Category Archives: Travel

Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing

Yosemite – A Different Kind of Healing by Harold Stearley at https://earthwalkingworld.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/yosemite-a-different-kind-of-healing/

Colors blind the eye.  Sounds deafen the ear.  Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.

The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12

Traveling North, threading my way midway between the paved-over urban communities and the many Woodlands, I was about to make a right turn, East. To a land that can only be described as Magical. 

The terrain changed from golden rolling hills and densely planted fields to Forests. 

The Standing People.

The roads shifted from their North-South Axis into the Serpentine.  Slithering along in ever-repeating S-shaped fractals, undulating upward and downward as the terrain became more and more mountainous.    

It’s hard to paint of picture of how the coniferous forest just popped up from nowhere.  But there you were, facing Incense Cedar, Sierra Juniper, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Yew. 

Even a few of the monstrous Giant Sequoias gazed down upon you from above. 

Intermixed with these cone-bearing, needled-leaved Souls stood Birch, Alder, Dogwood, Laurel, Maple, Oak, Poplar, Black Cottonwood, Willow and the Quaking Aspen.  A thriving, diverse Universe that puts us humans in our tiny place. 

A bit of perspective on just how small we all really are. 

And as I climbed in elevation on those roads without shoulders or guardrails, looking into those endless valleys, the Northern landscape suddenly turned black and barren.  The result of a wildfire having scoured a portion of the gorge-lands.  Bleak and ever so reminding of how acting recklessly with Coyote’s stolen gift from the Gods could devastate such an expanse of habitat for all of the many Medicines of the Forest. 

But rebirth was beginning to reclaim all that was lost.  Being born from the ashes.  As we can be in our own lifetimes, if we’d only set fire to all that unnecessarily burdens us.  Artificially self-generated and perpetuated boulders and boundaries that can be cast aside, returned to the ash-pile, freeing our Minds.  Our Bodies.  Our Souls.  And if you can’t do that consciously on your own intention just drive through that “Tunnel.”  “Wawona Tunnel.”

A corridor to another space and time.

And when you emerge, it takes your breath away.  Completely.  And you no longer need oxygen to sustain you. 

The “Valley.”  Yosemite in all its grandeur. 

Sure, you’ve seen pictures, even my own with this post.  But the first-hand experience is totally different.  Hypnotizing.  Intoxicating.

Touching, tasting, hearing, smelling – you can feel it in every pore all at once.  Like a simultaneous explosion of awe and love.  Sight is something altogether different when our senses are flooded with such vastness.  Such majesty.

Synesthesia.

A place where you can hear Colors.  Taste the Air.  Bathe in distant Waterfalls.  Trace, by touch, the oblique and climbing Mountain Slopes.  Traverse the expansive Woodlands through your Mind’s Eye.  Speak, without sound, to the Bear and share in its introspection.  

A cross-threading of neural pathways.  Electrifying every cell in your Brain. 

And all while standing still.  In silence.

If there was anything that could convey the underlying transcendent Unity of all Truths, that Perennial Philosophy, the Quintessence of all Spirituality, it is Yosemite. 

“Ahwahnee,” or “Mouth,” as it was called by the mixed renegade members from the Southern Miwok and Paiute Tribes because the Valley Walls appeared to be an open Bear’s mouth.  They called themselves the “Ahwahnechee,” or dwellers of Ahwahnee. 

“Yohhe’meti,” as known to the Central Miwok Tribe, translates to “Those who Kill,” and referred to the Yosemite People, the Ahwahnechee, who were greatly feared by the surrounding tribes.  

Ultimately, as a result of mistranslations of Yohhe’meti and the phonetically similar Miwok word “Uzumate” meaning Grizzly Bear, the U.S. Military named the valley “Yosemite” – “Grizzly Bear.” 

