Peregrine flight

Monday, September 25, 2023

Northern Venture

I have just returned from an excursion that was fruitless financially but certainly had its aesthetic and spiritual rewards. Unfortunately, they don't pay the mortgage. Ultimately I drove about twelve hundred miles back and forth to Reno, Nevada. I think a short backstory is in order.

A very nice client sold me a couple pieces of navajo jewelry a year and a half ago. She told me at that time that she believed that her cousin owned a valuable piece of Mexican artwork by the most prominent Mexican muralist of his day. 

She asked me at that time if I would be willing to travel to Carson City, Nevada to look at the artwork. I said "Sure, why not?" About a month ago she asked me if I was still game. I try to keep my word and said that I would, it would give me a chance to visit the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake again.

She sent me a picture of the artwork, very similar to a series of pieces the artist produced between 1935 and 1941. It looked promising but it was a very bad photograph.

I took off Tuesday, checked into the Motel 6 in Mammoth and then drove to Mono Lake to try to catch a sunset that never really fired.  

Stopped at the Copper Top barbecue in Big Pine on the way. 

Quality has gone down, prices way up. Probably won't do that again.

Sky was cloudy, a few patches of snow still remained on the peaks from last winter.

I enjoyed watching a pair of ospreys flying to their nest that sat on a far off tufa.

I went home and went to bed, forgoing dinner as Leslie had packed me a really nice bag of food for the trip and preferred to just snack on an apple. I was pretty exhausted.

It doesn't really bother me to miss a shot some place if I have snapped great pictures there in the past. I have some lovely shots of Mono Lake taken when the light was right.

The good old intermittent reward. It means that failure is a constant part of the game. Somebody on Next Door asked me how I got so many great shots the other day. My pat answer, long periods of waiting and getting absolutely nothing. It is the truth. You take what the universe doles out and sometimes the pickings are quite slim.

Got up at 4:45 in the morning and made my way back to the lake for the 6:45 sunrise. Thought it would be packed with photographers, I was actually alone for two hours. The obsessive one. 

Still not great light but did what I could.

I was happy to be there. I didn't have to take a shot. The air, the beauty, the calm, it was just what I needed. In fact the two greatest shots of my trip I was happy to just see and take in, never even bothered to grab the camera. One was a big buck standing there looking magnificent.

No tricks, no color or saturation added, just nature. Which is enough.

Sun finally did choose to come up. It does so every day with regularity but sometimes I'm not so sure...

Not the epic day I had hoped for photographically but I will still take it.

One of the curiosities for me was seeing these birds. 
They were orange red in color. Four or five experienced birders came by and no one had seen them before. 

A woman from Wyoming got her book out and the closest thing she could come up with were yellow headed blackbirds.

I texted Beth and Ken W. and they said the same. Well, Beth asked P.J. who is an authority too.
The weird thing is that I have photographed a lot of yellow headed blackbirds and they were 70% smaller and yellow. These guys were scarlet orange.

There is a scarlet headed blackbird in South America that look a lot like these guys. But my pro friends were emphatic that they would not migrate. I guess I'm not so sure. Could they be a hybrid species? 

I am not in these birder's league by any means but these birds intrigue me. But what do I know?

I left Mono and headed up to Bridgeport and Walker on my way to Nevada. 

395 was in tandem with the Walker River and I had never gone north of Walker before. 

Curiously the 395 was now called South and we were headed due north and the inverse was true on my return. 


It was pretty enough and I liked being on a road I had never traveled before. Drove by the pretty Topaz Lake.

Ken had told me that he was worried for me taking this trip, somewhat tongue in cheek, he said that they didn't cotton to well to my liberal politics up there. 

I asked him they they would be able to tell, not like they have jewdar, right and there was no coexist sticker on my car?

But I did see a lot of MAGA signs including one big one that said Audit all 50 states, Trump won, Trump 2024. I tried to heed the warning and kept my political conversations to a minimum.

I drove through Gardnerville, stopping at a really good antique mall to kill some time. Really nice rugs, with Mark Sublette labels, quite expensive. Quite curious. Excellent indian baskets too. Didn't buy anything but was amazed at the quality compared to what I normally see in California.

I was still early for my appointment and went to the Nevada State Museum to kill some time. 

The Washo basket collection was by appointment only but I watched some great Paiute and Washo videos of folk tales in the native exhibit. 

I saw some great silver and a skull of the extinct North American cheetah.

They thrived on pronghorn until they were lost to the continent and sands of time.

I met the two sisters and their cousin at their home. 

They could not have been nicer.

But it took me less than three seconds to see that the Diego Rivera original was actually an offset litho print.

Family lore being what it was, they had assumed that a late aunt had the real thing. 

A simple look with a magnifier would have shown them the underlying lithographic dot matrix.

But they didn't know and I can't blame them. 

It got me out of the house and on to a new road and if I had more forethought I would have asked for better images.

Win some and lose some. Intermittent rewards. You can't win them all or it wouldn't be any fun.

