Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 All-Time Posts (sorry 2014, no slight intended!).

I know what you are thinking (besides how late this post is), shouldn't this be about my top posts for 2014?  Well, that seems to be everyone's offering this time of year, so why not "shake it up", "go against the grain", "stand up to the man", "think outside the box", "go down the path less traveled", "be my own individual" - whatever you want to call it.  Let's do this!

1.  The North Circle - Glacier National Park.

The Garden wall above flower meadows in Granite Park, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.
Flower meadows below Fifty Mountain.
My all-time highest viewed post by far is about a backpacking trip I did several years ago in Glacier National Park.  The North Circle provides some of the most beautiful backcountry scenery the park has to offer.  The trip begins at Logan Pass and ends at Many Glacier (or vice versa).

We spent a total of 7 days doing the North Circle in August, spending time at Granite Park, Fifty Mountain, Sue Lake, Stoney Indian Pass & Lake, Mokowanis Lake, Elizabeth Lake & Ptarmigan Tunnel. Sue Lake was accessed by climbing over the shoulder of Mt. Kipp from Fifty Mountain and descending the Chaney Glacier down to Sue Lake Bench. A cross country descent led us down to intersect the Stoney Indian Trail and put us back on the North Circle proper. This variation allowed us to avoid descending several thousand feet down to Waterton Lake, only to have to regain it again to Stoney Indian Lake. And Sue Lake Bench was worth its hardships in gold.

This was a very special trip filled with excitement and adventure, and plenty of wildlife (including a grizzly encounter).  I'm ready to go back!

2.  Photographing Yellowstone National Park.

Blue skies reflected in the waters of Crested Pool, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.
Crested Pool.
I've spent a lot of time in Yellowstone National Park.  It's an amazing place for photography.  There is so much variety available that something is bound to capture the interest of most shutterbugs.

The park has very distinct features, offering geysers, hot springs, waterfalls, terraces and mud pots.  Each of these features require a slightly different approach with the camera, as well as lighting and weather conditions. 

There is enough to keep you busy here for weeks!  What's more, the abundant wildlife will adds a definite bonus!

3.  Photographing the Enchantment Lakes

Prusik Peak above fall larches at sunrise as a storm clears, Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington, USA.
Prusik Peak at sunrise.
The Enchantment Lakes are one of the most beautiful destinations our state of Washington has to offer.  The high alpine lakes are set in granite basins surrounded by larches that turn brilliant gold in fall, and towering peaks above. They attract photographers, hikers and climbers from around the country.

You must have a permit to visit this fantastic place, which encourages one to plan in advance.  Of course, if you're feeling lucky, you can roll the dice the morning of by playing their lottery system.  Don't get caught without a permit; the rangers patrol the area and strictly enforce the permit policy.

The Enchantment Lakes are best visited from late July through mid-October.  Late July-early August will often find the area mostly snow-covered, though peaks are very accessible.  Late August and September are the best hiking months; the area is mostly melted out and the weather generally continues to be nice.  This is a great time to explore and scramble in the upper basin.  October offers the turning of the larches, as well as the seasons.  It's common  to have a dusting of snow on the ground, making off-trail travel in the upper basin tricky.  Though photographic throughout the summer, October offers a photographer's paradise when the larches can be timed right.  Unfortunately, the weather can be unpredictable and present challenges.  One must be prepared for winter conditions, or to even cancel their trip altogether.

4.  Buck Creek Pass/Spider Gap Loop

Early light on Glacier Peak above Image Lake in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington, USA.
Glacier Peak above Image Lake.
The Buck Creek Pass - Spider Gap loop is considered one of the premier backpacking trips in Washington, and with good reason.  Glaciers, high passes and lakes abound along this fantastic trek.  Throw in a side trip to Image Lake (a must!) and this classic is raised to an even higher bar.  Do this trip during flower season and it will add to your enjoyment and photography.  This is an outstanding flower hike in season!

I found my 24-70mm lens to be my only lens used on this trip.  I carried my 17-40mm, but it never saw the light of day.  I left the bigger glass at home, as I typically due on such extended trips.  The weight isn't worth it.

I highly recommend this extended backpack!  I would budget 6-7 days to really enjoy all it has to offer.  I would not consider anything less than 4-5 days.

5.  Dr. Jose Rizal Park - Wow!

Seattle at night from Dr. Jose Rizal Park, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Seattle from Dr. Jose Rizal Park.
Dr. Jose Rizal Park has amazing views of the Seattle skyline from the south, as well as Safeco and Qwest Field, and Elliot Bay.

