Category Archives: Mount Shasta Area Photo Destinations

Waterfalls of South Siskiyou County

Waterfalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Siskiyou County, with its abundant lakes, rivers, and creeks, is home to a number of outstanding waterfalls. Many of these are easily accessible, while others require more effort. With a little planning and an early start, you can visit several of the area’s spectacular waterfalls in a one-day tour.

Mossbrae Falls and Hedge Creek Falls, in the vicinity of Dunsmuir, are two beautiful and varied examples of the south county’s many waterfalls. Mossbrae Falls percolates out of a broad expanse of verdant cliffside, before joining a shallow stretch of the Sacramento River. The setting feels almost tropical, with its rich abundance of ferns, grasses, and other water-loving flora. Unfortunately, the trail to Mossbrae Falls is closed at this time, while a new and safer access trail is being considered. Near Dunsmuir’s northern city limit, Hedge Creek Falls lies nestled in the coolness of a deeply shaded basalt gorge. The falls cascade for twenty feet through some of the area’s outstanding columnar basalt before resuming the journey to the Sacramento River. Spring is an especially good time to visit, as the creek’s flow is full and diminishes later in the season. Bring your camera and tripod.

waterfalls_hedge creek_webFive miles east of the town of McCloud are the Lower, Middle, and Upper McCloud Falls. These three unique falls lie within a two-mile stretch of the beautiful and scenic McCloud River. The Lower Falls plunge ten feet through a distinct cleft in the rock before joining a large pool below. The Middle Falls is the largest and perhaps most impressive of the three falls. At 35 feet high and 70 feet wide, it provides a wonderful photo opportunity. For the more adventurous, Winter is an especially photogenic time to visit the falls. The relatively short ski or snowshoe in is well worth the effort and can yield striking results. The Upper Falls lie at the terminus of a long, beautifully sculpted basalt channel, then plunge some twenty feet to the emerald pool below.

Faery Falls, in the Castle Lake drainage, is one of the Mount Shasta area’s lesser known waterfalls. Located upstream from the once-famous Ney Springs Resort, Faery Falls rollercoasters some sixty feet over a granite cliff face, to join the Sacramento River below Box Canyon. A word of caution. While standing at the top of the falls a few years back, a friend and myself were unknowingly standing within six feet of a coiled Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. With the noise of the crashing falls, the dappled sunlight, and the animal’s excellent camouflage, we were completely oblivious to the snake’s presence until I turned and perceived a rattling tail out of the corner of my eye. Please be snake smart. Step cautiously over rocks and logs. All animals require water and tend to gather near these life-sustaining sources–including rattlesnakes.

Waterfalls

Mount Shasta is home to Siskiyou County’s most dramatic waterfalls. Mud Creek Falls, Ash Creek Falls, and Whitney Falls comprise this area’s highest and most dramatic waterfalls. This being said, they are also the most difficult to access and require modest route-finding skills. Mud Creek Canyon, on Mount Shasta’s east side, poses the greatest obstacle in circumnavigating the mountain. A truly imposing feature, this canyon cuts a dizzying 2000 feet through the soft, easily eroding volcanic strata. The 150-foot falls are dwarfed in the immensity of this chasm and not easily approached due to the steep and unstable strata. Ash Creek Falls is accessed via the Brewer Creek Trail on the mountain’s northeast side. At 290 feet tall, Ash Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall on Mount Shasta. The two-and-a half mile round-trip hike requires some route-finding and bushwacking. Whitney Falls is another of the mountain’s spectacular features, plunging some 200 feet, before resuming its course through narrow, v-shaped Whitney Canyon. The creek’s flow is seasonal and greatest in the hot Summer months. As Whitney Creek is glacier-fed, fluctuations can vary significantly with the time of day. Depending on conditions, the creek may not flow until afternoon. The trail to Whitney Falls is more obscure and seeing less use since the Bolam Creek debris flow buried the trailhead in 1997. Since that event, the U.S. Forest Service is no longer maintaining the trail. As with all the mountain’s waterfalls, viewing is a challenge and requires off-trail experience, so please use caution and travel prepared. Approximately one mile to the southeast of Whitney Falls lies Coquette Falls. While I have never visited these falls, accessing them appears to be roughly similar to the other three–be prepared for a cross-country scramble. In the Summer months, temperatures can climb into the 90s, even at elevation, so carry plenty of drinking water and/or a filter or purifier.

