Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Things that move in the night

Strange things going on in our house. As self publishers, we have piles of boxes with books, stacked in various places in the house, one being directly behind Susan's desk.

This image is from Feb 08, when there used to be a double row of boxes. Each pile is six boxes high, and weighs about 170 lbs.

Now fast forward to May 09, and we notice big gaps between the stacks of boxes. We are not touching these boxes, and now they have gaps between of an inch to two inches:

We have a reasonably stable house. There's no big slope from one side to the other, our windows all open and close just fine. There aren't weird gaps appearing at the top and bottoms of our doors.

The area is known for unknown forces. Nearby we have the labyrinths where supposedly gather peaceful witches and druids.

The whole state has strangeness galore, from Sasquatch in the north, to the Death Valley rock movers in the south.

Do you suppose that we are in the grip of some mysterious power? My rational thought is that since we are about a half mile from the Hayward Fault, those little mini .9 and 1.5 quakes are moving things around a little. But just maybe the books and the rocks, the witches and the druids, and possibly the cows, are heading for some unknown meeting place, plotting to reclaim their world.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A blast of blues amidst Culture at Mt. Tam's Mountain Theater

We have this budget, and put a fair amount of effort into keeping within budget, contrary to our city, state and federal government. Didn't intend to say that last part. My fingers did it. Anyway, it has a couple of major expense classifications, mandatory expenses and discretionary expenses. Within discretionary is entertainment. For a long time this was broken down further, into Cultural and Other. My interests are firmly in the Other category, but Susan sometimes steers us into Cultural. We've now abolished those subcategories in the interest of less record keeping required, but the classification remains in our minds.

Sunday's event was Man from La Mancha at the outdoor Mountain Theater on Mt. Tam. In my mind, a Cultural event with a capital C. Well, we arrive in Mill Valley, and are bussed up to the theater, getting there around noon. Seats on the rocks are first come first served, and we have a nice central location in the sun. Temperature is perfect, fog just burned off, a slight breeze, only problem is we forgot to bring any alcohol. We are sitting there watching the crowd, and I admit to a residual sexism in appreciating the summer attire some women chose to wear.

All at once there is this blast of blues from the stage, and a woman's voice, belting out a song a la Katie Webster or Aretha Franklin. I look down at the stage and a slight woman in a red polka dot dress behind a mike, and nearby, two women and a guy also behind mikes. I can't tell who has this great voice. They're all singing. I grab the binoculars to check it out, and the big voice is coming from the woman in the polka dot dress. Lara Johnson. Her link songs don't compare to what she did at Mountain Theater. That warm up act made the day for me, moved it clearly out of Culture and into Other. I put a youtube video up of one of her numbers. The video wanders all over, but you can hear the music.

The day went on, I actually enjoyed the stage performance of Man from La Mancha, and then we walked back down the mountain to where the cars were parked, about 6+ miles. The trip down was a nice series of trails and back roads, but for a change there were at least 100 other people walking the same route, so not our usual hiking experience. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009 backpack45.com A lot of people who were clearly not regular hikers, but they were getting into the experience. A conversation fragment from behind us
we were brought up to be ashamed of our bodies, and here we are doing this wonderful thing. This is what our bodies were supposed to do

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Extending the Caldecott PCT Training Hike

Poison Oak - Sibley Tilden trail
I mostly go from Pinehurst, Huckleberry or Sibley north. (this is in the east bay hills of the San Francisco Bay Area). After talking about this in my prior post, I decided to go south from Pinehurst, to extend the training yoyo a little. My plan was to go thirty minutes south, then return (this was a minimal hiking day). It ended up a little longer than that, and I came to a new starting point for the yoyo to the Tilden train station and back.

