A to Z Challenge Reflection 2016: Without Silence

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Without silence, we could not distinguish the notes of the music. Even so, the music of the words that play within the walls of my mind is not the same as the sound of a voice that speaks aloud.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice.” That’s pretty much how it’s gone for me every day, the 26 days in April writing my A to Z posts. But, I’m not living in a communal house on the Princeton University campus, so I can’t retreat to that house like Amory Blaine in Fitzgerald’s 1920 novel This Side of Paradise to see if anyone else has arrived. I am alone, sitting in my studio at my computer. I feel the urge to pick up the phone and call someone. But I conclude that’s hopeless. No one wants to listen, no one has much to say. Few like talking on the phone these days, anyhow. They text. I don’t text; but even if I did I wouldn’t be hearing my own voice. I’d be seeing elisions and acronyms, oft misspelled, standing in for words and phrases, arriving on a tiny screen with the size typeface and images made for 18-year-old eyes, and a keypad for 3-year-old fingers.

So I climb the rickety, winding staircase, with the peeling white paint on the walls, to the cupola of my blog. Maybe Moriarty has arrived. He is the Phantom of My Blog, a low talker, a thoughtful thinker, someone I can converse with, even if he doesn’t dust.

On the way up I’m ruminating on why I chose the theme I did for 2016, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” my landscape photographs from my travels across America, pictures of places where I have lived or visited. I thought it would be quick and easy: use photos already in my computer and then say a few words. Not so. I found that for each photo in my computer, to give a true sense of place, I had to scan in more. Plus, the photos are old, 20 years or more, so I had to research each place to update my facts.

My photos are old because I spent the last decade caring for my mother, at home, who suffered from dementia. I had no time to do much else. In fact, I started my blog in 2011 to write about our journey through her dementia. Writing this story not only served as a catharsis for me, but also as information and support for others in similar circumstances. My mother died on April 11, 2012, hence this month marks the fourth anniversary of her death. She was 97. Many of the photos I used in this A to Z theme are of trips she and I took together. So, for me, this theme was a journey into a place called Nostalgia; and because the photos are old, I felt that I was seeing my whole life pass before my eyes. Often that made me sad. I was sad to see all those lost loves that I could look at, but whose voices I would never hear again. Without silence, there is no Nostalgia.

I am favored nonetheless to have had those travel experiences, to have met the enchanting and the enchanted along the way and to have traveled with the greatest companions. So I thought maybe my readers on the A to Z journey with me and from around the world might like seeing places in America they had not seen. Out of the corner of my imagination I observed that the native peoples who originally inhabited Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California made me a box out of soapstone. So, climbing upon my soapstone box I achieved my Scheherazade Chronicles mission of storytelling about sustainability of the environment, wildlife and humanity, that whole ecosystem. I did so verbally in some of my posts and in photographs in all of my posts.

As a journalist for over 35 years I am used to meeting deadlines; therefore, for that aspect, I facilely met the daily A to Z post deadlines. I took the A to Z Blogging Challenge last year for the first time and I found the writing, reading and meeting new friends exhilarating. This year I wasn’t going to take up the challenge, because I knew I didn’t have time. I was already inundated with obligations. But, I did it anyway. I found out I can’t do it all. I’d drop some quotidian pieces, forget and then have to go back and pick them up when I’d stumble over them, and affix them into their proper places in the picture puzzle on my mind table.

My mind kind of looked like this (hover your mouse over the image for further comment):

Sea Foam 1

So, this 2016 A to Z series is a new journey upon which I embark and share my old journeys with you; old friends, fellow bloggers, have come with me and along the way I have met new friends with utterly fascinating thoughts and lives. I am always interested to know how others think and to hear their voices. These are the treasures I encounter on the journey from A to Z.

I watched Ken Burns’s The National Parks, which just happened to be showing on TV as I neared the culmination of my A to Z postings mostly about designated parks and landmarks, and I realized what I had done in my life, where I had been, what I had photographed and written about. I should like to continue this.

