New York City Visits

From Tarrytown, I'd periodically travel to New York City. Manhattan hasn't changed since my previous trips. Both day and night, I like it and how it looks. The only thing that surprised me: I forgot how many street carts there are. Practically every corner in busy parts of the city has one.

This post describes some of these excursions to the city.

On Wednesday, October 22, 2009, I went to the city for a book talk by the authors of SuperFreakonomics (the sequel to Freakonomics). The discussion was okay. Watching the authors interact was revealing. It's neat to see and hear stories about how their relationship evolved from their initial dislike (Levitt to Dubner) and hands-off / object of study (Dubner to Levitt) to their current level of comfort. Sadly, the questions in the Q&A were remarkably poor in quality and as a whole I felt as if I might as well have skipped the show.

Before the book talk, I grabbed an unusual slice of pizza from Cafe Viva in the upper west side. It had sliced shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, roasted cloves of garlic, crumbled tofu (supposedly green tea and miso flavored), and pesto sauce on a spelt crust. The crust held up impressively against the weight of the toppings--no bending--, yet it was easy to chew. The slice was definitely good for that brief period when all the ingredients were hot.

My Lawyer Friend
On Friday, October 30, 2009, I attempted and failed and then attempted again and succeeded at meeting a lawyer friend and ex-roommate of mine, D. First, I tried meeting him at his office a bit north of Grand Central for lunch, but he got pulled into a last minute meeting and had to cancel. My journey there, however, was not entirely worthless: I passed an RV dedicated to doing mitzvahs. It was labeled a "mitzvah tank" and the people within asked everyone on the streets, myself included, "are you jewish?" I think central Manhattan, certainly including Midtown East, is probably a good place for this. I imagine they're likely to find a good number of lapsed or non-practicing jews.

In the evening, I met up with D at Astor Place in the East Village. The East Village is cool. D shares my love of unusual food, and he led us to Otafuku for take-out Japanese street food. We got Otafuku's specialties: okonomiyaki (a type of flat Japanese pancake) and takoyaki (octopus-filled pancake balls). We walked to his apartment at Stuyvesant Town (also in the East Village) to eat them. They were good. As for his apartment, it was exactly what I expected my former roommate to have (though with the shocking addition of suits). It's nice to feel like I still understand him.

On Halloween (Saturday, October 31, 2009), Di Yin and I returned to the city to meet up with my friends B and C. Di Yin took pictures on this outing. The link goes to the first picture she took this day. When you see a picture of her and Anwar (picture 94), you're done with the set of Halloween pictures.

We arrived in the city a couple hours before we were to meet them. Soon after leaving the train station we discovered a street fair on Madison Avenue. It was big: it started at 42nd Street and, when we turned around at 49th, looked like it continued for another couple of blocks.

The stands sold the usual street fair stuff. (I won't bother listing them here.) Regarding food, we saw lots of gyros (I guess this is New York's equivalent to the omnipresent meat-on-a-stick one sees at street fairs in California) and roasted corn on the cob, plus some more unusual items. Yona's Gourmet Delights sold borekas (a savory dish of phyllo dough filled with stuff, common in the eastern Mediterranean) and mini quiches. There were more vegetarian stands and smoothie stands than I'm used to seeing at street fairs. Also of note: the stand serving the usual street fair staple of kettle corn had a dozen flavors and offered free samples.

On our walk south from the festival, we saw one of the best Halloween costumes we'd saw see the whole day: four men dressed like ghost busters striding into the central New York Public Library. It looked exactly like the final scene in the movie Ghost Busters when the ghost busters enter the museum for the final showdown. Awesome! (Did the movie actually film the scene at the NYPL?) We followed them into the library so we could look at them more. Later, we got distracted and wandered through the library and looked at a few of its hallway exhibits.

As it got later and we walked to Chelsea, we saw lots of costumed trick-or-treaters, some going from shop to shop. It's good that even in Manhattan kids can go out trick-or-treating. It's also cool that some nice shops participated and gave out candy (though it was a little sad that many mis-planned and had to put up signs saying that they ran out of treats). Highlights included a girl dressed as a slice of watermelon and a whole family dressed as the flintstones.

