Winter Views-- Lassen NF, Alabama Hills, and Ancient Bristlecones: Back to Cali

July 31, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Winter Morning (Dawn and Cold Stone), Alabama Hills, Alabama Hills National Recreation Area, California

From Oregon I return to California, where (eventually) I'll make it to the desert sand dunes of Death Valley National Park. But for now I'm full moon chasing across the cold country. I was supposed to be in Yosemite on my birthday, but my camp reservations were cancelled due to COVID protocols by the park service/state of California. So instead of Yosemite I went up to Crater Lake and Painted Hills. I camp in the Lassen National Forest under this full moon.

Full Moon Nears, Lassen National Forest, California

A Full Moon Sets above Eagle Lake, California

From the Lassen National Forest I'm making my way to the Alabama Hills. I knew before setting out on this photography trip I would need to be flexible. I often thought about what I heard in the Marine Corps— Semper Gumbi. It's a take on the Marine Corps motto-- Semper Fidelis or Always Faithful. Semper Gumbi means Always FlexibleIt still makes me laugh... Anyway, I stopped alongside this frozen lake and photographed the moon as it was falling behind the hill where I camped on the crisp, dry snow the night before.

Frozen, California

Mono Lake and 395, California

US Route 395 is one of the most scenic roads in America. The eastern Sierra Nevada and the adventure towns on the flats and foothills are truly spectacular. A photographer, hiker, climber, skier, nature lover of all kinds could spend a lifetime here, happily exploring. Some of my favorite places are Bishop, Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills, and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. 

When traveling for a couple of months at a time the days and places run together. When I review the trip in my mind I tend to remember where I was with memories of the full and new moon. Full moon photographs with a new landscape, and stars on the new. On this trip I chased the full moon in Lone Pine, Grand Canyon, Nashville, and White Sands National Park. 

Bowling Ball (A Full Moon Falls Off the Sierras), Alabama Hills National Recreation Area, California

Walking through the frozen snow. Crunch, crunch, crunch..., Alabama Hills, California

First Light Spreads over the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California


It's the first week in January and I heard that the road up the mountain to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest was still open. This was surprising to me as I expected the road into the White Mountains to be completely impassable at this time of year. I had no idea how bad the road would be, but I decided to give it a try. I only encountered a few pockets of frozen snow on the shaded turns along the lower section of the pass. The upper portion was completely snow covered, but the gate wasn’t locked. In May 2016 or 17 I made it to this point, but was forced to turn back by a locked gate and a mountain of snow. This time I had better luck and was hesitant, but happy because I wanted to see the old trees that live up there.

I Love these Old and Gnarled Trees, Ancient Bristlecone Pine National Forest, California

As I climbed the mountain the snow became deeper and the corners became more than a little sketchy. I even rescued a Prius that had slid off the road on an icy curve. I would continue onto the Schulman Grove, but I decided that I wouldn’t stay long. Something about a road that climbs 9,000 feet without guardrails makes me more than a little cautious.

Sky of Light, Mountains of SnowSky of Light, Mountains of SnowInyo National Forest, California

Red Sky at Night, A Photographer’s Delight, Sierra Nevada Range, California 

I am standing near the summit of a mountain pass and a song by Incubus plays in my mind. The refrain sings “...and I am happy...” Watching the light blaze through the winter sky I take in the warmth of the moment. I am full of happiness and gratitude. I am reminded— amidst this mountain scene—nay, by this mountain scene-- of my incredible smallness. Awesome is the power outside of me. Outside is a good place to be.

Some Sunsets are Hard to Walk Away From (Last Look for the Night), the Sierra Nevada Range, California

The light show continued the following morning as I descended the mountain and continued onto Death Valley Road. Leaving the Mountains of Light behind I felt a tinge of sorrow. It was such a beautiful place and one that I know so little about. New scenes and locations— especially ones as gigantic as the Sierra Nevada— are intimidating. Where to begin? What can I expect? How will it go? What lies hidden in the mountain and the valleys below? Daydreaming of explorations to come, I wind my way down one road and up another.

Soon Joshua Trees will be all around me and it will be clear that I have indeed left one place and have entered into another.

And in Death Valley I might as well be entering into another dimension.

From the Mountains of Light to the Valley of Death (A Good Morning Drive), California



Winter Views-- The Painted Hills, Oregon

July 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The Painted Hills, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

The forecast called for a snowstorm to hit the entire Cascade range around Christmas day so I escaped to the Painted Hills on Christmas Evee.

