30 September 2013


Sketches for the month of September were a bit more plentiful, at least in the second half of the month.

Sketch made while at the waterfall in Cooper Canyon.

One while sitting on the breakwater of the harbor.

Down on the beach on a foggy day when we had a massive cruise ship in the bay.

Up on the hillside just after entering Honda Valley as the fog is breaking.

Sitting on Arlington Peak when the water looked a bit low.

Hanging at Reyes Peak again.

29 September 2013

California Science Center

Los Angeles

Deciding to go to see Endeavour doesn't take long. Sung and I arrive at the California Science Center in time for an early showing of Flight of the Butterflies, which is the first time I've watched an IMAX movie and the first time I've watched something in 3D. Yes, I seriously haven't indulged in either of these before. Shuttle viewing is free with the movie. (It is also free without the movie, but they try not to mention that.) I manage to arrive without my camera, so all of these photos are taken by Sung Byun. We park right next to the SR-71 and Sung is already happy he came. It means nothing to me, so he tells me of listening for the sonic boom every day as one of these would take off to fly over North Korea and Russia. We have plenty of time before the show to check it out.

A massive chunk of titanium. Okay, I have to admit that this does look like a pretty special plane. It does Mach 3 and seems to be all wing. This is the training model with room for an instructor as well as the pilot.

28 September 2013

Dome Springs Campground

Los Padres National Forest

We head down the mountain in the morning to join with some folks from Habitat Works and take out tamarisk that are invading the Dome Springs area. There are many invasive species trying to crowd out our native plants, but this Asian plant is set apart by its incredible ability to suck water out of the ground. Although capable of surviving without any water for half the year, it takes up water at a rate far in excess of other plants when it can get it. Of course, salts from the ground also come up with the water and the plant tends to increase the salinity of the soil around it, which is part of why it gets called a salt cedar. The soil becomes too salty for other plants long before the tamarisk is bothered.

To get rid of them, we simply cut off the tops. Unfortunately, they are very good at growing back. Spraying herbicide on after will decrease grow back quite well, but just cutting it a few times in the year will eventually be effective. We head out the back side of the campground to the boundary of the Chumash Wilderness and start our hunt of tamarisk by heading up the drainage.

a dry creek in the badlands
Behind Dome Springs Campground, we seem to be in an interesting landscape.

heading up the stream and hunting tamarisk
The hunt for tamarisk, heading up the dry creek.

27 September 2013

Reyes Peak

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

The 28th is National Public Lands Day, which comes with free entry to the National Parks and free parking in the local forests and quite a lot of trail projects. Finding out about the trail projects is a little hit or miss, but I gather it will likely get better in the near future. I decided to join one that was planning on working Boulder Trail, ending up with groups working a little more trail and removing tamarisk in the badlands.

I head up Friday to camp out at Pine Mountain before the work and hit it a little early to give time to see the sights. The newly paved road feels narrower, but does make travel a lot easier. At the end of Reyes Peak Campground, the tar road ends and it is back to the familiar for the rest of the way. The sign at the end has gone missing and there is plenty of parking around the loop at the end of the road. I note the trail head kiosk is repaired as I start along what is left of the ancient paving that has been preserved behind it. As the road drops and the Reyes Peak Trail breaks off to the north of the peak, I start up the old trail to the peak. At least I try to follow the old tread instead of the use trail that cuts a path up the edge, but fail along the thick layer of pine needles that are worse for walking than shown. After the initial steep climb, the trail settles down as it more faithfully follows the old tread.

a bit of the ridge
Rocks and trees along the top of the ridge.

24 September 2013

Arlington Peak

Santa Barbara front country

Locate the trail head.

Down below the main ridge of the Santa Ynez Mountains that make a backdrop for the city of Santa Barbara, there are a few shorter peaks that jut out. They stand obviously shorter than the short mountains that don't even break 4000 feet in the part behind the city. I tend to think of these peaks in front as, well, not real peaks. I don't think any of them have proper trails to the top. Most of them don't even have use trails. Still a few are named and a few are quite striking when viewed from the city. Cathedral Peak is both, which might be why there is a well advertised use trail that climbs its flank. Being "striking" can translate into "difficult" when actually climbing and this trail and this one is said to be class 2 and sometimes easy class 3 climbing. The difference may depend as much on lucky path choices as on the skill of the traveler. I decided to head up to it and, once there, maybe continue on to La Cumbre above and back down Tunnel Trail, depending on my water situation.

