Day 14 – Monday October 9, 2017
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.
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.