Monday, June 28, 2010

Half Dome Conquered!

If asked how I would sum up my experience hiking Half Dome, I would respond, "Longest day of my life!" The day after could then be described as "Most painful day of my life (thus far - I imagine child labor will be up there...)."

I decided to head into Half Dome with the "ignorance is bliss" approach. And to be honest, I think it was a great idea! I knew about how many miles it was, that it involved some stairs (turned out to be much more than I thought), that I would have to use some cables to climb the last part (which I didn't plan on doing), and that it would take around 14 hours.

So, I packed my backpack with lots of water and gatorade, threw in some pb&j's and trail mix, and I figured I was good to go. Jason asked me the day before I was left if I was mentally ready? I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Sure." No big deal, right? (I think the whole me not training bit made him a little nervous. I figured, once an athlete, always an athlete...)

Well, after our 3:30am wake-up call, our 4:15am departure, and our 1.5 hour drive from the cabin to our starting point, we finally hit the the trail around 6:30am. We started at Glacier point and took the Panorama Trail. We made it to Nevada Falls at about 9am (which was almost 5 miles in). We had another 4.5 miles to hike before he hit Half Dome.

The Half Dome Hikers!

Some sights along the way

Our group of 15 split up during this route of the trip, and we were now in groups of 4-5. The trek from Nevada Falls to Half Dome was much more steep, but it wasn't too bad. A little after Nevada Falls, we hit some small stairs (maybe just a few inches high). I stupidly remarked, "I wonder if these are the stairs that everyone talks about...?" I quickly was laughed at by a guy hiking down, who while laughing, said very clearly, "No." A few miles later I would understand why my question was so stupid. Here's why...

These are the stairs you have to climb to get to the top of the sub dome, which is where the cables start. Now, a few of these stairs don't look too bad, but try climbing over 600 hundred of them (after you just hiked almost 9 miles), and it is tough! Definitely was the most strenuous part of the hike! But we did it, and the first group of us made it to the top of the sub dome at about 11:45.

After climbing all of those steps, I was now determined to do the cables. I was not going to get this far and then quit. Despite my mild fear of heights, I pushed though and climbed the cables. The frustrating part was that we had to wait in line for over an hour to simply start climbing the cables and because they were so congested, it took us about 30-45 minutes to climb the 400 feet up them.

The Ascent up Half Dome

I made it!

The view at the top of Half Dome was nice (but not much different than that from the sub dome). We spent about an hour up top looking around and taking pictures. The descent down the cables was another long wait of about 45 minutes and a 30 minute climb down.

By now it was almost 4:30, so we hauled down the trail. We took the John Muir Trail (about 8 miles), and were finished at about 8:30.

So, start to finish, here are the stats:

Total distance: 18 miles
Total elevation: 4,796 feet
Total Stairs: Over 600
Total Time: 14 hours (cables took a long time).

We didn't end up getting back to the cabin until 12:30am due to having to go get our cars at Glacier Point (an hour away from where we ended). But we eventually all got showers and food in our bodies, and crashed after being up for almost 24 hours! What a day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Oakland Zoo

As I talked about in my Monterey Bay Aquarium post, my family is not huge animal lovers - hence my first trip to the zoo occurred when I was 13 years old. Well, I have now gone to the zoo twice!

I had never been to the Oakland Zoo (despite living 30 minutes from it my entire childhood). However, my sister has season passes there (I guess you stoop to such crazy extremes when you have young kids), so she invited me along last week. Since we're both teachers, it"s great that we can do summer activities together. I wasn't so excited about the whole zoo aspect, but I was excited to spend an afternoon with my two adorable nieces!

I must say that, overall, I was pretty unimpressed with the Oakland Zoo - not necessarily because I'm not an animal lover, but rather because I didn't really see that many animals. We saw some elephants (Kate's favorite), zebras, meer cats (gross), giraffes, turtles...and well, I can't recall much else.

The best part was watching my nieces on the carousel and then seeing Kate on the airplane ride. They had a blast - and I had a blast hanging out with my nieces for the afternoon!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

3 Reasons For Teaching...

June. July. August.

My sister Mel, who is also a middle school math teacher, used to say this to me. Then, last year one of my students gave me this plaque.

I wasn't quite sure how to take this (since it was from a student)...or where I was supposed to hang it. Certainly not in my classroom. Thursday was officially the last day of school, and I decided to bust out this plaque and hang it on my door handle. Since all the students had left at this point, I figured it was somewhat appropriate. Yesterday was a teacher work day, so that officially makes today the first day of summer for me! I am super excited for this summer. It will be the first year in four years that I have not gone abroad. But, I have plenty of other fun trips planned. I guess I technically kicked off summer a week early with my trip to Austin last weekend. Here is what else I have planned for this summer:
  • Half Dome - Climbing this with about 20 friends! Another to check off my list
  • Colorado - I'm flying out there, spending a few days in Denver and Boulder with my friend Megan from college, and then we're road tripping back!
  • LA - Jason insists that I go to a home Dodger's game...
  • San Luis Obispo -Megan's bachelorette party and then again for her wedding! So excited!
  • Tahoe - Annual summer vacation with the family
So, here I am one day into summer - I bet it's going to fly by with all these trips I have planned!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Austin 2010

Not many people can say that they still keep in touch with their friends from high school. Well, I not only keep in touch with my friends from high school, I keep in touch with my friends from middle school...wait back it up one more, I keep in touch with my friends from elementary school! And one of those friendships even backdates to when we were just two years old! There are nine of us who still keep in touch...about 5 of us became friends in elementary school...then we picked up the others in middle school. I remember people saying that when we went off to high school, we would split apart and make new friends. But, we stayed together. Now, eight years after high school, we are all still great friends!

Because we all haven't been together in three years, about nine months ago we started talking about a reunion trip. I clearly remember the night the conversation started - four of us were sitting in a wine bar in SF, thinking up locations. We considered a cruise, Mexico, Arizona, Vegas...but then I suggested Austin. I know...random. I had heard that Austin is a super fun city (plus, it's on my 30 Things) and since none of us had ever been there, we decided to run with it.

Well, four months later we bought our plane tickets and this past weekend we reunited in Austin! Eight out of the nine were able to come (our friend Sarah who is in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii couldn't make it). The trip landed at a great time, too. (Dr.) Kirsten was not only celebrating her 26th birthday, but also her graduation from Georgetown Medical School (top of her class)!

So, what was my first impression of Austin? HOT! And HUMID! Oh my gosh - I remember walking out of the airport, gasping for air. I could not breathe. It was in the high 90's with probably 90% humidity. (And my boyfriend wants to live in Texas - ha!) After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we bolted to a restaurant down the street and cooled ourselves down with cold beverages and misting fans! We then checked out 6th Street...which we would soon discover is a whole different place once nighttime hits!


Sixth Street is the main downtown strip of Austin, full of bars and restaurants. And let me tell you, it comes alive at night. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before - us girls walking down the streets and guys chasing us to come to their bar, with the promise of a free round of drinks for all of us. I must say this was exciting at first, but when it was going on all night long, it definitely lost its thrill. Plus, bar hopping is not my scene. Nonetheless, it was fun to experience the 6th Street scene.

Two free bottles of campaign - set up in the window...

Saturday morning was spent tanning at the pool. We then attempted to walk to Lake Austin. Our hotel front desk told us it would be about a 25 minute walk. Well, take the heat and the humidity, and combine it with...not a 25 minute walk...but rather, a 3 mile walk, and let's just say we didn't make it. We stopped after about half a mile, got lunch, and visited Sandra Bullock's bakery. We then attempted the walk again, and made it another half mile before we quit and called a cab.

Gave up on the walk and stopped for lunch...
Walton's - Sandra Bullock's bakery

As we were sitting on the street corner waiting for our cab, a guy walked by and asked if we were okay. We said we were just waiting for our cab. As he walked away, Kirsten recognized him and asked him if he was an actor...on HBO's "The Wire." He confirmed that he was, and then Kirsten realized that he is the current quarterback on the show "Friday Night Lights." So, of course we had to get a picture with him! (I would have been more star struck if I knew who he was, but I didnt...). As we were taking the picture, our cab pulls up and then leaves without us. Our new friend Mike (Michael B. Jordan) then offers to give us a ride (in what turns out to be his sweet car!).

Just waiting for our cab...

Oh, look who walks by...

And, you need ride - I'll drive you in my sweet ride

Is this really happening?!

After arriving at Lake Austin with our famous chauffeur, we hung out at The Hula Hut and then wandered down to Mozart's Coffee House! This was one of my favorite places in Austin. My friend Julie who went to University of Texas had told me about Mozart's, so I'm so glad I got to experience it. I mean, a coffee shop on the lake! What more could you ask for?! We then headed over to UT to explore the campus, which was beautiful.
Mozart's Coffee Shop - on Lake Austin

Go Longhorns!

Saturday night was much mellower and spent at a really cool two-story bar called Union Park. They have a huge patio up top, and with 98 degree days, nights in Austin are gorgeous. We had such a great time hanging out on the patio and chatting!

In our buggy...

My trip ended after a short 48 hours in Austin, but I sure was ready to get out of the heat and humidity. It was so fun to reconnect with all my high, elementary school...friends. We are all at such fun places in life - finishing grad school...starting jobs...getting married (or engaged), so I loved catching up with everyone! We are already planning "(Insert new fun city) 2012".