|to the index page|
Notes and Photos, Spring 2004:.
Boulder, Colorado is a rather different place from Pasadena. It was snowing, for one thing, on Thursday morning and spring was bursting from every tree and lawn in a profusion of delicate green leaves. Flowers were blooming, the air was cool and misty, and snow blanketed the foothills. It reminded me of home. I was there to scout a prospective precision machining house that will build x-ray telescope optics for the proposal I'm working on if it is funded next fall. On precision machines crammed into a small suite in an industrial block, amid the clutter with a big golden retriever padding around the floor and a head of Alaskan carobou antlers from one of the president's hunting trips tossed over a diamond turning machine, they turned out precision parts ground to tolerances within 50 millionths of an inch. Very impressive! Boulder is a yuppie town. There are bike paths on nearly every street and many people were out walking dogs, running, and bicycling, all dressed in colorful outdoor clothing to fend off the wet weather. Many cars were Subarus and SUVs with cargo containers on the roofs. The demographics appeared to be predominantly wild-haired blonde young mountain people though that must have something to do with the university being there. It's a nice quaint downtown area. I wouldn't mind living there. But Eastward, Colorado becomes very flat very quickly. The toll road to the airport charges periodically to drive ahead, to exit, and to re-enter. I missed my exit and tried to take the next one only to find that I had to pay to exit even though the new road became a muddy dirt track immediately. I crossed the overpass and the other side was the same, and I had to pay 50 cents to get back on the road. Except I didn't have the change so now I must send a 50-cent check to Colorado! How ridiculous.
Friday night Eaton Canyon hike at sunset - what a clear day, nice trail. Saturday we went to the LA Natural History Museum and covered about half of the exhibits though some were hurried. More sushi, more yoga and climbing (I'm warming to the idea of yoga but it's still tough to concentrate when just a few meters away I could be climbing - it's at the rock gym). More work, not so much as last month though so I come home in daylight and can commute by bicycle. I feel so much more free not having the car with me. Maybe it's the knowledge that, with my mountain bike, I am never confined to roadways. Also I can pick up my bike and carry it anywhere I can't ride it - can't do that w/ my car. And I can ride right to my office doorway. And I can appreciate the morning sunshine while replacing that 5 minute drive & 10 minute walk with a 20 minute ride. If I ever find myself having to commute through traffic here, I'm getting out of town quick...
It's been a busy weekend again: snake pit Thursday (weekend is a vague term), a migration to the beach Friday evening for sushi and contemplation of wave patterns, Saturday errands and an evening party and a late evening visit to Huntington beach. Unfamiliar with the way to my destination, I navigated south and then Westward by instinct, a road atlas, faint recollection of having been there before, and celestial references. On the PCH I passed the campfires at Bolsa Chica and was struck by the disturbing order of fires, people, and light poles. It was a scene out of Brave New World, the free elements of sand and surf and fire now controlled, the beach fenced off by straight barriers and illuminated by perfectly spaced light poles and the fires each identical in their circular concrete cages, also neatly spaced in straight lines across the sand. And like Aldous Huxley's characters the people swarmed across the sand in clusters predictably gathered around the caged fires and content to enjoy their prescribed evening of fun at the beach. Huntington Beach was farther south but there too the fires were burning, and though they were seventy miles from home on a long dark strip of sand my friends were easily located beside one such encampment. Is this really the future of humanity? Sunday we went to the Getty. The view of Los Angeles is spectacular on a clear day and it greatly improved my understanding of the geography of this city. The Hollywood hills were beside us and I could see the San Gabriels to the East, the San Bernardino Mtns on the horizon, the curve of the coast clearly visible, sailboats scattered on the blue ocean, Catalina Island shimmering in the haze offshore, planes taking off from and landing at LAX, the spires of downtown poking up from the sprawl of homes and warehouses, and a web of streets and freeways fading to the south. The architecture is impressive and the exhibits intriguing though I must admit that I prefer to see them at a comfortable walking pace, no less. I become sleepy if I linger.
Climbing on Saturday, Devil's Punchbowl on Sunday. The Punchbowl remains largely unexplored to me since I always walk straight to the clear cold streams and scramble up the channels and to the tops of sandstone ridges. Elsewhere in the Natural Area, about 75 minutes from Pasadena, there are many sandstone arches. We will have to go back to find them. It's hot here.. high 90sF. I think spring has passed; the green is fading and the haze has arrived. Winter was too short!
Another weekend not working but should have been. Instead Steve & Joanna & I hiked most of the way up Strawberry Peak in spite of the rainy weather. The precipitation turned to stinging sleet on the high ridge and ice began to accumulate on the ground. The San Gabriel mountains are particularly beautiful now since many wildflowers are blooming but winter hasn't quite departed yet: Droplets of water delicately supported at the center of tiny lupine leaves among the purple blossoms were on the verge of freezing, each droplet filled with fine ice crystals that gave them a semi-solid quality. The wind was stiff and our hands were getting cold so we didn't climb the final few hundred feet to the top. Later, as we descended, the clouds began to break up and we could see intermittent views of the valleys below. Weather always makes a landscape appear more dramatic.
