My Top 10 U.S. National Park Experiences

When I came to the States, I stumbled upon a site called Frommer’s Travel Guide that uses “experiences” to describe travel destinations and their attractions. So instead of “a beautiful waterfall”, an experience is “jump into a clear pool under a beautiful waterfall”. It struck me how proper this way is. You can know a mountain pretty well from a photo or a Wikipedia page, but you can only experience a mountain when you go there. Weather, companion, food, activity, animal, random encounters, all these define your particular experience with that mountain, and it’s your unique memory.

Some experiences can be easily copied, some cannot because of rare elements. Experiences gained from efforts (e.g. long hikes) tend to be more memorable, but some easy experiences can also be very appealing.

I want to write about national parks because I really love the national park system. It’s one of the best aspects of the United States we can experience and enjoy. Especially in the era that so many other things feel so messed up, we can always seek serenity, order, peace, and civilized behavior in national parks. I’ve been to 34 of them and they covered most of my best travel experiences.

10. Petrified Forest: Devil’s Playground

Petrified Forest NP is such a secluded national park that when I walked into their visitor center, there are only two rangers and zero visitors, zero. One of the rangers welcomed me: “Welcome to Grand Canyon!”

Without little hope, I asked, “do you still have permits for Devil’s Playground?” It’s an area that they only issue 3 permits each week. To my surprise, they still have!

It was a 4-mile-ish hike, starting with finding your own way to descend into a dry riverbed and ending with one of the most untouched lands I’ve ever seen. Those elephant-skin surfaces look like they have been there for thousands of years, so otherworldly yet so fragile.

On the way back I saw an amazing desert sunset with a light pillar at the horizon. It looks stunning.

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon

上周Flux进行了久违的offsite,还是在Napa那一带租了个airbnb,所有人住在里面,估计是最后一次可以全公司挤在一个house里offsite了,哈哈。大家都是一个多月之前book的,虽然最近Delta变种搞得有点人心惶惶,但还是顺利进行了。

Offsite之后我把俩同事送去机场然后便直奔Sequoia and Kings Canyon国家公园。这俩公园从湾区开车可达,但我还没去过。这次打卡之后我去过的美国国家公园数达到了32个,勉强过半。

五个小时的车程还是有点久的。第一天开到Kings Canyon的Crystal Springs营地我已然是有点精疲力尽。扎好帐篷收拾了一下,还是决定去看看大树。这个营地附近就是General Grant,Kings Canyon这边最有名的大红杉树。短短一条trail上能看到很多大树,General Grant自然是大得惊人,展板上的数据比较有趣的点一个是这树大概要二十个人才能合抱;另一个是红杉树并不是很高(并不是世界上最高的树),但体积是最大的,General Grant的体积换成汽油的话够一辆车环绕地球几十圈。 另外有一棵多年前倒下的红杉,里面被挖空变成了一个住处。当年开拓这个公园的先驱们就在这棵树里住过。

倒下之后被当做屋子的大树

看完General Grant之后看看还有一阵才天黑,于是又去走了一个Big Tree Stump Trail。这个trail上人极少,全程我只遇到一组人。主要看点是大树桩,有一个马克吐温树桩是当年献身给纽约自然历史博物馆和大英博物馆做标本的大树留下的,巨大无比;还有一个“羽毛床”树桩外表是白色流线型,很好看;还有一个“破碎巨人”树桩,好像是摔碎了一样。总之还蛮有趣的一个trail。

Crystal Springs这个营地意外的有手机信号,好到甚至可以FaceTime。于是当晚我过了一下优哉游哉的野外上网生活。唯一的遗憾是隔壁营地一大家子人吵闹到不行。十点钟之后我把头灯调到强光对他们进行了几次冷漠凝视之后有所改观。

第二天我去探索了Kings Canyon东端的Cedar Grove区域。早上起来先开车去了Hume Lake,这个湖其实在国家公园外面,属于国家森林区域。湖边有一个Christian Camp,旅馆饭店一应俱全。我在这儿吃了个早饭,看了看湖里的野鸭,便继续往Cedar Grove开去。

