Recent PostsWonder Lake Campground, Denali NP, Alaska To the Weeping Wall-- Kauai's Blue Hole Vignette of a Dream-- Lumahai Beach, Kauai My Favorite 17 from Adventures 2017 (part 2) My Favorite 17 from Adventures 2017 Good News from the Garden Island Kauai Morning, Kauai Evening A Few More First Shots with the Zeiss 15mm Milvus Getting the Feel For It-- Zeiss Milvus 15mm A Sense of Place
Aloha and welcome to hikari, a blog about photography, travel, recent readings, Kauai and other things that have been on my mind. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you enjoy the observations, perspectives and images.
Campsite #14, Wonder Lake Campground, Denali NP, Alaska
I will be traveling to Alaska again this July and to help prepare for the trip I have been going through photographs from my August 2016 visit to Denali. Part nostalgia and part study, going though old photographs help me determine where I want to focus my time and what animals I want to read up on. This year, I'll definitely go to Katmai NP for a week (July 17 ~ 24), but other than that, my schedule is pretty open. I may go to Denali again (if I get the photographer's permit-- definitely!), or perhaps I may go down south to Kenai Fjords NP. Or up north to Wrangell St. Elias NP, the largest national park in the US. While the itinerary is still undecided, the planning is well underway. And a large part of the planning involves Google searches on locations, parks, maps, campgrounds and images of all of the above. Since I rely heavily on these searches and the blogs of other photographers and travelers, I thought I'd put something together about two of my favorite Denali NP campgrounds: Wonder Lake and Teklanika. This post will present photographs from my 8 days camping at Wonder Lake.
Days Spent at the Reflection Pond, Wonder Lake area of Denali NP, Alaska
Wonder Lake Campground is at mile 85 of the Denali Park Road. Accessible by Camper Bus or a very long bike ride on the one road in the park. It's the closest campground to Denali, which is 26 miles away. The first couple of days that I was there the mountain was completely covered in clouds and I didn't know exactly where it was. I mean I knew it was in "that general direction over there", but I couldn't quite place it, which after seeing it feels really stupid. I tell people now that seeing The Mountain is like seeing God (whatever our personal concept of God is). How could you not know The Mountain was there?
The Mountain, from the Wonder Lake area of Denali NP, Alaska
The Wonder Lake campground has 28 sites spread out along a gentle hillside. I imagine each site has stellar Denali views and my site (#14) looked right at the mountain. There is a covered, food storage area with common picnic tables and store rooms for food and gas/stoves. This was really nice as it offered shelter during rainy days and also served as a place to meet and chat with other campers. Wonder Lake itself is about 500 yards behind the campsite. A gravel road leads to the lake, but no path or trail leads around it. To get the iconic scene of Denali reflected in Wonder Lake you have to go back to the road and walk about 5 or 7 miles towards Kantishna. I think there's actually a hill called Ansel Adams Hill where you can see the mountain in the lake. For my reflection images I chose a couple of ponds that were 2.5 miles from the campsite. I walked to these spots every morning and evening for sunrise and sunset. Mornings until late August see the sun rise earlier than the bus pickup at Wonder Lake so if you want first light on the mountain, walking or cycling is the only way. I've heard that September's daybreak affords a more leisurely start and the bus could be an option. For sunset you could take the bus and ask to be dropped off, but you would have a long wait for last light. Also, your dinner would perhaps be earlier or later than you might like.
Denali Blue, Wonder Lake area of Denali NP, Alaska
Wildlife viewing at Wonder Lake was pretty spectacular. Every day I saw a moose. Some days a beautiful cow moose and other days one or two massive Bull Moose. One night walking back from the reflection pond I saw four different moose and ran from this one:
Big Ole Moose (Denali Days), Wonder Lake area of Denali NP
He liked to munch on the vegetation in the campground and if you waited long enough it's likely that you would see him walking between the tents, towards the lake or the through the vast fields of blueberries and tundra.