Here’s the sky that welcomed me to this magical landscape of colored stripes and gentle hills.

Christmas Eve at the Painted Hills, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon 

After the light show I searched for a campsite and found one off a dirt road at Priest Hole. It was right along a river and would make a peaceful place to welcome Saint Nic. I celebrate the season with a delicious dinner of Beyond Meat Italian sausage, spinach, tomato sauce, pasta, and one of the best beers of the trip-- Dark Reckoning Imperial Porter from Morgan Territory Brewing.

Clouds above the Painted Hills, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

Christmas morning 2020. I’m standing on a hill in the dark, waiting for a sun that will not appear until the late afternoon. Clouds fill the sky above, and the gently rolling landscape slowly comes into view. The land awakes, and in the muted light of an overcast morning the badlands that surround me become filled in with color. Burgundy and beige. Soft browns and golden yellows. Hues that seem rich and sophisticated.

The Landscape is Patient and Calm, Holding Time and Mysteries in these Little Valleys of Painted Hills, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

The Land is Wise and I Wish to Know Her, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

From where I am standing I can easily see a girl with a dog a little further up the hill. She has been sitting on the hillside since before I arrived, well before dawn. Who travels alone into nature on Christmas morning? We talk. She’s from the east coast and couldn’t travel home for the holidays so she decided to find solace. Out here. I hope she finds it. I hope, too, that the pandemic will end and all will feel safe to travel home. And all will feel safe to travel away. To places both far and near. May all beings be happy and free.

There was still quite a bit of snow on the mountain pass leading from the Painted Hills to Bend so I decided to hang around the John Day Fossil Bends National Monument a little while longer. I drove to the Sheep Rock District and hiked the Blue Basin Trail in the morning, returning to the Painted Hills late in the afternoon.

The Painted HillsThe Painted HillsI heard that there was still quite a bit of snow on the mountain pass so I decided to stay in the Painted Hills a little longer. I spent Christmas in this landscape, and later on Christmas Day I was presented with a gift of light as the clouds broke and the stripes in the hills shined.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon
Later Christmas Day the Sun Came out and Presented M a Gift of Light, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

Sea Change in the Oregon Hills, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

Moon Over the Oregon Landscape, Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon


On my last day in the Painted Hills, the morning was one to remember. The heavens filled with pastels, delicate hues of pinks and blues spread across the sky. I watched in wonder, happy to be here. Happy to be in nature. Happy to see the sky change and the landscape come to life. The Painted DreamThe Painted DreamJohn Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon

To Talk with Mother Earth and Father Sky (Wisdom for the Ages), Painted Hills National Monument, Oregon

The picture above, To Talk with Mother Earth and Father Sky, is my favorite photograph from Oregon and one of my favorites from the entire 4 month trip. it is definitely top 5. For sure. I think it it 8 vertical photographs stitched together. I used a nodal slide to help keep the horizon line straight for maximum balance and resolution. There's so much that I like about this landscape: it's gentleness and flow, the many curves and elevations, the light and dark colors and the lines imbedded in the hills. The pastel sky of first light, too, helps to tie it all together. Yes, one of my favorites. 

Painted Hill and Morning Sky, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon

Snow on Distant Mountains, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon

Sky, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon


I left the Painted Hills and that amazing last sky and make my way south. While driving through Oregon down into northern eastern California I saw almost as many MAGA and Trump signs as I did Red Tailed Hawks. Needless to say, I stopped for the Hawks and not the signs.

Red Tailed Hawk, Oregon

This was back in late December so the November elections— and electoral qualms— were still fresh in everyone’s mind. Voter issues--ranging from fraud to count-- were in the public dialogue daily so at the time I could understand the prolonged support for the outgoing President. Fast forward to March and April and I’m driving through Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arkansas and I am still seeing Trump signs and flags. Some of the flags even had Trump’s face on Johnny Rambo! Those always made me take a second look just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Keep in mind this was five months after the election, and three months since the current administration took office.

Take Off, Oregon

In my lifetime I have never seen a four year President retain such popular support. And after speaking with several people during the trip who believe that President Trump is the greatest President of their lifetimes, I am convinced that the 2024 elections will be just as interesting and important as the 2020 and 2016 elections were.

Sometimes I feel that living on Kauai I’m in a little bubble. But this road trip across the US— 18,000 miles and 23 states— showed me a lot. Or I guess I saw a lot and had a lot of time to think. About the land, the environment, the people, the politics, the news, the conversations I shared at cafes and campfires. America is a beautiful place. I just hope she’s not broken, but I think she may be. If she is indeed broken, as I suspect, I hope we can fix her. Together. Yes, I hope we can.