Sunday I was introduced to Yoga. It completes this week's multicultural lesson which began with teachings from the Dali Lama on Wednesday at the Pasadena Sheraton, where I happened to be for a training class, and continued with a dinner of pho - the Vietnamese noodle soup promounced "fuh." The spiritual/relaxation/meditation part of yoga doesn't appeal to me but the balance/strength/fitness part does. Before I can make any progress in either that or climbing at the gym I need to stop working 65 hour weeks. That should happen at the end of the month~
Sunday we cycled a 38-mile route around downtown with about 1300 riders to benefit the LA Children's Hospital. It was nice having a rolling street closure - no stopping at lights, no watching for cars. The time change made for a very early morning ride to the Gold Line station and by chance we took San Pedro from Union Station acrosss downtown, a poor choice especially at that hour. Several blocks in particular are the sleeping place for dozens of homeless people and at 7am they are all gathered on the sidewalks, waking from cardboard pallets and tents and heaps of trash. There was an unbelievable quantity of trash strewn across the streets and the smell was awful. I'm amazed at how low people fall when they stop trying to keep a respectable life. Later in the afternoon they have dispersed and the streets are partly cleaned, but again every night the same sorry lot must return. I wonder if it is the distance of separation that pushes people over the edge. Every impoverished place I've traveled to, though pitifully poor, has an element of sufficiency that speaks to the hope of the people who make the most of what they have and continue to strive for more wealth, more security, and more freedom. Seeing these basic purposes cast aside in the midst of a city that is often thought of as the epitome of rich America surprises me but also accents the inequality of the situation. When the gap between rich and poor is great, there is mutual distress and eventually the efforts of both classes will fail. That's not to say socialism is a solution - for history clearly shows otherwise - but it does speak to the value of sharing, educating, dissolving stereotypes and prejudice, and working for the benefit of one's neighbors rather than one's self. I see selfish lifestyles, ethnic separation, and reluctance to change these ways all very much alive here and while I'm pleased by the coexistance of diverse groups I'm puzzled by the way they assemble in a hierarchy rather than an array at equal footing. You people all assume too much and question too little... well anyway, the ride was nice. The weather's too ordinary, the snow is melting too soon, the spacecraft is too heavy and costs too much, the car needs work and the furniture still isn't done, the painting
This weekend: Santa Barbara. A drive up the coast through green hills sporting the orange beginnings of the poppy bloom ended at the waterfront in Santa Barbara. It's a quaint place. All the buildings in town are white stucco with red tiled roofs and fine landscaping. Palm trees sway in the breeze. State Street was bustling with the usual crafts vendors and also with kiosks for the Whale Festival encouraging marine conservation and awareness of issues. We walked out on the wharf, browsed the shops, ate lunch, and then drove into the mountains on the 154. After spring rains the scenery was vibrant green and very much alive. Behind us was the blue ocean and ahead were steep hills and deep ravines covered with tangles of oak trees and soft grass. As we descended we came across beautiful ranches, pastures with horses grazing beneath ancient twisted oaks, and neat vineyards draped across the gently rolling lowlands. We visited a few wineries, the last in the village of Solvang. The "Danish capital of America" is a beautiful village of European architecture, pastry shops, craft sellers, restaurants, and wine sellers. We lingered there as the sun set, admiring the starry sky and colorful lights while munching on sweet pastries. Back in Goleta we acquired 9 pounds of meat and some vegetables, grilled dinner, and played darts and card games until everyone was falling asleep. Every hotel within 80 miles of Santa Barbara was booked but my reservation was still good and we were happily asleep in time to get five hours of rest before sunrise. Home on Sunday.. back to the 65 hours a week spacecraft component design!
30 miles Pasadena to Venice Beach, 29 back, a couple more up the beachfront to Santa Monica and back. Rode through downtown - Joanna knows her way around and what many of the buildings are so I got the tour - and then crossed an endless traffic-choked strip of asphalt to the sea. Lots of people at the beachfront, drumming on plastic buckets or selling incense or performing strange acts for dollars and change or strumming guitars and singing half-heartedly in the hot sun. We ate at an excellent cafe and lingered for a while atop the cliffs in Santa Monica chatting and watching fat squirrels dart in and out of their burrows. Rode back along Venice Blvd and took a different route around downtown through a quaint, older Los Angeles. Found the Mexican Culture Institute - looks straight out of Mexico City - and City Hall and a better way home on the north side of the 110. Home at sunset. Surprisingly, not sore at all from the long day. Better incude some hills next time.
Big Bear has snow but it's 55 degrees. The lake doesn't freeze; the blue water reflects snowcovered mountains that line the horizon. The snow is still icy in the late day shade but for the most part it was excellent for my second time on a snowboard - the first time being same place, 3 years earlier. No problem though: I took the lift up with Steve and Joanna and learned to ride again in the first ten meters off the lift. I do think I prefer skis. A board takes more effort to ride - one can't ever go straight or an edge will catch and cause a tumble. Getting around on a flat or riding lifts is very awkward. It's still fun though; I'd go again.
