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L.A at night L.A at night

Since I was driving down to the airport at LAX to drop off my parents I decided to make an evening of it  and drive around taking some pictures.
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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Venice at night" width="400" height="267" /> Venice at night

My first stop was Venice beach. It certainly has a different vibe at night. I especially enjoyed taking pictures of bicyclists going by with led's in their spokes as the long exposures made for some interesting shots.

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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Bicyclist at Venice beach" width="400" height="267" /> Bicyclist at Venice beach

Even the Murals and graffiti take on a different appearance at night.

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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Mural with graffiti" width="400" height="267" /> Mural with graffiti[/caption]


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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="St. Mark Mural, Venice Beach" width="400" height="267" /> St. Mark Mural, Venice Beach

captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…"><img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Touch of Venice Mural" width="400" height="267" /> Touch of Venice Mural

Next I headed down towards an inlet.

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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Waterway inlet" width="400" height="267" /> Waterway inlet

Here I spotted this Pelican.
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<img wytiwyg="1" class="" src="captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Ca…" alt="Pelican" width="300" height="450" /> Pelican
and while taking the pelicans picture I was lucky enough to spot a night Heron.

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Night Heron Night Heron

I then headed towards downtown Los Angeles, hoping to get a skyline shot.
I worked my way through the garment district and wound up in some sketchy neighborhood.
Right after I took the picture at the top of the post several police cars came speeding past and then were questioning someone just up ahead. I also became aware of huge numbers of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk on the numerous side streets,  so that was enough for one night, I made my way back to the freeway and headed home.
"My baja bug approaching wheeler mountain"
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This years Western Regional of the NSS was being held in Great Basin National park. When I found out Ric couldn't make it I decided it was time to see how the bug fared on a longer journey. I got off to a poor start as I left Sacramento, despite leaving early traffic ground to a halt on 80. Between labor day weekend traffic and construction there was no way I was getting to the western regional in Great Basin National Park any time soon. After a brief stop in Reno to refuel I was on the road again and arrived at the Hickison Petroglyph site at around 2 in the morning. I pulled into the first open campsite, through my sleeping bag on the sturdy concrete picnic table and slept under the stars. The next day I was up early enough to arrive at the grey cliffs campground after the trips for the day had already departed but I helped set up for and settled in to attend the business meeting of the Western region. That evening we headed down to Baker for the volunteer firefighters fund-raiser BBQ which was a delicious meal and I enjoyed checking out the 57 willys jeep with inline 4 engine that one of the volunteers drove.

Ben, cave specialist, in Lehman cave.
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The following morning I was able to join one of the regular tours of Lehman cave which was a very enjoyable one with plenty of impressive formations to see, before joining up with Bill and Perry Frantz for a trip out to Crystal ball cave. this was a fantastic cave as the large geode like formations of dog tooth spar crystals really make this a unique cave. Afterwards we headed over to beware cave where despite my constant bemoaning of the fact I hadn't brought my waterproof camera I had a great time swimming into the small cave behind the short waterfall fed from nearby springs. All cave trips should involve a short swim at the end it was very relaxing. We made it back just in time to fix ourselves dinner and then it was time for the auction. The auction went predictably longer then anticipated but everyone seemed to enjoy it and Marianne's schnapps kept folks warm.

