John Muir Trail

Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park, CA

“This I must say is the first time I’ve been to church in California,” said John Muir when he traveled the first time to the Cathedral Lakes. And for us turned out to be the same. The Cathedral Lakes trail follows the famous John Muir Trail, a long and winding trail that starts in Mount Whitney, about 200 miles south of the Yosemite Valley. It is a very popular trail, as I was to find out from the many mountaineers I met on the road all carrying sleeping bags and several light pads on their large backpacks.  The trail passes peaks and valleys and, based on the chats I had with several of the hikers, it require 15 to 25 days to walk its entirety, based on the endurance and pace of the hikers.

Cathedral Upper Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

For us it was almost a religious experience to walk in the steps of John Muir even for about 11 miles RT going to the two Cathedral Lakes, two crystal mirrors of waters reflecting the majestic peak that is towering upon you for almost the entire trail. When you enter the trail, you are actually entering the last 21 miles leg of the John Muir Trail that would bring you to the heart of the Yosemite Valley.

Horse train, Yosemite national Park, CA

The spectacular forest that surrounded us has towering trees that seem never ending, leaving a patch of sky to be seen through their canopy. Fire was always a presence in that forest and many trees are burnt and some fell one of top of the others, balancing incredible in the air on top of the forest in an act that you may be sure that it will end at the first pale of wind.

Cathedral Lower Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

The path divides, going first to the upper Cathedral Lake, a splash of blue waters reflecting the majestic white peak on whose surface ducklings were cheerfully diving for food. When you reach this point you realize that the hike that is rated at 4-6 hours, it is not about the hike itself that may not take more than 2.5 hours RT if you walk reasonably fast, but it includes the the time that you may spend at the lake, its beauty being spellbinding. From there you walk back to the Lower Lake, surrounded like in an amphitheater by white rock that invites you for a circumambulation around the lake with no religious purpose.

Cathedral Peak in sunset

And if the 11 miles RT were not enough we jumped in the car and drove to another path that brought us to another beautiful lake in sunset, Dog Lake, a short trail of only 3 mile RT. …Maybe we should have started early and put a larger effort and walk all the way the all 21 miles to the Yosemite Valley instead of splitting the day to go to different locations and in this way we may have been closer to John Muir’s spirit…

Dog Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

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Posted by on August 22, 2018 in Blog, USA


Glacier and salty lakes

Lee Vining, CA

Lee Vining is the type of town I love when I travel in the West. Just three hotels, two restaurants and a cafe, a store, a gas station, all in 2-3 blocks; and several cappuccino places…If you blink through it you may have missed it but the vibe of the place is great, the entire village is filled with backpackers and mountaineers ready for the next adventure, a place similar with Escalante, UT, another adventure hub that few know about.

Eilery Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

CA120 road leaving Lee Vining towards Yosemite is probably one of the most beautiful I drove on with huge peaks ready to tumble upon you or into the clear lakes at their base. There are 11 miles of enchanting landscape that you have to drive till you enter the park.

Gaylor Lakes in Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, CA

We stopped right at the park entrance and started our morning hike to the Gaylor Lakes, two of them, surrounded by the peaks we admired from the road, a four miles RT all uphill through the two glacier lakes. The hike is probably one of the most rewarding in terms of views skirting Dana Peak and its meadow with the best alpine views in the entire park.

The miner cabin on top of the Gaylor Lakes

The path continues after the lakes going up the hill to several abandoned miners’ rock and wood cabins and a mine shaft. The landscape is very enticing for exploration with small glacier lakes peppering the top of the ridge and old rusted mining equipment still in place. The view from the top is beyond words with the rocky debris on Dana Peak that is towering over the valley.

Dana Peak, Yosemite National Park, CA

For the afternoon hike we drove to the Toulumne campground from where we started a five mile RT hike to Elisabeth Lake, another glacier lake surrounded by peaks at the base of Unicorn Peak. The hike itself proved to be much easier that mentioned in the brochures but the places are so beautiful that is taking you more time to stay put and admire than the hike itself.

Elisabeth Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

The walk, about 1 hour and 15 minutes one way uphill, was serene and we arrived late and had the entire lake and the surrounding scenery just for ourselves.

Elisabeth Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

From the campground we drove back to Lee Vining and because the sun was still up in the sky we drove to the Tufa formations at the southern side of the Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a high salinity lake that holds you on its surface if you want to dive into it. The water, beside being salty, is also silky at touch because of the calcium rich underwater springs that trigger the formation of the Tufas, large limestone formations that look like they popped out of the lake.

South Tufa on Mono Lake, CA

The place has an eerie feeling especially because the Tufas are everywhere, in the lake and in the surrounding areas. This happens because the lake was much larger but a number of springs that were feeding it were captured to bring water to Los Angeles diminishing ithe lake’ surface.

