Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Sierra Buttes


Morning View of Sierra Buttes

Somehow I had never been to Sierra Buttes before, or anywhere on Hwy. 49 north of Tahoe for that matter. (Another first: being stuck in 102-degree heat during a traffic jam caused by an accident near Nevada City). I had to cut short my photographic exploration of California back around 2012-13, in part because I was spending too much money on gas, especially since I had been driving a Jeep Cherokee. I recall being horrified to be charged more than $4/gallon back then. On my return from Sierra Buttes on Monday (in a much more fuel-efficient Mazda 3) I felt lucky to get gas for under $6/gallon ($5.89 at a Pilot Flying J near Sacramento).

The trip to Sierra City was more of a much-needed R&R for my wife and I than a photo safari, but I did get a chance to do some photography while my wife enjoyed plein air painting in the relative cool of the mornings. We stayed at a place called the Sierra Pines Resort on the North Fork Yuba River. I was a little taken aback by how rustic the cabin was at first, dark and cave-like, but it had a kitchen and was in earshot of the river and close to the Buttes. 

Alas, we endured two days of PG&E power cutoffs that lasted several hours each time. When the power died, the soothing wind- and bird-song of the forest was immediately replaced by the noisy growling of a diesel generator which, to add insult to injury, only powered the restaurant, not the cabins. On our last morning I blew a circuit breaker when I ran the coffee pot, microwave, and toaster all at the same time. The front office was closed, but Pam found the breaker box hidden behind a framed picture on the wall near the front door, and breakfast was soon served. Hey, it was still more comfy than camping, especially given the afternoon heat all week.

We didn't do a lot of hiking despite being very close to the Pacific Crest Trail, but the one main hike we did was outstanding -- a short two-hour cardio workout to the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout. The return trip, all downhill, only took an hour. Another time we took a very short walk on the PCT to reach a small waterfall in a lovely canyon close to the highway. As we left Monday morning, the Sierra Pines restaurant was doing a brisk business feeding PCT hikers who were loading up on pancakes and such before heading back out on the trail.

I was going to break up all these shots into multiple posts over several days, but I don't want to have to return to the computer so much this week, so I'm spilling 'em all at once. Click to view 'em larger.

Afternoon View of Sierra Buttes

Enjoying the Lakeside Breezes

Mule Ears & Larkspur Along Gold Lake Highway

Down by the River #1

Down by the River #2

Down by the River #3

Sierra Garter Snake Resting By The River

Exhibit at Kentucky Mine Museum

Lake Trout

Paddling Her Own Canoe

Painting by the Pond

California Camas

Trail to the Fire Lookout

Stairway to Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout

PCT Hiker Boxes

Google Maps Must Have Thought I Still Had The Jeep

What The Sign On The Right Said

Mountain Pride Penstemon

Near the Fire Lookout Trailhead

Paintbrush & Buttes

Paintbrush With Mariposa Lily

Paintbrush in the Mule Ears

Lorquin's Admiral Butterfly on Bitter Cherry Flowers

Three Wallflowers

Mariposa Lily with Jeffrey Pine Cones

Close View of Mariposa Lily

Three Mule Ears

Close View of Mule Ears

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Return to the Reef

Seal Cove Reef

I hadn't really planned to visit tidepools again so soon, but who can resist a minus 1.8-foot tide that's timed to let you sleep until it's light out? My plan was to head north this time, to either Duxbury or the reef below the Palomarin trailhead, but I ended up choosing the far shorter drive to Fitzgerald to save on gas.

The harbor seals once again did not realize which part of the beach has been closed for them, and a park ranger had to herd a bunch of us a hundred yards away from each of the groups on the reef in the aptly named Seal Cove. One of the groups appears on the left side of the image above (as usual, click images to view larger).

The most striking feature of the reef this morning was the wide swath of seaweed that covered quite a bit of the beach to a depth of maybe half a foot. It was interesting to walk through the slippery sea of weed with no idea what lay below -- whether smooth sand, jumbles of rocks, pools of water, or nests of sea serpents.

There was so much beautiful algae on the beach that I had to prod myself to get out on the reef. I roamed around for quite a while without finding any nudibranchs (always among my favorite prizes) and had to remind myself not to let the lack of slugs detract from the fascinating beauty of the tidepools. I know we're supposed to hate purple sea urchins, except in sushi, because they gobble up kelp forests, but they are so gorgeous in a tidepool, especially when the sun comes out. I couldn't remember the last time I went tidepooling on a sunny day. 

I mentioned to the park ranger that it seemed like sea star wasting disease was still a thing despite what I've heard about a comeback, but he said he's counted thirty in a day. I'm not sure that actually constitutes much of a counterpoint to my observation of seeing so few. Fitzgerald used to be crawling with several kinds of sea stars, including bat stars, leather stars, spiny stars, and the brilliant sun star, but now I feel lucky to find one or two ochre sea stars that haven't begun turning to gelatin.

Colors & Textures in the Wrack

Glassy Pool

Snail with Hat

Waning Gibbous Moon

Giant Green Anemone

The Naked and the Cloaked

Red & Purple Sea Urchins

White Spotted Sea Goddess (?)

Possibly Doriopsilla albopunctata

Basking in the Sun

Rough Around the Edges

Sculpin in the Pebbles

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

FZ80 Biking

Pollen on the Chin

Pneuma is the Greek word for wind, breath, spirit. I like how the word zooms in from the world at large (wind) to the personal (breath) to the metaphysical (spirit). The wind was a force to be reckoned with while I was pulling mustard weeds on Twin Peaks yesterday with good folks from the California Native Plant Society, Habitat Potential, and the parks department. The work was good for my spirits, but the wind gods wanted my hat (and finally got it in the end). The forecast was for more of the same today, so I headed out to Mt. Tam on my ebike in the morning before the pneumatics went gymnastic.

I went up to see how my camera trap was doing, and to get a little more practice with the new point-and-shoot camera, a Panasonic FZ-80. All in all, I think it went well. The camera is certainly way more versatile than the one on my phone. Click on the pictures to see them bigger (1300 pixels wide).

Pelicans Riding a Thermal Above Sausalito

Morning on the Sausalito Waterfront

A Red-breasted Nuthatch at Full Zoom

Yellow Mariposa Lily

Copulating Water Striders

Basking Salamander

Hummer in the Leopard Lilies

Stinging Nettle

Gray Fox Frame Grab

Foxes in the Camera Trap

Biking the Bridge

$7+ Supreme

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