Saturday, November 19, 2016

AcroYoga - Ninja Star

It's not pretty, but Tori and I surprised ourselves when we finally pulled off the Ninja Star washing machine tonight at the AcroYoga Jam. Normally we collapse in a tangle of limbs after the first pass through. Ha!

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Update: 2/28/18

We finally have a decent Ninja Star. We were doing the easier Ninja Bat version for a long time until we learned the proper technique from the Patreon Tutorial of Jacob Brown and Debbie Collis. The correct way is for the flyer to pass through Back Fly instead of Straddle Bat. The video starts with us working on a practice drill before moving into the full washing machine.

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Trapeze High Show (Turnarounds and Whips)

I participated in my third Friends and Family Show at Trapeze High on Saturday, November 5th. I didn't catch this time but I showed off two new tricks I learned this year plus taking an old one out of safety lines for the first time. The show started at 3:30 but Isaac warmed up the crowd beforehand with a Chin Balancing Routine as he balanced a series of larger and larger objects over his head. Chris and Gina kicked off the show with a Static Trapeze routine up in the Catch Trap.

Isaac's Troupe was the first to fly. Here is a list of the tricks performed:

Eden - Knee Hang Back Flip, Splits, Planche Catch

Jessica - Warm Up Swing, Knee Hang, Two Position Splits Catch

Evie - Splits, Double, Layout Catch

Leilani - Warm Up Swing, Turnaround Back Drop, Hocks Off Catch

Maya - Turnaround Return, Layout, Splits Catch

Lianna - Turnaround Return, Splits Catch Return

Chris caught the second Troupe with everyone catching their tricks.

Westley - Knee Hang Back Flip, Splits, Planche Catch

Betty - Razzle Dazzle, Double, Planche Catch

Kira - Half Time Hocks, Shooting Star, Splits Catch

Jeri - Turnaround Return, Layout, Splits Catch

Angela - Turnaround Salute, Reverse Uprise, Half Time Hocks Catch

Gina - Pirouette, Uprise Balance Suicide, Whip Catch Return

Tommy - Pump Shoot Catch Return, Straight Jump Catch Return

Chris and I were the only ones flying in Tommy's Troupe so we had less time to catch our breath between tricks. I had a dry mouth and was breathing hard while climbing the ladder for my final catch. My first trick was the Turnaround that I spent several months learning over late summer and fall. I probably executed my best turn yet as my feet stayed together except for a small split in my legs near the end. I had a little wardrobe malfunction when I brushed the board the second time over and exposed my undies. That got the crowd laughing. Ha!

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My second trick was the Splits out of lines. I had performed the Man Splits in the last show but I had promised myself that I would do it without Safety Lines the next time. I spent a lot of time working on my Face Off so I could land safely to my back in the net. It is finally starting to feel natural.

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For my catch, I performed the Whip that I began learning in September. While both Isaac and Chris have caught my Whip before, Tommy never has. We had only one practice catch an hour before the show but we pulled it off.

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Chris performed a Suicide, a Double and threw a Layout to Tommy. While we were bowing at the end, my wife got a perfect shot of Lianna bouncing in the net behind us. Kira did double-duty as the Announcer and I think she did the best job yet from any of the previous shows.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Indoor Skydiving at iFly San Diego
(Dave's 70th Birthday)

Sunday night we went to iFly, the new Indoor Skydiving facility in San Diego for Dave's 70th Birthday. He had missed out when the rest of us went to the wind tunnel in Perris in 2012 for Kenny's Birthday so he was eager to try it. iFly was more expensive than the earlier place ($149 for four minutes versus $110) but the wind tunnel technology has been refined. The circular tube here was 360 degrees of glass instead of just narrow windows set within a metal frame and the wind turbines were much quieter. You couldn't even hear them from outside the building.

Since there was a large group of us, we were split into the 6 and 6:30pm time slots with Kenny flying in both. Dave did well his first time, spending two minutes at a time in the tunnel but he thought it was a bit too long and he would have preferred one minute segments at a time like the rest of us. I think they kept the wind speed lower here for newbies. In Perris, I went six feet over the instructors head at least once but here they they would pull on your waist if you started to fly too high. They made up for it by offering the High Flight where the Instructor would takes us up for a spin at the end. It reminded me of when my father would twirl me by my arm and leg as a kid. It was fun, but a little dizzying.

