John & Anne Wiley

2018/02/27

Island Colors

Santa Barbara is our favorite region to fly. Among the many reasons is the delicious set of Santa Barbara Channel Islands just a few minutes from SBA. March 29, 2017 we decided to fly out and see if they were still green from the Spring rains, and maybe even spot some wildflower blooms.

Every takeoff from SBA immediately greets the observer with 360 degrees of magnificent views, plus of course the view up into the blue (often with a garnish of a few clouds) and back downward for a new perspective on the familiar scenes below.

7529 Down to UCSB

7529 Down to UCSB

Views like this of the Campus Point part of UCSB are always beautiful, though on this day we were climbing at full power and thus already higher than usual above the foot and bike paths, surfers, SUPs, rolling waves and placid lagoon.

Soon we saw a giant pod of dolphins swimming and leaping toward the West across our path.

7745 1/3 Dolphin Frenzy

7745 1/3 Dolphin Frenzy

This is only about a third of the pod, cropped to give a sense of the size while also showing a tiny bit of detail. In the full-resolution pic you can see that many of them are under the water, while this pic shows mostly the ones breaking the surface. Wonder what the frenzy was about!

Our eyes were still darting to and fro taking in the wonders as we descended along the North shore of San Miguel Island, one of our two favorites among the four clustered off our coast (Anacapa is the other). I’m seduced by the flat striped West end that presented this angle when we turned back eastward along the South shore.

7784 East San Miguel Island

7784 West San Miguel Island

In this particular view I see a coyote leaping left about to gulp a big meal (the high tide islet formed by Point Bennett just offshore). Off in the distance beyond I snapped this zoom of stony Castle Rock across to the North.

7793 Sea Caves

7793 Sea Caves

There are lots of sea caves on the islands, and this little rocky companion boasts quite a collection. I presume they’re used by lots of wildlife. Dustings of white lead me to guess that plenty of birds hang out on the rocks between meals, or maybe longer to raise their families. Here’s a wide shot with Castle Rock at the top center, showing some of San Miguel’s colors that day.

7794 San Miguel Colors

7794 San Miguel Colors

I like how the variations in ocean color complement the shades of sand and life. Many of the grayish hues along the beaches are actually large groups of pinnipeds digesting their lunch in the warm sun. Here’s a closer look at the island colors, with a soft wash of purple, blue and yellow wildflowers.

7797 San Miguel Bloom

7797 San Miguel Bloom

Now a zoom of this little cove with its striated rocks, surging and receding waves, arroyo meanders, and dappled textures in greens, browns and blues.

7809 Tidal Cove

7809 Tidal Cove

A few leisurely minutes later we were looking back toward the Northwest at this glorious long view, already on our way East to the other islands.

7839 San Miguel to NW

7839 San Miguel to NW

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2018/02/26

Shadows of Color

Coming home from our 2017 mountain wildflower flight March 24th we saw Neverland. That former playground of Michael Jackson’s that had seemed drab when last we saw it, had burst into brilliant colors as if leaping from the shadows of memory.

7452 Train Time

7452 Train Time

I don’t know if the clock was accurate, but someone had clearly been working to keep it spiffy. Perhaps they were aided by the recent rain. Another floral name was also back in bloom, though seemingly less pampered out where colorful carnival rides had once cast their shadows and now is bare concrete.

7436 Missing Shadows

7436 Missing Shadows

The petting zoo now appears an Old West ghost town.

7402 Fantasy Town

7402 Fantasy Town

Mansions by the small lake while also quiet, seem especially well tended. Are they awaiting return of days gone by, or preparing for new dreamers?

7433 Leisure Life

7433 Leisure Life

Without pausing to ponder such questions we flew on past Nojoqui Falls, thrilled to see it gracefully spreading slender fingers of water again.

7475 Nojoqui Falls

7475 Nojoqui Falls

Winging through Gaviota Pass we greeted the ocean again where it met the colorful hills of last Spring at Hollister Ranch.

2414 Hollister Ranch

2414 Hollister Ranch

One last reminder of that rainy aftermath was Lake Los Carneros as we prepared to land back at SBA. The marsh beneath the footbridge was still mostly dry, but the lake did look less parched and bedraggled than in the exceptional drought of a few months earlier. Swimming above so much green erased brown to bring us briefly beyond the shadow of a drought.

