Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Sometimes its good to reflect at the holidays and see that Christmas is not about stuff, but about the gift that God gave us in Jesus Christ.

I'm looking forward to celebrating with family and maybe even get out on a trail in the next day or two. I pray that your Christmas is a special one!

From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Latest Happenings plus Three Great Hikes

It's been a while since my last post. As usual I've been keeping my self pretty busy putting lots miles on my CR-V and filling up my GPS and hard drive. Unfortunately, all of this activity has gotten in the way of my writing (It's a nice problem to have).

First off, I want to mention my new photography website This site focuses on some of my favorite photography images and gives me an opportunity to showcase my photographic work.

One of my recent creations is a 2011 Calendar. The calendar is available features 13 of my favorite photos from the past year from locations all over the state (Bay Area and Beyond!). You can see a preview of the calendar by clicking the 2011 Calendar link at (or just click the calendar image to the left). Calendars can be purchased for $20, however, there are only have a limited number available, so get your order in soon before they are gone. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Okay, enough of the marketing and sales pitches. Here's a few quick tips to some great Bay Area hiking locations for this time of year.

Land's End Coastal Trail in San Francisco - The Fall months can be one of the best times of the year to visit San Francisco, especially when Indian Summer keeps coming back. In fact, this weekend's forecast looks to be perfect! One of my favorite hikes in the City is along the northern coastline of San Francisco's inlet providing excellent views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from outside of the gate. The trailhead is on El Camino Del Mar near Lincoln Park and the easy trail goes all the way to the Sutro Heights Park and the Sutro Bath Ruins if you choose to trek the full 2+ miles. Along the way, stop at Mile Rock Beach and enjoy the sights of the rocky beach (sorry no sand). You can see more details on my trip report using the link above. It hasn't yet been added to the Backpacker magazine web site.

Tomales Point Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore. I've written about this trail before and now is the time to check out the Tule Elk along the Tomales Point trail. It's rutting season and it's quite an experience to be among these magnificent creatures. There are more than Elk at Tomales point too, be on the look out for weasels, coyotes and many sea birds. Again, this weekend should be perfect for a trip to Point Reyes. Check out the link for more information.

Highland Trail Loop - Loch Lomond Recreation Area in Felton. Tucked away in the Santa Cruz mountains is a great lake with a Scottish name - Loch Lomond. The Highland Trail climbs about 900 feet and getting to the top can be a bit strenuous, but rewarding. Once at the top, the trail winds through some redwoods and then hugs the lake shore for a very pleasant stroll back to the marina trailhead. This hike is a good workout and also provides great scenic opportunities. Check the link above for more details including directions to the trailhead.

Well, I hope this gives you some encouragement to get out and explore our incredible outdoor opportunities we have in the Bay Area. I would love to hear from you, especially if you go out to any of these places.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mt. Wittenberg Loop - Pt. Reyes National Seashore

I've been spending a good bit of time behind the camera lately, but not as much time on the trail as I would like. I knew I was in need of a good hike so I called up my buddy Tim and convinced my son Ron (and his friend Ray) that a trip to Pt. Reyes was in order. I've done a few hikes in Pt. Reyes and the latest ones have been closer to the coast. I wanted to explore the inland areas and possibly catch some wildflowers and decided on a trip up to Mt. Wittenberg, the highest point in Point Reyes National Seashore (1407 ft.). I've been wanting to hike up to Mt. Wittenberg for quite some time and thought this would be a great opportunity to get up there.

I love loop hikes and Pt. Reyes is usually very accommodating! There are two trails that connect the Bear Valley Trailhead to Mt. Wittenberg: the steeper Sky Trail (2.2 miles by topo) and Horse Trail (3 miles by topo, but more like 4 miles). The question was do we take the shorter steeper route up or the longer gradual ascend with the steeper descent. We went for steep up!

The Sky Trail was in great condition and showed little signs of the constant rains we have had. One of the first things I noticed among the ferns was the thousands of Forget-me-nots (pictured right) that lined the trail. Most of the trail is under a canopy of Pines and California Bay Laurels and the sunlight that filtered through really lit up these little blue flowers along with larger Yarrow. It was magical (yeah, I know, tough guy hikers aren't supposed to think of things as magical, too bad!).

