MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Potato-Weed and Lassen Volcanic National Park

Fall is coming. Our dear Uncle-Sun is taking longer and longer days to get out of the bed, nowadays. So, days are getting shorter. Early morning and evenings are becoming chilly. Days are also cooler with light breeze and softer sun. Leaves are slowly changing color or dropping down one after another. Another year is getting ready to be over soon, dragging me along, by inch, towards my grave. Life is too short. So, I immerse myself to discover its mysteries, enjoy its beauty and witness its cruelty. I witnessed the ladybird slowly eating away the live aphid. I dug up few potato-plants to discover how potatoes grow. I know they grow underground!! but, I needed to decipher all the codes that potato-growers use about growing large potatoes -- grown them in hill, grow them in tunnel, mound them up so that only one leaves poke out of the soil and so on.

Roots like this grow out from the portion of the stem that is underground. This root (or is this a stem or a shoot, I still don't know) spread across in all directions. Tiny potatoes form along this root as you see in the second picture. These tiny potatoes grow into larger ones. I harvested about 10 pound of potato from a 2 feet by 5 inches area. Potatoes have become like weeds in our garden. In 2012, I planted a few potatoes. While harvesting them, I must have had missed some. So, we have a whole 10 feet by 10 feet area full of potato plants. Besides, we have about ten big pots growing potatoes and another about 4 feet by 3 feet of area growing potatoes. I am sure I will miss some while harvesting and those will then become weed, but very nice weed, next year :-).

The potato-plants thought of creating some sculpture. What do they look like to you? To me, it seems mother-duck flapping wings with two baby-duck behind. You just have to image that deck as water. This is another 10 feet by 10 feet area that we have in our garden for growing vegetables. It has 4 different types of beans, tomatoes, basil, lavender, rosemary, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, eggplant, okra, squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, asparagus, pepper, carrot and beets. With the advent of the fall, things are being slowly harvested and plants are dying out. More tomato and cucumber got harvested

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most spectacular park that we saw in our recent vacation . The park is located in California. It is a natural laboratory of volcanic events and hydrothermal features. Its hydrothermal areas -- Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Little Hot Springs Valley, Boiling Springs Lake, Devils Kitchen and Terminal Geyser -- offer bubbling mud ponds, steaming fumaroles and boiling water. The park lies at the southern end of the Cascade Range, which is a chain of active volcanoes that stretches north to Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia. The park is famous not only for its beauty but also because of the fact that it is the only place in the world where all the four different types of volcanoes -- composite, lava-domes, cinder-cones and shields -- can be found. It also serves as an example of how Mount St. Helen might recover from its eruption in 1980. The eruption of the Lassen Peak in 1915 destroyed the whole area around it. Forests were leveled; animals disappeared; rocks and boulders, from that eruption, still lies scattered around the park. However, the scenery has completely changed -- streams are again flowing, lakes are brimming, animals and birds are back and thick forests, meadows and open grass lands have covered the area.

Diversity in plant, animal and insect lives abound in the park. It has nearly 800 species of plants. The land is also an important part of American history as Atsugewi, Maidu, Yahi and Yana Native American tribes have ancestral lands in the park. We love our national park to death. Yosemite National Park gets more than 450,000 visitors in a month. The beauty of nature gets lost among people, cars, tourist-buses, campers and bikes. Such is not the case with Lassen. Less than 450,000 visitors visit the park every year. Thus, tranquility and serenity pervades the place. Blue-sky with puffing white clouds over your head and volcanic rock and debris strewn roads or soft grasses under your feet welcomes you. The barren volcanic peaks and domes with snow or small glaciers can be seen all around. The peaks slope down to Alpine forests or wild-flower meadows. Alpine grasslands create break and openings in the forest where deers graze and curiously look at us. Clear, azure-blue lakes dot the land. Calmness is everywhere; the trees stand tall in reverence and meditation; not even a leaf stirs among them; nature is temple; mother earth is the goddess, and all her creatures, there, are praying to her in silence. The silence is broken only by the strange music created by the buzzing of an insect as it flies, a longing whistle of a bird from far afar and a school of birds suddenly taking into air on seeing us. Moss and lichens cover the trees and hung from them like garlands hanging from the neck of some beautiful women. As the web-like lichens and moss sway in the air, they create a magical show of light and shadow on the forest ground. Tiny, beautiful wild-flowers peek out from the nooks and crannies of rocks and boulders lying on the forest floor. One has to be careful while walking so as not to trample those flowers. Religious-minded people, visiting the park, would surely agree with Jean Jacques Rousseau as he celebrates the beauty of nature, "Sometimes, in the privacy of my study, with my hands pressed tight over my eyes or in the darkness of the night, I am of the opinion that there is no God. But look yonder: the rising sun, as it scatters the mists that cover the earth, and lays bare the wondrous glittering scene of nature, disperses at the same moment all cloud from my soul. I find my faith again." John Muir's description of Sierra, "Beauty beyond thought everywhere, beneath, above, made and being made forever," aptly describes Lassen National Park. Nature has and is still trying to create one of its grandest creation here. Among the peace and tranquility, one can see the destructive and dynamic work of nature.

