Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Visiting the Wind River Range



Elephant Head above Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Elephant Head above Island Lake.
The Wind River Range is a phenomenal backpacking destination – and more!  The two most popular areas are Titcomb Basin and Cirque of the Towers, near Pinedale, WY.  I have visited both on multiple occasions and never tire of them.  My plan was to revisit Island Lake, Titcomb Basin and Indian Basin.  But this time I wanted to add some spice to the traditional trip.  While studying guide books and maps I put together a loop troop, beginning at the Elkhart Entrance.

I drove 14 hours straight, leaving Seattle at 6:00 am and arriving at Pinedale at 9:00 pm (1 hour time zone difference, for those checking my math).  The air was extremely smoky and the sights poor from Hoback Junction to Pinedale.  A nearby forest fire, which I knew about, appeared to be much worse than I thought.  My hopes were dashed as I snuck in a dinner in town well after closing time.  Not only was photography a question mark, so was simply being able to breath.

I made the drive up to the Elkhart parking lot in the dark to find the lot probably ½ full – also strange.  I slept in my vehicle and planned to start the decision making process in the morning.

Morning arrived under cloudy skies and rain, with no smoke to mention.  It was on!  The only question mark was when to leave the TH.  I waited until the worst part of the squall appeared to be over, then set out on the trail.

I hiked 5.3 miles to Eklund Lake, pausing briefly at Photographer’s Point to enjoy the traditional view.  From there, I took a right and headed for a new adventure!  I traversed past too many lakes to mention, most of which were not named on my map.  Soon I arrived at Mury Lake, then began the long traverse to Pole Creek Lakes.

There were numerous stream crossing, some more difficult than others and requiring bushwacking/boulder hopping upstream several hundred feet to find a safe crossing.  This was also tiring with a full pack at 9,000 + feet elevation.

Finally I arrived at the first Pole Creek Lake, which meant I only had one more lake to go.  I began my rapid ascent toward my final destination for the day – Cook Lakes.  It was a trudge and my gas tank was nearing E.  After another sketchy stream crossing, I began my final approach to the lakes and soon found myself at the junction sign.  From here, the lakes were still another mile or so, and campsites yet another mile!

I arrived at Cook Lakes completely exhausted and found a campsite looking like it needed a guest.  Lucky me.  Distance for the day 10.4 miles.

I got camp set up and immediately started the stove up for dinner.  Soon it started to rain.  I ate dinner under the protection of the vestibule of my tent.  Soon the rain stopped and I cleaned up camp and retired for the evening.  This is when the skies opened up and the drum gods violently played their instruments, one wave after another.  First it was large hail, covering the ground white, then changing to hard rain.  Soon it would slowly calm down to showers and eventually, withdrawal to quietness and solitude.  Then the process would repeat itself, over and over again.  This lasted almost the entire night.  It was fascinating and calming to me, in a strange way.  Because I would experience storms like this most every day of my trip, though not to this severity.

I awoke to cloudy skies and the threat of more showers.  They did not let me down.  At least they were short lived.  I tried to light my stove for some breakfast, only to learn my lighter was done.  No spark.  It appeared to empty.  I forgot to pack backup.  Cold food would have to do.

I hiked back to the trail junction, swung right, and began my ascent toward Lester Pass.  I soon reached Tommy Lake, which was absolutely stunning!  Think Island Lake, but surrounded by meadows rather than granite.  My first thought was how inappropriately named this beautiful lake was.  I mean, who looks at a map and says, “I want to go to Tommy Lake!”



A backpack rests against the sign at Lester Pass in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Lester Pass.
Just beyond this lake I climbed into an upper basin below the pass and ran into a party of 5 or so trying to dry out their gear.  The sun was out now and they were taking full advantage.  They got caught in the storm the night before and were fully exposed to it in vast, open meadow.  Upon learning of my lighter fiasco, they all offered to give me theirs as they were packing many.  Turns out they were Bears fans, obvious from the lighters they offered me.  I chuckled and thanked them repeatedly for their kindness, while laughingly giving them half an attempt at a “Go Hawks!”  We all laughed.
Lester Pass wasn’t much further, and offered the grand views I had read and heard about.  I stopped for lunch and spent some time drying some of my gear out as well.  Such a beautiful day.

The descent down to Little Seneca Lake was steeper, but extremely scenic.  My plan was to make camp at Island Lake my second night, but fatigue was setting in.  My legs were still struggling from the long first day and I had come to the realization that a half day and rest was in order.  I found a camp in meadow near a small, scenic lake above Little Seneca Lake and called it a day.  The rest was nice.  Distance ~5.8 miles.



A reflection in a high alpine tarn in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Reflection in alpine tarn.
That evening I finally got my first chance at some photography after two days on the trail.  It was rewarding and motivating.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out for Island Lake.  I tried to time my arrival for around 9:00 am, when I figured campsites would be opening up (this is an extremely popular lake – the destination of most people).  All worked well, though scouting the campsite took much longer.  I overshot the area I wanted to camp and had to come back searching for it. Distance ~3 miles with wandering.

I met Bill and Rachel from Minnesota, who were actually instrumental in me getting a prime campsite next to them.  They were fun people who I would get to know better in the coming days.

I relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon in anticipation of evening photography, which never happened.  While the day was beautiful, the typical afternoon/evening Rocky Mountain storm moved in.  While it struck and eventually departed, clouds to the west remained and I never got any light on the nearby peaks for sunset.  So far, the story of my trip.


