Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple things

Forgive me, I have been busy and slacked off.  Life is like that we all know.  However it is still no excuse.  I've been thinking of my new post for a while now.  I thought it should be about simple things.  Taking the children outside and doing simple things.  Paying attention to mother nature and sharing that with them.  We have to.  We can't afford not to.

Reducing the deficit- healing the broken bond between our young and nature- is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it.    "Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv"

Drive up the hill, put the kids on the roof of the car and watch the sunset and eat a pizza.

Stop, look up at the clouds on a windy stormy day.  Lie down in the grass with them, chill.  No plan, no agenda.  Just drink in what the sky, the trees, the afternoon light.   Talk about it.

Nature only refreshes.  Thirsty and parched from the hectic, power driven, artificial light of our schools and offices.  Surrounded by electric run devices that drain our brains as quickly as they fill them; nature replentishes with silence, beauty, and wonder.
We experience community outside.  Not facebook community, but living, pulsing, in your face community.  Nature gives us the opportunity to learn, to travel, to explore, to touch, feel, see, hear, and know.  Our children think they know by what they read and see on the screen.  Seeing  a frog through someone else's eyes does not give that same sense of thrill as holding it.
Forget the pool, spend a day, an afternoon at the river.

The rivers and lakes hold small miracles that entertain for hours.  They are in the greatest, most effective classroom, the classroom of nature.

Walk in the canyon, wade in the river.

Climb a tree.

Buy binoculars.
Go bird watching.

Camp in your back yard, drive to the top of a mountain, look up and count the stars.

Build a snow lantern

Monday, March 4, 2013

How I started Sailing at the cost of a cheap gym membership

 dad on a Fairwind Club vessel
If you live in LA, Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, or other local towns in Southern California and you want to sail, I have one word for you.......FAIRWIND.
  I know of NO cheaper way to sail then this club, unless perhaps your boat is in your driveway.
But before I talk about Fairwind let me diverge to the original reason I decided to lift my eyes up from the beach and waves, out to the Santa Monica Bay and the Islands therein.

My wife and I visited Las Vegas for the weekend.  We gambled $10, stayed in cheap hotel, did most of our cooking and saw one show.  Total price for one weekend; $500.  All I could think of was, get me the hell out of here.  I'd be walking down the streets, holding my wife with my left hand, my youngest on my shoulders and my 6 yr old in my right hand while street vendors are handing me pictures of topless girls in awkward poses.  We had a buffet at one of the Casinos, it all tasted the same.  After three days I was desperate for nature, to be surrounded by God's handiwork, not man's.

I remember vividly thinking, I could have spent that money and taken my family sailing, creating lasting memories, gaining skills and giving my boys an experience they can take with them thru adulthood;   Never again!

The sights and sounds of Vegas made my spirit sick.  My eyes and brain had ingested the worst pollution possible.  It's a gambler's town, its objective; leave you unsatisfied, wanting more.   I left that town hungrier then ever for the outdoors.  All I could think of was, get me to the ocean, let me wash and be refreshed in spirit and body.   To be surrounded by God's handiwork is satisfying and one quickly realizes how little one needs to have happiness and joy.

 "She looked out at the rolling purple-green waves of the sea once more.  A stirring that she could not name fluttered within her- something deep and strange, to do with the sea and sky." 
                                    The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her Own Making,                                 Catherynne M. Valente

"The sea makes a girl strong you know" 
                                 Catherynne M. Valente
 The ocean is the last great wilderness.  Here in LA, the ocean is our backdoor.  And believe it or not, the South Bay and the surrounding waters of Southern California are alive and well.

 When I sit in a restaurant with a view of the ocean, I have to turn away and sit facing the interior of the restaurant, otherwise I'm too distracted and can't carry a conversation.   She is so beautiful, magnificent, infinitely changing.  One minute breathless and still, a mirror, suddenly a raging dragon with foaming mouth, threatening to swallow up all in it's path.  In her there are treasures beyond counting.  

