As of late…

Things have been a bit busy, crazy, hectic, ridiculous…

I have been home for only 22 days since the 10th of April…and I’ve taken 7 different trips…most for work, 1 to Salt Lake to see Liam and Rory’s new restaurant, and 1 to Savannah, GA for a wedding.  It has been hectic, but also very good.  I’m really loving my job, teaching Wilderness Medicine Courses.  The locations have been fun, the people I work with have been great and the work is constantly challenging and the students are inspiring!  My travel is not done yet…in fact, tomorrow I’m headed for the Bay area to teach a re-certification course, and then lead a backpacking trip for Big City Mountaineers in Yosemite!

Here are some moments from the last couple months!

I worked a 10 day course in San Francisco.

It’s hard to complain when this is what your office looks like!

While I’m gone, Woody texts me photos of our ridiculous dog! (Who sleeps like this!?!)

I had an extra day and drove around exploring…Golden Gate Park, Sutro Baths, China Beach, and Ocean Beach!

I had some beautiful weather!

Cleo found a peacock in our neighbor’s yard.

I taught two courses in Portland…

Some rain, some sun, very pretty!

Super fun to see Avery & Eloise and spend some time with Ciaran and Kate!  Looking forward to my next course in the area!

Judy and Laura came for a visit…we packed in quite a bit into two days!  LACMA!

Woody’s favorite piece of art…

We took a quick weekend trip to Salt Lake City to see for ourselves, Liam, Rory and Andrew’s new venture, Avenues Proper.  I am so proud of my brothers!  From an inkling of an idea a ways back…to an open and functioning restaurant and brewery – amazing!

Looking forward to my next trip!

We managed to make it up to Heber to see the horses!

And of course, we watched as much Game of Thrones as we possibly could and played a lot of Excite Truck – a special request of Liam!

Neither of us had seen Utah’s new Museum of Natural History.

Call me impressed!

The views are gorgeous!

A trip to Salt Lake would not be complete without a stop here…

and of course the Mole Sampler!

Back to southern California…and I headed to Lake Cachuma to teach a weekend course.  It’s halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Olivos!

I squeezed in a pre-birthday dinner with this lady!  Love her…and love me some chicken and waffles (Liam – your version is better!).

Next, we were off to Savannah, GA for the wedding of our friends Jon & Sara.

Saw some thunderhead’s building up over the middle of the country.

Explored the moss-covered trees and parks in the historic district!

Spotted a mode of transportation that NEEDS to be in my future.  I’ll be driving the scooter and Woody will ride shotgun!

Lots of fun catching up with friends from Harvard!

And ogling the crazy super-yachts and sailboats docked on the river!

These two are so cute and so in love…and they share the same birthday…Valentine’s Day.  I think I just threw up in my mouth.  Just kidding…I love ’em!

The ceremony was perfect and the basil gimlets were delightful!

On our flight home, Woody sat across the aisle from Ernie Hudson – one of the original Ghostbusters!  This is my stealthy photo!

Flying back from Savannah was the start of too much time in airports…which included Savannah, Houston, LAX, Burbank, SFO and Chico…all within 24 hours.  SFO is where I spent 13 unplanned hours…after multiple flight delays and a cancelation…I finally arrived at my hotel in Chico at 3:15 am.

Don’t worry I managed to get almost 3 hours of sleep before I was up again and getting ready to teach 30 students for 10 days straight!

My co-instructor and I made a point to go on the Brewery tour at Sierra Nevada.

They have an impressive facility, which they’ve built over the years!

They have (one of?) the largest privately owned solar arrays in the country…and plenty of sun!

The tour ended with a tasting, many of the beers I had not tried before!

Then there was more teaching.  We employ very creative teaching techniques…here, my co-instructor Liam is acting out a patient with cardiac issues as I run through a patient assessment!

Also…it was hot!  (did I mention this?)  It was REALLY hot!

Also, really beautiful!

I arrived home…for 5 hours…and found some presents waiting for me!!!

Love the clutch!  Thanks Giselle!

And then I opened the clutch to find this…

“For those of you wondering where my beard went: fret not it is still around, just not on my face. Liz has it.”

-Mark Fischer via Facebook

Home for a couple hours…and then I was off to drive north of Malibu, where I taught a weekend WFA course at a camp near Leo Carillo State Beach.  I was making a phone call and turned around to see this little guy.  Actually, he wasn’t so little!

