Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (California Part 3)

On Thursday morning, we woke up around 6 to prepare for the drive to Yosemite National Park. To be honest, I had no idea that Yosemite was in California. As someone who is outdoorsy and prefers to know as much about everything as possible, I was embarrassed by this. Regardless, we took off bright and early, with many a Korean pastry and snack in tow.

After several hours of driving, we were out nicely into the desert, with nary a soul to be seen. We stopped quickly at McDonalds for some lunch and grabbed some gas, and hit the road again. A few hours later, we finally arrived at the place where we would be staying. It reminded me quite a bit of summer camp, with hordes of cabins scattered across the slope of a chunk of mountain. At the bottom of the slope, very near where we stayed, there was a large, pleasant lake.

The view from our humble abode.

The cabin was pretty awesome. I wouldn’t mind owning one like it someday. It was two stories, with a bedroom downstairs and a kitchen/living room upstairs with a deck, Over the kitchen was a loft, accessible by ladder. In essence, a perfect mountain getaway.

Once we were unpacked and our food was refrigerated, we took the 20 minute drive to Yosemite. One ignored phone call from my boss later, we were cruising up, down, and around the mountains of the park. Along the way, we made three stops. First, we stopped to take a short walk up to a huge waterfall. Then, we took a stroll across a river and through a meadow to get a nice view of another waterfall. Finally, we took a hike through the woods that led to…a waterfall. The good news is that waterfalls are really, really cool, and I don’t get sick of them.

N33D MOAR F4LLZ

It was during this stroll through the woods that I got my initial, overwhelming desire to find an identical location (sans tourists) to build myself a cabin. I can literally think of no place better than amongst the tall pine trees, with a river running by the window, and a waterfall just visible over the tree line.

Not that I've got a location picked out already or anything...

I would even be willing to build it by hand, chopping down the trees myself. In fact, I think I would prefer it that way. If only I could have that and a beach house at the Jersey Shore, my life would be complete. Also some watermelon, tomato juice, and tacos.

That evening, Jenny’s mom made the best KBBQ pork I’ve ever had, which we ate over the little coffee table in the cabin. After a shared bottle of champagne, we all retired for another busy day in Yosemite. The following morning, we ate a quick breakfast of toast and packed up the car. We took a spectacular (really, really spectacular) tour of the giant Sequoias in the park and then went to a very popular waterfall hike.

As anyone who has taken my picture knows: big trees are hard to photograph.

The trail for the hike wasn’t that long, but it was steep and rather treacherous, so Jenny and I parted ways with her parents to complete the hike. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, temperatures in California fluctuate nicely based on elevation and time of day, mainly due to the lack of humidity. It was for this reason that we were half frozen about halfway up the mist trail. Completely drenched in cold mist from the waterfall and on the shady side of the mountain, things got chilly quickly. Thankfully, the trail ended at a sunny stretch of rocks beside the top of the waterfall; the perfect place to lay down, warm up, and dry out.

This isn't the waterfall we hiked too...that one was too close/wet to take pictures of. I'd like to hike this one next time though!

Since we had a very long drive back home ahead of us, we hiked back down quickly, changed in the car, and made our way towards the exit of the park. Not wanting to miss any parts of the park, we elected to leave on the opposite side of the mountains. This gave us the chance to drive up along the crest and down the other side.

Throughout the drive, we made a number of stops to take in the awe inspiring views from the mountain. We came across a wide lookout, where you could see Half-Dome in the distance.

That little blob is famous.

We stumbled upon another big lake, hidden between two mountains and a swatch of trees.

 

We drove through places that still had some healthy mounds of snow.

Pengy likes this.

We wrote paragraphs that were hard to follow because too many pictures we inserted. Finally, we exited the park and began the drive back through the desert.

Of all the places I’ve been in the US, and the world for that matter, Yosemite is definitely one of, if not the most beautiful.  The shear diversity of the park is just amazing. Even throughout the small portions of two days that we spent there, we passed through wide meadows with deer running in them, over insanely huge stony mountains, amongst the world’s largest trees, past magnificent lakes in the middle of forests, and saw an astounding number of waterfalls. As much as I love the Adirondacks (especially because the lakes and mountains make me think of Hogwarts), I think Yosemite is the superior wilderness, if not on scale alone.

 

After dinner at the world’s most standard American restaurant, I took over driving for the remaining 4 hours. Jenny and her parent’s slept on and off throughout the drive. For the last hour of so, Jenny’s dad and I discussed businesses. The conversation managed to bolster my already monumental desire to start a business.

