Monday, August 16, 2010

Friday...SJSU here we come!

To make up for the clear skies (no weather), we focused on hydro on this last part of the trip. Namely, discussing the streamflow off the eastern Sierra, Lake Tahoe's drainage, Mono Lake, snowpack etc. We also discussed potential impacts on the region from climate change.

To set the mood, we did a short detour to see Mono Lake, remembering that many of the students haven't visited the eastern Sierra. And then up and over Tioga Pass {though Yosemite}. Along the way, we stopped to look at the sharp terrain, and talk about the Washoe Zephyr wind of the eastern slope. Lunch in Tuolomne Meadows, and a mandatory walk down to the river to take our shoes off and wade in. Masses of lupines in blossom! We also stopped to see some mountaineering fools climbing up some rocks, and also for a fast peek at Half Dome. After which, full speed ahead for home!

Got back to SJSU at 6:30 pm - not bad at all!

Come back later to see photos!

Thursday: looong drive

Thursday = splitsville. Sad to leave, but also all looking forward to being home.

We needed to turn in the helium tanks, which delayed blast off 'till 8:45, but that's not bad!!! Last year, the Flagstaff-Bishop drive seemed to take forever, so this year we pushed. Which included no stops at funky middle-of-the-desert restaurants! Skies were 100% clear, so there was no real weather to distract us, but we did need to stop in Needles again to see how hot it was and gas up. The gal at the gas station claimed it was 130 a couple weeks ago. As if.

In the spirit of not stopping long for lunch, we decided a fast trip to the golden arches in Bartow was in order. Well - who knew Barstow is on the main Vegas-LA route? If only I'd looked at the map closer. Anyway, turns out the McD's there is pretty cavernous - perfect for the multiple long lines inside: so much for a fast lunch stop. But we ate fast and pushed on.

The Barstow-Lone Pine segment wasn't as grueling as I recall from last year, and this year, we found it necessary to actually stop along the way at the "best jerky in town" hole in the wall (last year we flashed by). Which is how I got to taste jerky for the first time in my life! See - I had always thought of jerky as chunks and strips of some meat left out in the sun to dry, i.e., weird and nasty. Turns out - I was right!!!! Vile and disgusting. So - that's crossed off my bucket list!

With a weird taste in my mouth, we found ourselves now in that truly awesomely beautiful country that is the northern half of the Owens Valley, and in the van I was in, we had a great guide in Craig Clements who has hiked and fished this area extensively. Finally rolled into Bishop around had the drive at 9+ hours non-stop, and we did it in that time with stops :-)

After dinner, and failed efforts to connect to the hotel wireless {probably one of those hotels where you get free wifi provided you are near the office!} BTW, this town is such a fishing magnet that the hotel offered: (a) a freezer in which to store your catch; and (b) a location at which to clean your fish! The freezer was fairly ancient looking, and I half expected to find body parts in there just like in the movies. And as for the fish was right next to the pool, which...

11 pm found most of us on a dirt track off the road west out of town going up to the mountains. Reason? Annual Perseids meteor shower! We had a fabulous view with zero clouds and zero moon, and saw some pretty decent shooting stars. None really amazing, but I'm glad we looked! We barely made it 'till 12, given the long day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Random bits and pieces (will be updated as stuff happens)

Here are some things noted along the way that didn't make it into the blogs.

(1) Arizona TV blanketed with political attack ads. I, for one, will not miss them. I have seen too much of:
(i) John McCain's attack ads on J.D. Hayworth
(ii) J.D. Hayworth's attack ads on McCain
(iii) Ben Quayle's attack ads on President Obama (Ben = son of Dan Quayle)
(iv) "Vote for me" ads by Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County in southern AZ. Thing is, the vote is in 2012!!!

(2) Tourism update: lots of french language heard at GCNP. At the route 66 cafe (see earlier blog), we encountered a group of bikers from Germany. We were amused to watch them knocking back beers, and then climbing into rain suits before heading out in heavy rain. Also met some people from Santander in northern Spain.

(3) Flagstaff. A bit Santa Cruz-ish. A bit Boulder-ish. Both of which are good, but there's also a lot of strange folk wandering around! Including those people who like to walk across a crosswalk in the middle of traffic. Is it OK to hit them in that case?

Wednesday: balloon-a-thon!

Various plans were floated for today - our last day in-country. We settled on this: one group of volunteers (really!!!) left at zero-dark-thirty (4:30 am), went out to the RAWS-1 site, did a sunrise balloon-radiosonde release, and more soundings every hour thereafter. Purpose? Study the evolution of the lower atmosphere as the sun comes up and begins the daily heating cycle. Astonishingly, all four soundings worked!!! The rest slept in (me included).

And then at 3:45 pm, the rest of the team went back out there to do basically the same BUT in order to study the evening decay of the heated boundary layer (and bring RAWS-1 home). As I write this, they are still out there...stay tuned!

Myself, I have been catching up on emails and lecture note prep for school, as well as gassing up the van etc. All in preparation for departure tomorrow. Also, a number of us were spotted at/in/around the pool, studying clouds (hee!)

Tuesday: Instruments and the Grand Canyon!

What a day! We set off at 9:30 and headed NW for the ski area in order to recover RAWS-2 and its data. This allowed the rest of the gang to admire our handiwork, i.e., the placement of the instrument suite in the middle of ski slope away from etc. PLUS the fact that it worked (i.e., the students wired it up correctly). PLUS we got some good data! Serious thoughts of coming back here next year...

Here is RAWS-2.

Then we headed further NW to examine RAWS-1. This too looked good. The students huddled, and decided they wanted more data (nice!), so we decided to leave it there (see Wednesday's post to explain its recapture).

Here is RAWS-1.

And then we continued heading NW towards the Grand Canyon (GCNP). Given that most of the students had not seen it, it would have been pretty crummy not to have gone. Turns out - we hit weather! A bit of a surprise since all/almost all of the monsoonal moisture has moved east.

We split into two groups: the hikers, and the shoppers. I was the shopping leader, meaning that our group wanted time to look at the gift shop(s). One the way into the park, we ate lunch in a cafe sporting this sign (gulp!)

Having gotten into the park (which took about 20 minutes in a long line), a gasp from the students when they caught their first sight of the Grand Canyon - nice! We all got our tee-shirts, and are happier for it! We then drove along the south rim, stopping at every possible turnout and taking pictures (some are posted in one of the photo blogs). At one point, we found ourselves under a decent rain shower (from which we soon heard thunder). Heavy rain! Fat rain drops on the window! There were actually several cells forming over the area north of I-40 and west of US-180, precisely where we were! All us wanna-be Ansel Adams types pulled over a mile further east to photograph the cell over the canyon (see photo posts).

And then we pushed east to meet up with the hiker group, who reported that they had hiked down at Grandview about 1000' (i.e., about 1/5 the way down, as the crow flies). Still awaiting pictures to prove it. We left the park, drove east on US-64 and south on US-89. Along the way we had magnificent views of the desert (zero trees to obstruct views). We also ran through some pretty good cells with heavy rains. And a rainbow!

And finally in the evening, another student-led weather discussion and forecast. Here we are getting ready (the hotel usually sets us up with tables and chairs, but not tonight).

Photo Gallery 4: Clouds!

Pileus (above the developing Cu) ->

Cb ->

Fair weather Cu ->

Rainbow over the desert ->

Photo Gallery 3: Shower over the Grand Canyon


And a bit later...

and note that you can see the (muddy) river!