we’re back home after a two week stint up in coarsegold.  it was vacationesque, but the real intent of the trip was for me to test out the feasibility of working remotely on a permanent basis.  when we headed out for the trip up north, both smsmh and i were sitting at 80/20 against moving up north.  as we both began to find our groove with routine, familiarity with the surroundings and as the stress of living in a fast paced society started shedding, those percentages began to change. 

smsmh found places to take tc to keep him occupied and happy.  we discovered the many paces to fish and kayak.  we found frogs, praying mantis, horses, turkeys, deer, coyotes, skunks, quail, humming birds, bats and a variety of interesting insects.  i ran with meghan in her stomping grounds and began to get familiar with the local trail networks.  we soaked in the local culture.  i even went into yosemite and hooked up with donald and his running crew and played on half dome for a day.

and then, on the final full day, we met with a real estate agent and looked at homes.  smsmh and her mom had been scoping out places the whole time we were up there and had a short list to look at before we headed back down south.  each home that we looked at had features and aspects that we really enjoyed, but the first house that we viewed completely clicked with both smsmh and i on so many levels.  it had us at hello.

now, the choice to move is a tough one and there are many pieces that would need to fall into place in order for us to even get to the point where we could make a decision.  one of those major pieces, though, has to do with work.  on thursday, my boss, the president of the company and the director of human resources are having a pow-wow to discuss the possibility.  so, i may have an answer from work this week as to whether or not i have their blessing.

honestly, the more time we spend back here after seeing what awaits us in the foothills of the sierras, if i get a green light from work, i’m prepared to make an offer on the house.  i’m that hooked and that ready to get out of the madness that is southern california.  i’m ready for a new home.

soundtrack for this post
Naked Self lick:
Soul Catcher
The The
Naked Self

mono basin – the recap

so, let’s set aside the zombies for a bit (mmrmmph…brains…braaaains) and i’ll recap the awesome weekend i had playing around in the mono basin. if you remember back to last october when i switched jobs, you’ll recall that i headed up to mono lake and bodie to have a chance at solitude. check the photophile links and you’ll see the photos of the area, sans snow. well, knowing that mono, since it is a dead lake and has a very high alkaline level, doesn’t freeze during the winter, i thought it’d be fun to spend some time kayaking on it.
the timing was perfect, too. the week that i had planned to go, i had the flu and had to scrap the plans. good thing, too, since the weather was nice. who wants sunny weather when you’re doing stuff in the outdoors? heh! so, i headed up early on friday morning, with a forecast of temperatures in the teens and snow all weekend. awesome.
i stopped in bishop on the way and knocked out a seven mile run along the 395. i figured i’d head back down to bishop for all my runs for the weekend, since the elevation was only a little over 4000′ vs. the near 8000′ elevation at mono. shortly after leaving bishop at about noon, it started snowing. quickly the conditions on the roads worsened and just past mammoth i had to put chains on. as i was setting up the first tire, a guy pulled up behind me, got out and asked, “do you know anything about chains? i haven’t been in the snow in 40 years and i don’t know how to use these things!”. poor guy lives out in palm springs and was on his way to reno to visit his son for the first time. so, i finished up my tires and put his chains on for him, carefully explaining how his cable chains worked. he tried to give me money for helping him, but i told him that the amazing hip doesn’t work for money. he stared strangely at me as he drove off into the storm.
when i finally got up to mono, the snow had stopped, so i poked around navy beach (one of the only launch points on the lake) for a bit to take some photos and then headed to lee vining to talk with some of the locals for a bit. by the time i got back to town, the snow was coming down pretty heavy again. as i stood there, chatting with one of the gas station operators, i looked at the ‘vacancy’ sign on the hotel across the street and thought, “when is doing something epic just for the sake of doing something epic, and when is it truly for fun?”. i made the decision to get a room, rather than set up my tent in the driving snow.
up early the next morning, i realized that it had really dumped overnight and to head back down to bishop meant putting chains on again, so i decided to do my long run along mono, and just take it easy to deal with the altitude. well, let me tell you, when you’re doing a long run at 8,000′, there is no taking it easy. even running slow, my heart rate was up around where it sits when i’m running marathon pace. i was okay for the first 10 mile loop (i canned the speed work i was supposed to do when i couldn’t catch my breath at a 7min pace), but when i headed out on the second 10 mile loop the wind picked up and it was really tough going. the temp without the wind was sitting at 12, and although it was beautiful and sunny out, that wind really sucked the energy out of me. when i hit 15, i was ready to call it a day, but i was still five miles out from where i’d parked. when i hit 16, i thumbed a ride up to the road intersection that was two miles from my car and trudged the final two to make it 18 for the day.
i thought i would have been toast for the rest of the day, what with the exertion, but actually, i recovered quite well and actually felt good enough to do some playing on the water. so, i headed down to navy beach to put the kayak in the water for a while. it was still beautiful and sunny out, with a storm sitting over the mountains to the south and west. the wind was pretty fierce and had the water really choppy, but i had a great couple hours of paddling around, visiting all the same tufas from the october trip. i snapped a bunch of pictures, paddled quietly through all the formations, just soaking in the beauty of it all.
that comes in stark contrast to what sunday held. i woke up to find that the storm had dumped more snow overnight, and it was snowing pretty steadily. i got up before sunrise, hoping to catch some great dawn photos, but the clouds were so thick and low that visibility was only a couple hundred meters. i decided to head down to navy beach again and paddle for a while in the snow. the lake was super serene when i got there. the water was calm and the snow muted all sound. i popped the kayak in the water and headed out to my favorite group of tufas a little under a mile from shore. the water was so calm that i was able to get right in between the spires and check them out up close. i turned to look toward the south tufa formation, but couldn’t see it due to the clouds…then i looked toward shore and it was hidden by clouds, too. oops…lost at sea.
i pulled out the compass, paddle in the direction i knew the south formation to be and eventually it began to emerge out of the storm. i paddle around, shooting some more photos to contrast the previous day’s shots and then headed back to the beach. it was a very spooky, but cool experience. it was awesome to know that i was probably the only living thing around. no life in the lake, no visitors on the shore and most smart animals all hidden away to wait out the storm. it was the solitude that had eluded me on the october trip, given to me on a snowy platter. the silent paddling was a great way to end the weekend, and it’s a memory that i won’t soon forget.

