Tule Fog

Tule fog is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California’s Great Central Valley. Tule fog forms during the winter and early spring (California’s rainy season) after the first significant rainfall. The official time frame for tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley.

Tule fog near Bakersfield, from wiki, which reports:

Motor vehicle accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California.

The word, by the way, is pronounced “tooly,” not “tool” as I long believed.

First observed by this author while he searched for the site of the Mussel Slough gunfight.

photo source: Wikipedia? Gone now. 

Once again

Once again find ourselves thinking about Tulare Lake, appearing again.

Last time we drove up there was to look for the site of the Mussel Slough gunfight.

We were almost lost in the tule fog.

Alpha beta gamma

In small packs of mammals there’s an alpha male who gets all the females by fighting off the other males, who have to go off and live by themselves and get stronger before the next rutting season.  This is a pattern for instance among sea lions, and elephant seals, and horned beasts like elk.

But nature is funny.  At the Tule Elk State Natural Reserve in Buttonwillow they have an interesting piece of taxidermy.  It’s two elks that got in a fight, the alpha I guess and a challenger.  The one elk’s horn went in the other elk’s eye, and killed him.  Which would seem like a win, except with his horn caught on a dead elk, unable to get it off, the surviving elk ended up getting weighed down and dying himself.

The rangers swore that’s what happened, anyway.

There’s all this talk about alpha and beta in advice to young men, which overlooks that our society is quite a bit more complex, there are lots of ways to distinguish yourself and make yourself attractive, and our females are not as simpleminded and docile as cow-elks.

When it comes to alpha and beta, maybe sometimes what you want is to let them two kill each other and be the Gamma Guy left standing.


Where does LA tap water come from?

Where does LA’s water come from?

Although the exact percentages can change dramatically from one year to the next, generally L.A. gets about half of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, 10 percent from local groundwater sources, and a third from the Owens Valley

says this helpful post on KCRW’s blog.  (Only adds up to 93%, which is worrisome.)


The Owens Valley looks like this:


photo taken at great risk of injury/snakebite by helytimes

That’s the Owens River, and it feeds into Owens Lake.  If Owens Lake sounds nice to you, terrific, apparently it was, once.  There are accounts of clear water, and great ducks that swam there, ducks exploded in yellow fat when shot.  Here’s what Owens Lake looks like now:

Photograph taken on 5 April 2009 by Charles W. Hull and posted on DVInfo.

Here’s another picture of beautiful Owens Lake:

Here it is on my Raven Map of California:


It’s crazy how far away it is from LA:


How did LA get this water?:

Eager to find water for the growing metropolis, Los Angeles had agents pose as farmers and ranchers to buy water and land rights in the valley.

People in the Owens Valley are still pissed about this water thievery.  Here is my bud in front of an LA DWP sign sternly claiming this watery spot some 196 miles from downtown LA:


If you can’t read the graffiti it says “Fuck LA and the horse it rode in on.”

But, progress.  That quote comes from this LA Times article I happened to pick up.


LA has sucked the Owens Lake so dry that the big problem there now is dust.  The old way they used to suppress the dust, was, weirdly, flooding.  Now they’re switching to a new method:

It involves using tractors to turn moist lake bed clay into furrows and basketball-sized clods of dirt. The clods will bottle up the dust for years before breaking down, at which point the process will be repeated.

This is way better, apparently:

The new process, which starts in December, is expected to save nearly 3 billion gallons of water its first year, rising to nearly 10 billion gallons three years later. Most of that water will be put back into the aqueduct.

So, good on LA Mayor Eric Garcetti.  But the real hero here seems to be Ted Schade, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District enforcement officer:

City officials singled out Schade for praise Friday. Garcetti described him as “a truly great environmentalist.”

The comments marked a reversal by a city that just a few years ago made him the target of a barrage of DWP lawsuits, including one accusing him of issuing unreasonable and unlawful orders. The city asked to have him barred from presiding over decisions affecting the city.

Ron Nichols, DWP general manager at the time, said in a statement then that “our water consumer will no longer be victimized by an unaccountable regulator.”

Schade was abandoned by many Owens Valley community leaders and environmental activists who feared that standing up in his defense would risk retribution from DWP.

That federal court lawsuit was dismissed a year later.

This week, Schade, 57, stood on a berm in a portion of the dry lake recently tilled to test the effectiveness of the new dust suppression method.

“I’ve been at war with the DWP for 24 years, two months and 15 days,” he said. “The fighting is over, and the path forward is clear. So, I’m resigning in December. My job here is done.”

Ted Schade, enforcement officer for the agency in charge of Owens Valley’s air quality, is a longtime nemesis of the DWP. But L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, in announcing the new agreement, praised him as “a truly great environmentalist.” (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times)

Cool dude, sounds like.

Owens Lake isn’t even the biggest massive dried up lake in California.  That honor (?) belongs to Tulare Lake.


from an 1871 Southern Pacific railroad map in the Historical Atlas Of California.


Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River and the second largest freshwater lake entirely in the United States, based upon surface area. The lake dried up after its tributary rivers were diverted for agricultural irrigation and municipal water uses.

That’s way up in the tule country.  And don’t even get me started on the Salton Sea, which I guess is the reverse of a shrinking lake.

Here’s another pic from the Owens Valley:



Let’s hope they have snow like that again.



Tough review

Joseph C. Hart wrote a bestselling book of the 19th century, Miriam Coffin or The Whale-Fisherman (1835).  It was based, apparently, on real life Nantucket smuggler, war profiteer, and sharp-eyed businesswoman Kezia Coffin (ht Nathaniel Philbrick’s Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island And Its People, 1602-1890).

At the end of the novel, Miriam is instructed by her husband to literally go back to the kitchen where she belongs.

Hart also wrote a book called The Romance of Yachting, which Wikipedia describes “as a narrative of his travels to places that give him occasion for musings on a variety of topics.”

Herman Melville, who was apparently influenced by Miriam Coffin, did not care for this one.  Says Wiki:

Herman Melville scathingly described Hart’s book in his review as “an abortion” which “deserves to be burnt in a fire of asafetida, & by the hand that wrote it.”

Asafoetida is an interesting plant.  Wiki tells us it’s used as an antiflatulent in the Jammu region of India.


I’m guessing it also burns pretty hot?  There’s also this mysterious claim on the asafoetida wiki page:

Penrod, an 11-year-old boy in a 1929 Booth Tarkington story set in the midwestern United States, suffers intensely for being forced to wear a bag of asafoetida on his neck and encounters a girl in the same condition.

You remember Penrod of course: