Eastern Sierras in July

August 5, 2020 at 5:02 pm (Uncategorized)

First light from Whitney Portal Road

Comet NEOWISE was the reason for my second mini-road trip of the summer. I’ve already made two posts on the comet, so this will feature the daytime landscapes from Lone Pine to Mono Lake.

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First light from Whitney Portal Road
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Moon sliver looking east from Whitney Portal Road

I adore the mountain scenery around Lone Pine and Independence, showcasing the gorgeous peaks looming above the valley. A huge earthquake shook this area between my trip in early June and mid-July, but all was quiet on the eastern front.

I was surprised that the night temperature was warm enough to sit outside and watch the stars in shorts. It had cooled down by morning, but the air stayed crisp and clear.

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From Fort Independence Road

Even though I had a “carefully planned” itinerary, I deviated from it to indulge in whims and adjust to lighting and weather conditions. Next stop: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

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Bristlecone Pine Poster Child

The iconic dead bristlecone featured on numerous posters and photographs is toward the end of the Discovery trail, which starts near the visitor center. At 10,000 feet or so elevation, and four months after hip replacement surgery and years of underactivity, I figured the 3/4 mile trail would be a challenge.

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It actually wasn’t too bad, even though I had to stop and rest a lot. There were some cool little flowers, stunted and small due to the harsh environment at elevation on the dolomite soils of the White Mountains.

The name of the tree comes from the bristles on the young cones. All the ones I saw were decorated with glistening sap, which lost the diamond sparkle in the photos.

Due to COVID-19 the campground was closed, but the picnic area made a nice lunch stop.

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From what I’ve seen on the Eastern Sierras and Hwy 395 Facebook page, the Sierras are known for spectacular cloud formations. This wasn’t in that category but still interesting.

I took a short trip down Hwy 120 to look for wild horses, but didn’t find any. I did find a field of small magenta flowers, though. I had hoped for a clear night to photograph the comet with Mono Lake tufas but it didn’t look like it would happen. So I found a great forest service dispersed campsite overlooking the lake and did time lapses of the Milky Way and the very short peek of the comet when the clouds cleared just enough. (See previous posts)

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Tufas from Navy Beach

It seems there are fewer tufas than there used to be. They are very fragile and were formed when the lake was deeper (before Los Angeles started draining it for its citizens) and underwater spring minerals combined with those in the lake.

I decided to head back to the Alabama Hills for another try at the comet, since the skies were packing with clouds. I even heard a thunderclap at Agnew Meadows in Devil’s Postpile. To get there I had to drive through the small town of Mammoth. I was stunned to see so many tourists in the midst of a pandemic. My favorite fast food stop for coffee and drive-up breakfast – McDonald’s – was now a huge Starbucks! I should have stopped there, but thought I was mistaken, and kept looking. I finally found what seems to be the only drive-up fast food restaurant in town – Carl’s, and got my coffee and breakfast burrito. Driving to the postpile, I passed under ski lifts that were loaded up with mountain bikes and their riders (each in separate cars.) Sooo many people…

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Cornflower, or false green hellebore

At the Devil’s Postpile entrance station there was an orange traffic cone that kept drivers from pulling too close to the window. Signs said visitors need to wear masks at the window, and the ranger did as well. She passed my brochure to me with a long-handled grabber. Very smart. Unfortunately, even though I was early, the parking lot at the trailhead was packed. Many groups of people were walking past unmasked and talking loudly on the narrow boardwalk. It disgusted me. They should have rangers at trailheads and the destination to enforce the state law on mask wearing. I turned around at the trailhead and went to Agnew Meadows, figuring to return in the off-season when the idiots weren’t around.

Agnew Meadow is known for wildflowers, but even better were the butterflies. The bright copper I photographed was by far the best, and a new one for me. Except for the folks backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, I had the place to myself. I didn’t cover too much ground because the butterflies and moths took most of my attention. And when I heard the thunderclap, I turned around as I had no rain gear to protect my equipment.

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Hot Creek Geological Site

I stopped at the Hot Creek Geological Site and took a little nap. After all, staying up half the night to take photos of the night sky takes its toll.

Although fishermen are allowed on the banks, people are not allowed in the creek as there have been super-hot releases of water with no warning, and people have been burned. It was in the 90s outside and steam swirled above the cobalt pool, so you KNOW it was hot.

