Cold Water Kitty

It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Weeknight Dive

One of my goals for the holiday break was to do a night dive.  I figured it was the perfect time for a night dive, considering the proximity to the shortest day of the year.  We did a bunch of night dives last spring, but once the days started to get longer, my intolerance for waiting until 8PM to get into the water kicked in, and we hadn't done any night dives since.  So I figured there had to be a few nights of good weather to get a night dive in.  Early in the first week, there was a night that looked promising, but my laziness and the fact that it was really cold out led me to think there would surely be another night during the break when we could do a night dive!  And then for like three straight weeks, there was 10+ foot swell.  Okay, it's possible that's not exactly true, but literally every night since then that we could go on a night dive, the swell forecast was either really big or really long (or often both).

So finally this week, Wednesday and Thursday looked good.  Rob was just getting back from the bay area on Wednesday night, so we decided on Thursday.  It was kind of chilly during the day on Thursday and for some reason (I think it was the walk down to the beach on Thursday morning), I was freezing cold all day.  So cold that the idea of going diving seemed really unappealing to me.  Rob was finishing up a meeting until 6:00, when we were supposed to head out, and I was literally laying in bed under the covers, cuddling with Oreo, trying to warm up.  I really did not want to go diving.  But I reminded myself that I'd been watching the forecast for literally weeks, and the next several days in the forecast looked once again pretty big.  So I dragged myself down to the Breakwater, and boy am I glad that I did!

When we drove up, we saw another team getting ready to go into the water.  And we could see lights underwater from at least one more team already in the water.  As we were finishing up our gear check, a team came out of the water and said conditions were pretty good.  And they were not lying.  As we got into the water, when I bent over to put my fins on, the water in the surf zone looked really clear.  As we swam out, I realized I had not tested my light (I tested it in the garage, but not right before we got in).  So I flipped the switch and... nothing.  Then I realized my E/O cord had popped off.  I plugged it back in and... my light worked again.  Phew.  We continued swimming out until we were a bit past the bathrooms.  When we first started the swim, the moon was totally obscured by the clouds, but then they cleared a bit so we could actually kind of see by the time we dropped.  I stuck my face under the water before I'd turned my light back on, and I could see the bottom.  Without any light!  Rob pointed out that there was bioluminescence in the water, so we flapped around for a bit on the surface without our lights on to entertain ourselves.  We dropped in about 18 feet of water and the viz was great.  I think it was really as good as it gets at the Breakwater, and you could see as far as the lights would allow.

We spent most of the dive meandering out over the sand.  In the first 5 minutes, we saw like 5 little octopuses.  Some were tiny!  Throughout the dive, we saw tons more of them, and many of them were quite active, out climbing around on things.  Basically anywhere that we stopped to look around, I could find at least one!  Aside from that, I found a bunch of Limacias.  They were all in one area.  I found one and showed it to Rob, and by the time he came over to take its pic, I'd found another.  Then while he was taking pics of them, I found a bunch more.  We also saw a single sea hare.  So pokeable.

There were two good finds on the dive.  One, which Rob found, was a Tritonia diomedea.  That was super exciting, because I think this is only like the third time I've ever seen one in Monterey.  Definitely less than the tenth time :P  The other good find was a couple of squid.  We found them as we were (finally) headed back to the wall.  Rob managed to get some shots of one, which was surprisingly not that annoyed by Rob's strobes.  I did feel bad for the little guy though.

And about that swim back to the wall... at some point, maybe 45 minutes into the dive, I suggested to Rob that we head toward the wall.  So Rob starts swimming, and I follow.  And we are headed southeast.  And we are swimming and swimming and I keep kind of correcting us to the right.  And we stop a couple of times and when we start going, Rob keeps heading southeast.  Finally I had to tell Rob we were going *this* way instead.  As a result, when we finally made it to the wall, we were really far out, and it was like 45 feet or so at the bottom.  So at that point, we had to head pretty directly in, because gas was actually getting low.  There was not a lot of time to lollygag.  Along the swim in, we picked up a whiskery friend.  A very rotund harbor seal.  He followed along with us for pretty much the rest of the dive.  He was very cute.  I would never rub a marine mammal on its tummy, but I can't say the same for my dive buddy.