A cascading creek in Upper Titcomb Basin of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Upper Titcomb Basin.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out to revisit Titcomb Basin.  There were few on the trail and it was an enjoyable hike.  On a previous visit I hiked all the way up to Dinwoody Pass for views and photos of Gannett Peak.  But today I simply visited the upper lakes, saving my energy for a visit of Indian Basin on my return.

While enjoying the environs of Titcomb Basin at very leisurely pace, I met Jeff and Claire from Bozeman, MT.  I recognized them from their dog as neighbors from my second night camped above Little Seneca Lake.  They were fascinating people and we must have visited for over half an hour!  All talk was about our travels and recommendations for future travels.  Fun!

I continued my retreat down the trail and soon came to the Indian Pass trail junction, where I turned left and pursued my next adventure.  I had been to Indian Basin previously, on my very first trip to the Winds in fact.  We climbed Fremont Peak from Mistake Lake, then descended into Indian Basin.  It was earlier in the year and the upper basin was mostly snow covered.  I was excited to relive the memory and see the basin in drier conditions.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was beautiful and I had it all to myself.  As the skies began to change from blue to gray, I began my descent back to camp, arriving just as the thunder gods began to bang their drums.  Distance for the day ~17.8 miles.


Fremont and Jackson Peak above Indian Basin in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Indian Basin and Fremont Peak & Jackson Peak. 
Story time.  During my stay at Island Lake I witnessed blatant disregard for the rules.  There was a burn ban in effect and the area was signed no camping within 200’ of a lake (these signs were common at all lakes I visited).  Despite this several groups decided the rules didn’t apply to them and set camp within 25’ of the lake.  There were also numerous bonfires in the area that evening.  As I sat at my camp close to dinner time my first night, I watched 3 men pass my area and descend down to the lake below me looking for a sight on the peninsula below.  The peninsula wasn’t even 200’ at its widest point.  The area was empty prior to their arrival.  I hoped common sense would set in, but it did not.  Up went their tent.  To make matters worse, they were loud well into the night.
Fast forward.  Upon returning from Indian Basin, I found this group at camp and overheard them say, “We have to move the tent”.  It became evident to me that somebody must have talked to them.  They moved their tent 25’ behind a bush.  They then proceeded to erect a tarp shelter where their tent used to be.  Total face palm on my behalf.  Did they seriously think a ranger would allow this?



Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake.
Soon rangers showed up (again) and informed them that they could not camp at their new location.  The response I clearly heard was, “Well then, where are we supposed to camp?”  There were many sites available, including just above me.  These guys weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed and classic comedy!  The rangers ended up holding their hand and leading them to an acceptable campsite, which they had walked by (if not thru) on their way down to the illegal site.

Why did I tell that story?  Because on the morning of me departure, I grudgingly ran into them on my way out at a key point on the trail, messing up my navigation.  Immediately after leaving my camp above Little Seneca Lake en route to Island Lake earlier in my trip, I made note of the switchbacks up an exposed hillside to Island Lake.  I was watching for them on my way back down as a landmark.  It was at this location that I ran into Dumb and Dumber and Even Dumber (sorry, but this was the joking reference being made of them).  


Fremont Peak above Island Lake at sunset in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Sunset at Island Lake.
But while conversing with them I lost sight of where I was and continued on in search of the switchbacks.  Soon I came to a small lake and asked some people if I was on the trail to Seneca Lake.  Their response was yes.  I then came upon a very big lake that took time to circumnavigate.  Strange that these lakes weren’t on my map (at least where I was looking).  Soon I was losing confidence in the trail.  It was descending, which was the only trail in the area that should be, and by position of the sun it was going in the right direction.  Soon I descended into forest unexpectedly and stopped once again to check the map.  Nothing looked familiar (keep in mind I did not hike in this way, but had on previous visits).  Soon I ran into a hiker coming in who asked how I was doing.  I answered, “Lost, I think.  Everything appears right, but I am not recognizing anything along this trail”.  He asked where I was headed and I told him Elkhart TH.  He replied that I was on the right trail then.  I pulled out my map and showed him where I thought I was and he chuckled and said, “You aren’t where you think you are.  You know that big lake you passed a little while ago?  THAT was Seneca Lake.  You’re only about 6.5 miles from the trailhead!”  I could have hugged him.  One by one, all the prior details started making sense.

I arrived at the TH at 2:00 pm, ready for good food and the drive home.  Distance out 11.7 miles.  What an amazing trip!

The last evening at Island Lake was amazing, and offered the best light of the entire trip.  The skies opened with rain and hail only an hour before sunset.  As sunset grew very near, the skies were gray and concealed the nearby peaks.  All of a sudden the clouds began to lift with only minutes of light left.  It was pretty magical.

You may view more images from this fantastic area in my Wind River Gallery.

You can also read about some of my previous trips to the Wind River Range at the following links:

Island Lake

Island Lake

As always, thanks for looking!

 

Visiting the Wind River Range



Elephant Head above Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Elephant Head above Island Lake.
The Wind River Range is a phenomenal backpacking destination – and more!  The two most popular areas are Titcomb Basin and Cirque of the Towers, near Pinedale, WY.  I have visited both on multiple occasions and never tire of them.  My plan was to revisit Island Lake, Titcomb Basin and Indian Basin.  But this time I wanted to add some spice to the traditional trip.  While studying guide books and maps I put together a loop troop, beginning at the Elkhart Entrance.

