Eclipse, friends and animals, oh my!
David, little Lulu and I met Franka Gabler, Terry Robinson, and Nancy Robbins at Olmstead Point to photograph during the May 20 solar eclipse. The weather was perfect, no clouds in the path of the eclipse and comfortably cool. I thought it was going to be hot, especially since the Merced River canyon was 90 degrees. Lulu is proving to be a perfect traveler. She napped in her carrier almost the entire 2 hour drive to our destination and doesn’t get sick on the winding roads.
Just outside of Midpines where 140 begins the drop down to Briceburg, a tow truck, highway patrols and another vehicle were busy at a pull out with a drop off edge. When the road turned enough I could look back and see the roof of an RV just over the sheer drop off. The trees must have been holding it in place to keep it from continuing the plunge to to bottom. That must have been an E-ride ticket!
Later on our way to Olmstead Point not far past White Wolfe, we noticed an object in our lane sitting in the path of the passenger wheel. It looked like a log had fallen off a truck and was standing on end. David slowed as we approached the object until we were fairly close, then the upper half of the log nonchalantly swiveled toward our direction and stared at us. It was a marmot that had been sitting up on it’s hind quarters staring at the other side of the road. In his slow bored way, he turned to the close side of the road then slowly walked away. It was quite comical.
We arrived at Olmstead Point around 3, ate lunch in the car and watched the people that came and went. I wished Franka was there already when we were eating so she could hold Lulu. The day before we’d attended the annual Yosemite Western Artists picnic and Franka held Lulu the entire time. Lulu has suddenly become aware of FOOD when we eat and goes bananas trying to get to the tasty non-dog food.
This car was interesting. They slowly unpacked the car until they were surrounded by all their gear. I couldn’t tell if they were reorganizing or looking for something. This was just the beginning of emptying the vehicle.
Franka and Lulu.
I knew we weren’t going to experience the darkness of an eclipse since we were too far south of the eclipse path. I did hope for nice lighting on the landscape during full coverage of the sun, well, as full as it would cover. I decided I wanted to be on the dome above Olmstead Point so I could view Tenaya Lake and Half Dome. I started up the dome before David since he walks faster and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to set up my camera. When I stopped to look for him and wave so he could find me, I noticed the activity of this bird. This was the first time I’d seen a Black-backed Woodpecker.
I found the flattest place of the steeply sloping dome for the views I wanted and so Lulu’s carrier wouldn’t roll down the slope. The wind was quite chilly so I wrapped her soft carrier with my jacket. She slept through the eclipse.
Lulu’s carrier and tripods.
The lighting didn’t change much at full coverage. The landscape looked a little warmer in color but if one hadn’t been aware of the eclipse I’m not sure they’d have noticed a change.
Tenaya Lake at full eclipse. 6:37pm
Half Dome at full eclipse.
Eclipse over, time to play. Terry posing for me.
A bottle of wine appeared when the eclipse was over, courtesy of Terry.
Franka and David.
Franka sitting, David, Terry and Nancy below (and Lulu).
My long shadow ending at the group. I like the patches of glacial polish in the foreground.
It was a strange day for animals. First the marmot and the nice sighting of the wood pecker. It was still light when we all departed Olmstead Point. The sunset didn’t develop into anything interesting to photograph. At 9pm we reached the Oak Flat Road/140 intersection. When we were deep in the Merced River canyon we talked about how we’d never seen deer along the narrow 140 road. Not too long after there was a large object blocking our entire lane, a dead deer. That was a strange coincidence.
After passing through Midpines a short while later we suddenly saw a large tumbling bird falling from the sky illuminated by our headlights. It fell from above the left lane in the direction of the right lane. It reminded me of a bird being shot out of the sky. We immediately pulled over and walked back down the highway so we could see if it needed help or at least remove it from the road. I was sickened when a bus and a couple of cars came along as we quickly moved down the highway with the flashlight. If there was a chance for the bird it was probably hit by one of the vehicles. We never found the bird or even a single feather. We turned around and drove back down the highway but the bird had disappeared. It was one of the strangest events I’ve ever seen. I wondered if an owl would catch food midair and tumble?? Do owls mate midair like hawks?? It was an interesting way to end the evening. David was on alert driving the rest of the way home – what else was going to appear in front of the car???