Late Summer Garden and Rambles

One of the 5000 sunflowers in the yard. Bees and birds are very happy about them.

One of the 5000 sunflowers in the yard. Bees and birds are very happy about them.

Here’s a synopsis of August goings-on in the garden and the mountains. The days are still long, hot and sunny, but are now turning a little shorter and a little less hot. We still have plenty of sun. The drought continues and we are conserving water as best we can. Everyone’s hoping for a wetter fall and winter.

The dry weather has been good for walking in the mountains, though—from a day hike from South Lake with Chris and Bean to local favorite Green Lake, right in our backyard, to another local 20 mile overnight weekend loop out of North Lake: over Piute Pass and into Humphries Basin, and then up and over Packsaddle Pass and Lamarck Col before heading back down. Such a treat that these places are less than an hour’s drive from home!

Green Lake and Coyote Flat

Secret locals' back way "up the old water pipe" from the South Lake parking lot.

Secret locals’ back way “up the old water pipe” from the South Lake parking lot.

Green Lake, looking very blue today!

Green Lake, looking very blue today!

The trail meanders the hillside high above Green Lake.

The trail meanders the hillside high above Green Lake.

Picnic spot on Coyote Flat.

Picnic spot on Coyote Flat.

Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

Nothing like home-grown tomatoes.

Volunteer tomatillos just popped up all over the garden. If I get enough, I'll make salsa with these tart little fruits.

Volunteer tomatillos just popped up all over the garden. If I get enough, I’ll make salsa with these tart little fruits.

Getting a good crop of chile peppers this season.

Getting a good crop of chile peppers this season.

An August jumble of giant sunflowers, corn, hibiscus, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sundry herbs ...

An August jumble of giant sunflowers, corn, hibiscus, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sundry herbs …

Piute-Packsaddle-Lamarck Loop

The vast, rolling expanse of Humphries Basin.

The vast, rolling expanse of Humphries Basin.

Hadn't used the tarp in a while, but needed to set it up for intermittent rain showers. At just 4 ounces, this is a much lighter and more versatile shelter than a tent.

Hadn’t used the tarp in a while, but needed to set it up for intermittent rain showers. At just 4 ounces, this is a much lighter and more versatile shelter than a tent.

Another lousy morning in the Sierra.

Another lousy morning in the Sierra.

Heading up onto Darwin Bench.

Heading up onto Darwin Bench.

A Few Days in San Diego

We’re in San Diego this week for a conference Mike is attending, along with 15,000 other people! We’re staying right downtown, within easy walking distance of the convention center and waterfront. Here are a few photos from our wanderings-around for the past few days …

The coastal fog burned off to reveal a very nice waterfront, with lovely onshore breezes.

The coastal fog burned off to reveal a very nice waterfront, with lovely onshore breezes.

Old subs, older barques at the Maritime Museum.

Old subs, older barques at the Maritime Museum.

Noted without comment.

Noted without comment.

The USS Midway, now a museum. It took some work to get the whole ship into 1 picture!

The USS Midway, now a museum. It took some work to get the whole ship into 1 picture!

Midships on the Midway, with other boats for scale.

Amidships on the Midway, with other boats for scale. There are also lots of working naval vessels, here at the home of the Pacific Fleet.

Stern (and café!) of the Midway. Note battered hull.

Stern (and café!) of the Midway. Note battered hull.

The famous statue. Is it art? Or something else?

The famous statue. Is it art? Or something else?

Right there in the backyard: Mt. Humphreys

Last Saturday Mike and I finally made an ascent of Mt. Humphreys, which is one of the “big three” peaks just west of Bishop. Many postcards and photos of Bishop feature Humphreys, Basin Mountain, and Mt. Tom looming over town from the west. At just under 14,000′, Humphreys is the highest of the three, although it doesn’t look like it because it’s further back than the others.

Humphreys (1), Basin Mountain (2), Mt. Ton (3). [Big pink numbers are usually not seen above the peaks.]

