Mid-March, in the final official days of winter, storms took shape and hit California as a whole. I was invited last minute by my buddy Leif to tag along for a quick trip up to Yosemite with the purpose of getting epic pictures. He rented a car with awd and we fortunately stayed inside the valley at the Majestic Yosemite hotel. This allowed us to drive around with heated seats and to different viewpoints and hiking trails. The park was probably as empty as it could ever be.
Took a trip back around Palos Verdes and stopped at the lighthouse. It was a super clear day after rain and wind the day before and it was enough to see the Santa Barbara Channel Islands and San Nicolas island, way out there. From this spot a group of people track whale migration and we were fortunate enough to see some grey whales breach between us and Catalina Island. I’m
There was a Holi celebration across the street from our boat at the Lagoon. I was actually waiting for this since last year because I wanted to get pictures of it. Got some! I saw a photography documentary series, Tales By Light, essentially a 2-season long Canon commercial, but one photographer was immersed in India for the holi celebrations and although I didn’t even enter the lagoon area I’m happy I got to get a better look at and photograph the activity. There’s hundreds of people covered in color powder who attend over 2 days and it’s a nice reminder of the local diversity and pride in culture.
People usually don’t prefer their birthdays to be on a weekday but I saw an opportunity: use both of the weekends surrounding it to celebrate.
Mia and I went up to San Luis Obispo the weekend before and her family made me an insanely good cake on Sunday, I got to drive a 911 turbo S as well as some scooters, and we hung out and watched the olympics.
On my birthday, our friend Molly hosted a small dinner at her apartment and I was totally blown away by the generous and really awesome birthday presents. I felt really lucky to have spent the evening with such solid friends.
And the following weekend, Presidents’ Day weekend, Mia and I went to Newport to hang out with Dante and Jenn who I’ve known since college and a new crew of friends I met for the first time. We cruised electric Pedego bikes around and then took a Duffy boat out during sunset. epic celebrations all around!
I got bored on this past Saturday night so around midnight I grabbed my mirrorless camera (olympus em10 Mark ii) as well as Mia’s DSLR (Nikon d3300) and my little tripod, I hopped on my bike and just went out In search of photos to test the differences.
It was fun, I felt like I was in some stealth mission and my experience so far with these two cameras is that the Nikon feels better to carry, the grip is Bigger and feels sturdier, but at a cost of being large and taking up more space than my olympus. The olympus has more user friendly shooting modes and longer open shutter speed to gather more light, which is necessary because it is a smaller, weaker sensor size. The Nikon I think has stronger colors but can only stay open for 30 seconds which means it can’t gather as great of information in the sky, then again it’s a much larger camera sensor and stores larger files so the image is more clear if magnified. Theres also something satisfying about the cler-chunk sound of a SLR mirror flapping up and down that is missing from the shutter sound on the mirrorless camera. Luckily I can still take one or both around whether than have to choose. There’s Obviously a lot i need to learn but it’s fun to realize that picture taking doesn’t have to stop when it gets dark out, just have to be creative with the surroundings.
January 24 & 25 was our second weekend in a row to be stuck home on the boat. It's been awhile between travelling and seeing family/friends that we have found ourselves with the opportunity to.... um, well... we didn't know what to do. I always have boat work but the weather was heating up and I didn't want my maintenance list to get in Mia's way (this time). I woke up and made coffee, "What do you want to do?" "I don't know, that thing that you wanted to do." sarcastically reply. A few minutes go by. "What should we do?"
This questioning bounces around between us for a couple hours until I'm restless and make us get up. We get coffee out, I check surf because last weekend (pre-back-injury) I bought a new longboard fin to try and it's been taunting me all week, Mia's equestrian side has been resurfacing and she's been looking at sensible places to board a horse. Palos Verdes has a few places so we decide to go up there, I know there's good views and trails so I bring my camera... the afternoon is finally planned. After some successful and unsuccessful visits to the horse stables, we hiked down to the shipwreck in PV.
Sunday was even warmer, mid-80's and dead calm. Mia went to the store for beer and snacks and I went and prepared the dinghy for us to cruise around on. I rowed us around the harbor, we got the usual comments from people about chivalry not being dead and how classic the dinghy looks. The tide was so low that people were beaching their skiffs in the middle of the channel and having a big hang out on the shoal. Although the wind was supposed to be strong and it was a small craft advisory, it was basically the most unexciting and safe, warm boating weather we could get here.
