On Saturday my lovely wife Penelope and I completed what Backpacker Magazine calls America's 5th Hardest Day Hike. The Cactus to Clouds hike begins in Palm springs at roughly 600 feet above sea-level and tops out at the peak of Mt. San Jacinto at 10,800 feet. The grueling day hike covers over 23 miles, one of which takes you up almost 2,000 vertical feet.
Friday night Penelope and I stayed in Palm Springs at an amazing hotel, which also happens to be #1 in the country on Trip Advisor, called the Desert Riviera. The hotel and its owners are really amazing, and a subject of a future post on this blog. On Saturday morning we woke up at 2:45 a.m. and headed out to the trailhead.
We hit the trail at around 4:00 a.m. with our headlamps blazing. After hiking for 15 minutes the trail petered out and we were left wondering where to go. Penelope became worried that we were never going to find the trail and wanted to go back to the car and try from a different trailhead.
The other trailhead has an even harder-to-find trail so I decided that would be a bad idea. I told Penelope to relax and we backtracked a few hundred yards at which point I saw a white arrow spray-painted on a rock facing uphill. I followed the arrow and we were back on the path to the peak.
After two miles we came to a rock with white writing painted on it which told us to make sure we had plenty of water and that we had 8 miles and 10 hours to go. From what I've read, the actual distance from this point is closer to 10 miles. We hiked on for another hour or so when we saw another headlamp behind us and one ahead of us.
As the sun rose we saw the hiker behind us was a gray-haired woman. She was quickly gaining on us, but she ended up taking a shortcut and was suddenly way ahead of us. We never did catch up to her!
Around 6:30 a.m. the sun began to rise. We had gained a few thousand feet of elevation by that point and the sunrise was beautiful, one of the most enjoyable experiences of the hike.
For the first 9 miles the trail gradually gained altitude, then all of the sudden it basically goes nearly straight up for 3 miles. These miles were difficult and challenging with a steep, loose, rocky trail winding to Grubb's Notch. It was slow-going but we made it to the traverse, which was a welcome change in pace.
After traversing for half a mile we started back up on our final push to the top of the Skyline trail. The last quarter mile was almost straight up, but we were so close we powered up without stopping except to talk to a ranger.
The skyline trail ended up taking us about 8 hours including breaks. We sat down at the ranger station, filled out our permit and ate lunch.
Most people just do the Skyline trail and take the tram down. We decided to do the full Cactus to Clouds and hit the peak. After lunch we powered on up the final 5 and a half miles to the top. As we ascended the temperature dropped and the during the last few miles we were shrouded in clouds.
On our Deer Springs hike to San Jacinto the week before we spent a half hour on the peak and ate lunch. This time we took a few photos, sent out a SPOT message and quickly headed down.
We were very happy to reach the tram station 14 hours after starting our hike in Palm Springs. We felt good that we stuck through it and completed the hike, but boy were we tired. I can't wait for the next (hopefully shorter) hike, maybe it will snow and we'll do some snowshoeing!
If you're up for a serious, grueling, extreme-dayhiking challenge, definitely give the Cactus to Clouds hike a try. Just make sure to bring plenty of water (we brought 1.5 gallons each) and to train for it with at least a 5,000 foot elevation gain hike a few weeks before. Have fun and happy hiking!
Penelope and I stand on the peak of San Jacinto at the apex of our Cactus to Clouds hike.
The sun rises a few hours into our Cactus to Clouds hike.
Coffman's Crag juts out from the mountainside after the hardest part of the Cactus to Clouds hike.
Today I created a Ruby on Rails module to calculate shipping from FedEx. I based it on a similar module from Ben Curtis which he wrote to calculate UPS shipping.
We both based our modules on the Shipping ruby gem, which hasn't been updated in several years and no longer works with the current version of Rails as far as I can tell.
