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Desert & Mountains


Julia and I took off for the CSICon 2018 conference in Las Vegas. Speaking at the conference this year were: Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, Kavin Senapathy, Steven Pinker, Yvette d'Entremont, James Randi, Massimo Polidoro, and Adam Conover.

We decided to make a trip out of it and drove there via Groveland, CA, June Lake, CA, Mammoth Lakes, CA, Lone Pine, CA, Stovepipe Wells, CA, and Beatty, NV.

This route took us along the magnificent highway 108 and then down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, which is always wonderful. We’d forgotten that we had indeed traveled highway 108 in the past. As we drove further into the vast forests and up the steep climbs things began to look familiar to us and we realized we’d driven it before, but it was superb to travel it again. The Sierra granite is breathtaking no matter how many times you travel this road. I was able to update our Sierra Nevada Traversing map.

Along the way we stopped at Donnell Lake and walked a short trail around the amazing lookout over the lake and its massive dam, beautiful.

We drove past Mono Lake and eventually landed at June Lake, CA where we spent the night.

Before bed we braved the cold mountain-air and took photographs of the amazingly clear skies.


Up early and out into the freezing morning mountain air and onto the Reverse Creek hike. We climbed slowly up 5 miles from 8,581 ft to 9,360 ft, really feeling the lack of oxygen. But the strain was worth it as the view on top of this mountainous plateau is gorgeous.

By the time we got back to the hotel we were way to tired to go out and take advantage of the clear night sky to take more photos. Perhaps tomorrow night?


Keeping with our newly discovered requirement to protect against the adverse effects of altitude, we drank no wine and restricted our hiking exertion to a minimum by exploring Panum Crater. We’ve done this short hike before, but this place never ceases to entrance us with its pumas and obsidian pyroclastic wonders.


Up, not so, early and out into the, not so, freezing morning mountain air and onto the Fern and Yost Lakes hike this morning. This was the big hike. We walked 8.55 mi and climbed up from 7,356 ft to 9,112 ft. But because we visited both Fern and Yost Lakes we dropped down and then climbed up a second time causing us to climb a total of 2,608 ft. This was a lot in the thin air and very taxing. Again, the stress was worth it as these two lakes are marvelous and their rocky surrounds are a sight to behold.


We left June Lake behind and drove on to Mammoth Lakes and Lone Pine where we took advantage of the Tesla Superchargers there. Once we topped off with electrons we headed east into the California and Nevada deserts. We stopped at Stovepipe Wells, CA in Death Valley after Tess regenerated a multitude of electrons as we sank down from 7,000 ft to below sea-level. We drove on a wave of electrons and climbed up out of Death Valley to Beatty in Nevada where we topped off with more electrons before cruising on to Las Vegas, NV. This will be our home for the next 5 nights.

Thursday - October 18th

We took full advantage of the conference and attended the following events.

‣ 11:00 AM–1:00 PM - Workshop 1A: Climate Literacy Toolkit With Mark Boslough

‣ 11:00 AM–1:00 PM - Workshop 1B: Skeptical Activism With Susan Gerbic

‣ 2:00 PM–4:00 PM - Workshop 2A: The Investigators With Joe Nickell, Kenny Biddle

‣ 2:00 PM–4:00 PM - Workshop 2B: Numerical Hygiene With William M. London

‣ 7:00 PM - Opening Reception

‣ Featuring Kendrick Frazier, Robyn Blumner, and Eddie Tabbash, Chair of the Board of Directors

‣ 8:00 PM - Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress With Steven Pinker

Friday - October 19th

‣ 8:00 AM - Registration & Bookstore

‣ 8:45 AM - Opening Remarks With George Hrab

‣ 9:00 AM - The Challenge of Belief: Fact, Folly or Propaganda With James Alcock

‣ 9:30 AM - Dan Kahan

‣ 10:00 AM - Carl Zimmer

‣ 11:00 AM - Jen Gunter

‣ 11:30 AM - Battling Bias in Scientific Communication With Troy Campbell

‣ 12:00 PM - Craig Foster

‣ 12:30 PM - Lunch with Paul Offit

‣ 2:00 PM - The Variety of Scientisms & the Limits of Science With Massimo Pigliucci

