Tuesday, March 30, 2010

N&M Are on the Cover of MidAmerica Motorworks Catalog!

My sister Nicole and her husband Marcel are now famous! Their photo made it on the cover of the Air-Cooled VW Mid-America Motorworks catalog Spring 2010 issue. I think all of the photos were taken during Funfest last summer in Effingham, IL. They went with their 1974 Super Beetle and their picture was taken when they were tie-dying t-shirts. Here is the catalog cover:

MAmotorworks Catalog
Nicole and Marcel are in the middle right picture.

MAmotorworks Catalog
A close up of Nicole and Marcel tie-dying their t-shirt.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Baja in Death Valley

During spring break 2010, our friends Mark and Emma flew from Michigan and we took the Baja over to Death Valley National Park. When we bought the Baja, it had no rear seat bench, so we had to acquire one so that all four of us would fit in the car! It was a tight squeeze, but we all fit inside, and had room for a little bit of stuff inside, like food and water. We had a roof rack, so thats where we put all of the camping equipment like our tents, sleeping bags, clothes, etc. We also carried spare tools and a few spare parts that came in really handy, and a spare tire.

Badwater Basin
The Baja at Badwater Basin, Death Valley.

During our trip to Death Valley National Park, we mainly camped in the wilderness areas of the park which we got to by driving on the 4x4 roads. We never stayed at an official campground, which was great, because most of them were designed for big RVs only. Most of the official campgrounds were gravel parking lots with huge RV spaces and big convenient bathroom buildings. We preferred driving off-road (on 4x4 roads, not literally off road - that isn't allowed in the park) and finding a camping spot in the wild. We had to pack in all of our own water, which we stored in a 7 gallon jug, and all of our food and, of course, toilet paper! It sometimes felt like we were prospectors in ancient times, exploring the canyons and washes.

Camping near Stovepipe Wells
Finding our first camp spot on a wash.

The first night, we camped near Stovepipe Wells on a wash that was on the road to Cottonwood Canyon and Mosaic Canyon, before the road split. It was peaceful and warm. The silence was heavy and so unusual to 'hear' nothing, not even the wind. We had a beautiful sunset which painted the few clouds overhead a deep red, like the sky was on fire over Death Valley. A few early wild flowers were already blooming from what seemed like dry concrete-like sand.

Wild Flowers

Wild Flowers
Wildflowers by the wash.

The next day we went hiking in the Darwin Falls area, near Panamint Springs. In some of the dry desert canyons there a cold springs, which bring water to the surface and allow plants and cottonwood trees to grow. There is a HUGE underground aquifer underneath Death Valley which was only recently discovered. We drove off road on a 4x4 road called Zinc Hill, that took us to upper Darwin Falls Canyon (not sure if thats the real name or not) and found a rim and tire that actually fit the Baja! What are the chances that we would find a 4 lug VW rim and tire sitting around in the desert? We quickly snatched it and attached it to the roof rack. When we reached the end of the road at China Garden Springs, we started our hike to see Darwin Falls, which we never ended up seeing because we took the high trail instead of the one that stayed in the canyon floor. Oh well, we had great views anyways. When we came back, Emma found koi fish that lived in the pool at China Garden Springs!

Zinc Hill Rd
Driving on the craziest road - Zinc Hill!

Zinc Hill Rd
We found that tire on the roof on the side of the road!

The next night we camped out on the side of an alluvial fan to the west of Badwater Basin at the foot of Telescope Peak. We had a rough night with a non stop howling wind which blew dirt into Mark and Emma's tent, and was so strong it permanently bent the aluminum poles of our tent (not that bad though). We had probably about one or two hours of sleep that night max! Not wanting to repeat that again, the next night we went back into Cottonwood Canyon and drove a couple miles into it until we reached the narrows and found an awesome secluded camping spot, also on a wash. Because it was spring, there was actually grass growing in the desert!

Cottonwood Canyon Camp Spot
Arriving at our campsite in Cottonwood Canyon.

