Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monitor Pass & Heenan Lake - April 2015

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The Dinner Invitation

"Yea!" was Ted's response in his email. He and the Mrs. invited us to dinner and we had, of course, said yes. In the email Ted had also let us know the main course would be "Bumble Bee Spaghetti." "Bumble Bee Spaghetti" reminded me of a class put on by a primitive survival expert at a Northern California Search & Rescue Conference the Lady & I also taught at. The instructor went into great detail on how to pan roast yellow jackets and meat bees. He described them as "delicious",  but said to be sure to roast all the juices out so they are nice and crunchy. Knowing our friend Ted, we had no hesitation about his menu and we were dancing around the house saying "Yea!" in anticipation and excitement.

We had chores Saturday morning but our packs were ready by the door. We were on our way around 1:30 in the afternoon. We stopped in Markleeville to mail some letters and then headed up highway 89 to the top of Monitor Pass. Ted's invite had said the "usual place" and there he was.

The Teds had been up here since Friday evening. We did not come empty handed. We brought Mrs.Ted flowers in celebration of her new job.

Ted got busy in their camper's kitchen. With a big smile he explained he was trying something new.

"I've got sauce going that is made with yellow tomatoes and a nephew got us some  black squid ink pasta from Italy!" He held up the package. "Yellow sauce with black pasta, yellow and black just like a bumble bee!"

"Wow," I said, "That sounds outstanding!"

I didn't tell Ted what I was half expecting - sauce filled with roasted bumble bee carcasses.

The spaghetti and salad were very good and I really mean that Ted. We know Ted is thinking the yellow tomato sauce is a work in progress - "It needed to be cooked down some more, too watery. I put in too much garlic" - but it was right tasty. The Lady mentioned her first rule of cooking, "You can never put in too much garlic!"

We ate everything up and then the Lady went to our camper and brought out strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. We had stopped by our favorite farm down the hill and picked up fresh strawberries.

A large thunderhead had built in the southwest and moved to the south of our camp. Other storms had built along the east side of Lake Tahoe. It made for a wonderful evening as the sun dropped behind Hawkins Peak. 

The evening was filled with stories and the camaraderie of friends.

Ted was up the next morning surveying his kingdom.

We gave Ted a big shock, we had slept in, not usual behavior for us. He had thought we were out on a predawn walk. We enjoyed our morning coffee as the sun made its appearance.

After breakfast we drove down to walk around Heenan Lake. We were looking for eagles and bears. Mrs. Ted loves eagles and bears. Ted apologized if it ends up costing me money, but he kindly offered me his 300mm Nikon lens to use. I know I need to learn how to use a long lens, but this was a fun introduction. Thanks Ted and don't worry about money. It's only money.

We made our way around Heenan. With our ongoing severe drought, there is hardly any inflow into the small reservoir and the water level is down 6 or 7 feet. The water is green with algae. I wonder if there is enough water for the resident Lahontan Cutthroat to spawn this spring.

We watched for eagles. We didn't see any. Except for a raven or two, the sky was empty. We found many large, new bear tracks; the Heenan bears are out and about. There is a large Bald Eagle nest on the southwest side of the reservoir in a large Jeffery Pine. We watched for activity in the nest but it was quiet.

We walked past the large Jeffery and sat on a high spot and had some lunch and told some more stories. Mrs. Ted and the Lady continued to scan with their see mores.

"I see a white head!" Mrs. Ted said. "There is an eagle on the nest!" She was thrilled and so were we.

We will have a family to watch this spring and summer and that gives us hope. Monitor Pass has been open most of the winter with so little snow. It is unbelievable we had even camped up on top in mid April. We could get depressed wondering if next winter will bring the desperately needed change. But, with that white head just visible over the rim of the nest, there's hope little eagles will be born, fledged, and life will be new again.

As we finished our circle of the reservoir, a red tail hawk soared overhead............


.................and phlox greeted us as we returned to our trucks.

Thanks Teds for the wonderful dinner invitation!

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