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western Riverside County Thursday 3/16
western Riverside County Friday 3/17

2017 Trip Chronicles:  Page 4

Sonora Desert road trip... into western Riverside County 3of3

After hiking out of Borrego Palm Canyon, we considered our next move. Weather forecasts showed Thursday would be quite windy. We were tired of waiting through hot mid day hours all week. There was certainly more good photography material in the Anza Borrego region to work on including a lot of intimate landscapes and close-up wildflowers I had hoped to find time for. Instead of accomplishing some of the work during the previous days, the heat and afternoon breezes had kept us relatively inactive simply coping. Additionally a late weekend storm coming down from the northwest was likely to add more questionable weather. Instead of returning to the modest subjects at Joshua Tree we could still work, we decided to drive northwest to western Riverside areas that had also been in wildflower reports. I had visited the areas in 2008 when conditions were superb and then briefly on a gamble in 2015 when conditions were mediocre.

So by mid afternoon we drove up and out of the Sonora Desert via S22 to S2 to SR79 to R3 into Hemet by sunset. Interested in checking out wildflower conditions along Gilman Springs Road against the San Jacinto Mountains, we became bogged down going north through the city then only saw a large expanse of purple phacelia in dim dusk light. We hoped to disperse camp in The Badlands further west but dangerous speeding commute traffic and glaring headlights along that road prevented us from being able to pull off the main road. It was also difficult to keep together in the heavy traffic along the road. If we became separated we still had our cell phones to reconnect up however doing so at night in an unfamiliar city is difficult.

Thus decided to stay in a cheap motel that night in downtown Hemet and did so. Unfortunately the supposed 2 bed non-smoking room was unpleasant with a strong cleaning chemical smell I had learned over decades to dislike strongly and avoid. Additionally the central air conditioning did not blow air in from the outside which was somewhat warm but rather just re-circulated air from internal areas. However I was so weary of the earlier hiking and long drive that I just wanted to take a shower, eat an easy meal using the microwave, and go to sleep. That would be a huge mistake on my part because my sinuses suffered all night and I suspect that it also was blowing in air contaminated from someone with the influenza virus because a few days later I became very sick and have stayed so for now well over a week as I write this. Alternatively I might have picked up the virus in Borrego Springs and the air conditioning and room chemical just weakened my system to the point I became infected.


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Thursday March 16 we wasted little time getting away from the motel, driving west on SR74. We had a choice of the for fee Diamond Valley Reservoir wildflower trail on which one must stay on that popular paved pathway, the well publicized Walker Canyon site along I15 north of Lake Elsinore, or a couple obscure back road BLM areas of western Riverside County I had worked in 2008. We would first take a look at the latter and indeed that had strong wildflower areas though not as good as in 2008. By this time my sinuses had cleared and were no longer at that time an issue.

After reaching that location, we soon were hefting our gear out on a cross country ramble, wading through vegetation and wildflowers. I immediately came across red hued bush monkeyflowers, mimulus aurantiacus, that was formerly m. puniceus, per image above that I had never encountered. The sub species designation was removed when it was analyzed as only a color variant of the far more common yellow hue. The enlarged vertical slice view has a wonderful look.


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Quite a ways into the area we found a very lush section had obviously received more precipitation than where we parked. The area was so strong that we would be content to work it the next couple days then end our road trip. Complicating the aesthetic was also robust growths of alien grasses and brush that muddy the purity of color. That is about all one sees after average winters. After working a couple spots on a densely covered wildflower slope, I made the above image of wildflowers like waves in a sea of California poppy, eschscholtzia californica, goldfields, lasthenia californica, blue dicks, dichelostemma capitatum, wishbone bush, filaree, and popcorn flower.


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Just below the previous image wildflower slope I set up a single vertical frame with goldfields in the foreground of a small seasonal stream with banks densely covered by canterbury bell, phacelia campanularia, and poppies with flower covered hills in the background. As D walked about the area, he came across a rattlesnake.


