Sunday, August 3, 2014


Last Sunday morning at 5:32 AM, I anxiously left the Ferry Building, running in the 37th San Francisco Marathon. An hour in, I crossed the Golden Gate, and although I was just acknowledging the photographer, he snapped this awesome shot of me (I had no idea the Bridge was there):

At mile 20, my friend Marta gave me a high-five at Haight and Divisdero, some crucial moral support. 
And 3 hours, 1 minute, and 43 seconds later I crossed the finish line, accomplishing my stated goal:

Look happy at the finish line. I also accomplished my real goal, which was to get some crucial cushion time in my attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon-- I lopped nearly two minutes off of my previous time, giving me more than three minutes of cushion now.

Thanks to Jeff for letting me crash on his floor the night before the race, everyone who put up with my pre-race jitters and anxiety (and has listened to me blabber on about running for four months now), my mom for the hug at the finish line, and Marta who woke up at 7 AM to give me a high-five (and made this sign):

And a special shout-out to my brother and dad who ran the much hotter half marathon and without whom I wouldn't have even considered running at all.

The Champs.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Trinity Alps

I needed to escape for the of 4th of July after having not left the four Bay Area counties since I moved in May. Luckily, a few other friends felt the same way, so Tessaly (a classmate who I studied with in Australia), Allison (another classmate) and her boyfriend Kevin and I left Berkeley early on the 4th headed north for our first stop in quaint Weaverville. After working our way through a quintessential small-town 4th of July parade with baton twirlers, classic cars, and even a tank (!!!), we grabbed our permit and drove to the Stoney Ridge Trailhead. Or at least where the map showed the road to the trailhead; fortunately, a local pointed us in the direction of the actual trailhead, and we were off!

And wow, it was BLAZING-- 98 on Friday, 99 on Saturday, and 102 on Sunday. Everyone worked up a good sweat on the climb up 3,000 feet to our camp at beautiful Echo Lake.

And sunset was especially spectacular:

The next day we day-hiked the eight-mile long Four Lakes Loop, around Deer Lake, Diamond Lake, Luella Lake, and finally Round Lake. Looking down on Deer Lake from the pass:

From the next pass, Tessaly and I hiked up prominent 8,160-foot tall Siligo Peak. Here's Tessaly taking it in (note Shasta hiding in the distance):

After a refreshing dip in Emerald Lake (one advantage of the heat is that the lakes were pleasant), we finished the loop, and headed back to camp and enjoyed another sunset. 

The next day we woke up early (it's super unusual to be able to get out of the tent in shorts!), and hiked back to the car. Alas-- back toward Trinity Lake and civilization.

A fun trip with some new backpacking buddies! Looking forward to the next trip!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We're Headed West

After a few weeks back in the Bay, the old Bay Area Backpacking Crew got back together: my brother Matthew and his friend Pat (see our Mt Stanford trip from October 2012). We decided to take on the Bay's toughest overnight trail: the 28-mile Ohlone trail, from Mission Peak in Fremont to Del Valle Regional Park near Livermore, with a staggering 7000-feet plus elevation gain.

After dropping a car off at the far end and fighting traffic, we started hiking near 7 PM on Friday with a climb up Mission Peak:

Still green and beautiful, at least for a few more weeks. By the time we got to the summit the wind was whipping and the fog was rolling in. Still managed to snag this:

After that, we hiked down to our campsite at Eagle Spring (which was ironically dry). A dry spring = a lot of water weight to carry 3,000 feet up Mission Peak. The next day we hiked through classic California Coastal Scrub Oak,

down to the Sunol visitor center, and then way back up to Maggie's Half Acre, a site just below Rose Peak, where my brother and I had camped in October. Really incredible views from the summit at 3,817 feet:

And the views are even better after dark-- east to Stockton, south to San Jose, north to San don't really do it justice.

The next day we woke up early, and hiked the last 9 miles out to Del Valle Regional Park (and the celebratory In-n-Out in Livermore). The Ohlone Trail is tough, but is a little-known gem hidden in the  East Bay-- definitely worth the trip.

Some other Back-To-The-Bay adventures:

Giant's games are always fun:

And I finally made it to an A's game:

I also finally completed the Bay Area Peak Challenge after climbing Mt Diablo (great views!),

and Mt Hamilton (a brutal climb).

I also decided to capitalize on being in great post-hiking shape by signing up for the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July (coming up!). I was feeling great during my training, so I signed up for the Western Pacific Marathon in Union City in early May and made my goal of a Boston Qualifier, running 3:04:35, second in my age group and third overall!

Running is definitely not the beautiful game. My triumphant-hands-in-the-air finish looked a little more pathetic once I saw the photos:

And oh yeah, it's nice to live somewhere again:

Glad to be back. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, April 28, 2014

City Life

You may think that Jared and I had gotten the exhausting part of our trip out of the way-- 400 miles of hiking up mountains in downpours, across freezing rivers in thick forests. But no. Cities are way more exhausting-- there's always one more thing to see, or eat, or drink. When you're hiking, once you arrive at your destination, that's it (other than fishing, reading, chatting, and cooking). On that note, our trip ended with two days in Wellington and then four days in Auckland...and whew, it was exhausting.

After our early arrival in Wellington, "the coolest little capital in the world" according to Lonely Planet, we dropped our stuff of at our hostel and headed for Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum. Free wifi aside included, it's a really lovely museum, incorporating New Zealand's prodigious Maori history, as well as biology, geography, ecology, and modern European history. Definitely worth a visit.

As we left, we noticed some sort of competition going on nearby along the waterfront. Lo and behold, it was the National Firefighters Competition: squads from around New Zealand racing to carry dead weight up six flights of stairs, knock down debris with a firehose, and drag crash dummies around. And all with the world's most enthusiastic emcee.

