Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday

Black Friday
Surfer's Point
Ventura, Calif.
Nov. 2011

The malls and big block stores may have been crowded from midnight onward as people pepper-sprayed there way to gorge on rampant consumerism. Thankfully $200 flat screen TVs made by 8 year olds in China kept the wackos off the beach and out of the line up. Always have to find the bright side.

Walk in.


Ventuckey, Calif.
Nov. 2011

Climbed the hill, parked on the bench, watched the sunset sink below the islands. Brilliant.


Day Hike

Day Hike
Reyes Peak>Haddock Peak>Piedra Blanca; 16.5 miles
Sespe Wilderness, Calif.

Nov. 2011

For some places in SoCal fall is well underway. You would never know it by the 80 degree heat, flush palm trees, and the the tiny bikinis here at the beach. Head up into the mountains and it is a different story. Already the mountains have seen record lows, incredible high velocity winds, and even a few snow storms. With winter threatening to close most of the access roads and trail heads to the mountains we ventured out for one last epic hike, one last hurrah.

I was feeling a little under the weather so to speak so we pushed off a few days later then anticipated. This was actually a blessing really. The day we had originally planned on tackling this walk saw temps pushing well into the low 80s int he backcountry, it would have been murder. When we woke up with the sunrise temps were a brutal 30 degrees. The clean fresh mountain air cut through our multiple layers of high-tech modern day active wear. Every bone in my body was screaming to crawl back into my warm sleeping bag and call it a day. Somehow we got dressed and chipped away some ice for coffee.
Finally with some warmth in my belly I woke up Sparky. As his bushy sleep-deprived head popped out of the tent like a whack-a-mole on downers you could easily tell he was thinking the same thoughts as I-- screw this. Only Tessie was excited to start the day. She was jumping around bouncing off of pine trees trying her best to get Sparky and I motivated and on the trail. Eventually we got moving. Thankfully.

Despite our early morning reluctance the walk was a brilliant adventure. The first section up to Haddock peak is an amazing ridge line walk. We were covered in old-growth Pinon Pines the entire way. The footpath was covered in a deep carpet of dried red pine nettles. Huge grotesque sandstone boulders, carved by the wind and rain jutted up along the ridge line. The views were expensive and rewarding. From the ridge you have uninterrupted views almost down towards the beaches of Ventura and the backcountry of Santa Barbara. Despite my upset stomach we made good time early and reached the summit of Haddock in short order. From there the punishment began in earnest.

We climbed a few miles down to meet up with the Gene Marshal- Piedra Blanca Nat'l Recreation Trail. The climb down was choked with sharp brambles, incredibly painful as we shredded forward. Once we hooked up with the Gene Marshal the trail leveled out for a bit. We followed a meandering river down through the valley. Surrounded by the bright yellows, crisp reds, and vibrant oranges of fall it was easy to get lost in blissful thoughts. The serenity ended abruptly when we hit the Rollercoaster. The name is well deserved. The Rollercoaster marks a back-breaking section of trail with incredibly steep ups and downs with no break. Up up up, suck air, bitch, moan, up up up, suck air, down down down, up up up, consider possibility of taking a nap, up up up, suck air, down down down, praise Jesus, up up up, I spoke too soon, up up up, suck air, curse the hills, down down down, and well you get the point. Sparky blazed through with ease. I wasn't so lucky and slowed considerably.

Eventually though I tumbled into Pine Mountain Lodge camp and plopped down next to the stream for a quick break.
Pine Mountain Lodge is a little misleading as there is no lodge, not even a coffee service waiting for us. I was a little perturbed. A latte and maybe a spa treatment or at least a cold beer and a hut tub would have been a nice treat at this point. No such luck. Thankfully getting to this camp was my biggest concern. The difficult climbs and gut busting sections were behind us. From here to the Sespe River it was all down hill. Literally. Seven miles of downhill without a break. It would be grueling in its own right but at least it wasn't the Rollercoaster. I was soaking up the gentle sunshine enjoying the afternoon while Sparky impatiently hopped around and huffed and puffed to get me going again. After an all together too short of a break we set out yet for the home stretch. After about 20 minutes I was over the downhill crap. It was unpleasantly steep and loosely packed sand and gravel. A few times I thought my knees would end up lodged in my throat.

The temps barely made it above 55 all day, cooler in the shade. It was predicted to be in the 20s after sunset. Tired and soaked with 6 hours of sweat this was not a pleasant thought. We were chasing the setting sun and had no interest in getting caught in the cold dark. We motored on. My knees and ankles screamed in protest at the fast pace but we kept on. Eventually we made it to Piedra Blanca and admired a brilliant sunset to the west. The car was only a few short miles away. Reinvigorated by the end of the downhill we cruised over to Lion's Camp and the refuge of the car. We beat the setting sun by about 20 minutes.