As usual, we surfaced from like 7 feet and I was annoyed that we surfaced too far out :P  Every time I dive the breakwater and don't swim in until I can stand, I end up annoyed when I surface and its further out than expected.

But it was a nice night for a short surface swim.  We didn't make it out in time for Little Chicken Hut, so we settled for In N Out for dinner.  There was an astoundingly short line.  The last time we did a night dive and went to In N Out afterward (sometime in the spring), the line was all the way to the edge of the parking lot!  That was shortly after the miracle of takeout restaurants reopening.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Italian Christmas

For obvious reasons, we didn't go anywhere for Christmas or New Year's this year.  But my company had off for a full week and a half (and I added two days, too make it a nice round 2 weeks off), and Rob rather ambitiously scheduled several days of diving over that period.  Ambitious in the sense that, well, it's December, so the likelihood of cooperative weather is low.  We've done some great dives over the Christmas holidays in past years, but we've also been blown out a lot.  Well I can't say we were totally successful in our diving efforts over the holiday (more on that in a future post), but our most ambitious plan of all was to go back to Italian Ledge the day after Christmas.

As I mentioned the last (and only) time we went to Italian Ledge, it took quite a few tries before we managed to get there.  We've been trying to get back ever since; I think we made a serious attempt last year in September and then again over the summer this year.  Well December 26th seemed like an unlikely day to be able to go there.  And the weather forecast did not look so good in the run up to the date.  We'd rescheduled our Christmas dinner to Christmas Eve, which I regretted when I saw that forecast.  There was supposed to be big scary swell and some wind.  But it seemed like there might be a window in the morning before it actually got big.  The day before the dive, I told Rob that if it was borderline at all, we were not diving.  We had once before made it out to the dive site and had an argument about whether it was diveable (it was not!) and I didn't want a repeat of that.

When we got out to the site, it was dead calm -- definitely not borderline!  The color of the water also looked pretty good!  We took our time dropping the line and getting geared up, and then we jumped in and started the long scooter ride down to the bottom.  The water was clear and bright quite a ways down the line.  Around 150 feet, the line went from being pretty much straight vertical to bending at a slight angle.  There was a teeny bit of current from that point down.  When we finally got to the bottom, it seemed like we had landed on a relatively barren section, compared to our previous dive.  The viz was 30 to 40 feet.  So we followed the structure down to the bottom and around it, and eventually we found some crinoids.  Phew, finally something worth coming to see :)

We ambled around on the bottom, and came back around the structure to find a school of Bocaccio hanging out above the structure (with a bunch of olive rockfish mixed in).  While we were watching them, I suddenly heard a noise, like a very loud humming noise, and then after a moment I realized it was whale song.  I asked Rob if he heard it and if that's what it was.  It was quite intense and we could hear it on and off for the rest of the dive and throughout deco.  I could not believe how loud it was.  I felt like a whale must be about to swim by at any moment!

When we came around the structure, we saw a monster cowcod.  I would have estimated it to be like 4 feet long, though Wikipedia says they only get to 39 inches :)  Maybe it was because I was under the influence oof whalesong.  But seriously, even more impressive than the length of the cowcod was how tall it was.  It was just enormous.  Later in the dive, we saw two more cowcods, which were just normal sized.  Still exciting to see, since I've only seen them once or twice before!

We also saw some big yelloweyes and one flag rockfish.  Last time we saw several flag rockfish.  This time we didn't find the one until pretty late in the dive, so I was just glad to see one at that point.  Overall, this was not as much of a star-studded dive in terms of all of these exotic "deep" rockfish, but I suppose it was a pretty good showing overall.  One super bummer was that Rob had some kind of camera problem that caused a button to stick on, preventing him from changing the focus on his camera.  So he got just a few photos early in the dive, but none of the exciting fish that we found later in the dive :(  Luckily you have my excellent description of the dive to paint a picture of that ;)

When we headed up the structure before starting our ascent, we passed some sections that were more encrusted with corynactis.  This was like the prettier spot where we happened to land on the way down last time.  Rob whipped out the reel and put the bag up and we started our ascent.

