Camping Japan

We’re (probably not) moving to Tokyo (edit: ok, actually we are)

Warning: This will be more of a high school emo style blog post without a lot of photos, so set your expectations accordingly!

Note: if you’re reading this, either we’ve decided to move to Tokyo, or it’s been weeks or months since this discussion came up and we’ve decided not to and the thought has been well put to bed. I’m writing this for myself, to process my thoughts / feelings and document them for the next time this type of life changing issue comes up.

Two weeks ago Lindsay got a “cold call” from a quality international school in Tokyo, Japan asking her to interview for a middle school position that starts in August of this year (roughly three months time). They had found her resume in a hiring pool from a job she had applied to a long time ago and reached out randomly and without prompting. This was totally out of the blue, and unexpected, and pretty “world rocking” to be honest. To be clear, we had absolutely zero plans on moving to Japan, or even visiting Japan this year, BUT… Tokyo! One of the worlds great cities! Japan! Curry! Onsen! Sento! Beautiful mountains and streams and Hokkaido in the fall! Easy access to Korea and Vietnam! Etc.

Camping Canada

Canada Part 2 and 3 and 4!

Well, blogging while in Canada proved more difficult then I had expected. Mainly because of a lack of power, the fact that it’s not super easy to drive and type, and the fact that we were nearly always moving somewhere. So now I’m home, short on time as our India adventure is about to begin, and looking back.

So, in the interest of time, I’m going to post a few photos that will generally give an idea of what the rest of our trip looked like.

First, Lake Louise/Banff/Jasper.

We really liked Banff. It was, for us, more enjoyable then Yosemite. The water was all very beautiful, though not super practical as far as swimming went as it was pretty cold (glacier runoff) and mineral rich and so not great visibility. But awesome. The actual town/city of Banff was pretty awesome as well.

Here’s a video of some of the non-glacial water:

And here is a video of glacial water:

Lindsay at Lake Louise


We went to a hot spring pool in Banff (the Upper Springs). This was awesome, although I’m guessing the water was about 1% spring water, 99% tap water. Still very nice.


The campground itself we stayed at in Banff was a very nice national park. Of interest was the fact that our campground was completely enclosed by a electric fence to keep the animals from eating us.

So, after Banff the plan was to head to Calgary and check out the city. After arriving, we realized that Calgary, while nice enough, didn’t really have a huge draw for us personally. We decided to move on, but wanted to see at least one “touristy” thing before we left.. We saw the Calgary Stampede from the outside, and then we read in our guidebook that there was a “bazar” with lots of interesting shops and coffee. Coffee sounded pretty good, so we opted to check this out. It was a crappy strip mall, it turns out. Thankfully, I had refused to pay the ridiculous parking meter so stopping into this place didn’t cost anything, but still we were not impressed.


After leaving Calgary we ran into something that we knew we’d hit: flat wheat fields for ~1000 miles.


Honestly, we knew that we were going to have flat land because everybody and everything we read said as much, but it really was crazy. Almost flat roads, for days of driving. We camped along the way and ran into some of the worst mosquitos either of us had ever experienced.

One night, near Regina, Saskatchewan Lindsay and I decided we wanted a short break from driving and to eat dinner at a sit down sort of (cheap) restaurant. We drove forever, looking for SOMETHING that was open that wasn’t fast food. We ended up sitting down at a place, looking at the menu and realizing that the food, even at a small hole in the wall crappy sort of place was super expensive (for our budget at least). This isn’t a very exciting story, but it was one of the most frustrating things that happened on the trip. We wanted so bad to eat, to stop driving, etc.


During this boring part of the drive, while I was driving, Lindsay often played The New Super Mario World


We stopped, for some reason, in this beauty of a town: Grenfell.


Eventually we made our way to Ontario.

