Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

Who Knew?

Posted from Delano, California at 8:50 pm, December 30th, 2011

Ryan is in a hotel tonight. For the first time in four nights a bed, a shower, and a change of clothes are coming, and happiness and joy shall follow.

Last night was again spent car camping, allowing the trip to resume from Yosemite Valley with an early morning view of the valley from Tunnel View as the payoff. A trip to the Mariposa giant sequoia grove followed – the trees are beyond impressive, and after finding a quiet trail to escape from the surprisingly large and loud crowds the trees worked their magic on this normally office-bound traveler, helping to restore some order to the universe.

After leaving the park I scanned the map for green dots along SR-99, and stumbled on the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge. A late day arrival at the refuge allowed for a short hike, but aside from a few hawks and waterbirds the animals seemed to be in hiding. That is, they were hiding until sunset, at which point all hell suddenly broke loose. Hundreds upon hundreds of sandhill cranes started calling out while flying overhead, a pack of coyotes began howling in an adjacent field, and I accidentally spooked an owl who flew out of a tree next to me and began hunting the fields nearby. What had been a moderately interesting stop suddenly morphed into a reason to spend the night in Kern County, and the plan is to return, camera in hand, to see if the wildlife chaos continues at dawn.

El Capitan from Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park

El Capitan from Tunnel View. If this rock formation doesn’t look impressive to you, look closely at the top – those tiny green things are full-grown ponderosa pine trees.

Sandhill Cranes, Pixley National Wildlife Refuge

Sandhill cranes at sunset. Multiply this flock 100x, add in the amazing sound of the birds calling, and put a better photographer behind the camera, and you’ll have some sense of what the sky was like once the sun went down.

Tioga Road

Posted from Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California at 7:39 pm, December 29th, 2011

Last night’s bed time was 8:00 PM – writing this entry tonight at 7:35 is clearly pushing my current limits. The adventure for the day began just before six and led through Yosemite’s high country along Tioga Road, a path that closes with the first snow each winter but remains open this year due to one of the driest Decembers on record. God was obviously feeling manly when he created this part of the world, and it was a fun outing amongst the rocky crags, with plenty of quiet time available to ensure that things were right with the world.

Tioga road ends at Highway 395 and Mono Lake, and while the latest version of the plan called for spending the remainder of the trip going south along the Eastern Sierra, a sudden change of mind resulted in a brief visit to the lake and then a return through Yosemite. A hike up Pothole Dome near Tuolumne Meadows finished off the afternoon, and the evening will again be spent camping in Yosemite Valley with tomorrow’s plans somewhat uncertain.

High Sierra, Yosemite National Park

View from Olmstead Point. There is a lake barely visible above the trees that was frozen solid and covered in ice skaters.

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

View of Tuolumne Meadows from Pothole Dome. Bob Ross would not have referred to this as a “happy cloud”.

Day Two

Posted from Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California at 6:21 pm, December 28th, 2011

I slept in a rest area next to I-5 last night because that’s obviously what well-adjusted, successful, 36 year old IT professionals do. Pulling into the parking spot two dozen pairs of eyes reflected back in the headlights – I’ve never seen so many rabbits in such a small area, although later in the evening a screaming kid and two dogs put an end to the Watership Down reunion. Wake up this morning at six-ish allowed plenty of time to amble along towards Yosemite, and the day was spent roaming some of the non-knee-breaking trails in Yosemite Valley. Past trips to the park have intentionally avoided the really touristy spots, but given the knee issues and the smaller crowds it seemed like a good time to finally visit places like Lower Yosemite Falls and the Ahwanhee Hotel. Tonight will be spent car camping in the park’s main campground, and tomorrow it’s off at sunrise for a day-trip through the high country.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome. If my knee was in better shape then I would be in the photo, at the top, standing near the edge, looking exhausted.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

At sunset Half Dome turned a brilliant red color. Sadly the bottom two-thirds remained in shadow, so in a burst of creative genius I only photographed the top.

