Two Days of Morning Dives at Crescent Bay and Shaw's Cove Laguna Beach (With Bonus Sea Turtle!)

October 6th & 7th, 2019
[PicsSunday] [PicsMonday]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Jen still had her rental gear after yesterday's trip to the oil rigs and with shore diving conditions looking better than we'd seen in months I wasn't about to not dive.

After all:

Diving Oil Rigs Ellen, Elly, & Eureka With The Sundiver Express

October 5th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

I'm back in town for a few short weeks and busy letting my feet rest after a summer filled with hiking. And what better way to do that then diving my butt off?

There are three active oil rigs off the coast of Long Beach that you can dive from a boat. They are difficult dives since they take place in open water and you have to enter and exit from boats drifting around the structure. Also they all sit in water so deep that you don't have the option of reaching the bottom. And they are some of the most unique and impressive dives I've done in Southern California.

Jen and I dove them for the first time in June with the Asante dive boat and had such an amazing time we couldn't wait to go back. But a slightly frantic summer filled with out of town activities caused a bit of delay...until now! After weather conditions killed plans for a paddling / hot spring / camping trip and we were overjoyed to find last minute openings on the Sundiver Express going out this Saturday.

Diving Crystal Cove At Reef Point & Pelican Point

October 4th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

After yesterday's all day excursion to La Jolla Jack and I had another morning free and wanted to try something that involved a bit less driving. So we decided to head over to Crystal Cove which is located not far north of our usual stomping grounds in Laguna Beach.

Diving La Jolla Cove With The Sea Lions

October 3rd, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Jack and I have been taking advantage of the fact that we're both not working at the moment and getting in some more involved local dives. That means instead of just running down to Laguna and sneaking in a single tank before heading in to the office we can throw in an extra tank and drive further afield to try new areas.

I've only dove the La Jolla area once before and that was at the La Jolla Shores site last December. It was a great experience but just a soso dive and I'd been saying for a while now I wanted to go back and try it again. So with conditions in Laguna Beach looking soso Jack and I decided to give it another go on a Thursday morning.

Diving Catalina Midnight Hour Wreck, Blue Caverns & Big Geiger With The Magician Dive Boat

September 28th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

This weekend was supposed to be the last of the 10 or so Sierra backpacks I led over the summer for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course. But a few days before we were set to leave a flurry of participant cancellations and a incoming bad weather ended up scuttling the trip.

So what to do with a free weekend? I mean I could sit around the house, catch up on sleep, and get to all those tasks that have been piling up during my summer spent mostly on the road. But why do that when you can dive!

Jen and I found a three tank deep dive trip off Catalina on the Magician dive boat which is one of the last few I haven't been able to get out on yet. The trip was already full but when we called to put our names down for the wait list in case of any cancellations they called back in about 10 minutes letting us know we were good to go.

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - September 2019 We're Back -ish Edition

September 25th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month -ish a group of us get together and paddle around Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the public beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center in a combination of kayaks and SUPs and paddle out into the main harbor where we find a restaurant that either has its own dock or is within easy walking distance of a public one.  Others sometimes meet us there and we enjoy food, beer, and socializing before paddling back to the cars in the dark. We've been doing this for years all times of the year and in pretty much any conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find write-ups of select pizza paddles here. If you're interested in joining us send me and email and we can let you know when the next one is happening.

We suspended the regular monthly paddles in May due to the whole me not working and spending the entire summer running amok in the outdoors thing. Since then we'd only been out a single time in July and both Jen and I were missing the feeling of paddles cutting through water.

So with me officially (-ish) back in town at the end of September we jumped at the chance to fit one or two more paddles in before we would once again be launching after dark. And as an added bonus this was my first chance to try out the camera on / risk dropping my unreasonably expensive new iPhone.

Mount Lewis via Bloody Canyon WTC Experience Trip

August 17th & 18th, 2019
Mount Lewis (12,320')
Day 1: 3.5 miles, 2,200'
Day 2: 11.1 miles, 3,200'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

These days I struggle a bit to come up with peak based trips to lead for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course that are accessible but that I haven't done before. In 2017 I'd lead a climb of the SPS peaks Koip and Kuna from this trailhead and found it to be a nice trip but a bit on the long side for a mixed group. So I'd decided why not revisit the area and climb one of the multiple peaks around Mono Pass.

And so this two day climb of Mount Lewis was born. The peak itself is on the Vagmarken Sierra Crest List if you're into that sort of thing or if you are not peak motivated then it's a relatively lightly used trail that takes you past waterfalls, gives you multiples lakes to pick between for camping, and lets you visit a historic mining site before presenting you with an epic view of June Lakes.

