October 10, 2007
Because such a short hike was hardly satisfying, I continued along the Skyline Trail that drops down and around Jacks Peak in a counterclockwise fashion. The view from this trail was much better than the one at the top of the peak.Ah... good to know. Lots o' pretty pictures in this post, even if you're not interested in the lofty peak. (Strikes me that there's a certain justice to people lucky enough to live by all that gorgeous coastline being obliged to share it with all us drive-though gawkers, though I doubt they see it that way).
California: Redwood National ParkMost impressive: they found a beach in Texas, too.
South of the Oregon border, hikers will discover a flamboyantly scenic trail in Redwood National Park. The Yurok Loop to Hidden Beach explores the lagoon area of the 40-mile Coastal Trail pathway. Cypress, alder, and dense coastal scrub shrouds hikers on their way to views of the shoreline. The beautiful cove of Hidden Beach serves as a turnaround. For information, call 707/465-7306 or visit nps.gov/redw/.
This hike is all about ethnobotany: how the Indians and settlers used native plants medicinally and in a wide variety of other ways. During lunch at the hog barn picnic tables, you’ll hear about the history of this area, from 10,000 years ago up to the present. Docents Keith Johnsgård and Jenny Whitman will lead you through the four diverse ecosystems found around Alpine Pond and Skyline Ridge Preserve (a 2-mile loop with a 275-foot elevation gain). The hike will include lots of stops and lots of talk, and is not appropriate for young children.
Make your reservations by Friday.
Alpine Lake is a lovely locale, no doubt about it. And it would be fun to know what the indigenous folks were eating while avoiding being eaten by the grizzly bears.
Rocky Ridge RambleMore details here. It's a 12-miler with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Because that's how far/high you have to walk to get beyond the suburban sprawl of Contra Costa County. Click on this map to see where the hike starts out from -- looks like challenging terrain indeed. The alliance's event's calendar is here.
East Bay - Greenbelt Outing
See what Contra Costa County would look like without its suburban sprawl. This rigorous hike takes us through some of the East Bay’s most pristine watershed, including long abandoned ranches and orchards. 10 am-6:15 pm
October 09, 2007
Facebook has lots of cool gadgets and many local groups, including one for the Stanford Outing Club, which organizes lots of group hikes in these parts. Many Two-Heel Drive regulars have joined the fun, including Russ, the winehiker; Steve from the Wildebeat; Tom Clifton, the picture taking geologist; Rick McCharles of Besthike.com; and I'm sure many more I haven't gotten to yet.
Yes, it's one more way to burn valuable brain cells but hey, if you're hanging out here you couldn't be putting them to good use. So, sign up and be my friend.
October 08, 2007
Sunday was one of the clearest, see-all-the-way-to-San Francisco days in recent memory (which, in my case, goes back to about last Thursday, though, to tell the truth, I can't remember anything I did Thursday), which made it a good day to be out in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley. In theory anyway. Truth is there's really not much to see from up there, though it's undeniable that the behemoth hangars at Moffett Field are easier on the eyes from several miles away.
Mind you I had no idea this would be an almost perfect day to visit Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, which has vistas out the yingyang; I just figured it was someplace nearby that'd be easy to write about in my Mercury News column (easy write-ups equal easy money -- my favorite kind).
What I knew about Windy Hill before this outing was that the parking lot on Skyline Boulevard was an excellent pit stop (meaning: pit toilets) for Santa Cruz Mountains road trips. All you can see from there are the valley overlook and a few mostly treeless knobs. It doesn't exactly scream "hike here," the main reason this park was low on my must-check-out list. A few hours of actual hiking, though, moved it up a few notches.
My quest for easy money required a few minutes of advance research, during which I learned there was another entrance to the park from Portola Road in Portola Valley (home of more zillionaires per capita than anyplace this side of, well, Woodside, the next town over). It's really the best trailhead at Windy Hill because you can get the climb out of the way on fresh legs, then cruise downhill all the way back.
Couple nice things near the trailhead: Sausal Pond and Betsy Crowder Trail -- my rule is always check out the trails with somebody's full name: parks would never honor somebody with a bad trail, right?
