Carnassarie Castle

Today, September 11, marks our 22nd day of travel in Scotland. We’ve had many adventures over the past three weeks. Some of those adventures will eventually make their way into this blog, but for today, I’ll share today’s walk to Carnassarie Castle. And, of course, at the top of the news is the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. That caused us to revise our plans to return to the Edinburgh airport for our return flight. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from lacing up our hiking boots this morning and going on a walk after a hearty Scottish Breakfast at our B&B here in Kilmartin, Old Manse.

Our track led us along several country paths, up into the hills, through woods and past babbling streams. Then we climbed a hill to the castle where we spent quite some time going up and down many flights of narrow circular stairs to admire the view. The castle was built between 1565 and 1572 by John Carswell who had been granted the land by the Earl of Argyll. Carswell would become the Bishop of the Isles and was instrumental in translating the Book of Common Order into Gaelic, which became the earliest book to be translated into Scots Gaelic.

The overcast sky with threat of rain provided some nice soft lighting to set the castle in a surrounding landscape of green rolling hills and woods.

After climbing all the stairs and poking into rooms and windows, we found a spot to break out our lunch of cheese and crackers.

We returned to the town of Kilmartin by retracing our steps, walking by an apparently abandoned caravan which seems to have a picturesque spot along the track. Back in town we stopped at the museum café for a bowl of hot lentil soup, muffins and coffee. The museum is closed at the moment for renovation, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying a cool pleasant day in the area of Scotland which is known for it’s archeological significance, with ruins going back over 5000 years.

Kayak Around Iona

August 31. Our Wilderness Scotland paddling adventures included several day paddles exploring parts of the Isles of Mull and Iona. The day’s adventures usually started with a briefing by one of the guides. Here’s Howard explaining the route around Iona. Our land base for these outings was Achaban Houses which was a mile from Fionnphort, our launch point for the paddle around Iona. You can see the van with the kayak trailer in the photo.

It was a promising day as we schlepped boats and gear down to the waters edge. Without much delay we were on the water but since we had the tail end of the ebb against us we stayed close to shore looking for eddies and paddling inside the rocks that separate the Sound of Iona. Once we were around the rocks and on the sound we picked up the pace a bit to make the short crossing to Iona where we paddled around the point and into a white sand beach for coffee and tea.

For the rest of the trip we had the current with us. We poked our noses into caves, paddling in and out of rocks admiring the clear and colorful water. Coming back into Fionnphort we had to hold up a few minutes for the ferry. And then it was off to the pub to celebrate.

More photos are available in an online gallery and you can view a video as well.

We logged 11 miles on calm water. An excellent days paddle.

Back to Oban

Day 16 of our Scotland Trip. Our plan was to spend the better part of this week at the Iona Abbey as part of the Iona Community. Circumstances have forced us to change our plans. Joann and I both tested positive for COVID-19 a few days ago. At the time we had booked two nights at the Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. We were able to extend our stay to four nights which was fortunate. The hotel has a excellent restaurant, and we were able to hold up in our room with excellent food delivered. Despite our current situation we have had some amazing adventures in the past two weeks. The highlight was kayaking around Iona with Wilderness Scotland. That adventure warrants a blog posting of its own.

So today we left the Pennygate and took the ferry back to Oban. We’ve booked an apartment for several nights. I’m looking forward to using some of the down time to work through some of the photos and videos and to post more about the trip. While at Pennygate I was sick in bed with no energy to do anything more that sleep and read. The Seabreeze Apartment where we are now feels almost liberating with two bedrooms, living room, and kitchen. Plenty of room for two people to roam around while we rest and recover.

On our previous stay in Oban we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. I also spent one evening wandering around town looking for nighttime photo opportunities. And here’s a selfie of the two of us at Arthur’s Seat from the beginning of our trip.

Stay tuned. I have more stories to share.

Golden Rose Ranch

On July 18 we found our way to Golden Rose Ranch where we spent the night in some beautiful red rock country. This was another camping find we discovered through Hipcamp. Definitely off the beaten track. Dry camping with no facilities which suits us just fine.