Crystal ball cave
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The next day we loaded the cars up and then headed off to visit the Talus room in Lehman cave where thanks to a lot of volunteer effort they have completed the removal of the old trail and returned the cave to a more natural state. I had a great time taking pictures of the large room and formations. After leaving the cave, Matt and heather took the lead in their trooper and we headed off to a location known as PJ's camp. Here we found Ron and Lonnie embarking on stupid human trick number ? as Ron attempted to surf on a satellite dish. Once this was abandoned, Marilyn, Tom, Ron, Tracy, Lonnie, Neil, Matt, Heather and I headed off to find the pit Neil had told us about. It was a short, though steep hike to the pit and before long we had two ropes rigged going the 180' down to the bottom. Heather and I decided to sit this one out though I did shoot video of people going up and down. By the time everyone had climbed back out and de-rigged it was getting pretty dark which made hiking back to the vehicles much cooler then the hike up. Since it was late Matt, Heather and I decided to share a motel room for the night. We got up early and headed out to a small canyon where a cave they'd been mapping was located. While their had been a previous map, they were doing a new one with profile and more detail. It was a fun hike up the canyon, past an old mine and up a scree slope to get to the cave. On the way we passed a couple lizards and I saw an Owl go swooping by. Matt also saw a large bird possibly the same owl or another form of rapture. At the cave Matt proceeded to perform repairs on two formations that had been broken on prior visits to the cave then he and Heather began surveying while I set up lights and tried to photograph the cave. It was well after noon before we returned to the entrance for a lunch break then slid in through the lower entrance to start on the lower section of cave. By five o'clock or so I was feeling pretty beat so we headed out and back down the canyon to where we'd left the vehicles. On the way past a section of loose rocks heather jumped back as a rather large rattle snake came bolting out past her and headed off into the scrub along the stream bed. Matt had just walked past that same exact spot! The rest of the hike was fortunately less exciting and before long we were back on the road heading toward Eureka. Arriving at Eureka though I found myself to tired to think of continuing the trip any further and so opted to drive straight back to the Hickison petroglyph site where I knew I could set up camp easily and go to sleep. Matt and Heather continued on planning to drive through the night back to Woodland.

"Mapping a cave"
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The next morning I awoke early feeling very much refreshed after a good nights rest and walked around the site viewing the petroglyphs,I was sad to see a lot have been badly damaged by vandalism, but there are still a few good example to see. After walking around enjoying the sunrise I drove to Austin where I filled up with gas and adjusted the bowden tube which had been causing a slight shudder when I stepped on the clutch. With that taken care of I asked how far it was to Tonapah and learning it was only 116 miles I headed off down the road. At Tonapah I had a great time visiting the mining museum and taking lots of pictures. Next stop was Beatty Nevada where I fuelled up the car before finding a spot to camp for the night. The next morning I got up extra early so that I was able to drive down into Death Valley and all the way to the Devils golf course for sunrise.

"Devils golf course, Death Valley"
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After that I headed down to bad water and hiked way out on the salt flat. since it was still fairly cool I took my time heading back to Furnace creek, taking the artists drive and stopping frequently to take pictures. Even with my frequent stops I was able to get above Pimantel station before noon and avoid the worst of the heat, though it was only predicted to reach a lowly 106 degrees that day. Since I had just fuelled up in Death valley I took the dirt 4 wheel drive road over to Darwin before heading back over to 395 to begin the drive north towards home.

"Bad water, Death Valley"
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"Death Valley"
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"Road to Darwin"]
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My next stop was Lee Vining near Mono lake. I spent the night at a small campground where once more I got up early so I could head to the south Tufa area of Mono lake for more sunrise pictures. After a pleasant morning at mono lake I drove up 395 to 108 and tackled the Sonora pass. Here the bug had difficulty as the sharp turns in the road prevented me from maintaining enough speed to make it up some of the steeper parts but after backing down one section I was able to drive the rest of the way without incident. the view at the top was amazing and there was still beautiful wildflowers in bloom and patches of snow. The rest of the way home was uneventful except for a torrent of rain that poured down washing off most of the Nevada dust as I headed for Sacramento.

"Mono lake"
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"Birds at Mono lake"
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This year I've taken the long overdue plunge to completely re-do my website.
I'm converting Captnemo's Home from a collection of static html pages I wrote starting years ago, to a CMS(content manged system) using drupal.
Check it out at chilembwe.com
Heading out from the Grand Canyon we made one more stop before heading to Los Vegas. We stopped to visit the famous Snow cap diner along route 66.  After a brief exposure to such snow cap humor as the cheeseburger with cheese or dead chicken, we took some group photo's and then hit the road for Vegas.




Dave and Jimmy warned us about just how big Vegas is, and I'm glad they did.  Starting out at the Excalibur we went south to Mandalay bay and the Luxor where we ate at the buffet. We then hiked along the strip going North as far as Caesars palace. By then it was getting near time to get back on the bus and we'd had more than enough walking for one day so we headed back to the Excalibur.  We did stop to enjoy one more song as the fountain in front of the Bellagio danced. At the bus once more We discovered that Matt and Phillip were having so much fun they decided to stay in Vegas another night or two. We began to worry though when it was time for the bus to leave and Elsa still wasn't there, just then she came running up with a napkin clutched to her face and blood all over. Turned out the dry Arizona air had finally gotten to her and caused a spontaneous nose bleed. She explained that she'd called the Green tortoise office to let them know what had happened, just then Jimmy's phone rang and it was the office calling to make sure she made it alright. With that we were all loaded up and we headed out on the final leg of our journey.

