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NateKat · Friends

Friends

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We took a break from our high elevation peak climbing to spend some time hanging out with Katharine’s brother Rick.  Rick was in town for a wedding and a camping trip with old college friends so we tagged along (because we haven’t done enough camping this year).  It was definitely a change from the backpacking and hardcore hiking, but it was fun to lounge around, eat steak, drink beer, and share stories.

Next time make sure the beer is closer to the hammock

We also had a good time playing with the two dogs and wish we had the time to have a dog of our own.

The night was filled with laughter, acoustic guitar and the crackling campfire.

There was also some Jiffy Pop successfully cooked over the fire by the only two people patient enough to slowly heat the kernels.

The sky was dark and only the campfire lit up the trees until…

The full moon rose above the horizon brightening the sky.  Every once in a while the moon surprises us like this and it takes us a few moments to realize it’s the moon rising.

While everyone else slept in I headed out with my camera to see what I could find.  I found a few lone fisherman gliding through the morning fog waiting for a morning bite.

While headed back to camp I could see a covey of quail feeding under a tree.  I quickly moved toward the tree but the skittish birds took to flight with their characteristic flushing sound.

Once everyone woke up, some helped to cook another gourmet meal on the campfire while others played keep away from a Buckie, an energetic terrier.

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We had a great time and appreciated the chance to relax!

Two years ago we took a day trip to Santa Cruz island in Channel Islands National Park with Nathan’s parents and loved it. The steep cliffs jutting into the blue ocean with sea caves and arches were stunning. We decided we’d have to make a couple more trips to the park to camp, see visit the other islands, and kayak. So in June Katharine organized a big group trip with about 20 of our coworkers, friends and Nathan’s parents for a kayaking trip around the Santa Cruz Island.  The trip started at the Ventura Harbor to take the boat to the island. We were escorted on the way by common dolphins playing in our boat’s wake.

Common Dolphin

After a few minutes on the island we were suited up in sun bleached life jackets, bright yellow helmets and slathered with sun screen.

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We got a quick lesson in paddling, steering, and how to navigate caves without being crushed against the rocks.

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Before we knew it we were paddling out past the breakers testing our new paddling skills.

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Benefits of Tandem Kayaks… letting your partner do the work

Unfortunately the swell was too high, keeping us out of the adventurous caves.  Instead we paddled close to a blow hole where during low tide you can actually paddle through.

This was my first time using the GoPro on the water.  I learned a couple things.  First, make sure the camera is straight on your helmet.  Second move your head slowly. Lastly the water tight housing also blocks sound thus the need for dramatic music.  I hope you don’t get sea sick watching the video, enjoy!

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We did get to go into a large archway that was made from the unstable rock falling into the ocean.  Some of us were a little uneasy knowing that at anytime boulders could come crashing down.

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We then paddled across the open ocean rising and falling with the large waves.  It was thrilling to watch our friends in front of us disappear behind the massive waves then reappear as we sank into a valley of water.

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After 3 hours of kayaking we rode the surf in and turned in our life jackets for hiking shoes.

Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island

The 2 mile round-trip hike has some amazing views of the island’s coast.

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After a long day of kayaking and hiking we headed back home with more dolphins jumping in our wake.

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It was a fun adventure with friends and we are already talking about going back to kayak the caves! Plus do a camping trip… and visit Anacapa Island. It’s surprising that so few people in Southern California know about this National Park because it’s so close and has so much to offer!

 

 

At the very end of April our friends Aidan and Aditya joined us for a hike to bag 4 peaks in 7.5 miles in the Angeles National Forest: San Gabriel Peak (6161′), Mount Disappointment (5960′), Mount Markhan (5742′), and Mount Lowe (5603′). This trail was recently reopened due to a rockslide near the tunnel.

Mueller Tunnel Constructed in 1942

Each peak was somewhat unique; San Gabriel Peak is the highest of the 4 and has old concrete foundations from a fire lookout post, Mount Disappointment is covered in humming radio towers, Mount Markhan is narrow and less traveled, and Mount Lowe has a few welded pipes for viewing other peaks in the area.

Mt. Baldy (future day hike)

Mount Markhan’s trail is narrow and is more of a boulder scramble to the top.

