Tag: California

the big trip, chapter 4: yosemite

The Denver Post has – thankfully – kept me very busy lately, and so I haven’t had time to continue my series on our Big Trip. My apologies for that. Today, I got off a little earlier than usual, and so I made myself sit down and work some more. Finally, after weeks and weeks of waiting, here is the fourth chapter of our Big Trip: Yosemite!


On Saturday morning, we headed out from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, the declared highlight of our trip. We had been anticipating it for months and put an enormous amount of planning into it. For several weeks, we studied trail descriptions, topo maps, weather forecasts and records, backpacker blogs, the National Park Service website (which is an amazing resource) and a lot of other material in order to prepare ourselves for the trip. We went on practice hikes with heavy backpacks to build up musculature and stamina, and we fired up our camping stove at home in order to figure out what best to bring for food. And now, finally, the day had come to put all this into practice and hike out into the breathtaking wilderness of Yosemite.

Since this was our first serious backpacking trip together, we decided to start small and raise the bar step by step. We split up the time we had at Yosemite into three hikes: a one-night trip down to Poopenaut Valley (which is a hike from hell, let me tell you!); a two-night hike to Rancheria Falls; and a three-night hike to Lake Eleanor. We finished all three hikes without any incidents and, what’s more, we had a perfect meal plan thanks to Beth. She spent weeks researching backpacking food, nutrition values and calorie charts and put together a well-rounded, healthy, nutritional, delicious and light-weight diet. After the amazing experience we had at Yosemite, we can’t wait to plan our next backpacking trip.

Orginally, I planned to post this leg of the road trip in several chapters, each dedicated to one of the three backpacking trips we did in the park. But when I edited my pictures, I found that this didn’t make much sense – I think it is more fitting to show the place as a whole rather than chopping it up into bite-sized pieces.

Also, I decided to go with a wider edit – well, actually, that’s not true. It wasn’t as much a conscious decision as not being able to let go of any more images. The place is just too beautiful to reduce it to five or so images. Please forgive me if my edit turned out to be rather extensive – blame it on the beauty of Yosemite!

Participants of a photography workshop wait for the right light in the Yosemite Valley at Tunnel View, May 29, 2011.

Participants of a photography workshop wait for the right light in the Yosemite Valley at Tunnel View, May 29, 2011.

A rainbow hangs over Yosemite Valley as the sun breaks through heavy rain couds, Yosemite National Park, May 29, 2011.

The wait was worth it...

Granite Gilia (Leptodactylon pungens) grow along the trail from Rancheria Falls to Tiltill Valley at Yosemite National Park, May 24, 2011.

Granite Gilia (Leptodactylon pungens) grow along the trail from Rancheria Falls to Tiltill Valley, May 24, 2011.

Hetch Hetchy Dome, center left, and Kolana Rock tower over the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir at Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

Hetch Hetchy Dome, center left, and Kolana Rock tower over the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, May 23, 2011.

The early morning sun breaks through the clouds at Lake Eleanor at Yosemite National Park, May 29, 2011.

The early morning sun breaks through the clouds at Lake Eleanor, May 29, 2011.

One of countless streams fed by snow melt washes over a rock at Rancheria Falls trail at Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

One of countless streams fed by snow melt washes over a rock at Rancheria Falls trail, May 23, 2011.

Clouds engulf the peaks over Hetch Hetchy Reservoir at Yosemite National Park, May 29, 2011.

Clouds engulf the peaks over Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, May 29, 2011.

The beauty of Yosemite lies not only in its breathtaking vistas and towering mountains, but also in the perfect little details, such as this small pool in a stream along Rancheria Falls trail, May 23, 2011.

The beauty of Yosemite lies not only in its breathtaking vistas and towering mountains, but also in the perfect little details, such as this small pool in a stream along Rancheria Falls trail, May 23, 2011.

Heavy clouds hang over the mountains surrounding Lake Eleanor at Yosemite National Park, May 27, 2011.

Heavy clouds hang over the mountains surrounding Lake Eleanor, May 27, 2011.

A snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) grows along the trail leading down from Miguel Meadows to Lake Eleanor. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this bizarre plant is a relative of the Manzanita shrub. Lacking own chlorophyll, it derives nutrition from a fungus that lives in symbiosis with conifers.

A snow plant (Sarcodes sanguinea) grows along the trail leading down from Miguel Meadows to Lake Eleanor. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this bizarre plant is a relative of the Manzanita shrub. Lacking own chlorophyll, it derives nutrition from a fungus that lives in symbiosis with conifers.

A sea of wildflowers grows above Hetch Hetchy Reservoir along the Rancheria Falls trail at Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

A sea of wildflowers grows above Hetch Hetchy Reservoir along the Rancheria Falls trail, May 23, 2011.

