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Collins Lake (June 7th-9th)

published on June 16th, 2013 . by Christina

For the third annual 2600 Hz company camping trip we headed to Collins Lake for some hot weather and boating fun. Collins Lake is a man-made lake that was originally created to provide irrigation water for the surrounding areas and since 1972 it has been home to a family run campground with 109 campsites and boat rentals. It’s located about an hour north of Sacramento and 3.5 hours from San Francisco. The 2600 Hz crew headed there on Friday morning to beat the traffic and get a day of boating in on the two-story pontoon boat that came equipped with a charcoal grill and a slide! Darren and I joined up with the group Friday night after an entertaining drive that included Darren “chatting” with Sarah Jo from Verizon about his needs for a waterproof phone with 80 hours of talk time that he could take to the lake with him for the weekend. He kept me laughing for most of the trip which helped the 4.5 hour trip in traffic go by a little faster. We arrived to the campground just in time to see the sunset and enjoy burgers cooked by James that were flipped using a hatchet since we didn’t have a spatula. Overall, it was a fairly mellow evening filled with conversation and laughter. The night only got a little crazy when Darren told Max that he had to spin in circles while stirring his margarita. This did not end so well for Max as he face planted to the ground but fortunately he was ok. Most of the group headed off to bed shortly thereafter.

At 6:00 am we were rudely woken up by the blinding sun streaming through our tent. Because of this, the group was up and ready for a pancake breakfast around 7:00 and we headed to the lake’s beach shortly after that. The day was spent at the beach lazing around on floaties, tossing footballs, eating sausages from Marina Meats (thanks to Kate!) and lazing about. Then Darren rented two motorized fishing boats and bought water guns and all hell broke loose! We attached a rope to pull the manned floaties (I held on for about 30 seconds before giving up) and then had battles with the water guns on the boats while chasing each other. After a full day in the sun, we headed back to the campsite for a foil pack dinner and s’mores. The evening was pretty mellow as everyone was pretty exhausted from the full day.

On Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast and then headed back to the cool relief of the bay area. I really appreciated this opportunity to get to know some of the people that James works with a little better. There were a couple of people in the group that I had written off as obnoxious, but I realized that once I got to know them a little better, there were actually pretty intelligent and even pretty fun to hang out with. I am really glad that James gets to spend his days with such a quality group of people! And, I’m really grateful that they are so inclusive of me. I definitely feel like part of the team– even though I know almost nothing about phones– and I look forward to the fourth annual 2600 Hz camping trip when the group has most-likely doubled.

Yosemite National Park–May 24th-27th, 2013

published on June 10th, 2013 . by Christina

It seemed only appropriate to pick up the camping season where we left off last year. This time we headed to Yosemite when the waterfalls were at their peak and so were the crowds. Because it was Memorial Day weekend, we were unable to secure a campsite in the valley but we did score a site in the Hodgdon Meadow campground that is just inside the west entrance to the park and about a 45 minute drive from the valley floor.
We arrived at the campsite (#46) in the early evening after darting out of the city around 1:00 pm to beat the mad dash out of SF. This allowed us to have hot dogs and chili (sans cheese) and set up camp before it got dark. The site was technically a walk in site, but we only had to traipse through one campsite to get to ours.

The benefit of staying outside of the valley was that we could try some different hikes in different parts of the park. Brian told us about the North Dome hike that starts along Tioga pass and then leads you out to an open rock face that places you right in front of the sheer cliff of Half Dome.  After a quick breakfast of eggs and sausage we headed out to attempt this 8 mile hike. On our way there, a bear came barreling down the hill, right in front of our car, as James swerved slightly to avoid hitting it. The bear continued down the hill on the other side of the road and out of sight. We continued the rest of the 50 minute drive past snow to the North Dome trailhead. The hike was not very strenuous and you get a good glimpse of the valley and Half Dome. We stopped at the end of the trail for lunch: crackers and sausage (sans cheese) and then headed back up the trail to return to the car. We arrived back at the campsite, played some double solitaire and settled in to enjoy some foil packs (sans cheese) and s’mores.