My plan for the day was to hike and not focus on photography. In fact, I didn't even bring my tripod! However, I couldn't help but stop and load pixels, especially when we came across a nice patch of Douglas Irises. (pictured left) Tim and I would stop frequently for photographic opportunities, while the boys continued on up. At one point we caught up with the boys who were coming down looking for us. Oops! When we made it to the trail junction at the base of Mt. Wittenberg, the boys were waiting for us again. We got our first look at the ocean from here and the meadow was scattered with poppies and miniature lupines.

The trip up to the top was uneventful. The summit is heavily wooded and does not really provide much in the way of views, however, you need to get up there just to check it out. Back down from the summit, we continued on the Z Ranch trail under a very dense canopy of small pines towards the Horse Trail.

The trip down Horse Trail was pleasant. More ferns, irises, forget-me-nots and yarrow. The trail was a bit more beat up and muddy. They don't call it the Horse trail for nothin'! We were soon hiking next to a meadow and close to Bear Valley Visitor's center and back at the trailhead.

Point Reyes continually surprises me and this 6.3 mile hike was no exception. This is a hike that can be done anytime of the year (although Horse Trail may be more difficult after heavy rain). I would rate this a moderate hike. The elevation gain wasn't too bad, but did give me a good workout!

I would love to hear from you and always appreciate your comments. For more details including a map and waypoints, checkout my trip report at Backpacker Magazine's website.

Use the map below to get directions to the trailhead:

View Pt. Reyes - Bear Valley Trailhead in a larger map

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Carrizo Plain, The Temblor Range and Beyond...

About 5 years ago I received an email with a photo entitled, "God Spilled the Paint" (Pictured left). As you can see, it is a spectacular image with unreal color and plenty of inspiration. After seeing this, I knew I had to go there! The problem was, I didn't know where "there" was. The only thing I knew was that is was taken near Bakersfield. (A note about this photo, many people have tried to take credit for it, but the credit for this beauty goes to Frank Kee, He gave me permission to use the image for this story. Thanks Frank!)

As many who know me know, I keep a pretty busy schedule and for the past several years as springtime approached, I never forgot about the photo, but also never tried hard to find this elusive spot. Last year I had a successful wildflower expedition along the Merced River Canyon and Hite's Cove Trail, and as spring approached this year, I was certainly looking forward to more poppies and Yosemite. I warned my wife and boss (the one at work too) that I was planning on taking time off work when conditions were right for wildflower season. The rains kept coming and in the beginning of March, I started doing research checking out Carol Leigh's Wildflower Hotsheet and Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline. I still was planning on a trip back to Hite's Cove, but the reports further South were more encouraging. I started thinking again about how "God Spilled the Paint" and decided that this was the year I may venture south and try to have my own colorful experience.

I started to research the aforementioned photo and found it was taken in the Temblor Range and that the Temblor Range (pictured left) was located on the eastern edge of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The best part about that, was the promising reports about Carrizo Plain that were popping up and even more, fellow hiker and Backpacker friend FourWheelBob was planning a trip to Carrizo and I was welcome to join him and the other forum followers for the weekend.

A week out, my plan was set, Thursday was to be a day trip to Hite's Cove, the rest of the weekend, Carrizo Plains and the Temblor Range. Every day I looked at the latest Wildflower reports and my plans changed daily too! On Tuesday, I saw some photos from Hite's Cove and it really wasn't close to what I experienced there last year. I also read a very promising report from another photographer, Andrew from, about a location near Carrizo called Cottonwood Canyon (pictured right). I emailed Andrew and he strongly encouraged me to check out Cottonwood Canyon and after seeing his photos, I agreed. So, two days out, I decided to ditch Hite's Cove and Yosemite to focus on the southland.

With camping and camera gear loaded up (and plenty of junk food), I headed out 0-dark-hundred and in what seemed like no time (4+ hours) I was with camera in hand on the corner of Shell Creek Rd and HWY 58 (Tidy Tip pictured left) taking in lots of flowers and color. I moved on and slowly wound my way to Carrizo Plain with lots of expectations. When I arrived, I was blown away with all the color and flowers, not just in the plain, but the hillsides surrounding the Carrizo Plain and Soda Lake were covered with bright yellow and splotches of purple.

