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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Quick updates from New York:

Today I had the awesomest street food since I came to the US. It’s a cart near Times square, on 45 street and 6th Avenue and is called Qwik Meal. I tried the lamb pita and it is to die for. Think meat marinated into such softness that it feels like tender fish.

Following that, I headed to see Phantom of the Opera. Everything you have heard about this Broadway show is true. It was amazing. There were soaring vocals, amazing acoustics and really cool special effects (though I was a tad disappointed that the chandelier didn’t really crash down as I had expected). I guess what made my experience more memorable was my rather excellent (front orchestra) seat.

My plans for the weekend include visits to the Museum of Modern art, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Sex and possibly the Bodies exhibition. As a first time NY visitor, I deserve all the pampering I can afford on myself!

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The reason there were no posts over the weekend is that I went solo-camping in the San Gabriel mountains just north of Pasadena.

The idea of spending a weekend alone in the wilderness first occurred to me during a hike I did in the San Gabriels with a couple of friends last summer. I was awestruck by the utter beauty and solitude of a particular spot that we passed along the way. It was a place to remember, highlighted by a little brook that flowed arrestingly between the trees — bouncing over shiny round stones and creating little cascades. That’s when I got intrigued by the idea of spending a few days in these mountains alone — observing, musing, relaxing, and yes, doing math.  Last weekend I finally decided to do it.

After some research I settled on Hoegee’s campground. It seemed to fit the bill — beautiful, secluded, relatively close. I already had a tent and a sleeping bag. I rented other essential stuff —  cooking utensils, a stove, a sleeping pad and a bear-proof container (yes, there are bears in the San Gabriels). I also packed a lot of math books and print-outs of research articles.

Hoegee’s is three miles away from Chantry flats, the closest car-accessible place. I started hiking around noon on Saturday. Almost immediately I realised that these three miles would not be fun. The trail was uphill, and I was carrying too much load. I had on my back a large, rather poorly balanced backpack behind which was attached another backpack full of books and under which was tied my sleeping bag. I held the tent bag in one of my hands and the sleeping pad in the other. It felt like I was hauling up rocks. What made things worse was that the backpack wasn’t really the correct size for me — as a result it put all its weight on my shoulders. Everyone I passed remarked about the amount of stuff I was carrying (after I returned from the trip, I checked the weight of my load — it was a shade above seventy pounds).

The hike to Hoegee’s was nice otherwise. The trail wound its way along the forested slope high above a canyon before descending down. The campground was situated next to a shaded creek that flowed along the bottom. I reached to find several tents and many people already out there. I had hoped for a quiet, nearly empty place and this was rather unexpected and disappointing; however I also felt a mild sensation of relief — spending the night completely alone in the jungle amidst bears and other wild animals may have been scary.

I set up camp, had lunch, and then wandered around for a while. There were two small dams on the creek very near where I had set up tent. I settled myself on top of one of them and worked for a while. Later, I returned to the campground,  had dinner, and went inside my tent. I read a math paper in the lantern light for about an hour before going off to sleep.

         That's the dam I sat on

The next morning, I woke up very early. I ate some breakfast and then decided to hike up to the top of Mount Zion, a little over a mile away and about a thousand foot elevation gain. It was a foggy morning and as I hiked up, the clouds came rolling in, blocking everything from view. It looked almost surreal in the early morning light.

         On the way to Mt. Zion  

I didn’t meet anyone else during the journey, which lasted a little over a half-hour. The peak itself was a flat little area — there I spread out a sheet and sat down. For a while I read a book on automorphic forms. Then I listened to some music on my headphones. I realized again that Mozart sounds most beautiful when heard amidst nature. Finally I came down around noon. I would have stayed even longer had the weather not been so cold and wet up there.

         The peak

I could hardly recognize the campground when I returned. Everyone else had left (check out the contrast in the pictures below) and it looked a totally different place. There was no sound to be heard except the constant gurgle of the stream and the occasional chirp of a bird. Little sunlight reached the ground and the overall effect was one of total seclusion. I stood transfixed for a few minutes before proceeding to cook some lunch.

                                   The campground last evening    The campground that noon

After I finished eating, I packed up everything and headed back.

Pack-up time

The return was less torturous since much of the way was downhill — though my shoulders still suffered. My car was as I had left it and I drove off Chantry flats with memories of a beautiful weekend down at Hoegee’s, one I’d probably do again, though I’d carry less stuff next time and also stay for a bit longer.

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