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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Seacliff State Beach

March 26th, 2015 · No Comments

When I arrived at the beach, the sky was dark with a heavy cloud cover. But it was late in the day, and I could see a patch of clear sky on the western horizon and knew that in a few minutes the sun would drop down below the level of the clouds. For a half hour before the sun sank into the ocean it offered me a glorious vista.

I was at Seacliff State Beach off the coast of Aptos, California, where I had lived for almost five years before moving to Colorado. Visiting my friends John and Vicky, I had borrowed one of their cars for a last look at the ocean I missed so much.

​The S.S. Palo Alto Docked at the Aptos Pier

The S.S. Palo Alto Docked at the Aptos Pier

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Built at the end of World War I to be an oil tanker, this is this is the most famous concrete ship on the west coast and is the subject of David Heron’s book, Forever Facing South: The Story of the S. S. Palo Alto “the Old Cement Ship” of Seacliff Beach.

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From the Skyline to the Sea

March 25th, 2015 · No Comments

​It was more than seven years ago that John and I had hiked to Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. ​But that was a hike that neither of us will ever forget.

​On a sunny day in early February 2008​ the two of us blithely set off from the trailhead at the park’s visitor center with the intention of walking about four miles along the famous Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail until we reached the falls. It was an arduous hike, requiring us to crawl over several fallen redwoods and to climb up and down more than 1,000 feet to get over and out of the Big Basin, but we made it to the falls a little before 4 p.m. that day.

​The trip rewarded us with a photo of the falls that John liked so much that he had note cards printed up. Each of still use them.

We lingered at the falls, the most spectacular scene on the hike. When we decided to return to the car, we decided to take the long way back. To see a different scene.

We made a loop hike when we returned via the longer Sunset Trail, even though that meant a hike totaling 10.2 miles that day. ​We did see the sun set on the Sunset Trail, but we were only about two-thirds of the way back to the trailhead. We also saw a fire smoldering in an old redwood tree that John still talks about and reported at the ranger station when we returned.

​But for the last two hours or so of the hike we didn’t see much of anything. It was a pitch-dark night and we had either left our flashlights behind or the batteries were dead. What I remember most from that time was my fear that we would have to spend the night in the woods, because the trail just stopped. In the blackness of the forest we stumbled around looking for a way through the forest, and finally John found a way around what was a fallen tree blocking the trail.​

This time we decided to do it right. I think that John had a flashlight this time, and I made sure to have one as well as spare batteries. And this time we decided to hike the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail all the way from the visitor center down to the ocean. Normally that would have required two cars, but Vicky made it easy for us by dropping us off at the visitor station about 10 a.m. and picking us up at the end of the trail just after 7 p.m.

We were slow, but we had hiked at least 13 miles, and John’s pedometer said it was considerably more. I don’t know how accurate that measurement was, but I don’t doubt that John walked the 39,000 steps the pedometer said he did as I went beside him. Not bad for a couple of senior citizens, one of 82 years and the other of 79.

​Normally I hike with my Canon 7D mounted with a Canon 100-400mm lens as well as with a Canon 7D mounted with a wide-angle lens, each of which I carry on a photographer’s vest called a Cotton Carrier (and with a couple of other lenses in my fanny pack). But I knew that the more than 10 pounds this rig weighs would be a strain on my shoulders. So I borrowed John’s iPhone 6 Plus and used it to take all of the shots in this photo essay, while he carried my basic cell phone. This way each of us could call for help if we got separated, assuming that we were in cell phone range. But for essentially all of the day, we weren’t.

​The hike started easy at first as we walked along a placid stream.

​Opal Creek Near the Start of Our Hike

Opal Creek Near the Start of Our Hike

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Then we had to climb. And climb. Fortunately, I had forgot about the climb.

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Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

March 23rd, 2015 · No Comments

When I went back to Santa Cruz last month, I especially wanted to see the majestic redwoods there. My friends John and Vicky live about a mile from Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and he goes there almost every day. He took me there three times during my visit.

On one of our visits we stopped first at the Mountain Parks Foundation Store near the trailhead to the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. On the door of the store a large moth was resting next to a sign saying that it was a Cecropia Silkmoth.

Is This a Cecropia Silkmoth?

Is This a Cecropia Silkmoth?

