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BIG TREES & MORE: A Wonderful Drive

“These kings of the forest, the noblest of the mighty race, rightly belong to the world. . . we cannot escape the responsibility as their guardians.”  John Muir

The groves were God’s first temples.”  William Cullen Bryant

“How dear the woods are!  You beautiful trees!  I love every one of you as a friend.”  Lucy Maud Montgomery

Sequoia National Park—the country’s second national park—was created by President Harrison in 1890.  Within a week, its size grew to incorporate the newly formed General Grant National Park.  The park’s goal—then and now—was to protect and showcase the Sequoias, those wondrous big trees the park was named for.  Sequoias, of course, are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world.  Redwoods are also evident in the park.

In 1903 the first paved road was completed, increasing access to the park’s wonderfully big trees, but the access was still rather limited.  Generals Highway opened in 1926, expanding visitation to the Giant Forest. This drive through the Giant Forest is one of my favorites—the grandeur and majesty of the trees is overwhelming.

In 1940, Kings Canyon National Park was created by President Roosevelt.  This new park is situated right next to Sequoia National Park.  Since World War II, the two parks have been jointly administered.  The two parks really do work together as one big protected area, encompassing 1,353 square miles.  The majority of this land (97%) is designated as wilderness.  Each year, almost two million people visit the trees and surrounding area.

I feel lucky that these two national parks—Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park—are basically in my backyard.  They are situated only about 120 miles away via a fun twisty-turny-steep road, so it takes about four hours to get to one of the various entry points.  My most recent visit was a few weeks ago, specifically to look for some early fall colors.  That trip was a success, but—regardless of the fall colors—the drive through the parks is always stupendous.

A Quick Glimpse into Kings Canyon National Park

Hume Lake

A Short Terrific Drive through Sequoia National Park

Fallen Tunnel Tree

Some Short Drives through the Trees

If you have not visited these parks—or any of the other Redwood Parks in California—do so.  As John Muir says, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”  Trust me, you will be impressed.

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“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.  Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”  Hal Borland

“But there is one tree that for the footer of the mountain trails is voiceless; it speaks, no doubt, but it speaks only to the austere mountain heads, to the mindful wind and the watching stars.  It speaks as men speak to one another and are not heard by the little ants crawling over their boots.  This is the Big Tree, the Sequoia.”  Mary Austin

“When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity?”  Seneca

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow enduring force straining to win the sky.”  Antoine de Saint Exupery

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

“For in the nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”  Martin Luther

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  Minnie Aumonier

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they live than other things do.”  Willa Cather

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer.  But it he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”  Henry David Thoreau

“You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck in the still of the night.”  Denise Levertov

“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.”  Henry David Thoreau

“Old growth forests are not a renewable resource.”  Anonymous

 

“Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.”  Karle Wilson Butler

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir

“A nation that destroys its souls destroys itself.  Forests are the wings of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees. . .  to make pulp for these bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.”  Winston Churchill

“It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time.”  Anonymous

Looking for Fall Colors

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”  John Burroughs

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

I love hitting the road this time of year! 

Yosemite 2016

One of my favorite places to watch the fall color transformation is Yosemite National Park.  This year, however, I decided I would visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, figuring they would have some yellows and reds hidden away among the big trees and raging river.  I traveled in late October, but the weather—even at the higher elevations of these two parks—was in the 90s.

I did find some color, hidden along the roads and out in the fields.  The colors were a bit muted, but they were there.

It was clear the transformation from green to golds and yellows and oranges and reds was just starting.  Some trees even had leaves that were green and yellow and dried-up brown all on the same branch.

Although the fall colors were not overwhelming like is often shown in photos from Maine or Vermont, I loved being out in nature here in California, finding the start of autumn.  These colorful leaves suggest that even in this year of high temperatures, terrible violence and tragedies, and raging wildfires, Nature is still moving forward.  Change is coming—as it does every year.  Fall. Winter. Spring.  We can only hope that 2018 will be a bit better, in every way.

