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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.

A trip to the San Jacinto Mountains

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Not to have known–as most men have not–either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self.  Not to have known one’s self is to have known no one.  — Joseph Wood Krutch

This year for Memorial Day, we decided to stay local and go camping in the San Jacinto Mountains, one of the major peninsular mountain ranges in southern California.  For those traveling through the Banning Pass on I-10, the imposing north face of San Jacinto Peak–the range’s high point–is really hard to miss, and that’s about the only taste most people get of San Jacintos.

The more time I spend there, the more I really like this mountain range.  Although not as glaciated as parts of the Sierra (think Yosemite), the granitic formations in the San Jacintos are spectacular.  Similarly, because the range is a sky island surrounded by desert, it hosts an interesting variety of plants and animals.

Because of the dramatically steep slopes of the San Jacintos, there are many opportunities for interesting landscape compositions, including the granitic formations I mentioned above, as well as the ability to look out on most of southern California.  This time of year, when the lowlands of southern California are receiving a fairly heavy marine layer, the atmospherics viewed from above can be interesting.

Sunset in the San Jacinto Mountains

Like a lot of people I know, I spend time daydreaming about places I would love to visit and photograph, often forgetting almost completely about the places that are practically in my backyard.  Getting to know these places can be valuable, because one realizes–as I am often reminded–that they can be just as beautiful as the faraway locations we invest so much time and money in getting to.  Similarly, depending on exactly where your “backyard” is, these locations can be gloriously under-photographed, allowing for freedom of expression and creativity.  If you have nothing to compare your image to, it is much less constraining to the creative process.

Intimate mountain landscape

Perhaps instead of challenging ourselves to produce a new take on an “icon,” we should challenge ourselves to discover a totally new place, unphotographed and unknown.  It might end up being a bust, but at least you’ll know.