DJR Photography: Blog en-us (C) Dan Roeder (DJR Photography) Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:50:00 GMT Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:50:00 GMT Making Our Way Back to Denver We left the Grand Junction area and headed east on I-70 toward Glenwood Springs. The next morning we drove from Carbondale to Maroon Bells. Maroon Bells is very popular during the fall when aspens on the mountainsides turn golden. The area was still nice when cloaked in summer green, and still popular, as we got one of the last parking spaces in the large parking lot. We strolled along Maroon Lake and decided to continue hiking up to Crater Lake (much smaller than the Crater Lake in Oregon). The trail was very rocky, and uphill all the way. We found a nice little lake with Maroon Peak looming large.


Maroon BellsMaroon Bells Trail back down from Crater LakeTrail back down from Crater Lake


After hiking back down to the car, we drove south of Aspen (detouring around the 4th of July parade) on Colorado Highway 82 (the highest paved road over the Continental Divide) and over Independence Pass. In places, this road was the narrowest road we’d driven since the single lane roads in Scotland. Fortunately, we didn’t have to see if two cars would actually be able to fit side-by-side on the road, with mountain on one side and nothing but down on the other.


Roaring Fork River In the Grottos Day Use AreaRoaring Fork River In the Grottos Day Use Area West side of Independence PassWest side of Independence Pass East side of Independence PassEast side of Independence Pass Mayflower CreekMayflower Creek


After safely passing through the speedtrap of Twin Lakes, we drove north on US 24 to Leadville and then north on Highway 91 to Copper Mountain and I-70. A couple hours later we found ourselves back in Denver and the end of our two-week tour through Colorado. 


I hope you enjoyed our tour through Colorado. I think I mentioned in one of the early blog posts about taking more panorama photos on this trip than on any other trip. I created a separate gallery of this photos, and you can click here to see them.



]]> (DJR Photography) aspen colorado independence pass maroon bells Wed, 13 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Colorado National Monument The Colorado National Monument was the last national park on our list of things to see on this trip. The 23-mile Rim Rock Drive crosses the monument with Fruita and Grand Junction on either end. There are a number of scenic vistas along the road, some with short walks from the pullouts and others that are longer, providing numerous vantage points and compositional opportunities.


Independence Monument from Otto's TrailIndependence Monument from Otto's Trail


Looking south into Wedding and Monument Canyons, freestanding rock formations called monoliths are the dominant and most dramatic feature of the park. The towering monoliths have descriptive names such as the Praying Hands, Pipe Organ, Kissing Couple and Independence Monument. They are the result of differing rates of weathering and erosion in adjacent layers of hard and soft rock.


Monoliths in Monument Canyon from the Window Rock TrailMonoliths in Monument Canyon from the Window Rock Trail


Our plan was to visit the park during an afternoon and following morning to get the best light from the various viewpoints, some of which are better in the morning and some better in the afternoon/evening. However, the afternoon we arrived provided us mostly cloudy skies and no contrast on the rock formations. Hoping for better conditions for sunrise the next morning, we were greeted by a stubborn cloud deck over the Book Cliffs, obscuring the rising sun for an hour or so. But after that, we had great conditions.


Independence Monument from Grand View, with the Book Cliffs in the distanceIndependence Monument from Grand View, with the Book Cliffs in the distance


After completing the Rim Rock Drive, we stopped to hike to Devils Kitchen, a 1.5-mile round trip moderate hike. Unfortunately, we missed a turn and turned it into a 2.5-mile adventure by following other hikers who didn’t know where they were going. By scrambling up the rocks, we found our way to the kitchen--it was a devil of a time getting there. There were several families there with young children, many of them moving around and upon the rocks with great ease.


Looking into the Devils KitchenLooking into the Devils Kitchen


To see more images from the Colorado National Monument, click here.

]]> (DJR Photography) colorado colorado national monument grand junction independence monument rim rock drive Mon, 11 Sep 2017 15:29:06 GMT
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park The Gunnison River has carved a gorge through hard bedrock to form the Black Canyon, one of the rare canyons that is deeper than it is wide. The walls of the canyon, which are almost vertical in places, are over 2,000 feet deep and, at one point, only 1,200 feet across. This makes the canyon very dark, hence, its name.