I always look for beauty in the changes in Nature.  Maybe later this month I will head to the Eastern Sierras to see what fall transformation is going on there.  Even if I do not find extensive fall colors, being out in Nature is so rejuvenating.

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“Look deep into the eyes of nature and everything will make sense.”  Albert Einstein

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.”  E. B. White

“Nature and Books belong to the eyes that see them.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”  Claude Monet

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  John Muir

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Let us permit nature to have her own way.  She understands her business better than we do.”  Michel de Montaigne

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite along with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.  As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.  And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”  Anne Frank

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  Rachel Carson

“Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  Walt Whitman

NATIONAL CAMERA DAY

“The camera basically is a license to explore.”  Jerry N. Uelsmann

Today is National Camera Day.  Being a Nature Photographer, cameras are obviously a big part of my life.  I received my first camera when I was about 7 or 8, a little Brownie Box Camera.  I mainly photographed family, places of interest, vacations.  But eventually I ventured into taking photos of the glory and wonder of nature and found my favored activity.  My focus was always on nature, rarely snapping a self-portrait when I was out and about with my camera. But I did take a few, sort of.

Today, there are lots of ways I could celebrate National Camera Day.  It is always a delight to capture nature up close and personal.  But I have recently shared some favorite nature photos, so a repeat did not seem necessary.  Certainly, the history of the camera from the original camera obscura to the wonder of digital cameras available today is intriguing—but not very personal.

Instead, I decided I would celebrate today by remembering the times my dad and I spent together taking nature photos.  After all, he got me started enjoying photography as much as I do.

One of Dad’s Nature Photos

 

Dad—Raymond Francis Ross—would have been 97 this year, but he died in 2014.  He always enjoyed photography and was the official family photographer.  He even was a professional photographer as his second job, taking photos for weddings as well as for high school yearbooks and church directories. The backdrop he had set up in the garage helped him record family photos over the years, even self-portraits of him and mom.  Eventually, he sold nature photo greeting cards in the local senior center.

Over the years, Dad and I took many trips together to take nature photos.  When Mom came with us, she was incredibly patient as we stopped again and again and again to snap a photo or waited just a bit longer for a bird or butterfly to cooperate.  Together the three of us watched whales in Ventura, looked for birds at the Salton Sea and enjoyed afternoons at places like the Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, and various zoos.

The memories of me and Dad and photography always make me smile.  No matter where we wandered, Dad and I lamented that the hike in as well as the hike out were both uphill!  Some trips—usually birthday adventures—took us out for long weekends to places like Monterey, Yosemite, and Mono Lake. We ate a group lunch under the shade of a small grove of redwoods as part of a Monterey Bay Aquarium Trip, and we wandered the dunes near Mono Lake in the dark after giving up on waiting for the moonrise.  Part of the fun of the trips was waiting afterwards to get the photos developed and then deciding which ones were keepers.  (Dad never shifted to a digital camera.) We could always count on each other to be interested in looking over our many—hundreds?—of photos from any given trip!

At the Salton Sea

At the California Poppy Preserve

Many of my photos of Dad are from these various nature trips we took together.  He always seemed happy and at ease with his camera.

Dad’s Photos from Mono Lake

Anytime I wander out on a new nature adventure, I figure Dad is with me in spirit.  And he must be taking photos in heaven as well.  And there, birds and animals and butterflies must be cooperative models.  Right?

How are you celebrating National Camera Day? 

 

 

SOME QUOTES ABOUT CAMERAS

“A camera teaches you to see without a camera.”  Dorothea Lange

“The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.”  Susan Sontag

“The most powerful weapon in the world, as far as I’m concerned, is the camera.”  Paul Watson

“I tried to keep both arts alive, but the camera won.  I found that while the camera does not express the soul, perhaps a photograph can!”   Ansel Adams

“There is only you and your camera.  The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”  Ernst Haas

“Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand.”  Margaret Bourke-White

“I can zero in on subtle things because I’m holding the camera.”  Patrice Leconte

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”  Alfred Eisendtaedt

“The camera makes you forget you’re there.  It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.”  Annie Leibovitz

