Sunday, November 3, 2019

Fires and Terrible State Parks

We recently evacuated due to the Kincade Fire. The text alerts from CalFire and the Sonoma County Sheriff were great, and sorting Twitter by latest for #Kincadefire was also very useful. I have never been this scared or anxious or felt I had so little control - and we got out with family and critters and papers well ahead of when the fire would have come, but waiting to find out if your house burned down is no fun. We love Sonoma County, but we don't love this aspect of it so much. Climate change is giving Sonoma County LA County's weather, and when you already have forests, they burn, which is how the landscape will gradually look more like LA County (or almost instantaneously, geologically speaking.) The natives who preceded people of European descent here set controlled burns every autumn (and this has been witnessed since before contact), but when you have this many people in non-mobile dwellings that can't be rebuilt in mere days, that's not an option. Low humidity plus longer rain-free periods plus heat and bad Diablo winds (our local foehn winds) are how this happens.

So, a thank you to the people who hosted us and our various critters or who offered and were ready; also to the men and women who put themselves on the line to hold this fire. Had it not been for you, many people would have died, and I wouldn't have a house right now. Take a minute to thank a firefighter, buy them a beer, send a card, whatever. There are few people whose work matters more than theirs, especially in California.

If you spend much time on social media, you will notice (especially on Twitter) Russian troll bots taking advantage of Trump's threat to abandon California even while he promises fire aid to Siberia. They do this by trying to stoke the fires of "CalExit", which may be the dumbest thing anyone has ever thought of (give Trump's party a permanent majority in Washington and dividing yet another of Russia's main competitors.) You'll recognize them when you see them - the one I clicked through on was full of pro-Brexit, pro-Catalonia independence messages, while curiously silent on the protests in Hong Kong or independence for Russia's neglected Far East territories. I wonder why? I Twitter-replied to this effect and my reply was deleted within a minute.

The following pictures were taken from China Camp State Park the following weekend. Fire is about 60 miles north at 75% containment but the smoke layer is obvious and Mt. Tam is still quite hazy. Bay pictures are looking east across the very top of the Bay (curved, with mouth of the Napa River) with Mt. Diablo just visible through the smoke layer in one looking southeast toward Richmond.










Next three below: you'll have to forgive my obsession with manzanitas. Their bark is the bubble wrap of the natural world. It peels like that as a defense against fungus; I wonder if, as uniquely woody members of the heather family (see ice plant here), this is more difficult for them than other plants, that have specific endochitinases to kill fungus (rubber trees and mangoes both do, but they're in the wet tropics. Incidentally it's this endochitinase that causes allergic cross-reactivity, ie why people allergic to latex are often also allergic to mangoes.)








Above: this picture was taken from the International Space Station, looking south along the Pacific Coast, with the Kincade Fire plainly visible. Below: fire-smoke sunsets are obscenely pretty.



As it happened, the weekend we evacuated we actually had a pre-planned trip which took us to Southern California, and I had all kinds of runs planned down there and of course while we were there, their local foehn winds came through and everything caught on fire there too. So no running in Topanga State Park for me. Instead I ran in Chino Hills State Park, which is the most useless state park I have been in. A cluster of oaks along the canyon bottom, and then the rest of it just brown curved hills covered with those scratchy sticks that poke you (my shins are still paying the price.) Gross. Feel free to skip these pictures, they suck. If you live there, I hope you didn't have to pay more for your property for living near this "natural resource", which I would put on par with the industrialized part of the North Jersey Meadowlands (and not even with cannoli.) Seriously, it's the ugliest state park in California, hands down. Good points: a) fine, I saw a tarantula (see below) and some wild gourds growing, b) it looks nice in the spring when it's green and you're driving past it, and c) I will never have to go there again before I die. The hikes listed on Nobody Hikes in LA are faint in their praise.







Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Memorably Good Runs

Recently I was thinking about memorably good runs, where I was very happy during and after. No doubt it's not just the trail, it's the weather and frame of mind I was in that day too. But that's okay. Here they are. If any are interesting to you, good chance I blogged it - but you'll have to use the search box as I'm too lazy to link to all of them.


