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Visiting Devin in Yosemite

Last weekend I went to the California Conservation Corps (CCC) backcountry program camp where Devin has been the supervisor since late April. In the first few months, the corps goes out and does “front country” work, where they are within access to a vehicle for supplies and connection. But in the latter months they hike out into the backcountry, where they sleep in their individual tents, work a full-time job doing trail maintenance, then hike back to camp for the night. Once a week, on Tuesday, a supply mule train comes up with provisions for the week and other needs, and takes back the trash. On weekends, the crew goes  — backpacking.

I visited the camp at Sunrise Lakes in Yosemite.

On the way there I stopped at Olmsted point (see map below) and got a good view of the famous Half Dome. You can see how smoky the air is. It is actually due to a management fire in Yosemite (induced by the forest service) and they have signs up telling people not to “call in” the fire. Unfortunately, Half Dome was in a smoky haze.

Here is an overview map [as always, click to enlarge pictures]. Olmsted point from where I took the photograph above is indicated (blue arrow).  You can see the location of Half Dome (green arrow), the peak of Clouds Rest (orange arrow) and the location of the CCC camp where I went (red arrow).  In the lower left of the picture is Yosemite Valley, which is what most people think of as Yosemite. In reality, it’s a huge area of wilderness.

My hike started at the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead off Highway 120 right by Tenaya Lake. The colors indicate my speed. Red is fastest, blue is slowest. You can see where the switchbacks were and of course where I rested by the blue.

Here is a typical section of the trail. Huge boulders as one expects in Yosemite are everywhere.

Another section of trail.

Here I arrived at the “First Lake” and you can see the spot on the map above. The lakes are pristine, and as you can see, there is nobody there.

It took me about three hours to get to the CCC camp. Here is Devin at the hand washing station.

The crew does trail maintenance work, which would be felling trees, building rock steps, filling in washed out gaps, building retaining walls. All in all backbreakingly hard labor. That’s why it says on the back of Devin’s CCC business card: “Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions and More.” Here you can see their “tool shed” with sledge hammers, chain saws, and various gear. A tarp above keeps out the rain.

Here are more tools, clippers, rakes, shovels, all nicely organized.

Here is a picture of the “living room” which consists of a fire pit in the middle, log benches all around, and a large tarp over the top to keep out the rain, but mostly the sun. To the left is the kitchen. All the food needs to be stored in bear boxes, which are those big brown cases.

The crew members pitch their tents in the surrounding area, usually away from others for privacy and quiet. So they are actually quite spread out. Here is Devin’s tent, where he has lived and spent pretty much every night in the last two months, except for when he went off backpacking on some weekends. This is his home. Right now, the temperature goes down to the low forties over night, so it’s quite nippy already, and it will get much colder over the next few weeks. The sun goes down at about 7:30pm and it’s dark very quickly, and stays dark until about 6:00am. That makes for a long night in the tent.

There is a spot on a giant granite incline not far from the camp where they get phone reception. The picture below shows me on that spot. You can see the peak of Clouds Rest (red arrow), a sliver of Half Dome (green arrow) and the approximate spot of the cell phone tower (blue arrow) over Yosemite Valley, about 13 miles away, which brings in the signal. I got 3 bars on my iPhone from that spot, but when I hiked back the couple of hundred yards to the camp – nothing.

Below is a close-up of Clouds Rest and Half Dome from that same spot.

And while I was there, I checked my messages and my email. Here is yours truly, the Software CEO doing a bit of work while out hiking, answering a few urgent emails, making a few appointments, before walking back “off the grid” to get some dinner at the camp.

The next day we hiked down to the trailhead. Here is a picture of Devin in front of Tenaya Lake. The peak behind him is Tenaya Peak. That’s a 10,301 foot peak with no trail going to it. The next day, Devin was going to do a solo hike off-trail to that peak from the CCC camp, which is located to the right behind the peak. I wasn’t comfortable enough for cross country hiking at that altitude for that distance (at my age) so I didn’t volunteer to participate. Devin, as a crew supervisor, carries an emergency satellite phone with GPS, so he feels safe enough to go alone.