Lucky for the trick-or-treaters, it only rained later in the evening after they'd all gone home.

Finally, Di Yin and I arrived at the Chelsea Market to meet B and C and explore it with them. The Chelsea Market is a former factory that's now been converted into an indoor shopping street for groceries and other foodstuffs. It's a fun place to wander and sample, with many interesting stores. Of note:

  • the dairy, Ronnymilk, that is in effect a "milk bar" and ice cream parlor, with a decor to match.
  • the bakery Amy's Breads with attractive breads.
  • a cupcake store that has cupcakes with artistic frosting, each cupcake unique. I, however, wouldn't eat any. (They didn't look like they tasted good.)
  • an amazingly huge fishmonger, misnamed The Lobster Place that, besides having a large selection of fish, has recipe tips for every fish. In addition, it also has an astonishing selection of smoked fish.
  • a large Italian market (perhaps Buon Italia) with its olives, oils, antipastos, and cheeses galore, and more.
  • another gourmet market that has James White drinks, which Di Yin and I had in London.
After exploring the market, we walked, dashed across the line of a Halloween parade route (an action that reminded me of the Chinatown scavenger hunt I always play in SF), took a subway, and were soon in Chinatown for dinner at a Vietnamese place. I had just okay fried soft-shell crab (for which the restaurant was supposedly famous) as well as shrimp on rice. After dinner, Di Yin and I split up with B and C and we each began our long journeys home.

It was an awkward evening (I'm not sure why), though I appreciated seeing my friends before heading to China.

Other Tales
Other times I'd occasionally have dinner in the city after work. One day we met a friend of Di Yin's in Flushing, Queens, for Korean food. We had a dumpling soup (the dumplings were good; the rest of the soup was not) and bulgogi (good) and some generally poor panchan / kimchi. Another day we met a friend of mine, B, for, oddly enough, Korean again, this time at Gahm Mi Oak in Manhattan's Koreatown. From its atypical menu, we ordered a meat soup (sul lang tang, which was remarkably boring), a ssam (a platter of ingredients to use to make pork-filled cabbage rolls), and Korean-style pancakes (good with the seafood sauce dip).

On Friday, October 24, 2009, I again ate in the city. I selected Cafe Asean because it has an intriging menu with many dishes similar to or clearly inspired by Singaporean hawker fare. It's a cute, lively place. My good duck roll was Chinese-style bbq duck wrapped (with other stuff) in rice paper to resemble a Vietnamese spring roll. The steamed mushroom dumplings, in contrast, were meh: the mushroom flavor was too assertive.

I took only three pictures over the course of my visits to New York. Only one bears a connection to any of the above stories.

Ogunquit (Maine)

On Monday, October 26, 2009, my parents and I went for a mid-afternoon walk in Ogunquit. I took pictures.

We walked a winding path along the rocky seashore, watched the waves break, and admired the wide Atlantic expanse. We also walked through the town. The town's a typical New England tourist town, a mix of restaurants, including three ice cream parlors, and shops, mostly selling shirts with funny messages or selling tourist memorabilia. It's a bit like Bar Harbor but more spread out and possibly smaller. (It's hard to estimate its size while accounting for its lower density.) There are few stores such as markets, hardware stores, that kind of stuff that sell things only locals need.

The approach to the town is typical for an impressive seaside town: we drove up a hill and, as we reached the crest, the ground dropped away so we were looking down the street through town right at the ocean's blue expanse.

Portland, Maine

On Sunday, October 25, 2009, after a late start (and a tasty breakfast of banana bread muffins and fruit), my parents and I drove up to Portland, Maine. It was a perfect time of year to be driving in this part of the country: the trees were a panoply/cacophony/explosion of colors. In addition, the weather was great: sunny and 60s.

My parents hurried me around Portland, proud to show me the highlights in a packed day trip during which I took these pictures.

Portland looks like a nice place. It has many attractive streets, a variety of different styles of houses, and lots of trees. Most buildings are brick.

[I apologize that the rest of this entry is in brief, telegraphic note form.]

