Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hunting Gorn in California's Antelope Valley

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

I would never call myself a Trekkie, but there are a few Star Trek (The Original Series) episodes that I have always liked.  Anyone raised in NYC in the 70s can probably remember the 6PM nightly Star Trek broadcasts on Channel 11 (WPIX).

My all-time favorite episode is Arena (originally aired on 1/19/67); the episode known for that awesome rubber-suited lizard-alien called the Gorn.  I even admit having owned a Gorn action figure.

The Gorn's slow, bow-legged walk and ability to toss and be hit by large boulders was just too cool.  There was not much to his costume.  However, in the remastered/re-released modern version of the episode, the Gorn's eyes blink; something that did not happen in the original airing. I could have done without the change.

When I moved to southern California and was returning from the high desert (Mojave), I was traveling through the Antelope Valley, just west of Palmdale on CA-14, when I saw angled rocks that triggered some memories.  Research told me this was Vasquez Rocks Park, in Agua Dulce.  It was at Vasquez Rocks that Arena (as well as more than 300 other movies and TV shows), was filmed.

Here is a screen capture of the Gorn captain getting ready to go "mano y mano" with Kirk with the distinct angled rocks of Vasquez Rocks Park in the background.  In reality, where they are standing is part of the parking lot and the road into and out of the park passes through the center of the frame.  The tire tracks are pretty obvious.

Kirk and the Gorn captain about to go at it!
Same General View As in the Capture Above, But Viewed From 
On the Rocks and at a Slightly Different Angle

The Gorn only made one other TV appearance.  A computer-animated Gorn (named Slar) showed up very briefly in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "In a Mirror Darkly, Part II" (airing April 29, 2005).  I only know of this by researching the Gorn (how geeky is that?) and watching that episode on Netflix.  I have never watched any of the Star Trek spin-offs.  Anyway, I prefer the live-action, real Gorn of Arena. 

Iin the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness, Doctor McCoy referred to performing an emergency delivery of a brood of eight Gorn, noting "those little bastards bite!"  

2005 Computer Animated Gorn - Not All That Scary
My other favorite Star Trek (The Original Series) episodes are:
The Doomsday Machine (original air date:10/20/67) - Love that planet eating hollow log and the crazy Commodore Decker!
USS Constellation Getting Sucked into the Planet Eater

Decker About to Lose it as he and the Shuttle-craft Get Sucked into the Planet Eater
Assignment Earth (original air date: 3/29/68) - Terri Garr at 20 years old and a hot, shape-shifting black cat!
Adorable Terri Garr

Kitty Cat?

Not Actually!
Tomorrow is Yesterday (original air date:1/24/67) - The Enterprise v. an F-104 Starfighter and confused USAF MP's.
Pilot Being Beamed Back into His F-104
Confused MP Beamed Aboard the Enterprise   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Whales and Sea Lions in Newport Harbor (Part 3 of 3 re: Newport Bay/Balboa Peninsula)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

January, 2012: Whale watching is a popular California past-time; from Crescent City, in the far north, to San Diego, in the far south.  From organized whale hunting cruises on all kinds of boats heading out of various California harbors to families of people sitting on benches and roadsides, at places such as the Whale Watcher Cafe in Gorda, CA on the Big Sur coast, with binoculars or without.  Husbands and wives, as we have experienced first hand, typically have friendly fights, over some nachos, over whether or not one saw a whale blowing or diving.

It is our experience that seeing whales on whale cruises is a crap shoot.  Companies usually offer 3-4 tours a day; starting early in the morning.  

The chance of seeing a whale is the same, whether you go in the morning or the afternoon.  However, that does not mean the experiences are the same.

The early morning cruise will have less people.  This is good because it makes it easy to run from side-to-side of the boat depending on where the whales are (especially if you are using a HUGE lens).  Furthermore, the water may be calmer on morning tours.  The downsides to morning cruises are: colder temperatures and deep and damp fog.  In our experience with morning cruises, the fog tends to break just as the boat is steaming back into harbor.  
Going Down...In the Fog (approx. 9:39AM) - Monterey Bay
Back In Harbor With Clear Sky (approx 12:48PM) - Monterey Bay

While the crowds of the later cruise may turn you off, white caps, visible during later in the day, may also make it harder to see the whales.  However, it is frequently the case that all the different whale cruise boats are in constant contact with each other and identifying the most likely places to see a whale.

