Thursday, August 13, 2015

A hike through redwood forests.

Last Saturday, we decided to go on a hike to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a drive about an hour and a half away from where we live. Since I'm pretty unfit right now, I looked up the trails online and decided that we should go on a moderate hike, and steer clear of the strenuous ones.

We drove through some lovely landscapes, most of them looking straight out of an inspirational poster, and reached the headquarters of Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

This is my dream home. Except that it is not exactly a house, but so what.

I don't know whether it was a mistake or whether it was a deliberate move by S--for whom hiking ranks among the top of his favourite activities--but we chose a strenuous hike. And a long one at that.

Anyway, off we went, and--before I start, I must get this out of my system--Redwoods are some of the most magnificent, majestic, grand, awe-inspiring and beautiful creatures that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I have fallen utterly and hopelessly in love with them.

The ones in Big Basin, which btw is the oldest state park in California, are between 1000 and 2500 years old.

So we started walking on the Skyline to the Sea Trail (which goes right up to the sea). We decided to walk up to Berry Creeks waterfalls, 4 miles into the woods, and then walk back. It was an exhilarating walk. A lot of ups and downs, yes, but to walk in foliage that is entirely new is a beautiful experience. And what redwoods forests do is that since they soar high above you and the branches are way up there in the sky, the trees don't seem like they are pressing into you. Only their gorgeous huge trunks are visible all around you, giving you the feeling of walking among large pillars. So the trail continued, and four miles and two hours later, we reached Berry Creek Falls, where we sat down and had our lunch of sandwiches, nuts, trail mix cookies, energy bars and water like any self respecting hiker.

After a while, it was time to decide whether we wanted to go back the same way, or take another trail, the Sunset Trail, that loops around and reaches Park Headquarters. I was the weak link in the chain, and so everybody asked me how I was feeling and whether the ball of my foot was hurting (where I have a chronic ache). It wasn't, and I was game to take the longer looping route back (I was loopy to make that decision, but that I realized only on hindsight).

So we set off again. We walked, seeing banana slugs, and looking out for poison oak though we didn't know what exactly to look out for.

And then after an hour of walking post lunch, my body started protesting. I swear, if I had stood still, I would have heard my muscles screaming. There would be a prolonged upward incline, and then a prolonged downward slope. The former was hard on my calves and the latter was hard on my toes. I walked nevertheless, gritting my teeth, especially at the sight of Puttachi and the others skipping along as if they were in the friendly neighbourhood park.

S found a thick stick for me to use like a hiking stick. So I pretended (in my head) that I was Gandalf (the greying) from LOTR and the stick was my staff, and that helped. Off we walked.

And then, finally, at 4 pm, 6 hours after we had set off on the hike, we came back to the park headquarters. We had walked 10 miles. On one hand I was glad it was over, on the other hand, I was sad that it was over.

I sat on a bench at the headquarters, and I couldn't get up from the bench after ten minutes--it was like every muscle was cramped. If even a small part of my mind had hoped that I would escape from this ordeal lightly, then, this erased that hope from my mind.

We had dinner at downtown Saratoga. Delicious quiche at Big Basin cafĂ©. Before that, we walked around a little around the town (I hobbled). Such a pretty place, so many interesting shops to see. The highlight for me was walking past a fancy restaurant there, which had a real vine with grapes growing on the shopfront.

To cut a long story short, I couldn't walk normally for the next two and a half days. Puttachi didn't help my morale much. When we walked somewhere the next day with  my sister and brother-in-law, Puttachi told them--"You walk ahead. I'll walk with Amma while she waddles up." Well, I guess I should be grateful that she was willing to walk with me at all.

But I can't begin to explain how lovely the hike was. And how beautiful the forest. And I see that this is a total hike-friendly region. I'm all enthused to go on long hikes again. Moderate ones for a while hopefully, and meanwhile, I hope to make myself fitter, so that I'm not laid up for three days after every hike. I'm quite ashamed of myself, actually.

But I'm glad I lived to tell the tale.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Whale Watching at Monterey Bay

We booked tickets for the 1 30 trip last Saturday to go whale-watching at Monterey Bay. We left home at 11, which we didn't know was too late. So we got stuck in traffic on the freeway (which by the way had wonderful ocean views towards the end) and reached Monterey at 1 20 or so. (Now that's an entirely new experience for us, used as we are to reaching far too early and waiting it out.) And then we had to go find parking, and when we did find a pay and park building and finished parking, we had to wait for a trolley that would take us to the Boardwalk, and when we couldn't find the trolley, we had to run on the streets of Monterey to catch the boat. But catch it we did with minutes to spare.

And I'm glad we did. 

The ocean was this deep mesmerizing blue. And as much as I adore the grandeur of the mountains, I must say that the vastness and the mystery of the ocean is giving intense competition to the mountains for a favoured place in my heart. Ah well, I'll just expand a little more (my heart I mean) and accommodate both of them. 

Now if I have a friend who'll take me on a yacht... :)

As we went 15 miles into the sea (I'll be speaking in miles and pounds for a while. You are welcome to laugh at me. Well, I would have laughed at myself two months ago) - I enjoyed watching the wake of the boat. How beautifully the waters swirl and swish. And so much blueness!

We saw a dozen hump-backed whales just doing their thing, showing off their lovely tails with white markings. It was very exciting to watch them blow. Something that I've been obsessed with for decades. One whale was very close, its glistening body going in and out of the water for a while before it disappeared. 

I do have a video or two of the whales, but nothing to write home about. Honestly, I was happier seeing it live than bother and worry about pressing the record button in time. (I'm becoming like S. I have to watch out.)

It was very cold and windy, but the sun beat down intensely upon us. I'm going to need a while to understand that phenomenon. 

We got back to land and ate some fabulous crepes and hot apple cider (that sounds good, doesn't it? I would've been totally drooling if I'd read this on someone else's blog) at a cafe on the boardwalk, saw the Customs House, the oldest building in California before we left.

Next to do: Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Friday, August 07, 2015

About Encryption in Brainwave magazine

I wrote a little story explaining Private and Public Key encryption for the Encryption issue of Brainwave. You can read the story online too, here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Four signs that Puttachi's vacation has gone on for too long.

1) She's creating a sugar trail around the house, complete with obstacles, to feed and entertain ants.
2) I overheard her talking to SIRI on my phone, asking it in her best imitation of an American accent, "SIRI, will you visit me?"
3) She has created a whole range of furniture and a car (with seat belt) for her tiny thumb-sized doll, out of nothing but flimsy construction paper and sellotape.
4) She lay sprawled on the bed, looking at the sky through the window, and told me, "Amma, sometimes I feel that the whole world is just a huge video game, and a giant is pushing buttons and making us all move, and is laughing at us."
- -