Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Santa Barbara, Ventura and Channel Islands

This leg of my adventures starts on January 18th, and continues as of today, January 30th. As I will get to later on, bad weather has me trapped here in Ventura at the moment. Once it clears, I will be heading east on hwy 33 into Los Padres National Forest and further destinations.
I have returned. Today is February 5. Happy Birthday to Andrew. I will finish with this blog, before starting with the "next chapter".
1/18. I made reservations to camp on Santa Cruz Island for the following w/e, as I could not be ready for the morning boat, to go this weekend. Oops :(! Spent time down here setting up mail forwarding, looking into a kayak outfitter for the island and whatnot, and then finally headed to Santa Barbara. Spent a lot of time here meandering and exploring the town and its waterfront. I bicycled the waterfront on saturday, taking in a number of caches, a jaunt out onto the wharf and just bummin around. Finished the day at a drum jam that took place on the green by the beach. On Sunday, I found myself back in Goleta, at a "hidden" surfers beach bright and early. I was sitting in back of the van making my morning coffee, when I witnessed a "smash and grab" from a surfers truck. I could do little about it, and they did a U-turn where I could not get a plate number. I ended up leaving a note on the truck giving what details that I could. Other surfers supposed that the perps may have know the victim, and details led me to believe this also. Oh well, with the description of the vehicle that I left, perhaps justice was served. Still, it was a rotten start to my day. I moved southward along the coast back towards SB. This took quite a while, as there are so many vistas along the way, and I have come to admire the "SB tan", if you know what I mean :'). Also a lot of dolphins along the shoreline to watch. No whales though. They had an arts and crafts festival going along the green, and a very interesting anti war memorial set up on the beach by the wharf. I bicycled back and amired the art and then visited the memorial. They had planted 3,000 plus crosses on the beach to represent the KIA's, and had posted displays with the timelines, editorials, quotes and such. Very well done. No hollering and screaming to get out now or any of that, just presenting the facts, with a biased view perhaps. I was taking it all in when a guy stood next to me and asked what I thought the next step should be. He shoulda known better, right? :'). I went through my rant... and we talked for a while before he let on he was a 'nam vet. His opinion is to split Iraq up into 3 sovereign countries to allow the sects their own space. That did not float with me as I thought Iraq was a sovereign power and had the right to decide for itself what to do? Yeah, right... Anyways, this guy was pretty well studied on the situation, and I appreciated the chance to have a vet give me some insight. We talked for a good two hours, until he realized he was missing football... He went on his way, and I departed to make my way up into the mountains before dark, on my way to Big Caliente Hot Springs :). I made over the summit (3800') before pulling off to call it a day. I had no desire to drive any more mountainous FS dirt roads in the dark! In the morning, it was mid 30's in the van, so I knew it was a cold night. Frost on the road and iced over puddles confirmed it. Interesting drive in and very nice views. I made the springs by mid morning, had the place to myself for several hours, so enjoyed soaking and sunning. These springs are more like it with the temps in th low 100's :). By early afternoon, a fairly steady stream of folks made their way in which surprised me for a Monday. Lots of interesting folks out here...fellow parrotheads, the rich and (somewhat?) famous, full-timers, etc. I met a guy who was tent camping and living out of his blazer. He was a carpenter who had been moving around the country quite a bit. A bit younger than I, and a good guy. We shared dinner and a campfire at the springs camp. He was being taken for his charitable nature by a guy who had ripped the oilpan out of his girlfriends Benz, joyriding the FS roads. I got to see his driving style firsthand, and I felt sorry for his girlfriend and concerned for her safety. She had rented a little chevy something or other, looked like a hybrid, and they screamed by me at 40+ going into an intersection that involved a 10 foot descent through ruts and washouts. Oh well, I was younger and foolisher once myself...
Paul and I got a good laugh at the campfire when a durn motorhome came vernturing up the road. I was impressed, and mentioned such to the driver the next day. he was a local, and has had the MH through the baja and all types of mountains and just shrugged his shoulders about this road. After sufficiently soaking myself wrinkled, I tried to make my way further up the road. However, it just got too gnarly for my tastes, and I also had misjudged my fuel needs, and was starting to get uncomfortable about maintaining enough gas to get out of here. Paul and Vincent (hotrod boyfriend) were preparing to attempt a repair on the Benz, and I wanted no part of that scene, so I bid adeau and started making my way out. The drive out in daylight let me in on the awesome vistas I had missed on the way in. So, it took several hours to get out and back to town :0.
