Winter

Snow tips: You can get some good snow pictures without 4x4 drive. The things to remember are:

  • Consider every shoulder to be too soft until you walk on it and check it out.
  • Never go down a steep hill that looks like you may have trouble coming back up.
  • Drive slowly! On the back roads, it's best to never go more than 5 mph. If a car comes up behind you, pull over and let them go by. This lets you look the country over to size up good shots.
  • Consumnes River Preserve and Sandhill Crane Preserve - The Consumnes River Preserve off Twin Cities Road, Staten Island Rd. and the Sandhill Crane Preserve on Woodbridge Rd. feature cranes, egrets and hawks in substantial numbers during the fall months. You may even be lucky enough to see some of the Sandhill cranes dancing. You'll do best if you have at least a 300mm lens. Visit these web pages www.cosumnes.org and www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/3/cranetour for more information.
  • Downtown Colfax with snow - This town is easy to get to and is photogenic after it has snowed. Shoot the downtown area and the railroad tracks just west of the train station.
  • Eagle Lakes Rd - This area off I80 is good for winter shots of the Yuba River, forest and mountains.
  • Gold Run to Alta - You should be able to cover all that country from Gold Run to Alta on the north side of I80 without a 4 wheel drive vehicle by using some care after a snow storm. Shoot the old hotel in Dutch Flat. If they have power, there is hot coffee at the grocery store. Turn off the interstate at Gold Run and go on the north side of the freeway. Cross the railroad tracks and follow the tracks to the Dutch Flat road. Turn left and cross the tracks again and go down into Dutch Flat. The Church, the old hotel, and all kinds of photogenic things are on that road. Get a map of the area and use it. Don't go down any of the steep roads to the power houses, the diggings, or anywhere you can not yell for help. Take the old highway on the south side of the freeway and go west from Gold Run to where that road crosses the railroad tracks. Park in the big clearing on the left and wait for a train to go under you and the bridge. Keep on that road all the way back to Colfax.
  • Golden Gate Raptor Observatory - The annual fall raptor migration has started. A trip over to the Marin Headlands is your best bet for capturing them with your camera. The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory's hawkwatch site is the place to go. Visit their web page at http://enature.com/outdoors/hawkwatch/hw_chart_02.asp for a chart showing the fall timeframes for the best viewing of 12 raptor species. Also visit the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory by clicking on the Hawk Hill Map link.
  • Valley Rice Fields - The rice fields north and east of Marysville attract thousands of Tundra Swans and Greater White-fronted Geese during the fall and winter months. Wander the back roads through the agricultural areas. The birds scare easily, so keep your distance and use a telephoto lens.

Spring

  • Bassi Waterfall - Bassi Falls is in El Dorado County up highway 50 in the Crystal Basin area. It is an all day adventure but spring is the time to go if you are interested. Information on how to travel to Bassi Falls can be found at www.waterfallswest.com/ca_bassi.html
  • Bear Valley Road - Bear Valley is sparsely populated ranching and oak woodland country in western Colusa County that is good for shooting spring wildflowers. Take Highway 20 west from Williams for about 15 miles. Bear Valley Road is a right turn. It's a dirt road that goes north through Bear Valley for at least 30 miles. There are several roads branching off, making it possible to loop back to Interstate 5 or Highway 20. A favorite is a narrow, mostly paved, road that turns right toward Leesville about 10 miles up Bear Valley Road. It loops back to Highway 20 about 5-8 miles west of Williams.
    Make sure you have plenty of gas, and bring your lunch and beverages. This area is on CSAA's Central California, Bay Area to lake Tahoe Map (Sectional Series). Find it at about B-4 coordinates.
  • Castle Valley - Mountain Wildflowers are in their prime during late spring and early summer. They present a sea of color in Castle Valley near Donner Summit. The area is heavily used by mountain bikers and hikers going into the Andrisite Ridge-Round Valley areas to visit the Peter Grubb hut. The secret to having it all to yourselves - Stay off the main road going into the valley and hike up Castle Creek below the road. Most users of the road look neither to the left nor right on their way to their goal. You may even get a bonus of getting some shots of the large California Mule Deer that summers in the area. This large deer species, not seen in our foothill area, spends the winter near Verdi, Nevada and the summers in the very highest mountains of the Sierra. You may also see Mountain Quail and Blue Grouse.
    Directions: Eastbound on I80 take the Boreal Ridge Ski Area off ramp. Turn left and go under the freeway and continue on straight up and to the right on a rough but passable mountain road suitable for high clearance vehicles. Almost any SUV should make it if driven very slowly. Drive in about 1/4 mile and park along this road. Hike down to the creek and find your way along the creek from one open meadow to another climbing in elevation until you wish to quit or run out of creek. Go left and uphill from the creek and back to the road. Hike down the road back to your car. Recommend you go early in the morning to finish by noon and take a little insect repellant.
  • Carrizo Plain National Monument - This area is in the hills between Atascadero on Highway 101 and Bakersfield. It lies just south of Highway 58 about an hour west of the I5 Buttonwillow exit. The south end of the plain is near Highway 166. Soda Lake runs down much of its center. On a good year, the plain is covered with wildflowers in early spring. The San Andreas fault runs along the east side of the plain and is accessible from at least one place. It's on CSAA's Sectional Series Coast and Valley, Bay Area to Southern California map. It's at about C-9 on the map. Information can be found at www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bakersfield/Programs/carrizo.html.
  • Donner Summit - This area is good for spring wildflowers starting several weeks after the snow has melted and lasting a month or two depending of the season's conditions. Although the trail to Summit Lake is a favorite for high country wildflowers, you can take just about any trail in the area.
  • Shanghi Falls - Shanghi Falls is on the Yuba River east of Yuba City. In South Yuba City from Garden Highway, you drive to the east end of Shanghai Bend Road and park at the levee. Cross to the east side of the levee and walk ten minutes south to Shanghai Falls You'll soon hear the falls.
  • Sierra Buttes - Check out the Sierra Buttes in May. There will still be some ice on Upper Salmon Lake, and there will be enough snow along the mountain tops to make good scenes. Check out Sand Pond for photos.
  • Sierra Valley - Conditions are perfect in the spring. There's lots of water and lots of wildlife. You'll find thousands of White-faced Ibis and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. You should also see Sandhill Cranes and maybe Golden Eagle, Willets and Cinnamon Teals.
  • Table Mountain - Table Mountain is ranch land north of Oroville and East of Highway 70. From northbound Highway 70 above Oroville, take exit 48 at Grand/Nelson Rd. Maps may be a little confusing. You want to turn east, or right, and drive for about a mile to find Cherokee Rd. It's either right across the intersection at the stop sign for Table Mountain Blvd or it's a left on Table Mountain Blvd for a short distance and then a right on Cherokee Rd. Go up to the plateau on top along Cherokee Road. This is ranch land. You'll see posted pastures on both sides of the Road for a while. When you see the signs change and note Dept of Fish and Game on the signs you know that the land has public access. Climb over, under, or through the wire.
    Further up on the left is a corner of the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. That's not fenced and is open for photographers. The road continues north and loops back to Highway 70 about 12 miles north of Oroville. Before it gets back to Highway 70, it crosses a covered bridge and later goes through the picturesque gold rush era settlement of Cherokee.
    Have lots of gas and bring your lunch. This is on CSAA's Sectional Series Northern California map at K-8, but is better seen on the other side of the map in the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area and Vicinity inset at the bottom of N-2.

