in this area next time. As we headed back toward the city, Wendy mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well and would probably stay at the condo rather than going to dinner. We decided to walk to Chinatown for dinner since it was only a few blocks from the condo. The restaurant was just OK, but I enjoyed my first walk through Chinatown in San Francisco.

We took it easy the rest of the evening and planned to get up early the next day to bike across the Golden Gate bridge. I’ll cover that in my next post…

Previous post in this series: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 1 – 26 July 2014 – Cable Car Museum and Dinner on Nob Hill)

Next post in this series: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 3 – 28 July 2014 – Part 1 – Biking the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito)

Panorama from the top of our building in San Francisco
I did a planning post for this short trip to San Francisco in March. Although the trip did not go completely to plan, we had a great time and have a lot of reasons to return soon and often. We had found a place on Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) that was centrally located and on the Cable Car line. It was a historic looking building, with an updated 2 bedroom apartment. Since the building was right on the corner of Jackson and Mason there were actually multiple cable car lines that ran right past our front door.

View of a passing Powell and Mason Cable Car

There were nice views from the bay windows in the living room and one of the bedrooms, but the best view was from the roof of the building. I took the panoramic photo at the top of the post from there.

We settled in quickly and decided to walk up the hill to the top of the Nob Hill district for dinner. The Cable Car Museum was just one block from the apartment in that directions so we took a detour through the museum on our way to dinner. It was a quick walk through. Not only are there historic cable cars to see…

Clay St Hill RR Company Cable Car

Sutter St Open Cable Car

Sutter St RR Company closed in Cable Car

but you can see the inner workings of the huge cable system that keep the cars running safely up and down the hills.

Motors and wheels moving the cables for all three Cable Car lines

On the way up the steep hills on Mason St between Jackson and California we started to question our decision to walk! It was only 4 blocks from the Cable Car Museum to The Big Four restaurant where we had decided to eat, but we all felt the burn by the time we got there. We also realized that we had already forgotten the code, and the printed out paperwork with the code on it so we could get back into the apartment! Jenny gave the owner a call while we walked and left a voicemail with her. Even though the restaurant was a bit more upscale than we had originally been looking for, it had great reviews so we decided to splurge a bit on our first night in San Francisco. The atmosphere was amazing. We had a few drinks in the front before being seated in the dining area. The detailed woodwork was impressive throughout the restaurant. Not long after we ordered the owner of the place we were renting and now locked out of called back. Jenny kept it short, but was explaining what happened and thanking the woman for calling back when an older lady next to us made a very snide comment something like “We don’t need to hear that in here.” A waiter standing very nearby, it almost seemed like he was watching over this older couple, immediately came up and let my wife know that cell phones are not allowed in the restaurant. She finished up and got off the phone. The restaurant was fairly loud and there were several conversations going on at all times including at our table where we were catching up on things with our friends Dave and Wendy while waiting for our food. I could tell Jenny was upset by the woman’s comment, so I leaned toward their table and mentioned that “We really had not needed to hear her very rude remark either.” Our food came shortly after that and we quickly relaxed and got back to enjoying our meal. The older couple finished up before us and as they were getting ready to leave the lady slid over on the bench we shared with them and tried to apologize for her comment. I say “tried”, because she obviously did not know how to apologize, and it quickly turned into a lecture on proper cell phone etiquette. Now she had rudely interrupted our meal twice… I was at a loss. I should have thanked her for her rudeness and poor excuse for an apology (I wish I had), instead I was polite and said, “I hope you enjoyed your meal, have a good night.” I think she actually looked a bit taken back by the comment. A couple of minutes later my wife must have decided there was something she wished she had said too… she got up to go find the woman to have her say. Luckily for the woman my wife never found her.

The walk back down the hill to our apartment should have been easy, but we needed to stop at a store to stock up for the morning. Unfortunately that took us west and down the hill in a different direction. That meant a climb before we could head back down… and we were carrying several bags of supplies. The exercise did us no harm, and we were soon safely back in our apartment. We did some more catching up before heading to bed. We opened the windows to enjoy the summer breeze. The cables for the cable cars run 24 hours a day and once we opened the windows the noise was very noticeable. Luckily, the owners of the apartment had installed two full sets of double pane windows (4 panes total) in every window, so when the windows were closed we could only just barely hear the cable.

Next Post for this trip: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 2 – 27 July 2014 – Pier 39 and Marin Headlands)

This year, 2014 was a long hot summer in Southern California. It is always hard to tell exactly when a summer ends in San Diego. I usually call a summer over when we have several cool/cold nights in a row and the rainy season starts. This year San Diego’s summer was longer than usual and ended, by my definition, between mid November and the beginning of December. So 2014 was a long and very busy summer for us!

We started out the summer by finishing up our training hikes for our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. We did at least 9 “Afoot and Afield in San Diego” hikes in April and May of 2014, including a really good training hike up El Cajon Mountain in temperatures near 90.

Jenny taking a break on the peak of El Cajon Mountain May 2014

The Grand Canyon hike was just one of the highlights of this summer for me. It was my second rim to rim hike at the Grand Canyon and I applied all my lessons learned from the previous hike to make this one even better. What really made it special for me was that I did it with my wife. She had led me up Half Dome in 2011, having done it several times herself before, so this was my chance to share a special and challenging hike with her. My cousin and youngest son also came along. The hike definitely lived up to the “challenging” label, but it was also a special experience in one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

This was our 4th summer with season passes to the Green Flash Concert Series at Birch Aquarium above the Pacific in La Jolla. We have never been disappointed by the music at any of these concerts, they have a very laid back crowd, good food and adult refreshments, but in the end it’s really all about the location, the view, and usually a spectacular sunset!

Sunset at the September 2014 Green Flash Concert at the Birch Aquarium

We were so busy with other things, that we decided to get tickets to a few less concerts than usual this summer, but we still made time for some of our favorites like Jack Johnson, Dave Matthew, Steve Miller, and Journey. We also saw James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl. Seeing him has been on my bucket list for years. One of my all time favorite singers! Although we had decided to slow down a bit when it came to concerts, we didn’t feel like we could afford to miss seeing Paul McCartney at Petco Park in San Diego either. He had not had a concert in San Diego since 1976, and we both loved the Beatles, so… we made the time and spent the money for this one!

