BNP Paribas at Indian Wells

What a great trip to Palm Springs and Indian Wells with my mom! We arrived on Sunday and after getting a tour of our boutique hotel, Hotel California with bikes, a lounge area, pool, fountains, and public kitchen, we toured the streets of Palm Springs. It didn’t take long to find the candy store. I’m not sure why we decided we needed a bunch of salt water taffy and “old-timey” candy, except we were hungry. We were trying to just eat a few pieces to tide us over before a very early dinner at Spencer’s, but that wasn’t enough as we stopped for a snack at one of the restaurants on the strip. Continue reading “BNP Paribas at Indian Wells”


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Fallbrook, California

Well, after an 8 month hiatus from blogging, I am back!  I almost don’t remember how to do this, despite positing every day for a year!

I just recently took a weekend trip to Fallbrook, California to celebrate my dad’s cousin’s 60 1/2 surprise birthday.  Many of my dad’s cousins, who I met for the first time on my trip around the USA, came for Bill’s birthday as well, so it was like a family reunion!  We enjoyed a nice dinner outside in Bill and Pam’s backyard with beautiful weather. Continue reading “Fallbrook, California”

Day 291 – Sequoia National Park

Day 291 – Sequoia National Park, October 3, 2011

So this morning I left Kings Canyon National Park and headed
south to Sequoia National Park.  On the
way, we passed by the world’s largest Sequoia Grove.  The grove covers five square miles and contains
over 2,100 sequoias larger than ten feet in diameter.  I wonder who counted that.

As we continued on through the forest, we eventually reached
the General Sherman Tree which is the largest tree in the world in terms of
volume, 52,500 cubic feet.  There might
be taller, wider, or older trees, but no other tree in the world has more wood
in its trunk than the Sherman Tree.  Its
top is dead, thus the trunk no longer grows taller, but it still grows wider
adding wood equal to another good sized tree every year.

Its girth is 103 feet, it weighs 1,385 tons and it is
approximately 2,200 years old.  Its first
branch is 180 feet from the ground and its largest branch is 6.8 feet in
diameter.  If its trunk were filled with
water, it would provide for 9,844 baths or one every day for 27 years.  Looking up at the tree for a six-foot human
is about the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a six-foot human.  The General Sherman tree is about 1,000 years
younger than the oldest known sequoia, but is larger simply due to its location
and ideal growing conditions.

After taking the mile roundtrip to the tree, we moved on to
Hospital Rock.  Hospital Rock is
decorated with painted designs by the Patwisha Indians.  Their meaning is unknown.  Hospital Rock was given its name in 1873, 10
years after the Indian village was abandoned.
Alfred Everton was hunting with George Cahoon, when Everton was shot in
the leg upon stumbling over the rifle-set they were preparing for bear.  A doctor treated Everton at this village
site, thus the rocks namesake.

Nearby Hospital Rock is another large rock full of mortar
holes.  Indian women ground acorns with
five to ten pound pestles in these holes.
The tribes in this area depended on acorns as their primary source of
food.  Each family collected one or more
tons of acorns each year.  Before the
acorns could be safely eaten, they had to be leached to get rid of the poisonous
tannin.  Hot water was poured over the
acorn meal in a leaf-lined sand pit until the meal no longer tasted

Since 1865, no Patwishas have lived in this village.  They seemed to have vanished with their
past.  Causes other than war such as
small pox, measles, scarlet fever, loss of hunting territory, and broken spirit
killed or dispersed the Indians.  In fact,
the impact of civilization on Indian cultures and most tribes was
disastrous.  From 1770 to 1910, the
Indian population of central California declined from 32,500 to 3,125.

After our morning in the park, we headed south to
Bakersfield, took advantage of the showers at 24 Hour Fitness, and then turned
east toward Barstow…on my way home. Many thanks to all my followers…I will be sure to make a
final post upon arriving in Texas…ETB


Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park

Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park, October 2, 2011

Over the past year, I heard that Kings Canyon and Sequoia
National Parks are as pretty as Yosemite, but without the crowds.  Before returning to Texas, I thought I would
see about that and drove 50 miles east from Fresno to the Northwest entrance of
Kings Canyon National Park.

