Yosemite – Half Dome Hike

The closer we got to our trip, the more it looked like Mother Nature was against us.

  1. Weather forecast, Saturday high of 99F
  2. The Big Meadow Fire closed our camp (Crane Flat Campgrounds)

We were lucky and change our camp site to Wanwona Camp Ground. Being further south and 45 minutes away from the trail head forced us to wake up around 3:30 AM to ensue an early enough start to limit the size of the crowds we would face on the cable climb.

Yosemite Valley

[more Yosemite Half Dome photos]

On the way up we opted for the Mist Trail route since it was technically shorter, but that meant a faster elevation gain. Which in hindsight may have taken a little more energy to complete. It was very pretty passing Vernal and Nevada Falls, probably less crowded which was good. The hike was definitely more difficult than I was expecting. It didn’t take long to make the decision to maintain a steady pace instead of  killing ourselves racing up the Mountain. Thus, by the time we reached Half Dome itself, the line started to form and backup considerably.

Now if you are wondering why Justyna has credit for a few of the photos of Half Dome, that’s due to the fact that I decided the last bit of climbing up the cables was not for me. I turned back about half way up the switchbacks which was plenty high enough for me to get the vast views of Yosemite Valley.

If you are in Yosemite and would like to challenge yourself then the Half Dome hike is a good one. I’m in pretty good shape and this hike was long and rather difficult. The hike takes you up ~5000 ft of elevation gain over 14-16 miles. If you are hoofing it you can probably do this in about 10 hours, so be prepared with plenty of water and food. Because getting to the top of Half Dome is only half the battle.

There are quite a few technical spots where if you are not careful you could seriously injure yourself, if not tumble to your death. Take your time and enjoy your surroundings. But please don’t follow in the footsteps of these two morons who are descending Half Dome outside of the cables on the left. They are not only endangering themselves, but everyone else around them. Very inconsiderate.

The whole weekend in Yosemite was awesome. Thanks to Peter and Mercedes for inviting us. I not sure why it took me 10 years to go.

I’ll be back soon!

Now playing: Blue Six – Music & Wine – Beautiful Tomorrow

[More detail on the Half Dome hike by Kenton Lee]

Hawaiian Holiday – Kona

We spent the last week here in Kona on The Big Island. It’s been super relaxing and I wish we could stay another week or two. Unfortunately, one has to pay the bills…

I’m a bit rusty on blogging so I’ll just give you a list of highlights and let you browse the photos we have collected:

Kona Diving

Saturday 5/23: Arrived at Kona, drove down 15 minutes to the Coconut Cottage we rented, dropped off all of our gear and headed out for an early lunch/dinner. After that we ended up back at the cottage and walked down the street for about 5 minutes and hung out on the beach. Super nice location.

Sunday 5/24: I Slept in to (7AM), Justyna (9:30AM). I think we ended up cooking breakfast, and then heading over to the other beach (which is a good surfer location) where I got skunked. (no surf, and has pretty much been that way all week) Instead of renting a board, we decoded to do a bit of snorkeling. Ton of reef fish to look at, and we too a few laps with a medium sized sea turtle. Ohh yeah, I also received my first coral cut on my right palm. [Photos]

Monday 5/25: Trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Very cool trip. Did a 4-5 mile hike though the volcano crater (Kilauea Iki Trail), drove down to see the active lava flow (Only to find out that it was another 10 miles down the road which no longer exists. You can get much closer from the other side.) One the way back we stopped at Thurston Lava Tube to take a quick stroll through an actual lava tube. To top it off we had
dinner at a Thai restaurant in volcano Village and had probably the best Thai food to date. (It’s called Thai Thai, odd name huh?! If not the best pretty darn close, it was really good) [Photos]

Tuesday 5/26: Slept in again, went out for an okay breakfast. Then decided to kayak and snorkel at Captain Cook, Kealakekua Bay. This is where I made the bad decision of helping out another couple beach their kayak on the lava rocks. Well in the process I slipped and gave myself two nice sized gashes in my left leg, and foot. Everything is fine, but since the next three days are filled with dive trips there’s no way this is going to start healing until I get back to SF. This is great snorkeling and a cheap afternoon. Pack a lunch, a couple of beers, and drive down to rent a kayak and off you go. We spent about 3-4 hours total and probably would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for the blood streaming down my leg.