More teaching!

I got back Sunday…cumpled into bed exhausted and spent Monday putting my life back together as my time at home is short once again.  Monday night we put my latest birthday present from Woody, a baking steel (kind of like a pizza stone but made of pure steel) to the test and had two delicious pizzas!

Tuesday was a blur…and this morning, WOody and I were up before 5 am to get him to the airport with his Watermaster raft and all his fishing gear for a week of fishing near the Henry’s fork of the Snake river.

I returned home after a stop for some coffee and took Cleo for her morning walk.

June Gloom has set in full force…but who can complain when your trees shower the sidewalks with purple flowers!

Back on the road tomorrow…home at the end of June with hopefully some more photos and an adventure or two to share!

Happy Summer!

Let’s talk SUMMER!

Summer is about to officially end…and I’ve got a lot to catch you up on.  It’s been a busy summer with lots of travel and adventures.  Let’s start in mid-May…

We visited Colorado to see Sarah graduate from CC!

typical Colorado spring weather – chilly and rainy

bbq and beer to celebrate while watching the sun be eclipsed

Then, back to California…

for Wynne’s graduation from Redlands…

she’s the one in the middle looking very scholarly

with a bonus visit of Ciaran, Kate, Avery and Eloise for day or so…

Avery really likes writing out her letters…and rolling around in chalk!

any rectangles drawn must be completely filled in!

and this one…she kills me!

and we can’t forget about Cleo…she celebrated her 5th birthday in May…

I celebrated a friend’s birthday with some beach time with bonfires!

Most of June was consumed by secret planning for this…

the dual celebration of both my parents turning 60 this year…

lots of good times…with dogs in the pool…

and planning this…

what is formally known as one of the better Connelly Family Birthday traditions…a pie fight!

complete with chocolate pudding and whip cream!

There were many walks with Cleo…the best ones involve squirrel-stalking!

Mid-July found both Woody and I traveling for work.  He first went to Stanford for some instrument time…and I embarked on a road trip with the final destination of Denver to work a course for Big City Mountaineers.

I left Pasadena and headed through Las Vegas to Springfield, Utah…just outside of Zion.

The heat was outrageous in Vegas…and massive desert thunderstorms broke out just as I left the interstate!  I truly miss summer storms.  

(Oddly, as I sit here right this moment, Pasadena is experiencing a rare bout of thunder and rain…and I could not be more pleased!)

It had been at least 10 years…and maybe even closer to 15 years since I had been through Zion…you can truly forget how beautiful and stunning the landscape can be.

The next day had me driving to Salt Lake/Park CIty.  I stayed with some of my favorite peeps…Carrie and Andre.  I seemed to bring the weather along with me wherever I traveled as well.  Hot and stuffy when I arrived and by 9 pm, it was blustery, chilly and the power was out!

From Park City, I drove towards Glenwood Springs to catch up with a friend from high school whom I haven’t seen since her wedding!

a little swimming in the hot springs and lots of catching up over beers and dinner and hanging out with her cute little family!

One last day of driving towards Denver, with only 2 cd’s left to go on my book on tape, 30 minutes into the drive…

this happened…

Apparently the little Subie just could not go any further…called AAA and waited…and poured water in the radiator every so often as it became clear very quickly that things were HOT!

Pop quiz:  Anyone know how far AAA will tow for free…?  I do!  1oo miles – above and beyond is an additional charge.  Question #2 – how far from Denver did my car break down?  132 miles!

Okay, I can’t resist…question #3 – how long did it take to drive (the tow truck driver…not me) those 132 miles…?  More than 6 hours!  That is an average speed of 22 miles per hour…and 3.5 more hours than I intended to spend in the company of my tow truck driver.  Can’t say I didn’t learn a thing or two…mainly about cougar hunting, the history of the Vail area and of course…how the ‘illegals are stealing all the jobs’ and that this president we have is ‘doing nothing more than ruining our country.’

Character building…that’s how I made myself feel better about the whole situation.

I made it to Denver, dropped the car at a shop and was generously picked up by a friend for some dinner and carting all my shtuff to the house where I was staying.  Monday brought with it prepping for the trip I was leading and making very expensive decisions about what to do with the car.  Turns out the engine was ‘done’ and needed to be completely rebuilt…and since we’re in there…why not replace the clutch too.

Tuesday…course begins.  Backpacking with 4 girls and 2 adult volunteers for 7 days in the Medicine Bow Wilderness in Wyoming.