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An increasing breeze slowed our work and by late morning it was time to end the session. My last image was of the above nicely symmetrical rocky pyramid with goldfields in the foreground and poppies between rocks on the peak.

We drove off into a nearby urban community and celebrated our good luck of finding yet another special place by having lunch at a restaurant where I enjoyed a large salad. Later in the afternoon we drove off on some dirt roads, and explored some densely colored slopes I had worked in 2008 that did not have as diverse a mix of species as in 2008. Then drove north on I15 to take a good look from roadsides at what was a zoo at Walker Canyon. Some excellent flower slopes there. We then drove off to overnight on some obscure BLM lands where we also did a modest exploratory hike.


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After securing gear on the morning of Friday March 17, we drove off and parked at the same area we worked Thursday. My sinuses were telling me something was not right inside my head. Our first stop was a spot per image above I had sized up the day before with goldfields, blue dicks, a few common dandelions, wishbone bush, and behind a small unseen ravine slope of poppies. A pesky intermittent breeze required some patience to get my focus stack set of shots in. With D lingering, I drove off to a location near the lush slopes we had worked Thursday then went down to a slope of flowers I thought I had gotten my panorama sequence mixed up on the morning before. One mental challenge with a manual panoramic head is keeping straight the sequence of intended shots. Due to distractions while waiting for lulls between breezy periods, one can easily lose track on a busy day of what one has done. I then repeated that work with a 5 column panoramic image at page top. Note the unaesthetic sections of blue sky at page top was the necessary result of removing human infrastructure from the image.


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Further up the slopes worked another dense slope of wildflowers above. At lower frame right is a wishbone bush, mirabilis laevis var. crassifolia, whose flowers are open at night and close up by mid morning when poppies are just opening fully. Notice numbers of this same plant amid poppies at the top of the frame. A reflection of how still the air was at least when I fired off shots in this set is that the tall blue dicks in the foreground that are ever bobbing about in any breeze are nicely still. Also notice considerable alien grasses between our native wildflowers especially ripgut brome.


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Up higher took this broader landscape of the area showing the small stream at frame left and a rocky set of peaks in the background. Upper atmosphere clouds overrunning the high pressure dome that had been sitting over the deserts several days were now moving in.


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Possibly the strongest landscape subject on the trip, with a beautiful downhill slope of baby blue eyes, nemophila menziesii, and popcorn flower, plagiobothrys sp, plus magical dense patches in the distance of goldfields, California poppies, and canterbury bell. I had wanted to use my 60mm to make a 4 column by 2 row panorama, however the late morning breeze was increasingly growing so I was content to get what I could with the 30mm lens and move on. However D had been up on this slope for some time with his big Chamonix view camera so expect he has better large images.

By late afternoon we were driving north on Interstate 15 through dense urban areas of the eastern Los Angeles metropolis. With the considerable amount of traffic we encountered a bit past noon, we were glad it wasn't at the commute hour. Across the San Gabriel Mountains, we stopped at Cajon Junction, where D and I split up for the last time with D lingering till I confirmed conditions to the west. My sinuses were increasingly draining down a toxic flow that was irritating my throat. At the time I thought it must be a cold rhinovirus that had set up residence in my head after our Wednesday night motel episode. West on SR138, when I reached Palmdale, I called D on my moto g relating the region looked much less green than even during my 2015 visit. An hour later near the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, I further related except for one intensely orange large patch of poppies, that the region looked mediocre. That was the signal for D to begin his long drive back to western Colorado while I continued the long very boring drive north on Interstate 5 to the San Jose area.

By time I reached home it was dusk and felt the virus had become too entrenched while I could do little to stop it while driving. I have an extraordinary history of avoiding colds, much less flu, only catching the former about once every 3 years of so despite being in corporate work place building with lots of sick people in winter. Additionally I did get a flu shot in November for what that was worth. I won't bore the audience here with the rest of last week's nauseating details except to say that it was an epic battle without using medicine keeping the deadly stuff out of my chest and cough free. And now 11 days later I will be getting ready starting tomorrow for another significant wildflower road trip to our southern areas.

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2017 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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