I decided to head out this weekend on the motorcycle and escape the heat here in Bakersfield. In hindsight maybe heading into the desert wasn’t the best choice for this but overall it worked out very well. Early morning riding past Tehachapi was nice and cool and it wasn’t till I neared Mojave that the smoke from nearby forest fires clouded the air.
I continued North up through Red rock Canyon and soon I was riding in clean cool air again though as the sun beat down it was getting noticeably warmer. By midday it was becoming hot so I was glad to take a ride up Whitney Portal road. This very steep road soon had me up at cooler climes and I was able to relax near a stream for awhile. I had intended to pop into the portal shop for a bite to eat but there was a considerable crowd up by the trail head/ parking area so I decided to make my way down back towards 395 instead. Progressing along the interstate it wasn’t long before I realized a. it was pretty darn hot out and b. the air quality was significantly worsening as more smoke flowed out of the forest fires. The smoggy skies did make for an impressive sunset as I passed back through Red Rock Canyon so I stopped for a few pictures and as I headed towards Mojave a gusty wind started blowing which while it made riding a little uncomfortable did cool things off.
450 miles later I was home, a very enjoyable outing.
See the rest of the pictures HERE
Last year I managed a visit up to Packsaddle cave but it was mid summer and I headed up a bit late in the day which made for a too warm trip. Well honestly it was hot but I survived. This year I joined a local hiking group and they wisely headed up early in the morning and picked a weekend when the weather was really very pleasant. I managed to pack extra water and even had some ice left in one of the bottles upon returning to the motorcycle for the ride home.
As evidenced in the photos there was more water present then last year which in turn meant more wildflowers and unfortunately more poison oak but I think we managed to avoid it all.
Hiking across the ridge
Hiking up the hill, if you look real careful there’s people up near the top 🙂
It was a surprisingly large group, close to 30 people but everyone seemed to enjoy the hike and no one complained that I took my time coming up the hill as I stopped to take just one or two more pictures.
Finally we reached the cave. Here I was disappointed to find my flashes weren’t triggering from the radio transmitters but I did have optical slave as an option so I took a couple shots with that and found that my dive light made a fairly good substitute as well.
flash using optical slave in the cave
So at least I got a few in cave pics then it was time to hike back down the hill.
There were still plenty of flowers to photograph on the way back
and I got back to the motorcycle early enough to enjoy a pleasant ride through the canyon before heading down to the valley where it was getting pretty warm again.
More wild flowers
When the local Bakersfield Scuba club was kind enough to schedule an outing during my Spring break from classes I felt I just had to go. After I had signed up I mentioned to a co-worker I’d head down after work Friday and spend the night on the boat, she pointed out the office would be closed for good Friday. I decided to head to Ventura early and signed up for a whale watching trip with IslandPackers the company that also provides trips out to the Channel Islands. After a leisurely start I headed out Friday morning and spotted these California poppies growing way up on this hillside while stopped for gas.
I still made in to Ventura well before lunch time and my 1PM departure time so I stopped and got some lunch then wandered around the shops in the harbor and took a few pictures of the sea lions that were playing amidst the boat docks, also a few sea birds and the pelicans diving into the harbor kept me entertained.
It wasn’t long till it was time to board the Island Explorer and head off in search of whales.
Turned out the seas were a little choppy and folks who opted to stand out along the bow rail got wet as we crossed the deep part of the channel.
We slowed for awhile when a Fin whale was reported to be off the port side but I never spotted it. We then continued around Anacapa Island and along the more sheltered side we spotted several grey whales. First sighting I had for the day was a big tail fluke sticking straight out of the water :)
It wasn’t long though till we also saw the spouts of water being blown in the air from several other whales coming up to the surface.
All to soon it was time to head back to port. We got to pause and admire the numerous dolphins that swim near the islands on our way though.
They really do seem to enjoy seeing who can ‘surf’ the waves coming of the boats the furthest as we go by.
Arriving back in port I still had a couple of hours to kill till the Spectre was due to be at the dock so I decided to wander down to the little dive shop in the harbor and then go get some dinner. At the shop I was lucky enough to run into some folks who had come down from Bakersfield for the trip and we all decided to head over to Brophy Bro’s seafood restaurant for dinner. It being a holiday weekend and a Friday night there was a long wait for a table or even a spot at the bar but we weren’t in any rush and I’m sure the food tasted even better after our wait. After a very enjoyable dinner we wandered over to the dock found the boat waiting for us and a few divers already aboard. A couple of us stayed up on deck late telling sea tales and then it was time to hit the rack and rest up for diving, but I’ll leave that part for my next post.
