Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pine Canyon Loop

The post Thanksgiving hike found us at Mount Diablo's Macedo Ranch staging area for an eight-mile hike winding up and down the rolling hills along Pine Canyon.

High winds greeted us at the start of our hike as we headed out along Wall Point trail. Our companions on this hike would be the occasional cows grazing on the steep slopes of the hills along the trail. Fighting a strong headwind we wound our way up the hills heading toward the Summit Trail. From there we would find Barbecue Terrace Road for our return trip along Pine Canyon .

We were lucky to have another clear day on the trail, visibility was unlimited as we climbed up the canyon. The trail would slip from grasslands to a mixed bag of rock and pine trees as the wind made that familiar ocean roar noise as it whistled through the branches.

Paw prints in the trail let us know we had a mountain lion pass through earlier. Fresh cat scat was plentiful and it appeared the mountain lion had been tracking a deer or two along the rocky trail and brush. We never caught a glimpse of them, but we did see a flock of wild turkey feeding in the distance and the abundant ground squirrels scurrying for their food.

After what seemed like a climb that took forever we found the intersection for Barbecue Terrace Road for our return leg of the hike. Descending back down along the shade of trees and the canyon walls we enjoyed the cool breezes that drifted through the trail. It was the perfect hike to work off those turkey leftover and enjoy some of the sunshine before winter steals it away from us.

With just a few more weeks of good weather we might make a few more trips back to Mount Diablo for our year ending hikes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Santa’s got a new ride

Making his pre-Christmas rounds Santa made a stop at Mountain House’s Wicklund Park. Santa’s trip into the windy streets of Mountain House was not aboard his trusty reindeer powered red sleigh but aboard a sleek, fuel injected chick magnet. Santa has a new ride and it’s a Harley.

Now I usually end up photographing Santa arriving in town onboard a fire truck so imagine my surprise when the rumble of motorcycle heralded his arrival. His motorcycle decked in garland and lights pulled a trailer with a small, decorated Christmas tree onboard.

Long after he parked his motorcycle the new sleigh was still drawing a crowd as he listened to lists from children gathered in the park’s gazebo. I bet it draws quite the crowd on the road during his December drives.

I don’t know if Santa will give up his trusted reindeer fleet for his Christmas Eve rounds. That loud roar as he pulls up to the chimneys on his toy deliveries would be dead giveaway to kids trying to sneak a peek as he drops off presents for good boys and girls. Still it is a sleek ride glowing in the dark with the strings of Christmas lights hanging across the bike’s frame and trailer. Yeah I think I would take the reins of a Harley for a long winters ride over staring down the butts of eight grumpy reindeer any day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving potluck

The Tracy Press newsroom staff had their Thanksgiving potluck today and to cap off our feast we decided on chocolate chip cookies toasted in the breakroom toaster. It seemed like a good idea rigjh up to the point one of them fell all the way to the crumb try. I was wondering what the Tracy Fire dispatch would sound like for a cookie fire at the Tracy Press.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tracy, the new Roswell

Is it me or our people off their medications in this town? We were hit with another round of phone calls from people who spotted the mysterious blue lights above Macarthur Drive Monday night.

My first thought was the anti-depressant supply must be low around town as there reports of dozens of people stopped in the road to watch these visitors from another world. Then I thought it convenient that the aliens appear on the same day each week. Maybe they are commuting from Mars or something. Then after a phone call this morning I was assigned (yeah no lie, ASSIGNED) to go out to the UFO “landing zone” to see if I could find any signs of our visitors from another world.

Driving out to the end of Macarthur I thought of all the other jobs I could be doing. Ditch digger, cable TV installer, porta-potty technician-my horizons are endless. Just like the empty fields I am driving by when I catch sight of sun glinting on the surface on an alien spacecraft. It moved slowly across the sky as Bob Seager‘s “Roll Me Away” played on my radio. I was about to call NORAD command when the wings banked and I realized it was just an airplane. Deep sigh.