And before I leave word translation, I should mention that the word “Wawona,” that is borne by that tunnel, came from the Miwok Tribe’s word “Who-Who’nau.” Which refers to the hoot of the Owl. Considered to be the Guardian Spirit of the Giant Sequoia Trees.  A Spirit I’m very familiar with.

It was here, in the former land of the Grizzly, that I’d embark on a few “jaunts.”* My base would be a tent awaiting for me on the Valley Floor. 

Now the word “jaunt” implies ease, and it was easy making the drive to Glacier Point.  Looking out over or down from this vantage point, one can see Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome and another dozen or more major rock formations.

It looked as though you could simply reach out and touch those waterfalls.  Feel those cold, clear waters between your fingers.  The distances miniaturized in the expansive landscape view.  But the hikes up to those falls, would not be a mere “jaunt.” 

In fact, while the hike up to the top of Yosemite Falls was on switch backs, it’s essentially straight up.   One of the hardest three and a half miles I ever trekked with a total elevation gain of 3900 feet.  

I guess I was sandwiched in the middle of the hikers that day. Between a mixed-aged group leaving me in their dust, and groups of “youngsters” in their 20s and 30s who were in my dust.  Seeing the pain in their faces, and hearing their labored breathing when taking breaks, many wisely turned back.

Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.

Above, it isn’t bright. Below, it isn’t dark.
Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end.
You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from; this is the essence of wisdom.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

Each day in this wonderland, I was visited by my brothers and sisters Deer, a never ceasing reminder of the Medicine of Gentleness that I was receiving throughout my days on the road.  One morning, five juvenile bucks took their time crossing the road in front of me, by a pedestrian crosswalk no less, giving me ample time to enjoy their company. 

The number five, in numerology, represents being versatile and actively awaiting change. And, indeed, change was manifesting. A change in myself and my direction.

It wouldn’t be long before this group disbanded, the males all seeking solitude intermixed with brief encounters with the matriarchal doe clans.   I too was seeking solitude, and it can be found even if standing among a million faces.

“Ordinary men hate solitude.  But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42

Adding to the Deer’s Medicine of Gentleness was the Medicine of Introspection I previously mentioned.  I saw its representatives here during my hikes – two Black Bears.  They had obviously been out from their hibernation for some time and had duly brought their weight class back up from Winter’s rest. If you want to feel the insignificance of your own power, get close to a bear.

I embarked upon a new adventure daily, and my first major hike was to climb up to the top of Vernal Falls and then on to Nevada Falls.  I got off to an early start, but found myself rapidly enveloped in a sea of people.

Yet the further we climbed, as with all of my hikes here, the less people made the journey.  But there were some that were prepared to travel even further. Past Nevada Falls to make the hike up Half Dome, an adventure I wasn’t physically prepared to take on this trip.

Now I’m not sure if my words can convey the majesty of the views there, but looking down into the Valley from on top of these falls was simply incredible.  Water, one of the four major elementals that gives rise to all life, was truly in its raw form.  Not hampered by human interference, these rushing waters continued to carve that Valley, much like the glaciers of ancient times.  

Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it.

The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true, but few can put it into practice.

Therefore, the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping, he is people’s greatest help.

True words seem paradoxical.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78

There’s something very satisfying about making a high climb and then looking down.  An exhilaration which might explain the addiction I have to such activities.  This exhilaration is also contagious, spreading to all around and feeding into an even greater high for everyone “present.”

Present in Awareness.

Once I passed Vernal Falls and reached the top of Nevada Falls, I violated one of my steadfast rules.  I always spot a turn-around point.  A place on the trail where my gut tells me is unsafe to cross.  I usually detect some sort of sign marking that point.  It could be a Butterfly, or a falling leaf, or just a shadow, or movement in my peripheral vision.  But there is always a clear line of demarcation in my mind where I just know it’s time to stop.

 As I prepared to do just that, stop and turn around, I decided to take a just a few more steps on the trail that leads up to Half Dome.  A huge mistake on my part as I tripped on a rock concealed by loose dirt and fell.

