Funding Cuts for Off Highway Use?

Shotgun Shells Near Lizard’s Mouth

Zeke Barlow of the Ventura County Star writes about a battle over funding between environmentalists and off-road vehicle users. The nub is like this: the Sierra Club wants more money set aside for hiking trails. CORVA wants the money used to keep Hungry Valley and other such parks open. Representative Darrell Steinberg wants to increase fees and keep both sides happy.

Maybe Solomon’s approach would be better. Faced with a dispute between two women over a baby, Solomon suggested slicing the baby in two and giving half to each mother. The one who was happy with that approach clearly didn’t love the baby.

So maybe the question is who really loves the outdoors and who just wants a few cheap thrills? Look at the photo above, taken along Camino Cielo near Lizard’s Mouth and you tell me who loves the baby.

Google My Maps: A Boon to Wayfarers? A Bane to Entrepreneurs?

Google just released “My Maps,” a Google Maps feature that lets you mark and annotate routes and save them as public maps. As an example of My Map’s potential, check out this oral history map of Route 66. (via World Hum) There’s clearly some social bookmarking potential here, for sharing maps and sharing local histories. It looks like a nifty way for hikers, Jeepers, Geocachers, and other explorers to share notes.

The Guardian writes about the dark side of Google’s release–it’s a knock on the head to people trying to make a livelihood from Google’s API.

As an example of what the Guardian is talking about, the very nifty Google Pedometer site now finds itself in direct competition with…Google itself. For hikers the Google Pedometer still holds a slight edge because it measures distances. But Google My Maps lets you annotate waypoints and keeps all your maps together on a handy page.

Grove of the Titans

People sometimes say there are no more unexplored frontiers. Orion Magazine’s April/May issue puts that fable to rest with an amazing story of two botanists who, in 1998, stumbled upon an unmapped grove of redwoods…some of the largest redwoods alive today.The USGS topo map below shows what I assume is roughly the area where Sillet and Taylor found the mammoth trees. The exact location is a guarded secret.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods USGS

From the map you certainly don’t get the impression that this is a dense, wild, and uncharted region. It’s just a few miles outside of Crescent City after all. Now look at the Google Earth picture of the same area:Jedediah Satellite Photo

Supposedly the USGS maps are derived from aerial photographs similar to the above. But it looks to me as if the terrain is entirely different from that pictured on the map–which is what Sillet and Taylor discovered.

Part of the story the Orion article doesn’t convey is told by the Google Earth picture of the Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park below. Look at the clear cutting that surrounds the park. The “Grove of Titans” found by Sillet and Taylor seems all the more precious looking at this picture…another couple of decades of unrestrained logging and those trees would be gone forever.

Jedediah Smith Redwoods Google Earth View

I Got My Mind on My Money and My Money on the Media

Yesterday Norah and I were shopping at Trader Joe’s and we saw a couple of “reverse panhandlers.” A couple of handsome white-haired women, each armed with a fistful of dollars, were standing in front of the store passing out dollar bills. Un-begging. It was a brilliant piece of theater. People were clearly uncomfortable with the gesture, either refusing the hand-outs or quickly passing the buck to a nearby Teen Challenge solicitor.

But the Ventura County Star missed half the story in today’s front page article. Yes, people were “leery of Ventura giveaway” as the article headlined. But they were also leery of the two photographers armed with cameras, tripods and assault weapon grade telephoto lenses.

“What burns me, really burns me, is that they are taking pictures of people who take the money,” said a woman in the quick-check line in front of us at Trader Joe’s. What burned me is that the quick-check wasn’t fast enough for me to get outside and get my free dollar.

I always believe everything I read in the papers. Unless I witness the event personally and then the media gets it all wrong. In this case a couple of heavily armed photographers were clearly part of the event. Is this a publicity stunt? A sociological experiment? Norah and I had no idea that this is what news looks like when it’s in the making.

