Thursday, April 21, 2011

Butterflies, Wars, and a dry Valley

 I may not have been blogging, but I've been busy, trust me. I've been knitting, playing, crafting, working, and traveling. I have a couple of finished knitting projects, but they're just going to have to wait until later due to a lack of images. As it happens, I have too many pictures and not enough time to post about all of them, so collages it is.

I got dragged to the Pacific Science Center earlier in the month to go see the Star Wars exhibit. Little did he know that it was just an excuse to get him into the warmth of the Tropical Butterfly House! Temperatures are kept at almost 80 degrees with a high humidity. It felt fantastic after the wet and dreary "spring" Seattle has been having. At least the moss is liking it.

The Star Wars exhibit was well executed, with lots of original costumes, models, and interactive computer games and stations to build your own flying car, R2 unit, and something else... The place was packed with people, and I felt bad body-slamming a 9-year-old to get supplies to build things.  I was a little sad we didn't get to do it, the kids looked like they were having a lot of fun, and learning at the same time.  Too bad the big kids didn't get to play.

I just spent a week in California working on hatchery reform. I get the nerve-racking task of taking notes while my computer screen is projected onto a wall for everyone to see. Unfortunately, that means that everyone knows I can't spell worth crap. I mean, who can spell Ceratomyxa correctly on the first try? Not to mention all the other parasites, diseases and viruses fish can get. Sheesh.

We were conducting our interviews right in the middle of Johnny Cash-land. Our first interview was very close to Folsom Prison, then we sang "I'm going to Jackson" all the way to our lunch spot.  The next day we were "stuck in old Lodi," just like Creedence.  Who knew the outskirts of Sacramento was so musical?

Lodi happens to be right in the center of wine country.  Vineyards seemed smaller than in Southeastern Washington like I'm used to, but they sure were packed in anywhere they could.  We drove by some grapes that I'm not sure I'd ever seen before.  They looked like old craggy witch's hands coming up out of the earth.  Later, we found out they are zinfandel vines. 

Note: this picture was shamelessly stolen from Google Images. I didn't get the chance to take my own picture, but this is basically what they all looked like.

Luckily, we finished up our interviews early when we were in Merced. Merced happens to be less than two hours away from the Yosemite National Park valley floor.  We had heard that flows are really high currently and the waterfalls at the park were amazing.  A guy from Renton, randomly met at the In-N-Out Burger, said that seeing Half Dome for the first time was like the first time you saw Mt. Rainier up close.

All that excitement really set me up for disappointment. Holy crap. I was thoroughly not impressed by Yosemite. Sure, there's a vast elevation difference between the valley floor (4,000 ft msl) and the valley rim (7,000-8,000 ft msl), but shoot, it's just a bunch of granite. Cool when you first see it, but then... well, it's just a hunk of rock. It doesn't do anything.  And Half Dome? Not that thrilling. Really.

And the waterfalls! It's like these people have never seen water before! Oh... wait... they're from the Central Valley. Water is hard to come by. Sure, Bridalveil Falls is tall, and it puts out a lot of spray, but if that's a lot of water, I'd hate to see what it looks like in the summer of a drought year. Bridalveil ain't got nutthin' on Multnomah. Or Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon.  Now that's some water!

There. Now you've seen Yosemite.  No reason to go now, unless you want to climb one of those big pieces of rock.

Okay, okay, I need to qualify my opinion a little bit. I'm spoiled by the beauty of Western Washington. It's green year round, there is always water, and you can hike for days and not run into anyone. Definitely spoiled. First of all, when people told me it was a high flow year, I was expecting WATER. A whole lot of water. That alone skewed my expectations. Second, we stayed on the valley floor. There is a sixteen mile loop, and we drove that, stopping to take pictures. We didn't do any hiking. I'm sure if we had been up on the valley rim it would have been fairly awesome to look down on the floor and look out at the Sierras. Third, there were already people there, on a late Thursday afternoon in April.  If it's that busy now, I can't even imagine what it will be like in the summer.  Add people, noise, and garbage to the heat of summer and you can assume I will not be there.Lastly, I'm no rock climber. I look at El Capitan, Half Dome, the Cathedral Spires, and the Royal Arches and just see rock (obviously, from my previous statements). I'm sure if you are into hanging off of cliff faces for days at a time while climbing, this would be mecca. Maybe the kid from Renton was into free climbing, and that's why he liked Half Dome so much.

So, in summary, I'm glad I went now, in April, while the park was somewhat still green.  It was a good way to spend an afternoon and evening, and it checked a park off my to-do list. More importantly, now I don't have to go back when the hordes are there.

I got some knitting done in the car and the plane, but that will have to wait for a knitting post.

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