Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fired Up!

It began when I was flashing through the San Francisco Chronicle's Home Page and I glimpsed this headline: "Fire season of to a late start"[sic]

I won't go off on another MSM/Train Wreck Rant...but that is their punctuation and capitalization as it appeared on their webpage...enough said...

It's another cooler than usual spring day here in the Inland Valley.I spent most of the day running various errands, and helping KirkVallus chase down some confused electrons below decks on the FV SturgeUrge.

After at least nine hard seasons fishing on the briney deep, the SturgeUrge's Freshwater wiring was giving in to corrosion and fatigue. KirkVallus made quick work of the tail lights and turn indicators on the Tow Rig, and the boat trailer. He's got both bait pumps working again, the fish finder working again, and even the horn. Only the bilge pump didn't make the trip...the Big Brown Truck will deliver a new bilge pump next week.

Test drive/halibut fishing trip is scheduled for permitting...*sigh*

I took a look at the AFD from the Reno NWS Forecast Office. I got a chuckle from their use of "a baggy trough" to describe one of many more troughs (read cold fronts) forecast to swing through the High Sierra next week. They aren't supposed to bring any rain, but the temps will continue to be on the cool side. Good news on the wildfire front...not such good news on the heirloom tomato front...or eggplant, chili pepper, okra, sweet corn, and melon fronts either.

The Reno AFD mentioned Afternoon Zephyr Winds for the next week...those are known as Delta Winds down here...I'm looking at a cool start for the Ancestral Diggins.

This could be one of those Good News/Bad News deals...So there may be Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu come harvest time, but we won't be watching Wildfires consume the forest while we consume our best Worst Case Harvest.

Friday, June 18, 2010

World of Wonders

After I wrote yesterday's screed, I heard that Kirkwood is going to offer lift tickets over the Fourth of July Weekend! In disbelief, I clicked over to Kirkwood's Website, and sure enough they were touting their Independence Day Weekend Wares!

This got me thinking, and I remembered a website headquartered near the Ancestral Digs that publishes snow reports, deals on resorts and travel, and everything winter sports related. I found the site via an article in the Contra Costa Times newspaper's Business Section that announced the local website's acquisition by Mountain News Corp.

My first experience with was a little embarassing...they said Donner Ski Ranch was going to be open over Memorial Day Weekend (along with Squaw Valley and Mammoth, that actually were open). I messaged Jeweler the news, and he was nonplussed. Then I checked the Ranch's website and discovered OnTheSnow's error (as well as my own!)

Interestingly like Kirkwood, Donner Ski Ranch also is taking advantage of the 09/10 Season's bountiful snowpack and they will turn their Lift #2 on Saturday June 19th and Sunday June 20th as part of their WEROCK Festival combining 4x4 Rock Crawling competition with almost summer skiing, live music and BBQs.

I returned to and poked around and saw some more skiing opportunities coming online this Summer. The Theodul Glacier above Zermatt Switzerland opens for skiing on June 26th. Here in North America, SoCal's Mammoth Mountain, Mt Hood's Timberline Lodge are open for sliding. says Alyeska in Alaska is open too...but their website doesn't say there's any lifts spinning. Most of their webcams show lush green grass, not piste.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Planet...there's one week of Fall left in the Southern Hemisphere. There's already a few Ski Resorts open in New Zealand and Australia! I don't know for sure, but I'd guess that these are Glacier Skiing places.

Looking back at our season...this one might be the longest on record. Remember the big September Cold Snap that allowed a Colorado Resort to open one chair serving three trails with man-made snow on October 6th? By firing up their Snowmaking System on September 21st, Loveland pulled off their earliest opener in 40 years.

Mammoth Mountain will end their 2009/2010 season on July 4th. Doing the Math...that looks like two days shy of 10 months! I shudder to think of running a Groomer for 10 months...I love what I do...but there are limits!

It seems I can't stop once I get going...I took a look at the Climate Prediction Center's latest 90 Day Outlook Discussion, and the CPC has all but predicted a La Niña beginning this Summer! I'm going to stew a few days before I venture a guess on what this means in our new PDO-Negative Era...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One More Train Wreck

This time it's me!
I guess our Magical Misery Tour took more out of me than I thought. I was happy as a clam to take the accidental nap at 9PM...and happy to wake up, knock out the dishes and hit the hay at 11:30

This morning I woke to the 0600 alarm, turned it off, stretched and smiled, and then actually woke up at 0830. Now at 0900, I'm still feeling weary. Perhaps it's the reading material I digested before bed last night.

