Sunday, July 31, 2005

The view from our hotel room, the Merced River [very good soundproofing, I must say! When we went into the room at night we had no idea the river was right behind us!]. The Merced River is basically the river that carved out the entire Yosemite valley over time.

Amazing morning by the river drinking (pretty good) 3-in-1 instant oatmeal (actually, very much like my barley embryo drink) courtesy of Joyce.

I think our first major stop along the Tioga Pass Road: Lake Tenaya. Simply amazing...

A rushing creek by Tuolumne [pronounced "twah-lum-ne"] Meadows. This creek was rushing pretty quickly -- so the water was REALLY COLD!!! This was the first place where Joyce made me take off my shoes to get into the water. =p

On the way back out to the Valley, we decided to stop by Lake Tenaya again and get into the water (since we had already gotten into sandals and such). The plan was to set the autotimer to take a picture. There were no flat places to put the camera; I basically used Joyce's "slipper" to keep it level, haha... as could have been foreseen, I rushed down, lost my balance, and as the Chinese would put it, "dragged her into the water" -- literally, and translated literally. =p Notice my pants were all wet!

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We hiked up for a little bit by Lembert Dome.

Joyce's pretty balanced yoga "tree pose" in such a peaceful place in front of Lembert Dome.

My attempt at the "airplane" pose...

Haha.. just a "thinker" pose...

Haha, the Chinese version of the "Thinker", although I need to refresh my memory as to its name. =p

The *main* reason why I wanted to come to Yosemite in the first place... ignorant me didn't realize the rest of the beautiful sights there!

A giant sequoia pinecone! Isn't it kind of freaky??

Friday, July 29, 2005

Second road trip!

On Sunday, we attended Teresa's church service at the River of Life Church. It is the biggest Chinese church I have seen outside of Asia! Their history is quite interesting though, just an amazing church that is rooted in prayer and missions.

Then on Monday, Joyce and I headed out for our second road trip to Yosemite National Park.

Amazing -- could it really be by chance?

Distance-wise, it is not too far from San Jose, but a lot of the roads are mountainous; the total drive time is exactly 4 hours. Having slept in, we left at around noon, so we arrived to check in at our hotel right at 4pm. Every day, there is a sunset tour that leaves from our hotel at 4pm; everyone has to reserve early because a dinner is arranged. But we asked if we could join if we had our own food; there was room, so the tourguide was happy to have us join them! Timing couldn't be more perfect. [We also saved $10 because we weren't going to eat their food, haha.]

The tourguide was an amazing person, just exuding with joy and awe at nature. On the tour, we took a couple of trail hikes that most tourists don't find [but there are SO many hikes you can take at Yosemite, it's a huge park.] so it was really nice.

Here's a map of Yosemite (pdf) for reference.

The sunset walking tour took us close up to the Yosemite Falls, short hike to Bridalveil Falls, the quiet frog-singing Summit Meadow, up on the Glacier Point Road and a moderate hike atop Sentinel Dome for the sunset. After the sun went down, we hiked back to the parking area and just admired the starry, starry night sky. Our tourguide, Sarah, was incredibly knowledgeable about all aspects of nature, including the constellation-laden sky... pointing out and describing the size of the Scorpio constellation (too bad we couldn't rotate the earth... it's cut off in half by the horizon) and others.

The size of the park and the sights are just incredible.

The next day, Joyce and I explored on our own, and following Sarah's advice, took the less-taken Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadow. The drive didn't take a long as we expected [it's *so* fun to drive... mastering the mountain curves, haha, despite my fear of heights. =p] Along the way or on the way back, we stopped at Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake (beautiful!), Tuolumne Meadow area, and around Lembert Dome. Finally, took a tour of the Yosemite Valley (it's the most popular place but we didn't spend too much time there), before heading down to the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias. All in all, we covered a *lot* of ground!

Of course, being as silly as we were, the breathtaking scenery was accompanied by silly photo-taking. =p [click on photos to enlarge]

Generic shot of "Cathedral rocks", one of Yosemite's many signatures.

Bridalveil falls from a slight distance. At its peak, it's the fifth-longest "single-stream" waterfall. We came at an amazing time! The strength of the waterfall is determined by melting snow; usually by July, the waterfalls are drying up, if not dry, but due to the heavy snowfall this past winter, the waterfalls were still going strong!

The two of us getting wet underneath Bridalveil

Summit Meadows, where we were listening for singing frogs, but some people were making a lot of noise around to distract...

Incredible sight on top of Sentinel Dome

Backdrop looks fake =p but it was amazing!

So romantic! Haha...

