Stealing the Light

Stealing the Light

Stealing the Light

Saturday 29 March 2014 – Four weeks since my last foray into the winter wilderness, I took to solo snowshoeing and hiking along Broads Fork trail for 3.75 hours from 4:30-8:15am from the 6,181’ Mill B trailhead to about 8,600′ at the base of the bowl where the trail normally ends at the 3 mile mark, ascending a steep 2,400′ in 2.5 hours for 800-feet per mile and descending quickly in 1.25 hours with time invested in dawn picture taking and removing snowshoes, and covering a total of 6 miles.

As the dawn advances

As the dawn advances

Packing the night before and arising refreshed at 3:30am, I was on the road at 4:05am and on the trail by 4:30am with a headlamp and snowshoes on a trail that was initially sparse of snow with frequent dry stretches. Using the MSR snowshoe extensions for the first time, they definitely helped climb deep powder, and made floating down on steep descents a new experience requiring additional vigilance, balance, and braking.

Remarkable Vistas in the Vale of the Mountain Kings

Remarkable Vistas in the Vale of the Mountain Kings

Reaching the end of the trail in the vale before the glacier, still covered in snow as a solid bowl, there were no avalanches apparent, nor ski tracks in the smooth bowl that received a fresh dusting a few days earlier (and again on the next day). I waited 5 minutes as the dawn ensued in a blustery wind, ate and drank a little, then descended quickly to the lip of the basin and paused again for the full alpenglow and pastel sky light show that lasted about 5 minutes.

Sunrise Trails

Sunrise Trails

Only two 70-ish hikers and a solo young backcountry skier ascended during my descent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wilderness, singing improvised prayerful lyrics to the tune of Les Miserables’ God on High, and feeling so alive. I had to doff my hats and shirts down to thermal top on the way up, but when I reached the upper vale a bitter wind caused me to don them all again, including the windbreaker. I doffed the snowshoes for the last ¾ mile of sparse snowy trail, and had a speedy overall descent.

Robinson's Couloir

Robinson’s Couloir

As usual, I came away supremely grateful that I made the effort and was so richly rewarded. I will be returning in August to climb the additional 2,700’ to the summit of Twin Peaks. Although I could easily see the ridge ascents to the Robinson Couloir on the Robinson Variation route of the north ridge of Twin, and the glacier was a smooth bowl, I would not want to trust those steep slopes without avalanche training. However, were I to camp in the vale at night, I would be tempted to ascend higher, and possibly crest the ridge and continue down behind Storm Mountain to Ferguson, but that is a lot of high country with no broken trails and I was grateful for the path I was able to break as far as I went without incident or risk, followed by a full and productive Saturday working outdoors in the garden in town.

Enjoy these rewards earned by arising before the dawn.

Au naturel

Au Naturel

p1070016

Sunrise Reward

North ridge of Broads Fork Twin Peaks fiery summit

North ridge of Broads Fork Twin Peaks fiery summit

Sunshine on my shoulders

Sunshine on my Shoulders

Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice

Stealing the light of dawn

Stealing the light of dawn

Many textures

Many textures

Hello Sunshine!

Hello Sunshine!

Storm Mountain

Storm Mountain

Traversing Boney Ridge & Exporing Staircase Beach – Malibu 15 February 2014

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Traversing Boney Ridge & Exporing Staircase Beach - Malibu 15 February 2014