Paul McCartney singing Let Me Roll It - Petco Park September 28 2014

The staycation we planned for Oceanside went even better than planned. Although we love to travel, we wanted to get our family together for some fun this year, and this seemed the best way to make that happen. We rented a 3 bedroom condo in Oceanside with my wife’s brother Randy and all but one of our combined 9 children came for at least one day during the week we stayed there. We also had other friends and family join in the fun. We had plenty of beach time, BBQ’d some Juicy Lucy’s, enjoyed some terrific homemade fish tacos thanks to our nephew Brian, sailed in Oceanside harbor, kayaked at La Jolla shores, played a few drinking games, roasted some marshmallows at a campfire on the beach, and enjoyed a terrific ocean view all week! This turned out even better than we had hoped and we will be doing this again in the future.

Early evening view from the Oceanside Pier - July 9 2014

We were so busy this year that I’m still catching up on posts for some of our activities. One post I still haven’t gotten done is for our trip to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe, also in July of 2014. We had a great time with our great friends Dave and Wendy on this trip, seeing some new sites, and having some new experiences in two of our favorite places. Of course there are still lots of things we still want to do so we’ll just have to go again sometime soon! I’ll put a link to the post here when I finish it… until then, here is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge I took from the Marin Headlands.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands - 27 July 2014

We also had a great time visiting Iowa and Nebraska again this year. This has been a regular summer trip for us. Most of my family lives in Iowa, and even though my wife’s family is from the Los Angeles area, her sister Wendy lives in Nebraska. So luckily we both have reasons to make this trip as often as we can. This year we attended a nephew’s wedding (always great to have an event that brings a lot of family together in one place) in Iowa, went to Nebraska to visit in the middle of the week, and returned to Iowa to celebrate my Mom’s 75th birthday! Although there was a lot more running around we had a great time. Family is very important to both of us!

Iowa - Nebraska 2014

I was also able to spend a day in Copenhagen this summer at the end of a work trip to Denmark. It was well worth the cost in money and time to add this to the end of my trip. I’m not sure if I’ll get back to Copenhagen again, but hope to travel with my wife to Norway at some time in the future, and it would be a nice side trip to visit both Denmark and Sweden while we are there. Nyhavn was one of my favorite parts of Copenhagen and I found myself drawn back there several times during my short visit.

Nice sailboat docked in Nyhavn

Although those were the major highlights of the summer, we found ourselves having to squeeze in some other things where we could. We had annual passes to Disneyland that we thought would fill in some open weekends. Instead we found ourselves struggling to find a free Sunday to get up there. We also happily “squeezed in” a couple days a week to spend with our new Grandson Cash! He has been in fact the major highlight of 2014! It’s amazing how much a baby changes in 9+ months. We have loved being part of his life and can’t wait to see all the changes 2015 bring.

We actually have very little planned for 2015 so far. This is intentional. We found that we were so busy this summer that we ended up being pretty inflexible when opportunities came up. We hope to return to Yosemite this year, but won’t formalize that plan until we can schedule campsites. My daughter is getting married in July – really big plans there! Beyond that we hope to be available to spend as much time as we can with our family and friends next summer. I can’t imagine a better plan than that!

(Final Note: This will be my 200th post once I push the publish button. Although it seems I have less and less time to maintain this blog, I still enjoy writing here as much as I ever did. So maybe I’ll use some of that “flexible unplanned time” to spend a little more time here…)

This was our 3rd trip down to Chula Vista to see Dave Matthews. We had fairly good seats in August 2010 and had the most fun of any of the concerts we went to that year. In September of 2012 we got tickets for the lawn, which is about as far away as you can get, but we brought a blanket, and had a fun and relaxed night. This year I was on it! I was waiting as the Citi presale started and got in really early. I was really happy when my “best seats” search came up with tickets for GA-PIT! We have been there before standing for Kings of Leon in 2010 and with seats for Sheryl Crow (and Kid Rock) in August of 2011. For Sheryl Crow we got really lucky with front row seats in the center of the stage!

The lesson we had learned in 2010 at the Kings of Leon, is that standing in tight quarters for a few hours can lead to very sore feet. So the next general admission – standing concert we went to we decided to get Dr Scholls gel inserts. It was great that time and every time since. If it weren’t for gels, we would likely avoid standing sections at concerts! Neither of us could find our gels the weekend before so we went out to get new ones. The morning of the concert (Friday) we decided we should be prepared so we cut down our gels to put them in our most comfortable shoes. We were both struggling to get them in. I’m pretty sure that Jenny was the first one to figured out that her old gels were already in her boots! I’m glad I checked before I gave her a hard time. All I could say was, “Oops, mine too!”

We got to Sleep Train a little early, but had to wait at Will Call to get our tickets. We settled in to a place to stand about 50-60 feet away from the center of the stage. The crowd was excited but mellow. Once the band came out some were more mellow than others. A guy standing right behind me started yelling as soon as the band started to play… “F***** Yeah – Give me some of that”, nonstop. The band was opening with an acoustic set, in fact Dave Matthews was singing all by himself for the opener, Little Red Bird and this guy was yelling at the top of his lungs about a foot from my ear. He was jumping around and banging in to everyone around him. I get being excited, we had great tickets, and the music was starting. However, after about 45 seconds of this, with no end in sight, I started to worry this would not end. So rather than turning around and getting angry with the guy, I turned around started jumping up and down with the guy and joined in with his yelling. It took him a while to get it. I think he even tried to give me a hug, but eventually he took a breath and the guy with him said, “Can’t we just watch the show”. I replied, “Exactly!”, turned back around and enjoyed the music. This guy got fired up a couple more times, but at a much more tolerable level from that point on.

The second song was a very energetic acoustic version of Bartender with just Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. This songs starts with some unique guitar sounds with the help of a steel slide, monk-like chanting, and has a spiritual feels throughout the song. If being served wine by a bartender could only lead to resurrection we’d have one more reason to drink more wine!

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds play Bartender Sleep Train San Diego 2014

Although it was an acoustic set the full band was still out there for most of it. I would love to see more of the acoustic stuff! One of my favorites of this set was a song I had not heard before, Old Dirt Hill. As usual they played it much differently than the video I link to, but that is a great reason to see Dave Matthews live. I really love the lyrics to this song.

Dave Matthews acoustic set Old Dirt Hill Sleep Train September 2014

A couple of songs later came a fairly mellow song, Snow Outside. A song of how we change with commitment, and what we bring to a life together with another person. I have a reasonable video of it, but not the full song, and not as good of quality as the one I linked to, which had a very similar vibe.

