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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Maggie Puppy Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail

Hi Blog! After two glorious weeks in Death Valley, it was time to head back toward civilization. We promised our daughter we would puppy sit for her this weekend. On Saturday, February 27, 2016, we brought Maggie Puppy over to visit our campground in Soledad Canyon. Here Maggie explores the camp's dog run.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Soledad Canyon Road at the west end of our campground. Maggie is ready to lead the way up the trail.

It didn't take long to leave the campground behind.

You can see why this area is a favorite location of the movie industry. Maggie is ready for her close-up Mr. DeMille!

It is hard to believe that Los Angeles is just over those hills.

Maggie did great on the trail, but with the sun getting higher, we were afraid it would get too warm for a woman hiking in a black fur coat. Time to head back to Hollywood.

Happy Trails Maggie!

Death Valley - A Wildflower Superbloom!

We were very lucky to visit Death Valley during a superbloom!  As far as we can tell, the last superbloom occurred in 2005.  This year, the National Park rangers are ecstatic about the number and variety of wildflowers running riot all over the valley.

We spotted at least 13 different varieties of wildflowers on our hikes in various parts of Death Valley. This bright orange California Dotter was perhaps the most spectacular.  It seems to find a place on another host plant and can take various surprising shapes.  When we first arrived at the park, we only spotted a handful, but by the time we left in late February, they were everywhere:

This little purple cutie is known as the Desert Five-Spot.  It showed up sparsely in each of the places we hiked:

We think this is known as Fremont's Pincushion:

...and here is cute little Golden Desert Snapdragon:

While this photo didn't turn out well artistically, still, it represents another entrant in our wildflower parade - we think, the delicate Golden Evening Primrose.  This was the only specimen we saw:

This we think is the Gravel Ghost - a mite out of focus:

The following purple flowers were hard to identify, but we saw purple wildflowers everywhere. Only the Desert Gold, shown further below, was more numerous:

This white-and-yellow flower eluded our identification:

But here, in all its glory, is the Desert Gold, which appears everywhere in the park this season, blanketing hillsides and canyon floors, cheering up hikers everywhere in Death Valley:

Finally, we saw a good number of these little bushes with yellow blooms but weren't certain what their name is.  Still, they deserve a place in our show of Death Valley wildflowers:

If you want a more professional and well-edited glimpse of the Death Valley superbloom, here is a National Park Service video of the superbloom posted this month on the park's website.  It may give you a sense how special this year's bloom really is!

Death Valley - Ubehebe Crater

Hi Blog!

There are so many things to see in Death Valley. It is impossible to see them all in one visit. We had to make choices. We had driven by Ubehebe Crater on our way back from the Racetrack. We had so wanted to walk to the bottom of the crater, but we just didn't have enough daylight, so we decided to make another trip out Scotty's Castle Road and make a day of it.

The crater is half a mile wide and 500 to 777 feet deep. The age of the crater is estimated from 2,000 to 7,000 years old, which makes it exceedingly young and meant that we could see lots of evidence of the eruptions. Here is our first look down into the abyss.

The crater was formed when this area was volcanically active. Magma was moving towards the surface, and it might have erupted and formed a volcano or a cinder cone, but it encountered groundwater along the way. The hot magma superheated the groundwater, converting it to steam, and blew one giant hole and several smaller holes in the ground. Here Kathy begins the hike up around the rim of the crater.

The trail was pretty narrow in a few places.

The smaller explosions left smaller craters.

Bigger explosions left bigger craters!

Rain and wind weather the sides of the craters filling in the bottom with gravel and sand. Kathy volunteered to stand in the middle of the crater for scale.

Here is our first look down into Little Hebe Crater.

Little Hebe is a spatter cone that grew in the middle of one of the largest maars in the south group. The only significant deposit of lava in the volcanic field is contained in Little Hebe. Here Kathy holds a very lightweight cinder, full of gas holes.

Here you can see the 1/2 mile trail that winds its way around Little Hebe.

You need to hike away from the crater in order to see what is left of Little Hebe's spatter cone shape.

After working our way all the way around Ubehebe and Little Hebe, we reached the trailhead to the bottom of Ubehebe Crater (more affectionally known by us as Boobyhead Crater). It only took 10 minutes to shuss our way down the loose gravel trail. It was at least 10 degrees warmer inside the crater since very little wind makes it to the bottom. Here Kathy converts her hiking pants into hiking shorts to cool down!

Yeah! We made it to the bottom of the cater. Let's celebrate with a selfie!

If you would like to see what we saw, then click the link to the video: 360-degree view from the crater floor.

It was a slow steady slog up the loose gravel trail. We used a lot of the techniques we learned in snowshoeing - take turns breaking trail, step into the other's footsteps, use your rest step, take breaks and stay hydrated. The 10 minute trip down took 20 minutes on the way back up! However, the change in perspective was well worth the effort.

Strange things cross your mind when you are hiking in the desert sun. Just saying the name Ubehebe, Ubehebe, Ubehebe conjures up dancing babies.

I can't stop this feeling
Deep inside of me
Girl, you just don't realize
What you do to me

When you hold me
In your arms so tight
You let me know
Everything's alright

I'm hooked on a feeling
I'm high on believing
That you're in love with me

Goodbye Boobyhead Crater!

Manzanar National Historic Site

We took one day from our Death Valley visit to drive to nearby Lone Pine and the Manzanar National Historic Site just a short drive north of Lone Pine on US 395.

Here is a photo of the entrance:

Manzanar is most widely known as the site of one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in California's Owens Valley between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, it is approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Manzanar (which means "apple orchard" in Spanish) preserves and interprets the legacy of Japanese American incarceration in the United States.

