I miss my old - damn you facebook!
Basically lets just say that diving is a huge mission, made a bigger mission by knowing there were a few extra practical hurdles to get over: making sure we could all get gear, have a reservation and make it to various locations with enough time.
we are going where we were very much not designed to go and there is a lot to make sure you’ve got straight and ready to make your self safe. One of my friends put it really well, only thing more complicated than this is going into space! Without all your gear and a lot of patience and focus you just can’t do it. It’s also an alien world filled with strange and amazing creatures. Today i feel really lucky to have been going on this mission with the folks I was.
It was a first of many things for many of us. Most important, for all of us it was our first time diving in the cold waters of northern california. For me it was the first time diving in cold water and with no dive master familiar with the terrain. i’m super greatfull to my comrade who took on leading the way and keeping our bearing, it was alot of work and responsibility and he did an amazing job.
So if you’ve never seen the kelp forests I’m gonna use some random flickr photos and internet shots to give you an idea of the alien world we were exploring and some of the creatures we saw. we had no camera’s and describing them would be really hard without some pictures.
So we made our way down south, grabbed gear and headed out to whalers cove. Visibility was intensely low when we hit the water and the kelp forest was thick and pretty spooky in the gloom as we swam out over the surface. Once we dropped down though things got alot clearer and some of the big safety concerns about keeping track of folks in the murky forest eased.
We spent our first dive swimming through the reef along the cannery point wall. We saw some great jellyfish including a few egg yolk jellies. Lots of starfish, green sea anemone’s and a super rich bed of life, crusting the rocks.
I particularly noticed these tube anenome’s though they are very drab, i just love their little heads. I had some fun interactions with what I think was a canary rockfish who seemed to think there was no reason to run from me (he’s protected from fishing so that might help). We also saw lots of these great rock looking gumbook chiton. We barely could stay down for half an hour and we booted around alot of territory in that time, checking things out. There were lots of other fauna down there but we didn’t see that many fish in this area. For the techies out there we dove to 60 feet to start but spent probly 80% of the dive around 40 feet moving in the reef.
For our second dive we struck out across the forest for the Granite Point Wall and managed to catch the edge of it. There was more heavy surge out this way, making the going a little more troubling by the wall but along the way we saw a great big sunflower starfish, lots of the same and different critters including some bigger fish and a group of these red anenome.
Among the fish was at least one big ling cod and lots of large fish i’m not familiar with hiding in the rocks of the wall. Also spotted lots of sea cucumbers and at least a few of what i think were these sponges. We cruised the wall for awhile until it seemed to get too ruff and we were too high (you get caught in the surf if you get too high and can get dashed on the rocks) so we headed back over the open sand back to the middle reef and rolled up and over it. The roll over the open sand gave me a little fright from loosing my bearing and finding myself deeper than expected but we were totally on course and soon found our way back up and over middle reef into the sand channel to surface. This romp we stayed down for about 35 minutes and probly could have stretched it but honestly I was exhausted!
There’s alot more gear involved in protecting you from the cold so getting geared up is a lot more uncomfortable and strenuous then I’m used to and I haven’t been in the water at all since my trip to Honduras last fall. If we go again it’s gonna be a few weeks of laps in the pool to try to get my cardio up a bit so i don’t burn through so much air as fast. The whole swim back from the second run I was just rolled up on my back when i could trying to make the swim as easy as possible. The water was cold but the wetsuits we had were really worth the effort and kept us pretty warm. I got a big mouth of sea water the first time out which always turns my stomach so there was that usual sense of sea sickness and the general discomfort of being in higher pressures. But all that seems to disappear when you drop down and there you are floating eye to eye with this big yellow fish, looking at you with his big round eyes likes like you are the strangest, most totally un-seaworthy thing ever.
There are a few other tales to tell but I think that’s all your getting out of me in print.
If you ask me how I’ve been, what I’ve been up to these days you will get a variation on “tired but happy”. Work is exhausting, we’ve gone from being nearly 9 people at the turn of this year to being about 5 people as of two weeks ago. A blend of economic necessity and life choices brought us down to this size and though we knew it was coming it’s still unfortunate that that the real shrinkage seemed to happen in one week. We’re doing fine despite it and thanks to everyones hard work in the last two months we really are feeling more confident about our prospect coming into the fall.
So we’ve been scrambling a little to get ourselves wrapped around all the details and a lot of my mental and emotional energy has been going into my job, leaving me often empty and desperately short on what have turned out to still be very busy and amazing weekends. At times i’ve just been really tired and grumpy, these kinda giant crash and burn moments where i realize just how exhausted I really am. But i’ve also been having a great time.
Starting in late may with an amazing few days camping and climbing with a huge posse at pinnacles national monument south of sf. We took over two large group campsites and ate and drank and sang and hiked and climbed and generally had a great time.
