Out the Gate

10 of us, members of BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers), met at the boat ramp at Horseshoe Bay near the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The plan was to paddle out under the Golden Gate Bridge, along the shore and then to cross over to the south side for lunch at China Beach. Our adventure started with a safety talk where we reviewed our plan and checked our radios. We were on the water at 11 AM. There was a tongue of fog lingering under the bridge, but that just added to the sense of adventure.

As we passed Lime Point and headed under the bridge a swirl of water caught me and tried to spin me around, but I had been watching the water and corrected my course. The active water just adds to the fun. Then it was out along the shore towards Point Diablo.

Before crossing to the south side one of our members contacted Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) to make sure we would be clear of any shipping traffic. With no anticipated ship traffic, we gathered in a tight pod to cross the shipping channel. As we entered the more exposed water, we started to feel the swell moving us up and down. There was enough wave action to so that boats on the opposite side of a wave would disappear out of sight, and the waves seemed to be a bit steep, perhaps due to the wind and the current coming from opposing directions.

The current was apparently taking us further out the gate then we had planned, and we had a couple of paddlers experience some sea sickness. One has to temper the current predictions with the fact that this year there is a tremendous amount water coming down the river into San Francisco Bay. This accentuates the ebb. We put two boats on tow lines to move things along. It was a workout making way to China Beach. It was 2 PM when we landed on the beach for lunch.

After a quick lunch we were back on the water heading for the south tower of the bridge. We gathered up in the calm water of an eddy behind the tower. There we contacted VTS again and learned that a container ship was approaching the bridge. We held up for the ship to pass. Then we put our paddles in the water to get across the shipping channel. As the ship passed, we were met with the wake, a steep wave. Punching through the wake felt like punching through surf. Having crossed the bay again we headed for our launch site. Once we were back on the beach, we all agreed that it was an epic adventure. We logged 12.5 miles. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Ansel Adams at the de Young Museum

In the summer of 1980, I had to opportunity to participate in the last photography workshop Ansel Adams taught in Yosemite. Needless to say that was a key steppingstone in the path that led to where I am today. So, when I saw the announcement that the show Ansel Adams in Our Time was up at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, I put a date on my calendar.

This turned out to be quite an extensive exhibit with over 100 of Adam’s prints. It also includes the work of others 19th-century landscape photographers, such as Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, and contemporary artists like Trevor Paglen, Will Wilson, and Catherine Opie. It is interesting to see how contemporary artists treat some of the grand landscapes of Yosemite. We spent a good 2 1/2 hours in the exhibit, and that didn’t even seem like enough. The exhibit goes through July 23. Well worth the visit.

Back from Baja

We arrived home on the afternoon of March 28 having logged 3012 miles over the course of 23 days: three of us, Joann, myself and our dog Carson. We were a little concerned about taking the dog, but Baja turned out to be quite dog friendly. Along the way we had some amazing adventures which I will share in the days ahead as I sort through the many photos I captured.

Before we could obtain our Mexican Tourist Cards (FMM) we had to make a stop in San Diego to renew our passports. If you are planning on traveling to Mexico, check your passport. You need to have at least three months on your passport to apply for an FMM. We discovered this just a few weeks before our trip and we had to scramble to get our passports renewed.

On the trip south we decided to take a quick detour to Anza Borrego to check out the wildflowers. We were not disappointed.

Our traveling rig consists of a Fourwheel Pop-Up Camper on a Toyota Tacoma. The camper is outfitted with a refrigerator, heater and cook top. There is no toilet or shower on board, but we’re comfortable taking a shovel out in the woods (or desert) if we are boondocking or taking advantage of facilities including showers in established campgrounds. We also have the rig set up to carry two kayaks.

For planning, both prior to the trip and on the road, we used the app iOvelander for locating facilities and Maps.Me for route planning. We discovered a hack that let us import the iOverlander pins into Maps.Me, which proved to be quite useful when we were offline without cell phone signal or Wi-Fi. We also found the Baja California Road and Recreation Atlas from Benchmark Maps useful as well as Google Maps, when we had a cell phone signal.

And of course, sharing travel information with fellow travelers is also fun and informative.

Some of the highlights along the trip included a fabulous lunch with a bottle of wine at Encuentro Guadalupe shortly after crossing the border, camping in the cactus gardens near Catavina, and whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon.

We had our share of fabulous sunsets and sunrises and we managed to get our kayaks on the water at Bahia Conception and Gonzaga Bay.