Wed 5/27- Thur 5/28: Magda and Adam showed up last night. They are both avid divers, (read: they dive every day on their trips!), so this marks the beginning our our Dive Marathon!

We decided to go with Kona Honu Divers. Typical two tank boat dive trips, first one a deeper dive (~60′ max) and the second a little more shallow. We saw everything from basic reef fish, morey eels, frog fish, and in the last dive a rather sizable white tipped reef shark. She was hanging out in a cave getting cleaned and wasn’t too pleased with us bothering here, so she let us know by starting to pace around and getting closer to us each time, when she was about 2′ from my head we decided it was time to move on and let her back to her business in peace.

The best part of these dives are the nooks and crannies the lava flows form. It makes for a decent maze to swim through and play in. This was one of my first times going though caves and arches and it made the dive a lot of fun. The surge made it a bit technical at times, but this is sort of what I like about sports.  A little challenge to is always a good thing.  [Dive Photos]

Friday 5/29: Today we did another morning boat dive, which I could probably have done without. It was good, but at that point a morning of sleeping in and rest for the night dive would have been better.

That’s right night dive. We went on the Manta Ray Night Dive, which is rated as a top 10 dive in the world. And I have to say it is truly spectacular. Having a 11′ wide Manta Ray buzz over you head while it feeds on the plankton you are providing with your flash light, it a surreal experience. In fact if you hold your light a little too far down your body like I did, the Manta may collided right into you and knock your mask and regulator loose.

If you find yourself on the Big Island, you should set aside the time to do this dive. If you don’t dive then join the boat and enjoy it from the top of the water by snorkeling. You get a more intimate experience with the dive, but the Mantas still visit the folks floating at the top of the ocean as well. Believe me it’s well worth the money.

Saturday 5/30: Rest day. Woke up at 7:30AM (super late for me), made coffee, cooked breakfast, and geeked out a bit to write this blog post. Off to the beach now to enjoy the sun for about 30 minutes (my Irish heritage doesn’t allow for much more than that) After that who knows…

We head back for SF tomorrow around noon. Looking forward to getting back, but at the same time wish I could extend this for another week or better yet another month!

–Chad

Armstrong riding the 2009 Giro…

With Armstrong competing in the 2009 Giro d’Italia do you think Vs. will give us better coverage?

I sure hope so…

Tahoe Bike Trip

Now playing: Beastie Boys – 4th St. BreakThe Mix Up

I can sew…

Yeah that’s right. I single handily fixed two of my shirts today. Which have been out of commission for a little over a month now…

Button Repair

Look at that craftsmanship! I don’t need no stinkin’ girl to sew on my buttons!

In other news: I’m heading back East for the next 5 days. 2 days in NYC to kick around a bit and meet up with Donna to hash out a few things. Then off to Rochester to play with my niece who’s already 2 months old. I can’t wait to see her!

Now playing: Mr. Scruff – Giffin – Trouser Jazz

General Update…

It looks as if I have fallen out of practice of updating my blog over the past few months.

So very quickly here’s what has been happening in my life:

  • It was a hard decision to make, but I parted ways with Backblaze in January. Brian and crew are still going strong and I wish them nothing but the best of luck. Especially considering I still have a vested interest in the company. ;)
  • I took a position at StrongMail Systems back in March as an Architect in the Advanced Technology Group. Up to this point it’s been fun. My knowledge of the Sales and Marketing side of business seems to be growing by leaps and bounds each day. Maybe a little too much…
  • And to keep myself challenged mentally I have been playing around with a few side projects. I’ll write more about them when the time comes.

In general I have been keeping myself fairly busy, which is probably why I haven’t written a post in quite a while. It sure isn’t for the lack of interesting things going on in my life. I plan on keeping this updated a little more often than twice a year. At the very least to keep my parents informed of what is going on out here on the West Coast.

Now playing: Dzihan & Kamien – SlidingGran Riserva

Coming out of retirement…

Back at the end of April I made the decision to get away from the software industry for a bit to invest in myself. Mind, body, and soul. I know how very Californian of me!

The past 6 months have been wonderful. I just finished up traveling throughout Europe for a few months. Logged a ton of time on my bicycle and at the gym getting into shape. Spent free time tooling around with various business ideas which had been kicking around my head for quite some time.

