Tag Archives: camping

Bet You Can’t Have Just One

2 Oct

I’ve wanted to hike Potato Chip Rock for years and a few weeks ago I finally conquered it.  My brother was coming to visit and we wanted to do a simple one night camping trip.  By the time we booked, most of the more popular camping spots were taken, so we chose one of the few spots left Southern California at William Heise Regional Park.  From the reviews I assumed it was going to be more crowded and full of families.  After all, it boasts a playground and year round cabins.   I was pleasantly surprised with the isolated, wooded sites and miles of hiking trails overlooking the Anza Borrego Dessert.  Sure, we could see a couple of fancy houses on the hills surrounding the park, but overall it was a great spot for summer camping.

After a night of camping, we headed over to our destination.  My brother had Googled photos of Potato Chip Rock for ideas on how we should stage our picture.  If you look it up, you’ll see all kinds of creative ideas, from rock climbers hanging off the edge, to yoga poses, to groups that have set up a fancy tea party on the rock.  We weren’t prepared for the long line of photo takers and by the time we got up there (and I overcame my fear of the short jump to the rock), we didn’t have a lot of time for creativity.

By all rights, this should be a Photo Adventure, but it’s not.  Mostly because i was too caught up in the actual hiking to stop and snap pictures.  Partly because I didn’t bring a camera and my phone was dying.  Because of that, you only get one.  Just one picture, achieved after an hour wait in line and a four-mile hike straight up in the heat.  But boy was it worth it.


~ April


Photo Adventure: Ten Lakes Redemption

20 Jul

On completely separate occasions, both my friend Daniella and I, had kinda lousy experiences at Ten Lakes. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Camping in Yosemite is still preferable to many things, even if it does involve blood loss, sickness, missing persons, and monumental amounts of whining.


But looking back on the experience several years later, I still remember amid all the complaining, the jaw dropping view from Ten Lakes Pass, and the view of the lakes. It was time for us to give Ten Lakes another try.



Glacial Polish


In the early evening we heard rockfall off of this wall.


The moon, Jupiter, and Venus reflecting on glacial polish


The wildflowers were so fluorescent they could have been painted by Lisa Frank.



I was apparently obsessed with glacial polish on this trip.


Blue Conness




Earth Day: Go Camp

18 Apr

Earth Day Banner


Yesterday Robin called asking me to put up a post since she was heading into the wilderness. I quickly agreed to switch days since I’m heading out to camp today.  Of course I proceeded to immediately forget our pact as I gathered up my camp gear and then sat on the couch and watched a movie instead.

Our camping plans did remind me that this weekend is the start of National Parks Week. And on April 19 & 20 you’ll get free entry into the parks.

Join Robin and I in celebrating National Parks Week, getting outdoors and shirking obligations. You won’t regret it.


Photo Adventure: Yosemite Falls

16 Feb


My life is still a whirlwind, but I did go for an overnight adventure up the Yosemite Falls Trail.


Yosemite Falls is one of the steepest and most difficult trails in Yosemite Valley. I’ve hiked up the trail plenty of times, but never with a full pack. Fortunately the company was awesome and the scenery was as stunning as ever.


I’ve seen rock and ice fall on this trail before, and I know they happen pretty frequently. So it was a bit scary when we heard a loud cracking rumble on the way up. It was so loud I was convinced that it was rockfall, but it turned out to be huge chunks of ice plummeting into the snow cone.


My friend Ryan actually saw the rockfall that caused this white colored scar on the rock face a few weeks ago.


It’s been a really low snow year, which is causing all sorts of problems for California. There was just barely enough snow at the top of the falls for us to snowshoe.


We trekked to Yosemite Point for this view.


I was utterly fascinated by this Dali-esque airplane contrail.


The Clark Range is pretty stunning too.


The view from the top of the falls looking down into the section known as “Middle Earth.”


Insert “Vertigo” theme here.


Photo Adventure: Point Reyes

27 Jul

I spent three glorious days in Point Reyes National Seashore. Unfortunately my camera died about halfway through the trip, which is an enormous tragedy for you. I was initially disappointed that the last part of my route led me away from ocean views, but the fog veiled forests on the Woodward Valley and Sky trails were like something out of Narnia. I would not have been surprised to have turned a corner and come face to face with a unicorn. It was magical. I’m so sorry you missed it.


Chocolate croissant from Bovine Bakery


The bench where I ate the croissant. (Slightly squished, but totally worth it.)


Amazing scenery


Beautiful beach scapes


Beautiful sand scapes


Banana slugs, which aren’t quite like unicorns, but are close enough.


Beach coyotes


Crazy Geology


Death Valley Flashback

10 May

If you’re looking for Sew Mama Sew giveaway, go here.

In all the hullabaloo of Earth Day, I didn’t get a chance to talk about an awesome trip I took at the beginning of the month.  Our new boss gave us a few extra days off before Easter and it was the perfect time of year for a trip to the desert.

