Saturday, September 5, 2009

Uphill Battle

OK, I'm back. I ended up without a secure internet connection since Thursday evening.

I made it to Truckee for the first time since late June. I guess the local PUD had a water main blow in my neighborhood, and while they were at it, why not turn the electricity off for the afternoon! My broadband will be back up next time I visit...I was looking forward to getting a line wet, but it was just too windy to do any comfortable trout fishing.

This morning I spoke with SisterSweetly in Humboldt County. She said it was raining, and nobody was catching any Ocean Salmon. I think she said the Fish Counter Person said "about a 1% success rate so far". It's a tiny almost after-thought salmon season...a bone thrown to sport fishermen to keep us "in the game" Fishing License Sales Tanked in 2009! That's a tale for another time and place.

Finding fish in the ocean takes some work, salmon especially. In "normal" years, salmon fishermen find the fish in the first few weeks of the season, and then the stocks are followed through the season day by day. When the whole season is only ten days, it might take all of the season to locate the fish. Throw in the salmon closure last year, and intel as well as methods will be lacking...count on it.

Looking at this problem, I see the parallels to my own intel gathering faux pas, owing to my missing my last few annual Baja Trips. A bigger part of intelligence gathering than I thought is practice.

Yearly variations in ocean conditions, solar activity, even the hiring and firing at the local NWS Forecast Office all have effects on the quality of the forecasts. Paying attention for the duration is the only way to "get a handle" on the quality of the products that NWS provides to us End Users.

Talking with my neighbors at home, they were puzzled by this Summer's Sierra Weather, too.
We had the requisite conversation about the up-coming winter's weather, and I had to admit "I've never seen Four dry winters in a row..." That better not come back to haunt me...again.

Mrs Neighbor related her summer's long battle with the rodent neighbors, who apparently have really stepped up their pinecone gathering to Apocalyptical Levels. It was a variation of the "Wooly Worm Proxy" theory. No mention of onion skins was offered...I knew when I got home and saw Mrs Neighbor's garden looking like a WW2 Invasion Beach, covered with poultry wire instead of barb wire, that she was in a death match with the local ground squirrel battalions.

Friday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours knockin' around Donner Summit, but there's no evidence of an Early Frost. The first hard frost can happen any day of the year up there, and many times over the years, some leaves have started to turn color in early September. Not even close so far in 2009

Thursday afternoon, I was doing some errands around the Inland Valley, before heading up the Hill. I crossed a blacktop parking lot between the Hardware Store and the Drug Store. It was about 3PM, there were two kinds of clouds overhead, thin wispy cirrus and some lower hanging cumulus. The sky just looked tropical. The humidity was uphill of 50%, and it was 90F anyway...had I smelled BBQ smoke, I could have closed my eyes and thought I was in Baja. It felt down right Tropical. I'm pretty sure the moisture was the remnants of Tropical Storm Ignacio, brought ashore by that big Gulf of Alaska low pressure system, that's raining on SisterSweetly's Humboldt County world.

Passing Donner Lake on my way downhill today, that system had whipped up the lake from one end to the other. Lots of white caps, sailor's weather...the weekend kayakers were hating it! Looking at the satellite makes me think I'd better wrap up my outside projects soon.

Back in the late 80's or early 90's we got three feet of snow in late September! Boy, there were sure some excited folks up there. If memory serves, we had a garden variety winter season...not too big, not too small, I don't think we turned any chairlifts until after Thanksgiving, and the heavy stuff waited until mid-December to finally arrive.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Time To Refresh

I didn't really do anything too weighty on my days off. I made a quick trip to the Farmer's Market for some vine-ripe beefsteak tomatoes, and some O Henry Peaches. My realization that I had underestimated the value of my Baja Trips to my weather forecast assessment acumen, put my stockpot on a roiling boil! Surging with new-found energy, I blew out two columns over a short evening.

Today the weather in the caught up to the forecast, it's heating up now, but changes are on the horizon. I paid close attention to the local TV forecast this morning while I was waiting on the latest footage from LA's "Station Fire"

Wow! There's a big Winter-Looking Alaskan System out there...well organized too, for the 1st of September. The TV guy teased possible rain for the for the weekend. Not a forecast, by any measure...just a tease. That's when my phone rang.

