Yosemite National Park – March 1, 2012 & Mono Lake – March 3, 2012 & Indian Petroglyphs – March 4, 2012

The magical rainbow was definitely short lived; however, I will never forget it arching clear across Yosemite Valley… Now waiting for sunset…  By the time the sun dipped behind the mountains the entire valley was engulfed with low clouds…  Once it was obvious that there wasn’t going to be any magical light, I packed up my gear and headed for the jeep… Eager to get another glimpse at the rainbow, I quickly fired up my laptop and began processing!

 

 

 

So now the big decision is do I stay in Yosemite Valley for the night and hope for a decent sunrise or do I begin an 8.5 hour drive to Southern CA then north on 395 in order to get to Mono Lake and the beautiful Eastern Sierras?  I decide to take a short “nap” in the jeep and wait for sunrise in Yosemite Valley…  I am about 1 hour into my nap when all of the sudden there is pounding on my side window and three tactical flashlights are blazing into the jeep…  The jeep was surrounded by 3 Yosemite National Park police… I guess I shouldn’t have been taking a nap in that particular area…  The nice gentlemen with the tactical flashlights, may have ruined my vision permanently, are running my driver’s license to see if I am wanted on any “weapons or drug” charges…  I tried to explain to the park police that I was only taking a quick nap so I could get up and shoot star trails…  I guess it is tough to comprehend…  Anyway, they told me I needed to head to Camp 4 to continue my nap.

 

 

Looking on the bright side, the ranger told me there weren’t any outstanding warrants for my arrest on weapons possession or drug charges :)

 

I arrive at Camp 4, it’s about 130 am and the skies are clear. After assessing my options and regaining my vision, I decide to forego sunrise in Yosemite Valley…  All of the mountain passes through the Northern Sierras are closed except I-80, which will entail a lot of backtracking so I decide to head to SOCAL…  As I am looking at some maps to figure out the best route another knock on my window, yup it’s the park police again (less the tactical flashlight for now)… Same group of police…  Now this is bordering on harassment…

 

Park Police:  “Is everything alright sir”…

 

and once again the flashlight is shining into the jeep!

 

My Response: “Yes Officer (no need for the flashlight) nothing has changed in the past 3 minutes since you last checked on me… I am just figuring out my best route to get to the Eastern Sierras”…

 

Park Police: “Route 89”

 

My Response: With a sarcastic laughing I respond, “Thanks for the information”…  Guess he didn’t realize that Route 89 is closed!

 

 

Anyway, long uneventful 8 drive and I am finally in the midst of the beautiful Eastern Sierras… Since I am in the area of the Indian Petroglyph that I had desperately searched for 6 hours (approx. 8 or so miles of hiking) two weeks prior with no luck, I decide to give it another shot… I already combed a decent portion of the area so it shouldn’t be as difficult?  Wrong, I spent another 5 hours hiking all over the volcanic rock with not a hint of luck… If I ever find this particular petroglyph it is going to be well worth the time and effort…

 

March 3, 2012 – Mono Lake – Sleepless Night #1

 

After being snubbed yet again in search of the Indian Petroglyph, I am off to Mono Lake to attempt some star trails… The skies are crystal clear, perfect for star shooting and perfect for temperatures to drop like a stone (another Eric Ballatore coined phrase)…  It is so cold that all of my water bottles had frozen solid within 2 hours of shooting! Complete darkness was going to be from moonset at around 3 am through sunrise approximately 530 am…  I had 2-3 hours to get the shot I wanted…  Never happened…  The slight wind across the lake sort of ruined the star reflection…  No sleep and nothing to show for it, I keep telling myself, “If it were easy everyone would be doing it”…  I pack up my gear, my frozen water, and decide to make another attempt at the “Indian Petroglyph”…

 

The Indian Petroglyph Misinformation Campaign

 

So I have spent nearly 11 hours, two separate trips to the Eastern Sierra, hiking approximately 15 miles in search of this particular petroglyph…  Trust me, I am all for the adventure and the satisfaction of finding it myself; however, being “snubbed” a third time would be terrible…  There is little information regarding the petroglyph (for good reason)… My initial plan was to use photos of the petroglyph to use as a frame of reference to see if I could match the background… Easier said than done, the scale of the Eastern Sierras is so large that eventually every rock looks like it should be home to the petroglyph…  This plan failed miserably twice, time for a new plan…

 

Knowing full well that locals will probably not even acknowledge my questions, I decide to try anyway…  I go into a total of five places of business (3 outdoor sports stores, a camera shop, and a gas station)…

 

 

1. Gas Station: “Sorry I have no idea what you are talking about” (then I smile, laugh and point to the post card of the Petroglyph on the counter!)

