Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Greetings

May the holidays, whatever ones you celebrate this time of year, be filled with joy, with reflection, with thankfulness.

Another year is almost gone. For me the year meant new friends and time with friends of old. It meant new places and a return to favorites. It meant the loss of my Aunt Aloha, my Dad's older sister and last relative on my Dad's side. It was a year of photography, working in Yellowstone, sunshine, storms, wildlife, good meals with friends, good books, good conversations, walks in the deserts and woods, and dreams of new travels.

Rather than reiterating the year, I invite you to scroll down through the blogs I've written this year. there are plenty of photos of everything from grizzly cubs playing, moose, Yellowstone in winter, scenes at Bodie, some of my favorite camping spots, some of my publications this year, and more. Just below this entry are the most recent blogs. The next page (at the end of this section, click on "older posts" which will take you into the summer in Yellowstone, and the page before that includes spring wildflowers, winter trip to Yellowstone, and storms in the desert last winter.

So, take a look. I just learned that you can enlarge any of the photos for a closer look by double clicking on the image. In order to fit the blog, the resolution is downgraded a bit, so they may not be spectacular, but it gives you a chance to see the photos larger and look at details you may want to see, things like claws on grizzly bears, details of reflections in Bodie windows, fields of flowers.

Since I rushed didn't take time to do a blog between the wildflowers of the desert and my arrival in Yellowstone, I would be remiss without mentioning that my cousin (actually our mothers were cousins so that makes us second cousins or cousins once removed or some such) and I celebrated her birthday on May 1 by staying in a delightful little hotel in downtown Benecia, CA. Both the rooms and the dining room of the hotel have been nicely restored and an added treat was the fact the first weekend in May is a big arts open house in town. Great fun. I visited Bryce and Lisa at their new place near Fernley, NV and then took Hwy 80 across....not the most exciting route. Loved the Loneliest Highway the year before, far more. But I did have a deadline!

Wishing you all the best in 2011.

Thanksgiving and south

In November I attended a conference of NAI, the National Association of Interpretation, in Vegas in November. The setting seemed incongruous for a group of interpretive guides, rangers, docents and related folks most of whom work in the outdoor, natural world or in historic sites. But, despite the setting, great conference, fun people, and I learned some new pointers and skills which should help me in my tours.

Vegas is close to Tecopa Hot Springs where I met some friends for Thanksgiving, trips to the baths, trips to the date farm, lunch at the off-the-beaten-track C'est Si Bon coffee house, and quiet desert landscapes. Just before Vegas I met a friend at Red Rock Canyon, one of the natural wonders and secrets tucked just a few miles from the neon and glitz. He wanted some photos of him with his home and toys. So, here is a photo of Piper Bob, in kilt with his bagpipes, his tiny home on wheels, his even tinier tow car, kayak, bicycle, with the great scenery as a backdrop. Met Bob and his brothers on the Grand Canyon float trip a few years ago and our paths cross from time to time.

I have a favorite route south from Tecopa to Arizona, with a few variations from time to time. This year I drove south, through Baker, and then onto the meandering, quiet two lane and not well paved, though paved it is, road which travels through a good portion of the Mojave Desert Reserve, part of the National Park System. The old train depot in Amboy has been restored and is a great visitor center on the natural and human history of the region. Trains, mining, survival, desert geology, and even a small coffee shop sitting at the U-shaped counter of the original train station.

I spent a night parked next to Roy's Motel, now closed, in historic Amboy, CA. This town was an important stop on the old Route 66. Now the only things open are the post office, and the tiny cafe\gas station and restrooms. And the cafe only has some cold sodas in the refrigerator, a pot of coffee, and some packaged cookies. But the town's owner hopes someday to restore the motel and cafe to its 1950's era,

From Amboy I meandered secondary roads to Joshua Tree National Monument. I practically had the campground to myself, especially the first night. That is probably because other people checked the weather forecast and knew the temps were going to drop into the mid-20s. Still, it is a great place. Here I am parked in Jumbo Rock Campground

Ended up on Ogilby Road, a free BLM camping area which is handy to Algodones, Mexico where I did my annual dental check up. Its great when the dentist smiles and says, "everything looks great." Visited friends in Yuma, and by chance as 4 of us were having lunch, I recognized people at another table I hadn't seen for several years. That led to a visit with them and an overnight on the cul de sac in front of the house they have built.