My first stop was to see the General Grant Tree, a giant
sequoia.  In fact, it is the widest known
sequoia, forty feet across, and the third largest tree in the world in terms of
volume.  It stands 268 feet high, weighs
1,254 tons, and its circumference is 107 feet around.  Its largest branch is 4.5 feet in diameter
and its first branch is 129 feet from the ground.  A few interesting facts about the tree:

  1. If its
    trunk were a gas tank on a car that got 25 mpg, you could drive around the
    earth 350 times without refueling.
  2. It would take 20 people holding hands to circle
    its base.
  3. If its trunk were filled with basketballs, it
    would hold 159,000; and 37 million ping pong balls.
  4. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the General
    Grant Tree to be the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926.  In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower designated it a
    National Shrine; a living memorial to those who have given their lives for our

After taking the half-mile walk through the sequoia grove, I
steered VANilla along what seemed like an endless road…up, down, sideways,
left, right, snaking, winding, curving.  It
wound thirty miles through the forest and skirts the canyon’s edge all the way
down to the river.  The best way to
describe the road is to post a picture of the signs attached to water troughs
that say “Do Not Drink…For Radiators Only”.

The cliffs reflecting a myriad of shades; browns, greens,
greys, were dotted with trees and towered above the river below.  I followed the river all the way to Roaring
River Falls where I took a short walk along a paved trail through the trees to
a waterfall that surged between granite walls.

After visiting this waterfall, we retraced our steps toward
the entrance and stopped at handful of overlooks on our way.  Many of the overlooks are actually in the
Sequoia National Forest as the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway passes through forest
land to reach the park.  One of the stops
in the forest land was Grizzly Falls.
Because it was in the national forest and not the national park, Petey
got to take the short fifty foot walk to see the water bounce and spray over
the rocky ledge.

From this waterfall, we briefly stopped at a cave, but it
required guided tours which left on the hour for $13.  I’ve seen enough caves over the last year, so I
opted out of waiting half an hour.  At
the gift shop; however, a sign stating “You Break It, You Buy It” caught my
eye.  At first, I thought REALLY.  They have posted a sign like that for junky
souvenirs?!?  Then I saw geodes and a
vice.  People who want a geode can pick a
rock and break it open…and of course buy it.
I thought it was clever.

It seems like signs entertained me today.  I found another that said, “Caution Ice”.  The one beneath it said, “Cream Ahead”.  The sign was in the shape of a double dip

While the park was lovely, I wouldn’t compare it to
Yosemite.  Kings Canyon’s peaks are
jagged, while Yosemite’s are smooth, polished, and very unique.  I’ll be curious to see Sequoia National Park
tomorrow.  I have found a campground
close to the border of both parks.  It is
an ideal location except for the fact two forest fires are burning within the
park…one very close to the campground.  I’m
not too excited over the smoke!  Oh well,
it’s my last few, fulltime days in nature…I’ll make the most of it.  ETB


Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 5)

Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond

Well, I survived the forest fires, fear of active bears, and
camping roadside last night, though VANilla reeks of smoke and dead animal
smell.  Whew, I hope it goes away
soon.  I returned to Yosemite for one
final visit.  First I swung through the
valley to take advantage of the only shower facilities in the enormous
park.  I couldn’t believe how low the
Merced River was flowing.  In May, it was
swelling out of its banks.  Today,
sandbars were poking up in the middle of the river.  Many of the waterfalls appear to be seasonal
as well, as I didn’t notice some of them today.
For a waterfall lover, the best time to visit Yosemite would be as soon
as all the roads open.  I believe this is
generally in May, though this year due to the heavy winter, I believe it was

After my shower, I headed toward the southern portion of the
park where we followed Glacier Point Road 17 miles to Glacier Point parking lot.  A four-mile, round trip trail that changes
over 3,000 feet in elevation each direction leads to Glacier Point.  Under different circumstances, I would have
opted in, but with a late start, Petey in VANilla, and a wound that still needs
more time to heal, I chose to enjoy the vista just fifty yards from the parking
lot.  The overlook provided a remarkable
panorama of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls even on this smoky day.

