Archive for April, 2011

Treasures for another time.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)– Students, teachers, parents and civic leaders gathered together at San Juan Elementary, Orange County’s oldest school founded in 1850, on Friday morning, dedicating a time capsule containing writings, photos, artwork and videos by the students themselves.  The school, 160 years old last year, has plans to open the time capsule, buried in the lawn in front of the school office  covered in cement with a brass dedication plaque, in 40 years for its 200 year old birthday.

A time capsule so cool, you have to touch it.

The group poses with their project.

Reposrtedly, the school has a time capsule from 1930 they have not been able to locate yet; it will be very interesting when they do and according to the administration, they are narrowing down the possibilities.

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Bring'n it in.

CAMP PENDLETON -(CA)- The San Clemente Heritage Foundation, which supports Semper Fi Park, The Marine Monument, attended an open house, along with City of San Clemente officials and Chamber of Commerce members, hosted by the foundation’s adopted US Marine Helicopter Light Attack Squadron, “Scarface” (Hover Cover)- HMLA 367, at Camp Pendleton on Friday morning.

Big shoulders for a big job.

Guests were briefed by Marine pilot, and 2010 Marine Aviator of the Year, Captain Gregory Youngberg, on the squadron’s history, equipment, mission and capability.  The group was also addressed by Squadron Commanding Officer and past Marine Aviator of the Year, Lt. Col. Carlton Hasle, explaining the unit’s distinction in leading the largest Helicopter operation since the Vietnam War, in Marjah, Afghanistan during their last deployment in 2010.

Don't tread on me.

The group was shown how Marine Corps pilots are trained with night vision goggles and actually got to test them out in specially designed “dark rooms” complete with small scaled terrain models that display roads, bridges, buildings, hills and forests as seen by chopper pilots in flight.

US Marines as a general rule, improvise, adapt and overcome.

Attendees were also shown and allowed to “fly” in the same flight simulators Marine pilots spend up to several hours a week to fine tune and sharpen their skills.

Chamber of Commerce member and former Marine, Burton Brown, “flew” second seat in a Huey Cobra simulator gunship with only a little help and a proud handshake afterwards from 367 Marine pilot Captain Ferrone. “Scarface” HMLA 367 is the first and only squadron in the US military to have the newest upgraded four bladed Huey “Yankee” utiltiy helicopter and the Huey “Zulu” Cobra gunships along with a state of the art flight simulator for each chopper.  The upgrade basically takes the regular two blade models, commonly recognized in any Vietnam war movie, adding two more blades, giveing the aircraft more power, lift and stability, which is a critical with the latest technology advances in weaponry.

Civilian Simulator Program Director and former Marine Helicopter pilot, Jack Welch, says the units cost about 20 million dollars each and have been on the drawing board for last 15 years.

“No one else in the world has this, and they won’t…it’s all made in the United States because we are the best…no one in the world can compare.” Welch said.

Practice makes perfect.

Squadron CO, Lt. Col. Hasle presented San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak with a large glass framed “Thank You” with photos, patches and signed by everyone from “Scarface” HMLA 367, stating how much the City’s support means to the unit, while committing to speaking again at the City’s 4th of July festivities.

“Last year they said it would be around 400 people, and it was more like 10,000, so even though I am a little suspicious, I’ll be there.” Lt. Col. Hasle said with a big smile.

Its got to be something to do with the uniform.

Finally, the group was taken out to the flight line through the unit’s hanger bay to watch as squadron choppers were brought in, landing so that everyone could climb inside and check them out and ask questions first hand.  Chamber of Commerce member Steve Ynzunza said he is absolutely sure the Marines put taxpayer monies to good use after what he saw on Friday morning.

A group for all seasons.

“We see these same helicopters fly over San Clemente, up the coast all the time and you just can’t really see what they are actually all about until you are this close, its just amazing.” Ynzunza said.

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The band "Defamation"

When is this going to start?

Axe Man for the band "Numb Desire"

Mucho Mariachi.

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SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- About 20 young “rocket scientists” propelled 2-liter plastic bottles skyward Friday as the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area in San Clemente culminated its spring break program with a hot dog cookout and the first Rocket Regatta.

The kids formed teams to decorate and engineer fins, nose cones and parachutes for the rockets, which they partially filled with water and attached to a launch pad. The rockets were then filled with air from a bicycle pump. Two large nails held the rockets in place until pulled out by a string, which allowed the compressed air to use the water to send the rockets skyward.

The final touch.

Some rockets failed at the launch pad, but most sailed upward until running out of water, floating gently back to earth.

Chocolate rabbits were awarded to the makers of the Best Decorated, Most Outstanding and Highest Flying rockets.

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Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Grunion?

DANA POINT, -(CA)- A small silvery fish was a big star to more than 300 adults and children who descended onDoheny State Beach late Tuesday night to see hundreds of grunions swarm the sand during the 20th annual Grunion Night.

