Monday, November 30, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sundogs are a phnomenon which occur when the plate-like ice crystals in high cirrus clouds are shifted with the wind so that direct light is refracted through each crystal at 60-degrees. Sundogs can also form in low-lying ice clouds and generally become further from the sun as it rises and closer as it falls. Sometimes, when there is a sundog to one side of the sun, there will be an equal and opposite sundog that creates the appearance of a halo around the sun. They are said to appear anywhere in the world and at any time of day, but I have seen few in my lifetime and they seem to concentrate in early-spring for Kansas and Missouri.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Traffic outside of the city was hellacious- oncoming lanes flowed free but as we neared the Dam we rolled slower and slower. Neither Kelly nor I had a clue as to what was creating the miles-long line. Then there was the sign: "Police Security Checkpoint ahead". Windows were left down, sunglasses removed, smiles and all of the rest of the police-protocol was done and an hour or so later we were waved on and not pulled aside to be sniffed or searched or whatever they wanted.
The creep down to the Dam continued until we found that it would cost us some sum of money to park. Kelly offered to pay, but opted to be cheap with me and I did a quick U-ey to catch the lookout that we'd passed not to far back. They're building a new bridge over the river that offered better views than the famous dam- still Hoover was exceptional! Our adventure was had after we split for the turn-off to Lake Mead- we found a cool little beach to walk and the water was SO blue! Kelly and I picnicked-it out of the bed of the truck before a nice stroll down the waterline. Families played in the water- it was a little cold for me! I caught interest in the Zebra-muscle shells that littered the beach. She recognized the name and associated it with problems that she'd heard of before. Look at the little buggers: its too bad theyre so cool-lookin'! I spotted a wharf/lookout-thing that needed to be visited- we took the short drive and started walkin-
Kelly thought same as I did. "It sure is further than it looks, huh?"
I played with the cool schists and crystals that I found along the way and she pretended to be interested in learning about them. There was one final climb to do and we found ourselves looking over hundreds of miles of shoreline, including our green beach! We talked philosophy and got deep into wondering how life can take you places. I got to thinkin' about the future and Kelly settled my mind with an awesome john Lennon quote that Id not heard before. "Life" she said, "is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I like it. Kelley smiled for a photo and we figured out that another night in Vegas was what was to be had.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My three-day Lift Operators training started on Thursday, but Saturday was all mine. I drove up onto the Mountain and was skiing early. The things felt awkward on my feet and I took the Discovery run several times. I nearly fell on the thin west slope- my third slow ride down the hill-I wouldn't have been the only one on my butt!
I rode up the lift first with a man from San Diego who was working on his second day of trying to learn the Snowboard. Despite the bruises on his body he seemed to have a smile on his face and was a little confused when he learned that I had come from Kansas. "You ain' in Kansas no more!" The joke seems to be much more common up here than the Twister and Toto ones that were rampant on my visit to Colorado.
They called it a Bluebird-Day- referring to the cloudless sky and the warm air. People on the hill favor this weather, though it seems to be the worst for business while there is so little snow on the ground.
Upon Graduating to The Broadway- the most popular intermediate run on the hill- I rode up lift #1 with a New Jersey couple who warned me of the ice patches on the top. From there, the minarets and whatever peak that is were stunning! I drifted down past the Stump Alley lift to avoid the traffic and take some pics of riders coming off the ridge. ..
With the camera stowed I crossed my fingers and left the safety of flat. It was easy to go as slow as I wanted- Once I found that lifting my uphill ski would let me turn fast and brake. All that stuff they tell you about making a V with your skis to slow down was kinda useless on the steeper parts of the Broadway. I dared to increase my speed on the following lifts and found it amazing how quickly this whole skiing thing came back to me! I did run after run and felt that I'd mastered the Broadway! From there, it was to the top!
They call it "The top of the Sierra." I slid from the peak of Mammoth down to whatever shoot or bowl is a few closer to the Roadrunner and held my breath for the first big drop!
The sound of my skis was something that I'd forgotten and love! Its something close to the sound of a rushing stream, only it was powerful and at my command (most of the time). The fastest part was done and I couldn't help but look up to see what I'd conquered! Cold powdered ice drifted from the slope- The stuff that I'd helped to make airborne on my way down.
I slowed down to pass an injured skier and hit a patch of hard ice that wouldn't allow me to turn or slow. For only a moment I was out of control, but it definitely gave me a nice scare!
I was fortunate not to fall until a little ways after the ice- My first spill of the day, and head-first!
I skipped to a stop and carried one ski uphill to retrieve the other. "Wipe-Out!" a passing boarder shouted in spirit. I was still a bit rattled to offer any good come-backs. ...'took the run to the bottom of Chair #2, the Stump Alley Express, to take me back up to the top of Broadway for my last exhausted go of the day - just a few hours before closing. I'd forgotten how sore it makes you, too... I might just enjoy it up here!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
A return to the house- I got to meet her two siblings for the first time and the family crunched-in to fit me at the dinner table. Dad said a short prayer- I felt a bit awkward bowing my head to participate, but still I felt welcomed.
COMPLETED IN THE LATE SUMMER OF 1910, THE CARPENTERS BLUFF BRIDGE WAS DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND MAJOR FLOODS SUCH AS THE ONE IN 1908 THAT HAD DESTROYED SEVERAL AREA BRIDGES. ITS DESIGN ALSO INCLUDED A WAGON SHELF, AN EXTRA LANE TO SERVE TRAVELERS ON FOOT AND HORSEBACK, AS WELL AS HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLES, ALL OF WHOM HAD TO PAY A TOLL FOR ITS USE.
IN 1921, OWNERSHIP PASSED TO THE KANSAS, OKLAHOMA AND GULF RAILWAY CO., WHICH MAINTAINED THE LINE UNTIL 1965, WHEN THE COMPANY CEASED OPERATIONS IN TEXAS DUE TO DECLINING RAIL TRAFFIC. THE TEXAS & PACIFIC RAILROAD MAINTAINED THE BRIDGE FOR A BRIEF TIME AND THEN DEEDED IT TO THE COUNTIES OF GRAYSON AND BRYAN. COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AGREED TO CONVERT THE STRUCTURE FOR VEHICULAR TRAFFIC, AND UPON COMPLETION OF THAT WORK, THE BRIDGE WAS OPENED AS A FREE PUBLIC THOROUGHFARE.
SPANNING THE RED RIVER SINCE 1910, THE CARPENTERS BLUFF BRIDGE REMAINS A SIGNIFICANT PART OF GRAYSON COUNTY’S HISTORY."
I started driving after a night at the old Sherman house- after dark, again. Kelly and I had an awesome goodbye- it was hard not to start spewing travel plans at her- she proposed a couple of road-trippy ideas herself! From Sherman, through Amarillo and all of the way to a 2am rest-stop just 11 miles from the New Mexico Border... Despite a short encounter with a TX hwy patrol-dude (issued me a ticket for having one of my license plate-lights out, @#&*er!) I was out to make time to California! My alarm was set for 6...
I rolled with traffic for an hour or so. Another truck had closed the interstate- this time with a crunched cab and a no front axle or wheels. He didn't flip, but had plowed through the brush and snow north from the road. His missing axle- bent and many yards from the cab, and another deformed something was lodged against a pole about a tenth of a mile from his place of rest. We filed back onto the Interstate only 30 miles from Gallup.
Only 30 miles later, my credit cards which payed for all of my gas had been cancelled- AFTER I owed a great sum for the gas that i filled the tank with. I called my parents who received a call from the card company notifying them of some suspicious activity in Gallup. Yep, that was me. My mom gave me another card number acceptable to the clerk and I was freed.
By flagstaff my money was turned on again and by sunset I was stuck in the Security-mess before crossing Hoover dam. At 5mph, all of the backside of the Dam was lit up, beautiful and impressive!
