The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 2: Yolla Bolly Wilderness- Ides Cove Area

(continued from Part 1: Yolla Bolly Wilderness, Ides Cove Area )

The Sausage King of Mendo

We built a killer campsite on the edge of a high cliff, overlooking Slides Creek Canyon and its descending chain of waterfall-fed meadows.

IMG_6931
Man, it takes my piss forever to reach the foot of this cliff.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Dinner went slightly awry when Peanut seized a perfectly-cooked Italian sausage off of my plate as I was reaching for the mustard; but I still love him.  After all, it’s cut-throat out there, we all know this.  Survival of the fittest.  Living off the land and all that.

I can't stay mad at you. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I can’t stay mad at you.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

In the Morning, Feeling Half-Right

Drank too much whiskey and wine last night.  We all did.  Nothing for it but to walk it off, right?

So after forcing down some strawberry Pop-Tarts, and the squished, bruised, and oozing remains of the bananas we had jammed, against their will, into our bear cans yesterday, we took a nice long hike out to to some peaks, lakes, and meadows. At Long Lake, the Pean and I set off on our own, dropping down a steep and trail-less crumbling cliff-face, riding the scree as if we were shredding a nauseatingly-angled double-diamond snow slope. We etched a slanting, zig-zagging path down the mountainside, triggering mini-avalanches that rained down rocks and boulders onto the grassy saddle below us as we went.  I made sure to keep Peanut above and behind me, so I didn’t crush him with any of the debris loosed by my body weight; and he acquiesced to the directive, skidding along in my wake.  When we finally reached the bottom, we ran across a huge green meadow and slaked our thirst and cooled our bodies beneath a waterfall which poured off the lip of the cliff above like fruit punch from a ladle.

Elegance, function, style.  It’s all there in the Yolla Bolly.

South Yolla Bolly Mountain, seen from our campsite. (photo by  D. Speredelozzi)
South Yolla Bolly Mountain, seen from the creek by our campsite.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I See Dead Trails

I needed the very best of my route-finding skills to find the faded and disused remnant of the Burnt Camp Trail, which once upon a time had confidently led the way out of the meadow and back up the mountain toward our campsite, but at this point clearly had not been maintained in decades.  It was nearly impossible to find the track of the trail; but by summoning my inner Crazy Horse and carefully scrutinizing the lay of the land, the distribution of leaves and sticks across the forest floor, and the subtle breaks in the trees and shrubbery, I eventually managed to start tracing the ghost of the old path up the dry and dusty ridge. After 45 minutes of chipping our way uphill with the pitiless sun on our backs, we emerged back onto a familiar trail: the ridge trail we had hiked in on yesterday.  Across sinking slopes peppered with the fire-ravaged skeletons of white pine and fir trees I could see my yellow tent, Shane’s red Irish soccer shirt, and Abs’ ever-present royal blue Indianapolis Colts shirt, all perched on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the deep valley we had just hiked through .  We headed that way.

The trail up from Burnt Camp has clearly been abandoned for many many years, its route nearly impossible to trace. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The trail up from Burnt Camp has clearly been abandoned for many many years, its route nearly impossible to trace.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Hell in a Hand-Basket

Returning to camp from our sweltering hike to find Shane and Abs relaxing in the late-afternoon breeze, I grabbed the whiskey and settled in to a nice long intellectual diatribe with the boys on the state of politics and world affairs. Sometimes the world of man can creep in a little bit even when you’re well outside of its direct influence.

IMG_6885

IMG_6882
Shane-Nut atop Yuddy Point Rock (my name for it).
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

After the collective, three-way rant was over (Peanut, more well-versed than the rest of us in matters of social grace, knew better than to engage in a political chat among friends), we finished off the burritos we’d picked up yesterday in the Sacramento Valley, then spent another gorgeous, balmy night sitting around the campfire, looking out over the lower canyons at the twinkling city lights of Redding, out in the Sacramento Valley, and the peaks of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta in the far distance. I slept like a bag of bricks in free-fall.

