Monday, December 12, 2011


I don't really enjoy getting up early, but once I'm up, I enjoy the early morning immensely. Having gotten used to getting up at 5 AM to take the dog on his first potty walk, it wasn't much of a stretch to get up at 3:45 am to get ready to go our and watch the last lunar eclipse until 2014. I tend to get excited about astronomical events and this one had me really excited.

After showering and making a thermos of hot tea, loaded my camera and tripod, and headed for the beach. Since totality would not be visible from my neighborhood (due to hills), I knew the perfect spot to watch from.

It was beautiful at the ocean; the sky was inky blue-black and the sound of the crashing surf added a nice soundtrack. By the time I got there at 4:35, the shadow was just taking a small nip out of the top of the full moon.

For the next two hours, me and about a half-dozen other adventurous souls watched one of nature's splendors play out.

By 6:30 dawn was just starting in the east behind us and there was a lot of haze on the horizon, so the moon just kind of faded into it and disappeared from view.

During the earlier part of the eclipse I saw two meteors falling and a satellite cruising overhead. It was a 'stellar' morning!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Digby and I went up to the Angeles National Forest on Saturday. I hadn't been up there since the Station Fire and thought it was about time to go up and take a look. I am glad I waited; the re-growth is coming along, though there are large swaths of ghost forest (standing burned, dead trees), there is surprising amounts of intact growth along the road in a lot of places.

How a chilly dog gets toasty.

A nice little day use area at Chilao.

Along the creekbed, willows have turned yellow.

Digby on the alert for squirrels.

Yes--we have fall in California! A pair of cottonwoods show their fall finery.

Digby chilaxin' in the the back of the truck.

My favorite day spot, Chilao, is like an island in the midst of some of the worst fire burned area--virtually untouched. Buckhorn was also left intact, which made me really happy as this is a most idyllic piece of the forest, with giant Western Red Cedar, Jeffrey and Coulter Pines. Set down in a canyon along a seasonal stream, this spot is one of the most lovely in the forest.

The narrow road into Buckhorn is quite lovely.

One of the beautiful campsites at Buckhorn.

When we got up to the 6500' level, the air became increasingly cooler, and ranged from 58-64 degrees throughout the day. (Yes, I know that seems like a heat wave to a lot of areas of the country!). Digby actually got chilled and I had to wrap in in a blanket for a while.

We had a light lunch of cheese, apple, and crackers, and I got out my Brunton Flex backpacking stove and heated some water for tea. Then went for a nice long walk. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily I could now walk up at altitude, due to all the extra walking I've been doing with the dog the past couple of months. Truly a pleasure!

After an hour we headed down to Buckhorn. We hiked a ways on the Burkhardt Trail and then continued on down the road. We drove the length of Highway 2 from La Canada to Wrightwood seeing hardly any other vehicles, which was lovely indeed.

View from about 7000' down into the San Bernardino area. Nothing but wilderness down in those canyons, where deer and bighorn sheep roam.

We drove home via the Antelope Valley, Soledad Canyon, and the 5. It was a long day--8 hours total, and we were both glad to get home.

Traveling with Digby is a lot of fun; I forgot how much fun a dog can be and what swell companions they are! Can't wait for our next adventure!

Monday, October 3, 2011


A couple weeks ago my partner and I decided to add a dog to our family. We’d been talking about it for a few years, but never lived anywhere that we could have one. We were also going to wait until we retired.

But a recent medical scare for my partner helped us make up our minds. She is supposed to get a lot more exercise now and we thought walking a dog would be just the ticket. Little did I know that it would benefit me so much as well!

I haven’t had a dog for about 27 years. My last pooch, a miniature poodle named Fiamma (‘flame’ in Italian), lived to the ripe age of 17. She was a good dog and a fine travelling companion. She loved to camp, hike, swim—that dog never knew she was a poodle!

I’ve missed having a little four-legged outdoor pal, and Valerie had never had a dog before and really wanted one, so we started looking.

Our main consideration was one that would get along with our cats. A puppy was out of the question, as we don’t have the time and energy to put into the training. So we hunted for an adult dog that had been (hopefully) socialized with cats.

A couple days of online searching through some rescue groups and we found a likely candidate: Digby! A group called Tiny Loving Creatures based in Simi Valley, who usually only rescues Chihuahuas, found Digby in the Ventura County Animal Shelter and decided to rescue him, too. He was considered a ‘Beagle/Chihuahua mix’, but at 14 lbs, he was a lot larger than all the other dogs. Still, they thought they could find a home for him. He’d already been given a long extension at the shelter because he was so likable.

