Monday, July 14, 2014

Mono Lake

Blogging for Fun Friday again, time flies so fast and I am trying to catch up joining the fun this Friday night. This week, we are doing letter M, and I thought of Mono Lake, one of the most inspiring and amazing desert landscapes I have seen.
Stormy Sunset @ Mono Lake, Eastern Sierra, CA
The very first time my sight viewed Mono Lake, I was totally awed by the place. Maybe because the first time I set my foot in this place was at sunset, which looked almost unreal for me. As I am used to the ocean, not with the surreal tall calcium carbonate rocks in front of me.
Sunset, Mono Lake
We felt that we did not have enough of Mono Lake on our first visit, that in just a few months, we went back to Eastern Sierra, to visit this amazing lake again.
Mono Lake, Sunrise, Eastern Sierra
What stands out in Mono Lake are the towering tufas. The tufas are these amazingly sculpted Calcium Carbonate towers above the water looking like those eerie guards at an Alien Kingdom. Walking along the shores of Mono Lake is like walking in a cave, only that the stalactites and stalagmites are not hanging from the ceiling, but stands above water with the beautiful sky above it. And unlike inside a cave, at Mono Lake, you can have these towering tufas with sunrise or sunset!
Mono Lake @ sunrise, Eastern Sierra, CA
Mono Lake is an ancient lake, one of the oldest in North America. The towering sculpted limsestone rocks are called "tufas", which at first, we had difficulty remembering and would say "tofu". Though calcium carbonate rocks grow exclusively under water, but because of the change in water level in this lake, the toweing tufas were exposed. Above water, the tufas can no longer grow and are susceptible to erosion.
Sunset @ Mono Lake
Mono Lake has no drainage and the only way for water to escape is through evaporation, as a result, the water at Mono Lake is very salty. But do not mistake this desert lake to be lifeless already because of the extreme saltiness. Though no fish can probably survive in this lake from saltiness, but this lake is abundant in alkali flies and alkali shrimps which millions of migrating birds feed on.
Birds and tufas @ Mono Lake
Swarms of black alkali flies carpet the shoreline of Mono Lake during summer. However, these alkali flies are not interested of humans, and even not of aliens. These macroscopic flies are only interested with the microscopic algae. These alkali flies attract birds, for the birds, these are foods a lot tastier and richer in protein than brine shrimp. Because of the richness of the alkali flies in the lake, the lake attracts a lot of migratory birds making the lake the busiest airport for birds. In October, these birds have there biggest convention, and this convention is one of the biggest in North America, only that the guests are birds. Aerial surveys have revealed 1.5-1.8 million birds on the lake in the fall—comprising a large portion of North America’s population!

Traveling tip: Mono Lake is located in the Eastern Sierra, it is only 22 miles southeast from Yosemite National Park’s Tioga Pass entrance. It is also close enough to Mammoth Lakes Mountain and Ski Resort. Coming from Southern California on your way to Yosemite National Park via Tioga Pass entrance or on your way to Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake would be a good short detour. Definitely, if you are in the area, and are interested with a visit that feels like in another world, do make a side trip at Mono Lake.

Boardwalk @ Mono Lake
The pictures above were a collection from our several visits to Mono Lake. My most memorable experience from this area ( Lee Vining) was when I woke up in the middle of dawn, opened our window, looked out at the sky outside, and the stars were just shining and sparkling unbelievably. I could not keep that amazement to myself, I woke up my husband who was heavily asleep in bed and told him, "dear, look at the stars, I have never seen this horizon of stars that goes as far as my eyes can see, with the sky just so filled and glittered with them, never in my life!" My husband instead of getting mad for waking him up, also excitedly got up and ran to the window, then, we both looked there at the sky amazed. We attempted to take pictures, but unfortunately, it was way too cold ( sub-freezing temperature), and we did not have tripod yet at that time, that the pictures we took were just blur and blur :( . But that was the moment we decided then to buy a tripod :) and hopes to go back one day to Mono Lake and photograph these tufas with the stars!

How to Buff Up in the Great Outdoors

People usually only think of the exercise potential of the outdoors when they need to run or swim. When it comes to getting regular strength training, a gym membership appears to be the only option. There is really no reason to shut yourself up in a crowded, fluorescent-lit room with humid, sweat-filled atmosphere, blinking screens and loud machine beats, though - not when you have fresh air at a sunny park outdoors.
Not only will you feel much better for the fresh air and the sun, you'll save money on paying for a gym membership, too. The best part is, once you learn a good set of bodyweight exercises that work for you, you won't have to go anywhere to get fit. You will even be able to do your routine in your hot bedroom when it's raining outside. You won't need much gear, either - a few protective items of the kind that you find on sites like  are all you need.  

Here's how your routine will go  

Bodyweight exercises are generally the kind that you can perform with no more equipment than the ground you stand on and a few pieces of equipment that you generally find in parks and playgrounds. You can do dips, pull-ups and push-ups. In general, it makes sense to follow a descending rep program.  
You'll have many entertaining bodyweight exercises to do - crab walks, bear crawls and so on. As playful as these exercises seem, they tend to work out your entire body and tire you out in no time. You can start your first set with 10 reps to a set and taper down by a rep with each additional set. Alternatively, to make sure that you don't tire yourself out too much you can follow a routine where you go through repeated workout and rest cycles. You can work out for 30 seconds and then take 10 seconds off.  