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On the way up an unusual creature crossed our path.  Although they are hard to see these horned lizards (Phrynosoma) aka horny toads are found throughout the southwest.

Can you spot the extremely camouflaged young lizard?! (HINT: In focus just to the left of the stick)

Prehistoric looking creatures

To my surprise we saw two in one day even though we’ve been hiking all over Southern California for years now without ever seeing one.

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Many times when we reach a peak on our hikes we are greeted by these pale yellow butterflies that  fly circles around us.  I’ve tried many times to catch them in flight, but settled for this one resting on a plant, you can actually see the hairs on its back!

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Last weekend Katharine and several friends competed in the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run at Castaic Lake. The race was a 5k course with about 15 military-inspired obstacles along the way culminating with a giant mud pit just before the finish line.

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Nathan designed the Tshirts for team “CGM”

We had all done a little training for the race to get in shape, but we didn’t really run it to finish with a fast time, mostly we just wanted to have fun and enjoy the obstacles.

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The race actually was a lot of fun. The first half had a lot of uphill and a steep climb, but the obstacles helped to break it up. And once we got to the downhill section it was smooth sailing.

Nathan and Aditya stayed near the finish line where there were a bunch of final obstacles and took pictures. We had to climb some walls and wade through waist-deep water in the lake.

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But by far the toughest obstacle was the “slippery mountain” – they coated the incline with soap and you weren’t allowed to use your legs to help you up it at all, only upper body strength.

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The mud pit at the end felt like a rite of passage… There was definitely no way to get through it without getting soaked with mud. Felt like being a kid again!

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At the finish line we all got dog tag medals and celebrated by hosing each other down to rinse off the mud.

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We’re already looking forward to doing the race again next year!

For the last weekend in February we wanted to get another hike in, so we decided to revisit an old favorite and invite some of Katharine’s coworkers along. We met 6 others at the trailhead in Ed Davis Park off I-5 and started on the Towsley Canyon Loop trail.


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We did this hike a couple years ago when were just getting into hiking and really loved it for the nice mountain views, interesting rock cliffs, stream area, and the bubbling pits of tar!


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On this trip we didn’t see as much tar as we remembered from before, but it was still a nice hike and a pretty good work out. We filled our packs with bottles of water (and camera equipment) to increase our pack weight to make it a bit more challenging. The group also went at a pretty quick pace, so that helped make it a good training hike.

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We also saw an interesting red furry ant, which apparently is a type of wasp without wings!

Overall a fun hike and nice to share it with friends. Seems like we will have to make group hikes a more regular occurrence!

After planning months in advance we went to Mammoth with some co-workers for a long weekend.  Sadly the weekend we went there was no snow!  Last year around the same time they had over 15 feet of snow, but this year there was barely enough snow to cover the rocks.

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During lunch we watched a snowboarding competition where they made it look so easy.

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The biggest surprise of the weekend was how fast Mercedes skied even though it was her first time. She is fearless!

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At the end of the day we rode the gondola up to the top of the mountain.

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The view was amazing, but it was unusual to see all the mountain tops without any snow in late January.

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We spent the rest of the weekend watching the NFL playoff games and playing Uno. We also made a stop at the Mammoth Brewing company tasting room for a sampling of their local beer. And we were very well fed… Claudia and Felipe cooked for us throughout the weekend, which of course was amazing.

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All in all we were pretty bummed about the snow, but it was fun to get away.

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As most of you know I grew up in Iowa and every fall my dad and I would go pheasant hunting.  We didn’t always have the best luck finding the pheasants but it was always fun to tromp through the weeds and watch our dog work the fields.  Since my family has moved to California we haven’t both been in Iowa during hunting season for almost seven years.  Every year we would talk about it but one thing or another always came up.  This year we decide to go ahead and book a trip and let everything else work its self out.

Pheasant Walking Along Side the Road

I also wanted to visit Ken and Claire, who I haven’t seen since they moved from Los Angeles to Iowa.  While I was in college I would do construction work for Ken and help Claire organize family counseling workshops.  I also spent my Friday nights over at their house eating pepperoni pizza and watching TV.  I’ve learned a lot from them over the years and they have shaped my career and outlook on life.

