Archive for June, 2011

Lizard Hunting

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Last year in Horseshoe BEnd I found an amazing looking lizard while out hiking. This year since we returned to the same spot I was hoping to again find a lizard like that. To do this we began a lizard hunt. We found several different types of lizard, the most common was this little guy with the black banded neck.

We also spotted a nice small red lizard. He was enjoying his sun spot and was extremely good at camouflaging himself.

There was a skink looking lizard as well who was very colorful. He was very fast and not very interested in sticking around for me to photograph him.

Finally after searching for a long time we finally found the lizard I was looking for. It was the same type of lizard as last year but unfortunately he was younger and I didn’t have the amazing color that the other did. He had the prettiest patterns and shapes including spots and stripes all over him.

He was posing all over the place, a perfect little model of a lizard. He was on rocks, near old branches, and of course the beautiful red sand.

He really was funny, running all over the place, stretching, and doing push-ups. It was awesome to see such a beautiful animal such as this lizard. All of them were beautiful and it just reminds me how much I love taking photos of animals and other wildlife.

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Utah Trip: Death Valley, Yosemite, and Home!

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Even now at 4:30 in the morning in Death Valley, it is near scorching. It is an ungodly heat, but for the beauty in this sparse land, it is worth it. We woke up really, really early in the morning to catch the sunrise and get a little hike in before it was too hot out. So we headed over to the Mesquite Sand Dunes to watch the sun rise over this sandy wonderland.

It was gorgeous, one of the most exquisite sunrises I have ever had the pleasure of watching. The way that the sun peeked over the mountains and seemed to crawl across the dunes was near magical.

With the sun newly risen, another aspect of this desert land was revealed to us; the texture. The lines and contours that have been etched into this land are amazing. The sun really accents its natural beauty and exaggerates the shape through definition.

There is so much beauty hidden in this desert it continues to amaze me. People assume that a place like Death Valley is barren, godforsaken land, but it is in a place like this that people can truly feel near god or some unearthly presence. Here, and every where around us is beauty, we just have to open our eyes and find it ourselves.

But a place of beauty is still incomplete without a bit of fun. My mom and I went down into the crease of the dunes to mess around. We played with the puzzle like pieces of dried river bed.

And even played with our own exaggerated shadows stretching across the desert floor. M for Multer, go travel buddies!!!

The dead heat of the afternoon was slowly creeping in around us so we quickly made our way out of the desert and moved onward to our next stop. Though ultimately our next stop was Yosemite, we made a stop along the way in Manzanar Historic National Park.

For those of you unfamiliar with this park, it is an old Japanese internment camp turned into a place of reflection and historical contemplation. Set beneath the beautiful snow-capped mountains near Mt. Whitney, this one square mile of land was once reserved for the relocated Japanese in California. It is intriguing and saddening to visit this place but most of all for me at least, it is a place to consider the decision of the past and wonder what the decision of the future may hold through the reflection and remembrance of a place such as this. The pillar in the cemetery here really brings this idea to the foreground.

Tokens of remembrance are left here like the long chains of paper cranes and coins for those who once had to call this place home. We can only wonder and remember this time where the world seemed a little darker for everyone.

 

After this stop we made our way upwards towards Yosemite with one more small stop along the way, Mono Lake. This unique lake is saltier than the ocean and is surrounded by strange monoliths that look like coral that wound up out of the water.

It si a strangely beautiful place, with blue-green waters and the snowy mountains behind it, these spires have an amazing location. Stuck between summer and winter, this strange place stands solitary.

There is almost no wildlife here to speak of except two species. The exotic seagull,

and it’s swarming food source, the Alkali Fly.

They sit in droves at the salty shores and only seem to move at the disturbance of humans. Upon which they rise up and swarm in black masses until the intruder is forced to run away due to fear of choking from the massive amounts of flies. Terrifying really…

Moving on, we finally made it to Tioga Pass, the entrance to Yosemite. This was quite a turn around because all of a sudden we found ourselves surrounded by deep snow banks and extreme snow run off.

In one day, we had gone from 108 degree deserts to snow laden valleys. It was quite a shock and seemed like this single dy had spanned weeks. However it was a very nice way to return home, what better views are there when returning home than half dome? Ok there are some but it was pretty nice!

