Tag Archives: tips

Day Three – Tips, Techniques, and Insight into Making Stunning Photos

19 Sep

Today, we are going to examine the creation of one of my favorite images of last year called “The Master of Light”.  This is certainly not a personal reference, but a divine one.

Fading sunlight illuminates the huge meadows surrounding the Bechler River in Yellowstone National Park.

Location:  Yellowstone National Park, WY

Technical Info:  Canon 5D Mk2, 24 – 105 F/4,  F/22,  ISO 50, 4 second exposure

Filters:  Hoya Warming Polarizer, .9 Singh-Ray GND (Soft), .6 Lee GND (Hard)

Processing: Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4

Creative Process: I arrived to view this scene shortly before sunset after a day of backpacking through Bechler River Canyon. It was a virtually cloudless day until I saw a storm developing in the distance around the Grand Tetons. We had crossed this meadow on the way into the canyon so I was familiar with the area. I knew I wanted to condense the size of the massive meadow and try to  make the mountains an integral part of the composition. I framed the back side of the Grand Teton between the trees and used the cattail as the foreground to frame the river. I maxed out the focal length on my lens and loaded on several filters.

I used the polarizer to reduce the glare of the water and bring extra contrast to the sky. I then used several graduated neutral density filters to reduce the brightness in the sky into a manageable dynamic range. Because the light was the best almost immediately when I arrived upon the scene; I didn’t have much time to work. I was able to capture two different frames before the meadow fell completely into shadow.

I used the low aperture and ISO to lengthen the shutter speed as much as possible, wanting to smooth out, yet show movement in the water. Because the storm was gathering quickly, you can also see movement in some of the clouds as well. Overall, it was one of the better scenes I captured in 6 weeks in the park and I am looking forward to spending more time in this area in the future. If you have any questions regarding this image or any others please feel free to contact me anytime.

Day Two – Tips, Techniques, and Insight into Making Stunning Photos

18 Sep

Today we are going to examine the details behind possibly my best shot of last year called, Celestial Alignment. The title comes from the fact the Lord literally hooked it up that morning and elements all fell into place perfectly for a stunning image.

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Technical Info: Canon 5D mark 2, 16 – 35 L/2.8, F/22, .8 exposure, ISO 160

Filters:  .9 Singh-Ray GND (Soft), .6 Lee GND (Hard)

Processing: Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4

Creative Process:  I captured this image during the one night I spent at Bryce Canyon NP last year. Talk about a blessing! We arrived at the park the day before as storms were moving through the area. The shooting was good during the afternoon as well as for sunset. The following morning we arrived at Sunset Point (better for sunrises IMO) and I began walking and composing images. Because there were no clouds obscuring the horizon, the pre-dawn light was pretty intense, so I stacked a couple of grads on my camera. I knew from my test shots that a single graduated neutral density filter would not be enough to capture the full dynamic range of light, even while bracketing. (For the most, using graduated neutral density filters at Bryce Canyon is straight forward because of the even horizon).  As the light began to change, we continued to move along the rim of the canyon. I generally knew where I wanted to shoot because I had scouted the location the day before. I also had a pretty good idea of where the sun was going to come up at because of the light in the sky. As the sun appeared, I found myself in the right place at the right time well prepared to capture the fleeting scene. All in all, the light lasted maybe 5 minutes and I was able to create plenty of images in that time.

I used an aperture of F/22 to create the sunburst effect as the sun moved over the horizon. I also bracketed my exposures by 1 1/3 stops allowing me plenty of “wiggle room” so when editing I had the full dynamic range of light to properly replicate what I saw in the sky. The hardest part about editing images of Bryce is balancing out the contrast in the red rocks with the contrast in the trees.  Also, not clipping the red channels in the rocks can be problematic. Overall, this image came out extremely and I am fortunate to share this story with you.  I hope you found it useful. If so, please let me know!

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Your Landscape Photography….

