Diving the San Marcos River and Comal River in Texas

December 26th, 2019
San Marcos River Dive Site
Comal River New Braunfels Dive Site
[Pics] [Map]

After about two glorious months spent out in Thailand doing my SDI Divemaster certification I flew back stateside on Christmas Eve and then out to Texas to spend a few days with family.

Having been diving constantly over the course of two months I was having a bit of trouble adjusting to life on the land. So of course when the topic of what we were going to do while in Texas came up my first suggestion was of course to dive!

I read at article a while back about someone diving in all 50 states which sounded like a fun goal to have. So far I've done California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah and this was an opportunity to add Texas to the list.

We had originally looked at diving oil rigs down in the Gulf and that's still something I'd really like to do however the $250 a person cost had us balking a bit considering recent employment related developments.

So instead we decided to see what sort of diving we could do in the general vicinity of Fredericksburg where we were staying with my grandparents which is how we ended up doing two rather shallow freshwater drift dives in San Marcos.

I recruited my parents and uncle for a ride and to act as the every important shore photographers and early on the 26th of December we were off!

Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Looking Back & Lessons Learned

After an eventful two months I've wrapped up my time in Thailand and I'm headed back to the United States with a brand spanking new SDI Divemaster certification. So what went right? What went wrong? And what would I do different if I had it to do all over again?

Diving Richelieu Rock Khao Lak Thailand

December 19th, 2019
Richelieu Rock

During my two month stint in Khao Lak Thailand working on my divemaster certification I was mostly diving in the Similan Islands and Koh Bon. Having access to a number of local dive professionals during downtime on the boat I of course asked around as to what other dives I absolutely had to do before leaving and the answer was always Richelieu Rock.

So as my DMT was winding down I came back from the boat and asked the shop to arrange a day trip out to see it for myself. And bloody hell if it didn't live up to everything people said!

Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Working The Similan Islands & Koh Bon Via Liveaboard

November-December 2019

So far I've written about life when I'm around the dive shop and a trip out to a local wreck but what about the main thing that attracted me to doing my divemaster internship out here?

The Similan Islands are located off the western coast of Thailand and have a reputation for being some of the best diving around. Looking online you see pictures of crystal clear blue water and people diving in almost nothing thanks to the warm water.

(Actually about 90% of these seem to have been taken at Richelieu Rock to the north but I'll cove that another day...)

Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Dive Guiding The Boonsung Wreck From A Long-Tail Boat

November 2019

Since arriving in Thailand and starting my divemaster internship all of my dives have been out in the Similan Islands. While that is the local diving hot spot (and it is quite spectacular!) there are a few other dive spots around and thanks to a client booking today I had the opportunity to shadow my instructor Peter while he guided the Boonsung Wreck!

Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: A Typical Day Around The Shop

November 2019

Leading up to my departure I had grand visions of spending my two months in Thailand getting to dive in the ocean or be in the pool teaching almost if not every single day. And sure enough my first few days did get me off to an impressive start with a solid 10 dive tour across the Similan Islands on the dive shops liveaboard the Similan Quest.

But of course I'm not here just to have fun. My other main goal is to complete my SDI divemaster certification and that involves a theory portion requiring time spent in a classroom. Basically you go back and for all those cursory rules you learned in Open Water and Advanced Open Water you dive a little deeper and *sigh* learn how to do the math. And of course I'm getting exposure to the ins and outs of how things work around the Sign Scuba shop and how they run the boat. This is how my non-boat days typically go.

Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Great Wall of China Toboggan, Arrival & The First Week

November 2019

As I mentioned in my recent site update I decided to forgo returning to gainful employment for the moment and with no small amount of encouragement from my ever supportive girlfriend decided to take the opportunity to fly out to Thailand for 2 months to pursue my divemaster certification.

The divemaster certification is different from the other scuba certifications I've been collecting as it's the start of the dive professional track aka it's where I can start guiding and assisting in teaching basic courses. (Also it's something completely different from the master diver certification which is basically a pat on the head acknowledgement you've done about as much as you can on the recreational track.)

