Dive report: La Jolla Cove

(This post written by Michael. We took none of the pictures in this post–they all came from other places on the internet. I endeavored to find the best images that capture what we actually saw.)

Sherrie and I dived at La Jolla Cove today with divemaster Michael Timm of Dive California. It was an awesome experience! It was our first real-world dive in the ocean, and it was quite memorable. I think we are hooked on scuba diving.

We met Michael on the grass above the lifeguard station at the Cove. He patiently explained a lot about the dive, and how to put on and wear the wetsuit, gloves, and boots. I believe that he wasn’t super impressed with our training (e.g., he doesn’t think that we should have gotten “open water” certification by diving in the Homestead Crater), but he was patient and helped us a lot.

We wore 7mm wetsuits (very thick) because the water was cold. Except it wasn’t that cold: on our first dive the surface temperature was 70 degrees, and on the second dive, it had warmed up to about 75 degrees. I was worried that I would get cold and have cramps, but neither happened. The wetsuits kept us toasty warm, even though we were in the water for nearly an hour on each dive.

Since we were in salt water with big wetsuits, we had to wear a lot of weight. I was wearing 20 pounds, and Sherrie 18 I think. I’m not sure we needed that much, but it worked out well. Walking around on dry ground with that much weight (probably a total of 60+ pounds) was hard, as was wading into the ocean. The Cove doesn’t have real waves, but it has swell that comes in and out and can really push you around. I felt like a fish out of water trying to put my fins on at the beginning of the first dive!

We descended almost immediately off the beach in about 6-8 feet of water. I think Michael was worried about our buoyancy control, and didn’t want us to be too deep to start. Sherrie had a small issue once or twice where she popped up, but got back down quickly.  Adding ankle weights for the second dive seemed to solve the popping up problem.

The water at the Cove was not only warm, but it was pretty clear too. On the first dive, the visibility was at least 20 feet, if not 30. The underwater world at the Cove is amazing, and having good visibility made things really pop!

Perhaps my favorite thing of the day was that, once we got away from the Cove entrance, we went to an area just northwest of the Cove beach where a colony of sea lions dwell. They formed a “raft” (the collective noun for sea lions in the water) near us and swam all around us, coming with a foot or two on occasion. They were clearly as interested in us as we were in them.

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(This picture comes from the Dive California website)

At one point, one stopped very close to me and just looked me in the eyes. It was breathtaking! They are incredibly agile in the water; they looked like fighter aircraft circling in a dogfight.

Michael took us near big rocks and we looked under the ledges to see scores (no exaggeration) of lobsters just hanging out. We saw them all over the place on the dive; they are cool to look at because their yellow eyes look back at you (the yellow is actually “eye shadow”–the eyes are black). This will give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

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Michael picked up an abalone off a rock and showed us the tender underneath part. On this first dive we also saw a shovel-nosed guitarfish

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and lots of kelp bass (we didn’t see kelp like this on our dives–it’s not deep enough in/near the cove for kelp to grow like this)

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and a sculpin/rockfish or two

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Of course, one reason you go to the Cove is to see Garibaldi–the California state fish. And they are everywhere in the Cove because they like the sea grass that grows on the bottom there. We saw mature adults

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and the babies that are orange and have blue spots

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They took no thought for us and swam very close to us. The Garibaldi are in the Cove because of all the sea grass that grows there–here’s an image that represents what we saw nearly continuously on our dives:

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Another fish we saw that I hadn’t anticipated was the California Sheephead. It’s got interesting colors and was cool to see under the water.

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We were in the water for a little over 50 minutes, then Michael guided us back to shore. He did amazing navigating us around–we had no idea where we were. Once back on land–actually, just before we surfaced–I started feeling seasick. One thing about diving in/around the cove is that it’s not that deep (20-25 feet) and you experience a lot of surge (water going back and forth). The surge upset my stomach, and I didn’t feel that well when we got out of the water. I ate a banana and a tasty cranberry scone that Michael brought for us, and drank a lot of water, and was feeling reasonably well by the time the second dive started.

The second dive was like the first, of course, but different too. The visibility wasn’t quite as good, but still clear enough to see things around us. We didn’t descend immediately off the beach, but rather did a lazy surface swim a couple hundred yards off the beach (this time to the northeast) and descended there in about 15 feet of water.

