Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Back from the mountains

My friend Michael is a nature photographer and I was able to mooch my way into joining him this past weekend on a trip east into the mountains. This would be a weekend of many things: camping, backpacking, snowshoeing, and seeing a master at work.

DAY 1 - Friday
We left the Bay Area about 9am and headed East through the pass that goes by Kirkwood. On the way down the east side of the Sierras, we stopped at a waterfall and took some digital pics (I'll add some of those later). We made our way over to 395 and then headed south to Bishop to find out about backcountry access to a few locales. We had wanted to get to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and head to the Patriarch Grove, but that road was closed. We ended up setting up camp at the Grandview Campground (oddly named as there is not a grand view from there) and headed to the Schulman Grove to find a good spot to take some sunset pics. Michael seemed to be happy with the results of that night and we returned to the campground for some dinner. We were the only ones on the mountain...had the whole park to ourselves.

DAY 2 - Saturday
Morning temp: 41. We woke a little before 5am and headed for a new vantage point. We found one and I think he was again happy with the results. Getting one good image makes his day.

Back to camp to nap some and then we headed into Bishop to get some sunglasses for me, though we had to take a detour due to the Mule Days celebration. Next stop...Mammouth Mountain for a snowshoe/backpack trek into the woods. Our goal was Garnet Lake, but due to the amount of snow we've had this year we had to start hiking from Mammoth ski area parking lot instead of Agnew Meadows which added about 3 miles to our trip...too much added distance in fact. We didn't make it to Garnet Lake, but did get a good hike and snowshoe trek: ~8.5 miles. The slope from the valley up into the mountains wore us out. By 7pm we decided to call it a day, set up camp and relax (collapsed in the tent is more like it) as the winds started to pick up (40 mph gusts throughout the night). We stayed in the tent while Michael boiled some water under the fly for our dinner. Sleep came around 10pm.

DAY 3 - Sunday
Morning temp: 38. Dawn came fast and Michael was able to sneak in some pics in between the gusts. We broke camp and hit the trail for the return around 9am. The trek down the mountain was much more relaxing this time, even if my boots were soaking wet. We passed a waterfall and some black & white pictures were taken. At the bottom of the hill, we made our way back through the woods and across the meadows and then back up the long windy hill to the summit and then a slight decline back into Mammoth Resort by 1pm. Once our gear was back in the car, we went over to the resort and had a couple of beers and some r&r on a couple of couches.

Next up...a drive up North to see some more lakes off of 395 and then to Mono Lake. We set up camp nearby under the Mono Craters, hung our socks on a tree and my boots under the tree and then went over to Mono Lake and Michael gave me a tour of the tufa. Back to the campsite, only to see that the winds had blown our tent a few dozen feet away. Time for some reading, snaking and napping. The two days of backpacking wore us out and we ended up not having dinner and fell asleep around 8:30pm.

DAY 4 - Memorial Day
Morning temp: 34. At 4:30am, we woke up and headed back to Mono Lake to get some pictures. We were vehicle #2 there and Michael had warned me about the dueling tripods (there were probably 8 or 9 photographers there at the peak that morning). We jigged and jagged and he finally got a few shots off.

Back to camp we went, had breakfast and packed up and headed to the ghost town of Bodie. At its peak in 1879, Bodie had 10,000 people. Goldmining during the day and drinking and gunfighing at night were the norm back then. Today, less than 5% of the buildings remain standing.

By 10:15am, we left and headed back home, up through the Sonora Pass which had opened up a few days earlier. If you have a chance to drive though there, it is a must go...soaring mountains, deep canyons and some stretches of road that are at a 24% incline.

I got home around 5:30, unpacked are realized that my boots are still under that tree at the Mono Craters. Time to do some shopping...next camping trip is two weekends away!

Here is a link to more photos...thanks Michael!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It's called Fog City for a reason

This morning, I got an early start (for the weekend, that is) to the gym. I dropped a friend off at the airport a little after 10am and was headed for Pacifica. As I pulled off of 280 onto Highway 1, the wind and fog picked up noticeably. At the crest of the hill, I pulled into the left hand lane, ready for my normal swooshing back and forth on the curvy highway. I noticed that the motorcycle in front of me (50 feet and one lane over), did a slight jog to the left and a thought occurred to me: Uh-oh...driving fast, fog is limiting my (and other's) vision...what happens if this motorcylce bit it and I swung to miss, crashed and then got rear-ended again and again by drivers ignorant of the conditions?

No sooner had this thought exited my head that I noticed some cars ahead in my lane that were not moving...and another truck in the right breakdown lane in front of them. The little car in front of me slammed on its brakes and came to a stop behind the van and car that had been in (I presumed) a little mishap. I was able to slide towards the left side of the left lane, just behind the little car in front of me. The motorcycle decided to pull over to the far right behind the truck in the breakdown lane. The car driving behind me slide in between everyone and went through the accident scene unharmed.

Now I had the please of watching the action unfold behind me thru my rear-view window. Cars approached around the curve at 60-70 mph, saw us sitting there and had to decide what to do. The first up was an SUV, driving in my lane, it swerved into the right land (phewww!!! missed me!!!), but then saw the motorcycle and swerved farther. BIG MISTAKE!!! To the right was an earthen embankment and the SUV catapaulted up, did a little pirouette at the top and landed (miraculously) on all 4 tires and slowly edged further, around some trees before coming to a stop behind a guardrail facing the accident. The driver seemed okay, though obviously shaken up.

The initial truck in the brakedown lane decided to put itself into reverse and drive backwards up the hill (to alert others of the accident, I think). Meanwhile, I continue to watch behind me as cars slam on their brakes and guide themselves through the one available lane. I keep hoping for a break in traffic long enough for the little car in front of me (I can't get around it) to make a move and get the hell out of bulls-eye land. Finally it moves forward, though I have to wait as another barrage of autos panic, swerve and slide around us.

Finally, I make it around and drive past the accident. Ahead I see flares...first of the left, then on the right...more slalom driving! A Mustang was smashed up in front of a police car and was about to be towed away. What did it hit? In about a mile I found out...there were two more magled cars that drove off the highway into the local Safeway parking lot and the drivers were speaking with a police officer.

Boy, did I feel lucky! The whole time, all I wanted to do was get around those two cars. I've read too many stories about 40 or 50 car pileups on California highways...and I'd prefer not to be part of the story.

So...now it's time for a little PSA, courtesy of the California DMV:


The best advice for driving in the fog is DON’T. You should consider postponing your trip until the fog clears. However, if you must drive, then drive slowly and use your low beam headlights. The light from high beams will reflect back and cause glare. Never drive with just your parking or fog lights.

Increase your following distance and be prepared to stop within the space you can see ahead. Avoid crossing or passing lanes of traffic unless absolutely necessary. Listen for traffic you cannot see. Use your wipers and defroster as necessary for best vision.

If the fog becomes so thick that you can barely see, pull completely off the road. Do not continue driving until you can see better. Turn off your lights or someone may see your taillights and drive into you.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Here's a fun artificial intelligence game

From the website 20Q you can play an AI game.

My first pass...I thought frisbee and it need 19 questions to get it correct.
My secon pass...I thought stamp...and in 15 questions, it guessed "sticker". Not too bad!

Try your luck at it!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Haven't written much here lately

Wonder if this (blogging) is like other *fads* of late...like social networking sites (when was the last time you spent more than 5 minutes at one of those?). What do you think...are blogs here to stay? Slowly evolve to something else? Die a slow death?