State Parks in Danger

Living in a National Park is such a luxury. We’re surrounded by vast open spaces and long trails to disappear down. It’s so wonderful to see people smiling from their dose of fresh air, mountains, rivers, and big trees. But it’s the state parks, the ones that are a little closer to urban centers, that people living in the cities can escape to for shorter periods: before or after work, or between other errands and chores on the weekends.

Over on Two-Heel Drive, Tom Mangan has summarized a list of Bay Area State Parks that are under threat. (Ano Nuevo? Mount Diablo State Park? Angel Island? Really?!?). You can find a more complete listing of which parks will remain open, and those which are being “moved to caretaker status” which means that they will still be protected, Government-owned land, but will not be open to the public.

Visit the California State Park Foundation to find out what you can do about it.

Backpacking and Hiking

Tom demonstrating the Anti-Ray Way in 2005
Tom demonstrating the Anti-Ray Way in 2005
I’ve been thinking about backpacking lately. A lot. And I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of money on it too – or preparing to spend inordinate amounts of money anyway.

As it turns out, it has been a embarrassingly long time since I’ve gone backpacking, and I’ve just realized how much I miss it. It isn’t that we haven’t been getting out at all. Last summer we were pretty excited about getting into some longer runs, and we started getting a little more serious about collecting pictures, but as activities that take only part of a day, we were getting pretty comfortable returning home to the miracle of modern appliances, hot showers and a comfortable bed. No longer.

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Save the Butterflies

I’ve never taken a picture, but it’s always disconcerting when there are enough butterfly carcasses in and by the side of the road that they are easy to see at driving speeds. They are everywhere, fluttering, broken and dying. Please slow down, enjoy the butterflies and the scenery. It’s a small price to pay for saving hundreds of these relatively uncommon butterflies.

This announcement from the Park Service:

Butterfly Season:
Once again, we are experiencing an irruption in the population of the
butterfly, the California Tortoise Shell (Nymphalis californica) along El
Portal Road between Windy Point, to down past the hotel at parkline. This
beautiful orange and brown butterfly is being killed by vehicles in the
thousands in this area. While complete avoidance of hitting butterflies is
not possible, the carnage can be substantially reduced if drivers reduce
their speed. At around 25 mph, the butterflies tend to be swept over the
vehicle unharmed. At faster speeds, the butterflies are struck in large
numbers by the grills and windshields of vehicles. So during this period
(now through June), please slow down and enjoy this spectacle.

In most years California Tortoise Shells are a relative uncommon species.
But in certain years, they emerge in overwhelming numbers. This species
could be responsible for our county’s name, Mariposa, which is Spanish for
butterfly. The larvae of the species feed mostly on ceanothus shrubs.
Several generations of egg-larvae-pupa-adult metamorphosis may occur in
spring-summer, but the butterflies tend to move progressively higher in
elevation as the year advances. Some scientists believe this is because
plants at these elevations have new, tender growth, and lower levels of
tannins later in the season, making them more nutritious for larvae. (N.
Nicholas – 5/22/09)

Travel Sketching Pen/Watercolor

Memorial Day weekend is historically one of the busiest. So, as a local, my tendency is to want to get out just as everyone else is trying to get in. Unfortunately, a substantial trip is not really in the works this year, for various reasons, so I’m left with trying to figure out what to do.

Here’s an idea.

Yosemite Association has taken charge of free art classes held in the Park. Classes are given by a wide variety of artists, so each week the lessons, style, and media are fresh and new . I’ve attended one or two before, and have gotten some great tips.

This week, (May 20 – 23) the classes are being taught by Pam Pederson – Travel Sketching Pen/Watercolor – which is absolutely perfect for the kind of ‘artwork’ that I like to do. There is something truly magnificent about finished paintings, but I like the fast and loose feeling of sketching without having to go back and painstakingly, well, work. I am sure that I will have to promise my husband not to buy things – I already have reams of paper and art supplies galore, but I’m hoping that this will give me incentive to dig those things out and rub off a bit of the rust.

Least Crowded Channel

A while back, Tom turned me on to some great interviews on, and in particular an interview with Tim Ferris – the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. One of the many great ideas that came out of that interview (just go listen to it), was the idea of exploring and using the least crowded channel for communication. Tim figured out that if he wanted someone’s attention, the best way to do that was to use a channel of communication that wasn’t already crowded and noisy. For example, if you want to establish a relationship with an A-list blogger, the easiest way to actually get on their radar is not by sending them an email. These people are getting tons of email. Instead, Tim made a point of attending conferences where there were a more limited number of interactions.

Of course, that doesn’t just apply to people on the A-list, or even the B, C, or D-list. And it also isn’t just that face-to-face meetings are better. If you’re meeting people constantly in real life, but you have a new account on Twitter, maybe that is the best way to approach you. I wonder if that is/was part of the beauty of Twitter – especially at the beginning. There weren’t that many people on it, and so it was an uncrowded channel.