After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Government swiftly moved to begin solving the "Japanese Problem" on the West Coast of the United States. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to designate military commanders to prescribe military areas and to exclude "any or all persons" from such areas. The order also authorized the construction of what would later be called "relocation centers" by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to house those who were to be excluded. This order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. The rest had been prevented from becoming citizens by federal law. Over 110,000 were incarcerated in the ten concentration camps located far inland and away from the coast.

Here is one of the guard towers used at Manzanar.  Many Japanese internees were convinced to come voluntarily to Manzanar on the argument that their lives were in danger in their communities, and the military would protect them.  The lie was given to this when the detainees discovered the military guns pointed inward at them rather than outward at some hostile non-Japanese Americans.

Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established.  The camp site comprised about a square mile and consisted of 36 blocks of hastily constructed, 20x100 foot tarpaper barracks, with each incarceree family living in a single 20x25 foot "apartment" in the barracks.

These apartments consisted of partitions with no ceilings, eliminating any chance of privacy. Lack of privacy was a major problem for the incarcerees, especially since the camp had communal men's and women's latrines.

Most incarcerees were employed at Manzanar to keep the camp running.  The incarcerees made Manzanar more livable through recreation. They participated in sports, including baseball and football, and martial arts. They also personalized and beautified their barren surroundings by building elaborate gardens, which often included pools, waterfalls, and rock ornaments. There was even a nine-hole golf course. Remnants of some of the gardens, pools, and rock ornaments are still present at Manzanar.

On November 21, 1945, the WRA closed Manzanar. The incarcerees had to leave the camp and travel to their next destinations on their own. The WRA gave each person $25, one-way train or bus fare, and meals to those who had less than $600. While many left the camp voluntarily, a significant number refused to leave because they had no place to go after having lost everything when they were forcibly uprooted and removed from their homes. As such, they had to be forcibly removed once again, this time from Manzanar.

The present site is ghostly in its appearance, with roads leading to no apparent destination.  The original destinations have been torn down, lost in the mists of time and memory:

The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was built by incarceree stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. Today, the monument is often draped in strings of origami, and sometimes survivors and other visitors leave offerings of personal items as mementos.  An inscription in Japanese on the front of the monument, translated, reads, "Soul Consoling Tower."

The inscription on the back reads, translated, "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese, August 1943."

One hundred forty-six incarcerees died at Manzanar. Fifteen incarcerees were buried there, but only five graves remain, as most were later reburied elsewhere by their families.

Since the last incarcerees left in 1945, former incarcerees and others have worked to protect Manzanar and to establish it as a National Historic Site to ensure that the history of the site, along with the stories of those who were unjustly incarcerated there, are remembered by current and future generations.

Here is a video produced by PBS on Manzanar, titled, "Never Again."

While a driving tour is offered to visitors, a walking tour gives access to many more of the sites in the interior of the property and is a much more powerful experience.  The documentary film shown at the visitor center should not be missed.  It focuses on the human and individual experiences of the detainees in the camp.

The park has partnered with Densho: The Japanese-American Legacy Project which hosts video and audio oral histories and historic documents from Manzanar and other confinement sites. The park has also partnered with the California Audiovisual Preservation Project which hosts historic home movies and oral histories.  The park has also conducted over five hundred oral history interviews. Segments of a number of them can be found in Manzanar's Virtual Museum.

We left the site much more aware of how unfair the treatment of U.S. Japanese had been during World War II, no matter what the degree of justification.  We couldn't help but think of current parallels with U.S. Muslims who are treated with suspicion at best and hatred at worst today due to terror attacks on Western targets.  We realize that if the rights of one group can be denied out of fear, the rights of any group can be denied, and the foundations of our democracy threatened by our own actions. Never again!

Death Valley - Mosaic Canyon

Our second day staying in Stovepipe Wells, February 21, 2016, we decided to take a hike up Mosaic Canyon.  Located not far from our lodge, the trailhead nevertheless was at the end of 2.5 miles of gravel road, which Great White was not very happy to drive.  But he did, and we started our hike looking fondly back at our great, white, hulking vehicle, set against the backdrop of Death Valley:

We soon forgot the difficulties of getting up the gravel road, however, as we hiked up the canyon floor.  Here's a typical view looking back down:

Mosaic Canyon gets its name from the unique, tile-like mosaic look of some of the rock, which we'll get to below; but we were also overwhelmed with the number of other interesting formations and patterns in the rocks of this canyon:

The canyon narrowed in placed, making a slot canyon that was in itself a sculpture in stone:

Here, Kathy examines some of the breccia, or conglomerate, rock that gives the canyon its name:

A close-up of the rock says it all!

About 2 miles up the canyon, we reached a dry waterfall that didn't seem passable.  Here, David mulls over the best way to proceed:

Luckily, the NPS trail guide gave us a hint.  We walked back down the canyon about 80 paces and found rock cairns marking a trail climbing steeply up one side of the canyon that helped us bypass the pour-over.

Still, at 2.5 miles, we finally reached a dry waterfall we could not get around.  We again saw a steep side trail, marked with cairns, that appeared to provide a way up and around the pour-over, but we decided that even the work-around was too dangerous for us to attempt.

We contented ourselves with a selfie photo memorializing the end of the hike:

On the way back down the canyon, we saw our first butterfly (other than some generic white ones). He posed willingly as we pulled out the camera:

We also observed some hardy plant pioneers that found some way to stake out a home on solid rock walls where it appeared no soil could exist:

Hiking back down, we discovered how good it was that we had gotten an early start.  The morning light brought out many colors in the canyon walls and rocks that the midday sun, on our way back down, washed out.  We also found all the crowds of tourist hikers coming up as we returned to the trailhead, marveled at how they all found parking spots in the small parking area, and again we were glad that we had gotten to the trail early in the day.