Earlier this year my parents invited me to go along to Huntington Gardens, this time to attend a special show and sale for members of Cactus and Succulent clubs.
Aloes in bloom
It turned out to be an excellent photo opportunity as a great deal of the aloes and cacti were in bloom.
succulents in bloom
There were special tours of the succulent greenhouses which my Dad really enjoyed and even some for sale so we had to load up the car for the trip home.
The rest of the gardens were wonderful as all ways and we enjoyed lunch over by the Chinese gardens at the tea house.
Also we got to see the fruit of Titan arum, the giant flower that apparently only rarely sets fruit so this was a neat thing to see. the giant red cluster was very impressive.
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum)
flowers by a stream
We also admired some of the planned expansions for the already impressive Chinese Garden before heading for home. I look forward to returning to visit “The Huntington” again.
bird perched by aloe flowers
Leigh in the Cave
Not so windy weekend wandering around wonderful winding passages.
This cave has long been high on my list of places I wanted to visit but somehow my schedule never coincided with a trip. This year I was happy to see that the trip would take place during summer break when I would be able to go.
I was also excited as I haven’t had an opportunity to go caving as much as I’d like since moving down to Bakersfield. It was a bit of a ride on my motorcycle to the meeting spot in Columbia but I made it easy by spending the night in Ceres so it was just a short ride in the morning. There I was happy to see Kip pull up as I always enjoy going caving with him. right behind him pulled in Ben and Leigh who I had previously caved with at Millerton and our fearless leader Martin.
Martin poses beneath some formations
We all climbed into two vehicles for the drive up to the cave. After a short hike we reached the cave. Martin gave us a rundown on the history of the cave. It was interesting to hear it had been re-opened as recently as the 70’s then sealed closed and re-opened again in the late 90’s. Hopefully the current restrictions on visitation will continue to keep the cave in it’s beautiful condition. Speaking of which I had a horrible time deciding where to take pictures as there was enough formations and decorated passageways to keep me busy for a day or two but Martin had said we would be spending 6 or seven hours in the cave and had a couple of projects to complete while there. Once we had the gate open I rigged the rope while Martin got the supplies ready for these projects. Kip climbed down to open the lower gate and we were ready to go caving. Right near the bottom of the drop Ben and Kip spotted a
newt (probably Taricha torosa sierrae – Sierra Newt)
Correction thanks to inaturalist.org I now know it was a Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) both are salmanders but then newts and ensatinas branch from there.
Not a newt- Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)
I took a couple of pictures then shooed him off to the side of the passage so we would be sure not to step on him upon our return. The next main room we entered had lots of nice stalactites and soda straws so I happily set about taking pictures. Martin had brought along string and flags which we used to mark some of the more sensitive areas of the cave so hopefully future trips will not disturb them. We continued to the area of the cave where the lions tales formations are located and I was excited to photograph them. Of course my flashes promptly ceased to function. After a few minutes of fiddling with them I discovered that the batteries in one had leaked, possibly due to overheating on the motorcycle trip up. A quick change of batteries and they still weren’t working. I was puzzled till Martin suggested checking the settings and sure enough during the battery change a flash had switched to an auto mode instead of manual. Yeah I was back in business. I finished taking a couple pictures of the lions tails and then carefully proceeded to a sensitive area where we took off our helmets in order to protect the fragile formations. Returning to the main junction we had a break for lunch then I opted to stick around and take pictures of helectites while the others checked out the rest of the cave. On the way out we stopped and Martin had a final project to complete- the lower ladder had become a little shaky as its bottom support had cracked. He successfully drilled a hole in the ladder and support then connected them securely with a bolt.
Kip admiring stalactites
After exiting the cave, securing the gate and returning to Colombia we realized it was too late too make it to the restaurant for dinner and as both Martin and I had lengthy drives ahead of us we all loaded up in our respective vehicles and headed for home. Another great trip in the Motherlode.
Arriving at Columbia on my Motorcycle