how i spent my summer vacation, by jeff smith

i don’t know where to start when i think about the awesomeness that was this past week. well, actually, i do know where to start. the beginning. duh. but when i think of all the awesome things that happened that i want to put down in writing, my head swims.
the trip started early on saturday morning. we were going to originally head out on friday, but i really wanted a lazy packing day, rather than jumping through hoops until late thursday night trying to get ready. the plan was to head up to stockton, celebrate smsmh’s grandmothers’s birthday and spend the night there before continuing up to the lake.
the drive was uneventful and we got to stockton in the early afternoon. we hung out with her family, ate some cake and then called it a night. her grandparents have had four cars stolen from their house, and knowing this we decided to park our sore thumb of a vehicle (an xterra with a bright yellow 14′ kayak on top is hardly subtle) in the driveway and pull another car up behind it. i wasn’t too concerned, but since the kayak is fairly easy to get off, i wanted to make it difficult if someone got greedy.
i slept uneasily all night. i was on edge and stirred at the slightest sound. i heard sirens all night, a gunshot and a nearby burglar alarm. it was strangely reminiscent of trying to sleep during combat. sometime around 3am, i got up to void and after returning to bed, i was laying awake. i heard a car pull up out front and listened to it’s engine idling. my mind quickly processed that this quiet residential street, with most of it’s homeowners in their retirement years, wouldn’t normally have any activity at 3am.
i got up quickly and looked out the window. there was a car sitting across the street, casing the house. i pulled back the curtain to get a better look and no sooner had i done that, the car lurched to a start, chirped it’s tires and sped off. i had a sick feeling in my gut that if i hadn’t been awake, the car would have been broken into, stolen or vandalized. i slept uneasily for the rest of the night.
up early, i put in a 10 mile long run and after cleaning up, smsmh and i got out of town, anxious for the safety of the outdoors.
we stayed sunday night at her grandparent’s condo in tahoe and headed to our campground on monday. the original idea had been to put in from south shore and kayak north up the west coast of the lake, stopping at camp richardson, emerald bay, d.l. bliss and sugar pine point over the course of four days. the problem with that is that camping is only allowed in designated sites, all of which are available for pre-registration, with none reserved for first come. so, we decided to reserve a site at eagle point on emerald bay, camp there for four days and just paddle up and down the coast from a central spot.
monday we spent setting up camp, checking out the launch points and driving back into town looking for a place that sold kayak caddies (wheels to strap onto the boat for easy transportation). we came up empty handed and decided to just haul the kayak down to the launch point (1/4 mile hike down to the water) and leave it there. the nice thing about having a central camp site was that we wouldn’t need to carry everything with us, allowing for heavier and more food-stuffs. so, i treated us to chicken and refried black bean tacos the first night, turkey chilli the second night and pesto stuffed tortelini with red sauce the last night. breakfast each morning was oatmeal with brown sugar, raisins, craisins and dried blueberries, along with fresh apples (and peanut butter) and oranges. i think that was the best i’ve ever eaten while camping.
