Marking Our Place

February 20, 2014

Paso Robles

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 8:05 pm

Monday, February 17
973_miguel1We are hoping around a little bit at the end of our current road trip. After a couple of days in San Simeon, we moved inland again to Paso Robles. This area has become a premiere wine growing region in California, while still retaining a lesser traveled destination than the Napa/Calistoga regions. We got in early enough to do a load of wash that should get us through the rest of the week and home.

In the afternoon we headed out for a little tasting. We stopped first at Wild Horse and, as we often do, we found a nice Cabernet and Pinot Noir. It was expensive, among the highest we’ve paid for a wine, but we’re thinking it will serve nicely as our 25th anniversary dinner wine – unless we find something better tomorrow. We then moved on to another winery called Dunning. It was way off the beaten track, to the point where the paved road gave way to dirt before finally ending at the winery. It was a very quiet setting and boasted it’s own turkey flock. We picked up a couple more bottles here. I wasn’t shooting much, so no pictures for me.975_miguel2On Tuesday, our friends, Susan and Fred Miller, whom we plan to have dinner with later tonight, recommend we try The Other Joe’s restaurant in Templeton for breakfast. They are supposed to have about the best hash browns around, so we thought we’d treat ourselves to a breakfast extravaganza. We were not disappointed. Not only were they great, but everything was great. I has sausage with my scrambled eggs, and they were so fat and juicy that they splattered all over my shirt when I cut into them. Yes it fatty and yes, it’s greasy, but ohhhhh it’s gooood. It was such a large breakfast that we ended up skipping lunch altogether.1383493_664021570303708_1475950514_n

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1901258_664023596970172_872061959_nAfter a little rest back in camp, we headed out again for more tasting. We though we’d hit maybe 3 more wineries before going to dinner. But first we stopped at  Mission San Miguel Arcangel. It’s another of the California Mission ruins. While the grounds are a bit rundown, the church was actually quite nice. Mary had forgotten her camera, so I let her shoot around with mine. She likes poking around the missions more than I do, so I just made the Instagrams with my phone you see here.

On to the wineries. We ended up stopping at only 2. The first stop was Bianchi where we liked 3 wines enough to buy bottles. We moved on to Tobin James where we proceeded to have our sock knocked off. We started off tasting what they had on the list and it was OK, but we were not blown away. We told our server that we really liked very fruity zinfandels. She got a look in her eyes and told us they have fruity zins, but they usually only offer them to the wine club people. So she started pulling out the good one’s and we started tasting one after the other. Most of them were pretty amazing – but expensive. They were good enough though, that we actually did join the wine club. It gets us a nice discount and invitations to member parties. Now we get 16 bottles a year. These are 16 REALLY good bottles, of their choice of course, but we’ll give it a try.

So we were done with our wine tasting. We went back to camp to recover a little bit before dinner with Susan and Fred who live about 20 mile south of Paso Robles. They are up in the hills some, and they warned us that GPS devices often get the route wrong. They were right about that, but we were prepared with MapQuest and after a wrong turn or two, we found them. They have a great home in a beautiful setting. Country living is nice. We had a terrific dinner and it was great to catch up with friends. Tomorrow we head back to the coast for a couple days in the Monterey area before heading home.

February 18, 2014

Oh to Live Like a King (Or at Least the Filthy, Disgustingly Rich)

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 8:54 am

785_hearst1So Mary wanted to take a tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. While it is now a national and California Historical Landmark, it was once the playground of William Randolph Hearst, who inherited the land from his father, George Hearst. It is always interesting to hear how these two are portrayed as people, and businessmen. If you believe what is told during the tours, you might think what wonderful men these guys were. It really depends on where you get your information. A couple of years ago, HBO aired a series called, Deadwood. It portrayed a time in South Dakota when gold had just been discovered, and George Hearst comes into play during season 2 when he arrives in town and begins to strong-arm his way into everyone’s claims. If you believe this version, he was not a particularly nice man. Be that as it may, he was a successful business man and invested his money in more gold mines, but also land around San Simeon.
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811_hearst4His son William, maybe was not quite so awful, but he did profoundly change the way news was reported. He invented Yellow Journalism for both the good and bad. He did have a philanthropic streak though, and so created something special when he began building his castle on his childhood stomping ground. Together with architect Julia Morgan, and over a period of 20 years, he spared little expense to create this spectacle. Since he is now long dead, and the Hearst Corporation has donated the property (probably because it was too expensive to maintain anymore), I didn’t feel quite so conflicted about doing the tour.

Hearst insisted on having catsup and mustard at every place setting. Just a regular guy.

Hearst insisted on having catsup and mustard at every place setting. Just a regular guy.

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825_hearst8We did tour the grounds 25 years ago as part of our honeymoon. On that tour, we were herded through the Neptune pool area, the main house and indoor Roman pool, before being shuffled back on the bus for the ride down to the parking area. It has changed much since then. Now, after a tour through the house, we were allowed to roam the grounds for as long as we wished. This was much nicer. While the house tour was interesting, I’ve seen plenty of opulence before. It was pretty cool to then be able to stroll around the massive Neptune Pool, visit the gardens, view the architecture at length, linger over some of the spectacular views, before finally walking through the Roman pool room and returning – all at our own pace.

Movie Theater for post dinner fun.

Movie Theater for post dinner fun.

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An example of the Hearst business philosophy.

An example of the Hearst business philosophy.

842_hearst12While we were there, we learned that Lady Gaga had just finished filming her latest video on the grounds. Actually, we knew a little before we got here. My 90 year old dad told me about it when I talked to him a day before. She is a popular woman. Apparently she took a liking to the Neptune pool for her new G.U.Y song. I actually have a lot of respect for the Lady. She is every bit the philanthropist that Hearst was, and maybe every bit as rich. In addition to the usual fees associated with renting the grounds, she also donated $250,000 toward restoration and repair of the pool area. This is not unusual for her. She was named the Creative Director of Polaroid after they emerged from bankruptcy. She may be no Madonna, but she still a sharp cookie.
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859_hearst16We also learned while there, the pool was soon to be drained. Due to drought, the natural spring that normally provides 250,000 gallons a day to the estate, has been reduced to 47,000 gallons. The estate must share water between the castle and the cattle business it also supports, and so the water is needed elsewhere. It is DRY here.

Mary strikes a pose.

Mary strikes a pose.

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887_hearst19After returning to the visitor center area, we decided to view the iMax movie about the Hearst story. It was interesting, if just a bit too lovingly portrayed, but I guess they have to tread a little lightly. You don’t want to bite the hand.895_Elephant2It was just into the afternoon when we finally were finished with Hearst, so we decided to drive up the coast a few more miles to Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal rookery. Every winter, hundreds of these Northern elephant seals come ashore along the California coast to mate and have their pups. We arrived at the point where the mating part was still going on. A few of the cows had already pupped, but there was still much fighting between males, mating between males and their harems, and fighting between cows defending their young. Almost he entire circle of life was on full display. We witnessed dead pups being torn apart by hungry scavenger birds, males mounting their girls (not something for the faint of heart), and lots of other typical seal behaviors.894_Elephant1

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932_Elephant5It was noisy and smelly and extremely entertaining. It was also quite crowded on this holiday Sunday afternoon. We had a bit of trouble getting into the parking area at first, but there was plenty of room once off the road. A long boardwalk allows for an excellent view of the proceedings and several docents were on hand to answer questions and explain behavior. After about an hour, we’d had our fill of Elephant Seal love, and decided to visit the tiny town of San Simeon where the Hearst Winery is located, for a little tasting. We picked up a couple of nice bottles before calling it a day and returning to camp. Another nice day.

Get out of the way of the jiggle train!

Get out of the way of the jiggle train!

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February 17, 2014

Pismo Breach, CA

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 1:56 pm

After another 5 days without decent cell or internet, I’m finally able to post our doings from a week ago. There will be more soon.700_pismo4We had been looking forward to the change of pace that getting to the coast would bring, but the change wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. My last several days in Death Valley had been slightly marred by a minor but consistent swollen gland in my throat.  It hurt a bit to swallow, but not much else. This is something I get from time to time and it usually resolves itself within a few days – it just goes away. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it progresses into something more serious. Thursday morning when I woke at the Pizmo Beach State Campground, it seemed to have dropped into my lungs and I had a deep and painful cough. which of course gave me a decent headache. Each of our first 2 days there the cough was worse and I felt worse. Thinking I had developed some sort of lung infection, I was just at the point of wanting to track down a doctor for antibiotics, when on day 3 it seemed to travel back up to my head and transformed into a raging head cold. It took 3 more days to fully bloom – until today (Friday), I am feeling a lot better. But my whole time in Pismo I could do nothing much more than hang out in the LD and cough, sneeze and drip my day away. Since I don’t have much to write about, I suggest having a look over at Mary’s blog. She got out to do a number of things we had planned.677_monarch1Our first evening there I was still kind of OK. The Pismo Beach State Campground was really nice too. We arrived on a Monday and there were plenty of sites available, even though one of the loops was closed. There are showers available at a price, water and a dump station. All for the reasonable California price of $23 (with the $2 senior discount). There are so many other state parks that charge up to $40/night with no hook-ups ($60 with) and they can be no more than a diagonal parking space barely big enough for the rig. This campground, as you might expect, is right up against the beach. It is separated by a large wooded sand berm and in the closer sites, you get a nice sound of pounding surf. We chose a site a bit away from there because those sites were more covered by trees and we’ve been having trouble getting enough low winter sun on the panels for our evening TV watching. We picked a nice open site and were happy to find out we could pirate a free WiFi signal supplied by the RV Park adjacent to the State Campground. It was quite strong at the dinette, not so much in the rear. But a nice bonus!675_monarch2After setting up, we strolled over to the Monarch Butterfly Preserve, which is situated just south of the campground. We could just walk to it from the campground. Word was they were back in town and in good numbers. The last of the big storm that hit the northern part of the state was passing through making it a beautiful fresh coastal kind of day. It looked like they got a little rain here in the past couple of days, but not much. Our last time here, January 2013, it was overcast and cold and the butterflies were not active or in the numbers they were this time around. There weren’t exactly millions of them, but maybe several thousand fluttering around and hanging on the trees in the grove. We got to witness their mating ritual, which consisted of the males landing on females on the ground, getting a good hold of them, then taking off while the female just hung on. I guess they find a place in the trees and do the deed. A happy Valentine’s Day (a bit early) was being had all around us.
693_pismo1A path from the reserve led down to the beach and we spent the rest of the afternoon beachcombing the surf line. So again, if you haven’t already, have a look at Mary’s blog for the rest of what we (mostly she) did.
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Beachcombing booty of sand dollars.

Beachcombing booty of sand dollars.

San Simeon State Park
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So I’m feeling much better today. Just a little residual junk in the lungs and a little stuffiness and mild cough. We moved about 50 miles north to San Simeon State Park along the coast for the next few days. This weekend is Presidents Day, so Mary had made reservations a week ago for these days thinking it might be tough to get in on a Friday. At Pismo, mid week the place was almost empty, but RV’s started streaming in Thursday afternoon and the place was full by end of day. We arrived here about noon with our reservations and began looking around for a good spot. There are actually 3 campgrounds that make up the park. There were lots of spaces available in all of them. We found a really great spot high on a bluff in the first campground, but learned that our reservation was actually for a space in one of the lower campgrounds. No matter, the ranger said, it would just cost us an extra $5 for these premium spots. Looking out over the coastal terrain to the ocean and beyond, we decided to splurge and spend $25 instead of the $20. It is less crowded in this campground and we have one of the best views. By late Friday afternoon, most spaces looked taken.

A Black Phoebe at our campsite.

A Black Phoebe at our campsite.

752_SS4Saturday morning we were up for a little hike. There is a nicely maintained 4 mile trail that winds around the park that we wanted to explore. It branches off here and there for alternate destinations, like under highway 1 to the beach, and we decided to go there first. Friday afternoon was clear, warm and beautiful, but another northern storm was supposed to be coming in for Saturday. No rain for us, but we did awake to cloudy and decidedly cooler conditions. No matter, we hiked anyway.
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Bristle-thighed Curlew

Bristle-thighed Curlew

The light, while kind of flat, was actually nice enough. We first walked down to and along the beach. Fishermen (and woman) were out, along with kids and other beachcombers. Low fog would coming in and out created some nice moody scenes.
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774_SS9We backtracked a bit to get back on the main trail that meandered through a cool coastal pine forest. Lots of Spanish Moss draped in the trees made this hike a little more interesting. The fog kept rising and falling giving us different looks all the time. By hikes end, it had gotten warmer, and we were tired. My cold not completely gone, I was ready to stop. Mary has mentioned her throat is now feeling scratchy.
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782_SS13Tomorrow morning (Sunday) is our tour of Hearst Castle. Should be an easy day. Hopefully, Mary stays healthy.

February 10, 2014

Stovepipe Wells Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 1:36 pm

281_dune2Tuesday, February 4
Monday we moved all of 25 miles north to the Stovepipe Wells campground. This is pretty much another large gravel lot with spaces to park in, but there are not a lot of people here at any one time, so if you pick your spot carefully, you can manage a pretty nice view. There is a small resort, with a gift shop, restaurant, general store and gas station. Inexplicably, gas at this station is 55 cents less expensive than at Furnace Creek. But at $4.33, it is still no bargain. We won’t be buying gas here. Also, there is no phone or internet connection here, so all posts pretty much have to wait till we are out of Death Valley. About 3 miles from here, at the junction of highway 190 and Scotty’s Castle Road, we have managed to get a couple of bars, so as we move past that spot, we stop to download mail.
274_dune1Wednesday, February 5
This morning we were up before dawn to do a dune walk on the Mesquite Flat dune field, located about a mile from the campground. This is about my favorite thing to do here in D.V. Well the walking part is not much fun, but the photography part is. The dunes are always best after a wind storm so that all footprints are erased. Unfortunately, it simply has not been windy enough to do the job. As a result, virtually every ridge shows all the evidence of every visitor for the past couple of weeks. Disappointing, but being out there so early in the morning is still something worth experiencing.
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296_dune4We were well into the field before sunrise and were able to stake out good spots for first light. It does tend to be quite cool this early, but with no wind, it’s really not too bad. As soon as the sun rises, it starts warming, and in no time, the gloves are off and it becomes very comfortable. We tend to split up while walking around out there.301_dune5

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310_dune8Mary is pretty content to hang around in just one or two spots, while I tend to slog through as much area as I can while the light is still nice. It doesn’t take much distance for new compositions to appear though. Just the sun getting higher can change how a spot looks, but I still move around a lot. Eventually, we met up somewhere along the way and headed back to camp.
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Mosaic Caynon
Later in the afternoon, we took the short drive up to Mosaic Canyon for a hike. We’ve done this hike so many times, but it’s still a favorite. You can walk up this canyon for several miles, I guess, but the best part is the first mile or so. The canyon mouth is very curvy and narrow, and the rock carved and polished smooth. A little too smooth however, because I took a pretty good spill as I was attempting to scamper up one section. The only damage was a banged knee and an awkward position.

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339_mosaic3The colors here are mostly warm. Tans and golds, nearly white and grays. The veins and layers can keep me busy making photos for quite a while. Late in the afternoon, the sun tends to bounce off the walls and reflect onto opposite walls, giving some spots a very nice glow. It’s another great way to spend a day.
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Wednesday, February
375_rhy1Today will be busy. Our first stop is to be Rhyolie, a ghost town about 30 miles east of Death Valley. There are some stone ruins of the town and some other nicely preserved buildings. Just outside of town, is a really odd onsite art installation called the Goldwell Open Air Museum. It was started in 1984 as an artist project of Belgian sculpture Albert Szukalski. We have visited this spot only once before, but it is fun to see what other odd art pieces have appeared since then. There are some interesting shrouded figures lined up on a pedestal, another shroud holding a bike, a large woman made from cinder blocks, and various other sculptures and carvings.
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My Dream Girl.

My Dream Girl.

