Friday, March 26, 2010

Visit to BrightSource Ivanpah 2 and 3 on March 24, 2010, Part 1.

This trip and hike just about did me in, my dear readers. After a day has
passed, I am just now loosening up. But enough bellyaching, just do it,
move on.

As mentioned in my last post, I encountered a herd of wild burros, a total
of eight in all.
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When I made it to the left end of the metamorphic hill, my first waypoint, I saw my
first burro, and I ran into the rest of the herd between that point and about halfway
to the small hill by the biological mitigation area. Burros are very interesting, they
watch you from a distance, like the two in the above photo, and they make a loud
noise to try to scare you off. I ignored the challenge, kept walking on my route, and
they turned and trotted off. That happened about three times, the noise they make
really carries across the desert, a loud snort through their nostrils maybe, kind of like
the sound horses make.

In the area between the two sets of hills, I encountered evidence of desert tortoises
as well.
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This is just one of several possible desert tortoise burrows that I came
across, that I either photographed or took video of. Actually in one video
I will post, I said this is like a desert tortoise condominium complex!

The area between the two hill complexes hosts a wide variety of plant
life, but what blew me away was the sheer number and varied locations
of creosote circles or rings. From my understanding of this, it means that
these rings have been forming over hundreds of years, possibly. I saw
rings comprised of shorter plants as well as some with creosote as tall as
I am, that was my comment in a video of one such ring. I also encountered
creosote rings with barrel cacti growing also in the ring, as well as other plants,
I even saw a couple of rings that boasted a desert tortoise burrow!

It was a real challenge hiking up the playa between the two sets of hills as it
was uphill all the way. I can’t tell you exactly what the elevation gain was, or
exactly how far apart the hills are but I can guess: 400-500’ and slightly over
a mile, respectively. But the meetup with the burros and burrows and the many
creosote rings and other varied plant life, made the challenge worthwhile.ivanpah032410hike 029

And here’s what it looked like glancing back toward the metamorphic hill, enroute
to the smaller hill, where I did the webcam video posted yesterday.
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Look at the many types of plants in the “barren” desert above. And unfortunately,
I also came across mans’ presence on the way up.
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That was a helium balloon I believe. After hearing about the “area being spoiled”
per BrightSource Energy, this was one of the very few evidences of man that I
came across, other than a couple of tire tracks in the main wash. Oh yes, I forgot,
a couple of times, I came across something like this:
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Note how old that can looks, at least thirty plus years, I’d say. After reading the
BrightSource papers, I was expecting to find junk cars, old abandoned tires, shacks,
junk piles, off-road tire tracks all over. That is not the area I saw, no way. To be
quite honest, I saw more roadside trash in about a quarter mile stretch on a road
in the Mojave National Preserve in a minute, than I did in my hours of hiking here
in my two blogged visits! And the MNP is a protected area, run by the National
Park Service. Yes there is evidence of mining on the hills, but I saw no evidence of
off-road use as alleged by BrightSource, nor was it trash strewn. I say this based on
my crossing of a significant portion of the area destined to be Ivanpah Two and Three.

Once I arrived at my second waypoint, the small hill close to the Biological Mitigation Area,
the first thing I saw flying around was the desert tortoise’s mortal enemy, the raven.
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Note the evidence of mining activity on the hill, to the bottom left under the raven.

In the desert, wherever man goes, the raven soon follows. And where desert tortoises
are located, ravens learn early on, to start killing and eating the very young ones by picking through their shells, and pulling out the insides. You can actually see this in a
that was made available recently online. Now after seeing the raven and having seen
tortoise burrows on the way, and knowing this is in an area where a survey discovered
live tortoises a year or so ago, I figured that this area is just prime tortoise habitat.

Once I made it to the smaller hill, I climbed up a little ways, and found a rocky outcrop
to sit down on and I filmed the webcam segment I posted yesterday. I was very close to
the BMA, it started just beyond the end of the hill, but folks, as I stated in my video, I
just didn’t have the strength to explore the area. After resting a short while, I regretfully
starting hiking downhill toward the morongomobile, which was about two miles or so
in the distance. I am very disappointed that I didn’t get to explore the BMA, but the fact
is I almost didn’t make it back to my car. About a third of a mile from my car, I hit the wall
as they say, and I literally had to pick up my left leg with my arms a couple of times and
help it move- it was a close call, if it had been in the summer heat, I probably would
not have made it.

But make it, I did and even though the legs are still a little stiff, I AM SO GLAD THAT
I DID THIS HIKE. The feeling of accomplishment, of not giving up, of seeing this
wonderful enormously varied ecosystem, the memories gained, will last me a lifetime.
And even if we lose the battle to save this place, I know that I saw it, experienced it
first hand, on its’ own terms, and have the knowledge now to at least be able to
point out any obvious lies or distortions that might come from the projects’ backers.

I can say with some authority that contrary to what the other side says, this
area is not despoiled, it is virtually untouched by man, I walked for miles across
the area to be set aside for Ivanpah 2 and 3, and except for the balloon and an
odd can or two, many years old, the area seemed wild and even lacking
footprints. As I have stated before, there are literally tons of hoofprints
however, and other signs of life, as well as a broad diversity of plant and
animal life across the area.

One thing that really struck me as I sat on that hillside and looked out from one side of
the immediate area around the hill, and in front all the way down that great distance
to the metamorphic hills, and then to the right, extending all the way over a mile to
where I parked my car, and then another mile farther, all this vast expanse of just
awesome desert views and terrain was to be scraped clean of all plant and
animals, and to be graded and leveled, and to covered with over one hundred
thousand heliostat mirror arrays. You really haven’t a clue as to the immensity
of what is planned for this area, unspoiled for thousands of years,millions, until
you have walked it as I have, and stood atop the hills and looked out, I just
can’t get across to you, just how gigantic an area destined for this project
really is, or just how beautiful it was to see a barrel cactus entwined with the
creosote- it just isn’t quantifiable or easily explained.

As much as I have blogged about this, the sheer grandeur of the area, and the real
sense of impending loss only truly started sinking in, when I sat down on that
rocky hillside yesterday and peered out at the never ending vista laid out before me.
I just hope others like those of you reading these words, can find a way to see it,
and experience it before it’s too late.

The final part to this report will be several videos that I made and hope to have shrunk down and posted to my Youtube channel, and then embedded in my report here, in
a couple of days, at least that is my hope.

As always, vaya con dios, my friends and feel free to comment on this or other
posts, your comments are always welcomed here on the backporch.

Morongobill

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