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NEXT:  Page 8   Point Lobos State Reserve 5/8
2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Edgewood County Park Saturday 4/15
San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area Tuesday 4/18
Merced serpentine Friday 4/21
Tuolumne Tuesday 5/2

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 8

Edgewood County Park 4/15

After returning from Carrizo Plain April 12, I spent the next couple days looking at my desktop computer processing images. And watched weather reports for any reasonably calm days that I might do some local field work.


The first opportunity was Saturday April 15, 2017 a day with overrunning high clouds. I wanted to take the pulse of our local areas so decided on driving a loop that started by going up SR9 from Saratoga up to Skyline Blvd then north to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, usually one of our best regional wildflower locations that I expected would be too early for any flower work but would give me some idea what was going on. That area looked very dormant with short grasses and just a few early wildflowers. During the drought years it had peaked in late April but this year looks like mid to late May. In 2005, a year of heavy rains, there was an incredible bloom that peaked mid May. The drought may have caused negative effects to the seed bed.

I then turned west driving down narrow Alpine Road, stopping at the Heritage Grove, part of Sam McDonald County Park. There in a fine old growth redwood grove beside Alpine Creek found most western trillium, trillium ovatum, had gone to seed or petals faded purple with about 10% of plants still with white petals. Thus it was about what I would expect during a wet year for a species that peaks after average rainy seasons mid March in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I worked one plant above though have many stronger images from past years. Yellow hued redwood violets were large robust sizes and near peak. Only saw a single redwood sorrel flower.

I continued down to SR84 east past La Honda, over the summit and down to the serpentine landscapes of Edgewood County Park in Redwood City that I had not been to in over a decade. At a lower warmer elevation, I expected it might be about at peak and it was. Being an urban park on a Saturday at the beautiful green flowery peak of spring, its parking areas were full of vehicles and I would find lots of people on its trails. I came in at the north onto the Edgewood Trail to the Sunset Trail and would loop around via the Serpentine Trail, about a 2 mile route. The popular urban park has an understandable policy of walking on trails only. And that is working because there a no signs at all of visitors walking off trails that would be obvious in the usual shin to knee high vegetation. In the most scenic serpentine outcrop areas there are short wooden fences. The trails have excellent trail signs and information kiosks are thorough. The CNPS organization has also been active improving the park including removing non-natives.


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A variable breeze was enough I that any close-up work would be unproductive. The limits to photography challenged me to do some radical oblique angle shots for focus stacking across the densest flower areas that are near the Sunset and Serpentine junctions. Above a modest image of goldfields, tidy tips, dwarf elegant broadiaea, and owls clover.


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And another that well shows how these serpentine areas can look. In the past the above two images would be impossible for any fixed lens camera systems due to depth of field limitation even at minimum apertures. However with focus stacking results are amazing. To make sure elements were in focus I changed from my usual F11 to F16 and it worked rather well after selecting several points though is so busy that even individual near flowers suffer.


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San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area 4/18

The next day with marginal shooting weather was Tuesday April 18, 2017 and I had a compulsion to get out somewhere in the field and get some hiking exercise. Although I expected mediocre conditions, I was curious what the Pacheco Pass area looked like so drove the 60 miles to San Luis Reservoir Wildlife Area where there is a north facing slope that usually has some interesting botany and some wind protected spots. Found this nice blue fiesta flower, pholistoma auritum, above that was up against lichen on a sandstone outcrop.


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Next was a one subject prize that made the drive worthwhile. A mix of lichen species was growing on a buckeye tree branch amid red hued trentepohlia algae. That is the same growth one sees out at Cypress Point at Point Lobos but tends to be uncommon away from coastal areas. However I have seen it at Pacheco Pass on buckeye before. Please view the enlarged vertical slice view to see the outstanding fine details.


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Merced serpentine areas 4/21

Another three days later on Friday April 21, 2017 I was off again on a longer road day trip in order to assess conditions in the Central Sierra foothills. Weather forecasts indicated at least light breezes early morning with skies mostly sunny. Thus drove east on SR132 across the flooding San Joaquin River, through Modesto, along the Merced River, and up to Coulterville. As I reached the Don Pedro reservoir area early morning, I stopped along the highway to work the above verdant blue oak savanna cattle ranch landscape that was lush with tall alien grasses. Obviously the result of this rainy season's exceptional rains.


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At Coulterville, I turned south on SR49. A few miles along slopes east of and far above McClure Reservoir, the highway goes through BLM areas of serpentine that during late spring in good years has a large seed bed of annuals. This year's displays were about average, considerable less than best years yet lots of wildflowers versus non-serpentine roadsides. I stopped and worked per above, a subject of common monkeyflowers in a serpentine crack.

Seeps are common at serpentine areas and usually have dense yellow patches of seep-spring monkeyflower aka common monkeyflower, mimulus guttatus. In the image at right they were joined by our most common clarkia, pink hued Dudley's clarkia, clarkia dudleyana. Many of the wildflowers in this area peak mid May, especially the several pink clarkia species that were only out in low numbers. Other species that were out in peak numbers at this early time were mountain dandelion, common goldfields, madia, lomatium, blue dicks, grass nuts, bird's eyes gilia, Bentham lupine, Indian clover, Sierra mock stonecrop, and royal larkspur.

