Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 Hi Mt. Open House Event Schedule

Bird Watching Field Trip: 9:00am - 11:30am (Pozo Valley to Hi Mountain)
Meet at Pozo Ranger Station. Carpooling recommended. Habitats: grassland, riparian woodland at Salinas River crossing, valley oak, blue oak and coast-live oak woodlands, chaparral. Easy hiking conditions and car pooling. Advanced registration requested: contact Steve at or #805 528-6138. Leader: Peter Dullea, Hi Mtn. Project Volunteer.
Picnic lunch: 12 noon
  • Bring your own picnic lunch, or, “Condor Special” sack lunches are now available. If you are coming up to join us and want to travel lightly, think about reserving a delicious Condor Sack Lunch Special! Includes a scrumptious Margarita Mercantile sandwich (choice of turkey/jack cheese, ham/cheddar cheese or all cheese (1/2 or whole on french roll)) - you add the condiments, a bag of chips or pretzels, soda or water, and a homemade brownie. 1/2 Sandwich lunch $7 each, Full sandwich lunch $9 each. Call Marcelle with your preferences before Friday Oct. 9th at noon to reserve: 927-1017 (wk.) or 927-3359 (h) or email: (subject “reserve sack lunch”)
    • Hi Mountain Lookout Interpretive Center open - please sign guest register
    • Raffle tickets for sale for annual fundraiser
    Welcoming comments: 12:30
    Introductions, morning birding field trip report (interesting sightings), Hi Mountain Lookout Project year in review and recognition of staff, interns, and volunteers. Updates on the California Condor Recovery Program and Condor staff. Speakers: Steve Schubert, Volunteer Coordinator, Morro Coast Audubon Society, Dr. Francis Villablanca, Cal Poly, SLO, and Cal Poly student interns.
    Raffle drawing for donated prizes (annual fundraiser): 1:15pm
    Afternoon activities and field trips:
    • Condor radio tracking demonstration
    • Geographical landmarks - a 360 degree view from the Pacific Coast to the Sierra Nevada. Geologic features observed from the Lookout - the Rinconada and San Andreas Fault Zones. Speakers: Kevin Cooper, USFS Wildlife Biologist, Steve Schubert, MCAS.
    • Native plant identification walk - along the crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Leader: Dr. Dirk Walters, San Luis Obispo Chapter, California Native Plant Society.
    • Animal vocalizations workshop - learn to recognize and imitate common birds and mammals of the Santa Lucia Wilderness. Speaker: Kevin Cooper, USFS, Los Padres National Forest Wildlife Biologist.
    • Feathers Workshop - Learn all about feathers with renowned artist, biologist, and taxonomist John Schmitt. Presenter: John Schmitt, contributing artist to National Geographic Field Guide to Birds.
    • Volunteers training session - radio telemetry, facilities use, and scheduling.
    • Meet with Hi Mountain Lookout staff - Late afternoon sit down chat with condor biologists and staff and reminiscing about experiences in ‘Condor Country’.
    Sunset watch and dinner:
    Gas stove and oven are available for cooking and heating food in the lookout facilities. Participants are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share with their friends and guests. Note: no campfires are permitted for cooking or during the overnight campout (wear layered clothing).
    Evening guest speakers: 7pm
    • “Summer at Hi Mountain” - Cal Poly summer 2008 student internship slide show.
    • “Trapping and banding birds of prey, Central Mongolia (2007) and South Texas (2008)” - Raptor research slide show by Paul Andreano, past Hi Mtn. Lookout Intern.
    Astronomy observations: after dark
    Telescopic observations of the evening skies, sponsored by members of the Central Coast Astronomical Society.
    Optional Hi Mountain Campout:
    Camping sites are available for Friday and/or Saturday nights at ‘Cypress Hill’ near the lookout. Other vehicle camping sites are located on the ridgeline near the entrance gate - with a view overlooking the mountains and coast - and at the USFS Hi Mountain Campground, located one mile down the road from the lookout. There are picnic tables and outhouses at the campground- bring your own potable water. No open campfires permitted and smoking in enclosed vehicles only.
    For additional information about the open house event and driving directions to Hi Mountain Lookout, see our website at
    Please contact Steve Schubert at or at # (805) 528-6138 to RSVP if you are planning to attend the open house event and the number of people in your group
    See you there!

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    San Luis Obispo Gem and Mineral Club visits the Lookout wrote…

    Upon rounding the final bend on approach to the lookout we noticed a Forest Service SUV parked there and a couple of people on the tower with one being a woman (Karlien Lang) who immediately waved to us. This was yet another first for me up there as I had never met anybody else up there the other times I had visited Hi Mountain Lookout. The gal waved to us in a manner that struck me as seeming surprised to see us and a bit curious who we were.

    In August 2008, the San Luis Obispo Gem and Mineral Club made a trip up to the Lookout and visited with Pat and Karlien. You can read all about their visit in this blog post on their website.

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    A Summer at Hi Mountain with the Interns

    Hi everybody, my name is Patrick White, for those of you who do not know me I am one of the interns working at Hi Mountain this summer. Another intern is Shannon Murphy, who worked here at the beginning of summer before she left to go to Costa Rica, and the other is Karlien Lang who took Shannon’s place about half way through the summer. We have been up here since Fourth of July weekend collecting telemetry data for the Condor Recovery Program. We have been coming up every weekend for three days a week, usually there were two of us, but once all three were here, and I have been up here two weekends alone too.