We hiked in the area around our campsite and found a small canyon that off-shooted from Cottonwood Canyon. We thought there might be narrows, so we hiked into its mouth and it kept getting thinner and thinner until the canyon dead ended with a wedged LARGE boulder blocking our path. The only way around it was to climb over it, but it was about 15 feet tall and really smooth. So we boosted Romy over the boulder and he explored the canyon further. When he came back he said it turned into some awesome narrows, so we ran and got the tow strap from the Baja and used it as a climbing rope. All of us shimmied up the tow strap and continued hiking through the narrows, which were formed out of tall and narrow rock which had been polished smooth from eons of silty rainwater that flooded the canyon. I think we even saw some charcoal drawing up on the rock, but we weren't sure how old they were or who drew them.

Secret Narrows
The secret Narrows we found off Cottonwood Canyon.

A few days earlier, we heard from the rangers that Titus Canyon Road was open, which was supposedly a very scenic drive on a well graded dirt road through Titus Canyon. Since we were camping in our secluded spot for a couple nights, we took the opportunity to drive the Baja un-loaded through Titus Canyon the following day. We had to exit the park and go into Nevada to get to the entrance of the road (it was one-way). The road winded through many colorful canyons, and then to an abandoned ghost town called Leadfield which was only a city for one whole year. It was a bunch of shacks on a hillside. But we saw on a documentary that there is a mine there which has rock-eating organisms that live in the absence of sunlight deep in the cracks of the hillside. It is closed to the public and only scientists can go inside. We didn't know that when we were driving through. The hills were so colorful.

Titus Canyon
Road to Titus Canyon

When we got to the mouth of Titus Canyon, we took a lunch break in the wash. There were rainbow rocks strewn all over the place.

Rainbow Rocks
Rainbow rocks in Titus Canyon.

The Baja in Titus Canyon
Emma and Romy and the Baja in Titus Canyon.

We drove the Baja slowly, not because the road was bad, but because there was so much to see. The canyon, which started out wide, got really narrow. We stopped many times to climb on the rocks and see the flowers that were in bloom. I spotted some huge lizards sunning themselves on rocks. They were very well camouflaged, that you could only see them if they moved!

Can you see the lizard!?

Soon we were out of Titus Canyon, and heading back to our campsite in Cottonwood Canyon again. We got back later than expected, so we just relaxed that night instead. Interesting story as we were driving back to the camp - we got flagged down by some other campers down the wash. . . they gave us a 'gift' that kept on giving all night.

Night Time's the Right Time
The moon illuminating our canyon.

The next morning, we hiked further down the canyon to Cottonwood Springs, a set of three springs that gave the canyon its name. As we walked down the barren canyon, all of a sudden we saw a lone cottonwood tree. Then around the bend a forest of them emerged! It was so lush, that there was even grass growing and birds singing - a true oasis! And there were a lot of the laziest crickets in the world. They crawled around without any cares under the dense covering of grass and fallen cottonwood leaves.

Hiking to Cottonwood Springs
Grass and trees in the desert!

Lone Cottonwood
The lone cottonwood tree in the desert.

After the hike, we moved on out of the canyon and out of the park. We had to start heading home, so we decided to camp somewhere near Lone Pine, CA that night. We remembered that there was some BLM land called the Alabama Hills just west of the town, so thats where we headed. We got there after dark, so we set up camp with the Baja's head lights shining, but the moon was pretty bright too! The snow on the Sierra Nevadas was reflecting the moonlight so well, we could literally see the climbing route that Romy and I attempted a year or so earlier to the top of Mt Whitney at midnight! The next morning, we saw our campsite in the full light and it was so nice! I love those times when you wake up and realize what a cool spot you're in!

Alabama Hills
Camping in the Alabama Hills underneath Mt Whitney.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Romy Got Fivefingers!

Romy's Fivefingers
Romy's new Vibram fivefingers shoes.

Today, Romy got a pair of the new and weird Vibram Fivefingers shoes. We got our REI dividend in the mail and a 20% off coupon, so we went to REI to get some kayaking stuff. We were looking for pfds (personal flotation device aka life vests) and kayaking shoes. While looking at the kayaking shoes, I got the idea about the Fivefinger shoes. We both heard of them before and saw a few people wearing them, and we've also heard that the people who are into walking barefoot really like the fivefinger shoes. So since the kayaking shoes were almost the same price, we checked out the fivefingers, which we could use as kayaking shoes and 'normal' shoes for walking, hiking, running, etc.

Romy's Fivefingers
The fiverfingers are light and breathable so you can wear them without socks and your feet don't get sweaty.