I spent a couple days lounging by the sea and preparing for my trip out to Santa Cruz island. My backpack stove conked out and I spent way too much time looking at a replacement before buying one.
Finally the day has arrived. I cheated and brought a second sleeping bag in my daypack, to use as added cushion. The older my body gets, the thinner my sleeping pad becomes, so I chose comfort over praticality. Boy, did I ever pay!
The boat ride out was great. We had whiteside, or pacific common dolphin, on our bow wake, porposing, and all around the boat for a great part of the trip. As we approached the island, the captain spotted some gray whale, and we got pretty close. One breached, probably just a few hundred yards from the boat. Awesome! As we neared the island, the sea caves, blow holes and topography of the island itself took shape. This is going to be a great weekend, for sure. I saw my first island fox as I was deciding on a campsite. These are cute little guys, about the size of a housecat. I would later find that they have no fear, of anything, which has helped lead to their demise. Golden Eagles have made their way out to the islands for the easy pickings, and the park service has been relocating the eagles, and started a captive breeding program to repopulate them. I found that there were two that inhabited camp. One was collared, the other not. I had one up on my table investigating dinner the first night, and they would be out and around the grounds throughout the nights. They were funny to watch and listen to. They would occasionally meet up, get along fine for a bit, playing and interacting, and then get into a hissing match, chasing each other in circles. In no time, they would seperate and go their own way, only to repeat the scene a little while later :).
I had camp set, had lunch, and off on a hike by early afternoon. I hiked up to cavern point and out to potato harbor. My plan was to cross the island on saturday, to explore Smugglers Cove and some side trips, before a return through the canyon in search of another endemic species, the island scrub jay, which is 150% the size of the mainland variety.
Shortly after midnight on Friday night, the rains began :(. What the heck is this? My last check of the forecast on Thursday night had chance of rain at 0%, and I was given an alike update just before boarding. This stinks! I had opted for the second sleeping bag over rain gear, and even brought just the minimum for my rain fly, not anticpating this event. Even worse, I had selected the spot for the tent in the same bare place those before me had, not minding to the height of the particular spot. Oh well, this is just a passing shower, and things will be fine in the morning.NOT!!!!!!!
Rain all night and my tent is starting to get damp by dawn. By 8:30, I am getting puddles forming and open the fly to see that I in a 2" puddle. I have to move the tent in the downpour. Since I could not remove the contents (no shelter whatever) I drag the whole thing up to the throughpath, which is the highest and levelest place to go. I also come up with some extra stakes from a neighboring camp group to set my rainfly properly. Now, the water in the tent has spread around and I spend a good part of the day balancing sleeping bags and myself onto my thermarest, which is the island within :). I have a windbreaker and a poncho, and they allow me a couple of hours outside for the day. By the afternoon, the rain turned to showers, but it would bait me into thinking it had subsided, long enough to go through the process of getting dressed and into my wet shoes and out of the the tent w/o spilling the sleeping bags off the thermarest. Once upright and into my minimal raingear, the rain would laughingly come back with a vengeance! Since camp was in an intersection of 3 canyons, the rain was always sideways in the wind, just always shifting in its direction. The "weather-guard" food storage boxes" DID NOT :'). All of my food, cookwear and other sundries were sitting in an inch of water. Sheesh! I managed to get in a few short hikes to the harbor and into the canyon, but spent the better part of the day rereading Jimmy Buffett's "Where is Joe Merchant" novel. Thankfully I had thrown this in with my gear at the last minute. This led me to my peptalk of "see, it could be worse, I might not have brought a book"...
But oh, it could get worse all right. After cursing the silly rain which was determined to harass me all through dinner, I escaped into the tent just as the REAL rain came in. From shortly after dark to well after sunrise on Sunday, it REALLY rained. I am SO GLAD that I moved the tent and fixed the rain fly. I only had a damp tent for shelter instead of a swimming pool :). In the morning, the ranger came by to let us know that the boat was picking us up at 1 instead of 3, just out of pity.
What happened was that the jetstream took a dip south during the afternoon on Friday. That brought the artic front due to hit north, down our way. And since the jet stream was passing that way, it picked up the "pineapple express", which is the weather influence for hawaii, for good measure. I think they call this "converging lows" or something to that effect. Not a good thing. And since we were on the eastern side of the of the islands mountain range, which act like wringing out a sponge, forcing the moisture out of the low hanging storm. Result? over 4" of rain in less than 36 hrs on-island.
