Good Heavens, Slow Down!

Son of a Gun, Slow Down!

In between the general hubbub of getting ready in the morning with 6 pets who are doing their best theatrical representations of starving to death, coupled with a broken water heater, trying to straighten out plans for an upcoming trip back home, and writing 7 emails, I had in fact sat down originally to edit photos from the previous evening and I saw this quote scroll by on Facebook:

“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day–unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

So with that, I am going to write a blog post. About nothing. I feel like every time I sit to expound some grand idea into a post, it never gets finished, mostly because it leads to other tangents. My latest attempt, for example, is to pictorially represent the California Coast from peak to ocean, but it cascaded into my fight with Lightroom catalogs [turns out, my backup drives weren’t copying the lightroom edits!].

So, instead of doing all that for the time being, I present to you two sunset shots for your meditative pleasure. I feel better now.

Moonstone Sunset

Just wait 5 minutes…

You often here people proclaim that the weather in their hometown takes the cake for being the most extreme. “If yaw dawn’t liiike ther weathur, jus wait fu’minnits—ittel change!” [the hybrid southern accent some people in my hometown like to emulate]. Oddly, I’ve personally heard this proclaimed in at least 5 states. Here in California is one of the few places where the weather is the most consistent. Temperatures right along the coast aren’t extreme; it will rain for days, be sunny for days, and be foggy for months! Those border days are pretty interesting though, and serve to remind that change is the only constant.

Yesterday was a chilly 40 degrees with a dark grey fog smothering out the Sun on the coast. Briefly in the afternoon, a slight hint of yellow appeared and vanished, marking all of what would be seen of the Sun that day. The day before, sunny and relatively warm [upper 40s, and yes from 40 to upper 40s is a big difference around here!]. Today there is a pink glow in the East, what appears to be a milky blue above, veiled in the little fog that lingers [And…by 9:30 the fog buried the Sun once again! Come on now, this isn’t Summer!!]. Cloudy days are perfect for editing photos; sunny days make it hard to see the computer screen. Since today is a sunny day, I try to rush and get computer things done before heading out to walk the dog.

This photo was taken three days ago. Had you checked the forecast on that day, you’d find no mention of the arrival of the summer-like fog to the coast. Lurking offshore, fog rarely gets to visit the coast in the winter, so its surprise appearance probably helps with additional coffee sales for the day.

While the weather isn’t the most dramatic in the world, it does make for some really interesting phenomenon. For example, I recently googled how to prune back geraniums. None of the examples looked like the monster I wanted to tackle. This geranium has obviously lived at this rental for years and years, becoming a gnarly small tree with the occasional flower and leaf thanks to the lack of hard frosts.

In fact, finding frost is often like finding treasure. Most often, I can find a little on the colder mornings in the fields, but it often quickly gives way to dewdrops before 8:00 am rolls around.

A leaf bud of a currant taken a couple days ago.


Frost in the meadow before the sun hit it, taken the same day as the leaf bud.

Even though I do miss inches of snow, crazy lightning shows, rolling thunder, and the occasional tornado chase, this area definitely offers some interesting weather quirks in its own absurd, North Coast way.

Frozen Boughs

We found ourselves in our oldest car, since our newer [read, not near two decades old] one has wheels that are too big for snow chains.  Pondering whether we could safely make it to Crater Lake, we settled on the idea that if we couldn’t, we’d just go as far as possible, maybe settling for Redding or Mt. Shasta.  Of course, I was really looking forward to seeing Crater Lake in the snow with a calm, reflective surface.

Snow was definitely around, but luckily by the time we hit Interstate 5, chain restrictions were dropped along our route. We went along Highway 97 up to Klamath Falls, dropped stuff off at the hotel, rented snowshoes [nowhere in town had any to sell!], and headed up to the lake.

By that description, it sounds like we rushed to get up there. According to Google Maps, we didn’t.  It was an all day excursion in which the scenery threatened to enchant and ensnare me before reaching our destination.

We arrived just in time for the tail end of sunset. It would be the only day we could clearly see the lake, so we braved the cold and hung around at the rim by the Lodge.


Surprisingly, there were a fair amount of people up there for the middle of winter.  Even a happy puppy ran around in the snow. Deciding to brave not only the cold, but the wind that was howling down into the caldera, we tried for some nightshots. Unfortunately, shielding the camera and tripod from the wind yielded no good results [nevermind the fact that I am not able to focus in the dark at times]. I still have a bit of a learning curve with the new camera as well.

