Carol Anne Blanchette

Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 |

Recreation & Other Activities

Okay, you caught me - I'm not working all the time. I like to get outside and play. I don't think I would be nearly as productive in my scientific endeavors if I could not balance it all out with a good dose of recreation. It's important to feed the mind, the body and the soul by getting out and having fun. In the words of John Ray, "Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there...""

Bontrager headset
Words of wisdom from my headset
california image
MODIS satellite image of California

California is an amazing state. It is nirvana for pop-culture, nouveau politics and of course is the source of much entertainment for the world. There is great cultural diversity - I think it is one of the few if not the only state in the union where white people are a minority. Most important, however is the geography itself. The diversity of environments and habitats is amazing. Within a few hours you can drive from a Mediterranean coastal climate on the Pacific Ocean through the desert to an alpine mountain habitat. Within about 100 miles, you can go from the lowest point in the continental US (Badwater, Death Valley) to the highest point in the continental US (Mt. Whitney). Actually there is uniquely punishing ultramarathon called the Badwater 135 that begins in Badwater and ends on Mt Whitney if you are interesting torturing yourself by running across that temperature and elevation gradient. The amazing geography of California provides phenomenal recreational potential, especially if you live on the coast like me, and don't mind driving. I spend most of my time in Santa Barbara and along the coast, where surfing, paddling, biking and climbing are the main forms of recreation. My home away from home is the eastern sierra. Over the last decade I've spent increasing amounts of time in and around Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Lone Pine and the mountains of the eastern sierra. Unlike the west side of the sierras which gradually slope upward through increasingly higher sets of foothills, the eastern side of the sierras shoots straight up from the desert floor of the Owens valley to over 14,000 feet. The sierras are amazing and it's easy to see why John Muir became such a famous vocal advocate for wilderness and why Ansel Adams found such artistic inspiration here. The east side and the mountains of the sierra have provided me with endless recreational opportunities; hiking, alpine climbing, skiing, and snowboarding. In the spring when the weather is warm and the days are long you can ski in the morning and climb in the afternoon. What more could you ask for?


photo by Ottar Bjornstadt
Santa Barbara Climbing, Fire Crags
photo by Chad Berkley
Stately Pleasure Dome, Tuolumne Meadows

I started climbing when I lived in Oregon and spent a while at Smith Rocks (a.k.a. sport-crag-heaven). The climbing in Santa Barbara is not great, although there is a lot of interesting history; many of the routes were first ascended by the likes of Yvonne Chouinard and his compadres. The rock is mostly sandstone and the routes are short. There are a few nice multi-pitch trad routes out at Sespe Gorge. This is a great place to "learn-the-ropes" of multi-pitch climbing and placing gear. We occasionally make the trip down to Joshua Tree National Park. There are tons of great climbs here, the weather is good and the rock is sharp as hell. Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas is also a favorite. The rock is beautiful and there are loads of long, multi-pitch relatively easy (and hard if you like that) things to climb. There is a narrow window in spring and fall to climb. Winter is butt-cold, and summer is unbearably hot. The best thing is hanging out at the campsite at night and seeing beautiful desert in one direction and the un-natural, freakish glow from the lights of Vegas over the hill.

photo by Chad Berkley
Lambert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows
Of course my favorite place to climb is the sierras. The sheer granite walls are amazing. Yosemite is climbing mecca. Although the valley is ridiculously crowded in summer, camping at Camp 4 is fun just for the great historical relevance and the interesting people that you meet. Tuolumne is unbelievable. It is high (near 10,000 feet) so it stays cool in summer and there is spectacular climbing everywhere. The best part is when you are belaying someone up, you never get tired of looking around at amazing views -- endless seas of granite shaped over the millennia by glaciers. The high sierra has unlimited climbing. Just outside Lone Pine at the Alabama hills are some nice trad and sport routes and some longer routes in Whitney Portal. There is LOT more, these are just a few of the places I've been.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Mammoth Pass
She's got a ticket to ride...
Skiing at Mammoth
Another fresh dump at Mammoth

For the last several years I've been fortunate enough to own a deeply discounted season pass to Mammoth Mountain. This has greatly increased my snow-time (as well as the mileage on my truck and friends' vehicles). Santa Barbara is not particularly close to the mountains, so it depends how badly you want to get there. Mammoth is a 6-hour drive from SB. Not too bad, and time flies when you have friends to talk with and good music. I know the drive like the back of my hand and it's relatively enjoyable once you get out of the greater LA area. The name "mammoth mountain" is no joke -- this is one big mountain. I'm still not bored by the terrain and the snow conditions can vary widely. I'm mostly a snowboarder, but have tried in the last few years to get back into tele skiing. Many of my skiing partners are telemark skiers and I get endless shit for "riding" all the time. I still have way more fun on a board, but the teles provide a nice challenge. I have a pair of K2 HeliStinx. They are really light and as the ad says "they cut a turn like Joe Montana can throw a pass" (that's actually why I bought them). My old Burton Air snowboard was recently stolen at Mt Bachelor in April by some desperate soul. It was beat up beyond belief, so if you the thief are out there reading this: Thanks, you did me a favor. I bought a Steepwater board at an end-of-the-season price. Steepwater is a small, local (Mammoth Lakes) snowboard company and they make great freeride boards. Please don't steal my Steepwater! This is the nicest board I've ever riden.

mammoth backcountry boarding
Sierra backcountry snowboarding
In an effort to merge my love of the backcountry with my love of snowboarding I also bought a splitboard in the last year. It's made by Prior, , a Canadian company that makes boards near Whistler. Although I'm still getting used to it, I like it. I just ignore my tele skiing friends who make fun of how quickly then can take their skins on and off while I have to hook my board together. So what, the real question is - who's having more fun going down?