21 Aug

I am feeling compelled to share this tip with you before the weekend and my hope is that you’ll find this advice solid, useful, and rewarding. Before we start, I’ll admit I am guilty of skipping around on my blog posts and this one is no exception. As a result, I will continue my last series about sharing your photographs online next week.  Allow me to briefly provide you some context  for this post and where the inspiration came from. Lately, I have returned to many images already in the archives or previously posted to reprocess in hopes of a better result.  So far, I am very pleased with the results.  This has been a season of less travel for me, and  I haven’t taken what I consider to be a major trip (more than a week in the wilderness) pretty much all year. 

Being grounded in society like this really helps provide perspective on my time outdoors;  it is something that I cherish, relish, and value very much. Sometimes, when you out there so long (at least for me) one can get a little desensitized to the special meaning of their surroundings. While reworking some of these older images and through feedback from posting them online, I’ve seen once again how incredibly spectacular some of the places are that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. 

That brings me to the topic of this post:  Want to be a better landscape photographer? Well, besides enrolling in a photography workshop (another post at a later time, improve your research skills.  It dawned on me that I rarely just show up and luck into a great photograph. For me, it is much more than that – it takes time and efficient planning.  For your convenience, I am including a list on the steps I go through when planning a trip, and the questions that cross my mind and that I need to answer in order to move forward. (Not all steps will be applicable to everyone) 

1. Dates: When are you going to go? How much time can you spend on this trip?  This is pretty much my first step in planning a trip. I’ve got to decide when and for how long. We all have extenuating circumstances that help dictate or shape the dates of our trip – so I normally don’t precede any farther until I can confidently answer both these questions. 

2. Location:  For me, the location is always determined by the date and the amount of time I can spend on the trip.  Most of the time, I drive. For instance,  if the trip is less than three days, I won’t go out of state. If it is for a week, I’ll drive further to parts of a neighboring state like California, Utah, Nevada, or Colorado. If it is two or more weeks, I’ll consider driving somewhere like Northern California or Wyoming. The second part of this equation is the time of year: Obviously, we aren’t taking any backpacking trips in the Sonoran Desert in July and I am not planning on driving to Wyoming in January either. I generally try to maximize the season. That means go where the going is best….     

3.  Specifics:  The first two steps are pretty obvious. This step is where the rubber meets the road. It’s good to get a little dirty here.  I start with maps. Normally, AAA state road maps work best as the wilderness areas are well-marked in green. For instance, if I am going to Yosemite, I might look also at the areas around Yosemite to see if there is any interesting worth checking out. For some parks, like Yosemite, a lot of your options are decided by which way you’ll be driving so I like to determine that first so it gives me a clearer path of direction. (Excuse the pun) 

Along with all my maps my hiking book collection is an indisposable resource for my photography. This is just part of the collection...

 

 

So now you now where you want to go, when you want to go, for how long you are going, and which way you are going to be driving. Now the hard part; what are you going to do when you get there? For the sake of time, here’s a list of recommendations, advice and questions to think when planning this important leg of your journey. 

1. What are my physical limitations and what do I feel comfortable doing? 

2. If backpacking, do I need a permit and should I reserve one? Where do I get the permits? What are the best campsites?  What are the camping restrictions? 

3. What dangers do I need to be aware of and educated on?  (Wild animals,  flash floods, creek or river fording, unmaintained trails,  precarious climbs) 

3.  Which camera equipment should I bring?   

4. Where are the best places to stay should I need a hotel? 

5.  What is the elevation gain/loss of the hike? How many miles will I be traveling? 

1. Buy and study the guide books – the more research you do the better. 

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – don’t be too ambitious in your planning, allow for layover days and for days just to explore the area (just make sure you have the right area) 

3. Monitor the weather reports 

4. Spending time learning the topography of the land and learn or read about when are the best times to shoot. 

5. Get there early and stay late if possible. 

6. Schedule layover days for scouting expeditions 

7. Make safety a priority & have fun!!

Top 10 Parks for Summer Travel #8

18 Jun

8. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Pros: Breathtaking Views,  Abundant Wildlife, Centralized Location,  State of the Art Visitor Center, Easy Access, Family Friendly

Cons: Small in Size, Sometimes Overcrowded, Very little natural water

Dates of Visit: August ’06, August/September ’09,  May ’10

Bryce Canyon is probably the hottest park on this list right now as I continue to enjoy myself more and more every time I visit. In fact, this park has gone from a middle of the road contender to one of my favorites in the country. Although it is smallest in size on this list, it packs quite a punch. If you have never visited, the scenery here is second to none. Jaw dropping at first sight and continually beckoning the interpid sole.

