Sunday, October 18, 2015

Upon a Mountain Top

We absolutely love hiking. And the Bay is a great place to have adventurous hikes. Since it has been a while since we completed these hikes, I don't know if I'll have a lot of details about each, so I figured I would clump them together in one blog post. 

Hike #1

For my birthday we hiked to Alamere Falls, which is a gorgeous waterfall that lands on the beach. How cool is that? A beach waterfall. The 8 mile hike is relatively easy, and you hardly notice the gradual inclines/declines throughout the path. 
As you hike, you get a great view of Bass Lake, although you don't really hike near to the water, it is a nice view. Alamere Falls is a HUGE tourist destination, but a lot of people don't come prepared. 8 miles is a long time if you don't have water or food. There were three girls hiking about the same pace as us that looked as though they were going to pass out. They stopped at a rock during the hike and they began asking if anyone had brought water. Only one of them had a single Aquafina bottle in her bag. I felt bad that both Caitlin and I were carrying at least 2 liters of water each. But we didn't offer any water. Survival of the fittest, right? And plus, wouldn't that have been odd to have some strangers offer to let you suck out of their Camel Packs? Yeah, we didn't want to be creepy while hiking. 
The trail is fairly wide for the first few miles, and then the trail diverts into a narrow (seriously narrow) path that winds toward the waterfalls. For how popular this place is, I'm surprised that it doesn't have a wider path, even if the Parks Department didn't widen it, just for the sheer amount of people that visit every year. I had a lot more pictures of this narrow trail, and of the waterfall on the beach - but I lost the memory card that had all of those pictures. A serious tragedy - but luckily Caitlin took some great pictures. 
Once you get to the first set of waterfalls (there are several) the hike turns in to a bit of rock climbing. We knew this coming into the hike, so we felt pretty sure footed as we descended toward the beach. The waterfalls were breathtaking, and since (as always) we were there around 7:00 in the morning, nobody else was at the falls, nor on the beach.
My little brother gave us a selfie stick when we visited last year for Christmas, and this hike was the first time we took it out and snapped some pictures. And of course, it broke while we were trying to use it, so we ended up using a bandaid to stick my phone to the stick (again, most pictures are lost with my memory card). I actually loved how some of the selfie stick pictures turned out. I did not love how I felt while using a selfie stick. Those sticks make me feel like I'm doing life wrong. 
Anyway, once we got down to the beach we enjoyed watching the waves for a little bit, snapped a photo of me super excited to celebrate my birthday outside, enjoyed a picnic, and then hiked back up and out.
On the way back, there were HUNDREDS of people hiking to the falls. We were on the beach with almost no people, but like I said, it is a very popular hike. And clearly, everyone starts hiking between 9:00 and 11:00. By the time we got to the parking lot people were parking all down the street. When we arrived there were only two other cars. Being a morning person always pays off when we're hiking. 

Hike #2

After hiking Alamere Falls, we wanted to check out some other great trails in the area, but we had been heading north for most of our hikes, so we decided to head east this time. 
We didn't really know where we could hike in the East Bay, and we had some other errands to run later in the day, so we decided to take a random route that starts outside of Walnut Creek and goes into the Shell Ridge Open Space. This hike looked pretty simple from the map we found online, but fairly quickly we realized we had no idea where we were going and ended up finding our own way. There were so many trails that headed in all different directions, so we could just have fun finding our way through the various paths. 
While on the ridge of one of the peaks we found a great rope swing that we played on for a little while. It seemed to be in a random location, but there are a lot of houses at the base of these mountains, so it would be a great place for kids to play after school (albeit, not city kids). 
Since we had errands we needed to run in the afternoon, we made this hike a short one (only 3 hours) and after going on what we thought was the trail, we circled back a different way and popped out about 3/4 of a mile away from our car. We felt silly walking through neighborhoods with our backpacks on and looking all sweaty, but it was something we needed to get used to since it happened on our very next hike. 

