Friday, March 30, 2018

LA Caving

Cave of Munits is a wonderful cave and a sacred site on Simi Hills in San Fernando Valley, half an hour from Los Angeles downtown.

I am on a business trip in Los Angeles, but busy even through the weekends. When I finally found some free afternoon time, I wanted to go see the few small caves, and quickly figured Cave of Munits would be a must see. To begin with, it is a nice hike in unspoiled nature. But, more importantly, the cave sits on a cliff and the views from inside the cave are amazing, as seen above.

The cave was also an odd formation, kind of like a cathedral, and I don't actually know how it was formed. It is full of steep holes reaching towards the top, but then those holes simply stop. What formed them? Water? From where?

Entering the cave requires some easy climbing; getting down is a bit tricker perhaps. But I realised that one can also go through the cave to the top of the cliff, and then hike other paths back to the parking lot.

Apparently, there's another very interesting cave somewhere on the Simi Hills, the Burro Flats Painted Cave. It has cave paintings, and its location is kept secret.

Cave of Munits is in the El Escorpión park. It was only later that I learned it sports rattlesnakes, "requiring observant footfalls and handholds". Hmm...

I also managed to go see the original "Batcave" or Batman's cave, aka Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. These aren't actual caves, rather mines/quarries, but they've been featured in various movies and TV shows. And sure enough, as I hiked to the hills where the cave is, they were shooting another movie and I had to wait a bit for the shoot to end. I also got to meet some movie stars, who in this case were a bunch of six year olds. (The movie was a children's show on the Internet.)

Coordinates: Cave of Munits N 34.197171 W 118.669814, Bronson Caves N 34.121308 W 118.314253.


Pictures from Cave of Munits:

View from the top of the cave:

Here are the pictures from the Batcave:

Hollywood sign is visible right outside the cave entrance:

This blog is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. The song "Hollywood High" is by Silent Partner, and freely usable from the YouTube audio library.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Unmarked bunker in Stubböle found!

Another guest blog article from Jarmo: He found a previously unmarked and unmapped bunker from Stubböle area.

When I visited Stubböle a week ago I noticed that farming fields were still covered with snow. This weekend I thought that it would be a good idea to combine skiing and bunker hunting. We had already found quite a few Soviet-occupation era bunkers at Stubböle and typically they were located just next to a farming field. My idea was to find a bunker that is not listed in any books or maps that we have seen so far.

Cross-country skiing on farming fields was fun! And a lot safer than skiing on a frozen lake or sea when the spring is coming and temperatures are rising. I also managed to start early enough so that the snow was still hard, skiing was easy and you could ski virtually anywhere where there was snow.

After maybe an hour of skiing I was in the furthest location and was ready to start my way back to the car. I did one last detour and noticed a small grass covered bump in the forest. I took off my skis and walked a few meters off from the farming field and immediately noticed an entrance to a bunker.

I had found an unmarked bunker! This bunker was not in any list that we have seen. It was a standard small size bunker with a gun mount on a side wall pointing to the field. As always it was blasted but still in a reasonable good shape.

Coordinates: N 60.071938 E 24.146817.

More pictures below. Here is the entrance corridor:

Entrance hallway:

Blown up hole in the main room:

Gun mount and steel reinforcement:

Skiing to the place:

Photos and text (c) 2018 by Jarmo Ruuth. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Stubböle Big Bunker

Another guest blog entry from Jarmo:

When I visited Stubböle a few months ago with Jari and Olli we met some local people. They pointed us to a bunker that is not shown in any maps. At that time we did not have time to check it. When Eino wanted to join me on a Sunday adventure in a perfect sunny weather we decided to go and check this bunker.

I was expecting something like a small standard bunker. When we crossed the snow covered farming fields we noticed that this definitely was not a small bunker. In fact it turned out to be one of the biggest bunkers that we have visited. It looked very similar to a huge 20x20m bunker we had seen in Östersolberg (see here and here). This bunker although blasted was still in a reasonable good shape inside so we were able to visit probably the whole interior.

I sketched a simple map of the bunker which is shown at the top of the article. At the back there is a long corridor running from one side to the other. Entrance at point A (see the map at the top) was open. There were stairs going down. The other end of the corridor at point G was blocked but most likely was also an entrance. At point F there was a short corridor and stairs going up. It was blocked so it is not sure if it was entrance or something else.

