A few months ago, Penelope and I took a trip to San Francisco. At one point we went up to the top of Coit Tower, something I hadn't done since I was a child. I wanted to shoot some HDR photos from up there, but they don't allow tripods. Luckily I was able to brace the camera against the glass and got some steady shots:
Last month my lovely wife Penelope I took a vacation in San Francisco. We go up every year to visit family and enjoy good food and culture. This year was no exception.
We drove up to SF the day before Valentine's Day and just two days after Penelope had taken her nursing board exam, the NCLEX. The stressful part of taking the NCLEX, apart from the five hours it can take to complete, is that you don't know if you passed for several days. Our first night we went to bed not fully ready to relax, worrying about the test.
That next morning, Penelope woke me to tell me she passed, we both screamed, tweeted, and jumped up and down on the bed. That was the our best Valentines Day ever. We had a lovely dinner at the tiny, but delicious Canteen. Afterwards we visited a plethora of bars.
During our trip we tried to jog every morning despite the rain, and we did a pretty good job. I think we jogged 6 times during the 10 days we were in SF.
I took a few working breaks to shoot photos for Wired, which due to work and a few other projects I have yet to post. They will be coming very soon, keep an eye out here and on wired.com from galleries from NIF, SLAC and a few other cool places.
The trip was wonderful and as always we can't wait to go back. Here are some of the photos we shot:
A lovely sunset as seen from our hotel room at the Kabuki.
Our kite soars above Penelope's head, despite the lack of a strong breeze.
A bouquet of locally grown flowers from the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Plaza.
More after the jump...
On Saturday my lovely wife Penelope and I completed what Backpacker Magazine calls America's 5th Hardest Day Hike. The Cactus to Clouds hike begins in Palm springs at roughly 600 feet above sea-level and tops out at the peak of Mt. San Jacinto at 10,800 feet. The grueling day hike covers over 23 miles, one of which takes you up almost 2,000 vertical feet.
Friday night Penelope and I stayed in Palm Springs at an amazing hotel, which also happens to be #1 in the country on Trip Advisor, called the Desert Riviera. The hotel and its owners are really amazing, and a subject of a future post on this blog. On Saturday morning we woke up at 2:45 a.m. and headed out to the trailhead.
We hit the trail at around 4:00 a.m. with our headlamps blazing. After hiking for 15 minutes the trail petered out and we were left wondering where to go. Penelope became worried that we were never going to find the trail and wanted to go back to the car and try from a different trailhead.
The other trailhead has an even harder-to-find trail so I decided that would be a bad idea. I told Penelope to relax and we backtracked a few hundred yards at which point I saw a white arrow spray-painted on a rock facing uphill. I followed the arrow and we were back on the path to the peak.
After two miles we came to a rock with white writing painted on it which told us to make sure we had plenty of water and that we had 8 miles and 10 hours to go. From what I've read, the actual distance from this point is closer to 10 miles. We hiked on for another hour or so when we saw another headlamp behind us and one ahead of us.
As the sun rose we saw the hiker behind us was a gray-haired woman. She was quickly gaining on us, but she ended up taking a shortcut and was suddenly way ahead of us. We never did catch up to her!
Around 6:30 a.m. the sun began to rise. We had gained a few thousand feet of elevation by that point and the sunrise was beautiful, one of the most enjoyable experiences of the hike.
For the first 9 miles the trail gradually gained altitude, then all of the sudden it basically goes nearly straight up for 3 miles. These miles were difficult and challenging with a steep, loose, rocky trail winding to Grubb's Notch. It was slow-going but we made it to the traverse, which was a welcome change in pace.
After traversing for half a mile we started back up on our final push to the top of the Skyline trail. The last quarter mile was almost straight up, but we were so close we powered up without stopping except to talk to a ranger.
The skyline trail ended up taking us about 8 hours including breaks. We sat down at the ranger station, filled out our permit and ate lunch.