Grog-uddies. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Grog-uddies.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ridging Our Bets

Next day we packed up camp, hiked back out to the trail-head, and parted ways with the fellas.  They were headed home to the Bay Area; but the Pean and I decided to stick around the trail-head to climb South Yolla Bolly Mountain (Mt. Linn), the highest point in the wilderness.

Hot-tuddy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Hot-tuddy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It was hot and exposed for the first part of the climb; and Peanut bitched and moaned accordingly, protesting by beaching himself in the shade of any tree we came within 50 feet of; but he was jacked and re-invigorated once we had gained the ridge and come into the path of the breeze blowing up from the lower flanks of the mountain.

Cool-uddy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Cool-uddy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We made the 1,500-foot, two mile ascent to the peak in just 55 minutes, and then spent a little while taking in the whole of the Yolla Bolly Wilderness and beyond from on high, gazing out at the hazy Sacramento Valley to the east, the numerous jagged ridges of the Mendocino National Forest to the south, the North Coastal Range to the west, the distant peaks of the North Yolla Bolly Range and the Trinity Alps far to the north, and our little campsite on a cliff far below our feet, before running back down the spine of the mountain (20 minutes) and setting off on the next leg of our Mendocino adventure.

(to be continued)

 

Next chapter: (Part 3: Race Under Pressure)

 

 

Mount Shasta: The Ups and Downs of Climbing a Glaciated Volcano (photos only)

MOUNT SHASTA

Mount Shasta, far and away Northern California’s dominant peak, rising two vertical miles above its surrounding landscape, is by any metric a serious mountain, 14,000 feet of rock and ice (oh, and on the inside: lava).

People really die up there (though in fairness, it hasn’t been lava’s fault for at least a quarter of a millenium- probably longer).

So yeah, people die up there.

Not me, though.  I just fly.

Up

About to climb Mt. Shasta, 2002. (photo by some random dude)
About to ascend Mt. Shasta, 2002.
(photo by some random dude)
About to climb Mt. Shasta, 2010. (photo by some random dude who thought we were some kind of semi-famous elite mountain climbers or whatever)
About to ascend Mt. Shasta, 2010.
(photo by some random dude who thought we were some kind of semi-famous elite mountain climbers or whatever)
About to climb Mt. Shasta. (photo by D. Moore)
About to ascend Mt. Shasta, 2010.
(photo by D. Moore)

 

Down

About to descend Mt. Shasta. (photo by P. Reich)
About to descend Mt. Shasta, 2002.
(photo by P. Reich)
About to descend Mt. Shasta (not from the summit), 2010. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
About to descend Mt. Shasta, 2010.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
About to descend Mt. Shasta (by helicopter), 2010. (photo by D. Moore)
About to go for a ride in a helicopter (not by design), 2010.
(photo by D. Moore)

 

(coming soon: the story behind the photos)

 

Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 2: Border Song (and Dance)

(Click here to Return to Chapter 1)

Cast in the role of "Traveling Amelie Santa-Gnome Type Character", Chico the Bear takes a look down the California Coastline, trying to imagine, if he might, what awaits south of the border. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Cast in the role of “Traveling Amelie-inspired Santa-Gnome Type Character”, Chico the Bear takes a look down the California Coastline, trying to imagine, if he might, what awaits south of the border.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 02

Huntington Beach, CA > San Diego, CA > Rosarito Beach, BC

Saturday, August 27th:

Chalk and I leave my sister’s place in Huntington Beach.  As we are leaving, she offers me a pocket-size Spanish-English dictionary, and I decline with a brazen, off-the-cuff “Pshaw, I won’t need that.  I’m sure everyone knows English down there.”

Allow me to interject right here to fully own and admit just what an idiotic and obliviously white-Amero-centric view that is to take.  The whole world must speak English, because that’s how it is where I’ve always lived!

Luckily my sister is not giving up that easily.  “Just take it”, she insists, firmly pushing the invaluable, weightless, 6x4x1-inch book into my limp, reluctant, ungrasping hand.  “What possible reason could you have not to take it?”

And so, not yet fully immune to the persuasive power of simple, well-articulated good sense advice, I relent, and take the little dictionary from her.

If I hadn’t, we would have never been heard from again.

