Monday, November 11, 2002

Glamis Sand Dunes Trip #3

I had a good time out at the Glamis Sand Dunes this weekend. It was nice and sunny though it was very windy on Saturday. Blayne's new dune buggy is very powerful and fast. I kept whooping and hollering, I couldn't contain myself. It was very fun.

This time I remembered to completely zip up my tent when I set up camp. Last time I closed the entrance but left the mesh widows uncovered. Later, I found the entire interior of the tent and my sleeping bag covered with a fine dust which had sieved through the fine mesh covering the windows. That sucked.

We went on a real fun night ride out to Competition Hill. A very steep, high dune that everyone races up real fast. I went up a few times with Blayne and then with Jeff. Jeff was able to make it up the hill in his Jeep Wrangler. It was allot slower and scarier but very cool.

I rode back to camp in the Jeep Wrangler, but Blayne accidentally led us off the main Sand Road into the Dune Field. We had a crazy time going down many really sharp and steep razorbacks in the Wrangler. We almost got stuck once but were able to power out. All the dune buggy riders were congratulating Jeff on his amazing driving skills when we got back to camp.

I also went on a long ride with a ATV Sunday morning. It is very beautiful out in the dunes, like being on the moon.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Scuba Diving for Lobster in Solana Beach

Chris and I went scuba diving for lobster in Solana Beach, CA this weekend. We had to go buy a lobster license at Big 5 Sporting Goods and then we headed down to Fletcher's Cove.

It was a beautiful sunny day so we were boiling hot in our wetsuits as we got our equipment ready. The water was freezing when we entered the ocean, but it was nice to cool off. We didn't have to go very far out as we were able to find lobster around twenty feet deep.

We had to look in the cracks of the reef to find them. Chris was great at spotting them in the dark crevices and fearless about sticking his hands in there to grab them out. They were fierce little buggers and fought hard to avoid getting put in his bag. A couple got away and took off over the ocean bottom really fast. I was surprised how fast they could go when they wanted too. I tried to grab one but missed it.

Chris had to check each lobster with his measuring tool to make sure they were over the limit before sticking them in his bag. We had to let two go because they were too small but we ended up with four nice ones that we cooked up in a big pot of boiling water.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Mount Whitney Pictures

Here the rest of the pictures from my hike to the summit of Mount Whitney.

Here is the link to my Facebook photo album:

Mount Whitney Pictures on Facebook

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Hiking Trip to Mount Whitney’s Summit

Christine Prowd and I just hiked to the summit of Mt. Whitney (located in the Southern Sierra Nevadas in California) at the end of September. It is the highest mountain in the lower 48 States at 14,497 feet (4,419 meters)

It was a 22-mile hike to the summit and back and it took us 15 hours, around 7 hours to get to the Summit and 8 to get back down. We had an overnight pass and we thought about splitting the hike in two and staying the night in a tent at Trail Camp but we decided it would be easier to pack lighter and do the whole hike in one day. I had a pair of hiking sticks but our backpacks were mostly filled with water bottles, food and a sweater. (I also included aspirin to fight altitude-induced headaches.)

We stayed the night in Lone Pine down in the valley and got up early at 4am and drove up to the Trailhead that starts at 8,637 feet. It was interesting hiking in the dark with only our flashlights but the trail was well marked so we didn’t worry about getting lost. Because it was dark, the only memorable part of the first few miles was hopping from rock to rock over the small creeks that crossed the trail in several places.

The sky started to lighten around the time we passed Outpost Camp after hiking almost 4 miles to 10,360 feet. The first real landmark we reached in the daylight was Mirror Lake. It’s a small still lake that the trail snaked around before climbing to leave the tree line behind. This is also where the trail started to get rockier, but it was well maintained and gave the appearance of a rocky staircase at times.

It was about a mile before we reached Trailside Meadow. It’s a pretty moss-filled meadow with a small stream running through the center of the little valley. We still felt strong a mile later when we reached Trail Camp at 12,039 feet. We took a short break and ate a snack before attempting the 99 Switchbacks that rose steeply up into the fog above the camping area. We checked out Consultation Lake and the other small pools around the camp before we continued on.

