Thursday — Squaw Valley

Paid: $60 (bought someone’s voucher off Craig’s List a month in advance)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 6/10

Weather: OVERCAST with light snowfall throughout.

Would Return?: Maybe

This was the big powder day of the week with it having snowed all day Wednesday. I heard from one random lift stranger that she’d had an even better time of it on Wednesday, in spite of the high winds and closure of the upper mountain, since there was plenty of untracked available and not many hardy souls there with whom to share it. On Thursday: plenty of souls. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper from I-80 to the parking lot. The gondola line (funitel line, whatever) was long in the morning and Shirley Lake and Granite Chief queues were no-doubt aggravating to the non-single. Visibility was very difficult and I ended up spending a lot of time on Shirley Lake where at least I could see while trying to figure out how to ski powder (only partially successful in both endeavors).

Top of the Siberia Express lift looking (I imagine) not entirely unlike Siberia.

Top of the Siberia Express lift looking (I imagine) not entirely unlike Siberia.

I like that the ski patrol is going after the guy before he's even fallen (or started downhill or gotten to the top).

I like that the ski patrol is going after the guy before he’s even fallen (or started downhill or gotten to the top).

Rocks, trees.

Rocks, trees.

  • Siberia Express had no line. Also no visibility on the top section. It’s worse than it looks here:IMG_4535
  • The shear number of chairlifts at this place is incredible. They seemed to start and end everywhere; around every corner was another chairlift (or two). For instance there are five lifts in the photo below (can you find them all??):
    squaw-valley-lifts
  • The rock outcroppings were cool. With those and the relative absence of trees on the upper mountain, I figured this must be what skiing in Europe is like.
  • Had lunch at Fireside Pizza down in the village on the hunch that ski resort food follows the same pricing principles as does dining at Disneyland. At least in this case it did – paid $18 (incl. tip) for a very good pizza and 32-oz. (!) soda in a glass (!!) rather than spending $15 for faster, price gougey-er, and inferior cafeteria-style fare. Would recommend. (Next time you’re at Disneyland, try the same strategy – you’ll see.)
    IMG_4538
  • As a service to fellow acrophobes, I’ll note that the Red Dog lift is the most fear-inducing lift I’ve ever ridden. There are a couple of long, *very high* gaps on that one and the relatively slow speed of the lift means that the shear terror wasn’t just fleeting.
    IMG_4544
  • Had been worried about needing chains for the drive up. Didn’t need them, despite Nevada DOT’s website stating that there was a chain check station on the 80 east of Truckee (the agriculture inspection station apparently had confused them).

Especially in the morning, the whole place had a sort of hyper-focused, manic air to it. I’m assuming it was all the expert-skiing locals who were super-determined to find the remaining stashes. No one was rude or anything, just – it wasn’t much of a kick back-and-enjoy vibe going on.

I talked to a lot of more-experienced skiers the following day at Diamond Peak and had a couple of them offer up criticisms of Squaw based on weather issues and lay-out.  I can see why expert skiers would love the place, especially on a powder day, but I sympathized with the criticisms. For me, I wanted there to be more trees to ski around and to help with visibility. I also wanted there to be something groomed somewhere so I could take a few relaxed runs once I got tired of feeling like half an idiot on the by-midday chopped-up powder on the blue squares. It’s not like I didn’t have fun – I had a great time at Squaw. I think I just expected it to be some sort of transcendent mega-experience and instead it felt somewhat compromised. Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe it was the cloud-induced seasonal affective.

Here’s another photo:

The way back home.

The way back home.

bkd

Big Wave Day in La Jolla

Couple weeks ago SoCal had all these big storms. Big storms resulted in big waves, so I tagged along on a trip out to the beach to look at the big waves. Unfortunately didn’t bring my real camera, so all I had was the cell phone, but it was kind of cool out there, especially with the big waves, birds, and out-hanging seals. Not navy seals, just regular ones.

La Jolla Cove with waves and palm tree shadow.

My brother chooses not to look while his wife and kids decide whether or not they want to jump off the cliff.

seals and shorebreak at la jolla cove

It's your legal right to use this beach regardless of the presence of seals, no matter what the seal rights people's signs tell you..

There were also birds like this there.

And when they fly, they look like this.

