Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic is the least visited National Park in the contiguous 48 states. This means very few people on the trails. Despite this lack of popularity, this Park has spectacular views of volcanic mountains, amazing rock formations, otherworldly sulphur springs, lush meadows with streams and wildflowers, fields of wild lupines (in full bloom in late August), pristine lakes and many hiking trails. We spent two days in the Park. On the second day we hiked from Summit to Echo Lake and Twin Lakes, where we went for a swim. Then around 4pm, we drove straight to Sacramento to get ready for an early flight back to New York the next day.

MacDoel, California

We arrived at the Double R Ranch (for "Richard and Rosa" I assume, although I forgot to check with them) in the evening of August 23rd. On the way to MacDoel, we took in impressive views of majestic Mount Shasta. We received a warm welcome from everyone including Richard and Rosa's three dogs: Rippy, Rena and Roxy (hmm... shouldn't this be the 5R Ranch then?). We spent two full days at the ranch, during which Rosa cooked for us a succession of delicious vietnamese specialties, among which: summer rolls with seafood (squid, shrimp, salmon, lettuce leaves, mint, tomatoes, cucumber, and rice noodles, wrapped in rice paper), lemongrass chicken, fried rice, cuttlefish...

On the morning of the first full day at the Ranch, Richard took us for a swim at Juanita Lake. He told us how he and Rosa fell in love with this part of Northern California while stopping for a fishing break at this lake during a trip to Washington State years ago. During our stay, we rode quads(or ATV's) for both fun (riding in the dirt roads around the ranch, visiting a Native American sweatlodge - a natural volcanic rock formation shaped like an igloo) and some,work (cutting and dragging juniper branches for the sheep and goats to eat). We helped feed the animals. Vlada learned to use a chainsaw to cut juniper, though Richard said he still has a way to go. We chopped up wood and neatly filled the wood shed at left (kidding!). One afternoon I laid out a brick path in front of the house. On the third day, before heading out to Lassen Volcanic National Park, we walked around the property. We truly had a fantastic time in MacDoel.

Kings Canyon National Park

These pictures were taken in Kings Canyon National Park on August 19, 2010. We first drove to a place called "Roads End Permit Station," appropriately located at the end of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. We then went on a spectacular 9.4 miles long hiking trail, surrounded by canyon walls, huge boulders, big trees, Manzanita bushes and the beautiful Kings River. A couple of backcountry hikers told us they had just seen a female bear with her cub. We ran into another group of hikers who had spotted two rattle snakes on a sunny patch of the trail surrounded by boulders. One of them lifted the snakes with a pole and threw them away from the path (not a recommended operation as we later learned). We ended the hike with a swim at Muir Rock. The last two pictures were taken on the car trip back to our camp, along the Kings Canyon Road.

Sequoia National Park

The pictures on this post were taken at Sequoia National Park in August. The big trees are giant sequoias which can live up to more than three thousand years and are resistant to fire and disease. There are several groves of these giant trees in the park with a large concentration of them at "Giant Forest." The world's largest tree (in terms of volume) is the General Sherman Tree.

The picture with Vlada and I shows Moro Rock in the background (also on the picture at right). It was taken at a place called "Bobcat point." The rustic cabin where we stayed, at Grant Grove Village, is shown on the left.

Orchard Camp Trail

Our summer trip did not start auspiciously. The day after we arrived in Monrovia, we got up early to go hiking with Marina to Orchard Camp in Angeles National Forest. We started the hike when the sun had barely risen. Despite the fact that it was early and because it was a Sunday, we ran into several people on the trail, including a nice elderly man walking up the steep trail with a cane. I asked him about some of the wild aromatic plants which grow all over these hills and which I did not know by name. Then Marina got ahead of Vlada and I at her customary fast pace. After a while we heard screams which we took at first to be those of a bird. It turned out that it was Marina running back down the trail calling for help. Shortly before arriving to Orchard Camp, she had been attacked by a swarm of extremely aggressive bees which likely were Africanized honey bees also called "killer bees". When Marina got near us, bees had bitten her on her scalp, torso and arms.

As Vlada and I helped her get rid of both the bees embedded in her hair
and their stingers, Vlada got bitten on his ankle. We turned back, warning people along the way of the danger ahead. One couple headed to Mount Wilson also turned back but most people chose to go ahead. During the walk back, Vlada's forearms started to turn red, as well as his neck. More concerning to him was the fact that his chin started to feel numb. We suspected that during the chaotic episode when we were removing the bees from Marina, he might have stepped in a bush of poison oak. In any case he was developing an allergic reaction to either poison oak or the bee sting. We sped up down the trail, all the while debating between bee stings and poison oak, called Katarina for medical advice, got to Marina's car and drove to Grandma's house.

The following afternoon, after returning home from a visit to the LA County Arboretum (see picture of pomegranate tree at left taken there), Vlada's ankle was swollen. It was still very swollen the next day. This did not bid well for a trip where we were planning to do a lot of hiking in the National Parks. Fortunately, after taking a medication, the swelling subsided. After three days in Monrovia, we were good to go.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vlada's family - Vladina porodica

Last March, Vlada and I borrowed some family pictures from his grandma Milica who lives in Monrovia, CA. I had planned to scan them but only got around to taking pictures of them with my digital camera before we return them to Milica this summer.

Here are few of them. The people in these pictures are Milica (standing on chair in Belgrade around 1920), grandma's own grandma (also called Milica) who lived to be one hundred and three, Marjana (Vlada's mom and daughter of Milica) with her brother Buda in the mid 1940s, Buda with his cousin Bata and mother Milica in Rakovica (outskirts of Belgrade) in the mid 1950s, Vlada and his mom in 1964, Vlada and Katarina in June 1966 and Vlada siting on a chair pretending to smoke in 1968.