to the index page
Notes and Photos, Summer 2004:.

June 15, 2004:
I'm an inland Northeast native so hiking on the California coast has always had a surreal romantic appeal to me. The surf crashes on cliffs, mist rolls in among the rugged hills, the sunset splashes color across the horizon, and the weather is always beautiful. Stands of kelp shift purple hues among the ripples in clear blue water offshore. Steve and Joanna and I camped atop a thousand foot tall cliff, laying our sleeping bags in the grass and watching meteors flame across the galactic splash of stars. The fog we'd seen creeping in at sunset covered the ocean and when the sun burned through in the morning, we found our shadows surrounded by rainbow halos as if angels were standing in front of us.

On the Gulf coast I found crawfish, catfish, jambalaya and more tasty cajun foods than I could eat. We drank from mason jars and talked about the thick humid air and warm rain and flickering lightning before catching a plane home, having completed our business at Johnson Space Center. I'll be back in a couple weeks for more of those bacon wrapped jalapeno cheese stiffed shrimp. We are preparing a test for NASA's KC-135 microgravity experiment aircraft and went down for hypoxia training. Seated in a steel walled chamber wearing aviator oxygen masks, we were decompressed to a pressure found at 25,000 feet and allowed to breathe without oxygen for up to 5 minutes. During that time some people turned pale or blue or became dizzy but I noticed few symptoms; we were after all sitting motionless. After repressurizing, we did a rapid decompression as one would experience in a bursting airplane. The airline safety videos don't show the sudden opaque fog (at least in humid Houston), the swirling vortices that pick up papers, and the drastic drop in temperature that accompanies such a large pressure drop. It's a bit uncomfortable for the ears too.

The preceding weekend I decided to hike in the sierras. I didn't start driving north until after midnight Friday night due to a late running birthday dinner (at a fondue restaurant, where I felt compelled to wait for the chocolate course) and so I only got 4 hours of sleep at Red Rock Canyon. In the morning I drove to Lone Pine, got a permit, drove to Horseshoe meadows, and hiked in to the Cottonwood Lakes. I was feeling great and hurried ahead, kicking my way up a 400 foot tall snow chute to the pass and turning toward Langley peak. But as I went higher I became sicker, partly from the fast ascent but mostly from dehydration and a nasty sunburn from climbing in the snow chute, and 500 feet below the summit I realized that I simply couldn't go any higher. I would take 8 steps and my pulse would double. I was too tired to move. I cooked dinner and admired the mountain vista and considered how it was good to find my limits now and then just to know that I was living as much of life as could be. I descended to about 12,000 feet to sleep, high enough that the mosquitoes were tolerable. I found that as long as I stayed inside my too-warm sleeping bag, my infrared visibility was low and they bugs stayed away (my sleeping bag skin was quite cool). But if I sat up for just a moment, the insects would arrive in clouds. Between the rocks, heat, and lack of water I didn't sleep well, but I made it safely down the snow chute and out to the trailhead. Stopping in Tehachapi on the way home, I visited AnneMarie and Tom (friends from school). We hiked a ways up the PCT and were blasted by wind the entire time. It was a steady 25-30 mph, I guessed, and it howled through the wind turbines feeding power to hungry California.

I flew home for the long weekend, bringing in cool clear weather from the West much to the delight of everyone. The cool mornings kept the bugs away so I hiked, canoed, and fished happily. The orchids were blooming, everything was brilliant green, and the sky was baby blue with puffy white fair-weather clouds that never form on the California coast. Little seems to change there so I quickly caught up with friends around campfires. People are home from school for the summer, or returned having graduated, looking for work and lamenting how few opportunities there are. The towns are gradually absorbing urban troubles from the cities; I wonder whether they're destined to become past-prime puddles of humanity or if they will revive to become attractive rural hamlets to where successful people retreat from their hectic city jobs.

Been puttering around the house lately, around the town, getting stuff done like that furniture I've been building and work projects and climbing and some hiking, biking to work, escaping from work for an afternoon at the Huntington library - a lovely place especially the Japanese gardens and the Palm garden, I think. Claire and I went for tea and a buffet of tiny sandwiches and fruits and sweets English style but, as was pointed out to me, in American casual buffet quantity rather than proper English setting. I was perfectly content to have the buffet rather than proper English starvation rations. Bread without crusts is for weaklings, though the food was tasty! I was proud of myself: I was able to identify most of the cheeses.

    Housatonic River, MA     fishing on a Sunday afternoon     my home range     new home range, cottonwood lakes     looking south towards cirque peak and olancha     sun cups     view from my sleeping bag     windy tehachapi, looking towards Mojave     mike and sean in aviator masks before hypoxia training     sleepy travelers     hiking by the sea

    at the edge     joanna cooking dinner     evening quiet time     setting sun     camp far below     sunset silhouette     precipitous site     see the halo?     misty campsite     sunset     halo - by joanna     group shot     steve with the lady     dinner time - by joanna     dinner time - by joanna     me paddling on castaic lake     almost quiet cove, castaic     reading time     the busy landing, castaic lake
to the index page