Spring Break 2010, Part 3 – Richfield, Utah

I hadn’t seen my sister, Polly, in a while, so when I heard that she and her kids were going to visit my mother in Richfield, Utah for a couple of weeks, I knew how I’d be spending my spring break. After leaving Death Valley, John and I stayed the night at a place west of Las Vegas called the Resort at Mount Charleston, which sounds a lot swankier than it is. The best part was driving up to and away from the place, because you go through the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest on Mt. Charleston, which looks to have some promising campsites and hiking trails.

We got to Richfield on Mar. 31, and when we arrived, my sister Polly was showing my mother all the discounted children’s clothes that she got at Fred Meyer’s in Seattle. Clearly she found a lot of good deals.

Both Polly and my other sister Megan were well into their pregnancies, so we did a big-belly comparison. I think Megan’s was bigger.

Whenever my siblings bring their kids on a visit, chaos ensues, but it’s a benign kind of chaos that is all about having fun. I have 16 nieces and nephews (I had 14 in March, but others have materialized since then), and most are eight and younger, so there’s a lot of energy that these little ones need to burn through. I have always had a great time with them, and it’s great being an uncle, because whenever one of them has a meltdown, I can simply hand the wee wailing one to its parents.

Here are some photos of the nieces and nephews doing the sorts of things they love to do at their grandmother’s house in Richfield.

And if you were to suppose that only the little ones like to dress up, you would be wrong. The grown-ups get into it just as much as the kids do. Polly had gotten hold of a stunning wig, and she demonstrated how to take best advantage of it. Marc then took it for a spin, because Marc and wigs are like hot dogs and pickle relish. Seeing as how we were all fixated on headwear at the moment, Mom broke out the hats. She keeps a collection of hats on hand, for just such occasions. And check out the great bag that Polly found. Accompanying the illustration at the center of the bag runs the caption “The Secret Ingredient Is Resentment,” which is just so true…

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Spring Break 2010, Part 2 – Death Valley

After our evening in Lone Pine, John and I got up early to spend a day in Death Valley before making our way to Utah to visit the family for spring break. As we made our way through the Owens Valley, huge dust clouds obscured the bleak landscape, and strong winds made staying on the 190, which eventually took us into Death Valley and to our first glimpse of its features.

We stopped the car at Father Crowley Point, and caught this view of Rainbow Canyon.

This was unexpected, as I hadn’t seen many pictures or read much to indicate that colorful rock and deep canyons were a part of Death Valley’s geography. The day’s trip would prove that Death Valley was a much more than the sand dunes and salt beds that figure so often in photos of the place.

After driving through Panamint Springs, we veered north through Stovepipe Wells Village, where we passed by the Panamint Dunes and over the Panamint Range. Strong wind continued to kick up the dust and dirt now and then, but we still had great views of this weird and beautiful scenery. In fact, the winds would be our biggest problem throughout the day, sometimes blasting our faces with grit and sand and sometimes so cold that we couldn’t linger at a viewpoint for very long. All the more reason to plan another trip here, I guess.

At Stovepipe Wells, the wind had died down some, and we made our way to the trail head of Mosaic Canyon, a short but scenic walk through some of the interesting rock formations in Death Valley.

Here’s John, who is not much of a hiker (he was good to oblige me on this trip), making his way through the canyon.

We drove by the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells, but didn’t stop, because the winds were stronger there, and we made our way through the clumps of arroweed with exposed roots that makes up Devil’s Cornfield.

We then started to head south, but stopped at the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, because I was hoping to see the pupfish that, against all odds, live in the hot and dry desert of Death Valley. These little guys have lived in various spots in Death Valley for thousands of years, adapting to water that is sometimes seven times as salt as that of the ocean and as warm as 104º. It was mating season for the pupfish, so they were very active and wriggly, each one frantically trying to get it on while the getting was good.

Here’s John taking in some pupfish love action. The plants you see in the photo are pickleweed, a type of plant that has figured out how to live on really salty water.

There weren’t as many wildflowers out as I’d hoped, but there were some around this area. I don’t know what they’re called, so don’t grill me.

At this point, we started to get hungry, so we stopped off at one of the only places in Death Valley with amenities like food: Furnace Creek Ranch. The wind had really kicked up at this point, so we were happy to get indoors to enjoy some lunch a some local brews. As we were eating, our friend Stacy came in with her girlfriend. They were camping nearby, and they reported that their tent had nearly blown away, but that they were surviving the desert gales and the cool nights.

Our next stop were to Badwater, the lowest point in the United States. Here again the wind was uncooperative, so we didn’t wander out into salt flats, but we did stay long enough to get a sense of the place. Sea level is above us:

And here’s John being bad and low:

As we backtracked up the Badwater Road, we took a detour along Artist’s Drive, a beautiful drive along a one-way road that takes you past some of the most colorful rock displays in Death Valley. We stopped at Artist’s Palette, where the colors are most spectacular.