Ah, here we are at the top of the stairs. I hear a tap. I look around the cupola. Moriarty is here. He’s sitting in the light by the open window. The pale, yellowed gauze curtain undulates in the soft breeze. Moriarty is tapping his iPad. He’s reading my A to Zs.

I speak.

He interrupts me. “This series is a photo essay,” he says. “And, where am I? Not one mention of me throughout, let alone a picture. It’s like I’m not here.” He is silent for a moment. A shadow of sadness passes across his eyes. And then he continues, “So, would you please post a photo of me. Your readers think I am a figment of your imagination. And, I am not. I am real. I am a genuine Phantom. And, besides, they always liked me better than you.”

So, dear reader, I give you Moriarty, The Phantom of My Blog:

Moriarty

Moriarty

–Samantha Mozart
May 8, 2016

Inspiration: At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice, so he retreated to his house to see if any one else had arrived. Having climbed the rickety stairs he scrutinized his room resignedly, concluding that it was hopeless to attempt any more inspired decoration than class banners and tiger pictures. There was a tap at the door.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920. BOOK ONE:
“The Romantic Egotist”; CHAPTER 2: “Spires and Gargoyles.”

 

Zen

What more could so fulfill the human spirit than the sound of waterfalls gushing,  wind dancing through the tops of the tall conifers, birdsong echoing, the scent of pine bark and incense cedars, crystalline air and high granite walls artfully sculpted into graceful formations that soar above you and embrace you in their splendor? It is as if a grand master laid it all out before you and with loving kindness said, “Here. This is for you.”

Yosemite Falls YS004

There are no words to describe Yosemite Valley. It exists to inspire awe in nature’s grandeur, to give inner peace and regeneration. I experience this place as heaven on earth. John Muir called it Nature’s Grand Cathedral, and so it feels. So, please hover your mouse over these images to identify them.

El Capitan Alpinglow 1 YS016

Half Dome Alpinglow & Royal Arches 1

3 Sisters

Intoxicated by the mystique of its scent, I stood beside an incense cedar and took this next picture:

Green Merced

They rode horseback into the great Central Valley of Alta California and the Sierra Nevada foothills. Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga and his expedition sought suitable sites for Spanish missions. Hot, dry and dusty, they had traveled long without water. Mercifully, on September 29, 1806, the thirsty men and their horses came upon the banks of the river. Gratefully relieved, they named the river El Rio de Nuestra Señora de la Merced, The River of Our Lady of Mercy.

John Muir called the Sierra Nevada Mountains “The Range of Light.” He called Yosemite Valley “The sanctum sanctorum of the Sierra.” Glaciers sculpted and polished the granite rock and then retreated 15,000 years ago leaving this pristine valley and its near twin in Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy Valley, 20 miles to the northwest, the Tuolumne Yosemite, as John Muir called it.

Yosemite Vly-Merced River YS003

So, tell me again … why did you dam the Tuolomne and fill Hetch Hetchy with water…?

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir & Dam 1

“These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.” –John Muir, from The Yosemite (1912), Chapter 15.

First chief of the United States Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot said of damming the Hetch Hetchy, “It is for the good of humanity. The greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.”

Half Dome YS005

Enraptured, I stood in the spray of Bridalveil Fall for a long time and watched it dance on the wind. Bridalveil Fall never runs dry in the summer like the other falls, because it is fed by a living glacier.

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Bridalveil Snowstorm 300 copy

Bridalveil Thru Trees YS010

Yosemite New 3

Yosemite Valley Snowstorm YS006

“I wonder if leaves feel lonely when they see their neighbors falling,” John Muir wrote to his daughter.

This day, after I took the above photo looking down into Yosemite Valley with Half Dome in the distance, barely visible just under the clouds, in the right center of the picture, my companions and I got into our car and left the valley. We drove the Tioga Road, high over the Tioga Pass at almost 10,000 feet. It was the month of May. On our way along the road snowflakes began to fall.

–Samantha Mozart

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite

Thomas Jefferson stepped out onto his Monticello portico and gazed out across America. He called this country Eden. He didn’t see the need for a national park, for all America was, he perceived.