South Tufa on Mono Lake after sunset

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Posted by on August 21, 2018 in Blog, USA


Tioga Pass

The tunnel view, Yosemite National Park, CA

John Muir and Ansel Adams are two names that I always read about and wanted to discover more. In a spring about 12 years ago I came in to hike in Yosemite looking for these two titans of the American West; one an environmentalist, the other, a photographer. At the time I hiked for an entire day in Yosemite National Park exploring from the valley to the top all of its wonderful waterfalls, Vernal, Nevada and Yosemite, and drove my way out of the park late in the evening through the Lake Tahoe pass. The Tioga Pass road was closed for the season but I was adamant to cross the mountains and get to the Eastern Sierra, with its magnificent landscape that gave it the nickname of Switzerland of California. Unfortunately a strong dust storm obliterated completely my options and I was forced out of the area with a police escort that helped a long row of cars navigate the narrow road that was at the time CA395, a road blinded by dust storm all the way to Death Valley.

Ferguson Fire In Yosemite Valley, CA

This time was the first in a long series of tries when I got in Yosemite in the summer and found Tioga pass open and decided to cross the mountains and get on the Eastern Sierra Nevada. The fires that roared through Yosemite for the first half of August were declared contained when we arrived in California and only Fergurson fire was still smoldering in the park but we decided to stay away of the valley where accommodation was scarce and several access roads were still closed because of the fires.

Toulumne Grove, Yosemite National Park, CA

So we took a turn on CA120 and started to explore the park outside of the valley with a first stop in Toulumne Grove letting us be dwarfed by the imposing sequoia trees.

Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, CA

The landscape we discovered was stupendously beautiful. We were in awe at the white domes and the crystal lakes we discovered and the only thing we wanted was to start hiking and discovering them in depth. Of course we read about them before but no reading or picture would make justice to such an amazing landscape.

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park, CA

The road crosses the entire mountain chain reaching the the beautiful Olmested Point, dedicated to the famous American architect and landscaper, till it reached Tioga pass at 9943 feet where it’s also the entry/exit booth of the park. From there the road descends through one of the most beautiful landscape I ever saw to Mono Lake on whose shore is the tiny community of Lee Vining.

Lembert Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA

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Posted by on August 20, 2018 in Blog, USA


The Long Island canals

The Bellmore canal in Long Island has a direct view to the Jones Beach obelisk

The southern part of Long Island is crested by numerous necks and a collection of tiny islands from where you could see the sand bank where is located Jones Beach or further to the east, Fire Island. From the Bellmore canal in Long Island you have a direct view of the Jones Beach obelisk.

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Posted by on August 10, 2018 in Blog, USA


Midtown by night

Manhattan’s Times Square buildings seen from Hell’s Kitchen

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Posted by on August 5, 2018 in Blog, USA


Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Milerton-Wassaic Rail Trail, NY

Harlem Valley Rail Trail starts in the middle of the fields around Chatam in upstate NY and follows the old rail tracks winding on unpaved roads till it reaches the town of Milerton. From there it continues between marshes fenced by reed and spectacular landscape till it reaches the end of the trail in Wassaic, NY.

Harlem Valley Rait Trail – Mllerton to Wassaic, NY

The paved trail between Milerton and Wassaic is cut through rocks that guard it on both sides. The lakes and marshes are probably the most beautiful I encountered on such a bike trail. When you reach Wassaic it comes home the idea of the rail trail because the trail stops on the parking lot of the most northern stop of the Metro-North and it continues from there as …train tracks.

Pond on the rail trail

The trail between Milerton and Wassaic is about 22 miles long and is impeccably paved. From Milerton on the drive back to NY we got a great sunset view over Manhattan seen from one of the bridges towards Long island, Throgs Neck Bridge.

Manhattan behind Whitestone Bridge as sunset

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Posted by on July 29, 2018 in Blog, USA


Biking and music in the Berkshire

Ashuwillticook – Adams to Pittsfield – Rail Trail, MA

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is a stretch of 22 miles built on the old railroad that crossed the Berkshires in MA. We biked this trail several times before and we were pleasantly surprised to find it extended on the river’s side with another 1.5 miles that goes all the way to the entry of the the town of Adams.

Adams old train station on the rail trail, MA

The trail passes the old Adams train station where an old carriage is used for short train rides and it continues on a very well paved road all the way to the Pittsfield Mall skirting marshes and lakes shores. The lakes were covered by blooming lilies home to many birds. With the current extension the entire ride is about 25 miles RT.

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, MA

Only less than 10 minutes away from Adams is North Adams home to the remarkable modern art museum Mass MOCA. Its post industrial background makes always for a unique experience that reminded me so well of the recently foray I did in Cockatoo Island, off Sydney harbor in Australia.

Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA

But beside the excellent exhibits of Anselm Kiefer, Terry West and many others the museum was home of the Summer Festival of “Bang on a Can”, a marathon of modern music of selected composers as Steve Reich, Julia Wolfe, Doug Lang, Mike Gordon,  etc who were all presenting their work played by an absolutely remarkable group of musicians.

“Cha at “Bang on a can” Summer Festival, MassMOCA, North Adams, MA

The music marathon lasted for 6 hours with no intermission, except the time needed to change the instruments among groups, while people were milling around taking short breaks for a snack. But in the end at 10:30 PM I looked and the audience was completely packed applauding a remarkable musical event that I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend before.

“Bang on a can” Summer Festival, North Adams, MA

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Posted by on July 28, 2018 in Blog, USA