2014 Carlon Falls and Yosemite

Our 2014 adventures continued with a trip to Yosemite National Park for a few days in September. Our son and his better half met us there for some hiking and fishing. Yosemite, like most of the nation’s parks, requires reservations several months in advance. Luckily, Yosemite Lakes RV Resort had space for us. Although it was only 5.5 miles from the entrance, it was another 19 minutes to reach the valley.

View from our campsite at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort

Carlon Falls

We chose the Carlon Falls hike as our first activity. The trail to the falls is 2.8 miles roundtrip from the trailhead and travels through Yosemite National Park Wilderness. Six years after the August 2013 Rim Fire, the park’s website still warns of danger trekking through the burn area. Loose and falling rocks, and trees weakened from the fire and drought, could cause injury or even death to unsuspecting hikers.

Approaching the Yosemite National Park Wilderness gate on the Carlon Falls trail

In 2014, we found the trail well marked as we passed through burned-out logs and fire scared tree trunks and then we entered a lush green forest and underbrush. The south fork of the Tuolumne River meandered through the rocks and vegetation as it made its way toward the main river.

One year after the 2013 fire, these little seedlings had sprouted among the charcoal debris. I wonder if they survived the remaining drought and harsh conditions.

Little sprouts vying for survival in the ashes

The trail seemed to disappear just short of the falls, blocked by huge boulders.

The holes in the granite reveal a powerful river compared to what we saw.
Kevin navigates the boulders with ease
No, this isn’t an ad for Arrowhead water, just a cute pick of Bailey
JT sizes up a fish he saw

I wasn’t quite as quick to scramble over the impediments as the others, especially with my pack strapped to my back and a camera slung around my neck. I’m not so sure it was worth it given our visit was in the fall during the middle of what turned out to be a seven-year drought.

Carlon Falls

Images of the falls online show a wall of water rushing over the granite wall and mist rising from the pool. During our visit, it was not such a spectacular sight due to the drought, but it was peaceful back there. With birds flitting among the trees, squirrels scampering about, and the water tumbling over the granite wall and gently splashing into the pond, it was the perfect respite after the boulders.

Fishing

Fishing is not allowed in the Park, but at the Carlon Falls parking and picnic area, there is access to the south fork of the Tuolumne River. The gang grabbed their gear, baited up, and stood back to wait for the fish to come and take a taste of whatever goodies covered up the hook.

Fishing is not my thing. I just can’t bring myself to hurt the rainbow-striped critters, so off I trotted up and down the stream looking for interesting artifacts to photograph. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Obviously, the water runs deep enough at times to erode the soil from these tree roots
A granite wall keeps the water in check
Layers upon layers upon layers of graffiti, modern-day petroglyphs, on the bridge support
Raindrops cling to branches after a short rain
Poisonous or edible? I’ll leave it for the bears.
Lichen growing on a downed tree limb
A bridge over peaceful waters
Watch your step across the reflecting pool
Let’s see. One, two, three, . . . Perhaps 30 years old?

When I returned from my photo walk, the gang had caught enough trout for a small dinner feast. I may not like to fish, but I sure do like to eat them.

Yum, dinner!

Yosemite

Tunnel View Overlook

On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill creating the Yosemite Grant, which was turned over to California to operate. The area surrounding the grant became Yosemite National Park in 1890.

From left, Jon Todd (my hubby), Bailey Bishop (Kevin’s better half), and Kevin Todd (my son)

Seeing damage caused by overgrazing and other commercial activities in and near the park, John Muir, among many other conservationists, lobbied President Theodore Roosevelt to have the federal government take control of the grant and expand and protect the park. Three years later, Roosevelt signed the bill that accomplished the conservationist’s goal.

Site of meeting between Muir and Roosevelt
Jon, Bailey, and Kevin with El Capitan in the background
Half Dome, of course

With limited time to visit Yosemite, we selected a one-way bus ride to Glacier Point and a hike down the mountain on Four Mile Trail. I was concerned my knees might falter on the 3,200′ downhill slope.