My 100th Dive (aka Naked Dive) At Shaw's Cove

July 30th, 2019

After putting it off for years I completed my scuba open water certification in December of 2018 and have spent the intervening months joyously diving pretty much every chance I get. I hit 25 dives in January, 50 in April, 75 in June, and after the recent Indonesia diving trip I was sitting at 95. Which after the big summer multi-sport road trip became 98. Then it was only logical to do a shore dive the morning I came back into town leaving me at the ever important 100th dive milestone.

In addition to being a nice satisfying number some people will tell you that the 100th dive is supposed to be done naked to celebrate the milestone. This seems to mostly be done in tropical areas and if Instagram is to be believed there seems to be a bit more female divers than males taking part (though that could possibly be due to the fact cold water is a bit more friendly to the female physique vs say your average pudgy white male.)

Several friends who have been diving for years hadn't heard of the whole 100th dive = naked dive thing but there's plenty of validation on the internet and I'm not one to buck a tradition. That is as long as I find it amusing.

And since I wasn't about to stop diving for any length of time until I could make it someplace tropical that left a southern California shore dive. So on a Tuesday morning Jen Blackie and myself headed out to my favorite local spot Shaw's Cove to get things done.

Warm Water Scuba Diving At Homestead Crater Utah

July 10th, 2019
Homestead Crater, Utah

I am fortunate to live in Southern California where I have multiple accessible diving options even if the water can be a bit on the chilly side. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to check out the diving options whenever I'm traveling.

It has been surprising how many different places you can find out and about that offer diving. Lakes, quarries, rivers, aquariums, and every now and then something a bit more unique like Homestead Crater.

Homestead Crater's claim to fame is that it is the only warm water diving destination in the continental US.  It's located near Midway Utah and is found inside a large mineral dome which has a hole up top allowing sunlight to stream down into a 65 ft deep fresh water column. And it's hot, really bloody hot!

Fifth Water Hot Spring Utah

July 10th, 2019
4.5 miles, 1,400'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

Fifth Water Hot Spring is about 650 miles from home for me but happened to be located reasonably close to our planned route to Yellowstone and near the Homestead Crater dive site we wanted offering the perfect opportunity to check it out.

It's one of those photogenic sites you see online whenever you look up hot springs and it's located close to Provo and is a short enough hike that it's known to be quite popular pretty much all seasons and days of the week.

Playing Tourist On Mount Batur Bali Indonesia

June 29th, 2019
Mount Batur (5,633')
6.2 miles, 2,200'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

This hike was done during our 11 day dive-centric vacation to Indonesia. While most of the trip was spent on a liveaboard diving our butts off but we did have a day or two on either side to play tourist and since I've done very little international traveling I was eager to get a peak.

Normally I would go for the country or island high point but in Bali that would be Mount Agung which was off limits due to the minor issue that it's been actively erupting since 2017. So we ended up settling for Batur.

This is also one of those areas like Kilimanjaro where you're basically required to have a guide despite the basic nature of the hike. (Read here what someone went through trying to do it solo and you can read reviews on TripAdvisor of people claiming to have been assaulted.)

We didn't care enough to mess with any of that and found a guide outfit that would pick us up at 2 am, get us up the peak, and promised to return us to Denpasar early enough to pick up our dive luggage and catch our boat which was leaving around 1 pm. And they threw in a trip to a local coffee plantation.

And the price for all of this? $55 a person for a total of 1.5 million Rupiah via Bali Trekking Tour. Ouch.

Diving Eureka & Ellen Oil Rigs With The Asante Dive Boat

June 9th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

I'm now around 16 days into my Summer Hiatus 2019 and so far it's been filled with Sierra trips with occasional excursions back into town for diving related activities like this.

I first heard about the oil rig dives during my initial open water scuba certification. At the time the instructors talked about how amazing the dives were while cautioning how they required a more advanced skillset.  The fact they sat in deep open ocean meant you don't have an achievable bottom to bounce off of if you're struggling with your buoyancy and you have to watch that currents don't blow you off the rig.

Now some 6 months, a few more classes, and 70 -ish dives later we'd finally booked a trip out to see them ourselves!

Diving Anacapa With The Raptor Dive Boat

June 8th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

As of Friday Jen was officially done with school and joining me full time (-ish) on the Summer Hiatus 2019 adventure.

Originally the Jerky Meadows trip was supposed to last until Saturday at which point I was returning to OC for the highly anticipated oil rig dive with the Asante dive boat on Sunday.  Conditions and circumstances on the Jerky Meadows area trip caused me to come out early leaving me a few days at home to recovery and catch up on a few things I've been neglecting.

