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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.