A Special October Evening, 10-24-18

It rained all night, and then all day. As the sun set, the rain began to let up, producing what I call the “yellow light” and a rainbow. What makes the yellow light that one sees only in these conditions? This is how it was once explained to me:  As a rainstorm (in the west) dissipates, it may leave behind a low ceiling of clouds. This ceiling will often be close above the western horizon, and will thus create a narrow gap through which the rays of the sun will pass. That gap acts as a filter to the sun’s rays, and is responsible for the yellow color of the light. The most striking example of such I’ve ever seen was on a stormy evening as I and friends drove west from Salt Lake City, with a low ceiling of clouds over the Great Salt Lake ahead of us. This created a uniform horizontal gap, which acted as the filter. Behind us, to the east, a perfectly horizontal yellow band of filtered sunlight illuminated the base of the Wasatch Mountains.

As to rainbows, the usual case is that rainstorms move to the east over our house. As they dissipate in the evening, the sun to the west creates rainbows in the remainder of the storm to the east (although some of these photos show a rainbow more to the north).


View to the north, of cottonwood trees and rainbow across the river from our house


Extreme telephoto of cliff edge on La Mesita mesa in dispersing cloud. view to the southwest


Apricot tree (below) and pistachio tree, by our house, view to the north


Add cottonwood tree to the above


Pistachio tree and rainbow, view to the west


Cottonwoods and rainbow, across the river from our house, view to the north

p.s. a brief Google search did not turn up confirmation of what I said above about the storm filtering of sunlight. Can anyone offer confirmation or otherwise?

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California Scenes, Fall, 2018, #3

We left the Bay Area by way of Sonora Pass and then turned south on Hwy 395, which follows along the east side of the Sierras. You can’t beat the great mountain scenery that the drive down Hwy 395 brings to the eye.


View south from the Sonora Pass road to the Emigrant Wilderness


Leavitt Pk., from the Sonora Pass road, view to the south


Extreme telephoto of Tower Peak, which sits on the ridge that forms the northern boundary of Yosemite National Park, view to the south


View west from Bridgeport, of Matterhorn Pk. (left), and the Sawtooth Ridge


Descending to Mono Lake, view to the south


At Gull Lake, on the June Lake loop, and the cabin once owned by Kathy’s family


Gull Lake, view to the north


Ruddy duck, on Gull Lake


Convict Lake and Laurel Mountain, view to the west


Mt. Morrison looms over the south side of Convict Lake, view to the west


On Laurel Mountain, this mountainside is identified on the topo map as the Sevehah Cliff


Returning to Hwy 395 from Convict Lake, looking north at Mt. Ritter (center) and Banner Pk (right). The Minarets are seen on the far left.


Wider angle view than the above, to include, on the left, the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area


On the descent to Bishop, looking west to the Sierra crest and Pine Creek Canyon


And looking to the east from the same spot are the White Mountains


Looking west from Bishop, Mt. Lamarck (left) and a high snowy plateau that I once traversed, on the way to the John Muir Trail


Looking southwest from Bishop to Mt. Emerson


Looking west from Big Pine. I believe this is N. Palisade Pk.


Looking west from Lone Pine to Mt. Whitney


Mt. Whitney and Keeler Needle (center)


Seen to the south of Mt. Whitney is Lone Pine Pk.


Lone Pine Pk.

The Sierras begin to lose altitude as one drives south from Lone Pine, and into the desert. We spent the night in Kingman, AZ, drove through snow in Flagstaff and saw, further east, normally dry washes running bank to bank from sustained heavy rains. We arrived home that evening.

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California Scenes, Fall, 2018, #2

We drove north from Jalama Beach to the San Francisco Bay Area, where two families of our children and grandchildren reside. My son Ethan and wife Flo live in Albany, and my step-daughter Laina and family (The Levys) live in Alameda.

Ethan and I took a walk on the Albany Bulb, which is a peninsula created out of concrete from dismantled highways.




The San Francisco skyline from the Albany Bulb


Wild sunflower (?) seedheads


Bushtit in fennel


Sculpture at the far end of the Albany Bulb

At the Berkeley Marina.


Sport fishing boat returns to the Berkeley Marina. They were out for salmon. The San Francisco skyline is seen in the background.



Sailboard launch area, with the Port of Oakland seen in the distance, to the south


California towhee


Green heron


Snowy egret


This and below video: Yappy Hour at Terrace Park, Albany. Ethan, Jenny and Vinny (brown dog)


Peruvian trumpets, Albany


Lotus, UC-Berkeley Botanical Garden

The Levy family lives close to a great birding walk along a section of shoreline of San Francisco Bay.




Greater yellowlegs


Greater yellowlegs

At the end of our week’s stay, we attended a Hula dance performance that included Laina and her daughter Kara. Here is a number  with Laina.

