Preston Falls

The three of us at the start of the hike. I’m wearing a goofy hat, and that rock was not a great choice to hold the camera.

The week before last (June 5th- 12th, 2017) I went on a little adventure. I got to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I spent some time with my parents, and got to take a day trip down into Big Sur, which IS accessible from the north, and it appears that a lot of people don’t realize that anything is open down there. It is.

The trip ended with a single night backpacking trip with my siblings to Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest. This trip was fantastic, but there was a certain lack of information about the trail (and lack of trail at some points, for that matter) that made me want to write a blog post about it.

For starters, I came across a blog post while researching the trail that said they made it to what they thought were the falls, then made it home to realize that it wasn’t the right falls. This was a super handy tip, but… where were the actual falls? How did she

The river was very full.

know she hadn’t made it? It took me a long while to find the proper GPS coordinates. That’s the first thing I thought I’d fix, in case someone ends up here, curious about the hike to Preston Falls.

The trailhead is actually marked as the Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead and can be found at these GPS coordinates:
N 37° 52.722′ ,  W 119° 57.025′

There is a little parking lot at the end of the road just past the dam where you’ll find a big sign saying “Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead,” a restroom, and, of course the trailhead.
Preston falls is at GPS coordinates:
N 37° 53.067′ ,  W 119° 52.878′.

The trail was very well maintained for the first 4 miles.

We had wanted a short, easy-ish hike because it was only for an over night and it had been a while since any of us had been backpacking. Some sources said it was a 4 mile hike and others said it was more like 4.4. Not usually enough of a distance to really worry about, right? There’s a good reason for that discrepancy… I’ll address this in a moment…

The river had a ridiculous amount of water in it and, though there were signs everywhere that it had burned in the rim fire a few years ago, it was still startlingly beautiful.

There were flowers everywhere.

It was a nice, relatively flat, easy hike for the first 4 miles. Including a long, leisurely lunch break, it took us something like two hours, but we were dawdling, because we thought the whole thing was going to be that easy. Just about at the 4 mile mark, there’s a

These are the NOT-Preston Falls

nice little camp spot, and a view of SOME falls, and the trail went straight into the river. I understand why people would be tempted to stop there.

Did we, though? No. No, of course we didn’t.

We knew Preston Falls was further up stream, so we pressed on. The idea was that the trail had to come back out of the river at some point. For the remaining half mile or so — spent scrambling over rocks through ever thickening poison oak — we found plenty of pretty views, but never saw a trail again. I’m not sure exactly how far we walked because there was a lot of back and forth while setting down packs and scouting ahead, but it was about a half mile, probably less, and it took us almost another two hours. We eventually found some relatively flat ground and decided to call it a day. Curiosity got the best of me, and the little marker on my GPS was SO close, I ran ahead to see if the falls really existed. Fully intending to just pop over for a look and probably come back later, I, like an idiot, left my camera behind. The route got more difficult and took me a while to find a way up, over, and through the obstacles.

If you look closely, you can see our camp site in this picture.

As a side note, this is probably a good time to mention that I had dropped my walkie talkie into the river earlier and was under the impression until I had made it a good ways away from my siblings that it was waterproof… It was not. It just took a while to start freaking out. I felt a little bad being gone so long without contact. They were a little worried, but it all worked out. I did find Preston Falls, just about when I was going to give up. “If it’s not around this last corner I’m going ba… Oh, there it is. Neat.” They were beautiful, but I didn’t wander back over there later. I met back up with my siblings, set up camp, and took a bunch of pictures. It was beautiful, and totally worth it.

The stars were super pretty.

The walk out was easier and much faster because we knew where we were going.

I regret nothing about the trip, but when I plan the next one to this location, there are a few things that I’ll do differently, now that I know. I’ll make sure it is more than an over-night, because there was a lot to explore… but that’s sort of how I feel about everywhere. I would also probably plan to set up camp at the site near the first set of falls (where the trail disappeared), then go back to Preston Falls as a day hike, there’s no reason to drag the pack back there.

