Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Support your Sparks!

LA Sparks

I just got back from an exciting women's basketball game between the LA Sparks and the Sac-town Monarchs, tickets courtesy of our Lakers/Sparks bean-counter friend Nick. The seats were awesome -- we were in section 101, row 12 (click here for a picture of the Staples Center seating chart). Our girls were out-played in the first half, but made a strong comeback in the last 10 minutes and lost by only 3 points. So kids, the lesson we take home today is "great basketball + close seats + cheap tickets = excellent evening". Go Sparks!

Delivery from Hogwarts

Great Horned Owl

When Steve and I got home from work yesterday we saw a few of our neighbors looking up into a tree. What a surprise to see a great horned owl perched in the branches! Isn't he beautiful? It's too bad I didn't have a telephoto lens to get a closer picture, but through the binoculars this fella has bright yellow eyes and enormous talons that wrapped around the tree branch. (Glad I'm not a squirrel!) The crows were going absolutely nuts, squawking and circling, but my owl friend was just chillin'.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Backpacking in Sequoia NP

Steve and I recently completed a four day backpacking adventure in the Mineral King region of Sequoia National Park. We thought this was going to be a nice leisurely trip, however we found ourselves to be challenged in a healthy, limit-finding sort of way. Backpacking is an interesting sport. It's wonderful to leave everything behind and just sweat through the same shirt for a week. It's not always comfortable but the views are amazing. And when you take your boots off your swollen, blistered feet at the end of the day, you can truly appreciate just how amazing it is to return to feeling "normal". I guess you could say backpacking realigns your priorities.

[I have all my pictures posted on my online photo album. Just type in "LADOTYK" for the member name.]

We had driven to the park the night before and car camped to make sure that we were able to get our back country permit when the ranger station opened at 8:00. Luckily we got our spots, a couple of bear canisters, and we were off up the trail.

Climbing out of Mineral King Valley

The first three miles were straight up over Timber Gap. Unfortunately by this point the new boots decided it was time to wreak havoc with my heels. Alas. To quote Jackaroo, "What're you gonna do." We hiked another six miles to Pinto Lake through pretty meadows of intense wild flowers. Too bad I bonked a half-mile from the campsite and Steve had to help me up over the last hill.

After some rearranging of the gear (i.e. lightened my pack by about 10-lb) we headed straight for Black Rock Pass, part of the Great Western Divide, which was a good 3,000 ft. above our campsite. Numerous people coming down the other side that gave us kudos for picking what they thought was clearly the more difficult direction. One guy said crossing the pass from our direction was on his list of trails never to attempt. I didn't think it was too bad as long as you went slow and steady, but crikey it's like three hours on a stair master at 11,600 ft. altitude.

Crossing Black Rock Pass

At last we reached the top of the Divide and then descended into a beautiful alpine region called Little Five Lakes. We pushed a little farther to the Big Five Lakes where we setup our second camp. The mosquitoes were intense so we broke out the netting we got in Visalia just before the trip. Let me tell you, best damn things we ever bought.

The best $1.50 ever spent

The third morning we lingered around camp a little later than usual because we knew we had a shorter, less strenuous day planned. Finally we packed up our gear and headed back out into the wild. Most of this day was spent in Lost Canyon, following the babbling creek back to its source in the mountain snow runoff. When we broke out of the trees on the canyon floor we had breathtaking views of Sawtooth Peak and the Great Western Divide looming over a pristine alpine meadow. It was spectacular.

Alpine meadows in front of Sawtooth Peak

We eventually climbed out of the canyon and onto the shores of Columbine Lake, nestled at 10,800 ft. right below Sawtooth Peak. This was a very exposed lake with no trees -- just some grass, fat yellow bumblebees, and trout jumping out of the lake to feast on mosquitoes. Not too concerned about bears this evening.

Our campsite on Columbine Lake

We had a beautiful sunset but shortly after zipping up the tent the heavens opened up and a thunderstorm struck. This must have been a huge storm because my friend said she saw lightning in the mountains from the La Canada Flintridge area. The rain poured and the wind howled against our little tent. Out little tent with metal poles. On the top of an exposed mountain with no trees, next to a huge body of water. Freakin' brilliant.
Sunset and moonrise on Columbine Lake

Fortunately we lived but that has got to be the worst night's sleep of my life. I was freaked out because I knew we had to cross Sawtooth Peak in the morning and I thought the wind and slippery rocks would wipe us clean off the mountain. We waited for morning to dry up the storm but it kept on raining, so we packed up our things and headed up the last mountain. The rain and wind seemed less severe outside the tent and in fact we had little trouble cossing the pass. It even snowed on us at the top! From there it was straight down 5 miles and 4,000 ft. back to our car, blessed car. As we left the park the fog of the storm lifted and it was just another 100 degree day in the central valley. We stewed in our juices until we reached LA at last and got to take a long, hot, liberating shower. The end!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Episode II: Revenge of the Syrah

I'm a little delinquent in reporting, but I thought I'd share our fun evening a couple of weeks ago when we hosted a fondue and wine tasting party. There were about 13 friends who came bearing things to drink, things to melt, and things to dip. Shown here are frisbee friends Anne, Jack, Jason, Monica, Nick, and Steve.

The fondue crowd
Jay likes cheese

We had two cheese pots and an oil pot for making tempura. Jay was quite impressed that I had panko for the tempura, but then he should know that when it comes to cooking I don't mess around. Only the best, baby.

The spread

Balancing out the cholesterol was our other goal of the evening to be total posers for a wine taste test. There were 8 bottles to taste. We covered the labels and let people rank the wines based on their tannins, oakiness, long finish, hints of cherries, pepper, whiff of edam cheese, etc.

Testing the syrahs

Naturally, in a moment of intoxicated silliness I knocked a bottle all over my clothes and on the carpet (sorry no picture). Thank goodness for Resolve carpet cleaner! Anne and Steve, several glasses in, have decided that the wine is unquestionably a deep red.

Discerning palates

In the end Brian and Kara won first place for a charming syrah they bought during a recent Sideways-style wine tasting trip they took in the Santa Barbara region. Congrats, kids!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Luck 'o the Irish

It's official! Our officemate Michael Steven Buchko (no, not the child molestor from Vegas) has a new blog. Check out all his majesty at Lucky's Pot 'o' Gold. Like any good leprechaun he's a little hard to track down, so be sure to check for updates often to catch any breaking news.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fergie Trivia

I apologize, I know it's been some time since my last post. Even though much has happened since my tennis excursion, I haven't had the gumption to put pen to paper (so to speak). Instead I will delight you with a piece of Fergie trivia.

TV in the fireplace

I keep my television in the fireplace. Yes, it's true. I get the assortment of odd stares when people come to visit, but I have to say that I think the fireplace is the best place for my television. For one, I live near the beach and it never gets cold enough to necessitate lighting fires in the winter. Additionally my television is about as far from flat as you can get, so the huge cavity fits nicely in the fireplace nook. We even bought a little swivel base to spruce up the arrangement. We tried other areas of the room but this was truly the most ergonomic and spatially economic solution. So there you have it! Until next time, my friends.