It started to lightly snow as we started up the 99 Switchbacks that lead up to the Trail Crest, but there was no wind and we were warm from our hiking so we didn’t worry about it. As we ascended the switchbacks, some people on the trail started to turn back as the snow fell heavier, especially at the Cables where the trail got steeper and a little icy. We had a quick talk about joining the others and turning around, but we still felt good and decided to push on.

I actually enjoyed the “infamous” switchbacks that I had heard so much about. Hiking up the steep face as the valley spreads out below you gives a great sense of forward progress and accomplishment. We had to take occasional stops due to lightheadedness and to keep hydrated, but the views were great and we could sometimes make out the summit through the falling snow and fog to our right. I enjoyed the snowfall, it made me feel as if I was climbing Mt. Everest or some other snowy peak and it kept us cool. My boss had climbed Mt. Whitney last year and had complained about the heat from hiking under a blazing sun.

The temperature would soon change as we reached the Trail Crest at 13,777 feet after hiking 8.5 miles. As we reached the top, a brisk and cold wind that had been blocked by the mountain range hit us in the face as it blew eastward from the Sequoia National Park. While the wind was unwelcome as we stood on the border of the park, the view of the large valley spread out before us on the other side was amazing. It was a pretty severe drop off down to the Hitchcock and Guitar Lakes far below.

The trail descended down a bit before rising again as we hiked along the back ridge of Mount Muir toward the sharp needles. The trail was very icy and it was getting very cold. I started to wish that I had packed some pants. We were mostly concentrating on warm thoughts as we hiked this section but the trail got interesting as we reached the Needles. The icy trail narrowed in the “windows” between the needles with sheer drops on either side. If someone should happened to slip, it would be the quick way to get back down to Trail Camp which I could see far below in the gaps between the needle-like spires.

After the passing the needles we could finally see our destination, the tiny hut in the distance on top of the flat summit of Mount Whitney. It was about a mile of zigzagging up the back of this final peak but we finally made the top at 14,497.61 feet after 11 miles. It was a little anti-climatic because the peak was fogged in but it was nice to enter the stone hut and get out of the wind and chat with several other climbers inside. We stayed about an hour on the Summit resting, eating lunch and signing the register. I was very grateful when a fellow hiker gave me a knitted cap that he had bought in Peru to help me keep warm on the decent.

The descent was tough but mostly uneventful. The sun came out for a while after we crossed back over the Trail Crest and started to descend the switchbacks. We got our first clear view of the mountain range we had just crossed and had a chance to warm up again as we left the wind behind which boosted our energy levels. By the time we reached Trail Camp the clouds returned and snow started to fall once again.

The last six miles of the descent was the toughest. The snow fell thicker and thicker until you could barely see out in front and my ski-injured knee was starting to ache. My hiking sticks really helped on the descent as I would step first with my good leg and lower the other taking some of the weight with my arms. (The next day my triceps were really sore from the amount of work.) The sun set as we reached the tree line again and passed Outpost Camp.

The rest of the way was mostly a blur as I daydreamed alternatively about the heater in my car, getting eaten by a bear or collapsing on the bed in our hotel room down in Lone Pine. The last mile seemed an eternity until we stumbled into the parking lot at the Trailhead around 8pm.

We Made It!!!!

Friday, September 13, 2002

Colorado River Camping - Picacho

I went camping to the Colorado River last weekend with my boss, Blayne,Carrie and their children. Jeremy, Chelsea and Forest came out with me to the river for the first time as well. The camping grounds at Picacho State Park are named after Picacho Peak, a nearby ancient volcano. You can see the far-off volcanic peak from the river.

Jeremy learned how to wake-board on this trip. He was a fast learner and was able to get up pretty quick. We had a fun float down the river with a few rafts that we tied together. I had one of the worst back slaps in my life when I fell backward into the water trying to stand up on the rubber raft. Yowza! It really stung.

We did another night hike up to the natural rock arch in our flip-flops. Not so bad going up, but it can get a little slippery on the way down. It is only a small arch, but you can still see it from the river up on the hillside. Some nights we hike over to the graveyard to check out the old tombstones from the gold mining frontier days.