  There are what, 18 million people in this city, traffic, congestion, ect.  Yet, a mile off of Redondo pier you can be alone, alone with the dolphins, sunfish and whales.  The city skyline as large as your finger, just melting in the distance.  Los Angeles as suggested in the photo below, is sandwiched between two natural resources, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.   The city, like any, can often feel overwhelming, crowded and manic.  Yet within half an hour to an hour's drive one can literally get lost in the wilderness, be it mountain, desert or ocean.

The Channel Islands off of Ventura are the most remote National Park in the USA.  Pretty amazing since they are only an hour's drive from LA, + a short boat ride.

Catalina Island is a boaters paradise, only a day sail from LA.

Emerald Bay, Catalina Island

Brian Fagan, author of "A cruising guide to Central and Southern California" writes, "I have enjoyed more perfect sailing days off the California coast then anywhere else in the world...Quite simply we sail in paradise on earth-"

 If you are a sailor in these parts, this is old news.  If, like most of LA you don't sail but wish you did, or wish you could afford it, well, I think you can.  It does not have to be expensive.

Let's go back therefore to my comment at the beginning of this post.
Fairwind Yacht Club.
This club is amazing.  At $30 a month, you can start sailing and will receive free instruction by ASA instructors and other members.  It is a cooperative.  The club owns the boats.  So unlike a Chartering company,  members do not have to pay when they sail.  It's the membership fee and that's it.   Why are costs so low; because members volunteer their time maintaining the boats and giving instruction.  We pay by giving of our time, but believe me it is worth it.  Members are very generous with their knowledge and skills.  I can't think of a better way to learn.

If you have money, and you are in a hurry to start exploring the islands and coastline, then by all means check out the local Chartering companies.  They have great on-the-watertraining programs.
BluePacific Boating has good prices for courses, $695 will get you 5 days of training, the 101 and the 103.   This may seem expensive, but think about it.  A weekend in Vegas including gas will cost you at least that.

The only downside with the Chartering companies, is when you sail, you have to pay at least $100 a day, not to mention simply being a member you must pay around $30 per month.

When I look at the numbers, Fairwind is amazing.  But if you have money and don't have time, go with the Chartering companies.  

I hope this puts a bug in you, or at least gets you thinking about more possibilities to explore the outdoors with the kids.   After living in La for 12 years, I am continually amazed.  The more I do, the more I realize there is to do.  It is so easy to get settled in our routines, hike the same hikes, watch the same shows, stay home on weekends.  But as we plan, reach out, get outside, see new places, do new things, we quickly find ourselves asking the question, what took us so long, or, why don't we do this more often?  There are already people out there doing what you dream of doing, or hope to do, be it sailing, biking, hiking at night, ect, ect.  Find them, meet them and join them.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

a sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind
live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you  anyway                    
                                                                                 --Webb Chiles 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fishing for trout and Perch

Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia said in an interview that during the hard years of high school the outdoors saved his life.  At the time the outdoors was catching crawdads in the LA river.    I can say the same thing and have often done so.  But for me it wasn't the LA river thankfully.  It was the  Pacific Ocean.   Surfing saved my life, it saved my soul.  Youth is not an easy time and boredom is the friend of too many adolescents.  

In this post I want to talk about fishing.   I have lived in LA since 2001.  It wasn't till 2011 that I started fishing.  I never expected to fish in LA or the surrounding area simply because my fishing experience as a kid was in New Zealand.  That's hard to beat, believe me.  But on a trip into the Sierra I was stunned by the beauty of the lakes and rivers that cut through the high desert valley's and granite walls.   Full of trout, it's no wonder the Eastern Sierra boast world class fishing. 

My four year old started fishing at the age of three.  My seven year old can now fish independently.  Living in LA I thought the only fishing they would be doing will be at those fishing boxes you see at festivals; you know, the ones when an adult gives a kid a pole with a clip on the end of the line, they throw the line over a curtain and someone behind the divider sticks a plastic toy, or GMO, sugared up candy on the line and gives a tug.  

