Photo Adventure: East Side Geology

6 Sep


This weekend I decided to haul Rebecca out to Mono Lake and spend some time nerding out. The Eastern Sierra has some crazy geology and it was high time that I learned more about it. I was helped in this endeavor by a few sources, although I am particularly in love with Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park.



Mono Lake provides clues that give us a glimpse of what California’s climate looked like many years ago. The amount of water in the lake has fluctuated greatly over it’s long history. In these photos from Black Point you can see how much the lake has shrunk since it’s tributaries started being diverted to Los Angeles in 1941. They were taken from a spot that would have been near to the shore of the lake in 1941.


On the other side of the lake there is a string of mountains, which seem pretty tiny compared to the giant peaks only a few miles away, but that hold their own surprises. They’re the Mono Craters, and they are the remains of Volcanos that erupted only recently in the geologic sense of the word. (600-40,000 years ago.)

We hiked around, Panum Crater the smallest of the chain, and the easiest one to hike.


It begins with a short uphill hike as you climb over a ring of material that was blasted from the volcano during it’s eruption. (There’s a great aerial photo here if you’re having trouble picturing this.) As magma was rising through the earth’s crust it came in contact with ground water near the surface. This created steam, which built up a lot of pressure, causing the mixture of lava and steam to fountain upwards and outwards when it erupted. The lava/steam mixture cooled quickly creating pumice: one of the weirdest rocks I’ve ever encountered.


There was so much gas trapped in the lava when it cooled that it formed a rock that is unbelievably light. It’s feels more like holding a dried out sponge than rock. It’s also fairly brittle and creates a strange soft sand which makes climbing a giant pile of it loads of fun.

The inside of the crater did not disappoint either.


After the exploding fountain of lava had calmed down, magma continued to be pushed up towards the surface but at a slower pace. (The signs described it using the analogy of an oozing tube of toothpaste.) At Panum Crater it slowly formed a dome topped with these pillars.


Because the lava didn’t have much gas in it, but still cooled fairly quickly, most of the rock at the center is glass-like obsidian. (The darkest of the three rocks in the picture above.) Obsidian is important for the area because it was used by the Pauite for arrowheads and a number of other tools, and was traded across the Sierra Nevada. It’s also sharp and uncomfortable to sit on, but on the upside, it totally sparkles in the sun.


There are a ton of things to be explored around Mono Lake, you could probably keep an entire blog just about birding in the area. I’ve barely scratched the surface of geology in the Eastern Sierra, but it was fun to go out and adventure with this specific goal in mind.


This needs to happen again.


Happy Birthday Wilderness!

3 Sep


Mount Lafayette, Pemigewasset Wilderness: White Mountain National Forest

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”


Double Point, Phillip Burton Wilderness: Point Reyes National Seashore

Fifty years ago the Wilderness Act was signed by president L.B Johnson. This act protected many of the wonderful wild places that I love. If you are able, and haven’t yet walked into an “untrammeled” landscape, give yourself an opportunity to experience the world as you have never seen it before. Visit the 50th Anniversary website for more inspiration.

Yay! Wilderness!


Banner Peak and Thousand Islands Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness: Inyo National Forest


P.S. We also celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant earlier this summer. I didn’t blog about it because it happened at a pretty crazy time for me, but there are events happening all year that are worth checking out.


Cathedral, Yosemite National Park

Earth Day: All In One Place

27 Aug

Earth Day Banner

I’m adding this posts many months later so we can have all of our Earth Day posts compiled in one long and glorious list.

You can also check out April’s Earth Day Index if you just want to know what websites and articles we linked to.

30 Days of Earth Day 2013: For Every Lifestyle

April 1, Earth Day: For Every Lifestyle
April 2, Earth Day: Recycling Challenge
April 3, Earth Day: One for the Money
April 4, Earth Day: Sustainability and You
April 5, Shorter Showers Challenge
April 6, Earth Day: Room by Room in the Bathroom
April 7, Earth Day: Green is the New Black
April 8, Earth Day: Trash Talk
April 9, Earth Day: Water Footprints
April 10, Earth Day: Being a Conscious Consumer
April 11, Earth Day: Reduce, Reduce, Reduce
April 12, Earth Day: Recycling Update
April 13, Earth Day: Throwback
April 14, Earth Day: Room by Room in the Kitchen
April 15, Earth Day: Going Green to Save Green
April 16, Earth Day: Green Smarts
April 17, Earth Day: Dirtbags and Dirty Hippies
April 18, Earth Day: Green Crafting Roundup
April 19, Earth Day: 15 Ways to Celebrate
April 20, Earth Day: Shower Hacking
April 21, Earth Day: Inspiration
April 22, Earth Day: Happy Earth Day! (and a giveaway)
April 23, Earth Day: For the Busy Schedule
April 24, Earth Day: Room By Room in the Laundry Room
April 25, EArth Day: Environmental Justice
April 26, Earth Day: Apartment Alternatives
April 27, Earth Day: For the Love of Nature
April 28, Earth Day: A favorite Resource
April 29, Earth Day: And Beyond!
April 30, Earth Day: Recycling Wrap-up
April 30, The Earth Day Index