Viewpoints dot the rim roads on both the north and south sides of the canyon. But getting from the south rim to the north rim is no quick task. The drive from the Visitor’s Center on the South Rim to the Ranger Station on the North Rim is more than 75 miles. The best reason to make the journey is the view from Exclamation Point on the North Vista Trail. Here you can see the longest straight stretch of river visible from any point in the park.


Exclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking southExclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking south


The South Rim drive features at least a dozen pullouts providing easy access to viewpoints of the canyon, each providing a different glimpse of the work done by the river. We stopped at most of them, enjoying the view and listening to the roar of the river. We could only imagine how loud it would be if the river upstream of the park wasn’t dammed up to create a reservoir, limiting its flow.


Painted Wall, Serpent PointPainted Wall, Serpent Point


Pulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking southPulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking south
Kneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking southKneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking south


The Dragon’s Tongue was first photographed and named by Vince Farnworth in 2012. It’s created when light from the rising sun reflects from one side of a tall gap in the wall onto the opposing side of the gap. This phenomenon, which is not widely known, can be observed and photographed just after sunrise on clear days from spring through fall. Luckily, we had clear skies while we were there and we were able to witness this fascinating spectacle. It was difficult to photograph due to the sun shining into the side of the lens (Denise had to help block the sun with my hat). It was really cool to be able to see the Dragon's Tongue in person.


Dragon's TongueDragon's Tongue


For more pictures from the Black Canyon, click here.


Next stop: Colorado National Monument


]]> (DJR Photography) black canyon black canyon of the gunnison national park colorado Sun, 03 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Scenic Drive through Colorado The day after leaving Mesa Verde NP was spent driving to the next national park on our itinerary, the Black Canyon. But, before I get to that, I wanted to share a couple of pictures from before we went to Mesa Verde. Not too far from Farmington, NM (where we stayed when we visited the Bisti Badlands) is Shiprock. Shiprock Peak is called Tsé Bit’a’í in Navajo, which means "rock with wings" or simply "winged rock." It got it’s current name in the 1870s because of its resemblance to 19th-century clipper ships. Its 1,700-foot spire can be seen up to 100 miles away. We went to stay for sunset. While there weren't any clouds in the sky for an "epic" sunset, it was still enjoyable, eating our salads from Wendy's while we waited for the sun to go down.


Shiprock PinnacleShiprock Pinnacle

Shiprock PinnacleShiprock Pinnacle


OK, back to the scenic drive...The first portion of the scenic drive after Mesa Verde National Park was on Colorado Highway 145, the Western Skyway, from Delores to just west of Telluride. This highway runs parallel to the Delores River up to Lizard Head Pass, which is named for a prominent nearby peak that is said to look like the head of a lizard (I guess if you squint enough).


The second leg of the drive was across the Dallas Divide and its vast, high-alpine vistas of the San Juan Mountains. The most spectacular scene in this portion of our drive was on the Last Dollar Road, off of Colorado Highway 60. Here we found a wooden fence in front of a huge field of yellow-orange wildflowers that seemed to stretch all the way to the Sneffels Range.


Daises and the Dolores RiverDaises and the Dolores River

Trout LakeTrout Lake

Driving up Highway 145Driving up Highway 145

Toward TellurideToward Telluride

Wildflowers on Last Dollar RoadWildflowers on Last Dollar Road

More wildflowers on Last Dollar RoadMore wildflowers on Last Dollar Road

]]> (DJR Photography) colorado daises dallas divide delores river last dollar road shiprock shiprock pinnacle Fri, 01 Sep 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Mesa Verde National Park Almost 101 years to the date of the creation of Mesa Verde National Park, we visited the park in southwest Colorado. On June 29, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to "preserve the works of man," the first national park of its kind.


The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in North America. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Pueblo people began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.


The largest of the park’s cliff dwellings are located at the ends of two long mesas–Chapin and Weatherhill–and take about an hour to drive to each from the entrance to the park. Out of the nearly 600 cliff dwellings concentrated within the boundaries of the park, 75% contain only 1-5 rooms each, and many are single room storage units.


We participated in ranger-led tours of three of the cliff dwellings. Other cliff dwellings, such as the Square Tower House and Spruce Tree House, are closed to the public but can be viewed from overlooks. 


The now-closed Spruce Tree House from overlook. Park officials are studying how to stabilize the rock above the dwelling to prevent it from breaking off.The now-closed Spruce Tree House from overlook. Park officials are studying how to stabilize the rock above the dwelling to prevent it from breaking off.

Square Tower HouseSquare Tower House


Balcony House was the first cliff dwelling we toured. At the beginning of the tour, the ranger told the tour group about the obstacles we would encounter during the tour, such as a 32-foot ladder to get into the house, and having to crawl through a 12-foot tunnel with a 12”x18” opening to exit the house, followed by two more ladders to climb back up to the parking area.

Balcony HouseBalcony House


Balcony House contains 40 rooms, making it a medium-size dwelling. The ranger explained that many of the rooms were not living spaces, but storage areas. The house is the only one on Chapin Mesa facing northeast, thus  getting the least amount of direct sun. I figured that this must have been used as a refrigerator for the storage of the beans, corn, and  squash grown on the mesa tops. Since it would have gotten direct sunlight only during the morning days near the summer  solstice, it would have stayed cooler than the other Chapin Mesa dwellings.


Long House, the second largest cliff dwelling in the park, is located on Weatherhill Mesa. The ranger-led tour started with a 2-mile hike and a discussion of the plants located on the mesa and how they were used by the Ancestral Pueblo people. The “house” was more like a village set into a nearly 300-foot alcove. It contained about 150 rooms, 21 kivas, and a row of upper storage rooms. As many as 175 people could have called this house their home. The high number of rooms and kivas in Long House, plus the presence of the formal plaza, suggest this cliff dwelling was a significant place for the people living there, perhaps serving both civic and ceremonial functions.


Long HouseLong House


Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America and is the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park. With its square towers and round towers, perfectly plumb and square walls, and colored plaster walls, it is considered an architectural masterpiece.


Cliff Palace from gathering placeCliff Palace from gathering place


Archeologists believe it was built between A.D. 1260–1280. To create a level floor, the builders of Cliff Palace erected a retaining wall along the front of the alcove and backfilled behind the wall, making a flat working surface and solid foundation for rooms. The alcove is around 215 feet wide by about 90 feet deep and 60 feet high. About 150 rooms—living rooms, storage rooms, and special chambers, plus nearly 75 open spaces and 21 kivas—were eventually built. It was inhabited by an estimated 100 to 120 people. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.


View as we approached Cliff PalaceView as we approached Cliff Palace


As can be imagined, Cliff Palace is the most popular cliff dwelling in the park, with each ranger-led tour hosting 50 people. For this reason, we opted to take the twilight tour, which is the last tour of the day and is limited to 15 people. Our tour had only four other people on it. In addition to having two hours (twice the normal amount of time), the main benefit was being able to photograph without having so many people in the way. In addition to telling us more about what it was like for the inhabitants of Cliff Palace, the ranger allowed us to move around the dwelling pretty much as we desired.


Original drawings and colored plasterwork inside the square towerOriginal drawings and colored plasterwork inside the square tower


To see more photos from Mesa Verde, follow this link.


Next in the series: Scenic Drive to the next park

]]> (DJR Photography) balcony house cliff dwellings cliff palace long house mesa verde national park spruce tree house square tower house Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Total Eclipse of 2017 Denise and I decided at the last minute to drive to South Carolina on August 21st to be in the path of totality for the eclipse. We ended up just off US Highway 1 in the parking lot of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Elgin, SC. Here are some of my pictures from the eclipse. The first one is during the short period of totality (it only lasted about a minute and a half or so) and the second one is the “diamond ring” at the very end of totality. It was an adrenaline rush that ended too quickly.




Diamond RingDiamond Ring


Due to photographer error (not taking additional pictures with a slower shutter speed to get the sky the right color) and equipment limitations (not a very wide dynamic range), the sky is completely black. It was not really that dark appearing as the sky was more blue and there were orange/pink clouds near the horizon, like during sunset. Nonetheless, I'm happy with them. I was too busy enjoying the spectacle to remember what I was supposed to be doing with the camera. I also should have thought to use my phone to take a picture of the surroundings during totality. Oh well, things to remember what to do during the next eclipse in 2024.