Darin, Tommy and Kenny flew in the 6:30 session with a little girl who could not have been more than 5 years old. She was so tiny. She was too floppy to hold the correct flying position so the instructor held her by the waist the entire time. Everybody gave her a high five when she left the tunnel but she didn't go back in. Darin and Tommy did well while Kenny worked on some more advanced skills with his fifteen minutes of time. The video below shows Kenny getting instruction from his coach.

After each group finished their time, the instructor would show off his flying skills in the wind tunnel. I was most impressed with the first guy we saw in the tunnel who nose-dived from the top of the tunnel, stopping rapidly only a couple feet from the bottom at the very last second. Our instructor, Tom, was more cautious and gave himself at least a six foot cushion, but he had a funny move where he spread-eagled up against the glass and slid out of sight on his ass. The video below is of the demo from our group's 6:30 session.

Afterwards, we went to Sammy's Wood-Fired Pizza for diner. The Wok Fired Sliced Steak with a soy-ginger sauce was pretty delicious and we all shared the Messy Sundae they gave to Dave.

Link to my 2012 Perris Indoor Skydiving Post

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Skateboarding (Driveway Quarter Pipe)

While Tori and I were visiting the National Parks in the Sierra Nevada mountains, my brother built a new quarter pipe for his kids. As soon as we got back, my nephew, Emery, wanted to show us how he could drop in on the much larger ramp in our driveway.

Four year old Nyla was working on her skateboarding skills too.

(No, no, no, Daddy! I'm not readyyy!!!!)

Sequoia National Park (Giant Trees and Marble Caverns)

After the two days spent exploring Kings Canyon, we drove down to Three Rivers on Thursday to be closer to the southern Ash Mountain Entrance of Sequoia National Park. While we rented a rustic cabin at the Kaweah Park Resort, our friends, Kenny and Jill, drove up in their RV that night to explore Sequoia with us. In the morning, Kenny cooked us breakfast in the RV before we all climbed into our car to drive up 6,000 feet of elevation along 13 miles of steep switchbacks.

Our first stop in the park was the Big Trees Trail, circling the edge of Round Meadow. The meadow lies in the middle of Giant Forest, the second largest sequoia grove in the world. While the park was established in 1890, the area around the meadow was privately owned until purchased by the National Geographic Society and added to the rest of the park in 1916. The surrounding cabins, campground, gas station and restaurant were finally removed in the 1970s to help protect the Giant Sequoias. Even though the giant trees can grow over 300 feet tall, their shallow roots do not descend deeper than 14 feet into the soil. At the beginning of the 0.8-mile loop, lies the conjoined twins, Ed by Ned. These two sequoias grew so close together that they joined at the base. The massive combined footprint of Ed by Ned is 34 feet long and 25 feet wide.

All along this trail are many informative display panels describing the sequoias and the meadow habitat. While the giant sequoias need the water that collects in the meadow's basin, if they grow too close they develop flared bases to remain upright in the moist soil. If the meadow expands around a sequoia, it can topple due to root rot. On a smaller log that had fallen out across the meadow, Tori and I attempted an AcroYoga Shoulderstand. It was much tougher to base with a rounded surface under my back. On the east side of the loop was a Sequoia that fused to a giant boulder as it grew over the centuries. I called them The Odd Couple. Nearby was another fallen sequoia, with a juvenile growing in the exact former spot of the toppled giant.

After leaving Round Meadow, we drove up Generals Highway to the General Sherman Tree Trail.  Even though the half-mile trail descends 200 feet in elevation, the trailhead still sits lower than the crown of the largest tree in the world. General Sherman is 275 feet tall and 36.5 feet across at the base. Standing at a distance behind the perimeter fence, it is harder to judge it's enormous size without someone standing next to it for scale. The giant tree continues to grow almost a half inch in diameter each year, equal to adding the volume of a normal 60 foot tree. Nearby is the cross-section of a giant sequoia that was cut down in 1950 when it began leaning too far and threatened to topple. Counting its rings showed that the tree lived about 2,210 years, which means it started growing before Julius Ceasar turned the Roman Republic into an Empire.

After passing Moro Rock on the Crescent Meadow Road, we arrived at the famous Tunnel Log. In 1937, this giant sequoia fell across the existing road and instead of chopping up the giant tree, the rangers bored a tunnel 17 feet wide and 8 feet high through the log instead. For taller vehicles, a bypass road circles up and behind the exposed roots. It is also useful to avoid a wait if other tourists are posing with their vehicle inside the tunnel. Before it fell, the 2,000 year old sequoia stood 275 feet high and had a diameter of 21 feet at the base. Driving through the tree was a bit anti-climatic so we circled around and did it twice.

