Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where is the smog?

The couple of days after a rain storm is the only time where smog is not choking our lungs.

You know its clear when Catalina Island is visible from the Verdugo Hills.

That shiny thing in the top right corner is an ocean, incase Jimbo and Chris were wondering.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Overlooking Burbank from the USGS post in the Verdugo Hills after the rain.
I could see clearly now the rain has gone...
I could see all the obstacles in my way...
Where is the rainbow I've been searching for...
Its going to be a bright *bright* bright sunshining day!

Finally got some good rain the other night. Was expecting more but it'll do just for now. Super-sticky today which made it tougher to ride up but a blast to ride down in. The trails will be nicely washed and hardpacked waiting for us to ride them tomorrow. The hillsides will become green again for a short while. Visibility should be crisp and clear. Get it while the getting is good !

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thankful to Ride

What a great ride ! The day before Thanksgiving we rode up in the Verdugo Hills to the top of Burbank Peak to enjoy the sunset and have a few drinks to be thankful. Mr. Osgood, Mr. Margoway, Mr. Barry , and my brother. The Long Island Ice Tea my brother brought was a good chaser to my Mammoth Brewery Double Nut Brown. Wild Turkey was flowing also. The sun went down and the moon came up which was a delight because I had no lights, bombing downhill in the glow of the moon while having a really good buzz is really fun. Not being able to see dips and bumps is just like turbulance in an aircraft. Senses come alive. Was that a mountain lion or a bush ? The alchohol is taking effect. Just stick to the hillside and go with the flow. Enjoy it.
We are all Thankful to be healthy enough to enjoy riding our bikes in the hills. Thankful to have friends and family to share these special moments. This ride goes down in the Archive of Great Rides with the likes of Jim Roff, Chris, Christie, Jay, and others that have made a lasting impression in my memory bank.

My brother with the San Fernando Valley in the back.

Of Wolf and Man... AWWOOOO!!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Survivor : Fuzzy Edition

Last weekend I went on an "outdoor survival" trip with friends to Sequoia National Forest. The trip was organized by Dr. Wright (true mountain man) but could not help us out if we needed help, purely a spectator in our adventure.

We started off early Friday morning at the Walker Pass Campground with nothing but the clothes we were wearing and two trash bags. Because of the major hike in and out we opted not to take heavy or thick clothing : Hiking shoes, wool socks, Zip-off pants, shirt, and a fleece sweater. Other items were a knife, string/cord, two trash bags, and a hat. Oh yea, one uncooked potatoe that still had dirt on it. We were handed a topo map and a compass to navigate our ways to a particular area designated by Dr. Wright. To conserve energy and sweating (warm during the day , freezing at nights) I planned a route on the dry creek around three passes which added an extra two hours to my hike. A total of five hours of navigating around steep hills and dry creeks.

Along the way I was lucky enough to identify Pinyon Pine nuts on the floor. As I hiked on my path I became a hunter-gatherer. Pocket full of nuts for the evening. Found a couple of bear scat on the ground but looked to be old. Deer scat was also scattered about. No trace of critters anywhere. Setting up a snare or trap would be useless when I settle.

Arriving at the designated rendeavor area we were greeted with "great" news. We could not start a fire due to the wildfires and Santa Ana winds that had picked up. That means we could not boil our water, keep warm, roast my nuts (haha). The night was going to be cold, in the mid 30s. So I immediately built a solar still to gather water droplets from the ground moisture. Also started to build my debris shelter out of branches and fallen pine needles. The creek in which we settled by was totally dry so I surveyed the area and found a small trubitary to the creek. Scrambling up a steep grade full of granite boulders I found a sign of a freshwater spring. Digging deeper in the mud I hit GOLD, fresh water sprung up and I quenched my thirst. Marked the area so I can tap into it again for the weekend.

Because we were in a canyon it got cold and windy really quickly. With sunset at 6:00 (no watches, but could calculate with arm extension technique) it got dark really quickly so my debris shelter was less than optimal because of the ban on fire. I crawled in my shelter and went to sleep. Don't know how long I had dosed off but woke up freezing I couldnt feel my feet. Did not sleep after that and it seemed like eternity before sunrise.