My module is pretty straight forward, you feed it your zipcode, total weight and number of boxes and it gives you an array of prices and methods available from FedEx. You call it like this:
fedex = FEDEX::Client.new :account => '1000000', :meter => " 1000" , :origin_zip => '90000', :url => 'https://gateway.fedex.com/GatewayDC' fedex_quote = fedex.rate_list '80000', '500', '20'
You can check out and download my FedEx shipping calculator module here on pastie.
Police shot a homeless man brandishing a knife around 1:30 p.m. today shutting down several blocks around 6th and Stanford. The ensuing investigation prevented access to the UCEPP building where the Skid Row Photography Club holds its meetings.
According to an eye-witness, the police officers asked the man to put the knife down. When he allegedly lunged at them, they opened fire and shot him. The police then proceeded to handcuff him and called an ambulance.
The eye-witness noted that the ambulance took an unusually long time to arrive, upwards of 20 minutes. Normally emergency services arrive very quickly in Skid Row as their station is just a few blocks away. The suspect was still alive when loaded into the ambulance, but his current condition is unknown.
The Skid Row Photography Club, of which I am a co-founder along with Michael Blaze, meets every Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the UCEPP center. We have a gallery show coming up starting with a soft opening in the beginning of November at Stella Dottir's shop and gallery. The official opening will be during the Downtown Art Walk on the 13th of November.
I am very excited about the opening. The group has produced an amazing body of work. Too much to display in just one show. The website will be up soon so and you'll be able to see this wonderful work for yourself.
The crime scene from an officer involved shooting inconveniently blocks access to the Skid Row Photography Club meeting in this photo from earlier today.
The UCEPP building is inaccessible for the Skid Row Photo Club meeting due to an investigation of an officer involved shooting that happened earlier in the day.
Update: ABC 7 has a story along with video and photos from my eye-witness.
Last Saturday Penelope and I hiked to the top of Mt. San Jacinto via Deer Springs Trail. It was our most challenging hike so far, covering nearly 20 miles with 5,200 feet of elevation gain.
San Jacinto is the third tallest mountain in Southern California. If you've ever driven out to Palm Springs, it's that giant mountain that seems to explode out of the desert to the south of the 10 freeway.
There are several routes to the peak, one of which is to ride the tram and then take a reasonably short hike up from there. A much longer route is called cactus to clouds and is about 23 miles up with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. We chose the next hardest route, up Deer Springs trail.
The Deer Springs trailhead is located less than a mile from Idyllwild. We pulled in to Idyllwild a bit later than we had intended and secured our permit. We hit the trail at 9:30 a.m. and started our way up.
The first seven miles were very gentle, gaining roughly 500 feet of elevation per mile. The scenery was beautiful with changing leaves in hues of gold and orange and lovely views down the mountain. The weather was perfect, nice and cool with a gentle breeze.
We averaged two miles per hour on the way up. For the last few miles we felt great. The seventh mile was the hardest, we gained about 1,000 feet in one mile, but even that wasn't very difficult.
We reached the summit of Mt. San Jacinto at 2:30 p.m. and ate lunch. The view from the top is spectacular especially on a clear day. We took a few photos and then headed down.
We chose a different and slightly longer route for our descent. We passed through several verdant cienegas. Cienegas are basically swamps, but beautiful and in the mountains. The three was hiked through were lush with foliage and water flowing through their muddy banks.
Our route down took longer than we originally estimated and the sun set while we were a couple miles from the trailhead. Being a former Boy Scout I am always (over) prepared and of course we brought our headlamps just in case.
For some odd reason, those last two miles seemed a lot longer than they did nine hours earlier! We ended up back at the car right around 6:30 p.m.
The Deer Springs trail is a wonderful route up to San Jacinto. It was great training for our upcoming cactus to clouds hike. We look forward to doing it again soon.
The setting sun casts a red glow on the ground behind Penelope during our hike down from San Jacinto.
Dave and Penelope pose for a photo after reaching the peak of Mt. San Jacinto.
The view is beautiful from halfway up the Deer Springs trail.
I have an addiction to photo gear. I own a crapload of equipment and I'm always buying new stuff to the delight of my
accountant wife. Along the way I've gone through a number of camera bags, each progressively better than the last.
