The Giant Trees at Sequoia National Park

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Western region of the United States, Sequoia National Park is famous for the giant sequoia trees, including the largest tree on earth – General Sherman.

The majority of the park is not accessible via motor vehicles because of its sheer wilderness. However, you can still enjoy the beauty of this rare redwood forest area and cover the trails it offers.

There are multiple entry points to the park. But the one we took was the most difficult drive uphill – Highway 198 from the southwest through three rivers. It had hairpin bends which were covered with fog throughout. The winding roads with steep incline were difficult to drive as there was traffic from both the sides. Many were making frequent stops to beat the motion sickness. In spite of all this, this was my second most favorite driving experience because of the views; first being Mount Washington Auto Road.

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There were three attractions we wanted to cover.

First was Moro Rock. We went there twice, climbed once – nearly 200 out of 400 steps, but couldn’t see the view of the valley as it was super foggy. The visibility in the parking lot itself was less than 1 feet! See for yourself…

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However, driving through the woods to reach there, with cold breeze caressing our face made it memorable.

After our first failed attempt to climb Moro Rock, we headed to the Sherman Tree. The Sherman Tree is shown in the 1st pic below. It is the largest tree on earth by volume of its trunk. It can be reached through a 0.8-mile round trip paved path from the parking lot and also gives a close-up view of the grove of giant sequoia trees. The ash in the next pic is necessary for the survival of these trees and most of them can be seen having some form of it.

Our next stop was a mile-long walk – Grant Grove. It’s a loop around tall sequoia trees and is an easy one with information written alongside the trees. I recommend it to everyone as this gives a peek into the history and geography of the area. There are benches and picnic areas in the park, too.

After the leisure walk, we headed back to the Moro Rock to try our luck one more time. The Fog was thinning and we were very hopeful of making it to the top this time. We starting driving down the road but as we were nearing the parking, a thick blanket of fog appeared suddenly. It was quite amazing to see fog appearing and disappearing with each turn on the road. Unluckily, we had to leave from there again!

Our last stop was Tunnel Log. It’s a car tunnel carved out of the trunk of a sequoia that fell over the road in 1937. Drive and click a picture…it’s a fun thing to do. Tunnel Log is on the Crescent Meadow Loop.

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Experiencing Yosemite Wilderness

There is so much for everybody to do and see at Yosemite. Once you are tired of seeing the hotspots, you can just stroll around at the marked vista points and experience the beauty of vast landscapes. Most of these spots have benches, offering you an opportunity to grab a meal.

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We had to visit the Mirror Lake in the end before signing-off on Yosemite. But that too required walking a couple of miles to and fro on a paved path from shuttle stop #17. However, there is a beautiful stream to accompany you. After an exhaustive day, I found sitting there so therapeutic.dsc06172

As regards the lake itself, it is a worthy attraction, offering stunning reflections of surrounding cliffs. The best time for views is spring and early summer because of snowmelt from Tenaya creek.

If you wish, you can loop around the lake too, which is about 5 miles round-trip and needs 2-3 hours at the minimum.dsc06181

Yosemite is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you get to be nearby, do visit this amazing gift of nature!

For more pictures, visit my Instagram account @the_learning_step

You got to keep your wife Happy, and girl friend Happier!

…And there are no Ifs and Buts about it!

After the blockbuster success of how can you be happy that I wrote few months back, I thought for a while. How can you be happy without making sure your wife or girl friend is happy – in every respect! I know this is the most difficult task in the world, but then you are supposed to be that much wise. No?

I have failed on many accounts, but still my experience could be of some help to you.

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The way to tackle the issue is to list down all that she needs (most of that is indeed materialistic), and take them up one by one. For me, they have been Perfumes, Watches, Bags, and the list is just short of endless. And then go on to satisfy her desires, whatever that means😛

You might argue how can materialistic things satisfy her the most? Well, that’s why people have failed to understand women! Better is not to think – if you apply your thought, you will surely not end up on the winning side. You might still be tempted to give it a thought, but believe me – the end result with be the same. Yes, you have my sympathies!

