Saturday, August 25, 2012

habitat ~ 08/25/12 ~ San Luis Reservoir State Rec Area

August 25, 2012

Yellow, yellow... green? It felt like I had abruptly left black and white Kansas and ended up in Technicolor Munchkinland (see previous post). Instead of a yellow brick road, I had to pass through yellow grassy slopes. The first photo above is a decent comparison shot to the one I posted for November 24, 2011 when those shrubs in the foreground were submerged in water. I don't know if the level of the reservoir water is unusually low this summer given the lack of rain we had last winter.

It's funny, whenever I go through dry grassy CA hills, I see shapes of dinosaurs. This is based on a whole string of myths and erroneous connections from my childhood mind's eye. In the 1970's, I watched episodes of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom that incorrectly described how elephants traveled to graveyards to die and showed birds on hippos. I didn't make the distinction between large, leathery skinned mammals and dinosaurs. Then, thanks to Sinclair Oil's logo, I figured fossil fuels came from Brontosaurus (properly classified as Apatosaurus). I at least knew dinosaurs were extinct. So, during summer vacations to the coast as we passed through the Kettleman Hills, I came to the conclusion that numerous massive dinosaurs must have congregated there for their final die-off, were loosely covered with drifting dirt through thousands of years, formed the sloping hills with dried grassy blankets, turned into oil underneath, and now had pumpjacks like a flock of monstrous drinking birds on their backs. Ah, the wild imagination of children.

Speaking of the 1970's, I remember studying handout supplements in grade school for renewable energy as a result of the energy crisis. Over 30 years have passed since then, and our progress away from reliance on fossil fuels seems to be slow. Sure, there are two forms of green energy shown in the first picture of the San Luis Reservoir area, hydropower and wind power, but is that enough?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

great blue heron ~ 08/16/12 ~ at home

great blue heron
Ardea herodias

posted 08/25/12 - Grey, gray, blue? Fog, fog, bird. Heavy sigh. The typical CA coastal fog this summer has really sunk deep into my mood this year. We call it June Gloom, even though up here in Pacific Grove hundreds of miles from SoCal the drizzly fog hits hardest in July and August. I haven't been motivated to go out and take pictures of what I find. Silly really since in neighboring Monterey the fog often burns off by the afternoon. Today we're heading 3 hours inland to the Central Valley for my family reunion. A cousin reminded me how lucky I am to live in coastal summer weather. The forecast there is 99°F (37°C), "cooler" than the 110.4°F (43.5°C) from a couple weeks ago. Yellow, yellow, brown, here we come.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

habitat ~ 08/04/12 ~ Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

The only reason why we were up at Henry Cowell, about an hour away from home, was so Andy could volunteer for the relatively new Inside Trail Racing group. For his time, he'll get free admission to another race. I'm glad he didn't run this race, because invariably people get stung by yellowjackets anytime an organized trail run goes through redwoods. Sure enough there were a handful of people who had stings by the finish line. We believe the repeated disturbance by runners agitates nests in the soft ground. Andy once had to cut short a 50K to "only" 30K at nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park since he was stung a couple dozen times within the first half hour of his run and was quite uncomfortable. Yet, given a choice of trail mischief, he would rather have stings over poison-oak. Um, no thanks to both.

The last time we were here was 7 years ago when we took our nieces to ride a train in the adjacent Roaring Camp Railroads. It was an enjoyable visit with a staged train robbery and a short jaunt through the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. This time I wanted to explore other parts of the park on my own. It's definitely a family friendly place with a carnival-like atmosphere at the railroad, shallow and wadeable San Lorenzo River, car camping up the hill, and a great nature center. Thanks to the nature center, I learned about stump sprouts, which explains why redwoods are often found growing in a circular pattern even if the stump is no longer present. It also had a nice presentation of the lime kiln and logging history of the area. Once I got away from the kiddie crowds and the race trails, I enjoyed my hike a little more. Near the observation deck at 800 ft, I was surprised to find the burned area of the Santa Cruz Sandhill Chaparral considering all the houses in the area. I'll be curious to see if their winter/spring fires will actually achieve their goal of preserving rare plants and animals. Overall, unless we have kids in tow, I doubt we'll return to Henry Cowell, because its habitat is so similar to several nearby parks with fewer visitors.

golden chinquapin ~ 08/04/12 ~ Henry Cowell Redwoods

posted 08/06/12 - Chinquapin. I'm amazed at the various pronunciations of this word, just like I was surprised at how quinoa is inconsistently pronounced. The etymology of chinquapin supposedly has an Algonquian reference to chestnut.

Unfortunately, I will now always associate the word with inexplicable mass shootings. Why? On our way home from camping at Mt. Madonna on Friday, July 20, with thoughts of blogging about the pictures of chinquapins that I took there, we heard on the radio of the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater. Then, yesterday morning Sunday, August 5, as I was about to blog on the pictures shown above, I found the news of another mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. What is wrong with people!?! Add in the current chaos in Syria, and I barely want to go online to check e-mails, blogs, or Olympics upates.

Nature is starting to cease being a comfort to me. I can't seem to bury my head in the sand deep enough. I can feel the currents of tension in the air. It is filled with sadness and grief. Chinquapin.