Tag Archives: wildflowers

Pictorial Highlight: Mono Basin #2

I was only planning on doing a single Mono Pictorial, but a couple weeks ago I finagled myself a tremendous opportunity:  David Carle (whom I quote in the first Mono Pictorial), agreed to meet with me for an interview!  We emailed back and forth about it a couple years ago before I got locked up, but it never panned out because of my legal troubles.  But he remembered me, and agreed to meet with me on my way down to Southern California–the next day!!  So I had to haul ass and leave a day early, drive through Yosemite–and barely stop at all in that cathedral of wonders, because I was running late–to meet with him on time.  He even let me crash at his place, which was wonderfully kind and compassionate (I would’ve otherwise had to try to sleep in the trunk and back seat of my tiny Corolla, which would’ve been liquid hell on my knees and back).  AND he gave me free copies of his two novels!  I plan to review Spotting Scope, his newest, hopefully for print publication.

Anyway, I got some gorgeous pictures and information to go along with it, as Mr. Carle was with me most of the time.  Hope you enjoy!  (Terrific interview and Spotting Scope review to come in due time)

This tufa is at least half a mile away; notice the peregrine falcon nest on the leftmost rise, with baby atop! The ridges in the background are a couple of the Mono Craters.

Sunset, tufa, and almost-full moon!

I think this is a Ptarmigan, in the Grouse family; this individual I spotted in Rock Creek Canyon.

The Mono Lake Committee, of which I am a former and future member, does TREMENDOUS work.  I have three of their bumper stickers (which they give away for free at their Center in Lee Vining, right across from Mono) on my car.  Here is a link to their information about Mono Lake/Basin birds.  It is a great organization that does a huge amount for the imperiled Mono Lake.

Phalaropes on the northern shore of Mono. Many thousands of them (both Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes) stop off at Mono on their annual migration…

“Of all the birds that come to Mono Lake, the Wilson’s Phalarope stands out as the hardiest traveler.  These small shorebirds, not much larger than a fist, arrive at Mono Lake in mid-summer after breeding in the northern U.S. and southern Canada.  At Mono Lake they molt their feathers and double their weight after several weeks. By the middle of September they have mysteriously disappeared. Leaving in stages during the cover of darkness, they depart for a journey that takes them all the way to South America. The fact that these birds fly over 3,000 non-stop miles to South America is amazing enough, but what is truly astonishing is how fast these little birds reach their destination–an unbelievable 3 days!”   [emphasis added]

-From the Mono Lake Committee

South shore tufa and, in the background, one of the main islands in Mono, called Paoha–itself a volcano! It therefore has tons of geothermal activity, including hot springs–I dream of one day canoeing the 3-4 miles out there and spending the night on Paoha.

Blazing Star wildflower near south shore. David Carle said he’d never seen such a large “grove” of these flowers in the vacinity, dozens of bunches of them. What a special time for me to happen to be in Mono!

Doing the “Mono Float.” The water is so dense with salt and other minerals that it holds you up with no effort on your part. An amazing feeling like no other.

This shows some of the strangeness of the lakeshore.

See the black band in the middle-bottom of the picture?  Those are a few thousand of the literally TRILLIONS of alkali flies at Mono, specially adapted to survive, in a symbiotic relationship with the brine shrimp, with Mono’s unique chemistry.  According to Carle, scientists recently determined that Mono Lake is, in terms of sheer biomass produced, the most biologically productive lake in the WORLD.

“Sand Tufa” near the south shore. You have to know a little bit about these amazing structures to heighten your appreciation…

The underground springs bubbling up minerals contribute to forming these hard, hollow tubes that form the sand tufa.

Sand Tufa “grove” and the mighty Sierra Nevadas in the background!

Rock Creek Canyon.

Until next time, hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial Highlight of the Mono Basin, one of my most beloved bioregions of this incredible part of the our amazing Earth.

Pictorial Highlight: Mono Basin

The Mono Basin, whose grandeur includes but is most definitely not limited to the famous Mono Lake, is one of my absolute favorite places.  It has so many stunning features.  Hopefully I capture and convey some of them to you, Dear Reader, with these pictures.

The “suds” seen on the bottom of this picture are from the incredible alkalinity of the lake; it’s like swishing around saltwater and baking soda!

The magnificent tufa formations are comprised mainly of calcium carbonate, formed when underground springs bubble up with minerals, coalescing and hardening and growing over thousands of years.  Mono Lake is one of the most unique lakes in the world; it was birthed from nearby geologic activity over 1,000,000 years ago!  David Carle is one of the foremost authorities (and writers) on Mono Lake and California ecology in general, and one of my inspirations for The Rewild West, my narrative nonfiction book for which I’m slowly gathering experience and research and material, of which this blog is a part.  Here’s a terrific piece Carle wrote about the tufa.  As he says therein, “Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, but the real thing is always worth a thousand pictures….words strain to do [the tufa formations] justice.”

In the background is the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park, the eastern Sierra Nevadas.

Atop Panum Crater, with the lake in the background. Mono is rimmed by numerous craters; the last eruption was about 600 years ago.

I love the phenomenal little trees growing out of the incredibly harsh, unforgiving landscape of a rocky crater!

