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Photo Credits to David Katz, Keith Luscinski, and John Dalbey

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Day 1 – July 11

This day was a travel day. I stayed awake to finish packing for my move to California, and then my dad drove me to the airport at 3:15am to take the flight path BDL-NWK-LAS-FAT. A one hour layover in Las Vegas quickly turned into a five hour layover, but that was the only travel complication. Dkatz and Keith had already picked up the gear from FedEx in Fresno and completed the obligatory food shop at the gross-out (grocery outlet) by the time I landed. We headed up the hill in Keith’s van, did an initial gear count and food organization, introduced ourselves to the other Berkeley researches staying in the Whitaker Cabin, and promptly fell asleep. John Dalbey, an old-school big wall climber and Cal Poly CS professor met-up with us at the Cabin.

Day 2 – July 12

On day two, I was allowed to sleep in until 9:15am to adjust to the time change and recover from over 20 hours of traveling. After breakfast, Dkatz led an initial safety briefing, and then we headed up the hill to inspect the rigging on our study trees: trees 155, 174, and 288. Trees 174 and 288 had intact parachute cord at the base, indicated intact rigging at the top of the tree. Tree 155, however, was in part of a controlled burn area which charred the bark significantly up to 100ft on the uphill side and scorched several major branches on the downhill side. The wire portion of the rigging appeared to hold on one side to the cord, but not the other – the wire, which was supposed to be suspended off the ground and connected to the cord that runs through at a pulley at the top of the tree, was laying on the ground when we approached. Thus, we had to re-rig the tree.

The four of us worked to shoot the first branch with the big shot (think 8ft slingshot) since the crossbow was out of commission, and we eventually succeeded despite the near destruction of the big shot elastic (which is composed of surgical rubber tubing). As Keith led the tree and Dkatz followed, John and I pulled a rope on 288, and I assisted John in jugging up the first 50ft in tree 155 for practice. John calls ascending “Jumaring,” instead of jugging since he was alive when the original ascenders, branded “Jumars,” were introduced.

That night, we showered immediately after returning to the cabin because we were essentially working in a campfire all day. Buritos with corn, beans, rice, peppers, and onions were made for dinner, and we began making chocolate pudding every night for dessert.

Day 3 – July 13

Today was mostly a scouting day since Ken, the professional forester directing our research work, was not scheduled to arrive until 4pm. Dkatz served as our ground person while Keith, John, and I climbed tree 288 to begin finding tags and taking preliminary pictures. Keith is an industrial rope access technition and is thus quite a fast jugger; he typically climbed first. Again, the day was cool, especially when compared to Fresno, which had temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F for 19 straight days during our trip. As we approached the tree, what sounded to be a black bear scurried off into some nearby bushes. At midday, we compiled our photos to show Ken, and waited for him to arrive.

Day 4 – July 14

In a single day, we knocked out Ken’s Project! Dkatz and Keith took pictures and collected samples of seed cone with stems on from six positions in trees 155 and 174, while John and I did the same for tree 288. Our two work groups could see one another from trees 174 and 288, as some of the album pictures illustrate. The climbing let us escaped the bugs on the ground and the heat of direct sunlight. That night, I helped Ken organize the photos on his computer before we said goodbye to the friendly forester.

After Ken’s departure, we ate dinner and used the Keith’s sharp axe (which he had kept bringing up to promote its use) to do some “necessary,” trail maintenance.

Day 5 – July 15

Keith, John, and I did a short day hike on Redwood Canyon Ridge while Dkatz did some photo work leftover from his last OB course. A significant portion of the Redwood Canon Ridge had been burned, but the fire had not jumped the ridge and no Giant Sequoias had been scorched. We rested in the cabin from 1-3pm before packing and embarking on our tree overnight.

That evening we ascended into tree 236 and rigged lines. Setting up the portaledge having never practiced was a bit of an epic involving three people and over 45 minutes of effort. Eventually, it was put in place, only to significantly slant later in the night causing John to roll into me. Still, not the worst night sleep I have had recently. Before bed, we ate beef ravioli out of the can and pudding (pudding consumption was required every night). Dkatz had forgotten his hammock and tried to remedy the situation by clove hitching his Tyvek ground sheet, which ended with him fall through the fabric. His second remedy worked better - he created a bivy with my cordelette and the empty haul bags. Much to our surprise he had the best night sleep of all of us.