tuesday was our first day on the lake. after a fun 6 mile trail run, i cleaned up and we headed down to the water, determined to explore emerald bay. we paddled out to fanett island, tied the boat up to some rocks and spent some time lounging and swimming. next, we paddled to the shore where vikingsholm stands and took the tour. the scandinavian architecture was fabulous and was a wonderful compliment for the surrounding forest. the rest of the day was filled with paddling along the bay shoreline, beaching every so often to swim around and lay out.
wednesday, we decided to head up the coast to d.l. bliss state park and explore. i had already done an eight mile trail run along the rubicon trail and had found a secluded beach that i thought would be fun for a lunch stop, so the plan was to try to find it from the lake side. we spotted it quickly and decided to paddle on to the d.l. bliss beach, turn around and come back for some lunch.
the trip up to d.l. bliss was awesome. the water in the lake was so amazingly clear, you could easily see 100′+ down. as we rounded one of the points, the shallower water disappeared and we were quickly in near 1000′ deep water. the colour changed to a rich blue and was absolutely beautiful. we stopped occasionally to explore coves, swim and watch wildlife. on the way back, we found the beach again, pulled into the cove and set up for lunch.
i’d brought the stove and some tomato & roasted red pepper soup. i fired it up, cooked up the lunch, broke out the cracked wheat crackers and we ate heartily. a couple families showed up along the rubicon trail and eyed our grub jealously as they lunched on powerbars and gorp. who said that camping has to be an exercise in deprivation? mmm…i’m getting hungry just thinking about how wonderful that meal was.
thursday was a little bit of a twist. since this was our last day at the campsite, we knew we’d have to be packed up and out of there before noon. we planned to get up before dawn, paddle out to the tip of eagle point and watch the sunrise. my watch alarm went of at 5:30 and we quickly got up and headed down to the boat. we quietly paddled out to the point in the pre-dawn light. i couldn’t help but pull out the point-and-shoot digital and get a quick video. it was just smsmh and i, the still air and a couple loons. we sat out at the point, paddling lightly, for close to an hour as we watched the sun rise. it was beautiful, serene and a wonderful start to our last day on the lake.
afterward, we broke camp. rather than try to haul the kayak up to the camp, i decided to take a solo paddle to the beach at d.l. bliss and have smsmh drive over to pick me up. i adjusted the seats in the kayak and set off at about 9am. i paddled hard until i got to the point just before d.l. bliss. i worked my way into some rocks, tied off the boat and went for a swim. after a quick snack and a lay in the sun, i hopped back into the kayak and leisurely headed on to meet up with smsmh.
thursday night was spent in squaw valley, where we cleaned up and got re-adjusted to processed foods. pizza and thomas kemper’s root beer never tasted so good! we headed back home on friday, taking the long way around through reno, nevada and down the 395. the drive home was beautiful as we cruised along the east range of the sierras, with all of her 14,000′ peaks in view. we made a quick stop at mono lake to take some photos, but a punctured tire on the sharp granite put a quick stop to that. after a lengthy tire change, we decided to just head on home and try the bodie/mono lake combo another day.
home by 1am and we were beat, but in a wonderful state of mind. it’s amazing how quickly the cares of the world are shed when you step into the wild places of the world. smsmh had an equally wonderful time and is anxious to head back out for more watery adventure. the cool thing is that this trip was her idea. what is better than a wife that wants to take part in your adventure? nothing. absolutely nothing.

