Stuck in Lee Vining, CA (8/25)

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at
Thu Aug 31 10:31:46 EDT 2000

-- small world, I collected some bugs near Lee Vining in 1986.  For a while
I thought you were driving a FORD = Found On Road Dead :-) until you
clarified the culprit.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Walker [mailto:MWalker at]
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 8:02 PM
To: 'leps-l at'; 'SoWestLep at'
Subject: Stuck in Lee Vining, CA (8/25)

After destroying your own personal vehicles on marathon adventures, you
begin to learn using other peoples vehicles whenever possible.  No, I'm not
referring to the vehicles of your collecting buddies - I'm, of course,
referring to RENTAL vehicles.  How can you go wrong with a newer mid-size
vehicle equipped with air conditioning, a CD player, and dogged by fewer
than 7000 miles?  It's a perfect setup - nothing can go wrong...

Well, almost nothing.

I had the unique opportunity to stay in Lee Vining for approximately 12
hours longer than I had intended.  Lee Vining is a small two-gas station
town overlooking Mono Lake and near the intersection of U.S. 395 and CA 120.
CA 120 is the highway that connects Yosemite NP with the eastern side of the
Sierra Nevada mountains - over Tioga Pass.  Because of this, the town can be
a busy place - but few stay there longer than it takes to fill the tank.
Few - except for the truly adventurous.

I spent the previous day farther north traveling over Sonora Pass - highway
108 - and enjoyed the fairly energetic lep activity at both high and low
elevations.  Most everything on the wing had seen better days - having left
behind good portions of scales and wing during previous floral and faunal
encounters.  There were a few exceptions - Neophasia menapia (Pine White)
was fresh and fairly common at about 8000 ft. on the eastern side of the
pass.  There were still lots of Fritillaries on the wing - some in better
condition than others.  Speyeria mormonia (Mormon Fritillary) was very
common above 10,000 ft. - but few were donning the full compliment of
scales.  An assortment of Coppers were flying - from Lycaena arota (Tailed
Copper), to L. rubidus (Ruddy Copper), to L editha (Edith's Copper).  The
Tailed Copper was good and fresh down below 6000 ft. on the eastern side.
It could be found flying with Pontia beckerii (Becker's White), Ochlodes
sylvanoides (Woodland Skipper), Hesperia juba (Juba Skipper), Apodemia mormo
langei (Mormon Metalmark), Cercyonis oetus (Small Wood Nymph), and C.
sthenele (Great Basin Wood Nymph).

Perhaps the highlight of that day was a gorgeous male Nokomis Fritillary
(Speyeria nokomis apacheana) seen nectaring at the Mountain Training Center
(highway 108) and looking as if it had just emerged.

After a leisure drive around Mono Lake, I ate some fine BBQ at Mikeys and
crashed hard at the Lee Vining Best Western.  Early in the morning, I set
out for southern locations - but only made it about 5 miles out of town.
Clug, clug, choke, choke, sput, sput, blehhhhccchhhhhhh!  Dead on the road.

Five miles is a long way - when you're looking at hoofing it.  Thank God for
cell phones.  Of course, they only do you good when there's someone to call.
Not too many folks to call in Lee Vining.  After determining that the only
tow truck was hours away from waking up (I had beat the sun), I dragged my
butt to the other side of the highway and stuck out my ...  thumb!?

Hey - it didn't take as long as I thought.  The nice couple with child must
have felt I was harmless enough - when stowed with their stuff in the back
of their pickup.  I stayed in town just long enough to buy some oil (there
was no visible oil on the dipstick), hitchhiked back, filled the oil pan,
turned the engine over, and watched as the engine sprayed the new oil all
over the road and engine compartment.  Bummer.

When having a rental car breakdown, don't choose Lee Vining, CA as your
location of choice.  The closest rental car agency was four hours away - in
Reno, Nevada.  They were going to contact the auto manufacturer and arrange
for a replacement and tow.  This took over 6 hours.  I won't mention the
manufacturer by name, but it was clear that my whole hyoonDAY was
essentially ruined.  

Stuck on U.S. 395 during August is not the most pleasant of experiences.
Fortunately, the monsoon season provided plenty of cloud cover.  In spite of
100 degree F weather, I managed to hike about 5 miles in and around the
moon-like landscape - net in hand.  Surprisingly, down amidst the wetter
nooks and crannies there could be found butterfly nectar.  Monarchs (Danaus
plexippus) were common.  An immaculate ruddy Polygonia gracilis zephyrus
(Zephyr Satyr) basked briefly for my pleasure.  Another Speyeria nokomis
apacheana (Nokomis Fritillary) - this time a gorgeous female - stopped to
sip right in front of me.  I still think S. diana is more incredible - but
there is no doubt that this is one of the most stunningly beautiful
butterflies that can be found in the U.S.  

So, although I stayed in an area against my will - closer observation proved
fruitful.  By 6:00 p.m., I was in another newer vehicle (without the CD
player), headed south for home.

Species list from Mono County:

Neophasia menapia (Pine White)
Pontia beckerii (Becker's White)
Pontia occidentalis (Western White)
Colias eurytheme (Orange Sulphur)

Lycaena arota (Tailed Copper)
Lycaena editha (Edith's Copper)
Lycaena rubidus (Ruddy Copper)
Satyrium fuliginosum (Sooty Hairstreak)
Lycaeides idas (Northern Blue)
Plebejus icarioides (Boisduval's Blue)
Apodemia mormo (Mormon Metalmark)

Speyeria nokomis (Nokomis Fritillary)
Speyeria zerene (Zerene Fritillary)
Speyeria mormonia (Mormon Fritillary)
Polygonia gracilis (Hoary Comma)
Vanessa virginiensis (American Painted Lady)
Cercyonis sthenele (Great Basin Wood Nymph)
Cercyonis oetus (Small Wood Nymph)

Hesperia juba (Juba Skipper)
Ochlodes sylvanoides (Woodland Skipper)

Mark Walker.

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