Somewhere out there in that color was where "God Spilled the Paint". What I didn't realize was that the Temblor Range, right in front of me, was over 20 miles long and seemed way off in the distance, a colorful distance, but still a ways away. I set up camp and headed to Cottonwood Canyon for the late afternoon light while checking out the possibilities along Soda Lake Rd for the rest of the weekend. Cottonwood Canyon and the Caliente Range along HWY 166 was awesome and just about everything Andrew had said it was.

Friday, I focused on Carrizo and started out photographing a cool barn in early morning light, then headed for an expansive field of Hillside Daisies (Monolopia, pictured left). The wind was picking up which always makes it challenging for photographing flowers, but I managed to deal with it! My plan for the day was to explore and just see what I could see. I kept eying the Temblor Range as I headed out towards Soda Lake. I found plenty of places to stop and try out my new Macro lens and photographed plenty more Hillside Daisies and phacelia (cool purple flowers) and Tidy Tips and Lupine and Baby Blue Eyes and many more.

Gradually, I was heading east and getting closer to the Temblors. They were taunting me with purples and bright yellows and a little orange here and there. I made it to Elkhorn Road which follows near the base of the Temblor Mountains and started venturing the many narrow offshoots leading closer to the the tempting colors higher up to the east. The first road I took ended at a locked gate but I was still too far away to really see "God's Paintbrush" as I wanted, so I found myself over the gate and left my car way behind to get up close and personal with the Temblor Range.

It was thrilling! The CF card in my camera began filling up with views from a ridge just below a beautiful hillside. I knew this was nothing like what Frank Kee had seen, but was excited none the less. I made it back down to the car and journeyed south, taking every dirt road that brought me closer to the Temblors. Some vantage points were better than others, but one thing I noticed was the color was getting better! I managed to get on one side road that brought me up so close to the color that I was ecstatic. Not far above and in front of me was a series of ridge lines filled with deep, bright yellows (Hillside Daisies) to the right and an expansive purple (Phacelia) patch to the left. Time to put in a new memory card in my camera!

I continued my journey south finding more great overlooks and vantage points of the Temblor Range. I was thrilled with what I had seen and captured and knew this trip was a success. I left Carrizo Saturday morning and headed out to discover more places (more to come later on that). God certainly spilled paint this year, like He does every year. I feel fortunate that I had a chance to get out there to see it.

Notes to know before you go: There is no cost to enter the Carrizo Plain National Monument and camping is also free, but at a first come first serve basis. The campgrounds are rustic and dry. The standard vault toilets are available, but you need to bring in all your water and pack out your trash. The two main roads, Soda Lake Rd & Elkhorn Rd were mostly dirt roads but in good conditions. Conditions could quickly turn for the worst after a rain.

For more photos, check out my Smugmug Gallery.

Below is a map showing a variety of places I visited and more photos from the trip. Check it out! Feel Free to contact me if you have any question.

View Wildflower viewing areas near Carizzo Plain in a larger map

My favorite Hillside of the Temblor Range

Carpeted and Colorful Hillside of the Temblor Range

Colored patches of Hillside Daisies, Phacelia and Poppies on hills of the Temblor Range

Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus)

Hillside Daisies and Sky Lupine on Cottonwood Canyon Road

Tansy Leaf Phacelia

Baby Blue Eyes

Painter Anita Hampton at Shell Creek Rd.

Sky Lupine up close in morning light

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Showshoeing in Yosemite - Now is the Time!

The approaching snow storm in the Sierra's reminds me that for the next couple of months, the conditions are great for donning the winter gear and putting on your snowshoes. One of my first articles on Bay Area Outdoors and Beyond was a snowshoe hike up to Dewey Point in Yosemite. In fact, that hike is featured in the latest issue of Backpacker Magazine (March 2010, page 29). This is a great hike and definitely doable as a day hike or overnight-er. You can check out the hike from the previous article or at Backpacker Magazine.

By no means is Dewey Point the only snowshoe hiking in Yosemite. There are a number of great winter trails available in the park and they are not just for snowshoes either. Many cross-country or Nordic skiers also partake.

Why snowshoe? Not only is it great exercise, it also is a way to see Yosemite in a way few people ever do. Winter is my favorite time to be in Yosemite. The crowds are diminished and the trails offer solitude and scenery most only found in picture books.

