Early On A Frosty Mornin'

I wish I was in the land of cotton
old times they are not forgotten
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie Land.

In Dixie Land where I was born in,
early on a frosty mornin'
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixie Land.


A Very Nice Weekend

...and the beauty of it was, we didn't drive all over half of California.

Ms Darlene came out again on her birthday so we visited her new favorite place in the world...Sausalito.   It's the town just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco, home of jewelry and fashion shops and trendy little Trip Advisor restaurants. We spent hours, Saturday, just walking around, amazed at the people who, like us, were out to see what others were gawking at.

That along with a trip up Highway 1 toward Stinson Beach and back toward the overlook at the Golden Gate filled the day.  It was great but the full moon shining across the bay made it a special event.

Sunday, we ate early at the Hollywood Cafe at a sidewalk table.  It was really great with large breakfast portions at a reasonable price and the service was just outstanding.

The rest of Sunday saw us walking up and down the streets from Ghiardelli Square to Pier 39 and lots of places in between.  That afternoon, we took an hour long boat ride out underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island.  We were told that 90% of San Franciscans have not been under that bridge.  (84.7353% of statistics are made up.)  As for a tour of Alcatraz, that's just not something I want to do and have to think about the pure misery of the prisoners on that rock.

Anyway, here's some pictures.



It probably occurred to me a couple weeks late but this past weekend, I thought it might be nice to check out the salmon run on the Stanislaus River.  Up north of Oakdale, California near Knights Ferry was where I thought was the more optimal place without having to drive through half of California.

I had it all to myself on a nice cool morning and with my back to the sun, the golden trees were simply magnificent.

Arriving pretty early Saturday morning, I took the trail down the Stanislaus for a mile or so.  Along the way, I was puzzled by perhaps a hundred buzzards in the trees.

I stopped to ponder them, taking a few photos before I settled in to check out some fall flowers and the bees and butterflies that found them attractive.

After doing my best to annoy the insects, I continued down the river and could hear a light roar from rushing waters.  This would be the Russian Rapid.

As I approached the water, I understood why the buzzards were roosting in the trees nearby.  In the water, there was one huge salmon that had died but not floating yet.  I watched the small rapids for quite a while and never seeing a fish jump in the attempt to go upstream.

 Apparently, I was a couple of weeks late and the main salmon run had already run it's course.  That's pretty much appropriate for me.

Returning back near my starting point, I was able to see several dozen large salmon under the large concrete bridge.  Some were a beautiful reddish color while some were gray showing white spots caused from a hard fight upstream from the ocean.  Parts of the skin were literally coming off right there in the water.

Reading up on the migration; once a salmon hatches out, it goes downstream to the ocean where it stays four or five years then begins it's migration back to where they were born.  Once they spawn, this is where they die and complete it's life cycle.

On the Stanislaus, the migration stops just above the old covered bridge, being stopped by a water control dam.  It was a nice day, walking the woods, fields and climbing over the rocks there.


"No, you're going to get off this plane...RIGHT NOW!!"

I had closed my eyes briefly as the remaining zones loaded onto American Airlines 1602 in Dallas.  Moments earlier, I watched as one passenger, two seats in front of me, attempted to stow his roller bag in the overhead compartment and in doing so, the backpack, still on his back, nudged a woman in the opposite side of the aisle.  It seemed like a very light brush but no one likes having a pack in their face.   The woman complained and the pack wielding man, turned and apologized profusely.  That pretty much ended the incident and I rested my eyes a bit, thinking about what time I had to get up earlier that morning to make the flight from Baton Rouge that would connect me to the flight to Sacramento.

Moments later, I was startled to hear, "No....you're going to get off this plane, RIGHT NOW!"  The flight attendant yelled again, "Yes you are!  Get up, you're not flying on this plane!"

I couldn't  tell exactly what had happened so I leaned over to the grinning guy next to me and asked, "What's up?"

"That woman two seats up took a swing at the flight attendant."  He added, "The flight attendant pulled a bag out of the bin to repack it and the strap dropped down on that woman so she took a swing and hit the bag the attendant was holding."

Further commotions erupted with some more words I couldn't make out, then the attendant headed up toward the front with haste.  The woman turned and pleaded her case that she was merely trying to knock the bag strap away from her to protect her $1,000 pair of glasses but a couple of other passengers, told her that wasn't what they saw.  Now, I have some pretty expensive glasses and I was a eyeglass wholesaler in a previous life and I can tell you they were not a thousand dollar pair of glasses, but that's another issue.

