Monday, November 28, 2011

XTERRA Trail Race: giving thanks on the trails

The organizers of the XTERRA trail race series put on a great event at Topanga State Park on Thanksgiving morning last week.  I didn't see the 10k or 5k courses, but the 15k was a fun mix of technical and beautiful single track and smooth fire roads.  I didn't run very fast, but managed to finish 19th overall.  Most of all I was delighted to run into a fellow faculty member from Thacher at the starting line, Liz Mahoney, who came in second in her age group behind ultra trail runner extraordinaire Michelle Barton.  I was very impressed by the quality of the trails in Topanga State Park and the diversity of terrain.  Not to mention that it is only 30 minutes from Los Angeles!

Thanks XTERRA for a great event.  I look forward to the Boney Mountain race next.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Biodiversity Fieldwork with The Thacher School

I recently completed a field project with 30 students from The Thacher School in Ojai, California that involved sampling a local watershed for macroinvertebrates. We then used the data to calculate dominance of species and a corresponding water quality index rating (the watershed is of "good" quality!). Few things beat making the outdoors our science classroom and spending time doing work that is not only endlessly fascinating, but also serves to strengthen young people's connection with the natural world.

Toeing the Line

I don't think I am a minimalist, per say, but I like to keep things simple. Too much gear seems to get in the way of fun - at least for me.  The pile of shoes in my garage, however, would seem to suggest otherwise! And these are shoes that go through active, if not daily, rotation. For example, there are two pairs of Inov8 shoes for trails and road runs, a couple pairs (two sizes!) of the do-everything 5.10 Guide Tennies, a pair of 5.10 trail running shoes (ran the LA Marathon in these), some aging La Sportiva Boulders left over from guiding in the Tetons and Sierra (still holding together with Seam Grip and speedy-stitcher patches), Scarpa Freneys for climbing ice, 2 pairs of 5.10 Anasazis (once again, 2 sizes) for rock climbing, La Sportiva Makalus for spring tromps on snowfields, a pair of Sidi mountain bike shoes that I bought in Italy while mountain biking the Dolomites, a pair of Sidis for the road, some booties for surfing winter swells, LA Dodgers sandals and a pair of mucking boots that I use to photograph birds in our local estuaries. So much for keeping it simple.

At the same time, the goal of being outside and challenging oneself with the endless opportunities of mountains, streams, crags and the ocean is simple. I don't think much about the gear or about what sport I am going to pursue; the conditions decide that for me. Clear, cold and dry? Rock Climbing. Cold rain in the foothills? Head for the mountains to ski. Northwest swell in January? Surfing. All the other times? Running, biking and photography. So, maybe it is simple, or, at least, it is simple enough. I am reminded of a saying by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho: "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought." In other words, it isn't in the particular sport, it is in the doing. Yup, simple enough.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"A" Campers at the Thacher School

"A" Campers at The Thacher School from Brian Pidduck on Vimeo.

Two years ago I shot and edited the above movie which chronicles a backpacking trip I did with 4 students from the Thacher School. This trip was a culmination of their work in attaining "A" Camper certification within Thacher's Outdoor Program. I didn't include the movie back then, and just came across it today while organizing media files, so I am including it now. I think it captures the sense of beauty and adventure of the Los Padres National Forest as well documenting a great weekend trip. It makes a teacher proud!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

High Country Tour

6 days in the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon Nation Park with students from the Thacher School (in Ojai, California).  This trip had it all: challenging terrain, sublime beauty, tremendous joy, star-speckled nights around the campfire, long days (read: weary!), and camaraderie.  I couldn't have asked for better trail companions than these students.  I am sorry it is over, and can't wait for the next adventure.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Birthday Trail Run

I dearly love the Sierra Nevada and often find myself wishing that I lived in Mammoth Lakes or Bishop. The abundance of superb rock climbing, incredible mountain trails, fantastic skiing and the breath taking play of light on the valleys and peaks are the stuff I dream about. The thing is, however, is that the Los Padres offers a lot of the same things (although without the depth of snowpack are height of peaks!). For my birthday I went for a run on one of my favorite trails in my hometown of Ojai - Gridley Canyon - which accesses the summit of Nordhoff Peak. My twin brother and brother-in-law rode their mountain bikes while I ran. It wasn't an ambitious outing, but it was a great opportunity to be in the mountains with family and feel the flow of running up mountain trails. All told it is 14.6 miles round trip with 3,300 ft of gain. I couldn't have asked for a better day or a better way to spend my birthday. Not to mention that the view from the summit includes the Sespe Wilderness and the Pacific Ocean. Although we are only an hour-and-a-half north of Los Angeles, we are surrounded by wilderness and tremendous potential for outdoor adventures.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Magic Hour

Galen Rowell coined the term "magic hour" and described in great detail the science behind light, color and perception in his monthly articles in Outdoor Photographer. I couldn't agree more with his description of the quality of this light and what it does to any natural setting. In this case, an outdoor bath at my family's beach house with my daughter Adeline is rendered in remarkable gold and orange hues using an iPhone camera.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Twin Peaks Run

Directly behind The Thacher School is the perfect afternoon trail run: the Twin Peaks Trail. There are other trails that cover more ground or are more technical, but the Twin Peaks Trail is just the right length and difficulty for an afternoon adventure. In many ways, a trail such as this offers far more than just exercise. Rather, it is an opportunity to challenge oneself, to connect with nature and to share with others the difficulty of a steep trail and the elation of reaching a summit. I often feel like I live an entire day just in the process of running the Twin Peaks Trail; as if life is condensed into just the most important things: movement, nature, camaraderie, and beauty. Even better when I have the opportunity to share, as today, the run with some students from my school.

Capturing the trail and summit panorama in photographs was difficult due to the fog, but we had a great time nonetheless.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring is here - climb and ski

I spent the weekend rock climbing and skiing near Mammoth Lakes with students from the Thacher School. The conditions were perfect for rock climbing -- cool, crisp, and dry -- yet they were also perfect for spring skiing at the resort and in the backcountry. At times like this I couldn't ask for more. Fantastic!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Sartorialist - a short film by Tyler Manson

I love this short film by Tyler Manson - a talented film maker from a family that I have been very close to for many years.

I am inspired by the reference to "a visual life." There is something to be said for simply getting out there each day and being in one's surroundings. There is always something surprising, revealing or just plain beautiful to experience. I have learned a lot about perspective and design just from reading/viewing The Sartorialist blog as well.

Galen Rowell spoke of a similar sort of inspiration in his descriptions of running in the mountains with a camera. In fact, his stories of just getting into the mountains and recording his feelings on film is one of the things that originally inspired me to take a camera on a climbing or mountaineering trip.

Intel, "The Sartorialist: A Visual Life" from Tyler Manson on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Backcountry Powder - short movie

Thacher Skiing the Backcountry at Mt. Pinos from Brian Pidduck on Vimeo.

I took 2 students from The Thacher School up to Mt. Pinos to ski after a recent storm blew through Southern California (February 25-26th). We found some pretty good powder on the northern aspects. This trip was a day trip from Ojai: departed at 6:20 AM, back by 7:00 PM. If it hadn't been for an accident, and traffic, in Frazier Park, we may have been able to get to the beach to catch a few waves before sunset! Not a bad day for Southern California.