Monday, October 26, 2009

The Anole War Rages On, But Victory Is Mine!

Well the war on the anoles in my apartment are taking a turn. Victory is in my sight. As I have already stated, I have killed several off these pesky anoles by shooting them with a blow gun then using a magnet capable of lifting 200 pounds to catch them since they would run off impaled. Not only would I catch them, but I would leave them there like fish on a stringer while I go for more. Their eventual demise was when I took them off the dart and fed them to Killa who was so very grateful.

Well to all of you who offered no additional advice on how to wage my war, you suck. Ok, jk, but seriously... I got advise from one person only, Auntie Ellen, who told me to use mouse glue traps. I had tried the mouse snap traps but the anoles never set them off. So I tried the mouse glue trap and the one anole that was eluding capture, the one pesky little guy I couldn't seem to catch, the one I shot and he got away, well today I found him glued to his death. Auntie Ellen, Muchas Gracias!

I have a new weapon and I will win this war. I can now shoot anoles when I see them and also battle them while I'm not even home by placing glue traps. The days of having anoles in my boots are over! The days of anole poo on my floor are over! And most important, victory is mine!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

324 days

Well it's been 324 days since I was in Dominican Republic and my foot started to itch. I already wrote a blog about all the money wasted trying to get rid of what everyone thought was athlete's foot. Well, while treating this the doctor was doing a biopsy as well. My friend in med school thought the doctor was doing unnecessary work but I wasn't convinced since you cannot tell for sure what it is without a biopsy and it would be irresponsible not to. Well the doctor (who is suppose to be the best around), proved to be right. After spending so much money on anti fungal stuff I got a call while I was in California saying they didn't find any fungus at all and it's just dermatitis. What caused it? Who knows.... Maybe I had some strange Caribbean fungus and all the anti fungal stuff killed it but inflamed the skin in the process.

Whatever caused it is a mystery. It's finally going away though because they got me off the anti fungals and gave me one of the strongest prescription steroids out there to combat it. Only took a day to see progress after getting off the anti fungals and using cortisone and steroids. Almost a year of hellish itching is finally gone.

They Just Keep Coming

Well as I've already mentioned in a previous blog, I have an anole problem in my apartment. And lately things are getting worse. I have baby anoles everywhere outside. A bunch of them hatched and you can see these things about half the size of my pinky jumping from one plant to another on my screened in patio. The speed they breed at is insane!

The weather here has been great lately so yesterday I open my doors and I was in the kitchen making some salsa. Then I see something running across the floor. This is the anole that has been evading arrest for quite some time and just flat out taunting me.

So as I'm going to grab the blow gun to take care of business I see another one jump off my bean bag. I shot that one right through the neck, picture below....I got him right under the kill zone though, right in his dewlap. He was playing dead in the picture and did a really good job at it. So I left him there on the floor and went to the patio and took out two others. It seems everytime I shoot one I would find 5 more! They are everywhere! Then when I came back inside the one that was already impaled took off under my kitchen table where the elusive anole came out to greet him and wrestle (seriously I wish I had video of this because it was pretty funny). So I thought cool, he lured out the one that is taunting me, now is my chance... But for some reason I just can't seem to ever get a clear shot on that one and he got away. As for the one that was impaled, I put him and another one I shot in the foot in my pacman frog "Killa's" aquarium. To catch them, since they were running impaled, I got my magnet that is capable of lifting 200lbs and stuck em to that. Kinda like when people put fish on a stringer, I was putting impaled anoles on a huge magnet. I'll have to take pictures next time. Anyways, I fed these things to Killa. Pacman frogs can safely eat anything half their size and have been known to try to eat things that are even bigger than them so he had no problem eating the anoles.

The impaled anole

Killa, when he was a baby. He's 4 times as big now and eats adult mice, lizards, gold fish, crickets, pretty much anything anything he can get in his mouth.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Complete Change Overnight

So I'm going on my fourth dry season here in South Florida. I say dry season because we don't have summer and winter. Here in South Florida we have the wet season and the dry season. And something I have learned about these seasons is that they change overnight. In California and the rest of the country the weather/seasons change gradually, well not here.

