I have just returned from a rare trip overseas, my first to the USA. Among the things I did while there was a three day visit to Yosemite National Park, one of the most astounding places I have ever seen. Being autumn, the famous wild-flowers were long gone and the waterfalls were turn down low, but that didn’t matter because the landscape itself is so eye-popping.
These pictures are of the famous half-dome, taken across the valley from an area called North Dome – about a 4 mile tramp from the nearest road. The photos really don’t do it justice, the valley is like a Minecraft chunk error in real life, and the bare granite mountains go on for as far as the eye can see.
One of the cool things about walking in California is the wildlife. Coming from New Zealand, we are not used to seeing mammals walking around in the bush. I didn’t see any bears or mountain lions (which I am quite grateful for, really) but squirrels, chipmunks and deer were all on view.
The weather this week has ranged from mediocre to terrible, but today is great. You could almost be forgiven for thinking spring is on the way.
Look who popped into my garden as I was hanging out the washing:
I love monarchs, being inedible means that they don’t care about being garish and gives them an in-your-face attitude, like the 1980s distilled into butterfly form. This one looked a bit worse for wear after a hard winter, but still managed to look pretty boss.
I hadn’t been to Muriwai for a while. It’s not that far away from Auckland, and the extension to the northwestern motorway has made the drive even easier.
(click to enlarge)
Most interesting part of Muriwai beach is the gannet (Tākapu) colony, where hundreds of the birds hang out in a surprisingly orderly settlement. With so many birds around you would think taking photos would be easy, but most of mine looked a little drab when I imported them into iPhoto.
But it is not just gannets, this fur seal (arctocephalus forsteri, or kekeno) appeared on the rocks below the colony for a quick rest in the sun. They seem pretty ungainly, but this one managed to climb some pretty steep rocks without too much trouble.
Continuing in my quest to explore the various parks in Auckland, I returned with a friend to Mangere to investigate the volcanic crater of Mangere Mountain. It doesn’t look like much from a distance, but it is actually one of the more impressive volcanic cones in Auckland I have seen so far, with a wide crater and a well defined lava dome in the middle.
It makes the perfect venue for flying remote control quad-copters. I only mention it because we met two guys from the Northern Helicopter Modellers Club who were doing just that, with remote viewing glasses and everything. Well it is not quite perfect, since the surrounding high trees provide ample opportunities for quad-copters to get stuck. Luckily, one of them was also a member of a rock-climbing club and could climb up retrieve his vehicle.
(This is the view looking down on part of Ambury Regional Park, where I took some photos a few months ago)
Even without the quad-copters, Mangere Mountain offers fantastic views of southern Auckland and some interesting geological features. I should have come here years ago.
I took this photo at Wenderholm Park, just north of Auckland. It wasn’t the best of days, but the sun appeared occasionally.
Click to enlarge…