Friday, February 26, 2016

Mono Lake

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Mono Lake Photographed From On Top Of Mammoth Mountain
(22 miles away as the crow flies using a 400mm lens)

As you drive east through Yosemite National Park on Highway 120, you pass through Tuolumne Meadows. Continuing east you pass through the gate at Tioga Pass at almost 10,000’. As you drive the steep descent toward Lee Vining CA, The stark sight of Mono Valley begins to appear as a sharp contrast to Tuolumne’s lush green and mountainous ambiance.

In the middle of Mono Valley lies Mono Lake. There is a great deal of politics surrounding the water that feeds Mono Lake, which has no outlet. Because there is no outlet, the lake has more than twice the salinity as the ocean and the more freshwater routed away from Mono Lake and to Los Angles, the lower the level and the more saline the water. Because the saline content is so high, the lake has a deep blue color different than freshwater lakes.

Legal action has now established a suitable level that is lower than before fresh water was routed away from the lake but higher than it is now. There is a sign along the trail where the hoped for increased water level will be. The latest lengthy California drought has slowed much of the lake elevation goal. The irony is that the higher the water rises in the lake, the more the famous Tufa’s are lost from sight by the water.

I found it to be a windy and barren sight with a unique brutal beauty. There is a parking area, three-dollar entry fee, bathrooms and an established trail with informational signs placed along the way. The lake is an important flyway for birds and the Brine Shrimp in the lake provide a food source.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

My Photographs Of The Ten Sierra Nevada 14ers

Dale Matson

I was on a search and rescue near Mount Whitney about seven years ago and was impressed with the fact that I was walking at 11,000’ and facing mountains over 3,000’ higher. Between Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake you can see the west face of both Mt. Whitney and Mt. Russell. The eastern face of both is easily seen from Highway 395 in Lone Pine. 

Except For Mt. Humphreys The first photographs are from the Whitney Group

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Mount Whitney And Mount Russell From The West
Mount Whitney And Mount Russell From The East

Since that time, I have looked over my DVDs to determine if I have taken photographs of what are considered to be the ten Sierra Nevada 14ers during my decades in the Sierra. I have loads of mountain photographs but would not be able to name most of them. Mt. Humphreys is easy to spot because it is singular and distinctive but fourteen feet shy of 14,000’.

Mount Humphreys Taken In Humphreys Basin Is 14' Under 14,000'

The east face of some of my mountain photographs is what I would call a “Drive By” since it can be seen and photographed from Highway 395. Other photographs of these same mountains taken from the west required a great deal of effort.

Mt. Humphreys Right Of Center From The East
With Mt. Basin Far Right

Mt. Langley, Mt. Whitney And Mt. Russell

Mount Muir From Mount Whitney Trail

Mt. Langley From Cottonwood Lakes Area
Mt. Williamson With Mount Tyndall On Right

The Next Mountains Are From The Palisade Group

Mt. Sill From Big Pine Lakes Basin (From 5th Lake)
Mt. Sill From Dusy Basin 200mm lens
This Shot Is Rarely Included In Dusy Basin Photographs
North Palisade From Dusy Basin On Far Right
North Palisade From Panoramic Point
34 Miles Away Using A Cropped 300mm Photograph
Split Mountain Left Of Center From The East
Split Mountain Is Also Referred To As South Palisade
Middle Palisades Left Of Center (Clyde Peak On Right)
Photograph Taken From North Fork Of Big Pine Creek Trail
I Would Rename This Area "Glacier Basin"

I don’t consider myself to be a “peak bagger” in general unless it is a walk up. I can only claim Mt. Whitney as a Sierra Nevada 14er I have personally climbed.
I excluded the two California non Sierra Nevada 14ers and those mountains with less than 300’ of prominence, whatever that means.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Joseph LeConte: The Sierra Club Jumps The Shark

Dale Matson
“Sierra Club seeks Yosemite Lodge name change after learning it honors white supremacist” The article written by Andrea Castillo can be found here.

I found it rather ironic that while the National Park Service is fighting with the Delaware North Company over Yosemite Park name changes, it now has to consider the request of the Sierra Club executive members to remove Joseph LeConte’s name from the lodge in Yosemite built to commemorate his life and work. LeConte along with John Muir was one of the founding members of the Sierra Club.

It is also an irony but not a surprise, that the politically correct preservationist Sierra Club would take a turn toward historical revisionism. The club was once proud to associate itself with the name LeConte and they are the publishers of his book “A Journal Of Ramblings Through The High Sierra Of California By The University Excursion Party”. The Sierra Club was undoubtedly the primary advocate to have LeConte’s name associated with many of the Sierra Nevada features like the LeConte Divide. Will they now contact the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and request that his name be removed from the next generation of topographic maps?