Dave Matthews acoustic version of Snow Outside San Diego 2014.bmp

This was followed by Tripping Billies. I got a reasonable picture of Boyd Tinsley’s solo during this song. It’s hard to get a good clear picture, when he’s playing. Lot’s of motion!

Boyd Tinsley - Tripping Billies solo - San Diego September 2014

The electric set started with Minarets. After only about 30 seconds of “F**** Yeahs” from the the screamer, who had somehow ended up right behind me again after the break, he quieted down again. It was much less irritating since this was the electric set, and somehow it almost seemed to fit the moment. Still glad it didn’t go on for long!

Dave Matthew - Minarets - San Diego September 2014

There was a bit of a break after the first song, with Dave Matthews giving us some one liners. Of course that fired up the screamer’s “Give me some of that”… I was relieved when the final one liner came “OK, everyone take your medicine”, and the song When the world Ends kicked off.

Dave Matthews singing When the world Ends San Diego September 2014

The next song they played is my favorite Dave Matthew song to dance (really more just moving along) to – Seven.

Dave Matthews sings Seven at Sleep Train in Chula Vista CA.bmp

Apparently Dave Matthews likes to move to this song too. I got a good picture of him moving and pointing out into the crowd.

Dave Matthews points to the crowd during Seven - Chula Vista CA

Just a couple of songs later, they played my favorite song to sing along with – Crush. I got a couple of short videos of the song, but I ruined the intro to the first video by singing along. Never a good idea for me to sing near a mic! The song has a great violin solo near the end, that was absolutely amazing live.

Dave Matthews focused on the intro to Crush - San Diego September 2014.bmp

The next song, Digging a Ditch, has great lyrics. The song is is slow… deliberate and calming. A good anger management – take a break – be alone and clear your mind song! After a couple of energetic songs, it is also a good one for the band to cool off with!

Dave Matthews Digging a Ditch Chula Vista CA September 2014.bmp

A few songs later, toward the end of the electric set the band played a very dramatic (including the video backgrounds) of Drunken Soldier. I got some great video of the song and was able to get this screen cature… love it when you can see the sweat!

Dave Matthew Drunken Soldier - Sleep Train San Deigo - 5 September 2014.bmp

Drunken Soldier transitioned into a mellow, jazzy introduction for the Lovely Ladies as they joined the band on stage.

The Lovely Ladies join Dave Matthews on stage at the end of Drunken Soldier San Diego September 2014.bmp

There were few more songs to finish out the electric set, all with the Lovely Ladies, including a great cover of Sledgehammer to close out the second set.

Dave Matthews sings Sledge Hammer San Diego CA 2014

Dave came out alone to start the encore with a solo performance of Some Devil. A very simple but powerful song that quieted the crowd and got us ready for the next three songs of the encore.

Dave Matthews kicks off the encore with a solo vocal of Some Devil San Diego 2014.bmp

The next song, So Much to Say, was one of the few songs that I recorded more than 30 seconds of. I had a full 3 minutes recorded. If I had know how good the video would turn out I would have finished recording the complete song. I love the way this song starts, very simple, staccato guitar rhythm and Dave Matthew’s voice. The simple white lights were perfect for this song intro.

Dave Matthews So Much to Say intro San Diego CA 2014

The lyrics are about holding pain inside, and this leads to a very cool transition in the song. “Keep it locked up inside, don’t talk about it… talk about the weather!” Then the beat, changed, the rest of the band joined in, and even the lighting transitioned.

Dave Matthews So Much to Say transition San Diego 2014

The song’s vocal ends with a chorus of “So Much to Say”,

Dave Matthews So Much to Say chorus San Diego CA 2014

but the song’s instrumentals just transitioned straight into Anyone Seen the Bridge. I either snapped this picture of Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley during that instrumental or during the next song Too Much.

Dave Matthews and Boyd Tinsley jamming during the encore - San Diego 2014

I left my camera in my pocket for much of the encore, just enjoying the music and the night. A little dancing with Jenny, and a very satisfied feeling at the end of the show. What a great band, what terrific entertainers! This well definitely not be my last Dave Matthews concert!

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Note/Credit: Although I had quite a bit of video of the concert, putting everything in order, especially a couple of months later, would have been difficult without looking at the set list for this show. Most of my videos are partial songs as I like to capture the feel of the concert but still want to be able to just put the camera away and enjoy the moment. I did find several full song recordings from this concert and I linked to those versions of the songs when I found them. One that didn’t fit into the post was this one that included, Don’t Drink the Water and Drunken Soldier. It’s a little rough, but I like it, reminds me of being there!

We had covered a lot of ground on our very early morning 3 hour walking tour of Copenhagen. After I dropped my coworker at the airport and turned in the rental car, I took the train back to the hotel for a nap. I knew I would be limiting my options for the rest of the day, but it had been a long week and we only had about 4 hours of sleep before going out to walk around that morning. Although I planned to nap for 2-3 hours it was closer to a 4 hour nap and after 1 in the afternoon before I got back up. A shower cleared away the grogginess from the nap. It no longer looked like rain, but there was a cool breeze as I walked back over to the train station to head back downtown Copenhagen. I decided to ride past the first downtown station at Kongens Nytorv and to get off at the Nørreport metro station. As I walked out of the station I was surrounded by an overwhelming number of people on bikes and bikes parked everywhere. If you’ve never been there, it is hard to explain just how many bikes there are in the city of Copenhagen. I’ve looked through all my pictures and none of them come close to showing the sheer number of people on bikes and the number of bikes parked in every part of the city. Just outside the metro station there were several two level bike racks. This is a picture of just one of the bike racks nearby.

One of the bike racks in Copenhagen

The Nørreport metro station is near Rosenberg Castle, but it was nearly 3 before I got there and I didn’t want to take the time to do a tour, if I could even get in one at that point. I decided to check out some of the other parks/gardens we had not walked through during our early morning walk. The first one I walked into was Botanisk Have (Botanical Garden). There is an amazing variety of plants in this garden including waterlilies in the pond near the center of the garden.

