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NEXT:  Page 6   Joshua Tree National Park and Carrizo Plain NM 2of2
2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Carrizo Plain National Monument Friday 3/31
Carrizo Plain National Monument Friday 4/1
Carrizo Plain National Monument Friday 4/2

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 5

Carrizo Plain road trip 1of2

I had been watching precipitation data across key remote Southern California weather sites since the start of the 2016-2017 rainy season. As a landscape photographer, my interest is knowing when spring wildflower locations will be at their most colorful aesthetic peaks. Of all the world class Southern California wildflower areas, the Carrizo Plain during big years is arguably most impressive. I have an account on MesoWest so am able to download data from their weather databases. I created the below Excel scatter chart from that data with each incremental date line Saturdays with a period of 7 days and each vertical line 0.25 inches of rain. There are two Internet weather sites at Carrizo Plains. A limited site at the Carissa School location along SR58 and the other is about 4 miles southeast of the monument visitor center at 2490 feet in the Caliente Range eastern foothills. Note Soda Lake the low point sink is at 1908 feet. In any case the 50 mile long valley is so large and with varied topography that the two weather sites can only offer vague representations of what has occurred elsewhere in the region.

CAZC1_2016-17

The above shows there was little rain until a couple minor storms occurred about Thanksgiving as systems during that period stayed north of about Monterey Bay. Then it was dry again until the second half of December when a couple nice storms came in. In January, 5 inches fell bringing totals well above end of rainy seasonal averages. After 3.5 inches in February, the Pacific faucet turned off in March, the most important period for producing robust plant growth of rising herbs. Thus by the middle of March I had uncertainties about the nature of a Carrizo bloom.

A couple days after returning from the 10 day desert trip on March 17, it was apparent I had come down with a case of influenza for the first time in a couple decades. This serious disease was my only concern for the following week, intent on keeping it out of my chest and not developing a cough. By the following weekend the illness was winding down and I could start planning an escape strategy. As Desertusa reports on the strong blooms in the Sonora Desert continued, I knew the time for Carrizo Plain was close and indeed the first meaningful report with images came in on Sunday March 26 however that was still not enough for me to set an escape date. By midweek I was only dealing with minor declining sinus issues so prepared and packed gear. Then on March 30 a report showed an impressive image of a location in the Temblor Range I had visited in 2006, so I knew it was time. Forecasts for Friday March 31 were for strong winds as a front exited the region followed by two weekend days with exceptionally calm conditions followed by more blustery days. Although calm conditions will not be an issue for photographers capturing small web sized images of vegetation subjects, calmer conditions are increasingly a factor in capturing successful blur free images with interest in greater image size and detail. And much more so for those using post processing focus stack blending and multi column row stitch blending. I would use Friday to survey conditions in order hit the ground running sunrise Saturday morning.

The following link below is to a map of the monument.
mapper.acme.com

Change to the Topo tab for the topographic map and use the + - controls upper left to zoom in or out. Looking at the Satellite tab shows besides the dry Soda Lake bed of white alkali minerals, a number of other nameless smaller bodies are also about that lowest zone of the valley where winter rains flow into. During the recent drought years those lake beds remained dry and usually only fill after winters with heavy storms. The following link is to the BLM monument web page:
Carrizo Plain National Monument

Friend D who had been with me at Anza Borrego and who had been into the Temblor with me in 2006, was also interested but would only pull the trigger for another long drive out if I reported it was worth doing so. Thus mid morning Friday March 31 drove south on US101 3 hours into Paso Robles and then east on SR58. I stopped briefly to look at well known wildflower location Shell Creek, finding that to be mediocre, far from the good blooms of 2003 or 2005. Then on into Carrizo Plain, and south on Soda Lake Road through the California Valley community, noted wildflowers in that area were also mediocre. Modest height fiddleneck mostly with no large fields of purple hued valley phacelia as in 2015 a drought year, nor many poppies, tidy tips, or owls clover. Driving further south into the monument, conditions began to look better though again not as impressive as the best years. With visibility somewhat hazy due to all the particulates in the air from the wind, the Temblor Range eastward looked quite yellow but other colors were not particularly impressive. I drove south a dozen miles and explored familiar areas where though there were lots of hillside daisies, other species were somewhat scarce. Hiking up a small hill made me light headed with sinuses mutineering so wondered if I had recovered enough from the flu? Attempting to text D, I found I was in fact not in cell range despite what I had seen on the AT&T website coverage map.

