Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The End of the Season (Christmas Edition)

(GPS: N37° 50.145 W119° 9.345)

Merry Christmas!

I have a lot to say here so I put this blog into three parts for easier reading.

I thought I would share a few things I did a few weeks ago as the Sierra quickly went from fall to winter conditions. The following is from my very last days there for the year. The heavy snow did not come until a week later, but during the time I was there the weather was really nice. One of the areas that was still easy to access was Parker Lake.

Part 1: The Parker Lake Hike

After a short dirt road drive off the June Lake Loop one goes to the trailhead parking for Parker Lake. There is some uphill on this hike, but nothing too dramatic. You can see some snow along the trail:

Then things flattened out for the rest of the hike. I encountered the stream that runs out of the lake, and then the trail goes through a forest of trees. Lots of leafless trees as fall colors were long gone by now:
I would say it takes about 45 minutes to get to the lake. You don’t actually get to see the full lake until you have cleared the forest right at the lake. I was somewhat surprised to see this:

It was completely iced over. The elevation is only in the 8,300 ft. range, but I didn’t think this lake would get this way at this time of the year. One thing I noticed is the sun does not hit the lake very long during this period. The sun barely goes over the mountain side and was already down during the early afternoon I took these pictures. While I would not consider the area I was at very cold, it definitely had a winter cool with it. It was rather pleasant, but quiet at the same time.

I went around the lake some more. One can continue around the lake to Parker Pass which gets you to the Mono Pass trail in Yosemite I have covered before. At about this time I heard a strange sound that sounded like a Star Wars gun laser sound. It kept happening. I then realized a man and woman had reached the lake and were throwing rocks on it. The rocks were bouncing off the lake ice and making that sound by bouncing along. I tried to do it a few times myself. I then realized why there were so many rocks on the lake.
Part 2: The Bobcat

One morning this creature came walking along the road by our place. Normally, we get lots of deer, squirrels, birds, and some bears, but to see a bobcat is rare in my experience there. Neighbors have told us of bobcats, but I never had seen one here. I ran down to the road and as soon I got there he turned around. I took a few pictures from the distance, but as soon as I took a step he took off. I lost him.
The next morning I decided to head into the forest a few miles away. I thought my chances of seeing the bobcat again were extremely low, but I was going to scout the area very carefully. After around an hour I finally saw something walking quickly away that was bigger than squirrels, but not as big as a deer so I knew I had what I was looking for.
I followed it to a stream and thought I would get a good video at this point. However, to my surprise, I saw it jump really high over the stream. I then thought I lost it for good because I had to backtrack to a bridge over the stream. I just didn’t want to get wet that morning or I would have been more daring about that.
I kept scanning the forest in the direction I saw it go. About seven minutes later I saw it running. I had finally caught up with it while it was resting, and I started to walk very slowly. I wanted to use the camcorder because I knew I could zoom in closer than my regular camera. Over the next few minutes I got as close as I could. On the final step I was going to make before I changed over to my camera it ran off.
I started to follow it and the bobcat went over a bunch of rocks that put it on higher ground. When I reached the rocks and looked around I started laughing. I remember a prayer I had the night before asking for one more chance to see this animal before I left the following day. Realizing that had come to pass, not wanted to give the cat any more grief by continuing to follow it around, and needing to get back to start packing up I took off.
All in all, it was really fun and slightly creepy trying to hunt this creature down. It was a quiet morning, and, apart from the animals, I was all alone out in the forest.
I put up a couple of videos tonight. The first one shows the Parker Lake hike and some of the bobcat. At the beginning I put in some old footage my dad took on his hike to this lake in 1989. I was not on that trip, but I thought it would be a good experiment and sentimental for some of the relatives I have that will see it.
Last summer I finally went and did a video of the place Django Unchained has a scene at. Since the movie comes out today…
Finally, two mountain lions were found in Oregon about a year and half ago. Apparently, their mother was killed. They were sent to a special zoo in Rosamond, CA that takes care of wild cats. A few months after that the brother and sister were sent to a local zoo in Orange County near me. So, this is Santiago and Modjeska in a short training session and then they were given Christmas presents to open:
Part 3: Violence and the Christmas Holiday Season
This will be the last blog of the year for me, and there are a couple of other things I wanted to mention. Things have been really scary in the real world out there. As you know there have been a bunch of fatal shootings that have made the news in the U.S. with the shooting in the Connecticut getting the most coverage. We just had one over the summer I had commented on at the time, but the sad truth is no matter what we do there will always be more evil out there so these things will continue to happen.
A few days before the Connecticut shooting there were helicopters flying over the local university. I went out to see what I could see only to come back inside to watch the event on television. Some thieves escaped into the university to avoid the police. The students there were locked down in the classrooms until late that night. It started at around 3pm and I think the last helicopter left sometime after 1am. One or two were captured, but a few of them got away. No one was hurt though.
Then, a few days after the Connecticut shooting I was sitting at the computer editing some of the videos and listening to the news about all that. I was thinking to myself about what I would do if that were to happen around here. Well, little did I know that a few hours later there would be a sniper with an assault rifle in the very room I was in. I don’t want to go into all the details because it is very sad, but a neighbor of mine decided that this was his final day of life. So, the police and SWAT teams were called in. One of them was in my backyard, but the other was up stairs in this room by the window with a good view of the neighbor’s backyard. My neighbor killed himself before law enforcement had entered his place. I should say that he had no intention of killing anyone other than himself, but it was still a scary situation. I had just seen him the night before in his kitchen which I can see from my kitchen. Everything seemed like any other night. He was a good neighbor, and I never had any issues with him. God bless his soul.
It seems like you hear more about these tragic events during the holiday season when things just get really depressing for some people. The state of the world, the recent election in the U.S., and economy in general has produced a lot of negative emotions. There is a lot to be down about.
On the one hand we are told that Christmas and the rest of the holidays are for being with family. Yet, there are many people that are not going to have family members with them this year. I can’t imagine how any of these living family members that have just lost their parents or kids could sing the song “Joy to the World” this time of year.
Yet, on the other hand, if the meaning to the words in that Christmas song have any purpose at all then they need to be sung no matter what the state we are in. They point to something beyond our current state of emotional well being. If there is any song for those broken hearted people then it is that one.
Enough from me this year. I kept the blog down to an all time low of 12 blog entries which is actually a good thing. I intend to keep it like this in the future, but will probably have a slightly bigger count next year. I will say more about this sometime in January.