After the Gorge, we arrived back in Seattle to drop off a friend at the airport, shower, and grab food. I had plans to meet a former AmeriCorps*NCCC teammate in Yosemite on that Tuesday, so we decided to jump back in the car, head south to Portland where our friend from Seattle’s brother lived, and knock a few hours off the drive the next day. It turned out to be a very good idea because we ended up arriving in Yosemite late anyway.
We didn’t spend anytime in Portland on this trip, although Brian and I spent some time there on our last trip. Portland is a very cool city, so we were a little sad about this. We were also hoping to get some Stumptown coffee before we hit the road again. Alas, there wasn’t enough time. And we didn’t even make it to Vivace in Seattle. I will venture to say these are my two favorite cafes in the states (keep in mind that I was quite spoiled when I lived in Italy for nine months, and that there are many places I have yet to travel to within the US). Needless to say, they have some good coffee in the Pacific Northwest!
So we hit the road on Monday, around noon (a very late start), facing about 13 hours of driving. We drove down through the Willamette Valley, all the way through Oregon, and into Northern California. The drive was beautiful through valleys, over rivers and lakes, and along winding mountain roads. We stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant in Redding (thank you iphone). But we didn’t reach Yosemite until 3 am. None of our cell phones picked up reception, as we all had the same provider, and we weren’t sure of exactly where we were meeting my friend. All I knew was that I was supposed to meet her at the lodge around 1 am.
We made it into the park and determined, based on a very general map, that we should drive straight to the center of the park (Yosemite Valley) and hopefully find a pay phone or the lodge. I had no idea what to expect, having done absolutely no research on the park. Yosemite is a huge canyon, with a large valley in the center, so we drove along the mountains, weaving in and out of forest and the sheer cliffs below. All the while, we kept seeing yellow signs reading, SPEEDING KILLS BEARS (we later learned that every yellow sign represents a place that a bear was killed by an automobile). It was dark and we were on edge, paying attention to the road and looking for bears, but we could tell the view was breathtaking.
Miraculously, we found the lodge and my friend was waiting for us in her car (I hadn’t seen her in four years—what a great friend—seriously!) because she was worried. She had reserved a campsite for us that morning, so we followed her over there and set up a time to meet in the morning. Camp Four, the first-come-first-serve campsite that we stayed in, is notoriously crowded and known for bears. The park provides campers with a bear-proof metal lock box, which you are required to store food in, and they fine you, if you don’t. They actually fine you if you leave water bottles of toiletries in your car as well.
Fortunately we didn’t have any bear encounters the first night. My friend arrived in the morning to take us to get some food and then to go for a day-long hike up to little Yosemite Valley. It was great to visit someone who had worked at the park for the past three summers, because she knew her way around, she knew which hikes were the best, and could give us information on the park. We hiked up to two different waterfalls, each tall and beautiful, falling gracefully over the enormous cliffs, and stopped for a picnic lunch on a small river in Little Yosemite Valley at the top. I highly recommend this hike. We didn’t go the last few miles to Half Dome because it was too late in the day, but it was a really beautiful hike nonetheless. You can check out the pictures below.
After the hike we grabbed some pizza and a beer in the valley, picked some wild blackberries, and went back to noisy Camp Four. I was in camp for all of about 30 min., already in bed with the tent zipped, when I heard commotion from the people at a tent across from me. I waited a few minutes and then unzipped the tent to see what was going on, and there were people running everywhere with flashlights, yelling “Bear,” clapping, and the like. Yes, it was highly comical, although, at the time I was a little bit nervous. Apparently, or from what I heard of other campers talking about it later, the bear was in the middle of the main walkway, one tent away from mine.