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Mid afternoon hiked out a half mile to a large expanse in the lowest part of the valley per above that from a distance looked like a solid sea of grape Koolaid. Numbers of vehicles had for days been driving out on a spur dirt road off of Soda Lake Road where one could hike the remaining distance out to the purple lake. The image also shows areas of yellow hued hillside daisies all along a long distance of the Temblor Range with more yellow in areas south of the Hurricane Road than I'd seen in past years. Per forecasts, the wind had been decreasing during the afternoon and seemed to be less intense in this lowest zone of the valley. Upon reaching the sea, was able with some patience to get in the above impressive 4 frame panorama above of dense valley phacelia, phacelia ciliata. This is a common phacelia species across much of western central California and notably is a different species, darker purple, than the species creating the purple areas in the Caliente and Temblor Ranges. In the past these same expanses have occurred along SR58 ie 2015, but is the first time I've noticed them down south in the valley so their occurrence pattern is somewhat a botanical mystery to this person.

Back north on Soda Lake Road near the visitor center spur road, I came into cell phone range so a couple of unimpressed cell text messages went out to D. As I drove east on Simmler Road beside the south end of Soda Lake, those areas too looked rather good. I continued east to Elkhorn Road then south and noticed there was much better color in the Temblor Range than I had seen miles west along Soda Lake Road. However upon trying to send an updated positive text message found I was out of cell range again. I made a disperse camp at a familiar legal location to do so, spending a relaxed night inside the Forester that requires moving gear around to allow a sleeping position in the rear where seats fold down. It was a promising sign that the breeze finally calmed down in the wee morning hours so maybe the forecast was correct?

flower wonderlands of the Temblor Range

I was up at dawn on Saturday April 1. Outside temp was a chilly 39F as I went through the familiar task of moving all my gear in the car around for day use. I would be hiking up into the same canyon I had first explored in early April 2006 then brought D up into a few weeks later and returned in 2010 twice. There are 18 major southwest to northeast trending canyons between Wallace Creek at the San Andreas fault exhibit and the Hurricane Crocker Springs Road that climbs over the Temblor Range to the Taft area. Of those, two have old 4WD roads going up into their mouths including the one of Frank Kee's "The Day God Spilled the Paint", of 2005 Facebook notoriety. The rest of the canyons including the one I was to enter have probably not seen any visitors except for quail and chukar shotgun toting hunters. As I was about to embark, a couple in an SUV stopped and asked me for advice climbing up into the areas of color above. I declined to offer that information beyond parking at one of the 3 noted canyons people had been doing so at because those places are maze like below down at canyon bottoms and dangerous with steeps above, especially for someone without a topographic map.

After climbing over a barbed wire fence, I waded through unpleasant dense waist high fiddleneck and gone to seed California mustard for much of about a quarter mile then entered the mouth of a short canyon. The jungle like growths in the Temblor western foothills were enough in themselves to inhibit adventurous types from exploring up from Elkhorn Road. Especially for anyone not wearing long pants as the bristly fiddleneck are particularly itchy brushing against. The two in the SUV had parked and decided to follow me up. That was not going to happen as I a couple hundred yards in front of them, easily lost them in the labyrinths beyond where I climbed up unseen to a foothill ridge using an old eroded bulldozed short cut to my destination dropping down into another canyon. There I was surprised to see tracks through vegetation of several others! Others had already visited our secret canyon? Well their tracks continued up quite some ways and then disappeared. It was easy to know that with certainty as wading through the knee to waist high vegetation left obvious tracks plus there were occasional soft sand areas in the wash that would show foot prints.