Guess we might as well look at some pictures:
Here's a bit of tree tunnel on the Spring Ridge Trail, which goes all the way to Skyline Boulevard over a mostly open expanse of hillside. It's an old ranch road, which in the grand Henry Coe tradition means it wasn't precisely designed for human-powered travel. But it's only a couple miles with about 1,400 feet of climb -- a great for getting some actual exercise. Incidentally, I passed these bikers near the top of the trail; apparently they were rookies. Usually the only time I pass a biker uphill is when he's got a flat tire or a broken chain. I take my triumphs where I can get 'em.
A good look at the route up to the top of the hill. Looks like this place'll be mud central when the rains come, but also wildflower central next spring.
I know thistles are pain-in-the-ass invasive weeds, but they do dry and and die in a picturesque manner. That's Mount Diablo way, way off in the distance.
Another view from the top of Spring Ridge Trail at Skyline Boulevard. OK, so it's a pretty nice view from up here.
This is an exceedingly rare view: no fog/clouds blocking the view westward toward the Pacific Ocean.
Nice chunk of rock on the Anniversary Trail.
The sign at the Anniversary Trail is among the first things you see from the main Skyline Boulevard parking area, which also has aforementioned pit toilets and a few picnic tables. People also fly kites and gliders from around here when the wind's right. Winds were calm Saturday but there's nothing up there to block the Pacific breezes, which can be fierce. Hence the park's name.
The Lost Trail also leaves the Skyline Boulevard trailhead. It's the nicest section of the park -- pretty much all flat and thickly forested. From Lost Trail you can return either via the Hamms Gulch Trail or the more adventurously named Razorback Ridge Trail. I took the latter.
A spring brings fresh water for thirsty horses near the intersection with the Razorback Ridge Trail, which meanders back down the hillside till it intersects with Alpine Road. From there it's just a matter of finding the Eagle Trail (down the road a bit) and following the signs back to the trailhead.
Sausal Pond is a pleasant stop along the way.
Bottom line: there's enough here to pick up some easy money from the paper. The single-track trails through the woods are quite nice, with plenty of switchbacks; the shadeless slog up Spring Ridge Trail is good exercise with with good views, if your idea of a good view is looking down on civilization.
Wunderlich Park just down the road is nicer, but Windy Hill is a good fallback if you can't find any parking there.
Somehow, in the conditioned mind, you're not supposed to see or associate water with an arid environment. And yet here! --and there! - and everywhere! - it exists, flowing (mostly) uninterrupted, from recondite and ancient sources, near and far, thanks to the age-old natural phenomena of rain and snow.He was there in early summer; might be dryer now. Nevertheless, it's the go-to locale in the Southwest.
The site's keeper is one Neil Wiley, who gets extra credit for a) owning a vintage Jaguar E Type and b) writing editorials chastising the local school board.
Hike descriptions generally start with an introduction to the site's history. I was fond of this one, from a stroll at Bear Creek Open Space Preserve:
James L. Flood’s father was reputed to be the wealthiest man in California. He paid his son’s girlfriend, a beautiful blond, blue-eyed burlesque queen, $25,000 to leave town. She did, but his son followed, and the couple married in Naples. Although she was never accepted by the family, father and son reconciled. Lucky for the son. He and his sister divided an estate valued at $18.5 million.I think if you've got enough money to pay your progeny's ill-considered paramours to leave town, you should, because it makes such a great story when your diabolical schemes go terribly wrong.
October 05, 2007
The contest kicks off Oct. 17; Web site is here. Presumably you'll be able to register online then.
Those who take the challenge will receive a trail guide book with 21 trails to choose from. Those who finish their five will receive a "completion award" (I'm thinking it won't be a Hummer. Here's a grand prize suggestion: 30 minutes in Mel Cotton's taking everything my grimy mitts can grab; heck, I'd hike all 21 twice for a shot at that).
I'm glad the good people at the Parks Department recognize there's a fitness/obesity/extend-your-life angle to all those trails of theirs, though five outings in a year is more of a well-meaning start than an actual challenge.
All sniping aside, though, the county has an excellent parks system (especially when you consider the fact that it's not in, well, Marin County) and anything that gets folks out into the parks they pay for and actually using them is preferable than the alternative.
I'll try to remember to post an update on the 17th, when more details should be available. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to scrutinize -- and, of course, ridicule -- their trail choices. (Yes, we bloggers would be toast without our natural-born propensity to capitalize on the faults of others.)
