Yosemite 2016

My training began months before we left. I hate running. It's the most boring physical activity there is, but run I did. I find this act of building up cardio endurance redemptive only because it allows me to hike for longer periods of time. In a few months, I would be backpacking a few nights in the cold mountains of Yosemite National Park, one of my favorite places in the world.

Day 1

My friends Alan and Stephen picked me up from the Fresno airport. Famished, we headed over to get a hardy breakfast at IHOP. Stephen took the meaning of "hearty" to the next level by ordering double chocolate pancakes and a hamburger with a side of fries. It was 10:30am. The next stop was REI, where we spent an hour because I think that's the minimum amount of time anybody can spend there.

We didn't get to the park around 4, which was very late because the sun set at 4:30pm. We went to the visitor center to decide tell the park rangers which route we wanted to do. Despite the rangers not recommending we do Cloud's Rest trail during the snowy season, we picked that one, but our original plans to start our hike that night were foiled since it was dark and also pouring rain. We would have to set up a base camp at one of the car camping sites that first night. This sounded awful because setting up a tent in the rain is one of the worst experiences a camper can endure, right after bear mauling.

The next thing we knew, we were opening the door to a cozy room at the Yosemite lodge. Somehow, we convinced ourselves to stay there that night. It was the family room, meant to sleep 7 people, but the same price as the smaller rooms. We organized our backpacks to be ready for the hike the next day and set our alarms to 5am and 6am, in case for some reason we didn't wake up to the first one.

Day 2

We woke up at 9am to a beautiful, clear day and went next door to the cafe to get yet another hearty breakfast. Afterwards, we put on our 50 pound backpacks, and the adventure began. In order to save us time, we took a trail that had a "trail closed - falling rocks" sign in front of it for some reason. No rocks fell on us, and the trail, which was made up of Mordor-like stairs, shave a mile off the trek.

 View from the top of Vernal Falls

View from the top of Vernal Falls

 View from the bottom of Nevada Falls

View from the bottom of Nevada Falls

Things were going well, but soon we discovered who our true enemy was. It was not the rocks nor the cold nor the mountain. It was the Barbell Brigade. If you've never hiked Yosemite before, it's like climbing stairs for several hours. With the 50 pound pack, that's a lot of effort for your thighs. For some reason, Alan and Stephen went to the Barbell Brigade, the famous Los Angeles Gym, two days earlier and did dead lifts. Both are considerably jacked, but one of them hadn't worked out in a while. His legs started cramping, so we had to slow it down a bit. Luckily, we got to the campsite in the mountains before sundown. In total, it took us over 6 hours to hike 4.5 miles. We ate, set up camp, and prepared for the hike to the top the next day. Before we slept, I set my alarm to 6am so we could start early.

Day 3

We woke up at 9am to another beautiful, clear day. After eating breakfast, going down to the river to filter water for the hike, and going the wrong way to the trailhead, we didn't really start the hike until 11am, leaving us less than 6 hours of sunlight. We hiked for a few hours. There was snow on the ground at this point, getting thicker as we hiked farther. The rangers warned that getting to the top might be impossible, and a guy we had passed who was going down the mountain the day before told us he attempted the same trail and couldn't do it. By this point, we only had a few hours left of sunlight and were probably several hours from the top.

We decided to call it. We hiked back down to the campsite, which took about half the time it did going up.

 Stopping for a photo shoot on the way down

Stopping for a photo shoot on the way down

We packed up our site and hiked in the dark back to the car. That segment of the hike, which took 6+ hours to hike up, took us 2.5 hours to hike down. Oh, what relief when we got to the car! We drove to our sweet Air BNB in Fresno and slept like babies.

Analysis

So originally, this trip was supposed to be 3 nights sleeping in the wilderness before heading to Los Angeles to spend a night in the city. As you have read, it was one night in the wilderness sandwiched between a few king-sized beds, so I wouldn't really call this trip a success. We definitely did not have the discipline to wake up when we should have, which was very detrimental to our schedule. Personally, Next time I'll a route that is more accessible for the season because even if we had gone farther to Cloud's Rest, I have no doubt the snow would have been coming up over our knees.

