Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 November 16 Yosemite with Caspar & Nadine

We had a remarkable weekend at Yosemite. Very unusual for late November, we had dry, bluebird 70 degree days, and cool nights with a full moon. All the campsites were closed except for Camp 4 (the climbers camp) and Upper Pines. It was quiet, and peaceful. Upper pines has lots of sites, no hook-ups, but is nestled in a old grove of redwood trees. We stayed in the 200 loop - furthest from the road, and from Curry Village, but closest to the trail head for Vernal and Nevada Falls - with hopes of seeing roaming wildlife.

The summer crowds long gone, the open top tour buses parked for the winter. Park concessions buttoned down for the long cold, but with basic services still operational. There was no snow in the Valley, even though above 7,000 feet the Sierras has received its first snowfall of the season. Bears were all about, and from Curry Village, the nightly fire crackers sounded to scare aware the curious ursines looking for an easy meal.

Once away from the Valley, the hiking trails were mostly deserted, except for the occasional intrepid explorers seeking the perspective of higher elevation. The clink of hardware on stone, the faint call and response from climbers high above the Valley floor and the rushing water sounds of the Merced river far below filled my ears with a subtle mix of autumn sounds.

Sounds: Water falling down over the edge of mountains, scattering as much to the wind as to the sparkling pool beneath the lip, the far away throaty cluck of the raven, the chip and chatter of the squirrels gathering nuts and the wind, making its own symphony of whistles as it blew across and down this magical valley.

(You can click on any picture to see a bigger version, then just click the BACK button to return to the blog)

Bottom of Bridalveil falls - late afternoon light

Crossing stream on foot bridge at base of the falls. The autumn flow is just a fraction of what it is at other times of the year. Boulders exposed now are on the river bottom when the spring snow melt cascades madly down the same channel.

The bear cub was 40' up in an Oak tree foraging for acorns. The amazing thing was that the tree was hanging over the edge of a steep cliff. We sat and watched as the cub nimbly reached out to even the littlest of branches to find acorns. The mother bear was at the base of the tree making sure the cub did not come down until all the acorns were consumed.

Yosemite falls - 5th highest falls in the world.

Nevada Falls - a surprise awaited us at the top...

We pick out a sunny protected spot above the falls and rest our weary backs against the warm rocks by the river.

After lunch, atop Nevada Falls. watching the ravens fly and listening to the surging water over the edge of the falls, nestled in the protection of some willows by the bank, Caspar pulled out a ring and proposed to Nadine. Ahhhhhh! How romantic.

What did you say?

Walking up the mist trail

Yosemite Falls as we approach the top. (Caspar ran ahead and beat us all to the top. We stopped short of the top, once he returned and said the view was terrible...) Phew, saved us all a lot of extra work.

The base of the upper falls, making a double rainbow.

Autumn Oak leaves

Sunday, November 2, 2008

2008 October 31 - Pinnacles National Monument

Pinnacles presents a variety of eroded composite rock formations, studded with embedded rocks of different ages, and pockmarked with hollows holding nests for a variety of birds - most notably, the California Condor - whose 9 foot wingspan makes it the biggest of the buzzard family. This weekend a captive bred bird was scheduled for release, but the gusty winds and forecast thunderstorms had the ranger's keeping him in the pen - awaiting smoother sailing.

The trails meander along and in between the rocks - this part on the Condor Gulch trail follows the river bed up a canyon, even though the river goes underground and beneath truck sized boulders which have fallen from above and lodged in the tight canyon walls forming a roof.

Here Diane is coming up behind me as we seek the daylight after traveling underground. In the really hot weather these caves are a great relief. In rainy weather like we were having, we were concerned about flooding and did not dally as we we made our way through the subterranean passages.

The thirsty landscape awaits the winter rains.

Little did we know that September and October is tarantula mating season. There were plenty of these guys crossing the trail - undisturbed by our passing - -even approaching our feet as the vibrations intrigued them to investigate.

The trail comes out on this glorious view of the "balconies" - where on a good day condors can be seen soaring above looking for a meal. We saw no birds flying all weekend.

A break in the storm clouds.

The rain obscures this view of the high peaks - but we were transfixed non-the-less by the view from the meadow below.

This is an acorn woodpecker, getting a drink. These birds live in fairly big colonies, and use a well pecked tree as acorn storage for the winter. These large trees are called grainery trees so after the birds peck nice round holes looking for bugs, they proceed to fill the holes with acorns from the California oak trees which they'll eat over the winter.

Acorn woodpecker looking for bugs...

Farm on Route 25 south of Hollister.

Magpie in flight.


Acorn woodpecker filling a hole with an acorn.

Grainery tree with woodpecker holes filled with acorns.