We joined the crowds along the paths and overlooks around the visitor’s center to marvel at the breathtaking views.

View from Glacier Point overlook
Half Dome in the shadows
The ancient art of marking up an object with petroglyphs and pictographs lives on in modern times
“Come on, everybody, here we go.”
Rear of Half Dome
“Look at this great pic I took.”
Way down in the valley there are roads and vehicles and buildings. At this distance, they fade into the scenery.
Never can take too many pictures of Half Dome
Nevada Falls
Gnarly tree stump
“Yes, dear. You’re so strong and handsome.”
Four Mile Trail continues around the giant granite slab
A fern finds a perch
First sign of fall

My knees held up during the hike thanks to the switchbacks that eased the descent. We all were glad to come to the end, visit the restroom, and head back to our vehicle. I’d sure like to try hiking up the trail someday.

Safe Travels

154th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games 2019

Each Labor Day weekend, tartan and kilted-clad folks descend on the Alameda County Fairgrounds for the annual Scottish Highland Gathering and Games. Labor Day 2019 marked the 154th year of celebrating Scottish heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Caledonian Club of San Francisco has continuously run the annual games since its founding on November 24, 1866. From their humble beginnings as a picnic with a few athletic events, the games have marched through the years with never a break. Two world wars and the 1906 earthquake could not stop the dedication of the club to celebrate their heritage. The Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, California, has been the home of the games since 1994. It is one of the largest ethnic festivals in the United States.

My grandson Jackson and I began our visit soaring above the crowds on the sky ride to get our bearings and catch a glimpse of the festival from a birds-eye view.

The Sky Ride

Colorful canopies and chairs lined the area where the pipe bands gathered for practice ahead of their competitions.

Band members set up for practice

The concentration of 30 or more bands created a cacophony of sound that was actually more soothing than expected. The addition of drums that accompanied the pipes sent vibrations through my chest, stirring memories of standing on the curb watching parade marching bands pass by.

Pipes practicing before their competition
Pipe band performing in the competition

Food vendors offered American and Scottish dishes as well as the typical festival fare like funnel cakes, kettle korn, beignets, and waffles. Fancy a bit of alcohol? Step right up to the World of Beer stand, grab a pint of Guinness, or enjoy a sampling of some of the finest scotches, bourbons and whiskeys.

Food vendors galore
From hamburgers to haggis, this festival has it all

I opted for a Shepherd’s Pie for my lunch. Jackson ordered Teriyaki chicken. After a few bites he said he couldn’t eat any more Asian-type food, so he fed his meal to the trash can instead of his tummy. Maybe he was still full from the french toast at breakfast.

It was overwhelming to look at the schedule and choose which activities to take in so I let Jackson lead the way. Our first stop was the Living History section. We sat in on a presentation by Mead and Meadow Crafters Guild where we learned about the plants and herbs that treat itching, migraines, and fever; how the lowly snail helps reduce scars while healing and that sphagnum moss is a natural antibiotic that can be used to pack wounds.

Mead and Meadow Crafters Guild

Other groups demonstrated different weapons used to either protect the queen and her entourage or guard against invading marauders.

Chainmaille and spears on display
Helmets and daggers
“Swords, here. Get your swords.”

This fellow demonstrated using a chain like a whip. I never knew a chain could mack a sound like a whip until the man swirled the chain around and around over his head and snapped it so hard it made a loud crack. Imagine the ripping of flesh as the chain slices through an arm, a leg, or a face. Yikes! Grab me some sphagnum moss to mop up the blood.

Whipping up a chain

One group gave lessons on sword fighting and another group offered archery lessons, for extra fees, of course. We found a shady spot to watch the sword-fighting lessons for a bit.

“Okay, you hold your sword straight out and I’ll try to hit it.”