That of course didn't last long and Saturday found Jen and I waking up at 3:30 am and making a pre dawn two hour drive out to Ventura while Jen lamented how I didn't know how to relax.

(For the record I'd like to state I know *how* to relax, I'm just slightly allergic to it)

Seven Days In The Southern Sierra Out Of Kennedy Meadows

May 25th to 31st, 2019
Saddlehorn Peak (7,408')
Finger Rock (Attempt) (9,220')
Peak 9156 (9,156')
Day 1: 10 miles, 3,000'
Day 2: 10.7 miles, 2,700'
Day 3: 12.5 miles, 1,200'
Day 4: 6 miles, 750'
Day 5: 11.5 miles, 2,000'
Day 6: 18 miles, 3,000'
Day 7: 8.7 miles, 450'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map] 

Each year I take advantage of the long holiday weekend around Memorial Day to get out and do an early season backpack with the goal of getting back in "backpacking shape" for the summer trip season.

In the past these trips were 4 or 5 day buttkickers (for write ups on many of these trips you can browse the tag Memorial Day Massacre) but the last few years I've had to hold them to 3 days thanks to Jen's sadly draconian teacher employment contract which doesn't allow for floating vacation days.

This year thanks to the whole quitting my job and adventuring for the summer situation (more on that here) I wasn't about to limit myself to just three days so I decided I'd just stay out after Jen had to return to gainful employment making for a nice long seven days total with the plan of revisiting some seldom visited terrain in the Southern Sierra. And because it's still early in the season in what's been an interesting year so far I hit everything from sun to wind to rain to hail to full on snow.

Site Update & Matt's Slightly Early Midlife Crisis 2019 Edition

You might have noticed a slight lag in site updates lately.  This happens periodically as I get busy but this time there is something bigger going on.

The last year+ has been a real struggle.  Between a long term relationship ending, multiple acquaintances passing away unexpectedly, seemingly countless friends going through major upheavals, and to cap it all off at work (yes I do work) the previous owners of the company I've been at for the last 5 ish years committed major fraud and stole several years worth of payroll taxes (among other things) and seriously imperilled the stability of my position moving forward.

As a result I've been fighting all around burnout for some time.  Shorter breaks haven't helped and it's been getting to the point where it has started to affect my ability to get joy even out of my volunteer outdoor activities which have been my major passion for the last decade.

So with Jen's unwavering encouragement I decided it was time for something drastic.

The Last Pre-Summer Adventure After Work Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle

May 23rd, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month -ish a group of us get together and paddle around Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the public beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center in a combination of kayaks and SUPs and paddle out into the main harbor where we find a restaurant that either has its own dock or is near a public one.  Others will meet us there and we enjoy food, beer, and socializing before paddling back to the cars in the dark. We've been doing this for years all times of the year and in pretty much any conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find writeups of other paddles here.

This particular paddle was a big one since we had a new restaurant to try.  And Jack Kieffer was going to be away for the next 2.5 months traveling across the country.  And on my end there was the minor detail that the next day was my last day at work for at least the next 4 -ish months meaning the paddles were likely going to be a bit irregular for a while.  And we had another person dunk into the water.  Eventful!

Gear Review: Surface Go Tablet/Laptop Hybrid Solution For Travel Blogging

If you follow my site regularly you've no doubt noticed that I often go for weeks at a time with no updates only to release a flood of new posts at seemingly random intervals.  That's mostly because I spend most weekends running around outdoors and often the weeks in between see me doing everything but sitting down in front of my desktop to write.

This site is just a hobby but it does bring me a lot of enjoyment and I've always has this ideal in my head of being able to do the actual write-ups while I'm still out in the field.  This has led me to purchase a series of keyboards and accessories for my iPhone, iPad, and a few sub $100 tablets in the hopes of finding something that was functional while not costing so much that I'd be afraid to take it out.

Up until this point each of the solutions failed to meet my needs in one or more major ways and I've been stuck just making notes to myself in my iPhone and fleshing out the articles when I'm back home.  And then I came across the Microsoft Surface Go.

USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber Day 2019 + Bottom Scratcher Boat Dives

May 1st, 2019
USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber
Bottom Scratcher Dive Boat
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Each year the USC Hyperbaric Chamber on Catalina holds a fundraiser day that involves tours of the facility and an opportunity to get a few dives in. It happens to be on a Wednesday when theoretically us gainfully employed types should be working but that's why vacation days were invented.