Grabbing a legal parking spot, I pound up the pavement to the trail head and then pound along some more pavement well past it. At the south portal for the actual tunnel, the paving ends. Mission Creek is like a desert wash above the road, so I skip the use trail along it and follow the easier catway route instead. Making the turns to head up Jesusita brings me back to the creek which still looks as though water is only a distant memory. Two trails head up from a dry pool just above the trail. The further one provides an alternative for those going to Seven Falls who do not want to rock hop up the stream. I head up the steeper first trail which provides a bypass of the falls to get to Three Pools as well as the route to Cathedral Peak. It is a quick and steep climb out to a bit of ridge and then generally along it and up.

down canyon shot, the distance looking a bit blue
Jesusita Trail stretches out to the right and a spur of the Edison Catway winds up on the left in the initial stages of climbing up to Cathedral Peak.

Steep climbs alternate with fairly flat segments. The bypass trail splits off on a fairly flat route to the right. Slowly, the various destinations available from the start of Tunnel Trail begin to fall away and the view widens. Often there are a couple of routes to choose from. I seem to tend to the left side routes as I go, sometimes deciding it wasn't the best after all but always managing the route. Sometimes, someone has stuck a load of sticks across the more attractive of two clearly visible routes, including forcing climbs where a walk will do. Turning a corner along the ridge, things start to get rockier and the upper section of Mission Canyon is spread out below. Far in the bottom, there turns out to be water after all.

upper Mission Canyon
A somewhat obscured view of Mission Falls. Tunnel Trail curls around the far side of the canyon.

22 September 2013

Douglas Family Preserve and nearby beaches

Santa Barbara

Locate the trail head.

It seems a good time to greet the new season starting today. Winds have come through and broken up the marine layer to the point that we might actually have a visible sunrise today. I head down to the beach to find out. Thousand Steps is my go-to point of entry. They give a little exercise on the way up and hasn't been under a pile of rubble for a while. They have been drier than normal and only a little bit slick. Not so much that they feel safe on the way down, but better than usual. Their number is far less than advertised, but in the summer the wet steps and close rock walls offer a cool climb. After dusk, their lack of lamps and unwelcoming nature to any outside light leaves them a threatening and cold cave. The last four steps have almost been worn to a ramp by the ocean waves and as fall takes hold, the sand will retreat from the bottom so that that ramp leads to a few foot drop off. No other beach access has quite as much personality as Thousand Steps. Of course, I come here for convenience, not because it threatens to break my neck, probably somewhere just below the landing.

pink sky and a light house
Up at the end of the street where the steps start down and looking west to the lighthouse and Coast Guard property. Dawn has long broken, but the sun is not yet up. The ocean reflects the pink sky when looking at it from here.

15 September 2013

Burkhart Trail

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trail head.

The high desert. While the valleys below swelter, some respite is found in the high elevations. But this desert is not dry and springs abound in its high reaches. This is not apparent as we drive through Buckhorn campground to the parking for the trail. There are no sounds from the creek beside the road and the ford doesn't even have a trickle starting across it. By the time we cross over the couple wet spots by small springs beside the trail, there are sounds coming from the bottom of the canyon. For a short distance, a second trail parallels the main trail with many spurs down into the creek, but following this route while examining below turns out to be too little effort to find the first waterfall. Further along, an unmissable use trail angles steeply back and down to reach the top of the second waterfall. This one is as difficult to get a look at as before, of course.

water falling over rock, almost visible behind more rock
The second waterfall marked on the USGS maps and the only one marked on Harrison's Angeles High Country map along Buckhorn.

a wind of trail as it passes along Buckhorn Peak
A look over the high desert as the trail winds its way along the side of Buckhorn Mountain.

