REI-lly impressed!

We book some accommodation in NY, well New Jersey actually – across the Hudson from Manhattan in North Bergen. We’ve tried to line up couch-surfing but without success so far and so snapped this morning and book two nights through Airbnb.

Then while Dan and Ang cracked on with their garden we borrow Dan’s car again, this time for a quick trip to  REI, where we have huge success with our failed airbeds – a full refund, yeah! No point considering a swap for new ones, because with both going so quickly, the fabric is obviously not up to the job, especially as we were using them on top of ordinary roll mats, not instead of!

Celebrations were had by way of GnT time in the garden when we return 🙂 joined by Dan and Angie’s friends from the area that we met at the winery.

It’s a sad day as it’s the start of our Waddington goodbyes. We won’t see Dan in the morning and he’s unlikely to be back from work before we leave for the airport 🙁

Cheetah’s Rematch

Although we don’t feel like going all the way to Garlicsville (Gilroy) again to watch Molly play footie we do. The car journey was putting us off, a little hungover you could say, and the thought of garlic getting up our noses this morning wasn’t worth thinking about.

But it is worth it. The game is just as exciting as last week and the rugby boys could definitely learn a thing or two from these eight year-olds! Molly doesn’t manage to score this week, but the teams are a closer match and she pulls off loads of great passes and skilful manoeuvres. It certainly gets us all out of our hangover shell. Funny though, apart from the coaches, assistant coaches (one of whom was English today), and us four, there is very little by the way of vocal input from the crowd. Truth is, half, probably more, of the parents/onlookers don’t actually know the rules!! Very sad, we agree. It doesn’t stop us though, after two games, we pretty much know the names of most of Molly’s team 🙂

Back at the house, it seems a good idea for us all to muck in and get some weed deterrent fabric down in the garden. Before we snap and order in pizza for dinner which finishes the wobbly day off nicely, that and a bit of telly.

Red Red Wine

Laundry is our first job this morning and then with Angie we all go out to buy picnic supplies for tonight. The kids are at school and are having a baby sitter tonight while we have an adults night out, at the local winery. It’s bring your own food and buy their wine, a once a month event with live music. A group of us are meeting there, arranged by one of Angie’s neighbours, Michelle. Should be fun! While out buying supplies we also get Dan’s car washed as it’s pretty mucky from our trip to the park.

As the rugby (England v Scotland) is on tonight we decide that’ll be a good end to the evening. the down side is the game isn’t till 0030 local, and is pay per view becuase it’s not an American game! We keep it as a surprise for Dan. The visit to the winery is great fun. The wine is good and before long we’re all up grooving to 80’s tunes. Nice!

There’s some compulsory photo’s taken, for which Angie later claims she wasn’t properly briefed (Lancaster bomber) just to show everyone the Waddington’s aren’t the only mad Brits to be found! The whole event is only on between 5-10 which works out just fine for the baby-sitting arrangements and the rugby. Back at home Angie is able to relax and have a drink while we wait on it coming on, she was duty-driver. Not that it is worth the wait, Dan turns in at half time, Bernice falls asleep on the sofa and try as she might Angie snaps and goes to bed too before it finishes. Leaving Huw to watch the end of a thoroughly exasperating game on his own.

Beyond the Half Dome

OMG… the alarm is very loud as it rings in our ears at 0545. Ouch! Having packed last night and with brekkie (curry dinner left overs 🙂 ) packed too, to munch when we reach the top, we set off on the hike around 0613.

We don’t see a sole. Lots of squirrels and bambi’s, but no people … not until we have a clear view of the sub dome. Then we can’t believe it, there’s nearly a dozen bodies DESCENDING the Half Dome!!! It’s barely 0800. What time must they have set off? Good effort! They’ll certainly have seen sunrise up top. It was dark when we left the campsite, we were walking nearly half an hour before it was light enough/our eyes adjusted to do without our torches. These guys must have walked the whole way up in the dark!!!

