Southern Monterey County

May 21, 2020 at 8:33 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, Butterflies, California, California Central Coast, California wildflowers, Monterey County, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildflowers) (, , , )

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road at Fort Hunter Liggett
Same view same time last year

The Los Padres National Forest re-opened the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and I had a hankering to explore one of my favorite areas in Central Coast California.

Jolon Road

The forecast called for light rain in the afternoon, and the fish scale clouds (and a few lenticular caps) verified the prediction.

A lone tree I’ve always wanted to photograph, and the clouds gave the opportunity

My route to work pre-COVID was along Jolon Road, bordered by vineyards and hilly pastures. I was surprised how quickly the rain-enriched greenery had already changed to its golden summer wardrobe.

I wanted to find three things for Marilyn, who is staying with me until she is called back to her volunteer job for U.S. Fish & Wildlife. A nice herd of tule elk was one. We didn’t get to see them up close, so we settled for this view through the oaks.

Tule elk, Jolon Road at Fort Hunter Liggett

This was another herd, in a most beautiful setting. I had hoped that with a huge reduction in military training due to COVID, the elk would be more numerous and closer to the road. Not this time.

Mission Road

Although our goal was “The Indians” area of the Los Padres National Forest, we did a little detour to one of my favorite landscapes – the one at the top of this post. Last year the foreground was filled with lupine, and I treated a birder friend to that view.

The above hillside is directly behind us. We can go months without even a wisp of a cloud (fog doesn’t count) so it’s a joy to have a cloud-filled landscape to make the difference between a photo taken and not taken.

The Indians

After leaving the Fort Hunter Liggett boundary and crossing into the Los Padres National Forest off Del Venturi Road, we were at “The Indians.” Several dirt roads branch off the main road, perfect for dispersed camping.

The trailhead is a short distance from the entrance, and the rocks make for easy climbing to look for grinding holes, also known as mortar holes.

I opted for the easy trail that led to another section of rocks bordering a small creek.

A black-tail doe bounded ahead of me and posed beautifully, framed by the large valley oaks common to this area.

Valley oak bark is distinguished by the “tiles”

Although there were no picturesque fields of wildflowers, there were a few treasures.

The creek flowed through a narrow rock canyon, and at one end my friend, seeking access to soak her feet, inadvertently scared off a water ouzel (American dipper) that flew off with an angry protest.

There was also a smattering of the Santa Lucia sticky monkeyflower growing out of the rocks.

Santa Lucia sticky monkeyflower

There was also a perfect grinding hole.

We explored some of the dirt roads, including the one that harbored the harlequin lupine, the second target of our outings.

Harlequin lupine
Marilyn photographing a harlequin lupine
Acmon blue female
Overcast light is my favorite type

Since we were now very close to the mountains, the mist-laden clouds drizzled us off and on, adding to the character and mystery of the place. When we drove home, we left the mist behind.

Del Venturi Pond offered several pairs of ruddy ducks in prime breeding plumage, red-winged blackbirds, western bluebirds, violet-green swallows, and a great-tailed grackle. We didn’t find target number three: the band-tailed pigeon. I guess we’ll have to go back!

It was another great weekend in paradise, Central Coast California.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Contact:  cindy at


  1. PedroL said,

    Cool photos Cindy 🙂 stay safe and greetings from Portugal, PedroL

  2. Jet Eliot said,

    Thanks for this blissful visit to paradise, Cindy.

  3. Rob Olson said,

    Great pictures make me homesick.

    Thank you,


    Sent from my iPhone


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