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”  Dorothea Lange

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.”  Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The simple act of having a camera, not a cell phone, but a camera-camera, there’s a kind of a heightened perceptional awareness that occurs.  Like, I could walk from here to the highway in two minutes, but if I had a camera, that walk could take me two hours.”   Jerry N. Uelsmann

“When you are younger, the camera is like a friend and you can go places and feel like you’re with someone, like you have a companion.”   Annie Leibovitz

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.”  Mary Davis

Who knew?  June 15 has been designated by the North American Nature Photography Association as NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY since 2009.  Did you know?  I didn’t.  Fortunately, even in my ignorance, I have been celebrating this holiday extensively throughout any given year anyway.

It is easy to take nature photographs.  One way to take nature photos is to go to incredible places—like Yosemite National Park or Monument Valley—and snap away at all you see.  However, you do not have to go anywhere special to enjoy Nature and capture its essence on film.  You can find the beauty, wonder and solace of Nature just about anywhere. Just take the time to notice what is around you.

Some of my favorite subjects are birds and trees and flowers. 

If you want to celebrate Nature Photography Day, just grab a camera and head outside. You can sit quietly for a bit in a garden, wander the sidewalks in your neighborhood or take a drive along a country road, even a highway once you are out of the city.  See what nature speaks to you.  Then capture the interaction by clicking the shutter.

Beware: Capturing the beauty and wonder of Nature in a photo can be habit-forming.

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QUOTES ABOUT NATURE

“We do not see Nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our heart.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”   Ansel Adams

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Kurt Vonnegut

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“Nature, Time and Patience are the three great physicians.”  H. G. Bohn

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”   Laura Ingalls Wilder

“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.”   Toni Morrison

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”   John Burroughs

“Once destroyed, Nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”  Ansel Adams

“There’s something of the marvelous in all things nature.”  Aristole

“A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”   Walt Whitman

“Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   Albert Einstein

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”   Lao Tzu

“Just feel the magic in the air and the power in the breeze.  Feel the energy of the plants, the bushes, and the trees.  Let yourself be surrounded by nature at its best.  Calm yourself, focus, and let magic do the rest.”   Sally Walker

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 11: Descanso Gardens

“Try to pause each day and take a walk to view nature.”   Lailah Gitty Akita

From An Earlier Visit

Dad’s Photo of Mom by the Lilacs

Descanso Gardens is a wonderful public garden, located in La Canada Flintridge, California.  It covers 150 acres and offers a wide variety of flowers and trees, several nature trails, and even some lakes and ponds that offer bird-watching opportunities.

This delightful place is not far from where I grew up—and only a couple hours from where I now live.  We did not visit here much when I was a kid, but I have fond memories of visiting with my parents when I was an adult.  Dad and I took photographs while Mom enjoyed the flowers, especially the lilacs.  The garden offers great displays of some of my favorite flowers, including lilacs, camellias and tulips.

Dad Capturing a Good Shot

My recent visit was in early June, so my favorite flowers were not in bloom.  But there was lots to appreciate as I wandered the grounds.  Birds, butterflies, squirrels and even a lizard were enjoying the garden as well, but most refused to pose for photographs.

Now that I have my little travel scooter, I will be able to visit Descanso Gardens much more often, seeing what every season has to offer.  If you have not visited, add this garden to your to-do list.  You will love it!

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QUOTES ABOUT GARDENS

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in—what more could he ask?  A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.”   Victor Hugo

“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible:  The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.”  Thomas More

“A garden isn’t meant to be useful. It’s for joy.”  Rumer Godden

“When you increase the number of gardens, you increase the number of heavens too!”  Mehmet Murat ildan

“Love without happiness is like a garden without flowers.  I don’t believe in it.”  Marty Rubin

“Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.”   Edward Flaherty

“Gardens are poems where you stroll with your hands in your pockets.”   Pierre Albert-Birot

“The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there.”  George Bernard Shaw

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.”   Rumi

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”   Cicero

 “Give me odorous at sunrise, a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.”  Walt Whitman

 “The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world.”  Vita Sackville-West

“I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.”  Eeyore

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 10: Yosemite National Park

I love Yosemite National Park. 