October 04, 2007
It's a passable getaway on weekends, but the parking lot fills up quickly, a consequence of its shady, sanely graded trails and easy proximity to Interstate 280, Woodside and Portola Valley. Wunderlich is home to the historic Folger Stables and a working horse-jumping ring, so there's a fair amount of horse traffic on the weekends, too.
That's why I'd urge stopping by on a weekday, when you'll have the park's trails through redwoods, Douglas fir, oak, madrone and eucalyptus to yourself. On your way up the hillside, as the sounds of traffic, airliners and construction sites fade, you're bound to get that priceless sensation of playing hooky. And if you do get busted for sneaking away from the job, you can always tell the boss you're reining in health insurance costs by taking vigorous walks in the woods.
SUNOL'S ANNUAL HALLOWEEN HAUNTING: JOURNEY TO NEVERLANDOK, so the publicist dipped a bit too deep in the rum for a minute there, but this sounds like a fine way to keep the kids entertained (or better yet, be scar them for life, which is every parent's solemn duty.)
Sunol Regional Wilderness
Every 15 minutes beginning at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct 20
No hike 6:45 p.m. Last hike 8:00 p.m.
AAAARGH and avast there ye scurvy scum of all ages and genders! Peter Pan and his Lost Boys are in dire need of a new crew to enlist at Skull Island for an unforgettable Halloween adventure. Swabbies should be willing to deal with Cap'n Hooks' lost treasure, scaly reptiles and the perils of a Halloween at sea and on land as they investigate the hallowed traditions of this ancient holiday. The faithful BaNana will be leading the way to Neverland. Guided hikes last approximately 1 and 3/4 hours and become more dark and spooky as the night progresses (nothing gory or disgusting). Hikes begin every fifteen minutes starting at 5:15. Earlier start times best for younger children. Pre-registration limited to families and individuals only–no large organized groups. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Costumes encouraged. Limited spaces on each hike, so register early–only ticketed guests permitted–no drop-ins allowed (tickets are non-refundable). Limit of 8 tickets per household.
Reg. Required: 1-888-EBPARKS
(1-888-327-2757, option 2, 3)
Fee: $8 (non-res. $10)
More EB Parks events here.
Here's how the story goes: In 1865, a pioneer named Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, who had discovered the site the year before, guided a newspaper editor interested in covering it. While showing off his discovery, Bumpass stepped on what looked to be ground but was really only a thin crust covering boiling liquid. The crust broke, his leg plunged through into the scalding muck, and his injuries were so severe his limb had to be amputated.My Lassen visit is recorded here.
Afterward, he reportedly said, "The descent to hell is easy."
Actually, the hike is easy -- easy enough for families with young ones; I saw several as I traversed the three-mile round trip. The 1 1/2 miles slope down only 300 feet,although the thin air at this elevation (8,000 feet) can make the hike seem more difficult. The sulfureous vapor emanating from below probably doesn't help your oxygen intake either.
October 03, 2007
Like an outdoor guide with her own special territory, Michelle has years of experience “playing the field” in the backcountry, and this book is full of her tricks. Showing you the best positions for campers (the tent tango), to recipes for a romantic meal in a Ziploc bag, to how to look and feel sexy when you’re wearing grimy zip-off hiking shorts and haven’t bathed in days (hint: zip ’em off and go skinny-dipping), she inspires you to leave behind the boring bed sheets and crawl into a tantalizing tent.Michelle's blog is here. Awhile back she supplied these tips to the good guys at Men's Health magazine:
For those who don’t fancy a boink in the backcountry, this book covers other types of outdoor adventures for inspired coupling, such as paddling to your own fantasy island, making car camping the ultimate drive-in, or turning the woods into your outdoor bedroom.
.... well, it would be something to do while I'm not getting any sleep.
1. Get away. Go off the beaten path to make sure you're at least somewhat isolated. Getting vocal while getting it on might not go over too well in the middle of a family campground.
2. Keep it simple. Movements should be small and controlled. "This is not the time to try out the entire Kama Sutra, because those walls are closer than you think," says Waitzman.
3. Use a condom. This isn't a safe sex lecture. Even if you don't normally wear protection, it can make clean-up - of yourselves and the tent - that much easier.
4. Bag it up. If you're shopping for sleeping bags as a couple, invest in a pair designed to zip together. "It gives you added warmth and the convenience of being able to actually touch each other under the covers," says Waitzman.