We also had two wave runners with us this trip. One of them was great, but the other had a balance problem and liked to tip over easily unless you could get it up to speed quickly. That was fairly easy with one person, but almost impossible with two people.

Casey and Corrin made some headwraps and started calling themselves "Queen" and "Princess". It was pretty funny to watch them messing around, balancing on the wooden rail.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Tribute to Kent Ruffino

My brother, Kent, died in a car crash on June 12th while I was on my trip to Europe and I didn't find out until I got back because I was out of contact.

He was a 19 year old college student and was a medic in the Army Reserves. He still had his whole life ahead of him. My biggest regret is that I didn't get to know him better because he lived with my mom up in Riverside County and I only saw him a few times a year.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Western Europe Trip - Final Part (Frankfurt, Germany)

Well, we are unexpectedly in Germany for an extra night in Europe. We missed our flight connection in Frankfurt but we are enjoying ourselves anyway after finding a hotel room.

Chad and Noah enjoying a German Beer.
We went and found a cool little place to eat, a home that had been converted into a little outdoor family restaurant. I think our table was where the driveway used to be. We had the schnitzel and German beer, of course.

Delicious schnitzel
We catch the next United flight to LAX tomorrow.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Western Europe Trip - Part 3 (Barcelona, Spain)

I finally found an Internet cafe in Barcelona. I love this city. A big difference from the first time I came here with Greg when it rained the whole time and we were robbed.

Early morning on the train traveling along the Italian Rivera
We ended up spending about 24 hours on 4 different trains to reach Barcelona. After a short train ride to Pisa, we took another sleeper car at 2 am to Nice. Our train to Montpellier ran over someone as it entered the Toulon Station. Bummer! The last train was the best. I had fun talking with several people with different nationalities. A Cuban who was sitting next to me was in Europe for the first time. He was coming to France to meet his French girlfriend and teach Salsa Dancing. We were so tired when we arrived in Barcelona at 11 pm that we went straight to sleep.

Noah at the center of Barcelona spiral staircase.
The Barcelona apartment where we are staying for a week is so cool! And so close to everything too. There was a cool spiral staircase up to the apartment on the third floor. I spent Sunday at the beach since everything is closed. It was so crowded. I had a few beers at one of the many bars on the sand. Started talking to a Colombian guy who was playing the saxophone and lives here with his Spanish wife.

Tutu guy dancing on Barcelona beach
Walking back from the beach I saw they where filming a scene from a World War II movie at the train station. Lots of extras in period costumes and stuff. It was supposed to be Antwerp. I got to see them yell action and everything. Later, I went to a park near our apartment with Chad and Fatima where there was some kind of Rave going on. Dancers, Drum Circles, Jugglers, and lots of Marijuana being smoked.

Fatima and Chad at a rave in a Barcelona Park
On Monday, we visited the unfinished Gaudi church, La Sagrada Familia. We climbed the winding stairs up one tower and walked across the narrow bridge at the top with great views of the city. We ended up getting tickets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers when we saw a poster on Las Ramblas. It was a great concert, but it was in a hot and humid arena filled with the haze of thousands of smoking cigarettes. We had an interesting midnight adventure walking back to the city centre because the subway closed down before the concert ended. After walking many miles we found a bus that was running and hoped for the best when we boarded it. We lucked out because it's route came pretty close to our apartment at Port Vell.

Lisa, Noah & Chad inside La Sagrada Familia chuch tower.
We spent the next few days hanging out at the beach, but we went to the Aquarium and the Picasso Museum. My respect for the famous painter grew after seeing his work displayed in chronological order. He was actually very talented in the realistic style when he was growing up in the city before he went abstract. I also had dinner and went to a nightclub with Amanda and her friend who I met on the train to Barcelona. On Thursday, everything in the city was closed down by a National Strike. The only open place to eat that we could find was a Chinese restaurant. It was good! The next day there was allot of spray paint graffiti on buildings around the city.

Chad and Fatima relaxing on Las Ramblas after dinner.
On Friday, we took a bus out to the mountain-top Benedictine monastery of Montserrat. We watched a Catholic wedding in the Abbey and touched the black Virgin of Montserrat statue. We rode the two funiculars and hiked the trails in the jagged peaks surrounding the Abbey. There was beautiful weather with great views of the surrounding countryside.

