naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Default)
Coronado Butterflies

A couple weeks ago I enjoyed a "Rails and Trails" local Sierra Club daytrip to the Coronado Butterfly Preserve. We took the train from Los Angeles to Goleta, hiked about 3.5 miles of sidewalks along the roadways of Goleta to the Preserve, enjoyed a few hours there, then hiked back (stopping for snacks/dinner along the way) to catch the train, and so home by that evening.

Seeing the coast from the train to Goleta was lovely, and of course the thousands and thousands of butterflies were so beautiful. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous trip.

I managed to capture some (admittedly slightly wobbly) video of some of the clusters of butterflies.

Carrizo Plain De-Fencing and Exploring

This weekend, I took part in a volunteer work-day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, getting rid of old barbed-wire fence on Saturday, and then exploring on my own on Sunday. It was a great weekend!

I took some photos today as I explored... I've posted them as a photoset on Flickr.

For more info about Carrizo, please see:

official BLM website for Carrizo Plain

Friends of Carrizo: Volunteer Opportunities

Nature Conservancy webpage about Carrizo Plain

Wikipedia page about Carrizo Plain
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (self-portrait)
I spent a bit of time scouring for these links, so I might as well collect 'em in one place so I don't lose 'em again, and share 'em with whoever might be interested... :-) (a lot of information on this site is in downloadable PDF files -- I've never visited the Franklin Canyon Park before, and hey, it's been used for a lot of film locations!

Speaking of which... enter your zip code into and search on the keyword "outdoor" :-) - there's a Burbank tasting room open Friday and Saturday evenings
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (self-portrait)
Dad was on the John Muir Trail for a few weeks, and I picked him up at the trailhead afterwards. We've done this sort of thing before, and it dovetails nicely into a short visit for him here with me in the big city before he heads home to Indiana. Some of this year's highlights:

- burgers in Lone Pine
- wandering around in Descanso Garden
- checking out the evening dance party on the sidewalk in downtown Burbank last week
- bagels and ice cream, and checking out the trikkes at the sports store at the mall
- sorting through my stash of camping gear together and decluttering the bits I don't use nowadays, to make better storage room for the gear I do use
- random home improvement projects I needed a tall hand with
- watching some DVDs together, just chillin' with our feet up
- Burbank Farmers Market on Saturday morning
- wine tasting and dipping our toes in the surf at Malibu Rosenthal Winery tasting room
- sushi at Wokano
- dayhiking near Stough Nature Center
- Sunday brunch with the string quartet at Market City Cafe in Burbank
- salmon burgers at Fuddruckers and then shopping for 45rpm vinyl at Backside Records
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (self-portrait)

Southern California Sites

Death Valley Sites

Mojave Sites

Angeles National Forest Sites

naturedance: crafting joy (crafting joy)
Note to self: If you have the opportunity to attend the Taste of Solvang weekend again, Just Do It.

Apparently this is a once-a-year thing that happens in March, and a friend and I stumbled right into it after deciding about a week ago that we needed to get out of LA this past weekend. We spent the weekend wandering around Solvang (which apparently means "sunny field" in Danish, and is about 140 miles west and north of Burbank), shopping, stuffing ourselves silly on wonderful food, and greatly enjoying the Saturday evening wine tasting room walking tour. All of the wine-tasting rooms on the tour were staggering distance from all of the local hotels, so no one had be a designated driver in any of the groups who wandered and mingled on the sidewalks and in the 14 different tasting rooms that stayed open late for us.

My friend and I didn't book ourselves for all of the organized Taste Of Solvang weekend activities, choosing instead the wander-and-explore approach to everything but the wine tasting. Though in retrospect the Friday dessert reception sounds like it would have been nice, there was absolutely no way we were making it out of LA in time for that, thanks to our crazy!busy! work schedules.

We stayed at the Solvang Inn and Cottages, which like many of the local hotels is walking distance from pretty much everything in town.

I am not a wine expert, I just know what I like. )

In conclusion, Solvang is kitschy and touristy and fabulous in that dorky-yet-pretentious way that some places are... it's a great place to walk one's feet off poking around into interesting shops, and has the most wine-tasting rooms in such a small area I've ever seen. Also, the drive up the 101 to get there is a fun drive, and the ocean beaches are lovely.

I was away from the internet for a whole weekend, which was strange and a much-needed decompression from work stuff lately.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (autumn bountiful harvest)
Congratulations to newlyweds Ben and Kendra! Welcome to the crazy wonderfulness that is we Shakal cousins-by-the-dozens, Kendra!

