Quite a while ago (a LONG time ago in “web years”) I operated the “Dan’s Outside” blog as a way to share stories and news related to my “outdoor life” of hiking, backpacking, environmental concerns, landscape and nature photography, and more.
During the past decade, my photography increasingly became the focus of my time in the “outside” and of my online posting. As this happened, the inclination to post separately here diminished to the point that a year and a half or so ago I essentially stopped using this site.
So, if anyone is still here to read this, a few final thoughts, announcements, and recommendations:
- If you enjoy my writing and my photography (especially my photography), I invite you to wander on over to the G Dan Mitchell Photography web site, where you’ll find a new photograph every day along with occasional writing on photography and related topics including some that are similar to what I used to post here. There is also an extensive gallery of my photography there for your pleasure… and for the sale of prints and licenses.
- If you are a social media user, you might want to follow me in a number of other online venues including Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, 500px, Google+, and to some extent Picasa. (I’m especially active on Google+, where over 40,000 individuals have “circled” me.)
- While there is some material at what I’ll now call “The Old Dan’s Outside Blog” that seems worth keeping, the site as a whole is not something that I’m going to maintain. I haven’t decided quite how to handle that yet – I may let some of it continue to live here “secretly,” I may move some of it to another site (perhaps a sub-section of the photography blog?), and some of it may simply go away. Your thoughts on this are welcomed.
- Finally, as should be clear from what I’ve written above, the “Dans’ Outside” blog will cease to exist before long. In fact, I’m likely to reposition the danmitchell.net domain for an entirely different purpose in the not too distant future.
If anyone reading this is a former follower of the old blog, thanks for reading it! I was great fun to create and maintain it, and now we’ll just move on to a new location at G Dan Mitchell Photography.
WeatherUnderground has a great post about ARkStorm, the historical (and expected at some future point) periodic “biblical” floods that can afflict California once every few hundred years when the “atmospheric river” of tropical moisture lines up just right… or wrong. I had previously heard of the 1862 even in historic reports that I have read in sources that were not specifically focused on weather or climatology, but now it sounds like climatologists are understanding the process more clearly. Rather than attempting a layman’s description of my own, I suggest taking a look at the link.
OK, you knew that. And so did I. But a few comments and observations seem to be in order.
1. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area fall is not what you might expect. After all these years living here I still want to think that the weather will moderate when fall starts – but it doesn’t work that way. Instead, this is often one of the hottest times of the year, and the greatest California fire danger is often from now until about the middle of October. It hasn’t rained for a long time, the vegetation is dry, and it can be hot and sunny with offshore winds. (Real fall-like weather around here starts closer to the end of October.)
2. That said, there are signs that the seasons are changing. Not only are the daylight hours obviously a lot shorter now, but there are some other transitions taking place. I was at Muir Woods today where I saw bay and maple leaves turning yellow and gold, and many of the seasonal plants are starting to die away.
3. The Sierra is a different world than these coastal areas. Because of the higher elevations the first signs of the end of summer come much earlier – actually before summer ends. Weeks ago I saw the corn lily plants beginning to turn yellow and brown and fall over. Most of the flowers – but not all – were done blossoming. The creeks have lost their peak season flow and some have dried up completely. And a week or two ago I saw quite a bit of fall color in the high country – plants turning brown and yellow and golden, and the light taking on the warm quality of fall.
4. Perhaps best of all, the Sierra aspens are starting to turn. I had hoped to make a quick trip to the “east side” today, but that turned out to not be possible. However, I’m hearing from quite a few sources that the aspens have turned in a major way at some of the higher locations, and over the color show should continue and peak over the next week or two.
Read the proclamation of National Wilderness Month… and then go out and celebrate. Alone. And quietly. I know I will.
By the way, it seems appropriate to me to time this for September when there are fewer people in the wilderness, the light becomes beautiful, the temperatures cool, and the mosquitoes go away!. All in all, this is my favorite time of the year in the Sierra.
Take a look at this short video about the fellow who has been the Ostrander Lake hutkeeper for something like 35 back-country winters in Yosemite.
