Lava Beds National Monument

November 16, 2020 at 5:00 am (California, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Modoc National Forest

Lava Beds National Monument, California, the second volcanic site on my summer trip north, had just re-opened following a fierce wildfire. The journey through the Modoc National Forest to the park entrance was jaw-dropping in its devastation.

Lava outcroppings amid fire devastation

I had never seen a landscape so soon after an intense wildfire, and there was barely a drop of green for miles and miles. The Caldwell Fire left ash and skeletons in its wake.

It was with a mixture of horror and fascination that I was drawn to find ways to photograph what was left. It was morbidly beautiful. The park itself had 70 percent of its land burned and off-limits, and you could see untouched sage and juniper on one side of the road and a blackened wasteland on the other.

A backfire?

This may have been a controlled backfire meant to keep the wildfire from spreading further.

The visitor center was spared, fortunately, and the many small caves around it were open. I didn’t realize Lava Beds was known for its vast system of caves. Being claustrophobic, that held no interest for me.

Schonchin Butte

Fire scorched the Schonchin Butte, a distinctive landmark with a fire tower at top.

The most fascinating (to me) portion was in a separate and detached section: Petroglyph Point.

The long wall of petroglyphs was behind a fence to prevent vandalism. Immediately before the fenced section is a wall of modern graffiti.

The piles of pigeon feathers may have been the work of peregrine falcons. There were also cliff swallow nests and interesting patterns in the rocks higher up.

The day ended at nearby Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, with thousands of American coots, juvenile and nonbreeding ducks, eared and pie-billed grebes, and ruddy ducks.

I spent the night in Bend, Oregon and continued the next morning on Hwy 97, 26, and the “scenic” 35 to the Columbia River. The latter took me very close to Mt. Hood, but I didn’t stop for photos. I could never get used to not pumping my own gas in Oregon. It just seemed weird.

Once across the Columbia, I headed toward the famous Windy Ridge at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. I stopped at a drive-up cafe for a delicious pulled-pork sandwich in the little town of Carson, and took a turkey sandwich with me for dinner.

Next: The Day Mt. St. Helens Erupted

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
Join my Facebook Page

Permalink Leave a Comment

Lassen Volcanic National Park

November 15, 2020 at 10:15 am (California, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography)

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park

I left on a road trip to visit my son’s family in Seattle four days before my 65th birthday. California had had a week of smoky skies since the August 18 barrage of dry lightning, and the drive north from Paso Robles was through a dreary, smoke-drenched landscape.

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge amid smoky pall

First stop was at Colusa NWR, part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refge system, but no water in the ponds meant no birds, so I moved on to the mother refuge. There I found white pelicans and Clark’s grebes, some with aggressively peeping young telling mom and dad they should hurry with those fresh fish.

White pelicans and double-crested cormorants

However they were too far away for really decent photographs.

I love refuges that have auto drives for viewing wildlife. Sacramento is an amazing mecca for birds and birders in winter, but even in late summer it was a sweet drive.

Next stop: Lassen Volcanic National Park. I found a campsite in the North Summit Lake Campground – $12 a night with my senior pass. Unlike many parks, it had a very nice restroom. I blame a nasty campground shower at Grand Canyon 35 years ago for my toenail fungus. If we would fund our parks as if they were truly “America’s Best Idea” we would deserve them more.

Likely due to COVID-19 and the thick smoke, the park wasn’t crowded at all.

Helen Lake at sunset

As it had for many days (and would continue for two more months in California), the sun was tinted orange as it set and rose. So was the moon.

Moon at sunset

After I looked at the places I wanted to visit enroute, I realized this road trip had a volcanic theme. Other than Mt. St. Helens, Lassen was the most fascinating in this regard.

Smoky dawn, Day 2 of road trip

The place I most wanted to see was Bumpass Hell, a Yellowstone-like bowl of boiling water and steaming mud. It was to be the most challenging hike since my hip replacement surgery five months earlier.

Glacial errata at Bumpass trailhead

The 8,000 foot elevation added to the difficulty, but I took my time on the 3-mile roundtrip trail. I did not see the pikas that were supposed to be near the trailhead, or in the rock slope which generally harbors them. I’ve seen pikas at Mt. Rainier and Colorado’s Maroon Bells, but they eluded me here.

Dusky grouse

One advantage of getting on the trail early is that wildlife is more plentiful. This dusky grouse was unfazed by my presence. Though the elevation loss/gain was only 300 feet, it wasn’t easy. My hip was fine, but arthritis also owns my knees. The cardio, however, was a step in the right direction.