[Half Dome for those of you who don’t know, is a huge granite rock, in the park that stands nearly 5,000ft from the valley floor and was 1st ascended in 1875]

It’s 0845 when we reach the top (2hr30 it’s taken us from the midway campsite). We chat to the guys on their way down. There are 2 groups. The first is a group of 4, they left from the bottom in the early hours and were 1st up. The second, we lost count, maybe 8, maybe 10, they left it empty, so when we got there we had it to ourselves. Well for 20 minutes anyway, when we were joined by a guy … his mate couldn’t manage the cables, got vertigo 🙁 … he tells us they ran from the bottom, took them 3hr20!!!! Woh! He’s a local guy and he’s climbed this about 20 times already.

After lots of photo’s we settle down and have brekkie (on our own again) and enjoy the view and silence……

When we’ve had our fill we take our time going down, taking more photo’s on the way, managing to get nearly all the way to the bottom of the cables before anyone else arrives to climb up.

When they do it’s a bit tricky to pass each other. Especially when we meet a family with a very scared teenage daughter between them. They’re all clipped on to the cables with slings and caribiners, (in fact nearly everyone we pass are clipped on, we aren’t… hhmm) but she freaks quite a bit at the prospect of getting up past us coming down…. We find a safe spot to sit on the vertical slab bracing ourselves against the uprights and let them pass in their own time. Tip: there’s a stack of gloves at the bottom of the cables climb that anyone is free to use, you don’t need them on the way up, but they really help on the way down.

After we’re safely off the Half Dome we pass a lot of people on the way down but no where near the 300 who supposedly have passes each day. We also come across a Ranger at bottom of sub dome checking permits.

And, we see a snake, a garter snake we think, harmless …. But still no bears. Back at the campsite we pack up our tent and the rest of our food we left in the bearbox, then we head for the river for a water resupply that we have to treat and leave 30 minutes before drinking.

It’s now 1230 and we decide to walk back to the waterfall before having lunch, guessing this’ll take 30 minutes, the time the water needs. Again we see no one till we get to the waterfall, the campsite is near deserted and there’s no one on the trail.  At the top of the waterfall – “Nevada Falls” it’s pretty busy with lunchers but after this we take a different route down, avoiding most of the day trippers till near the bottom, it’s not quite as scenic, but that said we do get a great view of the falls from a distance

There’s still mullets wearing flip-flops and inappropriate footwear! We reach the bottom around at 1512, having taken 2hr10 to descend!

We go find the car, we parked in the middle of the car park this time, away from all foliage – couldn’t risk it a second time, and get on the road. Not wanting to get caught up in end of day traffic leaving the park we don’t hang about. Just two stops, one for a fizzy drink and one for a photo of El Capitan on way out.

After a slight detour/wild goose chase trying to find an REI, we finally arrive back at basecamp Waddington’s around 2030. Where we give them a low-down on the trip in exchange for some of Angie’s Pasta dish, then it’s a shower and beddi-byes …zzzzzz

What a waterfall day!

Far too much faffing today – even though we’re up around 0700, we don’t actually get our act together till after 0900. We bought super lightweight airmats back at the beginning of the roadtrip but we’ve just had the 2nd one puncture, and considering we’re using them generally on top of the rollmats the Waddingtons gave us, that’s not very impressive. At $79 a piece we think we’ll be taking them back. So much for thinking we had a new OMM sleeping solution!

Once we’re packed we go to pick up the car – need to move it today and move all the stuff we’re not hiking with us (coolbox etc..) to another bearbox at the trailhead. When we get there we notice it was a close shave for Dan’s car as two cars away huge branches had fallen out of a tree overnight. Ouch!!!