You can see a plane in the photo above! There were so many flying over that night–the jetstream must have been just right.

I really like what the high thin clouds did to the stars in this shot. I’m not sure if that’s a plane, iridium flare, ISS, or meteor on the left.

The next day, when it was just a little lighter, we snowshoed a few miles out and back. It snowed as we traversed the rim, filling the previous passerthroughs’ tracks. It was as if we were the only ones there. On the return, ski-strapped folks and a few snowshoers headed out.

We ended up ON another lake the next day, since the weather repeated its gloomy self. We had a lucky break and found some sun, fog, and a nicely frozen lake. With such a short window to visit, being flexible with locations and weather worked out in our favor! Many more photos to share from this trip!

Arcata Community Forest and Arcata Marsh

Hiking is a lovely endeavor that can either be a strenuous workout or a leisurely exploration. Or a mix of both!

In celebration of the New Year, we took a hike and a walk with our Pyrenees, Bear.  We started in the Arcata Community Forest, a sustainably-managed and harvested redwood forest whose trees are around 150 years old.

The first day of the New Year was a beautiful, sunny day…the trend of this year’s rainy season. I have from a good source that we are 7 inches short of rainfall this ‘water year’ [since July] and an inch down this January [already!]. While this area could be considered the start of the Pacific Northwest rainforest, the amount of rainfall can vary dramatically from year to year. Somewhere between 29 and 90 inches. Redwoods are good at dealing with variable precipitation, but in a low year, they won’t create a growth ring.

An interesting feature of the Arcata Community Forest are the remnants of giants that once towered over the land.

A popular hobby around here is mushroom hunting. I guess it’s been a rough season due to the lack of rain. Still, there are mushrooms everywhere! Like this log, for example:

We got our fill of redwoods and headed to the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a lovely place for birding and I always wish to spend more time than I do. It is actually the wastewater treatment facility for the city of Arcata and a popular place for runners, dog walkers, and birders alike!

I think this fellow is a Golden-crowned Sparrow in winter plumage.

What looks to be a very sleepy Northern Pintail. I guess you have to catch your z’s where and when you can!

The marsh is definitely a nice place to come for sunsets as well!

An avocet was enjoying the low tide, leading a group of ducks in the feeding procession.

Cloud Dove

The Avocet still working on the same stretch. Below is what Bear thinks of taking photos:

Evening on the Wing

It wasn’t the dog nor I that were winging anything. We were on our evening walk [is 4:30 evening??] and found our sunset spot staked out by another.  Considering Bear is the size of a love seat, making it awkward to share a cozy view with another sunset gazer, I decided to try another little side trail for a view.  Full of black berries, the thorns of which are still in my jeans, it wasn’t an affording view.

We ended up down by the Mad River, me juggling a camera and a bag of dog feces; the maker of said feces was pulling as hard as she could on the leash to go roll on the sand bar.

The View from the Top

Looking behind, heading down to the river.

Going Down. To the River.

Muddy Mad River

River Panoramic

Water Vapor Reflecting off Liquid Water

Show's Over, Time to Refresh

It was a nice sunset, but while the light show came to a close, another show just started. Several flocks of geese followed the river downstream [North], surveying the water way intently for a quiet spot.

After climbing back up the bluff, seeing a large creature scurry across our path and hearing an owl [who didn’t think much of my imitation of him…], we walked down the middle of the road.

As we walked on the impermanent path of asphalt, winged creatures were utilizing a more ancient route of navigation under the cover of an evening sky too dark for my camera. Above our heads flew small groups of ducks, silent except for the tell-tale whistling of their wings.  They navigated South, appearing unorganized, but their whistling wings never collided nor did they ever falter on their course.

The geese provided a contrast to the duck melody in both size and method. The larger geese bodies silhouetted against the falling night tried has hard as their bird brains would let them to stay in orderly formation while they seemed to squawk commands and complaints at each other. Their noisy conversations carried them North, opposite of the quietly whistling ducks.

The duck groups were more numerous, providing the beat, while the geese acted as punctuating notes in the avian aerial ballet and symphony.

As the dog and I rounded the corner to our house, the bird ballet wound down. I paused for a car to pass before going to the mail box when the grand finale occurred.  Dark shapes with wide rounded wings flew over head, making some other worldly gurgling hiss. Though I won’t ever know for sure, I watched the two winged figures chasing each other as they disappeared into the dark, imagining them as owls settling a dispute over mousing grounds.

[Nerdily dedicated to Carey!]