Monday, December 9, 2019
I tried a couple of videos, but only one came out well. It's a little bit shaky because I was at total zoom, around 60x, but they came out pretty clear. It's been a week of little nature surprises, with foxes and rare birds and the like. Otters always give me a reason to smile a bit in the midst of lots of challenges.
Sunday, December 8, 2019
The Day I Found I Could See Half Dome and El Capitan From Near My House And Why it Was So Hard To Do So
|Can you pick out Half Dome in the picture above? It's not easy...|
Anyone who follows my other blog (Geotripper's California Birds) knows that I walk the Tuolumne Parkway Trail just about every time I have a free morning, watching for birds and getting exercise. Unfortunately, given the air quality of the Great Valley where I live, I cannot see the source of the Tuolumne River, even though the mountain crest is only 40 miles or so away. But once in awhile a storm blows through, and I am reminded again that I live next to one of the world's great mountain ranges. That happened this week as our first major storms of the season passed through, dropping more than three inches of rain locally, and several feet of snow on the very dry mountains above. The Tuolumne Parkway Trail climbs to the top of the bluff above the river to pass around the water treatment plant, and provides a nice view of the Sierra Nevada crest. I was impressed enough to snap some pictures.
Later on, while looking at the pictures, I saw what looked like a familiar ridge-top. I consulted with Cal Topo, and by golly, I was right. I had captured a picture of Half Dome, and El Capitan right in front of it! It's not an obvious view, and you would need binoculars or a telescope to see it (or the zoom on my camera), but it's there. I had never noticed it before from this vantage point because both rocks get swallowed up in the rocky ridges behind (the peaks behind Half Dome are half a mile higher in elevation). The snow from two days earlier helped to highlight the summits of both Half Dome and El Capitan. The view of Half Dome from the valley floor is more obvious from other angles, even though the concept that it can be seen at all has been contentious at times...
Can you see it in the picture above? It's a challenge. Give it a shot and then consult the CalTopo wireframe below to see the identity of the peaks in the picture...
Zooming in even more, the summit of Half Dome is even more obvious.
I've annotated the photo to help out a little...
If you have a small bit of a wild place somewhere near where you live, visit as often as you can. You never know when a new discovery or surprise will be waiting. This week alone, I saw a beautiful Gray Fox in the wild corner of my campus, and a wildly out of place bird a few feet from where I took the pictures of Half Dome.
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Sunday, November 24, 2019
What are those weird circles in the water??
|Source: http://www.geologyin.com/2014/12/the-spotted-lake.html. Provenance is not clear...if this is your photo please let me know for proper attribution.|
So what the heck is going on here? I will let you know below in case you want to think about it for a minute...
|Source:https://tripandtravelblog.com/the-beautiful-spotted-lake-of-canada/ Provenance is not clear, if this is your photo, please let me know for proper attribution|
The answer is....I don't particularly know. Well, I know some things. The lake is in an endorheic basin, and as such does not receive enough precipitation to fill the basin it occupies. Thus it dries up rather than flowing through an outlet. The drying concentrates the soluble minerals in the water. The mineral deposits are primarily magnesium sulfates (the mineral epsomite) along with calcium sulfate (gypsum), and sodium sulfate (mirabilite or thenardite). The source of the sulfates are copper minerals in the surrounding hills. Magnesium is provided by local dolomite exposures.
What I admit to not understanding is the formation of the circles and pools. The boundaries of the circles is a dark organic rich mud that develops an efflorescence of white crystals when dry. I wonder if the circles are related to periglacial processes related to frigid conditions in winter, and I would dearly love to be educated about this!
The epsomite has been mined at times a century ago, but the lake is sacred to the local indigenous First Nations people, the Okanagan Syilx. They came into ownership of the lake in 2001, and for the time being it can only be observed from the hills above on the highway, which is reasonable. One can imagine the damage that could be done by unfettered visits of ignorant tourists. The "European" name of the pond is Spotted Lake, but it has been known for centuries by the Syilx as Kliluk Lake.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
In 2015 the fractures were moderately larger. They'll need to start thinking of road repairs before long.