I shifted to my left to avoid my right shoulder instinctively because of rotator cuff tears and landed square on my left side.  On all of my previous injuries from my fall in the Canyon. 

But if there is one thing positive to be said about pain, it’s that it forces you into the here and now.  It brings you into the realm of immediate experience and pulls you out of the dream state of mind.**

Nevada Falls

It was during my descent that I met some real hikers, much younger men carrying 60-pound packs.  They had stayed in the Wilderness for 4 days and hiked some 70 miles in the Sierras.  My hike that day was ten miles with my 14 pound day-pack, and that was sufficient for me. 

There was, however, something of import that I did begin to feel on these ten miles.  Perhaps more significant than what those other hikers experienced. I’m not sure if it was in the way I walked. The spring in my step.  My bountiful strides. The way I held my head up.  Smiled more.  Greeted everyone with the shining in my eyes.

Or was it simply the Wondrous Souls I was meeting along the way.

Whatever it was radiating off of me, the people I was meeting were all receptive — looking and responding to me differently than others had in years past. I felt a glimmering kind of kindness. Of appreciation. Of Love. Love of others and love of self. Love of Nature and all that surrounded us.

Being on the road, on the trail, seems to be, for me at least, what brings out that shine. And I was rebounding from some years of trauma in both my personal and career lives. This constant motion in Nature was the Medicine. And I was receiving just the dose I needed.

I was healing, but it was a different kind of healing. It was a healing of the Soul. And I believe that when our Souls are whole, we radiate unconditional love. And unconditional love, from any source is an all powerful healer of any ailment.

Needing a more restful day before tackling Yosemite Falls, I headed North to Luken Lake,

Olmsted Point,

Tenaya Lake,

and Tuolumne Meadows. 

Such contrasting landscapes make you feel as if you are constantly being transported to different worlds.

I spent my early mornings and my evenings along the Merced River.  A perfect place for peaceful meditation.

And when the day came to ascend Yosemite Falls, I felt prepared for the inner battle that would take place.  The fight to maintain stamina.  To use will power when physical strength began to fail. And I would need it.***

The views on the hike up were amazing.

And they keep getting better as you reach the top to see Yosemite Creek, where it takes its mammoth 2,425 foot plunge to the Valley below.

There are signs at the top of the Falls to remind people to stay away from the edge as there are “No Second Chances.” Actually, this is not a bad statement to keep in mind as we face each day.

We can never reclaim the time that’s passed.

Being a wordsmith, I didn’t really expect that I would run out of words to describe this place of healing, and there is just too much to relay with words, or in a single blog post, so I will leave you with a few more pics . . .

Summit Meadow

Bridal Veil Falls

The Merced River from the Swinging Bridge

Reflections from a Bridge Over the Merced

“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, so to yield with life solves the insolvable.

To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.”

-Lao Tzu Chapter 43

In Metta

All my words and pics are copyrighted and cannot be used in any manner without express permission of the author – Me 🙂

Quotes: All quotes from Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching came from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao.

Photos: All of my photos are captioned with the exception of the feature photo – that being an old bridge over the Merced River. And the final pic, which is of Vernal Falls.

The imagery and metaphors associated with “Bridges” and “Falls” are just too numerous to list, so have a little fun with your imagination and think about how those analogies and metaphors fit into this story or perhaps your story. 🙂

Rabbit Holes:

* The reason I say the former land of the Grizzly, is that Grizzly bears were totally eradicated from California by 1924. When the European Alien Immigrants arrived it was estimated that 10,000 Grizzlies occupied the territory that came to be present day California. It didn’t take long for them to murder them all. See The California Grizzly .