Again I laid down my gas money in Las Vegas. Gas was up nearly 30c/gallon from when I visited Kelly in Plano. I drove north where I would cross Death Valley and face my final few hours on the Eastern Sierra. A sign to Pahrump- the city of nearly 40,000 in the middle of nowhere. Pahrump is a modern phenomenon- unincorporated and in the Pahrump valley of 2700feet, originally inhabited by the Shoshone. Until Las Vegas boomed in the '60s, there were no paved roads or telephones in the Valley. I cut across the north end of town on Bell Vista Ave and faced incredible darkness to the west. Not much of a moon, if there was one. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim- appropriate for having entered California, but the Hotel was nowhere to be found. I grew sleepy enough to feel unsafe driving and so desperate as to park the truck at Death Valley Junction for the night. At nearly 1, I rolled down the windows and slipped into the back for another few chilly hours.
I drove to watch the sunlight sweep across vast Death Valley for the first time since it retreated at sunset. Instantly a warm world appeared that did not exist in the cold night. Birds were more common than I'd seen them in the past few days. Finch-things mostly, but a huge circling flock of what appeared to be snow geese revealed themselves above the Valley floor-. They flew at an altitude nearly equal to the surrounding peaks- Big, white things with black wings. Near Furnace Creek, I was just 18miles from Badwater, the lowest point in the US at 282 feet above sea level, and 110miles from the highest point in the lower 48: Mt. Whitney, 14505ft. As the crow flies, Badwater in only 76 miles from Whitney.The small village/resort at Furnace Creek is also known for having the highest recorded temp in the Western Hemisphere at 134degrees F.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Bill estimated that sixty or seventy volunteers were in attendance from some of Kansas City's universities and made a killer introduction speech on the picnic tables behind the between the hall and the edge of the recently-burned section of The Hill. A lucky handful of Master Naturalists volunteered to work the sunny morn and led groups through the day on areas from the Quarry up to the dining hall.
Woodlands were opened after only the first few minutes of work and smiles were abound. I recognized several folks and it was good to see people again.
The workday's photos were my assignment- shared with Robert Gaines. The city had asked for pics, and Wildlands can always use them. I stuck around to photo Bill's speech and tagged onto a group working around the hall at first. I met students from St Louis and Kansas City and an old classmate from Lincoln High. Volunteers were asked to stick in groups of two or three to manage the cutting and hauling of the bushes, and herbicide (Tordon) application as separate tasks. The small groups who did stick together seemed much more efficient than those who attempted to work individually or in larger numbers. Still, I found nobody who was having a bad time, and work was being done everywhere I wandered. For nearly two hours, the invasive Honeysuckle bushes were cleared around the buildings atop the hill. From here, I followed students down towards the quarry where two more groups worked vigorously. I sparked conversations and few seemed to mind the camera. The fella in blue, above, tore through the biggest trees with a handsaw for his herbicide partners and I got a smile and a laugh when I pronounced him my #1 model.
I hope that Robert got some good pics- mine were okay. It certainly wont take too many more of these workdays to clear the planned acres if volunteers continue to be as enthusiastic as today's group. Less importantly, the huge turnout helped too. .. Maybe we could blame all of the fun happening on the excellent 70-degrees!
Honeysuckle may continue to grow in the cleared areas because of the strong, century-old seed bank that exists in the dirt, but continued burning will help to suppress saplings and kill shallow seeds.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
My brother found an extraordinary leaf in the lawn. It was so colourful and perfect he brought it in to show! I shaded the window with a white sheet and took a dozen shots or so- came out with some pretty cool ones. It looked like a SweetGum leaf until I realized that there are only Maples around. Maybe it was blown from another block!?
Mr. Rizzo dropped the beginning of a backfire on the Southwest corner of our ~15 acre burn area. The first minutes were fast and intense while the fire spread swiftly up towards an open ridge- propelled by an unexpected wind-tunnel from the large lake that was the western border of the area.
Given recent discoveries of red bats hibernating in grass and leaf litter, it is likely that some die as a result of controlled burning in winter, especially in deciduous forests."
Bill became worried and wondered if we should go back into the fire to assist with whatever had complicated his short line-check. I grabbed the water-pack again- Bill had the rakes and we walked swiftly down the line. It was on that silly southeastern bend- near where Larry had began the flank- that we found him struggling with a trio of burning logs. He was happy to receive the help, though the logs were in the black and not an emergency- The three of us broke the things apart as best we could and I emptied that heavy pack.... What a burn!