We wandered around both the art installation and Rhyolite for an hour or so before driving on to the real town of Beatty, Nevada about 6 miles further east. Mary needed to do some shopping, so before doing our planned drive through Titus Canyon, we stopped there for supplies. Beatty has always been mining town on hard times. Lots of bars and a couple of rundown casino’s. But gas here is around $1.50/gallon cheaper and there is a good cell signal for uploading blogs and checking mail. Mary did the shopping, we gassed up and went to the town park for lunch and uploaded last weeks’ blogs.
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Titus Canyon
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We got out of there around 1 PM and headed back toward Death Valley and Titus Canyon. The Titus Canyon drive is a one-way dirt road that travels across the desert top for a way before descending down into a spectacular valley and eventually into the narrows of Titus. 4-wheel drive is not required,  but it is recommended that a high clearance vehicle be used. We’ve never had a problem in the Rav. This road is often closed by flash floods or other problems, but the mild winter this year meant that it was still open and in good shape.
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447_titus4The first part of the drive is pretty boring as it just crosses the desert top at around 1000 ft. or so. The road soon drops into the valley and really wonderful views begin to appear. We tend to stop a lot for photos. Eventually we pass the really really ghost mining town of Leadville. There isn’t much left here but a few shacks and lots of hole in the ground, but it is nestled into the creases of the surrounding mountains that are rich in minerals. The colors of the earth vary from green to black to red and everything in between.
453_titus5Moving on and ever downward, the road then enters the actual canyon. It starts off quite wide but soon begins to narrow. The canyon walls get higher and higher, and the road gets windyer. Great pressures have bent the many layers of rock into amazing contortions. In late afternoon, light bounces off one canyon wall onto another and creates a glowing effect that is great to see. Depending on what time of year you are there, the timing on that changes. The effect is best toward the end of the canyon where it is narrowest – just wide enough for a car to pass through.
456_titus6Eventually, we begin to see hikers walking up from the auto exit point. There is a parking lot there and hikers can park and walk up the narrows of the canyon. The most narrow points are the first couple of miles from the parking lot. If the weather is hot, it can be a long hot slog uphill on uneven gravel, but worth it if you want to avoid the long drive through the canyon itself. After exiting, we parked and had coffee and enjoyed the view. Tomorrow, we plan a long hike that leaves from this same spot, but goes up a different canyon.
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Fall Canyon
Thursday, February 6
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Today we wanted to hike a new-to-us trail. It is the 6 mile round trip hike up Fall Canyon and leaves from the Titus Canyon Parking lot. We’ve always seen trails snaking around this area on previous visits, but it really isn’t well signed and we’ve not investigated it further. This time we did and discovered a really great walk. The last couple of mornings have been partly cloudy and cooler, so we thought the weather would be good for a long walk up a deep canyon.481_fall2

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495_fall4The ranger we talked with at the visitor center about this trail said it was largely an informal trail through the gravel of the wash through the canyon that eventually ends at a 30 ft dry waterfall. Apparently there is another side canyon reached after a scramble over another dry waterfall nearby, but we never found it. The narrows there are said to be the best there.
497_fall5The ranger also said the hike was a case of two steps forward, one step back. You know the type. But the reality was much easier than expected. As you face the Titus entrance, the trail for Fall Canyon skirts off to the left. There is a small blank signpost next to the restroom, but there is no indication that this is an official trail – but it is. It first skirts along the base of some hills before rising up over them and eventually into the wash of Fall Canyon.
504_fall6It is very wide at first and moves ever upward in the way washes do in DV. We brought our trekking poles with us and that may be why the going seemed so easy over the gravel of the wash. There really wasn’t any loss of ground for each step as  the ranger suggested. Using the poles gave us plenty of stability for walking on the uneven areas. It is a steady uphill though.
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511_fall8The canyon begins to narrow as the walls get higher and more shear. You really begin to feel small compared to the surroundings. The various strata of the layered rock walls are bent into some pretty amazing shapes. The canyon becomes quite deep, and growing in the gravel of the wash, we saw a surprising number of blooming wildflowers. We eventually made it to the dry waterfall, but by then, clouds have come over and it got pretty cool, pretty quick. We had our lunch and headed back. Of course it was much easier on the way down. It was a fun hike and we only saw a few other hikers all day. I just love having hikes to ourselves.

More Dunes and Other Stuff We Did
Friday, February 7522_dunes1I wanted another day on the dunes, but sunshine has been in short supply during the morning hours. It’s not essential, but it really makes a difference when creating compositions. Thursday morning was cloudy at the horizon, so I stayed in bed hoping Friday would be better. It was in fact worse. All the heavy rain pummeling the north hasn’t reached DV, but cloud cover has. Friday was completely overcast, but it was my last real chance, so I went out anyway. Mary stayed in bed.
525_dunes2Photographing in this soft light means I cannot use the low shadows cast by first light of sunrise that can emphasize the texture of the dunes. I cannot use the contrast of shadow against light. It becomes much more of a challenge to just use what is there. There are plenty of shapes to play with however, and enough contrast between the various sections of dunes for me to work with.
540_dunes3It was really pretty nice out there. For a good hour I was the only person in the entire dune field. I guess everyone looked outside, saw the cloud cover and decided to stay in. I walked all around, eventually making to the top of the highest dune. I had a great vantage point from there and could look out 360˚. The light was flat and the dunes were still heavily walked on, but I found enough areas free of too many footprints to photograph.
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Scotty’s Castle
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After returning to camp, we got a quick breakfast and headed out to Scotty’s Castle. Walter Scott was a sort of flimflam man. He fell in love with the Death Valley area in the 20′s and managed – through some pretty shady dealings – to secure a grubstake enough to build an elaborate estate within what is now the borders of Death Valley. By securing a couple of pieces of raw gold ore from Colorado, and flashing it around in the east, he convinced people he was sitting on a real gold mine. There was no gold, just his stories. He was staked and befriended by one Albert Johnson and wife Bessie. The real story is a bit murky, but Albert was wealthy and kept Scott in business for a good 10 years. Together they build Scotty’s Castle.
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576_sc3Mary wanted to do a tour of the grounds, partly because her geezer pass entitled her to a 50% discount on the price of the tour. I had to pay full value. But it was a pretty good tour. Our guide was really into it. She was dressed in period garb, and with a click of her heels, would bounce between the persona of guide and 1920′s news reporter in order to give both the myth and facts of the man Scotty. The estate is in great shape and all of the furnishings are original, down to the hats and ties Scotty would wear. It really is quite an amazing place – especially when considering what it must have take to get all the materials here in the 20′s.
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Ubehebe Crater
618_ube1We finished our tour, had lunch and motored off to Ubehebe Crater. It is volcanic in nature and has several smaller craters around it. We hadn’t been here in many years so decided a revisit was in order. It was VERY windy at the crater. Why couldn’t some of this wind make it to the dunes? It was too windy for Mary, but I had to go for a shortish hike along the rims of the various craters. There is a trail to the bottom and we have hiked it in earlier visits. I can tell you it is not worth it. The trail is sand like ash and as hard to walk in as sand. At up to 700′ deep, it is a lung buster.620_ube2

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626_ube4The wind on the rim, while cold and stiff, really wasn’t too bad. I just wore a hoodie for protection and I stayed quite warm. The light was changing nicely and I think I got some nice images of the crater and surrounding landscape. I finished up my hike and we returned to camp. Saturday we head out of the park. We’ll spend a night in Bakersfield before heading out to the coast. First stop will be Pizmo State Beach. There is a good campground there (though expensive at $23/night with senior discount). It is right next to the beach though, and adjacent to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. Not sure if they are in town just now, but we’ll check it out.
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February 5, 2014

Golden Canyon

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 12:48 pm

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My posts are a bit delayed because by moving over to the Stovepipe Wells campground, we lost our internet connection. We’ve had to drive to Beaty, NV to do our posting.

We spent most of Saturday morning catching up on blog writing. Just skipping it for a couple of days is too much and requires more time than one would think to catch up again. Plus we share time on the laptop, so getting it done can take a while. By noon we were both caught up and decided to head out to Golden Canyon for an afternoon hike. A few of the evenings have been a bit windy, but the days have been very pleasant. Today though, started out on the windy side. Choosing to hike Golden Canyon meant we probably would be protected from the bulk of it. This turned out to be the case. Once inside the wash/canyon, the winds died down and we had a nice walk. What is nice about this hike is that in a relatively short distance, there is lots of interesting terrain to see.
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136_CG7Golden Canyon got it’s name from the light yellow mud hills that light up with reflected light in the afternoons. They make up much of the surrounding area. These hills back up against a large wall of red rock, called Red Cathedral. As the trail moves up the canyon, the Cathedral wall comes into view. There is a trail option to branch off and hike up closer, but we have never done that. Getting closer to it doesn’t make it better in my opinion. Instead, we take the Zabriskie Point/Gower Gulch trail branch to the right to continue on.
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151_CG10At the next junction, we decided to take the Zabriskie Point branch and hike up that way for a while. We have never done this part before and thought it might yield some new views. It eventually leeds up to the Zabriskie Point overlook and we hiked about half the way up to it. We did get some new looks and it was nice to see the area in a new way. We turned back at this point, and pretty much retraced our steps back to the parking lot. We have done the Gower Gulch portion of the loop trail several times before. It moves all downhill through another wash before coming out back in the valley, then loops back around to the parking lot. It’s not a bad hike, but it adds an extra half mile we didn’t want to do.
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Sunday, February 2

Mini Winnie

Mini Winnie

After a nice breakfast, we decided to upload the blogs from the previous few days. The cell reception is surprisingly good here at Furnace Creek. We have 4 bars of 1x reception in the campground, but that is way better than in years past. WiFi is available around the lodge area, but at $11/day, I am pretty happy to just use our Verizon hot spot. Browsing is plenty fast enough for our needs. It took a while, but we eventually did get it all done.193_20mule2

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220_20mule9Eventually we got back up to Dante’s View, but again, cloud cover made the valley floor very flat and featureless. There were some nice views off to the east when sun broke through here and there, but it didn’t look like it would happen for us on the valley. We decided to bale and headed back to camp to treat ourselves to pizza at the Furnace Creek Saloon. We’d hoped to arrive after the Super Bowl, but it was only in the 3rd quarter when we got there. It was a subdued crowd owing to the blowout nature of the game. Considering where we are though, the pizza was pretty good, and the Fat Tire beer really hit the spot.232_DanteView1

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As I said at the start, we’ve moved up to Stovepipe Wells for 4-5 days. We plan to walk the dunes, drive Titus Canyon, visit a crater and walk a new to us 6 mile hike. My next post will probably be around 4 days from today.

February 2, 2014

Death Valley – 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 1:38 pm

9863_parSunBefore completely leaving the Red Rock area, we stopped in town one last time. The internet connection hasn’t been good enough to effectively upload any of our blog posts or do any other real online work. I’ve had several juried photo exhibits I needed to get entered into and, while we have had 3 bars of 1x connectivity, it hasn’t been enough to do anything but download email. So it was to Starbucks and their free WiFi we went. We spent several hours there, but got it all done.

In the morning, we headed out, but only to Pahrump. We could have gone directly to Death Valley, but decided to stop at the RV Ranch Resort for laundry and dumping. It was well off the road and very quiet. Seemed like lots of permanent residents in this park. While dumping, I talked briefly with my neighbor, shuffled out with his oxygen tank. I asked how long he’d been living here and he replied about 7 years. I asked where he moved from and he pointed East – from space 27, where he’d been for 3 years. We had an amazing sunset in the evening, but woke up to very windy conditions.

It was a breezy ride into Death Valley, but uneventful. This is our eleventh visit to the park over the past 35 years or so. It always seems like we’ve done everything here, but we always manage new experiences at the same places. The Sunset campground is pretty much an open parking lot. This time of year it’s not very busy, so there still is a feeling of some separation. We have nice views of the valley, with not too many rigs close by. We sat for awhile before deciding to go up to Zabriski Point for a look around. The other Furnace Creek campground is Texas Springs. It’s a bit nicer because it’s nestled into the hills a little further up the slope, but the spaces are quite close together, and no generators are allowed. We could live without the generator, but why?
9874_zeb4We took the short drive up to Zabriski Point as the first excursion of our stay. It is an interesting spot with a wide view of mustard colored eroding hills set against the mountains. Its always fun watching the (mostly foreign) visitors amazement at the sight. One couple we saw was photographing a Pringles can everywhere they visited. I guess that was an Amalie moment.
9873_zeb3There are quite a few paths that can be walked into the hills, but only one trail that leaves from the viewpoint. It connects to the Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch loop accessed from within the valley on the other side of the hills. We will do some combination of these hikes another day. Enough for one afternoon. It was back to camp for a happy hour of Cuba Libre’s and potato chips. Hey, we deserve it!
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photoFriday we set a full agenda for the day. We actually had a few drops of rain fall the evening before, and in the morning a few more. There was still lots of cloud cover. The plan was to head south out of Furnace Creek as far as Badwater. At 282′ below sea level, is the lowest point in the U.S – 17 miles away,. About 3 miles south, begins the Artist Palette Drive. The drive loops up an alluvial fan formation into and through some wonderfully colorful hills. I call them hills, but the thing about this place is it’s immensity. It’s the thing that keeps coming back to me when I’m here. Everything is huge – the hills, the mountains, the sheer space. The challenge is to convey this in the photos we make. Not sure we succeed, but it’s fun to try. We stopped several times to walk around and watch the light change over the valley.
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9922_AP6The drive eventually winds closer into the hills before arriving at Artist Palette itself. The pastels of the various minerals come to crescendo here. It is a unique spot, and one we lingered at for awhile.
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9949_AP10On the way back down to the main road, I spied a coyote crossing the road in front of us. It stopped briefly, but moved on before I could get a camera out. I tried backing up a bit to get a better view, when another coyote crossed behind us. This one did stop, hoping for a hand out. No dice from us. It was nice enough to pose for quite a while though. Each time he (or she) began to wander off, I’d shout “Hey” which would cause him to stop and look again.9962_AP11Back on the main road, we continued down to Badwater. In big rain years, this place can be really interesting. As it is today, not so much. I guess if you’ve never been here, it still is. It is basically a jagged salt flat. There can be interesting hexagonal formations when there is more water, but it’s been so long since those conditions, that the path has been flattened into a white solid compact mush where people have walked. There is a little water, but not of much interest to us. We walked it some for a bit of exercise, walked up to a canyon/cave-like spot we hadn’t seen before, returned to the car for lunch before turning back to continue our tour.
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9983_bad4The photo above is a direct rip-off of friend Stephen Johnson’s image. I saw it there, and just couldn’t resist doing a version of it. On the way down to Badwater, we passed the turnoff for Natural Bridge. I thought the light be better on it later in the day, so we decided to come visit it on the way back. The bridge is located about a mile up a deep canyon/wash and is a nice leg streacher. It is a gradual rise and easy walking and has lots of interesting elements beside the natural bridge. There are dry waterfalls, worn smooth from flash floods, melted candle wax like formations and other side canyons to explore. We spent another hour or so here.x2NatBridge1

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x24NatBridge6Back on the road, we took another turn-off to Devil’s Golfcourse. This short road leads out into the large salt pan formation that makes up large portions of the valley floor. There was some interesting light streaming down from the partly cloudy skies against the mountains. Looking in the other direction, dappled light moving across these mountains was also interesting.x31_devilGC

x41_devilGC2We had to decide whether we wanted to drive up the 30 miles to The Dante’s View Overlook that sits at 5475′. On windy days in the valley, it can blow a freezing gale up there. It was still very cloudy and cool, but not windy at the bottom, so we decided to give it a try. The clouds seemed to thicken as we got near the top. If the peak was in clouds, the view would be obscured. I really expected it to be blowing like crazy up here, but surprise, it was calm as could be.x49_dv2

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x54_dv3The air was quite cold, but we came prepared with coats and gloves. The intermittent light over the valley was gorgeous! The clouds were not down on the mountains where we were, and we had a view of the entire valley. There is a rough half mile or so trail out along the ridge which we walked had photographed. There were so many opportunities for abstract views, so we were kept quite busy.x57_dv4

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x108_dv8As sunset approached, the light just kept getting better – at times lighting up particular parts of the valley and mountains. Once the sun nearly down, a very light snowfall began. I just added a surreal finish to the day. In all, we probably walked only a a few miles, but we were quite tired from all the driving and in and out of the car. Tired but happy, we returned home.x113_dv9

 

January 28, 2014

Getting to & Hanging Out at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:39 pm

RRPanoWe finally got out of Quartzsite around noon and hit the road. It was a relatively short drive of about 120 miles to Needles, CA where we wanted to spend a night in an RV park. We stayed at the Needles Desert View RV Resort. These places always crack me up. We were met by a kindly old dude who led us in his golf cart to our space (the last available spot in the park). The spaces are all very close together, and being a back-in site, ours was butted up another back-in just behind us. But hey, it’s a resort. I could tell because the guy next to us kept his golf clubs standing outside the whole time we were there. The place had all the amenities, though all we needed was the laundry room.

Out with the old. Anyone want to buy a perfectly good SurgeGuard surge protector?

Out with the old. Anyone want to buy a perfectly good SurgeGuard surge protector?

After getting ourselves set-up, Mary got to work on the laundry and I started in on the install of the newly acquired surge protector. I thought it would be a pretty straightforward procedure and for the most part it was. I had the old Surge Guard to use as a guide and only had to determine which way the power was flowing. Not exactly easy once I looked at how the wiring was going every which way down in the compartment below the sink cabinet. But again, I had the old one as a guide. I assumed the incoming power would connect to the top and go out the bottom, but there was no indication on the unit to confirm that. It was originally installed by Camping World and they didn’t leave me the install instructions, so I wasn’t absolutely sure. I just looked it up on the web. It was as I expected.

