Monday, May 15, 2017

Yachats Scenes

Last Thursday in Yachats, rain fell most of the morning, with strong winds before dawn.  It was a cozy storm that made for good sleeping.  By midmorning the rain had decreased to showers and the wind was abating.  The light was good on the shore.

Wind and water have eroded a gap in the soft rock along the 804 Trail, a shoreline path that runs for several miles in Yachats.  The soil above the rock, anchored by thick vegetation, has resisted the erosion.

Onshore winds sculpt the trees...here and along most of the Pacific coast from central California north into British Columbia.

A stream rushes across the beach as clouds billow offshore.

A blowhole fires up.

This Sitka spruce is almost 200 feet tall...it was taller until the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, which blew off the top 30 feet or so.  It is around a thousand years old.

A stream gurgles through the rainforest.

The view from Cape Perpetua, 800 feet above the sea.  No, I didn't hike...there's a road to the top.  Though the south winds had diminished at sea level from overnight gusts of 35 mph or so, here they were still blowing at least that strong.  I imagine they were really rowdy overnight.

Another view from the cape, looking far down the coast toward the south.  A grand spot!

This view from the cape looks toward the northwest.

While the sun shone frequently along the shore last Thursday afternoon, interior mountains were still swathed in clouds and mist.  The wonders of orographics!

Classic shot of Heceta Head lighthouse.  I met an Australian cyclist here who was also shooting this scene.  We started talking about fine coasts we had seen...he said the Oregon Coast was like the Great Ocean Road on steroids!  That's a beautiful coastal drive in the Australian state of Victoria, west of Melbourne.  I've seen it too...it's pretty and spectacular but the Aussie was spot on.

A coastal estuary at Neptune State Park, just south of Cape Perpetua.  The Oregon Coast has countless beauty spots preserved as state parks and waysides, the large majority of them with free access.  It's truly one of the world's fine seashores.

The Fabulous Southern Oregon Coast

Last week I ambled up the Oregon coast in a variety of weather conditions.  The coast changes moods with the weather, but the common denominator is that it is eternally scenic and majestic.  It varies from tranquil to tempestuous, but it's always a fine place to be.  These offshore rocks are near Port Orford.

Most of the beaches are backed by large piles of large logs, evidence of the power of winter storms.

Near Port Orford, trees on the immmediate shoreline are in various stages of disarray.  One or two more storms will turn many of then into beach logs like the ones in the previous picture.

As the morning elapsed, low clouds parted, and the atmosphere changed from brooding to bright as Humbug mountain emerged.

The beach at Bandon.

Sunset Beach near Charleston (OR), not far from Coos Bay.

Near Cape Arago, sloats pack the shore on an offshore rock.

Cape Arago was so beautiful the Lizards chilled and took in the vibe.

Farther north, between Reedsport and Florence, I took a peak at the Oregon Dunes...with blooming rhodies in the foreground.

The dunes on the Oregon coast are not like the ones in Death Valley...it's really wet here most of the year.  So wet that there are numerous lakes scattered among the sands.

I settled in Yachats at the end of the day, between Florence and Newport, about halfway between California and Washington.  I always stay at the Fireside Motel.  Why?  Well, this is the view from my deck.  The fine weather that I had enjoyed for four days was ending, as a storm approached from the west.  

The lowering sun and the incoming storm changed the mood again.  The day that started brooding, became bright, now ended with an ominous beauty.  Rain started after midnight...five days later, it's still coming down.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fine Spring day in the Redwoods

I'm traveling north up US 101 on an ancient migratory route.  I've been on this road frequently for 56 years, and of course the Native Americans have moved up and down the coast for millenia.  The redwood forests never cease to be majestic, awesome, and tranquil...a rare and excellent combination, if you think about it.
Looking straight up at a big kahuna tree, near the visitor center in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

The Eel River courses peacefully through the redwoods.  But add a pineapple express, bringing 6 to 12 inches of warm rain in a couple days, and the Eel can easily rise 30 feet in 48 hours, rampaging through the communities along its banks.

A fine trail winds through the giant trees on a bluebird day.

The redwood forest is alive at every level.  Birdsong rings through the canopy, and the forest floor is carpeted with ferns and sorrel.

