Monsoonal Moods at the Laguna Crest

Southern California’s summer is taking a toll on the photographic opportunities, as the days with a deep and dense marine layer are essentially gone, heat makes hiking on inland trails unpleasant, wildflowers disappear, and the vegetation takes on its unique combination of dry beige/rust/brown mixed with the green, deeper now than in spring, of our evergreen chaparral shrubs. With the marine stratus from the west receding however, monsoonal moisture from the east begins to make an appearance more often, and typically for the season, dramatic thunderheads are towering over the mountain and desert regions of San Diego County, most often in the afternoons.

The weather forecast for Monday seemed particularly favorable for these conditions. I met my friend Peter at Pinyon Point in the Laguna Mountains. When we arrived mid afternoon, it was raining and the temperature was at a very pleasant 18°C/64°F. Over the course of the afternoon and towards sunset we made photos at Pinyon Point, hiked to Garnet Peak together, and ended the day at Kwaaymii Point.

Here are the photos – scroll down for more on a small screen device, or click on an image to open it larger in the slideshow view if you’re on a desktop or laptop. Some more text follows below the gallery.

We didn’t get as many clouds as I had hoped in the afternoon but had a good time, nevertheless – I don’t think the Laguna Mountains can ever disappoint me…. except for my photos of the Pinyon Pines at Pinyon Point – I seem to be unable to really get what I see in it in a photo, and to this day, the most “successful” image remains the one that I made last year.

When we hiked to Garnet Peak the sun was coming out and it immediately got a little bit warmer, but it was the moisture combined with the sunlight that made the hike a pretty sweaty endeavor. There was almost no wind at the peak proper (it’s very windy there fairly often) and a ton of really annoying flies formed little clouds around our heads, landed on the exposed parts of our sweaty skin – and died an instant death there from salt shock. Yuck! But, staying just a little bit below the highest rocks, we managed to avoid them for the most part, as we carefully moved around the peak’s bare rock for all the different views one can take in from there.

To my surprise, there are still some flowers along the Garnet Peak trail – I never really hiked there in summer before! I managed to identify Common Sandaster, Bristly Bird’s Beak, two different kinds of Monardella, and there were others which I haven’t identified yet.

Since we didn’t want to hike the Garnet Peak trail back down in the dark (I forgot to bring my headlamp) we continued to Kwaaymii Point for sunset. It isn’t that great a viewpoint and the clouds had further dispersed, leaving only a dense haze lingering over the desert beyond – I wasn’t too compelled to make photos after the sweeping views from Garnet Peak and just enjoyed the sunset (for what it’s worth, I think a photo of a sunset NEVER gets anywhere close to the real thing;-).

A relatively thin band of a cloud formed a 180° arch from north to south above us – it was really unusual and beautiful. And absolutely impossible to photograph adequately. Sometimes, it’s better to just enjoy these moments and put the camera away – even with the widest wide angle lens or a panorama, a photo would never convey the depth and size for the same impression that we got with our own eyes.

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