Over the course of the trip, we spent 23 nights in camper. The southern most point in our trip was Playa Coyote on Bahia Conception. Three weeks is just not enough time to see much of Baja. We’re already thinking about our next trip. On a couple of nights, we were happy to have the camper as protection from fierce winds. Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more in the days ahead.

Bahía Concepción

Today we arrived at Playa Santipac. At the gate we paid 200 pesos for one night thinking we would move on the next day, but we ended up spending two nights. The campground was fairly busy, but we did find a suitable site with a palapa about 1/2 mile down the beach.

Playa Santipac is a popular spot for big rigs but also suitable for smaller rigs and tents. We had fun visiting with fellow campers that were walking along the beach, many of them from Canada and other northern locations that come down to Baja for several weeks or more. One of the joys of traveling is hearing people’s stories. Everybody on the road seems to be quite friendly and happy to share information.

There is no running water at the campsites, but vendors will drive along the beach in the morning and provide you with a blue barrel with as much water as you wish for a small fee. There are also vendors selling fresh fish, and a variety of other things. We bought water to use for washing since we wanted to conserve the water we had on board for drinking and cooking. We also bought some fresh halibut which served us for a couple of dinners as well as a hammock and some carrot cake.

We did manage to get our boats on the water, paddling out from the beach and around several islands. In one of the photos, you can see Joann in the little wooden boat with a line of RVs on the beach in the background. The beach at our campsite was quite shallow at low tide, so we ended up dragging the boats until we had enough water to paddle. If I had been paying attention, I would have given priority to a campsite further west where the beach wasn’t quite so shallow.

After a few days of dry camping it was nice to have a shower, even if it was just pouring a bucket of cold water over my head. For lunch we walked down the beach to Amando’s, a rustic shack on the beach with delicious seafood tacos.

After a couple of days at Playa Santipac we moved on the Playa Coyote. This is a popular spot. We pulled into the campground at 10:30 in the morning and found the last open site. We were surprised to discover that the campers next to us were kayakers, fellow members of BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers). We pooled our resources for dinner. I fired up the Dutch Oven and baked up some Halibut. In the morning we paddled together around Isle Coyote. It was a gorgeous day to be on the water and the flat calm gave us the opportunity to look below the surface. We saw many sting rays.

And talking about sting rays, I managed to step on one. Ouch! Before we launched our kayaks, I was tossing the ball for Carson and the ball went in the water. Carson wouldn’t go in the water to get it, and while the water was only six inches deep, I forgot to do the sting ray shuffle. Fortunately, I was wearing sandals and after a little first aid I was on the water paddling. I think I was quite lucky, since sting ray wounds can be very painful.

While we did have thoughts of driving further south to Loreto, Playa Coyote was such an idyllic spot we decided to spend time here rather add more miles to our trip.

More photos of Bahia Conception are available in an online gallery.

Whale Watching: San Ignacio Lagoon

We made reservations ahead of time to go whale watching on San Ignacio Lagoon with Antonio’s Ecotours. We arrived on the afternoon of March 14 and set up camp, which means just putting the top up on the camper. The drive from San Ignacio is 48 km with 17 of it on gravel. Our rig handles the gravel road just fine, although we did hear comments about the washboard road from people in passenger vehicles.

Our campsite was on a bluff overlooking the lagoon. There was one other campsite occupied when we arrived. We had reservations for two nights camping and the whale watching tour. We had reserved an afternoon whale watching tour on the 15th. Upon arriving, though, we discovered that we could join an earlier whale watching tour, so we signed up for the 8 AM tour.

Camping facilities at Antono’s are rather spartan. There is no electricity or water at the sites. There are composting toilets and a solar heated bucket shower. The staff is very friendly and accommodating. There are also a number of small cottages available to rent. We had dinner in the restaurant with live music before dinner.

While enjoying the view from our campground we were entertained by a pair of Osprey that were wheeling around just overhead.

In the morning we were at the camp headquarters at 7:40 to get outfitted with life jackets. Then we climbed aboard one of the pangas for the 20-minute ride to the whale watching location. I had both my Sony RX100 and a GoPro with me to document the event. Here’s a short video:

It’s just simply amazing to be sitting in one of these small boats with the Grey Whales cruising by, most often pairs with mothers and calves. They will occasionally come up so close to the boat you can reach out and touch them. In the morning, with the sun shining, the spouts would create rainbows. We spent 90 minutes with the whales, and then it was back to land. It’s astounding to think that while we were here as friendly observers, 150 years ago these animals were hunted.

