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NEXT:  Page 8   Redwood NP ; Northern Coast
2015 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Lassen Volcanic National Park 5/23
Lassen Volcanic National Park 5/24
Trinity River 5/25

Summer 2015 Trip Chronicles:  Page 7

Lassen Volcanic National Park road trip

Over winter I had done considerable planning for a May 2015 2-week road trip to Utah plateau country. A trip that had also been in the works the previous 3 years but in each case drier than normal conditions aborted the notion. I and a friend I was to meet up with had last worked that region in 2005. Then this winter with normal early winter storms, it appeared more likely until January and March dry periods. Accordingly by late April I dropped plans for that trip and with the rest of California suffering from record drought conditions instead settled on yet another trip up to our Northern California redwood coast parks. However this time would first spend the first 3 days, that was the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, about Lassen Volcanic National Park that I had not been to in decades and it would be just 9 days Saturday through Sunday. Despite an otherwise record droughty winter across California, May became cooler and wetter than average. Thunderstorms were forecast in mountain areas over the holiday weekend and cloudy foggy weather along the coast during the following week.

Friday late afternoon May 22 ended my work week, drove off north, and after 6 hours of driving reached state route 89 south of the Lassen area late evening as rains were still falling. Continuing a bit north on SR89 through dense tall conifer forests above 6k feet, turned west on a gravel road I'd surveyed on the topo and Google Earth, then took a short spur road off that where I could overnight inside my 2007 Forester in peace where no one else would happen by. An excellent on the road example of the value of owning a vehicle one can readily set up for sleeping in overnight instead of hassling with setting up a tent outside during dark wet rainy conditions. With the right rear seat in the Forester folded down flat, my short 66 inch frame easily fits in the rear bed.


As dawn on Saturday May 23 rose, light rain was still falling that led to an expectation of probably having to adjust my elaborate photography hiking plans. I would not see any other vehicles for over an hour as I entered the park northward on SR89. Skies were 100% dim clouds and landscapes wet without the usual snow patches. Some slopes showed arrowhead balsamwood plants with only about 5% yet in bloom while many mule ears were just short ears. It looked like a return in about 4 weeks would show more wildflowers. I stopped briefly at the noisy foul smelling Sulfur Works and then continued up to higher elevations closer to the peak that by 7k were mostly snow covered and by 8k about Helen Lake, depths were over 3 feet deep everywhere roadside. Rounding the peak high point, I continued down to lower areas and stopped at Summit Lake at image above where I grabbed my camera gear for first shots of the trip. Light sprinkles were falling that I waited out for brief lulls in order to take a few modest images with my Sigma 30mm F2.8 DN. Although I brought my 4x5 view camera film gear along on the trip, all my work below was with the 24 megapixel Sony A6000 APS-C body. The lakeshore had areas of marsh marigolds. I also noticed a few shooting stars, California buttercup, dog violet, and California violet. Was hoping for better light so lingered an hour before leaving.


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Three more of my planned hikes were just down the road. Clouds obscured Lassen Peak so I scratched two of the ideas and instead just hiked up on the shoulder of Ragged Peak that wasn't productive. Then continued driving north a short ways to where emerging snow plant, sarcodes sanguinea, were amazingly abundant in the jeffrey pine forest. In fact one area had more of these striking red plants than any place I'd ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them over decades. So spent the next couple hours rambling about roadsides and taking close-up images including image above.


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By late morning showers had stopped and sun began to poke through holes in clouds. Further north noticed blooming manzanita along the road offered an opportunity to put still wet flowers up against the sky. Note the dark inverted reflection of two fir trees in the water drop at frame right. Also notice how the concave shape of water drops magnify areas they lay on. This is more readily noticeable by selecting the enlarged vertical slice view.

By noon I reached the most popular area of the park at Manzanita Lake where the parking lot had filled with early holiday visitors. Went into the visitor center for a walk through picking up some handouts and a new Wilderness Press park topo that replaced my ragged 1984 version. I decided to move along into my afternoon plans so drove out of the park and for the next few hours drove and explored some roads. Later in the afternoon made a 4 mile hike out to one of my planned areas though the mostly cloudy skies rather limited photography. The landscapes were as good as expected so would be spending the next couple days there with more hope for shootable weather during mornings before forecast cumulus clouds built up. At day's end was outside the park in Lassen National Forest disperse camping along a remote dirt road.