We began by driving on Commercial Street through the Old Port, along the water, passing many interesting-looking, non-chain establishments. We also drove through the West End. Parking by the Old Port, walked around. We spotted a food specialty bookstore, Rabelais Books, which had goats out front. (The store was having a book signing for a woman who wrote a book about raising goats.) We also passed the store Condom Sense, which, by the way, is surprisingly large. It had penis- and breast-shaped pasta in the window.

After lunch, we drove to the East End and walked briefly along the bluff overlooking the water. It looks like a pretty place to run/walk/cycle.

Proceeding along, we headed to Fort Williams Park in South Portland. It's a large, stunning park along the ocean, with many distinctive sights (forts, lighthouses, ruined mansions, etc.). Its coast is pretty like Acadia, with good wave action.

On Shore Road near the park are many grand estates (you know they're estates because each has its own name), all with views of the water. (We could glimpse the ocean across the grounds.)

In late afternoon, we went to my parent's favorite bakery for rugelach, but it didn't have any this day. Instead, we had an okay madeleine (a spongy pastry that's like a light version of a pound cake). We then headed next door to explore a pretty good wine and beer shop.

On the way out of Portland, we drove through Portland's downtown (not the old part of town). It was a perfectly ordinary downtown for a city of this scale, with a decent variety of restaurants.

Drive North (New York to Maine)

We drove north from Tarrytown, NY through New Haven, CT to Kittery, ME on October 24, 2009. Gosh, the drive was pretty -- I can see why all the leaf-peepers emerge in late October to view the trees changing color. Sorry, I didn't manage to take any pictures from the road.

Here are notes on the meals we ate this day.

Visiting Maine

On Saturday, October 24, 2009, Di Yin and I drove up to Maine, and stayed there until Tuesday, October 27. I spent the time with my parents; Di Yin spent the days at Harvard for a conference. It was a typical family visit, with my parents complaining that I'm too skinny and trying to stuff me with food such as banana bread for breakfast.

I hadn't previously visited Maine much during the warmer months. On this trip, I took the opportunity to see Portland and some of my parents' favorite places.


I lived with Di Yin in Tarrytown, NY, in October 2009. Tarrytown is in Westchester County, the county just north of New York City. The area is commonly considered part of the Lower Hudson River valley.

I took some pictures of town that attempt to capture what life here was like. It's also described in more detail in the text below.

Di Yin, incidentally, also took pictures in Tarrytown. The link goes to the first in the album; when you see pictures of friends and I hiking (picture 21), you're done with the Tarrytown pictures. I'll link to the hiking pictures at an appropriate point later in this post.

Our Apartment
Our Tarrytown apartment, a walk up a serious hill from the train station, was one corner of an old Victorian mansion. It was a spacious one-bedroom with many windows opening into trees. The kitchen alone was probably 10' x 10'; the other rooms were larger. Besides the usual suspects (stove, oven, dishwasher), the kitchen had a crock pot and a top-notch toaster. The living room had a corner desk facing two windows, a large dining table, and a "day bed" (look up pictures on Google if you're confused). There were hardwood floors throughout. It was a nice place.

The apartment had numerous quirky decorations ranging from an attractive stick hanging suspended in mid-air above the desk, to models of industrial factories placed atop the kitchen cabinets. There were also more mundane yet nonetheless unusual items such as cactuses in the living room and kitchen, a large painting of a tree (on something like butcher paper!) taped to the wall above the bed, and funky lamps throughout. In further support of our subleaser's extensive interests, the contents of his bookcases were intellectual, sophisticated, and wide-ranging.

Tarrytown is located in the picturesque Lower Hudson River Valley. In fact, the street in front of our apartment has a good view of the Hudson (about half a mile distant). Perhaps this isn't as remarkable as it sounds -- Tarrytown is built on a hill rising up from the Hudson River, and most of downtown has pretty wide views of the river, which glows nicely near sunset. The street in front of our apartment is steep enough that on some mornings as I walked down it, I felt as if I could fall into the Hudson.

Incidentally, during the month I was there, the weather varied. Occasionally, days were cold and wet, with highs in the low 40s. A good number of days were warm and at least partially clear, with highs in the upper 60s, sometimes into the 70s.