I drove 14 hours straight, leaving Seattle at 6:00 am and arriving at Pinedale at 9:00 pm (1 hour time zone difference, for those checking my math).  The air was extremely smoky and the sights poor from Hoback Junction to Pinedale.  A nearby forest fire, which I knew about, appeared to be much worse than I thought.  My hopes were dashed as I snuck in a dinner in town well after closing time.  Not only was photography a question mark, so was simply being able to breath.

I made the drive up to the Elkhart parking lot in the dark to find the lot probably ½ full – also strange.  I slept in my vehicle and planned to start the decision making process in the morning.

Morning arrived under cloudy skies and rain, with no smoke to mention.  It was on!  The only question mark was when to leave the TH.  I waited until the worst part of the squall appeared to be over, then set out on the trail.

I hiked 5.3 miles to Eklund Lake, pausing briefly at Photographer’s Point to enjoy the traditional view.  From there, I took a right and headed for a new adventure!  I traversed past too many lakes to mention, most of which were not named on my map.  Soon I arrived at Mury Lake, then began the long traverse to Pole Creek Lakes.

There were numerous stream crossing, some more difficult than others and requiring bushwacking/boulder hopping upstream several hundred feet to find a safe crossing.  This was also tiring with a full pack at 9,000 + feet elevation.

Finally I arrived at the first Pole Creek Lake, which meant I only had one more lake to go.  I began my rapid ascent toward my final destination for the day – Cook Lakes.  It was a trudge and my gas tank was nearing E.  After another sketchy stream crossing, I began my final approach to the lakes and soon found myself at the junction sign.  From here, the lakes were still another mile or so, and campsites yet another mile!

I arrived at Cook Lakes completely exhausted and found a campsite looking like it needed a guest.  Lucky me.  Distance for the day 10.4 miles.

I got camp set up and immediately started the stove up for dinner.  Soon it started to rain.  I ate dinner under the protection of the vestibule of my tent.  Soon the rain stopped and I cleaned up camp and retired for the evening.  This is when the skies opened up and the drum gods violently played their instruments, one wave after another.  First it was large hail, covering the ground white, then changing to hard rain.  Soon it would slowly calm down to showers and eventually, withdrawal to quietness and solitude.  Then the process would repeat itself, over and over again.  This lasted almost the entire night.  It was fascinating and calming to me, in a strange way.  Because I would experience storms like this most every day of my trip, though not to this severity.

I awoke to cloudy skies and the threat of more showers.  They did not let me down.  At least they were short lived.  I tried to light my stove for some breakfast, only to learn my lighter was done.  No spark.  It appeared to empty.  I forgot to pack backup.  Cold food would have to do.

I hiked back to the trail junction, swung right, and began my ascent toward Lester Pass.  I soon reached Tommy Lake, which was absolutely stunning!  Think Island Lake, but surrounded by meadows rather than granite.  My first thought was how inappropriately named this beautiful lake was.  I mean, who looks at a map and says, “I want to go to Tommy Lake!”



A backpack rests against the sign at Lester Pass in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Lester Pass.
Just beyond this lake I climbed into an upper basin below the pass and ran into a party of 5 or so trying to dry out their gear.  The sun was out now and they were taking full advantage.  They got caught in the storm the night before and were fully exposed to it in vast, open meadow.  Upon learning of my lighter fiasco, they all offered to give me theirs as they were packing many.  Turns out they were Bears fans, obvious from the lighters they offered me.  I chuckled and thanked them repeatedly for their kindness, while laughingly giving them half an attempt at a “Go Hawks!”  We all laughed.
Lester Pass wasn’t much further, and offered the grand views I had read and heard about.  I stopped for lunch and spent some time drying some of my gear out as well.  Such a beautiful day.

The descent down to Little Seneca Lake was steeper, but extremely scenic.  My plan was to make camp at Island Lake my second night, but fatigue was setting in.  My legs were still struggling from the long first day and I had come to the realization that a half day and rest was in order.  I found a camp in meadow near a small, scenic lake above Little Seneca Lake and called it a day.  The rest was nice.  Distance ~5.8 miles.



A reflection in a high alpine tarn in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Reflection in alpine tarn.
That evening I finally got my first chance at some photography after two days on the trail.  It was rewarding and motivating.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out for Island Lake.  I tried to time my arrival for around 9:00 am, when I figured campsites would be opening up (this is an extremely popular lake – the destination of most people).  All worked well, though scouting the campsite took much longer.  I overshot the area I wanted to camp and had to come back searching for it. Distance ~3 miles with wandering.

I met Bill and Rachel from Minnesota, who were actually instrumental in me getting a prime campsite next to them.  They were fun people who I would get to know better in the coming days.

I relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon in anticipation of evening photography, which never happened.  While the day was beautiful, the typical afternoon/evening Rocky Mountain storm moved in.  While it struck and eventually departed, clouds to the west remained and I never got any light on the nearby peaks for sunset.  So far, the story of my trip.


A cascading creek in Upper Titcomb Basin of the Wind River Range in Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Upper Titcomb Basin.

The next morning I awoke early and headed out to revisit Titcomb Basin.  There were few on the trail and it was an enjoyable hike.  On a previous visit I hiked all the way up to Dinwoody Pass for views and photos of Gannett Peak.  But today I simply visited the upper lakes, saving my energy for a visit of Indian Basin on my return.

While enjoying the environs of Titcomb Basin at very leisurely pace, I met Jeff and Claire from Bozeman, MT.  I recognized them from their dog as neighbors from my second night camped above Little Seneca Lake.  They were fascinating people and we must have visited for over half an hour!  All talk was about our travels and recommendations for future travels.  Fun!

