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2021 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP 5/23
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP 5/24
Prairie Creek Redwoods SP 5/25
Del Norte 5/26
Del Norte 5/27

2021 Trip Chronicles:  Page 4

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP 5/23

For weeks I'd been expecting to make a week long road trip up to our North Coast redwood parks that I'd last visited in 2013. The Sierra Nevada offered some early season destinations however due to the droughty conditions, my expectations were wildflowers and greenery would offer below normal aesthetics. Near May month end the NWS weather forecast showed the region would receive some light rain after weeks without rain thus planned my trip to be in redwoods during that period as that adds a worthwhile aesthetic to temperate rain forest images. So on Sunday morning May 23, 2021 left early before commute traffic peaked on the long drive north. That worked out well as I passed through Marin and Sonoma Counties in Mendocino. Landscape looked exceptionally dry for late May. Further north on US101, greenery increased in the Eel River basin as I made a short stop at Humboldt Redwoods. North into Eureka landscapes were vibrant green where I stopped for gas, ice and perishables. Into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park stopped at the THK Visitor Center that confirmed rhododendron were at least 2 weeks late.

Then given a few hours to explore, drove up on the Bald Hills Road about 30 miles to where a supposed lupine bloom caused some media reports. I didn't expect that to be as unusual as reported that turned out to be the case. Just beyond the Lady Bird Johnson grove, usual areas of rhododendron only showed a few buds. This is a part of Redwoods National Park while the three state parks I visited on this trip are also part of the national park. At sunset I drove into the Elk Prairie and through the campground that despite a sign showing it was full, had at least a half dozen no show camp spots. Thus an issue with the current pandemic recreation dot gov process that I made the most of. As dusk darkened the forest, I did go into the nearby impressive trailhead grove where I worked a couple dim subjects I never post processed.


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At sunrise Monday May 24, 2021, I went back to the same area I visited at dusk and worked 3 more subjects in diffuse blue sky light however upon post processing recalled the need to limit framing of any sky. As sun began shining in the forest, ended that work and drove down to the Redwood Creek coastal beach where I shot the above close-up of silky beach pea, lathyrus littoralis, coast sand verbena, abronia umbellata, beach morning glory, calystegia soldanella, and a TBD white flower head. A windy zone the black and white sands find homes in vegetation. Wild beach strawberries were few though I did find a few to eat. Later that afternoon surveyed some familiar areas along the creek I would visit the next day and then drove out to a coastal. After visiting the camp host, I received a $30 camp spot that once again used only as a parking spot, sleeping inside the Forester. Early that evening the minor spring cold front arrived piddling enjoyable light rain over a few sleepy hours. That also forced numbers of otherwise campfire makers into their tents replacing their usual evening smoky fires with nicely fresh clean air.


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Was up again early Tuesday May 25, 2021, eager to make the most of freshly watered redwood forest landscapes. I went back to a subject above on the West Ridge Trail I'd worked the previous morning in too much early light. Clouds, mist, and fog still enveloped the forest. The wet bark darkened wood colors including the trail surface, added glistening water on the many sword ferns, generally saturating color. Coast redwoods, sequoia sempervernis, are the Earth's tallest trees and one of its most ancient. Old growth forests in the temperate rain forest are amazingly lush green environments with endless fascinating elements to look at. Dominating the forest floor are western sword fern, polystuchum muniturn, that are joined with beautifully shaped deer fern, blechnum spicant, coastal wood fern, dryopteris arguta. At trail sides in the foreground are redwood sorrel without blooms and in places thimbleberry. The bright trees in the background frame right are bigleaf maples. The dark barkless redwood trunk stump frame right is host to an array of other species growing out of its decaying organic wood including the red tinged leaves of huckleberry. The smaller shaded tree frame right is a sitka spruce.


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A short ways up the Miner's Ridge trail is a bridge over a small stream ravine with the above view upstream showing the root end of a large redwood rolled into the ravine with myriad plants growing out of its nutrients. Frame lower right a salmonberry bush with some deer fern in frame corner. Growing atop the root stump is a sitka spruce covered with hanging lichen as is the small tree further back just left of center behind the fallen trunk at a diagonal.

Further up the Miner's Ridge Trail beyond the James Irvine Trail junction with cloud fog moving through the trees, the trail moves through a group of smaller redwoods shown at page top. The plants with white flowers in front of the large redwood at frame right are branched solomon's seal, maianthemum racemosum. The brushy trees frame lower left are a mix of tanbark oak, huckleberry. and thimbleberry. A western trillium flower is at lower frame edge mid left.


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Not far beyond, the trail reaches a ridge top zone with increasing wildflowers. I stopped to take a close-up of a Western trillium, trillium ovatum, flower above. Note the rain drops from the overnight rain mixed with yellow pollen below the anthers that had been knocked off. Most of that species had bloomed about a month before, however there were still a few plants with flowers though only a few had white petals as most had already changed to purple hues.