Sun and shadow make for interesting and complex light.

When a giant tree falls, it becomes a nurse log, a home for forest plants over the next few centuries.  The plants gradually recycle the tree's nutrients.

A fine old redwood base.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Salute to Ansel Adams

I was up at Yosemite earlier this week on a gray day, and it occurred to me that it would be a good time to salute one of the iconic Yosemite photographers of the 20th century, Ansel Adams.  He started shooting pics here as a young man in the 1920s and 30s, and favored black and white...to a large extent, even after color photography became common.  Here's a shot of Yosemite Falls.

Half Dome, with clouds grazing its summit.



The Merced River, running high with snowmelt.  I was staying right next to the river just outside the park and it was roaring like a jet engine!

Yosemite Creek, just below the falls.  With the massive snowmelt, water was running through the woods everywhere in the valley, flooding the meadows, cascading down the cliffs.  The drought is over here!

Lower Yosemite Falls raging!

There were still snowfields near the base of the falls on April 24.  It's much cooler there due to the spray from the icy water.

The upper and lower falls from the trail.  This pic was taken about a quarter mile from the last one.

This tree fell across a branch of the Merced River at Happy Isles in 1996 as a result of a large rockslide on the cliff beyond.  The falling rocks created a compression wave that flattened an area of trees at the bottom of the cliff. As a result, all the downed trees in the area point in the same direction, away from the cliff. 

Ponderosa pine bark.

Granite cliffs above the Ahwanee, streaked with moisture trickling down the rock.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Santa Cruz Island Adventure

Last week I took a boat from Ventura out to Santa Cruz Island, in Channel Islands National Park.  For at least 50 years I had seen the Channel Islands on the Rand McNally and thought that it would be neat to go out there.  For about 30 years I have lived within a days drive of Ventura.  But this was the first time I actually got on the boat and crossed about 15 miles of ocean to visit the island!  The boat ride was as interesting as exploring the island...in both directions we saw numerous humpback whales and cruised through dozens of dolphins...at least fifty.  They're a bit tricky to catch on film but here's a couple accompanying our boat...blow up the pic for better detail.

A large offshore oil rig between the mainland and the Channel Islands.

Approaching Santa Cruz Island...green from the winter rains.

The island...and others in the archipelago...are national park land now, but for well over a century, ranching was practiced.  This is Scorpion Ranch, on the eastern end of Santa Cruz.  Sheep ranching here went on until 1990.  Other than a few ranch homes, there is NO development on the islands.  You can camp, but there are no lodges, restaurants, or paved roads...no modcons.  It's like Southern California was 200 years ago.  Spend a few hours on the island and you gradually settle into the peaceful, pastoral vibe.  Very nice.

There are numerous species here that have evolved uniquely due to the geographical isolation of the islands, which have been separated from the California mainland for at least hundreds of thousands of years.  The strait between the lands was narrower during the Ice Age, when sea level was several hundred feet lower, so some animals could swim across, but they evolved within their limited environment.  This is the local fox, who is about the size of a house cat.  They bludge for food in the campground, or filch it if the campers leave it out, but the park folks want you to make them seek out food on their own as they would naturally do.

Blooming coreopsis overlooking the sea.

Much of the shoreline of Santa Cruz consists of towering cliffs.  It was somewhat hazy on this day, but you could still see the outline of Anacapa Island in the distance.  The buildings visible in the pic are housing for park employees.

Santa Cruz Island coastline on a tranquil day.

The interior of the island consists of grassy prairies interspersed with oaks; there are pines here and there.  The island is being allowed to revegetate after many decades of sheep grazing.

The dark areas in the water are kelp forests.  The waters around the Channel Islands are popular scuba diving locations.  You can also paddle sea kayaks to caves in the cliffs.

Nebraska?  No...Santa Cruz Island.  The prairie meets the sky.

A good pic of a congenial fox.  I was munching an orange and got his attention.

On the way home, in addition to dolphins and whales, we passed a mako shark.  This is not a very good look, but it's the best pic I got.

A humpback seconds after spouting.

Dolphins cruisin'.

Pelicans chillin' at the entrance to Ventura Harbor.  End of a fine day.