I definitely could have spent several days laying on my back, staring at the trees and flowers.

When the river is lower, I imagine the trail might be more easily traversed. Please let me know with a comment if you do this hike and conditions have changed.

Because I’ve been playing around with time lapses, I put together a few throughout the course of my adventure and, just like last time, I edited it into a short video with some music I made. It’s not great, but it was fun to make.

The music is something I made for this video in Muse Score.

The first shot with the flowers, is in San Diego in Guajome Regional Park.
The next 5 (between times 8 and 52 seconds) were taken from my parents’ backyard in Monterey.
The remaining 5 shots were taken near Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest.

My First Attempt at Time Lapse Photography

Hey everyone,

I discovered that I can do time lapse photography, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was actually very easy (See below the video for a description of what I used).

Now, doing it well and just doing it are pretty far apart, and I know I’ve got a long way to go, but for all being done within the first 24 hours of realizing that I had the capability, I’m pretty proud of what I came up with and I thought sharing how easy it is to get started might be beneficial.

The music is something that I composed and played in MuseScore a while back (it was sitting around, so I thought I’d use it). I’m not a musician, so forgive its simplicity and the fact that the instruments are all midi simulations rather than… something that sounds good.

For those that are interested, the shot locations are as follows:
-First two clips with the water – Calavara Lake in Carlsbad, Ca
-The ants and two oak tree clips – Buena Vista Park in Vista, Ca
-Last shot with the grass – out my window in Vista, Ca


The camera I used is a Cannon PowersShot SX160 IS with CHDK installed on it. I’ve had the camera for a few years now and I like it, but if I were shopping for it all over again, I would choose something else for one simple reason: this specific PowerShot eats through batteries like a puppy through pizza (maybe a little less messy). The other models of PowerShot I had in the past were not this way. It’s powered by 2 AA batteries and can’t (as far as I’ve figured out) be powered externally (if anyone has any suggestions other than the toothpick trick, please share). Just in the shots used in this video I went through 12 AA battieries; I’m a MONSTER! They are still half full for many other devices, but the camera says they’re dead and turns off. They worked long enough to get these shots, but if I wanted to shoot over a time longer than about 45 minutes (and I do), this just isn’t going to cut it.

CHDK is a set of firmware updates that you can use to increase the functionality of Cannon PowerShots. Model specific downloads and directions can be found here:
CHDK is temporary. You just run it off of the memory card and it allows you to run scripts on your camera. The CHDK download for most PowerShots, I believe, come with an intervalometer script. That’s the one I use. It is very simple once you figure out the menus. You set up your camera ready to go with whatever settings you want, then you tell the intervalometer script a time interval, and launch it. It then takes an image every time that interval is up. For example, if I set it to 10 seconds, it will take an image every 10 seconds until I tell it to stop or it runs out of batteries and turns itself off (the latter usually being the case for me). I did find that, because the camera takes a moment to take and save the images, if you set it too short, it will just take an image whenever it is ready. The clip with the ants, for example, was supposed to be a 1 second interval, but it took one image every time it was ready, which was somewhere between 6 and 7 seconds. The rest of my clips were set to 10 seconds or longer and worked like a charm.

A tripod is a good idea. None of these were taken using a tripod, and I think it shows. My tripod was broken, and the one I ordered was sitting on my doorstep when I got back from the last shot for this. One thing that was kind of cool, but 100% unplanned was the sort of droopy panning effect in a couple of shots. Those happened because I set the camera on its empty case and over the course of 45 minutes or so, the whole thing settled. While it worked out this time, I can see how it could completely ruin a set and is probably impossible to plan exactly where the camera ends up pointing. I don’t know how professionals do the fancy pan shots (hey, I’ve only been at this for a day) but I’m 97.46% sure it has nothing to do with setting the camera on a cloth sack propped against a rock and hoping for the best.

