Friday, April 24, 2015

Hike 2015.031 -- Oak Glen Preserve, Los Rios Rancho to Preservation Point, Return via Oak Knoll Park

Hiked Friday, April 24. Four miles. I've hiked Oak Glen more than a few times, but hiking in the spring is a little unusual, and hiking in the fog was a new experience.
The fog made everything a little magical. It was gorgeous. Things I had seen many times before took on a whole new look under the fog.

At the same time, some things had changed.
The Wildlands Conservan-cy has been doing a lot of work here at Oak Glen. They've been doing a school program for quite some time. My impression is that the school program is growing, and the number of interpretive stations and signage has increased.
To some extent, I liked it better before all the signage, but that's because it looked more natural. However, the goal here is one of interpretation, so many stations and many plants are labeled, like an outdoor museum.

A school bus was in the parking lot when I arrived, and several more were there when I left. And so, as I walked, and, later, when I shopped, I tried my best to stay ahead of or behind the students. They had lessons to learn, and I had pictures to take.
One lesson they apparently learned quickly was that it's colder up here than down in Riverside or San Bernardino. Apparently, this is a lesson that is frequently learned, as the Preserve had a stash of jackets for the students to use during their visit. They also had adult-sized jackets, for the chaperons, some of whom, apparently, also come up here under-dressed.

I, myself, was also somewhat underdressed, except that I know I get warm fast when I hike, so I intentionally dress lighter than most.
So, although the temp-erature was in the low 50s and drizzly, I wore shorts. That's by choice, because long pants just mean more cloth to soak up the moisture and make me colder.
I also wore a hooded sweatshirt and my water-resistant jacket shell. For most of the hike, I kept that unzipped, but, for a break period, I did zip up and warm up a bit.

Yet, even with my many stops for photos, I was comfortable.

Of course, I knew it was a short hike. On a longer hike, I'd have brought something water-resistant for my legs, too.

So I parked in front of the store, walked into the Preserve via the slight detour (due to construction at the entrance), and walked on around what are normally two ponds, first. As it turns out, the upper pond was dry, however.
From there, I headed down the trail that heads towards the south end of the preserve, then headed up the very steep but short Preservation Point trail, then back down, and then up the eastern trail that heads to Oak Knoll Park. From there, you return right behind the store.

I'd estimate the total mileage about about four miles, perhaps a bit less. The only really steep part is on the Preservation Point trail, which makes a crazy-steep charge up the hill.

Once back at the store, I wandered on in, decided to by a small bag of gala apples (presumably picked and put into cold storage in 4-6 months ago--apples store well) and a strawberry pie. I ate some of the strawberry pie, already. Haven't gotten to the apples, yet. :D

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hike 2015.029A -- Point Loma, CA

Hiked Saturday, April 18. Well, this isn't really a hike, but it was a nice walk and a very scenic spot. I was at Point Loma Nazarene University, to watch my nephew pitch for the home team.

The home team, by the way, claims they have the world's most scenic baseball field. And they very well may be right about that.

The field is near the edge of clay cliffs that rise perhaps 200 feet, above the Pacific Ocean. The wind whips in off the water, and, if it's blowing strong enough, hitting a home run towards left field is an impossibility.

Adjacent to the field is a track, and coast-ward of the track is a drop-off. Dorms are a level below, but still probably 50 feet above the ocean.

A small road passes through the university, and gets you both to the dorms and to the lower parking area with ocean access. You'll still have to walk some along the clay cliffs, and take some care not to slip along the way. But it's a gorgeous walk, because the ocean's right there.

Also, I observed, that if you go there in mid-April, at least, the flowers are blooming. Daisies were thick, wild raddish was not rare, and morning glory were mixed in. There was also some sage, and a whole lot of bees.
I took my time walking, though it's a pretty short walk--I doubt if it's more than 1/2 mile from the ballfield stands to the beach.

I've never gone down to the actual beach, though. I'm just taking pictures, and, in particular, I wanted to take pictures of surfers. That worked better from up on the cliffs.
I think everything posted here was with my Tamron 70-300 lens, which I still like.

