Holy Smokes, It’s Holy Jim

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After yesterday’s disappointment I was ready for some real California wilderness today. My cousin Melissa and her son (also my cousin) Max picked me up around 10:00. We headed south toward Cleveland National Forest and the Holy Jim Trail.

I know. Weird name. There is a story.

“Jim Smith was a talker—no ordinary talker. . . a man given to blasphemous eloquence. When he started cussing. . . he could peel paint off a stove pipe.” – GORP.com

We entered the forest in Rancho Santa Margarita, then drove a few miles down a dirt road to the trailhead. It was rutted with rocks poking out in spots. All I could think of was settlers heading west a few hundred years ago riding roads like this for thousands of miles.

I’m not yet a westerner. I don’t yet understand all the nuances. There are homes in the national forest. Some are substantial. Most have rock foundations. Some have propane tanks and outhouses with solar cells. No power lines. No phone lines. No cable TV.

One cabin had a small Yagi antenna pointing toward civilization. Cell service for them, not me!

After 28 years in Connecticut it’s time to get used to a new look. Look down in Connecticut you mainly see green. Look down on the Holy Jim Trail it’s mostly dirt.

Though we’re in the midst of a significant drought the trees were mainly green, but the mix was weird. Trees and cactus comingling.

The trail runs through Trabuco Canyon. We were bounded on both sides by steep mountains.

The goal was Holy Jim Falls, but we never got there. There were time restraints, but more than anything I really felt out of shape. This walk was a wake-up call for me.

We left the trail and headed home, with a detour. We stopped at Cook’s Corner, a biker bar with its own Wikipedia entry!

The place was filled with motorcycles and bikers. Some looked menacing in leather. Their swagger was trumped by the vibe at Cook’s. Nothing bad was happening here.

As we headed to the parking lot I spotted three deer on a nearby hill. Our first wildlife of the day… and they were behind a restaurant.

The Disappointing Drive

We live at the northeastern edge of Irvine. Beyond us is wilderness. Some of it, supposedly, is spectacular.

For instance, the sinks in nearby Limestone Regional Wilderness Park has been called a “Miniature Grand Canyon of Orange County.” Probably a little bit of hyperbole, but worth seeing, right?

Limestone Canyon Regional Park   Google MapsI drove Portola Parkway to its end and turned onto Limestone Canyon Road. There were locked gates in either direction. Frustrating. Google Maps doesn’t show this as limited access.

My next attempt was on Jeffrey Road. Once again it looks fine on the map. The reality was different.

unfriendly-signThough the gates were open there were signs everywhere reminding me not to be there!

One open gate featured at least ten locks, each sharing a chain link with the next. It’s not great security, but it allows any of ten groups to control access to the road without sharing a key. Pretty clever.

gate-with-many-locksI called my Cousin Melissa, an Irvine native. She promises to take me out early Sunday for a little introduction to the wilderness.

Today I’m just disappointed.

In A Pissing Match Everyone Gets Wet


The Weather Channel and DirecTV have gone past the end of their carriage agreement with no new contract in sight. Let the PR games begin!

It’s only been the last few years that cable companies, satellite providers, stations and networks began airing their disputes in public, asking for your help to make sure channels don’t disappear. That makes me uncomfortable.

From my vantage, this dispute seems the most public and potentially ugliest so far. The Weather Channel is both DirecTV’s supplier and competitor–mostly owned by NBC/Universal, which itself is owned by Comcast! Comcast has to be careful they’re not teaching their suppliers how to beat them at their own game!

The Weather Channel of 2014 isn’t the same service that John Coleman began in 1982. Back then it was 100% weather presented without much sizzle. Today’s TWC is much more slickly packaged with lots of non-weather programming. DirecTV says, “more than 40 percent of The Weather Channel’s programming is dedicated to reality television shows.”

Beyond that, its iconic “Local on-the-8s” forecast is no longer uniformly delivered. In Connecticut, Comcast didn’t provide the local forecast on TWC’s HD channel. The forecast on TWC’s standard def channel was for the shoreline and often inapplicable where I lived a few hundred feet up on Mount Carmel. Here in Irvine, AT&T Uverse doesn’t provide it at all.

It’s also a problem for DirecTV subscribers.

Since we are a national service provider, we’re unable to offer local updates through The Weather Channel the way that local-based companies can.

The Weather Channel is facing a financial reality some all news channels are also facing. People watch when the weather’s compelling and don’t when it isn’t. That’s part of the reason for the move into (easily preempted) unscripted non-fiction.

weathernationThe wild card in all this is DirecTV’s ace in-the-hole, WeatherNation. A few weeks ago DirecTV began carrying WeatherNation right next to The Weather Channel. Begun by Paul Douglas, a Minneapolis area meteorologist for years and innovator in computer graphics, WN reminds me of the ‘old’ Weather Channel. It’s all weather with clean graphics, nothing fancy. It looks like a lean operation with the on-camera meteorologists acting as their own director, switching the show live on-air.

The Weather Channel is pushing back on-air and on-line. Jim Cantore, their most recognizable meteorologist/personality, has become the company spokesman.

But now DIRECTV is threatening to remove this critical life-saving community resource from 20 million households.

The problem is TWC probably isn’t where you should go when weather is critical. You’re nearly always better served going to a source which specifically concentrates on your specific area.

In the end this dispute isn’t about competition or technology or even “life-saving.” This is about money and power. When an agreement is reached (it will be) both DirecTV and The Weather Channel will shut up and play on.

Today it’s a pissing match and unfortunately, in a pissing match everyone gets wet!

Sunsets: California Photography’s Low Hanging Fruit

Shooting sunset photography here is like shooting fish in a barrel! Four out of five days the sky is ablaze with color. With little horizon blockage the results are easily obtained and still spectacular.

My new spot is up Portola Parkway toward the toll road. There’s wilderness on both sides and a nearly uninterrupted path to the setting Sun. Thank you highway planners for leaving a place for me to pull over that’s just right.

Oh — and sunset is in the afternoon. Much easier than the East Coast’s sunrise!

This picture shows office buildings near John Wayne Airport (approximately 8 miles) and the distant mountains on Santa Catalina Island (around 46 miles distant).

Sunset with Santa Catalina in the background

All the pictures are clickable for larger version.

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