Biking, Baxter Breakfast, and Beer!

Trip Start Jun 17, 2011
Trip End Aug 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Dirt Flat Forest Service Campground

Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, April 30, 2011

After work on Friday, we rolled out of the Headlands in Matt's old Jeep Wrangler with a brand new bike rack cradling our ancient mountain bikes on the back.  This was an emergency purchase the night before when it dawned on us that we would have no way to transport our bikes up to Yosemite with the recent loss of my Subaru.  Fortunately traffic wasn't too bad leaving the Bay Area, so our only significant delays were centered around the search for obscure breweries along the way.  In Modesto, we hunted down the elusive St. Stan's brewery (supposedly one of the oldest in California) under the guise of Hero's sports bar. After tasting them, we understood why the bar wasn't exactly promoting its own beers...In Mariposa, the local brewery that does or doesn't exist successfully evaded us, but not before we called a disconnected number, asked a local who had never heard of it, and did a drive by of the address listed in the business directory.  Defeated, we beelined it for our beautiful riverside campsite (much nicer than we were expecting with the name of Dirt Flat) to set up camp under the brightest stars we had seen in a long time.

We had perfect weather for our bike ride around Yosemite Valley the next day, although it was a little on the warm side as our bikes crawled up the 2000 feet of elevation gain from El Portal to the park entrance. On the valley floor, while cruising past waterfalls gushing at full force from sheer granite faces, I experienced the most powerful revelation of any that I've had so far in our journey to become cyclists.  When we had driven through Yosemite before, stopping at pullouts to snap pictures, I thought it was pretty cool.  But biking through it provided a totally changed perspective that left me enthralled. By removing ourselves from the encapsulation of the car, we were continually engaged with the place with all of our senses: a richness of sounds, smells, temperatures, and views that didn't pass by in the blink of an eye.  Everything was so much more alive!

Before beginning the descent, we stopped at Yosemite village where we had another important revelation: a pint of Ben and Jerry's, shared exactly equally between two people, is really not that much ice cream, as we had no problem polishing it off in record time. Between the sugar rush and some extra encouragement from our friend Erica (who pulled over to say hi both times when she spotted us on the way up and the way down) we made it back to camp and set a new Matt and Casey record of 45 miles!  We had just enough time to eat a spaghetti dinner before attending a very inspiring gathering in honor of the Joie Armstrong Scholars program.

Sunday morning was the central reason for our weekend up in Yosemite.  We went to a pancake breakfast in honor of Matt Baxter and celebrate the accomplishments of the previous Baxter Award recipients.  When the delicious banana walnut and blueberry pancakes had all been consumed, our coworker and friend Heather Richard gave a fabulous account of her adventures in the Newfoundland during the past summer, complete with performances of beautiful songs she composed herself.  Then Matt and I, along with three Yosemite Institute educators, were presented with award certificates by the Baxter family.  As it has been every year we have attended, it was a very moving event, the kind that kicks you out of your mindset of daily routine and reminds you to live each day to its fullest, just a Matt Baxter did.  This time though, it also felt a touch overwhelming. All the sudden these future plans we have been prepping for seem to be imminent reality!

Since we were lucky enough to have Monday off to celebrate our anniversary of six years of togetherness, we decided to take the long way home through "Gold Country". We were pleasantly surprised by a spontaneous stop to explore Columbia State Historic Park, which somehow accomplishes the living history thing without excessive cheesiness.  We had some "sarsparilla" and a pretzel in a saloon to tide us over until we reached the next obscure brewery on our hit list, Snowshoe Brewing Company in Arnold.  The beers were solid for a small town We then took some scenic backroads to Indian Grinding Rock State Park to camp for the night.  
Did you know that peacocks meow? Not only do they meow, but they do so loudly and frequently.  It was a short night of sleep due to the proximity of peacocks to the campground, but that gave us time in the morning to explore the demonstration Miwok village and check out the exposed bedrock covered with chaw'ses (mortar holes). We chose to visit this state park because I had read that the grinding rock was also covered in petroglyphs, which are a longstanding fascination for me. We searched all over for them and finally determined that they were too faint to be seen in the glare of the bright sunlight on the rock. Oh well, moving on...

So we finally "struck gold" in Lodi of all places with lunch and full flight of the awesome brews made at the Lodi Brewing Company.  We were expecting another encounter with obscure mediocrity, but our persistence paid off, and just in time before our weekend adventure came to a close.
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ccasler on

What a fun trip out of the capsule! Thanks for the descriptions. So great to travel from the armchair (or rather desk chair)!

ccasler on

And also congratulations on the Baxter award - such an honor in addition to the project it funds.

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