Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays.  May you find joy and peace during this season and all through the new year.

Another year has flown by.  I hope yours was a good one, although I know we all hit bumps, detours, and obstacles along the way.  I look forward to hearing from many of you. This is the time of year I often get caught up on your lives, so please share.

My year included a return to Yellowstone to work as a photo guide and driver.  It was also a year in which photography played a major role.  I am involved again with the Diablo Valley Camera Club, of which Lin and I were founding members.  I had photos in three gallery shows; The aRt Cottage in Concord, the Moon Cafe in Locke, and ArtU4ia in Martinez, all small California galleries.  Chris and I hosted a weekend field trip to Fort Ross, the old Russian settlement on the coast of California as well as some one day trips.  Chris did far more, as I was often away from the area.

We spent a night at a light house B&B for Chris' birthday, I had a windy journey to Yellowstone and a great season there.  It was a wetter than normal season, creating many mornings with ground fog.  I have discovered I have an affinity for fog photography.  And, upon leaving Yellowstone, in the snow, on October 1, we traveled the route of the great Glacial Lake Missoula floods.  Chris joined me and routed the trip which took us through Missoula, the Camus Prairie, Lake Pend Oreille, the Palouse Country and Scablands of eastern Washington and Spokane.   

The big change for me is that I have bought into Park of the Sierras, a cooperative RV park, built by volunteers of the Escapees RV club. It is in the California foothills, on one of the routes to Yosemite, in what is know as Gold Rush country.   Does this mean I am giving up my meandering lifestyle?  Absolutely not!  I will still travel, and am going back to Yellowstone to live and work again next May-September.  But this gives me a home base which I have not had for 21 years.

You can see photos of all these adventures and read a bit more about them by clicking on the "older posts" at the bottom right of each page.  My blog puts the most recent post at the start.  You can move backwards through them to see earlier posts.  After reading a post, if you click on the first photograph in that section, you can see the photos, enlarged, as a slide show.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A lot in Coarsegold

It is a big change for me.  After  21 plus years on the road with no base except a mail forwarding service in Livingston, TX, I  have a lot in Park of the Sierras in Coarsegold, CA.   I have an assigned RV site with full hookups, a storage shed, and use of all the communal areas of the park.

No, this does not mean I have given up my nomadic lifestyle.  I still plan to travel a lot in the motorhome, will live and work in Yellowstone again next summer, and am not hanging up the keys.  But I decided I was ready to have a home base.

This one has a lot to offer me.   It is in the foothills of the Sierras, between Fresno and Yosemite. When I am here I can easily drive to Yosemite for a day.  I can also enjoy the rolling oak studded hills of this area.    I am close enough to keep my Kaiser medical coverage now that I am of Medicare age, and I have a shed to store some things in.  I also have a good place to leave the motorhome when I want to travel abroad.  Finding a place to store the motorhome when I traveled by air, water, train was always an issue.   When I am not here, my lot goes into a rental pool for traveling rvers and drops my monthly dues.  The dues are very reasonable; about what I paid to store the motorhome in a storage facility when I was in Ketchikan and I get a whole lot more for it here.  When I am here, and I plan to stick around this winter, it is close enough to the Bay Area to visit friends and family there.  In fact I am headed up to enjoy Thanksgiving with Chris, his daughter and her family, and a large group of their friends.  It is about a 3 hour drive.  But I am going by Amtrak instead of driving.  A neighbor will drop me at the station in Fresno and I will have a relaxing ride to Martinez.

This park was built by member of the Escapees RV Club of which I have been a member for years.  Using volunteer labor to build it and to maintain it, it is a friendly spot where I already know a number of people and where one quickly meets lots of new people.

There are 161 acres, about 250 lots, a large club house, workshop and rig wash station, storage for RVs, lots of paths, wi-fi, and laundry facilities.  It is on rolling hills, typical of the Sierra foothills. This area was part of the California gold rush and it contains a section of the old stage coach road which carried people to Yosemite in earlier times.  There is a creek which has been left as a natural area.  Right now it is dry.  It will take a good deal more rain to restore it.  But it can run high in the spring when snow melt higher up feeds it. I've been busy getting settled but will get some photos of that area and put them in a future blog post.

