Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rain at Last

At long last we had a rain, a good steady all night rain.  Chris had come to Coarsegold to spend my last weekend here with me and mid-morning on Saturday it stopped raining. There were reports of snow at Fish Camp so we though we would go take a look, cameras in hand.

Fish Camp had snow but the lighting was poor.  We were so close we decided to go on into the south entrance of Yosemite. We didn't go as far as the valley; we didn't need to.   The view from the lookout at the tunnel was stunning and kept changing as the storm cleared.  I'm including a whole series here.   If you run through them quite quickly you will get a feel for the changing light.  We were there for about an hour, although we spent 10 minutes in the car shortly after arriving as it rained.  Then we returned to our spot and shot again.  After going through quickly you can return and look more slowly.   The last two are of dogwood  which was in full bloom.

The light was magic.  Twice there were rainbows, one lying low in the valley.  Half Dome never made an appearance, but sometimes the light hit the valley, sometimes Bridal Veil Falls, sometimes El Capitan.  The first photo show how it looks when we arrived.  It was pretty socked in and we were not sure how it would photograph.  But after the rain, it was a constantly changing light show.

It rained just moments after taking this photo.
 The rain was welcome.  Hardly enough to ease serious drought conditions, and the snow didn't last, but it cleared the air, put a little moisture in the soil.  We loved it.  And in the motorhome, the sound is delightful.

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The rain began in the valley before it hit us, and created a low lying rainbow
El Capitan through the clouds

The Dogwood was in bloom
The blooms were prolific

 Other news.  I am ready to head out on April 30, for a leisurely trip to Yellowstone for another season as a photo tour guide, driving the elegant old 30's model White Touring cars, which are yellow.  White was the manufacturer.

There was one chore to complete before leaving, in addition to the normal ones.  The bed in my motorhome is next to the ceiling when I am not using it.  It goes up and down on a rail with a small cog motor.  Over the 11 years I have owned this house on wheels, the bed has gotten out of alignment, once because the old curtains caught in the cogs, once because I had failed to remove the fastener before bringing it down, once something else was in the way.   With help of folks here at the Park of the Sierras, the issue is fixed.  Ray Wiley led me to a chat room and then went through it, pulling up the pertinent instructions; Gia and Elaine were over one day and Gia looked at it and made some great observations, and then Ron Jones came over and actually did the physical fix.   Gia was right, the cogs were getting worn on one side and were only about a quarter of the way on the track. Now it is much better and I thank all my good friends.  Ron saved me once before.  I was at the Elks Lodge in Oceanside but needed to leave (mom had had a heart attack...I flew up but once she was stable I went back to get my motorhome and return to stay awhile).  The steps would not retract and stay put.   As I was trying to figure out how to bungee cord them, Ron and Val came walking across the parking lot.   They had pulled in the night before.   We were old friends, but had no idea we would meet up there.  Ron fixed it and I was on my way.  This is one of the joys of the people one gets to know on the road.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Colorado Springs

Sunrise view of Valley of the Gods is a public park in Colorado Springs which features sandstone, conglomerates and limestone, laid down in ancient sea beds but later tipped on their sides by the uplifting of the mountains.  Scouring of glaciers then left these  rugged peaks behind

Chris had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Colorado Springs in mid-April.  Since all expenses were paid for him and his guest, we both attended.  We flew into Denver where we were met by a car to transport us the hour and a half to the hotel in Colorado Springs.  This was all a first class operation with drivers, great hotel, side trips, meals, and the workshop sessions.

The sponsor, a major manufacturer of building materials, devoted this conference to Chris' area; roofing and waterproofing materials.  It was a discussion of what is available, what is in the pipeline, and a chance for roofing and waterproofing consultants to provide feedback. Besides representative of the firm, the guest speaker is a well known authority in the field.

 Since the company is an important contributor to the Paralympics and Olympics, part of the conference was held at the Olympic Training Center.  Our first evening was highlighted by motivational  speaker,  Melissa Stockwell, who was the first female armed services member to lose a limb in Iraq.  She has gone on to become a triathlon winner in the international paralympics and a career fitting prosthetic devices to others who have lost limbs, as well as pubic speaking.   She also led an option walk one morning through the Garden of the Gods, a superb open space area of rock formations.   Since the walk coincided with sunrise, I didn't do the fast paced walk, but met them back at the bus after delighting in ideal photographic lighting.  The red rocks lit up, the orange colors appearing to glow from within.