Michael took us to a “cavern” near the Cove. It wasn’t really a true underwater cave (we aren’t certified for that). Michael called it a cavern because it has air above the surface inside. It was inside a narrow opening in the rocks that leads to a nearly completely covered, very small, rocky beach. Here’s a photo of a diver underwater (not us) in what I am pretty sure is the cavern we went into:

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The water was 6-8 feet deep in the “cave” and we saw some kayakers in there. We said “Hi” as we surfaced there for a minute or two to see the rocks in the cave. Then we descended and went back out into the deeper water.

On the second dive, we saw a baby stingray. It was no bigger than a dinner plate, but something a bit unusual after seeing Garibaldi and kelp bass for the last hour or two.

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I felt pretty well the second dive until the end. As we got shallower and closer to the beach, the swell got more pronounced, and I started feeling quite ill. I managed to drag myself out of the water and over to the concrete steps leading up and out of the cove, and then I wretched all over the ground–twice. Just at that moment, a lady was walking down the stairs. Sherrie said to her, “You might not want to come down right now.” and she exclaimed “Oh my!” and ran back up the stairs. Fortunately, it was high tide, and the water took all my vomit out to sea very quickly. I felt better immediately after I wretched, but was still a bit queasy until after lunch.

Our first diving experience in the ocean was awesome. We saw some very cool stuff, got to practice our buoyancy control. got to experience a thermocline (I failed to mention this–on the first dive, in about 10-15 feet of water, the temperature suddenly dropped from about 70 to about 60 degrees, and stayed that way for about 25 minutes. It was invigorating (but not cold!) and a cool experience, no pun intended. Michael later explained that the water comes out of a 200-300 foot deep canyon several hundred yards north of the Cove and causes the thermoclines), got to go into a cavern, and had a successful, safe dive.

Certified!

Sherrie and I finished our PADI certification this week! We did four dives at the Homestead Crater–two on Wednesday and two on Friday. We practiced a few skills and generally got used to being deep underwater breathing air from a tube. We had a few interesting experiences in the deep dark (nothing dramatic), but all in all, it was fun and we are now Open Water certified! This really means nothing more than that we have a “license to practice.” What I mean by that, is we know very little about diving, and we have a lot to learn.

On Saturday (yesterday), we did a hike in Logan Canyon called the “Crimson Trail” (shout-out to our niece Brianna for suggesting it!) It is a beautiful hike! It was about five miles, and took us a couple of hours, and we climbed about 1300 feet. The hike down (we went counter-clockwise) was very steep (but mercifully not too long–we had memories of the hike down from Box Elder Peak a couple of years ago!). Michael was stung by a wasp, and his arm is quite itchy today. We enjoyed the woods and the shade and the steep cliffs. Here are a few photos:

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Michael on the Crimson Trail.

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We look like we are having fun!

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A view down one of the cliffs. NOTE: Only the phone is peaking over the edge–Michael is laying on his belly near the edge holding the phone.

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A view up the cliffs from below. Probably not the same cliff as the prior picture, but who knows for sure?

Today (Sunday) we are in San Diego. Michael has a meeting tomorrow at MCAS Miramar, and Sherrie is going to just do whatever (something fun!) while Michael is in his meeting. We are going to stay a couple of extra days after the meeting to do stuff in San Diego, including a planned dive at La Jolla Cove on Wednesday with Dive California! We are nervous about the dive, but excited at the same time. Hopefully we have a favorable report next post!

Here are some photos from today at Mission Beach. I have fond memories of my childhood in San Diego in general and La Jolla and Mission Beach in particular. It’s been fun to be here today.

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Belmont Park in the background, and the old (even when I was a kid it was old) roller coaster.

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Beautiful Sherrie and sunset on the beach. The guy in the background caught some kind of ray just after we took this photo.

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Crescent moon through the palm trees at dusk.

Trying to Be Brave

I notice that Michael and I tend to record just our adventures, which makes it seem that most of our days are not filled with such things as cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and going to work.  I am here to report that much of our time is taken up with day to day chores,  and for the record we try to keep up with them, and with our borrowed garden and grasshopper/deer infested yard, we both try to practice every day (I am taking piano lessons, and Michael guitar lessons), we do our best to get some sort of daily exercise, we make sometimes feeble attempts to keep up with the families and individuals we have been assigned to watch over from our ward, we on occasion get to spend time with our children and their families, and if there is time left over, we try to fit in some choose time – and hopefully some adventures.

