29 May 2008

Honeymoon Pictures IV - Vistas

No, this has nothing to do with Windows Vista (but that comment should get me more traffic from search engines). Today is the last batch of honeymoon photos, at least for now, and I tried to save some of the best for last: this is all vistas. Sweeping panoramic views of splendorous countryside, where God reached down His hand and said, "Here. This place will be beautiful." That sort of thing. Follow the jump to see them--and don't forget to click on the pictures for the bigger view.

Remember the teaser pic a while back, from Tunnel View? That was taken on Thursday. That was the quintessential tunnel view pic, and I linked it there because you should see it if you haven't already. This picture, on the other hand, was taken on Tuesday, from the same location. Kinda different, no? But that's what Tuesday was like--and the thing about the Yosemite Valley is, it doesn't have to be a beautiful sunny day for it to actually be beautiful.

Here's another picture from Thursday. We're in the Valley this time, actually heading toward Lower Yosemite Falls, but this beautiful view of Cathedral Spires was behind us. The spires themselves are the three pointed rocks about a third of the way from the left side of the picture. The larger rocks to the right have a similarly evocative name but I don't recall what it is. Pretty, though.

On Friday we drove up to Hetch Hetchy. This is a valley that it is said was at one time as beautiful as Yosemite... or at any rate a worthy companion. I'll believe it. This is looking west down the valley, toward the San Joaquin Valley (which you can't see). It is also late in the day so the sun is over there washing the photo out. Nonetheless it is very beautiful.

And this is why Hetch Hetchy was at one time as beautiful as Yosemite. Take a look at this picture from before the dam was built. Nice place, eh? Note the two waterfalls in close proximity there, which even Yosemite doesn't have. Yosemite is narrower, and the Merced River through it is a bit smaller than the Tuolumne, which flows through Hetch Hetchy, but gosh what a beautiful place. I could see having a nice spread there. But in the wake of the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was looking for a more reliable supply of water, so in the 20s and 30s the O'Shaughnessy dam was built in Hetch Hetchy (Yosemite Valley was already inside the national park) and this reservoir now fills the once pristine valley. Locals are divided over the worth of this dam and there is a movement afoot to remove this dam and restore the valley, and dam the Tuolumne farther downstream. The technology exists to do that and there is certainly value to restoring a beautiful place to its former glory, but the downstream location is fertile agricultural land right now. Don't expect the debate to end anytime soon.
The Hetch Hetchy portion of Yosemite National Park gets maybe a tenth of the visitors of the main part of the park. Partly this is because you can't do anything in the lake--no swimming or boating or anything, because that's San Francisco's water. They'd rather not drink your sweat and boat fuel. There are some hikes over here, but they are all backcountry hikes and most of them are long and difficult. An easy hike towards the waterfalls goes across the dam and along a level road, and we took that. It's a beautiful place even today, but I guess there's just not as much to do. I imagine that would change in a hurry if the dam ever is removed.

On the way back to Yosemite Valley from Hetch Hetchy on Friday we stopped for this beautiful look up the valley. Tunnel View itself is behind that ledge of rock on the right (not the far right, the next one in) and as you can see the valley takes a bit of a jog to the left. Nonetheless this is really a spectacular view, I think. It's called Valley Portal, which you may recognize as the place where I took our self-portrait in yesterday's collection.

All good things must end eventually, including honeymoons, and beautiful photographic retrospectives of honeymoons. And the day, as well; Friday was a wonderful day, but it came to and end, too. After dinner we drove up to Tunnel View for last look at the valley, and night was falling fast (it does that in the mountains). I tried several night photos of the valley, but this was the best. And so it ends. Hope you liked it! We did!

28 May 2008

Honeymoon Pictures III - The Whizzo Quality Assortment

Here in this third installment are an assortment of pictures that didn't fit into one of my other categories or would have made said categories bigger than six pictures (an arbitrary and pointless number I made up, which makes me cling to it all the more). Included in this batch is a self portrait! Really! You'll have to follow the jump to see it!

