I found it at Big Sur Campground a year ago last month. We were camping in a grove of magnificent coastal redwoods. Early in the morning, while the family was still sleeping, I quietly left the campground and followed a small trail up the hill west of camp. It's easy to be completely quiet when the forest floor is covered with fallen redwood leaves in all stages of decay. It's like walking on a carpet with a two-inch pad beneath.
At first light there was still a mist in the redwood canopy and a scent of moist humus in the air. At different places along the trail there were old logs scattered in the understory. They were damp. And when fallen timber remains moist year round, as it happens in this shaded forest, it becomes an open invitation for all kinds of creatures. If a mature coastal tree is home to many kinds of animals and epiphytic plants, a fallen one in decay becomes a veritable hotel for forest creatures.
Sometimes these logs are just too big for me to move. Other times it's quite easy to find out what might be hiding underneath. With this log I happened to get lucky. There turned out to be an attractive amphibian wiling away the cool December morning just waiting for me to take its picture. It's quite an impressive creature for sure. Here is a habitat shot above the forested area where I found it.
Later in my wonderings, I came across another salamader (the third salamaner picture). I'm guessing it is the Santa Lucia Mountains slender salamander (Batrachoseps luciae) but somebody better with amphibians had better be the last word on this id. It doesn't match my field guide as well as I would like - but then again, Mother Nature doesn't always listen to field guides.