Posted by: kerryl29 | September 18, 2017

California Day 10: Redwood Journey

Most of Day 10 was to be spent traveling–from Lee Vining, back over the Sierras, through the Central Valley and up the Redwood Highway to the tiny town of Miranda, along the aptly named Avenue of the Giants.  But before leaving the Eastern Sierra I decided to photograph Convict Lake–about 45 minutes north of Lee Vining–at sunrise.  I scouted Convict Lake on Day 9, in harsh mid-day light; it looked like it would make a nice sunrise location, particularly if there were some clouds in the western sky and no wind.  Unfortunately, neither of those conditions were met on this morning; the sky (regardless of the direction) was entirely clear and there was enough of a wind to disturb the surface of this good-sized lake.

The lake, in case you’re interested, is named after an incident that took place more than 145 years ago involving a shootout involving represents of the law and several escaped convicts who had holed up near the lake.  Regardless of the name, the backdrop here–Mt. Morrison and Laurel Mountain, fronted by an aspen forest–is spectacular, so even though the conditions were less than ideal, I set up in the darkness and waited for the light of dawn.

Convict Lake at Dawn, Inyo National Forest, California

When the sun rose and caught the tops of the mountain peaks, I clicked the shutter again.

Convict Lake at Sunrise, Inyo National Forest, California

I pulled out the telephoto lens at some point to make a peak portrait or two.

Mt. Morrison at Sunrise from Convict Lake, Inyo National Forest, California

As the sun continued to light more of the slopes I moved to an area that allowed me to include a larger segment of the shallow water that’s sheltered by a series of rocks that form a kind of natural marina at the east end of the lake.  That water was much less disturbed, allowing for more interesting reflections.

Convict Lake at Sunrise, Inyo National Forest, California

Before long the best light was gone and I gathered my things and headed out.  I had a very long drive ahead of me–more than 500 miles, with only about 10% of that on interstate highway–so I anticipated more than 10 hours of driving.  Because of the length of the trip I stopped very few times, despite passing through numerous interesting locations.

I stopped briefly as I was headed south on US-395, along the West Walker River.

West Walker River Black & White, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, California

And I made one other short stop, hours later, at a spot in rural Colusa County in the Central Valley.  It was extremely hot–nearly 100 degrees (F), but I was intrigued by the scene, so I pulled off on the shoulder of the two-lane state highway and made a few images.

Open Range, Colusa County, California

Open Range Black & White, Colusa County, California

I arrived in Miranda at about 5:30 PM, checked into my lodgings and immediately made the 15-odd-minute drive north to a spot that provided access to two of the most interesting groves in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

I had spent time in the coastal redwood forests–several hours farther north–two years earlier.  But I never ventured this far south on that trip.

The Avenue of the Giants is a winding two-lane road that bends right through Humboldt County’s redwood groves.  In my limited amount of time in the area (I was only staying the one night) I turned my attention to the Founders Grove and the Rockefeller Grove, which are located no more than a mile away from one another.  It was a sunny early evening, but it was still very dark in the grove–given how low the sun was in the sky at this point and the breadth of the forest canopy.  It was also breezy, which was unfortunate.  I took a quick tour through the grove; it was beautiful, but given the slow shutter speeds I would be forced to use, I knew that I’d never be able to freeze any of the various objects swaying in the wind.  I decided to come back the following morning with the hope that conditions would be better.  And then I headed to the Rockefeller Grove.

For one reason or another, there was much less wind at this location, so I pulled out my photo gear–and my insect repellent, as the place was lousy with mosquitoes–and began a slow stroll along the grove’s loop trail.  There was still some sunshine bleeding through the canopy and creating some annoying hot spots, so I focused my attention in directions with minimal influence of sunlight until such time as the sun dropped entirely out of sight.