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Arch, Alabama Hills

I found a great campsite at Alabama Hills (it helps to go on a weekday) and photographed the comet, then at dawn I marched down the Arch Trail. Only one other person was ahead of me, and it was already getting hot.

I had heard on the Sierra Wave radio station a historical tidbit about the Onion Valley Road. I had never heard of it before, and since it was close by I decided to explore before heading home. It was a lovely drive, and once there I just hung out near the road photographing flowers and interesting bees and bugs.

The ID of the species will have to wait, otherwise this post might never happen! I’ll end this with photos of some other wildlife seen during this extra-long weekend in the Eastern Sierras. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Keep social distance.

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Kansas City Zoo

September 22, 2019 at 3:54 pm (Bird photography, Butterflies, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Zoos)

Lorikeet at Kansas City Zoo

Wow. I’ve let three months go by without a single blog post. It’s been a busy summer. Gone visiting family in Seattle, and mandatory training in Kansas City. Then catching up, lounging around, binge-watching TV shows and movies. So these next posts will be light on text as I catch up on my adventures.

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Hi Mountain Lookout

October 15, 2018 at 7:27 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife)

Cinnamon-colored American Black Bears
When I found out from the Morro Coast Audubon Society that the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout was having an open house, I cut my Eastern Sierras trip short and drove home so I could learn about the work being done to save California condors from extinction.

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Camp Parks – Wildlife Oasis part 2

June 17, 2018 at 6:30 am (Uncategorized)

White-tailed kite

Although I went to the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area on business, I arranged to tour with the installation wildlife biologist to see the wildlife, particularly baby burrowing owls, very early in the morning.

We had no luck seeing the owlets, but we did get some great views of another target bird of mine – the white-tailed kite. This one has a rodent in its claws. Read the rest of this entry »

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Valentine Rocks

February 14, 2017 at 6:02 am (Uncategorized)

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Seattle Women’s March and Letter to Sophie

January 22, 2017 at 10:11 am (Seattle, Uncategorized) (, , , )

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I know I’ve been remiss in my blog posts lately. New computer. Stuff to do. Places to go. I’m now in Seattle visiting my son, his wife, and my new (and first) granddaughter Sophie. KUOW Seattle Public Radio’s Facebook post said they wanted people to write letters to loved ones regarding their feelings on the upcoming inauguration. I had written my son a letter 31 years ago about my hopes for him, and thought why not. It’s a good time to let little Sophie know what her MeMaw hopes — and fears — for her. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tugboats and Benzene Barges

November 26, 2016 at 10:04 am (Photography, TX, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Benzene barge, Port Arthur, Texas

Benzene barge, Port Arthur, Texas

Well, I’m in Southeast Texas where I did some of my growing up. Visiting family for Thanksgiving. Didn’t talk politics so it went well. Yesterday we did something fun. We went first to the Spindletop museum in Beaumont, where the first oil well gusher in the area roared to life in 1902. (Stay tuned for another blog post on that one.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Baby Bison

May 16, 2016 at 4:57 am (Uncategorized)

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All winter I saw just a handful of bison at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. But now, the herds are prominent, and so are the little orange babies!

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Two Sunday mornings ago they were right beside the road just past the Prairie Dog Town. I parked and watched them for about a half hour. Here is a sweet little video:

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

March 28, 2016 at 5:30 am (Uncategorized)

Redbud tree and memorial chairs at former site of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Redbud tree and memorial chairs at former site of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building

Oklahoma City is 90 miles from where I now live, and visiting the national memorial dedicated to the terrorist attack of 20 years ago was on my list of things to do. However, the morning I had a medical appointment at the VA hospital there, another terrorist attack occurred thousands of miles away in Brussels, Belgium. So this would be an appropriate day to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salton Sea Shore

March 1, 2015 at 3:07 am (California, fine art photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Sunrise in the palms, Mecca, Calif.

Sunrise in the palms, Mecca, Calif.

It’s not really a sea.  It’s a lake with a strange history.  You see, the Salton Sea was once a legitimate lake (a small portion of prehistoric Lake Cahuilla), but then it dried up thousands of years ago.  When a canal was built in the early 1900s to divert water from the nearby Colorado River to the Imperial Valley for crops, the engineers failed to take into account the fact that the river sometimes floods. Read the rest of this entry »

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