Archive for May, 2012

Skyline to the Sea Backpacking Trip

Right, then…

So I just completed one of the items on my “To do” list:  Hike the Skyline-to-Sea trail.

You’ll note that this is only a “To do” list item and not a bucket list item.  I save the bucket list for things like climbing Kilimanjaro or building a boat or writing a book.  To do, on the other hand, is something that is quite attainable that merely poses a logistical problem. 

In this case, the logistical problem revolved around transport.  Skyline-to-Sea starts at Castle Rock State Park at the top of Santa Cruz Mountains and ends at Rancho Del Oso – a part of Big Basin State Park near the ocean.  That means, unless you have a ride back to the top, you will need to plan on hiking back up to Castle Rock.

For reference, the trail is 33 miles end to end, with about a 2600 ft elevation change.  Doing that once – going downhill with a 37 lb pack – was a bear.  I do not want to think about going back up.  Regardless, this logistical problem is solved with two cars – one car is left at Rancho Del Oso and one is left at Castle Rock. 

We got on the trail at 13:00 on Thursday afternoon.  The late start was in deference to John (not his real name) who got in late the night before from a business trip.  I was concerned about daylight, as we had ~10 miles until we reached Waterman Gap Trail Camp, and neither of us really knew what to expect of the trail.  I figured we’d make about 1.5 miles per hour or take 6 to 6.5 hours.  We made is in 3:20.  Light was not an issue.

Waterman Gap has six sites, a vault toilet and potable (albeit, limited) drinking water.  It had some nice scenery, and the road noise from Highway 236 was not bad; other than that, it was somewhat unremarkable.

The rest of the afternoon was spent setting up camp, staring at trees and generally bullshitting.  John and I have known each other for almost 12 years as we used to work for the same company – in fact, I think technically he worked for me for about 15 minutes way back in 2000.  Thus, we caught up on all the people we know and chatted about past experiences, relived inside jokes and created some new ones throughout the entire trip.

On Friday, we got on the trail by 09:00 for a 10-mile hike in to Big Basin State Park.  In retrospect, this was the hardest leg of the trip.  It started out with approximately 800 feet of climbing through some undulating hills (meaning, the actual elevation gain was 200 feet, but we kept going up and down for a bit).  After the climbing was completed, there was a steep decent for about 1 mile.  Complicating this was the fact that it was semi-technical trail – slick rock and some scrambling was required.  Despite this, we were feeling fairly good and John suggested pushing through to the end.  The thought was to stop at Big Basin, have lunch and rest, then get back on the trail.  That would have put us at approximately 23 miles for the day.  The purpose of which would be to get John home a day early, so he can work on his backyard – something I learned about the previous afternoon.  This conversation occurred before we had hit mile 6 on our current leg.  By mile 6, we had changed our plans – we were getting a little more tired as we kept on and we kept dragging our feet a little, causing us to trip on roots.  While we were remaining silent on the thought of pushing through, I was worried about a) my increasingly fatigued legs, b) more downhill, and c) more slick rock combined with potential weather.  John was having some of the same thoughts in addition to the fact that various ligaments in his right knee were sore, most likely due to sudden overuse (a cyclist, he doesn’t use those stabilizing muscles and ligaments much, these days).  We were checking into Big Basin 3.5 hours after we started.  We had long since abandoned any lofty thoughts of pushing through to the end.  After we set up camp, we had agreed that this was the smart play.  True, we had to entertain ourselves for about 6 hours until dinner and sleep, but it was better than pushing through, fighting both physical and mental fatigue which could easily lead to injuries or other hazardous situations.  Discretion, meet the better part of valor.

Big Basin was a different experience than Waterman Gap as it not only had trail camps (we stayed at Jay Trail Camp, the name explaining the blue birds that we kept hearing), but also drive-in camps (or car camping sites, or whatever you want to call them). As is such, there was a store/snack shop and gift shop as well as flush toilets and pay showers (2 minutes for $0.25).  In short, it was civilization.   

As a quick aside, despite it being civilization, I am amazed at how uncivilized folks act in situations like this.  True, we’re all on vacation and should be enjoying ourselves, but for some reason, this comes with a general lack of courtesy.  Cases in point:  At some time during the afternoon, an insanely large amount of children thought it proper to have a screaming contest.  Apparently, no adults thought it necessary to actually stop them.  This, however, was minor compared to the folks in the drive-in camp about 0.1 miles down the road that were celebrating loudly until 04:00. This, of course, earned them the “Douchebags of the Year” award. 