Skiing at Mammoth
Splitting the board..


surf at rincon
Surf at Rincon

Of course if you live in Santa Barbara, you have to surf. It's fun, it's free and has great zen-like qualities. If you ever wondered why surfers are so laid-back, give it a try and you'll see. When there is swell and waves are big, you are constantly paddling to the point of exhaustion. When waves are small you spend a lot of time sitting around outside the lineup and you get a chance to look around and see cool things. I've been buzzed by dolphins many times, and it's always amazing to see how large they really are when you are right next to them in the water. Surfing is one of the few things that can make me excited about getting out of my bed at 5AM. It is just a great way to wake up and get in touch with the world around you.

Photo by Michael Blake
Surfing "the ranch"
Although Santa Barbara gets good surf in the winter, when the swells are out of the north/west. The ocean is better known as "Lake Santa Barbara" in summer. The summer swells are generated by storms in the southern hemisphere and these southern swells are all blocked from hitting SB by the Channel Islands. However, if you drive south to Ventura, you get out of the island shadow and you can get some good surf all summer. There are some world-famous breaks right around Santa Barbara (Rincon, Hollister Ranch) and relatively good spots right near the UCSB Campus (Devereux, Campus Point). Most people on campus have one or more surfboards in their office to go out at lunch. There is a shower and wetsuit rack in our new building - this campus has its priorities straight!


Kayaking the Cle Elum
Slalom course on the Cle Elum River, WA
Outrigger canoe paddling
Paddling has taken on different meaning for me as I moved from Oregon to California. In Oregon I really got really into whitewater kayaking. Rain and rivers were abundant and it was easy to paddle for a half day on the weekend. In California the rivers were much further and the ocean much closer and my water activities shifted from whitewater paddling to surfing and outrigger canoeing. I paddled with the Santa Barbara Outrigger canoe club for 5 years, from 1997 to 2001. Outrigger is mostly popular through much of the Pacific, and the major hotspots seem to be Polynesia, Hawaii, Australia and Southern California. It's a great sport and will definitely get your upper body in shape. There are 3 distinct racing seasons; Ironman, Sprints and 9man. Ironman races are about 12-15 miles, sprints are short 2000-5000 meters and 9man races are 20-30 miles. 9man races involve 6paddlers in the canoe who are switched out with 3 of the fresh paddlers at various points along the course, but done at full race speed; the boat never stops (or even slows if you are good). These are the most fun of all.

Mountain Biking

Carol and Steve
Utah riding
Carol and the boys
Chris' "support" team
Mountain biking is fun because you can do it almost anywhere; coast, desert, mountains. I've recently gotten much more into biking. It's a great activity, it's fun and it's a lot less wear and tear on your body than running. I recently did a 3 day bike trip around Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, Utah. We had a 4WD truck carrying all of our gear, so we could just rid and have fun for 3 days. I highly recommend it -- it's the White Rim Trail. Santa Barbara has a lot of great biking, although the front country trails are relatively steep. There is also conflict among bikers, hikers and horsepeople, however the Santa Barbara Mountain Trail Volunteers have gone to remarkable lengths to ease the tension and keep up the trails. The main downside of Santa Barbara mountain biking is the poison oak, which grows furiously along all the trails. It's nasty stuff, but by the time you’re on your 20th case of poison oak, it seems easier to deal with. Of course there is also fabulous biking in the eastern sierra. Mammoth mountain runs a series of downhill courses on the mountain, which sounds really fun.


evolution basin
Echo Lake, Evolution Basin
humpreys basin
Mt Humphreys basin
As you can imagine there is a lot of great hiking all over California. The backyard of Santa Barbara is the Los Padres National Forest. Behind my house the mountains of the Los Padres range rise up and provides thousands of acres of recreation. There are hiking and biking trails everywhere. Of course the sierras provide endless hiking potential. The high sierras are amazing. You can go for days crossing, high alpine meadows and seas of granite. You can get away with a minimal amount of food if you have a fishing pole. I recommend Evolution Basin, the Golden Trout Wilderness and all of the area around Tuolumne. Last year we spent about 10 days hiking up and over Mt Haekel col and into Evolution Basin, down evolution valley, hooked up with the John Muir trail, then went up and out over Piute pass. It was a great trip; you can check the pictures here.


photo from Ben Klaas/Wendy Volkman
The south island of New Zealand
jackass penguins
Jackass penguins of Capetown, South Africa
Luckily for me, my work takes me to fun places up and down the west coast and around the world. The major upwelling ecosystems of the world happen to be in California, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa, and of course those are the places I've gone. We are comparing among these regions of the world to understand the generality of oceanographic forcing on nearshore community structure.