Posts filed under ‘Hiking’

Hiking in the New Year

I’m not “ringing” in the New Year, I’m “hiking” it in! Getting out and tramping around is how I get inspired to paint.

After abundant winter rains, southern California greened up. This is as green as it gets!

Cheseboro Canyon Cheseboro Canyon after the rains.

Yeah, it’s still pretty brown out there. That’s why I like to spice up the colors a little in my paintings. (Maybe more than “a little.”)

"A Touch of Sun" painting by Barbara J Carter “A Touch of Sun” by Barbara J Carter, acrylic on canvas, 11×14 inches

If you missed seeing my art in 2012, fret not. I’m planning to get out and exhibit more in 2013. Being on my mailing list is the best way to get reminders about my shows. Click here to join, and I’ll see you at my next show!

January 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

Some spring wildflowers

Here are some wildflowers I’ve encountered while hiking here in southern California. These photos were all taken in Aliso Canyon in Santa Barbara.

The season for any given wildflower is brief, but there’s almost always something in bloom, so it’s always worthwhile to get out and take a look. Of course, the spring is especially spectacular with many different flowers blooming at the same time. This spring was particularly good because of the extra rain we got last winter.

Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii)

The Shooting Stars look like something out of a fairy tale. The larger drifts are utter magic.

California Peony (Paeonia californica)

We didn’t see many of these lovely deep red, downward-facing flowers on the trail, but the few we did see were striking. They remind me a little of Hellebores, but the plant is much taller and the flower a deeper color, the petals shading from dark red to almost-black. Leave a comment if you know what this mystery flower is! With help from friends on Twitter, we successfully identified this plant as the California Peony. Isn’t it a beauty?

California Poppies (gold), Lupines (blue), and Blue Dicks (purple)

One of the biggest treats when out hiking is seeing flowers growing in combinations you might never have thought of. Mixing Lupines and Blue Dicks? Why not? Throw in some California Poppies for contrast and you’ve got a winning combination!

April 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

The Wildflowers of Wind Wolves Preserve

Last weekend I went for a walk through a bodacious field of wildflowers. A really big field, several miles long. An entire valley, actually.

It was the main hiking trail of the Wind Wolves Preserve. Although the preserve is several years old, the hiking trail only opened to the public last year.

It is a real treasure.

It’s also a bit of a trek just to get there. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. (In reality it’s in the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley, only a couple hours’ drive north of Los Angeles. But it feels like the middle of nowhere.)

Anyway, the main reason we went was for the wildflowers. We’ve had a pretty rainy winter here in southern California, and that usually means spectacular wildflowers in the spring. We’d heard the flowers were starting to bloom at Wind Wolves right now, so that’s where we went.

Were there wildflowers? Oh, yes!

Fiddlenecks

Blue Dicks and white flowers

Calfornia poppies

When we drove in, we were greeted by a friendly ranger who gave us a high-quality map and half-jokingly requested that we not do a Sound of Music-style  “Julie Andrews” through the meadows. There really was a temptation to run with abandon through the knee-high flowers. And maybe even to sing. But we were good and stayed on the path. And didn’t sing. Much to the other hikers’ relief, I’m sure.

March 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

One Angry Rattlesnake

I’ve been hiking in southern California for a couple of years now. Recently I met up for the first time with one of our most notorious forms of wildlife: a rattlesnake. One very angry rattlesnake.

Matilija Canyon Ranch sign

My gentleman friend and I went hiking one sunny afternoon in Matilija Canyon Ranch, a secluded little canyon not far from Ojai, California. As usual, I took along my digital camera to take pictures for my paintings.

The Matilija Canyon hike started out on a dirt road but soon turned into a small narrow trail. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike, which crossed the stream several times. Usually I’m not too keen on stream crossings, but this stream had lots of boulders making the crossings quite easy and even kind of fun. Considering we’re in a drought, the stream had quite a lot of water. Here’s a view upstream that I shot while standing on some boulders halfway across:

Matilija Canyon Stream

Being a trail in a canyon, it’s a there-and-back kind of hike rather than a loop. So after a while we decided we’d gone far enough and turned back. We met the rattlesnake on the return leg.