The Star reporter dances around notions of paranoia, suspicion and strings attached to every dollar bill that was handed out. Some people saw the kind gentlewomen giving out greenbacks and thought that there must be a catch. Well, duh. When you’ve got a ten thousand dollar, 600 millimeter telephoto lens trained on your face there certainly is a catch. You’re not getting your money for nothing and these chicks ain’t free. Your soul is ready to be uploaded into someone’s hard drive…and from there, who knows where. Maybe the next stop is the Ministry of Love.

“I just know that if I take that dollar, Uncle Sam is going to swoop down and grab his fifty cents,” said the woman in line at Trader Joe’s. It was kind of a weird thing for her to say, but I was tracking right along with her. My own mind leapt to Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, how people were put into a Czech prison simply because there was a photographic record of them at a protest event.

Reading the Star article, the thing that surprised me most is that the reporter and photographers were scrubbed from the event. It’s as if they weren’t there at all, even though they accounted for at least half the action on the scene.

Quartermaster Detail: Meal Fatigue

I’ve got the weekly supply-run down to a science. But meal planning has me whipped.

If anyone has any pain-free ways to plan the weekly menu, I’m all ears. I now understand those meal-in-a-box TV commercials where the family has a religious experience at the supper table and the mother is beatified.

Anyhow, here’s how I handle the shopping part:

  1. Make a list of meals for the week. This goes on the refrigerator.
  2. Using SplashShopper on my Palm-based Treo (you could use any Palm device, even a low-cost one), I list all the ingredients for any meal that we haven’t tried before. I save this as a “Quick List.”
  3. Still using SplashShopper, I select Quick Lists for the rest of the week’s meals. This creates a complete shopping list, organized by store, section and aisle.
  4. I compare the shopping list on my Treo to our pantry, cross off the items we don’t need.
  5. I grab three collapsible crates and stash them in my Jeep.
  6. At the store I follow the list, organized by aisle. It takes about 20 minutes to do the week’s shopping.
  7. At the check-out I ask the baggers to pack the crates instead of bagging the goods. No more “paper or plastic?” for me.
  8. I load the three crates into the back of the Jeep. When I get home I haul the three crates from the garage to the kitchen. No more multi-bag trips. It works like clockwork.

Now if I could just get that kind of simplicity going with the meal selection in the first place I’d be in supply-chain heaven. But it’s mentally painful to try and decide who is going to be happy with what, who will be home to prep the meals or to even eat them, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Map Questions

Following up on my original question about topo maps:

Singletracks has a nice review of Delorme Topo.

GPS Tracklog has some thoughts about maps, particularly USFS maps.

The map server that looks most promising is the Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. I can’t figure out what the Vector Data Gateway is or how to use it. (I’m assuming that you can get vector data for use with your own map software.) But the Raster Data Gateway gives you access to some pretty high quality ready to use Tif image maps. The limitation here is the ability of your printer.

Below is a small sample of the Ballinger Canyon topographical map available here. If you squint really hard you can see the off-road vehicle road that begins just above and to the right of the red teepee. Click on the image for a zoom view.

Ballinger Canyon Topo Map


First posted: March 15, 2007 @ 03:21

I’m interested in hearing what others are using for local hiking maps. I’m considering plunking out some change and getting National Geographic’s Topo map software. But I’d like to hear from someone who uses it.

So far I’ve been happy using Google maps to find Jeep trails and National Forest Service roads. In fact, using Google’s map-satellite hybrid view alongside Google Earth you can do some pretty dandy reconnaissance for off-road driving.

But finding good hiking maps online is a little trickier. I’ve got a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer but…maybe I just need to get a good magnifying glass.

Please feel free to post any comments about good trail maps below.

Gear Test: High Sierra Hydration Pack

I love the High Sierra hydration pack that I bought at Big 5 for $25 on closeout. I think it’s an earlier version of the Torrent, but I could be wrong.

The question that’s been in the back of my mind has always been, “how waterproof is the dang thing?” I’ve had water-resistant packs suck up water like a baby’s diaper. And I don’t want to risk my high tech camera gear in a leaky vessel.

