CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD!
As mentioned in the last post, I was off to San Diego in late June. The purpose of the trip was to attend the AAPS(American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists) National Biotech Conference where I was presenting a poster covering some of my recent work. Unlike many of the others attending, I did NOT take the red-eye home or even fly the next day. Hey, when I get my airfare paid by someone else, I use it to my full advantage!
Pretty Swank Digs!
The View From My Balcony
I arrived on a Friday night, picked up the rental car and checked into the hotel too late to get any food. So, I got up early enough to get a big breakfast the next AM before attending the all day forum concerning protein precipitation. I know, it sounds thrilling, right? Once over, we went to dinner at a fabulous pub with Julie (old climbing bud), who as it turns out is coming back to Boston after completing her post doc at UCSD. When I told her of my plans for Sunday she mentioned that the area I had chosen to hike had burned 3 years ago and was now on its way back, but was still pretty ugly.
Her recommendation was to head up to Idyllwild and hike around the historical (from a climbing perspective) Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks. Tahquitz back in the late 50s was the site of the first 5.9 in the U.S. This was the stomping ground of the L.A. based climbers who were at the vanguard of Yosemite big wall ascents and the first ascent rosters are a who’s who in American climbing. This was a really good suggestion. It was cooler since the hike was at a bit of altitude and a beautiful trail led to the summit of Suicide Rock where I lounged in the sun. Sorry no photos yet since I forgot Dig It! Al, the little point-and-shoot camera I use for capturing shots along the way. Once I have some of the images from slides, I’ll post them.
After Sunday it was back to business at the conference with full days of hob knobbing with my fellow wizards occupying my time. However, on Wednesday the only topics of interest to me were in the morning so I had the JEEP loaded and ready to roll by noon and I was off to Bishop, 360 miles to the north.
I arrived in Bishop around 7PM after some stops and some slow traffic. The 395 past Adelanto is really a 2 lane road with lots of semis heading both north and south. There are some passing areas but not nearly enough so it was a pretty long drive. I wasn’t quite sure of where to park and sleep, so being kinda hot, tired and hungry, I decided to take Tom Bodett up on his offer and booked a room in a Motel6. When I went into the office I thought I had stepped into a John Waters film and Divine was behind the counter. I don’t think I have ever seen eyebrows like that except on Divine and I gave a quick shiver and handed over my credit card.
I was up somewhat early the next morning but was having trouble deciding where to go and what to do. I think one of the consequences of withdrawing from Celexa is a sort of anxious muddled feeling that sometimes gets in the way of making decisions. Anyway, I went to the Buttermilks outside of town and drove up through there to evaluate the weather and find a camping spot. The Buttermilks are at a high enough altitude that it gets nice and cool at night, so sleeping in the back of the JEEP wasn’t going to be too hot and uncomfortable. After finding the perfect place to sleep on Thursday night and I headed back to town and an Ortega omelet at Jack’s, home of THE best breakfasts in this section of the Universe!
I finally made a decision about what to do and checked out of the Motel6 and headed up to South Lake and the trailhead for the Treasure Lake trail. South Lake is about 15 miles up and outside of Bishop. The road ends at the lake, which if it isn’t entirely man-made, is at least man-enhanced by the construction of a dam at the north end. The trail starts at about 9500’ above sea level, which means I was huffing and puffing while putting on my boots!
The view down the trail toward South Lake
Shooting Star along the trail
Thankfully, the same folks who built the trails in the White Mountains of NH did not build the trails out in the western states. See the post below concerning the Nelson Crag Trail. The Treasure Lake trail steadily climbed, but the use of switchbacks made it much easier than the typical White Mountain beeline. I took my time and made it to the lakes in pretty good style. Of course my non-Alpine start of around 10AM insured that I would arrive at the lakes at midday, perfect timing for photography. NOT!!!! Midday is probably the worst time to try taking good photos and the resulting images are not among my best. No problem though, since my aim was to hike and be out and about in one of the most stunning places on the planet.
Mt. Goode from Treasure Lake
I was back to the JEEP around 3 and a call back home was in order. Holly asked about my plans for the rest of the day and suggested that I think about capturing sunset at Mono Lake, since there we really had no sunset images from there. I figured why not? It’s less than an hour north along the 395, I could have dinner at the Mobil Mart and be back to the Buttermilks and the camping spot I had scoped out early enough. I headed north and decided along the way that I would go by way of the Benton Rd which would connect with the 120 and bring to the Tufa State Reserve from the south. It was the right choice and had me driving through beautiful backcountry.
I arrived at the Reserve with plenty of time to scope out the Navy Beach. The Navy Beach is the location of the sand tufa which are quite different from the more well known tufa of the lake. I wandered around looking for spots to set up for the sunset and having figured it out, I went for dinner.
The Navy Beach
Now dinner in Lee Vining, CA may appear to have limited choices and for the most part this is true. However, they also have Tioga Toomey’s Whoa Nellie Deli stuck in the corner of the Tioga Mobil Mart. Dinner at a gas station? you ask. Yes! And it is worth the drive. Fresh made on the premises are cheescakes, chocolate cakes, pies and more. Pork tenderloin, a steak salad that will make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog, fish tacos and jumbo burgers are just a few of the entrees. They also have wine and beer. Mmmmmmmmmmm!