We were on a particularly narrow part of the trail, where the canyon is very narrow and steep-sided. The path was hugging the left wall of the canyon, the stream some distance down to our right. My gentleman friend was in the lead on that stretch.

A sudden violent hiss erupted from the underbrush to our right, and we both instinctively leaped away from it. I shouted “rattlesnake!” as I scrambled backwards on the path. My companion leaped forwards. That left the unseen rattlesnake somewhere between us, hidden in the underbrush next to the path. Great.

I’ve seen rattlers on TV before, and I’ve seen them snoozing quietly behind glass at the zoo, but I had never experienced a live, angry rattlesnake doing its thing before. As it turns out, it’s not so much a “ch,ch,ch,ch” kind of sound like you make with a baby rattle, but rather a continuous “SSSSSSSSHHHHHHH.” It’s LOUD. And it just goes on and on and on without a break.

I’ve read the books. You know, the ones that say “the snake is more afraid of you than you are of it” and “if you leave it alone it’ll just go away” and “rattlesnakes only strike if they are cornered.” Right. Well, apparently this snake hadn’t read the books. It was pissed off and it wasn’t going to move!

We of course backed away from it. A long ways. We each had to retreat a good 30 feet away before the snake stopped its rattling. Then we assessed our options. My companion was safely away from the snake, but I had to somehow make my way past it to get out of the canyon. The canyon was too steep to consider leaving the trail to go around the snake. My only way out was on the path, past the snake. And that snake didn’t want me anywhere near it.

We waited a while so the snake could calm down and, we hoped, just go away, but it wasn’t having it. It was apparently in no mood to “just go away.” As soon as I got closer than 20 feet it started rattling again. I backed away again until the angry sound subsided.

We waited a while, then once again cautiously ventured closer, but the snake was still there and still very pissed, and it started its rattling again. We backed off.

I realized that the only way I was going to get out of there was to make a run for it. Scariest decision of my life. I edged closer to the snake until it started rattling again, then made a dash for it, all the while expecting it to strike at me as I passed.

It didn’t, and I got past it safely. In fact, I never did see the snake. But boy did I hear it!

June 26, 2009 at 11:33 am 4 comments

Ambling in Ojai

Over the holiday weekend, my gentleman friend and I took some lovely dayhikes (ambles, really) in the beautiful Ojai Valley (Ojai, California).

Ojai Meadows Preserve

We take these hikes for two reasons. One is for the sheer enjoyment of the beautiful weather, varied landscape, and physical recreation that California offers. Hey, we pay ridiculously high property taxes for the privilege of living here. We’re determined to get our money’s worth!

The other reason is to give me reference material for my neo-Pointillist landscape paintings. I keep my digital camera in my back pocket on our hikes, and I’m constantly whipping it out and snapping a few shots. I take lots and lots of photos, the vast majority of which are useless. Fortunately, a select few turn out to be useful, enabling the creation of future paintings.

So last weekend we ambled about in the Ojai Meadow Preserve. The walking was very easy, except for a couple of deep ditches we felt we needed to cross (bridges or steps would have been nice). But other than that, the path was quite easy to follow and mostly very level, and the views of grassy meadows and stands of eucalyptus trees and oaks (non-native and native, respectively) were outstanding.

We encountered some wildlife. I wasn’t fast enough on the trigger to photo the jaw-dropping aerobatics of a brilliant iridescent-blue mountain bluebird because I was so busy being amazed. They hover! Like a hummingbird, but bigger! The bird swooped over the grassy field, then hovered in a single spot a few feet over the grass. With each wingbeat, the bird’s body shifted forward and back slightly, but its head stayed perfectly still. The sun flashed on its blue feathers and the spectacle was simply incredible. As if that weren’t enough, it did it a couple of times right in front of us. I guess to make sure we really got an eyeful.