I continued my retreat down the trail and soon came to the Indian Pass trail junction, where I turned left and pursued my next adventure.  I had been to Indian Basin previously, on my very first trip to the Winds in fact.  We climbed Fremont Peak from Mistake Lake, then descended into Indian Basin.  It was earlier in the year and the upper basin was mostly snow covered.  I was excited to relive the memory and see the basin in drier conditions.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It was beautiful and I had it all to myself.  As the skies began to change from blue to gray, I began my descent back to camp, arriving just as the thunder gods began to bang their drums.  Distance for the day ~17.8 miles.


Fremont and Jackson Peak above Indian Basin in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Phone pic of Indian Basin and Fremont Peak & Jackson Peak. 
Story time.  During my stay at Island Lake I witnessed blatant disregard for the rules.  There was a burn ban in effect and the area was signed no camping within 200’ of a lake (these signs were common at all lakes I visited).  Despite this several groups decided the rules didn’t apply to them and set camp within 25’ of the lake.  There were also numerous bonfires in the area that evening.  As I sat at my camp close to dinner time my first night, I watched 3 men pass my area and descend down to the lake below me looking for a sight on the peninsula below.  The peninsula wasn’t even 200’ at its widest point.  The area was empty prior to their arrival.  I hoped common sense would set in, but it did not.  Up went their tent.  To make matters worse, they were loud well into the night.
Fast forward.  Upon returning from Indian Basin, I found this group at camp and overheard them say, “We have to move the tent”.  It became evident to me that somebody must have talked to them.  They moved their tent 25’ behind a bush.  They then proceeded to erect a tarp shelter where their tent used to be.  Total face palm on my behalf.  Did they seriously think a ranger would allow this?



Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Storm clouds part to reveal Fremont Peak over Island Lake.
Soon rangers showed up (again) and informed them that they could not camp at their new location.  The response I clearly heard was, “Well then, where are we supposed to camp?”  There were many sites available, including just above me.  These guys weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed and classic comedy!  The rangers ended up holding their hand and leading them to an acceptable campsite, which they had walked by (if not thru) on their way down to the illegal site.

Why did I tell that story?  Because on the morning of me departure, I grudgingly ran into them on my way out at a key point on the trail, messing up my navigation.  Immediately after leaving my camp above Little Seneca Lake en route to Island Lake earlier in my trip, I made note of the switchbacks up an exposed hillside to Island Lake.  I was watching for them on my way back down as a landmark. 


Fremont Peak above Island Lake at sunset in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, USA.
Sunset at Island Lake.
It was at this location that I ran into them on the hike out.   But while conversing with them I lost sight of where I was and continued on in search of the switchbacks.  Soon I came to a small lake and asked some people if I was on the trail to Seneca Lake.  Their response was yes.  I then came upon a very big lake that took time to circumnavigate.  Strange that these lakes weren’t on my map (at least where I was looking).  Soon I was losing confidence in the trail.  It was descending, which was the only trail in the area that should be, and by position of the sun it was going in the right direction.  Soon I descended into forest unexpectedly and stopped once again to check the map.  Nothing looked familiar (keep in mind I did not hike in this way, but had on previous visits).  Soon I ran into a hiker coming in who asked how I was doing.  I answered, “Lost, I think.  Everything appears right, but I am not recognizing anything along this trail”.  He asked where I was headed and I told him Elkhart TH.  He replied that I was on the right trail then.  I pulled out my map and showed him where I thought I was and he chuckled and said, “You aren’t where you think you are.  You know that big lake you passed a little while ago?  THAT was Seneca Lake.  You’re only about 6.5 miles from the trailhead!”  I could have hugged him.  One by one, all the prior details started making sense.

I arrived at the TH at 2:00 pm, ready for good food and the drive home.  Distance out 11.7 miles.  What an amazing trip!

The last evening at Island Lake was amazing, and offered the best light of the entire trip.  The skies opened with rain and hail only an hour before sunset.  As sunset grew very near, the skies were gray and concealed the nearby peaks.  All of a sudden the clouds began to lift with only minutes of light left.  It was pretty magical.

You may view more images from this fantastic area in my Wind River Gallery.

You can also read about some of my previous trips to the Wind River Range at the following links:

Island Lake

Island Lake

As always, thanks for looking!

 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Coastal Tidepools

Tide pool at Point of the Arches, Olympic
National Park, Washington.
Tide pools along the coast are fun to photograph during the day, especially when there isn't much else going on photography-wise.  The colors can be vibrant and well saturated under the right light and conditions.  Those conditions are a cloudy day and low tide.

Tide pools are usually under water - they are only exposed when the tide is unusually low.  Often it teems with life and has much more marine vegetation, especially seaweeds. There is also greater biodiversity. Organisms in this zone do not have to be as well adapted to drying out and temperature extremes. Low tide zone organisms include starfish, abalone, anemones, brown seaweed, crabs, green algae, hydroids, isopods, limpets, and mussels. These creatures can grow to larger sizes because there is more available energy and better water coverage: the water is shallow enough to allow more sunlight for photosynthetic activity, and the salinity is at almost normal levels. This area is also relatively protected from large predators because of the wave action and shallow water.

For photography, a mid-range telephoto lens and polarizer are important tools, as well as a sturdy tripod.  The light should be even if shooting under the expressed conditions, so the task is pretty simple:  Compose a balanced and interesting scene, and go shutter happy!