New Hotness

Posted from Culver City, California at 12:45 am, September 17th, 2006

Life over the past two weeks:

Labor Day Weekend

The somewhat delayed Sixth Annual Meat Massacre took place at Ma & Pa’s residence, with this year’s total weighing in at thiry-three pounds. Despite the charcoal grill, an abbreviated home run derby, and underestimating the number of guests the event again went off pretty well. We even managed to get super-smart folks like JB and Gene to focus their mental energies on figuring out whether a rodeo bull could beat a rhino, or an elephant standing in four feet of water could best a great white shark. And much meat was consumed. Even the old neighbors from Cleveland made a visit, so the event was definitely a good one.

Post-Labor Day Weekend

Bellies full, Audrey and I set off in the Son-of-Suby for Yosemite. I figured it would be easiest to camp in the Valley, so we set up the tent in the backpacker camp (Camp IV) and I was soon sleeping soundly. Unfortunately Audrey wasn’t quite at home in a tent, and spent most of the night playing “bear or neighbor?” with the sounds she heard outside. The next day we headed off on the Half Dome trail, and made a leisurely hike up to Little Yosemite Valley. That evening we again jumped in S-o-S and headed down to the beautiful and alluring city of Fresno, got directions to Chevy’s from a hostess who got north and south backwards, and imbibed of the world’s best chain margaritas before crashing for the evening at the lovely Fresno Day’s Inn. Have I mentioned yet that Fresno was alluring? The next day we made a brief stop to see the big trees in Sequoia before finally heading past the wonderful city of Bakersfield and returning home.

Since then

A friend from Singapore came to town, and despite the fact that I’ve got much less hair and many fewer brain cells than when I saw her last in 2001 she wasn’t overly frightened. Aaron and I watched the Browns score an eighty yard touchdown on their first play of the 2006 season, and predictably watched it be called back by a penalty, after which they seemed to forget that the goal was to advance the ball forward. JAMWiki marches onwards, with the next release on the horizon, and the rest of the world remains insane as always.

Bears, Chafing, and Bears

Posted from Lafayette, California at 9:50 am, August 9th, 2005

It seems that people reading this journal are either shy or non-readers, but at least the good Mr. Gallaway added a few titles to the reading list.

As sort of a last expression of freedom before rejoining the corporate world I made a quick trip up to Yosemite, waking up just after 5:00 AM yesterday to be on the Half Dome trail by 6:00 AM. As always it was amazing, but sadly the final half mile of the trail was closed for repairs, and in addition there were some issues with… well, chafing, that made the trek down somewhat excruciating. On the positive side I took a ten minute water break with a deer who was browsing six feet from where I was sitting.

In addition, for the first time in Yosemite I saw a black bear while coming down the trail. The black bear was foraging near the trail and ambled to within about fifteen yards of me at one point (kids, don’t try that one at home). In the midst of watching him tear apart logs another hiker came along, happily munching on trail mix. After pointing out that there was a bear just off the trail and that it might be prudent for him to put his food away this guy did so and then wandered directly into the bear’s path. Noticing this brilliant maneuver, the bear paused, looked around to see if there was an easy way to get around him, and then slapped his claws against the log in a way that had me convinced he was about to charge. And of course, our hero still didn’t move from the bear’s path! Luckily Smokey climbed off of his log and took another route, but it was tough not to be impressed with the animal’s restraint.

Today I’m hobbling around on sore legs with the plan being that I’ll probably head down to LA tomorrow to try and find a place to live, preferably one in which no more than ten police helicopters buzz by each night. Los Angeles again…

Black bear near Half Dome

Bears are apparently intrigued by logs.

10 miles south of Yosemite National Park, California

Posted at 7:00 pm, March 11th, 2005

Yesterday’s wildlife sightings included a mouse fleeing across the highway. Today’s wildlife sightings included another mouse, although this one was in the process of being swallowed by a coyote. I spent an inordinately long time trying to get a picture of the coyote pouncing on mice (his mouse-catching batting average was one out of ten while I was watching him), but he had an uncanny ability to avoid being photographed. A group of ten deer had no such issues, and having several deer within feet of me provided the rare experience of feeling like wildlife was coming too close to me, rather than vice versa.

I thought it might be different to see Yosemite in winter for once, but was instead greeted by a high temperature of seventy-two degrees, and no snow whatsoever in Yosemite Valley. Baffling. Badger Pass, located at a much higher elevation, is rumored to still have some of the white stuff remaining, so I’ll make a run up there tomorrow and show the world how cross-country skiing was not meant to be done.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls.