This is an unusual post, marking arrivals and departures.
Even worse, the sea creatures on display appear to have nothing to do with that theme. Let me explain. One of the arrivals is that of my daughter arriving at the critical age of 18, and one of the departures is hers to college in California. This provides a first link: The pictures are from the Monterey Aquarium, which we visited last year.
When I see these astonishing creatures, I am inevitably reminded of Denis Villeneuve’s film Arrival, a rare example of an adaptation that works independently and as well in its own way as the source, here Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life. The departure I will associate with this is that of the composer of the wondrous film score, Jóhann Jóhannsson, who left us last year, too early.
Arrival and departure sound like beginning and end, joy and sadness. This is treacherous, because each departure is a departure to a new arrival elsewhere. Arrival and departure are like a single contraction of one of these jellyfish. What you perceive depends of where you are: inside or outside.
More important than arrival and departure are the stories that are framed in between, the mysterious creatures that propel our lives forward or bring it to a halt.
I am looking forward to hear more.
One of the more iconic mountains of northern California is Mount Shasta, a volcano a little above 14,000 feet, or 4,321m to be precise and metric. I fell in love with it on a flight from San Francisco to Eugene in Oregon in March 1994. A few weeks later, a had the opportunity to climb it. This was in late April, and means this is a Spring climb with lots of snow and potentially bad weather.
I have relatively few pictures from this trip, one of the first is the one above, already from the summit. We are a group of about 12, all from CHAOS, led by our intrepid Norwegian Øyvind. Just before we went off, he had confessed that the recorded mountain weather forecast at the local ranger station promised a weather that they considered on the light side for those training for Denali.
We started on a Friday afternoon in heavy snow and went up to Lake Helen, the standard ascent, using snow shoes. The lake was invisible and frozen, so we pitched tents. While we waited for an hour until our chefs had the potatoes cooked, we practiced breaking falls using an ice axe. That was fun, despite the snow.
The next morning was pristine. We were above the clouds and anxious to get going. All of us reached Desperation Point, where you realize that you are not on the summit yet. But you can see it, and it looks like a brutal vertical rock face. This scared a few of us to turn back. Don’t. There is a surprisingly easy way around that takes you safely and quickly to the summit.
The way back took forever. We ended up in the clouds, and when we reached Helen Lake, it was vert heavily snowing. We packed all our gear and triple checked that everybody was there, and went down in the dark, reaching the cars by 2am in the morning. Unforgettable.
I have written about Yosemite in winter before, using a mixture of pictures from various trips. The first picture on that page is actually the last one I took on a snow showing overnighter to North Dome. In the summer, this is an overcrowded day hike up from along Yosemite Falls with nice views of Half Dome.
We not only had plenty of snow but also a thunderstorm over night. You won’t get these clouds in the summer.
As soon as you are out of the valley, the hike is a pleasant up and down, even with snow shoes.
I think the little hump down below is North Dome. The tracks are ours – there was nobody else.
I am ready for winter, obviously.
After the modest ferns from last week, let’s indulge. One of the places to be is the Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which lies, alas, in Northern California.
Most people who make it into the coastal redwoods that far north don’t bother to take the windy detour to that state park and trail head. Here is what they miss.
The vertical walls of the short canyon are packed with ferns.
Their gentle motion is impossible to capture in a photograph.
At some places, they appear to float before a darker background.
After seeing this, you will keep dreaming of a house with walls like this.
Even though Berkeley is lush enough by itself (in 1993 at least), it has its little parks like People’s Park or the Rose Garden. I happened to live right below the Rose Garden and could, like the occasional deer or burglar, just hop over the little wall.
One of my (these days somewhat neglected) hobbies is to take stereo images, and the gorgeous roses were patient victims. All these pictures were taken hand-held, and they are supposed to be viewed cross-eyed, i.e. the image for the left eye is on the right.
The rule of thumb for taking stereo images handheld was to choose a landmark point at the center, take a picture, take a step to the left, recenter, and take a second picture. This works very well for average street scenes without moving objects, like MacArthur Station below.
Our brain is more than happy to ignore little inconsistencies. If you do that with flowers, you will of course end up taking an entirely different picture. So you have to scale down and move just a centimeter to the left. This is still pretty wide and gives these flowers the appearance of rather large objects. You can do the opposite by taking images from a plane and wait 10 seconds between the shots. This will give the stereo image the appearance of a toy landscape. I’ll dig out an example when we come back from Mexico (early 1994, that was).
Finally for today, a stereo image of Hermann Karcher, also from 1993, thinking about Helicoids.
In 1993, I went to Berkeley for a year. Among many other things, I went backpacking quite a bit, and I will share some of the images over the following months, celebrating the 25 year anniversary.
The second hike I went on (the first I already wrote about) was in Yosemite, to the Ten Lakes basin. To get there, you have to cross a plateau with gorgeous views.
The scenery is serene, and there is almost no way to get lost. Just don’t make the mistake I made, trying to get from the slower group to the faster group by following the trail. The faster group had stepped off the trail for a minute to enjoy the view, so that I rushed past them, getting more and more nervous towards the evening because I couldn’t find anybody.
I was only mildly relieved when a few campers told me I had indeed reached the Ten Lakes area, where I waited nervously for two hours until the rest of the group finally arrived.
There are two clear indications that you hike with people from Berkeley: They bring text books and actually read them, and they go skinny-dipping in every little pond. Well. Above is partial proof.
On the way back you have to get up to that Plateau again, and then it gets interesting when you entire the granite fields transformed by the afternoon light.
The rocks that are scattered around there cause suspicion that they have been purposefully placed,
and it is up to us to decipher the message.
For me, this was easy. It meant Come Back.
My little series with pictures from 25 years ago continues with my first hiking trip in California. The idea was to drive up to the trail head of White Mountain Peak, and hike the dirt road to the peak.
We drove through Yosemite at night (which I hadn’t seen before) and camped at my first hot spring in Owen’s Valley. Soaking in warm water while around you everything freezes and the sky is full of shooting stars convinced me that this had been a good idea. We made it past the Bristlecone Pine Trees, but the car didn’t make it to the trail head (my first car break down).
We didn’t give up though but continued on foot. The landscape up there (above 10,000 feet) is high elevation desert.
After two hours or so we reached the observatory and the actual trailhead. Hiking appears very easy: You just follow the dirt road.
What is not so easy, however, is the high elevation. Two of use got altitude sickness, including myself (first time!). That was interesting. It started off with gradually worsening headache.
After a while, my vision got blurry, and me and the other victim turned back to the observatory. While we waited for the two others to return from the summit, we chatted with the friendly personnel. By 10pm, the two other hikers had returned, and we were lucky to hitch a ride on a pickup truck back to our car.
The next morning we stopped for my first visit at Mono Lake.