Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saving Mono Lake...

If you can recall the "Save Mono Lake" bumper stickers on VW camper vans, you are probably a baby boomer. I remember them.

Today, I had the pleasure of seeing the lake, getting the story and being thankful that this natural wonder didn't become another victim of the hubris of mankind. (Or should I say the Los Angeles Water and Power Department). 

In 1941, LA began diverting water from the Mono Lake basin to quench the thirst and water the golf courses of the growing city. 

The lake began to shrink by evaporation. Mono Lake is part of the Great Basin. There are no outlets, only a few humble inlets. The water is a briny 2.5 times saltier than the ocean. Yet, it's a haven for wildlife, especially migratory avian populations. It's also pretty to look at! 

History has shown the right person steps up to the plate at the right time.

Think: Lincoln, FDR and Churchill. In the case of saving Mono Lake, it was David Gaines, a reluctant warrior. He co-founded the Mono Lake Committee who fought the good fight and won a compromise with the all powerful LAWPD. The City of Angels could have some of the water destined for Mono Lake, but they couldn't have it all. 

This ancient lake did not become a dried up salt flat, like the former Owens Lake to the south. Here's an example of a flyweight taking on a heavyweight and muscling out a draw. I love stories with happy endings like this one. 

It's not all happy though. David Gaines died at the all-too-young age of 40 in a car accident. He left behind a wife, two kids and a legacy of goodness. 

If you want, you can donate to the Mono Lake Committee so they can keep on keeping on for the good of the planet (www.monolake.org) The new bumper stickers now read "Keep Saving Mono Lake." Barley the van is sporting one now.

BTW. I donated already.

RIP David Gaines and thanks for the save...

Monday, August 25, 2014

White Mountain Peak...

In the White Mountain Range of California. (How original)

There are all too many comparisons to the White Mountains resembling a lunar landscape. Nonsense. The Moon is closer to your Grandma's flower garden than the wildness and weirdness that is the White Mountains.

I'll try and paint the scene. 
To the east lies the Great Basin sinkhole punctuated by range after range of mountains silhouetted in the dusty morning haze. To the immediate west the maw of the Owens Valley looms 10,000 feet below. Canyons free fall east and west from the White Mountains. Just past the Owens Valley rises the Sierra Nevada whose peaks resemble shards of shattered glass. They are that angular. 
In other words, there's a lot happening in this geographic region, and it's all beautiful. 

I shared this 14,252' summit with a few chubby marmots, some shy pikas and one mouse who really wanted to get into my pack. It was all good after a 14 mile round trip hike.

Good night from Bishop, CA

I included a shot of Barley at our 11,500' campsite. He wasn't much into the 32 mile round trip drive on nasty roads to get there. But than again, neither was I.

White Mountains of California...

And the Ancient Bristlecone Pines Groves. 

With the passing of Prometheus (see Great Basin I post) another of Earth's old timers was found along the wind blown slopes of the White Mountains. 
His name is Methuselah, and he's around 4800 years young. A diaper dandy compared to the still growing Prometheus who weighed in at around 5200 years in 1964. 

The Forest Service employees won't divulge the exact location of where Methuselah has been hanging for almost five millennium. They'll just say, "He's out there along the 4.5 mile trail!" I was even willing to do a double secret handshake, and bribe them with IPAs if they spilled the beans. No go. These birds weren't singing.

So...I took an amble among these barely green senior citizens and made a few guesses on which one was Methuselah. When I knew no one was watching, I hugged a few of them. I can't speak for the pines, but it made me feel better.

Fun Factoid: the oldest Bristlecones pines live in the most marginal locations. They can be found where the winds shriek, the soils are thread bare and moisture is an after-thought. These tough guys have an almost "Is that the best shot you got?" attitude when dealing with the worst Mother Nature can throw at them. 
These trees inspire me.

I had to shoot the photo of the pine with barely enough needles to fill a gallon jug, yet he managed to produce one lonely cone. Now that's survival of the species!

Good night before I go "sappy" on you.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Great Basin National Park II

I took a 11 mile stroll up to Johnson Lake passing the appropriately named Johnson Mining District. Despite the fact Nevada's nickname is the Silver State, tungsten was the main element being yanked from the ground way up here. During World War I, this little known rock was an ingredient in making steel alloy. The hard stuff was then used to create weapons of people/property destruction and radio transmitters. 

Here's a photo of what the miners called home. The wild scenes is where I call home when it's warm. Which today at Johnson Lake, it was not. An Arctic Air Mass welled over the peaks causing yours truly to feel frigid. (Reminiscent of some of my past dates). 