It does have trouble focusing on moving objects. However, with surfers, they're pretty far away and not changing their distance from you very quickly, so the lens does fine.
However, the surfers are a pretty good distance out. I'm not great at estimating distances over open water, but I do know that, even at 300mm, the surfers were pretty small. All my surfer shots here were cropped to 1/2 the dimensions of the original shot.
Put another way, the shots I've presented here are the equivalent of a 600mm lens on my camera. And because my camera uses the APC-sized sensor, it already increases the apparent focal length of my shots by 1.5. So this is the equivalent of shooting 35mm film with a 900mm telephoto.
Well, not exactly. Because of the smallish sensor, you're sure to lose resolution when you blow your picture up. So, if I had 35mm, the shots might be a little sharper, if I were able to get the focus down.
The other thing that makes these shots tough (besides the distance) is the back-lighting. By early afternoon, the sun's going to be west of south. If you're shooting more or less to the west, the sun'll be at least partially behind them.
In addition, the surfers are wearing wetsuits, because the water's relatively cold. So a back-lit, black-suited indvidual just isn't going to photograph well against the bright white foam of the surf off Point Loma.
Nonetheless, I was semi-satisfied with my shots. Particularly when I shot bursts of shots, you could really see the surfer's carve the waves and make impossible twists and turns.
As noted previously, less than 1 mile of walking on this "hike." I did walk over a mile, doing circles on the track, and I did another 100 yards or so each way to and from the car. But nowhere near 3 miles, so not a hike by itself.

But I got some decent shots I'd like to share.

Still many completed hikes I haven'g blogged, yet.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hike 2015.018 -- Mt. Hollywood and Vicinity

Hiked Wednes-day, March 18. I made my way up around the summit of Mount Hollywood, but really didn't get any interesting shots. So all I went with in this post are shots around the Observatory.
This may become a theme. Because of parking and work issues, this is a place I can get to to hike really easily, and actually quicker than any other decent hiking destination after the end of a shift on my day job.

This was even more true a month or so ago, when it was getting dark earlier. It'll be less of an issue in the next month, as afternoons get longer.
After doing a loop around Mt. Hollywood, I walked several circles around Griffith Observatory's perimeter, shooting across the cityscape and around the building, itself.

The architecture and the commanding view of Los Angeles make this an easy place to spend time, taking pictures.

Many other cameras were also hard at work this night. In fact, the woman looking through the telescope shot was posed--not by me, but by her and her friend. I was just walking by, trying to get some nice silhouettes against the colorful lights of the city.
Of course, even without a posed shot, I had plenty of silhouettes and city lights to choose from.

It was a relaxing night, with just enough walking after work, and enough decent shots around the building, that I felt like it was a productive trip.
I'd have to check my picture files to be sure, but I've probably taken at least 3 more hikes around the Observatory since I did this one. Not sure how many pictures I'll post, but I am going to try to reduce my blog backlog a bit this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hike 2015.022 -- Vasquez Rocks

Hiked Saturday, March 28. I've done five other hikes since this one, and only managed to blog about two of them. Even when I have time to relax at home, it seems like I never have the time to do a lot of things I should be doing. For example, if you want to see something really disgusting, come see my carpet, which really needs a vacuum!
Happily, I have managed to keep a nice pace on my hiking, if not my hike blogging. I took my 27th hike of the year on Monday, and may manage a 28th hike before I finishing writing this blot entry.

Somewhat astonishingly, it's been over five years since my last blogged visit to Vasquez Rocks. I phrase it that way because I'm thinking I must surely have come here with my wife the one time, though I'm not sure if it was before or after my hiking visit. I definitely didn't hike blog it then, so my last digital evidence of a visit was back in March 2010.
This would have been somewhat early in my original 100 hike year. It was the 30th hike of that year, so obviously I got a really good start on that mission.

This year, it was only my 22nd, despite being about three weeks later on the calendar.
Of course, back then, I was unemploy-ed, so I had a lot more time for hiking; now, I work between 54-62 hours a week, and sometimes more, plus my astronomy outreach volunteer events. I did astronomy outreach back then, and I spent a lot of time applying for jobs, but I still had a lot more free time then I do now.
I had initially hoped to re-trace my path of the original hike, but I got a late start, and I had to get back somewhat early because I had to work a night shift at the Observatory. So I ended up just making it a a mile or so south of the Antelope Valley Freeway (CA-14). I then got semi-lost on my way back.

"Semi-lost" means I didn't know the shortest way back to my car, but I knew I could get back to my original trail if I wanted to. But I didn't want to backtrack and I hoped to find a more direct way back.

