The 2017 Adventure – Day 16

General Thoughts

Day 16 – Wednesday October 11, 2017

Glacial Erratic at Bumpass Hell Trailhead

Got up early this morning after a noisy night. I decided to head back up the park road in the opposite of my originally intended direction, to see if there were a spot that might show how thick the smoke was through the use of receding ridge lines. What I had in mind was the glacial erratic at the trailhead for Bumpass Hell. I was hoping that all the smoke from the fires in the Napa area might catch the first light of the sun, but I guess it was so thick, it actually blocked it. But, I took a keepsake of the spot and now that I see it, maybe I should have dragged out the real camera. One of many missed opportunities, which is usually the case on trips like this. You can’t be everywhere at the same time, or always be right in your decisions, although I wish I could.

As I was heading for Lake Tahoe, I couldn’t help but see just how hazy it was and several times I thought how nice it would be to get those fading ridge lines, but they would need something other than just the ridges to make the image interesting. And just outside Chester, driving along the shores of Lake Almanor, I caught sight of it and pulled over right away. There was a great s-curve in the water leading directly to the ridges beyond. I did verticals, horizontals, and tried it with a split ND filter to balance it out a bit since the ridges were so bright from the smoke. It was probably the shot of the day which, considering what came along after, is not really saying much. But it is a basic graphic and if things work out right, a bird may actually be in the one that included water on the bottom, while others did not include that water.

The 2017 Adventure – Day 15

General Thoughts

Day 15 – Tuesday October 10, 2017

Mt. Lassen with Smoke

Got up this morning and expected to shoot the sunrise of Mt. Lassen reflecting in Lake Manzanita. But there was a strange haze around the peak and first thought it might be some lenticular clouds, but just somehow, it didn’t seem right. Did some pictures anyway that were pretty dull and lifeless and then drove up the mountain a bit and saw this haze flowing by the peak, almost obliterating it. I seem to think that is actually smoke from the huge fires they’re having in the Napa and Sonoma area but have yet to confirm since I have not listened to, or sought out any news since I began this trip. Spent the rest of the morning scouting and looking at some viewpoints, and found an area of a standing dead forest that was devastated by a fire not too long ago. It was haunting. Then I Checked out the Sulphur Works, which is just a boiling mud pot and a few vents right along side the road through the park, and checked out the trailhead for Bumpass Hell which is supposed to be the main thermal attraction here, but discovered it was a 1.25-mile hike each way with 500-feet elevation gain before descending 250-feet. So it would be the 250 foot climb back out that would probably be toughest. But I decided, with all the hiking in the thick sand/gravel yesterday, I would opt out of that one.

The 2017 Adventure – Day 14

General Thoughts

Day 14 – Monday October 9, 2017

McArthur-Burney Falls © jj raia

A good night sleep in a bed and a shower was great and to top it off was breakfast at McDonald’s! But during breakfast, I was looking at the map and discovered that the distance to the McArthur-Burney Falls was not 95 miles as ai thought, (that was the distance beyond the falls, to Lassen National Park) so I could have easily driven to McArthur-Burney Falls last night to be there before any sunlight came into the falls. So I was pretty angry at myself for not realizing that. And driving there I was a little bummed out, but was happy to find out that for most of the morning, the actual falls remains in shade. So I got to photograph them in the shade as I’d hoped. An added bonus was that later in the morning, almost noon, sunlight did filter in through the trees above and lit the spray in varying ways, never the same, always depending on how much spray there was and how fast the wind was. It was a really pretty spot and I spent almost three hours there.

After having some lunch at the falls, I wanted to get to Butte Lake where the trailhead for the Cinder Cone was. To get to it was about another 22-mile drive and then about 6-7 miles down a dirt road. Then 1.3 miles of hiking in very soft sand or gravel which was just like all the walking I did on the beaches earlier in the trip. I started at 3pm thinking I had plenty of time, but it was a slow slog. The killer was the final 1/2-mile straight up the cone on very, very loose sand and rock mixture. It was like climbing up the steepest sand dune you could imagine. It was brutal, especially carrying all the gear, extra clothing, water, etc. When I reached the top, I realized that the purpose I took this hike lay on the opposite side of the cone, so I had to hike all the way around to the opposite side to look down at the Painted Dunes. I was soaked with sweat and the wind really began to get me cold, so I put on the jacket to cut the wind and I warmed up right away. It took 1-1/2 hours to get to the top.