Waterlilies in the Botanisk Have pond

I could also see the reflection of what looked like a large greenhouse on the pond. I later found out that this is one of the Faculty of Science buildings for the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building on the grounds of the botanical gardens

My favorite part of the Botanical Gardens was a fairly large hill with a meandering cobblestone path, a man-made stream (water feature), completely covered in very unique plants. I took several pictures the showed the paths and stream close up…

View of the path and stream Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

and with a wider perspective.

Wider view of the path and stream Botanical Garden Copenhagen

Most if not all of the unique plants in the Botanical Garden were labeled.

Most of the plants were labeled Botanical Garden Copenhagen

I wasn’t keeping notes, but I don’t remember seeing the same plant twice. There was quite a large variety of plants.

Large variety of plants Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I walked along the winding pathway…

Long meander path Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

I discovered favorite clusters of plants…

One of my favorite hillsides Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

sneak peaks of the unique buildings…

View of the buildings from the hillside Botanical Garden Copenhagen

and wider views of the unique buildings over very unique looking plants!

View of the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I made my way toward the Kastellet the next park I walked through was Østre Anlæg. There was a long angled pond in the middle of the park surrounded by trees. A much less formal and more kid friendly park than the Botanical Gardens.

Østre Anlæg

As I exited Østre Anlæg I crossed the street to a market area near a metro station. I decided to go in a get a sandwich and drink to enjoy as I walked around Kastellet. As usual there were tons of bikes parked in front of the metro station.

Bike rack in front of the Metro and market across from Østre Anlæg

I crossed the street again to the park path around Kastellet. I found a bench not too far along the path and had a seat to enjoy a late afternoon snack. I had a pretty nice view of the old windmill inside the fortress.

Windmill at Kastellet Copenhagen

Although we had walked partially around the Kastellet on our early morning visit we had not walked all the way around and it had been too early to walk inside at 5 in the morning. I started my walk about where we had left off earlier and walked across the moat bridge…

Kastellet moat bridge to south entrance

to the south entrance.

South Entrance to Kastellet

I carefully read the brief description of Kastellet, its history, and the fairly long list of rules for visitors.

Kastellet History and Rules Plaque Copenhagen

Inside the fortress walls are cobblestone streets between old red barracks.

Barracks inside Kastellet Copenhagen

and at the other end of the street a view of the Commander’s House.

The Commanders House Kastellet Copenhagen

Rather than walking out the south entrance, where we had already walked in the early morning, I decided to walk up the ramp to the eastern fortress walls. At of the five points of the star-shaped Kastellet, well at least the two I visited, is a cannon for defense of the fortress! This is a view of the cannon from the point of the Prinsessens Bastion.

View from Prinsessens Bastion of Kastellet

Not only was there a cannon, but they were prepared with a neat stack of cannonballs, just in case!

Kastellet cannon with a stack of rounds

You can walk all the way around the bastions of Kastellet, but I decided to just walk the eastern portion of the fortress from the south entrance back around to the north entrance where I had entered. I took my time and enjoyed the views inward and out across the moat. There were several types of wild flowers including these red poppies.

Poppies on the Bastion of Kastellet Copenhagen

My Grandmother was in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 50 years. I remember wearing a red Remembrance Poppy wrapped around a button on my shirt every Memorial Day growing up. Poppies have been a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in war since World War I. A poem “In Flanders Field”was in large part responsible for this association. Seeing these poppies growing on the sides of the Kastellet’s bastions brought a lot of memories back.

As I write this post it also brings up other fond memories of my Grandmother. My Grandmother, Mother, and my Aunt Betty visited us in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had a great time, but two things stick in my mind in particular. The first was a visit to the North Shore. It was the winter so they got to see the really huge surf that the North Shore of Oahu is so famous for. On the one beach we visited my Grandmother asked me if I would be going in for a swim. I looked at the waves which were very strong 6-8 feet swells with a big shore break and said that I better not. About 30 seconds later a young local girl walked past us. She could not have been more than 10 years old, maybe younger. She walked right into the water and swam out past the break to ride the swell up and down. I looked at my Grandma and said, “Well I guess I probably could go in…” She smiled and I got in the water. It looked a lot worse than it was. At another beach it was an even a little calmer and my Grandmother, in her late 70’s got her feet and legs wet in the water also!

The second story involved her service in the Women’s Auxiliary. While they were visiting us we went to the main Air Force Exchange at Hickam. In those days, they checked ID’s as you entered and you had to sign in guests if they did not have a military ID. As I signed them in, the woman at the door let them know that they could not buy anything and that I would get in trouble if they tried to. I’m not sure what we were looking for, probably just getting a few things for the beach. Anyway, after about 15 minutes I heard my name called over a public announcement, with instructions to come to the checkout area. My Grandmother had tried to buy a few things, nothing big. The clerk was explaining why she could not pay for her stuff and my Grandmother was explaining that she had been in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 35+ years and she thought it would be OK. I bought the stuff for her, she got to share the pride of her service, and I got a warm and lasting memory of my Grandmother!

There was a different model of cannon at the Gevens Bastion, and a view of St Albans Anglican Church where we had started our walk that morning.

The Cannon guarding Grevens Bastion Kastellet Copenhagen

As I left the star fortress of Kastellet, I turned east toward the water’s edge, then south to walk back toward Nyhavn on a slightly different path than we had taken on our earlier walk. As I approached the summer palace of Amalienborg, an impressive building to the east across the narrowing channel caught my eye. I later learned that this was the Copenhagen Opera House.

Copenhagen Opera House

As I turned and walked toward the entrance of the square in the center of Amalienborg, I stopped at a fountain to get this picture of the water rising from the fountain with the Marble Church visible on the other side of the square.

Marble Church viewed from the fountain on the east side of Amalienborg

I didn’t enter the square as we had been in there already, but I wanted to see Nyhavn with businesses open, and filled with people. Actually I couldn’t get enough of Nyhavn, before I left Copenhagen I would visit there at least 4 times. The skies were still cloudy, but the buildings are so brightly painted it is hard to tell.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

I walk the length of Nyhavn this time, and checked out some of the history of the place. One of my favorite places was this Gelato Shop!

Gelato shop Nyhavn Copenhagen

After the Gelato, I decided I needed to walk some more so I walked through the Strøget shopping district. Although these shops were open also, I was more in a walking mood than an shopping mood. I enjoyed the architecture and fountains of the Strøget area…

Fountain in the heart of the Stroget shopping district

and there were some unique coffee stands.