What wasn’t expected was that Camping World got the connection wrong. They got the hot wire connected to the proper post, but connected the ground wire to the neutral post and the neutral to the ground post. Really? It’s a wonder it worked at all, and may be the cause of our intermittent power problems. It took me a little while to actually believe my own eyes. I researched Romex wire (the 3 strand wire Lazy Daze uses) to be certain that black means hot, white means neutral and bare copper means ground. I pretty much knew that, but when confronted with a professional install that shows otherwise, I had to doubt myself a bit.

I removed the old unit, got the wires connected properly (I hoped), and turned the power on. It all worked perfectly. All that was left was to screw it down. I installed in the sink cabinet where the old one was and it is an easy process to check the illuminated display – something the Surge Guard unit didn’t even have.

So it was on to Red Rock Canyon.9740_ct2We wanted to get there on Friday to better our chances of getting a camp site at the BLM Red Rock Campground located about 2 miles east of the park. This place is so close to Vegas that we figured weekends would be very busy. There were a number of spaces available in the main campground and plenty in the RV area which consists of just a big bare patch of land. We opted for the much nicer camping area. It is mostly tent campers here, but a few vans and RV’s do use it, so we felt fine moving in. They are spaced nicely apart and have a nice view of the surrounding area. The one drawback is that a large bluff overlooks the campground to the west and means we loose our sunlight by 4 PM. On sunny days it’s not a problem, but we’ve had lots of clouds during out stay here, so we have to be a little careful. I don’t like running the generator in this campground, just as a courtesy to tenters.9743_ct3Did I mention I hate weekends? Especially in a place like this so close to a large metropolitan area. We decided on a shortish hike in the park for Saturday. I expected it to be busy, but OMG (and I never use that term) what a zoo! We picked a hike we hadn’t done before out to Calico Tanks. It’s only 1.5 miles up into the sandstone rocks and leads to some pockets of water and some nice views. We figured it would be a good leg stretcher for our first real hike in some time.9747_ct4It started off well enough. It was very sunny, but cool, especially in the shade as we started out. Like many hikes here, there is an established trail to start, but soon various different unofficial routes branch off. This must be due to how many people use this place and that most of the trail, once it moves up into the rocks, is over plain sandstone. We expected to encounter plenty of people, but were surprised at how few we saw on the way up. Once we got there though, that all changed.9749_ct5As we sat eating our lunch at the end point, one group after another arrived. I mean groups of 10 or more in some cases, the voices all echoing among the rocks. On the way back down, we must have passed 100 or more people on the way up or down. It turns out this is the most popular hike here. A good tip-off was the large parking lot. It was full when we arrived and when we returned, it was overflowing down the road in both directions.
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9762_ct9Sunday we picked a less -traveled hike and got an earlier start. The road through the park is a 13 mile one-way loop. If you miss your turnoff, you really do need to go all the way around again. And you have to go all the way around even if your starting point is right near the end. Ours was 9 miles in. The drive is nice, but once you’ve done it a few times, you just want to get to your starting point and go. We picked the Pine Creek trail. It’s basically a 3-mile roundtrip hike, first over slightly rising desert terrain, then up into a canyon. This, like most areas here, is a climber’s delight and we hiked up with a number of them. Once we reached the canyon, the established trail dissolves into a web of random paths. It’s a case of making a best guess and following a path till it ends or goes in a bad direction, then picking another.9806_pc2We’ve done this hike before and learned it’s best to stay higher, out of the canyon for the best views and easier walking. Along the way there are lots of really wonderfully colored sandstone rocks and boulders. Where else can you see polka-dotted rocks next to striped? Only in Vegas baby! This is one of our favorite walks, and was thankfully not very crowded at this early time. Plenty of folks were coming in as we were leaving though. We had a nice lunch next to the diminutive stream before heading back.
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9825_pc7Monday’s hike we originally planned to do the six-mile White Rock loop trail that would take in several of the trailheads in this portion of the park. Mary had hurt her thigh slightly on our first hike on Saturday, and decided she really wasn’t up for that long a walk. We decided on a hike up and back to La Madre Spring, then do the really pretty part of the White Rock loop.9837_lms1

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9849_lms3From where the White Rocks trail branches off from the La Madre Spring trail, it becomes really really nice. It gently winds up and down and through a pinyon and juniper forest with nice views of the sandstone mountain it runs along. It is much shadier than the all uphill open La Madre Spring trail. While it does have a nice gentle up and down path, it is overall uphill for a mile or two before it crests and heads downhill. We stopped for lunch at the crest, then headed back.
9850_lms4In all, I think we did nearly the same distance as we would have with the original loop, but we only encountered a handful of other people along the way, and that alone made this a very pleasant walk. We returned very tired and were happy for a hot shower back in camp. We will be leaving here on Wednesday for a day of restocking and hook-up power, before going further north to Death Valley. Stay tuned!

 

Final Days in Q

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:24 pm

Thursday, January, 23
9658_Bev1After our wonderful experience at the refuge, we returned to camp in time for our final happy hour and campfire. But just before that, I had time to do some portraits of some new friends we’ve met in camp. I am most interested in picturing the full-timers here, but one couple, Bev & Chuck, have one of the most creatively decorated rigs I’ve seen. While they do not full-time, I was compelled to include them because to me, they really embody the spirit of life on the road. I’d photographed Bev once before the last time we were in Q, but wasn’t really happy with the result. I was still figuring out how to do portraits in 2011, and the lens I used just wasn’t right for the tight confines of the rigs.
9659_Bev2So I was back this time, and happily got to photograph Bev AND Chuck. Last time, only Bev came to Q, so it was a bonus to get them both this time. Getting the news of Bev’s health was, however, a rather sobering revelation. These thing happen, I guess, but it is never something one hopes to hear. Especially to someone I have great admiration for. While in camp, I have been giving prints to those I had pictured previously. After giving Bev hers, she wanted a shot of her with her earlier portrait. I was happy to oblige. I did several others of her and Chuck, and I think they came out quite nicely.
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9676_kathy1Then it was over to Kathy’s rig. She is fairly new to the full-time life – being on the road since only September. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, she has found herself single again, and decided she wanted to see more of the country. She is still figuring it out, but to my eyes, she seems pretty much there. A couple of days earlier when we were talking at the evening happy hour, I gave her my business card showing my Lazy Daze in a field next to some large metal sculptures of animals at Borrego Springs in CA. Her eyes got big as she told me she had just bought out all 10 of the greeting cards of that image at a card store she had found. They read, “Congratulations on Your Retirement”. Palm Press in Berkeley, had approached me to publish this image last year as a retirement card. They seem to be selling pretty well.9678_kathy2We did a few shots of her inside her rig, and a few outside. I liked the hats she often wore, and she showed me her hatbox containing 5 different styles. It was fun meeting her and I hope she does well as a nomad. I came away with a couple of nice images.
9691_kathy3The day before, I also had the chance to photograph David and Nola, two more full-timers here at the gathering. The’ve been at it for the past 7 years, but Nola is beginning to feel it might be time to take a break. David, not so much. This is one of the questions every full-timer must confront at some point. When is the right time to call it quits. It is usually a health related issue, but sometimes others matters come into play. 283_NolaDavidThese two are still very active, so it will be interesting how it plays out for them. We chatted for awhile, then I shot some images both inside and outside their Lazy Daze. I think for me, the one I like best was the very first shot I did inside the rig. It was really just a test to check my exposure, but I caught David sitting alone on the couch, with Nola only seen in the reflection of there mirror. Sometimes accidents have the perfect result.
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298_NolaDavid4So far in the three years of this project, I can count on less than one hand, the people I haven’t liked or felt were trying to escape something. Virtually everyone I’m met is fully engaged and outgoing and ready for new adventures in new places.9698_nightCamp1 A bit later, around the nightly campfire, we began saying our goodbye’s and I had a chance for a few more images. Quite a few folks are staying longer, but Mary and I need to move on to our next destination. We plan on visiting Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada for a few days before traveling to Death Valley for a week or so. Red Rock is a wonderful hiking area and we are sorely in need of hikes. Our time here in Q has been great. It took a couple of days to adjust to the slower pace, but seeing old friends and making new ones is a great way to slip into it again.9715_nightCamp2

Friday, January 249725_dumpToday is a very busy day for us. We got up early so that we could get the LD down to the dump station a couple miles away. We’d hoped there wouldn’t be a long line, but many had the same idea. There were eight rigs in front of us waiting to use the 2 stations. We really only had to wait about a half hour, but we had plenty more to do.

Once dumped, we headed back to camp to say some final goodbye’s. Then we took rig and car back up to the entrance area where we parked temporarily so we could return to the RV tent show to pick up the things we needed. We walked over, then split up so Mary could go in search of some Trance Balloons (bags that, when filled with hot air from some burning material, float out into the night sky). We’ve been seeing these over the past evenings and Roger set one afloat during last night’s fire. I had my list of items as mentioned before. I quickly picked up the needed pigtail connection for towing, then made my over to the booth selling inverters. I decided against this item for now. To be most effective the converter needs to connect directly to the battery. It would require drilling a hole from the battery compartment to the interior so I could pass the electrical connection through to the battery. Since there was no deal if I purchased at the show, I decided to wait till we return home to buy and install. My final purchase was the Progressive surge protector. The show deal was $40 off, so I picked it up and plan to install it myself.

Next post, all about Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.9803_pc1

 

January 26, 2014

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:33 pm

Wednesday, January, 22
9523_sunrise1Cibola National Wildlife Refuge is located about 20 miles south of Blyth, CA, which is about 30 west of Quartzsite. We were up for an early start, but got delayed slightly with an impressive sunrise. We still managed to get out quickly and arrived around 10 AM after stopping once along the road to photograph some palms in a field.
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9546_palmsAfter a short orientation at the visitor center, we set out on the auto tour through the north portion of the reserve. There was an impressive array of waterfowl on view. Our first stop at a small pond started out with just a few ducks. While we waited, a large flock of snow geese flew in, circled a few times, and landed. Quite a sight to see.
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9571_cibola3We moved on to a short nature walk that lead to a large blind for viewing the duck area. There were at least a thousand of them hanging around making their duck noises. Very fun to watch and listen.
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9577_cibola4Back in the car, we made the first turn on this square route and found a large field of Sandhill Cranes and Canadian Geese. They were far off in the distance, but the combination of Mary’s reduced sensor camera, and my 300 mm telephoto lens, we managed a few interesting looks.
9603a_cibola3aA little further down the road we came across a few piles of stones and 4 inch pipe sticking out of them. I’d remembered the naturalists telling us to look for these right by the side of the road, because this is where the Burrowing Owls reside. We would have just passed by if we didn’t know to look for them. Sure enough, there was one out standing in front of it’s burrow. Holding stock still except for the occasional swivel of it’s head. We were told if they began bobbing up and down it meant they were nervous. No bobbing, and our car with us in it was not more that 5 feet from them. Made some nice close-ups.
9594_cibola6Around the next turn, I saw a large flock of something in the sky headed toward us over the corn fields. As they got closer we could hear the distinctive honking of Canadian Geese. They moved over pretty quickly and it was hard to tell where they were headed.

Corn is grown for the waterfowl to feast on.

Corn is grown for the waterfowl to feast on.

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9613_cibola8Around the final curve, we came across a rather strange scene. It appeared a small flock of geese had landed in one of the fields. What was strange was that right in the middle of the flock, was a group of men in camo along with their dogs. They seemed to be just milling around among the geese. Using the binoculars for a closer inspection, we discovered the geese weren’t moving at all. They were decoys. All different, in different poses. Not sure why they were set up in a wildlife refuge. Looked real to me.
9619_cibola10We left this part of the reserve and head further south to another part. We only saw a single Ospry on a power line, so we headed back to the north section to find a lunch spot.
9635_cibola15When we stopped at our original starting point, we discovered where the Canadian Geese landed. Right there in a pond in front of the Snow Geese! More came in for landings as we noshed and watched. Suddenly, the Snow Geese took flight. They circled the pond a few times – each go round, a large group would land again, until all had come in again. A great way to finish our birding session.
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9645_cibola17Still to come, posts of my Nomads portraits from some of the folks in camp. You already saw the one I did of Phil, but I will post those of, Bev & Chuck, David & Nona and Kathy. I also have posts coming up for our last days in Q as well as our time in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, where we are now enjoying some great hiking. More posts in a few days.

 

Palm Canyon Hike

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:32 pm

245_PC1As I mentioned before, there really is very little hiking to do around here. But one hike we managed, was out to Palm Canyon. It is about 27 miles from camp, and is only about a 2 mile roundtrip hike, but we joined a large group from camp and carpooled out to the trailhead.

Palms in a crevice.

Palms in a crevice.

It was actually a lovely hike on a lovely morning. It started at the mouth of the canyon and moved right up into it. We came upon an overlook that pointed out where the only native grove of palm trees in Arizona was situated. High up in a crevice in the rocky cliff, the grove is not accessible. Several of our group turned back, but the intrepid decided to trek on to see what there was to see.
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John, Jim & Rod at a dead end.

John, Jim & Rod at a dead end.

Rod thinking about heading to the hidden grove of palms.

Rod thinking about heading to the hidden grove of palms.

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277_PC11The going was rough on an unmaintained wash/trail. We moved further up the canyon and discovered another small grove of palms. Stopping for lunch at this point seemed like a good idea. Rod, one of our group, decided he needed to get a closer look at the trees, while Jim went in another direction to explore a trail of sorts. Mary, Debbie, Gayle, John, Susan and I all held back. It was only hunger that got Jim to come on back down – Gayle’s. She shouted up canyon for Jim to return because he had lunch. We all headed back down the canyon with a very nice hike under our belts.

Quartzsite – 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:21 pm
Even the desert has gone upscale. Yucca Valley, CA.

Even the desert has gone upscale. Yucca Valley, CA.

Well, I am hopelessly behind on my blog posts. It just plain got away from me. We got out of town pretty easily on January 18 and traveled just 100 miles to the San Luis Reservoir. We could have gone quite a bit further, but then we would have had to stay in an RV park for $30. Instead, with Mary status as “senior”, we stayed at San Luis campground for $18. No real amenities, but we didn’t need any. We figured we could hang around the campground late enough to watch the 49′er beat the Panthers the next day.

We took off just after it was clear they would win and headed south to Bakersfield for our second night. Another day of driving took us through the Yucca Valley to Twentynine Palms, near Joshua Tree National Monument. We stopped briefly at a rock pile next to the road north of Yucca Valley where graffiti dips have had their way with this group of giant stones. Some of it is actually kind of nice, but it still just chaps my hide to see this.

We stayed at Twentynine Palms RV Resort for the night. We’ve stayed here before and it is nice enough for our needs, but this time it was quite full. We had to take a back-in site, which is no big deal really, but perhaps because the place was so full, our surge protector kept kicking off our power. Since it had no display on it to let me know what the problem was, I had no way of knowing if the incoming power was too weak or surging. No one else in the place seemed to be having a problem, so I was perplexed. This was not the first time this has happened. I decided that a Progressive surge protector was an item I needed to explore at the big tent RV show in Quartzsite.
222_rogersAcreWe headed out early on Tuesday morning and arrived at Roger Nickey’s 1/2 acre – the name he’d given his chosen spot at the La Posa BLM camping area just outside the town of Quartzsite, AZ. We found him with no problem and proceeded to pay our $40 for camping. The fee is good for up to 14 days, though we will not be staying quite that long.