Real-Life "Frogger" Zone Ahead: Proceed With Caution. These signs appear with increasing frequency along the southbound lanes of San Diego-area freeways as one approaches the border crossing at Tijuana. (image by worddrum.wordpress.com)
Real-Life “Frogger” Zone Ahead: Proceed With Caution.
These signs appear with increasing frequency along the southbound lanes of San Diego-area freeways as one approaches the border crossing at Tijuana.
(image by worddrum.wordpress.com)

First Circle of Purgatory: San Diego

We stop at the last exit before the border to acquire a temporary Mexican auto insurance policy.  Anybody who has ever made it back safely from a road trip down to Mexico owes their safe return to the fact that they didn’t go down there without some kind of valid auto insurance.

Most, if not all, U.S. auto insurance policies do not extend their coverage across the Mexican border; so it is imperative that you get your ass covered before you head down there.  And anyway, you have no excuse, since a) it costs essentially nothing to get a temporary Mexican policy, and b) the northern sides of U.S./Mexico border crossings are as thick with businesses sporting “Get your Mexican auto insurance policy here!” signs as are the street-corners opposite big city jailhouses with bail bonds services.

Wouldn't wanna be the guy to introduce illicit guns or other contraband to Mexico or anything like that. Not sure I could live with myself with that on my conscience. (image by imgbuddy.com)
Wouldn’t wanna be the guy to introduce illicit guns or other contraband to Mexico or anything like that. Not sure I could live with myself with such a thing on my conscience.
(image by imgbuddy.com)

The insurance policy costs like $24, covers us for pretty much anything that’s even remotely likely to happen to us down there (*ahem* – as long as we are not actively looking for trouble, that is), and is good for six months.  Oh, and it comes with a single “Get-out-of-jail-free” card, though the insurance dude makes sure that we understand that this can only be used if you get arrested in Mexico but haven’t actually committed a crime.  If you actually do something to get your ass thrown in jail down there, you’re on your own.  But if you get arrested on some nonsensical, bullshit pretense, which apparently is common enough in Mexico that it makes business sense for insurers to offer this perk in the first place, then you just make your phone call to the insurance people in San Diego, and they get you released more or less right away.

Insurance policy in hand, our next stop is the bank, to get cash before crossing the border.

¿Qué Necessita Effectivo?

We had intended to leave San Francisco a few days earlier than we had; but we’d been forced to wait around for my new ATM card to arrive in the mail, seeing as how an ATM card is an absolutely critical item which cannot be gone without in Mexico for reasons that hardly need articulating.

Nevertheless, by Friday (yesterday) morning we had grown too impatient to wait any longer, and so we just said fuck it and headed south without the bank card (which, incidentally, arrived in the mail about 45 minutes after we left my place).

Yeah, well y'know- we'll see. It's still early yet. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Yeah, well y’know- we’ll see.
It’s still early yet.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

So here we are in San Diego, trying to figure out how much money to take out for the trip.  Not wanting to travel with an unnecessarily large amount of money, I brilliantly decide that I only need $600 to get me through the next several days, as “‘I’ll just go to the Bank of America in Cabo (San Lucas, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, more than 1,000 miles away) to get out more money once we get down there (that’s foreshadowing, by the way, in case you can’t tell).”

We make one last stop, at the end of some random dead-end street behind a mini-mall, to stash our weed, and get the car in order before subjecting ourselves to the thorough scrutiny of an international border crossing.  We stuff the bag in an empty cigarette box, throw it under a bush, and are then finally ready to roll across the border, to whatever fate or adventure awaits us.  We get back on I-5 south to drive the last remaining third of a mile of U.S. soil separating us from the great unknown.

The Tijuana Shuffle

Up ahead, on the left side of the median, we can see the northbound lanes of traffic, queuing up for entry into the U.S. through the world’s busiest international border crossing.

San Ysidro Point of Entry- The world's busiest land border crossing. (photo by Phil Konstantin)
San Ysidro Point of Entry-
The world’s busiest land border crossing.
(photo by Phil Konstantin)

I have been across the Mexican border a few times in the past, but never via this particular port of entry, never for more than just a few hours, and never with the intent of going any further into the country than the strip of cheesy Americanized bars that sits, each in its own individual fashion, within a stone’s throw of some or another U.S. border crossing station. But this time we will be crossing the border at Tijuana, bound for a destination (Cabo San Lucas) over a thousand miles deep into the country, and staying for an unknown duration of time- a week or two, perhaps (we very loosely suppose, based on nothing).

