Adventure & Hiking

Woodsy Weekend

It's been a long time since I've written anything here. I've been wanting to get back to this blog, but it's just easier to post a quick photo on Instagram. Yet, I want to get back to it so here it is.

A couple weekends ago, I spent time in the woods with my husband and dog. I am starting to think we have a knack for finding the best spots on Airbnb and VRBO. Sure, there are amazing $400 a night places that look like a dream, but the ones we find are way better than pictured and a lot less money.

Our actual back deck view.

Our actual back deck view.

We headed past the Golden Gate Bridge, which is always good in my book. I can't count the times I've said I could live in Marin or Sonoma County, which my husband laughs at. You'd understand why if you were familiar with Marin housing prices! They should give me a discount because, you know, my name :) This area has the best mix of ocean, forest, river, farm fresh food and seafood. Maybe all I need in the world.

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I loved this corner of the cabin: a purple and orange cat painting with records (including Patti Smith, Sam Cooke, Leadbelly and George Harrison). Listening to records while painting and looking at the view in the first picture was pretty much the best way to spend the day.

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With this painting, I wanted to keep it super loose and maybe even abstracted. I tried painting it once and realized the green chair was too big, so I started it over. It turned out way more detailed than I wanted it to be. I have been thinking about this lately.: how I want to keep things loose and wild, but they end up rendered and as they should be. Maybe I shouldn't fight how I naturally paint?

These Douglas Iris were everywhere

These Douglas Iris were everywhere

There were a million wildflowers out: Indian Paintbrush, Douglas Iris, yarrow, poppies and many more. We tried to go on the Chimney Rock hike in Point Reyes, but they don't allow dogs. I plan on going back next weekend since the hike supposedly has over 90 types of wildflowers!

So many poppies.

So many poppies.

Pride of Madeira shrub

Pride of Madeira shrub

Ice plants in Point Reyes 

Ice plants in Point Reyes 

This was one of the prettiest places I have ever been. The water was a mix of blue and aqua, flowers in full bloom and waves crashing around. I love these kinds of "you can tell the earth is round from up here" views.

An imperfect photo of a perfect sunset in Stinson Beach.

An imperfect photo of a perfect sunset in Stinson Beach.

We stopped in Bolinas for beach time and dinner at my favorite Coast Cafe. Then watched the sunset along 1 at Stinson Beach. Best weekend ever!

Mammoth Weekend

Oh man, I went on the best camping trip last weekend. I can't believe all the amazing things we saw and did in under 48 hours. We left Friday night and headed back Sunday morning, but even in that short a time we covered a lot of ground: sunsets, sunrises, guns, hot spring and on and on. Every time I get away camping, I come back reinvigorated and new. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed by what I saw and experienced, when I return home I feel like my art seems so insignificant in comparison. As if there is something that draws me to be back out there and not at a desk painting. Then, that feeling goes away and I get back to work. 

Lately, I think I should have been a park ranger or professional road tripper. I think I could camp and be on the road most of the time. The textures, colors and smells are so much better than what I experience in San Jose. It isn't until you get out of town that you realize how the murky air quality is in the valley. Everything feels so big and magnificent on the open road.

The road to Mammoth Lakes

The road to Mammoth Lakes

The drive out to the Yosemite and Mammoth is actually really unpleasant. The central valley is hot, flat, dry and boring in my opinion. Once you get to about Oakdale, the landscape includes some hills and trees finally, but really doesn't get nice until you get to Yosemite, which we had to drive through to get to Mammoth. It's always beautiful there. The picture above is from the 395, past Yosemite.

School bus and cows

School bus and cows

The dirt road to our primitive backroad campsite was rocky and even had some potholes and bumps. Probably best navigated by a 4x4 and not the Honda Civic we were in, but we did ok. There was a school bus parked by the river and surrounded by cows. 

The view from the road on the way to our campsite was something else. The granite peaks are nearly as beautiful as Yosemite, but without all the crowds. I just missed shooting a pic of them lit pink by the setting sun. Still even the dusk colors and valley were really pretty. 

We stopped and caught this alien sunset. The elongated orb clouds looked like UFO's. 

On Saturday, our only full day, we drove to Convict Lake, where we had a whole beach to ourselves. The water was cold and the mountains were high. 

Later this day we drove to a makeshift shooting range and shot some of our friend's guns. It's a little scary for me since they are dangerous and I don't feel very experienced or that I have much control over them. Luckily, our friend knows a lot about them and it was super fun!

