Monday, July 29, 2013

Mount Judah in the Sierra Nevada

On last Wednesday, July 24, my brothers and my sister-in-law and I got up early - before 6 - to hit the trail and hike up Mount Judah.  This turned out to be a beautiful hike in the Sierra Nevada, and I can now add California to my states hiked in list.  I am up to 17 states now.

We saw lots of scenery, many beautiful wildflowers, and some wildlife, the most interesting of which was a mother marmot and her three babies.  I also saw a mystery animal that I was able to get a photograph of, and I will post about it later.

The hike climbed steadily as we crossed Donner Peak and then Mount Judah, and then descended steadily back to the trail head.  We gained and lost about 1,800 feet, according to my GPS and DeLorme mapping software.  Here is the elevation profile:
Here are a couple of topo maps to locate the hike.  The first shows the approximate location west of Donner Lake, the scene of Monday's short nature hike.

And this one shows more details of our route.  The loop portion of the hike was hiked clockwise.
It was my first time ever hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I'd love to do more of this trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington.
As we climbed up the trail, great views became evident very quickly.
It is hard to see, but on the very top of this large boulder is a mother marmot, and one of her babies is about halfway down the right hand side.
We climbed a rocky area to score great views, and ...
then I placed the camera on a rock for a group photo.
We did a side trip up the rocks to Donner Peak, where we could see Donner Lake far below.
There were great panoramic views from the climb up to Donner Peak - and many other areas as well.  Like any photos, click on the panorama to enlarge it.
This panorama was from the ridge line on the hike up to Mount Judah, our high point at about 8,243 feet.
On the way down, there was plenty of evidence of the area volcanic origins.
Here is one more panorama as we descended.
The trail passed through some open forests on the way down.
I thought this cliff was amazing.  I think it was probably formed in volcanoes.
We didn't pass by any truly gigantic trees, but there were a few areas of large ones, like these firs.
I'll end my account of the hike with some of the flowers we saw.  I can't identify most of them, but this is Indian paintbrush.
I think this is a type of daisy.
I liked this because there are three types of flowers in the photo.
This is mule's ear.
I am not sure what this is, but it is pretty.
I really enjoyed my six mile hike in the Sierra Nevada, and hope to come back and do more some day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Am I?

On my short nature hike last Monday along Donner Lake in the Sierra Nevada, I was fortunate enough to spot this quick and active creature flitting in and out of the rocks.  Can you guess what it is?

There is no doubt that I eat meat,
But not like deer - too big a feat

Nope, nothing large, I do proclaim,
For what I hunt is smaller game

Like chipmunks, and perhaps a mouse -
Why, I'll go right inside their house

For I am built quite long and lean,
And people think I'm kind of mean

But, hey, a fellow's got to eat
It's not my fault that I like meat!

I'm brown right now, but, what delight!
In winter I'll turn purest white

My tail, black tipped, is pretty long.
About me there's this catchy song

Here's one last clue before I stop -
Despite that song, I don't go "pop!"

Come on, you
got this one -
at least close
if not the exact species!
and see
how you did....

Must I paint with brush and easel
For you to guess long tailed weasel?

We saw this weasel run across the path and disappear.  But we waited, and suddenly, he came back out and entertained us for a good 15 minutes.  He seemed curious but wary, and kept disappearing under rocks.  Then, he would pop out somewhere else after being out of sight.  It was a fascinating thing to watch - unless you are a chipmunk or mouse or small ground squirrel.  Then, it must be terrifying!

Donner Lake Nature Trail

Monday July 22

I was out near Lake Tahoe for last week for a family reunion, and to celebrate my reamining sister's birthday.  While there, I managed a couple of hikes.  This one was a short - about 2 or so miles - nature hike along Donner Lake.

You've heard of the Donner Party, yes?  In 1846, they got lost while trying to make their way to the Promised Land of California.  Exhausted, they waited for five days for humans and oxen to rest, and the delay proved fatal.  A huge, early snowstorm moved in and trapped them in the Donner Pass area.  About half of them died of starvation and exposure, and more would have died except for the fact that the survivors ate some of the dead.  It must have been awful.

The area is anything but awful today, and easy to traverse.  The Donners would be amazed to watch motorists zoom by going 70 mph a few miles away.  It is quite a lovely area, and I will post a few photos of my hike, which was walked with my brothers, my sister-in-law, and one of my nieces.  Later, I will post an account of a mystery guest, an animal that I have not seen before (although I once saw a close cousin, in Yellowstone National Park.)

The cobalt-blue waters of Donner Lake must have been of no comfort to the Donner Party, nearly 170 years ago.

Here is our hiking party....
There were large pine trees in the area, and they produced some large pine cones.  I think that this is from a Jeffries Pine.
This part of the lake was more of stream, and was popular with small (human propelled) boats and paddle boards.
Near one end of the nature trail is the Emigrant Museum (which is very good, and also covered some of fascinating railroad construction history of the area) and this statue dedicated to pioneer spirit.  The little girl, huddled and shivering at her father's feet, was sad, though.
Two days later, several of us would get up early and go for a more strenuous hike, climbing Donner Peak - shown here - and Mount Judah.  More about that later.

Friday, July 19, 2013


A year ago on this date, a few days after my birthday, I put a battery in my long dormant pedometer.  I thought it would be kind of fun to see how many steps I would take in a year, ending July 18 - a couple of days after my next birthday.  How fast that year has gone by!

And so, the answer is 5,089,681 steps, or an overall average of 13,983 steps per day.  That is essentially enough steps to cover the entire Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in George to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine!