30 Days of Earth Day 2014: Keeping it Simple

April 1, Earth Day: Keeping it Simple
April 2, Earth Day: The Big Picture
April 3, Earth Day: Climate Change Art
April 4, Earth Day: @ your Library
April 5, Earth Day: Cheat Neutral
April 6, Earth Day: Weekend Images
April 7, Earth Day: Recylcing Bias
April 8, Earth Day: Exercise and the Environment
April 9, Earth Day: Upcycled Bread Clip Picture Frame
April 10, Earth Day: Amazon Smile
April 11, Earth Day: T-Shirt Bag
April 12, Earth Day: Weekend Images
April 13, Earth Day: Weekend Images
April 14, Earth Day: Every Last Drop
April 15, Earth Day: Buying in Bulk
April 16, Earth Day: UGH!
April 18, Earth Day: Go Camp
April 18, Earth Day: Foraged Food
April 19, Earth Day: Go Celebrate!
April 20, Earth Day: Weekend Images
April 21, Earth Day: Backyard Garden Adventure
April 22, Earth Day: In the Cloud
April 23, Earth Day: Gardening 101
April 24, Earth Day: Please Drink Responsibly
April 25, Earth Day: Weekend(ish) Images
April 26, Earth Day: Weekend Images
April 27, Earth Day: Literary Irrigation
April 28, Earth Day: More Reasons to Drink Craft Beer
April 30, Earth Day: The Carbon Diaries
April 30, EThe (second) Earth Day Index

I’m getting excited for next April just going through all of these posts!

M Mead Quote 2_2_2


Art in Cook’s Meadow

27 Aug


My foot is still keeping me from going on big adventures but I did wander into Cook’s meadow with watercolors a few days ago.


Cook’s Meadow is a lovely spot, and easy to access. Just by circumnavigating the meadow on paved paths you get spectacular views of some of Yosemite’s most iconic rock features.


Plus you’re painting in a place that was also walked by the likes of Thomas Hill, Albert Bierstadt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Ansel Adams. That’s got to count for something.


Totally worth it, even if your painting of Half Dome does come out wonky.


Strawberry Ginger Lemonade Popsicles

24 Aug

I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s been a hot summer.


When it’s this hot popsicles are a daily part of my sanity-maintenance-routine. When the temperature started rising I splurged on popsicle molds, and all summer I’ve been slurping down homemade popsicles of all flavors and colors.


Although my popsicle obsession has been running strong since spring, I haven’t shared any recipes because I haven’t bothered to actually follow any recipes. Most of my concoctions were pretty tasty, with the exception of these Night of the Living Dead Ginger Beet Juice popsicles. They didn’t taste that great, but it was fun to watch Jackie eat them.


After a few weeks of experimentation (and many more of forgetting to measure out and write down the ingredients) I am finally ready to share my favorite popsicle of the summer.

Strawberry Ginger Lemonade Popsicles

10 oz (approximately 2 Cups) Fresh or Frozen Strawberries
4 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Strawberry Jam
2 Tablespoons Agave Syrup
1 Teaspoon Dried Ginger Powder

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze.




P.S. These proportions made enough to fill my Zoku mold, which makes six popsicles that are about 1/3 of a cup each.

Photo Adventure: Southern California

21 Aug

Aprilly got married last weekend, so I cruised down to Orange County and adventured for a few days before the big event.


Lighthouse and cranes on Long Beach Harbor.


We went on a whale watch cruise at the Aquarium of the Pacific. All my pictures of the actual whales turned out fantastically unmajestic. I can’t explain why I like this silly photo so much but I do.


I finally got to see a space shuttle! It felt a little like this. In addition to the shuttle the California Science Center had a great exhibit on Pompeii.


