When you are planning a trip to a remote area where there is no food, water, or gas available less than an hour away, preparation is important.

Here are some things you should do:

  • Check your car’s tires and be sure they are ready for the mountain roads.
  • Pack more food than you think you will need.
  • Make sure you have enough batteries, memory cards, and cleaning supplies for your cameras and lenses.

Here’s something you should NOT do:

  • Two days before leaving, take a nasty fall, scrub the skin off your hands, and crack a rib.

I did all these things. The fall was not on my list, but happened nonetheless and had to be dealt with.

My latest adventure was to the Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park. The idea was to get away from the 24/7 buzz of LA and photograph wildlife. I stayed in the bustling metropolis of Badger, California…population 140…and it was truly about as different from Los Angeles as you can imagine. The days are bright as diamonds and the air smells like blossoms. The nights are cavern black and silent as sleep. It’s intoxicating.

The first morning there I woke up (well before sunrise) to a choir of wild turkeys singing love songs. There were maybe 30 of them, mostly hens, who were busy searching for food, and a handful of males busy searching for hens. Every time a hen would wander close to one of the boys he would puff up to 3 times his size and strut about, stiff as a Buckingham Palace guard. It was quite a spectacle.

The evening of that same day I was prowling the woods looking for owls, and I heard a strange sound behind me. I turned around to see a turkey flying out of the forest directly at me. I don’t think she saw me, and she was coming fast! I got off one fuzzy out of focus shot before I literally had to duck out of the way, and she flew almost directly over me. There’s a headline for you: “Photographer decapitated by turkey”.

In Kings Canyon I hiked through the snow among 300 foot tall Giant Sequoia trees, so big I could barely fit them into the frame even with my magic 14mm lens. If you have never seen them you must go before you die. A massive living thing that has survived for 3000 years is worth seeing at least once, you really can’t grasp their scale until you stand in the shadow of one and wonder how it can exist.

There weren’t a lot of animals to be found, might be the time of year. I had hoped to photograph a black bear (I hope Amy isn’t reading this, she worries about me) but it was still nap time for most of them – the LONG nap.

The highlight of the trip came for me the evening before I left. I had been out at dusk every day looking for the owls I heard calling in the forest, but three days of searching had been fruitless. And then I found him, a beautiful Great Horned Owl.

The sun was minutes away from sinking behind the mountain and dropping a curtain of black velvet over the entire valley. But my friend had chosen a branch that was getting the absolute last pool of sunlight to be found, and he sat there just long enough for me to photograph him before he vanished like a ghost into the darkness.

3 Replies to “Ghosts in the Forest”

  1. Ouch, cracked ribs hurt like the dickens. Beautiful photos as always. That turkey is magnificent!

  2. I’m glad to hear you were still able to make and enjoy the trip even with all that happened just days before. Ouch! I’ve always loved wild turkey, and have a number of blurry photos of them when they suddenly surfaced and I wasn’t prepared. And I love how the fading sun lit up the great horned owl’s eyes, they really stand out. Seeing one of them is always a great experience. I remember one year when a pair decided to take an eagle’s nest before the eagles returned. It was fantastic seeing the young owlets after they left the nest. But now the eagles have taken back over the nest, so I haven’t seen any great horned owl’s in a while.

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