We try wifi in the communal room again near the car park (we tried yesterday, but it was too congested), and let the guys know we have permits for the hike and that the bears didn’t attack Dan’s car overnight (we save the tree story). There’s an amusing squirrel in the room that is very athletic in it’s blatant attempts at getting up and into the bins 🙂

It’s well late by the time we get on the trail – 1050 oops! The 1st part of which is pretty steep and all tarmac’d. You can understand the need for the tarmac because of the amount of people walking the trail annually, but it’s a double edged sword, the tarmac also means idiots are walking the trail with unappropriate footwear on!

The M1 path continues up to the 1st of the waterfalls, a circular and very popular route, but once we get past this it quietens down sufficiently weeding out the muppets!

At the waterfall Bernice wants a photo of it where the flow has created a rainbow but there’s a guy in the way. She takes it anyway and as it turns out surprisingly nice, she decides to offer him a copy, promising to swap contact details at the campsite as they’re on their way there too.

There’s posters all along the trail up until this point of two people who stupidly (back in August) climbed over the barrier at the top of the waterfall, and surprise surprise fell to their death! Why?!!!

We stop for a nice lunch when we get away from crowds, alongside the water. It’s nice a peaceful spot and we have the rocks and view to ourselves. That said we still make the campsite by 1400, so 3hr10 is how long it’s taken us. We find a nice pitch in woods, think Blair Witch with bear boxes!!?! 🙂

There’s a composting solar toilet block here too, although we have to go fetch water from the river, that the park authorities advise to purify. We’ve used all our chlorine tablets and could only get iodine, for this hike, yuk!! There’s a couple of designated firepits here too and the whole area is surprisingly well laid out. There’s even loads of wee rings of tree stumps laid out for seating areas.

A walk around the perimeter after the water chore is done (we can’t use it for 30 mins after putting the iodine in) brings us near the guy Bernice photographed. He takes her email and she promises to send the photo in a few days.

It’s Bombay potato and spicy sausage curry for dinner, then a few games of shithead before the light fails us. Nice! We must have got our quantities all wrong though, as there´s way too much food, so we save some for brekkie we guess.

Alarm set (we want to get up and be walking by 1st light, so as too beat the crowds) we settle down for some sleep …. just as it gets noisy right outside! We have company it seems. Two guys have just arrived and are setting up their tent right by ours. There´s plenty room in the campsite and no need for the proximity, but it is dark, it is the woods, and their are bears … so even though it´s annoying, you can´t blame them. What it means though, is Huw is forced into getting up again and re-arrange the bearbox, so they have some space for their food. All food, toiletries, and smelly things need to go into the bearbox, otherwise the bears will attack your tent – they have a sense of smell 7x that of a bloodhound!

We don´t think they even saw our tent actually, as they are quite aplogetic when Huw appears to make room in the bearbox for them. 2nd try, we manage to get some sleep, well until about 0330 anyway, when Bernice wakes up realising her airmat now has another puncture!

Ssshh, don´t tell anybody …

Up and out before 0600, hurrah! A quick fuel stop and we’re on the road …. Well mostly, we need to stop again briefly to clean the inside windscreen so we can actually see where we’re driving 😉

All settled in and satnav programmed we make good time, arriving at the park just after 1000. Its a really smelly ride though as we have to drive through Gilroy – California’s main garlic producer! 1st thing in the morning it’s not really a welcome smell!

When we get to the wilderness office there are only two lads in front of us, so we are pretty much guaranteed a pass, yeh!!

Having hurried here to get a permit to allow us to camp in the hills tomorrow night, we’ve done nothing about tonights accommodation but we’re in luck it seems. When we get the permit we’re told about a secret backpacker campsite you can only stay at once you have a permit. It’s just behind one of the known park campsites and as all of them  appear full (people queuing at 0400 for a pitch for tonight at some we hear!) it seems ideal. Pleasantly surprised when we get there – it’s practically empty and really nicely set in the woods.

We’re able to drive the car in through the neighbouring campsite to unload all our stuff, carry it to camp and hide it in a bearbox. Then return the car to a nearby carpark to leave it overnight – being sure it’s empty so no bears have reason to break in….yes, seriously!!