Escapees is the parent organization, the RV group to which I have belonged for years.  This park was created by some of the members.   They did a beautiful job, fitting the sites into the landscape saving the trees and granite rocks, views, and habitat for lots of wildlife.   Quail, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, woodpeckers, lots of songbirds are common.   I've only been here a few days but know, from previous visits here, that deer and bobcats are seen fairly often.  This year there was a black bear and a week ago some of the volunteer work crew saw a mountain lion.  I don't have to worry walking in the inhabited part of the park, but will limit walks in the undeveloped areas, especially across the creek to times I have walking partners.  I am accustomed to this.  It's how it works at Yellowstone where bears are an issue for solo walkers.

Here are a few photos taken the last couple of days as well as some from when I stopped here last December.  Some of you may remember that I had an issue with the motorhome and getting the parts put me way too late to do the pre-holiday and holiday visiting I had planned.  So I came here and enjoyed a communal Christmas dinner and good company.
That's my site on the left with the white car.  It has a small deck.

View from a little further back.   The pile of granite rocks are typical of the area

View from the back of my lot.  My front window faces east for morning sun.  
This is another site, just to give an idea of how they are situated on the hills.

This is the clubhouse, which has a large kitchen, library, laundry, mail room, office, deck, and plenty of room for large activities.  I attended Mary and Elaine's wedding here several years ago, and have been here for large dinners, a melodrama, musical events and movies.

Landscape in the park.  Oaks and granite boulders.

Madrones, with their beautiful peeling red bark are also common in the park

A woodpecker stores acorns in an oak stump

The work of woodpeckers

View to the northeast.  It was an overcast day which resulted in a light rain.  We need a lot more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The great Glacial Lake Missoula Floods

As we left Yellowstone, Chris had plotted our course to follow the geologic history of the great floods that swept from western Montana through central Washington and to the coast.

During the last great ice age, glaciers moved down to block the Clark Fork River, creating what was believed to be the largest lake ever impounded by an ice dam.  It wasn't until the 1990s that an even larger example was found in Siberia.    The blockage of the Clark Fork occurred about where the present day town of Sandpoint, Idaho and Pend Orielle Lake are.   The water backed up, flooding the huge valley where present-day Missoula, Montana, stands, creating a lake roughly the size of Lake Ontario.   As the water backed up behind the dam, it reached a depth of 2000 feet, eventually weakening the ice and causing the dam to fail catastrophically.

This didn't happen just once.  It happened many times, roughly between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago. At one point, 36 water level marks have been counted.

Our first good look at the water marks was behind the University of Montana in Missoula.The top shoreline was 950 feet above our heads.

As we traveled along the Clark Fork River, we saw further evidence of the forces of water.

One of my favorite spots along the route was Camas Prairie, a unique valley in western Montana (on a map of Montana, look northwest of Missoula to find route 28 off Montana Hwy 200).  Here giant ripples as shown in the three photos below, were the important clue in understanding what took place here.   What was extraordinary was to image that the water was about 800 feet above where we stood at the top of the pass where I took the third photo in this series.

Large boulder left behind.  the white object is a bit of the spine of a deceased cow, just to give a bit of perspective on size.

Looking through the Camas Prairie.  Although the antidunes are not plowed, the lower, flat area of  the valley includes a number of large ranches.

A huge debate began in 1923 when J Harlan Bretz first proposed that the Scablands of central Washington State were created by a huge flood.   His colleagues, who at that time subscribed to the notion that geology is a slow process, met his proposal with derision.  (It wasn't until much later that he was vindicated.  Fortunately Bretz was long lived, and in 1962 geologists wired him to let him know they were now convinced of the accuracy of his theory.He also received the highest award among geologists.)

One of the things that supported Bretz was the work of Joseph T. Pardee.  And it was aerial photos of the Camas Prairie which supported his believe that a huge body of water, created by an ice dam, caused the cataclysmic flooding that Bretz believed caused the Scablands.

The ripples run as much as 35 feet high.   Hydrologists explain that there are two main kinds of ripples in stream beds.  One is formed from slower moving water which leaves ripples called dunes.  Fast flowing water leaves "antidunes" called such because the steepest slope faces into the current.  The ripples at Camas Prairie are antidunes, proof of not slow erosion, but a huge flood.