I'm now in Topanah, Nevada. (Home of the Muckers!)
I'm not sure what a Mucker is, but I don't think I'm one.

Good Night from the Big T,
PS. GBNP only gets about 100,000 visitors/year. Plenty of places to not see other people. Plus it's FREE! No Park Service permit required. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Great Basin National Park...

featuring hikes to Wheeler Peak and a visit to a senior citizen bristlecone pine grove.

It was bad hair windy day on top of this 13,063' sky island summit. I guesstimated the temps to be in the mid-30's with the wind chill. What the heck! It's still August! 

I managed to shoot a few pretty scenes, without the camera being yanked out of my hand by that invisible force. As you can see from the photo of me and the mailbox, the US Post Office delivers to the darnedest places. (No wonder they are going broke!) 

From the saddle one could make out the green landing pads for earth-bound UFO's. Great Basin is very close to route# 375. (AKA the Extraterrestrial Highway).

I had to then pay a visit to some of the oldest living things on the planet. 
Here below the summit of Wheeler Peak at the cusp of tree line stands an ancient grove of Bristlecone Pines. Many of these true survivors are said to be 3500-4000 years old. 

There's a sad tree tale in this locale too. 
In 1964, Donald R. Curry, a grad student doing research on the Little Ice Age, received permission to cut a specimen down to obtain its true age from the cross section. This was after two of his inclement borers broke inside this crusty pine. The tree was felled and the ring counting began. The result was the ultimate "OH! S--T!" They had killed the oldest organism in the world! The pine was said to be 5000-5200 years young until this egghead showed up.

The tree was named Prometheus. August 7th, 2014 marked  the 50th anniversary of its demise. People from all over the U.S. gathered in Great Basin to pay tribute to one spectacular tree. If I had known, I would have made an effort to be here too.

Bristlecones know that slow and steady wins the race. People can learn a lot from trees.

It's raining here BTW. 
Good night Prometheus,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Deseret Peak Wilderness, Utah

Might not be a General Motors sized wild place, but don't let it's shrimpy size fool you. It's HUGH on views and oh yeah hunters. 

What heinous things have the brown-eyed Bambi's done to illicit such a response from these rifle-toting, camouflage wearing dudes? 
I dunno. I'm just glad I was wearing bright yellow on the trail.

I summited the 11,000 (and spare change) foot peak, despite the elevation gain of two Empire State Buildings within a scant 1.5 miles. Once on top, I was gazing out onto the Great Basin. An area comprising 186,000 square miles within 5 states. If you spill a beer here, it's not going to the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. It's staying put. There are no water outlets in this sink. (So don't spill your beer. There are sober people in Africa anyway). 

I'm now in Great Basin National Park in Nevada. I've included a photo of "home" in beautiful downtown Baker for the next two days. Do I know how to pick 'em?

Goodnight and don't spill your beer,

PS. An alert reader informed me of the invasive questions asked if you want to leave a comment on my blog. Things like, "what is your favorite color?" And worse, "have you ever called in sick to work and weren't?". Stuff like that.
So...feel free to just comment to the source.
If the comments are of a critical nature, I can take it. Sniff. Sniff.
I'm waiting for one such as, "Do you own a shirt with sleeves?"

Bye again.

High Unitas Wilderness II

After waking up to (you guessed it) rain. I lost my moisture mojo for another backpacking attempt. Besides, all my gear was finally dry ("and that's the way! I like it! Uh! Huh! Uh! Huh!" quote by KC and the Sunshine Band). 

So... I decided to do a little day hike scouting along the Highline Trail, with a detour to Packard Lake. 

The wet stuff landed north of me, south of me but never on me! Hallelujah! 

Here's a few lake shots and one Duchesne Canyon shot. No explanations needed.

There was something not right about that human/horse packer picture. 
I got it! Silly me! I thought the hay burners were supposed to be the beasts of burden. If I ever come back this way again as a steed, (Shirley McClain might be right) I want these good old boy's to be my owners. 

The Despair Tire shot. 
Usually Barley the van drives as straight and true as an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting. Upon descending into Salt Lake City on Interstate 80, my trusty companion had the shakes and shimmies like an old "Whiskey A-Go-Go" dancer. Not good. 
I pulled off the first chance I had and discovered this OMG! scene.The guys at Goodyear said the rubber was close to catastrophic failure. Once again, I got away with one. Phooey on Michelin Tires. 

Have a good day and always keep your rubber side down,

PS. If you are enjoying the ride please pass my blog address along to friends and family. If you don't like it send the link to folks you don't think much of. Thanks.
PPS. I have viewers in Poland, Mexico and Sweden! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

High Unitas Wilderness, Utah...

and another fowl (correct spelling) weather attempt at backpacking and peak bagging. 

