Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vacation Closing Thoughts

We left the bed and breakfast at 0430 AM this morning to head to the airport to catch our flights home. The flight home was horrible. The flight from Jackson, WY to Salt Lake City, UT was fine; however the flight from Salt Lake City, UT to Washington, DC was awful. We were delayed 30 minutes, then when we were about 45 minutes out we had to circle for an hour due to a storm at Reagan, at which point we had to divert to Richmond, VA to get gas. We were on the ground at Richmond International for about an hour then flew tower to tower to Reagan National which meant we had to stay at 10,000 feet thus the flight was very bumpy. We finally landed about 3 hours after we were supposed to. Discounting the flights, it was a good vacation and I enjoyed spending some girl time with my mom.

The Alpine House, was the bed and breakfast we stayed at in Jackson, WY. It was a very nice bed and breakfast. The rooms were very clean, the beds were comfy and the staff was friendly. The only minor complaint I might have is they needed to start serving breakfast earlier then 0730 in the morning for those headed out to the National Parks.  However the breakfasts were excellent I personally liked the asparagus and eggs (I know it sounds strange but it good) and mom liked the peaches and cream French toast.  I would stay there again if I was a skier or just exploring the Grand Tetons.

I loved Yellowstone and am defiantly planning on going back.  However next time I plan on staying inside the park. The drive to Yellowstone from Jackson, WY was an hour and half each day and that was just to get to the park not to get to any of the main visitor centers.  On this trip we were only able to explore the lower loop, which is where most of the geysers are located. Although many of the animals only are in this area in the winter, since it is warm, they migrate up to the upper loop and the Lamar Valley which we did not have time to explore.  When I go back I also plan on spending longer than a couple days in Yellowstone, I think more like 5 to 8 eight days inside the park itself would be good.

The Grand Tetons were nice; it is a place for mountain climbers and avid hikers. The trails in the Tetons were more rugged and there was a lot of up and down.  The diversity of habits was impressive from wetlands to grasslands to of course mountain regions. I enjoyed this park, but enjoyed Yellowstone more.

Overall, I think it would be better to go in early fall or early spring to the parks, because the wildlife is more active.  The more active the wildlife the higher the chances of you have of spotting it.  While, I did see buffalo, mule deer, ground squirrels, marmot, pronghorn, chubby chipmunks and a beaver the moose, mountain goats and bear (bear bell & repellent must have worked) were elusive.  Although I believe I did get some good pictures of it, I still have to go through little over 1000 frames to be sure. 

In conclusion,  this was very good vacation that got me away from civilization for a bit (no cell service in most areas) and let me commune with nature.  Now I get to review and edit a little over a 1000 pictures, to determine which ones make the cut.


I will see a moose next time.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Last Day of Yellowstone & Teton Vacation


Prong Horns (from video camera)
For our last day in Jackson, WY we attempted to find moose one last time. We had breakfast and head back into Grand Teton National Park through the back entrance towards the moose habitat.  Sadly there were no moose in the area. However as we drove further into the park we were lucky enough to see some prong horns and actually get pictures of them.  Usually prong horns are very hard to photograph because they are skittish and can run up to 70 mph.  We also saw more mule deer before leaving the park.   

After we left the park we stopped at the Wildlife Art Museum. The museum was nice, from the outside it looks like a stone fort built into the side of the mountain. Inside the museum was quite spacious and the art was nice. I liked the two large mountain lion sculptures.  From there we headed to our last event of the day horseback riding.
Horseback Riding (from video camera)
We went for an hour trail ride along the Snake River and a bit up the mountain. It would have been a better ride if the others of the party were more honest about their skills. The little girl was ok and enjoyed herself, however the little boy who was a 5th grader, was not that great.  I think the little boy was scared of horses, and he complained the whole ride. He kept saying he wanted to go back, and this was scary.  I think his mom should have left the boy with the dad who stayed behind. At least the trail guide was good and handled the kids well.  The trail ride ended and we headed back to the bed and breakfast to pack for the flight home. 
Overall the trip was good. The parks were beautiful and I would definitely go back, but stay inside the park next time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grand Teton - Still No Moose

