Saturday, December 30, 2017

Back To The Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains

Dale Matson

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(L) Mt. Tinemaha and (R) Birch Mountains At Sunset

Folks who live in Fresno have wonderful choices in going west to the central coast for gorgeous ocean views or east to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. While most Fresnans prefer the coast and while we enjoy our stays there, we prefer the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains along the Highway 395 corridor from Yosemite south to Lone Pine. Getting to the Sierra from our side on foot is quite an effort these days. It is a three-hour drive just to get to trailheads at Edison or Florence Lakes.
We were on the east side this past week for a two day visit with an overnight stay in Bishop CA. It seems like this scenic corridor between the Sierra Nevada and the White and Inyo Mountains is inexhaustible in its variety and splendor. This was our last trip of the year and we took the longer way around via Highway 99 south over Tehachapi connecting to Highway 395 via Highway 14. This route put us in Lone Pine in just over 4 hours. This gave me sunset shots on day one and sunrise shots on day two before working our way south and back home. The seasonal and scenic route through Yosemite (Highway 120) is closed for the year.
On a personal note, this has been a year of difficult age-related health setbacks but in consolation, some of the best views yet discovered. I am truly thankful that my health recovered to the extent that it has and no longer take things for granted as I once did.
Sharon and I had a wonderful overnight at Big McGee Lake surrounded by snow in August. Our epic day hike to the pond below Split Mountain was a realized dream of many years. I also had two wonderful day hikes with a younger and patient Annie Ortmeyer. We braved the drive up the Laurel Lakes Trail to hike to and beyond beautiful Lake Genevieve which lays above Convict Lake. Our trip out in a snowstorm was a white-knuckle adventure with Annie taking cellphone video in between stepping out of my truck to help guide us around boulders. Our last hike of the season to Tamarack and Buck Lakes was also rewarded with elegant views even though we only saw sign of Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep in their summer range.
The two days Sharon and I roamed the 395-corridor offered both landscape and wildlife opportunities. As usual, our friend in Bishop Steve Yeager took time to show us some local wildlife and helped us look for sheep above Rovana.
The photographs were with my new Sony A7R3. I used my 16-35mm and 24-70mm GM lenses in additional to my 100-400mm GM lens for the wildlife shots and some landscapes.
I have dropped some ideas into my bucket list for next year God willing. Most are based on hikes I have taken previously and want to dig a tad further into the mother lode of beauty. The eagles are returning to Millerton Lake on their seasonal migration and I hope to get better photos this year. Thanks for coming along on our adventures and I wish you God’s blessings and all the best for the coming new year.

 Four Gables (12,801')
 Buck Mule Deer With Palmated Antlers
 Tule Elk Near Big Pine That Refused To Stand For Photos
 Lone Pine Peak (12,949')
 Mt. Basin (13,190')
 Mt. Langley (14,026')
 Mt. Tom (13,658')
 Mt. Tom
 Mt. Humphreys (13,993')
 Mt. Whitney 14,508')
 Local Mule Deer 
 Silver Canyon Bighorn Sheep
 (L) Split Mtn. (14,065')  (R) Mt. Tinemaha (12,519')
 Young Bald Eagle Feeding On Cow Afterbirth