Yosemite has three main areas containing marked winter trails: Badger Pass and Glacier Point Road, Crane Flat and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (Click on the preceding links for brochures and trail maps for each area). The Valley Loop Trail in Yosemite Valley can also provide some great snowshoeing if enough snow has accumulated.

Badger Pass is the home of the Badger Pass Ski Resort, but it also has the most hiking options. Badger Pass even offers a Ranger guided snowshoe walk ($5 donation requested, conditions permitting). Dewey Point is by far the most popular of the routes, but each of the trails provides an adventure.

Crane Flat is located at the intersection of Big Oak Flat Road and the Tioga Road (Hwy 120). The Gin Flat Loop Trail is the most adventurous of the hikes, but the short hike down to the Tuolumne Grove is my favorite. I did this hike last year during a moderate snow storm and it took my breath away. The 2 mile round trip hike (I went beyond the grove for a 3 mile trip) is straight forward and descends down to Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias where the Tunnel Tree is a main feature. Unfortunately, it is just a shell of what it once was. Human intervention seems to do that. Most of the "Tunnel Trees" I've been to have fallen or are dead. While not as grand as the Mariposa Grove, the trees Tuolumne Grove are just as inspiring.

Getting to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias can be tricky in the winter months. The road to the grove is often closed in the winter and it is a 2-mile trek to get to the trails. However, it is well worth it. You're out there for the snowshoeing and sightseeing anyways! The longest trail is the Loop Road (8 miles) and provides access to most of the more popular trees in the park, Fallen Monarch, Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree. Many hikers, I mean snowshoers, opt for the lower grove hike (.8 miles one way) featuring the trees mentioned previously.

When snowshoeing or cross country skiing, be aware of the weather forecast and your physical condition. Be aware of avalanche conditions; most of the winter trails in Yosemite avoid avalanche areas, but check with the Ranger Station for conditions and warnings. Don't forget to hydrate; your body still needs plenty of water, even though you may not feel like it in the cold. If you are new or inexperienced for snowshoeing, start out with smaller hikes first. Know what you are getting into. Snowshoeing on a hard-packed snow trail is a lot different from two feet of fresh powder. Breaking a trail can be exhausting; take turns leading the way with your group. If you are following, try to step into the leaders footprints when you can.

Snowshoeing is a fun sport and just about anyone can do it. Snowshoe rentals are available in the valley and at Badger Pass and also at your local REI store. It is a great way to wash away the winter blues and energize your spirit. Now is the time!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yosemite - Pothole Dome Loop, An Adventure for All

Guarding the western edge of Tuolumne Meadows is a big chunk of granite called Pot Hole Dome. Compared to the some of the other domes surrounding Tuolumne, you wouldn’t consider this one as anything special. It rises to only 300 feet above the meadow and you won’t find many climbers dangling from its sides or a register up top. But what you will get if you venture to the dome is a great family friendly hiking experience with grand views of Tuolumne Meadows and chance for up close wildlife encounters (of the good kind).

My first experience with Pot Hole dome was 6 years ago on a family camping trip to Tuolumne Meadows. I had gathered 8 families together to experience the wonders of Yosemite. I actually was able to get 5 campsites all together, not something possible today. Our group consisted of all ages from my three year old daughter to my 70 something father-in-law. I was challenged to find activities for all ages. A coworker of mine (and Tuolumne expert) Ken, suggested I check out Pot Hole Dome and he also gave me some pointers to enhance the 3 mile journey. The hike was a hit!

I recently had an opportunity to get back to Tuolumne Meadows with some visitors from Germany, David and Philipp. The guys had never hear of Yosemite (can you believe that?) and I knew I couldn’t let them leave California without experiencing Yosemite. My original plan was to take them to Yosemite Valley for the tourist stuff the first day and then a hike up to Cathedral Lakes the next day (a future article). The Big Meadow fire closed our access to the Valley and we had to change plans. After securing a campsite in the Tuolumne Meadows campground, I considered our options. It was already the afternoon but we had a little time to explore and I wanted to take them somewhere special. I recalled the great experience I had at Pot Hole Dome, shared it with them, they agreed to the trek and we headed out.