Today I am in Gila Bend, AZ. Why Gila Bend? If you have been here, you understand the question. This isn't exactly a destination site. But, for that very reason it is perfect for my purposes. There are no distractions and a good wi-fi connection. I will finish my holiday newsletter and get it sent before I head to a favorite desert spot near Ajo, AZ where Verizon doesn't reach and I cannot easily do internet related activities.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting published

This was a good year for publications. Two magazine covers, an e-book cover, a guidebook cover and an article. And I am off to a good start for 2011 with two articles awaiting early publication in the new year. Here is a composite photo of this years covers, spread on the gravel next to my motorhome.

The one in the upper left includes "Dilley Park," home of my cousin, Dick Dilley in West Lafayette, Indiana where I stopped for a visit last Fall. Here is Dick, with son Neil, and grandson, Reese, who was a delight. We had a great time getting acquainted.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mono Lake and Tioga Pass

One of the special features of the Eastern Sierras is Mono Lake. Today it is a small remnant of what once covered this region. Like the Great Salt Lake, this lake no longer has an outlet. Water leaves only by evaporation, causing the natural salts to accumulate. Today Mono Lake is three times as salty as the Pacific Ocean.

In that briny environment live tiny brine shrimp and alkalai flies. These in turn feed millions of birds who come to this lake to feed during migration and to nest in the spring. It also brought the Kudzidika people here. Then, in recent history others came. Miners seeking the gold and silver in the hills of the region, ranchers and other settlers. The demand for wood changed the environment and the hostilities of newcomers toward the native Paiute and Shoshone people changed the face of the region. Still later came the representatives of the Los Angeles Water District. More than any other arrival, these changed the land dramatically.

Streams that had previously fed Mono Lake and Owens Lake to the south, were diverted into aqueducts to feed the growing populations of the Los Angeles Basin. Owens Lake no longer exists, except for a shallow puddle in the spring. Mono Lake is a much smaller, and more saline remainder of what was once here. When it is windy, the alkalai flats of both lakes spin blinding and health impacting dust.

Islands in Mono Lake, formed by volcanic action, were threatened with ceasing to be islands. One became a peninsula, allowing coyotes, fox and other predators to attack the eggs and new chicks of the nesting birds.

Eventually the Friends of Mono Lake prevailed in the courts. Los Angeles had to quit taking all the water from the steams feeding the lake. Even with this court help, the Lake is still in danger. Drought years expose the peninsula.

Still, this is a special place, one beloved by many, including photographers. Fresh water springs under the lake bring up water. As the calcium in that water interacts with the briny lake water, tufa towers are formed. As the lake has receded,these towers are exposed. The eerie landscape intrigues visitors.

Above:Double rainbow over the lake.

Below: Tufa Towers on land and in the lake and briny water with foam. The water of Mono Lake is thick and silky in appearance. It is bouyant. Mark Twain described it in "Roughing It" and said the the akalinity allowed one to toss in dirty laundry and have it come up cleaner than if an expert laundry woman had rubbed it on a wash board.

Below: views from Tioga Pass, the "backroute" into Yosemite. It closed the following day due to snow. Here is a view of Half Dome....not the usual one seen from the Yosemite Valley.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eastern Sierras

The above campsite is in one of my favorite spots. Goodale Creek is a primitive campground between Big Pine and Independence. Lava flowed here at some point and some is visible behind my motorhome in the photo. The Sierras highlight the landscape to the west and it doesn't matter if you are parked facing north or south, the view is spectacular. To the east are Owens Valley and the Inyo Mountains. Changing weather conditions light the mountains and drops snow on the peaks.

It is a good location for exploring the surrounding area. It was my base for spending time at Manzanar, the Alabama Hills, the trip to Whitney Portal, and Big Pine Creek Canyon. Part of the time another RVer, Boomer, Photographer, Don Peterson joined me. It is always fun for me to go out shooting with another photographer. It makes me get up earlier than I would if I was going alone, gets me excited and makes me look twice at things .He had only briefly visited this area a couple years ago so I played guide. I love sharingspecial places. And it is fun to then share the photos we have taken.

The above two photos are other scenes at Goodale Creek campground. Its obvious that there is plenty of space and peace and quiet.

Below are some typical scenes from the Alabama Hills. This site has been used for many films and one almost expects to see the Lone Ranger, John Wayne, or Gary Cooper to ride out between the narrow piles of sandstone boulders.

This is Don with his camera

This arch must be the most photographed scene in the Alabama Hills so of course I had to do some versions of it too. The weather did not cooperate; Mt. Whitney can often be seen in the background but clouds blotted it that morning.

Above: Fun lighting near Hwy 395 driving home from town one day.

Whitney Portal is the trail head for those who wish to hike the highest peak in the lower 48. For those of us with less strenuous desires, the drive to the Portal and a walk around the base of this waterfall, the small lake, and the trees in the area is a great way to spend some time.
Below: On the drive back from Whitney Portal the skies opened enough to look back, from near the Alabama Hills, to see Mt. Whitney. The sculpture is something new from my last trip to the area. It seems to mark the entrance to a new home in the area, but it make a great prop for the view.

Another day included the drive on the June Lake Loop with dozens of stops. Extreme winds the day before cleared the air and did not knock all the leaves from the aspens. The loop is protected some. Snow was still blowing from some of the peaks and open areas had blown clear. High wind advisories along Hwy 395 kept me off the roads. The windshield was blown out of a car parked at the Mono Lake Visitor center which is an indication of the velocity.

Rush Creek tumbles down the mountain on its way to Mono Lake. In recent years, court orders have required that the water enter the lake rather than being diverted by the Los Angeles Water Department.

Below: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all people of Japanese ancestry, down to 1/8, were removed from their homes and businesses and placed in concentration camps, relocation centers, whatever term you want to use. Manzanar, along Hwy 395 was the first camp. Here people were housed in military barracks, fed in mess halls. The site is now a National Historic Park under the National Park Service. Within the last two months, they have opened two barracks and a mess hall so people can see the living conditions.

Guard tower to prevent people from leaving the camp. Eventually people were allowed to legally leave. Among those leaving were young men who fought in one of the most decorated army units, fighting for this country in Italy while their parents, siblings and children were held behind barb wire at home.
I knew much of this story, but a new tidbit on this visit was that children of Japanese descent in orphanages were also sent to this site. Any child with as much as 1/8 Japanese ancestry was transferred to Manzanar. .
But what can one expect of hysterical times and racism. Hysteria and racism can do some strange things. I have trouble imagining a 4 year old orpahn being a threat to national security, but that is what happened.

Return to Bodie

During my visit to the eastern Sierras, I returned a couple of times to Bodie State Historic Park. I spent three seasons 2002-2004) working at Bodie. Located thirteen miles off Hwy 395, south of Bridgeport,Bodie is one of the gems of the region.
This remote gold and silver mining town was once, briefly, California's second largest city. With close to 13,000 people, only San Francisco surpassed it. But in less than a year, the population had dropped to a fraction of that.

Still, Bodie hung in there, existing as a mining town up until WWII. The school and post office closed that year, along with the mine and mill. The federal government closed gold and silver mines during the war as they were not essential industries. Although attempts were made to revive the operations after the war, they were unsuccessful

Today, Bodie sits in a "state of arrested decay." The buildings, to the extend horrible budget restrictions allow (and with help from the non-profit support group) are stabilized but not restored to their pre-ghost town existance. The guiding rule is to keep the town looking as much as possible as it did in 1963 when it became a state park. All the artifacts are originals. Fortunately a leading family bought up and preserved much of the town and a few other families hung in there, some justusing their homes as summer homes, some on a more regular basis. An armed caretaker helped to prevent wholesale looting.

Wholesale looting did happen at Aurora, NV just over the state line from Bodie. It is sad. Mark Twain spent some time in Aurora and wrote about his experiences in the Esmerlda Mining District in "Roughing It."

As many photos as I have taken of the place, I can't visit without taking more. There is always some new angle, some play of light. One of my goals was to do some reflection photos in windows and then some photos using a polarizer to better see inside. I found last season at Yellowstone I had a great reflection photo to share with guests, but needed a companion polarized photo. A couple of them are included here....I apologize for the small renditions and quality the blog allows.
A visit to Bodie always means seeing some of the folks I worked with there. Ranger Mark Langner and his wife Lynn Inoye are some of my favorite people. Thanks to both of you for another good visit to Bodie, fine meals, a bit of wine, lots of conversation and laughter.