Traveling in the badlands canyon bottoms tends to be unpleasant due to narrow bottom widths typical of badlands, with awkward water erosion holes, areas filled with collapsed broken rock debris fallen from above, and especially saltbush bushes blocking the way requiring climbing up and around on steep crumbly side slopes. Much of the route was also visually boring, difficult to see much higher up on canyon walls where flowers tended to grow and instead the view was of the steep eroding loose rock and bare soil areas of the inner canyons. So no wonder they turned around. By 8:45am PDT I had climbed up with a fast pace in the cool air to a narrow upland grassy flat where ranchers east of the Temblor crest sometimes grazed livestock. After my light headedness Friday, I was glad to find my respiratory strength strong as the minor hiking I did the day before apparently kicked out from my body any final signs of illness.

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Wading up from the canyon bottom wash through the waist high jungle of flowers, it was obvious I had arrived in these Temblor Range flower fields at the optimum time of peaking aesthetic color and greenery. However slopes had less orange from San Joaquin blazingstar and less magenta from Parry's eremalche. It was dead calm so I would be able to use my 60mm lens to create extra large stitched blended images. In the next hour I worked three landscapes with the huge 6 column 2 row 17800 by 9600 pixel image above in Desert Canyon Ravine that I have had a 4x5 Provia film image posted for since 2006. Besides desert candles, caulanthus inflatus, one of two jewel flowers in the range, in the foreground are yellow hued hillside daisies, monolopia lanceolata, purple hued tansy phacelia, phacelia tanacetifolia, orange hued san joaquin blazingstar, and a few pink hued filaree. And as noted above, this phacelia species is a lighter purple hue than the species in the grape Koolaid lake image above. Atop the hill against the skyline, the green plants are gone to seed California mustard plus a few orange California poppies. The stiff desert candle stem is hollow and are readily broken when walking through patches. Their dark purple flowers at top are bud bundles. As a plant grows taller the lowest buds in a bundle are left at the newest top segment of the greenish yellow stems as small white and purple flowers. Tallest candles are about 5 feet high.

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About 10am a slight intermediate breeze from the east down canyon was increasing. Keen to work areas in another canyon, I spent the next 20 minutes sweating through some up and down rambling on steep slopes thick with plants. At the top of a ridge I had worked in 2010, noted conditions were actually more lush than on that previous visit. There was a patch of the large white hued valley lessengia, lessengia glandulifera, stems and leaves of which are dark green, that in the past I'd only seen scattered about in small numbers. With a 6 frame wide panorama using my 60mm lens per above, was able to include the patch, blue waters of Soda Lake, and the next colorful ridge north all in the same frame. Another sign of this being an unusual bloom was that I was seeing many more small patches of California poppy that had tended to be rather few and scattered during past visits. However a decade before the gal at the visitor center had told me some years greater numbers tended to appear atop the crest areas of the range and over my next few visits this spring would find that to be true. Most poppies in the Temblor Range tend to grow on eroding bare soil areas free of other plants. Thus it could be during the 4 drought years, lacking competition from other plants, poppy numbers have been increasing, spreading beyond bare soil areas.

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This next image above shows a foreground of a dense patch of fresh tall Douglas's fiddleneck, amsinckia douglasiana, with Soda Lake and the next colorful ridge north beyond. Note down in the valley areas, outside of the alkali lake areas, the most dominant wildflower species visually is common fiddleneck, amsinckia menziesii, that covers vast areas. Just as common down beneath the tops of fiddleneck is the non-native red-stemmed filaree, erodium cicutarium. Filaree is common not only here but throughout California because before the valley lands were a national monument, they were cattle grazing lands for decades with filaree a preferred herb for grazing.