Traversing Boney Ridge & Exporing Staircase Beach – Malibu 15 February 2014

Saturday 15 February 2014 – Solo hike traversing Boney Ridge covering 10 miles in 3.5 hours from 6:30-10:00am, starting at the 2,030′ Sandstone Peak Trailhead in the Circle X Ranch area of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and ascending to the 3,111’ summit of Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the range, a gain of 1,081’ in 1.5 miles, then onwards along the Backbone Trail past the Tri-Peaks junction of Boney Mountain and 1.5 miles down the steeply descending Chamberlain Trail into Point Mugu State Park to about 2,000’ elevation, then back via the winding Mishe Mokwa Trail to the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead, plus about a mile of hiking back along Yerba Buena road. The morning started at 3:48am when I leapt out of bed in Laguna Woods and made a swift departure from Mom’s home in Laguna Woods by 4:00am. The 405 freeway from Orange County to the west side of Los Angeles was so devoid of traffic that I doubt there were more a half dozen cars per mile, so I wasn’t troubled by any of the congestion and eye-sores that burden this route, and I escaped through the McClure Tunnel at the terminus of I-10 onto a Pacific Coast Highway equally tranquil with frequent views of the full moon casting long reflections over the peaceful sea.

Pausing to view the source of a bright light offshore at Latigo Road, there was sailboat anchored in close, its mast-light bobbing merrily in the gentle heave. Stopping at Ventura County Line Beach to use the outhouse, another car drove up and disgorged four Japanese fishermen of various ages, all equipped with backpacks and poles, fully prepared for any contingency. Turning up Yerba Buena Road, I wound 6.5 miles past Cotharin Road and Circle X Ranch to the Sandstone Peak Trailhead just as the moon set behind the western ridges and the sun broke to the east with a magnificent display of fire.

Above the Haze

Above the Haze

Before I relate the rest of the story, here are the rest of my favorite impressionistic illustrations.

Dawn's Glow on Boney Peak

Dawn’s Glow on Boney Peak

Echo Cliffs

Echo Cliffs

There be Condors out there

There be Condors out there

Many Peaks

Many Peaks

Yucca Flame

Yucca Flame

Signpost

Signpost

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Cautious Curlew

Cautious Curlew

Pensive Willet

Pensive Willet

Tranquility

Tranquility

Tranquil Anchorage

Tranquil Anchorage

Alone and at peace, I started jogging up the trailhead when another vehicle arrived, but that driver departed after using the facilities. A broad and rutty trail wound up and around the backside of the ridge, ascending towards to the summit, with frequent vistas of the peaks of Catalina, San Clemente, Santa Barbara and San Nicolas islands piercing the shroud of cloud that blanketed the ocean to the south, and similar vistas of smog shrouded inland valleys to the north and east. What amazing vistas from this stunning ridge of balanced rocks and pinnacles with significant prominence!

Circle X Ranch Map of Boney Ridge

Circle X Ranch Map of Boney Ridge

http://www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/upload/CircleXRanch8-08.pdf

Dawn Vistas

Dawn Vistas

Exchange & Boney Peaks

Exchange & Boney Peaks

Islands in the Sky

Islands in the Sky

Distant Channel Islands rising out of fog (clockwise): Santa Catalina, San Clemente, Santa Barbara, San Nicolas

Distant Channel Islands rising out of fog (clockwise): Santa Catalina, San Clemente, Santa Barbara, San Nicolas

The morning was so quickly warm that I doffed my long shirt and T to cool off from the exertion, and started in early munching on sweet Thai tamarind fruit. With the sun at my back, my frequent solitary morning companion cast a long shadow ahead of me, urging me to press on into shade as I rounded the backside of the ridge.

Preceded by my shadow's long searching gaze

Preceded by my shadow’s long searching gaze

Any shadows that troubled me dispersed with my mine as I left the trail just below Sandstone Peak and scrambled to the top to sign into the register housed in a drawer in the monument dubbed Mt. Allen, the peak’s alter ego in memory of a beloved scout leader, W. Herbert Allen. It had only taken 50 minutes to cover 1.5 miles and 1,081’ gain to reach the peak, and I was a little cold with a mountain top breeze blowing upon mild perspiration.

