Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ever Had An Epiphany?

Carson City, Nevada

We’re parked across the street from a little casino. This morning we had breakfast there and looked at the slots and early morning players. One of our cable channels is very X-rated. You’d think they would let you ride a motorcycle here without a helmet, but they don’t.

We had our mail Fed-exed here for $54 (overnight guaranteed delivery from Florida). I paid a few doctor bills that have been following us since last winter and signed up for a new health care insurance policy to supplement our Medicare insurance. They gave us 13 choices. It’s all very complex. I’m glad I’m a sharp CPA and still have a few of my wits about me.

We dropped off the RV for an oil change and to repair the dash air-conditioner again. We had it fixed by a Fleetwood dealer in Las Vegas two weeks ago and the fix didn’t last until our taillights lost sight of Vegas.

After changing the oil on the Toyota and getting it washed, we got a call that the RV was ready. They found a solder joint with a hole that allowed the A/C coolant to leak out. The last repair was free under warranty, but we had to wait for two days and pay for a hotel. Sometimes it’s best to just pay someone who actually has an expertise on a specific problem. Free is not always best. It doesn’t help at all that Fleetwood is undergoing bankruptcy.

Because of taxes, cigarettes and gasoline are much cheaper in Nevada than California, so we are filling the RV tank again (the first time in three weeks) and stocking up on smokes before heading to the Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redwood Parks in California.

We met Steve last week in Bishop. He pays $850 to license his RV in California. We only pay $40 in Florida, but California is bankrupt again. Arnold Swartzenhegger, the Governator, is directing the State Controller to begin issuing IOUs instead of checks starting tomorrow. Once again the State is the bleeding edge, establishing trends that others will follow.

We lucked out and booked a reservation in Trinidad, California for the 4th of July weekend. It’s on the coast near the Redwood National Park. Maybe we’ll stay a little longer and revisit San Francisco. We haven’t been there since the Summer of Love. I bet it has changed a little in the last 42 years.

I remember walking on the Sausalito beach in the sunshine with Mrs. Phred and holding her hand. We had just driven over the Golden Gate bridge in my green TR4-A. I had a epiphany that life was never going to get any better than being 23, in San Francisco, in love. I was right.

It’s 3,500 miles from here to Anchorage. Will Mrs. Phred give the OK?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Attack of the Killer Chipmunks

June Lake, California

I'm feeding the chipmunks in our campsite bread and apple pieces. They scold each other, competing for the food supply. I get bored with the pictures of chipmunks and go back to reading my book. Suddenly, three of them run over my feet chasing each other. I scream and yell, "Holy #$%!" convinced that I'm being targeted by small crazed blood-sucking rabid rodents.

I fall out of the lawn chair. That's all right. Jimmy Carter made the news when he pounded a swimming rabbit with an oar, thinking he was under attack.

We find a place for lunch along a high stream in a Yosemite meadow.

Here are our friends, George and Danielle, with Mrs. Phred.

I think this is Tioga Lake, at about 9,500 feet. We visited a lot of lakes this week.

Hike to Parker Lake

Eastern Sierras, California

The trail head to Parker Lake starts at about 7,600 feet. The trail climbs two miles to Parker Lake at 8,350 feet.

Most of the elevation gain occurs in the first 1/2 mile. I'm surprised by the variety and abundance of wildflowers on the two mile trail.

The last 1/2 mile of the trail winds though thick forest along the stream that flows out of Lake Parker. We see trout swimming in the stream. They taught us about chiaroscuro in Humanities 101. You can see it in the darkened forest where the sun shines though to the stream.

The promised waterfall at Lake Parker is about two miles away so I have to zoom it. Now I can see that it's flowing though a snowbank.

The flowers and cool air make it feel like Spring. Spring comes late here and winter comes early. The meadows were probably deep in snow a few weeks ago.

This flower grows in damp places near the stream and lake.

