29 05 2017

This year I could finally do a wildflower hike – a hike with abundant views of varied wildflowers that adorned the spring landscape. I managed to visit Henry Coe State Park during the brief span of a few weeks before the flowers could vanish in the rising summer heat. Wilson’s Peak trail in the park had been a good choice for the purpose. We saw a wide variety of flowers spread across the hills. We did the 9 mile loop. It had been an unusually hot spring day, which made the hike a little challenging.


I have had my fill of California poppies, buttercups, dandelions in bright happy yellow.

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The ample blues and violets, beautiful and buoyant,  complemented well the yellows, making the scenery a perfect sight. Lupines, fiesta flowers, Chinese houses galore.

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Blow wives, milk weed, baby blue eyes and many more.

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California wild roses, geraniums, tree clovers, and other pinks and reds added just the dash of prettiness needed.

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As you might have guessed by now, my general knowledge of flowers is cursory at best. Notwithstanding the lack of the semantic knowledge, I love the cheerfulness and colorful brightness of these wildflowers – free and happy. 🙂

Coyote hills

6 05 2017

A quiet and leisurely sunrise hike with college buddies is perhaps one of the good times one can experience amid the daily buzz. Coyote Hills after the recent abundant rainfall is green and lush, providing magnificent views all around. On this early April hike, we started around 6:30 am and parked just at the intersection of Paseo Padre Pkwy and Patterson Ranch Rd as the park is open only from 8 am. As soon as we slowly made our one mile long way into the park, we were greeted with the surreal sunrise.


And then we were completely taken away by a surprise appearance at the park’s visitor center:


I’m not entirely sure if it’s fortunate or unfortunate, but as we friends caught up with each other with some idle chat and some not, we weren’t entirely focused on the trails we followed. As far as I can recall, we did bits and pieces of Quail trail, Red Hill trail, Nike trail and Bayview trail.

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We saw a lot of snails on the trails.


Spot the animal here:


The best part is that the 8 miles we covered seemed to happen almost as a byproduct and the only reason we stopped hiking was the rising heat and our weekend family obligations beckoning us to return. 😛

Alamere Falls

12 03 2017

With abundant rains this season, California is finally out of drought and its water bodies are brimming with water. Best time to visit my favorite part of the nature – waterfalls. That Saturday the original plan was to hike to Cataract Falls. But alas! Mudslides the previous day had blocked the access to the trail on both sides. So, the decision was made to head to Alamere falls instead. The last 2 miles drive to the Palomarin trail head was so horrible with unimaginable potholes. Especially in the Porsche Convertible. ( Not my car. I carpooled. 😛 ). Drive past Stinson beach, turn into Olema Bolinas Rd and then take Mesa Road.

It was a 8 mile out and back hike. A sunny clear day after a long time, it seemed everyone is out that day. The trail was so overcrowded. We ourselves are a group of about 20 people.


Much of the trail was muddy but the hike offered splendid views of the bay on the way.


Continue on the Coast Trail. Beautiful lakes galore.


Turn left into a not so evident trail to reach  Alamere falls at the beach. To my satisfaction, they were lush and roaring.


Had to climb down the rock to reach the bottom of the falls.


Access to the beach was limited  requiring one to cross the a-little-too-wide creek.


I didn’t try crossing the creek. Just spent some time at the falls. Before leaving though, I couldn’t resist recording the sound of the roaring water. It’s music.

Havasupai Falls (part 2)

6 03 2017

Click here for part 1.

The Havasupai campground was spread for about 200 meters along the stream. We set our camp beside the stream right at the beginning.  There was cool spring drinking water available. It was delicious. No hassle with filtering. No campfire allowed though.


We spent the next morning taking pictures of all the three falls.


Little Navajo Falls


Fifty Foot Falls


Havasu Falls

We encountered a wolf-like dog, who accompanied us along the way, stopping where we stop, following us, and at times leading us up and down the trail. It’s a wonder how I kept my cool without freaking out or paralyzing with feat at that proximity of such a ferocious looking animal. I pat myself on the shoulder but I think I derived my courage from the others in the group. Can’t imagine my plight if I were alone. 😛


We headed to Mooney falls in the afternoon. It’s a very short walk – about a quarter of a mile – from Havasu Falls on the other side of the campground. They have the same aquamarine look as the Havasu Falls. In my opinion, Mooney Falls are even more beautiful and magnificent than Havasu Falls. But these are hard to reach. The climb down to the foot of the falls is a little bit dangerous, requiring one to pass through tunnels and hold on to the chains and use the ladders installed while climbing down the mountain. But there were strong foot holds, so it wasn’t totally risky. I was trying to compare this with Zion’s Angel Landing climb and at first was very reluctant to take the risk.