Tent up and relaxed, we have lunch and then go for a walk. It’s a pretty hot day and we planned it so it’s a nice chillaxed day before our hike tomorrow.

We even fit in a snooze to counteract the early start. Then a further walk to the village for supplies and a look around an Ansel Adams photography exhibition.

Over dinner back at the campsite we get chatting briefly to our neighbours. On one side is a german guy, Berndt, who has a minor foot injury and is resting up. On the other is a couple from Barcelona who offer us the last of their gas as they’re heading home after this trip.

Mission accomplished – a chilled day had by all, we turn in and try not to think too much about bears prowling around outside…..

Plan, prep and pack

As we’re borrowing Dan’s car tomorrow to set off for Yosemite, we should really get our act together today!!

First job is to buy/book a permit online for “half dome”, which is only available for Thursday. We’ll have to get there early tomorrow to enter the lottery for a backcountry permit (allows you to camp half way up in a designated camping area in the hills) or Thursday will be a very long day. Estimated as 12-16 hours hike from bottom to half dome and back!!!

Next we get some admin done: visit the Post Office to send some tatt home; a trip to Trader Joes (Angie’s preferred supermarket) for supplies; a stop at Naomi’s cafe for lunch …. Then pick the kids up from school, where we get to meet the “Purple one eyed people eater”. Long story!

Back home Angie diligently helps the guys with their homework while we pack for tomorrow.

Then Bernice gets a treat, going along with Angie to drop Molly off at her Art Class.

When Dan comes home from work we pack the car, having realised we’ll have to set off at 0600 in the morning to get to the permit office in time.

The rest of the evening is pretty chilled, Dan has a wee bit of work to do and other than that we sit and watch some TV, a new series called Terra Nova.

The day finishes with Bernice dreaming about bears all night, a tad nervous/excited about the imminent trip 🙂

Same rack, different decade

Bernice is not feeling so great today, her eyes are getting her down and she’s developed sniffels, so decides to opt out of the “day out” planned and have a nice quiet rest day by herself.

So, with everybody else on board and the car packed, the crew sets off for the Pinnacles National Monument, the nearest spot for a bit of rock climbing, and where Ben wants his birthday party trip held.

The journey south takes about an hour and fifteen, so it’s not too long until we are at the car park and unpacking the boot. We head off to a wall that Dan & Angie know about where we can set up a top rope for Ben & Molly to try out their climbing skills. Apart from Dan getting us lost and a minor tiff amongst the kids over the equality of the way the gear has been distributed, we arrive without incident and have a spot of lunch before trying our hand at some routes.

The area is lovely, lots of volcanic rock walls dotted about with tons of bolted routes – although not so many bolts as to make it boring. It reminds Huw of some of the places we used to go with the Lancaster Uni Mountaineering Club. Dan sets up the first route with a top rope and it is great for Ben & Molly to have a go on and as it has a difficult top section, Dan ‘insists’ that Huw also has a quick go just as Ben decides he’d rather not.

Having conquered the first climb we move the rope over for something a bit more demanding for Dan and Huw to have a crack at. Proving that neither of them have lost their ability to faff about on the rock, it’s time to move to an area called The Sisters. This is a series of pinnacles above a little reservoir where there is another route that Molly can have a go at the bottom of, but that also offers Huw & Dan a nice 5.5 (HSish (hard severe) in UK climbing terms which means it’s not too hard!!) 3 star route (meaning it is a jolly nice climb).

Dan sets up a belay at the first stance and Molly shows once again that she has the potential to be a great climber. Once she is safely back down, Huw climbs up to the belay stance where Dan is sat, then Dan suggests that Huw takes all the gear and leads the second half of the climb.

