Homer's Travels: September 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Musing On The Number 20

September is rapidly coming to a close. Thursday I received my 20 years of service certificate at work. It got me thinking, which is sometimes dangerous and many time very strange, about how I perceive time. Twenty years ago, 2007 seemed so far away and time progressed slowly. Sometimes it felt like the future would never arrive. Now, when I look back, it feels like time just flew by in an instant. I imagine that someday, when I am older, my perception of time will be turned on its head as the remaining days of my life fly by way too fast and the fond memories of the past are distant and so difficult to reach. Once again 2007 will seem so far away and unreachable. I wonder, when will this flip flop of perception occur? I'm sure it will come unannounced when I least expect it when I try to recall some fading memory.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 6: Glacier National Park

Glacier is a wonderful place. It is truly beautiful. When I arrived at the park and checked into my room, I went out looking for information for planning my stay. It turns out that the day before there had been a bear attack. An experienced hiker and researcher was up early and was bending over to photograph a flower when a bear came up behind him and attacked him. The researcher survived but he was in the hospital. The park was recommending not hiking alone. This was a little disappointing as I was alone and I wanted to hike.

The next day I got up early and drove to the Avalanche Lake trailhead. There was scheduled ranger-led hike up to Avalanche Lake and I figured this would be the best way to not hike alone. The hike was a good introduction to the park as the ranger explained the different types of plant and animal life we saw on the trail. The trail is 4 miles round trip with a 500 foot of vertical that ends on the shore of Avalanche Lake. The lake is surrounded by mountains and forest – beautiful. The group chatted with the ranger for awhile. He said he thought Glacier was the most beautiful place in the world until he worked a summer in the Canadian rockies (Banff and Jasper). I kicked myself, once again, for not driving through Canada. The ranger left us at this point letting us return at our own pace. I rested on a log soaking up the beauty of the place before heading back to the car.

I drove up the absolutely awesome Going-To-The-Sun road which cuts across the park from the southwest to the northeast. The drive is really unbelievable. It is one of the best roads to drive for scenic vistas. The visitors center at Logan Pass was closed due to renovation so I continued on. I would
visit here with the wife several years later. I had hoped to do a loop around the park but the road connecting the northeast exit to the east exit was closed so, after looking around a bit and seeing a mother bear with two cubs a ways from the road, I turned around and headed back down the Going-To-The-Sun road back to West Glacier.

The next day I drove along the southern edge of the park to East Glacier. From there I drove to
Two Medicine Lake. I was planning to hike up to Scenic Point but was concerned about bears. I found a ranger and explained my situation to her. She told me not to worry. The trail leaves the forest quickly as it gains in elevation and that if I made noise as I walked I probably wouldn’t be bothered. The weather wasn't the best with a little drizzle in the air. I decided to do a short trail down the road a bit to allow the weather time to clear a bit. The Running Eagle Falls nature trail took me a short distance to a river and falls. Most of the rock in the area was either red or green. I picked up a couple pieces of rock - one red and one green - and, remembering the Hawaii rock curse, asked the Lady of the Glacier her permission to take the rocks (I never got an answer but I didn't have bad luck either). Those rocks rode the dashboard of my car for several years until the wife and I returned to glacier and I had the opportunity to return the stones to the same stream bed that I borrowed them from. When I returned them I felt a strange feeling of satisfaction and closure.

I returned back to the Scenic Point trailhead and started up the trail. I was humming and singing badly as I walked through the woods. Any bears in the area probably ran away with bleeding ears. The trail goes through the forest for a short distance before it starts climbing. Soon you are above the tree line and away from the bears (to the relief of the bears I'm sure). The trail is about 6.2 miles round trip with a vertical climb of 2,350 feet. The day was really cloudy, overcast, and drizzly. The cloud layer was really low. As I climbed up the switchbacks, I decided to use the 20 minutes hiking – 5 minutes resting method for the first time. As I rested on the trail I passed the time pealing strips of dead flesh off my burnt calves (a result of my Mount Rainier hike).

Soon the trail entered the clouds. I was kind of bummed since I could only see about 10 feet in any direction. Some Scenic Point this would be. I almost turned around but decided that I’d come this far and I might as well finish it. Up I went. The trail narrows as it passes along the side of a
very sharp scree covered slope. Slip and down you'ld go. Of course it was so cloudy I didn't realize this. Then, all of a sudden, the trail popped up above the low cloud layer and my head poked up above the clouds. COOL! Mountains poking up through the clouds looked like islands on a white frothy sea. A flat layer of clouds as far as the eye could see. The view was amazing in a whole new way.

The trail eventually leveled off a little. The trail crosses what looked like a saddle. Then the trail turned up for the last leg of the trail ending on the edge of a cliff. I sat down and set up the camera to take a picture of myself with the layer of cloud behind me – a freaky picture (it was the only picture of myself that I took on the roadtrip and it is also the first picture of myself that I gave to the wife while we were dating).

