California

I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in The Golden State in November and December. I haven’t made it over here much, as it’s a long way from where I have been based in the east of the states.

Part 1 - San Francisco

After working most of Friday from the ThoughtWorks office in the SoMa (South of Market) area, we took a walk through Chinatown to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, where I got my first views of the bay.

Despite being very hilly, SF is a walkable city. We continued down to Fisherman’s Wharf and on to the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marine District. I didn’t get many photos, but it’s an interesting place originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

We rented bikes on Saturday, and rode from North Beach across the Golden Gate Bridge, back to Sutro Heights and through the Presidio on the way back. Lots of great views, the photos below don’t really do it justice!

I think this might have been the first time I’ve seen the sun setting over an ocean … I’ve always lived near eastern coasts so sunrise over the ocean feels more normal! 😂

Part 2 - Los Angeles and Joshua Tree National Park

In early December I was in LA for a couple of days before flying back to Australia for the Christmas break. We did a bit of hiking, and saw a little of LA as well.

The first hike was the Mount Zion Loop - Sturtevant to Winter Creek Trail

For the second day we drove to Joshua Tree National Park and did the Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail.

I managed to sneak in a visit to The Getty:

And to Griffith Observatory to get the obligatory selfie with the Hollywood sign before flying out on Sunday:

Part 3 - Drive from LA → SF

After landing in LA on Boxing Day morning, I took a couple of days to drive up to San Francisco, mostly along California State Route 1 (a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway). It’s a lovely drive, a few highlights include:

Beautiful beaches along the way:

Elephant seals:

The Buzzards Roost trail in Big Sur State Park:

Carmel-by-the-Sea:

And finally Monterey:

Part 4 - San Francisco (again)

I spent the last four days of 2018 running, walking and hiking my way primarily through SF, in an effort to work of combined Thanksgiving/holiday party/Christmas calories 😂

The only visits outside SF were to Sausalito and a hike in the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve in Berkeley. Some select photos:

Pawleys Island

For Thanksgiving this year I stayed with some friends at a house in Pawleys Island, a town and island in Georgetown County, South Carolina.

It was a relaxing time, with lots of walks on the beach and way too much food.

We were also there for a king tide, which produced some minor flooring and had us worried for out rental car. It was amazing to me how many of these places are so close to the ocean, you could see the dunes getting washed away during the higher tides.

Acadia National Park

My fourth trip in what has turned into a very busy October was to Acadia National Park in Maine, the easternmost state of the US. I flew into Boston, drove up to Acadia & stayed in Airbnbs nearby.

Acadia National Park is beautiful, and is the first coastal park I’ve visited (other than the Everglades NP, it’s nice in a different way).

The first hike I did there was up Cadillac Mountain along the South Ridge Trail. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard (though it’s still not very high at 466 meters).

The weather wasn’t great to start, but the views were still worth the effort.

Some pretty strong winds had the clouds blown away in no time!

The last part of the loop went down part of the A. Murray Young Path which had amazing fall colours on display.

The second hike for the day was The Beehive Loop Trail, plus a little of the Champlain North Ridge Trail.

The clouds had been well and truly blown away by this point!

Sunset at the The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse was a great finish to the day.

Salt Lake City

Last weekend I was able to do some hiking near Salt Lake City in Utah. There were some stunning views of Great Salt Lake from the flight. The Lucin Cutoff causes differences in salinity in three parts of the lake. The corresponding difference in algae growth is visible in the photo below.

The first hike we did on Friday was the Mount Olympus trail:

It was a long, steep climb but the views from the top were worth it!

The group I was with continued on to Lake Tahoe on Saturday, but I stayed in the area to do a couple more hikes. First up was the Lake Blanche Trail:

After Lake Blanche was Bells Canyon Trail:

This trail started out looking very different to the snow that was at Lake Blanche, but there was lots of snow on the trail by the top.

I’m happy anywhere aspen leaves are shaking in the wind!

Alaska

I flew into Anchorage after work on Thursday night, landing at a reasonable time thanks to Alaska being four hours behind Eastern Time. We stayed in Anchorage on Thursday, did some work from there in the morning and drove up towards Denali National Park on Friday afternoon.

Before leaving Alaska, we stopped at an outdoor store to buy some bear deterrent spray. This National Park Service video convinced us, though it was unlikely we’d run into a grizzly on the hikes we had planned. Neither of us fancied running into a male bear given they can tip the scales at 680 kg and stand 3 m tall.

The drive was nice, we were lucky with the weather for the whole weekend. We did a couple of short hikes on the way, at Thunderbird Falls and Little Coal Creek before arriving at our accomodation for Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday I saw a little of the northern lights; our host woke us up as they were out. When he woke me up I raced outside in my pajamas with a jacket on top which was inadequate given the weather! In hindsight I wish I’d gotten dressed and stayed out there longer. It was a bit bright where I was standing so didn’t get any good photos.

We were staying about 35 minutes south of the park entrance, so we still had a short way to go on Saturday morning. We ended up driving further north in search of coffee, and ended up at the nearest ‘large town’ of Healy (population around 1,000) where we found somewhere that was still open. We drove through a few small communities that were all boarded up for the winter which was bizarre to see. A lot of the businesses shut down completely and the people working there move south to somewhere warmer for the winter!

The drive along the eastern edge of Denali National Park featured some breathtaking views of the mountains. Denali Mountain was almost always visible in the distance. It’s the highest mountain peak in North America, with a summit of 6,190 m (for reference, the highest mountain in Australian peaks at 2,228 m). The upper half is permanently snowy.

The first hike was the Savage Alpine Trail, the first photo I took on the hike was of a ‘bears frequent this area’ warning sign so we were happy to have the spray. It was super windy in some parts, here’s a video which tries to capture it (turn your volume down before opening it). After the hike we drove into the park until reaching the point where the road is closed for the winter at the Teklanika River.

On the way out we got our wish of seeing a bear from a safe distance, I’m glad we got to see one in the wild. It’s a fair distance in this video, but it gives you some idea of the size. A group of people assembled to watch and as you can see about half way through the video it must have got a bit spooked! We didn’t do loads more on Saturday, but did head out again late at night to try and see the northern lights.

Sunday was a late start, but we did a full on hike at Bison Gulch (a ‘gulch’ is the name for a valley formed by erosion). I recorded the hike on Strava and plotted it on Google Maps:

Photos from the hike start here in the album. It was pretty brutal, we climbed 1,259 m and a lot of that towards the end was over very loose shale. Here’s one of us up near the top:

It’s lucky we went when we did; a couple of weeks later and it would have been rather chilly! I think the snow there is from some early falls a week before we arrived. We were ridiculously fortunate with the weather. It was relatively warm, with clear skies. The whole place seemed so remote, the air was super fresh and the stars were all out. Other than the bear, we also saw a couple of moose and a pair of mountain goats.

All the photos from the trip are in an album on Google Photos (some of the links above should jump to certain spots in the album).