Hiking The Wave

The idea of hiking to the Wave has captivated me for years. This is a rock formation on the Utah-Arizona border and photos of the formation are awe inspiring.  That said, the idea of making the hike has intimidated me. To begin with there is the heat and the risk of getting lost or perishing in the desert. Second is the difficulty in obtaining a permit. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issues permits for 30 people a day, and those permits are hard to obtain. And third is the location; the trail head is 800 miles from home.

This year we managed to make our way to Kanab, Utah, on a road trip to explore Southern Utah. We decided we’d take a chance on obtaining a permit to hike the Wave by taking part in the “walk-in-lottery.” We set up camp just out of town so that we could make the 8:30 AM lottery. There were over 100 people applying for permits so the chances of getting a spot were slim. I was dumbfounded though when they called number “29.” That was my number, and low and behold we were on to do the hike on the next day, May 5.

The next morning, we broke camp early and headed to the Kanab Creek Bakery for breakfast arriving at about 6:45 AM. Great food and good coffee and then we were on our way to the trail head. From Kanab, it’s still a bit of a drive. We were on the trail at 9:45. I had prepared ahead of time by downloading the hike to my iPhone navigation app, GaiaGPS, and I had a copy of detailed hiking instructions I had found on the Internet. The BLM folks caution against using GPS or other tail finding methods. They provide an excellent guide that consists of photographs with instructions. The photos feature landmarks and you simply have to look for the landmark in the photo and hike from landmark to landmark. The hike took us two hours to cover the three miles, on par with what the BLM suggests. We carried plenty of water for the two of us and our dog Carson. As it turned out there were several pools of water on the hike, and Carson took advantage of the water to drink and cool off.  I wouldn’t want to count on any water being available later in the season. We spent an hour at The Wave, taking photos and eating lunch in the shade of on of the canyon walls. The return hike took an additional two hours, with temperatures in the mid-eighties by mid-afternoon when we returned to the car.

The photos speak for themselves. I’ve posted additional photos in a separate gallery and you can view our actual track log here.

I can imagine the hike might be difficult if the weather had been any warmer, and I’m glad we had relatively mild weather. We saw many wildflowers on the hike, cactus, yucca, paintbrush and a number of others. The desert was in full bloom.

The Carrizo Plain

This year’s rain produced a spectacular display of wildflowers on the Carrizo Plain. Here’s a small sampling from the thousand-plus photos I captured on visit. You can see more photos here.

We spent three days on the Carrizo Plain arriving on Sunday afternoon April 9 and leaving the afternoon of April 11. There were two of us and our dog. Yes, the Carrizo is dog friendly. Our first order of business on arriving was to locate a camp site. With the all the press the wildflower bloom has received we were not surprised to find our preferred camp ground, Selby Camp, full. We did manage to squeeze in on the fringes, and the next morning, moved our camp to a regular site with a table, fire pit and awning when it became available. Selby Camp also has water. Monday we set out to explore Elkhorn Road and the wildflowers on the Temblor range, stopping at Wallace Creek to do a short hike to explore the San Andreas Fault. There are few places in the world where you can see the effects of a fault that are as dramatic as Wallace Creek. From there we drove south a few miles and found a spot we could hike up into the hills. The array of wildflowers is just astounding. On Tuesday we spent our time around Soda Lake.

The park is a bit off the beaten path. It’s situated at 2000 feet of elevation between the Caliente and Temblor Mountain ranges. From the west you can approach from Highway 101 or from the East from Interstate 5. There is not much in the valley in the way of services, so make sure you top off your gas tank before entering the valley, perhaps on Highway 101 or I5. It’s 50 miles from the park headquarters to the nearest gas station, and you can easily run up your mileage while exploring the park. It’s an expansive park. I carry food and water for my stay in the valley. There is water at the park visitor center and at Selby Camp, but in years past water hasn’t always been available. Besides Selby Camp there is another camp ground, KCL camp further south. There is also dispersed camping off the valley floor in areas that were previously disturbed. There is also a motel, the California Valley Motel on Soda Lake Rd North of the park.

While the Carrizo Plain is noted for spring wildflower displays, there are also other sites to visit when the wildflowers are not in bloom. There are several rock formations with displays of Indian petrographs (images painted on rock). Most of these rocks, including Painted Rock are off limits in the spring when birds are nesting. Pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and a number other birds and animals inhabit the plain also.

