Category Archives: Holiday

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

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

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…

Amalfi Coast

After three solid weeks of sight seeing in some major cities, I finally found myself some sun and a beach. I’m really enjoying myself traveling, but at times it’s not exactly relaxing. I’m finding it hard to get myself to just kick back and chill, there is too much to do and see in each city.

Amalfi Coast

So I ended up staying in the town of Amalfi for three days and then decided to head up to Sorrento for another two mainly to hit up the Island of Carpi. In retrospect, I probably should have just stayed in Almalfi the whole time and done a the Capri day trip from there. Oh well learn as you go…

As you may know the Amalfi Coast is nothing short of spectacular. The beaches on the other hand are not the best. You can see in this photo all of Capri beaches are rock and with a coast line like this there’s very little beach area in Amalfi itself and that tends to be privately owned. The hostel I was staying at had a bit of beach which was designated as theirs, but the catch was one would have to walk down 700 steps to reach it. Make that 1000 if you include the extra 300 it took to get from the house to the main road. So I either opted for the super small stretch of “public” beach which was packed with cheap bastards like myself or just ponied up the 8 to 12 euro to rent a chair and umbrella.

Capri is definitely worth a day trip. I took an boat tour around the island to see some of the key spots like the Blue Grotto. Afterwards I found out there are some great walking trails which will get you to these same key spots, but instead of being confined to the boat and seeing it for 5 minutes you can pack a lunch your towel and spend a few hours instead. If I had know about this earlier on in the day I would have definitely opted for that instead.

If you are looking for a killer beach then head some where else like Kauai or the Islands, but if you like to see views like this in with your morning coffee in hand then it’s going to be hard to beat Amalfi.

Next up Rome where I meet up with John, Jeremy, and James. I’m going to need all of my energy reserves, because it sounds like we are going to see everything in double time. I may need to hit another beach by the time Oktoberfest is over.

Check out more photos

Now Playing: The Beastie Boys – Flowin’ ProseHello Nasty

Napoli…

After spending 3 solid weeks of sight seeing in London, Belgium, Amsterdam, Pairs, Florance, and Tuscany I felt it was time to relax a bit. The plan was to head to Amalfi for some beach time.

One way to get to Amalfi is to take a bus from Naples, so I decide to stop their for a night and ended up extending it to 3. I didn’t spend too much time in the actual city other than at night for food and heading out to the bar for a couple of drinks new friends I meet at the hostel (6 Small Rooms, great place to stay for cheap accommodations).

Mt Vesuvius

I made a couple of quick trips down to check out Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. Pompeii is an ancient roman town that was buried by the volcano Mt Vesuvius when it erupted back in (look this up…).

To get some exercise, I went and hiked Mt Vesuvius hike. Unfortunately, they bus you up most of the way, so it wasn’t all that much exercise. Now it’s not exactly easy, but if you take your time anyone can make it to the top. The views of Naples and Sorrento from up here are fantastic, but the cafe/souvenirs shop at the top tend to take away from the experience.

Now my view on Napoli itself. The people seem to live in the now. They treat their city as a garbage dump and it really shows. It’s a complete shit hole, every monument has graffiti, kids are out in the Piazzas late at night drinking and smashing bottles. It tends to makes the whole city feel much more seedy than it actually is.

If you can look beyond this, you can almost see the beauty in the city. This is probably the first time since NYC where I felt I had to double back, because I made a wrong turn down an alley way and may not like what I find if I continued forward..

Anyway, if you find yourself in Naples keep your eye on your pocketbook, check out a few key sights in the city. Make an effort to get yourself a slice of pizza (it’s where it was invented), then high tail it down to Sorrento for the night where you can relax in a nicer environment.

More Photos

Now playing: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Details Of The WarClap Your Hands Say Yeah

Toscany…

Sorry it has taking so long to get you all up to date with my travels. Looking at the date stamped on these photos I seem to be 2 weeks behind. YIKES!

Well I spent two full days driving around Toscana with Allyson and her co-workers. We visited about 4 or 5 different hill towns, some super fancy hotels, and ran though all of the bike and hiking routes for their upcoming cycling trip that they lead the following week.

Tuscany

At times it felt a bit rushed, they had 6 days of activities to familiarize themselves with in the two days. But since they had to meet with various managers to verify accommodations, walk though each town to know exactly where important stuff was located, like food, ATMs, cool art and craft shops, so they could direct their guests in the right direction. I was able to break away and explore each area on my own. Thus it really worked out well.

The trips they run may seem a bit on the pricey side, this one was 6 days of cycling and ran around $4000. But after seeing the activities they have set up for the guest, the hotels where they are staying, some of the meals that were included, and the pure beauty of the area, it would take a lot of work on your part in planning to get something as nice as this for less money. So it looks like a pretty darn good deal to me.

For example, one of the night activities the group heads over to a winery (I don’t have the name…) and learn how to make their own Peace. It’s a type of pasta, I had it that night with Cinghiale (wild boar) sauce and it was very tasty. After that they head over to the tasting room to drink test out some of the wine, with the hopes they all buy multiple cases. Once that’s over then they sit down for a super deluxe meal. Now that is just one of the nights, there are only a few times throughout the trip which they have to fend for themselves. So yeah, pretty nice indeed.

Anyway, I was able to see some of the best spots in all of Southern Tuscany. I’m sure this is going to be an upcoming destination for a cycling trip of my own in the next couple of years.

So thanks to Allyson for letting me tag along and Raphael for introducing me to Grappa!

More Photos

Now playing: Calexico – CruelGarden Ruin