After returning from the 4 mile out and back hike up the Miner's Ridge Trail, I drove north on US101 across the Klamath River, into Del Norte County. After driving to the Klamath Overlook, I continued north where north of Wilson Creek there were significant road delays. Rhododendron were spotty, less than normal for late May, but there was at least one tree with blooms I had reason to return to work. I continued on into Crescent City where I stopped for gas and food. I also text messaged a forum gal D that lives just north of the city. After looking at numerous possible places to park and sleep overnight, I drove out onto the municipal pier jetty to spend the night where a few crab fishermen were also out into the wee hours on the adjoining pier.


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At dawn Wednesday May 26, 2021, I drove off south on US101 into Del Norte Redwoods SP where I stopped at the one good rhododendron tree however as a two column stitch blend image, later during post processing found I mistakenly left the A6000 in the Manual focus mode that ruined half that subject. Next I drove to the Damnation Trail where there were just a few blooms. A photo group was over the ridge line where cloud fog enveloped redwoods. My first subject was also ruined while I was still in Manual focus mode. My second subject above was ok though not as strong as the one I muffed.


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Back at the trailhead, drove back north on US101 then east on SR199 into Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. From about a half mile west of the Smith River bridge, a few trees had flowers and one tree was spectacular. Unfortunately now mid morning, under a thin overcast sky deck, there was a minor breeze and worse traffic was nearly continuous that with each passage the subject shook with a woosh. I worked the image for an hour and the result is above that took over 20 to process in Zerene Stacker that was mainly due to misregistration in the redwoods above the flowers that had considerable hanging lichen that were rarely still.

I drove back west and visited Walker Road areas for an hour working a few modest subjects and then drove back east and then west along the north side of the River on SR197 where I explored some of the dirt roads down to the river. By late morning I was back south on US101. Had a nice hour long visit with the noted forum person in their wonderfully green rural world and then continued south back into Crescent City where after some fast food lunch drove down to the Pebble Beach shore areas where I explored some fascinating areas at low tide.


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By 4pm I was on my way up to the blocked Howland Hill Road entrance to Jedediah Smith SP. For several weeks that park dirt road had been closed for maintenance though people were allowed to walk in along the road. I explored the Rellim Ridge Trail that is actually a gravel road through a second growth forest, for a couple hours until the sun altitude was low enough that most of the landscape in the road part of park would be in shadows. Due to so few visitors on that trail, roadsides were spectacularly pristine. Before walking down the road I captured a close-up of the above aesthetic symmetry of a deer fern, blechnum spicant.


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A bulldozer had just smoothed out the road that was rather soft and damp. I soon came to realize blocking the road was actually a benefit to this photographer that would otherwise as vehicles passed, be regularly needing to move to the side of the road that has no shoulder. Thus could set up my tripod most anywhere on the road and not expect any vehicles for 10 plus minutes. Additionally, the best redwoods along the several miles long road was just along this first mile, an easy walk. Although it was a sunny blue sky day, late afternoon only the tree tops showed any sky or sunny areas that I worked to avoid in frames as camera sensors don't have the dynamic range in such dim forests. My first subject above shows some of these giants all over 200 feet tall on a steep slope with an understory of huckleberry, salmonberry, thimbleberry, sword ferns. Many of these trees that are especially resistant to fires have blackened fire scars.


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And above another group of tall trees. The green brushy understory would in most places be well over a persons head. I had seen enough good subjects to plan on returning the following day. That evening parked overnight above Pebble Beach.

At dawn Thursday May 27, 2021, I drove back to the rhododendron subject along SR199 hoping to get some shots in before morning commute traffic picked up. Unfortunately there was more breeze this morning and I was surprised at all the white work truck service vehicles on this stretch that is an efficient connector between US101 that continues up along the Oregon Coast, and interstate I5 that routes through central Oregon. I managed to get a set of shots in though again that took over an hour that was late enough that I didn't even bother driving back over to Howland Hill Road that I would wait again till later afternoon. Later in post processing, I chose to process the one worked on Wednesday.


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Back in Crescent City, I worked some modest shore areas east of Pebble Beach most of which I have yet declined to process. One close-up subject I did process per above is this group of damp gray to cyan hued shore smoothed cobbles.


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By 4pm I had returned to the Howland Hill gate where some clouds with intermittent light sprinkles above the ridge kept sunlight muted while I shot in skylight shadows. This first subject was looking down from the road where it routes above the master ravine. Below was one large fallen trunk and 4 other trunks, all so overgrown with vegetation using the decaying redwood nutrients that only 2 of those trunks are obvious. Three standing trees at frame left are actually tilted left as shown thus is not a lens issue. These enormous trees have shallow surface roots that intertwine with adjacent tree roots for improved support. If one tree begins moving or falls, that can affect nearby trees. Although one might expect these areas to have an abundance of insect life, such is not the case. What is abundant are dark brown millipedes that feed on the decaying wood world.


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This next subject above is on the uphill side of the road. Although sword ferns tend to dominate forest floors, some areas do have nice patches of redwood sorrel. Here they are joined by lily of the valley, branched solomon seal, and deer ferns.


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My last redwood subject on this trip shows a dark redwood trunk in the near ground with trees in stronger diffuse light in the distance. The open zone in front of the distant trees allowed more skylight illumination. The smaller trees to the side of the dark trunk are sitka spruce.

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   David Senesac

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