Out to meet us right away was John Leach and Roger, to fill us in on the various doing for our group. There were probably 15-20 rigs already there, and finding a campsite consists of just picking out a flat area and pointing the rig in the best direction for sun on the solar panels. We were informed that happy hour usually starts about 4 PM, and tonight was a pot-luck with Roger’s special, tri-tip. We had unfortunately forgotten about the time-zone change for Arizona, and we showed up an hour late for dinner. Most everyone had finished, but there was just enough tri-tip left for Mary and I. We loaded up our plates with what was left and headed over to the nightly campfire to catch up with friends and new acquaintances. Mary took a number of “round the fire” shots of the folks there, so check out her blog to see them. So ended our first night in Q.
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169_incamp1There isn’t really a lot to write about for the day to day life in camp. There is almost nothing to do each day here. The days are quite warm, but nights dip into the 40′s. We tended to stay in bed reading until it warmed up outside, then we would step out and wander around the camp, stopping to chat with whoever happened to be out at the moment. There is one hike nearby, up to an abandoned mining operation, that we did the last time here 2011. We thought we might do that, but actually never got around to it. The highlights for the first few days before the big RV show opened, were visiting, the happy hours, the campfire afterwards – and the sunrise/sunsets. The first couple of days, they were not so much, but as clouds came over, the skies came alive with fiery crimson color.
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179_johnBatOne item of note happened on Thursday, 2 days after we arrived. I stepped outside the rig, I noticed a wet patch of ground near the back. Often, when the water heater is on, we will get some leaking out of the check valve, which happens when the water heats and expands. But this was much more than would be normal for that. Looking under the rig, I saw water leaking from somewhere. Uh oh, I though. I’ve got a pipe leaking. As I walked around the rig to investigate, something was obviously not right. I could’t quite place what is was for a moment, but it suddenly dawned on me, that one of the dump valves was missing! These things don’t just fall off mind you. Looking under the rig, I discovered the valve and 90˚ elbow had broken off somehow, and all that was left was a jagged end on the drainpipe leading from, thankfully, the gray tank. Had it been the black tank, we would have had a couple of days of, er, um, waste on the ground. As it was, there was just a wet patch of desert under the rig. It could only have happened when we picked up firewood as we left Tewntynine Palms. We stopped at a nursery that had wood to sell. The entrance had a burn on the dirt road entrance that I must have hit wrong as I exited.161_RVphil1Fortunately, here in Q there are lots of RV brains to tap. I talked to Jim and Gayle who directed me to John Leach. John is the camp go to guy for Lazy Daze problems. He “knew a guy” who was doing repairs in town and who was practically on call for him. He gave him a call, we got an appointment for a couple of hours later, and so it was we met Phil of Phil & Ann’s RV Repair, who had set up shop at a nearby RV Park. Phil turned out to be a full-timer himself. Traveling with his wife Ann, they hit the major happenings like the Balloon Fiesta and Quartzsite. They’ve attached a tool shed to a semi truck and tow a 5th wheel.
164_rvPhil3We arrived on time, Phil checked out the problem, then directed me to the nearby hardware store to pick-up the needed parts for the repair. I already had a new gate valve, but needed a new elbow and length of pipe. He had the rig repaired within a hour and we were good to go.

Friday night, we were invited to Gayle Cumming’s birthday celebration at Silly Al’s Pizza, and along with hub Jim, Debbie, John & Susan Vowell. we headed out for our night on the town. It was very noisy, but the pizza and conversation was good, good, good! The place has the reputation of the best pizza in town. Judging by the packed condition, and hour and a half wait AFTER we finally ordered, everyone in the area knew about it as well.

Repaired tow hitches.

Repaired tow hitches.

We vowed not to hit the big tent of the RV show until Monday. The first couple of days are so busy with other eager attendee’s that one cannot even get close to the counters of the various booths. Although with the 49′er game on that Sunday, we heard the tents were easily managed. We did venture up to the Blue Ox booth on the outside of the tent Friday morning to scope out the procedure for getting our tow hitch serviced. This is something that should be done on a yearly basis, but we never have in our 8 years of RVing. I had hoped to make an appointment for the next day, but was told I could only walk up on opening day. Since friend Debbie was already bringing hers and Jim and Gayle’s up, I volunteered to go with her to get them all serviced. We got there at about 8:15 AM and were actually the 8th, 9th and 10th tow hitches to be taken. I had a bit of dread as to what they might say about my hitch, being so old and neglected. These things cost up to $800 for new models, and I didn’t want to hear I needed a new one. But it got a cleaning, some replacement parts and an A-OK. When we stooped by the next day, there must have been 200 other hitches also waiting to be picked up.
223_9er1Jim Melvin, who we met in 2011, had set up his 32″ TV outside his rig for the Sunday games and a number of us stopped in for one or the other game. Around half-time, things broke up a bit, as a spectacular sunset trumped the game. We wandered off, goggling at an amazing sky. Disappointing as the end of the game was, it was also a fun evening.
237_9er3Monday we got an early start for the Big Tent RV show. We are camped close enough that we could just walked from our camp. I had a few things to check out while there. I wanted to pick up a new pigtail power cord to attach the LD to the Rav. The old one has gone through hell, and I just didn’t really trust it anymore. I also wanted to see about a new surge protector. And one last item on my list was a pure sine wave inverter. I’m hoping a pure sine version will preform better than the modified version I now use. I understand damage can occur to some electronic divides using this kind. We later browsed more of the booths outside the perimeter of the tent and ended the day with a massive 2 scoop cup of ice cream – reward for the day. I didn’t buy anything, but plan to return before we leave when I decide what I can’t live without.

Tuesday, we got together a fair sized group for a walk up Palm Canyon, one of the few hikes in the area. I’ll post pictures and a brief write up soon.

On Wednesday, Mary and I took a drive out to the Cibola Wildlife Refuge. On the previous Monday, we met an old work friend of Mary’s for dinner. Fred was in Yuma for some work related teaching, and wanted to come up for dinner. It was out to Silly Al’s Pizza again. It was just as crazy and noisy and another long wait, but it was fun to catch up. Fred told us about his visit to the wildlife refuge during dinner and we decided we had to go. Again in the next post, I’ll relate that terrific experience.

January 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 2:41 pm

QpanoHello everyone and welcome to my “Year in Review” photography update.

As the new year begins, we find ourselves gearing up for another somewhat brief (for us) road trip. For the next 4-6 weeks, We will be traveling to, and hanging around Quartzsite, Arizona for the annual “Gathering of the Tribes” RV get-together. Every year this little town grows from 3000 year-round residents, to over 1 million – all of them RV’ers, camping in the hundreds of acres of public lands that surround the town. Initially, we will be meeting up with a group of friends I’ve met over the years traveling the roads of the western U.S. There will also be lots of new people to meet and hopefully photograph. My Life on Wheels project started here in 2011 and I am hoping to finish up the photography part of this project while on this trip.

Looking Back
This past year started off nicely when I was invited to exhibit as an anchor artist in the San Francisco PhotoAlliance/S.F. Arts Commission group show, Take Me Away. I showed 10 prints from Life on Wheels. It ran at the City Hall Gallery Space from January to the middle of May.

I was especially pleased to be part of:
• Wallspace Gallery, New Directions, in Santa Barbara and traveling to Seattle.
• Griffin Museum of Photography, 19th Juried Exhibition, in Winchester, MA.
• RayKo Photo Center, Myself, and I, AND The Easiest Season (Honorable mention), in San Francisco.

More work appeared in shows at:
• Center For Fine Art Photography - Box Squared
• MPLS Photo Center - Home: Where We Live.
• Spiva Center for the Arts - PhotoSpiva 2013, Joplin MO.
• Rayko Photo Center - Center Forward, traveling from Center For Fine Art Photography.

I was also invited to join the Art Photo Index, created by Rixon Reed.

JasonNikkiLooking Forward
Starting off quickly this year, I’ve had 2 prints selected (more from Life on Wheels) to be part of a juried exhibit at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana. This brings to 10 the number of different images shown in juried exhibits around the country. This one varies a bit from the usual juried competition in that it is a hybrid invitational and juried exhibition. The juried portion was selected by individuals in the Art Curatorial Department of the museum, while the prizes are awarded by a group selected from the invited artists. The invited artists are: Julie Blackmon, Sharon Harper, Richard Renaldi, Martina Lopez, and Nick Veasey. The 1st place winner gets a purchase award and solo exhibit, 2nd place gets a purchase award, and 4 juror’s Merit Awards of $500 each round out the prizes. The show opens March 29. Should be interesting!

Also interesting will be my main goal for 2014 – bringing Life on Wheels: The New American Nomads to book form. In the coming months I will be gathering information and resources to help me reach that goal. Initially, I am thinking a self published maquette that I can show around, before I consider looking for a traditional publisher. I want it to be as fully realized as possible, so I will be looking for people with whom I can collaborate. If you have recommendations about consultants, designers and writers that might be good for this project, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a look at an updated hidden gallery of new prospective images.

Thanks to all for following along with me on my photographic journey. I hope you all have a wonderful new year.
jollyA further update on my lube pump problems from our last trip. I brought the Rav4 down to the folks who installed it originally, and they tested the connections and pump. I was pretty sure the pump had to be bad but both checked out fine. As soon as he applied power to the pump, it fired right up. I also brought the connecting cable that connects the LD to the car. It also checked out fine. So I had go et the LD and bring it down to the shop. He checked the power at the back end receptacle and got almost no reading. So then he moved up to the cab and tested power coming from the battery into the lube pump monitor. No problem. Checking the power coming out of the monitor show it was dead. So fine, the thing that is supposed to warn me of problems with the pump is the cause of it not working.

Since this was just before Christmas, it wouldn’t be until this past Monday that he was able to order and replace the monitor, a $150 item. When he did, guess what – NOTHING. No power, just the warning buzzer. He scratched his head, made a few calls to Remco, got under the dash and pulled a few wires leading from the monitor. Guess what he found. Inline fuses! Two of them. One coming in, and one going out of the monitor. One was blown. A $3 fix. His tech that originally looked at the problem, didn’t see, or think to check the wires for fuses. Even though they installed it. A lot of trouble for nothing. At least he didn’t charge me anything for any of the diagnostics they did. It was a bit of travel and time back and forth to Redwood City, but it could have been much worse. I still feel the lube pump is very dependable – it actually has never been a problem. Just a few surrounding issues that affected it have caused some problems. It is still worth it’s weight in convenience.

November 1, 2013

Hot Creek Back to Mono & The NEW New American Nomads

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 11:14 am

October, 24-259854For our last morning along Hot Creek, we got up early and finally walked down to the creek itself for a look. From our campsite above, we could see steam rising every morning at dawn that quickly dissipated once the sun warmed the air. This place was a huge tourist draw back 10 years or so ago. It is called Hot Creek because of the super hot water that bubbles up at various points along the stream. It mixed with the cold water of the creek and made perfectly heated hot tubs – for a time. During a particularly active seismic period, the water temperature spiked, making the tubs too dangerously hot for the public to use safely. The park service fenced off the area to everyone except fishermen and the party was over. We walked the path along the fenced river, photographing the steam, and water, and plants.
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9830At one point, I looked up along the canyon rim and saw the moon as it was setting. I shot off a quick one, then thought, maybe a slightly different composition would make a unique Christmas card. I moved around a bit to get the right angle and got this:
9834Does this say “Merry Christmas”?

10079But now it was time to leave Hot Creek, and we were soon on the road back to Mono Lake to spend our last 2 days before going home. We headed directly for the campsite we had originally stayed at above the lake edge, but were a little dismayed to find another rig already sitting there. The dispersed camping site is pretty large and is supposed to accommodate from 3-5 sites. We decided to pull in and share the space. No sooner had we pulled in, then the campers were out to meet us. They were Jason and Nikkie Wynn and were only too happy to have neighbors. More about them later.9877Our main reason for coming back to Mono for our last two days of the trip, was to return to a little out of the way spot we discovered a couple of years ago. It’s located off CA 395 just a little west of Conway summit. We were at the end of a fall trip up in the eastern half of Oregon and Washington on our way home and thought we’d drop down to the eastern Sierra’s before heading west to San Francisco. We got here late in October and all the leaves had pretty much fallen. We were a little too late. But looking out west over a wide view from the junction of Virginia Lakes Rd and 395, I could see one particular grove of aspen still in full color. There seemed to be a primitive road off 395 leading to the grove, but when on 395, it was almost impossible to see. We drove up and down precariously looking along the edge until we finally did find the it. It was a bit rough, but nothing we couldn’t handle in the Rav. Ground clearance was the only issue, and we had just enough to make it down to the grove.
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9917When we got there, we found a really nice little stream running through it. Beavers had done their best to dam parts, and that created some really nice still water spots. It was very cold that day, and ice had formed along the edges of the stream, and frost on many of the fallen leaves. I guess the grove, being down in the canyon a bit, was protected it from the winds that would have blown the leaves off the trees. It was a wonderful surprise and we photographed for a couple of hours in this little gem of a place.
9928When we were here three weeks ago, the grove was still green when most everywhere else was at or past peak. We were hoping the color would still be here when we got back. It was, and we spent another couple of hours photographing.
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9981I really thought we were done for the trip, but on the way back to camp, we decided to stop in at the Mono County Park. The poplar trees there are tall and usually pretty nondescript. But in full fall color, they are impressive. We photographed them, then walked down the boardwalk to the shoreline. We used to be able to walk all through the tufa in this area before it was protected, the whole time battling the “Mono Muck” which could result in a lost shoe from sinking in to the knee unexpectedly. Now, due to the rising lake level and sensitive nature of the marsh, it is much more restricted. Ultimately a good thing.9975

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10039Since we were again at Mono, and had really nothing else left on our agenda for the late afternoon of our last day, we thought we return to a couple of the spots we’d visited many times before. First we took the road from the campsite down to the South Shore Tufa Grove. But instead of going to the grove itself, we continued a little east to Navy Beach. Way back when, there was a really nice hot spring down that way, but it is now under water. Another attraction that not a lot of people know about are the sand sculptures. We always called them sand castles, but we wondered if they had survived since the reserve was created. The sculptures are formed much the same way the tufa was. While the area was once underwater, calcium carbonate would bubble up, mixing with the sand-like ash. It would then harden. As the water receded, wind and weather would erode away softer layers leaving some wonderfully delicate formations. A little searching, away from the designated trail, revealed them to us once again. They are still wonderful.10019

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9999We finished the day at the tufa grove. Instead of milling about with the other throngs of visitors there for sunset, we walked the other way and had most of the western end to ourselves for a nice quiet sunset.10038

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We returned to camp and our neighbors arrived back soon after. We had been hoping to get together with them at some point for a happy hour or morning coffee, but we’d both had other stuff on our agendas and didn’t finally get together until this last evening. Once Jason and Nikki wrangled their two cats back into their Monaco motorhome, they stopped by for drinks and conversation (Yes, they let the kitties run free around their camp – and they actually kind of stay nearby and almost come when called).

When we first pulled in a day earlier, I saw right off they had Texas license plates. It is often a tip-off that if the plates are Texas or South Dakota, the owners are full-timers. No RV registration fees in those states. Full-timers can register in any state they want, so why not do it in a no fee state? Turns out they are full-timers, but they actually did live in Texas originally. They are also probably the youngest full-timers we’ve ever met. They came to a point where they looked around at their life in Dallas and could no longer think of why they should stay there. They did their research, and through some rather funny adventures, eventually found themselves full-timing in their Monaco.

They’ve found a way to live and work on the road using their audio/visual skills to land jobs all over the U.S. I feel really fortunate to have met and gotten to know them just a little in our short visit. Working on my photo project these past 3 years, I have come to think of the full-timers I’ve met as a group of “out of the box” thinkers in terms of how they approached living their lives. They ARE new american nomads. But perhaps they are just the first wave. Nikkie and Jason might be the second. They’ve not bothered to wait until retirement to hit the road.

This couple have not only embraced the new RV technologies, but have appropriated others for use in motorhomes. While we were visiting, I got a look at the composting toilet that Jason installed. It uses no water and requires no black tank. It only needs a little 12v power to run a small venting fan and the proper composting materials. This is a significant water saver, and seems like a more ecological way of dealing with one’s poop – and no smell! The’ve also added some supplemental solar cells that I need to talk with him a little more about. A nice little compact 120 watt unfolding and portable supplemental panel would be another huge money and time saver. You can real a lot more about their travels and motivations on their Travel Blog: Gone With the Wynn’s. The blog is filled with good advice learned from their many experiences over the past few years.

Of course I had to ask if they would let me photograph them for my Nomads project. They were extremely good sports about it. I often prefer a less posed, more relaxed settings to help convey what the full-time lifestyle is about, so in the morning before we left, we got together again. We sat outside, around their little table with our coffee and biscotti chatting and enjoying the morning. It was a perfect casual picture. I loved that Nikki was comfortable enough to come out in her bright fuchsia robe and sunglasses. Jason was maybe just a bit uncombed, but looked very natural and comfortable as well. I was especially pleased that they allowed me to photograph them that way. Of course when you are in your early 30′s (my guess) you simply cannot look bad. Most people will only allow pictures to be taken when they are at their most made-up and best dressed. I just love the resulting shot. I hope they approve.10077

We then said our good-by’s, packed up and were on our way. A good thing as it turns out, because of the storm that closed Tioga Pass just a day later.

