Wednesday, June 13, 2012

12 years down the memory lane

Mt. Wittenberg loop trail at Point Reyes National Seashore

Canopy of the trees
While coming to USA I was actually sad because of the prevailing thought that I am gonna miss the trekking in Himalayan region which never truly happened in the 1st half of my life. Although I once felt the essence of wild North-East climbing to Sandakfu - highest peak of West Bengal with gorgeous scenic beauty and challenging trails,12 years ago, and 1 or 2 short climbing in Garhwal Himalayas. Being into an IT industry,it became even difficult to get a 15-20 days of holidays to make a complete summit in those terrains. The other unavoidable factors were finding a right like-minded experienced group of people, inconvenience of transport to even reach the base-camp of those unconventional trekking routes, inexperience and time made it a complete shut down reaching the dream destinations.

I so naively assumed that no other place on earth can be as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the Himalayan belt of North India and no other trekking route can meet my expectation of being equally rich with natural beauty and challenging at the same time. Even I had a conversation with a like-minded friend back in India who were there in our 1st 10 day backpacking hike at Sandakfu,teasing me saying we are doing only roaming around the garden and call it a trek! On that context I must say,sometime we really need to experience  ourselves certain things to believe.

Starting point of the trail
My 'mis'conception was overwritten when I came to Point Reyes National Seashore and started our day hike from Bear Valley Ranch to Mt Wittenberg loop trail. On that day we missed the parking at Mt Tamalpais State Park being late and headed for the Point Reyes which came out as a boon.The 5 mile journey was constant climb in a steep dense  and dark forest with ancient trees and wild shrubs. Only sound in that eerie awe-inspiring forest was our footsteps treading on the dried leaves,buzzing of insects and distant monologue of resident birds up above somewhere in the condensed canopy of trees. At the summit the gorgeous view of the blue ocean of the cliffs was really rewarding.

Beautiful view from the top
The entire trail reminded me of the journey back from Sandakfu in the jungle trail to Shrikhola and Rimbik, yet challenging enough of reaching the summit of Sandakfu village of Singalila National Park. 

There is no comparison though,as Himalaya will remain reverend as usual with gorgeous white peaks,glaciers,gushing streams of rivers and its sources and numerous hidden falls, a complete different set of Mountain Vegetation, open vivid green meadows and colorful flora and fauna with its most challenging trails where hardly ever had any footprints of human being...I didn't wish to be a mountaineer,only for the sake of enjoying natural beauty I love to walk,wish to explore the places where nature still remains in its most primitive form - to experience the challenges and beauty up close. But sadly those places in Northern India still not loved by the Government so much and not so much effort is going on preserving it as well as make it convenient destination for trekkers.

Jungle trail
I am happy to experience the difference here instead- the government is preserving all the natural beauties and resources in its most primitive form,creating hundreds of State Parks and National Parks and yet make it convenient to reach for all kind of people - normal tourists, day-hikers, photographers, campers and backpackers and rock climbers.Even the white peaks and glaciers in abundant in Lassen Volcanic Region, Mount Shashta even further North at Mount Rainer National Park. Skiing,snowshoeing experience and even mountaineering is open to all who wants to experience it. More stories will come in my exploration of hiking and backpacking trips in USA. Nobody knows, I definitely have chance of coming back and experience my long lived dream of backpacking those virgin terrains in Himalayan Mountain Region of Northern India.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Waterfall Loop Trail to Knobcone Point

Uvas Canyon County Park

It has been a long time since I visited a waterfall in a misty green meadows.I was pining for trying all those skills I have gathered to shoot a waterfall reading articles online and photography blogs.

Waterfall in the creek
Uvas Canyon County Park situated on the East side of Santa Cruz Mountains offers a beautiful jungle trail crossing a number of waterfalls in its way. In a late spring Sunday morning I didn't find a better option for a day hike just driving about 1 hour from Downtown Mountain View to see the waterfalls in its flow.When the destination   comes closer,the view changes to blue-green valley and rocky mountains just enough to give an adrenaline rush to explore what's inside.

As usual its hard to find the parking spot when the GPS doesn't do that for us. But its lucky us,as we followed the lead of some other cars and paying the parking fee as well as taking a trail map we started our day.

Testing with Shutter Speed
Just entering the trail,crossing a little wooden bridge,we saw our first waterfall.Although its a small one,still the sound of running water in the creeks,I knew the hiking is going to be exciting as well as great learning opportunity for my waterfall shoot-out. Walking another 0.4 miles there is a fork which goes up inside the evergreen forest in a narrow slope of wet rocks to the Black Rock Falls.The mossy landscape,slow chirping of birds,few water habitats creating a rainbow effect in the glimpse of sunshine coming from the tall-grown trees,reminds me of some ancient time when the Tribal Indians gathered here for seasonal hunting and camping inside the canyon.

The Upper Falls
Two other waterfalls on the Loop Trail were Basin Falls and the Upper Falls which was the most beautiful of the lot.I spent a significant amount of time setting up my camera and trying different lenses,angles and shutter speed to experiment with waterfall photography.Though with limited experience I was lost how to adjust the broad mid-day sun with the slow shutter speed to take that effect of bridal veil without  burning the photo!