We had a very long deco, but it was not that boring.  First of all, the viz was crazy good.  The water was super blue and clear and bright.  And there were lots of deco critters.  No sea nettles, but lots of random singleton jellies and salps and stuff.  Just a steady stream of things drifting by that we could swim over to and look at to pass the time.  I really don't know how the time passed so quickly, but it really wasn't a bad deco at all.

The highlight of the deco was at 30 feet, when a school of bonito swam by.  I couldn't believe it when I saw them just as we were approaching the 30 foot stop.  I wish I had my GoPro for that!  They circled us a couple of times.  So cool!

When we got to the surface, it was still nice and flat.  Phew, we timed it perfectly!

According to Greg and crew, they didn't see any whale spouts at all the entire time that we were down.  So I guess there wasn't a whale about to swim past us during the dive.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Road Trip to "Idaho": A Non-Dive Trip

We were getting a bit restless having not traveled anywhere for 6 months, and I was very grumpy that my plans to go somewhere awesome for my birthday had been thwarted.  So we wanted to go somewhere, and since flying somewhere seemed like a bad idea, we decided it was a good chance for a road trip, and hence a good chance for a non-diving trip.  I somehow got the idea to go to Idaho.  I think I got the idea when I did a google search for road trips from California :) and started to zero in on some hiking and backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho.  Coincidentally, one of my coworkers went on a "bikepacking" trip to the Sawtooths a few weeks later, and when I saw his pictures, that sealed the deal.  So I spent quite a bit of time researching where to go and where to hike, and I even bought a paper map (quaint, huh?) of the trails around the area.  Then a couple of things happened.  I had a company event, so we had to delay the trip by a week, and the entire west coast went up in flames.  Well enough of it to make half of the country smokey anyway.  So by the time we were headed to Idaho, the air quality there was quite bad.  We devised a plan B of going to Utah, since it was still looking nice and green on the air quality map.

Oh, one extra interesting kink in the trip plan.  Rob recently got a Tesla.  So this makes long distance travel extra interesting to plan.  I was rather worried about ending up somewhere in the middle of nowhere, with a dead car and no charger in sight, and having to have the car towed to somewhere with a charger :P

Drive to Twin Falls, Idaho

Sun Valley, Idaho

Evanston, Wyoming

Red Castle Lake, Utah

Antelope Island and Salt Lake City, Utah

Alta, Utah

Back to Salt Lake City

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Road Trip: Back to Salt Lake City

After that, we headed back to Salt Lake City and checked into our hotel, the Hilton Salt Lake City Center.  We stayed at the Hilton this time because they have a Tesla destination charger, and because it's like one block closer to places you would go for dinner in Salt Lake City.  After lazing about for a bit, we decided to go for a walk to Temple Square and then up to the Utah state capitol.  The temple was undergoing some extreme construction, but we walked around the square and looked at some gardens, a statue of a sea gull, and talked to a few different young Mormon ladies, one of whom explained to us why there is a statue of a sea gull.  Rob tried to avoid talking to the Mormon ladies, but I think this is part of the experience with going to Temple Square.  After that we walked up to the capitol, looked very briefly at it (it was hot and sunny), and then headed back to the hotel, for more lazing about.

For dinner, we went to Market Street Grill, which is right next to Takashi, and which Rob had been to before.  It really reminded me of an east coast style seafood restaurant.  We had oysters and I had surf and turf.  And key lime pie.  Yum.

The next morning, we headed home.  It was a pretty uneventful drive.  We spent part of the really boring drive across Utah debating the merits of motorhomes, and looking at pictures of crazy luxury motorhomes online.  Turns out that while you can't watch Netflix on the Tesla while you are driving, you *can* search the internet.  Good to know.