After resting a bit I started back down. The cloud layer was finally breaking up allowing me some
views of the lakes and forest below. I also met the first hikers of the day. As I went through the forested part near the trailhead I thought I heard a crashing sound like something large moving through the underbrush. I never saw anything but my heart did skip a beat or two as I started to walk faster. When I got to the car I felt surprisingly well. I guess all the hiking on this roadtrip was finally paying off.

Glacier marked two things on this trip: (1) the mid-point of my roadtrip and (2) the start of bad weather. The rain and drizzle I ran into at Glacier wasn’t too bad but the previous two weeks had been dry and fairly clear. I was also getting a little tired of driving.

The next day I checked out and headed southeast. The day would be spent driving and ended at my next destination: Yellowstone National Park. Pictures are

Monday, September 24, 2007

Smoke On!

Time to catch up with what we did Saturday. We attended the Red Bull Air Races down in San Diego. I really wanted to like them. I tried very hard. But I don't think I quite made it. Here are my impression of the events on Saturday:

The day started out with us leaving the house at 7:00 am. The weather got worse as we went further south. In parts of south LA the rain turned into a downpour. I started to worry that there may be weather issues down in San Diego. The rain slowed traffic but I wasn't worried about being late as we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there. The races didn't start until 1:00 and there would be navy aviation demonstrations before and between races. As we approached San Diego the rain slowed and was gone altogether when we reached the North Embarcadero Island where we would be viewing the race. Parking, which I was also concerned about, turned out to be a breeze. We walked to the waterfront and the line to get in was already forming. We had arrived about 30 minutes before the gates opened. The gates opened and the crowd filed into the park and we grabbed a spot on the grass on the side of a slope which gave us a good vantage point for the entire race course. I went and got some burgers, chips and drinks to munch on while we waited for things to start happening.

The events started with a Naval aviation demonstration that included vintage fighters, helicopters, special forces insertion and extraction demonstrations, and coast guard rescues. I enjoyed this part of the day. The Navy demonstrations were interesting.

After the last of the demonstrations, the first race started. The race coordinator announced "Smoke On" which told the pilot he could start his run. The plane would turn on a smoke trail and head for the starting gate. The weather chose this time to scare everyone when the venue got brushed by a rain shower. Fortunately it was just a light sprinkle and didn't last long. The first few races were very interesting. The announcers, along with a bulletin handed out at the entrance, explained the rules of the race. The course was a slalom course consisting of inflated cones made of parachute-like material mounted on floating platforms anchored out in the bay. If a plane hit a cone, like this, the cone would tear away and not hurt the plane. A new cone would go back up in about 5 minutes. There were two colors of cones, red and blue. The planes had to fly horizontally through the blue cones (wings parallel to the water) and vertically through the red cones (wings perpendicular to the water). Points were deducted if they were too far off horizontal or vertical. They also lost points for flying too high through the cones or hitting a cone. The pilots took turns flying two laps around the course. The first races took the number of pilots from 12 to 8. The 8 then competed in pairs in the quarter-finals to see who would advance to the semi-finals. The the last races determined first, second, and third places. In all there were a total of 28 runs through the course.

28 races are a lot and, like most motor sport races, can be a little monotonous in my opinion. The audience gasped, oohed, and aahed during the first few races. Unfortunately the races soon became repetitive. I took over 345 pictures but, as a looked through them, I found that most of the day could be described in 45 (You can see them here). Most of the pictures I took were slight variations of each other. Heres a plane flying by a cone. Here is another plane flying by a cone ... you get the picture. The best way to describe the races is by showing a video and I happen to have made one during one of the quarter-final races. I took the video with my camera. The video lost some resolution after I uploaded it to YouTube but it gets the idea across.

The United States' Mike Mangold, leading the race coming into San Diego, was knocked down to second place after placing fifth in Saturday's races. This leg of the race was won by Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain who now leads the world series. The next and last race is in Perth, Australia in November.

The races were broken up by various flight demonstrations including the Red Bull MIG, daredevil skydivers, and the most amazing helicopter flying that I've ever seen outside of AirWolf which included flips and barrel rolls. I found these interludes more interesting then the races.

So, that's it. I liked the air demonstrations between the races and I liked the first dozen races or so but after that I was a little bored. I still had a good time and I don't regret doing it. If you have never been to an air race and you have the opportunity to go to one, do it. It is worth it. I just wish it had been a little shorter.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 5: Seattle, WA

My next stop was one of the few urban destinations that I had on my itinerary. I headed up to Seattle and checked into a motel near Bellevue, WA. I was still sore from the climb up the Muir Snowfield on Mt. Rainier and I was walking like a zombie – all stiff legged. I figured Seattle would be a good place to recuperate.