One day's worth of pictures first... =)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Don't know why I've been feeling so sluggish lately. My guess is the post-vacation apathy coupled with a couple of really lax weeks at work. But still, my motivation level is usually not this low!! I've really got to get my act together though, in order to get through the upcoming four weeks. Not just in terms of physically getting through, but really striving for the excellence that I used to know in all that I do.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Road trip!

Fortunately, Teresa was able to take Friday off so the three of us head out for our road trip to Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe. It was great to be pretty leisurely and spontaneous; on Thursday night, Teresa researched the directions while I researched some vineyards... but we were to leave only after we had breakfast at Cheesecake Factory (which unfortunately, was at 11am -- should have researched that one more.)

We drove pretty much over the three days, taking the scenic routes (including going around for the Golden Gate Bridge). Finally, we arrived at our chosen winery at around 4pm, Sterling Vineyards. We chose this one mainly because it was well advertised and boasted a gondola ride up to the main building for the winery tour and tasting room.

[Finally, a picture with the three of us.]

The "impressive" presentation at the bottom of the gondola ride to attract tourists.

The winery tour was... okay. It was mainly self-narrated, but the view of Napa Valley was so nice. As an aside, for winery tours, I do highly recommend the Jackson-Triggs tour (one of the bigger producers in the Niagara region). When I went we had a great tour guide -- and all of the tours are led by a tour guide! The admission is also less expensive. =p

Of course, Niagara doesn't have *quite* the backdrop as Napa Valley:

We tasted five different wines... all of which I didn't like except for one, the lightest sauvignon blanc, which I did end up bringing home! My pallet is weird -- if I don't like the taste of something, I physically can't swallow it. So that's the main reason I don't drink alcohol... and that also goes for a lot of wines. Oddly, that also goes for milk.

After the tasting, we head out for Lake Tahoe, which was a great mountain road drive. We were working the poor Pontiac Vibe pretty hard! TOO BAD I didn't have my own car, it would have been *so* great to take those turns with it. ;) I'm not sure about the elevation of Napa Valley, but Tahoe's at about 8000 ft. It was quite a drive. =) [Haha.. I love driving...] We drove into Lake Tahoe just as it got dark. Fortunately we found an open hotel room at the Best Western for a good price! Great timing!

Lake Tahoe is popular for its ski hills in the winter and watersports in the summer. The three of us, being difficult Chinese females, didn't want to get wet. =p So we mainly enjoyed the sights (including walking through some of the casinos that were right on the California / Nevada border line), [the Lake is split up the middle between the two states,] and waited to take a short boat cruise into the lake.

The boat cruise was... okay. =p The three of us also went to the Dominican with another friend, and our best boat cruise was there. Of course, *that* was labelled as a party boat and being in the Dominican, alcohol poured freely and some people were pretty crazy. =p The crowd here was more family-oriented and definitely, wouldn't be called crazy. It was a nice ride nonetheless -- just slightly windy though!

The drive back was much easier going downhill and we safely made it back to San Jose in good time. Oh yes, a picture of Teresa's one-bedroom apartment -- it was such a blessing to stay there for free, haha... very spacious with high ceilings. [I don't think either of us knew Joyce took this picture...]

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

San Francisco!

Joyce and I arrived in California on Wednesday night. Teresa still had to work so just the two of us went into San Francisco as tourists. We took the CalTrain in (kind of like the Go train, but smaller) and explored the city on our own.

I like San Francisco -- it's such a laid-back west-coast city. Weather was amazing -- the Bay area gives a nice breeze. Of course, we took a tram ride, and as I mentioned before, the "conductor" Jamie gave us a short lesson how to drive it. It's pretty cool!

My "Darth Vader" friend *trying* to make it go, haha [Just put your body into it!]

No, I don't have any pictures of Darth Vader with her mask down. Of course, it doesn't matter, I could easily just post something like this and it would just as easily passed off as her. =p

Anyway, of course, we got to the Fisherman's Wharf, the piers, and expected to see the many sea lions that have taken over Pier 39. I didn't expect this!! I couldn't believe it! One lone sea lion!

We also checked out the SF Museum of Modern Art and walked around Union square for a bit before leaving for the day. All right, so I had to walk around with Darth Vader, but she had to walk around with me. Of course, a picture of me on the phone... with my big hat. =p

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Ok, thought I'd change the layout since there's no use trying to fit old wine into new wineskins...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm back in Toronto!

Took a week off to spend time with a couple of classmates -- sort of a UFE study group vacation! Teresa has free housing and a free car in San Jose so Joyce and I decided to visit and explore the west coast. It was a great trip -- incomparable weather, incredible sights. Due to Joyce's charm, we also got a San Francisco tram-driving lesson! ;)

More to come... but to leave off for now, I just have to complain that I had to walk around with a Darth Vader. How embarassing. =p

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Way to go, Albert!

First place in his division at the Canadian National Kendo championships!