Just as I was preparing to leave the parking lot, a Ferrari
Club pulled in.  At least ten different
Ferrari’s hummed to the end of the parking lot.
I hope they didn’t have to follow an RV up the winding road.  That wouldn’t have been any fun for the
drivers!  On our way back down, we made a
final stop at Washburn Point before making our way to Fresno for the evening.

I see why Yosemite is always full.  It isn’t very far from large California
cities and frankly its commanding and unique landscape is inspiring.  In Fresno, VANilla is going in for some TLC
before we make two unscheduled visits to Sequoia and Kings Canyon as we depart
the Golden State.  Technically, I have
completed all the scenic road trips listed in my Reader’s Digest book with the
exception of the ones in Alaska and Hawaii.
My blog and adventures will be coming to an end within the week…ETB



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Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 4)

Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond

From Reno, I followed Highway 385 south to Mono Lake,
located just east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park.  Mono Lake, nestled in a basin of sagebrush
bordered by volcanic peaks is over 760,000 years old, making it one of the
oldest lakes in North America.

The lake has no outlet.
For thousands of years, streams have carried their minerals into the
lake and evaporation has removed water from it.
As a result, the mineral content has risen to almost 10 percent.  The salty waters afford swimmers a delightful
sensation of buoyancy.  While fish can’t
survive in these alkaline waters, it is still one of the most productive lakes
in the world.  It supports millions of
brine shrimp, alkali flies, and migratory birds.

In fact, Native Americans who lived in the Mono Basin
collected the abundant alkali fly pupae and used them as one of their main food
sources.  The Kutzadika’a traded with the
Yokuts for acorns.  The Yokuts called the
Kutzadika’a the Monache meaning “fly-eaters”.
Monache was shortened to Mono by the early explorers in 1850 and it is
how the lake got its name.

A picture of the lake’s tufa is what attracted me to the
area.  Much to my chagrin, due to the
snowy winter, I believe the lake’s high water level covered much of the tufa, but
there was still some to be seen on its southern shores.  These strange calcite formations are formed under the water’s surface when carbonates in the water combine with calcium from fresh water springs that feed into the lake.  Over time, the hardened minerals pile up
forming knobs and spires.

After visiting Mono Lake at 1,951 feet above sea level, I
followed Tioga Pass road through the eastern entrance of Yosemite up to 9,945
feet, the loftiest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada.  The drive led me through golden meadows, past
numerous alpine lakes, beneath the shade of evergreens, and offered spectacular
views of some of the park’s many granite peaks and domes.

We made brief stops at a handful of pullouts along the way
including a visit at Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point.  Tuolumne Meadows is the largest subalpine
meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Numerous streams wind through the golden
grasslands attracting a handful of deer.

Tenaya Lake, once named Pywiak (lake of the shining rocks)
by Native Americans, is surrounded by massive granite domes, a rock climber’s
paradise.  Its blue waters and sandy
shores offer a lovely place for picnicking and fishing.  Petey and I simply admired the view.

Olmstead Point is named for famed landscape architect Frederick
Law Olmsted (1822-1903) when Tioga Road was opened to automobile traffic in
1961.  Olmsted is best known for his
design of New York’s Central Park.  He
was the chairman of the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley.  The overlook affords commanding views of
Tenaya Lake and its surrounding peaks.

In addition, a geologist pointed out to me the most
fantastic part of the view from his perspective; the glaciations evidence and
a checker board pattern.  Chambers of
magma deep within the earth slowly crystallized over 100 million years to form
hard granite rock.  Over time, erosion by
rivers and glaciers formed and polished the rock.  In addition, large rocks toppled down on the
bedrock as ice melted away.