This image was taken at Point of the Arches near Shi Shi beach in Olympic National Park.  It is one of my favorite tide pools.

This image is on its second go-around with an educational publisher using it in worldwide distribution.  Fun to be a part of the education process!

You can view this and more images in my Washington Coast Gallery if you wish.

As always, thanks for looking!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Roosevelt Elk in Olympic National Park

The Roosevelt elk is the largest of the four subspecies of elk in North America, and makes its home in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.  The desire to protect this species was the founding force behind the establishment of the Mount Olympus National Monument, which later became Olympic National Park.

This image was taken in early spring near the Hoh River campground in Olympic National Park, where a large herd is commonly found amongst the campsites.  Care must be taken in their presence as they can become aggressive if approached.

This image is currently being used for worldwide editorial use on a website through 2021 to promote wildlife conservation, I am proud to say.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Photographing Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon from Hopi Point at dusk, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon from Hopi Point at dusk.
I wasn't sure what to expect when visiting Grand Canyon National Park for the first time.  Based on all I had heard and read, I expected to be under-whelmed.  I heard stories about the almost permanent haze, the crowds, the canyon being too big to get a true perspective, etc.

Well, visiting the first week of April, none of these came into play.  I was absolutely amazed!

The South Rim offers amazing views of the canyon along its entire stretch.  I highly recommend walking the West Rim Trail to experience all the viewpoints, then come back with your camera for the golden hour and hopefully, a spectacular show.


Grand Canyon wall from Mathers Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Canyon wall from Mather Point.
The most obvious viewpoints along the South Rim are Mather Point and Yavapai Point.  Both are very accessible and can be quite crowded during the day.  In mornings and evenings, I didn't have any problems photographing from these locations.  They were quite pleasant and the views outstanding!  Both these locations are excellent for both sunrise and sunset.  Enjoy the views of Wotan's Throne and Vishnu Temple, as well as the sheer views down into the canyon.

As with all locations, I recommend arriving at least half an hour early (I typically arrive an hour early) to not only get set up, but to allow the creative juices time to start flowing on how you are going to approach the scene before you.  Depending on the weather, there are lots of different ways to approach photographing the canyon, whether it is isolating certain scenes, offering an expansive panorama, or something in between.  Storm clouds can add much drama to the scene and make you want to capture much of the sky above the canyon.  Clear skies will probably have you wanting to cut the sky out as much as possible and focus on the canyon itself.


Grand Canyon at dusk from Hopi Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Sunset on the Grand Canyon from Hopi Point.
Hopi Point is located along the Hermit's Rest Road and is an excellent sunset location.  To get there, you must either walk the West Rim Trail or catch the shuttle bus as private vehicles are not allowed on this road (the exception being December thru February).  I always chose to walk simply so I could scout other locations along the way, then catch the shuttle bus for the return after sunset.  Hopi Point can get pretty crowded, so be sure and arrive early.

Grand Canyon from Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon from Mather Point.
Yaki Point rivals Mather Point as the supreme destination for sunrise photography.  The view is very open looking westward, offering miles of canyon.

Getting to Yaki Point requires the same logistical challenge as Hopi Point.  You must catch the shuttle bus at the Canyon View Information Center.  I recommend arriving an hour before sunrise.  Both mornings I did this, I found myself alone on the bus and the first one to arrive at Yaki Point.

The other option is to park at Desert View Road and walk the mile to Yaki Point.


Grand Canyon from Yaki Point at sunrise, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
Grand Canyon at sunrise from Yaki Point.
As for lenses, I recommend mid to long range telephoto lenses.  You can leave the wide-angle lens at home, in my opinion.  The exception might be if you are lucky enough to get a dramatic sky with storm clouds, but even then the mid-range telephoto should serve you well.  I would also recommend a warming polarizer and a selection split GND filters.  Of course, a tripod goes without saying.

Above all, take time to enjoy your visit.  The Grand Canyon is an amazing place and should be experienced beyond the camera.  Be sure to get out and walk around and experience this magnificent wonder.

You can view more of my photography at www.mountainscenes.com.  I hope to have more of my Grand Canyon images uploaded soon.

As always, thanks for looking!



Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Moment in Time at Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens from Norway Pass, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington.
Norway Pass
Norway Pass is a popular and very scenic pass located just 2.2 miles up the trail in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  It is frequented by day hikers looking to stretch their legs up the short but sometimes steep trail, and by backpackers and serious hikers heading further into the Mount Margaret Backcountry, possibly hiking to the summit of the incredibly scenic Mount Margaret itself.

Norway Pass offers beautiful views out over Spirit Lake to Mount St. Helens, and to Windy Ridge and the Windy Ridge parking lot.  In flower season, the trail and slopes can be dotted with the red of Indian Paintbrush and other wildflowers.  Even better views can be had further up, by continuing to Bear Pass or better yet, to the ridge just before Camp 1.

This image was taken during one of my early backpacks into the area.  It  was recently leased for worldwide editorial usage in the education industry.  To view more images from Mount St. Helens, please visit my South/Central Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Remote View in North Cascades National Park

Forbidden Peak and Mount Torment above Moraine Lake, as seen from Eldorado, North Cascades National Park, Washington.
Forbidden Peak above Moraine Lake in North Cascades National Park.
North Cascades National Park offers some amazing remote locations that have to be visited to be fully appreciated.  The Eldorado Peak area is one of them.

