San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I caravanned with my Lazy Daze buddy, Joan, to Devils Postpile National Monument, via a route that took us through Yosemite National Park then up and over Tioga Pass to the "other side." These two parks are nature's masterpieces, and I am eternally grateful that these treasures have been set aside for the world to savor.
These were taken on a hazy day, with a Sierra storm brewing in the East.

Having previously enjoyed Yosemite at least a dozen times in all seasons EXCEPT Summer, visiting in mid-July was a real eye-opener. Although crowded with shoulder-to-shoulder tourists from the world over, I have not yet been inflicted with the cynicism virus! This crown jewel still takes my breath away.
Mountain Pride Penstemon is pollinated by hummingbirds and acted as a pink "fog line" all along the Tioga Pass road.
We reached the East side of Tioga Pass just before sunset. The storm had dumped some hail and slush at the summit, but oh my, it's definitely the clouds that made this sunset a phenomenal sight for weary travelers.
Devils Postpile National Monument has been on my bucket list for many years but prior attempts to explore the area had been met with roads that had not yet been cleared of snow. In July!

Access is by driving down (then up) a steep, winding, single track road with blind curves and only occasional wide spots where a Volkswagen might be comfortable pulling over; this same road is shared with mandatory shuttle buses that depart from Mammoth Ski Area at the top of the mountain. Definitely an "E Ticket" ride in a motorhome! At least it was paved and had been cleared of snow!

And, sometimes forced to stop and pull over to let uphill traffic pass, I could get some shots of the sensational Minarets without driving off the cliff!
Our campsites on the banks of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River yielded lots of photo opps. Fungii...
...Phlox -- could be Prairie Phlox. Although certainly not found on a prairie, this delicate species can also be found at higher elevations (5,000' +)
Not until you look closely at this riverside bush do you notice the tiny reddish-brown flowers. At a distance, you might even think the bush was infested with little, brown insects.
Not so. A closer look revealed tiny twinned flowers, sweet and unusual.
As graceful as they are, yours truly does not usually ooooh and aaaah over these Disneyfied rodents-with-hooves. But, when they are browsing peacefully in a wild habitat such as this, I'll admit they're a pretty sight.
Have you ever seen the San Joaquin River in such elegant surroundings?
Our ranger-led hike eventually led us to this fascinating, geologic formation...
... symmetrical, columnar basalt "postpiles," some reaching over 60 feet high.
They look like vertically-stacked fence posts...a pile of fence posts!
Mostly-hexagonal columns formed as the basalt slowly cooled, but because cooling times did vary, some columns are five-sided, others four-, seven- or three-sided. The joints were formed when the columns contracted during the cooling process.
This unusual formation was almost blasted into oblivion to make way for a hydroelectric project on the San Joaquin River. President William Howard Taft to the rescue! The park was established in 1911.
These cheery Seep-Spring Monkeyflowers can be found in? Yup! You guessed it: seeps, springs and bogs!
Along the trail to the postpiles, we passed this meadow carpeted with Jeffrey (or Alpine) Shooting Stars. Jeffreys have distinctive linear leaves and are found in open damp meadows, whereas Henderson Shooting Stars have rounder leaves and are found in drier habitats at lower elevations.

I love this tree, warts and all!
So placid in the early breezeless morning, this lakelet left me with such a peaceful feeling as we exited this unique monument.