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View looking down a colorful sinuous side ravine off a spur ridge with California poppies, eschscholzia californica, mixed in with tansy phacelia in the foreground and hillside daisies beyond. Areas of dimmer orange below are San Joaquin blazingstar. On the enlarged vertical slice view, one will also see in the foreground white hued flowers of our native California mustard, gullenia lasiophylla. The dark area where the ravine bottom intersects the left frame edge are piles of tumbleweed that blew in from the east side of the range then got stuck in the ravine bottoms. Dried tumbling Russian thistle balls readily sticks together collecting in large piles where winds are lightest.

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With a breeze developing now at at 11:45am, I put away the Sigma 60mm lens and on went the 30mm. Above is another subject with a colorful foreground of poppies and tansy phacelia and background of Temblor Range multi color flower slopes. Just above frame lower right corner, the white flowers are bottle brush, camissonia boothii. The orange areas in the distance are San Joaquin blazingstar. Although inexperienced photographers may think mid day is too harsh, for wildflower landscapes like this, with spring skies at California latitudes, some of the most colorful captures of flowers can occur mid day because of the transluscent nature of petals. Key is to eliminate nearby harsh elements like bright bare ground or rock in direct front lighting.

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With desert candles against the ridge top blue skyline, a slope with a colorful mix of hillside daisies, California poppies, tansy phacelia, San Joaquin blazing star, and filaree.

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Bright ravine of hillside daisies and saltbush, with multi colored hillsides in background. This image took over half an hour to capture given increasing breezes. It was nearly 1pm when I began my descent back to the Forester. Back down at my car, I spent the next hour plus eating lunch, relaxing, and considering plans. My Trimble Navigation moto g cellphone app recorded almost 5 miles of travel and I had climbed up about 1500 feet.

joining the festival along Soda Lake

It was Saturday and the dirt roads were horrible dust clouds including frequent chains of several vehicles all choking on each other's dirt. I needed to get over to the Soda Lake area in order to try cell phone service to text D and also to work some areas near Old Potato Lake that is what I call the largest lake south of Soda Lake because of its shape on the map. So about 3pm joined the other dust makers that took quite a long time to drive the 10 miles or so. On the one to one and a half lane road, every time a vehicle passed another, they had to pull partially off the road up with one tire into the roadside fiddleneck jungles. Often when one car saw another vehicle approaching, they would immediately look for the widest section of road ahead to pass at. Eventually I reached the very busy Simmler Road areas next to the expanses of yellow flowers and found I still had no cell service. Apparently there were so many people now in the valley that cell communications were overloaded.

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About 4pm I wandered out into the well tracked flower fields all the way to above the shoreline of shallow akaline Old Potato Lake where I could capture a foreground of Bigelow's coreopsis, coreopsis bigelovii, a curving lake edge, and the distant Temblor Range. The breeze all day was at most mild so the weather forecasts had been correct. In the above image one can even see a modest reflection. Also note tumbleweed remnants sticking through the shallow waters however it would not be shallow if one tried to walk out there. While stepping across the white alkali mineral lake edge, one might not even reach the water before bogging down. And if one actually did get out into the water, it is likely one would sink into the mud up to their neck...or worse! Although there are patches of yellow hillside daisy in the area, this other species with a spectrum slightly more to orange dominate the flats around these waters. In the background are all major Temblor Range canyons from Wallace Creek nearly to Hurricane Road including all those I climbed up into this spring.

