Saturday, July 25, 2009

Santa Barbara Seeps

This week (right before my departure for Canada) I took a class called "Derricks to Desks", which is a local petroleum seminar for teachers. I figured it would give me a better understanding of what's going on here locally... I figured I wouldn't be the only one in the class with a geological background. Oh well, on the last day we went down to Santa Barbara to get a look at "Platform Holly" (one of the offshore rigs), the oil seepage, and potentially some dolphins. We saw all of those things - it was great, and the best part for me was NOT getting sea sick. Whew!

sea lions hanging out on a buoy (there were LOADS of these guys out and about)

Platform Holly

dolphins and Platform Holly

lots of dolphins! can you see the itty bitty dolphins?

oil seepage plus methane gas bubbles - there was lots of this too, but this photo showed prettier oil rather than gungier browner nasty looking oil

Monday, July 20, 2009

En Route to Newfoundland (almost)

BEG & I are soon to embark on a 7 day backpacking excursion in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. I was last there (also backpacking) in 1996? On our trek (hiking routes shown in red) we plan to first hike across the Earth's mantle in the Tablelands, but in order to get there from the airport in Deer Lake we need to rent a car. The rental car route we're planning on is shown in turquoise. Then we have to make our way from the south end of the park around a fjord to get to the visitor's center and our orientation for the Long Range Traverse. At this point having a rental car becomes very expensive when we're hanging around in the backcountry, not to mention the difficulties of retrieving it from the western side of Brook Pond when we arrive on foot back at the visitor's center. So, from our orientation, we'll take the car back to the airport and taxi our way back (shown in yellow). We'll also have to taxi up to western Brook Pond in order to catch our boat to the other side (shown in blue) where we'll commence our hike up that fjord. From there we have 35km (20mi) of unmarked map-and-compass "trail" (is it really a trail if it's not marked?) across spectacular backcountry littered with fog and moose and geology to make our south to (and up and over) Gros Morne mountain, which is part of the eroded remains of a 1.2 billion year old range.

BEG posted our adventure on Canada's "Big Wild Challenge" where we have dedicated our adventure to protecting and promoting Canada's wilderness. You can donate to this cause through supporting our challenge.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Special Tribute to Some 'Dam' Fine Wine!

Even though I'm not using this winery in my wine class, it still remains one of my favourite wineries and I feel like they deserve some props and free blog advertising too :) maybe someone at Castoro will stumble across this and send me some love in return...

So, here's my top 5 reasons that Castoro is great:
  1. They make grape juice. And it's divine! Never been anywhere near, come remotely close to, and never will touch a concord grape!
  2. They recycle. And they are anti plastic water bottles. They offer filtered water in their tasting room, but refuse to provide plastic water bottles.
  3. They offer organic wines, which is cool and trendy - but they do it because they practice sustainable agriculture in many of their vineyards, and organic wines just happen to be a by-product of this.
  4. They installed a photo-voltaic system in one of their vineyards and on their events room several years ago to offset their energy consumption in both wine production and the tastier side of the industry.
  5. The obvious... wine! I tend to favour whites because I'm less prone to headaches from them - Castoro delivers consistently good whites, and that is a rarity in this area for sure. They also make nice reds - but so do so many other Paso Robles area wineries, that's not a "make or break" factor!
So if you're in the area, go check them out. If you have some magical connection and can hook me up with a sweet sweet deal (aka free wine), I promise I won't say no!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Manzanar. Or creeping around cemeteries at night.

Manzanar is an amazing cultural site not too far from Bake-town that I have driven past countless times, but never actually stopped at. We gave it a run through on the way to our campsite after hiking in the Bristlecones - specifically the cemetery. This was partly because of the great obelisk in the nearly full moon set against the Sierra Nevada, and also partly because at that time of night the visitor center/museum was closed.

Check out all the origami birds. Cranes that is.

One of the graves.

Our campsite (Tuttle Creek) is set against the backdrop of Mt. Whitney, more or less amongst the Alabama Hills. Not too often that one is camped by the tallest and second tallest mountains in the lower 48 on the same trip!

This is the grinning rock in the Alabama Hills. No, they're not in Alabama.

really old trees

Returning south from Crocuta, we made a little detour via the Sierra Trading Post store in Reno to see if we could find a few items that one cannot live without. For me, this was a new pair of boots. I tried on a bunch of pairs, and really these were the best fit right from the start. But, never having heard of "AKU" before, I was somewhat hesitant. In the end I figured that between the fit being good and the boots being made in Italy, it would be difficult to go wrong.

Naturally, after such a purchase, it would be impossible to go the rest of the day without actually trying them out. So we stopped (this really was a detour) at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains for a hike through some really really old trees - over 4000 years old!

The trees were good and gnarly, and they were growing right out of sandy dolomitic rock, truly white, and the reason (I figured) for the name of the mountains themselves.

From the White Mountains, we were able to clearly see the Sierra Nevada to the east, and here in particular is the "Inconsolable Range" - which was (obvsiouly) why I had to photograph and mention them...

Rounding out the last 2 weeks at mostly high elevations, the trailhead started at 10 000' and from there we hiked UP - between this and virgin boots, taking breaks to photograph Indian Paintbrush was pretty easy to do. There was no shortage of spectacularness, making the return to Bakersfield even less inviting.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Crocuta, crocuta

My fantasy locale for a yurt in the Sierra stems from Crocuta, handbuilt by the Woodsman some 40 years ago, and home for the annual 4th of July celebration (sans forest fire starters) of which I have been privy to for the last 3 years. 4th of July being a somewhat belated celebration of Canada Day held in another country - as I see it anyway.

The newest addition to the cabin: a custom-made sign.

The origin of "crocuta"? a funny sounding word that (when doubled) means Pleistocene spotted hyena or something to that effect. Regardless of the meaning, this place has come to be a haven that I love going to - it's not exactly roughing it, in fact, I'd say it's the high life of mountain living. Screened-in windows and doors. Solar-powered lights. Fresh spring water on the property. Mountains, trees, meadows, the occasional bear, charm, etc.

The view I wake up to (behind the screen) when I am nestled above the "bath house".

brief stopover in San Francisco

...en route between Shasta and cabin-in-the-woods, I detoured into the city on the Bay for some good company, good food, brief onslaught of productivity, flowers and ducks:

mama pooch always carries dog treats with her in the park - this guy "oso" was soft and fluffy looking, but a very stinky pup

I can't remember the name of these, but I loved the firey orange and yellow-coloured petals

snapdragon. for sure. have always loved these, and if I didn't have a penchant for killing plants, I'd be all over the snapdragon/honeysuckle garden. oh, also if I had a garden...

quack. quack quack. the mallard was quite plucky I'd say - not sure what's up with his semi-albino friend there, but the standard duck was so reminiscent of buck/chickadee, my adventuring kudu-launching plush friend of yore that I was captivated