Back on the 190, we made the short walk to Zabriskie Point, which features some of the best views in all of Death Valley. The wind was really animated here, and it felt as though our faces were being sandblasted.

Here’s John being whipped by the wind:

Our final Death Valley destination was Dante’s View, above the Badwater Basin. Again, the wind was unforgiving up here, but there were terrific end-of-the-day views of Death Valley and Telescope Peak, which at 11,050 feet is the highest point in the park.

It was a tourist’s whirlwind visit, but I got enough of a sense of Death Valley to know that I definitely want to spend more time exploring the park. I think a winter- or springtime camping trip would be great.

Spring Break 2010, Part 1 – Red Rock Canyon & the Alabama Hills

This year for spring break, John and I decided to visit my mother in Richfield, Utah, because my sister, Polly, and her children would also be there. But we decided to visit Death Valley along the way, because neither of us had ever been there. On March 29, we drove as far as Lone Pine, California, and along the way, we made a quick stop to Red Rock Canyon State Park, which features some very colorful rock formations. The place reminds me quite a lot of southern Utah.

We didn’t spend long here, but I’d like to go back sometime and do some further exploring of the area.

We made it to Lone Pine in the late afternoon, and after finding our hotel, we headed out to the Alabama Hills, which is the setting for many Hollywood films like Gunga DinHow the West Was Won, and Star Trek Generations and for TV shows such as The Lone Ranger and The Gene Autry Show. There are many natural arches in the Alabama Hills, but we just walked to the most famous one, the Mobius Arch.

The landscape is surreal and, at first glance, forbidding, but there seemed to be plenty of people camping in the hills, which is something I’d be interested in doing sometime. Our next-door neighbors say this is their favorite place to camp.

There were some wildflowers in bloom, as well. My favorite was the bright red one, that I think is called Crimson Locoweed.

And this plant featured an interesting dried pod.

In the distance you can see the Sierra Crest and Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 United States.

At the Interagency Visitor’s Center in Lone Pine, we’d been given a guide to a car route that points out a number of different named features you can see from the road, but we had a hard time picking them out. Still, it was a nice drive that provided a taste of what that area has to offer.

Back in Lone Pine, we ate some not-so-exciting pizza, and picked up a six pack of Mammoth Paranoids Pale Ale, which was pretty tasty.

Hite Cove Trail, Mar. 21, 2010

This year, the rains have been particularly plentiful in the Central Valley, and the snow-pack in the Sierras has been heavier than usual. So, I’ve been trying to take advantage of the lush displays of wildflowers that seem to have lasted especially long this spring. My first hike amongst the wildflowers was with the Fresno-Madera Hiking Meetup Group along the Hite Cove Trail, just east of Yosemite National Park.

Hite Cove is a site along the South Fork of the Merced River where Miwok Indians would often spend the winter months. Near here, James Savage established a trading post and, in 1851, upon discovering the post had been raided by Indians, Savage led the Mariposa Battalion to retaliate against them. Savage and his men chased the natives into the Yosemite Valley, thus becoming the first white men to lay eyes on the place.

Later, John Hite built a small town to facilitate his mining operations, which were the richest gold mines in Mariposa County, but now there are only stone foundations and rusted mining equipment that mark this late nineteenth-century settlement.

When we started our hike, I was happy to see the hills dotted with wildflowers, but the display wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped. I soon learned, however, that things would brighten up as the sun shone more brightly.

At about two and a half miles, we came across some stunning rock formations creating a shelf that jutted out into the South Fork of the Merced. They’re called “paisley rocks,” and they are some of the oldest rocks in the Yosemite area.

The river was in full flow, and the banks were a million shades of green.

Just before reaching the cove itself, we began to see evidence of the Hite mining operations: large pieces of rusting mining equipment dating back to 1899.

We also stumbled across the foundations of some of the town’s buildings, as well as some more recent examples of rusted metalwork.

We ate lunch at a beautiful spot at the cove and spent some time lolling about in the wildflowers.

The return trip, as I mentioned earlier, was even more spectacular, and we hiked through explosions of wildflowers. Here are some of the photos I took of them.

You can read more about the hike here and here.

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Fresno’s Rogue Festival, March 2010

April 30, 2010 1 comment

Since the 2004, my partner, John Jordan, has been involved in the organization of Fresno’s Rogue Festival, serving as one of its coordinators since 2005. This year he handed off the leadership to Airplayne Jayne and Renee Newlove, and it was a bittersweet year, as he was bidding goodbye to his role as festival organizer. During the period of his leadership, John took the Rogue to new heights, helping turn it into one of the largest Fringe-style festivals in North America. We’re both proud of what he’s accomplished, but we’re also looking forward to a life with a little less Rogue-related stress.