Hume Lake

Cedar Grove是个游客相对比较稀少的区域,因为比较偏远,从Kings Canyon的中心区域要开一小时到公路尽头才能抵达,加上Kings Canyon公园本来就比相邻的Sequoia公园游客要少一些。但Cedar Grove这儿其实是有一个很好的backpacking环线的。我这次走了一个Mist Fall trail,是这个环线开头的一小部分,往返合计8英里。主要收获是遇到一头熊妈带着小熊在路上悠闲散步。走到中段就有迎面来的hiker告诉我路上可能有一家熊,走了一会儿拐过一个小弯果然看到了他们两口子了,就在trail上和我同方向走。小熊不停回头看我,有点紧张,熊妈则一副见怪不怪的样子看了我一眼就继续慢慢走。我在后面小心的保持距离一边跟着一边拍照。跟了一两分钟,熊妈带着小熊如履平地一般爬上trail旁边的山坡走了,把路让了出来。之后我在瀑布那里休息的时候居然又看到了她们俩,还是在trail上继续走,感觉是住在这儿的本地熊。

Bear Family

Kings Canyon总体来说很像Yosemite,有峡谷,有瀑布,有熊,很多山石的感觉也很相像。但山势没有Yosemite那么陡峭。好处是人烟稀少。

Mist Fall

这一天剩下的时间先开去了Sequoia公园的Lodgepole营地扎好帐篷。然后去看了Mono Rock,很热门的一个景点。我本以为会看到一个迷你版Half Dome,结果发现连个正经的拍这个岩石的角度都没有。。只是沿着修好的几百级台阶走上去而已,游客众多,相当无聊。还去看了著名的Tunnel Log,就是可以开车穿过的一棵大树,也是比较繁忙,看看就好。

Tunnel Log

接下来一天的计划是走一个长trail。我在Alta Peak和Lakes Trail之间犹豫了挺久,Lakes Trail更热门,12英里,3000尺爬升,一路看四个湖;Alta Peak是14英里,4000尺爬升,登顶一个山峰,这个程度对我来说也挺费劲的。考虑一番之后决定还是去挑战Alta Peak。想好之后稍微有些激动,差点睡不着觉。

第二天一早起来,去营地旁边的旅店吃了个早饭就直奔trailhead开始走。前两英里和Lakes Trail是重合的,遇到很多人,还有一个running camp的学生在跑trail。分叉走向Alta Peak之后人立刻就少了,好像接下来三英里都完全没遇到人,也都挺好走,坡度缓和,很多树荫。后两英里坡度明显陡了起来,尤其是最后一英里坡度得有30%,感觉大家的步伐都变成了慢动作。登顶之后还是很爽的,有个铁盒子里面有签名簿,四面360度的view,可以俯瞰到Lakes Trail上四个湖中的三个。向东可以一览Great Western Divide(分水岭),还能隐隐看到Mount Whitney。山顶还有几只肥肥的土拨鼠,有只比较小的四处出击试图偷东西吃,一只大的很chill的在一个石头缝里乘凉。我在山顶待了大约一小时,讨了个能量棒吃,自己的食物出发的时候忘带了。。数了数感觉当天上这个山的人应该不超过30个。

下山的过程还是比较煎熬的,因为我这双鞋感觉不是很合脚。前一天的八英里就已经有水泡了。这天上山的时候为了防止滑动就穿了两双袜子,结果下山走了一点就觉得挤得不行每一步都痛。坐下脱掉了一双袜子之后稍微好了些,但还是比较艰难。带了两升半水,到山顶也都喝得差不多了,还好路上有小溪可以滤水补充。上山的时候25分钟一英里的路,下山的时候反而要走快30分钟。一瘸一拐走下来的时候真是感觉掉了一层皮,但也有种feeling alive的感觉,毕竟好久没走这么tough的trail了。