Five minutes later, another flight attendant approaches the lady in seat 21D and asked for her version of the story.  After a bit of discussion, flight attendant number 2 gets the lady to come up to the front to work things out with the captain.  Good cop, bad cop thing going on here, I think.

Now, we're 20 minutes late on the departure already.

A few minutes later, the woman comes back and starts retrieving her carry-on bag and while she's doing it begins to once again, tell her version of the incident.  Several other passengers, already looking at their watches tell her just to "suck it up and get off the plane, lady."  Thankfully, she relents and heads back up to exit.    A few minutes later, another female passenger, who was on standby, takes the seat.

Flight attendant #1 came back and joked and laughed with the passengers regarding the incident.  She collected a half dozen business cards, I'm guessing to have some witnesses that would take her side in case the disenfranchised passenger decided to lawyer up.  She admits that the captain wanted to let passenger #1 fly if she would apologize to the flight attendant but the ladies told him no.  "If she flies, we don't"   So, to avoid a mutiny, the captain ejected passenger #1.

By this time, we're already 45 minutes late closing the front door.  That, with the car rental agency being temporarily out of cars, caused me being an hour late getting to Modesto.


Another run at Yosemite

Instead of going back into the ever popular Yosemite Valley, I followed California Highway 120 east.   After driving through quaint little mountain communities like Groveland and Big Oak Flat, I approached the beginnings of the signs of the very large rim fire in September.

Pulling off to take a picture in one of the side road pull-outs, a U S Forest Service guy quickly pulls up in an official truck and tells me I can't even stop there to take a picture.

"I can't even take a picture??", I asked.

"No, you have to go another quarter mile to a designated area."

I didn't want to argue with him.  How long have foresters been armed with assault weapons?

That was pretty much the way it was all along the next few miles until I got officially into Yosemite National Park.

I had never been on Hwy 120 east, traveling north of the famed valley.  Admiring every pull-out, I often walked down little trails when I saw other cars parked.  Really, I wanted to see waterfalls but this time of the year, I was lucky to see water at all.

At one point I took a little hike to the stream bed for the source of the iconic Yosemite Falls. Yep, it was dry as a bone and hard to imagine it flowing in the spring.

Again, stopping often, I was always amazed at how a seed from a tree could find it's way into a crack in all that granite and make itself a home.

Passing by the eastern side of the Yosemite Valley, I saw on one of the information stands that there was a lake a couple of miles on east.

Tenaya Lake was a pretty sight coming down from the peak at Olmsted Point.

I kept inching on and found myself in the Tuolumne Meadows before figuring out it might be time to turn around   This little part of this stream was just full of little 7- 8 inch trout.  Within weeks, this place will be 6 feet in snow.

On my way back, there was a couple of vehicles parked on one of the wide spots,  so I slowed down and pulled over to see what the attraction might be.

Up on the side of the huge rock, I thought I saw a movement.  Taking out my zoom lens, I focused in on what turned out to be one adult male and two smaller females, one of which (if not both) were merely children.  Thinking to myself, this is insane, I watched quite a while.  After all, I was 20 years old before I knew there was anything taller than the Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge.

As a matter of perspective, the first shot is of the rock itself.  The people are barely visible but are in the exact center of the photo.

As I watched, I realized they were about to rappel down.

The male went first, then the two girls after him.  Judging from the size of the helmet on one, this has to be a kid in the 8 or 9 year old range.  Not sure if you can zoom in or not. Just click on the photo and it should enlarge.

Watching two kids do this made me think that hitting a ton on a motorcycle or going into a cave underwater with a shark was very mild in comparison.

Apparently it wasn't that big of a deal to some because another truck pulled up, the guy and girl got out and looked for a moment then began pulling out their own ropes and equipment.  No thanks, I'll stick to level ground, thank you.

On stopping at the gates at Yosemite, I saw a sign telling me that everything but the actual valley parks would be closing November 1, so I'm glad I got a chance to visit that part of Yosemite.

Determined to find some evidence of fall colors, Yosemite left me with this parting shot.


Another California Weekend

Instead of flying back home, the company was gracious enough to fly Ms Darlene out here to see me. It wasn't like her arm had to be twisted because she truly loves the west coast.  She now proclaims she loves mountains more than beaches and oceans...but we'll see.

Friday night, we were in San Francisco to do a lot of people watching.  Each big city has it's uniqueness and San Francisco does not disappoint.  Attractions are never ending; from the colorful characters on the street to the panhandlers and various sideshows performing for tips.

