7.30.2012

Camping at Deadman Creek, Eastern Sierra

I just got home from a one week camping adventure near Deadman Creek, a little north of Mammoth.  Bears, hail, mountain bikes, guinness brownies, outdoor movies, and a few good books kept me busy but I am glad to be home.  I've heard it said that sometimes you need a vacation from a vacation, and after this summer I really understand what that means.

The Deadman Creek camping trip was my airstream adventure with T this summer.  We met up with some people from Aberdeen who were camping on BLM land near Deadman Creek and were joined by some people T and I camp with from the OC.

I have a few comments about this camping trip that will be coming up in my Take Away: Summer 2012 post that talk about some of the things that bummed me out about this trip but for this post I want to concentrate on some of the fun things that happened.

We met up with some friends from Aberdeen who were camping on BLM land above Lower Deadman Campground.  They were planning on staying there for a month and we came up to camp with them for a week.  You can see the airstream above nestled in the pines.  It is a very dry year so campfires and charcoal campfires were prohibited unless you were in a campground.  Lower Deadman Campground was just down the hill and we had a few campfires there.  One night we even had a Dutch Oven potluck and T and I made cornbread and chocolate-cherry cobbler with our little dutch ovens.

T was different on this trip.  Usually he is up early and ready to go, but this trip he slept in, waited until the hot part of the day to get motivated, and just wanted to fish.  He spent a lot of time fishing.  One day he left at 8am to fish the Eastern Walker river and didn't get back until 11pm.  On that day I joined some of my fellow campers and hiked to Fern Lake.
Fern Lake is above June Lake and is about a 2 mile hike in.  When ever I hike with T he always leaves me behind (he is 6'4" and I am 5'6").  Eventually I catch up to him when he stops to fish or reaches his destination, but for the most part, it is like I am hiking alone.  When our group started the hike to Fern Lake I told them I was going to start up because I was slow and they would catch me soon enough.  Ironically, I was the "fast" hiker on this trip.  Well, I am not fast but I am steady.  I ended up being the pace setter on the way up and I was kind of shocked about it.


Fern Lake was pretty, but compared to all the other lakes I have seen in the Eastern Sierra, it was the least impressive.  And it was windy up there!  The trail book said you would find 8 of the 9 trees that grow in the region on this hike and we did on the way down!  It was so amazing.  There was this section on the hike that had all these different trees right next to each other.  It must have been one hell of a micro-climate to support so many different trees.

One of my favorite things about camping with our OC camping crew is something we call "The Stumble".  The Stumble is basically progressive snacking that includes alcohol.  We started it some years ago over a camping trip.  The theme that year was martinis and each camp came up with an appetizer to pair with their martini.  We didn't call it a Stumble until after that first night because we were all stumbling back to our camp sites!  The Stumbles happen every time this group of three families camp together.  There was a year when we had 8 ocean front camp sites and so many people we had to organize them into groups so we wouldn't have too many stops!  The theme for that Stumble was margaritas because it was a Cinco-de-Mayo weekend.

We had a Stumble at Deadman and theme was beer!  We were split up into three camps with T and I going last.  The first camp was the Mo-Camp.  Mo and his family are great cooks.  He made a bruschetta with blue cheese, steak, pesto, and homegrown tomatoes.  YUM!
Our next stop was the Ballard camp.  Ballard always drinks Tecate on our camping trips and that was the beer they served.  The funny thing was that they were making egg-rolls but when he realized he had so much Tecate, he started calling them Asian chimichangas!
Our last Stumble stop was the Airstream.  Seeing as we were last we served Guinness and Guinness brownies.  They were so good.  You can get the recipe here from Bon Appetit (thanks to the Little Sister for finding it!).
Other adventures during the week included a hail storm the first day we arrived.  Re-occurring visits from a bear who kept checking to see if anyone left food out.  Outdoor movies under the stars when Mo set up a movie screen and projector on the outside of his Motorhome.  And a biking day in Mammoth that ended with me riding back to camp over some dirt biking trails on my own.