I now know for certain that various Shakal relatives are reading this blog and never commenting here...

*waves a special cheery hello to the Carmel and Sparks clans* It was wonderful seeing you in person again after all these years!

If there are other random relatives reading this, feel free to comment here or to email me. I'm not scary, I promise, and I'd love to hear from you. My email address is my first name @ my last name .org (because I'm... um... organized. Mostly.)

:-) And yes, I'm still working on the new family tree and discussions website. :-D I have high hopes for December and January.

OK, on to more travel news...

I will be attending the League of Professional System Administrators' training days in Phoenix, AZ, this coming Monday and Tuesday. I'll be learning more about Change Management, Disaster Recovery, Communication for IT, and Developing IT Policies. This makes me very happy.

If any of my sysadmin buddies are also going to be there, let me know, OK? If you want my cell phone number so we can connect easily in Phoenix and you don't already have it, drop me an email.

It is becoming more and more likely that I'll be attending my 15th high school reunion in Indiana near Thanksgiving. If any of the ol' CGHS Science Club or German Club or Academic Superbowl or Decathlon crew are going to be around Greenwood then, drop me an email -- it'd be great to meet for coffee or something if there's time.

I will be regretfully unable to attend the LISA 2006 sysadmin conference in Washington, D.C., during the first week of December. This is slightly depressing, because it's such an amazing conference. But maybe I'll be able to attend next year.

I'm going to be wandering around the downtown Burbank Fine Arts Festival on either November 11th or 12th. The last two times I've done so I had a great time. If anyone from the LA area wants to wander the festival with me, let me know... I'd love to introduce you to my new favorite coffeeshop in Burbank: Romancing The Bean. They make a green tea iced blended thing that's really wonderful.

There's a good site for gem, mineral and bead shows across the US at the Lapidary Journal and another one at that mentions some of the Santa Monica shows... If anyone wants to wander the Santa Monica bead show with me that's on November 18th or 19th, or the one that's on December 2nd and 3rd, let me know. I may attend one of them... but I don't know yet. Mmmm, beads and rocks... :-)
naturedance: this is me on a suspension bridge (me backpacking)

Dad and I had an adventure in May 2006…

  • Travel to Burbank (LAX Airport to LA Union Station "FlyAway Bus" Service, Layover in Union Station, Connecting with Adele, and then Union Station to Downtown Burbank commuter rail service via Metrolink)

  • Camping and Hiking Plans

  • Getting back to LAX after the hike

  • Trip Photos on Flickr

Travel to Burbank

LAX Airport to LA Union Station "FlyAway Bus" Service

The FlyAway buses pick up at every LAX terminal on the Arrival/Lower level under the green signs indicating "FlyAway, Buses and Long-Distance Vans." They depart LAX every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour during the time Dad’s flight should be arriving.

According to the FlyAway website, "Passengers traveling from LAX to Union Station, and who did not previously purchase roundtrip tickets, must pay bus fare upon arrival at the ticket kiosk adjacent to LAX FlyAway stop at Berth 9 at Patsaouras Transit Plaza. Payment for tickets is with cash only."

When in doubt, just ask the driver how to pay for your ticket, and be sure to have cash on hand to pay for the $6 roundtrip ticket to Union Station.

More information:

Layover in Union Station

This is the advice I gave to Dad…

The FyAway bus will drop you off at berth 9 (the little beige circle 9 on the map) in the open-air bus plaza. You’ll want to go down the ramp, stairs, elevator or escalator to get one level down from the ground level of the bus plaza down into Union Station itself, and you can do that in the center of the gray oval of the bus plaza, or in the half-circular dome in the building across the street from berth 3.

Once you’re in the half-circular dome, make sure you take time to enjoy both the dome overhead and the tiled floor beneath your feet; they’re really neat. Visible from the center of the domed lobby, looking north, east and south, there’s an aquarium, snack counter, and neat fountains if you’ve got a layover. There’s also a big mural to the west, up above the entrance of the tunnel hallway that goes to the trains and the historic part of the station.

The escalator and stairs to the southwest from the domed lobby go down another level to the Metro Red Line subway but unless you’re actually taking the Red Line to go somewhere, you don’t need to go down there, and there’s not much to see aside from the wall-mounted neon art piece near the escalator, which is best observed from the top-of-the-escalator level:

If you’re traveling by Metrolink commuter train, you’ll want to buy your ticket either from a machine on the north wall of the tunnel-hallway that goes westward from the half-circular dome. If you have trouble with the machine, you can get help at the Metro Information Center counter where there are also MetroLink personnel along the north wall of the half-circular dome. Be sure you’re buying a Metrolink ticket if that is your intent; Metro is not the same thing as Metrolink.

