Above the Fog on Windy Hill

With the stable pattern of morning fog and afternoon sun the past week, there have been many opportunities to rise above the fog. Here are some shots from Windy Hill looking over the San Francisco Bay with the Diablo Range rising above. With all the human infrastructure inside the fog layer I could kind of imagine what this area might have looked like when the first explorers arrived in the Bay Area.

Panorama

Looking down Spring Ridge with the Diablo Range beyond

Diablo Range above the fog

Rose Peak across the Bay

Panorama II

More photos!

Continue reading

Sun beams through the fog

Fog is one of the most captivating things to photograph from all perspectives – above, within, or in the “twilight” zone. Photography from above the fog produces a submersion feeling for lower elevations with higher land points above the layer like islands in an ocean. Photography from within the fog creates a mystical perception with unusual light and shadows. After all, sometimes a scene is most intriguing when you can’t see all of it. One of the most rewarding places to capture fog is in the “twilight” zone between the fog layer and sunshine where the tiny droplets of moisture that compose fog or mist cause the suns rays to be dispersed. This effect is most dramatic in the forest where beams of light seemingly descend to the ground from the heavens. Since fog is constantly changing it’s depth and coverage, finding the twilight zone is often unpredictable so those moments when it feels like you are in a fairy tale are always special. Fortunately, there is no shortage of fog opportunities in the Bay Area!

On this day I was able to find the twilight zone  at the 1,100 ft elevation on the slopes of Wunderlich County Park with a fantastic display of light through the forest. Here are some of my favorite photos!

Rays of light

Enchanted Forest

Magical

Rays of light

Many more photos after the jump!

Continue reading

Bay Area Waterfalls!

The Bay Area has many waterfalls in beautiful settings. However, most of them are trickles a good portion of the year. With heavy rains expected all week in the Bay Area, it’s time to think about checking out waterfalls! Here is a selection of some waterfalls I have visited and want to visit. With 21 waterfalls on this list and a relatively short rainy season in the Bay Area, it will take some time to visit all these waterfalls in idyllic conditions.

Jones Gulch Falls, small but beautiful

  • Waterfall Trail, Garland Ranch: This waterfall near Carmel Valley is dry or a drip except for a few weeks of the year.
  • Uvas Canyon, Uvas County Park: Includes five waterfalls along a trail loop in oak woodland. Known as the best waterfalls in the southbay, but I have yet to see them myself and hope to do so soon.
  • Murietta Falls, Ohlone Wilderness: This one takes a lot of work to get to, but it’s apparently beautiful.
  • Donner Creek Falls, Mount Diablo State Park: Flowing off the north side of Mount Diablo, I have yet to see these falls, but I have heard they are very nice after heavy rains when Donner Creek comes alive.
  • Berry Creek Falls, Big Basin State Park: Surrounded by lush redwood forest, this is my favorite falls in the Bay Area. Since it is relatively downstream, Berry Creek Falls has decent flow well into the summer.
  • Silver Falls and Golden Cascade, Big Basin State Park: Located about 1 mile upstream from Berry Creek Falls, these falls are composed of several cascades and include the same lush setting as Berry Creek Falls. The trail also passes right next to the top of Silver Falls climbing over steps cut into the rock.
  • Sempervirens Falls, Big Basin State Park: A small waterfall near the park headquarters worth a visit if you have a few extra minutes after gazing at giant redwoods.
  • Five Finger Falls, Forest of the Nisine Marks: A small ~20 ft falls falling into a cavernous rock formation in a lush setting with (you guessed it) five finger ferns! This small falls flows from a small tributary of Aptos Creek so higher flow is needed, but be aware that crossings of Aptos Creek are required.
  • Maple Falls, Forest of the Nisine Marks: A small waterfall like Five Finger Falls, but in a nice setting. Also flows from the upper reaches of Bridge Creek so higher flow is required for it to look impressive.
  • Castle Rock Falls, Castle Rock State Park: A 75 foot drop over shear cliffs that comes alive after rains. The Saratoga Gap Trail passes above the falls so the accessible view is only from above.
  • Tiptoe Falls, Portola Redwoods State Park: This falls is only 6 feet tall, but sometimes the delicate falls are the pretiest. It’s located in a redwood forest with lush ferns.
  • Pomponio Falls, Memorial County Park: Peterson Creek drops 24 feet into Pescadero Creek. Easily accessible, but might be impossible to view when Pescadero Creek is flowing high.
  • Jones Gulch Falls, Pescadero County Park: Another delicate falls near Pescadero Creek in a sublime setting, this one can be viewed from the Jones Gulch Bridge.
  • Brooks Falls, San Pedro Valley County Park: A tall, thin waterfall flowing off of Montara Mountain and seen from Brooks Trail that is only flowing after rains. There is no close-up view of the falls, which is surrounded by cliffs and brush, but you get a good profile view from the trail.
  • Morses Gulch Falls, GGNRA: This is a hidden falls that is located off Highway 1 and up an unmaintained pathway. I have yet to see this falls.
  • Steep Ravine Falls, Mt. Tamalpais State Park: A series of cascades along Steep Ravine and a small waterfall next to a wooden ladder combined with old growth redwoods make this one a highlight on Mount Tamalpais.
  • Cataract Falls, Mt. Tamalpais Watershed: The most famous falls in Marin County with numerous waterfalls and an extremely lush setting. This is a must-see after a heavy rain.
  • Carson Falls, Mt. Tamalpais Watershed: Near Pine Mountain in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed, this falls is apparently spectacular after rains. It’s on my list to see.
  • Phantom Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore: Aptly named, this falls is usually non-existent. However, after a heavy rain, this 160 ft waterfall comes to life, tumbling over shear ocean cliffs to the beach. It is located north of Wildcat camp and low-tide conditions are necessary to walk the beach to see it. This could be an ideal time to see the Phantom!
  • Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore: An iconic waterfall tumbling from ocean cliffs into the ocean. There is descent flow in this falls even during drier periods. It can be reached in a few miles from Palomarin.
  • Stairstep Falls, Samuel P. Taylor State Park: A small waterfall that might be worth a visit after a heavy rain.

