Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Category: Hiking Page 3 of 4

Team Redwood 

Our next destination on our RV adventure was Redwood National and State Parks along the Northern California Coast. Redwood National and State Parks encompass a string of protected forests, beaches and grasslands.

We spent the night of Sunday 7/16 along the coast in the middle of big trees. 

Monday morning, we were up early and went to Pebble Beach to investigate tide pools. I wish you could hear the seals on the big island barking and the crashing of the waves. 

After lunch, we took a six mile hike through the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The trail took us through dense old-growth woods. There were big trees everywhere! We all took turns being trees in the trees! 

I took a picture of this branch that fell. It’s called a widow maker. Because if you’re under it when it falls, it will kill you. Notice how it stuck in the ground. And how new growth is already sprouting. The branches hold so much water and nutrients, they act as a nurse log for the new growth. 

Can you see me? 

I also saw my first banana slug. 

Dinner that night was a well earned crab feast! 

Our six mile hike was just a warm up for our 11+ mile hike on Tuesday. (Depending on whose device you checked we walked somewhere between 11 and 16 miles – but who’s counting miles when they are filled with beautiful big trees?) We took a hike to Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Fern Canyon is aptly named because of its high, plant-covered walls. 

I attempted to capture the magnificent Redwoods throughout the hike. 

Both of these hikes were beyond my definition of hiking through the woods. The strength of the beautiful big trees was inspiring. I’ve seen Giant Sequoias and now I’ve seen the world’s tallest trees. Both are worthy of appreciation. However, if I must choose between the two, I stand tall with Team Redwood. 

Day Three – Yosemite Falls

Friday, was our last full day in Yosemite. Audry and I discussed possible hiking options. We both decided we wanted to avoid Vernal Falls, Mist Trail, and John Muir Trail all three were part of our hike to Half Dome. Instead, we took the Valley Shuttle to Lower Yosemite Falls. A few pictures of our approach to the falls. The first picture is Upper Yosemite Falls. 

Lower Yosemite Falls was magnificent. The extra snow and late season storms in Northern California really enabled the Falls to be a beautiful spectacle this time of year. So much energy! And wind! It’s our “Flock of Seagulls” look. 

After visiting Lower Yosemite Falls, we eventually found the trail for Upper Yosemite Falls. It was only 3.2 miles to the top. The guidebook said it would take 3-6 hours. Let’s go! 

The trail was a steep vertical ascent with countless switch backs. The views of the Valley floor as we climbed were breathtaking. Half Dome will always be one of my favorites. 

Up and up and up we continued to climb. 

After about two hours, we reached the halfway point. Here we had a stunning view of Upper Yosemite Falls.

And in the other direction, Half Dome. 

As we rested, we contemplated which direction we should go. Further up the mountain, about two more hours to the top of the Falls, or back down. We made a wise choice to head back down. By the time we were back in the Valley, We were both famished. We stopped at the Yosemite Village Grill for a cheeseburger. I quickly gobbled mine down with a Lagunitas IPA.  

We hopped the shuttle back to our tent. I attempted to convince Audry we should go see Mirror Lake. It’s flat and only three miles round trip. Nothing I said convinced her. Smart girl. It was 6:50pm. I said if I’m not back by 8:00pm, look for me. Off I went. Expediently. I only paused for a few pictures. 

Mirror Lake was pretty and serene. I’m glad I went and glad I didn’t force Audry to go. Because it was a bit anticlimactic after the earlier views and without perfect light and weather conditions. 

I returned a faster route and arrived back at our tent at 7:59pm. Audry was making preparations to come find me! What an amazing friend! Our time together was truly an adventure. Thank you for filling my happiness bucket. Xoxo 

Easy Day 

After our long and strenuous Half Dome hike (19 miles), Audry and I thought we deserved a break on our second day in Yosemite. We decided to hike along the Valley Loop Trail from Half Dome Village to Bridalveil Falls. The guide book described the hike as being an easy flat hike. This sounded delightful and manageable after the strenuous Half Dome hike. We set out with the intention of hiking four miles round trip from our tent to Bridalveil Falls. After we had been walking a while, we passed a sign saying Bridalveil Falls was 3.4 miles. Hmmmmm. That seemed longer than we expected. No worries, we can just take the free Valley Shuttle from Bridalveil Falls back to Half Dome Village. 

