A Year of Photos – 2016

January 15, 2017

Usually these types of blog entries are done closer to the new year, but time got away from me a bit. I’ve also been busy working on my John Muir Trail book. It took me eleven months of nearly daily writing to finish the first draft. Brevity in the written word has never been a strong suit, so editing and a second draft will be a challenge. But I adore the creative process, both in writing and in photography. As for this entry, the biggest challenge was trying to winnow the thousands of images I took in 2016  down to 12.

Rather than putting the images in a gallery, I’ve chosen to put this post into a standard format so I can share more narrative.

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

The early part of the year found me out of a job for a few months as the restaurant I worked at for 8 years went belly up. It had been in decline for years so it was really a mercy killing, a blessing. I took full advantage and did lots of hiking and went on road trips to Tahoe, Death Valley and Yosemite.

February

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Death Valley Moon

My favorite trip of the year was a visit to Death Valley after hearing of the incredible “superbloom” of wildflowers. But for all of those wildflower images I took on that trip, this was one of my favorite images of the year, of the moon about to set over my Mesquite Springs camp. But if you really want to see wildflowers, here’s a link to my DV post from last February. The Death Valley Superbloom – A Gallery of Flowers

 March

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Lupines, Lake Don Pedro

Another month and another road trip, this time to Yosemite. After four years of drought, we were expecting a visit from the much hyped and ballyhooed El Niño. The water situation improved some, but not to the extent that was forecast. Nevertheless, the wildflowers through the Sierra foothills didn’t disappoint. As I drove up highway 120 at sunrise, I found incredible light filtering through a fog bank with blooms of lupine and fiddlenecks.

April

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Poppies on Mt. Tamalpais

Well, I couldn’t live the life of leisure forever, especially after taking extended vacations in 2014 & 2015 to play around on the John Muir Trail. Another ’25 Days’ Gallery from the John Muir Trail (Landscape Edition) At the end of March, a job at the venerable Tadich Grill fell into my lap. But my weekly hikes continued, as did the incredible blooms of wildflowers all over California.

May

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Cow Parsnip, Muir Woods National Monument

I’ve always loved photographing Cow parsnip, a member of the wild carrot family. The patterns and symmetry are so photogenic. I took this image while walking along Redwood Creek towards Frank Valley camp and the Heather cut-off, one of my favorite springtime walks because of the variety of wildflower blooms. It was a different spring and summer for me since it was the first in many years that didn’t have me training like a maniac for a JMT backpacking trip or Mt. Whitney day hike. Instead many of my weekly hikes were more like extended meanders than death marches.

June

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Wild daisies at Laurel Dell, Mt. Tamalpais

July

 

 

In July, with the Sierra trails clear of snow, I ventured out for an overnight backpack trip into Desolation Wilderness, west of Lake Tahoe. The hard climb into the backcountry in surprising heat was a challenge and had me cramping severely, but it was all forgotten as I witnessed an incredible sunset that evening and sunrise the next morning.

August

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Sierra Nevada

I was able to finagle a handful of consecutive days off from the new job to allow me to do some quality car camping at Red’s Meadow Resort. I’d camped there during my John Muir Trail adventures the two previous summers. Initially, I’d hoped to venture into the backcountry, but I was fighting some knee tendinitis so I instead relaxed and went on day hikes to Rainbow Falls and some other locales.

September

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Rainbow Trail, Taylor Creek

I’m so incredibly fortunate that I live within comfortable driving distance to and from the Sierra, especially the Lake Tahoe area. For years, it’s been my tradition to make a pilgrimage to the Taylor Creek area west of Tahoe to photograph the fall colors and check out the Kokanee salmon swimming up the creek to spawn. This time, I was a bit early for the salmon, but the aspens were in good form and I even saw a bear just moments after taking this image. My Annual Tahoe Area Autumn Color Photo Safari

October

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Rock Spring Trail, Mount Tamalpais

Over the recent years of drought, we (Northern California) had been fooled before by the promise of early season storms. I took this photo on Mt. Tamalpais, looking back toward San Francisco Bay, the afternoon before one of those storms hit. This season, there was no talk of El Niño. We’d had other years when rainy seasons fizzled by January. This time however, storms continued, even to the point where just day ago the drought in Nor Cal was declared over.