First, we bought some smoked fish near Lake Superior:

Video of Sai eating some great smoked fish

Then, we camped for a night at Lake Superior Provincial Park, which was awesome awesome. Probably one of our favorite places actually that we camped. We managed to catch a sunset which was awesome, and I was quite excited about swimming in Lake Superior…. On the down side, in the morning, just as I was coming back from taking a “shower” in the lake, Lindsay said, “well I think Sai has ringworm.” We looked at Sai’s stomach, and it sure LOOKED like ringworm, so we packed up camp and headed for the/a city.

To be continued/finished…

Camping Canada Travel

On the road

Well, we’ve done it. We are on the road. Currently writing this blog post from my cousin Alicia’s kitchen table [edit: this isn’t actually correct any more, but I wanted to finish this post and post it for historical purposes anyway – we’re now in Sault Saint Marie].

The past few days were a bit of a whirlwind, although that’s a bit of a cliche. I think. Honestly, maybe it’s not, I don’t know.

Let’s call it a whirlwind. Basically, I worked up until Monday, June 30, and cleaned and packed. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was saying goodbye to great friends/people. The weekend before we left we painted the walls in apartment, fixed holes, replaced blinds, etc. Frankly the entire process was a little frustrating as we moved into our apartment taking over somebody else’s lease and the apartment was never cleaned or painted originally. Much of the paint on the wall was pealing, not because of our use or misuse, but just because the paint had been applied poorly some 4+ years ago. One night we were up until around 1 am painting walls. It got to the point where we literally DUMPED paint from the bucket onto flat surfaces (like our lofted bed) and rolled it smooth. And I replaced two different sets of blinds, which, let me tell you, was a pain in the ass. In the future, at least in my own house, I’ll buy the $15-$20 blinds instead of the $5-$7 blinds as they are about 5x more difficult to hang.

Sai watches Lindsay paintApartment paintingLindsay escapes the lightLindsay's Sell Station

Anyway, we packed our car. The car packing has been a bit of a touchy issue between Lindsay and me. In short, I wanted to have lots of room in the car so we didn’t feel like we were totally crammed in, Lindsay wanted to save money by getting more stuff in the car. We had more arguments then I’d care to admit about the car, over a greater period of time then I’d like to admit, but in the end we got everything fitting. We basically have the car packing down to a science, and at least the camping stuff we need on a daily basis (tent, sleeping stuff, cooking equipment, and food) is easily accessible.

I’m going a bit out of order here (it’s been really tough to sit down and write anything!), but basically after work on Monday we had one last night in Oakland. We had a sushi dinner at Ichiro, our favorite local sushi restaurant, and spent a few last hours cleaning and doing a check out with Dan, the manager at our apartment. Then we went to bed. The next morning we hit the road.


Not that interesting, but I have to say that at no point during all of this did I feel particularly emotional. Which is sort of sad really, because generally I’m a very emotional guy. I think the sad truth is I had SOO much going on in my head, so many little stresses (health insurance while traveling, figuring out what to do with our mattress before we left, money, canceling various things, etc, etc). I regret not having had the chance to “mourn” the loss of our life in Oakland. Since leaving, I’ve felt a bit of sadness from time to time, but I think that might just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Oakland was such an amazing place, and I have so many amazing memories. I still can’t think of a better place to live.

Anyway, the first place we stopped on our road trip was Portland, Oregon to visit my family (Aunt Kim, Alicia, Justin, Jack, Charlie, Andrew, and Malia). We spent two and a half, three-ish days there and had an awesome time. My cousins (though I hope one day I might be called Uncle Kev) Jack and Charlie are awesome little kids and I’m very happy to have been able to see them for a second time. We went swimming, drank coffee, drank beer, etc. A very nice time.

Alicia and Jack or maybe CharlieThe family

We started our real trip in Seattle – we camped in a pretty great campground called Saltwater State Park, which was great. On a whole, of the places we’ve camped so far, this was probably a nicer campground – we’ve for various reasons ended up camping at a lot of RV Parks which are generally flat, ugly places (that are easy to get to, relatively cheap for tent campers, and most importantly close to the cities we want to visit!).

