April 13, 2017 Bodega Bay, California

California Coast
California Coast

California Coast

Monday morning I left the Mariposa Fairground and made what I thought would be a 4 hour trip to Bodega Bay on the California Coast. My 4 hour trip ended up being closer to 7 hours when I made the mistake of heading north from Mariposa on Route 49, a road I had not driven before. Well, turns out there are a few 7% grades to climb and descend, as well as about a thousand sharp switchbacks and hairpin turns along that route, and, although it was nothing my rig couldn’t handle, I seldom found myself going much over 20 mph.

And then, when I finally reached route 101 and turned north to Petaluma, I encountered some of California’s infamous commuter traffic heading north to home after a work day spent in the San Francisco area ( I’m guessing ). Four lanes of northbound traffic were squeezed down to two lanes at a point where there was an on ramp with traffic backed up forever, and this resulted in a traffic jam of about seven miles moving at stop and go speed and taking around an hour to cover the those seven miles into Petaluma where I was finally able to get off the highway and head west to the coast on uncrowded secondary roads. I have no idea how these poor folks can handle this day after day. This backup was caused strictly by traffic volume and not by any kind of construction or an accident along the way … this would be a daily occurrence!

Without a doubt, this state has got to have the most dangerous aggressive drivers I have encountered. Couple that with the deplorable condition of most of the roads in the state and horrific traffic conditions and suffice it to say, this is not a fun state to travel in. Add in the higher cost of everything out here, gas  ( where does all the gas tax money actually go since it obviously isn’t showing up in highway maintenance ), camping fees ( my spot in Bodega Bay is $34/night for a primitive site and is much less than anything else around here ),  and food ( I was going to treat myself to a fresh seafood dinner in one of the local restaurants, but checking out menus and realizing that it would be over $50 for any sort of meal, I had a sandwich at home ). But then, there is an unbelievable amount of unique and gorgeous natural features in the state, so it pretty much is a must see state. Grin and bear it, I guess.

Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay
Westshore Camping Area on Bodega Bay

Anyhow, I finally made it to the Westshore Camping Area in Bodega Bay around 5 PM and was able to get into a site that had three midweek days that were unreserved. All the reservable sites in the campground were reserved for the weekend, so I hoped maybe someone would move out of the two first come, first served sites before my three days were up … and lo and behold, both sites opened up the next day and I was able to claim one of them and thus can stay here through the weekend now.

Weather continues to be very wet, rain every day so far with just one 6 hour window of sun and cloudy skies when I was able to zip up Route 1 for 30 miles and get these shots.

Campground Wildflowers
Campground Wildflowers

Some spots of nice wildflowers but no poppies in bloom yet, still a couple of weeks away.

California Coast
California Coast
California Coast
California Coast
California Coast
California Coast

Probably because of the weather, but traffic on Coastal Route 1 is pretty light right now, making it a very pleasant drive.

California Coast
California Coast
California Coast
California Coast
Russian River Harbor Seals
Russian River Harbor Seals

At the mouth of the Russian River, Route 1 climbs up to hundred feet or so above the beach and you get this view of a stretch of beach where the harbor seals haul out.

Russian River Harbor Seals
Russian River Harbor Seals
Russian River Harbor Seals
Russian River Harbor Seals

Wonder what the “sleep number” is on those rocks, these guys look like they are pretty comfortable.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

This Peregrine falcon was perched atop a sea stack only a few feet from the edge of the highway …

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

… keeping an eye on everything while doing his morning preening routine.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

I’ve never encountered one of these birds that was so unafraid of humans nearby. Of course there was no way you could get out to where it was sitting, but still quite unusual for a bird of prey to be this unconcerned with human activity so close by ( less than 100 feet ).

Hillside Grazers
Hillside Grazers

Along Route 1, you have some incredibly steep drop-offs to the cliffs and beach hundreds of feet below, with no guard rails, so most people probably don’t even notice the cattle grazing of the green hillsides on the other side of the highway. These animals have to be in some kind of shape to handle the steep grades of their pasture land.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve
Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

About 30 miles north of Bodega bay is the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve, where rhodys grow wild up to 30 feet tall under second growth redwoods. Unfortunately, I was a little early to catch the rhodys in bloom, but it must be something to see in a month or so.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve
Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

The four mile drive ( single lane one way gravel road ) takes you through a dark, damp, coastal rain forest. Lots of moss and ferns to see in addition to the rhodys and redwoods.

