Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Walking With the Dead....Almost... Revisited

A few years back we wrote a piece about Halloween - the idea came when we traveled to Ireland and spent some time in Dublin among other places around the Emerald Isle. So many of our readers with this blog liked it we decided to bring it back for another look. A revisit if one may say?

Hope it is as popular the second time around as it was the first.

By the way - HAPPY HALLOWEEN from J and L.

Walking with the Dead...Almost

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Paddling For Your Life

An overview of Bahia de Los Angles and  Isla Angel de la Guarda 
In 1993, I (or more precisely, J, of J and L) was kayaking off the coast near the sleepy village of Bahia de Los Angles, approximately 417 miles south of San Diego in the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California). I had been on the road a couple of weeks, kayaking up and down the beautiful, but deserted coastline of Baja.

Bahia de Los Angles on the Sea of Cortez
Traveling by himself during the age of the dinosaur, before cell phone use was common, no one knew of his exact location. Of course, I knew where I was, but without contact of any sort with the outside world, I was not aware that a potential monster of a storm was brewing directly south of Cabo San Lucas.

Cabo San Lucas was getting slammed before John knew about it
One exceptionally gorgeous and calm summer day, I struck out from the coast in my 15-foot sea kayak and headed toward Isla Angel de la Guarda – about 27 miles east of Bahia de Los Angeles through the bright blue waters.

Who wouldn't want to go to this island? 
Being younger, and not much brighter than I am today, I didn’t bother to wear a life jacket. A seasoned kayaker, sea, river and lakes, I just thought that this beautiful morning while the gulf was like glass, it would be an easy paddle to the island where I had planned to camp overnight.
Things didn’t turn out as planned – as is often the case with best laid plans of men.

Unbeknownst to me, churning up the Sea of Cortez was Hurricane Calvin, while I sat in my kayak paddling calmly across the smooth seas enjoying the serenity and beauty of the bay. Two hours later things changed drastically. I noticed the surface was getting a little rough and my paddling efforts were sluggish. The smooth glass had turned to large rippling waves.

Not a place to be in a kayak by yourself or even with others!
Determining that I had traveled 8 to 10 miles out from the coast, I cast a look far south down the gulf and saw a wall of black approaching rapidly. The winds had started to pick up as rain began pelting my face and arms sideways. Suddenly lighting was striking down from the heavens nearby. The ocean was no longer the place to be sitting in a small craft.

Being without communication, I had not realized that a hurricane had made landfall in Cabo San Lucas before heading northward – right at me. But I did understand that I was for in a world of hurt.
Realizing that reaching the island, which was still a long way off, was rather doubtful, I spun the kayak and paddled like hell toward the mainland. Within twenty minutes the calm sea broiled into swells five or six feet in height. I paddled with all my strength, forcing the little yellow kayak up the face of a wave, only to slide into the trough below, several times submerging into the foaming waters. Once or twice, the kayak was hit by an unexpected and unseen sideways swell, nearly capsizing as I paddled now for my life.

In a hurricane ,the waves come from every angle - hold on!

It was at about this time that I realized that the next time I decided to kayak – if of course there were to be another paddling adventure – I’d prefer to be wearing a life vest. Just in case!
Nearly eight hours later, shore came into view and with a rather undignified and painful landing on the beach, I gratefully touched land once more.

Shivering and exhausted, I took shelter in the bed of my truck while the winds tried desperately to tear the camper shell from the truck.
An hour later the sun was out and everything began to dry out from the drenching the arid desert had received.

So, the point of this blog? Well, there is a bit of a moral to this story:

One, be prepared whenever going out on the ocean or any body of water for that matter. Two, make sure someone who cares about you knows your exact location in case you don’t show back up – at least some sort of rescue could be attempted. Three, always wear a life jacket – being separated from your boat but floating face up is better than being separated from your boat and floating face down. Four, always check the weather conditions before exploring the waters or embarking on any adventure for that matter. And finally, don’t paddle alone. Always have a companion or two with you while paddling in any body of water – accidents can (and do) happen and the unseen can capsize a boat, even in calm waters.

Be safe and use caution as the guiding principal.