‣ 2:30 PM - The Untold Stories of James Randi With James Randi, Massimo Polidoro

‣ 4:00 PM - Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik

‣ 5:00 PM - Book Signing With Susana Martinez-Conde, Stephen Macknik, and Carl Zimmer

‣ 8:00 PM - Magic Show

Saturday - October 20th

‣ 8:45 AM - Opening Remarks With George Hrab

‣ 9:00 AM - SciBabe’s Guide to Surviving Fake News With Yvette d'Entremont

‣ 9:30 AM - Timothy Caulfield

‣ 10:00 AM - Interview with a Vampire Expert With Deborah Hyde

‣ 11:00 AM - Joseph Uscinski

‣ 11:30 AM - Kavin Senapathy

‣ 12:00 PM - Abby Hafer

‣ 12:30 PM - Lunch with Susan Blackmore

‣ 12:30 PM - VIP Lucheon Featuring a discussion between James Randi, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Fry

‣ 2:00 PM - John Cook

‣ 2:30 PM - The Mind of Leonardo Da Vinci With Massimo Polidoro

‣ 3:00 PM - Tying up Creationism in the Classroom With Bertha Vazquez

‣ 4:00 PM - Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry in Conversation

‣ 4:50 PM - Presentation of the Richard Dawkins Award to Stephen Fry Presented by Mark Gura of the Atheist Alliance of America and Richard Dawkins

‣ 5:00 PM - Book Signing With Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry

‣ 8:00 PM - Halloween Pajama Party Appropriate for all Ages, Hosted by Jim Underdown

Sunday – October 21st

‣ 8:45 AM - Opening Remarks With George Hrab

‣ 9:00 AM - Adam Conover

‣ 10:00 AM - Paper Sessions With moderator Ray Hall

We left the madness that is Las Vegas behind us and began our return home. Before we left, we made a quick stop at the Old Strip of Las Vegas and ate a vegan lunch and topped off with some electrons before returning to the remote and lonely deserts of Nevada and California.

At Beatty in Nevada we topped off with more electrons and drove on back to Stovepipe Wells, CA in Death Valley. Here Tess climbed up from below sea-level to the high desert of California. The views of the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada is truly worth seeing. The granite mountains rise straight up out of the sandy desert floor.

A quick stop for lunch and electrons at Lone Pine, CA and we were soon at our hotel in Mammoth Lakes, CA for the night.


The next morning, we were out and hiking on the Emerald and Skelton Lake trail. This was a 5.88 mi hike from 8,965 ft to 9,885 ft. Although this was a bit of a climb the altitude did not seem to bother us so much on this hike. I guess we only climbed 991 ft.

The number of beautiful mountain lakes in the Sierra Nevada is uncountable and everyone of these gems is different and magnificent.


We bid Mammoth Lakes goodbye and drove on to the Tuolumne Pass on Hwy 120 and hiked the Gaylor Lake trail. This short 2 mi hike is a straight up 718 ft climb from 9,953 ft to 10,679 ft. Julia and I did feel the altitude on this hike. But from the Gaylor you have an unimaginable view of the granite beasts that are Sierra Nevada.

The granite here is almost pure white, which is very different to the grays and browns of other areas in the Sierra Nevada.

Our next stop was the Tuolumne Redwood Grove where we hike 4 mi down, and then of course up again, to a fabulous stand of redwood trees. It was only a 541 ft climb and at the relatively low altitude of 5,831 ft and 6,332 ft, nothing when you say it fast.

We arrived well-worn at our home for the night at the Evergreen Lodge. This is an amazing place and well worth a visit.


Up early and a short drive had us at the Hetch Hetchy Dam where we hiked 5.82 mi of the astounding granite surrounds and drowned in the beauty of the place. What a wonderous location and what a shame most of it is underwater now.


We said farewell to the Evergreen Lodge and the marvelous Hetch Hetchy and drove home to Oakland on a wave of electrons. Our memories of this trip into the skeptical deserts and mountains of California and Nevada will stay with us for a long time to come.


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