My choose time has been hampered with a sore neck that started during a pickleball game several months ago.  I tried to play for a couple more weeks, but finally gave up because it hurt too much.  It is hard to play pickleball when you can’t turn your head.  Tennis started soon after that and I have only played a little here and there before I have had to say uncle and take myself off the roster.  I have seen a chiropractor, a doctor, and now a physical therapist is working on me and I surely hope to be back to normal soon!  A sore neck just seems like such a small problem to be giving me so much grief!  I tried tennis again this week, and was again disappointed by my neck that doesn’t want to let me have fun.

For Michael, the getting old problem has been his knee and his continuing stomach troubles.  We were very hopeful that he would feel much better after getting his gall blaldder out, but he has been a little disappointed to feel sort of the same since.  I am trying to convince him that life can still be fun if you walk instead of run, because your knees feel better,  but it is going to take some convincing to get him to slow down.

So those are some things we are trying to be brave about.

I lucked into an adventure on Monday – Michael spent the day at work but I spent it at Tony Grove up in Logan Canyon.  I went with my friend Marie and some of her family.  We started the day with a hike to the top of Naomi Peak.  We had some kids along – Marie’s great neice and nephews, which made the going quite slow.  That was nice because when we finally got everyone to the top, it didn’t feel like we had done all that much work.  I was surprised to find out that we had climbed close to 2000 feet!  It is one of those peaks that feels like the top of the world with views all the way around – it was beautiful!   We had about 15 minutes or more on the way down where we were not exactly sure where one of the kids (about 8 years old) was.  He decided he couldn’t make it to the top, and was going to wait for us but wasn’t there when we came back.  I was amazed at his calm mother who just assumed he had started down the trail.  I, the catastrophisizer, was looking at trails leading other directions and remembering the search helicopters we had seen in the Uintahs last week.  Despite my worries, we eventually passed someone on their way up who reported they had passed little boy in a blue shirt on his way down.  I was very happy to hear that.

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We made it back to the lake and spent the rest of the day lazily paddling around in Marie’s kayaks and reading books.  She and I were successful in taking her little grand daughter out for a ride/nap that lasted 45 minutes or so.  I thought I was paddling pretty lazily, but that might have had something to do with how bad the next morning’s tennis felt on my neck now that I think of it.

For me the real need for bravery has come about with our scuba lessons.  I am a scaredy-cat!  It just doesn’t feel all that natural to put yourself way under the water, especially in the ocean.  I am SO excited to go and see under there, but SO scared!  But our second class this week was not as scary as the first one – in fact I was scared before but not hardly scared at all in the class and did all the crazy stuff with really no problems.  So now I am not that afraid of scuba diving in an 8 foot deep swimming pool.  Very brave, right??  Next, we will go to the crater at Midway and learn to go much deeper.  So I am scared again.  But I think I can do that.  Mostly I am scared when I think about jumping off a boat into the ocean.  I am going with Michael to San Diego in a couple weeks and every time we talk about maybe trying a dive there I get feeling a bit wound up ( Michael will be laughing when he reads that I characterized that as “a bit”).  I am pretty sure that diving will be amazing and when I get used to getting myself equalized and breathing comfortably under water, it will be awesome.

Anyway, we went and saw the new Mission Impossible movie this week, and scuba diving is not in the least dangerous or adventurous.  Kind of boring, really.

 

Two adventures

Sherrie and I had two big adventures this week. We started our PADI open water diver certification classes, and we went on a big hike with Sherrie’s brother Kevin.

When Sherrie was younger, she always dreamed of being a marine biologist. Growing up in Utah made that a far away dream. We’ve had a couple of trips to Hawaii and California where she’s had the opportunity to snorkel, but the idea of learning to scuba dive was something that seemed out of reach, or even out of our conscious thought. On our recent trip to Southern Utah, we learned that our friend Glen, who is an experienced diver, was planning a diving trip to Cozumel in December, and the thought occurred to me that this was our opportunity to learn to scuba and help Sherrie get closer to something that’s been a dream of hers for a long time.

