Outdoors Archives

I like to go outdoors a lot. Primarily hiking, occasionally camping, and sometimes other fun activities.

Preparing for the Alps on Mt Tam

In 3 weeks, Stephanie and I will be hiking about 125 miles of the GR5 through the French Alps over 9 days. It will be the longest (in both days and miles) that the two of us have hiked together, and it’s a day longer than I hiked with my Dad on the PCT. We’ll be staying at gîtes and mountain refuges along the way, with meals (demi-pensions) included—which means we won’t have to carry food, tents, or sleeping bags. Even so, it occurred to me that I should probably prepare for this endeavor, at least a little. That partly explains my hike last weekend, and partly explains my hike this weekend, and partly explains my hope to go hiking next weekend.

Also, Stephanie had to be in Corte Madera on Saturday to teach a cheesemaking class, so I tagged along. While she was cutting curds, I was making tracks through Mt Tamalpais State Park, covering nearly 10 miles in just under 4 hours.

Mt Tamalpais State Park trail view

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Return to Butano

This morning I had an errand to run in San Mateo. I had access to a car, and Stephanie was busy, so I decided to go hiking afterwards. I was thinking Butano State Park might be convenient, as it’s also south of San Francisco, but it turned out to be an hour from San Mateo, over the peninsula and all the way to Pescadero.

My cousin Christy introduced me to Butano only two months after I moved to California—which I think counts as my first hike in the state. Looking back over the brief blog post I wrote about that day, I was amused to discover that we hiked there exactly 10 years ago, making my return visit an anniversary of sorts.

I arrived, paid my entrance fee, and studied the map for a promising loop. They described the 9.5-mile Canyon Loop as “strenuous”—that looked like the hike for me. Besides crossing paths with a few people at the beginning and the end, I had the trail entirely to myself.

I hiked at a swift pace, stopping only to take the occasional photo. At about the halfway point I sat down and had a little lunch of cherry tomatoes, string cheese, beef jerky, and macadamia nuts. I completed the loop in a little over 3 hours, and I was quite happy to be done after the steep descent on the Año Nuevo trail.

View of the trail from the Canyon Loop at Butano State Park, near Pescadero, CA

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Trinity Alps’ Canyon Creek Trail

It began to pour the moment we pulled into our campsite. So we napped in the car waiting for our friends who were a few hours behind us. The rain had passed by the time Julie, Patrice, and their daughter Eva arrived, but the trees were still dripping, so we ate dinner that night with our rain jackets on.

Justin, Stephanie, Julie, Pat, and Eva at the Canyon Creek Trailhead in the Trinity Alps
The gang at the Canyon Creek Trailhead

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Thanksgiving in Death Valley

Our annual pilgrimage to the desert last Thanksgiving felt like a return to our road trips of yore. We had a few goals in mind, but no explicit itinerary. We felt this acutely on our first night, fighting exhaustion in order to find a place somewhere around Lake Tahoe to park our Escape Campervan. Turns out most of the places we’d researched in advance were closed for the season, so we had to head all the way up to Sugar Pines Point State Park for the night.

Thanksgiving Road Trip through the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley
Descending from the Sierras

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Hallowed ground

At the end of July, Stephanie accompanied me on a business trip to San Diego. We booked a later flight home on the Saturday after my meetings so we could visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—the largest state park in California, and the second-largest in the country. On the two hour drive out there, it occurred to us that we’d probably be crossing the Pacific Crest Trail. At that point in time, Dad was on the trail way up in Oregon, one day past Crater Lake. Stephanie compared the PCT map I was using to track him with our location in Google Maps and realized we were almost there.

Driving slowly along Country Route S22, it didn’t take long to find the trail markers. We got out and took a few pictures. Like our backpacking trip in Kings Canyon, it was another neat Dad was here moment. But even cooler was realizing that he had used his SPOT to transmit his nightly campsite just before the road. It had been only his 5th night on the trail, at mile 101. So really it was more like: Dad slept here! That made it feel even more special. We’ll probably be doing this for the rest of our lives—crossing the PCT on some road trip, stopping to pay our respects, and thinking back on Dad’s incredible feat.

Southbound trail marker where the PCT crosses California County Route S22
Southbound trail marker where the PCT crosses County Route S22

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