We headed back into the Grand Teton today, on the quest for moose. We went in the back gate, since that entrance road has the highest probability of moose sightings.  I asked the ranger at the booth if there were any moose sightings, and he told me there was a “moose jam” six miles down the road earlier in the morning.  Sadly we did not get to see the moose jam, or any moose for that matter.   We continued up to Hermitage Point on Jackson Lake.  On the way up to Jackson Lake we stopped at a few overlooks and turnouts, were we were lucky and saw mule deer and prong horns.  The prong horns were too quick for us to get a picture.  Once up we made up to the Hermitage Point Trail head we did two small 1 mile loops near the edge of the lake.  We did not see any wildlife on the hikes.  Afterwards we ate at the restaurant at Colter Bay.

After lunch we headed back down the mountain and on the way we up Signal Mountain Summit Road.  It was a long and winding drive up a very narrow road. Once we made it to the top, it was a gorgeous view across the valley. We also had excellent cell service at the top since there was a cell tower located right there.  We then continued on down and stopped at the Bradley and Taggart Lakes trail head. There we did the 4 mile loop that takes you up to Taggart Lake.  The trail was a moderate hike which was rocky and with a few steep climbs.  After that hike we headed back into town, on the way back we saw a beaver but no moose.
Thursday is our last day in Jackson. We will attempt to see a moose one last time and will be going horseback riding.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grand Teton – Jenny Lake

Today was devoted to Grand Teton National Park.  We started our adventure at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, which is a very nice visitor center, to get hiking maps and find out where the moose hangout. (Mom really wants to see a moose.) The Ranger was nice and circled the areas on the map were moose are usually sited and said he would text them shortly to make sure they were out.  Unfortunately we did not see any moose today.


Hidden Falls (taken with point and shoot)
Our first hike was at Jenny Lake.  We took the shuttle boat across the lake, instead of doing the 2.5 mile hike to get half way around the lake.  From the shuttle boat drop off point we did the 1 mile hike up to Inspiration Point which passes by Hidden Falls.  The hike to the falls was moderate hike; however the hike up to Inspiration Point was a steep half mile climb up 400 feet with multiple switchbacks and a narrow trail. I ended up hugging the mountain on the last bit of the trail because it was a very rocky, steep, narrow path with a steep drop off.  However it was worth it, at an elevation of 7200 ft. the view was across the lake was breath taking.  At the top we stopped to eat some granola bars and take pictures of the very brave inquisitive chubby chipmunks. The chipmunks would run across people’s feet, and come right up to people and stare at them hoping for crumbs.  I helped a nice group with their camera and chatted with them a bit.  After that we started back down but not the way we came up, we took the horse trail, which is a much easier trail and decent.  The group I helped with the camera met up with us, since I had a map and followed us back to the boat dock.  On the path down we saw a woodpecker and some animal I could not identify.  Once to the boat dock it was back across the lake and on to find a place to eat.
We ended up traveling up to Signal Mountain Lodge to eat. We had a hot lunch at their restaurant, in Yellowstone we were eating cold lunches served cafeteria style. The price was about the same and the food was good.  From there we decided to head back down the road to Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, another prime location for moose.
The road to the preserve is very narrow, and past the preserve turns into a dirt road. We did a the short 2 mile loop instead of doing the full loop out to Phelps lake because it looked like a storm was going to roll in.  It would be just our luck we would get out to the lake which is 3 miles out and it would start pouring and we would have to walk the 3 miles back in the rain.  The short loop was nice, part was along a small river and part was a wooded path. Sadly we did not see any moose on our journey.  Once we finished the hike we followed Moose-Wilson Road, part of which is a dirt road out of the park to Teton Village. Teton Village is mostly just for hotels and access to skiing in the winter.  We then continued on back to Jackson.
Since we got back at a reasonable time today, we ate at the Bunnery in Jackson and then got ice cream from Moo’s.  We also walked around the town a bit then headed back to bed and breakfast. We got back just before a storm rolled through and were treated to a full rainbow.  It was good end to the day.
Wednesday we will head back to Grand Teton in search of moose.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yellowstone – The Canyon