As the morning rose on Sunday May 24, I was already out on a trail. In some areas of the park are multi-hued volcanic cinders and chards of mudflow strata. Thus over my 3 days at the park took a number of close-up images. For images below used my Sigma 60mm F2.8 DN during sunlight that tends to bring out better rock color versus diffuse light conditions because light penetrates deeper into the translucent colored surface boundary of rock before reflecting back out. Additionally throughout my time at Lassen, soils and rocks were still damp from rains that nicely tends to darken color saturation because light is less likely to immediately reflect at a wet surface boundary.


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Of particular interest were colorful rocks with various shades of reds, oranges, greys, blacks, yellows, and pinks.


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Another of the early season wildflowers that were blooming in areas of black cinders were pussy paws, calyptridium umbellatum, that contrasted strongly against the black rock. Sigma 60mm F2.8 DN with extension tube and my 32 inch diameter Impact diffuser. Unlike rock, most plants photograph better in diffuse light.


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And yes I did frame a few colorful landscapes, one of which is at page top showing a lava flow foreground with Lassen Peak in the background, a 3x2 panel stitch from 29 shots. Tis a worthwhile image to view the enlarged vertical slice view link that brings out the fascinating structure and detail of the lava field. Others subjects I shot with stronger aesthetics I've chosen to not make public at this time lest other photographers take notice and disturb pristine areas near Lassen Peak I'll first work in the future. I was glad to see that much of the park has apparently seen few tripods beyond roadsides and trail sides which is reflected in just a few strong images on Google Images or Yahoo Images. One reason is terrain like the lava fields are rather dangerous places to climb about on due to sharp irregular shaped volcanic glass boulders with all manner of glass sharp surfaces little effected by millenia of weathering.

Trinity River

On Memorial Day Monday May 25 after a productive morning, a powerful thunderstorm chased me off exposed landscapes, and out of the Lassen region. At noon along SR44 took a little side dirt road along a small stream where disperse camping would be nice and enjoyed a submersing refreshingdip and a chance to reorganize gear. I continued west down SR44 into Redding where temperatures were near 100F degrees and then west along the Trinity River on SR299 where I paid a lot of attention to roadside flora which is a habit of mine while driving about unfamiliar areas.

Near sunset my eyes noticed interesting magenta color so did a U-turn back to a pullout and wandered along the road busy with holiday traffic to find the uncommon clarkia species red ribbons, clarkia concinna, one of California's most beautiful wildflower species. These flowers have a considerable 3-dimensional shape so I bothered to take more focus stack blending shots than normal. Also some shots required manual focus lens adjustments of barely visible petal parts too small for spot autofocus deep within the labyrinth. Notice the red sepals of flowers yet in bud that in opened flowers curl backwards and have a light magenta inner surface with a dark stripe down the center. Looking at the enlarged vertical slice view link, notice how the sticky female stigma has a bluish purple hue atop a dark magenta hued round tube termed style that disappears into a small hole where it eventually ends up at the unseen ovary while the several male anthers are curled red and white striped elements atop purple hued flat filaments.


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Getting the shot for the group of flowers required an awkward tripod placement up on a vertical bank using my incredibly flexible Benbo Trekker while cars whizzed by at high speed a few feet away. With each chain of cars, the flowers would shake from the concussion winds and then I would have a brief interlude before the next group of cars came to complete all my focus stack shots with fill flash. An intermittent breeze complicated matters so used my 32 inch diameter collapsible Litedisc to help block that. Eventually that was successful. Then noticed another uncommon amazing looking species, the intensely red firecracker plant, dichelostemma ida-maia. And yet again endured another lengthy effort using my 60mm lens with an extension tube and fill flash, along the highway during increasing dusk darkness.


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By mid evening reached Arcata, filled up on gas, visited a supermarket to supply what would be a rather remote few following days, and enjoyed some fast food. Then drove north on the US101 freeway all the way to the small community of Orick near the mouth of Redwood Creek where I pulled into a secret legal spot on public land to overnight outside the park.

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2015 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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