It was KirkVallus calling from to ask if I knew anything about Hurricane Jimena. Could I email him my links to watch Jimena do her worst?
I told him that BajaBabe had beat him to the punch, and that I've been keeping tabs on Jimena since Saturday. KV also chided me asking: If I was going to make next year's October Baja Trip? KV wanted my help picking the best week, one that keeps us outta High Season, away from the MegaBuck Marlin Tourneys, and has the favored Moon Phase and Tides.

A few minutes clicking from my Baja Bookmarks Folder, and voilà's Columbus Day Week! I'm hearing The Police's "Synchronicity" in my mind's ear...10/10/10 is our preferred Travel South Day!...more Head Music..."The Twilight Zone Theme"...I'm not making this up! The 7th is the New Moon, we fly on Sundays if we can, and the numbers speak for themselves! I got the emails sent, and settled in to chase down Jimena.

The BajaNomads were in fine fettle this morning. There were plenty of posts with "on the scene reports", and encouragement from the far-flung Nomads who aren't on the Peninsula. No sign of Bajabus, but lately he's been in theCarolinas most of the time. I parked the laptop, restarted some scans, and hit the road to take care of my errands, and grab some TacoBell.

I got back in front of the laptop, and the scan was still churning, so I futzed around in the garage for an hour and the epic virus scan was done...back to Baja BCS.

The Nomads had churned out another dozen pages, the photos and videos were starting to come in, and some of the La Paz Nomads reminded me to check the webcam in downtown La Paz...oops, no joy, no static, no picture.

I watched some CNN or FoxNews for a fire update...I tuned in just as the weather guy was conflating Jimena with the Station Fire. It must have been CNN, are there any weather guys on FoxNews? I understand that TV News is a business , and that everything on the News is packaged, but these two stories are not related, not one bit! Part of any meteorology curriculum should be enough Law schooling to prevent Weather Conflation! Not much chance that Jimena's wet remnants will hose down LA Smoldering Hills...In a News writer's wildest dreams, maybe...You know how much "everyone" likes a "Happy Ending"

I'm thinking about what I just said...TV is losing viewers every day, while the Networks are moving away from expensive Dramas and SitComs to...what? "Reality" know TV without writers! So, are the furloughed writers taking jobs with TV News divisions? Has TV News become just Stories and Shows, not Raw News?

Is there an Opposition Press keeping our Pols in line? Has weather reporting been turned into just another Entertainment Show, and not plain information? Do dwindling viewership numbers say "We are tired of TV's Stories, we'll just go elsewhere to get the straight poop, Thank You Very Much?

The answers to these questions are outside the scope of this blog.Conflating the Legacy Media's Troubles with a Groomer's Blog would be beyond:

Category Five on the Stupid Human Scale.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hurricane Chasing

I Took My Eye Off The Ball
Writing about the tropical storms and Chubascos of Baja got me thinking about my own data gathering. I realized that the past few years I've been "late to the party" so to speak. Going back to roughly 2002-2003, I was hearing something from the pangueros and our friend Eric every October: "The Pacific is about six weeks behind schedule", they said.

Two and a half hours by jet north, salmon and crab fishermen were singing the same refrain. I hadn't connected the dots until just now. The "Behind Schedule Pacific" is an indicator! I just wasn't paying attention. Satellite data shows the Eastern Pacific, as well as Global Temperatures have been cooling since 1998. Maybe the PDO phase shift? Maybe something Solar...the jury's still out, cause-wise. But there's your change, observed on the ground, in the trenches...well, standing in pangas on the Sea of Cortez, anyway.

Missing those two pivotal months of weather-geek exercise have dulled my senses, making me susceptible to "Forecast Malaise" When the annual changes begin in my local weather-sphere, I haven't been as tuned into the flow as I usually am. Is it any wonder I've been getting surprised more often than I'm comfortable with?

This past weekend, my niece and her new husband were in Carmel for a Wedding Weekend. They attended a Beach Bonfire on Friday night, and regaled us with stories of the "T-shirt and shorts" temps on the beach at 11PM! Late Summer on Central California beaches are usually cold, foggy affairs, unsuitable for shirt sleeves, shorts, or sandals, unless it's "Indian Summer"...It's not.