5. Be obvious. If you want to get laid under the stars, flirt under the sun. Waitzman advises "a little wink-wink behavior during the day to get everybody on the same page." She says many people don't even consider sex in the tent, mainly because they've never tried it.
Ocean Lake Loop soon merged onto Coast Trail, and I saw two backpackers coming along that trail, the first people I saw that day. I rounded a bend and got my first view of the ocean that day, with the Farallon Islands visible in the distance. While my forecast had been for partly sunny skies, it had been sunny all day, with just a few clouds beginning to form over the ocean at that point. It was the most blue I have seen the skies at Point Reyes, and I really wish I had chosen a hike with more open views of the dramatic coastline.I often walk up to strangers in the most spectacular settings and say "sorry we couldn't provide a better view." They usually smile. (This almost never happened back when I lived in Peoria.)
The totally amazing part is that these butterflies have never been here before. Their parent's parents have, but since the lifespan of a butterfly is so short, their annual migration spans several generations. Nobody knows how they find their way to the exact same spot every year, but they do and it is amazing to see.I went with Melissa and her mom to see the butterflies a few years back.
I was messing around at the campsite and Knute walked off shore about 50 feet and drilled a hole to start fishing. It was cold. I had a small thermometer on my zipper tab and as I recall the temperature was well below zero and into the -20 or -30 range. Knute hollered from his fishing spot and said that he had one, I think he was fishing for Cusk or something like that. “I ain’t never seen no Cusk and would not know one if it bit me in the ass”. I ran down to where he was and he landed a nice Togue, or lake trout. Now I would never have believed this if I had not been there to see it. Knute removed the hook and dropped the fish to the ice so he could take care of the hook and his line. When the fish hit the snow covered ice it made a rather strange sound. Knute and I looked at each other and then looked at the fish. Knute bent over and picked the fish up; I swear that fish was frozen solid. We could not believe it. At that point, we knew that we were in for a very cold night.What this has to do with Bay Area hiking: next time you're shivering when the temperature dips into the 50s, you can think about what it's like to be really cold.
To get to the Saddleback lookout, one travels back in time, road-wise, going from asphalt to dirt to a treacherous stone-filled path that acts as the lookout’s driveway. And then you hike. Up past an outhouse, up past the spot where rattlesnakes like to sun themselves and up two flights of metal stairs, until finally you find what may be the world’s coziest government building.Thanks to alert reader Miguel Marcos for sending the link along.
Built in 1933, Mr. Gates’s wooden shack sits on stilts and is held on a crag by steel cable. Inside are a child-size sink, a small stove and a set of pink flamingo-shaped Christmas lights over his platform bed. Not that sleep is always easy: winds on the mountain can gust up to 80 miles an hour, violently shaking the shack.
“You don’t have to put a quarter in the bed or anything,” he said. “It just goes.”
October 02, 2007
What started as a Sunday hike in the San Gabriel Mountains among friends turned into a violent brawl involving a sword and pepper spray.Moral: Never go hiking with Disneyland workers who've been pilfering Pirates of the Caribbean props.
Police said 26-year-old Wesley Brockway, of Ontario, hiked to a friend's cabin near Mt. Baldy at about 3:30 p.m. with another friend. Soon after arriving, a fight ensued among the three men.
"One of the hikers had a sword and apparently the three of them fought for control of the sword," said Lt. Roxanna Hart of the L.A. County sheriff's station in San Dimas.
(Even more priceless details in this San Diego Union Tribune article. One guy's arm was almost cut off).
Our next stop was what we had come here to see: the infamous Old Faithful geyser. Scheduled to erupt every 92 minutes, we waited impatiently.I know if I were scheduled to erupt every 92 minutes, I'd be impatient too!
(For those who've forgotten their grammar lessons, the second sentence is called a dangling participle ... it's one of my favorite boo-boos because it generates fun constructions like this one.)
October 01, 2007
- Joy of Backpacking by Brian Beffort
- Wild Soundscapes by Bernie Krause
- Afoot & Afield San Francisco Bay Area by David Weintraub
- The Trinity Alps by Luther Linkhart & Mike White
- Best Snowshoe Trails of California by Mike White
(For $1 million, Steve will come to your home and write down everything he knows about the outdoors on your living room walls).