I drove into the Seattle and aimed my sights on the Space Needle. It was cloudy, overcast, and a little foggy when I got there so I decided to kill some time in the area hoping that the weather would clear. I ate lunch at a nearby McDonalds and walked around the park. The nearby Pacific Science Center gave me an opportunity to kill some more time. I ended up watching two IMAX movies (Titanic and Discovery of Space) – my first IMAX movies if I recall correctly. I browsed the center’s exhibits. Most of them were aimed at the younger crowd but it was interesting never the less.

By mid afternoon the fog had lifted a little bit but it was still cloudy. I took the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle. The views were nice but the mountains were hidden by the haze. It was still pretty cool.

The next day I slept in. I was still sore from Mount Rainier. I obviously overexerted myself. The fact my legs were burnt to a crisp didn’t help either. I had a good breakfast and drove over to Redmond to see the Microsoft campus. I know what you’re thinking – what a geek! It was a geek thing to do. I’m not much of a fan of Microsoft stuff but it is what I use everyday and back in 1995 I actually thought Microsoft made good stuff. I know better now. Anyway, I drove around the corner took a turn and before I realized it I was actually driving through the campus. I was surprised by the lack of security or restriction (kind of like their operating systems). I also saw someone out of the corner of my eye talking to a contractor (There was new construction taking place) that looked a lot like Bill Gates. I doubt it was him but it could have been.

After my pilgrimage to Redmond I drove around a little. Ended up in a mall where I browsed for a while. I’ve always been a window shopper. My travels have shown that malls are the same all over the country. They never change so if you want a place of comforting conformity, the mall is the place to go. I ended up going to a movie – a crappy movie named “
The Prophecy”. My choice of movies was not very good back then – not that it has improved with age.

The rest of my stay in Seattle was filled with reading and resting – nothing exciting. At this point, though, I decided against going into Canada. I had not researched the requirements for going into Canada and, while I doubt it would have been a problem, I wanted to avoid any border crossing issues. I didn’t even have a passport though it probably wasn’t needed back then.

I left Seattle the next day and drove on US-2 east. The drive started out pretty cool winding through the Cascade Mountains. One town I passed through,
Leavenworth, was decorated in Bavarian style that went well with the Alpine feel of the mountains. Even the McDonalds was decorated in Bavarian style.

US-2 leaves the mountains and enters the rolling hills of farm land. There were stretches where the road went straight as an arrow. It was a little monotonous. I was driving with a pack of cars that were really booking. I was near the front of the pack when a cop passes us going the other way – DAMN! He turned around came up behind me and … pulled the car behind me over. I was so lucky. I was sure that I was going down. I slowed down the rest of the way to Spokane.

I spent the night in Spokane and did laundry for the first time. I had packed four suitcases on this trip. I even packed smartly – each bag had a mixture of pants, shirts, and underwear so I only needed to take one or two bags into the hotel at each stop.

After Spokane I continued on US-2 east across the Idaho panhandle. I had looked in the Idaho AAA book for places to visit but nothing attracted my attention so I drove right through. I was slowed down by road construction along this stretch. By noon I had reached Kalispell, MT. I continued on to the west entrance to Glacier NP and found a room in a lodge across the road from the park entrance. I ended up going back to Columbia Falls to wash the two weeks of nasty filth off my car and to visit a grocery store.

I kind of regret not driving through Canada. In retrospect, the scenery along
Trans-Canada-1 would have been awesome – much more impressive than US-2. I made up for it a little by honeymooning in Jasper and Banff. Of course, that just reinforced what I missed in 1995. This could be a future vacation with the wife. By not going into Canada I had a few extra days which I used later in the trip.

Pictures are
here. Next stop Glacier National Park.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Apparition Addition

There has been an addition to the activity schedule that I posted last week. On October 13, the wife and I, accompanied by the "J", and possibly another friend from the wife's school, and a guy the wife knows from a previous job, will take a road trip out to California City to see Our Lady Of The Rock. Apparently on the 13th of every month, Mary (the mother of Jesus) makes an appearance out in the middle of the Mojave Dessert. The only way to see her is with a Polaroid camera. When Maria Paula Acuna, the first person to see Mary, announces that Mary has arrived, you point your Polaroid camera at the Sun and take a picture. People claim that in the resulting picture the doorway to heaven and Mary can be seen. The Catholic Church does not officially recognize this apparition but we thought we would go anyway.