It was quite late by the time we got back, so we all just showered and passed out. It was important for us to get plenty of rest, because the next day would be our last day in Cali. Although it would be our least eventful day, I will save a description for the finale. This post is way too long. Have a good weekend! (Yeah, I wrote this on Friday, but didn’t have time to add pictures until today. We’ll all get over it together).

Epic Adventures: Summer Trip (California Part 1)

The time has finally come for me to begin the rundown of the splendid trip that I took over the week of the 4th of July. I already wrote half of this post once, but in an effort to get out of work, I shutdown my computer before saving it. It even asked if I was sure that I didn’t want to save…AND I SAID YES.

So, sure enough, I am starting over. After returning to DC from my grandparent’s place, Jenny and I packed and chilled a bit. Around 3:30 the next morning, we woke and hitched a ride to Reagan with my roommate. The flight from DC to Houston was a bleary blur. Despite my usual inability to sleep at the most opportune times, I surprisingly managed to doze off for most of the flight; however, I did wake for one glorious moment. When the stewardesses were making their rounds, I woke up to get some tomato juice. I’m not even the type to order tomato juice usually, but in my daze I had a real hankerin’ for it. Let me tell you, if you ever fly Continental, get the spicy tomato juice. It’s awesome. FASCINATING.

After a brief layover in Houston, where there was a brief cancellation scare (apparently the only scary part was how bad Continental is at updating their flight statuses), we were on our way to Ontario. Knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on consecutive flights (because no one is that lucky), Jenny and I started watching The Bourne Identity. It’s one of those films that I’ve always meant to watch, but never really got around to doing. It was pretty damn good too. Not tomato juice good, but you know, nice. That made the flight go by pretty quickly.

The best part about those early morning east-to-west coast flights is that they get you to your destination bright and early. After leaving DC at 6 AM, we were on the ground and on our way to lunch with Jenny’s parents by 11 AM. We stopped for a brief lunch of jajamyun and fried chicken, followed shortly by some bubble teas, and took the short drive to their home. Flying into Ontario was absolutely the best bet; 15 minutes to the house rather than 1+ hour if we had done LAX.

With a full day still ahead of us, we went with Jenny’s dad to the local mountains for a hike. Despite the blazing sun, I had to admire California’s complete lack of humidity. As soon as you entered the shade, and even moreso when we had reached a sufficient elevation, the temperatures dropped to fall-like levels (aka the temperature at which I thrive). The hike itself was beautiful too. Nice and steep at parts, with a stream popping in and out of few for the duration, and terrain varying from southern California shrubbery to nice, tall evergreens. It was the perfect way to unload the day’s meals and welcome ourselves to the west coast.

The following morning, we all woke bright and early to drive to Newport beach. Once there, we hopped on the ferry to Catalina Island for a nice little boat trip and a day of fun in the sun. Jenny, who is no one’s sailor, went 2 for 2 for getting seasick on boats (although there was no puke this time).

Catalina Island itself was magnificent. Only an hour’s trip off the coast, it provided a nice sense of isolation, with just a few roads and a tiny resort town nestled between its mountains. We took a little semi-submarine tour out to see some fish before lunch, where we ate at a little hut serving the world’s saltiest (although pretty good tasting) food. The grilled ham and cheese would have been divine with a tad less sodium chloride.

After lunch, Jenny and I tried our hand at paddleboarding around the marina, where we both had some issues to overcome. As a seasoned kayaker, I felt at home navigating the board around the inlet’s many zipping skiffs; however, as a seasoned oaf, I had to take enormous care to avoid losing balance and tumbling into the frigid water. Jenny, on the other hand, effortlessly stayed upright while navigating her board into a number of anchored boats. Thankfully, by the end of our hour, we had both improved upon our faults and decided that we quite liked the activity.

It's like a multi-million dollar obstacle course.

From there, I bought and devoured an exceptional caramel apple with nuts (the only way to eat them) and we caught the ferry back to Newport. Terrified that we may have made some sort of fitness gains by walking and paddleboarding, we bought a frozen banana in Newport Beach to increase our caloric totals for the day and to entertain my infatuation with Arrested Development.

Because there's always money in the banana stand.

Finally, we stopped by a Korean restaurant on the way back, where I pounded some kimchi and dol sot bimbimbap. We finished driving back, cleaned ourselves up, chilled a bit, and got to bed in order to prepare ourselves for………..

 

Fitness vs. Fatness: Cool summer breezes and the National Mall

The weather today was spectacular. I was in a rush this morning to get out the door, but it was a really nice surprise to hop on my bike and not be immediately drenched in sweat. There’s nothing quite like a crisp, sunny morning in the summer; it’s the best way to start a day, hands down.