We both tried on a pair, which had to be specially fitted. They went by European size, not the typical American sizes, because European sizing is more specific. I had a size 38/39 and Romy had a size 41. When Romy tried his on, he instantly liked them. I thought they were cool, but the pinky toe space for my foot didn't fit right. The shoe was pulling my pinky toe away from my other toes in a way which wasn't too comfortable. So I decided against getting them, but Romy really loved them so he bought a pair. I just went back to the kayaking section of the store and got a pair of NRS kayaking shoes, which are like a wet suit that goes around your feet but has a hard rubber bottom (still flexible though).

Romy's Fivefingers
The sole on the fivefingers is pretty thick yet flexible.

So I guess we will see how Romy likes them, as he gets used to walking in them. I think they are really cool, especially for people who love going barefoot or in sandals all the time.

Update (4/10/2010): Romy wore the fivefingers to Death Valley, and went hiking with them. He said they were very comfortable. However, sometimes he got small rocks stuck between his toes when walking on gravel. Not a big deal though. It happened twice. A funny story - we got our car (the Daewoo) stuck on some gravel. Romy basically tried to drive over a pile of gravel and sand to get to an off road section of the road where we could camp. The pile was slightly too high though, and the wheels got over it, but then we bottom-ed out. The chassis dragged on the ground, and two of the wheels lost grip with the ground so we were stuck. We had to dig the excess gravel out from under the chassis, so we started digging. We got to a point where we had almost all of the gravel out from under it, but it was still resting on top of a small strip of gravel which was hard to dig out because it was so far under the car. Romy used his foot with the fivefinger shoes on to dig the rest of the gravel out, as if it was another hand or shovel. He said that because he was able to curl his toes, he was able to dig better with his feet. The shoes weren't damaged at all, which is awesome because he was doing some serious digging! We ended up getting the car out shortly after that.

Update (4/17/2010): Romy wore the fivefingers kayaking. He said they were good for walking around in the water when entering and exiting the kayak, and kept his feet warm even though they were wet.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

VW Camp Out at Cache Creek

We just got back from a quick camp out at the Yolo County Cache Creek campground, which is at the north end of the Napa area, near the Capay Valley. It was a small quiet campground (except for the asshole with the generator who ran it almost 24/7 and then many many motorcycles riding past on Hwy 16). I just finished the yurt a week prior, and John LaTorre, who lent me the industrial sewing machine, was going to be there, so Romy and I decided to bring the yurt along so we could show him. Normally, we wouldn't take it out just for one night of camping because of the 1-2 hr set up time, but we figured it would be nice to show John what I did with his machine!

Cache Creek VW Camp out
Blake and Shelby's bus against Cache Creek below. Enjoying wine and cheese.

When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, almost everybody from the vwcamperfamily was there who rsvp'd (Blake and Shelby, Brett and Elizabeth, Joe, and John). We promptly started building the yurt, and in the middle of it Melissa showed up in her vanagon. Everybody sat on the grass and watched Romy and I build the yurt while they sipped wine/beer and other beverages.

Cache Creek VW Camp Out
The yurt is built and the baja.

After what felt like a long time, the yurt was finally built and we could relax! We then moved on to the picnic tables set up near the main camping area (we had to build the yurt a little ways away because we needed level ground) to have some wine and cheese and crackers as an appetizer. Mmmmm. There was quite an assortment that Shelby brought with.

Wine and Cheese
The sun is going down - soon time to start a fire!

When the sun started dipping behind the cliffs, it started to get chilly (although during the day it was about 70 degrees F! More wine was busted out, and even though we thought we'd be rebellious and drink beer this time, wine was pushed upon us! So was food, which we gladly accepted. All we brought for dinner was a can of chili and a bag of tortilla chips (we had to rush out of the house and didn't think about packing more than the yurt and beer).

Cheap Red Wine
John and his cheap red wine.

We also went around the campground scavenging for fire wood, and found a few good pieces to add to the firewood pile. We ended up having just enough wood for a fire that lasted well past everybody's bed time. We had a great time and can't wait until the next camp out that we can make it to.

Cache Creek VW Camp Out
Big Blue, John's Dormobile, and Joe's bus.

