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Autumn in the San Jacintos

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Autumn’s first real storm rolled into southern California last weekend, and we took a short walk in the mountains to enjoy the crisp air and some rain. Fortunately the rain didn’t last long and the short walk extended to about five miles, to the high point of one of the major ridges leading to Mt. San Jacinto, a dominant peak here in southern California. It was the perfect remedy for what’s been a busy autumn so far, complete with plenty of southern California’s signature traffic.

The San Jacintos are one of my favorite mountain ranges. They were formed as a block of granite was squeezed together by the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, and the rock here is very similar to what is seen in the Sierra Nevada, albeit on a smaller scale. There are many trailheads that are easily accessible, and cross-country walking is relatively easy.  What’s more, no one really visits the difficult to reach trailheads, which is a major bonus.

Pines cones and pine needles

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being” – Ansel Adams

stormy mt. san jacinto

I hope you’re having a great autumn so far, no matter where your trails have led you.

Harvesting Autumn

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Volumes have been written about iconic locations in landscape photography, but if there is an iconic season, then it must be autumn.   This is for good reason because the displays put on by vegetation as it transitions from a full summer coat to the nakedness of winter can be breathtaking.  In the same way farmers harvest their crop in October, photographers harvest the wonderful long shadows of waning daylight and the gorgeous colors of aspens and maples, taking advantage of weather that hasn’t quite turned white yet.

Trail and aspens in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

A Walk through the Aspens

Autumn is by far my favorite season.  Both of the images in this post are from previous years, but this year I’m looking forward an upcoming trip to the mountains of northern New Mexico, where aspen groves are certainly on the itinerary.  I am excited for crisp mornings accompanied by the bugles of bull elk looking for a sparring partner and the feeling of warmth only an autumn sun can bring.   In addition to the upcoming trip, it is time to enjoy the fruits of a hard year’s labor; later this week, I will have some exciting news to share here on the blog regarding a project I’ve been working on this year with PJ Johnson and Ann Whittaker.

To quote L.M. Montgomery (who wrote Anne of Green Gables), “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  Indeed.  I hope you have a fantastic harvest season, and look forward to the next few months!

Laurel Mountain at sunrise, Sierra Nevada, California

Laurel Mountain at dawn 

Aspen trees and staying close to home

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

“In the first place you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you’ll see something, maybe.”  –Edward Abbey

In my free time lately, I’ve been rereading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire; if you haven’t read it, you should.   In going back through the book, I realize how Abbey looks at the whole landscape, not just the pretty view in front of him, but at every burr, thistle and spine.  He mastered the art of bringing the intimate landscape to life through his writing.

This weekend, while the hordes descended upon the “big show” of autumn color in the eastern Sierra Nevada, I stayed close to home by visiting a local aspen grove in the San Gorgonio Wilderness near Big Bear City.  To my knowledge this is the only aspen grove in southern California, and it brought a much needed respite to continued summer-like weather in the lower elevations.

We arrived early in the morning to a shaded canyon and very cool temperatures.  Walking down the trail to the grove, I could see the familiar golden glow Populus tremuloides ahead–a glow that brings memories of autumns in the mountains of southern Colorado back to the forefront of my brain.

Arriving at the grove, I took a breath of the sweet, familiar air present in an autumnal aspen grove and felt the cold bark of the trees.  “Yes, indeed, I needed this!” I thought, smiling.

The grove in the San Bernardino Mountains isn’t large, and because of the relatively low elevation (7500′) and–I suspect–the latitude, the trees hadn’t fully turned yet.  As a result, I chose to focus on the unseen aspects of the grove: the fallen leaves, and the trunks of these gorgeous trees.

A grove of aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California

Aspen Grove I, October 2010

Black and white seemed to suit these images well as there weren’t enough fallen leaves to really make the forest floor light up.  Converting to black and white made the paucity of leaves really jump out.

A grove of aspens (Populus tremuloides) in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California

Aspen Grove II, October 2010

While I didn’t come away with the striking, colorful, images people usually associate with aspens, I take some solace in knowing that I found some intimate landscapes that Edward Abbey may have written about.  Indeed, this grove warrants many, many more visits.

Incidentally, David Leland Hyde (The Landscape Photography Blogger) also blogged about Edward Abbey this week.  Take a few minutes and check it out; its a fantastic blog and you won’t regret it!