Once I got the shots and made it home, I used the OpenShot Video Editor in Linux. OpenShot allows you to import sequences of pictures. It uploads them like a video clip, with some set number of frames per second and you can manipulate it just like any other video clip. OpenShot is free and very intuitive.
I had a few issues, however. OpenShot uses sequential numbering on the file names to determine which files to include and their order. My camera uses a 4 digit number in the file names. There’s some sort of bug (that took me a while to find talk of on the internet) where if the first image in the sequence has more than a 3 digit number, it tries to upload, then the clip just says “INVALID.” So, I rename all the files to have 3 digit numbers. No, I don’t do it by hand. There are many ways to do this. I had a python script already set up to do something like this, so I just re-purposed it and it works. I have a suspicion that I’m going to get told that the easiest way is to use a BASH script. Feel free to tell me, but I already made my Python tool… so… there.
OpenShot is a little lacking in control of the rate that it plays the images. You can not adjust how many frames per second it shows (I don’t know what the standard is, something near 30?). You can have it double of triple each image while importing if you want it to play 2 or 3 times more slowly. I doubled the images on 3 of the clips because I thought they were too fast, but, for the most part, I feel like being able to speed up or slow down these clips would be handy.Another issue I had with OpenShot is that it is, at least on my computer, very slow with videos of this resolution. You may notice that in the above video the syncing of dramatic moments in the music with clip changes is a bit off. This is because I had to export the video each time just to see if it worked, because the playback option in OpenShot was sketchy and would get stuck. When I reduced the resolution, it worked just fine, so that’s a potential solution as well, but I think I might try experimenting with some other software (any suggestions?).
I feel the need to repeat myself here, though… OpenShot is free… So, that’s really nice.

The music was composed in MuseScore in Linux. It is also free and pretty neat. MuseScore is composition software with a midi simulation playback option which is fantastic for someone like me with no idea what they are doing. It has it’s limits, though. The midi playback IS still midi, and it sounds like it… but it was sort of fun getting to output my song as an mp3 and use it in the video. Maybe someday I’ll use music from real instruments, but for goofing around and learning, I think it works just fine.

I hope you found this enlightening or helpful. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions… though… remember, I’m figuring it out as I go along. In all liklyhood, questions will result in us trying to figure it out together rather than me already knowing the answer. That’s the fun part anyway, though, right?

2016 Unleashed Surf Dog Competition

On Saturday we went to the unleashed by Petco Surf Dog Competition.

Just like when I went 2 years ago, I’ve put together a video.

Cracks in SPACE!!!

141014_010056“There was once a great and powerful being, the most powerful that had or has ever lived.” The large gathering of scientists from all over the globe that filled the room all but held their breaths as the diplomat from an advanced civilization spoke. He had been on earth for six weeks and had refused to answer any questions until now, insisting that he first be allowed to master a language through which he may communicate the answers correctly. It had taken him that month and a half of intensive training, but he was better spoken than most native speakers. Though his dialect and word choice was distinctly Californian, having been taught by the American military at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, he had somehow picked up an English accent. When asked about it, he would say things like, “I pronounce words how they feel most natural, am I doing it wrong?” in his thick, flawless London accent.

Now, having mastered the language, he had finally consented to a press conference. The media and scientific community flocked to the announced auditorium filling every square inch of usable standing-room and leaving twenty times more people standing outside. They would have been excited anyway at the prospect of hearing an alien species talk, but this one had come to earth expressing a will to share secrets of the universe.

It was a good thing that most of the gathered humans barely breathed, because the ventilation in the room was not adequate to accommodate that many people. The fire martial would have been appalled, had he been able to get inside. The alien was the spitting image of the gray humanoid creatures reported in Roswell. He wore a long magenta cloak of something that looked like crushed velvet with no shoes.

“Because names and gender become meaningless when we talk about this being, I would like to call it simply ‘It’, however, that would be confusing, a notable weakness in your language that you may want to see to, by the way. I shall call it, instead, ‘Lemonade,’ because I like to say the word.”