Would’ve been better with my real camera. I was sort of just getting sick that day also, which — well, it’s a nice, all-encompassing fall-back excuse.

bkd

Way Northern California Coast

It’s been a couple weeks, but I don’t know that the photo album idea is really going to take off and even if it did, it’s not really a great forum for expressing the deepest, inner-most feelings of my heart regarding, you know, topographical features, coast lines and tall trees and such.

Been a couple weeks.

Decided that when going up to see my parents for the holidays that I wanted to drive. I missed driving during the three weeks I was in SoCal after the trip officially ended. I miss driving now that I’ve been up in Seattle a couple weeks. Not sure how this driving-lust ends. Perhaps with a CDL. Mal sehen was wird. Wonder if I can work on my CDL the same time I do my PhD.

Headed up from SD, stopped in OC to pick some stuff up out of storage, went up to NB (CM?) for lunch with the DLF, then kept going. LA traffic sucked. Stayed the night in Stockton, then headed up the 5 through Sac-town, then turned left at Willits and headed west on Highway 20.

highway-20-california (3)…Which cuts through the coastal hills down to the coast.

Camp 20, a CCC camp (I think).

Camp 20, a CCC camp (I think).

The area is like a well-written eulogy: beautiful but somber.

Similes are cheap.

Here are some photos of the coast. (Which are also cheap.)

Russian Gulch State Park (between Fort Bragg and Mendocino).

russian gulch california

On a nice day, there's probably a good photo in here.

Highway 1, Way Northern California (north of Fort Bragg)

Highway 1 (north of Fort Bragg somewhere).

westport union landing state beach campground

Westport Union Landing State Beach: view from my campsite (looking south).

westport union state park at sunrise

Morning has broken.

Highway 1 California trees in mist

Trees in the mist -- where Highway 1 winds back up into the hills to re-join the 101.

Y’know, most places I’d resent the mist, but for this drive I think it adds to the experience. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself of that so I don’t have to go back there. Not that I wouldn’t want to. Although it’s a harder part of the country to get to than most.

I’ll do a separate post on the Redwoods, I guess.

Excelsior,

bkd

Camping Trip to Death Valley

Went camping in Death Valley last weekend. Camped for two whole nights — an adult personal best!

Lowest Spot in North America

The lowest point in North America. Yes, that pot hole right there.

Pros:

  • The roller coaster roads, featuring many inversions.
  • Taking the Emigrant Road way back to civilization — brilliantly washed out and steep.
  • My new flannel-lined sleeping bag passed its test. No more nylon strangulation sacks for ol’ bkd.
  • Ubehebe Crater was cool.
  • I get to cross this off my cross-country road trip list.
  • Campground neighbors were not visited by the police.

Cons:

  • Campground neighbors were not visited by the police.
  • No two scenic points are within 50 miles of each other. Seriously.
  • Fire wood cost $9 a bundle.
  • I kind of don’t think deserts are all that pretty; I imagine any run of the mill missile testing range has similarly spectacular oddities hidden in it.
  • On the way home, traffic at Kramer Jct. was backed up for five miles.

And if you ever go there yourself, keep in mind that everything at Stovepipe Springs is 20% cheaper than it is at Furnace Creek (e.g., Gas was $3.10 rather than $3.60, soda was $0.75 instead of $0.89, etc.).

Y’know, the first time I ever went to a desert was when I was in college and I thought it was amazing. Weird colors, cactus, scrub brush: amazing. The second time it was a little less amazing. Third time less. Fourth time less. Und so weiter. Just that I’m sort of over the desert by now — I don’t know if it has anything left to offer. Tja. It was a fun trip, the camping was good, the company was good, offroading to avoid the five miles of traffic at Kramer Jct. was good. But if I had a choice between going to Death Valley again or going to Kauai again, I’d go to Kauai every last time.

More photos if you care:

DLF and DDF skip along the Ubehebe Crater

DLF and DDF tempt imminent death as they skip along the crater’s edge.

Titus Canyon

 Yours truly in Titus Canyon, yearning for some faraway slot canyon that actually has water in it.

Artists Drive at Death Valley National Park

 Artist’s Drive — featuring all the colors of the rainbow, everything from brownish gray to grayish brown!

 Mesquite Springs Campground

The campsite at Mesquite Springs campground, located a scant 90 miles from the park entrance… Was unable to locate named springs and it seemed that this particular spot of vacant earth was designated a campsite by virtue of it being particularly windy. Just guessing, though.

Oh well. It really was a reasonable use of a long holiday weekend.

Happy Pearl Harbor Day.

bkd