Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Favorites

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"So there are two stages to this: one is going inward, and finding the relationship of your own deepest self to the ground of being so that you become transparent to transcendence; the other is bringing this realization back into operation in the field, which is the work of the artist...."
--Joseph Campbell, from An Open Life

Chipmunk in the Rocks

'Shrooms in '02

Sun Spots

Cloaked Redtail

Moss Guardians

Coyote Hunting in Fog

Coyote Captures a Gopher

Cataract Creek

Statue of Weather

Junco in Willows

Resting Bobcat

Cat in the Woods


Winter Wildflowers

Coast Coyote

Rainy Season's Greetings

Creekside Ferns

Close to Cover

Seasonal Stream

Tree-Eating Rock

Cataract Falls

Diablo Vista

Making Scents

Druid Rocks Sundown

Cotton Candy

Perching Bobcat

Belly Plant

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rock Spring to Rifle Camp

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It was the last hike of the calendar year -- a year so miserly with rain that it will go down in history as the driest year in the last 160 years. Today was also the seventh "Spare the Air Day" in a row (the 31st of the year, also a record; would you believe that from 1992-2005 there were just five Spare the Air Days?!).

But if the smog was bad in the bottomlands, the air was sparkling on the mountain. It was windy enough to blow the Jeep's doors shut at Rock Spring, and gusts hitting 25mph made temps in the mid-50s seem a bit cooler than I'd have liked since I was wearing shorts. It was nice in the sun, though, as we headed for the Simmons Trail...

...which deposited us directly into the cooler, shaded forest. The wind was howling out of the north and the woods didn't always provide much of a wind-break, but it was still a very pleasant hike. The trail follows a creek, but the creek looked much the way it does in the summer, with just a few static pools here and there. 

On the other side of the woods, the Simmons Trail continues up and over a ridge of Sargent Cypress which are festooned with balls of Mistletoe. The Mistletoe was in fruit, full of small white berries.

We dropped down the other side of the ridge, past a couple of spindly Black Oaks, to Barth's Retreat. From here, the Mickey O'Brien Trail goes off to the left toward Laurel Dell, but we went to the right, crossing the bridge toward Potrero Meadow.

The point-and-shoot doesn't capture the clarity of the view we saw from along the Laurel Dell fire road. We could see details on the flanks of Mount St. Helena, some 60 miles or so to the north.

The low winter sun barely made it to Potrero Camp.

Potrero Meadow was mostly in shade. I'm sure I've never seen the meadow this dry despite a winter diet so low in sunshine. I could probably have crossed the whole meadow without a single squishy step.

Nearing Rifle Camp just a short hike east of Potrero Meadow is a live oak so inviting that it has an unofficial trail leading to its shaded base.

The view back across Rifle Camp meadow.

From Rifle Camp we doubled back along the Rock Spring-Lagunitas fire road and picked up the Benstein Trail for a nice little meander through woods speckled with beautiful madrones, back to our starting point at Rock Spring. We came upon a very birdy area near the intersection with the Simmons Trail where we saw a Townsends Warbler and Hermit Thrush among the many Juncos and Acorn Woodpeckers. Just around the bend we encountered another hotspot jumping with more than a dozen each of Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

It was a surprisingly short loop, which was probably just as well given the colds and allergies we've been fighting over the last week, but it was an exceptionally beautiful day to be on the mountain. Also exceptionally windy, as you can tell by Pam leaning into the offshore winds in this view above Druid Rocks, with Bolinas and Pt. Reyes in the distance.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

No Bobcats Today

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I hadn't planned to do any more photo trips during this calendar year, although I had hoped to do some more "Hikes With Pam." Unfortunately, one or the other of us has been under the weather all week. I finally snapped out of it enough this morning to want to get out for a hike, so I thought I'd walk the hills in search of bobcats. I can't believe I still haven't even seen one during this whole blog project. I blame the weather.

We had some pretty weird weather today, with lots of rainless clouds. The sun's so low in the sky that the horizon still shows color in this shot even though it's after 9 a.m. I had to change out of my jeans and into short pants to go for my hike since it was so warm out.

I hiked down the mountain a ways, getting down below the Matt Davis Trail, and just sort of kept my eyes open for cats. I had great views far and wide, plus binoculars. I poked around and photographed this old slippery jack just to have something to do while I waited for a cat to wander into the open. I didn't see so much as a deer and after a couple of hours I hiked back up to the Jeep.

I drove up the hill and hiked a short loop near Rock Spring, again without seeing any wildlife, then continued south along Bolinas Ridge. It was after noon when I photographed this scene, yet still there was color in the sky.

Sometimes the nicest viewpoints are the easiest ones to reach.

Again, waiting for a bobcat to wander into view, I amused myself by photographing whatever I could find at hand. I've photographed these leaves before, but I can't remember what plant it is.

I even took a moment to photograph some filaree (aka storksbill).

I finally spotted a coyote way off to the south, so I tromped back to the Jeep to drive down there and try to get closer. I got to my pull-out just in time to see two coyotes disappear along the Coastal Trail. They were heading back in the direction I'd just come from, so I got back in the Jeep and chose another point to intercept them. Everything was going according to plan at this point (photo above). The coyotes were going to pass right by me and I was going to photograph them as they passed a sign for the Willow Trail. 

A trio of hikers started to approach from the north, and I hoped the coyotes would come around the bend before the hikers got too close and scared them off. The hikers finally reached the Willow Trail sign and headed uphill toward Ridgecrest Road. When the hikers had reached the road and I still had no coyotes coming around the bend, I knew something was amiss. I quietly hiked along the Coastal Trail toward the point where the coyotes should have been, but they were gone. Disappeared. A kestrel had scolded something on a ridge that I couldn't see from my old vantage point, and I wondered if the coyotes had doubled back over that ridge. I never saw them again.

But I did see something pretty weird for late December -- a sky lupine in bloom.

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Redwood Creekbed Cam

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Squirrel in the creek bed. 

I spotted a couple small pieces of orange rind on the ground near the log when I came to pick up the camera's memory card, and thought, "Uh-oh, someone's been down here!" No problem, I guess, since the camera had not been molested.

Coyote spots the camera trap.

I quickly found out where the orange rinds came from when I got home and downloaded the crop of pictures.... I decided to break my prohibition against showing the people who get caught in the camera trap for this group, since it's just too good to pass up, and no one's face even shows. This group of five had a picnic lunch on Christmas Day, spending about an hour and fifteen minutes tripping more than 200 frames on the camera trap. Luckily, no one appeared to notice the camera the whole time.

But the local wildlife noticed that a picnic had occurred!

These two raccoons were all over the picnic area for quite a while.

And the coyote was also very interested, taking up numerous frames as he poked around the area.

I figured this spot would be safe from catching people, at least until the rains get the creek flowing again, which is when I might expect salmon biologists to wander by. I can't imagine anyone picnics in this spot on a regular basis. I was amazed when I dropped by to pick up the memory card this afternoon, however. There were cars parked all over the place. I wondered if some kind of special event was taking place. Nope. It was all for people going to Muir Woods! People were parking more than a mile away. Numerous cars had parking citations on their windows. I haven't spent much time down in the valley in a long time. Maybe it's often like that on holidays and weekends these days.

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