Direct, from the top of the world, Fresno CA.   5 comments

I drove to the limits of Fresno County on Saturday to have a look at some old cedars. I had seen these as a kid but had not been back to this part of the world in over 45 years. This post will contain mostly pictures and so will be told thru captions. I am at tree line here, and many of the mountains you will see are the tallest in the lower 48. Mt Goddard shown many times below is over 13,500 feet tall.

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That big tall one in the middle, rather darker than the rest is Goddard.

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Just to the right of Goddard is a typical glacial cut “U” shaped valley as seen in Yosemite also.

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As we drove on the wildflowers were awesome. I have never seen such beautiful flowers so high.

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Big bumble bee deep inside the flower.

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As we near the end of the road at Courtright Resevoir, we are at 9000 ft in elevation. Nearing treeline, the face of the mountains are solid granite. Even in the valleys it is solid granite. It is amazing that trees can even grow in this solid mass. The roots, ice, snow, freeze thaw, and erosian help to put some soil atop this solid mass for plants to grow.

Trees at this altitude have their tops blown off by lightning all the time. This tree has grown a new top by growing sideways and then beginning its new apex moving straight up. Cool top!

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This is a grove of young Lodgepole Pines, Pinus Contorta var. Murrayana. As one can see there are many trees here suitable for bonsai. many would make beautiful Literati trees with minimal work. All of the movement is due to the soft juvinile growth and the heavy snow pack that is here for 6 months out of the year. This year was very dry and so I was able to make it here in mid June. many years this area is still in heavy snow pack untill late July, early August. This area gets 25 to 30 feet of snow in average years, and over fifty feet in a good year.

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This tree was broken down by the snow and ice and is essentialy growing on the ground in a circle.

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How about this for a twin trunk literati. I was tempted to just give a tug and see how sturdy it was. My wife felt it might be in our best interest and not having the car impounded to just leave it there for a few more hundred years.

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As you step back and take in the whole image of things one can see the larger trees. As they gain girth and begin to solidify in the rock, they can start to stretch out some of the juvinile twists and turns all the snow pack has given them.

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Some of these are really great. I want them all.

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At the top of the summit is LeConte Divide. This divide seperates the San Joaquin River Watershed and the Kings River Watershed. Notice here that the tops of the mountains are now nearly all granite and the trees are much more sparse.

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As we leave the summit we decend slightly to Coutright Reservoir. An alpine lake filled on a solid sheet of granite. There is no soil at the bottom only stone.

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My wife near the waters edge.

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A little geologic lesson now about the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Against a backdrop of 4.5 Billion years, the relativly young Sierra Nevada’s don’t seem so old. Like the Himilayas, these are young mountains. The effects of erosian over the next million or so years will take their toll and cut them down to size, but for now, they are jagged and tall. About 200 million years ago the North American plate began overriding the ocean plate. The sedimentary ocean floor began being pushed up with repeated collisions with this plate. The red rock at 8300 feet in altitude used to be ocean floor. The sedimentary rock has now turned to metamorphic rock due to heat pressure and force.

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As magma and volcanic action turned the ocean floor to a new stone, mica schist, it combined with the granite to form these unique patterns.

Sedimentary rock is always flat and thin seperating into layers very easily like slate. Due to the huge geologic forces here, the sedamentary rock turning into metamorphic rock sometimes becomes folded and wavy due to the forces.

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As the granite cools, it creates long fracture zones that fill with other minerals. Mostly it was during this time in the Sierra Nevada’s that these dikes filled with quartz and gold 98 million years ago.

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The granite does not cool at the same rate either. As it cools the smaller minerals and the larger minerals cool at differing rates creating an effect called
“schlieren”, German for streaks.

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As recently as 10,000 years ago glaciers covered much of this part of the US. In the soft metamorphic rock can be seen the streaks of tons of material sliding past these mountains.

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Another event common with glaciers is the “Erratic”. An erratic is a stone left over by the glacier as it recedes. Sort of like leaving a garbage trail. These boulders can be brought from many hundreds of miles away and left in a totally different place than where the original stone was picked up by the glacier.

In this picture a string of four huge erratics are shown left by the receding glacier.

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A close up of an erratic.

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A very large erratic with a small tree growing on the downhill side looking like it is holding back the huge boulder.

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A few more miles to the end of the road and we can see the huge gorge of the SanJoaquin watershed. This gorge is about 2000 feet deep.

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When near the top again the trees start to look very strange. Stunted and sparse, growing flat and somehow very mishapen.

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Okay, so now you have come this far. This is what we have been waiting for, those old cedars I promised. They are patriarchs and I am glad I got to see them again. They really havn’t changed much in 45 years…..

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When you get under the canopy and reall look at the tree, one can see how the snow has pushed all the branches very close to the trunk.

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Hope you enjoyed my trip as much as we did.

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Posted June 23, 2013 by California Bonsai Art in California Inspiration

5 responses to “Direct, from the top of the world, Fresno CA.

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  1. Really nice images and content, Al. We’re headed up there next month for a few days of fishing.

  2. Thanks Mike, This is a really awesome place to spend a day or two. I saw lots of fishing poles but not many fish. If you catch a nice one I hope you don’t have to work too hard cause just walking around at this altitude was exhausting. Being 9000 feet closer to the sun, it was pretty hot too!

  3. Thanks, confirms my allegations that “mother nature” created the art of “bonsai”. Really awesome…

  4. I’m gonna start calling you Professor Smoke

  5. thank you for sharing with so many pictures felt like i was on the trip too

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