One insanely beautiful Vermillion sunset
Zeus - lake monster/runner extraordinaire
I wanted my first overnight camp to be somewhere far enough from Los Angeles and yet close enough to reach within half a day of driving. The rationale behind this was simple – Zeus. Zeus is our curious and rambunctious 1 year old boxer who is the light of our lives. My husband and I decided from the time that we got Zeus that we will try to take him to every hiking trail and campground that would allow him. We knew that a 12 or 16 hour drive might be too much for the little one for his first camp/long drive so we decided on Vermillion Campground which is roughly 6-7 hours north of Los Angeles.
Vermillion is a pet-friendly campground located on the northwest shore of Lake Thomas A Edison. The campground allows both RV and tent camping and has the basic amenities such as water spigots and vault toilets. Getting to the campground was relatively easy as it was just a straight drive north thru Fresno. However I have to put a disclaimer on the word “easy driving.” The last stretch, roughly 24 miles is a single dirt road where incoming and outgoing traffic utilize the same stretch of road. Imagine going the wrong way thru a one-way street. This would have been okay except for the fact that half the time we were driving on a cliff (mountain on one side and very very very steep drops on the other side) with plenty of blind corners. To say that this drive was not for the faint of heart is an understatement. So for first timers, just be aware that for 24 miles (Kaiser Pass Road), you will probably need a shot of tequila (driver not included), some strong deodorant and nerves of steel.
Tent has been pitched and inspected.
Upon arriving at the campground, you will need to sign in with the camp manager who will give you your “permit” and site number. You can also buy firewood from him since each campsite has a barbeque pit, picnic table and bear box for food storage. Building a fire is necessary since temperatures drop down quite a bit in the evenings.
Tip No. 1: Buy firewood from a local grocery store before you get to the campground because it’s probably cheaper. We made the mistake of not thinking about firewood and ended up spending $8 per block at the site. Each block lasted us a good 3-4 hours which was pretty decent. Tip No. 2: Since you can basically park your car/RV at the campsite, the sky is the limit to what you can bring or basically, your trunk space is your limit. So bring anything you like, as long as it does not require electricity because there is none up there. Tip No. 3: Be prepared to be in awe.
Warm and toasty on a cold cold summer night.
Lake Thomas A. Edison is the star of the show. It’s beautiful, picturesque and… cold. No, literally, it’s cold. We went in July (dead of summer) and bathing in the lake was close to impossible. I did not have a thermometer with me to measure the temperature but it felt like water that you put in your freezer, just before it turns to ice. Yet, being the “I-take-two-showers-a-day” sort of gal, I had to go in the lake for a daily bath. Your body will get used to the cold after a while and it won’t be as unpleasant as when you first dip your toes in it. It helps that the sun does its magic when you get out of the water so bring your bathing suits!
Sunbathing. We could do this all day everyday.
There are several ways you can enjoy Vermillion aside from taking a dip in the freezing lake. You can take a boat ride (bring your own boat), take out a kayak or canoe which I believe you can rent from the Vermillion Valley Resort or do some fishing. The resort is a short walk from the campground and it provides tent camping for thru-hikers plus a store where you can get food, drinks and a few supplies. There are also several hiking trails by the campground which the camp manager happily pointed out to us when we asked. We only did the shortest one which was the Cold Creek trail (about 2 miles round trip). We much preferred napping.
Hubs and Zeus chillin' at the general store (beer not pictured). Beer was for human.
Found this beautiful resting spot/flat rock at the trail. Of course Zeus wanted a photo op with mom.
At the end of Cold Creek Trail
As someone who is online/on the phone all the time, having no phone signal and internet up there was a welcome change. Sure, I had maybe an hour or two of separation anxiety but in the end, the lack of technology did not bother me at all. I only had my phone with me because I wanted to take pictures. In the mornings, we would take a dip in the lake and explore the surrounding areas. We would take a nap in the afternoons. At night, after enjoying a “rustic” dinner (camp food), we would sit by the fire and just look up at the stars, for hours. It was beautiful. It was refreshing. It was inspiring. We will definitely be back.
“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” ― Ansel Adams
The breathtaking Yosemite Valley captured in black and white *photo credit Asher Allanigue*
It was a cold November morning. I was up at around 6am, a bundle of nervous energy and excitement. After a 2-hour drive thru the valley floor, we finally found ourselves at the base of the trail. It's called the 4-mile trail but that's sort of not true because the actual distance is 4.8 miles one way. Sure, I've hiked before, 1-2 hour hikes on weekends but nothing prepared me for the sheer exhaustion that I felt at the tail end of this hike. I walked a total of 9.6 miles that day (yes, we did a round trip because we thought we were bad-asses) and it was not an easy feat. The hike down became purely mental more than physical as I "willed" myself to go down when my legs felt like lead. Hold up, I'm getting way ahead of myself, let me back track a little and tell you what I did to prepare for my first major hike. This would apply to pretty much everyone who has not been on a trail before.
