Squirrels, Fireworks, Hiking, Redwoods

The squirrel (herein referred to as "Snatchy") who dozes in the tree outside our living room window, has recently taken to constructing a nest in said tree. Shovelling mouthfulls of soft young leaves into her gob and scooting across the branches before mushing them into a giant mound in one bough, Snatchy has built quite a large abode hidden from the street but in plain view of our apartment and only metres from where we practise violin. I expect she'll soon give birth to her litter? / pride? / gaggle? / batch of Snatchy Jr's and our amused throwing of much breadly goodness from living room to tree will be rewarded with a fresh infestation of hyperactive furry squirrels.
Of note, our other pets (Desructo V4) are now fully matured & back on the aphid warpath. All 4 ladybugs emerged from their 2nd/3rd crysalis' and went straight to munching the pest population of our windowbox garden. Good times!

The 4th of July is definitely one of the most significant celebrated annual holiday occasions throughout the USA and this weekend past Zoe & I took an extra day off work to head to the northern Californian border up near Oregon to partake of a smidge of hiking/backpacking/camping in Redwood National Park with Z's cousin Andrew who's been living & working here in the bay area for the past few years.
Although it admittedly exonerated a good portion of the guilt we deserve for splurging on technical camping equipment, the trip was a truly breathtaking & unique experience. After piling into the rental Lexus at midnight Friday we sidestepped the holiday traffic bottleneck driving through the night and arriving at 7am to the sight of old-growth redwood forrests with some of the bigger trees 25-30 metres circumference at their base and 100m+ high canopies, wow! Lush fern undergrowth in the misty depths of the forrest, deserted beaches and some of the most secluded & private camping hideaways to be found.
We hiked for about 45kms over 3 days with tents, sleeping bags, food, water, cooking supplies etc. strapped to our backs, and after the first day's mountainous marathon we camped on a deserted beach overlooking the pacific ocean.

After a hot dinner of gnocchi and calbrese sausage the three of us rapidly gave-in to our fatigue and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves just metres away. The following day we undertook a costal hike south, some yoga on the beach to stretch aching muscles & we found a beautiful space on a high ridge to set our tents, back from the shoreline amongst the redwoods surrounded by only the sound of birds, insects and a bubbling stream. Zoe's inner "pyro" was released when we happended across some damp firewood nearby and and after some stalled initial attempts (aided by pressurized flammable-gas and a converted MSR stove/"flamethrower") we managed to keep ourselves amused well into the night, staring at the flames and occasionally braving the possibility of a bear encounter, venturing into the dark to forage & returning with armloads of deceased national park to ignite.
A 7-hour drive home, though some quaint costal towns and we landed back in Berkeley where again we fell into a deep sleep after a nice hot shower. Andrew was up early Tuesday morning & somehow convinced Zoe to stretch her tired muscles with a vigorous run ... I was duly impressed & for my part offered to fetch coffee instead, which saw us through to lunchtime and a very welcome dim-sum at pacific east mall (thanks for the intro Andrew) where we'll undoubtedly return for more of the same in the near future.
Along with the usual BBQs & drinking, this 4th-of-July weekend holiday is when many Americans have the opportunity to light fireworks in celebration of their .... um ... Independence?
Living amongst a high density of the student population surrounding UC Berkeley, we were witness to many a dorm's occupants racing onto the rooftop of their respective buildings at sunset & competitively attempting to blow themselves up in the most spectacular & colourful manner possible. I think the roman candles & rockets continued to be launched well past 3am, each new "boom ... whine/squeal/whistle ........ bang!" followed invariably by a loud drunken cheer & perplexing repetitions of genuinely surprised exclamations (& accompanying expletives)... still, it was good fun to watch from our elevated living room window. I wonder if Snatchy got any sleep that night ......