Man, I got hosed. Actually, I hosed myself in decisions I made in preperatons, but same result. At this writing, I still have not properly dried and cleaned everything thoroughly enough to consider restowing it out of the way...
Monday and Tuesday were spent watching the weather and attempting to start the cleanup and dryout process. Since we were always under the threat of rain, it was a difficult process.
The very worse part of this period of time...I lost some dear friends :(. I had hung my hiking shoes on the bike rack to dry, and forgot to take them off. I can only hope that someone snatched them off overnight, rather than the thought of them bouncing down the freeway!!! Scary thought... Those shoes, Lowa Tempests, had given thousands of miles of smiles on trails of every sort. I cannot put into words how awesome a pair of shoes they were, and how much they were responsible for me getting through "the curve" from being a walker to a hiker and explorer. They feared no terrain, the stickiest soles of anything I ever wore. Boulder climbing and rock hopping, mist trail and hundreds of other miles of slick sierra granite, water crossings, scarp, whatever I threw at them, they just begged for more. And yet loosen the laces at night, and they sufficed at being slippers, they were so comfortable. Aw, to grieve a pair of shoes, huh?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Point Sal to Santa Barbara (almost). January 12 thru January 17

I drove out a ranch road to what should have been PT Sal SB. Never a scap of evidence there was a SB here, but a really nice hike through the hills towards the ocean with a couple of cache finds and more promised, I was south of Guadalupe Dunes, in the hills the northend boundary of Vandenberg Airforce Base. Great vistas the whole hike, and more promised, until I reached a roadblock with a notice that "All recreational activities suspended until further notice" posting. There was a path around the block, which I took, but noticed a plaque on the ground. When I turned it over, it was a trespassing notice from the C.O. of the base, with dire warnings. No desire to be shot today by my own military, I u-turned and winced about the most sought after cache being just 550' away! Oh well, many more exciting caches lay ahead, that is if I stay out of the brig :'). There was a fork in the trail that may have taken me to the SB, but I decided not to add miles to the hike for what may be... Instead I spent a couple of hours moseying through the outskirts of the base, checking publicly open side roads, until reaching Lompoc (LLam-Poke). Nice town, At the southern boundry of base. Many building Murals, Flowers in the spring a big thing, and a great beach area. Spent the afternoon exploring before driving a half-hour south to a Santa Barbara county park on the beach named Jalama. I am finding that as I move south, there is a greater Spanish or regional Indian influence in all towns and region names...Spent the next two days here, kicked back and beach bummin. I did walk the beach northward a couple of miles, taking in an exciting cache named "the outer limits" (due to being right on the edge of the AF base), gc4obf. It was given terrain ratings of 3.5, but I would go higher, only for the access up to and down from the bluff. Every now and then I will get out of my comfort zone to retrieve a cache, and this happened to be one of them. I will post a few pics, but doubt they will do justice. To get up to the bluff required going up a trail of soft sand and loose gravel that was pitched at, I don't know, maybe a 25% angle? Luckily, I had picked up a stick from down below to use as a hiking staff, and it was a saving grace. The problem was that the trail ended just above a ledge at seaside. Any slip and it would be a bounce on the landing and into the rocks in the ocean below! Please excuse me girls, but I hike like "a little old lady", especially in these type of situations! I took several minutes to scale the 75' or so up to the top. That was the easy part! After retrieving the cache, I stood at the top of the bluff looking at this "slide" down, wondering if it had been worth it :). I literally went down this trail in a squat, lowering my center of gravity, ready to use my butt as a brake, and kept the stick pointed in front to slow my momentum. HIGH ADVENTURE, it was! Made it down with no incident and the little highwire walk around the face of a gorge to make it to the area seemed like a cakewalk. Oh, I dropped off a travel bug I had held for quite a while at this cache. It was a 10,000 Dinara Iraqi bill with Husseins portrait on it. Kind of in honow o our troops, since I was right next to the base. It was a beautiful hike on the beach, fascinating rocks and formations, lots of seabirds, and even some Brandt (?) geese, which are no bigger than a mallard. On the return, My GPS'r totally wigged out! It was all over the board! It had me at an altitude of 39,950 feet, than 4,000 feet, than 40 miles an hour to well out into the pacific, totally nuts. I had experienced some other problems with it in the last few days, and was thinking it was on its way out, but maybe... just maybe, the AF has some "toys" in use, either for security or in testing, that I was experiencing...I saved the tracklog, and will try to upload it for view as a pic, especially for you other GPS users. Totally bizarre!