Interesting Coffee shops Copenhagen

However, I decided to just pass through and check out another park before the sun set. Ørstedsparken was one of my favorite parks in Copenhagen. It may just have been the early evening lighting, but I found the park relaxing, and very beautiful. I decided to head toward a walking bridge in the middle of the parks large pond.

Walking bridge in the distance in Ørstedsparken - Copenhagen

As I walked toward the bridge I was glad that it had drawn me deeper into the park. The views as I passed around the pond/lake were spectacular. On one side of the lake the dark greens of the plants and their reflection on the water contrasted with the white buildings in the distance.

Dark Green vegetation surrounding one end of the water in Ørstedsparken

As a passed the bridge and continued my walk around the entire lake the greens brighten, there were more flowers. This looks like a completely different place, but it is was just a different side of the same park.

Lighter green plants and blooms on the other end of Ørstedsparken

I had to cross the bridge before heading out of the park to see more of Copenhagen.

Crossing the bridge in the middle of Ørstedsparken

As I left the park it was starting to get darker, but I was not ready to head back, so I decided to head toward the Metro Station at the Forum which was past a series of lakes. When you see these on a map it looks like a portion of a river. It even feels like you are crossing a bridge over a river as you pass between the lakes on the road. As I passed between two of the lakes on a broad road I noticed an older lady feeding some swans. I don’t think I’ve every seen this many swans in one place before!

Swans in Peblinge Sø - Copenhagen

The rest of the walk to the Forum St Metro Station was pretty boring. I got on the train intending to head back to the hotel, but when I got to Metro stop at Kongens Nytorv I decided to take another look at Nyhavn. It had started to get very dark, but I was able to get this photo of the large anchor at one end of Nyhavn.

Nyhavn Anchor at night - Cpenhagen

Then it was time to head to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. I had a long flight the next day. Since I turned in so early I woke up fairly early again the next morning. I decided to check out of the hotel, check my bag with the concierge and head back to Nyhavn one more time to get that coffee I hadn’t been able to get the day before. I got off the train at Kongens Nytorv (Kings New Square) station again. The metro station is on one side of the square and Nyhavn is on the other. There are some beautiful building around the square. Because there was construction going on in the center of the square it was hard to capture the beauty of the whole place, so I took some close-ups of some of the buildings. The metro exit is very close to the Hotel D’Angleterre.

Hotel D'Angleterre - Copenhagen

I crossed the square on the south side and got a closer view of the front of the Royal Danish Theater.

A closer look at the inside of the domes on the front of the Royal Danish Theater Copenhagen

The coolest part of this building were the domed ceiling above the second story balconies on the front of the building. Very ornate.

Royal Danish Theater - Copenhagen

I walked down the “less busy” side of Nyhavn and found an open cafe. I had a pastry and coffee and talked with a mother and daughter from the US who were heading out on a cruise later in the day. The weather wasn’t forecast to be good, but they had booked months ahead! I wished them luck on the weather and started heading back to the metro station. It was time! I got a couple more good pictures with my phone. One showing a very nice docked sailboat.

Nice sailboat docked in Nyhavn

Then a final picture of the colorful buildings lining this small harbor.

Colorful Nyhavn

My one day in Copenhagen had absolutely been worth the delay in heading home and the few hundred dollars it cost me to stay an extra night and day. The city of Copenhagen is beautiful, and the culture is very different from San Diego’s. I had planned to hit a few of the main tourist spots – Kastellet, Nyhavn, and Strøget. Kastellet and Nyhavn were awesome, Strøget was OK, but since I wasn’t planning to do a lot of shopping, not on the top of my list. I would definitely like to visit Copenhagen again. Maybe as part of a trip to Norway and Sweden! The big surprise to me was how much I enjoyed the city’s many gardens. They were well maintained and very lush for a place with such a short growing season! I highly recommend a walking tour of Copenhagen’s gardens if you are lucky enough to spend some time there.

View to the west as we hiked along the Colorado on the Bright Angel Trail

We woke early (before 4:30 am) on Day 5 of our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike trip. I woke before the alarm sounded and pulled my equipment off the hooks on the wall next to my bunk so I could arrange it on my bunk. The bunk house was dark. I had expected more activity, even this early. I turned off my alarm and quietly prepared for the day. Sean and Mike were on top bunks also on the other side of the narrow walkway between the bunk-beds. I noticed Mike checking the time on his phone. He must have turned off his alarm to because it didn’t sound either. I climbed down off my bunk and noticed that the bunk below me was now empty. That guy got up early and must have been very quiet! I moved my stuff onto the empty bunk which made getting organized much easier. After my stuff was ready, I woke Sean up and had him hand me his things so I could pack for him while he put on his hiking boots.

We were out of the dorm in about 15 minutes, with all our gear. Only a few whispers had been exchanged. We walked toward the dining hall in the darkness to meet with Jenny. After dropping my gear with the others by one of the picnic tables I went to the back of the dining hall to pick up the bag lunches we we eat for lunch. I cooked up some instant oatmeal and coffee for a quick breakfast. After we redistributed some things and had the lunches stowed away in our small packs, we headed south toward the Colorado River crossing. We were on our way about 5:10 am, just a little before sunrise.

Leaving Phantom Ranch toward the Colorado River

We were to the Colorado and ready to cross a little after sunrise, although we would not see or feel the sun for several more hours thanks to the canyon walls.

The Silver Bridge crossing the Colorado River

Mike took a picture with a unique perspective of me crossing the bridge. I like the perspective, but I look a little like I’m waddling not walking. I don’t remember being sore at this point, so it must just be the angle…

Crossing the Colorado River on the Silver Bridge

The Bright Angel trail follows the Colorado for quite a ways after you cross the bridge.

Jenny and Eric Rial on the Bright Angel Trail above the Colorado river

Although we weren’t in the sun, it was lighting up parts of the canyon ahead of us as we hiked beside the river.

The Colorado winding through the Grand Canyon beside the Bright Angel Trail

It was much further than I remembered before we turned uphill, but eventually we did turn up hill. Jenny was happy to be going uphill after the long downhill hike the day before. She prefers the uphills to going down hill. I have no problems with downhill hikes, but was not looking forward to the steady climb ahead of us. The switchbacks make it easier, but eventually, after enough of them, you still feel it!

Switchbacks as you move away from the Colorado and climb on the Bright Angel Trail

Based on my memories of this hike last time, the I knew that as we got higher up the views would be pretty much the same as you looked out on the canyon, but before Indian Garden there would be some interesting and different views along the trail.

