Wednesday, December 06, 2006

December 6, 2006. A Day at the Zoo

Oh, why not? I have not been to the SF Zoo in years, and it has seemed to be sitting at the top of my wish list. And, the first Wednesday of each month is free admission day, and I figure that I will need to polish my skills at utilizing these type of offers, if I am going to balance expenses and tastes of the cultures while I am out on the road...
I knew it would be a good day, when I witnessed a hilarious event at my first stop. I was getting gas. I was noticing the people around me, w/o paying a whole lot of attention to them. The guy sitting in the SUV on the other side of the island, climbs out and sheepishly says to me, "I got in the wrong car, he,he...". I chuckled at him, and he back, and he walked over to a sedan that was in the parking lot, not at the pumps! He had an ear piece on, and I supose he may have been in a conversation, and that maybe he has a similiar SUV parked in the drive at home...recalling events, I guess he sat in the vehicle a couple of minutes prior to his exclamation : ). The owner of the SUV appears at the pump as this guy is walking away, and he looks over at me and says "what happened?". Now I am about to double over, but I laughingly reply that "he was getting into the wrong car". This guy chuckles. We all had a good chuckle...Maybe you just had to have been there.
I almost don't make it to the zoo, as the surf at Ocean Beach is just awesome! I mean 10' waves breaking 30 yards offshore! Beautiful surf, and surfers were scrambling across the highway with their boards wanting to get some of that. Since it was already 10 am (opening), I decided to stay on point to the zoo.
Seems as if the free wednesday thing is well known. As I was sitiing parked and preparing my things for the day, literally 500 students and scouts filed past on their way in. Oh boy, this oughta be fun I thought. Sure enough. I would suggest that you have already passed your tolerance exams before embarking on one of these free days. Also, an MP3 player, or earplugs are suggested. No. It was OK. I wish that they did not all have to carry around the clipboards and take notes at every exhibit, because they would do so at the railing, and clog up the flow for extended periods of time. Besides that, and the echo test within every tunnel, underpass and corridor, they were pretty good kids. I managed to take in the entire zoo. Made the big cat feeding, was at the Lemure area when they did an instantaneous chorus of screams, watched a seagull invade the penguin exhibit, evidently getting an early survey of where they eggs will be. The penguins were not at all happy with it being there. Sat with some peacocks in a little picnic area. I saw a tiger get very agitated, pacing and glaring through the glass at the kids and folks who were badgering it. It paced one guy along the glass and then as he walked out, gave him a pretty good growl. It was an hour before feeding, and maybe she was just hungry is all. It was a very pleasant visit, and made me wonder why it took so long to get back...
I still had some daylight left, so I went after a geocache that was planted on top of Mount Sutro, one of SF's tallest hills at over 900'. I knew I did not have enough daylight to do the scenic hike from the bottom, so drove the neighborhoods until I found the scent of a trail that would take me up. Only a bit over 150' climb and a half mile or so. The cache indicated no vistas of the city (correct), but unusual vegetation makeup that attracted me to the cache. Sutro had planted a eucalyptus forest, and the cache description had tropical fern, climbing vine, orchids and such in the forest. It also states the flat top peak was previously a missle site. I saw the climbing vines, and I am sure that if I had taken the long route and had more sunlight, I would have seen other non-native species. I did not find the cache. At the end of the day, I have found that I am registering an unusally high number of DNF's, and it matters not, as the places the caches brought me were the important thing. I am pretty sure that this particular cache (Aloha Forest) has been muggled, even finding a gallon freezer bag where the cache should have been...
Driving down off the hill, I am forced on one-way roads and right turns only into who knows where's. I am close enough to my original position that I could stop and get my bearings and find my way out ok.
But. How many times have I unintentially gotten lost in this city? And, where do I need to be by when??? What the hey, How about intentionally getting lost and doing some exploring? I have a folder full of caches on the GPS and nothing but time on my hands. Doesn't get any better than this, right? So, I just start taking the path of least resistance, backroads that have the lesser traffic, and whatever right turn looks good. I find myself in the college area. lots of cache's, but, oh yeah, SF. parking... By the time I find a place to park, I am on Oak st, it is now dark, and I think I might be in the vicinity of... Well, yes I am. Closest cache is named "Love the Haight". OK, now we are cooking! A cache and a walk around Haight/Ashbury, at night...
The cache was a DNF, as you can only search through a paper vending machine for so long, on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, w/o becoming conspicuous :'). No problem, and now that I am here, let's wander...
Walking the sidewalk at night was definitely different. Take Santa Cruz's downtown at night, and multiple that by a factor of 10 or so, and you have Haight/Ashbury! I would have sworn I was in the Carribean by the number of dreads! And, it was a throwback to the concert days of the 70's and 80's, the whispers and inferences as I walked by. Do they even DO acid anymore? Sure heard a lot about it on the walk :). I never had a problem with anyone, but this is certainly not for the feint of heart. The shops, well they are just cool, and again, flashbacks to the those "olden days". I did stumble into a really neat place, called Genesis Imports. I will include some pics of the carved scultures. And Amoeba Music. Wow! Huge building full of vinyl and used CD's. Good thing I am no longer collecting any, or I'd been here for hours. Highly recommend both stores. More organics and mideastern food than you can shake a stick at. Head shop afer head shop. Cops patrolling, but they certainly are passive to what goes on here. OK. Now I can say that I have been here and done this...
Well, another great day on the road. Two zoos (SF and Haight/Ashbury) in one day :'). Animals at every turn, some tame, some not. I got the highs and lows of the city, and lived to tell about it. Life is good.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

