Saturday, August 28, 2010

Idyllwild, Tamed

"You sound plaintive," John said when he read my August 20th post where I complained of needing a road trip. "Let's just go."

If I'd known it was going to be that easy, I'd have blogged about it sooner.

Many of you suggested the beach, but as we chose to spontaneously skip town on a weekend during tourist season we thought the mountains would be a better bet. So we headed to Idyllwild.

A few years ago, we had spent an idyllic weekend in Idyllwild. We tried Palm Springs and found its "get drunk and cruise" party atmosphere a little too retro for our tastes, so we escaped up the mountain and found a lovely cabin beside a stream in the artsy, alpine village.

Since then, commerce has arrived. Idyllwild has gotten itself all cutesied up for tourists. It's working; the town was overrun with spenders last weekend. And there's some kind of music academy--at least that's what the sign said. The entire south end of town was awakened by conga drums early each morning and serenaded by those same drums each night.

Idyllwild has a couple of worthy, dog-friendly restaurants where Boz was welcomed on the patio and treated with respect, and for that I'm grateful. All three of us ate well. But we won't be going back.

Oh--and by the way, this is not a photo of the cabin we were able to get on spontaneous short notice. Let's just say "AstroTurf" and leave it at that.

What did we learn?
There's no place like home. We already knew that.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Sure, when it's AstroTurf.
What we really learned: we can have fun anywhere as long as we're together. And spontaneity is sometimes best when you plan ahead.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Weather is Here

Yesterday's thunderheads over the San Gabriel Mountains were an anniversary reminder of the pyrocumulus clouds that resulted from the Station Fire It began on August 26th of 2009 and is still under investigation.

The Station Fire was at last fully contained on October 16th, 2009. The largest fire in the history of the Angeles National Forest, it destroyed homes, burned over 160,000 acres of forest (250 square miles) and killed two firefighters. The spring rains that followed flooded catch basins with tons of ash. Officials say we'll be digging out of it for years. The cause of the Station Fire was arson.

Those of us who hike the mountains and canyons will probably always look back at the Station Fire as the the one that changed everything, the worst one ever. Let's hope so.

We've had a cool--well--cold summer, by Pasadena standards. Some of us complained of having to wear sweaters even during the day, unheard of in southern California in July. But our heat wave has finally come. Brush fires have popped up in Kern County, the Grapevine and the San Bernardino National Forest, to name a few. John and I got caught in traffic the other day while firefighters put out a brush fire along the 210 freeway in Glendora. With rain in the mountains and flash floods in the desert, you could say things are getting back to normal.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

May the Best Rattlesnake Win

photo by Michael Schwartz

For the second day in a row I'm posting a photo taken by someone else. Call me a slacker, I don't care. When the photos are this remarkable, you can call me whatever you want to.

Many thanks to Michael Schwartz for this one. You know Michael--he and his family are the famous hosts of Pie Night. They were hiking in Big Santa Anita Canyon the other day when they came across two rattlesnakes deeply involved in a twisted, passionate drama in the middle of the trail. The family was unable to pass for a solid twenty minutes. Knowing it's better to be inconvenienced by a rattlesnake than to inconvenience one (nevermind two), they passed the time taking pictures and being fascinated.

Later, Michael did some research and learned that despite appearances, the snakes were not mating. From Aquarium of the Pacific's page about the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake: "If two males compete for the same female, they may perform a combat dance. In this display the two males coil around each other and push up to a third of their bodies over the ground. Since the snakes have no limbs to maintain their balance, both snakes promptly topple over. This encounter can be repeated for over 30 minutes. Eventually, one snake, usually the smaller of the two, retreats."

Or, in Michael's words, "two males doing some kind of boy-thing - ritualistic competition for the favors of a female."

Thanks for not being a slacker under the circumstances, Michael. I don't think I would have been able to hold the camera steady.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Primal Exposure

Someone found a snakeskin at Hahamongna Watershed Park and staked it out on a bench. It's an odd thrill to come across this primitive display in the 21st century.

I don't know what kind of snake it came from. We've come across king snakes as well as rattlesnakes at Hahamongna. Rattlers are more common so that's my guess.

I wonder what it feels like to shed one's skin. Probably pretty good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Zen Monday: #109

Zen Monday has arrived! It's the day you experience the photo and give us your thoughts rather than me telling you what I think the photo's about.

I look for a photo worth contemplating or, failing that, something odd or silly. And unless I absolutely must say something I stay out of the comments box to avoid influencing the discussion. 

There's no right or wrong. We're here to have fun. Let your imagination do its own interpretive dance.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


So I'm looking at this photo of the fountain at the Huntington Gardens. Lovely fountain, right? Pretty garden, nice statue, blah blah. It's so idyllic, any second now a unicorn will come along and nibble the grass.

But something bugs me. A question: do fish spit?

Fortunately I have at my fingertips a marvelous tool called the internet. I google "fish spit" and up comes It is no help whatsoever. (I think they should change the subheading to "don't expectorate too much" but hey--it's not my website.)

I read other links about spit. They tell me what spitting is. I know what spitting is. I'm not going to link you to definitions of spitting.

Then Eureka! I find a video about the Archer fish. I hope you'll click the link and watch it. It's like Finding Nemo meets The Matrix. Indeed, fish do spit.