Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thanks TNARG.

Somebody has got to do it I figured, and I didn't know who else around here might, so I took it upon myself today to remember TNARG on his birthday, and in doing so seize the day to the best of my ability. The day began as any other, working in the lab, things taking longer than they should and wasting a lot of time on things that didn't matter, and to be honest, I didn't even realize it was his birthday until nearly lunch. But, as the day wore on I decided that I needed to do something special today, and really live the day for the guy who wasn't around to do so for himself anymore. So, around 17.45 as I finished up the day's work in the office, and biked home as fast as I could - feeling the evening air, passing a bus and a few other riders, arriving at my place fully out of breath and with burning legs.

I quickly threw together a bag with my climbing gear, and a tub with my dive gear, grabbed my tank for a refill, and as soon as my friend (and fellow burrito connoisseur) Jenny arrived we were out the door and off to get my tank filled, pick up a repaired dive light, and grab a burrito for dinner. We quickly had the dive gear taken care of, and then got our dinner at a place we hadn't tried before. The burritos were great, the "monster" burrito, which was a deviation from the usual carnitas, was fantastic. Then, I dropped Jenny off and it was off to the climbing gym to blitzkrieg some climbs for 40 minutes with my friend Dan, and try to "flash pump" by jumping on a bunch of hard stuff without properly warming up, or allowing time for sufficient rest. By 20.25 I was on my way out of the gym and back to my place to suit up and grab the rest of my dive gear.

21.00 had me in the water, and swimming out for my first solo dive (and at night at that!) from the marine room in La Jolla. After snorkeling to about 300' off the sandy beach, I kept my head down, stuck in my regulator, and deflated the BC to begin diving. I soon leveled out in a shallow 15' of water, and followed the gradually deepening sandy bottom as I headed SW to the canyon and edge of the marine room. Swimming crabs, baby octopi (I caught some even!), sanddabs and baby halibut, tiny burrowing fish of some sort, lobsters, "fields" of sand dollars and a plethora of small fish kept me constantly scanning around and in awe of everything around me. Then, after about 20 minutes, the ground dropped off in front as I hit the canyon at a depth of about 42'. Even though I've swam along the edge of this canyon many times before during the day, alone at night my primal fears took over and I couldn't get myself to swim out into the waters beyond the edge. Instead, I creeped up with my belly on the bottom as if I was approaching a cliff on land, and shined my light out into the abyss below. It was incredible, but creepy in a strange way.

Changing my heading to be more SE and towards the marine room, I soon found myself playing with lobsters - and then low and behold a little 12" horn shark was there in front of me, eyeing me and just sitting there as I eyed it from inches away. I played with the shark for about a minute or two, and then continued inland, intent on reaching the kelp and seaweed filled marine room before I got low on air. Then, wooooosh, what was that dark movement in front of me? Crikey, it's a sea lion! Then wooosh, it's gone again! Then, perhaps the same one, or perhaps another continues to come in front of me, chasing fish, before disappearing into the dark surrounding void again. After many passes by the seal, one fish being chased turned straight towards me and swam directly underneath. The perturbed sea lion began to attempt a chase, but then broke it off just a couple feet away as there was no way he was going to fit in those 12" between me and the ground... incredible.

Soon, the sea lion(s) also disappeared, and I continued south for some time, slowly kicking my fins until kelp began sticking up in front of me. As I pushed through the first mixture of sea grass and kelp marking the edge of the marine room, a large sheep crab, probably 18" across with his legs still bent, walked underneath me without concern about the bubbly guy above him. Fish darted in and out of the various types of seaweed on all side, and little tugs grabbed my legs now and again as I pushed through the thicker sections. The swell above and currents made the grasses constantly move from side-to-side, and my sensations were, quite frankly, pretty much overwhelmed by this point by everything I'd seen already. So, as my air was starting to get low, I turned back in the direction of the beach, and swam until I was in just a few feet if water, surfaced, and lazily kicked in while admiring the night sky. What an absolutely incredible night - thank you TNARG for the inspiration to make it happen.