At least for those of us who aren't schoolteachers.  Jen was unable to get away from school and in the end it ended up being just Jack Kieffer and I driving out to San Pedro before dawn.

The hyperbaric chamber is used for treatment of decompression illness (aka the bends) which are a risk involved in diving due to the amount of nitrogen which is dissolved in your blood while breathing compressed air at depth. So this is both a great way to get to see the chamber without a potentially serious medical complication and also serves as a fundraiser which helps keep the place operational.

Diving Catalina Island Rock Quarry & Eagle Rock With The Pacific Star Dive Boat

April 21st, 2019
Pacific Star Dive Boat
[Matt's Scuba Map]

After spending Saturday out on the rocks in Chatsworth running the Sierra Club Advanced Mountaineering Program I had one of those quasi rare "free" days.  And what better way to spend it than to run out and try another dive boat!

So Jen, our friend Neal, and myself bought tickets on the Pacific Star and we were off to Catalina!

Diving Before Work: A Night Dive + Morning Dive Twofer At Divers Cove & Fisherman's Cove

April 8th & 9th, 2019
[Diver's Cove Night Pics]
[Fisherman's Cove Morning Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Last week had been hectic and I only managed a single morning dive on Friday.  That was mostly because I returned from the Buckskin Gulch trip Wednesday night and left for the Alabama Hills Climbing weekend on Friday but still!

This week was a full 5 days of soul wounding gainful employment and I was determined to make the most of it since the Spring Advanced Mountaineering Program kicked off next week and things were likely going to get a bit busier again.

Jack being the amazing friend he is he agreed to my slightly aggressive plan of 4 dives including three morning dives and a night dive with these two being back to back.

Diving Before Work - Diver's Cove in Laguna Beach

April 5th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

The downside of these pre-work dives is that I have to roll out of bed at 4:45 am and drive out to Laguna before the sun is even up.  But hey, we all know sleep is overrated when compared against outdoor activities and I find a quick hour under water makes for a rather pleasant start to to the average workday.

This week I was only in town for two days after arriving back from a 5 day trip to Buckskin Gulch / Paria Canyon in Utah so this was my only chance to get out.  Fortunately the predicted 30% chance of rain Thursday night hadn't appeared so off we went!

Slotting It Up: Backpacking Buckskin Gulch / Paria Canyon to Lee's Ferry

March 30th to April 4th
Day 1: 15 -ish miles 
Day 2: 14 -ish miles 
Day 3: 12 -ish miles
Day 4: 10 -ish miles
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

I've made a solid attempt of late to stop saying no to more involved trips on account of them being too much time away from work or too expensive since quite frankly the events of the last year or two have shown the things I've been sacrificing for just aren't worth it. And so you're seeing more trips like this, Florida, and the oncoming onslaught of Summer 2019.

This was one of those bucket list trips that I'd looked at for years. Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest and deepest slot canyon in the southwest United States and possibly the world.  It's claim to fame is that you can backpack through it and them meet up with the Paria River and spend several days descending down to the Colorado River. Compare this with other slot canyons in the area where you're lucky to get the better part of the day.

I of course love me some slot canyon. So then the limiter became getting the permit which are rather limited (more on that below) but this year Jen got lucky and so the week after the Wilderness Travel Course Snow Camp wrapped up we were off!

Diving Before Work - Diver's Cove in Laguna Beach

March 26th & 27th, 2019
Diver's Cove
[Pics] [Map]

This week we saw enough of a break in the seemingly endless Southern California rain to allow Jack and I to get back out diving again before work.

So far all the morning dives have been at either Shaw's Cove or Crescent Bay so we decided to mix things up a bit and head for Diver's Cove located a short distance to the south.

Diving Catalina - Casino Point Dive Park

March 16th, 2019
Casino Point Dive Park
[Pics] [Map]

This weekend was one of the precious few free ones I get this time of year due to the demands of volunteering with the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course.  As a result I was determined to make the most of  the two days and so Jen and I planned a day excursion to Catalina on Saturday to dive the Casino Point Dive Park followed by a drive north to catch a dive boat Sunday out of Ventura to dive Channel Islands. So effectively a mini dive vacation.

Casino Point is located at the northern end of Avalon harbor and I've been hearing for years how great the shore diving is there.  I'd tried to plan a trip out there a few times since I got certified only to have said plans smacked down by bad ocean conditions but finally everything was lining up.

Guidebooks on the Go: Turning a Closet Full of Print Guidebooks into Searchable PDFs

Over the years I've accumulated a fair number of of guide books.  They're a mix of peak guides, rock climbing guides, and the occasional small print book covering the history or fauna of a particular area.