Sandstone Peak (Mt. Allen) Monument & Register

Sandstone Peak (Mt. Allen) Monument & Register

Most of the journal entries in the register were trite, but I wish I had not only photographed my own reflections but also one that was poetic with deep introspection from a kindred spirit. The accompanying photo not only confesses how poor my handwriting can be, but evidences that I was cold and anxious to get moving again.
2/15/14 Gorgeous crimson dawn after full moon gleam on pacific waters soothes my searching soul whose long past anguish finds contentment and repose after 800 miles of wheeling to top a peak I dreamed of 45 years ago as a wakening scout. The channel island panorama beckons me back to the sea but I relish this moment anchored windy against the sky.
Sandstone Peak 7:30am
Ed Motola, 60
Salt Lake City, Utah
A denizen of long ago Santa Monica

Views from the top of Sandstone Peak

Views from the top of Sandstone Peak

Gazing to the west, many bald mountain tops perforated the sandstone block with vertical prominence. Not far across the channel, Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands loomed large and inviting, the yellow bluffs and curve of the shoreline clearly visible. Barely visible, the communications array atop Mugu Peak gleamed white 2,000’ below. I could see other hikers or trail runners starting to arrive at the trailhead way down below me, so I took off jogging in search of solitude along the ridge and back down to the Backbone Trail, diverted by each side track that led to some vista point or steep descent down a crack in the sandstone massif. After another 1.5 miles of passing Inspiration Point and paralleling the Water Tanks cutoff, I could see the Chamberlain Trail heading west across a ravine towards Point Mugu State Park, and desiring to see down into Serrano, Sycamore, and La Jolla valleys, I re-donned my shirts to protect me from the thick stands of Chaparral that I bushwhacked through, thus bypassing the junction of the Backbone and Mishe Mokwa trails, and soon came across the western terminus of the Tri-Peaks Boney Mountain trail in a very picturesque vale that wound between 3,010’ Boney Mountain and Boney Ridge comprised of 2,950’ Exchange Peak, 2,825’ Boney Peak, and 3,111’ Sandstone Peak.

Views of the top

Views of the top

Chamberlain Trail to Point Mugu State Park

Chamberlain Trail to Point Mugu State Park

The Chamberlain Trail quickly descended quickly through a tunnel of dense Ceanothus with occasional groves of the tallest smooth red-barked Manzanita and peeling red-barked Chamise I have ever seen, over 8’ tall, and obscuring the view of the colorful red and orange cliffs comprising the western flank of Boney Mountain. Gazing over the burnt out valleys down below, victims of an all-consuming wildfire of 2012, the massif of West Anacapa and eastern Santa Cruz islands loomed much larger across the channel than any of the other Channel Islands, rising in a westerly course as an extension of this Santa Monica range, separated by a submarine canyon and deep channel.

Sentinels

Sentinels

Losing a lot of elevation, I decided that I would see less vista if I proceeded in that direction, so I turned around and started back, regaining 1,000’ of lost elevation. Approaching the west Tri-Peaks trail junction, I had just come off another vista point lateral that looked down upon Circle X Ranch when I heard the first of a group of trail-runners, which spurred me into action to start back in earnest. For the next 1.5 hours, I jogged and walked the lower parallel Mishe Mokwa trail which follows a ravine below the crest through a shady hillside, across the cool riparian woodland at Split Rock, then up and down through the alternating slopes of side canyons as it steadily ascends back up the slope of Boney Ridge. Multiple day-hikers and rock climbers were now on the trail, and I could see some of them starting up the Echo Cliff escarpment below Balanced Rock.

I had hoped that I would see some wildlife while hiking solo in the early morning, but other than a variety of birds, there was nothing more dramatic than small blue-bellied lizards. Jogging and walking brought me to within a ¼ mile of the Mishe Mokwa trailhead, over 1 mile east of my origin, but instead of taking the trail up and over the ridge back to the Sandstone Peak trailhead, I decided to go the distance and see this other trailhead. It turned out that over a dozen cars were now parked at each trailhead. At last downing 8 ounces of water, I walked along the recently tarred road for a mile before I hitched a ride from some English-accented men with a friendly German Shepherd who dominated the back seat for the last ½ mile.