I knew the dry season was starting last night so I decided to take a bike ride to Shark Valley this morning. This was the most miserable ride I have ever had there. I have never had a trip to Shark Valley without seeing an alligator or hundreds, even a thousand in one day. Today I saw just one, a big one, about 11 feet long and quite a chubbo. I think this is because even the alligators knew it's too cold this morning. It's a little cooler in the Everglades then here in Miramar so it might have been as cool as 55 this morning. That's not bad, but the wind made it miserable. Luckily I grabbed a long sleeve shirt that has been stashed behind my seat for months because if I wouldn't have taken it I would probably be pretty sick right now. I was storming towards the tower this morning averaging 14.8 mph. That's pretty fast. But the way back killed me and brought my trip average down to 9.3 mph. It only took me half an hour to get to the tower but it took me 1 hour and 36 minutes to make the whole loop. The wind was so strong coming back I was having a hard time keeping the bike moving at all!

So while I was biking I just keep thinking about how effing weird it is how five months of weather changes overnight....

The first year I was here during the onset of the dry season it came with a tropical storm, Tropical Storm Noel, which skirted the coast offshore, around the Bahamas. I surfed that storm, a lot of fun. That day it went from super muggy to dry and warm. So I was wondering if the seasons changed the same every year. The answer is kind of. The always go from muggy to dry overnight, but not always hot to cooler.

The begining of May is usually the driest time of the year here until mid-late May when the rain just comes in one day and keeps coming back every day for a month. Then we usually get a break from mid July-mid August, only getting rain a couple times a week if that, then the rain season picks up and goes out with a bang...

Well yesterday was a muggy day. It was 86 and the dew point was 75. For those who don't know, the dew point is total moisture in the air, relative humidity is just saturation and hotter air holds a lot more moisture therefore relative humidly doesn't represent saturation. All throughout the wet season the dew point hardly changes, ranging from 70-75. Yesterday was no exception we have had near record breaking heat this week getting up to 93 right ahead of the low front. Then the low front came and bam, what a change. The dew point in Riverside, California right now is 57 degrees. Any guess what it is here, just 24 hours after being at 75 for five months straight? The dew point is 42 degrees! We hit an all time low for October 18th this morning. The record was 59, we hit 58. The lowest high temperature on record for this day was 77 degrees in Miami, today shattered that record when it only got up to 70. They were forcasting 80, I guess they didn't see a new record coming. And that's how it is here, one extreme to the other in just a day.

So for those of you that think Florida is muggy, it's only muggy in the wet season. The dry season is actually quite pleasant, just a couple degrees warmer than a San Diego summer and mostly sunny. After getting home from my miserable bike ride this morning and getting a hot shower and a nap I can say that the weather is very nice today. I opened my windows for the first time in months, enjoyed the breeze while I cleaned the house, and I don't have to run the ac tonight...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Visit To SoCal

Well I just got back late Monday night from California. I'm still really burned out. So here's the highlights of my trip.... Somehow I didn't get any pictures of Dominic in here... I don't know how that happened.

Flying out of Fort Liquordale Friday evening. Damn it's flat!

Saturday I went to Jeremy's baseball game in the morning. In the evening the family got together and went to the Spegetti factory. Then we went to bass pro shops and checked out guns and stuff. They had a shooting game and yes I was the best in our group. No surprise since shooting rifles is a talent of mine.

Sunday the family got together for a birthday party for Cassandra, Jeff, Natalie, and I. Natalie's birthday isn't until November but we'll be here in Florida so we just did it all together.

Monday Natalie's sister Jasmine and Jasmine's boyfriend Daniel came down from Vegas. We were going to go to San Jacinto but they got there to late so we went to Forest Falls for a while. Daniel was really impressed, which is laughable when you see the pictures from our trip the next day. Forest Falls is alright but not that impressive. However he was quite impressed. We couldn't find any good trails so we just hiked to the waterfall and then down the creek until it got dark.

I had to walk down this waterfall years ago with crazy scout leaders. There are no trails and we had a couple guys nearly kill themselves falling. People do die here, it's on the news every once in a while. Yes, I had bright leaders.

Natalie swinging on a rope she found in the creek.