Tarrytown has a cute, small downtown. Here are some examples of shops worth mentioning:

  • a local ice cream parlor, Main Street Sweets, that makes it own ice cream (many varieties), and has murals and fun signs on the walls (e.g., "$5 fine for whining"). This place has personality.
  • an intriguing, tiny, hole-in-the-wall, lunch-only shop, also with personality, called Lubins-n-Links that specializes in beef on buns (either slow-cooked brisket or hot dogs). They make lots of homemade toppings; these are supposedly the stars of the meal.
  • a gourmet food shop, Mint Premium Foods, that also has personality. It's an eclectic joint packed full of boxes and crates filled with high-end imported ingredients (cheeses, olive oils, vinegars, olives, chocolates, beers, and much, much more) piled high on top of each other. It's busy in the style of a knick-knack store, but not in a cluttered, disorganized way. Has a deli.
  • a large, quality wine shop, Grape Expectations, with an impressive selection and good descriptions of nearly every wine they carry.
There's also a number of relatively upscale restaurants (white tablecloths), including an Italian joint, two Portuguese joints, and many contemporary-cuisine restaurants, some of which look good. Less formal restaurants cover the range from Greek to Mexican to pizza shops to everyday diners.

On my first walk around town, I was amused to find two churches facing each other and, half a dozen blocks farther down, two funeral parlors facing each other. Incidentally, I was happy to find two supermarkets (though these were not facing each other) that, although not downtown proper, were nevertheless easily reached on foot.

I expected Tarrytown to be dead at night. I was very wrong: not only are there people on the streets, but it's lively. The music hall has shows most nights of the week.

Tarrytown's certainly suburban; it's mostly large, single-family houses. Some houses are so large, they're more properly called estates. We saw one with its own playground. A couple are old mansions, complete with grounds, and hence are even larger. (Tarrytown was a popular retreat for the super-rich a century ago, most notably Rockefeller.) Most of these are now used for receptions and conferences and are open to the public for a hefty fee. I didn't visit any.

Tarrytown is commuter town (evidenced by the perpetual traffic on the two-lane highway that runs through town), inhabited mainly by people who work elsewhere (i.e., New York City) but want to live in and raise their family in a suburban environment. Also, judging by the amount of scarecrows, pumpkins, and other halloween decorations, many houses have kids. (I later confirmed this hypothesis with census data, geek that I am.)

Later, in mid-October, even more scarecrows popped up! Every third street-lamp or parking meter had a scarecrow. Most had nametags. The fence--a type of old-fashioned split rail fence--in front of the library had one on each post. I imagine there must've been one scarecrow in town for each person in town. This town really knows how to go all out for holidays.

On warmer afternoons, I jogged through residential parts of town. On the bigger residential streets, there are no sidewalks. (Happily, cars are rare.) Also impeding running, as I said before, Tarrytown is hilly. At least once I had planned a route on Google Maps, started running, and approached a road and said, "There's no way I'm jogging up that." But yet again on the plus side for running, the town's reservoir has a trail (Old Saw Mill River Road) running along its side. The trail is a pretty tunnel of trees adjacent to a placid lake overlooked by colorful trees. At one point, the trail threads between the reservoir and a pond. I can see why many people choose to walk there just prior to sunset. Indeed, one day as I jogged past two women walking, one looked down the trail and said, "that would make a good picture."

I also found the nearby high school has large, forested grounds and a few cross-country trails, but I stopped running there after I got lost in the forest for over half an hour near sunset.

The commute to my company's offices in Manhattan took an hour and a half (assuming I caught the express train) because after I arrived in Manhattan I still had to take two subways. To avoid the lengthy journey, I often worked from home (three or four days a week).

Even though I tried not to need to take the train to New York City, I should mention the trip is pleasant. The train runs along the Hudson River for much of its length, then jogs along the Harlem River before diving underground into Manhattan. During the middle of the trip, the opposite side of the Hudson has cliffs that rise several hundred feet above the river. Colorful trees cover the bottom half of the cliffs and also serve as a multihued cap on top.