I also put together a couple of progressions of the eclipse with pictures during the course of the afternoon. The first picture below is a linear progression, showing different partial eclipses, then totality, then the diamond ring. For the second progression, I arranged the photos up and down on the page with the sun and moon spaced according to their elevation in the sky at the time of the photographs. So, the first photo in the progression is when the sun was at the highest point in the sky (of the photos shown). Over time, the sun was dropping in the sky (OK, I know the sun doesn't move and it's the movement of the earth; you know what I mean) as the afternoon progressed. The elapsed time between pictures was short at the start (about 13 minutes), then about 22 minutes between the middle few pictures, just a couple of minutes between the last crescent and totality, then less than a minute between the last two pictures.


Eclipse ProgressionEclipse Progression


Eclipse ProgressionEclipse Progression

]]> (DJR Photography) 2017 diamond ring eclipse great american eclipse moon progression sun total eclipse totality Sun, 27 Aug 2017 19:44:14 GMT
Welcome to the Bisti Badlands Since we were going to be going to southwestern Colorado, we planned to make a small detour into northwestern New Mexico to visit a place I'd seen pictures of before, but isn't talked about much. The largest town close to our photographic objective was Farmington, New Mexico, and the place of interest was an hour's drive away: The Bisti Badlands.


I’m not sure there’s any place on earth quite like the Bisti Badlands. They are whimsical; they are remote; they are not well documented; and best of all, there are few visitors. When we were there on three different occasions, we saw only a handful of other people; the one guy we talked to we saw twice. But then, it was around 100 ºF when we were there. Most people that do visit may exhibit more common sense by visiting during cooler weather.


The Badlands of BistiThe Badlands of Bisti


Bisti is a Navajo word signifying badlands. We were told it is pronounced Bis-tie. The Bisti Badlands name dates back to when there were two seperate wilderness areas: Bisti and De-Na-Zin. They were merged in 1996, creating the huge 45,000 acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.


The Bisti area was once a coastal rainforest along an inland sea. Around 70 million years ago, the sea dried up, and the dinosaurs vanished. Through eons of geologic transformation, we are left with what you see today: hard sandstone caprocks protecting a much softer clay layer below. The clay erodes much faster from wind and rain, creating the amazing hoodoos.


Towering HoodooTowering Hoodoo


Like a 3-D Rorshach test, people have given names to some of the formations, and I have used them here. We made up names for some of them as well. Even with the heat, this was a fun place to visit. Have a look at some of the formations we saw. I've included some of the here, but if you are interested to seeing more of them, follow the link below.


Seats of the Bisti Supreme CourtSeats of the Bisti Supreme Court Bisti BadlandsBisti Badlands Wings GroupingWings Grouping The SealThe Seal WingsWings Red Rock GardenRed Rock Garden Bisti BadlandsBisti Badlands The SnailThe Snail Alien Egg FactoryAlien Egg Factory

Hoodoo SunsetHoodoo Sunset


To see the full gallery of pictures, click here.


Coming up next: Mesa Verde National Park


]]> (DJR Photography) bisti badlands hoodoos new mexico Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Driving To and Around Durango Our next stop after Great Sand Dunes NP was Durango, but first we took a detour at South Fork  on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The highway runs parallel to the Rio Grande River, which we followed to North Clear Creek  Falls. We then backtracked, stopping at scenic pulloffs along the way.


North Clear Creek FallsNorth Clear Creek Falls Brown Lakes and Hermit PeakBrown Lakes and Hermit Peak


Durango was to be our base of operations for a couple days. After arriving, we took a scenic drive north toward Silverton and Ouray. The drive between Durango and Ouray is part of the San Juan Skyway, winding through the Molas Pass south of Silverton. Silverton marks the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway, which derives its name from the low grade gold ore present in the roadbed. Ten miles north of Silverton is the appropriately name Red Mountain Pass. On the way down from the pass, we stopped at the Mining Reclamation Project to read about mining that used to be done in the area and look at the old mining structures.