This was just the first of a couple random quirky things we stumbled upon in Welly. After lunch, we cruised to the hottest microbrewery in New Zealand, The Garage Project, who make a delightful array of hoptastic, in-your-face (shall we say American-style?) beers. We were disappointed that the brewery could only sell retail bottles, and only in one liter plus volumes (well, not totally disappointed), but we happily bought a liter for an afternoon siesta on the hostel patio. After a little rest, we rode the cable car up the hill to the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the gardens, watched a little pick-up cricket, and then rounded out the evening with some delicious Malaysian, a cuisine which Wellington is apparently known for. I'm not the first to notice this, but Wellington has some San Francisco-esque characteristics-- on an iconic harbor, hilly, and packing a cultural punch above its size.

On the morning of day 2, Jared and I stumbled into Caffeination, New Zealand's national coffee conference (free admisison!), including the national barista championship, and the experimental room. The American coffee-snob in me was really excited to finally have a pourover (gasp!) and even a little cold brew (still a very new idea there). Suitably caffeinated, we headed for the surprisingly decent Museum of Wellington City & Sea and then on to Parliament for a tour. I was moved by the monument to New Zealand's soldiers near the capital:

These Laid The World Away
Poured Out The Red Sweet Wine Of Youth. Gave Up The Years To Be
Of Work And Joy And That Unhoped Serene
That Men Call Age. And Those
Who Would Have Been Their Sons
They Gave Their Immortality

From there we toured the (in)famous capital building, endearingly (and un-endearingly) known as the Beehive.

Our tour guide was, ahem, a little boring (as dirt), but Jared and I couldn't help but be intrigued by the workings of NZ's parliamentary democracy, so it was worth it. 

After our tour, it was time for a quick dinner, and then our overnight 11 hour bus ride from Wellington to Auckland. Unfortunately, we made one large miscalculation: in the U.S. when you ride an overnight bus (e.g. MegaBus or BoltBus or Greyhound), you get on the interstate and drive in basically a straight line, at a constant speed, all night. There aren't any interstates in New Zealand, so instead we spent 11 hours on hellishly curvy, hairpin-filled roads. Since the bus was mostly empty, I tried to curl up across two seats, but instead just found myself frantically grasping for handholds (and sliding into the aisle) whenever we rounded a corner, as people and backpacks slid around the bus. 

After a less-than-restful bus ride we arrived in Auckland at 6:30 AM, grabbed a coffee, resupplied, and then hopped on the 9 AM ferry:

We were bound for Rangitoto, one of the fifty volcanoes in and around Auckland. Our plan was to hike to the summit and then wander to neighboring Motutapu Island, where we were camping for the night (we just can't get enough camping!). Rangitoto reminded me of a mini-Big Island (of Hawaii)-- lots of fresh lava flows (a'ha everywhere!), with lava tubes, and a gradually sloping trail to the top.

There were sweet city views from the top:

And by now, you probably saw this coming:

After lunch on the summit, we strolled over to Motutapu and down to our campsite for the night.

We spent the afternoon exploring the nearby WWII-era gun emplacements and bunkers (reminiscent of the Marin Headlands),

and enjoying the views,

before taking in sunset back at camp. The best part: no sand flies. What a treat. Sunset was pretty good too.

The next morning we caught the noon ferry back to Auckland and then walked to our cute little AirBnb apartment near the University of Auckland, about fifteen minutes from the ferry terminal. As a special treat, we got to catch up with our BU friends from the Kepler Track (see 4 posts earlier). 

The next day Jared and I embarked on the symbolic Coast to Coast walk through Auckland, fifteen kilometers, from the Tasman Sea in the west, to the Pacific Ocean on the west. Coincidentally, it's also part of Te Araroa, the through-trail that Jared and I were loosely following on the South Island. See the little icon Jared's pointing at:

From there, we walked over One Tree Hill (isn't that a TV show?) and up scenic Mt Eden, with it's awesome views of the city. As you can probably tell, it's an extinct (thankfully) volcano.

We ended the hike with a beer on the harbor-- not necessarily the best hiking, but a very symbolic journey nonetheless.

On our final day in the city, we decided that we hadn't been getting enough nature (or maybe were getting too much city?), so we rented a car and headed for the Coromandel, a peninsula about two hours east of Auckland that juts out into the harbor. After an hour delay caused by the national hotrod convention (sigh), we arrived at our first stop, the delightful Hot Springs Beach.

There are hot springs beneath the beach (hence the name), so at low tide, you can dig into the sand and sit in a toasty pool while cool waves wash over you. The hotrod convention delayed us enough that we only had twenty or thirty minutes before the tide washed over the beach, but it was still very cool. 

Our next stop was Cathedral Cave trailhead, with its stunning Pacific views.

After that, it was a 30-minute hike down to the cove, where we enjoyed lunch.

We then took some time to explore the feature landmark of the cove. Here I am coveting a perch...

Here I am deciding maybe not...

And finally. All mine.

After enjoying the beach, we drove north around the top of the peninsula and over a pass.

The area reminded of Big Sur-- not in it's climate (far too sunny), but in it's ruggedness and proximity to a major city. A beautiful end to a beautiful trip.

That morning Jared decided to extend his trip through May, so the next day he hopped on a noon bus south to work at brewery, while I spent the afternoon wandering the city, eventually stumbling into a pretty impressive botanic greenhouse.

That evening, alas, it was time to return to the real world after seven months as a nomad. As I flew out, I got one last parting gift from New Zealand: sunset over Auckland Harbor.

As the plethora of blog posts have attested to, wow-- what a trip. 

Thanks to those who shared their cars, their time, and their stories with us. 

A shoutout to you who kept things interesting (you know who you are...). 

And of course...

A trip is only good as your travel mate. And I had a good one.