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Before the sun sets over the Caliente Range to the west, in the past I've often set up with my 4x5 view camera for a view across the coreopsis with blue waters of Old Potato Lake in view and the Temblor Range beyond. On days with light breezes, the wind often decreases somewhat by then offering a chance to shoot. I waited about 45 minutes patiently to get this shot in including several restarts because too much time had elapsed between each stitch frame. Down below in the middle ground are patches of dense alkali goldfields and tidy tips as well bare soil areas where water puddled that have owls clover and recurved larkspur. Within the dense thigh high coreopsis are patches of beautiful light blue hued Lemmon's mustard, guillenia lemmonii. However the dainty mustard are quick to move about in even the slightest breeze so did not want to be too close. In the center slice of the enlarged vertical slice view, one can see a vehicle driving on Elkhorn Road creating a dust cloud and above that to right a bright area where dozens of vehicles parked each day in order to hike up into the most visible from the road multi flower colors in the Temblor Range.

Mission accomplished, I drove all the way back to Elkhorn Road and the Temblor Range foothills at a favorite out of road view legal spot to overnight. And that included a bottle shower as I am one that prefers to sleep feeling clean and fresh. For decades I've backpacked extensively in the Sierra Nevada where lake or stream waters are chilly to cold even during summer but we always dunk ourselves briefly in whatever available water to be clean unlike the majority of others. So I do the same when out on road trips. I'd drilled holes in the cap of one of those 64 ounce clear plastic juice bottles that gets filled up. In the back of my Forester are two each three gallon water bottles that I have bunji'd to the side of rear storage area. The Subaru has several accessory loops and bars to hook stuff into. With the dusk sky fading in the west I used my MSR Whisperlite backpacking stove to cook a can of Campbell's spaghetti with meatballs. The rear seats in the Forester fold down for my sleeping position where I lay out a heavy duty aerobic mat I bought used for $30. An old synthetic sleeping bag works as a blanket that I rarely need to get into. And in any case have lots of warm clothing. A nice thing about road trip camping like this in the spring about our desert and arid regions is there are almost never any mosquitoes so one can leave windows partially open all night. However one should never leave a door open lest a pack rat take up residence up inside the vehicle dash.

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On Friday I had driven south on Elkhorn Road nearly to the Hurricane Road junction in order to survey color up in Temblor Range areas including taking several information shots along the way. Now lying comfortably in the back of my car, dinner consumed, sipping a cold can of Ginger Ale I'd taken out from my 28 quart cooler loaded with block ice, I now opened up the Trimble GPS app to look at topographic maps. A year plus before I'd bought the complete California 7.5m topographic map series resident on a 32gb SDcard, that also includes several additional land ownership features and some aerials. Thus looked at the images taken together with the topos to figure out exactly what areas had best color, where I could get best perspective from to set down my tripod, then how to climb up to the areas. I did not want to visit any of the 3 areas 98% of other visitors were going up into and expected no others would have explored where I would be going. It wasn't long before I had a good plan with an exact route that would be challenging and exciting.

another lonely colorful canyon

Sunday April 2 morning at dawn rolled out like Saturday as I drove up to a foothill parking place at 2500 feet elevation about Elkhorn Road people used to access a popular canyon. Skies were mostly clear with minor bands of overrunning high clouds. Most importantly, breezes had been absent all night into the morning though forecasts indicated that might change by late morning. In fact someone had disperse camped with their SUV on what is actually private ranch land there overnight. After parking and saying hello to the camper, I took some time to pack up my gear for the hike. From there I surveyed the landscape ahead on what I labeled canyon K, a complex set of ravines, canyons, and smooth ridges, making sure I understood what they represented on my custom paper topo map I had made before the trip.

