Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008_June_29 Wildcat Peak, Berkeley, CA

Afternoon hike to Wildcat Peak in Berkeley via Jewel Lake in Tilden Park. The artichokes were all over the place, with full bushes of sticky monkey flower (the small orange blossoms), some indian paintbrush, and tons of poison oak all over the hillsides and intertwined with the just ripening berries. Just as we reached the summit look-out, the heavy summer evening fog rolled in and obliterated the view and the sun.

Click here to see a bird's eye view of the peak just above the "Peace" grove of hemlock trees.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brent and Aubrey Song from David's Soliant farewell party

Brent and Aubrey collaborated on this song (I highly urge you to click on this link to hear it performed by Brent) and presented it to me at my going away party from work. Now its official. I am free to roam about the planet...

Here are the lyrics.

David Galson's RV

If you love someone, you should set him free,
But its David G, him we really need
Still he wants to hit the road and we dumbly agreed

Woolen sweaters boots and a beard of red
He's the mountain man we shall not forget
When he's gone we'll feel so awfully upset

We'll live vicariously through your photography?
But when do we get to ride in your RV?

There's a burndown chart I'm longing to see
To my project's fate, it holds the key
In David Galson's spreadsheet

There are many projects he's yet to lead
We won't survive. Somebody tell me
Where’s David Galson’s RV?

Although we may not keep the man that
Diane thinks of as handsome
We hope that he’ll hold onto his key

And we’ll strain to hear each time the wind blows
Him yelling Yo! from the window
Of David Galson’s RV

Thanks you guys!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2008_June_14 Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing, CA

(Click to enlarge)

It is 70 degrees F and climbing as we depart Oakland at 9:20am. Packing involved carrying a few duffels to the camper with two sacks of food, filling the water tank, and we departed. With bedding, toiletries, maps, and staples already on board getting away for the weekend has never been easier.
With no particular deadline we had a relaxed morning of driving and luckily the traffic cooperated . We drove down 880, across the Bay on the San Mateo Bridge, up into the mountains on 92, then down 280- along the Crystal Springs water shed. From there, we hopped on 85 to 17 then over the coast range to Rt. 1 and down the coast to Monterey. This avoided almost all of the congestion around the Bay Area and the route is highly recommended.

By the time we reached the coast, the temperature had risen to high 80’s and then dropped back to the 50’s – all within 1.5 hours.
Within 2.5 hours we were nestled into a very pleasant campsite in the live Oak covered hills above the town of Monterey in Veterans Memorial City Park. This little pocket park is a small gem with well positioned sites, a central grassy play field, clean bathrooms, and NO RV hookups. Everyone was in a camper van or a tent. No generators either! For $25/night, with no reservations, its a first come , first served arrangement. The park is directly adjacent to Huckleberry Hill preserve – a marvelous Monterey Pine covered forest laced with a dense forest floor of….huckleberries. They were not ripe just now, but this is worth a trip when they are. Beware, the huckleberry bushes are laced and intertwined with lots of poison oak.

With an afternoon laid out in front of us, we tromped the 1.4 miles down hill to Monterey’s fisherman’s wharf/cannery row area. We had no clear map of where we needed to go beside downhill, so we wandered about looking at people’s gardens and sniffing the hot pine duff laced air mixed with a fresh sea breeze wafting up from the beach.

Ultimately as we followed Jefferson street, the houses gave way to bigger structures and all at once we were awash in tourists with strollers when we hit the wharf area. The insistent yelping of sea lions, gulls, and the lap of bay waves on the beach all combine to transform an otherwise outdoor shopping mall experience into a pleasurable distraction. We wandered up the street, looking out to the bay and kelp beds – eying floating otters and plenty of seabirds. We bypassed the Aquarium when we got there because the price of $24 was too steep for the afternoon time remaining before they closed. A word to the wise – get there early and pack a lunch and sunscreen.

The following day, Steve and Diane drove down from SF, Ross and Morgan drove up from Cal Poly and we all converged on Monterey Bay Sea Kayaks at Moss Landing to get outfitted with boats, and other related gear so we could explore Elkhorn Slough. From there, we schlepped our lunch loaded boats across the public parking lots and dipped into the calm bay waters.
Immediately we were surrounded by wildlife – the sea otters and seals have taken up residence on the sand spit that protects the harbor from the sea. We would be paddling against the tide all day, but now, fueled on the excitement of the abundant wildlife, we hardly noticed the effort of paddling. We exited the harbor, paddled under Rt.1 and entered the slough. It’s about ½ mile wide at its widest bounded by marsh on both sides much of the way. The tidal estuary extends almost 6 miles inland.

