A VERY scenic photography trip to VASQUEZ ROCKS…with snow in the background! (picture blog)

This is going to be a different kind of blog, and admittedly a wee bit self-indulgent. If you just come for the fan films and streaming Trek reviews, feel free to skip this blog…although a few fan films have, in fact, been filmed at the iconic VASQUEZ ROCKS—a frequent outdoor shooting location for numerous Star Trek episodes and movies.

Some of you might know that I’m a bit of a photography buff. In the springtime here in southern California, I’ll often drive hundreds of miles to the middle of nowhere to spend my day capturing amazing wildflower vistas on film, leaving home before dawn and returning long after dark. They say that one of the secrets of great nature photography is being in the right place at the right time. And if you’re not in the right place, the timing won’t matter.

That said, you may have seen on the news that the weather here in the Los Angeles area has been a bit ridiculous lately—and I don’t want to make light of it. People living in the mountain communities north of San Bernardino are literally trapped in their homes under 10-15 FEET of snow, with local stores and gas stations empty and closed because delivery trucks can’t make the trip up the winding roads to towns like Running Springs and Big Bear. A state of emergency has been declared, and the national guard has been called in to help.

On the other hand, this much snow in southern California is a once-in-a-generation rarity, and while I literally can’t do anything to help those poor people living above 6,000 feet elevation (I can’t even get up there under current road conditions), I nevertheless wanted to record this event on film in some way—not the emergency, per se, but the beauty and rarity.

A few days ago, a friend e-mailed the chat list of a local Star Trek fan club that I belong to. The group is planning a trip to Vasquez Rocks on Saturday day (sadly, I’ll be in San Diego that day at a robotics tournament for my son and won’t be able to join them), and this member reported that there was snow in the adjacent town of Agua Dulce, and the park might be closed on Sunday.

I imagined those amazing diagonal rocks covered in the white stuff and decided I had to go see for myself1 Of course, this would need to happen between the time I drop off Jayden at school at 8:15am and pick him up at 3:15pm. But since the park is only a hour’s drive away (mostly on freeways), that seemed doable.

The first clear day without rain or heavy wind was Thursday, and so I called up my buddy (and associate producer of my fan film INTERLUDE) David to see if he wanted to play hooky with me, and away we went.

Sadly, there wasn’t snow on the rocks themselves, and I doubt there had been (the altitude is likely too low for any snow to stick or accumulate). On the other hand, the surrounding San Gabriel mountain range was covered in beautiful snow, something you seldom see.

Most photos of Vasquez Rocks are typically taken from south of the formations looking northward, the same view you saw when Kirk fought the Gorn back in 1967. But the snow on the mountains was all in the opposite direction…you’d have to turn your camera away from the nice rocks to take photos of the nice snowy mountains!

Or would you…?

Many people are not aware that the famous Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from the northern border with Canada to the southern border with Mexico, runs right though Vasquez Rocks. It goes just to the north of them. So if you decide to park your car at the visitor center rather than driving on the main the dirt road to the parking area by the rocks themselves, you get to enjoy angles of the rocks that most people never see…angles that include the San Gabriel mountains (with the snow on them!) in the background.

So in today’s blog, I’m going to show you Vasquez Rocks as you’ve likely never seen them before, with a series of photos taken mostly along the short stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that travels through Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center. Enjoy, and click on any photo to enlarge…

On our way to the park, the grass was greener than I’ve ever seen it before thanks to all the much-needed rain that southern California has received.
As I said, I love to photograph wildflowers. There weren’t many yet, But I did manage to get this one awesome shot.
At the same time, my friend David took this photo of me as I was taking the above wildflower shot.
Starting along the Pacific Crest Trail, this was our first glimpse of Vasquez Rocks (from the “back”/north side).
Here’s a close-up of the previous shot.
I hope you’re all lichen this colorful photo.
Getting a little closer to the main attraction…
More of the pretty scenery…and that’s Mt. Wilson on top of the mountains in the center of the photo.
Coming up the trail along the east side of the rocks, I got a strange feeling of deja vu…so I took this shot of the back of David.
Then David decided to pose.
This is a very “artistic” photo.
Here’s a view of Vasquez Rocks you never see…from the side!
Same view but crouching on a different rock.
I have no idea who this guy is, but I thank him for climbing to the top so I could take these close-ups and show you all how high off the ground the top of the rocks is!
My friend David loves campiness, so he insisted I take this picture of him “holding up” the rocks.
Another “artistic” shot…
Coming around on the trail to the “front” of the rocks, the pretty snow-covered mountains are no longer visible.
I asked David to take a shot of me to prove that I was there! (Notice that I’m wearing my Picard shirt because it’s Thursday!)
We walked back along the main dirt road, taking some final photos on the way.
One last close-up from the north side….
Oh, I’m likin’ those lichen!
Almost back at the car…
One final “postcard” shot for the day!