But I’m glad I pushed my boundaries and moved on. Experiencing the falls from the bottom was heavenly. I had a great time.


The distinct aquamarine color of the water is a result of a chemical reaction between the minerals in the soil and the desert weather. The details of the involved chemistry might sound a little boring, but the result is nonetheless magical.


Mooney Falls

There were one more falls 5 miles down the stream – Beaver Falls, but were told that at that time it requires wading through waist-deep water to reach them. So, we called the plan off. Maybe next time. 🙂

There were a few, including me, among our group who decided to use the mule service to carry our backpacks back to the hilltop. I’m glad I made that decision as I enjoyed my hike back a lot taking in the beauty of the surroundings. You don’t have to take the hard path. 😉

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Havasu Falls, and Mooney Falls are undoubtedly the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen so far. It was a splendid trip made more memorable by the entire group. Lots of teamwork and camaraderie. I’m so grateful for the whole experience.


Heavenly Falls – Havasu

5 03 2017

It’s only a few months ago that I came to know about the amazingly beautiful Havasu falls close to Grand Canyon. My love for waterfalls meant that I had to visit these for sure. The catch though is that since it’s part of Indian reservation area, one needs to apply for and get a permit. This process itself isn’t very easy, usually requiring one to contact the office through phone, which would be too busy to be reached at, requiring one to try at least for a few days to succeed.  I heard that, given the popularity of the falls, the permits for the whole season would be finished with days of opening the reservations for the year (Feb 1st).   It’s a 10 mile hike to the falls, which is not bad. However, day hiking is absolutely not permitted and you have to either camp in the campground, just beside the falls or stay at the lodge in the Supai village, two miles from the falls. When I gathered all this information, I decided that I wouldn’t want to do it alone, uncomfortable with dealing with all the hassle myself. Luckily, some of the people I met through a meetup planned for backpacking to Havasupai this year and I was super delighted. After several members of the group calling the office for a couple of days, it was discovered that they have opened up online applications for the permits this year. Hurray! The permit was obtained and we were all set to go. The timing too was perfect for me.  It was as if the entire universe conspired to make me go.

Since rain was forecasted during that time, I tried to prepare my backpack for rain and wetness. I thought 25lb is a good weight. I’m a newbie to the backpacking world, having done only a couple of short weekend backpacking trips earlier.  But I don’t know why, the hike down was challenging. Maybe the backpack wasn’t fit properly or maybe the last few extra pounds were too heavy for me. The 10 miles seemed to stretch forever. Especially the last 2-3 miles.

We started on the hilltop at around 10 am. It was cold and windy at the top. The first 2 miles was downhill, not as steep as I have imagined. The rest of the hike was all flat, with only minor elevation changes. Given the forecast of rain, I dressed myself in weird suit and poncho for the hike. I’m sure I looked hilarious, like someone from a science-fiction movie. 😉 The weather was pleasant for the hike notwithstanding the rain and showers on and off along the way.

We reached the village after about 8 miles  where we got our wrist bands at the registration office. These we had to wear throughout our stay. The campground is a little over two miles from the village.


Entering the Supai village

We came across Little Navajo Falls and Fifty Foot Falls along the way beyond the village. We went back the next morning to savor the beauty of these falls in leisure. They are truly spectacular.


Little Navajo Falls in the front; Fifty Foot Falls at the back

But of course  the true stars of the show are Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls.  When I first glimpsed Havasu Falls, just before reaching the campground, my reaction was one of unbelievability.  They were totally ethereal.


Havasu Falls

It was dusk by the time we setup our tents in the campground. Despite the fatigue, we couldn’t resist a quick trip to the falls. We relished the cool aquamarine looking water to our heart’s content. I especially cherish the moments when a few of us visited the falls in the dark. It’s just the cloudless dark sky, falls and absolute silence except the roaring water. Bliss.