最后一天上午去了Sequoia公园的核心,General Sherman这棵世界最大的红杉树和旁边的Congress Trail。General Sherman是很大,但肉眼很难看出来跟General Grant有多大差别,就都觉得很大就是了。Congress Trail是有一棵总统树,一组“参议员”树和一组“众议员”树,去的时候阳光正好,拍到的照片不错。在这儿还又遇到一只小黑熊,他从树后绕出来的时候跟我打了个照面,相距应该不到十米吧。遇见之后他倒也不怕,就沿着trail旁边的一条小溪继续找食,喝喝水,在草丛里扑腾几下,扒一扒倒下的树干。我感觉我跟她hangout了得有五分钟。。直到另一面有另外两个hiker走向他了,他才不情不愿的走向我。我赶紧让开路,他便穿过trail沿着山坡离开了。

然后去了博物馆,发现关门了-_- 还是得好好读公园手册。最后一站是Crystal Cave,早早就定好的一个溶洞tour。没想到这个溶洞还挺偏远,从公园主路得再开半小时弯弯绕绕的山路才能到。到了之后还得再集体走个十几分钟才能到洞口。讲解员讲解得很好,还在溶洞里抓了条白色接近透明的小虫给我们看,我也不知道她是怎么在这么暗的地方看到这么小的虫子的……这个洞比较独特的一点是里面的石头是大理石,其他的洞大多是石灰石。但看起来说实话也看不出太多差别。

从南端出Sequoia公园的山路相当绕,一路飙出去有点秋名山车神的感觉。而且出来的时候才注意到这天雾霾似乎挺严重,山火的烟飘过来了。回城路上饿得头昏眼花,想吃顿中餐,搜了一个评分高的开去发现居然是个自助,果断掉头去旁边牛排馆吃了个牛排,便宜大碗好评。

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Keto for a month

I started a keto diet on Jun 1 and have lost 10 pounds so far, after 6 weeks. One motivation is to cut some weight before a backpacking trip I planned for late Aug. Every extra pound will count at that time. Another reason is my weight has reached a peak number in the past 10+ years, which is how I got vaccinated in an earlier batch… I Gotta do something about it.

I did an Atkins diet years ago and lost probably 15+ pounds in two or three months. Keto’s basic idea is not so different from Atkins except keto recommends taking in more fat. So I know this kind of low-carb diet will work for me. On the other hand, I know exercising without diet control doesn’t really work for me. I did quite a lot of exercises earlier this year, then stopped after the fever from the second vaccine shot, then my weight peaked.

After starting keto, I found it much easier than when I did Atkins in China. In this work-from-home era, it’s easy to cook my own meals. My cooking style has switched to a mostly American style over the years: bake bacon and salmon and all kinds of vegetables in the oven; pour some balsamic into a box of leaves and call it a salad; grill a ribeye steak or lamb chops. All of these are pretty convenient options. Unsweetened almond milk, pine nuts, and chia seeds are my go-to snacks.

I probably still order half of our meals from delivery. Options are much more limited, especially for Asian food (bye noodles, rice, and sandwiches…) but there are still some options. Restaurants that mainly serve salads and mark themselves as “healthy” usually have plenty of safe choices. Midterrianian and BBQ places are more keto-friendly. Chinese/Japanese/Korean restaurants have very limited low-carb options in general…

Social occasions can be challenging when doing a strict keto diet. Alcohol is a big no-no, so I’m often drinking some almond water or club soda when hanging out with friends. I also become the picky person when picking restaurants. Fortunately, there are fewer social occasions these days due to the pandemic. Last year was really a good opportunity for doing a diet.

I went into ketosis pretty easily this time. No “keto flu” or any other uncomfortable feelings in the first few days, unlike the last time. And the urine strip turned very purple when I tested at the end of the first week. The weight loss progress was as expected, rapid 4~5 pounds of water weight loss in the first week, then a gradual decline of ~1 pound per week. I weigh myself a lot more these days, usually before sleep and after wakeup. I’m surprised how much my weight changes after a night of sleep, often 2 or 3 pounds! I’d imagine myself emitting steams at night.

I do drink a lot more water these days. The theory is after losing those water weight, I don’t have as much “reservoir” as before. Having a big water bottle at hands definitely helps… I use a 2-liter jug and go through about 3 jugs of water every day.

I’ve been also doing regular workouts about 5 or 6 days a week, mostly with Apple Fitness+, alternating between HIIT and strength exercises. I make sure to get some workout at night if I don’t go out all day. It makes me feel more energetic.