If I didn’t expect it to be so nice in the morning, then I was totally floored when I left work and found that it hadn’t heated up all that much throughout the day. There was still a really nice breeze and minimal humidity. Since I made that whole post earlier glorifying running, I realized that I didn’t have much of a choice but to run today. This blog thing is really working out I think…it lets me get my thoughts out of my head, where I can analyze them better.

Yeah, I think I'm in pretty company there.

Anyway, I suited up to run in my usual shorts and cut-off, tied my keys into my laces, and headed out with my roommate. We ran up to the Capitol and down the mall, where he met up with his girlfriend and her roommates for a picnic. I kept going up to the Washington Monument, around to the Lincoln Memorial, through the little park, and back to meet up with them on the mall. That little loop is probably my favorite run in DC, or at least one of two. You can check it out here: Lincoln Memorial Run.

The weather really couldn’t have been better either. The combination of the weather, a nap on my train ride home, and a general good mood made the run go really nicely. It’s always nice when your body feels like it’s firing on all cylinders, cranking out each bound.

The other nice thing about running is that it always cuts down on my usually overwhelming desire to eat. Plus, I was pretty much crashing their picnic, so I was a little reluctant to really chow down. This worked out well, because I ended up just having a very light dinner of a single corn on the cob, a couple pickled beans, and some couscous with chicken, cucumber, beans, and dried cranberries.

I was still feeling pretty energetic too, so I climbed a tree a few times, chilled out, and then played two rounds of 2-on-2 ultimate frisbee with everyone. I forgot how much I missed that sport too. I’ll have to have a full blown post on it at some point, but I played it a LOT in high school. It was also a good outlet for my inherent competitiveness. Winning both games felt good.

After that, we ran back. Now I’ve just got a date with a watermelon before bed. Not bad at all.

Sorry friend, your moments are numbered.

Fitness vs. Fatness: New Jersey Part 2

It’s interesting how we come to associate certain activities, foods, and senses (read:music and smells) with places. As I mentioned earlier, I’m back in NJ this weekend and no matter how many times I come back, I can never resist going back to a few specific things when I come home.

First, I always feel like I need to go for a run. I ran for years and years in Double Trouble, learning new paths, fusing them, and perfecting the combination for whatever mileage I was in the mood to do. Since I’m home so infrequently now, I feel like I’m insulting my memories if I don’t hit it up for at least one run each time. In case you’re bored and in NJ, check out my favorite route here: Double Trouble Run

Next, a summer morning will never be complete without one of the following: Pancakes or french toast from my mom or a pork roll, egg, and cheese on a poppy from Oh What A Bagel. With my mom gone this weekend, my options were pared down. Of course, it’s not like I minded. Pork roll is notoriously hard to find outside of the Garden State and as far as breakfast meats go, it’s definitely my favorite.

The best part of waking up.

If it’s the summer, dinner is never complete without something grilled. Steaks, veggies, burgers, hot dogs…it’s all good in my book. I can, and always do, pound an obscene amount of Jersey corn when I’m here as well. Since I’m just cooking for me and my sister tonight, I decided to stick to the some basic burgers and corn (protip: for awesome corn, boil water, add a splash of milk, add corn and remove from heat until tender). Again, not complaining.

I also made a massive batch of my mom’s lemon iced tea, the greatest summer beverage in the world (sorry, not much of a drinker here).

I'll drink the hell out of this though.

On a side note, when I fired up the grill for the burgers, I had a bit of deja vu. I can still vividly remember the first burger I ever cooked. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school and I was chilling at home playing some Morrowind. My brother stopped in to see if I was hungry, which I always am, and we scoured the house for some grub. Our search yielded a few frozen patties, Thomas’s bagels, a slice of cheese, and some House of Blues hot sauce. Not too fancy, but without a license, a car, or a job, times were tough.

It was half raining, half misting at the time (just like it is now), but we grilled the burgers outside (as I am now), and I retired to my room with the burger and some tea. As someone who loves the rain, I pulled up my blinds, opened my windows, and listened to the rain while I ate the burger. Then I continued playing Morrowind, in which it was also raining, and marveled at how awesome my day was. It’s seriously bizarre how some moments in life stand out so incredibly clear, while more important and practical things evade our conscious. I also really, really want to play Morrowind now, but I’m afraid that I won’t go to sleep at all tonight if I do.

Then again, it would be totally worth it.

Anyway, my mom’s coworker has a birthday on Monday, so Jesse and I baked a carrot cake for her to take in. I siphoned off some of the batter before baking to make a few cupcakes for us too.

I’d better hit up Double Trouble again on my way back to Maryland.