The majestic Wapama Falls drop almost 1,600 feet and shower the hikers along Rancheria Falls trail at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with their ice cold spray, May 23, 2011.

The majestic Wapama Falls drop almost 1,600 feet and shower the hikers along Rancheria Falls trail at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with their ice cold spray, May 23, 2011.

Yellow lichen grows on a tree at Lake Eleanor, Yosemite National Park, May 27, 2011.

Yellow lichen grows on a tree at Lake Eleanor, Yosemite National Park, May 27, 2011.

Applegate's Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) blooms above Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with Kolana Rock in the background, Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

Applegate's Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) blooms above Hetch Hetchy Reservoir with Kolana Rock in the background, May 23, 2011.

Yellow lichen grows on a dead Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) shrub near Rancheria Falls at Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

Yellow lichen grows on a dead Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) shrub near Rancheria Falls, May 23, 2011.

The sun breaks through thick rain clouds in Wawona, Yosemite National Park, May 29, 2011. This was shortly after our breaks went up in smoke coming down from Chinquapin.

The sun breaks through thick rain clouds in Wawona, May 29, 2011. This was shortly after our breaks went up in smoke coming down from Chinquapin.

The sun sets behind Hetch Hetchy Dome at Rancheria Falls, Yosemite National Park, May 23, 2011.

The sun sets behind Hetch Hetchy Dome at Rancheria Falls, May 23, 2011.

1 Comment June 23, 2011

the big trip, chapter 3: san francisco

The first week at the Denver Post is over, and it was a blast. The people at the paper are amazing, and so is the city I live in. So far, I haven’t found anything that I don’t like – except for Denver’s failed traffic management, where you spend more time waiting in front of red lights than moving. I will soon put up a selection of my work so far, but first I need to find out about the Post’s policy on blogging pictures that were not selected for publication. In the meantime, here’s the third chapter of our Big Trip: San Francisco.


After our stay in Big Sur, we went to stay in San Francisco for two nights with my dear friend John Bowman. The plan was to leave for Yosemite early morning on Saturday, so that left us with only one day to explore the city. I have been there twice before, but for Beth it was the first time. As usual, John knew just the places to go and see (and have lunch at…) and once again we had an unforgettable time. Thanks again, John, for having us! Hopefully we will see you soon…

Visitors enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., from Hendrik Point on the north end of the bridge, Friday, May 20, 2011.

Visitors enjoy the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Hendrik Point on the north end of the bridge, Friday, May 20, 2011.

Vendors sell food out of their truck during a fair at Fort Mason in San Francisco, Calif., Friday, May 20, 2011.

Vendors sell food out of their truck during a fair at Fort Mason.

A pink bottlebrush (Calistemon) grows on 7th Avenue and Clement St. in San Francisco, Calif., Friday, May 20, 2011.

A pink bottlebrush (Calistemon) grows on 7th Avenue and Clement St.

Robbie Sweeny, right, talks to John Bowman in the car while driving through San Francisco, Calif., Friday, May 20, 2011.

Robbie Sweeny is a friend of John's who we got to meet at the Fine Arts Fair at Fort Mason Center.

June 12, 2011

the big trip, chapter 2: big sur

We finally reached Denver after an adventurous last leg of our roadtrip. Once we got our brakes fixed in Fresno, we continued to the Grand Canyon – only to realize that the car was now permanently overheating. On the first day after we got back on the road, we managed to drive a whopping 300 miles in ten hours – with cooling stops every 50 miles or so. The following days were better, but only after we began stockpiling large water canisters in the car, driving uphill at a dizzying 15 mph and crossing the Arizona and New Mexico desert with the heat on full to help cool down the engine.

Yesterday, 2,711 miles after we left San Clemente, we arrived at our new place in Arvada, a suburb of Denver. A few hours later, we ran into a wonderful gentleman named Eric Wilper whose bike broke down right where we made a cooling stop during a test drive to see if a new radiator cap would fix the overheating problem (it didn’t). He happened to be an avid hobby mechanic, and after we gave him a ride home, he helped us out in turn by exchanging the thermostat of the Aerostar during a 2-hour operation. What a warm welcome to beautiful Colorado!

But to cut a long story short, we now have internet access again, and I can finally post the second chapter of our Big Trip: Big Sur.


After we woke up Thursday morning in the shade of giant old redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we started exploring the beautifully rugged coastline between McWay Cove and Point Sur. We happened to be there at the perfect time. Spring had just arrived and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Add to that the spectacular scenery of the Santa Lucia mountain range rapidly falling of into the roaring Pacific, and you have the recipe for possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth…

Please note: I tried my best to identify the wildflowers in the following pictures correctly. However, I am not an expert. If you notice any inaccuracies, please leave a comment at the end of this post!