MYOG: synthetic backpacking quilt

There is no getting around it, my sleeping bag is a heavy object in my pack.  It also needs replaced as it isn't warm when the frost starts.  I hiked 10 August days in the Sierras as a 17 year old and every day I looked at the dinky little key chain thermometer as I got up and each time it read 32°F.  This experience has given me this quirk: I think a sleeping bag must be warm enough to spend a night comfortably when the water is thinking about freezing.  The current bag doesn't do that.  Saving some weight and going to a backpacking quilt is attractive to me because there doesn't seem to be a lot of temperature range between too cold to sleep under the bag and too cold with the bag.  Your quilt enthusiast will also point out that all the insulation that you are crushing underneath as you sleep isn't helping any and is therefore extra weight.  This is only mostly true for synthetic bags, and going to a quilt may require a warmer mat.  The sleeping bag can also be more reliably closed against the elements, which will give it a few more degrees warmth, but a quilt can be well closed if you do it right.

The insulation material to have seems to be Climashield APEX or Primaloft.  The first seems to be ever so slightly warmer and needs no quilting other than at the edges, vastly reducing the effort required.  Pick it and there are a few simple patterns, like the Sin50 or this Primaloft quilt, to make these.  Basically, cut two pieces of nylon and some insulation to the desired size, stack them up so the right sides of the fabric are together and the insulation is on top, then sew around 3 sides.  Turn it right side out and finish the bottom and add some embellishments.  It is a really good idea to mock up the quilt first and see if it fits around you the way you want it to.  They tend to come out too small otherwise.  I decided to add 4" to the length on mine after mocking it up.

I see one big problem with the common design.  When I get cold, I will naturally try to pull it as tightly around as I can get.  This will pull the inside against me and, because the inside and the outside are the same size, pull the outside tight around me squeezing the insulation.  So when it gets coldest, I will naturally make it even colder.  No one actually complains about this, but in the spirit of, "If it ain't broke, fix it anyway," I did for my design by adding darts to the outside piece so that the edges are the same length as the inside piece.

I made one with cheap nylon and taffeta and queen sized quilting batting to see if the darting would be effective and try a few experiments with fastenings.  It was nice and roomy and worked well after a couple iterations with those fastenings.  So it was time for the real deal.  This is (though not to scale) what I worked out for my just shy of 5'7" frame (including 1" seams):

Inside quilt piece.  Top to the left.

Outside quilt piece.  Top to the left.

The top is the inside piece, cut from 3 yards of 60" wide black uncoated nylon.  I plotted it out with an 8' t-square and straight edge and some basic math, then used a soldering gun for the cuts.  I then plotted out the outside piece (bottom) which is wider and has two jogs in the diagonal that would otherwise be the same as the inside piece.  When the darts are sewn, this piece has the same perimeter as the inside piece.  This is out of 3 yards of 58" wide bright yellow breathable, water resistant nylon.  For colors, the philosophy is that because black is good at absorbing and radiating heat, it is useful to have some of it to help drying, but on the outside it would radiate away the heat you want to keep, so place black on the inside and something light on the outside.  I think that in practice, this radiation is minuscule while the actual surface that is most likely to get wet is the outside.  There is certainly an argument for all black and my yellow doesn't dry quickly after a heavy dew.

Now cut out strips from the outside piece scraps for draw cord tubes at the top and bottom.  For the top, they should be 2.5" wide and one at 27" long and two at 7" long.  For the bottom, they should be 2" wide and one at 17" and two at 7.5" long.  Sew 1/2" seams on the short edges of all these pieces.  The long piece goes centered and the other two go 3" to the sides of it.  The bottom pieces are placed on the right side of the quilt piece right side down and even with the edge, then sewn along the top edge.  The piece is then folded over and folded again for a 1/2" seam at the bottom.  There should be room all around for the 1" seam for the quilt.

Draw cord tube at the bottom when sewn.  Dart already in place
For the top, put them right side up aligned with the edge, fold over the lower edge for a seam and sew it down.  The other side will be sewn into the edge, but could be sewn down now if desired.

Draw cord tube at the top.  Dart already in place.