November 29 and 30, 2006

I headed to Moss Landing this morning with the hopes of paddling on Elkhorn Slough. Just not meant to be I guess. First, it was low tide, 2nd, an early morning wind was already kicking and lastly, the water was so stirred up from the front, it was silty, which defeated the purpose.
No one to blame but myself. Had the best of all worlds on the southerly trip, yet I passed on every opportunity to launch. And so it goes.
I parked at the west side of the north harbor, brewed coffee and took in the wildlife. I could not believe the number of otter that was gathered in the north harbor. I made a binoc count of 52!, and there were still more moving in! Incredible. Further north of them the seals lay out in the sun. I cruised to the south harbor and stopped to watch an otter incessantly rolling in the water. A wildlife rescue officer stopped and asked if it were I who called in the report of it being in the road. Nope, and never saw it in the road. She explained this otter is the local ham, has been around for the last 15 years and is good for at least calls a day. She said that most post cards that feature a sea otter, he is the star. She said the rolling is for aeriating their fur.
I continued north to Santa Cruz, exploring the coast west of Watsonville on the way.
The Bay was just as silted and rough in Santa Cruz, and it seemed that Monterey would prove to be my last put-in. Went to light house point to do another search for the 2nd dead man's chest cache. After a good 30 minutes of fruitless search, I went back to the van and read the recent cache logs to see if someone may have spilled the beans. Nope, but one log mentioned the fact of realizing the leafless bushes they had been busting through in their search were in fact poison oak! Yep, sure enough! So, I called it a day early, and headed to New Brighton to take a dawn shower.
My thoughts by now were leaning towards the tasks at hand back home, and I knew it was that time of the trip :(.
After a great meal and fire, an early night, with travel tommorow.
November 30.
A early rise and on the road. I went up hwy 9, through Felton, Boulder Creek and then North on Skyline, taking in a few caches, and many stops on the way. I really need to take a day or two to travel Skyline. So many hikes and places to explore up here. Course, they had just discovered a couple who went out for an afternoon hike and spent 5 nights lost up here...

Anyways. A really great trip. Next time, There won't be a "travel day" to get back home....