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Handmade Knives

Dale Matson

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Faria Knife

Speaking on behalf of many men, we can never have enough knives or flashlights. I think this is something that attracts males from birth. When we were young and not strong enough to open a folding knife with our fingers, we used to clamp our teeth in the blade groove and pull it open. You can imagine how many wound up cutting their lips with this method!
Knives generally come in two forms. The first is the folding knife with one or more blades. The Swiss Army Knife has been the standard for multi-blade knives but the Leatherman has made quite a dent in this market.
The second form is a sheath knife used in hunting, survival and combat. The Bowie Knife is the king of this realm.
The Rambo Knife is more modern but of similar design. Both knives are a bit too much for me both in size and weight.
Lately the “Neck Knife” has become more popular especially with trail-through hikers.
Anyway, I’ve bought lots of knives over the years and liked the Buck sheath knives and the Kershaw and Benchmade folding knives. For backpacking, I have found that smaller is better.
I was visiting my good friend Joe Faria the other day and he showed me some knives his son Joseph had made. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the knives were and a couple of weeks later was able to talk him out of one of his smaller knives. We did a little bartering and I traded a down coat and camp stove for the knife. I think both of us were pleased. However, Joe senior tried on the down coat and I believe Joseph may only have a camp stove to show for his bartering. They have a cabin up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the temperatures drop into the teens.
These knives are Sharp. Joseph showed me as he shaved a piece of newspaper. He had previously fashioned a small Kydex holster for the knife and made me an additional belt holster while I chatted with Joe senior. Kydex is a modern and amazing material also used for gun holsters. The material allows for a tight fit for either a handgun or a knife and I believe has advantages over leather for holsters. The knife "feels good-in-the-hand".
Joseph gave me this information on the materials he used for this knife.
“Steel: 1080 with custom finish. Handle material: Green G10 liner, Alumilite custom pour with purple and white blend in the front, stabilized burl out back with gray Alumilite between blue G10 in the mid-section & Custom Kydex sheath for it to call home.” Joseph attached a braided cord to the handle that can be used in an emergency. For me, this will be my EDC Knife.
         I must say that the knife has been on the coffee table next to my laptop computer for several days now. It is beautiful, functional and a work of art. His last name is on all of his blades. Thanks Joseph!
         Joseph can be contacted here:


Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Blue Oak Trail II Millerton Lake

Dale Matson

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Well, the eagles are beginning to show up at Millerton Lake again. Some are returning to Millerton Lake for the winter from their home at Great Slave Lake in Canada. These eagles set up “housekeeping nests” but do not breed here. There are resident pairs also but less plentiful or evident.
A few days ago, a bald eagle flew by late in the day, while I was taking some ultra-wide shots of the historic Millerton Courthouse area. The eagle is visible in the photo but very small. Of course, where is the big lens when you need it?

Cropped- Bald Eagle More Evident

Yesterday I was walking along the Blue Oak Trail which leads to the marina area of Winchell Cove and had a good opportunity to photograph a Red-Tailed Hawk soon after leaving the parking area. The hawk finally flew away and I headed down the trail hoping to see the hawk again.

Red-Tailed Hawk

 I could see a large bird in the top of a tree and when I got closer it turned out not to be the hawk but a 2nd year Bald Eagle. They look similar to a Golden Eagle and I always hope it will be a Golden Eagle. We do have a nesting pair at Millerton but I have not seen either bird yet no matter how much I have hiked around the lake the past two years.
I got some photographs and video. It seems like no matter how many shots I take, there is always a branch covering a part of the bird. Often, they are turned away or the light highlights their feathers but their eyes are in the shadow. Crow feathers in their beaks don’t make them too attractive either. I think crows are an inexhaustible food source for them.
I look at classic eagle photographs and they are mostly head shots that fill the frame. Many are at the 200mm range. I say to myself, “Was this a captive bird?” My lens is 400mm with a 1.4X extender (560mm) and even a cropped 42-megapixel photo is the entire bird NOT filling the frame. It is extremely difficult to get sharp photographs of birds in flight (BIF). I use a Sony A7R3 and 100-400 GM lens. When the camera is on “auto” the default shutter speed is 1/500. This is not fast enough for hand holding or BIF. I use “S” (shutter priority) and dial it to 1/640
The eagle flew but in the direction of my travel on the trail and I watched him land in a tree about one 3rd of a mile away along the trail. It is nice that the trail weaves in and out and I was able to approach the new location unobserved by the eagle. There is a certain proximity they allow and that is it. Away they go again. So, every time out is a learning experience. I hope I haven’t missed any Bobcats, or Mountain Lions as I walk along looking up in the trees.

I picked him up again and got more photographs including an in-flight shot.

 Uncropped Aproach Photo

The eagle video is here: