Edinburgh

We landed at the Edinburgh airport on August 22 after flying from San Francisco to New York and then transferring to a flight to Edinburgh.

Our flight from San Francisco was delayed an hour and a half. Fortunately our connecting flight from New York was delayed as well. Transferring planes in New York was a bit stressful since we had to hoof it from one terminal to another, then pass through TSA inspection again with our luggage in tow in fear that we’d miss our connecting flight.

We spent three nights in Edinburgh; hardly enough time to see the city, but our preference is to minimize our time in cities and to explore the countryside. We found a Bed and Breakfast just off The Meadows that was convenient for walking to many of the sights we wanted to see. We also found the public transit system worked well. I wrote about our walk to Aurthur’s Seat in an earlier post. Edinburgh has so much to offer that it demands at least a few more words.

Having checked into our accommodations we were anxious to explore the city. We didn’t get far before hunger took over and passing a pizza joint we opted for pizza and beer to celebrate. Pizza on our first night in Scotland seems a bit lame, but so it goes. Over the next three and a half weeks we had the opportunity to enjoy much of Scotland’s culinary offerings from seafood to black pudding and haggis.

On one of the evenings in the city we made our way up the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle where we found our reserved seats for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Wow! What an extravaganza; so many bagpipes. The performance included military bands from all around the world as well as a Mexican Dance troop, Banda Monumental De México. This was quite an entertaining event. Highly recommended.

And of course, as a photographer, one of the things I like to do is to explore the city at dusk. Another adventure took me to Victoria Street and to a viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle.

And no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Dean Village. We had a lovely walk across town to Dean Village, a beautiful village right by the Water of Leith. You can view more photos online and read more posts about our Scotland trip as well.

Angel Island

Thursday morning, November 17. A chilly morning, and climbing into my wet, clammy dry suit seemed quite rude. Wet inside and out. I had been out the previous evening for a rolling clinic. The suit was wet on the outside from being upside down in the cold water of San Francisco Bay, and damp on the inside from condensation. I contemplated adding a layer of insulation but figured once I was on the water I would warm up.

Six of us assembled on the beach at Ferry Point. The predicted weather and tides were favorable for a paddle around Angel Island. After a quick safety talk and radio check we were on the water at 10 a.m. Shortly after leaving the protection of the Richmond Shipping Channel, we encountered a breeze and some wind waves out of the northwest. We watched several ferries zipping up and down the bay, and then we held up for a barge that was crossing our path in the shipping lane. We had a couple of harbor seals check us out also.

Our radios were handy for staying in touch and keeping the pod together in the midst of ship traffic. Once we were across the shipping lane we opted to continue our way around the island in a clockwise direction. We landed on Perles Beach a little after noon. Perles Beach faces the Golden Gate with a panoramic view that includes San Francisco as well.

There was just enough breeze to create a bit of a wind chill, so after a brief lunch we were happy to get back in our boats to continue our journey. Back on the water we continued around the island. After rounding Point Stewart, we paddled close to shore to check out the beach at Kayak Camp. One of the photos shows a fellow kayaker with his boat pointed to the trail that leads up from the beach to the campground. There was no trail visible from the water. The trail is presumably overgrown. Once we were back around to the eastern side of the island, we again held up for shipping traffic and then continued on our way back to Ferry Point.

We were back on the beach at 2:20 p.m. after a perfect paddle around Angel Island logging 12 miles. You can see more photos in an online gallery. Here’s the track of our paddle.

Hot Creek

East of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, not far from Mammoth Lakes, is an area known as the Long Valley Caldera. This is a geologically active area with steam vents, geysers, and hot springs, the remnants of an ancient volcano. I’ve been visiting the Eastern Sierra for several decades and only this year decided to check out the area known as the Hot Creek Geologic Site.

My plan was to scout the location with the intention of returning in the morning when the steam from the many vents would be visible in the cool morning air. As it turned out, we had some dramatic weather with rain and hail and that was enough to appease my photographer’s eye.

