Monday, October 07, 2013

Northern Redwoods & Sierra Aspens: September 2013

(If you want to look at the pictures without the text, just click on a photo and use the arrow keys to scroll through them.  Hit "escape" to get back to the text.)

We had wanted to take a more ambitious trip this autumn, but we decided to stay a little closer to home due to some family medical issues.  So we decided to hit the moist, lush coastal redwoods and then the dry, open Eastern Sierra.

September 15: This was our longest day (530 miles).  We stopped at Kelly’s Campground, a very rustic “resort” in Lake County.

September 16: By mid-afternoon, we were at Albee Creek Campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and we found a really nice campsite tucked away in the trees:

We even had time for a bike ride along Mattole Road:

September 17:  We hiked the Bull Creek Flats Trail.  The day began with a little drizzle:

But the sun came out in the afternoon – this is taken on the south side of Bull Creek, just south of the Rockefeller Grove. Felice is in the patch of sun in the middle of the picture:

Just for the sake of comparison, here is the same shot edited in Lightroom -- it may not be all that much different:

September 18: We drove a couple of hours north to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and managed to get a campsite right on the creek:

This is a very short video of the creek next to the trailer.  (As with all of the videos on this blog, you can click the gear symbol and watch it in semi-high definition, and you can expand it to "full screen" if you'd like.)


September 19:  We drove out to Fern Canyon on the coast.  Along the road (and along the trail), there were tremendous numbers of bull elk.  This was a little disconcerting, since it was “rutting season.”  But we kept our distance from them -- these are telephoto shots:

Not surprisingly, Fern Canyon is very lush, with “five finger ferns” covering the dripping canyon walls:

The stream has cut a channel straight down through the limestone walls:

After hiking through the canyon, we rode our mountain bikes north on the coastal trail.  It was wonderfully remote – the beach on one side, and the forest on the other, and almost no one else on the trail.  The ride was only a few miles round-trip, but it took us a long time because parts of the trail were pretty rough and muddy:

Along the trail, there were several waterfalls plunging from the cliffs down onto the beach:

That afternoon, we were able to enjoy cocktails in our usual “snacking circle” next to the creek:

September 20:  Although rain was predicted, we hiked the nearby Brown Creek Trail, and we brought our rain gear with us.  (We were glad that we did, but the rain was so heavy that we were soaked anyway.)  The ferns were taller than Felice:

September 21: After a full night of rain, the sky seemed to be clearing up, so we hiked the James Irvine Trail, almost all the way to Fern Canyon (and back).  The sun was streaming through the mist:

This is almost the same shot, edited in Lightroom:

Felice is in the lower right hand corner of this shot:

It was clear that these redwoods are close cousins of the sequoias – some of them are as big as the middle-sized sequoias:

The fungi were enjoying the wet weather -- these pumpkin-colored parasites were each about as big as a dinner plate:

The understory was covered in moss -- there was so much vegetation that the misty sunlight was literally tinted a light green:


Dense gardens of sword ferns covered every inch of soil – in this short video, watch for Felice in a purple shirt waving from the trail in the background:

September 22:  On a drizzly and windy day, we headed out to Patrick’s Point.  The waves were crashing against the rocks:

On our way back to the campground, we got caught in an “elk jam,” as the herd crossed the highway.  In this video, you can hear the bull “bugling” to the females, urging them to cross the road:

September 23:  As we were getting ready to leave Prairie Creek, the fog was drifting through the redwoods on the hill above the campground:

Rain was predicted for the far north coast, and snow was predicted for the Sierra, so we headed south, possibly to visit Matt in Oakland.  (That did not work out -- he was pretty busy.) But as we were driving, Felice realized that the Mendocino area was right on our way -- it seemed like a good place to hide from the weather for a couple of days, since the forecast for that area was dry.  So, we changed our plans on the fly -- it's very liberating to travel without reservations!  That night, we stayed at an RV park near Willits, mostly for grocery shopping, laundry, recharging the batteries (literally), and drying out our sodden possession.

