Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring Rush

Last week I spent about half a day exploring both sides of the Cascade River between Highway 61 and County Road 45 in Cook County, MN.  I had been to both ends of this section many times before, but never hiked all the way up one side of the river and all the way back down the other side.  It was a cool hike and a challenging one.  My GPS showed a distance of about 9 miles with a total ascent of just over 2,000 feet.  I photographed several waterfalls along the way, some (like the one shown here) I had never been to before.  I also recorded a lot of video segments which I've put together into a video compilation.  I will be sharing the video later this evening. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Spring at High Falls

The conditions at High Falls were awesome today.  Snow and ice, blue sky and a rainbow! Grand Portage State Park, MN

Friday, April 28, 2017

Scorpion VS. Grasshopper

Call me odd, but I love the strangeness of the desert.  

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California. 

High Falls through a Window of Ice

Grand Portage State Park, MN - Fascinating conditions right now at High Falls, thanks to the ice and snow storm we just had over the past couple of days.  Once again we are subjected to the beauty of winter!  Only it's not winter... right?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April Whiteout!

Well, today was certainly an interesting weather day!  Following immediately after a 24+ hour period of freezing rain/sleet, we were hit with an intense snowfall all afternoon.  About 4 inches of new snow fell on top of the layer of accumulated sleet from the previous 24 hours.  Hard to believe that May is only a few days away!  In this photo a Minnesota Department of Transportation highway plow is clearing the way for traffic just before the Minnesota/Ontario border in Grand Portage.  

Bee Fly on Cholla Cactus

When we visited the Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree National Park it was literally buzzing with life.  There were thousands of native bees (and bee flies) all trying to take advantage of the blooming cacti.  We love bees so as you can imagine we loved seeing so many of them here.  We read that Joshua Tree has over 500 species of native bees!  Very cool :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Winter has returned (again)

Winter has returned yet again to northern Minnesota.  We are currently experiencing a weird mix of rain and sleet.  The forecast was calling for pretty significant ice accumulations but so far that hasn't happened (not in Grand Portage anyway).  I just went out for a short drive to check the conditions and see if there was any ice buildup on the trees anywhere (makes for GREAT photos!) but there was little to be found.  The roadways are more slushy than anything.  As always, our local plow crews are out making sure the roads are in the best shape possible considering the conditions!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mojave Desert Bloom

Woolly Daisy

Perhaps the coolest thing about my trip to California this spring was the desert bloom.  Thanks to a wet winter and spring the desert flowers were blooming like crazy everywhere!  Much of our visit to Joshua Tree was spent admiring the countless flowers that we came across while exploring the park.  It seemed like there was something fascinating and beautiful to see around every bend of every trail that we hiked!

Ocotillo Bloom

Blooming Barrel Cactus

Barrel cactus are so pretty, even without flowers!

Mojave Mound Cactus

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ocotillo and the Hexie Mountains

Driving south through Joshua Tree National Park the terrain transitions from the high Mojave Desert to the lower Sonoran Desert.  The vegetation also changes and as soon as you leave the Joshua Trees you come into the Cholla Cactus Garden and the Ocotillo Patch.  I found the Ocotillo to be a very fascinating plant.  We were lucky to see it while it was flowering.  The plant has beautiful blooms and is quite tall, some of the examples we saw were about 15 feet high.  According to an NPS interpretive sign, Ocotillo is able to shed and re-grow its leaves up to 5 times each year depending on the availability of water or lack thereof.  The desert is so fascinating!

The Break of Dawn

There are so many cool locations to photograph in Joshua Tree National Park, it was hard to pick just one spot for sunrise.  In the end we settled on an area just a few minutes away from our campground. We arrived in plenty of time to find a good tree to photograph with the colors of sunrise. For about 15 to 20 minutes the colors in the clouds were beautiful, then the color faded and seemingly out of nowhere the sky was filled with jet contrails.  I feel very fortunate to have gotten this photograph with the nice colors before the contrails took over.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

April Aurora over Hollow Rock Creek

I'm taking a break today from photo posts of my California trip.  Why?  Because we had northern lights last night!  The display of lights was quite good from about 11:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M.  I went up to Hollow Rock Creek on Old Highway 61 to photograph the lights because I knew the meadow was flooded thanks to recent rainfall we received.  Typically you cannot get reflections this good at this location because the meadow usually has nowhere near the amount of water as seen in this photo. I love making photographs of the northern lights, especially when you catch them reflected in the water.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Joshua Tree Sunset

I sure do love sunsets in the desert.  Even without much for clouds to accent the sky they are still impressive and beautiful, especially with mountains and Joshua trees in the foreground!  This photo was taken in the Sheep Pass area of Joshua Tree National Park.