Tuesday of course we went to San Jacinto. See that blog below...

Wednesday was Cassandra's birthday. Jasmine and Daniel left in the afternoon back to Vegas. After they left we took Cassandra's kids + Jeremy to the park to play around. Natalie took pictures but most of them are of the kids really far away. So I only posted a few of them. I of course, gave Jeremy a mohawk. Here is my work. After the park we went back to Cassandra's and made our famous steak nachos and had my parents over for dinner.

Thursday,,Thursday... Thursday I think we just vegged out..It's weird, I have no memory of what we did Thursday....Hmmmmm...Did I miss Thursday?

Friday we went and bought birthday presents for all the kids that we missed their birthdays...After that Natalie and I went to El Torito. I love their salsa.. It's actually the first salsa I ever ate, the one that got me hooked! Then I picked up Jeremy from school where I saw my third grade teacher who immediately recognized me. Funny because I'm not not 8 years old anymore and I haven't seen her in 20 years. Then before walking Jeremy to my parents house I decided to stop by 711 and get the kid a slurpee and see if his mom would get pissed off at me. After that Cassandra picked us up at my parent's house and we went with the her kids and Jeremy to Mt Rubidoux. After that we all got together at Chris's house for Ice Cream Sundeas.

Saturday was my ten year high school reunion at the Mission Inn. I traveled the furthest to get there so I got a pin that says "I traveled the farthest". Shouldn't it say furthest? I also got a $25 gift credit card, the best prize of the night, others just got a free coke. It was a lot of fun. We only had around 20 students show up though plus their dates. One guy there just got out of prison 3 weeks ago. He had been in there for 7 or the last 9 years and was all proud of it. Apparently his job is working for skinny magazine and "blowing glass" dildos. We were all laughing so hard when he told us his job and of course he won for most unique career.

Sorry, I couldn't smile and suck in my gut at the same time.

Sunday I went to church with my parents. Chris and her family were sitting in the back and I heard Raelynn yelling "mommy, I see Uncle Joe. There he is mommy, it's Uncle Joe." It was pretty funny. We had bbq chicken at my parents house that night and that pretty much sums up our trip.....We left Monday at 12:20 and got back home around midnight. Went from 60 degrees midday in California to 86 degrees and muggy at midnight in Florida. It acutually feels good to be back in this weather. I hate the cold!

All in all I had a good time. I think next time I go out though I'm going to either just go for a long weekend or go when the rest of the family is on vacation and probably meet them up somewhere else. Going when everyone is working and I don't have a car means I get stuck at one place and the family just didn't get together enough. If we do it next time at a vacation spot like Grand Canyon or Yellowstone the family will be together the whole time instead of everyone at their own houses....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking On San Jacinto Peak

Well I just got back from Southern California last night. I was there for my birthday, 10 year high school reunion, and just to see family. A blog to come later on the rest of my trip but this one will focus on our trip up Mount San Jacinto last Tuesday.

Natalie's sister Jasmine recently moved to Las Vegas. Last week her and her boyfriend Daniel came down to Southern California to hang out with us and we all went up the mountain together. I have been up a couple times before but always with a full backpack and doing overnighters. This would be my first day trip to the peak and the first time I've been up the tram since I was hardly out of diapers.

So where to start? We were trying to get an early start up the mountain but I had a doctor appointment early in the morning so we got a later start then we hoped for. We got on the tram valley station around 11:30 or so and it was a nice 80 degrees there. It was so warm that Daniel wanted to change into shorts and I told him don't bother because in ten minutes it would all change since we went through 6 botanical zones between the valley station and the mountain station and it's 30 degrees cooler at the mountain station.

The tram ride was pretty cool. It's the largest rotating tram in the world, the floor rotates to give a 360 view of the area. As wiki explains "The eight-and-a-half-minute ride begins at the Valley Station at 2,643 ft (806 m) and passes up North America's sheerest mountain face through several life zones on its way to the Mountain Station at 8,516 ft (2,596 m) above mean sea level. The trip has been likened in terms of geologic and climatic change to a motor trip from Sonora to the Canadian tundra."

