Wind Cave Trail in Mesa, Arizona

This past November, I was fortunate enough to travel with my club soccer to the National Tournament in Mesa, Arizona. While my team did not play as well as we had wanted to, our early elimination had one silver lining: we got to stay an extra day and go on a really cool hike!

Just a heads up – these are all iphone photos so they won’t be as great as quality of usual, but I think you can still get a good idea of the hike.

Wind Cave Trail is an easy, 3 mile, out and back hike in Usery Mountain regional park. The trail is fairly flat for most of the hike until the end where it gets moderately steep. The views from the tops are not the best I’ve ever seen, but the hike itself is really enjoyable, and there are a ton of interesting plants to see.

Our team’s goal while we were in Arizona was to see a lot cactuses, and this hike really delivered on that. Some of these cactuses were 15 plus feet tall and it was really cool. One of the girls brought along her polaroid camera and we had a lot of fun posing with cactuses and playing with her camera.

As I said earlier, the first part of the hike is pretty flat. You’re walking on a twisting path between a lot of cactuses. On a couple occasions, the trail dips down into a dried out creek bed. The trail is flat like this for about a mile.

Next, the trail begins to climb. It’s not that steep, but it climbs steadily. Sadly, the cactuses are not as frequent as you get to a higher elevation. The trail sort of follows the edge of the mountain until it wraps around and you make it to the caves. I was told by fellow hikers that the caves make a whistling sound when its windy out. From the caves, you get a view of the trail you just climbed, and a big sign made out of rocks on the side of the mountain that says Phoenix, Arizona with an arrow pointing towards downtown, Unfortunately, it was too far away to get a great picture of it.

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one of the steepest parts of the trail

If you keep climbing up past the caves, you get a cool view looking out over the park. This is a good place to take a quick break and maybe eat lunch or some snacks.

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#views

The climb down is fairly quick. I think the whole hike took us about 2.5 hours, but we were messing around and taking pictures and took a long break at the top. Even though we didn’t move on at Nationals, I’m still had a ton of fun in Arizona and I’m really glad we got to do this hike. If you’re ever in Mesa and looking for something to do, I would definitely recommend this hike!

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Thanks for reading!!
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Red Rock/High School Hill Hike in San Luis Obispo

for my #slocals

Beginning Note: I have heard this hike called both Red Rock and High School Hill, but I think High School Hill is the more common name for it.

This is one of my favorite short hikes in San Luis Obispo. It’s a 4 mile out and back hike that’s moderately difficult. My favorite part of the hike is that there is an interesting metal structure at the top that you can climb and play around on. When it’s clear, there are great views of Bishops Peak, Madonna, and you can occasionally see all the way to the ocean. In the spring when the hills are green and the wildflowers are blooming it’s especially beautiful. This hike is also part of the Three Peak or Tri-Tip Challenge in San Luis Obispo where you hike Bishops, Madonna, and this hill and then you go eat a tri-tip sandwich at Firestone Grill downtown. If you have a whole day to spend in SLO and enjoy hiking, I would definitely recommend doing these three hikes (and getting the sandwich because Firestone is bomb).

Another great thing about this hike is that it’s very easy to find the trailhead. It’s at the end of Lizzy Street. You drive up the hill until the street end and then the trail starts there.

The trail starts on a fairly flat, but rocky, narrow trail that is fenced in my a wooden fence. This is the only part of the trail that is shaded by trees so enjoy it while you can.

After this first part, the hike basically just climbs at a fairly steady and steep pace until you reach the top of the hill. The trail cuts up the hillside, and there are often wildflower and Yucca plants in bloom along on the trail. Unfortunately, on the way up your back is turned towards the view, but, because this trail is such a steady climb, I usually take some breaks and that offers you a chance to turn around and look out at the view.

Another note: if it has just rained or it is going to rain, DO NOT DO THIS HIKE. It gets super slippery when its wet because of the steepness and the rocks on the trail. I also would not recommend this hike for a sunrise hike due to the weather in SLO. It’s often foggy in the morning and usually doesn’t clear away until mid morning. I made the mistake of doing this hike at sunrise once and the fog was so thick that it looked like there was a white sheet behind us in photos.