2417 Lake Los Carneros

2417 Lake Los Carneros

2018/02/25

Fires & Flowers

As we face yet another long hot summer fire season with exceptionally dry rainy season, it’s sobering to continue my catch up process of posting here. March 20 saw us taking the short flight to Santa Paula again for more aircraft pampering. Along the way we enjoyed more views of flowers on the hillsides near Ventura.

7252 Lupine

7252 Lupine

That particular hillside was especially attractive, where lupine minged with other wildflowers and crags from a recent fire. It also offered safe terrain and winds to fly within a few hundred feet and catch zoom pix like these that highlight the flowers.

7244 Patchwork

7244 Patchwork

Somewhere out beyond Santa Paula there was a wildfire painting a pall of smoke hinting at the largest fire in CA history that would devastate this whole region in a few months.

7232 Smoky Omen

7232 Smoky Omen

Most of the hillsides were still green though, so the next day we decided to stretch our wings with a flight out across Santa Ynez Valley. The rock formations there never cease to fascinate.

2380 Wrinkled Rock

2380 Wrinkled Rock

Sedimentary layers open pages of geology going back countless millennia beyond our brief time in the sun. Other rocks stand guard above eroded meadows dotted with blooms.

7363 Stone Castle

7363 Stone Castle

More sandstone layers lead the eye down into Zaca Lake nestled in a crook of the hidden valley.

7376 Zaca Lake

7376 Zaca Lake

The poppies ran amok on Grass Mountain, where our long zoom caught this relaxing scene.

7395 Grass Mtn Poppies

7395 Grass Mtn Poppies

Though pale in comparison with prior flights in the Figueroa Mountain area, the brief intense rain of early 2017 had painted some scattered hillsides and meadows in the hues of various blossoms. They describe delicate intriguing shapes telling the story of subtle variations in soil chemistry and many other factors over time.

7351 Hue of a Moment

7351 Hue of a Moment

2018/02/21

Falls, Flowers & Green

After our lovely family visit in San Diego we took off March 15 flying out toward Ramona, and glimpsed this waterfall amid that arid landscape.

7067 Falls Pond

7067 Falls Pond

A little over 13 miles past Ramona was this winding rapids.

7076 White Water

7076 White Water

Then we passed near the little mountain town of Julian for our first aerial perspective of this popular area where we’ve sampled spectacular apple pies and pioneer ambiance.

7078 Julian

7078 Julian

In case you hadn’t already guessed, we were headed for Borrego to see if there was a wildflower bloom from the Spring rains.

7108 Desert Bloom

7108 Desert Bloom

While we did see many hints of color sprinkled around the valley, this was the most densely blooming little area. Places we’d seen more blooming in prior flights were bland that day. But the desert has many other charms year ’round.

7125 Austere Beauty

7125 Austere Beauty

Still, it was refreshing an hour or so later to see the green fields of home.

7222 More Mesa Green

7222 More Mesa Green

2018/02/20

Fun, Flowers, Family

March 10, 2017 we flew to Santa Paula so Tripp could visit her excellent mechanic (A&P/IA) Glenn Fuller for some TLC. Leaving SBA we enjoyed seeing so much water at Goleta Beach, with the creek outlet open wide (on the right side) rather than the typical solid line of sand there.

6678 Open Water

6678 Open Water

I’ve popped in this pic of the hills above Carp just because anyone who’s seen that area since December knows how tragically different it looks now.

6712 Carp B4 Thomas

6712 Carp B4 Thomas

Life was struggling to recover from a prior smaller fire even then, atop the hills near Ventura and that area looks quite different now too.

6726 Charcoal & Poppies

6726 Charcoal & Poppies

Sometimes military aircraft use SBA for practice, or just stop in for a refreshing break at one of our restaurants on a long flight. At the end of this flight we saw some USMC Harrier jets, but I didn’t get any good pix. Luckily when we joined the taxi line for another short flight the next day they were back and I caught this moment.

6775 Jets 4 John

6775 Jets 4 John

I really like how these jets seem to be posing just for me, knowing how much I was enjoying their synchronized show. 🙂

On the 14th we flew again! Rare for us to go so often, but this time it was to San Diego for a visit with family. Some really fun times with our new nephew especially, but also of course many aerial delights on the flight there including this look at beach bluff mansions.

7049 La Jolla Luxury

7049 La Jolla Luxury

A funicular like that down to a beach fort is rare in CA, and I’m curious how they managed to get it past the Coastal Commission. Maybe it’s associated with the university and/or marine research work there?

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