Darlene and I spent the weekend with Resi and Aiden, and Greg, Erin and Merritt as their kids made their first visits to Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley – on the road to their future Olympic Winter Games! We also met up with Colin, Richard and Jennifer at Squaw.
Here are the pictures and video from our annual week of skiing and tabletop gaming, this year back at the Cottonwood Canyons in Utah with a full house: Jon, Jim, Stan, Lewis, Tom, Bill, Kat, Darlene and myself. We were fortunate to get quite a heap of fresh snow early in the week and sunshine for the rest as we visited Alta, Snowbird and Solitude over five days.
This is a short little video montage of my first few flights around my house with DJI’s Mavic Pro – a fantastic, compact little flying camera platform. This thing folds down to about the size of a quart-size water bottle, weighs only 2 lbs with a battery and flies for about 25 minutes per charge. It’s got a tiny gimbal-stabilized 4K camera that can capture up to 4096×2160 video. (Here’s a short snippet of 4K footage.) The Mavic Pro has lots of sophisticated smarts on board too: automatic return to home, obstacle avoidance, vision positioning system, object tracking/following/circling, etc. It maintains a live high definition feed to your phone/controller wth a range of over 4 miles, though FAA rules require that you maintain visual line-of-sight and stay below 400 ft from ground level at all times. (Also, drones and other remote-controlled aircraft cannot be used in national parks, wilderness areas, ski resorts, around crowds or events, etc. without special permission.)
The Mavic Pro is very fun and easy to fly and it’s amazing how clear and stable the video footage is, even enough to use it as a flying tripod or do time-lapse photography. Best of all it folds down so nicely to fit easily into a small backpack or carrying case. It’ll be fun to bring this along on some hiking and biking trips.
Here’s some additional footage from nearby Wilder Ranch State Park, including trying out the Mavic’s “Active Track” flight mode:
Here’s one of many reviews about DJI’s Mavic Pro, if you’re interested in more detail.
Here’s some pics and video from our longest run yet with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – five days on the Sonoma coast from Bodega Bay to Fort Ross, coming back home on New Year’s Day.
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After another rough start with the cats (they still aren’t too keen on being trapped in the big, noisy moving house) and after cleaning up a messy episode with Pan, they eventually settled down for the journey. We spent a couple of nights at the Bodega Dunes campground exploring the area on foot and finding a few geocaches by day. On the following day we only ventured up the coast a few more miles and overnighted in an overflow area at Wright’s Beach. We then continued on to visit Goat Rock to watch the crazy surf, check out the harbor seals at the mouth of the Russian River and hike out to the mammoth rubbing rocks. We got to Fort Ross just before closing on New Year’s Eve and slipped in the exit gate to run around and check it out before they kicked us out. On New Year’s Day, we started making our way back, watching for whales far off-shore as we made leisurely progress heading home via the Russian River valley.
The cats seemed to be doing well with slow speed travel and frequent stops and they definitely enjoyed a nice, extended lunch stop off-leash on some empty, grassy school grounds in Santa Rosa. After five days in the traveling cat adventure vehicle, it was really going well and seeming like this was ready to work for extended trips. Unfortunately, we had a bit of mishap just before getting home. One of the solar panels came loose and started smacking around on the roof before we realized what was happening. It broke free before I could get off the freeway and we ended up pulling over to assess the damage. Before I knew it, Darlene was off running across the freeway to retrieve the lost panel and then we attracted a highway patrolmen who came over to scold us (and see if we needed assistance). The noise and drama was all quite traumatic for Pan and a lousy ending to an otherwise promising start to future extended traveling cat adventures. (And of course now I need to redo the solar panel installation.)
Beware the mighty roar of Pan!
I’ve finally edited together numerous videos of Pan’s antics, dating back to June of 2009. Enjoy!
If you need to see more of Pan (and who could blame you?), here’s some early photos and video of him from his first few months with me.
Heard of the Tower of Terror? How about The Tower of Frustration? (Otherwise known as the CatIt Senses Food Tree 2.0.) Seemed like a cool idea since Hera is constantly bugging me for food or treats. Not surprisingly, Pan wasn’t interested in it all but then he doesn’t really care about food or treats. Hera, on the other hand, went at it with gusto and almost immediately knocked it over – and scored some treats!
I then braced it while continuing to film her initial efforts and added some weights afterward so I could leave it unattended. It was clear she had great difficulty with “paw to eye” coordination, looking at one level of the puzzle and reaching blindly elsewhere. After her initial 30 minutes of frustrated efforts she completely gave up on it and I couldn’t get her interested any more. Over the subsequent weeks, she would still cry for treats as usual but would never make any more effort to extract them from The Tower of Frustration, despite any prodding or just leaving them out, tempting her 24/7.
I eventually gave up as well and gave it away to Kathie and Dave. Looks like their Penny has absolutely no trouble with it!
It’s been quite a while since I’ve put up a gallery of Pan and Hera pictures, so…
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They winter here from November through February, depending on the weather. If you go, choose to get here during the warmth of the middle of the day or they won’t be very active. And bring binoculars and a long telephoto because they’ll be mostly way up in the eucalyptus trees.
After Thanksgiving day, Darlene and I loaded up the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and headed down the coast south of Monterey. My intention was for us to stay a couple of nights at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground, but I forgot it was still closed from the impact of the Soberanes fire earlier this year. D’oh! So we kept heading south as the sun set (there’s no overnight parking allowed along the highway here), passing several alternate, full campgrounds until we found space at the San Simeon State Park campground. We walked to the beach in the rain the next morning before heading out, stopped to let the cats out for a scary adventure when the rain let up later, caught a tour of “Nitt Witt Ridge” in Cambria and made it to Morro Bay by nightfall. On Saturday night, the campgrounds were full so we found a nice out-of-the-way spot to boondock for the night. On Sunday, we visited the bay, the rock, the natural history museum and the Monarch butterflies before heading home in the evening up 101.
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