** My Previous injuries from the Canyon. For those of you who missed some previous posts of mine, I took a little spill down some unforgiving rocks while in the Grand Canyon before I arrived at Yosemite. In short, the worst of it was five cracked or severely-bruised left ribs. When I left Yosemite, I had the opportunity to go swimming and when I tried to swim underwater my rib cage would start collapsing from the pressure. It took a few months to totally heal, but I couldn’t let that stop me from enjoying new adventures. 🙂

*** Stamina is the Medicine of the Elk, something that I plan to address more in a future post.

Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer

Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer by Harold Stearley

I was unlacing my boots at the end of a long day.  As I zig-zagged the laces in reverse to free them from their hooks down towards my ankles, I could feel the heat escaping, the pressure lifting. 

Loosening the remaining half of the laces that extended through the half dozen grommets to the boot’s toe, I then lifted them, one at a time, off my feet and let them drop to the floor with an oh-so familiar thud. 

My right ankle throbbed. 

Ten hours on the road wasn’t that bad because I love being in motion, but I was in Bear country now.  Absolutely everything had to be emptied out of my car and carried to my room.  And I had packed for four months.  More than I needed on a daily basis, but I was prepared.  As were the Bears.

Bears are smart. 

They’ll tear up a car trying to get to a cooler, even if it’s empty.  Nothing that emits an odor can be left behind.  Leave a tube of sunscreen in the glove compartment and you’ll awaken to one ugly mess of an automobile.

Continue reading Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer

The River – Old School

Or maybe I should say, old school style with modern outfitters . . .

***

As the gorge narrowed the wind picked up, and the air temperature noticeably dropped.  The calming frequency of the soft rush of the water shifted timbre.  Now cascading, surging ever faster downward, as the amplitude of the waves, both in size and pitch, increased to a deafening roar.

We hung on tight with both hands as the V-shaped bow and rigid hull sliced into the first wave, but the second was much larger.  And the small vessel skirted straight up its crest, reminiscent of a mighty ocean sailing ship in a surging Atlantic storm, but in miniature.

SR - 7

At the oarsman’s skillful command, the boat shifted sideways as it rolled down into the trough in time for the next wave to crest high above our heads.  Crashing down, completely drenching us, the flare of the hull offering no protection.  Filling the open compartments to the frame’s brim.

Our laughter could be heard above the roar of the rapids as we bailed.

Continue reading The River – Old School

Contrasts – Isahluko 6 – Southwest versus Midwest

I had spent about five months in the Southwest, and I was beginning a roundabout meandering back to the Midwest.  A few years ago, I might have called the Midwest my stomping ground, roost, flop, backyard, or some sort of other euphemism for being settled, but now I don’t really call anywhere “home.”

That’s too big of a word.  It carries too much connotation with it.  As a dear friend put it, home has a “heart connection.” 

After being in motion for so long things become a bit disorienting, but I think that’s a good thing.  Always striving for balance and always approaching each day as if facing a totally new horizon.  You usually are.

I had been staying in a little oasis.  Multiple biomes, where desert meets water and where mountains touch the sky.  Wildlife was diverse and abundant.  Trails unending.  Floating on soft ground.  Even rocky trails seem to give way and bend with your footsteps.  Meditative dreaming.

I made a turn west and found an incredible extreme in Yuma.  Desolate.  Sand baked to concrete in 108-degree temps.  Wind farms, sun farms, RV parks, hellacious cross winds, no visible wildlife.  In stark contrast, there was deep blue water, but it was running in cement canals siphoning from the Colorado river.  All to be used for local agriculture or industry.  No longer feeding the Earth.  No longer reaching the Sea.

I continued on for a brief visit to the ocean, the absolute opposite of Yuma, and turned right this time heading back towards the center of the country.  With a slight divergence north, I was now in 40 to 60-degree temps, picturesque mountains, spring-fed streams, towering vegetation, wildlife on steroids.  Simply amazing.

Mid-world again, I find myself on an asphalt trail.  No longer the soft earth.  No longer the coating of dust on my boots.  It’s an old section of railway.  The lines defunct, the tracks were torn up and they were paved over.  There are many paths like this here and they’re all named after the railroad that used to glide down the missing rails.  The Great Western Trail, Blue River Rail Trail, Katy Trail, Rock Island Trail.  The list goes on.