The trip was great…girls were amazing and a lot of fun.  Three were Nepali and one from Rwanda – lots of cultural differences to discuss and learn about and the scenery could not have been better.  I have definitely bookmarked the area in my brain for a future personal trip.

And then…because I needed yet another thing to pop up and get in my way…

I found myself in a doctor’s office hoping for an explanation as to why a good portion of my feet were numb and tingly (and had been since the day 2 of the course).  This was particularly important as I was scheduled to lead a second trip for BCM 5 days later.  The answer was not what I hoped to hear – 1) they don’t know exactly why my feet were numb and tingly; 2) strongly recommended against leading another backpacking trip; and 3) gave me the diagnosis of ‘digital nerve damage with cause unknown’.  Great.  Just garreat.

So, now the car is fixed, but my feet are broken.  Thanks to another instructor coming through at the very last-minute, I was off the hook and the trip headed out into the field right on schedule.

I now found myself with some time on my hands in Denver…so my Mom hopped a plane and joined me for a surprise girls weekend full of Olympic watching, relaxation, dinners out, afternoon tea, a little shopping and a seeing my first live musical – Jersey Boys.

The afternoon thunderstorms continued and I could not get enough of them!

Since I was not working the course…it was now time to drive back towards Pasadena.  I left Golden and headed for the open road!

I drove some roads I never had before, starting with US-285 from Denver to Fairplay to Buena Vista…

 Through Salida and then west towards Gunnison…

And finally to Montrose where I stopped for the night…

In the a.m., I headed due south towards Durango driving through Ouray.

Can we discuss how great road trips are?  I mean, really.  The scenery continually shifting, with tunes of your choice (or a good book or two on tape)…what is not to like!

I just kept reaching for the camera…I couldn’t help myself!

I passed through Mancos and Cortez and headed southwest through the Navajo Nation towards Flagstaff.

Passing right through the Four Corners.

This is pretty much how I roll…

Leaving the red dirt of the desert behind and heading up to 7000 feet and the Ponderosa forests of Flagstaff.

It was too early to stop when I hit Flagstaff…so I drove on to explore a new town…Prescott.  I found an amazing little place to stay…grabbed a bite to eat and watched some more olympics.

The next morning marked my last day on the road.  It was hardly more than a 6 hour drive back to Pasadena…and Woody was returning from his field work in South Africa that same morning.

Yet another road I had not yet driven…and incredibly beautiful.  Note that there is only one lane on the road…the east-bound traffic was 700 feet below.

It was my first time driving through Palm Springs…and perhaps not the best time of year/day for a positive impression – it was scorchingly hot, and apparently it’s a time of year when many businesses shut down for two or three weeks…like the shoulder seasons in a ski town.  Not much else to say.

And then, rather anti-climactically…I arrived home to Pasadena!  It was REALLY nice to be home and to see Woody and Cleo…and unpack…and cook in our own kitchen.

We belated celebrated our 6 year anniversary with a night out at The Bazaar by José Andrés…and this is definitely the prettiest gin and tonic I’ve ever had!

The experience was amazing and we hardly grazed the surface of the expansive menu which includes both traditional and modern (read: molecular gastronomic) tapas.

Green olives…real on the bottom and liquid olive spheres on top!

Tortilla Espagnola…re-thunk!

And the most interesting philly cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten…hollow inside with a cheese creamy foam piped inside with wagyu beef and chives.  The meal included many more dishes…too many to share and the iPhone photos don’t do the tapas justice.  A memorable anniversary for sure!

Then…we landed on Mars!

Well, not actually “we” as in Woody and myself…but “we” as in humanity…or at least a roving remote-controlled science lab landed on Mars.  This was an opportunity for tailgating at Caltech…where the very idea of such is foreign.  There were of course more official and formal celebrations being held on campus…none of which we were invited to (read: allowed into).  So, some creative ambitious grad students got to setting up a projector with a laptop and a set of speakers on the side of one of the buildings…lawn chairs were set-up, and beer and twizzlers were passed around while watching the live feed from the NASA website of mission control at JPL.

Colleagues of Woody’s have been instrumental in the MSL project and we spotted a few familiar faces on the screen throughout the broadcast.

That’s John Grotzinger on the right – Project Scientist for Mars Science Lab – and a good friend of ours!

Mark had some work in Anaheim…so he squeezed in a visit.

