Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lake Ediza

We wrapped up our around-the-world odyssey with a backpacking trip to the lake we named Ediza after -- Lake Ediza.

On Friday we got our backcountry permit in Mammoth Lakes and then spent the afternoon at a park on Mono Lake. It was there we met a group of tourists visiting from Paris. You should have seen the look on their faces when Ediza told them "au revoir" -- French for goodbye -- as they left. Further proof that it's a small world, at this remote park we met a family from Washington D.C. The son wore a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap and the mom went to the same college as me.

That night we were met by Amber's little brother, Bruce, her sister, Andrea, and Andrea's boyfriend, Russell. We camped at hot springs in the high-elevation desert near Mammoth. There, Ediza climbed on this boulder wearing her cool dude sunglasses from Queenstown, New Zealand.

The next morning we got packed up and drove to the trailhead. We took three llamas with us to help carry the gear (although I think I got the heaviest load of all -- Ediza). Once we hit the trail, we eventually climbed up these steps (though merely a fraction of those on the Great Wall of China).

Then we (llamas included) crossed rivers.

Finally, we made it to Ediza's picturesque lake high in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest.

On Sunday we had a picnic along the lake's shore and we all took a dip in the freezing yet refreshing snowmelt water.

This was Ediza's second visit to her lake. Amber and I took her last summer when she was just eight months old. She sure has grown a lot since then.

On the hike we took our llama Golden (above with Ediza), his father, Puytu, and the unstoppable Tenario.

Three years ago Puytu and Tenario hiked with Amber and I on the John Muir Trail, which spans more than 200 miles from Yosemite National Park down to Mount Whitney.

Yesterday, on our last morning, Amber cooked up some pancakes with Lake Ediza in the background.

Of all the beautiful places we've visited on our epic adventure, Lake Ediza is right there at the top of the list.

The clear blue skies (other than the occasional smoke from nearby wildfires) provided the perfect backdrop for the rugged Minarets. The only thing that would interrupt the flawless sky was an airplane flying by here and there. I wondered what they were doing up there, where they were going.

Once we hiked out of the backcountry, Russell learned that his family was evacuated and his home almost burned down due to a wildfire raging between Mariposa and Yosemite.

As they rushed home, we drove up over mountainous Sonora Pass, known for its steep and narrow roadway. As I drove, Amber was vomiting her dinner in the back and Ediza screamed from her car seat. Way to go out with a bang!

Here's a self-timed group shot of us on our last night at Lake Ediza. I'm holding a bag of dehydrated smores. Yum.

By the way, some people have asked about the continuation of the blog, and we've decided we'll still post from time to time as we find it's the best way of staying in touch with everybody:)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Circle Home

We've made it back home to Llamas of Circle Home (www.experiencellamas.com) in Sonora. The ranch, owned by George and Christine, is home to about 70 llamas (not to mention a dog, cats, parrots and a tortoise). It's also a group home for four developmentally disabled gals -- Shannon, Heather, Susan and Kim (who made us homemade "welcome back" cards).

We've been settling in, unpacking and going through five months worth of mail (including three big boxes we shipped home). Last night Amber played on her new softball team, The Fighting Cavities (they're sponsored by a local dentist). They won 15-5.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Trampoline nights

Monday night we went to a country carnival in Maryland, where Ediza rode the carousel (although much different from the ones in Paris). Tuesday we flew to Oakland via Kansas City (our 10th and 11th flights of the trip). Wednesday we went to an evening farmers market in Mariposa and then slept on the trampoline under the full moon.

We have been visiting with Amber's family in Mariposa, the small town she grew up in near Yosemite National Park. Amber's sister, Andrea, and her mother, Pat, have been enjoying their time with Ediza. Here's her dad, Valen (he was born on Valentine's Day), with a rattlesnake he caught at their house this summer (he grew that beard during our trip).

Yesterday I took Amber's little brother, Bruce, to hike Yosemite's famed Half Dome. The hike is 16.4 miles roundtrip, but we ended up walking about 18 miles to and from my car. I find Half Dome the most satisfying of all day hikes.

The first half of the hike you pass by Vernal (below) and Nevada falls before making your way to the cables that take you up the steep granite dome.

On the trail I talked with all kinds of people: an Italian couple who live near where we stayed in Milan, a man who sends money he earns from cutting hair to poor people in Indonesia and two guys who we gave water to after they ran out.