From the overlook, we continued west to a spur road leading
to a trailhead to May Lake.  The poorly
maintained, narrow road wound through the forest two miles to a parking area
which led to a variety of trails.  I took
the trail to May Lake which basically ascended 1.2 miles up to the lake.  The view of the lake was somewhat
anticlimactic relative to the views the zig zagging trail provided of the
granite peaks blanketed in dark clouds, yet reflecting still reflecting light
from the sun in the west.

I had planned on making May Lake my final stop before going
in search for a campsite outside the park.
The ranger at Mono Lake suggested that the park was full and that I
could camp anywhere along Evergreen Road just outside the northwestern entrance
for free.  As I headed west along Tioga
Pass Road, I came to a screeching halt.
VANilla was one of many cars in a line that ended up stretching more
than three miles.  The road became our
parking lot for three hours as firefighters and rangers managed a forest fire
that was started by a lightning strike a week ago.  Park visitors threw Frisbees, skateboarded,
and even jogged in the open lane while we waited to be cleared through the
smoke and flames.  Others skipped into
the woods to relieve their bladders while some drivers simply gave up and
turned around.  I guess they didn’t need
to get to the western side of the park, as exiting and going around the park
would have taken longer.  After I edited
some photos and read a bit, Petey and I had dinner in VANilla and took a short
walk before we were finally directed in the dark through the burning forest.

We eventually made it outside the northwestern edge to
Evergreen Road where we found a spot to pull over.  It was not exactly how I had pictured
it.  Others were pulled over as well, but
we were more or less stretched out along a two lane highway.  With the thought of active bears, a fire
burning, and on a roadside, I expect it will be a restless night…ETB



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Day 287 – Mount Shasta – Cascade Loop (Part 5)

Day 287 – Mount Shasta – Cascade Loop, September 30, 2011

Another park that was closed due to snow in May when I was
in the northern California area was Lassen Volcanic National Park so as I head to
south to Texas, I have revisited the park, this time on a beautiful day at the
end of September.

The landscape in the park is extremely varied.  As I passed through the northern entrance of
the park, I passed by beds of pumice which looked like rocks from the
moon.  I made a few quick stops before I
finally settled on taking a hike to Kings Creek Falls.  Judging by the cars, it looked like a popular
destination.  Having said that, given
summer is over and it was a Thursday, there weren’t that many.

The hike was lovely.
The three mile roundtrip passed through a meadow, crossed several dry
creeks, and then descended rather steeply to the falls area.  Hikers were routed via the horse trail as the
cascades trail was considered too dangerous.
I was still able to turn up river to admire the tumbling waters before
turning downriver to see the waters spill over the steep cliff.

As I was headed toward the falls, I met Ron, Sylvia, and
Teresa from Redding who were finishing up for the day.  Upon my return to the car, I caught up with
them again as they had just finished exploring a side trail.  They found a very rare wildflower which I
can’t recall its name while trying to snap a photo of some deer.  Sylvia had been wanting to see the flower for
years.  She was so excited that she took
me to see it.  Knowing how I feel when I
see elusive wildlife, I commented, “This must have made your day”.  She responded, “It made my year!”  It was a very small white flower with green
lines running up the petals.  I would
have never known it was something so special.

After my hike, we made a few more scenic stops at Bumpass
Hell, Emerald Lake and Sulphur Works.  At
Bumpass Hell, I met a couple from Palo Alto who talked me out taking a three
mile walk along a boardwalk to an active hydrothermal basin to view mudspots and
fumaroles.  I wasn’t that gung ho and
when they commented, “We’ve been to Yellowstone enough”, I thought the same
thing.  I’m glad I didn’t take the hike
given Sulphur Works which was roadside had a few.