Have you done your research? Where do you want to go? This is what you ask yourself first and foremost. There are a million hiking trails out there and it can be overwhelming as it is exciting. I knew I wanted go to Yosemite so a couple of months before the actual hike, I read up on all the Yosemite trails. I only researched the day trails since I also knew that I wasn’t going to camp overnight. I found the most comprehensive info on the National Park Services website - https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/valleyhikes.htm.
What shape are you in? I am a firm believer that hiking can be for everyone, regardless of age or sex. But if you are a first time hiker, it is important to know that there are difficulty levels for each trail ranging from easy to strenuous. Being able to roughly gauge what “level” you're at, would be key to enjoying the hike. Easy hikes are generally short, from maybe half a mile to 2 miles max and for Yosemite, not much elevation. So they are achievable by pretty much anyone. Moderate hikes require a bit more stamina because of the length of the hike. If you enjoy long walks or do some form of exercise on a regular basis, then I believe that you will appreciate the moderate hikes more than the easy ones. Strenuous hikes are for the more serious hikers. These are the types of hikes that require a bit more “training” I should say, for lack of a better word. You need to be able to be in pretty good physical condition and have at least done a few shorter hikes to be able to do the strenuous level comfortably.
What's in your backpack? Water, for me, is the most important element when you're packing a day pack. I can survive without eating for the day, but when I know that I’ll be walking long distances, I cannot be dehydrated. Your research will pretty much tell you if clean and potable water is available along the way. Please try not to drink water from any source because there is nothing worse than having stomach issues on your hike. Remember, bathrooms are pretty much non-existent on the trails. You also need to consider the weight of your pack. It’s better to pack light because after mile 3, you’ll wish you brought a lighter pack. A bag of nuts, a pack of jerky, a few protein bars (and of course water) are all you need. This is not the "must-have" list because one person might prefer a banana over a protein bar and that is entirely up to them. Not sure if bringing a box of doughnuts is a good idea but hey, you do you. I only had 4 protein bars and 2 packs of beef jerky (plus water) and 9 hours after, I was still doing good from a hunger standpoint.
Are you dressed appropriately?
Apart from researching the trail, you also need to check out weather conditions and make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. Since it was November and freezing, I needed to layer up. I had on a shirt (moisture-wicking), a fleece pullover and a lightweight windbreaker. I was also wearing hiking pants, a pair of good wool socks and broken in running shoes, emphasis on “broken in.” New shoes have not yet "conformed" to your feet and so they do not have any “give.” Blisters might be in the equation if you’re wearing new shoes on a long hike. So your old, trusty pair of running shoes are the way to go. Hiking boots are recommended especially for the steeper and more rugged terrain as they are primarily for ankle support and keeping your feet dry when you are going thru wet soil or mud. I did not have a pair of hiking boots at that time so I decided to wear my broken in running shoes and they worked perfectly fine.
Hiking pants are also not a necessity but since they are made of quick drying fabric, they will keep you dry as the day progresses (oh yes you will sweat even when you’re hiking in November). If you do not have any hiking pants, any comfortable bottoms that you have in your closet is okay but I would stay away from denim jeans. Wool socks will keep your feet warm as wool is a great insulator and they also absorb moisture faster than regular cotton socks so you won’t have a problem with sweaty feet. Investing on a pair is not a bad idea because who wants sweaty and smelly feet? No one.
Do I need a trekking pole? Yes and no. Easy and moderate hikes typically do not require trekking poles because again the distance and difficulty are not that high. However with strenuous hikes, they help a great deal. I do not own a pair so I improvised. I looked for a long branch (about waist height) that was light but sturdy enough to absorb some of my weight. MacGyver would have been proud! It surely made going up easier than just relying on my good ‘ol knees and legs. Trekking poles are not a necessity when you're a first time hiker but they are a good investment if you plan to do more hikes in the future.
At the midway point, taking a breather and being mesmerized by the view (Yosemite Valley)
The four mile trail was a beast for a first big hike. It required all my strength and willpower to finish the hike, because the exhaustion was real! Again, it was approximately 10 miles (7 hours of walking more or less) and the elevation made my lungs work a bit more. Oh, but the views, the views! Midway thru the trek, we had the privilege of seeing Yosemite Valley from a great vantage point. We were also awarded with spectacular views of El Capitan and Yosemite falls although the falls itself was a bit of a let down because there was no water. It was winter after all. I guess you need to hike during spring or summer to have the full Yosemite falls experience. Finally when we reached the summit, a little known rock formation called Half Dome was waiting for us. We soaked it all in and I would do another 9.8 miles just to see it again.
I love hiking because hiking allows me to have a better sense of myself. I know that sounds too new age-y to some but walking those miles in one of the most serene and beautiful landscapes in the world afforded me with a sense of appreciation for what I have and where I am right now in my life's journey. Don't get me wrong, I'm a city gal and I like the city BUT the outdoors has captured my heart. My hope is that people would get out more, experience the world more. We have these vast open spaces waiting to be discovered and we can all do it, one step at a time.
