About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Saturday, July 31, 2010

John Muir Ran Here

(12-15 Jul, 2010)
Actually John Muir, conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, neither ran in the mountains nor even approved of hiking. Albert Palmer in A Parable of Sauntering quoted John Muir as saying,

Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, "A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.

My mentor, John Muir, would not approve of my mindless running through our wilderness areas so on this trip, near Mammoth Lakes, CA I spent time sauntering with my wife, Cara. Sometimes I like to slow down and take time to appreciate all that nature has to offer. This post is actually out of order, as I was acclimating to the altitude by camping at 8800 ft elev. in preparation for my Tahoe 100 mile run. I’ve finally found time to write about our adventures and to share some photos.

The John Muir Wilderness is a 584,000 acre section of land near Mammoth Lakes that includes the highest point in the contiguous US, Mt Whitney. (photo above is not Whitney) The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness as being,

…recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain….an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions…

I was fortunate to spend some quality time with my wife in this special place that, thanks to John Muir, has been set aside for all to enjoy.

Devils Postpile National Monument:

Our first adventure took us to a geologic rock outcrop; one of the best examples of columnar basalt in the world. Almost every “post” or column is a hexagon and we hiked…uh… I mean sauntered to both the bottom and top of the pile to observe the shapes of the formation. (Click for geology)

Cara enjoyed the way the posts curved at one point and I was amazed at the symmetry of the tops of the columns and how smooth and polished they looked.

Following our postpile viewing, we moseyed over to Rainbow Falls, a 100 foot high waterfall that showcases a rainbow at the bottom on sunny days. On the way we enjoyed wildflowers and listening to the sound of the San Joaquin River. Upon our arrival we had a picnic lunch of bagels, cream cheese, and granola; a much more extravagant meal than what the minimalist, Muir would have traveled with. He was known to set off into the mountains for days on end with nothing more than a crust of bread tied to his belt.

 Columnar Basalt

Rainbow Falls

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest:

How old is the oldest living organism on Earth? Around 4800 years in age. The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest near Big Pine, CA sits above 10,000 ft elev. in the White Mts and contains the oldest living trees in the world. We meandered through the Schulman grove so named after the dendrochronologist, Dr Edmond Schulman who bored into the trees to count the rings.

After watching our own tree boring demonstration, we strolled through the grove and were amazed at the many different shapes of these ancient trees. Old bristlecone pines that often appear mostly dead actually have living, cone producing parts continuing to grow from them.

These trees, with their gnarled and twisted trunks, have attitude and character just like your grandmother. Just imagine; they were mere saplings when the pyramids were being constructed and some continue to grow today. We also learned that some of the dead trees have been preserved by the cold and dry air and have been dated to around 10,000 years old.

The views from high on the mountains were spectacular and we could see small glaciers near the peaks across the valley. Wildflowers were abundant and Cara spotted a pika, a rodent like animal that is actually related to the rabbit.

Wildflowers were spectacular


Lakes Saunter:

One morning we left from our campground and set off to see some of the many lakes in this region. The mosquitoes were quite bad, but we braved them anyway and enjoyed a nice uphill stroll to Skelton Lake. On our way we heard and saw a Clark’s Nutcracker who loves feeding on the pine seeds in this area. Upon our return we visited an abandoned silver mining camp near the trailhead.

Emerald Lake
Lake George
Skelton Lake
Twin Lakes

Mono Lake:

Mono Lake near Lee Vining, CA is a remnant of a much larger salt water lake. The water is so salient that you can effortlessly float on the surface. Brine shrimp and Alkali flies inhabit the lake as well as many bird species. Before we visited the lake, we sauntered to the rim of a volcanic crater, Panum crater. Obsidian or volcanic glass is the main type of rock here in the crater and we enjoyed looking at the various minerals, pumice, and lava bombs.


Lava "bombs" cool quicker on the outside.

Following our crater tour, we drove to one of the tufa areas of the lake to enjoy the sunset. Tufa towers were formed by mineral rich springs flowing into mono lake. The limestone towers look much like stalagmites in a cavern. Alkali flies by the billions can be seen on the shore of the lake and when you approach them they swarm creating a smoke like appearance.

Tufa , Mono Lake

Mammoth lakes is a great vacation spot during both summer and winter. The skiing on Mammoth Mountain is supposed to be excellent. Fishing, canoeing, camping, and sauntering are just a few of the many outdoor pursuits that can be done here in the summer. Yosemite National Park is also very close by. Our 5 days camping at high elevation helped me prepare for my successful 100 mile run in the Sierras. John Muir, please forgive me. See you on the trail.
Me, hangin' with John Muir, Yosemite, 2009
John Muir Trail is 215 miles long, begins in Yosemite and ends at Mt Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S. (14,496 ft) Don't forget to saunter.

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