I Believe I’ll Ride it Down to Mexico…

We are fully expecting to momentarily come upon some kind of toll booth/checkpoint-type thing where we will have to briefly explain to some dude- who doesn’t get paid enough to give a shit one way or the other- why we are going to Mexico, where we’re going in Mexico, and how long we intend to stay in Mexico.

But for some reason the Mexican authorities just don’t seem to be all that concerned about policing the incoming U.S. tourists, and whatever corruptive influence they might be having on their nation.  And to tell you the truth, I can’t see how this “anti-policy” has resulted in too many problematic breaches of national security sufficiently grave as to force a review of current protocols.

Getting into Mexico via the San Ysidro Port of Entry is about as difficult as rolling a ball down a ramp. (photo by www.huffingtonpost.com)
Getting into Mexico via the San Ysidro Port of Entry is about as difficult as rolling a ball down a ramp.
(photo by www.huffingtonpost.com)

Holy Moses, Have We Been Removed?

We never even slow down.  I remember seeing some cop standing next to his motorcycle on the shoulder of the highway, motionless, arms crossed, sternly regarding the freeway through impenetrable sunglasses, but doing nothing.

We whizz right by him, at speed, and before you can even say “¿Qué chingados?“, we are in downtown Tijuana, whizzing by decrepit parking lots, empty office buildings, and vibrant marketplaces, never having even so much as head-faked as if we might stop and attempt to justify this international sojourn to anybody. Our passing goes as utterly unremarked as would that of a 22-year-old brah in a white baseball cap crossing a beer line at a Dave Matthews Band concert.

And just like that, we are in Mexico.

Kind of.

I think about the cigarette box full of weed, stashed needlessly under that bush back in the U.S.A.- a million miles away.  We continue straight on through Tijuana and out the other side towards the coastline.  We’ll get our chance to dig in to some Mexican cities a little later in the trip; but for now, we’re trying to get somewhere.

Playa Saldamando Campground. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Playa Saldamando Campground.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Looka Like a Storm Brewin’

The signal slowly turns to static as we pass southward out of the reach of the San Diego radio stations.  The last thing we hear is yet another newsflash about this big hurricane that’s been bearing down on the Gulf Coast for the past few days.  Everybody’s been talking about it.  I guess it’s supposed to be one for the ages.

(to be continued)

 

Previous: Chapter 1

Next: Chapter 3: Tear the Roofs Off the Suckas

 

The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 1: Yolla Bolly Wilderness- Ides Cove Area

The only thing that can be said about Paskenta is that nothing can be said about Paskenta. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The only thing that can be said about Paskenta is that nothing can be said about Paskenta.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Instant Caravan

I decided to see the month of May in by getting way off the grid for a few days. So I did the only thing I know how to do in that situation: I excused myself from my Friday morning Philosophy class, threw my dog Peanut in the car, along with most of my camping gear, cruised across town to pick up my friend Shane, and hit the highway, all by 10:30 AM.  We linked up with Abs in Suisun City, and with that- instant caravan!  We stocked up on food and booze at the Safeway in Vacaville, and then pointed our motorcade north towards the Upper Sacramento Valley, bound for the lonely vastitudes of the Mendocino National Forest, specifically that exceedingly rugged, and little-used, subset of the forest known as the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, a.k.a. Bigfoot Country (but if that’s all you’re here for, I’ll save you the suspense right now- we never saw him).

Our last outpost of quasi-civilization, as well as the end of the paved part of our journey, was Paskenta, a map-blip of a village about 35 miles southwest of the town of Red Bluff.  As we left Paskenta, we immediately began to climb steeply up into the Mendo National Forest on Forest Road M2, which was at first a good dirt road, but soon became a total pain in the ass.