They’re hard on the feet, ankles and knees, but they can wind through some beautiful countryside and trace serpentine waterways.  But they’ll also be close to civilization.

One of the first contrasts I notice upon being back is the humidity.  I had been in the high desert, north and south – clean, crisp air – warm in the south, cool in the north.  The barren desert, with no trace of moisture.  And the coastal region, where gentle sea breezes moderate the air.  Here the humidity is so thick you could cut it with a machete.  I struggle to breathe, feeling a heavy weight on my chest. 

The high desert was full of wildlife, but it largely moved in silence.  Here the air is abuzz with birds and insects.  A constant hum, chirp or chattering.  Even the squirrels have something to say – clicking and barking.  Warding you off.  An angry wren gives its warning call when I get too close to its nest. 

The vegetation is radically different.  While both parts of the country share oaks, willows and sycamores, the varieties here are much larger.  Leaves can be ten times the size of those in the southwest.  So much more rainfall here to feed their roots, nourish their trunks, spread to their leaves.  They grow 65 to 85 feet tall, not 20 to 30.  A full-grown oak here can put 200 gallons of water into the air each day.  Respiration.  Humidification.  To come down as rain again later when icy winds in the upper atmosphere collide.

Plus, there are also hickories, elms, maples, sumac, sweet gums, catalpas, walnuts, cherries, plumbs, olives, locust, hedgewood, redbuds, dogwoods, and buckeyes.  Too many to name them all.  Most are second and third generation, or younger, this area having been clear-cut by the pioneers.  But a few first generation trees still remain.  Older than your grandparents and with trunks so huge it takes four or five people holding hands to reach around their circumference.

The stream beds here aren’t pristine like those I saw out west.  They’re totally polluted.  Agricultural runoff from crops and feedlots.  Toxic algae blooms.  Industrial waste.  Discarded trash.  Plastic bags.  These waters haven’t experienced respect in a long time. Fish still survive in them, but I wouldn’t eat them.

And there is a different kind of people here too.  In the high desert I encountered fellow hikers. Luminous glows.  Shining eyes.  Happy to be in nature.  Thrilled to say hello.  Knowing you were sharing the experience.

Here there are few enjoying nature.  A couple walks their dog, but turn away as you pass.  The homeless.  Looking for a place to wait out the day, and for another to stay warm at night.  Drinking two forty-ounce beers for breakfast.

Yes, there is still staggering beauty here, but also some depression.  Weight. 

It seems harder to settle in each time I come back. 

But along comes a familiar face.  A beam of light.  I wrote about this person before.  Maybe I’ll encounter more of the radiant.

There is hope . . .

***

Photo: Along the trail that skirts both countryside and city.  With pretty streams, but of polluted waters.  Through towering trees, but on an asphalt ribbon.  Many contrasts . . .

I wrote about this town in Echoes of Home.  And I hope this piece doesn’t sound overly depressive.  After you’ve experienced other amazing places it is an adjustment to return to what you’ve become accustomed to seeing as being mundane.  But persons visiting this area for the first time will probably be amazed at the unique beauty and history here 🙂

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Contrasts– 第5章 – Wild Spaces

 

Fire and Air – Part 3

This will be the final part of my Yellowstone travelog.  The Upper Geyser Basin.

I think the most popular image of Yellowstone that comes to mind is that of Old Faithful.  Because of this, I know I was quite astounded to see all of the other features of the park, each with their own unique beauty.  Some of the other hydrothermal features are so much more colorful.  Just check out the pics of Morning Glory Pond.