Alamere Falls, Point Reyes

Lots of Photos!

Sunset from Borel Hill

Over the past couple days I visited Salt Point State Park, the Sonoma Coast, Mount Tamalpais State Park, and several parks along Skyline Blvd.  I watched two amazing sunsets, one on Mount Tamalpais and the other on Borel Hill in Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve. This flurry of activity was spurred by sunny skies and remarkable clarity across the region (even the normally smog prone Silicon Valley). I am headed out of town for a few days so here are some links to photo albums until I post higher quality versions (especially for the panoramas) to this blog:

Snow on Skyline

The crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains seems to get snow at least once a year, but it’s still a rare enough occurrence that I get excited about it. On Monday, I drove up to Skyline Blvd. and found picturesque winter scenes after 2-3 inches of snow fell at the higher elevations that morning. Here is a short video (3:12) of the snowy scenes:

I started at Russian Ridge Open Space and hiked up to Borel Hill and then did a loop of the ancient oaks trail, which was spectacular! I then continued to Long Ridge Open Space where a line of snow covered Douglas firs made a scene fit for a holiday greeting card. A bridge over Peters Creek was also nicely situated. Finally, I went to the highest section of Skyline Blvd. at Castle Rock State Park. I went up to 3,214 ft Castle Rock and then hiked over to Goat Rock for more great scenes. At the lowest point, the snow level in the Santa Cruz was at about 1,500 feet, but measurable accumulations were only found above 2,000 feet with progressively more snow at the highest elevations of Skyline Blvd. just over 3,000 feet.

More photos after the jump and at my Picasa Album!

Continue reading

October 13th Storm

October 13, 2009 was a day for the record books in Bay Area weather and a bonanza for weather geeks like me :) Numerous daily rainfall records were set across the Bay Area as the strongest October storm since the 1962 Columbus Day storm battered the region. Impressive rainfall totals were tallied in the usually wet spots but also the typically drier locations. The high precipitation rates were due to the fact that this storm was infused with copious amounts of tropical moisture from ex-Super Typhoon Melor that impacted Japan last week. A strong jet stream picked up the moisture and propelled it towards the West Coast. The tropical nature of the system was also apparent today as it was quite muggy outside with temps in the mid 70s despite cloud cover. Highest precipitation totals occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains, as expected, where several gauges recorded over 10 inches of rain and 3,486 ft Mount Umunhum tallied 13.23 inches, the highest total in the Bay Area. Highest totals produced by the system anywhere occurred in the Santa Lucia Mountains along the Big Sur Coast where some gauges topped 16 inches! Strong winds also accompanied the storm with peak gusts over 50 mph common across many Bay Area locations.

Precipitation Summary:

  • 2-5 inches at Coastal, Valley, and Bay locations: SF downtown (2.48), SF Int’l (2.64), Oak Int’l (2.37), Oakland (3.86), San Jose Int’l (2.33), Stanford (3.02), Woodside (3.93), Redwood City (3.52), La Honda (4.94)
  • 6-12 inches in the Santa Cruz Mountains: Ben Lomond Mtn (10.60), Mt Umunhum (13.23), Uvas Canyon (11.65)
  • 5-6 in the Marin Hills: Mt Tam (7.14)
  • 4-6 in the East Bay Hills
  • 5.72 on Mount Diablo
West Union Creek in Huddart Park

West Union Creek in Huddart Park

More details and post-rain photos at Huddart Park after the jump!

Continue reading