To test my High Sierra backpack I stuffed the main compartment and the outside subcompartment with paper towels. Then I drenched the whole thing for five minutes with the garden hose.

Drenching High Sierra pack with hose

The result? Not bad. For the most part the paper towel stayed snug and dry. There was a little “bleed through” from the fabric around the zipper (See orange circle below), but the main pack fabric held up well.

Some water leaks into the High Sierra pack

This simply means that I have to drybag my camera gear if I expect to get caught in a typhoon…or when I’m using the hydration bladder. One other gripe that I have with this pack, that appears to be fixed in the current models, is that it’s difficult to get stuff out of the main compartment when the rest of the pack is loaded.

Cheseboro Canyon Hike

Cheeseboro Canyon Trail

Cheseboro Canyon is part of the Santa Monica Mountains Recreational area, and part of a larger network of clearly marked trails in an open space surrounded by suburban sprawl. You can find a good map of Cheeseboro Canyon here. The area is popular with mountain bikers and equestrians. It is likely to be a speedway on a sunny weekend.

I hiked to Shepherd’s Flat late Sunday evening, sharing the trail with a handful of cyclists and trail runners. The first part of the hike, Cheseboro Canyon Trail, follows the valley floor northwards. The trail is smooth and quite wide with stands of shady oaks.

At about 3.5 miles you come to Sulphur Springs. Here the trail narrows and the topography gets much more interesting. The soil takes on a reddish iron-rich hue and the hills are covered with boulders. You leave the live oak habitat for scrub oak, much of it scarred from the Topanga fire of 2005.

From Shepherd’s FlatCheeseboro Ridge I headed back by way of Cheseboro Ridge. There are nice views of the Santa Monica mountains to the South West and the Las Virgenes Open Space immediately to the East. But at this point the trail itself is a hot, dusty trudge along a service road for the high tension power lines. There are at least three stiff climbs, not something I wanted to see after pounding out six miles.

Next time I might hike in on Cheseboro Ridge and hike out on the canyon trail.

There are a good number of geochaches stashed in this region. I popped coordinates for three geocaches into my GPS, but without a decent map of the area–in my pre-trip planning I did a Google search for variety of misspellings: “hike Cheesebro canyon” and “hiking trails Cheseboro canyon.” I found hits. But no maps.

Suffice it to say that the geocaches I was looking for were not in Cheseboro canyon, but in the next canyon over in the Las Virgenes area. So I came up empty handed.

Because I misunderestimated how long the 10 plus mile “round trip would”  take me, I wound up getting back to the trailhead well after dusk.  Aside from my general unease about Dementors stalking me in the darkness there was a heart-bursting moment when I stopped under a live oak to glance at my GPS.  A murder of crows exploded from the branches above me.

Coyote Walking

Most nights we can hear the coyotes in the river bottom, howling, yipping, cussing and breaking bottles. Some nights we hear them up close to the house, less than 100 feet away in the lemon orchard, ripping, snorting, murdering small creatures with glee.

Last night I decided to drop in on the coyotes in their own living room and let them know I didn’t appreciate their orgies so close to the family home. So I laced up my hiking boots and grabbed my handy Eddie Bauer telescoping coyote whapper and headed for the river.

First thing I noticed was that it’s very hard to see in the dark. Lights on the horizon played tricks with my night vision. Black shadows moved everywhere. Dementors began stalking me just fifty yards from my front door.

Second thing I noticed..I make a ton of noise when I walk. Because sound travels more slowly in the dark the night was very quiet. The only sound for miles came from my fat thighs slapping and my boots in loose gravel. All in all it was like eating Grape Nuts during a lute recital. If anything was following in the shadows I’d be none the wiser. Until it was too late.

Walking along the bank of the Santa Clara river I heard some coyotes barking up a ruckus a few minutes behind me. My tiny luxeon flashlight turned up nothing but empty road. I hoped the coyotes were happy in the arroyo dining on frogs. Rather, I hoped the coyote yipping didn’t translate to “dude! I smell tri-tip!”