So the end result is, I got from the "Famous Rocks" (I think that's the actual phrase they use to describe the main sandstone structure, which has co-stared in many tv and movie scenes), south and west, along a canyon, then under the freeway via a tunnel, and then further south, then east, eventually rising somewhat above the freeway's south end.

Along the way, I passed a fair amount of wildflowers. Goldfields carpeted a few areas near the famous rocks. Spent goldfields were also common.
Before I dropped down to creek level, there were a few patches of California poppy. Blue dicks and Canterbury Bells were common.

The yellow mariposa poppy was just at a few spots, and the morning glory were also somewhat isolated. Lupine were still coming in.

It was a fair wildflower exhibit, though probably not as nice as it might have been the week before.

And, in fact, "the week before" was part of why I was here, this week. As I headed towards the Antelope Valley California Poppy State Natural Reserve, I had noticed several spots of impressive color in the hills south of the freeway, near Vasquez Rocks.
Yet, as I noted earlier, today there were several areas of spent and past-peak flowers. The bloom for some species appeared to be drawing to an end.

Yet, because of the "famous rocks," a visit to Vasquez Rocks is always scenic, regardless of any wildflower bonus.

So, on my return leg, rather than completely retracing my steps, I decided I'd loop a bit further to the west, following a well-defined trail, that later split.
Perhaps in error, I took the split that headed up a ridge. I assumed it would soon drop back down and rejoin the other trail, which I'm not sure if I ever saw, again.

So, instead, I walked on a ridge, with a ravine separating me from the route I had taken out. And I began to worry that I might get "stranded, and have to backtrack.
This trail seemed to keep me quite far from the "famous rocks." I seemed to be led well to their west. Then my trail dropped somewhat quickly to the west and north of the rocks. And the trail split repeatedly, again.

Soon, I could no longer be sure if I was on an actual trail or a use trail.

Then I passed a rusted sign saying entry was prohibited, as this was a wildlife refuge.

However, the sign was well-rusted, and many footprints had clearly preceded my arrival. I concluded this must be an obsolete sign, and continued trying to find my way back to my car.
Well, obviously I did get back. But it took longer than I had planned. I still made it to work, and even had time to shower (which, of course, would not be an option, time-permitting or not). But I didn't have as much time to eat lunch or take a nap as I had intended. This made for a long night at work
But, as I often say and always mean, even a lousy hike can give you a relaxed feeling, at least in retrospect. My 30 minutes of uncertainty as to if I'd be able to get back to my car in time receded quickly, and I was left with the memories and photographs of my hike. I was happy to have come, and convinced that I should come here more frequently in the future.

The last shot I took before I packed the camera away and focused on getting back is the last picture in this post. It was of an impressive mountain that overlooks Agua Dulce. I was on one of those ridges, before the drop, and before I was worried about finding my car without a time-consuming backtrack
I'm going to estimate five miles for the day. It felt like more, but it always feels longer when you're running late, then getting hungry, and just wanting to get back to your car.
But it occurs to me that this was still not as stressful as last time, when I came within about two minutes of getting locked inside the park after closing!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hike 2015.026 -- Calico Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Hiked Saturday, April 11. 26th hike of the year. Still not quite up on track to make 100 for the year, but it's still an attainable target, anyway.

This was my most recent hike, although older hikes have yet to be blogged.

Somewhat late start, as I drove in from the Los Angeles area that morning. As I recall, I started my hike at around 1:15pm. The weather was pleasantly seasonal--it's the short period of time that happens each spring or fall when you need neither the heater nor the air conditioner if you live here. I don't live here, but I remember the days I did live here.
On such a lovely spring day, and with a late start, the park was packed. Parking areas at the trailheads were overflowing on to the road. And, while I always claim not to be anti-social, I don't like my outdoor experiences to be quite so zoo-like. So I actually drove around the whole 13-mile scenic drive, found what might have been my preferred parking area to be full, and drove right back to the visitor center.

Because, it turns out, people have a rather herd-mentality. They drive to where they think they should, get out of their car, then either snap some pictures or head into the red rocks (usually ignoring what trails there may be).
So the irony is this: The largest single parking area in the park is at the visitor center. Probably most visitors to the park stop here. But, usually, it's just to pee, or ask questions, or get maps, books, or souvenirs. So, if you actually start a hike from here, within 100 yards of leaving the visitor center, you're usually pretty much on your own.

