Lunchtime Photo

California has had an excellent rainy season, and for the first time in years no part of the state is suffering a drought at the moment. This moment probably won’t last long, but while it’s here I’ve been celebrating by taking pictures of water and its relatives: wildflowers, green hills, surging creeks, and so forth. This week’s photos are dedicated entirely to California’s water bounty, starting yesterday with my pictures of our local poppy bloom. It continues today with this picture of Ortega Falls, rendered in the long-exposure silkiness that everyone loves:

March 18, 2019 — Cleveland National Forest, California

And now for the sad story that accompanies this. In last week’s superbloom post I mentioned that I had only seen the bloom accidentally: I was on Ortega Highway for a different reason and accidentally overshot my destination. Well, this was my destination.

I had driven out to Ortega Falls hoping that it would be nice looking what with all the water we now have. But I also chose it because the falls are only a short quarter-mile hike from the road. That sounded perfect.

And it turned out to be true: the hike was only a quarter of a mile. Unfortunately, it was a quarter mile almost literally straight up and down in places, something I didn’t quite realize until I had already gone too far. Normally, even for an old fogey like me, this would be an annoyance but not much more. Unfortunately, several years ago I lost a big chunk of my breathing capacity for reasons that remain a mystery to everyone. Then a few weeks ago I got a cold that settled into my chest, and I discovered that with my breathing already compromised chest congestion was a real killer. By last week, however, the chest congestion was nearly gone, I thought, and a quarter mile would be no big deal.

I was so, so wrong. On my way back up from the falls, I was pulling myself up about ten feet at a time before stopping for five minutes to catch my breath. Rinse and repeat. I finally made it back to the top, but I almost collapsed doing it. It took me five hours to fully recover, which is about 4½ hours longer than I’ve ever needed to recover from anything in my life. The combination of breathing problems, chemotherapy, and chest congestion was something I should have taken far more seriously.

And to make it worse, I only got one picture out of the deal. It’s an OK picture, but certainly not worth the effort it took.

TOMORROW: The green hills of Irvine.

We Recommend


Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.