Watching the sun set over the lagoon was beautiful.

Catavina: Cactus Wonderland

We wanted to spend two nights in the vicinity of Catavina. The Cirios and cactus here are fascinating and, along with the rock formations, I thought this would be rich with photo opportunities. I figured two nights would give us opportunity to experience two sunsets and two sunrises and time to explore the cave paintings.

There are plenty of places to boondock in the desert here. We picked a spot that iOverlander identified as “Cactus Wonderland.” We found one other camper here, but we simply drove around to the other side of a rock outcrop and found a quiet spot to camp.

The next morning we walked to the cave paintings. Rather than walk on the highway, we decided to follow a dirt road that appeared to parallel the highway. This worked for a while until we started heading away from the highway. Using a GPS track on my phone from a previous trip, we were able to make our way over some rocks and head in the direction of the cave. Going over the rocks we encountered a rattlesnake hidden in the rocks. He let his presence be known with an alarming rattle.

We kept our distance and continued on to the cave. The cave is a bit of a climb up from the road and the parking area. We were happy to spend a few minutes in the cool respite of the cave since we were feeling the heat of the desert on the hike. As the crow flies, the walk to the cave was just over a mile. We managed to turn that into a four-mile round trip hike with our meanderings.

True to expectations, this area provided many fascinating photo opportunities. The Cirios, or Boojum trees, sometimes called Doctor Seus trees, were quite interesting and fanciful. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Baja Bound

Today is my birthday. Birthday number 73. We’re headed to Baja California, the three of us: my wife Joann, our dog Carson and myself. My birthday wish is to see a rainbow. So, as we are headed south on I5 near Firebaugh, there it is, a rainbow off to the east. That has to be a good omen for the start of our 23 day trip. Of course, we have to find an off ramp to get off the highway to take a photo.

We make our first overnight stop at Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area. Not a bad spot for an overnight given the lack of camp sites along our route. This time of year, finding a site in not a problem, but in summer this can be quite a popular spot.

The next morning, we broke camp and hit the road. We needed to stop in San Diego to renew our passports and since our appointment with the passport agency is on March 8 we discovered that we have an extra day. This gave us the opportunity check out the wildflowers at Anza Borrego. The campground at Borrego Palm Canyon was full, but we managed to boondock at Peg Leg Smith, a popular spot for boondocking, and this turned out to be quite close to some of the better flower displays.

Also enjoying the flowers was this painter Stephen Stauffer who spends his time traveling the country and painting.

From Anza Borrego it’s a two-hour drive to San Diego, where we had booked two nights at Campland on the Bay. Campland turned out to be quite a comfortable place to camp even though it is an RV park.

On the morning of March 8 it was an easy matter to break camp and head to downtown San Diego. We were at the San Diego Passport Authority well ahead of our 8:00 AM appointment, and already there was a line. With our applications submitted we drove over to Fiesta Island where we took Carson for a walk at the Fiesta Island Dog Park and then launched our kayaks for a paddle on Mission Bay. Later in the afternoon we returned to the passport agency to pick up our passports. Rather than go back to our campground for dinner we discovered the Pacific Beach Fish Shop that had excellent fresh fish. Then it was back to camp, to get an early start crossing the border.

Ferry Point to Point Isabel

When we arrived at the parking lot at Ferry Point, we were amazed at how many of our fellow BASK members were getting ready to paddle. It looked like a record turnout for a Thursday lunch paddle. We were on the water at 10 a.m. I counted 12 boats on the water. We paddled out a short distance to the shipping channel and held up waiting for a tugboat with a barge to pass. Shortly thereafter we broke into two pods. One paddler was trying a new boat and discovered that it was not working for him. Fortunately, he was able to paddle back to the beach accompanied by several others and swapped the boat for something more stable. That left the remainder of us waiting. Using our radios to communicate, one pod opted to continue on. The second pod would follow.

We paddled around the end of the breakwater and headed for Brooks Island. On the way we noticed flocks of Cormorants flying about. I don’t recall seeing Cormorants in such numbers. With calm water and no wind, we had an easy paddle. We landed at the Point Isabel boat ramp at 11:40 and with the low tide we had plenty of exposed beach. The second pod was not far behind. They landed about the time we got our boats up above the tide line.