Our last stop to charge was at Donner Summit, which was the biggest and most crowded supercharger that we saw on the entire trip.  It was in the parking lot of a shopping center with a grocery store.  We went into the grocery store to use the bathrooms, and it was without a doubt, the most crowded grocery store I'd been in since March.  I guess everyone is going to Tahoe, since they can't go on a real trip.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Road Trip: Alta, Utah

We decided to do some car camping the next night.  We found some hiking spots that seemed worth hiking and not too hard :P around Alta, and the nearest camping spot that was open this late in the season was Tanners Flat Campground (in Sandy, UT).  The area is really close to Salt Lake City, so you could just go and do day hikes in the area, but we wanted to camp.  We stopped at a Target on the way out of town, to get provisions (marshmallows and graham crackers) and then headed to the campground.  It was first come, first serve so we drove around a bit and found a site right next to the creek.  We setup our tent (and moved it several times, until it was juuust right), got some fire wood, and lamented that we hadn't brought any food to grill (or charcoal to grill with) since there was a grill at our campsite.  Then we headed to Alta to hike to Cecret Lake, which looked like a nice easy hike.

The hike up is indeed pretty easy.  It gets steep and kind of rocky near the top, but it was fine.  Theere were some big smooth rocks in places, which would probably be annoying if it was at all wet.  Once we got up to the lake, we found a nice rock to sit on and hung out for a while, watching the little chipmunks dart around.  It started to get windy so we decided to head down.  But first we wanted to poke around a bit and see where the trail went if we continued to the left.  It seemed to continue.  So we followed that, and looking at a map, it looked like we could follow it a bit longer and eventually make our way back down a different route.  We figured in the worst case, we'd have to turn back and go back the way we came.  

This part of the trail was more in the woods and less rocky.  We were following our little dot on Rob's Avenza map (which showed trails that didn't exactly line up with the trail map I had, but were pretty close).  We had to make a few educated guesses of which way to go at Ts, and eventually it became clear we'd gone the wrong way, but we could see the trail that we thought we wanted to be on, to our left, down a big hill.  Rob tried to talk me into climbing (sliding?) down the big hill and I refused and insisted we return to the last T and go the other way.  You can imagine how Rob felt about that.  So for most of the rest of the hike down, Rob was annoyed at me, but well, we found our way down without a hitch once we got back to that T.  From the map in the Apple Fitness app and the AllTrails map, it's pretty obvious where we went wrong.  Though you can also see that if we had kept going, we would have eventually come to another T where we could have made it down.  By the way, I liked the path that we took down, and would recommend doing the hike as a loop (which also makes it a longer, slightly more respectable hike).

On the way back to our camp site, we stopped at the little grocery store at Snowbird, hoping to find beer/wine and/or some food for dinner that would be better than a dehydrated meal.  We struck out on food (due to our lack of charcoal) but we did manage to each find a can of beer to our liking.

After that, we headed back to our camp site and checked our the creek/stream next to it.  There were some little waterfalls along the stream, which Rob attempted to take pictures of.  The fact that neither he nor his camera ended up in the stream is a small miracle.

For dinner, we made a little noodle appetizer (using our amazing discovery that ramen plus cold water makes an awesome noodle dish) to go with our beers and then we had dehydrated chicken and dumplings for the main event.  This time we managed to get boiling water from our burner, which made the chicken and dumplings significantly tastier.  We built a fire and sat around it for a while, making s'mores and nursing our beers.  Yum.

The next morning, we packed up our camp site, and headed to Gloria Falls for a hike.  By the time we got there, a little before 9am, the parking lot was full and we had to park on the road, kind of a ways away from the trailhead.  Oh well.  So the hike to Gloria Falls is about a mile and a half.  After an initial not too long flat section, it's a pretty steady uphill (but not too uphill) walk.  It's an easy, civilized trail.  Right near the very end, there are some steep sections that require a bit of thought to decide which way to go.  I think it's highly likely we were technically off-trail at that point, though, since on the way down, we found a less steep path down in that area.

Anyhoo, I got ahead of myself.  The most important thing to know about this hike is that on the way up, in a meadow (or something) off to the right of the trail, we saw two moose!  Yay!  Unfortunately neither of them had antlers.  Very disappointing.