The route, whilst not too hard, takes a bit of work to find the bolts as we didn’t really study the guide very well before setting off! And Huw is reminded of how small Dan’s rack (collection of climbing gear) is when he has to down climb to get a quick draw from a bolt below as he has doesn’t have enough left to finish the climb!!

Safely at the top the boys take a couple of photos before abseiling back down to the bottom and rejoining Angie, Ben and Molly who have gone to play by the reservoir. Following, a bit of boat building and a snack we head off to the car through a lovely rocky valley.

Back at the Waddington HQ, Bernice has a lovely pot of chilli waiting for everyone. She’s had a good day blogging, reading and skyping. After dinner there is time for bit of TV before bedtime.

Cheetahs 7 – 2 Dolphins

It´s a relatively early start, considering the late finish, as Molly has a footie match to go to. Ben doesn´t play and doesn’t want to come and watch either so he´s tasked with completing a piece of homework while we´re away – much to his disgust, “weekends are for resting” after all. It´s the third round (we think) of an under 8´s tournament.

The game believe it or not, (considering age and all girls) is really exciting. They play 7 aside, and the rules are such that once there´s a “5 goal” goal difference the winning team stops aiming for goal and allows the other team a chance to catch up. Plus there is constant substituting allowing everyone a play and practice at various positions. Molly does really well and even scores a goal, she´s subbed once but only briefly so the poor wee mite is pretty tired by the end of the game.

Returning home we Skype Huw´s family to wish his mum happy birthday, before heading back out for lunch to “In-n-out Burger”, a McDonalds like fast-food joint, only healthier. It´s obviously sports Saturday as the place is crammed full of kids of varying ages and team strips… Did we mention one teams half-time snack at the footie was donuts!!!! Only in America!

The afternoon is started with everyone having what Dan calls “an old man´s kip”, after which he takes the kids round to the pool again. They´re trying to teach them how to snorkel as they´re going on a cruise in January and there´ll be lot to see (Cabo San Lucas where we went diving is one of their stops). Bernice was having a few issues with her eyes again yesterday and a little longer snoozing today plus some treatment (an eye bath) seems to help a little.

We all retire to the garden to enjoy some GnT and build up the energy to prep dinner – salmon with pesto pasta, yummy. Then we finish the evening off with a little origami time with the kids before lounging in front of the TV for some American political satire followed by American X Factor (can´t believe it´s just got here!!!)

PS what a great name for a footie team, don´t you agree? Oh and it´s Molly´s team, the girls picked it themselves tee hee hee 🙂

We´re putting the band back together

In the morning Dan is looking a little bemused, he´s checking share prices and notices Silver is at a five year low, having started dropping directly after he bought some shares, ouch! We thought he´d be at work already but he´s just getting ready to leave as Angie returns from the school walk. Dan is full of suggestions of what we can get up to while he´s away, but truly all we fancy doing is resting, and admin. A lazy day is on the cards, thanks.

Some photo-sorting, some blog updates, some chatting, hey Angie even gets some prep done for her volunteer science class at school. We´re all very productive albeit we don’t move from our spots, well not until school finishing time anyhow…

Then all the relaxing consumes Bernice and she sneaks off for a nap. Huw, Angie and Molly go to the pool and get back without her even realising they´ve left the house. Ben has a play-date (a pre-arranged agreement to go to a friend´s after school to play a while, a usual Friday thing).

Angie has arranged a babysitter for tonight so we can all go out for a meal and have some kid-free time. We go into town for a drink and a snack at a local wine bar, and then return to a nearby Thai restaurant that allows us to walk home so no need for driving. It´s really nice and pretty busy too, much busier than they expected.

The night continues at home, when we relieve the babysitter and someone has the bright idea to get the drums, electric guitars (2) and mike´s (3) out!!!! It´s hilarious and probably both very bad and very sad, but we all have heaps of fun …surprisingly the kids don’t hear us or come down and tell us off for the noise we´re making. It´s a huge leap forward from Guitar Hero I, but with no more talent :-/