It wasn't planned that way; but it turned out to be better than we could have ever planned.
The fall colors were boomin' just off US 395 southbound approaching Conway Summit. The brilliant blue skies and kiss of snow on the mountains lended themselves to the picutre perfect scene along the roadside.
Between Torrey and Boulder, it seemed that every turn featured an even more picturesque expanse of aspens than the last.
The hike to Chimney Rock from the bus stop where you are dropped off is an easy walk that is fairly flat that overlooks Drake's Bay on the one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. On the Drake's Bay side is the Historic Point Reyes Lifeboat Station and the remaining Point Reyes Fish Dock, which in the winter and early spring can be run by breeding and nursing Elephant Seals.
Just north of the Golden Gate, tucked amongst the Marin Headlands, is Rodeo Beach, a prototypical, wind-swept, Northern California beach that calls more for winter parkas than skimpy swimwear. Every once in a while, though, the winds shift and the air temperature rises above "frigid" allowing you to shed the parka in favor of a wind breaker.
The lighting was beautiful, especially if you edit out all the footsteps that marred the dunes' otherwise smooth surface.
Half Dome off Big Oak Flat Road
The first view of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is from turnouts along Big Oak Flat Road (if you enter via CA 120). Smoke from fires in the area had settled into the valley largely obscuring the view.
Nature, however, is no match for technology so I downloaded a trial of Lightroom to see if the new dehaze slider would do anything. It did; it turned the sky yellow.
Ansel Adams is probably turning in his grave.
We rose early the next morning getting to the Hope Valley Cafe just in time for the first cup of coffee to come out of the perculator. From there, the goal was to cross over Carson Pass and descend into the Sierra Foothill wine country.
As we rose in elevation up to Hope Valley, a thick fog enshrouded us, casting a starkness across the scenery.
The sun set as thunder rolled across the mountain tops casting the kind of light over the disintegrating thunderheads reserved for god-moments.
Warning! The spines of the Teddybear Cholla stick instantly and hold tightly by means of minute, backwardly directed barbs. When a joint (which seems to jump when detached by a light touch or bump) is severely stuck, the victim's best solution is to cut the spines with scissors or clippers and pull them from the flesh with pliers.
What can you say about Sossusvlei? It is worth every last mile that you have to fly to get there, even in coach.
Sunrise @ Temple of the Sun II
The previous time that I had been in Capitol Reef National Park, I was on Belle, so I was free to roam off the beaten track to experience the southern end of the park as it was meant to be experienced--alone, by oneself, among the grandeur of nature along dirt roads and stream crossings.
This time, we were in Betty, our Honda Civic Hybrid whose off road abilities were sorely lacking. So we booked a jeep tour to take us up through Cathedral Valley and then up into Fishlake National Forest for the fall colors.
Cool dunes at sunrise
My iPhone dutifully woke me up at 4:00 a.m. By 4:05, I was slipping into the car to make the half hour drive to the Mesquite Flat sand dunes by dawn. As light first started to break, I left the car behind and began the walk out onto the dunes.
Desert Rhino Camp
The sun played with the clouds to dapple the surrounding mountains with slathers of light and dark.
Lost among the dunes
At some point, I lay on the sand to get a different perspective on the view. It must have been then that I was consumed by some unknown and unseen creatures that left what seemed like an infinite number of welts on my exposed arms.
I sometimes wonder whether the folks at Nikon wish that I would stop posting photos.* Other people take such beautiful pictures with the same camera that I have, except mine are out focus, badly composed, and incorrectly exposed. I can't be making their camera look good.* And yes, I am conceited enough to think that the folks at Nikon even see my photos.
Passing Steamboat Point, you get views of the Great Plains extending off to the eastern horizon. With each hairpin turn on the descent, the mountainous west receded into memory as there would be nothing but straight roads and severe cross winds for miles to come.
#Damarland is stunningingly beautiful.
Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon
I have to admit, I processed this photo. I just can't help myself. I particularly like how the shading falls on what I think is Tressider Peak and the Echo Peaks behind it.
The Wild, Wild West
We opted for the standard tour, which over two and a half hours hit all the viewpoints on the self-drive tour plus gave us access to back country areas to see a side of Monument Valley that you cannot see on the self-drive tour.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Dawn
Others soon followed, heeding the advice to limit exertion in the valley to the early morning or late evening
Along Route 24, Capitol Reef National Park
It seems almost instinctual that whenever you see a place named "Sunset Point" on a map, particularly a national park map, you want to go camera and tripod in hand.
And so we went to watch the sun set over Capitol Reef National Park from--you guessed it--Sunset Point.
Emerald Bay is beautiful. It almost makes me wish that I still had my kayak!
Dunes at Dawn
What caused those welts will never be known. Suffice it to say that I will never let any exposed skin ever touch those sands again.
Overall, Red Rock Canyon doesn't have that much red rock nor is it much of a canyon.
The day of the wedding dawned sunny and breezy east of San Gorgonio Pass, where stands the oldest windfarm in the U.S. So, of course, I had to get up before the dawn to head out there and take pictures in the 50 mph breeze.
The winds were offshore once again and so it was time to go back to Point Reyes National Seashore for a saunter along Liamantour Spit.
While waiting for a table at Rucola, I spied the Tribute in Light overhead and resolved that I would have to go back down to Brooklyn Bridge Park after dinner for at least one more shot of the lower Manhattan skyline.
The food at Rucola, by the way, was amazing; such a neighborhood gem.
Three minutes later, a left onto Lancaster Road and the horizon seemed to be tinged orange. The road jigged left, then right and then I was headed straight into a sea of orange. Not even at the preserve yet, I stopped along the side of the road along with everyone else and ran toward the fields that were covered with the orange goodness. There, we all proceeded to literally frolic.
I drove the last mile to the preserve fulfilled.
With the clouds parting, the windswept landscape was unreal.
Toward the end of the jeep tour, we walked around Round Lake.