June was filled with a stream of birthdays and park days (days of just spending sunday in the park on a blanket), some great outdoor climbing, and numerous adventures planned by a good friend who is leaving town. See he’s decided to do everything he didn’t get around to doing while he lived here in the last three weeks he’s here. So far we have driven down to monterey and gone to the aquarium there (which is pretty amazing I must say, hopefully i will post pictures of my latest round of drawing sometime so you can see how inspired I was by the octopus), been to the santa cruz boardwalk to ride the carnival rides (on a weeknight!), I skipped the 4 day hike in the sierras cause I just couldn’t take the time for it, and yesterday we canoed down a bit of the russian river which was epic and involved alot of swamping and capsizing cause my friends are lunatics.
There was Carnival for which i started drinking at 11am and had the worst hangover ever. Pride weekend i decided to try my hand at a little pot cookie, only to discover it has the same effect it every did which is to make me warm fuzzy and TOTALLY PARANOID. Interestingly enough though watching my rational mind stomp down the paranoia has been helpful in stemming some natural paranoia since then. oh and don’t forget 4th of July!
I spent a fun sunday at the zoo drawing animals (I can’t find my camera cable so i haven’t been able to get photos off my camera in awhile but art pictures will come some day). In the last week of June we had a cathartic going away party for the folks leaving us this summer, resulting in some of the funniest group shots we’ve ever made :) I’m still hitting dance class when I can and climbing twice a week and then there’s been visitors and new friends and icecream and yet more drinking!
And I’m probly even missing a few things here. but needless to say any time I am not out having fun I’m working, working, working - trying to keep stuff rolling along. I’ve been working nights and weekends and weekend nights just to stay afloat and that’s got to stop and is gonna stop.
Next week I’m skipping a day of work to go scuba diving in a kelp forest in point lobos. I’m so exciting about this i get giddy whenever I think about it.
Today i have to do laundry, which I have not done in weeks!
At the end of this month I’m headed home to BC for a few weeks of visiting the new babies and old friends, i decided a few weeks back not to go to burning man this year just cause it was looking like a huge logistical nightmare (as in Yet More Work!) and it would mean making my trip to BC way shorter. I’m really happy with the decision and the moment i wasn’t going I felt this huge relief.
I’m excited to see folks and hope I’m less exhausted when I arrive :)
After much hoping and dreaming I finally got to go bouldering outside this weekend.
For those who don’t know after monthes of stubbornly refusing to join my friends, coworkers or roommate at the local indoor climbing gym they all frequent I gave it a try in April and have become well, possibly obnoxiously devoted to the sport. I fell specifically in love with bouldering, which is basically just expending enormous amounts of energy to get yourself 10 or so feet off the ground by the use of small hand and foot holds and a lot of balance, strength, technique and will. It’s has a lot of the fitness effects of weight lifting only you are the weight and it’s a lot more focused on balance, so you are always working your core pretty hard. I’m learning to top rope climb as well but have to say that I’m not as enamored with it.
The last two monthes I’ve been slowly building the strength and problem solving ability to feel confident on the wall — i’m progressing slowly but steadily, not much past total beginner levels just yet, but I am starting to have a lot more confidence in my progress and importantly in my ability to go higher and risk falling. For that exact reason I’m glad this weekend I went outdoor climbing for the first time. Turns out being afraid to fall is a good thing!
See in the gym the floor is flat, bouncy and soft and there are great big crashpads all over the place that you can line up to land on. Dropping 10 feet off a overhang onto the bouncy floor all you gotta do is get your feet under you and you are gonna be ok. In the real world the ground is hard, uneven and possibly even covered in rocks ;)
We went this weekend up to a place in Marin called Mickey’s Beach. It was my first trip out and I was going with some folks way past my level of climbing. (i climb V0’s and the occasional V1’s, they climb V2 to V4’s) The place we chose turned out to be pretty challenging; first, most of the easy climbs were on a boulder trapped in the tide and not accessible; second, the sand was super low around the boulders exposing a landing of sharp deadly rocks no fun to land on.
In the gym I’ve been focusing on going higher, conquering my fear of heights , doing overhangs and less vertical stuff to get used to pulling my weight around at steep angles and risking falls where if I’m not careful i’ll end up landing on my butt which would be a bad scene. Just last week I was commenting to a climbing buddy how much more comfortable falling I’ve become, laughing dropping from the 10 foot overhang which used to scare me near to death.
Portable cashpads for outdoor are a lot less bouncy and you are draping them across often ruff terrain, covering jagged rocks and funny angles. All of a sudden the idea of falling is just not an always an option, most moves we tried required at least two people spotting you and honestly there were a few times I was basically begging them to be sure they could keep going cause falling was not longer an option. For at least one fall if i had been slacking on my spotting duties and not had my arms up for his waist to steer him down things could have been bleedy if not breaky. It was amazing, challenging and totally eye opening.
The experience is gonna change how we play in the gym I think, to think about how we need to “train” for the real world. See the gym is actually kinda fun, easy and safe, the outdoor world is well, dangerous and kinda scary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing feeling to be out on a beach with the waves crashing and the birds circling and to be half way up a 25 foot practically shear face, which is what makes it worth it. We’re planning a trip to somewhere with less threatening terrain (Castle Rock) soon but in the meantime I’m gonna be thinking a lot harder about not falling off the wall at the gym and building up a lot of faith in my climbing buddies that they are good spotters.