This was an interesting phenomenon, in my mind.  I mean, admittedly, MIMW2 has certainly earned his D-bag stripes in his earlier, less refined years, so he cannot judge too harshly (but he can refer to himself in the third person, so there).  However, it seems that one cannot really keep going until 04:00 without the aid of powdered sleep (that’s a euphemism – I’ll let you figure out what I’m talking about).  It’s virtually impossible to hang like that with booze, alone.  Now, considering that, the last thing you’d want to do is attract attention to yourself by being obnoxiously loud and annoying the other campers, at least one of which might be more than happy to contact The Authorities to come over for a quick chat.  If that were to happen, most law enforcement officials would be observant enough not notice that the said conviviality is not the product of Freeze-Dried Folgers.  Hilarity, then, would not ensue.  In short, if you want to party like a rock star, either a) do it somewhere that you will not piss anyone else off, or b) make sure you have rockstar money to bail your happy ass out of jail. 

[We did note – with a bit of schadenfreud, I might add – that around 07:00, the neighboring campers would start to rise and make all sorts of noise, much to the dismay of our hard-partying friends.]

All this was going on as we were trying to sleep, because we had to get up at 04:00, so we can get on the trail at 05:00, to get to the truck at 09:30, so John could be home by 12:00 to start his landscaping project.  Shockingly, despite the soreness and fatigue and whatnot, we were on the trail 10 minutes ahead of schedule.  The first hour and a half were in the dark – there was Sun going on somewhere in California, but it had not reached our dark section of the Santa Cruz Mountains, thus we were going by headlamp.  Fortunately, I had some experience with hiking in the dark when I was training to hike Half Dome last year.  John had similar experience during his college years back in Colorado, so we were OK with the distorted perception that comes with headlamp hiking.

This section started with a short rise – maybe 400 feet of climbing, followed by a steep drop, some undulating hills that drained down to virtually flat horse trail.  Now, I like to view myself as someone who can rise up to challenges, but there was a certain feeling of relief when we hit that horse trail – that meant flat, wide and no technical parts – after hiking 25 miles or so, that was welcome site. 

From that point, it was a push to the finish.  In fact, it turned out that John could not really stop; if he did, his leg would lock up.  This just encouraged us to keep on going. 

We made it back to the truck at 09:00, that last 13 miles taking 4 hours.  At 10:30, I was back at the Castle Rock parking lot dropping John off at his car.  From there, I had a leisurely drive up Highway 35 to Millbrae.  There was dense fog and/or rain (could not tell which) that made me glad that we left on Thursday and not Saturday.  Having weather come down on you while you’re out is one thing; setting out in weather is entirely different. 

The next day, I called John to report that stairs were particularly evil and inquire about his knee.  I haven’t heard back from him yet, but that does not surprise me.  I’m told that when you have a pregnant wife and a child, free time comes at a premium.  I suspect that he might have spent his monthly allotment of free time with me in the mountains. 

I’m very happy that we got to do the trip.  I’d certainly do it again and if time were limited, I’d stick to the final leg between Big Basin and Rancho Del Oso as that was by far the most scenic.  Also, as an alternate to our plan do do 23 miles the second day, we talked about doing the first two legs (20 miles) on one day with minimal supplies, push through to Big Basin and stock up at the store in the park for the final leg on the second day.  Further, I’m looking to just visit Big Basin and check out some of the local trails.  Looking at the map, there are some good trails to be visited, there.

Oh!  One more thing – I must report that a gear failure occurred on the last day.  As I was getting dressed, one of the eyelets on my left boot tore out.  As you can imagine, I made it out fine.  Further, the boots were 4.5 years old and I think had ~500 to 600 or so miles on them with precious little tread left, so I can’t complain about a failure at this point.  Improving this scenario is the fact that REI had their annual Anniversary sale this weekend, so I did the logical thing:  A “like in kind” replacement pair of Keen Targhee II’s.  Why change what you know works well?