I see this unmarried young lady in office and I have hardly seen her repeat any of her ‘expensive’ dresses. God knows how will her husband keep up with her! Nevertheless, I know many ladies out there did the ‘100 saree pact,’ so I guess it can indeed be worked out. Even otherwise, if you think through, it is not that difficult…you just have to compromise on your ‘personal’ list of items to buy.

If you are unmarried, this becomes all the more important; else, you might not get whatever you are looking for. So, take your call – enjoy the company while being a mute puppy or raise your voice and be in your own company!

*Picture sourced from here

The falls at Yosemite National Park

There are numerous falls at Yosemite – some would just take your breath away!

Most of the tourists just visit the must-see Bridalveil and the Upper and Lower Falls (shown respectively in the 2 pics below). You are allowed to go close to the falls (still at a safe distance) but be ready to get drenched…to me, that is where the fun is!

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As you cover the park, you would see many others too – some don’t require much of an effort to reach.

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However, one that would require a mile-long steep hike would be Vernal Falls (shown in the very last pic above). With my stamina too, I was all huffing and puffing once I reached the top; but it was all worth it.

Notes:

  1. Yosemite is the perfect place for anybody who loves Nature. You can hike, see the stunning falls, picturesque landscapes, or just get lost in the wilderness.
  2. Keep at least 2 days for this national park, even with that you will just get the feel of it. I won’t be surprised if you spend a week there.
  3. Best time to visit is late-March to end-April. The reason being the falls are in full flow then.
  4. Go to their visitor center first and check out what works best for you. You will be able to park there and take the free shuttle for getting around (or you can drive on your own).
  5. As mentioned in the earlier post, the entry is $30 (per vehicle) which is valid for a week.
P.S. For more pictures, please visit my Instagram account @the_learning_step

What have I done for India?

With our country celebrating 70th Independence day today, it is a perfect occasion to ask ourselves ‘What have I done for my Country’?

No matter the issues we have – corruption, politics, social, economic, and the list is long – we all have an obligation to serve our motherland. If not for anything else, just for the fact that we have been aggressively using its resources, which are not infinite!

And it is not just by being at the border and fighting the enemy that we can make a difference. Think about how you can touch the lives of others! Even if you are just cleaning up the surroundings of your house, throwing the trash at the designated places, being kind to the tourists, using public transport to travel to your workplace, you are doing your bit, though you might not even realize it.

I worked in India for long and contributed to its economy. Even when I am out of the country*, I am adding to its Forex reserves.  And I am not alone. Today, there is hardly any country with Indians not being there, isn’t it something we should be proud of? Absolutely yes! Many NRIs help their families back home in whatever way possible. Even if they just send the money home, it makes the lives of their near and dear ones better, thus adding to our GDP indirectly.DSC07468

We have come a long way from being called the nation of snake charmers to having our flag illuminated at the Empire State Building in New York. It is not for nothing that Mr Modi is a close friend of Mr Obama…something our freedom fighters would not even have dreamt of back then. The entire world it taking note of our capabilities, every single day!

I traveled 2 hours today just to get this shot…it made me Proud!

Happy Independence Day, INDIA.

*My long term wish is to retire in my Dad’s house in Ambala, India, doing the activities I love

The Story Of A Suicide by Sriram Ayer

I am not much of a book reader. With my routine, I find it inconvenient to carry a book around with me. But when I got to read ‘The Story Of A Suicide’ online, it suited me. What kept me hooked was the narrative and characters that led to an instant connect. Four friends who studied in the same college and each one of them going through some problem of their own. The narrative is built around three boys – Hari, Mani, Sam; and one girl – Charu.