Unbelievable scenery awaits you at Bryce Canyon

The base elevation of this park is over 8,000 ft. making it the coolest national park in Utah during the summer. There are two rather large campgrounds inside the park and several more just on its outskirts.

Furthermore, summer also means monsoon season and  Bryce Canyon is certainly known for its spectacular skies. Sunset and sunrise views here are both fantastic, arguably some of the best views in the world. I give a slight edge to sunrise for photography as most of the park’s vistas are facing East and the color is slightly better.

There are about 40 miles of hiking trails in the park, which is substantial considering its size. Hiking is relatively difficult here because of three reasons:  1) all the trails descend into the canyon 2) the air is thinner 3) there is no water in the canyon. There are backpacking opportunities as well and getting a backcountry permit is relatively easy because this park is more geared for tourists rather than hardcore hikers.

There are two items of interest that have specifically captured my attention that I want to talk about. First off, the trees in this park are absolutely beautiful. I could spend days here wandering around looking at the distinguishing character of the trees. The way they are set apart and scattered amongst the red rock makes it seem like a natural chess board. In my opinion, this is a very underrated aspect of the park.

The trees are fascinating at Bryce Canyon

The second suprising tidbit about this park is the abundance of wildlife. Now, I haven’t seen a lot of diversity, but cruise the main road in the park at sunset and you’re sure to see some deer and or antelope grazing in the meadows. There are quite a few birds in the parks as well…..

Because of its location, there are plenty of opportunities for other forms of recreation in and around the park. Whether it be ATV’s (certainly not my thing), fishing, swimming, rodeos, horseback riding, rock climbing, bicycling, etc., it is all here. For a first time visit, I’d suggest spending a solid week in the general area devoting about 1/3 of your time specifically to Bryce Canyon. At any point in time, two to three nights seems like the perfect stay there. It’s just simply not that big of a park to spend a week or longer there.

A visit to Bryce Canyon wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory stop at Ruby’s. The folks at Ruby’s basically discovered Bryce Canyon and put it on the map so they are the only game in town. Ruby’s is like the grand central station of Bryce Canyon. It has everything you need, want, or forgot from high-end souvenirs to groceries and sporting goods. Of course, don’t forget to try the buffet. I’ve personally sampled it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your dining options are pretty limited in these parts and for that fact alone – I do endorse this buffet.

At $11.99, lunch is a dollar more than breakfast I believe and much better quality. It’s not the greatest selection in the world, but it is hearty, decent quality, standard american fare:  salad bar, soup, chicken, pork, corn, carrots, beans,and a pretty killer desert bar that features some scrumptious brownies and soft serve ice cream. (The desert bar is not available for breakfast) It also runs until 5pm before it switches to dinner and the prices goes way up. If you get there at 4:30 you’ll pay for lunch and get to eat dinner, which basically involves adding some fish and maybe beef. Between shopping and eating plan on spending at least a couple of hours there. It is actually a pretty cool place and most of the employees are helpful and friendly.

So there you have it, Bryce Canyon in a nutshell:  indescribable views, amazing colors, special wildlife, the best buffet around, and literally bus loads of Europeans everywhere. This park is awesome. Please don’t make the mistake of just driving through. Get our your vehicle and explore! That is a fantastic place and highly recommend a summertime visit.

Top 10 Parks to Visit During the Summer

11 May

Today, we are going to start with our first ever Top 10 List, the best parks to visit during summer travel. My goal is to make these posts as fun and informative as possible. Starting today, with number 10  – we’ll count down in our blog to the number one national park in the lower 48 to visit during summer travel.