Next to the corridor there were two large rooms, points B and E. Between those rooms at point C was a big round gun hole that is visible also outside. Also between large rooms at point C was a small room with a door at the end, maybe leading into the gun hole.

This bunker is one of the biggest there is and relatively easy to move around so it is definitely worth visiting. Also access is easy. There is a road close by and when you approach from the farming field side it should cause no trouble to nearby houses.

Coordinates: N 60.0646553, E 24.1434709

More pictures from inside:

Photos and text (c) 2018 by Jarmo Ruuth. All rights reserved.

Search for an Island Bunker

Another guest blog entry from Jarmo:

Perfect winter finally arrived and sea and lakes are frozen. Time to go skiing at the sea and at the same time check for some potential bunker locations at the islands.

There were two potential bunkers marked at Södra Svartö at Inkoo that were not next to a summer cottage. When I arrived at Södra Svartö I noticed that the first potential bunker location was a rocky hill (N 60.015437, E 24.138973). Maybe there were some fortifications under the snow but I could not find any.

I continued to the other location at the other side of the island (N 60.017260, E 24.141934). Again no signs of a bunker. The forest was harvested just recently so that and snow pretty much covered any signs if there were any left.

A bit closer to the sea I did find some holes that could be the remains of an old trench. It was covered with snow so difficult to say.

So I did not find any bunkers but it was perfect skiing at bright sunshine at the frozen sea. Snow was great, there was nobody around and I was skiing next to pretty small islands.

Photos and text (c) 2018 by Jarmo Ruuth. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Skiing in Romania

The winter is running out, and even the HR department though that I had too little vacation. So I decided to take some last-minute cheap flights to Romania to ski in my #57th country.

I had been to Romania only once before and even then spent all my time in some meeting room at a bland brand hotel.

So I didn't know what to expect. The premier ski destination in Romania is Sinaia, an hour and half away from Bucharest airport. But I really didn't know the country or the ski place. I was surprised to find that the mountains and the ski area are as big they are; Sinaia could easily compete with many destinations in the alps. The highest lift goes to a moderate 2103 meters, having 1223 meters of vertical. But it covers a large area, with plenty of skiable terrain, an obvious opportunity for adventure.

What I found was a strange mixture of old and new, modern western technology and classy hotels, mixed with remnants from the communist times and local culture. For instance, my very nice hotel Complex la Tunuri is hosted at a small luxurious castle, but when I arrived to see the castle towers and gates in the darkness I couldn't help thinking of Count Dracula -- Transylvania and the Bran Castle is just half an hour down the road, after all.

On the ski area the contrast between modern and communist era could not have been more striking. The area hosts two lift system companies, one by the city and one by a (bankrupt) commercial company that bought the communist-era ski lifts. You can ski most of the ski area using either lift, but if you insist on visiting every corner, like me, then you may actually need both of the quite affordable lift tickets. The modern lifts are in most cases the best option, as the older gondola lifts are wonderful but may require some waiting times. In general, the old lifts have great 70s colour scheme, lots of red, some blue... take for that reason if not anything else.

The ski area is basically divided into two parts, the high-alpine at the top, with relatively modest steepness but an amazing amount of free space and free skiing opportunities. A number of old, decommissioned lifts also sit on the high plains, and there's an option for hiking further to huts and even other lift systems at the top.

Under the high alpine area is the steep, partially forested and partially rocky set of complex gullies and slopes. There's plenty of space to play here, too.

The travel to Romania was surprisingly affordable, by the way. Direct roundtrip flights from Helsinki were only 159€ (a bit more after luggage options and waiting for the next day to book). The route is served by Blue Air, which is a no frills but well working airline. Although I'm a bit unnerved when flying in the Ukrainan airspace, but many of the flights to this corner of Europe go through Ukraine.

Rental car offers started from 1€ (!) and even the reasonable brand name offers were from 24€ for two days. Although I took a taxi because I figured I'd get to work and/or sleep on the way. I had fun sitting on the backseat and hacking away on my code in rural Romania, with access to GitHub with the snappy 10€ SIM card that I bought from the kiosk at the airport :-)

Another very nice ski experience, and country #57 on my list of skied countries. But I should come here again, there so much more to ski in Romania. I also wanted to thank my friend Dan for tips regarding Romania.


More pictures from skiing:


Ruins on the slopes:



This blog is also available on the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. The song "Magnolia" by The Silent Partner is freely usable from the YouTube Audio Library.