I started out with a smallish Lowepro bag when I bought my first SLR. It had this incredibly dangerous problem in which the plastic buckle that held strap on would randomly come loose. I remember when I was at Samy's Camera talking to a saleperson and told him about my problem. He said that's why I should use Tamrac, as it's the best bag around. Ever since then I've been a Tamrac guy.
I started out with and older version of the Tamrac 5502, which is a relatively small bag. It worked fine when I had one camera, one lens and one flash. As my photo equipment collection expanded, I quickly outgrew the 5502. I currently use it to hold my Sony PCM-D50 audio recorder, Sennheiser MD46 ENG mic, Sennheiser HD 25-1 II headphones and various cables.
While I still used this bag for my SLR, I bought a nice selection of medium format Mamiya cameras and lenses from eBay on the cheap. I needed a giant bag to hold all of them. Tamrac used to make a bag specifically for medium format cameras called the Tamrac 622 [photo here]. They no longer make it, but I found one on eBay and purchased it. It's a great (both in size and functionality) bag. I don't shoot medium format as much as I would like, but at least it's well protected in that massive 622.
My next bag was the Tamrac 5608. The 5608 holds two cameras with lenses attached along with several other lenses, flashes, HV batteries, etc. This worked well for me until I picked up the tack-sharp Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS lens. Unfortunately I couldn't leave this lens on the cameras that were in the 5608. At one point I missed an amazing shot of a hawk while I scrambled to change the lens.
The missed shot happened during my vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico with my lovely wife Penelope. Shortly after that we hit a local photo store where I purchased the Tamrac 617, also known as the Super Pro 17. It holds two cameras with lenses attached, including one with the 70-200 on it. It also has room for another lens, a flash, cables and various other accessories. I now use my 5608 to hold my flash gear. The 617 is awesome and is my current camera bag.
The Pro 17 has one problem, it doesn't have room for my laptop. Because of this I have a backpack with my laptop and cables in it and a camera bag. This results in me frequently being without my camera as it's a pain to carry two heavy bags. I recently went to Samy's to check out a bag that I've had my eye on for some time now.
The bag I've been lusting over is the Tamrac 619 also known as the Pro 19. This bag is awesome. It's wider than the Pro 17 so it has room for two or three more lenses. It also has side pockets which will let me stow either my audio equipment or HV battery packs. Finally, and most importantly, it has room for a laptop and cables.
I ordered the Pro 19 tonight from amazon. Once I have it, I will rarely be without my camera gear. Hopefully this will allow me to take more photos for fun, as opposed to just shooting when I'm on assignment. I'm really looking forward to its arrival, Tamrac bags are wonderful and I fully endorse and recommend them.
Yesterday Penelope and I hiked to the top of Mt. Wilson. It was a tough hike, but well worth the views, plus it's always nice to get a good 6 hour workout!
We started our hike from the trailhead on Mt. Wilson Trail road at roughly 9:30 a.m. The first two miles of the trail was highly trafficked with dozens of day hikers. This part of the trail is also barren thanks to a recent fire and in the morning the sun really beats down on you.
After a mile and a half we passed a fork down to the First Water swimming hole. Once past First Water we hardly saw any other hikers.
3.5 miles into the trip we reached Orchard Camp. This was the halfway point so we stopped and had some snacks and hydrated. We met two mountain bikers at Orchard Camp, they were the only folks on bikes we saw during out hike.
After snacking we headed up to the Winter Creek trail intersection. The last half mile before the intersection was the hardest part of the hike. The trail was narrow and exposed at times and there was little tree cover to shade us.
Once at Winter Creek trail we were excited to only have another 1.7 miles to go and we headed up the half mile and 500 feet of elevation gain of switchbacks to the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. We followed the old road a half mile and then we took the small trail the final .7 mile up to the peak.
I always let Penelope lead because I tend to walk to fast and tire myself out and she's great at pacing us. For the last leg of the hike she was doing double time and we made it up to the peak quickly.
