Top 10 Photos of 2020
Well, this year has been a bit weird, eh? My big travel plans which included a trip to Yellowstone, Route 66 and the SABR Convention in Baltimore were canceled due to the virus. 2020 was supposed to be an epic travel year - oops! What's the expression? Man plans, God laughs?
As a result this years photographs - for the first time- are really slim pickings. A few years I've had trouble narrowing it down to ten - this year - I'm struggling to find ten. I do this each year because a fellow photographer, Jim Goldstein, puts together a compilation of top photos by many photographers and each year I participate. It's a cool project and here is the link to his website.
I'm sure, in time, we will all have much to say about this challenging time in our lives. Currently here in California the hospitals are overflowing and the death count marches on. It is, seemingly, a chaotic almost dystopian Hell. I was forced to visit the ER too a few weeks back after becoming short of breath in the middle of the night but, fortunately, it wasn't COVID. The doctor told me, "good thing you don't have to be admitted because we don't have room". That was over 2 weeks ago...I can't imagine what's happening right now.
So, yes, it is a terrible time for many. Recently, I was speaking to a fellow friend of Bill W. and we were discussing the importance of having, "an attitude of gratitude". We discussed our belief that those of us who luckily haven't lost family members and have avoided the virus or have not been terribly sickened by it have MUCH to be grateful for -in fact, probably more than other years in our lives.
I am grateful I was able to get out a tiny bit. I'm grateful for my family and their health and the new granddaughter on the way. I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful that you are reading this. I am grateful for you. I hope these photos take your mind off our troubles for a brief moment.
About a year ago we moved and my daily walk takes me by the nearby high school. Valencia High was built in 1933 and many of the buildings, including the auditorium and cafeteria, were built during the depression by the WPA. It's a beautiful school.
The next four photos are from my annual trip to Gaviota State Park and nearby Los Osos. The fog rolled in and, well, I love the fog.
I was also able to get out to Anza Borrego for a few nights with my pal, Dell. By now you are probably aware of my affinity for that place.
I was also able to get out to Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park and the nearby wildlife refuges. It's a place that I just feel at home.
Lupe and I spent Thanksgiving at Pinnacles National Park. The photo below is of Bear Gulch Reservoir from a frigid (29F) morning hike.
My favorite trip for photography this year- although it too was cut short - not by COVID but rather electrical issues with my Casita - was to the McGee Creek area of the Sierra Nevada. The first photo is of a nearby aspen grove and the second of McGee Creek Pass.
So, there you have it. I am still planning trips for 2021 although all in California, Nevada and Arizona. I will also be spending much of my time planning for 2022. That year will mark my 65th on the planet and I want to celebrate in style. First, with a huge backyard fiesta and then with a 3 month cross country trip - similar to Travels with Charley and Blue Highways - well, my version, anyway. I am excited about it - it will be the "trip of a lifetime" from sea to shining sea. It will feature nature and plains and mountains and National Parks I haven't previously visited with lots of baseball including a visit to Cooperstown and music - lots of music - including much of the Mississippi Blues Trail. I hope to see you when I'm on the road!
Now, let's stay safe - let's get through 2021 in style and and may you all have the happiest of holiday seasons.
My Beloved California
For several months my two pals, Steve and Marty, had planned on meeting in Big Sur in November at good old Plaskett Creek Campground. I surrounded that trip with short stays in Morro Bay and Allensworth State Park (my new favorite) for a pure California trip. Sadly, Marty got sick and couldn't make it. I hope he's reading this so he'll realize how much he was missed. I know he was bummed about not going so we'll just need to schedule another trip soon.
I share lots of photos of Morro Bay on this website so I will only share a few more. I am on a "health kick" these days ('bout time, don't ya think?) and I did go on a ten mile walk one day while I was here - from the State Park to the Rock and then all around town. This time of year things are quiet in this sleepy beach town - reminds me of California past...
The next photos are from the hike near the State Park and into the estuary. Posting the photo of the Turkey Vulture online got a lot of responses. It reminded me when I went to a "talk" on them at the Grand Canyon two summers ago the Park Ranger put a photo up on the large projector screen and a kid yelled, "Oh, GROSS!" Cracked us all up and you may see what he means...
Here are a few more photos from magnificent Morro Bay.
After two nice days I drove the short distance to Plaskett Creek Campground which is south of Big Sur and north of Ragged Point on the California coast. Nearby is Sand Dollar Beach. It is one of the few remaining places that has ZERO cell reception which at first is strange and then worrisome and finally - so relaxing. I think we all need an electronics break and it's hard to take one so I suggest camping at Plaskett Creek as soon as possible! The first photo is a view of the sun and the marine layer from a stop along the Coast Highway. It reminded me of my days, long ago, driving across the Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead...the good old days.
Here are some photos of and from Sand Dollar Beach.
A few more photos of the area near Plaskett Creek.
My dear friend Steve arrived for the weekend. Recently he and I lost someone who we both loved very much. We spent time together connecting in the way that only people who have shared a mutual loss can. We walked and talked and remembered. It was a poignant and meaningful time together.
Luckily Steve brought his guitar and so we serenaded our nearby neighbors with songs of Slaid Cleaves and Jason Isbell. We also loudly proclaimed our thoughts on the band, Queen. One of us is a fan and one of us is not (me).
I didn't focus much on photography. That will be for another time. I'm grateful that Steve and I had that time together.
Here are a few black and white photos from the area.
You may recall that last spring I visited a State Historic Park in Central California in which I fell in love. On this trip I returned and my love affair deepened. I do have a request though -this place is off the beaten track and I'm worried that I talked too much about it online. So, let's keep this a secret just for us?