Long story short my back went out and the pain was significant enough that I gained another new appreciation to be able to walk without wobbling and sporadically losing strength in my legs. I took advantage of it by walking...slowly... with a limp... from the boat to the breakwall just in time for sunset and took these pictures.
Mia’s cousin Sydney came up with a great idea to invite a group of good people to stay at an Airbnb in St Lucia. Who could say no? We went for 6 days and spent them in the house pool, at a couple different hotel / “public” beaches (the hotels make it very difficult to access the beaches on purpose) and we even chartered a 45’ catamaran and snorkel tour, then I rented a 16 foot Hobie from a resort. Overall it was a perfect balance of lazy relaxation and physical activities that were unique to the location.
The Airbnb was just outside of Soufriere which was a small town with a natural harbor which yachts were rotating through each day.
We went to Joshua Tree for New Years weekend. A big group of us stayed in an Airbnb that Mia found which had a huge backyard stretching into the desert. We drove over to an art installation during the day.
I didn’t actually go into Joshua Tree National Park, because that group outing took place around 6am the first day. But I’m determined to get back out there to see it in 2018, hopefully to camp too.
Holidays approaching but the weather in LA was warm and pleasant for a couple weeks. In fact, the Manhattan Beach fireworks felt like it was a 4th of July show instead. Dock neighbors Chris and Mandy brought Mia and I out on their boat to watch the show, the ocean felt like a lake.
The boat parade wrapped through Long Beach / San Pedro for 2.5 hours and ended in front of where we were.
Right back from the South America trip and I headed north to see everyone for thanksgiving, then to San Luis Obispo to wrap up the weekend.
Upon arriving in La Paz for the second time we were seasoned locals. We decided to take the awesome gondola system down into the city from El Alto, where the airport is. It was less than 2 bolivianos each for a ticket, which was nothing compared to the hour long and painfully uncomfortably taxi trip back. The gondolas soar above the city, traversing geography that roads had to go around and offering sights far and wide of La Paz and the daily lives of its people. We kept saying how Los Angeles needed something like this as a solution to all the traffic on the ground. We all did some laundry and packed out trekking backpacks for the Patagonia trip. Once we got to Punta Arenas in southern Chile, we had about a 3 hour wait for a bus. Mia and I took the opportunity to head into the town of Punta Arenas, which resembled something I would imagine a Maine fishing town to look like. We got lunch and coffee and headed back to the airport for the bus… the 3.5 hour long bus ride to Puerto Natales. I was about 48 hours into an uncomfortable illness that I was glad to make it through the flight to Chile without throwing up, then keep food down after lunch, but the bus ride made my face pale and minutes felt like hours. Made it, though, and into the new town and new hotel, where we could see the snowy mountains which were part of the Torres Del Paine national park that we were going to spend 4 days in. We had a day to roam the small town and its many outdoors shops and hipster hostel coffee shops and restaurants, Mia and I enjoyed what I think will be one of the best dinners of my life, and then we went to our tour-guides house / company HQ to meet the others in our group and get the itinerary. That’s where things took a turn, the itinerary that we had reserved and confirmed months ago was not the itinerary laid out infant of us. Reasons for the change were that a few refugios (basically the half dozen small hotels or cabins in the park) had to cancel a lot of reservations for the season due to limited resources to deal with human waste and trash. We were considered lucky our reservations weren’t completely cancelled, but it meant camping in different stops along the trek rather than in rooms at a desired location.