The years went by. Industrialization spewed out over the landscape and the people found themselves crowded into big, noisy cities where tall buildings cast long, sooty shadows over their canyons.

It was a time when the gap between the rich and those of lesser means began to widen. People such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Frederick Law Olmsted and Stephen Mather saw the need to preserve American’s places of natural beauty for the people, no matter their income or station in life. The evolution and establishment of the national parks grew from the ground up. It was a grassroots movement.

Paintings and then photos were circulated, and the first tourists arrived in Yosemite in 1855. At first they came on horseback and by stagecoach, and soon, by train and automobile. My party of companions and I entered Yosemite 135 years later from the east at Lee Vining, near Mono Lake, and drove over the Tioga Road.

YS007W Tuolumne Meadows

One of the first places you see along the road after you go over the Tioga Pass at 9,943 feet altitude is Tuolumne Meadows at 8,619 feet. In the distance, back among the trees in this photo, you can see the Tuolumne River meandering through the meadow. The Tioga Pass is closed in winter, deep snow making it impassible. By sometime in May the snow melts and the pass opens. We came in the spring, May and June; and once in July, but by then many of the waterfalls had dried up, except those fed by living glaciers. The waterfalls are full in the spring when the snow is melting. The Tioga Road began as an Indian trail, was paved for cars in 1937 and realigned and dedicated in 1961. In winter you can get into Yosemite National Park, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Yosemite Valley through the lower altitude, warmer, western entrances.

Marmot & Tioga Rd View 1

This is the view of Yosemite Valley from near Olmsted Point, elevation 8,300 feet. Olmsted Point is named for American landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and his son Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. for their work dedicated to preserving the land and towards establishing a national parks system. We saw lots of Steller’s jays along the way, beautiful blue birds, and I’d like to tell you that this critter in the photo below is a hungry bear, but it’s actually a marmot hoping to be fed. I do not feed wild animals.

Marmot & Tioga Rd View

Over the Tioga Road we wound down into Yosemite Valley, along the way passing wildflowers and interesting rock formations, and around a bend, suddenly a small waterfall issuing through a crack in a granite rock. You can look down into the valley from a point near the head of Yosemite Falls, where Yosemite Creek spills over the edge.

Yosemite New 2

We came to Tenaya Lake on our way into Yosemite Valley.

Down in Yosemite Valley, altitude 4,000 feet, we encountered the awesome 1927 Ahwahnee Inn and ate lunch there in the cavernous, cathedral ceilinged stone dining room while we looked at mule deer in the grass just outside the window. Ahwahnee is the name the native people of the valley, the Ahwahneechee, gave to the valley: it means wide open mouth or “place of gaping mouth.” To me, such an opening means opportunity.  Behind the inn you see the Royal Arches rock formation.

Yosemite New 1

New concessionaires recently have bought the Yosemite Valley hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities and are changing the name of the Ahwahnee Inn to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. This short Los Angeles Times piece tells the story. Yosemite is the native people’s word for “people who should be feared: they are killers.”

Half Dome Alpinglow & Royal Arches

These are the Royal Arches.

We also went to see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias:

Giant Sequoia

Here I am standing in front of a giant sequoia.

And, below, is one of my companions going through the hollowed out trunk of a fallen sequoia.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, is located in the southwest corner of Yosemite. The tallest tree stands at 285 feet, the oldest tree is 1,900-2,400 years old. Bristlecone pines grow in the region, too. They survive in subalpine climates where there is little rainfall. The oldest known bristlecone pine in the world is located in the White Mountains in the Inyo National Forest. The White Mountains are not part of the Sierra Nevada range. They rise just to the east. This is the tree. Its exact location is kept secret to protect it from human despoilment. Its name is Methuselah and it has been carbon dated to be 4,847 years old. It is a Great Basin bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva). This photo is from mnn.com (Mother Nature Network Earth Matters Galleries.)

