A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bodie Ghost Town

After the eclipse venture we moved south to Mono Lake and spent a day visiting Bodie State Park.  It has been a long time since I was there last...15 -20 years?  It was before the State began charging admission, $7.  Nevertheless nothing has changed and it remains in a state of arrested decay.  Bodie is a must see if you are ever in the area.

The views coming in on the 13 mile road (only the last 3 is gravel) are wonderful.  Being at 8000 plus feet makes for clear skies.  That is Mono Lake in the distance.

The eastern side of the Sierra provides better scenery than does the western side, in my opinion.

The last three miles.

We're here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The day I was to leave, I sat there enjoying my cup of coffee in the morning light of the playa.  Suddenly in front of me a couple hundred yards away there appeared what I thought was a large dog loping along by itself crossing the great expanse of the dry lake. Great. Someone's dog is lost. It will never survive out here.  I picked up my binoculars and was very surprised to see it was a deer.  I have never seen an animal cross the playa before as it is 10 miles wide and 40 miles long.  I have never seen a deer anywhere in this part of Nevada.  Pronghorn Antelope yes.  Here this fellow crossed right in front of me soon after I was back on the road.

After awhile and many miles later I came across this old homestead.  I am bad about having dust on my lens and was just about to eliminate the speck above the building on the right when I recalled a bird had flown into the view as I snapped the shutter.  You may notice three specks off to the right in the green...more pronghorn.

It was well posted as private property KEEP OUT so I respected that even though no one was around for miles.  I would have enjoyed nosing around inside.
That's another bird in the distance above the roof.

This little town which had not many more people than the speed limit, added a personal touch to the speed limit sign.  Now how could anyone ignore that?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Take a Picture of a Lizard

When you first see the lizard, snap off a shot right away.  Don't mess with settings, just let auto focus do its thing and then get something, anything, into the camera.

Now you can slowly move into a better position, take another quick picture, then fiddle with your camera making adjustments to your liking and take even more pictures.

If you are lucky you may have by now earned the lizard's trust and he sees you as not a threat.  Now you may slowly move again, get down to his level and take that really nice photo you had hoped for when you first saw him scurry into view.

At least that is what I try to do most of the time.

The area has several hot springs but this is the only one I have access to anymore without a four wheel drive vehicle.  This is right at the source as it comes up from the ground.  You can stick your hand in it but trust me, you'll say "yikes!" and immediately pull your hand out thinking well that was dumb.

A short distance away it is cooler and quite comfortable to sit in for a soak.  You'll come out with a sulphur smell to your body and a slick feeling to your skin.  The hot spring at the Black Rock I mentioned yesterday is about the size of a swimming pool.  The sides are steeply sloped as this small bath tub size spring is.  So you can imagine a horse or ox going in and not being able to climb out.  Yet even in recent times incidents have happened where a dog jumped in, yelped in pain, it's owner jumped in after to rescue her dog and they both perished.  The BLM has warning signs posted but things happen in spite of the warnings.
Tomorrow we will move on away from the Black Rock Desert.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can You Imagine?

These photos are an attempt to show how it was for the early pioneers as they traveled through this area in a covered wagon, with the home they left behind many months ago a distant memory.  Can you imagine how they must have thought as things were only getting worse instead better?  How this land of promise they had heard so much about, had better be worth all the struggle and hardship?

In the winter of 1843-44 John C. Fremont and his party were the first explorers who entered this high desert region.  In 1846 Jesse Applegate and Levi Scott along with 14 others traced a portion of Fremont's route to establish an alternate route to Oregon.  The trail was used for several years as the "Southern Road to Oregon".  In 1848 Peter Lassen followed the Applegate Trail to Goose Lake then blazed a trail to his own ranch in northern California.  There are still wagon wheel tracks cut into the rock of High Rock Canyon as the immigrants had to winch their wagons down the steep canyon leaving axle grease markings and written inscriptions on the rock walls marking their grueling passage through this area.

With the discovery of gold in 1848 the rush was on and the Applegate and Lassen Trails provided an alternate route to the goldfields.  In 1849, after hearing about the tough conditions on the California Trail many of the gold seekers chose the Applegate Trail however this route added an extra 150 miles to their journey and the early thousands quickly exhausted the available resources of grass and water for their livestock.  The truth was this alternate route was even more demanding.

The immigrants would veer from the California Trail and head northwest stocked up with what grass feed they could collect and carry for their livestock.  Fifty miles later they reached Rabbit Hole Springs, a meager flow of water where they could rest and refresh their teams.  Feed was little to none depending how many before them had already passed through.  They pressed on and in ten miles was confronted with the above scene of the  Black Rock Desert. They aimed for the Black Rock (see above just off center to the right, the small black volcanic mound on the playa) for there they knew of a water hole and grass could be had.  But in order to reach this place many of the immigrants had to lighten their loads, most of their possessions they had carried so far from home east of St. Louis, now only to throw it off into the desert so that their already starving and weakened oxen could manage these final few miles.  Imagine their dismay to discover Black Rock Spring to be a bubbling hot pool of sulphur water.  Horses and oxen alike would rush headlong into the pool and die, joining the already dead and bloated floating on the surface.  And again, if you were among the later wagon trains through this area, the lush green grass would have already been stripped bare.  At this point they still had High Rock Canyon yet to negotiate but they really had no idea as to how hard that would prove to be.