Farmers Markets
Early on during my stay in Tarrytown, I walked to the local Saturday morning Tarrytown Farmers Market. It's cute and small, with about a dozen booths including three bakeries and a cheese shop (which oddly appeared only once). This looks like the place to get good bread (muffins, sweet loafs, croissants, etc.). (There's no bakery in town.) One stand specializes in donuts! I ended up eating a variety of muffins and croissants from these stands over the course of the month. I think I tried a zucchini bread on this first visit.

One day I took the train to the Croton-on-Hudson Farmers Market. It was roughly the same size as Tarrytown's market and included many of the same vendors. I was only there for bread (got a baguette and some rolls), but got distracted and found a few other things to bring home. Most interestingly, I found a specialist pickle vendor, complete with barrels of different pickles and other pickled vegetables. I sampled his pickles and brought a container of half-sours home, with two three-quarters sours thrown in so Di Yin could get to try two varieties. (Interestingly, these pickles were kirby cucumbers, not the typical gherkins.) I also left the market with a loaf of sun-dried tomato, garlic, and basil sandwich bread (for lunches) (from a different bakery than the baguette), a pumpkin muffin (for breakfast) (from yet another bakery), and two different types of apples from a farmer who lives a mere 40 miles away.

Another weekend I returned to the Tarrytown market, this time with Di Yin. I might've gone a little overboard. From the booth with a dozen types of apples, I selected two. I also grabbed from them a container of apple cider donuts because they sounded intriguing. Elsewhere, I bought a cinnamon swirl from one of the bakeries. It was good and definitely better than I expected, and now I might be willing to try their croissants. (Cinnamon swirls are often made with the same dough.) At a different bakery, I picked up two muffins (blueberry, carrot) for later breakfasts. Finally, I bought an eggplant and a tomato (different stores once again--only one of the vendors who sold tomatoes had ones that smelled fresh/ripe). Incidentally, Di Yin also bought some items for our dinners and her lunches.

On my third weekend in Tarrytown, though we were to leave town at noon to start a road trip, I managed to sneak in another visit to the farmers market. Following my promising cinnamon swirl from the previous week, I bought a pain au chocolat from the same vendor.

Outing: Bear Mountain
One day, Di Yin and I met up with my friends B and C to go hiking in Bear Mountain State Park. It was beautiful, with stunning panoramic vistas about three-quarters of the way up. Leaves had just begun to change; I'm sure the views would really look amazing in a few days. We stopped to snack at a good viewpoint; Di Yin had brought fruit and B and C had brought neat baked goods from a Mexican market. From the top of the mountain, we took a different route down, a path that's actually part of the Appalachian Trail.

Di Yin took a good number of pictures on this outing; I took only three. The link to Di Yin's pictures goes to the first she took on Bear Mountain; when you see a picture of a street festival in New York City (picture 47), you're done. Stop. (I'll link to her New York City pictures in another post.)

After our hike, we wandered through a large festival (beer festival?) at the base of the mountain, then the four of us returned to home to Tarrytown where Di Yin cooked us all dinner.

Di Yin and I ate a few meals in town together. I also ate some alone. I won't bother describing any of these here. I do want to describe, however, some get togethers I had in town with friends and family.

One day, Di Yin's parents came up to Tarrytown for lunch. With a lobster. They cooked the lobster Chinese-style and served it with vegetables and a number of other (store bought) dishes they brought. Di Yin's parents are talkative, fun, and interesting, and we had a good time, topped by a walk along the Tarrytown reservoir.

The next day, my aunt and uncle came to visit. We went to Chiboust, a bistro with an eclectic menu. My quiche and salad were good, and my uncle was happy with his eggplant-compote pizza, but my aunt's scrambled eggs looked small and sad. The restaurant's bakery items looked cute! My uncle used to work in this area, so after lunch he took me on a nice tour of the vicinity, pointing out places he used to work, diners he used to frequent, and roads he used to travel. The only disappointment of this visit was the incessant rain, meaning I didn't get to walk along the reservoir with them as I did with Di Yin's parents the previous day.

During our last day in Tarrytown, Di Yin wanted to take a walk to photograph some sights. Along the way, we found an open house: a three bedroom house with a picture window of the Hudson running the width of the living room, and with an attached sunroom (enclosed patio) with similarly expansive views.