Once you reach the top, you’ll have great views of all of San Luis Obispo. The town and Bishops Peak are laid out in front of you, and then to the side you can see the rolling hills of the Paso Robles grade. There is also a metal structure/bell tower at the top that I have always taken the time to climb and play on. This structure used to be red, but I believe it is currently green.

Overall, this is a fun, quick, but difficult hike that provides you with great views. It’s in a fairly central location in SLO and easy to find.

 

Yosemite 2017 – Day 5

Hetch Hetchy and home!

Today we hiked Hetch Hetchy Dam. This dam was created in 1923 with the daming of Tuolumne River and began to deliver water to the San Francisco area in 1934. The creation of this dam is rumored to have contributed to the death of John Muir because he was so saddened by the loss of this beautiful valley. The valley is described as having natural beauty to rival Yosemite Valley. The Sierra Club still has a campaign to restore the valley to what it was like before the dam was created and open it back up to the public. As I walked along the water in the valley I too couldn’t help but mourn the loss of what would have been a gorgeous area to hike and camp in. Similar to Yosemite Valley, it has natural domes, huge and gorgeous waterfalls, and a river that would have run through its center. While draining the dam may be unrealistic at this point because it supplies water to such a huge area, as I hiked across the dam and looked across the filled in valley I could almost imagine what could have been had this area not been altered and, as a staunch conservationist, deeply regretted the loss of what should have been a protected area for the public to enjoy.

A photo of the valley before it was filled with water.

Even though the area has been massively altered by the creation of the dam, the hike is still quite beautiful. The first step to the hike is walking across the dam itself. It is a stark contrast between the calm waters of the reservoir on one side and rapidly flowing water on the other side. From this point, you have a view across the whole valley. We went incredibly early in the morning, and the sun was rising above the valley so the pictures look a little discolored despite my efforts try every exposure and aperture setting on the camera. The pictures I took here don’t quite capture the natural beauty of this area.

Next the hike walks along the water. It may have been a high year of rainfall when we went, but we were no more than 10-20 feet above the water for the next mile of the hike. It is fairly flat at this point with a wide trail where my dad and I were able to walk side by side.  As with the rest of the hike, you occasionally catch panoramic views of the valley through the trees that line the trails.

The next part of the hike is on uncovered rock that starts to go a lot steeper uphill and then back downhill. This pattern of uphill and downhill recurs a few times. If it wasn’t 8 am in the morning when we were doing this hike I would imagine that this would be uncomfortably hot because there’s no tree cover on this part of the hike.

After a final uphill and then downhill push, you finally arrive at the waterfall. This waterfall must have been huge and beautiful before the dam existed. Even as is, it was still one of my favorite sites we saw this week. The waterfall sprays down in multiple separate places and mists off the rock forming little mini rainbows in every direction. The water from the falls actually gets the trail a little misty and it felt very refreshing after the hike it took to get there. The trail in this place is actually a long bridge and the water from the falls runs under the trail in places and into the reservoir. This waterfall is easily the best part of the hike.

Overall, this hike was very easy, had some great views over the reservoir, and ended with a gorgeous waterfall. If you’re ever in this area, I would recommend it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do this hike. It was nice, but it takes a long time to get there because the road is windy and narrow, and the entire time I could just imagine how the valley would have looked before it was filled in with water. It really is a tragedy what happened to this valley, and I can only hope that us humans are more thoughtful about using nature for our own gain in the future.

The valley before it was filled with water. You can see the waterfall I have photos of as well as the river that used to run through the valley.

This ended our trip to Yosemite. I had a great week with my dad and Shayna and we were already planning on next trip on the car ride home today.

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Thanks for reading!

Yosemite 2017 – Day 4

Gaylor Lake Trail and Mine

My friend, Shayna, left us to go home and see Hamilton this morning, but, after showing her the pictures, she was really bummed she missed this hike. Today we did the Gaylor Lakes Trail and it may have been one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. This hike is definitely one of the best kept secrets in Yosemite. There were maybe 15 other hikers we saw on the trail, and we were on this beautiful trail for four hours because it was just so pretty we didn’t want to leave.