I looked at options for doing the program locally in Southern California but the part time nature of most of the dive professionals out there meant it wouldn't be quite as involved as I really wanted. Meanwhile it just so happened that my free time corresponded with the start of the diving season in western Thailand and a friend and former student of mine had a connection with a local Thai dive shop there in Khao Lak. The shop was named Sign Scuba and they operated a liveaboard out in the Similan Islands meaning I'd get lots of opportunities to dive out there in addition to pool and classroom learning.

So one day after wrapping up my commitments to the Fall Advanced Mountaineering Program and 2019 Wilderness Travel Course in a slightly frantic weekend out in Joshua Tree I said goodbye to Jen and flew out of LAX at 1:40 am to spend the rest of the year out of the country.

Why I'm Not Going Back To Work Right Now & Site Updates

Back in May I wrote about how with the unwavering support of my lovely girlfriend I was leaving my problematic IT job and spending the summer adventuring.

And adventure I did. I racked up another 77 -ish dives. I started and finished my scuba master diver certification. Jen and I had an amazing trip to Indonesia including an incredible 8 days diving around Komodo on the Mermaid II liveboard. We then returned home for a single day before leaving again on a 17 day road trip epic of hiking, backpacking, hot springs, paddling, and diving visiting Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Banff, Jasper, and Vancouver Island. Among other things.

Jen and I did the John Muir Trail southbound in 11 days then I learned about another 280 mile Sierra thru hiking trail called the Theodore Solomons and promptly went back out and did that in 16 brutal yet memorable days. I led about 10 experience trip backpacks for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course with a wide range of awesome individuals culminating in the biennial Mount Starr King trip with Jack Kieffer.

In the meantime I dropped about 20 pounds and according to my doctor my blood pressure went from problematic and possibly requiring medication to looking great.

Once the weather turned cold I came back home and spent a frantic month diving every moment that conditions and dive buddies would allow. At the same time I wrapped up the 2019 Wilderness Travel Course while coordinating the 20th Advanced Mountaineering Program both of which had record years as far as things going slightly haywire.

So all in all it was a summer for the record books.

So here I am at the end of October which is a bit past the original deadline for returning to gainful employment. And instead of writing this from a cubicle I'm actually sitting in an airport about to fly to Thailand for two months to work on off my scuba professional certifications and hopefully spend a whole hell of a lot of time underwater in an amazing place. After that I'll be back home for the 2020 Wilderness Travel Course / Spring Advanced Mountaineering Course and and after that it's looking increasingly likely that I'll be making an attempt at the Pacific Crest Trail.

For anyone following along on my exploits you've no doubt noticed that I've done some fairly major things that I never wrote up. Those write ups are partially done and will be posted just as soon as I'm sitting still long enough to finish them. Stay tuned!

So once again I leave you with my anthem for 2019:

Diving The Cleo Street Barge (aka Foss 125) In Laguna Beach

October 11th, 2019
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Welcome to another extended weekday diving morning thanks to the whole not being employed thing!

Jack and I have been taking advantage of the recent ideal Laguna diving conditions and I was eager to try out some locations other than our usual Crescent / Shaws / Divers hangouts. I remembered seeing a post about the Cleo Street Barge which is one of the rare wrecks to can easily reach from the shore around here.

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.

Matt's Guide To The Theodore Solomons Trail

Theodore Solomons Trail

Have you done the JMT and are now looking for a bigger challenge? Or are you just tired of the crowds that seem to define the JMT / PCT these days? Want a chance to see seldom visited areas of the western Sierra? Then let me tell you about a largely unknown thru hiking trail called the Theodore Solomons Trail.

This post covers all the details I learned while hiking the trail. For my experience hiking the trail in in 2019 see Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail South: Horseshoe Meadow To Roads End and Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail North: Roads End to Yosemite.

Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail North: Roads End to Yosemite

September 9th to 19th, 2019
182 miles, 40,200' gain
Day 1: Roads End to Dougherty 13.1 miles, 6,600'
Day 2: The Bitch, Simpson Meadow,  17.4 miles, 1,500'
Day 3: Tehipite Valley 12.8 miles, 4,700'
Day 4: Rancheria 19.6 miles, 3,800'
Day 5: Courtright 21 miles, 2,600'
Day 6: 23 miles, 2,800'
Day 7: VVR 9.1 miles, 1,300'
Day 8: Cassidy 17 miles, 2,200'
Day 9: Clover 14 miles, 4,600'
Day 10: Fernandez & Merced Passes 19 miles, 3,500'
Day 11: Glacier Point & Yosemite Valley 13 miles, 1700'
[Pics] [Caltopo]

This is the second of two posts about my experiences hiking the relatively unknown long distance Sierra trail called the Theodore Solomons Trail. For the story of how the southern section went see Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail South: Horseshoe Meadow To Roads End. For general details about the trail, resupply options, ect see Matt's Guide to The Theodore Solomons Trail.