Working on a website

Seattle was great. We did a bit of research on the different neighborhoods within Seattle so that we could get a feel for the different areas within Seattle. We went to perhaps 4 or 5 different neighborhoods, walked around in some, etc. A highlight for us was Green Lake, which was a place for “power singles” and “power couples” (I mention this because I thought it was funny), had a really amazing lake (the neighborhoods namesake). It’s a bit tough to tell you how great Green Lake was, but it was just a super busy, high energy lake. Lindsay (or maybe me) described it as Lake Merritt with a nice beach and a raft with a high dive in it with swimmable, warm water.

Next up was Vancouver. Which we loved. Vancouver was very much a West Coast city, and especially as we drive East across Canada it becomes more and more clear there there is a different between a West Coast city and a Mid-West city. I’d say Vancouver is a city that we could very much live in. For one thing, it seemed really well organized, and clean! One of the small strange things that stuck out to me was that every garbage can in the city had a nice, high quality garbage bag in it. Coming from Oakland where garbage bags were done away with and in their place heavy duty inner garbage cans were used, I appreciated this. I’m not sure trash bags are as efficient, but even the garbage seemed cleaned. Vancouver also felt very multi-cultural. There were TONS of different accents and languages that we heard walking around.

It’s a bit difficult to explain how Vancouver felt. We were there for two days. It felt very different from the US, but I can’t say if that was all in my head or not. Everybody we talked with was friendly, and the place felt like it was healthy without being over the top or preachy about being organic or vegan or etc, etc, etc. The other thing that was a big confusing was that there were SOO many people outside in bathing suits, on the beach, etc. From what I understand, the weather in Vancouver is generally worse then that in Seattle, but we didn’t get a good sense of this because it happened to be an incredibly nice few days of weather when we were there. Even on a weekday, it felt like a busy day in the busiest of beaches. I went swimming (twice!) in the ocean, and Lindsay ran and swam both days we were there. This was all in Stanley park, which was great, if anybody ever visits.

Parking in Vancouver was generally a bit of a chore. Actually to the city planners credit, it was pretty impressive that when downtown we almost always ended up easily finding parking, but never at a place that wasn’t pay by the minute. This was something else that stuck out to me.

I visited the Maritime Museum, which I really enjoyed. One thing I’d like to do more on the trip is visit museums, but that can be a bit difficult with a dog (it’s HOT outside, so we can’t just leave Sai in the car unless we happen to find covered parking), but I was very happy to visit this museum. The Roch, which is a famous ship, was there, as well as a much of displays about various ships/tugs/etc that came out of Canada.

We camped at an RV park in Vancouver, the first of many to come. This is a bit sad, that we are camping at so many RV parks, but oh well! At least we were close to the city.

I’m going to post more, and hopefully a lot more photos, but internet is a bit scarce at the moment. More importantly, time on the computer is a bit scarce at the moment.

California Camping Diving Freediving North Coast Spearfishing

Camping on the North Coast Part 2: The Sea Awakens

Lindsay and I decided to go camping again this weekend. It was awesome. It really is so incredibly awesome that we live only 2 hours from such an unbelievably beautiful place.

I am tired, so this will be a short one [edit: never mind!]. The reason I’m tired, is because that video (above /\) was taken at around 7am this morning, on the way home from our awesome camping trip. You might ask, “Why were you already packed up and on the way home at 7am?” You might not ask that, that’s fine too. Regardless, the reason is that about an hour and a half before that (let’s call it 5:30 AM) a giant wave broke over the rocks we were sleeping behind and we woke up literally sliding along the sand in our tent on a layer of frigid ocean (side note: I thought it was “fridged”, but it turns out that’s not a word). It’s difficult for me to describe how crazy of an experience this was for me. OK, not THAT crazy in itself, but the lead up made it seem pretty crazy.