Emerald Lake, so named for its color was also roadside and
simply gorgeous.  It used to be home to
the Cascade frog, a species whose population has declined dramatically.  In the 1920s, there was a frog for  nearly every yard around the lake.  Now
the lake is devoid of the species.
Researchers are asking citizens to inform them any time one is located
so that they may determine what is causing the decline.

From Lassen, I headed south to Reno where I stayed for the
evening.  Tomorrow, I plan on visiting
the parts of Yosemite that were closed due to snow in May.  ETB


Day 163 – Travel Day

Day 163 – Yosemite and travel through South Lake Tahoe to Reno, May 9, 2011

Petey and I took an early morning walk in a light drizzle across Stoneman Bridge, past The Ahwahnee Hotel, and to the Royal Arch Cascade and Royal Arches.  It was nice, but quick as we had a long day of travel ahead of us.  Three of the roads to 395, including Tioga Road through the park, were closed for the winter.  We had to exit via the Northwest entry point on 120, turn north up 49, then take 88 and 89 over two passes to finally hit 50 in South Lake Tahoe.

As I exited Yosemite, I snapped one last photo of the valley with the clouds hanging low overhead, then VANilla carried us through rain, sleet and snow as we wound through the Sierra Nevada Mountains along with several other travelers behind three semi’s that seemed to ignore the “slow traffic use turnout” signs posted every few miles; past frozen, snow covered lakes; snow dusted trees; and avalanche areas where no parking, stopping, or pedestrians were allowed to travel.

The weather quickly determined how long I would admire Lake Tahoe.  I waved at it as I passed through the tunnel carved into Cave Rock, a granite outcropping that juts into the lake.  I have been to Lake Tahoe once before, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out.

We continued on to Reno where we spent from three to five-thirty at Firestone

snow storm

and VANilla took cover from the ensuing hail storm.  VANilla’s brakes, despite the squealing, “look perfect” and VANilla has fresh oil to help it venture another 5,000 miles.  We’ve logged over 30,000 miles on our adventures since last September.  After our maintenance stop, we found a Wal-Mart and called it the day, until were politely asked to move.  The city ordinance doesn’t allow overnight parking at Wal-Mart.  We went to another 5 miles down the way.  ETB


Day 162 – Yosemite and Beyond – Part 3

Day 162 – Yosemite and Beyond, May 8, 2011

Wow, what a day!  A cool front, light rain or perhaps mist, and low clouds blew into the valley.  I crossed my fingers and hoped the overcast skies would offer some good photo opportunities and not interfere with my sightseeing for the day.  It was amazing how different the park looked with just a change of weather.  Yesterday, El Capitan was gleaming in the sunlight, today it was barely poking up above the clouds.

Once I arrived at the parking lot, I began the day following the paved paths around Lower Yosemite Fall and then ventured up the path to Upper Yosemite Fall.  To reach the top I would have had to follow more than sixty switchbacks over 3.6 miles.  I had a 2 mile roundtrip from the parking lot to the trailhead, so I didn’t have enough time to do the whole trail with Petey in VANilla.  I chose to climb to the base of Upper Yosemite Fall.  I had hoped in so doing, that I would get a better glimpse of the middle cascades that seem to elude my camera slightly, but I was 100% unsuccessful!  The view of the middle cascades was better from the valley floor.  Since I didn’t make it to the top, I can’t say if the view of the middle cascades ever improves, but I will find out some day.  This hike made it a requirement that I come back.

The incline was tough, but the switchbacks relieved the steep ascent I experienced yesterday at Vernal Fall.  Yesterday, I felt like I was riding up Horsetooth Basin in the MS150 at 3.5 miles per hour…I had to keep pedaling to keep from falling over I was going so slow.  Speaking of the MS150, my sister-in-law has MS, and I have participated in the ride the last four years to raise money for the cause.  This year, while I’m not able to participate, I am a virtual team member, which means I have signed up to raise money.  In the past, I have been able to raise nearly $5,000 annually.  This year has been a struggle at best.  I hope to reach the $2,000 mark.  Any donations, even morning coffee money, would be greatly appreciated…simply click on this link…