There have been more systems off our coast this summer than I remember from years past. Most of these systems were "cut off Lows", without much upper air support, consequently they were nearly impossible to model, much less forecast. These wandering wild cards, have made all kinds of mischief. Like I said yesterday...mea culpa!

The old saw, "Mister, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?"...
"Practice, son...practice" is the Gospel Truth.
There's more to this than I was admitting to myself.

Remote Viewing
The very phrase means something mysterious to Art Bell listeners. Art Bell is an All-Night Radio Talk Show Host. Lots of Groomers listened to Art every night. Art's Show "Coast To Coast AM" leaned heavily to the Strange Side of Things. Lots of UFO Talk, Crop Circles, Hauntings and Ghost Hunters, Paranormal Researchers, Indian Shamen, Mediums, Remote Viewers, and Psychics. All of 'em had time on Art's Shows.

Balancing these fringe-dwellers were the Real Scientists...Theoretical Physicists, Astronomers, Seismologists, and serious Researchers of every stripe. Open, unscreened callers kept things on the lighter side when the Really Big Ideas strained the brain.

Art's retired from full time broadcasting now, and he was just inducted into the "Radio Hall of Fame" As a matter of fact, he did the Show Sunday night...from his new home in Manila, in the Philippines. Art got where he is by treating every guest on his show with respect, until they lied to him. Those guests never got on The Art Bell Show again. Art had a stable of recurring guests over the years, and his show was always...good radio. The rough nights on the Mountain were a little easier to take when Art was on.

Remote Viewing, according to Remote Viewers, is a Paranormal Science that helps trained practitioners see distant events, find missing children and murder victims, and to help solve vexing mysteries to help with National Security issues...some claim there's a CIA Section or was a CIA Remote Viewing Program. I've always thought it was all a bunch of hokum. Remote viewers can do all these things, but can't find Osama bin Laden, Lacy Peterson's remains, or Jon Benet's killer...I'm not buying...if this worked, wouldn't they pick winning stocks, horse races, or SuperBowl Point Spreads?

In my world, Remote Viewing is something done on the Internet...sometimes utilizing webcams, but any type of online sensor, or person online, can be part of My "Remote Viewing Program" For me, this started when I kept up with the Play-by-Play of Hurricane Juliette's 2001 Landfall on the Lower Baja Peninsula. At the BajaNomads website, one member near Todo Santos, Baja BCS was posting every half hour to the Nomads Forum, using a Honda Generator and Satellite Internet. Man that was some gripping stuff, Bajabus kept it up for a day or two, as Juliette sat off Todos Santos and strengthened before coming ashore and hammering Bajabus' Casa. I looked at the Nomads today, to see if those heady threads were archived, but a cursory search didn't find them.

These are "Live Threads" and everyone down below is checking in with their observations early and often. After a while, when all the outliers check in, and you start to see the Big data from the meta-area of the event. Hurricanes are huge, and their influence is felt or seen over thousands of miles of the Earth. The Nomads have a widely dispersed community, many with many decades of Baja travel and living experience that adds to the richness or value of the observations and understanding of the events as they happen.

Not as dramatic as a big hurricane coming ashore, but no less a meta-event, are big Winter Storm Systems marching up the west Slope of the Sierra Nevada towards TruckeeDave's Mountain.

As the technology continues to roll out, more online weather sensors, webcams, and forecast tools will become available to track the storms' advance. Adding to the suspense on the Mountain is the lack of data tools in the Snowcats, save for the NWS VHF Weather Radio Stations. The Weather Radio isn't Real-Time though, it's a packaged product from the Weather Service, and runs an hour or so behind real time, save for the 3AM Observations. At home, I have twice the real-time data today as I did only five years ago. I can't wait until I have a WiFi handheld device in my pocket, that will put a lid on the suspense, but open the door to better real-time data to smooth my shift's planning and performance.

That's Remote Viewing I can get behind!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Post Time

Trumpet Fanfare
I've been slinging my opinions and sharing my experiences relating to weather and ski slope grooming for a couple of weeks now. Looking back at my "body of work" I'm thinking: Whiner!

