31 August 2017


Sketches for both July and August. I seem to have neglected these last month. I was thinking, "Well, there is only one," but there was actually three.

Resting by Twin Lakes and watching the waterfalls.

The peaks that attracted my attention the most while planning.

Just wandering the local trails, this being the view from along McMenemey Trail.

Watching the water flow: Evolution Creek.

Enjoying the forests underwater and overhill from Trout Farm Campground in Malheur National Forest.

View of the mountains as we bed down, ready to get to the best spot for watching a total eclipse.

27 August 2017

Lloyd Lake

Golden Gate Park

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We stopped by the park on the way through. There is actually plenty of free parking along the streets near and through it. Count me surprised about that. There are also plenty of people walking around it and, on a Sunday, plenty of parties going on. But I guess sometimes you just have to sit by the pond and watch the ducks.

turtle on the pond edge
Turtles too. They were not easy to scare.

ducks on the water all paired off
The ducks mostly come in pairs. They are a bit easier to scare.

Bolinas Lagoon

Point Reyes area

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Driving past Bolinas Lagoon, we stopped to try to take it all in.

shallow and salty
Taking in the lagoon from a tiny point of land beside the road.

White House Pool Park

Point Reyes area

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We stopped at the park at the edge of the Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve not certain what we would get. It is a popular little spot by the cars in the lot, but the one picnic table sits unused.

bridge and table and dog poo bags
And here we are, at the start.

We pop over the bridge and start wandering the trail. It edges past the nearly static waters of Lagunitas Creek. They sit like a long, thin lagoon below a steep bank. A few ducks can be found upon them.

long grasses beside the water
Tall grasses edge the water in some places.

26 August 2017

Mill Creek mill

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

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The map says "former mill site" and I was curious. The sign at the bottom of the road said only open on weekends, so checking on it the previous evening did not work. The gate is open now and up we came to the end of public travel on the road to where there is a large parking lot surrounded by blackberries. There is something large across the creek from the parking area, but the blackberries on the steep banks do a rather good job of blocking any direct access. Roads are supposed to curve around to there, so we start up the road past the gate.

trees up a hill
The forest beside the road.

mighty stump
A mighty stump a short way up the hill from the road, but there are none further up.

Mills generally kept a small grove of old growth trees nearby and we are walking at the edge of the one that was kept here. There are big stumps off to our right a short way off the road, but none further than about 50 feet. Some big trees can be seen high on the hill. A road breaks off to continue along the edge of the older trees as the paved road turns to cross the creek.

crossing over Mill Creek
The cross over of Mill Creek.

looks like a fire house, but probably not
Mill site buildings across the bridge.

25 August 2017

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Redwood National Park

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The coastal redwoods do not get too close to the coast, they like a buffer between themselves and the salt air, so after the coastal wander we still needed our daily dose of tall trees, preferably old growth. Going from the obscure to the well advertised, we stopped by the Lady Bird Johnson Grove just in time to watch a logging truck full of redwood zip under the bridge and down the road marked "not recommended for trailers". This may be the national park and the road may look small enough to be going nowhere much, but it goes all the way through, which is not that far, and out into private lands owned by logging companies.

out at the sign and the bridge
A little information and a road crossing bridge to start the trail.

Across the bridge and into areas logging companies salivate over, but as yet cannot touch, we get into the serious business of looking up. This is an interpretive trail and there are plenty of brochures, mostly well used, tucked away in the box for a little idle learning as well.

directly upward into the branches
Seriously looking up. First bit of idle learning: redwood forests are not a monoculture and have plenty of other trees in with them. The one on the left is a Douglas fir.

fake farm houses

Redwood National Park

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We headed out from High Bluff Overlook going north on the one way section of Coastal Drive. The continuation of the California Coastal Trail as it heads over Flint Ridge is obviously marked, but warns that a bridge is out some miles away where the trail is closed. A little further is a seemingly random roadside sign. We stopped to find some World War II history.

shingles of a building below
A building that was disguised as part of a working farm.