When I was in elementary school, I was entranced by the idea of two national parks: Petrified Forest and Death Valley.  For a kid growing up in Ohio where everything is either green or covered in snow,  dry, desolate places captured my imagination.  I was sadly disappointed when I visited Petrified Forest in my mid-twenties.  My 10-year-old mind had imagined it to be a full-on forest, just made of stone.  Instead, I was treated to a desert with some rocky looking things lying around.  I haven’t been back since, so I in no way hold to that opinion.  I hated Joshua Tree the first time I went, too (going in July will do that to you).  Death Valley was a much more fulfilling experience.

So, first thing we should all know is that a scene or two in Star Wars was filmed in good old Death Valley. Remember Mos Eisley?

Wretched hive of scum and villainy. (Photo from Star Wars Wikia)

That’s Dante’s View – my first view of the valley.


There’s other canyons that we visited that feature in Star Wars as well, but I won’t get into that too far. If you’re into it, my boyfriend talks about it in his podcast. The Death Valley part starts at about 1 hour and 13 minutes. If you just want to see the Star Wars comparison shots, skip ahead to 1 hour and 22 minutes.

What surprised me most about Death Valley was its diversity.  I was expecting long stretches of scrub brush and dirt broken up by the occasional cattle skulls and cacti.  Unlike the Petrified Forest, my dashed exceptions were welcome.  Among the gems of the park were an array of canyons with names like Golden, Mosaic, Desolation, and… Titus.


The aptly named Mosaic Canyon was my favorite.  The walls are worn smooth from rushing water, revealing layers of rock compacted together, looking quite like a mosaic.  There were even a few chuckwallas enjoying the shade from the canyon walls.


Death Valley is known for being “Hottest, Driest, Lowest” and rightly so.  Even at the end of March, when it was still snowing in Ohio, temperatures were in the mid-nineties.  The park doesn’t recommend visiting between April and October since temperatures rise even higher.  In fact, the highest temperature on the planet was recorded in Furnace Creek – 134°.

Death Valley is also the lowest place in the United States.  When you drive down to Badwater (or, if you’re adventurous, rent a bike), you’re descending to 282 feet below sea level.


Despite the heat, the landscape looks arctic.  Although the stretch of white crystals is convincing enough to pass for snow, it’s actually salt leftover from evaporated water.


Back at elevation (of just about sea level), another area of the park leads you straight into the Sahara.


The only dunes I’d seen before this were the ones in North Carolina and at Pismo Beach.  The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes were something entirely different.   They just appear amongst the typical desert scrub, like someone just swept all the loose sand into one place.

If you want to stay in Death Valley and don’t have a camper, I’d suggest taking our route.  We stayed up at Mesquite Springs campground.  While it’s a bit out of the way (you’ll have to drive about 40 minutes or so to get into the Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek areas of the park), it’s also at 1800 feet, making it about 20° cooler than the valley floor.  When you’re enjoying the pleasantly warm rather than unbearably hot evenings, the drive feels worth it.  Besides, we got to share our campsite with some very enthusiastic bats.

As Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states, it’s impossible to see everything in a few days.  A lot of the park is only accessible by off-road vehicles.  The dunes we saw were about 100 ft tall.  If you have an off-road vehicle, you can see dunes that rise 700 ft, making them the tallest in California.  Next visit will definitely involve some of the sites that are farther afoot.


Photo Adventure: Snow Camping

5 Mar

Apparently you liked my last photo adventure, so here’s another.







Apparently, I was too busy trying to keep warm to take a picture of our hibachi style snow kitchen. Just know that it was epic.


Thanksgiving Rocks: Pt. 2

5 Dec

If you’d read the last post (Thanksgiving Rocks: Pt. 1) you may have been curious as to when Part 2 would arrive. You may have wondered whether it would arrive at all. I wouldn’t blame you for the second wondering, considering I am fully aware I left you hanging on the Halloween wreath tutorial I promised (next year, guys). I am a woman of my word this time around though, and not only am I offering you a part 2, I am offering it in record time.

The second part of my adventure led me to Red Rock Canyon. If you think to yourself, “Hey! I know where that is! It’s in the Santa Monica Mountains / the Mojave Desert / Las Vegas, Nevada / Hinton Oklahoma / Colorado Springs!” or any number of other places, you would be right. It seems that when it comes to places with crimson-tinted stones, humanity is not very good at being original. I even found a Rocas Rojas in the Canary Islands.

The one I went to is Red Rock Canyon state park in the Mojave Desert. It’s a little closer to Orange County than Joshua Tree and makes for a great one night camping trip. Even on the weekend after Thanksgiving it was relatively secluded.


The camp sites butt up against a bizarre rock wall. The formations in the wall almost look like statues from a distance. It’s a great area for staying around the campsite and exploring all the crevices.


The area is a common nesting place for raptors and other birds. In one of the nooks we found feathers and owl pellets. I was hoping to see an owl on the prowl at night, but this was the only sign of him.


When the sun went down, star-watching was quite good. Even though the moon didn’t go down until early in the morning, we still got a great view of Jupiter and four of his moons. as well as some of that iconic striping in the atmosphere.