November

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Wild mushrooms, Mt. Tamalpais

While April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes, autumn rains bring November mushrooms. I found these delightful specimens while hiking Rock Spring Trail. My job was made easy by the incredible light shining through the gills and by being able to get a nice low angle. The Wild, Wild Mushrooms of Mt. Tam

December

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Cataract Creek, Mt. Tamalpais

As mentioned, the rains continued into December and into January. Creeks and river, reservoirs and lakes were all gushing, even overflowing. I’m looking forward to venturing back into the wilderness often throughout the year. Best of luck to us all in 2017. After January 21st, we’ll need a lot of angels.

Posted in California State Parks, Death Valley National Park, Desolation Wilderness, John Muir Trail, Lake Tahoe hikes, Mt. Tamalpais, mushrooms, National Parks, Sierra Nevada, Wildflowers, Yosemite | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wild, Wild Mushrooms of Mt. Tam

This gallery contains 29 photos.

December 5, 2016 Here in Northern California, after an extended drought that saw some short term relief with a decent rainy season last year, we’re understandably hesitant to become overly giddy about early rains in October and November. But at … Continue reading

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My Annual Tahoe Area Autumn Color Photo Safari

This gallery contains 21 photos.

October 2016 After missing the peak foliage season last year, I more than made up for it during my visit last Thursday and Friday. Up well before dawn and on the road with my large Peets coffee. I witnessed a … Continue reading

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A Year Half Full

This gallery contains 41 photos.

June 27, 2016 My how time flies when I have no John Muir Trail hike to plan for. In both 2014 and last year, as I tracked the months, days and minutes until I hit the trail, it seemed that … Continue reading

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Springtime on Mt. Tam & Muir Woods

This gallery contains 31 photos.

May 23, 2016 Although the much anticipated El Niño that we’d heard about since last summer didn’t quite live up to the historic and lofty expectations, it was still a decent year for rain and snowpack. Because of this it’s … Continue reading

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Yosemite and the Sierra Foothills

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Sunrise east of Oakdale, Sierra Foothills

March 25, 2016

I’m pretty sure I speak for many of my fellow naturalists and outdoorspeople when I say that while this season’s (yes, it is ongoing) rainfall and snowpack have been good, the much hyped and ballyhooed El Niño has fallen short of expectations. The way the prognosticators were predicting last autumn, we were expecting downpours of biblical proportions, maybe some ark-building. I’m old enough to remember the ’98 El Niño pretty well and it was an impressive year (aside from the floods and landslides). But we did get a bit of what some called a “March Miracle” as a series of mid-month storms hit Northern California. This helped to significantly augment the snowpack and add some more precious run-off into our reservoirs.

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Fiddleneck

I was able to take advantage of having my weekdays off to head up to Yosemite to camp, explore and do some photography in the Sierra foothills and Yosemite Valley (3/15 & 3/16, what better way to celebrate the Ides of March). It’s a relatively quiet time in Yosemite anyways, but it was wonderful to enjoy the park on a Tuesday and Wednesday in late winter. I left the Bay Area before dawn and was treated to some wonderful scenes by the time I got to the foothills east of Oakdale (Highway 120).