I almost skipped waking up at dawn to watch the sunrise from the hot spring, something we planned by the campfire the night before. A friend came by my tent to wake me up, but I declined at first. As I lay there looking at this I thought "What the hell am I doing?" and jumped out of the tent to head down to the hot spring. I walked alone and didn't know where it was, but had an idea. It was a little eerie. When I got to the spring, the others mentioned hearing a pack of coyotes when they woke up and on their walk down. So glad I didn't hear them! I may not have trekked down myself.

And yes, it was totally worth it. It was definitely the best natural hot spring I had been to. Only four of us made it down and we were rewarded with this. 

I'm a huge fan of watching the sunrise while camping and hiking. The colors of everything are completely different from the daytime. 

Friends weren't kidding when they said that Mono Lake is like the moon. It's a strange and still place. 

It reminded me a lot of the Salton Sea, another desolate and salty body of water. Mono Lake is a pretty fascinating place and you can read more about it here

And by the way, we never made it to Mammoth Lakes, just nearby. Next time I want to check those out and the Devil's Post Pile, an amazing rock formation in the area. I definitely want to go back next year. 

Ohlone Wilderness Trail

DAY 1 - To Eagle Spring Backpack Camp

Ready to hit the trail

Ready to hit the trail

Our friends Chris and Claudine invited us on a backpacking trip to the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. It's a 30 mile hike through mountains in the East Bay. I had read the words "grueling" and "strenuous" and knowing the late June weather in this area, I figured it would be tough. It ended up being harder than I thought!

It had been a few years since I backpacked anywhere. Some things I love about it: 

  • The scenery. You see so much more than you would from regular day hiking trails and we didn't see very many people on the trail.
  • Getting away from society, technology (with the exception of taking photos), traffic, etc.
  • Realizing you don't need much, just everything on your back including water, shelter and food.

For the trip, we bought new packs, a camp stove, food and breathable clothing. We already had just about everything else. Our food consisted of dehydrated meals, food bars and trail mix. 

Ohlone Wilderness Trail map

Ohlone Wilderness Trail map

To show how far we went, the lower left green corner is the out and back 5.6 mile Mission Peak hike. We went all the way to the upper right to Lake Del Valle. I guess it was like doing Mission Peak 5 times in one weekend?!

Heading for the hills

Heading for the hills

On Friday evening, we started up the trail to Mission Peak. I've done this hike for the full moon before and the light is always so beautiful at this time of day.

Sunset on the way to Mission Peak

Sunset on the way to Mission Peak

The sunsets are spectacular at Mission Peak. You see the city lights start to turn on and the sky change color. I'm not sure of this plant's name, but it was growing all over the area. 

Claudine under the moon

Claudine under the moon

Pink clouds and a waxing moon

Pink clouds and a waxing moon

The valley view. Photo by  Bryan Lopez .

The valley view. Photo by Bryan Lopez.

It's amazing how peaceful it is up above the valley. The people, traffic and density down there becomes a blur of beautiful sparkling lights.

 

Day 2 Eagle Spring to Maggie's Half Acre at Rose Peak

We woke up to this view from the tent. In my book, backpacking is worth the sunrises and sunsets alone. This was my first time with an almost completely sheer tent and this is the way to go. It's like sleeping under a mosquito net so you get the great views without the bites.

Our morning tent view

Our morning tent view

We got started around 7:30am after a not so great night's sleep. We had a lot of miles to cover, so we got a decently early start after having some coffee and breakfast.

Breakfast before heading out. Photo by  Bryan Lopez .

Breakfast before heading out. Photo by Bryan Lopez.

A little bit of shade on the trail

A little bit of shade on the trail

The views from the trail just a few hours after leaving the Eagle Spring Backpack Camp. It was shady and still not too hot at this point in the morning. 

Cows galore in this region

Cows galore in this region

The wildlife we saw included turkey vultures when we reached the top of a mountain. They were so close above us. The boys saw a grey fox (at least that's what I think it was from their description). We never saw any rattlesnakes or mountain lions, but that's probably a good thing. 

Rolling fog

Rolling fog

We could see the fog in the distance, as well as the bay, the windmills of Altamont Pass, downtown San Jose and Mount Diablo. 

22 and we need to get to 40! Photo by  Bryan Lopez .

22 and we need to get to 40! Photo by Bryan Lopez.

The mile markers were such a welcome sight. Toward the end of the hike, we would cheer when we found them. 

Color iridesence in the clouds

Color iridesence in the clouds

Do you see the pink and aqua clouds in the sky? We kept seeing these surreal rainbow colors in the clouds. It's called cloud iridescence and is caused by tiny water droplets in the clouds. 

