California: Beautiful Yosemite National Park

Yosemite's Granite Mountains

Yosemite’s Granite Mountains

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Granite Boulders on Mountaintop

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Tree Growing in Crack of Rock (Half Dome in Background)

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Ancient Stunted Juniper Tree

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Deer at Tuolumne Meadows

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

Yosemite Fall Color

Yosemite Fall Color

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Vintage Firefall Postcards

Yosemite National Park is one of our country’s oldest and most beautiful parks.  Its 1,200 square mile wilderness is famous for soaring granite mountains, spectacular waterfalls, and giant sequoias.  Glaciers shaped and polished the granite rocks long ago.  This park is a real treasure – it is one of our nation’s best! 

Summer visitors at Yosemite between 1872-1968 watched the dramatic Firefall Show at Camp Curry every evening.  A fiery “waterfall” was created by slowly and continuously pushing glowing wood embers off Glacier Point to the valley below.  The experience of watching that flowing river of fire while listening to the Indian Love Call song was unforgettable!  Even President Kennedy came by to watch.  Visitor remembrances of the Firefall are at:  http://firefall.info/readers.html.   A fun show about the Firefall by Huell Howser on “California’s Gold” is at:  http://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1996/01/08/firewall-californias-gold-706/  Info about visiting Yosemite is at:   http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Walking Among the Oldest Trees on Earth

Drive to Bristlecone Pine Forest

Scenic Overlook near Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bristlecone Pine Forest on Mountaintop

Photographing a 3,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine and Sky

Bristlecone Pine and Icy Bluff

Bristlecone Pine and Storm

Gnarly Bristlecone Pine

Tall Bristlecone Pine

Bristlecone Pine Sapling

Bristlecone Pine Covered with Cones

Purple Pine Cone with Sap

Polished Wood of Bristlecone Pines on Rocky Slope

Magic is the word to describe the feeling you have walking among the oldest trees on Earth!  Bristlecone pines grow in the White Mountains of California on white dolomite (limestone) slopes at 10,000-12,000 feet.  The oldest (unmarked) tree is “Methuselah”, which is 4,844 years old.  Just imagine – this tree was growing when the Pyramids were being built!

The trees are twisted and gnarled by the elements at this high elevation.  Blowing wind and ice sculpts and polishes the wood.  Sometimes almost all of the pine is dead, except for a single strip of bark connecting a root to a living branch.  The trees are named for the bristles or spines on their cones.  The pretty purple cones are often covered in sticky sap. 

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is only open a few months of the year because of snow and ice.  This trip is worth the wait – it is unforgettable.  We felt privileged to visit such an awe-inspiring place.  More info is at:  http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5129900

Ghost Town Bodie: Touching Cemetery

Bodie’s Fenced-In Cemetery at the Edge of Town

Granite Tombstone of Waterman Bodey (town is named after him)

Blue Tombstone of Irishman James Perry

Angel Tombstone of Evelyn Myers

Plain Wooden Tombstone

Obelisk Tombstone of Anthony Thumann

Tombstone of Bodie’s Beloved Prostitute Rosa May

Life in the 1800s in Bodie, California, was tough.  Winters were long with frequent blizzards, 20-foot snowdrifts, and 100 mph winds.  Fierce epidemics claimed many lives.  Gold mining was dangerous, and crime was rampant.  Many residents perished, and they were buried at the edge of town in Bodie’s fenced-in cemetery.  Visitors are welcome to walk through the cemetery and pay their respects to these pioneers of long ago.

Bodie – America’s Best Ghost Town!

Methodist Church

Building with Saw Blade

Fire Station with Bell

False Front Building

Wagon Wheel

Bodie’s Gold Mine

Gold Pan at Town’s Entrance

Bodie’s Historical Marker

Bodie is America’s best and most authentic ghost town!  It is located on a high desert plateau north of Mono Lake, California.  Walking down the dusty streets is like taking a step back through time.  Buildings and their contents are preserved exactly as they were when the gold rush ended.  Bodie is now a California State Park.  Because of the tough climate, it is best to visit in summer or early Fall.

During its peak in the late 1800s, Bodie’s mines produced $100 million in gold.  Lawlessness was rampant – gunfights and stagecoach holdups were frequent events.  Saloons outnumbered churches 65 to 2.  All supplies had to be transported to the town’s remote location.  Despite the hardships, people stayed until the gold ran out.  Now people come from around the world to see what life was like in the old Wild West.

California: Devil’s Postpile National Monument

Mammoth Statue at Mammoth Lakes

Monument’s High Sierra Stream with Fall Color

View of Devil’s Postpile from Bottom

Twisted Columns of Devil’s Postpile

Fallen Columns of Devil’s Postpile

“Floor Tile” Pattern at Top of Devil’s Postpile

View from Top of Devil’s Postpile

Wildlife Sightings at Devil’s Postpile

Devil’s Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes, California, has some of the best rock columns in the world!  Over 10,000 years ago, the area was roamed by mammoths, ground sloths, saber-toothed tigers, and camels.  Even further back in time – 100,000 years ago – the area was filled with erupting volcanoes and a fiery lava lake.  Over time as the lake cooled, cracks formed in the lava and merged into vertical columns.  Later on, glaciers scraped over and around the lake and exposed the columns.  The symmetrical columns are equally impressive from both the bottom and top of the postpile.  Wildlife sightings by hikers at the monument include bear, marmot, and porcupine.

California: Beauty at Mono Lake

Mono Lake Sign with Volcanic Rock

Rainbow over Mono Lake

Rainbow’s End at Tufa Towers

Tufa Tower Spires

Kayaks on Mono Beach

Eared Grebe on Mono Lake

California Gull Eating Brine Flies

Mono Lake and Sky

Mono Basin

Mono Lake is located on the dry eastern side of California’s Sierra Mountains.  It is one of America’s oldest lakes – over 1,000,000 years old!  The lake covers 60 square miles in volcanic Mono Basin, and is almost 3 times saltier than the ocean.  Although no fish live in the lake, there are trillions of brine shrimp in its salty waters.  Millions of migratory and nesting birds come to feast on the shrimp.  Mono Lake is the most important migration stop for eared grebes in North America –at times over 2 million birds rest on the lake’s surface. 

Eighty-five percent of the state’s California Gulls nest at Mono Lake (second largest breeding colony in the world after the Great Salt Lake).  Gulls frequently run along the shore with their mouths open scooping up brine flies!  One banded seagull returned to the lake every summer for 27 years (and on a related note, in December 2016 on Midway Atoll in the Pacific, an albatross named Wisdom laid an egg in her nest at the age of 66 years old!  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/wisdom-66-year-old-albatross-having-another-baby-180961400/). 

Mono Lake is most famous for its striking tufa towers.  The limestone spires were created when springs bubbled up through the alkaline water.  More info about this special place is at:  http://www.monolake.org/

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