I nerded out about space even more at the Griffith Observatory.


I loved the observatory. It’s like a temple to astronomy.


Despite, or maybe because of the smog, I love this shot of Los Angeles from the observatory.


We also ventured out to Catalina Island. I went scuba diving for the first time. It was amazing although I wasn’t able to take any pictures. I’m already dreaming of getting scuba certified.


Catalina Sunset


I just can’t seem to stay away from Malibu Creek State Park.


P.S. I took one crappy picture at the wedding. It’s a good thing April hired an actual photographer.

I hear things are just as bad up on Lake Erie

4 Aug


Put-In-Bay from Perry’s Monument

As I write this my friend Laura is on an adventure kayaking in the Lake Erie Islands. Laura set out on this adventure several reasons, some of them deeply personal, but one goal of her journey is to reconnect to the place she grew up, which incidentally, is also the place I grew up.

So our home was on my mind yesterday when this article came across my newsfeed. A quick summary: The City of Toledo has told about 500,000 residents that they can’t drink their tap water, due to high levels of toxins caused by algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Lake Erie already had a bad reputation when it comes to water quality, and this isn’t completely unfounded. The most famous incident happened in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River became so polluted that it caught fire near it’s confluence with Lake Erie. Although this fire was only one of several that happened on the Cuyahoga, it gained the most public attention. The fire certainly tarnished Cleveland’s reputation. It’s what led Dr. Seuss to include the line “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” in the first published editions of the Lorax. I travelled all the way to Germany in 2006, and when one man learned I was from Cleveland the next thing he asked me was “Didn’t your lake catch on fire?”


Station Road Bridge, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

However, something good did come out of this fire. It sparked river cleanup efforts, both at the local and national level, and was the main cause for the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. It also led to the creation of a National Recreation Area (now a National Park) that is very near and dear to my heart; Cuyahoga Valley. Dr. Seuss even removed the line from later editions of the Lorax after Ohio Sea Grant wrote to him to tell him about improvements on Lake Erie.

Even knowing this, I didn’t need the Reuter’s article to remind me that while pollution on Lake Erie has greatly improved, it still leaves a lot to be desired.


Lake Erie from Kelley’s Island

I remember taking a trip with my family to a beach near Point Pelee on the Canadian side of the lake in the late 90’s. There were dead fish, hundreds of them, floating in the water and washed up on shore. In what has to be one of our more questionable life decisions, we still went swimming. Today the Ohio Department of Health publishes beach advisories based on bacteria levels, and these are reported rather matter-of-factly on local news stations.

Even today Lake Erie is still plagued by a number of environmental problems; combined sewer overflows, invasive species, agricultural runoff, loss of coastal wetlands, and contaminated sediment. A few news sources have also connected climate change with the recent spike in algae related toxins.


East Harbor State Park

After so many decades, we Ohioans have just become pretty numb to it all. Maybe we just feel like it’s all too hopeless. Maybe it’s because we were hit so hard by the economic recession that we aren’t ready to tackle environmental issues. Maybe we’ve decided that Lake Erie simply isn’t beautiful enough to be worth saving.

The drinking water ban lifted today when tests indicated the toxins were back to lower levels. I hope that, like the Cuyahoga River fires, some positive change can come out of this. Environmental problems, including algal blooms, have gone unnoticed on Lake Erie for so long. I hope this changes. Because Lake Erie is worth saving. It’s where we get our drinking water, where we go to swim and boat and play, and it still has an important part in our economy.


Lake Erie Sunset, Old Woman Creek

And yes, it is beautiful.



31 Jul



Eagle Peak during and after the El Portal Fire

This community never ceases to amaze me.

The first thing I did when the fire started was run into the house and grab my laptop bag, my fire box, my guitar, and the bridesmaid dress I’m wearing to April’s wedding in a few weeks.

I probably would have kept packing like this except at this point my neighbor Claudine came over, and pointed out that the fire was only a few feet away from another neighbor’s house where no one was home. She rallied a crowd of folks who sprang into action, contacting the people who lived there and rescuing their stuff. Claudine’s house wasn’t that far from the fire, I am floored by her selflessness in checking in on her neighbor’s before thinking about herself.

Similarly, Andy abandoned all of his valuables to run to the neighbor’s houses and helped them fight the fire off with garden hoses. We lost no structures in El Portal, and while a lot of that can be attributed to luck, favorable winds, and a quick response from fire crews, I think Andy the flip-flop clad firefighter can take a small portion of the credit.

