Saturday, May 07, 2016

Looking at Birds in Riverside (AKA March Field Air Museum)

(GPS: N33°53.000 W117°16.000) 

The beginning of May marks the anniversary of the hike I did twice in Death Valley to the remains of the SA-16 Albatross. The first time was ten years ago, and the last time was two years ago. Two times were enough for me on that, and while I have no interest in doing that hike ever again I did want to visit the same type of aircraft in person. So, off to a museum I went.

March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA is located right next to March Air force Base. It has an indoor museum with lots of artifacts and the outside has lots of historical aircraft. I would say a good portion of it is Cold War era aircraft. It was well worth the trip, and I spent about two hours looking around.

After entering the first thing one sees is the SR-71 which takes up a good portion of this part of the museum. I kept trying to backup so I could get the whole thing in one shot, but I had to settle for a panorama shot done in Photoshop. When I was younger I remember the SR-71 being talked about a lot at school. Sometimes with friends, but sometimes in classes I had. The aircraft was legendary in Cold War era reconnaissance missions.
So after going through the various rooms inside of the museum I went outside. After visiting some of the other aircraft I made my way to the HU-16 Albatross. This aircraft was primarily used for search and rescue missions during the Cold War era. Many lives were saved with this plane. The designation changed from SA-16 to HU-16 in the early 1960's. So, while this is a more advanced version of the aircraft, it is basically the same type as the one I visited in Death Valley. Of all the aircraft I visited I spent the most time here for obvious reasons.
The Russian MiG-15. The jet fighter that initially put the fear of God into the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War of the early 1950's. Both fighters and bombers were at a serious disadvantage with this jet. In fact, the bombing campaign strategy that was successful in World War 2 that was attempted in Korea had to be stopped because of the effectiveness of the MiG-15.
The F-86 Sabre. This is the jet that eventually countered the Russian MiG fighter in Korea. By the end of the war it had a better kill ratio compared to the MiG.
The F-4 Phantom II. The Vietnam era jet.
A head-on view.

There is no way I could possibly do this museum justice with all the artifacts and aircraft at the site. I am just showing a small fragment of what they have. In the video you will see a few of the other aircraft I visited, but even that just scratches the surface.

Looking at Birds in Riverside (Youtube Video)

If you haven't seen the hike I did in Death Valley to the SA-16 Albatross remains then the following link will get you there: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley. That will give you the video I did, further links to pictures, as well as links to the original blogs I did for the first time I visited the site ten years ago.

The music used for the Looking at Birds in Riverside video is In the West, The Descent, and Thunderbird.

The official March Field Air Museum has more information about the museum and pictures of all their aircraft.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 3)

Time to wrap this one up. This is the video I edited together for this hike. It is unlisted so it can only be seen through this blog. It is just something I wanted to do for people that come here. Hopefully, it gives you the relaxing atmosphere I felt while being there. I did saturate the colors at the lake slightly to enhance it in the video, but that was basically the way it looked.

I did move around to the eastern parts of the lake. As I mentioned last time there wasn't too much on the other side that was as interesting as the western side with all the gold.
This was about half way over. It is beautiful lake.
I did encounter some trees like this as I was making my way to the eastern side of the lake. The creek that runs out of the lake and down below comes out over this way.
A reflective look. I headed back to where the two men were, waved at them, and left. I was fortunate to get the pictures and video I did because they pretty much moved into the best spot to take pictures. Had I come after them I would have had to wait them out. Otherwise, it would have been, "Hey guys! I'm entitled. Can I have your spot!" Lol! Actually, I never do that. I have had to wait people out for very long periods.

After this hike I was grateful for what I was able to see. I said to myself that if this was all I got then it was good enough for a fall colors trip. I did get some okay fall pictures days later. However, the colors really started to turn right after I left. It depends on what area of the High Sierra you are, at what time, and what elevation. If a heavy wind kicks in then that doesn't help.

I'll be doing some opinion pieces soon where I'll post some of my other fall pictures.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 2)

(GPS: N37°44.790 W119°06.670)

When I left off last time I mentioned how after almost an hour of uphill hiking I finally leveled out for a brief period. I then had some moderate uphill through a dense forested area. It was slightly spooky in the sense that I wasn't totally sure I was alone or not. Would I encounter someone camping back here? How about some animals? Or, a random zombie encounter? I did remember the two older men I saw at the trailhead, but I figured they were working with the cut trees there. If they did go up the trail they would not be all the way up here. 