First you take this quiet single track trail much like Huckleberry Preserve. Shaded, lots of poison oak, but avoidable. The poison oak image is on the Sibley - Tilden trail, but you get the idea. After about twenty minutes you get to Skyline Gate - trail central for Redwood Regional Park. It's the takeoff point for two broad trails, the West Ridge and the East Ridge. Each is wide enough so 4 or 5 people can walk abreast, and they do during the busy hours, along with bikes and dogs. The broad trail creates a trailside microclimate with thriving California Thistles. At this time of day, about 8am, it is quiet, only about 9 cars in the parking lot.
Skyline Gate

This entire training hike, all the way to Tilden is on both the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the East Bay Skyline Trail. However, this morning going south, I encounter a split, with the Ridge Trail marked as going down the French Trail, and also continuing on the West Ridge, as the East Bay Skyline Trail does. I opt for the west ridge as I am running out of time. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009 backpack45.com
French Trail junction north
The vegetation has changed since Huckleberry. Now the bays are competing with small redwoods, along with the buckeyes and the oaks. A few more minutes and I hit the next access point to Skyline Blvd., and my turn around point. This is Moon Gate, and is opposite 9358 Skyline Blvd. If you use Google Maps and Street View, you can turn the street view until you see the trailhead.

This section south from Pinehurst, is fairly easy, not PCT like, but it adds a little distance to your hike. The Bay Area Ridge Trail along the Oakland hills is just over the crest of the hills, on the east side. In the early morning the trail gets filtered light, by midday it is hot, and in late afternoon, the hills shade the trail. For PCT training, I recommend following a PCT schedule: Be on the trail walking by 7 am. Have a PopTart or similar snack for midmorning and midafternoon. Have a lunch including a bar of some sort. Keep your water topped up. There is water at Skyline Gate, Sibley and Tilden. The last time I did the Pinehurst Tilden yoyo, it was one of those hot days, and I forgot to take any food or snacks. I had plenty of water, but the last two miles or so, I was totally wiped, and taking a 5 or 10 minute break flat on my back on the ground, to get enough energy to go a little further. I desperately needed fuel - that PopTart, sweet and salty bar, Tang, or similar.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caldecott Wildlife Corridor - perfect PCT training hike

From our house in the Oakland East bay hills, we walk up past Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, where we join the Bay Area Ridge Trail/East Bay Skyline Trail and walk to the Train Station in Tilden Regional Park. The round trip is about 10 miles for us, about 7 miles if you start from Sibley. You are walking through the Caldecott Wildlife Corridor for most of the way, and a relatively untraveled, pristine trail for much of its length. The trail elevation profile is quite similar to what you find on the PCT. Do this with a 25 lb backpack from Sibley and you will feel it. Start at the Pinehurst Road - Skyline intersection, just a mile or so south on the Ridge Trail, and it will kick your butt if you do it round trip. I saw a mountain lion on this section south of Sibley when I did it earlier this year.

Over the course of a year, we do on the order of 200 miles on this trail. I've made some attempts at trail maintenance with varying success. There is a fair amount of poison oak, and this time of year it is starting to reach over the trail in spots. Quite avoidable, but you have to pay attention. One year I took a long pair of pruning shears, and pruned back the poison oak, of course taking precautions to avoid touching it. Worst case of poison oak I've ever had, so I don't do that any more. If a branch is totally unavoidable, I will search around and find a stick so I can poke it back in the shrubbery. Most of the time though, you can edge sideways by it, or duck and scoot under. I leave it alone, with a little feeling of satisfaction that the occasional rogue mountain biker will at least pay a small price for his disregard of the No Bikes signs.

Another attempt was to whack the heads off all the purple thistles that were crowding the trail, and zapping my ankles. One year I was doing it 3 or 4 times a week and pretty much had the whole length of the trail free of thistle heads for a while. Well, you knock the head off, it grows back shorter, with 5 times as many heads. This year they are thicker than ever, and I'm probably responsible.

