Friday, July 25, 2014

Thunder/Lightning/Hail...and now, what's this, SUN?

Our "home"
"Pesky" camp robber Blue Jay     
Friday - Beauty upon beauty!  Few things surpass the tranquility of a walk through a high altitude Sierra meadow in July. The sun is shining, wild flowers abound, there is the smell of wild mountain herbs in the air, brooks murmur in the sunlight…There is a surprise every minute!
Today we hiked a 5 mile loop in the twenty lake basin above Saddlebag lake– just ourside the bounds of Yosemite park..  I have seldom seen such a variety of prime wildflowers – old friend – columbines, arnica, shooting stars, lupines ( in their many varieties), mariposa lilies, monkey flowers, Indian paintbrushes, on and on!  Such joy!  I am surprised that there is still a snow pack and Conness glacier still exist (although a fragment of its former self), despite our dry winter.
The horizontal 'crack' shows that this is an active glacier - it has moved 'this much' since last winter
At the end of this blog you will find the recipe for the best trail food ever - rusks - they are so hard it is necessary to take the days supply-  moisten with water over them before you leave camp ( but shake off excess water), carry in a sealed plastic bag.  They will keep "forever"as long as dry - they are just right if moistened .
View outside our tent front door
      Yesterday was exciting but in a different way – we hiked to a lake in the neighborhood of Mono pass.  The morning was glorious – also filled with great variety of wild flowers.  The big storm of the previous day had left plants lush and flowers perky!  About 2 in the afternoon we noticed the clouds gather – (and they do so quickly in the high Sierra) .
Gathering clouds - 2 PM
By 3 pm  light rain started falling – OK,  we put on our rain gear and kept hiking.  By 4 pm the rain turned to hail- first small and then the size of small marbles.  I want to report to you  - that ½ inch hail hitting you on the head is painful!  Also I noticed that hail bounces when it hits the ground – rebounding into the air by 14 inches.  Seeing a meadow with many bouncing hail  stones is like being inside a popcorn popper!  We returned to our car – shed our rain gear – and returned to camp… to find the evening dry enough to cook dinner and enjoy the evening.
Our camp after the 2 inch rain storm
     Saturday – The trail up to Gardinsky Lake is intense!... the trail is a very rapid ascent to a high plateau with a jewel of a lake in the midst of meadows and rocks, a few low growing willows, and more variety of  flowers than "you can shake a stick at"!  I prefer hiking with Judy, but sometimes she wants a quiet day, and she was put off by this very steep climb - Once I reached the lake, I had it to myself - me and the breeze and the water sounds, Marmot chirps around me in the talus slopes... Walking around the lake I discovered good snow packs melting drop by drop to feed the lake.  

Above Saddlebags Lake
View across from Gardinsky - in normal years this is white with snow in July and August

     I have heard the discussion so many times - "Why do we do this to ourselves?"  Many high trails are very tough.  The legs complain, breathing is difficult, I have to be sure of my footing on rocky steep slippery trails...  My body goes into slower motion the higher I climb...The "why" is easy for me - there is such satisfaction for me in  pushing through to reach the height -to see the high lands where so many beautiful things are to be found.  It is a "high" like no other experience.

The music of flowing water
     Wednesday - Here I sit beside a high mountain lake - I am held captive by the glacially formed cliffs of North Peak rising before me- we are several miles deep into the 'high country' - In this moment I sit on an immense glacially formed boulder.  We just shared a delicious trail lunch, the sun feels warm on my skin, the breeze is cool, The lake ripples at my feet and in the surrounding rocks I hear many forms of falling and flowing water.  This is a land of granite, water, ice, green growing things in the meadows, flowers abound! Time does not exist! I feel an intense peace.

Rare Alpine Lily - found by Judy!
Columbines - the best ever this year!
     There has been and is a problem on this Tuolumne trip that is only getting worse.  Judy suffers from Asthma - and the condition is normally controlled by her prescriptions.  In the rush to get away she left home a critical drug,  Now it is apparent that her breathing is becoming more and more a problem - especially at high altitude and at night.  My wife is a stubborn woman - and troubled as she is, she too has a deep love of the high mountains, and is very reluctant to cut the trip short - but it is apparent that we must.  It is the fault of the high altitude, the cold air, and smokey campgrounds.  So Thursday we did it - we left our beloved high country for another year.  I felt a growing anxiety going with her on high distant hikes, especially when sudden problems developed... It has been a good trip and we have stored up plenty of mental images and tales to tell.  So we leave it for the marmots and the picas.

Face of North Peak
'Elephant Heads' at their prime ( look until you see the trunk)

The frames of Judy's glasses broken due to her stepping on them - repaired with 'mole skin' - it worked !

Glacial erratic - Granite boulder deposited by the melting ice on top of metamorphic rock

Rusks 6/4/14

This recipe is highly flexible – add what you have or leave out the ‘extras’

·      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1.5 cups unbleached white flour 1.5 cups whole wheat bread flour
1/3 cup each: artificial sweetener (1/3 t Stevia) or 1/3 cup sugar, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries
1 C ground flax, All Bran
1 tsp salt,
2 tsp coriander, cardamom, ginger
2/3 c date granules
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½  C almonds, sesame, poppy seeds
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
¾ cup yogurt     
1.3 C milk                                                                                      
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
·      In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients.
·      Combine all the wet ingredients, pour them into the dry ingredients, and stir until you have a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough.
·      Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll or pat it to about a ½ inch thickness.
·      Bake the rusks on buttered baking sheet for about 25 minutes until the tops are crisping and browning a little.
·      Loosely pile the rusks on a baking sheet and keep them in a 200 degree oven all day or all night (about 12 hours) to dry.
·      The finished rusks should be very dry and hard. Cool and store in an airtight container.
·      Rusks will keep for weeks.

Divide into 32  round flat “cookies” about ½ inch thick before baking