I continued along the dusty road until I reached the end of the trail. No giant mothership awaited me, just the occasional squirrel popping up from his borough. I was about to turn around and head back and I caught sight and what surely must be the alien ship. It had crash landed in the dirt just off the road. It was definitely saucer shaped, it had a slight scuff mark where it had entered the Earth’s atmosphere blazing across the sky before landing in the middle of nowhere. I cautiously approached the craft and squeezed off a few frames. The design was most definitely futuristic, something unseen on this planet for sure.

I got back in my car and sped away before any death rays could fire out and vaporize me in my tracks. Oddly I saw no military quarantine teams closing in to capture this alien prize lest it fall into the wrong hands of the Soviets, the Chinese government or somebody from Lathrop.

Safe back at the office I showed of my prize photograph of the alien spaceship, undeniable proof of extraterrestrial life visiting Tracy.

Then again maybe it was just a hubcap.

CHiPs for Kids

It is going to be a hard holiday season for some families and there are lots of organizations around town trying to help. The local California Highway Patrol office on Grant Line Road has kicked off their annual CHiPs For Kids toy drive. If anyone has a new unwrapped toy they can drop it off at their collection site in the station's lobby between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Donations dropped off to the Tracy CHP office are only distributed to Tracy children in need.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Football fever

For the first time in several years I find myself photographing football in the frosty late November nights. Tracy High and Millennium high have both advanced through the first rounds of playoffs as their gridiron seasons continue.

Friday night football playoffs mean one thing, it's going to be cold. It gets to be fun taking pictures with what feels like a block of ice in your hands. Make sure your shutter speed is high enough to stop the shiver induce blur and try to avoid the fogging the viewfinder with your icy breath.

Dressing in layers is a must and fingerless gloves come in handy to take some of the bite out of the night chill. Thankfully it hasn't rained yet as that brings on a whole new set of issues.

I don't know how far these teams will go, if they make it to the championship the game will be played in mid-December. I haven't shot football into December in a long time so it will be quite the adventure.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garbage in, garbage out

The newsroom dog "Pepper" enjoys an afternoon snack in one of the garbage cans around the office. The first step is actually admitting you have an eating problem.

After the crash

This is a photo of champion roper Dillon Almason I took before a practice session on a farm north of town about a week or so ago. He is a nice kid, quiet, polite and a top roper in the competiton ring. But this photo is quite different from the photo I took of Dillon the first time we met in June. The circumstances were much more serious.

That’s Dillon being carried to the air ambulance. He was classified an “immediate” requiring a helicopter to take him to a trauma center after he was thrown from his truck in a collision on Lammers Road. Up until the assignment to photograph him with his horse I had no idea if he lived, died or suffered permanent injuries from the crash. That’s the way it goes with the victims of accident scenes, you see them once at one of the worst moments in their life and then never again.

I remember going to this accident, it was a bad one where a sedan and a pickup crashed into each other nearly head-on, the truck with Dillon inside rolling over and ejecting him into the roadway. The crash scene was chaotic with the multiple injuries and the helicopter landing in the still under construction Kimball High parking lot. Some family member implored me not to take pictures as Dillon was carried to the helicopter but the magnitude of the crash and the thought that this might go into a fatal had me shoot the whole crash.

And that was it, back to the office, file the photos and on to the next assignment. I remember we did a follow-up he survived the crash but I don’t even remember hearing his name, just that his dog was missing during the accident. So it was quite the surprise to get the assignment on his recovery and back to the roping circuit.

Most of the time the last image I have of someone involved in an accident is crumpled sheet metal and broken glass in the roadway. You shoot the photos and move on, no reason to dwell on the disasters we cover, there are so many. Family members have talked to me in the past but I think this was the first accident victim I have met after the crash. I wanted to ask what he remembered from the crash and did he see the photos I took but I just didn’t have the heart to ask. With all the things going on today in Tracy it was just enough to see that this story had a happy ending.