Lower Falls (taken with cell phone)
Today we traveled the full lower loop. Our first stop was midway geyser basin to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. We then proceeded up to Canyon Village, on the way we stopped at Gibbon Falls. We stopped in the Canyon visitor center so Mom could get her stamp and then went over to the cafeteria to get some lunch.   We drove the upper falls loop, and stopped at the first lookout point.  The path at the lookout takes you 600 feet down lower falls ridge; we walked about half-way down the path.  The path was rather steep and had several switch backs.  After that we went to the Grand View point, this point looks out over the Yellowstone Canyon and the river below. The canyon is a very light yellow color and the way the light played off the canyon walls made it breath taking. A picture just does not do this view justice.  We finished the loop road then headed down to the upper falls view point. We decided against walking down the 300 hundred steps to get us to the bottom of the upper falls, the view from the top was nice. Then we traveled further down the road to Artist Point. Artist Point looks out at the lower falls and the canyon. This is a beautiful overlook which lets you see the depth and colors of the canyon and the falls flow into it.  Again I don’t think the pictures I took will to the place justice.  From there we travelled further around the loop and stopped to look at a bison and then at Mud Volcano.  We were planning on eating in the park at West Thumb; however there was an accident which forced them to close the road for an hour. So we traveled back up to Yellowstone Lake and ate there. Dinner was ok but lunch was better.  An hour later we continued around the loop back to the start to head home.
Thus far we have seen a squirrel, mule deer, a chipmunk, an osprey, and bison and have taken a little over 700 pictures.
On Tuesday we will tour the Tetons starting with the Jenny Lake area.

Yellowstone – Old Faithful


Today was a very long day. We were up around 0600 because we are still on East Cost time. We had asparaguses and scrambled eggs, it was surprisingly good.  Then we headed out.  It is about an hour and half drive to the Yellowstone south gate, then another 45 minutes to an hour the Old Faithful area. As we were waiting to go through the gate, there was a squirrel sitting strait up on a rock, all he needed was a little sign saying “welcome”.  As we drove into the park the next animal we saw was a pair of mule deer. At first I only got butt shots, but then they turned around, so I got a face.  Then we continued our journey to the Old Faithful visitor center.

Old Faithful from the back (point & shoot)
Our first stop in the Old Faithful area was the store to pick up some water then we made our way over to the visitor center. As we were coming up the main walk, Old Faithful just started to erupt.   We watched Old Faithful erupt then made our way over to the visitor center to pick up maps and for Mom to stamp her park passport. The visitor center is very nice and modern looking yet fits in with the lodge and other building which are more rustic.  For our first walk we did the geyser hill loop, the loop took about just enough time for us to see Old Faithful erupt another time before we walked over to the cafeteria for lunch. Lunch was reasonably priced and pretty good.  After lunch we did the lower section of geysers near Old Faithful. Both walks were both nice, I think we walked about 5 miles in the area.  Once we finished there we drove to Biscuit Basin and did that short half mile loop. Then we went further up to see the mud pots and did that half mile loop, on the way we saw a bison. We tried to get into the middle geyser basin area but there was not parking to be found.  By that time it was already 1700, so time to head back to Jackson. On the way back we saw some more mule deer. Mom was disappointed she did not see any moose.  Maybe Monday we’ll get lucky and see moose.  We didn’t get back to Jackson till 1930 (7:30 PM).