We saw fleets of brown pelicans, white pelicans, a few isolated great blue herons, plovers, and more. By far, the most unusual site was the sea otters, floating on their backs, cracking mussels, or clams on their stomachs peacefully as we floated by. Sea kayaking affords a great way to view the wildlife up close. Unfortunately, we needed to keep paddling most of the time to keep from getting sloshed back out to sea.

(Click to enlarge)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

2008-05-31 Tomalas Bay, CA Sea Kayaking

In a blur of activity we stuffed equipment into dry sacks, scurried about the house looking for and finding misc. odds and ends from the various closets and cubbies where we had stowed stuff, planned a simple menu, checked the internet for the cheapest fuel along the way, and we were off! Another great adventure in the making.

Car Camping options are somewhat limited near Point Reyes National Seashore for our first night, so we settled for a private campground on the edge of the park. It just so happens that the Santa Barbara Middle School had selected the same campground for their annual spring bike trip, so we shared the place with over 200 middle schoolers with the same number of bikes. Needless to say, it was a big boisterous, but there was no amplified music and everyone was quiet at a very reasonable hour. Actually we got a great campsite looking out over a wet land and hardly noticed anyone else at the campground.

The following morning, we met our friends Steve and Diane, and their good friends Olaf and his new wife and 1 year old son at a The Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station, where, over fresh scones and strong coffee we made final arrangements for provisioning. From there we set off to pick up and load the boats we were rentng from Bluewater Kayaking which is in Inverness, a sleepy, quirky, artsy quaint town tucked into the end of Tomalas Bay along the west shore. Inverness has a few restaurants, a library, a used book store and a collection of locals worthy of a Steinbeck novel.

Tomalas Bay lies directly above the San Andreas Fault, and is bounded on the west side by Point Reyes National Seashore and the Thule Elk Preserve, and on the east by very limited shore side residential development and the rolling agricultural lands of western Marin County. Here, the organic farming, and sustainable agriculture movement has taken a firm hold on the farming community, and the Nature Conservancy has been instrumental in assisting the local agricultural land trust organizations to
protect and reserve the areas scenic characteristics. A byproduct of this planning, is that Tomlas Bay flourishes with sea and bird life, and the water quality is exceptional supporting the local oyster farming outfits. Its somewhat constricted opening to the sea 10 miles westward permits the 4-5 food tide to flush the bay with fresh water twice per day.

We worked studiously to fit the weekend's worth of gear into three boats (two doubles and a single. (Olaf's wife and child hiked into the campsite after getting dropped off at the nearest trail head). Bags were reorganized, and refit, and then repacked again, but eventually, we pushed off the sand beach and paddled north in a dying ebb.

Immediately we were moving past pristine beaches and water side caves. Occasionally, there was a rickety, well aged dock protruding into the water, but there was no water level development on this side of the bay. We followed the shoreline northwest towards Marshall beach - our lunchtime and camping destination. Swallows darted overhead, and the large floats of grebes moved out just ahead of us. The water seemed almost warm as we dipped our paddles in getting the feel and balance of working together in the stable double boat like we do on the tandem bike.

We could see the wind building eastward against the ebb, and further out in the Bay, whitecaps were forming. Working the peddles in the rear compartment, I could adjust the thin rudder hanging off the stern to counter paddle strokes, wind, and waves which acted to push the boat off course.

Before I knew it, we had nudged our bow onto the smooth sand of Marshall Beach. There, above the high tide line,and waste high in the dune grass and ice plant was Olaf's wife and child patiently awaiting our arrival.

After a relaxing lunch sprawled out on the flake, we set up camp, unloaded the boats, then reloaded the food (since raccoons were known to be in the area) in our compartments and struck out for Hog Island, 4 miles further along the bay towards the ocean. The flood was building along with an on shore wind of 10-15 knots so paddling was becoming more difficult. We stuck to the shore, taking advantage of small eddies and the wind shadows from the shoreline fingers of sand but eventually there was nothing left to do but head out across open water to the island. Even though it seemed right within arms reach it took us 15 minutes of very continuous had work to reach the northern spit of the island. The southern (eastern) shore is a wildlife sanctuary with a seal rookery, so it is forbidden to land there.

Once we beached we were presented with unworldly view of a grove of mostly dead wispy eucalyptus trees covered with nesting cormorants. Seeing the trees covered with nests and fledgling birds was an amazing site. But to see a bird with webbed feet trying to stand on a tree branch is even more unusual. The parents looped overhead and took turns bring food the the nests. There was constant activity, like a bee hive overhead as we took our rest on the beach in preparation for the trip home.