September 19, 2009

Air Tanker Base Tour

This morning I got a chance to tour several aircraft at the US Forest Service's Air Tanker Base in San Bernardino. They invited all of the fire lookout volunteers to come down and meet the pilots and see the equipment.

I went inside two converted submarine-hunters, and a helicopter, plus got to poke my head into a Single Engine Air Tanker (crop duster) and the radio tower.

It was great to meet some of the men and women we've heard on the radio and seen fly over the lookout towers. What an incredible experience. There is a full gallery here.

September 12, 2009

Surf's Up

Andy has wanted to graduate from boogie-boarding to surfing but we lacked instruction and equipment. Then I remembered my buddy Mike is a veteran surfer with several awards. Mike was happy to spend the day teaching Andy how to surf. We were joined by his daughter Chloe.

Andy was a natural, making it upright on his second try. Oceanside is a really nice beach to learn at because there are no rocks or stingrays and the waves break way off shore. That means shallow, warm water.

We could not have asked for a more patient instructor. I've posted a full gallery of our photos here.

September 7, 2009

Mountain Man Rendezvous

We finished up the Labor Day weekend with a couple days at Holcomb Valley with our friends Paul and Linda. Beyond the joys of catching up with some old friends, we got to explore a Mountain Man encampment with over a hundred folks camping with period equipment (albeit aided by some food safety devices a la Coleman Coolers).

Later in the day, we explored the valley on quads, and then on Sunday night, we went for a chilling adventure as we braved the cold mountain air to go on a quad ride under the moonlight. Paul has built a cross country trail marked only by small reflectors shaped like cat eyes, and the adventure is navigating across the valley using only these life size eyes attached to tree trunks every few hundred feet.

On Monday morning, the boys headed over to the rifle range for some testosterone-charged fun before a barbecue lunch and estrogen-laced shopping in Big Bear. What a great weekend. Check out the two-minute highlight reel.

September 6, 2009


I started the Labor Day weekend with a shift up at the Black Mountain Fire Lookout. While I didn't get any smokes, the weather is changing and we could get some thunderstorms. While moisture helps the existing fires, we get lots of new starts when lightning strikes the dry fuel. This thunderhead appeared in less than 15 minutes on Saturday, and within two hours, it covered the mountain.

Early this week, we lost one of our Lookouts to the Station Fire. The Vetter Mountain Lookout was destroyed after standing its post since 1935.

Finally, I wanted to thank the ground troops for their hard work in the fires. The pilots and the tankers get all the attention on the news, but it is these ground fighters that get the job done. Two of these brave firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice. 47-year-old Captain Tedmund "Ted" Hall, and 35-year-old firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones, Los Angeles County firefighters were killed when their vehicle went over the side of the road while fighting the Station Fire.

September 3, 2009

Andy's Favorite Camping Video