Zonal Flow

A couple weeks ago I kidnapped myself and took me to Southern California. The initial reason for my trip was to do trail work on Santa Cruz Island, but as it happened I also got to spend a bit of time in Newport Beach with a couple of close friends.

When I lived in California I did hundreds of hours of trail maintenance with the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council (SMMTC), mostly in the Santa Monica Mountains, but our group also developed a relationship with the National Park Service on the Channel Islands and have been going out there for about a decade. I’ve probably been out about 6 times, usually for a 4-day, 3-night excursion.

It was foggy this trip, the weatherman said something about “zonal flow”… I don’t know, but it reminded me a little of “June gloom”, only it was cooler and March. I don’t recall it ever being foggy on one of my trips to this part of the island, so it got another chance to make a first impression for me.

The trails didn’t have a whole lot of growth compared with some years, aside from Scorpion Canyon trail. Wednesday’s weed whipping began at the top of the trail. This kind of work is what I come out here for: sweat dripping, covered in plant debris and smelling of gasoline while enjoying sweeping views of the island, ocean and Ventura County. The second best I-like-to-be-useful experience was on Friday: we moved dirt around until we’d fashioned a 120 foot new trail diversion to “keep people away from the bat cave.” There was no sign of Bruce Wayne or Alfred, but we (hopefully) saved the bats and it was rewarding to see the end result.

In addition to the work there were a few other memorable island moments: A hike up to Montanon Ridge, a view of Potato Harbor like I’d never seen it before with the spectacular ever-changing fog, and on the boat ride back we happened upon some gray whale sex. None of my photos came out really, but I can confirm that it did look a lot like this. An interesting bit of trivia is they normally perform this activity in threes.

After the island trip I spent quality time with some friends who were RVing it in Newport Beach for the weekend. I always wanted to sleep in one of those granny’s attic parts of an RV and I got my wish. I also enjoyed some really fun kayaking in the bay past really expensive yachts and waterfront homes.

See more photos on my Flickr.


Last week I held a tarantula named Rosie. A friend and I heard of this hairy possibility a few weeks earlier and decided to visit her at the Butterfly Pavilion on Monday.

Spiders in general disturb me, I suppose this could be described as fear. I thought holding Rosie would be a good safe way to face some of that, like a controlled fear. Rosie liked my warm hand and would not immediately move off of it, which made me a little nervous, mostly because I heard they can bite. I didn’t know if the ability to bite had been removed from this arachnid ambassador or not, and I actually prefer not knowing. It preserves the thrill.

In between the butterflies in my stomach and the promise of winged butterflies is a room with a bunch of glass cages with jellyfish, crabs, urchins, lobsters, starfish, etc. I expected an octopus but the only one I saw was inanimate, unreal, enlarged and looming over the top of the jellyfish aquarium. I petted a starfish. It didn’t seem to notice. They don’t seem to do much either, until you get a view of their underside up against the glass, or listen to a guide who volunteered a story about one of the starfish eating a sea cucumber while no one was looking. I couldn’t resist breaking into a few really horrible fish puns… did it also want some jelly on its salad? I guess it just had the urchin to do it.

Next we went to what should have been the primary reason for this excursion, the butterfly area. There’s something relaxing about watching these ridiculously beautiful creatures stumble vertically from flower to flower. I wonder if it feels like a straight line to them. Maybe their flight pattern has something to do with the rotting fruit we caught some of them sinking their proboscises into.

While not the primary reason for our trip, I admitted to having a special agenda with the butterflies, in that I wondered if I could will one to land on my shoulder. I told this to my friend, but did not fully convey that I wanted one to come of its own accord. I waited, non-moving, for a while. I went up to a few and leaned my shoulder in. No butterfly. Eventually my well-meaning friend could take my nonsensical patience no longer, coaxed a butterfly onto his finger and then directed it onto my shoulder. It immediately flew off. While I appreciated my friend’s gesture, it flying away made me glad. For one thing I simply would not wish for a butterfly to land or remain on my shoulder if it does not want to be there. But also, more practically, there are signs up saying not to disturb the butterflies. I suppose this is probably not followed to the letter judging from the tattered edges I saw on some of their wings. And maybe such precautions deny them their own controlled fear. Maybe the rotting fruit means they have no fear anyway.

On exiting the butterfly area there is a hall with mirrors on either side. If you look at it a certain way (which really means you look at your friend, or you put your camera off to the side a little to take a photo – no, this does not break the camera like you might expect) you see dozens of you replicated in the reflections. This is not unlike a photo I was compelled to have taken of me a few weeks ago. Since then I keep happening upon situations that remind me of it, both literal like this experience at the Butterfly Pavilion, but also several abstract metaphorical situations as well.

After the fluttering butterflies we had a little time left and decided to bid Rosie farewell again before leaving. She still was the primary fascination of this place for me. I guess in the end, it was more satisfying extending a warm hand to a tarantula than a cold shoulder to a butterfly.

Incidentally, a friend from high school posted yesterday about both a bee and a butterfly landing on him. That made me smile 🙂

Cool Hot Springs: Kayaking on the Colorado

This past weekend I traveled from my home near Boulder, Colorado to the Colorado River in Boulder Canyon, on the Nevada / Arizona border just below Hoover Dam.

My cousin Tracy, an expert at cramming what normal people consider “vacations” into short weekends, planned this glorious outing a couple months back, and I happily accepted her invitation to come along! There were 9 of us altogether: family and friends from California, Nevada and Colorado. Tracy arranged our trip with Desert Adventures, who did a wonderful job transporting and orienting us for our journey. We split up into 2 canoes and 5 1-person kayaks. The canoes held most of our gear and thankfully none tipped over! Here’s a brief description of our journey, followed by a galleria of photos.

Day 1, Saturday: gathered at 8:15 just east of Boulder City, launched around 9, then traveled 4 miles down-river. The launch point is just below the Hoover Dam. We explored the Sauna Cave, hot springs in Gold Strike Canyon and also some spraying in to the river, etc. Reaching where we planned to camp around 1, we ate, set up camp, walked to a hot springs with waterfall just up the canyon, ate, hung out, ate, paddled, made s’mores, with most of us going to bed before the sun went down.

Day 2, Sunday: 7 miles. We awoke to find a mouse had drowned in a cup of water we’d left sitting out. We ate (but not the mouse), packed up and set out (before 7 I think it was), paddled and enjoyed the water until about 9:30, had brunch, paddled some more, some of us took a swim along the way, the wind kicked up in late morning and there was a hellish mile-or-so long slog heading south into strong winds from the south until our take-out point at Willow Beach, where we then ate lunch, napped, lounged etc. until our pick-up at 3.

Interesting things about the trip:

  • Something about being on the water makes you want to eat all the time. Which we did. Thank you Tracy for packing such good food for us all, we really appreciated it!!
  • Hot and Cold: The water in the river is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty cold to bare skin. In contrast, there are hot springs flowing in to the river in numerous places, some of them pretty scalding, and the air temperature was above 90 F both afternoons.
  • I don’t know if it’s always like this, but it got windy both days near noon, from the south, the direction the river was taking us. I think it canceled the current and then some. This made paddling downstream feel like paddling up hill.
  • They tell you to pee in the water instead of on land. It is hard to feel comfortable doing this after years of conditioning.

More photos on my Flickr.

P.S. Aside from the afternoon wind, this trip was delightful!