I had already got my bags stowed separately as I was getting off the bus early in Bakersfield to visit Family that lived there. At 430 or so in the morning I left the big green bus that had been like home for the last week and headed into Denny's for some pancakes before calling for someone to pick me up.  I was glad to have had such a great experience, though also sad to be leaving all these wonderful people. I look forward to riding the Green tortoise again.
I awoke early and glanced up at the windows of the bus, strangely every thing was completely white. It took me a moment to realise that I was looking at snow. I levered myself up on my elbows and stared out the window, the trees,  road and everything around us were covered in a blanket of snow which continued to fall as we drove into the Grand Canyon National park.

We parked outside the permit office to wait for it to open so Russ and Mat who had decided to camp in the canyon could get a permit. I walked over to a nearby lodge to get a cup od coffee while we waited. By the time I came back. They were getting the permit and we drove over to the campground to find our camp site. Several of us headed out to the visitors center. We then went to catch the shuttle to view the canyon from the rim. We decided to ride out to Hermits rest, see the view and then walk back along the rim trail.


We arrived out at hermits rest amidst a complete white out! So much for the view. The weather was pretty chilly so we headed into the little gift shop for some hot drinks to warm up. Luck was on our side as by the time we finished our drinks there was a patch of clear sky opening up. Soon we were able to see almost completely across the canyon. The clouds and snow only making it appear even more beautiful and majestic. We began hiking along the rim trail and continued enjoying the view for quite a while before another snow storm came blowing in causing us to run for the shelter of the shuttle bus. We spent the remainder of the day enjoying the luxury of hot showers and laundry facilities at the campground before have another wonderful dinner alongside the bus. After dinner Phillip and I set out at a brisk pace and just managed to reach the rim in time to watch the sunset.



That night we all opted to sleep in the bus since the snow everywhere was a pretty good sign we were in for a cold night. Will, Beth and Holly prepped themselves to get up extra early as they had decided to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon and back the next day. They departed sometime around 4am at which time I rolled over in my nice warm sleeping bag and went back to sleep. After a nice breakfast we decided to also tackle the Angel bright trail going down into the canyon. We wouldn't be trying to go beyond Indian Garden though.


The trail was icy so the going was slow but we enjoyed fantastic views and it wasn't long till we stopped by the ranger station for lunch. On the way back up we were passed by Matt and Russell who had camped at the bottom, followed shortly after by Will, Beth and Holly who had hiked to the bottom and back again. After another wonderful dinner -who knew you could fix lasagna over a camp stove with a couple of cast iron skillets? Several of us hiked back to the rim to watch the sunset again then stopped by the ranger talk on endangered species in the grand canyon.  Here we learned that the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon is - The squirrel, carrying rabies and possibly plague you sure don't want to get bit by one of these.

We returned to find that the drivers had planned to drive us to warmer climes that night but the bus had other ideas, due to the cold the diesel engines didn't want to start-up, so we spent another night at the grand canyon till the generator could be started up in the morning and with its help the bus was started. We were on our way out of the grand canyon. Hated to leave but we were definitely looking forward to warmer weather.
After Arches we headed out to Monument valley, here the group would split up for the day, most people chose to do the jeep ride around the monuments while four of us opted to ride horses.  We arrived at the meeting place amidst a howling windstorm that raised huge clouds of sand. From here we all rode in open trucks to the Navajo reservation, between the already raging wind, sand and the fast moving trucks it was almost impossible to see or hear anything.  Of the four of us who chose to ride horses, Russel, Matt and Myself had done some riding before. For Kim it was a whole new experience and naturally enough she was a little nervous. They saddled up "Harry" for her, a gentle horse that we were assured often carried small children without incident. Soon we were all following our guide on a tour of the monuments. He told us about the over 300 movies that had been filmed in the area and his grandfathers role in one of those. He also told us about Navajo plant use such as digging up yucca root for making soap and shampoo, some farming techniques and showed us some of the traditional houses or Hogans and the significance of their different shapes and sizes.