Sat at beachside tonight and used the oil platforms for a backdrop for the sunset :').
Worked south on hwy 1 to junction 101 and Gaviota pass. Very nice. Santa Ynez range, and lots of intersting areas to explore. But first, a sidetrip to Solvang, a town to the east that was settled by Danish Americans early in the 1900's. I made asidetrip to the sidetrip :') to check out a cache at a waterfalls! It promised a very unusual visit, as these falls built rock instead of eroding it away! Nojoqui Falls deposit calcium and magnesium carbonate onto the rock surface as they flow. This combination forms a rock similiar to stalagmite onto the rock cliff and builds outward. As the pics will show, there is a 6 to 8 foot buildup of cliff face beneath the falls. Even though there was little water flowing, the icecicles from the weekend freeze made for a spectacular view! I took the backway from the falls to Solvang, which proved to be pretty interesting. A highlight was a stop for a bite at Shelbi Ranch Cafe. The food is all priced at $1 an item. They have a posting for volunteer wait staff, and all of the tips go to the Shriners Children Hospital. They have a western wear museum upstairs, and I guess they manufacture western wear as a business. Certainly do not earn a living from selling food :). The walls are littlered with photos and autographs of celebrities that visit, and Shriners certificates for 100 million dollar contributers!. The owners were working the place, and he was a hoot. He would deliver the food, and sit down with you and just chitchat. Almost a... (who played Daniel Boone on tv?) look alike in older age. Long grey hair, jeans and cowboy boots look. They had talking hotdog condiment trays, and every imagible gimmick going. Great charitable contribution and great little spot!
I bounced around the next several days, in between the coastline from Gaviota Pass and inland of the pass. I have become intrigued with the makeup of the hills and peaks here. There is a sharp contrast to the coastal hills and a steep vertical uprising of shale rock, making up the Santa Ynez range. I did a number of caches, and took backroads into the range to get a better look at the contrast. One morning I started the day with a soak at Gaviota Hot Springs. They are not much, and are only maybe 85 degrees, but it was still an experience. Especially with it being in the 30's at the time. There are several nice state parks along the coast, but for the most part, they are shut except for Refugio. Interesting history along this stretch! I went after a cache into the foothills on a secluded road, only to find myself dead ending at a fire station. No roadside parking forced me into their parking lot, just as the engine returned from a call. Took less than half a minute for one of the guys to be at my side asking if he could help me. Sheesh. Within a minute of conversation, I stated to him that "you guys have to know about IT, right?" Oh, the geocache, he said with a chuckle. One of the fireman is a cacher and placed it. I swear I was muggled by the whole company during retrieval :'). Another road took me near to the ridge summit and awesome views down onto the pacific and channel islands. I finally went after the most intriguing of caches, "the wind cave"-gc14ae. Great hike up across the transition from coastal to mountain. The shale is pushed up from the old ocean bed at a vertical slant, instead of the typical horizontal layers that we usually see in shale. The "Caves" are just pockets that I believe are erosion caused. They speck the range throughout the pass. wind cave sits atop an peak and has an opening of several feet in diameter that has opened all the way through the rock. You can sit in the cave, and if daring enough to lay on the slant to get the angle, peek out at the ocean and hills on the opposite side. I braced my feet either side of the hole, and slid myself down far enough to get the view. Neat hike with awesome views. After lunch at the dayuse area of Gaviota, I moved southeast towards Santa Barbara. Stopped in Goleta and was sidetracked at a coastal park there until after sunset. I had spoken with Steve Smedes earlier in the day, and he said there was coastal camping 15 miles osuth of SB. Off I went. Well, that did not pan out, and next thing I knew, I was in Ventura :). I stayed there so that I could arrange a pack trip out to the channel islands... And so, I will be camping on Santa Cruz Island for two nights, as of January 26. My goal is to spend the time in between back in the SB area. They evidently have a nice shoreline, a very nice town and close access to great hiking in the Los Padres forest just back of town. Steve told me of two hot springs and I have also noted water falls through cache material.All I have to do is to actually get myself to SB and situated.