Last night I read several pundits' opinions on President Obama's Oval Office Speech on the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Pundits from both sides of the aisle ripped the President for the slothful Federal response to the disaster. There's plenty of blame for everyone involved.

Why are we drilling a mile deep in sensitive Gulf waters? Because since the 1969 Santa Barbara Blowout and Spill, the Federal Government has put more and more land and shallow water oil deposits Off Limits. I guess the thinking is: This will save sensitive eyes from seeing oil production (like keeping slaughter houses out of sight, out of mind) and as an added bonus, these regulations will drive the price of oil and transportation fuels high enough to give Alternative Energy a Leg Up.

Our last eight Presidents have all speechified about American Energy Independence and moving to Alternative Energy. Congress has authorized Billions in subsidies and research. President Obama didn't miss his opportunity Tuesday night to use the Gulf Oil Disaster to segue into his thoughts on Energy Independence, Alternatives to petroleum, Climate Change, and Green Jobs. He said we're running out of places to drill.

Not to put too fine a point on it but...the truth is we're running out of places to drill for oil that the Federal Government allows oil drilling. Worldwide, there isn't anywhere that a hole drilled for oil isn't first regulated and taxed by a Government's been this way for most a Century!

Do you know that the USA is the World's Third Largest Oil Producer after Saudi Arabia #1, and Russia #2? This fact seems to be a "dirty little secret" given the relentless meme that we're running out of oil worldwide. There's more proven reserves worldwide than at any time in history! You never hear that on the Evening News! The drumbeat says: we're running out of oil, and we will replace it with Wind, Solar, and BioFuels.

No wonder I'm weary! What about Nuclear Energy? France makes most of their electricity with their Nuclear Powerplants. They reprocess their spent nuclear fuel which is against Federal Regulations here in America. In 1977, President Carter banned the Commercial Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel in America. In 1981, President Reagan lifted the ban, but Congress failed to appropriate the funds to start the industrial reprocessing industry.

Reprocessing is a synonym of Recycling. This year we celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day...I made it a point to watch the News Coverage on TV...lots of recycling reprocessing stories...

What of Solar Power? There's a battle brewing to stop a huge Commercial Solar Power Station in the Mojave Desert. Environmentalists don't favor the Transmission Lines needed to bring the Green Megawatts to population centers.

Wind Power? No, it kills migrating birds.

A large scale Windpower Project off Cape Cod is suffering another fate...NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard!

How about HydroPower? Save the fish. (I'm on board with this one...I like fish, and I dislike Waterskiing/HydroPower Reservoirs more than I like Wild Rivers and Wild Salmon!)

Natural Gas? See Petroleum Regs...

No wonder I'm weary...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fish Out Of Water

Let me tell you about our Monday. We'll call it the Magical Misery Tour...

As is our custom, SturgeUrge and I went fishing Monday. We've had more than a little trouble getting our time on the water this I've chronicled in this space.

We started planning mid-week. Gathering the intelligence wasn't easy though...there's been big swells, or big winds, or both all week, limiting the effort and consequently limiting the fishing reports! Throw in the biggest tides of the year, and there wasn't much halibut encouragement to be found at my usual haunts.

The SF Bay/San Pablo Bay/Suisun Bay Marine Forecast didn't help either...all week the same ol' same ol'...SW winds 15 to 25 knots every afternoon. Monday held a big Minus Tide smack dab in the middle of our launch window.

I woke up really early Monday morning...before 0500. I did a lap around the internet looking for some straggling such luck. There was a hiccup in the Marine Forecast, however...SW winds 15 to 25 knots in the afternoon, except 15 to 35 knots around Angel Island...dimly noted...

Out of bed before 0700, I made a pot of French Roast and packed the cooler. Siced grilled pork chops and smoked provolone sandwich fixins, sliced cantaloupe, gardinera and kimchee, plus condiments and India Pale Ale.

I was at the SturgeUrge Compound by 0830, and we hit the road by 0845. Traffic was brutal on Hwy 24, so we took San Pablo Dam Road to Richmond. When I got out to feed the gate a 10 spot, the wind was already 25 knots! We noticed there wasn't a single boat trailer in the lot at the ramp, and decided to take a spin down to the waterfront to get a Big Picture look at conditions. There was a whole flock of whitecaps...even behind the breakwall! Plan B time.

We really wanted to go for halibut...but it wasn't going to happen today. We decided not to fight City Hall...big minus tide, plus big tide swing, equals Sturgeon Fishing!

We still had that near-gale to reckon with, so we decided our best option was Montezuma Slough north of Suisun Bay in Solono County. We crossed the river via the Carquinez Bridge, and took Hwy 780 East so we could eyeball the Carquinez Straights for whitecaps, and stop in Vallejo for some Sturgeon Bait.