16.5 miles of brutal but amazing walking in 8 hours. Not bad for a chubby old man. Not bad for a Thursday.
Can't wait to go again.




Sunday, November 13, 2011

Refill Shoppe

Refill Shoppe
Main St., Ventura
Fall 2011

The newly minted Bickfords hit up the left coast for a lazy weekend. They swung through Ventuckey for an afternoon to check out new sights and revisit old haunts. We stopped by our friends shop for the afternoon. If you haven't been by the Refill Shoppe on Main Street you are missing out. The Refill Shoppe is an eco-conscious store challenging the standards of consumerism by offering quality bath, body, home and cleaning liquids in bulk. By allowing you to refill your own bottle you can do your part to reduce waste in a fun way! You can even add custom mixed scents to your soap, lotion, oils, cleaning supplies, etc. Its a pretty rad idea everyone should check out!

Custom Scents.


Vice Vickford refills his favorite lavender white chocolate message oil.

The Old Gang.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Fall 2011

Dude, pie. Fall is here and in the Toothless Hippy household that means cheesecake-- Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie to be exact. Yah I know, I rock.


Last Slice.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
San Francisco, Calif.
Oct. 2011

3 days, City by the Bay, 6 stages, 100+ bands, 600k spectators. I'm not sure where to even begin.

Mother Hips.


1st Hips show!


After party, (Tessie snuck in).

Monday, October 31, 2011


Night Burn
New Doc Project
Day 3
Ventuckey, Calif.
Summer/ Fall 2011



Sespe Hot Springs Hike
Sespe Wilderness, Calif.
October 2011

"Remember the days when an adventure almost always entailed biting off more then you could chew? Time to get back in the habit. Time for an adventure. Time to stretch tired legs and a tireder soul. Time to make new stories, sing new songs, and spin new yarns. Its time for a long over due walk in the woods. See yah when the whiskey's gone or the legs are happy, whichever comes first."
That was what I was thinking when I first set out. I should have bit my tongue, knocked on wood, etc. etc. etc. If an adventure doesn't start until everything goes wrong, this was one heck of an adventure cause everything went wrong. The map was wrong, the temps reached well over 100 degrees by 9am, I had 7 blisters after the first 2 miles, the poor dog over heated, food spoiled, water dried up, a 35 mile 3 day leisurely walk turned into a 2 day slog thanks to the dog eating a skunk our 2nd night, I could go on and on but I digress.

Im glad we went out, I'm even glader we are back home sitting on the couch with a cold one.


100 in the shade.

<----- Coastal______|______High Desert ----->







Sun Rise.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Project, Day 2

New Doc Project
Day 2
Ventuckey, Calif.
Summer/ Fall 2011

Cool thing #107 about being unemployed continued...

After successfully testing the furnace and smelting process it was time to sand cast the very first prototype. This is to be the fist cast in a very long process of casts in order to complete the final test piece. Because of the intricacy of the final device, the limited tools available, and the quirks of sand casting it is altogether impossible to fashion a model of the final device and use that model to cast the prototype. Instead the model of the prototype must be built up layer by layer by melting and casting aluminum over and over again.

This first cast will start to simply give a basic shape to the device. Once cast it will be drilled and sanded down to a finished shape. Then that shape will be built up in essential areas in order to serve as the model for the next cast. Future casts will build on this shape, each following cast adding a bit more to the original shape. Eventually after a series of upwards of a dozen casts the hope is to have a finished model with which to cast the actual prototype. It is thankless work but you got to start somewhere.


Cast; Pre-Pour.

First Look; Post-Pour.


Saturday, October 8, 2011


Matilija Walk
Ojai, Calif.
September 2011

The Matilija Damn has been a sore source of contention since I first came to California 7 years ago. The damn was built in 1947 for flood control and water storage. Critics claim the damn construction was flawed and unnecessary from the very beginning. The damn destroyed what was once a flourishing steelhead trout area. It blocks the flow of silt downstream, effectively limiting local beaches much needed material to replenish themselves after winter storms. Today the old damn is crumbling under an estimated six million cubic yards of built up silt and sediment deposited along its length. The last decade or so a group of environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, fisherman, and surfers have been working towards its destruction. With costs to tear down the damn estimated at over $140 million smackers and the fact that the damn straddles a fault line, it is unlikely it will be torn down any time soon.