Forest Road M2: a nice wide dirt  road, reasonably-graded, with good tread, and no obstacles, (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Forest Road M2: a nice wide dirt road, reasonably-graded, with good tread, and no obstacles,
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ruts Never Sleep

About 15 or so miles in, a series of runoff channels, cut diagonally across the road and each about 4-6 inches deep, the breadth of a truck tire, and with raised banks on both sides, started appearing at maddeningly-short intervals, requiring near-constant stopping.  Hazardous to pass over at anything faster than 2 or 3 mph, these cumbersome ruts would require you to slow down and cross at an angle, causing the vehicle to rock and jar back and forth as each wheel crossed the threshold at a different time.  In this way, a good 8-10-mile stretch of the road became a time-sucking trial of patience and restraint that took almost an hour to drive.  The situation called for ice cold beer.

And fortunately, we were holding.

Forest Road M2: starting to become a pain in the ass. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Forest Road M22: starting to become a pain in the ass.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Eventually the runoff channels began to abate, and after an interval they vanished altogether; and from that point on we were able to resume making reasonably good time to the trailhead, which was only another few miles anyway.

Peanut guards the parking lot while the team closes up shop and prepare to walk.(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Peanut guards the parking lot while the tail end of the team (me) closes up shop and prepares to walk.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Beware: The Ides of Mendo

We reached the Ides Cove Trailhead, situated on an eastern saddle of Mt. Linn (or, as it is known to local indian peoples, South Yolla Bolly Mountain), around 5 PM, and took our time packing our packs and finishing off the last of the beers.

The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eeel Wilderness is the best-named wilderness in the state of California. The name, which means   "snow-covered high peak" in the language of the Wintu indians, is so bad-ass that the whole thing can't even fit on the sign. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness has the coolest name of any wilderness in the state of California. The name, which means “snow-covered high peak” in the language of the Wintu indians, is so bad-ass that they can’t even fit the whole thing on a standard wilderness sign.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We hit the trail at 6 PM, and took to the wilds.  It would be a short walk to camp- no more than three miles, along the north side of a ridge, into the setting sun.

IMG_6737
Peanut watches in amaze as the ghosts of the great Indian chiefs of old, channeling ancient griefs beyond reckoning, scatter golden tears across the forest floor.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

Next chapter: (Part 2:  Yolla Bolly Wilderness, Ides Cove Area)

 

Baja Mexico : The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 1

We’ll get there. Somehow, we’ll get there. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
We’ll get there.
Somehow, we’ll get there.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Day 01

San Francisco, CA > Huntington Beach, CA

Friday, August 26th:  

My friend Chalk and I leave San Francisco by car, headed for Baja Mexico.

Do we know what we’re getting ourselves into?

Mile 80, San Joaquin Valley, CA: So far so good. (photo by C. Chalk)
Mile 80, San Joaquin Valley, CA:
So far so good.
(photo by C. Chalk)

And the answer is, of course we do…

Kinda.

First night’s stop:  My sister’s place in Huntington Beach, CA

End of a 475-mile day. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
End of a 475-mile day.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

(to be continued)

Next: Chapter 2: Border Song and Dance

Didn’t Get to Sleep Last Night Til’ the Morning Came Around

I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares. Tomayto tomahto. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares.
Tomayto tomahto.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Hey did you know about these seaside cabins that you can rent at the foot of Steep Ravine, in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up in Marin County?

These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Oh, you had heard of them, vaguely?  Yeah, me too; but for some reason I never looked into renting one of them, even though I’ve been living 20 miles away for the past 18 years.

Admit- If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you'd totally believe it. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Admit-
If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you’d totally believe it.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Then a few weeks ago my friend Stu called me up and said he had rented one of these very cabins for an upcoming Monday night, and did I want to go up there with him to drink some beers, listen to the waves, and play some Dead tunes on guitar (not necessarily in that order).  What was there to say no to?

There's a cabin on the hill Psychedelic music fills the air (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
There’s a cabin on the hill
Psychedelic music fills the air
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We left the city in the late afternoon, and stopped for a few basic supplies at the Safeway in Mill Valley; and there I made the tragic mistake of leaving Stu to do most of the shopping, while I took care of some other pressing business.