Now, a few of you are wondering why we are going. Others are wondering how we find out about these things. We first heard about it at the live taping of
This American Life. At the taping they showed clips from the television show and one of the clips was of the people taking pictures of Mary. When we saw it we knew we had to go. As for why we are going, you have to remember that we are the same people who drove over ten hours to visit the Center of the World and Salvation Mountain. California City is less then three hours away - nothing for us. Plus, the whole thing is just weird - another plus in our books. They say that the crowds at this place can be over 1,000 people on the weekends. I am hoping to take some interesting pictures of the people. The "J", famous for her scrounging, even scored us some Polaroid Cameras. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Aloha To The Sandcastles

Well, this weekend didn't go as I expected or hoped. My plan was to attend the Santa Barbara Sandcastle Festival. I left early Saturday afternoon intending to arrive about an hour before judging. I arrived on a beautiful sunny day and drove around and drove around and drove around and drove around and drove around ... there wasn't a parking spot available for miles. Well that's an exaggeration but after driving around for about 30 minutes (no exaggeration) I had ended up a short hike away from the beach and I still hadn't found a parking spot. So, after driving past the beach one last time hoping for an opening, I gave up and headed home. I was disappointed to say the least.

As I drove back down the 101 I remembered that the Aloha Beach Festival was going on near Seaside Park in Ventura. There was supposed to be some Frisbee competitions including K9 Frisbee catching. This seemed like a good backup plan so I headed there. Parking was a little better and I found a spot after 5 minutes of driving around the parking lot. I walked around and looked through the vendor stalls and watched for the Frisbee contest. No Frisbee contest. Turns out I had missed it but there would be another on Sunday so I planned to try again on Sunday. I did get some pictures including a very happy lab.

On Sunday, after a greasy breakfast at Mrs. Olsen's Coffee Hut with some friends, I headed back to Seaside Park hoping to catch the K9 Frisbee competition. When I got there a Hula demonstration was going on which was kind of cool. There were people playing around with Hula Hoops and drums nearby. There was a surfing competition going on and the crowd was a bit bigger then the day before. I walked around and people watched for a while. Then they announced the Freestyle Frisbee demonstration with some championship winning freestyle Frisbee people. OK ... Freestyle Frisbee turns out to be pretty dull. Sure they were better than I'll ever be but nothing they did was really that impressive. I was surprised to see that most of the Frisbee people were old guys about my age. No young kids at all. The younger generation were over at the skateboard demonstrations nearby. Looking at these guys you wonder what their day job is ... if they have a day job. I was hoping that there would be something better to come.

A high school heavy metal band came on stage and ... well, I didn't think you could ruin heavy metal any more then it already is but they were pretty bad. I walked around waiting for them to get off the stage so that more Frisbee demonstrations could continue. I sat on a planter to rest my feet while the teenage boys screamed at the top of their lungs. An old lady in too tight tights, movie star sunglasses, and wearing enough makeup to make Tammy Fay Baker proud sat down next to me and started to complain about the terrible music. Apparently it was so loud she was loosing her hearing. I nodded my head a few times until she got up and left. Fortunately the band wrapped up and the Frisbee people came back. The same people doing the same lame Frisbee tosses. That was enough for me. I walked back to the car and went home. I never did see K9 Frisbee catchers damn it!

While it sounds like I had a rotten weekend, the festival got me out of the house and into the fresh air for a couple hours each day. I can't complain too much about that. I think I will end this post with a bad haiku:

Room enough for Castles of Sand, None for my ride
K9 Pie Tin catchers a backup plan, None to be found
Freestyle Frisbee Surfer Dude, Hippy, Jimmy Buffet Wannabees - Lame

Pictures can be found here. Next Week: The Red Bull Air Races. It's going to be cool.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 4: Mount Saint Helens And Mount Rainier

My next destination was supposed to be Portland, OR. As I sat in my hotel room in Bend and looked through the AAA book, I could not find anything that I was interested in there so I skipped Portland and went straight to Mt. St. Helens.

The drive up to
Mt. Saint Helens is pretty cool. The state of Washington is incredibly scenic. I stopped at the visitor’s center and watched the movie of the eruption. This wasn’t the main visitor’s center as I was coming at the monument from the south and then driving over to the east side eventually ending up at Windy Ridge. On the way there you entered the zone of devastation. All the trees were flattened. It looking like a wind had blown all the trees down all in the same direction. It was eerie.
I stopped at a trailhead heading down to Spirit Lake and walked down the one mile trail. The lake, in 1995, was still partially covered with fallen trees. It looked like you could walk across parts of the lake on the floating logs. After hopping around on the logs and taking some pictures I headed back up the trail (Huff Puff).

Returning to the car I drove on to Windy Ridge. From there I got a good view of the volcano. I climbed up a ridge (about 150 steps) and took some pictures. Very impressive.
It was starting to get a little late so I left Mt. Saint Helens and ended up in the town of Packwood. It is a logging town tucked into the forest. I stopped at a grocery store and bought some food to eat in my hotel room.
The next day I drove up to Mt. Rainier. I got there at about 9:00 am and decided to try to hike up the mountain to Camp Muir (altitude 10,188 feet - 4,788 feet up from the visitor's center). I wanted to be on the road again at 3:00 pm so I set my watch for three hours to let me know when it was time to turn around. I started up the trail which soon entered a snow field. It was steep, slippery, and really cool. Here I was on a snow slope in shorts (It was a warm sunny day). 