Rockefeller Loop Trail, Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

One thing that became apparent during my wanderings this evening–in both groves–was that the Humboldt redwood groves are thicker, with a greater concentration of redwood trees, than I had seen in the coastal groves to the north.  Perhaps because of this concentration, the canopy of these groves was thicker and more encompassing and thus there was less light on the forest floor.  This area also isn’t as moist as the coastal region.  As a result of both of these factors, the vegetation isn’t quite as thick at Humboldt.  And there’s no rhododendron to speak of.  On the other hand, the geometry of the trunks was arguably more pleasing.

Rockefeller Loop Trail, Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Redwood Trunk Intimate Black & White, Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

While it was nice to have the forest hot spots slowly disappear as the sun dropped, it also became extremely dark, causing my shutter speeds to grow longer and longer.  There wasn’t much breeze but there was some, so I spent a lot of time waiting for lulls in an occasionally frustrating attempt to keep everything sharp.

Rockefeller Loop Trail, Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Somewhere around the middle of the loop I found the thickest area of ferns that I had spotted in the grove to that point.

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

This area really stood out because most of the forest floor in the grove looked a lot like that in the images immediately below.

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Eventually I found a nice “circle” of trunks and utilized the spot to make a looking-up photograph.

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Before it became completely dark I produced a final series of images on the backside of the loop which really captured the feel of this grove for me.

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Rockefeller Loop Trail, Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

Rockefeller Grove, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California

By the time I was done with this series, it was almost impossible to see in the grove.  I found my way out to the parking area in the dark and drove back to my lodging.  I was looking forward to returning to the beauty of the Founders Grove–and possibly the Rockefeller Grove–first thing the following morning.



  1. I wandered around the Humboldt grove, but couldn’t find Rockefeller Grove when I was in the area! Glad to see in your pictures it exists.

    • The Rockefeller Grove is on the west side of the Eel River (the Founders Grove is on the east side, less than two driving miles away), just a bit south of Dyerville. Even if you find the road that runs west from US-101 (variously named Mattole Road or Bull Creek Flats Road), it’s very easy to miss the turnoff to the Rockefeller Grove (which is a hidden drive, on the south side of the road).

      This link provides a written description and a map.

      • Thanks so much! There’s always a next time for the Redwoods, I’ll bookmark this for then.

        • If you head back to redwood country, I’d strongly recommend checking out the coastal groves a couple of hours to the north of Humboldt Redwoods…particularly if you’re in the area during the rhododendron bloom (roughly mid-May to mid-June): Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park and–my personal favorite–Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The groves in these parks provide a different experience than that of the Humboldt groves, as I will detail in future posts.

        • Yes! I made it out to Stout Grove in Jedediah and the Tall Trees trail was spectacular as well. Such a magical little area on earth, looking forward to reading your accounts.

  2. I love the redwoods…and the “Open Range…” photo, too – I love that look of pale, mounded hills dotted with trees. Thanks for the information about where to find the Rockefeller Grove, looking forward to hearing about the different redwood areas. One of these days we’ll get down that way.

    • Thanks very much!

      The light for the “Open Range” image wasn’t the best, but I really liked the setting. Maybe some day I’ll have the opportunity to focus my attention on those scenes in California and optimize the light for them…

      I do hope you get the chance to visit the redwoods at some point; it’s something of a spiritual experience to walk into these groves (especially if there’s early morning fog to add to the ambiance).

  3. Wow, those Redwoods are amazing. I’d love to visit America and see them one day to get some photos of my own. 🙂

    • Thanks very much. I really hope you have the opportunity to see them in person.

  4. […] be even light in the forest, at least until the sun burned off the mist.  As had been the case on Day 10, there was some wind present when I arrived at the Founders Grove, but it was lighter than it had […]

  5. […] It was overcast in the morning, with a bit of fog, when I hit the trail.  Even better, it was essentially windless–a virtual necessity for obtaining image sharpness given how dark it is in the forest.  (Consider my experience at the Founders Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park a couple of days earlier.) […]

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