Bryce Sunrise

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Highway 12, Dodging Storms and Bryce

At the end of our second day in Utah it felt like we had been there a week.  We experienced an amazing ride on Highway 12 from Capital Reef, through Escalante, passed our Coyote Gulch entrance (boohoo) and on to Bryce NP.  Highway 12 is said to be one of the most scenic drives in the country.  I agree.  It was amazing.  Over Boulder mountain, a long extinct volcano giving amazing views from ?? feet plus huge groves of blinding white aspen trees.

Then it winds through the Grand Staircase of endless gulches, canyons, cross-bedded sandstone and amazing views every 1/4 mile.  It was a drive that everyone should take.  We stopped briefly in the small town of Escalante visiting a few of the small outdoor outfitter shops there serving the canyoneering croud then headed off to Bryce in a hurry.  A hurry because we were running out of time.

We still had no idea where we would be sleeping for the next two nights.  We were committed to hiking into the back country and camping away from everyone for 2 nights but the weather was crazy.  Big thunderheads were building up in the hot sun all across the horizon and we decided that the Bryce canyon might be a good place to hide.  We got to the visitor center at 5 PM and I rushed up to the ranger desk, topo map clutched in hand, saying “I need a back country permit”.  The ranger saying “where do you want to go”?  I reply “no idea so give me a recommendation”.

The ranger was great.  Showing me where they allowed back country camping in the park, where water could be found (a bit of a non-issue of course with all the rain) and what sort of elevation changes were there.  I picked a camp site that was remote, but that I felt Nina and I had a chance of making before sunset.  When finished, the ranger asked me to look at the weather board on the far wall and make sure everything was OK.  The weather board showed rain and lightning bolts everyday for the next 5-days and it was raining outside.  Perfect!  Lets go!

We drove the trailhead, prepared our packs in somewhat of a frantic hurry (which later resulted in us eating with no utensils at all for the next two days) and hit the trail.  It was raining a bit when we left, but the storms spared us.  We spent the next two days with thunderheads skirting the canyon rim every 4 hours. Thunder, cracks of lightning and downpours were hitting the entire area – except the lower remote part of the canyon where we were camping.  We saw only a couple of people on the trail briefly during our time down there – a far cry from the throngs up on the canyon rim.

After hiking out, we spent a restful night in a small hotel and I took time to photograph the stunning geology from the canyon rim at sunset and sunrise. Turns out sunrise is the best time for good shooting since the sun sets behind the canyon rim.  And, shooting the sunrise is best shot from ‘sunset vista’, not ‘sunrise vista’.  Go  figure.

It’s hard to take a unique shot of a scene that has been photographed so much, but regardless it was still awe inspiring to look over that landscape and try and take a few unique shots.   Hiking around the area for three days at 7-8,500 feet was great exercise – especially with a full pack including camera gear.

All the Highway 12 and Bryce Canyon pics are here.

-Andy

Back from Utah

Nina and have returned from our week in the Southwest.  A fun, hard, dramatic and relaxing trip all at the same time.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape, and being a former geologist and avid photographer, in complete nirvana.  We got a lot of exercise hiking all over the place almost always in excess of 6,000 feet.

I will write a couple of entries about our trip as I plow through and post the myriad of photographs I took along the way.

We started out arriving in Capital Reef National Park after our drive down from Salt Lake City.  This was not the plan.  We planned to arrive in Escalante, camp in a local campground for the night and then take a 3-day back-country hike down Coyote Gulch in a very remote part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  But, as they say all great plans…

Weather had turned sour a few days before we arrived and sure enough the entire Southwest was getting hammered by rain and thunderstorms the day we got there.  Even the locals were saying they couldn’t remember a September that was like this.  So, all non-paved roads were impassible (all of our plans involved non-paved roads) – and hiking in slot canyons was strongly discouraged.  So we decided to swing by Capital Reef and see what we could see. We ended up staying in a campground in the National Park for the night and spent the next day hiking in some high-country.

This shot is an example of what was going on there.  That’s the Fremont River below, normally flowing low enough that you can drive across it to access a big part of the park, but not today.  It was blood-red and angry.

So we hiked in a narrow, but high canyon and kept watch on the weather (a theme for the whole trip).  This was my first up-close contact with Southwest Geology and it was amazing.  Cross-bedded standstone, hoodoos, slot canyons and even strange things like big basaltic boulders laying around on the groud like they had been placed there as part of an exhibit.  Turns out their source has been studied a lot and are believed to be transported by glaciers and then moved into these gulches by flash floods.  They were everywhere in the park.