Sunday we woke up with hot beverages and walnut pancakes followed by a trip in to the Yosemite Valley to hike the 4-mile trail. This name is a little misleading because it’s actually closer to 4.5 miles, and that’s only one direction. The trail takes you up 54 switchbacks (according to Brian’s count) past some sweeping views of Sentinel Rock, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and the valley floor. After a grueling 4.5 miles you hit the top and are rewarded by amazing views of tour buses and Popsicles. But the views of the granite formations and rushing waterfalls are worth it! I was blown away by the scenery and Glacier Point allows you a 180 degree view of the valley. We navigated to a flat rock away from the crowds to enjoy our crackers and sausage (sans cheese) before heading back down to the valley floor to pick up steaks, garlic bread, and corn on the cob from the store for dinner. We headed back to the campsite to play some more cards to relax and make dinner followed by s’mores.

On Monday, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of walnut pancakes followed by a final game of solitaire before packing up camp to head to Davis to meet up with the Watterson clan for a BBQ.  Overall, we had a great trip with beautiful weather and good company! The only thing we didn’t have was cheese which James and Brian made sure to tease me for relentlessly!

Yosemite National Park (September 28th-30th)

published on November 5th, 2012 . by Christina

On May 14th, James and I logged onto reserveamerica.com just before 7:00 am in order to secure a campsite for our September trip.  We actually were not able to get our first choice campground, but Upper Pines worked out just fine. Five months later, we arrived in Yosemite after an early start on Friday morning. We arrived in the park around 11:00 am, and I was just completely amazed by the scenery. The first glimpse we had of the park was of Half Dome in the distance towering over the valley. We slowly made our way further into the park, passing El Capitan and its sheer, massive cliff face.

Then we arrived at Upper Pines Campground to check into our site (002). We set up camp, ate some lunch (crackers and salami) and then headed off to the Mist Trail to see one of the few waterfalls in Yosemite that runs year-round. We hiked on a well-paved concrete trail to Vernal Falls where there were swarms of people dressed in everything from hiking gear to khakis and polos. Once we got past Vernal Falls, the trail turned a little more rugged and the number of people thinned out. After another couple of miles, we reached the top of Nevada Falls and took in the amazing views including the back side of Half Dome. Fun fact about Half Dome– even though it looks like there was at one time a second half of Half Dome, it actually was formed the way it currently stands. We returned to our campsite to prepare some dinner and enjoy the warm weather! We hung out by the fire talking about internet security and “salting your hash” and of course we enjoyed some s’mores! While we were chatting, we heard a lot of commotion and a number of park rangers circled around with lights and noise-makers to scare off a bear that had wandered near the campground about a hundred yards from our campsite.

The next day, we had a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, and veggies before departing on the shuttle for Upper Yosemite Falls. We knew it would be a strenuous hike, and it didn’t disappoint. We were amazed at the lack of preparation from some of the people we passed. James and I were decked out with sunscreen and hats and about 5 liters of water, but we passed individuals with one small store-bought bottle of water and no sun protection. We also chatted with a family with 3 boys all under age 12 who were really having to power through the fatigue to make it to the top. They built a lot of character in those 6 hours so, James and I celebrated with them once they made it to the top! The way back down was a little easier, but I was very glad when we reached the bottom. The only thing that kept me going was the promise of ice cream at the end! An ice cream cookie sandwich never tasted so good! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing and reading until we started the foil packs (which we ended up just cooking in the pot on the stove, but they still tasted amazing!). And of course, we had round two of s’mores over the fire!

On Sunday, we were pretty wiped out, so we checked out the visitor’s center and then decided to head back to the city. Overall, it was an amazing trip and one of my favorite places I have visited in my life. Next time, we’ll have to go back in the spring when the waterfalls are flowing!