It's not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds god-fearing Americans running for their cabins, before the ne'er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to haunt the night. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds all decent, god-fearing folk running for their cabins, seeking to take what shelter they might before the ne’er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to stalk the night, preying on the luckless and the witless alike.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Here’s the thing with Stu- left to his own devices, he will purchase $100 worth of groceries for a 12-hour trip; and this is exactly what he did.  I came out of the bathroom to find, in our cart, two half- sticks of butter, a full-size carton of milk, a large bottle of orange juice, a package of cookie dough, a package of cocoa, two boxes of Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a 12-pack of Great White Ale, a 32-oz tub of yogurt, a package of granola, a pack of blueberries, 4 bananas, two oranges, a bag of chips, and a tub of hummus.  And a roast chicken!  All this for one night.  And there’s probably even some stuff I neglected to mention.

If I had done the shopping, we would have left the Safeway with a 12-pack and a bag of ice.  But hey- Stu was just looking out for us.  Good on’im.

Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering how the hell we're gonna finish all this food before 7 AM, when we have to leave to get him to work by 8. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering if he forgot anything at the supermarket.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Before dinner we took a pleasant little stroll along the beach and the bluffs, admiring the ocean’s handiwork and trying not to drop our beers as we scaled the crumbling cliffs and probed the driftwood sculptures peppering the beach- a tee-pee and some wind shelters .

Check out this tee-pee.  Now that's some serious early man shit. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Check out this tee-pee. Now that’s some serious early man shit.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Needless to say, we did not go hungry that night.

After dinner, we fired up the wood stove- you know, to keep the demons of the night at bay.  Then we settled in to play some music for a few hours.

Come on Stu, light my fire. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Come on Stu, light my fire.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Starting at around 11:30 PM, we kept saying we were about to go to bed; but for some reason it kept not happening.  Funny how it always seems to go that way when beer and its companion vices are involved.

Plee-ee-ee-eease don't murder me... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Plee-ee-ee-eease don’t murder me…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Satan came knocking for our souls sometime around 2:30 AM; and the only way to protect ourselves was to kill the lights and pretend we were asleep; but he continued to sniff around the windows for so long that we got sleepy and started to drift off.  So much for friends of the devil.

Fuck it, though- we were out of beer anyway.

The Devil sends the beast with wrath... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Devil sends the beast with wrath…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The most painful part of the whole proceedings was that we had to get up at 6 AM, so we could leave at 7 to get Stu to work in the city by 8.  I had been planning to give him my car and ride my bike back to the city; but I was hungover, under-rested, and anyway it was foggy and damp out; so I aborted that plan.

The Steep Ravine cabins recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But many good times must be paid for on the back end, with periods of exhaustion and stomach discomfort- this is just par for the course. Everyone involved knows the rules, everyone knows what’s at stake. It’s kinda like the mafia, but without all that pesky murder, betrayal, and bad-assery.

No remorse, no repent.

I set out running but I'll take my time A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep tonight (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
If I get up before daylight
I just won’t get no sleep tonight
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground  (that’s right, there are campsites too, some of them killer) are located on the west side of Highway 1, about two and a half miles south of Stinson Beach, and 25 miles north of San Francisco (plan for an hour’s drive under normal traffic conditions).

As of a few weeks ago, the cabins cost $108 per night, and sleep anywhere from 6 to however many people you can cram onto the floor (though they might technically have occupancy limits, for all I know). Each cabin has an ocean view, comes with a wood-burning stove, a large oaken kitchen table, and a charcoal grill (outside).  The “beds” are just horizontal wooden spaces, so bring sleeping mats, bags, and pillows. No electricity, so bring lanterns or headlamps.

The only downside:  Lamely, here, as everywhere else in the California State Park system, dogs are not allowed.

Stu really ties the room together.  Unfortuanately for you, though, you have to bring your own, or go without. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu really ties the room together. Unfortunately for you, though, you’ll have to bring your own, or go without.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The cabins can be seen on Google Maps here, and they can be reserved here.  Be advised, however, that they are very popular, and reserving them is a cut-throat business that requires a certain fortitude and determination which Stu possesses, and I do not.  But I have other strengths.