Once at the top I saw the parking lot and the tourists that drove up and said, "Wait you can drive up here?" Of course I knew there was a road up, but it was still funny at the time. Once at the peak we sat at a picnic bench and ate our lunches before heading down.
Going down the mountain is obviously faster than going up. What took us over three and a half ours to go up took us just over 2 hours to come down. We arrived at the trailhead seven hours after we started out, which includes roughly an hour for our snack and lunch breaks.
So the final stats: 6 hours of hiking time, 14 miles and 4,700 feet of elevation gain. It was a fun hike, although not as visually stimulating as Mt. Baldy. I'm not sure if this will be a repeat hike, but we definitely plan to drive up and do the observatory tour at some point.
San Gorgonio rises above the smog in the distance in this photo taken from the peak of Mt. Wilson on Sunday.
Dave and Penelope stand happily atop Mt. Wilson after hiking to the top in just over 3 hours on Sunday.
A wide array of antennas cover a hill close to the peak of Mt. Wilson.
Awesome, internet-venerable website BoingBoing posted up a link and photo from my Industrial Landscapes series. It doesn't say so anywhere on my site, but limited edition archival prints of most images are available to purchase in both 13"x19" and 17"x22" formats. Email me for price and availability.
Three weeks ago, my lovely wife Penelope and I hiked Los Angeles County's tallest peak, Mt. San Antonio, also known as Mt. Baldy. It was a great day hike, with a hefty elevation gain and beautiful views of Southern California.
We started out later than we had originally planned, this was due to me sleeping in. I realized later that I slept in because I was worried about being able to complete the hike.
The route we took was 12 miles round trip, with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Those 4,000 fee up occurred in the first four miles of the hike.
We parked at Manker Flats and took the fire road up until we reached the Baldy Bowl trail. The trail cuts almost straight up from the road and is easy to miss, but we had a picture which helped us find it.
We headed up the trail for about two miles when we reached the San Antonio Ski Hut, also known as the Baldy Hut. At the hut we met some cool folks from the San Diego SAR team who fed us fresh baked cookies. After hanging out for a few minutes at the hut we continued on up the Baldy Bowl Trail.
Shortly after leaving the hut we reached some very steep switchbacks. It was tough going, and for the first time I can remember on a hike, Penelope was in no mood to make small talk. After we crested the last switchback she was feeling better and the chatting resumed, thankfully.
A few miles and another couple thousand feet of elevation gain later we were at the top. It took us roughly three hours to get to the summit. We sat down and enjoyed our well-deserved lunch. After eating we hydrated, put on a layer and headed down the Devil's Backbone Trail.
After the first part where the trail got narrow, I said, this isn't so bad, I wonder why people write that it is scary. A few miles later we got to the actual backbone, which was only a few feet wide with steep cliffs on both sides. It's not too bad in the summer, but according to my SAR teammates, it's quite frightening in winter when it's a giant ice-covered cornice of death.
When we made it down to the ski area we contemplated taking the chairlift down, but decided against it and continued down the fire road. The fire road isn't the most visually stimulating area and its long, gradual slope made for a somewhat boring end to the hike.
By the time we got to back to the car we were ready to get home, relax and have some tapas at Ciudad. We were exhausted, but happy that we made it, the whole hike took us just about 6 hours round trip.
Baldy was a great hike and we're looking forward to doing it again soon. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a vigorous day hike.
The sky is clear in the view looking out from the first mile of the Baldy Bowl trail.
This steel marker sits on the peak of Mt. San Antonio, AKA Mt. Baldy, the tallest peak in Los Angeles County.
Penelope starts down the Devil's Backbone trail after reaching the summit of Mt. Baldy.
I have somewhat of a backlog of galleries for Wired.com right now. Earlier this week one of them posted, as well as a photo of my laptop. In case you were wondering I wrote all the captions and intros for the galleries, but the laptop one wasn't written by me.
This gallery is about a new technology that will allow a microscope to be squeezed onto a microchip.
That's my laptop.
This gallery is about a scientists at Caltech who have shrunken a still down to micro-size.