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March 29, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

A Second Trip Up to the Sequoia Groves

Sunny, warm weather predicted for today, so I headed out early again hoping for cloud free skies up in the mountains.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

On the way up, I spotted a dark spot way up above the road, fortunately right where there happened to be a turnoff. Unfortunately, today, not expecting to be shooting any wildlife, I had left my big, bulky 600mm lens at home and only had my 200-400mm with me.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

So, not as sharp as I would like and unable to get any real close shots. This is one of, if not the largest black bear I have ever seen, easily has to be in the 400 pound range I would guess. Not sure, but judging from the size of him, and that incredible girth, I would guess that he doesn’t need to hibernate here in the Sierras, but probably just descends in elevation to find year round feed.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

Several other folks stopped when they saw me there with my tripod set up and camera pointed way up the hill and I had a nice chat with a young couple from Argentina.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The roads up in the groves were a little drier and safer today as the temps remained just above freezing and thus, there were a few more folks up here.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

I read in the local paper that the snowpack in the Sierras this winter is as much as 190% of normal after years of very little snow and rain. They are expecting flooding and full reservoirs this year after many years of severe drought. The extremely wet weather has certainly changed my travel plans as I had hoped to travel the coast all the way north through the state. But with road washouts, mudslides and even bridge damage due to slides, there are several sections of the coastal highway that are closed to travel this spring, some sections closed for as much as a year while road and bridge rebuilding work goes on.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

As you probably are aware, these sequoias are the largest living things on earth, based on volume , not height. Some of these tree trunks pictured are easily 20 feet or more in diameter.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The weather forecast looks pretty spotty going forward as I hope to move a little north and at least get to drive into Yosemite National Park. Even with road closures there, snow still falling, and temps still dropping below freezing, all open campsites in the park are reserved and there is no place to camp within a 40 mile drive of the park. This is becoming the new normal, either make reservations a year in advance or forget about getting into the national parks.

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March 23, 2017 Lake Kaweah, California

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Patiently Waiting on the Weather

Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California
Horse Creek Campground on Lake Kaweah, California

Two days ago, I made the short move from Lake Success to Kaweah Lake and the Army Corps of Engineers Horsecreek Campground. I settled in on a fairly level campsite all but on the campground loop road. Fortunately, there are very few other campers here right now so I really haven’t been bothered by any traffic. I took this particular site because there are no other sites anywhere near it and it is fairly level … and level sites are pretty scarce in this campground. All the sites are primitive but there is a dump station on site, though I have yet to find any drinking water source here. Camping fee is $20/ night with a 50% senior discount making it $10. This place is probably very popular in the summer months, but with the roads up in the National Parks still intermittently closed by snow, most sites are empty right now.

Despite the very steep surrounding foothills I was able to get my rooftop satellite to lock on and surprisingly, there is a very strong Verizon signal here for some decent internet connectivity, something I have been lacking for the last several weeks.

Collapsing Arch
Collapsing Arch

Directly across the loop road from my site is a collapsing stone arch with a rubble pile of boulders below it, tumbling right down to the road’s edge.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

And the rubble pile is home to several cottontail rabbits that are constantly hopping all over the rocks and ducking down under them every time they see the shadow of a black vulture or raven flying overhead.

Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits
Rock Rabbits

Their antics are kind of fun to watch when I am stuck in the RV during the rainy days.

And speaking of rain … there has been plenty of it lately and more is forecast. I have made a couple of forays up into Sequoia National Park but can only venture in a dozen miles or so before encountering rain … or sleet … or snow … and always running into clouds ( literally ) once I get up to 3000′ elevation, and that makes any kind of photography impossible.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

The entrance into the park is at about 800′ elevation and the sequoias grow at an elevation of 6000′-7000′. The morning I took the beautiful spring shots  ( above and below ) I ran into snow and ice just 12 miles into the park, probably no more than 15 miles from where these two shots were taken.

Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras
Spring in the Foothills of the Sierras

In the distance of just 15 miles of serpentine road climbing up into the park, probably no more than 8 or 10 miles as the crow flies, you go from beautiful sunny weather in the low 60’s to snow and ice and freezing temperatures … pretty amazing contrasts in weather here right now.

Kaweah River Rapids
Kaweah River Rapids

The Kaweah River runs next to the park road and there are some wonderful overlooks along the road. This is all snow melt runoff from the first good snow year in the Sierras in quite a few years.

Kaweah River
Kaweah River
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

Redbuds are in bloom from 2000′ to 4000′ elevation along the park road and when the clouds allow, they are something to see.

Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom
Redbud Bloom

I have only made it up to the elevation where the sequoias grow one time so far and everything was enveloped in a very thick fog, actually a cloud I suppose, so I didn’t bother taking any shoots. But there are supposed to be a couple decent days coming this week and I am sure I will eventually make it all the way up the mountains and into the sequoia groves, so stay tuned.

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March 4, 2017 Ogilby Road BLM Area, California

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

More Hummingbirds at Ogilby Road

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

The gorgeous male Anna’s Hummingbird made several visits to the feeders over the past few days so I was able to get a few decent shots of this colorful little bird.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

When the wind shifted to the south, I finally was able to capture some of the wild variations of color in this birds throat and cap.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird

As usual, the number of females and immature males far outnumbered the colorful adult males I most desired to shoot.

Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Hummingbirds and Ocotillo
Hummingbirds and Ocotillo
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird

Nonetheless, these guys are beautiful in their own right, even if not as spectacularly colorful as the mature males.

Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Immature ?? Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Once more the male Rufous made an appearance also.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Note the pollen on the top of his head, obviously he has been visiting other feeding sources out in the desert.

Rufous Hummingbird Portrait
Rufous Hummingbird Portrait

With temperatures forecasted to hit 90 this week, I am going to break camp and head west to the Salton Sea and then up onto higher, and cooler, ground in Joshua Tree National Park where the desert flowers are getting ready to put on a show ( I hope ? ).

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