Summer

  • Serene Lakes - This private resort includes 2 connected lakes that provide powerful reflections and colorful shots of boaters.
    Directions: Eastbound on I80 take the Soda Springs off ramp. Turn right and continue on following the signs to Norden and Serene Lakes. You'll take a right turn and cross the railroad tracks on your way up past the ski resort. Recommend you take insect repellant.

Fall

  • Consumnes River Preserve and Sandhill Crane Preserve - The Consumnes River Preserve off Twin Cities Road, Staten Island Rd. and the Sandhill Crane Preserve on Woodbridge Rd. feature cranes, egrets and hawks in substantial numbers during the fall months. You may even be lucky enough to see some of the Sandhill cranes dancing. You'll do best if you have at least a 300mm lens. Visit these web pages www.cosumnes.org and www.dfg.ca.gov/regions/3/cranetour for more information.
  • Fall Color - If you're interested in finding good fall color, visit Carol Leigh's Fall Color section of her Website at http://www.calphoto.com/fall.htm.
  • Golden Gate Raptor Observatory - The annual fall raptor migration has started. A trip over to the Marin Headlands is your best bet for capturing them with your camera. The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory's hawkwatch site is the place to go. Visit their web page at http://enature.com/outdoors/hawkwatch/hw_chart_02.asp for a chart showing the fall timeframes for the best viewing of 12 raptor species. Also visit the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory by clicking on the Hawk Hill Map link.
  • High Country of I80 - This area off I80 is good for photos of yellowing aspen/poplars. The colors vary by elevation. Some of the best color can be found at Cisco Grove and along the Truckee River as I80 winds down the mountains towards Nevada.
  • Nevada City and Grass Valley Fall Color - The Joint Chambers of Commerce of Nevada County put together a nice flyer that includes maps that show where you can find the best fall color in Nevada City and Grass Valley. Click here for a copy.
  • Valley Rice Fields - The rice fields north and east of Marysville attract thousands of Tundra Swans and Greater White-fronted Geese during the fall and winter months. Wander the back roads through the agricultural areas. The birds scare easily, so keep your distance and use a telephoto lens.

Any Time

  • Steam Powered Sawmill - The "old" steam powered sawmill over in the redwoods West of Sebastopol near Occidental is a museum with a recently replaced steam boiler. This is the only steam operated saw mill in the country. The boiler feeds some five different sized steam engines that drive the saws and equipment. All the equipment dates back to the late 1800's and very early 1900's. At the present time they have three steam ups per year. The museum may be open seven days a week but is only running the steam powered saws/equipment the three times per year due to fuel cost. It is set in deep shaded redwoods and everything looks just like it did eighty years ago. Dates for steam operation in 2007 were July 28-29 and Sept 29-30, all were Saturday & Sundays. Check out their website at www.sturgeonsmill.com. For more information email Harvey Hennigsen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..