The Carrizo Plain has been called California’s Serengeti It’s a broad plain, most of which has not been disturbed by modern agriculture and irrigation. It represents what the Central Valley May have looked like before agriculture.

I made my first visit to the Carrizo Plain in 1988 when The Nature Conservancy hired me to photograph, what was then ranch land, and since then it’s become one of my favorite places to visit. Untrammeled, broad open spaces and remote.

Tilden Park

While the San Francisco Bay Area is home to over seven million people, there are plenty of of opportunities to step away from the crowds find some peaceful open space. One of our favorite haunts is Tilden Park in Berkeley, which is more or less in our back yard. On Saturday we had family in town and with two dogs we headed to Tilden Park to take advantage of the calm between rain storms. This is a great time of year to take a walk in the park. The hills are green and some of the trails offer spectacular views of the Bay Area. The wildflowers are also starting to bloom. We saw poppies, lupine and a few other flowers. Tilden Park is a great place to walk with dogs, and several of the trails will accommodate dogs off leash as long as your dog is well behaved. The park encompasses over 2000 acres and in addition to trails there is a botanical garden, a steam train, a merry go rounds, a golf course and a number of other activities.

A Day with Monet

We decided to play tourist in our own town today, making our way to the Legion of Honor in the North West corner of San Francisco. The location alone, in Lincoln Park, is worth the visit, overlooking the entrance to San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. We started with lunch at the cafe, eating on the outdoor patio, which was a quiet and peaceful setting. The exhibit “Monet: The Early Years” features works created in the initial stage of Claude Monet’s career (1840-1926). The exhibition runs through May 29. Inspiring to see such a broad variety of work, and to gain appreciation for some of his daring and bold works before he became known for his impressionistic style. On leaving the museum we walked across the street to view the Holocaust Memorial and to admirer the architecture of the Legion of Honor.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Trees. Killarney National Forest

Photographed in Killarney National Park in Ireland in May 1981. While the photo is in black and white, I used a green filter to lighten to foliage on the trees. Here’s the photographer in action. Not the same location, but the same equipment.

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France: Beyond Bread and Wine

First stop in the morning on our waking tour, and the bike tour as well, was the local boulangerie. It was a real treat to walk into a French bakery in a small town and buy fresh bread. Part of the treat was the opportunity to interact with the local people. While we didn’t have much of a command of the French language, we were always able to communicate with the few words we had and by pointing to what we wanted. Such a variety of choices from which to choose. From the boulangeire, we would then head to the butcher for salami or cured ham of some sort, then the produce market for apples, peaches, or what ever else we might need for our picnic lunch. Once we were provisioned with bread, cheese, and fruit we would head off for the days adventure, walking ancient paths, and country roads.. At the end of the day’s walk we would typically have a fine four course dinner with a local wine. No shortage of fine wine in the Dordogne. Bread and wine becoming the bookends for our daily adventures.

The highlight of the trip though, wasn’t the bread, the food, the wine, or the places we visited. It was the people. Everywhere we went the people were warmhearted  and friendly, whether it was the old woman we met on the first day of our walk, the clerks at the boulangeries, or the inn keepers.

One event in particular stands out as a highlight. Dinner at La Maison Rose. La Maison Rose is a small bead and breakfast in Origne. Dinner is served family style with guests and hosts sitting on benches at a long table. The house, was once the presbytery for the church across the street, and it’s easy to imagine we’re simply carrying on a tradition that has gone on for centuries in the dining room. We shared dinner with Mr et Mme de Rochefort, the hosts, with a fabulous four course dinner of roast rabbit, fresh bread, and a local Bordeaux wine. It was a treat to be entertained by the Rocheforts and to visit with guests from New Zealand, England, and South Africa. Gathering around a common table and sharing bread and wine is like medicine for the soul.

 

World Tourism Day

La Cité du Vin. Bordeaux, France.
La Cité du Vin. Bordeaux, France.

Having just returned from France, I thought it would be appropriate to share something from our recent travels for World Tourism Day. One of the locations we visited was La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux. I was struck by the design of the building, with it’s flowing curves and ribs. Evocative of  knotted vines, wine barrels, wine turning in the glass, and the swirls and eddies of the the adjacent Garonne River. The website says “Each and every architectural detail evokes liquid elements and the very soul of wine.” Beyond the design, the museum houses exhibits about wine, covering every aspect of wine that you might imagine.