Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Where Have We Been?

We took a long, long drive south to see my mother. It is now a 700 mile (1126 km) journey from our door to hers. We would never do that trip in one day, so we stopped at the beach house for two nights on the way south, and two nights on the way back north. The journey south and north means crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and for all the many times we've done that it never ceases to inspire awe and joy.
The first two nights in Capitola produced very little in the way of photographic opportunities. We did see thousands upon thousands of sooty shearwaters going after the millions upon millions of anchovies in Monterey Bay. Hard to capture the sheer size and energy of this intense migration and feeding frenzy. This is just a slice of the action with two Caspian Terns up at the top of the pic.
We spent five days in southern California. I hardly used the camera at all. I don't know why, there are some lovely dry brushy mountains all around; my mother looked picturesquely beautiful everyday (especially in her yellow shirt, yellow beads, and dangling yellow earrings!); there was a sunset so awesome that I almost asked Roger to turn the car around so I could photograph a crazy blood orange sun in a deep red purple sky, but I didn't. I was just uninspired and a little road weary.  So, there's not much to show for our time there. I did see these spider webs gleaming in the light through the wooden slats over my sister's backdoor slider. That's it.

On our return-home journey we did see a wonderful sky over the bay with a circumhorizon arc and a 22 degree halo visible together. Did manage to get a shot of that. You know how much we love the splendors of an ephemeral sky.

On the way south we noticed some smokiness just north of the town of Laytonville. We knew it was a fire, and checked the CalFire Incident page when we got to the beach. It was the Lodge Complex fire that had started on July 30th by lightning strike. When we drove through on our way south it was 900 acres. On our way north six days later, it had grown to 10,000 acres (and only 40% contained). Here's what it looked like as we headed north.

Highway 101 curves and winds its way north through Mendocino County on the way to Humboldt. There is a long curve in one spot where we could see where the fire was burning most intensely. Other drivers had pulled over to photograph the sight. We were on the wrong side of the road for that, but I did manage to get a shot of the smoke as it filtered over the mountain, looking very much like the fog of San Francisco. To know it was smoke this close to the highway was a rather spooky observation.

Summer is fire season in California. This is what it looks like. Welcome to our world. We're glad to be home.


  1. Good to know you are safe at home now. Love to think of your mother dressed in yellows. Lovely sky over the bay.

  2. A long trip, indeed. That is amazing how much the fire grew in your absence. I was in the Los Padres National forest a few years back when they had the giant fire that almost took out the zen center deep in Tasajara gorge. Could see flames on the hills and the air was choked with smoke. Very eery. Expected to be evacuated any moment. If I'm not mistaken, I recall a post, don't remember when, with another feeding frenzy by the sooty shearwaters. It's crazy to see how many are in the sky!

    Welcome home. xo

  3. wishing we were in northern CA right now! glad you had time with family, that your mom is ok, the travel was safe, and you are now back in your own bed resting! :)

  4. 700 miles is a long way, I used to wince going to Scotland which is a 7 hour drive. Saw a double rainbow the other day

  5. I know whereof you speak, Robin Andrea: sometimes, it just feel like it's too much trouble to take a picture. That being said, the images of the smoke curling over the mountain are great, and the sunlight shining through your sister's cobwebbed sunscreen is ethereal. (Buy her a Swiffer!) Good job, and good to hear from you again.

  6. am-- We are glad to be home.

    Tara-- Good memory! I did do a post about shearwaters five years ago. They are truly a spectacular sight. The fires here in northern California are amazing to see. Seriously wild stuff.

    sky-- I hope you will let us know when you get to northern California some time. We'd love to do a blogger meetup with you.

    Bill-- Travel gets more arduous, the older we get. I used to drive across country (3000 miles) in 6 days. Now it would take me two weeks, and we'd still be exhausted!

    Scott-- Glad you liked those smoky mountain pics. They're taken through the windshield going 60 mph. Not bad, not bad!

  7. Yes, 700 miles is a long, long drive for one day. Better to take two or three.

    Nice sky shot. When we have been out west in fire season, the worst part for us has been the degraded visibility and the stink of the smoke. It was that way when we visited Yellowstone back in '06. That wasn't a particularly bad fire season for them, but it was bad enough that the visit wasn't as nice as it could have been.

  8. Those shearwaters are astounding. I cannot imagine what they sound like!
    Scotland! Definitely worth a 7 hour drive! But public transportation is so good there, I'd take a train.
    The photos of the smoke rising up through the trees from the mountain tops freaks me out. I guess it's not unusual (though not to the extent California has seen in recent years), but it looks so wrong to these New England eyes. I always worry about the wild souls who are at risk from the fires.

  9. Mark P-- When we drove from Capitola to Arcata on Monday, we stopped at the co-op before we came home. Our legs were literally shaky from the trip. Long winding roads and smoke. So glad you liked the sky pic.

    CCorax-- The sheer size of the flock cannot be expressed in a single photo. I once made a movie shot of them, and it took 40 seconds to capture the width of their movements. We had never seen smoke rising from the mountains like this before. Quite a new experience for us. I worry about the animals who have no where to run. Interestingly, fire prevention is one of the worst ideas because it allows a build up of fuels that creates these unimaginable conflagrations. A terrible situation.

  10. Anchovies don't have much of a life do they? They just supply nourishment.
    That is a long trip. During the working years people did do that in one day because off days were limited. Love retirement.
    So nice that you had such a lovely visit with your mom and a safe trip to boot.

  11. Arkansas Patti-- It's a sad truth about anchovies. They are valued for their nourishment not for their own essential lives. It works out well that as we get old enough to retire, we can take shorter trips because that's about all our bodies and attention spans can handle!

  12. Amazing how quickly those wildfires can move. Glad you are safe and sound and had a good visit.

  13. NCmountainwoman-- Wildfires have become a crazy part of summertime California. They are starting earlier and earlier. We hope for a very wet winter in the whole state.

  14. First off, that is one big flock of birds!
    Driving up and down our state is a long and beautiful drive. It's nice that you have a place to stop. Doesn't it suck that fires are always a "current event" out here?

  15. Pat-- Shearwaters are seriously awesome. Their numbers are huge, and flocks can stretch as far as the eye can see. We are lucky that the beach house has stayed in the family since 1938! That's quite a run. The northern forests here have some very serious fires this year. Last year it was the Sierra and Yosemite, but this year it's all over the Klamath, Trinity, and Shasta counties. Unbelievably sad.