One of the Largest Animals I Have Ever Seen, Denali NP, Alaska
The moose rut was approaching and later in August the cows and the bulls begin to share the same spaces as they look for a suitable mate. One area of the park-- well away from Wonder Lake-- was closed to foot traffic as the bulls in that area were becoming aggressive.
Critters big and small in the Wonder Lake area of Denali NP. I also saw porcupines and a wolf!
The abundant colors is what surprised me most about Denali. I guess I thought it would be just an expanse of snow, but it wasn't. Instead rich greens, reds and yellows met the eye pretty much everywhere you looked. I especially liked the grasses that grew around Wonder Lake.
Most of my time, however, was spent walking to the reflection ponds, waiting for the clouds to clear and walking back to my campsite. Here are a few more of these early mornings and late evenings:
Mt. Brooks, Wonder Lake area of Denali NP, Alaska
The Light Changes but the Clouds Don't Completely Clear
Alpen Glow on the Top of Denali, from the reflection pond near Wonder Lake, Denali NP, Alaska
Night Fall, Denali NP, Alaska
Of the three campsites where I pitched my tent in Denali NP Wonder Lake was my favorite. Teklanika Campground was my second favorite and Riley Creek Campground was a necessary stopping point at the beginning and middle, but nothing more than that. In the next post I'll share some photos from Teklanika.
A Wild Land (Weeping Wall Magic), The Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The hike to the Weeping Wall is hard. It just is. I think all discussions should begin with this understanding. Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, it is an amazing adventure full of Weeping Wall magic, but it's a difficult hike through a wild land. You have to suffer for the magic. The "trail" is through thick jungle. It leads one over, around, and under trees and mud and quagmire. You also stroll through bamboo grove and walk alongside an idyllic stream. Until you boulder hop across its rushing waters and wade into it, navigating your way to the next section of boulders or slippery footpath.
The Way to the Blue Hole Leads Through Here (Inquire Within), Waikokos Valley, Kauai
I think the above picture gives a good indication of what the hike is like-- stream, waterfalls, boulders and jungle, with Mt. Waialeale in the distance. You are going there-- towards the box canyon of Waikokos Valley where the walls of Waialeale form the Blue Hole of sky and mountain. That's what the Blue Hole is-- the sky as you look up from the base of what was once the wettest place on earth. Now, Waialeale is the 8th wettest place on the planet so the streams that you encounter on the hike can flash flood at any time. This is another reason why I say the Weeping Wall hike is so difficult. The logistics and planning necessary make it all rather involved. You must have 4WD to access the trailhead, which is at the weir at the end of loop road. If you don't have 4WD you could possibly make it to the Jurassic Gate and then walk 2 miles to the trailhead. But it's such a long hike (duration) that you would be pushing it to get out in daylight. And this is one hike that I would not want to do with headlamp. But of course, take one with you. Just in case.
Guardian Falls and Rainbow, along the hike to the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
I made it to Guardian Falls about 4 years ago, but that time I was too tired to worried about the rain to continue on. On that occasion I broke a carbon fiber hiking stick when I slipped and fell in the jungle mud. And when I arrived at Guardian Falls grey clouds covered the mountain. I wrote about that excursion in an earlier blog entry. I think I called that one "A Slogfest to Guardian Falls."
One of my goals for the year was to safely hike to the Weeping Wall and back. I tried to go on a couple of different occasions late last year, but got rained out. And in early February we tried again, but a Flash Flood Watch stopped us again. For this hike (and probably all hikes, really) it is best to err on the side of caution. If you are above Guardian Falls when the waters rise, you ain't getting back until the waters subside. There is no place to pitch a tent. And really, very few areas of accessible higher elevation. You could easily find yourself in trouble. I have friends who had to lock arms and form a human chain to cross the rapidly rising stream-- and that was in the easier first section. We brought along a rope just in case we needed it, but luckily we had blue skies in the valley and benign clouds at the Wall.
