Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S English Jr Botanical Gardens

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The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks connect the salt water of Puget Sound from the fresh waters of Lake Union in the northern part of Seattle, Washington.  Built in the early 1900’s, the locks are used to maintain the water levels of Lake Union and Lake Washington and to move boats up and down from Puget Sound.   Surrounding the locks is the Carl S English Botanical Gardens that is home to more than 500 species of plants from around the world.

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On this lovely spring day, my wife and I visited the locks to find the Yoshino Cherry(Prunus X Yedoeniss) tree in full bloom.

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Swimming on the salt water side of the locks were these male and female Barrow’s Goldeneye Ducks(Bucephala islandica)

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And to our surprise there were dozens of Great Blue Herons(Ardea hernias) nesting in the trees above.  Every dark spot, eleven of them,  in the photo above is a nest.

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It may be a bit hard to see, but there are eight Herons in the photo above.

Rosario Beach And Cove

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One of my favorite places to unwind is Rosario Cove and Beach in Deception Pass State Park.  Gorgeous sunsets.

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Serene islands.

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And the golden light of magic hour.

Great Horned Owl

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It’s been a while since my last post.   I’ve been very busy over the past few months working on a computer animated movie up in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.  With that project completed, I’m back home got a chance to head out to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on the southern tip of Puget Sound.  The refuge is well known as a nesting site for Great Horned Owls(Bubo virginianus) and after numerous tries in the past I hoped for some better luck.  Well, luck prevailed.  This lovely female was sitting on her nest almost invisible to the small group of bird watchers gathered about thirty feet away.  She would occasionally rise up in the nest and move around into a new position.  After about two hours she rose up just enough to peek down at us.

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Owls, like many other bird species, naturally blend in to their surroundings.  To test this, I’ve removed all the color from the photo and the owl almost completely disappears.

Cross Country Road Trip, Part 2

Sunset Over Yellowstone Lake

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the first leg of a Cross Country Road Trip – Part 1 that took my wife and I from Washington DC to Rapid City, South Dakota.  Now for the second half.   We got an early start the morning after our wonderful visit to Mount Rushmore National Memorial with the goal of getting to Yellowstone National Park and hopefully get a room in one of the park lodges.

120829149We took a short side trip off of Interstate 90 to visit Devils Tower National Monument. As we approached the tower, I could see a few similar formations off in the distance, but none as fully exposed as the Devils Tower – nothing a few million years won’t take care of.

Here is a bit of tower trivia that we found hilarious:

As a publicity stunt, George Hopkins parachuted onto Devils Tower on October 1, 1941.  He was stranded for six days before he could be rescued.

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Driving through the Monument, we had to, just had to, stop at “Prairie Dog Town” to watch the cute critters( run around, eat a bit, sit up, look around to see what everyone else is doing and…repeat.

After our visit to Devils Tower, we hit the road for the journey across Wyoming to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, a little outside of Cody, Wyoming.  We’d been calling the hotel reservation service from our car whenever we could get service to see if there was chance of getting a room for the night in any of the park lodges.  Their answer was, once in a blue moon someone might cancel, but otherwise, they were booked solid several months in advance.  They recommended checking at a lodge reservation desk when we actually arrived in the park.

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We drove up to the Lake Lodge late in the afternoon, and to our surprise and the desk clerk’s shock, there was one room left in the entire park – someone had cancelled at the last minute.  We booked it and managed to get one the next night too.  Wow, it was a dream come true for me, two nights inside Yellowstone park..

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I got up before sunrise the next morning to go over to the “West Thumb Geyser Basin” which sits right on the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake.   There was only one other car in the parking lot and that turned out to be some fellow photographers, because, of course, morning light is some of the best light for this kind of photography.  After enjoying the boardwalk trail around the basin, I returned to my car to find a bull Elk(Cervus Canadensis) about fifty feet away in the adjacent meadow.

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After breakfast we headed out on the all day circle tour of Yellowstone that would take us to Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Filehole Lake Drive, Gibbon Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Falls and then back to the Lake Lodge.  The photograph above and below are from the Midway Geyser Basin.

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Beside the geysers and mud pits, the colors that come from the pools of boiling water interesting details to capture.  The photo above shows the deeper blue pool giving way to a very shallow area where algae grows changing the colors from glue to yellowish brown.

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For this photo, I thought I would concentrate on the brilliant blues of the deepest part of one of the Midway Geyser Basin pools.   The water temperature in these pools approaches two hundred degrees.

After this very long day of driving around the park , we settled in for another evening of sipping wine on the front porch of the Lake Lodge and watching the sky over Yellowstone Lake, but that sunset looked too good to resist.  I grabbed my gear and walked the few hundred yards from the Lodge to the show of the lake and what a sunset it turned out to be, the photo at the top of the post was the grand finale.

