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!