Fern Canyon (Ferns 2)

After the modest ferns from last week, let’s indulge. One of the places to be is the Fern Canyon in the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, which lies, alas, in Northern California.

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Most people who make it into the coastal redwoods that far north don’t bother to take the windy detour to that state park and trail head. Here is what they miss.2018 06 11 10 22 12 NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D750

The vertical walls of the short canyon are packed with ferns.

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Their gentle motion is impossible to capture in a photograph.

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At some places, they appear to float before a darker background.

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After seeing this, you will keep dreaming of a house with walls like this.

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Berkeley in Stereo (California ’93/94 – II)

Even though Berkeley is lush enough by itself (in 1993 at least), it has its little parks like People’s Park or the Rose Garden. I happened to live right below the Rose Garden and could, like the occasional deer or burglar, just hop over the little wall.

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One of my (these days somewhat neglected) hobbies is to take stereo images, and the gorgeous roses were patient victims. All these pictures were taken hand-held, and they are supposed to be viewed cross-eyed, i.e. the image for the left eye is on the right. Rose2 stereo

The rule of thumb for taking stereo images handheld was to choose a landmark point at the center, take a picture, take a step to the left, recenter, and take a second picture. This works very well for average street scenes without moving objects, like MacArthur Station below.

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Our brain is more than happy to ignore little inconsistencies. If you do that with flowers, you will of course end up taking an entirely different picture. So you have to scale down and move just a centimeter to the left. This is still pretty wide and gives these flowers the appearance of rather large objects.  You can do the opposite by taking images from a plane and wait 10 seconds between the shots. This will give the stereo image the appearance of a toy landscape. I’ll dig out an example when we come back from Mexico (early 1994, that was).

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Finally for today, a stereo image of  Hermann Karcher, also from 1993, thinking about Helicoids.Karcher stereo

Ten Lakes Trail (California ’93/94 – I)

In 1993, I went to Berkeley for a year. Among many other things, I went backpacking quite a bit, and I will share some of the images over the following months, celebrating the 25 year anniversary.

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The second hike I went on (the first I already wrote about) was in Yosemite, to the Ten Lakes basin. To get there, you have to cross a plateau with gorgeous views. 

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The scenery is serene, and there is almost no way to get lost. Just don’t make the mistake I made, trying to get from the slower group to the faster group by following the trail. The faster group had stepped off the trail for a minute to enjoy the view, so that I rushed past them, getting more and more nervous towards the evening because I couldn’t find anybody. Berkeley160

I was only mildly relieved when a few campers told me I had indeed reached the Ten Lakes area, where I waited nervously for two hours until the rest of the group finally arrived.

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There are two clear indications that you hike with people from Berkeley: They bring text books and actually read them, and they go skinny-dipping in every little pond. Well. Above is partial proof.

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On the way back you have to get up to that Plateau again, and then it gets interesting when you entire the granite fields transformed by the afternoon light.

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The rocks that are scattered around there cause suspicion that they have been purposefully placed,

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and it is up to us to decipher the message.

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For me, this was easy. It meant Come Back.

First Times (California ’93)

My little series with  pictures from 25 years ago continues with my first hiking trip in California. The idea was to drive up to the trail head of White Mountain Peak, and hike the dirt road to the peak.

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We drove through Yosemite at night (which I hadn’t seen before) and camped at my first hot spring in Owen’s Valley. Soaking in warm water while around you everything freezes and the sky is full of shooting stars convinced me that this had been a good idea. We made it past the Bristlecone Pine Trees, but the car didn’t make it to the trail head (my first car break down).

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We didn’t give up though but continued on foot. The landscape up there (above 10,000 feet) is high elevation desert. 

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After two hours or so we reached the observatory and the actual trailhead. Hiking appears very easy: You just follow the dirt road.

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What is not so easy, however, is the high elevation. Two of use got altitude sickness, including myself (first time!). That was interesting. It started off with gradually worsening headache.

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After a while, my vision got blurry, and me and the other victim turned back to the observatory. While we waited for the two others to return from the summit, we chatted with the friendly personnel. By 10pm, the two other hikers had returned, and we were lucky to hitch a ride on a pickup truck back to our car.

The next morning we stopped for my first visit at Mono Lake.

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No Lack of Color

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One of the things one can do in early Spring in California is to go to Lassen Volcanic Park when the crowds are not there yet but the snow is gone so far that one can actually get into the park. This is place of stark contrast. There is a steep and rocky hike up Mount Lassen which offers nice views, for instance to lonely Mount Shasta.Lassen 12

At lower evaluations you can hike thorough lush forests to what I consider the most stunning part of the park, the Painted Dunes and Cinder Cone area.

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The landscape transforms within minutes into something that borders on abstract art.

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This is a pretty remote area of the park, in particular when the access roads are still closed in winter. Mayhem can happen quickly.

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These pictures are now 25 years old. At some point I will need to check out how it looks today. 

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Mono Lake

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Now that it is cold and gray outside, I like to travel a little back in time to pre-digital places. In 1993/94, while in California, I was at least three times at the iconic Mono Lake, that Mark Twain describes in his Roughing It as “one of the strangest freaks of Nature”.

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Even though the water is extremely salty, some shrimp species seem to like it (Artemia monica, the Mono Lake Brine Shrimp…), and are in turn being liked by migratory birds.Berkeley588

I, in turn, found the Tufa rocks most fascinating. That they are visible and not underwater (where they originate) is a side effect of Los Angeles diverting water from the lake. 

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That was still ongoing in 1993, but since 1994, after long legal battles, Mono Lake won and is now allowed to retain its water. So maybe the images here show Mono at a historic low.

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In any case, this feels like home to me.

Joshua Tree

Most people of my generation are familiar with the Joshua tree because of the 1987 album by the band U2. I have been thrilled to hear that they will be on a Joshua Tree tour this year, again.

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When I visited Joshua Tree National Park in January 1994 for the first time, I became quickly obsessed with finding the most photogenic specimen.

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And there are thousands of them, all lamenting the state of the planet, it seems.

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They are interesting plants – not trees, actually, but yuccas. Being able to spread through seeds or rhizomes, sprouting from their extensive root system, makes them well adapted to desert climate. Otherwise they are not particularly useful, which is probably the reason why they are still around.

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Besides admiring the Joshua trees, there are other things one can do in the park. I, for instance, had liberated a cactus that was held in captivity in a store in Berkeley, and planted it in the desert.

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We had ideals back then.