To cut to the chase, we went and met Digby at the Petco in Simi Valley on Saturday, September 17 and fell in love with him. He’s sweet and quite a little character. Our vet thinks he is Beagle and Bulldog, and we also think he may have some ‘Doxie” in him, too. He’ got over’ the cats pretty quickly, especially the younger one. The 10 year old took a little longer, but it was a peaceable kingdom after only a week.
Digby in his new bed-first day home

This past weekend I took him on his first trip to the mountains. It was quite an adventure for him, I’m sure. All the smells were unfamiliar. It was a long car trip for him, but he’s really mellow and just laid down and dozed in the ‘shotgun seat.’

Chillin' in back of the truck
Enjoying the forest

I’m looking forward to many more adventures with this little guy!

McGill Campground, Mt. Pinos
View down into Frazier Park from McGill

Monday, August 1, 2011


Inspired by my love of extreme weather and one of my favorite shows ("Storm Chasers"), I headed out this past Saturday to see if I could connect with a large, monsoonal storm cell that was forecast to hit the Mojave Desert and the local Angeles National Forest near Wrightwood, CA. I was not disappointed!

I actually drove into the storm about 10 miles east of the town of Pearblossom, CA and was pelted by heavy rain, surrounded by lightning. It was magnificent! Incredible cloud-to-ground lightning as well as some beautiful cloud-to-cloud forked lightning. And LOUD thunder!

The temperature was 103 when I went through Palmdale, but by the time I was about 20 miles east and in the actual storm, the temp dropped to 77! Up in Wrightwood it was a pleasant 68-degrees.

The system was slow moving, so it stayed around the area for a long while and ultimately flooded the town of Victorville; the downtown area was hit pretty hard.

I chased from 11:00 am to almost 5:00 pm--a most satisfying day!

Looking east, towards Acton and the Angeles National Forest at 11:30 am. The cumulus congestus is beginning to form.

Same view, zoomed in.

Another view, same direction.

Taken from moving vehicle, 10 miles east of Pearblossom. Not quite in the rain yet, but can see it in the distance towards the mountains where the veils are dark and thick. Active cumulonimbus clouds.

More veils of rain.

Mount Baden Powell seen from Grassy Hollow at 2:00 pm, looking southwest. More clouds were piling up in the east and I could hear more thunder. Cumulus and strato- cumulus from the dissipating storm.

Coming down from Wrightwood, looking southwest. (taken through vehicle windshield)

Zoom detail of previous--awesome cumulonimbus formation.

Looking east from Acton at 4 pm. The clouds are forming into the typical shape of the anvil altocumulus.

Detail zoom of the previous.

This storm was fairly rare for this time of year, so I was lucky to catch it. The way the climate is changing, I will no doubt find other interesting weather like this to observe in the future!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Every now and then I just like to take off for a day on my own and explore new places. I sometimes scout a little with Google maps ahead of time, but I always end up making decisions along the way that add unexpected surprises.

On this particular day I headed east on Highway 138 from the 5 North and found a delightful backroad drive that started in pines and ended in prairie.

Overlooking the western Antelope Valley

The new ride

A pond along the way

View beyond the pond and into the valley below

Ghost tree forest - fire went through here one year

I only saw two cars in 20 miles

A prairie-like view to the west; mountains of Los Padres National Forest in background

Friday, June 3, 2011


Spent Memorial Day weekend in Forest Falls, a small mountain community between Mentone and Big Bear, CA, elevation about 6,400'. It's a lovely, peaceful place where my partner and I hope to retire to in a few years.

We stayed at a cabin and took my partner's niece (11) and her mentee (13) and let me tell you, taking kids somewhere is an adventure. These are two very well-behaved and fun kids, but I forgot how much energy they have! It was a challenge keeping them exercised--they are like EverReady batteries.

The cabin is OLD--built in the early 1900s and though equipped with 'modern' conveniences like plumbing, stove, and fridge, it's beginning to get a little scruffy around the edges. But we made do and really enjoyed the big river rock fireplace each night; the girls found it perfect for roasting marshmallows! I had initially said 'NO TV!' But I caved and let them watch one movie per night.

The weather was on the cool side by Saturday, and by Sunday it was downright COLD. On our day trip to Big Bear there were actually snow flurries in the afternoon. Unbelievable. This was the end of May, and usually it is blazing hot in Southern California by now.

I took the girls to the day-use area at the end of the road (it dead-ends there and is also the trailhead for those hiking up to Mt. San Gorgonio. They loved throwing rocks in the stream and watching the lizards that were scurrying everywhere. On the drive back at dusk, we saw a coyote trotting down the side of the road. The girls got a big thrill out of that, alright!

Saturday night I took them out after dark to the vacant lot across the street that had a clear view of the sky to show them how many stars could be seen when they are out away from city light pollution. They were suitably impressed!

View up the canyon along Mill Creek

The girls contemplating the creek

Nice little waterfall

Aspen grove along the creek

Lilacs in bloom everywhere

Shooting Star

Clouds rolling in Saturday afternoon...

...getting windy and cold!

Stay tuned for part 2--the day trip to the Santa Ana River!