The day before we left T said was my day and we could do whatever I wanted.  We headed to Mammoth and took the Gondola to the top of the ski hill.  During the winter T skis this area but during the summer the mountain becomes a bike park.  It was incredible to see the people charging the hill.  I wonder if I will ever be good enough to try it?





We checked out a few lakes and bike trails around Lake Mary and then headed back to camp where we made pizza with the Mo's for our last dinner.

That night while people were watching the outdoor movie the bear walked by the Airstream and scared Samson and I.  Samson jumped up to look out the window with all his fur sticking up and I jumped up and started making all kinds of noise.  I eventually flashed the lights and T came over to see what was going on.

I have this bitter sweet feeling about the bear.  I feel bad for it because we were invading where it lived.  The Aberdeen folks said it was a young bear they had seen with it's mama last summer.  The bear was drawn to food and some fishermen had cleaned their fish in Deadman Creek and not cleaned up after themselves.  Of course the bear would be drawn to this food source.  Then if there was more food around he would look for it.  I had a healthy dose of fear about the bear and didn't like seeing it or knowing it was near by but was trying to find a way to co-exists with it.  T and I camped very clean so I think the bear was just walking by but if the bear continues to come up to campers and gets too close to people, he will probably be killed.  This little dose of reality bummed me out at the end of our trip.  I worried for the bear and it really made me think about camping in the Eastern Sierra.  Overall I would give the trip an 80%.  The company was great and some of the food was fantastic but it had a long way to go to earn an A.  Maybe next time.....

7.21.2012

Russia: St. Petersburg (day 4 of 4) FREE DAY!!!!

Day 15 was my last day in Russia.  Mom had elected to go on some optional tours so AC and I headed into St. Petersburg to wander around.  I really only had one goal, find an H&M.  I know this doesn't sound like a huge lofty goal, but I had been trying to find an H&M in Russia and had yet to find one.  My sisters and I seem to find them every time we travel and it was kind of a joke to start with but then it became a quest!  Lucky for me, we found one.

I was also really lucky to have gone out with AC.  She and I are friends and we work together.  I had never really hung out with her much until this trip.  We had a great time and on this particular day I was extra lucky to hang out with her because we passed a bakery and she said, Mind if we look in?  I love to eat at local places.  HELLO! I also love to eat... at local places.  She and I spent the rest of the day stopping in tons of cafes and trying what we could find.

The first bakery of the day.

One of the Zara's in St. Petesburg.

The Dean and Deluca of Russia.


What?  Another cafe?

And yet, another.

We wandered around the city and had a great last day in Russia. 

Later that evening I got sick for about 15 minutes and panicked a little because I was leaving for the airport at 3am.  I ran to Mo and over-medicated myself.  The truth is I probably was just reacting to my over indulgence of food that day.  The good news was that I woke up and felt fine.  The bad news was that I had some really long flights ahead of me to get home.  Here I am in my airplane clothes.


Russia ended up being very interesting and I am glad I went.  I am still thinking about the trip and plan to have a Russia Take Away post sometime in the future with my final thoughts on the trip.  Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading about it here!

Russia: St. Petersburg (day 3 of 4)


Day 14 we jumped on a bus (again) and headed to Catherine's Palace and Park outside of St. Petersburg. Here are Mo's Mom and AC on the bus.

Catherine's Palace and Park (garden) was beautiful and had almost completely been destroyed during one of the wars.  It was so interesting to learn about the Russian ruling families and I found Catherine the Great to be very interesting.  She was a princess, married to someone who became a Zsar and she basically impeached him and named herself Zsar and then ruled for 30 some years.  You go girl!

The palace was restored beautifully but I am a bigger fan of gardens.  Here are a few pictures:

The Purple Group at Catherine Palace.

Mom and I.

Mo. AC, and I with Alexey (one of the ship photographers).