Most important of all. I was able to spend over a month with my family back in Rochester, NY. I haven’t had the opportunity to do this in quite some time and enjoyed it immensely. It was nice not to have to feel rushed, it gave me time to kick around my hometown and explore it a bit. For some reason I never did that when I lived there for the first 20+ years of my life…

Anyway, today I am happy to announce this has all come to an end. I have joined a few of my friends in starting a new company. Backblaze! We plan to make everyones lives a bit less stressful. Especially those who tend to be the ‘go to tech guy‘ of the family!

More about what we are doing in the following weeks…

Now playing: Pixies – GiganticSurfer Rosa & Come On Pilgrim

München – Oktoberfest

The train ride from Lake Como to Munich was pretty uneventful. Of course the Alps are amazing, but I would have rather been riding my bike though them than gazing at them through the train car windows. Suppose that’ll have to wait until the next trip.

We arrived in Munich around 11pm. The initial plan was to drop our bags off at Dave’s apartment and head out for our first Bavarian Beer. Instead Dave took us directly to the HofbrauHaus with our bags in tow. Cool mix it up a bit, right?!

Munich - Oktoberfest

Well the real reason was Dave had to break the news to us that his roommate wasn’t exactly comfortable with 4 guys crashing at their place. Especially considering we were in town for Oktoberfest. I can’t blame here, considering this is scene after a full day of drinking multiple liters of beer.

So finding a room on such short notice is hard enough, let alone in Munich on the opening week of Oktoberfest. So we opted throw all of our bags into Dave’s car and head to Austria. He has a room in a college dorm in the town where he works. The other roommate was out of town so we were able to crash in his room as well. Sweet!

The drive should only take about 45 minutes on the Autobahn, but when you get pulled over by the Polizei twice for sobriety tests it seems to double your drive time. Let alone wondering if we are all going to spend the night in a German jail. The first stop was pretty darn nerve racking, not knowing the laws and what is acceptable alcohol levels. I’m sure I would have been fine for the US, but who knows about Europe. Dave’s beer wasn’t enough to cause for concern, but not exactly what you want to deal with at 2 AM.

We ended up spending the next 2 days in Kufstein. The second night we had one of the best meals of the my trip. Dave said the restaurant was some how attached to the town castle. The meal was a series of classic Bavarian food served family style and then was followed by a huge skillet of some pancake desert deal. Super tasty especially when accompanied with a few steins of Dunkel. Needless to say I was ready for hibernation at the end…

Jeremy pulled though for us and booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott near the train station. This was perfect considering most of the bus lines started out down here. We spent the next day at Oktoberfest. I didn’t realize how big this fair is, the number of rides actually is more than what Seebreaze has up all year round and this is only for 2 weeks. The beer tents are exactly what I expected, tables crammed together so close it’s almost impossible to pass, endless supply of beer, and of course the ladies and their Dirndls. You have to give props to who ever came up with this dress design.

Unfortunately, spending 10 hours drinking beer can have adverse side effects. Other than being tired, I felt fine, but the rest of the crew not so much. Needless to say, the hotel room was occupied for most of the day and in retrospect it was good we weren’t staying with Dave and his roommate.

John, Jeremy and James headed back to London on Saturday. I decided to stick around for a couple more nights to see more of Munich. The sight seeing turned out to be very little and instead we ended up heading back to Oktoberfest to enjoy the festivities.

I have to say going to the festival is as much fun as you would expect. I don’t believe it’s the sort of thing I would make a special trip for, but if you are in the area when the festival is going on you owe it to yourself to at least head over to the fairgrounds to see it in person. It’s really not all about the beer…

More Munich Photos

Now Playing: The Sea and Cake – LightingEverybody

Lake Como

We have Jeremy to thank for our stop in Lake Como. The latest Bond film has a scene where 007 is housed up in a super swank hotel overlooking the lake. I’m not sure if it was the beauty of the location that caught Jeremy’s eye or Daniel Craig on the beach. Either way Lake Como turned out to be a serious highlight of my travels.

Lake Como

After spending multiple days eating pasta and sitting on a train, we all agreed that exercise in dire need. So what better way to burn calories than to take a strenuous day hike though the mountains. Our hotel manager told us about a spectacular trek which started in Brunate and ended all the way up in Bellagio. He claimed it should only take us 4 to 5 hours to complete, but it was well worth it.