Anyways we got up to the valley station and had lunch then got a later than expected start on the trail. You can see in the pictures that we didn't just go up from the valley station to the peak. No, why would anyone make a trail so simple? Instead we had to go down a couple thousand feet into the valley, cross to the other side, then regain elevation plus a couple thousand feet to get to the peak.

So before I get into the details of the hike let me just say I'm an experience hiker, back packer, mountaineer, boy scout, survivalist, outdoors man, & all around redneck. Some of the hardest hikes I have done in the past.

Mt. Whitney 14,505' (highest peak in the lower 48 states, 75 miles west of Badwater, Death Valley -266 ft, lowest in Western Hemisphere)
Kearsarge Pass Elev 11,760' (King's Canyon National Park)
Forester Pass Elev 13,200' (Seqouia National Park)
Fuller Ridge, Marion Mountain, and Devil's Slide all up to San Jacinto Peak Elev 10,834'
Vivian Creek Trail to San Gorgonio Peak Elev.11,499'

I'd have to say of all these trails San Jacinto is the hardest in Southern California even though it's only the second highest peak, and it ranks right below some of passes and peaks I have done in the Sierras. It's very steep and all of the trails are up and down, up and down. None of them just go up. They are all two steps forward and four steps back. Of course this time I didn't have a full pack, just a day pack, but I did do it in one day, not two. That's a long hike for one day, over 13 miles, plus elevation gain, and it's harder to breathe the thin air at that elevation.

Well for being such an experienced hiker I started off our day with a really stupid amateur mistake. I put too much trust in technology and didn't pick up a good ol paper map at the rangers station. I have gps on my phone and I have an application for wilderness trails but I didn't count on losing reception to download the data once we went down into the valley. I had good reception at both the mountain tram station and the peak but in the valley it went kaput. So it took about 20 minutes before I felt like a complete dumbass for not picking up the paper map. The signs there don't say San Jacinto Peak, or Tramway. Instead the point to the next location, and then at that location it points to the next, and so on. So you have to know which stops to take to get to your final destination. Well there was a sign on the trail that said Round Valley, I have a picture of it in the dark below. Well why have a sign if there isn't a trail split? And on top of that some moron made a trail that goes 1/4 mile off the trail and straight up the hill next to it where it disappears. So I figured we weren't going to round valley lets take the other trail (I have never gone to the peak from the tram, only from the other trails). Wrong! The trail soon disappeared and we had to go back. Of course we were having a hard time finding the trail we had been on so I used my gps to get us back. I had recorded our path, it didn't show a map since I had no radio signal but it showed a red line where we had walked so I used that to get back. So after wasting 30 minutes we got back on track and headed to round valley. It had been at least a good 12 years since the last time I went to the peak but I was pretty sure this was the right way to go and I ended up being right.

Well just a couple of minutes after getting back on the trail Natalie is already getting winded and tired. I know from experience that the hardest part of the hike is the first 15-20 minutes. Once your heart starts pumping all that blood and oxygen to the brain it gets easy. So I knew I just had to push her and I don't know that she was too convinced at the time that I knew what I was talking about. Actually I think she was hating me the whole way up the mountain because I kept telling them not to stop and to hurry up. They wanted to take a lot of breaks and I know from experience it's not good to do that. You have to keep moving or you get more tired. Plus every time they stopped I would get cold since it was almost freezing and I was in a t-shirt.

We stopped at a really nice lookout point at 9,400 feet and Natalie did not want to go any further. She was convinced the peak didn't have a better view. Well my motto is "all or nothing" so I kept pushing and pushing everyone, especially my wife who was growing more angry at me by the minute. Not only did I have an angry wife but her sister was my biggest fan at the time either. They were both tired and didn't want to go on but Daniel and I refused to stop, it just didn't make much sense after already going so far. So needless to say because it was there first hike it took us a long time to get to the peak. Around 4.5 hours actually.

