Scat Identification on the Dana Plateau

Jack%20Laws%20Scounting%20for%20Raptors.jpgA hike with Jack Laws is never boring. I thought I was going to fail my first big test as a major naturalist. After a brief lunch stop, Jack and I continued up the trail on our way to the Dana Plateau. He stopped and picked up a piece of scat on the trail and we examined it for identification. He broke off a piece, considered it, and then popped it into his mouth, exclaiming, “Yes, it tastes like coyote.” He offered me a taste. Although I certainly wanted to appear like a dedicated naturalist, I was not going to eat scat, even in the pursuit of scientific inquiry. After a few moments, he revealed the scat to be, indeed, chocolate.

In spite of the tense moment around feces, we had a delightful day. We watched for an hour a pika scamper around the rocks, fetching stalks of lupine. I also got prime viewing on the formation of a thunderstorm, anvil cloud and all. Once the thunder began, however, I had to give up my prime seat and head down to a safer area.

Dana Plateau

Lenticular%20Over%20DP.jpgI led my friends—Kimi, Anthony and Iris—up the Dana Plateau today (see Team Half Dome on June 5). As this was their first hike to this wondrous region, I delighted in their delight, as the Dana Plateau is my favorite place to wander in the park--a Martian-like landscape, with fantastic rock gardens grown over millions of years.

The instability aloft continued today, leaving vestiges of the conditions that produced the wave yesterday—a fine display of lenticular clouds. At times, the wind blew so fiercely that we had trouble walking.

Lure of Tuolumne

The lure of Tuolumne proved irresistible this weekend (as it does on most weekends!). I took a drive to the high country on Sunday and decided to trek cross-country to the Dana Plateau and then to Dana Lake, which sits in the basin under Mt. Dana and its glaciers.
Dana%20Lake%20%20Mt%20Dana.jpg I have climbed Mt. Dana probably a dozen times, but I’d never visited the Dana Plateau area to the east. The hike transported me into a prehistoric wonderland, as the plateau has escaped the effects of glaciation. According to King Huber in his The Geologic Story of Yosemite National Park, “these upland surfaces have significance far beyond being unglaciated, because they are very ancient.” My feet walked on land with remnants of terrain 25 million years old.

Dana Lake glistened under the “not a cloud” in the perfect sky. To borrow one of John Muir’s favorite words, my view of the lake from the crest was absolutely “glorious.” The water reflected the clear sky, and I stood hypnotized by the deep cerulean blue color. The landscape before me, although underscoring my insignificance in the greater scheme of things with its unavoidable reminder of the far-reaches of time, produced what I can only term a state of rapture. I remained at my vantage point for some time, almost near tears.

My skimpy breakfast and lunch may have produced my emotional state. I’ve heard that is why John Muir wrote such flowery prose—he was almost always half-starved since he carried very little food. My remedy? The Mobil Station. Too bad Mr. Muir didn’t have the option of dining on fish tacos after one of his jaunts.