While Ken and Claire were in LA they were working on the plans for the house they were going to build in Iowa.  It was fun to finally see their house after years of planning.  One of the incredible features of the house is the hand hewn wood beams.  The beams were made without any electricity by an amish carpenter in Missouri.  The drill that was used to make the holes were actually powered by a team of horses.  The beams look incredible and have an interesting story.

Amish Hand Hewn Beams

Ken is more of a big game hunter, but who can pass up a nice walk through the Iowa countryside?  The past few years have been rough for pheasant hunting due to loss of habitat and poor weather conditions.  The first place we went was our old hunting spot less than a mile from our old house.

Without Leaves on the Trees or Snow on the Ground, Iowa is a little bleak

My Dad and Ken

We surprisingly flushed two roosters within range without a dog but were not able to get either of them.

The second day we went to Highland Hideaway Hunting, which is a hunting reserve where you pay for a field to be stocked with pheasant.  It’s kind of like fishing you know the pheasants are there but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get any.  We were also fortunate enough to visit their pheasant operation.

I think the freed or wild pheasant like to taunt the caged ones.

The red thing on their beak prevents them from hurting each other.  Pheasant roosters have an amazing array of colored feathers.  I recommend clicking on the photo to see an enlarged image.

We also paid for two dogs and a guide which really helped comb the fields and find the down birds.  The guide and dogs were really good and watching well trained dogs work a field is always exciting.  Someday I hope to get a hunting dog that I can train and use in the field but of course that will probably mean I should live somewhere I can go hunting regularly.

During our hunt we asked Ken about the 20 gauge he had been using.  He told us a story about how his dad taught him responsibility and hard work.  When he was pretty young his dad branded a calf that marked it as his.  After raising and taking care of the calf it was sold to market and Ken got to keep the earnings.  He went right to the local gun shop and bought the 20 gauge that he still uses today.

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I am always amazed by how well guns are made, the stories behind them, and the history they carry.  The shotgun my dad used during this trip was mine that I had bought.  During the one month winter break in college I returned home from California and did drywall with my dad.  Most of the money I earned that month I took and used to buy a 12 gauge semi-auto Beretta.  It has been a great gun but also has sentimental value to me as a reminder of doing drywall in the dead of winter with my dad.

Ken and Myself with Our Earned Shotguns

I was really hoping to get more photos during this trip but as I mentioned in my Quail post I usually get caught up in the hunting excitement and the time passes too quickly.  Next year I hope to have the discipline to pick up the camera and get some great hunting action shots.

While in Iowa we also had dinner and brief visits with some family friends where I showed them wedding photos and exchanged stories.  We were only there for a couple days but it was fun to reconnect with a few people and live out a dream to go pheasant hunting in Iowa.  I hope this dream becomes more of a tradition.

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More Photos

In October I planned to go lobster fishing on Saturday evening for my dad’s birthday in San Diego.  Later I was also invited to go quail hunting in the morning on the same day near the Salton Sea.  Of course I had to do both, when do you get the chance to hunt birds in the morning and catch crab and lobster that night.

Quail-

I had to wake up at wake up around 4:00 AM to meet Ken and his friends then head to the Salton Sea.  The drive is about 170 miles Southeast, past Palm Springs, in the middle of the desert.  We arrived shortly after sunrise and headed into the brush to scare up some coveys.

Usual Brush and Cover

Sometimes We Walk Through Vineyards to Reach the Hunting Areas

Other Times We Climb Over People’s Trash

Immediately we could see quail running in front of us in groups of 20 or so.  They were just out of reach, but as we came to a creek bed they took to the air and the morning silence was broken.  Quail love to run and without a dog it usually means they have a 20 yard head start when they take flight.  We put a lot of lead shot in the sky our first sweep through with little results.  Once we broke up the covey, the quail seemed to hide in the brush allowing us to get closer shots, which lead to a more enjoyable morning…for us at least.

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Even though we had seen over a hundred quail throughout the day the heat was too much.  The peak temperature was 99 degrees for the day and I had already gone through 3 liters of water and a couple bottles of Gatorade.  I found wearing a shirt, hunting vest, camel back, and the cotton carrier (camera vest) was too much and didn’t allow my body to cool down.  Toward the end I was dehydrated and tired but not as bad as a couple years ago when I was also hungover.