Oh, sure, the cars are still within earshot. But the trails will provide some quantum of solitude.

So, after my vehicular circumna-vigation of the park, I began my hike back near the fee station.

I'd hiked from here before, so I already knew the potential for good wildflower viewing could be found along this trail. Except, last time, I lost the trail not long after passing the Calico Hills II access point, so I didn't mind a return engagement.
And, besides, not having had a chance for many desert wildflower walks so far this year, I was game for getting one or two more in before the dog days of summer set in for good.
Many wild-flowers were visible from the road, so I was confident the walk would be scenic, flower-wise. The desert mallow and desert daisies were everywhere--not as thick as when you go to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve (which I had visited a few weeks previous to this), but they were rather prolific. It had been a pretty wet winter for the Las Vegas Valley, and, though I feared it might have already been too late, I did, at least, manage to catch the tail-end of the wildflower season.
I also saw some other common Mojave Desert sights, such as goldfields and sage, plus a bit of lupine. But I was also pleasantly surprised to see Mariposa lilies. Perhaps I should not have been, since they are apparently common all across the Mojave. But my first encounter with them was in Griffith Park, near Burbank Peak. So I'm always pleasantly surprised to see this (oxymoronically) showy, yet understated flower in the wild.
Also common on this hike were Indian paintbrush and prickly pear. Finally, near the end of my outbound leg were numerous Mojave aster, their petals translucent in the afternoon sun. I love that flower.

And, with many of these flowers set against a red sandstone background, or a grey limestone background, or the blue sky of the desert, I had a photographer's field day.

I also enjoyed the sights of the twisted and painted sandstone that gives Red Rock Canyon its name. Even in the absence of wild-flowers, the place is a scenic place to hike. The flowers are just a seasonal bonus.

From the fee station, the Calico Trail more or less parallels the scenic loop road, and cars are generally not more than 100 horizontal yards away from you.

However, because of the topography, the cars are often either well below you or well above you. In the latter case, their sight and sound is completely blocked by the grass-covered hills to your left (on the way out).
As noted above, that's what gives you your measure of solitude, even as hundreds of cars are streaming by on the pavement. It's only when you pass an access point that you're immersed in the sight and sounds of a clogged parking area and a crush of humanity.
Then, five minutes later, you've left the parking area and most hikers have headed straight off into the red rock. So, again, you're mostly alone as you trail continues to parallel the road.
I would be surprised if, excluding the 100 yards closest to each parking area, I crossed paths (came wihtin less than 100 yards of) with more than 20 people during my four hours or so on the trail.

During those four hours, I shot 266 pictures. Yeah, that's a lot. Partially, that's because of how little I know about manipulating pictures after you take them. So, instead, I do my bracketing of exposures in the field, and work on either getting my backlighting or my color saturation correct by adjusting my shutter speeds or aperture settings.

That means I'll sometimes have a half-dozen similarly-framed shots of the same subject. I'll just keep tweaking the exposure settings until I'm happy with the result. Others, instead, shoot in RAW format, then work on the exposure stuff on their computer. But, for now, I'm too lazy to do that.
Besides, sometimes, in taking my similar shots, something special and unexpected will happen.

For example, in the photo immediately above, a jogger has "photobombed" my image. Oh, you can hardly see him--he's some distance off. Even if you click on the image to make the picture larger, you'll barely see him. Yet, it turns out, he's exactly where the famous "rule of thirds" would have you place your point of interest.
I didn't plan it that way, but I obviously put myself in a position that this could happen. I mean I saw the jogger before I tripped the shutter, but, for me, I just wanted to get the exposure right before taking my "real" picture. Yet, it turns out, this picture just "worked" better than my other similar shots of this scene. So there you have it.

When I got to near that red rock out-cropping in the distance of my "jogger" picture, I took the shot adjacent to these words.

I composed the shot and was happy with it, and tripped the shutter. It wasn't until I got home until I figured out what my unconscious already knew: This shot had converging lines, all drawing your eyes to the same distant point.
Even without knowing why, the picture just happened.

Right around there, I saw that it was now about 4:30pm, and I needed to turn around if I was to get back by 6pm. About five miles for the day, one I got back. Covered the ground slow, because I took a lot of pictures. And I had a ball, doing it!