Lake Tahoe

With a tent, roll-mat and sleeping bag still crying out to be used again before we were to relieve ourselves of the camping equipment on our journey south to enter the world of Mexico and beyond, and with a spacious boot to carry the load instead of our backs, we planned to head North to camp at Lake Tahoe for a few nights. Situated on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is America’s second deepest lake covering 191 square miles, and lies 200 miles inland from Cali’s coast, being part of both California and Nevada. We jumped in the car from the Big Sur and made the 6 hour adventure to camp on the Southern shoreline near the imaginatively named town of South Lake Tahoe. We had been told by other adventurous souls that Lake Tahoe has a ‘serious’ temperature difference between night and day. As we rumbled over the passes and down the twisting turning roads to our final destination, with the first glimpses of the largest alpine lake in North America in view whilst the sun was still glittering of its never ending surface, with a car air conditioning conditioning the air, we were not seriously worried or trepiditious about the cold. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery We had booked ourselves into the mildly historic Camp Richardson. With a history that spanned back about as far as it could for the area (circa 150 years) the camp spanned a fairly large area, sitting a mere 100m from the shoreline of the lake and situated within a rustic untouched protected forest that we were warned we were to share with coyotes and bears. We had had our share of dangerous wild North American animals over the past couple of months, but the warming spacious lodge and sprinkling of RV’s close by stemmed any real fears from surfacing as we welcomed the warming showers and bathrooms that our more rustic campsite at Mount Tam, and previously our camping expedition in the Yukon, previously didn’t house. The main attraction of Lake Tahoe, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, was the Lake itself and we made plans to explore some of its more well known coves, shorelines and beaches, once again enjoying the freedom and mobility that our own car gave us. We spent a luxuriously lazy day sitting on the shores of Emerald Cove and wandering around it’s shoreline; reading, juggling, throwing juggling clubs into freezing waters, paddling, snoozing and having to swim after the said club in just boxers (to the delight of the nearby women) …. the usual antics. With the mountainous backdrop, aquamarine shimmering waters, and sun dappled shores, the next day we headed out on a great trail run along a shoreline path, circumnavigating and exploring a couple of beaches and some vertigo inducing drops, before visiting a trickling waterfall and catching some beers and food back at camp. However, the warning and precursors were soon to be realised; when the sun sets the heat sets as well, and as our camp slowly became engulfed in a cold bitter evening, our freezing digits wondering why chopping vegetables numbed and froze them, and washing up involved them scrubbing pans in ice cold running tap water, my mind was confused whether to enjoy the beautiful moon dappled forest with another tea, or climb into the warming, welcoming, sleeping bag lined tent. A little of both was thrown in as we warmed water up into our drinking containers, hugging them like water bottles in the tent, and drifted off to sleep still in trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, hat and scarf. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With a couple more days in the area however, a little cold at night didn’t stop us from enjoying the area and planning some more trail runs and relaxing days. As the rays of the sun slowly warmed our tent...

The Big Sur

With California being America’s third largest state, and with some world renowned scenery and mother nature peppered around its 250 mile wide and 770 mile long land mass, Han and I had decided to hire a car for 10 days to travel firstly South, to and through the Big Sur, before theoretically over to Yosemite National Park and beyond. The Big Sur is a small area of coastal land around 3 hours South of San Francisco that is generally regarded to be home to one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world, so as we picked up silver economical Hyundai Elantra at the early hours of 9am, we were excited and eager to get moving away from a city that we felt we had expunged enough energy on with so many other places to see. The drive down was uneventful yet strangely liberating, a small freedom of not relying on public transport, and as we hummed and sang along to the advert-ridden American radio, we soon found ourselves looking West over the Pacific Ocean winding round twisting turns and up and over natures natural obstacle course. We wondered when the Big Sur actually begins; a small pullover and a consultation of the travelling bible, chapter 24 verse 5 – the world according to Lonely Planet of California – and we realised that we had actually been driving for around 30 minutes through what people regard as The Big Sur. With nowhere to stay that night we checked out our options and what there was to actually see along this coastal region. After some thoughts, blind finger pointing and knowledgeable discussion we decided to head to a first-come-first-served campsite midway along the region. 30 minutes later and we arrived, found a suitable patch...