This pretty hillside greeted us every morning on our way into the park. It is covered in lupines (Lupinus spp). There must be five or ten species of lupine (or lupin) in the park; these are probably the Silver or Largeleaf, but it's tough to tell. In any event they are very pretty when they cover a hillside like this and a nice way to start the morning.

A nice way to end the day is with a meal at the Yosemite Lodge in the village in the center of the valley. Great food, and they offer a port flight for dessert so your wife has to drive home. Mmmm, port. Anyway, we ate there, and although it was unpleasantly hot (like most federal buildings the people who actually work there don't control the thermostat, so it was still blowing 80 degrees of heat into the restaurant although it was 77 outside) the food was great. Leaving, we stopped to take a few evening photos of the lower Yosemite falls and Half Dome. This is obviously Half Dome. The light is really fading here, but I steading the camera on a rock and used a five second exposure and this turned out pretty nice.

Fern Spring is a cute little spring just before you get to the turn-off for Bridal Veil Falls on the way in to the park. When you drive by, if there's nobody there, and you stop, a bunch of people will suddenly stop right after you. There's either a crowd, or nobody; I think most people just drive by without stopping unless they assume there's something there to see. What's there is this cute spring. I assume there must be wildlife from time to time but it's quite close to the road and the road is rather busy so I have my doubts. The water is cold but fresh and clean, and it's dark and quiet there. Nice place for a stop.

Wednesday morning it was misty and due to rain so rather than stay in the valley we decided to take a drive. We went south to the Mariposa Grove of sequoias and the Wawona area and took a scenic drive back through Mariposa town (ate at a restaurant there called Savouries, which was so good we made reservations to go back on Saturday; if you go to Mariposa you must eat there). In the morning, though, before the sun broke through the clouds, it was very misty and dreary. As we ascended past Tunnel View and up towards Badger Pass, we went right into the clouds. I think this picture speaks for itself.

Our last day in California we drove from Yosemite back to Oakland and met up with Smittywife's best friend. We then headed over to San Francisco for a couple of hours, a quick driving tour and dinner. I'd love to go back. We drove out to the beach and had this wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. You gotta do that, right? I mean, it IS San Francisco. We also drove up to Coit Tower and I had Smittywife take pictures of the TransAmerica pyramid, which is my own personal favorite landmark in the city. You can tell I was an architecture nerd.

Finally the much-awaited self portrait. This was taken Friday afternoon on our way back into the Valley from Hetch-Hetchy.

27 May 2008

Honeymoon Pictures II - Waterfalls

There are lots of waterfalls in Yosemite. And Spring is a great time to see them. We were lucky; there was lots of snow this winter. I've picked six waterfall pictures after the jump.
The first big waterfall you come to in the park is Bridal Veil Falls. Actually there are several others beforehand, including the underrated Cascade Falls, which I don't have a great picture of (Smittywife does, though). But Bridal Veil is the first famous one. It was very wet the day we were there, and cold. Standing under Bridal Veil was like standing in the mist at Niagara... actually, it may have been wetter. And colder. We got a few good pictures of us at the falls, and I took a handful of decent ones. This happens to be my favorite just because you can see the water coming over the edge, how it seems to have separated into equal strands. It's pretty cool.

Somewhat further into the park on the opposite side is Ribbon Falls. You can easily miss Ribbon, and I never did locate it from Tunnel View (where the teaser pic I posted a few days ago was taken). I think it's before El Capitan but I'm not sure. There's a similar falls, Horsetail, on the far side of El Capitan that we looked and looked for but never did see. Ribbon is one of the ephemeral falls, meaning it dries up later in the year--probably by mid-June, if not before. This picture was taken on Tuesday, a grey, dreary day, but it's the only one I bothered to take of Ribbon Falls.