Sew the darts by folding the right side together at the center of where the darts should be, then sew in from the edge 1" from the fold for a length of 1" at the bottom and 2" at the top and sides.  At top and bottom, the darts go between the cord tubes.  At the sides, they go at the flat edges on the diagonal sides.  After shortening the sides, flatten the extra fabric so that half is on either side of the seam and sew along the bottom to strengthen it.  Darts at the top and bottom are shown above.  The distance between the cord tubes is now 1".

After cutting the inside piece from the black, there is a strip 6" wide and flared at one end.  Cut this where it starts to flare again for the bottom and cut a second 6" wide strip the same length.  Fold these in half, right side in, and sew the short edges with a 1/2" seam.  Turn them right side out and sew along the length.  This can be a very crude and light weight seam.  The end seam won't still be quite at the end on the flared side when finished, but this is okay.

One thing you see for women's sleeping bags is that they often have more insulation "in strategic locations where women get colder" or similar comments.  Some come out and say the butt and feet areas.  Since I can relate to that, I ordered a yard of 2.5oz Climashield to shore up these areas.  Thru-hiker sent a yard of 5oz which, disconcertingly, was thicker than my two yards of 6oz.  Since they didn't seem to think this needed fixing, I was stuck pulling the stuff in half which is probably not a good idea.  Anyway, with the lighter insulation, cut a strip 19" wide for the middle and 14" wide for the foot.  The foot piece goes 7" above the bottom, below this the insulation will get squeezed when the foot is cinched up and will be seam.  Both should be the right shape for the quilt in that location.  Sew them down along the long edges, but leave a few inches free at the sides.  Newspaper strips can be used to keep the sewing machine from catching on the insulation fibers, then easily removed along the perforation.

Insulation pinned and ready to be sewn along the newspaper.

Cut the heavy insulation to the size of the inside piece or even a little bigger.  Luckily, mine was a few inches longer than ordered since I need 74".  Put that aside and put the front and back together with the long strips of black nylon along the edges, then sew up the sides with 1" seams.  The nylon strips go from the top, but not in the 1" seam, down the edge until they stop and point inward.  The flared side goes at the top.  I made sure the odd seam was facing away from the inside piece.  The sides come out evenly with the darts in place.  I folded back the insulation strips so that they were not in the side seams.  Add the insulation and make sure the draw cord tubes aren't folded up strangely, then pin it and sew across the top with another 1" seam.  It is now quilted at the top but not along the sides.

Turn the quilt right side out.  The empty nylon pieces now stick out.  Pin the insulation 1" in for quilting along the sides.  This turned out to be a rather large headache.  The rationale for not doing the sides like the top is that they will get tucked under between me and the mat and might be more uncomfortable if doubled.  Pin the insulation at the bottom, then close up the bottom by hand.  Sew around the edges and bottom to quilt the sides of the insulation, about 1" in.  This should hit the lines from the darts.

Add in the draw cord so it sticks out one of the holes in the tubes.  Sew it down at the edge of the quilt on the top.  Do similarly at the bottom, but leave ends long enough to tie together at the bottom.  Add fasteners along the edge of the foot until the corner.  People like to avoid zippers because they are heavy and usually use velcro.  I don't like velcro that long, and split it up with some snaps.  Snaps on their own proved not to be strong enough.  Velcro is better, but needs something at the top to help it out.  Hooks let go if there isn't a little bit of tension on them, so aren't reliable there.  I ended up adding another tie to keep the velcro together.  Also add plenty of velcro to the top of the black flaps to close the top.  I sewed 2" bits of grosgrain (3/8" wide) on the outside along the quilting seam at 6" intervals to allow for tying the quilt to a mat.

The flared flap helps keep out drafts and has velcro (loops) sewn to the other side and the seam on this side.  Grosgrain pieces laid flat and tacked down with thread at the ends allow tying the quilt to a mat, further cutting out drafts.

The smaller flap with loops sewn on this side.  More grosgrain is tacked down in matching positions on this side.

Finally, cut matching large ovals, 14" x 12" roughly, from the remaining black nylon and sew around most of the edge, right sides together.  Turn it right side out, stuff it, quilt it, and close it.  This fills in the hole at the bottom and keeps the feet warmer by providing more insulation.  Attach it near the quilting for the foot strip with ties at the corners and velcro at the edges.

