Monday, October 31, 2011

Horse Heaven

...or maybe rather horseback riders heaven....

Riding in Central Oregon

Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spend three days in my version of paradise, on the back of my horse!
I went up to Bend, in Central Oregon, to stay with my friend Kathy, and to hit the trails as long as our horses would carry us.
For all our trail rides we consulted:  Riding Central Oregon Horse Trails  by Kim McCarrel

The first day we rode along the Deschutes River, on the Lava Island Trail.

While this trail is swarmed by tourists and mosquitoes alike in summer, fall is the perfect time!

Great footing for the horses and a splendor of fall colors contrasting with the lava as well as with the green-blue river made this trail to one of my all time favorites.

The second day we had planned a longer and more strenuous ride, 13+ miles and over a 1000 feet elevation up to the Green Lakes plateau.

For a while we climbed up a rather steep single trail, but soon got rewarded by stunning views:

After crossing lots and lots of creeks,

a few plateaus and more climbing we finally reached Green Lakes:

The weather was not quite cooperating, overcast to a light drizzle, ideal material to play a bit with some filters...;-)

Here applied to South Sisters:

But nothing so serious, that it would keep me from shooting.

Taking photos while mounted on a horse is not the ideal starting point, getting down and back up every time one wants to take a picture is not really feasible either. So I apologize in advance if not all images are in the quality you would expect. This time capturing the spirit of a great time in the saddle was more important to me than the ultimate image quality.

After a short break, we left the Green Lakes area to start our descent, which seemed to be much faster than the way up...

The last day I pledged for a shorter ride, since my seat bones started to protest. But my request got simply denied. Luckily!

As long as the trail to Green Lakes, but no elevation, we started the Cultus Lake trail in the early afternoon. We did not plan to ride it all the way to the end, just two hours in and then back. We started off by letting the horses play a bit on the shallow shore of the lake.

After we passed our turning point, an old homestead shelter in Muskrat Lake,

we had so much fun, we decided to go just a little bit more, and more, and more...until we actually reached the end of the trail at Winopee Lake. We realized that we would have to do quite a bit of trotting on our way back, if we wanted to get back to the trailer in daylight.
But easier said than done, since the fun of this trail were the many obstacles we had to overcome:

But since our horses are real troopers, we made it back in time. After another quick stroll into Cultus Lake for a sip of cold water,

we loaded the horses in the last rays of yet another wonderful day spent in the saddle.

Thank you Kathy, Chyrise and Alyssa for showing Fin and me your gorgeous back country!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Conservation Tip

Back to the Roots...or seeds
 heirloom fruits and vegetables

Now, what exactly are heirloom fruits and vegetables?

"heir·loom  n.
1. A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.
2. An article of personal property included in an inherited estate.
3. A cultivar of a vegetable or fruit that is open-pollinated and is not grown widely for commercial purposes. An heirloom often exhibits a distinctive characteristic such as superior flavor or unusual coloration. [1]"

Superior flavor sounds good, doesn't it. So as I picked up a flyer on our trip to the Solar Living Institute back in August, advertising the :

National Heirloom Exposition
The World's Purest Food Fair

in Santa Rosa, I decided I had to check that out!

I was not disappointed, the fruits and vegetable and even livestock varieties were mindboggling.

And lovingly displayed:

I knew that heirloom tomatoes are having a come back,

but the diversity was just beyond words,

vegetables I had never even heard about before

and a refreshing assortment of NOT genetically modified corn!

One of my non vegetable favorites: The dark chocolate brown eggs from the Marans

But not only edibles were showcased, a lot of vendors with related topics had booths at the expo, from seed exchange and books, to garden tools and bee keeper supply and even:

So when you are getting ready to order your seeds for next spring, give some heirloom varieties a thought. If appropriate for you climate zone, you might be needing less fertilizer and pesticides and might yield a crop that is not only "superior in flavor" but will for sure envy your neighbor...;-)

Helpful links:

The National Heirloom Exposition

Peaceful Valley

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

Comstock, Ferre & Co.

See you next year at the

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Color

I can't believe it's fall again, Costco has Christmas Ornaments for sale since August, every grocery store sells big bags of candy for Halloween and turkey recipes adorn the front cover of every decent cooking magazine. And worst of all for us here in Half Moon Bay, the pumpkin traffic slows down every "over the hill" activity tremendously. Can you tell I'm not such a big fan of fall...;-)
What I really like though, are the fall colors.