When we got to the waterfall, it was quite obvious that we were at the waterfall; I say that only because there were a couple of tiny waterfalls that we saw on the way, where we were like "is this the waterfall?".  And they were not.  Also, when we got to the waterfall, omigod were there a lot of screaming kids.  It was kind of intense.  There was basically no way to get a picture of the whole waterfall without a lot of people in the frame.  But the waterfall consisted of many small cascades, so Rob managed to get some shots of parts of the waterfall, without any screaming kids in the frame.  We were there for maybe 20 or 30 minutes and then headed back down.

From there, we were headed back to Salt Lake City (eventually) but we wanted to get lunch (late breakfast) first.  Fancy-pants Rob suggested we go Park City, since he'd been there (for dinner, I think) before.  We went to The Bridge, where I had a very tasty breakfast burrito.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Road Trip: Antelope Island and Salt Lake City, Utah

The next morning we headed to Salt Lake City.  On the way out of Evanston, we stopped at a great breakfast place called Jody's.  It was my ideal kind of breakfast place; there was a folksy mural on the wall, and they had biscuits and gravy on the menu.  Even better, you could substitute the toast option on any meal with a 1/2 order of biscuits and gravy -- which is the perfect amount of biscuits and gravy, in my book.  They also had corned beef hash and eggs, which is Rob's favorite.  After we loaded up on calories, we headed to Antelope Island.

Antelope Island is the biggest island in the Great Salt Lake.  I'd never been to Salt Lake City or seen the Great Salt Lake, so it seemed like a cool place to check out.  Aside from the pronghorn antelope for which it is named, the island is fabled to have several other kinds of interesting wildlife, including bison.  Well pronghorn and bison were the only wildlife that we saw.  We saw lots of bison and a few pronghorn.  We drove around the island, looking for wildlife, and occasionally stopping to get out (mostly to take pictures of said wildlife).  It was pretty hot and sunny when we were there, so hiking was definitely not an option.  

There is a beach on the north end of the island, and I wanted to wade into the Great Salt Lake, so we walked down to the water to do that.  It's a pretty long walk down to the water (maybe 10 minutes) and well, to be honest, it was a bit anti-climactic.  I tasted the water, and it was very salty.  I think we drove around all of the island that could be driven around, some of it multiple times, and it was still only a couple hour activity.  So worth going to if you are in Salt Lake City, but not amazing.

After that, we headed to Salt Lake City.  The nice thing about Salt Lake City is it has actual hotels.  Like the kinds of places that you might actually stay at even if you weren't on a grubby road trip.  So that was nice.  After much deliberation (because there are so many hotels and they were all so cheap), we decided to stay at a Marriott that Rob thought he'd stayed at before.  Everything was super deserted and the hotel bar was closed.  But the Starbucks in the lobby was open, phew.  The other great thing about Salt Lake City is they have real restaurants, that you can look up on OpenTable and make reservations at.  Since Rob has been to Salt Lake City a bunch of times for work, he actually knew some places that he suggested we go.  He suggested a sushi place for dinner (Takashi).  I was super suspicious of the concept of sushi in Utah, but he swore it was a trendy sushi place that I'd like.  Takashi was actually closed (due to COVID) but the bar right next to it (Post Office Place) was open and was serving both of their menus.  So it was even trendier than expected.  But it was awesome.  Tasty drinks, tasty sushi.  Mmmm.

Later in the evening, after recovering from the sushi and drinks, we went to Penguin Brothers, this very cute pink ice cream sandwich shoppe (with a "pe" at the end).  We went there, got our ice cream to go, and then headed to a Supercharger for a charge.  I got the s'mores ice cream on chocolate cookies.  The ice cream was *amazing*.  It was graham cracker ice cream with marshmallows and chocolate in it, which is like a million times more interesting than a chocolate-based s'more ice cream.  I'm sad to report that I didn't get a picture of my awesome ice cream :(  I've been contemplating an attempt at graham cracker ice cream ever since.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Road Trip: Red Castle Lake

Our hike began at the China Meadows Trailhead, which was, according to Google, about an hour and a half from Evanston.  We wanted to be there by 9, so we left the hotel at 7:30.  Rob punched the location into his navigation system and it confirmed that it was about an hour and a half away.  Over an hour later, after we were well onto a dirt road that was getting more and more dirt-like and less and less road-like, and as the ETA got later and later, I discovered that his navigation system had routed us differently than google.  Hmmm.  I punched it into google, and it said that at this point there was like a one minute difference between turning back and continuing on the route the car had chosen for us.  So we kept going.  That was a big mistake.  