Hike #3

One of our favorite hikes we went on this summer was in Berkeley. We hiked what is called Panoramic Hill, which is a 6.7 mile hike through a bunch of fire trails. The hike had some really steep parts, so you climbed fast, and at the top the view of the city was amazing. 
Of course, our cameras didn't really do it justice, but it was a super clear day (especially for the summer) and we could see the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and the entire SF skyline. When Caitlin and I first started hiking, she wasn't really impressed unless we had a great view at the top. Now the view is just a bonus - and this view was a HUGE bonus to this hike.
As we were hiking we saw a lot of people running along the trails. They were really steep, but it seemed like a great place for trail running. We've talked about going running back on these trails, but we haven't made it back yet. There is just too much to explore before doing the same thing twice.
We had a really strange/funny experience during this hike as well. On our way back down the trail got a little hazy, so when we came to a fork in the trail, I decided to go left. When I started descending the trail, it looked like an abandoned camp. Really spooky. And it sloped really steeply with an incline on the other side, so I started jogging down the slope, and just as I get near the incline, a man with a flaming red beard (who we couldn't see since he was laying in a sleeping bag) sits up suddenly. I say, "good morning!" and keep running past him. Then Caitlin cautiously follows and he says to her, "you better run girly." So absolutely creepy. 
Well we get past him and to a dead end, and have to go back by him again. He was laying back down with his sleeping bag over his head again. We had absolutely no idea that we were trespassing on his sleeping grounds. We warned a few ladies that were thinking about taking that trail, and they were very grateful.
And even with our gingery encounter, we still loved this loop and would take any of our friends who want to see a great view of the city. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Muir Woods

It is a new goal of mine to be better at blogging. I set this goal for a few reasons: 
1. I really like writing, especially about my experiences.
2. I like to be able to look back on what we have done with more detail.
3. I am horrible at keeping in contact with friends and family, so hopefully I can use this as a way to update others on our life. 
So here is blog post one of many. They wont come on a daily basis, but they will be much more frequent. So here is a backlogged post from earlier in the summer. It is now October, so I shouldn't be blogging about summer, but  I have a lot of catching up to do. 
Caitlin and I have loved exploring the bay area, and no trip to the bay would be complete without a trip to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a famous National Park that is filled with redwoods/sequoias. We like to hike really early in the morning so we got there around 6:00 a.m. and started out hiking without anyone else on the trail.  
It was so great to be out in the woods with hardly anyone there. We were able to soak up the peace and tranquility of a forest that is normally heavily saturated with tourists. 
I love hiking with Caitlin. I always have the best view. Ha ha. She'll kill me for writing that. Oh well, sometimes she doesn't even read this. :)
Since we get out and going so early in the morning, it is always chilly in San Francisco, so we have to bundle up in order to stay warm. Slowly throughout the day, we shed numerous layers in order to prevent heat exhaustion. We have such a difficult life. :)
We did the Dipsea trail, and maybe a few other ones. We kind of just went around however far we wanted to. In the end we hiked over 10 miles, which was fine by us. We absolutely loved it. 
Since we got into the forest so early, we got a great parking spot and we didn't have to pay an entry fee. I guess nobody really cares if you enter into a National Park before it opens, just as long as they don't have to get up early to regulate it. I would recommend this to everyone. Although we did get stopped on our way back to our car asking us if we paid, we were able to get away with our free admission since the guy could definitely tell that we had been hiking for at least 10 miles. He just asks that the next time we sneak in, we let them know so they don't stop us. It was definitely a strange encounter. 
At the Muir Woods monument, there is a stairway that leads to a wooden platform that loops around some of the big trees. There are benches where you can sit and ponder or just relax. 
There were also a few trees that were cut in half. They were incredibly large. I can't believe that trees can grow that big around. Or that tall. We saw some insanely tall trees during our visit. 
We also saw some wildlife. 
Caitlin was so excited to see this banana slug. She had never seen a slug so big. Growing up in Oregon means that slugs are ultra common place, so I didn't even pause when I saw it on the path. She ogled at it for a few minutes. I guess that is the difference between an Oregonian and a Californian. And did you know, Banana Slugs are North America's largest land mollusk. They are a gastropod which means footed stomach. They crawl along the forest floor crunching up and decomposing dead material. Yeah, I learned that from the Muir Woods webpage. I guess they are kind of fascinating creatures. 
I don't know why, but we felt it necessary to take tons of pictures at every interesting tree we saw. We literally have so many pictures of us posing next to trees, in trees, hugging trees. We're like some kind of nature freaks. 
But it is cool when you can crawl inside a tree and see what the insides look like. I'm surprised when hollowed out trees are still standing. 
And of course, no trip into nature would be complete without a jumping picture. :)
So, if anyone wants to come visit us, we know how to do Muir Woods - and even better, we know how to do it for free. :)