Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Labor Day 2022 Activities

  • Awesome time at the zoo
  • Wine Pairs dinner at North Park
  • OC Dinner with friends and family

San Diego Zoo


Sunday, August 28, 2022

Weekend Activities

  • Walks with the dog
  • Failed attempt to get an old rotary phone to work on our VOIP
  • New rifle day at PWG


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Tour Du Mont Blanc

When Jyoti and I were planning vacations, she wanted to go to Europe but I wanted a more outdoorsy vacation.  We found a good compromise with the Tour du Mont Blanc. The TMB is a 110 mile trek around the Mount Blanc massif, going through France, Italy and Switzerland.  Although camping is possible along the route, most hikers stay in refuges or hotels.  We chose the luxury package which had us in nice hotels each night.  To help plan the trip, we hooked up with Pygmy Elephant.  They arranged all the accommodations and provided great documentation and guidance.

Day 0 - This was a travel day with a long pair of flights from SAN to GVA.

 Day 1 - A shuttle took us from the airport to our hotel in Chamonix, Hotel Morgane.  Since we got their in the morning, we stowed our luggage at the hotel and walked around town.  After lunch we took the cable car to Plan Praz and Le Brevant for fabulous views.  Europeans love their cable cars.  I was very jet-lagged so went to bed early.

Le Brevant

Day 2 - Next day started with the cable car to L'Auilliere du Midi.  This incredible structure was perched atop a stone needle.  The weather was perfect and we had great views of the alps.  We then hiked to Mer de Glace and had lunch at Montenvers hotel.  We then took the cable car down to the glacier and hike to the grotto built into the side of the glacier.  We then took the train back down to town.

Mont Blanc from Aiguille du Midi

Jo at Aiguille du Midi

Inside the Mer de Glace grotto

Day 3 - I had a hard time sleeping with a terrible headache at night, maybe it was the altitude.  We spent the day walking around town and to the Lacs.  There were some rock climbing areas and even saw a group of children climbing.  Dinner was a great pizza and then we packed up for our first day hiking.

Day 4 - First day on the trail!  We had the pleasure of having a wonderful guide with us for the day.  To make things a bit easier, we started at Brevant and skipped the hike uphill from Planpraz.  So we headed downhill along the edge of the rocks and after a bit stopped at Bellachet refuge for coffee and torts.  From there it was more steep downhill.  Next stop was at Parc de Merlet, a nice, small animal park with local wildlife.  It also has a great restaurant.  After lunch and seeing the animals, it was more downhill into Les Houches.  At a stop at Christ Roi, Claire gave us a taste of genepy, a local liquor made of mountain herbs.  Our room at Hotel Du Bois was a bit dated but large and let us spread our stuff out.  We got fondue at dinner and had the best tiramisu.  We also met a few other pairs that were on similar itineraries as us.

Ibex at Parc du Merlet

Day 5 - We started off the day by walking through Les Houches, then headed up the trail through some houses and then some ski area.  After about an hour, the rain started.  We put on rain gear and didn't take it off until we got to the hotel.  The rain lasted all day, sometimes hard, but the hike was still nice.  However, the refuge was closed, probably due to rain and the little towns did not have any cafes.  So by the time we got to our hotel in Les Contamines, La Chemenaz, we were hungry.  The hotel was very nice and dinner was great.  This was our first time that he had to leave our hiking shoes in the ski rooms.  I didn't know this was a thing so didn't have town shoes.  But they always had crocs or slippers to put on.

Hiking in the rain

Day 6 - We took a bus to skip the road walk to the trailhead.  The hike started with a steady climb for several miles.  We started in pine forest, passed a Roman bridge over a gorge, then stopped at Refuge de le Balme for a sandwich and coffee.  The next section was along meadows as the grade steepened.  Along the way we encountered our first pastous, massive sheep dogs.  The last stretch was very steep up to Col de Bonhomme.  From there was another tough stretch to Refuge de la Croix de Bonhomme.  We stopped for drinks but there lots of bugs there.  After refreshments, it was a long steep downhill into Les Chapieux. We had the only private room at Auberge de la Nova and it was very cozy.  Dinner was a communal affair and we talked with the other Pygmy Elephants travelers. This was probably our hardest hiking day.

Col du Bonhomme

Day 7 - After heading south for a few days, we had reached the southernmost point of the TMB.  So today we started a long ascent heading north.  We stopped at Refuge Les Mottets for coffee.  After that, it was a touch climb to Col de la Seigne where we crossed into Italy.  From the pass, it was a long, sunny downhill in a grassy valley.  We stopped at Refuge Elisabetta for late lunch.  Again, we had a rare private room at Cabane du Combal.  The cabane was along the edge of a massive moraine for a glacier just on the other side.  Due to the lack of roads, we did not have our luggage this stop so we carried extra clothes.

