Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

day 2 - 12,000ft Barcroft station and observatory and ready sick

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM
The stretch from 120 to 395 going down towards Mono Lake was as spectacular as ever.The granite hills always reminded me of the Columbia Icefield Parkway in Alberta. The sheer granite mountain walls that curved down towards the valley as you drove winding down to them, the weeping walls, the big horn sheep on the road, glaciers racing down on one side and the Rockies on the other, there simply isnt any scenery that is more awestruck. The stretch above Mono Lake is a mini version of the more grandiose cousin in Canada. We had steak and eggs breakfast at Nicely's, just across from Mono Lake. After a brief visit to the visitor's center, we walked down to the lake to admire a tufa or two. Then we continued on 395 for more wonderful views of the eastern sierra, and stopped at Bishop for lunch and a bit of shopping. Nice town with good sporting shops. Then up we went to the White Mountains. The road ended at the Barcroft Station and Observatory at 12,000ft. Al was already there ready to greet us and oriented us to the dormitory and facilities. A cylindrical tin building was our home for that night. Very rustic inside. A big kitchen where Dori, the keeper, was already preparing dinner. Adjacent to the well stocked kitchen, was the mess hall where 1 or 2 researchers were stationed with their laptops. There was 1 bedroom for the astronomers and upstairs 2 more bedrooms for the researchers and students, a shared bathroom, a game/library room filled with books, pool and ping-pong tables. A TV room with some DVDs/video tapes and sofas. All this reminded me of the accommodations at the Gran San Bernard Hospice years ago with the Stanford group. I rather liked it. I thought being older and fuzzier, I would no longer tolerate communal living, but I was surprised to discover that the old adventurous spirit was still there, and I did not really mind not having much privacy. Al showed us his telescopes and we visited the pregnant sheep farm, research subjects for high altitude. We were all set for a night of awesome star gazing. Dinner was tri-tip, lamb, roast potatos, steamed brocolli and a great salad. I was feeling totally good until right after the heavy meal. Nausea and headache overtook me and I resolved to go to bed to sleep them off, fully intended to get up later that night to admire the stars in the pitch black night. But shortness of breath developed soon after I got into bed. I couldnt get up. Later that night, A and T hauled the oxygen machine up and hook me up on it. This machine was not an oxygen tank. It mixed pure oxygen with water vapor. I breathed that stuff all night and the killer headache was dissipated and I was able to breath normally all night long. I was thinking of all the brain cells I've lost up in that altitude and how the oxygen restored some of them. I was already not very bright. I couldnd afford to lose any brain cells! A was worried about me being alone in the game room, so she brought her sleeping bag and slept in the TV room next door to me to keep me company. One could not ask for a more caring soul. Thus I missed star gazing, but it's OK, it wasnt my highlight of the trip anyway. And as you all know, the Hippo is not really much for star observing.

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