Tuesday, February 19, 2019

East Bay Skyline Trail out-and-back FKT

Here's a little story about a fun run I did yesterday.  A year ago I ran my first California FKT, the East Bay Skyline Trail for the first women's time (recently beaten - congrats to Tara!).  I enjoyed the trail immensely, and started thinking then that it would be intriguing to try an out-and-back of the route.  That would eliminate the transportation requirement - getting help or using BART - and it would provide a nice long challenge.

It has been a while since I've run this far (~63 miles) so I wasn't quite committed.  After some research it started to look feasible - there is water available at the turn-around spot in Wildcat park, there's no gate at the Proctor parking lot on the south end, and park curfew is 10 pm to 5 am.  Well then, I don't really have any excuses not to do this!  Plus a time goal of 17 hours to try to (mostly) stay inside the curfew.

I hedged slightly and started a few minutes before 5 am.  Selfie in the dark:

I managed to time this run during another bright moon, same as last year and completely unintentional.  With all the trees in Chabot the moon wasn't nearly as useful as on the Wildcat end, but it was still pretty.

I heard owls in Chabot both in the morning and in the evening, very cool.  Also a brief coyote howl.

Ah, some mud.  Yes, the recent rains have made the Chabot trails pretty messy.  Brandon Trail and especially Grass Valley had plenty of mud patches and puddles and water rivulets.  At least it was slippery and not clumpy.

Temperatures were about freezing, making the creek valley even colder.  I was happy to climb out of there, and also happy to have multiple layers on.

I crossed over to Redwood park and climbed up the West Ridge Trail.  My only map check of the day was to verify the turn onto Orchard to drop down to the French Trail.  It was great having seen this whole trail before (more than once in some places, as I've done a couple 50K's in these parks) but I hadn't always seen the intersections from the south-to-north directions.

I didn't even carry a camera, trying to save a bit of weight - and time!  I used my phone for a couple shots, including a smile for the lovely French Trail singletrack and redwood trees:

There was a bit of mud on the climb out on the French Trail and I figured it would be a good goal to get back to this spot before dark (I made it, barely).

I was testing out a new, larger vest and it seemed to work quite well.  Lots of little pockets, playing around with what went where and how to access the important stuff.  A good experiment and hopefully useful for other long adventures.

In thinking about the climbs in this direction, I suddenly realized what a steep ascent it would be coming up from San Leandro Creek to Sibley Park.  Yep, it's a bit of a haul!  Good place for a quick photo break:

I had a bit of inspiration and stashed a couple items of clothing near the trail that drops north from Sibley Staging Area.  That was a great spot for picking them back up later when it would start getting cooler again.

Ah mud... the trail down to and along Round Top Creek was the worst.  Shoe sucking quagmires.  Mostly jumpable and walk around-able, especially if you were OK with slopping through the shallow stuff and dipping a toe in here and there.  It did seem to dry up slightly over the course of the day and was marginally better on the way back.  Or maybe I cared less then.

Somehow my right shoe collected some pebble/mud detritus, not just once but three times during the day.  The mud was overwhelming my running gaiters.  But only on the right foot.  Odd, but OK, I'll clean it out AGAIN.

Yay for gates that latch with a ring that drops down - still my favorite method (no photo this time though).

The Sea View Trail through Tilden is so lovely, a spectacular place to go hiking and gaze at the views.

Lots of people on the Nimitz bike path today!  Even all the way to the more remote spots above Wildcat.

Feeling fine along the paved path:

Wow, I don't think I've noticed before that there are a couple places where you can see both Mount Tam to the west...

...and Mount Diablo to the east at the same time.  Very cool.

I'd not run down Wildcat in this direction before, so I wasn't quite sure which path I would be taking until I got to each intersection and verified the directions.  Partly confusing was all the climbing, one hill after another.  Where is that saddle where the trail is supposed to drop down?  Finally, there it is.  I had been wondering if I might make it all the way north in 8 hours but now wasn't so sure.

But I did make it - in 7:59:06, that's pretty funny.

Yay for a water spigot, that helped a lot in minimizing water weight for this self-supported effort.

Two ravens kept flying directly overhead, buzzing me and then landing in a tree to watch me walk up the path.  One started strolling alongside, like "hey, what's that in your hand?"  What, this Spiz baggie?  No, not for you!  Who has been feeding the birds?  Cut it out.  Especially ravens, they don't need any encouragement.

The climb back up through Wildcat wasn't fast but not as slow as I thought it might be.  Thank you legs.  They eventually got tired of steeper grades but were fine with the normal ones the whole day.

Back along the Nimitz Trail, over to Tilden.  I finally decided I could turn on the iPod I had been wearing, entertaining myself with a couple podcasts and then William Shatner's book about Leonard Nimoy.

There were many reminders throughout the day that this trail is quite well marked (I'm looking at you, Bay to Ridge Trail).  There are only a couple intersections without a guidepost full of great info, including the East Bay Skyline Trail marker (the white/red/blue one in the middle):

More water at the Steam Trains, a nice run down to Sibley, mud-hopping along the creek, climbing up and remembering to pick up the clothes I had stashed.  I put everything back on, ready for the evening temperature drop.