A Long Line, nearing the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
Once above Guardian Falls the stream becomes the trail for much of the way until you climb out onto a muddy bank. Then you are back in the jungle until you climb even further still via pre established ropes. This is where I totally lost all semblance of form and just kinda "managed my way" up and down the muddy cliff walls. The ropes made it easy, but my bag and tripod made the going rough. I never complain about the gear-- especially while I am out there-- because you can only take the pictures that your gear will allow. On this trip, I took 2 cameras and 2 lenses-- Canon 5DSR with 21mm Zeiss and a Canon 1DX II with a Canon 24-70. I also had my normal supply of Lee Filters, lens cleaner, extra batteries and Really Right Stuff Tripod. Now, if I were to do it again I would only take one camera, one lens, a much smaller tripod and a much smaller bag. Live and learn. But I can be stubborn. Oh, I almost forgot. I started the day in hiking boots, but changed into felt soled neoprene booties called tabis after about 20 minutes of hiking. The tabis provide excellent traction on the slipper rocks and are a MUST for this hike. I even tried to change out of them after descending from the Weeping Wall, but slipped in the first 10 feet and slipped and fell within the first 100 feet. While tabis provide little to no support, they do provide excellent traction. Next time, I won't even take the boots. I'll take an extra pair of tabis instead. They are that good. You can buy them at Wal Mart in Lihue or any of the fishing shops on island. Your feet will suffer (and back, too) but at least they'll give you the grip you need. (A side note-- try to scrape the mud off the felt soled bottoms each time you enter the stream in order to wash away the mud. This will help provide better traction as you boulder hop and dance your way to the next bank or exit).
Ohia Lehua Flower and Waialeale Wall, approaching the Weeping Wall of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The closer you get to the Weeping Wall the more the vegetation changes and the temperature drops. You begin to see Ohia trees, Lehua flowers, ferns and rarer plants endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. This is sacred land and should be respected. Hawaiian myth says that the highest Hawaiian god, Kane, was born on top of Waialeale. Kane is the creator and I felt a pulse or life source when I placed my hand on the wall of Waialeale. How much truth is contained in a myth? All? None? Likely, somewhere in-between.
First View of the Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
The above photo shows the fist glimpse of the Weeping Wall. It was taken from a highpoint on the hike, and from here it's about 45 minutes till the end. I find the landscape of the hike interesting in that the destination remains hidden until near the very end. What you think you are walking towards shifts and hides from view until you have exerted enough effort to see. I think Joseph Campbell wrote something about this in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Those epic journeys really do make us feel like heroes.
Life Source, the Weeping Wall, Mt. Waialeale, Kauai
I placed my hands on the Weeping Wall and felt vibrations. Of course the water was flowing off the mountain, but the mana or power of the place was literally tangible. I could feel it. Waialeale is said to be the piko or navel of Kauai, but for me the mountain became the heart, pulsing with life force.
The Lightness of Being, the Weeping Wall, Waialeale, Kauai
I left the house at 6:30 AM. Arrived at the Arboretum at 7 and the trailhead at 8. We got back to the FJ at 5:30. And while it was a hard hike, it was an awesome experience. If you would like to do this hike I recommend you go with a guide. The trail is unmaintained, prone to flash flood and difficult to navigate. A guide will also be able to share the cultural significance of the place with you as you enter into the Blue Hole.
Here's a few more...
You can imagine on a day with heavy rains this football-field-long rocky slope would become a torrent of rushing water.
The various curves and undulations of the Weeping Wall and final approach.
The amphitheater of the Weeping Wall. Incidentally the Blue Hole is actually the sky as you look up and out of this natural amphitheater. When I arrived here the sky was overcast so it was more like a Gray Hole than a blue one.
One last look before I put the camera away and begin the hike back.