We continued walking and enjoyed the views the trail gave us of El Capitan. 

We could also see Upper Yosemite Falls. 

And view Bridalveil Falls as we approached. 

It was beautiful! Mesmerizing! And crowded! Strategic camera angles enabled me to crop out most of the people. 

After our visit at Bridalveil Falls, we were ready for an adult beverage. We started looking around for the shuttle stop. But couldn’t find one. We saw a sign when we passed the split for El Capitan for the shuttle and so we walked back. And had a few more chances for amazing views. 

Eventually, we found the shuttle stop and made it a little closer back to Half Dome Village before getting caught in traffic and deciding it would be faster to walk. By the end of the day, our simple four mile loop turned into 11.5 miles! Ha! Easy Day! 

We earned and enjoyed a pint. Check out what we liked to call our “Yosemite tan” – or just dirt. 

Lottery Weiners 

The popularity of hiking Half Dome in Yosemite has steadily increased over the years. To preserve the integrity of the cables, the National Park Service limited the number of daily hikers to only 300. To obtain one of the permits, the NPS instituted a lottery. The preseason lottery opens during the month of March and results are announced in April. A second lottery is held each day during the hiking season. The hiking season lottery is held 48 hours in advance of the day you desire to hike and results are announced 24 hours prior to your desired hiking day. 

Audry and I both entered the preseason lottery and neither obtained a permit. We were disappointed and knew we would try the daily lottery but, didn’t put to much hope into obtaining a permit. 

We entered the lottery on Monday, July 3rd in hopes of securing permits for Wednesday, July 5th. Audry was the winner! She was able to secure two permits for us! 

On July 4th, I left Tokyo at 8:00 pm and arrived in San Francisco at 1:30pm. Audry picked me up at the airport and we drove to Yosemite. We stayed in Half Dome Village in a permanent tent. It was getting late by the time we were settled and we tried to make it an early night because we wanted to be hiking by 5:00 am. 

And we were. We started out to Half Dome at 5:00 am and returned to our cabin just before 7:00 pm. It was a fourteen hour hike.  We checked at least 5 times along the way we had our permits for the Half Dome cables. Every time, yes! And we laughed. 

We got drenched within the first hour along the Mist Trail and Vernal Falls. 

We oohed as we hiked past Nevada Falls. 

We aahed as we hiked through the Redwoods and Sugar Pines. 

When we finally had Half Dome in our sights, we cheered. And kept climbing. 

When we reached the cables, we rested before we climbed. Guess what we didn’t have to do – show our permits to climb the cables! Yep, no one was there to check!! What??!?! All of the other hikers were just as surprised as we were. Guess the day after a holiday isn’t a very busy day! 

We conquered. 

We enjoyed the view! 

And then we hiked back down… 

And down… if only we could have rafted down the Merced River!! 

Finally, we reached the paved road. So close!

And by the time we got home, Half Dome was sleeping. 

We owned Half Dome that day. We were tested and we were victorious! 


On Saturday, Dina, her daughters, and I went on an ITT tour to Kamikochi. Kamikochi is a hiking area in the Japanese Alps. It is located in the Nagano prefecture and about a five hour bus ride from where we live. 

Out guide gave us a map of the route we should follow during our hike. The hike was advertised as being a 6-7 mile flat and easy hike. We were also told to be watchful for monkeys, deer, and bears. We only saw monkeys. 

The bus dropped us off around 9:30am. It was a clear and sunny morning. We all decided to leave our sweatshirts on the bus. 

Our first point of interest was Taisho Pond. The views were stunning in the bright sunshine and the water was so clear. 

Our next point of interest was Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano. 

We continued along the nature trail and had our first monkey sighting. We were warned not to look them in the eye! 