Methuselah

Tomorrow we will journey into Nature’s Great Cathedral, Yosemite Valley …

–Samantha Mozart

X Marks the Spot – Bodie Ghost Town

They said there was gold in those hills, and he struck pay dirt. He staked his claim. In 1859 William (Waterman) S. Bodey discovered gold in the central California hills, near the Nevada border. Mr. Bodey didn’t have much time to revel, though, for in November that same year he died in a blizzard.

Wall Wheel Flowers 300 copy

Today, Bodie State Historic Park, Calif., is a ghost town, “preserved in a state of arrested decay.” Interiors of the 110 remaining buildings are untouched as they were left. It looks like someone hollered, “Scram!” and they ran, leaving dishes on the table, coffeepots on the stove, a shirt across the bare springs of a cot, children’s toys on the floor.

Church-House Room-Store 1

Bodie plus

Even the store is stocked as it was.

Church-House Room-Store 2

Bodie, just north of Mono Lake, a salt lake, is located at Bridgeport, Calif., near the Nevada border, just below where the eastern border of the state bends to the right. Bodie is northeast of Yosemite and about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, on the high, open Bodie Hills. The 1973 Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter was filmed at Mono Lake. The production company built a large façade town at Mono Lake just for the filming, and tore it down afterwards. No remnants remain on the site. But remnants of Bodie, a real ghost town, remain. Bodie’s a photographer’s gold mine.

Mono-Gull-Sun&Shadow 2

Bldg Cluster-Road-Graham

A House in Bodie

Bldg Cluster-Road-Graham 1

Ghost Town Scenes 1

Ghost Town Scenes 2

 

Bodie House 300

The photo above is the rich man’s house. None of the other houses in the town was as big.

In 1861 a rich strike was made at Bodie and a mill was built. Over the next years the railroad and the telegraph came and the population swelled from 20 to 10,000. It is said there existed three breweries, 65 saloons, an abundance of brothels, a Chinatown, opium dens and a Wells Fargo Bank. There were gunslingers and shootouts. It was a full-blown Wild West town. Bodie became the second or third largest California town and one of the earliest United States towns to acquire electricity.

Bodie Mine Close

The big strikes were soon depleted, though, and the town slid into decline in the 1880s. Miners moved on to Tombstone, Ariz., and other legendary places. Bodie was officially labeled a ghost town in 1915, after the last newspaper closed. The ghost town was designated Bodie State Historic Park in 1962 when the final residents left.

Bodie Mine & Street Scene 1

BD006W Church

BD005W Car & Gas

Bldg Cluster-Road-Graham 2

Even in its boom days, I wonder how residents survived Bodie winters. It is one of the coldest places in the U.S. Up in the Eastern High Sierra Nevada Mountains, elevation 8,375 feet (2,554 m.), where the winds sweep through (up to 100 miles per hour, according to Wikipedia), Bodie has a subarctic climate — temperatures even on summer nights can drop below freezing. The most snow recorded in one month was 97.1 inches in January 1969. Bear in mind, the snow doesn’t melt until spring. That’s when they discovered William Bodie’s body, in the spring. The population of Bodie is now a few park rangers and assorted ghosts. The rangers use snowcats to get around through the deep snow. The park is open in the winter, but only to those with skis, snowshoes or snowmobiles. I have visited Bodie in the daytime, in the spring, on a blustery day in May. I dream of returning with a digital camera to take a nighttime Ghost Walk.

Mono-Gull-Sun&Shadow 1

A California Gull came by to graciously pose for photos. Well, maybe looking to get fed.

Bodie Ghost Town is a National Historic Landmark.

Bodie Alley 300 copy.

–Samantha Mozart

 

Wrigley’s View

Avalon & Wrigley House

Avalon Harbor & Catalina Casino

Santa Catalina Island was discovered in 1542 by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer sailing for the Spanish crown. He christened the island San Salvador and claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino rediscovered the island in 1602, and since it was St. Catherine’s Day, named the island Santa Catalina. That was long after the Native American Pimugnans or Pimuvit and their antecedents had settled here around 7,000 years ago, as archaeological evidence shows. These were people of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe. They spoke an Aztec related language and they paddled their plank canoes regularly between the San Pedro and Playa del Rey (Los Angeles County) mainland and the island for trade, particularly their soapstone for other items. The Pimugnans called the island Pimugna or Pimu. Of course, the Spaniards brought diseases which wiped out most of natives. Yet, there are people living in Southern California today who have Gabrielino ancestors. Eventually the island was transferred from the Spanish Empire to Mexico and later, to the United States. Santa Catalina is one of the Channel Islands of California.