Throughout the night, we periodically heard people shouting, “Bear,” and the rangers firing paintball guns (both near and far) to keep them away. We woke the next morning to find that a bear had broken into the car next to ours in the parking lot. Apparently the owners had left a couple water bottles in the car and the bear had broken out the passenger-seat window to climb in. The car was covered in big dusty paw prints, as was ours, and we had a written warning stuck to the windshield for having contact solution on the floor of the back seat. My friend at Yosemite told me that the reason they put a clip on the garbage bins at Camp Four is because the bears figured out how to open them, would climb in and get stuck, only to get dumped into the back of a dump truck the next day. Not a good scenario, as you can imagine.
Anyway, we went to see a Sequoia grove on our last day at the park, which was neat, but crowded. I didn’t realize that, although the Sequoias can live to be 1000 years older than the coastal redwoods, they are much shorter. Still they were pretty impressive. We took it easy, picnicked on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel. We brought the blackberries we had picked the night before and mixed them with some vanilla ice cream…so delicious. Our visit to the park was perfect and stunningly beautiful. I highly recommend a visit, but don’t sleep at Camp Four!
I apologize for the posting delay; I spent several days sorting and editing photos and then several more days trying unsuccessfully to upload them. This weekend we also went on a short overnight boat excursion with some friends on another sailboat from the marina. It made for a beautiful night on the Stono River and an even more beautiful morning, but left the blog on hiatus.
I’ve decided to break the telling of our trip into three parts because that is how the trip actually broke down. The trip began in Seattle, where we arrived in the evening just in time for dinner. We stayed with one of Brian’s friends from New Zealand whom we had stayed with on our last visit to the Pacific Northwest. For Brian and I, this visit really seemed like an extension of our visit two years ago, when we traveled by train from Vancouver to Seattle, rented a car, drove from Seattle to Portland, then farther down through the Willamette Valley, the mountains to Crater Lake, and then back up along the Oregon coast. That trip we had every intention of making it down to Northern Cali to see the redwoods, but ran out of money before we could make it that far.
This trip we stayed one night in Seattle before heading out to the Gorge and one night after the Gorge. I have to say that I fell in love with Seattle during our first trip, and this second trip completely confirmed my original thoughts. I would certainly like to live in this city at some point. Of course both times Brian and I visited Seattle in August when it was warm and beautifully sunny, which is somewhat of a rarity there, as you have probably heard. Although I am pretty sure that I could handle the gray for a year or two, especially since Seattle boasts a healthy cafe culture.
Apparently, according to our friend, it really doesn’t actually rain much, but rather is more likely to be cloudy with light mist or drizzle. The land with its hills and lush vegetation is very beautiful, and there are a great number of islands to explore by boat as Seattle sits adjacent to a bay, which is connected to the Puget Sound. It is close to Vancouver and Portland, the mountains and the sea, and also situated next to the Olympic National Park, a peninsula with one of a handful of temperate rainforests in the world. I love the smell of the forest there, cool and refreshing, and standing amidst the giant Douglas fir trees.
This trip, I was able to get an idea of what the eastern part of the state looks like, which I found contrasts the lush coastal corridor. The Gorge Ampitheatre is located about two hours east of Seattle on the Columbia River Gorge. The state becomes quite dry once you cross the Cascade Mountains and the lakes east of the city. The Gorge is dusty with small desert shrubs and vegetation, but beautiful just the same.
We arrived late the first night, having stopped for groceries and camping essentials along the way. The sun had already set and Phish was already playing their first set as we pulled into our campsite, Wild Horses (which I recommend to anyone camping at the Gorge Ampitheatre). When we finally made it to the theatre, it was dusk. I think we must have been pretty jet-lagged as the first show was somewhat of a blur. We sat up high, took in the awesome light show on stage, and watched people throwing around glow sticks in the front.
The next day we hopped a ride to the larger campsite adjacent to the theatre, where friends of ours from Charleston were camping in a VW camper. It was extremely crowded and dusty, but they had an amazing view of the Gorge and an easy walk to the theatre. We managed to get to the show early that evening, with a perfect view of the sunset. You can see from my pictures that it was gorgeous. Brian and I found standing room close to the stage, which was the place to be. Our experience the second night was a contrast with the night before, so it was great that we were able to see Phish play for two nights instead of just one. We danced, threw glow sticks, and thoroughly enjoyed the performance, acapella and all. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, as it was my first Phish show (I think I expected something a little more wild and crazy), but the show was quite polished.