 Please keep in mind, I define summer as the period of days starting on June 21st and ending on September 21st.  Before we start, one thing I’d like to make clear is that I have not visited all the national parks – so for the sake of this list I am only including the parks I have visited during the summer. Also, I am unable to access some of my computer files right now so I will update each park on this list with a picture sometime in the near future.  I hope that makes sense! Without further a due…

10. North Cascades National Park, Washington    http://www.nps.gov/noca/index.htm

pros:  small crowds/solitude, pleasant temperatures, world-class scenery & adventure

cons:  inconsistent weather, poorly maintained roads, unusually dangerous terrain, limited amenities and services

date(s) visited:  August 2007

I have only had the privilege to visit this park one time and it was at the end of August a few years ago. I was there to do a charity climb for the non-profit group Big City Mountaineers. I spent about 4 days there and the weather was extremely erratic. The first day and half it was beautiful – sunny skies, highs in the 80’s…let me give you a picture. Snow capped mountains, dramatic vistas, glacial fed lakes, incredible waterfalls, lush greenery, endless beauty. The night after our climb of Mount Shuksan, I was awakened to the sound of snow cascading off a 1000 foot cliff. It was amazing. 

Then it started to rain. And it rained, and rained, and rained. It actually never stopped. And it rained hard. It wasn’t a drizzle that you can go out and walk about in.  I actually had to leave early because I just couldn’t anything it was raining so hard.

Despite all the spectacular scenery, the one thing that left the most lasting impact during my visit was the lack of crowds. I visited the main visitor at 4pm on a Saturday and it was practically dead. I couldn’t believe it. What a surprise!

One other thing that really got my attention was the topography of the land. It is extremely rugged and dangerous. You really can’t hike off trail. It is just too overgrown with thicket hiding unexpected drop offs. The rocks around the water here are extremely slippery. Just writing this conjures up so many incredible memories of this place.  Because its been a few years and I have only visited it once, I think this park would move up the list before it moved off.  It is certainly that special.

How to Watch TV in the Wilderness

7 May

Today, our discussion involves one other potentially important item of business while vacationing in our National Parks – television programming. Now, I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy sports. And occasionally, when I am on the road, there is a sporting event that I’d like to catch. So one could say I have a lot of experience in this subject matter.

Let me give you a quick story to illustrate this post. At the end of last summer, I found myself in Capitol Reef National Park hiking and photographing on the weekend leading up to Labor Day. Coincidentally, it was also the start of the college football season. Because I was camping in the park I ended up missing the first game of the season, Boise State v Oregon. It turns out Boise State won the game, which wasn’t that great, but you might remember Oregon’s star running back, Legarrette Blount ended up sucker punching onr of Boise State’s players after the game, and long story short, and a melee ensued.

That was on a Thursday night and on Friday my fiancée and I were trying to figure out where to watch the Ohio State (my alma mater) game on Saturday. It was their first game of the season against Navy. We didn’t want to get a hotel room in Hanksville and we thought maybe we could watch it at a bar or restaurant. Our initial plans were to head up to American Fork Basin just south of Salt Lake City spend Friday night in the wilderness and then stay in a hotel room Saturday and Sunday in Salt Lake.

The problem was the Ohio State game started at 12pm EST on Saturday. There was just no possible way to make it work. We didn’t have time. We thought maybe we could spend an extra night in Capitol Reef and stop somewhere on the way to Salt Lake City, but for those who haven’t been to Capitol Reef – it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. And there just isn’t much between it and the two hundred and some miles to Salt Lake. Also, between either backpacking and or driving we figured there was no way to drive to Salt Lake by 10am and find a place that was open with ESPN. I mean, this isn’t New York City, it’s Mormon country. In the end, we ended up driving to Salt Lake on Friday and getting a hotel room Friday and Saturday night instead of Saturday and Sunday. It worked out well, because the game was very exciting and Ohio State won 31 – 27.  That’s what this post is all about – how to watch TV in the wilderness.

 However, this isn’t all about sports though…it can apply to whatever it is on television that you are interested in watching. What’s the best way to go about doing this when you can’t get any TV reception in the park even at a hotel? Well, I am going to list out some comprehensive guidelines to understand. Follow these and your won’t miss your favorite show or sports broadcast while on vacation in the parks.     