San Frantastic

After two rocky days aboard ship, we alighted in the hilly, eccentric, free spirited city of San Francisco. I felt as though we had properly started ‘travelling’; the Alaskan portion of our adventure feeling more of a splurge, a calm before the storm, an expense before the backpacking penny pinching – and we were excited. As we checked into our city centre hostel we soon found out that the US Government had ‘shutdown’ and as such our plans were to change as we couldn’t hit Yosemite National Park unless it opened in time (which it wasn’t to do), giving us 5 nights in San Francisco to explore, navigate and enjoy before deciding to head North by an hour and camp in the state park of Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco was a great energetic city. It boasts to be very liberal with a lot of history in the gay rights movement, and this eclectic and diverse energy and culture seemed to ooze from its pavement pores as we wandered around trying to visit the main tourist sites along with pounding the streets of the more eclectic areas. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery With the US government shutdown an Alcatraz visit was out of the question, but after trekking for a day from our hostel, through the city, over the famous “most photographed bridge in the world” Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito, we caught a ferry back during sunset and drifted slowly past the infamous prison. Even at this relative distance ‘the rock’ intrigued and fascinated me – maybe due to the copious amount of films I’ve seen about it – and it didn’t let down my over zealous imagination as I imagined breakouts and film-esque plotlines playing out within its shores. We had also landed on the eve of a world famous music festival – Strictly Blue Grass – and when checking out the acts saw that one of the bands we both like, First Aid Kit, were playing on the Friday evening at 4pm. The festival that boats 5 big stages over the urban sprawling 1.5mile square Golden Gate Park has been held for the past 10 years after the philanthropist creator of the festival donated millions of dollars when passing away to ensure the festival would run, free, every year for the next 12 years. We headed down to the free 3-day festival and listened to the music, ate from the copious amounts of amazing street food vendors and relaxed on the grass watching the world and all of its eclectic individuals pass by. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery When I first arrived in San Francisco I put out a message on Facebook to ask for suggestions in this city, and my brother who had visited a couple of years previously suggested checking out Bourbon and Branch, a speak easy where booking is essential and cocktails are the order of the day. After finally getting a table (this place is popular) we had the secret password and location by email and headed down to the bar. Knocking on the non-descript, non-signed door, we were presented with a woman asking if we had the password, where upon giving out the secret information were allowed into an amazing 1920’s speak easy bar. This place almost invented the world cool; 1920’s décor, low level lighting, a set of rules (no phones, no pictures, no asking for a cosmo, and of course, speak easy) and the bartenders and waitresses dressed up accordinly. We stayed there for a couple of hours before dinner having an amazing time, tasting our way through some seriously stupendiously tasty cocktails before wandering back to our hostel, slightly inebriated, way beyond our budget, but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Throw in a random condimental selection of watching the gawping sea lions at Pier 39, moving to a disgusting hostel for a couple of...

Ultra Marathoning – Trials and Tribulations

I wake up and roll over. I momentarily wonder why my left achilles is throbbing on every movement, and why my legs want to tell me a story of pain and non-paid overtime. My mouth is dry and my head is taking longer to process anything and everything. Then I remember I ran my most mentally and physically demanding trail race for over a year the day before, where once again I was shouting at myself that I would never enter another ultra marathon again. Roll back three weeks and my legs are telling me how much they enjoy being part of my life. Barry and I are tootling along South down the I5 heading towards Olympia in Washington to compete at the Capitol Peak 55km / 50mile trail race. I was feeling some what relaxed and in good spirits, which considering I had crashed out and ‘bonked’ at the 32km mark in my last Ultra Marathon on Orcas Island, was somewhat surprising but welcome. I had done the right race-prep, I had had a good solid run 4 days earlier where everything seemed to be in working order, but most importantly I was ‘in the right place’ mentally. With the ghost of Orcas Island sitting squarely on my shoulder, I wanted to run the Capitol Peak 55km with the aim of ‘just finishing’. I had no goal, no timeframe, no body else I knew running to pull my competitive brain along to uncomfortable zones (Barry was undertaking the 50mile option), and was actually looking forward to just getting out there, taking my time and enjoying the race as much as I could. I had also learnt a lot about fuelling and food / body management since Orcas, and was going to be strict with myself to stop at every aid station to relax and refuel. People have called ultra marathons an ‘eating and drinking competition with running thrown in’ and this was a mantra that I’ve slowly had to comprehend and learn. Your body burns up around 400-600 calories per hour while ultra running, and unlike shorter races you just can’t run for 5+ hours without taking food on board during the run – your body just can’t sustain that calorie deficit and keep on moving. And thus one of my goals at Capitol Peak was to learn to eat and drink properly during a race, and not feel rushed past the aid stations. The race started well, I was running at a comfortable 5-6min per km pace depending on terrain and elevation, and was happy tootling along listening to the conversation of 2 other runners who had camped up behind me. The first aid station came up at only 8km in, but I was strict with myself and against everyone else’s race schedule, stopped, drank some water and ate a few carbs before carrying on. This was a schedule I kept to for the rest of the race. Being a very symmetric kids-drawing-of-a-mountain elevation profile race, the first half of the run was all uphill, but against all long distance races I’d competed at before, I reached the top of the climbs at 31km and was feeling good. Not just, ‘good for 30km, but actually pretty crap’, but just ‘good’. I had enjoyed the infamous ‘grunt’ that we had been warned about at the pre-race talk, I had even ran up some of it and passed a few runners in the process, posed for the photo at the top, before whistling down the other side chatting to a Belorussian runner from Minsk (post race analysis would show I was actually 2nd fastest up that section from the 20 or so runners who had uploaded their run onto Strava).    With the rest of the race net downhill, by the time I got to 35km I knew I was going to finish. I felt confident in myself, my running, and my body that we were going to drag ourselves through the next 20km...