Since 2007, I’ve played a much more modest role: I’ve been the t-shirt guy. This really only requires my concerted efforts some couple months before the festival begins, as I hound the organizers for the final version of the graphic design (which always features a local artist’s rendition of a festival muse), and working with A-Mark T-Shirts to finalize the layout and set up a timetable for getting the shirts ready in time for the Rogue Festival kick-off party. I then organize a volunteer sales staff, train them, and fill in when volunteers don’t or can’t show up. The most difficult part is determining how many shirts of each style and size I should order, as festival-goers’ tastes and sizes seem to fluctuate from year to year.

This year, however, I nailed it, as I was left with a mere handful of t-shirts once the festival had ended—a big improvement over 2007, when I found myself with bins of extra shirts on my hands (and in my garage).

Here I am, the proud midwife of the 2010 Rogue Festival t-shirt:

As for the festival itself, it was yet another terrific eight days of fun and fabulous performances and art, featuring visual art, music, comedy, dance, theater, storytelling, magic, and more. I saw a number of great shows, including a top-notch production of Parallel Lives, some mesmerizing African dancing and drumming by Wadaba, a duet highlighting the strange and beautiful sounds of the didgeridoo, a compelling one-man show called Wanderlust, and Blake Jones’s latest project called The Underground Garden, which seeks to unearth Fresno’s music scene of the last several decades by interviewing the prominent personalities who have contributed to the scene.

But, as always, the best part of the Rogue Festival is being a part of it. I’m not a performer, and I’m not much of an organizer, but I get to contribute to making this thing happen, and that always feels great. Plus, I really like working with the wonderful and wacky volunteers who put this show on year after year.

On the last evening of the festival, we celebrated another successful festival at the Starline, which hosted out Big Rogue Party. Here’s John decked out in his princess-of-the-Rogue regalia, celebrating his final year as an organizer of the Rogue. Good job, John!

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Disneyland, Feb. 22, 2010

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Every year, my brother Aaron and his family visit Disneyland for a few days. Some years back, my brother Marc and his family were joining them, so I came down from Fresno to spend a couple of days with the my siblings and my nieces and nephews.

This year, my mother and stepfather and my youngest sister, Megan, and her husband and daughter decided they’d make the trip, so John and I went down to enjoy Disneyland with the wee ones.

We all stayed in the same hotel, directly across the street from the entrance to the park, and we ended the day with a pizza party in Marc and Veronica’s room.

The rest of the crew stayed a full three days at Disneyland, but John and I joined them for only one day, but it was the right day—a Monday in February—as the day remained beautiful (in spite of the predictions of rain). Here are some photos I took that day.

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Snowshoeing, Mariposa Grove, Yosemite NP, Feb. 28, 2010

April 13, 2010 1 comment

I’m still trying to get caught up with my blogging, and I’m taking the fact that I’m over a month behind as a good sign. It means that I’m doing stuff more than I’m blogging about it, and really, when faced with the options, I’d rather be doing than musing upon doing.

At the end of February, I joined some of the good folks of the Fresno-Madera Hiking Meetup Group for a day of snowhoeing in Yosemite National Park‘s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. I’ve been for walks in the Mariposa Grove in the summer months, but I’d never been snowshoeing anywhere in Yosemite. In fact, the last time I’d been snowshoeing was when I was a Boy Scout in Utah. On that trip, I remember trudging around in those snowshoes of yore that kind of look like tennis rackets. My memories of those trips include sore legs, wet feet, and choruses of pre-adolescent boys whining, “Are we there yet?”

Well, today’s snowshoes are a very different affair. They’re light-weight, high-tech gadgets with a swiveling mechanism that allows your foot to move without lifting the entire snowshoe up and down. In other words, snowshoeing today feels more like walking than padding about like an uncoordinated sea lion.

My pal Doug went along, because he wanted to test out some snowshoes his wife had given him as a gift some time ago, and I encouraged my friend Kathee to go, because she had been expressing a desire to head up into the parks and do some introductory snowshoeing. Kathee and I rented our shoes for what I considered a bargain ($9.95 for two days) at Sports Authority, and on the morning of the hike, the three of us joined the Meetup caravan heading up out of Fresno.

The road to the grove was closed due to snow, so we began by walking a mostly level couple of miles to the beginning of the loop. Here’s Kathee trekking along like a snow-pro:

And here’s a view from the road:

Once in the grove, the sun was shining and snow was drifting down from the trees, creating a shimmery effect in the air.

However, in the grove, the snow was less packed and the trails tended upward, so we were all putting forth more effort here, which is fine in my book. These opportunities for aerobic/cardiovascular activity come few and far between for me. Here I am—the very picture of health—taking a break in front of the Giant Grizzly (a sequoia about the size of a 747).

We were going to take a lunch break at the museum, but we couldn’t find it (for all we knew it was buried in snow beneath our feet), so we just plunked ourselves down in a sunny spot and ate some chow. Here’s Doug fueling up for the return portion of our walk:

We ended up snowshoeing nearly eight miles, and by the time we got back to the car, I was hooked. I’m looking forward to more snowshoeing this coming winter.