So we took the plunge, so to speak, and started a dive class this week with a local establishment that teaches classes here in Brigham City (yes, Brigham City!). We took our first class this week. Learning to scuba is a bit intimidating. They talk about all the things that can go wrong and teach methods to cope with potential problems. It’s technical, because you have learn how to use the equipment. There’s a lot to keep in your head, and you have to learn a new language–that is, you have to learn to talk underwater with hand signals. And, it’s scary to be under water breathing through a tube! But we’ve started, and we’re looking forward to learning more and becoming more comfortable as we learn. Our “graduation” if you will is to do four “open water” dives, which for most Utahns who learn to dive happens in a hot spring crater in Midway called the Homestead Caldera. We’re looking forward to learning more and becoming more comfortable and less anxious while in the water!

Our other great adventure this week was a loooonnnnnggg hike in the Uintahs with Sherrie’s brother Kevin. We started at Trial Lake and hiked north through notch pass. Our original goal was to hike over the pass and go to Ibantik Lake. We got there early in the afternoon and decided to continue our hike further and go all the way to Meadow Lake. Here’s a screenshot of the track:Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 17.29.08

The hike was probably 7 miles each direction, with about 900 feet of climb up to Notch Pass. Our endpoint of Meadow Lake is about the same altitude as Trial Lake, so it was up, down, up, down for 1800 feet of climbing. It was a long day, and we were tired at the end, but it was awesome!

We had some fun things on the hike: (1) we caught fish at most of the lakes where we stopped (Wall, Lovenia, Ibantik, and Meadow), and (2) we saw tons of wildflowers! We also saw a mountain goat near the summit of the east portion of Notch Mountain. It was walking along the ridgeline up high, and we could easily spot its silhouette. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a goat in the Uintahs!

Wildflowers near Notch Pass:uintah-wildflowers

Panorama looking south toward Wall and Trial Lakes from Notch Pass:IMG_0597

Panorama of Ibantik Lake (One-half of Notch Mountain in the back left; Notch Pass is the dip in mountains near the middle of the picture. This view is looking almost due south):IMG_0649

Sherrie with a fish on the line at Ibantik:IMG_0651

Michael on the trail somewhere:trailMichael with a monster (!) but colorful Brookie at Ibantik:brookie

Yes, it is the middle of the summer, and I am wearing a warm jacket in that last picture. Early in the afternoon at Ibantik, a small rainstorm blew in and cooled us off quite a bit. It warmed up later, but it was a nice respite.

The trail on the north side of Ibantik to Meadow is some of the most beautiful terrain I’ve seen in the Uintahs. It was great to be there, out in nature, enjoying a beautiful day with Sherrie and Kevin.

 

Venetian Falls?

Sherrie and I had a wonderful (too short!) trip to Southern Utah at the end of June.  On Friday, we stopped in Parowan to see our friends Bruce and Kathy and had lunch with them at La Villa’s, which was Michael’s mom Susie’s favorite place. It wasn’t Taco Thursday, but we still had a nice lunch and got caught up with Bruce and Kathy.

That afternoon, we hiked the Ramparts Trail in Cedar Breaks National Monument. We saw lots of wildflowers, which are just coming into full bloom in the high altitude.

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And we also saw some old, big bristlecone pines

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The cones were beautiful. Some turn red and blue depending on whether they are male or female; we didn’t see any blue ones but we did see red ones.

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The view from the rim trail isn’t half bad either:

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It was a smoky day from wildfires in Southern Utah, but it was still fun.

After Cedar Breaks, we drove to a site below Navajo Lake where the lake leaks out of the mountain at Cascade Falls:

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The view at Cascade Falls was a bit anti-climactic. There’s a nice wide trail and a built-up landing, but the falls itself is only about six feet tall, and not super spectacular.

By time this, it was late in the day and Sherrie was not feeling well. In retrospect, we now believe that she got altitude sickness. She had a horrible headache and nausea, but a couple of hours after getting “down” to Cedar City (still around 5800 feet), she was feeling much better. I felt bad for her, as the afternoon and evening weren’t very pleasant. But we still enjoyed the day.

On Saturday morning, we checked off an item on our bucket list: we hiked the Kanarra Creek Trail to Kanarraville Falls. We have been wanting to do this for a few years and finally got our chance. Our friends Tracie and Glen from St. George met us there and hiked with us.

DSC_0097(Admittedly, Sherrie is none too pleased with this candid shot. My only regret is that I didn’t get it in better focus!) That’s Tracie and Glen in the background; I was glad they were with us because they have hiked the trail may times and helped us know what to expect.

