Monday, December 28, 2015

San Francisco

December 27, 2015

Pongo and I spent Sunday afternoon in the city.  It wasn't too different from a normal excursion for us except we were much closer to home and in an urban environment.  Well, there was one telling difference.  Normally once the sun goes down we have to pack it in and head home.  That's just when things start to get interesting in the city.

Twin Peaks, San Francisco, CA
Polk Street
We started our urban adventure on Twin Peaks.  Some of the best views of San Francisco can be seen from that location.  As you can see, it was a dark and cloudy day.  There are a few trails that one can walk that have the feel of an outdoor adventure.  They ultimately lead to a parking lot with gobs of people, cars and tour buses.  Not too different from Yosemite, really.

Pongo did well in the crowds.  I think he's used to them now.  The experience for him is probably similar to what we've encountered in places like Tunnel View in Yosemite and along stretches of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Lots of people standing around talking and taking pictures, occasionally noticing him and giving him a little attention.  I think he kind of likes that sort of scene.

Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA
Lombard Street
Our next destination was Coit Tower.  I thought it might look cool with the dark sky behind it.  On the way there we went by the windy section of Lombard Street.  Pongo got excited about that for some reason.  I suspect it was the large crowd of tourists taking pictures at the bottom of the windy part.  That block is a lot more pretty in Spring and Summer when the flowers are out.  I saw an open parking spot about a block away so we got out and joined the horde for a few pictures.

Coit Tower, San Francisco, CA
We didn't make it up to Coit Tower.  Parking is very limited there, and with the big crowds we'd seen at Twin Peaks and Lombard Street I'd put two and two together and figured out it was a big, touristy day in the city.  I hadn't expected that but it makes sense.  Besides, it was starting to get dark which meant we needed to make our way to our ultimate destination.

City Hall, San Francisco, CA
I'd been in San Francisco on Saturday evening and had seen that City Hall was lit up in green and red for the holidays.  I thought it would be fun to come back with my camera and take a few pictures.  Our other stops were really just time killers as we waited for the sun to go down.

City Hall, San Francisco, CA
I used long exposures of ten to twenty seconds to capture these photos.  Even though the camera gives immediate feedback on the photos taken, I wasn't sure if I'd be happy with any of them once I got home.  That little three inch screen can be misleading, especially with my tired old eyes.

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
City Hall, San Francisco, CA
City Hall, San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Half Moon Bay to Point Lobos

It was a wonderfully rainy day yesterday.  It was the kind of rainy day that left a person mostly dry but kept everything in sight wet.  Not always soaked, mind you, things were sometimes in a state of drying out but had obviously been very wet only an hour or two ago.  It was the kind of day the Oregon coast does often and well.  We get these types of days less frequently in California, but our coast knows how to put its own spin on just such a day.

Half Moon Bay, CA
My first stop on the day's route was at Half Moon Bay.  No special reason other than that's where Highway 92 ends.  When we lived on the Peninsula this was our beach town.  It has a couple of nice golf courses and a few nice views and a large surf break known as Mavericks.  Throw in a couple of surf shops and chowder houses and I'm not sure there's much more to this nice little town.  Pumpkins and Christmas trees, I guess.

San Gregorio State Beach, CA
Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
My plan was to drive South down to Point Lobos.  Unlike some drives, making it to my destination was kind of important to me this time.  I haven't been there in a while because it's not at all dog friendly and most of my recent coast trips have been with Pongo.  I specifically left him behind so I could go to Point Lobos, so although it actually wasn't at all important whether or not I reached my destination it felt important to me if for no other reason than Pongo's sacrifice should not go in vain.

Pescadero State Beach, CA
Southern Sea Otter -- Moss Landing, CA
It's hard to drive by Moss Landing without stopping for a few pictures of the otters.  I wasn't sure how the photos would turn with no sun peeking through the clouds.  My big lens needs a lot of light.  I got a few shots that weren't too bad.  I also saw a couple of brants.  They aren't rare birds, I guess, but they are rare for me to see.

Gull and Southern Sea Otter -- Moss Landing, CA
Headland Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
By the time I got to Point Lobos the sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds.  It was off and on, but when it was on it was pretty spectacular.  Not much else to say.

Allen Memorial Grove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
South Point, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
South Point, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA
Headland Cove, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA

Monday, December 14, 2015

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

December 13, 2015

The tail end of a storm was blowing over Northern California on Sunday.  That gave me some interesting options for adventure.   My top choice was to head to the coast.  I wanted to take Pongo, though, which instantly limits my options there.  I'd also have to worry about big surf, which is part of the point of going in the first place.  So, instead I headed Southeast to his favorite auto tour at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.

