Mount Tamalpais in the clouds and fog
December 31, 2018
Surely I could’ve found time to write more than two blog entries (including this one) in 2018, And like any good non-practicing Catholic, I always feel like I need to beg forgiveness for my absence from Blogland/the Blogosphere. Forgive me father for I have sinned, it’s been eleven months since my last post. And my inflated ego makes me think that the world of blog crumbled without me.
As I approach the three year mark since beginning the writing of “As I Was Walking,” my book about my adventuring along the John Muir Trail, I can happily report that I’m very close to finalizing my edits and layout and will be self-publishing soon, sometime in January (of 2019).
As I sit on the comfy sofa in my humble Alameda apartment, recovering from a nasty bout with strep throat, since I can’t go outside to play and cavort, I’ve decided to put together this End of Year gallery. What really compelled me to put this post together was an Instagram post I did yesterday. It was one of those “best of 2018/top 9” grids that posted my nine most liked images of the previous year. While I always appreciate the support of my followers, this is one case where the numbers do lie. Granted, I’m hardly the most objective judge of my own work. But one IG follower, Eileen, was kind enough to offer her own input. If I’d had the budget, I’d hire her as an editor, because I agreed with her choices. I’m not sure I can winnow my choices down to nine – I made more than 200 IG posts in 2018 and posted many more images than that on other social media – but following is my own Best of List:
First, the opening image of this post was from my first hike back on Mount Tamalpais (Marin County, CA) after a lengthy bout with bronchitis in late November (yes, it’s been a sickly last quarter of 2018). It was also between two early season storms, which always makes me excited at the prospect of witnessing the mountain’s returned vitality, with creek beds once again flowing and the parched earth joyous at the prospect of a long-needed soak.
From here, the images will be in chronological order:
January on Mount Tam’s Cataract Trail, a great place to enjoy the sound of water from Cataract Creek and plentiful wild mushrooms. I’m not enough of a mycologist to determine edibility and poisonous-ness, I just like the way they look.
Below: a trio of images from an abbreviated trip to Death Valley in mid-February. First is from my camp at Mesquite Springs Campground. Middle image is a look north along the road to Mesquite. Bottom image is on the drive through the eastern Sierra along highway 395 on the way home as a snow storm approaches from the west.
As always, I’m consistently drawn back to the serenity of Mount Tamalpais. It’s where my soul feels most at peace. This particular image is from the Rock Spring Trail as I make my way through a patch of manzanita under a gathering storm in March.
Rock Spring Trail above Marin
Another March on Mt. Tam image as early blooms of poppies find protection behind a serpentine outcropping.
Poppies above Rock Spring Trailhead, Mt. Tamalpais State Park
For variety, I sometimes venture to another gem of a California State Park: Mount Diablo where wildflowers abound in early spring.
Early spring rains continued to feed the creeks on Mt. Tam. In this case, Fern Creek along the Matt Davis Trail.
I get to see a lot of trees on my hikes, but I don’t recall a more regal, impressive tree than this grand oak that I found at Point Reyes National Seashore in late April. The way her branches spread across the trail and the surrounding landscape left an impression. This is a case where I felt that the subject was more important than the creative aspects of the image.
Queen of the Oaks, Point Reyes National Seashore
Wherever I hike, my eyes are always on the lookout for the smaller/macro details of what I find along the trails. I’ve always loved the textures of manzanita bark, sometimes smooth like polished mahogany or looking like shaved chocolate when the outer layers peel.
Manzanita bark, late July
The month of August arrived and my two week vacation with a planned 8-day loop in the Sierra, including part of the John Muir Trail. Unfortunately, wildfires and the accompanying smoke choked much of Northern California and the Sierra. As I drove toward the Sierra early on a Sunday morning, I contemplated canceling the trip as the skies became more and more smoky the further I drove and I worried for my health. Eventually, I found cleaner skies south of Mono Lake and even more so toward Bishop and my camp at 9,400′ at North Lake. I found this superb specimen of monkshood growing just yards from my campsite.
Monkshood, North Lake Camp
I went ahead with the backpacking trip, but it was cut woefully short as I came down with a case of altitude sickness. I’m already predisposed to it, but it certainly wasn’t helped by all the smoke I inhaled the previous two days during my drive. I’ll try again in 2019, and will hope and pray for a less devastating fire season. An image from my hike along the Bishop Pass Trail.
Saddlerock Lake, Bishop Pass Trail
Home early from the backpacking trip, I decompressed and took a very slow casual hike along Bootjack Trail to Van Wyck Meadow on Mt. Tam. A nice way to soothe the disappointment of another truncated adventure. Both images below are from that short hike.
Top: detail of a redwood tree; bottom: wild fennel silhouette
Late summer brought still warm temperatures to Mt. Tam, and while the first image below is a variation of similar I’ve taken on hiking trails, showing an inviting trail through forest, I loved the colors and the way the light fell on the canopy and the light at the end of a tunnel feel. The second image shows a view from the trail where it was about 25 to 30 degrees warmer above the fog bank than below.
Early October, and an early autumn hike on Mt. Tam. The two trail images (in color) are again variations of other images I’ve done before, but I liked them nonetheless. I was more intrigued with the black and white jumble of dead manzanita. I loved the chaos and while I try to have a center of focus in most of my images, I think the lack of one in this instance made it a successful image.
Shortly after the above Mt. Tam hike, I was laid low by a prolonged bout with bronchitis that put me on the shelf for a couple of weeks. Once I finally improved, the tragic Camp Fire hit and smoke again choked the Bay Area. I escaped the unbreathable air for a few days by going to Lake Tahoe. Too late for the autumn foliage, I still found plenty of beauty near Taylor Creek and Hope Valley.
A return to the smoky Bay Area set me back again with lung and sinus problems until the rains finally arrived in late November, putting out the fires and cleansing the air. Once recovered, I was like a giddy child once again, patrolling Mount Tamalpais, tromping through muddy trails and understory, finding creeks flowing, trees rejoicing and mushrooms popping up. Please enjoy the closing slideshow of my final late 2018 hikes.