Below are a series of beach scenes all photographed Wednesday morning at Lumahai Beach. I wanted to convey a certain feeling in these images, and I think of them as vignettes of a dream— little fragments of experiences lived in sleep, and only vaguely remembered upon awaking.
Upon awaking we look to sleep to continue the play. And rather than rubbing our eyes and sitting up straight we lie and long for the scenes interrupted and the memories we have forgotten.
We seek to return to sleep if only to reenter the "me" of the dream. To talk to her one more time. To be with him one more moment. To find an answer to all the questions why.
It is difficult to return to the dream. It's like the alarm has caused a shift in time in the dream world of our mind. If we are able to reenter the dream it is often at a moment lost to where we were when we woke up. It's like our dream world went ahead of us. It seems to continue without us. Further reminding us that we are not the only actors in this subconscious play.
Lumahai Beach is just north of Hanalei Bay. There are actually two Lumahai Beaches-- one we call Tourists and the other we call Locals. Lumahai Tourists is the first one that you will come to as you approach from Hanalei. There is pullout parking at the bend as you crest the first hill after Hanalei Bay and the surf spot called Waikokos. To get to the beach you will walk down a path in the woods just to the right of the very limited roadside parking. The path is often muddy and can be quite slippery.
Lumahai Locals is a little further down and it's the one that I prefer. To get to locals keep heading north and descend the hill. On the left you'll see a beautiful pasture and the mountains as a backdrop. On the right is the parking area for Lumahai Locals. If you go over the one proper bridge on the north shore, than you've gone too far. Locals is right at the river mouth.
Lumahai Locals, looking northwest towards the river mouth.
Lumahai Locals doesn't have the rocks or lava shelf that Tourists has, but for me that's ok because I love the long sweep of beach and the feeling of openness that Locals provide. In the summer you can see the sunrise from either, but only Tourists will give you a chance of watching the sunset. Winter brings big waves to both beaches and because of the rocks, lava shelf and enclosed space of Tourists it is the more dangerous of the two (in my opinion). Of course care and precaution should be taken when photographing either location. When the surf is not too large or when the tides are low it is possible to walk the entire stretch of beach and photograph both locations without getting back into the car. You will often see beach joggers and dog walkers (especially in the mornings) running and walking all the way from Locals to Tourists.
Fully awake now, we go about the mentally processing these vignettes of a dream.
Aloha and welcome back.
Before we continue with the list of images I want to share with you the best locations I encountered during this year's adventures:
Finding My Way on the Hop Valley Trail, Zion NP, Utah
After hiking Observation Point in the morning I went to the much less visited Kolob Canyon area of Zion NP in the afternoon, looking for quiet, solitude and sunset. I had to wait out a storm, but eventually I found all three along the Hop Valley Trail.
Stone Lines (Broken Pieces are Part of the Whole), Devil's Garden, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah
I spent a couple of mornings and evenings in Devil's Garden, wandering through the hoodoos in this very pleasant park like section of the vast (but shrinking!) Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Just outside of the charming town of Escalante, about 20 miles off Hole in the Rock Road lies Devil's Garden. Light was good at sunrise and exceptional just before sunset. I imagine night sky and star photos would be excellent here as well. I visited during the full moon and only tried a few star pics from my campsite, which surprisingly enough turned out well. So yeah, definitely hit this place on a new moon and be prepared to be Wowed! For sure.
Lines (Mesquite Sand Dunes), Death Valley National Park, California
Raw. Intense. Windy. Hot. Dry. Harsh. Beautiful. Huge. Death Valley NP is an unforgiving landscape. Immense in scale and challenge. We visited mid May and knew that we were on the cusp of enjoyment and suffering and fell on the latter. We arrived in a desert wind storm and somehow managed to set up campsite in a stinging wind. Then the heat and overall dryness set in on our adventure to the Race Track-- that playa in the middle of nowhere where the rocks move-- and absolutely zapped us of our strength. Out of season, Death Valley is no joke. Highlights to be seen again one winter are: Zabriske Point, Badwater Basin, and the Mesquite Sand Dunes.