Soon we crossed into national forest land, and encountered cows along the side of the road.  It was pretty deserted, but we occasionally passed a pickup truck with a trailer off of the road.  I think people were camping there to hunt.  Then the road deteriorated to the point that the meadow alongside of us looked like a better route than the road;  and there were quite a few tire tracks through the meadow.  So we left the road and drove through the meadow, until the road became more passable.  Shortly after we returned to the road, there was a short section that was VERY rocky and went steeply up.  I was not sure we could make it up it, and less sure what we would find once we did make it up.  Rob got out and walked up to the top and decided we probably could make it up but wasn't sure what was yet to come.  So at this point, we decided to turn back.  

Rob was pretty annoyed (at me?) and was sure that we wouldn't be able to make the hike today, at all.  By my calculation, we would still make it to the trailhead by 10, and with an approximately 5 hour hike, I thought this was fine.  I was a bit worried about the car having enough charge to get us to the trailhead and then back to Evanston at the end of the trip.  We headed back and figured we would come up with a "rock bottom" charge for the car when we got to the correct turnoff (the one that Google recommends, and that the Forest Service recommends :P).  That turn puts you on a road that the forest service refers to as an "oil and gravel road".  I wasn't sure what that was, but it sounded better than driving through a meadow.  The road was bumpy and got bumpier but other than that, it was just fine.  We managed to get to the trailhead with a few percent more battery left than our rock bottom (and the last 30 minutes were uphill, so I figured the drive out would be easy) a few minutes before 10:00.  Phew.

Based on what I'd read, the route was somewhere between 9 and 12 miles (with 10 miles seeming most likely) with about 1500 ft of elevation gain.  But it starts at nearly 9000 feet, which I found difficult.  The trail is very well maintained.  There are many points where you have to walk across small streams or muddy areas, but they all had nice rock trails across them.  There were one or two crossings that I found tricky, but I am generally a very big wimp about balancing myself on rocks.  The first 8 o 8.5 miles slope up very gradually, at most 100 feet per mile, and then there is a one mile section of switchbacks where you probably cover like 500 feet.  The switchbacks were a bit exhausting (especially at that altitude and that far into the hike) but nicely maintained and overall very civilized :)   I found the hike to be very tiring (due to the altitude, I think) and my feet were killing me (I really need new hiking boots -- any serious hike results in a HUGE blister on one of my heels -- like 2 inches in diameter!) but I would not describe it as "hard".  But I did just want to get the hell out of my pack by the time we got to the lake :P  Rob's legs were destroyed about 6 or 7 miles in; I think his pack was too heavy due to his camera gear.  We probably should have load balanced better.  At some point I looked back and saw that Rob had acquired a walking stick.  It was a very nice-looking, sturdy stick.  I'm not sure Rob would have made it the rest of the hike without his stick to lean on :P

A lot of the hike was along a stream, and most of it was shady.  There seem to be differing opinions on the level of shade in the reviews that I've read.  There are sections out of the shade but they didn't seem to last longer than 5 or 10 minutes.  It was probably low 50s when we left and high 50s by the hottest part of the day, so the weather was perfect for being able to wear a lightweight long-sleeve shirt and not have to worry about sunburn.

Anyway, a couple of useful tips for the hike.  

- If you don't want to do the whole hike in in one day, there is an area about 7 miles in right near a bridge that goes over the stream (creek? river?) which has good access to water and lots of flat spots that look like good places to pitch a tent.  