We then started home, going by way of Sonora Pass and then down Hwy 395, along the eastern slopes of the Sierras, which will be shown in Part #3. Links to Parts #1 and #2 are found at both the top and bottom of this post

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California Scenes, Fall, 2018, #1

Kathy and I left for California in late September, first to attend the Hammerlee Family Annual Reunion at Carpinteria State Beach. As before, we had secured the Racoon group site for five nights.




Kathy and kids, finding sea life in a kelp holdfast


Some sea life found in a kelp holdfast




Mark and Fletcher


Sean (left) and Benet


Brittle star


Sea urchin


L to R: Sean, Benet and Sheila


L to R: Benet, Sheila and Sean


Same three


Same three


Sheila and Sean




The structure



The beach has lots to see. The first four pix are of an egret in the freshwater lagoon.





Extreme telephoto of an oil rig in the Santa Barbara Channel. The curvature of the earth hides the lowermost portion of the structure from view.


Same, with more of the more distant rig hidden from view


Palm and rainbow



Pipe, in cross-section


Channel Islands are seen across the channel


Say’s phoebe


The next four pix are of an egret and snowy egret (smaller)

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Snowy egret

Carpinteria Beach is known for its tar seeps.










Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach

We next stopped for a night at Jalama Beach, on the way to the Bay Area. The next seven pix are of blackbirds bathing in the freshwater lagoon. One is a Redwing blackbird and the others are Brewer’s blackbirds.


Redwing blackbird is seen on the left




The freshwater lagoon at Jalama Beach


Western pond turtle (?) in the lagoon



The post continues with Part #2 – the San Francisco Bay Area.


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The Verdict Is In

The verdict is in. Homo sapiens has fucked up. We’ve screwed the pooch.

It’s been 50 years or so since folks started talking about humanity’s tenure on Earth. Worrisome talk, seen in books such as: “Silent Spring” (1962) and “The Population Bomb” (1968). These two books, in particular, were the ones that brought wide-spread attention to two linked issues that now, 50 years later, have us very worried – climate change and over-population/resource depletion. Back then, I was a graduate student in Anthropology, and I, too, was worried. In a 1969 term paper I stated that the human race would cause its own extinction. But, while disaster didn’t strike as soon as some predicted, we now know that we are participating in the beginning of the end.

Certainly, there was, 50 years ago, an understanding on the part of some scientists of the causal relationships between burning fossil fuels, the build up of greenhouse gases and the warming of the atmosphere. The first warnings came in the 1800s. And then, beginning in the 1950s, car ownership in the US took off, and that was that. So, the increasing pollution of the atmosphere crept up on us. By 2011, our carbon dioxide emissions were 266 times greater than in 1850, and ” … In 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air.” (climate.nasa.gov)


During this period of time, those scientists and others cognizant of the damage we were doing to the atmosphere may have felt that they had to give technology the benefit of the doubt. I heard it asserted more than once that we would find technological fixes to the problems that technology had created. And maybe we have. Solar and wind power sound good. But, will they, along with other renewable energy sources, be developed in sufficient scale, and in time, to head off serious climate change? What determines that? Politics will ultimately determine what happens next … and today’s domestic politics isn’t offering much reason to be optimistic about the likelihood of a successful switch to non-polluting energy sources.

As to over-population – only China took measures to reduce its population. The rest of the world? Not so much. And, believe it or not, one thinker (back in the day) suggested that over-population was not a problem, because the absolutely greater number of people on Earth would ensure an absolutely greater number of geniuses, one or more of whom would solve the problem of controlling fecundity and the problems engendered by population growth! More important than the number of people crowding onto the earth, however, is the matter of how much that number of persons will consume. In 2017, per capita yearly consumption was $41,602 in Switzerland, $1097 in India and $64 in Malawi (The World Bank). The developing world has a long ways to go, to even things up. They want the same things that the Swiss have now, and why shouldn’t they? They want cars, for sure. So, the question is: How many people living at the level of the Swiss in 2017 can the world support?

Can we save ourselves from climate disaster and a standing-room-only Earth? The climate disaster has already begun, and continued unchecked growth in population and per capita consumption of goods and energy only accelerates the pace and increases the ultimate severity of the disaster. Many scientists are saying that we have now passed (or will soon pass) the point of no return. Is this really it, then? Really? But, but … what if all the world’s countries drastically reduced emissions and mandated fertility control tomorrow? Could this reverse the course of the unfolding apocalypse? Maybe … maybe not. But who supposes that the worlds’ governments, one and all, can and will do that? No one with their head screwed on right has any reason to believe that.

