27 October 2013

Bodie Ghost Town

Have you visited a "ghost town" yet?  A remnant from the 1800s gold rush era? In the eastern part of California there is Bodie State Park, which has most of an entire town sitting there, aging in the sun, preserved "as is".

The remnants are impressive, about a hundred buildings remain  including the stamp mill (where the ore was crushed).

One walks around with camera in hand, looking into windows, some of the buildings can be entered, some have wire fences across the doors. In the church there is a pie tin sitting just inside the wire fence and people have tossed lots of coins and bills into that tin.  One house with a bedroom seems to collect money too. Maybe folks figure the whores ghosts need a little help?  I imagine the money goes to the non-profit Bodie Foundation that operates the little museum/information center, or maybe just goes into the parks operating fund (I'm guessing here, no clue really what they do with the donations).

The state owns and runs the ghost town park, but much of the surrounding land in the Bodie Hills is owned by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency), with some land in private hands.  In recent years there has been talk about reopening gold mining in the area, and a petition was circulating in 2012 to get signatures to show support of NOT allowing such mining to happen in the Bodie Hills. You can find lots more info at the Bodie Foundation website and the Mono County Tourism website.

18 October 2013

The Owens River, water diversions, fall colors.

Autumn scenery along the Owens River on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas is spectacular. Beginning just north of the town of Bishop and heading south, dirt roads allow access to many parts of the river and the many canals and creeks that feed it.
The Owens River is about 4,000' above sea level, and the nearby Sierras rise to 14,000+ feet above sea level. The area is pastoral high desert/sage brush/rabbit brush.  Most of the water in the Owens River watershed winds up watering the city of Los Angeles and  very little stays in the immediate area.  Some of the creeks that come out of the Sierras are diverted into small canals that flow downhill through the towns of Bishop and Big Pine, then the water makes its way into the river, where it ultimately gets piped to Los Angeles. Just about every creek gets added to the pipeline, from the Mono Basin to a little south of Mt. Whitney.
The water table is very high in the Owens Valley, at least it is again now that groundwater pumping by LADWP has been banned by court order (it was drastically lowering the water table killing many trees and adversely affecting the wells of the local people who sued and won). As we drove along one stretch of river, there were a number of artesian springs bubbling to the surface and feeding water in small ditches into the river. One such spring had slightly warm water.
The climate in the Owens Valley is hot in the summer and pretty chilly during winter. Along the river there are lots of shrubby willows and cattails, with some larger trees including cottonwoods and willows. We saw a lot of fish in some of the holes and undercuts.

18 November 2012

Sierra Crest and Rabbit Brush

If one photograph were all I could use to show why the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada is one of the prettiest places to be, I think this image of the Sierras with thunderheads looming above and rabbit brush in full bloom captures the idea.
Mt. Morrison, just south of the Mammoth Lakes region. Rabbit brush is a very common high desert plant that blooms mid-summer and attracts lots of insects.

10 November 2012

Mule Deer in the Sierras

I love driving through Yosemite National Park, especially the Tuolumne Meadows area where large mammals can easily and often be seen. During the middle of the summer, a huge herd of male Mule Deer took up residence in the meadow. Early one morning as I was on my way across the park, I saw dozens of deer, all with huge racks of antlers. As the weeks went by and I visited the area again and again, those bucks were seen each time. Some days they were lying down, resting in the grass, other days they were seen nibbling on the willows that hug the banks of the Tuolumne River. The most deer I counted in one day was 60. All bucks! I don't know where the females were, but the males were mighty pretty.
One weekend I drove further north, up to the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, then went for a hike in a distant part of that park. The area was very dense with foliage and I got the feeling something was staring at me. Glancing into the brush, just a few yards off the trail was a beautiful buck. He was so perfect, so silent, so frozen at first I thought he was a statue.
During October I visited a grove of giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park and came upon a doe with 2 fawns who were nibbling the bark or perhaps lichen on a giant sequoia tree. The animals were very interactive. When a fawn got in the way of the doe, the larger animal used her front leg to push the little one away. Lifted it up, batting the small one over and over. A minute later the doe got in the way of the little deer and the smaller one batted at the doe with its hoof/leg.
California Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus)are found throughout California. They are a subspecies of Mule Deer which are found in western NA.