 The beginning of the trek. Ready for anything... except for early mornings

The beginning of the trek. Ready for anything... except for early mornings

At least I got to spend some quality time with bros I don't get to see often. After the night in Fresno, we went to LA. I haven't been there in 4 years! It brought back memories. I randomly ran into a friend I hadn't seen since high school, beat another one of my friends in ping pong, which was satisfying because he talks so much mess, and ate all you can eat Korean barbecue. Good day.

Now for the next hike! I had to keep my hiking training up even after Yosemite because I'm going to hike the Outer Mountain Loop trail of Big Bend National Park in a few days. My friend gave me a book called Death in Big Bend to prepare me. Encouraging.

 

Iceland, Through the Rain

Our first day was almost disastrous. In order to prevent an premature ending to our trip, three of us were dangling from the window on the outside of our motorhome. You see, moments earlier we drove slightly off the road in order to make room for an oncoming bus. We thought it was solid ground until we heard the sound of rocks scraping metal and saw the horizon out of the front window shift a few degrees. The back wheel had sunk halfway into the mud, giving our motorhome a very precarious tilt. I feared any gust of wind would push it over.

 I'm right outside the frame crying

I'm right outside the frame crying

Luckily, the window dangling idea gave the wheel on solid ground enough traction to get us out of the ditch, and we were on our way!


This is my attempt at a travel post about my September trip to Iceland. I have never in my life experience such an on and off rainy place. Though it was rainy most of the time, the overcast skies were overshadowed by the natural beauty of the land. There’s way too much to talk about so I’ll just hit a few points.

The Low Point: Viking Cafe

Google promised us a four star experience. Here’s a tip for people who might go to Iceland: they use Trip Advisor. Had we used that, it would have saved us a detour that took us to a cafe that only serves pastries and one panini that cause diarrhea-like symptoms in the people who ate it. Don’t go there.

Glacier Lagoon

We arrive at some of the bluest water I had ever seen, miniature icebergs scattered throughout and the heads of seals popping up every once in a while. There was a little part of the beach where the waves would go in and out every 30 seconds. Every time the waves went out, I could walk out to a rock that was just large enough that I could stand on it until the wave came back in and almost completely submerged it. It made it look like I was standing deep in the lagoon or riding a manta ray or pokemon.

 Before

Before

 After

After

That's my friend Tenders, but you can check out my turn here.

Nesbraud Bakery

We rolled up into the town of Stykkisholum, hungry and tired. Luckily, there was one bakery open called Nesbraud. The owner’s name was Eric, and he was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. To top it off, his breakfast sandwiches were delicious. After I finished one, I bought another to take on the road. One of my biggest regrets in life is not getting a third one.

 Taken by my friend who went to Iceland a month after I did and visited Eric's bakery upon my recommendation. He said he remembered me!

Taken by my friend who went to Iceland a month after I did and visited Eric's bakery upon my recommendation. He said he remembered me!

Snaefellsjoekull National Park

This place had everything. We toured a cave, climbed up cool rock structures, walked a peaceful pebble beach. I’m a born adventure seeker, and this place was filled with it. We didn’t plan on staying for long, but once we got to that pebble beach, we stayed for a couple hours, doing nothing but watching the waves go in and out.

When it came time to leave, we drove out of the park and came across Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, which immediately became my favorite part of the whole trip. A this stream cut through a mountain, creating a bunch of mini waterfalls throughout the gorge, some of which were too tall to step up onto. My rock climbing skills allowed me to scale the walls to get farther upstream. The last fall was maybe 12 feet tall. The only way up was to climb a rope somebody tied to a boulder at the top, but the rope was in the waterfall. I couldn’t risk getting soaked, so we turned back, but if I had waterproof clothes, I could have explored the gorge for hours.

 My fellow explorer Jon. The only other one brave enough to venture into the dark with me

My fellow explorer Jon. The only other one brave enough to venture into the dark with me

 View from the bottom of the gorge.

View from the bottom of the gorge.