Fly Away with Wings Flapping, Oregon

Feel free to comment on any of these topics if you like. I will read each comment with the same respect in which it is written. We can agree and we can disagree. And both are OK because that's one way we can learn about each other.



Winter Views-- Crater Lake National Park: The Land of Fluff and Puff

July 20, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

First View of Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

I remember thinking to myself, Where’s all the snow?

I was soon to find out....

I drove up from Shasta and saw the snow packed peaks scattered around the horizon. The Cascades are a beautiful range and their conical shapes dotted the landscape at what seemed like regular intervals. The overall impression was, strangely enough, of Japan. And that impression would only get stronger as I approached Crater Lake from Chiloquin. 

The Flats before the Snow, Chiloquin, Oregon

The flat farmlands surrounding Chiloquin had several inches of hard snow, but nothing like the multiple feet of powder that I soon encountered after making a right turn on the approach to Crater Lake.  I soon climbed into a winter wonderland that began to look just like "Hokkaido". I said to myself in astonishment.

Crater Lake: Oregon's Mini-Hokkaido, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

When I saw the lake, and island, and all the snow(!) I was convinced that Crater Lake NP is a mini Hokkaido. Seriously. It was like I was experiencing deja vu in the wind blown snow. Akan-Mashu National Park in Hokkaido is a stunning landscape of three calder lakes. One of which, Lake Kusharo has an island in the middle. Just like Crater Lake! 


I left Hokkaido for Maui many years ago because I was tired of shoveling snow. On the day I flew out, I actually threw away the winter clothes I was wearing— coat, hat, gloves— when I arrived at Chitose Airport before my departing flight. I was like, Never again! 🤣). But here I was. Back in the beautiful landscape of fluff n puff. Funny how things change and stay the same.


There was no camping available in the park so I camped at an Oregon snow park-- basically a plowed parking lot adjacent to a snowmobile, cross country ski, and sledding area. Rustic in amenities, it was actually quite nice— vault toilets, very quiet, and there was even a warming hut where I could cook and eat out of the snow. The night’s low reached 5 degrees F, and I woke up in a frosted, ice box (note to self--  get a propane heater for the roof top tent before next winter).

Snow, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

I thought I would snowshoe and overnight in the backcountry, but I was afraid I would die so I decided on just a hike before dawn. I finally found all my winter clothes and got dressed in about 7 layers. Strapped snowshoes on my feet and set out into the great, cold unknown. 

Crater LakeCrater LakeI camped at the base of Crater Lake in an Oregon Snow Park, which is basically a plowed parking lot adjacent to a snow play area. It was actually quite nice-- vault toilets, very quiet, and there was even a warming hut where I could cook and eat out of the snow and cold. The night's low reached 5 degrees fahrenheit and I woke up in an ice box (for the first but not last time on this winter trip). Up early to snowshoe before sunrise. I thought I would snowshoe and overnight in the backcountry, but I was afraid I would die so I decided to just hike before dawn. In these frigid temperatures it just takes so long to put on all my clothes and gear! Just to find it all takes forever! I finally got everything on and snowshoes strapped onto my boots and set out into the great unknown.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Looking over the Wizard, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

About 100 meters into the snowshoe hike ( in the dark) I realized that I forgot my sunglasses. "Aah, I don’t need them," I thought to myself. "It’s dark and I’ll be back before the sun gets too high", I though. Silly me. I definitely needed them. Or goggles. The wind blown snow stung my eyes, and at times made it impossible to see as diamond dust shined in the light of my headlamp.

Morning Light, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

But because of this wind blown snow — and accompanying intensely cold and fierce wind— I was able to get these images.
on the way back. I think this one with the sunstar and tree is better than anything I did of the lake that cold, December morning. As long as you are alive, it is almost always worth it.

Tree of Life, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon






Winter Views-- California Cascades: Shasta and Lassen

July 13, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Shasta's Alpen Glow, Lake Siskiyou, Mt. Shasta National Forest, California

My original itinerary had me going along the California coast to Big Sur and Malibu and then inland to the desert at Joshua Tree before going up to, what I hoped would be, a winter wonderland in Yosemite. But California's response to COVID nixed those plans rather slowly and unevenly over a two week period. So being ever flexible I looked for other places to photograph and camp and chose Mt. Shasta, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake National Park and the Painted Hills National Monument. I had never been to Mt. Shasta and didn't really know what to expect. I was thinking something like a hippie ski town and that's kinda what it was. Friendly, outdoorsy, and beautiful nature all around Shasta-Trinity National Forest. And the mountain just has the most beautiful shape. The twin summit is like a perfect wave or a perfect haircut full of fashion and confidence. 