November 28, 2006

A cold and frosty morning in Salinas. That Mr Heater, Portable Buddy sure does take the nip out of the van in a hurry. Woulda, shoulda, coulda had that at Medicine Lake in october!
On the road to Monterey before 8. At the wharf launch before 8:30. Launched and paddled around the exterior of the harbor. I have grown used to the harbor seals curiosity while kayaking. Now I had to go through the same curve, this time with sea lions! Whoa, those are big boys and they sure are getting close! I increased my distance from the jetty, but they just followed along. As I got beyond the scuba area, they lost interest and fell back. OK. I had my sights set on the aquarium, figuring that would be a good two mile or so paddle. As I was approaching it, the seas were getting bigger and more frequent. 5 foot swells in my kiwi are not very comforting, so I decided to turn around. I paddled up into the kelp, which was amassed at the surface due to low tide, and allowed myself to float slowly on the wind. With the swell, I could not keep a good visual of the water around me, and found myself at times a bit too close to the otter. It was neat to see them up close, wrapped in kelp as an anchor, preening and eating. I, unfortunately, found myself within 50 feet or so of a mother and her pup. She was attentive but not panicked, so I allowed the kayak to drift by while I stayed motionless. Very nice scene.
As I got out of that otter population, I decided to try their technique, so I paddled to the biggest island of kelp I could find, and placed the kayak squarely in the middle of it. Cool, works well. As I was sitting back, having a smoke and taking it all in, a seagull landed within a foot of the kayak. It swam around looking up at me for handout. No way. Next it came up and pecked at the hull of the boat! It was at the bow, pecking at the hand grip, and with a single hop and wingflap was up on top. OK, that was interesting, but still no handout. I suppose that with all the rental kayaks out here, they make a pretty good living with this schitk! He wandered up to the large screwhead that holds the forward floatation in place and started pecking. Since I was just sitting back and watching this unfold, he got brave. Came wandering back with his sights on joining me in the cockpit, which is when I shooed him away with the paddle. Silly bird :).
As I drifted into the scuba area, a sealion came and porpoised right off the bow. Hello! Now, I found myself in seal territory, and they started up with their thing. OK, nuff of this, and the wind and seas are continuing to build, and I will need to be off the water in the next hour or so. Paddled into the harbor at the wharf. Sealions are barking up a storm at me, so I meander into the moorings and peer at the hodgepodge collection of boats. As I move into the central harbor, I notice a otter trying to enjoy its meal, but dealing with an aggressive (aren't they all?) seagull who keeps pecking at his side and trying to steal his food. Poor guy, He finally takes lunch and dives to escape.
Well, it is time to make a landing. I had a growing anxiety about this, as the winds had increased. I had picked the most sheltered and softest beach to launch, for this reason. They have a kayak rental here, along with the outriggers, so I figured they knew it as a safe launch.
The problem was, there were sleepers that would appear out of nowhere's and were now in the 3 to 4 foot range as they would crest! No pattern to their appearence, and they did not show themselves til they were 150 foot away from shore. I tried to time my beaching right behind one of them, thinking they would not come in that close together. Wrong! As I was positioning to the beach, one snuck up from behind. Never saw it coming. Worse, it crested just as it reached me. YAHOO!! I always realized the allure of surfing, just knew it was not for me. Now, I was getting my first taste of it, in my kayak. It would have been helpful if I had my "warmer" neoprene kayak shorts on. Or, if I had my skirt (kayaking). Nope. As hard as I tried to control the boat, the crest still had me sideways, so half a cockpit full of water. The ride lasted a good 50 to 75 feet, and the exileration made me oblivious to the cold water for the moment. THAT WAS SO COOL!!!! In too quick of a moment, the wave was receding and I was beached. Man, I almost want to go do that again :). It was at that point that I surveyed myself and started feeling the cold of the water. 50 degree water and 50 degree air. Brrrr. I moved my gear up to the van and comtemplated changing into dry clothes. Thankfully, I decided I should wait until I had the kayak up to do so.
I had noticed on beaching, a floating dock on the beach that had not been there when I launced. As I made my way back down, there was now a 12' alumium skiff and a guy in jeans and rubber boots trying to manhandle the dock into the water, while also trying to control the skiff in the waves. I watched for a moment, and realized this was a serious accident waiting to happen. The dock was about 16' x 3', and was suctioned into the sand. I walked up and offered to help get the dock water-born, and hold it in position until he could launch. He went into a diatribe about firing his work crew (working on the piles of the wharf), and gladly accepted my offer. We used the waves to help move the dock, while he also fended off the skiff. I kept in mind my little mishap at jade cove, and vowed to walk away before putting myself in danger. Once we managed to get the dock on the water. I held it out and he tried to wrestle the skiff into position. How he managed to not get killed or maimed in this process, I do not know. Only 20' of line between the skiff and dock, and every sleeper broadsiding the skiff! He just could not manuever far enough out to safely board and launch the skiff. He also was positioning himself between the skiff and the beach, and I was just waiting for the skiff and waves to win this battle. A soaking crash of a wave, and he is checking out the corpse of his cell phone. The anger channeled into a final attempt, just as I was telling him to admit defeat. He got beyond the break, with me guiding the dock into deeper water. He jumped in cranked the motored and wrapped the towline on the prop. Impressive string of curses, I must say... Back into the water and clear the prop. He was determined, I will give him that. Finally, he had the skiff underway, and feeling so sorry for the guy, I pushed the dock beyond the break, lest it drag him back to shore with the next wave. He made it out beyond the break, shouted back a thanks, and headed towards the wharf. I could see him converting all that just took place into a rage to unleash on the crew. Whew. Unemployment line here they come!
I had ended up waist deep in the surf, spent at least ten minutes there, and now reality was starting to set in. I grabbed up the kayak and started the trek up the beach to the van. By the time I reached the parking lot, I realized my toes had become totally numb, and I was not feeling the ground under me. This is one reason I never tried surfing! I set down the kayak, and tended to drying and warming. Quite an adventure :').
After loading up, I moved to the scuba area and took a long hot shower to finish the thaw. Mucho better.
Spent the rest of the day walking and biking around the area of pacific grove, finishing with an in the van dinner at sunset beach, due to the howling wind.