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I don’t know much about moths, but when I got home I looked it up and see that a Cecropia Moth is North America’s largest native moth. But “it is found as far west as the Rocky Mountains,” and we were about 1,000 miles further west. In any case, this is a beautiful moth with a fake eye on its tail (you can see a real eye near the top).

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Back to Elkhorn Slough

March 22nd, 2015 · No Comments

When I returned to Santa Cruz in February, my main purposes were to do a five-day retreat there and to visit with my friend John and his wife Vicky. But when I had visited them last year, John took me on such a fantastic trip on a small motorboat that I hoped he would do it again.

He did! We returned to Elkhorn Slough, one of Northern California’s prime birding and wildlife sites. About halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is noted for the diversity of its species and is located on the Pacific Flyway.

John again asked Brian Ackerman to take us on one of his two-hour ecotours of the slough with his electric-powered launch. Silent and smooth, Captain Brian’s boat would comfortably accommodate up to six passengers, but Brian, John, and I had to all to ourselves for our early morning trip. Brian is a tremendous pilot and guide, freely sharing his knowledge of the sea mammals and birds, and John is a great travel companion.

Captain Brian at the Moss Landing Dock

Captain Brian at the Moss Landing Dock

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A Retreat to Santa Cruz

March 19th, 2015 · No Comments

When I went back to Santa Cruz in February, it was to make a five-day retreat to the nearby Insight Retreat Center. My best friend John lives near Santa Cruz in Felton, and we had hatched that idea in a phone conversation several months earlier.

Between 1995 and 2004 I had lived in Santa Cruz and in nearby Aptos, but I hadn’t known John nor had we practiced Vipassana meditation then. At that time my spiritual practice was centered on Temple Beth El in Aptos and the Congregation Beth David synagogue in Saratoga, while John was senior pastor at the Los Altos United Methodist Church.

I stayed with John and his wife Vicky before and after the retreat for a total of five more days. He picked me up at the San Jose airport, returned me there when I went back to Colorado, and drove me to the retreat center, picking me up there at the end of the retreat. John and Vicky live only five miles from the retreat center, and by coincidence John had been a member of the board of directors of the organization that sold the facilities to the center.

Looking Up at the Insight Retreat Center​

Looking Up at the Insight Retreat Center

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The only sign that this is a Buddhist center is a Dharma Wheel on the awning over the entrance. A Dharma Wheel is one of the most ancient symbols of Buddhism. No one word can translate Dharma (Sanskrit) or Dhamma (Pali) into English. Its meanings include the laws of nature as well as the teaching of the Buddha about the laws of nature as applied to the problem of human suffering.

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UCR Botanic Gardens

March 17th, 2015 · No Comments

One of my best outings on my family vacation in Southern California during January was a visit to the campus of the University of California, Riverside. My niece Julie and her husband Curt arranged the trip for me.

I had graduated from UCR in January 1960 and hadn’t ever been back there for exactly 55 years. While I do try to stay in the present, I don’t always succeed, but usually am looking ahead rather than back. But this time it was great fun to look back.

When I first enrolled in September 1955, I was one of only a few hundred students on the campus. UCR was conceived as a small college devoted to the liberal arts and had begun only one semester earlier with 127 students. After a year there, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and then studied at the University of Würzburg in Germany for a year but returned in to UCR in September 1958, and got my B.A. degree there in January 1960. By then UCR had more than 1,000 students.

It had changed a bit more in the intervening 55 years. UCR now has more than 21,000 students, including almost 3,000 graduate students. Only a small minority — 17 percent — are white. Asian American and Hispanic students make up two-thirds of the student body.

The Carillon Bell Tower didn’t exist during my years there but is now the dominant landmark in the center of the campus.

​UCR's Carillon Bell Tower from the Botanic Gardens

UCR's Carillon Bell Tower from the Botanic Gardens

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The Botanic Gardens has more than 3,500 species of plants from all over the world. Most of them are native to deserts, which is certainly appropriate considering that Southern California is a desert and is now suffering from the worst drought in its recorded history. Like most of the campus, the gardens didn’t exist until well after I had graduated.
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Newport Harbor

March 16th, 2015 · No Comments

During my family vacation in Southern California during January, my niece Julie arranged several great outings. We went with my sister Liz and my niece Kathy to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where none of us had ever gone before. On that outing I didn’t take any pictures and instead concentrated on looking at some that were quite a bit better than mine. Kathy took this shot of the four of us at the Getty.

