Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A trip To Christmasifornia

 After much kicking and screaming and prodding from a few people, I am resuming the blog.  Nobody is reading it anymore, because of the hiatus, but I will describe a trip I just went on with my brother Abe, and his girl, Katrina.
The theme from this trip was history, and the watching of time pass.  A freeway is a good place to contemplate the passage of time, where seconds are ticked off by the incoming lanes, and the road noise buzzing in your stomach helps you let go of your reality, and just watch. 
We also began reading a book out loud (difficult at the best of times, but made harder in a loud car); "The Starship and the Canoe".  It is about Freeman Dyson and his son George Dyson, and since George live in Bellingham, and Freeman designed spacecraft, I found it most interesting.  Orion, the most famous of Freeman's designs, was something I had heard about before, and the namesake's constellation was shining brightly down on us when we were in Joshua Tree (see the above picture).
We descended on Rachel's place like a horde of Khans, and I got to visit Henry (whom I had seen as a very small bundle when I sailed through three years ago) and to meet Nora, who is a small bundle of joy. We crowded inside Rachel and Sam's small house and ate all their food, all the while trying to figure out a geometry problem and getting each other sick.  On Christmas Day we squeezed around the table, and had a delicious mexican style dinner.  Something about Mexican food makes it very scalable.  You can eat Mexican food alone and it feels just fine, or have a party of hundreds eating tacos.  It works just fine.  Other foods are not so versatile, for instance, Spaghetti.  Eating Spaghetti alone is a crime.  Or should be.  It just aint right.   Pasta is intended for company, and maybe for the mafia.  Jelly beans are a solitary food, on the other hand, and when eaten in public they disappear far to quickly.
So we ate, and drank and made merry.  And did math problems.  What a lovely nerdy family.
After Christmas, Abe, Katrina and I set off for a slow trip down the Big Sur coast.  We've gone down it many a time, but it always seems to invite us back again.  We stopped at a few places on route to observe birds and wildlife, including a wonderful stop at Moss Landing, in Monterey Bay.  The reason (I think) that Monterey Bay has such life there is that there is a very deep  crack in the ocean floor in the bay, basically the Continental shelf comes in and nearly touches the heart of the bay.  Since its deep, there are amazing waters full of Whales, Shearwaters (I have seen them there) and all sorts of deep sea things, but near the shore.  This crack comes directly for Moss Landing, but luckily it stopped just barely short of the beach.  Behind the breakers there are tons of migratory birds dipping their bills in the muds in search of goodies. Haven't you looked in the mud for treasures?
There are also Sea Otters.  I found one that was very busy on the beach, and I walked right up to it without alarm.  It was busy scratching something, either on its butt, or on the front side corresponding.  I had heard about the voracious sexual appetite of Sea Otters, so I thought this one might be having a private good time, but I couldn't tell which side of the legs was up or down.  They are very flexible, and the tail seems to come from the very back of them.  Anyways, this one was occupied, so I got a few pictures...

This was my first time driving down the coast since I had sailed down it, so I was excited to see again the places I had passed by.  There is this lighthouse I recalled from the trip down Big Sur, which was the beacon of hope leading towards San Simeon.  I remembered that when I passed that lighthouse the big following swells dropped from 10 ft to nearly nothing, and the winds began to come from the land.  It was peaceful, but as I got to San Simeon the winds turned way up, and I had to fight to get into the anchorage.
 The purpose of the trip was to all rendezvous in Morro bay, and for me, to surf a little while I was there.  I surfed twice and got solidly frozen both times, but wasn't like surfing in Hawaii.  There was a big storm out at sea and the surf was very large later on, with impressive curling breakers crashing over the jetty. 
 Morro Bay has a great big rock sitting in the sand on the beach, a monument to a past volcano, and the geology of the area is fantastic.  Montana de Oro State park is full of golden colored rocks, which might have resulted in the name.  The layers of rock are tilted and skew by the might of Atlas, tectonically twisted by the nearby San Andreas fault.  There are places we hiked over where a whole ridge was turned in one direction, and then the next was another.  I've spent some time with a pick and shovel, but I am unable to move mountains like Mr St. Andrew.  We then traced the San Andreas southbound after Morro Bay to visit Joshua Tree, and on route I got my first glimpse of Elijiah, the nephew from my eldest brother, Jeremy.  He is walking around!  I have missed so much. 
We passed through Los Angeles, holding our breaths and attempting to keep our feet lifted in the foreign territory of concrete and bustle.  Every time I go through a city I am stunned again and again of how many people there are, and how much gasoline each one of them burns.  We were burning the gas up quickly ourselves, as we climbed up into the desert.

At night in some places it is very dark, and you can't go anywhere without a light, but out in Joshua Tree the stars allow you to see just fine, and when the moon comes out it might as well be the sun.  I found that starlight was very acceptable for seeing things while out on the water as well.  Moonlight on the water causes reflections and you lose your night vision, so you can't see things in the water, but starlight is a soft glow from the heavens to show you the way.  There are few places on land where you can get away from the lights enough to let your eyes open up like that, so I think people aren't used to using starlight, but I like it.
We only stayed in Joshua tree for a night, by poaching a camp site, and then drove across the park and headed for the lowlands.  There was a cold wind blowing from the north and it was nearly unbearable to be out in it for long.  
We drove to the Salton Sea.  At -224 ft, it was the lowest I had ever been.  The air was much warmer and felt great, because of the high pressure and extra oxygen.  At the shore of the Salton Sea there is large expanses of white soil, salted by the phosphates from fertilizers, and from the salts of the incoming waters.  The beaches are covered in small shells and barnacles, and as the water levels have dropped recently, they are expansive.  There are lots of birds that stop through on their migrations, and we sought them out.
We camped out in a canyon just north of the sea, called Painted Canyon, and built a fire.  I had another night of wonderful stargazing conditions, and I took a slightly out of focus shot of the tent and the fire and us sitting around it, with Jupiter in the background.  It was a beautiful place to camp, and I think I'd like to go back there again someday. 
The next day we got up and drove further up the canyon and then hiked up as far as we could until we were lost in the myriad of twisting side canyons.  There were some wonderful pathways, all carved by the San Andreas and the rushing flash floodwaters when the rains come. 

Here are some shots from the canyons:


 After that, we did another dip down to the Salton Sea to look for birds.  The lowlands there reminded me of the skagit valley and the view north towards Lummi Island.  It was like summertime; warm but not hot.  The waters gave the air a pleasant feel.  I felt right at home. 
 For the return trip, it was a full look into Katrina's family, and a lot of driving, but then we made it. 
Here are more shots from the trip:


1 comment:

mlloyd said...

Some people still faithfully check your blog. Or maybe it is just a bleary habit from countless mornings while you were away at sea...

Regardless of why I checked, I'm glad I did. Beautiful post, thanks for the pictures and commentary. Did you finish "The Starship and the Canoe"?