Sunday, September 23, 2012

Calaveras Big Trees

Welcoming Squirrel

Calaveras Big Trees is a beautiful Park. The park is beautiful with 2 sequoia groves, the North and South. It is truly a majestic walk.
Empire State Tree
Giant Sequoias (also known as sierra redwoods) are the largest living things to ever exist on planet earth. The fossil record of redwoods date back 180 million years to the age of the dinosaurs and individual trees can live to over 3,000 years. Once widespread, there are only in 75 groves left on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to preserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove includes the "Discovery Tree", also known as the "Big Stump", the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This area has been a major tourist attraction ever since, and is considered the longest continuously operated tourist facility in California.
Known as the Empire State, this majestic old tree is now probably the largest sequoia in the North Grove, its base is 30 feet in diameter and at 48 feet above the ground it is still 16 feet in diameter. 
Granite State Tree
The Hercules Tree
The Hercules Tree was one of the largest in the grove. It was blown down in a violent windstorm in December 1861. It has been lying here for over a century
The Father of the Forest
The Father of the Forest fell long before Euro-Americans discovered this grove of sequoia. Decomposition is so slow because of the tannin in their heartwood. This tree has been lying here between 500-1,000 years. Notice the size of the people down the walk. It is a huge tree!
Bradley Grove Trail

Beaver Creek

This place is unbelievable and highly recommended.
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavor

NASA gave Space Shuttle Endeavour a “victory lap” of sorts as the space shuttle era ends with a low-flying flyover in the Bay Area on Friday morning September 21, 2012 on its way to being displayed at a museum in Los Angeles. Great experience. Fort Baker in Sausalito was jammed with people as was the Marina Green and Chrissy Field in San Francisco along with  Moffett Field in Sunnyvale and places all over the SF Bay Area..
Turns out that once the Endeavour lands in Los Angeles, the trip to the new museum there will be quite interesting. The shuttle is so big that transporting it will cause the removal of 400 trees and countless street light poles. The people of Los Angeles neighborhoods were very upset about the loss of trees but NASA said that for every tree they remove, they will replace it with 4 new ones, replace the light poles and upgrade the sidewalks. So it’s a win-win. It will get a little greener and nicer in that part of LA.
Farewell Endeavour, welcome to your new home.

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Miwok Home reproduction- u’macha’

It was fantastic to see the ancient Chaw’se, the Indian Grinding Rock village site that’s 2- 3,000+ years old. Chaw’se is the Miwok word for grinding rock – a slab of stone on which the Miwok people ground acorns and other seeds into meal, slowly forming the cup shaped depressions in the stone that can still be seen today. Along with the mortar holes, the main grinding rock within the park also features a number of decorative carvings: circles, spoked wheels, animal and human tracks, wavy lines, etc. Some of these carvings are thought to as much as two to three thousand years old and are now becoming difficult to see. This association of rock art and bedrock mortar pits is unique in California. Except for one other small site, Chaw’se has the only known occurrence of mortars intentionally decorated with petroglyphs.There are 1,185 mortar holes -- the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America.

Grinding Rock
The Miwok women would gather at the Chaw’se to grind acorns from the surrounding Valley Oaks, which were prized for their high nutritional value. However, the nuts are bitter tasting due to their tannin content. The Miwok overcame this problem by cracking the acorns and pounding the nuts in a mortar with a stone pestle. Once the meal was fine enough, water was poured through it, rinsing away the tannin. The acorn meal could then be cooked in watertight baskets over open fires.

hun’ge Roundhouse
The hun’ge is a Native American Roundhouse that has been reconstructed by the modern Miwok Indians themselves for ceremonial purposes.
Roundhouse Interior
The hun’ge, was the setting for a variety of social gatherings and ceremonial events in the old days. Ceremonies were held, for example, to pray, to mourn the dead or to observe special occasions through music and dance. In a typical village, this semi-subterranean community center was the largest building in the village and tended to be twenty to fifty feet in diameter. The Chaw’se hun’ge is sixty feet across and is one of the largest in California. Four large beams and center poles support the roof. A large hole in the center of the roof allows smoke from the fire pit to escape and also permits observation of the stars. It is used today for Native American Ceremonies.
Miwok homes ranged from eight to fifteen feet in diameter and were built of cedar poles interwoven with grapevines or willow and covered with cedar bark. A hole was left at the top for smoke from cooking or heating fires. Bark houses- u’macha’ can be seen near the grinding rock and also at the reconstructed village west of the roundhouse. This is a great historic place to see.
Highly recommended!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Black Chasm

Black Chasm Entrance

In 1976, the national Park Service designated Black Chasm Cavern as a Historic National Landmark. The Black Chasm Cavern was the inspiration behind the Zion cave in the second and third installment of the Matrix movies.

The trip down into the Black Chasm Cavern is fantastic. An unbelievably beautiful small set of under ground rooms filled with fantastic natural shapes. We went on a small tour with only four other people.

The formations are exceptionally beautiful and we were told that only 4% of caves (in the world) have this type helictite formations which were everywhere in the cavern. It's a vertical cave, not a horizontal one, so there are no bats that live there. Bats don't like caves like this one, because it goes pretty much straight down after you enter. When they fly in, their echolocation tells them it's very small, with not much roosting space so they just leave. There’s also a magnificent turquoise blue pool at the bottom of one of the caves that is spectacular.

It has some marvelous formations helictites that look like horizontal spaghetti or birds' nest remnants growing straight out of the rock. They are quite beautiful and very unusual. There are a lot of steep steps, with handrails, but you do have to be careful. It is very tempting to touch the rocks as you go under some low overhangs, but you are warned at the beginning not to do so, because they pick up oil from your hands.

The tour takes about 45 minutes and the guides are well informed as well as entertaining. All in all, The Black Cavern is a uniquely beautiful thing to see if you’re ever in the California Sierra foothills.

Helictite close up

Highly recommended!

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