The U.C. Berkeley researches name their trees (sometimes after Lord of the Rings characters). If I had to name this tree, it would be “the periscope,” for the way in which it pops above all over trees nearby and has an unobstructed view across California. Tree 155 would be “the Phoenix,” for the manner in which it rises above it’s own ashes.

Day 6 – July 16

After waking up before sunrise having experienced little sleep, we packed up the portalege, hammock, and bivy, and we bailed. We thanked Anthony for lending us his portaledge and said goodbye to him and Wendy. After helping John put on his spare tire, we left the Cabin in time to squeeze in a day hike to Mt. Baldy before arriving at Montesito Sequoia Lodge at 4:14pm to prepare for our presentation. Though the apple bars we ate on the drive hit the spot, and were perfect for a game of “un-bonk yourself,” dinner at the lodge left much to be desired. Otherwise, the lodge was surprisingly developed given its location and it had a spectacular view eastward of the Sierra Nevada. The guests seemed to really enjoy our presentation and demo, and the funds we received for it covered food and gas for the trip! We came back and crashed hard.

Day 7 – July 17

During the day we hiked up to the trickle that was supposed to be Tokopah falls. John informed us of his experience Koala-fying, and of his theories on the “overfed, newlywed, and nearly dead.” We scoped out the watchtower routes and passed a family of CA black bears on the hike out. That night, we had a long conversation with Cameron and his partner about water movement in trees and his PhD project.

Day 8 — July 18

In the morning we did a big clean of the cabin at Whitakers, inspired by the spotless shine Wendy accomplished before she left. The van was converted to passenger mode and two haul bags, two duffel bags, a crossbow, all our personal gear, and the trash was packed into the back seat for the ride down the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. On the ride down, we disposed of the garbage and stopped at a fruit stand where I discovered how good white peaches are. Next, we FedEx-ed Mark the gear and took an accidental tour of some of Fresno’s (pronounced "Fresburg") most depressed areas on our way to the Ho-Ho Café in Chinatown. There, we pulled out the map and made a plan for the rest of the day.

After a cheap, but unique meal involving a significant amount of cabbage and chicken, we again visited the gross-out to stock-up on essentials for the next several days. Keith bought us all expired coconut water for $0.33 each, which tasted so terrible, none of us could finish our 6oz juice boxes. On the way to Yosemite, we stopped at a public dirt jump park on the side of the road and spent a few hours jumping Keith’s mountain bike. The jumps were worn from the winter weather, so constant pedaling in the hot, arid air was necessary to get any amount of liftoff. Rolls of carpet lay behind some of the ramps from the spring re-opening of the jump park. We had the park to ourselves up until we were ready to leave.

Catching the last YARTS bus out of Yosemite Valley meant not visiting Glacier Point and skipping swimming in the river on the valley floor Still, we had time to charge up to the Alcove Swing at the base of El Cap, or “the big stone,” as Dkatz calls it. The swing has the largest pendulum I’ve ever experienced, but since it involves no free fall,it is not as scary as some of the Ithaca king swings. We said goodbye to Keith and boarded the YARTS bus, which rolled up the Midpines PO at 10:30pm. Dkatz and I slept on top of a hill at the rear of Outward Bound Basecamp there.

Day 9 — July 19

In the morning, I ate granola for breakfast in the “double wide” staff kitchen at the Outward Bound basecamp in Midpines, CA. Dkatz introduced me to a few of the staff like Debra, an elite ultimate player, and Chris, an ultralight hiker who recently set the record on the Colorado Trail. After the morning meeting and chores, I showered, printed my bus ticket in the map room, and said goodbye. The OB basecamp is tricked out with staff quarters, a pantry room with dehydrated food (in 5 gallon buckets and trash cans), a series of gear sheds, an admin office, a parking lot, and a bridge over Bear Creek. Bound for Mountain View!