Saturday, July 31, 2010

San Joaquin Ridge Trail

A few days ago I drove the San Joaquin Ridge 4WD trail. It's a terrific trail. Not too hard, not too easy. And the views are spectacular! The only negative is the length. It's only 2.5 miles long. This is now one of my favorite trails.

The trail is easier than Mengel Pass and Shuteye Peak but the views are equally stunning. I'd rate the difficulty at 2 for most of it, with sections of 3. I hit bottom once and so had to raise my suspension. The rover was gasping for air while climbing up the last steep hill, where the elevation is over 10,000 feet. I almost had to put it in low range. Here are a few pics of the trail, starting with the beginning below tree-line.

There's a tiny place at the end to make a 12-point turn-around.

The road is shared with hikers and mountain bikes. I encountered 2 groups of hikers and they kindly got off the road so I could pass (cars are not supposed to drive off the trail).

I stopped several times to take photos of the Minarets to the west and Mammoth Mountain to the south. The ground was even covered with brightly colored flowers.

From the end you're treated to an amazing 360 degree view. I found myself staring westward at the Ritter Range and the Minarets. The Long Valley Caldera is seen to the east.

To the north is Deadman Pass. Somewhere down there is the famous Lost Cement Mine, who's tale is too colorful and enticing to do it justice here. Some think it's cursed, since most who've found it, died shortly afterward. If you're interested, google it or read this short PDF.

If you're in the Mammoth area and have at least 8.5 inches of ground clearance, then I strongly recommend this trail. You won't regret the diversion from your planned activities. If you go, bring some snacks and plan on sitting for a bit and enjoying the view.

This trail is included in "Sierra Nevada Byways" by Tony Huegel (#28: San Joaquin Ridge) and in "Guide to Northern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails" by Charles Wells (#36: Deadman Pass).

I found a couple sites that mention the trail also: here, and here.

Finding the start of the trail was a little puzzling. The sources I had were not clear. I ended up parking for a couple minutes in a dirt turnout area (where mountain bikers leave their cars) and inspecting 3 possible branches from there. That turnout/parking area is just to the right after you turn right prior to encountering the entrance booth for the road to the Devil's Postpile area (1 mile west of the ski area on 203). (Translation: drive to the turn off 203 signed for "Minaret Vista" - immediately after you turn off 203, turn into the dirt turnout area on the right side of that road to the vista) I didn't have to park actually. Only 1 of the branches was not blocked to cars. Although the only sign it had was indicating mountain bikes, the tire tracks made it clear that cars could take it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Science Blogs

I'm kinda a science-junkie, so I scan several science-related sites and blogs every week. I've come across a few that I like and I thought I'd share them here. These are probably enjoyable by a wider audience than some of the more hardcore ones I've got bookmarked.


80beats is a science blog by Discover Magazine. I like its posts because they usually have snipets from source material/sites along with links right to those sources. Let's see the WSJ or LA Times do that.


Observations is a science/nature blog by Scientific American. They cover a wide variety of subjects, and hide any of their own bias pretty well.

Both of these blogs are also relatively kind about not including too much annoying animated ads. Although I've started using ClickToFlash to block flash content in Safari. I recommend that also. It's basically a Safari version of FlashBlock for Firefox.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jerry Weintraub

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Jerry Weintraub's autobiographical "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man." It's read by the author so that makes it more entertaining. I'd heard about the book when Weintraub appeared as a guest on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me radio show.

The book is full of stories from his time managing or promoting many very famous celebrities, including: Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Armand Hammer, Bobby Fischer, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, and more.

Weintraub went on to produce TV and movies, including the Ocean's 11 franchise (he even appears in those movies) and the Karate Kid franchise. He has been close friends with several US Presidents, including George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

I thought the book was very interesting and entertaining. I probably won't listen to it again and I plan to give it to a friend. On the negative side, I think it showcases the unbridled arrogance in Weintraub's personality. ABC has an excerpt posted here.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Change Your Brain, Change Your Body

Sometimes I'm a total sucker for things I see advertised. After seeing Dr. Daniel Amen on PBS recently, I went out and read his new book: Change Your Brain, Change Your Body. It was actually interesting. It's chock full of all sorts of advice about diet and supplements that can either explain your sorry state, or improve your life. For me, it might be a bit of both. Maybe it's all hogwash, and maybe it's not. I'm willing to try some new supplements and judge for myself if it helps. Even if I fall prey to the placebo effect, that's still fine with me.

Here's Dr. Amen's website for the book. It's got tips and such for diet, exercise, and more. There's also an online questionaire for determining your "brain type" and see how you might self-medicate with over-the-counter goodies. It looks like he's really milking his recent notoriety and is selling his own brand of supplements.