Fly (Merlin or Cooper's Hawk), Zion NP, Utah
I found this little raptor while looking for desert big horn sheep in the eastern section of Zion NP. Moral of the story-- you never know what you will find so be ready and open to all things.
A Landscape to Challenge Your World View, White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
White Pocket is a world class photo destination. You could spend hour upon hour wandering through this surreal landscape of boiling rock and color. I say boiling rock because it appears as if the stone and rock surface of the landscape is liquid or molten, moving through the desert in lines and streams of color. This is a crazy beautiful place. High clearance 4WD is a must as it is a 2 hour drive over thick sand and desert dirt roads to White Pocket.
Sublime, Sequoia National Park, California
Have I told you before? I love these trees! 300 feet high. 26 feet in diameter. So perfect in their proportions they look absolutely normal. Completely in harmony with their surroundings. I. Love. These. Trees. They are simply sublime.
The Moon and the Box, Box Wilderness, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah
My trip to Utah coincided with the full moon and the moon became my travel companion. I came to know it high in the sky at night, lighting the interior of my tent and casting a bluish hue over the night landscape. In the mornings, I would follow her low on the horizon, trying to bring her into the camera's view. Nature is a gentle Muse.
Brainwaves, White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
More wildness from White Pocket. I was entranced by these sections of "Brain Rock." Rolling stone hills that, yes, resemble brains lying to fry in the desert heat. You've seen the commercial-- This is your brain on drugs-- well, this is your brain on White Pocket.
Strut, Zion Np, Utah
I originally planned to travel to Yellowstone and the Tetons this fall, but changed my trip to southern Utah due to the extensive wild fires and smoke that Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Oregon were experiencing all summer and well into the fall. The whole point of the trip was to photograph wildlife so I was pretty bummed about the change, but cheered up when I found out that there were quite a few desert big horn sheep in Zion NP. In Zion, I spent three days looking for these majestic animals and had a few sightings, but really got lucky on the evening of the third day. I ran into two herds around Checkerboard Mesa in east Zion. This is my favorite photo from the encounter and my favorite from my 2017 southwest adventures.
Starry Night and Yosemite Flow, Yosemite NP, California
To be honest I could have put 5 "favorites" from Yosemite onto this list, but rather than do that I chose one to represent the beauty that I found in this incredible national park. We photographed a lot at night and felt that we had the park to ourselves. There were no crowds. No cars. No busses buzzing around. But the park was still so amazingly photogenic. I photographed moonbows in Yosemite Falls; the flashing lights from climbers' head lamps as they moved up the face of the incomparable El Capitan; and one night I photographed the graceful flow of Yosemite Falls under a starry night in the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
After photographing sunset at Pakalas beach the other night, I listened to Freakanomics Radio on NPR. If you are not familiar with the program Freakanomics is a radio show about behavioral economics-- economics, sociology and psychology. This particular night's discussion centered on a behavioral theory called "Tail Winds/Head Winds Asymmetry". This theory basically says that humans tend to focus on the obstacles (head winds) in their lives rather than the blessings in their lives (tail winds). Psychologists Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai further explained that this tendency of ours to focus attention on obstacles negatively influences our psyche-- and our decision making-- thereby preventing us from being happy. Tail winds on the other hand bring us into a positive state of contentment (albeit brief) like when we are riding a bike with the wind at our backs just pushing us along with blissful rapidity. However, due to the process of adaptation inducing boredom, this state of happiness can be short lived and we soon forget or ignore the blessings of the tail winds and return our focus and negativity to the real (and presumed) obstacles.
So what can we do to ride with the tail winds longer and enjoy the happiness that they bring? The psychologists answer we can do this with gratitude. Gilovich believes that we should expressing gratitude for the tail winds and blessings in our lives so that we can reside in the happiness that they bring.