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I think my new strategy will be take photos ONLY in the first hour when it is cooler and the lighting is better anyway.  This will obviously be hard since I am always anxious to knock down some birds.  When I carry both a shotgun and camera it usually results in fewer and lower quality photos.  It’s also my excuse for my low bird count ;). Next year hopefully we can find a place closer and cooler.

Lobster-

After lunch I headed to San Diego, which was 130 miles Southwest.  I followed Google maps which sent me through Anza-Borrego State Park, a route that is shorter but the roads are narrow and windy.  When you’ve only had 6 hours of sleep, are dehydrated and have walked a few miles in the desert that morning, windy roads are not all that welcome.  But I made it to San Diego and had time for an hour nap before the other guys arrived for lobster fishing.

My dad, brother and I went lobster fishing last year after Thanksgiving.  This year my dad invited 3 of his co-workers to celebrate his birthday and share some the burden of pulling pots.  We had a 6 guys and one brought his young son who pulled his weight- loading the bait, pulling and emptying pots.

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We caught a few lobsters, a lot of crab, a sea slug, a couple starfish, and a couple stingrays.

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It was a lot of fun with more guys, which meant less work but also more stories while we waited between runs.  This year we didn’t get as many lobster probably because it was early in the season and they might have still been molting.  Next year we’ll have to go in December.

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My entire day lasted about 22 hours, included 300 miles of driving, 386 photos, but it was worth it.

More Photos Below

Over two years ago Katharine planned an epic camping trip with co-workers at Jackson Flat in the Angeles Nat’l Forest.  The trip included campfire stories, an insane hike, a lake full of dead fish, lots of food, and memories for a life time.

 

Jackson Flat Group Photo 7/19/2009

After many requests to plan another trip Katharine along with a few other colleagues planned a 2 day 2 night trip in the Sequoia National Forest.  Quaking Aspens was the actual campground, which had large group campsites with fire rings and plenty of hiking and fishing nearby.

Night 1

We all left work on Friday at various times and drove 4 hours to Quaking Aspens.  We took our Outback fully loaded with all our car camping supplies plus a little extra in case someone forgot something.  We had also been monitoring the weather, which was predicting low temperatures around freezing at night.  There was 22 people, 8 who had never camped before, and 8 who had camped once before on the Jackson Flat Trip.  We were obviously hoping for better weather but everyone was excited and it had been planned for so long we decided to tough it out.

As we started climbing the mountain’s winding roads the sun started to set, which wasn’t good since we were the second car to leave work. Soon it became dark and we knew it was going to be interesting setting up tents in the dark, especially a lot of new tents.  Then to our surprise the headlights sweeped across a white patch on the side of the road.  “Is that…snow?!” Sure enough it was and we checked the car thermometer which read 30 degrees.  The situation just got 10 times worse, we had another 1,000′ to climb and we were already seeing patches of snow.  We finally pulled in to the campground to find it under about 4″ of snow.  We got out and found our campsite as everyone started to arrive.  It was 9 pm, freezing, and we had to setup 13 tents over the next hour, on the snow!

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As the tent city was being assembled we also started a fire as people took shifts warming up then unloading gear.  The look on everyone’s face when they arrived was priceless, it said it all, “are we really doing this?”

The worst tent to sent up was a Cabelas tent loaned to Brian from Ken.  It took 5 engineers 30 minutes to set it up and it never really looked quite right.

Worst Tent Ever

Casual Friday’s attire didn’t seem to hold up the best against the night cold.

Steam rising off wet tennis shoes near the fire

Cyrus brought a hatchet to chop firewood which was very useful, entertaining and sometimes scary.

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The alcohol gave us a false warmth in our bellies that we all enjoyed.

 

Nature’s Cooler

Box Wine Being Transferred to a Plastic Bottle…Classy

There was also two dogs on the trip- Dexter & Lola.  This was the also the dogs’ first time in the snow and camping.

Not Sure Who’s Keeping Who Warm

Day 1

 Everyone woke up to a winter wonderland…well a freezing wonderland at least.  The tents were covered in frost and starting a fire was not an easy task.

Everyone chipped in to make breakfast whether it was warming up propane canisters, scrambling eggs, or cooking sausage.

The dog’s also had a lot of fun playing in the snow and yes that is Lola’s lion Halloween costume being used as a jacket.

We decided to split up for the day into 3 groups: some were headed fishing, others wanted to hike to Needles Lookout, and the third group was headed to see a giant sequioa grove. Katharine and I decided to join the hike to Needles Lookout since we just saw some sequoias a month earlier.  So our group took three cars and began the journey up the mountain on a dirt road to the trailhead.  Unfortunately, the shaded areas of the road were icy, the sunny spots were muddy, and the whole road was full of ruts and potholes.  We soon realized the AWD on the Outback paid off but it became difficult for the other cars.  The Audi also had traction but Cyrus didn’t want to risk damaging his car driving through brush and eroded roads.

Cyrus Making His Way Through Some Muddy Water

Having Fun Getting the Car Dirty

We gave up on the hike to Needles Lookout and instead joined up with some of the others on Dome Rock, which provided an excellent view and a great place to have lunch.  The sun was out and we almost forgot how cold it was the night before.

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When we got back to camp the snow had melted and created a lot of mud throughout our camp so everyone worked together to pickup tents and relocate them in the dry grass for the next night.  After a long day of driving, hiking, and gathering wood, everyone was tired and relaxed drinking beer around the fire.

Even Dexter Was Pretty Tired

Night/ Day 2

It was another cold night probably just above freezing as opposed to the previous night of 25 degrees.  We broke out the marshmallows and told stories to keep our minds off the cold.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast and packed up camp.  This was another trip to remember for sure and for all of those who’s first time camping…it usually isn’t this uncomfortable!  Also, Katharine and I realized that we had gone camping 4 times in 2011 and 3 of them involved snow.  Hopefully 2012 is full of warm and dry camping trips.  Thanks again for all of those who toughed it out- it was fun and always memorable.

Next time hopefully Trail of 100 Giants won’t be closed and it will be warm enough to try out the natural water slide!

Check Out More Photos

One week after returning from Alaska Katharine and I started school which usually means the adventures are put on hold or should be.  But for some reason this semester we are busier than ever, even though it’s our most challenging and last semester.

September 1st is opening dove season so I headed to Central California with Ken (co-worker) for a chance to knock down a few birds.  As with most bird hunting we were up and out in the field before sunrise.  Early morning dove hunting is similar to duck hunting where you sit and try to ambush the birds as they fly over head.  We positioned ourselves along a string of telephone poles in a harvested field, overlooking an orchard.  We waited patiently for the sun to rise and the birds to start flying.

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It was still a little dark when we heard the first shot from a group down the road.  Once the first shot is fired I have to smile a little bit since I know the next couple hours are going to be exciting.  I immediately started scanning the horizon just above the tree line.  My finger anxiously waiting on the safety.  Then like clockwork the sun hits the trees and the birds started flying.  I could see the fluttering silhouettes flying toward us, I flipped off the safety, gripped the gun, and waited for them to get closer.  I slowly raised the gun to my shoulder, stood up, put the bead in front of the bird, squeezed the trigger, BANG, the dove folded up and fell to the ground, I put the safety back on, got one!  I Lowered my gun, eject the shell and quickly load another, then walk out into the field and picked up my bird.  The suspense, thrill and camaraderie of hunting gets me every time.

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The last three years I’ve gone dove hunting with Ken and his dad and his two friends.  They are an entertaining group, which I wouldn’t expect anything less from a group of guys who have been hunting and fishing their whole lives.  The stories are endless and hilarious.  The highlight of the trip for me was hitting a true double, two birds with one shot, which has only happened to me while shooting clays not birds.

This was the first time I’ve actually tried to hunt and photograph at the same time.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought since the Cotton Carrier holds the camera close to my chest and out of the way when I’m mounting the gun to my shoulder.  It was a little challenging to switch and clean lenses in the field, but the hardest part was deciding when to put the gun down and shoot with the camera.  I didn’t get any action shots since when there were birds I was squeezing the trigger not the shutter.  Next time I need a better game plan, am I hunting or taking photos and when do I switch between the two?

It was a successful trip all of us getting our limit of 10 dove for the day.  I ended up making a dove marsala with mushrooms, onions, bacon, butter and wine.  The sauce tasted amazing but the dove was a little dry.  The recipe I was following called for an extremely long time to cook the dove, which I cut in half and still over cooked.  Maybe better luck next season.

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