The finished quilt.  A flap and grosgrain to keep out drafts and velcro interspersed with snaps to close the bottom.  Some of the draw cord is also visible at the bottom.

I tested it in combination with a R=4.1 mat first at Forbush Flat, where it wasn't cold enough to bother closing anything.  I then trekked out to Sawmill Mountain on a night that wouldn't be stormy, but Frazier Park was predicted to hit freezing.  I tucked in under tarp and quilt wearing my long johns.  I had some cold along the edges until I tied them to the mat in a couple places using the grosgrain loops and some string I brought to do that.  My butt was still slightly cold even though the quilting showed the strip of extra insulation was well placed.  Once that was taken care of, I slept very comfortably, waking up in the morning to find ice in the Platypus an inch thick.  Since Enlightened Equipment (another excellent way to get a synthetic quilt, I expect) use 6oz for their 30°F quilt, this seems like a good performance.

I would still like a little more central insulation.  Then again, the quilt was too hot most of the time for the last hike in the Sierras in July.  Velcro doesn't try to attach to where it is not wanted, causing wear, as much on this one as the mock up, but it still grabs the strings.

10 September 2013

Ventura River Preserve

Ojai Valley Land Preserve

Locate the trail head.

I've been wondering how far the folks have gotten along Camino Cielo now, as well as how exactly one might approach it from the east side. The obvious answer is to just turn left off the highway onto Camino Cielo and start hiking where the road stops. It seems likely this will be someone's gate, since there is no obvious reporting on this route. Then there is Kennedy Ridge, hike 53 in Craig Carey's guide book, a many junctioned route that starts at the Ventura River Preserve and promises only to get close to Camino Cielo. The weatherman was making strange promises for Tuesday to be 9°F cooler than the days around it, making a very nice temperature on the coast. Then I checked what that meant for Ojai and decided it wasn't cool enough yet. Instead, I'd just poke around the preserve proper and maybe get mom to come along as well. She agreed and the weather kindly came in a bit cooler than predicted. We left the much cooler coast with the distant blare of the fog horn for the southern trail head on Old Baldwin Road.

Ventura River flood plain in its summer guise
The Ventura River flood plain with the river and banks unseen beyond the oaks that inhabit it.

We start the hike with the choice of a paved path on one side and graveled fire road on the other. The access path ends fairly quickly and after that, but big wheels can get one quite a bit further. As the path ends, the fire road curves toward the near, eastern bank and a trail heads out closer to the river. We choose the trail for that wilder feel. A couple horses and riders chatting loudly pass by.

row of stones in the river bed
Stone berms are found from time to time in the river bed flood plain.

01 September 2013

Santa Barbara Mission (with PLSS marker hunting)

Santa Barbara

Scanning the map (Santa Barbara 1995 7.5' quad from USGS) westward for more benchmarks, I came upon another mark on the map that I've come to know since stumbling over one of them on Sawmill Mountain, matching it up with a mark on the map, and then looking that up on the topographic symbols sheet the USGS offers. There, the map indicates a meander corner, part of the Public Land Survey System. Here, the map indicates a found corner a short way up Rattlesnake Canyon just feet from the trail. Or maybe it's a weak corner, it's rather hard to tell if it is bold or not. There is another a bit further off Jesusita, but it may not actually have that trail in the correct drainage. The Rattlesnake one was curious since I expect I'd have tripped over the marker already if a marker was really along Rattlesnake Trail, but then I figured out exactly where it is. If it was not actually on the trail, it would certainly have an easily spotted trail to it just as the one on Sawmill does. Just past the creek crossing where the monster greets travelers. This is a spot where heavy use trails cut switchbacks. Among these trails is one that does not cut the switchbacks, but goes up around some rocks and is perfectly placed to be heading to a marker. The thought that this might be waiting in a place so familiar less than a mile up the trail nagged at me, so I decided to go up and see if it was there. Also, Craig Carey just posted another of the PLSS markers on his facebook page not much more than a week ago to remind me how cool they can be.

sandstone monster along Rattlesnake Trail
What's it got in its mouth today? The teeth and pupil stones have been removed and a whole diorama of Buddhas and baskets has been added.