  • The story starts with Sam‘s break-up. He is a handsome young man, who even with his good looks and intelligence can’t win love for himself and tries hard to take revenge from Charu. With his detailed plans and an aggressive push from his friend Aditya, he feels lost, as the ‘power of love’ is greater than that of revenge.
  • The story moves ahead with Mani, the son of a laborer. He tries to commit suicide as he is not able to cope up with studies – he succumbs to the pressure of dealing with the English language. At this moment, his friends who in spite of their own problems, come to Mani’s rescue and stand by him.
  • Hari, who was raped by his Uncle and his friends, has problems building relationships. He can’t even confide his secrets with the closest person in his life – his sister. In college, he finds a friend and soulmate in Mani, who unintentionally betrays him. In addition to a traumatic childhood, he has a problem disclosing his sexual orientation.
  • Charu, the quintessential modern girl, free in spirit and manners, is somewhat confused. She is a feminist and lives on the edge. Nevertheless, she is a good person by nature.

Each of the characters in the book has a confused mindset, which many of us experience while growing up. We feel trapped and lost in our problems and use revolt to get out of it. In Mani, Sam, and Hari’s case, these revolts are converted into extreme forms – suicide and cyber stalking.

There are many lines in the book with which I connected:

The way Charu’s character portrays the deep understanding of women. Her depiction is that of a modern woman who is looking for a meaning in her life. These are few of my favorite lines of her from the book-
quotes - the story of a suicidereview of the story of a suicidehow to review bookEven the teacher Alex shows the understanding of women by men. These lines by him show his respect and care for his wife-
review of a bookThere are many youngsters who face problems and few accumulate the courage to come out in the open. Though Hari fails eventually, but before taking an extreme step, he talks to his father and his words are emotional and powerful-
book reviewMy favorite, however, are the lines which Mani says while having a heated argument with Charu and Hari. It shows positivity and the fact that if we can’t win over a problem, we have to make peace with it and find meaning in other things that can take the negative vibes away. Mani says this-
the story of a suicidethe best review of a bookI suggest the following to deal with these issues –

  1. Think positive in life – There are hard times for everybody, but they always pass sooner or later. Remember the nice times you’ve had and cherish them, especially when the present is not looking good. Go out and enjoy the bliss of nature, if there is nothing else working out.
  2. Take your own time to respond – Don’t succumb to pressure and rush into things. More often than not, we commit more (and serious) mistakes in the heat of things. If you just keep quiet, most likely you will realize later that the situation has improved by then.
  3. Talk about your problems – Never keep anything weighing you down within yourself. Let it out. Confide in somebody who will listen to you and give you peace of mind – it could be someone from the family, friend, teacher, or whosoever is close to you.
  4. Don’t overthink and play it cool – Too much thinking on any aspect of life is bad, especially when it comes to expectations from others. When you let it loose, you won’t feel bad if it doesn’t go your way. This mantra, so to say, has kept me sane over the years.
  5. Indulge in various ‘happy’ activities – I keep myself so busy that there is no time for me to even think of what is going on around. Toastmasters, Work-outs , Writing, Traveling, and Stock Market are my ‘happy’ activities – the ones that never disappoint me!

This book gives an in-depth perspective on the subject from various angles – a must read for anybody and everybody who has gone through an emotional turbulence and is looking for ways to overcome them. The book is available online, you can read it here at your convenience. There are links available in each chapter that answer questions that could help to overcome problems like break-up, depression, cyber bullying, rape, and suicide.

There is a lot to gain from this book, read it to have a better perspective on life!

The Grandeur of Yosemite!

As soon as we entered the gates of Yosemite National Park, I was in awe of the magnificence of it! The huge granite rocks, stunning landscapes, numerous falls, lakes, mountains, biological diversity, and much more attracts over 3.8 million people every year.

We were looking forward to visiting this acclaimed World Heritage Site even before our trip, and I must say a couple of days there are highly recommended! If you like going to National Parks, you can buy the Annual Pass applicable to all National Parks in the US for $80. Else, the seven-day pass to Yosemite is for $30 Apr-Oct or $25 Nov-Mar (the fee is per vehicle, not per person).

