Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Magic of Yosemite

I made it!

I had an amazing time in Yosemite National Park, spending four days camping nearby and exploring as much as we could. Even with four days, we didn't make it out of the valley and only saw a fraction of the park.

I will say, that my first impression was...mixed. While standing in the mist-shrouded Yosemite Valley, with El Capitan and the falls looming over me, I felt as if I were in Jurassic Park. Not only because of the ancient, unbelievable views, but because of the multitude of tour buses and thousands of people milling about. In the valley, everything is paved. Even the trails...and the fields are fenced off with signs asking you to stay out. They have to do this, in order to prevent everything from being trampled to death (probably would only take a few days). It was very, very odd.  I'm used to the tamer parks here in Washington State. Even on the busiest weekend of the year, when we would consider the traffic crazy in Mount Rainier National Park, and the camping grounds comes nowhere close to the commercialization of Yosemite. I guess that's what bothered me. Had me conflicted inside: the commercialization.

The irony, of course, is that I was a tourist. As I stood there looking around with some disdain at all the people swarming me, I had to accept that I was one of them. Drawn to the park by the lure of the world-famous Half-Dome and two-thousand-foot Yosemite falls. I firmly gripped my Nikon and sucked it up: be a tourist.

My traveling companions (fellow photographers), were smart. (and early risers, which I am not) They made plans arrive at the park early in order to miss the crowds. We were told that the line to get into the park would be MILES long by seven. SO...we got there at 5:30 and there wasn't a soul in sight until about eight. Then the park quickly filled to the point of the streets of Disneyland.  However, they were all polite and pleasant. WE were all there to experience the beauty and peace of this awe-inspiring place. So I was able to get over my trepidation. (I don't like crowds)

My absolute favorite part of the trip was our very early morning hike up to the top of Sentinel Dome. The valley floor is around 4,200 feet elevation. The top of the valley is about 6,200 and the top of the dome is just over 8,100. Yup. I was standing on top of a granite dome, looking straight down some 4,000 feet to the valley below us. I was looking DOWN on Yosemite Falls, and across at Half Dome. It was absolutely, freaking amazing. I am providing pictures below!

The only downer was when I finally caved to car sickness. The roads in and out of the valley ascend and descend 2,000 feet a couple of times, and they do it very quickly on endlessly winding roads. I survived though. :)

Rather than bore you with more details, I will take you on a little photo tour!

This is El Capitan. I'm still not sure how I achieved these colors. Yeah...I processed the image more than I normally do, just was all FOG. I only had a UV filter on, but as I worked with the contrast, brightness and color saturation the purple and green jumped out. Perhaps light reflecting in the fog? Sort of like how the Northern Lights sometimes look extremely fain, but with a long-exposure image the colors are visible. Anyway...I like it. :)

Bridal Veil Falls.

Also Bridal Veil...again, with the purple and a little green evident. It was...surreal.

The lower portion of Yosemite Falls. (the upper half was in the mist!)

That night, back at camp, we had an amazing thunder storm!

I got to see everything in the sun the next day!

The view from the top of the dome!

Our last stop was at a grove of giant Sequoias!

Some of the local wildlife!

So to sum up the trip..."Breathtaking!" 

I plan on camping at Mount Rainier National park at least once, hopefully twice this summer, and I WILL get to Yellowstone in the next year or so. I'd love to spend at least a week there!

I will be at Blast From the Past this coming weekend (June 5,6,7) in downtown Sedro Woolley. I'll have a few pictures from my trip available, as well as SO many others. I'll also have all of my books, signed and at low prices. I hope to see all my local friends there!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mount Baker/ Baker Lake Hike - and Venus!

I want to go hiking again already, but the deep ache in my hip and swollen knees/feet tell me something else! ;)

I'm actually quite surprised at how well I fared. Considering the slug I have become in the past year or so, sixteen miles of moderate hiking with a 25lb bag on my back is a big deal. But I made it without my neck even freezing up on me (can't say the same for my husband :( ).

On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I started off at the Baker lake trail head, located in the Mount Baker National Forest in Washington State. It was a 8.1 mile hike into Silver Creek campground, and man...was it gorgeous! The weather was HOT (upper 70s, which for the PNW in April is HOT) and it couldn't have been more perfect.