It's funny that 12 years later there are a couple spots on the trail that I remember. For some reason they stick out to me. So anyways I forgot that the trail doesn't go all the way to the peak. It stops right around the emergency shelter, about 300 yards from the peak. So when we got to the emergency shelter I left Natalie there and I went to the peak. Jasmine and Daniel were behind and not responding to our yelling so I decided I was going to see the peak. There was no way in hell I was going down this mountain without seeing the peak. So I ran up to the peak which the hardest part of the trail since it's all climbing over rocks. I got up there and took a couple ghetto shots of myself with my iPhone and then took some scenery shots with my Canon Camera. Then I went down to the emergency shelter where I found 3 people angry at me. They thought I was lost and had been yelling for me. As if... I don't get lost! So I'm down there trying to convince everyone to go to the peak for a 360 of the entire area. On a good day from the peak you can see all the way to Mexico and Catalina Island. This day I couldn't see Catalina or the Pacific but I could see Mexico. I had a hard time convincing them of the view though. They were worried about getting back before dark and thought it would be a waste and the view wouldn't be any better than the last lookout spot.

Well after a lot of bickering and fighting and dealing with people that thought I was insane I convinced them to go to the peak. I quickly turned from the evil fascist dictator that pushed them up the mountain to the hero of the day when they saw the view. Everyone's attitude changed really quick. My wife was no longer mad at me, funny because I told her a couple hours earlier she wouldn't be mad once we got to the top. We could see Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego Counties. Both the Mojave and Sonoran desert. We could see the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Little San Bernardino, Santa Rosa, and of course San Jacinto Mountains. We could even see to Mexico! Get the point? So we took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the view for a good half hour then decided that it's time to get down the mountain as fast as we could before it gets dark. By this time it's already after five and it's below freezing. I know, I'm in a t-shirt and it's below freezing. I usually don't have tolerance to cold but when hiking I can deal with it. My body was warm, only my face and hands were cold. I had a cold for the previous two weeks as well so the cold air was making me cough like crazy going down the mountain. Natalie was cold with two sweaters on and kept telling me to layer up but I already had a sweaty t-shirt and didn't want to get my long sleeve shirt sweaty, then I wouldn't have anything warm for later. I had a spare sweater and she even took that! I don't know how she didn't sweat like crazy. I just wished I had brought some gloves, my hands were a bit cold.

So sometime after five we decided to start back down the mountain. We were going fast too. Then out of nowhere I hear Natalie yell "what the hell is that"? I look over and there are three large bucks running through the woods. I got a low quality video of it, nothing impressive on video but I was surprised to see three of them together. We saw another one by the meadow 15 minutes later. It was a really large buck, probably as tall as me. This is when we approached bear territory. We didn't notice on the way up but on the way down there were bear markings all over the place. Of course the girls didn't like this and they wanted out quick. I've had bears raid our camp before, had to chase them out with rocks and banging pots and pans, and I'm not scared of them.

Well things got better when we got lost again. We hit one of the trail splits after the meadow and picked the wrong way out. Luckily it didn't take long for us to figure out we were on the wrong trail. So we went back to an agreed location and tried to figure out which of the three or four trails to choose. Natalie started to panic but once we got her to calm down she picked the trail to take and it ended up being the right one. So about an hour from the tram and it's already getting dark. I had two flashlights in my backpack but wanted to wait until the last minute to use them. So we were pretty much hiking in the dark for a good 45 minutes or so. Finally once we couldn't see our feet anymore I pulled out the frozen flashlights and started warming them up. We got to the ranger's station in the dark and turned in our wilderness permit.

Then we saw the best sight of the day, the paved ramp up to the tram. It's a steep hike but it's pavement and there are rails. So about the pavement......The day before we were having an argument about what are the proper shoes to wear on these trails. I don't have my hiking boots anymore but I suggested that Natalie get some. I used to have some really nice Merrell hiking boots, the best ones. It's a mystery what happened to them. Natalie wanted tennis shoes and a certain someone who knows absolutely nothing about backwoods hiking jumped in and started showing me how much she doesn't know about real trails and hiking boots, comparing these trails to the paved trails we walked in Sequoia. Haha. Not even close. These trails have sharp rocks, sticks, and all kinds of stuff. I nearly blew out my ankle twice going down the mountain because I didn't have boots and my feet are quite blistered. Well needless to say if that argument happens again Natalie has learned from our hike and I'm sure she'll be on my side about wearing proper foot ware.
So here is the difference of hiking boots just to clarify since some people who don't know better try to argue with me about stuff they know nothing about then accuse me of being a know it all. I'm just an experienced hiker and I know what I'm talking about.