The Beautiful Curve of Mt. Shasta, the second highest mountain in the Cascade Range. Mt. Shasta, California

I camped about 4 miles past Lake Siskiyou in the National Forest, off a heavily iced road. The campsite was quiet (I was the only one there) and of course, cold. I was supposed to ease into the cold weather, but the above mentioned park closures forced me into my -20 F North Face bag earlier than I had planned. This bag was to become my lover and my Patagonia down parka was my best friend. Without these two items of kit the trip and the photography would have been impossible. 

Mt. Shasta is 14,170 ft. You can drive right up to the tree line and although I did, the parking area and mountain side were pretty crowded so I ended up spending most of my time around the quiet banks of Lake Siskiyou.

Lake Siskiyou Reflections, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

Morning Fog Clears, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California​​​​​

On the Road in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California​​​​

It's about a 2 hour drive from Mt. Shasta to Lassen Volcanic National Park and while access inside Lassen would be limited, I wanted to do what I could in this park, which I had never visited. The drive over winding country roads was pleasant, but I worried what these roads would become if snow or ice fell. Pockets of shade would likely be tricky and I made a mental note not to speed nor to brake too hard. I decided against buying dedicated snow tires and instead ran my old BF Goodrich All Terrains (snow rated). I had chains, but was loathe to use them on. And I am happy to say that I made it through the entire trip without once putting them on. 

Light and Shadow and Forest of Evergreen Trees, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California

A bald eagle looks down from an old scraggy tree, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

As the road climbed up towards Lassen, the snow began to lie thick along the side of the road. Blue skies belied the cold of December in the Cascades. The only thing open in this area of the park was the entrance road, but even it was closed after about two miles or so. Behind the Road-Closed Gate was a faint line of unplowed snow that lead up the hillside into Lassen's backcountry. I parked here and walked around Manzanita Lake, looking for wildlife and a place to photograph sunset and sunrise. I found a bald eagle, but didn't see the otters, which I had read about earlier. The walk was pleasant and as evening approached a chill blew in with a few clouds.

Eagle in Deep Blue Sky, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Half Moon and Winter Chill, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Eruption? It's Been a Minute, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen SkyLassen SkyLassen Volcanic National Park, California

Frozen Manzanita Lake and Ever Changing Sky, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

After the pink sky turned to grey, I walked back to the FJ and drove out of the park, looking for a turn off into the Lassen National Forest where I would sleep for  the night. Overnight a slight drizzle turned to sleet and then to snow and I awoke inside an ice box. The roof top tent-- no matter how amazing it is-- is still a tent. And like a tent, it takes maintenance. Before departing I had to brush off the snow so that I could close the tent. The outside fabric was stiff from the cold, but it closed up fine.

 Sunrise Sunstar, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

First tracks over forest road. Cautious and cold I turn onto the highway and see that here, too, the plows have yet to come. It’s early still-- sunrise more than and hour away. Only short spells of light around the winter solstice here in the southern Cascades. First tracks and it’s clear that I am the first to arrive at Lassen Volcanic National Park today. No other tires or human foot prints have marked the midnight snow. Quiet, calm and yes, freezing. The tradeoffs of visiting the national parks in the winter are many. Many of the northern and mountainous parks have area, road and season long closures. Most if not all campgrounds are closed or snowed-in. Water is not readily available as most spigots have been shut off and the pipes drained for the season. Driving is stressful and the weather unpredictable. But the solitude and freshness of view are inspirational.

Eagle Dare, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Everything Looks Good in the Snow, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

On my way back to Mt. Shasta intermittent stretches of highway are hidden by the pines and the shadows hold black ice that changes lives. Headlights flash, warning me to take caution and care. I soon see, all along the right side of the road, articles of clothing, blankets, dishes, gear. A pillow. And then a camper lies separated from a silver truck, which lies a hundred yards away. I pull over and stop. I take out my first aid kit and walk towards the driver and passenger to offer assistance and see that other travelers have stopped to do the same. They slid on the ice, unusual for this time of year. One of the bystanders says to me as I approach. Sirens are the next sound to break the silence and I slowly head on. Just a few minutes down the road a truck floats in the forest, suspended between two trees. How it got there I'll never know. But a man who holds an iPhone shakily surely knows. These Winter Views come at a cost. I must be sure that it is one that I can afford. Caution and Care. I shall proceed with caution and care. 