It was a day that seemed to last forever but finally we found our way home. So here we are, safe and sound after a long week of adventure. As always, I am ready for more :)

 

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Utah Trip: Home!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

I know this is out of order but bear with me. Today was the last day of our road trip around the Southwest. After a week, four states, and twelve national parks my mom and I are finally home. Reasonably, we are both very tired so todays story of how we went all the way from Death Valley’s 108 degree weather, to mountains of snow in Yosemite and finally home to our lovely little Santa Cruz. However you will have to wait one more day for the photos and the fully story. Stay tuned!!

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Utah Trip: Horseshoe Bend, Vermillion Cliffs and Everything Navajo

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Due to lack of internet I could not post this last night, but here it is now that I have internet. The story of yesterday. :)

 

Today was a day of reminiscing, we went back and visited many places that we saw last year on our road trip to Michigan and loved. The first of our most memorable revisits was Horseshoe Bend, a colossal gooseneck near Lake Powell.

This extraordinarily impressive geological monolith is one of my favorite views I have ever seen. Sadly the lightning was a far cry from last years and resulted in shadowed photos. Good photos or not, this was beyond amazing and I am really glad to go back and have another chance to see this unique structure.

One of the most memorable parts about going to Horseshoe Bend last year was the amazing lizard we found. This beautiful creature had spots and brightly orange colored stripes. He was gorgeous and today I was on a lizard hunt in hope of finding a similar lizard. In the end I did, see the next post for the full story but here is one photo for now.

Our next revisit was to the Vermillion Cliffs, which includes the Navajo Bridge and the Cliff Dweller’s Lodge. This wonderful park is surrounded by beautiful red cliffs and blue skies.

The first part of the park contains the Navajo Bridge, which bridges the beautiful Colorado River.

The Cliff Dweller’s Lodge is home to one of my favorite photos I have ever taken. The old adobe home on the side of the road with turquoise door and window frames that can be found at the Cliff Dweller’s Lodge is a truly beautiful little piece of ancient times.  Before I gave the picture of only the door and window, but now here is the entire house.

Surrounding this old home are the Vermillion Cliffs and these strange boulder homes that have been built up and once upon a time, lived in.  These strange homes are littered about in a hap-hazard fashion but are extremely intriguing due to their balanced and fragile looking structure.

While exploring these old places my mom and I were having fun stopping at every single Native American jewelry stand we came across. All over the side of the roads are little stands full of gorgeous hand made jewelry, dream-catchers, and pottery. We had a lot of fun shopping around and talking to the local Navajo’s about their beautiful home.

After a long day of reminiscing we took an unexpected turn and decided to go to Death Valley.

We had plans of going to Bishop and then Devil’s Postpile National Park, but found out that it is still closed due to the snow pack they still have.  So yes, a strange choice for the summer where even at night it is 107 degrees outside, but we did it anyways. So tonight we find ourselves staying at the Stovepipe Wells in the heart of Death Valley after driving down an omnisouly straight and long road out into the desert.

Tomorrow we will hike out before sunrise to see the sand dunes in the early morning glow before the sun bears down on us with its unforgiving heat.

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Utah Trip: Arches Take Two and More……!

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Today we decided to give Arches a second try but earlier, when there are not massive hordes of toursists all over the park. We had an extraordinary time! We first visited the Windows were there were no people at all and had a pleasnat, but extremely fast paced hike as we took pictures of the window arches.

Afterwards we headed over to the Delicate Arch where we were faced with a decision. To simply use the overlook of the arch or do a hike up a sheer rock face to stand right next to the cliff. We almost chose incorrectly and were thinking about doing the overlook for time’s sake. However in the end the hiker’s spirit won and we decided to make the trek to the arch. It was a decision we will never regret.

The pictures do not really give the mountain we climbed credit. It was difficult, not impossible but very hard in the high altitude. It was a lot of fun though toughing it out and climbing this mountain. The hike was amazing with awesome views of the valley and geological structures all along the way.

The climb up the mountain, the views, the amazing pathway, all are small pieces that made this hike perfect. Ending of course with the famed Delicate Arch. The most photographed arch in the park, it is clear why so many make this trek out into the desert; it is so unique and awe-inspiring.

Can you spot me in this next picture?

The cherry on top for this hike was the petroglyphs at the very end.

We had a lot of fun on this hike because it was just so amazing. It is definitiely on the top five if not top two of my favorite hikes list. We were even able to spot what I believe was a pretty sexy looking mountain goat on the pathway.

After that amazing experience we headed to the Devil’s Garden to go see the Landscape arch, possibly the biggest arch in the nation. However after our amazing hike at the Delicate Arch this one was relatively disappointing.