Pausing only to graze on chips and coconut water, I immediately started back to the coast. On the way down, I took Cotharin Road to Pacific View and down Deer Creek road to the coast through the complete desolation of the burn where nothing much has recovered yet. Along the Pacific View neighborhood of scattered homes, large signs denouncing tigers were frequent. I found a link in the internet discussing a dispute over plans by Wild Ones, LLC to house between two to five Bengal Tigers in their open space, to be used by the film industry. The dispute is still ongoing with articles published during the past week.

http://ktla.com/2014/02/13/plan-to-house-tigers-for-movie-shoots-raises-concern-in-malibu-area/#axzz2tXmqR7hX

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2014/02/14/sisters-want-to-house-5-bengal-tigers-near-malibu/

Reaching the highway, I cruised along slowly searching for new place to explore underwater. Although the best kelp is right at the mouth of Deer Creek, I was hoping to explore the rocky shoreline and choose a little beach just up the way where a stairway descended. Two other snorkelers were just exiting and various anglers were surf fishing. It took me while to rest and get ready, but I didn’t realize how much the hike had tired me until I got offshore and found that I just didn’t have my normal excess of energy to dive. I mostly hung out at the surface where limited visibility didn’t make for a great adventure. Other than beautiful anemones which would be exposed at low tides, and some large deceased sand crabs rolling around on the sandy bottom just beyond the mild surf, there wasn’t much to see in the gloom. I didn’t see a single fish, not even a surf perch. But the water was calm, and the ocean refreshing. If it hadn’t been that my legs and feet threatened to cramp several times, I might have persisted, but avoiding the pain and risk of leg cramps seemed the better part of valor, so I focused on getting back to shore only 30 minutes after entering the water and going no further than 100 yards up-shore.

Staircase Beach, Malibu

Staircase Beach, Malibu

From there, I decided to look for a new beach, and discovered new accesses at Staircase State Beach at 14000 PCH along the Los Angeles-Ventura county line where new parking lots and trails led down to picturesque beach between the apartments north of County Line beach and the few homes that dot the bluffs on this stretch north of Leo Carrillo State Beach. Wrapped in a damp towel in a windy on-shore breeze, I hiked around both points to view a wedding in process which culminated in the couple mounting a white stallion and parading before their well-wishers, her wedding train streaming over the flanks of their ride. I also observed what appeared to be the same pair of snorkelers with giant fins that I had encountered earlier at Deer Creek, repeatedly diving down into the kelp bed 200 yards offshore. Longing to go back into the water, but knowing that I needed to reserve some energy for the long drive home, I took satisfaction in jogging along the sand and taking pictures.

High on a Mountain Top

High on a Mountain Top

Solo snow shoe on Saturday 25 January 2014 on Silver Fork trail for 4.75 hours from 6:10-10:50am, covering about 5 miles, from the 7,800 road head at the Silver Fork Lodge on Big Cottonwood Canyon Road to the Cottonwood Ridge Crest at 10,000′ between Davenport Hill and Honeycomb Cliffs, a gain of 2,200′.

After a surgical biopsy on Monday (results benign) and a full week of consulting concluded at Friday night at 8:00pm, I wasn’t sure whether I just wanted to rest on Saturday, or go for another adventure. But celebration was indispensable.

Silver Fork Trail

Silver Fork Trail


Although the official trailhead is ¼ mile further up canyon at Solitude Mountain Resort, I wanted to find the trail through the Silver Fork neighborhood of cabins. Cruising narrow plowed streets in the dark with berms 3’ high, there was nowhere to park not on private property, so after returning to the highway, I ended up parking in the Silver Fork Lodge parking lot (which explains why I returned the favor by staying for a crab and avocado omelet afterwards and resting a while). The ¼ mile hike through the neighborhood of cabins alerted no dogs, and I found a snow shoe track above the cabins leading up along the creek and followed that to the signed trailhead. Although the guides indicate that the trail is 3 miles long, I estimated that about 2¼ miles of trail remained to the terminus in the West Bowl of North Davenport.