Pine Comes, California


Next up, Crater Lake and the Painted Hills



Winter Views-- December 2020 to April 2021-- Intro

July 11, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

2020 was a year of opportunity. Opportunities to think, to walk, to photograph, to be grateful for the life of friends and loved ones who past and to be grateful for the lives we have. 2020 gave us a chance to take a timeout. To rest. To watch way too much Netflix. To spend time with our family and to take some time for ourselves. 2020 gave us chances everyday to think about what is really and truly important to us. And hopefully we used this opportunity to discover more about ourselves and what it is we love. Yeah, a timeout. 2020 was a timeout. I realized just how important being photography and being in nature are to me. It is who I am and how I wish to connect with the world and with you. 

I used the last days of 2020 and the first months of 2021 to photograph nature outside of Kauai, in 23 states over 18,000 miles. When people ask me, "Where did you go?" I reply, "America." One place and just one state wasn't enough for this long timeout and opportunity of discovery. 

Originally I had two, separate, winter photography trips planned. One to Yosemite National Park in December/January. And one to Yellowstone National Park in late February. However, when Kauai was removed from the Hawaii Safe Travels Program in November-- effectively eliminating tourism (safe or otherwise) and making any productive business activity in the gallery nearly impossible-- I decided to combine the two winter trips into one, long, photography road trip. So I put an "Open by appointment" sign on the shop window; shipped my 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser to Oakland; and from there I drove to Sonoma where Gary and his team at Mudrak Custom Cruisers installed an Alucab Expedition Rooftop Tent, Alucab Shadow Awning and an ARE rear drawer. I needed some new kit to help me camp in the winter as I knew most campsites would be closed or would have limited facilities available. And I'm getting a little old for a long road trip out of a tent. :-)

The above picture shows my FJ and Alucab tent 15,000 miles later in TX. During the trip I slept 90 nights in this tent, sleeping only two nights in a hotel after getting the Alucab tent installed at Mudrak Custom Cruisers in Sonoma, CA.

FJ and Alucab Shadow Awning in Big Cypress National Preserve. The awning wasn't that useful during the colder areas of the trip. During the cold winter days I wanted as much sunshine as I could get! However, I did use it in Zion NP and in Grand Canyon NP while cooking and eating in sleet (Zion) and snow (GCNP).

*If you have any questions about the overloading gear seen above feel free to ask in the comments section below. I may add a gear review on the Alucab roof top tent and awning one day. Let me know if you would like to see something like that. Cheers!


Sigh, Sonoma, CA

Anyway, back in Sonoma, I had a day or two to kill while the Alucab tent, awning, and overloading accessories were being installed. So I grabbed my camera and walked around town. I took a few pictures and ate a wonderful brunch at Sunflower. Of course, due to then revised COVID protocols, I had to eat my avocado sandwich in the park because just a week before I arrived all outside dining at restaurants and cafes was forbidden by the state of California! This was something that would be very challenging during the trip-- all of the different COVID rules and regulations that I would encounter from California to Florida from December to April. I knew I would need to be flexible during the trip, and I recalled what I heard often in the Marine Corps-- Semper Gumby. So yeah, I would need to be always flexible.

Tile, Sonoma, CA

Time for Reflection (The Journey Begins), Sonoma, CA


Forthcoming blog posts will feature photographs and Winter Views from

  • Mt. Shasta National Forest, CA
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
  • Crater Lake National Park, OR
  • Painted Hills National Monument, OR
  • Alabama Hills National Recreation Area, CA
  • Death Valley National Park, CA
  • Valley of Fire State Park, NV
  • Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  • Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, AZ
  • Zion National Park, UT
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  • Arches National Park, UT
  • Canyonlands National Park, UT
  • Grand Teton National Park, WY
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • Badlands National Park, SD
  • Big Cypress National Preserve, FL
  • Everglades National Park, FL
  • Kissatchie National Forest, LA
  • State Parks across Texas
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Monument, NM
  • White Sands National Monument, NM
  • And a few places in between

In the next post I'll share a few images from Mt. Shasta and Lassen, two of California's beautiful Cascade mountains. 

I'll be in touch soon.




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