The group as we head up Bright Angel Trail June 3rd 2014

Another of my favorite parts of the hike is a little less than a mile before Indian Garden. There is a creek beside the trail and the trail curves along a canyon wall with the creek well below the trail. There is a small waterfalls and trees. It’s a cool place.

Small water falls along Bright Angel Trail a little ways below Indian Garden

Speaking of cool things, if there is a favorite part of this hike you want to share with someone, or you want to relive the whole trail yourself in the comfort of your home, check out the Google Street views of the Bright Angel trail. They also have street views for the South Kaibab trail and the area around Phantom Ranch. Here is the Google street view for the same location where the last picture was taken (click and hold the mouse button then move the mouse to “look around”).  I guess I can leave my camera in my pocket next time!

We had lunch at Indian Gardens on these benches.

Benches at Indian Gardens Campground

We had some shade, and the squirrels were entertaining when they weren’t annoying. They obviously live on human food obtained from inattentive hikers. They didn’t get any of ours but we saw one squirrel nab a bag of drink mix from some ladies over by the corral. He carried it in to a thick bush across the trail from us. That’s when it got interesting. A crow, obviously very interested in nabbing some human food too, hopped… cawing all the way over to the bush. Unbelievably the crow actually squirmed its way into the bush. There was lot’s of cawing, and rustling in the bush, but we never learned the outcome of the struggle! In such tight quarters, my money was on the squirrel.

After lunch we were back on the trail. It was a little after 10 am and we were about half way, but most of the climbing and heat was ahead of us.

A mule train passed us just as we were leaving Indian Gardens. Not sure I would enjoy a long ride on one of these, but on long backpack trips I’ve definitely considered getting a pet mule (to carry my pack)!

Mule Train near Indian Gardens June 3rd 2014

There was little to no shade once we left Indian Gardens, and no stream to cool off in so we took our time, rested in the shade, and used some of our water to keep our hats and shirts wet. This helped keep us cool, and making steady progress. There is an open canyon south of Indian Gardens as you climb the Bright Angel Trail.

View into the canyon south of Indian Gardens

At this part of the day it is dry, hot, and there is little shade to be found until you get to the end of this canyon. And then at the end of the canyon you get to climb seemingly endless switchbacks!

Switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail above Indian Gardens

Not too far after this first set of switchbacks is the 3 mile rest house. The reason Bright Angel trail is “the way to hike out of the Grand Canyon” to the south is the regular water stops. After Indian Gardens there is a water stop every 1.5 miles. The South Kaibab trail has no water stops! I hope to hike into the canyon on that trail one day, but I’m sure I won’t be hiking out that way.

We took full advantage of the rest houses on the way out of the canyon. We had no stew dinner reservation driving us, and at a certain point, usually around 4, it starts to cool off and the sun sinks far enough in the west to put parts of the trail back into the shade.

Although it feels like you are making good progress, all you have to do is look up, and you realize there is still a lot more switchbacks in your future!

Jenny and Sean taking a break on the Bright Angel Trail

But we kept climbing!

Jenny and Sean ahead of me on the Bright Angel trail

By the time we reached the 1.5 mile rest house we were pretty hot and tired. It was around 2:30. My cousin Mike had hiked ahead of us after Indian Garden, and we had no “time goal” for finishing. We decided to hang out in the rest house for at least an hour to let the sun move a bit further to the west. We actually rested there for a little over any hour, and it was time well spent. Less than 15 more minutes up the trail we were back in the shade!

Entering the late afternoon shade on the Bright Angel Trail

At this point we could see the last big set of switchbacks ahead of us. This is also one of my favorite parts of the trail. The trail seems to dead-end into the shear white limestone walls.

Entering the late afternoon shade on the Bright Angel Trail

The same limestone walls frame the terrific view near the top of the switchbacks.

Near the top of the last set of switchbacks close to the top of the Bright Angel Trail

You know you are getting close to the top of the trail by the number of fresh looking/smelling people you see.

Nearing the top of the Bright Angel Trail

Even though I knew we were close to the top, when I saw the outcropping with the square tunnel in it in the distance I was extremely happy! We had made it!

Sqare Tunnel in limestone outcropping very near the top of Bright Angel Trail

All that was left to do was smile for the group picture at the tunnel…

Group picture at the tunnel near the top of Bright Angel trail

and at the Bright Angel trailhead sign.

Tired - Happy - Successful Rim to Rim hikers

I had given the keys to the Jeep to Mike before he went ahead of us, so we had to reconnect with him before checking in to the hotel. Mike had finish about 3 hours ahead of us. He got his picture at the tunnel…

Mike at the tunnel near the end of the Bright Angel Trail

and at the trailhead sign (a slightly different one).

Mike at the Bright Angel trailhead sign

Then he had headed to the pub! We got him on the phone and arranged meeting at the car (about a half mile from the trailhead). We drove back and parked right beside the Thunderbird (score on the good parking spot), then went to the Bright Angel lodge desk to check in. We were happy to be staying at the Thunderbird because the rooms were all air-conditioned. We had a non-air conditioned room at Maswik Lodge the first night at the Grand Canyon, and it had been uncomfortably hot all night long. Even though it got into the 40’s outside the room, and we left the window open, it had stayed in the 90 degree range all night in the room. After checking in, we grabbed our “fresh clothes” bags from the car and headed to the room.

As soon as I walked in to our room at the Thunderbird I got concerned. It was unbearably hot in the room. I checked the A/C controls, then I called the front desk! The A/C was broken, and would not be fixed! I was sounding terrible on the phone. My laryngitis was in full swing so my voice was a barely audible gravely whisper. I asked if there were any rooms available with A/C. They said there were, but only a couple of suites in the El Tovar Hotel. One suite had only one bed – a king bed but no room for 2 rollout beds. The other was the Presidential Suite! The woman on the phone was very sympathetic and said she would contact the manager and let us know if they could give us a break on the price. She called back just before I was ready to call and just pay full price. She said they would give us a really good price break for the one night. So we moved into the El Tovar Presidental Suite!

Our feet were a bit sore so as we checked in we asked if we could get reservations at the El Tovar dining room. Apparently this is easier to do last-minute when you are staying in the Presidential Suite. We had an hour to get ready. The room was amazing, the A/C felt great, and the very delayed shower felt even better! There was room for a very large party on the room’s balcony. I had taken a picture of the balcony, but it was hard to tell the size with no one there. So… Jenny looks very refreshed from her shower standing on the balcony!