The community of Foresta had it worse, although I was stunned to learn that they lost only one building. Watching the fire blaze up the hillside we were certain it was going to be much, much worse. It easily could have been.

Unfortunately the one house that did burn was a duplex and was occupied by some friends of mine. They are the nicest people you can imagine, and it broke my heart to hear that they had only minutes to evacuate and lost nearly everything to the fire.

Fortunately this community rallied like no other. Online fundraising campaigns were started for the Martel Family and the Laizer Family, with goals of raising $5,000 dollars. While I’m sure that seemed like an ambitious fundraising goal, it is only a small fraction of the actual financial cost of rebuilding a family’s life.

Both campaigns blew past those goals within a few hours.

This is what I love about this community. We choose to work and live here because it’s breathtaking and beautiful, and many of the people who live here have managed to accomplish some truly impressive feats. But when things go wrong here they often go wrong in big and dramatic ways. So when this community of people who are drawn to the spectacular and sensational get it in their heads to help each other out….Let’s just say that those fundraising goals didn’t have a chance.

If you would like to contribute to the fundraising campaigns I know both families would greatly appreciate it even though they have surpassed their fundraising goals.


P.S. I don’t want to forget to appreciate the firefighters and various responders who have been working hard to contain the fire and save structures. We are extremely lucky that there have been no major injuries associated with this fire.



Eat the Strawberry

28 Jul

There’s this story that you may have heard before: The short version sets the main character in a grim situation, an avalanche coming from above, and a mountain lion creeping in from below. In the last few moments of her life she looks down and sees a single strawberry at her feet and reaches down and eats it. And it was the best strawberry she ever tasted.


My own personal situation is not nearly so grim. I had over twelve hours between the beginning of the fire and evacuation. I was able to pack a lot of stuff into my car before I left. It’s a strange and humbling mental exercise to think about what you would grab if you had only minutes to evacuate. It’s practically ridiculous when you have half a day and a huge car to fill.


I was also extremely fortunate to have someplace to go. Some friends have a wonderful farm about an hour away in Cathy’s Valley. They graciously accepted a huge caravan of us at 4:00 in the morning.


The next morning we started pacing around early, trying to get what information we could, and trying to decide what to do. We were relieved to learn that El Portal had survived the night, but there was sadness for friends in Foresta who lost everything in this fire, and still a lot of worry for the remaining houses there.

Not long after posting pictures, I hit the wall and could not stay awake any longer.

When I finally woke up I couldn’t figure out what to do. We were still under evacuation I wasn’t sure if I could go back home, or if I would be able to do anything while I was there. I was still exhausted and just milling around trying to decide the best course of action.


Finally my friend Glikin asked if I wanted to help them with harvesting. I was happy to have something useful to do, and he set us to work in the strawberry patch, inviting us to eat any of the ones that were partially eaten or flawed.


Can I just say that I have total strawberry envy? My strawberries look nothing like this. At one point Glikin came over laughing, saying that harvesting strawberries is usually half grazing and half harvest. I reminded him of the strawberry story.


And then I could not stop thinking about it. As much as the situation sucked I was overwhelmed with gratitude at having a place, a beautiful place, to stay, and something to do.


I’m going to try to get back into El Portal today to see what I can do to help, but for right now, I’m eating the strawberry.



El Portal Fire

27 Jul

Yesterday was hot in El Portal. This hasn’t been news for several days, but I took this picture somewhere around 12:30pm yesterday.


At around 2:30 (more reliable sources are now saying the fire started around 3:15. It was my day off, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the time) we heard sirens coming up our street. We walked out the front door to see this.


It wasn’t long before it looked like this.


The rumor going around was that it started when a tree branch fell on a power line, but I don’t think the cause has been officially established.


Within a few hours the fire shot up the hillside to Foresta. We have heard that several houses have burned, including one of my friends, but we don’t know much besides that.


The cavalry arrived.


We were lucky that the fire started up the hill from the big chunk of our houses. As far as I know none of the houses in my neighborhood were damaged, although it came frighteningly close. I hoped the danger was over but after the sun went down the fire continued to burn back down the hillside.


We watched from the roof of our house.


(The white lights high on the hillside next to the fire are fire crews cutting fire line.)

We got a mandatory evacuation order around 2:30am and left for a friends farm at 3:00am. It’s been hard to get information but it sounds like El Portal is still there.



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