Ok, back to Upper Yosemite Trail.  The first mile consisted of constant switchbacks until I reached Columbia Rock which offered a superb view of the valley as clouds lingered near Taft Point and Half Dome.  I continued on for the next half mile along a fine gravel, almost sandy path.  It was almost demoralizing when the path turned back down the cliff before it finally twisted upward toward Upper Yosemite Fall where I earned my first glimpse of the powerful force crashing down the cliff before me.  While I was as close as I had ever been to Upper Yosemite Fall, I couldn’t see the top…a cloud moved in and blocked the view, though it provided an ethereal feeling.  I had a burning desire to get closer to the waterfall and to see the whole thing, so I kept going…up again.

The path returned to rocky switchbacks, only this time the rocks were wet from the waterfall’s mist.  I counted seven small waterfalls that flowed through the path where I jumped from rock to rock in an attempt to keep my feet dry.  I eventually gave up when the path acted as a waterfall itself at certain points in the trail.  After about another half mile, I reached the base of the fall where water bounced off the enormous cliff that towered above me.  I had to settle with being satisfied by this view and retrace my steps back to Petey and VANilla.  The view was fantastic and as I scampered back down the trail to the area that provided the first glimpse of the fall, the cloud had shifted and the entire upper fall was in sight!  As I passed many tired souls wondering how much further it was to the top, I concluded that I will have to return to Yosemite sans dog and attack a handful of trails.  They are just too good to pass up.

Arch Rock

While the views of the fall for the first two miles of the hike were few and far between, the trail was amazing for the following reasons:  1.  It was natural…meaning not paved.  2.  It was exhilarating…not too hard, but required effort.  3.  I’m quite certain looking down from the top would be extraordinary.  It went against all my competitive instincts to have to return to Petey, but he’s a living creature that loves me and depends on me, and I don’t like leaving him locked in VANilla for more than a few hours at a time.

He was so happy to see me as he entered into his high pitched whine when I reached the parking lot.  After a quick lunch, I took him for a much deserved walk around a different part of the valley.  This time we started near Sentinel Bridge, walked past Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, through Yosemite Lodge, across the meadow on Swinging Bridge, and back to the parking lot.

After our walk, we took another drive around the valley and went back to the park entry point on 140.  I really enjoyed this entry point, but didn’t stop to take pictures because I wanted to assure myself a good parking spot and hiking time without mobs of people.  We took in the view of Bridalveil Fall from across the valley, stopped at Arch Rock, and admired The Cascades that by August dwindle to a trickle.  By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we went to claim our campsite in North Pines LOCATED IN THE VALLEY!

I left Petey with VANilla in the campgrounds and took one last walk for the day to Mirror Lake.  Mirror Lake is seasonal, meaning the water isn’t always there.  In fact, Nineteenth century tourists admired the reflections on the surface so much that entrepreneurs tried to expand the lake by piling boulders onto a natural dam.  Ironically, this caused the pool to fill with silt and now requires regular dredging.

Given the river crested last night, I was quite certain that I’d find water…and I did.  Even if water hadn’t filled the pool, the lake is situated beneath Half Dome’s 4,800 foot sheer face which was a tremendous sight itself.  I had hoped to find Half Dome reflecting on the water’s surface, instead I found Mt. Watkins.  While the area was pretty, having snapped the reflection of Yosemite Fall in the river the other day and being forced to follow the road to the lake as opposed to the trail since a landslide was blocking the path, I have to say Mirror Lake didn’t meet my expectations.  Oh well, the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail more than made up for it.  Tomorrow I plan to take Petey on one last walk near The Ahwahnee Hotel and the Royal Arches before I travel to Reno.  For anyone who has visited Yosemite in the summer, I haven’t mentioned Glacier Point or the sights on Tioga Road because these roads are closed for the winter.  I hope to visit these areas in October should the weather cooperate. ETB