The trail in the dark was wide and easy to navigate as this is a popular spot for back country skiers to reach the Meadow Chutes, Flannigan’s, and Davenport. There was a bright crescent moon directly south and it guided me all the way in, hovering over Davenport Hill to the very end.

Sunrise, Moonset

Sunrise, Moonset


How do you accent a sliver of moon on a snowy slope in the dark? See my heat signature image of “hot moon night beacon”.
Hot moon night beacon

Hot moon night beacon


Emerging into dawn

Emerging into dawn


I stayed in the north fork and climbed up the East Bowl to the crest in 3 hours, and came down in less than half. The trail stays to the east of the creek, and I climbed the north side of the well-skied bowl and traversed to the crest with considerable difficulty on steep deep powder, trying to follow frozen ski tracks where the powder was packed. Gazing down Grizzly Gulch towards Alta, there was no one in sight when I fired up the cell phone and called Susan at 9:00am, sunny, but not warm yet, and I forced myself to eat an old peanut butter Cliff Bar to re-energize.
Early light

Early light


The vistas from 10,000′ were incredible – endless mountain tops of the 11,000’ Bullion Divide from Mt Baldy and Twin Peaks to Pfeifferhorn and Thunder Ridge blocking the horizon across Little Cottonwood Canyon. The long vertical cliffs of Devil’s Castle and Sugarloaf dominated the skyline directly south above Albion Basin. Sighting west over DAvenport Hill down the Cottonwood Crest beyond Flagstaff Mountain were the twin peaks of Mt Superior and Monte Cristo, golden candles burning in the morning glow.
High on a Mountain Top

High on a Mountain Top


The gleaming peaks of Mt. Wolverine and Mt. Millicent parted the path of the sun to the east. Looking northwest to the Millcreek divide, the bulwark of Mt. Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob filled up the foreground of peaks that sail nobly to the distant Idaho border. With clear skies and views 75 miles away over the horizon, the world from this vantage point was entirely alpine. Other than raucous jays and nutcrackers soaring overhead, I saw no wildlife in the morning stillness. Before stepping down through deep powder into the bowl, I took a few self-portraits with Bullion Divide perched over my shoulder.
Alpine horizon

Alpine horizon


Then I faced my fears and started the fast descent down the steep bowl, avoiding the more frozen face where skiers had tracked. Straying off the trail, I followed the deep and twisty channel of the scenic snow-bound creek bottom through a narrow slot bordered by rock outcroppings, thrilled at the privilege of passing through such splendor. Several groups of backcountry skiers were passed skinning their way up while I was done and almost out. I observed a sign posted near the Honeycomb Fork junction seeking assistance in locating the lost pack of Ricardo Presnell, a deceased back country skier who died in an avalanche almost exactly 4 years prior http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/backcountry-skier-dies-in-avalanche-in-wasatch-t51548.html. This gave me pause to ponder my avalanche risk, hiking solo and stomping on powder at the top of a bowl. It’s been a month since our last storms, and from what little I know, the snow pack should be very stable with minimal avalanche risk. This gives me pause to ponder my good fortune.
Mythical snow taking a bite of the mountain

Mythical snow taking a bite of the mountain


Next time, I’d like to come up after a fresh snow and ascend from Grizzly Gulch in Alta and back down Silver or Days Fork. After a nap at Corinna and Erik’s in Saratoga Springs, I spent the afternoon finishing the construction of shelves in their garage. And in the evening, I finally got to watch the Chasing Mavericks movie, and reveled in the choice to live large in the face of opposition and embrace opportunities to explore and serve. This was a most rewarding day, well spent.

Ice Blue Aspen

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Solo snowshoe on Porter Fork trail for 4.5 hours from 5:40-9:45am, covering about 6.75 miles, from the 6,000 trailhead to about 8,700′, a gain of 2,700′.  This is becoming an annual event for the middle of January, formerly done solo or with Gary Myers on 15 January 2011 and 21 January 2012 from Millcreek Canyon’s Terraces picnic grounds to Bowman Fork to White Fir Pass to Pole Canyon.

