Sunday, May 23, 2010

Short but beautiful hike to Green Valley Falls

This was a rare opportunity to once more see Green Valley Falls, tucked away in a Vallejo watershed,  gated, locked, signed and unavailable unless you can get into one of the seldom let Doris Klein hikes into the area;, through the auspices of Bay Area Ridge Trail. Doris is 84, and amazingly fit and spry, and at the present, the only person allowed to lead hikes in this area. It also requires reservations in advance, exact hiker names required, and when you get there, two signatures required, one on the Vallejo water district sheet and one on the Bay Area Ridge Trail sheet. If you are not on their reservation list, do not come. No one gets added.

All that said, this is a low price opportunity to see two rarely seen Vallejo waterfalls, shrouded in mist, surrounded by ferns, and a wonderful riparian experience. It makes you feel like you  are in the rain forest area, a couple of hundred miles north. You meet beyond a normally locked gate and begin trekking up this green path, dodging poison oak and stinging nettles, but mostly just brushing by spice bush. A lot of the time you are walking over the route for a twelve inch water pipe, sometimes covered, but mostly exposed in part, so you can walk on top and balance, or thread your way along the edge. You  are following a stream as you go, and several places there are small tributaries, springs really, that have bright orange algae. The water temperature of these orange areas is warmer than the stream, not cold to the touch, but not warm either.

The trail is a Y. Starting from the base, you walk up and see the waterfall at the end of one leg, then walk back and see the other one at the end of the other leg. Both are beautiful - nothing you would associate with Sonoma County.

How do you get there? I think the Bay Area Ridge Trail will have another hike in September, but don't have any details. I think the best way to get a heads up is to setup a Google News Alert for
 "green valley falls" vallejo
That should give you an email in time for the next trip.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cacophony, is this an in word right now?

harsh or discordant sound : dissonance 2; specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases. A week or so ago I saw it used in an article, and last night, when we had dinner with my niece and her husband, I heard it spoken for the first time ever, when she was describing time with their nine year old daughter and friends.

Now I am having an absolute cacophonic experience as the old roof comes off right over my head - about three feet away to be exact. There is hammering, scraping, walking, thumping, chattering, shouting in Spanish.

 If you can imagine black snow-like material sifting down, that is what is happening in the garage, which has the old style 1x6 board roof underlayerment, with about 1/4 inch gaps between the boards, and nothing further between the roof and the garage floor.
The one little section of exposed beam ceiling in our house is right above my head - tongue and groove boards, so I didn't expect anything to come through, but right now beams of sunlight are starting to appear above my head. I didn't account for the knotholes. I stop, retrieve a couple of Tyvek groundcloth sheets and throw them over the books stacked around my office. We keep our book inventory right here, and as we sell books, I lose office walls. We have lots of Tyvek around. When we started getting serious about doing the pct, about six years ago, I wanted tyvek as a lightweight groundcloth. Couldn't find any small pieces online, so bought a huge roll at our local Home Depot. I sell some at cost to other backpackers, but it has turned out to be very handy around the house, i.e. bedsheets for grandchildren before they were housebroken, covering firewood, snowcamping snow cave roof, and so forth. Now covering books.

Anyhow, the astonishing thing is that I am pretty much not noticing all this overhead chaos. It must be like living by the subway. Some particle strikes me on the head, I notice it, they fire up some sort of saw, for a moment I hear it, but I'm focused on writing to the exclusion of anything else. This has got to be a heritage from growing up in a family with four children. Chaos is the norm, and we all have learned to cope.

I do have the feeling though, that it might be wise to shut down the computer and cover the keyboard. So doing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Today's 8 mile walk - Bay to Breakers

At our gathering of friends last night, one happened to mention the Bay to Breakers race today, from the San Francisco Embarcadero to the ocean. Susan had Long Walk written on the calendar for today, and that sounded like a good fit. Only problem was that we should be at the start around 8:30, and the last guest left shortly before 11pm. We left it as a maybe, so this am I nudged Susan about 6:30 and proposed my plan - leave the house no later than 8, be at BART by 8:20, and at race start between 8:30 and 9. Agreed, provided I get up immediately and not wake her till 7:10.

All connections worked out and we arrived in SF about 8:20. BART was jammed, streets were packed, tortillas flying all over like frisbees, and we joined the crowds inching towards the starting line, which we reached about twenty minutes later. Fun though.