Way to Knobcone Point
Of course its boring for your company for a day hiking who is not into photography.So,its time for the real show - paying attention to the actual hiking we came for. The 0.4 miles to reach the Knobcone Point was the steepest hike I have made in USA so far and a backpack full of camera equipment,water and the scorching afternoon sun, made it worse.Though the view was worth the toil.The wildflowers still in bloom,vast open view of chaparral shrubland in the Santa Cruz Mountain range soothed the eyes. There was a nice picnic bench on the summit,though the trail was completely empty because of its steepness and many people came here,enjoy the most traveled waterfall loop trail with several picnic spots here and there,to share few bites of snack and chat with their friends and family.

Crossing the waterfall was fun
The downward slope was a bit challenging for me,from the Knobcone Point as I actually had to learn how to put my steps to avoid an injury falling from the steep slide of the trail.We didn't take the same route back,rather opted for crossing a small waterfall to climb uphill to take the Contour Trail. It was fun and tickling of the cold water of my bare feet which again refueled me apart from the low calorie granola bars!

Green Contour Trail
The entire 1.4 mile trail was up and down slope inside the forest with shady evergreen trees,the air filled with heavy refreshing scent of Eucalyptus and some other unknown leaves and wildflowers, sounds of rushing water and slow chirping of resident birds.

When we reached the Alec Canyon we had an option to go more toward the jungle and another falls which would be no less than 2 miles to and from. So we decided to walk back down to the starting point as it was already time for sunset and 4.5 miles walk for a day was enough for the starters after a long break for such hiking!

Well, hopefully I will get enough chances to come back here as there are still 2-3 untouched trails in the Canyon. Next time the target would be to increase difficulty level with respect to number of miles and steepness in any other trail in California State Park or National Parks. Overall a great experience and refreshing treat for mind and body to go on the entire week.

More information about the trails,location and how to reach, you can take  a look at this page.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunset at Discovery Park

Dried grassland
If you don't have a whole day,still you want to experience a beautiful trail walk just for jogging alone,Photography or little bit of hanging out with friends or family,Discovery Park is a great option for people living in Seattle.Not to mention,if you are visiting Seattle for the first time,then you can't miss Discovery Park for sure,because probably it offers one of the best views of Seattle from a very convenient distance from downtown.

From the trail
The last evening of my short stay in Seattle at Fall 2011, we decided to visit this park. The bus took us from the downtown to Magnolia and the beautiful trail starts right there. The dried grass,marsh lands and dense forest trail can lead you to a concealed beach,which cannot be seen from the woods or the trail unless you actually reach there.There are a number of interlaced trails from which we chose a trail inside the forest,which has a downward slope with some stair-stepped and the glimpse of the sea from the inter-wined branches of the dense trees.

The puget sound beach has a large rough sandy beach. Some parts covered with rock scrambles and pebbles. Surfers and mariners are having good time because the wild sea animals can be seen resting in the small islands in the sea.Though we didn't have luck for that. The West Point Lighthouse gives the beach-area a picturesque beauty which can easily put into a Hallmark Greetings Card. The evening light made the entire waterfront ethereal,a total worth of all the time spend travelling by bus or walking by the jungle trail.

Lighthouse at the Sunset and the Olympic mountains
The Park is situated well above the waterfront and Mount Rainer can be visible on a clear day. Just sitting leasurly in a bench and catching the sunset in the olympic Mountains is always breathtaking for me.

Sunset from the park above
I am not sure whether I could make another visit to Discovery Park ,yet the photos taken in the discovery sunset,will always remind me the bountiful offerings of nature.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Canyon View Trail to Little Yosemite

      Sunol Regional Wilderness

Green Meadows at the Canyon View Trail
After 2 weeks of searching we found a 45 mins drive from Mountain View downtown to a beautiful park at East Bay for a sunny Sunday morning leasurly hike.

Sunol Regional Wilderness offers 6 easy to moderate treks in green meadows,rocky East Bay mountains and beautiful view of the canyon and waterfall in Little Yosemite area.

Its overwhelmingly green
After planning and preparation we decided to try the easy one with grand vista of Little Yosemite via Canyon View Trail to season our not-so-experienced legs in tough hiking trails. The initial confusion were to find the actual trail of Canyon View which were started after few feet of hike in the Indian Joe Creek trail. We spent 15-20 mins wondering in a path which leads nowhere in the woods. 

But finally we found the fork and the road sign for the planned trail,after that it was smooth.Though the 1 mile trail still has gentle rise and elevation and narrow trekking path with rocks and pebbles were we had to be very careful not to make a fall!

The Grand View
It was overwhelmingly green around.The view throughtout the trail is best any hiker can expect! The open side in the right you can see the green meadows in the mountains,some places the trail is narrow and made my heart sink with the elevation.We tried a not-so-conventional downhill path in the middle of the trail to reach a bird's eye view where we can see the grand view of green mountains and little Yosemite falls underneath.

Little Yosemite
We started around 10:30 in the morning and reached the Little Yosemite area walking almost 1.4 miles in  the Canyon View trail. It was the same route back to the visitor center. We bumped into a cattle resting in the shades of tree creating a road block while coming back and catching a snake on the way to the falls taking a nice sunbath. Overall a nice way to work out in the weekend. We didn't try the other trails as we had to come back early. 

But soon enough we will make another visit to Sunol to try the Indian Joe Creek and Flag Hill Trail which would be slightly tougher than this one.

There is no end how much California can offer in such a feasible distance in all the National Parks and its excellent views!

For more information about Sunol Regional Wilderness you can visit this link.