Another reason for making this day trip was to capture one of our most beautiful wildflowers, bitterroot, lewisia rediviva. The species is most often found atop serpentine geology and I have seen it scattered over these areas of SR49 on larger sunny bedrock outcrops. However there is one knob that always has numbers of plants and this year there were many with flowers. Photographing these flowers tends to be difficult because they are closed up until late morning when light is harsh then close up by mid afternoon. The above location is however an exposed windy spot. These are belly flowers so I was able to block the wind with my 32 inch collapsible circular reflector while using a collapsible circular diffusion disk to soften the harsh mid day sunlight on a fine plant with 4 blooms, the image at page top. The plants tend to be a favorite of tiny tetranychus species red mites with dozens often scurrying about on flowers. To get them off, one can blow breath air on the petals that puts them in a panic, sending them into the air and off.


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By late morning the forecast wind became unworkable so I continued south into Mariposa then east on SR140 along the Merced River to as far as El Portal, areas I have worked many springs as there are lots of flowers. Found average conditions for mid April except for very few poppies that I'd also noted in reports. One reason for making this tour was that there are wind protected roadside areas from the usual up canyon winds and indeed I found one nice Pacific sedum, sedum spathulifolium, subject on a mossy rock wall per above image.


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My return route went through Mariposa then back north on SR49. I saw subjects but the wind was too strong. Along Don Pedro Reservoir is a deteriorating paved spur road that pre-dates the dam, Shawmut Road. After passing a few ranches, it doglegs along steep slopes well above the waters with good numbers of common species including patches of Chinese houses. I saw one grass nuts aka ithuriel's spear, triteleia laxa, plant, the stems of which were held still within surrounding grasses. A difficult quarry except in absolutely still air as the tall stems will otherwise bob about.

I've photographed many of these same spring wildflowers in the past with most on my Digital Close-ups sub page. They were taken in the past with my Canon G10 compact digital camera that with its small sensor has great depth of field. However in this era I have reason to improve on all that work by using focus stacking with a camera with much better resolution. Late afternoon I checked out more serpentine areas at Red Hills where I found average numbers of familiar plants in bloom however the species numbers were low so continued on SR120 west and home.


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Tuolumne County 5/2

March and April tend to be breezy in California and once again that kept me at home for the next 11 days. Finally a couple sunny workable days came so in the evening of May 1 I drove back east to the Sierra foothills. The next morning on Tuesday May 2, 2017 at the 3k to 5k elevations, I found vegetation conditions 2 or 3 weeks behind normal, a bit more than I expected. In any case being curious and easily fascinated by nature, it was good to be out, always learn things, and had plans for some hiking exercise later. Driving down the steep Cherry Lake Road into the Tuolumne River canyon, at the 2900 foot elevation came across the above large patch of bush lupine, lupinus albifrons still in shadows allowing an even capture in blue sky light. It was calm enough to capture a set of focus stack shots across these large bushes that usually tend to be uncooperative even in slight breezes. The spikes were nicely all fresh without yet any polinated gone to seed withered flowers. The long spike at top of plants tend to grow straight up while those at sides curve outward and then up. Their blue saturation tends to be moderate among lupine species.


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After a quick road tour out to the Granite Creek Basin, I returned to SR120 and at Kassabaum Meadows at 2950 feet stopped where sky lupine, lupinus nanus grew in dense patches. The newly rising plant spikes also had no polinated gone to seed withered flowers. When fresh, the species as these above can have an intense blue saturation. Compare the blue to that of the bush lupine in the image above it and also note the bush lupine has narrower dull grey green palmate leaves while the sky lupine leaves are a deep green. The spring after the Rim Fire on this same week of May, I had found dense patches of the species mixed with harlequin lupine along the Tuolumnne Rim on Mather Road that on each following spring were significantly fewer as nutrients rapidly decreased. However seeds from the new crop I photographed are still there able to wait dormant for decades until the next fire event.

Down at Big Oak Flat I turned north on the notoriously dangerous Wards Ferry Road in order to save several miles of driving to reach my next target. This scary mostly one lane paved road drops off precipitously along much of its route into the main Tuolumne River canyon with few spots to pull over if any vehicles are coming the other direction. Thus if that had happened going downhill, I would have had to backup a long ways. Fortunately I encountered just two, a wide utility vehicle passed while I was already parked and a sedan right at the very grafitti painted river bridge where the road is wide. Continuing my tour, beyond the community of Tuolumne, I drove down into the North Fork canyon noting it was also mediocre before driving north to SR108 through Sonora to Jamestown where I took Rawhide Road then Shell Road out to its gated end where I enjoyed good exercis hiking an out and back 4.5 miles 500 foot vertical onto basalt Table Mountain. A well known wildflower location that probably peaked late March that I had never gotten around to visiting and now know what to expect. Tall green grasses with usual modest blue oak savana species were about the trail while up on the plateau, I could see seeded withered drying remains of what had been some nice areas weeks before.

NEXT:  Page 9   Point Lobos State Reserve 5/8
2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
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