Kathy, Me, Liz, and Julie at the Getty

Kathy, Me, Liz, and Julie at the Getty

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Our next outing took us all the way down to the shore of the Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach. Julie arranged for us to rent a small motorboat for a couple of hours as well as arranging for her husband Curt to drive it through Newport Harbor She knows that I especially like to take trips in small boats and this one was a whole lot of fun. Julie’s daughter Samantha, who works in Los Angeles and another young lady who shares the apartment with her, came along for the ride.

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Bolsa Chica

March 8th, 2015 · No Comments

Bolsa Chica may be the most famous birding site in all of Southern California. When I went there this January it certainly lived up to its reputation.

I was back in Southern California to visit with my family in the Ontario area. But first I flew in to LAX to visit with my friend Andrew, who lives a block from the sand at Manhattan Beach about 5 miles from the airport.

Because I miscalculated the dates that I could stay with Andrew and when I could stay with my niece Julie and her husband Curt in Ontario, I had one day without a host. My mistake turned out to be fortuitous because I had a day to visit Bolsa Chica, which is 31 miles south of Andrew’s home and 45 miles from Ontario. This great birding site is at the northwest corner of Orange County between Long Beach and Huntington Beach.

Staying at a beachside motel kitty-corner from the entrance to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, I was able to visit this global biodiversity hotspot for a total of seven hours early one morning and late one afternoon, the best times for both birding and photography. Visiting Bolsa Chica in January was also a great time to be there because more of the 300 species of birds that have been seen there get there during that month.

While the Bolsa Chica wetlands are mostly a salt marsh, it has five miles of trails, most of which I hiked at least once during my visits. “Bolsa Chica” means “little bag” in Spanish, perhaps in reference to the low rolling hills that were here in the 1800s. Those hills are built up now, and it’s awfully lucky that we preserved this area on one of the most populous coasts in the country.

This little bird below was one of the last ones I saw as I hiked out of the reserve on my second visit. It was snatching insects from this branch that it returned to again and again, offering me tremendous views quite close to me.

​A Male Anna's Hummingbird Hunts its Dinner

A Male Anna's Hummingbird Hunts its Dinner

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The very last bird that I saw at Bolsa Chica was only a little bigger. This tiny falcon is the smallest hawk that lives in North America, and I think one of the most beautiful.

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Time Passes Slowly

December 13th, 2014 · 3 Comments

“Time passes slow,” Bob Dylan says, “up here in the mountains.” It can pass slowly wherever we connect with nature, but here in Colorado, where we are over a mile high, we benefit from slowing down our mental clock and adjusting to the pace of the wild after too much work indoors.

I have heard that other people may get bored when time seems to pass slowly for them, but for me it is relaxing. More of us need to develop patience, and being with wild animals and birds helps that to happen.

Lately, I have had so much that I wanted to do that I haven’t had enough time to do a lot of it. Stress started to build and I got a headache that lasted for days: Not until I took two hours off to sit at Josh’s Pond in nearby Broomfield.

​My "Blind" at the Edge of Josh's Pond

My "Blind" at the Edge of Josh's Pond

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I took the camp chair that I keep in my car and carried it here where the reeds shielded me enough from the birds on the pond that I didn’t look like the usual scary human. Next to the chair is my camera equipment (besides the one I used to take this photograph).

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The Road Less Traveled

December 7th, 2014 · No Comments

Sharon and I took the road less traveled through the Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve on a sunny and warm Tuesday morning. In several places it wasn’t even a trail, much less a road, and we had to bushwhack cross-country. That made all the difference in terms of how much fun we had. We had a great time exploring new parts of a preserve that each of us has hiked dozens of times before.

I wanted to show Sharon the route that I finally found last month through the undeveloped central part of the preserve. We got to the trailhead just as the first light was hitting the ponds at 7:30, but then, just 15 minutes into our hike, we got sidetracked. When we came to the pond shown in the photo below, we saw a big white bird in the far distance.

A Big White Bird Rests in the Distance of Sawhill #2

A Big White Bird Rests in the Distance of Sawhill #2

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To approach close to the bird we had to hike south, to the left, of this long pond, taking us where neither of us had ever hiked before. We didn’t even know if we could get close, but we succeeded by walking through the tall grass.

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