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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May 21, 2015 Valdez, Alaska

Photographing the Columbia Glacier
Photographing the Columbia Glacier

Day Cruise to the Columbia Glacier

Several days ago I had made reservations for a Stan Stephens day cruise out to the Columbia Glacier, from the port of Valdez. I had chosen today based on the weather forecast, and for once, the weatherman was correct, it was clear and cool, a perfect day to be out on the water.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Alaska Pipeline Terminal Facility
Alaska Pipeline Terminal Facility

Across the sound from Valdez Harbor is the Alaska Pipeline Terminal Oil Facility, here with a newly arrived tanker being filled with oil from the North Slope. I just happen to be camped only a few hundred yards from this facility.

Leaving Prince Edward Sound
Leaving Prince Edward Sound

A small pleasure boat leaving beautiful Prince William Sound.

Marine Life Viewing From the Stan Stephens

 

Dall Porpoise
Dall Porpoise

In theory, I should have gotten, and certainly did hope to get, some nice shots of Marine Wildlife on this trip.

Dall Porpoise
Another Missed Shot
Dall Porpoise
And Another
Dall Porpoise
And Yet Another

But time and again, I was just too slow on the draw, on the wrong side of the boat,

Out of Range, Humpback Whale
Out of Range, Humpback Whale

too far away,

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

shooting into the sun,

Sea Otter
Sea Otter

or just too shaky handholding a long lens on a rocking boat. All in all, I missed most of my opportunities to get anything nice. To be truthful, there just weren’t that many chances to get anything decent.

Harbor Seals
Harbor Seals

Normally numerous, these were the only two harbor seals we encountered on the ice flows, and they were at a fair distance and quickly retreated to the relative safety of the water.

Harbor Seals
Harbor Seals

On our return from the glacier, the captain did take us up pretty close to some Stellar Sea Lions,

King of the Mountain ( buoy )
King of the Mountain ( buoy )
King of the Mountain ( buoy )
King of the Mountain ( buoy )

both on this buoy, where they were engaged in a game of King of the Mountain,

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout
Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

and just a little farther along, a popular haulout location where hundreds had gathered to sun themselves on the rocks.

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout
Stellar Sea Lion Haulout
Stellar Sea Lion Haulout
Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

The light brown sea lions are dry animals whereas the darker ones have just emerged from the water. If you look closely, you will notice a huge discrepancy in the size of these assembled animals, some of whom are quite enormous.

Approaching Columbia Glacier
Approaching Columbia Glacier

Many miles from the glacier, small blocks of ice start to appear.

Colorful Iceberg
Colorful Iceberg

Then larger pieces float by.

Study in Blue
Study in Blue
Study in Blue
Study in Blue
Study in Blue
Study in Blue

The ancient ice appears remarkably blue.

Glacier Retreat
Glacier Retreat

I took this same tour back in 1993. Since that time the Columbia Glacier has retreated more than twelve miles from the sea. The image above shows how dramatically this area has changed due to it’s retreat. The dark green tree line marks the elevation of the glacier before it began it’s retreat, the lighter green is new vegetation filling in where once ice scoured the rock.

Glacier Scraped
Glacier Scraped
Scraped Clean
Scraped Clean

The images above show the enormous scouring power of the ice as it scrapes its way back and forth over the rock.

Columbia Glacier
Columbia Glacier

And finally, the retreating Columbia Glacier comes into sight.

It is a shame that the cruise starts out at such a late hour ( 11AM ) since all your time spent near the glacier is during the harshest hours of overhead sunlight, making decent photos pretty much impossible. Yet, it still is something pretty grand to see, the power of this enormous sheet of ice, and the devastation it leaves in it’s path.

A trip definitely worth taking, beautiful scenery along the way, a little later in the season, much more in the way of marine life, and a very informative narrative on the history of the glacier by the boat’s captain.

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May 12, 2014 South Beach State Park, Oregon

I took a drive along the north shore of Yaquina Bay this morning with nothing to show for it.