There are a number of trails you can hike in the area with signs warning you to stay out of the water. Some of the pools are boiling hot. Despite the warnings we did see several people in the creek.

From the Hot Creek site, we decided to head for camp. Our intended camping site was a spot referred to as Laurel Springs on iOverlander, a “wild” campsite site just off of Highway 395. In trying to locate the site we apparently drove past it. Rather that turn around, we decided to follow the forest service road to see if we could find another suitable spot to park our rig. It wasn’t long before the road deteriorated a bit and I shifted into four-wheel drive. Then as the road got a bit rockier it was four-wheel low. You can see a photo of my shadow on the road looking east with Crowley Lake in the distance. We climbed up a valley to a ridge and there at the end of the road was a campsite with a picnic table and an incredible view. On one side of the ridge we could look east with a view of Crowley Lake, on the other side was a view of Convict Lake. In the morning I put the drone in the air to capture a view of our rig with Laurel Mountain and Convict Lake in the background.

That morning, October 11, we broke camp and continued our journey home. We made a quick tour of the June Lake Loop, stopping at Gull Lake to walk the dog and admire the view. We found quite a few pockets of fall color, but for the most part the aspens were still green.

Our route home took us over Tioga Pass on highway 120. Near the summit we stopped for one last peek at the fall color on the mountainside. Then we drove down into Yosemite Valley thinking there might be a remote chance of camping. We were impressed by how busy the valley was. No luck finding camping, so we headed home. More photos are available online.

Dazzled by Yellow

After three days of chasing fall color I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I felt like I had to give my eyes a rest, and yet we’d find another grove of aspen in full splendor, I’d grab my camera and start snapping photos. And then I’d be asking myself how the image I’m capturing differs from the many thousands of photos I’ve captured over the past 50 years. In any event, every photo is another adventure and the magnificence of the changing seasons never gets old. I’m always looking for a way to create unique photos that celebrate the glory of God’s creation.

Fall color in the Eastern Sierra usually starts in mid to late September with the aspen at the higher evaluations changing color first, and the color progressing down the canyons over the course of several weeks. I usually start to watch the fall color reports in mid September. This year October 4 was the earliest date we could get away, so we stocked the camper with food for a week and hit the road.

From our home in Albany, CA, we decided to take California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass. After passing the summit we stopped briefly near a grove of aspen, admired the view, and then decided to head to our intended camping destination on Green Creek. We were hoping to camp at the Green Creek Campground. Why? Because we wanted to fire up our Dutch Oven to cook dinner; for that we needed a fire ring in an established campground. The campground was closed. There are plenty of places to boondock along Green Creek so we found a comfortable spot to park our rig. We implemented “plan B” for our menu which did not require a fire ring. I was a little annoyed, though, when campers not too far away from us lit a campfire, something that’s prohibited in the dry conditions. I was too shy to confront them. What would I say?

We were so impressed with the fall color along Green Creek, we decided to spend a second night although we moved our rig a mile down the road. The road into Green Creek is a dirt road. For the most part it is navigable by passenger car, although close to the campground it gets a little rocky.

From Green Creek we headed towards Bishop by way of Dunderberg Meadow Road. We admired the aspen along the way and set up camp at the Sabrina Campground in the afternoon. The fall color was about peak there. In the morning we drove to North Lake where I spent some time with my camera and tripod capturing fall color. We also gave our dog Carson the opportunity to hike with us off-leash.

From Bishop Creek we drove to Bishop where we spent the weekend with family. Then we headed home after a night camping on a ridge overlooking Convict Lake. We had intended to spend more time on the road but the furnace in our camper was not working; getting up in the morning with the temperature in the 30s was wearing on us.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Pt San Pablo to Pt Pinole

On October 13, seven of us were on the beach at Point San Pablo Harbor ready to launch. Weather and tide conditions were promising for a paddle to Point Pinole with little wind predicted. Slack tide at 9:47 a.m. at Pinole Point meant we would have the current with us in the morning. We launched at 10:30 and headed out towards the shipping channel to pick up the current. As we paddled, we kept our eyes open for ships and ferries.