Down the valley into Italy

Cabine du Combal

Col de Seigne

Day 8 - The day started with a brisk climb (there is a pattern to hiking the TMB).  Along the way, we stopped by a shepherd shack.  The shepherd was there and showed us an ibex along the ridge with his binoculars.  After hitting the high point, we started a long decline to Refuge Maison Vieille.  From there, we skipped the knee melting hike down the hill and took ski lifts down into Courmayeur.  We walked through town to our hotel, Grand Hotel Courmayeur, which was very nice.  For dinner, we went to a wine bar for wine and charcuterie.

Day 9 - No hiking today!  We took the gondola up to Helbrotten Point to see the massif from the Italian side.  It was awesome.  One the way down, we stopped at the botanical garden.  Dinner was pizza in town.

Helbronner Point

Day 10 - Back on trail today and guess what, we started off with a big ascent to Refuge Bertone.  After coffee, there was a long traverse to Refuge Bonatti, probably the most famous refuge on the trail.  We headed down into the valley to our hotel, Hotel Lavachey.  Here we had separate rooms and had to share bathrooms.  But the restaurant was great and we discovered a great new drink, the Aperol spritz.

Refugio Bonatti

Day 11 - To skip somewhat superfluous up and down, we took a bus up the valley to Chateau Val Ferret.  From this we started the long climb to Grand Col Ferret. There were some cows very close to the trail near the start.  As we hiked, the cow herded start moving them up and it seemed like a mini stampede.  At the col, we passed into Switzerland.  On the way down we stopped a Le Peule for refreshments.  After a few more miles downhill, we got to La Fouly and our hotel, Hotel Edelweiss.  

Grand Col de Ferret

Val Ferret

Day 12 - This was our easiest day and it started out by going downhill for a change. We headed down the lush Val Ferret along a river and through some charming Swiss villages.  By chance, we discovered the world's nicest WC in Praz de Fort next to a small park.  The day ended with a butt kicker climb up the hill.  However, the hike was made better by some sculptures placed by the local mushroom society along the way.  Our room at Hotel Splendide was very nice and big. We had a chance to rinse out some clothes but shortly after putting them on the balcony to dry, it started raining.  We took a chance to check out the lake and it was quite crowded with paddle boarders and boats.  There was also an artillery fort museum that was unfortunately closed; it would have been nice to see more of the famous Swiss defense system.

Crepes along the trail

Lake Champex

Storm from our hotel room

Day 13 - The first half of today's hike was a nice stroll through lush forest, collecting berries.  The next part was another slog uphill to Bovine.  We were anticipating blueberry pie at Bovine but they had to reserve them for some other event and we were denied.  It was nice nonetheless.  After the long downhill, we checked into Hotel La Grande Ourse in Trient.  Our attic room looked like an Ikea showroom but it didn't have any windows.

Lots of berries on the trail

Day 14 - Yet another long uphill to Col de Balme and the crossing back into France.  At the col, we had a long lunch at Refuge de Col de Balme.  We were hoping to take ski lifts down into town but they were under construction so we had to head downhill into La Tour.  From there, we took a bus to Argentiere and Hotel Les Grandes Mottets.  This was our favorite hotel: great spa, pool and views.

Col de Balme looking into France

A rare lonely spot on the trail

Day 15 - This would have been the last day of the official TMB but we decided to skip it and take a bus back to Bosson to hike up to the glacier.  The hike was kind of boring the views from the top at the chalets were great.  We also did the audio/video tour of the two Air India plane crashes on Mont Blanc.  Once back at Hotel Morgane in Chamonix, we got an upgraded room so had plenty of space to repack all our bags.

Bosson Glacier


Day 16 - Long flight home.  Only thing to note was that we got upgraded to first class on the leg from Geneva to Dulles.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Idyllwild Getaway

For part of the long July 4th weekend, we decided to head up to Idyllwild for some hiking.  The drive up as very nice and there was little traffic.  We stopped at a coffee cart in Anza and then headed to the ranger station to pick up permits since we would be heading into the wilderness area.

The first hike started at Humber Park.  We took the Devil's Slide trail up to the sadden, then the PCT over to Taqhuitz Peak and visited the fire watchtower.  On the way back, we took a longer path through Law's Meadow.

We stayed at Creekside Inn, which was newly redone and very nice.  Dinner was at the Gnome.

Next day, we first tried to find a smoothie place but couldn't find one which is odd.  We then headed north to the Black Mountain trail parking lot.  This trail was much steeper than Devil's Slide and we only did half of it before turning around.

On the way back home, we stopped at the famous Paradise Valley Cafe for lunch.

PCT junction to Taqhuitz Peak

Taqhuitz Fire Tower

Downtown Idyllwild

View of San Gorgonio from Black Mt. Trail

On Black Mt. trail

Monday, June 20, 2022

Meet Lily!

After much debate, we got a new dog, Lily!  She is a rescue from Mexico and is very similar to Sophie.  She is very shy but we hope she will get used to us quickly.