This image of Forbidden Peak and Mount Torment above Moraine Lake was composed from near camp on the Eldorado Glacier in the heart of the North Cascades.  It was taken during an extended climbing trip, which included summiting Eldorado, Klawatti, Austera and Primus Peaks (otherwise known as the Klawatti traverse).  This is almost all glacier travel, with some glaciers being heavily crevassed.

This area sports some of the most rugged and impressive glaciers I have ever seen, especially along the backside of the Tepah Towers.  If you are a climber and properly trained and equipped for glacier travel, I highly recommend an extended visit to this area.

The area is most often approached from the Cascade River Road via an extremely steep climber's path after a precarious river crossing.  It can also be approached from Sibley Creek further down the Cascade River Road.  Other less common approaches include Thunder Creek and Snowfield Peak, though these approaches involve heavy bushwhacking and multi-day travel.

This image was recently licensed for world-wide editorial usage in the education industry.

You may view other images from this and nearby areas in my North Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Western Travels - 2016 Wall Calendar

Western Travels is my new 2016 wall calendar.  It includes some of my favorite images from all over the Western United States and Canada.

This project has been a little late coming together, but the results have been fantastic in my opinion!  I think you'll agree!

I have included images from Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Arches National Park, Death Valley National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Wind River Range, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Mount Robson Provincial Park, and more!

These images represent my travels from around western North America, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed composing them.

Feel free to preview the calendar!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and looking forward to a great 2016!

Don Geyer

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Craziest Backpack

Assiniboine reflection in Lake Magog at sunrise.
I think my title sums things up pretty accurately.  I recently travelled to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies and backpacked in 18 miles to Lake Magog.  It was a five day trip, with nothing going as planned.  I had to improvise my plans each and every day.  I believe they call it making lemonade out of lemons, right?

I arrived at the Bryant Creek trailhead parking lot after dark after a full day of driving from Seattle, and nestled in to the back of my Explorer for a well-deserved evening of rest.  Okay, this much went off without a hitch (though the drive itself did not)!

I awoke at sunrise and packed up to hit the trail.  As I descended the path from the parking lot down to the abandoned road that now serves as trail, I pivoted to my left and felt a sharp pain inside my knee.  I knew it wasn't good, and that it would play into my day's travels.

My plan was to hike the entire 18 miles into Lake Magog on this day.  It's a day of just putting one foot in front of the other and looking at it as a "work day", to reap the benefits in the ensuing days.  Unfortunately, I battled knee pain and boot discomfort most of the way.  Strangely, my comfy boots of several years were now feeling too small.  Either they had shrunk or my feet had
grown.  Strange.

The long grind in was everything I remembered it to be, but worse.  The upper portions of the trail near Assiniboine Pass are much deteriorated, with deep, muddy channels.  I later learned that this was due to the floods of June, 2013.

My plan was to snag a spot in one of the Naiset Huts, but I carried a tent just in case.  This was good planning as the huts were fully booked well in advance.  Off to the campground I trudged upon learning the news.

Assiniboine reflection in Lake Magog.
I found a nice open meadow at the northwest end of the campground offering five tent pads.  These pads were in short proximity to the food preparation shelter, bear lockers, and privy.  I selected site #28, just a short distance from another occupied tent pad.  The other three pads were empty.

Upon setting my tent up and getting situated, I headed up to the food prep shelter for some dinner, where I met many other campers.  Amazingly, we all seemed to be from Seattle, and were photographers to boot!  We all chuckled throughout our stay at this fact.

The big plan circulating amongst all this day was to head up The Nub for evening photography.  This night was to be a treat.  Not only was it the Super Moon, but there would be a lunar eclipse shortly after sunset.  Everyone was excited for this, as they should have been, and had their fingers crossed for the cloudy skies to clear (they didn't).  Unfortunately, I just didn't have it in me.  I was tired and sore from the long day's hike in and knew I needed to rest my knee and feet.  Instead I opted to go for an evening walk to simply scout the area and refresh my memory of its layout.

It was a peaceful evening as I scouted several tarns and patches of larches around the lake.  I figured out my plan for the morning and returned to camp shortly after sunset.  I wasn't expecting what awaited me.

I had staked my tent all the way around and placed two large rocks inside the tent to anchor it.  All my food and food related items were stored safely in a bear locker.  All other gear remained in my tent, including all my camera gear.  When I returned to camp, my tent had been completely uprooted from the tent pad and was laying on its side in the grass meadow.

As I got near the tent I could see that the rain fly had a huge, jagged hole in it and the mesh door was ripped open - all up high.  Closer examination found the lone tent pole to be snapped as well, in a place that I could not repair with the repair sleeve due to a connection hub.

All my gear inside was undamaged.  Nothing was ripped, torn or chewed on.  Strange.  What was the draw?

It was dusk and getting dark fast.  I dragged the tent back over to the pad, but couldn't figure out how to makeshift the tent to get me through the night and began growing concerned.  I didn't want to have to roll up in it like a bivy sack, due to what I suspected to have caused this possibly still being in the area.

Finally, I learned that by leaning the rocks against the inside walls of the tent in a certain way, I could manipulate the broken pole to somewhat align.  Everything else soon fell into place after this, and I was ready for a sheltered sleep, as long as the wind did not pick up.  If it rained, I was going to get wet.  And of course, I had an open door policy for any rodents in the area as I had no way of securing the door.  None of these concerns came into play.

