Monday, October 27, 2014

Northern California's Coastal Wonders

           Mention the California Coast and images of surfer-dudes, beach volleyball players and Santa Monica Pier sightseers come to mind.
           Fill your mind instead with starfish, seabirds, seals and sea lions, with surf crashing upon rocks and untamed shorelines.  How?  By visiting the Northern California coastline during September.

          Replace those rusty SoCal images with these shiny NoCal scenes.  Enjoy the following snapshots from the uncrowded seascapes between Point Arena and Crescent City.

Point Arena Lighthouse.
For a fee you can access this remote area
and walk the 145 steps to the Lighthouse Tower.

Walking the beach as the tide rolls in.
Manchester State Park,  Point Arena, CA.

A Harbor Seal watches us as we watch it swim and dive in
MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg.

A stormy day near Ferndale,  CA.

Pelagic Cormorants congregate on this surf-scoured rock
near Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point in
the contiguous United States.

Giant Green Sea Anemones on the beach near Crescent City.

Starfish cling to the rocks on a beach near Crescent City.
Unfortunately west coast starfish are experiencing massive die-offs.
Scientists don't know the cause but human activities are
suspected to be a factor.

If you want your footprints to be the only ones
on the beach, head to the Northern California
Coast during autumn.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

In the Realm of the Superlative—Exploring Redwoods State and National Parks, California

The Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.

            Our new world is mostly downward-facing, people continually checking their hand-held devices.  But here among the old-world giants everyone is looking up, their faces wearing expressions of wonder and awe. 
           Perhaps strolling among these titans causes visitors to speak in hushed, murmured tones.  Or maybe it’s the sheer mass of living plant material absorbing any noise.  Whatever it is, the human presence in an old-growth Redwood forest is not an intrusive one.

Tim snaps a photograph in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
(If you're having trouble spotting him, he's to the left of the
light-barked tree to the right.)

Waist-high Sword Ferns grow beneath the
Redwood canopy.

           In the 21st century we’re obsessed with bucket lists, with extreme sport, with triumphing over terrain when we set out for the wilds.  But there’s no speed-hiking here. People amble about these trails with the care and deliberation of meditating monks.
          Old-growth Redwood groves are places to slow down, to lose yourself in quiet contemplation and reflection.  Visit Redwoods State and National Parks in Northern California.  Look up.  Be amazed.

Red-tinted fallen needles carpet the
forest floor.

Walking alongside the trunk of a fallen Redwood.
Redwood trees always fall while they're still alive and
this tree, with it's furrowed red bark and several green
limbs still attached, looks as though it could
have fallen only yesterday.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Uncompaghre Peak in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado

          The hulking form of Uncompaghre leans into the sky like the prow of a ship at sea, and every time I gaze at this 14,309 foot peak I imagine it animating and sailing off into the clouds.
          But Uncompaghre isn't going anywhere just yet—a good thing for those who want to climb it and stand atop the San Juan Mountains.

Uncompaghre (the "tall ship" in the center of the photo) dominates
the skyline near Lake City Colorado.

          Uncompaghre is described as a "walk-up"—no technical climbing skills required—although a near-vertical section of loose scree near the top requires some hand-and-feet scrambling.
          Nerves of steel are required, however, to drive the rough and rutted four-wheel drive road to the trailhead.  After arriving safely at the trailhead it's another four miles and 3000 vertical feet to the top of Mighty Unc.  Braving the climb to the top of Uncompaghre's wide and level summit I feel like a pioneer arriving in a brand new world; layers of peaks and valleys stretch to the horizon with no roads, vehicles, buildings or towns in sight.

Less than a mile from the trailhead Uncompaghre bursts into view,
allowing unobstructed anticipation of the destination.

As we neared the summit we turned around to see the trail far below.
The yellow arrows point to two areas of the trail.

Tim navigates an area of loose rocks near the summit.

View from the top.  This is a great place to linger on a clear day.

          September is the perfect month to climb Uncompaghre.  The next time you're in Lake City, Colorado, grab a guidebook to Colorado's high peaks and discover new lands for yourself.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California

“It’s not a story until something goes wrong.” 
                                                                 ---Tim Cahill 

          Acclaimed author Tim Cahill's quote is but one piece of advice I received at the Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California.
          Held at Book Passage—an independent bookstore—the conference boasts a faculty of noted travel writers, editors and photographers.  Don George, Editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler, chaired the 23rd annual conference.

         This year’s conference featured informal gatherings and lectures, as well as interviews with travel celebrities such as Tony Wheeler, author and founder of The Lonely Planet Guides, and Deanne Fitzmaurice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.
         I attended several sessions covering such topics as:  Finding Your Story on the Road, Creating a Website, Finding and Creating Freelance Opportunities, Twitter’s Hidden Treasure, and Food and Wine Photography.

         Fellow attendees and the faculty of this conference were overwhelmingly focused on foreign travel.  I discovered that many writers and editors consider travel within the United States safe, tame and familiar—and therefore not prime, publishable "story" material.  That sentiment is supported by the Tim Cahill quote above.  However, I believe a good writer can craft a compelling story about any locale, foreign or domestic.

        Whether you’re writing for pleasure or for profit, the four-day event dished out a healthy serving of information and learning opportunities.
        A short list of tidbits gleaned from the conference:

         For Photographers:

  • Find the perfect setting and then wait for something to happen to get the ideal shot,  e.g. an eagle flying across the sky, a shaft of sunlight illuminating a subject’s face.
  • Good photography is timing and “seeing”; know your subject thoroughly by returning to the same place every hour of the day.