This was my busiest week this season.  I worked 59 hours this week, 20 hours straight on Thursday, so I went to bed early on Friday at 9:00pm.  I’ve been waking up at 4:00am to start my day, and Saturday morning was no exception.  I debated what to do with my day off, whether to take a hike or work on other projects.  But on top of all the work, with Susie’s wedding and Mom’s visit this week, I know I won’t have another opportunity to get some solitude, so I decided to go trekking.  In retrospect, I’m so glad I did myself the favor.

Rewarding Dawn

Rewarding Dawn

Snow shoeing in the dark with my headlamp on, there were clear skies with none of the customary city light reflecting off the low clouds. Gleaming stars pierced the night through the dense forest to lend perspective to the solitary mood.

Bowman Creek Splendor

Bowman Creek Splendor

I reached the end of Bowman Creek in 35 minutes, and the first switchback  in 45, and White Fir Pass just after 60 (2 miles).  The last time I hiked this trail in light snow and rain in slippery conditions, it took a full 2 hours to reach the pass.  But today, the conditions were dry, and with no wind obscure my vision and cool me down, I was able to double my pace, and continue beyond my prior limits.  The entire trail, from the road head and the access road to Terraces picnic area was dense with snow, an easy hike on snow shoes.  The Porter Fork Trail was mostly packed except for some slumps along the upper switchbacks, but beyond White Fir Pass, I was breaking an easy trail since the last storm’s accumulation.  But beyond the crossing of Yellow Jacket, the elevation and powder depth sank me 6-12″ with each step, and I could thrust my trekking poles at least 3′ into the off-trail powder.

Winter Palette

Winter Palette

A lone hiker, Barry, caught up to me at the crossing of Yellow Jacket.  He broke trail for a while, then I took over past the Alexander Basin cutoff and onwards beyond the crossing of Pole Canyon.  Getting too deep for him, he was post holing up to his knees even through my steps, so he turned back around 7:30am while I pressed on, as the pink sunrise showered us with the grace of grandeur.  I was climbing steadily through an open forest of Aspens when the trail, previously a trench visible through the snow, petered out on the mountainside, and I only got another 100 yards in deep powder, knee-deep with each short step, before I too turned around at 8:20am and reached the pass at 9:00am.  Where I turned around, I was probably only 200 yards from the flat where Baker Spring flows, about 1/4 mile above the Alexander cutoff, having covered about 3.35 miles from the trailhead in 2:40.  I estimate that I reached 8,700′, a gain of 2,700′.

I’m going to have to look into snow shoe extensions or cross country skis in order to traverse this higher and deeper snow.  I passed several cross country skiers during the 40 minute jog back to the pass.  They were angling along the hillside above the trail on a traverse that would lead them to Alexander Basin.  Their smooth tracks packed the trail and increased my speed, such that even with multiple photo op stops, I covered the last 2 miles down in 45 minutes, totaling 6.75 miles in 4.5 hours, a respectable average of 1.5mph.

Winter sketches

Winter sketches

The fairyland of snowy woods, the solitude and dawning light, birdsong and flicker chatter, blue skies and majestic alpine vistas, all combined into a most rewarding adventure.  Near the trailhead 25-30 snow shoers, presumably Wasatch Mountain Club, stood aside as I jogged on past.  Other snow shoers and cross country skiers dotted the trail, making for many greetings.  “Leaving so soon?” one asked.  “It’s been a long night,” I inferred.

Back at home, I had fun editing in Picasa, making the most of the pictures to bring out the contrasts.

Samohi Kayakers


While vacationing in Laguna Woods after Christmas, the highlight was the sea kayaking off Crescent Bay with Dan DeVault and Irene Foss-Richards. On Friday morning, Dan picked me up in his Toyota pickup at 7:30am with his two fiberglass kayaks. After loading Irene’s turquoise Ocean Kayak on her Toyota SUV, we caravanned down Moulton to El Toro to Laguna Canyon Road, then down to Circle Drive and the north Crescent Bay access where a half dozen divers had emerged from a morning plunge. The conditions were absolutely flat calm and lake-like: no surge, surf, swell, nor wind, and warm sunny skies.

