Fuji-san: descent (下山)

September 11, 2011

After a hike up in the dark and a tour around the summit caldera in the morning light, we descended (下山, “ge”, down + “san”, mountain) from the summit of Fuji-san. A brilliant blue sky arched overhead; clouds of all sorts of morphologies stretched below.  We took a different route down the mountain than the one we used to ascend, this version of the Yoshida Trail sporting a plethora of switchbacks.

Torii, studded with coins, marked the entrance to the summit.

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Christmas in the Canyon

What better way to spend a holiday than hiking in the desert?

Reflected light
The Virgin River winds through Zion National Park in Utah.

Hiking up here, appearance-wise, is somewhere between a that of a canvas from the Romanticism movement and a HDR image. I adore winter in dry climates for the low light and small crowds in parks it brings.

Have a wonderful next orbit around the sun!

Takao-san: climbing down through temples

The lab PI carefully instructed the graduate students I’m working with to show me around Tokyo, to take me to locations off the beaten track whenever possible. Last week, they took me to Jindaiji, the second-oldest temple in the Tokyo area, about 1400 years old.  None of them had been there before, so it was a fun break to explore a quiet forest surrounded by urban Chofu.

On Friday, three of us played the Japanese equivalent of hooky (現実逃避, escapism) and met at the base of Mt. Takao (or Takao-san) to climb up the 599-meter peak. About 25 kilometers west of downtown Tokyo and a 35-minute train ride for me, Takao-san is a quasi-national park nestled in the verdant green hills.  Did I mention it was green and had trees?  I was reminded of the Bear Valley Trail in the Point Reyes National Seashore, but even more densely wooded.

Into the woods

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Sandstone Peak June 2011

I’ve been visiting Southern California as part of a global observing campaign to image Pluto and its moons Charon, Nix, and Hydra as they pass in front of bright stars on June 23 and 27.  Michael Hicks, Beverly Thackeray, and I, assisted by Heath Rhoades, successfully saw Charon block the light of the star on the morning of June 23 from JPL’s Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, CA.

After the occultation, I’ve had the opportunity to go on a few hikes in the Los Angeles area, including Sandstone Peak, a rocky outcropping in the Santa Monica Mountains which, despite its name, is igneous in origin.  A 6-mile loop brings you from the parking lot on Yerba Buena Road up through the hills and forests to the stony peak.  The last time I hiked this trail was on a foggy afternoon in January, so the sun was quite welcome on this excursion.

The rock contemplates AndyToward the ValleyFlowers and mountainsEcho Cliffs rock climbersWild lilyFluffy flowers
LizzardFuzzy treesFoggy PacificIgneous formationsMarine LayerAndy contemplates a rock
Near the summitSucculent

Sandstone Peak June 2011, a set on Flickr.