As we got closer to our next overnight destination, I was surprised to find pine trees mixed in with the oaks. It reminded me of Bonny Doon, near Santa Cruz, where I spent a lot of time as a kid. 

Camp at Maggie's Half Acre

Camp at Maggie's Half Acre

We were so beat when we finally arrived at Maggie's Half Acre. At this point, there were a lot more pine trees and it was really beautiful despite the mosquitos. A little while after we had this view, the sunset became the most beautiful, fiery pink and orange. It was one of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen. We fell asleep right after. 

In the middle of the night, I woke up to sprinkles of rain (remember that sheer tent from earlier?). I was so surprised by this, I didn't think it was rain at first. I tried to wake Bryan up, but he was dead asleep and we were laying on the rainfly. I was so tired I just pulled the sleeping bag over my head, hoping it wouldn't start pouring! 

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This pond looked dry, but pretty in the landscape. I was amazed by these little areas of water up here since it's mostly so dry. 

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It was incredible to find this lily pond in the middle of all the dryness. Water lilies are so perfect and pristine looking among the rather scummy algae of the pond and the bleak, dry grass. 

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Another pond reflecting the sky. The sky was a pretty unbelievable shade of blue from up here. 

As you can probably guess, it was really hot up here. When the clouds covered the sun, we were thankful. When the sun came back out, it was quite brutal. 

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This map shows where we are headed below: Lake Del Valle in the distance. Still aways to go. At this point, our legs were killing us, it was hot and that lake just wasn't close enough. 

Getting closer to the lake.

Getting closer to the lake.

We kept getting glimpses of the lake. This taunting was only made worse by seeing the steep downgrade to get to the lake. I'm not going to lie, the downhill on this hike is a killer. 

Bryan's approval. Photo by  Bryan Lopez .

Bryan's approval. Photo by Bryan Lopez.

We made it! After grumbling down the last few miles of the trail, wanting to give up, we made it to the parking lot and then jumped in the lake. It was the perfect reward for our blistered feet and fatigued muscles. It's amazing how quickly water heals you.

That's my little head above water. Photo by  Bryan Lopez .

That's my little head above water. Photo by Bryan Lopez.

No matter how grueling or how sore I am, I always feel an incredible sense of accomplishment the day after backpacking. We did 4 miles the first night, 16 miles the second day and 10 miles the third day, with many elevation changes. I thought of not going because I thought it would be too hot. Thanks to Bryan, Chris and Claudine for making it happen.

I am looking forward to planning another trip this summer, but I bet it will be an easier one than this!

Purisima Creek Redwoods Hike

We knew it was going to rain on Sunday, but thought that would make for an extra magical hike. I had been wanting to do a trail at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve for awhile now. I always pass it on my long solo drives up Skyline and have suspected there is a killer ocean view. It was super chilly and luckily I had a bag of clothes to donate in the trunk so I could add extra layers!

There's just something about moss. 

There's just something about moss. 

One of my favorite places to search for hikes is Bay Area Hiker. I went on the second hike in that link. I made the mistake of not reading where the trailhead was, instead just pulling off at the Purisima Creek parking lot. This meant that what I thought was a 7-mile hike was actually an almost 10-mile. It wasn't a big deal, we just had to be somewhere at 3pm and ended up being late. It all worked out though. All in all we did the loop of Harkins Ridge to Purisima Creek to the Craig Britton Trail. 

Return of the Jedi?

Return of the Jedi?

At first, the hike brought me right back to the Pacific Northwest. I lived there in junior high and have camped the overcast West Coast many times. Definitely planning a trip there in the fall. Also, every time I get in the redwoods, I think of Return of the Jedi. I probably watched it too much as a kid.

Foggy hillside

Foggy hillside

Layers of hills 

Layers of hills 

First glimpse of the sea

First glimpse of the sea

The trail was a bit of a roller coaster, going up and down to get to views of the ocean, fog settling in between the pines. The hike dips down to Purisima Creek, with lush ferns and banana slugs everywhere. 

Purisima Creek

Purisima Creek

I saw a salamander, tons of banana slugs and wildflowers including, poppies, wild irises, Indian paintbrush and baby blue eyes. 

Little salamander on its way

Little salamander on its way

Wild irises

Wild irises

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

Sea view

Sea view

Bryan and closed poppies. 

Bryan and closed poppies. 

This is one of the best hikes in the area. My legs are still super sore two days later. I didn't fully time it, but it took somewhere around 4 hours. It's totally worth it for the workout, views and variation. The last leg of the hike was on the Craig Britton Trail where a dedicated bench plaque reads, "They aren't making any more land, so preserve it while you can!"

True, true.