I’ll start with a small gallery covering Old Faithful and then have a bit larger one of the remaining features of the Upper Geyser Basin.  Old Faithful is so popular they have built bleachers around it that are packed with people from all over the world for those intervals of 90 to 120 minutes to watch it go off.  Apparently, the geyser’s eruption-timing has become less predictable over the years and the boiling water spout is not as high as it once was – still spectacular nonetheless.

Old Faithful is apparently a juvenile.  It takes a 100 years for a cinder cone to grow by an inch, so some of the geysers are thousands of years older than Old Faithful.

I didn’t record the name of every hot spring, chromatic pool, and geyser, but I did for some of the main ones.  And I included some pics of the Firehole River that runs right through the middle of this geyser basin.  The combination of water, geothermal heat, minerals, sunlight, and bacteria is amazing 🙂

Old Faithful

Remainder of the Upper Geyser Basin

There were other parts of the park that I visited that I didn’t include in this travelog and other parts I still haven’t seen.  Just hitting the main features was a lot.  I’ll have to go back again 🙂

I still have at least one more chapter to write in the “Contrasts” series, but we’ll be in a different location for Chapter 6.

***

 

Fire and Air – Part 2

In order to be complete, there must be a couple of more parts to the Fire and Air segment of the Yellowstone galleries.  Today we’ll cover Mammoth Hot Springs, an incredible array of Travertine Terraces formed by the hot springs bubbling though Limestone and bringing Calcite to the surface and layering the deposits.  Tomorrow, I’ll try to finish up with the Upper Geyser Basin.

Some of the portions of the terraces are “alive,” meaning the 186 degree plus water is still flowing and building those portions of the terraces, while some are “dead,” or inactive.  But my understanding is that this changes continually.

While every part of Yellowstone is incredible, this feature is really amazing!

Because I was using two cameras these aren’t in perfect order and there might be a repeat or two, but maybe at a slightly different angle.  But I doubt you’ll tire of these images.

This feature deserves a gallery of its own 🙂

***

Fire and Air – Part 1

We had Earth and Water yesterday, so it’s on to Fire and Air – Yellowstone’s geyser basins.  Or at least a couple of them.  Today I’m posting pics from the Norris Geyser Basin, which has, to my understanding, just recently fired back up to full power.  It’s divided into two areas and the boardwalks will keep you moving.

It’s amazing when geothermal energy collides with water and minerals 🙂

Porcelain Basin

Black Basin

***

Earth and Water

As I mentioned yesterday in Contrasts, Chapter 5, I would have to post some additional photo galleries of Yellowstone.  I decided to break them up a bit because I took so many photos and there are just so many diverse areas to see in this park.

Today’s theme is Earth and Water.

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂

 

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

Continuing with my theme on contrasts, I visited two museums while I was in San Diego.  The Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art.   Both wonderful places, although I have become a bit partial to the Smithsonian after having the privilege of visiting there.

Museums are kind of sacred places.  Artifacts and collections spanning time and space.

What I like about comparing these two is that you might call one an exhibit of artifacts of our and other species’ evolution and the other an exhibit of some of the products that came after our evolution.  At least to this point in geologic time.

Artistic endeavors that exceed the four basic F’s.  Higher brain development from the scientific, analytic, left side of our brains (fossils and skeletons) and the higher creative abilities from the right side of our brains (paintings and sculptures).

Both museums showcasing works of art, just different forms.  Both places of learning and fascination.  Places where attention is not focused so much on the self.  Places that can bring people to total quiet similar to the way the ocean did, with an infinite gaze at the portrait of a beautiful woman.  Or places that are a buzz with excited running, pointing and shouting at the bones and butterflies.

I didn’t see anyone taking a selfie standing next to a Van Gogh, but yeah, next to a dinosaur’s bones.  But at least I get that one.  Tiny human.  Big jaws 🙂

Perhaps a rare moment, I did hear one child say, to his father’s dismay, that he was bored.  But mostly it was excitement and awe.

So on with a gallery to feed the imagination . . .