Always fun to have him in town, if even for a short time.

The next weekend we headed for a morning hike in Griffith Park as part of our attempt to be tourists in our own city…so many things still to do!

Whew!  I think that most brings us up to date…at least through mid-August.  We returned on Tuesday from a long weekend in the eastern Sierras…so hopefully I can get some of those pictures up soon.  I am truly in disbelief that tomorrow is SEPTEMBER!

Can I get a “YIKES!”?

Bears – A Fascination & A Fear

Bears intrigue me.

{taken at Anan Bear Observatory in Southeast Alaska}

My affinity for bears has been growing since my first encounters with black bears in the mountains west of Pikes Peak as an 11-year-old camper at Sanborn.  There was a dump for camp trash, and a frequent evening activity with your cabinside was to hop in a camp van, drive the few miles down the road to the dump at dusk and hope you might spot some bears scavenging through the trash.  Sometimes it was a mother with three cubs, sometimes just 1 or 2 bears…but I was hooked.  Bears were different, there seemed to be qualities that I just couldn’t nail down that made them stand out from the other wildlife I encountered (elk, coyotes, deer, beavers, and even cougars).  I probably wasted at least 2-3 rolls of 110 mm film on blurry bears and trash using this camera.

(via)

In college, I took a class called ‘Writing from Wild Sense of Place’ and we spent a good portion of the class backpacking in the rocky mountains.  When not on the trail, we were writing quite a bit and reading Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass and what became my favorite ‘The Grizzly Years’ by Doug Peacock.  Up until that point, writing about nature had been quiet and mostly historical; I always felt detached from the natural world that was being written about, as if it had changed in the space of time between when it was written and when I read it.  The Grizzly Years changed that for me.  It was palpable and relate-able.  It was about humanity and nature, war and solace, feeling out-of-place and finding connections all at the same time.

In 2004, I was offered a chance to work in Alaska as a guide for an at-risk youth program leading 46 day expeditions in the inside passage which included ocean canoeing, backpacking, glacier travel and canoeing the Stikine river.  It was an opportunity I could not turn down.  However, it was not without risk.  The course areas were remote, the students were at-risk, the environment was tough and the brown and black bear populations were high.

{Taken at Anan Bear Observatory}

 And then it happened, a student on course was bitten by a brown bear.  He survived the attack and was flown out by helicopter, with no lasting damage, but I was brought in to relieve the staff who were there when it happened.  I spent 5 days with that group, helping to process what had happened and ease them back into the expedition.  All seemed to be going well until the last evening I was to be with the group.

{dorsal fin of a humpback whale in the distance, Etolin Island on the left)

We were camped on a horseshoe-shaped beach on Etolin Island (the plan was to circumnavigate the island by canoe) in mid-April.  Etolin Island is unique in that it is home to elk.  Eight elk were transplanted in 1986 for the purposes of sport game hunting, have now  flourished and also provided a previously non-existent food source for coastal brown bears in the region.  Earlier in the day we had seen humpback whales as we rounded the southern tip of the island and had also spotted a wolf on an outcrop of rock.  We had finished dinner and were sitting around a campfire going through our evening routine while enjoying the waning evening light and watching the tide retreat.  The group consisted of 16 and 17-year-old boys who were apt to mess with each other; so proclamations of ‘there’s a bear over there’ had been common since the attack.  However, when one boy said it as we discussed the next day’s schedule…you could tell by the look on his face that he was not joking around, and in fact there was a very large brown bear who had walked out of the forest toward waterline and was beginning to dig for clams.  The three other guides and myself stood up and readied our bear spray, attempted to keep the group calm and got out the flare gun and the air horns.  The bear seemed not to notice us at first and continued searching for foods in the dusky light, we hollered a bit at the bear to get its attention and see if it would run back into the woods – nope, nothing.  Our head guide shot the flare gun towards the bear and it startled a bit and did retreat to the forest, however, it headed straight towards the line of tarps where each of the boys would sleep that evening, just inside the treeline.

The fear that washed over me, when I glanced across the receding water and saw a very large brown bear no more than 150-200 yards away…was primal, compelling and almost overwhelming.  My fight or flight response had certainly kicked in, and just like the boys in the group…my gut was telling me it was not willing to fight.  Adrenaline pumped through my veins, my legs became weak, I shivered vaguely and my voice wavered – of course all of this happening as I tried to retain some level of confidence and an inkling of respect from the teens.  Did I not mention that I was the only female on the trip?