    Shannon and I started our training by having Marcelle, one of the main Volunteers at Hi Mountain Lookout, drive us up to Hi Mountain for our first time to show us the ropes of setting up the lookout. The first thing you notice when you get up here is the view. You can see in every direction for what seems like a hundred miles. There are mountains in every direction, to the south you can see the Oceano dunes and to the North up to King City. The view is really nothing less than spectacular. After taking in the view Marcelle showed us all the basics like opening the doors and locks, turning on the power, water, and gas, and just showing us everything we need to live up here for three days a week for the whole summer. After we were comfortable with the lookout we went back to San Luis Obispo and got ready for our training at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge from August 29th through the 31st.

    On Friday morning we met our trainers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife station in Ventura. From there our trainer Wildlife Technician John Thompson drove us way out to Hopper Mountain which consisted of
    driving on freeways to a long trip on a dirt road. Hopper Mountain is right next to an oil field which the condors nest near also, so the oil company lets the Fish and Wildlife Service use their roads. It is a pretty amazing place; the roads just go up and down the sides of mountains which are very high compared to the valley below. Eventually we make it to the field camp which consisted of a Ranch House, a couple trailers, and a barn. We unloaded all of our stuff, get back in the car, and take off to do our first telemetry ever.

    On the way up to the site called “Silver Tanks” we see our first Condor ever, so we stop the car and just watch the bird circle above us. It was the first time Shannon and I were able to see just how impressive these giant birds are in person. After a few minutes we get back in the car and head back up the mountain because we wouldsee plenty more Condors that weekend. When we got to “Silver Tanks” John showed use the basics of using the telemetry equipment, we tracked our first few Condors there and even had one fly over us while we were tracking it. For the rest of that first day we continued to practice telemetry and John showed us some of the Nest Monitoring sites, which were a pretty tough hike to get to. I can only assume
    anyone would be in awesome shape after working there for a month walking those trails. The next two days we were given a vehicle and sent out on our own to take telemetry readings all over the Wildlife
    Refuge. We saw plenty more Condors and were just as awed at every one we saw. We knew that when we left we probably wouldn’t see another one for the rest of the summer.

    During the next week Shannon and I prepared to go up to Hi Mountain for our very first weekend, which just so happened to be on Fourth of July. During that week we went down to the Forest Service
    Office in Santa Maria to get our off-road vehicle, as neither Shannon nor I had a car that could make it up to the Lookout. It actually took the better part of the day because we were required to have a
    Forest Service License. We met Kevin Cooper down there who took us through the process of getting the license. We had to watch a couple boring videos and read a pamphlet, take a test, and then take it out
    for a short drive. After that we had to drive our bright green SUV out to the Pozo service station where we would switch out our vehicles for it every week before we would head up the dirt road.

    It was finally time for us to start our first week, so we drove up to the Lookout on the Fourth of July. Shannon’s parents came up a few hours after we got there. We took telemetry data throughout the day and had a few visitors come up to check out the view and our interpretive center, although no one stayed to watch the fireworks. We had a barbeque that night and watched about five different fireworks shows, although they were all pretty far away. The fireworks in Pismo were the best. The next day we had a few more visitors, although no one was really that interested in the Condors. Then Sunday we finished our telemetry readings and packed up the lookout and left after our first weekend.

    The next week I got the newly improved phone and computer for the lookout, so we could now send our data from at the lookout instead of having to bring it home to send it to everyone. And over the next
    few weeks we had quite an eclectic mix of visitors. There were dirt bike riders, mountain bikers, horse riders, hikers, Forest Service employees, and people who came up just to see the lookout. I liked the people who came up to see the lookout the best, because they were actually interested in what we were doing and the condor recovery program. Perhaps the most interesting group of people who came up
    were “The Condor Kids”.

    Shannon and I arrived one Friday to see a group of about ten people cheering as we drove up to the lookout in our Forest Service Vehicle. They were all wearing the same shirt that said “Condor Kids
    Return 2008″. It turns out that they were all former Cal Poly students who had worked with the Condor program about 20 years earlier and were on a reunion trip. They were all really excited about the
    lookout and loved our visitor center, and were some of the best visitors we had the whole summer. They even offered us a beer for lunch! The rest of that weekend was pretty boring because there were
    no other visitors the whole time, all our excitement happened at the very beginning of that weekend.

    About halfway through the summer Karlien came up with Shannon and I for Shannon’s last weekend. Shannon and I showed Karlien everything she needed to know to work up here so that she could take
    over for Shannon after that week. Shannon left to go to a summer work program in Costa Rica. For the rest of the summer it has been Karlien and I manning the Lookout, except for one weekend. We also started to
    come up on Saturday through Monday then instead of Friday through Sunday.

    One weekend Karlien could not make it up, so I went up by myself. I had already been up one weekend by myself earlier in the summer, so I knew it was going to be pretty boring. But this weekend happened to be the first weekend of deer season. Saturday I left the gate open so visitors could come up. A lot actually came up that day, but the only thing anyone wanted to know was if I had seen any deer. So the rest of that weekend I just left the gate closed, and no one even came up except to use the bathroom. It is much more fun when visitors actually want to learn something about what we are doing.

    The next weekend everything was back to normal and we were getting the normal types of visitors again mixed with a few hunters every now and then. Not much out of the normal has really happen since then. We have been here for two months now, and I only have one more weekend up here, while Karlien will be here for two more. So if anyone wants to come up here for a visit these next two weekends are the best times to do so from late Saturday morning to mid afternoon on Monday.

    Patrick White
    Hi Mountain Lookout Intern