Some of you have already noticed this, but for those who haven't: Bob Coomber has started blogging. His latest post answers questions provoked by the unexpected sight of a wheelchair rider in the wilderness. A highlight:
Do you carry a cell phone? This is typically asked by people who think I care if I get lost. After a trying, troubling week at work, I've had days where I just wish I could roll down a mistake, an unmarked trail to who - knows - where. But I rarely carry a cell phone with me. I don't feel any urgency to be constantly connected to my fellow man. Most cell conversations, in my humble estimation, are unnecessary. We have put too much faith in these electronic leashes - how did I ever survive my childhood? But the real peril of reliance on a cell phone is that it causes us to dull our skills, believing that we can get bailed out by dialing an emergency phone number if we get lost or hurt. Many places I hike have no cell service, and the device becomes nothing but a piece of space taking nonsense. Better to read some basic outdoors skills articles or books, and take some time to practice until you feel comfortable leaving the phone somewhere far away from your backpack.He also talks about his workout regimen, which offers hope to anybody with over-40 musculature:
I belong to a gym in Livermore that isn't a "Spandex" gym. It is managed by our local hospital, and because of that it is frequented by a clientele of people who genuinely wish to improve their lives, not just pose in the big window for the high school kids walking past. I was befriended by a trainer when we joined, an optimist like myself who simply refused to ever let me get comfortable. He provided a workout regimen tailored, he believed, to my needs. I doubt he'd ever interviewed a new client in a chair who'd expressed a desire to roll up 14,000' peaks, and beyond. So he started me out on a basic core / shoulders / back (everywhere!) and arm routine that initiaqlly pummeled me into blithering submission. And my program wasn't what it is today, either. My first shulder presses began at 40 lbs. These days, 2 and a half years later and because I've continued to work to bust through my limits, I start at 220 lbs. And work up a notch each set from there. Triceps? They're now my strength, once an incredibly difficult problem area. When Josh started me out, I worked at 110, then bumped it up 3 levels each night. Now I start at the 250 lb level, and by the time my tricep presses are finished I've maxed out the machine - 315 lbs. and it's relatively easy.Hmm, relatively easy.
a) Rainy season could start any day now. Dig your gaiters back out.So, folks, what are the best autumn hikes in the Bay Area? The coast certainly springs to mind because there's much less fog at this time of year (though there can be freakishly hot days like the one we had at Tomales Point last week). Bahiker.com recommends:
b) Some trees will turn color (but most won't).
c) Shadeless East and South Bay parks are livable again.
d) Big hairy spiders are prowling for love in said shadeless parks.
f) Late-season Sierra backpackers get caught in blizzards.
g) Flaming-red poison oak is as pretty as it's ever going to get.
- North Bay:
- China Camp State Park
- Jack London State Historic Park
- Olompali State Park
- Samuel P. Taylor State Park East Bay:
- Briones Regional Park Peninsula and South Bay:
- Castle Rock State Park
- Fall Creek Unit: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Sawyer Camp Trail
September 30, 2007
What I'm thinking now is that people are responding to the myth crafted by Jon Krakauer and Sean Penn, rather than the reality of what happened in the Alaskan wilderness.
In the myth, a brave young soul bent on finding the truth and rejecting middle-class materialism hits the road, has a string of remarkable adventures, meets a bunch of cool people and only accidentally meets a tragic fate. It's a compelling story, especially when decorated with the jaw-dropping splendor of the American wilderness.
What really happened, though, is that one Christopher McCandless abandoned his family, took on a new identity and wandered the West till an adventure in the Alaskan bush killed him. All that's really known -- beyond the pain inflicted on his family -- are the memories of his fellow travelers and the jottings in his journals. The rest is speculation threaded into an interesting narrative.
It's not a documentary.
Those who side with the dreamers are bound to say embrace the myth of the roving truth-seeker, while those who side with the realists are bound to say ignore the exploits of an arrogant bumbler who got what he deserved.
I'm a realist who wants to embrace the myth. Natural consequence: angst.
But is the movie worth seeing? For the most part, yeah. It's like art in the sense that it lets viewers fill in the blanks with their own impressions. People sitting side by side can walk out of the theater with opposite conclusions. Go and decide for yourself.
But don't go expecting any insights into the wilderness. You already know your life here is on loan, and that soon enough your biomatter will return to the earth from whence it came. "Into the Wild" is a fine story, but there's only so much wisdom to be gleaned when somebody dies trying to live life to the fullest.