Two great resources for hiking the Mount Shasta area are 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta & Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions, by John R. Soares, and The Mount Shasta Book, by Andy Selters and Michael Zanger. Both offer detailed hiking information to several of the destinations mentioned above.

I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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The Eddys–Worlds To Discover

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eddys are among the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular and dramatic landscapes. Numerous lakes, breath-taking meadows, and colorful floral displays are hallmarks of most any foray into the Eddys. As a sub-range of the Klamath Mountains, the Eddys are one of Northern California’s oldest mountain ranges–dating as far back as 500 million years. A diverse geology, unique flora, and abundance of lakes make hiking the Eddys a consistent favorite.

Mount Eddy, at 9025 feet, is the second highest point in Siskiyou County, behind Mount Shasta. Because its summit straddles the Trinity Divide and the boundary between Siskiyou and Trinity Counties, it is simultaneously the highest point in Trinity County and marks the division between the Sacramento River and Trinity River watersheds. The hike to the summit comes highly recommended–certainly for the views, but as much for the experience of the hike. You pass by three lakes and an unnamed tarn on your way to the saddle. This vantage point offers exceptional views of Mount Shasta with Black Butte to the east, and the Trinity-Alps and Marble Mountains to the west. Sources are divided on the origin of the peak’s name. Some accounts say it is named after Nelson Harvey Eddy, who moved to the area from New York in 1856. Others claim the name honors his wife, Olive Paddock Eddy, the first woman to climb Mount Shasta. Still a third account names her as Harriett C. Eddy.

The Sisson-Callahan Trail was established in the mid-1800s and served as a main route between the two towns. In 1911, the U.S. Forest Service constructed an official trail linking the Callahan Ranger Station in the Scott Valley with the Forest Service headquarters in Sisson, and a telephone line was maintained between the two stations. In 1979, the Sisson-Callahan Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail. This trail follows the North Fork of the Sacramento River to the Deadfall Summit (8020 feet), then descends to join with the PCT at Lower Deadfall Lake. At the saddle, you will see the trail leading up to Mount Eddy.

