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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

KEEPING THE BEARS AT BAY



      Image result for image black bear

           "Our bears probably won't kill you", a Yosemite ranger assured us, "They'll claw their way into your car or cabin for cookies but black bears rarely attack people."  
I was relieved. 
   Three years ago we arrived at Yellowstone National Park and learned that one of their grizzly bear had just killed a tourist. A ranger told us then, "It's normal behavior.  Grizzly bears kill other animals".  
     

Luken Lake, Yosemite National Park



    But Yosemite was safer.  Their bears ate blackberries, Oreos...and toothpaste.  We learned that you had to keep everything that smells -even your Pepsodent- in a thick steel "bear box" outside. 

   We rented a tent and it seemed every time you needed something you had to go outside and go through a long, noisy process to get into your container that kept your stuff safe.   Since I don't smell like roses myself, I wanted to sleep in the bear box as well.  Unfortunately, it was too small.
   
 I sucked up my courage and started hiking hither and yon with my adventurous wife, Francesca.


Tuolomne Meadows



Yosemite is a big place. Watch her get smaller
Yosemite Valley



And smaller,
Hither

And smaller still                                                                                                                              She really is down there, really small.

Yon

There's a whole community, "Yosemite Village", hidden in these trees covering the valley floor. 

   The park's largest trees are clustered in three small groves outside the valley.  They're the remains of what was once a land of giants.




 This one fell fifty years ago, still
big enough to give shelter in the rain






   A hundred years ago it was cool to carve holes in the giant sequoias large enough to drive cars through.





 How times have changed.
 Now Californians carve holes in cars to let trees  through.



I didn't need a whole tree,




just a few branches to build a fire.


I thought it might come in handy to keep the bears away.

On our three-day visit we never saw one. We did see fresh bear poop on a hiking trail and one night we heard two-hundred campers screaming and slamming pans together at 5 am.  It's what they tell you to do if a big, hairy creature wanders into your campground.
    
  The sound scared me.  It was enough to make me want to crawl into the bear box.  Image result for image black bear
 But it was too small.

                          _____________
     


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

GATHERING AT THE ELECTRIC CATHEDRAL

    We've become ecstatic whale worshipers. 
The big guys are drawn to the electric cathedral a few miles south. Everyday begins with a drive to Moss Landing. You turn right at the church (okay, the power plant) to watch the behemoths eating breakfast offshore.

   The first day of whale watching spoiled us.  Now if they don't do somersaults we're upset. Dozens of people come for the same thing. Yesterday we shared the rocks with "Joanne", a local animal rescue volunteer. For a half-hour she filled us in on what's been happening in Monterey Bay.
    I asked Joanne how often she comes to the the whale show. "Every Tuesday," she said adding, "and when I leave I pour a pint of sea water into the bay then scoop up a new one". 
  "Why?" I asked.  Joanne explained that the sea has been damaged, "I put my new pint next to crystals that have the proper frequencies. After a week it is energized and I return it to the beach. I know I am only fixing a small part of it but the water I repair could start a reaction that will cleanse the world's oceans."
     While I am not familiar with Joanne's  approach I hope it works.



Moss Landing Humpback Whales
Coming up for a mouthful of anchovies off Moss Landing Beach, 4-21-14.  Photo by Michael Sacks
.

Monday, July 21, 2014

BREAKFAST WITH WHALES

     We heard humpbacks had gathered at Moss Landing, fifteen miles south of us. Newspaper photo of a humpback breaching. We saw this happen several times.

A neighbor told us migrating whales had followed huge schools of anchovies into Monterey Bay. We got up early today to check it out.
Sanctuary Cruises     As soon as we crested the beach ridge there they were, dozens 40-foot whales a half-mile offshore.  Looking across the horizon with binoculars their plumes looked like volcano eruptions one after another.
   In minutes several pods put on a show rolling and spouting.

   In several minutes we saw a whole show, the rolls, fluke slapping and vertical feeding surges.  Following the "round-outs" the big guys would throw up their ten-foot  tails as they dove.  It gets a 1000-feet deep here right away.
    We thought we had seen it all when we witnessed our first  breach. A young one, perhaps 30-feet long, shot out of the water entirely, spun on its axis, and crashed back into the sea.

  Later we were told that this what the teenagers do for fun.  
  A boat captain was quoted in the paper, "It's never been this good in the summer.  This could be the best place in the world right now to see humpbacks".
   Blue whales -twice as big- have been sighted in the bay this month as well.

   A local naturalists described being out in his kayak the previous day, seeing all this happen.  There were kayaks, paddle-boarders, and a few whale watch boats off shore as we stood with him on the beach  He said, "The whales seem aware of people and we're never put in danger.  I'm much more concerned about power boats running over my kayak".
    He went on to say one whale had risen up twelve-feet away and blown dead fish breath his way like a huge, rumbling raspberry, "It was incredible, something I'll never forget".
    Starting today with a bowlful of granola topped with whales is something I'll never forget. Not until tomorrow when we go again.
                           -----------------
        Whales coming up with mouthfuls of anchovies.
  (Francesca and I are on the beach watching the show) Three humpback whales lunge-feed near Moss Landing State Beach on July 16. Humpbacks have been congregating near the mouth of Moss Landing Harbor to feast

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SOMETHING FISHY

       Yesterday we arrived at our final destination, a lovely beach house near Santa Cruz.  Francesca and I walked to the Pacific's shore admiring the thousands of seashells glistening in the distance. A few steps further told us they were...fish. At least a half-million of them, mouths agape, piled on the beach. 