Jenny on the balcony of our room at the El Tovar

Our dinner reservations were for 9 pm, and even though the showers had been refreshing and invigorating, we were pretty tired as we headed for dinner. We order salads with our dinner and had a fun conversation with our waiter. He had worked here for over 30 years and had lots of good stories. My favorite was the time, the first summer he worked here, that he and a couple of friends decided to make a lunch and “walk down to the river”. It was all fun and games going down and at the river. They thought they were giving themselves plenty of time to go back up, but realized very soon that hiking up was much tougher than hiking down. It was dark and very cold by they time they got out. They didn’t have coats or flashlights. Lesson learned!

Jenny and I had beer with our meals. We devoured the salads, but by the time the main course came all of us were done! No one managed to eat even half of their meal. It was enjoyable though and we had only a short walk back to the room and our nice comfortable beds in our nice cool room! What a great night’s sleep!

In the morning I woke about 45 minute before everyone else. I made a coffee with the Keurig coffee maker in the main room and went out to sit on the balcony. What a great place to relax and enjoy the morning. The balcony had a tremendous view of the canyon. I tried out the Panoramic Mode on my cell phone to get this picture.

Panoramic picture from the balcony of the Presidential Suite at the El Tovar

I had been sold on the A/C so this was just frosting! Very relaxed morning. Jenny was next up and she joined me for coffee.

Jenny having coffee on the balcony of our room

We all enjoyed the room and the views that morning, but eventually it was time to hit the road back to San Diego. We took one last group picture of the hiking Amigos y Amiga before checking out of the room.

One more group picture on our balcony at the El Tovar

I don’t know when I’ll be back to the Grand Canyon again. I do know that if you haven’t been you should go. If you have been there you should go again. Originally this was going to be my first rim to rim to rim hike. A cold that just would not go away (some antibiotics finally did it in a couple of weeks later) got in the way of that goal. So one of these days I’ll go back and I’ll get to hike down the South Kaibab Trail, up the North Kaibab Trail, then I’ll get to turn around and go back. Until then I have lots of great memories of this hike and the last one.

The group crossing a bridge in the slot canyons on the North Kaibab trail

I divided day 4 of our trip and day 1 of our rim to rim hike into 2 posts because it was a long hike and I had hundreds of pictures. I originally planned to divide the post at Cottonwood Campground because that is the halfway point for the hike, but probably 80% of the pictures I took were from the North Rim to Roaring Springs, so I decided to divide the posts at Roaring Springs. See Part 1 of the day at: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 1: North Rim to Roaring Springs)

As you head from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch the surroundings make two significant changes. The first happens just before Roaring Springs. The steep canyon walls spread out and the trail is no longer right against the wall of the canyon. It is also drier with less vegetation, although there is actually a creek along the rest of the trail to Phantom Ranch.

The North Kaibab trail moves away from the canyon wall before Roaring Spring

The second change happens a few miles past Cottonwood Campground as you enter a long and winding slot canyon for most of the rest of the hike to Phantom Ranch (see the picture at the top of the post).

My least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail is between Roaring Springs and the start of the slot canyons. It is not as visually spectacular as the first part of the trail and for us it was also the hottest part of the hike. We started at the North Rim just before 6 am and got to Roaring Springs just before 10. Five miles in 4 hours is a pretty slow pace. We had definitely been camera happy hikers! We also spent way too much time at Roaring Springs. We did not leave Roaring Springs until around 11:30. I’m glad we took some time to look around as I’m unlikely to hike down that part of the trail again, but it cost us time and put us right in the hottest part of the day for this part of the trail!

A regular water stop is less than a mile past the turnoff for Roaring Springs at the Pump House residence.

Pump house residence behind the bathrooms

We arrived there around noon and stayed for a snack and some Gatorade. The water was working when we got there but stopped working a couple of minutes later. There were some very disappointed people once the water went off. We had fully filled up at Roaring Springs so we knew we would be good for the rest of the hike if necessary. I also had a filter system we could use to get water from the creek if there were no other options. After a short break we got back on the trail.

Cottonwood Campground is less than 2 miles beyond this point. Although it is dry and my least favorite part of the North Kaibab Trail there was still some interesting parts of the trail.

There is a small waterfalls on Bright Angel creek not too much further down the trail. I’ve taken pictures of it both times I’ve hiked the North Kaibab trail.

Small falls along the North Kaibab trail

However, when you take a picture of this falls from the trail (above the falls) it does not show the true scale of the falls. It looks much smaller than it is in most pictures. I used a Google image search to find a a picture on another WordPress blog that shows the true scale of the falls and you can check out the whole post here.

A little further down the trail this overhang provided some shade…

Overhang provided shade for a short was on the hot part of North Kaibab trail

but most of this part of the trail was in full sun and hot!

Dry hot North Kaibab trail between Roaring Springs and Cottonwood

We ate lunch at Cottonwood Campgrounds.

Eating lunch at Cottonwood Campground

The main watering point in the Campgrounds was not working, but there is a second watering point between the picnic area and the creek. We were able to top off our water containers there. There was a lot of air in the pipe though so the water looked cloudy for about 30 seconds after filling the containers, but eventually cleared up.

We also splashed creek water on our hats and shirts. The heat was taking a toll on all of us, but on my wife especially. Her face was red, and she was noticeably tired. We had trained in 90+ degree temperatures, but it was now well over 100. We spent about 30 minutes at Cottonwood and then hit the trail again. The trail starts to head uphill a little ways outside of the campgrounds. At this point Jenny said that she was feeling nauseous. I wanted to go back and cool off some more but she wanted to keep going. I agreed but let her know we would be finding some shade by the creek when we came back down the hill on the other side. By the time we got over the hill we were all overheated. After about 5 minutes by the creek Jenny wanted to get moving again. I think she wanted to get it over with. I wanted to be sure she was cooled off and safe. At this point in the day it was going to be getting cooler, not hotter as time went by. I suggested we wait at least 30 minutes, stay in the shade and splash lots of water on our clothing. I got a little bored and took this picture of a dragon-fly. I didn’t notice until a little later that my camera had accidentally been put in a mode that took pictures with a sepia tint!