Upper - The upper part of a hiking boot is intended to protect and support the foot with an all-over snug fit. Uppers should be water repellent/proof, but allow the feet to breathe to prevent excess moisture from causing blisters and other discomfort.
Soles - Hiking boots have deep-lugged soles of tough rubber to provide friction and avoid slipping on any surfaces. Soles absorb and redirect shocks, and provides cushion for your feet. Some soles, such as Air bob out soles, have hollow lugs to improve self cleaning
Laces - Laces for hiking boots are almost always braided nylon cords. These keep the boots fitted properly and snugly around the feet. There are different lacing systems for hiking boots such as eyelet, D-rings, hooks, webbing, or a combination of two of these systems.
Linings and Paddings - Foam is often used for padding. This protects the feet from cold and pressure.
Insoles that are perfectly shaped to the hiker's feet will ensure maximum support and balance.
Shanks - The stiff plastic or metal plates built into the sole. Boots are made with full, three-quarter, or half-length shanks. Longer shanks make for stiffer boots.
Scree Collars - Protects the Achilles tendon and ankle from chafing.
Crampon Connections - Crampons are made from spikes and are worn on boots to provide traction on snow and ice.
Welts - On older boots, these are the major seams connecting the upper to the sole. There were several different styles of welts. Most modern boots have glued welts rather than traditional sewn welts

Anyways, a five minute hike and we were back to the tram. Total time down the mountain,,, just over two hours. The website claims it takes 3-4 hours to get down the mountain so we did really good. We could have done it even faster but they had to make a couple stops, we got lost, and we had a hard time with the dark. I think I did a pretty good job at pushing them down the mountain though and I didn't get any resistance on the way back. So back to our return to the tram, this is when the cold hit me. Ten minutes after being back at the tram, indoors even, and the chills hit me bad. I was so cold I had to put on Natalie's fuzzy scarf not caring how I looked. I had bright red chapped lips and my face was on fire from being in the cold. The ride down to the car was miserable and now that we had stopped it really hit us. We were beat.

We got back to Riverside and even though it was nearly fifty degrees I was still shaking from the cold. It felt good to get a hot shower that night.

Everyone had a great time, got excellent pictures, and learned they can accomplish more than they thought they could. Hiking is 90% mental and lucky for me I had leaders that taught me that years ago and pushed me up mountains when I thought I had nothing left in me. My wife got to see my outdoor skills in action and learn that I'm not all talk, I really do know about this stuff. I'm glad I could share that with my wife and I can't wait to do it again.

My Pictures
The ones with the date stamp were taking with Daniel's camera, the rest are mine. For the rest of the pictures from the trip, check out my webshots.

East Station

Look at the excitment on Natalie's face.

Natalie and Me. You can see the Salton Sea behind us
 Natalie and Me at Mountain Station with the peak behind us.
Palm Springs Wind Farm

This is when we lost the trail. I'm playing with my phone's gps in this picture so I can find our way back to the trail.

This is why they got so tired... Too much talking.

Still a long way from the peak and I found ice. This is at Round Valley, you can see pictures from the peak and see how much lower it is.

Round Valley

To the right of the picture, that green patch is a large meadow. We hiked down from the tram to the meadow, got on the east side of the meadow then came back up the mountain from the other side. It's actually a pretty long meadow when you're down there.

Out of nowhere there is a section of the hike with huge boulders.

Two pictures from my first trip to the peak alone

Taken from San Jacinto Peak looking West towards Lake Elsinore.

Looking from San Jacinto Peak to San Gorgonio Peak, the only peak higher in Southern California.

The Puerto Rican Booty Pic

The Aventura Pose?

Cuanada y Cuanado

To the South

Second highest peak around

The Little San Gorgonio Mountains and windfarms.

We made it to the very highest spot

The USGS marker

All of us, including Flex, the pitbull, with the San Gorgonio mountains as a background

Coming down the mountain. We are on the dark side of the mountain and it's getting cold

It wasn't until the way down that we noticed all the bear markings

Natalie took this picture of San Gorgonio on our flight back