We continued along the trail and crossed a couple bridges and went past a shrine. 

It wasn’t too much further when we saw our first bear sighting sign report. We appreciated the sign also being in English. Fortunately, the sighting was almost a month ago. 

More beautiful views. 

And soon we made it to the Kappa Bridge. We stopped briefly for a little souvenir shopping and for a quick lunch. I took this picture when we first arrived. 

By the time we were leaving, the clouds had rolled in and it was starting to sprinkle. We had no rain gear or jackets. Fortunately, we were able to purchase new fleece for everyone! Here is the view from the Kappa Bridge. 

And oh, was it ever windy! Here we all are decked out in our new fleece. 

Being the super troopers that we are, we set out for the remainder of the hike. It was approximately 4 miles. In the light rain at first and then very heavy rain. 

At one point we all started to have Mt. Fuji climbing flashbacks. Even though we didn’t climb Mt. Fuji on the same day, we had very similar experiences. Rain. 

I took a quick recording of the rain sheets coming down. 

We were completely unprepared for foul weather during this hike. Dina mentioned the irony of us not being prepared for rainy season especially after I discussed in yesterday’s blog! Live and learn and pack a rain coat. The turn around point was across the Myojin Bridge. 

We made one more quick stop for energy aka Sake.  

After this last stop, we quickly scampered back to the Kappa Bridge area where we would find the bus. 

We had one more chance to see a monkey. 

And another bear sighting report. When we realized how recent this sighting was and that we should be especially cautious in rain, we really started to scurry! 

But first, one more selfie… 

And me with my new Wabi-Sabi Sole SnapBack and fleece. 

The day started out beautifully and turned into one of those days we will always remember. There was Eme almost falling in a puddle, no one having gear, and Dina getting snarled at by a monkey. Or maybe it was running back to warm up, playing tag, and silly science puns to keep us all laughing. Regardless, we made the entire hike (4 of the 6 people on the tour who did) and laughed more than we complained along the way! 

Jogashima Park

Jogashima Park is located at the Southern tip of the Miura Peninsula. I am the blue dot in Zushi and Jogashima Park is the red marker at the bottom. 

It has been on my list of places to visit for a couple months. We had another glorious spring day that demanded an outdoor exploration. I was able to convince Sonia to go with me and she convinced me we should take the train and bus vice driving. This would be my first Japanese bus experience! 

We met in Yokosuka and headed south on the train and then further south on the bus. Here was a shot from the bus ride. To ride the bus, you can use the same pass that is used to ride the train. You just have to remember to swipe it when you board. We missed that the first time and the driver adjusted our fairs when we exited the bus. 

I forgot to screen shot the trip down, here is the shot from the trip home. 

The grey stops are the bus stops. The bus wasn’t very intimidating after all. Pretty simple. Google Maps once again helped me navigate there and back without issues! 

Jogashima Park was beautiful! The views of the water and horizon were impressive. 

The trails were a combination of pavement, stairs, and dirt. Overall, it was very easy to navigate the park with the many cute signs directing the way. 

Besides the Japanese Seahawks, we also saw the country’s largest earthworm! 

In several places along our hike, the water was so clear! 

Simultaneously, the rock formations made me turn into a little bit of a Science geek on Sonia. She laughed and was a good sport about my teachings. These guys paid me little attention… 

Maybe my favorite picture of the day. 

We continued on our hike to the lighthouse and enjoyed more amazing views and lunch along the way. 

For lunch, we ate ramen and black vanilla ice cream. Whitebait (whitefish) was also a flavor. Gross. Almost as gross as corn ice cream. The black vanilla ice cream was very good. It tasted like vanilla! 

After lunch, we walked around a little more and found more beautiful rocks and a shrine. Also, on a clear day, we would have been able to see Mt. Fuji across the water. 

Finally, one last set of stairs took us up to the lighthouse. 

We shopped at a couple cute local stores as we headed to the bus stop. We wondered if it would be difficult to find the bus…. nope. Not too difficult in the least! 