The air was a little thin and the slope was really steep and I was pooped when my alarm went off. I didn’t make it to the camp that I was hoping for. I guesstimate that I reached 8,750 feet - 3,350 feet climb. (While I'm writing this post I realize this was my personal best. It just took me 12 years to realize.)

I turned around and headed back to the car. Walking down on snow is harder than walking up. I fell on my behind several times on the way down. At one point I fell down on my rump and started sliding. Since I was moving in the right direction I just let it happen. I was leaning back on my hands and they started going numb because of the cold snow so I had to stop. If I had had gloves I would have slid all the way down that way – would have been faster and funner (I know – not a word but you know what I mean). Some hikers had sleds and skis to ride down on - a smart move. I was out of water by the time I got back to the car but fortunately I had some in the trunk.

Now something else happened while I was on the mountain. As I walked up the sun was shining on the back of my legs. As I was walking back down the sun was shining on the back of my legs. Six hours of sun, both direct or reflected off the snow, on the back of my bare legs. The back of my calves were roasty toasty. As I drove to Yakima I could feel the heat radiating from my legs. This would not be good. In a day or two I developed a sun rash - the back of my legs looked like they had chicken pox.

I reached Yakima, checked into a hotel, looked around for a restaurant, and had some grub before hitting the hay. I was completely bushed. I think I overexerted myself on Mt. Rainier. Sometimes I don't know when to quit.

Pictures are
here. Next destination is Seattle, WA.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Suspension But Not Stagnation

I have decided to give my foot the rest it needs and I am suspending hiking until October. This kind of sucks as I really enjoy being out on the trail away from the “real” world. Hiking is almost always physically demanding and there are almost always a time during a hike that I think I must be crazy to do this to myself voluntarily. This is especially true how I’m doing it where each hike is becoming progressively more difficult – longer distances and more vertical. In my head I begin doubting myself and I start bitching and moaning but then I crest that ridge and the view goes on for miles all around me and the sense of awe and accomplishment washes away all misgivings that I have. An astounding feeling.

To compensate for not being out there, we are planning a few activities that should keep us busy through most of September and October.

  • This Saturday I will be going to the Santa Barbara Sandcastle Festival. I’m hoping to see some cool stuff and take some pictures. We also will be hosting some friends of the wife. They will be occupied with other activities so I will be going to the festival alone.

  • The next Saturday the wife and I are driving down to San Diego to attend the Red Bull Air Races. We saw this advertised on TV and it looks like fun.

  • The weekend of the 29th the wife and I are heading out to Las Vegas to meet up with the Matron Of Honor and the Best Man to enjoy the sights, go to a few shows, and gamble a little. (We will not eat at Bun Boy this time.)

  • A few days after getting back (Thursday the 4th) we will be going to the Chumash Casino to see the Go Go’s. I guess this shows our age don’t it? I remember when I was in college one semester. I borrowed my cousin’s bike and went riding on a sunny spring Iowa day on a Saturday before finals weeks with a Go Go’s tape in my Walkman. This was my first time out after a cold winter and a week of hard-core exam cramming and it felt absolutely marvelous. In my head the Go Go’s will always be associated with the wonderful free feeling I had that day.

  • Two days later, on the 6th, we celebrate the wife’s birthday at the Notre Dame – UCLA football game. Since Notre Dame isn’t doing so hot this year I doubt my curse could make it any worse.

  • On the 15th we are going to the Santa Monica Civic Center to see Rilo Kiley. I was introduced to their music only a year ago but I am now a big fan.

  • On the 21st we go to the Nokia Theater to see Eagles and the Dixie Chicks. Totally Awesome! I can’t wait.

At this point I am sure we will be sick of everything and will have to give ourselves some weekends at home to recuperate. We may try to fit in a trip down to the Capistrano Mission with the “J”. I was thinking about going to an Evanescence concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl in November but the wife isn’t much a fan and I’m not sure I want to hang out with a bunch of Goths (I could wear all white so I would shine like a beacon in a sea of black – Ha!).

As for hiking, my intention is to see how my foot feels when I get back from Las Vegas. If it’s still hurting then to the doctor I will go. If it feels good then I will resume my hiking on the 7th.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book: Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's 102 Minutes

 "102 Minutes" is a book I read a while ago, before I started Homer's Travels, and is very appropriate for today. The book chronicles the 102 minutes from the time the first plane hits the first World Trade Center tower to the time the second tower collapses. The stories follows various people - Firemen, Police Officers, ordinary people - who survived or who died trying to help others survive the worst terrorist attack this country has ever known. Some of the stories I had already heard. Many were new to me. All were inspiring. I am often cynical about our so-called civilization, but while I read this book I was very proud to be a part of humanity. The people who helped others while struggling to survive themselves is testament to the greatness in all of us.

Could I live up to the standard that these people set? I hope that I would but the bar has been set high. These people and their heroism must become a permanent feature in our lives. This book should be read by everyone. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who Needs A GPS When You Have Pot Cookies?

During my Nicholas Flat hike I found several geocaches and one of them, “SURF’S DOWN”, had a very interesting log from a non-geocacher (known as a Muggle in geocaching parlance, a term borrowed from Harry Potter). A little background – the cache is a military ammunition box – a very popular cache container because of its size, durability, and water tightness. The log was mentioned by the last cache finder so I looked it up and photographed the log. The log reads:

Found this box while taking a leak. Thought it might be a trap. Opened it with the dog’s leash. My buddies and I love it. But … I’m getting ahead of myself. When I first saw the ominous green box, I speculated that it might be a booby-trap. The hidden locale of the box, the military look of it conjured up images of explosives [and] my leg being blown off. Plus, I ate a pot cookie which started to come on strong [emphasis mine]. I tried to ascertain the contents by throwing rocks at it, dragging it with a leash, etc. Finally, I got it open [and] everything tumbled out. It looked like a rapist’s toy chest – some freak with a wrestling mask [and] a teddy bear. “Should I call the police?” I asked myself. Upon closer scrutinization [sic], we found the “geocache” explanation sheet. What an adventure! We added a Starbucks card. Cheers! 09/29/06”

OK, a couple things. The first thing is the dates on the first page and the last don’t match. That may be explained by the other thing: “…I ate a pot cookie which started to come on strong.” Heh!! Only in California.

The box doesn’t look so ominous anymore as another geocacher added a geocaching sticker on the outside to cover the military markings.

You can see my log and the photographs here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hiking Ventura County #31: Nicholas Flat

On Saturday I got back on the trail, this time to Nicholas Flat. This hike, actually in Los Angeles County, starts at the Leo Carrillo State Beach, climbs up a ridge to over 1800 feet, and drops down into a flat meadow and pond.

Being back on the trail was such a relief. I was antsy to get out and hike. I started on the trail which begins climbing at once. My foot started whining immediately but I chose to ignore it. Along this trail there are 20 geocaches that I was going to tackle. 7 of the geocaches are named after Pink Floyd albums. I think I may have been the first person on the trail on Saturday - there were spiderwebs across the trail. You could also see animal tracks in the trail dust - probably deer and coyote. In places I found coyote scat on top of deer scat - I guess that's one way to say "Deer, your ass is mine!"

The first part of the trail which takes you up to the Ocean Vista Knoll was easy. I found 7 caches on this part including one near the top of Ocean Vista knoll. The cache was being guarded by a nasty looking spider. Along the way I left my walking staff at cache sites forcing myself to backtrack a couple of times.

After taking in the sights from Ocean Vista I started up the ridge. Here the trail rises sharply. The steepness of the trail was challenging. I had my doubts as I struggled up the grade. Near the top the trees and brush grew taller forming a shady tunnel around the trail which helped.

I finally reached the top of the mountain. The trail follows the a ridge before heading down to the flat. I found three caches on the ridge. The views from the top was amazing. The sky was a clear blue and only the sea haze impeded the view. I headed down to the meadow and followed the trail to the pond. My feet were aching and I was looking forward to finding a rock or log where I could dangle my feet in the pond and eat lunch. When I reached the pond my hopes were dashed. The pond, while still quite large, was a lot smaller then I expected. On a large rock I noticed a dark waterline. The line was about 10 feet high. The pond was another victim of the drought choking southern California. The pond would be huge if it were full of water. Now, the pond was surrounded by drying mud. Deer must be plentiful here based on the number of prints in the mud. I walked around the pond and said hi to a couple of guys fishing. The fish weren't biting but you could hear the splashing of the fish in the pond. One fish carcass I say on the shore was 8 to 10 inches long - a good size fish. If we don't have rain this winter the pond could vanish.

I found some trees and, sitting on a fallen log, ate my lunch. I looked at the map and decided to add what looked like a small loop to the hike on the way back. I think I missed a turn off and headed up the wrong trail (I do that a lot don't I?). The trail soon became overgrown and hard to follow. Looking at my GPS map I knew where I wanted to go so I headed up what looked like a game trail to the top of a hill that was between me and the meadow. At the top I could not see the meadow but I did see a maintained trail. I made it to the trail and headed west. I reached a junction and had to choose going up or down. I started going down but after 30 feet or so I thought better of it and went back to the junction and headed up. As I headed up the side of the mountain (mountain, hill, not sure ??) the GPS showed I was heading in the right direction. There was a cache near an overlook that I wanted to reach and I was heading in the right direction. Unfortunately on this side of the mountain there was no breeze and it was getting hot.

