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.
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.
The landscape transforms within minutes into something that borders on abstract art.
This is a pretty remote area of the park, in particular when the access roads are still closed in winter. Mayhem can happen quickly.
These pictures are now 25 years old. At some point I will need to check out how it looks today.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
In any case, this feels like home to me.
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.
When I visited Joshua Tree National Park in January 1994 for the first time, I became quickly obsessed with finding the most photogenic specimen.
And there are thousands of them, all lamenting the state of the planet, it seems.
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.
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.
We had ideals back then.
My last pre-digital visit to the Point Reyes National Seashore was in late fall of 2000.
I find it amusing to see how the way we view things can change in mere seven years.
There is a first image of which has become a leitmotiv since:
And of course, the accidental color among all the gray.
My second visit to Point Reyes National Seashore was later in 1993, when the weather forecast promised high coastal winds, and Bryce suggested to go storm watching.
Above we are on our way to the Lighthouse, and below are the first storm clouds.
It got a little bit more dramatic,
but we stayed dry and took pretty silhouette pictures.
At the end, the colors returned.
My first visit to Point Reyes National Seashore was on the occasion of the CHAOS Fall Gourmet Trip 1993. The rules for these trips are simple: Dress up and bring good food.
On the way to the camp site you were also supposed to help carry supplementary items like pieces of a portable hot tub.
After pitching the tents and admiring each other’s costumes, more serious activities would commence.
There were also opportunities to hunt for more food.
Which was obviously rather tasty.
One of the must-sees for tourists in California is Napa. To be honest, the wines are overpriced, and the landscape is underwhelming. Go a bit further north, to the Russian River Valley, and enjoy the scenery by bike.
You will know that your are doing this with the right sort of people when they cross the river like this
even though there is a bridge and they didn’t have any wine (yet).
The winemakers were friendly and let us taste for free even though they knew we would not buy much wine.