Ellamar, AK

It had been far too long since I had visited our family cabin in Prince William Sound. Making a quick trip there is often difficult, because it requires that I can catch a flight to Valdez and then get a boat ride out to Ellamar. Last May, the stars aligned – I found a cheap ticket to Anchorage on JetBlue, used miles to fly to Valdez, and rendezvoused with my parents in Valdez for a boat ride to the cabin.

 

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The family cabin – I helped my dad and friends build this

It was a short trip – Friday to Tuesday – but in just 3 days I was really able to unwind and feel the comfort of being home. We shrimped, fished, saw wales, kayaked, and did some hiking. We also sat around the cabin and played cards.

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View of the Sound and Ellamar

Elephants of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, Part I

Last Christmas break, I visited my wife Radika’s home country of Sri Lanka. I took a ton of photos and there’s a lot I’d like to write about this trip, so I consider this the first post of several about our adventures there.

The flight to Colombo was torturously long, partly due to long layovers in San Francisco and Singapore. We arrived in the middle of the night and then drove down to Radika’s hometown of Gonapinuwala, near the popular beach town of Hikkaduwa. Our cramped, jet-lagged bodies finally arrived at Radika’s parents’ home around 3am but we didn’t go to bed. In fact, as tired as I was, the surroundings were so new and enchanting to me that I don’t think I would have slept even if we’d been afforded the opportunity. Instead, we ate the meal that Radika’s mother had prepared for us, we unpacked, we chatted, and finally re-packed for a 6 hour drive to Yala National Park. (For more about the drive to Yala and entering the park, stay tuned)

Once in Yala, it wasn’t long before we saw the animals that I’ve been wanting to see in the wild all my life. Our first encounter was with a matriarch and calves, and they were gorgeous. They ate from branches, lumbered about, and generally payed no mind to us in the old green truck that had been converted into a makeshift “safari jeep.”

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Elephant calf on our fist day in Yala

We stayed in Yala four days (we’d rented a bungalow in the park), and we continued to see more elephants. Sri Lankan elephants are the largest of the Asian elephants but they are smaller than African elephants. I noticed that they had some interesting behaviors, like throwing dirt upon their backs and also stomping the ground to loosen the grass from the soil. They would then pull the grass with their trunks and smack the roots against their feet in order to remove the dirt.

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Sri Lankan elephants stomping the soil before pulling out the grass (see paragraph above for more on this)

Strawberry Point

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Radika and I went to Strawberry Point in February 2015 just after I finished a big medical school exam. We were very fortunate not to get rained on, and in fact we had excellent weather – clear skies, no wind, and starry nights.

We started from Third Beach Trailhead off of La Push Road and hiked for 4.8 miles (map). There were a few moderately difficult sections where we had to scramble up steep slopes, but there are ropes. My advice would be to bring a set of gloves for these roped sections.

Death Valley

4 days in the desert

Over spring break, my wife and I made the drive down to Death Valley. This is one of my parents’ favorite places to visit and I’ve repeatedly heard that we must check it out. Glad we did! We stayed four days and some of the highlights are posted below.

Golden Canyon Trail

This trail is a quick drive south of Furnace Creek and an excellent place to watch the sunset. We had the ridge completely to ourselves.

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20 Mule Team Canyon

Just on the other side of the Amargosa Range from the Golden Canyon Trail. It’s a short one-way drive and there are trails that go up the ridges.

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Dante’s View

We were en route to Greenwater Valley and stopped off here for the great view of the basin.

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Greenwater Valley

The road into Greenwater Valley isn’t too shabby and was an easy drive in the Subaru Forrester. We went back into Gold Valley and hiked through the Willow Springs gorge.

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Greenwater
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View from Greenwater
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On road to Gold Valley
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View into Gold Valley
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Hiking into Willow Springs
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Making a detour on Willow Springs hike
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Willow Springs

Devil’s Golf Course

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Natural Bridge Trail

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Lizard on Natural Bridge Trail

Queen of Sheba Lead Mine

The road up to this mine is pretty slow, but a nice view in the end.

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Flowering beavertail cactus
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Flowering beavertail cactus
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Queen of Sheba lead mine

Badwater Basin

Instead of hiking in from Badwater road, we took the West Side road and hiked into the basin from Tule Spring. There wasn’t a single person in sight.

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Artist’s Drive

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From the entrance of Artist’s Drive. Another great place to watch the sunset

North Side of Death Valley

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View north of Little Hebe Crater
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65 – 70 mile per hour winds
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The beginning of an epic sand storm