NORCAL
  • The Anti Ranger Run in Muir Woods - multiple times including this year (so I've heard) - Marin
  • Marin Reservoir - Yolanda Trail around Phoenix Lake and back via Eldridge Grade
  • Point Reyes Estero Trail, Marin Coast
  • Point Reyes to Mt. Vision, Marin Coast
  • Point Reyes Red Barn to Mt. Wittenberg to the old Arch and back, Marin Coast
  • Point Reyes Palomarin to Red Barn (that was in the rain), Marin Coast
  • From the Clayton side of Diablo to the top, East Bay Mountains
  • Tilden along the ridge to Redwood Preserve - anything including French Trail, East Bay Mountains
  • Soda springs in Purisima (didn't they re-name this? I'm old and can't learn the new name), Santa Cruz Mountains
  • Pomo Canyon, Sonoma Coast
  • Big Basin - to Wadell Beach, Coast
  • Yosemite - Half Dome (duh), Sierras
  • Yosemite - Curry Village past Half Dome, past Vogelsang Peak, to Tuolumne Meadows, Sierras
  • The K2 Loop at the North-Middle Fork of the American River Confluence area near Auburn at the end of the Western States Trail, Sierra Foothills
  • Red Star Ridge and Lyons Ridge on the Western States Trail, Sierras
  • Pioneer Trail in Auburn (from China Bar to Folsom), Sierra Foothills
  • Darrington Trail in the spring along the South Fork of the American River/east end of Lake Folsom, Sierra Foothills
  • Up Mt. Lassen from forested lower forested area of park - Cascades
  • Feather Falls, Northern Sierra
  • Desolation Wilderness - from Echo Lake past Lake Aloha to Emerald Bay


SOCAL
  • Big Sur - the one that goes back to the hot springs
  • Pismo Dunes
  • Up and over Santa Barbara front range to Gibraltar Reservoir
  • Santa Monica Mountains, ie Boney Mountain
  • Up San Gorgonio, most under-rated hike in Socal
  • Cactus to Clouds (up Mt. San Jacinto)
  • Crystal Cove, Orange County Coast
  • Around Trabuco Ridges above Silverado (inland O.C.)
  • "The Secret Valleys" - east side of Miramar Marine Air Station in San Diego, unfortunately now much better patrolled
  • Rancho Penasquitos - to the falls, connecting to an adjacent canyon (eg McGonigal) or all the way to the coast


NON-PACIFIC, WEST OF MISSISSIPPI
  • Bryce Canyon (not big but unbelievable)
  • Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Canyonlands - crossing/scrambling up and down several canyons to get to the Colorado River, through the Needles unit of the park. This is actually the run that started me thinking about this.
  • Glacier Natl Park - including the Garden Well (twice!)
  • Grand Tetons (to the west/above the lakes)
  • South Sister, Oregon
  • Bandera, Texas Hill Country

EAST COAST
  • New Jersey Pine Barrens
  • State College - the only road run on this list, all the way from downtown to Shingletown Gap

INTERNATIONAL
  • La Palma - up along the original caldera toward the summit
  • High Tatras in Poland/Slovakia
  • Ermei Shan in Sichuan Province, China
  • The road at the top of the island in Hong Kong. I will be back to hike from HKK up to the Buddha on Lantau Island.
  • Routeburn Track, New Zealand. IMO blows the rest of the (also awesome) treks out of the water.

I am fortunate to be able to say that I am certainly missing some, and will add them as I think of them.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Tahoe Rim Trail/PCT and Iron Maiden

Continuing my circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe on the Tahoe Rim Trail, this weekend I went in at Bayview TH above Emerald Bay, and came out at Glen Alpine. I hadn't done a piece since last summer when I went from Kingsbury North to Spooner Summit. This was the most spectacular piece I've hiked so far, granite and forests and meadows and lakes and wildflowers - unsurprisingly, since the second best segment is immediately adjacent. It also featured the maturely named Dick's Lake, Dick's Pass, and Dick's Peak. (Not to be confused with Bloody Dick Peak in Montana.) Read on for pictures of Dick's Peak thrusting skyward. After this past big winter, no surprise that there is still some snow at the higher elevations even in September.








Emerald Bay below with Lake Tahoe in the background.


















Far to the northeast I could just barely make out a smoke layer from the fires burning near Red Bluff.




Snow plant, appearing quite late this year.


























Above: tee hee! Below, the climb up to the pass begins.































Come on guys.





Above: it's not a real weekend unless you get to the snowline, or at least 10,000'. Next few pictures: Dick's Pass probably just melted out as of early September, hence the barrenness, and just two days after I was up there, it got its first snow of the new season.


























Above: a closeup reveals the clarity of - I think Dick's Lake, but there are so many lakes back there. Below, I had been telling myself there would be few wildflowers this late in the year, but descending from Dick's Pass toward Glen Alpine I discovered that I was quite wrong. The meadows were just breathtaking, like the way children draw pictures of heaven. I have the feeling I've used that metaphor before, but there are many places in the Sierras where it applies.












































Above: I believe this is Pyramid Peak, which is approached by an unofficial trail that comes up from the 50, is not fun at all, and is an ugly rubble pile at the summit. Not recommended. Looking at it from far away like this is the best way to experience it.


On the way back I saw Iron Maiden with Mr. Black* in Sacramento - the second time I've seen them, and for a bunch of sixty-plus year olds they show absolutely no sign of slowing down.








*Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?