I usually drive into Yosemite via 120, by force of habit as well as convenience. But I was looking forward to see how full Lake Don Pedro was after the winter storms. I confess it wasn’t quite as full as I expected, but it was so much higher than when I saw it last May when it was just a good-sized puddle. It was also important to keep in mind that there will be significant run-off in the next two months as the snow pack melts. (if you click on the trio of photos below, you can see them full-sized)

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Fiddleneck at Lake Don Pedro

Whenever I drive into Yosemite on an overnight trip, I’m constantly torn between wanting to stop every time I see something worth photographing (which is pretty damned often), and wanting to get to the park to maximize my time. Once I left Lake Don Pedro on the Tuolumne River, I minimized my stops. I whizzed through Groveland and then made a beeline for the Big Oak Flat entrance. I encountered snow along Big Oak Flat Road above 5,000 from the recent storms, but the road was well plowed and safe to negotiate.

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Big Oak Flat Road at about 5,500′

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

It was interesting being back in Yosemite Valley. The previous time I’d visited was last July when I was about to embark on my John Muir Trail adventure. It was also very different since I was on a YARTs bus and all I was interested in was getting my wilderness pass and then getting set up at Backpackers Camp. On this trip, I got to be a little more of a tourist.  I used to abhor coming into the valley because of the crowds of tourists. I’ve softened my take on the experience over the past half dozen years. I still try to avoid the park in the summer, especially on weekends. But there’s such beauty in the park and it’s very easy to find quiet and solitude, especially the further from the village you are.

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Yosemite Falls and the Merced River

I reached Yosemite Village at about 10:30, in desperate need of coffee, which I found at Degnan’s Deli. A huge bonus is that they serve Peets. After buying a few other camp necessities (firewood and Milano cookies), I went to Upper Pines Campground to set up my camp. Since I’d been up since 4:30 a.m., I took a short cat nap in my truck and then finally forced myself back out to explore Bridalveil Falls. Because of the rains, I was highly focused on waterfalls.

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Bridalveil Falls

Predictably, I ran into quite a few other visitors at the base of the falls and on the nearby trails, but I only had to hike a few hundred yards east of the outflow to find solitude on the Valley Loop Trail.

In all, I hiked about five or six miles, with a nice lunch break along the Merced River before heading back to camp to rest some more and brew up some more coffee on my camp stove. For a while, I thought I might just relax the rest of the afternoon and early evening, but I couldn’t sit still, knowing that the setting sun was probably putting on a show out in the meadows near El Capitan and Bridalveil. I was glad I went out again for photos, because the lighting and clouds dancing on top of El Capitan were memorable.

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El Capitan in the early evening

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Fading light in the meadow

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The view west

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Bridalveil Falls

And finally, there’s a strict rule enforced by park rangers that all visitors must take at least one photograph of Half Dome. After being put in a choke hold, I finally acquiesced and took this image. (ok, don’t report this on Facebook or Twitter, I wasn’t really put in a choke hold nor is there really a rule).

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I had a wonderful evening in front of a campfire as the temperatures dropped probably into the high 30s. There was a half moon out, and the stars were brilliant in the cold night. Although I set up my tent, I ended up sleeping in the back of my 4Runner. With the middle seats down, it’s a comfy (and warmer) way to car camp. In the morning, I’d hoped to hike up the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, but had a few lingering foot and back issues, so I took the easy walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. I was fortunate to arrive just moments before a bus load of gawkers took over the viewing area and bridge.

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Lower Yosemite Falls

On the way home, for variety’s sake, I drove the southern route (Highway 140) home. It’s also an incredibly scenic route since I had the Merced River out my window until well past El Portal and down towards Mariposa.

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Merced River near El Portal

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Redbud growing at El Portal

Past Mariposa I made a few more stops to photograph more wildflowers. Not only have the El Niño rains been kind to the water supply, snow pack, falls and rivers, it’s also been kind to the color green and to wildflowers.

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Fiddleneck west of Mariposa

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Posted in Local Hikes, National Parks, Wildflowers, Yosemite | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Fun – Mount Tamalpais Watershed

This gallery contains 13 photos.

February 22, 2016 A crisp winter Sunday morning on my beloved mountain. A glorious day and I opted for the road (or trail, less traveled) – Simmons Trail to Collier Spring, via Potrero Meadow and Barth’s Retreat instead of the more … Continue reading

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