Crowd Sourced Travel with Letskedaddle

On Black Friday, instead of shopping, I decided to #OptOutside along with REI and Letskedaddle. I didn’t buy anything that day and instead decided to enjoy the great outdoors with like-minded folks at Point Reyes National Seashore.

What is Letskedaddle? It is crowd sourced travel. Assume you want to get to Yosemite on a certain date. You announce your intention on Letskedaddle and if enough people want to go on that date (at least 10), your trip and everybody else’s gets funded. It’s a cheap and more convenient alternative. It can take 10 to 12 hours to get to Yosemite if you take public transportation from San Francisco.

boarding the bus to adventure

Crowd Sourced Travel

On Black Friday, the crew I was with ended up going to Point Reyes. We boarded at REI in San Francisco and in 90 minutes were at a trailhead leading to creeks, forests and coastal views. The forest was so lush and green! It was quite the treat to get away from the city.

Lush greenery awaits!

Lush Greenery

Are you looking for a great way to get to hard to reach places with friends? Check out Letskedaddle.

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Day Tripping to Yosemite

One of the most rewarding day trips from the San Francisco Bay Area is a 4 hour drive to Yosemite National Park. This year I’ve only done one day trip to Yosemite. It was on my way back from Death Valley National Park.

Here’s what you need to pack if you are going between now and until Spring of 2017. Besides the basics you will need:

1) A paper map and compass because there is limited cell service in Yosemite unless you have Verizon. Better yet, get a GPS.

2) Tire chains or 4 wheel drive in case of snow.

3) A sleeping bag in case you get stuck in the road in the cold.

4) $25 for the park pass to allow your automobile and passengers if any into the park.

5) For fun, bring stuff you might bring for a picnic!

Here is an itinerary for a day trip to Yosemite.

2:00 am – Leave San Francisco
6:00 – 6:30 am – Arrive at Tunnel View in Yosemite to catch sunrise.
8:00 – 10:00 am – Grab breakfast at Yosemite Lodge or eat somewhere picturesque in the Valley. At this time of year there should be parking along side of the road.
10am until sunset – Explore the valley, and photograph!
After sunset – head back to San Francisco

A spot you can drive right up to!

A spot you can drive right up to!

For photographers, finding the right light will be challenging until golden hour, so there are a few hours to kill, or a few hours to get to the right spot. If you’re looking for a work out, Vernal Falls is a great hike. I would personally stay in the valley and photograph along the Merced River, and Sentinel Bridge capturing the iconic Half Dome. This is such a treat when there’s snow on the ground, too. Another valley option is a quick, short hike to the base of lower Yosemite Falls. The options are endless for a day trip.

A 3.5 mile round trip hike from the Happy Isles!

A 3.5 mile round trip hike from the Happy Isles!

However, for the more adventurous, Vernal Falls can be done in a day during the winter. Details on a hike to Vernal Falls when it is snowing can be found on the Yosemite National Park website.

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A Review of the Mamot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag

I felt a bit apprehensive before purchasing the Plasma 30 bag. It’s purpose seemed really narrow: Hikes where the temperature might be in the upper 60s and where the nights could plunge to around freezing, an alpine bag for early spring and late fall.

When I hiked to Discovery Point in Crater Lake National Park, I was glad I had this ultralight and warm, down bag. The temperature was around 32 degrees, and I needed no more than my long-underwear and baselayer to keep warm. I took advantage of such well thought out and luxurious features as the draft collar, and hood. At 32 degrees I was very warm.

At 1.44 pounds this is also the lightest 3 season bag I’ve ever used. In off-season Alpine hikes, I’m very confident this is the bag to use.
For winter, I would use the Lamina Z Torch sleeping bag which weighs 3.94 pounds. It’s rated to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and kept me very warm during New Year’s Eve in Yosemite when it was around 9 degrees.

Should you buy a Marmot Plasma 30 Bag? I think it’s the sort of bag for ultralight-backpacking from Spring to Fall.

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Backcountry Camping at Crater Lake National Park

Backcountry camping affords the flexibility, freedom and solitude that is often lacking with car camping or just camping at a designated campsite. This weekend, I got to enjoy backcountry camping with a friend at Crater Lake National Park.

First, you get your backcountry permit from the Visitor Center. Some guides tell you you can do this at the Rim Village. This is no longer true. After that you can camp anywhere that is a mile away from the nearest paved road, and out of sight of any trails. A popular route is hiking, or in our case, snow shoeing to Discovery Point.

Crater Lake at Sunset from Discovery Point
Crater Lake from Discovery Point, April 2016

The snowpack is its deepest (approx. 117 inches average) in March, and can last into July. Personally, I feel March and April are the best times to go because the southern approach is open unless there’s a snowstorm.

Setting up camp is encouraged close by trees where you can be protected from the wind, snow and/or rain. You cannot camp at the rim of the crater. Also, make sure you are prepared for the cold nights that can go to below freezing. After you’ve set up camp, you can enjoy the stars.

Milky Way from Crater Lake

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How to Get Lots Done in Life and Photography: Vincent Trinh

I interviewed Vincent Trinh, the director of photography for Hyphen magazine. He also works with the Asian American Donor Program which helps find donors for patients in need.

Season 1, Episode 3, Vincent Trinh gets lots done.

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Converting a 55 degree sleeping bag to a 35 degree bag

When I went to Yosemite this winter, I got to use a variety of gear. The experiment that made me the happiest was when I converted a 55 degree sleeping bag to a 35 degree bag. I did this by using 3 items.