Originally we had planned to go on a river float on Saturday before the second show, but instead we stopped on the ride back to Seattle. We rented tubes, threw on our bathing suits, and jumped in the water with a couple of beers. It was amazing. Cold, but not too cold, the water was extremely refreshing and full of spawning salmon. I saw about 50 or so swimming around underneath my tube, a couple of very large dead fish along the bank, birds darting overhead, and a baby otter running along the shore of the river. It was stunning, probably one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an air tight bag to throw my camera in, so you will just have to take my word for it.
Stay tuned for Part II: Yosemite and the Bears!
Back from the west coast with plenty to report: a music festival, river tubing, hiking, camping, bear encounters, friends, good food, the great city of San Francisco, and more. Brian and I flew a late-night flight back from San Francisco to Chicago and then Charleston on Monday. We’re still slightly jet lagged, so expect an update soon, but for now I need to gather my thoughts and sort through somewhere around 700 photos.
Brian and I are hopping a plane to the west coast this afternoon, so I wanted to post my studio update early this week. It’s been a short, but productive week. I spent about eight hours in the studio on Monday, five hours on Tuesday, and four hours yesterday. I worked on my sketchbook a little bit more, but more importantly, I started a new painting—and am nearly finished. This is a great sign, and I feel that all the extra time in my studio is paying off. Because I am sketching and color mixing everyday, I’m getting pretty fast at both of these tasks. I feel as though I am gaining confidence and precision. This may even prompt me to make a new studio goal: one painting a week. Judging from this week, I think it is a perfectly obtainable goal. Anyway, I’m off to the studio right now for an hour, to screen-print a tank top to wear on the trip. Hopefully I will get a post in during the trip, if not, then stay tuned for a big update when I get back. Ciao!
My artist inspiration for this week is Tiffany Bozic. About a year ago a friend of mine from Lorenzo de’Medici (the art school I attended in Italy), told me to check out this artist. I had been working on my animal portrait series, and she thought I might be interested. Bozic uses nature and animal imagery in a fresh way. You can read her bio here. I think her paintings are beautiful and full of emotion. Her titles allude to deeper metaphorical meanings such as No One’s Fault But My Own, Do What You Have To Do, or Sustenance. She works with washes of colors so her paintings have a soft, almost magical look and feel. I think they are brilliant and would love to bring more metaphor into my own work. There is an old interview with her on My Love for You‘s blog if you are interested in learning more. I highly recommend checking her out.
Also, I guess I should tell you, this week is going to be a short one for me, as Brian and I are flying to Seattle on Thursday. Hopefully I will manage a few posts during our trip, but we have really packed in the plans. We will be spending a little bit of time in Seattle, then heading to the Gorge to see two nights of Phish, then driving down to Yosemite for a couple of days to see a former Americorps teammate (haven’t seen her in four years!!), and then to San Francisco for our last few days. I can’t wait to escape the heat and humidity we’ve been having here in South Carolina and to revisit the Pacific Northwest.
Last weekend, Brian and I were lucky enough to visit our friend’s river cabin on the Black Mingo Creek (off of the Black River). The cabin was her grandfather’s and is now owned by her and her siblings. It was a sweet little house with a small river dock, a couple of bedrooms, and several screened porches. We arrived late Saturday and only stayed one night, but on Sunday we got up and spent the whole day on the creek. Went for a long kayak in the morning, came back to scramble some eggs for breakfast, and then went back out to hang out on the dock. I did some river floating while the others water skiied. Then we took the boat out for a little cruise. We spotted a big aligator swimming across the river during our paddle and I spotted a baby aligator hanging out on the side of the creek. It was so relaxing to be surrounded by so much green. Since I’ve moved onto the boat, there is plenty of beautiful water to look at everyday, but boy do I miss trees.