Sentinels of the Mojave

Joshua Trees sure are fascinating.  According to the national park literature the trees do not have any growth rings so it's really difficult to tell just how old they get.  They certainly don't get very tall (the tallest trees are around 40 feet high) but they have an infinite variety of interesting shapes. I find them incredibly fascinating to photograph, especially when highlighted with the colors of a Mojave desert sunset!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sunrise at the Cholla Garden

Joshua Tree National Park - Here's another photo from the Cholla Garden, this time showing the sun as it tried to break through the clouds.  What a beautiful place and what a beautiful morning!  I can't wait to go back :-)

Dawn at the Cholla Garden

I think the Cholla Garden was my favorite place in Joshua Tree National Park.  They are so fascinating, but also very dangerous!  You really have to watch your step when exploring the Cholla Garden because there are spines everywhere.  Luckily during our morning at this location we had some nice, colorful clouds to make the photos even more interesting.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the garden but I think I could have easily spent the entire day there!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Campsite Moonset at 5:00 A.M.

Here's another photo of our campsite, this time taken at 5:00 A.M. just as the moon was setting behind the rocks.  What a peaceful night!

Camping under the desert moonlight

Joshua Tree National Park is such a beautiful place, perhaps even more so at night.  We had the coolest campsite at Belle Campground, nestled in between the rocks with a Joshua Tree watching over and Orion shining brightly overhead.  The moonlight cast a magical glow on the rocks all around us and the stillness of the desert at night is something that always amazes me.  It has an ominous quiet unlike anything I've heard before.  I love it.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Afternoon Clouds and Joshua Trees

A beautiful sky complementing the shape of some Joshua Trees along our hike out from Willow Hole and the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, California. 

Wonderland of Rocks

After exploring the Sequoias for a couple of days we drove south to Joshua Tree National Park, where we spent a few days camping and hiking.  Our first hike brought us on a roughly 7 mile round-trip trek to Willow Hole and the "Wonderland of Rocks".  This was a fascinating hike!  The first half of the walk was very easy, walking on flat ground that was quite firm.  

The second half was a little more difficult as the route continued into a sandy wash.  The sandy wash brought us up close and personal to the rocks, and it certainly was a wonderland!  I found myself wanting to stop around every bend in the trail to photograph the next set of rocks that came into view.  The way that erosion has altered the landscape here is simply mind blowing!

Monday, April 17, 2017

No-name waterfall

A small but beautiful no-name waterfall in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, California.

Giant Sequoia

A prime example of one of the giants of the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, California.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sequoia Reflections in Round Meadow

Big Trees Trail - Sequoia National Park

One of the highlights of my visit to Sequoia on this recent trip was the walk around the perimeter of Round Meadow on the Big Trees Trail.  Viewing the trees from across the meadow gave a different perspective from what you typically see when walking through the forest.  Here, you were  able to "stand back", in a sense, and get a better feel for what a stand of trees looks like.  Much different than standing at the base of one of these giants and craning your head WAY back to try and see the top.  Thanks to all the recent melting snow and rainfall parts of the meadow were filled with standing water, making for some cool reflections of the trees.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Foothills Sunset

I just returned from 10 days of hiking, camping and exploring in California with my wife Jessica.  At the beginning of the trip my flight to Fresno arrived in the evening so we spent the first night at a hotel.  The next day we drove in to Sequoia National Park through Kings Canyon National Park.  What a beautiful drive!  There was still a lot of snow in places along the road, which had only recently been opened after being closed for the winter.  

As we started to get close to the Lodgepole area of Sequoia, our destination for the next couple of nights, the sun was setting and the foothills to the west looked spectacular.  We found a nice spot with a view and watched as the colors of the sunset unfolded. When the color was gone we resumed the drive.  It was a great start to what would be an amazing trip filled with beautiful and interesting things to photograph!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring Sun

After a mild yet long winter with seemingly endless cloudy days at times, it sure is nice to have more clear skies and sunshine again!  I made this photo the day after the spring equinox.  I was riding through the woods on my fat bike when I came across this view of the sun behind a stand of pine trees.  I set my camera's aperture to f/16 in order to get the starburst effect on the sun.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Curious Eagle

The other morning I had to drive to Grand Marais and along the way I saw several eagles.  This one in particular seemed rather curious about me when I stopped to take his photo.