September 24:  We found a very remote campsite in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest – as far as we could tell, we were the only people camping in the entire forest during this time!   Although the forest is only six miles from Ft. Bragg, it takes quite a while to get there because the access roads are narrow, twisty, and rocky.  That afternoon, we did some mountain biking on the forest roads, right near our campsite:

The only problem with this campsite is that it was so dark and cool and silent in the mornings that we slept till almost 8 o'clock each day.  (On second thought, that was not a major problem.)

September 25:  In the morning, we walked along the coast at Russian Gulch -- in places, the sea caves had cut all the way through the cliffs:

Later, we hiked to Russian Gulch falls – note Felice sitting at the top of the falls in the first picture:

This is a rather tame video of biking in the Mendocino woods:

We were happy to discover that the hiking and biking trails were in much better shape than the last time we had visited this area, which was during the state budget crisis.

September 26:  In the morning, we hiked in the Mendocino Headlands.  One of the sea caves formed a tunnel -- the waves swept straight through the tunnel and broke on the inside of the cove:

From the cliffs, we could look down into the tunnel, as part of the roof had collapsed:

The ocean was a deep cobalt blue – this picture almost captures it, but not quite:

The waves had carved a cul de sac cave into the cliffs – each wave would compress the air inside the cave, causing it to explode back out the entrance:

Later that afternoon, we rode our bikes on the Big River Trail.  There were some views of the river, but the trees were fairly dense most of the way:

This is the obligatory shot of our isolated campsite, deep in the redwoods:

And this is the obligatory shot of cocktail hour, sitting by our own private miniature waterfall, all bundled up on a chilly afternoon:

September 27:  We drove across the state to Minden, Nevada, and stayed in an RV park near a casino.  It was another long day, but it put us into position to get to the Eastern Sierra the next day.  

September 28:  We headed south to the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest, northeast of Yosemite and southwest of Bridgeport.  We were just in time for the last gasp of the aspens, which had been hit by a snowstorm a few days earlier and which were being thrashed by the wind.  There were still traces of the recent snow on the mountains.  The peaks in this shot are at 12,000:

Our campsite was at 9000 feet, tucked into the edge of an aspen grove, on a ledge above a canyon.

September 29:  We hiked in Lundy Canyon.  It is a classic “U-shaped” glacially carved valley:

We were amazed that the cascades were still running, at the end of a very dry year:

A blog post would not be complete without Felice's boot shot:

It was very windy – notice that the willow bushes in this shot are blurred by the wind:

The Lundy Canyon area has a lot of metamorphic rock, unlike most of the Sierra (which is granitic).  So the cascades jump down “stair steps” cut into the layers of rock:

At the head of the valley, there is a tricky talus slope, below the Saddlebag Lake region of Yosemite:

This short panorama shows the steepness of the talus slope and the shape of the canyon:

That afternoon, the orange aspens near our campsite were backlit by the sun:

The roaring wind was stripping the trees – Felice rescued three colorful aspen leaves:

As evening approached, the violent winds stirred up lenticular clouds:

The sunset was garish – I had to tone down the gaudy color in this shot.  The real thing was a mix of neon pink and Day-Glo orange:

This is the same shot, edited in Lightroom -- I'm not sure it's any better than the original:

September 30:  After breakfast, I tried to capture the essence of a boondocking campsite -- silence and isolation.  There was no one else near us, for many miles around:

This is the same shot, edited in Lightroom:

We hiked the Barney Lake trail, in the Twin Lakes area.  The aspens formed a tunnel over parts of the trail:

It was cold and windy at the lake:

Little Slide Canyon cuts south from the trail:

That night, the tail of the Big Dipper arched over the trailer:

The sky was so dark and clear that we could easily see the braided structure of the Milky Way.  (For folks who are interested in photography, this shot was taken at an ISO of 3200 for 20 seconds.  Since it was a jpeg file, I could not correct the white balance, so the trailer looks blue -- I illuminated it for a few seconds with an LED flashlight with a bluish cast.)