Bridge Out!

Big Sur got hit hard with the heavy rains earlier this year, with several massive land slides and the forced demolition of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge.  This severely isolated the community around Big Sur and so a temporary, emergency foot path was created to allow residents to get supplies.  They’ve since opened up a path through to the public.  So, until the replacement bridge is completed (end of September), you can park down near the road closure at the Pfieffer Big Sur State Park, hike the steep 1/2 mile trail and get to ride highway 1 with much reduced traffic.

And that’s what I did today with Mark and his family and friends!  We hiked over and rode as far as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the McWay Falls (about 20 miles round trip).

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Flying Over Humpbacks

I saw this news article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this morning talking about how active the humpback whales have been near shore off of Santa Cruz and Aptos these past few weeks.  So Darlene and I grabbed the drone and dashed down to Seacliff State Beach.  I’ve been wanting to try flying the drone to get nice, aerial views of the whales.  (A lot of the coastline is protected via the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary but flying in this area is allowed.)

There were probably a dozen of them near shore – you could see them popping up every which way!  The lighting wasn’t great (completely overcast) as the marine layer had yet to burn off but it was still very fun to hang around with the drone waiting for them to appear.

It’s quite the challenge to find them and stay with them using the narrow view of the drone’s camera – even when you can easily see them from shore.  Darlene was helping by watching the feed with the goggles because it’s also hard to see small/distant details on the iPhone or iPad screen, particularly when you’re outside. It’s much easier to see with the goggles but then of course all you can see is what the drone sees.

It was hard tracking them too because once they go under it’s hard to predict where to be looking when they come back up. You want to get closer for more detail but if you’re too close you won’t see them at all when they resurface off camera (which happened repeatedly) – and of course not so close as to harass them.  I should point out that the limited view angle of the drone’s camera makes them appear closer than they really are and yet I still had to heavily crop every one of these clips to make the whales appear large enough in the frame – even in the most distant shots.

I did put a polarizer on the drone camera to try to cut through the reflection of the water surface but it didn’t work that well with the diffuse overcast light so it might work better in directed sunlight.

Need more practice! ;-)

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Two More Bobcats

I heard a strange, low moaning/growl from the scrub behind the house.  It definitely got Pan and Hera’s attention.  It sounded like a noise a calf might make – but when I waited around to see if whatever it was would emerge, it turned out to be a pair of juvenile bobcats growling at each other:

Video footage of two bobcats hanging out behind the house (2:31, 51 MB)

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On the Mendocino Coast

Last week, Darlene and I were able to spend six days following the Mendocino Coast (with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, of course), continuing north from where we left off on the Sonoma Coast in December, just north of Fort Ross.  We discovered that all the state park campgrounds were full going up the coast for the coming days but we kept managing to find something.

We stayed the first night at Stillwater Cove and then snagged a spot in an overflow area at Salt Point State Park, where we spent an afternoon mountain biking up to the top of the park and part of the morning flying the drone around.  We visited the Point Arena Lighthouse, which turned out to be more interesting than I expected and we snagged a nice spot in another overflow area on the beach at the Van Damme State Park.  We were able to grab a vacated spot in the park the next morning and then headed out to explore the Mendocino Headlands.  We also checked out the Russian Gulch State Park.

This area around Mendocino has a lot of cool sea caves – we’ll need to come back some time and book a guided sea kayak tour to check them out.  Fort Bragg turned out to be pretty uninteresting and we just passed through, stopping at MacKerricher State Park instead for lunch and to walk around.  Our final and fifth night was at Westport Union Landing State Beach overlooking the bluffs.  At this point, Highway 1 turns inland and you leave the coast for good.  Our last day was essentially spent just getting back home to lots of traffic jams.

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A Very Mysterious Package

A month ago I received a mysterious package containing a message in a bottle, clippings, printed emails regarding Kelsey Marine Salvage, a pendant marked with symbols, a message written in pictographs and a modern nautical map of part of the Philippine Islands.  It appears to be some sort of puzzle-solving game surrounding a lost treasure.  Seeing as how it arrived soon after my birthday, and how my brother was acting coy in denial, it would appear to be a gift in the form a puzzle game to solve!  Looking on the web, I saw that others have received these packages many months ago and have formed groups to try to solve them.  However, I’ve avoided looking too hard on the web since I don’t want to spoil the fun of figuring it out.

More recently, I received a second package containing hand-drawn, pseudo-aged map fragments, a contract between pirates, pages from a diary and more printed emails.  So… aye!  We have lost treasure and pirates!

Darlene and I finally spent some time on this last weekend and found that solving the code puzzle in the first package ended up pointing to the longitude and latitude of an island that was then confirmed in a diary page from the second package.  Seems strange to me that it works this way – that a solved puzzle is simply revealed in the later package.  Instead, I would expect solving one puzzle would lead to the key to another puzzle, rather than being simply given away.  We’ll see, I guess.

Without giving too much away, the contents of the second package made it possible to use the message in the bottle and the amulet to pinpoint another location on the modern Philippines map, so we’ll see what comes of it.  That appears to be all there is to figure out so far.  There clearly must be at least one more package coming.


