Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hiking the Summit Trail at Mt. Diablo

View from the trail

It had been more than a decade since I had visited Mt. Diablo so I was super excited when we decided to do a hike on Mt. Diablo. Our decision was to plan the hike sooner than later while the weather is still a bit on the cooler side. On the day of the hike, we started driving towards the summit of Mt. Diablo around 7 am from Hayward and got to the park entrance around 7:45 when the ranger was opening the gates. I was kind of glad we didn't arrive earlier as planned otherwise we would have just sat waiting (or roamed around the entrance area taking photos ;)) for the park to open.

Entrance to summit is another 10-15 min drive depending upon how fast you drive up. We were the first ones to arrive at the summit. Once there, we walked around the visitor center and checked out the roof promenade and the beacon tower, enjoying the view from almost 4000 ft height. It was picturesque from up there with the morning fog and clouds hugging the hills that surround the peak and golden rays of Sunlight kissing us all.

Summit Trail

We walked around for 5-10 min, used the restrooms and loaded our hiking bags with water and some snacks and headed down the mountain on the paved road. The map was showing the trail-head to be little away from the summit parking lot. After hiking around and getting lost for a few min (on Juniper trail) we finally found the Summit trail-head and started hiking down. It was pretty chilly even around 8:30 so I was glad we had layers on. Hiking down and pausing for a photo or few or refreshing our botany knowledge by checking out the exotic bushes and shrubs and hundreds of pine cones on and around the trail we eventually got to a picnic area after about two miles of hiking. We hung out at the picnic area for a while, had a snack and water and started heading up. By now it was around 10 and the sun was getting almost above our heads. Climbing up was a bit of challenge with the temperatures rising rapidly and we were happy to encounter the paved road by 11 am and get back to the summit around 11:15 and chilling a bit more in shade. We started heading back down the hill right afterwards. It was a beautiful drive down on a gorgeous sunny day.

Checking out the surroundings

If you're going, check out the maps and other info below. Also, start your hike early in the morning and take enough water with you. Not to forget a hat and sunblock.

Some useful links:

Hike date: Sunday, January 19th, 2014
Accompanied by: RP, AN, Nikon D5000

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Smartphone proving it's worth.. once more!

I think my smartphone has finally proven it's worth. Last week when I was playing tour guide to some relatives who were visiting the area. After walking around in China Town, we were walking back North on Stockton St in the city towards our car. Right after the tunnel, I ran into a woman in her 50s. She was trying to get to Market St, but didn't know which direction she was supposed to be going. She asked me whether it was towards the South from where we were at. I said yes and also confirmed using the phone and shared with her about how far it was. She seemed so happy that finally she knew her way to her destination. It felt like a blessing to have that smartphone on me that day. After a year of still getting used to (annoyed of) it, I think I'm liking it more than I did before. :)

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Hiking the Dish Trail at Stanford

This weekend's hike was at The Dish in Stanford, CA.

Hiking up the trail at The Dish @ Stanford

This was my first time hiking at the place so I had no idea what to expect except for the reviews I had read on yelp. It turned out to be a perfect combination of moderately strenuous hike and what I call a photographer's heaven (I think that was more because of being there earlier in the morning ;)). We got there around 7:40ish and waited for our friend to arrive. Once all were there, we started the hike around 8:05 am and got back to the parking area around 9:22 am. It's a 4-mile trail and initial 0.5 mile are the most strenuous. Rest of the trail is pretty leveled in terms of elevation change. It's a very beautiful trail and I hope I get to do it again around sunset time. Saturday morning was so thick with fog that I had a hard time seeing anything beyond 30 ft while I drove to Stanford only to realize that even the trail was covered in misty fog. The fog added so much more different kind of beauty to the trail. I got hollers from my buddies to keep up with the hike because I was getting too distracted by the scenery and was taking longer time shooting photos. ;)

Hikers, Morning silhouette

Right at the entrance we had read a warning that coyotes had been sighted around the trail area so we were hoping we'd run into one. Well, guess what! We did actually run into one. Poor thing look very frail, starved, and ugly. However, it was great to see wildlife and that made it just more exciting.

I think I went crazy with silhouettes that morning. I have never been so excited to shoot against the light as I was then. Wow! What incredible views were there at every step and every curve.

Trees on trail at sunrise

For a glimpse of the trail as my Nikon D5000 saw, click here -->

If you're going, check out these sites for good info about the trail and the Dish:

Hike date: Saturday, January 4th, 2014
Accompanied by: RP, VNP, Nikon D5000

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Why isn't death celebrated?