After about an hour and twenty minutes I reached Fern Lake. Sure enough there was some fall color there.
At this point it was the best I had seen. It was very gold yellow look. It was slowly turning orange. 
I went over to it across the lake shore. It was very quiet and there were some birds on the lake, but I had it all to myself. I just took in the moment and thanked the Lord for the moment I had there.

I had the lake to myself for about ten minutes. Then the two men showed up. I greeted them, mentioned the nice colors, and eventually started moving around the lake.
The sun had just rose high enough over the mountain side to light up the whole lake. This is really the highlight of the whole lake that morning. Any pictures I took toward the east side had the sun spots in my pictures so those are not really worth showing. You will see an edited version of the rest of the lake in the video, but that too had the same issue. All the major gold was over here anyways.

I'll wrap this up next time with a few more pictures around the lake and the video.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Finding Gold at Fern Lake (Part 1)

(GPS: N37 45.760 W119 06.790)

I wanted to do a few blog entries on a hike I did back in October. The video that will be part of this series will be an exclusive for the blog and unlisted. So the only way you will be able to see it is to follow along the next few blogs.

As I have said a bunch of times before, I love the fall season in the High Sierra. While almost anytime of the year can be relaxing there I tend to be at my most relaxed during the fall. Part of it is that most of the work I had to do in the prior months is over. Most of the tourists are gone which means you can really find that solitude if you are looking for it. Then the cool weather comes in along with the changing color of the leaves.

October, 2015 did not quite work at exactly like that though. Due to my schedule, I had the option of going either early in October or at the end of the month. I took the beginning of the month because I had read some sites that track California fall colors online saying that the time to go was "now". That was irritating because when I reached my destination the area was completely green! Not only that, but it was completely hot too! Even in the evenings it was still hot even as the sun was going down over the mountainside. I felt as if I was still in August because it was still in summer conditions there. I started referring to my short time there as "the extended summer."

I decided to do a strenuous hike that I had never done before to Fern Lake just off the June Lake Loop. I knew Fern Lake had some fall colors every year, but there is a small window of opportunity for that. I almost did this hike near the end of October a few years ago, but found out the leaves had probably dropped to the ground so I didn't do it. This year I reasoned that being at a higher elevation I might find something since everything below was green. In any case, I needed to do some sort of hike so this was it. The GPS coordinates above get you very close to the entrance to the parking for the trailhead.

I was there on a weekday at 8am. Right as I walked into the trailhead two other trucks showed up. I thought they might be workers that were taking out some of the trees in the area. I was in disbelief that they were going to hike exactly where I was going. Don't get the wrong idea. I don't dislike people, but I wasn't expecting anyone with me on this backcountry hike. On a fall weekend I expect a little more of a crowd, which is a story for another time. In any case, I started going up the trail.
When I say "up" I mean it here. The hike does have some switchbacks, but this one is just straight up for about a 1,000 ft. before it flattens out some. As I was going I had good looks of Silver Lake in the distance. If you saw some of my pictures from the previous October (2014), those were taken near Silver Lake. Last October (2015) that whole area was really green by the lake. If I were to tell someone I took this in June, July, or August I think he or she would believe me.
Zooming in down below I could see some of the homes of the locals. I did a tilt-shift effect here in Photoshop to give it the miniature look just for fun.

I'm going to say that it took me about fifty minutes from the trailhead to get here. Just behind me it started to flatten out some. I did get views of June Lake too which would be off to my right outside of the above picture, but you will see that in the video. If you remember my hike to Gem Lake during 2010, the hike that went from around Silver Lake to a tramway, Agnew Lake, and Gem Lake, then that would have taken place off to the left side of Silver Lake on the mountainside in the above picture.
From my final viewing of Silver Lake from this elevation I turned around. After all the uphill I was grateful to get in some regular level ground walking. I did start to see some patches of yellow leaves, but not a lot. I did think my chances of seeing something ahead at the lake would be good.

Monday, February 29, 2016


I don't think I have ever published anything on February 29 on here so I thought I would do something today otherwise I will have to wait another four years before this day comes again. Since last month when I posted on here I meant to do some more since then, but real world issues got in the way. When that happens I just am not in the mood. Today I thought I would give a short opinion piece with some pictures of Blue Lake.

