Great Comings and Goings

Any great astrologers out there have a reading on why there seem to be so many comings and goings in my life right now?

Tom and I went the Bay Area last weekend to welcome an old Berkeley friend who has just come back from the East Coast. After 3 long years in Maryland, we’re absolutely delighted to have Stan back on the West Coast. Maybe not as happy as his family is to see him, but pretty darned happy.

Our other friend, Pascal, was also in the Bay Area this weekend, all the way from Basil, Switzerland so it made the trip extra special. We had hoped that he and his family would be able to visit us in Yosemite, but he had to leave again too early.

Yuji and crew came to Yosemite over the weekend, and are staying in our place up in Yosemite West. It’s been 5 years since we’ve seen them. And Hans came up from the Bay Area to climb with him. These guys have big climbing plans, but we’re just happy to get to see them again after all this time.

On the going end, my good friends John and Marina are getting ready to leave Yosemite on Wednesday. It’s sad to see them leave, but they are starting on a big life adventure and it is hard not to feel the excitement and anticipation in that.

New Yamaha YDP233 Piano

I have a new piano! I have a new piano!

I’ve only been wanting one for, lets see, 19 years or so. Basically since I moved out of my parents’ home and went to college. Unlike a piccolo, or even a guitar, pianos don’t lend themselves to moving around or small spaces, so it’s never really been a reasonable purchase. Until now.

… and I’m so happy with the model that we decided on. Growing up with a ‘real piano’, I have developed a certain minimum set of requirements – no truncated keyboards (this one is a full 88-key keyboard) and it has to *feel* like a piano. On the other hand, I didn’t want to break the bank either.

Playing is a real pleasure. My parents sent me a stack of my old music. Plus, the Yamaha YDP233 comes with a book of popular classical pieces (which you can hear before you play as part of the demo function). I’m rusty, of course, and my hands aren’t ‘in shape’ for extended playing. The first two nights I played until my fingers and forearms ached (typing was difficult the next morning). I’m sure it will come eventually though.

I surprised myself by using the metronome feature right of the bat. My old teacher, Mrs. Whitehead, would be proud. I’ve never done more counting than absolutely necessary, and sometimes less than necessary, but found that it was an interesting game to stay in time with the built-in metronome.
I also did scales, and wished that I remembered more piano theory. Eh – so I’ve changed since high school. Who’d have thunk?

Now, I just need to get some headphones so that I don’t torture Tom into regretting the purchase. 🙂

Whisky Bill on Fresno Dome

Bruce led all 5 pitches on Whisky Bill
Fresno Dome summit - Bruce and EmI’ve promised myself that no matter how late it’s gotten, or how many other adventures I’ve had since then, that I would put something up about the amazing day that I had climbing with my friends, Bruce and Em, on Fresno Dome, the day after the Pano hike .

Fresno Dome is one of those places that is close enough that I should have gone there many times, but far enough away that I haven’t. Unlike Yosemite climbing, it’s a quiet little crag, with plenty of routes at my new not-very-hardcore climbing level (as well as harder stuff). Bruce and Em did the hard work – planning where to climb, scouring guidebooks and the internet for information. I just tagged along, and was treated to a perfectly wonderful day of climbing.

Yosemite Pano Project – part 2: the hiking

Steershead flowers on Dewey RidgeThe Pano project was also the perfect excuse to go to a Yosemite spot that I’d never been to before. Plus, the prospect of hiking with strangers also provided motivation for prioritizing some ‘training’ hikes leading up to the end of the month.

easy bouldering - a little dirtyBetween the Fern Ledge hike, and the Pano hike, I took a couple of other relatively substatial hikes. The week after Fern Ledge, I hiked with my friend, Hope, to Yosemite Point and back. (Tom wanted some exercise, so he ran laps on the Falls trail while we walked.) Hope’s a great hiking partner, and I was entertained by stories and got some good advice on hiking in a sundress/skirt – what to do, and what not to do.

