Good to be underground again


Leigh in the Cave

Leigh in the Cave

Not so windy weekend wandering around wonderful winding passages.

This cave has long been  high on my list of places I wanted to visit but somehow my schedule never coincided with a trip. This year I was happy to see that the trip would take place during summer break when I would be able to go.

I was also excited as I haven’t had an opportunity to go caving as much as I’d like since moving down to Bakersfield. It was a bit of a ride on my motorcycle to the meeting spot in Columbia but I made it easy by spending the night in Ceres so it was just a short ride in the morning. There I was happy to see Kip pull up as I always enjoy going caving with him. right behind him pulled in Ben and Leigh who I had previously caved with at Millerton and our fearless leader Martin.

 

Martin poses beneath some formations

Martin poses beneath some formations

We all climbed into two vehicles for the drive up to the cave. After a short hike we reached the cave. Martin gave us a rundown on the history of the cave. It was interesting to hear it had been re-opened as recently as the 70’s then sealed closed and re-opened again in the late 90’s. Hopefully the current restrictions on visitation will continue to keep the cave in it’s beautiful condition. Speaking of which I had a horrible time deciding where to take pictures as there was enough formations and decorated passageways to keep me busy for a day or two but Martin had said we would be spending 6 or seven hours in the cave and had a couple of projects to complete while there.  Once we had the gate open I rigged the rope while Martin got the supplies ready for these projects. Kip climbed down to open the lower gate and we were ready to go caving.  Right near the bottom of the drop Ben and Kip spotted a newt (probably Taricha torosa sierrae – Sierra Newt

Correction thanks to inaturalist.org I now know it was a Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii) both are salmanders but then newts and ensatinas branch from there.

Not a newt- Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

Not a newt- Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii)

 

I took a couple of pictures then shooed him off to the side of the passage so we would be sure not to step on him upon our return. The next main room we entered had lots of nice stalactites and soda straws so I happily set about taking pictures. Martin had brought along string and flags which we used to mark some of the more sensitive areas of the cave so hopefully future trips will not disturb them.  We continued to the area of the cave where the lions tales formations are located and I was excited to photograph them. Of course my flashes promptly ceased to function. After a few minutes of fiddling with them I discovered that the batteries in one had leaked, possibly due to overheating on the motorcycle trip up. A quick change of batteries and they still weren’t working. I was puzzled till Martin suggested checking the settings and sure enough during the battery change a flash had switched to an auto mode instead of manual. Yeah I was back in business. I finished taking a couple pictures of the lions tails and then carefully proceeded to a sensitive area where we took off our helmets in order to protect the fragile formations. Returning to the main junction we had a break for lunch then I opted to stick around and take pictures of helectites while the others checked out the rest of the cave. On the way out we stopped and Martin had a final project to complete- the lower ladder had become a little shaky as its bottom support had cracked. He successfully drilled a hole in the ladder and support then connected them securely with a bolt.

Lions tail

Lions tail

Kip admiring stalactites

Kip admiring stalactites

helectites

helectites

After exiting the cave, securing the gate and returning to Colombia we realized it was too late too make it to the restaurant for dinner and as both Martin and I had lengthy drives ahead of us we all loaded up in our respective vehicles and headed for home. Another great trip  in the Motherlode.

Arriving at Columbia on my Motorcycle

Arriving at Columbia on my Motorcycle

 

Continuing in Africa


The Three Dikgosi Monument

The Three Dikgosi Monument the three Chiefs monument Khama III of the Bangwato, Sebele I of the Bakwena, and Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse.

Continuing my reminiscing from 2006 here’s part 2…

While I was sad to see most of the group departing I was glad my visit with my Parents in Botswana wasn’t over yet. Rolf was able to stay a few days longer and had expressed an interest in seeing some more animals so we headed out to the nearby Gaborone game preserve.  While not as lavish as our trip to Mokolodi with its wonderful restaurant the Gaborone game preserve   did allow us some wonderful animal watching especially the vervet Monkeys that made me laugh at their antics. I was especially excited to spot a monitor lizard by the side of the road as I have plenty of childhood memories of looking for these in Malawi. – I still remember my friends little sister screaming when one approached her in the water. We laughed since we had told her not to take our little boat out and she had anyway, but in all fairness it was a big monitor (over six foot) and she could have been seriously injured so we should have been more worried. We also visited the Botanical gardens again and went to see the Three Dikgosi Monument (three Chiefs monument).

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey

 

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

warthog

warthog

This way to the caves

This way to the caves

After Rolf finally had to leave we were considering various things to do when I mentioned I had seen an advertisement for a cave near Sterkfontein, in South Africa, was that close enough for a visit. My parents said that wouldn’t be a problem but since it was a bit of a drive and we wanted to avoid driving home late at night we’d just plan on spending the night. As it turned out a visit to Sterkfontein was an awesome idea as it is a world heritage site due to it being the location where some of the earliest hominoid remains have been found. Hence its other name “the cradle of Mankind”.

They had a very nice museum on site so we got a chance to browse the exhibits while we waited to tour the cave.