Today, I had my own little Least Crowded Channel experience. I’m online. There’s Twitter and email and Facebook, and a woman today took the time to find my phone number. Huh. It’s not exactly like a face-to-face meeting, but I get fewer phone calls than I get emails, so it worked. She wanted to submit a testimonial to about her family’s long-standing relationship with Yosemite to celebrate her parents’ 69th anniversary (they honeymooned in Yosemite in 1940). Today. And she called me at 4:30 as I was starting to think about winding down for the day. But, she had such a sweet and beautiful story, that I couldn’t resist. If she’d sent me an email – I may have skimmed it before I left. Maybe. But I’m sure I would not have felt as compelled to stay a little late to put her testimonial up today – much less give it front-page billing.


Other notes:

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Yosemite West House Update

Plans to set our house in Yo West up to be a revenue-generating vacation home rental are moving ahead. We passed the planning inspection last week, and today passed building inspection, which I think was the last hurdle to get the permit from the county. Now, there are only the remaining insurance and logistics hurdles, and we’ll be ready. Not that those are small hurdles.

In order to rent out your home on a nightly basis, there are certain steps required by the County to make sure that your home is fit for rental. First, there is the permit fee. Then, you need to make sure that your property has safety precautions in place. They want to make sure that your fire extinguisher is located in a place where a visitor would easily be able to find it. A homeowner can keep their extinguisher under the kitchen sink, but a vacation rental needs to have it mounted in plain sight between 3-5 feet off the ground, for example. There are fire-escape signs to be made (silly given our ultra-simple floor plan – but required) as well as notices about neighborhood rules, quiet hours and things like that.

I’ve made a call to our Insurance agent as well, and hopefully she will be able to get back to me with some numbers tomorrow or early next week. I wonder how much extra we will pay in insurance in order to rent. At least there is no wood-fire in the upstairs to tempt our renters to burn our house down.

I know a lot of people are looking to build a fire when they come up to Yosemite, Tom loves the ambiance of the flames and the radiant heat, and a heat source in the winter is always good for me, but we’ve heard horror stories of people who don’t know the first thing about building fires and it’s a little frightening to think of setting them loose in your house, unsupervised. People who have chopped wood on the living room floor with a hatchet and left gouges in the flooring. People who consider starting their fireplace fires with white gas or gasoline. I know that it’s rare, but it’s still a bit unnerving. Nevermind what happens with wood-burning stoves.

With the insurance estimates coming along, now we are looking at trying to figure out what to do with the very special artwork now hanging from our walls. Each piece has a unique and personal story, and we aren’t sure if we would trust them to strangers. My piano. The TV situation – we have an old TV inherited from my grandfather that is nearing the end of its useful life. The screen flickers when you tap the ground in front of it, until it has warmed up for a while. We have a modest, but decent collection of DVDs. Will they get taken? What to do with our books and other personal possessions while other people are in our house? Perhaps we can put all those things in our room and only rent out the guest bedroom? There is still lots of work and decisions moving forward.

Still, with luck, we will be able to take advantage of this summer season and off-set some of the expenditures of finishing out the ground-floor unit… and … um … setting ourselves up with new backpacking gear. But, I guess that is another post.

Moonbows and Meteor Showers

Moonbow in Lower Yosemite Falls by Edie Howe-Byrne
Moonbow in Lower Yosemite Falls by Edie Howe-Byrne
The full moon is coming this Saturday, May 9, and full moons are always a special event in Yosemite, but in spring time, you also add the magic of the moonbows in Yosemite Falls.

Walking through the Valley under a full moon is a sublime and otherworldly experience. The silvery light bounces off the granite walls and filters through the trees. Just that is worth staying up late and venturing out into the not so warm nights. But when the angles are all just right, and there is enough water in Yosemite Falls, moonbows appear.

A group from Texas State University has done the calculations to predict when the Yosemite Falls moonbows will be seen. This year, it seems like they have added another viewing location to their predictions. In addition to the viewing area next to the bridge at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, they recommend times to visit the Sentinel Bridge parking area to view moonbows in Upper Yosemite Fall as well.

The moonbows usually appear to the naked eye as arcs of silvery light, but with the right technique, photographers can capture all the colors of the rainbow in that arc. It’s a challenging shot – to capture the ambiance of the moonlight, and the last time I went I knew that I didn’t have the right equipment or the expertise to even try, so I stood in awe and just watched. Magic is magic. You don’t HAVE to be looking through a camera lens to appreciate that.

Plus, there is a meteor shower coming up that peaks tomorrow morning (May 6). The Aquarid Meteor Shower comes from the tail of Halley’s comet, and seems to emanate from the constellation of Aquarius. The display is most prominent in the Southern Hemisphere, but even those of us up north can enjoy it when Aquarius peeks above the horizon around 2-2:30 am. For extra incentive, the shooting stars that we do see will likely be Earthgrazers – long slow spectacular streaks of light from meteorites that skim across the upper atmosphere.

[Thanks to Edie for being willing to share her beautiful photography. See more of her photography at]