I took the China Hole Trail to China Hole, then headed up the Narrows to Las Cruzeros and took the Mahoney Meadows Road up to its intersection with Poverty Flat Road, where I did get the chance to stand next to actual burnt ground. It's at least six miles via this route, perhaps closer to seven, and it provides a tempting shortcut back to the HQ -- but you'd have to take the closed Poverty Flat Road.
After seeing "Into the Wild" the other day I'm feeling a bit more chastened about going solo in the woods, especially into areas the Park Authorities have declared off-limits. If I slip on a rock and break my leg is six places, I don't want it to happen in the last place people will start looking for me (and I don't want to give smug Park Authorities the satisfaction of chewing my ass for violating the rules).
And now, the pictures:
Fire damage across the canyon is visible from about a half-mile down the China Hole Trail. The fire jumped Blue Ridge Road, rose to the ridge top and burned down this side all the way to Poverty Flat. Generally the fire stayed on the far side of Blue Ridge, which is why so much of it is beyond view.
Much of the fire burned thick chamise, which also thrives in the open areas of the hill heading down toward China Hole. This area has burned fairly recently -- you can see the occasional toasted fence post -- and all this grew back.
China Hole has a bit of water lingering, but it all smells enough that you wouldn't want to wade in it. I stopped and gabbed with a guy camping nearby and another backpacker came along and asked us if the water was safe to drink when filtered. He noted it still smelled a bit skanky after he filtered some of it. He had three days of camping planned; here's hoping the filter did its duty.
I always take pictures of the rocks in the Narrows.
Puddles were full of little fish -- the real photographic challenge, though, is to catch a frog before he dives to the murky deep. I saw one jump, but he was gone before I had the cam ready.
On Mahoney Meadows Road, with burned area beyond Poverty Flat Road.
Now that you mention it, it is a pretty damn long walk to look at some burnt ground.
Poverty Flat Road forms a fire break.
One from the return hike: dead manzanita along the China Hole Trail. By the way this is an excellent time to check out the manaznita: the bark is deep brown and starting to curl.
Ruts from heavy equipment in the road on the walk back up the hill to the headquarters.
This really is a great time to be at Coe. And next Saturday it's Tarantula Fest! (Alas, I've seen none of the great arachnids on the trail this year, but other hikers reported sightings)
September 28, 2007
The protagonist does starve to death in the Alaskan outback; he does carry a backpack; he does go on epic hikes; he does paddle a kayak to Mexico.
But what's his real motivation for these adventures? The edifying character transformation available only to those who gamble with nature and win? Or to punish his parents?
It's a gorgeous movie with a harrowing three-hankie conclusion -- an uncanny feat when you consider everybody knows the ending before the opening credits roll. But it's also the story of a spoiled upper-middle-class twit who abandoned his parents -- leaving them in a constant state of anguish while he's living it up traipsing across the West with Waldenesque delusions of grandeur. Oh, and then he dies, tearing their lives to shreds.
Great guy; a pity he left this world so soon.
OK, that was crass, but it's not a reaction to reality, just the story -- that collection of scenes writer/director Sean Penn and his film crew stitched together into a cinematic narrative. A story told after the death of Christopher McCandless, mostly via those who met him during his travels, and the journal he kept at his "magic bus" in the Alaskan bush.
It's clear Sean Penn thinks he'd have liked the guy. He was kind, charming, charismatic, naive -- the kind who triggers a parental urge to look after him.
And yet, Penn also gives us a guy who rejected every parental approach that came his way. He didn't believe in parents, Penn tells us; all he believed in was himself.
But here's the thing: all those would-be parents kept him alive for the duration of his travels; once he was beyond their protection, he perished.
It's hard for me to like a movie when the main character disgusts me. I don't dislike him because he disrespected the power of nature; any rookie could make that mistake. What I couldn't abide was his inability to appreciate how good he had it in that terrible, stifling upper-middle-class existence of his. Almost any of us who came up under lesser circumstances would've traded places with him in a heartbeat. Free BA at Emory, and all I have to do is endure inattentive, bickering parents? Free Harvard Law sheepskin, and all I have to do is put up with Dad wanting to buy me a new car? Where the hell do I sign up?
But as I said, it's just a story. I'm not going to judge a guy's life -- and death -- on the word of the guy who played Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." A life can't be shoehorned into a movie script, and McCandless isn't around to correct any errors Penn might've introduced because it made better cinema.