There are three campsites on the ranch but we had the place to ourselves. In the evening the cliffs catch the late afternoon light which was cause to bring out my big camera (the Nikon D850) and tripod to capture some long exposures. In the morning we broke camp and spent some time exploring the petroglyphs and wildflowers. Golden Rose Ranch was a delightful overnight stop on our return from New Mexico,

The Turquoise Trail

On July 17 our route took us through Taos, where we stopped at Ranchos de Taos to see the San Francisco de Asis Catholic Mission Church; always a notable stop with the abode buttresses and surrounding architecture providing plenty of photo opportunities in both color and black and white.

Then we passed through Santa Fe, making a brief stop for ice cream. On consulting the map we notice an alternate route, so rather than blasting through on I25 we headed for Highway 14, also known as the Turquoise Trail. The drive took us through several small towns. We stopped Los Cerrillos, where we explored the grounds of the church and some of the colorful buildings around town. The town was very quiet during our visit, but it was clear that a number of art galleries and artists would make this a busy spot when tourists are out.

We had to to a double take as we passed a herd of colorful origami horses. Having driven past we had to do a U-turn to take a closer look; something that’s not uncommon, and one of the reasons we like the less travelled routes. I wouldn’t even think about doubling back if we were on a four lane divided highway. The Outside the Box Studio was closed, but we had a clear view to look over the barbed wire fence.

Continuing on we were struck by a small church near Golden, and again stopped to take a few photos.

Then it was back on the main highway, I25 to make our way through Albuquerque and on to our camp site for at The Golden Rose Ranch near Prewitt New Mexico.

Ruby Mountains

Continuing on our road trip to New Mexico, on the afternoon of July 10 we left Highway 80 near Elko Nevada and drove 35 miles up into the Ruby Mountains. Our campsite at Thomas Canyon Campground was situated at an elevation of 7600 feet. While most of the drive across Nevada is arid desert, Thomas Canyon is in a lush grove of Aspen surrounded by wildflowers. We spent two nights here, giving us one day to take a delightful hike up the canyon.

We were happy to find that fires were permitted and we bought firewood from the camp host. These days one isn’t guaranteed a campfire, given dry conditions with high fire risk. The next morning we fired up the Dutch oven for a breakfast of hash brown crusted quiche. A delicious breakfast before we set off on our hike. The hike goes 2.25 miles up the canyon, so up and back we logged 4.5 miles.

The hike climbs from about 7600 feet to 8900 feet, hiking through aspen groves and through meadows of wildflowers following Thomas Creek for much of the way. Here’s the track of our hike.

In the evening I took my big camera out and grabbed my tripod to see what I could find in the late afternoon light. Lo and behold I found a sunlit grove of trees that looked like fall color in the last rays of light. Some of these image will be in my art store shortly. You can view more photos in an online gallery.

Back from New Mexico

So here we are on July 9 ready to hit the road for our 17 day road trip to New Mexico. Check out my Stars and Stripes hat. Our motivation for the trip was to attend a family reunion in Angel Fire New Mexico. We decided to take our time making our way to our destination. I decided since we’d be hobnobbing with cowboys at the reunion, I needed an appropriate hat, and with the Fourth of July recently passed this seemed to be an appropriate statement for driving across Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.

We covered 3000 miles on the trip and I’ll be breaking up some of the highlights into several blog post. I’d like to start with some thoughts about trip planning. While I’m quite happy to hop in the truck and see where we end up at the end of the day my wife, Joann, likes to plan ahead. For this trip Joann spent hours and hours of research and prepared a folder with our itinerary, copies of all the camping reservations including photos of the facilities. Much of the trip was planned using Google Maps and a host of other online resources such as iOverlander, The Dyrt, Hipcamp and of other such resources. All of these are great.

Then a day or two before the trip we pulled out some printed maps and we discovered all the places we were missing. I had a flashback to the days when we used to spend hours pouring over maps looking at the sights along the way. Google Maps is great for getting from point A to point B efficiently, but it won’t suggest you make a quick detour to check out Mesa Verde or take the Turquoise Trail. And then for much of the trip we were out of range of cell service which meant that trying to use an iPhone to look up camping, or even use Google Maps for routes was futile. What do you do when you come to a fork in the road. Google Maps is silent and you don’t have a map of the area? Another reason to have printed maps available while on the road.

