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2012

January 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

It’s that time of year again. The world didn’t end with the Mayan calendar so it looks like we’ll have a 2013 after all. Thinking about the past year, there just weren’t many lows for us, and we consider ourselves fortunate. Our daughter started her second year of college and we’re mighty proud of her accomplishments as she continues to work and further her education. Our son has started his sophomore year of High School and still has eats and sleeps football. Wrigley, well, he still lays around mostly. All in all 2012 was a pretty great year.

We certainly won’t forget the weather this past year. No snow and in the 70’s most of March followed by a hot and very dry summer and a gorgeous fall. Winter took it’s time getting here with just a trace of snow just before Christmas. To use the word strange would be an understatement.

Heidi and I traveled this year beginning with my cross country trip with my cousin to Park City Utah, and then hooking up with another cousin (who sucks) traveling to Arches National Park.  It was a great week with highlights including skiing, hiking, and zip-lining, to relaxing in a cozy bar enjoying some great conversations.

End of June we made our way up to the UP of Michigan with some friends. Jan and Kip were fantastic hosts and Kip would make a heck of a tour guide if he ever wanted another career. Great trip and was just overwhelmed by the scenery.

In July it was off to Glacier National Park in Montana. What an awesome place this is and one we both would like to revisit. The mountains, trails and lakes are a moving experience. You can’t help but to feel small here and get lost in your thoughts.

September brought yet another trip, this time to Utah and all of the National Parks in the state. Heidi found her favorite trail at Zion and had already talked about hitting this again. Hooking up with family once again just made the trip even more enjoyable.  Dennis and Dixie know how to do Utah!

Here around the house, the subdivision continues to grow, although at a slower pace. There were many changes to the pond behind the house this past year with many different kinds of animals and birds seeming to settle in. It’s nice to have a beer on the deck and watch a little “Nature Channel”. I continued my walks around the area bringing the camera all the while. I’ve also learned that there just aren’t any polar bears around Northern Illinois. While I didn’t mean to end up taking bird photos, they get the nod as that is what is on the trails. That and deer! I even managed to have a couple of photos published, which is something that I would have never thought possible a few years ago.

Started to take sports photos this year and was flattered by the requests and purchases that folks have made. While I won’t be able to quit my day job any time soon, it was extremely rewarding and I look to continue this passion going forward.  And no matter what Heidi may think – photography is still cheaper than boating!

Thanks to my wife, family and friends who encourage, support, and go along this journey. I hope that 2013 brings your friends and family a great year of happiness, and safe travels.

Ken

 

My favorites of 2012:

Northern Hawk Owl

 

 

Zion

 

 

Making a Move

 

 

Glacier at Night

 

 

Sandy

 


Utah!

October 13, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

WOW! That’s where the story ends for those of you that want to skip all of the details. However, if you would like to continue…

Heidi and I had talked about this trip after visiting Glacier, and though we tried to plan it out ahead of time to allow friends of ours to join us, the work schedule mandated a pretty quick decision if we were to go. So it was booked!

We started this adventure at Milwaukee airport and headed into Vegas. After a really great flight and grabbing the rental, we were off to our first destination to meet some of our family in Mesquite Nevada. Dixie, Dennis and some of my cousins were having a get–together there, and we felt obligated to crash their party. It was great seeing the family, well, except maybe for Kyle and Cody, but we sure enjoyed seeing how Jeremy’s girls had grown. Dennis and Dixie have an awful lot to be proud of. The next morning we said goodbye and jumped in the car for what would be our biggest driving leg of the journey, Moab Utah, with Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as our first destination. The 6 hour drive was broken up with some great views and vistas, and the time seemed to fly by.

 

We arrived at Arches in time for sunset, and we were able to drive around the park and even a walk around Windows Arch. We had quite a lot of fun watching the moonrise through the north window arch.

Checked into the hotel, end of day 2.

Awoke to a beautiful morning, and I headed out to get a few early morning shots while Heidi caught up on some much-needed rest. After picking her up, we bought some things that were needed and headed to the park with Delicate Arch targeted as our first hike. The weather cooperated nicely and it wasn’t that hot at all. We enjoyed the views and chatted with fellow hikers making sure we checked out the petroglyphs as well.

