I spent a few weeks in the States recently, mainly California and Washington State. Thought I would share a few highlights and holiday snaps.
First stop San Francisco, which is known for its cool foggy climate in the summer. After walking both ways across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge I felt right at home, as cold and damp as if I had just done a hike up Knoch Bui in West Cork!
Quintessential San Francisco: the flamboyant Gay Pride march took place in the city a couple of days after I arrived.
Even the cops joined in
Funky Graffiti in The Haight
City Lights Bookshop, Jack Kerouac Alley, home of the Beat Generation poets:
The City from Telegraph Hill:
Moving on from San Francisco I hire a car and drive to Davis where I meet Raoul Adamchuk and Pamela Ronald, authors of Tomorrow’s Table, who kindly hosted me at their home and showed me their farm and laboratory.
The day I left San Francisco there was unseasonal rain. I imagined Raoul would be delighted for his organic farm, but actually seemed dismayed: he said they were not generally short of water and an the inch of rain they had that day- exceptional for the time of year- would make the ground much harder to work of course, but more than that cause massive increase in weed growth.
Above: Raoul Adamchuk on his organic farm in Davis University, CA.
Above: Professor of plant pathology at Davis, Pamela Ronald, showing me transgenic rice seeds developed in her lab on campus.
Pamela is involved in basic research on transgenic (genetically engineered) crops the results of which will be available to benefit farmers wherever needed. Contrary to popular belief most of such basic research conducted in American universities is entirely independent from corporations such as Monsanto.
One of Raoul’s main concerns as a farmer is plant diseases, and developing disease-resistant varieties is where he sees some of the main benefits that can come from GE technology.
Next stop Yosemite National Park.
Above: View of the high Sierra and Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park
Spot the Bear:
On first arriving in the main car park in the unfeasibly crowded Yosemite Valley, I was surprised to see this young bear-cub hop out from in front of my car as I got out, and scurry away with a very human look of “I know I shouldn’t really be here but don’t tell anyone” look on its face. He had a conspicuous large yellow tag on his ear: the Ranger told me this shows he has been caught near cars before and would probably have to be destroyed as he clearly has a taste for human’s food. This unfortunate situation arises because despite constant pleas and warnings, some of the 5million annual visitors still end up leaving food in their vehicles. The most common cause of bear death in Yosemite is however being hit by cars.
Navarra Falls. A week after I hiked up here it was reported three tourists had been swept to their deaths after ignoring the warning signs, climbing over the barrier and standing on slippery rocks amongst the racing water for a photo opportunity.
Sequoiadendron giganteum My shadow provides a scale: the rings go back 2000 years.
Roots of giant fallen tree, Mariposa Grove.
Below: The Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove, one of the largest trees by mass in the world:
Ok, so it’s hard to photgraoh huge trees with a tiny camera. Here is the top of Grizzly:
Setting off on a hike in Tuolumne Meadows in the higher elevations in the north of the park:
Due to exceptionally late snow – almost unprecedented apparently in July- the campsites were still closed; I was prepared to hike on snow-pack but unprepared to negotiate the multiple channels of fast-flowing icy melt-water, and had to abandon my treck after the firstnight. Stil beautiful to be up there though.
Leaving Yosemite I headed west again crossing California’s Central Valley. Amazing experience to drive all day through vineyards and orchards of peaches, apricots, almonds. California produces most of America’s horticultural produce of fruit and vegetables.
I called into the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, which has some cool renewable energy installations, organic gardens, natural buildings and a huge bookshop.
I was told that the US could easily provide all its electricity needs from solar, the only reason it does not is on account of political lobbying from the fossil fuel lobby- I am skeptical!
Heading over to the Redwood Coast- the Redwood Tree Service Station, Ukiah:
Sequoia Sempervirens Coastal redwoods in the Montgomery Grove between Ukiah and Mendocino:
“Wurt” (woden yurt) at the Orr Springs Resort, great place to stay near the Montgomery Grove, where you have full use of hot springs and natural spring-fed swimming pools. Lovely!
Had to be done: driving through the “Chandelier Tree”:
Avenue of the Giants
At over 350ft Coastal Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They only grow on the California coast, and a few into southern Oregon. They are so tall they need to be able to absorb moisture to the higher branches straight from the frequent mist and fog found here.
An absolute must-read if you are interested in the redwoods is The tall Trees by Richard Preston. Incredible story of the maverick characters and scientists who go in search of the world’s tallest trees and climb them, exploring one of the last hidden eco-systems on earth.
The Famous One-Log House!
The photo is dated November 14th 1949:
California coast, heading back to San Francisco:
Botanic Gardens, Fort Bragg:
Near a town called Elk:
Back in SF, living mushrooms for sale in the Ferry Terminal Building:
Part 2: Permaculture in the Pacific North West to Follow soon.