Thursday, August 7, 2014

More Death in the Pines

Not long after we witnessed the end of the cicada I noticed the snake that lives in our pond filter was on the prowl.


(The mosquitos seem always to be on the prowl ...)

Since I already had the camera out I turned and started shooting. But I missed the strike!


But the snake didn't.


And off he went with his prize.


The pond has a variety of fish of differing sizes and we were surprised the snake took one this large. We though that swallowing it would be a challenge. We were wrong.


It did take awhile for him to wrestle the fish out of the water and drag it up on to the rocks.


The fish was surprisingly docile. it seemed resigned to its fate, and struggled barely at all.


Once out of the water the snake repositioned the fish so as to swallow it head first.


This was the time for the fish to flop around and perhaps flip back into the pond and make its escape.


But it was not to be. The snake opened its jaws and gulped it down.


All that remained were a few scales on the rock.


And the snake. And the ever present mosquitos.


It is a dangerous place we've moved to ...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Death in the Pines

Sunday Patty and I were enjoying our morning coffee on our new deck when Patty noticed a commotion in the reeds on the side of our pond. "What's that?" she asked.

Looking through the binoculars she saw this:


The cicada was still struggling, but the fight was already over.


The mantis was busy munching away on the cicada's face. Despite the occasional wing flutter and shaking it was clear who the winner was here.


As we worked in the yard throughout the morning we checked in on the mantis from time to time. It spent several hours on its meal, hanging in the same spot. Eventually we headed out, errands to run, things to buy. They were gone when we got back, with no sign of the struggle that had occurred that morning.

We've not seen a mantis since. The din of the cicadas is our soundtrack every night.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Challenge

I first mentioned Rachel and her Summer Challenge at the end of this post about quail hunting. This year's Challenge is to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite.

From Rachel's announcement email:


This year, I will be climbing Half Dome (http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/half-dome/half-dome.htm) in Yosemite National Park in California with wonderful people in my life including my dear cousin Jaclyn, neighbor Susan, and adventurous Philly friends Patty and Marie. 

This challenge takes me back to a magical place I first visited with my family as a kid and have returned to repeatedly with friends. If you have been to Yosemite, you know. If you haven’t, go soon! It is incredibly gorgeous and powerful.


It was Patty that suggested the Half Dome hike for the Challenge. It is an "incredibly gorgeous and powerful" place. And like Rachel one I've visited multiple times. My most recent visit was Patty's first and it was a scouting trip for the Half Dome hike.

On our second day there we did a easy two mile hike to the top of Sentinel Dome, which is on the road to Glacier Point.

Here is Patty on Sentinel Dome.


Here's what she is pointing to.


It doesn't look too bad does it?

Her's Patty pointing to Half Dome from down in Yosemite Valley. Which is where the hike starts from.


That's a long way up!

~~~~~~~~~~

To learn more about the Challenge 
and how you can help raise money to combat 
Parkinson's Disease please visit Rachel's Challenge site.




Monday, June 23, 2014

Rock Fall!

CRRAAACK!

A plane zooming over? Thunder? What was that?


As we were coming off the mist trail and heading back to where we left the car, after taking a break at the hotdog truck, we heard this loud noise. Sounding like a military jet zooming over, but we saw nothing in the sky. Thunder? No clouds, no rain.

And then we remembered where we where.

It was a rock fall. In the direction of the parking lot. Uh oh.


We didn't see the actual fall itself. Now that would have been cool. But we did see the dust rising form where it landed, as you can see in the two images above, taken seconds after we heard the fall.

We were only half joking with our fellow travelers walking toward the parking lot, hoping that our cars were not crushed. They weren't.


I took this shot while where we entered the parking lot. The trees mark the far end. And as you can see the dust was rising just on the other side. A group of kids out hiking were huddled behind the remnants of a prior rock fall, their leader instructing them on how to hide behind boulders, trees, anything that could shield from falling debris.

While we heard what we thought was gravel continuing to slide down the mountain, we couldn't see any. Tired from the hike, we didn't feel like doing much exploring. Nor did we want to be around should any more of the mountainside come tumbling down.  So we headed back to our hotel, to enjoy another of those cold drinks on the big porch.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On the Mist Trail

A recent trip to Yosemite National Park found us hiking the mist trail. This is the trail to half dome and someone, I won't mention of any of Patty's names, has set a goal of hiking to the top.

Me, I'm a wimp. I'm afraid of heights and the bit of the trail where you need to use the wire hand rails, especially on the way down, is a bit more than I want to deal with. So I'll be the support team, carrying water water up the to the point were the march to the summit begins.

The first landmark along the trail is the bridge with the view of Vernal Fall.


That's Vernal Fall in the distance. It doesn't look all that high up, but it is. After hiking a couple of miles you get to climb over six hundred steps. That's a lot of steps.

But if this girl could do it, I was sure we could.


Although I think she just went to the bridge and back. Still, three plus miles in a boot is none too shabby.

The mist trail is named such because it is quite wet when the water is flowing. And in May when we were there it was flowing. And it felt refreshing as we climbed up and up in the heat. We were soaked.


Just below the fall we were treated to this view. And I thought we were finished with the stairs.


 I was wrong. There were still plenty of stairs to go. And we kept climbing. And further up we were treated to a double rainbow.


Onward and upward until we reached our initial goal for the day, the top of Vernal Fall. Where we were greeted by steller's jays ...



.. and California ground squirrels..


Both of which knew that people meant food.

Our initial plan was to stop at Vernal Fall and head back down. But felling good we decided to go a bit further. We were up there so why not? We met some folks on their way back down who told us it was a nice hike and we would enjoy it. So we decided to keep on going. And it was a nice hike. Except for the last hundred meters or so ...

But we made it to the top. And the view was, as they say, spectacular.


This is Nevada Fall, 2000 feet above where we started. And half way to the summit of Half Done.

The falls was raging.


And despite my fear I leaned over the rail to get this shot:


Which was pretty much looking straight down.

We had planned to head back down the Mist Trail, but were advised to take the John Muir Trail instead, a much easier trail going down, no steps. It was the right choice.

We got great views of the falls without ...


... and with Half Dome in the distance.


There were flowers along the trail.


And views of other falls around the valley. Yosemite Fall,


and Illilouette Fall.


It was a long strenuous hike in an absolutely gorgeous setting on a perfect day. I can't wait to get back.

Extralimital

My first post for the new DVOC blog:

http://blogdvoc.blogspot.com/2014/06/extralimital-stellers-jay.html

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Art of the Brick

I'm not sure how she finds these things, but Patty found an art exhibit entitled, The Art of the Brick, featuring works by Nathan Sawaya, at the Discovery Museum in Manhattan. So we, along with a friend, drove on up one Saturday morning.  The "Brick" is that made by Lego. And that is Nathan's medium. He creates his art using Lego bricks.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I mean, an entire exhibit of Lego constructions?

We arrived at the museum, meeting up with two more friends, bought our tickets and headed for the exhibit. It was very well done, very clever and we all quite enjoyed it. The Art of the Brick exhibit is well worth a visit. Go see it if you can.


Curiously, while photographing the Lego art was allowed, the museum staff didn't want me photographing this sign. Thus a noisy photo, no chance to tweak the settings and reshoot.

The exhibit starts with a collection of painting reproductions. From the ancient:

The Second Chinese Horse, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

To the more recent:

The Scream, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

Starry Night, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

And note the different styles, The Scream is built with the Legos stacking up (the nibs on top) while The Second Chinese Horse and Starry Night with the bricks facing out.

Continuing, the next gallery held statues. Again from a variety of periods and cultures.


While not as big as the original, this one was large:

Moai, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

This one a bit smaller, but perhaps life size:

Sacrificial Vessel, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

(You knew I'd put this one in the post.)

Lest you think the exhibit was all reproductions, the majority was original works, presented in the next several galleries.

Globe and Facemask, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

Yellow, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

Facemask, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

As noted above, some of these are large.

Circle Torso, Triangle Torso,  Square Torso by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

This one had a room to itself (note the person in the back right corner):

Dinosaur Skeleton, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

And of course I liked this one:

Cloud, by artist Nathan Sawaya, brickartist.com

We ended our stay by adding our names to the wall.


A very pleasant way to spend a morning.

~~~~~~~~~~

All of the artwork depicted in this post was created by Nathan Sawaya, who has graciously allowed for photography at the exhibit of his work. You can learn more at his website: brickartist.com