I've dissed the local NWS forecast in nearly half of my columns to date. I'm not sure I've been as fair to them as I should have been...I haven't been following along at their website, like I do when I'm up the hill working on my Mountain or getting ready for the season. I've only overheard most of the forecasts that turned out to be off the mark. After spending a long, overheated evening considering my mea culpa, reality slapped me in the face, reminding me of a critical component of my weather geek story, that I've totally overlooked. Let me explain.

Up until my Dad's health started to fail in 2007, I enjoyed an unbroken string of October fishing trips to Southern Baja spanning over two decades. Part of the run-up to these trips was watching the weather for Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm and Hurricane activity that could impact our trips, and more importantly, the fishing.

Way back in 1990, SturgeUrge, TruckeeDave, and our Band Of Merry Men, took our first trip to Cabo. It was a "Package Deal" found in the back pages of a fishing newspaper...I can't remember who was CharterMaster for that trip, but we had such a great time, that this became our 1st Annual Baja Trip.

We always go South the week of Columbus Day. This week is the last week of the "Off Season" before the MegaDollar Marlin Tournaments begin in earnest, and rates for Hotels, Charter Boats, Tacos, and Cervesa rise into "Too Rich for My Blood" territory. The "High Season" coincides with the first cooling of the scorching Tropical heat, when the temperature of the Pacific and the Cortez are still in the high-80's, but the air stays out of the 100's reliably. The fishing's Hot, the weather not so much. We stuck with the Package Deal for a few years, before we started doing our own planning and booking.

Early on, during our 1994 trip, we saw the power of tropical weather first hand. We left the Cabo Marina at first light, in small skiffs called Pangas for another day of fishing the Pacific Side of the Baja Peninsula. There is some swell in the Pacific, but nothing like we usually encounter out of the Golden Gate, Party Boat fishing for Salmon. By the time our charters were over for the day, the swell had grown huge! The long-period swells were big enough that the huge Battlewagon Yachts with Multi-Story Tuna Towers were disappearing into the troughs between the swells- towers and all! Cal the Kitchen Guy got sea-sick and never made another Baja trip with us. (Cal still goes to Cabo with his family, but never again strayed from the solid footing of the Golf Course!)

The swell was generated by Hurricane Rosa. Rosa missed Cabo by hundreds of miles, though the forecasts we saw after we knew Rosa was coming said she would make landfall in Cabo within 24 hours! We didn't keep up with Rosa however, as all news and weather channels mysteriously vanished from the Hotel's TV Line-Up! Stories of "Hurricanes Endured in Cabo", were topic Numero Uno at the Swim-Up Bars. Rosa turned out to be a big deal for mainland Mexico, and later for Texas. Rosa made landfall in Los Mochis, sinking most of the Shrimp Fleet and killing a half-dozen people. When Rosa called on Texas (as a Tropical Storm) she produced 48 inches of rain in 24 hours! The heavy flooding featured floating propane tanks and freshly interred caskets, freed by Rosa's torrents.

Tropical Storm Ivo
In 2001, SturgeUrge and I went South early...our newest Baja Buddy, KirkVallus couldn't get away, but could we please use his Time Share Condo? It was just the two of us, everybody else was tied up that year. When we got off the plane at the Cabo Airport, we knew we were a month was over 100F and over 90% humidity! We knew we could "suffer thru it" we were only in Cabo for five days. The plan went like this: Fly down, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fly home.

Our first day Panga fishing was September 11th, 2001 We caught some Yellowfin Tuna, and another panga from the same beach got into some Wahoo.

Eric, The Expatriate American who runs the fleet we fish with, greeted us back onto the beach that afternoon saying, "Your first day of fishing was the first day of World War Three!" We were dumb-struck, but enjoyed fresh caught sashimi back at the Condo and watched the CNN coverage of the attacks until bed-time.

The Timeshare Condo Complex was fully booked with mostly Small Business owners on their first vacation since starting their businesses, or since the birth of their latest children. The Swim-Up Bar conversation had an air of desperation to it...all air travel in the States was grounded until further notice, many were feeling trapped or helpless, and in a Foreign Country, during their first National Emergency. Urge and I had another round, looking forward to tomorrow's Wahoo Quest.