Once you’ve got your ticket and can enjoy the rest of your layover, you’ll want to walk down the sloping tunnel hallway westward from the half-circular dome past tracks 1 through 12 into the historical part of Union Station, which has really lovely architecture. That’s the gray hallway and the black-circled 1-12 on the map above.

At the other end of the sloping tunnel is the big lobby with comfy chairs, a newsstand, coffeeshop and a restaurant that’s usually open for lunch and dinner (though the lunch service was really, really slow the day we were there; we would have needed two hours for lunch at least).

There’s also an outdoor garden waiting area just south of the newsstand and main lobby.

More information about Union Station architecture and history:

If your layover is really long, you may want to explore historic Olvera Street which is outside and across the intersection to the west of the historic side of Union Station a bit, but it’s very urban; if you have lots of gear, it’ll be impractical.

Connecting with Adele

The morning of Dad’s arrival, I worked a half-day and took the USC shuttle bus back to Union Station at mid-day. We met up easily in the center of the bus plaza.

Union Station to Downtown Burbank commuter rail service via Metrolink

The Downtown Burbank stop is the one closest tomy home. For the schedule we used, this direct link might work: Or there’s and select the schedule for "Burbank Airport".

The we stopped at home briefly, finished the meal we started at Union Station, finished loading the car, and drove to our campsite for the evening.

Camping and Hiking Plans

We had been hoping to car-camp overnight at a trailhead and test the stove(s) Friday night. Saturday morning we were hoping to pack up the backpacks and hike in somewhere between 5 and 10 miles, and then trail-camp Saturday night. Then on Sunday morning we would hike back out and return to Burbank.

Trip Plan

If all is ideal, then we planned to head for the Chumash Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest. We’d drive up the 5 freeway ~60 miles to the Frazier Mountain Park Road exit, take that westward for ~7 miles, and turn left at Lake of the Woods onto Lockwood Valley Road. The Chuchupate ranger station is ~1 mile along Lockwood Valley Road, on the left. We could chat with the ranger there if we got there by 4:30pm.

If we didn’t want to talk to the ranger or got there after the office closed, we’d go back to the Lockwood Valley Road turn and instead go west on Mil Potrero Highway through the town of Pine Mountain Club, to Apache Saddle. There we’d turn left onto Noroeste Road toward the Campo Alto campground, which is in the 8000s elevation.

So, where is this campground? Near the town of Pine Mountain Club, CA…

Yahoo! Map of Pine Mountain Club, CA

Google Map of Pine Mountain Club, CA

There’s a fairly detailed map of this area online at that includes the trails we’d be hiking.

There’s a wider-scale map of the whole southern portion of the Los Padres Natonal Forest at I had detailed printed foldy maps of the area for us and for my roommate who knew our trip plans.

When I visited Campo Alto on 5/13/06, there were still a few small drifts of melting snow tucked in some corners of the campground area, and very few campers. The daytime temperatures were quite warm especially in the sunshine, but the shaded areas were nicer, and as sunset fell there was a chill in the shade.

There is a webcam pointed at Apache Saddle: Eric Mack’s Pine Mountain Club/Apache Saddle WeatherCam. That pages has lots of weather information as well as archived time-lapse movies of the past six days of webcam images.

And about where we’d be on Saturday night… we could hike over to the Sheep Camp trail-camp for the night, or if we’re feeling good on the trail, we might go to Lily Meadows trail-camp. If we decide to stay at Sheep Camp, we might do a little side trip over to the Mt. Pinos Condor Observation Site if we have binoculars with us.

If we don’t want to do that trail but do stay at Campo Alto, there’s another trail to out of Campo Alto to the Mesa Spring trail-camp instead.

Contingency Plan 1

Our first backup plan was to camp Friday night at Reyes Creek, southwest of the Chuchupate ranger station along Lockwood Valley Road some miles. The campground has a lovely creek flowing through it, but there were lots of campers there in the late afternoon of 5/13/06 when I visited. If we camp at Reyes Creek, we could hike the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca trail to Upper Reyes or Beartrap trail-camps. Reyes Creek is in the 6000s elevation. This plan bridges the edges of these two maps:

Contingency Plan 2

Our second backup plan if for some reason one or both of us aren’t feeling well is to hike in Angeles National Forest, likely entering north of La Canada/ Altadena at Gould Mesa and then going to Oakwilde, Commodore Switzer, Bear Canyon and/or Millard. That’s on the Trail Map of the Angeles Front Country that we both have copies of.