First walk at the lagoon

Getting some sun

Father's Day Weekend Activities

  • Beach was too crowded so we hiked the lagoon
  • Hiked San Dieguito Park loop
  • Walked the dog
  • FPC fundraiser at Rockin; Baja Lobster


Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Guest Shoot at Escondido Fish & Game

A friend invited me and a new shooter to Escondido Fish and Game for some pistol fun.  Good times!


Pistol range at EF&G


Monday, May 30, 2022

Stack of Books Read

  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  • An Atlas of Extinct Countries by Gideon Dafoe
  • Island Infernos: The US Army's Pacific War Odyssey, 1944 by John C. McManus
  • Revolutionary War Soldier 1775 - 1783 by Keith Wilbur
  • Dutch Oven Camp Cooking by Vernon Winteroni
  • Abandoned Southern California by Joanna Kalafatis
  • The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War by Mark Stille

Memorial Day Weekend Activities

  • Beach sprints after a long lay off due to knee injury
  • Hike Monserate Mountain
  • BBQ with good friends
  • Troop 782 Memorial Day flags at San Dieguito Academy war memorial
  • Baking cookies!

Monserate marker (what's left of it)

Monserate Peak

San Dieguito War Memorial


Monday, May 23, 2022

Final Scoutmaster Campout at Fiesta Island

After 11 years with Troop 774 as ASM and SM, I attended my last campout in an official capacity.  We were back at Fiesta Island again as we were sailing on the council boat on Sunday and camping at CFI was very convenient.  It was typical CFI: watch rocket launches, service hours cleaning the endless amounts of trash, campfires, dutch oven cooking, scout skills, and great weather.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Embry-Riddle Graduation

Bengt graduated from ERAU!  We had great weekend in Prescott and moved him back home while he looks for a job.

ERAU graduation crowd

New grad

Monday, May 02, 2022

Milsurp at Raahauge's

Raahauge's in Corona is one of our favorite ranges.  We have been there many times for their awesome sporting clay range and also shot at the 100 yard and steel gallery ranges.  This day we tried our their private shooting bays.  Jyoti and I did pistol and PCC training but also finally shot a couple of surplus rifles I hadn't fired before.  First up was the Carcano TS.  This carbine is in pretty rough shape and the bullets were tumbling after just 25 yards.  Next was the Arisaka Type 99.  A very long rifle was fun to shoot but ammo is really hard to get.

Carcano M1891 Moschetto TS

Arisaka Type 99

Monday, April 25, 2022

Central Coast Wine Getaway

Our wine country getaway started by picking up Robyn and Kevin at LAX then fighting LA traffic on the way to the PCH.  But the traffic had others plans as we got rear-ended on the 10.  My new jeep had damage to the bumper and exhaust system so wasn't driveable.  The other car had a lot of front end damage.  After a bizarre turn of events with tow trucks and cops, we got Rosie towed back to San Diego and we got rental Sahara to continue our vacation.

Our first stop was Santa Barbara for two nights.  We stayed at the Cheshire Cat Inn which is a place we liked when we lived in Santa Monica. 

Then we headed up to Paso Robles for three nights at the Paso Robles Inn.  I like old school  places like this one but this was a bit noisy.  But they did have hot tubs on the patios!


  • Alma Rosa - awesome hike among the vineyards
  • Ancient Peaks - good wines and even better roast beef sandwiches
  • Cass - Paso classic
  • Nicora - Great wines at a great Tin City winery
  • McPrice Myers - my favorite wines of the trip
  • Justin - good wines but very pretentious 
  • Tablas Creek - tried a new varietal, Tannat
  • Law - another hipster winery
  • L'Aventure - good reds and a fabulous location
  • Turley - wonderful wines
  • Booker - the most hipster of them all


  • Opel - probably the best food of the trip
  • Lark - the most hipster
  • Stokehouse Grill - great food with a more moderately priced wine list
  • The Hatch - best cornbread ever
  • Thomas Hill Organics - farm to table is not my favorite style


  • Cattleman's Lounge - the bar at the Inn was a nice place to play cards
  • Eleven Twenty-Two - cool speakeasy where they lock up your phones



Our post trip inventory

Blue skies over Tablas Creek

Braving the cold at McPrice Myers

Cheshire Cat Inn

Resting on our hike at Alma Rosa

Cheshire Cat Inn garden


Monday, April 18, 2022

Easter Hike on Cuyamaca Peak

After Easter service, Jo and I headed out the Cuyamaca State Park for a TMB training hike up to the peak.  The day use lot at Paso Picacho was pretty full but after finding a spot, we headed through the campground and started up the service road.  It was steep going at times and after an hour and a half we reached the top.  Great views were had!  On the way down, we decided to take the Conejos trail.  It added another mile and a half but was worth it.

Getting ready to hike

Walking up the road

Peak selfie

Azalea Spring