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2024 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Carrizo Plain 4/1
Pacheco State Park 4/1
Pacheco State Park 4/6
Carrizo Plain National Monument 4/9
Pacific Grove 4/16

2024 Trip Chronicles:  Page 2

Carrizo Plain 4/1


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By March given a series of good storms, many photographers were optimistic that Carrizo Plain as well as Antelope Valley might put on a better than average blooms this spring. However early reports with images were disappointing and indeed both became duds. I did note one web image from along Seven Mile Road just north of the monument boundary that looked promising. A weather window with a reasonably calm wind forecast arose amid otherwise windy forecasts. So at short notice, I decided on making a 500 mile round trip drive that would also provide more solid conditions information of interest in advising an old out of state photographer friend that might visit. Thus on Sunday late afternoon March 31, set out south on US101 reaching Paso Robles about sunset where I made a pit stop for perishable food and gas.

A storm had passed through on Saturday dropping good rains but stalled near San Diego with CCW weather circulating to areas north. A large cell unexpectantly moved in from the southeast as I arrived later on that evening. Along SR58 had briefly looked at Shell Creek wildflowers that were sub par except for goldfields. It was raining so hard, I could not rearrange gear in my Forester in order to sleep in the back bed so spent the night in my driver's seat that is rather awkward. By 11pm rains ended and skies cleared.

At dawn skies above were partly cloudy. But the large Carrizo Plain basin at about the 2000 foot elevation, 15 miles wide and 50 miles long, was dead calm, covered in dense ground fog, and a chilly 35F degrees. By sunrise at 7am PDT, I set off on the still wet roads to survey conditions and quickly noted indeed, the only good bloom area was along gravel Seven Mile Road. This was an area I had extensively worked in 2019, so knew it had a dense seed bed of goldfields and purple owl's clover. Most of the dirt roads were blocked, signed CLOSED, undriveable due to the sticky alkaline mud and would remain so for several days.

By 9am a slight breeze above was finally pushing the fog away, so I would have a brief period to work some subjects. Thus on Monday April 1, 2024, I parked along Seven Mile Road, bundled up for the cold, then rambled out. At 9:15am had found set up my first modest subject above of tidy tips, layia fremontii, California goldfields, lasthenia californica, and purple owl's clover castilleja exserta. At the top of the frame are perennial cyan hued saltbush, atriplex polycarpa, that dominate plain valley floor alkaline areas. Note, the many plants with still rising buds.

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After working a couple more modest pond subjects, at 9:48am found the above dense expanse of California goldfields surrounding a freshly flooded shallow pond with purple owl's clover and saltbush in the back and nice clouds over the low mountains west. The zone has slightly undulating terrain ponds form within that are difficult to see from distances. I was able to capture a good 2 frame stitch reflection before the growing breeze became impossible. Note the green grasses under the shallow water, indicating before the storm at my arrival, the pond was likely near dry. So my timing was optimal.

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At 10:12am, I returned to this expanse of California goldfields, purple owl's clover, I'd passed by earlier then worked the above subject that also included a fine set of clouds. Note the whitish patch of tidy tips frame upper mid left. The breeze had become impossible, so then returned to my vehicle. Clouds to the east obscured much of the Temblor Range. But what I could see was surprisingly mediocre much like 2023 when the northern portion of the range was also poor apparently the result of quite variable rainfall over short distances. That mattered little as most of the plain's dirt roads were impassibly muddy. I'd seen enough, so decided to cut my gambled losses and make the long drive back north via I5 and then work Pacheco State Park during the afternoon.

Pacheco State Park 4/1


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By 3pm on Monday April 1, 2024 had reached Pacheco Pass. Parked and set out 2 miles on the Spikes Peak and then Pig Pond trails. At 4:09pm set up the above 30mm lens 2 column horizontal stitch of blue oak, quercus douglasii, amid green savanna grasslands. I worked a mediocre small stream cascade subject on my return to the trailhead and then drove home, another 60 miles on a long relatively unproductive day burning gas. Most flowers I'd seen a week before had already begun to seed and grasses were no longer a vibrant fresh green.

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Pacheco State Park 4/6


Five days later on Saturday April 6, 2024, gambled again that I would find something worthwhile at Pacheco, especially lichen on buckeye trees, but that also proved to be unproductive. I did work the same stream cascade above.

Carrizo Plain National Monument 4/9


On Tuesday April 9, 2024, not content to give up on Carrizo, but with another brief couple days of forecast near calm mornings, I drove back south for another look but was again disappointed. Much like during the road trip 9 days earlier, I did capture 3 decent subjects though that was not worth all the effort and gas.
Carrizo Plain BLM webpage

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Per image above, I did rework the two Seven Mile Road pond subjects, however the earlier work was stronger than the above 3 column stitch with fresher goldfields and better clouds. Emerging from bud goldfields, sun bleach quickly and also lose their wonderful strong fragrance.

It was unusually dead calm that did allow a reflection of Soda Lake southward from a section of shoreline that juts out east a bit. A rather short off trails walk from paved Soda Lake Road few others bother to investigate. The water level was rather low with bright white alkaline flats covering most of the full lake's basin. At page top at 11:25am worked that strong 2 column horizontal stitch subject in a dramatically clear dry atmosphere. In the far distance at frame right within superb blue sky Rayleigh scattering is snow on the 8000+ foot Coast Range mountains to the south. At frame right, sections of the much closer still nicely green Caliente Range also reflect in the dead calm waters. Sun bleached going to seed goldfields line the shore. At this time of early spring, landscapes viewed south or northward are usually not too harsh even at mid day.

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Views of the Temblor Range confirmed wildflowers were for a second straight spring quite mediocre. Since it was still calm, from Simmler Road at noon, I rambled out to the edge of nicely reflecting alkaline Old Potato Lake and worked the above 3 column vertical 30mm stitch. Note beneath the white alkaline salt surface coating lake edge flats, is deep very sticky mud one will readily sink into and a reason one won't even see any animal tracks.

I drove home via US101 allowing exploration of some areas of future interest. I expected my 2024 spring wildflower work was now over as I didn't expect to see much along the North Coast that are California's last lower elevation areas to bloom. But how wrong that turned out to be as a month later as I would stumble into a legitimate wildflower super bloom.

Pacific Grove 4/16


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On Tuesday April 16, 2024, I drove the 70 miles to Point Lobos State Reserve where I worked a few mediocre subjects. The park is in the later stages of rebuilding it south shoreline visitor areas and apparently those in charge have adopted the same fenced trail only access as their north shore areas that eliminate access to some areas that used to be accessible. So I then drove to Pacific Grove shores where I enjoyed a day along its Hays Perkins Shoreline Park areas. Later in the afternoon at 4:35pm at Lover's Point, worked the above modest craggy granite outcrop and its mussel covered rocks.

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At Lover's Point are some of the most bold and comically aggressive ground squirrels one might encounter anywhere due to many people who will feed them. That location has a narrow granite pinnacle seagulls like to perch on. In this image, was able to also capture one of those squirrels in the same frame.

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   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com
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