- A little before mile 10, we came to a fork in the trail, with a sign that pointed right to go to Lower Red Castle Lake, which we followed.  But going left is better.  From the path that we took, we could see the lake but couldn't see how to get over to it until we saw some tents and basically brute forced our way through a bunch of bushes to our left to get over to where we saw campers.  Those campers were very friendly and pointed us to a really good camp site.  After setting up camp and wandering around, we found the trail that we should have come in on (and that we hiked out on), which was the trail at the left of that fork.  If we had taken that route, it would have been another 0.75 miles and we would have been led right past some great camp sites.

- The total hike was around 10.5 miles, according to my Apple watch.  It took us about 6 hours, which included many stops for snacks and whining.

- We saw TONS of people hiking out on our way in.  But when we got to the lake, there were only 2 other groups (one near us, one far away) camping there.  I assume this is because we went up there on a Sunday and on the weekend it's more crowded.

We were both pretty destroyed when we got to the lake.  Rob claims we were "delirious" hehehe.  I mostly just wanted to get out of my damn boots (and pack).  So it was a very lazy evening, once we had our tent set up and had filtered water from the lake.  I managed to produce a pretty nice cheese plate to snack on (I was in charge of provisioning and I was quite excited about the manchego and salami that I had brought!).  Rob wanted to shoot sunset, so by the time we were making dinner, it was cold and getting dark.  We couldn't manage to get our water quite to boiling for dinner, so we had lukewarm, not quite rehydrated chicken and dumplings.  It was more like chicken and croutons, which was still tasty :)  In hindsight, due to our delirium and exhaustion, we did not really eat enough.

Our plan for the second day was to hike up to Red Castle Lake (we were staying at Lower Red Castle Lake).  Details were once again sketchy in terms of how far it was, but it seemed likely to be 2.5 to 3 miles away.  We were exhausted and weren't convinced we were actually going to do it.  We talked about just walking around our lake and laying around in the tent for the day :)  Then our neighbors (who had packed up and were about the leave) told us we should really go up to the next lake, that it was only like a mile and a half, and there were moose at sunset.  Those two facts changed our mind about going there.  As we were chatting, one of the guys looked at Rob's sweatshirt and said "you dove Cordell Bank?".  Turns out he was from the bay area, dives in Monterey, and was familiar with Cordell.  Small world.

Since we were having trouble getting super hot water (our oatmeal that morning was a bit lukewarm, but the coffee was just right), I mentioned to Rob that you can make ramen (or most dehydrated meals) with not-hot water, it just takes much longer, and obviously results in not-hot food.  We decided that not-hot ramen noodles might actually be good, so after breakfast, we put a pack of ramen noodles in our pot with not-hot water and figured we'd see what that produced by lunch time.

We went for a short walk down to the lake and around it (to the left).  We found the perfect little rock for two people to sit on at the edge of the water and hung out there for a while.  We debated whether the nearest camp site was a better camp site than ours, but we had some pretty good sitting rocks at our site, just not right on the lake.

When we returned to camp, we found that the ramen noodles had plumped up quite a bit and were delicious.  In fact, I think they are more delicious like that than as soup.  After lunch, we came up with a plan for hiking up to the other lake.  We figured we wanted to be there an hour before sunset, then we estimated how long it would take to get there, and then we added an hour, so we could walk as slowly as we wanted :)  This turned out to be a good idea, not just because we walked slowly, but also because the sun sort of set behind the "castle" rock before it was actually sunset.  So "an hour before sunset" is more like two hours before sunset.  This is good because it means you can have a cheese plate and walk slowly back down without worrying about hiking in the dark.