I have one final short post to do to wrap up this fall’s trip about our overnight visit to friends Jeff and Betty in Merced. Stay tuned…

October 27, 2013

A Couple More Canyons

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 7:49 am

October, 239650For our final full day in the Hot Creek area, we decided to explore a couple more canyons in better detail. Much of the foliage has dropped from the trees at this point, but we keep seeing patches that are worth a look. Others we have met along the way told us McGee Canyon still had good color, so we first headed up that way. We came to what appeared to be a shuttered horse camp along the road on the way to the trailhead, so we stopped there for a while. Most of the changing trees here were birch and cottonwood, and there was a nice thick covering of the leaves on the ground. While there was some aspen still looking good, the other trees were the real attraction. We spent an hour or so walking the grounds, kicking up leaves and making pictures before moving up to the McGee Canyon trailhead.
9658

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9664We had our lunch in the picnic area and really enjoyed the peaceful setting. This time of year is so great because there are almost no other people around. There were only two cars in the parking area when we arrived, and one soon left. At this higher part of the canyon, few trees still showed much interesting color, but now the bare trunks stood out. Combined with a nice side lighting, the many wiggles of the branches made for some interesting compositions.
9694As we started up the trail it soon became clear that there wasn’t much here for us. We could see pretty far up the canyon in front of us and, while there was some nice looking foliage off in the distance, down where we were – not so nice. Mary decided she’d had enough and was content with hanging around the picnic area with her book and coffee. I wanted to find out what trees were producing the nice color off in the distance, so I continued up the trail for maybe another mile or so. But as i got closer, the color got less impressive. Once I was satisfied that I wasn’t going to get anything particularly nice, I turned back. Kind of a wasted effort, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. In any event, I got a good walk in.
9696After getting back, we thought we’d look at a part of Lower Rock Creek that we didn’t have time for a few days earlier. We approached it from the opposite direction than last time via Old Crowley Lake Road. There wasn’t really much to see until we entered a tiny little community named Hilton Creek (I think) nestled in a perfectly at peak grove of aspen. We drove through slowly until I noticed a little creek which fed into a catch basin before traveling through a large drainage under the road we were driving on. I had to stop.
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9733The little stream was covered in newly fallen aspen leaves which floated on the surface and were actually in a slow continuous motion. I’ve been looking for a situation just exactly like this in all the locations we’ve visited. Mary was more interested in the fake deer by a home next to the creek, but I spent a good half hour just making long exposures of the slowly moving leaves. This alone would have made my day, but when we finally reached Lower Rock Creek, we found more trees and surrounding foliage in prime color.
9742We first stopped along a particularly nice spot along the road where another photographer was shooting some aspen. He had the spot I was wanting to photograph and he wasn’t leaving soon. I didn’t really want to set up right next to him, so I shot from well behind. It turned out OK, but we decided to move on. We arrived at a spot we’d found earlier next to the creek, and followed a nice path along it. I found a couple of really nice compositions of creek, rock and leaves. We finished up our last day in the Hot Creek area on a very nice note.
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October 24, 2013

Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 3:22 pm

October, 22

A nice view of the Minarets as we drove in.

A nice view of the Minarets greeted us as we drove in.

Every time we’ve driven up or down 395, we’ve wanted to stop at Devil’s Postpile. We’ve been thwarted each and every time because usually we were coming by too late October on the way back from somewhere else. This time we made it in. It’s a small national monument, but with an interesting geologic formation. Similar to Devil’s Tower in South Dakota, it was formed when a volcanic flow began to cool. The basalt cracked in a very regular hexagonal pattern. The trail was fairly easy on this warm day. In about a half mile, we were staring up at the face of the Postpile. The light was very harsh at this time of day, so while I did make some exposures, none were all that wonderful. Later, on the way back, was much more successful.9489We took the loop trail up to the top -  something not at all possible at Devil’s Tower unless we learned some serious rock climbing skills. This formation is much more diminutive than the South Dakota formation, but it is much more approachable as well. At the top we were treated to some nice views, but more interestingly, we could see clearly the tile like patterns of the formation. Many have likened it to a bathroom tile floor, but these tiles go deep. We fussed about the top for a while, had our lunch, then decided to hike out the 2 extra miles to Rainbow Falls.9498

9509On the way down from the top, we found a couple of other similar formations, though they were more buried into the cliffs. It was afternoon by now, and getting pretty warm. The sun was in our face and there was very little breeze. We didn’t find the trail particularly interesting, but then we were pretty hot and kind of not wanting to really hike today. But we persevered. The trail was mostly open due to a forest fire some years ago and subsequent “blow down”. Lots of bare tree trunks, will little vegetation to provide any kind of shade all along the way. Even though it was mostly all downhill to the falls, it felt like a very long hike and we were not looking forward to the hike back.9622

9551We got to the falls around 2 PM. I thought this would be a good time to arrive because the rainbow of Rainbow Falls doesn’t really show up till afternoon when the sun gets high enough to hit the waterfall created mist. There was only one other couple when we arrived and they soon left. We sat in at the top for a short while, grateful for the shade of a nearby tree. The sun only just begun to hit the falls. Good and bad. Good because soon we would see the refraction of the mist. Bad because it made the waterfall very contrasty and it would be difficult to make nice exposures of the falling water. But I found it did create some nice banding across the falls.
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9544We headed down to the base of the falls (and yes Gayle, there are indeed 100 steps plus few). Down at the bottom in the shade it was a much welcomed coolness and we went about the business of shooting many many frames. I started off at an overlook off to the side, while Mary went out to the middle of of the rocky spillway. I must admit I focused a bit too intently on the falls themselves. Mary came away with some of the best images of the day by including some of the surrounding rubble (fallen trees and such). She also was looking at reflections in the water. Eventually, the rainbow in the mist began to reveal itself. As the sun slowly made it’s way across the face of the falls, colors began to emerge and spread over the basin. We played with this for a while, then decided to head back.
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9576Back up the steps and up the now mostly uphill path. But it went much easier than I’d expected. Perhaps because it was now a little cooler, or the sun was now at our backs, before we knew it, we were back at the Postpile with only a half mile to go. Now the light was lower and softer and the Postpile was much more evenly illuminated. We stopped to photograph here again and then finished our walk.9644

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October 22, 2013

Return to Convict Lake

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 8:55 pm

Monday, October 219457We really like our current campsite here at Hot Creek. At dawn this morning, I stepped out to photograph the creek and discovered that Hot Creek really was – hot. The deer seemed to really like it as well. I saw them wander over last evening and was surprised to see they most likely spent the entire night there, enjoying the warmth of the water. Inside the LD this morning it was 33 degrees. I could sympathize.9347

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9354We decided to hike the Convict Lake trail this morning. We’ve hiked this trail several times before, but it’s always been late, late in October when most of the foliage had dropped. We were happy to see more on the trees this time around. I’ve always thought all the naked trees we’ve seen along this trail were aspen. They bark all looked like aspen bark. Now that there are leaves to see, it is clear that what we were seeing was birch. Clearly different shapes. I’m such a woodman.
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9372Anyway, it was yet another calm, beautiful day, and on the drive up we could see the creek line covered in lovely golden foliage. Ww parked along the southern edge of the lake and started walking along the easy 1.5 mile trail to the far western end. The trail actually does circle the entire lake, making it a loop of about 3 miles, but for us, the best way to do it is to walk on the southern edge. There are a lot more trees, and nice foliage in general on this side, while the other side is much more open and kind of open and plain.
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9387As usual, we stopped often along the shore to photograph the cottonwood and birch. They were both brilliant in their yellowness. There was virtually no wind so the lake was often very calm and smooth and very reflective. Mary went to town with the water reflecting the trees and mountains. The color of the lake was nearly glacial and contrasted with the trees along the trail, it kept us really busy.
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9404We eventually reached the far western side, and now aspen started showing up. Most of them were spent already, but I did manage to find one of my favorites. I photographed a particular tree embellished with carving for an older project of mine called, Marking Our Place in the World. Whenever we come back here, I locate it and shoot it again. I’ve titled it, Heather in Flames. We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed the quiet and beauty of this lake.
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9446At this end of the lake, is a boardwalk that traverses what, during spring, is probably a very wet section of the trail. By this point in the season, it is reduced to several little creek-lets that we spent some time photographing along. From here we could have completed the loop, or taken a branch trail which leads up into the mountains. Since we’d dawdled so long along the lake, we decided to do neither and retrace our steps. About halfway back, we came upon a guy looking up into the trees behind us. He pointed out a small dot in a tall tree that turned out to be a bald eagle! I’ve never seen one in the eastern Sierra, so this was a special treat. A great way to end an easy hike on a beautiful day.

 

 

 

October 21, 2013

Rock Creek Canyon & Little Lakes Trail

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 7:25 am

9191Friday morning turned into a chore morning for us. So it was into town for laundry, shopping and the like. I had some larger pictures I needed to email off, so while Mary toiled away in the laundromat, I drove over to the Bishop Visitor Center to use there nice fast WiFi. We only have 2 gigs of bandwidth for the month and large uploads sap it fast. When I got back to Mary, she was NOT a happy camper. Expensive dryers that didn’t work, a hot interior and uncomfortable seating made for a bad mix. I suggested lunch at Schat’s Deli and Bakery. Mary’s mood brightened quickly. We had a very nice lunch and even picked up some tasty looking goodies for dinner dessert.
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9181It was still pretty early, so we decided on another aspen drive – this time up Lower Rock Creek Canyon. Mary wanted to drive a few of the roads near 395 before we got there. The visitor center guy said the cottonwood and poplar were looking good in that area, but they were not really in accessible areas, so we moved on to Rock Creek. We faired much better there. We really only stopped in one spot, but the trail ran right along the creek and there were plenty of nice vantage points to set up for creek/aspen photos. Just us and a few fishermen.
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9198By now it was nearly 4:00 PM and I wanted to get back to a spot near our camp to photograph the sunset. It is located just off Highway 6 on Five Bridges Road right at the first bend. There are cottonwood trees in a desert field, backed by the massive Sierra’s. As sundown nears, which is early because of the mountains, the light streams across the mountains and through the trees, lighting them uo. The mountains gradually go into shadow and provides a really nice dark background. I kept driving by this spot thinking I had to photograph when the light was just right, but we kept getting back too late. This day we got there just slightly late, so it was a rushed set-up. I got something like I hoped for. Mary actually did much better in the short time we had. Maybe tomorrow I can get there just a little earlier.
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Saturday, October 19
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Today we got up a little earlier in order to get out and hiking. For our final hike in the Bishop area, we wanted to do the Little Lakes Trail up at the end of Rock Creek Road. This is the highest point in the Sierra’s where it’s possible to drive to a trail head. At 10,200 feet, it promised to be a true High Sierra experience and finally got us up over 10,000 feet consistently. I expected it to be a pretty busy trail – it was a beautiful Saturday morning and a very popular hike. I though it might be cold up that high, but this day was shirt sleeve weather. There were still patches of snow on the ground, but very little. It is a pretty easy hike overall. There is some up and down which always gets us out of breath, but in total there is only about an 800 foot elevation gain – and that’s if you go all the way to Gem Lake. We weren’t so sure we would.
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9217The thing that always surprises me on many of our hikes is how different what I expect to see and photograph, compares with what is actually there. On this hike I thought it would be typical high mountain scenery. I knew it would be nice, but wasn’t particularly expectant of anything unusual. What I didn’t really expect was the frozen portions of the creek and lakes. I should have of course. We are at 10,000 plus feet and the nights are constantly getting below freezing this high.9223So while we did photograph the lakes and surrounds, we really went to town on the icy rimmed creek flowing out of Heart Lake. We hopscotched one another other repeatably and actually lost track of each other – something that happens from time to time when we are both really into it. Because of this, we didn’t get real far. We hiked on as far at Long Lake, then decided to turn back.9230

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9276I really wanted one last crack at photographing the cottonwoods near camp again. This time when we got back, Mary decided to stay behind, so I took off for the spot on my own. It was worth going again. I had time to scope out some other compositions and I came back with some nice images.9302

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9319We are pulling up stakes on Sunday and headed for another boondocks site at Hot Creek near the Mammoth Lakes area. Not sure how long we will linger here, but we have only about a week left before heading back to San Francisco. A few days here at least – maybe more. 

Our campsite at Hot Creek.

Our campsite at Hot Creek.

 

 

 

October 18, 2013

Walking Among the Ancients

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 5:56 pm

Thursday, October 179046We’ve known for some time that we could hike the trails up at the Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains. All services have been closed, once again because of the shutdown, but we knew the trails were all open. We’ve put it off, waiting until the temperatures on the valley floor got hotter. While it might be in the high 70′s down here, up there at nearly 10,000 feet, it will be much colder. We also a little concerned about lingering snow on the trail from the storm a couple of weeks ago. An icy trail is a dicy proposition.

Thursday dawned and quickly grew warm. The perfect conditions we required. We set out around 11:30 for the trip up to the forest. It is a long winding road to the turn off – mostly unremarkable, but today, as we reached the most narrow 1 lane point in the road, we saw Lazy Daze coming our way. We squeezed over to the side and had enough room to stop and chat for a few moments right there in the roadway. It was Ron & Mary Tribbett from Seattle (please forgive if I have your names wrong). They were on their way to meet friends Charlie & Marti Tiebout (ditto on the names) in Bishop. We’d met both couples at the Baker City GTG last spring, and these chance meetings are always a fun surprise.9056Once we hit the turn-off, the road really begins to rise. Toward the top, we began to get wide views of the Owens valley and Sierra’s looming above. No one was manning the entrance station, and as we passed the campground it too was still closed. Just at the point where the road turns to dirt is the turnoff for the visitor center and the Schulman Grove. Mary was grateful the bathrooms were now unlocked, but not so grateful when she entered. We take for granted much of the dirty work the park service preforms. This was just one example. Mounds of paper on the floors, none in the dispensers. The visitor center was also still locked up.

View from the trail.

View from the trail.

9058It was chilly up there. We had our lunch in the warm sun, but the wind often negated the warmth. By the time we started hiking, my hands were icy cold and I was glad I brought a pair of gloves with me. Fortunately the entire trail was wind protected and as soon as we started walking, it was calm and very quiet. We ran into only one other hiker. It is a special experience walking among the oldest living things on earth. I must say, they look it too. The literature we had said the trail rose and fell 800 feet over 4.5 miles on this our chosen hike – Methuselah, named for one of the ancient trees. At nearly 10,000 feet it sounded daunting, but we had completed the Whitney Portal hike to Lone Pine Lake not long before, so we felt confident of success.
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9137In fact, this trail was decidedly easier, though a good 1.5 miles of the hike was covered in trampled snow. Pretty much whatever part of the trail that was in shade, was still snow-covered, but it was slushy enough that it really wasn’t that difficult, and we now both had hiking poles to work with (thanks once again J & G). After first dropping maybe 50 feet, the trail began a gradual even accent up the steep mountainside. It was actually quite like the Portal hike in that regard, with the exception that the duration of the rise was much shorter. It soon leveled off for a good while before rising and falling at intervals.
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9118All alone the trail, twisted tortured looking bristlecones showed their stuff. Because this first part of the hike was snow-covered, we had difficulty photographing. Stepping off trail was largely out of the question. One little slip could mean a lost pole, or camera, or body. This northern exposed part of the trail eventually curved around the mountain and now we were in full sun and the trail was clear and dry – easy walking. The gloves came off and soon beads of sweat actually could be felt on the brow. There were fine views of what I think is the Saline Valley off to the east.

View from the trail.

View from the trail.

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Nearly dry lake in Saline Valley.

Nearly dry lake in Saline Valley.

We walked and photographed all along the trail. We probably could have finished it in maybe 2 hours, but of course it took us more like 3.5. Jut gotta photograph. After about the 3 mile point, the trail began it’s final rise. Again it was gradual and eventually snow covered again. But even here, there was enough sun peaking through that some interesting were possible. I took a liking to the delicate grasses poking through the sun streaked snow.9108

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9160This will stand as one of our favorite hikes just for the unusual tree shapes if nothing else. I wish we could have had more time to check out the Patriarch Grove even higher in elevation, but it was nearly 4:30 and beginning to get cold again. On our way out, I noticed the barrier to the campground was now down. Open for business again I guess.

 

 

October 17, 2013

Fish Slough & Red Rock Canyon

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 7:31 am

Wednesday, October 16
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Today we did a sort of guided tour of roads Fish Slough & Red Rock Canyon. Mary had been wanting to do this drive since we saw some pictures from Jim & Galye. It takes off just a mile from our camp so we thought it would be a good time to do it. The entire route is on a pretty good 33 mile graded dirt road. There is an alternate route that deviates from that standard and become a rough 2 track, 4 wheel drive path.
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9026We started out around 10 AM and before long we reached the first of a couple of petroglyph sites. These are always fun to scramble around. As many as we’ve seen, I still find them interesting. It’s always a guess as to whether they were created 1000 years ago or perhaps forged sometime in the recent past. We dawdled at this one, and later, another site for an hour or so before moving on.
9029Going forward, we came to the area Mary was most interested in. The dirt track abruptly narrows to a single lane before moving into a series of red rock formations riddled with weathered eroded holes. It was interesting, but at mid-day, the photographic opportunities were a little limited. The guide we had told us to look for the prospector carved, bas-relief, into the side of the first of the formations as we emerged from it. It took some doing, but we did locate it. No one seems to know who did it, or how long this creation has been here. Of course it was riddled with bullets. Par for the course in this territory.
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The road traveled through several more narrow formations before climbing out again. At this point, the guide told us we could take a spur road named 4S41at mile 25. Only when we got there, at exactly mile 25, it was named 4S34A. I really hate when this happens. This had to be it, right? Oh well, we had a pretty full tank of gas and just enough courage to attempt it. The road did exactly as the guide said it would. It got rough and rocky and rose up the cliff for about a mile. We were almost sure it was the right road. At the top, we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the White Mountains and valley below. Even it it was wrong, it was worth it. We lunched at our chosen viewpoint and enjoyed the view for a while before moving on.
9043The road beyond here wasn’t as rough as before, but still we weren’t sure we were on track. It did still roughly coincide with the written guide, so we persevered -  though Mary was beginning to exhibit her characteristic reluctance with the unknown. The path jogged left when it was supposed to and right when it was supposed to. The last part was described as “descending a very steep, rocky stretch  – definitely a 4WD experience!”. It was. I thinkI the poor RAV4 reached it’s tolerance point on this trail. Rocky? Yes. Steep? Yes. The guide didn’t mention the drop-offs, of which there were several. For a real 4WD vehicle, no problem. With the RAV? Well gosh, not a big problem, but I was definitely nervous about my clearance. I could have really used a compound low for this stretch, but the RAV doesn’t have one. Or at least some better armor on the undercarriage to cover my mistakes. We literally crawled down the slope, making heavy use of the breaks. We made it down unscathed. But I do wish they would correct their signs or the guide. From there it was just a rather boring zoom back to camp. We went into town to shop and use some free wifi to upload images and send mail, then back to camp for the evening.

