Monday, February 27, 2017

Day Tripping in Weaverville, Shasta, and the Sacramento River

I spent a late February weekend in Weaverville, CA, a town tucked beneath the Trinity Alps between Eureka and Redding.  This community still possess elements of the gold rush vibe from the 1850's, including a Taoist temple that served the Chinese population that aided in the search for gold during the rush.  I stayed in the historic Weaverville Hotel, which has fantastic service, and posses a lot of late 1800's charm.  The next day, my date Jenny and myself headed east along highway 299.  We spent an hour at the Tower House historical site...another relic of the gold rush days. Thereafter, we continued east, past Whiskeytown Lake, and on into Shasta, CA.  Shasta is another gold rush town, currently half historic ghost town, and the other half populated by real-life locals.  The buildings from the gold rush area are currently shells of their former selves...but still very cool to walk through the skeletons of a bygone era.  After eating lunch in a great little cafe (Shorty's Eatery) embedded within the Shasta historic district, Jenny and I continued east to Redding in order to view flooding along the Sacramento River.  In reality, trees lining the edge of the river were inundated, otherwise the water was within its banks...but it was still a big spectacle for the locals.

Downtown Weaverville, CA.
Hollow shells from the gold rush era. Shasta, CA.
Shasta, CA.
Shasta, CA.
Shorty's Eatery, a small cafe adjacent to the ghost town section of Shasta, CA.
The swollen Sacramento River.  Redding, CA.
The Sundial Bridge.  Redding, CA.
The Sacramento River viewed atop the Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA.
Bonus Image...battling a snow squall westbound on highway 299 between Weaverville and Arcata, CA.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Virginia City, Nevada -- Then West Across the Sierra Crest

I traveled east on highway 36 from Eureka to Red Bluff, CA on Saturday February 18th; and then farther east to Susanville, where I jumped on highway 395 and headed south to Reno, NV.  Just north of Reno, near the California/Nevada border (actually near Hallelujah Junction), I passed a tree that was full of shoes hanging from every branch.  Apparently this is a celebrated monument, that many travelers, both local and from afar, stop to admire.  I shot a few pictures of the tree and then continued south.  I passed through Reno an hour later, and settled in for the night in Carson City, the capital of Nevada.  I ate dinner at the St. Charles Hotel, which was built in 1862, and is the longest operating hotel in Nevada.  After dinner I hiked past the state capital, and then called it a night.

Day number two, Sunday February 19th, I drove a short distance east down the loneliest highway in America, Route 50, and then turned north toward Virginia City.  I had a fantastic view of the eastern wall of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as I entered Virginia City.  This town, Virginia City, is an old gold and silver mining town perched 6000 feet above sea level.  It epitomizes the American wild west, and was the home of a cast of characters ranging from Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, to people by the name of Mackay and Hearst.  In fact, Ulysses S. Grant gave a speech from the second story of a mansion in this town in 1879.  I spent two hours during that Sunday morning walking through the town, photographing old buildings, desert vistas, and an occasional resident.  One of my favorite pictures was of a young woman sweeping in front of her store, which she just opened for the day, I'm assuming, in anticipation of an spendy tourists.

By late morning, I was ready for food, so I headed west through Carson City, then north and west again, exiting the desert, and entering the high mountainous terrain of the Sierra Nevadas'.  I quickly reached Lake Tahoe, and headed south to South Lake Tahoe.  I ate lunch in a steak house that sat across the street from towering casinos (I'm assuming they all sat on the Nevada side of town).  I don't know much about South Lake Tahoe, but I'd guess it is a playground for the rich and famous residents of the Bay Area, which is only a few hours west on I-80.  Speaking of I-80, I jumped on the interstate near Donners Summit, and a snow squall immediately developed.  Traffic stopped to a crawl as thousands of weekend skiers descended toward the Central Valley, on their way back to the 9 to 5 awaiting them on Monday.  I eventually reached I-5 in Sacramento, and headed north through the Valley back toward Red Bluff.  I admired how similar the Central Valley is to the Texas Panhandle between Amarillo and Lubbock.

The Shoe Tree north of Reno on Highway 395.
The St. Charles Hotel, built in 1862. Carson City, NV.
The Nevada State Capital.  Carson City, NV.
Virginia City, NV.
Virginia City, NV.
Savage Mansion.  Virginia City, NV.
Looking north from Virginia City, NV.
South Lake Tahoe casinos.
Traffic Jam induced by a snow squall west of Donner Summit.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lost Coast Trail - Somewhere Southwest of Petrolia

I entered the King Range National Conservation Area on Saturday February 11th, and hiked 2-3 miles of the Lost Coast Trail.  This region of beach and headlands is one of the last wild coastlines in the lower 48, starting southwest of Petrolia, CA...and ending some 50 miles to the southeast.  The only civilization is a short 4 mile jaunt through Shelter Cove.  Wildlife abounds along the trail; black bears, eagles, rattlesnakes, seals, and whales swimming by offshore.  The land is rugged, swift creeks cascade down tall bluffs, cutting deep canyons down to the edge of the sandy beaches.  Sea cliffs also rise 1000 feet straight out of the water, which causes many sections of the trail to be cut off during high tide.  My hike ended at one of these sections, waves were crashing onto the base of steep cliffs and my journey south came to an end.  In addition, this area is the most tectonically active in California; my fingers were crossed that I would get the opportunity to feel an earthquake generated near the Mendocino Triple luck today, the only vibrations I felt were ocean waves crashing ashore.