Our stuff by the car after

When the water hit the tent, it wasn’t a gentle misting or something like you’d experience if it starts raining and you’ve left the rain fly off. It was exactly like if you were sleeping on the beach, in the water. I think I said “there’s the water” (read on – I had been sort of worried about this!). I’m actually pretty proud of Lindsay and myself, we JUMPED out of bed, QUICKLY looked for my headlamp (which I always keep next to me in the tent), then I dragged the tent over rocks and through a foot of water in places and dragged it up to our car. Then we ran back down to where the tent was and looked for all of our stuff that had been carried away by the water.

Sai looking at gear
Luckily because of my “feelings” the night before (see below), I actually relocated all of my dive gear a ways up from the tent. But still, the water had come WAY up and had washed my gear all over the place. Somehow, the only thing that was actually lost was a glove (which is a bummer, because they’re 40 dollar dive gloves!). Oh, also Sai’s dog bed, which was wet, we threw away.

The night of this “incident” (i.e. the period leading up to being woken up by the the sea), I kept waking up (I’d guess every 45-60 minutes or so) because the crashing waves were just so loud. Having slept on this very beach in the past I knew how loud it could be with the waves breaking over all of the rocks nearby but it was still hard not to be woken up. And each time I woke up, I got a bit panicked and thought, “Oh shit are the waves coming closer? Is the noise getting louder? Should I check outside and see where the tide is?” And each time I woke up I thought “Kevin you’ve already gone over this, you’re being an over cautious worry-wort.”

Tent location

(Note the “christmas tree” and it’s location relative to our tent – I figured it would have been washed away long ago if the tide came up that far)
Tent location again

The strange part is that before getting in bed, where there was still a bit of light out, I was walking down to the tent from our car and noticed that there was a line of seaweed up quite a bit from where I had seen it before, or in other words, it seemed like the tide had at some point recently been up very high. I spent a good 15 minutes (not an exaggeration) debating with myself about whether or not I should be concerned with where we had set our tent up. I walked around a bit more and examined our camping spot, but there was a fire next to our tent some time ago it seemed, but all of the coal/burnt wood remnants/etc were all in one central spot (not scattered all over the place). Plus our tent spot was elevated another 2-3ish feet from the sand Plus, I knew that if I suggested to Lindsay that we pack all of our stuff up and move our camp a hundred feed off the beach she would tell me I was being crazy. And I’m trying to get better at not worry about everything all of the time, so I tried (see previous paragraph) to just ignore my thoughts and go to bed.

Anyway, enough about that. It was a pretty good adventure type situation.


Otherwise, the trip was great! I tried out my new speargun for the first time and did some spearfishing/freediving. The visibility was TERRIBLE, so I didn’t see much, but it was still fun to get in the water. The speargun is pretty great I think, though there are a few small issues. First, the safety has a tendency to “turn on” automatically, with the slightest brush. So I think that’s just something to be mindful of, or possible fix. I would never really trust it anyway, so perhaps I could just disable the safety altogether (though I probably won’t). Second, the monofilament that attaches to the spear itself is secured using a metal crimp. The crimp itself is fine/good, but if the metal crimp is below the spear shaft when you lock it into the gun then the pressure (“moment”?) applied to the spear inside of the trigger mechanism causes the trigger to lock. This took me a good 10 minutes to figure out, but is an easily avoidable issue, just a slight pain in the ass, especially when wearing 7mm gloves with cold hands. Note in the photos above, which I suppose look cool enough, the sad reality is that I was dicking around in the sand trying to get the trigger unstuck.

Fixing spear gun

I also have one sad thing to report: I sat on my kindle and broke it. Special thanks to Dean for the Kindle in the first place. Anyway, this happened around 9:30pm, just as I was getting to a great part in my book Red Seas Under Red Skies (the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series – the first being Lies of Locke Lamora). Anyway, I was and still am sad about this. I really liked my Kindle. I’m replacing it, but still. It sucks to loose something great/valuable, and have it be a total waste and totally your fault.