Last weekend I decided to do one of my favorite Tuolumne Meadows area hikes – the Mono Pass trail. This trail starts below Tioga Pass, just inside the park, and goes out the Sierra crest near Mount Gibb, passing through forest and beautiful alpine meadows on the way.
As I loaded up my pack – filling with a lot of photography equipment – it was a beautiful, clear morning. The previous day I had hiked out toward North Dome and carried what turned out to be too much extra clothing. Since I usually tend to over-prepare for the weather, and was perhaps more aware of this than usual having done so only 24 hours earlier, I decided to just take what I was wearing. That’s right, no rain gear.
Is there a better way to ensure that it will rain?
About an hour into the hike, near the junction with the trail to Spillway Lake, I was pleased to see some white, fluffy clouds appear – they relieved the uniform blue sky and occasionally produced a welcome bit of shade. I began to consider how I would incorporate them in photographs near the pass.
I reached the area of the pass at about 1:00 and wandered over to the historic mine site that sits on the pass. (I had visited the mine remnants before, but this time I found out a bit more about it. The site is older than I had thought, first being used in the 1860s and abandoned in about 1890.)
I sat down on a comfortable rock to drink some water, have a snack, and look around for photographic subjects. I noticed that the fluffy white clouds had morphed into something much darker and a bit menacing to my south, in the direction of Parker Pass. I figured this meant that there might be some thunder and perhaps a few showers by late afternoon when I returned to my car. No worries!
Not five minutes later it started to sprinkle. I thought “that’s a bit surprising, but it will stop in couple of minutes.” It didn’t stop. The drops became larger. I began to think about my lack of rain gear. As I sat there munching on my snack there was a sudden clap of thunder right overhead – what I call “flash bang” thunder because it is so close that there is almost no delay between the flash of lightning and the bang of thunder. A few minutes later another clap of thunder exploded right overhead.
OK, time to leave! By the time I had the pack reloaded and on my back, the light rain was becoming steady. Two thoughts became prominent in my mind. One, I had left my tent windows open back in Tuolumne Meadows – I hoped the rain didn’t head that way! Two, I was either going to get lucky and watch the showers move on, or I was about to get very wet on the nearly two-hour walk back out.
I got lucky. Although the trail was wet all the way down, there was constant thunder, and I could see rain coming down all around… it barely sprinkled on me until I got to my car. As I loaded the car it began to come down in earnest.
My tent was not so lucky. Back in Tuolumne it had rained, and hard.
Lessons learned and relearned. Never leave camp without closing everything up and putting all of my gear away. And, what the heck, toss that lightweight parka in the pack!
There is a wonderful and informative video about rockfall in Yosemite Valley posted at the Yosemite National Park web site. I feel like I’m relatively aware of this situation as a long time Yosemite visitor, but I learned new stuff from this presentation.
About a week ago I was in the Tuolumne Meadows/Tioga Pass area to do photography for three days. Tuolumne was at an especially wonderful point in its annual seasonal evolution: almost all of the snow was gone from the meadow, though there were still impressive patches among the trees, there was still water everywhere including in large pools in the meadow, the new grasses and meadow plants were coming up and turning the meadow green, here and there the first wildflowers of the season were starting to appear, snow still was thick on the surrounding ridges.
As I drove slowly through the meadow at one point I followed a SUV that appeared to be a “family car” with mom, dad, and kids inside. Looking more closely I noticed that above the back seat there was a large flat-panel monitor showing some movie… apparently so that the kids wouldn’t be “bored” by the very thing they drove so far to see.
Strange. And sad.
An article in SF Gate reminds us that California’s water issues are not just related to the periodic drought years. In this year of above-normal precipitation the point is clearer as some areas still have to worry about insufficient water for all projected needs.
In short, California has several issues that can’t be fixed by a good rain year. They include the fact that much of the state is a desert or near desert, that the state relies (too much, in my view) on very expensive systems that move water tremendous distances, and a huge and growing population.
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