We got up the next morning ready to hook into some Wahoo. As we stepped from the air conditioned Condo into the Southern Baja morning, we could feel the weight of the tropical air on our shoulders. I'd never felt anything like it. It was like a sauna after the water hits the hot rocks on the stove.

Out in the dark at the Panga Beach, Eric was looking anxiously out at the Cortez, the heat and humidity were oppressive, and every one of Eric's charters for the day had canceled, save for SturgeUrge and Me, and the two guys who nailed the Wahoo the day before. Eric said: A hurricane "popped up" overnight, and it could be here this afternoon!

That explained the heavy air! The other guys didn't show up on time, Eric was thinking out loud..."If we launch with the storm on the way, we might not be able to get back onto the beach when the big swell and storm surge comes in" Urge and I decided that we didn't want to be the only panga at sea with a storm bearing down on us. Eric had to get his kids to school, so we called it a day just as the Wahoo Dudes showed up. One of them...the guy with the "Never-Fail" internal alarm clock...had overslept...A few days later, Eric told us that those guys had rented a Van, left all their Wahoo and Tuna fillets in Eric's freezers, and drove up the peninsula to San Diego...Eric said they paid over $1500 for the van...

Back at the Condos, we found no weather on TV, just wall-to-wall 9/11 coverage. That afternoon the hurricane flags were posted on the beach, a steady 30 knot wind began to blow out of the South, and the big swells arrived. You could see the surf from the pool, you could feel the surf crashing on the beach reverberating through the bottom of the pool! Most of the folks at the condos made "other arrangements" to get back across the Border, 1000 miles to the North. Except for the sound of the wind and waves, it was eerily quiet. No jets were taking off or landing, none were flying overhead. That evening a chartered luxury bus loaded up outside the front desk, and took off for the Border...the folks on board were singing Kumbaya as the motorcoach pulled just can't make this stuff up!

As it turns out, no hurricane had "popped up" that night, Tropical Storm Ivo was there all along. After a steady 12 hour blow, the wind turned 90 degrees to the West, and began to abate. The swimming pool's water temperature dropped almost 20F during the blow. Our trip ended up being a nine day trip. We only got one more day of fishing in, but we did drive out to the Coral Reef on the East Cape, where we got our first jellyfish stings, and dined at a beachfront palapa restaurant, where we caught Montezuma's Revenge from the Salsa Fresca.

Hurricane Watch
Once we were back in the States, another Hurricane did make landfall in Southern Baja.. She was named Juliette, and she was a Category Four Hurricane. She stalled off the Coast and pummeled Cabo before working up the spine of the peninsula, washing out roads and bridges, and really tearing the place up. That's Juliette's picture at the top of the page.

From the comfort of the living room, I followed Juliette on the BajaNomads Forums. Bajabus, a Satellite Internet Installer was posting from his place a little south of Todos Santos, during the whole time Juliette was gaining strength offshore, and as she blasted ashore. That was some storm! Juliette wreaked havoc for the next few days before impacting SoCal with heavy rain.

I developed a taste for Internet Storm Chasing during Juliette, and Mother Nature provided plenty to follow after that season, too.

This Monday morning, I got an email from BajaBabe tipping me to Hurricane Jimena, the storm that's forecast to hit Baja Tuesday. I replied, "I've been onto Jimena since Saturday"

Foregoing my October Baja trips these last three years, has allowed me to shirk off the first few months of ramp-up weather activity that sets the stage for my winter regimen.

Mea culpa!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I'm getting tired of this heat. The promised cool-down didn't a matter of fact, the Inland Valley is hotter than yesterday...again. How do the TV weather-folks keep muffing their 8-hour forecasts? According to my calendar, it's "Summer in the City" with the same ol'-same ol' forecast on an endless tape loop that's supposed to play from June 'till October. I couldn't write yesterday...I attributed that to the heat, and tried to recover at the end of my truncated scrawl with a quip: Poached.

Like any interesting word, "poached" has many uses and meanings. In the kitchen one can poach eggs-bam! Simple on buttered toast...or fancy, say Eggs Florentine or Eggs Benedict.