And now, a few more photos from the weekend:

Lindsay took some of these too, it was a team effort
Cressi maskDive gear after rinsingDive gear againSai looking at the beachSai with dive gearSai walking past anchorSai in bedSunset VerticalSunrise HorizontalCrashing waveSleeping bagsRocks in the wallKayakGetting into water

<3 p.s. Lindsay is a great person to spend a weekend camping with. Love you Lindsay!

Camping Travel

Yosemite, Lake Mono, Sacramento Beer Tour!

It’s Sunday, 9:14am. If you crunch the numbers, that means roughly of the weekend is still available for activities. But! We’ve already done more this weekend then we’d normally do in a month.

Let’s do a quick recap of the big items. For this exercise, you’ll have to pretend you haven’t already read the title of this blog post! Don’t look now if you haven’t already read it! And if you have but perhaps are a bit foggy on it, then don’t look back!

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Lake Mono
  • Northern California brewery tour
  • Tour of our states capitol

We started this trip out on Thursday. I took Friday off and we left straight after work for our campground (Hodgdon Meadow – how would you pronounce this anyway?). It was QUITE the trip for our little Yaris, but she made it. Lots of pretty crazy hills to drive up. There was a 20 mile stretch that we had to drive in 3rd or 4th gear the whole way to make it up the hill (and by hill I mean mountain).

We got to the camp late, but not really too late. I think around 10:30 or so. Being somewhat proficient by now at setting up our tent we had camp all setup in 15 minutes or so and went straight to sleep. I was very thankful that there were no bears to wake us up, or anything else really that Sai felt the need to wake us up for.

In the morning (I think we were up by 7 or 7:30) we drove the 25 miles into Yosemite.
Windows Vista

There are a few things I should point out now. First, I personally did VERY little research into what we were going to do or see in Yosemite. Honestly I knew (know) very little about Yosemite. Second, at this point I think both Lindsay and myself (more me then her, to be fair) were still a bit hard-core-hiked-out, which as it turns out is probably not the best way to be when you are going to Yosemite.

Anyway, my impression of Yosemite is that it can be a couple of different things, depending on how you choose to experience it. For the hiker/camper (which I generally would consider Lindsay and I) it can be a hiking/climbing mecha, with tons of awesome, world-class hikes everywhere and even more beautiful, while places to camp. For the fly fisherman, it seems like a great place to fish. For a photographer (and I’d say I fit partially in this camp, though not on this trip) it seems like a place you could spend weeks taking amazing photographs of beautiful vistas. For the somewhat casual Yosemite participant, it’s more of an amazing drive with an almost Disneyland level of organization and tourist count.
Basically what I’m trying to say in a clever way, that turned out not to be that clever, is that Yosemite was amazingly beautiful, and super organized, and full of tourists (I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think the primary spoken language I heard was German). But as casual observers, we were basically following the path of all of the other tourists from beautiful vista to beautiful vista, with a short hike up the lower Yosemite falls in between and a bunch of stops along the drive at random rivers/streams to take photos and dip our feet in the water. Yosemite was beautiful and huge and like nothing else (besides perhaps Yellowstone) like it (that I’ve seen). Everything is just so big, and wide, and HUGE!


But after the morning of exploring (and I think we drove to most of the major points of interest – drove being the key word) we decided that unless we were going to do some hiking (which we weren’t) we might want to think about having an actual destination in mind or risk finding ourselves unsure of what to do in this beautiful place. We decided, after much thought, that we’d accelerate our plan and drive to Lake Mono (the former plan was to camp near Yosemite on Thursday/Friday, then move to Lake Mono (technically Lake June) on Saturday and hang out around there until Sunday). So that’s what we did. We made the two hour, very beautiful, drive to Mono.

And I’m glad that we did! Because honestly, as beautiful and majestic and amazing and unique as Lake Mono is, it was perhaps not a place we’d spend a full day at. Look everybody I know I probably sound like a spoiled little shit! But honestly, it’s a beautiful view, but not a particularly friendly lake. It’s a desert, and a briny lake. And with the brinyness comes the brine flies. Which I don’t honestly mind (it’s sort of fun to chase them around) but it’s just not a place I’d hang out at all day, unless I was SCUBA diving or something like that. It’s not the sort of lake you sit by all day, as far as I can tell.

