Well, it's been a several month hiatus, but I finally have some pictures (and some time) to bring the blog back! As an apology, here are a few songs instead of just the customary one:
I recently went on a much needed vacation with my friend, Joci, and got to experience some of the most beautiful places in the Southwest. We met in Las Vegas and then took the 712 mile loop pictured below.
After one night in Sin City, we left at 0 dark-thirty to make the three hour journey to Zion National Park, Utah. Although I expected a low-key drive, it was still amazing at how desolate things are out in most of the U.S. An example of the roadways we saw here:
WARNING: Because there's literally nothing to do in any of these towns, there are cops freaking everywhere looking to pull you over. Be extra careful....and that's all I have to say about that.

We arrived at Zion at a little after 9, as we lost an hour going from Pacific to Mountain time. Shot of the entrance:

Our goal for the day was to reach the 5,790 ft summit of Angels Landing, a trail which 6 people have died on since 2004. We had already seen videos of people scaling the last half mile of the trail, so we were mentally prepared. It's so steep and narrow that it requires the use of grounded metal chains to support yourself on the way up. A montage of our journey from the canyon floor to the peak:
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One side of the Angels Landing peak
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The other side of Angels Landing's peak
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Zoomed out view for scale
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Endangered condor tagged with environmental protection number
The 2.4 mile hike to the top took about three hours due to its steepness and the sheer number of people on the trail. With paths as narrow as these, no one is rushing, and usually only one person can go at a time. Here's some video footage from the summit:
After the hike, we were both pretty exhausted and decided to head back to lodging for the night. We were pleasantly surprised by the amazing views just driving through the park.
If you ever get to go to this natural masterpiece, do it! You won't be disappointed. Entry about our Page, Arizona adventures to come soon.
 
 
I'm going to post the music first, as this is a long entry with pictures throughout. Enjoy this tune by Ellie Goulding. I highly recommend her entire album, Bright Lights. It's gold: Ellie Goulding- Your Biggest Mistake 
Because our last hike wasn't hard enough, Brett and I decided to tackle Mt. Tallac in South Lake Tahoe on Saturday. Not only is the hike 9.5 miles round trip, but it also starts at 6,400 ft above sea level with the peak being 9,735 ft high. Needless to say, this trip kicked our asses.

The drive up to Tahoe was easy. Unfortunately, our directions did not lead us exactly to the trail head. We parked near a trail that looked kind of sketch, so we asked some old dudes passing by in a truck if we were at the right place. The conversation went something like this:

"Hey, can you tell use how to get to the Mt. Tallac (pronounced completely wrong) trail head?"
"Um, yeah, you'll have to walk around that bend up there and walk for a little ways. Then you'll see it."
"Sweet! Thanks!"
"So you guys know it's going to be freaking freezing up there, right?"

Us unfazed in our t-shirts, "Yeah, we'll be okay."
"You know there's going to be snow and ice up there, right? Like, you're probably not going to make it past Cathedral Lake."
"Yeah, don't worry about it. We'll be all right."
Old dude rolling his eyes, "Okay, guys. Whatever. Good luck!"

Determined to disprove the naysayer, Brett and I headed with purpose toward the trail head. We didn't realize it would be a mile just to get to the start. The hike was pretty easy at first and good views were to be found even along the bottom of the mountain ridge.
We were able to go at a good pace all throughout the ridge. Every once in awhile we would stop to look up at the mountain peak and wonder how the hell we were going to make it up there. We kept pushing, though. Before too long, we made it to Cathedral Lake, the place the old dude said we'd probably have to stop at. 
After snapping a couple photos, we said, "Screw those old dudes," and kept on walking. Soon after the lake, the terrain started to get a lot rougher. Trees became scarce, and as a result, the wind really started to hit us. It was in the low 60s at the bottom of the mountain, but as we climbed, the temperature started to drop. The wind didn't help. Because we were moving, we kept warm enough, except for our hands. If you're going to go hiking up a tall mountain, bring gloves! You'll thank me later. The trail got to a point that was all rocks and was so steep we had to crawl on our hands and knees to be able to navigate up it.
The sense of accomplishment from defeating the crazy steep rock hill couldn't really be enjoyed because as soon as we got to the top of it, the wind gave us the biggest slap yet. I couldn't feel my face for a little while after that. We decided it was a good time to find some shelter from the wind and have a quick snack. Although we were tired, we didn't dare rest long for fear of getting too cold. I donned a light jacket, and we trudged along. The rest of the hike was tough but not as hard as the rock hill. It was motivating to see hikers along the way telling us we didn't have much left to go. Everyone we talked to on the mountain was super nice. There's some type of intrinsic camaraderie among hikers. You're all trying to achieve the same goal, so you're all automatically on the same side. It's cool. Anyway, freezing our asses the rest of the way, we finally made it to the top! Thankfully, the rocks up there blocked the wind. We were able to take in the view while enjoying some lunch without getting pummeled. It took us about 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the peak from the beginning of the trail head. Wish I could laugh in the faces of the old dudes in the truck. To the summit, it was about 4.75 miles distance with an elevation gain from 6,300 ft to 9,735 ft. Tiring as hell, but check out these views:
After taking our share of pictures on the peak, we got the hell out of there. While reaching the summit was awesome, it was freaking cold and windy. The trek down was much easier than up. Once we slid our way down the rock hill, the temperature got noticeably warmer. It was stroll from there in comparison to what we had just done. We reached the bottom of the trail with a total time of 5:30 for the 9.5 mile hike. Not bad! This was by far the most difficult hike I've ever done. If you're looking for a challenge, Mt. Tallac is your boy. Get a friend and try it out. Just make sure you've got some time to recover. My legs still feel like jelly.
 