I plan to continue on for 2 more months. See if I can hit my goal of losing 20 pounds, then probably continue with a limited-carb diet. From last time, I knew I’d quickly gain all the lost weight back if I just go back to my previous usual way of eating…

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Grand Circle

Grand Circle是一个我向往已久的road trip路线,也是国家公园+徒步爱好者的天堂。由Las Vegas出发,绕着南Utah和北Arizona一圈,可以访问到Utah的五个国家公园(Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands,合称Mighty Five)和大峡谷。时间上十天左右为宜。过去这些年里我其实零零散散也去到了这里面大部分的地方,但这次xw换工作难得有几周空闲,疫情加上季节又使得出行的选项很是有限,于是就选定了Grand Circle。

Zion National Park

出行第一站是飞去Vegas。周六JFK机场的人数感觉并不比疫情前少,还是让我有点小吃惊。去年7月去Colorado的时候机场可是空空荡荡的。后来才意识到春假已经开始了,全美都来了个旅游小高峰。飞到Vegas之后取车直接开去Zion入住。这段时间旅行的一个好处是平时难定的旅馆比如Zion和大峡谷里面的旅馆都变得好定起来。

在Zion的第二天一早去走著名的Angel’s Landing。这条路线如此有名还是有它的原因的:位置方便,一路景色多样,除了最后一段铁链的部分之外也不算难,铁链的部分很上相,看起来也是有些凶险,但即使不走也基本该看的都能看到了。我们去的前一天Zion刚下过雪,所以一路能看到不少点缀的雪景,还是满赏心悦目。

到了铁链前的Scout Lookout,发现好多人在这儿犹豫要不要走铁链那一段。铁链前面一个告示牌说这个地方近年来已经死了十个人,那个数字10是用涂改液写上去的。。。事实上我们去的前一周刚有一个人摔下去来着。xw一开始不打算上,然而在进行了一阵心理建设之后决定还是试一试。走起来便发现前一天的雪使得一些地方有点湿滑,手抓着铁链也是冰冷刺骨。加上人数众多,有人害怕爬得慢就会塞住所有人。我们就看见一个女生一边哭一边往下撤。于是我们也就走了一小段就回来了。

下午去走了一下北边的Riverwalk,看到很多穿着溯溪服从The Narrows出来的人。作为一个乐山不乐水的人我总觉得趟水hiking是个很奇怪的事情,但看起来这个trail已经很成熟了,租装备也并不麻烦。下次去Zion可以一试。

从Zion出来之后开去Kanab住了一夜。第二天早上去抽了个The Wave的签,不出意料的还是没有抽到。83组人抽了4组。五六年前我来Kanab抽的那次好像只有五十几组人。Kanab这个镇其实还是不错的,住宿便宜,吃得也挺好,感觉整个镇的旅游业都是靠The Wave抽签支持着。

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小木

木木来家也有四个多月了,我们对他的称呼从开始的“子墨”,“墨墨”逐渐变成了平时“小木”,讨喜的时候叫“木宝”,干坏事的时候就是疾言厉色的“木木”。

我觉得小木还是挺天使挺乖的。主要表现在不叫不闹。四五个月大之前跟小哑巴似的,急了才咩咩叫两声,整天整天都很安静。晚上也是在床脚乖乖睡到天亮(虽然xw表示他会起来闹一闹只是我睡得很死不知道而已……

小木的技能满多。刚来我就发现他跟个小狗似的,会把一些小东西叼给到我面前放下要求玩抛接。

然后是小木刚来就喜欢站着,后来又解锁了招财猫一样的作揖技能。动不动就到处拜。墙上有个光斑,镜子里看见自己,窗外飞过架飞机,他没准都会拜上一拜。

小木虽然上个月变了公公,但还是野性尚存。在家偶尔对上眼的话,一定会不躲不闪跟你对。对个几秒之后还会“嗷”的突进一下,爆发力惊人。。即使我们都很熟他这一招了,还是每次都会被吓一下子。

前一阵天气暖和的时候,我们隔三差五还会带小木上阳台遛遛,或者去附近的一个公园。小木的表现还可以,虽然不会像狗那样到处跑,但也算是从容镇定。今年开春了再带他去遛吧。

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