November 27, 2006

Out of camp by 8, and headed south. Breakfast in San Luis Ospispo, before a drive to Pismo Beach. After a walk on the pier, I went out onto Oceano beach, which is the only drive-on beach in California. Nice beach, and long, but the vehicles distract from any serenity. You can camp here too, with registration.
Decision time. Stay down this way and explore, or make the turn around now, to get back onto Monterey Bay. I headed north. I do hope to be back this way sooner or later. Decided to cache my way back up to salinas.
On a drive thru Atascadero, I had an interesting DNF cache take me to an old Chalk Quarry. It was a dnf as the cache was in a rock (chalk) pile, which looked way too inviting for snakes. After a few minutes of gingerly making my way around the pile, prodding with a stick and peeking around (no hands please!), I decided it was not important enough to keep trying for. Cache name is "Chalk it up", gctbbw.

Further down the road, a cache brought me to Mission San Miguel Arcangel and Caledona Abode. The mission is, of course, quite old. The Abode is from the late 1800's.
After a non-descript cache just off of 101, I was headed to another that proved more interesting. Binary Blues-Black Gold (gc27c3). Across the river from the service road lies San Ardo oil field. Quite an operation, and totally unexpected.
After an evening arrival in Salinas, I thought that I would finally cache in my 1 1/2 year old swag from Mendocino, and headed to Monterey Brewing Company. The company's owners are cachers, and they had left their card with a note "good for two free ales" in a cache I did on the Big River, the summer of '05. Been carrying that card with me ever since, waiting for this opportunity. After quite an adventure finding the proper way to get on one-way Main street in old town, I arrive to find the place closed. Alas, nother year and a half, I suppose...