Joshua Tree: Brilliant stars, abundant meteors, fine weather, excellent scrambling, some hiking, a drive over every major road in the park, a big campfire, steak and chicken, good times. Nice weekend escape. Work's getting busy, very busy. I have a hundred things to do even when I'm not at the office.
San Felipe, Mexico.
San Felipe is about six hours by car from Pasadena and the drive is maddening. It goes through empty and desolate country so lacking in evidence of life that I wondered why I had left the Northern latitudes for such a place. The wind turbines in the San Bernardino pass twirled lazily, some not at all, under a thin gray sky. The Salton Sea was lost in haze. South of the border immense tidal flats merged with the sky in a distant mirage. But as we continued we came upon colorful purple, yellow, and red wildflowers scattered among green shrubs and grasses. Bright blue water appeared to the East and a few miles outside of town we turned down a sandy road and drove straight to the water to watch the sun set.
I found it discouraging to see the crush of wealthy Americans towing trailers of ATVs, driving hulking trucks and utility vehicles, gobbling up gas and beer and fireworks, roaring around the dusty hills and chasing birds on the beach with motorcycles. Indeed I was one of the same, one of the overpowering Northerners able to come and go as I please, buy anything in town, and make Mexico my weekend playground. It must be terribly disheartening for the local people to see. Some of the fishermen now spend their days on the waterfront soliciting tourists: "Hey guys. You want to go fishing? Come, we fish. I have a boat, poles, life jackets." From across the street they would wave and make motions as if reeling in a line. A few bills from my wallet could be more profitable for them than commercial fishing and much less work. Prices across town were artificially high for Mexico, small tacos running a dollar apiece and beers about $2 a bottle. We wandered from taco stand to taco stand, bought drinks, and browsed the shops. During the day we lay on the beach, collected shells, and napped in the shade of the cabana. Monday morning we stopped at the panaderia and bought a bag of breads and pastries. They were the same as those in Mexico City, same as those in Peru and Bolivia. I wonder how these bakeries in Latin America all come to have the same goods for sale.
Mt. San Antonio
The road above Mt. Baldy Village was lined with cars on both sides so it took me 15 minutes to park. Snow-seeking sledders had overrun the hills and were blindly enjoying themselves, parking and sledding anywhere and hitting trees, judging by the abundance of traffic enforcement and parking permit patrols and occasional emergency vehicle sirens. I finally nosed my car into a snowbank with both tires just clear of the white line at the edge of the road and set out on the now-familiar trail to the Baldy Bowl. Someone had tied prayer flags to a limb at the trail register but the scene didn't quite look Himalayan to me. The snow was melting quickly in the sun but patches of ice and snow still covered the trail in the shade. I passed many people descending. Some had dogs, others carried skis, and those who stopped to say a few words seemed to have enjoyed the hike. I raced the sun to the bowl and arrived just as it sank below the ridge, taking with it the afternoon warmth. On a rise protected from rockfall and situated to get the morning sun I found a sheltered grove of trees and battled the light breeze to set up my tent. This time I tied every guy point to tree branches and piled snow against the windward side of the tent, thinking how different a midnight collapse would be from the incident in Yosemite given the snow and cold. As darkness fell I ate and squared away the campsite, cooking in my vestibule and looking out over rugged snowy mountains to the southern horizon. It would be a warm, balmy evening in Pasadena yet here an hour's drive away it really felt like winter. There were occasional murmurs from the Sierra Club hut a few hundred feet below me; I'd seen a large group wearing helmets descend late in the evening and I presume it was a Club-organized climb. I was the only one camped out in the cold that evening though and it was perfectly serene and peaceful.
I made one mistake that night: not cutting a flat shelf in the snow before placing my tent. I thought the soft powder would pack comfortably but the wind crust was enough to give me a slanted bed and I fought gravity all night long. The sound of falling rocks alerted me to the arrival of sun in the morning. I could see trails in the snow where boulders freed from the ice had leapt down the slope. Tea and oatmeal and idle minutes in the warm sun became hours until finally all was packed away and I, armed with my axe, went out to play in the snow bowl. The north slope was both covered with snow and safe from rockfall and here I climbed and glissaded until the hot sun and effort of climbing sent me back for my pack and on down the mountain. I first met hopeful skiers who would climb far for only short runs and then about three dozen Japanese hikers spread along a mile of trail. Back at the trailhead at 11am the mob was arriving once again. Though there was plenty of parking space available a guy in a truck nearly slid into my car while parking. People here don't realize how tires drive on snow - or rain, for that matter - so I can't be upset. I quickly finished chopping my front wheel out of the snowbank with my ice axe, closed the tailgate, and hurried ahead a safe distance from the lurching, spinning truck. Home again where I can spread my tent on the driveway to dry and walk around in shorts. You can't do *that* in New York!
Red Rock Canyon, Strawberry Peak, Bridge to Nowhere
|to the index page|