Red Rock Canyon is a state park, and as such is very underfunded. While the solitude was nice, I know the parks need more visitors and funding to survive. We haven’t talked much about the situation our state parks are in on this blog, but both Robin and I feel strongly about their preservation. As my boyfriend pointed out, how is it that something can look like this and still not have the same protection as a national park?


The state parks have recently faced $22 million dollars in cuts. 70 of them were supposed to close by this July, but a last ditch measure saved 65 of them. Although they’re saved for now, that doesn’t make them safe. In some of the parks there’s only one ranger for huge areas – up to 5,000 acres. You can learn more and support the parks by visiting the California State Parks Foundation.


~ April (in Autumn)

Thanksgiving Rocks: Pt. 1

3 Dec

Looking out at the grey rainy sky right now, it’s quite nice to think back two weeks when I was not confined indoors (since every Californian knows that contact with any form of precipitation may result in untimely death). Unlike Robin, I work a normal 40-hour-per-week desk job and more than one camping trip in a month, let alone a week, is a miraculous event. I felt very thankful indeed this Thanksgiving that I got to spend two weekends in a row in two of southern California’s most gorgeous places.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Robin and her posse invited me to J-Tree (that’s how cool people say Joshua Tree) and I invited a good friend from work to come with us. It honestly didn’t take that much alcohol to kidnap her convince her to go.

I’m a hiker, not a climber, but when you hang out with a bunch of climbers in J-Tree, the visit ends up being a bit more vertical than I’m accustomed to.





Up ’til now you’ve seen the real climbers doing their thing. My non-climbing friend and I didn’t get left behind though. It may not look as impressive, but it felt pretty epic.



Whether up high or on solid ground, Joshua Tree remains one of my favorite national parks in the area (among about 30 others). Every time I go it’s another experience and after this time, I really can’t wait to get back.


~April (in Autumn)

A bear there was, a bear, a bear!

29 Aug

Since I am posting here, you can all safely assume that I made it back from my first backpacking expedition, right?  Or… maybe I was kidnapped by a band of brigands in the canyons and one of them came back to write this post in the first person, using Without a Map as a platform to collect ransom.

Nah, I made it back okay.

Despite the initial nervousness, the trip was a resounding success.  We had planned to take the Shadow Creek trail to Shadow Lake and Ediza Lake, but that pass was gone by the time we got to the ranger (5 minutes after the station opened) the permits were gone.  Instead, we chose the River Trail, which lead us to Garnet Lake.

The trail was easier than I expected and I was quite proud of my endurance until we reached the climb up to the lake.  1000 feet in less than half a mile.  Hearing the figures, I recalled a hike I almost killed Amanda on in Laguna and that one’s 1000 feet in a mile.  No one offered me an opportunity to turn around (and I wasn’t up for hiking back about 6 miles at that point) so I soldiered on.   After that last ascent, I was ready to swear off backpacking, hiking, and perhaps even walking for the rest of my life, but the view at the top changed my mind.


Half the trip, I felt like I had walked out of the pages of Outdoor magazine.  Pumping water, storing stuff in bear cans, eating dehydrated food… It was all so fascinating to me in a way I’m sure is unique to first-time backpackers everywhere.
I wasn’t so enamored with the peeing in the bushes, but it can’t all be wildflowers and mule deer, I guess.

The clouds looked beautiful, but they rained on us like clockwork both days.

The second day, we left our camp where it was and day hiked over to Thousand Island lake.


Thousand Island is bigger and has another view of Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter.  It does not, however, have a thousand islands.  We counted and there are somewhere around 80.  So Hundred Island Lake would be a more fitting name.  While I’m on that, I would like to know why a place that has a Garnet, Ruby and Emerald Lake has no Sapphire Lake.  Isn’t that the color lake’s usually are anyway?  I need to have a talk with the Mammoth Lakes Naming Commission.

The next morning, we found evidence that a bear had been through the campsite, but we completely missed seeing him.  We did get an amazing view of the Milky Way and more stars than I thought existed the night before though, so it came out even in the end.

Bye Sierra!

We left Garnet early in the morning, and headed back the same way we came.  The climb down was treacherous, but less taxing than the trip up.  Two days of rain had given the river a little pep in its step so the crossing was a little harder.


Before we made it back to civilization, we got one last look at Mother Nature’s work  Last year, a wind storm had gone through Agnew Meadows, knocking down 86% of the trees.  I took a picture of this example.  The strong winds speared this tree on that metal spike and while almost all of the damage has been removed, this still remains

Returning to Agnew Meadows was bittersweet.  On one hand, I was dreading leaving the beauty and solitude of the mountains, but on the other there was a vault toilet.

~ April

P.S. If you have seven minutes and want to see a bit of our hike from Garnet to Thousand Island (the second lake you see in the video is Ruby), the boyfriend has a time lapse he took on his Go Pro.  Check it out!

P.P.S. Anyone know what the title of this post is from?  If so I’ll give you a nerd high five.