I have been to and traveled through all these places mentioned, retracing the tracks of these brave and hardy pioneers, but that was when I had an old four wheel drive Land Rover.  Nowadays I can only view a few of these places from afar.  Yet it still leaves an impression upon me as to how tough these people were.
As for me, try as I might, I can only begin to imagine but really will never know.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Makin' Tracks

A couple more pictures from the same point as the Straight Out of the Camera Sunday submission, only I did a few touch-ups.  I just enjoy taking train track photos.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

I like train tracks in the desert.

This is linked to Jan's

On the Playa

The first afternoon on the playa of the Black Rock Desert, 400 square miles of this
for as far as you can see

and further.
Nothing much to take a picture of except more of this
or the tracks you left in the dried mud.
Let's toss a cat in the scene.
Cat on the playa, take two.
Sinbad, stay!
Okay, let's try a still life.
Bar-b-que in repose
What to do? Sit and watch the clouds float by. Can you see the Texas Longhorn?
Can you see all the dust on the lens?  Oh this place is bad for dust, fine minute particles of alkali dust that gets into everything. You hardly notice it but your camera sure does.  And in time so does your nose.  After a day everything you have has a fine layer of talcum powder like dust over it, including your dinner.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Sinbad and I returned home a day early.  I  forgot to pack extra underwear. 
We made a few unplanned destinations including Bodie Ghost Town and Yosemite National Park.
That's what makes road trips fun - the plan in not having a plan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What I Didn't Miss

Even though the eclipse was not what I expected I wasn't that disappointed for after all, its about the journey, not the destination.  And too, you meet the nicest people on the road.  I mentioned the lady who showed me the pictures she got simple by holding the "Eclipse Viewing Shield" in front of her camera.  Well she sent me the pictures and here they are.  Quite spectacular I say.  These are hand held and straight out of the camera.
Thank you to Guay Markham for sharing her amazing photos.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Annular Solar Eclipse

Well you can see by the above photo it was a pretty dramatic event.

Okay, there is no photo.  And there was no drama.  I left the desert in the morning and logged in 258 miles driving to a vantage point that would be on the center line of the eclipse path thinking I would achieve maximum effect there.  My only concern at this new position next to Honey Dry Lake was clouds.  But as the climatic time approached the clouds were all gone and I was ready.  I checked the time - 6:31pm.  The moon is now fully on the sun leaving only a "ring of fire".  Nothing.  I've experienced full on eclipses of the sun before and was expecting at least a noticeable change in the light, but truth be known, if you didn't know anything was going on in the heavens you'd go on with business as usual as did the birds.  If I had protective eye wear or a welder's helmet with me then I would have been able to see the "ring".  As it was, the sun was still much to bright to look at it and taking a picture was out of the question for the sunlight would damage the sensor.  But all was for naught.  A lady showed me the pictures she got holding in front of her camera the free "eclipse viewing shield" she picked up just by chance at the local museum in Susanville.  And my friends, her pictures were pretty cool looking.  A "ring of fire" just like they said.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Yes, Sinbad and I are on the loose once again.  We are going to Sinbad's favorite place for here he is free to roam...and he never does for there is nothing of interest any further than the smells collected on the front bumper.  We will be back in a week just before Memorial Day weekend.
On a side note, the path of the annular solar eclipse that is to occur this Sunday May 20 will be right where we are on this dry lake in Nevada.  If at 6:30pm the sun is behind the mountains (these mountains are on the east side, the ones Sinbad is facing in the west are much higher) then we'll move back into California and position ourselves at Honey Lake (also dry) and be right on the center line of the eclipse path. This photo was taken on June 7, 2010 at 7:44pm so I think we will be okay.  Nice that these digital cameras record that information for us.  See you in a week.   >^..^<

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Couple of Critters

In velvet.

Next up are snakes so for those of you who do not like snakes and was put off recently by the rattlesnake, time to move on to the next blog on your list.

A gopher snake crossing the trail. He sat there the entire time allowing me to take pictures. When I was done I prodded him along so as to not get run over by a bicyclist. As it was, I didn't see a single person on the entire hike. A fine day it was.

As Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter would say,  "Ain't he a beauty?"

And there was this little guy. I say little for he was barely 6 inches long. It wasn't till he swam off did I notice he had something in his mouth. He may have just caught it at this spot where he swam up to as I clicked his picture. This was taken with my 300mm about 8 feet away.

I blew up the image and it appears to be a tadpole which is about a third his size. That is going to be a big meal for this little fellow.