Near Molas PassNear Molas Pass Yankee Girl Mine RemnantYankee Girl Mine Remnant Red Mountains reflected in Crystal LakeRed Mountains reflected in Crystal Lake


Our second day in the Durango area was to be the highlight of our stay there. We were going to hike the Ice Lake Basin trail. It would be a difficult hike given the elevation gain and the altitude (2,400 feet starting at 9,800 feet), but I was excited because the basin is supposed to be the most spectacular in the San Juan Mountains and one of the top locations for wildflowers there. Given we hadn’t seen many wildflowers yet, I decided to do some searching on the Internet for current reports about the trail. I found a post from someone that hiked the trail the week before and noted the trail was dangerous as large portions were still covered in snow with spots of ice. Given this, I was certain there was little chance we would see any wildflowers up there. With the potentially dangerous conditions, we decided to rearrange our remaining hotel stays and leave the area after one night.

Before leaving, we went to the old downtown section of Durango to walk the quaint streets filled with old buildings and to visit the Silverton & Durango Railroad station. We headed south from Durango to Farmington, New Mexico, our jumping-off place for excursions to the Bisti Badlands.


Silverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango stationSilverton & Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad leaving the Durango station


Next stop: The wild and crazy Bisti Badlands

]]> (DJR Photography) colorado durango north clear creek waterfall silverton silverton & durango railroad waterfalls Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Great Sand Dunes National Park Our next stop were the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. We saw dunes last year in Death Valley, but we didn’t see dunes quite like these. The dunes here are the tallest in North America, reaching heights of over 750 feet. The dunefield is a massive 30 square miles. That’s a lot of sand.


The length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 milesThe length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 miles


Wind and water move sand, continually forming the dunes. Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, over 65 miles to the west and some comes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains adjacent to the dunefield to the east. Prevailing southwesterly winds bounce sand grains to pile up beneath the Sangre de Cristos. Northeasterly storm winds blast through mountain passes, piling the dunes back on themselves. The dunefield is partially surrounded by two creeks—Sand Creek and Medano Creek—that also contribute to the recyling of the sand.


Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


The afternoon we arrived at the park was hot, and the parking lots were full. We found a space at an overflow lot and hiked to the creek. Medano Creek was the most popular place in the park that day, providing a place to cool off under the hot sun. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek toward the dunefield. A few brave souls could be seen climbing toward High Dune in the heat of the day, looking like specs in the distance. We decided to stay near the cool creek.


Medano Creek and DunesMedano Creek and Dunes Trapped CloudsTrapped Clouds Dissipating Clouds Over DunesDissipating Clouds Over Dunes Size of dunes compared to peopleSize of dunes compared to people Vegetation on dunesVegetation on dunes Shifting SandsShifting Sands

The following morning we were greeted by a thick deck of clouds casting shadows over the dunes and ensconcing the mountains, and a forecast showing rain in the area. The parking lot was nearly empty of cars. In their place were swarming mosquitos, ready to pick up and take away anyone brave (or foolish) enough to get out of his vehicle. We decided to begin the journey to our next location.


Clouds, mountains, dunes, and creekClouds, mountains, dunes, and creek


]]> (DJR Photography) colorado creeks dunefields dunes great sand duns np sand sand dunes Sun, 13 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Garden of the Gods The Garden of the Gods is a free public park donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad. The park consists of several dramatically shaped ridges (also know as “hogbacks” and “fins”) of red sandstone, surrounded by tall grass and green vegetation.

In August 1859 two surveyors were exploring nearby locations for a new townsite and came upon a beautiful area of sandstone formations. M. S. Beach suggested that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable, exclaimed, “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.” It has been so called ever since.

The afternoon and following morning we were there were extremely cloudy. After scouting the park in the afternoon and hoping for a nice sunset opportunity, we left disappointed. We came back the next morning hoping for a sunrise with Pikes Peak in the background, but again we were greeted by dark clouds when it got light. That early in the morning, we were among only a handful of people there and were able to get some photos without the throngs of people climbing on the rocks. As we were making one final lap around the park, the sun started to break through the clouds, casting beautiful light on the east side of the fins and creating amazing contrast with the dark clouds to the west. A magnificent, and unexpected, ending to our visit.


Garden of the GodsGarden of the Gods The Three GracesThe Three Graces Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible)Garden of the Gods from ridge to the east (Pike's Peak not quite visible) White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels)White Rock and Signature Rock (with Kissing Camels) Garden of the Gods SunriseGarden of the Gods Sunrise Garden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the cloudsGarden of the Gods as the sun breaks through the clouds


As we left to go back to the hotel, with the sun still shining on the hogbacks of the Garden of the Gods, we could clearly see how the hogbacks extended beyond the park to the north. They were the bright red color as in the park, but the shapes were just as interesting.