There's Poached Salmon...a personal favorite when I catch Wild Chinook Salmon, and it's snowing too hard to do the BBQ thing out on the porch. Halibut is good poached too, though I like it grilled mostly...sauteed, breaded and fried, even Picatta style with lemon juice and capers are all good.

I found a recipe once for "Poor Man's Lobster" That's halibut poached in 7-Up. I had lots of halibut in my freezer at the time, so I took the plunge. It tasted somewhat like lobster, but I deemed it a waste of perfectly good halibut flesh.

Halibut done simply, is as good as it gets. Most people overcook fish, not TruckeeDave. I've made many hundreds of pounds of sushi in my kitchens over the personal home kitchens. I've never cooked for pay...I worked for a week or two in a restaurant doing clean-up overnight, before I wised up and became an apprentice carpenter. In the ensuing years, I did make the time to learn how to cook fish properly, though. Take the fish off the grill or out of the pan just before it's will finish cooking on the plate.

Here near the Coast and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, there's a newspaper story seemingly every week, reporting on the latest band of Sturgeon Poachers, Black Bear Poachers, Deer or Elk Poachers, and worst of all, Abalone Poachers.

It's a "Little United Nations" of poachers, apparently. Russians or Ukrainians seem to do the sturgeon crime, it's the mullet, meth, and camo set poaching the antlered game and bears from their AstroTurf equiped El Caminos, and various Asian Communities overdoing the Mollusks geometrically...usually selling to the restaurant trade.

California has tough laws on poaching to protect our fish and game resources...I guess the Judges who pass sentence on these offenders don't hunt or fish, or care to view wildlife for that matter. California doesn't have Hanging Judges anymore...I don't understand mercy when it's bestowed on those who show no mercy when they're stealing precious fish and wildlife from The People.

Poaching on my Mountain is serious business. There are several flavors of Poachers on Ski Hills.

Snowmobiles. Two basic families here:

Other workers on the Mountain who never saw the fresh pass of corduroy that didn't need roosting with a snowmobile track. I teach the Guys to get over it, and have an annual word with Dept. heads who's employees ride sleds.

Snowmobile Enthusiasts. Local gearhead types who use our Mountain after hours to "see what she'll do" It's impossible for a snowcat with a top speed of 12 MPH to catch a +65 MPH sled...period. We hope they keep it together enough to avoid all the hard, trees, lift towers, etc. I suspect that these Hot Rods all have an alcohol component...not in the tank...just sayin'...

When our lifts are turning, another poacher comes out to play. These poachers hike up the Mountain and ski the upper chairs, where they're less likely to get ticket-checked...that doesn't work anymore. Ticket checkers are worth what the resorts pay them in these days of over-$60 Lift Tickets. These guys annoy the Brass in the Base Lodge...that's bad for all concerned.

Poach 'Till You Die
This last flavor of poacher is the only one that still raises my blood pressure. Poaching a closed area. This means the poacher intentionally cuts under a closure to ski or ride in an area that's in-bounds but closed by the Ski Patrol. Patrol closes in-bounds ski runs because they can't be 100% certain that the slope in question is safe. This only happens during heavy storm periods, when avalanche loading is ongoing.

All known avalanche paths are "controlled" before our guests can ride our lifts. When the weather is coming in hard and fast, or moderately, but with high winds, Patrol will close the most problematic runs so that the lifts can still open "on time" Once all the scheduled lifts are turning, Patrollers will re-assess the closed runs..."ski cutting" them once again, to try and get any potential slides to go in a controlled manner, without endangering our guests or property.

Way back in the early 80's a couple of skiers cut a closure and triggered a slide that buried them both. I later found out that they had asked Patrol about the closed area and were told the Patrol would re-assess and get back to them. Impatience got the best of them, they poached the run, it slid, and one guy paid the ultimate price. I saw the survivor guy admit to their error in lurid detail on the 11 o'clock news, while I was getting ready to go to work that evening.I found one of the victim's skis 25ft up in a lodgepole pine the following summer.

This kind of poaching is like cooking fish in a way...but the poacher gives up the autonomy to "take the fish off the heat just before it's done" Nature decides when things are done. Poachers, you've been warned.