Monday, July 16, 2012

#38:  I am at last (after a little bout with a bug) ready to report on the second and final part of my recent trip with SC ETV to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove.  The trip was absolutely fantastic, truly one to remember.  At Yosemite we rode on a topless tram around the valley and up to the observation area where we could look out over the valley.  Next we went to the Mariposa Grove where the giant Sequoias grow.  On our way out the last day we visited Tuolumne Meadows and one more lake before our final night in Reno.  On this night there was a gala dinner to end the trip.

“The religious challenge of this age is to those farseeing and forward-looking men and women of spiritual insight who will dare to construct a new and appealing philosophy of living out of the enlarged and exquisitely integrated modern concepts of cosmic truth, universe beauty, and divine goodness. Such a new and righteous vision of morality will attract all that is good in the mind of man and challenge that which is best in the human soul. Truth, beauty, and goodness are divine realities, and as man ascends the scale of spiritual living, these supreme qualities of the Eternal become increasingly coordinated and unified in God, who is love.”  The Urantia Book (43.3) (2:7.10)

                                                 Yosemite Valley

This is the view that is generally seen when Yosemite Valley is shown; it is almost iconic.  The area looks pristine from this vantage point, as if it were untouched by humanity.  Ha!  The overlook was crowded with tour busses, our tram, all sorts of SUVs and cars, as well as humanity from all over the earth.  The road through the valley certainly is well traveled; our tour guide said Yosemite is nearly being loved to death.  And it is certainly a space to be loved.  President Lincoln and Congress took time out from the Civil War in 1864 to set this land aside for protection; this is the first time any land had been so protected.

We had boarded our tram at the visitor center; the tram was basically a flatbed trailer with benches for seating that was pulled by a full sized tractor; they needed a really big diesel to pull all our weight up the mountain.  There was also a high seat for a local guide who gave a running commentary.  The views are truly breathtaking.  Even though the park covers 1,189 sq. mi. the vast majority of guests only see the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley.  The weather was perfect and the ride offered wondrous sights.  Soon we saw the granite monolith called El Capitan, which is on the left side of the above photo; someone with binoculars saw climbers halfway up the steep rock face and sure enough when I used the telephoto lens I obtained a good picture of them.  I understand it takes two days to make the climb.  I hope there are no sleepwalkers amongst the climbers!  Personally I prefer to keep my feet well grounded.  The tram then stopped at a meadow where we had a good view of Bridal Veil Falls.  We next chugged up the mountain to Tunnel Overlook where I took the above picture.  After we completed our tour of the valley I grabbed a quick sandwich and hiked to the base of Yosemite Falls and a bit beyond.

                 Mariposa Grove Meadow

We boarded our own bus for the drive to the Mariposa Grove; actually we had to take a shuttle for the final section.  At the grove we boarded another tram, similar to the first, for our tour of the grove.  This is the home of the giant Sequoia trees, which are some of the largest living things on earth; while the Redwoods in California may be taller the Sequoias are more massive.  This meadow was such a peaceful space I couldn’t resist taking several pictures.  It would be lovely to sit at the base of one of these giants for a while to soak in the sight, to fully appreciate this place.

                                                               Grizzly Giant

This is one of the largest trees in the park with a volume estimated to be 34,010 cubic feet and is thought to be about 1,800 years old.  The limb sticking out to the left near the top of the picture is about seven feet in diameter.  That is some tree!  Nearby is a tree that had a tunnel cut through it so you can walk through a living tree.  These trees have a shallow root system, one had fallen over and the roots were not at all impressive.  The cones of these trees are surprisingly small, about the size of a chicken egg.  Since I was with the tour there was little time for independent investigation, but it would be truly wonderful to arrive here in the early morning before all the tourists arrive, to walk and meditate amongst these mighty trees.

                                                   Butterfly at Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows is a sub-alpine meadow where we had an opportunity to explore a bit; the above butterfly was not much bigger than my thumbnail.  I also got a picture of a marmot, a prairie dog like animal as well as hikers who had climbed a nearby mound of rock.  The final stop along the way was at Mono Lake for lunch.  Near the lakeshore Sea Gulls were feeding on Brine Shrimp, which are about a third of an inch long.  Our naturalist caught some in a bag and I was able to get a decent picture of them.

