Misty Santa Cruz Sunrise

I woke to the first glimmer of this fantastic misty, foggy sunrise out my bedroom window a couple of days ago… so I scrambled to set up a camera on the deck to capture a time-lapse video and snag a few nice shots.  Pan supervised:

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Wildcam: Lions and Tigers and…

I bought one of those motion-sensing wildlife “game” cameras and have been trying it in different spots around my property here in the hills near Santa Cruz.  Not so many lions and tigers and bears, but lots of deer and coyotes, the occasional raccoon and squirrel, but also caught a bobcat and a couple of bucks sparring in just the past month:

More local Santa Cruz wildlife:

    

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Erin & Greg’s Baby Shower

Click through for pictures from Erin and Greg’s baby shower:

 

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Halloween Night 2014

Darlene and I headed out for Halloween night as the Princess Bride and Westley (aka, the Dread Pirate Roberts), having not entirely escaped the R.O.U.S.’s of the fire swamp:

Our first stop was to try to score some trick-or-treating at the Riggles. Dave then took us over to see this year’s incredible pirate house/manor at a nearby home in Los Altos.  It was an amazing display – comparable to a large portion of the Pirates of Caribbean animatronics at Disneyland:

Here’s their web site: http://www.piratemanor.com and a story about their efforts in the local town paper.

Then we were off to a super-decorated 80’s costume theme party with Martha and David hosted by some friends of theirs in San Jose.

Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Collapsible Convertible Kayak

We got to try out my new gear earlier this week: a collapsible, convertible kayak from Advanced Elements.  It’s the AdvancedFrame Convertible model and it’s an inflatable 15 ft. kayak that converts from single to double and from open to closed deck.  Most importantly, it fits in your trunk!  No need to haul it on top of your vehicle (or in a trailer) to your destination!  It packs down into a bag 36″ by 21″ by 11″ and 56 lbs.  I’m particularly psyched about the idea of bringing it on road trips, like to the Sierras, and having it available as an option to pull out whenever or wherever we might choose.

This is an inflatable kayak with aluminum structural elements in the bow and stern and it’s very quick and easy to set up or take down. (Like 15 minutes or less.)  It’s designed with a tough outer skin around an inflatable frame consisting of two inner chambers and has a couple of rigid fins and a skegg to help it track a straight line well.  There are a number of optional extras to customize it, including single and double closed deck tops.

Darlene and I tried it out this Tuesday at the Elkhorn Slough, launching from Kirby Park.  We set it up in open deck form and tried out the optional, high pressure drop stitch floor which provides more rigidity than the standard floor.  There’s also an optional, aluminum “Back Bone” pole that can be placed under the standard floor that gives the kayak a more pronounced V shape underwater.  We’ll be trying that configuration later.

It performed great.  It felt very stable, moved quickly and tracked straight lines easily.  It felt very much like a normal sit inside sea kayak.  There’s plenty of room for the two of us plus some gear.  (And I’m 6’4″, 195 lbs.)

After Darlene finished her meeting (calling in while we were out on the water), we tried out the sail attachment.  This particular sail is from Advanced Elements as well and is designed to clip into the front buckles on the kayak and hold its form without intervention, leaving your hands free to paddle.  This worked well and the big transparent panels on the sail made it still easy to see where we were going:

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And, of course the big advantage is being able to quickly collapse the whole thing down and tuck it into a small space in your vehicle… with or without the help of passing pelicans:

I took it out again the next day, but this time I configured it for one person, placing the seat in the middle space and installing the optional covered deck.  (There’s also a covered deck for the two person configuration.)  The single person deck has a hatch behind the seat to provide access to storage area and both the single and double decks have inflatable rims that allow you to attach a spray skirt.

 

The kayak still handled very well with just one person.  Next time though I’ll be using the optional, adjustable foot rests.  This wasn’t necessary in the two person configuration, at least for me in the back, because of the inflatable thwart behind the front seat position.

So there it is, the AdvancedFrame Convertible, providing a compact one or two person kayak tucked into the trunk of your car!  If you’re looking for more reviews, take a look at paddling.net or Amazon.  Check out AirKayaks.com if you’re interested because they provide some nice bundle deals and make the extra effort to provide nice demonstration videos on many of the products they sell.