Lindsay really wanted to see these “Tufa” pillars, at South Tufa Trail. These are pretty cool things, mineral springs make deposits that look like sta-lag-mites and when the lake was drained (I believe by Los Angeles) these things “rose” above the water. Apparently (and I believe it) these are much cooler at the sunset. But oh well.

We at ice cream here, around Lake Mono.
Sai likes ice cream

After this, we drove back to camp near Yosemite. We had an AMAZING dinner: cheddar bratwurst, ketchup (which Lindsay optained from a gas station). This is probably the best part of camping for me, eating dinner at a picknick table outside in the fresh air. At dinner we decided that in the morning we would leave Yosemite and take a mini road-trip somewhere.

Somewhere ended up being a semi-brewery tour to Sacramento. We stopped at three places: Lodi Beer Company, Hand Craft Brewing in Elk Grove (which turned out to be a brewing supply store BUT they had some of their own beer on tap), and Track Seven Brewing Company. We each split a beer. Track Seven was pretty awesome.
Track Seven

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in Sacramento but we did drive around a bit, and most importantly we went to the capitol. We even caught a guided tour, which was awesome.
Waiting for the capitol tour

Then, last night (Saturday) we stopped at a BBQ place in Sacramento (I’m FINALLY able to start actually eating food without it hurting!) and then made our way back home (first stopping at Target to buy 100 pounds of notebooks for Lindsay’s students!).

So that’s about it. I think someday we’ll probably go back to Yosemite, when we are in the mood to do some more serious hiking like Half Dome (though I think it’s somewhat interesting to note what even the much talked about Half Dome looks like during the weekend). For now, I think Lindsay and I really realized that we are destination travelers. We like to go to some place, for some specific task. Then once we’ve completed the task, we like to go somewhere else. I think we probably make better South East Asia backpackers, or car road trippers, then Yosemite Valley Vista Viewers.

As is true with a number of the previous posts, I also took a bunch of film photos but I haven’t yet developed any of my film from the past few trips. When everything is developed I’ll probably post some of the photos in a new blog post (assuming there is anything worth sharing. I also have a flickr account with all of my photos, and in particular this bunch of photos is in a set “Yosemite Mono and Sacramento.”

p.s. Lindsay thought I should share something that I learned on the tour of the capitol. I’m not sure what I should share though. One thing that I thought was very interesting was how red (more pink really then red) the Senate Room was. It looked almost comical to me, though I’m sure when it is full of people doing important stuff it might not be so funny. I also found it interesting that during the (I think) 1906 earth quake people gathered outside of — OK, wait a second mid paragraph here I looked back to make sure I was using the correct letter for capitol, and I have a breaking interesting thing to mention. It turns out, for those of you that don’t know, that if I said

We went to the capital

I would be correct, but I could ALSO say

We went to the capitol

and be EQUALLY correct! The ‘a’ version refers to the CITY that is the center of power in a state, the ‘o’ version refers to the actual building (source). Ok.

Camping Travel

Sykes hot spring bonus video: purify water

Lindsay says that my previous post about Sykes hot springs makes it sound like we had a terrible time. We had an awesome experience, that was physically painful and exhausting. But I am honestly thrilled that we did it. To show more of our true emotion, here is a short video we took ~5 miles out from the end of the hike (note this is after we were stung by wasps, but before the pain got too hellish in the knee department.

Camping Travel

Sykes Hot Spring Hike with Birthday Girl Lindsay

I can barely walk today – today is Monday. Last night we returned home from Sykes hot springs, where Lindsay and I completed (yaaa!!!) a 2 day, 20 mile hike. This is my second (Lindsay’s first) hike-in backpacking trip (the first being much shorter, only a few miles, into Joshua Tree), and for whatever reason we decided that it would be a good idea to start our backpacking experience together with a trail rated “difficult.” See for details if you don’t believe me.