Hogback formations extend north of the parkHogback formations extend north of the park


Next stop: Great Sand Dunes National Park

]]> (DJR Photography) colorado colorado springs fins garden of the gods hogbacks Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Rocky Mountain National Park Rocky Mountain National Park is the sixth most popular national park in terms of visitors, partially due to its proximity to Denver, but primarily because of its easy access to alpine, tundra, and meadow landscapes. It is also the highest national park by average elevation, with 60 peaks over 12,000 feet. Its popularity as a weekend getaway for locals made it an easy decision to visit the park in mid-week right after we arrived in Colorado.

We spent what was left of our first day on Bear Lake Road, scouting Sprague Lake for sunrise the next day, and hiking to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and partially around Bear Lake. Our breathless hike (due to the altitude and little time for acclimating) around Nymph Lake and to Dream Lake was rewarded by the sights of elk feeding near a pretty lake surrounded by mountains, a fisherman casting in a small pond, and a rather close encounter with an elk wandering near the shore looking for something to eat. After hiking back down from Dream Lake, we walked to the north side of Bear Lake to catch the last light of the day shining on Longs Peak.


Fisherman near Dream LakeFisherman near Dream Lake Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream LakeHallett Peak and Flattop Mountain rise above Dream Lake Sunset at Bear LakeSunset at Bear Lake Longs Peak Reflection in Bear LakeLongs Peak Reflection in Bear Lake


Early the next day, we made our way back to the area to catch twilight on the mountains above Sprague Lake and hiked back up to Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. We saw a pretty orange sky on the hike up and stopped to photograph Tyndall Creek cascading its way downstream after leaving Dream Lake.


Morning twilight at Sprague LakeMorning twilight at Sprague Lake Orange sky from Dream Lake trailOrange sky from Dream Lake trail Tyndall Creek CascadeTyndall Creek Cascade


We spent our last day in the park traveling the 48-mile Trail Ridge Road that bisects the park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. More than 17 miles of the road is in the Alpine zone and is home to the tundra. The road also took us to the homes of some of the park’s wildlife. We saw bighorn sheep, marmots, pikas, herds of elk, and of course, mountain peaks long the northern stretch of the road.


Tundra at Ute Trail pulloutTundra at Ute Trail pullout Wildflowers in the tundraWildflowers in the tundra Resting ElkResting Elk Yellow-bellied marmotYellow-bellied marmot Hoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlookHoodoos on trail at Rock Cut overlook Bighorn SheepBighorn Sheep Never Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River beginsNever Summer Mountains, where the Colorado River begins


Near the Alpine Visitor Center, the road makes a turn toward the south and descends into the Kawuneeche Valley. Before the turn are sweeping 360º views of mountain ridges as far as the eye can see. We made our way up the Alpine Ridge Trail (climbing 209 feet in elevation over three-tenths of a mile) to take in the rarefied air and scenery.

On the western side of the park is the Kawuneeche Valley, with the historic Holzwarth Homestead. The Colorado River (to the left in this picture) meanders through this grassy valley. Here we saw a number of moose, including babies with their mamas along the East Inlet Trail near Grand Lake.


Old hay rake at Holzwarth Historic SiteOld hay rake at Holzwarth Historic Site Mama and Baby MooseMama and Baby Moose Sunset near Grand LakeSunset near Grand Lake Roadside ElkRoadside Elk Near where the elk and moose like to roamNear where the elk and moose like to roam Elk in field near Coyote Valley trailElk in field near Coyote Valley trail Along the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the backgroundAlong the East Inlet Trail, with Mt. Craig in the background


Next up: Garden of the Gods

]]> (DJR Photography) bighorn sheep colorado elk lakes moose mountains rocky mountain national park streams tundra. wildflowers wildlife Sat, 05 Aug 2017 20:17:23 GMT
Death Valley National Park Death Valley National Park is the largest U.S. national park outside Alaska. While the park has over 1,000 miles of paved and unpaved roads, more than 90% of the park is considered wilderness. The valley known as Death Valley lies between two mountain ranges: the Panamint Range and the Amargosa Range. The lowest point in the valley, the salt flats of Badwater Basin, is also the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The best place to get an overall view of the valley is Dante's View.