We did the W trek, which gets its name from looking like a W-shape of trails on the park map. Our first day was an out-and-back hike up to the famous Torres Del Paine. Then we got shuttled in our group almost all the way back to town (this part changed from the original plan) to a big ranch house for a lamb dinner. It wasn’t as pleasant as that makes it sound, but we had no choice and were happy to have showers, beds, and food. The next day we were shuttled back to the park and our group was able to split up and hike as each person wished as long as you make it to your destination for the end of the night. The weather on the first day was perfect, the heather on this second day was varying between light rain, knock-you-over-wind gusts, and bright sun between clouds. It felt like the longest hike of the trek, along a lake and to where we were supposed to stay in dome cabins…but we found out the itinerary was even more screwed up than we found out about 2 days earlier because we had to stay in 2 person tents instead. It snowed that night and the follow day was cold, snowy, rainy, cold, my goretex jacket didn’t work so I got soaking wet. I was loving it, though. I think I remember that day as my favorite day of hiking because the conditions felt like something I would rarely get to experience. The middle point of the W is a long hike up a the French valley to some view points. Because of the heavy snow, it was closed except for the first part. Sad and Mad went for it and were optimistic that the weather could clear. Mia and I continued on the rest of the trail to the next refugio. I’m glad we did because we arrived around 1pm, which meant it almost everyone else was still out hiking. I got to shower and dry some of my soaked clothes next to a fire. We played cards and had lunch while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. The weather never did clear up for the cousins but they were glad they gave it a shot. We kept hearing that this particular refugio had “the frat-iest bar” which I think just meant a 2 for $5 beer deal and a 2nd story view. I’ll take that. We hung out at a table and got to know some of the other members in the same tour group before grabbing dinner and settling in. This refugio was a lot like a ski lodge and dorm put together. We woke early the next day and finished the remaining left side of the W, which was a strenuous hike with a lot of elevation changes and steep rock-steps. At one point Mia twisted her knee with about another hour left, she borrowed my extra hiking pole and fought through it to the finish. The original plan was to rest that night in the cabins, but instead we got sent down to tents again, and then hike the same trail back to the refugio we just stayed at. Due to Mia’s knee pain, my knee pain, and an scary storm forecasted to arrive overnight, we had a feeling sort of like when we got stuck in Mexico during a hurricane. A feeling of being trapped under poor circumstances and constantly fearful of what else can go wrong. We had an out though, if we decided quickly to leave, we could buy tickets on a ferry boat that was about to arrive and depart at a beach a little further up the trail. It was a best-case scenario to get back to Puerto Natales late that night and having this feeling from Mexico compounding anxiety in my gut, we took the opportunity to go. The cousins wanted nothing to do with out early departure, and stuck it out in the park for one more night.
The ferry turned out better than we expected. It was actually connected to a hotel at the south end of Lago Grey, and ran glacier tours for hotel guests after stopping at this drop-off / pick-up beach at the north end of the lake. So we hopped on, feeling kind of guilty for leaving and spending money of the ferry, but then were handed drink vouchers for a cocktail onboard and the glacier tour began. It was pretty amazing and I took advantage of it, probably taking more photos of the three branches of Glacier grey connecting to Lago Grey then I did of anything else on the trip. Icebergs break apart from the glacier and drift down the lake south and land on a black sand beach. We had to cross the beach in a rush to get the last bus from the Hotel to the park administration building at an entrance. The bus turned out to just be a hotel pickup truck that also brought a construction worker for the hotel to the park entrance with us. Then we were able to get on the last bus of the day, which took us back through the entire park to pick up all the hikers leaving that day from different pick up points. It was a lot of travel, and we got back to Puerto Natales at 10pm and into a bunker-style hotel Mia was able to book from her phone on the bus. We had an amazing celebration dinner as the only customers in the hotels restaurant and promptly passed out. At one point around dawn, which that far south was 4:30am, the rain which was surely impacting the cousins inside the park, was also battering sideways against the hotel room window. We were feeling pretty smug about making it back there already, dry and warm with a roof over our heads. We got to have a day of walking around town again, having some local beers and picking up souvenirs gifts, then we got to rendesvous with Syd and Mad who had yet another adventerous day hiking in intense weather to get back. We were happy with out choice and they were happy with theirs. The very next day we took that long bus back to the airport and a few planes, countries, and 20 hours later, were were back in Los Angeles.
Flying into Uyuni in Bolivia, there are mountains to the East with snow covered peaks and the vast bright white salt flat to the West. There are desert islands scattered around the salt flat and the small town is just on the edge of it. We were about to take a 3 day four-wheel-drive tour in a group with 3 Landcruisers, staying at a different location each night. The first day they drove into the middle of the salt flat and had bikes waiting for us, so we road for about 15 minutes, all most of us could take because of the high altitude activity, something that wouldn’t even feel strenuous to us normally. Then it was a lunch made in the Landcruisers, and time to take the silly salt flat photos that everybody does. These are possible because of how vast, flat, and single-colored the salt flats are, it can give an illusion that people in the background are really tiny compared to a subject in the foreground. Then we drove for a couple of hours, everyone napping in the vehicle, to a couple of the islands. Our tour guide gave us the rundown and geological history of everywhere we stopped. These islands are essentially some of the earliest, tallest mountain peaks since Pangea and the salt flat was once an ocean slowly closed off by the forming mountains around it and made into a lake. The lake eventually dried up leaving us with the present day salt flat. Walking on the salt flats feels and sounds just like walking on crunchy ice. The islands now have existed with cactus on top of dried out coral reef as well as species of animals specific to just those islands. As the sun was setting we weren’t quite at the rest stop for the night, so the tour just stopped in the middle of nowhere for pictures. We continued on to a ranch with a house made completely out of salt to have dinner and sleep in. The floors were salt, the brick walls were salt, the tables and chairs were all salt. It was also my first chance to take night sky photos. One thing that became normal to us was seeing lightning storms on the horizons every night.