As I am writing this a couple of days after, I know Devin made it and has already sent me a picture from the top, looking down on the lake, But that’s for another post.

Another picture of Tenaya Lake, facing due east.

While we there, as we’re crossing the highway, I found an iPhone in the middle of the road, obviously run over by cars already. But as I picked it up it still worked and showed a photograph of the owner and his wife on the cover. So we hiked around a bit trying to find them and give them back their phone, but no luck. I decided to take it with me, and wait for the first incoming call. Sure enough, about 3 hours later, as I had already left Yosemite, that call came in and I was able to connect with the owner and arrange to return the phone to him, albeit run over and scratched.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. I saw Devin for the first time in 6 months, and were were able to catch up on life. I got in some good hiking and fresh air. I tested a new backpack and sleeping bag, and I am already looking forward to going back. To me, Yosemite is one of the best places on earth.

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Pumpkin Flowers

I have never seen pumpkin flowers before in my life. Now we grew some in our yard. They are amazingly beautiful.

Here is what the plants look like from a distance:

Here is what that plant looked like just 50 days ago, grown from one seed, banana for scale.

We planted the seedlings on June 30th, when they looked like this:

Now let’s see what happens as the pumpkins grow…..

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The Joy of Growing Vegetables

We put a zucchini plant into our little garden, and it’s producing like crazy. Here is the first one we broke off.

Zucchini – banana for scale

It’s huge. We don’t know if it’s ripe yet, but we’ll cut it open and find out. There are several more growing in the plant.

Then we wanted to know whether you could grow a pumpkin from a seed. So I put a single seed into a planter pot and within six days of watering it several times a day, it produced a little plant.

Pumpkin plant – banana for scale

It’s a tiny shoot with two leaves. When gets a bit bigger in another week or so, I’ll put it into the ground.

The pot on the left has onion seeds (green onions), and the one on the right is another pumpkin.

 

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This cactus has been with us for decades. It loves to live in its small pot. Most the time it’s scraggly, green, and sometimes the leaves die off.

It does not bloom very often, but when it does, it’s spectacular. The blossoms in their glory only last about a day or so. Make sure to click on the image and enlarge, so you can see it in all its splendor.

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I just re-read a ten-year-old post about Devin is Off.

He went into the wilderness with the California Conservation Corps famed elite Backcountry Trails Program. About midway through his stay, I hiked in and documented that trip here.

You can see how the dreadlocks had grown over the months in the bush in one of those photographs.

Devin now works full-time for the California Conservation Corps as a manager. This is the back of his business card:

Hard Work. Low Pay. Miserable Conditions and More. That’s the CCC for you.

Now, 10 years later, Devin has been chosen as one of the six Backcountry Trails Program supervisors. He will go out and do the same thing again, but this time as the leader of a team of 18 corps members. He got a coveted slot in Yosemite.

Of course, that means I get to hike into Yosemite to visit him and the team sometime this summer. He says that I’ll only be allowed to visit if I teach a weekend course as a visiting lecturer in some related subject. I am very much looking forward to that adventure.

If you want to learn more about the CCC Backcountry program, visit their website here.

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Arcosanti is an “experimental city” in the desert about 70 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. It is a spatial experiment and urban laboratory built by more than 8,000 participants, mostly volunteers and workshop members from all around the world over a 50 year period. The first buildings were erected in 1970.

Arcosanti is focused on innovative design, environmental accountability and experimental learning. It is home to a small but vibrant community of currently about 75 people, living and working in various mixed-use buildings and public spaces.

The project was started by the visionary architect Paolo Soleri (1919 – 2013) who was the leading force behind the project for most if his life, starting in the 1950s.

You can find out more about many of the details at arcosanti.org or, more factual, at the wikipedia page.

The first time I visited Arcosanti was in 1978, over 42 years ago. I went back a few times through 1984, but have not been back there since then. I have no pictures from those visits, only distant memories and impressions.

I remember thinking at the time that it was an interesting and admirable experiment in design and living, run but a group of hippies and idealists, but that it would never “get off the ground.” In the early years it didn’t change much.

So I was definitely interested in what I would find now in 2020.