news from the field

well, we just got off the lake today and we’re staying the night in squaw valley before heading back to southern california. after a hearty scrub, a hearty nap and a hearty meal, we’re beginning to adjust to civilized life again. we’ve got tons of photos, and some very cool trip report, but that’ll have to wait until we get back home.
but, a quick high point/low point to whet the appetite…
low point: the first night, spent in stockton, california and nearly had our car and kayak stolen.
high point: getting up before dawn, hopping into the kayak with smsmh and watching the sun rise out on the lake.
tomorrow, it’s on the 395 to head home. maybe an overnight at mono lake and a side trip to bodie, if we’re feeling frisky.


since we scratched the race on sunday, that gave me the weekend to relax and do some other activities. coach decided that i was to run an easy 10 on sunday, rather than try to find another race, so that had me in relax mode.
so, saturday morning, wade and i decided to take the kayak out again. this time, we wanted to launch from crystal cove (click on the rain damage photo and check out the frog photo – haha!) and paddle around the reefs and kelp beds in the off-shore park. after carrying the boat down to the beach, we were set to make our attempt at getting through the surf. again, it was another shore break and timing was going to be crucial. we made our first attempt, and the timing was horribly off. wade hopped into the boat and took some water with him (making the kayak ride lower in the water) and when i tried to hop in the front, a large wave came at the same moment. with me pushing down, trying to get in, the bow went under the wave and the cockpit filled with water. we struggled to get the boat out of the surf and dragged it up on shore where we dumped all the water out.
our second attempt went much better.
sort of.
we decided that i needed to hop in first, immediately following a wave and begin paddling. wade would handle the kayak until after the next wave came and then hop in, helping us paddle through the surf zone. we waited patiently and when we saw our break, we went for it. i kept the bow above the next incoming wave, and quickly jumped into the cockpit. i began paddling for all i was worth. we made it over the next wave without taking any water, and then wade made it into the boat. we dug hard and escaped the surf zone without any complications.
we both let out yells of triumph and exclamations about how well it went. i felt some stinging on my right toe-knuckles, as i had hit my foot jumping into the boat, but other than that, we were fine. as we continued to paddle away from the surf, the pain in my foot turned to throbbing and i began to wonder if i’d done more than just rap my foot. i pulled my leg out of the cockpit and looked at my toe. the toenail on my right big toe was standing up at a 45 degree angle and blood was running down my foot. i thought to myself, “it’s not supposed to stand up like that” and quickly pushed it back flat.
wade and i debated whether to head back to shore, but the last thing i wanted to do at that point was navigate the surf and carry the kayak back up the cliff to the car. the toe hurt, but it wasn’t preventing us from paddling, so we decided to just go ahead and enjoy the day and deal with the toe later.
we began paddling north up the coast to check out the coastal rock formations and the kelp beds. we were treated to a couple cool sights; a fairly large jellyfish that wouldn’t hold still for a photograph and an elusive seal that kept popping up all around us. the further we paddle north, the less i wanted to return to crystal cove and deal with exiting through the surf. i called home to see if someone could pick us up in one of the harbors and shuttle me back to the car, and j agreed.
so, our plan was to paddle all the way up the coast, into newport harbor and find a good place to pull out. we were thinking newport dunes in the back bay, but, really, any place with no surf was going to be fine with me.
we finally hit the kelp beds off of corona del mar and sat in them for a while, marveling at how much kelp there was. the heavy swell was still present, but the wave chop was reduced to a minimum. it was really strange and sort of eerie. we didn’t see any sea life, though, which is what i had been hoping for.
we continued up the coast, made it into newport harbor (paddling faster than the boats going 5mph in the no-wake zone), made wrong turn and ended up in a channel on the back side of balboa island. we found a good section of sand to pull up onto, called j, and had her meet us there.
the shuttle and pick-up went without a hitch and after a short while, we were back home. i got cleaned up and tried my best to do surgery on the toe. i tried to clip the nail back as far as i could to asses the damage, but the nail bed was too much of a mess to really do anything with it. i wrapped it up tight and just let it be.
sunday morning, i was very skeptical about running on it, but i figured it wasn’t a tendon, bone or muscle injury, so it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. like the black knight, i just kept telling myself, “tis but a flesh wound!”. fortunately, running didn’t bother it in the least, so i was able to get my 10 miler in without any pain. the mental image of the toenail was more of a factor than any discomfort.
now, i’d just wish the stupid thing would fall off so i don’t keep bumping it and catching it on stuff. anyone got some pliers?