Our first night we stayed at Logger Camp on the Stampede Reservoir not far from Truckee. This was a lively camp full of families enjoying summer fun. Since our route would take us through some hot country we planned our stops be be at elevations where we would not suffer from heat since we do not have air-conditioning in the camper.

When we travel, I like to have occasional access to the internet. I don’t want my clients thinking I’ve abandoned them, so an occasional stop at a coffee shop with WiFi was in order. And then in Mancos we visited with a good friend Kayla, the neighbor girl that our daughter grew up with. We foraged in her garden and being a professional cook and caterer she hosted an exquisite dinner.

Once we were in Angel Fire it was time for the reunion. And no Sundt family reunion would be complete without watermelon and the dinner bell call to dinner on the C and S Cattle Company Ranch. By the time we reached Angel Fire it was also time to replenish our water supply. We were looking forward to taking showers with our outdoor shower.

Our return trip took us through Taos, and Flagstaff. We spent one night Boondocking in the Coconino National Forest just outside of flagstaff. There we were treated to a spectacular thunder and lighting storm that dumped rain and hail on us. We also stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park which turned out to be quite interesting. I’ve never seen so much petrified wood in such a large area. And of course we had to venture on to a section of Route 66 where we encountered some Burma Shave signs. Stay tuned for more episodes of our trip.

Tomales: Marconi to Chicken Ranch

June 26 seven of us launched our kayaks from Marconi Beach, not knowing quite where we’d end up for lunch. Shortly after 9:00 we launched on flat calm water, paddling across to Hearts Desire Beach where one of our fellow BASK members was assisting in an Environmental Traveling Companions kayaking event.

From Hearts Desire we noodled south east along the Point Reyes Peninsula, taking our time and exploring all the nooks and crannies and even some caves. Paddling through eel grass beds we saw hundreds of jelly fish. Since my Olympus TG5 camera is waterproof I popped it under the surface and started snapping pictures more or less at random. I was amazed I got something useable.

Then paddling on before you know it we were at Chicken Ranch Beach. It was just a few minutes after 11:00 and though it was early we decided it was lunch time. Our plan was to get an early start and then get off the water before the wind came up.

Sure enough, as we were eating lunch the wind started to build, and not as predicted. Prediction was for WSW winds 9 kts. What we had was coming straight down the bay. We launched into a stiff wind that was raising whitecaps. Fortunately we did not have a great distance to travel so we slogged it out powering straight into the wind. We were back at our launch point at 12:30, having logged 5.8 miles. You can view more photos in an online gallery.

BASK Meeting at China Camp

Sunday, May 15, provided us with a full day of activities with our kayaking club BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers) at China Camp State Park. We have a good relationship with Friends of China Camp, the non-profit that runs the park. As such we had access to the museum for a presentation prior to the museum opening to the pubic. China Camp is a beautiful spot on San Pablo Bay about an hour drive north of San Francisco. It is of interest historically and culturally. A Chinese shrimp-fishing village thrived here in the 1880s.

I arrived early since I had volunteered to record the presentation given by John Muir—a presentation on the history of China Camp. That video is now available on YouTube. Before the meeting we unloaded our boats since we planned on paddling later in the day. The tide was quite low when we unloaded, as you can see in the photo. By afternoon the tide would be high enough to avoid getting stuck in the mud.

After the presentation we moved to a picnic area south of the main beach for brunch: bagels, lox, cream cheese, fruit, yogurt and coffee. This being our first fact-to-face general meeting in over two years, it was a treat to be able to sit down with fellow club members.

After brunch a number of us broke into pods to participate in a coastal cleanup. Each pod was assigned a section of shoreline between China Camp and Buck’s Landing. I was in the green pod, and our territory spanned Buckeye Point to Jake’s Island. Five us us set out to paddle to our area. As we rounded the point near Rat Rock, we found ourselves paddling straight into a stiff wind, with wind waves and white caps. We attempted to hug the coast to stay out of the direct force of the wind, but the wind soon took a toll on members of our pod. Three members opted to turn back rather than fight the wind and the waves.

Two of us continued on, powering into the wind and waves. I found it to be an exhilarating experience.

