White Mountains (California) Expeditions 2008 – present

June 2014 dawn

We have been making expeditions to the White Mountain Research Station since 2008.  Projects there have included our experimental alpine cold frame, our bristlecone pines spiral grain project, our artificial hypoliths project, and a project surveying old stone shepherd’s huts.

White Mountain Research fall 13 006

About fifty students have participated over the years, most making the trip multiple times, as well as over a dozen parents and teachers from Sir Francis Drake High School.  You can read about some of the trips here:

Bristlecones 640

2015 We end the project.

It was a melancholy task, but we dismantled the cold frame and hauled most of it to the Bishop, CA dump.  We brought the valuable parts like the solar panel back to Drake.
Sheep Pass
It was time.  The cold frame was pretty beaten up by the weather and after seven years at 12,470′ and we weren’t using it anymore.  It had proved its point – that we could successfully grow food plants in an extreme environment, and that a small high school group could manage a project like this with professionalism.  Cleaning up after ourselves is part of that.
Other than that, it was a pretty typical White Mountains trip and a very positive one:  We saw Campito the wild horse.  Tim Forsell cooked for us.  We got a flat tire, and visited the Patriarch Grove just before a wild storm so we saw lightning, red sky and a red rainbow from a safe distance.  We had a campfire.  Our artificial hypoliths are turning green nicely.
The mountain is full of old stone huts and shelters, often just a ring of rocks a few feet high.  They are cleverly constructed, though, and show a lot of variety.  Most of them were built by Basque shepherds between 1850 and 1950.  Maybe next time we come here we’ll start a survey of them.  We can take pictures and record all kinds of information about them without ever touching a stone.  Are there any consistent patterns in their layout or construction?  Did they ever have roofs?  Most don’t today, but it’s hard to imagine being caught out in a thunderstorm at this elevation without a roof.
Stone hutsrock shelter
What we learned:
  • Too much to list here!  See the “What we learned” sections from our other 2008 – 2014 trip journals.
  • One project leads to another once you get started.  The cold frame project lead directly to our very successful Bristlecone Pine Spiral Grain Project and our Artificial Hypoliths Project, and now maybe to a new one.
Last Modified on July 3, 2015

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