Hanging around Cairns


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As I previously wrote I chose to fly to Cairns primarily because It allowed me to visit the Barrier Reef and join the caving trip to Chillagoe, but as it turned out, Cairns was a pretty neat destination on its own.

I had chosen to save a few bucks by staying at a backpackers hostel and consider myself fortunate to have chosen one that was not on one of the blocks crammed with nightclubs etc. so I was able to get some sleep though like with all hostels there was a fair bit of noise at night. I picked Caravella on Esplanade, the pictures on the website were a little misleading though. The bay is not really visible from the hotel and consists of a tidal flat so most of the time  your looking at mud not picturesque water. It was a great opportunity for bird watching though and the boardwalk the ran along the shore makes a great place for a stroll.

 

 

The unplanned shopping trip I had to make due to my bag being delayed gave me a chance to walk around town and see what was there. I spotted a large colony of flying foxes roosting in the trees near the city library.

 

 

These are amazing to watch not only because of their huge size but their social behavior and the way they interact is very interesting. Just watch where you step.

Perhaps to make up for the fact you can’t swim in the bay they have one of the largest public pools I’ve ever seen over looking the waterfront.

 

 

I went for a walk out towards the edge of town and founf the botanical gardens which was a great spot to spend some time and photograph Australian bush turkeys, flowers, interesting plants and butterflies.

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Then it was back to walking along the Esplanade to find a restaurant for dinner. I really enjoyed Cairns and of course its proximity to the Barrier Reef!

 

 

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Thar She blows!


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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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 img_5492-l  kept me entertained.

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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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 :)

img_5681-x2 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.

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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.

img_5663-xl They really do seem to enjoy seeing who can ‘surf’ the waves coming of the boats the furthest as we go by.

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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.

Weekend BBQ at Cave City


Coulterville

Coulterville

I wouldn’t normally drive nearly 300 miles for a BBQ but when the opportunity includes a chance to catch up with some caving friends I haven’t seen in a while and do some sightseeing well why not?

I loaded the motorcycle and headed north. I took the scenic route, winding my way through the foothills. I finally stopped at Coulterville for a break and a cold drink. I walked around the Historic Hotel Jefferey took a look at the old steam train and various gold rush era things on display. Finally I told the Duke at the Emporium farewell and headed on to lake Camanche to set up camp for the night. It was a busy summer weekend and this is a popular spot so I was not alone but at least I’d be back on the road before the big crowds arrived.

mining equipment

mining equipment

Emporium

Emporium

Camp for the night

Camp for the night

Lake Camanche, water levels looking pretty low.

Lake Camanche, water levels looking pretty low.

I awoke in the morning and turned on my cell phone, figured I’d check my messages before heading back into the hills where I wouldn’t have signal. Just then my phone rang! It was Ric checking to see if I was coming to the BBQ. I told him I’d see him up there in a couple of hours and after a stop at Valley Springs for coffee and supplies I made my leisurely way on through San Andreas and on to Cave City.  Ric arrived a little after I did and it turned out we were the only ones to arrive early. That was OK though as we had plenty of time to catch up and see that the cave tours were doing plenty of business. We wandered over to the gift shop and reminisced about how we’d watched it being built and slowly transformed over the years. They now have a video viewing area and a full bear skeleton on display. We also spotted a couple of deer behind the gift shop.

gathering for the BBQ

gathering for the BBQ

It wasn’t long before others began arriving and slowly we started organizing the lighting of the grills so that dinner could begin.

Matt was doing some last minute prep on his pitch for the Convention in Ely next year and showed us a new promo video he put together which really looked great. I’m looking forward to attending.

Matt making last minute edits

Matt making last minute edits

Deer behind the gift shop

Deer behind the gift shop

Climbing practice

Climbing practice

After dinner in addition to Matt’s video, Dave gave a great slide show on some of his recent cave trips including the Bonne Terre lead mine in Missouri which is on my list of place I’d like to dive someday. After his great slide show there were some enterprising folks who made a squeeze box/obstacle course out of Rons ladder.

Hold your beer or lose your pants, decisions, decisions.

Hold your beer or lose your pants, decisions, decisions.

All to soon it was over. After a good nights sleep in my tent it was back on the road for the long drive home.

Another great weekend in the MotherLode

 

A Walk up Walker Pass


Me and my shadow :)

Me and my shadow 🙂

I picked up a couple of pieces of new gear in prep for a backpacking trip at the end of this summer and thought it prudent to try them out before hiking too far. I knew there was BLM camping near chimney peak so I hopped on the motorcycle (with greatly overloaded backpack) and headed up Kern canyon.

Kern River preserve

Kern River preserve

 

First stop was the Kern River preserve. Here there are many trees along the river so it makes a wonderful place to go for a stroll and watch the birds. Turns out my Dad and James had been amongst the numerous voluteers that planted many of these trees almost twenty years ago!