Sea Lion Rocks, Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, CA

Sea Lion Rocks, Crescent Bay, Laguna Beach, CA

We pushed off easily at 9:00am and headed way offshore beyond the Sea Lion Rocks, out to where shearwaters and porpoise were fishing the shelf.

Longing for Catalina

Longing for Catalina

Catalina commanded the horizon and beckoned us to take a long paddle, but we reveled in this place and time together amidst many other kayakers and stand-up paddlers.

Picture perfect conditions

Picture perfect conditions

Dan amidst the shearwaters

Dan amidst the shearwaters

Celebrating 60

Celebrating 60

Exploring above and below

Exploring above and below

After an hour of paddling around, I donned snorkel gear and dove in onto a 30′ bottom over Dead Man’s Reef with 15-20′ tall rocks forming a wonderful reef with abundant kelp.  The visibility was easily over 30′, probably 60′, and there was no current nor turbulence and limited suspended particulate matter. I took a lot of pictures with ambient light and flash, and some were salvageable. At first, my ears wouldn’t clear, and I did some damage forcing them to relax, which healed after two days.

Blades

Blades

Fire and light reflections on kelp

Fire and light reflections on kelp

Fire and light reflections on kelp

Snorkeling down 20-30′, I wasn’t able to hover long enough to focus in in the minutiae, but the fish bowl and kelp forest were fascinating. A sea lioness zoomed past in graceful poses, and pelicans soared overhead.

Submarine Skies

Submarine skies

Schools of Blacksmith (Chromis), Opal-eye (Girella), Halfmoon (Medialuna), and Seniorita wrasse (Oxyjulis), graced the water column along with Sheepshead (Semicossyphus, formerly Pimelometopon), Garibaldi (Hypsypops), and Kelp Bass (Paralabrax).

Fish bowl

Fish bowl

Garish Garibaldi

Garish Garibaldi

Big wrasse, Little wrasse

Big wrasse, Little wrasse

Southern Sea Palms (Eisenia), Giant Kelp (Macrocystis), Feather Boa (Egregia), and many forms of lesser encrusting red algae festooned the rocks along with white and orange sponges, abundant mussels, rock scallops, bryozoa, tube worms, urchins, and diverse anemones.  Big fat ochre stars (Pisaster) bulged with gullets full of mussels.

Encrustacea on Dead Man's Reef

Encrustacea on Dead Man’s Reef

Translucent

Translucent

Southern Sea Palms swaying in the breeze

Southern sea palms swaying in the breeze

Paddling on back to Shaw’s Cove and all the up to Laguna Beach at the Canyon Road, we glided over the Eelgrass and Feather Boa in the shallowest of zones where the turbulence normally precludes any views, glorying in conditions that let us explore the pacific clarity of the immediate subtidal behind the absent breakers. Rippling sandy bottoms and big boulders form a fairyland all along this shoreline, where surf perch and baitfish dominate the shallows.

Warm glass

Warm glass

But after three hours, it was time to rejoin the family, and we stuck perfect landings and hauled out. It was a perfect day, halcyon conditions in Southern California.

Lashing kayaks

Lashing kayaks

Moody Blues, Golden Hues – Snow Shoeing in Ferguson Canyon, Saturday 21 December 2013

With barely enough backlight to illuminate the golden glow of maple keys, this photo has been highly contrasted to illustrate the mood.

With barely enough backlight to illuminate the golden glow of maple keys, this photo has been highly contrasted to illustrate the mood.

Highly colorized and contrasted thickets shout their rage against winter's oppression.

Highly colorized and contrasted thickets shout their rage against winter’s oppression.

A natural arch formed by a bent sapling forms a passage through Wonderland.