Most of the tourists spend their time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley, giving a picturesque view of the famous El Capitan (on the extreme left in the below shot), Half Dome (right in the middle), and Bridalveil Falls (on the right).tunnel viewWe wanted to see each of them more closely, so we parked the car near the visitor center and took their shuttle (runs frequently across the eastern Yosemite Valley all year round) to see each of them more closely.el capitanhalf domebridalveil fallsAgain, be ready to walk a lot as these and other spots in Yosemite are just not by the road (as you can imagine). I will have more to say on this wonderful gift of nature in future posts.

P.S. If you haven’t noticed, I added the watermark to my pictures for the first time, as few have asked me if the shots here are all mine. Yes, they absolutely are! You can find more selection on Instagram @the_learning_step

Trust Cements a Relationship!

We build relationships throughout our lives. While some come and go, others stay with us for our lifetime. These steadfast relationships are nurtured with respect and care. However, with every passing year, there is one element that grows by leaps and bounds – trust. Trust is something that holds a relationship together irrespective of the label.

Do you place your trust on someone outside of your family?

I do. There are many people in my life who have raised the bar of the relationship to a point where they have our unwavering trust. One such person is my father’s friend – Bindra Uncle. Bindra Uncle has been in our lives for more than 10 years now. Initially, his association was only with my father. They became acquaintances through a charitable organization, and later on became fast friends. But over the years, their relationship has extended to our families. Bindra aunty is now friends with my mother. And, we children, replicate the same bond amongst ourselves. I can safely say we have merged into each other’s life seamlessly. Of course, there is a reason behind it. Like any other relationship, ours is also based on respect, care, and understanding.

What makes a relationship strong enough to last long?

There were many testing times when we needed Bindra Uncle’s help. Once – when dad was bedridden, and I was not there to take care of him. And, there are many small anecdotes where he or his family lent their support – in words as well as in actions. They were always there for us! Be it doing a simple task of fetching groceries when dad was unwell, or giving their emotional support, they never wavered from their duties as family friends. In fact, their entire family has been with us through thick and thin. That’s not all – the selflessness behind their acts is very humbling. They held our backs and provided unflinching support and care. The longevity of our relationship is the testimony of its success. Only those who pass the test of time stay. And, if I try to list it out besides support, there is one thing that stands out – trust. We know we can trust them under all circumstances, this is a trust that has built up over the years and one which I know will remain in the years to come. And, I hope, they think the same about us.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships – Stephen Covey”

Should we honor those who support us unconditionally?

There are countless ways to repay our debts to all those who stood by us. We can be there for them. Extend a helpful hand and make their lives easier.

Watch the video above, one more testament to long-standing relationships, and trust that comes with it. Dhoni expresses his gratitude towards people who stood by him. Exide Life Insurance has partnered with M S Dhoni to showcase the value of long-term associations #DhoniKaSaath. And, with Exide Life Insurances’ long-standing reputation, we can secure our future and achieve our personal goals stress-free.

The beauty of offbeat places!

Most of us often travel to famous places, failing to realize that small places can be equally charming…sometimes, more so! My experience traveling extensively over the last couple of years says you have to watch out for such hidden gems since they often would be more beautiful than what we might think of.

While doing our research on Lake Tahoe, we found a couple of such stops which are easy to pass by – Sand Harbour for its calming beauty and Logan Shoals for the sunset views.

Looking back, I am pleased to have applied the brakes and stopped at the Sand Harbour beach.

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I had to rush to my next stop Logan Shoals since that is where the sunset was awaiting us ☺️

The vista point is about 12 miles south of Sand Harbour. Many of the tourists just watch sunset from the level of the parking. However, I took the pain to go down through the bushes (there is a visible narrow path) and reach just alongside the lake (but at a height to it).

And a gorgeous sunset it indeed was…

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That completes my journey of the heaven-on-earth, as I would call it – Lake Tahoe!

P.S. Please do not copy these pictures, rather buy them from me! If you see anybody copying, request you to inform me at aloksinghal2003@gmail.com