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NEXT:  Page 4   Carrizo Plain NM
2019 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Anza Borrego State Park 3/19
Anza Borrego State Park 3/20
Anza Borrego State Park 3/21
Anza Borrego State Park 3/22
Anza Borrego State Park 3/23
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve 3/24
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve 3/25

2019 Trip Chronicles:  Page 3

Anza Borrego State Park

After returning from the Joshua Tree road trip, I redeveloped a peritoneal cavity medical issue I've had my whole adult life. What I didn't understand at the time was it was complicated by another issue I would only be diagnosed for after returning from this second road trip south. I did manage to get a couple more days of terrific skiing in and while expecting to fit in several more between desert road trips. That other issue would close my skiing this season at a disappointing 19 days. Complicating timing for a trip south was weather that continued to forecast windy days. Finally a small window of calm showed a couple days and it was then or never because the Anza Borrego bloom was already past peak in eastern badlands. Additionally Antelope Valley poppies had as expected developed rapidly to the best conditions in over a decade. I also considered visiting the Lake Elsinore hills poppy bloom and Carrizo Plain.

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Thus sunrise Tuesday March 19, 2019, left home repeating the same route I had driven 17 days earlier. By noon reached Bakersfield where I stopped for gas, more cash at a BofA ATM, and fast food. Continuing south over Tehachipi Pass on SR58 into the Mojave Desert, took US395 south to I15 then I215 and I10 at San Bernadino eastward to Indio where late afternoon made my last pit stop for gas plus drinks, perishable food, and cubed ice for my cooler. Late afternoon after a quick road tour of the past peak Coachello Valley Preserve, continued driving south and at a very windy dusk into Anza Borrego State Park. Even though it was becoming quite dim, it was obvious due to drying brown plants I could see that I would not be working any of the eastern areas. Considering where I could best spend windy forecasted Thursday, I drove out into the dirt Vern Whitaker Horse Camp road where I parked to overnight inside my car. Online topo map of area:

online topo Coyote Canyon in Anza Borrego State Park

Up at dawn Wednesday March 20, 2019, I drove a short ways to a pullout close to the camp then walked in that was occupied by several nicely friendly ranch folk with their horses, large trailers, and equestrian gear. The small out of the way camp at the mouth of Coyote Canyon has a very nice modern restroom with showers. Mostly sunny with a west wind, I hoped the tall east facing mountains would block wind enough to work some sheltered close-up subjects. And indeed I tried doing so before soon giving up and just exploring for prospective subjects on calmer days. I was glad to see plants near peak, robust green, and flowery with an abundance of strong material to work given some calm. My expectation had been it would be these east facing mountain slopes and their canyons that would have the best flowers during the bloom cycle as the last round of storms had watered these areas most versus the badlands to the east where this year's bloom started. I sent out a text message with an image attachment on my new moto g6 phone, however later learned only the text was barely transmitted and the rest of the week left it alone mostly because it showed out of cell range. By mid morning after a half mile excursion up the canyon was back at my car.

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I drove into the small resort community of Borrego Springs and to the park visitor center where the parking lot was full and bought a new edition park map. Then it was out north on Di Giorgio Road that turns to a very dirt dusty route where it reaches Coyote Canyon. And because people at the visitor center were all being directed to that area that had the best peaking wildflower conditions, there were many vehicles, especially SUVs making dust clouds. I decided to drive out beyond the first creek crossing where most 2WD vehicle drivers become intimidated so turn around despite trivial water and find a good pullout spot to set up my base camp. A spot at ~1070 feet on a short side loop suited my taste, so stopped and set up gear in the Forester for the day. Coyote Canyon trends southeast to northwest and I was just a quarter mile inside the mouth before it opens up into wide level Borrego Valley. There were a half dozen other vehicles set up in small pullouts all right next to and in view of the dirt road.

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After cooking lunch, mid afternoon hiked out to the nearest small spur canyon south that was mostly out of view of road drivers because a row of low hills at the canyon mouth blocked its view. The wind had decreased some but was still blowing much too strongly for photography. After walking 1/4 mile and entering the side canyon, there was only a single track in the wash sand and that was a horse hoof track that ended where the wash narrowed. Otherwise I would find on following days despite hundreds of vehicles on the dirt road each day, almost none of the occupants ever bothered to walk out more than a couple hundred feet from the dirt road. Thus there were vast pristine areas without foot prints. Behavior I have seen at every other desert park I've visited regardless of how many vehicles drive nearby roads. Instead almost all of them stop briefly and get out of their vehicles, walk short distances, take a few pictures, then leave. Of course many with smartphones take all manner of selfees. Even those that have tall tripods with expensive cameras stick near their cars as though a rattlesnake might be behind every bush. Or is it rumours of saber-tooth jack rabbits? And all the time I'm thinking how amazing, beautiful, and fascinating it is to walk through these areas when all green and flowery. Such desert areas are much easier to walk through versus mountain landscapes if one stays down at the flat sandy wash bottoms or bajada plains.