Interstate Five, Merced County, CA
I knew I was taking a gamble.  The sun was peaking through holes here and there in Alameda, but they were dark gray in the direction I was heading.  I was crossing my fingers and hoping they would clear by the time I got there, at least enough to give me some splashes of light.

Merced County, CA
Going this direction turned out to be a mistake.  Not because of the dark skies.  As you can see, the clouds and sunlight created a lot of drama, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  The problem was traffic.  A major accident blocked most lanes 580 out of the Bay Area which almost doubled the drive time.  On a short winter day that can be fatal to an afternoon excursion.  I almost turned around a few times because I knew that even if the clouds allowed it the sun wouldn't stay up in the sky long enough to take a lot of pictures.

Tule Elk -- San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
I stuck with it, though, for Pongo's sake if nothing else.  He doesn't care about the weather and lighting.  He just wants to stick his head out the window and see the wildlife.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
The highlight of the drive for Pongo was seeing a raccoon.  He's a sworn enemy of all raccons.  He spotted him before I did and went bonkers.  He always goes bonkers for raccoons.  I usually see the animals first.  I don't know if Pongo has some kind of raccoon radar or what, but that's the one animal he consistently sees before I do.  No pictures, though, it was too dark and the critter didn't stick around long anyway, not once he heard and got a look at Pongo in the car.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA
That's pretty much it.  Well, we saw an owl, too.  It was too deep in the trees for a good photo.  I suppose with a raccoon sighting for Pongo and an owl sighting for me I'd have to consider the trip to be a success, right?  It was nice seeing all of those clouds in the sky.  Hopefully this weather continues for two or three months.  Last year we had a fairly wet December and then it was clear skies for the rest of the winter.  Here's hoping this is just the beginning.

Totoro (or an owl) -- San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, CA

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Embarcadero & Muir Woods

December 6, 2015

Sunday was wet and overcast.  A lot of destinations can be enjoyed in such weather, but the one that generally calls out to me with such weather is Muir Woods.  It's a little less crowded than on a normal weekend day (only a little, unfortunately) and the muted lighting makes the woods a lot easier to photograph.

The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA
I don't normally drive through the city on my way to Marin, but I was on autopilot through the Emeryville maze and found myself at the Bay Bridge tollbooths before I realized what was happening.  I'm always chastising myself for not taking more pictures in the City, so I decided this would be a nice opportunity in spite of the inclement weather.
Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA
I worked in this area of town for five years or so.  That was before the ballpark was built, which dramatically changed the South end of the Embarcadero.  Red's Java House still stands.  That used to be a cheap lunch spot, $2.50 for a double cheese dog and a beer.  I suspect their prices have gone up.  The Hi Dive is still around.  I think the name of that bar might have changed.  Gordon Biersch Brewery is gone.  That's a bummer.  Mozilla has their offices there now.

Hills Brothers Plaza, San Francisco, CA
The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA
OK, I guess we need one of the Bay Bridge, too.  I've teased it enough.  This is kind of a dark photo but there's some mildly cool cloud action going on, so there you go.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco, CA
Muir Woods
I headed to Muir Woods next.  Redwood Creek was extremely low.  See this post for a very different view of the creek as it flooded in a downpour that dropped seven to ten inches of rain on the mountainside that day.  That was an insane day.  Yesterday had nothing on that day in terms of drama.  If you care to compare, the bridge below is the same bridge as in the first photo but shot from the other side.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
I suspect that technically this is my best set of photos from Muir Woods.  I might actually be getting better at this photography thing.

Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Woods National Monument, CA
Muir Beach
After shooting the woods, I drove the short distance to Muir Beach.  I've always preferred this spot to the more popular Stinson Beach which is a few miles up the coast.  I guess this beach has more of an Oregon vibe to it.  You know, it's more about surviving the visit than sunbathing.  If you've been to a beach in Oregon you know what I'm talking about.

Muir Beach, CA
I made one last stop before heading home at the Pelican Inn.  Had a pint.  Read a bit of Anna Karenina on my kindle.  A good reading pub is a treasure to be savored.  It's worth a trip across the Bay just for that.  It was a nice way to round out a relaxing day spent on familiar but well-regarded grounds.

Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, CA
Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, CA