The Whiteboard

Right, then…

Unlike The Most Interesting Man in the World (or MIMW1) that does not experience self-doubt, I have to be talked off the ledge every now and then.  It’s not that I’m white-knuckling through life, but sometimes my mind has its way with me.  To contend with that, I’ve started capturing various thoughts and whatnot on my whiteboard – something for me to reference in order to maintain perspective.  This is nothing too deep – no need to break out the SCUBA gear, or anything, a snorkel, mask and fins should suffice. So, in no particular order:

  • See?  It all works out. 
    •  This is in reference to something that I was told about a year ago.  In short, this is referring to the fact that most problems get sorted one way or the other and you continue on with life.  You might walk away a little bruised or scraped up, but you’re still alive and – hopefully – a little smarter because of it.
  • You have more time than you think.
    • I credit Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) for this.  I saw him and Jaime give a lecture a couple of years ago, and someone from the audience asked him for words of wisdom.  This addresses the arbitrary time limit we put on ourselves and our goals:  I must be making $150,000/year by 24, I must own a home by 30, I must run a marathon by 40, I must lose 25 lbs by my High School reunion next month, etc…  This saying reminds us that the timetables we set are, for the most part, bollocks.  Furthermore, we probably lose more of our life worrying and trying to hit said arbitrary deadlines, than if we relaxed and let things happen in a more organic fashion.
  • This is all in your head.
    • At times, my mind likes to build up these huge failure scenarios about things going wrong and people being pissed off and things being noted on my “permanent record” and such (I really need to return that library book).  Of course, when it comes to pass, nothing ever happens as there was noting perceived to be wrong in the first place.  
  • It’s never as bad as you feared.
    • Every now and again, there’s a little trouble, despite what I’ve written above.  When the chickens come home to roost (or whatever that phrase is), the aforementioned failure scenarios that I’ve been torturing myself with were exponentially worse than what happened in real life.  The Moral:  You can wind up punishing yourself far worse than others would, if you’re not careful.
  • In order to be filled, the vessel must be empty.
    • This is a Chinese proverb, I believe.  I’ve heard it before, but more recently, it came to mind as I was awakening from a bad dream, so I thought it was worth noting.  But it rings true in that sometimes we have to let go of our beliefs, wants and suppositions in order to truly learn whatever message is being sent to us – either by others or God or The Universe or whom/whatever.

So, there you go. 


Categories: Uncategorized

A Little of This and a Little of That

Right, then…

Some random updates and such, on a random Saturday night.

  • Going backpacking with a buddy next Thursday.  We’re doing the Skyline to the Sea Trail which starts at Castle Rock State Park and ends at Waddell Beach, near Santa Cruz.  All in all, it’s about 33 miles total, broken up in to 10, 10 and 13 mile chunks.  While there is going to be a negative elevation change, there are still uphills to contend with.  I’m a little nervous as I haven’t been hiking much, but then again, I’ve heard of guys in much worse shape than me doing more, so maybe I just need to chill and roll with it.
  • A funny story in re to the pending backpacking trip.  As I do not have much space where I live, I set the tent up at a friends house so I can seal the seams (this prevents rain from entering the tent).  I left the tent set up so the sealant can dry and…well…one of their dogs, Booda (or Boo Boo’s, or  Boo Boo Kisses, or Kissy Boo Boo’s – he has several monikers), really liked the tent.  A lot.  So he decided to mark it as his own.  While it was a pain to deal with, I have to laugh – he was just being a dog.  Regardless, one of today’s projects was to run the tent through the washer to ensure that all of the urine smells are gone.  So that was fun.
  • Big news on the IT front:  My name is MIM2 and I am now a Mac user.  My friend (the one with the tent-loving dog) was upgrading to a new Mac and I bought her old machine (only 3 yrs and top of the line at that).  This is good for two reasons:  1)  I’ve been wanting to switch to the Mac platform as it is much less susceptible to viruses (virii?) than PC, and 2) my old machine was dying.  In its defense, it was designed for light usage and I put it in to heavy rotation.  Also – no fault of its own – it picked up a virus or two which made it run deathly slow.  I’m also on the verge of trading in my Droid X for an iPhone4S to get me all on the same platform.  My but this is lovely Kool Aid…I feel sleeker already.  All that said, I do not have any intention of getting an iPad – I’ve played with one before and I like having a real keyboard.  As for having an eReader, I just got a Kindle Touch, which I like because it doesn’t have that damn shiny screen that the iPad has.
  • On the running front, I’ve switched over to barefoot running after reading 17 thousand million websites about it.  The main reason is that I have a damaged achilles heel (left side) and my right knee was starting to get more and more sore when I ran with shoes.  Running barefoot (or with a minimalist shoe) trains the foot and leg muscles to actually support the body while running – the way they did up until 1970 when Nike was invented – which helps lessen, if not eliminate, damage due to impact.  I’m running completely barefoot now and my mileage dropped from 5 to 6 miles down to 0.5, initially. I have since built up to 2.5 miles.  The danger of building up too fast is that you can rip out muscles, tendons and ligaments that are normally not used whilst running in shoes – those need to be slowly conditioned.  Also, the soles of the feet and adapt only so fast.  In time, I might go back to running in Huaraches  (Mexican sandals), to allow for some foot protection over nasty surfaces. The long-range goal is to train for (and participate in) an ultramarathon running either barefoot or wearing a minimalist shoe. [For reference, an ultramarathon is anything more than 26.2 miles; these can be 50K (32 mi), 50 mi, 100K (62 mi) or 100 mi.  I don’t see myself going much beyond the 50 mile mark, personally].
  • In the personal growth department, I’m on the verge of signing up for a creative writing class.  I say “on the verge of” because I have to go through some administrative hoops before they let me give them money…not sure what that’s all about. This scares the hell out of me, actually.  While I have always professed to having no right brain, that’s well…sort of bullshit.  I have one, and it is excellent at coming up with random stuff, but it’s not very good at a) lying and b) organizing – both of which are critical for fiction writing (think about it:  All a story is, is an elaborate lie.) So the brain that can come up with ransom demands such as a 37 watt light bulb, a copy of Smokey and the Bandit III on Beta and a bag of toast, cannot necessarily come up with a story complete with, plot, characters and a point.  Also, to add to the terror, I’m told that poetry is going to be involved.  Oh, happy day.