Samuel P Taylor- July

published on July 16th, 2012 . by Christina

It is that time of the year again– time for James’ office to have their annual camping trip. We were supposed to go to Big Basin Redwood State Park, but a little snafu (the organizer had reserved handicapped only camp sites) there was a last minute change to head north instead to Samuel P Taylor State Park in Lagunitas near Point Reyes. We had group site number one reserved for the 15 of us on this warm (in the 80s) weekend, and it only took six hours to get there!!! The plan was to meet around 9:30 (so everyone arrived by 10:30, naturally) and then we headed off to Safeway to load up on about $500 of food and drinks and then continued on to get oysters. After arriving at the oyster shack, we found out that very few people in the group actually liked oysters so we defaulted to sandwiches instead. As we waited by Tomales Bay for the rest of the group to catch up, we enjoyed the bay views and sunshine.

Then at last, we arrived at the campsite around 3:00 to set up tents and get settled in. There was a swimming hole a mile away so we headed there to cool off (James and Xavier were the only ones who went fully in) and skip rocks. Once we arrived back at the campsite, we prepared a pretty delicious pasta dish with salad and garlic bread followed by s’mores (of course!) and chatting late into the night.

The next morning we woke up to the sun shining (a first for us this year as we usually have had to wait an hour or two for the sun to hit our camp) and donuts! We headed back to the water for some more sun and relaxation before heading home. On our way back we stopped for burgers at Marin Sun Farms where everything is locally grown and the cattle is grass fed… and the sweet potatoe fries are amazing! That was topped off by some ice cream and a drive back into the foggy city of San Francisco. Overall, it was a fun trip and I would definitely want to go back to this campground and stay at the family camp sites.

Pfeiffer Big Sur -May

published on June 7th, 2012 . by Christina

James and I decided to spend our anniversary weekend (May 4th-6th) camping this year in Big Sur. We had planned to go with a couple of friends, but ultimately it ended up being a quiet romantic weekend for just the two of us. We headed out on Friday to beat the traffic and arrived at the campsite (number 108) in time to make a pasta dinner on the stove and relax for the evening.

Saturday we headed out for a short 3-4 mile hike that turned out to be a little disappointing as I was expecting phenomenal views like we witnessed on the drive down CA-1. But, it was a good chance to get some fresh air and enjoy the beautiful 70 degree weather. We meandered back to the campground for some lunch and R&R for the afternoon. I was craving some beach time so I drove a couple miles down a very windy one-lane road to a beautiful view of the ocean with cliffs jutting out and arches worn through the rocks. The only problem was it was so windy that the sand pelted my skin and I only lasted on the beach for about 30 minutes before calling it a day. For dinner we had the traditional foil packs and James called it an early night while I stayed up to enjoy the peaceful evening by the fire.

Sunday included a short hike to the waterfalls and a lookout point over the valley followed by the 4-hour drive back into the city. Overall, it was a good relaxing weekend. The campground is huge and seems to go on for miles. Next time, we’ll have to aim for a site along the stream (176, 179, or 180). Click here to view our pictures!

March Camping (or lack thereof)

published on March 25th, 2012 . by Christina

March has been a busy and rainy month and will continue to be so I have decided to use this month for planning future camping trips.

Anthony Chabot: Just a quick 45 minute drive from San Francisco in the Oakland area, this would be perfect for a quick, last minute camping trip. There are a number of available campsites in the next couple of months and it got good reviews on Yelp. Here is a good link for the various trails near the campground. This location would probably get pretty hot in the summer months so it might be a good escape from the summer San Francisco fog.

Mount Tamalpais: This is a short walk-in site campground with only 7 sites. It is booked on the weekends for the next couple months. This is where James and I camped in January 2011 and got poison ivy. :( It’s a nice secluded campground, though, with lots of privacy.

Samuel P Taylor SP: This campground is about an hour north of San Francisco, and has some availability through April but it is booked the last weekend of April and all weekends after that for the next several months.

Angel Island: Booked all Saturdays from now through the summer.

Del Valle County Park: Looks like a decent campground with a lot of sites. The campground is pretty open with few trees, but it’s only an hour and a half drive from SF. The central focus of the park is the lake that has numerous water activities and visitors can rent paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes. Reservations can only be made 12 weeks in advance so this might be a good spot to head to in July as those weeks will become available shortly.

Half Moon Bay: Highly booked, but it would not be at the top of my list because beach camping doesn’t really excite me. I’d rather have hikes and trees and grass around me when I’m camping.