King Snake

I did manage to snap this shot of a California king snake just as it started to slither down its hole. I spotted the snake from only a few feet away, and barely stopped before I stepped on it. It was lying perfectly still and straight, about 30 inches long or so. In spite of its stripes it was surprisingly well camouflaged. We watched it for a few minutes to see what it would do but it stayed perfectly still, just occasionally flicking its tongue out. I finally decided to take its picture, and at that moment it casually started down a tiny hole that didn’t look big enough to hold it. We watched it disappear completely into the hole.

Ojai Meadows Preserve 2

I highly recommend checking out the Ojai Meadow Preserve if you find yourself in Ojai and in need of some quiet ambling time.

May 26, 2009 at 3:40 pm 2 comments

Snake Encounter

Last weekend I went hiking in Malibu and met a large, angry snake.

Charmlee Park, Malibu, CA

Charmlee Park, Malibu, CA

Charmlee Park charmed me right away. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about this place. It’s gorgeous! And we had it all to ourselves!

Once you get past the nice big parking lot, the abundant and well-placed picnic tables, and the clean bathrooms with running water and flush toilets, and make your way past the hill with the old foundation, the park opens up into a broad scrubby field overlooking the Malibu coast. Clear, level dirt paths lead hither and yon, allowing a casual meander through the park without fear of getting lost.

We arrived in the late afternoon. This is the perfect time for me to snap photos that I can later use for my paintings. The day had been very clear, so the light was superb. The sun was low in the sky and casting lovely long shadows.

While ambling about, my friend and I encountered all sorts of wildlife. There were more lizards than we could count, scurrying on the dirt path almost under our feet. Birds flitted about in the brush. Two groups of coyotes briefly serenaded us from the nearby hills. But by far the most exciting encounter was the snake.

Charmlee Park path

Charmlee Park path

Casually ambling down the dirt path, I was out in front, chatting with my friend behind me. There was a sudden thrashing sound from the brush to my right and a loud hissing sound. I leaped sideways, then froze, peering into the brush to spot the source of the hissing. “Rattlesnake!” yelled my friend. My heart started pounding. Then I spotted it, a large dark snake about as big around as my wrist, coiled up in the grass aimed toward my friend and my dog behind me. It was only a few feet from me, but it had clearly fixated on them instead.

We all remained perfectly still, outside of its strike range. My friend picked up my dog, who is blind and might easily bumble into trouble. The hissing quickly subsided but the snake remained in ready-to-strike position. I watched it slowly flick its tongue in and out.

I realized that it was not a rattlesnake. It had hissed at us, not rattled its tail. Also it was a uniform smooth dark color with no stripes or patterns. Its head was the same size as its neck, instead of the rattler’s distinctive wide cheeks.

We waited a few minutes, but the snake remained coiled. Clearly it was not going to quietly retreat. We needed to get my friend and my dog past it somehow. Finally my friend, still carrying my dog, carefully skirted through the brush on the opposite side of the path to bypass the snake. I kept a close eye on the reptile during this maneuver. The snake never changed position. We gratefully beat a cautious retreat.

We decided that the snake had probably been more worried about my dog than us. A dog is similar to a coyote, which may be the snake’s predator. Once the dog was picked up, the snake no longer had a target. It hadn’t paid any attention to me even though I was much closer to it, and it hadn’t tracked my friend’s progress skirting around it.

When we returned home, we looked up common southern California snakes to figure out what it was. We finally settled on the Western Yellow-Bellied Racer, but not before a great deal of confusion. These snakes come in a lot of different colors, and the pictures we found were of much lighter-colored snakes than what we’d seen. For a while we were thrown off by that, but eventually we found a picture online that looked a lot like our friend:

Western Yellow-Bellied Racer

Western Yellow-Bellied Racer

This is almost exactly how the snake looked from my vantage point. The information we found says they don’t get much longer than 3 feet, but I thought it was bigger than that.

Yellow-Bellied Racers are nonvenomous, but they are prone to bite if irritated. I’d say the one we saw was pretty irritated. We were happy to get past it without any harm done on either side.

August 27, 2008 at 2:31 pm 1 comment


Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

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Follow me on Twitter: @barbarajcarter

Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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