Since this is an election year in the U.S.A. I have been getting a lot of political items on my news feeds. My Twitter feed has become insane because of this where I am getting pounded with political infighting 24 hours a day. Some people intentionally pick fights with others. It's my own fault for "following" those people since they "follow" me. The sad thing is the few people I care about on there are drowned out by that and might not even be around anymore. If you are one of those people...I miss you. :)

One thing that turns me off about social media, but also television and news articles is how they represent opposing points of view. Or, maybe it is better to say how they DON'T represent opposing points of view. The first thing I always look for in any debate or discussion is whether someone can get the positions right. It is one thing to get your own position correctly, but can you get other positions represented fairly even if you do not believe them? If you can't, then any criticisms you give can be dismissed as knocking down a straw man. If some journalist can't even do that then I don't even waste my time with him or her.

I can't tell you have many times I have watched, listened, or read something about a political candidate that I know I probably don't agree with only to find out the journalist isn't even fairly representing what they believe. It just comes across as the journalist either thinks the viewers are stupid or the journalist is stupid. I wonder how many journalists these days know about the principle of charity.

These days a lot of what one sees in the news is just a bunch of slogans and sound bites that are thrown out. It is not like the old days where news was supposed to be a bunch of facts reported to us objectively as possible. I'm not sure journalism was always like that since what is known as yellow journalism was around in the 1890's. However, these days the distinction between reporting news and giving opinion pieces (a pundit) has been blurred.

Anyways, I just wanted to mention this little bit of critical thinking that is missed a lot in your typical online news sites. The merits of a position as to whether it is true or false, or right or wrong is important, but the procedure I mention above has to take place before the evaluation can even get started. There is a tendency for a lot of news sites out there to proselytize with headlines and slogans. The media is not doing their job.

I thought I would end this by mentioning I saw a picture earlier this week saying that something would be offered on Feb. 30, 2016 for free all day. I had to explain to the people that it was obviously an April Fools joke a month early seeing how Leap Year can not be stretched out that far. ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016: To Begin

The beginning of the year is the cause for much optimism for a lot of people. For me it is always somewhat of a downer. The buildup that starts right after the summer months that goes through the end of December crashes for me in January. I eventually adjust and get going again. This blog entry is just the typical house keeping I like to do at the beginning of the year.

As I have been doing the past few years I want to remind people of the FAQ type of blog I wrote a few years back here: Questions. That covers a good portion of the goals and questions I typically get.

Just a reminder, the e-mail for this site is the one, and not the old one. It has been two years, but I had some one not too long back say that I hadn't responded to their e-mail. Well, seeing how I told everyone two years ago that I was not using the hotmail account anymore due to the malware issue there is probably a good reason that I had not responded to him. Delete, take off your lists, block, etc. that old hotmail account on whatever you have.

One issue the internet has become is infested with ads all over the place. You know, "check out this top 10 list" and then they make you click 10 pages of sites with pictures infested with ads on each page. I could go on and on about this one, but I wanted to say that this site was never meant for that sort of thing. I never designed this site with the idea of making money through the typical click bait ads. If at any point you see some sort of ad on this site or any of my youtube videos I just wanted to say that this it is not my doing.

As I always say, this blog is the base of my operations. Anything you see linked on here is "officially" connected to this blog. While I do have other internet experiments out there they are not really connected to the blog. There are a couple of sites out there I have personal accounts on, but I don't use them the same way as I do this blog. For example, I do have Instagram, but I don't use it enough to be connected to the blog. Said differently, the person, entity, or force you know of as The Great Silence resides here and on the links connected to it. Don't look elsewhere because you are not missing anything.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Investigating Ursus Part 2 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

Have a Happy New Year! This will be the last blog entry of the year, but I hope to get back to a few things I want to discuss in early 2016!

In part one in the previous blog I covered what I thought was important about the issue of bear attacks. A lot more can be said since whole books have been written on the subject. My concern is how the media and other people portray these animals as if they are always looking for humans to eat and always ready for the attack. Today I am going to go over my most recent bear encounter.

I've talked about bears in the past on this blog. I'd say in the past 10 years or so I have seen a bear almost every year in the High Sierra. What typically happens is they see me and then they go away quickly. I have lots of stories of me near a bear, and I would just happen to not have my camera along. Those stories are fun, but I'm going to go right to this one.

On this day I had just gotten home from a morning hike. I was resting in a chair looking toward the screen door. It was very quiet. Then I heard a quick sound like someone walking up just outside the door. Then looking through the screen door I saw the side face of a dog without the body just pausing there. I thought, "Oh someone is outside, but why are they letting there dog up here." The the "dog" moved in front of the door into the front of the porch. I realized it was a black bear. Surprised, I scrambled upstairs to get my camcorder. When I got back I hit the record button, and that is what you see that starts the video.