While I personally feel the sources available on the internet have surpassed most of the old print guides I do find that many of them still contain valuable information. For example take Andy Zdon's Desert Summits.  While I find it to be a very frustrating book due to the lack of maps and a few other design choices it does have information on a lot of peaks you won't find elsewhere.

The problem I had with my collection was that I was rarely sitting at home with access to my bookshelf when I wanted to plan trips. In fact I had several really interesting books that I tended to forget about for years at a time.

So for a while now I've been contemplating doing something about this situation. For me the ideal was something digital I could access anywhere on my computer, phone, or tablet. (I have had a few books in digital format for example RJ Secor's Sierra guidebook but the DRM included with the legal purchase disallows copying or printing and most other guides just were not available in anything but paper.)

Enter the great guidebook scanning project of 2018!

Kaweah Group Heads Up Sierra Peak For The First Outing of The 2019 Wilderness Travel Course!

February 10th, 2019
Sierra Peak (3,045')
15 miles, 3,000'
[Pics] [Caltopo] [Map]

Those that follow this site know that I'm a volunteer instructor for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course down here in Orange County. I run Kaweah Group which is one of three groups in the area and so my schedule tends to be dominated by the class in the January to April timeframe.

The class began on January 22nd and we have had three of the ten Tuesday night classroom sessions so far but we'd yet to actually get outside with the new crop of students. That all changed this weekend with a full day hike excursion to Sierra Peak.

We'd originally planned on Mount Wilson from Sierra Madre but the seemingly endless series of storms we've been experiencing this year resulted in temperatures in the 30s, high winds, and 3-5 ft of snow up top. That the prospect of a steep trail with a big drop off to the side less than ideal so we ended up changing at the last minute.

So off we went to Sierra Peak with a forecast of temperatures in the high 40s, high winds, and rain pretty much throughout the day.

Diving Before Work At Shaw's Cove Laguna Beach

January 25th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

I've recently jumped into diving with the intent of maintaining all of my other various outdoor hobbies. As I'm sure you can guess that is a bit difficult since I already struggle to find open weekends and now I have yet another awesome way to spend them. But hey, there are worse problems to have!

This weekend would see Kristen and I hopefully diving some deep wrecks down in San Diego with Sea Stallion and finishing up our Advanced Open Water certifications. We also had tentative plans to head over to Catalina and Casino Point on Sunday if conditions looked good and when the opportunity came up to do a kickoff dive of sorts Friday morning before work we both jumped at the chance.

A Cold Damn Dive From Cabinsite Point In Lake Mojave

January 13th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

Yesterday had been fun but Kristen and I both felt we'd gotten our fill of dives at Kingman Wash and Willow Beach. Fortunately Bruce at Sin City Scuba had recommended we contact Jerry Portwood at Dive Shack USA in Laughlin about diving in Lake Mojave.

Similar to yesterday Dive Shack USA wasn't open on Sunday but Jerry was graciously willing to come in whenever we needed to rent us tanks and event went above and beyond to work with us around some cell coverage issues on Saturday.

Diving Lake Mead At Kingman Wash & Willow Beach

January 12th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

This weekend was supposed to be a triumphant (-ish) return to diving in Southern California after the New Years trips. The plan was to join Sea Stallion on the Cee Ray dive boat to Catalina Saturday and then do shore dives around town on Sunday. And then conditions went to crap.

The Cee Ray was canceled due to swell and surf conditions ruled out anything on the shore. Going out to Catalina and diving Casino Point also looked like it wasn't an option.

And so we started to look further afield. Kristen had run into really bad weather during her Thailand trip and only been able to do a single dive so not wanting that trend to continue I said I'd drive wherever we needed to if we could find diving options.

And that's how we ended up talking to Bruce Hall at Sin City Scuba...

Paddling the Turner River in the Florida Everglades!

January 1st, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

After yesterday's amazing experience on the Vandenberg our ear related complications had forced us to cancel our last day of diving in Florida.

We'd driven through the Everglades but not done anything *in* the Everglades and so we started looking at paddling options since the boat tours all struck us as a bit too touristy for our tastes. We found a writeup of the Turner River complete with spectacular pictures like the one above which led us to talking to the Ivy House in Everglade City about the possibility of renting boats and doing some sort of longer point A to point B paddle. (After all, I wanted something I could write up on my website...)

By the time we talked to them the guy who handled their rentals was gone for the day but they assured us that if we showed up first thing the next morning they'd take care of us and get us paddling. So we took a leap of faith and set out hours before dawn from Key Largo where we'd camped the night before.