My initial aggressive plan to try and do the whole trail in 12 days just hadn't been viable. I'd based my plans off a gps route that turned out to be rather seriously underestimating the mileage so after arriving at Roads End for a resupply I'd come off the trail, correct the map issues, and than made plans to head back out for an additional 11 days.

Of course since this was my grand summer of non employment I had to wait around a few days in civilization to lead another previously scheduled backpack in the Western Sierra after which I found myself driving back to Roads End ready to finish this thing!

Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail South: Horseshoe Meadow To Roads End

August 26th to 30th, 2019
Theodore Solomons Trail South
106 miles, 20,800' gain
Day 1: Cottonwood to Kern 24 miles, 1,700'
Day 2: Kern to Wet Meadow 16 miles, 6,000'
Day 3: Wet Meadow to Cliff Creek 25.5 miles, 4,100'
Day 4: Cliff Creek to Deadman Canyon 18 miles, 7,100'
Day 5: Deadman Canyon to Roads End 23 miles, 3,100'
[Pics] [Caltopo]

I must say that the most common question I encountered while hiking the Theodore Solomons Trail was "What the heck is the Theodore Solomons Trail?"

This is the first of two posts about my experience hiking the 281 ish mile Theodore Solomons Trail across the Sierra Nevada in the summer of 2019. It will cover Horseshoe Meadows to Roads End and for the northern section see Hiking The Theodore Solomons Trail North: Roads End to Yosemite. If you're interested just in the trail itself and how to do it I made a convenient post called Matt's Guide to The Theodore Solomons Trail which is just that.

I've spent the last 15 years or so climbing and hiking all across the Sierra and in that time I can't recall ever coming across a mention of the Theodore Solomons Trail. Then I just happened to have a random conversation at Mammoth Mountaineering Supply after wrapping up an 11 day southbound trek along the John Muir Trail.

A 280 ish mile trail, largely unknown, that parallels the JMT, visits all the spectacular points of the Western Sierra, and has a fraction of the crowds that currently define that far more popular trail? Sign me up!

And as it turned out when you mapped the JMT and the TST together they basically make a loop. Sounds like the perfect thing to hike and document for your personal hiking blog doesn't it?

So about 10 days after finishing the John Muir Trail I set off.

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.

John Muir Trail Plus Half-Dome, Whitney, and Muir in 11 Days

August 5th to 15th, 2019
Half Dome (8,840')
Mount Whitney (14,498')
Mount Muir (14,012')
Day 0 - To Sunrise: 6.8 miles, 4,000'
Day 1 - Half Dome, To Cathedral: 16.86 miles, 5,500'
Day 2 - To Rush Creek: 22.64 miles, 3,200'
Day 3 - Reds Meadow, To Red Cones: 24 miles, 4,000'
Day 4 - To Silver Pass: 19.8 miles, 4,900'
Day 5 - To Seldon Pass: 21.5 miles, 4,200'
Day 6 - MTR, To  Evolution: 19.8 miles, 2,700'
Day 7 - To Le Conte: 21.55 miles, 3,000'
Day 8 - To Pinochot: 18 miles, 5,300'
Day 9 - To Glen: 19.71 miles, 5,000'
Day 10 - To Crabtree: 21 miles, 4,700'
Day 11 - Whitney, Muir, To Portal - 20.74 miles, 4,900'
Total: 232 miles, 51,400'
[Pics] [CalTopo]

Back in May due to a variety of issues expounded on elsewhere I quit my job and went about seeing just how much trouble of an outdoor variety I could realistically get up to when not tied to a desk during the week. While still gainfully employed I had committed to a number of weekend backpacks for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course but even sticking with those I ended up with a few tantalizingly long periods here and there that were just begging for the longer sort of a trips I always had to say no to. And hell, if I wasn't going to go big then I might as well still be working right?

