Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tour de Fat

Continuing an annual tradition (this is the second year), I picked up BEG from Stanford and we went through San Francisco on our way to another adventure. This year's adventure was to be mostly relaxing due to the broken leg BEG was sporting. This was fine with both of us. After a rendezvous with Queen's Geo friends over a late great dinner, we hit the road for Truckee and Donner Lake. Donner as in the family that is known for cannibalizing themselves and the Native American guides who were sent to help them. It seemed a good place to go.

Besides taking care of things at Beer O'Clock and Beer Thirty, our first adventure was to head out to the lake early and see how I'd fare on water skis after having only ever done it once, many many many years ago. The first part was getting me in the water - between nerves and giggle fits I seemed to have a really hard time with just getting in the damn lake. FINALLY I got in, and the water really wasn't bad at all.

Amazingly I got up on the first try, and managed to hang on, balance and ski for 2.5 miles before I finally had the nerve to try a wake jump - as I felt my arms were giving out anyway... I made it! I tried another... I nearly made it - and then I was done. I tried to get up again, but my body had somehow turned into jell-o, so I had to call it quits. I spent a large amount of time screaming while skiing, and consequently have had a bit of a sore throat...
We headed in for a great breakfast, showers, and then set off for the Tour de Fat (and here) in town. This is a big bike and beer fest, and was a total blast. I managed to entertain BEG by trying out several funny bikes - check out the video below for a taste! And we bought fun bike fest goodies, had a beer, and enjoyed a really fun band: Paper Bird.

Crazy bikes! The three wheeled unicycle had been making me dizzy to start... then the shoe bike was really uncomfortable (and had no brakes) - the giant orange one with all the wheels had quite a bit of resistance for pedaling... they were all hilarious!

BEG exhibiting the hilariousness of it all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

eagerly awaiting a hurricane or something

well not really - but here's a summary of what's been going on:

1950 something: a dam was built across the kern river in order to eliminate the seasonal flooding that the villagers (Bakersfieldians) were complaining about. This resulted in Lake Isabella. The dam, by the way, was built across a fault: the Kern Canyon Fault. One might think this is silly, but it's an unlucky geological phenomenon really. Faults make good pathways for water. Rivers are water. Dams block water for various reasons. Dams are useless if built in places where there is no water (unless they are decorative).

Last 2 years: concerns were building over a leak that had developed in the dam, and water levels were lowered significantly in the lake. There was sudden concern over the possibility that the Kern Canyon Fault might move in an earthquake and render the dam somewhat rubble-y.

This spring: string of earthquakes from M3.0 to M4.4 occur along Kern Canyon Fault, more concerns arise about the potential for dam failure and flooding.

Two weeks ago: among the many many blazes occurring in California, one was the Piute fire in the Lake Isabella area. Thanks to intense winds blowing in the worst possible direction, fire fighters struggled to keep it from spreading and evacuations were recommended.

Yesterday: it finally rained, and poor Lake Isabella suffered massive flash flooding. While crappy news for the inhabitants, whose roads had been replaced by silty tree-filled rivers (more evacuations were recommended), the storm did actually help the fire fighters out.

Directly quoting from the news today:
...The flooding left behind a muddy mess all over central and eastern Kern County. Road crews used tractors to push mud off of Highway 178. Firefighters say the rains helped them slow down some wildfires, but those fires also probably cleared out vegetation that could have stopped the flash flooding.

I, however, went to the coast to plan a field trip. It was easily 30 degrees cooler there than here, and I was blissfully unaware of the flooding going on up the canyon.

Check out these snails with legs! I thought they were crabs for sure, but a sign said they are button snails. I can't find any info on that, have limited snail biology (but thought they were pseudopods not crab-o-pods). There were loads and loads of these, which made the hermit crab hypothesis unlikely... suggestions?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Volcanic Week

I spent a week in Northern California to escape the heat and the smoke from all the forest fires. Unfortunately some of the forest fires were in Northern California, so I really only managed to escape the heat. I also managed to visit (hike) some really awesome geological areas and nerd out on volcanoes a little... I've picked my favourite photo from the top spots to give an overview:

Devil's Postpile: a great big pile of columnar basalts (60 feet tall!)

Mt Lassen: after hiking it and Bumpass Hell, we got a stellar view of the peak (a volcanic plug dome that last erupted in 1914) as we exited the park.

Also in Lassen Volcanic National Park was a trail to "Bumpass Hell" - yes - the hell was entirely because of the stinkyness. BOY did it reek! I took video of the hissing fumaroles, mudpots, etc. - one of them is here. You are lucky that there is no "smell-o-vision" available.

Clearly showing the haze of the smoke from the forest fires, this photo (taken from the top of Cinder Cone, a cinder cone volcano in Lassen Park) also shows the Painted Dunes and Fantastic Lava Beds - I can only imagine how glorious the scene is where there is no smoke...

Mono Lake - a place I'd actually been to before - here are tufa pillars poking out of the alkaline lake. They are formed from hot spring (volcanic) activity beneath the lake and the mixing of waters resulting in calcite (calcium carbonate) deposits.

In addition I also went to Subway Cave (a rather large lava tube - also volcano-related!!!), Panum Crater, Obsidian Dome, and found time to chill out in the north-eastern Sierra Nevada eying a 5 acre lot to build a log cabin on. Anyone interested in investing?