 
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I had an amazing visit home. It was great to see my parents again, especially when I initially thought I wouldn't be able to make it back until Christmas. It was also such a fun weekend at Brigantine, NJ with some of my best friends. I'm truly lucky to have met so many incredible people during high school. While it sucks to not be able to see them now but a couple times a year, at least we're still able to keep in touch. I wish I could have stayed longer, but the real world has its own agenda. A shout out to my friends in Harrisburg and any others who I didn't get to see this time. Hopefully, we can hang out on my next trip. 

Going back to CA isn't all bad. I am stoked to see Tony again. We'll see how he reacts when I pick him up tonight. There are also some pretty cool people that have made my time in California much more enjoyable. Lastly, can't complain about the area....activities on the to-do list: skydiving, hiking Mt. Tallac in Tahoe, Tough Mudder. Will try to get pictures for all of these as I get the chance to cross them off the bucket list. 

Don't have many pictures to post at this time. I only brought my point and shoot camera to the beach and discovered it was busted once we got there. Here are the few I was able to get before my camera totally died. Continuing with the theme of fun, here's a song by the band, Fun. It's a jam: Fun.- Some Nights
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Brigantine Beach with some awesome friends
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Bliz
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Tay
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Like a boss
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Miiiiiikkkkee
 
 
I hadn't been to a concert in a really long time and just got an itch to go to a show. One of the bands I like best at the moment is Foster the People, so I decided to see when they would be playing. Turned out they were going to be in Philadelphia on one of the days I was going to be home on vacation. Dare I say fate? I bought two tickets hoping another FTP fan would want to go. Happy to say that my friend, Caswell, was totally on board. 

The concert was at the Mann Center in north Philly. If you haven't been there before, it's an outdoor venue; however, the stage and most of the seats are covered by a big wooden roof. There are lawn seats atop a hill that look down on the stage, but if it's bad weather, you're out of luck. Can't say any of the seats really offer a bad view. Just depends on how close you want to be to the stage. They have $15 parking available right at the venue. You're better off parking at a Lowe's shopping center two blocks away, though. It's free and there's way less traffic getting out after the show. Overall, I'd give the venue a B+ with a less than stellar sound quality being its major drawback. As far as atmosphere goes, you can't do much better.

Disclaimer: I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. Everything was taken from my phone. You're not allowed to bring cameras into the Mann. They let you take photos/videos with your phone, though. Go figure....
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Philadelphia skyline from on top of the hill at the Mann Center
Foster the People was preceded by Kimbra and Tokyo Police Club. I knew a few songs from each artist going in that I liked, so I was excited to hear them both. Kimbra came on stage in a rainbow colored poncho. While she was pretty upbeat, her performance didn't contain any sort of dancing which you might be used to if you've seen some of her music videos. She did some work with the tambourine on virtually all of her songs. Audience interaction was limited. Granted, most people weren't in their seats at that point in the show. Her act was done after six songs. She was obviously trying. Her real fan base is down in New Zealand/Australia, and it was apparent most people didn't care too much about her. That might change within the next year or so. Grade: B
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Kimbra
Tokyo Police Club came on after Kimbra. They're a high energy indie rock band from Canada. Most of their songs are just simple guitar hooks, but they can be pretty catchy. Audience participation was big with them. They got the audience to clap to a few of their songs, and the keyboardist got people to make some noise by dancing around the stage. When they were playing, it was a good show. When they weren't...different story. The lead singer spoke to the audience a couple times and sounded completely retarded. It could've been because he was drunk, or maybe he's just that dumb. In any case, what the band lacked in quality music/dialogue, they made up for in enthusiasm. Grade: B
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Me with David Toms and Graham Wright of Tokyo Police Club
So finally, Foster the People came on. It took awhile. They might've been waiting for it to get completely dark for the best stage effects. Whatever the reason, it was worth the wait. Mark Foster strutted out in a white suit, while this gigantic prop sun made crazy facial expression and lit up in the background.
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Sun prop w/ Foster the People
The lights and effects were amazing throughout which included a demon like figure coming out from a doorway in the middle of the sun to shine spotlights down or blow bubbles. Foster continually showcased his dance moves while two guys pounded on the drums like mad men. When it was all said and done, they had played all of Torches, three new songs, and the catchy compilation, Warrior, for which they brought Kimbra back on stage to sing. There was a never a dull moment with Foster the People. If you like their music, they're a must see live. Grade: A+
 