Note to self: brush teeth before wandering off into coyote-ville.

Some people have been complaining about the coyote population in Ventura county during recent months. Just wait until pupping time during April and May when coyotes turn surly. More mouths to feed. More mayhem in the den. It would make any sane person want to run out and bite something.

I haven’t seen any particular increase in coyote activity over the past few years. There was a dead coyote in the road about four years ago. All I know is that our garage has been delightfully rat-free for the past three years. I don’t want the coyotes to clear out. I just want them to keep the noise down when the dogs are trying to sleep.
Most wildlife experts will tell you that coyote attacks on humans are quite rare–just three or four in any given year, spread across the entire North American continent. Varmit Al begs to differ. Coyote attacks are at an unprecedented level. Maybe as many as three or four in a single year in North America alone.

But statistics don’t mean a damn when you’re slogging through an endless trail of Grape Nuts in the pitch black with no defense but a telescoping aluminum stick. Half a mile from home I could hear the coyotes getting closer. In fact, they were on three sides of me now.

Suddenly without warning or sound, like the shadow of a vulture crossing a trail at high noon I found myself surrounded by a pack of the beasts, snarling and snapping at my boots.

There was no time to think. I simply reacted. I took my hiking stick and stepped into a kung fu Dragon Posture, using Downward River Flowing in the Moonlight thrusts followed by Mountain Tai Falling into Incense Burner chopping motions. Thanks to my lightning fast reflexes I quickly had the whole pack immobilized. By which I mean that the coyotes were laughing so hard that I was able to slip away undetected.

Next time I decide to confront a wild creature, I think I’ll send an Instant Message instead.

Adventure Hippie

Fake Adventure Pass Ruined

Here’s what happens to a counterfeit Adventure Pass when it’s been exposed to rain, sun and torrential water crossings. It turns into a groovy tie-dye adventure pass. I should keep this if I want to go to the Rainbow Family Reunion this year.

The reason for having a counterfeit Adventure Pass in the first place isn’t so that I can “stick it to the man.” It’s more like sticking it to my Jeep. The rear bumper has a tough powder coat finish that’s almost like Teflon, and my original Adventure Pass started to peel off. Plus it looked like it was starting to fade. So I created a new faux pass for my bumper and I keep the original locked in the glove box. I outlined the steps for making an Adventure Pass here.

Fortunately I made four copies. On my second attempt I decided to run a bead of clear nail polish around the edge of the pass to try and make it more waterproof. I’ll let you know how that works.

I Feel Dirty

Stayed up way too late last night watching archaelogical porn.

I was intrigued by what Jacobovici choose not to show in his documentary (besides any serious alternative theories about the occupants of the tomb) The Lost Tomb of Jesus. Namely, he didn’t indulge in any Knights Templar theorizing that the website for his book dabbles in. He opened the door on this line of thought, however, by seemingly finding the “mysterious chevron and circle” inscribed on an ossuary in the vaults beneath Dominus Flevit.

There was a weird bit of drama wherein Jacobovici appeared to make a discovery in the Talpiot tomb–a manuscript of Jonah, the Old Testament scripture that Jacobovici claimed was the key to understanding Jesus’ ministry. It was weird because the text was a modern scroll buried by Orthodox Rabbis who believe that old sacred texts deserve a burial, yet he seemed to be implying that he just discovered some more evidence linking the tomb to Jesus of Nazareth.

But this theatrical snippet may open the door to something else. Jesus does cite Jonah, twice in Matthew, once in Luke. Is it possible or likely that Simon bar Jonah is not Simon Peter’s name, but a title that Jesus gave Simon, comparing him to Jonah? If that was true, then the ossuary at Dominus Flevit would clearly not belong to Simon Peter.

Kirk Kilpatrick has more to say about the mysterious chevron (which simply looks like an architectural adornment to me, a poor man’s gable with a faux window below).