When the bear was in front of the door I wanted to test it to see what I was dealing with. So, I made a few noises and then said what I said to see how it would react (and partly to humor the viewer). As you see in the video the bear showed a sign of fear there which I knew was a good thing. It was associating a human's voice with danger. I knew that I could probably scare it off with my voice so that's why I kept very quiet throughout the rest of the video.

This is hard to describe without you knowing the area, but I will try. What you don't see in this video is it went behind my place then crossed down to some neighbors homes. My neighbor on the other side saw it as it headed down a different road. Meanwhile, I got my camera. Then, I went down that road, and I had thought I lost it. Eventually, it came back and was on my property again. That's where the video continues.

You see it knocking away that tree stump to get to the grubs and any other tasty things in it. That is a rather common thing for a bear to do in its search for food. It spent some time there doing that. It then ended up at another neighbors home that had the bird feeder hanging from the wire.

At this point I should mention I already knew about it being afraid of human voices, but I was curious about how close it would get to me. I found out it would allow me to get with about 15-20 feet, and it would start to groan if I was closer. I took that as its way of telling me that it didn't like me closer than that safety distance. I had experienced that type of groan before so I kind of knew. It was fine with me hanging out with it, but nothing closer than that. It wasn't really watching me that much. The pictures are only some of the few instances that it glanced at me.

It then made three attempts to get what was inside that bird feeder. Originally, it kept swinging at it, then would drop down, eat what had come out of it on the ground, and then get back up and try again. I was just about to leave because I thought I had spent enough time with the animal. So I started walking back, and looked back at different angle. That was the final shot where it actually got good leverage on the bird feeder to take it down. I left right after that final video take.

After I thought about it, I felt kind of bad for my neighbor that I kind of let it trash their bird feeder like that. I could have scared it off. Had it been doing something to the actual home or trashing something really valuable then I might have acted. The issue though in my mind was even if I had scared it off it probably would have come back eventually when I was not around.

I was just glad the circumstances worked out for this time to get some pictures and video of this animal. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and Steller's Jays are very common animals around there. Bears are little less common, but are around. We usually see trash knocked over at some of the local campgrounds. I was laughing because last month the snow was on the ground, and there were fresh bear tracks all over the place that I didn't think they would be during November. I was up high in the back country on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. My brother and I heard that groaning sound I mentioned earlier in the distance. That I understand, but wandering around when you would think it is hibernating is something I didn't expect.

You do hear stories about black bears in December:

Black Bear Rides for 65 Miles

New Jersey Boy Scout Leader Attacked by Bear

My video:
Investigating Ursus

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Investigating Ursus Part 1 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

I’m going to split this one up. Today I just wanted to cover some background about bears (Ursidae) with the emphasis on the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus). Tomorrow I will go more into detail about my encounter on the video. I’ll show some of the pictures I took of my black bear in each though.

This blog entry will be somewhat incomplete and I will add on to it as time goes by or re-edit it altogether. After I had this bear encounter last August I read a bunch of books and articles about bears. Some of my notes are away right now so I can’t quote everything that I was originally going to do. So, this is one of those that I will come back to over time.

To start this, the point I have to make time and again and will make in another blog in the future is that nature does not play by rules. Whenever I go on hikes or encounter a wild animal like this there is a calculated risk involved. While bears are beautiful creatures they are part of “nature’s war” in that their instincts are that of one trying to survive. Under certain circumstances tragedies can happen. 99% of the time things can go right, but that less than 1% of the time is what makes news stories.

That less than 1% of the time is what I want to spend my time on here. There is a lot of junk out there in the news that would make you think we should be afraid of bears and they are ready to attack humans at any moment. There was an article that came out, not too long after I had my bear encounter this year, about a woman hiking in Connecticut, and a bear came up to her leg to sniff her. It was like, “Oh my goodness, she was risking her life by doing that!”

It is actually a really rare thing for a bear to attack. It is possible and it does happen, but not to the extent you see in movies or hear being talked about in the media. I can’t speak for the people that live in densely human populated eastern parts of the U.S. that are in black bear territory, but the bears I have encountered in the High Sierra are rather shy and timid individuals.

A study done Stephen Herrero examined 59 reported black bear attacks that resulted in 63 deaths over 110 years. Most of those attacks were by lone male bears that exhibited predatory behavior. A good portion of those attacks were in Canada and Alaska where humans are less populated in those areas.