A winter shot of Humphreys (1), Basin Mountain (2), Mt. Tom (3). [Big pink numbers are usually not seen above the peaks.]

Getting there involved about an hour of Subaru-able 4WD, with a couple of crux rocks that we managed to bypass without damage. We were able to drive to ~8500′. Then it was around 3 miles and ~5000′ more elevation gain across ridges and sandy ledges to gain the east arête of Humphreys, which we followed to the summit. All told, it took 14 hours car-to-car. A Grand Day Out, and right behind the house, at that!

Mt. Humphreys looms behind Manor Market and its equally large rooster.

Mt. Humphreys is back there, behind Manor Market and its equally large rooster.

A 3:00 am wake-up and drive put us walking through the flower-filled lower meadows by 5:30.

A 3:00 am wake-up and drive put us walking through the flower-filled lower meadows by 5:30.

Many ridges to cross: Making our way toward the base of the arête, with the spectacular multicolored rock of the Checkered Demon Couloir area at left.

Many ridges to cross: Making our way toward the base of the arête, with the spectacular multicolored rock of the Checkered Demon Couloir area at left.

We stopped to get water in this high meadow filled with a tiny creek and thousands of knee-high shooting stars.

We stopped to get water in this high meadow filled with a tiny creek and thousands of knee-high shooting stars.

I appreciated a belay for this rather exposed traverse on the arête.

I appreciated a belay for this rather exposed traverse on the arête.

Find Mike in this sea of slabs and win a prize!

Find Mike in this sea of slabs and win a prize!

This was a great ledge for one of our several lunches of thick slabs of bread stuffed with cheddar cheese, mayo and salami (lunch begins right after breakfast).

This was a great ledge for one of our several lunches of thick slabs of bread stuffed with cheddar cheese, mayo and salami (lunch begins right after breakfast).

summit

Lots of 3rd and 4th-class scrambling (roped and unroped), plus a final pitch of 5th class climbing, brought us to the summit!

Our route: View from near the summit of the east arête, with the Buttermilks and Bishop beyond. White Mountains in the far distance.

Our route: View from near the summit of the east arête, with the Buttermilks and Bishop beyond. White Mountains in the far distance.

View northeast from the summit toward the backside of Mt. Tom.

View northeast from the summit toward the backside of Mt. Tom, and the Volcanic Tablelands on the valley floor.

Looking west toward Humphreys Basin and the Paris Lakes.

Looking west toward Humphreys Basin and Desolation Lake.

Snow up high on the route was a lucky find, as we were low on water.

Snow up high on the route was a lucky find, as we were low on water.

Oooof ... we had to do a couple of short rappels on our lightweight webbing harnesses. My ribs weren't too happy ...

Oooof … we had to do a couple of short rappels on our lightweight webbing harnesses. My ribs weren’t too happy …

Long, long descent on talus and sandy gullies, back to the lower meadows.

We down-climbed the arête a little ways, then dropped into a gully for an easier descent on talus and sandy gullies, back to the lower meadows.

Sisters Storm the Eastern Sierra

Hijinks at Father Crowley Point, overlooking Panamint Valley.

Hijinks at Father Crowley Point, overlooking Panamint Valley. (photo by Cindy)

Searching in vain for the elusive U2 Joshua Tree, Darwin Plateau, Inyo Mountains.

Searching in vain for the elusive U2 Joshua Tree, Darwin Plateau, Inyo Mountains. (photo by Cindy)

Cute sisters at the Flaming O, Las Vegas!

Cute sisters at the Flaming O, Las Vegas!

Sisters Jennifer and Cindy made their first excursion to Bishop via Las Vegas in early May.

They had a few days of big-city spas, casinos and restaurants before braving the Mojave desert and cruising across Death Valley over to Bishop. That made for a sporty day, from 98-degree temperatures at Furnace Creek to 40-knot winds blowing down the Owens Valley (dust storms! tumbleweeds!).