Night at Cache Creek
Good night!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eureka Dunes

The four of us (Romy, Nicole, Marcel, and I) were snooping around south of Bishop, CA trying to find Keough Hot Springs, which we read about in a book. Supposedly, there is a resort called Keough Hot Springs, which doesn't use all of the hot water that comes out of the spring, so they let some of it flow down a creek, where people have damned it up creating small pools which you can bath in. When we got there, we found that it was really dumpy looking - large power lines crackling overhead and industrial drainage pipes spewing warm water from the resort down the hill. Not too inviting, although it had a nice view of the Owens Valley (minus the power lines) and the water was crystal clear. While we were perusing, we met a crazy old man with no pants on (but he had a towel wrapped around his waist). He was a local, and told us many stories. When the old owner of the hot spring resort was still alive, she let more hot water flow down the hill, allowing bathers to gather in the damned up pools and enjoy water over 100F. Now the new owners don't let as much of the hot water flow, making the hottest pool only about body temperature; not hot enough to sit in for too long during the winter. That sucks, I guess.

Then we asked him if he knew of a place to go camping in the national forest nearby, so that we could set up the yurt, and he suggested a few places (but only after telling us about the numerous diseases he had: mountain biking disease, back-country skiing disease, etc.) Apparently this guy didn't really have a job, he just drove his car up mountainsides in the Sierra Nevada, hiked up the steepest slopes, then skied down for fun. He also did a bunch of back-country mountain biking in the summer, and told us about a time he biked to Eureka Dunes in the north side of Death Valley. He also said that no one would bother us if we set up a yurt in that direction, which perked our interest, so we asked him how to get there, and soon we were on our way.

Eureka Sand Dunes
Parking at Eureka Sand Dunes; Last Chance Range.

To our surprise, when we took the long lonely road to Eureka Dunes, we saw a bunch of Joshua Trees, and other small cacti. Then we dropped into a large valley on the east side of the Last Chance Range. The end of the valley was obscured until we drove down enough of the road that it became visible, and out popped a huge sand dune! We got all excited when we saw it, however, our excitement dropped off realizing that we had to turn off the main road and go down a gravel/rock road about 10 miles at 30 mph just to get there. It took us 1/2 hour at a painfully slow speed. But once we got there, we were greeted by a break in the clouds and the dunes were showered with sunlight. There were little fluffy clouds in the sky as we started hiking up the dune, determined to get to the top of one of the closer peaks.

Eureka Sand Dunes
Starting our hike up the dunes.

Eureka Sand Dunes
At the top!

We read that the Eureka Sand Dunes are the tallest in the state of California, and might possibly be the tallest in the U.S. if the winds are right. The tallest in the U.S. that I know of are in Colorado at Great Sand Dune national park, but apparently the Eureka Dunes rival them. There are also a bunch of animals that only live in the dunes and nowhere else. We saw a beetle crawling along the sand, and even a blue lizard with red eyes. Little sprouts were growing out of the sand, which seemed odd, however the sand in the dune is very efficient in soaking up water and retaining it. Although we were in a desert, when we buried our feet into the dune, cool wet sand was just an inch under the surface (like at a beach).

Eureka Sand Dunes
A beetle on the sand dunes.

Eureka Sand Dunes
Eureka Sand Dunes

After climbing, we decided to pick the steepest descent, and jumped most of the way down. That was a lot of fun! When we got back into the car, we saw that there was a road that went behind the dune and into the mountains where there was a cold spring called Marble Bath. We tried driving to it, but being in the Daewoo, we could not get too far before the road became too rocky and uneven. If we were in the baja (which we didn't take and left by the yurt because it was low on gas) we would've made it, but oh well, next time I guess!

Eureka Sand Dunes
Jumping down the dunes.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Maiden Yurt Voyage: Have Yurt, Will Camp

Warm Springs Rd
Yurt on the roof of the baja, heading into the mountains!

The day had finally come when all of the months of work on my yurt came to a finish (not exactly) and we were able to pack it up and take it to the mountains on its maiden yurt voyage. I know, I could of taken it somewhere easy and simple, like the local campground or something, but as with most of the things Romy and I seem to do, we go big or go home! So there we were, driving the baja over to the Eastern Sierra.

Driving off-road in the Inyo National Forest to find a perfect spot to set up the yurt.