We had some ship traffic and noted that one of the ferries heading towards us did an about-turn. What was that about? It seemed like several of the ferries were exhibiting some unusual behavior.

When we reached Point Pinole, we decided to paddle around the point landing at the beach on the northeast side. It was shortly before noon when we landed. The beach has a handicap accessible ramp. After lunch it was back on the water, and we used the pilings of the old pier as an obstacle course. Good for practicing boat control.

Since we were still experiencing the incoming flood, we planned paddled closer to shore to take advantage of countercurrent eddies. We were back at our launch site shortly before 3 p.m. having logged 10 miles. More photos are available in an online gallery.

Martinez to Eckley

On September 29 I joined nine other BASK members for a paddle from Martinez to Eckley Pier. We launched from the boat ramp at the Martinez Marina at 10:30 a.m. Once we were out of the Marina, we turned west where we hit a bit of bumpy water. We had the current with us and the wind against us resulting in some wind waves splashing over our decks. Then it was on to the obstacle course of old pilings which are always fun to paddle through, creating an opportunity to practice boat control. Slack water was about noon, so we had little current to contend with as we meandered through the pilings.

We arrived at Eckley Pier at noon, broke out our lunches and watched the train go by as we ate. Then it was back on the water and back through the maze of pilings. Now we had the wind at our back and the current starting to flood so it was a little more challenging to paddle the maze. Some opted to paddle in the open water. With the current pushing us back up the river it was a quick paddle back to Martinez. We were back at the boat ramp at 2 p.m., having logged 9.2 miles.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Here’s the track of our paddle.

Mendo Madness

We were hardly back from Scotland when it was time to pack up the kayaks to head for Mendocino. On September 20 we pointed our rig to Van Damme State Park to join our kayaking club for our annual Mendo Madness. Each year our kayak club takes over a good part of the campground for a week of paddling and socializing. There were about 70 of us, which makes for plenty of paddling opportunities with skill levels ranging from novice to expert, a great opportunity to get on the water with friends and to advance our skills.

On Wednesday we paddled up the Albion River. It’s such a peaceful feeling paddling on the quiet river past the redwood trees, with a variety of wildlife to view. We saw plenty of birds, but no seals or river otters.

On Thursday conditions were perfect to paddle on the coast, so we joined a group of experienced paddlers, launched from Russian Gulch, and paddled south exploring caves, tunnels and other features on the Mendocino Headlands. I had a GoPro camera mounted on my helmet, so stay tuned for some video of our paddling through caves and tunnels.

Our club has occasionally been referred to an eating club with a kayaking disorder. True to form there was an abundance of food with two pizza ovens and charcoal grills going. We came prepared to cook our own meals, but who wants to cook when you can simply nosh while sharing stories with friends. Friday night was Bourbon and Brine, hosted by two club members who are very creative mixing drinks suitable for the occasion. They were assisted by a half-dozen bartenders.

On Sunday, September 25, we broke camp to head for home. Passing through Cloverdale at noon gave us a good reason to stop for burgers, fries, and shakes at Pick’s Drive in. Great burgers.

More photos are available in an online gallery.

Gylen Castle

Getting sick while traveling put a kink in our plans. On September 2, about 12 days into our trip, I woke up feeling quite ill. We had a COVID test kit with us and I tested positive. We were able to extend our stay at the Pennygate Lodge in Craignure. After a few days there we moved to an apartment in Oban for a few more nights. This meant we would not be spending time at the Iona Abbey as planned, but it did give us a few more days to explore Oban. Once we were feeling better, we decided a trip to the Isle of Kerrera was in order. To get to the island we walked the short distance to the Oban wharf where we hailed a taxi to take us to the Kerrera Ferry.