When I arrived at Allensworth I was only the second camper. The Ranger came by and wanted to talk about my Casita - while we did that she shared more about how I might be able to support the Park. When I came home I joined the "Friends of Allensworth" and made a small donation. I don't necessarily believe in reincarnation but I certainly feel at home here in some strange and reminiscent way.
Each day out there was glorious and I did get out to the local Wildlife Refuges as well.
Here are some photos of the buildings at Allensworth which have been faithfully restored.
Trains roll by on the regular. I love the sound of horns and the hum of the clickety clack as the freight trains roll slowly by. It lulls me into a calm and contemplative state like nothing else. I breathe easier.
On one particularly fine day I got up early and walked 6 miles all around the Park - made a lunch to go, jumped in the truck and drove to the Kern Wildlife Refuge. After meeting with the Ranger I took a few photos and then headed to Pixley Wildlife Refuge which is close to Allensworth for sunset. It was one of the very best days. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them...
Many of my favorite photos of the last few years are of telephone poles and solitary roads. This place was heavenly in that regard.
I will leave you with a few photos of my last sunset in my Central Valley paradise. Thanks for coming along on my western journeys. I love to travel alone knowing I get to share with you on my return.
Last month I took a quick jaunt down to San Clemente State Beach.
My friend Dell was supposed to join me. Turns out, he stayed one night in San Clemente but had scheduled work. With my plans to camp with him dashed I took a few photos and decided to go home the following day because I felt like Hell.
I woke up the next morning - reminded myself that life is short - and decided, what the Hell, to drive to an obscure State Park which I had recently heard about in the California Central Valley.
Interstate 5 and Highway 99 are notorious in California. Recognized as either the "most boring" or simply "ugliest" drives in California they are only to be used to get from one place to another in the quickest manner. I used to subscribe to this notion, too - especially when I was younger.
My 4th grade teacher, Eve Boram (yep, her last name was pronounced BORE 'EM) instilled in me a bit of California love. In particular, she loved to pull down the map and talk about "The Great Valley" and its impact on American agriculture and how it fed Americans. She talked about the "hot Mediterranean climate" and said the valley had its own special beauty.
I never really saw that - after all, Yosemite is east of the valley and Big Sur is west - and well - that's BEAUTY. But you know....I realize now - she was right.
So, let's go. The weather was perfect and I had a leisurely drive up 5 to the 99 to Earlimart and then to Colonel Allensworth State Park. Do you know the story of this place?
"Established on August 3, 1908, the town of Allensworth was the vision of Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. Born in 1842, Allensworth escaped slavery during the civil war and joined the Union Navy. In 1886, he became the chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment, retiring in 1906 as the highest ranking African American officer in the US Army.
On June 30, 1908, Colonel Allensworth, Professor William Payne, Dr. W. H. Peck, Harry Mitchell, and J. W. Palmer formed the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. They purchased land at this location to build the town of Allensworth - the only town in California founded, built, governed and populated entirely by African Americans."
Here is the link to state website.
The town, due to water problems, slowly dwindled in population. By the 1950s Allensworth was an impoverished area without drinkable water. Colonel Allensworth himself had been hit and tragically killed by a motorcyclist in 1914 in Monrovia, CA.
In 1968, Cornelius "Ed" Pope, a former Allensworth resident, helped restore the area to a state historical site. In 1976, the site was established as a State Historic Park. The preserved town features nine restored buildings, including a schoolhouse, a hotel, a general store, and library and several homes.
In my life there have been 4 places where the feelings I had upon arriving were psychically overwhelming. I experienced an energetic calm and a feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Those four places? Arches National Park, Chiricahua National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and, strangely, Colonel Allensworth State Park. The isolated, stark, flat beauty of the Park was different than any of the places I've visited over the last 10 years. The air was clean and birds were everywhere.
As I was setting up camp one of these birds was raising hell with me with sharp and shrill chirps and an odd display of its feathers. It looked like a plover to me but I'm not well versed in bird identification. After I got the campsite ready I walked over to see why the bird was being so aggressive and, after nearly stepping on her eggs, I discovered why she was acting that way.
I took a photograph of the bird and the eggs and posted them on iNaturalist. Since this park is renowned for birding opportunities I assumed they'd get back to me quickly and, in 24 hours, I found out the bird was a Kildeer (indeed a type of Plover) and they often nest and lay their eggs right on the ground. Further, they engage in a "broken wing display" to draw predators away from the nest. In this scenario, I was, of course, the threat and the photo below was Mom's response to get my attention.
In my short time at Allensworth I fell in love with this Mama Kildeer and kept a sharp lookout for any people (or animals) who might get near her nest. I do believe we became friends and that she knew she could trust me before I left because she was calm around me and stopped using the broken wing display. I loved her.
Additionally, this place - besides the history - was, to me, a photographers dream. I have already made reservations to go back in November. I hope you will enjoy the following gallery of photos.
Abandoned roads, clouds, trains and telephone poles. Southwest Dude stuff.
One late afternoon the famed Tule fog started rolling in from the northwest. The sun was slightly obscured and made a photo that I enjoy.
Here are some other color photos of the Park.
I'm definitely not trying to sell this Park. It isn't for everyone, but it is just as "California" as the beach or Sierra Nevada. If you find yourself on old Highway 99, I would certainly encourage a quiet and reflective respite where, despite an overwhelmingly daunting past, one man, Colonel Allen Allensworth, an old escaped slave and war hero, had a dream and dared to make it a reality.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.