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Early 2017 Wildflowers

The photographer’s pollen-covered hiking boots [click to view larger].

With as much rain as California has had in the past couple months, many of us have been carefully watching wildflower reports from other photographers in the hopes that 2017 might bring a spectacular wildflower season.  And in the past week or so, things have seemed to accelerate–with more and more reports coming in and some of them pretty good!  Unfortunately, the news media has also caught wind of this and has been reporting a “super bloom,” so now wildflower spots that would normally see an admittedly fair amount of traffic are being completely overrun.  There were reports of 2-4 hour traffic jams of San Diegans trying to get down the hill into Borrego Springs this past weekend!

To avoid that rush, I was up at 3:00 AM on Friday and quickly out the door for a weekend of wandering Southern California in search of wildflowers.  First stop, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  It did not disappoint… but I’m not sure that I would call it a “super bloom.”  The coverage was good but not insane.  Over the weekend I visited several locations within the Colorado Desert region of Southern California as well as some of the hillsides within the more urban part of Southern California that are now covered in California poppies.  It was a quick but incredibly (photographically) productive trip.  Below are some of the highlights.

Dune evening primrose (white) and desert sunflower (gold) in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Sunrise over the Cottonwood Mountains during wildflower season.

California poppies overlook a lake in Southern California.

Wildflowers at sunrise near the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

Wildflowers bloom on the southern slope of the Cottonwood Mountains.

Mixed wildflowers cover a hillside in Southern California.

Dune evening primrose grows out of cracked earth in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park at sunrise.

A dense row of wildflowers lines Henderson Canyon Road at sunrise in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

A field of desert sunflowers along Henderson Canyon Road in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Lupine in front of a boulder.

A field of desert dandelions along DiGorgio Road in Borrego Springs, California.

A field of lupine and other wildflowers, with a lone tree, at Joshua Tree National Park.

Wildflowers at sunset in the Colorado Desert.

A field of yellow wildflowers.

Wildflowers at sunset in the Cottonwood Mountains, overlooking the Salton Sea.

Sunrise light across a field of lupine and other wildflowers.

Snow-capped mountains loom behind fields of California poppies, Arroyo lupine, and California goldfields.

A sea of colors on a Southern California hillside.

Mixed California poppies, Arroyo lupine, California goldfields, chia, baby blue eyes, and an unknown white flower.

Snow-capped mountains loom behind fields of California poppies and Arroyo lupine.

A boat cruises past hillsides covered in California poppies.

A boat departs a marina in Southern California, past fields of California poppies and Arroyo lupine.

More Big Surf

Following the spindrift (and big surf) photos from Friday, I rented a Sigma 150-600mm lens and headed back out on Saturday.  This weekend’s giant surf (forecast to peak at 18 feet on some surf breaks in San Diego) was supposed to peak Saturday afternoon.  I visited Windansea, Bird Rock, and then Sunset Cliffs–all with mid-sized messy waves and zero surfers–and then, as the afternoon waned, decided to head back to La Jolla Shores just really because I couldn’t figure out what else to do.  It looked like the big surf event was a non-event.

Man, was I wrong!  It was going off at the Shores.  I’m not a great judge of surf height, but I’d guess that the bigger waves were more than double overhead.  Looking across at the Point La Jolla, it looked like Boomer was also going off.  In fact, you could see a SD Lifeguard PWC out patrolling the shoulders of the breakers.

I stuck with one break at the north end of the La Jolla Shores beach that had a half-dozen or so surfers on it.  The sets were huge.  Too big, I think for the surfers, as no one attempted any rides at all the first 20 minutes or so that I was there.  And throughout, I never saw anyone take the biggest sets–so as you look at the surfer shots below, imagine that these were the smaller waves that they were riding!

A surfer does a flip off the backside of a wave at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Giant wave crashing behind a surfer at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Surfer inside a barrel at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

How big is that wave? Surfer drops in on a big set at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Waves and surfers stacked up at La Jolla Shores. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Sunlight off the ocean

 

Seaplane approaching Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma, California, USA.

 

Rain approaches surfers off La Jolla Shores, California, USA.

 

Stormy skies and light beams off La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Tree at Windansea beach in La Jolla, California, USA.