The first view that gets your attention is obviously the view of the city and the freeway wrapping around it. At night (or early morning in my case), headlights and taillights create colorful streams of ribon during long exposures. The above image was exposed at 15 seconds, f16.
Qwest Field (now Century Link) is a close second in the running for your attention from this park, at least at night. The colorful blue roof serves as a beacon south of the city.

Dr. Jose Rizal Park is located on Beacon Hill, just off of Dearbon Street (the exit to take off I-5). The approach from the south is a little indirect due to one-way streets and freeway obstruction, but it is worth the effort! Check it out next time you are in the area!

6.  Painted Hills Unit - John Day Fossil Beds NM

Painted Hills at sunset in the John Day Fossil National Monument, Oregon, USA.
Painted Hills at sunset.
 The Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the most popular subjects in Oregon for landscape photographers. It is also the most well known of the unique formations within the monument.

Located near Mitchell, Oregon, the Painted Hills are a photographer's dream. They are colorful, patterned, contrasting, unique and extremely fascinating. Their colors change throughout the day and with even the most subtle change in light. They consist of stratifications of yellow, gold, black, and red as a result of layers of fallen volcanic ash from ancient volcanoes.  The Painted Hills are truly a photographer's delight!

7.  Artist's Palette - Death Valley National Park.

Artist's Palette in Death Valley National Park, California, USA.
Artist's Palette in Death Valley National Park.
Artist's Palette is on the face of the Black Mountains along Artist's Drive in Death Valley National Park.

As the name would suggest, it broadcasts an aray of attractive colors in its rock. The colors are brought on by the oxidation of different metals; red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing mica, and the purple is from manganese.

The Artist's Drive area provides evidence of one of Death Valley's most violently explosive periods, though this is not the predominant thought on your mind while viewing these colors of the rainbow.

8.  In memory of Karen Sykes, 1945 - 2014

This is the saddest entry on the list.  The hiking community lost a truly special person and lover of life itself this year.

Image of Karen Sykes, courtesy Alan Bauer.
Karen Sykes, 1945 - 2014 (image courtesy Alan Bauer)
I first met Karen in 2007 - March 13th, 2007 to be exact.  It was a special day because it marked my first time hiking with her and another new friend, Alan Bauer.  Little did I know that both would become very good friends and colleagues.
On June 18th, Karen met her fate doing what she loved.  Her final adventure took place in Mount Rainier National Park, on a hike to Owyhigh Lakes with her boyfriend Bob.  Karen did not return. 

There are more questions than answers as to what happened on that day.  And most likely, many of those answers will never come.

I will miss Karen.  I will miss her joyous smile and infectious laugh.  I will miss her quest for adventure and seeking to notice details along the way that others might overlook.  I will miss her kind heart and goodwill to those around her whom she found so important in her life.

Rest in peace, Karen.  You have touched the lives of more than you ever could have imagined, and will be sorely missed.

9.  New Years Eve From Kerry Park!

The city of Seattle from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Seattle cityscape from Kerry Park.
Kerry Park is one of, if not the, supreme view of the city skyline that Seattle has to offer, and includes the bonus of Mount Rainier off on the horizon. The visual is magical.

Access to the park was pretty straight forward and easy, even on such a day as New Year's Eve. It is certainly a popular spot, but as with many tourist locations, people come and people go. Too crowded for you? Wait 10-15 minutes.

Kerry Park is not very large. In fact, the "park" is mostly down below viewpoint, and requires a steep descent to visit. Kerry Park as photographers know it is more of a paved viewpoint, roughly 100 feet long. The best vantage if from the far west (right) end near the steps that descend to the play area and basketball court.

A visit to Kerry Park at sunset should be a must on every visitor's list. I strongly recommend it.
The park is located on Queen Anne hill, just west of Queen Anne Ave.

10.  Updated! New for the Holidays - Poster Prints!

Mount Rainier above flower meadows on Mazama Ridge near Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA.I'm excited to share my newest product with you - poster prints! These 12x18 standard sized prints were created by my good friends at ADG Printing in Lynnwood just in time for the holidays and my upcoming shows! They represent 6 of my most popular images from my home state of Washington, and some personal favorites as well.

Well, that's it!  Now it's time to shed the past and move ahead to 2015.  I hope all your hopes and plans see fruition, and that it is a great year for everyone!

See you on the trail!

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