Catalina Hilltop Views

Over the years the island served as a stop for the usual array of smugglers, gold diggers, pirates, hunters, the Union army, missionaries, a chewing gum magnate and sunbathers.

Catalina Beach & Boat 1

Descanso Beach, Avalon

After a series of owners and failed attempts to establish Santa Catalina Island as a resort, the sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891. Phineas Banning (1830-1885), financier and entrepreneur, was born in Wilmington, Del., moved out West, founded Wilmington, Calif., and the Port of Los Angeles. He operated a freighting business and stagecoach company. The Banning Brothers established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop a resort. They built the city of Avalon and established beach areas, a hunting lodge, a guest lodge and stagecoach tours. Then a fire burned down half of the buildings in Avalon in 1915. The First World War had begun the year before, and hard times ensued.

Catalina Beach & Boat 2

The Bannings were forced to sell the company in 1919. William Wrigley Jr. (1861-1932), the chewing gum founder, born in Philadelphia, Pa., bought nearly all the stock in the company without having seen the island. This event recalls those who, sight unseen, invested in and thrashed through Florida swamp with large fly swatters at about the same time. William Wrigley’s view when he finally arrived on Catalina, however, convinced him to buy out the other investors to become sole owner of the Santa Catalina Island Company.

Wrigley Mansion

Wrigley Mansion. The hillside beneath is shored up.

Wrigley invested millions in the island and in 1929 built the iconic art deco/Mediterranean Revival style Catalina Casino, which has the world’s largest circular ballroom. Besides the ballroom, the structure rises to the equivalent height of a 12-story building and houses a museum and a movie theater specifically designed for sound talkies. The island served as a military training facility during the Second World War and was closed to tourists.

High & Harbor 1 copy

Descanso Beach in Avalon Harbor

Many Hollywood movies have been made on Catalina, starting from the days of silent film.

Along the Road

Today the descendants of William Wrigley Jr. continue to own the Santa Catalina Island Company and carry on his vision to develop Catalina as a world class island resort. Eighty-eight percent of the island is protected by the Santa Catalina Conservancy, a nonprofit private land trust founded in 1972.

Catalina Hilltop Views 1

Avalon Harbor View

The Santa Catalina 2010 census human population is 4,096; the buffalo population is maintained at 150-200. The 14 original buffalo were flown in to be movie extras in 1924. The highest peak, Mount Orizaba, is 2,097 feet (639 m.) above sea level. The island is 22 miles long and eight miles across at the widest point. Boats carry passengers across the 20-26 mile Gulf of Santa Catalina from the mainland to the island in an hour, with up to 30 departures a day, year-round. Almost no gasoline powered vehicles are permitted on the island; there is a 14-year waiting list to bring a car onto the island. Residents and tourists roam the island by golf cart, bicycle or foot. Buffalo roam the hills by hoof.

Catalina Beach & Boat

–Samantha Mozart

Victorians & Menhadens – Cape May, New Jersey

Merry Welcome 300

Cape May is at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. In 1878 a fire destroyed 40 acres of homes. So, the buildings were rebuilt in the Victorian style contributing to the charm of the town and attracting many tourists. In 1976 Cape May was declared a National Historic Landmark City.

Menhaden Rigging 480

Menhaden fishing boat rigging.

Anchor for Sale

Anchor for sale.

CM001W Cinzano

Let’s get together.

CM109W The Virginia II

The Virginian hotel.

And One Cat smaller

And one cat….

Flying A

Victorian Walk CM020

Merry Welcome Doors 300

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Menhaden fishing boats.

