Angel Island

Angel Island is in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Last Saturday, with a pretty big group of people (most of whom I had never met,) I took the ferry from Tiburon to go hiking there. It was a really spectacular day for the bay, which is frequently foggy and cold. We hiked around and up to the highest peak (~1500ft). All along the hike, you’re treated with views of the north and east bay (Mount Tamalpais, Oakland/Berkely Hills, even Mount Diablo) and the city (San Francisco.) Click on the link to see some pictures from the hike.

Leaving Tiburon on the ferry
Aproaching Angel Island

View of the dock
a wild iris

view of Mt. Tamalpais (but we just say “Mount Tam”)
at the top of Mt. Livermore, we stop for lunch and take in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge

more GG Bridge.

It was a little hazy, which makes the pictures not turn out so great,
but it was really a spectacular day!

these flowers were everywhere

typical California coastline (on a very small scale!)
this rock crusher was used to produce gravel for the roads on the island

you can ride your bike all the way around the island on these roads

one of many nice views

just thought this looked cool

after the hike we relaxed with beers in this outdoor seating area while we waited for the ferry

leaving Angel Island

seagull in Tiburon

We had dinner at Guayamas. The food was pretty good, but the company was better.

More hiking?

Yep! I think I’ll be doing lots of hiking this summer. Yesterday, I hiked to the top of Mt. St. Helena (pronounced hell-EEN-uh for those not from around here.) I was worried about this hike because I thought I would be too much of a wuss to handle it, but as it’s the day after and I’m still walking around (and most importantly, my knees didn’t hurt yesterday!) I must be tougher than I thought. It was 10 miles, about 2100′ elevation gain.

Hey, it’s Napa Valley!

Views like this all the way up.
Yep, like this.
View from the top. Only a single cloud in the sky.

I was diggin the Manzanita. It’s red.
Like good Californians, we went wine tasting after the hike.
I didn’t like the wine, but I liked this sign.


So that I don’t always have to hike alone and so I can make some friends who are not ten years younger than me, I decided to join this Meetup group. My first adventure with the group was a 4-day trip to Eugene, Oregon to do some hiking. We stayed at a hostel and did some very scenic local hikes. It was kinda chilly and rained a little, but it was so much fun – and beautiful! Fortunately, the people I carpooled up there with were really nice and funny (as was everyone else!) and very knowledgeable about the terrain we were driving though. Hopefully, I’ve made some new friends.

The first hike we went on was to Sweet Creek Falls.
This was a short easy hike along a river that had fall after fall after fall, culminating in this one.

There was snow on the ground and it was chilly, but not too bad, and it rained for most of the hike, but it was light. It was very lush and green.

Then we drove to the coast to see the Heceta Head Lighthouse. It was really beautiful. Not so much the lighthouse, which was cute, but the coast was pretty spectacular.

Chris, the Meetup organizer, had contacted the Eugene Hiking Meetup group organizer, Mark, so we could all hike together. Only Mark came out to hike with us, but he was awesome. He drove us around in this old ambulance that had been converted into a 20-passenger van. And he brought his dog Bonkers, on whom I must admit I have a huge crush!

Sleepy Bonkers
The Vanbulance

The final hike of the day was at Enchanted Valley. It was kinda weird and boggy.

Some Enchantment

The next day, we split up and my group went to the Willamette National Forest. The trail was muddy and at times a little steep, so I felt like I was finally getting a little exercise.

At one point, the boys started hauling ass ahead of us, but they were kind enough to leave a giant arrow on the ground at a fork for us. I thought it was pretty cool.

I split off from the rest of the group so that I could try out my new little pen fishing rod. It took some practice, getting it to cast and reel in smoothly. I didn’t get a bite, but I found a big elk antler down by the water, so I got a nice trophy!

Fishin’ Hole

On the way home, we stopped at Table Mountain for a little walk through the wildflowers. It was a really neat place that I hope to come back and explore sometime.

My carpool friends:



Zim Zim Falls

The weather has been really nice here, and I’m inspired to get outside more frequently. Also, I think I’m kinda bored. School/work keeps me really busy, and I really enjoy it, but I definitely don’t want my life to be so one-dimensional. So a couple of weekends ago, I decided to go on a hike somewhere pretty close by. Somehow, I came across this hike to Zim Zim Falls and it seemed perfect because it was only about an hour away, it was an easy 4ish-mile hike, and the drive there was scenic. Oh, and a waterfall!

Here are some pictures from the drive there.

Putah Creek

Lake Berryessa

Putah Creek

This creek just flows right over the road.

To get to Zim Zim Falls, I had to cross Zim Zim Creek several times. My feet got wet, but I was prepared for that.

There are signs of hunters everywhere. I ran into a guy who told me that in a month, when turkey season opens, you’ll be hiking along and run into a guy with a gun slung over his shoulder. I’d be worried about getting shot, so I’m glad I made it up there when I did.

I made a wrong turn and ended up hiking straight up the side of a hill. In the picture below, you can see the creek running through a bald spot in the valley below (that’s where I was supposed to stay) and at the bottom of the picture, you can see the steep trail I was climbing. I climbed straight up for about an hour. I kept thinking that the falls must be just ahead. I thought that I could hear the water, but it was just the wind in the trees. (I know, for someone so smart…)

See how far away the valley floor is now (below)? Now I’m hiking along the top of this ridge.

There were lots of pretty flowers, and at this point, my mood was good enough that I stopped to take some pictures of them.

Then, I saw this:

Can you spot the waterfall? There’s a little white smudge against a dark circular patch of rock. Now, I was bummed. It’s way over on the other side of the valley. Nevertheless, I hiked all the way over there because I was going to eat my lunch at the base of the falls, dammit! I ate lunch at around 6pm.
I’ve gotta figure out how to turn these pictures around. Anyway, here we are at the base of the falls.
I’ve got to work on my self-portraiture skills, too.


I recently learned about this new NIH initiative to crack down on “brain-doping” in academic researchers. The idea is that if scientists use brain-enhancing (I prefer mental-capacity-enhancing, or mental-creativity-enhancing, or MCE) drugs, it is analogous to athletes using physical performance-enhancing drugs like steroids. So, in the competition for funding, the MCE drug users would be at an unfair advantage.

While I honestly do not know anyone who takes MCE drugs, I must admit that if I did, I would be asking for the hook-up! I believe that the NIH should actually be obligated to prioritize funding for scientists who are willing to risk the (mild!) side effects of MCE drugs in order to produce top-notch scientific results. If I were running a big funding agency, I might well REQUIRE all of the PIs/post-docs/grad students whose salaries were being paid with my grant money to sign a contract outlining their commitment to taking MCE drugs on a regular basis for the duration of the grant. Although some evidence suggests that MCE drugs cause a drastic reduction in the length of a young academician’s career, post-docs and grad students are cheap labor and easily replaced. Really, if you can get one year of high productivity out of a grad student or post-doc via the use of MCE drugs, then you are going to be way ahead of the curve.

I think that the true tragedy of this emerging anti-MCE drug policy is that the researchers who are both law-abiding AND the most enthusiastic about and committed to the advancement of science will be forced to rely solely on the archaic (but legal) substances that we currently associate with increased mental performance: primarily coffee, but also beer and/or wine. The diuretic effects of both caffeine and alcohol serve to frequently distract many young scientists from the task at hand, arguing further for the benefit of using “next-generation” brain-doping substances.

What’s the downside, really? We quickly come up with a cure for cancer? Someone figures out how to grow corn on Mars to power our cars? I say, give me the drugs!