“The most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite.”   John Muir

“A perfect day would be to get into the car, drive out to Yosemite and go camping.”  Michael Steger

“It is all very beautiful and magical here (Yosemite), a quality which cannot be described.”  Ansel Adams

Since it is such a great place, I was not surprised to learn that there were 5.2 million visitors to the park in 2016.  I was surprised when I visited Yosemite near the end of May—but before Memorial Day—that all those people were there ahead of me on the main roads and taking up every single parking space.  Well, okay not all of them.  But at least about half!

Basically, it was crowded.

However, I was still able to find the dogwood blossoms that were the ostensible reason for my visit this spring.  (But does one really need a reason to visit Yosemite National Park?)  There were other flowers as well and lots of water!  Despite the crowds, it was a glorious trip.

“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”   John Muir

As I entered Yosemite near the Wawona Inn, I was greeted by fields of lupine.  This hardy purple bloom kept me company throughout most of the drive throughout the park.

Dogwood Trees lined the roads, allowing wonderful glimpses of the blossoms floating among the leaves.

A drive through the park is always full of gorgeous vistas and delightful surprises.  On this trip, some spring blossoms and wonderful ferns popped up here and there along the roadsides. Of course, they were not so easy to photograph.  But the vistas were as peaceful and engaging as usual.   

The Merced River was wonderful, mercurial.  It still offered some peaceful pools that compel visitors to sit on its banks and appreciate life and nature.  But on this visit, the Merced also rushed past, even overflowing its banks periodically during the last several weeks given all the rain and snow melt this year.  I loved hearing the Merced rush by!

“Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.”   John Muir

The numerous waterfalls, of course, are also magnificently full this year.  What a delightful spring treat!

Upper Yosemite Falls (1430 feet):

Bridalveil Falls (617 feet):

If you have not visited Yosemite National Park, do so.

You will not be disappointed.

Please, consider speaking out and doing what you can to make sure all our national parks stay protected not just for us all to enjoy but because of their cultural and historical significance.  They are indeed precious.

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“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.  They have become democratized.  The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.”  Stephen Tyng Mather, 1st National Parks Service Director

“Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.  That’s right.  Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.”  John Garamendi

“I can’t help thinking that if the American West were discovered today, the most glorious bits would be sold off to the highest bidder.  Yosemite might be nothing but weekend homes for internet tycoons.”   Nicholas Kristof

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 9: Los Angeles County Arboretum

In mid-May 2017, I visited the Los Angeles County Arboretum.  It is a delightful garden that was just minutes from my childhood home.  We visited there often as a family and with out-of-state visitors.  Then, as an adult, I often visited with my dad as we both liked taking photos of the flowers and peacocks.  But I have not been there for years, so I really enjoyed visiting there again.

My main reason for visiting the Arboretum was to seek out the Jacaranda, which would be in bloom.  The purple blossoms are especially appealing.  This year, given the rains breaking the seven-year drought, I was hopeful the trees would be especially bountiful.  I was not disappointed.  The trees themselves dotted the landscapes, adding color to the vistas.

Of course, there were other flowers about as well.  The Rose Garden, although starting to wane, offered some beautiful blossoms.

I always love the wide open spaces and the trees that offer shade for visitors.

The tall stately Magnolia Trees were even in bloom.

As I strolled, peacocks were about as well, but they were not displaying their magnificent tail feathers.

Of course other blossoms were around as well, especially in the drought-resistant display.

At the end of the afternoon, everyone started heading to the exit, ending a great day.

If you have not visited this delightful garden, I suggest you do so.  Each season there is typically something gorgeous in bloom.  I hope to visit on a more regular basis, starting this year.  If you just let yourself wander the garden and enjoy Nature, I guarantee you will have a great afternoon and will probably leave happier than when you started.

“Happiness is like a butterfly.  The more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit quietly on your shoulder.”   Henry David Thoreau

 

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