I crested the top of the mountain, saw beautiful views of the meadow below, and found the cache. The cache was near a trail sign and I confirmed that I was back on the correct trail - Yeah for me! Another thing that happened once I got to the top was a cool ocean breeze - Ahhh that felt gooood! I started back down the ridge. It was not easy going down. The trail was so steep I worried about keeping my footing. This means I took little baby steps all the way down resulting in whimpering feet. I passed a father-son geocaching team on the way down the ridge. They told me they had been following me all day which confused me until they asked me if I was Homer-Dog - they had been seeing my logs in the caches they were doing.

I arrived back to the Ocean Vista junction. Here I took a left and followed the Willow Creek Trail back to the trail head. I found another three caches on this trail. The trail curve around the knoll revealing an ocean vista complete with kite and wind surfers. In the end I located 16 caches on this hike (I couldn't find two, another was on another trail, and the last was near a busy path to the ocean that prevented me from looking for it - no privacy).

I forgot to reset my GPS odometer but I estimate that the hike, with my detours, was 9 miles. The vertical climb is around 1,810 feet. Pictures are here.

I was really sore when I got home. I'm not sure if this was the right thing to do with my foot problems. I am starting to doubt my ability to complete my goal. I am starting to reconsider my hiking. We'll see how my foot progresses.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Roadtrip 1995 - Part 3: Crater Lake

I left Lake Tahoe and headed north. The drive to Crater Lake was slowed by road work. I spent a half hour talking to the flag woman waiting for the road to open. She was nice – taught aerobics in the winter when she wasn’t working for the road crew. After they let us pass I ran into more road construction in Oregon.

I eventually arrived to Klamath Falls and found a hotel for the night. My room had a hot tub which was put to good use relaxing my aching muscles. I went out to look for food and discovered that there really wasn't much in Klamath Falls.

The next day I got up relatively early to make the drive to the park – roughly an hour away. I was hoping to find a hotel that was closer to the park. I went to my car. It was covered in morning dew and, stuck in the dew, were a huge number of mosquitoes. Yow! Reminder to self – use bug spray while in Klamath Falls. I drove to the park and passed a couple hotels in tiny Fort Klamath. I figured I would check them out later in the day.

Crater Lake National Park
is a beautiful but relatively small park. I stopped at the visitor’s center and looked around. I checked out the nearby Lodge but it was full. I drove around the lake stopping to take a few pictures. The squirrels and chipmunks were especially aggressive here. I guess the tourists feed them too much.

After making the loop around the crater I drove back to Fort Klamath and stopped at the nicer of two motels. The owner wasn’t home so I waited around for an hour or so before giving up and going to the other. The other motel , the Fort Klamath Lodge, was tiny – 5 or 6 rooms – and a little run down. It didn’t matter too much though since the owner was there to check me in, it had four walls and a roof, and the bed was comfortable enough.

The next day I got up early. I was planning to have some breakfast at the visitor’s center before taking a boat ride out to Wizard Island. The restaurant at the visitor’s center opened late so I had to rush through breakfast and the food wasn’t as good as at Sequoia. Oh well, it filled my stomach. I drove to the opposite side of the lake and walked the mile down the switchback road to the boat dock. A boat leaves and circles the lake daily. You can take one boat to the island and take another back. They keep track of who is out so that the last boat has enough room for the people who get off on the island. During the boat ride they give you the history and the science of the lake. The only source of water for the lake is rain. The rain coming in balances out the water that evaporates or seeps into the ground. The water is some of the clearest in the world and the lake is the deepest in North America. Fish were introduced by the park service years ago to attract tourists but now they are practically begging fishermen to come and take the fish. They are trying to return the lake and it's ecosystem back the way it was originally.

The boat stopped at Wizard Island and a bunch of us got off. I headed out on the trail up to the top of the cinder cone. I practically ran up the trail (1 mile with a 750 ft climb) and made it up to the top before everyone else and I had a few minutes to myself. It was really cool - the views of the lake and the rest of the island were awesome. The crater at the top of the cinder cone was less impressive. It was a little desolate with only a few plants struggling to grow.

I made my way back down to the shore – a little more slowly than on the way up. I reached the dock and found a log to lay on, rested, and took in the sights. The squirrels were more aggressive here then on the rim of the lake. One squirrel climbed up the back of a lady who was sitting on a log writing out postcards and nipped her on the ear! We spent the rest of our wait for the next boat shooing squirrels.

The boat picked me up and dropped me back at the main dock and I started up the hill back to the car. I was hurting by the time I made it to the car. At the time it was a lot of vertical for me, especially over a short distance.