My kids fish!  So do I, and we live in LA.  There is great fishing here.   

These are the tips I've learned so far.

Keep It Simple Stupid.
Remember this acronym.  You don't  need to get all fancy.
For trout fishing and surf casting; use the Carolina Rig.

This is super easy.  You don't need the swivel.  Just an egg or bullet weight that slips on the line, and then something to keep it from slipping towards the hook.  Here is my rig.  I use a plastic bead that you squeeze with pliers, then slide up the line.  Release pliers and it will close on line, locking sinker in place.

I use this when I fish for trout, and I use it when I fish for perch in the surf.
The bait you see in the picture is a Gulp worm for salt water.  They smell really fishy, but work wonders.  You can also simply dig in the sand for sand crabs, put them on your hook and voila.

When trout fishing I use either bait balls or my favorite, small red plastic worms for trout.  For both 
types of fishing, cast out, then slowly reel in to imitate a live worm or fish.

Perch are hungriest during high tides.  That's when they swim into ankle deep water and begin foraging in the sand, looking for sand crabs.  You don't need to cast far.  Fishing for perch is great for kids, because it's like popcorn.  They just keep jumping on your line.  It's easy, the boys don't get bored.  On any beach in Southern California, this makes great sport.  

Trout fishing.  I'm not going to tell you exact spots, that's for you to discover, or come camping with me and I'll take you there.  All I'm going to say is the Eastern Sierra sports amazing trout fishing.  Along the 395, from Lone Pine on up; great fishing.  I've discovered fishing holes in the desert where my kids just haul them in.  Lakes, rivers, pools, amazing.  Apparently the rainbow trout in New Zealand were imported from this area.  Talk to your local fishing store, they'll point you in the right direction and give you the tips on how to rig your rod.    

Hope to see you out there.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

why this blog

Why this blog?  This blog because taking the kids outdoors while living in the city is not an easy thing.  We just can't walk outside and explore nature without being somewhat intentional about it. 

Why this blog?  This blog because I don't want my kids growing up in LA and knowing their only entertainment to be video games, television and movies.
Why this blog?  This blog because there are so many distractions in this vast urban environment, starting with the internet and social networking that it makes it hard to get outside and give our children an outdoor education.

Why this blog?  This blog because I need accountability.  I need a community, even if it's only two friends, who will be expecting me to post about our adventures in the outdoors on a weekly and monthly basis.

Why this blog?  This blog because I don't want to be one of those dads who sees the outdoors as a place where he can get away from the "wife and kids".  Too many marriages have dissolved in bitterness, too many kids have grown up without their dads because the dads were out and gone.  I want to go out, I want to breathe the solitude of nature, but I want to do it with my family.  I'm taking them with me.  Therefore when my boys are adults, they will associate the outdoors with their daddy.  They will say this is where we connected as a family, this is where we played together, dreamed together, experienced adventures together.  And they will know what they are doing, they will have the skills and wisdom to sail across a sea, climb a mountain, camp in the desert, surf a wave, fly in the sky.
Why this blog?  This blog because perhaps it can be a source of ideas and inspiration for both myself and others; a place where we can help encourage each other to take our kids camping, to take our kids into the mountains, the high deserts, the endless miles of coastline, the islands, the forests.  

Why this blog?  "Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia.  Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia the air will thicken.   Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.......(C.S. Lewis: The Silver Chair).

 Every time I go into the outdoors, I feel still, I feel at peace, I feel closer to God and I hear His voice because I'm looking at His handiwork.  When one looks at a painting, one sees and hears the painter's voice.  It is the same in the great outdoors and I want my kids to know how to live and engage with nature because in doing so they are coming face to face with the Creator.

Join me therefore as we leave the shiny lights of the city and take to the road.  On this journey we will encourage each other, inspire each other, and give each other tips, tricks, ideas, and answers as to how to raise Urban kids with an Outdoor education.