Noah meditating on the rocky cliffs of Montserrat
I was rooting for USA in the World Cup (obviously), but I was surprised that they beat Mexico and made it into the Quarterfinals!! The USA lost to Germany while we were out at Montserrat, but Spain played Korea today in the Quarterfinals during our last day in the city. The streets were empty during the game and we watched it on our TV. Through our window, the city was crazy noisy as the game came to an end with a zero-zero tie. The noise level increased during the shoot-out, but when Korea scored the final goal to win, the city went deathly silent for several minutes. It was very eerie.

Chad, Fatima and Noah about to go dancing in Barcelona.
After the game in the morning, we rode the cable car up to Montjuic to see all the 1992 Olympic facilities and go swimming in the Olympic pool. Too bad we visited it on the day of a school swim meet so we were not able to swim like we planned. Oh Well. Tonight we are going dancing.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Western Europe Trip - Part 2 (Florence, Italy)

Our last day in Paris was great. We went to the Musee d'Orsay. It was my favorite museum in the city. I really like the art from this time period of the late 19th century. We spent the rest of the day hanging out at a cafe in the Latin Quarter, waiting to catch the night train to Florence from the Gare de Bercy. The waiter, Anthony, was really cool and friendly. The opposite of the snooty French waiter stereotype. The sleeper car was fun. It had compartments with seats that folded out into 6 beds. I had one of the top bunks and slept very well.

Fatima contemplating my favorite painting, The Floor Strippers, in the Musee d'Orsay
First thing in Florence, we took the 17 bus to the Duomo and visited the Galleria dell'Accademia Museum with the "David" and other amazing sculptures. It was fun walking the streets because the Italy-Mexico World Cup game was going on at the same time. The city erupted in a loud roar when Italy scored a Goal while we ate lunch. Horns were honking and people yelling from windows all around and above us. Pretty Cool! I think Mexico won though because some kids waving Mexican flags were singing out a window awhile later. I took there picture. Heh! I think World Cup fever was low back in France because they did so badly, finishing last in their group. They were pretty embarrassed because they are the defending champs. Last I heard, the USA team had won and tied another game.

Chad in the Florence Hostel
The Florence hostel is very beautiful. It is in a country villa surrounded by vineyards and the fireflies come out at night. And a few mosquitoes. I have stayed here once before with Greg back in 1995. Last night, we ate a really delicious meal at a restaurant just a short walk down the road. The Gnocchi was crazy good.

Noah on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
We thought about taking a day trip to Pisa today. After checking the schedules at the train station, we realized it would not be worth the time it would take to travel there and back. Instead we went to the Uffizi Gallery and I saw the famous "Birth of Venus" by Botticelli. We had a nice little side adventure when we caught a bus going the wrong way and rode the entire circuit in reverse before we reached our destination. We are now back at the hostel hanging out on the terrace and drinking beers until we have to leave and take a midnight train. We have a long journey to Barcelona.

Chad and the Boar in a Florence market

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Western Europe Trip - Part 1 (Paris, France)

I am writing from an internet kiosk thing in our hostel.

Noah, Fatima, Danielle & Lisa in the Paris Metro
Chad, Fatima, Danielle, Lisa & I arrived in Paris around 1pm on Thursday. We flew in one of those new Boeing 777s. Pretty nice! The closest train station into Paris was closed so we spent quite a long time wandering around the airport lost, confused and tired. I ended up hitting my head when I walked right into a closed glass door. After finding our hostel, we cruised the Champs-Elysees all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe. I climbed to the top on a cool spiral staircase to see the great view. For dinner, I ate this delicious, ham and cheese grilled sandwich, called a Croque Monsieur. The rock hard salami baguette I had with it was not so good. We were really tired by the time we went to sleep around 12pm.