I am super proud of myself. I can now add “capable of taking the bus” to my Japanese transportation resume thanks to Sonia’s encouragement! 

Mt. Nokogiri

Dave and I took an ITT trip with Sonia and her husband, John, to Mt. Nokogiri on Sunday. Mt. Nokogiri is located on the Chiba Peninsula. The Chiba Peninsula is on the other side of the Tokyo Bay from where we are on the Miura Peninsula. The bus ride on the way there took us through the Aqualine. 

The Aqualine is a tunnel that goes beneath the Tokyo Bay. I timed our transit. It took us a little over eight minutes with no traffic. Once we were through the tunnel, we stopped at the rest stop to purchase snacks for our hike. The views were incredible. 

It reminded us of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. But, in Japan, not quite as long, and with a better rest stop! 

Dave & Julia Sashimi

Taking the helm

Tokyo skyline – Tokyo Skytree is on the right. 

Here was a cool illustration of the Aqualine. 

Once we arrived at Mt. Nokogiri, we took a cable car to the top of the mountain. The views were spectacular throughout the day. We all agreed, this tour is worth doing again in the fall when the leaves are changing. 

One of the scenic lookouts was beautiful. Sonia and I waited in line for 35 minutes for these pictures! First, the line… 

And then the views! 

We walked up and down so many stairs on the mountain. Along the way, we observed 1,500 stone figures of different Arhats (Buddhist Saints). I captured a lot of them and only will share a few pictures of them! Many of the statues are in poor condition as a result of an anti-Buddhist movement during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). The statues have been under repair during recent years. 

His green head looks a bit alien-like!

Watch your head… the statues are missing theirs!

The highlight of Mt. Nokogiri is the stone Buddha (Daibutsu). The stone Buddha is the largest in Japan. It measures 28 meters high. It was built by Jingorō Eirei Ōno and his 27 apprentices. They completed the structure in 1783. It was recently restored between 1966-1969. The Daibutsu was constructed to symbolize world peace and tranquility. It was ahh-mazing. 

Dave, me, and Buddha! 

And a selfie, of course – the filters were a bonus. 

The shrines around the temple included thousands of small Buddhas. 

Just a few pictures of the flowers on the mountain before we head home.  

To return home, we took a ferry across the Tokyo Bay to Kurihama. This is the alternative route to get across Tokyo Bay. 

The ferry ride was the perfect end to a great day. Enjoying time underway with friends and adult beverages. Kanpie! 

One More Sakura Adventure 

Tuesday it rained and rained. It was pretty ridiculous. If this isn’t the “rainy season” I’m not sure I’m gonna make it without owning a canoe! Haha

The clouds finally parted and Wednesday started off beautifully. Dina and I had plans to hike to Mt. Miurafuji and to visit the cemetery pagoda in hopes of catching a few remaining Sakura.

We set out on the hike I did last month to Mt. MiuraFuji and made the steep climb. Unfortunately, today was not a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji. The blue skies want to promise you otherwise. None the less, the views along the hike were stunning. If we were going to see Mt. Fuji, it would be in the first picture.

At the top, we made the decision to head towards the Nobi train station. There was a trail and a sign pointing the way and I thought this might connect us to the pagoda faster. Simultaneously, we knew we wouldn’t see Mt. Fuji anywhere else on the hike. So, the pagoda became our next goal.

Off we set, back down the mountain.

Soon we came to a fork in the path and a sign. Google Maps helped to point us in the correct direction. We veered right at the fork.

Down we went.

It doesn’t look very steep from the top. How about from the bottom!

We continued hiking down and found a beautiful little over look. The dark spots in the photo are Sakura petals falling. It was so serene.

We were eventually dumped out into urbanization. We followed Google Maps to the cemetery. On our journey, we passed through a quaint little park and beautiful cemetery. Both with Sakura trees in bloom.

My beautiful friend! How is she not a sweaty mess?

Me… Sweat-a-Saurus Rex! Honestly, who cares about me! Look at those Sakura Blossoms!

Ok, enough with the suspense already, we made it to the cemetery. First stop, Buddha.