At the end of the winding road we parked and hiked the loop trail around Crescent Meadow. Called the "Gem of the Sierras" by John Muir, this golden meadow in the Giant Forest is surrounded by more towering sequoias. At the beginning of the loop we passed the trailhead of the High Sierra Trail. I have hiked to the peak of Mount Whitney from the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada's but hikers can also reach the summit from this 49 mile long trail that meets up with the John Muir Trail for the last 12 miles.

When we planned this trip, Tori and I really wanted to find a spot where we could practice our AcroYoga underneath a giant sequoia. Taking a side trail away from Crescent Meadow, we found a nice flat area at the base of a beautiful tree. After six days of hiking, my legs were super tight so it was much harder to balance my wife up in the air on my feet. It was tough but fun. Normally, I need to stretch out my hamstrings and hips for about twenty minutes beforehand. From my position on the ground, the giant sequoia overhead made the other trees look like toothpicks.

After playing under the trees, we followed the trail as it crossed over to Log Meadow. At the far end stood Tharp's Log. Hale Tharp was a cattleman who built this cabin in 1861 as a summer residence inside a fire-hollowed sequoia log. He was the first non-native to enter the Giant Forest and later sold his land to the government. Below is my favorite picture that I shot of a giant sequoia on the trip. The high levels of tannic acid gives the bark its red color and makes it more resistant than other trees to insects, disease and fire.

On our drive back from Crescent Meadow, we finally saw a bear. It was small cub and it quickly jumped off the road and disappeared into the underbrush. Very cool! We then parked at the base of Moro Rock and hiked to the top of the 6,725 foot tall granite dome. The winding staircase climbs 300 feet over a 1/3 of a mile and crisscrosses the rock for amazing views of the Kaweah River Valley descending toward the Sierra Nevada foothills below. A wooden staircase was first built in 1917 but was replaced by a more permanent trail in the 1931. Near the top, a stunted tree grows out of a crack in the granite beside the trail. Nature always finds a way to grow in the most unusual places.

At the summit, we had our best view of Castle Rocks across the valley. Visible at the top of the valley to the east, lies the Great Western Divide. This high sierra ridge separates the Kaweah River Watershed from the Kern River on the other side. Mount Kaweah at 13,807 feet is the highest mountain within the group. Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, lies hidden behind this ridge. To the west, the view overlooks the steep switchbacks of the Generals Highway descending into the haze from the Central Valley. Leaving Moro Rock behind, we drove back down to Three Rivers and Kenny cooked dinner for us in the RV.

On Saturday, we had a noon tour of the Crystal Cave planned. We thought we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there but there was a huge line at the park entrance. When we finally passed the gate we got stuck behind a Tesla going up the long winding highway. The driver was going 5 miles under the speed limit and never used one of the many pullout areas despite have a line of cars stacked behind him. It was frustrating, but once we reached the turnoff onto Crystal Cave Road, I was able to make up for lost time by driving like a rally car. We joined the tour with two minutes to spare. After cleaning the soles of our shoes with disinfectant to protects the bats, we hiked down the half mile trail to the Crystal Cave entrance, passing several waterfalls along Yucca Creek.

Crystal Cave sits under Marble Ridge, formed out of an ancient sea bed pushed up by the Sierra Nevada Range. Out of 240 known caves in the park, it is the only one that allows visitors. Inside, our guide led us alongside an underground stream into a marble cavern filled with crystal clear pools. After describing the biology of the different cave dwellers, she led us upward through tight passages into a series of larger caverns filled with all kinds of rock formations while telling us the history of these caves. Despite the heat outside, it was a cool 48 degrees inside. As we entered the final cavern, our guide asked us to turn off our flashlights. We all sat silently in pitch darkness for a few minutes, listening to the drips of the flowing water that created these caves before she turned on the lights to reveal a giant natural cathedral. It was beautiful!

After hiking the trail back up to the parking lot, we drove to the Lodgepole Visitor Center for a late lunch at 2:30pm. I wanted to hike the 1.7 mile trail up the glacier-carved canyon to the Tokopah Falls, a 1,200 foot cascade, but a ranger said it was dry so the others talked me out of it. After exploring the museum in the visitor center, we said goodbye to this beautiful park and headed back down the mountain to Three Rivers. After a relaxing nap, we all went out for Mexican food at Casa Mendoza and then spent the rest of the evening playing board games in the RV. In the morning, we drove back home to San Diego.

Link to my previous post at Kings Canyon National Park.
Link to my previous post at Yosemite National Park.