This is a small ferry that can only carry a dozen or so people. We ended up having to wait for a few crossings, which didn’t amount to much time since the ride across the channel takes all of 10 minutes. That said, if you do plan to visit the island allow plenty of time in the event that you end up waiting.

Once on the island it’s a two mile walk to Kerrera Tea Room and the castle. It’s a very pretty walk past farms and pastures overlooking the Sound of Kerrera. We passed through a number of gates, being sure to close them after passing through. At the top of a rise just before reaching the tea room we found a gate with a sign “It’s all downhill from here!”

It was just after noon when we reached the tea garden. Smoky Spanish Chickpea Stew and fresh bread were a welcome treat after the walk. After lunch it was a short walk to the castle where we spent some time exploring the ruins.

The castle overlooking the Firth of Lorn was built in 1582 by the Clan MacDougall, but was only occupied for a short time. It was burned by the Covenanters in 1647 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Once we had explored the castle and peeked through the windows, we made our way back to Oban and on to Kilmartin on the afternoon bus. You can view more photos online. Here’s the track of our walk on the island.

Arthur’s Seat

Our trip to Scotland started in Edinburgh on August 21. We spent a couple of days there to adjust to the eight-hour time difference. One of the popular things to do in Edinburgh is to hike to Arthur’s Seat. This is an ancient volcano in the hills in Edinburgh. This mountain was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design.” There are a number of car parks that give easy access, however, being on foot, we turned it into a healthy day hike. We started out from our accommodations near The Meadows and made our way across town to Holyrood Palace, then up the trail to Arthur’s Seat.

While only a 1000 foot climb, it was a challenge getting to the top. From there we had a panoramic view of the city below.

Our host at the Bed & Breakfast suggested we follow the trail down the far side to make our way to the Sheep’s Heid Inn for lunch. The sign over the door says the inn was established in 1360, making it one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs. We ordered the Pan-fired Wild Scallops ras el hanout, smoked haddock Florentine bonbons, celeriac purée, apple & fennel tartar. A delicious lunch after our walk.

When we returned to our lodgings, we discovered that we had walked 8 miles. It was time to take off our hiking boots and put our feet up. You can view more photos online.

Ancient Ruins in Kilmartin

Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. That seemed reason enough to spend a few days there. Some of the ruins date back more than 5,000 years. These include a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts, and castles.

There are a number of walks in the area leading to some of the features. So Saturday, September 10, we donned our hiking boots to go exploring. The most prominent features are a series of stone cairns which served as burial sites. These are oriented in a north-south line through the glen. We started with the Glebe Cairn and followed the trail to Nether Largie North Cairn, Nether Largie Mid Cairn, Nether Largie South Cairn, and Temple Wood.

The Nether Largie North Cairn has been excavated and you can climb down into the burial chamber through a sliding trap door. Once inside you can see the capstone with cup-shaped markings.

What is here today is not necessarily intact. Over the millennia, a number of the stones in the cairns have been taken away to be used as building material. The sites have been excavated for archaeological research and reconstructed to their present-day form. Even with all these disturbances it’s remarkable to visit these sites and imagine what life was like here 5,000 years ago, with a society that had people of prominence worthy of such elaborate burial. It may be the flow of metals being traded through the glen that gave rise to this society.

The Nether Largie South Cairn is perhaps one of the most interesting. Here you can climb down inside and imagine what sacred ceremonies may have happened here.

In addition to the Cairns, there are a number of standing stones throughout the glen and a circle of standing stones at Temple Grove. Following our exploration of the Neolithic sites, we made our way to the Kilmartin Church to explore some of the gravestones in the graveyard. The church was closed, but it was still quite interesting to see gravestones dating back hundreds of years. The Kilmartin museum was also closed for renovation, which was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been interesting to have additional information to help interpret the history of the glen.

Even though it was an easy walk through the glen, we managed to log six miles.

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