Friday, December 27, 2013

Kayaking in Elkhorn Slough

A few photos from our afternoon kayaking trip on the Elkhorn Slough near Monterey Bay. We met up with Chris and Kaela, who were in Santa Cruz visiting from Washington. Perk of the trip (besides the company) was the many sightings of seals and OTTERS! I think this is my first time seeing otters in the wild. They are every bit as cute and playful as I imagined.

We kept out distance from them, but they didn't do the same and some otters (and seals) came very close to our kayaks out of curiosity. Every day on the water is a good day, but these little guys made it extra good.

 Craig, Chris, Kaela, and me

Several otters check up on Craig 

Otter dinner time!

Good day!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving in the Sierras

This Thanksgiving, Craig and I spent the weekend in the Eastern Sierras near the town of Bishop, California. I had driven through this area before near Mono Lake a few years earlier during another backpacking trip, but this time around, I was fortunate enough to see what else it had to offer.

Our first stop on the trip was a quick stopover at Mono Lake, a large, yet shallow saltwater water body that formed ~1 million years ago. I never get tired of seeing the scene at Mono Lake. Formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals and geothermal activity, stacks of tufa columns resemble bizarre castles scattered around the wide and serene water body. The backdrop to this flat, ancient lake bed is a sudden upheaval of mountains thrust up to elevations that are capped by powdery snow.

Me with the tufa castles

Tufa and mountains...a Craig for scale

A carbonate geologist in heaven.

After spending a few hours exploring the scene at Mono Lake, we drove on to our campsite at the Buttermilks. This area, mostly known for great bouldering, is also geologic wonder for earth scientists. Wind and water molded the granite in this area to shape out huge egg-like rocks, creating an otherworldly view. Although we're not much for bouldering or rock climbing, we weren't left with nothing to do. The mountains surrounding the area allowed us to go hiking right outside the front  door of our tent.

View looking east from our campsite

Looking east at sunset from our camp near our campsite with part of the Buttermilks in the foreground.

The Great Pumpkin on a chilly night.


Hiking on Day 2 just behind the Buttermilk area

View from the trail. More mountains in the distance.

Craig hiking

I found a nook on a rock at the Buttermilks.

Tiny Craig on top of a climb.

Bouldering, Erica style!

As if this place wasn't cool enough, it also boasts some of the oldest trees in the world--Bristlecone Pines! We spent a day hiking through the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine forest, which was a short drive away from our campsite. It was pretty snowy and we didn't have snowshoes, leaving us limited in where we could access. Regardless, we had a great time wandering through the woods and enjoyed a beer in the snow.

Craig forgot his beer when climbing up onto his Bristlecone perch.

One of the older Bristlecones in the forest

Craig along the trail

On the last day, we heard word of a natural hot spring along the road that would take us back west to the Bay Area. After following a few back roads along the nearby ranch lands, we saw steam rising up on the chilly morning that hovered around freezing. After parking, it was a few minute walk along some pallets laid out on the trail to reach the hot water pools. We were surprised to find that even though we arrive around sunrise, there were already a few people there. 

We spent several hours relaxing in each of the three pools while chatting with the other soakers. It was so surreal to be in such a beautiful setting and lounging in water heated from the earth's mantle. By the time we got out of the water and walked back to the car, we didn't even need to put on pants and sweaters because we were radiating heat. The cold air offered a source of refreshment, waking us up for our return drive home!

View of the surrounding mountains from our hot oasis. Note the frost on the grass!

Craig and me in the hot springs. What a view!

Mountainscape on the drive.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall in Yosemite

Famed for big sequoias, big waterfalls and big granite cliffs, Yosemite is a grand site to behold. One weekend in November, Craig and I set out for an overnight autumn camping trip in the National Park. Even though it was past peak season, the park was still surprisingly crowded. As always, after getting a mile into the trail, the crowds quickly thinned out and we found the solitude we were searching for.

Starting from the valley floor, we hiked up the Cloud's Rest trail to Little Yosemite Valley where we camped for the night. One of the highlights of the trip for me was reaching the top of Nevada Falls, a 594 ft waterfall with a fantastic view over the valley. The smooth granite plateau with which the waterfall plunges over offers a broad, non-vegetated space to relax and take in the view.

Maybe it's their prominent bald heads with curvy waistlines, but the granite formations in Yosemite are almost cartoon-like to me. Each one with their own personality, peaks like Half Dome, El Capitan, and Liberty Cap take on features of a giant creatures propped up against each other lounging in the valley.

lots of granite

me with liberty cap


looking for a camp pine cone-less campsite

liberty cap

craig at the top of nevada falls

craig looking over nevada falls

smoked salmon breakfast with miss liberty

the view

view from the valley floor

Although sequoias dominate Yosemite National Park, on the valley floor, there was an abundance of color from the deciduous trees scattered within the evergreens. It created a beautiful array of warm earth tones that are always quick to remind me why fall is my favorite season. On the way out of the park, we kept stopping to watch as the wind would shake the canopy, creating a scene of orange and yellow leaves falling through the air like snow.

nevada falls

afternoon in the valley

Friday, November 1, 2013

Craig's Parents Visit San Francisco

For Craig's birthday, his parents flew out to California to help us celebrate! Below are some photos from Craig's big day spent on the beaches of San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

Craig and his parents at the Marin Headlands. San Francisco looks on in the background.

Craig and me playing on the rocks near Baker Beach.

 When heading back to the car, we saw a man taking multiple large boxes out of his car. When we looked closer, we saw that the boxes were full of pigeons! The main was doing a training exercise with the birds to see if they could find their way home. It was so cool to see the birds whip around in the air trying to organize themselves before all taking off in a single direction.

Hope they found their way home!

Craig's birthday dinner was at the Cliff House near Ocean Beach. The restaurant overlooks the ocean with a few sea stacks just offshore. The sun put on a great show for the occasion, painting the sky in a swath of pastels. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rock City, California

For one of our first weekends in California, Craig and I headed for a hike near Mt. Diablo. Specifically, we explored Rock City, which claimed to have some pretty cool sandstone features.

Looking out from Rock City (Craig is the small waving dot right of center)

Craig next to an...interesting formation

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Point Reyes

Photos from one of our first outings after moving to California.

Eroding bluffs. A common site in California.

Craig in the old dunes

Pretty day!

A deer finds itself in a predicament

Craig near a an unstable bluff

California has a great color palette

 A Craig for scale

Fog started to roll in at the end of our hike.