Most people just do the Skyline trail and take the tram down. We decided to do the full Cactus to Clouds and hit the peak. After lunch we powered on up the final 5 and a half miles to the top. As we ascended the temperature dropped and the during the last few miles we were shrouded in clouds.
On our Deer Springs hike to San Jacinto the week before we spent a half hour on the peak and ate lunch. This time we took a few photos, sent out a SPOT message and quickly headed down.
We were very happy to reach the tram station 14 hours after starting our hike in Palm Springs. We felt good that we stuck through it and completed the hike, but boy were we tired. I can't wait for the next (hopefully shorter) hike, maybe it will snow and we'll do some snowshoeing!
If you're up for a serious, grueling, extreme-dayhiking challenge, definitely give the Cactus to Clouds hike a try. Just make sure to bring plenty of water (we brought 1.5 gallons each) and to train for it with at least a 5,000 foot elevation gain hike a few weeks before. Have fun and happy hiking!
Penelope and I stand on the peak of San Jacinto at the apex of our Cactus to Clouds hike.
The sun rises a few hours into our Cactus to Clouds hike.
Coffman's Crag juts out from the mountainside after the hardest part of the Cactus to Clouds hike.
Last Saturday Penelope and I hiked to the top of Mt. San Jacinto via Deer Springs Trail. It was our most challenging hike so far, covering nearly 20 miles with 5,200 feet of elevation gain.
San Jacinto is the third tallest mountain in Southern California. If you've ever driven out to Palm Springs, it's that giant mountain that seems to explode out of the desert to the south of the 10 freeway.
There are several routes to the peak, one of which is to ride the tram and then take a reasonably short hike up from there. A much longer route is called cactus to clouds and is about 23 miles up with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. We chose the next hardest route, up Deer Springs trail.
The Deer Springs trailhead is located less than a mile from Idyllwild. We pulled in to Idyllwild a bit later than we had intended and secured our permit. We hit the trail at 9:30 a.m. and started our way up.
The first seven miles were very gentle, gaining roughly 500 feet of elevation per mile. The scenery was beautiful with changing leaves in hues of gold and orange and lovely views down the mountain. The weather was perfect, nice and cool with a gentle breeze.
We averaged two miles per hour on the way up. For the last few miles we felt great. The seventh mile was the hardest, we gained about 1,000 feet in one mile, but even that wasn't very difficult.
We reached the summit of Mt. San Jacinto at 2:30 p.m. and ate lunch. The view from the top is spectacular especially on a clear day. We took a few photos and then headed down.
We chose a different and slightly longer route for our descent. We passed through several verdant cienegas. Cienegas are basically swamps, but beautiful and in the mountains. The three was hiked through were lush with foliage and water flowing through their muddy banks.
Our route down took longer than we originally estimated and the sun set while we were a couple miles from the trailhead. Being a former Boy Scout I am always (over) prepared and of course we brought our headlamps just in case.
For some odd reason, those last two miles seemed a lot longer than they did nine hours earlier! We ended up back at the car right around 6:30 p.m.
The Deer Springs trail is a wonderful route up to San Jacinto. It was great training for our upcoming cactus to clouds hike. We look forward to doing it again soon.
The setting sun casts a red glow on the ground behind Penelope during our hike down from San Jacinto.
Dave and Penelope pose for a photo after reaching the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.
The view is beautiful from halfway up the Deer Springs trail.
We have been training every weekend for this backpacking trip by taking nice long day hikes. The difference between our day hikes and the San Gorgonio summit was its 24 mile length compared to the 6 mile trips and of course the fact that we were carrying heavy packs.
We started out early Friday morning and drove up the 38 and then seven miles on a dirt road. This road took us to the Fish Creek trailhead where we parked and started our ascent.
The trail was beautiful and green with a nice gentle climb of about 1,800 feet in six miles. We didn't see another person the whole day we were hiking. Fish Creek trail is definitely less crowded than the other routes to the top.