Humming bird

Humming bird

 

After a short walk around the preserve I continued driving east and the landscape became progressivly dryer.

Arid landscape

Arid landscape

Reaching the turn off to Chimney peak I prepared to endure the next ten or fifteen miles on dirt road.

After only a mile or two though I encountered some pretty deep drifts of extremely powdery sand and decided to turn back.

Road to chimney peak

Road to chimney peak

Getting back on the pavement I continued east until just before Walker pass I reached the BLM Walker pass campground. I parked here and grabbing my pack and camera began hiking up the trail.

Parked at campground

Parked at campground

The terrain here is interesting as the high desert vegitation of the Mojave desert, Joshua trees, cholla cactus etc are interspersed with the evergreens of the Sierras. This year the evergreens were looking the worse for the drought though as many were brown and dying.

 

cholla cactus

cholla cactus

not so evergreens

not so evergreens

 

Joshua trees

Joshua trees

After a couple of miles along the Pacific crest trail I decided it was a little too hot to go further so I made my way back down to the campground.

I did notice a lot of cicada husks on the trees and bushes along the way.

cicada husk

cicada husk

 

Back at the campground I rested up and waited till the sun went down. Meanwhile I spotted a family of quail in the nearby bushes, and a noisy Jay protested that I was resting under his tree!

quail

quail

 

noisy Jay

noisy Jay

 

sunset

sunset

Once the sun started to set I hiked out to take a few pictures then it was time to fix dinner. This was where the new gear came in. I was lugging a new bear canister with all my food in it (hence the heavy pack) and a new wood burning camp stove I got on amazon.

New bear canister AKA bear pinata / toy

New bear canister AKA bear pinata / toy

I barely had enough water with me as hiking in the heat requires plenty of water and all nearby water sources (there’s a spring .3 miles from camp)were completely dry. Some kind soul had left an emergency stash at the campground but I left that alone as people walking in from the P.C.T might be in real need of that water. I only needed a couple cups to cook dinner and knew I could reach somewhere with water the next day without difficulty so I wasn’t too worried. I had 4 liters with me and had only drunk the first 1.5 so that left enough for dinner, breakfast and a little hike in the AM.

The stove performed well though it did take longer to boil water then it had at home, I expected this since I was at higher elevation but I had not realized how much the breeze would affect the stove’s performance (I realized this the next morning when heating water was significantly faster as there was no breeze) So for future trips I’ll be packing a windshield I made from a bit of aluminum.

new stove

new stove

Overall though I was very pleased with the stove, not having to lug fuel canisters around is great and it really is amazingly efficient, just a few handfuls of twigs to cook dinner.

After dinner I spent some time taking pictures of the night sky and used my interval-o meter to try out some time-lapses.

starry sky

starry sky

The next morning I fixed breakfast then hiked over to the pass and up the peak a ways before heading back and loading up the motorcycle to start my return trip. I stopped at  lake Isabella to observe how low the water levels were then took the leisurely route through Havilah where I was given a tour of the small but impressive museum. Then back to 58 and on to the Valley.

The mud puddle formerly known as lake Isabella

The mud puddle formerly known as lake Isabella

One of the museum docents feeding the neighbors horses

One of the museum docents feeding the neighbors horses

 

 

It's not Halloween yet is it?

It’s not Halloween yet is it?

Another fun outing in Kern Canyon !

Los Osos


California Quail calling his heart out California Quail calling his heart out

This spring we took another trip to the coast. This time it was my Dad’s trip as evidenced by our itinerary, Orchid show, visit to a nursery and hunting for a specific type of succulent- a dudlea found in the Elfen forest.

The orchid show was impressive, such a huge variety and so many brilliant colors, hard to decide which to photograph.

Orchid OrchidOrchid show Orchid show

Also since this was our first stop of the day I picked up an excellent breakfast burrito and cup of coffee to start things out while we viewed the flowers.

Next up was a trip out to the Skillins nursery in Arroyo Grande. These are some of the people that we traveled with on our desert trips to Baja so it was fun seeing them again. Unfortunately my parents Prius  decided the steep road was too much and all it’s engine warnings came on. I googled a nearby Toyota dealer who determined it was a coolant pump, a few hours later we were on the road again, yeah toyota!

Skillins green house Skillins green house

in Bloom In bloom

at the Skillins at the Skillins

Since Toyota had done such timely repairs we still had plenty of daylight to head over to the Elfen Forest.

Here I found some great opportunities for pictures , from the coastal waterways, the birds and even the  elfen trees.

water ways water ways

scrub Jay scrub Jay

Dwarf tree in the Elfen Forest. Dwarf tree in the Elfen Forest.

I felt very lucky to get a close up of a California Quail, though I soon found out he wasn’t paying any attention to me so I got several pics.

California Quail California Quail

And we even located the Dudlea Dad wanted to find.

Dudlea Dudlea

So it was a long day but another great adventure.