On Monday we are going to head back up to Yellowstone and do the Yellowstone Canyon area.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Travel Day - Jackson, WY


I was up at 0450 today (yes that is early in the morning) so I could catch my cab and be at the airport by 0600 for a 0730 flight.  Thankfully I checked in on line, so I only had to drop my bag off then make it through security. The security lines were a lot longer than I have seen them in a while for gates 10 – 22. I think that had to do with the very large number of families going through security, then again I’m used to going through with the business crowed during the week. My flight was mostly families with children no older than 10 and they all wanted to sit together on a full flight. Needless to say this caused a headache for the poor gate agents, who had to keep explaining there were no open seats and they couldn’t move people around.  Once everyone was settled, we were up and away. The flight was about 4.5 hours long, and bit bumpy in some areas (I hate turbulence).  I had a three hour layover in Salt Lake City; at least the airport has freed Wi-Fi. While sitting in the airport I got to listen to several call for people to meet their party in baggage claim. Though my personal favorite was the request to pick up forgotten property at the security checkpoint, apparently someone left a member of their party at checkpoint.  Just makes me think of some poor person sitting all lonely on the X-ray machine belt.  One of the other nice things about the Salt Lake City airport is the views out the windows are great, nice mountain views.

The flight from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole was less than an hour. It was the standard up then down flight, they didn’t even offer people drinks. However the flight was extremely bumpy. The decent was the worst, I felt like pilot was racing to land and the aircraft was all over the place. Once at the parking spot in the airport, I can’t call it a gate since there really is no gate, they roll the stairs up to the plane and you get off. You enter the terminal, through an antler arch directly into baggage claim.   Once in at the airport I had to wait an about an hour and half for my mother’s flight to come in so we could drive into Jackson.

The city of Jackson is nice, and quite quaint. However the only problem the street signs are very visible and there are very few stop signs and traffic lights. We passed the bed and breakfast we are staying at three times it just blends right in. The bed and breakfast is nice; we’ll see how the breakfast is in the morning.  Once we were checked in, we walked around in the center of town. We missed the shootout, that they have every day in the square.  But we did find some very expensive leather and fur stores and a place that sells taxidermy animals.

Sunday we will head up to Yellowstone National Park and see Old Faithful.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bear Spray

In a week my mother and I will be headed to our nation’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, for vacation. We will not be staying in the park itself, but at a bed & breakfast in Jackson Hole, which is about an hour outside of the park’s south entrance.  The reason we are not staying in the park, is I was unable to get reservations in time for one of the lodges and I’m not going to sleep in a tent.  I like nature and hiking but at the end of the day, I want a nice comfy bed to sleep in, a hot shower and fully functioning bathroom.  We do plan on going on several hikes through the park, mostly the main sights like Old Faithful, the Paint Pots and other points of interest.  We are not planning on doing long hikes through the back country.  We also will be spending sometime in Jackson Hole.

In preparation for the trip I have bought a few things, convertible pants, a travel tripod, water repellent spray, bug spray, a bear bell and bear repellent    I bought the pants because the weather is indicating it is in the 30’s in the morning and reaching the 70’s by afternoon.  So the pants are great because I zip sections off to convert them to shorts if need be.  The travel tripod was a birthday gift; it is small enough to fit in a backpack but will still hold a full body DSLR and lens. I bought the water repellent spray to water proof my backpack, because it never fails it rains at least once on my vacations and I’m not going to let a little rain stop me.  The bug spray, well that is obvious.  Now you may be thinking, “why the bear bell and the bear repellent if you’re not hiking in the back country?” My philosophy is I rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it. Also the parks websites and several Yellowstone hiking websites recommend it, even though bear attacks are rare.  I know most people are in the mindset that bears mostly stay away from people, avoid the heavy tourist areas and don’t attack unless provoked but I figure caution is the best course of action. Plus I doubt I’m going to run into Yogi Bear or Humphrey the bear from the cartoons, who are just after my picnic basket.  You may be thinking, “Don’t they have signs warning you about bear activity?” Yes they have signs but unfortunately bear can’t read.