We picked a spot east of the Owen's Valley, in the Inyo National Forest, just outside of Death Valley National Park. We found an off shoot road from CA 168 out of Big Pine which headed into Death Valley, called Death Valley Rd, and it was off another off shoot road where we drove the baja off road into a canyon and found a nice place to set up on the top of a ridge. We were situated at about 5,500 ft with an awesome view of the Sierra Nevada mountains across the Owen's Valley. Before we left on the trip, I had visions in my head of setting up the yurt in the valley near Mammoth Lakes, CA, but it had too much snow. That's why we headed farther south instead.

Maiden Yurt Voyage
Setting up the yurt near Death Valley National Park.

Nicole and Romy found a section of a ridge that happened to have large flat spots in between desert scrub plants (I don't know what they are called). We needed to find a place that had at least a 12 foot diameter circular area clear of vegetation. We ended up having to pull a few plants out of the rocky and dry soil to clear one of the largest spots we found, but made an attempt at replanting them elsewhere. So hopefully we didn't kill any plants! The baja couldn't drive up the ridge, so we had to carry the pieces of the yurt up a steep hill. It was worth doing that in order to have the awesome view that we were able to have being on top of a ridge.

Maiden Yurt Voyage
Marcel holding the yurt wall as it is attached to the roof.

There was a steady wind blowing from the east as we worked to get the yurt put together. It took us about 2 hours to put it up, which was slow compared to how fast we were able to assemble it in the park. It was hard to get the yurt completely flat and level of the ground and perfectly round. I don't think we were ever able to achieve the round-ness and I also think we constructed it slightly less than a 12 ft diameter. But it was close! Consequently, I felt like the walls of the yurt were slightly sagging or bunched up in areas. However that didn't effect much except the aesthetics, so as the sun went down, we crawled inside and started up the lantern for light, and propane heater for warmth.

Maiden Yurt Voyage
The yurt, finally all built!

Maiden Yurt Voyage
Romy, Marcel, and Nicole relaxing in the yurt.

The yurt retained a lot of heat from the propane heater, which we nicknamed "the sunflower" due to its shape. We left the door flap cracked open for ventilation. We had it running the whole evening, but turned it off when we went to sleep, and turned it back on in the morning. Nicole and Marcel brought a bunch of 1 liter bottles of home brewed beer, which we drank merrily each and every night of camping in the yurt. Mmmmm. My favorite was the blonde ale.

Yurt Party!
Cheers! Enjoying a home brewed beer in the yurt.

When the sun went down behind the mountains, we were able to see a lot of stars in the sky. We hung a Coleman lantern from the crown by a short rope, so we had a soft light source inside the yurt, and it looked really cool from outside. I wasn't able to sew window covers yet, however I will have to finish them this week! The wind steadily blew all night, but inside the yurt it was quiet and peaceful. When we finally went to sleep, I liked laying and staring at the roof. There was enough light outside from the moon that you could see the roof poles and the star shaped crown rain cover through the roof making a cool pattern.

Maiden Yurt Voyage
The yurt at night, lit up by our Coleman lantern inside.

After having the yurt up for only two short nights, we had to break it down and go home. Putting it up for the first time and camping inside of it was really exciting and made me feel great after all of the hard work building it. I feel like I'm done, but there are still a few things here and there that I have to finish off, like the floor, and the window covers. But nevertheless, its ready for another camping trip soon!

Maiden Yurt Voyage
Inside the yurt, with an open crown.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Winter Hot Springs Success

When Nicole and Marcel flew to Oakland for a short vacation this past weekend, we headed out towards Mammoth Lakes to show them the hot springs that we'd been telling them about. The Sierras had gotten a lot of snow, so we weren't sure if the gravel road to the hot springs would be open or not, but we figured that we should at least try. Heading out Thursday morning, we planned to get to Mammoth Lakes before sun down. But for some reason, it was slow driving over the Sierras, and we only made it to Bridgeport, CA before the sun went down. No biggie. It was in my plans that in case we didn't make it to Mammoth Lakes before dark to set up the yurt (on its maiden voyage) we would stop in Bridgeport and stay at the Victorian Hotel, an old hotel that was once in Bodie, a gold rush ghost town up the mountain from Bridgeport. Somebody actually transplanted the building down the steep mountain road in 1886 down to the small town of Bridgeport and made it a hotel. Its pretty small, and totally looks like an old west hotel but with somewhat fresh white and baby blue paint. Oh yeah, and its haunted!

