Ginnie Springs Ballroom Florida Freshwater Cavern Dive & A Disappointing Failure To Find Herpes Monkeys

December 28th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

We had decided on Devil's Den first and then looked around for what other diving options we could fit in before driving south towards the Keys. We ended up settling on Ginnie Springs because it was another cavern advertised as safe for Open Water divers but seemed like it would be a bit of a progression from Devil's Den.

Jen was nervous at first but we decided we'd go in and take a look and turn back if it wasn't something we were comfortable with. For what it's worth we both found it to be straightforward but well worth the side trip if for no other reason than the visibility in the spring was something like 200 ft!

Devil's Den Florida Freshwater Cavern Dive

December 28th, 2018
[Pics] [Map]

Devil's Den is easy to find online because the pictures taken there are spectacular. It's hard to see the blue water cavern with sunlight streaming down from above and not want to go visit.

This was our second day of diving activity on our Florida News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness after the previous days drift dive in Rainbow River. This was a whole different experience since there are less fish and no plants inside the cavern.

Rainbow River Freshwater Drift Dive, Florida

December 27th, 2018
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Next up on the Florida News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness was a freshwater drift dive in Rainbow River!

Freshwater diving was briefly mentioned during my Open Water dive certification but 99% of the focus there was on diving saltwater. So when we were looking for diving options around Crystal River and came across this I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The dive shops bill it as something anyone can do since you can have people tag along with snorkels, kayaks, or just ride along on the boat.

After looking up some trusty YouTube videos I started getting exciting and sure enough it was amazing!

Snorkeling with the Manatees in Crystal River Florida

December 27th, 2018
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This was the first activity of our eight-ish day Florida News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness. Up until this trip I only had a vague awareness of manatees but it turns out Jen has been fascinated by them since learning about them from some school assembly as a child. When we first came across the option of swimming with manatees while trying to pull off this last minute Florida trip she was ecstatic and insisted that we try and make it work.

Diving La Jolla Shores - First Time Diving On Our Own

December 15th, 2018
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As I've recounted elsewhere the last few weeks have been a somewhat hurried progression towards getting our Open Water diving certs and starting Advanced Open Water classes in order to get ready for some diving-centric plans around New Years.

Friday Kristen and I had both taken the morning off work in order to do our 4th and final Open Water cert dive at Crescent Bay in Laguna. We did that instead of waiting for Saturday since that way we could rent two tanks and get out on our own. Also we were going to be down towards San Diego anyway since we were scheduled to be on a boat with Sea Stallion on Sunday for a few specialty dives so it all worked out.

Observation Point Zion Peakbagging

November 25th, 2018
Observation Point (6,507')
8.4 miles, 2,100'
[Pics] [Caltopo] 

Zion is a funny place since it's becoming increasingly popular yet there really isn't as much to it as some of the other National Parks. The main canyon is stunning but so choked with people they have to shut down the park entrances on a regular basis to avoid it turning into one long angry parking lot.

And when it comes to hikes the thing that most people know about Zion is Angels Landing aka that scary thing your Aunt did once where she thought she was going to die.

Now don't get me wrong Angels Landing is a fun little hike and there are enough narrow sections to make the pit of your average persons stomach drop a bit but it's also a well-maintained trail with chains to hold on to whenever you get anywhere near an edge. The first time I did it my girlfriend at the time had really worked herself up about the exposure only to comment she felt somewhat less badass considering we were passing 6-year-olds along the chain.

So, Angels Landing is fun but not the end all be all of Zion. For my money if you want to do something and see the best view of the park from the front country then Observation Point is the thing to do. It's all on trail and doesn't have the exposure issues but the view from the top looks straight down the main canyon and you even get to look down on all those people on Angels Landing.

Roof Peak & Hepworth via Gifford Canyon Zion

November 24th, 2018
Roof Peak (6,553')
Hepworth (6,548')
7 miles, 2,600'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

I hike a fair amount. Some would even venture to categorize it as "a lot"  So you would think that after 10 ish years of this I'd be fairly well adapted and basic hikes would, in general, go smoothly. And you would, of course, be completely incorrect.

It seems like there's always some new sort of issue cropping up so it shouldn't have been a huge surprise when I woke up and made the long fridged stroll to the campsite bathroom only to realize I was having a rather major chaffing issue that was going to make any hiking rather unpleasant.

But hey, it's a Matt trip, it's freezing, and things go a little wrong. Life as usual!

Nippletop Zion Peakbagging

November 23rd, 2018
Nippletop (6,715') 
3 miles, 1700'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

We didn't finish our climb of Jenny Peak and Jenny's Nipples until almost 2:30 pm which only left us with a few hours before dark. And going along with our periodic Thanksgiving trip nipple theme we decided to knock out Nippletop!

Nippletop is another fairly obscure peak on the eastern end of Zion far away from the usual tourist-friendly activities in the main canyon. It's a good way to spend a few hours while getting in some unique views and welcome solitude assuming you're ok with a bit of loose 3rd class scrambling.

This was a part of this year's Thanksgiving trip aka the 2018 Turktacular!  This year I was out in Zion Utah climbing a series of smaller peaks. For the other days see the tag Turktacular 2018 and for what I've gotten up to other years see the tag Turktacular.

Jenny Peak & Jenny's Nipples Zion Peakbagging

November 23rd, 2018
Jenny Peak (6,310')
Jenny's Nipples (6,240')
3.9 miles, 1,500'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

Jenny Peak is an obscure bump in an area of Zion National Park that doesn't see near the amount of traffic as the main canyon. The peak itself is lower than a lot of its neighbors but it makes for that with the enjoyable class 3 -ish scramble and a summit view that engulfs you in a spectacularly beautiful and underappreciated area of the park.

It's also apparently located in a closure based on what I found out after we did the peak. We didn't see a single sign anywhere along the route but YMMV.

This was a part of this year's Thanksgiving trip aka the 2018 Turktacular!  This year I was out in Zion Utah climbing a series of smaller peaks. For the other days see the tag Turktacular 2018 and for what I've gotten up to other years see the tag Turktacular.

Zion Turktacular 2018: Plan C It Is!

November 22nd, 2018

This was the initial day of this year's Thanksgiving trip aka the 2018 Turktacular!  This year I was out in Zion Utah climbing a series of smaller peaks. For the other days see the tag Turktacular 2018 and for what I've gotten up to other years see the tag Turktacular.

This trip was rather last minute even by my standards. Due to various life events the original plan of flying down to La Paz and doing a paddle centric trip similar to the San Juan Islands trip fell through leaving us scrambling for something to do within driving distance.

Further complicating the situation a storm was coming in and seemed to be hitting everywhere. Friends up in Bishop reported snow down to 6,000 ft and every forecast we checked across California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah all predicted precipitation.

Granted we've had forecasts like that before and still managed to have some fun. It did mean a lot of the initial ideas I had like Snow BM just were not going to be feasible.

We settled on chasing some lesser known peaks on the east side of Zion and decided to drive out Wednesday night...which due to various last minute complications also didn't happen.