The solar still did not work out as planned so I took the plastic bag to retrofit my shelter for the second night. Worked on the "bear den" for a good half day. Piling on as much layers of pine needles as possible to make a decent insulation. Ate half my potatoe for lunch and headed back up to my spring for more water. Crushed my nuts (haha) in a granite mortar and added some water to make a "soup", needed some flavor so I added some sage that I found on the way in, but still good.

As the sun creeped behind the canyon wall the winds started to pick-up again. From the experience I had the night before I made some needed adjustments to my den. Built the door on the other side and made the hut in a lower profile to hide from the wind behind a boulder. I had to literally crawl on my stomach into the den and get in a fetal position which was my doom for the night. Not being able to sit-up or stretch out I started to cramp up at nite. Being so cold and windy outside I stayed in the den and was getting in and out of sleep the whole time.

Light, the rays of life that warms up a body and gives hope! Eating my last piece of raw potatoe and breaking my den down to natural state we were ready to head out back. Chose to walk by the dry creek at first to see where my energy level was and it was moderately low. Decided to do a pass that had an elevation gain of 600 ft, it was a good idea to cut down the time but came across a camp that was totally littered with trash and cans. With one of my bags I filled it up with all the trash, tied it to a big stick....walked out with it over my shoulder. Its a duty.

I've been in similar conditions in the past but those were not planned ( getting lost on Mt. Langley or stuck on Mt. Whitney for one night with my friends broken leg) but overall it was a great experience. Lost 6 pounds in 3 days, grew a full beard, and had 35 different kinds of insect species on me. It was more rewarding on the mind and soul. Time did not exist, only the rise and fall of the sun was the tell. The calm and solitude is soothing. Bare minimum of food and water, no excess amount in a fridge or a corner street fast food joint. Being productive to live is more rewarding than being productive in a job to make money where you go and buy the needs. I dont know how long I'll survive out there but I could feel myself adapt and become stronger as the days past. The body will adapt to the surrounding conditions, the senses will become keen, and the mind will become acute. Afterall we are animals.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Exactly ten years ago my father, uncle, and I went up to Yosemite Valley during the fall season to experience the wonders that is Yosemite, the exact date was October 28, 1997 (3x5 photo with date on back). I was yearning for those same sensations that I had felt 10 years ago. As a small present to my older brother and sister-in-law I planned out a trip back to the Valley during the autumn season. Marco and Dianne came up also after visiting the Monterrey Aquarium where the baby Great White Shark is in captivity. I rented a cabin at the Curry Village for my brother and wife because it gets cold there in the fall and they wouldn't handle it. Fortunately I found an open campsite thanks to a hot-chick rock climber who was leaving early for the weekend where Marco and Dianne pitched their tent, troopers I tell you! Like usual I called terra firma my home right next to the fire pit with my sleeping bag.

Yosemite during the fall is the best time to go in my opinion. The leaves are changing to gold and red, when the wind blows they gently float to the ground to cover every inch of forest floor. The lack of running water in the Merced River and the large valley waterfalls are easily forgotten because of the lack of people. We were the first cars that Friday entering the parking lot where in the summer it is packed to capacity and long traffic jam extends out of it. That same parking lot was a quarter full on Saturday, hardly anybody there in the whole valley.

Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail

Breathing in the crisp air in the mornings opens up the lungs. The quiet that hangs over the valley soothes and calms a persons soul. Occassionally listening to the singing chirps of birds in a near by valley oak. The winds come in to liven up the trees and grasses for a few seconds and the calm continues. These are the sensations I was looking for and it brought back the memories that I could barely describe right now.

Overall the weekend was great. We had beers and chili by the fire at nights, hiked and biked all over the valley, did some bouldering near Camp 4, and the usual run in with the wildlife. Two adolescent cubs were very curious what that sleeping bag had in it, to their surprise it wasnt hot dogs but a hairy dirtbag, luckily momma bear wasn't interested.

Just hanging out

Chillin the most !