Wildlife up close

We stopped at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to check out its trees. We’ve driven through the park numerous times, and it offers some lovely specimens along the road.

It also offers an elk herd that makes forays from one side of the road to the other.

Yep, they were across from the main park office, and a bunch of people were standing at a fence shooting with their cell phones.

We turned the other way, and headed back into the campground, because the elk were spooked enough….and we were after trees.

Whoa, what’s this? There were two large bulls feeding among the empty campsites!

DSC_6298_aWe slowly drove along…right between them…so I could use the car as a “blind” and get out for a better shot.

Like this…

DSC_6213_aBut while I was shooting one, the other kept walking…and got so close to the car I almost couldn’t get back in!

DSC_6244_aThey’re not tame, but they are pretty comfortable around cars….my standing outside the car made them nervous, however.

We never made it into the trees on this trip….

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Let’s catch some oysters

We’re parked outside Arcata, CA, just a few miles from Robyn’s father.

This area is called the California North Coast. We spent time here last winter, and really enjoyed discovering its special places.

Only 14 miles up the coast is the small village of Trinidad, with a bay we just love. Sandy beach with plenty of large rocks to give the water something to work on. Constant rumble of waves. Many nooks and crannies to explore at low tide, plenty of crashing and spray at high tide.

And wildlife. On this day, there were several Black Oystercatchers pursuing nutrition. We’ve seen them before, but only from a great distance. This day, they were surprisingly tolerant of the many people playing on the shore.

They remind me of painted ladies…right down to their toenails.

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Towering timbers

Avenue of the Giants.

The slow version of US Route 101 in California’s North Coast.

Slow because it has only two lanes, and because you keep staring at the massive redwoods that line its length (31 miles more or less), and because you have to slow down to avoid trees that are in the way of the road…so the road goes around them, just by inches, and your mirror might bang on the tree….

Rather than a picture of the roadway, here’s a picture of why we visit the area:

DSC_6087_aActually, this is probably more illustrative of why we visit the area:

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The trees lean toward the center of the photo because I tilt the camera to catch as much as possible…click on any picture and it will fill your screen.

Everything is so accessible. There are little wide spots on the road, where you can park and walk 10 feet inside the woods…and be completely enveloped, surrounded as it were.

DSC_6127_aDespite the drought elsewhere in California, this area has no shortage of moisture…which is precisely why these giants flourish right here. Notice even the ground has ferns and tiny green cover plants everywhere there’s the slightest opportunity for sunlight. At the park office, a row of deciduous trees shows the results of plentiful moisture and available sunlight.

DSC_6162_aDSC_6136_aRoss helped with a couple pictures of fallen giants….

DSC_6142_aDSC_6148_aThe rest stand there, straight and tall….

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Still going strong

We originally planned a six-day run from Dayton to the northern California coast near Robyn’s father’s home.

A few days into the trip, we received an email from Robyn’s step-sister who lives a few miles from her mother, Lois, and Robyn’s father, Claude. She had heard from Claude that we were on the way, and that our route would take us near Grand Canyon. She knew of Claude’s desire to see the Grand…it was a dream that had not been fulfilled so far in his 89 years of life, and the opportunities were distant….

She wondered what we thought of their putting Claude on a plane to meet us in Flagstaff, visit Grand Canyon with him for a day or two, and then ride the last few days with us up to his home.

She and her husband would bring Lois into their home while Claude was with us, and we could take as long as we wanted to get him home.

Wow, we had to think about that one….for about a second.

What a grand idea!

We slowed down for a couple days in Albuquerque so the plane ticket could be bought, we made reservations at the campground in Grand Canyon, and we bought a cot for Claude to use in the coach.

It all went off like a plan that had been in the works for months!

We had so much fun that we extended our time at Grand Canyon to 9 days, and made reservations for a week at Zion National Park (another dream for Claude). While there, we visited Bryce Canyon National Park (another dream). On the way to Zion, we surprised Claude by stopping for the night outside Sin City….I’m sorry, Las Vegas….and making a quick foray into its glitter and sound….

Although Claude had visited Yosemite many times, the most recent was at least a dozen years ago….and it was practically on our route to his house.

We managed a run into Sequoia National Park for an hour, then on to Yosemite for three days.

What we had all initially expected might last for 6 or 7 days turned into a three-week odyssey through 5 national parks and countless other historic or geologic wonders!

Through it all, Claude was self-sufficient and energetic. He was excited to shoot stills and videos of everything he saw, and emailed reports with photos to Lois each day.

I thought you would enjoy my photos of Claude basking in the Grand and Bryce environments and shooting everywhere he went. You’ll notice he was not content to stand at the railing and shoot like all the tourists….

