The Twain Harte Laffin Cabin was a magical, snowy wonderland in 2019. Best Thanksgiving ever? Time will tell. But the kids (of all ages) had a great time playing in the snow!
Z and I hit the trail while Laura stayed home to catch-up on some studying and project work for her Masters degree. One of the great benefits of living in Turlock is that we're about two hours away from Yosemite. We slept-in on Saturday morning, ate a good breakfast and headed out to Yosemite a bit after 10am. We arrived at the Lukens Lake trailhead at about 12:30pm after stopping to pick-up sandwiches in Oakdale. We hiked nearly four miles while enjoying the scenery, exploring the rocks and discussing the fate of stars that die and what would happen to our sun and our solar system in the future. Pretty heady stuff for a six year old.
Z wanted to end the day by seeing Half Dome and El Capitan because the are "my favorites".
Here are the photos from our absolutely perfect Labor Day weekend camping trip to Lee Vining. With Motel 6 going for $160/night we opted to camp at the Mono RV Park group tent site for $28/night and eat breakfast at Nicely's and dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli. I had not anticipated all of the Burning Man traffic on 395. A huge chunk of the Burners were from SoCal, I guess. Although Z had a rough first night sleeping, we all managed to hike the extremely steep trail to Gardisky Lake on Sunday with smiles and a sense of awe.
We were rewarded with immaculate views from both sides of the lake as well as an abundance of sierra tree frogs hopping out of the meadows. After dinner we headed down to the South Tufa parking area to watch the stars for a few minutes.
We slept-in on Monday morning until 7:50am (late by camping standards), packed, ate and then took the easy trail to Sardine Falls just east of Sonora Pass. Then we headed back to to reality.
Zephyr, Grandma H and I needed to get out of the house so Laura could get some school planning done. What better place to go that 8600' up into the Emigrant Wilderness to see amazing wildflowers?
The hike exemplified why I love Turlock so much. We
Our sixth amazing year fishing in Alaska! Rough seas on the first day diminished our overall catch, but we had two stellar days after that and came home with 150lbs of fish between my dad and myself. We were paired-up with Bob and Steve from SoCal and all got along quite nicely. Steve turned out to be Mr. Black Cod. Salmon were short-biting so we lost at least 3 fish for every one we landed. We ended up catching pinks at a rate three times greater than silver salmon. I even had two large chums put up a great fight. Whales were pretty good this year too, just too far away and too overcast to get great photos. Overall, it was a really fun week and went WAY too fast.
Colin, my bother-in-law visiting from Boston, has been working extremely hard to finish his MS in electrical engineering and is very much into birding and photography. Somehow we were able to convince Laura and my sister Mandy to let us go on an all-day adventure to explore the high country of Yosemite and the eastern side of the Sierra while they stayed home with the kids. The trail was a bit hard to find under the immense amount of snow that still lingered, but we made it and were rewarded with an awesome display of Cathedral Peak reflecting in the flooded meadows below. There was also an abundance of frogs singing to us in the flooded meadows.
Nearly all of my best friends from high school and their families spent a very fun weekend hanging out and exploring the surroundings of the Fallen Leaf Lake Campground. This fourth installment of Campapalooza did not disappoint!
The highlight of the trip was, of course, a massive bear that we spotted walking back to camp from the Taylor Creek Visitor Center. It had to be be well over 300lbs and was handsomely colored. It was rivaled by the one-winged bald eagle we saw at the visitor center!
Fallen Leaf Campground was quite amazing. Bathrooms, showers, potable water and peace and quiet at night, even with a few bears passing by our tent here and there. The gradients of the road were also perfect for scootering. The campground is HUGE and our sites were spread out, something we'll fix next year by registering for sites 6 month in advance.
Grandma Hollister, Zephyr and I had a lovely adventure in Yosemite Valley on Monday, April 22 while Laura got to stay home and study for her final project! The falls were definitely booming and the crowds weren't *too* bad. Zephyr really wanted to ride the shuttle bus, so we rode on over to the Mirror Lake trail head in standing-room-only crowds. It was a great long day!
Thanks to the amazing collaborative efforts between UC Merced officials and AP Environmental Science Teachers Laura Hollister, Brian Hofsteen and Kevin Testo, nearly 130 PHS and THS students were able to contribute to authentic, cutting-edge biodiversity science at the UC Merced Vernal Pools & Grasslands Reserve. The students worked shoulder-to-shoulder with UC Merced professors Dr. Jason Sexton and Dr. Dannise Ruiz and Reserve Manager Mo Kolster to collect soil and sediment samples from vernal pools while soaking-in the sweeping views of the distant Sierra Nevada.
Vernal pools are small depressions in the valley and foothills that fill with water to become temporary wetlands in the winter and spring before evaporating completely during the hot summer months. Vernal Pools are known habitat for endangered amphibians, fairy shrimp and native plant species that are found nowhere else in the world!
The samples collected by the students will be taken to a new multi-million dollar lab at UCLA where remnant biological material such as fur, cells, urine & feces found in the soil will have its DNA extracted and sequenced. The DNA found in the environment (eDNA) will let researchers know EXCATLY which microbes, fungi, plants and animals call the Vernal Pools home during the spring!
Many students developed a newfound appreciation for the Great Central Valley by experiencing it beauty and discovering its biological value. The results of the student-collected samples will be freely available to the public within the next several months on the Cal eDNA interactive map at https://data.ucedna.com/.
A visit to the 2019 Carrizo Plain National Monument Super Bloom! There are too many lovely photos to post here, so please check out the photo album!
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.