 

October 16, 2013

Tracking Down Aspen around Bishop

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 4:06 pm

Tuesday, October 15
8883It was an easy ride up to Bishop. After a short stop in Independence to dump, get propane and fill with gas, we followed the coordinates Jim had given us and arrived at a very nice dispersed camping spot on Casa Diablo Road just north of Bishop. It’s a fairly busy road, as dirt roads go, but the large site is set back enough so that dust from passing vehicles doesn’t reach us at all. We have a terrific view of the White Mountains out our back windows with a wall of boulders that light up orange at dawn to our rear. There is a petroglyph trail that leads along the boulder wall that we may investigate later. It’s a great spot and quite close to town when the need arises.
8874So the hunt for fall color was on again. We stopped in at the Bishop Visitor Center in town (the only dam place to get any information about the area). We met Jim, a retired federal worker who had a few things to say about the shutdown, but he was also an energetic advocate for the entire Bishop area and and had lots of great suggestions for places to check out. Our first excursion was up Bishop Creek Road. Jim told us that at the upper elevations, the foliage was pretty much done, but at various spots along the way, we should find some nice color.
8889We first headed up 168 toward Lake Sabrina, stopping at the lovely Intake II lake. This was actually a very nice little holding lake of sorts and really the only one that had much water in it. There were several stands of aspen and lots of brush all nicely colored in yellows and tans. We walked around the lake a bit, made some photos and had lunch on a nice sunny rock near the picnic area away from the screeching children. The backlighting on the trees really made them pop.
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8892Moving further up the road, more aspen stands along the way caught our eye. We stopped to photograph Mist Falls that dumps it’s water into a very nice stand of aspen at peak color. The waterfall is actually a little hard to see in full sunlight and we decided to try again on the way back when the canyon was in shade. There was plenty of color in the canyon, but up higher, when we got to Sabrina, both the lake and the color were virtually gone. We could still see the lake off in the distance, but anything near the boat launch and marina were dry. It was a little disappointing, but I’m glad we didn’t have to hike 5 miles to find out. It was a good spot for coffee and cookies however.
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8916We retraced our route somewhat, then took a branch road off 168 up to South Lake. Again the water was very low and aspen naked. One the way up though, we passed an area on our right, already in shadow, that I thought had great potential. It was a cliff of granite with sparsely spaced and mostly spent aspen growing from it. A few patches of snow remained. Light was reflected off the granite cliffs on the other side of the road and this served to softly light the shadowed wall. We stopped here for a nice long time. Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten used to how cold it can get in the shade. Everything that was covered was warm enough, but my hands were soon nearly numb. It doesn’t really bother me much though. I photographed with glee while Mary retreated to the warmth of the car after a short while. I figured I”d had enough cold when I could no longer control my shivering.
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8971By now, most of the deep canyon was in shadow, and after I got a little feeling back in my fingers, we stopped several more times. Everything is just so much more interesting in even lighting. The colors may not be so intense, but the forms and textures of the landscape seem to come through better and suddenly everything looks nicer to me.
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8996We stopped once more at Mist Falls, now in shadow, to finish our day. The entire day was enjoyable, but I’m glad we found a really interesting area to finish up the day with. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we plan a drive around Fish Slough Road. There probably won’t be any fall color along this road, be we do expect to see some nice red rock.

October 14, 2013

Lone Pine and Alabama Hills

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 9:36 pm

Thursday, October 10

Mono Craters as we leave  Lee Vining.

Mono Craters as we leave Lee Vining.

After the sleet and snow day of yesterday, this morning dawned clear and cool. Now we could comfortably get on down the 120 miles south to the town of Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills to meet up with friends Jim, Gayle and now new friend Debbie. They had moved down from the Bishop area a few days earlier and were scouting out suitable places to camp for the 3 rigs. It is an amazing drive down this stretch of 395. The always impressive Sierra Nevada Mountains were even more so because of the light layer of snow they were now dusted in. When we pulled into Bishop for groceries and gas, I got a call from Jim to let us know they had changed location yet again. This was the third change in 3 days, but each change upgraded the site a bit more. It’s good to have friends in the advance.
8591It is uncharacteristically busy in the Hills right now. The Lone Pine Film Festival is happening over the weekend and people and their rigs are piling in. The government shutdown has severely limited where people can stay in the area and most seem to have gravitated to the Hills. It’s a no brainer for us to camp here though. One of the best views in California, wide open spaces, interesting rock formations – all for the cost of – FREE.

The Whitney peaks.

The Whitney peaks.

8851_potatoThe formations here contrast wildly with the granite peaks of Mt. Whitney and Lone Pine Peak that loom over the Owens Valley, even though they are about the same age as the mountains behind them. Made up largely of biotite monzogranite, their appearance is that of giant potatoes grouped together and standing on end. This is simply due to the way the rock weathered over time. It is astonishing to think that the high peaks here are just the exposed top 10,000 ft. of the range. Another 10,000 ft. of sediment fill the valley.
8603Over time, the area has become a labyrinth of dirt roads that snake all through the hills. It is administered by BLM and all considered dispersed camping. There are countless places to pull over to camp. Once set up, It can be a task to re-find the spot after leaving – especially at night. GPS systems have made this easier, but even with the proper coordinates, I was able to get close, but couldn’t be sure exactly where Jim  & company made camp. We arrived at a location the Garmin told us was close, and while I was unhooking the RAV4 from the Lazy Daze, Jim pulled up to greet us. He could see us from the chosen site, but it was disguised enough so that it would have taken a little exploring to find the right road to get to it.

Gayle returning from a walk with Sophie.

Gayle returning from a walk with Sophie.

So we made it. We met Debbie and her cute doggies, Rupert and Elliot, also the Cummings new kitties, Elvis and Sophi. I’m happy not to travel with pets, but it sure is fun to watch the antics of these goofy critters when we visit friends. The rest of the day we spent catching up on our various doings. We took a short leg stretching walk around the immediate area to check out some of the movie location sites. Most of the hundreds of movies filmed, all or in part, here are pretty obscure or really old, but there are many times even now, while sitting in a movie theater, that I have been pulled out of the film when I suddenly see, not a Mars landscape, but the Alabama Hills. After the walk, we all retired to our various abodes for the evening.

Our camp in the Alabama Hills.

Our camp in the Alabama Hills.

Friday, October 11
During the night, Mary was up and down a couple of times. By morning it was clear she was going to need a helping had of the local pharmacy. We spent a good portion of the day calling Mary’s San Francisco doctor to get a prescription, calling the Lone Pine pharmacy to see if it had arrived, and waiting around until it did. Fortunately the medication seems to have done the trick and she is now feeling better.

Most of the day was shot by now and all there was left to do was get together for happy hour. The days have been very warm here, but as soon as the sun goes down, it cools off really quickly. Our happy hour started outdoors between the rigs, but we soon had to head indoors. J & G offered up their 30′ LD so we could continue on inside. It’s always fun to see other peoples rigs. I often find myself lusting after the amenities of the different floor plans and lengths. The extra 4′ of J & G’s really gives a feeling of space in the lounge area. We all 5 of us fit quite comfortably in there. It was just a really pleasant chatty evening.

Saturday, October 12

8610Saturday morning, all the stars aligned. We made tentative plans the evening before to hike the Whitney Portal trail up to Lone Pine Lake. While Mary and I have been up to the trailhead before, we have never hiked this trail. The hike is listed as moderate, but it was a 1,300′ ascent in 3 miles starting at 8,660′. I’m sure it is moderate for someone. But really it wasn’t so bad. The day was cool, especially at this altitude – 56 was the forecast high for the day. We were all surprised to see how much snow and ice still remained in the parking area for the trailhead. It is mostly in deep shadow because of the heavy tree cover, so the snow melts slowly here. Up on the trail though, the first part anyway, it was very open and snow free. In no time a few of us were sweating and puffing. We were off and walking by 11:00 AM.
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8617The trail starts off with many very long and gradually rising switchbacks. It was in great condition as well. Not nearly as many rocks and loose gravel to make us slip as I’ve seen on countless easier hikes. This helped make the hike seem much smoother. Frequent stops for breath and pictures actually made it quite pleasant. The views all the way up were just spectacular. It wasn’t too long before the trail entered more tree cover though so, more ice and snow were on the trail. But it was somewhat slushy by this point in the day, so walking through it (with the aid of our walking sticks) was not bad at all.
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8637It took Mary, Debbie and I a good 3 hours to get to the lake. Jim & Gayle were waiting for us when we got there. They are pretty amazing hikers – especially Gayle. They probably would have made it an hour earlier, but they kindly stopped for us laggers. Mary and I stopped from time to time to photograph the landscape. Our hikes always takes a long time because of this, but we all finally arrived at the lake. It is easily one of the nicest mountain lakes I’ve seen.
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Jim surveys his domain.

Jim surveys his domain.

There weren’t nearly as many people up there as I might have expected if judging by how many cars were in the parking lot – but there were still quite a few, from infants to us older folk. We found a nice sunny spot on some rocks next to the lake for lunch and rest. Soon we were walking around checking out the views and making pictures. All great fun.
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8689Now it was time to return. We left around 3 PM and returned pretty quickly. It was all downhill after all. Mary and I dawdled as we usually do when the light gets nice, but 2 hours later, we were down and headed back to camp – exhausted. At least I was. I actually felt pretty good all things considered, but the constant pounding took a bit of a toll on my back and hips. I was just a little achey next morning. No one wanted to cook, so we gussied up a bit and went into town for a nice pizza dinner at the Pizza Factory. But it was Saturday night in Lone Pine on the film festival weekend so it was pretty busy and boisterous at the restaurant. We did manage to get a table for the 5 of us and much beer and pizza consumption commenced. There was still time for dessert, and a handy McDonalds nearby, so it was ice cream sundaes all around. A very satisfying day.

A bit breezy up on the peaks.

A bit breezy up on the peaks.

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Sunday, October 13

8730I had the terrific idea of getting up predawn to photograph sunrise on the mountains from somewhere in the jumble of rocks that is Alabama Hills. I was up in plenty of time and staked out at a spot I found the morning before. I was set up and ready just as the sun hit the tip of Mt. Whitney. As I made my first exposures, my screen informed me that there was no card in the camera. Nor was there one in my bag. I had left it sitting in the Lazy Daze thinking I would download the images last night. But I never did and so forgot about it being there. Oh well. It was a pretty sunrise though. I just stood and watched it anyway. Back in camp with card in camera, I did the above shot. Mary made me a nice omelet as a consolation.

Solar mule.

Solar mule.

Much of the rest of the day was just that – rest. We caught up on reading, writing and photo processing. Later in the afternoon, we went back into town for the big parade. It may have been the quietest parade I’ve ever seen, but it was cute. There were luminaries from the local film festival, a few old-time stars in cars, some folks dressed up as old movie stars, a local cheer squad, and some other local characters. Old cars of course, and the local fire crews wraped up the festivities. We strolled to the craft fair in the park at the edge of town before heading home.

Mr. and Mrs. Cowboy Santa.

Mr. and Mrs. Cowboy Santa.

Big guy in a little car.

Big guy in a little car.

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A Hoppy copy.

A Hoppy copy.

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My guess is the Duke.

My guess is the Duke.

Debbie has been traveling with Jim & Gayle in her own Lazy Daze for several months now. Over the past couple of days, we’ve been able to get to know her a little, and when we got back in camp, I asked if she would let me photograph her for the project.  I think she embodies the spirit of what the full-timer lifestyle is all about. She is self sufficient and with a great attitude. She agreed. I wanted to include her two crazy pups, but hat was kind of a challenge. Those two almost never stop moving, but I actually got a couple where they were semi still. We had a nice conversation while her dogs terrorized each other and us. I’m glad I was able to include her. Here are a couple.

Debbie and Rupert.

Debbie and Rupert.

8804It was getting to be late afternoon, but J & G invited us all over again for another extended happy hour. More beer, wine, chips and dip ensued. We’ve had great fun visiting these 3. It is not often we meet people we consistently get along with so well. Lots to talk about and things to do together. We both hate to have to leave, but it is time. They all plan on being in Quartzsite in January for the big RV gathering, so we will soon get to all hang out together again.

Monday, October 14
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We pulled up stakes this morning, but not before I had one last chance to photograph at sunrise. This time I was out in plenty of time, had my choice of vantage points and got some nice shots.
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8837We said goodbye to our friends for now, then traveled back up to Bishop and are camping a little north of town. We bypassed this area on the way down, so now we plan to stay here for a few days, hiking and looking for more aspen.

Debbie, Mary and I, and Jim and Gayle.

Debbie, Mary and I, and Jim and Gayle.

October 9, 2013

Parker Lake

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 4:49 pm

Tuesday & Wednesday October 8-98461The morning was taken up with chores. Laundry and groceries. While Mary baby sat the wash, I took off for another cruise up Power Plant Rd. in Lee Vining Canyon to look a little closer at the foliage along the creek. On second viewing, there really wasn’t as much there to photograph as I had hoped. I stopped for some small aspen and another time for leaves in water making an interesting pattern. It might be better when more leave are on the ground. I’ll check back again when we return later in the month. I came back to pick up Mary, and since it was lunch time, we stopped at the Whoa Nellie Deli to fill up our bellies.
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8472We were feeling like trying to get in another hike before heading south. The Parker Lake hike was sounding pretty good. It is about a 4 mile trip up and back and even though it was already 2 pm, we decided to give it a go. It was still quite warm with nary a cloud in the sky when we left. The first mile or so was a pretty steep incline, but it leveled out after that and was a very pleasant walk to the lake. We bee-lined it up there in less than an hour so we could be sure to see the lake in sunlight. We had to skip a lot of pretty nice looking places along the creek on the way up, but we did get there in time. It wasn’t real easy walking along the shore, but rough “fisherman” trails did allow us to get pretty far around. We followed as far as we could, but clouds began filling the sky and the wind picked up considerably. We thought it best to turn back.
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8497On the way down the trail I took a lot of time to photograph along the creek. Lots on nice things to picture. The clouds were thickening, but that really helped even out the light. It’s the kind of light I love to photograph in. The wind, once we moved away from the lake, calmed down almost completely. I just loved shooting the trees next to the creek and the multi colored leaves on the ground everywhere.
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8542When we reached a clearing, still well above the parking lot, we could see just how cloudy it had gotten. We were back down to the lot by 5:15 and headed back to camp. In just the 3 hours we were gone, conditions had gone from sunny and warm to cloudy and windy. The leading edge of the storm was really moving in fast, and by the time we got back to camp the LD was literally rocking. Once the sun went down, the winds also died away and we had a calm evening.
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In the morning, snow started falling much earlier than we expected. By 9 AM there was a thin layer all around us and by the time we were packed up, it was beginning to stick to the roadway. We had planned to meet friends Jim & Gayle down in Lone Pine, but because it was looking pretty dicey here at 6000′, we thought it best to not chance the Dead Man’s Pass on 395 at 8000′. We reluctantly called the Mono Vista RV Park in town and they told us we could come right in without waiting till check-in time. This is our first paid campground since our first night out and seems like a good idea because we would be severely electricity-challenged with this overcast weather. No sun for the solar panels. So we get their electricity, water, dump and wifi for $35. All things considered, not too bad.

It’s been a great week here in the Mono Basin. Tomorrow we will get to Lone Pine. The forecast is for more snow tonight, the clearing tomorrow. We shouldn’t have any problem getting there. Really excited to see how the Sierra’s look all covered in snow.