 
Vacation! Woooooo! I landed in Philly last night around 11PM, and so begins my short, but sure to be sweet, visit back home. After knocking out some homework in the morning, I was free to enjoy some time with my mom and dad which included a walk around Chadds Ford's legendary Longwood Gardens. In reality, this place is a weak tourist destination in a small town. I will say that it's a peaceful venue that has some really cool flowers.

Here is a compilation of my favorite shots from our walk. I'll also share this upbeat tune with a new age feel: Night Panther- Snudge
 
 
Well, I was hoping to be able to post some sweet pictures of me skydiving this week, but Mother Nature wasn't having it. We got to the spot Saturday morning and were told it was too windy to be able to jump. Alas, I shall have to take the plunge another day. The weekend was still a blast, though. Went rock climbing, barbecued, and hit the town with Brett, Jordon, Justin, and a bunch of other cool people.

No new pictures to post, but thought it'd be a good time to showcase my favorite pictures of my cat, Tony. He turns a year old this month. I had to do some negotiating with my landlord to be able to adopt him last October. It's been totally worth it. Tony is a totally cool, albeit spoiled cat. He likes pizza, beer, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Enjoy the pics of my little one and this mellow groove: Save the Clocktower- Like That
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Hiding under the bed on the first night I got him
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This cat has loved beer from a young age
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4 months old
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Playing
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Atop his computer lookout
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Attack kitten
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Tony cracks me up
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Tony really liked his Christmas stocking
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What's up, bro?
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Tony playing with his toy from Aunt Laura and Uncle Peter
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Tony playing with his toy from Aunt Laura and Uncle Peter
 
 
I have been wanting to go to Yosemite for awhile now, but for various reasons (weather, work, etc.), it hasn't happened until now. It took a little convincing, but I persuaded Brett to take the trip with me. Once Brett was on board, the conversation went like this: 

"Hey, Jeff, what'd you have in mind for our hike?" 
"Oh, you know, leave at 6 AM, hike 8.2 miles, drive around a little bit, and come back later that night."
".....What?!?"

Despite Brett's initial hesitation, I have to give him credit for manning up and destroying the trail once we got there. It took about four hours to drive to the McGurk Trailhead where we started our hike. According to the map we had, the 8.2 mile round-trip journey up to Dewey Point and back is supposed to take 4-6 hours. We started on a fast pace, leaving families with young children in the dust. As we got deeper into the wilderness, we started to make some stops to take pictures and do random things like handstands on rocks and climbing on top of giant, fallen tree trunks.

Even with the breaks, we made it to the summit in about 1 1/2 hours. Our quads were burning quite a bit, but once we made it to the top of the cliff, that didn't matter anymore. Although it might be cliché to say the view was breathtaking, there really is no better way to describe it. Dewey Point overlooks the whole Yosemite Valley and its mountains, lakes, and even waterfalls. Some of the best pictures of the day came from Dewey Point, including the ones of Brett flirting with death by sitting on the edge of the cliff. 

Once we were finished photographing the landscape, we started back to the car. We hiked way more slowly on the way back even though it was mostly downhill. By the time we were to the last mile, it felt like a crawl. A sense of relief overwhelmed us as we made it back to the road. Amazingly, when I checked my watch at the end, we found that we had done the whole journey in 3 1/2 hours, a half hour better than what the guide had indicated it would take. Sore as hell but content, we started back home. 