The bait shop was gone! Turned into a restaurant! We drove another quarter mile to the Vallejo Boat Ramp and Bait Shop. We'd wondered out loud a couple of times over the past few days..."I wonder if they've dredged the Vallejo Ramp recently?" We pulled up to the ramp and burst into laughter...there was 40-50 feet of mud between the bottom of the ramp and the Mare Island Straights! It was still an hour and a half before the bottom of the -1.8ft Low! Throw in an abandoned tire stuck in the mud, and you've got the picture!

Our little fishing trip had morphed into a long Sunday Drive (with boat trailer)!

But wait! We weren't done with our Great Circle just yet...we still had another half hour to get to the Belden's Landing Boat Ramp on Montezuma Slough!

Rearmed with a quarter pound of frozen Grass Shrimp Bait, and a half dozen digital photos of the buried launch ramp, we headed east to what was left of our day. We arrived at Belden's Landing, and the winds kept following us all the way! Now we were about thirty miles east of the Bay...hella Hot Wind!

We elected to run upstream a mile or so, set anchor in 25 feet of Chocolate Milk colored water, and threw out our was now 11:00AM! The extra miles east had reset the tide clock too...there was another hour or two of outgoing tide before we'd lose an hour or so at the slack.

At slack tide it's impossible to bait fish on the anchor. No tidal current at slack make you vulnerable to the whims of the wind...on anchor, the boat wags around the anchor like a dog's tail at dinnertime.

We picked up the baits and I made lunch. We took the opportunity to look around at our surroundings. The scene was wonderful...the wind dappled water, some glassy water reflecting acres of tules and cattails, the towering golden hills with Wind Turbines on all sides, lit up like Christmas by the blazing afternoon Sun...God's Country, but hot as blazes! There was one big sturgeon jumping clear out of the water to taunt us. We were getting bites...nibbles striped bass, stealing our bait. SturgeUrge caught and released one baby striper. If it was a trout, it would be called Pan-Sized. The little dude was maybe 10 inches long. We wondered why it was even eating the bait- it had a big belly like a black bass before spawning...weird.

That was it...our fishing trip to Purgatory...or next door...I got home and drank four or five pint glasses of ice water...I almost got re-hydrated before bedtime snuck up on me.

Undaunted, we've already planned to go next Monday. We're gonna hit Tomales Bay for Halibut and Dungeness Crab. KirkVallus is coming to town later this week, and mentioned that he wanted to go fishing while he was in town...this should really be fun!

For all the driving we did Monday, we would have been better off going up to Tomales Bay in the first place! Next Monday the tides are tailor-made for halibut hunting, and crab fishing!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Winding Down

My weekend is almost here...I'm up way past bedtime...not by the clock, the BodyClock...I've enjoyed a great week. Today was another great day. I made progress on the Ancestral Diggins. No, nothing's been planted yet, but progress has been made on the irrigation system, and I made quick work of removing a tree stump from the middle of the Diggins.

Quick work needs clarifying...I didn't exactly remove the stump...I set the table for Mother Nature to remove said stump, using the Amish Method...wherein you drill as many holes as fit in the stump, fill the holes with high nitrogen fertilizer, cover the holes with dirt and add water. Mother Nature does the rest.

Tomorrow it's supposed to reach 96F here in the Inland Valley. It was damn hot today to be sure. I did some extra watering to keep up with the thermometer. After I drilled the stump, I made sure to blow out the sawdust from the holes with a garden hose. Happily. I ended up wet from my shoulders down!

Even with squishy shoes, I was glad to greet my little sister who came to visit the Ancestral Digs today. Little Sister is another cockeyed optimist, just like me. She brought a DVD of the new Star Trek Prequel, which we watched after dinner. We prattled on about the schism between Star Trek and Star Wars Geeks and the sub-sets of each sect.

We discussed the Canon of Star Trek, and I cited the Star Wars analogues. I was impressed by the Star Trek Prequel. The creators walked the difficult tightrope in fine style. Not an easy task. Little Sister and I are in opposite camps in the Star Trek vs Star Wars Universe, but we see eye to eye when it comes to great storytelling. This new Star Trek Prequel deserves all the accolades heaped upon it. I enjoyed it as much as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Both are archetypal fables that define the times we live in. These entertainments are ever so much more than the Movie of the Week...they define the issues of our times more than the vision of their creators ever aspired to. Such is the power of history in the making...

Beam me up Chewy...may the Force be with you!