Four hours sounds like a long time, but the trail itself is actually quite short at about 4 miles long roundtrip and only has a 600 foot elevation. Like everything we have been doing in Yosemite, it is at a very high elevation and the start of the trailhead is already at 10,000 feet elevation. The trail is off of Tioga Pass, and so is open whenever that road is open (usually October-Septemberish). I would recommend bringing bug spray because you will be surrounded by lots of water and the mosquitos definitely came for me. I went home with over 30 bug bites!

The hike starts at a decently steep incline up a trail that takes you through some trees and near a stream. It’s almost an uphill meadow because there’s a lot of grass but there’s also a lot of trees. This part of the hike had some gorgeous wildflowers decorating the trail. My dad and I were in no hurry to rush through and I kept stopping and taking picture of flowers.

Eventually, the trail changes into more of a wooded area instead of a meadow, and then it crests up into an  area that is straight rock that’s tinged red from all the iron in the ground. It’s a bit hard to describe because this trail would literally look like three or four separate hikes if you were to look at my pictures from the day. Once you get to this crest it completely changes scenery. Behind you, towards the valley, is all of Dana Meadow and it’s numerous ponds and streams stretching out before you. In front of you is a view of a gorgeous alpine lake and mountains in the background. The natural beauty of this place will take your breath away.

As you can see, you have to climb down to the lake, and then the trail follows it closely on the side. Close enough to where at one point I squatted down and put my hand in the water because I was curious how cold it was. (It was very cold). There were lots of wildflowers here too just like earlier in the hike. The lake was a deep sapphire blue color and looking out over it on the trail had a postcard-type view of some of the tallest peaks in the park. You almost get the sense that you’re looking off the edge of the world.

The next part of the hike feels like you are in the Sound of Music. The trail runs next to a stream up a grassy meadow. The path actually crosses over the stream a few times as it goes slightly uphill towards another lake. There’s a lot of wildflowers at this part of the hike too and the grass was incredibly green when we were there in late August. At the crest of the hill, you see another lake that is framed by a mountain. There was actually a large patch of  snow when we were there, which was so strange to see because it was about 75 degrees out. The trail actually went across the snow, so my dad and I made some snowballs.

After we had shuffled about 100 yards across the snow, the trail continued up a hill above the lake, The scenery completely changes here. The ground has much more iron here and it is a deep red color as you walk up the hill overlooking the lake. Once you reach the top of this hill, you see a partially fallen down house made out of slate. If you walk a little further, you can see two sunken in mines. In the early 1900’s, there were silver mines up here, but they collapsed after they went out of use when they didn’t prove fruitful. The partially built houses up on this hill are the houses of the miners who used to live there. It was super cool to walk up around here and imagine how these miners might have lived in this incredibly isolated area. It would have been beautiful, but lonely.

This was definitely my favorite hike of the trip. It wasn’t the longest or the most well known, but it was incredibly beautiful and not very trafficked. Of all the hikes we did this week, this is the hike I would be most likely to do again and I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themself on Tigoa Pass.

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Thanks for reading!

Yosemite 2017 – Day 3

Cloud’s Rest

I have wanted to hike Cloud’s Rest since I first learned about the hike a few years ago, and it was at the top of my list when we were planning this trip earlier in the summer. Cloud’s Rest is a 14.2 mile hike with about 1800 feet of elevation gain. From the top, it offers one of the sickest views of Half Dome in the park, along with views of Tenaya Lake, Mount Hoffman, North Dome, and so many other peaks that we could only begin to name when we pulled out our map. When we did the hike, it wasn’t terribly crowded, but there were other hikers on the trail. We did start pretty late in the day, around 10 AM, because we had hiked Pothole Dome first, so that may have made it seem like there were less hikers than if we had started the hike earlier in the day.

This first couple miles of this hike are a flat nature walk through the Tenaya Lake Valley. It’s shaded and smells like trees and is generally very enjoyable. It sort of makes you think like hey, this hike might not be too bad (you are wrong of course). You also walk next to a river for parts of it, which is nice.