“The philosophy of the universe cannot be predicated on the observations of so-called science. If such a metamorphosis could not be seen, a scientist would be inclined to deny the possibility of developing a butterfly out of a caterpillar.”  The Urantia Book (480.2) (42:9.4)

Monday, July 2, 2012

#37:  I have safely returned from a glorious journey to one of the most spectacular regions of our beautiful planet.  As mentioned in the last posting, the South Carolina Educational Television Endowment sponsored the trip, which was led by the naturalist Rudy Mancke; there were a total to 50 on the tour, a full busload.  In fact, after the first day’s outing our driver, Pete, had to get a more powerful bus for getting over the mountains.  At one point we were nearly at 10,000 feet.  From our base at Reno, Nevada we explored Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and Donner Pass, which is about all there is space for in this posting.  Next time I will describe our excursion into Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove.

When it is not possible to worship God in the tabernacles of nature, men should do their best to provide houses of beauty, sanctuaries of appealing simplicity and artistic embellishment, so that the highest of human emotions may be aroused in association with the intellectual approach to spiritual communion with God. Truth, beauty, and holiness are powerful and effective aids to true worship….  The child should be introduced to worship in nature’s outdoors and later accompany his parents to public houses of religious assembly which are at least as materially attractive and artistically beautiful as the home in which he is daily domiciled.”  The Urantia Book (1840.5) (167:6.6)

                                                            Lake Tahoe

Our naturalist, Rudy Mancke, previously did a nature program on Public TV called NatureScene and these tours are like being inside such a program as he gives commentary on the geology, wildlife and natural history of the regions through which we are passing.  On the first day we went to Lake Tahoe, which is a beautiful sight, the water is clear and deep blue with regions of green.  We boarded a boat for a ride across the lake to Emerald Cove, so called because of the color of the water.  The entire way over I stood in the bow of the boat taking in the sights and clicking pictures.  The problem with that was I got a dandy sunburn on my forehead and I neglected to go inside for lunch until it had been pretty much picked over.  That was fine with me, I can eat any day but sights such at these are once in a lifetime.  On the way back I put on the telephoto lens and got a picture of two Ospreys in flight together.  There is not enough space here for all the interesting pictures from the excursion.

This day we also visited Virginia City, famous for Boot Hill and because Mark Twain was a newspaper reporter there when he started to receive attention for his writing.  We did not stop at Boot Hill, but from a distance it looked as it did in the movies.  In the town there were the wooden sidewalks and tourist places but since it was a very hot day I headed for the ice cream parlor for a dish of Butter Pecan.  While I was finishing it I discovered an interesting old church one street away from the tourist shops, Saint Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church, inside the pews each had a numbered door.

                                                          Blazing Star

The next day we stopped at a Paiute Indian reservation near Pyramid Lake where an Indian guide gave an account of the history of the area and his people.  John C. Freemont had named the lake after he spotted a conical island in it.  By the way, Lake Tahoe drains into the Truckee River, which flowed past our Reno Hotel; I could even see it from my room there.  The Truckee then flows into Pyramid Lake, which has no outlet; the water just evaporates.  This lake has distinctive formations called Tufa that are formed by carbonate minerals precipitating from the water.  We then went closer to the lake where we had our box lunches and did some exploring.  There were swift lizards scurrying about in the sand and a Mule Deer on the other side of the lake.  The above flower was growing along the path.
                                                  Red Breasted Sapsucker

Our next stop was at Donner State Park, the site where the Donner Party got stranded by the snow in 1846.  As we began our nature walk, not far from the visitor’s center there was a Red Breasted Sapsucker feeding her young, we stood for some time watching and taking photos.  It is remarkable the precision with which the nest was formed.  I have one picture where the bird is just coming out of the hole and it looks to be a tight fit.  On our walk we saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly, a very large toad and other interesting sights.
                                                        Donner Pass

I will not go into the tragic details of the Donner Party; if you are interested Wikipedia has a full account of the story.  The gist of the tale is that the party arrived at this pass as the snow started falling.  They got up the pass and tried to build shelters, but the snow that year became 22 feet deep and food was scarce.  The question becomes: How could those people endure such hardships, how could they drag their wagons and all their possessions up slopes such as this?  How could they persevere?  The answer is simple, they persevered because they had to; they solved their problems because they had to.  It was truly persevere or perish. 

“All this must be according to the Father’s plan, which has predicated finite progress upon effort, creature achievement upon perseverance, and personality development upon faith. ”  The Urantia Book (1266.3) (115:7.2)