Monday, April 26, 2021

Take 2 on the East Trail


OK, If you're thinking this looks suspiciously like my track from yesterday - you're right.

Today (March 23) I'm back on the East Trail once again.

Why would I hike the same trail two days in a row??

Well for one thing, today I'm hiking it counter-clockwise, the other way 'round,

and for another, the weather cleared out overnight so it's not even remotely the same trail today!

Even the walk down the road from campsite to trailhead, wet and mostly hidden yesterday, dry and bright today, made me want to skip along in the sweet smelling sunshine like a little kid - which I didn't of course - Or did I??

Since there was no one around to witness, I guess we'll never know - - -

But I can confirm, witnesses or not, that I had my camera in hand, my real camera this time, not my phone, and couldn't stop clicking.

That mist is rising out of the canyon I'm heading for.

The trail is a little wetter than usual this morning, but but the air is a lot dryer so I don't care.

I couldn't resist taking this photo because it reminded me of a lecture I recently sat in a Paleontology course titled Minerals and the Evolving Earth where I learned that the Universe started with zero minerals at the time of the Big Bang and by about 4 billion years ago here on Earth the interaction between  the violent processes of a forming plant and the original 60 or so primitive minerals formed in the heat and chaos of the first 400 million years of the Universe created about 500 different minerals.

From there Earth's continuing volcanic activity formed various granitic minerals taking the mineral count up to about 1000. Then tectonic action, unique to Earth, at least within our solar system, pushed the count on up to about 1500.

But as of today there are about 4400 known minerals found on Earth so where did the all rest come from? (I'm finally getting back to the point of this photo!) They come from the highly complex interactions and interdependencies  between minerals and organic compounds. For instance, iron ore, which consists of various iron oxide minerals, didn't exist at all until oxygen, a byproduct of early photosynthesizing bacteria, started interacting with the soluble iron (Iron oxide is insoluble and settles out into the deposits we mine today) saturating the early oceans.    

Hence the organic and mineral, the living and the rock, are inexorably tied together on this planet as dramatically illustrated by this photo. The various limestones wouldn't exist without living organisms, and complex organisms such as trees wouldn't exist without various minerals.

Anyway - this example of a tree and a rock not only chemically but physically intertwined to the point of being inseparable reminded me of that lecture.


While I was dealing with the background noise of continuing education I was also making my way closer

 to the limestone walls of The Grotto

and the beginning of the first climb of the day.

That too was different today.

For one thing I'm going up, which is always easier than going down. And for another, as you can see, today, instead of slick and wet and half terrifying, the rocks are dry and the footing secure.

But before we leave the lower part of the trail and head on up to the upper,

I've often been disappointed that my camera doesn't always catch the true saturation, the true sparkle, of the colors I'm seeing. Perhaps to be expected out of a relatively inexpensive $400 camera that uses a single lens the size of my fist to capture every 35mm-equivalent focal length from 24mm to 1200mm. But when I saw this bit of tree-born moss glinting in the sun like a jewel I decided to try an experiment.

The photo above is taken with my camera  at 24mm focal length in aperture mode with the aperture stopped down by 1/3 step. (My go-to settings to help reduce blowing out the brights which are then unrecoverable in digital media.) And no, it doesn't fully capture the sparkle of the sunlit greens as they appeared to my eye.

Then I took this photo with my phone, an LG6, at the fixed optical focal length (It registers as 4mm but I have no idea how that equates to the 35mm standard used on my real camera) and exposure settings.

It's good to see that my camera captures the "sparkle" of the moss slightly better than the phone, and does a better job of capturing shadow details than the phone. (check out the dark branch cutting a diagonal behind the moss. The camera shows more detail in the bark than the phone does.)

But it's a little annoying that even stopped down by 1/3 the brights were blown out in the camera more so than on the phone. (Check out the bright spot on the branch above and slightly right of the moss. There are a couple more specks of detail in the phone photo compared to the camera photo.)

I guess that in strongly-lit, high-contrast situations I need to try stopping the camera down by 2/3 to capture more detail in the bright areas.

Anyway - 

Once up on top of the ridge I made a side trip to the official overlook that I didn't bother with yesterday since I wouldn't have been able to see anything anyways.