         For writers:

  • Editors are looking for writers who have a presence on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.  
  • If you’re pitching a story to a magazine or newspaper, many of them won’t consider something already published on a blog. 
  • Look for an angle to your story; if you’re going to a destination where tens of thousands of travelers have already gone, search for something unique and fresh to write about that particular place.
  • Know your audience:  Who is your audience; what message do you want the reader to walk away with?
  • If you're writing a personal essay, relate your travel tale to something that's happened in your life.
  • If you're writing an impersonal narrative, keep yourself in the background to give readers a sense of place.  Don't start your story with "I", and avoid the dreaded diary rehash.

          Additionally the conference offered advice on the craft and structure of writing—narrative arc, creating the perfect intros (ledes) and endings, using dialog, avoiding cliches and so on—all helpful pointers for anyone who writes, even if you’re not considering selling or publishing your work, even if your stories will only ever be read by you, your friends or your family.

         One final piece of advice, agreed upon by all faculty members at the Book Passage Writers and Photographers Conference:
  • Whether your passion is writing, photography, or both—love what you do and have fun with it!

The bookstore is located in a plaza in downtown Corte Madera.
We enjoyed dinner the first night, and breakfast and lunch every
day on this plaza.  Both the weather and the food were excellent.

         Read about the conference on the Book Passage website at this address:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dolphin Watch Sunset Cruise on "The Spirit of Cape May", Cape May, New Jersey

        Bottlenose Dolphins live and frolic in the ocean near Cape May Point during the summer months and, for guaranteed dolphin sightings, book a cruise with Cape May Whale Watcher.

        Captain Jeff Stewart Sr. pilots the boat.  During our July excursion Captain Jeff maneuvered the boat near several small groups of dolphins while his son, naturalist Jeff Stewart Jr. provided narration on dolphin behavior and habitat.   500 bottlenose dolphins spend their summer vacations in the waters around Cape May, returning year after year to the Jersey Shore—as does my own family.

Notice the dolphins (lower left- center) close to the shoreline of
victorian Cape May, NJ.  The smaller fin may belong to a calf, swimming
alongside its mother.

HIstoric Cape May Lighthouse on the point.

This pair of bottlenose dolphins surfaced near the boat.

Entering the Intracoastal waterway we passed the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
The ferry has been transporting people and cars across the Delaware bay
for 50 years.

         The two hour cruise flew by as we hurried from one side of the boat to the other, watching the playful cetaceans.  And, as if to assure passengers that this was indeed a sunset cruise, the south Jersey coast treated us to a brilliant red-orange sky as we returned to the marina.

Pulling into the Miss Chris Marina after
a successful dolphin-watching excursion.

       Cape May Whale Watcher offers cruises at various times of the day from March through December.
        Learn more by visiting their website:
        To read about another wildlife watching excursion on the other side of the continent, click here.

The Spirit of Cape May.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Get Your Kicks at the 66 Diner on HIstoric Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico

          Imagine a time before Interstate highways, before tens of thousands of miles of concrete and mind-numbing homogeneity.  Imagine a time when driving across the country was an adventure, when one could drive through real towns—full of character and intrigue—instead of bypassing them at 75 miles per hour. 
         Those days are long gone, but part of the excitement lives on when listening to Nat King Cole sing about the nation's most popular highway, Route 66, on this 1946 recording.

         Makes you want to hit the open road, doesn't it?  Albuquerque, New Mexico claims the longest intact section of historic Route 66 remaining in the country and I experienced the thrill of that long-ago time recently while lunching at the 66 Diner.  What a place!  Neon everywhere, and the diner is decorated with 40’s and 50’s memorabilia, including hundreds of pez dispensers and an entire display case devoted to Elvis and his pink cadillac.  The 66 Diner boasts the best milkshakes in Albuquerque and, after a sip of our chocolate chip mint and Dreamsicle shakes, my parents, twin sister and I would have to agree.

Two icons of the pre-interstate era—Marilyn and Elvis—welcome
visitors to The 66 Diner.

Hungry yet?  The luncheon sandwiches were quite tasty but the
milkshakes were out-of-this-world delicious!

The tidy stainless steel lunch counter, the teal-clad wait staff, and the
50s decor invite one to linger at The 66 Diner.

Dine with Betty Boop, alongside the grill of an old Plymouth at
The 66 Diner.

          Historic Route 66 has been mostly replaced by Interstate highways, but various segments of the old road still remain and some are undergoing revivals and renovations.  Learn more about Route 66 in New Mexico by visiting the New Mexico Route 66 Association.  Also, now on display at The Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles and continuing until January 4th is the exhibition Route 66: The Road and the Romance.
         This August, whether on Route 66 or some other highway, get your kicks by leaving the interstate and rediscovering America's scenic byways.

Route 66 was established in November of 1926.
Here, my Dad—born two years later in November of 1928—is
ready for fine dining—sandwiches and a shake along "The Mother Road" .

This collection of roadway signs anchors the parking lot of the diner.
No doubt my parents passed by many of the older signs while
cruising the highways of their youth.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Lunar Love

Supermoon, July 12, 2014

Photo taken from our back porch in Price, Utah.
Canon EOS Rebel Digital with 500mm Tamron lens.
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I hope everyone had a chance to witness this super lunar event on Saturday evening.