October 8, 2013

June Lakes Loop & Walker Lake

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 6:46 am

Sunday October 7
8238Sunday morning we dawdled. Mary made us a B&E breakfast and we sat in bed reading and writing the blogs. But we eventually got it together enough to do the June Lakes Loop drive. It is really the first time we’ve been able to see this terrain while the trees are turning. We left the campsite late, around 2 PM and thought we’d first drive up to the Walker Lake trailhead to see what it was like. The Garmin gave us no fewer than 3 different roads to get there. The one we chose led us by a really nice grove of aspens and we lingered there for an hour or so. Traveling further up the road, we came to a locked gate. It was late so we decided to just forget about Walker for now. We went on to the loop.
8241It was a nice drive. We stopped several times to photograph at spots we had seen on previous drives. At Silver Lake, the light was fading really fast, but it was so nice. It was also nice to see people out enjoying the beautiful afternoon. People were out fishing, boating, hiking and just hanging around the shore. All very relaxing. We finished the loop and came back to camp.
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Monday October 7
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On Monday, we choose to do the Walker Lake hike. It starts off with an brief incline before reaching a wonderful overall view of the lake. It then descends down pretty sharply about 500′ over a rocky path to lake level. There are lots of place to stop an enjoy the view, as long as you remember to look up. When we got to the bottom, we decided to walk along the path around the lake as far as we could. The aspen were all at or near peak color so we had a great time. We thought we would walk completely around the lake, but just before we got to what looked like a boathouse, we were confronted by multiple signs stating it was private property, no trespassing, violators will be prosecuted. Even though the place seemed deserted, we decided it best to just turn around.
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8338When we got back to the trail junction, we still felt pretty good, so we decided to walk around the other way a little. We came to a water crossing and could hear splashing up and down the steam. Looking more closely, we could see lots of trout working their way up stream. It was spawning time, and they were really going at it. All the fishermen walking around the lake wondering why nothing was biting might be interested to know about this. My pictures didn’t come out very well on these, so no shots from me. We continued on for a bit, but the going got a little dicy so we decided to call it a day and turned back.
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8418Instead on just coming back to camp, we thought we’d check out Lee Vining Canyon. All of the campgrounds are closed of course, but the color was looking too good to pass up. Usually when we are here, it is late in October. All the campgrounds are closed then anyway and it never stopped us from exploring. While we couldn’t drive into the campgrounds, we could drive up Power Plant Road, and it runs all along the stream until it ends at the plant. Lots of opportunities for images here, but it was late afternoon and we were tired. I shot at a couple of places, but we will probably come back either tomorrow or when we return in a week or so.
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October 6, 2013

Lundy Canyon and Green Creek

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 4:14 pm

Friday, Saturday, October 4-5
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The past 2 days have been very cold in the mornings (mid 30′s) very warm days and cool nights. We had some moderate winds in the valley areas, but in the canyons it is really nice. We decided staying in the canyons might be the best bet. We chose to visit Lundy Canyon to see how it was doing. On all of our previous visits to the canyon it had been pretty deserted. Of course it was latter in the month and most of the leaves had fallen by then. This time through it was surprisingly busy. I’m sure it had to do with the shutdown. Unlike all the federal camping areas, the campgrounds along Lundy are county and so are all open – and nearly full. This was a little disappointing because we usually would walk through all the sites looking for images along the stream that runs behind the campground.
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8189We traveled further up the canyon, past the reservoir to the trailhead for Lundy Canyon. We’ve never hiked this trail before and after lingering around the beaver ponds for a while, we set off to do just a short portion of it. It is another pretty spectacular walk, at least the mile of it that we did. It starts out by running past a small lake that had some nice reflections of foliage around it’s edge, then rises up through a very pretty aspen forest before opening to a grand view up and down the canyon. We stopped at a high point where we could see a very large waterfall in the distance.8195Mary still wasn’t up for a longer hike at this point, so we turned around and just photographed the immediate area. On the way down we overheard a group of women talking about bees. Didn’t really catch much of what they were saying but they were quite animated about it. After we passed them, I noticed a rather angry buzzing around my head and was soon torpedoed in the chin by what I must assume was a bee. It bounced off pretty hard, but moments later I felt what I though was a hair on the back of my neck getting caught in my camera strap. Except it kept getting more intensely painful. Reaching back, I detected something sticking out of the skin. Yep, a stinger. First time I’ve been stung in probably 20 years. I’ve had swarms buzz right through me without getting stung before. This one just seemed to have it in for me. I’m just glad it wasn’t a wasp. The pain subsided pretty quickly and today it just feels like a slightly painful mosquito bite.8196
8201Well, I had to soothe my pain somehow, so Mary and I came back to camp, cleaned up a bit and headed out to the Whoa Nelly Deli, a part of the Mobile gas station in Lee Vining. Fine dining it ain’t, but it is convenient and the food is not too bad. Of course we don’t get out much when we travel, so  most anything tastes pretty good to us. We bought a bottle of wine off the rack, picked up our dinners and had a pleasant evening of someone else’s cooking while listening to the Braves beat the Dodgers (Yay!). We got a slice of amazing chocolate cake to go and retired for the evening.

While paying for our food at the register, Mary started talking to the girl at the counter. Her name tag said Hugo. Kind of unusual. Mary thought she might be about the same age (by now) of a new baby boy belonging to the owner of an old breakfast place since gone out of business in another part of town, named Bodie. This was probably 25 years ago. Turns out, Hugo no longer lives in Lee Vining, but works here in the Summer and goes back to Eureka for the winter months. She did know Bodi! He now lives in Reno. Small towns.

Saturday
We decided to empty holding tanks, fill fresh water and do some shopping in the morning. I thought it might get busier over the weekend and didn’t want to loose our positioning at the campsite. It really wasn’t a worry though. Nobody, save a stray overnighter has spent any time at this spot. While hundreds of visitors are stopping at the Tufa Grove, busloads in fact, nobody come by here. Fine by me.
8204Today we wanted to finally get in our first real hike. We decided on the hike to Green Lake at the end of Green Creek that we had checked out before. It is reached by driving the Green Creek dirt road, off 395 south of Bridgeport, 8 miles to it’s end. There are lots of camping spots all along the last 4 miles of the drive. All dispersed. There were actually a lot more people out here than I would have expected, but hunting season has started, and there still is the shutdown. We got ourselves to the trail head and started out on the 6 mile roundtrip walk. It was really beautiful hike. We chose this hike because it’s elevation gain was only 840 feet. We thought it would be pretty manageable for our first hike and it turned out to be a mostly gradual rise the the lake. The weather was just perfect for it too.
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8218It being so late in the year, the sun is lower in the sky, so most of the hike was in shaded. The sun wasn’t getting over the trees so much. There were plenty of breaks and a few open areas that got us sweating. While there was quite a few aspens around, they were again difficult to photograph in any kind of unique way. It didn’t matter. It was just so nice to be hiking in the Sierra’s again. Lovely air, wonderful views and eventually the lake. This time of year, all the lakes around here tend to be on the low side and Green Lake was pretty low, but still very nice once you got to the edge. We had our lunch lakeside, took a few shots and started back. We could have walked further up to West Lake, but that would have been another mile and 500′ gain. We could have hiked to East Lake, but that would have been much more grueling distance and elevation rise. I was glad we did turn back after 3 miles. We were both pretty tired afterwards.

It was a little difficult getting Mary out of this natural rocking chair up at Green Lake.

It was a little difficult getting Mary out of this natural rocking chair up at Green Lake.

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8227In the parking lot, my phone rang. It was a friend of mine (and actually my last employer before I stopped working for good). We had been emailing the previous few days and he had come up for a long weekend. We told him where we were, and met him at our campsite at Mono. It was great to see him again. He is a very talented photographer himself and one of the best printers I know. He’s had a custom photo printing business for more that 30 years in Berkeley and has transitioned it into more of a fine arts printing business now that everything had gone digital. We had dinner together in the rig and he spent the night at the site. We may or may not hook up again before he goes back, but it was fun to catch up with him.

Rob is still camping like in the olden days.

Rob is still camping like in the olden days.

 

Another beautiful sunset.

Another beautiful sunset.

The weather is supposed to get even colder around Monday or Tuesday so we will probably head south for several days. Our friends Jim and Galye who are currently camping down in Bishop and also moving further south to Lone Pine and we hope to catch up with them for a few days by mid-week. Today (Sunday) we are going to check out the June Lake loop and hopefully another hike on Monday.

 

October 4, 2013

Virginia Lakes and Beyond

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 6:25 pm

8075Another beautiful, cloudless morning greeted when we awoke. A breeze came up quickly though and after about an hour, it really began to blow. By the time we had coffee and breakfast, dust had been thrown high into the air, nearly obscuring a large portion of the eastern half of the lake and the Mono Craters. While it was windy at our campsite, it was not dusty. We decided a day in the canyons of the Sierra’s was in order.

Our first order of fun, was to see if we could locate a small grove of aspens we had seen and visited a couple of years ago. What we remembered was that it was just off 395 on the western side of Conway Summit. I found an obscure dirt track that led to the grove back then and we enjoyed probably the last of the aspen in the entire area. It was late October and virtually all of the leaves had fallen elsewhere. But here that were hanging on. There was a little stream running through it and on our second visit the next morning, ice had formed on some of the branches and frost on many of the fallen leaves. It was a pretty magical experience photographing in this spot.

But try as we might, we had difficulty identifying the takeoff point from 395. There were three dirt tracks that we could find, none of which looked exactly as we remembered it. So we tried all three until we again found the spot. It’s really odd how memory changes what you remember. The road was quite a bit shorter and smoother and ran at a different angle than what I remembered. But the place was the same, except that the aspens here had not yet changed much. That makes sense since they were the only ones still with color last time. We’ll come back here before we head home at the end of the month.8081So then we embarked on our planned drive for the day. Virginia Lakes road leaves from the top of Conway summit and heads to out to Virginia Lake. There are a number of really nice aspen stands near the start and for a few miles in. But they stop after that and there are no aspens the rest of the way to the lake. We photographed early on, got to the lake for lunch, then decided to take Dunderberg Meadow Road, which branches off Virginia Lakes Rd. This one is all dirt but wide and easily drivable. It eventually meets up with Green Creek Rd which we had done the day before. There are lots of other park service roads that take off from Dunderberg into various other parts of the mountains around here.

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8117Dunderberg has lots of nice little stands of aspen. Most all were at peak in various shades of yellow, orange, and reds. Still plenty of green too. Lots of really spectacular views all along the way. We spent several hours exploring the various branch roads and finding plenty to photograph. After several miles of this, the road desends and the aspen sort of peter out. We decided to just turn around and experience Duderberg again. This time, the trees were largely backlit and gave a different vibe to the pictures. Eventually we made our way out and back to camp. The winds had largely dropped off by then and we were able to enjoy a nice calm late afternoon. It was decidedly cooler though. I expected a much cooler night.
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October 3, 2013

Contrasting Trips

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 7:32 am

September 29
Yes, the blog is still alive, although you wouldn’t know it by any recent visits. This is my first post since the end of June. It’s not that nothing has been happening. Oh, there’s been plenty, most of it photography related. I’ve had to get prints ready for no fewer than 3 exhibits in the past 3 months. All of the work has been from my Nomads project. The first exhibit was at The Griffin Museum of Photography for their 19th annual juried exhibit. That ran from July through August. In September, I had work in 2 different shows in San Francisco – both at the same gallery. RayKo Photo Center had a call to artists for a S.F. PhotoAlliance benefit show in which I received an honorable mention for my End of Day image that has been so popular this past year. The second show was called Me, Myself and I. It was juried by photographer David Hilliard and was essentially a self portrait competition with a bit of a twist. The images didn’t have to be of me necessarily. They could also relate to that which I identify. I chose to submit a new image I did of RV friends Don & Dorothy while we traveled together this past spring in the Pacific Northwest. I was really pleased to get this image in – especially in San Francisco. It’s really tough to get galleries to show work here. Just so much competition.

The view from the Empire State Building.

The view from the Empire State Building.

In mid-September, we traveled to N.Y. City (not in the RV). We haven’t done a trip like this in about 12 years. Friends of ours wanted to go see the Giants play both the Yankee’s and the Mets. While that is a pretty great reason to go, Mary and I felt that if we were going to N.Y., we weren’t going to spend that much time watching baseball. So we created an itinary that crossed paths with our friends from time to time, but was wholly our own. Most of it is detailed in Mary’s blog post, and I won’t go into it more here. But I have added a bunch of shot from the trip for your enjoyment.

Bryant Park.

Bryant Park.

Taxi anyone?

Taxi anyone?

Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center.

Inside MoMA.

Inside MoMA.

More MoMA

More MoMA

The queue at Radio City Music Hall.

The queue at Radio City Music Hall.

Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park.

Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park.

View from the Highline.

View from the Highline.

Grazing sheep near Madison Avenue.

Grazing sheep near Madison Avenue.

NY skyline from Brooklyn.

NY skyline from Brooklyn.

The Gang.

The Gang.

San Sarrano celebration in Little Italy.

San Sennaro celebration in Little Italy.

But we are out again on one of our typical sorts of trips. This one is shorter than usual. Only 1 month as opposed to our usual 2+. The N.Y. trip happened when we usually are already out for several weeks. It was also expensive. So this trip is whittled down a lot. We got ourselves packed up and out of town on Monday, the 30th.

The view from our camp.

The view from our camp.

As seems to happen so often, things went smoothly – for about 2 hours. We stopped for gas in Oakdale on our way to Yosemite. After filling up, we pulled out, but noticed the lube pump alarm acting up. We pulled over immediately to investigate, and I discovered what I thought was the problem. The power cord from the RV to the Rav4 was loose at the connecting plug. That is, the cord was pulling free of the connector creating a short and causing the alarm to sound. A small screw that cinches the connector to the cord had worked itself out and was missing. Of course it was located on the underside of the connector so I wouldn’t even notice it until it was gone.

An easy fix, so I thought. I found an Orchard hardware store nearby that had a bolt I could substitute. All was well for a short time. We stopped for lunch, got propane and started out again. The lube pump monitor began to scream again. This time, nothing I did could fix the problem. I thought I must have damaged the cord with the new bold I added, so I went in search of a new one. I finally located a RV repair shop that said they had a replacement. When I got there, 20 miles later, it turned out they didn’t have what I needed, but could repair the one I had. So all was well again.

Nope. When I got back to the LD and plugged it in – nothing. The pump seems to be just dead, or it could be the cord was still not right, or it even could be the wiring to one of the two receptacles the plug goes in to. So what does the lube pump do exactly? It allows me to tow the Rav without burning up the transmission. It lubricates the drive gears and without it, they will eventually dry up and seize. So my options were 1) get it replaced, but trying to find a replacement in the eastern Sierra’s would be impossible. 2) drive with the engine idling so the gears get lubrication (doing this mean I burn gas needlessly and I can’t use the braking system for the car). 3) We could drive separately. So we drove the next 80 miles with the Rav engine on. Till we got to Yosemite. Then I remembered what the installer told me when I has a similar problem early on. He told me I could actually drive without the lube pump operating for around 100 miles at a time. Then I would need to stop, run the engine a short while, before continuing on my way. So that’s what I’m doing. Seems to be working fine. It makes me nervous though and I will be constantly monitoring the Rav as we drive.

Anyway, we did eventually arrive at Crane Flat for our single day of camping in Yosemite. It’s good we decided on only one day. With the government shutdown, the campground closed down in the morning and we had to leave. LOT’s of angry campers. But first we took a short 2 mile round trip hike up a fire road trail near the campground. It was a pleasant walk after a trying day before.

We made it without incident to Mono Lake near Lee Vining and went looking for a dispersed camping area friends Gayle and Jim told us about. Another adventure ensued. It simply was not located where the GPS said it was. There was a small private residence there, but no clearing on Picnic Ground Rd. We searched around for a good half hour, moving up and down the dirt road looking for the spot. We had pictures of the camp, but nothing quite looked like what we were after. We eventually found a spot that we decided would do, and headed back to Lee Vining to get the RV. On the way out, dam if we didn’t find the clearing, less than a mile from the main road. We had just zoomed right by it looking for Picnic Ground Rd. It was actually on Test Station Rd. Gotta start looking around a little better. We didn’t really feel like doing anything more for the day, and it was getting to be late afternoon, so we opted for an early happy hour and just hung out at this spectacular spot. We were rewarded with a wonderful sunset. Tomorrow we explore the Bridgeport area for fall color.

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From our campground at night. Yes it really is just this starry here.

From our campground at night. Yes it really is just this starry here.

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A very pretty sunrise greeted us this morning. We didn’t even have to get out of the LD to watch it. What a treat. Looking out the other way, we got the above view. We decided to first check out the Bridgeport area north of Lee Vining. It is higher in elevation and the thinking is that is where the color might be best at the moment. There is plenty of color around Tioga Canyon, but it still seems a bit short of peak. So we headed out early for a look see. We tried one road out to Twin Lakes, but there really wasn’t much color to see there. The lake was nice, but really not we were looking for.

The view from Conway Summit overlook.

The view from Conway Summit overlook.