We started out Friday. Lindsay picked me up from work and we drove straight to Big Sur Station, which is roughly 2.5 hours, perhaps a bit longer (and MUCH longer going the other way with Sunday traffic!). We slept in the Yaris (in retrospect I wish I had gotten a photo of this) which I would call a small car (wikipedia calls it a subcompact). Surprisingly we both slept pretty well in the car. We put the back seat down to make a flat-ish surface, then pushed the front seets forward so we had some room for our feet to dangle. With our camping mats underneath us and our camping packs in the foot wells to give us something to rest our legs on (well, in theory) I would not hesitate to sleep in the car again.

Saturday morning we woke up a little before 8 am, packed up our stuff and headed off. For anybody curious, an approximate list of items we brought include:

  • Two man tent
  • Four liters of water
  • Iodine tablets + “nuetralizers”
  • One sleeping bag (for me) plus one small blanket (for Lindsay)
  • Two backpacking pillows
  • Six packets of instant Oatmeal (which is the only food item we ended up not eating
  • Five dried fruit leather things from Trader Joes
  • Two instant backpacking dinners plus one freeze-dried desert. (Pad See Ew, Chick and Cashew Rice, and Mocha Mousse)
  • One pair of pants (we each brought one), plus two tshirts (one to sleep in), swimming stuff, one backpacker towel
  • Lindsay wore her running shoes, and I wore Keens without socks which turned out to be a bit of a mistake I believe
  • Our packs
  • A camp stove and two cups
  • Starbucks Via coffee
  • My book (A Dance with Dragons) and Lindsay’s book
  • Cards (which we didn’t use)
  • Two Nalgines

So anyway, we headed off with that stuff!

As I mentioned, this trail is marked “difficult” and about a mile in I realized just how true this is. The first ~3 miles is exposed and almost 100% uphill. Sometimes gradually uphill, in the good spots, but other times “this is really terrible” uphill. Not so bad that you had to scramble up or CLIMB up anything, but uphill. It was very beautiful, but honestly those first three miles I think we were really just trying to keep walking.

After the first three miles things got a bit easier. The trail NEVER really is “flat” (the entire time you are winding up/down the side of a mountain – at least I think it’s a mountain. In Michigan it was a lot easier to tell because there were not mountains, so you always knew you were dealing with a hill. In California, it’s a mixed bag. I’m going to call it a mountain.), but you don’t have such a clear feeling of dread when you do have to go up.

Overlooking Valley Thing

At mile five is a campground (whose name I forget) and you have your first real encounter with the river/stream that runs through the canyon/trail. If I were to do this hike again, I might stop here for the night to break up the walk a bit.

Classic Pose

Around this point in the trip (ok, I’m lying – it was actually about 3 miles back) we started to encounter people on the trail walking back from Sykes who had encountered a hornets nest. The first couple we talked with claimed to have been stung something like 10-13 times EACH. Every single group we encountered after that had also been stung, for a total of something like 6 groups of people. The idea of being stung by a bunch of hornets wasn’t particularly exciting and unfortunately added to my general feeling of “man I wish I was done with this hike!” but oh well.

Camp Sign

Around mile 7, which is Barlow Flat Camp, we started to hit a lot more downward sloping trail. This is perhaps one of the first times in my life that I ever have had a serious problem with my body in a mechanical sort of way. Basically my left knee started to hurt. Part of this is likely thanks to the fact that I was wearing Keens without socks and had a bunch of blisters on my right foot and was likely walking funny, but regardless, it started hurting. Honestly, my knee hurting was a major theme of the next two days, but it’s sort of boring so I won’t dwell on it.

OK, so finally we get to Sykes! It’s amazing! Green/blue pools of water in the stream. Etc. It’s wooded. All of the camping is along this river, so no matter where you put down your tent you have the sound of the river at night. And the hot springs are right there also.