Inside a stable, looking toward the church and a couple of residences.

General view of town. The house on the left is the Gregory House where I lived during my seasons at Bodie. Pretty rough on the outside, basic but comfortable inside. In fact, I considered the claw foot bathtub the high of luxury. This was one of the houses that was occupied into the fifties, by a rather gnarly, unfriendly character. But, since it was occupied in the Depression, and after the war, it had modern plumbing and was fairly sound. Buildings like this now house staff.

Many old wagons, as well as later automobiles and trucks, litter the fields around town. In the museum are two elegant hearses.
In discussions last summer with guests on my photo tours, I realized it would be good to show a couple of window shots, with and without polarizers. I played with a number of these while I was in Bodie. The window in the first two shots is the old general store. Without a polarizer, the reflection includes the mining hill, the1928 Dodge-Graham truck as well as the interior with the dye advertisement.With the polarizer, emphasis is on the wonderful ad for Diamond Dyes.

That old Dodge-Graham still runs although starting it is a chore. Each year it is towed to Bridgeport (does not meet highway requirements) and is driven in the parade as the Bodie float. Town is small enough, the parade circles town several times. I've driven the truck in town. and helped to tow it into the barn for winter storage. The Yellow Bus in Yellowstone with its new engine, transmission, starter, and power steering is a piece of cake compared to this one.

I arrived one morning as Mark was about to do his patrol of town. It was the last day of hunting season and he wanted to drive around the back side, up over Bodie Bluff, to make sure all the gates were closed, no one had trespassed. I rode along. This view of Bodie is one most visitors never get to see. It was taken from the top of the Bluff, in the area where the mining shafts are located. Dropping straight down, as much as 800 feet, this area is dangerous and not open to the public except on a limited, guided basis. The rocky hillside in the foreground, a great place to find pikas and there haystacks (winter feed supplies), below is much of what remains of the town with business district and some of the homes. In the distance, the snow capped Sierras. It is fitting as Sierra Nevada translates from the Spanish as Snowy Mountains.

Another reflection shot. I could have included dozens of photos of old equipment, so consider yourselves lucky to get just a few reflections. The house which is reflected is the Gregory House, my old residence.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Season ends

Here are a few photos from the end of the season and a couple of bear shots that got forgotten earlier.

For friends Nan and Rochelle, who think moose only exist in the form of a chocolate dessert, this handsome fellow was below the bridge on the Snake River in the town of, yes, really, Moose, WY.

Grey Jay

This grizzly was along Mary Bay on the north shore of Yellowstone Lake during my friend, Rochelle's, visit.

Grizzly cubs wrestling. This was on Dunraven Pass, also while Rochelle was visiting.

I finally rode the boat across Jenny Lake in the Tetons. Bit of smoke in the air, but the peaks are still magnificent.

Aspens in the Fall in the Tetons. There are aspens in Yellowstone, but not nearly as many as in the nearby National Park.

Fire is part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and plays an important role in keeping grasslands for grazing animals like elk, bison, deer and regenerating the lodge pole pine forests,and keeping pine bark beetles at bay. Still, they are frightening to watch. This fire began as a lightening strike. My cousins, Sharon, Bonnie, Glende watched with me as huge towers of flame shot up as the fire reached new fuel. This was taken on Dunraven Pass on the day we all headed over the Beartooth Hwy for a day in the high elevations and a night in Red Lodge. A couple days later the park service closed this road to through traffic due to smoke and fire equipment.