I got to try out all of my new gear that I have been gathering for my hiking trip to Yosemite next week (yay!!!!) and I learned a few things:

* The tent is nice, but I wouldn't call it a two-person. Really, it's a one person with a little room left over. But nice.

*My sleeping bag is comfortable but NOT warm enough. It's rated for 40, but I would say it's closer to 60. Seriously. I didn't sleep at all until my husband got up and put his sleeping bag over me. HIS was warm enough.

*The air mattress I got is AWESOME! It worked great, as well as the pillow. However, said pillow was NOT dry. (I washed it as per instructions to make it fluff more. I thought it was dry. It wasn't)

*My backpack is alright, but the straps really aren't adequate. I might need to take my husbands pack to Yosemite.

*** When you hear a weird sound behind you, and turn to see a look of shock on your hiking partners face....then hear the sound again a few feet behind them, in the trees, and realize it's a bear, do NOT start to take your lens cap off to take a picture. While capturing a picture of said partner being mauled would make for a great conversation piece, the correct action would be to make noise and walk away....FAST.

I am REALLY glad to have done this test-run. I learned that I am physically capable of more than I thought, and that some of my gear isn't up to par. Good stuff.

I also had a whole bunch of time to reflect (5 hour hike on the way out) as to why I'm hiking. Yes, it's great physical exercise, but it's more than that. It's about getting out into nature and leaving all of the chaos behind, and for me it's primarily about capturing some of the beauty in images to take back and share with others who either aren't capable of doing it themselves, or just don't know it exists. are some of my favorite pictures I captured this past weekend!'s not about the destination, but the journey!

Mount Baker Under Venus, reflected in Baker Laker

The stars were AMAZING!!!

What it looks like in the daylight. 

The trail...what's not to love?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sauk Mountain Hike - My Journey Continues!

I can understand how hiking becomes addictive.

**Looking back over this, I think it's important to add to it. For those that have read the 'about me', you know that I have (mild) MS, as well as very bad knees and hip. (degenerative arthritis) My ability to get out and do these 5 to 8 mile hikes are as much as an emotional journey for me as well as a physical one. I had a major set-back last year after suffering from horrible whiplash after being rear-ended on I5. This is my first step to strengthening, losing weight, getting out in the world and pushing myself to do more than I ever thought I could do again. **

Two weeks ago I posted about my first 'real' hike in a year, at Baker Lake. I liked the trail so much, that when my husband and I decided to get out this past weekend, I took him back there.'s just so beautiful. I didn't take as many pictures this time around, since I had just been there, but I brought my new wide angle lens to try out. This is the best one I came up with:

Can you understand now why I keep feeling called back there? It's so quiet, and peaceful and reflective. Like another world where none of the daily stresses transpire.

That was this past Sunday. Monday, I got back out with my new hiking partner and like photographer, Dellene. We are headed to Yosemite on a 4-day hiking/photo trip at the end of this month. I am SO excited!!! I've got all my gear together, and I am psyched. :)

So anyway...Monday Dellene to took me on the Sauk Mountain trail. Now, I have heard of this place many times. In part, because of an unsolved murder that is believed to have happened there. (the missing woman's body has never been found) Now that I have been there, I can understand how this might have happened.

You start out at over 1,000 feet above the valley and then you climb another 1,200 up switchbacks to the top of a ragged peak:

This is the trail head. If you look just above the picnic table, THAT is the trail, which I have zoomed in on in the image below.

This trail is crazy. It's only a couple of feet wide, and if you happen to fall off...well, you hope that your descent might be stopped by the next switchback down!

Some of the far corners in the switchback were still covered in snow, and we found ourselves climbing hand over hand to get past it without sliding off.

However, in spite of this rather exhilarating ascent, it was worth it! The views the whole way up, and especially at the top were simply breathtaking!

Skagit Valley, Washington

Glacier Peak (an active volcano)

Over the top, (and after trudging through several feet deep snow) we were rewarded with sweeping vistas of the North Cascade Mountain Range:

Some hikers that passed us on the way up, and continued around the crest

Wildflowers clinging to the hillside

All I can say is... EPIC. And I can't wait to get to Yosemite and share that experience with you, too!!