Yaquina Bay lighthouse
Yaquina Bay lighthouse

Weather is very nice, low 70’s. sunny and breezy, so I continued a little farther up 101 through the city of Newport to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area to check out the lighthouse.

Harbor seals
Harbor seals

There were harbor seals basking on the rocks below the lighthouse and I just missed a grey whale traveling along the rocks only a hundred yards off shore.

Seabird colony
Seabird colony

There are couple of sea mounds close to shore at the lighthouse where you look down on some very cramped seabird colonies. These guys must really like each others’ company!

Seabird colony
Seabird colony

This shot is a crop of the one above that shows just how crowded this rock is. Note the blue throats on the breeding cormorants.

There is a new Walmart just north of town, something that has actually been a rarity around my route the last few weeks, so I took the opportunity to store up on some staples.

Yaquina Bay lighthouse
Yaquina Bay lighthouse

April 30, 2014 Bodega Bay, California

A gathering on the mud flats
A gathering on the mud flats

A Road Trip to San Francisco Via the Shoreline Highway

I drove out to the sunset parking lot at first light and had the place completely to myself, and that would be because there were no shots there in the morning, all was in shadow.

A gathering on the mud flats
A gathering on the mud flats
Geese and shellfish digging
Geese and shellfish digging
Bodega Bay early morning
Bodega Bay early morning

There were folks in the tide flats digging for shellfish with their gull assistants.

Delphiniums like I have never seen before
Delphiniums like I have never seen before
Delphiniums like I have never seen before
Delphiniums like I have never seen before

Heading back through Bodega Bay to venture down Route 1 to San Francisco, I stopped by the harbor to shoot some of the purple flowers I had found last night.

Roadside callas
Roadside callas

Also drove back to the farmhouse along Valley Ford Road where I had seen the wild Calla Lilies to see if I could get some decent shots of them with the morning light, but they were mostly gone by. It is hard for me to believe these wonderful flowers grow like weeds in the roadside ditches here in Northern California.

California coastline
California coastline
Sandy beach in Northern California
Sandy beach in Northern California

From there I headed back down Tomales Road, through the little town of Tomales and picked up Route 1 south, a very windy and scenic route to San Francisco, one I would not ever want to drive in the motorhome!

Beached harbor seals
Beached harbor seals
Harbor seal
Harbor seal

Just north of Stinson Beach the road runs along the shore of a great tidal flood area where I saw probably a hundred or more sea lions hauled out and basking in the morning sun. I didn’t realize there were so many color variations ! Who knew there were redheads and blondes in the harbor seal colonies?

A hot and hazy San Francisco
A hot and hazy San Francisco

Route 1 joins Route 101 and heads to the Golden Gate Bridge, I took the last exit before the bridge and started climbing up, up, and up to the old forts looking down on the bay, the bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. Unfortunately, I was there at the wrong time of day ( shots from up there would want to be taken late in the day ) and on the wrong kind of day. Today was a record heat day for the area with temps hitting 90 degrees when the average high this time of the year would be closer to 60 degrees, leaving a nasty haze in the air making for some sad shots from this great location.

18% slope descent to the mouth of San Francisco Bay
18% slope descent to the mouth of San Francisco Bay

I proceeded over the top of this hill overlooking the bay, and down a single lane road that descended at an 18 degree pitch, steep enough to make one more than just a little nervous, as I headed for the lighthouse visible on the point far below.

A hillside of poppies
A hillside of poppies
A hillside of poppies
A hillside of poppies
Colorful hillside
Colorful hillside

On this road I could see large patches of California poppies covering the sides of some of the far off hills and eventually found one I could access for some shots.

I took the tunnel route back towards Route 101 that takes you through the harborside town of Sausalito and eventually back on to Route 101 that took me home.DelphTreeVert

Delphiniums like I have never seen before
Delphiniums like I have never seen before