To be continued in the next post.

Hiking in Sunol

30 01 2017

It was a bright and sunny Saturday. Perfect for a hike. It was Sunol Regional Wilderness the chosen venue. Lush and wet from recent rains. Another Indian Adventurers of Bay Area meetup event. Though, I must say that, the organizer prefers to communicate via email and likes to keep the planning, the participants, and the actual hike itself in a close knit aka on a tight leash. 🙂

As soon as I turned onto I-680, I saw everything shrouded in thick mist, giving rise to misgivings about the impending activity. But as I drove through and past it, all was clear and bright again. 🙂 Nature, being mischievous I guess. 🙂


The long winding drive on Calaveras Rd seems never ending for the first timers and there’s absolutely nowhere to pull aside. Just stay put, you can’t miss the park entrance on your left when coming from Fremont.

There’s a $5 entrance fee to the park. As soon as you pass the kiosk, you can see a trail to your right and cars parked to your left.  Don’t stop there and take the trail unless you have a permit to hike the Ohlone Wilderness Trail which takes you to Mission Peak. Instead drive past and take right at the fork.

The original plan was to hike along Indian Joe Creek, which requires one to do multiple creek crossings. But it was evident right away, even with the first glance at the roaring creek, that it’s not a wise idea at this time. Perhaps, Summer is a better time to indulge in its beauty . 🙂


So instead we headed towards Canyon View Trail, onto Backpack Road, up McCorkle Trail, onto Cerro Este Road, Cave Rocks Road, Eagle View Road … Well, I’ll stop right there. It seems like we took a twisted and elaborate path. I couldn’t have figured out myself. I was blindly following the organizer. I think no one can disagree that there’s a sense of comfort in following a capable and knowledgeable leader, without worrying about anything. 😛 After the hike, he kindly traced the path we followed on the map for me.


On Canyon View Trail, we had splendid views of the creek. We could hear the roar of the water all along.


View of 3 peaks – Monument Peak, Mount Allison, Mission Peak


Calaveras Reservoir view. A new dam is being constructed to replace the historic one and Calaveras Rd is closed between Geary Rd (the park entrance) to Oakridge Rd.


The park at this time is laden with small creeks.


Also ponds.

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And cattle. What does ponds and grazing cattle have in common? They make beautiful candid pictures, when together 🙂


On the way back, we stopped at Little Yosemite. It was beautiful and serene. Not too crowded.

Foolish attempt to feel the water. It was freezing cold!


All in all, we made about 9 miles. Thanks again to meetup and the wonderful event organizers for the opportunity. Hiking in small groups is always fun. Good exercise, great conversations!

Mom and son on a hike

26 01 2017

It’s one of my perpetual challenges to get my son out of the house and into the midst of nature. To make him spend and enjoy time away from all the gadgets. In the past, I’ve tried to motivate him and even tricked him into hiking a few times. I can’t say I had much success. He claims he’s not an “outdoorsy guy”. He is a little short of 10. Nevertheless, with all the enthusiasm that new year brings along, I cajoled him into doing a hike during the first long weekend of the year. Just the two of us. Yay!

I chose the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. I admit it’s not a random choice but inspiration from a meetup planned for a hike there that day to Borel Hill. That was about 6 miles of hiking, but I wanted something shorter. So, I picked one from bahiker.com, which is about 3.6 miles. All set.


I was totally surprised when my GPS led me onto the very narrow Old La Honda Rd in Woodside. It was super scary. Stupid GPS. I could have just taken 92W and Hwy35 instead.

We reached the preserve’s parking lot (on Alpine road) by around 10:30 am and started on the trail with gusto. We didn’t come across many hikers despite great weather, at least until noon. It was a beautiful sunny day.


Mom and Son

I had wisely taken the pictures of the entire page on bahiker so that I can peruse it to stay on the suggested trail and not get lost. I’m not being dramatic here. I’ve had experiences before where we missed the trail and went dangerously off planned route even with good maps and non-novices. I must say I managed well sticking to the plan. I greatly appreciate bahiker for providing such a detailed and clear instruction that I, with barely any other preparation, could make my hike a success. We marched along happily discussing party plans for my son’s upcoming birthday.  We took the Ancient Oaks Trail at the first junction.