Afterwards, we hit the trail to Landscape Arch. It was a nice hike and after driving all of the side roads and being tired from the hikes, we decided to make our way to Canyonlands and get our first glimpse of what awaited the next day. We drove to the very end of the park and enjoyed the vistas along the way. My cousin had described it as a “Mini Grand Canyon” and I think that he was spot on. We saw the sign for Mesa Arch, and decided that it may be fun to watch the moon come up through it. While we were there two other couples had thought the same and we had a great time swapping stories and enjoying the evening. The brought a picnic and the chicken that they offered us hit the spot. They had been there earlier to watch the sunrise, and told us how there were around forty photographers all trying to get the famous sunrise shot through the arch. The temperature dropped and, being pretty tired, we headed back to the hotel.

Day 4

I awoke before dawn and headed to the infamous Mesa Arch, and yepper, it was slammed. Parking lot was full, and a tour bus was rolling up. I decided to try some other spots, and after shooting awhile, headed back to pick up Heidi. We did one more pass through Arches and then headed back to Canyonlands. We drove the entire park, stopping along the way to be certain that we weren’t missing anything.

Convinced, we headed towards our next park, Capitol Reef. 

We came into to Capitol pretty early and scouted out our next hike - Capitol Gorge. We traveled past the pioneer registry making our way to the water tanks. If you ever take this hike, bring plenty of water as it was pretty hot. The canyon walls are indescribable and there are more petroglyphs to be seen as well.

After taking the driving tour, we felt up for another hike, Hickman Bridge. This was an enjoyable hike, a little steep at first, but offered plenty of shade and the payoff – a wonderful arch.

We treated ourselves to a nice dinner at the Rim Rock steakhouse in Torrey. Great day!

  

Day 5

I watched the sun rise and then back to the hotel to get Heidi. Getting a very early start, we checked out a few of the orchards, the old school and headed out for Bryce Canyon.

The drive from Capitol to Bryce was unreal! Heading through the Dixie National Forest and the Grand Escalante should be a trip within itself! The Aspen’s were turning and the views were incredible.

It was a pretty quick trip to Bryce and we wasted no time in taking the “Hike of the Hoodoos”. This hike to the canyon floor 600 feet below will push you, but the views are worth every step!

We then took the drive through the park stopping at all the Vistas, and then finally headed to Mossy Cave Trail, to check out the waterfall.

After this quick hike it was on to Kanab, for an evening with Dennis and Dixie.

 

Day 6

Since we had been to the Grand Canyon several times before we decided to take the trip down to the park and check out some of the places Dennis had told us about the night before. We drove to the main lodge on the North Rim hiked along the trails and then took various gravel roads to spots that we hadn’t seen before. The views were pretty hazed, but the trees were showing their colors and we enjoyed our quick visit.

Done with the haze we decided to towards Zion and get a feel for the park that we would hike the next day. Awestruck! This park isn’t that large, however it quickly became our favorite. From the canyons, to the 1.1 mile tunnel, it is breathtaking. We drove through the park and stopped at the nicest visitor’s center I think that there is. We watched the sunset, walked along the river and headed back to enjoy a great dinner with the family.

 

Day 7

Hiked the Narrows! The trail-head is about a mile from the shuttle stop and quickly turns to water. Yep the trail from here is about 60% water as the stream is the trail! While it was cold, the view keeps the excitement and energy level way up! We hiked back about 4 miles making it past the “junction” and then some. Someday I’d like to go back and find “The End” of this hike. This was, by far, our favorite hike, next time neoprene socks would really be a good idea as the round trip (10 miles total) in the water does get cold. This took the majority of the day and what a great one it was.

Day 8

I got up early and headed back to Zion. While filming some Bighorn Sheep, I ran into a local photographer Barry and enjoyed hearing about the spots to shoot and where to head when we come for another visit. Great morning and the sheep sure put on a show.

