April 23, 2011 Sequoia Spring Safari

It was sunny, then cloudy, then really in the clouds, then back to sunny for the afternoon.  I was amazed at the how much snow is still on the ground in Sequoia NP, in some places there were walls of snow ten feet high.  Locations that I photographed in the spring last year were still inaccessible, including the Giant Grove and the Marble fork of the Kaweah River where it crosses under the General’s Highway.

Snow-fed creek waterfalls on the Switchbacks.

With May just around the corner we can anticipate some amazing run-off waterfalls pouring down these granite mountains and filling the Kaweah River, and the Kings River in Kings Canyon NP as well.  Once on top in Sequoia we entered a layer of clouds that added   mist and fog to our drive and photos.  With most locations still covered in snow, we stopped and photographed the Sequoias in Grant’s Grove.  The giant trees rose through the swirling clouds out-of-sight, creating a surreal mix of light and shadows.

Grant's Grove of Sequoias in the clouds.

The temperatures had dropped into the mid 30’s and a breeze made the frigid humid air really bite.  These weren’t the landscapes I had anticipated, but photographer’s learn to turn the unanticipated into the unique.  So we worked our way around Grant’s Grove putting together images that combined composition with weather.  Probably my favorite image is this shot of a group of smaller pines receding away from the foreground and into the clouds.

Pines in the clouds of mist.

After an early lunch we headed back for the switchbacks and down to Three Rivers.  The sun was shining and it was warm – giving us a new look at the landscapes.   The Western Redbud trees were blooming, spring’s first wildflowers were out, and the mighty yucca’s (known locally as Our Lord’s Candle) that dotted the hillsides and grow along the highway were starting to bloom.  We stopped again and again to crawl through the flowers and photograph the landscapes.

Blooming Red Bud above the Kaweah River.

Our Lord's Candle Yucca

While these yucca’s can stand a dozen feet tall, this five foot yucca promises to have a dramatic white stalk when it blooms right next to the highway.  The spring bloom in Sequoia is a rush of color with many flowers, shrubs, and eventually trees (Dogwoods and Red bud) joining in.

Blooming Spider Lupine

After working our way down the switchbacks we headed out to Yokohl Valley, which begins about 16 miles south of Three Rivers, just off highway 198.  This has become a favorite shooting location of mine – initially for the landscapes of oak woodlands – but this year for the bobcats and birds I’ve been able to photograph along the fifteen or so miles before it crosses over a ridge into Spring Valley.  Giant Western Sycamore trees line Yokohl Creek, providing habitat for nesting owls and hawks, and the classic rolling oak woodlands of the valley provide habitat for the animals and birds they hunt.  While private ranch land and some houses fence off the land, there is much to see and photograph along the road.  We never saw any bobcats on this trip but took advantage of the wildflowers.

Rosy Fairy Lantern

In Sequoia we were photographing Bird’s eye gilia, golden brodiaea (Pretty Face), and others, as well as some California Ringlet butterflies – in Yokohl the species changed to Rosy Fairy Lanterns, Chinese Houses, Lacepod, Tomcat Clover, and Common Madia, among many others.  There was a veritable smorgasbord of colorful flowers with different textures and sizes.

So while the weather (and snow pack) was continuing on with it’s zany unpredictability, we photographed some unique misty landscapes of Sequoia National Park and the wildflowers of both Sequoia and Yokohl Valley.  It was a great day to be out in the field.  BRP

About brentrpaull

Professional Photographer
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