Here was my Sambur-type game plan for Kings Peak (Utah's highest). 

I camped at the trailhead with Barley the Van, left before  "Good Morning America" aired and hustled 8 miles up the Henry's Fork trail and dropped off my big backpack. I picked up my little pack and scurried 3 more miles to 12,450" Anderson Pass.

By this time, an armada of battleship gray clouds began to assault my bluebird of happiness skies. Since I still have $ in my pension to spend another day, I took the conservative approach. I got the hell down from there. 

As usual, for the summer of 2014 hail, thunder and rain pursued this little Jewish guy down-trail. OY!

I reunited with my big pack and found a campsite. I was VERY hungry and thirsty by then.
See photo of my dinner guest. 

In the morning, I retreated back to Barley with drizzle as my constant companion.

And in the High Unitas, they DO shoot horses. 

I'm drinking an IPA in an Evanston, Wyoming Hotel 6. It doesn't get any better than this. Well, it probably does...


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Newt Hunting in the...

Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Colorado. I set out on glorious to be alive morning (two pots of coffee doesn't hurt either) in search of scenery and slithery prey. I found both on this 11 mile jaunt. 

FYI. Many newts are toxic when ingested. So don't eat them even if they are the only animal on the tropical island you happened to shipwreck upon. (Maybe there will be coconuts).

Scientists consider these amphibians to be bio indicators. That is, they are the canary in the coal mine on how things are going on this planet. Unfortunately, they are taking in on the chin. (Do they have a chin?) It's the usual suspects: loss of habitat, pollution and warmer temperatures. It's not easy being a newt.

So, if you happen to chance upon one, give the little fella a wide berth. He's just trying to survive in a sometimes harsh world. 

As far as scenery goes, see for yourself.

Drive day mañana to the High Unitas. Hello Utah, goodbye Colorado for now. 

Good night Ruby Begonia wherever you are!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sarvis Creek Wilderness, Colorado

Is a wild area where animals outnumber the hunters who outnumber the hikers. That's why I wore my neon yellow shirt. Just in case a Bullwinkle the Moose stalker was pulling the trigger a tad early on the shooting season. 

It's a subtle beauty. You have to look closer for it. There's no above timberline "oohs and ahhs" from this joint. 

There's butterflies flittering around. There's a spruce eking out a living from a rock. There's a black bear being interrupted by yours truly while eating his thimbleberry breakfast and lunch. (He was a well-mannered bruin. The only thing I saw was his ample brown butt blowing through the brush). There's one upset hawk searching for a smaller meal than me. There's heaps of quiet and solitude. 

With the "Emerald Island" summer of moisture Colorado's had, the trail was a wet gauntlet of grass and willows. I was soaked up to my antiperspirant in no time flat. It's all good and no hyperthermia scare here. 

Enjoy the thimbleberries, the shadow selfie, and one tough spruce sapling

I'll soon be on my way to the High Unitas of Utah. (I don't believe it's any reference to the Beehive State allowing recreational marijuana sales like Colorado). 

Cheers and thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sambur's 60th Soirée...

This is a one-stop shopping invite, just follow these two simple directions.

So easy a caveman can do it. Doh! GEICO used that line already.

1) Please RSVP me. Clara Sambur would be so disappointed in her baby boy if anyone left the party hungry. (She was a pioneer in the uber Jewish Mother movement. She invented the line, "Eat! Eat!)
We need numbers to get an idea on how much yummy food/drink to have available. 

2) Make a copy of the "Admit One" invite. There will be a burly man or woman at the door checking to see if you and me have a remote connection. Think of it as a blue-collar version of Studio 54. 
A reasonable facsimile will work too.

Any questions, comments or funny stories can be directed to me at:
Jeffsambur@gmail.com or 970-484-8323 texts work too!

That's it! Hope to see you at the Tap and Handle on October 19th @ 5:30ish.
Consider this an early warning. 


PS. I included a copy and paste version of the invite below.


  Where? “Tap and Handle” 307 S. College Ave Fort Collins, CO
  When? Sunday, October 19th @ 5:30ish (Old People’s Hours)
    WTF? Come by and watch the aging host actually shrink before your eyes! Come see as he misplaces his reading glasses and loses his train of thought. (Those train cars were probably empty anyway). It’ll be my treat for tasty brews, delectable wines (not whines) and sustenance too.
Please RSVP at jeffsambur@gmail.com or the old fashioned way. Pick up
                     the phone!      970-484-8323