As mentioned, in Half Moon Bay one color dominates all in October:

The "Pumpkin Color"....

a bit farther away, in Napa Valley it gets a bit more divers...

...where red wine leaves contrast with deep blue grapes and persimmons are abundant.

But for the real deal one needs to travel to Vermont, right?


On a recent trip to Bend, Central Oregon, I was taken away by the sheer beauty of the fall color display. I even overheard a lady telling her friend, that Oregon is right there next to Vermont in it's display of fall colors. Well, I have never been to Vermont, but I can't imagine how it can be any better than what I saw here:

Cultus Lake Aspens and a street scene in downtown Bend

I especially liked the display of fall colors along the Deschutes River, where the colors a beautifully contrasted by the deep black lava:

The scientist in me of course was curious why there is so much fall color in one place, while an other has only a bit. So I tried to research it a bit. I learned, that the red and yellow colors are in the leafs all year round, but are outnumbered by the vital Chlorophyll. As the days grow shorter the Chlorophyll dwindles and the "carotenoide" can take over. But in the Bay Area days grow shorter, too and except a tree here and there there is not much of fall foliage around.
Then I found the answer, needless to say, on Wikipedia:

" Anthocyanins
The reds, the purples, and their blended combinations that decorate autumn foliage come from another group of pigments in the cells called anthocyanins. Unlike the carotenoids, these pigments are not present in the leaf throughout the growing season, but are actively produced towards the end of summer. They develop in late summer in the sap of the cells of the leaf, and this development is the result of complex interactions of many influences — both inside and outside the plant. Their formation depends on the breakdown of sugars in the presence of bright light as the level of phosphate in the leaf is reduced.
During the summer growing season, phosphate is at a high level. It has a vital role in the breakdown of the sugars manufactured by chlorophyll. But in the fall, phosphate, along with the other chemicals and nutrients, moves out of the leaf into the stem of the plant. When this happens, the sugar-breakdown process changes, leading to the production of anthocyanin pigments. The brighter the light during this period, the greater the production of anthocyanins and the more brilliant the resulting color display. When the days of autumn are bright and cool, and the nights are chilly but not freezing, the brightest colorations usually develop.[1]"

Now that explains it, with all the fog, there is certainly no bright light here...;-)

A good enough reason for me to travel...

Aspen Grove

This is just one tree!

Thank you Kathy, for showing me all these beautiful places!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

World Wide Photo Walk

Last week I got an email, announcing the 4th annual World Wide Photo Walk, with 3 different locations in San Francisco. Not quite sure what that was about, I checked out the website and learned:

The annual World Wide Photo Walk, initiated by Scott Kelby from NAPP, is a "social photography event where photographers get together (usually in a downtown area or trendy section of town) to walk around, shoot photos, and generally have fun with other photographers."

Now, that sounded good and I signed up right away.

Of the three offered locations, the walk around the Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park, sounded the most promising to me. We were to meet at the entrance at 3:45 pm on Sunday afternoon.

Well, normally a short drive, it took about 2 hours to get there and find parking, since the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival took place in the Golden Gate Park at the same time and literally thousands of people were milling around, streets were closed and parking was hopeless...

But most of the photo walkers made it, more or less in time, and after a delayed start Catherine Hall, our photo leader, climbed up a short ladder and introduced herself and welcomed us warmly. Then we posed for a group photo, not an easy undertaking with about 50 photo walkers and were let loose, in groups, to explore and photograph the Tea Garden.

After the obligatory postcard photos were taken, everybody was on the lookout for something more special...

From the Tea Garden we moved on to the de Young Museum, where Catherine again climbed her ladder and gave some clever advise on architectural photography.

Although a San Francisco landmark, I can't really share the excitement about the building. Compared to the "old" museum, I find it rather ugly...

But with art all around, it's easy to find something more appealing, right? ;-)

After a short portrait session at the de Young museum, Catherine offered a more extensive demonstration of portrait lighting and most of the attendees were more than happy to pick up some tips and tricks from this accomplished portrait photographer. All too soon the sun was setting and the photo walk was coming to an end.

Even with a last glance towards the Golden Gate Bridge, unfortunately the fog was rolling in, the way home was much faster...