I had this epiphany recently; as you trudge through the banality of existence, check yourself, some day you may look back at these mundane times as your glory days, the best days of our lives, things as we know, can always get much worse. You just don't appreciate how good you have it until the worm turns a time or two.

The ladies graciously offered to put me up for free at the Marriott, I declined and took a spare bedroom. Fun, good people, had to steer clear of one conversation about the evil Dr. Fauci and we were good to go.

Afterwards I drove up to Reno to see a client that i had never met in the flesh and look at his collection.

I returned to the three ladies in Carson City. We went out to dinner in Dayton, they asked me if I wanted to see one or three of the local bordellos, the Bunny Ranch, I declined. I was hoping to see wild mustangs that evening, which are rampant in the area but had no luck.

I had chili verde, which was great but when I asked for flour tortillas in Spanish and got a strange look. Don't think anybody spoke Spanish in this Mexican restaurant, come to think of it.

I left the next morning at 6:30. passed through the neon lit Capitol and the myriad of casinos.

I then saw the prettiest thing I saw on the trip, the morning mist rising off the river to the east. 

Was it the Carson or the Truckee? 

I don't know. I passed a big sign that said Carson Valley - Rugged, Relaxed and Reachable

I can't argue with rugged and relaxed but is reachable really a suitable advertisement? I thought, why aim high, settle for Carson Valley, it is within your reach, you know. Know your place. And then there's the rugged thing...

I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of my trip.  All thoughts of business and commerce were now officially out the window. I had met a Mescalero Apache and his girlfriend at Mono on Thursday who told me I should photograph a Saturday Pow Wow in Bishop. Or I could go through the Tioga Pass and visit Yosemite.

I decided on the latter option. 

Caught some  lovely geothermal vents or hot springs on the side of the road north of Bridgeport about five miles.

Then another three stops at different places at Mono Lake I had never visited before.

Too late for decent photos but saw some nice birds and flowers and enjoyed the morning thoroughly.  

Yellow rump warblers and morning glory butterflies. 

Saw a deer and her fawn at Mono Lake Park. 

So nice to be out in clean air and nature!

Coincidentally, Mick and RoxAnn's son Tim summited Mt. Whitney yesterday.

Sad to see how much water Los Angeles sucked out of the lake before they put an end to it.

I drove through Lee Vining and then headed over the beautiful pass.

Such a lovely and restorative drive. 

Quite good for the soul.

Lovely clear mountain lakes and hardly any people. Perfect.

I drove through Tuolemne and past Olmstead and saw young heroes with shoulders burdened with carabiners and chocks getting ready to attack the stone walls.

Unfortunately, there were no clouds and a bit of the Bay Area smoke had filtered down to the area, making it less than optimal for photography.

I got to the Yosemite Valley and it was a freaking zoo. Second time in a row I hardly got out of my car. I am so glad that I have been there when there were no people, you have to give it at least another month.

I am not sure why I headed up to Glacier Point but I did. Well, I know why, but it is a little personal. That is where I got the news my father had passed in nearby Clovis, in 2015. I have always associated Half Dome with my father, who was a dependable rock of stability in my life. And I would go up there after visiting him at the Alzheimers home.

But now it is ridiculous. 

Hour long waits of cars snaking down the mountain trying to get a parking space. Horrific.

But I did it.

And the view still knocks me out!

Hey Pop.

I left Yosemite, vowing to return when I could once again have it more to myself. 

I drove to Fresno and spent the night at my stepmothers and got to visit with my stepbrother and sister.

We went out for an Armenian meal and one of my favorite people in the world happened to be at the restaurant with his wife and friends, Bert Levy. 

What are the odds? 

The only other people in the joint.

I had breakfast with Bert the next day and then hit the road.

A semi went off the road at Pyramid Lake and it took about an hour and a half to get to the Templin Highway.

A guy drove by me on the 71 on a motorcycle at 100mph plus an hour. His sweatshirt read Assholes live forever. I thought, "You'll find out soon enough, bro."

I made it home, no worse for wear. 

Didn't cost all that much to make the trip and got some hikes in and a few snapshots, saw family and friends, I will write the weekend off as a cheap vacation.


Blue Heron said...

One of your best bits of writing, "Traveling with Robert" so much to see and talk about in such a short time.


Blue Heron said...

Thanks for the wonderful photos, taking me up the road to Yosemite and back, and for the lovely holiday music. Happy New Year!


Blue Heron said...

GREAT PHOTOS of a wonderful break-away trip !!! Thanks for re-sending your blog, old friend.
Takes me back 52 years when, after a backpacking trip with my buddies, I rushed home , gathered up tents, Joy and the four kids and headed
Back to 9,000 ft to show them the magnificent wildflowers. Patrick was a baby and Joy was breast feeding while freezing in the crappy little war surplus tent but the Sierras were Magnificent- as you and I know full well.
You have developed a superb talent with your photography-
Keep it up and keep sharing your passionate enjoyment of Life-
All The Best, Amigo