Sunday, August 15, 2021

Leucadia 101 Streetscape (El Portal Underpass & Hamburger Hut)

Walking back from a delicious dinner at CHIKO, we decided to walk along the construction zone of the Leucadia Streetscape project. The first section of road improvements looks almost complete on the east side of the North Coast Highway 101 but they still need to add the roundabouts.

While they opened most of the closed roadway the next morning, they are still working on the El Portal Underpass that started in February 2021. When finished, there will be a tunnel under the railroad tracks that connects Vulcan Avenue and the Coast Highway which will allow safe access from Paul Ecke Elementary School to Stonesteps Beach at the top of South El Portal Street.

Two nights earlier, we walked down to the new Hamburger Hut that specializes in Wagyu Beef burgers. We arrived right before the line grew long and we enjoyed our food and wine on the picnic tables outside. Their tasty cheeseburger reminded me of a gourmet In-N-Out burger served on a King Hawaiian roll. While the burgers and fries are the only food items on the menu, they plan to add fish tacos and salads in the future.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

San Diego Zoo (Nyla's 9th Birthday)

Tori and I took our niece, Nyla, to the San Diego Zoo for her 9th Birthday. While I have been to the Safari Park several times in the last 20 years, I have been not been to the main zoo since the 1990's.  After viewing the Flamingos near the entrance, we walked along the elevated walkway of the Monkey Trail which gave us a better view of the monkeys clambering around in their trees. While the raised path was new to me, I instantly recognized the Gorilla Tropics enclosure that has been around since 1991. The gorilla bachelor group of Ekuba, Maka and Mandazzi were out when we arrived. Two of the three silverbacks were eating their leafy snacks against the glass while the third lounged in a pile of logs.

Back near the entrance, the three of us rode the Skyfari Aerial Tram across to the other side of the park. This classic gondola was built in 1969 and traveled 190 feet in the air for great aerial views of the surrounding Balboa Park and Downtown San Diego. After watching Mowgli's 4D Jungle Adventure that misted us with water, blew air against our legs and filled with the small interactive theater with scents of banana and pineapple, we walked down to visit the Polar Bears while snacking on a bag of popcorn. While the Polar Bear Plunge was the same, the rest of the Northern Frontier exhibit with Reindeer and other higher latitude animals was all new to me. Continuing along Park Way, we followed Eagle Trail to the Snow Leopard and Red Panda exhibits. The rest of Panda Canyon is still empty after the Giant Pandas returned to China in 2019.  

Riding the elevator to the top of the tall tower, we crossed Bashor Bridge and followed the trail past the lions and jaguars to the Elephant Odyssey. This part of the zoo has changed a lot since the days when we were able to ride the elephants. The enclosure is now three times as large and includes a Elephant Care Center. We saw two of the elephants playing with the giant puzzle structure to access hidden sources of food. Walking back toward the center of the park, we entered Africa Rocks, the newest exhibit that opened in 2017. Passing through six habitats of the African continent, we saw meercats, lemurs, and two separate troops of baboons, the Gelada and the Hamadryas. This time we climbed to the top of the tower to find a place to eat.

After sandwiches for us and pizza for Nyla at the Lagoon Terrace, we followed the Tiger and Hippo Trails until we finally found the Cotton Candy that Nyla had been craving all day. For the second time, we climbed the tower stairs instead of waiting in line for the elevator on our way to the park exit. Since it was an overcast day, I didn't take many photos but I will bring my telephoto camera next time. Tori and I signed up for a membership, so we definitely want to come back soon and explore more parts of the park.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Wildflower Trail (Escondido Creek in Spooks Canyon)

On Memorial Day, the sun burned off the May Gray for a few hours so Tori and I took advantage of the sunny sky to hike Wildflower Trail in Olivenhain for the first time. The hike begins on Fortuna Ranch Road, heading south on a horse trail lined with white painted fences. After a half mile we reached the loop intersection and decided to go counter-clockwise. After the dirt trail enters a gated community of expensive ranch houses, it becomes a pleasant walk on shady streets before the path heads south on Staircase Trail (No Stairs!) that climbs over a small ridge.

As we descended the other side, we left the ranch houses behind and entered Spooks Canyon Trail with the Escondido Creek running down the center. There is a small hidden park with a swing set and picnic tables where the trail parallels the stream. Tori and I had fun crisscrossing the creek in several places on the fallen logs and the exposed stones. One of the rocks was loose and and I ended up soaking a shoe as I tried to save my balance. Ha!

The most strenuous part of the hike was climbing the rising trail out of Spooks Canyon. Near the end of the loop the trail cuts through the center of Wildflower Farm on Old Oak Trail. It was nice walking through the horse stables and practice rings of the Equestrian Training facility. Leaving the farm, we reconnected to the spur trail that led back to our parked truck. If you want to shorten the 3.3 mile hike, you can skip walking through the streets of the gated community on the north side of the loop and take Vineyard Trail through the center as a shortcut to the entrance to Spooks Canyon.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Oculus Quest Virtual Reality (Supernatural VR Fitness and The Climb 2)

Kenny brought over his new Oculus Quest 2, the virtual reality headset from Facebook. I have only tried a couple other headsets but this is the best experience with VR that I have experienced. Not only was it self-contained with no need to connect to a pc or console, but it was comfortable to wear and it didn't tire out my eyes as quickly as the last one I tried. While Kenny says he has experienced motion sickness a few times, it was no problem for me. I think that is probably more dependent on the type of game being played.