Having grown older, wiser, and having learned my lesson, I recently paddled off shore from Grace Bay in Providenciales, in Turks and Caicos, to the reef about a mile out. Bight Reef, also known as Coral Gardens, is an incredibly beautiful place to snorkel and paddle to but again one needs to be watchful, as the reef is home to not only a plethora of species of coral and fish, but also sea turtle, shrimp, lobsters, stingrays, moray eels and the occasional nurse shark.

It was a just couple of days after Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle, and though these Caribbean islands were not in harm’s way, the weather was a bit unstable. Thinking I could handle a short little jaunt on my own in the kayak, I headed down the beach. Suddenly, a still voice told me to text my wife. Although she was thousands of miles away on business, I thought that perhaps I should let her know where I was and what I was doing. See, I had learned my lesson. The voice in the back of cranium also suggested that it would be a good idea to reach for a life-jacket.
Glad that I listened to that voice. The waters grew rougher as the day progressed, but it was worth every sore muscle. Perhaps a few pictures can explain it better.

So, yes, do go explore and be adventurous, but always remain cognizant of your surroundings and put a thought or two into personal safety. A bit of common sense that perhaps I sometimes lack – but then again I’m a professional adventurer. Still, we at J and L wouldn’t want that next adventure to be the last adventure.

For a closer look at the adventure, click here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hot Creek

Overlooking Hot Creek - near Mammoth 
There is a spot in the middle of beautiful valleys brimming with life that is a must-see for anyone exploring Highway 395 in central California. Approximately twenty minutes south of Mammoth Lakes, a bubbling cauldron of steaming water draws visitors year round. This geological wonder is the home of Hot Creek – a hydro-thermal system of water which percolates from the bowels of the earth on a journey to reach the surface of the earth.

Inviting but don't take a chance - may be your last 

 According to the United States Geological Survey, this meandering trip through underground conduits takes up to a thousand years. With temperatures below the surface at over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it is a place of wonder, albeit with built in dangers. It is easy to understand the desire to stick one's toes in the colorful pools, but that is where death may lurk in the scalding depths of the aptly named Hot Creek..

Beautiful view from atop at the visitor's overlook
Over the past several years, fourteen people have died daring to venture into the pools according to Atlas Obscura. In fact, there are signs posted alerting visitors to the risks. In fact, as recently as 2006 the water in the pools started to geyser, sending temperatures soaring and adding additional risks of scarring or other bodily harm, should a person be struck by the droplets or accompanying steam vents. In June of that year, signage was posted for the entire area that no swimming was allowed. In February 2016, the pools and surrounding waterways were fenced off completely and an old wooden ‘viewing’ bridge was dismantled which had offered up close and personal views of the pools.

The creek actually begins a few miles away where it is known as Mammoth Creek in the eastern Sierras. The waterway then cuts and dodges around the land flows and into the Long Valley Caldera. There it is joined by warming geothermal waters near the Hot Creek State Fish Hatchery and finally turns into Hot Creek Gorge, where the afore-mentioned pools are located. Eventually the waters flow south, cooling along the way into the Owens River as it empties into Crowley Lake.

There are still many explorers who come to marvel at the beauty of the pools and still more fly-fishermen who enjoy the pastime of catching an elusive fish who not only survive the warm waters but seem to thrive. Miles of hiking trails offer fabulous views of the Sierras and Owens Valley making the expedition every so much more enjoyable. Of course, there is hunting and off-roading – making the area a virtual outdoor person's Heaven.

Hollywood in the yesteryear took notice and filmed such movies as ‘True Grit’ and "North to Alaska' starring John Wayne, as well as both ‘Nevada Smith’ starring Steve McQueen, and ‘Shoot Out’ starring Gregory Peck in this unique biome.

J and L had been invited to join a camping expedition on the Owns River by their friends Bill and Becky Daugherty, and they were glad they agreed. Three days of moderate weather and very chilly nights  – at dawn, the thermometer read a chilly 14 degrees. Yow! But the mid-September afternoons were pleasant and pushed the mercury near 70. Important note: when camping at over 7,000 feet, one must take into consideration how quickly the weather can change. That is ever so clear in the shadows of the Sierras.

The researchers excited about finding fish near the hot spots

Weather good or not – a great time was had and the research into the Hot Creek area as well as the personal exploration was perfectly satisfying. A simple three and half hour drive put J and L into some of the most gorgeous territory in California. Nearly in out backyard, as we often say....

And isn’t that what traveling is for?