Here is the thing with me, I’m more at peace observing bears than I am driving in traffic. Especially when I see people looking at their cell phones in their car at stop lights or while the car is moving. Now if I were constantly in bear territory and encountering more bears my risk of being attacked might increase. As it is, my chances of injury or death is better by dying by another human than by bear attack. Again, bear attacks are possible, but possible doesn’t mean probable or likely when I encounter one. There is a certain level of perspective or context needs to be understood when talking about bear attacks.

One issue that comes up in the study and one that I didn't completely realize until recent years is that black bear mothers typically don’t defend their cubs by attacking humans. That is something a grizzly bear would do, but not black bears. Black bear mothers like to send their cubs up a tree and then have them come down when the coast is clear.

The distinction between how a grizzly bear and black bear respond is important because they don’t behave in the same ways. People tend to confuse the two. A black bear might be aggressive and actually do a short charge at you, but that is typically a case of trying to get you to go away and not an attack. It is more defensive than in attack mode. Sometimes you hear people say don’t run from a bear. Well, you might find out that the black bear was running away from you too. On the other hand, grizzly bear defensive behavior is different and can lead to fatal attacks. In the literature, it’s the lone stealthy predatory black bear that will attempt to ambush that is the real concern.

Most bears avoid humans and really are concerned about scavenging for food. That ends up being the real issue because they typically go through trash and are willing to take what we might consider extraordinary risks to get at some food source. I've heard many tales of attempts or successes of breaking into a home or vehicle being broken into at a trail head by a bear. This is why it is important to be sure everything is packed up in a container that they can’t get into.

The final thing I should mention here is what I said above I would say slightly differently to younger people and little kids. Younger people should be taught a healthy fear of ALL wild animals.  

My video:

I’ll list more book resources and links at a later time. Anything by Stephen Herrero is worth reading or watching. Really, there is a lot out there on bears and all you need to do is Google "bears" or "black bears" and you get a lot of things.

This is a good article to read:

Short article on Predatory black bears:

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Curse of Hoffman Part 3 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

(GPS: N37 50.800 W119 30.640)

I consider Mt. Hoffman the easiest mountain hike in the High Sierra. It only takes me about an hour and half to get to the summit. I could probably do it a lot faster too. That's why I didn't mind trying to come back to do it, but I'll get to that later. 

From the summit I looked toward the east:
Then I panned to my left and looked down to see this nice looking lake way below:
There was a nice drop off here. Looking up above to the northeast I had this view:
I wonder how often humans have been to those small lakes. Looking toward the north and then west:
Continuing to the west:
Finally, looking more toward the southwest to Half-Dome, Yosemite Valley, and Clouds Rest on the left side:
So as you can see, the smoke really does cause havoc on the views. Not only has this been an issue with Hoffman, but I also did Clouds Rest a few years ago and had the same problem. I was somewhat fortunate not to have this problem when I did Mt. Conness a few years ago.

Each year I did this hike I kept telling myself I would come back the following year to get better pictures and video. I'm now to the point that I've lost my enthusiasm in doing this hike again any time soon. It's not difficult to do, but it always feels like I am not accomplishing anything. I would say that if the "curse" is ever lifted I will give an update, but I don't even feel like saying something like that right now.

Time to move on to other things.

The Curse of Hoffman (Youtube)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Curse of Hoffman Part 2 (T.o.P. for Christmas Series)

The reason I wanted to do this hike is Mt. Hoffman is at the center of Yosemite and almost 11,000 ft. in elevation. So, in theory, the summit should give you the best views of the complete park. That is unless you are "cursed" every time you try to hike it.
The final ascent to the summit is some work, but not too difficult. A lot of blocks of rocks that need to be scrambled over. I climbed up most of the right side of the picture and then ended just left of center. I came back down over the left side of the picture.
The local guardian.
Resting up. Half-Dome can be seen on the left, but the rock formation on right is known as "The Thumb".
The antenna at the summit is interesting at first glance, but ends up being annoying. AFAIK, it is used for radio communication. There is some equipment that goes with it at the summit. What is annoying about it is I couldn't really do my typical video pan without walking around it. I like to stay in the same place and rotate. I couldn't really do that here unless I wanted that antenna in the way. So, I had to move around it.
At the top looking down. You can see the final trail leading to the summit. Of course, my "curse" really comes into play here. Let me just say the views were a lot worse last year than this year.

To be concluded...

The Curse of Hoffman (Youtube)