That's the question I had this morning. Last month, one of the relatives in the area passed away. He was 91 years old and we used to call him Dada. Last I had seen him was just two days before he left us. When I saw him, he was getting out of the car and making his way inside the home. We were all gathered for a weekend dinner party.

As usual I payed my regards to him and asked him if he needed a hand/support as he was walking inside. To this Dada smiled back and refused to accept my support saying he was good. The cane was good enough for him. Walking upright, he slowly made his way inside, climbing stairs on his own and removing his shoes on his own. His vision had been compromised because of macular degeneration since quite a few years, but that didn't stop him from going on his 5-mile daily walks. Even with a frail body, he was doing his daily regular yoga and walking. Eventually the walking had become indoors-only and that kind of irritated him. I could totally imagine how he felt with that. My point is, despite all the physical limitations and body giving up on daily basis, he continued to live a regular, healthy life until the last day of his life. His death made me sad for more than two weeks and I felt depressed. I didn't want to experience that time. I didn't want to live those moments. I wanted time to move on as fast as it does when we are celebrating, when we are happy. What I noticed was how I was feeling during all those days, how his immediate family and loved ones were feeling during this time..

I ask myself today, why is it that we don't feel happy for the departed? Why don't we celebrate death like we celebrate birth? For the departed, death is a better situation. Any next situation is better than the one before. And when that's the case, why don't we feel glad that they went to a better world? That they are free of all the miseries. Is that because we can only think of our happiness? That them not being part of our lives is completely going to change our lives. We will miss them, if at all we are close to them. The closer you are the more hurt and sad you feel. If so, isn't that mighty selfish of us to feel so?

Why do we wear white and black colors when someone dies? But at happy occasions we dress up in colorful clothes. Why isn't there dancing? Why there are no parties? Why aren't there multiple delicious meals served after a death? Yes, Indian culture does have all the rituals where the departed's favorite foods are made and served to family/friends and those close by. But the event is not really celebrated like a happy occasion. I wish we celebrated successful lives. Lives of people who lived a good healthy life and let their lives be a role model for rest of us to remain behind. I wish people made good wishes and sent them off with lots of love and happiness on their next adventure.. wherever that might be, instead of just saying "rest in peace." I wish deaths are celebrated like births too.

PS. I exclude unexpected deaths like suicide, murders, accidents, etc. here when I say about celebration.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

The new year has started and I'm feeling super enthusiastic about this year. I have hopes that know no bounds and want to make sure I continue to achieve the goals I set for myself. As always, there are no resolutions. Sounds super corny and reminds me of Calvin a lot, but that's the reality and I intend to keep it that way this year too. ;)

A few days back a dear friend posted this link on Facebook and reading it got me thinking. It was like a key to the lock I had been trying to remove from my clogged brain since last several years. Sometimes all you need is an idea and I got it. I looked at the list, I stared at it for really long, I pondered on some of the items and said to myself: I'm not going to regret these things. That's because I'm not going to let them happen. When I sat down checking the items off on the list, I felt super happy for the fact that I already do more than 50% of the things on the list. It was the other 50% that made me realize there's so much more to do. And of course, I'm not letting these 37 bullet points dictate my entire things-to-do-like-RIGHT-NOW list, but it made a really good checklist and I've already started to work on a few more from the list since last week.

So here's to a more fulfilling year ahead and to do more of the new things that I don't do enough of.

Wishing you all a very Happy new year 2014, dear friends!

37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old
1. Not traveling when you had the chance.
2. Not learning another language.
3. Staying in a bad relationship.
4. Forgoing sunscreen.
5. Missing the chance to see your favorite musicians.
6. Being scared to do things.
7. Failing to make physical fitness a priority.
8. Letting yourself be defined by gender roles.
9. Not quitting a terrible job.
10. Not trying harder in school.
11. Not realizing how beautiful you were.
12. Being afraid to say "I love you."
13. Not listening to your parents’ advice.
14. Spending your youth self-absorbed.
15. Caring too much about what other people think.
16. Supporting others’ dreams over your own.
17. Not moving on fast enough.
18. Holding grudges, especially with those you love.
19. Not standing up for yourself.
20. Not volunteering enough.
21. Neglecting your teeth.
22. Missing the chance to ask your grandparents questions before they die.
23. Working too much.
24. Not learning how to cook one awesome meal.
25. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
26. Failing to finish what you start.
27. Never mastering one awesome party trick.
28. Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.
29. Refusing to let friendships run their course.
30. Not playing with your kids enough.
31. Never taking a big risk (especially in love).
32. Not taking the time to develop contacts and network.
33. Worrying too much.
34. Getting caught up in needless drama.
35. Not spending enough time with loved ones.
36. Never performing in front of others.
37. Not being grateful sooner.