Much too soon our time on the horses was over and it was time to load back up in the trucks for the ride back to the bus. Here we were able to browse some shops and I purchased delicious fry bread with Navajo tea as a snack while we waited for the jeep riders to return. Next we were headed for a quick swim at lake Powel before having dinner at Page and heading towards the Grand Canyon.
I awoke somewhat groggily to the early morning light coming in the windows of the green tortoise. Soon our driver Jimmy announced that if we got up now we could climb the nearby rocks in time to greet the dawn and watch the sun rise. sleepily we all piled out of the bus and began scrambling up the rocks trying to find the best vantage point before the sun crested over the horizon.



It was in fact a very impressive sight, watching the sun rise over the smoothly rounded rock outcropings. It wasn't long though before the chilly breeze sent us scrambling back down to the bus in search of hot coffee and breakfast. After breakfast, before it got too hot we headed down the trail to see the arches.



We managed to see most of the major arches including the recently fallen one before returning to the bus and heading towards Goldbar along the Colorado river where we'd be setting up camp for the night. On the way though we made a stop to see a hugh wall of  very interesting petroglyphs.




We arrived at the campground amidst a sudden windstorm and even a little rain, but by the time we decided to start fixing dinner it had cleared up enough to enjoy dinner and a sunset over the river.  That night Jimmy led us on an excursion to the Ooooohmmm tube and a short hike up to a beautiful pool hidden in a small canyon. Then it was back to the campground to gather around the fire for more marshmellows.
After our hike to Angels landing the previous day we took our time getting up to enjoy a beautiful morning in Zion, fix a hearty breakfast  and then the short, scenery laden drive to Bryce canyon.

We arrived at Bryce where we quickly realized we were at a much higher altitude as evidenced by the amount of snow still on the ground.  It was still nice and warm though thanks to the wonderful sunshine we were getting so off we headed to hike down into the canyon. Several trails were closed due to ice but it didn't take long to locate an open loop that went down to the bottom and off we went.  It was a very enjoyable hike and the snow made for some wonderful picturesque views.



After climbing back up the trail though it was time to load back up in the bus in order to head for Mystic hot springs where a long soak in the hot mineral waters and a much needed shower awaited us.

We had one more stop along the way though- a surprise visit to "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" a spot named because of the candy colored hills after the song.



We enjoyed the hot springs immensely and had a nice big spaghetti dinner fixed alongside the bus before loading up for the night and our drive to the next destination
Shortly before 8pm on a Friday evening I was dropped off at the Bart Station in Plesanton where I was assured
I'd be picked up by a big green bus! Just before that I recieved a call that the bus had left Downtown San Francisco a little late as a couple of passengers hadn't shown up. No prob, I had a book to read. I sat down to await the bus. Shortly after eight I began to wonder if I was in the right spot when the unmistakable big green bus pulled in. I hopped aboard leaving my big pack on the floor near the driver I climbed onto a seat and peered into the gloomy interior. The main interior lights were off, and my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim lighting so I could see all the people gathered towards the back of the bus. After nodding and saying hi to the people nearest to me I realized I couldn't hear much over the sound of the bus and the music being played so I pulled out my book again and began to read. Shortly afterwords though I was urged to join in the group as we began a game of trying to repeat everyone's name. Since I could barely hear what people were saying I was grateful when they let me off with just stating my own name. Soon we were all laughing and trying to remember everyone else s name. Not much longer after that and it was time to convert the bus to sleep mode.

Normally this is referred to as the miracle as the driver has to miraculously find places for 30 people to sleep, but with only 17 of us on this trip we had more then enough space.

We woke up in a parking lot somewhere near the Nevada/Utah border and after a brief stop for coffee and supplies we were off to Zion! Here we located our campsite before heading out for a hike up to Angels Landing.


At the top of the switch backs we stopped to eat lunch before tackling the really impressive part of the trail. It was here I spotted super chipmunk.


Obviously they've evolved to survive falls from these tremendous heights. Did I mention that on the next section of trail you had to hold on to sections of chain to keep from plummeting down sheer cliffs?


Yes those little teeny dots of color are people clinging to the chain as they make their way up to the top! Somehow we all survived and made it back down as well.
That night after a delicious vegiterian chili dinner we slept out under the stars.