Friday, July 6, 2012

Park Thirty-Six: Russian Gulch

It's been a long time, I know. If digital files could collect dust, this post would have you reaching for an antihistamine and handkerchief. So many people have written in or asked me in person to please get my butt back to posting shots from the parks, only in a much nicer way. There've been so many hang ups, from a car accident to just being plain old busy, and now we're looking to start a new project over at Melodyand David Photography promoting health and I just couldn't bring myself to post anything about it until I started wrapping up this project. 

A lot of things are going on with the budget and the parks. A number of them have been granted a reprieve by their communities. It doesn't mean that they are out of the woods yet, but it does mean that we have a little more time to do something about what's threatening them. 

You can find a rundown on the current state of things over on the Cal Parks blog here.

On my end I've done some software upgrading since last we spoke and have gotten away from using our old set of presets that we used to develop files and have instead started creating my own. As such, you'll see a departure from the way photos were presented up to this point. The photography is all from the same timeframe, in fact, tonight's post, chronologically speaking, took place a mere thirty minutes after the last post I put up, and yet the photos will have a slightly different feel to them due to the possibilities now afforded me by upgrades and a better command of digital photo developing. 

Russian Gulch:
From Jug Handle I drove down a winding road into the depths of Russian Gulch, a fine camping area filled with tightly packed camp grounds. It's the narrow lane down to the campgrounds that makes it ideal for a bit of solitude if you don't mind the other campers, and also ideal for closing. 

I parked my car at a ranger station/information center and headed off in search of something other than campsites, kicking myself along the way for having not planned far enough ahead to get a campsite there the night before. Although, I have to admit, with the grueling pace I'd been keeping in order to make it home in time for my son's birthday, showering and sleeping in a bed was probably the better choice. 

It didn't take long to get to a trailhead. Four point something miles to some vista point. My legs groaned as I read the words, lactic acid pumping through my veins. "No way am I hiking four miles. I'll just go a little ways in and then head back." 

Famous last words. 

Four point something miles later I was at the vista point, a small waterfall with a couple of benches and a bridge surrounding it. A gorgeous sight diminished only by the presence of a pack of kids, drinking bottled beverages and smoking oddly shaped cigarettes. Oh, and despite the signs prohibiting it, their free roaming dog. 

Many others had made the trek as well. We tried to outwait the loud pack, but for some reason they seemed disinclined to leave. In fact, I'd love to show you a photo of the entire waterfall; unfortunately I couldn't take one that didn't have puffs of smoke and beer bottles in it. I couldn't help but wonder what it might have been like if the rangers had the manpower needed to monitor the park. 

I could picture sitting at one of those benches for hours, reading, writing, or just listening to the sounds of nature and the breeze shifting the trees above. But, as I said, those of us waiting for our turn to enjoy the spot could only imagine what it might be like at some other point in time. As it was, I'd already pushed my time in the gulch too far when I decided to hike the entire distance to the falls. Giving one last hopeful look at the pack, I turned and headed back down the trail, pushing myself to move even faster than I had on my way there in hopes that I might make up lost time. 

I met many wonderful people on the trail, and really, the most enjoyable time was had hiking through the protests of my thighs and calves. Clean coastal air, trees stretching up along either side of the gulch threatening to swallow you whole -- it's an amazing place that appears to be ideal for children (save for the unsavory pack). One of the most miraculous sights on the trail were the trees growing within fallen trees. It's not that I'd never seen such a thing before, just never in this way. The stump of an ancient tree served almost as a pedestal for the younger tree taking its place. Roots spilled out over the edges, snaking their way down to the forest floor, defying all odds rather like those fighting for the parks now. 

Let's hope that we are able to take a cue from mother nature and find a new way to get the parks' roots down to fertile soil, allowing them to live on for future generations. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Park Thirty-Five: Jug Handle

Winter is upon us. Senior portrait season is winding down, we’ve shot our last wedding for the year, and I’m finally starting to see a bit of a clearing in the amount of work that got piled up on my desk while I was driving all over California shooting parks. I can finally take a moment to get back to my own project without feeling guilty that I’m neglecting clients.

With that said, I invite you to journey back with me to the morning of July 9th, day four of my five day northern loop and just a few short days away from my son’s birthday. I was tired, sore, weary, almost creatively spent, and missing my family, but I’d stayed the night in a nice hotel and had a nice hot shower before checking out. It was the kind of gray morning that my mother loves, the kind you can expect on most mornings along the northern coast.

Jug Handle is another no pay beach. Sort of the way it should be. There were plenty of people pulling up at the same time I was. I watched the direction they headed and went the opposite. As I’ve noted before, I wanted to capture more than the obvious. That led me to some interesting trails that skirted the edges of the beach. There were tunnels through low hanging trees, a rather imposing looking homeless fellow camping out deep in the back trails that I didn’t dare photograph, and wonderful views of the small inlet that makes up Jug Handle.

Only the steady pace of my hiking kept the chill from creeping into my bones. I still don’t know how those kids were able to brave the surf but they sure seemed to have fun doing it. Watching them made me think of my own son and how many hundreds of miles I was from him. That thought of family and home would prove to be the fuel that pushed me so hard that day. If I thought I was beat at the beginning of that day, I’d find a whole other world of beat by the end of it. 

The coastal breeze whipping the grass along the cliff-side.