After that drive, Cindy and Jen definitely appreciated the adult beverages and home cooked dinner that awaited them here at the Vintage Digs.

We spent the next few days checking out the Bishop area before they headed back East. Here are a few pictures of our adventures!

 

Pointing out stuff, Rock Creek.

Pointing out stuff, Rock Creek.

Tally Ho! And bonus sore-foot soak, Rock Creek.

Tally Ho! And bonus sore-foot soak, Rock Creek.

Family resemblance and Mt. Tom.

Family resemblance and Mt. Tom.

Pondering meat options, Manor Market, Bishop.

Pondering meat options, Manor Market, Bishop.

Bishop: home of Large Animals on Roofs.

Bishop: home of Large Animals on Roofs.

A sandy walk downhill 1.2 miles to the lakeshore.

Mono Lake, and a sandy walk downhill 1.2 miles to the lakeshore.

Tufa Cave! Views! Flies! Shrubbery!

Tufa Cave! Views! Flies! Shrubbery!

All this baby needs is a coupla seats ... and maybe an engine ... and wheels ... but it's a great deal.

All this baby needs is a coupla seats … and maybe an engine … and wheels … but it’s a great deal.

Boardwalk takes across Mono Lake's wetland shoreline.

Boardwalk takes us across Mono Lake’s wetland shoreline.

Bench-with-a-view, Mono Lake.

Bench-with-a-view, Mono Lake.

Mono Lake shallows with tufa, which forms from minerals in the lake.

Mono Lake shallows with tufa, which forms from minerals in the lake.

Still life with Russian thistle (tumbleweed), Mono Lake.

Still life with Russian thistle (tumbleweed), Mono Lake.

Wonder what Ellery thinks of her very own campground?

Wonder what Ellery thinks of her very own campground?

Jen at the inlet stream leading to Ellery Lake, Inyo National Forest near Yosemite.

Jen at the inlet stream leading to Ellery Lake, Inyo National Forest near Yosemite.

 

The Impatient Gardener

Garden also features columbine in various colors.

Garden also features columbine in various colors.

Garden 2014 is underway. Last fall I cleared out a lot of weeds and dead vegetation that had accumulated over a period of some neglect. I also located the hoses and sprinklers that make up the irrigation system — these had been buried in the tangle of plants.

This year’s garden will be quite a bit more organized and I am taking advantage of the entire space. The compost pile is three times larger. All the beds have been dug and shaped and de-weeded. It’s been so warm that I have planted some things early. I check the garden a few times a day in an attempt to try and speed things up …

Not sure what this plant is, but it has a pretty pink flower despite being pretty aggressive in the garden.

Not sure what this plant is, but it has a pretty pink flower despite being rather aggressive in the garden.

The ongoing project of pulling or relocating approximately 40,000 volunteer sunflower plants will keep me occupied all summer. This year’s veg lineup includes:

  • cornhigh as a house finch’s eye right now, barring late spring frost!
  • potatoes
  • carrots taking their sweet time coming up, thank you very much
  • beans — not planted yet
  • garlic — planted last fall
  • various and sundry herbs
  • sweet peas and snap peas
  • kale and cabbage
  • tomatoes and chili peppers— in the on-deck circle, started inside in the mini greenhouse, on a heat mat
    Not much going on yet, but as the days warm things will start moving. I check several times a day ...

    Not much going on yet, but as the days warm things will start growing. 

    Garlic is doing great!

    Garlic is doing great!

    The "frog pond" attracts only hornets right now, despite the cool solar powered disco light.

    The “frog pond” attracts only hornets right now, despite the cool solar powered disco light. The plants around it are filling in nicely.

    Potatoes are planted in the round hollows.

    Potatoes are planted in the round hollows. Carrots, tomatoes and peppers will go in the boxed bed.