We start our journey from Susanville, California. The up-and-down road goes through a forest of Whispering pines -- the trees seem to whisper in breeze. One can already start breathing in the fresh alpine forest and stillness. The road is really quite, hardly any cars pass by. There is nothing but such forest on both sides of the road. A town springs up with Indian trading posts and other tourists and gift shops only near the entrance to the park. The quaint visitor center with displays and a 30-minute beautiful video presentation on the history of the park.

Few of the many lakes that are scattered around the park. Many of these lakes are results of volcanic activities. One of the lake, Hat lake, will eventually turn into a forest because it is getting filled up with the volcanic debris that are falling into the lake from higher altitudes. As the lake gets filled up, plants will take hold of the place eventually becoming a forest. Such active processes can be experienced first hand in this park.

Clear sparkling lake and valleys

A path through one of the forest. The winding roads through the park. The GPS is showing only a little portion, but the road really winds and climbs up. There is no rail-guard by the sides of the road, and the roads are very narrow. So, one fatal mistake and you will plunge into the valley several thousands feet below. It climbs up to about 11,000 feet. Mind-blowing vistas and panoramic views open up as one climbs up. Pines with big cones, sages, deep red Indian paint-brush flowers, tall grasses and other colorful flowers can be seen by the side of the road. Information about amphibians found in the lake can be seen in the third picture.

Bright yellow sulfur deposited along the fumaroles. Stench of hydrogen sulphide or rotten egg is present (I love the smell though most people do not like it). Hissing gas and scalding steams come out of these fumaroles. They are highly acidic. You will be completely burned if you plunged into it. That's why no trees or plants grow around these fumaroles. People do have accidents there, especially if they do not pay attention to the notices and get closer to the fumaroles to take pictures. These are very dynamic objects -- sometimes they can suddenly grow larger in size and destroy everything around it.

Acid and mineral rich geo-thermal water sipping out from underground. A boiling mud-pond in the third picture.

Close-ups of the boiling mud-ponds and the gas-vapor escaping from it. A really magnificent sight to behold and wonder about all the heat and melting and underground rivers that's happening and flowing, under our feet, everywhere around the world but we are not even aware of it.

Many of these boulders were spewn out by the volcano; some of them were brought to their current position by the lava and other windy forces that are part of volcanic eruption. Do you see the snow on top of mountain in the second picture? The area gets huge amount of snow during winter. The valley floor can get at least 40 feet of snow. We found snow by the side of the road even in July!! The barren peak after the 1915 eruption but notice already the forest on the right side and other trees growing up here and there. That's what will happen to the Mount St. Helen area in a hundred-years time.

Bumpass Hell is named after Mr. Bumpass (Man! he must have been teased to death, for his last name, while growing up :-P). It is the largest area of fumaroles, hissing vents, boiling ponds, and foul-smelling gas coming out from undergrounds. Mr. Bumpass, at the end of nineteenth-century, used to take tourists around the area. One day, while showing the area to a husband-wife team, he was lecturing them to be careful and not move around as the area was dangerous. But amidst all his lecturing, he himself forgot the safety precautions and fell into these boiling ponds. He was seriously injured. You can not only get injured but also die because extremely high temperature, highest fumarole temperature recorded anywhere in earth, can be found in those fumaroles. the Bumpass Hell as seen from far away. Do you see all the precautionary rail-guards and the path installed in the area now so that tourists can see these geological wonder from safety.

All the various geological features in Bumpass Hell. The area is absolutely spectacular because of the bright yellow, blue, green, etc color due to all the minerals and acid brought up from underground.

All the sights and scenes, all the geological features in and around Bumpass Hell. A squirrel that lives in the forest on the edge of the Bumpass Hell.

Another lake with some historical facts. The clear water with some ripples on it. It's strange that we never saw any fish or tadpoles in the clear water. May be they are there in the much deeper portion of the lake. The water and weather was very chilly even at noon because of the high altitude. Though there were bees and strange-sounding insects but I don't remember seeing any butterfly or dragon-fly.

One has to hike through the forest to reach this cold-boiling pond. Though the pond is boiling but it is cold. The hiking was going up but not a very steep hike. Still, at 11,000 feet with thinner air, hiking is really tiring. Hiking just 1 mile seems like hiking 10 miles!!

Close-up of the cold-boiling lake. Is this not strange that a pond is boiling but it is very cold. It's boiling because of all the various underground gas that's escaping from it. Another lake. Photographs do not do justice but I am trying to show all the lake-picture because each lake there has a different characteristics. Some are surrounded by deep forest; others are surrounded by volcanic peaks; some are easily accessible; others are difficult to get to; some had greenish water; others had deep azure-blue water; some had beach; others had nothing but jutting rocks and boulders as shores. You can see a lake far-away in the third picture.

Snow still accumulated, in the end of July, by the side of the road. Green lichens and moss as seen on trees. A forest there destroyed by fire.

Various wild-flowers in the park.

As I have mentioned before that photographs do not do justice to the beauties of nature. Still we tried to capture it through our lenses. Click on each picture to see a larger version.