As a not so silent protest, anonymous activists rappelled down the face of the damn in the dark of night to leave a cutting statement. Weeks later still no one has come forward to claim responsibility for the brilliant graffiti. Soon after the mysterious shears appeared the local media was abuzz. The graffiti was featured on the front page of the local newspaper and even got its own write up in the LA Times. With all the commotion, Tess and I decided to head out and take a walk to see what all the fuss was about.






Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Summer 2011

We put up a new hummingbird feeder on the porch. Turns out these buggers aren't shy at all! I can watch these little dudes all day long.


Emerald Back.

36 Hours

36 Hours
Back Garden
Ventuckey, Calif.
Summer 2011

Cool thing #67 about being unemployed; being able to sit in the garden and watch been sprouts grow. For 36 hours. Straight.

Hour 1 .......................................... Hour 36.


New Doc Project
Day 1
Ventuckey, Calif.
Summer/ Fall 2011

Cool thing #107 about being unemployed; having the free time to develop personal projects. Its been way too long since I have been able to develop a long term personal project. In fact while working for the man that was my biggest complaint. I spent so much time chained up in the office I never had the time to work on any of my own ideas. I get laid off and voila, free time galore!

Just a few miles from Patagonia's Old Iron Works headquarters another climbing visionary Jacob Tester is working on a revolutionary new climbing device. Like Chouinard out in the now famous woodshed, Tester spends hours working and reworking aluminum casts to get the perfect lines for his idea. Smoke pours from his backyard when he is working. The air is full of buzzing saws and ringing hammers. The smell of charcoal and burnt metal greats each curious visitor.

I cant say too much without giving it all away though suffice to say if successful this new device could easily change the climbing community for the better. Tester has spent close to 10 years developing his idea to get to this point. Now it is time to actually build the prototype and test out his design theories.

The first step Tester combed through local thrift stores to find the necessary elements to build a back yard furnace. For about $20 he was able to find the necessary parts to piece together the furnace with which to melt aluminum. The first day we met up he was putting the final touches on the furnace. When everything was ready he lit it up and attempted to melt test ingots. These test ingots are made of scrap aluminum. the firing process will burn off much of the impurities and collected dirt of the low grade aluminum. Later these ingots will be re-melted and used to cast the first prototype.

Though I can't show the entire development process until after the prototype has been fully developed, tested, and patented I will try to post a few shots here and there outlining Tester's progress.



First Pour.

Ingot Success.


Camarillo Air Show
Ventura, Calif.
Aug. 2011

Cool thing #13 about being unemployed; relaxing in the back yard on a sunshinny beautiful SoCal day, beer in one hand camera in the other, and watching random fly-bys of vintage airplanes performing down the road at the air show. Who doesn't like air shows? Granted being unemployed I do have to temper my activities. Actually going down and watching from the runway is an extravagance not in the budget. Chillaxing in the back yard though under the palm trees to enjoy the show isn't that bad of an alternative.

Big Blue.

Saints Camp

Saints Preseason Training Camp
Oxnard, Calif.
Aug. 24th, 2011

Cool thing #9 about being unemployed; playing hookey to watch the NFL's 2010 Super Bowl winning New Orleans Saints practice in sunny Oxnard, California. Are you ready for some football? Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston, Jonathan Vilma, Mark Ingram, Tracy Porter-- enough said.





Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Lockwood Valley to Pine Mtn Hike
Gene Marshal Piedra Blanca Nat'l Scenic Trail
Sespe Wilderness, Calif.
Aug. 2011

I have always wanted to do the Gene Marshal Trail in one big non-stop through hike. Judging from the topo map it will be one heck of a journey on foot. You start down in Lockwood Valley and climb a good 3000 feet up the backside of Pine Mountain to the top of Haddock Mountain. Then after catching your breathe you plunge 3000 down into Rose Valley and cross the Sespe River a handful of times. When you are sufficiently bedraggle you climb another 3200 feet to the tip top of Topa Topa Mtn. Hopefully your second wind has just about kicking in right there as you then have to descend 4700 feet down to the Ojai Valley. If everything goes as planned you pop out after 34-ish miles just outside of downtown Ojai.

There is no way I could do that in 24 hours right now. I am simply way too chubby and otherwise inclined to laziness these days. Instead I decided to scout out the approach to Haddock Mountain. I hoped to determine if this first big climb would be doable in a manageable amount of time. A 16.2 mile hike with an elevation gain of over 3000 isn't exactly a picnic. I figured it would serve as an adequate barometer of my performance and readiness to do the whole 30+ mile push. If I made it up then I would at least have a better understanding of the trail and the conditions for the real hike.

I had been warned that the trail may be "a little overgrown".

3 Miles in.

Back to camp just before sunset.