Doheny State Beach interpreter Vicki Wiker and state park ranger Jim Serpa hosted the event, displaying a large collection of ocean and beach artifacts, including whale bones, seal skulls, otter pelts and small jars of sea water containing grunion eggs buried in sand. Serpa hoped the eggs would hatch by having visitors gently shake the jars to simulate an incoming tide.

All their eggs are in one jar.

Many people consider the famed “grunion runs” to be a myth, much like “snipe hunts,” Serpa said. That’s likely because they’ve picked the wrong nights to try to watch the 6-inch-long fish ride high tides ashore to mate and lay eggs, he said.

Grunions generally spawn the four consecutive nights after a new or full moon, when tides are highest. A typical run can include hundreds or thousands of grunions and last two hours. Runs can be seen on beaches between San Francisco and Baja California, Mexico.

It will take more than one grunion to feed this crew.

A good indicator that the grunions are coming is when birds like the black-crowned night heronappear on the beach several hours before a run and grunion “scouts” come ashore to check the safety of the beach.

“Once the scouts return and give the OK, they’ll come in, and at that point, nothing can stop them,” Serpa said.

Female grunions immediately bury themselves in the sand tail first, up to their pectoral fins. As many as eight males will encircle themselves around a female, depositing “milt” that makes its way down her body to fertilize the reddish pink eggs she has laid four or five inches below the surface of the sand. The mating ritual can take 30 seconds to several minutes as the toothless fish wait for waves to take them back to sea. The eggs hatch in the sand about two weeks later and the baby grunions ride the waves out to the ocean.

Serpa said state and volunteer efforts to clear Doheny of debris washed onto the beach from San Juan Creek are crucial to the grunions’ survival, providing them a clear path to the business at hand. Several Boy Scouts who helped during a recent cleanup showed up Tuesday night to watch the grunions.

Grunions spawn from March through August. They may be caught using only your hands and only during March, June, July and August – April and May are “observation only” months. The California Department of Fish and Game requires grunion hunters 16 or older to have a fishing license.


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Just waiting at home for it to be over.

SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- San Clemente landscape contractor Jim Miller, a lifelong surfer, determined he would not go in the water for an afternoon session Sunday after checking the waves from a popular clifftop lookout off Basilone Road above Trestles surf beach.

As he returned to the road along an overgrown cliff trail, he was bitten on his right foot by a rattlesnake he never saw.

The trail he usually takes is overgrown because of recent rains and has narrowed to less than a foot from the usual 3 feet, he said.

“I heard the rattle just as he got me and then again as he was taking off,” said Miller, 54. “I knew it was a rattlesnake right away and called 911 with my cellphone.

“At the hospital, the nurse asked me twice if my affairs were in order and if I had a will.”

No more toes to the nose for awhile.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says five to seven deaths occur each year in the United States from among 7,000 to 8,000 reported rattlesnake bites. Such bites also can have serious side effects. About 800 rattlesnake bites are reported each year in California, with less than 1 percent of them fatal.

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, six species of rattlesnakes – of about 30 types found worldwide – are native to California, living in areas from below sea level to more than 10,000 feet. Generally, rattlesnakes hibernate all winter and come out to find prey such as small rodents and lizards in March and April. They return to their dens to hibernate in the fall.

Remember to keep a sharp weather eye out for rattlers.

Rattlesnakes, which can grow up to 6 feet long, produce venom in glands behind their eyes. They disable prey and fend off predators by injecting the venom through hollow retractable fangs. Most snake bites occur as they travel between their dens and their prey.

Rattlesnakes get their name from the distinctive rattle on their tail, which they use to warn intruders. The rattle grows segment by segment as the snake changes skin, or molts, which occurs several times a year.

Miller said his regular physical activity, such as surfing, swimming, cycling and yoga, were big factors in his survival. But without the arrival of paramedics within minutes, he’s not sure what the outcome would have been.

Miller said he initially felt pain from the bite, but soon the feeling became as if he had been put in a straitjacket with locks clamped on his chest. He concentrated on staying calm and breathing at an even pace.

After he was taken to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center San Clemente, medical personnel noted his pulse at 150 beats a minute, and he had intense tingling in his lips, eyelids and fingertips, Miller said. He watched the swelling climb up his leg and into his abdominal area that even two days later had not receded as he rested at home.

Surfers at Trestles said Tuesday that they had not seen any rattlesnakes lately but generally were not surprised to hear about Miller’s bite. Josh Baxter, 41, of San Clemente has surfed at Trestles his entire life and said he saw a 5-foot-long rattler last year on the trail near where Miller was bitten.

“When it rains out here, the creek washes them out and they are everywhere,” Baxter said. “There are a lot of critters out here.”

Miller said he expects to fully recover, and he laughed as he said he now has what many American Indians would say is the “spirit of the snake.”




What do you do if you encounter a rattlesnake on a trail in or around San Clemente? The Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy is offering a workshop at 7 p.m. April 13 at a site to be determined, presented by the North American Field Herping Association. It’s about local snake species and dos and don’ts. It’s free, but reservations are required. Email staff@rmvreserve.org.

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