Grand Canyon:Arizona, Yosemite:California

Since last writing, it's been another wonderful month for Zom in the USA. We've had the chance to experience yet more beautiful landscapes & natural wonders of this diverse country, adding to our ever-growing list of incredible memories.
Enthused by the back-country hiking experiences of July, Zoe joined some new friends together with her cousin Andrew on a short jaunt to the Grand Canyon in the state of Arizona. Flying into Las Vegas and driving to the canyon, the group spent 22 hours on the trail hiking through sunset & sunrise from one rim, down to the bottom of the canyon & back up the other side before driving back to Vegas & flying home the following morning. One of their hiking party was injured early in the descent which lead to the extended duration on-site, but in the end everyone made it through the 4500ft descent & slow, challenging ascent. Z is enthused about returning to the canyon with a few more days to spend in the valley, so perhaps a camping trip is in order before the weather turns. It would be fun to spend a couple of days in Vegas too ... just to soak up the surrealism of that crazy desert city.

Sweet nectar of the gods! I found a retailer who sells Coopers fine ales, brewed in South Australia. Sparkling, Vintage & most importantly, the stuff I grew up on at university: Coopers Pale Ale. Ahh it's good to be back, & now that I know where to procure this wonderful stuff the memories of home won't hurt so much (& it's funny to see the export bottle, replete with hopping green kangaroos) Happy Some of Sydney's finest drops have also ventured across the Pacific, and the same retailer was able to sneak me a 6-pack of James Squire's Original Amber Ale after noting my fondness of brews from down-under. Unfortunately, fosters also makes a regular showing at most supermarkets here in California .. but at least we can be thankful the dreaded "XXXX" hasn't left Aussie shores and gained momentum abroad. Beer diversity is one of the little comforts we've become accustomed to in North America ... there are literally hundreds of different beers to choose from at every corner supermarket, including some of our favourite European brands. On the wine-front, Zoe's recently discovered a totally satisfying organic gruner veltliner from Austria which is bottled in 1-litre "mini-magnums" ... a great way to spend the sunny Berkeley afternoons with some cheese & a good book.

Just to close the loop so you can see the complete circle of life, here's a shot of Destructo V4.beta (upper-left) ... shortly after emerging from the 2nd chrysalis (lower-right). We've scaled our windowsill garden back a little but still have plenty of oregano, rosemary and chein-hong to fill our ad-hoc herb needs.

I spent my birthday in Yosemite National Park, camping with friends and hiking amongst some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes I've ever set eyes upon. Uber nano-physicist PhD Weidong organised a thoroughly relaxing & simultaneously tiring weekend of hiking to high mountain lakes, beautiful waterfalls & massive peaks & lookouts throughout the park he's visited over 30 times. About 4 hours drive from Berkeley, we hooked up with 3 additional friends for breakfast & spent the labor (sic) day long weekend in the relative comfort of car-camping, with tents & sleeping bags, gourmet campfire cooking and hours upon hours of starry night deep conversation. Halfway into our first 12 mile hike we rewarded ourselves with a completely invigorating swim in the frigid crystal-clear waters, high in the mountain streams feeding the massive waterfalls. The descending 8 miles were consequently much easier than the 3000ft elevation we'd accumulated in the morning and we returned to the camp sore & exhausted around 11pm, after hiking past a very large bear as the light receded.
Further down the trail we collected about 10 stranded hikers who were unable to descend the pitch black, steep rocky incline as they'd started their day without torches or headlamps. We even "rescued" a couple of ex-military guys who, huddled in the darkness had armed themselves with rocks a pocket-knife in anticipation of fending off the bear they'd passed just minutes earlier ... they'd even choreographed the methods by which one chap would provide distraction & hurl rocks while the other jumped on the bear's back to stab it in the neck with the tiny 2 inch blade. Ahhh bless'em ...
The trip home also afforded the opportunity for a language exchange to pass the time. Weidong taught us many variations of ways to swear in Mandarin and Marina expounded the various convoluted lyrics of spanish love songs.

We're looking forward to even more camping & hiking escapades, especially given the relative ease with which we can make the journey to Yosemite by car. We're also well practiced at rapidly throwing together the survival essentials; tent, sleeping bag, thermarest, head-torch, clothes, etc.. all in a compact form-factor. PY will be staying with us for a couple of weeks shortly and I'm sure we can convince him to join us for some marshmallow toasting & landscape ogling if the weather hasn't turned by the end of September.

More pictures of our Yosemite experience can be found here.