California Photos: 72 Hours with Optical Edge

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This rapid-fire 72-hour assault of California—organized by Optical Edge Outfitters to include skiing on Mammoth Mountain, mountain biking outside of L.A., and sea kayaking off Catalina Island—started with plush digs at the Malibu Beach Inn…and a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. Here you see the view from the balcony.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Dawn came far too quickly—but rather than dealing with TSA hassles, Optical Edge owner and extreme adventurer Chris Ashford arranged for a private plane to transport us from L.A. to Bishop, California, an hour from the base of Mammoth Mountain.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The small plane offered enough room for our gear, which included skis and helmets, cycling apparel, hiking packs, a big cooler—basically enough for a week of backcountry adventure compressed in a heady 72 hours.  
Credit: Thia Konig 
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The early a.m. departure afforded spectacular views of the rising sun…  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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…and, soon, an eagle's eye-perspective over the snow-covered peaks of the Sierras. We'd planned on landing at Mammoth's airport, but it was under construction, so we to make the hour-long drive from Bishop to the resort. But compare that hour to the 11 it'd typically take to make the trip from L.A. and you're still sitting pretty.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The snow was perfect spring corn—as shown by Chris's casual cruising. We shared the mountain with a few Canadian expats squeezing out the remaining days of winter and members of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams as they continued to train well into spring.  
Credit: Thia Konig 
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After a half-day of skiing, we flew back to L.A. and then hopped into helicopters to go mountain biking on a network of forest roads Chris had scoped out weeks previous.  
Credit: Thia Konig 
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Sadly, the two-hour detour to/from Mammoth and Bishop cut the ride short—pretty much after unpacking the bikes we had to gear up to head back to the airport.  
Credit: Thia Konig 
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Then it was back into the plane for a quick, ridiculously scenic jaunt to Catalina Island, 27 miles and a world away from the glamour of L.A.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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A dozen buffalo were brought to the island during Hollywood's western period to film The Vanishing American—and then left on Catalina, where they now roam wild. Ironically, the buffalo scene in the movie was edited out—but on Catalina the buffalo remain. This monument to the animal, and the island, resides at the island's small airport.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Most of Catalina's residents live in the Mediterranean-esque town of Avalon, pictured here, or in the port city of Two Harbors. The rest of the 76-square-mile island is owned—and protected by—the Catalina Island Conservancy.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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We'd planned on scuba diving off Avalon, but 70-knot winds made water travel downright impossible. I view it as Mother Nature having mercy on my nearly-broken body. Instead, we ate dinner, wandered the town—where golf carts and scooters make up the majority of motorized traffic—and relaxed in the vibrant environs of the Avalon Hotel.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The next day we went on an island tour and brief hike to a few windswept outcroppings—an optimal way to fully appreciate the island's rugged beauty.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Our guide that day was Michael Upton, a third-generation Catalina Islander and owner of Wet Spot Kayak Rentals. When he was young, he and his grandfather collected the buffalo dung scattered across the island, dipped them in resin, painted them gold, mounted them on plaques, gave them a punny name, and sold them to the tourists; the red, white, and blue 'patriotic' version would net them $20,000 in one year.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After learning the fine art of transforming shit into souvenirs, we dropped down into the valley and explored Little Harbor by sea kayak. The breakers were too huge to breach, but paddling in the harbor alone proved invigorating.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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From there, we caught the 1.5-hour-long ferry back to L.A., where Chris had a stretch limo waiting to take us to the airport. Give Optical Edge 72 hours, and you'll leave the experience thinking you're a rock star, an extreme sport god, and an endurance guru… Weekends will never be the same again.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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