Portola Redwoods: Near Big Basin, this park is scheduled to close indefinitely July 1, 2012.

Butano SP: Booked all weekends. Also close to Big Basin.

Henry Cowell Redwoods: Located near Santa Cruz, this campground has some open sites especially later in the summer. It has 15 miles of trails and the forest has been fairly untouched over the last 200 years.

That is the majority of campgrounds in a two hour radius of San Francisco, and fortunately, it looks like there are some pretty good options still available for us. We already have May and June booked at Big Sur and I want to go to Yosemite in September once the crowds have hopefully died down, so we’ll just need to fill in a few months in between. This should be a good start!

Mt. Diablo State Park- January (belated)

published on February 28th, 2012 . by Christina

Mt. Diablo is located about an hour drive east of San Francisco and provides some amazing views of the city and surrounding hillside.

“From the Golden Gate to the Farallon Islands, from the High Sierra to the Central Valley—this is the sweeping panorama you can savor from atop Mt. Diablo. Geographers claim that hikers can see more of the earth’s surface from the top of Mt. Diablo than from any other peak in the world with only one exception: Africa’s legendary 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

We were able to get last minute reservations two days in advance at the Juniper Campground in one of its 36 sites. This campground is located about 2 miles below the summit and is had some spectacular views. There are two other campgrounds lower in elevation that are a little smaller. We got to select our site once we arrived so we chose number 7 overlooking the city and providing some privacy for our group of 5. We had the pick of the campground, though, as there were only about 5 other families in the campground. Later we found out why there were so few campers…

…the Santa Ana winds were blowing, hard. On Saturday afternoon, we got a short hike in before nearly being blown off the ridge, and we quickly retreated back down to shelter where we made some hot beverages to warm up. Then night came, and the winds were probably gusting up to 40 or 50 mph. Now, I’ve been camping quite a bit in my lifetime, and I have never had to resort to sleeping in a car (at least to my recollection). However, the winds were so loud and blowing our cheap Walmart tent onto our faces every 30 seconds, that Emma and I decided to retreat to sleep soundly in the car. In the morning, the wind died enough that we were able to make the short trek to the summit to check out the views.

Highlights of this trip include playing BS in the guys’ tent while the wind was howling, hanging out with good friends, resolving to buy a new tent that won’t cave to strong winds, and of course we had s’mores.

Big Basin Redwood State Park–February

published on February 27th, 2012 . by Christina

I have decided to slightly alter the focus of this blog and, with inspiration from my mom, create somewhat of a travel/camping journal. My goal for this year is to go camping once a month. And, I am not one who easily remembers things, so I have decided to try to capture the highlights in blog form. So far, we have camped in January and February so we are on the right track! My report for the January trip we took will be posted shortly.

This weekend, James and I explored Big Basin Redwood State Park. Big Basin is California’s oldest State Park established in 1902. It is located in the Santa Cruz mountains 2 hours south of San Francisco and it has 80 miles of trails to explore. We arrived at the park around 11:00 am on Saturday and heading out on a trail the park ranger recommended. It took us up the Skyline to the Sea Trail over on the Meteor Trail and down the Middle Ridge Fire Road back to the Park Headquarters. The trail takes you through thick redwood forests, up to more arid scrub and then back down through new growth Douglas fir and oaks. In total the hike was about 6 miles. James and I decided to race up a steep hill at one point and he smoked me; that was a bad idea to race him.

We then checked into our campsite at Sempervirens Campground (appropriately named after the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)) and found our site: 169. This was one of two sites still available on Monday when we reserved the campsite so we weren’t too picky. We found the best sites in he campground were 185 and 168 so those will be the ones we try to reserve next time. The weather was nice but chilly in the evenings. Weather.com claims it was 60 degrees as the high and 46 as the low, but I think it’s lying. Going into the weekend, it was predicted that it would be 36 and that’s closer to what the evening felt like. But, the air was still and there was no rain, so we were happy campers (pun intended).