The Lights

The second to last day on the road, the skies were perfectly clear. Whatever elf magic the Icelandic people use to forecast the northern lights said that they would be very active that night and to keep on the lookout around 11:00PM. The time rolled around but then so did the clouds. The forecast was right. The lights were very active, so active that they tinted the clouds green. Unfortunately, that was the only glimpse we got that night. I was disappointed and resigned myself to the fact that I just wouldn't see them this trip. It was safer that way.

The next night, our last night driving out in the country, my pessimism was proven wrong for the first time ever. The sky was as clear as can be. We found a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. There were houses scattered throughout the area. There were no official campsites there, so we kind of just parked on the side of the road, which was definitely private property. The house closest to us didn’t have their lights on, so our trespassing went unnoticed.

Darkness fell, and late into the night I saw what looked like the faint beam of a spotlight that stretched across the sky. I thought that was weird because we weren’t near any cities. I took a long exposure picture of it, and it was green. We rushed out of the motorhome and looked to the sky. Shortly after, ribbons of green and purple majesty danced above us. All was well.

Our last actual night in Iceland was spent back in Reykjavik, the place we began. As night fell, I walked around the city alone, trying to soak up all I could before departing the next morning, and the country said goodbye, giving me one more glimpse of the best it had to offer.

Pictures and words cannot describe. Go to Iceland and see for yourself. 


For more pictures from my Iceland trip, check out my Flickr album or follow me on Instagram to keep up with my past and future adventures. 

The Case of the Missing Wood Printed, Tito's Handmade Vodka Branded Sunglasses

I have a very bad track record with sunglasses. I have owned tens of pairs since high school, which is when I decided my eyes were important enough to protect, and I have lost all of them except for the two that I currently own.

Actually, that's not true. I've lost one of the two pairs I currently own. This is the story of how I miraculously found the pair I lost.


I recently found myself sunglass-less. I had a beautiful pair of free, Samsung-branded, black matte sunglasses. I owned those for over a year, a world record for amount of time I've kept sunglasses by several months. The summer Texas sun was too much for me the following weeks, so I decided to buy a cheap pair from the first place I could think of: P. Terry's. I walked into that fast food burger place and ordered just the pair of sunglasses, no food, for I had dinner plans later that night and wanted to show up fashionable and hungry. I walked out of that burger stand, confident that my eyes were in good hands.

At the dinner, I shared the story of the weird look the lady at the counter gave me for only buying sunglasses and my grievances for always losing the ones I owned. My friend offered to give me another pair she got for free, and at our next meeting, she presented a pair of wood print, Tito's Handmade Vodka branded sunglasses. They were perfect. I love vodka. Eager to show them off, I wore them everywhere. I looked super fly. Then one fateful day, I lost them.

It was a bright day, nearly impossible to open your eyes without some shades. I had just purchased a used tent, which I had to set up in order to ensure it was a good investment. Having no backyard, I had to do this at a public park outside my apartment. I went to work, but the Texas heat turned every one of my pores like a water hose. Sweat kept dripping onto my sunglasses, rendering them useless. I took them off, placed them carefully on the ground, and kept working with my tent. Once satisfied, I quickly packed up the tent and rushed back to my apartment to replenish the liquid my body had lost.

The next couple of days, I couldn't find the Tito's glasses. I still had my P. Terry's glasses, so I didn't worry. I just assumed that they were lying around my apartment somewhere, but I kept forgetting to look for them. Finally, on the third day, I searched in vain. Then I remembered the last time I wore them. Panicked, I took my flashlight, for it was already late, and went out to the area where I last had them. I knew chances were slim. I was sure somebody would have taken them by now. I know I would have.

I got to the patch of grass under the tree where I set up my tent and scanned the area with my light. No luck. Disheartened, I shined my light in the branches just in case somebody put them up there. Nothing. I guided my light down the thin trunk, and I saw a strange sight. The tree was staring straight at me, wearing a pair of wood printed, Tito's Handmade Vodka branded sunglasses, looking super fly.