Mountains and ocean meet to create the unique scenery of McWay Cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, Calif., May 19, 2011.

Mountains and ocean meet to create the unique scenery of McWay Cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, Calif., May 19, 2011.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica ssp. californica) lines the entrance road of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Calif., May 19, 2011.

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica ssp. californica) lines the entrance road of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

A park visitor walks through the Overlook Trail pedestrian tunnel at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Calif., May 19, 2011.

A park visitor walks through the Overlook Trail pedestrian tunnel at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Island False Bindweed (Calystegia Macrostegia) grows on the cliffs of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Calif., May 19, 2011.

Island False Bindweed (Calystegia Macrostegia) grows on the cliffs of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Sea and sky meet at the Pacific Coast of Big Sur, Calif., May 19, 2011.

Sea and sky meet at the Pacific Coast of Big Sur.

Waves crash through an opening in the rocks at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, Calif., May 19, 2011.

Waves crash through an opening in the rocks at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur.

An unidentified wildflower blooms at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Calif., May 19, 2011.

An unidentified wildflower blooms at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

The sun breaks through the clouds at Point Sur, Calif., May 19, 2011.

The sun breaks through the clouds at Point Sur.

3 Comments June 5, 2011

the big trip, chapter 1: san clemente – big sur

After four months as editing interns with ZUMAPRESS, the time has come for Beth and I to move on to new horizons. My summer internship with the Denver Post will start on June 6, which left us enough time to embark on a roadtrip and visit some of the most beautiful parts of the West Coast.

I was hoping to blog about this trip more regularly and more often, but internet access and the time to edit pictures and prepare blog posts are hard to come by when the road is your home. Currently, we are stranded in a cheap motel in a not-so-good area of Fresno, Calif., after the mountains in Yosemite and Los Padres National Forest ate up the breaks of my car. Since no mechanic is open on Memorial Day, we had no choice but to wait until tomorrow – which finally gives me a chance to post the first chapter of the Big Trip: San Clemente to Big Sur.

Over the next couple of days, I will post several more chapters of the trip, so please check back soon!


Originally, we planned to drive the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Big Sur. A couple of weeks before we left, however, a rock slide rendered parts of the road impassable and forced us to take a little detour through the Santa Lucia Mountains. We didn’t know it at the time, but this turned out to be a beautiful stroke of luck.

The detour took us along the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road through the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest. The pass winds up to a total elevation of 2780 ft., where the low-hanging clouds coming in from the Pacific engulf the mountains in an almost magical fog penetrated by soft sunlight. This unique topography and climate have given birth to a stunning and unique ecosystem: Literally out of the blue you turn around a corner and drive from an arid, montane chaparral into a rain forest-like woodland where huge, ancient redwood trees grow out of sight into the soft, grey silence of the clouds.

Driving on the US-101 N near San Miguel, Calif., May 18, 2011.

Driving on the US-101 N near San Miguel, Calif., May 18, 2011.

Clouds move into a valley in the Santa Lucia Mountains at Los Padres National Forest, Calif., Wednesday, May 18, 2011.

Clouds move into a valley in the Santa Lucia Mountains at Los Padres National Forest.

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road winds up into the clouds engulfing the Santa Lucia Mountains at Los Padres National Forest, Calif., May 18, 2011.

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road winds up into the clouds engulfing the Santa Lucia Mountains.

The low-hanging clouds that move in from the Pacific coast create a magical atmosphere in the higher elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

We got a little carried away by the fairy-tale mood of the scenery...

The low-hanging clouds that move in from the Pacific Coast create an incredible atmosphere in the higher elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

A trail head leads from Nacimiente-Fergusson Road into the fog.

Redwoods grow along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road as it winds down the Santa Lucia Mountains toward the Pacific coast at Los Padres National Forest, Calif., May 18, 2011.

Redwoods grow along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road as it winds down toward the Pacific Coast.

Wildflowers grow along the cliffs at the Pacific Coast near Lucia, Calif., May 18, 2011.

The Pacific Coast near Lucia, Calif.

Fueling up the car at probably one of the most beautiful gas stations in the world near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Calif., May 18, 2011.

Fueling up the car at probably one of the most beautiful gas stations in the world near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Dress rehearsal for the backpacking trip: Our first dinner of the camping stove, consisting of couscous, dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Calif., May 18, 2011.

After setting up camp in a grove of huge Redwood trees at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we got a chance for a dress rehearsal for the backpacking trip to Yosemite: Our first dinner of the camping stove, consisting of couscous, dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms. Delicious...

4 Comments May 30, 2011

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