(clicking the photos should increase size and resolution)

One of our plans was to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  After what seemed to be an endless amount of driving around near the bridge we finally managed to land a parking spot.  Putting the maximum amount on the parking ticket, we struck out, headed north, stopping several times to look in awe at the bridge structure, the people on the bridge and the sites of the bay from the bridge.


The bridge is 1.7 miles across one way and has endless traffic from both directions.

After our hour and 45 minute walk across and back, we headed back to downtown to see and be seen.

As the evening came, a different crowd appeared.  As you might imagine, the night covered a lot of the dirtiness and the colorful lights changed the atmosphere.

After a short fireworks display, we made our way to the East Bay back to our hotel.

Sunday, we headed over to South Lake Tahoe stopping along the way to take a few pictures and just enjoy the mountain air and wilderness.

Monday (a vacation day for both of us) we decided to drive around the lake stopping occasionally for refreshments and the obligatory gawking at a few of the overlooks.  I won't bore you with the facts (Google gives wonderful info on Lake Tahoe) but the place is absolutely beautiful.  Yes, the water is (still) that blue. Absolutely!

The Aspens were just changing into a yellow gold and when the sun hit them just right, you'd think they were hooked up electrically.

Just gorgeous.

This time, we did not see a lot of wildlife.  There were a lot of squirrels and a couple of deer but not near what we had observed in Yosemite.

However, they promised bears...I wanted bears!!

The glory of this place is just never ending...as long as you can stay away from the tourist traps.

If you ever get a chance to take a couple of days off for the drive, just do it.  You will love it.


Another shot at Yosemite

After a week's vacation, once again, I'm back in Modesto.

Saturday morning, I began to figure out what I could do to amuse myself.  I eliminated San Francisco because, there's just too many people, traffic and ...just too many people.  So, I thought I'd take another shot at Yosemite National Park.

The ride down and over from Modesto was pretty nice, riding through the rolling hills through very little traffic.  Arriving there, I once again presented my (I hate to admit this) Senior National Parks pass to get in free.  A couple of miles on the road winding around boulders as big as houses, I found myself stopping several times just to soak it all in.

I climbed down the the very low flowing river, found a couple of ducks that had no more fear of humans than the deer I  had seen a few weeks ago when Darlene came up to visit.


Even squirrels and chipmunks were sometimes within arm's reach.

The road into Yosemite Valley is not a through road.  There are the iconic monuments such as El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, Mirror Lake and Yosemite falls, most of which can actually be observed from the comforts of your car if you're so inclined but you really can't appreciate it until you get out and walk.

The last time we were in Yosemite, the falls were completely dry but today, Bridal Veil had began to spray a little water over the top but not the signature Yosemite Falls.

I had hoped to see some fall flowers and colors other than brown grass but there just wasn't any flowers left.  I did find some tiny purple flowers near the edge of the road.  They were the last hold outs of the year.  Bear in mind, this is an extreme closeup shot and they are not larger than a half inch in diameter.  So that tiny bug in the center ( if you know how to zoom in on it - click the photo, hold down the ctrl key and scroll the wheel of your mouse) is very, very small.

This time of year, the crowds and traffic are greatly diminished but there were still plenty of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and buses.

Several times, I had passed a group of people with telescopes on tripods at the base of El Capitan.  A poster on the tailgate of a van encourage passers to "Ask A Climber".  OK, I believe I will.

I got out and walked over to a group of other curiosity seekers and eventually began to talk to a young woman who seemed very knowledgeable about climbers and what was actually going on.  It seemed her husband and a climbing partner were up on the side of that piece of solid granite, climbing to the top.  I've found amusement in a lot of dangerous things but I figure I have a lot more things to do before I run out of other things to do closer to the ground.  I believe that has to be worse than sky diving.  Again, if you can zoom in, there are 3 climbers in the very middle of this photo.

The lady told me that the trip up the side of that mountain would take 2 ½ days to reach the top and another half a day to walk down the trail behind it. She herself, was a climber.

It was virtually impossible to make them out without the benefit of a telescope or in my case, a 200 mm zoom lens on my camera.  Even that was really insufficient for a good look.

I watched for an hour or so, soaking in a lot of information I probably didn't really need to know.  She told me those big bags they were pulling up with them, was supplies including bedding (I don't know how they could sleep), food, climbing ropes and (you won't believe this) an orange colored bag to carry body waste in.  The rules are, you bring everything back with you, including that.  They also had a few beers that they would pop a top on to celebrate when they reached the top.

Of the climbers, there were four distinct groups in various places and heights on El Capitan.  One group of three were all females.

Anyway, it was a nice trip and really hated to head back into the setting sun.