Then we ventured over to the Sheep Dog Trials. We both found it fascinating to watch how the handler and the dog worked together to corral the sheep. Most of the time the three sheep stuck together like Velcro, but occasionally one of them would go rogue and rush back to the safety of her pen, her 60 other friends, and food.

“Good little lambs, follow me.”

Jackson takes a break under the misting canopy.

“Om, om, om.”

Mary Queen of Scots was in attendance with her entourage, brought to you by St. Andrew’s Noble Order of Royal Scots along with a group of nobles, the Royal Scots, stating their allegiance to the Queen. They also take strolls through the grounds throughout the day.

Mary Queen of Scot’s chalices and other artifacts
The Royal Scots

When the sun and heat reached a level that was too hot for comfort, visitors moseyed on over to one of the 6 stages where live bands played traditional and Celtic music, inviting guests to dance.

The band Tempest

Highland dancing was another favorite of visitors. Oh, my. Such energy they had as they stomped their feet in complicated steps and swung their partners around in a circle, all while belting out the words of a song.

Energetic dancers

The Gathering of the Clans was another place for visitors to keep cool and learn about their Scottish heritage at one of the 100 booths. The shady walnut trees provided plenty of respite from the sun.

Gathering of the Clans booths

While walking to the Gathering of the Clans booths, one must stop and gawk at the British automobiles.

British cars on display

Although not a large collection of vehicles, I found the Morgan +4 and its baby of interest. The Morgan Motor Company began operations in 1909 and still makes the +4 today along with three other models.

Morgan +4 and baby Morgan

The three-wheeler in the following photo was also produced by the Morgan Motor Company from 1932 to 1952. A new model is also in production.

Morgan 3 wheeler

Another alternative to cooling off is to explore the commercial buildings where all manner of Scottish goods are available for sale.

The commercial buildings filled with gifts, clothing, jewelry, food, and so much more

Need an outfit to wear? The selection ranges from the fancy dresses for royals to everyday wear for the merchants and servants. Wool kilts, sweaters, scarves and all the paraphernalia that goes along with the costume. Or maybe pirate attire is more to your liking. Craving shortbread cookies for that taste of the old country? Vendors had plenty of choices to select from.

And what would a gathering and games be without the games? Weight for distance consisted of 14, 28, 42, or 56-pound metal ball at the end of a ring and chain with the goal of flinging it the farthest.

Weight for distance

Putting the stone is similar to American shot put events. Men use a stone that weighs 26.6 pounds while women use a 16-pound stone.

Putting the stone

Eight teams competed this year in the five-a-side soccer event.

Five-a-side soccer

Other athletic events included weight for height, the Scottish hammer, and tossing the caber. Highland dancing competitions were also held.

The Scottish Gathering and Games truly has something for everyone from young to old no matter their passions or ancestry. For a fun time, visit a Scottish Gathering and Games near you.

Safe Travels

 

Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco for Photo Workshop

We drove over the bridge and through The City to a motel near the Palace of Fine Arts on August 3, 2019. It was time for me to take advantage of a discounted workshop that came with my new camera purchase.

Palace of Fine Arts with foggy skies

I tried night photography a few times with no success. My dream of capturing the Milky Way or stars streaking across the sky always ended with a couple of itty-bitty dots on an otherwise black image. Here was my opportunity to learn how it is done.

Seagulls stake their claim on the heads of the weeping ladies

Wearing a T-shirt under a long-sleeve shirt, a jacket, and a knit cap, I arrived at the palace with my gear. Andy and Reza, the instructors from Mike’s Camera, traveled up and down the line of photographers assisting with settings, pointing out images to capture, and encouraging all of us to create the best photos we could.

Decorative panels surround the top of the rotunda

I shoot handheld about 98% of the time. Although I had practiced setting up the tripod the day before, I was not familiar with how to switch it from the landscape position to portrait. I needed assistance and in the process, I was gently advised that my tripod was a piece of junk (my words) and I should buy a better one.