On the odd chance that Penn got it right, however, I'll say this: if you want to punish your Ma, follow Pink Floyd's advice and buy a guitar. The wilderness can make you whole, but it can also eat you whole -- it's all the same to Nature, where death is integral to the cycle of life. It's no place to be working out your issues with parents, authority, capitalism and everything else; staying alive tends to require one's full attention.
It's called the "cascade effect" -- a catchy name for the way one mistake leads to another, and a quick explanation for how a hiker who takes one step off an established trail is one step closer to trouble.The thing about getting lost is, you have to be ready for it to happen anywhere. I got stuck in thick fog on Mission Peak one time as sundown approached -- I knew pretty much where I was and could figure out where I needed to go, so long as there was daylight. After dark would've been another matter. All this in a park I felt I knew by heart.
Park rangers and search and rescue experts say that hundreds of hikers take that one wrong step each year. The key, they say, is where their next step takes them -- back toward the trail or further down a perilous path.
Ron Hoggard of Corcoran became lost two weeks ago after leaving the trail for only a few minutes. When he tried to find the path again, he went the wrong way and spent the next three nights with no food and little water, trying to find help.
Hoggard, 58, had never heard of the cascade effect, but said after he was found that he believes it can happen to anyone.
He also believes he was lucky.
In the case of Ottorrina "Terrina" Bonaventura, the cascade effect led a hiker with decades of experience down a wrong trail, and what should have been a short walk with friends turned deadly.
Gotta tale on the most lost you've ever been? Add a comment and see if anybody can top yours.
Mercury News critic Bruce Newman liked the fllck:
Sean Penn's remarkable film goes beyond the central struggle of Jon Krakauer's bestselling book, luminously evoking "all that raw land . . . all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it" of Kerouac's beat novel, "On the Road."I'm starting to wonder more and more how many of these rave reviews come from folks who've spent much time sleeping on dirt. Guess this means I'll have to see it for myself.
The movie gives a sense of the enormity of America, as well as the cathartic power of crossing its varied landscape. As writer and director of this towering adaptation of Krakauer's true-life tale, Penn here equals his best work as an actor.
"Into the Wild" doesn't merely chase along after Christopher McCandless (wonderfully played by Emile Hirsch), who abandoned a future full of promise for one that frequently teetered on recklessness. McCandless walks into the Alaskan wilderness alone to administer a test of his own character, one that can only be taken pass-fail.
September 27, 2007
Wednesday, prosecutors said the 50-year-old San Juan Bautista schoolteacher had been formally charged in the blaze, detailing for the first time how the tiny flames on her hillside property sprawled into a 47,760-acre wildfire that raged out of control for more than a week.The story goes on to describe it as an accident that got out of hand.
Three hours after she lit the fire, prosecutors said, she heard what sounded like running water and rushed outside, only to find the flames leaping from the barrel. She sprayed them with a garden hose, but to no avail. Without a phone and unable to find her car keys to get help, she grabbed the closest thing she could - a shotgun.
She fired three rounds into the air, hoping to alert her husband who was out chopping firewood, prosecutors said. Hearing the blasts, he returned to help her, picking up a garden hose of his own, but by then the blaze had already grown too big.
"I don't think anyone was going to fight this fire with a garden hose," said Frank Carrubba, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney.
STEVE: So of all those places you were posted back there, if you were going to get to retire to one and live there, which one would you choose?Steve asked me to do some poking around online to find interesting tidbits on Boyers. One gem: She's described as "the heart and soul" of Anna Pigeon, the protagonist of a series of spy novels by the author Nevada Barr, a former park ranger who sets all her novels in the national parks.
LAUREL BOYERS: I'd choose them all! I just did my swan song of a sort, and took a trip where I went from Wawona, all the way up through Tuolumne Meadows, taking some of my favorite routes, all the way to that furthest northeast part, and then back down to Hetchy, so rode the entire length of the park. It takes ten days to ride across this park, which is quite interesting. That's not trying to make it longer, or whatever. And I think that's quite an important part of the wildness of this park, to think that you do have to cross a road once, you've got to cross the Tioga Road. But, Aldo Leopold said that wilderness should be big enough to take a week long pack trip. And lo and behold, in Yosemite it takes ten days, at least, to cross it, which is pretty exciting to me.
Not sure which is cooler, getting to hike and camp for a living or inspiring a series of detective yarns.