Below the road are two buildings that were built to appear as part of a working farm perched out here on the edge of the land. The disguise is meant for passing ships, overhead airplanes, and even travelers on the road. We take a short trail down to see what they really are.

cinderblock forming a larger block just as boring, but covered in wooden decoration
Big, boring cinder blocks with an elaborate wooden facade.

Coastal Trail Tey-wo-lew section

Redwood National Park

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The California Coastal Trail is a long trail in the making. Unlike the "Pacific Crest", it goes through areas where people crowd in, so it might forever be in the making. It also has an awful lot of road hiking, but maybe less so in the north. This part is a mostly abandoned piece of the Coastal Drive that is about 3 miles from gate to gate. It seems likely to be a lovely bluff top excursion through the trees above the roaring surf. Also quite easy.

blocked road
The start of the restricted section of road. Hikers and bicycles only, no dogs or horses.

It is foggy and it is paved, although the paving is inconsistent. It does look like someone gets to use this road. Coming to a turnout, it is clear that this road was built for public use. On the left edge, there is an interpretive sign. The surface has nearly become a uniform yellow from age, but it can still be read. I stop for a moment to learn about the beach below and how gold has been found on it and various attempts to collect it on an industrial scale were made but never paid off. Jeff will come by a little later and read it too and be appalled by the thought of anyone using mercury so close to the ocean. Stand beside the ocean and it will tell you that it is infinite and powerful. All that goes into it is lost forever unless the ocean itself chooses to give it back. Of course, this is bluster, but humans used to believe it.

large tree with many branches barely visible in the fog
There seem to be monsters in the mist!

small parking area with a sign
Turnout on the side of the mostly abandoned road. Almost lost in the vegetation on the left is the brown edge of an informative sign.

The turnout is clearly meant as a lookout as well. Surely the beach it refers to is stretched out below. As I look out, the cliffs simply vanish into the fog maybe as much as halfway down. I can hear the surf below crashing against rocks and cliff, but there is not even the slightest visual clue of its reality.

nothing but a fading tree
All kinds of nothing out there.

So I have to pay attention to the things closer at hand although I can often hear the surf below. There is a little more visibility along the road.

leafy succulent in the grasses
A cluster of leafiness from a small succulent.

trees around, brush abound
A fair bit of plant diversity looking down the road.

Then I spot the banana slugs. And more banana slugs. Actually, they are quite hard to miss. They are in the road and on the leaves on the side and there may be more than I have ever seen before in a single area. Oh, and they appear to think there are not enough so they are making more banana slugs.

pair of banana slugs paired off
One pair of banana slugs. They all seem to have holes in their sides indicating they have mated.

banana slugs parting
Another pair of banana slugs as they part.

The banana slugs thin out and vanish as the vegetation changes and I have another chance to see nothing below. The churn of the surf still assures me that there is a below and it contains the ocean.

open space
Looking back over a more open area of road.

alder and conifer surrounded by ferns
Back to more forest with a thick coating of ferns.

tuft of purple flowers around a barrel shaped center
Some flowers with a sage look. I should have given the leaves a sniff.

The road turns slightly away from the bluff edge and hits a gate meant only to block vehicles. A thin trail continues along the bluff, but I am not certain if it is official. My map does not indicate there is any intersection to worry about along this trail. A sign to the side of the gate does not actually forbid entry, but it does identify the land as state prison property and warns that all who enter may be subject to search. I think I will take the thin trail instead. Upon greater reflection, the thick growth around it does seem to be coming from a wide, flat area as though this, too, is old road bed. Its abandonment is simply more complete than the previous section.

gated road
Never mind. Especially if you are going to forbid cameras.

thin trail in undergrowth
Finally it looks a bit like trail.

Nature pushes in just a little bit further along this section. There are even more banana slugs along the way, some trying to get stepped on.

pine cones
The pine cones hanging overhead change from male to female toward the end of the branch.

thick cluster of white flowers
Lots of delicate white flowers that are themselves composed of more little flowers.

blackberry flowers and fruit
Blackberries from flower to ripe fruit. 'Tis the season and quite a few have been eaten this trip.

purple flowers with bell shapes hanging in a column showing spots on their inside
These put me in the mind of an escaped flower garden plant, but they probably grow wild somewhere. Maybe it is here.

sign for a bump
Ah, ha! So this is still a bit of road.