As we moved further to the west, we watched more of the phenomenon of the "Scablands," the name given by early settlers to the steep coulees (those deep ravines, often dry, and called by other names such as arroyos, in other parts of the country), or steep rocks, islands of hard rock, and tortured terrain.  We spent a night at Palouse Falls, photographing it in the evening and again in the morning.  this falls is still running.  It is in terrain carved by the cataclysmic floods of Glacial Lake Missoula.  The falls is 180 feet high and the top of the cliff is 477 feet and water rushed over the top of that level.

 Our next stop was also a falls, but one that is now dry.

Our next stop was also a waterfall; a dry one.   Dry Falls, between present day Soap Lake and Coulee City was once the largest waterfall in the world.  As we drove towards the Falls, we passed spectacular walls of basalt.

The falls extended from about where the man in the red shirt on the platform at left is standing, all the way across to the far wall on the upper right hand side of the photo...the wall in the rear, not the small rock face in front of it.  

We drove the car down to the basin at the bottom of the falls.  Here you seem some of the hard rock which survived the torrential flows of water while softer rock was torn away.  Even these rocks had huge chunks forced apart and carried downstream.

Also at the bottom of the falls.

Downstream of Dry Falls, water now impounded.

Further north, we stopped at Grand Coulee Dam.  The dam, a major project during the Depression era and beginning of World War II, utilizes some of the area cut away by the Glacial Lake Missoula Floods.

We did do a short side trip from Palouse Falls to the Snake River near Little Goose Lake Dam and Lock.   Here the water from the Glacial Lake Missoula continued its course from the Snake to the mighty Columbia and then to the Pacific.  Maybe someday we will continue the journey.  I have traveled up the Columbia Gorge, but did it admiring the scenery and the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the cultures of the Native American peoples of the region.  Now I would add the geological history to the wonder.

As we left Palouse, we stopped by this grain elevator.  The Palouse County, except where it was eroded by the floods, contains which silt which has blown there, to be deposited in rich farmlands where grains are raised today.   At Washtucna we stopped at the local watering hole for a great breakfast and friendly conversation with the cook\waitress\bartender who makes great omelets, and one of the local farmers.
My motorhome gives a sense of scale to the grain elevator.  

Our journey ended in Spokane, WA.  Chris had only an evening, but got to meet RVing friends, Sherry and Jim White who have a home there.   I put him on the plane home early that morning and he was at a meeting in Richmond, CA by late morning.  I spent another two nights parked in Jim and Sherry's driveway and got more time to visit.  Other RV friends also have a home nearby and so Marilyn and Jerry came over for a visit.  It was fun getting caught up.

And from there I headed south and west, across Oregon.  But those adventures await another blog entry.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

End of the Season at Yellowstone

My season ended on October 1, along with an inch of fresh snow which arrived overnight.  But the sun was breaking through, driving conditions were fine and it was a fitting end to a great season..

Chris joined me for the end of the season, going out with me on my final two tours, one in the rain, and then having a couple days to explore the park before we headed out.   He managed to meet a number of my fellow employees including fellow photo guide, Doug Hilborn.    He was with me when some of the photos of the Trumpeter Swans were taken, although some were also the week before when friends and fellow photographers, Cathy and Mark Pemberton, were visiting.

Here are a few photos to end this seasons' presentations.   I already plan to return next summer so there will be more then.   This year, except for the weasel and the swans, wildlife photography was more limited than some years.  But I had fun with the geothermal scenes, especially as we had a lot of ground fogs, due to wetter than usual year, which added to the photo ops.

Perfect travel weather.  Snow flocking the trees, but not sticking to the pavement.  This taken from in front of my motorhome in the employee RV park at Old Faithful.

This photo and ones that follow are a sampling of the full season.  The elk calf still has its spots and was taken early in the season.

This photo and the one above are of Riverside Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin (on the trail that leads from Old Faithful).

Chris chats with Jackie, one of the other drivers who was doing an evening tour along Firehole Lake Drive in the rain.

 I spent a weekend in the Tetons.  This is a view on the way in, from Island Park, Idaho.  Below is Mesa Falls which  I did a side trip into the Bechler Ranger Station, in the portion of Yellowstone which is in Idaho.  Mesa Falls is outside the park but along the route to Bechler.