What hit me hardest was the lack of control I had and the reality of how small and minuscule we are in the natural world.

Immediately and very seriously, the group began stating that they refused to sleep in their tarps or even go anywhere close to where they had stashed their dry bags. We discussed our options and decided that due to the prior events, the prudent thing to do would be to pack up all of our gear and paddle just across a channel to a small island offshore.  This required going into the very dark edge of the forest and taking down each student’s tarp (already set up), packing their things into their dry bag, tossing it onto the beach and getting our 7 canoes completely packed and ready to paddle.

But from a dark place of fear and anxiety and minds running wild with things that go bump in the night, are covered in fur and have very long claws…came the most peaceful paddle I’ve ever experienced.  The group operated as a well-oiled machine and by the time the last dry bag was thrown out from the edge of the woods, the boats were packed, spray skirts were tied, paddles were in hand and we were ready to launch.  The icing on the proverbial cake of the evening was the bio-luminescence visible with every paddle stroke.  The moon was out, the group was tired, the water was calm and we had avoided the known and real danger of a brown bear in our campsite.  I don’t think we paddled for more than an hour, but that paddle seemed to swallow the night.  We arrived well past midnight on another pebbly beach, anchored the canoes on high ground, grabbed our sleeping bags and tarps and slept side-by-side like a tray full of burritos.  (Please believe that I was not so naive to think that our new island was lacking in bears…only that it was not the place we had come from.)

Grizzly bears have been all over the news this last year, especially last summer with two bear-caused fatalities in Yellowstone National Park.  The most recent issue of Outside magazine also contains an article reviewing the events of last summer involving grizzly bears in the lower 48.  Slate.com recently published an article by Jessica Grose, detailing the investigation into the fatalities that took place in July and August of 2011.  I highly recommend reading the entire article as it details both attacks and goes into detail regarding the investigation that followed.  Although there was no conclusive evidence indicating that both attacks were committed by the same bear, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team found that the Wapiti Sow who attacked the hikers in July did feast on the hiker who was killed in August.  An easy assumption to make is that it was in fact the same bear who killed both men.  Regardless, she was trapped and euthanized and her cubs will spend their life in captivity.

We fished throughout Yellowstone the second week of September and did not see any bears.  This is fine with me.  I think my attraction shifted into fear after living and working in Alaska.  Regardless of how many bears I saw, I knew there were many more who saw me.

{taken on the western slope of Mt. Edziza, British Columbia}

I’ve come across very fresh tracks, seen steaming piles of berry filled scat, and heard plenty of noises to know that I’ve been closer than I would like to think to brown bears.  I’ve had hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I’ve had gut feelings that I should leave the area…and I have never been attacked or even charged.  The fear I feel is guttural,  it is primal and it is not something I can control.  I carry bear spray and wear a bear bell in an effort to make plenty of noise…but this does not negate the fear and the anticipation of what is possible.

This is hugely frustrating to my husband – my frequent hiking and fishing companion as he interprets my caution  and fear as unreasonable.  To his credit, he has done everything he can to make me feel more confident in the backcountry.  We both carry bear spray on our hip, are conscious about making noise and are well aware of our surroundings. And although he has grumbled about doing it, he has succumbed to my intuition when I have suggested that I think we should head to a different creek because I heard a noise, or it feels ‘bear-ish’.  He has even suggested that I carry a firearm when we fish in certain locations.  I am also very aware that part of the attraction to fishing and hiking in the backcountry is the solitude that it affords and being humbled by the largess of it all.  I, apparently want it all.  The wilderness, the quiet, the chance interactions and sightings of life and a world like it was 100 years ago…but I also want the guarantee of safety, and a mind clear of sneaking feelings of being watched.  And just as the saying goes…one can’t have its cake and eat it too.

The bottom line is that this will not keep me from doing things I love in remote places.  All that I have read and all that I have learned won’t stop me from paying attention to gut feelings and intuition, but hopefully it will have made me more prepared to manage the (unreasonable) emotions and handle any encounter (close or at a distance) that I may (be lucky enough to) have.

As “wilderness” continues to find a way into the urban world…as evidenced here and here, the basis of all thoughts, opinions and emotions surrounding bears and wild animals is a deep love and respect for them.  We do not live in a Disneyland or a zoo with fences and glass, nor should we.  I firmly believe that access to wild places is important, but I would hope to not put our access as humans above the survival of others.