On the first part of the hike you get a good view on Mono Lake ten miles away. You can see the relatively new black volcanic cinder cone island in the left part of the picture.

This is our first hike in over a year, since I injured my heel. I huff and puff a lot on the climb up. I have to stop frequently to catch my breath and let my heart stop pounding. Mrs. Phred carries the backpack and patiently stops every so often to allow me to catch up.

Back at camp, George and Danielle give us four of their trout. George cuts up potatoes and onions, adds some thyme and oil, then wraps the mixture in tinfoil for the grill. We eat and drink wine until late, trading stories. Danielle is French. They met in Naples in the mid-1960s when he was in the Navy.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Chilling Out

June Lake, California

We're at 7,600 feet in the Eastern Sierra mountains. There are dozens of high mountain lakes and gushing waterfalls nearby.

We're staying in a Forest Service campground with no water, sewer or electricity. The air is cool at night and during the day so we don't need air conditioning. In the morning, we crawl out from under all three of our blankets and give the RV a quick blast from the heater to warm things up.

Our friends from Sarasota, George and Danielle, are camping next door. George likes this area a lot. He's camped and fished here for many years. We have campfires every night and toast marsh mellows and eat S'mores.

We'll be here a full week when we Move on to Carson City, Nevada to try again to get the dashboard air-conditioner fixed. Somehow the coolant all leaked out before our tail lights saw the last of Las Vegas, where we had a ruptured coolant hose replaced.

Trout for dinner tonight. I extended my California fishing license another ten days.

Mrs. Phred and I are heading to Convict Lake this morning to see if we can catch more trout. George is taking us to a local restaurant that offers chicken livers and onions Sunday night.

Convict Lake was named after an incident in 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, led by Sheriff Robert Morrison, encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Morrison was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison was named after him. The lake was also used for a backdrop in "Star Trek Insurrection".

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Shaggy Dog Story

Bodie, California

As we drive up to Bodie we see a flock of sheep in a high Sierra meadow. I get out to take a picture and two white shaggy dogs detach themselves from the flock and run across the field barking at me. They stop at my feet and whine uncertainly, not sure whether to bark or have their ears scratched.

Bodie is a gold mining ghost town, high in the Sierras. It became a State Park in 1962. William S. Bodie discovered gold there in 1859, however he died in a storm that winter before he could cash in on his discovery.

One internet site says that, "Miners, gamblers and business continued to flood the area and by 1879, Bodie boasted a population of about 10,000 and 2,000 buildings. Before long the town supported some 30 gold mines, 65 saloons, numerous brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens, as well, as a number of legitimate businesses, including three newspapers, several churches, a couple of banks and a school. Every other building on the mile long main street was a saloon. Three breweries worked day and night, while whiskey was brought into town in 100 gallon barrels."
"A sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion." - Reverend F.M. Warrington. 1881

About 95% of the wooden buildings burned to the ground in 1932, but many still stand in an arrested state of decay. The town was widely known for its lawlessness. One man in particular earned the sobriquet "Bad Man from Bodie", although records are confused about the actual identity of this individual.

By 1882, the boom was over and the population of Bodie began a swift decline. The last six residents of Bodie died before WWII. One man shot his wife. The other four killed the murderer. Then his ghost appeared to then one-by-one, shaking his fist. The last four all died quickly of mysterious diseases after seeing the apparition..

Park Rangers report frequent visits by the ghost of a heavyset Chinese woman. Another friendly ghost is a woman who appears to enjoy cooking Italian food.

I put the camera up to the gass of the windows of several buildings and snap pictures of old barrooms, bedrooms, pool tables, garaged flatbed trucks, and exercise equipment.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Wish You Were Here

Mono Lake, California

This morning the sky was blue and the internet said that the wind on Mono Lake was zero, so I hustled on down to South Tufu at dawn while Mrs. Phred was still snoozing.

Conditions were a little off optimal, but the PIX were a lot better than the first time.