Museum display

Museum display

 

Sterkfontein cave

Sterkfontein cave

Now most of the interest here was in the archeology and history the cave itself is not a particularly decorated one though it did have a few stalactites and stalagmites. Luckily though the nearby “wonder cave” has that all covered. My parents had had enough of stairs climbing in and out of Sterkfontein but since wonder cave boasted access via elevator they happily came along. The brochure forgot to mention the two hundred or so steps you have to climb to reach the elevator.

 

Wonder cave

Wonder cave

This cave was also well worth a visit for despite previous limestone miners having removed a lot of formations from the cave there were still tons of beautiful formations. It also happens to be at the site of the lion and Rhino preserve a private game reserve so after spending the night at the nearby Big five lodge. We returned to check out the animals.

Inquisitive Ostrich

Inquisitive Ostrich

I think this ostrich wanted me to roll down the window so he could see if we had any food in the car. I wasn’t obliging.

While we did see the rhino’s they managed to keep their distance in the tall grass so I didn’t get any good pictures, the lions and some crested cranes were much more cooperative.

crested crane

crested crane

lioness

lioness

Oh and Zebras lots of zebras!

zebra

zebra

Guinea fowl

Guinea fowl

 

All to soon it was time to begin the long drive back to Botswana but we had one more treat in store for us a lovely rainbow!

rainbow

rainbow

 

 

 

Kings and Queens of flight


Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

When my aunt suggested a family trip over to the coast to check out the Monarch butterflies that make their annual migration their I realized that although I had driven past numerous times I had never stopped to witness this for myself. The grove we visited in Pismo is easy enough to find, clearly marked by signs with docents to show you all about the butterflies.

At first I only saw a few butterflies landing on nearby trees, then I spotted several spotting scopes pointing upward towards the higher branches. Looking up I saw a lot of dead leaves hanging from an evergreen tree?

out of place leaves

out of place leaves

I went back to the car for my telephoto lens and lo and behold, here was what we had come to see.

 

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies

Next we headed north along the coast to check out the elephant seals and along the way spotted a hawk.

Hawk taking flight

Hawk taking flight

Then we stopped to see the elephant seals, in January they have pups so there were lots of little ones on the beach.

young pup scratches

young pup scratches

Angela on top of the world

Angela on top of the world

 

Nearby Heron keeping an eye on me

Nearby Heron keeping an eye on me

We stopped for dinner at the Mexican restaurant we’d eaten at the last time we visited  the elephant seals and I was able to get some more great humming bird pics.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Joshua wanted clam chowder though so after dinner we headed into Cambria for second dinner. The Old Stone station(used to be a gas station) had great reviews of their clam chowder and we were not disappointed.

 

old stone station

old stone station

We also drove up the hill to take a look at the historic Nit Wit ridge house.

Dad at nit wit ridge

Dad at nit wit ridge

It was a beautiful day at the coast but eventually we headed home to the valley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Huntington Gardens


Huntington Gardens

Huntington Gardens

I’m still behind on posting but I’m catching up. This should be the last pics from 2013 so now I can hurry up and post about the ones Ive started taking this year.

Anyway this was a short trip to L.A. before I flew to Europe and I got to wander around Huntington garden and take a few pics so here’s some of them.

Hello, Koi checks me out.

Hello, Koi checks me out.

Huntington Gardens

Huntington Gardens

koi

koi

waterfall

waterfall

water lillies

water lilies

Zzenn...

Zzenn…

not a water lilly :)

not a water lilly 🙂

Visiting the Ancients, Bristlecone pine forest


Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)

Bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva)

After leaving Greenville and the run with the bears adventure we took the eastern route south along 395 because my dad had expressed a desire to visit the ancient bristle cone pine forest. Since this was a great spot for some pictures I was enthusiastic about taking this route. We drove down towards Bishop where we spent the night, but on the way we made a couple of stops. First up we attempted to go to Bodie, but a huge fire in the area thwarted our attempt.

smoke on the horizon

smoke on the horizon

So we continued on to Mono lake where we watched a storm heading our way

mono lake

mono lake

and saw a couple deer

fawn

fawn

Incoming rain storm

Incoming rain storm

So after stopping for the night it was up early in the morning to head up to the Bristlecone forest.

road up to the Bristlecone forest

road up to the Bristlecone forest

After a brief stop at the visitor center I spotted a sign pointing to a trail to the Methusela tree so off I went. I probably should have read the trail description first. It was a 5 mile hike and at 11,000 feet that was quiet a hike! My Dad followed me and by the time we got back to the car we were both a little out of breath.

Dad at the top

Dad at the top

bristlecone forest

bristlecone forest

bristlecone forest

bristlecone forest

After the mornings hike we stopped for lunch then it was on to Manzanar. I already wrote about this important site of a sad part of U.S history earlier but my Mom and Dad hadn’t been there so it was worth another visit.

old koi pond, Manzanar

old koi pond, Manzanar

view from Manzanar

view from Manzanar

Next up was a quick stop to walk around the other worldly landscape formed by lava flows at fossil falls.

lava at Fossil falls

lava at Fossil falls

Then it was time to head home, another great trip.

sunset on the high desert

sunset on the high desert