The French Trail at night was fun, always longer than expected even when you just saw it a few hours ago, but easy to follow.

Back to Chabot, one last park!  I don't think those trails dried out at all.  Lots of muck.  Good thing I wasn't trying to run fast.  Just trying to beat the curfew.

And I did!  I made it back to the parking lot a few minutes before 10.  Quick photo from the front seat of the truck before starting for home:

Total time = 17:05:35 (just over 9 hours back), so my estimate of 17 hours was close.

The FKT page:

What an enjoyable day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Star Trek - last 2 days

Day 5 had an early start, meaning I decided to bail on the Festival of the Moon party the night before, too bad because it sounded later like it was a lot of fun with Kenneth Mitchell painting people's faces.  But it was worth it because we were (more or less) wide awake to enjoy our shore excursion with Robert Picardo!

The Doctor picked a good one, Dunn's River Falls plus a dolphin encounter.  I might should have read up on it more beforehand, if only to realize just how wet we'd get, but the surprise was part of the fun.  Our guide briefed us well on the bus to the place (in addition to telling stories about Jamaica and teaching us a funny song I wish I could remember), so we didn't carry anything to the falls that we didn't want to get soaked.

Dunn's River had another excellent guide plus a videographer who captured the experience for us, and since it was a great location, plus Robert Picardo was along, Kip sprung for buying the CD.  Thanks Kip!

Some of the cute shots taken as we worked our way up the river - Live Long and Prosper:

It sounded and looked like a lot of water, but wasn't much volume, and the rocks weren't slippery in the slightest, so it was just a matter of good foot placement.  We got the hang of it and started trying more challenging routes:

Another woman in our group led the way to the right and we were like, sure, why not!

The Doctor was a good sport about getting doused; I asked him about his T-shirt and he said that being known for Star Trek for so many years was a blessing - and a responsibility (a nicer version of Mr. Monk's "a blessing, and a curse" line).  Super nice guy and fun to hang around with for a few hours.

Only slightly COLD!

Our group shot at the falls:

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Nana's group was waiting their turn, and someone started a bit of trash talking... here's photo evidence that Robert Picardo was at least partly involved:

However... he didn't have anything to do with starting the water splashing war (ahem, that might have been me??  Don't tell The Doctor).  Our videographer was taken by surprise as well, so I could only get a fittingly-blurry image of the encounter - I think the result was a wet draw  :)

Now for the ocean part of the day, the dolphin encounter!  We got a safety briefing and fitted with life jackets, while trying to pay attention at the same time to the dolphins distracting us with tricks (which I didn't get any pictures of).

Hello sweetheart!

I left the camera on dry land while we waded onto a walkway up to our waists and tried not to float away with the waves while our guide introduced us to our dolphin named Toni.  She was great!  We got to pet her, swap kisses, high-five, and watch her swim away wearing my sunglasses (she did bring them back).  Thank you Toni!

Mostly dry and back on the bus, thank you Jermaine for an excellent day on Jamaica!

A shot of the ship's atrium, Star Trek-style:

New onboard this year was Michael Westmore, a legendary makeup artist.  He gave a couple interesting talks.  I especially liked the gathering of Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Casey Biggs (Damar), and Michael Dorn (Worf) where they talked about their experiences in elaborate makeup and what they had to go through every day before/during/after filming.

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

And now - the Main Event final table (Star Trek cruise version)!  Kip was in the atrium plenty early, so when the casino folks said they could sit at whatever seat they wanted, he was like, "I couldn't NOT sit here" and snagged the spot next to where Wil Wheaton would be seated.  We snagged the chairs just behind them.

John took the camera and got some fun photos during the early rounds of play.  Wil had a mic on, so everyone could hear his comments even though we didn't always know what the other players had said or asked.  It didn't matter, he was hilarious, as evidenced by this picture:

A view from higher up in the atrium - including the table that was the PRIZE for this event (what?!):

Kip did great, busting out 2 other players in one hand - including WIL WHEATON, so now he has that accomplishment in his poker cap.  So cool!  Also cool was that Wil hung out and watched the rest of the action, doing commentary on the hands.  Entertaining and informative (we couldn't see the cards for the most part), what a fun hour.

John concentrating on the action:

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

It came down to Kip ("Mr Disco"), the guy in the cap (whose name was John, I believe), and Mr Spock.  Kip busted out in 3rd place, and soon after John won an all-in hand by Mr. Spock and it was over.  The blind structure was very aggressive and there was luck involved, but also some good play, and it was neat to watch.

Wil signed the table so it could be shipped to the winner (again - this is the prize!  Not just the opportunity to play at the same table as Wil Wheaton, which is special in its own right):

The casino employees were thrilled to get photos with Wil too:

That ... was ... awesome!

We did a quick tour of some of the door decorations, regretting that we didn't take time this year to see them all.  People put a lot of work into these.