That evening we were heading to see Swan Lake at the Hermitage Theater.  The dessert that night was a swan dessert!

Swan Lake was beautiful and I am glad I went.  I felt like I should see a Russian Ballet and the Russian Circus.  Check and check.  

After the ballet Konstantin showed us a bit of the White Nights and then we headed back to the ship.

Next: St. Petersburg (day 4 of 4) Free day in St. Petersburg

Russia: St. Petersburg (day 2 of 4)

I am trying to finish up my posts about Russia before I head out on my final adventure of the summer, an Eastern Sierra camping trip with T and Samson!  This has been a really full summer (Ireland, Russia, and Eastern Sierra) and I have just been able to catch my breath.  When we get back from the Eastern Sierra I have one more week off and then back to work.  I am so grateful to have a job with a 10 month contract!

Now back to Russia.....

Day 13 was the second day in St. Petersburg.  Mo was still feeling a little under the weather but was going to meet the group after lunch for the Hermitage Museum Visit.  The day started with a visit to St. Isaac's Cathedral.  This was an other beautiful church (A.B.C.) also filled with lots of people.  The fun thing about this church is that it is designed by someone who is not Russian (gasp) and it was never supposed to work because most of St. Petersburg was originally marsh land.  I guess the Zsar wanted a cathedral and a young architect told him he could build him one.  The cathedral itself is a marvel and a lot of ingenious things happened to make it work.  I always think necessity is the mother of invention, and this cathedral proved that point.

After our visit to St. Isaac's we had a light lunch and were headed to the Hermitage.  I loved the decor in the restaurant we had lunch in and had to share a picture.
The Hermitage was described as the Russian version of the Louver.  The Hermitage itself was one of the palaces of the Zsars  and now house an incredible collection of art.  I let Konstantin know that I was going to explore the Hermitage by myself and took of to find the impressionists on the third floor.  

I love looking at impressionests and was so glad I spent my time up there.  I even found a picture of the place I am going to travel to in 2014 (I try to do an international trip every two years).  Here it is,  Garden in Bordighera, Impressions of Morning, -Claude Monet.

After the Hermitage, my Mom had asked me to help her take the metro to a place where a friend of a friend used to live.  She wanted to take some pictures for her.  We jumped on the metro and made our way to the stop.  It turns out my Mom didn't have tons of information about what we were looking for so we just took a few pictures before it started POURING RAIN on us.

There is a saying in St. Petersburg, if you want different weather, just wait 5 minutes. So we waited, about 10 minutes and the weather cleared up enough for us to make it back to the metro.  When we got off the metro to catch the bus it started pouring again.  My Mom and I huddled under my umbrella waiting for the bus to come.  After about 15 minutes I saw our bus and we ran to catch it.  There were a lot of people waiting for the bus and eventually it was so packed I didn't think the doors would be able to close.  I really understand what it means to be packed in now!  We eventually made it back to the ship but I think Mom had enough of public transportation that day!  

Next: Russia: St. Petersburg (day 3 of 4) Catherine's Palace

7.18.2012

Russia: St. Petersburg (day 1 of 4)

Day 12 was the first of 4 days in St. Petersburg and the our last stop on the Russia trip.  AC was feeling better and back on the tour but Mo was starting to feel bad and didn't make it through the day.  I found myself on another bus taking a city tour.  Here we go again, AC commented with a sigh as the bus left the boat.  I promptly fell asleep as soon as we started driving around.

As a reminder, (in case you missed my rants during Moscow) I hated seeing a place from a speeding bus.  I feel like I missed everything.  This day was no different.  I did wake up and ended up putting on my headphones to listen to some music.  That way I just felt like I was on a city bus watching the world go by.

One of the stops on the tour that day was the Peter & Paul Fortress.  We visited a church (an A.B.C. =Another Beautiful Church) in this fortress where all the Russian Zsars were buried.  It was a stunning A.B.C. but very crowded.