The formation on the left is, appropriately, called Obsidian Dome…

…and here’s what the beautiful rocks look like up close. They are literally made of cooled-off MAGMA! The time scale on which nature operates is so humbling and fascinating. During the time it took for this piece of rock to form from a hot spewing volcano, civilizations have been built and fallen, empires have risen and collapsed; before wind and snow and rain erodes it much more, the current global empire of industrial civilization will crumble and collapse. Oh how I yearn for it to begin in earnest…

Rikki enjoying herself near a 30-foot tufa formation.

Given the propensity of geothermal activity in the Basin, that means lots of hot springs!! This one was scalding (as you can see), so we stayed away–but nearby in the river there bubbled up some nice warm water in which to get naked =)

This shows Negit Island (which also supposedly has lots of geothermal activity going on), one of the two main islands within Mono Lake; this photo and the next were taken from the mountain pass about 1,000 feet above the lake.

Arrow-leaved balsom root flowers and mountains directly west of Mono Lake.

Thank you for viewing!  Nothing compares to the real thing though…hope you enjoyed this week’s Pictorial Highlight ❤

Pictorial Highlight: Anza-Borrego #2

 

These structures in the hard-packed sand are called “Elephant’s Knees,” created by the channeling of water and wind into an erosive force…

 

 

Cholla cactus flower.

 

 

Wind Caves!

 


Got SUPER sick our first night from bad Gardein; ended up puking for several hours the next morning.  This is how I roll–whenever I get sick, I finger-fuck myself until I puke out all the poison 🙂

 

 

 

 

Lookit this beautiful bugger. HUGE!

 

 

The ocotillo plant, one of my favorite plants, so amazing…they have thick, SHARP thorns. And their branches…

 

 

…like this! Hard and brittle and peely, almost like thinly sliced dried fruit, but HARD. Their root systems begin aboveground, perched over the sand like spiders. Marvelous plants.

 

 

Found this desert lily just as the sun was rising…

 

 

More brittlebush, at dusk.

 

Inside the Wind Caves!!

 

 

Are you ready for the finale?  The triple-whammy grand finale?

 

 

 

 

‘Nuff said!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoma Coast and Synchronicity

A couple days ago my fiance Rebecca and I took a half-day trip to explore the northern Sonoma coast; what a majestic place it is!  We started off from the 101 by driving through the towering redwoods and past the Russian River, following it all the way to its mouth.  Then we turned north and climbed the coastal bluffs and the scenery became more and more stunning.  Wildflowers were abundant on the shoulder and the hillsides:  California poppies and their almost-psychedelic oranges and yellows, purple and white lupine, the brilliant red of the occasional Indian paintbrush…

Lovely pine tree in its earliest stages of development.

The cliffs are rugged pastiches of gray and black and auburn and sandstone, rocky and jagged from the ceaseless slicing hands of wind and sand and wave.  I stared for miles and miles into the azure distance of the open ocean, feeling so very free and liberated, the total antithesis of the ceaseless, manic, cruel and loathsome mental condition forced on the incarcerated.  I thank Earth every day that I am a free man–free from prison, anyway.

We stopped at a beach and threw a stick for our American bulldog and pit bull mix Rikki; she and I jogged through a stream (from which Rikki and I both took cool, sweet sips–to Rebecca’s ire–but I can’t help but taste real water, when it’s from what appears to be a safe source) that led into the ocean and through the rocky surf.  Rikki also is an unquestionable symbol of freedom.  To see her bound along on the beach is to truly know ecstasy and unadulterated joie de vivre.  If only we humans were lucky and smart enough to capture and maintain that kind of attitude.

On the way home we had an interesting and profound interaction with some other humans, one of those serendipitous events that wouldn‘t have happened if not for the perfect collusion of random choices.  Rebecca pulled us into a turnout so we could take Rikki to pee.  An older man and woman pulled up in a silver van and got out.  Rebecca and I were both immediately struck with how much the man resembled an older version of her dearly departed father, Bob.  He had the same fine, combed-back white hair that Bob had toward the end of his long and courageous battle with cancer and other ailments.  His lips were soft and drawn down in the way that those with few or no teeth are–just like Bob without his dentures.  So adorable!

Some of my most interesting moments on the road have begun by striking up conversation with strangers, so I approached the couple.  Turns out they’ve lived in the New Orleans area their entire life.  The woman had never even left Louisiana!  I told them about my volunteer relief work with Common Ground after Hurricane Katrina, and about how intensely profound an experience it was.  They told us how wonderful a time they were having in California already on the very start of their three-week trip.  I recommended several places they just had to see along their route.  Rebecca and I were both stunned further by the resemblance between the gentleman and her father:  he had the same goofy sense of humor; and his name was also Bob!  It was eerie, and our subsequent discussion confirmed that we both felt the same vibes pulsing off the sweet old man with his lovely N’awleans twang.

This is not the place for me to wax philosophical on synchronicity–because I could, for pages and pages–but it is something to think about.

I told the couple how to avoid a three-hour clusterfuck on their drive from there to Humboldt, then shook hands with Bob and his wife and I hugged.  I wish them the best, and am so grateful that our respective orbits entwined for a brief stretch.

People come from all over the country, all over the world, to California, because it is the Wild West; it is one of the last areas with large unbroken tracts of wilderness in the lower 48.  It is a place of magic and incomprehensible beauty.  But soon it will all be gone–logged, decimated completely of wildlife, poisoned, “developed,” and plowed for agriculture to feed the growing overpopulation of humans (GET A VASECTOMY, guys!); unless, that is, we build a serious resistance movement to the destruction of the west and the planet.  Let’s Rewild the West, and All the Rest!