This is another trip back to Castle Creek. Funny enough, it's almost a year to the day from when I was back here last.
This looks back over the road, across the river, and to the top of a nearby mountain. If you zoom into the sky in the center between the trees, you can see the burnt husks of trees left standing after a large wildfire that ripped through the area 10-15 years ago. It was this fire that shut everything else down and caused me to wander up this creek in the first place.
The first 400 yards or so off the road is arguably the highest concentration of beauty along HWY 138.
Here is a web strand of the long-jawed orb weaver. It's super thick and strong enough to bend that large leaf in half. There were 3-4 of the spiders using that strand and it's not the first time I've seen them work together:
Here's a clip I took on a different trip of long-jawed orb weavers working together to attack a large fly along a different portion of Castle Creek. There are web strands all over and multiple spiders all taking a swing at the flailing fly. I can't remember exactly, but I do believe the fly ended up dumping into the water. Not sure what happened to it then, but it probably flew away or was devoured by water striders.
Moving on from the trials of life, we venture further up the creek:
This gap is guarded by between 2-3 bazillion mosquitoes (for those wondering, that's not an actual count, just a guesstimate). For me, eucalyptus and lemonseed insect repellent works every single time. I even stood inside the swarm. They stayed clear and I didn't notice any even landing on me, let alone biting. This is about the 4th consecutive trip that I have dealt with huge swarms of mosquitoes and haven't been bit once.
Just up from here is one of the many large rocks that long ago thumped together to form cave structures on the early portion of this creek.
My goal was an area between those two rocks, which is one of the few places I had not really explored.
Inside was a cave cricket.
Here's a look at the immediate area.
Up and around from there was this:
A beautiful and striking pool. I'm sure there's nothing more than bugs in that pool...
Hey, that's not a bug...
That isn't either. They're giant pacific salamanders. The first two pictures show the largest one I saw in this pool. I'd guess it measured in at close to a 10" long. There were about 4-5 total (that I saw) and they were in the 6-inch range.
I headed over to take some pics of the first one, as it was sitting on a shelf close to the surface and close to the edge. As soon as I stuck the camera in the water, it took off like a bullet towards where I was before. I headed back.
While salamanders look slow and sluggish, when they feel the need to escape, they are lightning quick.
I have found that it is fairly tough to get the camera to autofocus correctly underwater. These suffered from the camera focusing on the rocks instead of the critter.
This was the first time I had seen one of these and I think it was a pretty nice find. Just a few days before this trip, I was watching a show about salamanders and was kind of hoping I'd eventually see one.
While I was poking around in the water, I decided to take a quick bubble video.
Here's a scaphinotus ground beetle I found. They're fairly difficult to get on film due to their speed and relentless pursuit of cover. However, they are cool looking and massive, therefore tempting to photograph. They're probably in the Top 5 in this area for largest bugs.
On the way back down the creek, I found something kind of odd.
In the center of my shadow, there's a bare spot.
Looks like a tree-rock hybrid. Fairly hollow sounding, too. I don't know if it was a tree in the process of petrification or just decaying funny while sitting next to the creek.
This is the Hobbit section of the trail.