A fire lookout was constructed on the Mount Eddy summit and operated until 1931. The remains of an adjacent cabin stood propped up with boards and cables until finally succumbing to the inevitable forces of snow and wind and gravity a few years ago. Many of us maintain romantic notions about what it means to be a fire lookout, but as J.S. McClemmons learned, the position can be a harrowing and sometimes life-threatening one. The Bakersfield Californian reported that on August 5, 1920, Mr. McClemmons was on the telephone when lightning struck the building, blowing a four-foot hole in the wall and starting the structure on fire (a bit of an irony). McClemmons was rendered unconscious, but quickly recovered to extinguish the flames. He then set out on foot for Sisson (Mount Shasta City), 12 miles away. There, he was treated for his burns and released.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siskiyou County is home to at least 272 named lakes, many of which are found in the Eddys. Some 60 lakes lie nestled within a 12-mile radius of Mount Eddy alone. Of these, Deadfall Lakes is probably the most popular destination. This cluster of lakes exemplifies the beauty that comprises the Eddy Range. A local’s tip: Most guidebooks give directions to the Park’s Summit (PCT) trailhead. This is a relatively level hike on the well-maintained Pacific Crest Trail. It is also the most direct hike in; perhaps this is the author’s thinking in sending you this way. A second and highly preferable option awaits those more adventurous spirits. Continue on past the trailhead parking area. In approximately 1/4 mile, the road will curve left and start to descend. At the bottom of the grade, the road then curves sharply to your right. At this hairpin turn, you will see a small, non-descript parking area on your right. Park here, then walk across the road to the sign marking Deadfall Meadows. This lower trail will take you through the meadows themselves and eventually connect with the PCT and Deadfall Lakes. While this route requires that you regain some elevation, it is, by far, the more scenic of the two trails–and the least crowded. If your interest is in photographing wildflowers, you want to take this lower trail. The first section of the hike crosses a marshy area for about 500 feet, so waterproof hiking boots are advised. Deadfall Meadows boasts one of the northstate’s most colorful and prolific floral displays. The insectivore, Darlingtonia californica (California Pitcher Plant) grows in profusion along many of the creeks. July and August are prime months for photographing the blooms. Bigelow’s Sneezeweed, Jefferey’s Shooting Stars, and Indian Paintbrush, are but a few of the species you can expect to find here. Pack a small tripod and your wildflower field guide.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Lakes Basin is another place worth exploring. Again, this hike offers superlative views of Mount Shasta, the Trinity-Alps, and Marble Mountains, and access to–need I say it?–a multitude of lakes. For those wanting a more physical challenge, try the hike up to Little Crater Lake. Bring your route-finding skills and leave the GPS at home. The Eddys provide for a lifetime of discovery and more. Many good local guidebooks are available, including John R. Soares’ 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions (The Mountaineers Books).

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Black Butte–A Child Born of Mount Shasta

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte is one of Siskiyou County‘ s most intriguing and recognizable geologic features. Born some 9500 years ago during the same eruptive episode which formed Shastina (on Mount Shasta), it typifies the volcanic cone. Black Butte consists of four distinct domes that formed in a series of successive eruptions spanning just a few hundred years. As with Shastina, it is thought that explosions created a broad crater which was soon followed by an upwelling of thick, pasty lava known as dacite. The lava continued to spew forth and Black Butte was born.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte figures prominently in Native American lore. In one such story, the Creator lived with his son and daughter and Mount Shasta was their home. The daughter wished for her own space in which to reside, so the Creator built Shastina for her. She was warned to stay away from the area to the west, as it is the direction of darkness, of the color black, and of death. But the daughter felt a strong connection to all the animals and was very attracted to the beautiful rivers, lakes, and verdant meadows to the west. During her outings, she would hear singing. It was Grizzly Bear. He began singing her love songs and, of course, she fell in love with Grizzly, who appeared human to her. They wandered the hills and valleys together–and over time, Grizzly realized that the Creator’s only daughter is used to having a home, so he built Black Butte for her. Grizzly’s claw marks are clearly visible on the mountain’s flanks.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte has been known by a number of names, including Muir’s Peak, after the famous explorer, naturalist, and writer, John Muir. The first documented climb of the peak came in 1911, when a party of nine ascended to the summit at a time when there was no trail. Anyone who has ever hiked the 2.5 mile trail to the top knows how challenging a feat this must have been with loose scree and 40 degree pitch. It wasn’t until 1931 that the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of a trail, with the intention of placing a fire lookout upon the butte’s summit. In October of that year, the lookout was completed. In 1950, a 1,350-acre fire  threatened to consume the lookout when flames climbed the mountain’s south flank. In 1962, the Columbus Day Storm racked the lookout, blowing off the roof and shattering windows. The Mount Shasta Ski Bowl recorded winds there at over 100 miles per hour. The structure was rebuilt and continued to operate until 1973. Now, only the foundation remains.

