Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Sunrise

* * *

I got out of bed sort of lazily around 6 a.m., thinking I had plenty of time. I even fried up an egg for breakfast before I hit the road. I really didn't know what kind of sunrise to expect, but by the time I reached Panoramic Highway I could tell it was going to be a good 'un.

I stepped on the gas a little more heavily to make better time, all the while telling myself not to worry about it. Que sera, sera. There wasn't much traffic, but there was one other car in front of me. "If you catch up to some slowpoke, don't worry," I told myself. "Just take it as it comes." I was glad when I caught up to the car to see that it was a Mustang, and the driver was making good time. 

The sunrise was developing into a Holy Cow blaze of color, and on the way up to Rock Spring the Mustang turned out in the first parking area, the one near the upper right side of the frame in the first picture above. I swooped past him to continue to my favorite spot where I tried to play it cool as I fired off a few frames on one of the hottest sunrises I've been lucky enough to see up there.

I had kind of a crazy schedule planned for the day: catch the sunrise from high on Mt. Tam, then head down the mountain to reacquaint myself with the Muir Beach Overlook (at a surreal angle) on the way still farther down to Redwood Creek to pick up the trail camera. From there I was even thinking about doubling back and going to the other side of the mountain to photograph Alpine Lake, which must be very low right now (and the half-hearted "rain" we just had isn't going to help a bit).

Unless you climb past the fence (and the signs which prohibit you from doing so), you can't really see Muir Beach from the Muir Beach Overlook. Viewing the beach from on high doesn't seem to be the point anyway, as the general vista both up and down the coast is excellent.

After continuing down the mountain from the overlook I parked next to Redwood Creek under my favorite California buckeye whose every branch was draped with "old man's beard" lichen.

After picking up the trail camera down by the deer carcass I made a determined effort to climb the north-facing hill above the creek to get in among the giant, prehistoric-looking ferns. I also wanted to have a closer look at the mysterious pink ribbons that had been tied off on branches. They appeared to mark a route through the forest. Maybe a new trail is being planned.

The thin bright line in the bottom third of the frame is Redwood Creek.

Most of the creek is quite shallow, the sandy bottom just inches below the surface. But every now and then there's a deeper pool. In one misplaced step near one such pool I soaked my left leg up to my knee.  

I used to see crayfish, a non-native species, in this creek, but I haven't seen any since it flooded in a very big way 10 years ago or so.

Which sort of reminds me of a threat to species and the places they call home. An email group I subscribe to that shares information on wildflower, fall color, bird migration and similar kinds of locations has gone through a lot of soul-searching in the wake of having some of those locations trampled after being shared with the internet group. Another local photographer I know stopped blogging for fear of sharing information that could lead to stressed animals. 

But what really surprised me was reading an article in the Jan. 6, 2014 issue of The New Yorker that foreshadowed these problems of the internet age. The article was about the now-extinct passenger pigeon, a bird that once numbered in the billions: 

"As long as America was rural and untraversed by railroads, the killing did not seem to do much more than dent the vast pigeon populations. After the Civil War, however, things began to change rapidly. You could find out by telegraph where pigeons were nesting, get there quickly by train, and sell what you killed to a city hundreds of miles away."

* * *