These past few days we’ve experienced extremes. Evan and I went from 282 feet below sea level all the way to 9,050 feet above sea level at the top of Squaw with our skis in tow.
We set out to see Gold Butte, but our Golf had finally found a road which it could not conquer. Luckily for us, we found some cool things in the middle of the desert while trying to hide our disappointment. For example, this lovely sign:
From there, Santa Barbara was calling our names. We drove the scenic Highway 101 to meet a friend for a night of bouldering, tacos and watching the Penguins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Jetting off fairly early, we went to the Santa Barbara Public Library to print off my resume. Our next stop was the Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California. The costal town was relaxed and pretty, but my goal was to scope out the HQ. So, I handed off my resume in hopes for a chance to work for a company that truly attempts to protect the lands we enjoy exploring (lol hire me).
With business out of the way, we hung out at Huntington Beach with quite a few dogs sniffing around for pets. There, we got quality time to catch up with some family friends of ours (and do some much needed cleaning: showers and laundry).
We did a little maintenance and rotated our tires before heading to the hottest location in the entire world. Death Valley National Park was balmy when we arrived, but we were determined to not let that (or the killer bees?) slow us down.
I thought I would hate Death Valley simply because I’d be sweating my face off, but it’s been one of my favorites so far. It’s unique in the way that it has such a variety of views. You go from Devil’s Golf Course full of clumps of salt and the Badwater Basin’s pristine white salt flats to Dante’s View (a breathtaking point that my photos could not capture) and the immense dunes on the way out of the park.
We camped out in the park which meant no rain fly, sweaty sleeping bags and an unbeatable view of the incredible stars above.
We woke up with the sun, and heat, at 5:30 a.m. and gazed at the dunes while becoming amateur actors (ok, not really). Evan and I are pretty sure we turned into extras of a Bollywood movie being filmed at the dunes that morning. While attempting to escape the heat of Death Valley, we ran into the Memorial Day weekend traffic at Sequoia National Park.
Despite the chaos, Evan and I got to take a few short treks around the park and bask in the enormity of the old trees. That night, we found a cluster of over 15 cars in a “no camping zone” within the Sequoia National Forest. Everyone was out making diner, having a beer or setting up their tent. The area did have camp sites pretty set up with fire pits, bathrooms and trash receptacles. So, as Evan would say, “holiday weekend, no rules.” As that road should not have been open for summer yet, it just seemed like they hadn’t removed the sign for the season.
Driving through Kings Canyon National Park, there were mostly longer hikes which meant we did a quick breeze through of the park. If we did day-long hikes in every national park, we would be on the road a lot longer than our wallets would allow.
From there, we drove to Yosemite and attempted to head over to the east entrance to meet up with Evan’s friend. All of the east side had not yet been open for the season. So, we scrambled to get in touch with our friend through some pay phones and hotel wifi before snagging our camping spot on the side of the road in the national forest just outside of Yosemite. We got slammed by a swarm of mosquitos–we hid in our tent rather quickly.
With a packed tent and a new travel companion, we decided to take on the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. It was gorgeous, especially at the top where you could look over the valley, the falls, Half Dome and El Capitan. The trail was said to be a 6-8 hour hike, and it beat Angel’s Landing with the amount of switchbacks and sweat. It was a slow trudge on the way up, but Evan and I made up all of our time on the way down as we hopped from rock to rock. The trail was mostly awkwardly shaped rocks placed almost like cobblestones. In some areas, streams rolled over the rocks which made it slightly precarious at some points. It definitely had us wiped by the end. Evan and I hung out in the parking lot, lounging in our camping chairs and fighting off a squirrel anxious to steal our chips.
As we left the park that evening, we stopped to stare at El Capitan. It was wonderful to be amidst the environment of such passion and awe. El Capitan is the quintessential climber’s dream. It has sparked inspiration, strength, records and even death. We were lucky to spot a climber set up for a night sleeping on the side of the rock face.
That night, we snagged another spot on the side of the road in the national forest. It turned out not to be a great idea since every car that drove past decided it would be amusing to blare their horn at us.
After quickly taking down camp, we headed up to Glacier Point. It was a rainy day, so it was amazing to see the clouds rise up from the valley every so often to disguise Half Dome. It was wonderful to see some views of yesterday with a different backdrop.
We wove through traffic to exit the park and make our way to South Lake Tahoe to crash at Evan’s friend’s place.
The timing worked out perfectly, though. Evan and I were able to set up in a bar and watch the Penguins win against the Predators once in South Lake Tahoe. The others in the bar were watching the game, but all in favor of the Predators; it was fun to throw around some gentle jabs (for both teams since we each made mistakes–we’re not that biased).
With beautiful weather ahead, Evan and I slapped our ski boots onto some demo skis and hit the slopes at Squaw. We hiked the rocky and snowless path to the Palisades to drop in. There’s definitely a different sense of exhilaration when you can’t see the slope you’re leaning into.
Evan showcased the “suns out, guns out” rule as you should during spring skiing. As seen here:
The après ski spot was a delicious restaurant overlooking Lake Tahoe, Gar Woods Grill. With full bellies, we headed out to find a camp spot outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Don’t miss out on the next Like “Ask Paula” in the Newspaper, but Geology post! Also, for a more day-by-day following, check out mine or Evan’s Instagram to see all the places we’re seeing (@cdismukes or @evandismukes).