We arrived at 9:00am on Friday morning, after a few miles off the I-17 freeway, driving down a dusty washboard dirt road through the desert. The parking lot was still empty. Our car was the only one there.

The path down to the visitor center was not too friendly, with decrepit benches and weeds that hadn’t been trimmed in years.

Here is the entrance to the visitor center.

Arcosanti makes a significant portion of its revenue from the sale of bells, both clay bells and copper bells. Prices range from $50 up to many hundreds of dollars for the larger and more elaborate ones. There are many to choose from in the gallery on the main entry floor.

We signed up for a guided tour of the entire facility, where  we saw the main buildings and learned about their use. Above is the “Apse” which is a half-dome that serves as the shop for where the clay bells are made.

Then there are the iconic arches, which is the feature that every visitor to Arcosanti will remember forever. These arches were there when I first visited, and they are still there now, and they look exactly the same, perhaps a bit more weathered and worn, but still carrying the “unfinished look” they had over 40 years ago.

Here is the amphitheater and some living quarters behind it.

Looking up, you can see the attachments for the canopy over the amphitheater that has never been completed.

More living quarters, and a greenhouse in the back.

Here is a view of the foundry, a domed building with offices and living quarters close by. The main central area is where the copper bells are poured in sand forms.

Our tour lasted about an hour and a half and ended in the cafeteria, a few levels below the gallery in the main visitor building.

Here

Here is a view out the cafeteria window to the south.


Another view. The cafeteria also serves as a display area for artists to show and sell their pottery, jewelry, garments and many other objects.

The community attracts about 40,000 visitors every year.

The existing structures at Arcosanti are meant to begin to provide for the complete needs of a community. They include: a five-story visitors’ center/cafe/gift shop; a bronze-casting apse; a ceramics apse; two large barrel vaults; a ring of apartment residences and quasi-public spaces around an outdoor amphitheater; a community swimming pool; an office complex, above which is an apartment that was originally Soleri’s suite. A two-bedroom “Sky Suite” occupies the highest point in the complex; it, as well as a set of rooms below the pool, is available for overnight guests. Most of the buildings have accessible roofs.

— Wikipedia

Of all the buildings there, the last one was completed in 1989. This means that for over 30 years, no new construction has been undertaken and the community has not grown.

Arcosanti looked unfinished and untenable in 1978, and it still looks exactly that way now. It’s an experiment that never quite got off the ground when the founder and visionary was driving it. Now that Soleri is no longer alive, I wonder if there is enough will and stamina to keep it growing.

When Arcosanti was home to a few dozen people in 1978, I thought it would be home to hundreds, or thousands, in the years to come, as their plans indicated. That has not happened as of now in 2020.

I wonder what will happen in the next 40 years? Of course, I will never know.

But I am sure there will be an Arcosanti, baking in the Arizona desert sun, for many decades to come, and visitors will take home the beautiful bells. Here is ours, gracing our patio at home:

If you have the chance to stop by, I recommend you do so.

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A couple of days ago I posted this about one of our rose bushes. Publishing for help on the  Internet works. I got two links from friends, one in the U.S. and another in Germany.

One of my German readers (Micha) identified it as Wildtrieb and here is an elaborate description. Sorry, this is quite technical and I could not find any suitable translation. One of my American readers (Jane) also referred me to a related article: Here is an English equivalent, they are called suckers.

Both articles clearly spell out that the suckers need to be removed, otherwise they take over the plant and eventually destroy it. I’ll be out there tomorrow pruning it down.

Thanks to my readers! Mystery solved.

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Today in our front yard I noticed that one of our rose bushes has a strange, weird blossom. Here it is:

Mystery Rose [click to enlarge]

Here is another picture from a different perspective, looking down on it, with some actual roses in the foreground:

The mystery blossom is definitely not a rose.

Even its stem is not the stem of a rose. It’s soft, fuzzy, and does not have any thorns. Its leaves are not the leaves of roses. It does not look like a rose. But it is growing right out of a branch of the rose bush. Unmistakably.

Here is a picture of one of its leaves:

[click to enlarge]

It is not some type of rose leaf, I think. It does not match the normal five-leaf pattern of roses.