At dusk with light dimming and the wind subsiding, I worked on this modest desert lily, hesperocallis undulata, subject per image above right that was just a couple hundred feet from my car. These prized to come across uncommon beauties tend to be localized across the region. But one has to get out of their cars and actually explore about to happen upon them. And once one finds one, there are sure to be a few more within a local hundred feet.

After a pleasant night sleeping in the back bed of my Forester, with a breezy dawn rising Thursday March 21, 2019, there was no need to rise early thus remained inside till about 7:30am. After gathering gear for a day hike, I set out due north across Ocotillo Flat towards the mouth of a larger side canyon 3/8 mile away. The flat had the densest areas of ocotillo trees in the area with an abundance of wildflowers beside primary bajada wash flows. Many of the trees were also in bloom. There were lots of potential subjects if it calmed up. My target was the sunny badlands canyon wall area on the north side of Coyote Canyon and after entering the side canyon mouth, I was soon following up its main sandy wash channel. Midway it reached a knee with a better view of what was above. The main rocky south facing canyon walls were covered with Mexican poppies, the densest displays in all the canyon, so I climbed up to about the 1550 foot elevation along a narrow wash with small cliffs right at its foot that also provided some wind protection where I spent a couple hours relaxing and enjoying the area, looking about for interesting close-up and landscape subject features. By late morning I was on my way back. I drove out of Coyote Canyon into Borrego Springs and visited its one market, picking up some perishables and replacement cubed ice for the cooler. Upon return, my pull-out was still unoccupied so I parked and set up for what would be a base camp over another 3 nights. Late afternoon I explored back into the lonely spur canyon north where I had fun before retiring.

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During wee hours of the night, the strong wind finally subsided giving hope I might finally be able to take some photos. After sunrise Friday March 22, 2019, a minor breeze was still blowing that I hoped would continue to wane and indeed by about 8am I thought it was workable. There was also no reason to get up earlier as poppies would not be opening up till about 10am. So I got gear together and headed back up the 3/4 mile to the same location I'd spent Thursday morning. I climbed a steep rocky slope to densest areas of flowers and worked the above 2 column 2 row stitch blend subject showing vegetation all the way to the top. The variable breeze was still troublesome but I patiently managed to get in shots. Mexican poppies and Arizona lupine dominate with some white hued desert chicory, rafinesquia neomexicana and desert pincushion, chaenactis fremontii, also scattered throughout what most of the year is dry sun baked rock with creosote bush, ocotillo, and barrel cactus the only year round green plants. I wanted to work more subjects in the area however the breeze soon increased so I abandoned further work and made my way back to the car while unsuccessfully looking for areas with some wind protection I might work close-ups. Well it was soon lunch time so enjoyed some mid day relaxing again at my parking spot while another day's parade of vehicles increasingly drove along the dirt road.

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Mid afternoon breezes subsided some, thus wandered off to where I had explored on my first morning Wednesday where I worked the above single frame image. When breezes make capturing shots tedious, I am most likely to just try and get single frame focus stack blend subjects in. The foreground shows a dense patch of desert dandelion, malocothrix glabrata, that close up at night and open later morning much like poppies. There were expanses in Coyote Canyon where the dandelions are exceptionally dense. Mixed in were desert pincushion and blue phacelia, phacelia distans. Frame mid left is a tall desert lavender, hyptis emoryi, bush that have many fragrant small fuzzy blue flowers that are always full of bees and butterflies. On the rocky slope in the background along with creosote are dense areas of rock daisy, perityle emoryi and several chuparosa bushes at the base.

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With the variable breeze inhibiting much work, I decided to patiently wait out the lulls in order to at least capture the above colorful image of a brittlebush, encelia farinosa, in front of an exceptionally flowery red chuparosa, justica californica. Flowers on both these shrubs with stiff branches tend to move less in breezes. Also note a few blue phacelia adding to the nice color. There were many more nice subjects like this all over these canyon areas so breezes were frustrating. And later in the afternoon, the wind became stronger again. I drove a short distance west on the dirt road to a nearby spot to overnight.

At night the wind became loud and strong. And once again, I didn't bother getting up at sunrise Saturday March 23, 2019, as it was still blowing hard. By mid morning I decided to take an exploratory hike to a slope on the north side of Coyote Canyon where I could make out lupine with my binoculars. Thus hiked up a half mile wandering about that area before dropping into a wash that had nice areas of wash wildflowers especially chuparosa. I spent a couple hours relaxing in that spot. In a sandy wash noticed an uncommon southern desert horned lizard, phrynosoma platyrhinos calidarum, shown below page top so spent some time working the miniature prehistoric beast looking reptile. Horned lizards are not fast so tend to use their camouflage staying still. I was able to move my 60mm with an extension tube to about 1 foot away however did a poor job focus stacking in part because I was up against a bush. Then got down at ground level and shot the ground level view by moving very slowly to get into position. The lizard did move his head some as I did so as though it was almost ready to try running away. As a grade school kid living about northeast Sacramento, we would occasionally come across horned lizards and that was always special. Each day I was increasingly noticing lower gastrointestinal tract pain thus became a bit more careful with my meals.

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Below a chuparosa, per image above using my 60mm and an extension tube, found a pile of chuparosa petals that had been blow off the bush and wind sifted into a pile atop the sand. The rest of the day continued to be unproductive due to wind.

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Overnight the several days of wind finally susided and by sunrise Sunday March 24, 2019, I actually had some hope of finally doing some work so got up early and headed out once again to the northside area I had found on Saturday. Thus went up and worked 2 or 3 subjects I had sized up. But on my way back noticed I had left my camera in Manual Focus mode when I had thought it had been in Auto Spot Focus the whole time. A mistake I had not tripped up on for a long time but always need to be aware of because there isn't an icon on the display to show that mode and instead one needs to drill down into the Menu. Normally I check that each field session but became sloppy. So after waiting several days for the wind to subside, when it finally did I blew it! I had planned to leave and head up to Antelope Valley but since the breeze was still light at noon, decided to hike back up the 3/4 mile in the afternoon and rework the shots. Thus mid afternoon hiked back north and worked the above modest 3 column 1 row stitch blend while aware the light was not as good as it was while I worked it during morning.

It was time to leave as I expected Antelope Valley poppies were likely now at their peak. I'd spent 4 nights in this desert park and really did not have much to show for it due to the wind, but that is what often happens on these spring field trips. The best one can do is try to be out there when forecasts show lightest breezes and allocate a few days so that has more chance of happening while lining up a set of subjects to work quickly when it occurs. And for those that wonder how I manage to regularly bring back such strong material consider how that always does not happen as this last week shows. In any case I had a lot of fun just experiencing the natural areas that is just as important as the photography. These are wonderful fascinating landscapes I was glad to have lived within once again. I drove off back up to Indio where I had a major pit stop for gas, food, and ice, then continued on to San Gorgonio Pass where I parked overnight not far from the I10 freeway.

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Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

After the sun rose Monday March 25, 2019, I spent an hour walking around that area as there were some nice flowers. However not enough to pull out my camera, and was soon on my way west on I10, then I215, I15 and SR18 towards Palmdale. Mid morning stopped in Palmdale for gas and fresh ice, then headed west towards the orange poppy hills several miles west. Along the way found flowers were in many fields to the east so at 11am stopped at one that also had swaths of gilia. It was a clear sunny blue sky day and variable breezes were generally light. The above image shows Davy's gilia, gilia latiflora ssp. davyi, amidst California poppy, eschscholtzia californica. Also note a few goldfields, fiddleneck, and filaree.

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Heading west on Lancaster Blvd, as I got closer to the poppy reserve, increasing numbers of cars and people were parked along pullouts out among blazing orange fields of flowers. The road into the park was backed up that blocked my way west for a bit. Somewhat later reached 210 St W where somewhere north I left the paved road onto a familiar obscure dirt road that routes along Broad Canyon wash. There I noted some slopes were not as impressive as it was on my previous visit in 2015 except on one rather excellent slope. Thus parked and set out with gear towards flowers where I set up to work the above subject with my 60mm lens to capture a large 4 column 2 row stitch blend that focus stacked required 125 shots. Dazzling color from California poppy, eschscholtzia californica, goldfields, lasthenia californica, and creamcups, plastystemon californica, interspersed with little pink hued filaree and ragged looking rabbitbush, ericameria bloomeri, that bloom late summer.