My biggest step day of that year was June 9, when I took 47,448 steps.  My second biggest day was the day before, when I took 37,045 steps.  Both these days were on my Shackleford Banks backpacking trip.

I guess I will keep my pedometer charged and active, and see how many steps I take in the coming year.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Shackleford Bank Trip's Posts

It took me a while to get them all written, but here is a summary of my posts for my two night backpacking trip last month on Shackleford Banks, a nine mile long uninhabited barrier island off the southern North Carolina coast:

An overview of my trip can be read here.  I hoped for scenic beaches, low crowds, great shells, and cool wildlife, and Shackleford Banks sure delivered!

After a few weeks eagerly anticipating the trip, the day arrived and the three of us headed out to the island on a water taxi out of Beaufort.

On my first day there, we focused on hiking to a nice spot to camp (where we could drop off our water).  Then, I did some beachcombing and exploring.

All of us hoped that we would see the famous wild horses, known as "bankers," and we were not disappointed.

Day two on the island started off right with a nice sunrise.

My second full day on the island involved walking - lots and lots of walking!

After a threatening storm somehow missed us, we went out looking for wild horses again, and got another good look at these tough animals.  Plus, I saw an interesting sunset.

Ending a trip can be bittersweet, but while we had a great time, all of us were glad to get back to civilization - and especially, to shade!  First, we had to hike back out as the tide rushed in.

And now, for some mystery guests!  Can you guess these animals I saw?

This one is beautiful, but deadly!

This one flits like a ghost along the coast!

This one is a drab looking shorebird - until it flies, and then it is quite distinctive!

This one has more arms than you or I do.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Am I?

Here is the fourth "What Am I?" riddle from my backpacking trip on Shackleford Banks....

I live out on the ocean's floor
But you might find me on the shore

I have five arms, while you have two
Mine are different from those of you

My arms are covered with tube feet
By which I move, and help me eat,

Because my tube feet do real well
When pulling open a clam's shell

My phylum name means "spiny skin"
Sea urchins are among my kin

For yes, I will with pride confirm
Indeed, I'm an echinoderm!

I think
that should
be enough
clues for you.
Take your
guess and
for the answer!

Did you finish ahead of par
And guess I'm a fine sea star?

I saw a number of these sea stars (commonly called star fish, although a fish they are not) washed up on the beach and thought they were really striking.  I shared a few photos of my hike with a coworker, and she liked this one so much she is using it as wallpaper on her computer.  Mother Nature arranged everything so artfully, don't you think?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Am I?

Here is the third "What Am I?" riddle from my backpacking trip on Shackleford Banks....

Patrolling by the water's edge
In tireless search of food, I pledge

I probe the sand with my long bill
For food my belly with to fill

My feet move fast, can you keep up
While I search for some things to sup?

A sanderling, do you suppose?
No - let's continue with more prose.

For I'm much larger than that bird
You'll have to take me at my word

I'm drab in color but in my flight
I boldly flash both black and white

From market hunting I was rare
But I've come back thanks to man's care

That should
be enough clues
to identify
this common

Do you know it?
and see if you
got it right!

Did these clues all help you fill it
and determine I'm a willet?

I saw a number of these impressive shorebirds while hiking on Shackleford Banks last month.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped their populations, decimated from market hunting, recover, and they are now commonly seen along the coast.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What Am I?

Here is the second "What Am I?" riddle from my backpacking trip on Shackleford Banks....

You ever think you've seen a ghost
While walking on the sandy coast?

While not a ghost, my color's pale
I have a shell, but not like snail

I've eight fast legs to move around
But spend much time below the ground

For in the sand I dig a hole
I won't come out, though you cajole

But in the darkness of the night
When the conditions are just right

I'll leave the safety of my lair
And hunt for something to ensnare

By heading down to the dark sea
To search for food.  No guarantee

I won't become someone's quick meal
And if I do, there's no appeal

Perhaps you think I'm large spider
Think again, think hard and wider

Now this last clue should give you pause
I'm armed with two strong pinching claws

Think hard,
enough clues
and I think
you have more
than a ghost of
a chance with
this one.
for the

Should you say that I'm a ghost crab
Then the answer you sure did grab!

One sees these crabs often during the day, usually very close to the borrows.  But come out at night, and you will see them all over the place, heading down to the water to hunt, and I suppose, to breed.  I once saw a big one with a much smaller one in its claws.  Life is not easy or gentle for these animals.

What Am I?

It's been four weeks since I was backpacking on Shackleford Banks, and it is past time to document some of the other wildlife that I saw on the two days I was on the island.  I plan on three or four of these posts to wrap up my Shackleford Banks experience.  Here is the first one.  See if you can figure it out.  I saw about 5-6 of these dead on the beach.  I saw a live one once in Bermuda.  It an animal you want to stay away from, despite its beauty.

Beyond the waves I gently float
Perhaps I look like tiny boat

My body's purple with some pink
I look so lovely, you may think

But you should take another look
By cover, do not judge this book!

There's more to me than purplish float
And if you're wise, you will take note

Don't get too close, for here's the thing:
I will inflict a deadly sting!

Far below the water's surface
Are tentacles with deadly purpose

I hope that
this gives you
enough clues.

for the

Here, then, I am, washed up on shore:
Deadly Portuguese man 'o war!

Here are two of the specimens that I found.  The colors are beautiful, but even lying on the beach, their long tentacles can pack a deadly sting.

If I recall correctly, this species is not a single animal, but more like a colony of animals.  Finding so many of these washed up would make me very alert upon swimming in this area!