Laura, Z, Grandma and I needed to escape the smokey Central Valley air that had plagued the valley for much of July and August and we also wanted a way to unwind from the stresses of a new school year. So what better thing to do than drive straight through the burned heart of the Donnell Fire on our way to Wolf Creek just east of Sonora Pass on HWY 108. Traffic was not allowed to stop on HWY 108 between the Donnell Vista and Kennedy Meadows, so Laura did her best to photograph the scene moving at 20-40mph. She did a pretty great job.
The fire intensity was hit & miss. It completely destroyed Dardanelle Resort, but spared Baker Station and several other cabin properties. Still, the damage of this 38,000 acre fir was pretty sobering. But once across the sierra crest, the air was clean and blue as one can imagine a sky to be. Cirrus clouds drifted over head from time to time making the scenery "pop".
I'll be back soon to take 360 photospheres of the Columns of the Giants which also suffered some intense damage to the trees on top of the western-most portion of the lava flow. It'll be interesting to compare my Science Friday Photospheres with the new ones when completed.
For the fifth year in a row, my dad and I were lucky enough to spend several days salmon fishing at Whalers Cove Lodge on Killisnoo Island. This year's fishing was awful, but the weather and the views were amazing. With high temps in the low to mid-70's with sunny skies and glassy seas, the salmon just never appeared. The entire fleet only averaged 14 salmon per day for the three days we stayed. Last year, my dad and I caught our limit of 12 silver salmon in less than two hours everyday. This was likely one of the worst recreational fishing years on record for SE Alaska. The guides blamed it on commercial trawlers, which likely played a role, but I also suspect warming seas and a July dry spell also played a major role.
My dad and I brought home 88lbs of processed fish, 95% of which was halibut and rock fish. Our guide, Garfield, was also a little aloof and grumpy and not quite understanding that the old folk on board were hard of hearing and needed some direct instruction on how to fish. Overall, this Alaska trip was ranked 4th out of the 5 times we've visited. We'll be back next year with Captain Kevin, a very smart and empathetic man! Hopefully the fish will follow!
Take a look at all the great photos we took in Lawrence Freaking Kansas while attending the Earth Educators Rendezvous. It was hot & humid, but so fun to see all of our friends. We also had a blast getting to teach teachers how to make sense of climate change lessons for their classes. Very much looking forward to next year!
Nearly all of my best friends from high school and their families spent a very fun weekend hanging out and watching our kids play on the hammocks at the newly established Webber Lake Campground.
Our entire group took a lovely hike through Lacey Meadow and got to play in Lacey Creek where several other families of young children were already playing. Along the way we spotted 12 different species of wildflowers!
And, while I have no photographic evidence, Dave, Lucas, Zephyr and I were witness to a bizarre display of animal interactions while on an sunset canoe across the lake. We were skunked fishing, but what we saw really made up for the lack of fish. We witnessed a young black tail deer, no more than a year old, antagonize two sandhill cranes and a huge gaggle of geese. I had heard the cranes chatting-up a storm, so we tried to canoe around the inlet delta's willows to take a peek. As we stealthily paddled to within several hundred yards we could see the young deer put its tail up and head down as it ran towards the cranes. The cranes leapt out of the way each time and gave the dear an earful. But the dear was undeterred, and much like a bullfight, the dear circled round and made about eight more passes at the crane, sometimes chasing it into water about 18" deep.
With the cranes fully pissed-off, the deer shifted its attention to a gaggle of three-dozen Canadian geese that were sitting on the marshy shore minding their own business. Like an impetuous human toddler, the deer again raised it's tail and, with a 35-meter run-up made a beeline for the gaggle of geese. The deer was like a bowling ball plowing through the geese. The geese flew-off just in the nick of time, tumbling out like bowling pins and all the while probably wondering what in the hell they ever did to the deer to deserve this kind of treatment. To cap-off the evening's events a bald eagle swooped down about 20' above our heads and landed in some trees on the north shore of the lake. The sun was setting and we raced back across the lake so that I could take the picture below.
I'm lucky to have such awesome friends! We'll be returning to Webber Lake next year.
Since Laura had to spend a week in Monterey for an AP Environmental Science professional development conference, I thought it would be fun to spend a father-son-grandma day hiking in the Sierras. Our goal was to reach Grouse Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness, but we knew the relatively gently 3.5miles to the lake might push Zephyr’s limits. While the trail was relatively gradual in its topography, the volcanic breccia made the trail quite uneven in places and slowed us down (as did a crazy-stubborn 5yr old that had a hard time remembering not to jump on or off rocks).
In the end we made it to Pine Valley and Lily Creek, which Grandma Hollister and I decided would make a great place to hang out before turning around. After a dip in the creek Zephyr was refreshed which aided in the increased rate at which we were able to hike back. I think Grouse Lake would take me about 1.5hrs to reach if traveling solo.
The road to Pine Valley Horse camp was SEVERELY degraded during this winter’s RAIN storms. What used to be an excellent graded road is now only suitable for 4WD. I hope they get the road fixed soon.
Big news! I've spent several days manually migrating all of my 2004 to 2014 adventure photo journals to a brand new Esri Storymap. You can find the newly revised "Hikes and Adventures" page in the navigation bar above. The tabs are pretty self-explanatory and are color-coded by category such as "Day Hikes", "Backpacking", etc. I've tried to give an honest description of each hike and adventure, including a fishing rating for those so inclined to fish.
As the weeks go on I'll do my best to backfill all of my hikes from 2014 to present that were never added to the map. Hopefully before September I'll be all caught up!
I forgot to post a link to these photos! Doh!
I had the privilege of chaperoning over 320 Turlock High seniors at Disney's GradNite on Tuesday. My partner in crime for the night was Mr. Kamp, our physics teacher. So, like any good scientist would do, we brought along my Pocket Lab Voyager to quantify our fun. The stellar data set of the evening was made on the Gaurdians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout! ride. It's a vertical drop ride that has some killer acceleration and weightless moments.
Having been on the ride in its past iteration as the Tower of Terror, I really wanted to know if what I was experiencing was indeed free fall or if the ride accelerated us downward faster than gravity. I also was curious about how long each drop was in terms of distance and time and just how quickly we were accelerating. I always had a suspicion that the zooming gates in front of our cage were partly an engineered optical illusion, so I thought maybe some data could help prove/disprove that notion.
Thanks to the PocketLab, we now have some amazing data. What patterns do you see in the data? I've also posted a video of a reporter on the ride for context. It's pretty amazing.
Laura, Z Julie, Jill, Ellen, Hika and I got to explore a part of California that none of us had ever been to. Our Subaru Forester blew its head gaskets on the way down, so we got to drive a brand new Forester while exploring the wilds of the southern California desert. Palm Springs Subaru is great, BTW and made the pain of $3500 feel like only $1000. Enjoy the nearly 200 photos!
Laura said she'd like to be surprised for Mothers Day this year, so Zephyr and I hatched a plan to show her just how deep our love for her ran- by adventuring deep into the Earth at California Caverns near the Calaveras County town of San Andreas. The majority of the cave was still flooded from winter rains and elevated groundwater tables, which abbreviated our tour... but the good news is that water is what helps the caverns grow! It's pretty amazing to think that the carbonate minerals in these caves use to be tropical shoals several hundred million years ago. It's even more amazing to think about how subducting ocean crust scraped these deposits-off and accreted them to California. Awesome!
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.