Red Sandstone, Red Marble

“BURLY AND SUSTAINED” : Rainbow Buttress, Oak Creek Canyon, red rocks

Mike and I serendipitously timed our latest trip to Red Rock Canyon NCA near Las Vegas: last weekend was warm and springlike, but this weekend we’re seeing drenching rain and snow at the higher elevations — badly needed due to the drought, but making for poor climbing weather.

Red Rocks was 2 full-value days going into and out of Oak Creek Canyon, twice, to climb 2 long routes. Oak Creek is one of the larger canyons in the area and has many easier-to-harder routes in its upper reaches. Mike had the good plan of going up Oak Creek on Saturday to do an easier route and familiarize ourselves with the area a bit more, because we’d be returning the very next day.

Oak Creek Canyon after snow. We encountered springlike, snow-free conditions. (Wikimedia Commons)

Oak Creek Canyon after snow. Unlike this image, we found springlike, snow-free conditions. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach totals about 3 miles to the upper canyon, including ~1.5 mile of trail and ~1.5 miles of boulder scrambling and hopping; and then several hundred more feet of slabs to the bases of the routes. We did Catwalk (5.6) on Saturday and stashed most of our gear up there, so we’d have lighter packs when we returned on Sunday to climb the classic 8-pitch Rainbow Buttress (5.8+). That made Sunday’s approach easier, but the approach and walk-off, combined with the technical climbing, make for full days.

Final pitch of Rainbow Buttress, a few pitches above the "burly and sustained" crux pitch. No photos of that pitch -- I was too busy belaying!

Final pitch of Rainbow Buttress, a few pitches above the “burly and sustained” (as described in the guidebook) crux pitch. And it was, as advertised. No photos of that pitch, or of most of the climb — I was too busy belaying!

Nearing the top of Rainbow Buttress, more than 1500' off the canyon floor.

Nearing the top of Rainbow Buttress, more than 1500′ off the canyon floor.

The walk-off was the same for both routes but longer for Rainbow Buttress — basically you end up almost on top of Rainbow Mountain and you walk back down beautiful, colorful slabs and chutes back down to Oak Creek, and then back out the bouldery canyon, about 3-4 hours for the full deal. Sunday was a full 12 hour day, and we got back to the Sprinter just as it was getting too dark to see. We never had to pull out headlamps.

A beautiful, light-filled afternoon descent along upper Oak Creek Canyon's colorful sandstone slabs.

A beautiful, light-filled afternoon descent along upper Oak Creek Canyon’s colorful sandstone slabs.

red marble: pat metheny at the smith center

Smith Center exterior evokes Art Deco architecture and the Hoover Dam era. (LA Times)

Smith Center exterior evokes Art Deco architecture and the Hoover Dam era. (LA Times)

Monday we did a few tired-but-let’s-go-do-something-anyway routes before heading into town and getting a hotel room in downtown Las Vegas. That night we headed over to the Smith Center for the Pat Metheny Unity Group show.

The venue is brand new and done in Art Deco with beautiful metalwork and red marble.

Red-marbled lobby of the Smith Center, with marvelous Deco metalwork. (NY Times)

Red-marbled lobby of the Smith Center, with marvelous Deco metalwork. (NY Times)

The Smith Center is a new performance venue in downtown Las Vegas.

We had orchestra seats about 25 rows back from the stage. This was a great place to see a show.

And Pat & Co. were amazing, as usual. Here’s a sampler from the new album, Kin:

A Death Valley Thanksgiving

Fossil coral on the huge alluvial fan of Dry Bone Canyon.

Fossil coral on the alluvial fan of Dry Bone Canyon.

Mike and I got out of town over Thanksgiving break to take advantage of balmy late-November weather and get in a little canyon exploring in Death Valley.

Mike planned a 36-mile loop that started on the Scotty’s Castle Road north of Stovepipe Wells. We would walk west up the giant alluvial fan of Dry Bone Canyon into the Cottonwood Mountains. Then we’d go around a 600-foot series of huge dry falls, head north along the crest of the Cottonwoods, and drop down eastward into Bighorn Gorge, down into the bottom of Death Valley and back to the Sprinter.