It is often said that hindsight is 20-20 but history is what it is, both noble and shameful. What we do today will be judged by folks who come after us. Being ‘enlightened’ in the present does not allow us to deny the reality of the past and the story of Joseph LeConte should remain, with the proviso that his racism be acknowledged and this can be done without celebrating it at the same time. As Scripture states, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7)

The negative things in my history should not cancel the good things I have done. How many of the executive members of the Sierra Club (a club to which I belong) are themselves without sin? How will their actions be judged 50 years from now?

Frankly many individuals in LeConte’s day were racists. That is not to say that it was right but do we purge the recorded history of those individuals as payback for their objectionable actions and attitudes? Theodore Solomons another founding member of the Sierra Club was concerned that his name would not appear on any landmarks because of his opposition to club leadership in his day.

Both John Muir and Clarence King were racists in their attitudes and comments about Native Americans. King wrote in “Mountaineering In The Sierra Nevada”,  “I usually confess my opinion that the Quakers will have to work a great reformation in the Indian before he is really fit to be exterminated.” Should his great discoveries as a geologist for the State of California be discounted for this? He was the first head of the USGS. Should his name be removed from Mt. Clarence King in Kings Canyon and King Peak in Antarctica?

John Muir was involved in commercial logging in Yosemite. He herded domestic sheep that spread diseases to the native Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep and almost caused their extinction. Should his name also be removed?

Should the remains of Walter Starr Jr. be removed from his rock tomb created by Norman Clyde and Jules Eichorn on Michael Minaret? What about the spirit of the Wilderness Act to “Leave No Trace?  What will we learn about other icons? Ansel Adams another Sierra Club member condemned his grandfather and father for operating a lumber business yet he smoked cigarettes. How would we judge him by today’s standards?

Francis P. Farquhar “History Of The Sierra Nevada” dedicated a chapter to the Sierra Club. He noted that some words in the Sierra Club’s original charter were removed. To “render accessible” What has happened since then? Would LeConte, Muir and Solomons even apply for membership today?

This is the season of Lent and a fitting time for the leadership of the Sierra Club to do some corporate soul searching. As a member, I am frankly tired of all the requests for more donations, threats of litigation and obstructionist politics. It is time again for the Sierra Club to be as pro people as it is pro environment.    

Thursday, February 18, 2016

North Fork California, The Scenic Byway And The San Joaquin River

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
 Redinger Lake
San Joaquin River

Spring Green North Of Fresno On Highway 41

Mammoth Pool 

To get to North Fork beginning from Fresno, take the 41-freeway north to Road 200. Follow it to North Fork and keep driving, as the road becomes road 225. Turn left on Forest Service Road 81 (also known as Minarets Road and Mammoth Pool Road. Set aside at least a half a day for this trip.

I discovered the scenic byway on a bicycle ride I did called the Grizzly Century. The 100-mile ride with 10,000’ of elevation gain begins and ends at North Fork High School on Road 225 out of North Fork. The lunch stop area is at a place called “Mile High” and the view is magnificent as you look east across the Sierra toward Mammoth Mountain.

This road is not plowed in winter but in the summer lots of folks drive to Mammoth Pool resort for camping and fishing. The road parallels the route of the San Joaquin River upstream first to Redinger Lake (elevation 1,400’) and higher to Mammoth Pool (3,330’). The final lake formed by the inflow of the San Joaquin is the largest, Millerton Lake at an elevation of 561’. Each of these man made reservoirs is used for recreation, flood control, irrigation and the production of electricity.

It is common to think of the San Joaquin (the second longest river in California) as a single river but it is actually made up of three separate forks with different headwaters high in the Sierra Nevada. The North Fork of the San Joaquin headwaters is formed near the southeast base of Mt. Lyell in Yosemite. The Middle Fork of the San Joaquin begins at Thousand Island Lakes near Banner peak in the Ritter Range. The South Fork of the San Joaquin has Martha Lake west of the LeConte Divide near massive Mount Goddard as it’s source.

The Middle and North Forks join together and then join with the South Fork above Mammoth Pool in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. As one looks up the San Joaquin River above Mammoth Pool there are several granite domes.

As I drove up toward Mile High I saw two large groups of deer with a mixture of bucks and does. They were much more skittish than national park deer since deer hunting is allowed in the Sierra National Forest. The French Fire of 2014 blackened much of the area above Redinger Lake along either side of the road.  The snow and rain began falling, as the tail end of a winter storm was moving out. The surface conditions and variable visibility stopped me short of Mile High. I don’t think there would have been much of a view with the clouds moving up the river valley and filling it with a thick mist veil.

My photographs were taken with a Sony A7R2, an adapted Sony A mount 70-400mm lens, and adapted 100mm C/Y Zeiss lens and a native Sony Zeiss E mount 24-70mm lens. I couldn't resist taking the photograph of the Sierra from highway 41 near Children's Hospital.     

Sierra Nevada East Of Fresno