This view!

A few more steps and the pagoda was in sight!

The Sakura trees in bloom with the pagoda were well worth the hike. Dina and I picked up onigiri for lunch and had our own Hanami under the Sakura trees. It was perfect. Except we forgot the Sake!!

I think the first picture is my favorite. Or maybe the second…

By the time we stopped for Hanami, I was pretty hungry. I snapped these pictures after we both finished our onigiri. Oops! It was a beautiful setting!

As we returned home on the train, clouds started to roll in and so did a few sprinkles. By the time I was walking up the hill towards home, it was full on raining. I had no umbrella, just more beautiful Sakura and a chu-hi!



I thought I would keep it simple for a Friday. Dina and I hiked Mt. Takatori this morning hoping to see Sakura. We were a little too early. We only saw a few.

In a week or so, the main tree lined street will be amazing. We walked to the Buddha and then back home.

I was expecting Sakura. What I wasn’t expecting was the range of emotions when I saw the Buddha. Seeing her, I experienced a variety of unexpected emotions. The last time I saw this Buddha was on a hike in early October. Almost six months ago. Standing there, I realized how many experiences I have had and how much confidence I have gained over the past few months. I felt very proud, fortunate, and humbled.

Do you see the tiny yellow daffodil specks at the base of the Buddha? These little guys are barely visable to the left of the offering. An up close picture that removes all perspective. 

Yet again, I feel a direct connection and representation to my favorite flower. The daffodils are so small and Buddha is so large. They are a tiny blot on the rock of Buddha. I am only a tiny speck on Earth. My presence is small and the universe is greater. 

I could go on and on… But, enough. I promised a simple Friday. Kanpie!

Mt. Takao

The ITT trip we took on Sunday dropped us off at the base on Mt. Takao around 8:30am. We had about 3.5 hours to walk around and explore the mountain before we needed to find our spots for the fire-walking ceremony. We posed for a couple pictures with the map of the trails on the mountain.

We were given tickets to ride the chair lift up and down the mountain. The ride on the chair lift took about 12 minutes. Once we arrived at the top of the chair lift, we had about a 45 minute walk to the summit. In true Japanese fashion, there were directions for how to enter and exit the chair lift.

The ride up the mountain on the chair lift was breathtaking. Literally and not because of the views. I didn’t realize how steep the chair lift would be and how far off the ground we would be at times. Please keep in mind also, there were no seat belts.

The chair lift took us up the steep mountain!

Don’t look down!

I did have to breathe a little deeper and remind myself not to look down!! Once we were on solid ground, I was much happier!

The walk to the summit included a couple of highlights. The first was the monkey park. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open and we didn’t have time to stop. Maybe next time! Fortunately, we brought our own monkey! The picture of Dina’s youngest daughter photo bombing is one of my favorites. Talk about monkey business.

Next we passed the octopus tree. The “octopus cedar” is a 450-year-old tree given its name because of its unique root structure.

Continuing along the trail, we walked passed many lanterns and large wooden slats leading to the Yakuo-in Temple. We couldn’t figure out what the meaning of the wooden slats. We were really confused when we saw “Gloria.” Our best guess was, these were names of people who made donations to the temple.

The temple is dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine and healing. The temple was very large with a lot of stairs between the two levels.

Dave and I walked around the corner right at the time the head priest was leaving the temple. Here they are starting their ceremonial walk to the fire-walking! Look how close we were!!
We continued our walk up more stairs…

Until finally reaching the summit. Although it was a very hazy day, we had a small glimpse of the top of Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is the small white spot in the middle of the picture.

Summit proof!

Going down the mountain was a lot faster with only a couple stops for silly pictures.

Even the chair lift seemed to go faster on the way down. Surprisingly, the chair lift wasn’t nearly as scary going down. Perhaps, because we knew what to expect.

The view was lovely. Dave and I discussed making a trip back to Mt. Takao in the fall when the leaves are turning. Now that we know we can easily arrive in two hours by train, we have a new place to see beautiful leaves and Mt. Fuji!

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