Category Archives: Photography

10-10-20 – Bishop Creek Canyon South Lake


One of the best places I know to find autumn color, and a respite from the desert any time of year. Cooler temperatures, soothing green, the sound of running water, Bishop Creek is a scenic balm for city-weary travelers.

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Bishop Creek is a 10.1-mile-long (16.3 km) stream in Inyo County, California. It is the largest tributary of the Owens River. It has five hydroelectric plants owned by Southern California Edison, Bishop Creek #2–6. Bishop Creek #1 was never completed. Parts of the creek run through pipelines, or penstocks, to increase output at the power plants.

Bishop Creek has three forks, North, Middle and South. All have their headwaters in the eastern Sierra Nevada, near the border with Fresno County. The forks all flow into lakes while still at high elevations. The North Fork flows into North Lake, the Middle Fork flows into Lake Sabrina. The North and Middle forks combine above and flow through the community of Aspendell and below it the combined creeks are dammed at Intake Two, a reservoir. The South Fork flows into South Lake and continues through the community of South Fork (aka Habegger’s) and then joins the Middle Fork below the Intake Two reservoir. Bishop Creek then begins its steep descent to the Owens Valley. The creek runs roughly North then Northeast and then continues East, flowing past the city of Bishop before its confluence with the Owens River.

The creek was named after Owens Valley settler Samuel Addison Bishop.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop_Creek_(Inyo_County)

10-02-20 – 10-04-20 – Autumn Roadtrip in Eastern Sierra


I took a road trip through the Eastern Sierra in search of autumn colors after a long, hot summer of isolation. While I encountered a lot of smoke from the devastating wildfires that plagued California this summer, I also found beauty. This trip took in Alabama Hills, Lake Tahoe, Virginia Lake, June Lake Loop, Lake Crowley, and Bishop Creek Canyon, as well as numerous dirt trails.

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The Eastern Sierra is a region in California comprising the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, which includes Mono and Inyo Counties. The main thoroughfare is U.S. Route 395, which passes through Bridgeport, Lee Vining, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine, and Olancha, with Bishop being the largest city in the area. It is sparsely populated but well known for its scenery; major points of interest include Mono Lake, Bodie, Mammoth Lakes, Manzanar, and parts of Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Sierra

08-08/09-20, 09-12-20 – Rainbow Basin Natural Area

Rainbow Basin is a geological formation in the Calico Peaks range, located approximately 8 miles (13 km) north of Barstow in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California.

The Rainbow Basin has been designated a National Natural Landmark and is in the Bureau of Land Management managed Rainbow Basin Natural Area. Rainbow Basin is a mixture of private and public land, but it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is accessible to the public via Irwin Road from Barstow to an unpaved loop road through the colorful basin.

The basin is notable for: the fantastic and beautiful shapes of its rock formations: its fossil beds, which have provided scientists with valuable information about life during the middle Miocene epoch, between 12 and 16 million years ago; and to the northeast the Calico Early Man Site.

Underneath Rainbow Basin is the massive batholith that lies below much of the western Mojave. Made from a type of rock called quartz monzonite, this batholith dates to either the Cretaceous, or possibly the late Jurassic period. Early in the Cenozoic Era this batholith was exposed in the area surrounding Rainbow Basin and bent downward as it underwent compression, to form a basin. Sediments deposited in this basin became the sedimentary rocks that are most visible in Rainbow Basin today. Further compression, uplift, and finally extension left these sedimentary formations deeply folded, the most prominent fold being the Barstow Syncline. These same stresses also produced several faults in the Rainbow Basin area.

The thick sedimentary layers can be divided into three distinct formations. The lowest is called the Jackhammer Formation, and it is composed of layers of sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and conglomerate, all probably dating to the early Miocene Epoch.

Above this is the Pickhandle Formation. The sediments making up this formation are mostly of volcanic origin – tuff, rhyolite and andesite, indicating that they were laid down during a period of active volcanism. That time was probably during the early Miocene.

The highest of the three formations is the Barstow Formation, which is made up of layers of conglomerate, limestone, sandstone, and shale. This formation dates to the middle to late Miocene and it contains one of the largest Cenozoic fossil assemblages in North America. Most of the sediment that makes up the layers in this formation was stream-laid, but there is a white layer of rhyolitic tuff (sometimes called marker tuff) near the top.

