The Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery

As each breath I take fills my lung with ash from the Getty Fire, which is just a few miles north of my front door, I look back to the unexpected highlight of last week’s trip to the Eastern Sierras. I am referring to the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery in Independence, California.  Built in 1916, the hatchery was run by the California Department of Fish and Game until 1996, when the State found they couldn’t afford its upkeep. It was then that a nonprofit organization called the Friends of Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery was formed to run the former hatchery as a museum, with an interpretive center and gift shop.

The real highlight are the grounds, which include a pond well stocked with rainbow trout and visiting ducks. A small number of fish (mostly trout) are still hatched there as part of the museum.

Martine fell in love with the gift shop, which included two items of special interest to her: some attractive and reasonably-priced quilts made by a woman in Bakersfield and a bucket filled with packets of fish food. We purchased one of the quilts, and several packets of fish food.

It turns out that the ducks were more aggressive about begging for the fish food than the trout. That was all right with Martine, as she enjoyed feeding the ducks more, while I thought of them as shameless beggars.

We actually visited the Fish Hatchery on both Thursday and Friday last week. It was a beautiful and peaceful place.

A wildfire in July 2007 burned 55,000 acres west of the hatchery. Then, a year later that same month, a heavy thunderstorm caused a mudslide that damaged part of the hatchery as well as two of the employee residences. I am delighted that the Friends of the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery managed to clear the damage and re-open the facility.

If you find yourself on Highway 395 and desire a couple of peaceful hours in a beautiful locale, I highly recommend a visit to the hatchery. And say alone to the ducks and trout for me.


By the Lily Ponds

Watchful Heron

Watchful Heron

While we were spending some four hours at the Huntington Gardens on Saturday, we spent an inordinate amount of time at the two large lily ponds. Not only did we see a heron (above), but also Canada geese with two ungainly, very adolescent-looking goslings, and a mother duck with seven little ducklings. Then, too, there was a supersized turtle and a whole lot of koi.

Below are the goslings, both of which have their heads tucked away in “You can’t see us” mode:

Two Goslings

Two Goslings

For the better part of an hour, the goslings sat at our feet while we occupied front-row seats at a strategically located bench. Sure, Martine tired herself out; but we both had a good time.

If you’re interested in seeing all the pictures I uploaded to Yahoo! Flickr, click here and scroll about 80% of the way down to photo DSCN3853, where Saturday’s pictures begin. As yet, there are no captions.

Martine Remonstrates with the Geese

Martine at the L.A. Arboretum

Martine at the L.A. Arboretum

Martine and my father have some interesting things in common. My Dad loved to feed the pigeons and, before he married my mother, had his own pigeon coop. Martine also likes to feed the birds, but she prefers ducks and especially geese.

Geese are not the most cooperative of birds. Years ago, when Martine lived in Twentynine Palms and worked at the U.S. Naval Hospital there, we used to have brunch at the Twentynine Palms Inn. On the premises, there was a little pond and some very obstreperous geese, who used to go after Martine. I would have to run at them shouting “Bo!” until they backed down. (Thus no one would claim that I couldn’t say “Bo!” to a goose.)

The last time we went to the L.A. Arboretum, Martine brought along with her a sack of stale bread which she threw at the resident geese and ducks. Predictably, the ganders were being hyper-aggressive and kept pecking at the females and beta and gamma ganders to monopolize the bread. In return, Martine would remonstrate with those geese and make a special effort to feed the better behaved birds more of the crumbs.

Anyhow, when she does that, I feel a special warmth for my little French girl. There is something so sweet about her criticizing the “bad” geese that my heart warms to her all the more.