Steps to Prepare for a Photo Adventure

Yes, I have a day job.  I work for a corporation.  It pays the bills and lets me spend the rest of my time concentrating on my personal photography and teaching.  Chase the Light Photography Adventures is my business and my passion.  I spend most weekends traveling to locations near my home in Durango, Colorado.  I love to travel to Utah in the Fall and Spring, and then to the mountains of Colorado during the snowmelt, photographing waterfalls.  Summers find me in the high country photographing Colorado Wildflowers and backpacking with friends.  And once or twice a year I head a bit further out into our beautiful world. Last year: Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion and Capitol Reef,  this year: California and the Big Trees!


Since reading the book “Wild Trees” by Richard Preston, I’ve been excited to go and see those great Coastal Redwoods of Northern California.  I leave this week for a road trip from Durango to Klamath, California.

One possible route for the Tree Adventure Tour.  Durango to the Redwoods.

One possible route for the Tree Adventure Tour. Durango to the Redwoods.

Maybe someone else could do this drive in 23 hours, but, just driving 60 miles up to Silverton takes four hours if I’ve got cameras with me!  I’m giving myself 3.5 days to get to Klamath.

Here’s how I prepare for a big trip.

  1. Get inspired.
  2. Research the best time to photograph the trees, the rhododendron bloom, look at photos and see if the metadata shows the date of exposure.  Add the information to my travel notebook using a sweet app called Evernote.
  3. Commit to the amount of time it will take to do the road trip and the time to visit the forests
  4. Worry about the expenses
  5. Take the time off from “da man”
  6. Decide on camera gear: choices: Large, medium and dslr
  7. Clean the sensors of the DSLRs
  8. Get a few more SD and CF cards
  9. Upload more information and research to Evernote.
  10. Worry about the expenses
  11. Decide not to go.
  12. Make reservations in campgrounds and other accommodations
  13. Pay the deposits, so then I’m committed to go.
  14. Google the routes, google info about the big trees, research what not to miss while in Northern California, add to Kits Travel and Adventure Notebook
  15. Get the gear ready, tripods, battery chargers, iPod music,
  16. Check up on the car, oil change, wipers are dry as hell, so replace them, have the new stereo installed 🙂
  17. Bike or no Bike decision.
  18. Fix the car up for camping.  Keep it simple.  Oh sure…
  19. Update blog post
  20. Pack the cooler, dry goods
  21. Get it the car, stop worrying, have a great time, see the world.  Sing.

Why go

As the planning progressed for this trip I began to look at WHY it’s important to me to see these trees.  I decided that I’ve been chasing trees my whole life, from the General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Monument in 1974, to visiting my favorite fall trees at Round Valley Reservoir in New Jersey, to chasing golden aspens each fall.  I plan to see what is believed to be the largest organism in the world, the Pando Clone , 106 acres of a single organism of  aspen in a forest in Utah, Methuselah, Prometheus, and other Ancient Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park and the Eastern Sierras, Coastal Redwoods, Hyperion, and the Lost Monarch in Northern California, and the big trees in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.  And how bout that December 2012 issue of National Geographic with the scientists in the President tree in Sequoia.  Very timely info.

Sequoia National Park

The park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, one of the largest trees on Earth. The General Sherman tree grows in the Giant Forest, which contains five out of the ten largest trees in the world. The Giant Forest is connected by the Generals Highway to Kings Canyon National Park’s General Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree among other giant sequoias. The park’s giant sequoia forests are part of 202,430 acres (81,921 ha) of old-growth forests shared by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.Indeed, the parks preserve a landscape that still resembles the southern Sierra Nevada before Euro-American settlement.

Redwoods National Park

Comprising Redwood National Park (established 1968) and California’s Del Norte CoastJedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 133,000 acres. Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is home to Atlas Grove, an area researched and described by Stephen C. Sillett. Atlas
Grove includes Iluvatar, the 3rd largest Coast Redwood. The location of Atlas Grove’s Iluvatar is undisclosed to the public in order to protect its sensitive ecosystem. Other notable trees, open to visitors, are Big Tree, Corkscrew Redwood and the Cathedral Trees. Besides Coast Redwood, other tall coniferous tree species in the park’s forests include Coast Douglas fir, Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock.

Many redwoods in the park have reached 300 feet tall. Some, like Godwood Creek Giant and Gemini, are over 340 feet high.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

The Methuselah Grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is the location of the “Methuselah“, a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine more than 4,750 years old. This is 1,000 years older than any other tree in the world. “Methuselah” is not marked in the forest, to ensure added protection from vandals.  On September 4, 2008, an arsonist set fire to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center and several bristlecone pines. The building and all the exhibits within were destroyed. Activities to rebuild the center began the next day.

Great Basin National Park

The park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest known non-clonal organisms; and for the Lehman Caves at the base of 13,063-foot  Wheeler Peak. President Warren G. Harding created Lehman Caves National Monument by presidential proclamation on January 24, 1922. It was incorporated into the national park on October 27, 1986.

General Grant Tree, a giant sequoia, in 1936. Giant sequoias occur naturally in only one place on Earth—the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, on moist, unglaciated ridges and valleys[8] at an altitude of 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,524 to 2,438 m) above mean sea level.

General Grant Tree, a giant sequoia, in 1936. Giant sequoias occur naturally in only one place on Earth—the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, on moist, unglaciated ridges and valleys[8] at an altitude of 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,524 to 2,438 m) above mean sea level.

One of my missions in California is to explore and possible see the largest Coastal Redwood trees found in the forest, as well as the Grove of Titans, The Atlas Grove and the Hyperion Tree.  No hiking trail info, just exploration and online research.  And I plan to keep up the tradition of not revealing their locations. Gotta love it.  It fills my heart to plan to see trees that were so important to save from the chainsaw, that people were willing to spend their lives, to lose their lives to protect them.  So much to do, so little time.  Oh, I forgot, this is just the first look, the scouting trip, if you will.  I’ll be back.

As of 2010, the list of the tallest coastal redwoods.  All are over 367 feet.

As of 2010, the list of the tallest coastal redwoods. All are over 367 feet.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 10.59.45 AM

More information

Here’s a few links to big trees and stories about them.

Preston, Richard (2007). The Wild Trees: A Story Of Passion And Daring. Allen Lane Publishers. page 82.

3 thoughts on “Steps to Prepare for a Photo Adventure

  1. Tree species, Coast Redwood. Located in Redwood National Park. California, U.S., where its height, measured from the tip to the ground at 115.61 meters and a diameter at the base to 4.63 meters with evaluating the age of a tree that is about 700 years, and today is considered a high specification. Dorian Hiperion the tallest tree in the world has been discovered.

  2. Hi Kit, What a very helpful and informative information. I know all of these parks very well and envy your trip. I love the redwoods. The light filtering through the groves and the peace you feel while in this forest. I know you will come back with spectacular photos.

    Have a safe and fruitful journey.



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