The week after that, tempted by reports of amazing Sugar pines, clusters of snowplants, and some potential climbing, Tom and I hiked out to Dewey Ridge. Hiking through the deadfall along the side of the ridge was difficult going, but exploring new ground is always interesting. We found some awesome bouldering – including a boulder even I was willing and able to play on. And the prize of the hike was spotting the tiny Steershead flowers, which aren’t exactly rare plants, but are uncommon to actually see.

Nashville warbler on the Falls TrailMy hiking partners for the Pano day were Scott and Eric from the Pano project, and Bruce and Em, who I’ve known for so long I don’t even remember exactly how we met. The best thing about hiking is the chance to chat with new folks and old friends, so this fit the bill perfectly. Although, I have to say that I missed Tom. At some point on the trail I was bemoaning his absence and one of the guys says, “Well, that must me nice. To be free and do your own thing for a while.” Huh. I guess so. Not really, though.

Two hang gliders in the air above Yosemite ValleyI managed to get a somewhat ruffled picture of a small yellow bird that was singing brightly in a tree just off the trail. I think, based on a quick look through a field guide by John Muir Laws’, that it was a Warbler.

Also, we were treated to a pair of hang glider pilots taking their sled ride down from Glaicer Point. I previously thought that launch time for them was around 7 am, so that they would have very little chance of any thermal activity, but these guys launched sometime after 8 – not that they found anything that kept them aloft. One guy flew into the Yosemite Falls amphitheater, close enough to get wet from the spray, which seemed a little risky, but it must have been an amazing view. It’s been such a long time since I was a hang glider pilot, but seeing one (even if it is packed up on a car) usually brings back such joyful memories. I wonder what all my old HG buddies are doing now.

Eric and Scott on Eagle PeakEagle Peak itself is a beautiful rock outcrop with the top of Yosemite Falls visible on one side, and looking down on the Three Brothers (or the humping frogs), and beyond them to Middle Cathedral on the other side. It takes a long time to take 376 images, even if there is a little gigapan unit doing the work for you, so we had plenty of time to hang Abandoned eggs on Eagle Peakout and have lunch there. It was more crowded than I would have thought for a place I haven’t visited until now, but the rim is long, and we did have long stretches of time to ourselves as well.

Bruce found a pair of abandoned eggs lying on the ground along the rim. I have no idea what sort of eggs they are, and sadly there were no parent birds anywhere nearby.

Yosemite Pano Project – part 1: the project

Eric, Scott and the Gigapan Unit on Eagle PeakI had the honor of participating in an amazing digital imaging project this weekend, right here in Yosemite. Yosemite’s the kind of place where you get to see a lot of pretty large, fancy camera equipment and some pretty all-star photographers, on a semi-regular basis, but this project blew my mind.

The groundwork was laid by the xRez team – Eric Hanson and Greg Downing, whose work spread like wildfire through my little Yosemite climbing community when they chose Half Dome and El Capitan as subjects, although they also have many other amazing images of vast landscapes on their sites. As one friend commented, “it’s almost like you can see the individual holds”. Not quite. But close.

But what if, instead of 1 shot, you took a whole series of shots, from all over the Valley, ranging from Cloud’s Rest, to the summit of El Cap to Dewey Point? In collaboration with our Park Geologist, Greg Stock, who will be able to use these images to monitor things like rock fall within the park, they collected/created equipment for 70+ people planned a multi-day event, provided training and set us loose on the park. Can you image the pictures that are going to come out of this project?

It all seems pretty cool from my low-tech climber perspective . I get to go hiking to a place I’d never been before (Eagle Peak), maybe meet some new folks, help carry some nifty camera equipment, and get some bragging rights when the whole thing sees the light of day. Pretty nice day.

It was my fellow volunteers, the ones that flew in from all over the country to participate that were really excited. Not because of the pictures, but because this is truly groundbreaking work in the field of digital imaging. Huh. Imagine that.

The only way I can think about it is based on a TED talk that Tom and I came across serendipitously about some new jaw-dropping 3D imaging software from Microsoft. No, really. Amazing. Watch the video, it’s worth taking the time to download. This is the kind of crazy cool stuff these guys are working on, and then you add the immense resolution of these gigapixel images…

They say that will start having something to show in August. I can hardly wait.