Spindrift

A passing conversation with a San Diego Lifeguard this morning:

John, “I love the spray coming off the top of the waves in the wind this morning!”

Lifeguard, “Spindrift?  Yeah.”

John, quietly to himself, “Wait, spindrift is something other than a street name??”

February 17, 2017:  Big, clean surf.  Winds gusting to 50 MPH.  Spindrift!

Three surf barrels in a row, with spindrift above, near Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California, USA

 

Breaking wave and spindrift near Scripps Pier. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Surfer in a barrel on a very windy day (with spindrift) near Scripps Pier. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

A surfer inside a breaking wave with spindrift above. La Jolla, California, USA.

 

Surfers near Scripps Pier on a very windy day, with spindrift. La Jolla, California, USA.

Snowstorms in Yosemite Valley

El Capitan peeks out through falling snow. Yosemite National Park.

I love Yosemite National Park in winter.  There’s room to breathe… and park, and camp, and turn around without hitting a hundred tourists!  And it is so, so indescribably beautiful during snowstorms.  Almost all of my trips to Yosemite over the years have been in winter.  Fortunately the girls (not the eldest girl, who hates nature at this point, but the two younger girls) have also come to love Yosemite during snowstorms.  Thanksgiving 2015 there was a big snowstorm forecast for the Valley, so we threw everyone in the car and headed up.  Didn’t make it before the storm, thus the whole drive in on 41 was a slow but beautiful, tire-chain thumping, hours-long slog through nighttime blizzard.  Had an absolutely fabulous time playing in the snow and the girls have been begging since to do it again.

Fast forward to January 2017, which was a very, very wet month for Yosemite–between giant snowfalls (some of which made it down to the Valley floor) and torrential rains that flooded the Valley and caused the park to be evacuated.  By January 17th, there were several big snowfalls forecast to make it down to the Valley floor (many Sierra snowfalls will dump feet of snow at higher elevations but just rain the the Valley–which sits at just 4,000 feet and is somewhat thermally insulated by cloud cover topping the granite walls of the valley), so we made reservations for a 4-day weekend at the Lodge and started checking our snow gear.

We were not disappointed!  The weekend teetered between rain and snow.  Both Saturday and Monday mornings we awoke to 8-12 inches of new snow covering everything.  Sunday it rained all day–but without really melting much of the previous snowfall.  Monday was one of those absolutely classic Yosemite days with a clearing winter storm.  I would have killed to stay through Monday and catch more of the clearing skies (as local Michael Frye did), but I had a 2 PM flight out of Fresno to catch for work.  As it was, I stopped so many times on the drive out of the park to take photos… and it took me forever to get the snow chains on that morning… that we pulled up in front of the Fresno Airport just 20 minutes before my flight was to depart.  Miraculously, I made it!

Below are some of my early culls from an amazing number of “keepers” from that weekend.

El Capitan peeks out through falling snow. Yosemite National Park.

 

Flooded field and trees during a heavy snowstorm. Yosemite National Park.

 

The Merced River in Yosemite National Park during a heavy winter snowstorm.

 

Yosemite Valley Chapel during a winter snowstorm

 

Upper Yosemite Falls looms in the snowfall above broken ice in flooded Cook’s Meadow. Yosemite National Park.

 

Pre-sunrise Merced River in Yosemite National Park during a winter morning snowstorm.

 

A lovely photography mistake!  Pre-sunrise on the bridge across the Merced near Yosemite Valley Chapel.

 

Slabs of ice in a frozen flooded section of Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park.

 

Bridalveil Falls during a heavy winter snowstorm. Yosemite National Park.

 

Upper Yosemite Falls in a winter snowstorm

 

A stand of trees during a heavy winter snowstorm in Yosemite National Park.

 

Sentinel Rock overlooks icy flooded wetlands in Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park.

 

Yosemite National Park during a snowstorm

 

El Capitan looms through the falling snow over the Merced River in Yosemite National Park.

 

Bridalveil Falls during a snowstorm. Yosemite National Park.

 

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park

 

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite National Park

 

Granite peaks peaking through clouds above Yosemite Valley

 

Footbridge over the Merced River in Yosemite National Park during a winter snowstorm.