The cluster of specks at the left edge of the bright green patch is the maintenance area for the State Park consisting of several shop-buildings and a couple of full-hookup RV sites for park volunteers.

What you can't see

unless I blow it up, is that there is a power transmission line marching across that impossibly green patch. (back to that in a moment) From that double-pole support nearest to us in the photo the wires swoop long and high above the canyon, across the river, and road, 

 to another double-pole support up on the shoulder of the ridge.

Today, after leaving the official overlook I diverted onto the power-line right-of-way and made my way down to the second pole from the end up here on the ridge, (No sense in getting crazy and climbing all the way down to that last pole. It's a steeper climb than it looks in the photos and a pretty rugged route too.)

where I shot this photo, zoomed in which compresses things along the near-to-far axis and makes them look closer together than they actually are.

That well-defined, impossibly green patch down there probably used to be a pasture, but today it's the clean-effluent dispersal area for the aerobic waste water treatment system of the park. As inviting as it looks, when the sprinklers are running it's recommended that you don't come in contact with the water which isn't fully "polished" until it has been further biologically treated by seeping down through the ground.

These aerobic waste-treatment plants, circled there in red, need a constant, as in 24/7 supply of air bubbling through the aerobic tank and the periodic running of a pump to move nearly finished effluent from the pump-tank to the dispersal field. The equipment needed for this creates a continuous, low-volume mechanical hum down near the bottom end of the human hearing register.

It has been shown that low frequencies at and just below human hearing can drive some of us mad!

The hum is intrusive enough when I walk by on the road, just off to the right of this image, on my way to and from the campground, I can't imagine spending all night, every night in one of the volunteer's parking spots!

As I was climbing back up the electric easement to regain the official trail I looked up and - ummm - that doesn't look right!

That dangly little bit connected to the top of one of three lightning arresters

is supposed to be bolted to that wire stirrup up there so it can shunt the excess voltage of a lightning strike out of that phase of the power to ground before it can cause any damage. And up here on the ridge the power lines are naturally at high risk of lightning strikes.

Maybe the next set of arresters six poles further along will do the job until they can get back up here and fix that. (There are very faint indications on the service road that a vehicle was out here in the last couple months, and since the rest of the hardware for bolting the wire to the stirrup is missing I speculate that that particular arrester failed during the February storm and they came out and deliberately removed it from the circuit as an emergency repair and are now waiting on a replacement.)

Speaking of power poles. As I made my way across the ridge, weaving back and forth under the powerline as I headed for Primitive Camping Area B

with the intent of finding a quiet spot for lunch this Raven, often considered a bad omen in some cultures, seemed hell-bent on following me.

But don't worry. In my personal culture no living creature is a bad omen, and I resisted his raspy croaks so he didn't get any lunch off me.

But there was one last bit of fauna excitement, scaled instead of feathered fauna excitement this time, as I made my way down the other side of the ridge towards the last stretch of today's hike.

This guy darted out from in front of me where he had been resting on the sun-warmed rocks, but he only moved a couple feet farther down the trail before he stopped and gave me the beady-eye. This was repeated so many times, dart down the trail, stop, watch me approach, dart down the trail, stop, that it was like having a hiking companion.

At first he reminds me of those dang squirrels that play chicken with us when we drive out of the property in the morning, never quite making up their minds which way to go and therefor ending up staying in the road. But after the first couple of dart-stop-dart cycles turned into a dozen or so I changed my mind. Now I see his behavior as a metaphor of the all-too-often action of people just barely avoiding a near disaster, like maybe an epic winter storm, only to stop in their tracks and just wait for the next disaster without doing anything to prepare for it - like Einstein's doing the same thing and expecting different results definition of insanity. Stupid species!

(Remember a paragraph or to ago when I mentioned that for me no living creature is a bad omen? I guess I should have clarified that by pointing out that the exception might be one particular two-legged creature, and I'm not talking about birds!)

Sheesh! Here I am only three days into the first trip in a couple months and I'm already sounding like a curmudgeony, well seasoned and marinaded hermit! I suppose next I'll be muttering angrily to myself around camp and scaring off all the other campers. (Humm. That might not be a bad idea!)

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