Thursday, May 21, 2015

On Sabbatical and/or Retirement?

Please pardon my absence. Everything is fine, and for those who've expressed concern, while I appreciate the sentiment I can assure you that there's nothing to worry about. I've recently decided to take a break and devote some time to other interests, namely sculpting and spearfishing (among other things). 

I've seen so much of the Southern Los Padres over the years that it's not inconceivable that I may be experiencing a degree of burnout. Then again, maybe I'm out there doing all my usual stuff and neglecting to tell anyone about it.

What this writing may be is a notification of my retirement from penning this page. I've been contemplating the idea of retirement for a while now. First, I don't write this page to bolster my self esteem, so it's not about satisfying a craving for attention or supporting my "fragile male ego". While I do enjoy writing these posts and sharing new experiences, and while it is true that through this page I've gotten feedback and ideas and met some really great people, there do remain some persuasive reasons to quit. Foremost among these is that I am mightily tired of so many people knowing what I've been up to. I am, at heart, a misanthropic introvert who doesn't much care what people think of me as long as they don't hinder what I want to do. That being said, there seems to be a subset of readers (including archaeologists, the USFS, USF&W, and the WWP) who are actively looking for a way to say "Gotcha Bitch!" when I stray into private property or into the Condor Sanctuary or when I poke my nose into some place I probably don't belong. If I am in fact retiring from writing this rag then I am getting those people back right now because you know what? I have every intention of going where I like, seeing what I want to see, and if I have no compulsion to share those destinations then I really will have become the ghosting brush ninja. So my methods haven't changed, I'm just deciding wether or not to have any kind of on-line presence at this point (I will be keeping my Flickr page for sure). That just about covers whatever I felt I had to say on this subject.

Meanwhile, do the voodoo that you do.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cuyama Hills

It's spring on the Central Coast and the brief colors of this too-short season are on full display. In the foothills above New Cuyama the sun was up, the day hot, the bees and butterflies and lizards out doing their thing. As for me, I worked a rambling circuit through feral canyons and over several low ridges of weathered sandstone. I saw a pair of deer, a falcon and mated red tails, spooked a great horned owl out of a wind cave in a crumbling tower of sandstone. No particular agenda or destination in mind, no pressures, no problems. Just a nice day outside with only my camera for company. Go out and get some while there's still a bit of green on the hills.

Aliso Canyon Road.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Agua Blanca Backcountry

Here are some photos from an extraordinary day of off trail rambling. The area in question could be described as the wind blasted high country between Whiteacre Peak and the Agua Blanca drainage. I, and two mates, set out from Goodenough at sunrise, pounding through road miles. In time we switched gears, leaving the road for a brushy dragon's back ridge climb. This difficult ascent gained 1,500ft in just 0.85 miles. Hampered by the angle and the human repellant brush, the climb took more than an hour to complete, but this unorthodox route provided a quick access to the top of the hulking Whiteacre massif. 

From that point we turned north, busting, scraping, and crawling toward the wind blasted sandstone plateau behind Whiteacre. The going was rough, taxing. After a time we discovered and explored a tiered series of dry waterfalls, each tier taller and more beautiful and unique than the last. The lowest tier was tucked into a deep hollow of green oaks and spruce. As I explored the dramatic overhang beneath the middle of these three falls my comrades above were treated to the sight of six condors circling.

We climbed out of that sculpted terrain and onto a huge plateau of gently rolling sandstone. Over the ages the wind has eroded the surface rock leaving behind scatterings of harder, more ferrous stone strewn this way and that. Club-like tufas of weathered sandstone stood lonesome, patiently waiting for the day when their supports weathered away and gravity took hold. Wind scoured caves dominated any vertical surface, some being the size of a two car garage. We discovered a dramatic and bulbous arch, the likes of which I've not seen. In the sandy gullies between formations we saw numerous bear prints. This was a place of nearly alien beauty.

The brush mauling we suffered was a reminder that with some ingenuity and grit, going off-trail in the Los Padres is not only possible, but can be hugely rewarding. Enjoy the photos.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rattlesnake Falls

Rattlesnake Falls.
Here's a nice little overnight getaway, a trip into the Sisquoc to a remote waterfall called Rattlesnake. Spring is short and the greenery goes fast. In trying to make the most of it I was joined by Nick Bobroff and Jack Elliot. We took off out of Santa Barbara Canyon, climbed up to Sierra Madre Ridge, descended Judell Canyon to Heath Camp where we dumped most of our gear, and continued downstream a couple miles to this sweet little horsetail falls.

The falls, about 80ft in height, was tucked way back into a deep culdesac that receives very little sun. A large apron of calcific deposits covered in forest green moss fell beneath a twisting spout. A quiet cascade of aerated whitewater cut the apron in a single streamer which splashed into a dark, chest deep pool. We lazed in the shade on that warm afternoon. Nick, a former lifeguard, was the only one to test the waters, verdict: "cold". I've gotten a bit old for polar bear antics in shady alcoves. Had the sun been on the water I would have joined him, but since that was not the case Jack and I sat back and had a good chuckle at this demonstration of baptismal bravery.

In the evening we ate tasteless freeze-dried "delicacies" and burned an excessive amount of firewood while being serenaded by the local owl and what must have been the world's loneliest frog. The stars blazed bright in the crisp night air and as the fire burned low we wandered off to bed. 

In the frosted pre-dawn I crawled out of the bag just far enough to crank up the pocket rocket and boil some coffee. I lay on my side listening to silence while sipping a steaming cup. The others rose and we quickly threw our kits together and moved back up Judell, topping onto Sierra Madre Rd two hours later, another nice outing behind us.

Wide open desert. Judell Canyon.
Heading downstream from Heath Camp toward Rattlesnake Falls.

Two-tailed Swallowtail Papilio multicaudata
The Sisquoc.

Nick, admiring his new favorite oak.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Just Back: The Pacific Northwest

Mt Baker from Skagit Valley, WA.

I've been away for a week. This was originally intended to be a snowboarding trip but this winter's ridiculously resilient north pacific jet stream has largely bypassed the west coast, leaving places like Mammoth, Tahoe, Mt Hood, the Washington Cascades, and Whistler begging for anything that might be snow. At Mt Baker, one of my favorite powder kegs, they're just pushing the snow around to make runs. It's bad, but the tickets were booked, and it was a good opportunity to visit with my parents and see some other sites. In other words, we were good little tourists. Enjoy some photos from our trip. Feel free to click any image to enlarge it.

Whatcom Creek, Bellingham, WA.
Totem Poles, Vancouver, BC. [and below]

Ruth at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, BC.
Pass Lake, Widbey Island, WA
Puget Sound from Chuckanut Drive.
Deception Pass Bridge.
Point Wilson Light House.
Alexanders Castle, Point Wilson, WA.
Puget Sound from Larrabee State Beach, WA.
A Washington ferry landing on Puget Sound.
Downtown Vancouver, BC.
Bald Eagle(s), Skagit Valley, WA. [and below]

From the permanent Northwest Native Art collection at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). [and below]
Bellingham Bay, WA.
Seattle Skyline.
Mt Rainier
The North Cascades.
Flocking snow geese, Skagit Valley, WA.