There were some pretty views from the short hike out but nothing like on the Delicate Arch.

We had done three hikes and seen the entire park and were thouroughly tired. Howveer our day had just begun, we still had a long drive and two more parks to see. Next on the list was a small park called Natural Bridges National Park.

Comprised of three arches, this park is very small. Sadly we were so tired that we couldn’t spend a sufficent amout of time necessary to explore this park and as a result it was slightly disappointing. The arches in comparison to Delicat Arch were almost shameful.

To exit the park and head ot our next destination we had to use the Moki Dugway, a short stretch of highway with intense switchbacks, incredible heights overlooking the area near Monument Valley, and did I mention that it wasn’t paved? Yep, after our flat tire we were extremely tire sensitive and were pretty afraid to drive on it but we had no choice. It turned out to be really pretty and very cool.

We decided to make a stop at Goosenecks State Park before we crossed the border into Arizona to see Monument Valley. The Colorado River has carved out some amazing bends and canyons into the valleys here which resulted in the creation of these goosenecks.

Our last aprk of the day was Monument Valley. However the pictures were not very good because the valley was so hazy due to the fire down in southern Arizona.

After that we decided to stay the nigt in Page, Arizona where we will conitnue our journey tomorrow.

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Utah Trip: Capitol Reef, Canyon Lands, and Arches

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

After last nights flat tire we were left behind schedule in Escalante instead of Moab for the night. As a result we had a lot of ground to make up tonight and did three national parks in one day. The first was Capitol Reef, a national park full of brightly colored cliffs, beautiful aspens, and petroglyphs.

We saw many cool things in this park. The first was a little hidden cliff dwelling. I am not sure whether this is ancient (I doubt it) or something someone just decided would be cool to make but either way it was really interesting and cool.

Also there was Chimney Rock and an old cabin out in the middle of the park.

The petroglyphs around the park were probably my favorite part in this park. You could totally walk by and not notice this beautiful remnant of the past. They have an eerie beauty about them and are so intriguing.

It was a beautiful park but I wish we had more time to explore this amazing park. The geological wonders around this park are astounding.

Next was Canyonlands National Park.

Reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, this park has an overlook over vast canyons and deep crevaces in the earth. It is amazing to see the land strecthing for miles with jutting cliffs and sheer canyon walls.

We visited the Mesa Arch which had an amazing view of the canyons through the archway.

We were chased out of the park by a lightning storm. It was pretty epic, the skys had quickly clouded over with dark angry clouds which did not hesitate in releasing bouts of rain and lightning followed by the deep boom of thunder. We headed over to Arches after that hoping to get some exploration in before the storm really hit.

It was extremely overcast and threatening so we made our trip very brief. We drove in to try and do a hike at the Windows collection of arches.

We got to see Balanced Rock and the Garden of Eden.

However we did not hike due to fear of the lightning and massive amounts of tourists. There were so many people around the arches that it just wasn’t worth it so we left. They were like ants and good photos were not even possible because the monuments were covered in people.

So instead we are going to return to Arches really early in the morning before all the other people arrive. So stay tuned for better pictures of Arches tomorrow.

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Utah Trip: Grand Staircase Escalante Part 2

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

You thought our day was over? Nope, not even close. We then headed over to the next part of the national park to go try and see some more slot canyons called Peek-A-Boo Canyon and Spooky Canyon. From the top of the trail it was pretty unassumming.

Little did we know that we had to climb far down to reach the bottom of a canyon in one hundred degree weather only then to reach the slot canyons. It was brutal sliding down the cliff knowing that later I would have to climb back up them with the sun beating down on my back.

We then reached the first slot canyon which was Peek-A-Boo and realized we were unable to do it. With a combination of clumsiness and heat exhaustion we were unable to climb into the canyon. Obviously I was extremely upset about this when faced with the possiblity of having come all this way for nothing.

After a long deliberation we decided to push on and go see the other canyon, Spooky. It was amazing. Spooky is a true slot canyon meaning it is a claustrophobic persons worst nightmare. You have to duck, crawl, and squeeze your way to advance in these canyons but they are so worth it.

The sculpted walls of the canyon are beyond art and beyond all other natural creations. Sometimes it is hard to believe that they were sculpted not by mans hands but by something else.

Like this one for example, the kissing rocks. These two sculpted walls from the right angle look like people kissing. How could that be an accident? The answer? Mother nature is amazing beyond all words

It is quite the experience squeezing through this tiny little gaps. You can feel ever line in the stone, the coolness as you brush your fingertips along it, and you can hear the breeze passing through the canyon’s corridors.