There were several noteworthy highlights of the trip. First, our new Mountain Hardware 6 person tent is amazing! It’s so roomy and surprisingly easy to set up. Second, we tried a new breakfast recipe now that we have our amazing Coleman stove. We cooked small pieces of sausage beforehand and then whipped up some eggs (uncooked) and put them both in a ziplock bag to freeze overnight. In the morning, we threw the ziplock into our cooler and on Sunday morning, we pulled them out and cooked them up in about five minutes. It was so simple and delicious! Lastly, I learned that I get much less queasy on winding roads when I drive.  And of course, we had s’mores :)

Offshore Drilling

published on May 3rd, 2010 . by Christina

It is impossible to turn on the news or open a newspaper (or web-page) without being bombarded by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And, the news just keeps getting worse. They now estimate it will take 90 days to shut down the oil spill. Marine species are threatened and livelihoods of fishermen are at stake because of the massive leak. However, the silver lining that could surround the incident is an increased interest in offshore wind farms instead of oil rigs. Obama seems to be flip-flopping back and forth between keeping his campaign promise not to increase offshore oil drilling and giving into the “drill, baby, drill” mentality. Merely one month ago, on March 31, 2010, Obama stated that he would open up 500,000 square miles of US coastal waters to oil and gas exploitation. It has been 20 years since this type of exploitation has been allowed. Obama claimed it was a concession necessary to convince the Republicans to support the climate change and energy legislation in Congress.  Fortunately, in the wake of the recent oil spill, Obama appears to have, at least temporarily, flopped to the other side where he has put on hold all new exploratory drilling along the US continental shelf. So, in order to a) support Obama’s most recent decision and b) uphold my Earth Day resolution I will be writing a letter to my representatives regarding this issue. If you would like an easy way to do so as well, click here for a letter to which you can simply sign your name and click “Send.”  This letter focuses on stopping Shell from drilling in the Arctic circle where an oil spill like the one in the Gulf could be catastrophic.

Which leads me to an obvious alternative: If you are going to set up machinery offshore to harness energy, why not make it renewable, clean, energy like wind? To me, it seems like a no-brainer, but then again I’m not being swayed by millions of dollars that gas companies kindly placed in my pocket.  Stay tuned for more on wind power’s pros, and possible cons, in the next post.

Earth Day Resolution

published on April 22nd, 2010 . by Christina

I have been doing some reflecting the past couple days in anticipation of Earth Day and apparently so have others as evidenced by the fact that the earthday.org website is experiencing heavy enough traffic that navigating their website is impossible.  I knew that Earth Day would be the perfect excuse to get another post written since I’ve been slacking a bit lately. In my excitement, I did some research and googling and I came across a quiz that is supposed to show what your eco-footprint is, or in other words, how much you like the planet. Now, I consider myself a pretty eco-conscious consumer who recycles, tries to minimize gas and water usage, enjoys camping and the outdoors, uses fabric bags at the grocery store, and generally is pretty aware of the Earth. However, after taking this quiz, I found out that if everyone on the Earth lived like I do, it would take 4.4 Earths to sustain the population. This shocked me, and initially I had no intention of revealing this unflattering statistic to the blog community. But, as I was thinking about it, and as a co-worker of mine took tons of magazines and dumped them right into the trash in front of me, I realized how far we have to go in becoming “environmentally aware enough.” My scolding comment was probably not enough to change that co-workers habits, but it’s a small step in raising SOME awareness in a small town where everyone who goes to the dump heads straight to the trash bin without a second thought about the recyclying bins just steps away. But these two incidents got me thinking how many “Earths” we actually would need to survive. I feel that, as a society, changes will come slowly. And although I think it is important for individuals to take responsibility, I think, ultimately, it will come down to scientific breakthroughs that will prevail. Finding algae that converts tons of CO2 to oxygen or solar cells cheap enough to provide all the energy necessary to sustain a home of business. These are the discoveries that will have to happen to really make the difference that is needed.

However, until those discoveries are revealed, I will continue trying to do what I can to protect the Earth. So, on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, like New Years Eve resolutions, I would like to make an Earth Day resolution to become more aware of legislation being passed and to write my representatives urging them to vote with an environmental focus. My goal will be to write a minimum of one letter a week. I’ll be reporting back periodically on the success or failure of this mission…

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