Gradually the road looks less abandoned. There is a small turnout with a thin trail heading out onto the bluff from it. This looks too well used to ignore, so I start down it. It pops over a little rise becoming enveloped in the green and starts down with enthusiasm. I would really like to go down it as it seems to be heading for the beach just north of Split Rock, but I also had a time to finish which leaves no time for casual excursions down more than 400 feet of bluff.

thin trail
A thin, but clearly used, trail down from the road. It appears to go down the bluff quite a ways. The map also shows a headland (Split Rock) with a benchmark and a section corner.

vanishing white line down the middle of vanishing pavement
A little bit of the lining for the road, done in white. It might have been one way or it might just be that old.

There is a road above me and then a gate. End of the line. I asked to be picked up at the High Bluff Overlook, so I have a little bit of road walking to finish up. It is all very much downhill, then the coastal drive continues (one way going north) to the right and there is a big parking lot with bathrooms and picnic tables a little further down to the left. I have to go out past the picnic tables to see if maybe I might finally find a bit of ocean.

another gate with a sign for miles
The end of my protected hike and bicycle only roadway.

churning water in the fog
Finally, I can see the ocean!

After finally confirming that there is an ocean, I watch it for a bit, then wander over to the actual overlook which goes off a trail out the north end of the parking lot. This drops down a little more to an area that appears to have been flattened out at some point. The sign by the lot indicates there is beach access, but the only marking for it is another sign saying it is closed and dangerous. But there really is a beach to look out over.

black sands below
The beach below the overlook.

Then it is time to head off for new adventures.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 9 September 2017

24 August 2017

Nickerson Ranch

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

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We are heading for the coast and thus I am back to see some big trees in the form of coastal redwoods. There is very little parking at the Nickerson Ranch Trailhead, but we find a spot to tuck in by the side. It is practically just across the road from the large parking area for the Boy Scout Tree Trail that I hiked in February, so that is a possible parking area. Although so close, this is a little different. For starters, I cannot hear the city and we will not be hiking down toward it. The season is now dry and the potholes that somehow formed in the dirt road have vanished. Now everything around it is a uniform tan color matching the dry dirt.

trailhead sign for Nickerson Ranch
The start of the Nickerson Ranch Trail. It goes 0.6 miles to Mill Creek or a little shorter to Mill Creek Trail for a loop.

Our immediate quest is to make it out of the land of dust that rises high into the trees and coats the ferns. It is made somewhat difficult by finding that a bridge has been built just a few feet in to cross a creek and it has itself been crossed in the middle by a small tree. Well, it is at least small for the area at nearly a foot in diameter. It has smashed the bridge down into the small creek below leaving steep ends to navigate. I select a route along side trail and tree to get over the mess. Martha uses even more side trail to make her way.

bridge snapped in two
Broken bridge for crossing.

After that obstacle, everything becomes very easy. First, we get a bench with dedications on it to rest up from our ordeal. Next we get rather flat, wide trail through the trees. All the while, the dust coating is thinning out so that the forest turns from tan to green.

wide trail through the trees
Still some dust along the wide trail through the trees.

22 August 2017

Lava Cast Forest

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Deschutes National Forest

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After driving down the road most of the day, it was time to stop by something interesting. Unfortunately, it was also very smoky from nearby fires. It did get better as we got higher, but those distant fires were still feeling a little too close. It is good gravel road that only sometimes turns into a washboard all the way up to the lot, which requires a fee of those without a pass. The first part is wide and handicapped accessible. We head out on the paved route into the smoke.

living trees beside the trail
These trees are somewhat more alive than what we were expecting.

We wander for a short bit past trees living upon the lava flow. Perhaps it is an older flow than the 6-7 thousand year old one we are looking for, but the change is not obvious as the forest opens up. There are interesting details to the lava, but there still are no tree casts.

trees on lava
More of the trees living on the old lava flow.

