Saturday, August 31, 2013

I'm going to miss you Jon

I'm going to miss you Jon.  I'll look for you when I hear the halyards tinkle down at the boat dock. I'll look for you when I hear the wind whisper thru the pines in the Sierra. I'll look for you at the putting green at Balboa. I'll look for you at the Princess Pub down on India Street. You will always be in my heart, but I'm still going to keep looking.

Jon was a bear of a person, a true Renaissance man. His talents allowed him to become an inventor, academic, deep social thinker, author, political activist, teacher, politician, visionary, sailor and analyst. We met when working together at the County Welfare department on Market Street in the 70's. We shared a liberal bent, but Jon always put the time in on research and fact based opinions. He was a good listener and could have a reasoned discussion with a person of any point of view. Animated and engaging, you were in for a ride when you brought up a topic for Jon. Not a people pleaser, you received his best effort and full concentration plus a acerbic wit. I loved him.

Jon was always ready for adventure. We made a couple of trips together to the Tioga Winter Lodge for back country ski tours and good times in the lodge at night with friends and new friends. We also did a few trips skiing around the big Sequoia. Our best trip was four day trans Sierra, starting at Lee Vining on east side of the Sierra, going over Tioga Pass, across the rib and down through Snow Canyon to Yosemite Valley. My brother had recently skied the Continental Divide from Canada to southern Colorado, but he was impressed with the mental toughness and lack of fear that Jon displayed. A bunch of friends of Jon's met us at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite, where there was a $20 skier buffet. Jon's friends plied us with long series of special wines and an evening to remember. What a contrast to snow camping. Jon was at his best in this convivial atmosphere.

Jon and I also did many dumb things together. One highlight was a winter ski to the Hot Creek hot springs south of Mammoth. It was a late afternoon when we started and a light snow was falling. No worries we had plenty of antifreeze and provisions. Of course, no tent, extra clothes or sleeping bags because we were going to the "hot" hot springs. We were in the springs for an hour or two when we noticed that it was getting dark and the wind had picked up. The snow started to blow sidewise and the visibility was nonexistent. One of our headlamps failed and we were both shaking pretty good. Where was that car? Finally, our luck held and we found it. We didn't stop shaking until we took turns in the tub in a flea bag motel in Bishop.

Jon Christensen died on August 28th. I learned about it last night from his daughter Cynthia's email after returning from a month long trip to Baja Sur. I now wish that I had stayed home for one last round of golf with Jon and the guys at Balboa. My condolences to his wonderful wife Sally and his children Eric and Cynthia. I am sure they will be looking for him too.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Highway 1 brings Memories

While going down to Baja Sur last month, I passed the turnoff for San Pedro Martir. Everything had changed so much. What was a sleepy agriculture area is now a part of the urban sprawl. I wondered how the mountain that was of my dreams had become. A post on Baja Nomads made me post this info on my experiences there many years ago.

 Here is my post:

Thanks for bringing up the topic of the San Pedro Martir. It has brought back many memories that have not been visited in some time. I used John Robinson's "Camping and Climbing in Baja" as sort of a bible in the 70's and 80's. There was no GPS or topos, so things were much different than now. A good source for more current information is in this report:

My first backpack in the San Pedro Martir was after many trips to the eastside canyons of the Sierra Juarez. We got kind of lost on the first day in the maze of canyons and went for a few hours without water. We got to La Gruella meadow and it was like heaven. We followed one stream going towards the west and found it filled with small trout that have adapted to this area by becoming miniature. The species is Nelsoni and they were so numerous that we tried to catch them by hand. I have since fly fished for them at Mike's Sky Ranch and they are good fighters. That spring the grass was at a uniform height throughout the forest and it looked like a giant city park that someone had mowed.

 I kind of got the bug to climb Picacho del Diablo about 25 years ago after the above backpack. I joined two other people and hired a guide who had been the head of San Diego's search and rescue team. We went in from the west, stopping for a great meal at Meling Ranch.

Without GPS even the guide got lost once. Going with him was special in that he would point out where this or that climber was buried (with the family's permission) because they had made some serious error in judgement. I was hoping that we wouldn't make some similar misstep. It took four days for us to make the peak and back.

 I will always remember the feeling of remoteness and wilderness in the San Pedro Martir. Without the current technology of sat phones etc. my time there was an adventure in retrospect but rather frightening at moments along the way. Of course, the epic approach of Norman Clyde from Yuma to the east side of Diablo and then to the peak is hard to even imagine.

 I didn't see any snakes on the climb but two weeks after our trip a Sierra Club fellow was bitten by a snake which reportedly had one and a half inches between the fangs. This has been a big year for snakes in San Diego, so definitely be aware while hiking there. Reasonable caution should keep everyone safe.

Have a great trip and thanks again for tickling those old memories.

                         View from the Peak looking toward the Gulf
                                View towards the South
                                       Climbing shoes for traction

Wall Street

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alamo Lake and Sedona October 2011

Alamo Lake is a man made lake about an hour from Quartizite

View from the West end of the Lake

My favorite bike partner

No AC, but a fan with 3 misting drips and we are in business. Above 95 degrees all four days.

Training for a race next week down the Colorado

Many trails in Sedona are not worth riding because of the rocks and cactus. We are trying to find the good ones.

The views are awesome and you can appreciate them when a good trail is found

Storm brewing. This one netted a hail storm and lightning by the end of the ride. The red rock floods easily.

Kathy just before the storm caught us.

We terrorized the older senior citizens on the mean streets of Catalina, Arizona, with fellow golf cart racers Matt and Deb. Great people, good times.

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Free counters

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seven Lakes Basin, Big Pine

Camp overlooking 2nd Lake
(Green tint water is from glacial melt from Palisade Glacier)

Lower 4th Lake

Looking Back at 1st and 2nd lake
from the Black Lake trail

Getting water in flip flop
climbing shoes

Sam Mack Meadow, second day

Lakes 1, 2 and 3
from the Palisade Glacier trail

The weather turns to crap

Now we are having fun

Beauty is fragile at altitude

395 bidding us farewell

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lamark Col

John doing the $15 ice axe 70's thing

I have always been intrigued by the Lamark Col. At elevation close to 13,000 feet, it is a quick way to get to Evolution Valley and the John Muir trail. In the 70's I used the Lamark glacier to practice with my $15 ice axe purchased at an A-16 swap meet. The col is named for J. Lamark, who published his theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics on the day Darwin was born. The theory hasn't stood the test of time, but the glacier is still alive and well.

After a nice rest at the Mount Whitney Hostel, Kathy and I headed North to Bishop and then West up the familiar highway 168 to North Lake. We had a beautiful morning drive with sandwiches from home and a big McDonald's coffee. On the trail by 8, we made Lower Lamark Lake by 10. The mosquito situation is about average, not much trouble unless you stop. It seems like my pack is heavier than usual, but maybe it's just getting out of the car at 9200 feet and trying to make camp early, so that we can maybe get a look at the Col.

After about an hour setting up camp on a high ridge, we are treated to views overlooking the lake, the Wonder Lake basin and the Piute Creek drainage all the way to the fine city of Bishop. Day packs prepared, we hope to make the Lamark Col. Some snowfield conspired to set up a husband wife discussion of the correct orientation. We finally get what we think is the col in our sights and turn around at 11,500 feet to get back to camp at about 3. We have a nice afternoon tea and are busy taking pictures with our new Panasonic. Tomorrow will be a big day, but at least we will know where we are going.

Lower Lamark Lake from our campsite

After climbing the Lamark Col three or four times in my dreams, we awoke to a clear sky. After a quick breakfast and policing the camp, left about 8 on our adventure. I choose to cross a log bridge to save time and Kathy crosses further upstream in her crocs. I slipped on a wet stone and didn't quite make it to the log. My water bottle squirted out of its holster and I was in the water holding my poles, barely. I spotted the water bottle and threw it onto the shore and then secured the poles and I got up from the stream.. Great start!

We made the high point of yesterday in about an hour. Our route has turned cross country after some mistake or other. Then, after some discussion about what rock formation was the "w" described in the guide, Kathy saw two other pilgrims on an obvious trail. The present ridge was not the col. After two more snow covered ridges, we saw the object of our desire.

We saw two parties with packs flail their way up the steep snow passage on the Lamark Glacier. Finally, we decided to at least get on the snow and renew the discussion to turn around if our true chicken instincts prevail. There were large snow cups and the slipperiness experienced by our predecessors was deftly managed by our microspikes.

After going a way down the Darwin bench and enjoying the stark view of the stone and snow around the Darwin series of lakes, we turned back for the down climb. Climbing up is always preferred, whether on rock, snow or ice. Your balance is better and the chance of a "header" is removed. We cautiously made it down the snow cups and tried a variant into a pile of rocks as an exit. This was a mistake that we reinforced with a few cuts. After getting back on the snow, life was again good.

Four hours up and three hours fifteen minutes back were the objective measures. To both of us this was one of our best days in the backcountry. Even the freeze dried food tasted good that evening as the Sierra twilight shows appeared and the big moon rose.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dog Attack

Kathy and I have a dog that is very loving towards us but has a genetic loading to be very protective of his pack. A good part of my energy when with him is to be sure that he doesn't put his dominance trip on some unsuspecting stranger. We love him, but do not trust him. This helps me to understand but not condone how some dog owners do not step up to the plate on the responsibility dimension. But on to the case in point.

I have a bike route around my neighborhood that is kind of boring but is a good cardio workout. It goes up a steep hill, then back towards the East with another small hill, then down a steep hill to the South and loops West back to the first hill which is called Fury.

As I was going up the steep Fury grade, I noticed that there was a runner on the other side of the median with a pit bull unleashed. As with the many places where it is heads up for cars doing dangerous things, my attention ramped up. My second glance at the dog noted that he seemed to be tracking away from his master and toward my position. I was on the upper part of Fury, where my bike speed usually required getting out of the saddle to pump at about 8 mph. My next glance noted that he was closing the distance big time. No way to turn downhill, because he was already there. Saw that he was going to catch me on the hill on my bike, which would probably mean he could get my leg and possible knock me down. Not a good option for yours truely.

I turned on to a flat side street and accelerated enough to buy time to get out of the clip pedals and on my feet. I positioned the bike between me and the dog and held onto the frame of the bike to use it as a shield. I poked the bike at him and tried to not let him flank me. After doing this dance for a while, the owner showed up. He is yelling at his dog, with very little effect. After 30 or 40 seconds, he gets hold of the dog's collar and I noted how strong this animal looked. The owner said "Hey I'm very sorry man". He was a big guy and the dog was still struggling towards me. With an adrenaline powered shrill voice I said "You should have that thing on a leash", as I pedaled away from this exciting encounter.

My heart stopped pounding through my chest at about the time I made it back to home. I felt a strange satisfaction at having survived an attack by a breed of dog that is kind of close to my dog Red in its aggressiveness. I'm kind of wondering if constant vigilance may not be enough to prevent Red from doing to some stranger what had been done to me.