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It looks like Pan and Hera might want to join me on my next excursion in the kayak:

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Epic Santa Cruz Ride

It was just one day’s ride… but it turned out to be something of an epic ride: from the bottom of Pogonip in Santa Cruz, up the Emma McCrary trail and the U-Con trail to the UCSC campus trails winding this way and that and up and back around, then all the way down through Wilder Ranch and over via Old Cabin trail, round Enchanted, a short stop for lunch on the bluffs and then down and around Zane Gray’s Cutoff before starting the climb back up Twin Oaks, past the eucalyptus grove, back around behind campus and all the way back down Pogonip.

Mostly single-track but thirty-two miles in all!  Whew!  Who’s idea was this again?? (I had in mind a full day with lunch along the way like doing Hole in the Ground up in Tahoe… but I see that’s *only* 16 miles!  Though, at altitude of course.)  Anyway, we all survived to ride another day!

I put together a little video montage from the ride:

 

Also, check out our attempt to create a new sport: Disk Golf Biking!

Click through below for the full gallery from the day, mostly courtesy of Rick – thanks, Rick!

  

 

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Eastern Sierra Colors

Darlene and I headed over to the Eastern Sierra for a few days last week to catch the fall colors of the aspen climbing the mountain valleys. We came over Sonora Pass, visited Bodie and camped the first night near Lundy Lake, hit Mammoth Lakes and then camped below Rock Creek Lake before finally having to make our way back via Tioga Pass and through Yosemite.

Seems like we might have been about a week early to catch the peak but it also seemed that a lot of the aspen were really dry and drying out quickly after turning yellow (skipping over orange and red), presumably due to the extended drought.

Click through for the full gallery:

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Ghost Town

Bodie was a thriving gold and silver mining boomtown in the late 1800’s, home to many thousands (and many dozens of saloons) before falling into decline in the 1900’s.  It was eventually completely abandoned in the 1950’s and became a state historic park in 1962.  Many buildings remain standing and still contain the furniture, appliances, equipment, stores and even personal items left behind.

I’ve visited Bodie a number of times before, including in the winter, but this time was with Darlene on our way over to see the fall colors in the Eastern Sierra.  My first visit was with my family back in 1979 so I managed to dig up and scan in a few old photos of me and my brother Glenn from 35 years ago.

Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Return to Boggs Mountain!

Darlene and I joined Richard, Jennifer and Shannon for another awesome mountain biking weekend at Boggs Mountain (north of Calistoga, CA) as part of the Outdoor Adventure Club.  Click through for the the full gallery:

  

And here’s a short video montage from the weekend:

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Whales at Moss Landing

There’s been loads of humpback whales in Monterey Bay this summer and Darlene and I finally had a chance to go on a whale-watching tour by kayak out of Moss Landing this past Sunday with Dave of Venture Quest Kayaks.  Thanks once again, Dave!  We had a great time and encountered numerous humpback whales diving and feeding together, once even coming up between our kayaks, as well as saw plenty of others off in various directions, blowing, diving and even breaching in the distance.  After a snack break back at the boat launch, we headed in to the Elkhorn Slough with the aid of some handheld kayak sails.

In addition to all the whales, we also saw plenty of other wildlife: lots of harbor seals, sea lions, otters, egg yolk jellyfish, starfish, porpoises, pelicans, gulls, terns, sandpipers, cormorants and even an egret.  A couple of people saw a mola mola pass under, but we missed that. D’oh!

However, our kayak was boarded in the slough by a sea otter “patrol” – apparently inspecting us for goodies… or contraband?  (Check out the video below.)

We had so much fun on Sunday that we decided to sign up to come back the very next morning. On Monday, the entire bay was incredibly calm but we really had to work to find any whales. We had to paddle out nearly three miles into the bay to find them, but find them we did! Or perhaps they found us…

A short video montage of our two days of kayaking (4.3 minutes, 70 MB)

Click through for the full gallery of images from both days:

  

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