The trail to Black Butte’s summit is maintained and provides one of the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular hikes. The 360-degree view from the top makes this a particularly worthy destination. The trail is generally free of snow from May through November. A number of good local hiking guides are available, including 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, by John R. Soares and Marc J. Soares.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Bald Eagles Find Winter Home at Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

Every Winter, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Some 500 birds migrate here in an average year, beginning their arrival in November. January and February offer the best viewing at the Refuges.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is the only eagle unique to North America. The female tends to be slightly larger than the male–with her wingspan reaching an impressive 90 inches. Baldies mate for life and produce a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. The bald eagle’s nest is no small affair. The largest nest on record measured 9.5 feet (3 meters) across and 20 feet (6 meters) high, and weighed more than two tons. Juveniles develop their characteristic adult plumage at around five years of age. A bald eagle in the wild can live up to 28 years. While fish generally make up the majority of its diet, eagles are opportunists–waterfowl are the predominant food source at the Klamath Refuges and constitute the bulk of the raptor’s diet here.

It is estimated that in the 1700’s, North America boasted a population of some 300,000 to 500,000 bald eagles. For decades, the eagles were hunted for sport and to protect fishing grounds. The use of DDT after World War II nearly decimated our national symbol, until the EPA banned the highly toxic insecticide in 1972. Eagle populations have since rebounded significantly, and on June 28, 2007, the Department of the Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Today some 70,000 birds populate the continent–with more than half of those residing in Alaska. The bald eagle, however, is still protected by both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

For more information on the current status of the bald eagles at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, or to reserve a photo blind, visit their website at: http://www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/

Also, see my article, Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo-Ops.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Skiing Lassen Peak

Skiing Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak offers some of Northern California’s finest backcountry skiing. Located at the southern extremity of the spectacular Cascade Range, Lassen Peak is notorious for heavy snowfall. Its proximity, combined with a relatively high elevation, equates to a long season and great Spring skiing. As the Lassen Loop Road is not plowed in Winter, the approach this time of year is a long one and may warrant a multi-day trip. In the Spring, the National Park Service begins to plow the road, with the intention of having it completely opened by Memorial Week-End. With the enormity of the task, the clearing process happens incrementally, over a period of weeks, and is dependent on weather. The Park Service starts at the Manzanita Lake Entrance Station and plows south to the Devastated Area (9.3 miles). Then they move their equipment to the Southwest Entrance and work north, over the pass (8500 feet), to the Devastated Area.

Once the Summit Trail parking area is accessible, you have a number of options for skiing Lassen Peak. You can climb the 2.3 mile trail to the summit and ski the Southeast Face back to the parking lot, or you can arrange to leave a shuttle vehicle at the Devastated Area and ski the Northeast Face for a 4000 foot descent–this, after just a 2000 foot climb! This run requires additional commitment and higher level of ability, as the top 1000 feet is rated Advanced (Black Diamond). Below an elevation of 9000 feet, the skiing is rated Intermediate. Diehards can easily do laps, though a second run requires the additional logistics of placing still another vehicle at the Devastated Area parking lot, or arranging a ride with new-found friends.

The Spring corn on Lassen Peak is legendary. For me, Spring skiing is the proverbial icing on the cake. One should always be prepared. That includes expecting the unexpected. Bluebird days do not preclude the possibility of avalanches. As temperatures warm and the snow becomes saturated with water, weak layers can release wet slides. Climb early and descend early. Check weather conditions and assess the snow. If snow stability is suspect, turn around or choose a safe alternative route. Carry a beacon, probe, and shovel, and know how to use your gear. At times, an ice axe and crampons may be required. On a mid-May ascent of Lassen Peak via the Summit Trail, a friend and myself encountered a 100-foot wide patch of glazed ice on a steep, shaded hillside. As we were skinning up on tele-gear, we dug our edges into the ice and prayed. It was one step at a time–one ski placed safely in front of the other. To fall here would have meant an uncontrolled 300-foot slide with potentially serious consequences. Recounting the incident years later, my friend described the experience as “…f*cking scary.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being prepared includes a level of physical fitness. While the Summit Trail is only 2.3 miles, it maintains a fairly consistent 15 percent grade. With skis and the necessary accompanying gear, this moderate hike requires extra exertion. Also, physical fitness allows for more laps, faster laps, which means more skiing.