21 August 2017

Eclipse: Strawberry Basin

Malheur National Forest

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DAY 1 | eclipse | DAY 2

Around about noon and finally getting underway, it does not take long to tuck away everything into my pack back at camp and then keep on going down the mountain. One turn and we are dropping down into new areas. The map shows many springs in this area, but the first few are not visible to me. Just past an old cabin, there is a little water and it grows a bit as it pours downward through flower filled meadows.

falling down logs of an old cabin
The old cabin on the way is a bit of a surprise and nothing seems to give any explanation about it.

puddles where a spring is marked
We found water where one spring is marked, but it is thin puddles.

Strawberry Mountain
Looking back at Strawberry Mountain. The actual peak is slightly behind the trees.

greenish meadows with plenty of flowers
Heading down through the meadows. Plenty were camped down here last night, too.

The land starts to drop away and we get a view of Strawberry Lake below. There is no view of Little Strawberry Lake that I notice. We will have to take the spur to go and see that.

smoky eastern view
Prairie to the east and smoke hanging over it. There seems to be a lot of standing dead on this side of the mountain too.

about 1/3 of Strawberry Lake
The eastern third of Strawberry Lake.

ridge line with cliffs on this side
The cliffed ridge line holds many lakes on both sides. Little Strawberry Lake sits below the scree at the left.

We can hear the waterfall as we reach a junction. It takes some reminding that we do not have to go up any of the stuff we have just gone down, but Martha agrees to go check out Little Strawberry Lake. It is a little bit of up beside a nice creek flowing well, and then a little more up to get over to a second branch of the drainage where the outflow seems a little more stagnant. The lake has a few swimmers and a lot of campers who do not appear to be leaving today and even a group coming in for the night.

meadow east of the lake
The lake ends in an open meadow and more cliffs.

My attempt to find a place to photograph the lake takes me out to the meadow at the end. It is a wide open space and quite nice as itself, but no good for afternoon pictures toward the lake. Heading back along the edge, we rest a bit with snacks. I watch the fish from logs beside the lake. They are very numerous, if not all that large, and have the loveliest bright red fins.

brown trout
They are probably stocked, but the trout are still pretty.

vertical panorama of the lake area
It is hard to find a good spot to photograph the lake. One angle on Little Strawberry Lake from a few fallen logs.

more vertical panoramaing
Another view of the lake and cliffs and rock outcrop of trees weeping water.

We eventually head out again, stopping along the larger creek for water.

flies pollinating puffy white flowers
They look more like flies than bees, but pollinators come in many forms.

creek from a bridge with poor handrails
Up on the bridge and checking out the creek as it heads for the waterfall.

Back at the main trail, there is a bridge to cross the creek. It once had a handrail on the waterfall side, but half of that is now sitting in the creek thinking about going over in the next really big rain. Some quick turns downhill bring us from hearing the waterfall to seeing it. It is actually quite nice. We are two minutes late to the meed point, but Jeff saw fit to enjoy the waterfall a little longer waiting for us.

Strawberry Falls with a few hikers nearby
The first view of Strawberry Falls.

waterfall panorama
Trying to take in the waterfall with a panorama.

Part of the waterfall is blocked from the viewpoint from the trail, so what can one do but cross over to see it better? The rocks look like they have areas where the moss has been cleaned off by previous crossings. A few steps in these spots shows them to be remarkably deceptive rocks. They are so slick I cannot find any grip at all on them with my shoes. Crossing ends up with some slightly wet feet, but would likely have resulted in a fall if I had trusted my feet to a rock.

waterfall from head on
Crossing over gets to a more head on look at the waterfall.

In a while, we head off down the trail. The trail has grown significantly. This must be very well used by the people in Prairie City. Who can blame them when it is two miles to a lovely waterfall? We are surrounded by thick, young looking forest as we head down to Strawberry Lake.

wide trail between the trees
Trees tall and thin, trail dusty and wide.

Trail gets a little confusing down by Strawberry Lake. There should be trail on both sides, but there also seems to be two branches of it following the short way past the lake. We drop down to a better view of it and to stop by the lake shore. I cannot find any fish in this one.

Strawberry Lake from the westish side
Strawberry Lake is long and thin, so does not look quite so big from near the narrow end.

