Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Sunrise of 2011 - San Quentin Promontory - 12/31/11

          After tossing and turning a bit in bed I decided to get up early and go watch sunrise at the San Quentin Promontory near the Richmond Bridge in San Rafael.
          I walked down to the beach just as the first color was cast on the clouds at the horizon. It was still dark out, but a nearby street lamp cast enough light to illuminate the foreground with an eerie glow.

First Sign of a Neon Sunrise

          A layer of fog blanketed the water surface near the bridge and rolled across the bay like giant waves with actual rip curls.

San Quentin Sunrise

Fog Rip Curls at Sunrise

          The clouds went from a vibrant red to a psychedelic pink that was so neon it was surreal.

Neon Dawn

Psychedelic Sunrise

          After the sun rose, a harbor seal poked its head out of the water a few times as it swam around the calm waters. Seals aren't that common in the vicinity according to one of the nearby residents I spoke with. I know I've seen the seals hanging out frequently on the rocks beneath the bridge closer to the eastern terminus but I guess they rarely make their way to the western end.
Happy New Years!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse - Marin Headlands - 12/10/11

Lunar Eclipse from Rodeo Beach

          I stepped out of my house well before sunrise and was excited to see the partially eclipsed moon still fairly high in the sky. My destination was the iconic sea stacks on Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. I pulled up to the Bunker Hill Tunnel and followed several cars through. Any other morning at this early of an hour I would have had the place to myself, but with a full lunar eclipse set to occur just before sunrise, the headlands became an early morning hot spot.
          I walked down to the south end of Rodeo Beach where the tide was just low enough to allow passage to the sea stacks.
          There were already three photographers near the rock and two more arrived after I got there. As dawn grew closer the eclipse progressed leaving the moon a glowing orange color.

Lunar Eclipse Rodeo Beach

          Unfortunately the moon disappeared behind a layer of distant marine fog before reaching the horizon line where the moon would appear the largest.
          I then walked over to Rodeo Lagoon and watched a few clouds turn pink during sunrise.

Dawn at Rodeo Beach

Sunrise Color at Rodeo Beach

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Muir Beach and Slide Ranch - A Coastal Exploration

          I decided to spend the afternoon doing some hiking and scampering along the Marin Coast. I started off by driving to Muir Beach and managed to nab one of the few remaining spots in the large lot. I crossed the footbridge over Redwood Creek where large restoration efforts have been put forth to rehabilitate the watershed by reducing sediment and improving the Coho and Steelhead runs.
          Being a weekend I knew it was going to be busy so once on the beach I veered off away from the crowds. The tide was low and I took advantage by exploring some of the rugged coastline south of Muir Beach. I climbed over a couple of steep eroding embankments leaving the masses behind. Walking over jumbles of kelp strewn boulders, enjoying vistas of the plethora of sea stacks, it was just myself and the fisherman. In fact, because I did not bother to check the tides before I left home, I was glad to have a few fisherman act as a warning sign of when the tides will shift. I know it is not always safe to assume that other people know what they are doing, in fact I somewhat despise that sheepish mentality, however, there were enough different groups of fisherman that my odds were pretty good one of them knew when to go before the ebb turned to flood.

Craggy Coast South of Muir Beach

          I traveled a ways down the coast before picking a place to relax and watch the waves roll in.

Sea Stack

          I contemplated waiting for sunset, but I was a little too anxious to sit still that long so I hiked back to the car and drove north on Hwy 1 to Slide Ranch for another short hike.
          There were only a couple of cars in the lot when I set off along the trail leading through the Ranch area and then descending to the rocky shoreline. There's a few places to access the shoreline from Slide Ranch and I took the northerly most trail which let me out on a deserted beach consisting of polished stones and craggy boulders. There was a great sensation of serenity and any feelings of anxiousness were soon dissolved. I set down my pack and walked up and down the shoreline looking for treasures. I did my best to explore the few exposed tide pools, but without the proper footwear I was careful not to push my luck.

Textured Rock and Rising Moon

          I ended up staying for sunset which was as peaceful as ever regardless of the lack of clouds and color.

Slide Ranch Sunset

Sunset Silhouettes


Seagull Sunset

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sunrise along Berkeley Shores - 12/2/2011

          On my way to work I noticed the clouds lighting up something crazy with color so I couldn't resist pulling off near the race tracks in Berkeley to snap off some photos with my point and shoot. From where I was the most intensely lit clouds were situated in the sky above some ugly chain link fences so I waited and made due by taking advantage of the lichen covered landfill on a small peninsula.

Berkeley Sunrise

Sunrise from Berkeley Shores

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marin Headlands Sunset - 11/25/2011

          Sarah and I drove out to the Marin Headlands to catch sunset and unwind from a days work. It's almost as if the Bunker Road tunnel is a gateway to a realm where you can forget about your troubles and let nature guide your thoughts. Always uplifting and yet very grounding at the same time. The saline air being brought in from offshore breezes and the pounding Pacific brings a calming affect and is quite beneficial to your health as well.
          With no time for a hike we headed out to the cliffs by Battery Mendell and watched the sun disappear.
Marin Headlands Sunset

