Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cache Transaction

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Heading up the Panoramic Highway this morning I had mixed feelings about the chaparral pea growing by the side of the road. Sure, I was glad to see the pretty blossoms. But I'm not a big fan of roadside photography. I like wild things, nature photography. Not pictures with roads in them. Nevertheless, I put my bias aside and hit the brakes to back up into a small turn-out. I've noticed that for a lot of photographers who visit Mt. Tam, the road itself is as much the subject as the landscape that surrounds it. And that's certainly the case for a lot of ad agencies marketing automobiles.

In any event, I was able to make a couple of pictures of the chaparral pea blossoms with only one car passing by, heading downhill, and I was glad I'd made the stop. I know the species grows higher up the mountain, but there was no guarantee it would be in bloom yet. 

When I finished with the pea flowers and continued driving up the mountain I soon spotted a significant bloom of western azalea, a species I'd particularly hoped to find today. I know it blooms along this south-facing roadside earlier than it does at my planned hiking destination of Potrero Meadow, but this time I decided not to stop. I guess I couldn't put aside my bias again quite that soon after my previous effort.

Once again I was waylaid by the simple beauty of Bolinas Ridge. This time it was easy to delay my hiking plans and stop for a little detour.

Springtime on Bolinas Ridge. What a great time of the year.

I finally got my hike under way and was surprised to find "fall color" in some fallen madrone leaves near the point where the Benstein Trail turns off the Lagunitas-Rock Spring fire road to drop down to Potrero Meadow.

There were a few azaleas blooming at Potrero Meadow, but I would say the full bloom of the northside azaleas (in their various locations) is still two or three weeks away. I probably wouldn't even have tried my luck this early, but I wanted to pick up the trail camera which I'd set out along the route to the meadow.

That there were so few flowers in bloom didn't really matter for my photographic purposes.

If I just wanted to photograph azaleas, and not "azaleas on Mt. Tam," I could have walked out my front door and found some growing in my neighborhood. It's funny, I guess, but I have no interest whatsoever in photographing azaleas in my neighborhood. But driving all the way up to Mt. Tam and hiking a few miles to find them growing on the edge of a meadow? Heck, yeah!

"Hmmm," I thought when I spotted something blue in the shrubbery. "An old beer bottle?"

A closer look revealed it was a geocache. When I got home, a quick google search revealed that it was this guy's geocache, set out almost three years ago, on August 9, 2011.

Here's what various geocache folks have left in the box since it's been out there. I'd have signed the log book, but the pen had dried out, so I left a calling card before placing it back where I found it. The logo on the gold foil packet is an Italian auto repair service, as near as I can tell. I guess it must be a gasket or seal of some kind.

Out in the meadow, my favorite orange-and-black plant bugs were having unprotected sex on the female plants of some meadow rue. (I'm thinking these are more likely to be Cosmopepla uhleri, actually.) I doubt the gold packet in the geocache would have been useful to them, however.

Wild rose.

Sitting out here with the iris in the middle of Potrero Meadow, the scent of onion was strong. All around me, wild onion plants were sprouting. They were probably a couple of weeks away from blooming. I also looked for the jimson weed that grows in the area but found no trace of it, outside of last year's stalks.

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