He was partially correct. The views were spectacular, but it sure wasn’t a 5 hour hike. Our hike ended about half way though and at that point we had been on the trail for over 6 hours. Not knowing what the public transportation would be in these small towns, we decided to cut the trek off early and head down to the closest town to catch a bus back to Como. Trying to calculate the distance on the map I’m pretty sure it would have taken well over 9 hours to complete the whole thing. Which of course would be a stellar day hike if you got an early start, or a nice chill 2 day trek with a night of camping.

I didn’t actually make it outside of the Town of Como, but I’m guessing the rest of the lake towns are just as beautiful. If you are looking for a super chill vacation spot in Italy, then Lake Como should be on the top of your list.

Another option, spend more time in Lake Tahoe of course. :)

More Lake Como Photos

Venice

We only spent one night in Venice. This limited the exploring, but seemed to be plenty of time since Venice tends to be more of a place for couples and not a group of four guys.

Venice...

I was able to get a few shots while we were wandering though the city trying to find a restaurant off the beaten path. James and I were successful. We had very romantic meal together. I’d tell you more about it, but I’m positive I could never find it again. The city streets are super confusing…

Next up Lake Como!

More Venice Photos

Roma…

I meet up with my friends John, Jeremy, and James in Rome. We will be traveling together for the next couple of weeks until they end their trip in Munich for Oktoberfest. I rolled into Rome a couple of days early to wander around the city on my own. Traveling in small groups can slow things down a bit, especially getting everyone out the door in the morning. (One has to make sure their hair looks good, right Jeremy?!)

Rome - Colosseum

The first item on my list was to see the Crypt of the Captuchin Monks. This was suggested to me by a friend of my sisters at her birthday party back in July. Basically they have taken the bones of many monks over the years and reconfigured them into artful crypt displays. For example, skulls with shoulder blades behind them to make wings. Rather creepy, but cool none the less. I highly recommend checking it out and it’s only 1 or 2 euro donation.

Then I headed up toward the Spanish Steps to have lunch and do a bit of people watching. It seems to be a bit overrated to me, it’s just a bunch of steps and the Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Old Boat”) in the Piazza di Spagna. Apparently if you drink the water from the fountain you will live forever, I managed to take a sip we’ll see if that comes true.

After lunch I wandered over to the Trevi Fountain. I didn’t stay long since it was crawling with tourists. I was planning on going back at night to see it all lit up which is much more impressive. Romans also claim this fountain has mystical powers. If one tosses a coin over their left shoulder with their right hand which ends up crossing your heart, then you will be sure to return to Rome. Again I followed the rules to a tee, so lets see if I make it back.

Next was to make my way to the Colosseum, in the process I ran into the Pantheon by accident. Unfortunately, it was roped off for Sunday mass so I was unable to walk around the whole building. It’s neat to see they still use it for regular service. Although it was in Latin which is just as good as my Italian, nonexistent, thus there was no way of knowing what they were saying. It was a pretty long day so I went back to the hotel and called it an early night.

Vatican City was on order for the first day with the 3Js. St Peters Basilica is rather amazing. But at this point I’m getting really burnt out on churches. What made this a bit more interesting is the book I am reading, Dan Brown’s – Angels and Daemons, which is set in Rome. (Same dude who wrote ‘The Da vinci Code’) So of course I have been looking around at all of the sculptures to see ones he points out in the book. After about an hour of wandering around in there we went into the Vatican Museum. My plan was to run through it and only see some key pieces of work, but with the main goal of seeing the Sistine Chapel. Amazing to think Michelangelo spent over 4 years just to complete the ceiling. Unfortunatly, I couldn’t get “Arestted Development” episode where they depict the Last Judgement. None the less it was breath taking.

After 3 or 4 hours of Vatican City I was ready for a gelato. There is a shop just outside the Vatican wall which was probably the second best gelato I’ve had in Italy. (It’s hard to beat the place in Florance) I’m going to go though withdrawal symptoms when I leave Italy.

John booked us a condo in the Traverse neighborhood. This was a great change of pace from the hostels I have been staying at the past few weeks. It’s a great neighborhood, a lot of excellent family run restaurants, and hip bars and cafes which locals actually go to.
Rome has turned out to be my favorite big city on this trip. Italians tend to be very patient with Americans. Even if they don’t understand a word of English, they work hard to communicate with you, and I’ve found hand motions can really get the job done. They never seem to be put off which really makes traveling here much more enjoyable, than say France. I starting to see Italian lessons in my future.

Rome Photos…