Saturday, May 7, 2022

Fading Glume

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The mountain was bathed in gloom when I arrived shortly after 7 a.m. I'd worn shorts but was glad I'd brought a long-john top as well as a wind-breaker. And gloves. It was only a week after my last visit, but as I took shelter from the drizzle beneath a rocky overhang along the Old Mine Trail, spring seemed to have reversed its direction to head back toward winter. Finally, a flash of sun painted the landscape and I tripped the shutter three or four times before the flash was over.

The wind was coming up, so I took cover behind a grove of trees surrounding Forbes Bench and photographed some cobwebby thistle. Red-breasted nuthatches called from the nearby woods.

I'd been shooting with a 50mm lens, but was glad I'd brought a long lens, 300mm, as well, when the hills south of the mountain started to pick up some interesting light.

Soon enough, the rising wind swept away the clouds and fog.

The sun was too high for my purposes by then, unfortunately, so I roamed around and was intrigued by more cobwebby thistle, here sporting a cup of crystal dewdrops.

I created a dreamy version of cobwebby thistle by overlaying an out-of-focus frame with a sharp-focused frame, then played with the opacity of the latter until the blended images appealed to me.

I'd been hearing the gobbling of turkeys nearby, but I was still surprised when a pair of toms suddenly emerged from the forest close behind me. The colors of these birds are just incredible. What if we could always appreciate beauty as much as, say, money? It's easy to get rich on beauty. All you have to do is let go of all your troubles, and beauty you hadn't even noticed before will magically flare up all around you.

As I followed the turkeys strutting their stuff with cobwebby thistle in the background, I noticed that last week really was "Peak Green." The glumes and florets of tall grasses bowing under the weight of seeds, dew, and wind, were already fading toward brown.

I got back in the car to check out another location after the gate out to West Ridgecrest opened. Three bucks were resting and feeding near a tall oak tree where many years ago I found a recently placed grave for someone's pet. 

The biggest surprise of the morning was finding this fruiting of Gomphidius glutinosus mushrooms. I photographed them in a bed of lichen with a couple of flax flowers and a blue-eyed grass.

Just a few feet away, this lone spotted coral root orchid, a non-photosynthesizing plant that relies on mycorrhizal fungi, rather than sunlight, to survive, bloomed from the douglas fir duff on the forest floor. 

As I packed up my camera gear for the last time I noticed all the birdsong in the air, and my Merlin app recorded chestnut-backed chickadee, acorn woodpecker, black-throated gray warbler, and hermit warbler. My feet were cold and wet from walking through all the dew-laden grasses, but the sun was shining. I gratefully hiked back to my car with no ticks crawling up my legs. 

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