What you should expect is to walk through amazing slot canyons in very cold water (ankle deep most of the time at this time of year) for a couple of hours. Interspersed with water up above your knees from time to time.

DSC_0115(Yes, the trail continues behind us as seen in this photo).

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There are a few beautiful falls from time to time:

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And of course the famous ones you have to scramble up, using sketchy means:

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We climbed the first one (the tree trunk with the metal rungs), but not the latter, as it is the end of the line, and there’s not much to see above the last falls. And the woman in the latter photo (with her head peaking out on the left), who is in charge of the Kanarra Creek Trail conservation society (unknown exact name) told us that in the past few weeks, a couple of people have fallen off the logs at that last falls and broken various body parts. It wouldn’t be easy to evacuate someone from there!

Saturday night, we attended a “preview” showing of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. It was a “preview” because the festival had just started, and our show was in essence an advanced public dress rehearsal. It was a fun play. We’d not been to the festival since they opened the new building. In spite of being toward the back and side, we still heard well and enjoyed the play a lot. But the play also instigated some conversation between us about the apparent (blatant?) anti-semitic nature of the story. We saw in Shylock a compelling figure, and one of his monologues in particular is a robust statement of the way society treats many sub cultures today.

 

 

 

Miscellany on Sunday

I (Michael) was in Virginia Beach for one of our client’s planning meetings. We had the opportunity while there to tour the flightline at NAS Oceana with the chief maintenance officer (Readiness Officer) at the base. He was very gracious and gave us a wonderful tour and insight into the maintenance challenges the Navy is facing. Here’s a photo of me with Stephanie and Matt in front of an F/A-18F:

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Last Saturday, we went to Salt Lake and met up with Rachel, Natalie, Zac, Matt, Becky, Esther and Sylvia to celebrate Rachel’s birthday. I took a few photos of various gang members while there:

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Rachel, Natalie and Zac intrigued by something happening on the screen. Speaking of screens, they can be quite captivating:

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And, quite difficult to keep from falling off the wall:

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Whenever I take photos, I try to do something creative in composition or editing, and I came up with this of Esther playing at the ping-pong table:

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Just goes to show you that you can salvage photos that may not have ideal exposure settings if you shoot in RAW format (don’t ask)!

People aren’t always happy when you are taking photos:

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But every now and then, you capture beauty at its best:

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We are looking forward to Jared and Rachel’s visit (plus Silas and Phoebe) this week! They’ll be in Utah for a couple of weeks, for a math conference for Rachel at Snowbird (I think) and for our family vacation. It will be great to have everybody together!

Today is Mother’s Day. Sherrie and I love our mothers a lot and miss them. It was fun today to talk to kids and grandkids and think about the joys of our wonderful family.

A day at the races!

Last Saturday was the big event in Brigham City: the “Soap Dish Derby.” We reported last week on some of the preparations in getting the car ready. We were all quite pleased with the final product: hopefully you’ll agree:

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We had quite a time explaining to the race officials that we wanted to number our car π. They asked, “Do you mean 3.14?” “No, we mean π,” we responded. They eventually got it, but on the schedule on race day, our number was listed as “Pie.” Sigh.

From the get-go, it was obvious that our car was very fast. Larissa won her heat by a few car lengths, and then Ben won his heat in the “slow” lane as well. We got excited! In the end, our people took First Place (Hannah), Third Place (Larissa), and Fourth Place (Ben). Hannah and Larissa won medals, but Ben, who finished fourth by 0.02 seconds, went home with nothing but memories.

We estimate the AVERAGE speed of the car on the track was 22.3 MPH for Hannah’s winning heat. The max speed at the finish was higher–probably around 25 MPH.

Check out these photos:

A couple of days before the event, we took the car to a nearby hill to test it out. Sherrie got to drive it (click for video):

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The look on her face is one of sheer joy–trust me on this!

Here are our drivers:

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(Larrissa, Hannah in the car, and Ben)

And here’s the crew (those who were able to attend on race day):

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For a couple of weeks, I had been able to resist the temptation to get into the car, but after the race, I couldn’t stand it anymore:

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It’s a good thing I didn’t try to drive! The only way I could reach the steering column was by crossing my arms between my legs.

If you care to download a large file, we have a video from the helmet cam for one of Ben’s runs. It’s pretty fun: Ben’s run (helmet cam)

We’re already looking forward to next year!