Funny story time: I was using fairly new hiking shoes on this trip, and after we hiked Pothole Dome this morning, I spent about 15 minutes cutting up moleskin and bandaging my blistered feet. About 200 yards into the hike, there is a stream you have to ford and I just thought “oh no, now I have to stall our hike even longer”. I thought I was going to have to take the bandages off my feet, walk across the river, and then rebandage them. But, then my dad pulled through and won MVP of the trip when he carried me across this stream. Other hikers on the trail thought it was hilarious.

After that pleasant nature walk where you’re tricked into thinking this hike will be a breeze (I should’ve known better, we were in Yosemite after all), you gain 1000 feet of elevation in a mile on a bunch of switchbacks. The only redeeming thing about this part of the hike was that parts of it were in the shade. It’s not quite Half Dome status, but its certainly not fun to gain this much elevation this quickly at such a high elevation.

The next part of the hike was a pretty steep downhill for quite awhile (that you will feel on the way home) and then another nature stroll through some woods. There’s a small lake that you pass and a stream and lots and lots and lots of wildflowers. There were so so many lupins when we went, it looked like a fairy forest of lupins because at points they just blanketed the ground. There is a lot of water in this part of the hike, so there are also a lot of mosquitos. If you want to stop and take pictures, be prepared to be bitten. I ended up with 37 mosquito bites at the end of this trip (but don’t let that stop you from doing this hike, mosquitos really like my blood for some reason and my dad did not end up with that many bites).

After that, you start your ascent up Cloud’s Rest itself. It’s definitely not as steep as the first climb of the hike, but it’s not a comfortable uphill either. The scenery at this part of the hike isn’t really that great, so we just powered through this part with few stops until we reached the peak.

The peak of Cloud’s Rest is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, but it was also terrifying for someone like me who has quite the fear of heights. On one of the sides of the peak is the furthest drop in the park. If you fell from here, you would fall around 5,000 feet. The way the peak looks is that it starts as a wide base, and then it gets really narrow as you get closer to the peak, and then once you make it to the top (where all the dope views are) it widens out again. The one thing I will say is to be very careful on that narrow part. If you trip, you’ll probably be fine, but a part of me felt like a strong gust of wind would just blow me off the face of the Earth.

THE VIEWS FROM THE TOP ARE SOME OF THE COOLEST THINGS I’VE EVER SEEN. You get one of the best views of Half Dome in the park, and can see so many other peaks. Using a map, my dad and I found Mt. Hoffman, North Dome, Tenaya Lake, and various other peaks. Even with the fires that were happening while we were there, the views were still amazing. I can’t even imagine what it looks like from the top of this peak on a clear day.

I highly recommend this hike and I would definitely do it again. Although it’s long, it’s not ridiculously difficult, and the views from the top are worth it.  10/10 would recommend.

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This is literally the coolest photo anyone has ever taken of me.

Can’t beat Yosemite! Thanks for reading!

Yosemite 2017 – Day 3

Pothole Dome

Today, we hiked both Pothole Dome in Tuolumne Meadow and Cloud’s Rest, but in this post I’m going to focus specifically on Pothole Dome (mostly because Cloud’s Rest really does deserve it’s own separate post).

Pothole Dome was about a 2-3 mile hike with only 300 feet of elevation gain (which a breeze compared to yesterday). Unlike some of the other hikes we did this week, I never felt like one misstep would mean near-immediate death, and it can be comforting to have that kind of security on a hike (especially when you are doing an abundance of near-immediate death hikes). When we went, the crowds were light. We did not see any other hikers on the dome; the few hikers who we passed were on the Tuolumne Meadow Loop.

Fun fact about me: I am OBSESSED with meadows. There’s something about a field of grass and wildflowers in the middle of a forest that really makes me content. I could wander in meadows all day without seeing gaining any elevation and be perfectly happy. I also love taking photos of wildflowers, and meadows often provide many different kinds of flowers as well as many different kinds of lighting to experiment.

