Belated Photos from the Modesto Junior College Geology Trip Investigating the San Andreas Fault System.
I'm going to defer my thorough explanations of the November MJC excursion to Pinnacles National Park to the incomparable Geotripper: MJC's own Garry Hayes. I will however post a few of my photos here, and the link to my complete photo journal of the trip. It's a great read!
Sixteen WildLink club members spent three hours “learning the ropes” of rock climbing at the Stonehenge Climbing Gym in Modesto. Everyone took turns relying on their partners to belay as they attempted to scale walls that were over 40 feet tall. The encouragement, support and positivity exuding from everyone made this one of the best WildLink trips in recent memory. Everyone had so much fun, conquered fears and quite literally reached new heights. Click the button above or click here to see the complete photo album.
As lifelong Central Valley residents, Laura and I have become fairly immune to the depressing effects of Tule Fog. Part of that immunity stems from the fact the fog had been pretty non-existent during the past several years of our ongoing severe drought. But thanks to huge December rains (6.19" on my station) and another persistent ridge of high pressure, the ingredients have been in place for the fog to come back strong this year. And come back strong it has. Prior to this excursion, we witnessed the sun for a mere three total hours in a week's time! It was time to climb out of the inversion layer and into the promised lands of Yosemite.
Near Cathy's Valley we finally broke through the inversion layer and left the fog behind for good. In a span of two minutes we left the 48-degree damp misery and entered 63 degree solar radiation goodness! Wispy cirrus clouds sailed overhead while I got out to take some cool pictures of the enveloping stratus/fog layer (which, as of this writing still has not broken).
Laura spotted what she first thought was a common coyote sitting in the sun near Cascade Falls. After doing a double take at 30mph, she determined it was a bobcat, at which point we safely flipped a u-turn and pulled over. Laura and Zephyr stayed in the car while I hopped out hoping to catch a small glimpse of such an elusive animal. The beautiful bobcat was apparently out enjoying the sun too because it had the same cat-napping look that our house cats had. I approached to within 150', trying to balance my desire for a nice photo with the animal's desire to be left alone.
The cat was unfazed by my presence. It proceeded to take a cat bath and yawn several times before I returned to the car to show Zephyr the photos and let Laura go take a look of her own. After marveling at our great fortune, we headed into the Valley for lunch at the Ahwahnee Bar and took a stroll through Sentinel Meadow.
Our little stroll to Lower Yosemite Falls gave us the second surprise of the day: another bobcat ten feet from the bike path that we startled when I set the toddler pack down to load Zephyr. The cat sauntered away for about 50 feet and then plopped down in another sunny spot. Not a single other person saw this cat in the ten minutes we observed it. It just goes to show that paying attention in the crowds has it rewards.
So what made the day so strange? Two bobcats, were lucky. But to me, the weirdest part of the day was knowing that it was 58 degrees. In Yosemite. In the Middle of January. With no ice to be seen ANYWHERE, let alone any snow. Forecasts now show we'll likely go ALL of JANUARY without a drop of precipitation. And January is historically the wettest month of the year by far for Central California. Drought for a 4th straight year seems imminent, I can't help but wonder if my fellow CenCal citizens are willing to make the sacrifices needed to stave-off massive water hardships. Only time will tell. With that, I'll leave you with bobcat #2 stalking something in the grasses of Sentinel Meadow as we left.
This is an oldie but goodie lab. Today my geoscience classes will use this simulation to locate the epicenter and calculate the magnitude of a virtual earthquake.
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Elk 25 Miles from Turlock? Those and 10,000 or More Birds Spotted at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.
Laura, Zephyr and I took advantage of a crystal-clear and cool winter’s day to visit the new San Luis National Wildlife Refuge visitor center near Los Banos. The refuge first came into existence in the 1960’s and now provides an engineered and irrigated re-creation of the natural wetland and upland habitat that once existed along the entire stretch of the San Joaquin River prior to farming. This is also the area of the infamous Kesterson Refuge Selenium Poisoning of migratory birds.
We first stopped at the new Visitor Center on Wolfsen Road. The LEED Platinum Certified building has tons of great interactive displays for visitors of all ages. Anyone that visits will be pleasantly surprised that such a gem resides in the oft-overlooked Central Valley and then they will learn a tremendous amount about the Refuge system.
Upon leaving the VC, we headed out to Sousa's Marsh Nature Trail. The easy 1.4 mile loop took us past tens of thousands of birds. I can’t explain in with my feeble writing skills the thrill of hearing a flock of several hundred ducks take off and land in synchronicity.
A better descriptor of what can be found at the refuge is quoted from the SLNWR website: “The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge encompasses over 26,800 acres of wetlands, riparian forests, native grasslands, and vernal pools. A thriving population of the endemic tule elk is showcased by one of three auto tour routes. The Refuge is host to significant assemblages of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and plants; some of which, such as the California tiger salamander, the long-horned fairy shrimp, and San Joaquin kit fox, are endangered species.”
The family made a quick day-trip up the hill to visit the Eisenhuts in their new Twain Harte cabin (which was very nice). Steve, Bryanna, Gretchen, Laura, Z and I headed up to play in what should have been the snowy wonderland of Pinecrest Lake. 1/8" of snow in the shade and no ice on the lake turned the day into a great and brisk hike.
The 2014 Christmas photos are here! Zephyr was a bit of a Santa groupie this year, and it paid off big-time. Our house is now full of exploratory toys, games and puzzles. Not the mention lots of family and love.
Part of my New Year's resolution is to catch-up on posting photos that everyone has been dying for. Here they come. First up are the Thanksgiving Photos. Thirty-eight members of the extended Laffin Family met at our Twain Harte Cabin that was built by my mom's dad and his brothers and dad after WWII.
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.