Friday, October 27, 2006

Yosemite: big trees, cold tents, steep falls

Half Dome, at 8,842 feet, is perhaps one of Yosemite National Park's most famous structures. It is made of granite. I did not climb it.

I did, however, climb up to see Vernal Falls. These stairs were a happy sight, as they told me I was almost to the top!

Vernal Falls crash into the rocks below.

On the 2 hour-hike up to see Vernal Falls, this rainbow appeared in the mist.

From Glacier Point, I got a view down to the floor of the park, about 3,000 feet below.

This footbridge traverses the Merced River on the floor of Yosemite.

Stan was standing along the side of a path painting the wilderness with his wife (not pictured). They made such a serene scene that I asked to take a photo.

I slept on this twin bed in my canvas-covered wood-frame shack at Curry Village in Yosemite. It was chilly at night but I just stacked up the blankets. I was also so close to the cabin next door that I heard the man there snoring. Fun.

My choice of breads at one of the sandwich shops in the park.

Bear boxes to store food and other scented items (lotions, shampoo, deoderant, etc) remind visitors that bears are a serious problem in the park. Nothing with a scent was allowed in our tents or cabins -- or even cars.

In case a bear makes its way into one of the park's campgrounds, this bear trap may very well do the trick.

Mountain lions in the area prompted this sign, hanging on a yellow plastic police line blocking a trail.

I am always so enthralled with living things that are older than 100 years old. This tree at Sequoia Groves outside Yosemite National Park in California is hundreds of years old.

Reaching for the sky is this tall sequoia tree, in a grove outside Yosemite Park.

That Biosphere bubble thingy

I was thrilled to read the street signs as I was leaving Tuscon, AZ, announcing my proximity to Biosphere 2.

I vaguely remember hearing about the eight scientists who voluntarily chose two years of confinement in this experiment that tested to see if life on the moon would work.

I got to sit at the table that the volunteers ate at, walk the boardwalks within the bubble, and feel and breathe the air inside the tropical and desert atmospheres.

One area simulated the ocean and its inhabitants, including conch shells. This huge shell sat in a sand box in the kid's area.

BTW, Biosphere 1 is Earth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kayaking Aialik Bay - yow-zah!

Go kayaking in Alaska. Now.

The day began about 8 a.m. Our group of 8 paddlers plus 2 guides left Seward on a water taxi that took us the 90-minute ride through Resurrection Bay to Aialik Bay.

It was a chilly, cloudy and rainy day as we headed out to view the glacier. I wore layer upon layer of clothing, including this newly purchased blue scarf. I was cold.

This glacier gives true homage to the words "ice blue." It really is blue! The glacier was actively "calving," dropping huge chunks into the water. Each time the ice shifted, it sounded like thunder. The chunks were so huge, they caused waves as they splashed hundreds of feet into the bay below.

Just a little glacier humor. At 1.3-miles wide, Peterson Glacier was impressive. I had trouble conceiving its size, verbalizing to our guides that if they put something familiar -- such as a cat -- near the face of the glacier, I would better be able to grasp the size. I will now be known as the cat lady, or something of the sort, as the guides thought that was the funniest thing they ever heard. Hah.

We set up camp on a rocky black beach during a chilly rain. Thankfully, the skies cleared that night and for Day 2.

On the second day, Alaska showed off its bright blue skies, sparkling waters, and gargantuan green mountains.

Here I am, relaxing on the stony beach after a breakfast of oatmeal and banana.

We followed a bear path to the side of the island where the kayaks were stored for Day 2 of our trip. We made lots of noise, calling out "Hey bear!" and ""Stay away, bear!" to avoid startling any bears that might be nearby. Apparantly, bears have bad hearing, and they don't like to be surprised. The green floor of this path was spongy and soft, slurping up our feet as we walked.

That's my paddle-partner, Josh, behind me on the beach. We had to wear apron-type shields called splash guards, so the water wouldn't flood our kayaks -- or freeze us to death. Very different from Florida kayaking! We had just taken a pit stop to snack, snap photos, and relieve ourselves on the beach ("as close to the tide line as possible").

The water sparkled this second day. Our group paddled through iceburgs as green and rocky mountains rose on either side of us. Bald eagles, otters, berry-seeking bears, and playful seals were our landscape-mates.

Here's the intrepid crew. We had yoga instructors, computer techs, and Realtors among our group. This was my first time to Alaska, and I know it is certainly not my last.