Strawberry Lake surface
Just under the surface, it looks like creek channels between the long mosses.

Turning around on the shore, it is suddenly glaringly obvious that this is actually the lake bed. When it is full, it comes right up to the edge of the trees where there is a ring of erosion. The lake is at least 6 feet low today and there are many campers taking advantage of this to find a site. Disturbingly, one of them is unable to look at the low lake and the way every tree has some brown needles and figure out there might be a reason for the campfire ban. It is a warm afternoon and they have a big campfire going.

ring of erosion
A ring of erosion shows the usual lake height.

We follow along the lower trail around the edge of the lake. This goes along just inside the trees where the lake would be lapping away in better years.

like an elaborate strawberry flower
Some semblance of a strawberry flower made very elaborately.

Stopping by the water at the other end, it looks like a common camping area. There are swimmers again, although neither lake looks like that is usual. We stop by the edge again and there still seem to be no fish. A few do jump. It is not as pretty on this side at this hour, so we head off again.

Strawberry Lake
Just a lot of sun when looking over Strawberry Lake from this end.

The trail heads out past the outflow. It sits dry and quiet under a collection of fallen trees that have made their way through the lake. Had we gone for the loop to see Slide Lake and High Lake, there are two marked trails for us to take. This is again twice as many as expected from just looking at the map. I am sure they connect up there somewhere, possibly even before the trail does split on the map. We just have to go down, so we take the small wiggles down beside the creek. Eventually, it does find some water to flow with.

mostly trees
Almost a view from the valley out onto the prairie below.

I was expecting the worst when coming to a wilderness that usually would not see much traffic, but the crowds surprised me. I expected to see trash everywhere from people who are not common wilderness users, but there was only the sort of thing that escapes pockets and even that was picked up by someone else almost as quickly as it landed. There was one extra trail across a meadow, but for the most part the meadows were not trampled. While there were swimmers in the lakes, I was not seeing suds. Apparently this crowd knew that "biodegradable" does not mean safe to put in lakes and streams.

Crowds may be an annoyance on their own, but they really are something that just must be accepted for some places. For example, there are people who will tell you there are other places just as good as Yosemite, but there is honestly nothing at all quite the same as the 3000 foot natural cathedral you find yourself standing in when on the valley floor. It is accessible and well known, so it comes with crowds. To enjoy it, you must be able to look past those crowds and still see the nature. Interesting places to take in the spectacle exist up along the rim of the valley and, again, the accessible and well known places are full of people. There are plenty of inaccessible or unknown spots that might offer viewpoints without crowds, but it would be unreasonable to expect Glacier Point to be deserted.

I had an amazing experience, but it did seem to come with 200 of my closest new found friends. But I wanted a place accessible by trails to view it and so I started at Wilderness.net because that is an easy way to find that sort of thing. Plenty of trails exist outside the wilderness, it just takes a little more effort to find them. Many people went out from there to find an isolated spot for viewing, but I wanted "the best" and there are a number of reasons to think that that is where I went and so I had to share. While it is only accessible by trail, it is not a particularly hard one. There are at least three ways to the peak that can be done in a day before looking into cross country routes. And it is actually a nice spot. I overheard at least three people exclaiming they wanted to come again while one of those out from Portland said this was his third visit. His first time was a year or two before the big fire 30 years ago and it was the place he thought of for this.

And so I try not to complain about crowds. They do come with advantages. A couple of them hauled up telescopes so we could all look at the sunspots. Even more had binoculars that were suitable for that. It certainly makes it easier when they do not trash the place. In the moment of standing in the shadow of the moon looking out at distant country side lit by mid morning sunlight, it is really easy to look past the crowds and just see the beauty of nature around me. Crowds are what they are.

But wowie zowie, there sure are a lot of cars down at the trailhead as we leave. The lot, which is surprisingly large, is still crowded and so are the road sides. A lot of people are not leaving today. Many just do not want to face the traffic today and many want to see the place they came to visit. With all these cars and the cars on the other road, we must have only seen a small fraction of the crowd this wilderness absorbed for the weekend.

©2017 Valerie Norton
Posted 5 September 2017