Where did that blue sky come from? (ISO 100 23mm, f/8.0, 13″)

Pointing my camera at the sky above to search out stars was not possible, nor were we able to capture a golden hour sunset. Fog had already rolled in for the night and every once in a while the wind would blast my lens and face with mist.

Yellow lights color the foggy sky (ISO 250, 19mm, f/11.0, 15″)

So what is the Palace of Fine Arts and why was it built? Still recovering from the devastating earthquake of 1906, San Francisco hosted the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in 1915.

Detail of weeping ladies

Architect Bernard R. Maybeck designed the palace for exhibiting art during the exposition. The Beaux-Arts style evokes Roman and Ancient Greek architecture and gives the impression of a Roman ruin with its colonnade, grand rotunda, and pond. The weeping ladies facing into the tops of columns may elicit a feeling of sadness and solemnity.

Colonnade

The Palace is one of 10 such buildings built for the PPIE. None of the temporary buildings were constructed to last beyond the exposition. Citizens of San Francisco thought the Palace too beautiful to meet the fate of a wrecking ball, so it was saved from destruction. After World War II, the building served as a military storage depot, a warehouse for the Parks Department, a telephone book distribution center, and temporary headquarters for the Fire Department.

Rotunda ceiling

In 1959, Assemblyman Caspar Weinberger led an effort to restore the Palace through public and private funding. Philanthropist Walter S. Johnson contributed $2 million to complete the restoration of the building into a permanent structure. In 1962, the Palace of Fine Arts League, a 506( c ) 3 non-profit was established and eight years later, the park, rotunda, and Palace of Fine Arts Theatre opened. Additional renovations of the lagoon, walkways, and a seismic retrofit were completed in early 2009.

One of the angels in the rotunda

Located in the Marina District of San Francisco, the Palace is a favorite location for photographers, marriage proposals, and weddings. Locals come for a stroll around the park, grab a seat on one of the many benches, and watch the sunset on fog-free evenings. With no sunset to view during our visit, we all waited for the lights to illuminate the structure and bath it in soft yellow and orange light.

Don’t harass the swans, they fight back.

I had fun at the workshop and am ready to sign up for another one. Like many photographers, I mostly learned the art form through books, online articles, video courses, and trial and error. The workshop introduced me to other people who are passionate about photography and eager to learn new skills. The major takeaway from the night, besides needing a new tripod, was learning to use the exposure triangle tools in my camera.

Obviously, one workshop does not make a night photographer. These photos are definitely not award-winning specimens. But I’ll experiment with settings and practice what I learned until I’m able to capture the sharpest image possible given the available light.

Safe Travels

The California Lost Coast and Humboldt Redwoods State Park

A few days among the giant redwoods sounded like a good idea before we concluded our 2014 Pacific Northwest adventure. We settled in at The Ancient Redwoods RV Park where the Immortal Tree stands. The tree survived a lightning strike that removed approximately 50 feet from its height in 1908 and a flood in 1964, two recent life-threatening events that have occurred during its 950 – 1,000 years.

Immortal Tree

Lost Coast

We drove around the next day and chanced upon one of those roads that made us ask, “I wonder where that goes.” Over bumpy terrain we traveled, up hills and down hills, through small settlements in the middle of what looked like nowhere until we arrived at Shelter Cove.

Mal Coombs Park

Cape Mendocino Lighthouse located at Mal Coombs Park in Cape Mendocino attracted our attention. First lit on December 1, 1868, the US Coast Guard abandoned the building at its original location in 1948 when it installed a new beacon light on higher ground. For the next 50 years, salt spray, punishing winds and torrential rains deteriorated the lighthouse until a group of citizens gained control, restored, and installed it at Mal Coombs Park.

Cape Mendocino Lighthouse

Near the lighthouse stands a statue and marker honoring Mario Machi, a founder of Shelter Cove along with his brothers Tony and Babe. The marker states he survived the Bataan Death March and three years of captivity in World War II. How wonderful that the man was so loved the town saw fit to honor him.