Last year the paint was deformed (twisted), but not split (below).
First, a close-up on 2017's center stripe...
And here is the new update for November 16, 2019: Long-time volunteer Paul provides scale (he has been assisting MJC with field trips for 25 years!). The crack continues to grow, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was patched by next year.
Monday, November 11, 2019
|Today's transit of Mercury (it is just above the center of the Sun's disk).|
|Today's transit of Mercury (it is in the upper right hand quadrant of the picture).|
|Transit of Venus in 2012|
Saturday, November 9, 2019
|Inuksuk near the top of Whistler Mountain. See the note at the end of the post.|
There are lots of creepy heebie-jeebie moments in movies, like "Here's Johnny!", or "the call is coming from inside the house", but none gives me heart palpitations like the opening scene of "Cliffhanger" when Sylvester Stallone is trying to save a young women dangling from a rope over a vast chasm. She falls unfortunately, and I always drop the popcorn while covering my eyes. And then there is that first scene from "Vertical Limit", when not one, but three people fell down the cliff.
In my youth (roughly the ages 12 through 60 years) I was a regular peak bagger and rock clamberer. But I couldn't handle dangling from a rope. I only feel comfortable with solid rock or flooring under my feet. I rappelled down a cliff just once, I've never parachuted or gone hang-gliding, and rides at amusement parks that mimic the experience have never held any appeal for me.
This fact that I hate dangling is the background to today's description of our exploration of British Columbia that we undertook last summer in July. It's because I had to dangle over a cliff in order to see something I really wanted to see: a glacier from above.
|Whistler Mountain from the Roundhouse Lodge at the top of the Whistler Gondola.|
On the day we arrived in town it was a little hard to tell which season it was...it was July and it was cold and rainy. It could hardly be anything different (under the rules of Murphy's Law) since our weather thus far had been rather nice, and I was looking forward to seeing the spectacular alpine scenery around Whistler (my previous two visits had been in poor weather as well). We had scheduled only a few activities in the morning so the students could do some exploring on their own during the long afternoon.
|The Peak Express ski lift leading to the summit of Whistler Mountain|
So this is where we talk about acrophobia. I had no problem with the gondola ride at all. It's in an enclosed space with seats and a floor and all that. But when I got out at the Roundhouse Lodge at 6,069 feet, I found that I was still 1,100 feet below the summit of Whistler Mountain. And I would have to get their via...a ski lift. A spindly rickety dangling ski lift. I know all you skiers out there are used to these things, but I'm not. I don't like them. But it was the only way to get to the top of Whistler Mountain within our time constraints, so I hiked over to the base of the cliff and loaded myself onto the lift.
|The Cloudraker Skybridge and Raven's Eye (on the far right). The "snow" is actually the top of a glacier.|
|Walking out onto the Cloudraker Skybridge. The Raven's Eye is in the distance, upper left.|
|Terminal moraine and moraine lake at the former end of the glacier at Whistler Mountain.|
The true size of the glacier today can be seen in a satellite image taken in the late summer when nearly all of the snow (but not glacial ice) has melted away (below). The loss of glacial ice is a worldwide phenomena indicating that the global climate is warming. When these glaciers disappear, their loss will have serious ramifications for the regional ecosystem. The glaciers serve as a dependable year-round water source for alpine creeks, and when that disappears, so will the animals and plants that are dependent on that water. They don't have anywhere else to retreat to.
|The arete on the east side of the glacier. The ski lift went right over it.|
You'll all be happy to know that I gathered myself together and was not whimpering by the time I reached the bottom of the lift.
|Google Earth image of the small glacier at Whistler Mountain. The cirque is the bowl-shaped valley where the glacier originates. The skybridge traverses the upper end of the cirque.|
Whistler refers to the Hoary Marmots found in the region. I saw one of them at the Roundhouse Lodge when I got back from the mountain.