It was three full days of walking, fossils, sleeping under the stars, dry bones and even a five-course Thanksgiving dinner.

Map check and brief respite from carrying 45-lb packs (mostly water), Death Valley Wash.

Map check and respite from carrying 45-lb packs (mostly water), Death Valley Wash.

Inaugural voyage of the super-light-and-warm Feathered Friends double sleeping bag. Perfect spot for a 5-course dinner: Course 1: A nice lemon-lime Gatorade of obscure vintage Course 2: Cheddar + garlic appetizer Course 3: Bean + rice consommé (which was consommé'd) Course 4: Beans + rice seasoned with cheese and spices Course 5: Homemade chocolate chip-oat-pecan cookies of recent vintage

Inaugural voyage of the super-light-and-warm Feathered Friends double sleeping bag. Perfect spot for a 5-course dinner:
Course 1: A nice lemon-lime Gatorade of obscure vintage
Course 2: Cheddar + garlic appetizer
Course 3: Bean + rice consommé (which was consommé’d)
Course 4: Beans + rice seasoned with cheese and spices
Course 5: Homemade chocolate chip-oat-pecan cookies of recent vintage

Getting close to the narrowest sections of upper Dry Bone Canyon.

Next morning, we continue up-canyon and approach some of the narrowest sections of upper Dry Bone Canyon.

Desert bighorn ram skull, Dry Bone Canyon.

Desert bighorn ram skull, Dry Bone Canyon.

Many limestone narrows in the upper part of the canyon.

Many limestone narrows in the upper part of the canyon.

Catching our breath after the 800' gully we had to ascend to get around a 600' series of impassable dry falls. Floor of the canyon is in the background.

Catching our breath after the 800′ gully we had to ascend to get around a 600′ series of  dry falls.  Floor of Dry Bone Canyon is in the background.

Coffee break at the top of the bypass, and a great view down Death Valley, looking toward Furnace Creek. Lots of snow on the Panamints!

Coffee break at the top of the bypass, and a great view down Death Valley, looking south toward Furnace Creek. Lots of snow on the Panamints!

Dry Bone Canyon from above, amid the rugged ridges of the Cottonwoods.

Dry Bone Canyon from above, amid the rugged ridges of the Cottonwoods.

We found a bit more snow than expected on the upper section of old mining road, before dropping into Bighorn Gorge.

We found more snow than expected on the upper section of old mining road and postholed for a couple of miles before dropping into Bighorn Gorge.

North-side slopes had less snow, but the wind had blown that snow into our gully!

North-side slopes had less snow, but the wind had blown that snow into our gully.

After a couple miles of descent, we were below most of the snow and were able to camp in this pretty area of Joshua trees.

After a couple miles of descent, we were below most of the snow and were able to camp in this pretty area of Joshua trees.

Entering Bighorn Gorge proper the next morning. The entire canyon is walkable, with a few scrambles down small dry falls, and one bouldery bypass around a 60-foot fall.

Entering Bighorn Gorge proper the next morning. The entire canyon is walkable, with a few scrambles down small ledges, and one bouldery bypass around a 60-foot fall.

There were several short sections of really narrow narrows of polished limestone.

There were several short sections of really narrow corridors of polished limestone.

Incredible variety of rock colors and tilted layers.

Incredible variety of rock colors and tilted layers.

Fossils were embedded in the walls and floor of the gorge: snails, bivalves, and other ancient sea creatures.

Snails, bivalves and other small, ancient sea creatures were embedded in the walls and floor of the gorge.

Out of the gorge, back across Death Valley Wash, and back up to the Sprinter (see it?) on an old old "road" that is actually still marked on the map! Clearly it has seen better days ...

Out of the gorge, back across Death Valley Wash, and back up to the Sprinter (see it?) on an old “road” that is actually still marked on the map! Clearly it has seen better days.