Wednesday morning as the consultants and staff met for informational sessions, I wandered about downtown Colorado Springs.  Some of the spouses had signed up earlier for a spa session. While I was too late to sign up for a massage, I did enjoy my time wandering.
We re-enacted the passing of the torch to light the Olympic flame at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

The woman in the dark glasses is Melissa Stockwell, a member of the Paralympic Decathalon team, a former US Army Lt., who lost her left leg above the knee in a explosion while riding in the lead vehicle in a convoy.

View during my walk around town

another view of downtown Colorado Springs.  The Olympic Training facility is on an approximately 50 acre facility.  This building on the right is the office building for the Olympics but is not at the same location

Olympians Horanyi and Moody demonstrate fencing for us.  We later practiced forward and backward exercises designed to help develop skills for this support.

Some members of our group volunteered to try some judo with the Olympic team members.  I DID NOT

One of the Paralympic competitions is sit-down volleyball, something that can be played by people who cannot stand and jump.  It is a whole lot harder than you might think.  Some portion of your seat must remain on the floor, no kneeling allowed.   Here some of our group play the game.

The conference ended at noon, allowing Chris and me just enough time to grab a cab to the Cog Railway Station for a ride to the top of Pike's Peak.   After sunny weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday presented us with a heavy spring snow storm.   On the lower end of the ride, everything was flocked with new fresh snow and was beautiful. At the top it was almost a white out.  Views from there are said to be spectacular.  A 14,115 feet, the peak rises from the plains to the east, giving an almost unlimited view, or rather an unlimited view when the weather cooperates.
   Maybe it was just as well we could not wander about the top to photograph the views.  The elevation hit me harder than I expected, and sitting in the heated gift shop, drinking fluids, was about all I could handle with a headache and lightheaded feeling.   I can handle Beartooth Pass as just under 11,000, although I admit that is after being in Yellowstone for awhile, living between 6000 and a bit over 7000. 

This, and next few, are taken from inside the car as we traveled .

In 8.9 miles the railroad climbs from 6570 feet in elevation to 14,115.  It is a steep climb and it takes a cog railway, not a standard track, to handle the ascent.

At the top.  Not much view on our trip.  But this view, achieved by riding a mule, on a sunnier day, inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write the words to America the Beautiful.

Birthday in Big Sur

    We celebrated Chris' April 11 birthday on the Big Sur coast, that rugged stretch where cliffs meet the Pacific, extending south below Monterrey.   It was a sunny weekend, which might not have been as exciting photographically as a stormy time and the crowds were out.  Still it was fun to return to an area where we often camped when I was a kid, and where I spent a number of weekends as an adult in my pre-full time RV days.  I hadn't been back in over 20 years and fortunately, little has changed except for the number of visitors. 
    Our headquarters was the historic Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, a collection of handcrafted cabins built between 1937 and the early 1950's.  Our room was built the year Chris was born and sat looking out on Castro Canyon, redwoods and small creek.   We had an excellent dinner in their eclectic dining room and a breakfast that people all along coast drive to for weekend treats.   

Early morning we drove south along the coast.  The sun has finally crested the rugged hills to the east making shadows on the sand.   We climbed down the stairs and enjoyed a walk on the beach.  The good news is that neither of us developed poison oak as the trail was covered with it and it pushed out into the trail, especially along the railings of the staircase.  

Our room at Deetjen's.  This one is called the "New Room" as it was one of the later additions.

In April, wisteria covers the patio next to the dining room.

One dining room area.  The common areas and rooms are filled with local art and artifacts collected over many years.

As we wait for our breakfast, Chris checks out the manual for his new camera, a Nikon 7200, a gift from his parents.

Waterfall a short walk from our room.  Not a lot of water right now, but then California is in the worst drought since they began keeping records of rain and snow pack.

We did not eat at Napenthe, a long time popular spot, but we did stop to enjoy the view and the art work.