Chad posing with a statue in the Louvre
Friday started out drizzly, but it went away before we reached the Louvre. It is HUGE!!! I have taken so many pictures already. First thing, we headed to find the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and then checked out all the paintings from Europe's 16th & 17th centuries. Lots of religious iconography. My favorite area was the large sculpture garden. Before heading over to Notre Dame, we had a nice lunch at a brasserie. I had a steak with pepper sauce. There was a children's choir singing in the famous cathedral when we arrived. We were going to go to the top, but we didn't want to wait for over an hour in the line. We had plans to go to a Jazz club, but the girls fell asleep too early when we went back to the hostel to rest for a bit.

Two French Angels who posed for me on the Champs-Elysees
You can't go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower. Chad, Fatima and I climbed the stairs up to the second level where we stopped for a chocolate croissant and an espresso before taking the elevator to the very top. Chad got a little freaked in the glass elevator. Heh! For lunch we stopped at a creperia before exploring more of the city. We ended up at the Hotel des Invalides to see Napoleon's Tomb and check out the French World War II museum. Our second attempt to go to a Jazz club was a success but it was hard to find tucked away in a side alley of the Rue de Lombard. They served a delicious hefeweiser-type beer and the music was good even though I am not a big Jazz fan.

Sharing a laugh in the Eiffel Tower
I still wasn't over my jet lag by Sunday. I was so tired I fell asleep on the train to Versailles, but I perked up by the time we arrived at the palace. First, we explored the large gardens filled with statues and elaborate fountains. We rented a boat to row around the cross-shaped canal at the base of the gardens. It was pretty funny when we accidentally rammed another boat and got cursed out in French. While touring the inside of the palace, I kept close to a English-speaking tour group as they explained what each room was for. The Hall of Mirrors was impressive, but I really enjoyed seeing the living quarters and the three huge murals commissioned by Napoleon.

Chad and Noah rowing Queen Fatima across the Versailles Canal.
Arriving back in the city, we went to the district of Montmartre to see the shiny white Sacre Coeur Cathedral at the top of the hill. Nearby, I had my best French meal of the trip so far, but the service was really slow. After we were seated, it took about two hours before our food arrived. I am not complaining though, it was nice to relax for awhile. The girls wanted to go shopping, so I took the metro to see the Moulin Rouge. I would like to watch the show someday, but it is pretty expensive. 150 Euros!

Flowers and Notes left on Jim Morrison's Grave
The World Cup has been going on while we are here. Team USA is doing well. Chad and I watched them score a goal against Korea before we went to pick up the rental car. It was very time consuming and it was crazy driving it back to our hostel on the busy streets. The traffic on the ring road circling the city was worse than Los Angeles. After five days together, we decided to split up for the rest of the day. After exploring the expensive shops near the Champs Elysees, I went to see Jim Morrison's grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery. I had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant and read the International Herald Tribune. It was nice to have some alone time. Later, I stumbled upon an outside concert near the Hotel de Ville and I had a good time talking to a Portuguese guy who lives in the city.

Chad and Noah in Fontainebleau with the rental car.
Tomorrow we are driving 35 miles outside of Paris in our rental car to visit Fontainebleau, Napoleon's Palace. I hope it is worth it after the huge hassle it was to pick up the car.

Sunday, February 10, 2002

Ski Trip to Brundage, Idaho

Brundage Mountain Trail Map
I just went on a fun ski trip to Idaho for a week with a group of friends. We had a big cabin and did a lot of skiing at Brundage Mountain. I had a pair of parabolic skis for the first time and I loved how they handled. It snowed allot while we were there and it was very cold. Just the way I like it.

Brundage had the best snow that I have ever skied on with lots of nice dry powder. On some of the backcountry trails I was skiing through drifts up to my waist. It was great. Jeremy and I are pretty good skiers, but Chelsea, Marco and Forest were learning for the first time.

It was a quiet little town where we were staying, but we had fun sledding, snow ball fighting and playing board games at night. Catch Phrase was our favorite.

There was a nice jacuzzi at our cabin and we spent allot of time in it warming up after a day of skiing. One night, Jeremy and I jumped out of the hot water and made angels in the freezing snow wearing just our swim trunks. Heh!

One night we went to the hot springs in a nearby town. It was pretty cool with two big pools, one with nice warm water and the other so boiling hot you could barely sit in it. A cool fox came and visited our cabin and hung out for a little bit. I have never seen one in the wild before so I was happy to snap a photo of it.