Battery Mendell

Slab near Parking Lot

Kent Trail to Hidden Lake Hike - 11/25/2011

          The Kent Trail is one of my go to trails with several loop options to choose from. Utilizing the last few weeks of our annual pass before it expires, we parked at Lake Bon Tempe and started our hike by climbing up to lake level and crossing the dam. With views of Bon Tempe as well as Alpine Lake we watched for Osprey and other frequently seen birds such as Mergansers and Cormorants. At the end of the dam we took a right on the fire road toward the pump house and the Kent Trail. The fire road brought us down to Alpine Lake where the Kent trail sets off as a singletrack closely following the southeastern shoreline. The next two miles of trail before the junction with the Helen Markt trail are fascinating and offer views out over Lake Alpine with Azalea Hill and Oat Hill Ridge to the north northwest.
          Just before reaching the junction with Helen Markt the Kent Trail veers uphill paralleling the East Fork of Swede George Creek. The uphill sections of the Kent Trail appeal to me because they aren't too steeply graded, yet elevation is quickly gained.
          The next mile and a half of the trail was dark and moist which provided the perfect conditions for many mushrooms and strange colorful fungi.

Orange Peel Fungus

Lion's Mane

Coral Fungi

          We passed by Foul Pool, an interesting stagnant swamp filled with tannin tea. At the junction with Willow and Stocking we headed left on the Stocking Trail toward Hidden Lake.
          Hidden Lake, once called Wildcat Lake in the early 1900's, is now a fascinating swamp supporting all types of wildlife including aquatic, land, and tree dwellers. This time of year the pond was full and the surface was blanketed with a green algae type moss. I halfway expected to see Yoda at the edge of the bank for it resembles a scene right out of Star Wars.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake Swamp

Hidden Lake

          Recent rains had brought out the newts which we were careful not to step on as they were crawling around everywhere. We came across one particularly small baby one which I couldn't resist taking a picture of with a finger in the frame for scale.

Baby Newt

          Continuing on, the Stocking Trail passes beneath some fairly large redwood trees with large ferns fanning out around their trunks. The trail undulates and crosses Van Wyck Creek entering a chaparral environment including scrub oak, chamise and poison oak as it climbs toward Rocky Ridge.
          We reached the Rocky Ridge Fire Road and took a right for a few hundred yards before taking a left onto the unmarked Upper Berry Trail. The trail begins at the bottom of a clearing holding and old water tank. Narrow and eroded in places the trail descends rather steeply and eventually connects with the Rock Spring-Lagunitas Fire Rd. where we continued along single track on the Lower Berry Trail. Even steeper in parts than the Upper Berry Trail we dropped down toward Lake Bon Tempe. Halfway down the Lower Berry Trail slightly hidden off to the left of the trail is a great rock outcropping with vistas and an open feeling that the rest of the trail lacks.
          The Lower Berry Trail dropped us out along the far end of Lake Bon Tempe on the Shadyside Trail where we hiked another mile or so back to the dam. In springtime around April and May the Shadyside trail is a good place to see Striped and Spotted Coral Root Orchids amongst a vast variety of other wildflowers.
          We crossed the dam and descended to our car with a great feeling of satisfaction.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunrise at Albany Bulb - 11/18/2011

          Another cloudy morning presented itself worthy of a side trip to watch sunrise. I headed to the Albany Bulb not far from where I work in Berkeley to await the rising sun.
          The Albany Bulb is an interesting place to say the least. The whole place is strewn with art including old and new. From paintings to sculptures and statues and rock art, the Bulb is a Gallery in progress. The bulb is home to a few hardy souls who choose to camp out under trees and in forts amongst the concrete slabs and twisted rebar. Here is a link to a great piece written about the Bulb by Gambolin' Man.

Sunrise at Albany Bulb

Albany Bulb Sunrise

          As I watched the cloud cover start glowing red a few early risers made there way out of the bushes and headed towards town to start their daily grind to find food.

Lighting of the Bulb

Bulb Art

Albany Shoreline

          There's not a better way to start the day than with a little color! I must admit I have a small sense of jealosy for the folks that call this place home.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunrise at San Quentin Promontory - 11-11-2011

San Quentin Sunrise

          On my way to work I stopped off at the San Quentin Promontory where there is a quaint little beach with views of the Richmond Bridge. It's hard to believe that just a few blocks away is the state prison. The clouds were patterned nicely in the sky and I was hoping for some dynamite color, however; Several minutes later I realized the cloud cover was too thick and I would only get a small sliver of vibrant orange red just at the horizon line.

San Quentin Beach Sunrise

          The receding tide revealed some small tofani formations which made for nice foregrounds.

San Quentin Promontory


San Quentin Beach

          Not a bad way to start the day!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Battery Mendell Sunset - Marin Headlands - 11-9-11

Room with a View

          Another after work adventure left me with just enough time to drive out to Battery Mendell in the Marin Headlands to catch sunset.
          I parked in the newly redone parking lot near Battery Mendel which now holds only several cars. In years past you could pull right up to the Battery itself with parking for many cars. I guess it is for the best to keep impact to a minimum.
          I climbed up a couple of flights of steps which led me to the top of the main building overlooking the ocean. Following a use trail I headed south along the precarious bluffs toward an old tower and some bunkers where I posted up and waited for sunset.

Cliffside Tower

Point Bonita Lighthouse

          To the east, the rising full moon above Hawk Hill and Conzelman Road momentarily took my attention away from the setting sun.

Rising Moon over Hawk Hill

          The remnant war time bunkers and buildings with their quilt works of graffiti were a nice juxtaposition to the natural pacific landscape of the Marin Headlands.

Graffiti Sunset

Bunker Art

Bunker and Lighthouse