Once we got to Mine Shaft Saddle we headed down to our campsite at Mine Shaft Flat about a mile and 600 vertical feet downhill. We set up camp and cooked up some dinner, which was quite good despite consisting of various types of ramen noodles and a package of spicy salmon.
The next morning we headed about a half-mile down the trail towards Big Tree camp to fill our water bottles. The water was flowing nicely and was icy cold and fresh. We filled up our containers and then used an MSR MIOX to purify the water.
What I failed to notice was that the test strips which detect the level of chlorine ions made by the MIOX were expired by two years. This caused us to keep adding the MIOX solution and our water tasted like it was fresh from a pool. It ended up being ok to drink, but not the most pleasant experience. Better than being dehydrated or getting Giardia!
The next morning we ate breakfast, broke down camp and headed up to the trailhead where Fish Creek trail intersects with the trail to the summit: Sky High View trail. Once at the intersection we unloaded our packs and stashed our gear, bringing only food, water, first aid and emergency supplies, my ham radio and the SPOT messenger.
The SPOT was nice to have, it allowed us to send our family our position throughout our trip. If there was an emergency we could have also used it to ask for help of request a rescue.
Once we had unloaded our packs, the four and a half mile 3,500' elevation gain hike was actually pretty easy. We made it up in roughly two hours despite Penelope feeling a little tired at the end, probably from low blood sugar.
At the peak we rested, took some photos and ate lunch. We chatted with some boy scouts and their troop leader. I then made contact with someone in Huntington Beach via the Catalina amateur radio repeater.
We also met a nice Israeli astrophysicist named Amri Wandel. Amri happened to be in the LA area teaching a class at UCLA called "Astrophysics and life in the Universe." He hiked down with us and we had a very interesting conversation about Black Holes, Quasars, Pulsars, Unified Field Theory and much more. He has some interesting papers about to come out that I will likely cover for Wired.com.
On the way down we made good time, only stopping once to grab our stashed gear. We made it down the mountain in about four and a half hours from the peak to the trail head. In all we hiked 17 miles on Saturday and about 24 miles total.
We had a great time and we are looking forward to backpacking again soon. We plan on bagging Mount Whitney around this time next year and Half Dome some time before that.
San Jacinto stands tall in the distance as seen from San Gorgonio peak at 11,500 feet last Saturday.
In January, my lovely wife Penelope and I took a vacation to the Bay Area to visit family, eat good food, and of course, shoot photos. My sister-in-law gave us a really awesome tour of the Internet Archive and on the way home we stopped and toured the amazingly beautiful SLAC, both of which turned in to WIRED News galleries. Last night I uploaded my photos from some of the non-tech places we visited. Here are a few for your enjoyment:
I just got paged. Tomorrow at 0600 I'll be at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Station. I'm not a firefighter, I do Search and Rescue, so obviously I won't be putting out any fires. I will most likely be doing evacuations. I'll post an update tomorrow when I get back, and I may also be twittering. I'm also going to try and get some photos of the action.
In a way, San Francisco City Hall is partially responsible for me being alive today. Way back in the day, my parents were married there in a civil ceremony. The dome of city hall is really beautiful, it looks like it was restored recently. I took some HDR photos of the civic center yesterday, enjoy.
I love this sign on the playground:
You can check the rest of the HDR San Francisco from Treasure Island set here.
After taking a tour of Hearst Castle, the wife and I are almost to SF. I'm posting this from my new Macbook Pro through bluetooth to my Blackberry and out over the EDGE network. We're going to be in SF for 5 nights and are planning on having some good food. I've been saving up for this as it our Christmas present to each other and I'm really excited. I posted a thread on Chowhound SF seeking recommendations for good restaurants. I will potentially be guest blogging on Metroblogging SF. Vacation, yay!
I'm going to bed as soon as I am done typing this because I am waking up around 4:00 am tomorrow to go search for a missing Danish hiker in the snow on San Jacinto. I am looking forward to this mission and to getting out in the snow. The tram ride is always fun, too. I'll take some pictures with my SD550 so you can see how it went.