Get out there, appreciate the wilds of our earth before they are gone, be safe, knowledgeable, prepared and, of course, humble!

Weekend in Mammoth (aka ruinniversary)

5 (FIVE!) years ago on July 22nd…Woody and I tied the knot, got hitched, entered wedded bliss…(read we had a really fun weekend with lots of friends and family…and enjoyed a great party…with a little dose of commitment thrown in!).

To celebrate, we took a day off of work and drove up to Mammoth for the weekend.  We brought our canine addition to our family along with us…which seemed like a great idea.  Cleo is well-trained and enjoys her kennel.  We know she travels well in the car, and planned for one day when we might leave her in the hotel room in her kennel and then the other day we would take her hiking with us.  Ha!

That’s what we thought…turns out, she REALLY thinks she’s part of Team Fischer and couldn’t fathom why we would leave the hotel room without her.  I don’t blame her…we like her a lot, she likes us a lot and we were ALL on vacation.  To prove her unhappiness with our decision to leave her (even just for 30-40 minutes to grab a beer after we arrived), she used her most pathetic whine and sad whimper to convince us that she deserved to come along with us regardless of the activity or the dog-appropriateness.  This wasn’t just a little whimper, or a small whine that quieted as she understood the departure of her two favorite people…it was lasting and a sorrowful attempt at guilting us into returning.  Which we did.  Did someone mention having us wrapped around her little claw…?  So we deemed this anniversary the ruinniversary!  Don’t take this the wrong way…nothing was ruined…except for our PLANS.  But we love her and what could we do…we were a threesome for the weekend.

Here’s to our adventures…as a threesome and to another five years and then some!!!!!

The drive up had amazing views…except we couldn’t see them with all the haze!

Every road trip requires the requisite energy drink…why…?  ‘Cause we’re sitting still for long periods of time and need energy…obviously!  Woody always opts for some strange weird brand and odd flavor…I always ask to sample…and the outcome is always…gross.  I stick with the original…

Woody suggested we stop her to get some snacks and ‘energy bars’ from this bakery.  They were just about closing…but we managed to find one energy bar and a loaf of some delicious ‘Honey Squaw Bread”.  We saved the energy bar for the next day and snacked on the sweet wheaty bread during our 40 minutes of the drive.

We caught the local fly shop before they closed – so we purchased our annual California resident fishing licenses and dug for some local knowledge and hints as to where the fishing might be good.  (Remember this is prior to learning about Cleo and her co-dependency, when we thought we’d still be able to get in one day of serious fishing.)

We stayed at the Sierra Nevada Lodge…a re-vamped old historic throwback lodge with some kind of a rat pack history…Sinatra, et. al. were always playing over the speakers in the lobby, restaurant and bar.

And then…it happened.  The whining…the sadness, the guilt.  We grabbed a beer, sucked it down and headed quickly back to the room out of fear that we would be booted from the hotel before we’d even had a chance to sit down!  She was a little angel when we were in the room with her…at this point we still thought we might be able to fish the next day in Devil’s Postpile.  We packed up the car, got ready to leave, put the do not distrub sign on the door, lest ye maid be surprised to find a dog in the hotel room, and headed out.  Silently standing by the door for 5 minutes to test the volume and scale of sorrow resounding from our Cloodle and hoping for a bit of silence as proof she would be fine…ahhhh…but none came.  Deflated, we unpacked the car, moped a bit and watched some Tour de France and tried to rework our plans.

You might ask why we couldn’t take Cleo with us.  1) Dogs are allowed into Devil’s Postpile, but a shuttle into the monument is required and for insurance reasons all dogs are required to be muzzled on the shuttle.  We’ve never put a muzzle on Cleo and wasn’t sure how she would respond.  2)  We’ve never taken Cleo with us fishing.  She doesn’t respond well to hanging out and staring at a river very well…she’s more of a constant motion kind of dog who thinks you are her personal escort to see the world.  3) We weren’t sure about the availability of water and how hot it would be or how much shade would be available and we are quite sensitive to how quickly heat can affect dogs.  So…we took her with us, purchased a muzzle, shuttle tickets and hoped for the best.  Muzzle was okay…shuttle ride interesting and the number of people was outrageous…sort of the Disneyland National Monument experience….lines and all.