Yosemite has so much to see, so I'm sure I'll go back someday. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures I got on my first trip there. Also, take a listen to this soulful folk tune by Beth Moore. Her voice along with the catchy violin riff are sure to get stuck in your head: Beth Moore- The New Side of Me
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Vista point on the way to the park
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Bug on a flower
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River going through Yosemite
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Yosemite Valley
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Yosemite Valley waterfall
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Tall trees!
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Dewey Point
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Dewey Point
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Summit victory pose
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Idiot!
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It's really far down
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Waterfall
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Waterfall
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Dewey Point
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Raven
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Half Dome
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Half Dome
 
 
Because the weather forecast for Yosemite included scattered thunderstorms and sub-40 degree weather, I decided that trip will have to wait for another day. Instead, I "roughed it" all weekend at Camp Far West Lake with my good buddies Brett, Jordon, and Brianna. Roughing it entailed boating, swimming in the lake, playing ladder golf, barbecuing, listening to music, and telling stories around the camp fire. It was a terribly difficult few days in terms of survival. Bear Grylls could learn a thing or two from us. For sure. 

We drove up Friday evening and stayed 'til Monday morning. During that span, I got some nice landscape shots and portraits. Lincoln, CA might not be as photogenic as Yosemite, but it was majestic just the same. Some of the pics are courtesy of my friend Brett.  

My cat, Tony, was not happy that I decided to go camping without him for a couple days. After he got about a half hour's worth of meowing out when I got home, though, he was fine. While Tony might not have liked that I went on the trip, hopefully, you'll at least enjoy some pictures of the lake along with this cool synth tune: The Pass- Out of Hand
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Camp Far West Lake. Our tents were set up right next to it.
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Brianna's dog, Minnie
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Jordon, Me, and Brett
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Gotcha!
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Illuminated by the firelight
 
 
No new pictures to add just yet, but I did want to start posting some galleries of my favorites from different places. I'm planning a trip to Yosemite this weekend, so I hope to bring back some good photos from there. It'll be my first time visiting the park. I'm excited. 

Not much to say at the moment. Below are some of my favorites from San Francisco. Also, enjoy a tribute to the West Coast courtesy of my friend Elizabeth: Coconut Records- West Coast
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The Travis Marina at sunset
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Alcatraz
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The Embarcadero
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Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
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Pelican in front of the city
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Seagull in front of Alcatraz
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Boats in the bay
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Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
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Pier 39
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Golden Gate Bridge covered in fog
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Alcatraz
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Lots of cool architecture in San Francisco
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Downtown San Francisco
 
 
So I was just surfing the internet yesterday afternoon around 2:30 PM, and I came across an article about the Annular Eclipse. I had heard some people mention it earlier in the week, but hadn't really paid attention to the details. Well, as I'm reading, I learn that there is a very specific geographic path that the eclipse is going to follow. If you happen to be in the direct path, you'll be able to see the "Ring of Fire" aka the coolest thing ever (or so the article suggested). Thanks to a handy time/location table, I discover that Reno, NV is right in that path, and the eclipse is supposed to be at its peak at 6:30 PM. 

I'll be damned! How can I pass up an opportunity to go see this once in a lifetime wonder when Reno is merely a 2 1/2 hour drive away?! And I couldn't. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. So being the impulsive maniac that I am, I decided to grab my camera and start driving up to the biggest little city in the world. 

Because I felt like kind of a loser for heading on such a lame expedition by myself, I called up my friend Brett who lives on the way in Sacramento. Using my persuasive charm, I convince him to join me on this sure to be incredible experience. At about 6:10, we decide to pull off the highway about 20 minutes outside of Reno. There was a good view of the sun, and a few people were already set up with folding chairs ready to view the eclipse. 

As the time draws nearer to 6:30, we're both thinking WTF! There's no visible sign of the sun being obstructed, and my attempts to take pictures with my camera to see if it'll show anything different are blinding me. Thankfully, a nearby hippie interrupted me from destroying my eyesight to let me borrow her nifty eclipse glasses (basically like cheap 3-D glasses but meant for viewing an eclipse). And wouldn't you know it, I could see the moon passing over the sun. I passed the glasses over to Brett as she explained that at as the eclipse peaked, "The roosters will crow and the cows will moo!" 

Hearing this news, my excitement starts to return. I might not be able to get a picture right now, but come 6:30, I'll have my time! So we wait until the moment of truth, and guess what. No roosters crowed. No cows mooed. In fact, the most noticeable thing was that the shadow of a nearby telephone got a little bit blurry. That's pretty sweet!

In any case, the trip wasn't a total waste. Driving up through the mountains is always fun. It's beautiful near Lake Tahoe. I've posted a picture from one of the vistas along with a photo that captures the isolation of the lookout point 20 miles outside of Reno.

This entry's song is a haunting tune that is truly beautiful. Hope you take the time to listen: Passenger - Feather on the Clyde 
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Lookout point in the mountains near Lake Tahoe
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Cloud casting a shadow over rundown store