So … I conclude, 50 years after first crying wolf, that the verdict is in. The metaphor is correct – we are passengers on an out-of-control train that is heading for a cliff.  Business-as-usual has delivered us to the brink of a world-wide climate apocalypse, and we will hurtle off that brink. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to pour into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, and will do so into the foreseeable future, hastening the disruption of the world’s climate in ways we are already experiencing: higher average temperatures, heat waves, droughts, forest fires, rainfall events and cyclonic storms on a scale never seen before and the raising of sea levels due to accelerating glacial and polar ice melting.  The loss of albedo (reflectance of the sun’s rays) due to less snow cover around the world and at the poles is a positive feedback loop adding to the accelerating pace of climate change. We are at the start of Earth being rendered less habitable for ourselves. And, as the stresses mount, at what point will our much-vaunted civilization collapse, as it will inevitable do? How, then, does one survive the failure of our thoroughly mechanized and interconnected infrastructure – a delicately poised house of cards? How will one find food, water and fuel? What happens when winter comes? Hell will be loosed on Earth, as marauding bands fight each other for dwindling resources. Perhaps the only groups that will have a chance of surviving are those that retain the knowledge of how to live off the land (and whose lands can still supply their traditional food sources) e.g. the Inuit (Eskimos), the Kalahari Bushmen, the Australian Aborigines etc. And, of course, if they can insulate themselves sufficiently from the starving hordes. If they cannot, then we will likely have brought about our own extinction. Take this as the Introduction to our own true-life dystopian story.


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Fall Birds, 2018


Red-tail hawk


Wilson’s warbler in a small locust tree

The Wilson’s warblers have stuck around for quite a while. And, atop a bush on the other side of the house, we saw what we believe to be a Dickcissel, which would put it at the extreme western edge of its range. But no photo!

A flock of 30 or more Pine siskins are now congregating on and around our new nyjer seed socks, while only occasionally going to the plastic feeder. The socks have also brought three or so Lesser goldfinches around more often.


Pine siskins


A few White-breasted nuthatches are around all the time


This juvenile male Evening Grosbeak is the only one of a large flock that has stuck around. His adult colors are coming in, especially the bright yellow brows




Green-tailed towhee, left and Spotted towhee, right


Green-tailed towhee


Green-tailed towhee


Spotted towhee

Canyon towhees are around all year, but in lesser numbers nowadays than before. Stay tuned, as I will update this post as more birds show up, and I get pix of them

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La Vista Verde Trail

La Vista Verde trailhead is located a short distance uphill from Taos Junction Bridge, on State Rd. 567, in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument (see map at end). The mainly level trail travels the length of a bench set in the western slope of the Rio Grande Gorge, for a distance of a little over a mile one-way. The bench is a substantial chunk of the former gorge rim that has slid downward but remained intact as it did so, and is called a landslide block. At the end of the trail is an overlook that gives one a view of a number of rapids that are contained in the Rio Grande’s Taos Box run. A herd of bighorn sheep make this area their year-round home, and are very tolerant of the close approach of hikers.


Bighorn sheep graze just off to the side of State Rd. 567. Below them is the bench that La Vista Verde Trail follows, and beyond is the Rio Grande (top).


Bighorn ewe and lamb




Bighorn ewe


Bighorn group


From the first overlook, a highly sculpted boulder, very low water (150 cfs)








Apache plume and basalt boulder


This pond was a dry flat before a flash flood created a new channel that directed run-off to it


A wet year on the above-mentioned  flat


Russian thistle


Sagebrush and chamisa


Virginia creeper


Blazing star


Blazing star and the Rio Grande (low water)

ClaretCups_2462T copy.jpg

Two varieties of Claret cup cactus


Indian paintbrush


Sego lily


Wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata)


Apache plume, sagebrush and yucca


Seen from the overlook. Contained within tilted landslide material is a channel fill. This is sediment that accumulated in a stream channel, later to be covered over by a lava flow. The heat of the molten lava baked the sediment to this reddish color.



Following photos are from the overlook.


Upstream view of the Taos Box run on the Rio Grande. In lower center is a toreva block, which is an intact piece of the gorge rim that detached and slid downwards, and became rotated back as it did so (clock-wise in this view). Three lava flows can be distinguished, one from the other, in this block. A bench is seen to continue upstream, which is again the result of landslides that moved considerable material downhill, while keeping that material more or less intact.


Same as above. Toreva blocks on the the slope across the river (left) are mirror images of this block (being rotated counter clock-wise).


A very congested section of the Boulderfield set of rapids is seen at very low water, downstream view


Upstream view, very low water


View further upstream than the above, of Boat Reamer Rapid, very low water


Upstream wide-angle view – Boat Reamer Rapid to the upper part of the Boulderfield, high water


Downstream view of the upper and middle sections of the Boulderfield rapids, high water



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