Getting back to LAX after the hike

The Downtown Burbank stop is the one closest to home. For the schedule we used, this direct link might work:

Or there’s and select the schedule for "Burbank Airport".

If I’m headed to USC I usually catch one of the trains that departs Downtown Burbank between 6:40am and 7:55am depending on what my day’s schedule looks like, but we could take an earlier one or a later one depending on what time Dad needs to be at LAX. (Trains with "L" may depart up to five minutes early.) We bought Dad’s one-way ticket from Downtown Burbank to Union Station at the machine-kiosk at the Downtown Burbank station that morning.

I saw Dad to his FlyAway bus at Union Station before I hopped on my USC bus. Dad took the FlyAway bus from Union Station to LAX; they depart from berth 9 in the bus plaza every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour from Union Station. Since Dad bought a roundtrip ticket for that bus before our hike, he could simply use the other half of it to get back to LAX.

More information abou LAX:

Trip Photos

We ended up camping Friday night at Campo Alto as a storm blew through with a smattering of rain and tiny hail, leaving an amazing sunset just visible through the trees as we turned in for the night. We hiked in to Sheep Camp with beautiful weather on Saturday and set up camp there, and then hiked without weighty packs down to Lilly Meadows Camp and back up to Sheep Camp by evening, when the wind began to grow stronger. On Sunday we hiked under overcast skies through truly amazing wind back to the trailhead with a detour up near Sawmill Mountain, where it was sleeting a bit.

Feel free to browse my Flickr set of photos of this trip.

naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (Default)
There was just a 5.3 earthquake about 85 miles inland from here. Edited To Add: The automatic ranking listed it as a 5.3, but after the seismologists reviewed it, it's now listed as a 4.9...

The painted eggs dangling from the ceiling in the living room continue to be interesting seismometers, and the cats are a bit jumpy. No worries.
naturedance: Caltech GeoChem BS, former ITS staffer, and member of Blacker Hovse (techer geek)
Anyone wanting to know information about recent earthquake data for the US should check out

And yes, I'm fine. The 5.6 out in Anza this morning (roughly 130 miles from my apartment) felt like a really big wind gust creaking the windows and walls here for a couple seconds.

I dutifully recorded my observations for the Did You Feel It page for this quake, and it's rather amazing to watch the map fill in as reports from all over southern California come in from other folks who were awake and near their computers to report what they felt. I hope everyone near Palm Springs is OK; that's the only part of the map showing yellow at the moment (strong shaking, light damage).

Back to chores...
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (winter wonderland)
Dad's coming out for Christmas a bit early for some mountain camping and backpacking, and I need these links someplace I can get to from anywhere...

To see the latest ten-day weather for Burbank, go here.

Here's the forecast for Pasadena.

I think I've found the forecast for Mount Wilson... if I'm right, it's here.

Also, there's a ski resort called Mountain High which appears on the Angeles High Country trail map... the forecast for it (and a snow report for the skiers and snowboarders) is here.

More useful links:
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
I'd picked Dad up from the airport on that Saturday, and he took Janis and I to brunch at the Market City Caffe which is walking distance from our place, which had a live string quartet serenading. Turns out they do that every Sunday, and we're going to have to do that more often!

Monday morning we packed the car, left Burbank around 10am and headed north, taking the 5 to the 99 to the 198. We stopped for Subway lunch and last-minute camping gear in Visalia, and when I tried to start the car outside of the Big 5, there was a loud BANG and a puff of smoke drifted out from under the hood of the car. Turns out that the battery caps had blown off and the battery was dead, dead, dead, but AAA has a battery replacement service running in Visalia which had us up and running again in less than 40 minutes. Yay for AAA, a cell phone with a good battery, and a Visa card!

We'd seen dust devils in the farmland plains along the 99, and the rolling hillside country along the 198 is just beautiful. I need to look up the history of Lemon Cove, because those little towns along there look really interesting. I want to know their stories, and the story of the little brick Edison Power building we passed. There was a bed and breakfast along there, too.

We entered Sequoia National Park by way of the Ash Mountain entrance on the 198, and stopped at the Foothills Visitor Center. Dad was still kind of deciding whether he was going to start his hike at Mineral King or at Lodgepole, but we'd be camping at Lodgepole and he needed to pick up his hiking permit from the ranger station there, so after spending some money for some lovely goodies at the visitor center (I need to write about the goodies separately... books and music and a membership in the Sequoia Natural History Association), we drove on along the beautiful winding mountain road to Lodgepole.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Interactive Map

We checked in and got our introduction to bear-boxing all food and anything with a scent from the rangers, and then set up our tents in a lovely little campsite and heated up canned stew for dinner. Nothing beats hot stew for watching the sun set and the stars come out between mountain trees, especially accompanied by hot spiced cider. Rather than fussing with any of my camp stoves, we brought some of those canned heat things which worked like a charm. Until I have time to properly service my camp stoves and test them, I'm going to use the canned heat thingies for overnight carcamping trips.

I love my tent, by the way. Dad and I bought it a few years back after our trip to Rainbow Basin in the spring of 2000. We'd used my old tent that Dad had gotten for me used, and frankly, it had seen better days. I'd used it through college and it was getting tired. It flapped horribly in the wind, and it smelled funny. On our way back into LA from Rainbow Basin we stopped at REI and bought my new tent.

It's by Mountain Hardware, and the model is called something like "room with a view" -- it supposedly sleeps three rather friendly people in mummy-style sleeping bags, and it has a skylight. The skylight is screen in the tent, and clear plastic in the rainfly, so you can see the moon and the stars and the trees above you even after you've tucked yourself in at night. And there are plenty of little pockets for stashing your glasses where you can reach them. Even better than that, though, is how easy it is to set up, and how little noise it makes in the wind.

It's wonderful to fall asleep to the sound of light wind through trees and the rush of a mountain stream nearby, with starlight twinkling at you.

(With that image in mind, I think I'm going to sleep now. I'll type more later.)
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled),1072,0_1_1847,00.html American Red Cross overview article Inland Empire Red Cross Los Angeles Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties Red Cross California chapters of the American Red Cross Salvation Army USA Western Territory Information

And yes, I'm still fine.
naturedance: my foot, in my boot, on Mount Rainier (path less traveled)
For anybody who's worried about me here in Los Angeles, I'm fine. :-) I'm completely stocked and ready for anything, and my home and workplace are basically unaffected.

Yes, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernadino and San Diego counties have been declared national and state disaster areas. :-P

I found a decent map online that shows the entire four county area... I'm located roughly under the CO in LOS ANGELES COUNTY and above the g in Los Angeles, northeast of the 5 freeway shield. The Simi Valley fire is the closest to me, but it's at least 20 miles away.

This is a PDF from the LA Times, via Akamai so it should load faster and this is the same image on the LA Times servers.

Lots more information is available online if anyone wants it...

This is another good illustrative image, again in PDF format: This is via Akamai and this is the LA Times servers' version.

On that image, if you draw a line between the s in Los Angeles and the a in Santa Clarita, and directly west of the Angeles National Forest lettering, that's where I live. I'm northeast of the little 5 freeway shield, north of the 210 freeway and along the foothills at the base of the forest.

If you follow the unlabeled freeway going northeast from the l in Los Angeles, you can see where the 110 freeway dead-ends into Pasadena. Caltech, where I work, is just east of that. and allow you to listen live to a couple of AM news radio stations in my area. Note that they also have all sorts of random talk radio programs, not just actual news.

You can also stream NPR Hourly News from and one of our local public radio stations also streams online from .

At least two local TV channels and the LA Times have good information, as does San Diego's web portal:

The Red Cross is coordinating relief efforts and accepting donations:,1072,0_1_1823,00.html,1072,0_1_1844,00.html

If you live in the San Diego area, you can visit the San Diego/Imperial Counties Red Cross chapter website to register online for volunteer opportunities. may have some really good information, but it takes forever to load.

Most of the four county area is affected by the smoke, even if the fires are nowhere near us. I highly recommend HEPA air purifiers and humidifiers... I have those at my apartment and they do help. Medical paper masks and dust masks from hardware stores or drugstores do help with the worst of the smoke and ash if you're having sinus trouble, but for the tiny particulates that are responsible for bronchial trouble, you need a more heavy-duty respirator mask. I have one which filters just about everything I could think of that I'd be breathing in any disaster situation and takes attachable cartridges of varying porosity/filtration.

Take care, folks.

February 2017

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