Beloved founder and resident Mario Machi

Not far from the lighthouse, we found tide pools to explore.

Crashing waves not far from tide pools

The clear water made it easy to spot sea life among the shallow waters.

Clear, clear water

I almost missed seeing the crab among the pebbles, shells, and bones.

Hey, what you looking at?

This was our first experience seeing a chiton shell. Our marine biologist friend later told us chitons are common. Thanks, Ray for educating us.

Chiton shell

Another first for us was the turban snails with their colorful purple and blue shells, definitely my favorite.

Turban Snails

A mile or so up the road along the coast we stopped for a photo op, catching a little wave action and capturing flowers nestled in the grass.

Coastline
Bouquet of flowers nestled in the grass

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

We never tire of walking among the California redwood trees and the Humboldt Redwoods State Park did not disappoint. The 53,000-acre park includes 17,000 acres of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest known tree species in the world. They average in height from 150 – 250 feet tall and can exceed 350 feet, with a diameter of 20 feet or more. The bark on a mature tree can be one foot thick.

Searching for the top

Rather than a taproot like most trees, the root system of a redwood is shallow and extends up to 100 feet outward connecting with the root systems of other trees. I once heard on a podcast that trees communicate with each other and share resources through their root systems. If one tree needs nutrients to survive, the other trees will pitch in. The trees also possess a natural resistance to fire, disease, and insects, which contributes to their long life.

Jon and Linda standing by a root

The trees can live several 100 years or even more than 2,000 years. Consequently, they are the oldest tree species in the world. High winds and flooding are the trees’ enemies.

There’s the top

A tree can reproduce when one of its seeds germinate (a rare occurrence) or when a new tree sprouts from the root of a parent or from burls. Seedlings that survive can grow more than 1 foot per year.

Hey, here I am.

Besides the old-growth forest, the park contains 250 campsites for tents and RVs 24 feet in length or shorter, 100 miles of hiking, biking, and riding trails, and the scenic 32-mile Avenue of the Giants. Driving along the Avenue of the Giants at times is like driving through a tunnel lined with the magnificent trees.

Giant ferns for a giant tree

Thanks to Henry Fairfield Osborn, John C. Merriam, and Madison Grant, who formed Save the Redwoods League in 1918. Without their perseverance and fundraising, the trees may not have survived the loggers’ axes.

Have a seat, or maybe not.

Dyerville Overlook

On our way back to our temporary home, we stopped at the Dyerville Overlook near Garberville. We would have expected more water running in the Eel River during May. A little research revealed dams and diversions limit the amount of water that flows at this location. They also maintain sufficient water to sustain fish populations during the dry season and prevent the type of flooding that occurred in 1955 that destroyed the Dyerville settlement and the one in 1964 which wiped out four other communities.

Abandoned railroad bridge

The bridge once carried Northwestern Pacific Railroad traffic between Eureka and San Francisco. Sadly, the railroad suffered the same fate as the communities destroyed by the floods. The graffiti painted train engine shown in our Eureka, California, blog post may have once rolled over the bridge in its heyday.

We started this series with the tulips in Washington, and end with a couple more flowers of a different varieties.

Yum, yum, gettin’ me some nectar
Purple flower

Fifth Wheel Dreams

Throughout our travels on this trip, we continued to find fault with our little trailer and dreamed of the Cougar fifth wheel we saw in Washington. Along our route we stopped in at a dealer in Oregon and another one in Petaluma, California. After perusing the pamphlets and climbing in and out the various styles and sizes, we made our choice. One month later, we were the proud owners of a new truck and fifth wheel, enjoying the outdoors on a shakedown cruise.

We gained elbow room in our new trailer.

Since then we have checked out the new models of all brands at the annual RV show at our local fairgrounds and during our travels. To date we have yet to find another model or size that would suit us any better. After five years we are satisfied with our purchase. Now if we can get back on the road to enjoy it, we would be super happy campers. Soon. Hopefully, soon.

Safe Travels