Of course the most famous waterfall in Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Falls. We intended to stop at this same location again later in the week to get a better picture of it but never did. No matter. The nice painter here is busy immortalizing the falls for us. I'm not sure whether this is the biggest waterfall in the park in volume; that may be Vernal, farther up the Merced River, or even Tuolumne (which is in the high country and inaccessible in the springtime), but it is the highest large-volume falls and it is certainly one of the prettiest.

I mentioned Cascade Falls earlier. It's the first one you come to inside the park boundary. Cascade Creek, however, falls down the valley walls from way up in the park. On Friday we drove north to Hetch-Hetchy, and on the northbound road you cross over Cascade Creek several hundred feet above the falls you see in the main valley. It's falling pretty fast here, too, but you can park at a pullover and go play in the water. If you like frostbite, that is; this creek can't have melted more than two days ago. But it's fun to throw pinecones into it and race them over the edge.

I think my favorite falls in the park might be Illiloutte Falls. Don't ask about the name; it's a corruption of an Indian name at one time considered too impolite to use (never did find out what it's supposed to mean), but even that story may be false. In any case this picture doesn't even have the main cascade in it--but if you look near the top you can see the mist cloud from the main cascade. You see this waterfall from the hike up to Vernal Falls, which we did on Thursday. There is a hike up to the waterfall but we didn't have time to make it; I understand it's well worth the trip. Of course in Yosemite just about everything is worth the trip if anybody bothered to mark a trail to it. It's quite the place.

This is a picture of Bridal Veil Falls again. Taken from Tunnel View, I shot this looking down on the waterfall itself. Pretty nice shot I think.

24 May 2008

Honeymoon Pictures I - Wildlife

Hello! Yes, it's what you've all been waiting for! Here are some pictures from our honeymoon! After the jump!

I have a policy of not posting photos that have me or Smittywife in them. Jackson and Smittykitty (she still doesn't have a formal name; lately I've been calling her "Tumbleweed Schrodinger, the Quantum Kitten") are fair game but they didn't come on the honeymoon, obviously. So some of the better pictures are right out. Nonetheless, I took over 300 photos during the honeymoon (gotta love digital), and Smittywife took more like 450. These here are just the ones from my camera (Smittywife's are often better, although my wildlife shots are better because of the fantastic zoom I have) so they're not really even the best of the lot. And there may be more as we go on and I discover really fantastic shots; this was just a cursory glance. And yes, if you're counting, in this cursory glance I pulled 24 pictures--and I had to cut out about ten to keep it reasonable. So there may be more shots as time goes on.

Anyway, without further ado, the first six...

I called these wildlife, but a lot of them are plants. I like plants. You may not ordinarily care much about plants, but you'll certainly be impressed by this one: the mighty sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). You really have to back way up to get the whole tree into frame.

Or you can just shoot up at the sky and get the tops of the trees. These are in the Mariposa Grove, at the southern end of the park. We went there on Wednesday, which started out cool and drizzly and not especially nice. The drive from the Valley to the Grove is probably about an hour, maybe a little more, but we stopped at every creek along the way to play, so it took us a little longer.

Another evening we were in the Yosemite Valley, driving back from the Vernal Falls hike, and the traffic slowed to a stop. And lo out the passenger side of the car were these happy deer. The Valley deer are quite used to people; the next evening one actually walked right up to a woman standing outside her car taking pictures, ate the grass around her feet (and posed for a lot of peoples' pictures) and continued on her way. These were not quite so close but I like the picture better.

We spent Thursday in the valley (same day I took the picture of the deer above) and hiked to the lower Yosemite falls. We had been seeing Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) trees in bloom all week but I hadn't taken a good picture. This one, believe it or not, was in the parking lot. Such a pretty blossom. It lacks the colored tips of the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) we have in the eastern part of the country but it's pretty nonetheless.

