Monday, January 3, 2011

Best of 2010

2010 was a year full of adventures, new experiences, and opportunities. Things have not always been easy but it's been a very successful year. As we turn the page on 2010 I'd like to have a look back at some of my favorite memories from the past year.

10 Driving over the Tioga Pass for the first time in a decade

I called this year the "Summer of the Sierra" because I traveled over the Tioga pass 8 times this year starting the very day it opened. Like a teenager who just started having sex, I couldn't get enough of it. I've been to the Sierra's many times in the past ten years but most trips had been out to Tahoe for skiing or I had approached from the east side. I had simply forgtten how stunning the drive is, and on opening day with Toulomne Meadows a lake, and snow banks on the sides of the road 8 feet high I couldn't have picked a better day to reconnect with the pass.

Tuolumne Meadows inundated with snow melt.

9 Hiking the Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith SP

It's a long, long drive from San Francisco to Jedediah Smith State Park (almost as long as the drive to Crater Lake, NP in Oregon) but its worth it for just a few moments spent in the cathedral of trees that is the Stout Grove. It's the oldest grove of redwoods and it takes a bumpy dirt road to reach it but it's magnificent.

The gnarled bark of an ancient redwood in the Stout Grove.

8 Portland & Seattle

Not every highlight of this year was outdoors related. Walking around Portland's Pearl District & Seattle's Pike's Place market were every bit as memorable as the sunset on Second Beach in Olympic National Park or most of the hiking we did in Mt. Rainier. We ate, drank, and had fun for 2 weeks on our vacation to the Pacific Northwest.

Portland's Waterfront Park

7 Backpacking across the Coast Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore

Sure, we got wailed on by a beast of a winter storm but its when things go wrong that trips become the most memorable. Our first day across the park was fabulous though with comfortable weather, and a nice even trail for most of the way which treated us to wonderful coastal views at all times.

Bush Lupine on the Coast Trail.

6 Young Lakes, Yosemite National Park backcountry

Our first Backpacking trip into the Sierra's together and of course, I decide to get us lost. After we lost the trail due to snow we eventually found our way to the lakes, just in the nick of time with the sun setting right as we arrived at our camp site along the shore. Beylah remembers this trip as "the mosquito trip" as we were molested by a constant swarm for mile after mile until we bumped into a trail angel who gave us his bottle of bug spray (I sent him a print a week or two later). Too bad for Bey she was already covered in hundreds of bites.

Granite Cliffs above Middle Young Lake.

5 Murietta Falls, Ohlone Regional Wilderness

Muritta falls is a rare gem, the creek which feeds it only runs in the winter and is only more than a trickle after a massive storm. We timed our visit perfectly after a monster cold front dumped rain and snow. The hike was nothing short of a beast and we didn't get in until after dark due to our slow pace but the falls were amazing and at a full roar.

Beylah at the Trailhead to Muritta Falls

4 Agnew Pass, Ansel Adams Wilderness

I understimated the climbing we would do for this trip which resulted in a little scolding for Beylah, that is until we reached Summit Lake & Agnew pass. The previous day of hard climbing under gloomy skies and fierce winds gave way to a spectuacular day of cool weather, big puffy clouds, and phenomenal views.

Mt. Ritter above Summit Lake, near Agnew Pass.

3 Sunset on Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Sometimes when you visit a place that is so beautiful you need to remind yourself that you're really there. Such a thing happened at Second Beach, the highlight of our visit to Olympic National Park. We only had about half-an-hour of light on the beach and had to hike back over a mile in the dark, but to experience one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States at low tide, at sunset made the hike back worth it.

2 Hiking Mt. Rainier National Park

The highlight of a place, that was the highlight of a trip, that was a highlight of the year. Crambling up some Class 2 rocks to set foot on the base of the Muir Snowfield was truly extraordinary. The hike up reignited my desire to climb again this winter and my passion for the outdoors. Reaching the snow field was like standing on the precipice of a dream. It's the gate to a climb up the most stunning peak in the western united states (excluding Alaska) and it's something I'm unlikley to forget any time soon.

Mt. Rainier from the Sunrise side, opposite the Muir Snowfield.

1 Climbing Mt. Whitney

All I could hear were the points of my crampons digging into the snow and my straining breath at 13,000 ft under the dull grey granite faces of Mt. Muir & Mt. Whitney. I had my head down when suddenly the snow around me started to light up and I glanced at the peaks above me, towering another 1,000 ft from where I stood bathed in the orange glow of day break. The cold morning air let up to let in the warmth of day. I ended up not making the summit, but watching this sun rise is a memory that will last forever.

Sunrise on Mt. Muir, adjacent to Mt. Whitney

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