San Mateo to Fernley, Nev.

We got up early, and kept working from six thirty to twelve thirty. We put a few last items in the moving container, tied the canoe on the car, did some more last minute cleaning, loaded up the car, argued about little things, did a walk-through of the house with Kathy the cemetery superintendent and Joe from the cemetery’s board of trustees. The truck came by at about 9:30 to pick up the moving containers — what a relief that was. The car was packed by noon. It was a “Spare the Air” day, and the smog was unpleasant. We were ready to go.

Thank goodness it was a holiday, the new federal holiday to commemorate Juneteenth. A holiday reduced the traffic from intensely unpleasant to merely horrible. We drove out through the inner Coast Range and into the Central Valley. We stopped at Dixon Fruit Stand, but they had mediocre fruit and durly clerks. We kept driving. Just past Davis, I said, “Let’s get off at Yolo Bypass.” “Where?” said Carol. “Right here, this exit,” I said. Carol zipped off the freeway at the last minute, saying she was willing to do something I wanted to do; meaning I should be nice to her when there was something she wanted to do later in the trip.

We drove to Parking Lot B, three quarters of a mile into Yolo Bypass Wildlife Management Area. Carol stayed in the car to take care of some business on her phone. I got out into the Central Valley heat, into the intense sunlight. I walked down a road. Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) lined the road, but just a yard or two from the road, there was a band of tall Bisnaga (Visnaga daucoides), the white umbrels of flowers waving above the feathery green foliage. Beyond that, bulrushes (Schoenoplectus sp.?) grew where the road dropped off into marshlands. Off to my right, green rice fields stretched into the distance. A large flock of White-faced Ibis circled overhead, then settled into the rice fields.

White-faced Ibis in a rice field, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Management Area

After this stop, I felt different. I felt sane. Packing up and emptying out the house had felt strange, not completely moored in reality. The first two hours driving in the car still felt a little detached from reality. But the brilliant sunlight, the flowers, the pollinators, the birds, the jackrabbit loping lazily across the road — it felt like I was reconnecting with reality.

While I was photographing a flower, a man pulled up in his car, and spoke through the open window. “Um, I was just curious what you’re doing there. Not that you have to tell me, but…”

“Do you know this social media app iNaturalist?” I said. He didn’t. I explained that you could take a photo of a plant or animal, upload it, and get an identification. “I got into flowers recently,” I said, “and that’s how I’m learning them.” He asked me a few questions, then got ready to move on. “I’m Thomas, by the way,” he said. I introduced myself, then he drove off.

I walked slowly back to the car. Carol got out to take a short walk with me, but we agreed it was too hot, so we started riving again.

We stopped again at the Donner Pass rest area, and walked the little half mile loop next to the parking lot. It was already summer in the Central Valley, but it was still spring in the High Sierras. I saw a manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.) still in bloom. We came to a small pond, and on the opposite shore there was still some unmelted snow.

Unmelted snow near Donner Pass

Then down the eastern slope of the Sierras into Nevada. Now we were in the dramatic landscape of the Great Basin. I noticed the canoe on top of the car cast an odd shadow as we drove.

Near Reno, on I-80

As sublime and awe-inspiring as the landscape was, it had been permanently marked by humankind. The philosopher Martin Heidegger, Nazi sympathizer though he was, had a useful insight with his concept of “Enframing”: part of the logic of modern human technology is to exclude all other ways of thinking about the world.

Patrick, Nev.

That sublime Nevada landscape is completely surveyed, marked out with roads and power lines, dotted with trash and effluvia; the habitats of plants and territories of birds must fit into the interstices of that human framework.

We drove on under the awe-full evening sky, and checked into our motel in Fernley, Nev.

My iNaturalist observations for June 20

Snow

We had periods of heavy rain and hail on Monday, then when the storm passed it got quite chilly. It still felt downright cold, by Bay Area standards, late Tuesday morning when we went out to the car.

We drove down the hill from the cemetery to where there’s a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. We both exclaimed, “Snow!” The peaks of the mountains on the east side of the Bay were white with snow, from the mountains around Mission Peak (elev. 2,520 ft.) southwards to the mountains around Mt. Hamilton (elev. 4,265 ft.). Since a good portion of Mission Peak range was white, I figured the snow must have come down well below 2,000 feet.

I dropped Carol at work, and drove south to Palo Alto, periodically marveling at the sight of snow when the mountains across the Bay came into view. When I got off the highway and headed west into Palo Alto, I tried to see if Black Mountain (elev. 2,812 ft.) and the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains had snow; but I had to keep my eyes on the road and couldn’t get a clear view. But a page one story in Tuesday’s edition of the San Mateo Daily Journal said that there was indeed snow on the Santa Cruz Mountains:

“The highest elevations in San Mateo county saw snow Monday night…. Snow fell just about everywhere above 1,000 feet Monday, including in parts of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with temperatures as low as 32 degrees around that area.”

And according to Palo Alto Patch, not only was Page Mill Road in Palo Alto closed Tuesday due to snow and ice, but:

” ‘One spotter in Morgan Hill said he saw snow at 700 feet,’ [National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mahle] said. ‘It started accumulating … at about 1,000 feet.’ “

When I drove to work on Thursday (yesterday), the Hamilton range was still mostly white with snow; I don’t remember the last time snow lasted that long, but it was several years ago. And there is more snow coming Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service:

The latest models bring snow levels down to around 1,500 feet over the North Bay and around 2,000 feet over the Central Coast during the day Sunday.

This is nothing like the polar vortex in the eastern U.S., but it is unusual weather for us.

Snowstorm

I’m in Massachusetts visiting my dad. It’s snowing. And snowing. And snowing. It’s been snowing for two days now. They had something like three feet of snow when I got here, and it looks like this storm is going to dump another foot or foot and a half of snow. Here’s the view from my motel window:

BlogFeb0915

That road behind the buildings? That’s the interchange of Route 110 and Interstate 495. At this time of day, you’d expect lots of cars. But everything is closed due to snow, so as you can see there is hardly any traffic out there. And the parking lot for the restaurant next door is basically empty.

I just wish they could send some of this snow to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, where it is desperately needed.

Snow on the mountains

On the drive down to Palo Alto, there’s an overpass from which you can see the range of mountains south of San Jose. The highest peaks were still white today from the snow that fell early in the week. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reported that up to eight inches fell on Mount Diablo (elev. 3,864 ft.), eastwards across the bay from us.

And the Chronicle reports that meteorologists say there’s a possibility that the Alaskan storm now heading southward could possibly deliver snow at sea level over the weekend. It probably won’t happen, but what if it does? — If it does snow, I’ll try to get a photo of snow on the orange tree in our back yard, which still has ripe oranges on it.

Spring: not quite here yet

It seemed like there was a lull in the rain, so Carol and I walked over to the neighborhood supermarket to buy some dinner. On the way back home, the chilly damp wind blew fine raindrops at us. “It’s cold,” said Carol. “It can’t be more than forty degrees,” I said.

When we got back, I checked the weather forecast: it’s supposed to dip down into the thirties tonight in San Mateo; there’s a possibility of snow down to the two thousand foot level tonight and tomorrow, and there’s even been a report of snow on Grizzly Summit in the Berkeley Hills, which is a mere 1,750 feet high. We won’t get any snow down where we live, but if the fog lifts tomorrow we might be able to see snow on the mountains across the bay.

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