–Samantha Mozart

Up Along the Appalachians

My mother and I took a road trip in 1995 up along the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia through the states of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia, not far from Jefferson’s Poplar Forest retreat, though it was only just being restored and wasn’t ready for visitors yet. Here are some photos of our trip.

Dillards & Marble Angel

Dillard’s, a popular family restaurant, Dillard, Georgia.

Gatlinburg & Cove Field Ridge BR Pkw 1

Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Pidgeon Crk & BR Pkwy

This vista is at the junction of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drove through the Great Smoky Mountains, then through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, with a stop in Asheville, N.C., to visit the Biltmore Estate and author Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home.

Gatlinburg & Cove Field Ridge BR Pkw

Cove Field Ridge, from the Blue Ridge Parkway, elevation 4,620 feet.

Pidgeon Crk & BR Pkwy 1

Pigeon Creek, N.C. My mother took this photo.

Biltmore House

An aspect of Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, N.C.

Gargoyles & Hermit

“Spires and Gargoyles”: F. Scott Fitzgerald, who stayed at the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, titled his first novel This Side of Paradise and named the second chapter “Spires and Gargoyles,” after the architecture of Princeton University where he had studied as an undergraduate. Here is an apt excerpt from that chapter:

“The night mist fell. From the moon it rolled, clustered about the spires and towers, and then settled below them, so that the dreaming peaks were still in lofty aspiration toward the sky.”

Gargoyles & Hermit 1

The Hermit.

Finally, this side of Asheville …

Thomas Wolfe House 1

“My Old Kentucky Home,” author Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home in Asheville, N.C. This was the boarding house his mother ran. It figures in Wolfe’s autobiographical 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel as “Dixieland” in the fictional mountain town of Altamont.

Dillards & Marble Angel 1

This marble angel, a centerpiece in Look Homeward, Angel, is inlaid in the sidewalk in Asheville.

… a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.  –Thomas Wolfe, preface to Look Homeward, Angel.

–Samantha Mozart

 

Tufa Towers of Mono Lake

Mono Lake looks like a lunar landscape.

Mono Lake Tufa-Yellow Flowers half SN003 300

Mono Lake (pronounced moh-noh) is a salt lake located in central California close to the Nevada state line and near Yosemite National Park. The lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America, formed at least 760,000 years ago if not 1-3 million years ago. The surface area covers 65 square miles. The lake is three times saltier than the ocean.

Clint Eastwood chose the alien Mono Lake landscape as the location for his 1973 film High Plains Drifter.

Mono Lake has no outlet; therefore, the mineral content of the fresh water from the streams that feed the lake becomes salty. The tufa towers form beneath the lake when underwater springs mix with the lake waters. They are composed of calcium carbonate limestone.

Mono-Gull-Sun&Shadow

In 1941 the City of Los Angeles began diverting water from these streams. Over the years the lake level dropped 45 feet, exposing the tufa towers. By 1982 the lake had lost 31 percent of its surface area. It was in peril of becoming a salt flat.

When Los Angeles diverted water from the lake, the lower lake water levels threatened the ecosystem imperiling the two million migratory birds who nest in the area and who feed on the brine shrimp and black flies (that also feed on the shrimp) in the lake. The black, brine flies that thickly ring the lake have no interest in humans, only in the shrimp. There are no fish in the lake.

The mineral content of the lake contains chlorides, carbonates and sulfates, similar to the content of your laundry detergent, high alkaline, a pH of 10. It is said you can dip your laundry into the lake and it will come out clean. The average depth of the lake is 56 feet but can rise to around 158 feet. The water level is notably variable, especially as measured by the height of the exposed tufa towers. In these photos of mine you can see the two major islands in the center of the lake — Paoha, the larger, and Negit, the smaller. The formation of the area is of tectonic and volcanic origin.

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To protect the lake and its ecosystem, the Mono Lake Committee, a nonprofit, was formed in 1978 and through litigation, legislation, cooperation and public support the committee has been able to protect the lake from excessive water diversions to Los Angeles. The city has found alternate water sources, thereby drastically reducing the amount of water taken from the tributary streams. Consequently, the water level in the lake has risen from the lowest level of 6,372 feet above sea level (asl) in 1982 to 6,378 feet asl in 2015. Before diversion in 1941 the water level was at 6,417 feet asl. It is expected to take 20 years for Mono Lake to reach the stabilization level of 6,392 feet. At the stabilization level, the lake will be two times saltier than the ocean.