Nina was a trouper on the entire trip putting up with my photography, helping me change lenses and laughing at how excited I got everytime I saw something new.  Mid-way through the hike we suprised a Bighorn Sheep that hung around close enough to us that I was able to change lenses and get a few great close-up shots of it.  Good thing because it helped break up the endless shots of rocks and mountains in my photos.

We hiked all morning, then finally headed out of the park by noon with no idea where we would be sleeping that night.  With the weather still ugly, Coyote Gulch was definitely cancelled and we were desperate for a place to camp in the wilderness away from all the retired people in RVs that descend on the National Parks after Labor Day (the people-watching of the National Park croud was a topic of ongoing conversation between Nina and I).

More about that afternoon and evening in the next post.  For now, here is the link to the Capital Reef shots: http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Vacation/Southwest/Southwest-2011-Capital-Reef/19153216_J47DNs

I definitely want to go back to this park.  Unlike the other parks, most of it is very remote, only accessible via 4-wheel drive or hiking.  The Cathedral Valley loop is a must- see 4-wheel drive adventure that I really want to take.  Will need good weather for that – maybe next time.

Utah Prep and Improvisation

Things are looking bleaker by the minute for the upcoming trip to Utah.  Thunderstorms and flash-floods are now predicted for everyday of the week we are there.  3 months of planning and I’m frantically re-planning most of the trip with less than 24 hours to our flight.  Our primary goal was hiking and back-country camping in the canyons in Escalante and Zion – but with flash floods happening daily, being in slot canyons is a very bad idea.  And virtually every road we need to take has the caveat of ‘may be impassible after rain’.  Not good.

So I am looking at alternatives, staying in higher country in Bryce and Zion and possibly Capitol Reef National Park.  As always, it’s important to be flexible and fluid.  Perhaps my photography eyes should be set on storm clouds and lighthing over the vast plateau’s of southern Utah rather than canyons.  Regardless, still exited to go – I’m done downloading waypoints into my GPS, Nina is figured out meals and we are headed south ready or not.

Posts and tweets will come as we travel.

-Andy

 

 

On the Golf Course

Dex and I are playing two rounds together this weekend as we are having a solo weekend – Nina is out of town.  Today, we were late getting to the Trilogy golf course in Redmond.  The main road to the course was closed and my navigation system re-routed us to a private road that ended up going nowhere.  So instead of a leisurly arrival of hitting a few balls on the range before our round, we ended up getting to the 1st tee as the 2-some we were paired with had finished hitting their drives.   Rushing to the t-box, Dexter went up the white tee’s and laced his driver right down the middle.  A few seconds later, from the blue tee’s I banged a 3 wood also right down the middle.  It was a nice moment went we arrived to our balls.  Our two balls were 1 foot apart sitting dead center in the middle of the fairway.  Like they had been placed there.  Our two playing partners were off in the rough, one way right, one way left – and when we re-joined on the green, one of them said “great shots!”.  We could tell they were thinking  “who are these guys?”   One of the many great father-son moments Dexter and I have had out on the course together.  We had a good time playing with those guys, good players themselves, appreciating each other’s good shots and sharing the pain of our bad ones.

This week I watch Dexter play in a golf tournament for the first time for his high school.  Another 1st.  A few photos from that day: http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Sports/Dexter-Golf/Dex-Liberty-Golf-September/18921342_LsGdsF

Our weekend seems to be 50% golf and 50% experience the 10-year aniversary of 9/11.  Dexter is asking a lot of questions, we are watching several of the documentary’s (Dexter’s choice) and once again experiencing new sights and sounds of that day.  As I type this we are watching one of those documentary’s now and thought it was worthy of taking the time to post something about our day.

Michigan 2011

Been a while since I’ve posted anything here – but due to Chelan’s prodding I’m going to start writing again.  I’m mid-way through my sabbatical so I have very little reason to not have the time.

The annual Michigan trip is done.  Nina and I are back home, Chelan is at Purdue and the countdown to Dexter starting High School is underway.  It was a complex trip this year.  Dex, Nina and I, Zach and Layne all flew to Chicago then drove to Madison to drop them off for Nina/Layne’s annual camping trip.  Dex and I fit in a round of golf at the UW course, then Dex and I drove up to the UP, across the Macinac bridge and to the Boyne Highlands resort to drop Dexter off at his week-long golf camp.  Then after a slow trip down the state, playing a round of golf in Gaylord, I arrived drove down to the house.  Nina and the kids arrived the following day and Chelan also arrived flying into Grand Rapids.   Then a few days later Chelan and I drove all the way back up to the top of the state to pick up Dexter from camp and drive him home.  Then, the next week a 2-day trip to Chicago to see Taylor Swift and see Nina and the kids off (kids to Madison, Nina to teaching gig in SF).  After that Dex, Chelan and I drove back to Michigan for a few more days of relaxing and the arrival of the Elephants for some golf.  Then finally home.