I didn't sleep a wink that night.  I heard animals sniffing around my tent several times and turned my headlamp on to scare them away.  Twice it must have been a deer as I heard hooves running off.  The other time was probably a porcupine or other similarly sized creature.  At one point I heard a long snarl of a cat a long ways off in the distance.  It seemed like a wildlife highway out there!

The next morning I enjoyed photography down at Lake Magog, meeting a fascinating photographer named Noel.  We talked a lot and I shared my tent story with him.  He offered me the use of his personal tent for the next couple of days as he was staying in a cabin.  This really meant a lot to me and I was excited that this event was not going to end my stay prematurely.

I then returned to camp and enjoyed breakfast at the food prep shelter.  I shared my story with several other campers and most everyone went down to investigate.  One thought circulating was that one of the curious deer could have snagged its antler in my tent while snooping around and freaked.  This actually began to have credence with me.  It was rutting season after all.

Muddy adult grizzly print on my tent.
I planned to hike to the lodge to report the incident after breakfast, but before I could, Noel and a lodge employee named Rachel arrived.

Together, we went down to my tent to investigate the area.  I hadn't been able to the night before as it was too dark when I arrived at my tent.  Also, the ground was frozen so I assumed there wouldn't be any tracks possible.

They immediately found two fresh digs near my tent, and fresh bear scat nearby.  It was undoubtedly a bear.  But there was a more obvious sign.  After full inspection of the contents of my tent by all, I laid the tent over to show them how I found it.  There, on the bottom side of my tent, were two muddy paw prints.  One from a large adult grizzly bear (pictured above), the other from her cub.

Fresh grizzly dig near my tent.
It was shared with me that their concerns appeared to be coming true.  A year ago at about the exact same time, a mother grizzly with a young cub ripped into a tent in the same area due to food.  They were rewarded for their efforts.  Fast forward a year and I appeared to be a sitting duck for the same mother and, now a year older cub.  The bears had only arrived in the area a day or two ahead of me.

Concern grew and was radioed to the powers that be.  In the meantime, the lodge had a tent they would lend me.  It was, however, recommended that I move to a different area.  They did not find me very argumentative.

Loaner tent from the Assiniboine Lodge.
I hiked to the lodge and picked up the loaner tent.  I returned to the campground to learn campers were being directed to "buddy up".  We all agreed that this was a good idea.

I found a nice site on the other side of the campground, next to a couple of guys from - you guessed it, Seattle.  The tent proved to be much bigger than my one-person, barely fitting on the tent pad.  But I was tickled with it, and appreciative to all (except those dang bears).

Rachel officially closed all the tent pads in the vicinity of where the break-in took place.

After getting everything set up, I went for a walk down to the lake to scout and photograph the larches in mid-morning light.  A short ways down the trail I looked down and noticed something interesting - fresh bear tracks, both mother and cub!  As I neared a vantage point where the trail descends to the lake, I saw the bears foraging in the meadow about 150 yards away.  The mother picked up on me pretty quickly.  Soon they both made their way upslope and disappeared in the trees.  This would have put them in close proximity of the lodge I thought (incorrectly), and I wondered what effect having bears so comfortable around people near the lodge might have on the campground status.

Adult grizzly print.
I enjoyed an evening of photography up on The Nub with some new photography friends, Randall and Brian, then returned to camp in the dark. I slept pretty soundly that night.

The next morning I awoke early and trudged through the darkness to the tarns to catch the reflection of Mount Assiniboine at sunrise.  It was a peaceful morning and the tarns were half ice covered in the sub-freezing temperatures.

Grizzly cub print.
I returned to camp and realized I had to make a decision on the coming days and what I wanted to commit to.  There were signs that the weather was changing and my knees and feet were not getting any better.  I mulled around for an hour or so before finally deciding to go enjoy some coffee while continuing the thought process.

I arrived at the food prep shelter to find that Rachel had assembled the campers to share the bad news; BC Parks had just announced the closure of the campground due to liability concerns.  They were concerned that if another tent incident happened without them acting, there could be legal trouble.  It also goes without saying that they did not want to encourage the mother bear to teach her young to rip into tents.

So their answer to the liability concern?  We were to all move our tents into the food prep shelter for the evening.  You can't make this stuff up.  My exact response was, "You can't write better comedy than this!  Somebody send this scrip into Jimmy Fallon!"

Randall, Brian and myself at the "homeless shelter".
For those not in the know, as hikers you are always taught that, when camping in grizzly bear country, always sleep AT LEAST 100 feet from any food area.  In fact, it is also recommended that you change out of any clothes you ate in as to not have any food aroma on the clothes you wear to bed.

But these were the orders handed down, and Rachel was simply serving as the messenger.

Before I continue any further, I have to praise Rachel.  She was awesome.  She went out of here way on a daily basis for us, bringing us fresh drinking water in a bucket that she collected herself after our water supply was shut down (frozen pipes), and always thinking of our well-being.  She was always trying to make our stay more enjoyable.  For each of my tent moves, she offered to help pack and carry my gear as well.  She even offered to go retrieve the loaner tent for me herself.  She was a remarkable host.

Back to the shelter, which we were now jokingly referring to as a "homeless camp".  None of us were excited about the situation for reasons already stated.  I was literally cooking and eating dinner ~ 2 feet from the entrance to my tent.  Randall and Brian devised a plan to barricade the entrances to the shelter with picnic tables before we retired into our tents for the evening.  This might have slowed the bears down, but I doubt it.

We came down from photography on The Nub that evening to find the trail taped off and official closure notices posted.  They proved a fun obstacle course in the dark.