So that's what I'll do in this post-- I'll like express my gratitude for the Tail Winds by choosing my favorite 17 images from the off island adventures I had in 2017. I am grateful for the health and the desire to spend time with nature. I am grateful for the planet and the beauty that I find in her. And I am grateful for the safe and exciting adventures that I had while exploring all that the Earth shared with me in 2017.
Let the countdown (and tail winds) begin.
A Good Place to Rest, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
A good place to camp and explore, too! I hiked into the Coyote Gulch from Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and entered into the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where this photograph was taken. This arch was about 4 miles from my campsite and near to the confluence of the Escalante River and the Coyote Gulch. Over the three days I camped two night; hiked about 22 miles; and explored some incredible scenery in some of our most dramatic and beautiful public lands. Highlights were the majesty of the high canyon walls; the soul stirring echo of raven's wings through the canyon amphitheaters; and the surprises around each successive canyon bend.
Fire Scar, Sequoia National Park, California
I was so impressed with the Giant Sequoias. I love these trees! They are just massive! So tall! So thick! So strong! But oh, so soft. I couldn't believe how soft the bark of these giants were. That's because they have air pockets inside that help them resist fire burn. You see they have to have the heat of the forest fire flames in order to drop seeds and grow. You look around the Giant Sequoia forest and see all of these old trees with fire scars that's because they've survived the fires and grown stronger and older from the heat and trial. When I look at these beautiful trees I see so many lessons for us. Nature is truly the greatest teacher.
Mobius Arch and Moon, Alabama Hills Recreation Area, Lone Pine, California
I spent a lot of time working on Mobius Arch. I think I went for sunrise and sunset on two consecutive days and then sunrise on a third day. I feel like this is a place that I need to explore more. And when I do, I'd like to hike up Mt. Whitney as well. You know, since I'll be in the neighborhood. ;-)
#14 Shelter, Sequoia National Park, California
Naomi finds shelter inside a fallen Giant Sequoia tree on the Big Trees Trail around Round Meadow. She just walked right in.
#13 South Fork Kings River, Sequoia National Forest, California
The drive through the Sequoia National Forest from Sequoia National Park to Kings Canyon National Park is one of the great drives on the North American Continent. Compared to others it is short and sweet, but the views of mountain and canyon, river and sequoia are just awesome. On our drive we stopped numerous times to photograph the sites and this photograph is from one of those road side pullouts. The Kings River is flows fast and full with the spring snow melt. I was careful not to get too close to the swollen river and I chose a long exposure to help communicate the flow. The prominent tree on the opposite side of the bank is a young Giant Sequoia. Every time I view this photograph I takes back to that memorable drive. The excitement of adventure and the allure of the road.
#12 Watchtower, Manzanar Manzanar National Historic Site, Manzanar, California
Manzanar is a heavy place. A beautiful place. But a heavy one. In front of you the eastern Sierra Nevada rise into the clouds and the White Mountains do the same at your back. While the history of the place gets blown around by the wind. "There was always the wind," said one of the Japanese-American internees about the place. Stifling heat in the summer. Bitter cold in the winter. And always the wind. Another quote that stays with me from the history was a Japanese-American internee asking why the rifles of the soldiers were pointing inward if they were for the internees "protection." 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar during the second World War. About two-thirds were born American citizens. So the government of the time locked up it's own people. Forced them from their homes. Destroyed their businesses and farm, careers and educations and drove them to one of 10 internment camps in the plains, deserts, swamps and mountains of California, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, and Utah where they were forced to live from 1942 to 1945. Oh, and after they were allowed to leave in 1945 they were not allowed to return to their homes nor even home state. Yeah, Manzanar is heavy place. A beautiful place. A place that all Americans should visit.
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Lower Calf Creek Falls State Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah
Wanna go on an easy hike through a wide desert canyon that ends in a waterfall so enchanting it might just be a portal to another space and time? If so, then Lower Calf Creek Falls is the hike for you.
#10 ~ #1 coming soon.
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