Pothole Dome is on the west end of Tuolumne Meadow. It doesn’t have much of a trailhead, but there are a few spots you can pull into right off of Tioga Road. It’s easy to miss though, so make sure that you’re looking out for it.

The beginning of the hike is just through the meadow and then it skirts around the edge of the dome. When we were there, there were lots of white and yellow wildflowers and the grasses were very tall and green.

Finding the place where you actually start walking up the dome is a bit tricky. Basically, its when the trail curves left for the first time and when the trail curves left for the second time. You have to walk through a small patch of trees and then you just walk right up the rock.

It is a bit strange to be walking up what feels like concrete in the middle of a wilderness, but that’s how you make it to the top. There’s not really a trail (although there were some markers when I went), but it flattens out at the top so you should know that you made it. It’s not particularly steep, but we were all breathing a bit harder by the time we reached the top.

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The view from the top is, like everything else in Yosemite, beautiful and varied and the type of view you could only find in Yosemite. You can see clear across the meadow all the way to Lembert Dome. The river snakes lazily through the meadow in wide curves that look fake from the height you’re at. Off in the other direction is Unicorn Peak which was till covered in snow. Facing the road is a massive face of granite that I don’t even think you can hike. For such a short hike, you get incredibly varied views in all directions.

I would definitely do this hike again. It was short, easy, and had a big pay off at the top. Plus, you get to walk through a meadow, and meadows are the best.

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Thanks for reading!

Yosemite 2017 – Day 2

Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls

On this day of our trip we hiked lower and upper Yosemite falls, although I’m not sure I would call lower falls a hike so much as a nature walk on pavement. It’s a half mile loop there and back that’s really easy and mostly flat right up until you get to the viewing point of the falls. The falls, of course, are gorgeous. This is a great hike to do as a warm-up, if you don’t have that much time, or if you have someone with you who has limited mobility. We did it as a warm-up before our main event, which was hiking upper Yosemite falls.

Warning – I would not recommend hiking upper falls unless you are a fairly experienced hiker and don’t mind lots of people on the trail with you. The trail is 7.2 miles round trip with 2,700 feet elevation gain. It’s a difficult hike, and, to be perfectly honest, the hike isn’t all that attractive until you make it close to the top. It was an alright hike, but it’s definitely something I only want to do once.

The trail starts up a series of steep switchbacks that seem like they go on forever. The switchbacks are, however, in the shade because you are surrounded by trees. It makes it difficult to get a view of how far you have climbed up, but we welcomed the shade on the hot August day in which we made the hike.

After you finally reach the top of what seems like endless switchbacks, you reach this plateau area where the trail is fairly flat, and there’s even some downhill (which is annoying on the way back). There’s some gorgeous views of the valley floor and half-dome and, when you go around the corner, you get your first view of Yosemite falls on the hike.

This flat area of the trail leads to, you guessed it, more switchbacks! This is definitely the hardest part of the hike because the switchbacks are steep, long, and 100 percent in the blazing sun. You do, however, get some pretty sweet views of the valley floor as you climb. Coming from sea level straight into this hike I actually got a bit of altitude sickness. Just take it slow and remember to bring lots and lots of water!

I won’t bore you with any more descriptions of the switchbacks. Just know that it was long and tiring and took a freaking long time to hike. Eventually, the switchbacks flatten out and you reach the top. I know you’ll probably want to stop here and never move your body again, but if you can garner up the energy, I would recommend walking the extra couple hundred yards up to the top. Here you get a view over the valley floor and of half dome. You can even look out over the waterfall which is awesome but a little freaky.

Another route you can take at the top is to the bank of the river that tumbles into Yosemite Falls. We sat and ate our lunch next to the river. However, please please please do not wade into the water. It’s easy to forget when you’re sitting along the peaceful, slow moving river, but you are at the top of one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, so treat the river that runs into that waterfall with respect and caution.

After a short rest and some lunch, we headed back down the trail. It was hot and dusty, but going downhill was significantly easier, and the sky was clearer of the smoke from the fire so we had a much better view of half dome and the valley floor on the way down. This hike was challenging with lots of awesome views. If nothing else, you get to stand on top of one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.