I've hiked Half Dome more than a dozen times, including once when I wrote an article about the crew who installs the cables. And yes, Ediza's been to the top, too. Amber and I hiked the trail last September and I carried Ediza on my back.

Here's Bruce at the top of the 8,842-foot summit. Once we returned to Mariposa we ate pizza and Amber, Ediza and I spent the night on the trampoline again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

'Bringing sexy back'

We have been staying busy window shopping in historic Ellicott City, dining at Fells Point in downtown Baltimore and attending the wedding of my second cousin. I had to pass on the Electric Slide and Macarena, but we did dance as a family to a variety of songs both old and new.

Originally, we were going to rent a hybrid car and drive cross country back to California. But a dwindling budget, outrageous one-way rental car prices and soaring gas costs made us think twice.

We received several offers from an online posting I made on a rideshare Web site. Those offers ranged from driving someone's moving van out to Denver for them to catching a ride with someone else to Montana.

In the end, we decided it was best to fly back so that's what we're doing. We arrive in Oakland tomorrow night and will spend some time in the Mariposa and Sonora area before going on our journey's grand finale -- a backpack trip to Ediza's namesake, Lake Ediza.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ediza! (Part 5)

This is some of what Ediza has been up to this past week on the East Coast.

Meeting "Mother Goose" after watching a play at the local arts center.

Walking back after playing with a turtle on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Holding hands with her cousin, Monica, on an Amish buggy ride in Pennsylvania.

Wearing a batting helmet during a visit to a nearby baseball field.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We love 'Intercourse'

Yesterday we explored some Amish communities in Pennsylvania. As we drove into the town of Paradise we came across this jogging Santa (yes, in July) who gave my mom a high five out of her van window.

We met my other brother, Tim, his wife, Mary, and their two kids, Monica and Matthias (Mary's due at the end of the month with their third child). They live on a 30-acre homestead in northeastern Pennsylvania.

All of us went to an Amish farm for a horse-drawn wagon ride between the towns of Bird-In-Hand (yes, that's the name of the town) and Intercourse (yes, that's the name of the town).

After eating homemade ice cream there we went home and drank homemade blackberry sangria. In the backyard, my dad set off fireworks that we watched under the stars and fireflies.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence Day (fireworks & floods)

Our trip started five months ago with us overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This past weekend, having come almost full circle, we swam in the chilly Atlantic Ocean on Maryland's Eastern Shore. We went with my parents and my dad's uncle to a house near Ocean City that I grew up visiting.

On the 4th of July we visited a crowded beach and within minutes saw dolphins swimming near the shore. Later that night we sat in traffic and watched fireworks from inside our van. It's a good thing the fireworks display was moved up an hour early because moments later a major tropical storm with dramatic lightning and booming thunder rolled in. Sitting in traffic for two hours, we watched the rain rise above the street curbs -- at times creating mini waves in the streets.

The next morning we went to the boardwalk, where you can find such specialty items as deep-fried Oreo cookies, airbrushed T-shirts and painted hermit crabs.

Adding to her collection of gifts, Ediza was given a giant stuffed purple monkey that some guy won at a boardwalk arcade. Afterwards, we drove to the Assateague Island National Seashore, where 136 wild ponies roam the island.

Here's a pony we stopped to see along the road.

It was there we were greeted by the Pony Patrol.

Unlike in New Zealand, Ediza couldn't ride these ponies:(

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


After 4 1/2 months overseas, we have arrived back in America! We flew from London to the Washington D.C. area, where we were picked up from the airport by my parents.

I grew up in the Baltimore suburbs. My parents have since moved to a more rural area of Maryland near the Pennsylvania border. It seems like their street has more tractors than cars driving on it.

We've been staying busy swimming in their pool, lounging in the backyard hammock, exchanging presents, visiting relatives, playing with Noodle the Labradoodle (she's a mix between a poodle and a labrador retriever) and shopping at some of our favorite stores, like REI and Trader Joe's.

Last night, we enjoyed America's favorite pastime -- more specifically, a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. We went to Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore with my parents, Richard and Debbie, and my youngest brother, Matt, who plays minor league baseball in Texas.

Ediza Rose received a special certificate because it was her first official baseball game. She must have been a good luck charm as the Orioles won 7-5.