When we arrived on the beach, we were delighted to be greeted by one of our members who had arrived by car, taking a break from paddling due to a back issue. Given the fact that many of us are past 70, I’m about to turn 73, it’s amazing that we can get on the water as often as we do. I keep telling myself to go paddling when I can. My paddling days are numbered. In the morning I will find myself questioning whether I’m up for paddling, given various aches and pains and the desire to just take it easy. But after a paddle I feel ten years younger. I consider paddling part of my physical and mental health regime.

After lunch we were back on the water, taking the inside route back to Ferry Point, landing on the beach about 2:30. Our day’s paddle covered 8 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Yosemite

February 7, we made our way to Yosemite, with reservations to stay in Upper Pines Campground, site #46. We arrived in time to get set up before it got dark. With bear warnings posted about not leaving food in the car, we were concerned about what to do with the food in the camper. We certainly weren’t going to move our entire pantry to the bear box. A ranger assured us that food in the camper would be fine, but food in the cab was an issue.

In the morning we were in no hurry to get out of our cozy sleeping bags. The outside temperature was 32, but we had the heater going in the camper. Since we need the sun to charge our camper battery we drove to a sunny location where we could leave the camper and go for a hike, parking near Yosemite Falls.

We discovered that the trail to the base of the falls was closed and since we had our dog Carson with us, we were limited to trails that were paved or marked for bicycles. Even so we found plenty of places to walk. We did find that ice cleats, the kind that you can slip on over your boots were quite helpful for walking on icy trails and for walking around camp.

On the second night the heater went out. I woke up at 4 am feeling cold. The heater had shut down. Apparently, the battery went dead. This is a mystery. We should have had ample battery capacity to keep the heater fan going, but here we were with no power. We were prepared for the cold, so while we missed the comfort of a heated camper, we had our winter clothes and we carried on. After some hot coffee, eggs and sausage we took a hike to the Happy Isles.

While Yosemite Valley is an awesome location any time of year, I was not inspired with the iconic views of Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome and El Capitan. It’s hard to beat the drama I’ve captured on previous trips.

What did capture my attention was more intimate landscapes, snowcapped rocks and flowing water at Happy Isles, a leaf in the snow, and Fern Spring.

After a day of exploring a variety of locations Including Happy Isles, Swinging Bridge and a few other sights, the plan was to stay out taking photos until dinner time and then have a nice meal before popping up the camper for the night. We were surprised to find the Ahwahnee closed for renovations, and the restaurant in Curry Village was closed as well. We ended up eating at the Base Camp at the Yosemite Lodge. While it served our needs, it was not on par with our previous experiences.

On Friday, February 10 we had a very pleasant hike to Mirror Lake, even if it was a bit chilly and we were on the road heading home shortly after noon. As we left the park, we noted the arrangements that were being made to accommodate the throngs of people that would be coming to photograph the fire fall, a phenomenon that happens with the setting sun shines on Horsetail Falls making it look like it’s on fire. This phenomenon happens in mid to late February.

Where’s Treve 2022 In Print

My blog entries for the year 2022 are now in print. Much of the credit goes to my wife Joann. She’s become quite a book designer. We now have a stack of coffee table books that cover all the blog posts I’ve created since I started in 2015.

Initially we used the brute force method of recreating the posts in Adobe InDesign and then publishing the results using Blurb. This is quite time consuming.

In March of 2022, after publishing the collection for 2021 we thought we’d look for a more efficient method of publishing. We explored a variety of services that promised to turn a blog into a book. We selected two services PixxiBook and Blog2Print and sent our samples off for printing. In both cases the results were quite nice. We liked the layout of Blog2Print. We’ve also used Blub, Shutterfly and MixBook for creating books, all with favorable results. For the blog, though, we wanted a service that would automatically import the content, allow for some editing, and produce coffee table book.

When it came time to publish, we discovered that our chosen service Blog2Print was no longer compatible with WordPress. They responded to my inquiry with “…we are unable to pinpoint the issue caused when attempting to generate a book from your blog.” Lame!

Back to the drawing board to see what other services were available. We settled on Intorealpages.com. Their editing tools gave us quite a bit of flexibility. If you are planning on converting a blog to print you may want to consider how the service handles photos, hyperlinks and embedded content such as Youtube videos. We did some editing to adjust the placement of photos and to make sure that the content would make sense on a page in a book.

We ordered the book on January 9, and it arrived on January 26, being printed and shipped from the Netherlands. Hard cover, 112 pages covering 42 posts. We are quite pleased with the result.

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