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I guess there are limits to Photoshop's ability to stitch a panorama. I'm not sure if it's a D800 issue, operator error, or something to do with the fact that the clouds moved during the exposures (it was 41 degrees and windy up there on Azalea Hill). I ended up having to do some manual blending, but it worked out okay in the end.
This is a 16x24 crop from the 29x72 panorama.
Did I mention it was 41 degrees up there? And windy? My fingers froze, and I ducked behind rocks to get out of the wind when I wasn't taking pictures. My plan for the morning was to shoot the sunrise from up here at Azalea Hill, then circumambulate Bon Tempe Lake. After I finished with the sunrise (numerous coyotes yipping in the distance helped me forget about the cold), I started walking down the hill toward the lake, only to find that the trail appeared to loop back up the hill. Looking around for a bushwhack route, the way down appeared to involve some very steep descents that I didn't think I'd want to ascend later.
So I hiked back up the hill and photographed this beautifully shaped Coast Live oak as a consolation prize on the way to the Jeep.
Back at the Jeep, surrounded by guys preparing to head out on their mountain bikes, I stowed my gear and drove down to Sky Oaks Road. On the way I spied this handsome buck with gorgeous antlers by the side of the road. I continued a short distance to a parking area across from the Meadow Club golf course and walked back with my camera to photograph him.
This is the same buck on a hillside with a California buckeye in the background.
I paid my $8 entrance fee at the robot ranger station (sorry, iron rangers, but progress is progress). I fed eight dollar bills into the machine, one at a time, then drove down to the trailhead where the Sunnyside Trail meets the Shadyside Trail. I decided to hike a clockwise loop around the lake to keep the sun in a better position for photography, so I set out along the Sunnyside Trail.
Lots of activity in a gorgeous madrone. The acorn woodpeckers were trying to peck holes, western bluebirds were preening in the high, sunnyside branches, and robins were plucking berries.
It's unusual to see a madrone all by itself like this.
A yellow-rumped warbler was eating the tiny bugs that live on the tree. It wasn't interested in the berries at all.
Right next to the madrone was this beautifully spread-out oak, with Bon Tempe Lake (one of the Marin Municipal Water District's reservoirs) in the background. I'd been wondering about the meaning of the lake's name. It's close to "good time" lake, but not quite right. According to the MMWD: "Bon Tempe is an 'Americanization' of the family name Bautunpi. The three Bautunpi brothers ran a ranch and dairy that was later removed to make way for Bon Tempe and Alpine reservoirs. Bon Tempe Reservoir was constructed in 1948."
Same tree, with East Peak in the distance.
The fisherman told a couple of kids who were looking for a fishing spot of their own that he'd seen a bald eagle last week. I later met a trail-runner who said he'd never seen a bald eagle there in 40 years and wondered if the fisherman had actually seen an osprey (which are not uncommon and even nest in the area).
The fisherman is facing Pine Point. Walking the trail that meanders through that section is almost like hiking in the Sierra -- but the pines actually came from the north coast. Again, from the water district's history page (linked above): "Between 1929 and 1934, 24,000 trees were purchased and brought down from the Fort Bragg area to reforest the watershed. Most of the trees were Bishop and Coulter Pine."
In several areas along the shore I found small, quarter-sized clamshells littering the beach. I'd never before seen the Mt. Tam Clam.
I met up with these two beach vultures about half-way through my hike around the lake. They drank a little water and pecked at the ground (to no useful effect that I could see, even with binoculars), and didn't seem too concerned about being close to hikers and fishers. I soon met up with the Shadyside Trail and hiked through redwoods as I watched common mergansers paddle around and dive for fish. I soon closed the loop at Bon Tempe Dam (made of earth fill and rock; only Alpine Dam is concrete), about an hour-and-a-half trip.
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