Saturday, June 27, 2009

California's north coast

(The sequence is backwards, but what the heck. A picture of a dog worn out from running all day on the beach is not a bad way to start...)

These pictures are a few of the many I took during our eight day camping trip to the coast.
We went with daughter Ruth. her husband Brian, their children Delaney and Connor, the grand-dog Bodie, and Brian's mother and father and sister ad her two children.
A great family time was had by all.
The pictures were taken primarily at Patrick's Point State Park, one of the state parks the legislature is considering shutting down completely.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Yosemite

Camp Connell -- I finally went through the photographs we took on our two day Yosemite trip and decided to share a few.

The first photo is of the Housekeeping cabin where we spent the night. It was perfectly adequate, and many families have enjoyed these rustic concrete-sided cabins located alongside the Merced River for generations. I do not understand exactly why a shelter like this costs $80 or so a night, but we had a good night's sleep and great views all around. It was the last place available in the park.
Location. Location. Location.

The second image is of the view downstream from the site of the cabins during an early morning walk. The quality of light in Yosemite Valley is astounding and different all times of the day. Once school is out, and the tourist season is in full swing, the river will fill up with rafts and the beaches and banks with sunbathers.

The third image is what you see when you take time to look up from the Valley floor. Yosemite Falls, the tallest in the United States, tumbling down the northern cliff face on a late May morning. The park was crowded, as it almost always is, but a short walk brings you to quiet places.

The fourth image is what you see when you turn and look to the East. Half Dome, looming over everything. Thousands of people climb to the top every year. Once in a while, as happened last week, someone slips and falls and dies. But the rock does not change except as a result of wind, rain, snow and ice. And the pace of that is slow.

The fifth image was taken after a one-hour drive from the floor of the Valley to the tip of Glacier Point, location of the best views you will ever hope to see. The weather was cloudy and grey, with rain blowing in from the East. You are looking across the canyon that holds Nevada and Vernal Falls,on the lower right, with Half Dome in the bottom center. The high Sierra Nevada looms on the horizon, still coated with snow. I believe the peak is Cathedral Peak, with Mount Dana to the left. Hidden among the granite canyons is Tenaya Lake.

The sixth image looks down, through the rain and mist, on the most popular hiking trail in Yosemite, and perhaps in any national park in America, the Mist Trail. It gets so much traffic it is paved part of the way, and steps are cut into the granite between the waterfalls. Despite warning signs along the way, people often swim in the pools at the top of the waterfalls. It's better just to look. This also is the starting section of the grueling day hike that takes climbers around the back side and to the very top of Half Dome, seen on the left.

And finally, an action shot of a bear doing what bears do and a ranger doing what park rangers do. This was taken as we left the park and drove through Crane Flat. The orphaned yearling bear was prowling around near some downed logs just off the road, probably snacking on carpenter ants, and a traffic jam resulted. Bears have very bad eyesight, and he probably did not notice the crowd he attracted which was downwind. Cars were everywhere along the road, and people gathered in groups to watch from the roadside. The ranger is running to head off a tourist with camera who decided to walk up close to the bear and snap a souvenir photo, a dangerous thing to do with a large wild animal. The ranger protected the tourist from himself. This bear was orphaned last year, according to the ranger, when a tourist killed the mother bear on the road.

I never regret visiting Yosemite but I always leave with mixed feelings. It is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and three million visitors a year sometimes make it so crowded it can be a grueling experience to get around and look at the sights.
Accommodations are few, and grow more expensive every year.
The Park Service has an impossible job trying to protect the place, and make it available to all of the public. The only answer in my opinion, which I do not like, is to severely limit the number of automobiles allowed into the park. That idea was floated, more than once, and shot down immediately. Politically impossible.
But when you are there, and walk ten minutes away from the crowded sidewalks and trails and look around, you get to see an earthly version of Heaven.

