Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ES - Day 4: Bishop, Bristle Cone Pines; Marcia

In Search of Ancient Gnarly

Turns out my good friend Marcia isn't a morning person either.  So we picked her up at 10ish for our big adventure today.

We started out by going to the Mountain Light Gallery.  It celebrates the work and lives of Galen and Barbara Rowell.  Galen was this amazing photographer who specialized in light and mountains and everything.  We spent a hour looking at photographs and books and calendars and more.  After some purchases and feeling overwhelmed by the beauty of the photographs and trying to learn lessons, we headed across the street to pick up lunches at the deli.

And then, off we went to start the long, uphill drive into the White Mountains.  That's where one finds the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest. While the giant sequoias at Yosemite are large and quite old, the bristle cone pines are smaller but really, really old.

Here's my lesson of the day - If you're going to go hiking with an orienteer and a person who built a hiking trail on your own property, be sure a) they love you and b) they want to take a lot of pictures too!  Otherwise, they might just have left me behind especially on the ups in high altitude.  Oh, and they don't get into imaginary answers to questions like "what's that shiny area down there" - two votes for something scientific, one for baseball diamond.  OK, so maybe they were right.

We did three hikes.  First was the half mile, Pinyan Nature Trail. Pinyan is a type of pine - we saw many different pines.  On this hike we learned that Marcia really could live off of the land if she had to!  She had us trying pine nuts fresh from a pine cone (not the bristle pines).  A few words about Marcia.  I met her the one year I was in the Women in Engineering program at UC Davis.  She had a bachelor's in math (as did I) but her masters is in zoology.  Often, when I'm hiking with Nick, I say "I wonder what this plant is.  I'll take a picture and try to remember to show it to Marcia.  She'll know."  Well, when she's there - she knows.   She's also a bit nuts!  In a different way from my nuts - she had a signal and GPS on her phone and some ap to tell us how long since we started hiking, how much time we'd been moving and how much not.

This little hike took us about an hour, yeah, I'm slow.  We drove more to an overview and tromped out to the point.  Nick was great and went back for my new filter.  As I was shooting with it (to get the foreground more exposed) a young couple came along and the guy was intrigued.  Eventually, I took a great picture of them with their little point & shoot camera.

Back in the car, going up and up.  Get to the Ranger center (a trailer but with books, patches and the passport stamp.  I use my little all-purpose notebook to get the stamps.)  We had lunch there.  Marcia lured in a golden mantled ground squirrel with one of the nasturtiums from her salad.   I had the telephoto out already.  See facebook pics.

Our hiking choices, did I mention we were at 10,000 ft, were the one mile Discovery Trail or the 4.5 mile Methuselah trail.  Survival won over seeing the oldest living things on the planet.  We did see their slightly younger cousins.  We saw the remains of a 3600 or something like that tree that died in the sixteen hundreds.
Because of the conditions, wind, weather, snow, high altitude, the trees lose branches and bark and grow very twisted.  The word for the day was gnarly.  Marcia and I went crazy taking pictures.  Actually, Nick got into it too. Not just to rest but because the trees are just amazing - the area where bark is gone is an almost bright yellow.   The little trail took us about two hours.  Almost forgot, something, maybe a red tail hawk, flew over us at one point but too fast to photograph.

Back down to the car and off for the Patriarchs grove.  This is where the largest bristle cone pine is.  It's 12 miles away and the road is dirt, sometimes tight (not as bad as the other day's North Lake, but close.)  Less traveled.  Oh, and snow in a couple of patches.  But it was open and off we were going.  and going and going.  I was beginning to think this was totally not worth it when I caught a glimpse of motion up ahead at the side of the road.  Then Nick saw it and stopped. Then the coyote crossed the road in front of us, marked some territory (as I'm scrambling to switch lenses.  She then crossed in front of us and trotted parallel to us and waited.  Wildlife photographer's dream come true.

Eventually, we got to the Patriarch - took the 1/4 mile nature hike - misplaced the trail in the snow a few times - the duo convinced me that the canine tracks were domestic, what with going exactly where we were.  And we started feeling a few drops of water.   Back in the car and back the 12 miles to the main road (really off to the side of a side road, but you know.)   Had a stopped truck driver point out a herd of deer on a hillside.  Oh, and it did rain on us coming down but twas ok.  Watched a bit of sunset and got back down to Bishop to find that, once again, our room keys didn't work.  This time, the card magic worked and we got in.  Met Marcia shortly thereafter for a lovely Japanese dinner, very tired.

Once again, Nick is our hero for driving in these conditions.

Going to bed now.  Really need to catch up with sleep.  Short amount about Devil's Postpile tomorrow, I hope, before we head for Bodie.


ps, this link should get you to photos:

© 2010 Esther A. Heller

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