This is a Steller's Jay. This is the Blue Jay of the West; there are no Blue Jays west of the Rockies at all. In the Rockies you have your magpies and such who perform the same task (steal nests, scavenge, squawk at everything, but look nice doing it) but in California this is the equivalent bird. They're very pretty and there are hundreds of them around, but as with most wildlife getting them to sit still is the biggest problem. This one was very cooperative and let me get two fantastic shots on the Vernal Fall trail on Thursday.

And finally your dose of the bizarre. This is a Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea). It lacks chlorophyll (not surprising since it only grows in dense shade) and gets nutrients through its roots and also by parasitizing the roots of the pine trees it grows under. It is a plant, not a fungus, but it clearly blurs that boundary. What you see here are the flower heads, which look like giant red asparagus if you ask me. In a few more weeks the bracts you see will fall off and the flowers will appear, and a few weeks after that all you'll see is a dead stick with round seed pods. This is a very weird plant. It's good to know the wilderness remains a bizarre place.

22 May 2008

What a week

Okay, well! I'm back in Tampa, finally. I went up to close on the house and was supposed to be back Sunday but the closing got pushed back after I was already up there and I had to stay an extra few days. Annoying to say the least. While I was gone Smittygirl went and adopted a Smittykitty. She's about four weeks old, maybe five; we're still feeding her with an eyedropper if that's any indication, and she fits neatly into the palm of one of my hands, which granted I have very fat palms but it's not like I have big hands. Anyway. She's sitting on my legs right now as I write this. There will be pictures soon, I assure you, but there are so many things to post pictures of it's going to take a bit of time.

Anyway, Smittykitty does not have a name yet. I want to call her Schrodinger (and if you don't know why just look it up on Wikipedia) but Smittygirl favors another name...probably ANY other name. Tumbleweed right now. We'll see. She may have multiple names. She and her brother were found downstairs at the condo; mama probably ran off, got run over by a car, or something. The next door neighbors have her brother.

They're redoing the flooring and the paint on the exterior of this condo building right now so I have to carry Jackson to the elevator to take him outside for a walk.

So let's see, there are lots of pictures of the new house, and of course many pictures of the honeymoon, and of course pictures of the kitten. Which ones will get uploaded first? Who knows. I am pleased to report that the new house has both red mulberry and pecan trees growing in the back yard, and there are pictures of those, too. Yeah. Lots of pictures to upload. And I have to review Emergency Sex, which was a really terrific book. But there are errands to run and housecleaning projects to tackle so realistically we're looking at one post a day for a while, no more. Patience! Patience is a wonderful thing!

Kitten is now asleep on my foot. Awww.

02 May 2008

A New Home

Well, the Smitty family has a new abode. We are planning a move as most of you know, and an important part of planning a move is having a place to move in to. We now have that. I direct your attention to exhibit A above, the new Smitty house.

And to exhibit B, which is the lot the new Smittyhouse is on. Each triangle is approximately 9/10 acre. Lots of nice trees, eh? Jackson doesn't know it yet but boy is he excited about that yard.

The house needs paint and some minor work, but we're looking forward to it. And of course to having all of you come over and help us with it... free beer!

This means that we need to sell the current house. If you or anyone you know might be interested in the biggest 1 bedroom condo in downtown Tampa, and the lowest price per square foot and essentially the lowest price period, seriously, leave comments. All offers considered, the place is going for $160k. Best price in the city. AND you get two parking spots guaranteed; no other condo offers that to one-bedroom units. Plus we have an extra half-bath, too, most of the other 1 bedrooms have only one bathroom. And it's got a new kitchen! Seriously, this is the best deal going, and I'm not even kidding. Check my ad on Craigslist!

So much news!

Well, by now most of you readers are aware--in fact, most of you were there to celebrate with us--but Smittygirl is now in fact Smittywife. Yaay! It was a wonderful day, thanks to everyone who helped us make it possible (that would be all of you).

So, the new Smitty family embarked on an exciting honeymoon after the wedding, and there will be many wonderful pictures of that soon enough. For now here is a taste: