Fall Colors of Canyon De Chelly

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Every fall, the cottonwood trees of Canyon De Chelly National Monument turn from bright green to incredible shades of yellow and orange.

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Visiting my close friends, Jon and Lupita McClanahan, we took a hike down to their canyon line to do some chores to prepare for winter.

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Everywhere I turned the colors of fall mixed with the clear blue sky, evergreen trees and the earth tones of the canyon walls.

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I especially love to look back at the sun through the backlight leaves.

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While I was setting up for the photo at the top of post and enjoying the quiet stillness, I began to hear the sounds of flute echoing through the Canyon.  It was absolutely incredible.   And even more incredible was when I checked the photograph a week later I found that the flute player was in the image, you can see the small figure wearing a white shirt sitting on the dark rock layer rim of the canyon in the middle of the photo.

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This was the approximate location of the flute player and it’s easy be inspired by the view.  Known as Junction Overlook, it is a popular place to see the beauty of the Canyon from the rim.

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Crater Lake With An iPhone

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One doesn’t always need a high end Digital SLR camera to capture good images.  That smart phone you carry around is more that capable.  On a trip to Crater Lake National Park recently, I thought I would try out my iPhone 7 and found the results were wonderful,

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I especially liked the panorama mode where the iPhone automatically creates a single photograph while one slowly and carefully pans the camera across the lake.

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One the of the incredible things about Crater Lake is how blue the water is, it reminds me of a painting by Mark Rothko.

Columbia River Gorge

Oneonta Creek Gorge

My daughter Zoe,  and I took a weekend road trip down to Portland, Oregon a while back to explore some of the trails off the Columbia River.

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The highlight of this excursion was a hike right in Oneonta Creek.   Donning our water shoes we head up the narrow gorge carve by the creek, climbing over ten foot high log jams and chilly knee high water.   The photo at the top of the post shows the point where I decided to stop as the water gets much deeper and I did not want to chance my camera getting too wet.  Zoe kept on past the deep water by climbing around it on the rocks along the right side of the creek and disappeared around the corner past the logs.  I waited for the water to settle down to capture the gorgeous reflection in the crystal clear creek.

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After our hike up the Oneonta creek gorge, we tried a couple of the surrounding trails and found some beautiful water falls.

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Channel Islands National Park

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Of all of you that live in the Los Angeles area, how many of you have taken a trip out to Channel Islands National Park?  If you are like me, the answer is not very many.  Well, its really easy and well worth the trip.  The nice folks at Island Packers have a fleet of very comfortable boats that travel almost daily to all of the islands.  I was lucky enough to get a stand-by spot on an all day excursion to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in the chain.

Just as we are getting settled in for the journey, we came upon a small pod of Common Dolphin(Delphinus Delphi’s) who decided to have some fun and surf the wake of the boat.

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Typically, where there are dolphin, there are many other marine animals joining in to feed on the fish that the dolphin have force up the surface.  Here are two California Brown Pelicans(Pelecanus occidentalis) diving into the water for some breakfast.

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On Santa Cruz Island, there are two stops, Scorpion Anchorage and Prisoners Harbor.  Scorpion Anchorage is THE place to go to kayak and explore the many caves along the sheer cliffs of the shoreline.

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Prisoners Harbor is much less traveled and much quieter.  A small group of us took a scenic hike over to Pelican Bay while learning about the history of the islands from our guide.  Santa Cruz Island is 25% owned by the National Park Service and 75% by the Nature Conservancy.   Both entities have worked very hard to return the island to its natural state after many decades of ranching.

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After returning to the harbor, we had some time to relax by the pier before our return trip to the mainland.

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And then a very rare sight, an Island Fox(Urocyon littoralis) decided to stroll through the grounds.

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Once back onboard the board, we headed back to Scorpion Anchorage passing by kelp forests,

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a Western Gull(Larus occidentalis) having just caught a crab,

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and a band of arguing California Sea Lion(Zalophus Californianus).

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Crossing back the Santa Barbara Channel towards Ventura Harbor, we found ourselves in the midst of a feeding frenzy of over a thousand dolphin,

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along with Sea Lions,

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and even a Humpback Whale(Megaptera novaeangliae).

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WOW, what a day!!

Pelicans At Point Mugu

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When it gets hot inland in Los Angeles, I love going out to Point Mugu State Park.  On my latest trip there I was hoping to see some pelicans, something that has become rare over the past number of years.  When I drove by my favorite rock outcropping I saw a number of birds on rock and thought they were cormorants that frequent this area.

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Much to my surprise, it was five California Brown Pelicans(Pelecanus occidentalis) 

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Once an endangered species, these beautiful birds have made a comeback, thanks in part to the creation of Channel Islands National Park in 1980 where they nest.  With their numbers increasing, they were removed from the endangered species list in 2009.

Carizzo Plains National Monument

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In my last post, Poppies, Poppies, the wildflowers were dominated by the orange California poppy.   This trip, I ventured back out to Carizzo Plains National Monument where I visited seven years ago after the last major wet winter(Carrizo Plain Wildflowers)

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Like the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve, this area was alive with wild flowers of Orange Fiddlenecks(Amsinckia menziesii), Goldfields(Lasthenia californica), and Frémont’s phacelia(Phacelia fremontii).

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Poppies, Poppies

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Every so often Southern California is blessed with a strong winter season that brings much needed rain and this year there was significant snowfall in the mountains and rain fall throughout the state.    As Spring came and temperatures began to rise plants have responded with millions of flowers.  No where is this more prevalent than the “Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve”.

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Located a few miles west of Lancaster, California, the preserve has exploded in an incredible display of orange California Poppies(Enchscholzia California),  purplish Blue Dicks(Dichelostemma capitatum) and yellow Goldfields(Lasthenia californica).

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