To whoever put them there, you are a better person than I. I will never know you or be able to repay you, but thank you.

Finally Not Sick in San Francisco

January of last year I visited San Francisco. I was there a good 8 hours before I came down hard with something. It must have been the flu because I was bedridden for the next two nights.

Last week, I got to revisit the city, and I didn't get sick this time! I stayed with my friend the first night at Stanford University. I immediately knew it would be a good trip because of the victory that took place that day. My friend and I went to a dive bar, overflowing with peanut shells and Golden State Warriors fans. They were playing the Rockets that night, and my friend and I were in the minority in that bar, both ethnically and basketbally. The Rockets managed to get a very ugly W. The two of us cheered while everybody else was disappointed. It was great.

 This was on Stanford campus. It's very similar to a  sculpture  outside one of the engineering buildings of the college I went to. Fun fact: my dad went to Stanford. He's a lot smarter than me.

This was on Stanford campus. It's very similar to a sculpture outside one of the engineering buildings of the college I went to. Fun fact: my dad went to Stanford. He's a lot smarter than me.

The next day, we visited our friend at his place of work: Facebook. That office is pretty much a theme park. It was amazing. After that, we went into the city. We experienced a minor delay because somebody was hit by the train we were supposed to take, just a little ways down the tracks from our stop. All the reports say that she was taken to the hospital for her injuries, so it looks like she survived!

Once in the city, we hit up another cool tech company that our friend worked at and took this gem on the roof of his office building:

 It's filtered like that because it was taken through an app that is supposed to be used to take couple pictures. I'm not sure how it differs from the normal camera app or Instagram. It makes no sense, but whatever.

It's filtered like that because it was taken through an app that is supposed to be used to take couple pictures. I'm not sure how it differs from the normal camera app or Instagram. It makes no sense, but whatever.

That night, we went out to the mission district, hit up some bars. The rest of the trip was spent getting wandering around the city, eating, stuff like that. We had to use Uber pool for transportation, so every ride we took had strangers join us. It was actually a really good experience getting to talk to the other passengers and the drivers. One couple that rode with us was about to go on a 3 month road trip. When we told them we were from Austin, they asked what to do and where to eat. We gave them a good list that they wrote down. I did find, however, that in San Francisco I never got a strong suggestion of where to eat from any of the locals. The couple seemed to have trouble giving us a list comparable to the one we gave them. I guess food in Texas is just better.

 Taken at the Korean BBQ place we ate at one night. I really like this picture. I like the way the evening sun shines through the atmosphere, which consists of mostly grease.

Taken at the Korean BBQ place we ate at one night. I really like this picture. I like the way the evening sun shines through the atmosphere, which consists of mostly grease.

Most trips I take are usually outside because I'm not very good at figuring out things to do in places that don't have more dirt than concrete, but I was very pleased with this one. I definitely want to make a return trip in the near future and stay longer.

Oh, and of course I walked on the Golden Gate Bridge. And took a picture of it because you just have to.

Squint, for the Grandeur!

I've always considered myself an adventurer. Even when I was a child, I liked to explore caves, climb things, and trek through the unknown. Now that I'm an adult, I have the means to explore farther than I ever had before. This recently led me to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

I don't know how to write a travel blog because I've never read one. I assume it's just describing what happened. Lists! Lists are popular. I'll try doing that.

1. Not enough beer

We started out the trip with 18 cans of beer. Being four men, we knew that we would need much more, but for some reason, we only got 12 more cans when we went to the store. We ran out of the sweet nectar halfway into the trip, and the small amount of bourbon I had was only enough for each of us to have a few sips. To make matters worse, moths apparently like bourbon and fly straight into it if it's left in an open cup. So there we were, four grown ass men who had severely miscalculated our beer usage. That's something that should happen to kids, not us. It was sad.

2. Mexican food is the biggest mountain

The first full day of our trip was spent walking through Carlsbad caverns. It was not that difficult of a trek, but when we arrive at the visitor's center, we were informed that the meeting spot for our cave tour we reserved was about a 40 minute walk away, and it started in 38 minutes. We zoomed into the mouth of that cave and arrived with about 14 minutes to spare. After the awesome caverns, we went into town to get some hearty Mexican food. It was good, but the food coma afterward was the most exhausted I was the whole trip, by far. The next day, we hiked to the highest point in Texas and back, and I was still nowhere near as tired as I was after I had that burrito plate.

3. Near death experience

There's a place in the park called Devil's Hall. It's basically a dried up river bed, and there is one spot where two walls create this narrow pathway, which is the Devil's Hall. The walls have layers that are easily climbable, so I decided to climb! I went about 15 feet up before I decided to start my descent. As I was lowering myself down, I grabbed a rock that I thought was stable, but it came loose and detached from the wall. In that moment, everything slowed down. I saw my life in an instant. I turned my head in slow motion and looked at the boulders below me. Death was waiting for me there. I looked him in the eyes, and he said, "You're mine."

"Not today." I replied.

My other hand grabbed a stable part of the wall, and I caught my balance. Death walked away, disappointed.

 Moments before I almost died. Look how happy I was.

Moments before I almost died. Look how happy I was.

4. Mouse Attack

We woke up one morning and went to the car to unpack the food. There was an apple in the car, and it had very intricate nibbles on it. I was quite confused that one of my friends decided to eat an apple like that and leave it in the car. I thought nothing more of it until the next day. A lot of our food was nibbled. There were holes in our bags and tiny chunks bitten off our food. A mouse had somehow gotten into the car and had himself a feast. We searched high and low for the pipsqueak, but to no avail. For all we know, it hitched a ride with us back home and will now become an invasive species in its new habitat. To this day, the perpetrator's whereabouts remain unknown. 

5. Guadalupe Peak

I don't have much to say about this that I haven't already said. It's the highest point in Texas. The round trip took between 5 and 6 hours. If you ever take this trip, bring sunglasses. Most of the rock is white, and your pupils cannot close enough for you not to squint at absolutely everything you look at. When we got to the top, each of us drank our a beer that we had brought with us, which were our last of the trip. 

6. Cold is the night

The last night of the trip, I got the worst sleep I have ever gotten in my whole life. Mother nature was dead set against me getting some shut-eye. The wind was blowing hard against our tent, the flapping sounded like percussion instruments all night long. We went to sleep around 9pm. Initially, earplugs were enough for me to ignore the wind until I felt something hit me in the face. I thought that my friend sleeping next to me moved around in his sleep and hit me in the face with his forearm, so I just shook it off. But then I got hit again, and again, and again. The wind was so strong that it was causing the side of the tent in which I was sleeping to cave in, and the pole was hitting me in the face every time. The wind would die down, and the tent pole would pop back into place. The wind would pick up, and I would get a face full of tent pole. I didn't want to leave the comfort of my sleeping bag, so I wanted to wait out the wind. I waited a very sleepless and face-poley 2 hours before going outside and tying the pole to a nearby tree. Now, the tent would cave in still, but the pole would stop about 10 inches from my face. It was like those scenes in movies where a guard dog runs toward a character and jumps up to bite his face but is caught by the leash its wearing just inches before. I thought I had won. I started to drift back to sleep... until the side of the tent closest to my feet kept caving in and hitting my legs. By this time, there was less than two hours before we were getting up to leave, so I wasn't even sure it was worth fixing. The tent kept slapping my legs as if it were mocking me. I asked the sweet Lord to stop the wind like He did that one time on the sea, but to no avail. I wondered what God was trying to teach me through this. That He will pursue me like the wind, relentlessly? That He hates it when I dream? I didn't care, honestly. I just wanted sleep. I went outside again and saw that the rope used to tie that side down had come loose. I wrapped it around a rock since we didn't have stakes and went back to sleeping bag. I lay there, wide awake, staring at the wall that was being pounded by the wind, waiting for my efforts to fail. The wall held up, though, yet I found no sleep. Thirty minutes later, the wind stopped. I was still wide awake, and my alarm was set to go off shortly. I threw in the towel. I got up and went for a walk and took this picture:

That was nice.