 

 

2. Camera Shop: “I am unfamiliar with the petroglyphs” (not a good liar at all!)

 

 

3.  1st Outdoor Sports Store: “I know the petroglyph you are referring too; however, I can’t help you” (finally at least some honestly!)

 

 

4. 2nd Outdoor Sports Store: “We have maps of the areas if you need one?” (Great salesman, but I highly doubt if a protected cultural site dated back some 5000 years would be shown on an $8 map)

 

 

5. 3rd Outdoor Sports Store: “Yeah you know what, my friends took me out to that petroglyph last year, but I am not exactly sure I know where it is, but let me bring up a map”…  (OK, now we might be onto something)

 

 

After a few minutes of studying the map, he says, “I think it might be in this general vicinity”…  It’s worth I shot, I hadn’t look it that particular area…  I realize he could be giving me the run-around; however, the vicinity that he directed me to has a particular characteristic that I had read about online…

 

So after filtering out all the misinformation and putting together some facts I have read about the area online with the help of the fine gentleman in the “3rd Outdoor Sports Store” I have arrive at a plan and an area of interest!

 

Since I don’t want to spoil the adventure for anyone I will keep the details to myself :)

 

I drive, park, and begin to hike…  I pull out my GPS and bring up the tracks that I have hiked the past two times…  Amazingly, I have crisscrossed this area a few times without any luck…  I decide to climb up to a high point to get a better view…  OMG, there it is, directly below me!  Somewhat relieved, I am speechless and motionless as the petroglyph even seems to “glow” during the bright daytime sky… This particular petroglyph points directly to the sky and is enormous (25 ft x 35 ft)?  After studying the magnificent precision and detail that each petroglyph possesses you begin to wonder, what do they mean?  Was someone trying to describe an event?  Or maybe this rock was just a permanent etch-a-sketch where someone was just doodling?  The precision was absolutely amazing; animals, shapes, patterns, all graced the rock that pointed to the heavens…

 

 

 

 

As a photographer, the ideal situation would be a few high clouds resting over the Eastern Sierras leading to a beautiful sunset and alpine glow followed by a crystal clear night…  I understand full well, that this is way too much to ask for and I would settle for one or the other…    No clouds, so sunset was less than spectacular…

 

 

March 4, 2012 – Indian Petroglyph – Sleepless Night #2

 

 

It was clear and beginning to get cold…  The moon was high in the sky and nearly full…  Similar to the night before, I was going to only have a few hours (~2.5 – 3) of complete darkness beginning around 3 am…  It was going to be another cold, sleepless night; however, there was something magical about being along on the petroglyph rock at night that kept me going…

 

So I point my tripod and camera in the northerly direction, as I knew exactly the shot I wanted…  I wanted the petroglyph in the foreground with startrails in the background…  I used a wide angle zoom at 17mm in order to capture a great deal of the foreground and the night sky…  I shot a few high ISO shots to make sure I had the correct framing… I figured I wanted to shoot about fifteen 5-minute exposures with a 30 second break in between each exposure… Then I was going to light the foreground with a lantern, equipped with an orange gel in order to make the scene a bit spooky…  Here is the result…

 

 

This particular experience was truly like none other…  I can only hope that this particular petroglyph remains somewhat of a secret in order to preserve its beauty for others to experience…  So many other petroglyphs in this area as well as other around the country have been vandalized, which is truly a shame…

 

Happy Hunting!

 

(Now the 8 hour drive home, which included two impromptu naps at rest stops on 395 N and I-80 W)…

 

Can’t wait to get some sleep!

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