Once back, Dennis and Dixie decided to show us their “backyard” and we went via Rhino to Hog Canyon, Best Friends, and then on to Peekaboo Canyon. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we had. The views were terrific, Dennis brought a grill to cook lunch and the drive was a blast! Crawling straight up rocks, fording streams and ripping through the sand, the Rhinos were a blast! After a quick cleanup we headed downtown for dinner and then back to the house for some “Oreo Cookie Shit” Yeah, it’s a dish that Dixie makes that is crazy good. And better yet, Kyle and Cody didn’t get any…

Day 9

Being impressed with Peekaboo Canyon, Dennis and I loaded up the Rhino and drove there so that I could get a few photos of this slot canyon. Great time, and Dennis was awesome in playing tour guide. We then met the girls at the Barracks, another canyon, grabbed some lunch by a stream and relaxed away the afternoon. After a quick shower it was time to head out to Vegas. Thanks to Dennis and Dixie for being great hosts, tour guides and friends. We can’t thank you enough and love you dearly.

Day 10

Who in the hell goes to Vegas to recover from a week of hiking and being outdoors? Well, we do now! I enjoyed the day relaxing with my girl, played some dice, had some cocktails, and got ready for the plane ride home the next morning. What a trip!

 

Totals:

National Parks crossed of Heidi’s bucket list: 6

Miles driven: 2008

Miles hiked: 37+

Elevation hiked: Know of 1100ft (Delicate and Hoodoo’s) Guess would be around 1800 feet as the GPS was not being friendly.

 

WOW!


Glacier National Park

July 26, 2012  •  3 Comments

My wife Heidi and I had talked about going to see Glacier National Park for some time. We have always been fans of the national parks and it was time to see this one. We did the research, looked for a window in our daily work lives, and set out on the 18th of July.

We wanted to be sure that we could be prepared for any type of weather and based on this; we decided to take on the drive instead of fly. Because we have both flown so much for work, sometimes flying actually takes away from our time off. Crazy? Perhaps. But we do enjoy seeing the scenery along the way, so we packed up the car and headed west!

 

Day 1:

After a stop in the Badlands we arrived at our first destination, Rapid City SD. While we’ve been here quite a few times, we wanted to get a look at the “Big Heads” lit at night. We came close once, however just like a scene out of a Chevy Chase Vacation movie, they shut the lights off as we walked from the parking lot to the entrance of the park. Success this time!

 

Day 2:

We drove through Custer State Park and made our way to Wind Cave so that Heidi could get her National Park Passport stamp. The last time through here we did all of the tours, so we didn’t stay too long. We did take the drive through Needles, and it is still spectacular as ever. Drove by Crazy Horse, and while the head of the monument has come a long way, the pictures that I have from my childhood trip, look pretty close. The time that they have spent on this amazes me – and perhaps that’s the way it should be. It’s not about the goal, but about the journey.

 

Not much wildlife, with the temperature hitting about 102.

Knowing that we had a big drive ahead of us, we pointed the car north and headed off for Great Falls MT. We arrived pretty late, but took in the spectacular views and were continually amazed by the vastness. A far cry from the congested Chicago Suburbs.

 

Day 3:

Glacier! Indescribable! We spent the morning driving the Going to the Sun road, stopping at all of the turnouts along the route. Hit Logan Pass and we were just simply awestruck looking out over the valley. I’m not a writer, so I’m not going to even try to describe how we felt or the view that awaited us. Recharged is an understatement!

We checked into Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the original hotels in the park. The lodge, which is right on the lake, has the rustic feel and the staff was awesome. While Heidi and I are used to staying in hotels through our jobs, it was a shocking, however pleasant, surprise to learn that there wasn’t air, TV, or a fridge in our room. So we had to “settle” for windows overlooking the lake and the nice 68 degree breeze blowing through the room. They did have Wi-Fi so after a quick check on the weather, which called for scattered thunder storms, we decided to stretch our legs and take the hike to Avalanche Lake.  