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Reflecting on Yosemite

During the several days we visited Yosemite, there were periods with little or no wind.

And although water has been scarce in the park for many moons, and most of the noteworthy falls are mere wisps of moisture, the Merced River still provides pools that can reflect so much of the park’s grandeur.

A bonus for us this time….some remaining fall color in the trees and grasses!

The scenes speak more eloquently than I….

(click on a picture and it will fill your screen)

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More than granite domes

Hard to say what Yosemite is best known for…all the waterfalls, its immense wilderness areas that are so close to so many people, or its tremendous biodiversity.

Most of it is never seen! There are more than 1200 square miles within its boundaries, yet most visitors spend all their time in the 9 square miles of the valley floor! Even in November, there is constant vehicular and foot traffic….everyone carries a camera, and every other person carries a tripod. There are crowds at key overlooks as sunset nears and skies begin to color.

We’re guilty of dome envy: our first stop inside the park was Glacier Point’s overlook for Half Dome.

DSC_5075_aAnd we wedged ourselves into the mass of tripods for this classic evening view of El Capitan across a Merced River pool.

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But moments after this photo from our lunch-time repast…

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We were joined by this citizen of the park!

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In fact, every which way you turn, this park offers so much that is beyond our workaday world.

We’ve learned to keep turning, keep returning, keep our eyes open, stop and listen, and sometimes…just stop. What a place!

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You know it’s Yosemite

These national parks can really get under your skin….no matter how far you travel, when you drive through the gate, you KNOW why you came….

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With 10 miles to go before we would land on the Valley floor and traverse to the far end with Half Dome, this Tunnel View shows the length and breadth of Yosemite National Park. What a treasure!

HA, that’s not the half of it!

DSC_5121_aThis view from Glacier Point features Half Dome….and provides little understanding of the distances involved. Here’s a clue: standing in the same spot, I photographed two people standing on Half Dome….

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The place is massive, and the views spectacular. The following photo is from an overlook whose placard describes being able to see 190 miles on a clear day!

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Of course, the up-close views aren’t too bad!

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Whoa, that sucker’s huge!

Pretty stark to leave the Arizona and Utah deserts and head straight into Sequoia National Park!

Our visit…just for a day…coincided with rain, too. First rain we’ve experienced in weeks….

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We were up in the clouds….the park’s central area where the largest trees are found lies at 8,000 feet elevation.

During a lull in the rain, I found this scene…check out the three generations within an arm’s length of each other!

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A few basic Sequoia facts: they are the largest trees by volume on Earth (shorter than Redwoods, but wider), Sequoia bark is more red than a Redwood’s bark, both Sequoias and Redwoods are so tall that they are almost impossible for me to photograph the whole tree at once, Redwoods require a very wet environment and therefore proliferate like rabbits and clutter up the forest, while Sequoias just grow large and shade the forest…so they tend to stand out.

Given a choice between the two types of tree, I’d shoot Sequoias every time. Alas, they are scarce.

But I wasn’t going to risk the Nikon in the rain even for Sequoias!

With the lens down a little…not up to catch as much of the height as possible…I managed to avoid raindrops on this picture. The picture really needs something to show you the scale…that center tree is 8 feet in diameter!

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Bye bye, Zion

Wow, what a great time we’ve had at Zion!

It’s not enough that the place has massive walls of rock in stunning colors and textures.

It also has stuff and things right up close. I stood underneath this young waterfall in order to photograph the water coming from a section of wall they call Weeping Rock.

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And as I stood beside the road to shoot a landscape, up walked several of these Mule Deer.

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And around a corner was this small herd of Bighorn Sheep.

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Talk about accessible….I stood in the river to take this shot about 50 feet from our parked car!

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I put my toes in the sand for this picture not 20 feet from the car.

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This picture of almost a tree, high overhead between two towering walls of rock, I took while standing in the open door of the car.

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Ultimately, we enjoyed Zion Canyon soooo much more than almost any park we’ve visited, because it brings so much unspoiled nature right to you: terrific grandeur and amazing detail, large unmoving walls of rock and tiny drips of water, fall colors and Bighorn Sheep.

We’ll be back!

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Zion textures

It’s not enough that Zion mountains and boulders and mounds of rock have all these different colors, they also have all these different textures.

There’s the usual big, cracked walls of granite (I don’t actually know what the rock is, but it’s probably not granite because of its color…but then, I’m no geologist).

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Then there’s a dozen variations on the large-dripping-mudpie-look: some stack it, some push it to edges that are round, some push to edges that are broken, some run layers at angles to each other, some look like cow pies, and some look like checkerboards with cracks running horizontally and vertically.

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Ohhhh, some have colors that alternate like a cake, and some have layers that kind of flake off in lines. What a fascinating place!

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