Many of the assembled humans exchanged glances that they were sure where meaningful, but not a single person knew exactly what they had meant by it, excepting, of course, the fellow in the back, for who the glance had nothing to do with the speech, and everything to do with the fact that he desperately needed to use the bathroom, and the person he glanced at stood in front of the door.

“So, Lemonade was the most powerful wizard that ever lived, and his power only grew with time-”

“Excuse me,” interrupted the woman who stood with the alien at the front of the room. Being the director of SETI, the search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, she had gotten the honor of introducing the alien before his talk. Most of the gathering would have been upset by her interruption, but her question was one that they all wondered. “Sorry to interrupt, but did you say that Lemonade was a wizard?”

“Yes,” the alien said, glancing at her with a very human expression of raising the spot on his face where an eyebrow might have been, if he had any hair. “Perhaps the word isn’t a perfect fit, but it is as close as I could find, perhaps when I finish, and you know what Lemonade is, we can come up with another word for it together.”

The director of SETI nodded and stepped back, feeling that pressing the issue might not be prudent for now.

“As I was saying, Lemonade was the most powerful WIZARD ever to have lived.” He shot the scientist that had introduced him a hard look as he annunciated “WIZARD” in his thick, unexplained accent.

“His power grew with time and eventually he became too powerful and became evil.”

This was the point in the speech where many of the glances exchanged before developed meaning. While some people were intrigued by this turn of the tale, and all wanted to know where the alien was going with it, the folktale quality that the story was quickly developing made many people a little uncomfortable.

“I’ll spare you the details, but essentially, he started using his power to subjugate civilizations. Finally, the universe had had enough and many other powerful beings banded together to stop him.

“He was trapped in the center of the universe and his power was leeched from him, dispersed throughout the universe, so that no single creature could obtain that level of power again.” He paused for a moment and sipped some water from the glass that stood on the podium in front of him. Even the most ready and willing to believe everything this alien said were looking at him quizzically now.

“This evil power, being distributed over the entirety of space,” he continued, “is causing it to expand at an accelerating pace.”

When he looked around the audience and found blank stares he said, “That should answer a few questions that my time here so far has shown me are among the most troubling to your scientists.”

The director of SETI spoke up again, “You are saying that dark energy, which is causing the expansion of the universe is actually evil wizard power, leached from the powerful being that we have today been calling ‘Lemonade?’”

“Makes more sense than any of the theories you guys have come up with yet, doesn’t it?”

The speech wound down after that. The alien sensed their disbelief and stated that after they had gotten a chance to digest what he had told them, he would speak further. The director of SETI sat at her desk three days later, still trying to figure out how to take the news. On one hand, he was from an advanced civilization, his presence on the earth alone said that much, but on the other hand, everything he said was obviously false. She had moved on to wondering if his little stunt was a test, to see how humanity would react to such false information. If it was, in fact, a test, she was not happy with the result. Humanity had failed. There were already half a dozen churches devoted to the evil wizard power popping up.

Everyone present at the talk had been screened for crackpots and thus, those who heard the alien’s words first hand hadn’t believed what he said, that didn’t stop them from broadcasting every word of the speech to every corner of every map ever drawn. Many of those corners, it turned out, held crackpots, who surfaced in force now. Some started churches, some claimed to have proof that the alien was telling the truth, and a few even cried out that they had been trying to tell people this for years.

Her musing about crackpots, though, gave her a new theory. Every culture had them here on earth, as evidenced by her in-box full of messages in obscure languages. This was also evidence of another theory of crackpots that she had known for a long time: nobody likes sharing their theories as aggressively as the crazies.

Could the alien be wandering the stars looking for people to believe his off the wall theory because he had been ousted by his own culture for being a crackpot?

When she thought about it, it made sense. In her line of work she encountered plenty of the human versions of these, and the alien’s being a crackpot made perfect sense. From this experience, though she didn’t have enough evidence to be certain, she got the hints of something that did turn out to be a universal truth, not just so on earth as she had previously thought:

There are crackpots everywhere, question everything.