The kicker is that we absolutely and completely forgot about bringing her electronic collar…so she was on leash at all times…I actually ended up with a sunburn on the top of my hand from holding it out in front of me grabbing the leash…not used to hiking with my hands out in front of me.

I had never seen the Eastern Sierras before and found the landscape enticing.  Somehow the bald patches of granite make it seem like you could just run right up there, almost lacking in mystery.

Despite how peaceful and serene this looks…on the far side of the willows is a highway of a trail with busloads of tourists walking the half mile back and forth to the postpile and back.  We wet a line, but weren’t sure if the lack of action was because the river and the meadow area were overfished, or if the fishies weren’t interested in the flies…we were the only fly fishermen we saw…but no lack of bait fishermen and spinning rods, including an entire eagle scout troop trying to poach our part of the creek.

While Woody fished, Cleo and I waited on the bank…she wasn’t a fan…it was almost like being left in the hotel room.

We hiked a few miles to rainbow falls and up around to meet up with shuttle again and return to the the resort.  After showers and some relaxation time, we headed out to dinner…afraid the whole time that Cleo was making us look like neglectful parents.  Luckily, Roberto’s was right across the street!  

The next morning we found Cleo’s favorite weekend activity.  Staring down chipmunks.  The  crevices in the rocks just outside our screen door housed an entire family of small chipmunk’s.  They would poke their head’s out and chirp a bit, probably sounding an alarm to others in the are that serious spotted dog was staring them down, held back only by wrought iron bars.  She stood like this for hours!

  

We headed up to the resort again on Saturday and bought tickets to take the gondola up to the summit and enjoy some lunch, a little hiking and the views.  Dogs Allowed!

She wasn’t entirely sure what to think about the Gondola ride.

The Minaret range is beautiful and sharp!

Cleo enjoyed the snow…she hasn’t seen any in a long time!

Looking down into the Owen’s River Valley and the town of Mammoth.

I don’t think Cleo knew what to do about the elevation.  She ran around like she was down at sea level and seemed confused as to why she was panting as it wasn’t hot up there.

These markers are scattered around…placed by the Department of the Interior, many of them are seismic sensors.

Since we still had much of the afternoon available.  We decided to do some scenic driving and headed towards June Lake.  It was so beautiful and a lot clearer than the day we drove in.  They were having what they referred to as a heat wave and I referred to as completely pleasant and so the runoff was immense.

Next we headed toward Mono Lake – which I had no idea was so close to Mammoth.

Out in the middle is the resurgent dome or the Paoha Island which may have erupted as recently as 350 years ago!  The Sierras are still a very active volcanic area.

There were giant boulder size pieces of obsidian in front of the visitors center.

The lake has an interesting and controversial history.  In an effort to supply more water to the LA basin in 1941, streams feeding Mono lake were diverted and the lake volume was halved while the salinity tripled as run off continued to bring in dissolved salts that remained in the lake increasing the pH, as the lake sits in a basin with no outlet to the ocean.  The ecosystem began to collapse and conservation efforts beginning in the 1970’s brought about legislation to regulate the diversions and work to increase the water level.

Due to the mineral and salt content in the lake, limestone tufas appear around the lake edges and create an intriguing landscape!

Driving back towards Pasadena the next day, we were treated to clear views of Mount Whitney, elevation 14,505 feet, the highest point in the contiguous United States.  It is the peak on the right side of the photo set back just a bit.  Mount Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado is only slightly lower at 14, 440 feet tall.  Beautiful.  Summiting Mt. Whitney might have to get added to my bucket list.

We were back home by dinner and made something delicious for dinner…although I can’t remember what!

Critters of Oakdale

Almost good enough to be a title of a new young adult novel series…but seriously…

We’ve been getting some visitors lately.  First there were these guys…

Behind our garage, there is a little piece of concrete and I went back there to explore one day when Cleo refused to come when I called…I’m glad she didn’t try to eat them!

I’m thinking males fighting over prime territory!

Surprisingly vicious, writhing, twisting and biting each other.

Then, just last week, Woody had just arrived home from Indonesia (story for another time), and Cleo was on the back porch.  We keep the gate closed with a bungy cord as the metal is bent and the latch doesn’t work anymore – anyway, Cleo managed to jump the gate or push through it somehow and fling the bungy to run after something.  Woody heard her barking – which she never does…ran outside with a flashlight to find her behind the garage in full pointing mode staring into the darkness at this creepy critter…

Don’t immediately recognize it…it’s a possum, and a large one at that!  Woody would like me to point out the drool drips underneath the possum’s chin.  Once again, very pleased that Cleo didn’t consider this an evening snack and was most likely upset that she did such a good job pointing, and yet Woody didn’t do any shooting!  (isn’t that how this whole thing works…?)