16 thoughts on “A VERY scenic photography trip to VASQUEZ ROCKS…with snow in the background! (picture blog)”

  1. Very nice shots! I always look forward to the few weeks, or days, when we finally get snowy mountain backdrops. I’m glad you trekked up there for those who can’t.

    1. Thanks, Gloria. I had always wanted to try the Pacific Crest Trail route but never got around to it because I always parked at the base. I’m glad I got a chance to finally check it out.

  2. Very nice photos! I plan on going tomorrow, and enjoying this scene in person. I’ll be sure to wear my gold TOS shirt — i just hope someone else brings their Gorn costume!!

    I had no idea the PCT runs close by. I’ve hiked sections of that in the past, and it’s a dream of mine to hike the whole thing. Probably never to be realized, but maybe I could hike the Southern California section of the trail.

  3. Thanks Jonathan, for the tour. Not sure I ever mentioned it, but, I lived in Orange City, just south of LA back in the early 80’s, I’m dating myself now. I remember taking a day trip to Big Bear, and being flabbergasted that in June, there was still snow on the ground in places. So, like your friend David, I had some pictures taken of me walking barefoot through the snow, (to show my future kids, I walked 12 miles to school, barefoot, in the snow) it’s a Yankee joke. Speaking of which, we are getting tons of the wet stuff here in Michigan tonight. Virtually NO SNOW all winter, and last week ice storm, 3 days without power, and cold. Now this? SMH Sure could use some of that Global Warning about now? My early flowers are gonna be confused again this year.

    1. I grew up in New York City and spent five years in Ithaca, NY (four in college). I am certainly no stranger to snow. But like you, I once visited the high Sierras in June to see snow on the side of the road higher than ME! And yes, that completely freaked out this native east coaster. 🙂

  4. I heard about the exceptional snow in California on the news (even a dusting around the Hollywood sign) so I was wondering what it was like. The vegetation certainly does look more lush than I remember from the one time I was in that part of the world. Great images, thank you.

    I don’t suppose you know how far it was from Desilu to Vasquez rocks? I got the impression that Star Trek was shot mainly in their backlots and on wild ground in the immediate vicinity but I guess they must have travelled further afield than that.

    1. There were a number of filming locations in and around the Los Angeles area for Star Trek. For example, “Miri” was filmed on the Mayberry set for “The Andy Griffth Show” in Culver City. “The Paradise Syndrome” was shot in Franklin Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. “Bread and Circuses” was shot in Bronson Canyon, just a few miles from Paramount Studios. Parts of “Shore Leave” were shot in Acton, just past Vasquez Rocks along the 14 Freeway, and others, of course, at Vasquez Rocks. According to Google Maps, the distance from Vasquez Rocks to Paramount Studios (where Desilu shot Star Trek) is approximately 40 miles.

      1. Just wanted to say thanks for the info. I hadn’t twigged (realised) that Desilu was at Paramount Studios. And yes, I imagine 40 miles for you guys is still classed as a backlot. 🙂 LLAP

        1. At the time, Desilu had moved to the northeast corner of the Paramount lot…surprisingly close to where The Brady Bunch was shot. Prior to that, Desilu had been based in Culver City.

          Interestingly, 35 miles from a concentric circle around L.A. is the cut-off for SAG and other union works to get paid additional money for travel to a distant location. But because the “circle” around Los Angeles extends slightly northward, Vasquez Rocks in just INSIDE the limit so actors and crew working there do not need to be paid extra.

  5. I have been to Vasquez a few times, but I have never seen it with so much greenery.

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