I spent most of October 2009 living in Tarrytown, New York. I detoured a bit before arriving in Tarrytown. This post describes the places I visited before settling into Tarrytown.

I flew into Boston on Friday, October 2, 2009, and got picked up by my parents and Di Yin, and we proceeded back to my parent's home in Maine. (Yes, oddly, Di Yin went up to visit my parents before I arrived.) Slightly hungry, and having not yet eaten dinner, my mom and I pulled together a dinner for me of a tuna sandwich (tuna+celery+mayo+tomato), pretzels, and tomatoes.

On a rainy Saturday, we emerged for lunch at Flatbread Pizza, a fun, quirky pizza joint in nearby Portsmouth, NH. I'd been there before and liked it. This time we had the "coevolution" (olives, rosemary, red onions, roasted peppers, goat cheese, mozzarella, garlic) with added (nitrate-free, my parents emphasize) pepperoni, the "carne special" (peppers, onions, sausage, and more), and the simple "jay's heart" (tomato sauce, mozzarella, and grana padano (a cheese like parmesan)). I enjoyed the simple pizza the most. Di Yin liked the pepperoni pizza, not for the pepperonis but for its rosemary and olives. My dad also liked that pizza quite a bit. Incidentally, as before, the pepperonis tasted more like sausage than most pepperonis do.

The afternoon was many intense hours of shopping for pants.

My mom's evening meal was pork ribs, pan-fried/sauteed potatoes, broiled asparagus, and brownies and ice cream. We had two decent drinks: a zinfandel and a beer (the latter being Fisherman's Brew by Cape Ann Brewing Company, I think).

On Sunday, Di Yin and I drove through early autumn foliage to Tarrytown, dropped off some stuff, and proceeded to Queens to meet her parents. They took us out to a tasty Chinese restaurant for a traditional peking duck feast. We had Shanghai-style smoked fish (which tasted much like sweetened spongy tofu one can find at many Chinese joints), jellyfish slivers (eh), a tasty fried lobster (whose meat was surprisingly easy to extract), peking duck wraps (which we assembled ourselves from the spread: wraps, sprouts, Chinese celery, hoisin sauce, duck meat, and duck skin), sauteed pea sprouts (good), sauteed bean sprouts with duck (okay), duck soup (good), plus a sweet sticky rice dessert (ba bao fan = eight treasures rice) with strange fillings (ginko nuts, unusual berries, etc.).

On Monday morning, I proceeded to work, found a seat on the tenth floor with pretty amazing views of Manhattan and the Hudson, and got some stuff done. Yay! Then I headed to my new home in Tarrytown, a trip made more appropriate by a detour to a grocery store on the way.

Interesting Articles: Q3 2009

* Rating Attractiveness: Consensus Among Men, Not Women, Study Finds (ScienceDaily). Interesting.
* Researchers: Social Security Numbers Can Be Guessed (Washington Post). More things that can be done with data. I'm not surprised. The government always told businesses never to use them as an identifier. Even worse:

Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a San Diego based nonprofit, cited another potential problem. She said many businesses have errantly rely upon or have moved to redact all but the last four digits of a person's SSN, the very digits that are most unique to an individual.

"Because of the way the SSN has been designed, asking for the last four numbers of the SSN puts people at risk because those are the only numbers that are unique to you and cannot be guessed easily by someone who might want to use your identity," Foley said.
* Covering Big Food (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). This interview with the producer/director of the movie Food, Inc. is disturbing. The filmmaker had to conquer a wall of silence and multiple legal threats. Listen to the interview to learn what he couldn't put in the film for fear of litigation.
* Hot! Hot! Hot! How Much Heat Can You Take? (NPR). Listen to the radio story. (Don't watch the video.) The human body can survive temperatures higher than the boiling point of water!
* Buybacks (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). Some news that I never heard about regarding companies (amazon, walmart) using DRM to revoke customers' rights to what they bought.
* A Fair Slice: New method makes for equitable eating (Science News via the Internet Archive). Interesting. The I-cut-you-choose method of splitting cake gives each person a piece they're happy with, but, due to differing tastes, both people might not be equally happy with their respective pieces. This new method solves that problem.
A longer article, Cutting a Pie Is No Piece of Cake (Science News's Math Trek), describes this in more depth and also covers the situation with round object (pie) and when there are more than two people involved. Or, if you're having trouble understanding the procedure, the simplest explanation is in How to Slice a Cake Fairly (Science News for Kids). Of course, if you're all over this procedure, you may want to dive more into it by reading a source article, Better Ways to Cut a Cake (Notices of the American Mathematical Society), about the procedure, its extensions, and even existence (or non-existence) proofs of procedures that have these properties in more complex settings. Another source article, more recent, Two-Person Pie-Cutting: The Fairest Cuts (College Mathematics Journal), develops a envy-free procedure for cutting round things (i.e., pies).