The next post will be from somewhere on the road.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Fall in Yellowstone

Fall means mist rising on Yellowstone River and Lake, elk bugling, icy cold mornings and sunny days with a brisk feel. It can also mean snow. This morning scene is at Fishing Bridge, just a mile or so from where I live in the park. Some mist is visible in the very background. From this spot I have seen beaver, river otters, muskrat, white pelicans, osprey, bald eagles, and cutthroat trout. I have had to make a hasty exit when bison chose to cross on the bridge rather than swim the river. I've seen weasel, elk, mule deer, and grizzly bears in and around the bridge area.
My last week in the park included exceptionally beautiful Fall weather. A little nip, but generally shirt sleeves during the day, a final night BBQ with some of my friends who live in the dorms. I spent a day and a half in the Tetons where Fall color was at its peak. Ana Maria and Ted and sister, Suzy, shared their motel room with me. I would have stayed a full two days but got a call that another driver had called in sick the day before and they weren't' sure she would be there for the evening tour on Sunday. I hurried back, only to find out she had come to work....that is the breaks, and I did get two hours call out pay, but I left a Black Bear feeding on berries which I hoped would soon move out of the shrubs and into the open. I got plenty of grizzly photos this summer but few Black Bears.

Beartooths and Chico, MT.


The first week of September included visits from three people I met this spring at the Elks Lodge in Petaluma, Ca where I parked my motorhome while doing all the things I normally do while I am in town.

Don Peterson was a friend of friends. We had been in email contact for a while as I searched for classes in computer photo editing in the Tucson area. A fellow photographer, we went out on a couple of shoots while we were both there. We did the same here in Yellowstone. He went on one of my photo tours and then we spent some time exploring the park and area with cameras in hand. The photo above of the pika and the photos below of the waterfall, mining equipment and the 10, 947 foot summit were taken on our trip to the Beartooth Hwy northeast of the park.
Pika are a tiny member of the rabbit family. They live in rock piles in high elevations where the temperatures are cold. They are one of the species being studied as bellwhethers of climate change.
Linda and Howard Stilley went on my photo tour out of Old Faithful. It was a morning with great lighting and Linda got some great shots and learned some new techniques with her camera. Good chance I will see all three again this Fall as we all have reasons to be back in that area for a bit.

Don atop Beartooth Pass

After my years working in Bodie, I am intrigued with old mining equipment and mining towns. This battery box, fly wheel and cam shaft sit in front of an old log cabin in Cooke City, MT. The dogs next door seemed formidable, barking and snarly when we stopped the car. But despite the barred teeth, they never left their unfenced yard and eventually got used to us photographing next door. The waterfall was along the way.

Treating myself

The next weekend was a retreat for myself. It started off with the simple idea of a soak and Chico Hot Springs, north of the park. And the thought of a soak brought on the idea of a massage.
I could have stopped at that, but I have heard for several years that the dining room there is one of the finest places to eat in Montana. The only reason I haven't eaten there before is that I have not wanted to make the long trip home to Lake area of Yellowstone in the dark. I know the roads well, but bison and elk on the road at night are a serious consideration.
No rooms were available at Chico. Part of the facility dates back to early in the last century with nice rooms and baths down the hall. It was in my price range. Then there are newer additions at higher prices. But with nothing available, I asked if they had other recommendations in the area.
What sependipity. I ended up in the Homestead Cabin. Set up for 4 people, it seemed like a bit much for me alone. But once I met Sarah, the owner, and walked inside, I knew I had found the perfect place for a little retreat, for a break before the last weeks of work in the park.
Sarah is one of those unconventional, bold, active, independent women who I admire. She has done a magnificent job of restoring the cabin and adding all kinds of small touches which make it a perfect place to unwind.
I took a walk through the remains of Old Chico. This is an old mining community. The sky was still stormy after snow and rain the night before, so the lighting was great. And I knew Fall was here because that is when the Rabbit Brush, my nemisis is in bloom. But you have to have one non-perfect thing to keep all the rest of the experience in perspective.
After a dinner in the Chico Hot Springs dining room which fully lived up to all my expectations I headed to the cabin a mile and a half away.
I sunk into the feather bed in the loft, thinking I would watch the stars out the window. By nightfall it was totally clear, there were no lights to interfer, the sky was perfect. But I only lasted minutes. I didn't know another thing until daylight the next day, when I climbed down the ladder and fixed a cup of tea in the kitchen.

Above is Chico Hot Springs. I've soaked there several times. This time I added dinner and a massage the next day.

Interior scenes of the Homestead Cabin. I slept in the loft above. The ladder to it shows in the left of the photo on the right.

scenes around the cabin (hinge) and around the community.

Love old equipment. If this were current discards I'd probably think of it as trash. Somehow when it is rusted and tells the story of an earlier era, I like it.