 There were three other freaks there snapping photos, including a Japanese lady with an expensive camera and tripod who was focused on the California gulls gobbling up the brine shrimp.

We went to June Lake and picked out our campsite for the next three nights with our friends George and Danielle from Sarasota.

We're surrounded by Aspen trees in our current campsite. Our automatic satellite dish is blocked so I dragged out the portable dish so Mrs. Phred can watch Wimbledon. There's a little hole where I can pick up the signal between the trees. I program the receiver to record the 20 scheduled Wimbledon broadcasts. We won't have shore power electricity the next few days, but I think I can crank up the inverter and record and see it all on battery power.

We drove to Bodie in the afternoon to see a huge gold rush ghost town. It's a state park that the California Governator is closing down because of the budget shortfall. I tell Mrs. Phred that the rating agencies are about to do a doubledip downgrade on California's debt rating. She's pragmatic...she says, "You'd have to be crazy to load money to the State of California...who cares what the rating agencies think?"

It seems that we will spend two weeks in this amazing area and still not see everything, no matter how hard we work. We want to see the "Devil's Postpile", Mammoth Lake, May Lake and other local scenic attractions. So many things to little time.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Mother of All Parks

Yosemite National Park, California

We departed from Lee Vining at Mono Lake from a drive though the Sierras and Yosemite. Eventually we arrived at Yosemite Valley.

It was a summer day on a Sunday afternoon, so the park was clogged with campers, rock climbers, bicyclists and auto tourists like us.

Yosemite is considered to be the first of the National Parks and perhaps the first place on Earth set aside to be preserved for its natural beauty.

The valley has rivers, meadows and a profusion of high waterfalls. These are in full flow this time of year because of melting snow.

The native Indians are thought to have been responsible for the meadows. They burned off the brush and planted Black Oak and other agricultural species.

John Muir was very influential in promoting the establishment of the park. He was particularly outraged by sheep grazing in the area. He called sheep "hoofed locusts".

One wonders what John would have thought of all the roads, parking lots, buildings, lodges and tents we see today. I think that inevitably Yosemite will have to go to a pure shuttle bus system and banish the automobile.

We stop for lunch on a riverbank with a view of Bridal Veil falls. We feed this duck part of our sandwiches and watch the strange changes in the way the sheets of water descend.

We are planning to spend tonight here at Mono Lake and then head up to a campground at June Lake high in the Sierras. It 6,800 feet where we are so it's very cool during the day and cold at night. June lake temperatures will be near freezing at night. We don't expect phone service, but you never know.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

The Fly-Eaters

Mono Lake, California

Conditions were not optimal for photography at Mono Lake today. You want blue skies and no wind so you can see reflections in the water.

Mono is thought to be 760,000 years old. It has no outflow so it has become hyper saline as water flows in from snow melt and evaporates. Nothing lives in the lake except tiny brine shrimp and alkali fly larvae. Each cubic foot of water contains about 500 brine shrimp and 4,000 fly larvae.

The strange limestone rock structures formed underwater because of the lake's high mineral content. They are called "Tufas". In 1941, Los Angeles diverted a significant portion of the lake's water supply, lowering the level of the lake significantly. As a result, many of the Tufas are now out of the water up on the lake shore. The water level has been stabilized now by a water sharing agreement. Mrs. Phred and I both notice the similarity between the Tufa structures and Gaudi's park in Barcelona. I think it and she says it. Maybe we have to much "together time" since we retired.
I want to reproduce the photo used by Pink Floyd. It's called "The Diver". Two of my t-shirts have this image. Basically you need to do a handstand, until the ripples subside. They recommend not swallowing any of the water. I'll use a solution of alcohol and vinegar to kill the fly larvae in my ear canals. Tomorrow we may hit the lake at dawn to see if conditions improve.

A main food staple of the Kutzadika'a Indians was the Alkali fly. The Yogut Indians called the Kutzadika'a "Monoache" which means "fly-eater" in Yogut. This was shortened to Mono by European settlers.