Deep erosion occurring through a sandy beach.
Steep bluffs and canyon towering above the Lost Coast Trail.
A stream choked full of ocean debris.

Another coastal cliff rising 1000 feet above the beach.

The end of my hike-an impassable section of beach due to high tide crashing against a coastal cliff.

Friday, February 10, 2017

San Andreas Fault: Palmdale to the Carrizo Plain - Plus San Simeon

I spent the morning of Saturday February 4th investigating the Pallett Creek Paleoseismology Site...just a short drive southeast of Palmdale, CA.  Initially I wasn't sure if I should enter the site, given it's on private property.  However, after extensive online research, I never found an account of the site where permission was needed to enter I did.  The site is located in an old sag pond formed by the collection of water and subsidence on the San Andreas Fault.  Pallett Creek is also slowly aiding in erosion across the fault zone.  The study area is a bulldozed cross section across the fault where the land gives way to the creek below.  It took a few minutes to identify the nearly linear vertical micro strand of the fault, but once I did, the offset in horizontal layers of peat became apparent, which were vertically ruptured during historic earthquakes in the relatively recent past.

After the fascinating start to my day at Pallett Creek, I drove northwest from Palmdale, following the fault along Elizabeth Lake Road and Pine Canyon Road.  Excellent examples of fault gouge (rock that has been grinded up by the fault) were displayed along the side of the road.  I eventually reached I-5, took a short jaunt north, and then east through Frazier Park.  I eventually got on Cerro Noroeste Road, which climbed to a dramatic climax above the fault as it approached highways 166/33.  The view from this road is incredible...the land rapidly gives way to the Central Valley below, which is viewed across its entire width all the way to the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I then descended north into the Carrizo Plain, which was covered in healthy green grass due to recent winter rains.  The location of the fault was easy to locate initially due to a series of elongated sag ponds.  The road I was on eventually diverged west away from the fault as it became embedded within the pressure ridge residing at the base of the Temblor Range.  By this point, I was very hungry, and had no choice but to depart the fault and head for civilization...I ended up having a nice lunch in Santa Margarita.  I then decided to head to the coast and follow highway 1 to Monterey.  However, a mudslide occurred a few days earlier, which closed the highway down.  My consolation prize was fantastic photography near San Simeon during the sunset hours...and also excellent views of elephant seals basking in the California sun.

Pallett Creek Paleoseismology Site: A micro strand of the San Andreas Fault runs from bottom left to right of center.  Note the vertical offset in dark horizontal layers.
Larger view of the San Andreas Fault micro strand.
Fault gouge northwest of Palmdale.
View from Cerro Noroeste Road.
Sag pond on the San Andreas Fault near the entrance to the Carrizo Plain.
Entrance to the Carrizo Plain with a sag pond on the fault in the background.
Green grasslands of the Carrizo Plain with the Temblor Range in the background.
The Pacific Coast north of San Simeon.

Monday, February 06, 2017

San Andreas Fault - Pine Wood Canyon to Palmdale

I drove through Los Angeles February 3rd at 3am, drove west to San Bernardino, slept in my truck, woke up 10 hours later, and drove out to Pine Wood Canyon.  I followed the San Andreas Fault northward to Wrightwood, documenting sag ponds, fault gouge, and the highest point on the fault, over 6000 feet above sea level, at a big rock tower located in Wrightwood.  I then drove down toward the Antelope Valley, taking a detour past Pallett Creek, which is the location of significant fault research, before ending the day in Palmdale.

A sag pond northwest of Wrightwood. Sag ponds form when water collects in depressions created by a fault.
Large rock tower in Wrightwood; the approximate location of the highest point on the San Andreas Fault (over 6000 feet above sea level).
Fault gouge located south of Wrightwood.  Fault gouge is created through the grinding action taking place along a fault.
Fault feature located near Pallett Creek.  Note the two very different rock types on both sides of the fault.
Sign making the location of the San Andreas Fault near Pallett Creek.  The fault runs from the sign toward the depression in the landscape right of center.
Looking south-southwest along the San Andreas Fault. The fault runs up to the mountains in the center of the picture.
The San Andreas Fault crosses the California Aqueduct near Palmdale. Los Angeles could very well be out of water if the fault ruptured along the aqueduct.

Early 2017 Hikes in Northern California

Breaks from work roll around every 4 to 6 days lately, and I've made the most of my time off.  I headed north from Eureka to Prairie Creek Redwoods Park during mid January and hiked the Zig Zag Loop #1.  It is an excellent trail, the trees are tall and majestic, and elk can be viewed grazing in a large clearing near the visitor center. I've also hiked local beaches, ranging from Fleener Creek in the Lost Coast Headlands, to Centerville Beach near Ferndale (which is a Victorian era town begging me to spend time photographing). Finally, I went with a couple of friends to Redwoods National Park, and we hiked out to an old homestead (Lyons Ranch). It is a peaceful relic from the past, it is secluded, and it is surrounded by beautiful grass covered hills speckled with groves of trees. Lyons Ranch will be worth revisiting and photographing in different kinds of light.

Prairie Creek Redwoods
Prairie Creek Redwoods
Centerville Beach
Lyons Ranch
Lyons Ranch