1)      The amenities at every park hotel are different. For instance, in Death Valley NP you can get cable television at the hotels, while in Yellowstone NP there are no televisions at all.

 2)      Don’t assume the hotel you are staying at has the channel you want to watch. Call them and find out! I’ve been burned on more than one occasion because of this.

 3)      Make sure you know the dates ahead of time. This applies to the time of the show or event, and where you’ll be staying on that date.

 4)      If you are staying at a campground inside the park – plan on driving to the nearest town to watch your show. There are some notable exceptions to this rule – make sure you call the park and find out if there is anywhere in that area to watch TV.

 5)      Be fully aware of which time zone you are in. When traveling around the Southwest between Nevada, Arizona, and Utah this can be particularly confusing.

 6)      If possible, try to stay in a hotel the night you really want to watch television. This takes a lot of planning, but it usually worth it in the long run. It’s also the best tip I can offer and it works great for sports. Because many sports, like football, get played on the weekends, we usually stay in hotels then and in campgrounds or the backcountry during the week. This is best of both worlds because the parks are much more popular during the weekends, especially the campgrounds, and it’s the perfect time for some peace and quiet in a hotel.

 7)       Have an equal amount of planning, preparation, and flexibility. Unforseen circumstances can easily come up and its good not be locked into too tight a schedule. For example, road construction, natural disasters like forest fires, or even a flat tire or a bystander in need of some help. Always err on the side of caution when planning commute times and activities.  In my opinion, it is good to tentatively plan out most of your trip, but be mentally prepared for change if necessary.

 Hopefully you’ve picked up some good tips from this list and we will continue with the list theme on my next post when I talk about the 10 best parks for summer travel in the lower 48. We’ll see you then. God Bless!

Planning Ahead to Ensure the Best Time Possible

3 May

Today we are going to discuss another important nuance in planning your exciting vacation to America’s Greatest Idea, our national parks. Here’s the concept: make sure you plan appropriately for contact with the outside world because things work a little differently inside our  parks. Allow me to show you what I mean in mathematical terms: no televisions + no cell phone coverage + no Internet = no contact with the outside world.

Now, it isn’t that extreme in all the places, all the time. Of course, there are some areas where communications are similar to our everyday lives, but at some point in time, you will deal with this potential issue one way or another. So let’s examine how to prepare and addresss this situation.

Mentally, this is how I recommend you approach it: embellish, embrace, and love it! It is an absolutely wonderful thing. No longer will you worry about work, bank accounts, stocks, news, sports, family, business partners, etc. And the best part about it is there are no excuses, you can’t help it if you don’t get cell phone reception and you need to drive forty plus miles just to make a phone call.  It really is an essential part of getting away from it all and refocusing your priorities. All you need to do is just change your voicemail before you leave and you are good-to-go.

Hopefully I’ve sold you (if you weren’t already so) on this idea of the power of not having power, so to speak. However, there are times when these technologies are vitally important and it can take appropriate planning and knowledge to utilize this to your advantage while vacationing. Let’s go over a few scenarios where you may need access to technology at a specific point in time and how to plan for it in advance.

  • Reaching out to loved ones on an important birthday, event, or holiday. In all of these circumstances, it’s always best to plan ahead. Try to know exactly where you are staying and on what dates and attempt to verify ahead of time whether the place has cell phone coverage. Remember, even if there is no cell phone coverage  you may be able to find a pay phone to use. So bring some pre-paid calling cards with you. Otherwise, bring along lots of extra cash because you’ll need it for that expensive, long distance, pay phone call.

 

  • Attending church services. Most of the major national parks do have some  limited theological services in the summer time available to visitors. These are usually run by young adults and normally pertain to the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and LDS denominations of faith. Again, planning is your best bet so make sure that you’ll be close to the area where the services are taking place. Remember, some of the parks are huge and you could have a considerable drive if you don’t know where you’ll be and where you need to go. So don’t cut corners or you could pay for it later, take the time to study maps and estimate mileage and drive times.

I am feeling a little under the weather today, so we’ll stop for now and I’ll finish up this thread later in the week as we continue examine more scenarios and talk about even more solutions. Until then, have an awesome week and God bless you.

Intricacies of Decision Making

29 Apr

Let me give you an example. This one has to do with backpacking, but it can easily apply for even the most “metro” of travelers. Last summer, we made an epic voyage backpacking through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite National Park. For those of you who don’t know, the Tuolumne River provides the city of San Francisco with its drinking water and has to be one of the most inspiring and pristine rivers anywhere in the world. In a course of approximately 20 miles, its aquamarine, crystal clear waters turbulently spill, plunge, and drop through a canyon of sheer granite walls and almost unimaginable beauty. 

 We made the trek in early July of last year when water levels were still very high. This had its pros and cons. The waterfalls were absolutely incredible running at almost peak volume. Around every corner and turn, there was white water. Conversely, it was difficult and dangerous to swim because the current was SO swift.

 I greatly enjoyed my experience, but if and when I visit again, I’d like to come back in late August or early September just to experience a different kind of tranquility. Water levels are lower and much slower moving then. It is easier to go swimming, especially when it is very hot out.

What’s even more interesting is the reason we chose this time of year. It was because of the water levels, but it’s not what your thinking. You see, we were doing a backcountry loop of 70 miles, which finished in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, but didn’t start there. The trip began with a 13 mile passage on the Pacific Crest Trail, through an area known as Virginia Canyon, which has notoriously very little water in it. The streams there trickle and by late in the season run dry. We didn’t want to deal with spending a night in the backcountry without a reliable water source for cooking and drinking and that factor greatly influenced our decision to make the trip earlier in the season. 

Here’s the ironic part, because of the water (the snow was still melting at 8000 ft) and time of year, the bugs were absolutely atrocious! (see picture on previous post). Knowing what I know now, I would rather deal with the lack of consistent water sources and have little bugs then vice versa. So if I were to do the hike again, I’d do it in late August instead of early July. In case you are wondering, yes, we closely monitored the temperatures in making our decision and early July and late August are historically about the same in Northern Yosemite. It’s the middle of July to the beginning of August that are the hottest times of the year there. 

Standing at the top of the Waterwheel Falls section of the Tuolumne River after 60 miles of hiking with 40 plus pounds of gear. It was a grueling trip. This water was really moving fast and one slip could end in certain physical death! This picture was taken near the top of the canyon coming out and there were many more tributaries down below adding to the rivers intensity.

Hopefully,this story gives you an entertaining and insightful glimpse into how these factors (temperature, time of year, elevation, bugs, wildflowers, and water levels) all influence one another. There are always pros and cons in every decision and it just depends on what is important to you and how it fits into your schedule. 

Lord willing, during my next post I will discuss one more potentially important consideration when making your summer travel plans to our National Parks. You don’t want to miss it. Until then, may the good Lord bless you and have a wonderful day and we’ll talk to you again soon. 

This is Return Creek. A major tributary of the Tuolumne River. This scene was about 3 or 4 miles down the canyon from the last shot. One interesting tidbit about Return Creek is that it also forms the northern boundary of Virginia Canyon - so we actually crossed it twice. Joyce captured this wonderful image from a bridge, but while leaving Virgina Canyon - we precariously forded this puppy! In between, we looped around up and over two high mountains passes and up the canyon for 40 miles.

The Dichotomy of a Park

26 Apr

First off,  sorry for the delay in between posts. I really apologize for the lag. I am going to more than make it up to you today with an information packed double post that you don’t want to skip. 

Moving forward, let’s continue with hot tips for summer travel in America’s National Parks. Last time out we talked about the importance of research and guidebooks. Let’s follow-up on that thread and focus on visiting parts of the park that receive less traffic. 

 Before we get into this,  I want to define the word “parts” for you – so you can fully understand what exactly I am talking about. Most of the larger national parks have different areas within the park that offer different visitor services. These services may or may not include things like: gas, convenience stores, lodging, restaurants, a ranger station, visitor center, campgrounds, gift shops, extra parking, trailheads, and even a museum or art gallery.  Some of these areas or “parts” are larger than small towns, while others just meet the bare bone, minimum requirements to be considered; that’s basically an official designation on a park map, usually because it is near a featured geologic or historical attraction. 