Is it some kind of parasite that preys on roses? The blossom is quite delicate and actually pretty. It lasted about three or four days in good bloom before it started wilting.

I tried to google this but to no avail. Do I have nature-savvy readers who can help with this? What is this mystery blossom on our rose bush?

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Sunflowers and Blue Jays

We have now been confined to our homes for almost five months with no end in sight. The pandemic is raging in the US, and California has the highest numbers. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped 32% per today’s news, which is by far the largest drop ever in history – since we have been measuring GDP. I understand how this happened. I have probably filled up the gas tank in my car three times all year. I have not been in an airplane or in a hotel room in five months. This has not happened in 40 years before. I have not bought anything of significance. There is no place to go, and eating out is a hassle. It has made me turn to the simpler rewards, and rewarding they are.

For instance, last weekend Trisha brought home a little bag of sunflower seeds. I planted six of them in a pot and watered them twice a day.

[click to enlarge]

Here are all six sunflower sprouts after just five days of nurturing them.

Check out the ones at 1:00 o’clock and 3:00 o’clock. They still have the seed shell on top of the leaves. The sprouts pushed up the shells with them. I will let them grow to six inches, and then I’ll plant them near the fence. They are the kind that grows to 12 feet. I am so looking forward to that.

Then, a few days ago I was out by our wall trimming the hedges and pulling out dead wood. All of a sudden a bird’s nest fell down. I didn’t even realize there was a nest in that bush, but as it fell to the ground, it was too late. Four little baby birds were screaming, and the blue jay parents were fluttering about overhead in frightened anger and pain.

My heart sank.

There was no way to get the nest back up into the bushes securely enough. So we quickly found a box, put the nest in it, and scooped up the four baby birds and put them into the box and stuck the box into the hedge on the wall. Then we left them alone.

Within an hour, one of the babies had climbed out of the box, jumped the six feet to the ground and tried to squirrel away. We caught it, put it back, but by that time it was dark. The next morning, only three babies were left. By the following morning, only two were left, but they seem to be steady and doing well. I feel very badly to have caused the demise of two of them, albeit accidentally.

We looked up how to feed baby blue jays and actually gave them some softened cat food pellets, and they liked them. We didn’t know if the parents would come back and take care of them, so we were determined to keep them alive if we had to. We can see the box right outside our kitchen window, and we have meanwhile spied mom or dad in the box.  The two remaining babies look good. We’ll let mom take care of them now, but we’ll surely keep taking their pictures:

Here is one of the little ones. The other is lying down next to it on the left.

The rescued baby birds and the sunflower sprouts are the simple pleasures in life that seem to be more rewarding than all the gross-national-product trappings we are conditioned to need. I am looking forward to showing off our blue jays here as they grow up.

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Roadrunner

This morning I went on a short hike around Lake Calavera with my daughter and grandson in the backpack carrier. And there, right in front of us, with no fear at all, was a roadrunner. He was just six feet away, not afraid at all. He waited patiently for me to reach into my pocket, pull out the camera, and take his picture.

Ahh, and in case you wanted to see us too:

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Not All Lemons are Lemons

We just visited our daughter’s house. They have a lemon tree in the yard. The lemons are huge, and they actually smell strongly like lemons.

Here is a picture of one of the lemons we picked – banana for scale – next to a grocery store lemon. I’ll let you guess which is which.

And such is the difference between commercial products and organically grown products.

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A couple of weeks ago, in the beginning of February, we took a few days off and went on a road trip to Sedona, Arizona. We spent one day hiking in the red rocks. The Devil’s Bridge is a popular hike north of town. It’s 1.8 miles from the trailhead, so about 3.6 miles round trip. The Devil’s Bridge is a natural rock bridge and definitely worth the hike.

The trail is well marked. It inclines gently for most of the way, but starts getting steeper during the last half mile, simply because it climbs up a cliff.

Speaking of cliffs, I noticed this major red rock, which is so typical for the Sedona area. As the hike went on, we kept getting closer to this wall, and I noticed a “band” in the red rocks. So you can see what I am talking about, I took the same photograph as above and put a green arrow on it. You can click to enlarge any of the photographs.

