Sunday, March 29, 2009


If the weather’s cold and crummy where you are, maybe these will cheer you up. It may not feel like it, but Northern Hemisphere warming is on the way.

Three Trees

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gorman Wildflowers

In the Grapevine Pass, which carries the main driving route connecting California’s Central Valley to the Los Angeles basin, the hills south of Gorman burst in spring with bright-colored wildflowers. Every year brings a different mix, and any given year will shift from weekend to weekend.

For other people’s pictures of wildflowers this year and in past years, click here or here or here or here. Not so many California golden poppies showed up on this drive; they would add orange to the mix. The purple is lupine. Various white and blue flowers can also join the palette.

I have also seen the whole stretch covered in white.

Hills like green elephants

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old Friends

None of my friends are old. But a few of the friendships are venerable.

His parents were in town, and we’ve known each other more than 30 years. I haven’t known Walker quite so long.

They were staying near Bolsa Chica marsh, so we went for a nature stroll Saturday morning.

When I think how long I’ve known Tim, I see spots from the vertiginous altitude. Luckily even back then we believed in safety harnesses.

If I ever knew we had a space shuttle in Southern California, I had forgotten. Sunday we all met again, at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

The Discovery building’s most striking feature, easily visible daily to a lot of rush-hour drivers, is a huge cube stood up on one corner and covered on one end with solar-electric panels. This shows the cube from inside.

After flying a 737 simulator for a while, and after walking past a lot of earthquake-shake exhibits, we headed downstairs to the stratum that held dinosaurs.

The lady in red is explaining how it works: We had to go into the dig site to find specific fossils (ginkgo leaves, gastroliths, pleiosaur paddles, tyrannosaur tracks) collected into several different missions. As we found each specimen, we waved an electronic wand at it to “collect” it. Then we checked in at one of several computer screens in the area to get further instructions from a remote researcher.

The area seemed mostly secure. At least we didn’t see any signs that any visitors had been eaten lately. We got our job done without any OSHA disruptions and took a break for lunch.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Like a Rock?

Friday morning I hit the road early. By the time the sun came up, this is what it looked like where I was driving. I find myself constantly amazed at the variation in colors in the rocks, even in a single mountainside.

The post in the lower right is the corner of the property. Between there and the truck, Bill is standing at the wellhead. On the horizon, directly over the pole, is a car, parked at the approximate property line as it heads north into the distance. Among other things, we were checking alignment, to make sure the well was where we wanted it.

Spring growth is hard won in such arid terrain.

Dumont Dunes, a site that grows more popular every year for recreational drivers

Shoshone, California, by morning light. This town has a colorful history, which has yet to come to its final chapter. After a broad unpopulated stretch, it welcomes the traveler, an oasis of habitation.

Oddly, the famous Crowbar—which can be found in Google—was not listed in my Garmin GPS navigator. Shoshone is that way, perhaps on purpose. Cell phones don’t work here; don’t expect much wi-fi or radio coverage either. Not that Shoshone is backwards by any stretch, but sometimes it’s good to cut the technological leashes and run free.

Can’t beat the Crowbar for a square breakfast.

Over a range or two and across the state line lies Pahrump, Nevada.

Nevada has been hit particularly hard by the nationwide housing crunch.

Coming back over the hill into California—this time by afternoon light

Out here the geology doesn’t hide under a lot of foliage; the story of the rocks is laid out for anyone to read.

Dumont Dunes from the mountains that hang over it. Click on the picture and count the types of rock visible in the clear desert air. Count the number of tiny RVs you can spot in the sandy parking area.

The force of sunlight hitting a square mile of solar mirrors is approximately the same as the force imparted by a ping pong ball when it’s dropped onto the table.

The power of the sun goes far beyond the mechanical.

Raw materials for the pictures above