This is my focus for our conversation today: specifically seeking out and visiting some of these lesser known “parts” of America’s parks. This sounds like a great idea, right? It sure is because there are some real gems out there. However, before we get too far into this,  I want to touch upon roadblocks or causes for concern when trying to visit these areas. 

This is a going to be a complete and exhaustive list and for the sake of time, we’ll get started on this today and finish up sometime later this week the good Lord willing. This topic is addressed in a question and answer format to help you understand potential issues you may encounter and how to resolve them. These are factors you should always consider before making any travel plans… 

Problem:  How do I deal with weather, climate, and temperatures at certain times of the year? 

Answer:  When dealing with huge tracts of wilderness, you also will have extremes in temperature ranges. This is normally because of the difference in elevation. Make sure you know the elevation of the “part” you are visiting and the best time of the year to go there. You can find elevation levels on any park topographic map and probably somewhere on the Internet as well. 

 For example, one area of the park may be at 7,000 ft elevation, while another is at 3,000 ft. That difference in elevation represents anywhere 12 – 15 degrees in temperature. Again, a little research goes a long ways. If you get stuck – your best bet is to call the ranger station in that “part” and point-blank ask them when is the best time of the year to visit and find out your information that way. 

Problem:  What other seasonal considerations are there? 

Answer: Temperature is obviously the biggest, but there are several other major factors as well. Bugs are another huge consideration. Depending on the year, most of the high altitude parks have both mosquitos and biting flies and they can be just brutal. The months of June and July are when they are most active. This is a time when many high altitude areas are still drying out and it is especially bad near lakes and large swaths of melting snow. By the middle of August, the bugs are usually gone in most places, but make sure you call ahead because every year is different.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic answers for you when it comes to solving this problem. Just the usual advice: wear long sleeves, gloves, a mosquito head net, DEET, and try to avoid areas where they are high in intensity and concentration.  Please make sure you are aware of the potential circumstances of your visit and prepare accordingly. Because these little pests can severely affect your overall enjoyment level of your trip. 

A graphic reminder not to overlook mosquitos when visiting the parks - that's part of my leg! Ouch!

 

Another more pleasant consideration are wildflowers. Again, this all goes back to elevation and also latitude to some degree. Wildflowers bloom across the board in the spring and summer throughout North America varying from April in Yosemite Valley up to the beginning of August in areas like Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Also, some areas of the park you are visiting might have prolific wildflower blooms while another area doesn’t have any. I found some park’s actually have online forums dedicated to people’s recent hiking and trip experiences and you can get some great information on them for this type of research. It is probably even more reliable than calling the ranger station as sometimes the information you get from them can be dated a week or two weeks and is simply not accurate. 

A final consideration is water levels. This is where you really have to dig deep for research. Generally speaking, water levels decrease as the summer drags on high in the mountains. I am talking about streams, waterfalls, rivers, creeks, lakes…just about everything except the ocean. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it is a bad thing – it just depends on where you are.   To be continued…

Research Works Wonders

21 Apr

Here is another sure fire way to improve your time at the parks, especially during peak crowds. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but do some research. What’s the best place to start? Drum roll please…it’s the Internet, of course. Below are few simple ways to use it to your advantage when planning a trip:

1) Buy a guidebook and/or map of the park online. The best place to find these is on Amazon.com and this is a great place to start planning. Please make sure you read your guidebook thoroughly. These books are not written and designed to be entertaining and it’s very easy to overlook key information by giving it the old once over.

2) Do an exhaustive google search for information you find in your guidebook. This will further help you find the information you need in order to make important decisions about your trip. I use it specifically to look for images of places off the beaten path. They don’t have to be fine art photos, I just want to get an idea of the look of the landscape. Other than pictures, you’ll find all kinds of good information on sites you might not have considered like You Tube, Flickr, etc.

3) Experiment with Google Earth. This is just another way to prepare and equip yourself with knowledge to maximize your time in the park. You can literally study the landscape from above.

I hope you find this blog post useful and in couple days I’ll continue on this topic. Thanks for stopping in.

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