We all tried Supernatural VR Fitness, the subscription-based rhythm game where you try to hit the flying targets while ducking and dodging obstacles. It is a fun and quite a workout! I was breathing hard and sweaty after my first song. I can see this being addictive. The best thing is that I didn't feel dizzy afterwards at all. The biggest danger is losing control of the two hand remotes and throwing them across the room. I did hit myself in the head once while dancing to the music. Ha!

My favorite game was The Climb 2 but I would not recommend playing it if you have a fear of heights! It was very cool to rock climb while dangling off the side of a towering cliff face. I tried falling or jumping to catch another rock handhold and I felt the definite thrills of excitement from being so high off the ground that can't be duplicated with regular games.

Calavera Volcano Hike (Quarry Ascent and Handstands)

On Sunday, Tori and I went for hike with Kenny and Tommy. Mount Calavera (Skull Hill) is what is left of one of North America's smallest volcanos and one of only three in Southern California. This extinct volcano erupted 15 to 22 million years ago. The outside of the volcano slowly eroded away over time and all that is left is the volcanic plug that clogged up the throat of the crater. In the 1940's, rock and gravel was quarried from the raised mound to build a dam for the water reservoir at the base of hill.

When Tori and I first visited Mount Calavera in January 2020, we reached the summit by hiking up the rear of the volcano after attempting the steeper route through the old quarry. While we had turned back two-thirds of the way up when the trail faded away into loose shale, this time I spotted a different cutback in the cliff face. This new route was steeper, but the rock steps provided solid footing as we scrambled all the way to the top. Success!

After reaching the lip of cavern, we hiked the rest of the way along the edge of the steep cliff with sharp drop-offs. The summit has great views of Calavera Lake and the surrounding neighborhoods.

On our way back down, Kenny and Tommy took turns practicing their handstands on the narrow trail despite the uneven ground making it tough. Instead of descending back down the middle of the steep crater, we followed the western ridge all the way down.

After our hike, we went to eat at Park 101, the outdoor BBQ joint in Carlsbad Village. The brisket was very tender and the seasoned fries were awesome. My favorite item was the daily special, the Green Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

AcroYoga at Scenic Overlook (Carlsbad State Beach)

For this weekend's AcroYoga practice, Tori and I went to the tiny scenic overlook park that sits above the Carlsbad State Beach. Before the pandemic, there would be the occasional AcroJam at this grassy location.

After dinner in Carlsbad Village, we walked along the Sea Wall Trail to the rock jetties at the entrance to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The lagoon is in the middle of being dredged and huge rubber pipes were pumping a flowing slurry of sand onto Carlsbad State Beach. The water desalination plant is now in charge of removing the buildup of silt in the lagoon, taking over from the decommissioned Encina Power Plant. We walked out to the end of the short jetty where we could see a crane at the top of the 400 foot smokestack slowly dismantling it. It already looks a little shorter.

Below are videos of the ocean flowing against the jetty of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The second is a time-lapse video.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

AcroYoga at Veterans Park (Agua Hedionda Lagoon)

After a couple hikes at Veterans Memorial Park, Tori and I decided the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the 400 foot tall smokestack of the Carlsbad Power Plant would a great backdrop for AcroYoga. We had two new poses that we wanted to try, modified Side Stars where we locked feet to counter-balance the hands-free variations. They were more difficult than they looked and it took us several attempts at each before we could hold them steady. In the 3rd picture, we also revisited another counter-balance pose where I held Tori's lower foot with my hand instead.

While the park's grassy hills are great for picnics, even the fairly flat spots have a downward slope that made it hard to balance an AcroYoga pose. For the Shin to Foot and Free Star poses, I needed to place a folded mat under my hips to counter the uneven ground. I brought my Nikon in order to zoom in the background but the hills preventing me from placing the telephoto lens far enough away for the full effect.

After our successful practice, Tori and I went for another hike around the park's 1.5 mile Loop Trail to cool down. In a previous post, I mentioned the City of Carlsbad's plans to transform the site into a finished park with a veterans memorial, playgrounds, picnic areas, rock climb, bike course, fitness areas and restrooms. The City Council unanimously approved the recommended master plan in concept in February 2021. It looks like the plan will not be finalized until the Fall.

After our walk, we were starving and went to dinner at Norte in Carlsbad Village. It was our first time eating at the Mexican restaurant since the pandemic started. Instead of servers waiting on tables and bringing food, they have outdoor seating and we had to order food take-out style at the counter. It was funny but they have a new Boba Tea sealing machine at the Bar and they were using it to individually seal our margaritas.  :)