***

** I’ll be back to add some pics from the Museum of Natural History once I get through them 🙂

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

 

 

This is but a small, representative sample of the works on display.  No way to catalog them all 🙂

And here are a few from the Museum of Natural History.  Please forgive the reflections, lighting, shadows, etc.  Shooting though glass display cases has its challenges.

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands.  On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego.  He called the area San Miguel.

He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion.  His mission unfulfilled.  He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.

Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem.  Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.

While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it.  I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.

The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.

The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less.  Actual human interaction was up.  People were in awe of one thing.

The Ocean.

Yes, the ocean has that power over people.  It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.

Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in.  It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.

The Power of Mother Earth.

***

Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.”  I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages.  I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it.  I simply plug it in to Google Translator.  I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up.  Fascinating.

Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Galleries:  And now a few photos from the day. 

Cabrillo 9 + C1

 

 

 

 

 

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

I awoke for my usual start to the day, at sunrise.  But the sun doesn’t exactly rise in San Diego.  It’s a bit disorienting.  That thick haze.  You think it might rain, but it burns off around ten in the morning.  That mix of smog and humidity.  Then you can see the sun.

By the time I could see the sun, I had been at the zoo for almost two hours.

I have always loved going to the Zoo.  And the San Diego Zoo has been on my bucket list for a while.  It’s definitely worth the visit.

It’s really more than a zoo – it’s multiple zoos and it’s a botanical garden in its own right.

You have to admit there is a bit of irony in the concept of a zoo.  People, who are animals, are placing other animals into captivity to view them, enjoy them, and protect them from annihilation by the human animals that put them there.  There are some animals that are extinct in the world now and only exist in zoos being run by other animals.  Us animals.

Humans seem to want to divorce themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom.  Without truly understanding the animals they put in cages, humans may pass judgment believing their relatives are inferior, have limited brain capacity, and have no spirits.

I, and obviously many others, would disagree with those presumptions.  Most of us are probably happy that we’ve recognized our destructive abilities and are at least trying to preserve these beautiful spirits.

I have never seen a child fail to smile at some point during a visit to see the wondrous animals at the zoo.

Our society has been changing though.  When I was growing up, we were taught a sense of community first.  Then we were encouraged to develop our individuality.  Today that’s reversed and the concept of community may not be emphasized at all.

So I witnessed a big transition at this visit to the Zoo.  What were people taking pictures of – themselves.  Oh yeah, they might put an animal or two in the background, but the central idea appears to be wanting to document the humans’ existence at a particular place or time.  It is not “Look at the beautiful Giraffe!”  It is “Hey, look at me!  See what I’m doing.  I’m at the zoo.  The Giraffe proves it.”

Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but that seems to be a lot of what I witnessed in terms of the human animal at the zoo.   I could challenge many of the animals with cameras to show me a picture of just the animals.  Many would meet that challenge.  Others, perhaps not.

I saw an incredible amount of self-absorption and technological absorption out there.  It’s not healthy.  Many didn’t know how to react when a friendly stranger would say hi, or agree with a comment they made admiring the rhino.  They would stare at me in shock because they had actually been spoken too.  Maybe if I had texted 🙂

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying these folks are bad.  I just may have a few different priorities or a different orientation, and I think it would help pull people together to have a broad concept of  community – including all of the animal community.

To have a community bond, we must communicate.  Look each other in the eye and not be afraid to speak.  To share.

That’s just a little food for thought as I weave in the theme of contrasts.  And we’ll come back to that theme in a different context in another chapter.

For now, I’m going to post a gallery of pictures.  I’m not in any of them 🙂

Not every pic is crystal clear.  The animals didn’t always face me or pose for me. Sometimes I moved the camera.  One technique I tried to use when possible was blurring out bars and cages and fences.  It doesn’t always work though.

I included the Guam Kingfisher, even though the cage blurred the pic.  Because it’s extinct in the wild, this may be the only way to see it.

I hope there are a few you enjoy.