This is not a normal race. Some 100,000 people take part, many in some sort of wild costume, vast quantities of beer consumed, plenty of naked people, and us, in our normal hiking dress. The crowd surges around us. Spectators line the streets, porches, and hang out of windows. They have the better view. We just see the craziness around us. The spectators constantly get a new view. Every time we pass a band the crowd thickens and slows as people dance. There is some rule that as an opening constricts, the flow gets proportionally faster, but that doesn't work here. Free will frustrates the laws of physics.

The porta potties are mobbed - about a twenty minute wait on the one Susan tried. Later ones had a better system - one line, multiple facilities. While waiting, I watched the crowd pass by. The fog was still hanging over the city and it was chilly, but that didn't stop the clothing optionals. They did move pretty fast though.

There is a long uphill - Hayes Street that seemed to be party central - an excuse to slow down.

The race course is 7.5 miles, but by the time we got near the end, the runners were long gone, and the last 1/2 mile was blocked off, so we detoured around, extending our walk to eight miles. Checked out the Beach Chalet, and then bypassed the express special $10 buses back and took the local for seventy five cents.

I didn't take many pictures, but Susan got some good ones. Check out Susan's article and be sure to scroll through her slide show at the bottom. It is slow, but worth it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jon Carroll Tasks - again

Jon is a San Francisco columnist of some renown, and in the ancient past, (he is almost as old as I am), he wrote about those tasks you do that are necessary and important, in place of those tasks requiring immediate completion. i.e. you have company coming in two hours, and you decide that this is the perfect time to finally clean out the garage. Ever since that column, we have called such tasks "Jon Carroll Tasks", of which this post is one. I still have seven or eight hours till people arrive, so I am thinking about weed whipping the back slope, doing a blog post on my efforts to compare satellite phone rentals, catching up on the household budget ... more such tasks will come as I have less time remaining.

We have a couple of major trips coming up, first wrapping up the GR 653 into Puenta la Reina, and then after a few weeks of intermission, wrapping up the Pacific Crest Trail through the State of Washington into Canada. Both of these trips have a lot of little details that need attending. Soon after returning from the first trip, we need to be shipping off five or six resupply boxes for the second trip, so it would be a good idea to make sure that everything we need to ship will be on hand. Of course one of the major things is to be physically ready to do the trips. We know this. After about ten years of similar activities, we know the most important thing we have to do is get out the door at least five days a week and start walking, with a pack. The penalty for neglecting this is severe, and gets more so every year. So again, Jon Carroll is sabotaging us. We have to read the morning papers (we get two). California and the country are in crisis, oil is spilling, food is being taken from orphans, children are being denied health care. Surely one can't just walk literally away from that. By now the computer is up and beckoning. Well, email might be important, and certainly Facebook is. The paper said Facebook privacy was once more an issue, so paper in hand, to the computer to turn off the new gotcha options.

I got out the door a few times this week. Usually after twenty or thirty minutes the past is past and I'm just a living organism, moving, observing, smelling, sensing the immediate. Not the other day. "I don't want to do this" all the way down the steep hill, all the way along the path to the village, all the way back the path, all the way up the hill. What was all that about? I don't know. Maybe the weather. It's so nice being in the house when the rain is pouring down. Even after, when the sun comes, I remember that warm feeling of comfort in the house, and can't shake myself into the now. A few days later I drive to a trailhead where I start right out on a dirt path, no streets, no paving. The trail is a little wet, and more than a little slippery in spots. Everything smells a little wet, or at least, damp. I feel alive. When I cross a road to where a more remote section of trail joins two parks, there is a barrier. "Closed until made safe for public use".

I've walked that stretch maybe fifty times. Where could there be a problem? In years past landslides have happened, but nothing that was a safety hazard to people on foot. Maybe horses. My thought process - "If I go, what could happen? Not much - I'll  just go to the problem area to take a photo, and turn around if it is not passable." "what if I meet a ranger, trail crew, etc? "I'll just say I'm an outdoor blogger, reporter really, and want to write about the problem - all true. They should buy that". "Wish I had a press card". Off I go. Short story - fine for adults, not for short people or horses. Met no one. Trail was a little more overgrown than usual, but the beaten path through the slide made it clear that I was not the first pioneer.

Oh yes, not a Jon Carroll, but a mandatory detour from normal tasks - got the Internet Security 2009 virus - took about 3 days to get rid of it, and still lingering problems. I have this feeling that if all the all the pc computer cycles were totaled by purpose, more than half would be virus checkers, their processes, and time spent removing viruses. Possible area for conspiracy theorists?

Ok, it's almost noon. Maybe time to start thinking about the real things to be done.