Opened up my Trimble Navigator GPS app, hit the find location field on my moto g screen that zeroed in on a topographic map position making a round blue dot. Zoomed in to a reasonable level then hit the Track On field to start tracking which on the app is a fat blue line while naming the track with a date stamp. The moto g then went into my Osprey Talon 22 daypack that was about 13.5 pounds of gear including 2.5 pounds in a 32oz Nalgene bottle and about one pound of food. For ordinary at home and urban use I have a nice leather belt clip on case for the cell phone but the belt clip won't guaranty it won't pop off thus never use it so while hiking. Additionally my Induro CT113 carbon fiber tripod with a Manfrotto MH054M0 magnesium ballhead plus Nodal Ninja III MK II manual panoramic head and camera body adaptors is 4.5 pounds. Also the A6000 body plus say 60mm lens about 1.5 pounds thus a total weight of just camera gear of 22 pounds. And then my Asolo 520 TPS GV heavy duty boots are 3.5 pounds plus Levi 501s, t-shirt, nylon shell, sun hat, pocket stuff another 3 pounds or so for a total carrying weight of about 28 pounds. So my carrying weight on usual photography day hikes is similar to low end backpacking weights. But that is quite a bit less than when I lugged around 4x5 view camera gear carrying a dozen plus sheets of Provia in film holders.

As I walked off down an old 4WD track, I pointed out to the camper where I was going up to instead of the usual destination for those parking there. Rather quickly left the well beaten path crossing a wash and began wading through thigh high plants climbing up and over a small ridge saddle, down to a ten foot deep vertical sided wash into Canyon K that I then followed up along the terrace beside the wash. At that point it was obvious no others had waded up through the dense plants in this canyon. Rather quickly came to a canyon junction with the larger wash continuing east up South K, KS, while I followed up North K, KN. Not far up KN was another canyon split where I took the north wash up KNN quickly reaching a small side wash I decided was my exit route based on lower topographic line steepness, to get out of the awkward eroded canyon bottoms and up onto the more level footing of the intervening ribs. On day hikes I hand carry my A6000 atop the tripod with at least one leg extended in order to use it occasionally for support especially on steep slopes. And note the A6000 is thus unprotected at the top as I am just really talented from decades carrying fragile cameras atop big tripods through awkward landscapes. After climbing up about 500 feet, breathing hard starting to sweat, in the cool shadows of the Temblor, took the above picture with my cell phone looking down my route out to the creeping east line of morning sunshine. Just right of frame bottom center, one can see the bulldozed route I made coming up through a dense patch of tall desert candles. With the tall candles smashed down, one could now see spots of bright petal color from shorter height California mustard, fiddleneck, and filaree.

From there was another 500 feet vertical of trudging up moderate gradients to a ridge knob where I expected to have good morning light views towards the colorful target ridge. Generally strategy was not to go up to the most colorful slopes but as a photographer, climb to locations where I could shoot those slopes as middle grounds in frames far enough back to capture the patterns of different color. And from those viewing slopes, I would find colorful foregrounds of flowers. Up I went zigzagging back and forth step by step, stopping occasionally to keep at a moderate exertion level. Coming across a light pink sandstone rock outcrop covered with lichen, I stopped to take the above close-up, that also gave me more time to recover. By time I reached the knob, sun was shining on most of the target slopes. Since I had about a half hour before I thought the sun had risen to an adequate altitude to better bring out saturated color in flowers, I explored about for best foreground subjects.

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A bit before 9am PDT began shooting a 4 frame wide pano with my 60mm lens for the above subject with hillside daisy, tansy phacelia, filaree plus a green mix of gone to seed California mustard and non-native ripgut brome grass as the foreground, the colorful target slopes in mid ground, and in background, first the Panorama Hills, then the Carrizo Plain, Soda Lake 1600 feet vertical below, and at about 40 miles distant the La Panza Range mountains. The clarity of the reflection of mountains in Soda Lake speaks to the uncommon calm on yet a second day. Interestingly looking at the full image, only 5 vehicles are parked along Simmler Road, reflecting how very few visitors tend to be out even by mid mornings when photographic light is best. Instead most roll in late morning with dozens of vehicles about on that road by mid day. Notice the more saturated orange small patch of color frame upper right corner versus the larger more muted orange patches center frame. The latter are San Joaquin blazing star while the former California poppies. Mixed in with the large orange blazing star patches are areas of purple tansy phacelia. The next rib distant shows a pure section of bright yellow hillside daisies while the third rib distant are green and magenta bands of ripgut brome and Parry's eremalche.