My photos of Mono Lake are not nearly as dramatic as many that are out there. For example, here is one, with no photo credit, I got from the Internet:

Mono_Lake_007

Here’s a link to an informative, short blog, with photos of Mono Lake and stills and story of High Plains Drifterhttps://markosun.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/that-mysterious-lake-in-the-clint-eastwood-movie-high-plains-drifter/.

To film High Plains Drifter, the filmmakers built the town of Lago, the town the stranger painted red, on the Mono Lake shore and then dismantled it after they finished filming. Here is an 8:34 minute video taking you step by step through where the movie was filmed: “The Return to Lago: The Great Silence”. You only have to watch the first few minutes of the video to get an idea of the alien landscape that Clint Eastwood meticulously selected for the film site.

You can view a stunning slide show of the lake in all seasons at Mono Lake Committee images.

Here are some additional links, if you’re interested, with more detail and dramatic photos of the lake.

Amusing Planet

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

–Samantha Mozart

Southern California Surf and Sunsets

I took a lot of photos of the beaches, high surf and sunsets around where I lived in Southern California. If I still lived there, I’d be taking more.

Rat Beach 300

In the photo above, I stood on the hill in Palos Verdes and captured this scene of an unusually low tide at Malaga Cove, just south of our Torrance Beach, and the people exploring the tide pools.

Below, is a photo my daughter took recently of the ramp down to Torrance Beach by where we used to live, where she grew up. That’s my older granddaughter in the lower left corner of the picture.

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Redondo Beach-PV

This is Redondo Beach looking south towards Torrance Beach and at the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

RB Library & Pier

My centering spot for many years when this was the Redondo Beach Library. You can see the ocean on the right through the trees. I’d enter the room on the right, walk to the back past the stacks and sit in a chair by the tall, open window in the sea breeze and read. I could hear the gleeful people on the beach, the seagulls, the surf breaking on the shore and the bell buoy dinging.

The city built a new library. This is now Veterans Park.

RB Library View

On the right foreground is a historic Moreton Bay fig tree. Out in the water is the Redondo Pier.

I shot two series of photos, one of Redondo Beach at sunset, and one of Hermosa Beach storm waves. The following are the Redondo sunset photos:

95 Steps

Just 95 steps down to the beach.

Two Palms

Cat & Palm I

Cat & Palm Sunset Light - Cat 300

Sunset Splash

Seagull Silhouette

Gnite Jon 300dpi

I call the one above “Goodnight, Jonathan.”

Sunset

“Sunset.”

These next ones are my Hermosa series.

HB120W Wave

These two images, above and below, are waves I photographed from the Hermosa Pier.

HB130W Hermosa Waves 13

Following are more images of my fascination with big waves.

HB010W Hermosa Storm Waves 1

HB110W Hermosa Storm Waves 11

Here, below, are a few photos of Manhattan Beach.

MB Surf & Tanker

Above is a view of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains, taken from the Manhattan Pier, with an oil tanker in the distance, probably coming from the Chevron facility in El Segundo.

Manhattan Beach from Pier

Above is Manhattan Beach taken from the Manhattan Pier.

Manhattan Pier Fishermen

Fishing from the end of the Manhattan Pier.

Me & MB 2

Me on Manhattan Beach with the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south.

–Samantha Mozart

Restore Hetch Hetchy

What if you went to Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park and found the valley filled up with 300 feet of water?

It happened to Hetch Hetchy Valley in northwestern Yosemite National Park, the near twin to Yosemite Valley, a second glacier carved valley, a cathedral of granite cliffs and rushing waterfalls, a mere 20 miles away. In the early 1900s, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire, that city decided they needed access to more water. So, they got the United States Congress to legislate the Raker Act, building the O’Shaughnessy Dam to hold back the waters of the meandering Tuolomne River at the mouth of the valley by creating the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. To fill the valley with water, they had to clear-cut stands of ancient trees; pristine waterfalls were buried beneath the rising reservoir waters, all the wild grasses (hetch hetchy is what the native people called these grasses), the wildflowers and the shrubs gone.