Bring your camera, as the summit plateau offers striking aesthetics, and the panoramic view from the top is one of the finest anywhere. Lassen Volcanic National Park provides an abundance of opportunity to ski world-class terrain. Brokeoff Mountain, at the south end of the Park, is accessible year-round. Chaos Crags is a relatively short hike from the Manzanita Lake Entrance Station at the north end, and guarantees exhilarating skiing in a spectacular setting. Many excellent guide books offer trip information to several destinations within Lassen Park. Check out 50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California, by Paul Richins, Jr. (The Mountaineers, Seattle). This guide also includes four very worthwhile trips on Mount Shasta.

For more information on Lassen Peak and current conditions, visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park website.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Safe skiing!! Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Lassen Volcanic National Park–A Small and Shining Jewel

Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a living testament to our planet’s fiery origins. When Lassen Peak began erupting on Memorial Day, 1914, the volcano would produce more than 390 recorded eruptions before settling into dormancy in 1917. Those fiery origins are still alive and visible today in places bearing names like Bumpass Hell, The Devil’s Kitchen, and Little Hotsprings Valley. While Lassen Volcanic National Park is overshadowed by its more famous siblings, Lassen is a small and shining jewel and, in many ways, this is its appeal. As is the case with many national parks, stray from the road just a short distance and any crowds fall away dramatically. Summer is the high season and sees about half a million visitors annually. After Labor Day, the Park suddenly empties out with the exception of a few day hikers and week-end visitors.  Fall is a spectacular time to experience Lassen.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park enjoys many distinctions. You will find all four types of volcanoes–the stratovolcano (ancient Mount Tehama), shield volcano (Mount Harkness, Sifford Mountain), tephra cone (Cinder Cone, Red Cinder Cone), and volcanic dome (Lassen Peak is the world’s largest plug-dome). Most types of geothermal features are found in the Park, though no true geysers exist here. Terminal Geyser is technically a fumarole. Bubbling mudpots, hissing steam vents, and colorful hotsprings comprise the many geothermal areas.

Lassen Volcanic National Park possesses 51 lakes within its boundaries, most of which are the result of Lassen’s past glacial activity. Exceptions to that are Manzanita and Reflection Lakes at the Park’s north entrance. These two lakes formed when a large portion of Chaos Crags, a cluster of four lava domes, collapsed some 300 years ago, setting off a massive rockfall-avalanche, damming Manzanita Creek. Snag and Butte Lakes formed when one of Cinder Cone’s lava flows dammed Butte Creek.

Located at the southern end of the Cascade Range, Lassen Volcanic National Park lies in a transition zone for four major biological provinces–the Cascade, the Sierra Nevada, the Great Basin of Nevada, and California’s Central Valley. Over 700 species of vascular plants reside here, including the endangered skunk-leaved polemonium, which grows only at or near the summit of Lassen Peak. The Park is also home to some 200 species of birds–and mammals include the pine marten, red fox, bobcat, mountain lion, and black bear.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While many of the major features are visible from the Park road, untold worlds are to be discovered in Lassen’s backcountry. Cinder Cone is a personal favorite. ‘Otherworldly’ best describes Cinder Cone and its associated lava flow, the Fantastic Lava Beds. This 100 foot-high mass of block lava spewed forth during one of its eruptions, and is responsible for the formation of Snag and Butte Lakes. The Painted Dunes, with its rich, multi-hued earthtones, is also the result of Cinder Cone’s two or so eruptive events. Largely devoid of vegetation, this area truly does take on a feeling of another world.

