In this interview with the lead author of Wildflowers of the Trinity Alps, Ken DeCamp shares stories about the book and how he became a photographer and naturalist. Hopefully his thoughts inspire you to get out on a wildflower adventure this year!
How did you develop a passion for natural history?
I am an avid outdoor enthusiast and have been all my life. My parents and grandparents were drawn to the out-of-doors out of a natural curiosity for wild places and my brother and I followed in their footsteps. In fact, my first backpacking experience was when I was 4 months old riding in the top of my Dad’s Trapper Nelson into the backcountry of Glacier National Park. You could say that I came by my passion honestly. For my folks every minute away from work was spent backpacking and/or fly fishing almost without exception and often at the same time.
How did you fall in love with the Klamath Mountains?
My Dad’s work found us moving frequently throughout the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Pakistan, Australia and finally back to Northern California which, in spite of our travels, became our State-side home base. A big part of what made this area home to my family were the Klamath Mountains – especially the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness Areas where we spent so much time. I made my first solo backpacking trip into the Trinities when I was 10 and by the time I was 12 I knew most of the Trinities and Russians by heart. Since the early 1950s I’ve logged thousands of trail and off-trail miles here as well as in the Hindu Kush in Pakistan, parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains back east and quite a lot of the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.
When did you first start taking pictures?
Both of my parents were photographers, so I was introduced to camera work at an early age and have owned cameras since I was 12. I have to admit, ALL of my early work was pretty atrocious and not anything I would willingly share with anyone except maybe for very close family members!
In my late 40’s I began to seriously photograph the natural world around me and over the years my library of photographs has grown to fill 16 terrabytes on computer hard-drives. Initially I used a lot of my imagery for projects I was involved in for the Forest Service and would also share them with friends and anyone else interested in such things. This, by-the-way, is ultimately how I got involved with my two co-authors – Julie Nelson and Julie Knorr – both of whom I have done photographic work for over the years.
What inspired you to create Wildflowers of the Trinity Alps?
One of my all time botanical heroines was Alice Goen Jones – a women I had known from a very early age and who, in the early 70s authored a book on the wildflowers and other plants of the Trinity Alps. It was a wonderful book that I carried it in my pack for years. As much as I loved that book however, it became apparent to me in the late 90s that the imagery was pretty out dated – most of the pictures taken in the 50s and 60s. I began to think about the possibilities of turning my own collection of photographs into a new and up-dated book covering the same area. It wasn’t until 2014 that the idea became a serious obsession and when it did, I began to explore options for producing my own guide. With invaluable input from the Julies we eventually arrived at the guide Backcountry Press decided was worthy of publication. The rest is history.
What more I would like to learn about wildflowers?
In the past 12 years I’ve spent considerable time hiking and shooting in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland where I’ve photographed several identical species to those I’ve photographed in the Klamath Mountains. Considering the distances involved between these two areas it has become an interesting look into the realm of plate tectonics, climatogogical change, and human altered ecologies – subjects that I am fairly familiar with but would like to know more about.
What do you hope Wildflowers of the Trinity Alps inspires in those who purchase it?
Ultimately, it is my hope that this guide inspires people to walk a little more slowly and look a little more closely at the wonderful things that surround them in these beautiful mountains. The ultimate compliment would be to find someone on their belly, in the dirt, identifying a flower using a tattered, wrinkled, and torn copy of Wildflowers of the Trinity Alps!