Proclaimed naturalist John Muir when he encountered the High Sierra, “As long as I live, I will ever after hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near to the heart of the world as I can.”

The ensuing love affair between man and nature saw Muir devote a lifetime to preserving the awesome wilderness he had found and to the birth of Yosemite National Park. Ah, but the fruits of Muir’s untiring devotion could not extend far enough into the political wilderness to save Hetch Hetchy. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act into law on December 19, 1913, and though John Muir continued the battle, he died, devastated, a year later. The Congress immediately recognized their tragic error. There had thus far existed no coherent policy for national park management. So that such a travesty would never happen again, Congress enacted the National Parks Service Act of 1916. Since then, ecological and engineering studies have found that there are more efficient sources of water for San Francisco, and including damming the Tuolumne at the western end of Hetch Hetchy rather than at the mouth of that valley; and that if the reservoir were slowly drained, within five years, as the Tuolumne reclaimed its original channel, native wildflowers and grasses would grow in the valley and wildlife would return. The bathtub ring would gradually disappear. In 100 years the valley would be completely restored. There is a grassroots movement on called Restore Hetch Hetchy, raising public funds towards the restoration.

I wanted to see Hetch Hetchy. So, while my friend Cheryl and I were visiting the Eastern High Sierra and Yosemite Valley in August 1992, we decided to drive over to the western slope of the Sierra and up through the Stanislaus National Forest to Hetch Hetchy.

We drove through Coulterville, a gold rush town where gold can still be found in the creeks. I took a photo of the historic Hotel Jeffery.

MMH & W. Sierra - Cheryl & Me 3

On November 12, 2014 a fire destroyed much of this hotel. It was the fourth fire in the Hotel Jeffery’s history, three occurring in the late 1800s. The hotel has since been restored and, from what I’ve read, apparently to better than before the fire — they exposed the original adobe walls and pulled up the carpets and sanded and polished the original floorboards.

When we traveled to Hetch Hetchy, a recent fire had burned much of the forest, so this is the landscape we encountered.

Stanislaus Nat'l Forest

Stanislaus Nat'l Forest 1

Jeffrey Pine

A Jeffrey pine.

Manzanita

A manzanita bush.

Road to Hetch Hetchy

The road to Hetch Hetchy Valley.

There are ample other resources, other reservoirs, data shows, to supply San Francisco with water and hydroelectric power. Yet the city refuses the dismantling of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. The battle goes on.

Stanislaus Nat'l Forest 2

From this high point in the road you can see the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Road to Hetch Hetchy 1

This is a view, above, of the Tuolomne River on its course below the dam.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir & Dam

The O’Shaughnessy Dam.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir & Dam 1

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Since we were visiting here in late summer, the waterfalls had dried up, as they do every year, except for the ones fed by living glaciers.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir & Dam 2

You can get an idea of the drama of nature that lies beneath this 300 feet of water, even waterfalls below the surface.

Here’s how Hetch Hetchy looked before the building of the O’Shaughnessy Dam.  This, of course, is not my photo. I got the following photos from the Internet.

Hetch_Hetchy_Valley

hetch-hetchy5

This one, above, was taken in 1912.

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Hetch Hetchy Valley clear-cut.

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I got this image from the Internet, too. Wapama Falls is 1,080 feet high and, like Yosemite Falls, has three drops. Kolana Rock has an elevation of 5,774 feet. By comparison, in Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls is 2,425 feet, El Capitan has an elevation of 7,573 feet and Half Dome, 8,884 feet. The falls and peaks in Hetch Hetchy Valley are still some of the longest and highest in North America.

Here is the link to some short Restore Hetch Hetchy  videos and a 21 minute one by Harrison Ford.

–Samantha Mozart