If you want to walk in our footsteps, reserve Cabin #5 (Willow Camp)

Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to look as if this and all the other photos were not staged and attempted multiple times. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to make it seem as if this and all the other photos in this series were indeed spontaneous, candid shots, and not the fully staged, precision-blocked and exhaustively choreographed burdens to capture that they in fact all were.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

I Swear There Was an Octopus

It only took eighteen years of living in Northern California for me to finally get around to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Yeah, it’s true.

But I finally went for it last weekend.  My best girl and me- we was down there anyway for a show, y’see.

Colors like this can't really occur in nature. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Everybody knows that colors like this don’t really occur in nature. 
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

As aquariums go, the place is pretty cool, though as a social experiment, place be bein’ an utter catastrophe.

Get the sponge salad- it's delicious.  You've got your ball of corn, your scoop of chocolate chip Play-Do, your tree of sparkling fish eyes, your condom full of feta cheese, and your shriveled leaf garnish. Man, now that be some good eatin! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Get the sponge salad- it’s delicious. You’ve got your ball of corn, your scoop of chocolate chip Play-Doh, your tree of sparkling fish eyes, your condom full of feta cheese, and your shriveled leaf garnish.  It’s all in there.  It’s a regular Ragu of the sea. Man, now that be some good eatin!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

As you step across the threshold into the Monterey Bay Aquarium, cast off any expectation of personal space.

IMG_6187

(photos by D. Speredelozzi)
Oh yes, and how could I forget the jellyfish salad? Stings a bit going down; but at the other end you get to shoot fireworks out of your ass.
(photos by D. Speredelozzi)

The place was like the New York Stock Exchange just before a major IPO, or a West African border crossing on the day of a coup (regime change!), or a North Carolina supermarket on the day before a major hurricane makes landfall.  Chaos, I tell you. Sheer chaos.

Look at these fish- the world is their oyster. Oh wait, I mean their world is the size of an oyster.  My bad. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Look at these fish- the world is their oyster.
Oh wait, I mean their world is the size of an oyster. My bad.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But the array of ocean life on display at the aquarium is impressive, particularly the jellyfish area. Who knew there were so many different types of jellyfish?  They even had these tiny little near-microscopic jobbies that were so cute you wanted them all to just swim up your nose and bite your brain right off!

In his  steely resolve to avoid the soul-sucking penetrations of my digital camera, this guy ducked, dodged and squirmed like a champ.  You get less resistance trying to administer nose drops to your dog. But hey yo?  Who's in charge now? Woot! Woot! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
In his steely resolve to avoid the soul-sucking penetrations of my digital camera, this guy ducked, dodged and squirmed like a champ. You’d get less resistance trying to administer nose drops to a dog.
But hey, yo- who’s in charge now?
Yeah you goddamn right.
Woot! Woot!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I’ll tell you right now, though, the place is kinda short on large sea-dwellers.  No big sharks, no whales, no giant squids- though admittedly these creatures would be a challenge to house properly without doubling the size of the joint.

Nemo be all like: "Hey you, Deek, if I keep moving and refuse to let you get a non-blurry photo of me, you won't be able to post about me on your blog." Yeah well suck it, Nemo. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Nemo be all like: “Hey you, Deek, if I keep moving and refuse to let you get a non-blurry photo of me, you won’t be able to post about me on your blog.”
Yeah well suck it, Nemo.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The largest thing we saw was an octopus, waving its suction-equipped tentacles at the crowd- or was it a crowd of exceedingly rude human beings, waving their tentacles at an octopus?  Actually, that rings more of a bell.

The only way I could really get a look at the damn thing was by pointing my eyes at the screen of any one of the thirty or so camera phones held up in front of my face at any given moment, waving like tentacles of disrespectful sea kelp, obstructing my actual view of the thing, and utterly disrespecting the ubiquitous “Please- no flash photography” signs posted every five feet around the perimeter.  I love humanity.

Dude! Dude! Dude! The sign said: "Do not flush!! You idiot!!" (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Dude! Dude! Dude!
The sign clearly said: “Do not flush!!  You idiot!!”
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Which is why you’re just gonna have to take my word for it that there was an octopus.