A natural arch formed by a bent sapling forms a passage through Wonderland.

Only the heat signature can reveal the contrast between shadowy cliffs and snowy ridges against a dusky sky.

Only the heat signature can reveal the contrast between shadowy cliffs and snowy ridges against a dusky sky.

Heavily highlighted, I've forced some sunshine into this cliff edge shrub.

Heavily highlighted, I’ve forced some sunshine into this cliff edge shrub.

Colorful cliff bands have been drawn out in this colorized photo.

Colorful cliff bands have been drawn out in this colorized photo.

Solo snow shoe in Ferguson Canyon Saturday 21 December 2013 – I was up at 4:20am. I was on the trail by 5:20am, so bright with the city lights and snow and low clouds, that I didn’t use my headlamp until I was deep in the canyon and having difficulty finding the unused trail beyond the switchbacks to the overlook.

On a grey morning, a frosted pine is decorated for Christmas just a days away.

On a grey morning, a frosted pine is decorated for Christmas just a days away.

The view from the overlook is blue on grey.

The view from the overlook is blue on grey.

It was a stunning canyon, heavily wooded, festooned with thick coating of snow, and very vertical with granite cliffs.

One cannot appreciate the majesty of this rock outcropping from this dismal photo, but it was indeed grand.

One cannot appreciate the majesty of this rock outcropping from this dismal photo, but it was indeed grand.

Flocked with snow on all surfaces, this heather against rock rests in gloomy morning shadow.

Flocked with snow on all surfaces, this heather against rock rests in gloomy morning shadow.

I got past the double knobbed ridge peak, and although the trail should have gone further, I couldn’t find the buried trail, and it was getting harder and harder to plow my own path through steep, deep powder.

There is color, but the mantle of white covers all.

There is color, but the mantle of white covers all.

Wisps of long grass pierce the blanket of snow.

Wisps of long grass pierce the blanket of snow.

Altogether, I snow shoed Ferguson Canyon from 5:20am-9:10am from the 5,300′ trailhead on Timberline Lane in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, to about 7,000′ elevation where the trail beyond the switchbacks rejoins the creek about 2 miles in, a gain of 1,700′, plus a .15 mile side spur to the overlook, for a total of 4.3 miles, up in 2.5 hours, down in 1.5, with lots of photo stops. A most rewarding morning!

But when I reviewed the pictures, I was surely dismayed. Have you ever looked back on your wilderness pictures to find that they turned out lifeless and grey when your recollection of the adventure was full of hope and confidence? The reality didn’t fit your mood? How is it that a grateful attitude can overcome oppressing overcast and inspire wonder despite the smothering smog of inversion’s heavy gloom?

Passages through thickets

Passages through thickets

These pictures of Ferguson Canyon in winter’s grasp came out totally grey, with little contrast between the snowy ground and the grey sky, no slanting sunlight to accent the dawn, nor moon to illuminate the night.

Inserting Contrasts

Inserting Contrasts

Even though the narrow canyon was lined with fantastic cliff bands and the vistas of the valley’s twinkling lights and the canyon’s craggy walls were marvelous to behold, the lack of contrast on film did not recall the emulsion impressed on my memory. I have had to highly alter these pictures to draw out color and contrast.

Illuminated Illustrations

Illuminated Illustrations

So listen for the unseen splendor.  Feel the comfort of the frosty silence.  See what you did not imagine.

Cliff Contrasts

Cliff Contrasts

Exult at the wonder of the dripping seeps forming icicles, the exhilarating crunch of snow shoes on crust, and feel the rewards of laboring to break trail through deep powder.

Listen!  This photo does no justice to the timpani of drips and drops.

Listen! This photo does no justice to the timpani of drips and drops.

Can you hear the rain of the sping forming icicles in the grotto?

Can you hear the rain of the sping forming icicles in the grotto?

I will have to return and push to the upper basin another 1.5 miles beyond my terminus.  Who will come along to help me break trail?