River View from Camp

I’d never really seen such a nice hot spring to be honest. There were basically two “tubs”, one you had to climb up to get into, and another that was directly beneath that collected the draining water from the first tub. The top tub was rock, and was deep enough you could easily sit and be covered with water. The water was the PERFECT temperature (well, in reality I would have probably preferred a nice cold pool).

Camp Spot Pano

So Lindsay and I sat in the hot spring tub for a while, then quickly jumped into the river to get rid of the sulfur smell. After that, it was back to camp (400 feet away from the springs, though it felt like a lot more with the pain in my knees/legs). Lindsay took a short nap and I read some of my book. I noticed the sun was just starting to go down, so woke Lindsay up and we made dinner.

Getting Tent Setup

Dinner (which if you read the list of packed items you already know about) was two freeze-dried backpacker dinners. They were not very good, but to be fair I believe I did a poor job mixing up my pad see ew. It wasn’t until after dinner that I realized there was a pocket of untapped flavor (basically ALL the flavor, by the taste of it) powder that I had failed to stir up. This stirred up some emotions in me. Mainly disappointment I’d say, because I was so hungry but dinner was so unfulfilling. On the bright side, the chocolate mousse was pretty good.

Making Dinner for Lindsay

Eating Dinner

Eating Dessert

After cleaning up dinner (take only photographs, leave only footprints) we sadly went to bed. It was around 9pm. I think if we did it again, and if we had a day to recuperate, we would have probably went into the hot springs again at night. Frankly it would have been awesome. The stars were beautiful, I imagine.

I slept pretty well throughout the night. There was one time that I woke up and could smell skunk (note that bears were not an issue at this place apparently, but skunks were) but I just went back to bed. Sai woke Lindsay up a bunch of times (growling at random sounds outside) but overall the night passed without incident.

In the morning (Lindsay’s birthday!) we woke up and I made coffee for us. We skipped breakfast (possibly a dumb idea) and quickly packed up camp. I think by 8:45 we were on the road. And by on the road I mean making our way to the trail head. It took us a good 30 minutes to walk that first half mile on account of having to remove shoes to talk through the river at multiple spots. Etc.

It’s worth noting that at this point my knees BOTH started hurting again. I can’t really describe the feeling of dread I had at this point, knowing that we were JUST starting but had 10 miles to walk, with my knees already killing. But we walked on! Around two miles in we ran into the wasps we had missed the first time around, this time Sai was stung five times, Lindsay twice, and me only a single time (in the leg, to add insult to injury). This wasn’t so bad, other then the momentary fear that Sai was going to run off the mountain as she was panicked and trying to get the hornets off of her.

Miles 3-6 were relatively painless actually. Mile 6-9 were murder again. There was one moment when I remember wondering if I was actually going to make it, literally hobbling along. I walked backwards for a good mile I’d say, any time the trail went steeply downhill, to try and save my knees. It’s worth mentioning that Lindsay helped me not die.

Lindsay Watering Sai at River or Creek or Whatever

When we finally got back to the car, we were both really happy, but also very tired. Sadly, I’d say we were tired enough that we felt more like we wanted to just sit and be quite with the AC on, then celebrating and highfiving. High-fiving. High fiving. Fiving-highly.

Post Hike Not Happy

Then, I ate a chocolate flavored pretzel and had a strange sensation that my throat was being cut to pieces. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but as I type this (two days later) my throat is still killing me. I’m not sure if I have some sort of allergy thing going on, but it hurts.

Now, I’ve done a fair amount of complaining here, but at the end of the day, the take away from this trip has been that 1. I am really happy that Lindsay and I did this together.

We drove home (4 hours in traffic!), went to Round Table Pizza for the first time ever to get some perhaps not super awesome quality but awesome tasting pasta as well as a “cake” aka frozen cool whip – Lindsay didn’t want a store bought cake) and 28 candles for Lindsay to blow out. Due to my throat hurting I wasn’t able to eat much food, but I sang Happy Birthday and Lindsay blew out her candles and all in all it was a successful birthday weekend.

Lindsay's Birthday Cake and Candles