Lunch was included at some "local" restaurant and then the options were to go on an optional tour to Peterhof or take the bus back to the boat.  Mom went to Peterhof but neither option seemed good to me. I got a quick lesson in how to get back to the ship on my own from Konstantin, and took off to explore St. Petersburg on my own.  I put on my headphones and started off.  My first stop was the Summer Garden in St. Petersburg.
I have a thing for gardens.  I love the peace they gush, the freedom they give, and the secrets they hold.  I am drawn to gardens and this day was no different.  My soul needed a little soothing after being trapped on a bus and I spent a lot of time exploring the gardens in St. Petersburg.

I wandered around St. Petersburg a bit taking time to stop at a cafe and call T back in the States via Skype.  Eventually I made my way to the metro to head back to the ship.
The metro system in St. Petersburg is a little different than the metro in Moscow.  It works on a token system but I did see some sort of metro card for a few people.  Most used tokens.  The train seemed narrower, (maybe just my perception) and the lights would blink before the train was going to stop.  The specific train I took (to get to the bus, to get to the ship) was in a tunnel so the only time I could see anything around me was when the train stopped and the doors opened.  Not all trains were like this, but the one I had to ride was....

When I exited the metro I had to find the bus that stopped near the ship.  In this case it was the 119 or the 8.  I hoped on the 119 and made my way back to the ship.
The picture above was taken close to midnight from the ship in St. Petersburg.  We lucky to be there during the White Nights of St. Petersburg.  During this time of the year the sun never really sets and the city stays alive all night.  It was beautiful and I am glad I got to experience St. Petersburg during this time.

7.16.2012

Russia: Svirstroy (or Svir Stroi)

On day 11 we awoke to rain.  Mom was feeling better but AC was down for the count.  This was our last day of sailing as tomorrow we would reach St. Petersburg.

On day 11 we were going to stop in Svirstroy which was a "real village in the Russian north" and have a home visit with tea and pirozhki hosted by a babushka (a babushka is a Russian grandmother or an old Russian woman).  It was grey and raining when the ship stopped in Svirstroy.  I wondered around a bit before we met our babushka for tea.


The tea at the babushkas house was nice but I go back and forth on if I liked it or not.  The reason is that this was part of the Grand Circle itinerary and I feel like it wasn't 100% authentic.  I mean our babushka hosted our Purple Group of 45 (in two shifts) that afternoon.  The other groups were hosted by other babushkas.  These women were paid to host us in their homes.  That is the not authentic part.  The part that was really cool is that we got to ask her (through Konstantin) all kinds of questions.  We asked about her life and how it was to living now versus during Soviet times.  She was very candid and honest with her replies.  One thing she said that stuck with me was that during Soviet times there was a lot of money but no goods, now there are a lot of goods but no money.  She didn't see that much of a difference between the two government structures that shaped her life.  She was charming and even showed us her garden after tea.

Here is Mom chatting with the babushka.


Mom, J-her, Babushka, and Mo's Mom outside the house.


Me and the Babushka.  Can you believe she is 76?!?!?

Some of the Purple Group exploring the garden.

Onboard the ship later that evening we had the Captain's Farewell Cocktail and Dinner as this was our last day sailing.

The Captain and I.  They always called him, "The Smiling Captain". His name was Konstantin too!

Mo and I during cocktail hour.  AC was still sick....  

Dinner was charming as always.  The group of nine of us (Mo and her Mom, AC, Me and my Mom, the friends of Mo's Mom, J-him and J-her, and R and S) all would eat dinner together during the trip.  We called it "Family Dinner".  We were in the middle of "Family Dinner" when the ship went through it's last lock.  I had yet to take a picture of a lock so I excused myself and ran out.

Here is a picture of J-him and Mo at the table for Family Dinner through the window.

Here is the last lock we went through.

When I got back to the table I was just in time for my two desserts!  I was so spoiled on this trip.

Next stop: St. Petersburg!