We didn't sleep much that night.

The next morning the other campers prepared to fly out.  I packed up "camp" and moved down to the Naiset Huts for my final night.  I wasn't overly excited about the move as I enjoyed the privacy and solitude of camping.  Now I would have to share a hut with others.  It would be a different experience for sure.

I got settled into the Fleabane hut, then hurried up to the helicopter pad to say goodbye to all my new friends.  It was a pretty crazy crowd up there and I didn't linger long.

I ventured back to the lodge, where a gentleman named Richard Guy was celebrating his 99th birthday.  He was a well recognized gentlemen to all, for reasons I did not know.  Noel was tickled to have been able to take pictures of him hiking up The Nub the previous day.  99 years old and hiking up The Nub.  Wow!  The Canadian Alpine Club was building a new climbing hut somewhere in BC, and it was to be named after him.  What an honor.

Richard was being offered a birthday present of a helicopter ride around Mount Assiniboine (though he had to be tricked onto it as he would not accept a ride for only himself).

Me at the Fleabane hut.
I ventured down to the lake and found a rock to perch on and just absorb the views for the afternoon.  My mission for the day was to simply rest and prepare my feet and knee for the hike out in the morning.  Besides, sometimes you have to put the camera down and just smell the flowers (or in this case, larches).

Soon a helicopter swooped over me and headed across the lake towards the mountain, and I smiled.  It corkscrewed up and over the ridge, circling the peak at both near and far distances, and even hovered above the summit.  More smiles.

I ventured back and settled into my new accommodations. I enjoyed meeting my new roommates at the cooking cabin, a couple from Canmore who also hiked in.  My new environment wasn't bad as it turned out.  I enjoyed meeting new and different people with different interests.  There is always something to be said for that.

That evening I enjoyed photography at the tarns. Soon the mother grizzly appeared directly across the tarn from me.  She was in her own little world and could care less of my presence, though she was well aware of it.  Soon she was gone and I could hear her down by the lake.  I finished my evening with some star photography near the lodge, capturing the Milky Way directly over Mount Assiniboine.  It was a rewarding evening.

The next morning I returned to the tarns for the best photography of my trip, then beat it back to the hut.  I packed up and said my goodbyes before hitting the trail around 9:00 to hike over Wonder Pass and out.

A mother grizzly and cub had been seen in the vicinity of Wonder Pass in recent times.  There was even a posting of her charging a hiker about a month prior.  But in recent days, hikers venturing to the pass (including myself) had seen nothing, leaving many to wonder if they had moved on.

They hadn't.  About half a mile east of the pass I looked up to the mother and cub grazing on the distant open hillside.  I announced myself and they immediately began descending quickly toward me!  "No, no...I don't need a welcoming committee!", I thought.  I hiked another 50 feet or so and announced myself again.  This time they stopped and looked at me, then continued about their business.  This is when I realized that I was completely out in the open now where they could see me.  I wasn't the first time I called out.

My feet and knees took a pounding descending from Wonder Pass.  This trail too has had several washouts since I last hiked it.  Upon reaching the Bryant Creek junction, I did something I never do due to notoriously weak ankles; I donned my sandals and draped my boots over my pack.  Ah, comfort!

My time hiking the 18 miles into Magog Lake was 6.5 hours.  I thought I could shave about an hour off this time on my way out.  It didn't happen.

It felt good to reach the end of the trail and begin the drive home, with all the memories of my trip in tow.

I am still editing my images from the trip, and wouldn't you know it that my best images were taken on the very last day!  However, you can see images from previous trips to Mount Assiniboine as well as other destinations in my Canadian Rockies Gallery if you wish.

As always, thanks for reading!  And if you are planning a trip into this area in the future, feel free to reach out to me with any questions.  I'm always happy to help.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Fabulous Lupine at Mount St. Helens

Fields of lupine at Mount St. Helelns
Many people flock to Mount St. Helens to witness the aftermath of the devastating eruption of  35 years ago.  This is becoming harder and harder to do with each passing year.  Sure, the obvious signs are there - the "toppless" mountain, logs floating in Spirit Lake, downed trees on opposing hillsides, and scattered galleries of scorched and abandoned machinery.  But this is a much different landscape now than it was twenty years ago.

When I first started visiting Mount St.. Helens in the aftermath of the eruption, it was a stark, gray landscape that offered little more than the somber remembrance of that fatal day.  It was a depressing scene, seeing how all of nature's vibrant life had been destroyed.

Well, guess what?  The vibrance is back and people are taking notice.  One would be hard pressed to even notice the once charred landscape during a summer visit.  Why?  Because the park is alive again with flower meadows rivaling many others in our state.

The obvious place to visit is Johnston Ridge in early July.  Each year I visit this area I see more and more people, as well as photographers.  And for good reason.  This area is easy to get to and offers the parks best showing as seen from the road, in my opinion.

Windy Ridge is a little more difficult for the average tourist to get to due to the length of drive, but hikers and flower enthusiasts know it well.  While flowers can be seen from the road, some of the best displays require a little bit of hiking.

The above image is such a location.  While returning from a hike to the Plains of Abraham, I made a loop trip out of it by way of the Truman Trail.  What I descended to was one of the most intense and aromatic fields of lupine I have ever seen.  The view of the mountain is very unique here.

This image is appearing in a German book, and serves as another example of international interest in our beloved Pacific Northwest.

To view more images of this wonderful area, feel free to visit my South Cascades Gallery.

As always, thanks for looking.  See you on the trail!