Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Everest Circus Noir Continues

Four Confirmed Dead in Two Days on Everest and Lhotse - Page 1 | Mount Everest | OutsideOnline.com

And people ask me why I never wanted to climb Everest. This isn't climbing - it's a bizarre and too often tragic collection of oddballs with wacky motivations. (IMHO) After all, who wouldn't want to carry their bicycle up Everest even though they've never climbed before. That's gotta be worth dying for.

With enough cynicism I can think of the clients as Darwin at work. But what saddens me more are the professional guides who go along with the whole affair, perhaps because it's one of the few ways to make high altitude mountaineering pay.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Around Town

This morning Shelley and I got our kayaks out on the river for the first time this spring. As you'd expect, there are lots of geese around. There were also several rabbits running in and out of the bushes, perhaps chasing each other? We've also had lots of birds around the bird feeder, although it takes a fair bit of patience to catch them in a decent photograph.

click to view photos

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Twilight of Protest

The Archdruid Report: The Twilight of Protest: It’s probably a safe bet that the more mainstream groups will increasingly side with the established order of things—I’ve long suspected that before all this is over with, the Sierra Club will come out in favor of strip mining the national park system so long as it’s done in, ahem, an environmentally sensitive way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Road Trip Tools

I love exotic places like Africa and South America and Asia, but I also love North America. Our continent contains an amazingly diverse collections of landscapes. Here are some of the tools (books and apps) that I've used to explore it. (All of them happen to be from National Geographic, but that's just coincidental.)

A decent road atlas plus it covers some of the National Parks and some outdoor activities. Even if you have a car GPS, an old fashioned paper atlas still comes in handy sometimes.

These books are great to get an idea of what each park is like, and some of the highlights. They don't have room to give every detail but they're a good starting point.
There's also a National Parks iPhone app.

Note: The app itself is free but they charge for each park guide.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Driving Home


Driving across Nevada.

A lone pronghorn antelope - the only sign of animal life.
a lone Pronghorn

Elevation 486 Restaurant in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Elevation 486

Overlooking the Snake River canyon.

Snake River

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Oh Yosemite

Yosemite is a special place in the climbing world. We'd never been there but we'd seen countless pictures and read so much about it. The scenery is every bit as spectacular as everyone says. The huge expanse of rock and soaring walls are amazing. But ...

Yosemite may have avoided the watery death by flooding of Hetch Hetchey but it has been inundated by its own flood of tourists. The floor of the valley is woven with roads, paved trails, parking lots, "villages", lodges, campgrounds, and shuttle buses. Even at the beginning of May, on a week day, people are everywhere. The scenery is still there, but for me at least, it lost much of its appeal.

I don't know what the solution is. People want to see Yosemite and they should, but how do you do that without spoiling it? And we couldn't really talk, we were using the roads and paths and other facilities. One answer, for us, would have been to head out into the backcountry and get away from all the development. But we didn't have a lot of time, and there was still too much snow in the high country. (The Tioga road across the park was still closed for the winter.)

We went to a great presentation in the Visitor Center theatre by Lee Stetson portraying John Muir, as he did in the (recommended) PBS series The National Parks. I wonder what Muir would have thought of the current state of his beloved Yosemite?

We woke up our first morning in Yosemite to hundreds (literally) of school kids streaming by. I just wanted to leave - it was too much for me. We drove up to Glacier Point for the incredible view and then headed out of the park. It's worth seeing, but I doubt we'll be back.

click to view photos
Tunnel View

See if you can spot the climbers on El Capitan. They are in a very different world from the valley bottom.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

We stopped in a few spots in Sequoia National Park - Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, Sherman Grove (Sherman is the largest tree in the world - by volume, not height), and Tokopah Falls. I've always loved big trees so it was a special experience to see these ones.

click to view photos

The next day we hiked in Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon National Park. This is the largest redwood grove left - with thousands of giant trees. There were originally larger groves, but they were logged :-(

click to view photos

It's hard to take photos of these trees that show the true scale. Humans in the picture seem to work best.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sierra Nevadas

From Las Vegas we drove across Death Valley to Lone Pine on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the staff at the Las Vegas REI had recommended backpacking trails in the Cottonwood Lakes area. However, when we got to the visitor center we found out that the road into that area had not opened for the summer yet. And on top of that, most of the trails were still covered in snow (they're over 10,000 feet). So we camped for a night at a campground halfway up the Onion Lake road and in the morning we did a day hike into the Golden Trout lakes. The highest lake is about 11,000 feet and as predicted, there was still a lot of snow up there.

Once we got down, we drove around the south end of the Sierras, a beautiful drive through a variety of scenery. The green meadows and hillsides scattered with oak trees are lovely. We stopped overnight at a KOA at Isabella Lake and the next day continued up the west side of the Sierras to Sequoia National Park where we stayed at Buckeye campground and ate in Three Rivers at the Gateway Inn on a wonderful terrace overlooking the river. See if you can spot the rainbow trout in the first photo.

click to view photos

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Death Valley

We drove from Las Vegas across Death Valley to get to the eastern Sierras. It was interesting scenery and not as hot as some of the days we had in Vegas!