Of all the plant phyla, I’ve always felt a particular affinity for the conifers. Those spiny softwood survivors have a diverse yet particular set of aromatic compounds that accompany them; I can chart a lot of happy memories to pine or cypress groves and their applied organic chemistry. Starting on the east coast, through the midwest, and finding myself in grad school on the west coast meant contact with a lot of different species. These ocean-wind-sculpted examples from Pacifica, California are particularly dramatic.
This was one of those moments of pure chance. I was just coming back from a long weekend and hit rain just outside of the Tri-Cities while on some winding mountain roads. Then all of a sudden the rain let up just as I was passing Watauga Lake just in time to see this incredible mist coming off the lake. Within 10 minutes of taking this shot the mist had completely dissipated.
The stunning, overwhelming, almost-heartbreaking Muir Woods National Monument in California has become a photographic cliché. (Thanks, Ansel Adams.) That doesn’t prevent me from discovering something new in every corner and every moment. The incredible contrast of scale between ferns and sequoias twists the mind, and the quiet, misty paths (early in the morning anyway) transport you to an overwhelming alternate world.
Early in the morning, before another human has arisen, in the fog and rain and the sound of crashing California surf, the cliffs of Marin are strange and alien and haunting. They stagger out of the fog, all stunted shrubs and jagged rocks and decaying 20th century gun emplacements. I’ve always rather fancied the idea that America kept expanding until they reached the end of the continent, where the cliffs and the alien landscape drove us all a bit mad.
The beach at Costão do Santinho is as bright as day, 24/7. In the winter, it was eerily empty (save for a few roaming packs of wild dogs, later on…) I’d like to imagine that the warmer weather brings all-night volleyball tournaments.
Either way, the mist-capped waves, black rocks, and bright bits of algae make the lonely beach even more alien.