The hike up was indeed pretty easy.  There were some annoying sections where you are walking over ankle-turner rocks, and some small stream crossings, but there was nothing hard either technically or in terms of exertion.  It did seem like we were almost there for quite some time, and just when you think you are almost there, you come to a clearing that after walking across, you have to walk up a short steep section (though it's almost like walking up stairs, so not difficult, just tiring).  Then there is a long walk to actually get to the water.  I think it was around 2 miles.  But it's better that we thought it was 1.5 :)

On the way up, we were walking through a nice forested area (probably the nicest part of the walk) and I saw a moose in the forest!  It didn't have antlers, so that was a bit disappointing, but it was a moose!  Rob did not have time or the right lens to get a real picture, but we got a "proof of moose" picture.  I'd never seen a moose before, so that made the whole hike worth it!  Anyway, once at the lake, Rob was taking pictures for a while, so I took some pictures of him taking pictures.  Then when I got bored of that, I found a nice sitting rock, and made us a cheese plate.  It was a pretty awesome cheese plate for being 12.5 miles from civilization.  Well 12.5 miles from the car, civilization was way further than that.  After the sun had deposited itself behind the castle, we headed back down to camp.

On the second night, we were much more organized about dinner (okay, I was much more organized, and Rob followed orders).  We had dinner before Rob's evening photography plans kicked off.  I really wanted to have late night hot chocolate (and oreos) but didn't want to have to schlep back to our bear bag late at night.  So after dinner (rehydrated beef stroganoff, this time made with boiling hot water), we put boiling hot water in a thermos, hot chocolate powder in our mugs, and oreos in a bowl.  Then we packed up all of our trash and food and hung the bear bag.  Then after Rob's photo fun, we listened to a couple of podcasts in the tent and had hot chocolate and oreos.  And we just had to clean up our dishes before going to bed.  Rob set an alarm for 11 or 12 to do some photo things.  I didn't really know what he was doing, but he said it would only take 10 minutes to setup and then he would go back to bed.  So I got up with him so I could see the stars and milky way (which was very visible to the naked eye).  It was not nearly as cold as it had been the night before.  After Rob doinked with his camera for a bit, we went back to bed.

I woke up a couple hours later and heard something in the vestibule (where our backpacks were).  It sounded like something scratching at either the tent or our bags.  I'm sure it was some sort of rodent.  I listened for a while and then woke Rob up.  He tried to scare whatever it was away basically by punching at the side of the tent, and that seemed to work.  Not that much later, I woke up to what I thought was really bad wind.  It was very noisy in the tent (but perfectly warm).  Rob woke up and hopped up out of the tent and took off.  I wasn't sure why.  Then I figured he was worried about his camera blowing into the lake.  It seemed like he was gone for a while, and when he came back, he stuck his camera in the tent.  I asked if he was worried about the tripod blowing away.  Apparently it wasn't actually wind that I was hearing, but rain.  It had just started to rain, so the camera was okay.  Unfortunately the doinking Rob had done earlier in the evening was to setup a long exposure shot to start 3 hours later, and it had not quite made it to that time when he had to pull the camera inside.  After Rob got back into the tent, it started to really pour.  Or that's how it sounded in the tent.  It was not that wet the next morning, so perhaps the tent just magnified the sound.

The next morning, Rob took some early morning pictures, we had breakfast (reasonably hot oatmeal and coffee) and packed up to hike out.  The hike out was reasonably pleasant.  My toes were still killing me from the hike in, so that was kind of unpleasant, but well, it was all downhill, so there was a lot less complaining.  The hike out was not substantially faster than the hike in -- I think it took about 5 and a half hours.  We took a 5 minute break every hour for the first 3 hours.  Then my watch died, which meant that I could no longer pace our breaks and had to keep asking Rob for time/distance.  As you can possibly imagine, Rob was not too amused by that :P

I was quite delighted when I saw the car, because it meant that I could change into flip flops :)  We headed back to Evanston (with plenty of charge) and we were so hungry.  I had been thinking we would stop for lunch on the hike out, but we ended up just consuming all of our trail snacks (nuts, trail mix, dried mangoes).  Since we were in Wyoming, and we had encountered so many grazing cows, we decided we should find some steaks for dinner.  A bit of research revealed one supposedly good steak place in town, but we couldn't get a reservation until late enough in the evening that I surely would have gnawed my arm off before then.  So instead, we went to Cattle Company Steakhouse.  It's attached to a motel, and not a very impressive looking place, but the steaks were VERY tasty and so were the sweet potato fries.  They may have been the best sweet potato fries I've ever had.