I have found some success controlling the stinging nettles. I wasn't really aware of them for a number of years. If a shrub wasn't poison oak, I just plowed through it, no problem. One year this branch hanging down brushed across my face and it felt like I had been burned. I look back and up, and there is this huge plant - a single stalk, about 9 feet tall, and alternating pairs of leaves, gray green and fuzzy, with the typical wedge shape of a rattlesnake's head, only with a pointy nose.

Ever since, every nettle I see gets whacked with the hiking stick. They come back year after year, but don't seem to be spreading, and it takes them a long time to get big enough to be a hazard, once they've been whacked.

Back to the topic, more or less. Even with a pack, you can avoid the poison oak. You will see few if any people after the first mile. Initially you see some dog walkers, and maybe a runner or two, but after Old Tunnel Road, the trail is pretty much yours. the grades are like the pct, right now the wildflowers are all over, as they are on the Pacific Crest Trail. If you can do 20 miles on this trail, that is, 2 yo-yos from Pinehurst to the train station, and do that 3 days in a row, you are ready. Be sure to take a snack break in am and pm to boost your electrolytes. We take a PopTart. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009 backpack45.com

5/20/09 - just walked this again, with Susan starting at Sibley. She says I'm crazy to suggest 2 yoyos from Pinehurst as training. It might scare off someone who would do just fine on the PCT. You really should work up to the 2 yoyos. They represent a long hard pct day. Start training by a yoyo from Sibley. That is about 7 miles. Then a yoyo from Pinehurst. That's about 10 miles. Then you might go beyond the train station about 3 miles to Nimitz Point. and do yoyos to Nimitz Point and extend your training that way. I just prefer the section between Pinehurst and the train station, and think it is the most pct like.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First time in five years not crawling out of a tent on the PCT at 4:30

Early this morning, as I was returning to bed after a bathroom visit (I do this more now than when I was younger), the clock showed 4:30, and through the bedroom window, there was just the slightest hint of dawn. The light and the hour gave me a sudden déjà vu. I realized that this was the first time in five years I was not crawling out of a tent somewhere on this date and time. I searched through our photos to see just what we had been doing around this time on prior years.

PCT Section B 2005 May 10

PCT Section C 2006 May 10

PCT Section D 2007 - May 2 Hiker Heaven

PCT 2008 - May 13 Butterbredt Canyon Road

2009 - May 10 Squirrel on our feeder, new solar fan installation

We've been working our way through the southern California desert on the Pacific Crest Trail since 2005. My routine for this date and time for the prior four years has been: get out of the sleeping bag, stuff it, throw all my gear outside the tent and crawl out, all without getting on Susan's side of the tent. Once out, I start the stove, put on water to boil, and then go pee. Then tea for Susan, instant coffee for me, and when that is done, cereal, powdered milk and water, cold or hot as desired. Then Susan throws all her stuff out of the tent while I pack my backpack, and stuff the tent. By the time I finish she is ready to go, and sometime between 6 and 7 am we are off on the trail. As you can see, we are not very speedy getting started.

We finished the last piece of the southern PCT last year, and continued on the northern part well into Oregon, so now only have about 750 miles in Oregon and Washington to complete the PCT. None of that is accessible until well into July, so we have this backpacking deficit in April-May. Our plan was to fill this void by hiking in Patagonia in March, hiking in France in May, northern PCT in August and an AT segment in Sept. As March approached, and the economy tanked, our schedule seemed a little optimistic and didn't give us time to decompress from Patagonia, so we moved France to Sept and dropped the AT. Thus our present situation. An aside, we've been getting some unattributed taking of blog content so inserting © 2009 backpack45.com

It's not bad here. We have time to do a garden, see our flowers bloom, do long pending chores such as install a solar fan in the garage. Susan for the last four years been gone for our wedding anniversary, gone for Mother's Day, gone for my birthday and is enjoying those missed occasions. But that moment this morning reminded me of those wonderful first few hours of the day hiking through the desert, and I miss it.