In the end, I drove the equivalent of circumnavigating Lake Michigan 2 times I think.  Ok, enough about the pain and suffering.  Trip highlights:

  • Dexters Camp:  Wins the golf tournament and gets a hole-in-one on the par 3 course – wow, what more do you want??
  • Paddleboard:  We rented a paddleboard for the first time and found it to be a huge asset to beach activities.  Waves up – body/boogie-board surfing.  Waves down – paddleboarding
  • The Lake:  We experienced all types of Lake Michigan personality.  multiple days of high winds – almost too dangerous to swim in (2 people died up at Saugatuck Oval beach during the winds causing a lot of search-and-rescue helicopters and a C130 to fly up and down the beach front).  Complete flat waveless lake water for multiple days.  Very warm, very enjoyable water temperatures – and also a day where you could not put your foot in the lake for more than 30 seconds without pain shooting up your leg.  Also a great lightning storm when we first arrived capture in photos.
  • Nina and I get engaged on the beach just as the sun set on a clear evening.  I popped the question – she said yes.  What else could be more perfect.
  • Dune Scooners:  Took everyone on the Saugatuck Dune Scooner rides.  Same as it has been for the last 40 years.  Still learn something new and it did provide us with a great group shot of our new hybrid family.
  • Regular, traditional activities:  Cider donuts, laying on the beach, golf, movie in Holland, shopping in Saugatuck, visits with Pier Cove neighbors, seeing 9 wild-turkeys in the front yard, Nina, Layne and Zach got to exsperience the Art Barn,  my normal crazy allergic reactions to the mold/pollen that is omni-present,  annual Ravine meeting, etc.  Somehow we escaped Craigs Cruzers this year – yeah!!!
  • Taylor Swift:  Nina and I chaperone Layne and Chelan to the TS concert in Chicago.  Very exciting and impressive show.  I have to say that I was fully engaged in the show despite my role as chaperone.  Chelan was of course crazed.  Surprised she didn’t just black out.
  • Go Pro:  Dexter brought his Go-Pro video camera and we capture the first shots of boogie-boarding the Michigan surf.  The super-wide angle lens sort of makes the waves seem not that big, but it does capture the experience of the constant wave activity that batters you as you in the surf.  Videos up here.
  • Elephants:  Mark F and Steve made it up this year.  A short trip but a nice time with just one foursome of me, Dex and them.  We played the Ravines (course conditions disappointing) and a brand new course called Macatawa Legends in Holland that was formerly private and now opened up for public play.  It did not disappoint.  We dodged storms in the morning to just fit in 18 holes – well almost 18 holes as we had to pick up our balls on the 18th fairway as a wall cloud came baring down on us (photo).  Chelan and Christine came with us on both rounds, riding in their own cart, taking photos and filming our silliness.  Chelan promises to have a nice video for us in the future which I will post a link here too.

At the end of this trip the same question is always at the forefront.  It is almost impossible for me health-wise to stay there for more that 2 weeks due to my allergies.  How much is it the old house, or just the midwest?  Will we ever build a new place on the empty lot on the lake?  Will we retire there?  Still open questions.  But, it is a bad time to discuss this as I’m still feeling the effects 4 days after getting home.  Overall still a great trip.

As always lots of photos:  http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Vacation/Michigan/Michigan-2011/18356145_WP4B9F

This photo in particular made the Explore page of Flickr which always is a joy:

Even though we go to the same beach everyday I always find it a good challenge to create a new, unique shot.  Tired of normal sunsets, I sent Dexter out on the paddleboard to pose as an interesting foreground object.  I quickly found that it was easier for me to have him just stay in one spot, and for me to move along the beach to get the right composition, rather than trying to get him to paddle the places I wanted him to be.  In the end a great shot.

Until next year.

Paris Street Art

While in Paris I took time to pay attention (and photograph) something I would rarely even notice – street art.Or known by its more common name: graffiti.  Inspired by the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” which I highly recommend – I found  myself intrigued at the idea of maybe seeing some good street art in Paris.  One of the people in the movie called Invader, has a long, well known history of making mosaic tile depictions of characters from the old Space Invaders game and placing them high-up in random places in cities.  He has visited cities all over the world, but Paris is where he got his start.

Well, as it turned out, the neighborhood we were staying in just happened to have a concentration of his work.  I was amazed to spot one, then by the end of we had run across a total of six.  They are hard to notice, only 1 foot square and often high-up on the side of a building.

In addition to Invader, we lot of interesting art, lots of appearing while we were there, and disappearing within a day or two.

No Banskys’s were seen, but certainly some interesting things for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links to all the photos I took are here:  http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/Misc-Photo-Shoots/PSART2011/15557504_MF6Y8