North Fork Drive can be reached by turning left, off Highway 198, in the middle of Three Rivers towards Kaweah Colony. The road follows the North Fork of the Kaweah River as it flows from headwaters in Sequoia National Park. The road ends in a locked gate at the border with Sequoia National Park.
Rory Smith and I ventured up this narrow but passable road on January 5th, 2011 looking for image opportunities. Much of the terrain is either fenced off or signed with “No Parking” signs for a number of miles, the result of folks parking on the narrow road in summer to scamper down to the cool river pools below to swim. However, with the recent heavy storms, we found many spots where waterfalls came down narrow canyons amid the California Sycamores and oaks bordering the road. We were out early and frost still edged many plants and fallen leaves.
Some of these Sycamore leaves were gigantic, easily a foot or more across. Many of the north facing hillsides had deep shaded areas where rich green moss flourished on trees and rocks. The areas where water was trickling through also seemed to be collection points for what I can best identify as Hazelnuts, some going to root in the moist, cool soil of the streams.
One of the great difficulties of nature photography is to correctly identify the species we photograph. Whether it be lizards, birds, wildflowers, butterflies, shrubs, trees, mushrooms, insects, rocks, geologic formations, and pretty much anything else – identifying them is never easy. I have a library of 40 or more identification books as well as dozens of bookmarked websites that specialize in identifying the many subjects I listed. After having a wildflower image appear on the cover of a regional magazine in Utah – St George Magazine – years after publication I got an e-mail correcting my identification from just a Mariposa Lilly to a Benstem Mariposa Lilly…ahhh. I hate that.
We shot a lot of tighter macro images that chilly morning. The hillsides were already greening up and the promise of a lush spring was in the air. We didn’t shoot any dramatic landscapes, nor did we see much in the way of wildlife – but the oak covered hillsides and cool run-off pools and streams have a lot of promise, so I’ll be back.