Finally, on top of everything else, is a relatively thin layer of fanglomerate (alluvial fan deposits) laid down during the late Pleistocene. Differential erosion of rocks of different hardness finished the job of sculpting the formations into the fantastic shapes that can be seen in Rainbow Basin today.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Basin

07-17-20 – Trona Pinnacles NEOWISE

The Trona Pinnacles are an unusual geological feature in the California Desert National Conservation Area. The landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock formed as a deposit when springs interact with other bodies of water), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the bed of the Searles Lake (dry) basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

During the Pleistocene, massive runoff spilled from the Sierra Nevada into a chain of inland seas. The system of interconnected lakes stretched from Mono Lake to Death Valley and included Searles Lake. Deep beneath Searles Lake, calcium-rich groundwater and alkaline lake water combined to grow tufa formations. Similar (modern) formations can be found today at Mono Lake to the north. Known as tufa pinnacles, these strange shapes formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. The pinnacles did not all form at the same time. They are divided by age and elevation into three groups. The groups are dubbed the northern, middle, and southern groups because they formed during three ice ages.

The northern group is the youngest at 11,000 to 25,000 years old. These are the best examples of what are known as tufa towers. The northern group also include shapes called tombstones, ridges and cones. The small middle group claims only 100 spires, but boasts the tallest “tower”, rising 140 feet (43 m). The southern group, includes 200 tufa formations aged 32,000 to 100,000 years old.

The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen hit movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney’s Dinosaur, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lost in Space, and Planet of the Apes. The music video for Lady Gaga’s 2020 single “Stupid Love” was also filmed here.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trona_Pinnacles

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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) or Comet NEOWISE is a long period comet with a near-parabolic orbit discovered on March 27, 2020, by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. At that time, it was an 18th-magnitude object, located 2 AU (300 million km; 190 million mi) away from the Sun and 1.7 AU (250 million km; 160 million mi) away from Earth.

NEOWISE is known for being the brightest comet in the northern hemisphere since Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997. It was widely photographed by professional and amateur observers and was even spotted by people living near city centers and areas with light pollution. While it was too close to the Sun to be observed at perihelion, it emerged from perihelion around magnitude 0.5 to 1, making it bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. Under dark skies, it could be seen with the naked eye and remained visible to the naked eye throughout July 2020. By July 30, the comet was about magnitude 5, but binoculars were required near urban areas to locate the comet.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_NEOWISE

07-16-20 – Mojave NEOWISE

C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) or Comet NEOWISE is a long period comet with a near-parabolic orbit discovered on March 27, 2020, by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. At that time, it was an 18th-magnitude object, located 2 AU (300 million km; 190 million mi) away from the Sun and 1.7 AU (250 million km; 160 million mi) away from Earth.

NEOWISE is known for being the brightest comet in the northern hemisphere since Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997. It was widely photographed by professional and amateur observers and was even spotted by people living near city centers and areas with light pollution. While it was too close to the Sun to be observed at perihelion, it emerged from perihelion around magnitude 0.5 to 1, making it bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. Under dark skies, it could be seen with the naked eye and remained visible to the naked eye throughout July 2020. By July 30, the comet was about magnitude 5, but binoculars were required near urban areas to locate the comet.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_NEOWISE

06-07-20 – Alabama Hills National Scenic Area

The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations near the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in the Owens Valley, west of Lone Pine in Inyo County, California.

Though geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada, they are part of the same geological formation. The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west. Though this might suggest that they formed from a different orogeny, the Alabamas are the same age as the Sierra Nevada. The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.

Dozens of natural arches are among the main attractions at the Alabama Hills. They can be accessed by short hikes from the Whitney Portal Road, the Movie Flat Road and the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Among the notable features of the area are: Mobius Arch, Lathe Arch, the Eye of Alabama and Whitney Portal Arch.

The Alabama Hills were named for the CSS Alabama, a Confederate warship deployed during the American Civil War. When news of the ship’s exploits reached prospectors in California sympathetic to the Confederates, they named many mining claims after the ship, and the name came to be applied to the entire range. When the Alabama was finally sunk off the coast of Normandy by the USS Kearsarge in 1864, prospectors sympathetic to the North named a mining district, a mountain pass, a mountain peak, and a town after the Kearsarge.

The Alabama Hills are a popular filming location for television and movie productions, especially Westerns set in an archetypical “rugged” environment. Since the early 1920s, 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here, including Tom Mix films, Hopalong Cassidy films, The Gene Autry Show, The Lone Ranger and Bonanza. Meanwhile, Classics such as Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott “Ranown” westerns, part of How the West Was Won, and Joe Kidd. In the late 1940s and early 50s the area was also a popular location for the films of B-western actor Tim Holt.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Hills

04-26-20 – Chimney Peak Wilderness

The Chimney Peak Wilderness is a 13,134-acre (53.15 km2) wilderness area located 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Ridgecrest, in southeastern Tulare County, California.

The 1994 California Desert Protection Act (Public Law 103-433) created the wilderness and it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of the Interior.

The Chimney Peak Wilderness is a rugged and mountainous Mojave Desert environment on the eastern side of the Southern Sierra Nevada Range. The wilderness is named for Chimney Peak, elevation 7,871 feet (2,399 m), located in the northeast corner of the wilderness.

The area has Mojave Desert plants such as Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) and creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) on the valley floors and alluvial fans and in the Sierra foothills. Higher Sierra elevations have single-leaf pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla).

The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the wilderness area.

A portion of the Sacatar Trail, an old wagon road into the Owens Valley once used by soldiers and cattlemen, cross the Chimney Peak Wilderness, .

Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
The BLM began a “byway” program in 1989 which is a tour by automobile through or near scenic public lands. This program designates “backcountry byways” along secondary roads. The Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway can be accessed from State Route 178, is over 38 miles (61 km) in length and travels through Lamont Meadow, circles around Chimney Peak, and returns to Canebrake Road at Lamont Meadow.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimney_Peak_Wilderness

03-09-20 – Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, a United States National Monument near Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, was established in 2014 to protect Ice Age paleontological discoveries. The 22,650-acre (9,170 ha) monument is administered by the National Park Service.

The national monument is located in the Upper Las Vegas Wash and protects part of the Tule Springs. The wash area also includes several patches of the rare Las Vegas bear poppy. The land was designated after a local campaign to permanently protect the landscape as a national monument.

Fossils found at the site include Columbian mammoths, camelops and American lions, and range from 7,000 to 250,000 years old.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tule_Springs_Fossil_Beds_National_Monument

03-08-20 – Gold Butte National Monument


Gold Butte National Monument is a United States national monument located in Clark County, Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas and south of Mesquite and Bunkerville. The monument protects nearly 300,000 acres of desert landscapes featuring a wide array of natural and cultural resources, including rock art, sandstone towers, and important wildlife habitat for species including the Mojave Desert tortoise (a threatened species), bighorn sheep, and mountain lion. The area also protects historic ranching and mining sites such as the ghost town of Gold Butte, although little but mine openings, cement foundations, and a few pieces of rusting equipment remains. The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The monument consists of 296,937 acres (120,166 ha). The Gold Butte National Monument fills a gap between Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, creating a continuous swath of conserved land and establishing a wildlife corridor. Significant wildlife within the borders of the park include Mojave Desert tortoise (a threatened species), bighorn sheep, and mountain lion, as well as Gambel’s quail and chukar partridge. Important cultural and natural resources within the monument include rock art and sandstone formations. Within the park, “weather-chiseled red sandstone is incised with ancient rock art, and the remains of rock shelters and hearths, agave roasting pits and projectile points” may be found.

Source: Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Butte_National_Monument

Little Finland (also known as Hobgoblin’s Playground and Devil’s Fire) is a scenic red rock area, located in a remote section of Clark County, Nevada south of Mesquite, known for its red rock scenery and strangely-shaped, delicate rock formations. The landscape is similar to Valley of Fire State Park, which is about 20 miles (32 km) to the west, across Lake Mead. The rock formations are composed of red Aztec Sandstone, fossil sand dunes. Many of the features are small erosional fins, hence the name.

Little Finland is accessible via the BLM Gold Butte Backcountry Byway, which also goes through the historic mining town of Gold Butte, Nevada, established in 1908. Other nearby attractions include Whitney Pockets, another scenic red rock area with petroglyphs, and the Devils Throat, a sinkhole. The Gold Butte region is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management that contains seven BLM-designated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Since December 2016, Little Finland and the surrounding area have additional federal protection within Gold Butte National Monument.

Two BLM wilderness areas are nearby. The Lime Canyon Wilderness borders Little Finland and the west side of the Gold Butte Byway loop. The Jumbo Springs Wilderness is south of the Gold Butte townsite.

Source: Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Finland

03-07-20 – Castle Mountains National Monument


Castle Mountains National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located in the eastern Mojave Desert and northeastern San Bernardino County, in the state of California. The park protects 20,920 acres, located between the interstates I−15 and I−40, and northwest of the Colorado River.

The national monument protects a section of the Castle Mountains, a range located in San Bernardino County and Clark County, Nevada. The range lies south and east of the New York Mountains, southwest of Searchlight and west of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada. The range lies at the northeastern end of Lanfair Valley and reaches 5,543 feet (1,690 m) in elevation at the summit of Hart Peak and 5580 ft at Linder Peak. The mountains lie in a southwest-northeasterly direction. The Piute Range lies to the southeast. Castle Mountains National Monument is surrounded on three sides by the NPS Mojave National Preserve.

It surrounds the Castle Mountain Mine Area, an open pit gold mine in the southern Castle Mountains owned by Canadian NewCastle Gold Ltd., who can excavate nearly 10 million tons of ore through 2025, though due to low gold prices mining has been suspended since 2001. The national monument proclamation states that after any such mining and reclamation are completed, or after 10 years if no mining occurs, the Federal land in the 8,340 acre Castle Mountain Mine Area is to be transferred to the National Park Service.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Mountains_National_Monument