The next day we drove into the Andes mountains and towards the uniquely colored lagoons full of flamingos as well as some of the highest deserts and semi-active volcano peaks in South America. One lagoon, surrounded by desert and mountains even had the last remnants of a glacier, These lagoons are different colors due to the algae that blooms and is kicked up by wind. We spend about 9 hours in the Landcruisers, traversing up steep rocky trails, sometimes crossing small streams, and sometimes each vehicle making its own path across barren desert landscapes. Our driver, Abel impressed us with how fast he would take some of the hills while the SUV just bounced along the rocks. Towards the end of the day we reached an altitude of almost 15,500 feet and some geysers. It was chilly and windy up that high and I’m glad I was using my gator mask to cover my face from the sun and the bite from the wind, it also helped to cut down inhaling the sulfuric smell on the boiling geyser pools. That night we stayed in a rustic house with a tin roof using a generator for power. Despite the temperature in the 40s everyone went in the natural hot spring beside the lagoon and the lack of light pollution provided the most stars in the sky that I’ve ever been able to see. Some of the younger locals who used the hot spring as their bath made it pretty clear that everyone on our tour wasn’t exactly welcome, so Mia and I got out after about 20 minutes. The following day, we asked our guide if we could skip some of the regular sights and get back to Uyuni as quick as possible. Abel was cool with it, as our driver, because it meant he could pass through some of his family members towns and get off of work a few hours early. Our whole point was to get to a nice salt hotel on the edge of town and enjoy as many hours as we could there since we were paying extra for the accommodations. Really glad the tour guide was able to do that for us, so we dropped a couple of passengers off at the Argentinian border and blazed through the trails on the quickest route back to Uyuni - 8 hours. Even though these were Landcruisers, we couldn’t use any of the vent fans because of the constant dust and dirt so inside the car it was windows up and stuffy, about 80-90 degrees at points, and I still managed to inhale enough dirt that I was coughing it up for days after. The offloading tour was awesome and once in a lifetime experience for me, the funniest part is that we didn’t even know it was going to be like that when it was booked. Oh, and the total cost of the tour, lodging for 2 nights, and food for all 3 days was about $180. I couldn’t believe it. We arrived at the modern salt hotel with enough time to walk out onto the salt flats on our own and then have dinner. Around this time I was getting some travel illnesses as the “bug” was going around and I looked forward to getting back to the same hotel in La Paz to rest a bit and pack for the second part of the trip.
I recently got back from the longest vacation I’ve taken - 16 full days. I went with Mia and her cousins Madison and Sydney, they are well traveled and made for great travel companions through all the bumpy plane flights and surprise changes in our itinerary. We spent the first week in Bolivia and the second week in Chile to do the W trek in Torres Del Paine, Patagonia.
I’ll break the posts up by major activities - We spent the first non-travel day in La Paz, Bolivia, a city in a mountain valley between 10,000 and 13,000 feet altitude. Although we took altitude sickness pills to prevent headaches, there was nothing we could do to adapt out lungs to the thin air. During a walk around the city any time I encountered a moderate uphill incline I was out of breath and my heart was racing to try to provide my body with enough oxygen. We saw a glimpse of the traditional culture and old architecture right up against everyday city scenes and brand new skyscrapers. For the most part the city felt safe and was mostly inexpensive. We didn’t see a lot of tourists and Mia spoke all the Spanish we needed to get by and it didn’t feel like we stuck out too much. The plan was to aclimate for a couple days in city before we flew an hour south to a small town called Uyuni and the famous salt flats.
Our friends Kait and Kevin got married in Bouldee, CO. It was beautiful there and our group was treated to snow on the first day. There were social events, hikes, photos and the incredibly fun wedding.
was home at the boat this weekend which will be that last weekend spent local for a over a month. Next weekend is October Birthdays in SLO. The next after that is Colorado for a wedding. The next weekend after that is plane flights to Bolivia and South America for 2 more weekends.
Connor leaves on November 6th and has a website for the trip, sailingseacasa.com