The arrow points to a narrow and slightly lighter-colored band. I found the same band on many other landmark rocks in the area. As I got closer to the wall, I took another picture:

Here you can see it more pronounced. And this got me thinking about the geology of Sedona and, for that matter, the entire Colorado Plateau, which includes the Grand Canyon. The large layers of red rock we find in Sedona are also visible in the Grand Canyon, about 600 feet below the rim. I have hiked through that red rock area many a times on hikes in the Grand Canyon, of course.

The red wall is called the “redwall limestone” area. It is in the Mississippian layer of the Colorado Plateau, which is about 340 million years old. The red layers are about 500 to 800 feet thick. Since the band I am pointing about is toward the lower end of the red rocks, I might estimate that his was laid down about 300 million years ago.

And that is the mindboggling feeling: 300 million years ago, when what is now the Colorado Plateau, was at the bottom of an ocean, there was a period where the sediments, for whatever reason that I am sure professional geologists can explain, were lighter than the red layers above and below them. Not only that, the rock is more brittle and the chunks seem to be larger. So for maybe 5 million years, the sediments in that sea collected this different band, until the red limestone layers came back on top of it.

5 million years!

And here I get to stand and take a picture of that band of rock that is now lifted up to 5,000 feet above sea level to show to you here.

Most people don’t realize that the Colorado Plateau is still being lifted up by about one inch in a human lifetime. In geological scales, that rising rapidly. The Grand Canyon is still being formed in front of our eyes, and the red rocks of Sedona are still growing in their glory.

And that is what I was thinking about all the way up to Devil’s Bridge.

When we finally got there, in the afternoon, the light was just “wrong” for a good photograph:

You see above, if you look carefully, the single hiker in the middle of the picture is standing on top of a natural bridge. You definitely want to click on this one to enlarge it. The valley far below behind him is so lit up that it’s difficult to catch the grandness of the bridge itself. If you look carefully you can see the void below.

On the way back down, I took another picture looking back up:

It’s hard to make out what you’re looking at, so I’ll put some more arrows on it:

The green arrow points to the natural bridge from below. Here you can see the depth of the void below the bridge from the other side. The blue arrow points to some people who are standing approximately where I was when I took the picture from above. And yes, you had to climb up that wall through a series of steps cut into the rocks which got a little scary at times.

Overall, hiking in Sedona is a wonderful experience and one day was nowhere near enough. We need to go back and hang out much, much longer.

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New Painting: The Sausage Tree

Early this year my friend Sara Hartman went to Africa for a photo safari. I attended her presentation when she came back, and her photograph she had titled Sausage Tree stayed with me. It had a painting in it. I asked her for permission to use it as a motif. Here is her original photograph:

Photo Credit: Sara Lynn Hartman – Sausage Tree [click to enlarge]

Here is Sara’s website where you can see many other of her Africa photographs.

And here is the resulting painting:

The Sausage Tree, oil on canvas, 24 x 36, Nov 2019

I changed the composition somewhat. I moved the mountain (because I can do that). I also stretched the tree and made it taller. I actually didn’t intend that, but it worked out that way. I think I got the feeling of the open savannah. The painting looks better when you don’t see the original photograph right next to it. But that is always that way when you take photographs as motifs. The painting becomes something different altogether.

This is the first painting I actually started and finished in 2019. Hopefully it breaks my creative logjam. Nothing much has been coming out of the Haupt studio lately.

Well here is something: Behold the Sausage Tree.

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Pink Lake in Melbourne

I stumbled upon this article about the “pink lake” in the Westgate Park outside of Melbourne, Australia.

Pink Lake in Melbourne – Picture Credit: Parks Victoria

Just looking at it, it looks like it would be toxic. But that’s actually not the case. It’s a natural phenomenon. Read this article for more details.

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There are only a hundred thousand giraffes left in the wild and their numbers are going down rapidly. There are now less giraffes left in the world than elephants. Most people are not aware of this catastrophic decline. Check out this video interview of Dr. Malu Celli with the Calgary Zoo, an expert in giraffe conservation, for more information.

 

 

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