Painted Dunes from the top of Cinder Cone

But it was only 4:30pm so I had lots of good late afternoon light and basically took pictures the rest of the afternoon, walking back and forth from one side to the other, making new photos as the light constantly changed. But I thought when the dunes were completely in shade was when they would really shine. So as sunset crunch time approached, the pace quickened as I was just snapping away at the abstract patterns of the dunes and trees now completely in shade, a few individual trees up there right at sunset, and then finally, one of the most spectacular sunsets I’d ever witnessed. I did two panoramas, one vertical and the other horizontal, and just hoped I didn’t screw it all up. I even did a few iPhone panos and singles as well. Of course, I was the only one up there for about the last hour and a half, and it was well beyond sunset when I began the trip back to the car. It was pretty dark when I began my descent at 7pm, and what had taken 1/2-hour of tortuous misery to get up the cone, it took less than 10-minutes to get down. but the trail through the forest was pitch black, and using a headlamp and a separate flashlight, I still found it difficult to follow the sandy trail and a number of times had to stop and make sure I was heading in the right direction. Had Ramen right there in the darkness and then made the drive to Lassen Volcanic National Park where I will be ready for another day of shooting and, if the body is up to it, some hiking as well. 

Sunset from Cinder Cone


The 2017 Adventure – Day 13

General Thoughts

Day 13 – Saturday October 7, 2017

As Yogi Berra, wise sage of the New York Yankees, once said:

“It’s deja vu all over again”.

Looking out the Front Windshield

Just like last year in Rocky Mountain National Park, I went to sleep in the car with the wind howling and woke up to white!! It was mostly hoar frost, so this time there’s only a coating on the road, but all the cars in the parking lot are frosted over. It’s just beginning to get light out, but I’ve been up for quite a while formulating a plan of action all from the snugly comfort of my sleeping bag. First, I needed heavier clothing to wear than the thin pants I was wearing and summer weight shirt. And if you’ve ever gotten into ice cold clothing in the morning, you know you’d like to avoid that if at all possible. So the first thing was to get out some clothes and put them in the sleeping bag to warm up well before it was time to get them on. That was the easy part, the hard part was to get off the other pants and put on the jeans while still in the bag. Then get out the heavier jackets so they would be in position to put them on before getting out of the car. Put on my sneakers and contort my body all the while fighting calf cramps to crawl from the back into the driver’s seat so I can place my foot on the brake and start the car. Second was to get the heat and defrosters going to clear all the windows (since I neglected to pack my ice scraper), all so I could drive the car to go to the bathroom before I even think about dragging out the camera. Meanwhile, as the windshield began to reveal the outside world, I realized that clouds were covering The Watchman Overlook, and that staying right where I was would provide good side-lighting on the cliffs across the lake with those clouds lighting as the sun rose while the cliffs and Wizard Island looked great with the light dusting. 


Wizard Island at Dawn – Crater Lake, OR © jj raia

I did eventually get the camera out into the howling wind and finally managed the lighting with split filters because of the difference between the bright sky and clouds and the dark evergreens. I tried to keep either snow or later, some bleached logs on the bottom to bring a bright continuity to that part of the frame so it wouldn’t look like two separate pictures. The problem occurred when the filters began to get a slight coating of frost that may have dulled the images. I hope not, but I also hope that if it is the case, I got enough correctly exposed files to work with before the frost. I did a lot of bracketing just in case i needed to blend different exposures. Luckily, by the time of the frosted filters, I was just about frosted as well and happily retreated to the car to get the heat going again.

Breakfast with a View

Went into the lodge and had a huge breakfast to make up for no dinner last night and sat next to a window overlooking the lake. Who would have thought. Then went out shooting some more because the clouds were still racing all around with some places being blasted with the wind while other spots were pretty calm. But it was probably better to wait a while before attempting the drive down as there were an awful lot of icy patches. I headed toward Mt. Shasta and figured there would be no snow at the top, but surprisingly, there was a little. So I thought if I could get there in time for the hike to the overlook, I would make the hike; it was supposed to be short and easy. Luckily, I met with a guy and three boys who were trying to find it as well, so we hiked up together. Let me tell you, this was a steep hike almost the whole way, and very difficult to stay on the right path because there were do many!! But we finally did make it and it is a superb location, but without any clouds, it’s like a cake without icing. So I didn’t even stay to “best light” which happened on the way back down…so I took a shot or two with the iPhone since everything was already packed up for the trek back to the car. Then on to Motel 6 where I checked into my first hotel of the trip, and only because where I wanted to be tomorrow morning was about 95-miles away. McDonald’s for dinner and back to the Motel that had about thirty truck cabs parked in the lot and loads of trailers in the street. Must be a drivers convention.

Mt. Shasta in Better Bald Light © jj raia