The Alpine Bivy from Outdoor Research is a Goretex bivy that keeps you dry even if you were sleeping in a stream. I never got to test that part out, but because you are sealed in versus a regular tent, it added a layer of warmth.

Alpine Bivy

The Sea to Summit Extreme Thermolite Liner claims to add 25 degrees to your sleeping bag. I have tested in 35 degree weather in Yosemite and was comfortable, but when I was in Joshua Tree with 40 degree weather without the Sol Escape Bivvy, I struggled to stay warm through out the night. I think it only adds 10 degrees thus turning my 55 degree bag to a 45 degree bag.

The Sol Escape Bivvy by itself seems to be the equivalent of a 45 degree bag. When used in combination with the Alpine Bivy, and Thermolite Liner, you now have equipment that will keep you very comfortable at 35 degrees. I definitely want to test it to lower temperatures. Have you tried a liner with a bivy to keep warmer?

Here is the rest of the combo below.

The Combo

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Staying Warm in Below Freezing Weather

I camped in Yosemite overnight for New Year’s Eve in below freezing weather. In this podcast, I share tips and tricks for overcoming the freezing cold.

Season 01, Episode 02, Dressing for the Cold

I mention these great clothing companies:

  • Marmot, especially their ROM (Range of Motion) Jacket as being the perfect PNW (Pacific Northwest Jacket);
  • ExOfficio, which has great quick drying clothing; and
  • Northface, which has a great thermoball jacket to keep you warm down into the 20s (Fahrenheit), at least in my experience.
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Controlling Appetite and Hiking Lots for Photography

In this podcast, I share tips and tricks for controlling your appetite so you can shoot all day.

Season 01, Episode 01

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Instagram Hubs Are Bad & Are Just Link Farms

You open up Instagram. You see that someone has posted a photo you took. They say stuff like, “Congratulations, you have been featured!”

Are they featuring you out of the goodness of their heart?

While I was running the @IgersSF account, I would notice that featuring photos more often benefitted the @IgersSF account than the folks I featured in terms of likes and follows.

How can you tell the difference between a hub and a real Instagram community?

  • Hubs never asked your permission to post your photograph. More in depth details on this at DIYPhotography.
  • Hubs hardly if ever communicate back after they featured you.
  • Hubs have owners that are elusive and are rarely seen in the real world. They might even be bots coded to auto-feature *cough* steal photos, and grow an account.
  • Hubs never give back to the community.

What’s the solution to hubs? Google came up with a solution a long time ago for link farms, and it’s about time that Instagram implement it.

“Search engines countered the link farm movement by identifying specific attributes associated with link farm pages and filtering those pages from indexing and search results.” (from the Wikipedia article on Link farms)

A similar thing can be done for Instagram hubs using a Bayesian filter.

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42 Answers to the Meaning of Life

Here are 42 answers to the *question* of the meaning of life.

1. To ascend the ladder of desire to see the beauty of the forms. (Plato)
2. To skillfully and willfully achieve happiness in accordance with excellence through virtue. (Aristotle)
3. To crush my enemies, to see them flee before me in a field of battle and to hear the lamentations. (Conan, the Barbarian)
4. The meaning of life? That’s simple. Try to be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope to fall in love. (Mallory Keaton, Family Ties)
5. You take the red pill… (The Matrix)
6. There are finite games and there are infinite games. Life is an infinite game. (James P. Carse)
7. In Tao the only motion is returning.
The only useful quality, weakness.
For though all creatures under heaven are the products of Being,
Being itself is the product of Not-being. ” Tao te Ching (chap. 40, tr. Waley)
8. There is suffering.
Desire is the source of suffering.
It is within my power to remove suffering.
The removal of suffering is the cessation of desire. (4 Truths of Buddhism)
9. Be fruitful and multiply. (Book of Genesis)
10. Just do it. (Nike)
11. You have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy. (Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter)
12. The greatest good for the greatest number. (Utilitarianism)
13. Survival of the fittest. (Social Darwinism)
14. History moving towards the communism of workers. (Marx)
15. All are created equal and have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (US Declaration of Independence)
16. To end not just that fight, but all future fights with the bully… (Ender’s Game)
17. You shall love. (Jesus)
18. I don’t think we’re for anything. We’re just the products of evolution. (James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA)
19. To achieve singularity. (Vernor Vinge)
20. To return to nature. (Neo-transcendentalism, The Cynicism of Diogenes, Landscape photographers like the author of this piece.)
21. To pursue pleasure. (Epicureans, hedonists)

DSCF4227

22. To endure. (Stoicism)
23. Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. (Kant’s Categorical Imperative)
24. Free at last… (Martin Luther King)
25. Nature wanted to see so badly that the very first eyes were light sensitive crystals and minerals. Why did nature want to see so badly? (Questions asked at CIIS)
26. To care for and look after nature. (Naturalistic Pantheism)
27. Keep my commandments. (The God of the Old Testament)
28. Be obedient (to Allah). (Qur’an 51:56)
29. The Lord dwells in every heart, and every heart has its own way to reach Him. (Sikhism)
30. Money
31. Optimism
32. Pessimism
33. Sex
34. Therapy
35. Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. (Monty Python)
36. The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration. Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo. (Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook)
37. One always returns to one’s first love. (D.H. Lawrence)
38. Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg)
39. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch. (Eric S. Raymund)
40. The laws of nature are much like the laws of man. (Ulbricht, founder of Silk Road)
41. We shouldn’t delay forever until every possible feature is done. There’s always going to be one more thing to do. (Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin)
42. 42, the answer to the question of the meaning of life. But what is the answer? 7 x 5. But 7 x 5 is 35, right? Yes, I guess there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe. (Douglas Adams, Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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