Whale watching is on the expensive side for a family activity ($30+ a person on the weekend) and it is printed on your ticket that there is no guarantee you will see a whale.  However, it is our experience that most of the reputable captains will give you a free trip at a later date if you don't see anything.  You will likely see dolphins no matter what.
Gray Whale Fluke (Newport)
Gray Whale Fluke (Newport)
Gray Whale Spouting (Newport)

View of Irvine from off Newport

Gray Whale Fluke Between Boats (Monterey)

Gray Whale Pectoral Fin (Monterey)
Dolphin (Monterey)
You are also likely to see loads of sea lions.  You can tell these are sea lions and not seals because they can sit up and have ear flaps.  The flippers of a seal are not built for climbing, walking, or standing.  Seals must drag themselves out of the water and up the beach.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What You May See When Crossing Newport Bay By Ferry (Part 2 of 3 re: Newport Bay/Balboa Peninsula)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

The Balboa Island Car Ferry is a short/800ft, about 5 minute trip between Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula.  Though the trip is pretty short and supposedly saves you about 8 miles of driving, I just enjoy the few minutes.  Mainly its the breeze, sun, and water that makes the about 5 minutes and 2 bucks (driver/car) worth it.  Makes me kind of miss the long car ferry rides across Pamlico Sound and the Cape Fear River, back in North Carolina.


Typical sites viewable from one of the three ferries in the fleet during the short ferry ride include:

Boats and More Boats

A Water Taxi


Stand-up Paddle-boarders

Interesting People

Rescue Boats

Whale Watching Cruise Heading Out


Saturday, December 7, 2013

West Jetty View Park - Tiny Park With a Huge View (Part 1 of 3 re: Newport Bay/Balboa Peninsula)

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

If you drive down Balboa Avenue, passed the Newport Pier, passed the Balboa Pier, and passed the Balboa Island Ferry launch, to its end of the Balboa Peninsula in Orange County you end up at a dead end in a residential area a few streets wide; the "q-tip" like east end of the Balboa Peninsula.  

East End of Balboa Avenue
At this is the Entrance Channel to Newport Bay and a tiny park; the West Jetty View Park.  Don't mind that the park does not show up on some maps (even fancy maps like the official USGS Topos).  On some maps, the park is represented by a dot.  The dot is a pretty reasonable representation since the park is tiny.  

Overall View Of Balboa/Newport Beach Area
Detailed View of Location of West Jetty View Park
Despite what the park's website may say, the park has no dedicated parking lot so if you are driving around trying to find a spot to impress someone, be aware you may not be able to stop for more than a moment "in a red zone".  The pier lots mentioned on the website are a long, long walk away.  There is no parking lot at all in the park cul-de-sac, and there are maybe three curb-side parking spots on the street.  Unfortunately, the spots are shared with the local residents, so a chance of finding an empty parking spot is very low.  You may have to drive a couple of blocks before finding a spot and then walk back to the park.

Chic 2296 E. Balboa Avenue - "The Last House on the Left"
The park is a pavement walkway curling past a few benches and curling through a patch of grass looking down on the harbor inlet. 


On the park pavement was this survey disk.  I have never seen one of these in the middle of a sidewalk, where it can easily be tripped over.

Does that Really Say "1897"?

Have A Seat...

Why Thank You
Where the park pavement ends, Balboa Beach begins, as does the breakwater (jetty, I guess).

Broken-rock jetties define the 800-1000 ft wide and 10-30 ft deep Entrance Channel.   

Jetty and Entrance to Newport Bay
Full length of Jetty

Beach Side of Jetty
 The beach was pretty empty, but someone decided to drive over the sand.

The Eye In The Sky

Tsunami Alarm

Small Isolated Beach on the Opposite (Corona Del Mar)
Side of the Channel

Rose from a Nearby Residential Garden