Dragonfly on a rock in Bright Angel Creek

We all felt much better after we cooled down. We were also only about a 30 minute hike to the entrance of the slot canyon part of the trail and the shade!

Near the start of the slot canyons on North Kaibab Trail

We arrived at this point around 4:00 PM. We still had about 3.5 miles to go, and we needed to be at Phantom Ranch by 6:30 for our stew dinner reservations! I was more than a little concerned. We didn’t have a back up plan for food! Jenny was feeling and looking much better. Not sure what got in to her, but as soon as we got to the shade, she just took off!

Jenny took off like it was a race in the slot canyons

Every time I stopped for a picture I had to run to catch up! She was a woman on a mission! I did manage to get her to take one picture of us guys…

The guys on the North Kaibab Trail

but then she took off again.

I was happy to see her back to normal, but didn’t want to blast right through this part of the trail without any pictures. There was one familiar place not too much further down the trail.

A familiar spot in the slot canyons on the North Kaibab Trail

I took a couple of pictures at this point. One of the pictures was only about 5 feet before a place where my friend Dave took a picture of me in 2010.

Eric Rial On the North Kaibab Trail October 2010

I had to run after this point and caught the group at the first bridge in the slot canyons.

First bridge in the Slot canyons on North Kaibab trail

Although we were tired, the shade was helping and the trail was once again spectacular. My laryngitis had worsened and I was having a hard time even whispering, but that didn’t get in the way of my excitement to be here! As I approached the bridge I was starting to catch up, but paused long enough for this shot. The view was as invigorating as it is beautiful.

View from the first bridge

Just around the next corner a large overhang above the trail was equally inspiring.

Rocks form a large overhang above the North Kaibab trail in the slot canyons

The trail rose a little ways above Bright Angel Creek and I paused for another picture.

The trail rises above Bright Angel creek in the slot canyons on North Kaibab trail

Although I wanted to catch up to share my excitement, I didn’t want to miss any good views, so I settled in to being behind the group for much of the rest of the hike. The trail crosses from one side of the canyon to the other on a series of bridges in this section of the trail.

Second Bridge on the North Kaibab trail in the slot canyon

It started to become more challenging to get good pictures as the shadows started to deepen on the walls of the canyon.

Shadows begin to deepen in the slot canyon on North Kaibab trail

Some of the pictures, when the higher walls of the canyon were brighter than the walls below, needed a little help from Photoshop Elements to remove the shadows and reveal the details as we could see them. When this happens I usually make sure the bright parts of the picture are properly exposed because the pictures turn out much better. Removing the shadows turns out well, but it is not possible to recover the details from an overexposed part of the picture. As the shadows deepened, this is about as good as the camera could do.

Shadows begin to deepen in the slot canyon on North Kaibab trail

But the details are not lost in the underexposed areas of the picture. Lightening the dark areas with Photoshop Elements reveals all the details we could see with our eyes.

Canyon with all the details we could see with our eyes

I had warned everyone that although the slot canyons offered shade, a fairly level trail, and terrific scenery, it would seem to go on and on forever. I started playing a game in my mind trying to remember how and when it ended. If the canyon started to widen…

The slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail widens in some areas

I would take that as a sign we were nearing the end. But then the walls would rise and narrow again!

The slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail narrows again

I would try to remember at each bridge if it was the one “I remembered” to be the last bridge.

The third bridge in the North Kaibab slot canyon

I started to realize that my memory of this part of the trail was not that good. Just when I started to think that it would go on forever, and that this bridge probably wasn’t the “last bridge”…

The fouth bridge in the North Kaibab slot canyon

and that this widening of the canyon couldn’t be the one I remembered just before we got out of the slot canyon last time…

Another widening of the slot canyon on the North Kaibab trail

we finally turned that last turn in the slot canyon and emerged into a much wider part of the canyon! I knew this meant we would be seeing Phantom Ranch very soon. I was very glad when the Phantom Ranch sign just ahead on the trail confirmed to me that my memory had not failed me again.

Phantom Ranch sign just ahead on the North Kaibab Trail

We passed the dorms we would be sleeping in a few minutes later…

Passing the Phantom Ranch Dorms

and headed right to the dinner room for our stew dinner! We dropped our gear and made it to our seats by 6:40, only ten minutes late. After a 15 mile hike (including the 1 mile detour to the Roaring Springs water stop) we were done for the day. I’ve never had a better tasting stew in my life. Jenny had two helpings! We shared stories with the other hikers at our tables, spent a little time talking about what to do after dinner to make sure we were settled in, and made a basic plan for the morning.

The dorms are segregated by sex so Jenny would be in a different dorm than us. We planned to meet at the picnic tables in front of the dining hall at 5:15 to have a quick breakfast, pack the bag lunches we had ordered for our day two lunch, and do any last-minute organizing of our packs.

After dinner we settled in to our dorms, put on some sandals and headed to Bright Angel creek to soak our feet. The last time we did the rim to rim hike we camped at the Bright Angel Creek Campgrounds right next to a great spot to soak in the cold water. It was later this time because we got in later and then dinner and settling in took even more time, but it still felt great!

My cousin Mike wasted no time getting in.

Mike cooling off in Bright Angel Creek

I was a little slower and more tentative, but decided to just have a seat in the water!

Mike and Eric in the Creek

It felt great on my feet and legs.

A long soak in the cold water felt good

I had a nice view up Bright Angel Creek to the bridge…

View up the Bright Angel Creek while soaking

and the view in the other direction was pretty cool too.

View down the Bright Angel Creek while soaking

Jenny and Sean soaked their feet on the banks of the creek.

Sean enjoying the cool water of Bright Angel Creek on his feet

After about 20 minutes everyone else was ready to go, I could have sat there for much longer! But it was time to head back to the bunk houses, take hot showers, get somewhat organized for the morning, and then get some sleep. The dorms have evaporative cooling systems, so it was nice and cool all night long. It took a few minutes to go to sleep, but once I was out slept very well until the alarm went off at 4:30 am!

On Day 1 we had hiked from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch on the North Kaibab trail. We walked 15 miles, dropped 5800 feet in elevation, and experienced a 50+ degree increase in temperature. Day 2 would be the hike out on the Bright Angel trail. The trail covers 9 miles and a 4400 foot increase in elevation.

Next post in this series:  Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 5-6 – Phantom Ranch to the South Rim)

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