Why, then, am I subjecting myself to this?  A couple of reasons.  First, I want to be a better writer.  I’ve had friends compliment my writing, but I know it could be better.  Further, professionally, I know that I would benefit from some writing skills for reports that I need to write (though Risk Management Plans for the EPA are only going to be so entertaining – the best I can do is improve clarity).  Also, I’ve always wanted to write.  After reading that, though, that reason seems sort of thin – a lot of people want to be a writer.  I think what we’re all saying is that we want to be a successful writer, with a bungalow that has a view of the woods or the beach (or both, if you live in certain parts of California) and be subtly famous and sign autographs, but not so much that meals are constantly interrupted and – most importantly – not have a daily grind to go to.  Which, yeah – that sounds nice…and while we’re at it, I also want a Gulfstream V and my own battalion of Cheerleaders, since we’re on the topic of my indulgence.  So, point being, I’m taking a swing a writing.

  • In the same vein, I’m playing a little more with graphic art stuff, but that’s more for professional reasons.  The new job has me doing some communication posters (eWaste collection events, Bike to Work Day, Earth Day – that sort of stuff) that are hung up around the site.  I laugh because I’m not an artistic person; they claim neither are they, but I have more time to do this stuff, so here I am.  I’m taking this opportunity to push myself into unchartered waters and see how things shake out.  Not taking a class for this just yet; I’m only doing some reading:  “Graphic Design for Non-Designers”.  So, we’ll see how this goes.
  • Finally, for a brief moment in time, I was part of the Facebook IPO.  In the end I made $92.  After capital gains tax and brokerage fees, I’m left with enough to buy me some nice deodorant.  Note that I did not say new deodorant; just nice deodorant…thus, I’ll be shopping for some on Craigslist.

OK, enough of this.  Have a good weekend, folks.


Categories: Uncategorized

Use Just One Paper Towel

Right, then…

Haven’t had a lot of adventures lately outide of normal day to day stuff – a little hiking and biking.  I’m playing with barefoot running, but there’s not much to write about that, yet. 

What I did want to write about is this TED video that I saw:

Admittedly, I did not think it would work, or – worse – it would be a clammy compromise.

Read my lips, folks:  I. Was. Completely. Wrong.  Mr. Smith’s “shake and fold” method worked shockingly well.  So well, that I’m blathering about it to my friends.  Additionally, I’ve written to Peet’s, Starbucks and REI, trying to see if they’d consider promoting this in their stores [For refernce: REI has ~110 stores in the US; Peet’s has ~200; Starbucks, about 17 Thousand Million (I’m rounding)] –  that’d be a lot less waste if just 1% of the customers did this.  Further, once folks started doing this, I’d reckon they’d do the “shake and fold” whenever they used a paper towel.

Now, I’m not a very eco person that washes and reuses aluminum foil and composts and whatnot.  I separate the recyclables, try to group my trips when I drive and take CalTrain or BART or bike when I can, and that’s it.  But this thing – shake and fold – just blew me away.  Mainly because a) it works, and b) there’s no reason not to do it.

So, do it.  Then go tell your friends about it.

Thank you, Joe Smith.


Categories: Uncategorized