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A little further down the knob was a foreground with the same species as the previous image plus densely flowering red-stemmed filaree, erodium cicutarium, a most common non-native throughout our state. Also many of the California mustard, gullenia lasiophylla, were showing white blooms. Unfortunately the tall mustard tends to move about in slightest breezes and a slight breeze was increasing that resulted in focus stack misalignments of mustards between frames. That took hours of tedious manual work to rebuild the image at the distance the out of registration mustard between frames poke up against the mid range flower slopes because of the significant abrupt depth of field change. This view is oriented further northward so the background valley area in the distance is the rural community of California Valley, one of the most isolated in the state and without services. The dark area in the right center slice of the enlarged vertical slice view is a solar farm.

My last composition from the knob and favorite of the three, is at page top captured at 9:20am more directly at the flower slopes with an aesthetic set of clouds moving across the sky. This is a 5 column by 2 row 55 shot focus stack stitch blend resulting in a 15000 by 9200 pixel image. In the foreground were the same species as in the previous two images plus a few desert candles. I'll speculate the wonderfully smooth rounded shapes of Temblor Range summits is due to the nature of erosion of the underlying geologically young sandstone bedrock into soft soils held together evenly with the surface roots of a dense even covering of annual herbs. Notice the line of a well used animal track across the hillside? During my visits I saw a coyote and a deer. However that lack of all year streams in the western Temblor areas certainly limits such larger species.

After the above, I went down below the knob some and saw two people with tripods about 400 feet below walking up the same slopes I had climbed. Interested in what might be on the larger KS canyon slopes, I traversed awkwardly about a half mile across steep slopes to have a view of that upper canyon. What I saw was almost all yellow hued hillside daisy so immediately retraced my steps in order to work a lower canyon view of KNN. Back at the knob, I continued down the ridge where I met a young couple enthusiastically photographing the slopes. The camper down at my vehicle had watched where I climbed up the slopes and related that to the couple that then followed my route. The gal related they had gone up Frank Kee's canyon but this area was so much better.

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enlarged vertical slice view

I dropped down into the steeper inner canyon and found the most incredibly dense areas of hillside daisies I've ever walked through. Well walking wasn't the correct term because the slope was steep enough that I had to continually use my tripod legs to stabilize. When I located the spot to set up my tripod, I had to first kick a small platform into the soft soils. The above image was taken at 10:45am or an hour after I'd left the knob on the traverse. An expanse of bright daisies dominated the north side of the ravine while the near south facing slopes across the ravine were solid magenta hued Parry's eremalche aka Parry's Mallow, eremalche paryii, a species that contributes significantly to the mix of color on the hills but peaks a bit later than the other main stars. Beyond the mallow was a shallow side ravine and then a patch of yellowish green hued desert candle followed by areas of purple hued phacelia and orange blazingstar. At the top of the round hilltop frame left is a patch of green gone to seed California mustard. Scattered about in all areas was the perennial light cyan hued saltbush, atriplex sp, of which there are 10 species listed in the monument. Beneath areas of the shading and wind protecting saltbush branches would be a list of smaller species. On the background skyline are a couple of California juniper trees while above in the sky circling on updrafts are 5 turkey vultures. See the right slice of the enlarged vertical slice view.

Nearing late morning it was time to head back down that was an uneventful ramble. More vehicles were now parked near the Subaru and considerable dirty dust was floating in the air along Elkhorn Road. If NWS weather forecasts held, there would be a few days of breezy conditions that I had no interest in enduring at the monument so it was time to head north on SR58 then escape over the Temblor and east into Bakersfield where I could resupply perishables, send out the queued up but not sent cell phone text messages, and get on free wifi Internet to look at weather forecasts through the next days. Was rather satisfied Saturday and Sunday went so well, rather confident that when I reached home next week some of the work would be gold.

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   David Senesac
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