One Tree Hill

Today’s Tuesday Photo Challenge prompt by Frank is Hills.  This is a topic near and dear to my heart.

Readers of my blog by now must be familiar with the featured image of my home page. It is a photo of Dana Peak (13000 ft) in the high Sierras taken by me in September of 2014 hiking down Gaylor Peak (11000 ft).  But I am not going to talk about it today.MtDana_1.jpg

My current residence is in a valley (Almaden Valley) inside a valley (Santa Clara Valley / Silicon Valley). As such we are surrounded by hills.  Mount Umunhum (3300 ft) to our west hovers over us and can be viewed from our front and back yard.  But I am not going to talk about it today.MtUm1The white cube seen on top of Mount Umunhum was a radar station in the air force base that was closed nearly forty years ago.  During its heyday it used to keep tab on all flights coming in from the east over the Pacific Ocean. The radar station is still off limits to public due to asbestos hazards, but Mount Um was opened to the public in fall of 2017.  It’s a gorgeous hike up there and on clear days one can see past San Francisco to Mt Tamalpais ( about 75 miles north) to the north and Monterey to the south and whole of Silicon Valley to the east.
MtUm2Mount Umunhum as seen from my back yard.

Now that I have gotten these out of my way, let me come back to the main topic of today.  Near our house is a small hillock (or a knoll ) hardly a couple of hundred feet tall.  The landscape changes with the season.  It is verdant in winter, slowly turning to golden brown with advent of spring.  On top of the hill there are three oak trees.  Looking from the bottom, only one oak tree is seen at a time.  I think that’s where it got its name, One Tree Hill.  Generations of kids have grown up swinging on homemade swings attached to its branches.  Many graduating high school seniors use the plateau on top with the oak tree as a background for their high school graduating yearbook photos. I use the hike up the hill as my excuse for exercise but mainly to let my dog Skooby run around freely on the few soccer field size flat top.  He enjoys the freedom, absolute lack of traffic and gallops, canters or sprints as he feels like.  It’s pure joy to see him enjoying the freedom.
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OakTree1Oak2     Alas, as spring comes the hills will slowly turn golden brown.
This enchanting hill can become dangerous fire hazard if some idiots drop their cigarette butts on those golden brown grass as can be seen from a photo taken couple of years back.
Thank God (and quick responding fire fighters) that no one was harmed and no property was damaged.

Yesterday it rained here, just sparingly.  As the news channels said, it was just teaser rain (Flirtatious Rain Clouds) , harbinger of more rains to come in the next few days.  God knows we need as much rain as we can get.  But there was a forecast of snow at higher elevations.  So come morning, I along with my best friend, Skooby, trudged up One Tree Hill.  It was a gorgeous morning, cool,crisp and clear.  And what a sight it was.  Mount Hamilton (4300 feet) to the east of us was covered with snow.  It was difficult to get a good photograph as the mountain was to my east and the sun shining bright in the morning.

I know I have gone completely overboard with this post.  But as I mentioned at the beginning of my post today, this prompt is very near and dear to my heart. I wish I could have just given you a birds eye view as seen by the falcon flying over my head today.


All photographs by the author.

 

 

 

Summer of 2017 – Part 3- To the Mountain

Continued from previous post : http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3n2

During our last hike on June 25, there was a discussion regarding the imminent opening of Tioga Pass on Hway 120 for 2017.  Tioga Pass, at an elevation of 9943 ft, remains closed to public during winter. Due to heavy snow during winter of 2016 – 2017, we were not sure when the pass would open for vehicular traffic.  We decided to keep in touch and visit at the earliest opportunity.  Fellow hiker, Rajiv , emailed on Tuesday night that the pass would open on June 28 and we should plan to go either on Thursday or Friday.  It was a short notice. I did not see the e-mail till Wednesday morning.  Quick phone calls and e-mails followed and we decided to go on Friday morning.

PART 3: June 30, 2017 : Friday: To the Mountain

As luck would have it, I had to remove one of my wisdom teeth,my first, on Thursday morning (narrated here :  http://wp.me/p73yZZ-3lD ). My wife was reluctant to let me go as I was in much pain the whole of Thursday.  Luckily the bleeding stopped late at night though I was having difficulty eating anything except liquid food. Boy, am I glad I decided to go.

Three of us were driving separately to our friend Amit’s house and from there taking his car  for the journey starting at 5:00 AM.  I decided to wake up early enough to take care of my tooth (or the open cavity ) and have some breakfast as I was famished from my liquid diet of the day before.  Though I started from home early enough for the 15 minutes drive to Amit’s house, in the dark and most probably due to lack of sleep, I took a wrong turn on the exit from the freeway.  Luckily the wrong turn led to a dead end to a small shopping complex and I realized my mistake before going on a wild goose chase. No harm done except for a few minutes of anxiety and frantic calls from my wife and Amit trying to figure out my whereabouts.  To make a long story short, we started about 20 minutes lates from our planned starting time of 5:00 AM.

Journey was uneventful.  There was not much traffic on the road to Yosemite National Park so early in the morning.  We reached our planned breakfast point near Oakdale and then realized that we were so early that very few establishments were open.  Thank God for the fast food restaurants.  We had a quick breakfast at a Burger King and proceeded towards Yosemite.  As I had to show some TLC to my lost wisdom teeth, I stuck to soft food only and had to forgo the temptations of Indian snacks.  We arrived the gates of Yosemite national Park quite early and took the left turn to HWay 120 towards Tioga Pass and arrived at Olmsted Point (8300 ft) around 9:30 Am.

Olmsted Point is visited by so many visitors every year and there are so much information available that it is an wastage of time blogging about it.  As the crowd at Olmsted Point was already sizeable and there were tour buses and tour guides busy explaining about the vistas, we decided to cross HWay 120 and hike up the mountain on the opposite side of HWay 120.

I am always amazed at the natural stone tile formation at Olmsted point.  Did humans learn about tile work from nature?
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As we started hiking up the mountain, people were thinning out.  Soon we four were the only ones left out there to enjoy the vista.  And what a vista was that.  We were rewarded with views of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Lake Tenaya and snow capped mountains of eastern Sierra.

A few  marmots were playing hide and seek and keeping company.
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Here and there were nature clinging to the bare stone faces of the mountain.  Flowers blooming at such high elevation and such barren place sang the resilience of nature.


After climbing up about 600 ft and hiking for an hour and half, we decided to call it a day as the fresh mountain air was making all of us hungry.  Lunch was calling and we still had to drive about 30 miles past Tioga Pass to Lee Vinings for our lunch.  Before the sun bore down on us with its full strength on a clear day at the mountain top, with a heavy heart we started our descent.  As we were descending, stone formations chiseled by millions of years of erosion,cold, heat, wind and water were visible all around us.

Thankful for nature’s bounty and realizing that a day trip did not do justice to our effort of a nine hours round trip drive, we started driving towards Lee Vining for lunch.  Myriads of water falls cascading down the hill side fed by molten snow filled our heart with joy but our empty stomachs were growling for food.  One last stop near half frozen Tioga lake and off to Lee Vining we drove.

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To be continued.

©All photographs in this post were taken by the author.  Readers are free to use with proper acknowledgement to the author.