We'll be back.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yosemite -- a primitive movie

Camp Connell, CA - I cheered up significantly today after getting advice from friends, ranging from "take an anger management class" to "take a walk in the woods."

So I went to the woods nearby, talked to the trees, watched the squirrels and listened to the woodpeckers beating their heads against something hard. I met a lot of nice people along the way.

Lots of life lessons there.

And I came home happy and tried to put together some video clips from a short trip Pat and I made to see Yosemite's waterfalls at peak flow. Understand that it is a primitive film -- no Ken Burns techniques here -- but you'll hopefully get the picture.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A week for the ISMISOB* sign

Things have been pretty quiet here in Camp Connell, my home town. But that doesn't mean nothing at all has been happening.

-- The governor announced, and the legislature may go along with, shutting down 80% of the state parks to save money in the budget crunch. He acts like parks don't employ real people-- just scientists, interpreters, law enforcers, and maintenance folks. Here in one of the smaller counties in the biggest state the local park draws 300,000 tourists a year and generates more than double the expenses in the local economy. Everybody is mad at him about something, and now I am joining the angry throng. What can he be thinking?

-- The weather has been unusual for the first week of June. Temps in the 40s in the morning, with a fair amount of rain, even thunder and lightening. I think I lived in this part of the world almost ten years before I ever heard the sound of thunder. What's up with that? Can I blame this on George Bush and the GOP?

-- Thinking about the state park, and the weather, I was on volunteer duty yesterday on the slightly wet trail through the giant Sequoias when I noticed that some visitor left a just-emptied beer bottle hidden under a bench, rather than take it to a trash or recycle bin. His mother raised an idiot. Enjoy nature and dump your trash for folks to admire?

-- We supported the national economic recovery this week by purchasing a brand new car. It's another Subaru Forester, the best snow/ice vehicle for the mountains. And then I discovered they put bigger and fancier wheels on the new car and our almost-brand-new snow tires won't fit. Zapped by the fashion mavens of the auto industry. Why would they do that?

-- Went to a musical today at the historical Fallon Playhouse in Columbia State Park (another place that may close) to see a performance about the Andrews Sisters. Lots of music, dance, attractive young women who sing well, and a very funny man (the only male in the play). The costumes were great. The dancing right on the mark. The singing was absolutely first rate, and the humor had the entire audience rocking. But I made the mistake of reading two reviews in local newspapers. They were luke warm, pointing out that the audience was older (which it almost always is), and even though it was pretty good, the audience (being older, I assume) didn't leap to its collective feet and make the house thump. Don't these part-time reviewers understand there actually was good music before Eminem?

-- A right-wing loudmouth, who didn't notice how the last national election turned out, is trying to take over local websites that report news. He comments on every item regarding state or national government, usually quoting misinformation heard on talk radio and insulting elected officials by accusing them of being Marxist Commie Pinkos. Anyone who disagrees he calls a fool, and he is getting uglier all the time. It has the effect of spoiling useful public forums. He also is testing my boundless belief in unlimited free speech, but I'll stick with it so far. What sort of manners do you suppose he has at the dinner table?

He would certainly qualify for the "ISMISOB" award.

Many years ago my wife and another woman worked in a Cape Canaveral NASA office dominated by older males who thought they were very important. When the men got out of line and the ladies who did the real work could not take it any more, the women had a little ceremony. They delivered a brass and wooden plaque with "ISMISOB" stamped on the face to the egregious offender. It took the guys a while to figure out that the initials stood for "Inconsiderate Self Made Insufferable Son Of a Bitch."*
They got the message.

I have to be very careful not to move from the "merely grouchy" category to something deserving a plaque.

(Added late: I just learned some numbers this morning that REALLY make me grouchy. From the New York Times:
"According to a 2008 survey of physician salaries by the American Medical Group Association, their average annual salary is $201,555, versus $356,166 for a general surgeon and $614,536 for a neurological surgeon."
Now THAT explains a lot about why we have a health care problem.)