Posted by Paul Groves on June 2, 2017

Salt Lake City

I’m here in Salt Lake City to attend the AP Chemistry Reading. I will be in SLC for 12 days. These first days are getting prepped for the Readers who will come and help us score the thousands of exams that students have taken across the country. From my hotel room, I can see snow on the distant mountains. This looks like more snow than in the past, but my memory of details like the amount of snow is not that reliable. We will be working at The Salt Palace which is far enough away from the hotel that I am getting my steps in, hatching Pokémon eggs, and earning my Apple Watch green exercise ring several times over. The Salt Palace has several distinctive towers and there is a new urban art installation along one side. It has 150 road signs with related but sort of opposite terms. The idea is to sit on the bench, take a picture and become part of the art. When I got home tonight, there was a short thunderstorm. It was rather unexpected, but fine from my perspective, since I was already snug in my room.

Inside the Salt Palace (a huge convention center) the ballroom has been set up for the reading. Each question on the exam is scored by lots of teacher and college professors sitting at U-shaped tables. Behind the curtains, other questions are scored on the same exam. Posters in the hallway indicate that chemistry is not the only Advanced Placement exam being graded here. Everything is color-coded, so at meals, I am usually looking for a table with yellow name tagged people. We eat every few hours and even though the snacks are pretty healthy, there are a LOT of snack breaks and the choices include candy and ice cream as well as fruit and popcorn. I think my favorite snack so far is smoked salmon on mini bagels. The carpet in the Salt Palace reminds me of PokeStop rings.

I’ve been taking a short walk at the beginning of our lunch break to burn up some calories and make some progress on my Pokémon goals. I saw this guy with a great Star Wars t-shirt. He let me take a picture. I am also interested in studying the 150 road signs of that art installation. The installation is called “Point of View”.

Posted by Paul Groves on May 25, 2017

Yosemite–Day 5 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 5

Since I did not see Happy Isles and The Fen, we took a walk to that area this morning. It was interesting to see the water level sign from the 1997 Flood. We can see the water level from yesterday and today… pretty high. After that walk, we packed and the students showed up around noon. We are going to get on the road. We overnight in Fresno and then drive back to Sylmar on Friday. Wonderful Trip, but it will be nice to have a room with a bathroom attached!

Posted by Paul Groves on May 25, 2017

Yosemite–Day 4 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 4

We did different things today. Ron hiked an uphill trail to see Vernal Falls. He also walked through Happy Isles watching the rushing water (higher and faster than usual for this time) and visited the Fen, a marshy area with feathery fields of fern (alliteration) that gave a fluffy, fuzzy appearance to the landscape.

During the same time, Paul went with Yosemite Art Center’s guest teacher, Sonja Hamilton, for a watercolor class outdoors. When you paint out in nature, that is called “plein air” painting that brings with it its own set of problems such as where to sit, where to put your palette, packing in your clean water and packing out your dirty water, and lunch (that I forgot). Sonja was a very good teacher and the first two hours was us watching her paint while she discussed the choices she was making and techniques she was using. The second two hours was work time for painting our own views of the falls. I learned a lot (not enough, obviously, from my paintings below).

We stopped at the Falls View, below Lower Yosemite Falls. We could also see Upper Yosemite Falls, but part of painting is deciding what portion of nature you will focus on for the moment. I also tried to paint a little ladybug I saw on a bench while taking a rest from hiking.

Posted by Paul Groves on May 25, 2017

Yosemite–Day 3 of 5

Yosemite National Park–Day 3

For Day 3, we signed up for a tour of the valley floor on “the Green Dragon”, a truck-pulled trailer of four-person seats. This was a two hour tour led by a Park Ranger, Carol. She has been in service in the Park for many years and was knowledgeable as well as interesting. She told us that the water level (due to the snow melting in this warm weather) is 177% of normal. Some of the tent-houses are flooded, the swinging bridge is underwater, and the river is too fast to allow rafting. On the other hand, there are waterfalls to see that are often just a trickle or do not exist at all a little later in the year. Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Vernal Falls are more impressive than usual. Our Ranger also told us of a huge flood in 1997 while she was here. A sign commemorates the amazing height of the water.

We stopped at several places to stretch our legs and take pictures. One of the stops was called Tunnel View, a vista point just after you pass through a tunnel on the south entrance. One of the other visitors took our picture, unfortunately, I am totally blocking a waterfall!

When we stopped to view El Capitan, Ron, with his eagle eyes, picked out two climbers on the face of the rock. The Ranger explained to us that the climbers work in teams of two. I was amazed to learn that a climb might take five days and that the climbers must carry a gallon of water for each climber for each day! Add to that food, climbing gear, and sleeping gear and that is much more of an adventure than I would want to try.

After the tour and lunch, we headed over to The Majestic (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel). It was built to attract the richer guests. It has some very nice features. We especially liked the tall stain glassed windows in the lobby. Rather than take the shuttle back to our camp, we walked and enjoyed the views and waterways. After dinner, Half Dome looked great in the setting sunlight. Another wonderful day in Yosemite and no emergency calls and no drama.

Posted by Paul Groves on May 23, 2017

Yosemite–Day 2 of 5

The Merced River runs through the valley. I liked this view of Half Dome over the river. Even when the light is nearly gone, the Merced River is beautiful and gentle. We had to take a Selfie during our walk and my eye was caught by this nice contrast in colors and textures of the leaves against the moss on the bark of the tree.

On our way to the viewpoint for Yosemite Falls, Ron ventured out on a log over a stream for a photo opportunity. We have watched for wildlife and have seen birds, squirrels, and several deer. Here is a photo of our tent cabin in Camp Curry. Notice the “bear box” outside where we have to store anything that has a food-like odor. We put our granola bars, shampoo, and deodorant in the box. In the night, I have heard some rustling noises, but it is probably only people going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The pretty yellow-white flowers are on the Dogwood trees. They contrast nicely with the dark bark of the surrounding trees.

I keep using this phrase, “The photo simply does not do this justice!” We followed the trail to the view of the upper and lower Yosemite Falls and that was very nice. We then followed the trail to the Lower Yosemite Falls and Wow! We were at a large stone bridge where the spray from the falls hit you in the face, the roaring sound of the water and the people scuttling about to get pictures and enjoy the moment made this the most exciting stop of the day. Nature is so beautiful from a distance, but being closer, in the “Splash Zone” really makes a difference for the experience. Fun.