For more information contact: Lassen Volcanic National Park (530) 595-4444. Website: www.nps.gov/lavo/

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo Ops

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Klamath National Wildlife Refuges offer some of the finest photography opportunities you will experience anywhere. Few places in the world rival the Klamath Refuges for sheer numbers of birds, and, also, for the importance of its ecosystem as a stopover along the Pacific Flyway. Because it’s just a little more than an hour from Mount Shasta, it is a place I love to visit as often as possible.

Situated along the California-Oregon border, the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are comprised of six refuges–Clear Lake, Tule Lake, Lower Klamath, Bear Valley, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. The Lower Klamath Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and is the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. The Klamath Basin was once a vast complex of large, shallow lakes and extensive marshes totaling some 185,000 acres. More than six million birds migrated through every Spring and Fall. Today, about 36,000 acres of that habitat remain. A variety of pressures have reduced the number of migrating waterfowl to around one million birds. The refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.. I was there in February of 1988, when more than 900 baldies stayed the season. December through February are prime months to view the eagles. Dress warmly, as the elevation lies around 4100 feet and Winters here can get quite cold.

Over 400 faunal species have been identified in the refuges. 263 bird species are found here, including 23 species of raptors. Mammals include mule deer, elk, and black bear. Don’t be surprised to see a herd pronghorn antelope grazing placidly in a grassy meadow. A limited number of blinds are available on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges by advanced reservation. Self-guided canoe trails are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges, offering additional photo opportunities. Check with the Visitor’s Center (530-667-2231) for current information and availability.

 

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

As an added bonus, make the short trip over to Lava Beds National Monument, a worthwhile destination in itself. I find myself drawn to its stark and primal beauty. View ancient lava flows. Numerous lava tubes honeycomb the area and several caves are open for exploration. A helmet and more than one light source are recommended. Captain Jack and his band of Modocs made their final stand here in 1872, in what is commonly referred to as the Modoc Wars. Five prominent sites are located within the Monument’s borders. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can continue south to the Medicine Lake Highlands. There is much to discover. Check out Glass Mountain. This is an all-too-convenient addition to your wildlife viewing excursion. Please note that the road to Medicine Lake is seasonal and not plowed in the Winter.

Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Photographing the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Marble Mountain Widerness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Marble Mountain Wilderness offers some of Northern California’s most spectacular hiking and backpacking. And with that comes a myriad of photo opportunities. I’ve made several trips into the Marble Mountains and two things stand out in my mind. First is the incredible beauty that comprises the Marble Mountain Wilderness. Its peaks are stark and rugged and its valleys are green and lush–almost to the point of overwhelming the senses. The second point that sticks out is the high number of bear sightings. I see black bears every time I backpack into the Marbles. On the first occasion, we had just reached Campbell Lake. It was late in the afternoon and we were setting up camp. Suddenly a large male appeared and stood up on his hind legs, sniffing the air, not more than thirty feet away. While black bears are not usually a threat to human beings, I admit to feeling a little nervous with this 6-foot tall, 300 pound animal standing only feet away. A sharp clap of my hands and he was gone. Maneaten Lake is another place I have experienced a high incidence of bears. On my first trip there, we had a bear visit our camp all three nights. Even with the presence of my dog, Waldo, the bear would wander in.

 

Marble Mountain Wilderness

Maneaten Lake (left) is one of the area’s shining jewels. At 112 feet deep, it is the second deepest lake in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, and with its steep granite walls and very little surrounding vegetation, the lake is a gorgeous turquoise blue. One of the most frightening experiences of my life came on a solo trip into Maneaten Lake, when a terrifying lightning storm moved in and completely engulfed me. Lightning flashed 360 degrees. As I was totally exposed, I confess to fearing for my life. In 15 minutes the storm had come and gone. While frightening at times, these are life-enriching experiences. Lightning and bears and isolation put the ‘wild’ in wilderness–and that is what most appeals to me about the Marble Mountains.