And then turned onto Charquin Trail.


We had impressive views of the bay all along the way.


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We also took a little detour along Ridge Trail for about 0.5 miles, climbing up the hill for better views, and there we spotted a couple of coyotes.


Can you spot them?

This is my son exhausted before the last leg of the hike, a 1.2 mile trek back to the parking lot.


The fact that it’s largely uphill, didn’t help him. On the contrary, he started regretting his decision to do the hike in the first place. Sigh! It’s just perseverance.  Sadly, there was no other way out than to continue walking. It was also very windy on the way up the Ridge Trail, making him even more miserable. The splendid views offered him only meager solace, if anything.

The last mile doesn’t seem to end. 🙂

But things got way better as we climbed down, past the  to the parking lot and he’s happy again, though a little tired. At last, the sight of the destination:


On the way back to the car, I noticed that there’s a nature’s center on the other side of the road just 0.1 miles away. The fact that it displayed touchable wildlife skulls excited my son. Despite his fatigue. Off we went, only to find that it’s closed. Too bad my conscious mind didn’t register the open hours written across the board at the start of the trail. It clearly said, open only on Saturdays and Sundays. 🙂 But we got to see the beautiful Alpine Pond in all its glory. So, the short trip was still worth it.


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In all, we did a little more than 4 miles. I couldn’t be more proud. This is definitely a good start for the year.


A rainy hike

22 01 2017

I was so keen on hiking that December day, the prospect of rain didn’t deter me. The hike in Joseph D Grant County Park was organized through Indian Adventurers of Bay Area meetup group (FB link to the event). The drive to the park on the Quimby Road was spectacular, albeit a bit dangerous. The road was narrow and very curvy uphill. The views were awesome but I couldn’t risk glancing away from the road for more than a fleeting second. There was nowhere to pull over along the whole stretch. Too bad. 😦

Joseph D Grant is the largest county Park in Santa Clara County spanning across about 10,000 acres. The rolling hills offer spectacular views and great hiking trails.

I always like the parks/nature when they’re/it’s wet. The crisp green all around lifts my spirits up. It rained on and off, sometimes drizzling, and other times a persistent rainfall. I had no rain shell on, so was completely soaked through by the end of the hike. Much to my chagrin, I haven’t paid attention to the actual trail we were following. I was blissfully following the group between small talk with other members and time alone lost in deep thoughts.


The hike was part of Bay Area Ridge Trail hiking endeavor that the organizer has taken up. By his admission he had organized events that covered about 60 miles of BART so far and that day’s hike would add another 10 miles. I’m hoping that we followed the intended trail, but I can’t be sure.


We stumbled and retraced our paths a couple of times. We definitely went on Heron Trail and Edward Loop Trail. San Felipe Trail also sounds familiar. 😛 We covered a little over 10 miles with the last mile on the Mount Hamilton Rd.


As expected, it was cloudy, misty, and muddy. Beautiful even on the desolate, rainy winter day.  Splendid experience, all in all.


I wisely chose to drive back via Mount Hamilton Rd, avoiding Quimby Rd. Mount Hamilton Rd also offered amazing views, but I didn’t stop to savor them. Next time, maybe.

Death Valley – A brief encounter

10 01 2017

What would you do if you could spend only a few hours in the vast Death Valley? Nothing much beyond just getting a glimpse of its beauty here and there, I would guess. Here is our experience when we drove through Death Valley on the last day of the year (Dec 31st, 2016) on our way to the amazing Zion Canyon in Utah.

We absolutely had no idea about what to expect. Other than the meager planning I did in terms of jotting down the names of a few points of attraction, we didn’t actually look at any pictures. That definitely provided an element of surprise for us. I was completely spellbound.

Death valley is about 9 hour drive from Bay Area.  We started the evening before, and spent the night in Ridgecrest. It’s just over 2 hours from there to the national park. We stayed at Clarion Inn on North China Lake. Had fresh wonderful free breakfast at the associated restaurant – Scrambled eggs, hash browns and all. It was a splendid stay, albeit a very short one. Ridgecrest seemed a nice, quiet town with a few attractions to its credit – fossil falls (sculpted lava flow), Naval Weapons Center (one can visit the museum) etc. Wish we could have spent some time in the town.