Update: Yes, a third package has arrived!  This one is pretty cool too.  A wooden box retrieved from the sand, containing an animal horn with carvings on it, all wrapped in oil cloth:

  

Surprisingly though, the carvings on one side of the horn only confirm what we previously solved in the first two packages.  (Drawing of the lines on the map and interpreting the message-in-a-bottle as to how to project from the intersection points of those lines.)  On the other side, it does have a little treasure map of the island marking out a trail to follow but I don’t yet see what we can do with it.  And I’m pretty sure we’re not expected to fly out to the Philippines to investigate the island in person.

Another package to come?


Update: Oh, yes.

  

And several theories confirmed – which I will refrain from divulging to avoid spoiling anything for anybody, except to say… very cool!  Also, I guess my original name for this post was much more apropos than I could have known.

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Layover on Mt. Shasta

Last stop on our return from Oregon was a couple of nights near and on Mt. Shasta in California.  We enjoyed a lazy morning after camping out off a forest road an hour north (with Shasta in view) and then drove up to Bunny Flat on Mt. Shasta at 7000 ft. and spent the afternoon hiking a couple of miles up to the Sierra Club climber’s hut (built in 1923!).  We found a nice spot to camp afterwards just below Bunny Flat.

  

This ended Pan and Hera’s longest outing in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – three weeks!  They seem to have adapted quite well to traveling in it and it seems like we could go indefinitely now.  Yay!

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Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Heading south from Mt. Hood in late June, we stopped off at the Crooked River gorge in the Peter Skene Ogden State Park between Madras and Redmond.  We were a bit bewildered by how many people were gathering and setting up lawn chairs as if waiting for a big event.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of asking. ;-)  Turns out they were all there awaiting the passing of an historic steam train engine (Southern Pacific 4449) to cross the bridge.  It was due within the hour so we relocated the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and decided to wait.  After a couple of hours though, it became clear from news being relayed around that there had been delays and it was still an hour or so out.  So we bailed.

Our destination was actually the Newberry National Volcanic Monument and this proved to be a nice place to spend a few days.  We camped the first and last night on some forest roads and one night at one of the campgrounds in the caldera alongside Pauline Lake.  We had a crazy red sky sunset one night, enjoyed some early morning kayaking on the completely still water and a nice trail ride up to near the caldera rim on our mountain bikes.  We hiked the mile-long Lava River Cave lava tube and checked out the lava tree casts.  There’s actually plenty of other trails and caves to visit too but we had to move on.

    

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Antique Flying and Driving Machines

While we were in the Columbia River Gorge area last month, Darlene and I had the chance to spend half a day at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River.  This place is only ten years old but it has a huge and fascinating collection of antique, but still operational, cars and planes.  They hold numerous events and classes.  For example, every second Saturday is a “play day” where they bring out and fly or drive a number of the cars and planes to let people experience them.  They also hold classes to learn about and get to drive antique Model T’s (which sounds very cool) or drive classic cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  They do restoration work on site, and they host an annual “fly-in” event where you get to see a lot of these antique planes in the air.

I particularly liked how they juxtapose old airplanes and automobiles from the same era.  And I thought it was pretty interesting how old cars look so different and so obviously antique; whereas airplanes from the same time period don’t look so different than planes today.  It was also fun to be reminded of how seat-of-the-pants flying and driving was back in the early days.

Click through for the full gallery, which is only a sampling of what they have on display.

      

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Columbia River Gorge

After picking up Darlene from the Portland airport, we headed over to the Columbia River Gorge for sightseeing, hiking and mountain biking.  There was certainly a lot to see and do and we ended up spending over four days in the area.  We started with the road up to the Vista House on the historic highway 30 (west to east) and enjoyed the view.  The campgrounds were full that night on the south side of the river so we had to cross over to the other side to find a place for the night.  We snagged a spot back on the south side at mid-day and hiked the lovely loop trail from Multnomah Falls up and over and down to Wahkeena Falls (and various falls in-between).  We started the next day with a shorter hike from the campground to Upper Horsetail Falls before heading out to go tour the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and then the visitor’s center at the Bonneville Dam (both very cool and interesting).

We stayed at a great county park outside of Hood River for the next two nights and enjoyed a full, long day of really fantastic mountain biking trails at Post Canyon.  And then, on the last day, we burnt up half the day checking out the huge number of old airplanes and cars at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum in Hood River.  (I’ve put up a separate post and gallery for this place.  We both thought it was really great.)  By afternoon, we had made it up to the Mt. Hood ski area for a rest stop for the kitties before heading onwards and south for new adventures.

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John Day River Basin

  

After dropping off Darlene at the Portland airport, Pan and Hera and I headed east for a week, to follow the path of the upcoming total eclipse and find a nice possible campsite.  We checked out the countryside from Madras to Unity and in the process discovered the gorgeous, extensive and richly varied landscape of the John Day River basin.  Along the way, I visited portions of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, including the Painted Hills area and the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center.  I certainly was not aware that central Oregon had such an important mammal fossil record.

I decided not to try to capture the constantly changing landscape in pictures as I would’ve been trying to pull off the highway every few miles.  So this gallery consists only of pictures and video from the places I stopped overnight, or where I went hiking or biking.  One frustrating aspect of this area though is how much of the John Day River basin is private land and not accessible to the public – no trespassing signs everywhere, even on county roads that lead to public lands.

    

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