The John Muir Trail is a well known 220 ish mile wilderness trail stretching from Yosemite Valley in the north and Mount Whitney in the south. I'd attempted it once before in 2013 setting an aggressive 25 mile a day pace that had been proven...challenging. And painful to the point I practically had PTSD about the whole experience for years after. And after all of that thanks to an early winter storm I'd had to exit at Kearsarge Pass instead of over Mount Whitney.

So while I'd seen *most* of the trail I'd had it on my list to go back at some point and do it propper. And seeing as how my girlfriend Jen had never done it and that as a teacher she has summers off plans started to solidify around a 12 day plan in early August which would mean a reasonable 20 mile a day average. And in the end we did it in 11! With side trips to Half Dome, Whitney, and Mount Muir thrown in for good measure. And far less pain and trauma. But a whole hell of a lot more mosquitos.

Mount Muir aka Mount Whitney's Much Cooler Neighbor

August 15th, 2019
Mount Muir (14,012')

I have been occasionally observed to not be the biggest fan of Mount Whitney. I love almost every aspect of the Sierra Nevada and after over a decade  backpacking and climbing my way across it it does make me a bit sad that the thing people are most familiar with is the highly trampled wag bag strewn mess that is the Mount Whitney Trail.

Don't get me wrong marching yourself up the well groomed trail is a physical challenge due to the altitude. And the views of the High Sierra are always impressive. And yes it is technically the highest point in the continental US. And what do you get at the top?

Big flat area. With a building. And it looks down on civilization (assuming you agree Lone Pine qualifies as civilization).

There are more adventurous routes like the excitingly named yet surprisingly simple Mountaineers Route or the technical east face routes but they all end somewhat anticlimactically on said plateau.

If you love it more power to you I just wish I could take you up something like Seven Gables, Mount Winchell, Spanish Mountain, or any of about 50 others in various spots in the Sierra that would absolutely knock your socks off.

Seven Gables: Cooler Than Mount Whitney
Now, lest I start sounding like some bitter climbing hipster the point of this post is actually to point out the far less visited yet far more interesting Mount Muir located a short distance of the trail just after leaving Trail Crest.

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.

Diving Vancouver Island HMCS Saskatchewan and Clark Rock

July 23rd, 2019

This was at the tail end of our big summer road trip which included a visit to Banff and Jasper in Canada. When we were planning I happened to search on Canadian diving opportunities I found that Jacques Cousteau called Vancouver Island a world class diving destination. So there was nothing else to be done but make a special detour over to see for ourselves!

We'd called Nanaimo Dive Outfitters before the trip and they'd been able to rent us all the gear we need and take us out on their boat the Shepherd despite the fact it was a Tuesday morning and we'd be the only ones on it.

On their recommendation we'd scheduled a wreck dive of the HMCS Saskatchewan followed by a dive at Clark Rock to see the famously grumpy looking wolf eels.

Sayward Forest Canoe Route Vancouver Island Canada

July 20th to 22nd, 2019
Sayward Canoe Route
Day 1: 9.5 miles Gosling to Goose
Day 2: 14.3 miles Goose to Grey
Day 3: 8.4 miles Grey to Gosling
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

The Sayward Canoe Route is a 48 -ish mile loop on Vancouver Island Canada involving 12 lakes connected with 13 portage sections where you have to transport your craft along trails and gravel roads. (This is actually much harder than it sounds!) It’s most commonly done in 3-5 days but we decided to hit it a little more aggressively and started at 4 pm on a Saturday at the southern end of Gosling Lake heading counter clockwise and finished about 2 pm Monday.

We ended up doing this route almost by accident. When planning our big 17 day road trip I'd come across mention of how amazing the cold water diving was off Vancouver Island and so we started to look for complimentary activities to justify the sizable drive out west from Banff. And since we had been itching to get out on another major paddle adventure after the awesome experience out in the San Juan Islands last summer this jumped out immediately when we came across it.

This was one of the major activities during out 17 day road trip across 8 western states and 2 Canadian provinces.  The previous few days had been spent in Banff and Jasper which were spectacular but our initial peakbagging plans had been scaled back due to the constant rain / snow.

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!