One snippet:

Redshirt gnome - "Join Starfleet, they said.  It'd be fun, they said":

Brent Spiner put on another wonderful show, such a lovely voice (and I never tire of watching the piano player direct the band with his hair):

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Phil Plait, Thomas Dolby, and Erin Macdonald played "The Science of Lying" game show, which can be summarized with "a British accent is way more believable - and funnier - than an American one, even when the Brit is lying his butt off":

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

One more big event at the end of a full day - Q's costume contest!  We went as observers this year, which worked out great because the atrium was a better venue for seeing everyone.

On the way to the atrium, just a random encounter like you'd normally expect on a cruise ship...

JT is an astronaut!  We happened to be standing in the right place to chat with him briefly beforehand - he said he hoped the microphone would work through the suit, and he wasn't sure how long he would last in there (the air may not have been recirculated like in a real suit):

JT kicking things off:

Then - this happened - I cannot even imagine the effort required - go JT!

Gunslinger Data and unicorn Q:

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)


(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

That's just...creepy!

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

The winner was this incredible costume contraption that I can't even begin to explain, somehow his head is in the cube and he's toting along the horned creature that looks like it's carrying his head, OK I tried to begin to explain it but you can see why I shouldn't have bothered.  He needed help getting up and down the stairs, thankfully they only made him do it one time.  Amazing, dude!

The last day, always sad and yet still thrilled to be there and just wanting to appreciate everything.  Time is flying!

We somehow managed to be in the same place at the same time, me and Kip wearing our DISCO shirts and John available to take a photo.  So yep, it's staged, but we're pretty proud of ourselves anyway.  Because - running plus Star Trek!

Wil Wheaton did an entertaining Q&A with Jordan Hoffman, and I'm going to interrupt myself to mention one of my favorite happenings of the week.  It must have been added late-minute, because I can't find it in the program, and we were probably told not to take pictures there.  So I forgot to include it in the proper spot within a previous post.  But it was awesome!  And worth some words.

Wil read a selection from his new book, "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything", and he confirmed his status as one of my favorite audiobook readers (Ready Player One!), in addition to demonstrating his potential as a good author.  Plus he interjected comments about his thought processes while writing the book, he was funny, he was entertaining, he got a standing ovation, and he pretty much made the whole cruise worthwhile in that one hour.

I loved his Q&A as well, as he spoke personally and honestly on several topics including mental illness.  He made me laugh, he made me cry, thank you for coming on this cruise, Wil!

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

I spent much of the day jumping around trying to see a bit of everything (unfortunately missing the narration of Discovery episode "Despite Yourself" by Mary Chieffo, Jason Isaacs, and Jonathan Frakes; Kip really enjoyed it).

However, once I sat down for "The fans deserve 'Justice'" where Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, and Wil Wheaton did commentary for one of the worst TNG episodes ever, there was no way I was going to leave in the middle of that!  The episode itself was so bad it was funny to start with, then adding comments from the three actors who called "Stop!" to discuss the action just made it all the better.

And then it turned out that two fans just happened to have the same costumes in their arsenal?!  They were invited to jog up on stage afterward for a large amount of appreciative cheering and applause:

I briefly checked out the Search for Spock cryptic clue hunt, finding a couple gnomes throughout the day but not having time to seriously tackle the endeavor:

Walking Soccer with Thomas Dolby as explainer and referee was fun to watch: Players speed-walking while kicking a ball around the court.

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Erin Macdonald did another science briefing, this one drawing more people than they had chairs for (it doesn't take long to become an Erin Fan when you start listening to her talks).

Siobhan, Kip, and I had to beg out early because we had a date with Casey Biggs and his Cocktail Concoctions demonstration.  He was entertaining as a teaching bartender (also worth checking out his Paso Vino Wineman videos).  The cocktails were a bit on the strong, less-fruity side compared to what we normally like, but it was fun to try new things:

He was also interesting to talk to and very happy to take photos with us - thank you Casey!

I caught a glimpse of Gorn's Gong Show, but didn't see what was obviously a highlight - a woman who sang "Don't Stop Believing" in Klingon!  (Thank you Klingon Pop Warrior for posting the performance on YouTube!)

(photo credit Entertainment Cruise Productions)

Oh yeah, there was also a meal in there somewhere, in which there were too many dessert options for each of us to pick just one:

And finally, the cocktail party for guests who had rebooked for 2020.  It was originally scheduled to be earlier in the day in 13 Forward, but it was moved to late evening in the Stardust - probably because SO MANY people had rebooked, and the theater almost didn't even have enough room!

Band 47 rocking the house:

One last surprise!  Jason Isaacs and Mary Chieffo came out to say thank you (no, thank YOU!) and then they performed "Dammit, Janet" from Rocky Horror, with assistance from the audience, of course - too funny!  More Rocky Horror, please!

Wow, wow, wow, that was an incredible week.  Reliving it with the blog has been so much fun.  Come join us next year - with Kate Mulgrew!!!