We next found a road called Green Creek. The website we are using said go there now! It did not lie. It is a good gravel road that climbs for about 6 miles before it narrows and follows Green Creek for another 2.5 miles. It ends at a campground and we discovered lots of dispersed camping all along the way. Quite a few really nice locations, but getting the motorhome in there would be a rattling experience. The color was pretty great though.

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7999From the campground at the end of the road, a 2.5 mile trail leads to a couple of lakes. We hadn’t planned on hiking today, but it was so pretty we thought we might as well do at least a part of it. So we walked about a mile down the trail before turning back. It was a good way to get acclimated. We will come back to finish this one another day. We stopped all along the road on the way back, photographing the trees and stream, then headed back to camp and arrived just as the sun dropped behind the Sierra’s. A good day.8032

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8060On Thursday we plan a drive up to the Virginia Lakes area. Our last time here in late October, we saw lots of great aspen groves, but all the foliage had dropped by then. This day should be a lot more scenic.

 

 

June 25, 2013

2 Days, 6 Waterfalls

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 10:13 am

We are back in San Francisco. This post is getting uploaded a week late. We spent our last night at The Golden Book RV Park in Willits, CA, whose 1st rule was no mind altering substances allowed. They were really no fun at all! Neither did they have any internet access, so I wasn’t able to post my last update. Then we got home and I got busy putting the LD to bed for the next several months. Anyway, what follows is a recounting of our last little adventure around the Willamette.

6883_redmond1We spent one night just outside Redmond, OR (above) before actually getting to our final trip destination. We are camped near Cottage Grove in a very nice Corp of Engineers campground called Schwartz Campground situated at the foot of Dorena Dam. They have been improving the hydro electric works here and apparently it has been REALLY noisy, but now it is quite quiet – and also almost deserted. There are about 10 very open sites with all the rest nestled into forested spots. It’s a good thing too, because while today is just about perfect weather wise, not so for the next 2 days. Our price? $8 a day with the Senior Park Pass. We settled in and enjoyed the sunny warm afternoon.

Tuesday, June 18 - Before we split up, Don M. gave me a brochure describing around 17 different waterfalls in the Willamette. We weren’t going to be able to visit them all in the 3 days we had, but I set out a course that would let us see six nice ones. Today we first went to Spirit Falls. All of the waterfalls we visited were very accessed via paved or nice gravel roads, with most at the end of short hiking trails. This one was just .3 mile walk along a very nice trail. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for photographing the falls. Partly cloudy skies meant we could use slow shudder speeds and soften the look of the water. I looked mostly at the base of the falls. I really enjoyed the sheeting effect the water made along the base.
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6960_Spirit3Moon Falls was next. This trail was a very nice half mile walk through a lush rain forest. An added bonus were the rhodi’s we found still blooming along the trail. This waterfall was two-tiered with a huge 125′ drop in the back and a nice cascade in front. The sun had come out for a time, so we stopped for lunch before beginning to photograph. It was a bit more difficult to photograph this big falls, but sometimes it’s best just to enjoy the experience of the falling water. I started out focusing on the smaller details of the cascade until the sun went – then moved on to the biggie.

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7021_moon4Parker Falls was next. This one was reached after a .8 mile uphill trudge – not really that bad, but it was a little wet with occasional light showers. This made some of the fallen tree obstacles on the trail a little difficult to get over or around. We first went to the upper falls, but it wasn’t really easily photographable – too much debris around the base – so we moved back down to lower falls. This one was quite nice, but to get to the best angle on the other side of the creek, I did have to get over a bunch of fallen trees near the base of the falls. Mary wisely chose not to attempt it. The trees were slippery and to cross the stream, I had to do some pretty dicy maneuvers. I managed. It was worth the risk of getting wet.
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That was it for today. It was getting late and more rainy, so we called it quits for the day. We got everything done we wanted to do and were looking forward to tomorrows set of hikes and waterfalls .

Wednesday, June 19 - We had rain much of the afternoon yesterday after we returned and much of the night, but come morning, it was sunny again. We expect much the same weather as yesterday. Sunny in the morning, clouding up, then rain late. Our first falls was along Brice Creek. We crossed a high bridge over the creek to get to the trailThey weren’t really big falls – they weren’t even named – but they were nice enough to kill around a hour or more along this .3 mile walk. Some really nice scenes along both the bank of the stream and the river itself.7097_brice1

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7171_brice6Then it was off to Upper and Lower Trestle Falls. I chose to hike the 2.8 mile loop, 1000′ rise, trail to Upper Trestle Falls. Mary opted for the .6 mile flat trail to Lower Trestle. Upper Trestle boasted the experience of walking UNDER the falls. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. The trail was just in outstanding condition. The night’s rain had really no effect on it. It was wet, but not soaking or slippery, so easy walking. There was also the added enjoyment of more rhodi’s. The setting of the falls was pretty spectacular. Located in a large, lush bowl it fell in three streams before hitting the ground and falling further in a nice cascade to a pool at the base. I really enjoyed photographing here as well. I even set-up a self portrait with me under the falls.7220_Trestle1

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7292_Trestle7Mary’s experience wasn’t quite so nice. Her falls were clogged with large trees at it’s base and she was reluctant to try to ford the mess. She photographed around it for awhile, then returned to the car to wait for me. By now, it had begun to rain more vigorously. I brought my rain gear along just in case and while I did put it all on, under the thick forest canopy, it really wasn’t needed that much. I thing I got wetter from sweat that rainwater. We met back at the car and returned to camp.

This trip was one of the best we’ve been on. I don’t think either of us was really ready to come home again, but we made obligations and had to be back in time for them. I can see another trip to the Pacific Northwest in the nearish future. I want more time in the foggy rain forests of the coast in California, Oregon and Washington. I could spend even more time in the Palouse. We found lots of great areas, but I know there is more to discover and photograph. We had a fun time with the Northwest Lazy Daze group in Baker City, OR. and even joined the Northern Exposure LD group. They will be having a GTG at Jackson Rancheria in Jackson, CA in September. We have plans to be in New York City for a week in September, then a short fall trip to the eastern sierra’s for October so I’m not sure we will be making that one. It was also fun to travel with our friends Don & Dorothy for a few weeks. That was a new experience for us. We’ve never traveled with others for any extended period while motor homing. We got to like it.

I will still be posting from time to time to keep up with what is going on, but for the most part, the blog will be taking a little rest for the next few months.

 

 

June 16, 2013

Where in the Sam Hill Are We?

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 2:10 pm

6792_stone1Wednesday, June 12 - We made it to the east side of the Columbia River today, near the tiny town of Maryhill, WA. Mary was quite happy because there were acres and acres of cherry and peach trees all around. She is in fresh cherry heaven. We are at Maryhill State Park, paying a shocking $32/per night. It’s a very nice park right next to the river and it sows have water, electric and sewer. All the sites are large, but still much more than we needed to pay. Mary had a hankering to see the museum here as well as the concrete Stonehenge. so we bit the bullet and paid it. Where in the Sam Hill is the concrete Stonehenge? Well, right here in Maryhill, built by none other than THE Sam Hill. He was a one time wealthy land developer who eventually went broke. He built the Stonehenge (an exact replica of the original in England) as a tribute to fallen soldiers. He also built a large poured concrete home which became the museum. He never moved into it though.
6789_stone2After setting up, we drove up the hill to the Stonehenge. It sits on a windy bluff and has commanding views of the river gorge and hills all around. I found it to be kind of a quirky place – an odd tribute to the fallen in and odd place. We poked about for a bit before returning to camp.
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6813_Merryhill1Thursday, June 13 - Today we went to the nearby Maryhill Museum. It is located on a high overlook along the river. Today it is very windy due to another dry storm system. There are some impressive thunder clouds moving through and while it may be raining somewhere, all we got were the the amazing clouds.
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6812_stone5This other Sam Hill creation also seemed out of place for the area. The collection is kind of a mishmash of artifacts. There were very old religious icons, indian artifacts for many tribes, a large collection of chess sets, a bunch of Rodin sculptures, paintings from early 19 century americans, a fashion doll collection, a furniture collection and more. Just a really strange bunch of stuff, but nothing really outstanding. The grounds were quite nice however. After leaving the museum, we had lunch outside and strolled around photographing the sculptures.
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6822_Merryhill3The day was still young, so we headed out for a drive on the other side of the river to look over the area a bit more. We did find a nice field of wildflowers, but other than various nice views of the river, not much else to speak about. After the Palouse, it will be hard to really impress me.
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6856_WhiteFalls1Friday, June 13 - On our way to the Willamette River watershed, we’ve stopped at the fairgrounds of Tygh Valley, OR for a 2 night stay. They have quite a few sites – all with water/electric with a dump station nearby. They even have WiFi which is making extra posts possible. We might have gone further, but we are in need of washing cloths and resupplying, and we didn’t want to chance not getting into one of the smaller park service campgrounds we are headed to in the area of the Whillamette over the weekend. So we are here till Sunday. As it happens, there is to be a kiddie rodeo tomorrow. We stumbled upon one in the Palouse at the fairgrounds there, and now here again. There isn’t much else to do around here except visit White Falls state park. This tiny park has a pretty impressive waterfall that we visited once we got set up. The whole park is really just an overlook of the falls. The associated trails actually runs away from any views of the actual falls and seems to just to go down to the river.
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6882_WhiteFalls3We did a short drive to the river further downstream and happened upon a group of indians set out on rather rickety looking platforms in the river. I believe they were netting fish there – they are the only group allowed to river fish this way. It was a scene you might expect to see maybe 200 years ago. Oh, I wanted to photograph them, but we were on their land, and experience has shown this would not be a thing they would probably appreciate. We’ll have to settle for the rodeo.

Sunday, June 16 - Well the rodeo turned out to be a bust. Actually what it turned out to be was a kids religious retreat that included cowboy/girl training. The won’t even be doing any actual training until Tuesday. It was a wasted day, and since we had already paid, we were stuck there. It wasn’t a bad place to be stuck, but with only a week left in the trip, we could have moved on and been in better position for extra days in the Whillamette. Mary doesn’t want to spend time or take a chance on not fitting into any of the BLM campgrounds, so we will end up in an RV park anyway.

June 14, 2013

Our Final Day in the Palouse

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 10:01 am
Best Hair award.

Best Hair award.

Saturday, June 9 - Our last day in the hills of the Palouse! Our only plan for the day was to go into town to do some shopping and upload the blogs at the library so we don’t have to burn up our limited bandwidth. Don came by to tell us about a kiddie rodeo that was taking place in the corrals of the fairground where we are staying. So now we had something else to do for the early afternoon. D & D went over to the rodeo early and Mary and I joined them after we got back from town.

Nobody messes with this judge.

Nobody messes with this judge.

This little lady was one of the best riders…

This little lady was one of the best riders…

…but she did need a bit of help on the dismount.

…but she did need a bit of help on the dismount.

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Those spurs didn't reach much.

Those spurs didn’t reach much.

Love the chaps.

Love the chaps.

The dismount.

The dismount.

The take-down.

The take-down.

Determination.

Determination.

6679_Rodeo11We decided we should do one last photo drive through the hill around here, so after another early dinner, we were out again. This time we headed, first west, then south through an area we hadn’t done before. Once out on Highway 24, we soon came to a huge canola field. We’ve only been looking for blooming canola for the entire time we’ve been here. We didn’t realize it was here all along – just not blooming. Too bad we’re leaving tomorrow. Looking around, it is clear it is beginning to bloom in several different areas. This particular patch, while pretty spectacular, was kind of hard to photograph. Mostly planted in a flat field, it was difficult to get a good angle. But we played with it for a while before moving on. This wasn’t the best of our drives. We made a wrong turn on the way to a favorite spot, and hit a dead end well off the road. We ended up getting to our spot too late to photograph, but did find a place or two before hand.6707_Canola3

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Sunday, June 10 - We got it together and were out of camp by 9 AM, rolling down the road to Palouse Falls State Park. It wasn’t far – about 80 miles, but the campground we planned on staying in was no longer a campground. It was originally a state park and campground, then a Corp of Engineers camp, now a county a park without a campground. The only real option was to check into a KOA. Don was not pleased. None of us were really, but the next option was another 16 miles away. We bit the bullet and paid for a night. The spaces were tight, but the setting wasn’t too bad. The campground host had a thing about his lawn however, and would not let me back up enough to attach the waste hose to the sewer. We couldn’t even have the back of the rig over the lawn. I did it anyway so I could dump before moving back up to his specifications.6757_pel1

6760_pel1We drove out to a forest service campground near a reservoir, but found it to be a bit too far away to justify just one nights stay. We did see several large pelicans floating about as we drove along the reservoir road. We then shot up to Palouse Falls for a couple of hours to check it out. It was actually a pretty impressive falls. The park itself is high up on the rim with a grand overlook down to the falls and the huge bowl it made in the canyon. There were trails to it, but it was so stark looking and hot we chose to skip any hikes or a return trip. In the morning we packed it up and headed out of the area.6765_PalouseFalls1We ended up in the Prosser area of Washington and had a fun time visiting several wineries and buying a number on reasonably priced wines. Back in the lone RV park in the town of Sunnyside, we proceeded to make short work of several of our bottles. On Tuesday, we visited a few more wineries before having lunch and staggering our way back to camp for our last dinner together with Don & Dorothy. We have to say goodby to them in the morning. It will be hard getting used to traveling on our own again, but our waistlines will probably benefit – both Dorothy’s and Mary’s cooking has been great, and the happy hours we fell into everyday also included lots of snacks. We have around 7 days left of this trip and plan to spend a few days in the mountains of Oregon tracking down waterfalls before zipping back home, probably by Friday. This trip has just zoomed by and seems to be ending abruptly. It’s been really fun though. Perhaps one more post to come before we get home.

June 8, 2013

Back in Colfax

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Gardner @ 1:25 pm

6417_SwColfax1Thursday, June 7 - It has gotten much warmer in the past few days. Feels like summer is about to descend upon us. The storms that have been passing by have been dry, which means much wind and clouds but no rain. The mosquitos that have been eating us alive in the Moscow campground were reason enough to move back to the Colfax fairgrounds, but we also want to be back in the area because the terrain seems more conducive to this unusual landscape we want to photograph. The long line of cottonwood trees at the Colfax campground will provide us plenty of shade for the heat of the day, and make life much more comfortable without having to use the noisy air conditioner much. Our only plan for today is an evening photo drive through the hills.
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6452_SwColfax3We again had an early dinner and were out by 6 P.M. Our plan was to cover the area southwest of Colfax, so we headed first back to some of the backroads near Kamiak butte that we had scouted out a couple of days earlier. Mary kept us on an interesting course through the hills, very gradually moving us further south and west. I wanted to finish up the evening at one particular point where I thought the long evening shadows would make for interesting photographs.
6487_SwColfax5We got there via another of our favorite roads, Pat O’Neil. The road runs along a narrow ridge with wonderful views at various points on either side. It did not disappoint again. The lowering sun was backlighting what we think was a cottonwood tree. It was absolutely glowing, and set against the vibrant greens of the rolling hills, was something to see. When I finished photographing the tree, I turned around and saw how the sun was side lighting the wheat against another wide expanse of green. This whole road provides views that are different each time we pass.
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6505_SwColfax8It was a bit unfortunate that the few clouds that were present happened to be clustered right along the horizon where the sun was setting. This meant we lost our light about 30 minutes before sunset. But I still wanted to head over to my favorite spot on Almota Road. We got there pretty quickly, but the sun was gone. It was still an impressive view though so we set up and shot away. About 10 minutes before sunset, the sun dropped below the clouds and lit up the entire area. It was good to have been ready. We could just shoot away without having to scramble. Once the sun had finally set, we decided to drive just a little higher for a different vantage and were treated to glowing clouds from the last light of the day.
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6537_SwColfax13Friday, June 8 - Another very warm but windy day. It seemed like a good time to do a scouting drive with Don & Dorothy. We wanted to check out the northwestern area around Colfax, so Mary plotted a long drive through the hills to Rock Lake. As usual, along the way we stopped often to photograph. Some of this area seemed to be devoted to growing hay – something we haven’t seen anywhere else in the Palouse. Farmers were in the process of harvesting and the passes the machines made created some interesting patterns in the fields – different than we have seen elsewhere. The wind was doing something really cool in some of the more mature wheat fields. As it blew across the fields, it created waves of ever shifting patterns in the wheat. I photographed it, but the short video I shot is really the best way to convey it.
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6554_NwColfax4Driving on, we found about the best barn to date to shoot close up. It sometimes feels like a step back in time traveling these roads. All of the towns are very small and sleepy – seemingly deserted. But look inside the post office, there are people doing business, the schools have kids in them and the cafe has patrons. Driving along one road, we passed an old Texaco service station completed with several 50′s era trucks and even a cop car! Time travel for sure. We made it to the lake and had lunch. We were all pretty tired from the long drive, so we pretty much just headed home for the evening.
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