Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Part 1

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is obviously one of the biggest parties in the United States, so that meant I had to go. Some friends and I had been planning the trip for a while and the time had finally come to go. We got dropped off at John Wayne Airport Saturday morning and with time to kill before our flight we while we decided to hit up one of the airport bars. My friends and I have sort of a tradition with starting off fun trips with margaritas, so we order a round with shots of bourbon to make them Mad Dog Margaritas for an added kick.

We had a 3 hour layover in Houston where we grabbed food and romped around the airport for a while. We were also able to have some more drinks… and then a few more on our flight (hey, we wanted to be ready for Mardi Gras).

We finally got into New Orleans at about 10:30pm on Saturday night with Fat Tuesday approaching the upcoming week. We got outside the airport and found there was a long line to get a taxi. We waited and got one for a flat rate of 60 bucks that would take us straight downtown.

Because of all the partying and the street closures our taxi driver could only get us about 4 blocks away from our hotel on Canal Street. That was okay since we were anxious to jump out and experience the party. As we walked to our hotel we got our first impressions of Mardi Gras and I think the best way to describe what we walked into was just madness.

Beads were flying, drinks were sloshing, there were street performers, and music was playing everywhere. We decided that the best thing to do at the time was to walk into the nearest liquor store and buy beers, which were not short on demand.

When then proceeded to check into our hotel (beers in hand) and I was really starting to like Mardi Gras. We got into our room and waited for our friend John to finish checking into his hotel across the street. We all met up, had a cheers, and then headed for Bourbon Street. We had a little taste of Bourbon Street as we walked to our hotel but now we were prepared to take it on in full force. It was not long until we were getting doused with beads and making friends in the street.

As we walked around I kept seeing people with this sort of canteen container filled with punch that hung around your neck which you could conveniently drink from a straw. I quickly became determined to get one of these interesting looking concoctions so I asked around and people pointed me to a place called Fais Deaux Deaux, which is usually just a little dive bar but since it was Mardi Gras they had a little drink stand set up out front.

With my punchbowl strung around my neck I continued up Bourbon Street to see what else was happening. It was mostly more of the same: people drinking in the streets and getting beads thrown down to them by people drinking in balconies.

Some parts of the street got really crowded but I continued to move on, and by this time I had lost the other members in my group, but I wanted to try to make it to the end of this party. ¬†I kept walking, sippin’ on my travel friendly¬†punch, ¬†and squeezing through throngs of people. I probably walked four or five blocks on my own and still did not see an end in sight. By this time the booze punch was starting to really take effect and at this hour walking around with so many beads on the ground you felt lucky not to slip, fall, and break your neck. I decided to give up my search for the “end of the party” and head back to the hotel.

I’ll be honest and say I can’t quite recall all the details from this night but I do know I managed to make my way back to the hotel safety, retired my¬†souvenir¬†punch bowl to a shelf and¬†reconvened¬†with the rest of my friends. It had been a long day for all of us and I think we all called it a night around 5am Sunday morning.

Camping at Valley Forge Trail Camp

Headed out for another weekend of camping Saturday morning. A small group and I were off to Valley Forge Trail Camp. I had never been here before and I believe it was closed for a while due to the Station Fire closure. I had been wanting to check this place out ever since I heard this part of the Angeles National Forest was reopened. The trailhead we started at was called Red Box which is right across the way from the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center which, naturally, we had to check out.

They had a cool primitive fire starter on display as well as some other artifacts and items for sale. I never even knew this place even existed so that was a neat surprise to start the trip off with.

Next it was onto the trail. The trailhead is clearly marked with a wooden sign and the trail starts right next to it and descends down some stone steps.

The first quarter mile or so of the trail descends quickly and then kind of levels out in a wooded gully. It was not long on the trail until we came across some old machinery of some sort buried in some foliage. It looked kinda cool.

A little further in we came across clusters of ladybugs on a plant near a creek crossing.

The trail we were on was part of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail and was already proving to be a beautiful hike. After a little less than mile we came across a sign which told us we were only 1.5 miles away from the camp.

We kept hiking and enjoying the scenery. Parts of the trail followed near a creak bed which was dry in some locations. This made us wonder if we’d find water near camp.

I’d say about after 2 miles on the trail we came to a cabin site where there were ruins of an old cabin but also an new and nicely maintained cabin. There was also an old propane tank, water well, and storage shed.

Not sure what the place was called but we checked it out and then continued on towards camp.

When we got to the campsite we found the creek running strong and no one else around. It was a fairly large campsite so we explored all the areas to find the best place to set up camp. There was even a bridge towards the back of the camp you could cross to get to more campsites, however these sites we in a bit of disrepair.

We settled on a spot with a good fire pit, nicely arranged sittin’ logs, and flat grassy areas for our tents. Before setting up we busted out some celebratory beers.

It wasn’t long after we got to camp when the weather took a nasty little turn. We got some strong gusts of cold wind and a little bit of rain thrown on us. We took that as a motivator to get our tents set up ASAP. As we were setting everything up it started raining on us quite regularly but we were able to get everything set up and out of the rain. To pass the time we took cover under one of the bathroom’s porches, had a beer, and waited for the rain to pass.

We probably had to wait about 45 minutes until the rain finally stopped. We decided to quickly start gathering fire wood in case the rain decided to come back. Luckily we were able to find a good amount of wood that was still dry and before long we had a nice fire going.

After the rain had passed the skies turned clear again and the threat of rain quickly disappeared. This made me happy since we were able to actually hang out and enjoy our campsite and not hide out in our tents or on the bathroom patio.

The skies stayed clear into the night and we had a nice time hanging out around our campfire. ¬†The temperature dropped down enough while we were sleeping to freeze some of the condensation on our tents, however it didn’t feel that cold to me. When we awoke and finally crawled out of our tents it was your typical cold and crisp forest morning.

The hike out was quite pleasant with everything still wet with the shower from the day before.

The trail back had a gradual elevation gain since we were climbing slowly out of a canyon, but nothing too bad. The last 1/4 mile started ascending more steeply and was a little more difficult but not very long. We finally were back at the steps that led up to the parking lot.

The entire trip was about 5.5 miles roundtrip making the hike to and from the campsite about only 2.25 miles. I really enjoyed this trail and the camp; I’d love to come back with a bigger group of people someday.

David Wong at The Night Owl in Fullerton

My friend David played his first show in about 18 months on Saturday at this little coffee shop in Downtown Fullerton called The Night Owl. Besides having local artists play there, the place also only brews fair-trade organic coffee, which I thought was pretty cool.

David had a small crowd of friend/fans in the coffee shop, almost too large to fit in the little place. I was lucky enough to get there early and get a good seat up front, from which I was able to film one of his songs. ¬†The audio isn’t that great but here it is anyway.