While paddling I was also trying to stay in contact with other club members via radio. Each time I’d pick up the radio, the wind would set me back, and then I’d have to struggle to catch up. Even so, we made it to Jake’s Island in good time. From there is was a fast ride back as we scoured the shoreline looking for debris. There was not much to see from the vantage point of a kayak.

We did pick up a pod member on a SUP and, with the higher vantage point, he was doing a better job spotting debris. What debris we did find required getting out of our boats and wading in the marsh, wary of stepping into a hole of boot-sucking mud. Most of the debris was higher up in the marsh and hard to reach from a boat.

Once we had completed our cleanup, we rendezvoused with Ranger Scott to off-load our debris. We didn’t set any records for distance, having covered five miles, but even so, it was a fun day and an exhilarating paddle. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Reunion in Bishop

In April of 2017 my two brothers and I gathered together with our families to memorialized my father. We made a commitment to gather as a family on a regular basis. In 2020 we set our sights on Bishop in the Eastern Sierra and booked accommodations at the East Side Guest House and Bivy. Then COVID-19 struck and we scrapped our plans. With the pandemic easing up this year we decided to make another go at gathering. Family started arriving on Saturday evening April 24 with people coming from Washington, Texas, Hawaii and Massachusetts. My wife and I and our lovely Aunt Sue, being the hosts, arrived the day before to give us time to stock the larder with groceries. East Side Guest House is an an ideal location in the Eastern Sierra to set up a base camp for outdoor adventures. The facility has private rooms, a duck pond and a view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a common room for cooking and meeting.

We had the barbeque going as guest arrived. Joann and Sue had prepared skewers of Shish kebab which we put on the grill as family arrived.

April 25. The Alabama Hills and Independence

The day started with Lemon Ricotta Waffles. I had arranged ahead of time to have a couple of waffle irons available, and with plenty of family chipping in, we were serving waffles at 8 am. Waffles with whipped cream, butter, syrup and berries and lots of other goodies.

After breakfast we set up a sandwich station. Line up and make a lunch. Then we piled into cars for the drive to the Alabama Hills.

There is much to see on the drive south from Bishop. Some of our party made a visit to the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. A few of us stopped at the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden and the Eastern California Museum in Independence. The museum has an amazing collection of native American basketry and the garden was looking very nice with many plants in bloom. We also took advantage of the delicious ice cream at the Eastern Sierra Ice Cream Company.

April 26. Big Pine Lakes

Monday morning everybody was on there own for breakfast. Take your pick of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, raisin bran, other packaged cereals, apples, oranges and bananas. And if that isn’t enough you can walk next door to Schat’s Bakery for espresso and pastries. Then we again set up the sandwich station.

There were several in our group that were anxious to get into the High Sierra. Despite the fact that the trails are usually snowed in this time of year, it looked like we might be able to get to one or two lakes in the Big Pine Lake Basin. We piled into our cars and drove to the the trail head at the end of Glacier Lodge Road.

My wife and I made it as far as First Lake at 10,000 feet. My two brothers and clan made it to Fourth Lake at 11,000 feet. We did find a few patches of snow on the trail, but nothing that required technical gear. First Lake still had some ice. The higher lakes were still frozen over. We logged 9.5 miles on our hike to and from First Lake. You can see a map on my GaiaGPS account. Those that went higher logged 12 miles or so.

April 27. Pleasant Valley Reservoir

With family members ranging in age from 3 1/2 to 84, we opted to do an outing close to Bishop to accommodate those that were not inclined to tackle a strenuous High Sierra hike. We found a nice level paved hike along Pleasant Valley Reservoir. This proved to be a lovely hike with opportunities to look for wildflowers and birds.

Those that were more adventuresome drove up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and reported a lovely outing. Tuesday evening marked out last day together and we had a birthday to celebrate.

The next morning we said our goodbyes and began our drive back over the mountains.

There is so much to see in the Eastern Sierra and I was sad to leave, but since we have family there, we manage to visit several times a year. The East Side Guest House and Bivy was a delightful place to host our reunion. The large community room, while being shared with other guests, proved to be a great place to gather, to chat and look a family photos. And talking about photos you can view more photos online.

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