The Victorian Hotel in Bridgeport, CA.

There are natural hot springs near Bridgeport, the most famous one being Travertine Hot Springs, just a few miles out of town. We were there once before, and a local told us he knew people who worked at the Victorian as maids. They said it was haunted. The maids regularly saw ghostly figures wandering the halls, and would feel hands grabbing at them while they cleaned up the rooms. The most freaky was a story of how a maid was putting fresh sheets on a bed, and as she finished, she saw a heavy imprint on the bed, as if some ghostly or unseen figure was sitting down on the bed! Me being me, I could not resist these stories and wanted to go stay at the Victorian very badly! But to my dismay, the hotel was closed until the following month. Winter is a very dead time for Bridgeport, I guess. We were forced to keep driving in the dark until we got to Mammoth Lakes, about an hour and a half later.

View From Hot Tub Hot Spring
Mammoth Lakes and the nearby valley covered in deep snow,

There we found a Motel6 since it was very dark out by now and freezing cold to set up the yurt. And there was a lot of snow in the valley, so we wouldn't be able to set up the yurt anyways. Once we got settled at Motel6 and ate some horrible Domino's pizza for dinner, we drove out to the green church and looked for Hill Top Hot Spring, which was supposedly still accessible, although you had to walk about half a mile through the snow to get to it. We found the pull off on the side of the road and parked. There were already a few cars there that night, but it was getting late, so we figured we'd go and check it out and maybe they would be leaving soon. We took our flash lights and went on the short walk through the snow (it was flattened down by many footprints) to the hot spring. We didn't see anything in the dark except for a break in the white snow due to the melted area around the spring, which was steaming. The people in the hot spring didn't mind if we got in (although it was a bit crowded with all of us in there, about 10 people) so we went right ahead. Except the people in there kept the water kind of cool, but after they left we turned on the pipe that let in the hot source water and let the pool heat up. We had an awesome view of the stars at night. Just after we left the hot spring, the moon came up. Low on the horizon, it was HUGE! It looked so strange, and lit our way back to the car, after soaking for about 2 hours.

Walking to Hot Tub Hot Spring
Walking through the snow to find Hot Tub.

The next day, before we left Mammoth Lakes on our way to Bishop, which is farther south, we got the idea to go snowshoeing to one of the hot springs we've never been to that was not currently accessible from the road due to heavy snow, mud, and ice. We parked the car off the side of the road again, and got ready with our towels to go to Hot Tub Hot Springs. We figured it would be about one mile to snowshoe, but when we got there, it looked like the road (although closed further down) didn't have too deep of snow on it, so we left the snowshoes in the car, figuring it was okay to walk in our boots the whole way. Bad idea. We started walking down the road, and then got distracted, straying into the valley, covered in pristine snow, and with all of its snow drifts. We would take a few steps, being able to stay on the thin crust of ice which was barely holding us from falling through, and then suddenly drop to our waist, deep down into the snow until we hit solid ground. At first it was scary, but then we realized that we only went waist deep, so it didn't matter. Actually it was kind of fun because the drop was shocking at first, but it was easy to lift one foot out and keep walking on top for a while.

Hot Tub Hot Spring
We found Hot Tub Hot Springs!!!!

We finally found the hot spring which was given away by all of the steam coming out of a small exposed area in the snow. No body was there, but we did see a red truck in the distance, which somehow drove through the snow and mud. We were excited to find it and quickly got in. The water was pretty warm/hot (slightly above 100F), and the hot source water was continually flowing into the cemented pool carved out of travertine via a PVC pipe. We had breakfast there, and finished our coffee which we hiked in with. What a nice way to start the day! We also took the time to verify a survival tip that Nicole had learned about. Apparently, if you ever find yourself in cold weather and you fall in cold water to the point that you're soaking wet, you should strip down naked and roll in the snow. The snow will dry you off and actually help you stay warmer than if you kept your cold and wet cloths on. We tried rolling in the snow to see if it worked. I'm not sure that it did anything actually! It just made for a lot of laughter, watching rolling naked people in the snow!