"Life is a journey, not a destination."
The magnificent Half Dome (view from Glacier Point) *photo credit Asher Allanigue*
Blogging at 40. Now, that’s what I call a huge “first.” When I celebrated my 40th year on this earth 4 months ago, I felt this sudden jolt of… something. I would like to call it an awakening. It was like something kicked into gear and there was this need for me to experience my life in a more organic, a more authentic way. I always viewed life as one big adventure and that’s how I’m going to live mine. So come and hop on the adventure train with the fab, forty and fearless me!
INDOOR WALL CLIMBING
Did you say heights? I’m deathly afraid and yet I’m here, dangling off the side of a 40 foot wall with nothing but a piece of rope tied around my waist. Well, I’m a novice indoor wall climber and I freakin’ love it. I have always been active and have had a gym membership most of my adult life. Yet a couple of months ago, I began feeling burnt out at the gym, always finding an excuse to not go. So the hubs asked me if I wanted to tag along in one of his climbs. I was nervous as hell because climbing = height and yet I went. We arrived at a nondescript warehouse in downtown LA which turned out to be the gym. It had rows and rows of walls with different colored “rocks” protruding from the walls or what I came to know later on as “holds.” The thing that struck me the most during that first visit was the easygoing atmosphere. Almost everyone I saw there were either smiling or chatting or high fiving each other after successfully climbing a particularly difficult route. I fell absolutely in love!
I started at the bouldering section where there are no ropes involved, just me, the wall and the holds. The objective is to follow a set route (color-coded), get to the top and either climb over or climb back down. It’s shorter, probably about 10 feet tall and with thicker floor pads because technically you can fall and land safely, with no fear of breaking any bones. I liked it but then I got a knee injury at the dog park (story for another blog) and so I had to stop bouldering or one wrong fall and I could possibly re-injure my knee. So, I moved on to the sport/lead climbing section. This section is where you use a rope and a harness to climb a taller wall, typically 40 or 45 feet. There are myriads of routes to choose from, graded for the most inexperienced climber to the most experienced. This is also where you climb with a buddy because one of you climbs and the other one “belays” or the non-technical description would be the other one prevents you from falling to your death. Okay, that sounds melodramatic but that’s basically what it is. You have to trust not only yourself (that you have tied the correct figure 8 knot) but you also have to trust that your belayer knows what he or she is doing. Not to worry though because there is an actual class for this type of climb. By the way, when I mentioned about the grading, this does not mean that you are limited to a specific route. What’s great about climbing is that you can just go for it! You can choose the more difficult and more technical climbs even if you’re not really “there yet” and no one will bat an eye. In fact, some climbers will even shout words of encouragement when they see that you’re having a tough time navigating a particular route.
Now, for the fear of heights part. I have not gotten over it. I don’t know if I ever will because again, I am a novice indoor wall climber, only being at it for four months. I don’t know if the more seasoned climbers still have that fear. But I don’t mind it. In fact, I welcome it because I know I can push thru it and finish an awesome climb. So do I learn important life lessons while dangling off the side of a 40 foot wall? Heck yeah.
Stronghold Climbing Gym, 650 S Avenue 21, Los Angeles, CA 90031
After my Antelope Canyon trip this past June, I realized that I have developed a different kind of appreciation for Mother Nature. She is incredible.RSS Feed
welcome to lower antelope canyon
Why is it awesome? (Yes, awesome. The real definition of awesome.)
This canyon was formed by erosion....Imagine that. W A T E R and A I R. Sure, we've all seen majestic landforms but this is underground.
Walking through this narrow canyon felt like I was part of an expedition. The best part was looking up and enjoying the view. I didn't want to move an inch but we all had to keep walking. The General Tour is only an hour long. Well.....not long enough.
All of these photos were taken using an iPhone 6. Note to self: use the chrome filter next time. Most of these photos were taken by me. Two photos were taken by our tour guide.
She was the best! And hilarious! Of course I forgot her name. Hi Miss Tour Guide! If you're reading this...thank you for helping us out with our camera! Yes, YOU!!! The granddaughter of the person who owns the touring company.
We totally scored.
Guided tours are required because Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land. A friend recommended Ken's Tours and we booked the 8:30 a.m. tour. This is the best time to go during summer. Trust me. Don't forget your sunscreen, bottle of water and cash for parking.
We left Phoenix on Saturday and did the tour the following day. We stayed at the Clarion Inn because it is closest to the canyon. Don't worry about food. There's Big John's Texas Barbecue across the street. I think that was the best barbecue experience I've ever had!
We are going back to check out Upper Antelope Canyon in a couple of months! I will be sharing that trip with you for sure! Has anyone been?? Tips? Next adventure suggestions? Give me a shout!
So this is why I appreciate Mother Nature even more. Her artwork never disappoints. She made all of these places for us to see and experience. We need her more than she needs us. Let's not piss her off.
"NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST. - j.r.r. tolkien"