So what is bear bell and bear repellent?  A bear bell is a large bell you are supposed to wear to make noise to alert the bears of your presence so they are not spooked when you enter their territory.  While this is a great it does tent to scare off the other wildlife that I do want to see. Mind you I highly doubt it is going to scare a bison off.  Now bear repellent is basically a highly concentrated form of mace.  The spray has a high concentration of capsaicin (2% or greater of mixture) and shoots a distance of 30 feet or more.    You are supposed to use it if a bear charges you, it will distract and irritate the bear so he goes off in another direction, then you are supposed to leave the area.   The main purpose of the spray is to provide you enough time to get to a safer location.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bear Cubs and a Memorial

Andean Bear Cubs
I went to the National Zoo today with my husband so I could see the bear cubs. The zoo recently had two sets of bear cubs. The sloth bear had a cub, but we did not get to see the cub and then the Andean bear had twin cubs.  The Andean bear cubs were very active and acting cute and adorable like you would expect cubs to act.



Iwo Jima Memorial
The other thing we did was go to see the Iwo Jima memorial which is located across the river from DC in Arlington.  It is about a ten minute walk from the Rosslyn or cemetery metro stop. The memorial is nice, and is pretty detailed and a little further down is a friendship tower. Now my other reason for finally going to see the memorial was, to scope out a new spot to take pictures of the 4th of July fireworks.   The fireworks are shot from between the Washington and Lincoln memorial over the reflecting pool.
Usually I photograph them from the Air Force Memorial which is less than a block from my apartment. However, many of the popular photos of the DC fireworks are shot from either the Capitol steps or the Iwo Jima memorial because you can line all the monuments on the mall up.  So I wanted to see what the view, actually looked like and if it would be worth the trip.    It is a great view of the city.  However, I would probably have to be there most of the day to get a good spot and have to deal with the crowds on the metro on the way back.  I still have plenty of time to decide where to see the fireworks; I might actually go into the city and watch them from the National Mall.

View from Iwo Jima

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Civil War Fort Day

The good thing about living in the National Capitol Region is there is usually always something going on. Today, even though it was cloudy and looked like rain, I went to the Civil War Fort Day held at Fort Ward Park.  (Yes it did rain a little bit but I had an umbrella.) The fort day shows what it was like living around and in the fort, and includes demonstrations and tours host by reenactors and historians.  The 3rd US Regular Infantry conducted drills, knitting and telegraphy demonstrations and they let people try charging the practice dummy with a rifle bayonet.  I like these events, because they are excellent photo opportunities and let me use a variety of technics.    You can see all the photos from the day here. 

Fort Ward Park is a 41.4 acre historic park located in Alexandria, VA.  The fort was used by the Union Army from 1861-1865 to defend Washington, DC during the Civil War. The fort had has remains of underground bombproofs, remains of the fort walls, and reconstructed quarters of the high-ranking soldiers. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised

I started a 500px account, in late May this year, to just see what the buzz was about and to have a place to showcase what I think is some of my best work.  Overall it is nice site, but I’ll stick to my Munchkin Photos account through SmugMug for most of my work.  

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised today when I uploaded my picture of the Hungarian Parliament Dome, which I called Golden Dome (right). 

The photo shot up in ratings to a popularity rating of 90.1 in less than hour.  This is double the highest rating I have on some of my other photos.  I think it is rather impressive for a low light photo shot without the use of tripod looking straight up.  Now the question is will anyone actually buy a print of the photo.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why...

I take photographs because I enjoy it and want to share my vision, experiences and art.   My photo site Munchkin Photos contains over a 10,000 photographs which document my growth as a photographer and life’s adventures.  My photography focuses on travel, events and wildlife and some portraits. However, I want to add a little more to the stories of my photos beyond the quick descriptions on my main photo site. This blog will allow me to do that.

This blog will include descriptions of my travels. I try to go on one major vacation a year, which usually involves me traveling overseas for two weeks.  Although, this year I’m staying in the US and I’m heading to the first National Park, Yellowstone.

Thus this is a blog to document my photography project, travels and other bits of whimsy.

Trip to Acadia National Park

Stop along the Park Loop Road ISO 400, Focal Length 20mm, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/400s Last weekend my husband and I went up to Acadia N...