The trailhead (pictured above) for Pot Hole dome is along the Tioga Road at the western edge of Tuolumne Meadows. It’s tough to miss the two parking areas near the dome and the two trail routes to the dome (depending upon which lot you park in). I prefer the western most trail that circles the meadow instead of the one that cuts across. Not only does this route give you a little extra trail time, it also puts you at the edge of the meadow and a full perspective of Tuolumne. Once you arrive at the dome, there are several footpaths through the trees. Pick one and start up the gradual incline to the top. There are no marked trails, but none are really needed. A number of granite dikes (pictured left), lines in the granite that look like grout, lead up the dome and lead the way. The slope of the dome isn’t too bad and in no time you arrive at the high point providing great views of Tuolumne Meadows.

After reaching the top, most visitors take in the sights, turn back around and head back to the car. That’s fine, but there is so much more to see. Rather than heading back the route you came, descend the dome away from the road in a north easterly direction towards the Tuolumne River. There is no trail, no markers, but it’s not hard to find your way. Once you get down in the trees, continue heading in the same northeastern direction until you are off the dome and encounter a trail. Head left (north) on the trail and enjoy the quite walk through the pines. Watch for deer through the trees. I’d be surprised if you don’t see any here.

The trail winds through the trees heading north and will start to head west. Once it turns, you will see a lightning struck tree ahead (see photo below) and a small meadow to the right, cut across the western edge of the meadow to another trail that follows the Tuolumne River. Take a right and very soon you will be out of the trees and at the river. The rocky shores of the river here make a great picnic spot. On our trip there, we were visited by a couple of deer crossing the river within 10 feet of us.

When done at the river, pick yourself up and locate the narrow trail running south through the trees and skirt the meadow back towards the trailhead. If you are fortunate like we were, you will be treated to another wildlife show as deer gather in the meadow. In our case, does and fawns came in view every 100 feet or so and then we encountered a herd of 19 deer, 18 of which were some pretty big bucks with full racks!

Too soon, the road and trailhead will come into view signaling the coming end to the adventure.

Pothole Dome is a great place to hike and explore and is an adventure that almost everyone can enjoy. Although the hike up the dome is a bit steep in parts, it's a short trek and provides some great views of Tuolumne Meadows and the peaks beyond. The hike can be up and down the dome or encompass much more of the meadow and the Tuolumne River too.

Below is a Google map showing the GPS track and route of this trip. You can also view my preliminary trip report at Trimble Outdoors.

Buck hiding in the woods

This tree is your cue to head right cutting across the meadow

Here's Philipp at the gateway to the meadow near the river

Doe crossing the Tuolumne River

A doe, juvenile and a fawn. I had their attention.

Eight of eighteen bucks in the meadow

More of the bucks (and one doe).

Cathedral Peak towers over the meadow

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year and thank you for stopping by Bay Area Outdoors and Beyond!

2009 was a busy year for me and I'm aware at just how far behind I am in my updates. In the coming weeks I will have at least 5 hikes and a couple of other locations I will be writing about. Here's a sneak peak: hikes and outings in San Francisco at Land's End, Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge; Loch Lomond in the Santa Cruz mountains and some great things from Point Lobos near Monterey. On the "Beyond" side, I've spent more time in Yosemite and have a few spectacular hikes queued up out of Tuolumne Meadows - Pot Hole Dome and Cathedral Lakes plus a nice trip up to Half Dome. In addition to Yosemite, I've visited Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas and also did a little hiking in Victoria B.C. I feel others would enjoy.

Some of the neglect of this site is because I have been focusing a lot of effort on my photography. Providing great photos is one of the best ways to share the many great places and opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy the "Great Outdoors" (okay, that's pretty cliché, but it's true).

For now, I will be working on sharing more hikes and other outdoor destinations in addition to providing some backpacking and photography tips that I find useful.

Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you join me for a great 2010!

Here's a preview of some things to come:

Some fun on Half Dome

Nevada Falls in the Fall

Colorful Vernal Fall in Fall

The Golden Gate Bridge from Eagle's Point

Cypress Trees at Land's End

Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

Upper Cathedral Lake in Yosemite

Cathedral Peak in Yosemite

Numerous bucks in Tuolumne Meadows

More deer near Pot Hole Dome

Sunset at Point Lobos near Monterey

Harbor Seals and a Sea Otter in Point Lobos

Rainbow Mountain in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas

Loch Lomond Lake in the Santa Cruz Mountains