There is a peaceful, idyllic quality to the Marbles, as well. I spoke earlier of the area’s lushness. The hike into Sky High and Frying Pan Lakes, via the Red Rock Valley-Little Marble Valley Loop (12 miles/2400′ elev. gain), is a prime example of the lushness and intensity of the greens. Entire hillsides lay covered in corn lilies. The lakes are worthwhile destinations and offer numerous photographic opportunities.

Other worthy hikes include ABCD Lakes (a cluster comprised of Aspen, Buckhorn, Chinquapin, and Dogwood Lakes), and Ukonom Lake, the Wilderness Area’s largest lake with a surface area of 67 acres. It was at Ukonom Lake that we were serenaded by a pack of coyotes during a rainstorm late one night. I was utterly transfixed by the haunting beauty of their chorus. Even Waldo sat silently listening.

The Marble Mountain Wilderness consists of 89 lakes and countless streams and creeks scattered across 241,744 acres. Over 500 species of plants have been identified here–many endemic only to this area. It is home to several rare wildflowers, including the endangered McDonald’s rockcress. You will also find a number of locally rare conifers, including the subalpine fir. Whether your interest is wildflowers, wildlife, or the landscape, the Marble Mountains provide endless possibilities. Some day hikes exist, but to really experience the Marble Mountains, I recommend a multi-day trip (3 days minimum) to anyone who is serious about wanting to photograph this amazing place. Good photos cannot be rushed and having the time to allow the animals to come to you only increases your likelihood of capturing that epic shot. As a photographer, I love hiking solo. I’ve had numerous wildlife experiences because I’m not conversing with other people and I’m more attentive. Dogs are wonderful hiking companions–however, if you’re wanting a photograph of a 300 pound bear sniffing the air, consider leaving Fido with the in-laws. Pack your 300 mm telephoto and a tripod, and be prepared to be surprised.

While many of the popular destinations see high use in the Summer months, crowds drop off exponentially after Labor Day. I made the 26-mile roundtrip into Ukonom Lake in mid-September, and aside from passing a couple of hikers on the trail, we didn’t see another human being for five days–and with the exception of the serenading coyotes, we had the lake completely to ourselves. Don’t forget your wide-angle lens. The views are big in the Marble Mountains.

Many good guidebooks are available, including Marble Mountain Wilderness, by David Green and Greg Ingold (Wilderness Press).

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Castle Crags–Our Own Little Piece of Yosemite

Castle Crags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Crags, even after 31 years, remains a very special place for me. Upon moving here in 1981, it was the Crags that captured my photographic attention, not Mount Shasta. There is something very commanding about those granite spires rising more than 4000 feet above the valley floor. The complexity of this outcropping offers a lifetime of exploration and more. The Crags/Indian Springs Trail is a strenuous 2.7 mile trek (one-way) that gains 2250 feet in elevation and ends at the base of Castle Dome. For those of you able to make this hike, you will be rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views of the spires, the dome itself, as well as neighboring Mount Shasta. The Root Creek Trail is a moderate one-mile hike (one-way), largely through the forest canopy, which offers occasional views of the Crags themselves, before terminating at Root Creek. The Pacific Crest Trail also provides a variety of stunning perspectives.

Formed some 200 million years ago, Castle Crags is the result of many forces, including wind, rain, and glaciation, which have scoured and polished the granite spires we see today.

 

Castle Crags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never tire of spending time in Castle Crags. The photographic opportunities are infinite. I have witnessed Peregrine falcons mating in flight at the base of Castle Dome. I have seen a Northern Pacific rattler literally leap three feet through the air onto the trail and quickly coil, ready to strike. You never know what you might encounter here. Because of its relatively low elevation, the trails in Castle Crags remain open much of the year. Springs and creeks run full in the Spring. Wildflower blooms last into Summer and include azaleas, tiger lilies, Indian paintbrush, and wild iris. Black oaks, dogwoods, and vine and big-leaf maples provide colorful displays in the Fall.

To book a photo tour in Castle Crags, or a number of other area locations, contact me.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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