The workouts  

Jump squats: To start, you need to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Positioning yourself in this partial crouch, you need to leap up with explosive force to go as high up in the air as you can.  
Pull-ups: Whatever horizontal object you find to perform your pull-ups on - a jungle gym, a pull-up bar or even the branch of a tree - you can use it to draw yourself up so that your chin goes higher than the bar. If you find it too hard at first, you can simply pull yourself up as far as you can.
The bear crawl: If you've ever seen a movie about a police training camp or a military boot camp, you've probably seen the bear crawl - it's a kind of crawl forward, except that your knees don't touch the ground. You need to go forward as fast as you can.  

The crab walk: This is a reverse crawl - rather than crawl facing the ground, you turn the other way round and face upwards. You then propel yourself forward on your hands and feet as fast as you can.

Sprinting: You need to run 50 yards at about 80% to 90% of the highest speed that you are capable of.  

The burpee: A burpee is a curious combination exercise. You start standing up. You then bent down so that your hands touch the ground. You support yourself on your hands and then quickly shoot your legs backwards to land in a sort of push-up. Then, you draw your legs in to jump up as high as you will go.
You need to work out a good routine with all these exercises  

You don't need to follow a rigid routine with these exercises. You get to creatively mix them up each day. Whatever you do, though, you need to make sure that you warm up well before you work out in earnest.

Charles Farr has a particular passion for fitness. After years of training others at the gym, he enjoys blogging about simple techniques for staying fit and strong for a healthy life.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Photographing Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcon In Flight
camera settings: f/8, 1/2000 seconds, ISO-400
Single Point AF AI Servo

Peregrine falcons are probably my most photographed birds. I simply enjoy watching them. Photographing them in flight is a big challenge though, as they are not only very fast, they are the FASTEST ANIMAL on earth. They could dive up to 200+ mph when taking their prey. Oftentimes, my camera and lens is not fast enough to focus on them. The happiness however, of capturing them in flight is un-explainable, no words could describe, haha!!!

Lately however, I have learned some strategies when photographing birds in flight. That is to observe their behavior. When birds are perched on a cliff and on a tree, I watched them til they poop, which is a signal that soon they will leave and fly.  I prepare then my camera to be able to catch them in flight.

Sometimes, when I see them flying, I aim my camera at them, even it has difficulty focusing right away because of their fast speed. I however, still continue to follow them with my camera because I know there is a chance they could slow down, or find a place to perch, where my camera would have greater chance of focusing. Patience on following them while they are in flight until the camera and lens focuses do pay off. :)
Peregrine Falcon About to Perch
camera settings: f/8, 1/2000 seconds, ISO-400
Single Point AF AI Servo

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Upper Yosemite Falls

Below is the view of Yosemite Falls from the Valley Floor.
While all the pictures that follow below are from the trail above the Valley Floor. Let's hike up....
 View of Upper Yosemite Fall With Half Dome from Upper Yosemite Trail

Friday, June 20, 2014

At Home With The Redwoods

In my previous posts, I shared some of the trails within the majestic ancient redwood forest and the gigantic redwood trees.
Redwood Highway ( parallel to the coast)
But Redwood National and State Parks is not all about the redwoods, despite the main attraction of course are these ancient tall trees. Right next to the redwood forest is the Pacific Ocean, and there is an amazing diversity of life that exists here.
Wildflowers Along Del Norte Coast, Redwood National Park
The diverse ecosystem here is recognized as both a World Heritage site and an International Biosphere Reserve. These designations reflects worldwide awareness of the parks' resources as irreplaceable, and as such they must be safeguarded. One may complain that the ocean here seldom reflects the blue color from the sky. Especially during the summer, the ocean here is as gray as it can be. The greyness is due to the dense coastal fogs.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Yosemite View Lodge: A Review

views from Yosemite Valley Floor, Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is such a sight to behold, and is one of our favorite vacation destinations in California. The only drawback to staying here for non-campers (like us) is the price. Not all who loves the amazing and therapeutic wild are willing to camp. Sadly, we belong in that category. Most National Park hotels offer very little luxury for the money. You are paying for the price of 5-star hotel and resort (or more), yet only getting maybe a 1-star  or 0 ( very basic ) service and accommodations. Plus, you have to book your stay at least a year in advance to get a place to sleep inside the park. Though there are cheaper and more available lodging and hotels in not so nearby towns and cities, but they are quite far, needing at least 1-2 hours drive on a windy mountain road. The price and availability is probably the reason why most visitors to this amazing place stay somewhere in San Francisco (3-4 hours drive), then, only drive through the park for a day, not really experiencing the best that Yosemite has to offer. For after all, they could get luxurious accommodations for much less the price, and without having to book a year in advance. 

Last spring, we shifted our plans from a Death Valley National Park spring vacation to a Big Sur and Yosemite vacation. Of course, before cancelling our reservations at Death Valley, I made sure first that we will have rooms to sleep in both Big Sur and Yosemite. Because of very limited time ( about a month going into our vacation), as expected, there were no more rooms available inside Yosemite National Park, despite we would be visiting on a non-peak month, April. Fully booked inside-Yosemite hotels was a "blessing in disguise", because we were able to find Yosemite View Lodge, the only hotel outside Yosemite that is about 11 miles to the heart of Yosemite Valley. Unlike other outside-Yosemite lodging, Yosemite View Lodge is only maybe 15-20 minutes drive to the park, with a plus: no windy mountainous driving from the lodge to the valley floor. 

Pros of Staying in Yosemite View Lodge:

1. The hotel is next to Merced River, with as good mountain views.
Views near Yosemite View Lodge