Bumpass Hell

The chilly temps allowed for dramatic steam. Lassen, like most of the Cascade volcanoes, is dormant. Meaning it can come to life again. The last major eruption was in 1915 but there is still geothermal activity.

The trail started to get “crowded” around 10 am. Most people seem to need to sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast, but we photographers and folks who like solitude tend to be crack-of-dawn types. About 60 percent of hikers pulled up masks when passing, which indicates that too many of us are anti-science eejits.

At the south entrance visitor center I got a latte and lovely turkey sandwich, where COVID protocols were being followed. Then I motored to Manzanita Lake for gas, but they were out. (How rude!) I had to drive an extra 15 miles to Old Station to fill up. I wanted to get a nice image of Lassen Peak reflected in the lake but it was too darned smoky for that. So I stopped at the Devastation Trail. The story there was fascinating.

Giant boulder

There were several giant boulders attesting to the strength of an erupting volcano. They had been hurled during the May 19, 1915 eruption and carried three miles below the summit by the avalanche. (A side note: Mt. St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980, nearly 65 years to the day.)

This one is red dacite formed 27,000 years ago when Lassen Peak first erupted.

Black dacite is one of the various types of rocks on the trail, but is a much younger age at 105 years, having been formed during Lassen’s last eruption. It is thought the joining of hotter basalt and cooler dacite magmas within caused that eruption.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

An even larger and more devastating eruption occurred three days later. This trail, more than any in the park, helps explain what happened when this volcano blew.

Helen Lake from picnic area

Helen Lake
Lassen Peak and Helen Lake at sunset

On the morning of Day 3 it was time to move on. Only early risers like me get to see dawn light on Lassen Peak. Thankfully most of the park was above the worst of the smoke, but a truly devastating wildfire scene awaited as I drove north…

First light, Lassen Peak

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
Join my Facebook Page

Permalink Leave a Comment

Merced-San Luis Refuge System

December 17, 2019 at 6:50 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife)

Snow geese coming in for the night

I had a few hours over the weekend of Dec. 7-8 and visited the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge complex, starting with the San Joaquin River NWR. Wasn’t able to get close to the noisy flocks of geese to see the Aleutian Cackling Geese, as the roads are off-limits.

San Joaquin River NWR

So I went to the San Luis NWR – the light was amazing but didn’t get as close to the birds as I had hoped.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 3 Comments

California Condors

November 10, 2019 at 3:10 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

California Condor – Orange 77

I have seen California Condors, mostly from a distance, though I did see some juveniles close enough to read their wing tags about five years ago at Pinnacles National Monument.

Purple 54 and Orange 20

But on Nov. 9, 2019 I was fortunate to go on our tour of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California where I saw approximately 8 free-flying and 14 captive condors in the flight pen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 3 Comments

Salton Sea Birds

March 16, 2019 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Burrowing Owl male

One of the great joys of living in California four years ago was discovering the burrowing owls at the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge on the Salton Sea in Southern California’s Imperial Valley.

On my trip to view the wildflower bloom in the desert, I stopped by specifically to look for them. I was not disappointed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

September 16, 2018 at 1:23 pm (Bird photography, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

May 2011

I have several GB of images I’ve never gotten around to editing. I found this folder while looking for another old file, and decided to edit it. Unfortunately these were taken with the Nikon D80 and the sharpness is not good. They look fine on the web, though. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Bald Eagles

January 23, 2018 at 6:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography) ()

_DSC7639 copy

Juvenile Bald Eagle

A family of bald eagles lives in Lockwood, California, not far from Fort Hunter Liggett.

_DSC7619 copy

I saw this adult, and then a few minutes later saw two juveniles. One had caught a ground squirrel and landed in an oak tree to eat it. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 1 Comment

Pretty Pintails

January 22, 2018 at 7:06 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Photography)

Northern pintail drake

Several northern pintail ducks at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge near Sacramento, California were at the pond at the beginning of the auto tour. The soft light brought out the subtle colors and designs in their plumage.

Between snoozing, preening, swimming and feeding, the pintails deserve a post of their own. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Colusa NWR Birds

January 21, 2018 at 9:13 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

_DSC7477 copy

Black-necked stilt

It was another foggy day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, but it didn’t seem to bother the birds much at the Colusa NWR to the south. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Morro Bay Birds

January 16, 2018 at 8:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife)

_DSC6127 copy

Morro Rock

Morro Bay and the coastline to the north and south of it is my favorite part of the California Coast. It is also the most picturesque and interesting from my point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »