Tuesday, January 17, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Ready for some kayaking...
Yes, I like the cold and snow of an upstate NY winter, but sometimes it's fun to experience winter someplace else. You know, places with palm trees, warm sunshine, oceans....

I couldn't resist
So today I went ocean kayaking on the Pacific with my sister. A friend of hers, Tom, also showed up to keep us company. My sister lives in Oceanside, CA (about 40 minutes north of San Diego). It looks like I picked a good week to escape (snow, sleet, freezing rain - how about a storm where it just snows? Please?) The weather was a pleasant 68 degrees as we launched the kayaks in the Oceanside Harbor.

This is only my second time kayaking. My first time was on Catalina Island a couple of years ago. That time, as today, was in a tandem sea kayak. On my own, I'd probably be flailing around in circles. We had a good start today as I was able to get in the kayak without swamping it!

In the harbor
We took a warm-up lap around the harbor and rested at a beach before heading out into the ocean. Our goal was a buoy about 1/2 mile out in the ocean. Fortunately the winds were light and the swells small. The tide was coming in too, so while it would be a bit tough going out, the return trip should be easier. Which was a good thing because my arms felt like they were going to fall off while we were still doing the warm-up lap! It's been a while since I've used my paddling muscles. I will be sore in morning (ok, to be honest, I'm sore now....). Tom was way out in front most of the time in his sleek carbon fiber kayak (jealous, weighs somewhere around 20lbs), but we didn't do too bad considering the newbie in the kayak.

We had been on the look-out for dolphins and sea lions in the harbor, but didn't see any. However, when we got near the buoy, we could hear the barks of sea lions. They were lounging on the buoy soaking up the sun. One poor sea lion was in the water trying to launch itself on the buoy, but the rest weren't playing along. It was barking and squawking and creating quite a ruckus. We were drifting kind of close and getting the evil sea lion eye, so we turned back for shore. Even though we had the winds at our backs, it felt like we were barely moving. I think it had something to do with my very tired arms. It was kind of fun though riding the swells back into the harbor.

Out on the ocean - sea lion lounging buoy

Ostracized sea lion

Pelicans in the harbor

We were out in the kayaks for about an hour and a half. As a reward for such hard work we sat outside and treated ourselves to a plate of nachos and a pitcher of margaritas. Can't do that at home right now :-)

Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to make it to Idyllwild. We got skunked on our hike on Monday with cold temps and high winds. I know, shouldn't be a problem for a winter Adirondack hiker, but I didn't exactly bring my cold weather gear with me. (But I did bring my water shoes!)

Oceanside Pier in the background

Post kayak nachos and margaritas on the restaurant patio

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Warm-up to Winter

Larch Valley-Banff National Park
I’m back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After a 2 week vacation to the Canadian Rockies in September and subsequent foot injury (torn plantar fascia), I was pretty much grounded for the fall hiking season. Not that the foot is 100% there yet, but there is only so much stationary biking I can tolerate at the gym. And besides, it’s winter. Must go out and PLAY! I also publicly announced in the local Albany, NY newspaper (http://www.timesunion.com/sports/article/New-year-s-resolution-Get-outside-2421138.php), that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep blogging about my hiking experiences. So here we go….

Off we go!
To get back into hiking, I wanted to start small and work my way back to a high peak. I thought Hopkins would be a great warm-up hike(a little over 6 miles round-trip) and a chance to see my winter hiking buddies again. Six of us (Tim, Skip, Barb, Dave, and Jim) made the journey. In mid-December, we hiked Hopkins via the Mossy Cascade Trail. The day was crisp and clear with maybe an inch of snow on the ground in Keene Valley. Well, we wouldn’t need snowshoes, although Skip decided to carry his just to get used to the heavier weight of a winter pack. A bit less than a mile from the trailhead, there is a faint trail to the base of the Mossy Cascade waterfall. I elected not to visit the waterfall today, but some did. The report back was lots of debris at the base of the waterfall, most likely due from Irene. I would have gone if my foot hadn’t already started to ache and my lungs felt like I was climbing Everest. The waterfall is very attractive and definitely worth a side trip, especially on a hot summer’s day. While waiting, I decided it was a good time to put on my micro-spikes.

Mossy Cascade Brook
Rest stop

The trail continues to follow the Mossy Cascade Brook. Lots of small cascades and pretty flumes. About halfway up there is an open ledge with interesting views and a great spot to stop and rest. After a short breather, we started up again. The first part of the trail from the trailhead is a bit steep, but then climbs at at a fairly moderate grade.  It’s only the last part that gets steeper again. In no time we were at the summit with spectacular views in almost all directions. (I think the guidebook says 22 high peaks can be seen from the summit.) The first time I hiked Hopkins it was socked in; now I know what I missed!
Looking over towards the Dixes

Sawteeth and the Great Range from Hopkins

More views from Hopkins
 It was warm and sunny at the top and we lingered longer than one normally can on a summit in winter. It was great to be back in the high peaks again!

Since it was still early when we got back down, we went for an early dinner and some beers to celebrate the holidays. Now I can't wait to get back on a high peak!