I drove to Bend, OR and checked into a hotel smack dab in between a Sizzlers and a Denny’s – at the time my favorite cheesy restaurants. That night I ate dinner at the Sizzler. As I ordered my food I got a strange look from the cashier. She asked me if I was all right. I told her I was fine and why did she ask. She said my face was really red. After dinner I went back to the hotel and looked in the mirror – OW!!! My face was red – RED – RED! I slathered my face with suntan lotion – the only lotion I had and went to bed. I slathered some more on the next morning. Surprisingly my face never really peeled. Good ol’ Coppertone with Aloe.
I had some breakfast at Denny’s the next morning before heading to my next destination – Portland, OR. Pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No Sir ... I Didn't Like It

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, it felt like fall. I even posted about it. A year later it is hot and doesn’t have that fall crispness. Notre Dame lost their first game. Santa Clara lost their first game. It feels completely different. The wife has even suggested that she may be open to Saturday activities together. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel natural.

Labor Day weekend felt completely weird. I didn’t hike because of the foot and the heat – I really missed being out on the trail. I did my Sunday chores on Saturday. We did the Mission mission on Sunday which was the only thing that felt normal. Then on Monday, which felt like Sunday, I stayed home and pretty much vegged most of the day. I did absolutely nothing. I did not walk on the beach as I planned. A little reading. A little writing. A whole lot of nothing sitting in front of the fan. No Sir … I didn’t like it.

This weekend I will be doing a hike - foot or no foot. The tendonitis is being stubborn but I am still planning a 7.5 mile hike to Nicholas Flat. The hike is supposed to have some strenuous parts. We’ll see how I do. As for Cathedral Peak, for scheduling reasons I will be doing it on 14 September – health and weather permitting.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Mission Mission Continues ...

On Sunday we continued our long postponed Mission mission hitting the road with the "J" and visiting Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad and Mission San Carlos Barroméo de Carmelo. This was a long roadtrip starting at 7:45 am and ending at 9:15 pm - 13 and 1/2 hours on the road. Even though it was very long, we all had a great time.

The wife and I picked up the "J" and headed up the 101. We were supplying the transportation and the food, the "J" supplied the witty repartee. It was warm and the sky was absolutely clear - perfect roadtrip weather. We stopped in King City around 11:30-ish and had lunch at Margie's Diner which proudly boasted that they served Real Food. The place was a typical roadside restaurant that served good portions of pretty good food in a timely fashion.

After fueling up our bodies and the car, we headed to the Soledad Mission. This mission is in total disrepair. The standing buildings are replicas of the original. Only the foundations and slowly dissolving adobe walls remain. We walked through the grounds, examined the fountain with the goldfish, and visited the rebuilt and actively used chapel. Pictures are here.

We got back in the car and took a road through central California farmland around the mountains to the city of Carmel-By-The_Sea. In Carmel we visited the Carmel Mission. What a difference money makes. Soledad was out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farmland. Carmel is located in an affluent city surrounded by money. The mission has been restored to its original splendor. Carmel Mission is famous for being the resting place of Padre Serra, founder of many of the missions including the first in San Diego. We walked around and took pictures. Note the skewed window in the Mission. Not sure why it leans as it does. Pictures can be found here.

After leaving Carmel we drove south on CA-1. The drive from Monterey to San Simeon is one of the most beautiful drives I have every experienced. The wife is suffering through allergies and she slept through some of the drive south. The "J" also slept part of it. I was driving so I didn't sleep and saw all the beauty of the drive. We didn't stop along the CA-1 so no pictures were taken. Some things cannot be captured in photographs - some things have to be experienced or in this case, driven. We arrived at Cambria at about 5:00 so we decided to stop for dinner. Dinner was at the Main Street Grill followed by some ice cream. A little shopping we were back on the road. The next three hours was uneventful except for fighting Santa Barbara traffic. There were a a lot of highway patrol out this labor day weekend.

Some of you may not believe that driving for 10 hours is fun but it is. I like to drive as long as the destination is worth it and there is no traffic. I had a good day. Good Driving, Good Food, Good Missions, Good Company. With these two missions, we have now visited 13 Missions. The next will probably be Capistrano. Not sure when.

On a little side note, the "J" came through again giving me a foot spa to soak and massage my feet. I used it today and it felt wonderful. It relieved my tendonitis ache. Thanks "J"!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Curse Continues ...

I have mentioned before that I have a curse when it comes to football games. Every significant football game that I have gone to with the wife, the team she was rooting for has lost. Well, we tried again on Friday night. We went to the Saints-Vikings game, the Saints' first game of the high school season, and watched them lose 6-17. Now the wife tried to comfort me saying that they just didn't play well but I don't believe it.

The next test of the curse will probably be the Notre Dame-UCLA game at the Rose Bowl in October.