Just yesterday morning, I walked out the back door into a spider web…I hate this feeling.  Knowing that you have strands of web around you, and you can’t seem them, and who knows where exactly the spider who these strands belongs to is located at that very moment.  Upon coming home from work, as I unlocked the door, I glanced at the light fixture and realized that right inside it was a young black widow spider.  Here we go again.

This is our back door.

This is the light next to our back door…and that little spot in the upper left panel is an unwelcome house guest!

My breadth of experience with Black Widows is broadening by the month…and I now know enough to identify this as a fairly young female black widow.  The bodies of black widows darken as they mature, which is why her legs appear almost striped and her abdomen is not jet black yet.  I sprayed a completely natural insecticide that works using concentrated essential oils from cinnamon, rosemary and clove.  Once I sprayed it (can indicates that it is very effective on ants, roaches, silverfish, etc.), the entire patio smelled like bad potpourri on steroids.  In fact, it was so strong, my eyes were burning and nostrils were stinging.  I think this stuff could work as a substitute for bear spray!

It wasn’t Oakdale…but our neighbors only a few blocks away had a bit of a family problem…

A racoon family problem!  Mom is up there with at least 3 offspring.  They look pretty cute…but their scratching, pitter-patter in the attic and across the roof was not.

I do like that little striped tail though!

Holy Heat Wave Batman! (with a side of HOT!)

It is 113° F in LA today – Pasadena is always hotter than LA.  I don’t even want to know.

All I can think of this…

“Hey, can you tell me what’s your name? “My name is Roosevelt E. Roosevelt.” Roosevelt, what town are you stationed in? “I’m stationed in Poontang.” Well, thank you, Roosevelt. What’s the weather like out there? “It’s hot! Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.” Well, tell me what it feels like. “Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! It’s so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Do you know what I’m talking about?” What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? “It’s gonna be hot and wet! That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle!” Thank you, Roosevelt.”

C’mon…guess the movie!

Also, this…

Who is it that everybody listens to but nobody believes?
The weatherman.

And, this…

You can read about this crazy late summer heat wave here, and here, and here.  I’m not even exaggerating.  It is really hot…like an oven.  Here’s to popsicles and ice cream, and air conditioning, and fabric seats in the car, and fans, and swimming pools and dark rooms, cool washcloths.  For all of you out there who might be just a touch sad that summer’s over…yeah, I don’t feel bad for you at all.  It’s 113°!  That is too hot.  I don’t even have words for how hot it is.

Easy like Sunday morning…+ fishing & brunch

Our Sunday started out with two alarms, an extra early walk and breakfast for Cleo, a loading of the car…and then off we went.  We were headed for some local fly-fishing…and not in the LA river this time.  We brought our bikes along since there was a paved access road that reached over 6 miles up the canyon.  The picture below is deceiving…it was freezing at 7 am at the trailhead – the day later topped out in the high 90’s.

We fished the West Fork of the San Gabriel River.  Not quite as remote and pristine as I had hoped…as demonstrated by the ‘fishing platform’ shown below.  However, we did catch fish…so the creek is healthy enough to sustain fish…a good sign.

I was lucky…I dropped a caddis fly on the water…and I had a bite.  More than a bite actually…I had a fish!  A pretty small rainbow, and my first fish caught in California waters.

The bikes were perfect…we traveled approximately 5 miles in…and stopped along the way wherever it looked like the fishing might be worthwhile and the tree limbs and branches would be forgiving of our casts.

Woody managed a catch just as we were about to call it and start heading back down to the cars.  Much bigger than my fish and caught while hanging out at the top of a run where the water is cooler and oxygenated.

On the ride down, the temperature was clearly rising and we were ready for some brunch.  We stopped here, and enjoyed iced coffee and interesting waffles, eggs, french toast and wraps!

Best of all, the day was still young…finished with brunch by 12:30…there was plenty of time to go home, take naps, play Super Mario Galaxy 2, wrestle the dog, get some work done and make dinner.

But before dinner…it was cocktail time…we made frozen margaritas and guacamole.  C’est parfait!