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I arose before sunrise the following morning with plans to photograph Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point.  Although it had been warm during the day, it felt a little chilly in the morning, so instead of my usual shorts, I put on some jeans and put a coat in the car, just in case.  My Boy Scout training of, be prepared, came in handy because I arrived at the empty parking lot at Artist Point, the outside temperature a chilling thirty five degrees.  I had the overlook to myself for a few minutes and then was joined by another photographer who was wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt.  He froze his tail off.

One can see why this overlook is called “Artist Point” as the falls and the colors of the surrounding valley look just like an oil painting, especially in the first light of day.

We lingered around the park for while and then drove out the southern entrance and went through Grand Teton National Park and Jackson, Wyoming on our way to pick up Interstate 15 that would take us home

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Taking my wife by complete surprise, (she was pretty done in and had fallen asleep in the car) I managed to sneak in one more national park stop at Bryce Canyon National Park.  We arrived very late and very tired, but this side trip was well worth it.

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So much so, we are planning to return to Bryce Canyon next April when the lodge inside the park opens for the season.  Hopefully, by that time, we’ll be a few pounds lighter and actually be able to hike some of those trails at the 8,000 foot altitude without crashing and burning.  If we live to tell the tale, that’ll be another post!

Cross Country Road Trip – Part 1

Mount Rushmore At Night

Recently, my wife and I took a road trip across the northern United States, from Washington DC to our home in Los Angeles.  I flew in to DC and met up with my wife and daughter after their 2,000 plus mile drive from Los Angeles to drop my daughter off at Georgetown University for her junior year.  
Their leg of the road trip took them through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, stopping along the way for thunderstorms in Oklahoma, Graceland (Elvis Presley’s home) in Memphis, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in Virginia.
 
After a couple of days visiting the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, we headed west, driving through the mountains of Maryland and Pennsylvania which then gave way to flat plains of Ohio and Indiana and passing miles and miles of corn fields.  It was easy to see how the drought has affected the corn crop, the majority of fields were brown from lack of rainfall and too much heat.  
We made a pit stop in Chicago, staying in the historic Hilton Hotel on Michigan Ave,  to meet up with my sister-in-law and her husband from Indianapolis. We toured the Field Museum Of Natural History.

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There was a fascinating exhibit on the history and legacy of Genghis Khan, a three story re-creation of an Egyptian tomb complete with numerous mummies, and of course, dinosaur skeletons.

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Summer evenings in Chicago, (at least in that part of town) are a true pleasure.  On our walk across Grant Park to the shoreline of Lake Michigan, we danced at an outdoor live concert.  Afterwards, we rested our tired feet by the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain water and light show.

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The following morning, coffee cups in hand, we toured the downtown area to see some of the old architecture and the “Chicago L” Trains. I love finding old signs and abstract patterns in buildings.

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On our way out of town, thanks to Google maps and some old information from my dad, we were able locate my dad’s childhood home and elementary school. We had steak sandwiches and a beer at Chicago Joe’s, an eighty year old restaurant at the same corner location.  We left Chicago in the pouring rain, headed north to Wisconsin and then west to Minnesota, passing mile after mile of corn and soybean fields. 

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Next day, we checked off another life goal,  Mount Rushmore National Memorial outside of Rapid City, South Dakota.  We hiked the trail that takes visitors throught the forest, ending quite close to the carvings.

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During the summer season, Mount Rushmore is open after dark with a evening program in the large amphitheater that includes a historical film and a special ceremony to illuminate the memorial.

Part 2 of our road trip is coming soon.

Last Of The Mohicans

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I love visiting locations where movies and television shows are filmed.  From Malibu Creek State Park in California where “M.A.S.H”,  1968’s “Planet Of The Apes” and “Pleasantville” were filmed, to the Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, California where “Iron Man”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Tremors” and have used the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop.

A couple of years ago while driving through Asheville, North Carolina  and the Blue Ridge Parkway, I recalled one of my favorite all time movies, “Last Of The Mohicans” with Daniel Day-Lewis.

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The story is set in lush forests of upstate New York around 1757 during the French and Indian Wars.  Director/Screenwriter Michael Mann chose to film the movie in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Taking a break from our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, my wife and I took a hike to Linville Falls where a number of scenes filmed.

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The first and second photos are from “The Glade” where the British patrol on it’s way to Fort William Henry.  The patrol is attacked by Huron warriors right as they come to the tree that is hanging over the trail.  Hawkeye, Uncas and Chingachgook save Cora, Alice, and Duncan and walk them the rest of the way to the fort.

The third photo is on the same trail and shows the river where the same group ditches their canoes after the fall of the Fort.

Besides the bit of movie making history, the Linwood Falls trail is a gorgeous walk and wonderful place to stretch the legs.