Hot Tub Hot Spring
Romy, Marcel, and Nicole in Hot Tub.

After spending about an hour and a half in the hot water, we ventured back into the snow to go back to the car. This time, we followed the road, and had no snow sinking encounters. We were next headed to the Bishop area to find a place to set up the yurt. However, I'll skip that because you can read about it in the next post. After the yurt maiden voyage, on our way home, we ended up stopping in Bridgeport on Sunday afternoon to show Nicole and Marcel the Travertine Hot Springs. When we got there, the road to the springs were very pitted and in some spots muddy, but nevertheless, it was easily trespassed by the Daewoo. There was only one huge old RV parked in the parking area, and the people looked like they were inside, so we knew we were in the clear to get the hot springs all to ourselves!

Travertine Hot Springs
Me and Nicole at Travertine Hot Springs.

When we got there, we had a great view of all of the surrounding mountains making up the Sierra Nevadas, and there were even local snow storms that we could see rumble over the mountains. One of them got really close, and it actually started snowing on us while we were sitting in the hot water! They were very isolated, and the whole time it was mostly sunny with little fluffy clouds.

Travertine Hot Springs
Romy sitting in the hottest pool at Travertine.

After we soaked for a while, a few more people came and shared the hot springs with us. They were skiers from Mammoth and one local guy, who confirmed that the Victorian Hotel was haunted, and told me it would open in late March/ early April. You bet I will be back to stay overnight! We decided to go check out the other two pools at Travertine. One was a small hotter pool lower down the hill from the main set of pools we were at, and it had wooden benches. The other was a mud pit which was even hotter, but we didn't go in, because it looked like more of a hot mud bath than a hot spring. We didn't eat lunch yet, and it was getting close to dinner time already, so we decided to leave and go grab some dinner in Carson City, about an hour and a half north on Hwy 395. Even though we were told that the hot springs east of the Sierra would all be inaccessible due to the snow, we ended up being able to go to three of them, so I would call that a success!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Skiing at Yosemite

Romy's lab-mate at Berkeley, Ricky, who is now done with his PhD and is soon leaving the lab, has never been skiing before, so Romy thought it would be fun to go take him skiing. Deciding that cross country would be easier and cheaper than downhill, we opted for cross-country. The most convenient place to go was Yosemite to the Badger Pass ski area. In winter the road to Glacier Point in the park is closed, and the park grooms the snow-covered road for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. They also rent cross country skis for those people who don't have their own set. Ricky brought one of his room mates with him, so all four of us crammed ourselves in the Daewoo and headed to the mountains on Sunday early in the morning.

Skiing at Yosemite
Yosemite Valley in the morning, covered in snow.

When we got there, Yosemite was covered in deep snow! Even half dome had snow on top of it! We grabbed a quick breakfast in Yosemite Village at the cafe, and more coffee, and then got back into the car and headed up to Badger Pass. It was really warm outside, about 50 degrees, and the sky was clear and blue and sunny! When we got to Badger Pass turn-off, a ranger told us we needed to put chains on, so after struggling with trying to untwist the twisted chain for the left tire, we finally got back on the road. The road wasn't horrible, but half of it was covered with some icy and snowy patches.

Skiing at Yosemite
Ricky, Romy, and Daniel.

When we got to the resort, Ricky and his room mate went to the rental shop to get their skis, and Romy and I unpacked our skis from the car. We then hit the trail, which started with a small hill. It probably scared Ricky and his room mate, both who never skied before, but I guess you have to start somehow. They slowly got the hang of it as we skied on, although they had their fare share of falling down.

Skiing at Yosemite
Ricky and Jenn.

Skiing at Yosemite
Romy and Jenn.

I didn't realize at first that we were skiing on Glacier Point Rd until I saw some of the road signs, almost completely covered with snow! It was really really deep! At the end of the road, which is about 10 miles from the Badger Pass ski area, there is a ski hut which cross country skiers could stay at overnight. You have to make reservations for the hut in advance. Maybe one day we will do that. You have to carry a backpack with you while you ski, because it is a rustic bunkhouse. I also heard about a nordic 18K race that goes on every February. I think I want to do the race next year! It looks like a lot of fun.

Skiing at Yosemite
Romy next to a snow covered road sign.