Camping in Yosemite

Di Yin and I went camping in Yosemite from Friday, September 25, 2009, through Sunday, September 27. The daytime weather was great--sunny and comfortably warm (70s)--where we hiked. I'm glad we didn't go to Yosemite Valley itself, as it was in the 90s over the weekend. The warm days made the cold night-time temperatures take us a bit by surprise.

I took only a few pictures, instead letting Di Yin take a good number. Her pictures record my memories of the trip. My main memory is the obvious: Yosemite is pretty.

After fighting Friday afternoon traffic (grrrr), we arrived too late on Friday to get a campsite in Tuolumne Meadows. Instead, we camped at Bridalveil Creek, south of Yosemite Valley itself.

On Saturday, we stuck with our plan to sightsee and hike near Tuolumne Meadows. (I'd never seen it before and so couldn't be persuaded to do something else.) We drove the 1.5 hours (at least) clear across the park to it, stopped by the visitor center, and decided to pass Tuolumne Meadows and instead hiked at the secluded Gaylor Lakes, within spitting distance of the far entrance to Yosemite. The lower Gaylor Lake was pretty, aquamarine, shallow, clear, and cold, and with a nice color gradient in the water near the shore. We also spotted funky fishermen, one of whom we talked to. We also hiked to the upper Gaylor Lake, found it similarly pretty, and contemplated hiking to an old mineshaft and abandoned buildings that some hikers who we met mentioned, but decided not to.

On the long drive back to our campsite, we stopped near Tuolumne Meadows to stroll near Tenaya Lake. We wanted to complete the drive across Yosemite in the daylight so, rather than do the 2.5 mile hike around the lake, we spent a bit less time and went wading. I was surprised to find the water was a comfortable temperature. Some currents were warm, some cold: how odd.

Oh, and of course we saw quite a bit of Tuolumne Meadows from the car as we drove past.

On Sunday, we did a short hike up to Sentinel Dome, then drove home early. The top of Sentinel Dome has an amazing panoramic view of Yosemite -- I think it's the best view and hike I've done in Yosemite. It reminded me of my religious experience at the top of a mountain in Spain.

When we drove out of Yosemite, we detoured to loop through the Yosemite Valley and stop at various pretty spots.

As when we camped at Acadia in Maine, we once again forgot a lantern. (Worse, we arrived after dark.) Luckily, I had a flashlight in the trunk, which helped us assemble our tent, but it's not so easy to sit down and have a comfortable meal together in the dark using a flashlight.

In brighter news (heh), we learned we can now start a fire easily, or so I thought when I wrote that in my notebook. Later I wrote "or not." The first few times we needed to start a fire went great, but the later attempts were more difficult. Maybe we need yet more practice. Incidentally, as in Maine, we didn't think of bringing firewood or kindling, but this turned out not to be a problem: we collected kindling on the ground, and Yosemite provided firewood.

For food, we brought the same easy-to-prepare foods that feel like camping to us: potatoes, mushrooms, and ham (roasted together in the fire), corn on the cob (similarly roasted), sandwiches (ham and cheese), and a variety of fruits (tomatoes, pears, apples, etc.). It's satisfying to prepare a simple meal over a fire.

Incidentally, unlike in Maine, we didn't have a mosquito problem (yay!), though we did have bees at breakfast.