So, I said hello to Matt the Chef (I understand that he actually is a trained chef) and ordered up a cheeseburger to go. I grabbed a six of Fat Tire Ale and headed back to the Navy Beach to wait for the sun to go a bit more. Apparently this is one of the spots on Mono Lake where people swim. A guy was there with his kids and he had the van all tricked out with tunes, a grill, coolers and beach chairs. Looked like a lot of fun. I ate my burger and washed it down with a couple of Fatties and listened to some classic rock while the sun slowly dropped.
Once the burger was gone and the light was changing for the better I grabbed my camera and tripod and wandered out amongst the tufa. I spent the next hour or so happily shooting images of these little deposits. The tufa form in the very alkaline waters of Mono Lake when fresh water from underground springs bubbles up into the lake, mixes with the carbonate rich water and form an insoluble deposit of calcium carbonate. There are 2 kinds of tufa, the calcium carbonate variety and the sand tufa, which are formed of sand cemented into columns that support a calcium carbonate crown. The 2 types are quite different and striking in their own right.
Full moon rising
My plan was to finish up after the sun had dropped behind the mountains and head on down to the Buttermilks, but as I walked back into the parking area, someone else was there parked next to my JEEP. In passing I mentioned that I was impressed with the van conversion (this minivan had been converted for roadtripping with a sleeping platform/storage set up that replaced the back seats) and this elicited an invitation for a glass of wine. I wasn’t really quite sure what I would be doing the next day and figured that a stay at Mono Lake for sunrise would be a wonderful thing to do, so I accepted the wine. I spent a lovely evening chatting about all sorts of topics and was up for a beautiful sunrise at the Lake.
I love the sight of sand tufa in the morning
The view toward the more famous south tufa with the Dana plateau in the background
After taking a number of images at sunrise, I headed back over to see Matt for breakfast. While eating I decided that I would head up to the Little Lakes Valley at the top of Rock Creek Canyon. I hiked one of the trails last year and figured I’d take another trail up towards Mono Pass to Ruby Lake. It was another gorgeous day and starting out at 10,000 feet it was already nice and cool. I hiked steadily up to the lake on another really nice trail. The view back down the trail
Bear Creek Spire at the head of the valley
Once there I found a sheltered spot, though not too sheltered since I wanted the wind to keep blowing the bugs away, to bask in the sun. this little alpine lake is surrounded by some of the most spectacular rock walls I have seen. Apparently this was one of Galen Rowell’s favorite places and I can see why. The Ruby Wall from Ruby Lake
After shooting more film, I headed back down to the JEEP and a trip into Bishop for a visit to Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery. This is a compulsory stop for me whenever I am anywhere near Bishop. I was able to catch the Carr Cliffton (http://www.carrclifton.com) exhibit which was there for only another few days. The images on display were breathtaking and I am very fortunate to have seen them in person. Of course I had to buy some books and replace my missing ring adapter and filter holder for the neutral density split grads that I REALLY could have used in the morning at Mono Lake.
OK, it’s Friday and I have to be back in San Diego on Saturday evening to re-pack everything and be ready to leave on Sunday morning. I can a. Stay in Bishop overnight and drive back the way I came or b. drive to Joshua Tree National Park, spend the night and drive back through the park on Saturday. This way I could check it out for next year’s Most Excellent Month of March Extravaganza. I chose b. Joshua Trees
Joshua Tree is a most extraordinary place. I was very impressed with the beauty of the area and the campgrounds are amongst the best I’ve ever seen. I started out in the NW corner of the park which is in the Mojave Desert and slowly drove SE through the Park. Joshua Tree National Park
Eye Candy for Dr. Dover
Cholla Cactus Garden
About halfway, there is a transition zone where I drove down from the Mojave into the Sonoran Desert. This was marked by the Cholla Cactus Garden which is amazing. The two deserts are strikingly different with the Sonoran being hotter and more barren. Both are quite beautiful however, even if it was 115°F in the Sonoran Desert. Just before I left the Park, I saw a flash of something off to my right. It looked like a mule, but I only caught a glimpse of the hind end. As I drove a little further I could see the head of a Desert Bighorn Sheep. He had the full set of horns and was quite magnificent. We gawked at each other for a few seconds before he ran off and I kept driving.
Once out of JTree, I had another choice. I could go west to the ocean and continue along the coast to San Diego or I could go a little bit further east and see more desert. I opted for more desert. I drove over to the western shore of the Salton Sea, home to a newly discovered school of pupfish. Pupfish are endangered and thought to be extinct in the Salton Sea, but there they are and they have scientists scratching their heads trying to figure out how they got there.
About halfway down the shore State Route 22 heads west towards Borrego Springs and home of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, another destination for next March. I quickly checked out the park’s visitor center, got a map and some literature and was on my way back to San Diego. The Badlands in Anza-Borrego State Park
Anyway, the rest is pretty much anticlimactic. I checked into a Days Inn, re-packed my stuff, made my flight on Sunday in plenty of time, and am now back home. Whew! Another whirlwind tour of California!