 

Hike to Avalanche:

This trail can get very crowded because it is one of the relatively easy marked trails in the park. The trail passes by Avalanche Gorge and the payoff is a beautiful waterfall fed lake. While walking this trail we noticed a lot of downed trees and were told by another hiking couple that the trees were hit by a recent windstorm. Arriving at the lake I quickly grabbed the camera and set up the tripod. While the weather may not have cooperated for photos of the lake, the peacefulness after the long drive is just what we needed. We munched on some snacks and that’s when the thunder hit.

We packed up the gear and headed back – just as the storm hit. We got to the section where the downed trees were and the ones standing were bent and cracking from the wind. Yep, we now know where the term “widow makers” came from. I looked up and Heidi was gone! She had taken off running up the trail wanting to get out of that area – NOW! The wind wasn’t as bad up the trail and after a brief rain and some very close lightning strikes the storm moved on. +1 for Heidi, she brought her raincoat, I only brought a plastic bag for the camera gear! The rain really made for nice views of Avalanche Gorge; it looked so much like a true rain forest.

 

 

We headed back for the lodge and ate at the restaurant there. Try the Yankee pot roast – it’s a lot, but soooooo good! Met a very nice couple and swapped road stories, enjoyable evening.

 

Hike 5.5 miles   

Time 3:30

Moving 2:33

Stopped 57 mins.

Elevation

Min 3445

Max 4028

Ascent 895

Descent 876

 

 

Day 4:

Got up early to get some photos of Lake McDonald and spent the rest of the morning at the sites along the lake and turnout areas.

My wife and I aren’t skilled hikers. While I hike our local parks here in Illinois, they are about as hilly as a basketball court. We decided to challenge ourselves and also see some other areas of the park. We consulted a couple of maps, hotel staff opinions and our “park guide” The Photographer's Guide to Glacier National Park by Gordon Sullivan (great book by the way!) and headed to Bowman Lake, with Lower Quartz Lake as our goal.

 

The road to Bowman Lake would be a blast if I had driven my truck. However in the BMW it was tricky and slow going to say the least. But…Off-roading has never been so comfortable! The gravel road leading to the lake does take some time to travel as its one lane and tricky to pass other vehicles, but because it was dry, it was a pretty easy drive, just slow.

 

Bowman Lake is simply gorgeous! With the peaks providing the backdrop, it’s a Glacier postcard. We set our site on the trail to Lower Quartz and headed out. The trail is fairly steep and well-marked. The climb up is tough but the switch backs provide relief. The descent to the lake is steeper and at times quite the mosquito factory. Bug spray is a must here!

Once we arrived at the lake we sat on the footbridge that crosses the stream flowing out of the lake and had sandwiches. I think that we passed 4 hikers the entire time and it truly felt as if we had the entire park to ourselves.

 

 

Now the trip back… I had to slow down on the way back. The steeper climb was tough and I became pretty overheated. Once over, the descent down in the shade of the trees helped me return to my usual self. (Note to self…don’t eat so much)

 

Great hike, it felt good to push ourselves and we truly had gotten away from crowds.

Hike  7.1 miles

Time 4:29

Moving 3:42

Stopped 47 mins

Elevation

Min 4055

Max 5195

Ascent 2042ft

Descent 2028ft

 

Stopped off at Apgar on the way back to the hotel, grabbed a six pack and enjoyed the evening while in rocking chairs on the porch of the hotel. Too cloudy to take night photos.

 

Day 5

 

Ummm….. pretty sore!

Got up early to catch the sunrise, packed and headed to Logan Pass.

 

 

We spent most of the day making the hike to Hidden Lake. Climbing the snow pack was challenging and Heidi felt the altitude change. While the mountain goats and other animals made the trip enjoyable, the true spectacle at the start of the trail was the people watching. The start of the trail is a boardwalk which I believe entices folks to make the trip. I watched many women, carrying purses and wearing sandals slip and slide across the snow while trying to make their way across the snowpack. Truly a site to see, maybe more entertaining than watching a public boat ramp!

 

We got off trail awhile and sat and ate while overlooking the valley. (For those who know, we did watch out for plant life while making our way to the rocks.) We had many mountain goat encounters and even had a Ptarmigan come up to within a few feet of me. I’ve taken many pictures of birds, but never with a wide angle lens.