   A TV reporter asked, " How do you feel?" I told him I was sad. We later learned that they were white croakers that were probably drowned by -and dumped from- huge gill nets used by large fishing boats.  We learned they become "by-catch" because they have little commercial value.  It was impressive to get a first hand look at one reason why our oceans are dying.

  Thousands of stuffed seagulls stood nearby, waiting to get their appetite back.   We returned at sunset when there were even more.  
 


  Today the fish were adding  aroma to the air.  The birds and the tide have taken many but not the one with the big, boney head.
     
  We saw the young mola ("sunfish") staring out to sea, his bottom fin missing, a six-inch wide shark bite on his back.  It was amazing to see a creature I had only admired photographs.  We learned that thousands are killed every year by the nets a well.  
 Photo: An ocean sunfish or mola


Molas can grow as large as a truck and weigh 5000 pounds.
                           ____________________

 

   

 Last week we visited Miami friend Tom Ferrer and his wife, Debbie. They now live in California's Gold Country with dozens of  hummingbirds, a bear and three dogs. The Forty-Niners rushed there for gold 165 years ago (we found gold too.  More on that later). 


   Tom and Debbie built an energy-efficient house on forty-acres overlooking a delicious, distant blue lake. They'd like to sell it because it's getting too hot.  When we visited 5 years ago it hit 110.  

  Sheets are not hung out to dry. They block the morning and evening sun.
     Sometimes a hungry 300-pound bear stops by to whack bird seed out of their feeders. 

Photo taken through the kitchen window last month.  Debbie said when she opened it and yelled, "Go away!", he did.

  


 


   We did not see a bear but we did see many animal skulls on a porch table. Tom explained that the largest one once belonged to his dog, Yuba II.  He went on to explain that Yuba I was buried nearby and that their most recent Yuba, Yuba III, had died two months ago. 
     The Ferrers are experimenting with "green burials" now.  Tom said, "It's how most Indians treated their dead; a body would be left on the ground to let nature to take its course. After I die Debbie can lay me out in the woods too."

    There is a growing green burial movement. Proponents want laws changed so one can simply bury a body without adding embalming and concrete vaults to the process.
It's a great idea.

Image result for image of galen clark  He planted young Sequoia trees at its four corners so "their roots can reach in and take me up to their magnificent, lofty branches".    Last week we learned that California pioneer Galen Clark, one of the founders of Yosemite National Park, dug his own grave at 83, thirteen years before he 
died. That doesn't sound so bad. 



     On a walking tour of their property, the Ferrers offered to show us the remains of their latest dog.  Yuba III's bones were in a clearing, scattered a bit by hungry animals. Tom picked up the head and tail restoring them to their proper places.

  I doubt I'll be asking Francesca to set me out in a field or require her to re-arrange my bones, but somewhere under a mango tree might be good.


    
    Heading back to the coast we stopped in Sacramento to have lunch with Francesca's nephew and his wife, Rosa.  Afterwards Alan took us swimming in the American River where tiny golden flakes reflected sunlight from the sand.
He told us it was indeed, gold, but the pieces were too small to finance our retirement or even our vacation's gas money.
       With that in mind, we will return to our jobs next month.
                           _______________




Saturday, July 12, 2014

NOT EVEN IN MIAMI

    Two of Miami's most talented artists retreat to Northern California every year. Just north of Medocino, they love Fort Bragg for its quiet and cool weather. 

     Norma Watkins, Les Cizek, and their cat share this bungalow in the former lumber town.    Norma is a writer, her most recent book being "The Last Resort", an account of her growing up in the racial tumult of Mississippi. Image result for BOOK IMAGE THE LAST RESORT Norma blogs at www.normatalksaboutwriting.wordpress.com .


     Les kept South Florida's aviation businesses insured until he switch to his true love, fine woodworking.  

Want a chair like no other?   Les has your number. 



  
Here are two of his small tables  displayed in a Medocino gallery.




 





Our spry friend leading us over the dunes at Ten Mile Beach.






 We had a great time trading stories with these two last week.

One of them is Les' amazing Rolex.  He has had it on his wrist for decades and it has never been stolen.  Not even in Miami. 






Until the next tale,
  Glenn & Francesca, 
     on the road in California 
                        ________________

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mendocino





   Our California tour continues.  Three hours north of San Francisco we entered magical Mendocino County.
 


Pebbles, pool, and beach near Fort Bragg. California, USA ( color)   It felt like driving at Le Mans as we whipped around curves on the winding coastline road.  Redwood and cypress swept down the hills until huge rocks kept them from falling into the sea. 
  






 
We visited the town of Mendocino with our friend, Les. 
  It is so perfectly perched on the pristine headlands I doubt anyone can afford to live there.



           Sure, people own the  two million dollar cottages but if you had that kind of money would you live in a cottage? 
   I know people are there serving lunch. In a rustic cafe a gnome brought us steaming bowls of chowder.  
                    Gnome Bike Rack 
   They're all over the place, happy, hippy men with snow white beards flowing over tie-dyed shirts. One guy pedaled past with his hair and his beard in braids.  Many of the women are similarly haired and dyed.    
While tourism is huge here, the biggest industry is growing dope.  We saw no evidence of it except for one well-kept store, "Herban Legend"
 
      People love this place for its cuteness but more important, the spectacular scenery. Pink iceplant and small yellow flowers on a coast bluff, Mendocino. California, USA ( color) 
  Unlike Coconut Grove, the good folks there have preserved acres of open land between the town and the sea. 
       Two Miami friends preserve their sanity by heading there every spring.  Les and Norma live eight miles north in Fort Bragg, Ca.  We'll visit them and their sixty-degree weather next.

Lost in the trees,
G & F'ca