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Next I worked per above a dense area of flowers in a section of the previous image but pointed downward.

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The image above was on the same slope a bit lower shot with my 30mm.

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I walked higher on the hill to a wash that had areas of Bigelow's coreopsis, coreopsis bigelovii. The above was also a somewhat interesting subject as the upper hill area was being shadowed by clouds continually forming above.

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At a particularly lush spot worked the above close-up of California poppy and goldfields using my 60mm lens and the circular 32 inch diffusion disk. A breeze had been gradually increasing so left the area and drove north to Avenue D aka SR138 and then north a mile on an obscure paved road to where it turns to dirt. Areas to the west I've dispersed camp at in the past and have Joshua trees. Areas north of the poppy reserve are now dominated by solar farms. Next drove onto dirt road W Ave D-8 and out to the east end of Fairmont Butte where I assessed landscapes as weak. As the afternoon came to an end, I ended parking off Lancaster Blvd with a plan to hike out to east areas of the reserve the next morning. Overnight I was increasingly concerned about my noted worsening gastrointestinal condition. I was going to need to dismiss going into Carrizo Plain National Monument as I'd planned and instead drive straight home tomorrow after a morning session.

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With poppies opening slowly, I was in no hurry to drive into the reserve except to get a parking spot. By 8am Tuesday March 26, 2019, did so that required an $8 fee. I would need to amuse myself for about an hour before heading out. Skies were mostly cloudy with thin high clouds and there was a minor breeze from the west. Initially the parking lot was about 1/4 full but increasingly filled after 9am. Several television news crews with expensive satellite vans full of electronic gear were parked in a separate lot and giving interviews to park personnel and visitors walking out onto the ATV wide flat trails. The above NASA flyover image looking north shows the vast areas of dense flowers far beyond just the reserve that is mostly out of view left of this picture. In the distance left are wind farms and solar cell farms. Vast Edwards AFB is off to upper frame right. Lancaster Blvd would be a half mile south of the dirt perimeter road.

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About 9am, I set off onto the Antelope Trail South Loop trail that is on the far eastern side of the reserve. Although it had the best mix of flowers, it had the fewest visitors hiking on it as it reaches out a couple miles from the parking area and cannot be seen from Lancaster Blvd as one would need to have driven out on the perimeter road as I did Monday. My intestinal issue was increasingly bothering me leaving me feeling unpleasant and not particularly mentally sharp. I passed a couple of 2 person groups. About 1.5 miles along stopped for the above subject that was actually supposed to be a 3 stitch blend panorama with my 30mm lens. Instead I accidentally had my 60mm lens on that I normally would have obviously noticed when looking into the electronic viewfinder. But not this day. And that lens remained on my A6000 so till I noticed what had happened an hour later. Instead of 2 spectacular 3 column 1 row panoramas, I captured 6 single frames that did not overlap so could not be stitched and though colorful were not geometrically aesthetic. First time I'd ever made that mistake and probably won't ever again. The above shows the left frame of the first subject I began shooting at 9:30am. Purple flowers higher up the slope are phacelia. A breeze was rapidly increasing.

It took 90 minutes to complete my hike across trails on the top of the ridge line and reach the western end of the reserve where Thursday I had spied an unworldly looking slope from Lancaster Blvd. That is the above is a 3 column 1 row horizontal stitch blend. Very few of my images are horizontal stitches however in this case my 60mm lens just fit the height of the subject from the Poppy Trail North Loop trail. Within the reserve, visitors must strictly remain on trails. Thus no wandering out on flower slopes like I had down the previous day outside the reserve. Accordingly one must contend with setting up shots from trailside positions. Although that eliminates many potentially better shots, the positive is none of these landscapes has been tracked up by trampled vegetation. The image of this hill is at page top. The image shows California poppy and goldfields with areas of rabbitbush and piles of alien tumbleweed.

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Above is another one of the 60mm mistake frames. Note the robust fiddleneck.

Within an hour I was on my way west on SR138 to I5 then over the Grapevine into the San Joaquin valley and several hours later late afternoon reached home. My work in Anza Borrego was unproductive while my first afternoon at Antelope Valley knocked off a few nice images. Compounding that were a couple of uncharacteristic cockpit errors for this person that prides himself on consistency performing complex operations. On my 2015 Trip Chronicles page one will find a more productive visit to the area and during trips before that using my 4x5 film view camera, I have several fine images including several in 2005 at Anza Borrego.

NEXT:  Page 4   Carrizo Plain NM
2019 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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