 

 

Hidden lake is another postcard. WOW!

 

 

Hike 6 miles

500 feet in elevation change and a slippery slope across the snow!

 

Don’t forget sunscreen on this hike! We had it in our pack, didn’t use it, yes we know better!

 

Afterwards we checked in at the Rising Sun Motel, showered and went to Many Glacier. While we planned on doing Iceberg Lake the next day we were disappointed to learn that there weren’t any icebergs this year… Cracker Lake seemed to be the way to go, until we woke up the next morning….sore and sunburned.

 

We ended the day and I went out to take some sunset shots, we saw out first Big Horn sheep up near Logan Pass.

 

 

 

Still too cloudy for star shots…

 

 

Day 6

 

Woke up sore and sun burnt. Took the drive to Many Glacier and didn’t feel up for the hike to Cracker Lake. We settled on the trip to Baring, St Mary’s and Virginia Falls. Trail was really crowded, but it was an enjoyable (and sometimes windy) hike along St Mary Lake. We passed a ranger and she stated that a bear had been spotted, however we didn’t get the chance to see it. The falls are awesome, and would recommend this hike for anyone that has the opportunity.

 

Hike from Going to the Sun Point

Hike 5.8 miles

Time 3:42

Moving 2:42

Stopped 1:00

Elevation

Min 4481

Max 4720

Ascent 830

Descent 811

 

Heidi hit the bed pretty early and as it was our last night I really wanted to get a star shot. Winds had picked up and were blowing probably 50+ but I was determined. Started to head to Logan Pass and came across my first bear of the trip! I was the first there and was able to enjoy it before other cars came along. I was disappointed that Heidi wasn’t along to see it.

With the wind howling (boy I thought it was going to take the roof of the lodge off) I got a couple of sky pictures.

Day 7

Packed up and started the journey home. Before leaving we drove through Two Medicine and took the short walk to Running Eagle Falls. What a gorgeous site! Sure hate to leave, but I know that we’ll be back.

 

 

Totals:

Hiked: 24.4 miles

Elevation

Ascent 4767 ft

Descent 4150

Not bad at all!

 

Notes:

Bring sunscreen and use it!

Don’t overeat out on the trail.

Check ahead for hotels on the way home if the State Fair is going on.

Being “Off the Grid” is wonderful!

 


Elaenia

April 26, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Two teenagers were out bird watching in Douglas Park, Chicago, when they discovered a bird that looked out of place. After posting it on a few forums, the consensus was that they had discovered an Elaenia, and it was narrowed to either a Small Bill or a White Crested.  What makes this a big deal? Well the bird is about 7000 miles from its home in South America and if a Small Bill, it would be a first time occurrence in North America and only the second time a White Crested has been seen.

After talking about it with Heidi, she suggested that I go down and try to get some photos of the bird. I’m sure glad I did.

Since posting a few of my photos, I’ve been contacted by many experts asking for permission to use my photos, including David Sibley and the Field Museum.

You can check out David Sibley’s article here. He certainly does a much better job of telling the story than I.

In Praise of Mystery

 

 


Return from Utah!

April 02, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Just returned from Arches National Park in Utah – What a place! There are so many photo opportunities, EVERYWHERE! Such a beautiful place. Have to thank my cousin Kyle for leading many a hikes, and got to take some photos from vantage points that most won’t get to see. The first is “Self Portrait” at windows arch.


Todays Photo

March 02, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

I was very flattered when I received an email asking for permission to use one of my photos. Needless to say that I was very happy to see my photo next to the other great images on this site. Please check out http://www.todaysphoto.org/picture-of-the-day/old-red/ !

 


Welcome!

February 26, 2012  •  1 Comment

Well it begins!

Seeing how there’s a Blog page option I figured that I might as well use it. However that being said, I really don’t have too much to say as the time it took to set the site up is now preventing me from being outside and taking photos!

 

For those that have encouraged me, taught me, critiqued me, I have to say thank you. I also have to say thank you to my wife, who supports me in every way. I love you babe!