It’s little over 2 hours to Death Valley from there. Our plan was to reach Springdale, UT that night. We had only about 5 hours to spend in the Death Valley. Left early after the breakfast for Death Valley. The drive was beautiful and we were enthralled by the expanse of wide space and range of mountains and canyons. The weather was perfect. Cloudy, but not too cold. Short winter day was our only problem. 😛


Driving on the very straight road amidst the flat land, with mountains on the horizon, was quite an experience.


And then it’s pretty scenery at every turn!


It was around 11 am by the time we reached Stovepipe Wells ranger station, and started with our first official Death Valley attraction – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We spent an hour there hiking the dunes and it was loads of fun, especially coming down the peaks!




After the dunes, we headed down to Furnace Creek, where we had sumptuous lunch of fresh garden burger at Forty Niner Cafe. Food is always important! 😛


Next stop was the Golden Canyon. With only hours before dusk, we didn’t risk hiking the trail at Golden Canyon.  But the gorgeous golden crests are such a sight to behold!


Artist Drive, with picturesquely colored hills, is a true feast for one’s eyes. The 9 mile drive provides stunning views of mountains laden with colorful minerals – blue, red, yellow, and more.


The day being cloudy, darkness seemed to approach fast. By the time we covered Artist Drive, it got a little chilly too. We moved on to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.


We drove along a dirt road opposite to Badwater Basin for a couple of miles to behold the natural bridge. It was a tough ride for our Nissan Sentra. An SUV might have served the purpose better.


The bridge is a short hike from the parking lot. It’s magnificent, to say the least.


On our return to the car, we were greeted by a spectacular scene: the evening sun rays streaming through a gap in the clouds on to the basin in front of us.


At this juncture, it was 4 pm and  we called it a day to continue on our journey towards our ultimate destination – Zion! But the day gave us one more glorious sight before it retired – a beautiful rainbow.


Pardon the sloppiness of the captures. I actually quickly snapped these while driving. I know, I shouldn’t have. But there weren’t any cars on the road and I slowed down for the pictures.

Thus ends our little affair with Death Valley. We parted, though, with a promise to come back and spend ample time hiking /biking/camping. 😐

Flowers, gardens, and colors

20 09 2015

I have an inexplicable fondness towards gardens – botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, Chinese gardens, arboretums. I think I find solace not only in the greenery but also in the way they are well-groomed and maintained. And I love the flowers. I first mentioned about this special liking and the almost enchanting effect of them on me more than 5 years ago here. As I revisited that blogpost, I was bemused by how alike the beginnings of the both – the old post and the current post – are.  😛 Since then, I’ve visited several more gardens and fell in love with each one of them.

While I was strolling in Morton Arboretum with my high-school friend last month and marveling at the beauty of it at each and every turn, she wondered how and when did I acquire this taste. Of course it is neither unnatural nor particularly effortful for anyone to have an appreciation for nature. Her question actually caught me off my guard. However, it struck me that her curiosity is justified given that I’m not exactly known for my perceptiveness or sensibility :P, and that our cultural and family backgrounds never afforded or allowed the luxury of having a penchant for superficial aka non-survival-based  things like art or nature.  Well, I never realized myself when or how it happened to me.  Most probably when I visited Ooty in 2002 and Bloedel Reserve in 2008. But I’m glad it did.

Recently, I had been to Mendocino Botanical Gardens and was mesmerized by the colorful flowers, winding paths, and above all the peace and tranquility the place offered. I know I’m repeating myself and pityingly falling short of describing either the place or my experience in more than a handful of adjectives. The problem is obviously my limited vocabulary and expression abilities, and I believe that only great poets like Wordsworth can do proper justice. 😉 The Dahlia garden was an absolute visual treat.

Here is a collection of photographs from the visit:

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Thereafter, I had been to the Glass Beach. Despite knowing that it’s the dump/trash that’s basically washed out by the sea in the form of colorful glass stones/pebbles, the prospect of looking at the shiny, reflecting, vivid, vibrant beach still lured me.

I was expecting this; (Image source: Google Images)

Glass beach

And I found this:


Close enough?? 😛  I felt duped and disappointed. 😛 Looks like the glass has been diminishing over the years both due to heavy tourism (people collecting glass) and natural causes (waves grinding down the glass). 😐