It really was amazing and a must have life experience. They are so unique and marvelous, it is amazing to think that these formed naturally and are not actually pieces of art sculpted by who knows what.

Our day however didn’t end happily, we were stuck on the side of the road in one hundred degree weather with a flat tire. We were going to have to wait but a wonderful person came and saved us! So we are behind schedule now but not by much. We got our butts kicked by these amazing hikes but it was all worth it in the end!

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Utah Trip: Grand Staircase Escalante Part 1

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Today I started out my morning on the rim of Bryce Canyon watching the sun slowly surmount the hoodoos and cliffs of Bryce in an amazing sunrise.

After that we headed next door to Grand Staircase Escalante National Park for some amazing views and hikes. So we went outbacking in our lovely Outback.

Our first hike of the day was at Willis Creek Trail, this turned out to be an amazing hike along a river that cuts through a slot like canyon. It was awe inspiring and I have never seen anything quite like it.

The lines and shapes created by the wave like stone were extraordinary. The colors were so vivid and bright that you became enveloped in the canyon walls. Even the river was dyed a deep orange red color.

There were three separate slot canyons on our hike each slightly different and uniquely beautiful.

One canyon had a surprise of its own, a rattlesnake. Fortunately the people ahead of us spotted it but it was extremely agitated. Coiled against one side of the walls, hidden half in and half out of the shadows it sat rattling its tail and hissing at us. Needless to say it was scary and we worried about him alot on our way back, wondering where he might now be located.

The third and final canyon was the most spectacular and was a great finale to an amazing hike. The walls were marvelously sculpted and the color was out of this world.

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Utah Trip: Bryce

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Bryce was the next, highly anticipated stop on our trip. I have never been there before but my mom and dad rave about how beautiful and breathtakingly awesome this national park is. So naturally we went, because I am a national park spoiled brat.

We were able to experience our first real wildlife besides lizards and a few sparse chipmunks. There were pronghorn antelope all over Bryce and they were relatively close to the road as well.

Caught in the act of…. being an antelope?

Bryce is the epitome of what Utah is to me. An amazing place full to the brim with wonder and majesty. Red rocks, blue skies, amazing geological formations, and of course gorgeous hikes.

We took a quick driving tour of the entire national park and took some photos of the canyon from all sorts of angles including the famous Natural Bridge, Thors Hammer, and Agua Canyon.

We decided to take a hike deep into the heart of Bryce Canyon. To get there we had to climb down a series of steep switchbacks leading into a narrow canyon. It was an amazing descent into this beautiful landscape and I have never seen anything quite like it before now.

And of course you have to have fun along the way.

This was easily one of the best hikes I have ever been on. We were almost totally alone walking through nicely wooded areas surrounded by steep red, orange, yellow, and white walls. The hoodoos of course were amazing to look at and the views were astounding. There really are not many places quite like this. You have to go into the canyon like we did on our hike or else you miss a gigantic piece of this beautiful picture.

 

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Utah Trip: Zion

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Today was our first real day of adventure on our Utah road trip. Our very first destination was the upper section of Zion National Park called the Kolob Canyons.

Sadly the lighting was terrible so I couldn’t get great photos of the terrific landscapes that were all around us. There were giant canyons with walls seemingly stretching to the skies and rivers that paved roads for giants. It was quite the sight and to enhance the experience we decided to take a hike up Taylor Creek. A nice six mile hike along a river that eventually ends at a double blind arch.

We had a lot of fun crossing rivers running along the red sandy pathways, and just enjoying the magnificent scenery all around us.

The arch was enormous and had the best deep red color surrounded by bright green plants. It was quite the sight but we were chased away after a few quick pictures by bugs.

We also found some old cabins in the middle of the woods from old settlers who passed through Zion long ago. They were beautiful and haunting, nestled deep in the woody wilderness that strectched within the many canyons of Zion.

After Zion we tried to go to Cedar Breaks National Monument but it was closed due to snow. Yeah, you heard me right, closed for snow in mid June… in Utah. Weird, right?

We made due and instead stopped at Red Canyon which had some amazing spires and gorgeous red rock pillars.

While there is grandeur all around us there is still simple beauty everwhere. One of these sources are the amazing wildflowers scattered about all of Southern Utah. They simply add the final touch to all the beauty that we have experienced on this trip already.

 

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