The valley also tends to be the hottest place in the country during the summer, with temperatures well over 100 ºF during the summer. During the few days we were there in mid-October the high on one day reached 101 ºF.


Dante's ViewDante's ViewDante's View Badwater Salt PansBadwater Salt PansBadwater Salt Pans


When many people think of Death Valley, they think of desert and sand dunes. There are three sand dunes in Death Valley, but they are small relative to the vast area of the entire park. We visited Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes because it is located right on one of the main roads through the park. The first time we were there was when we first entered the park. The wind was blowing so hard and there was so much sand in the air, we decided to come back later. The wind died down later in the afternoon. When we arrived, there was a photo shoot going on, which made for an interesting picture of the large sand dunes and the mountains in the distance. We explored the dunes, trudging through the sand, looking for places with relatively few footprints. We wandered a good distance from the parking lot, so we decided to stay until sunset, hoping for something special. The best color turned out to be opposite the setting sun, looking toward the east to see the deep blue of Earth's shadow beneath the pink of Venus’ Belt.


Mesquite Sand DunesMesquite Sand Dunes Mesquite TwilightMesquite Twilight


In addition to salt pans and sand, portions of the park feature multi-toned and multi-hued rock. To me, some of the rock looks like chocolate-swirled ice cream, such as that seen from Zabriskie Point and in Twenty Mule Team Canyon.


Manly Beacon from Zabriskie PointManly Beacon from Zabriskie PointView from Zabriskie Point in the early morning with Manly Beacon rising in front of the Panamint Mountains


The Ubehebe (pronounced U-be-he-be) Crater, 600 feet deep and a half-mile across, was formed around 300 years ago when rising hot magma reacted with ground water and caused the resultant steam to explode. The deep gullies on the side of the crater were formed by erosion. The crater is located in the northern part of the park, away from the most popular part of the park and most visitors.


Ubehebe CraterUbehebe CraterUbehebe Crater


To see more pictures from Death Valley, please click here.

]]> (DJR Photography) Badwater California Dante's View Death Valley National Park Mesquite Sand Dunes Ubehebe Crater Zabriskie Point salt pans Sat, 21 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Eastern Sierras We left Yosemite National Park right before a storm was to move in, bringing rain, possibly snow, and high winds. We drove to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range hoping to see some fall colors. A week before we left on this grand vacation, I had seen blog postings on the Internet showing the trees had started turning already, a week or two earlier than normal. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the wind and rain wouldn't result in bare trees by the time we got there.


We arrived on the eastern side in the afternoon. Prior to checking into our hotel, we explored a few places, including Lake Elerbee (just outside Yosemite), Lee Vining Canyon, and Mono Lake. By the time we got to Mono Lake, the winds were howling around 45 MPH. We could hardly stay upright walking from the parking area to the lake. That evening, Tioga Road, the only road through the mountains, was closed due to high winds. While we missed the rejuvenated waterfalls in Yosemite, we would have missed more had we not gotten over the mountains when we did.


Lee Vining CanyonLee Vining CanyonLee Vining Canyon

Cascade on Lee Vining CreekCascade on Lee Vining CreekCascade on Lee Vining Creek


Before checking into our hotel, we visited Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline lake with no natural outlet. On the south side of the lake is an area with "tufas," columns of volcanic ash. The wind was so high, a "salt storm" was visible on the other side of the lake from the wind picking up salt and blowing it across the lake.


Tufas on Mono LakeTufas on Mono LakeTufas on Mono Lake Blowing Salt and SandBlowing Salt and SandBlowing Salt and Sand Approaching StormApproaching StormApproaching Storm


It was cold and rainy at the hotel in Mammoth Lakes the morning of the second day, but the weather forecast for the Bishop area (about 40 miles south and east) was for clear skies and warm temps. We were planning to head north, but decided to head south instead. Less than 10 miles east of Mammoth Lakes we turned around and saw a stunning rainbow. This rainbow (and sometimes a double rainbow) lasted for about an hour and was visible no matter where we went.


Full RainbowFull RainbowFull Rainbow


We headed further south and ventured into Bishop Canyon. As we drove into the canyon, the storm clouds were not too far in front of us. I wasn't sure how far we would be able to go before we got rained out. We found a small stream and some colorful trees, but nothing too spectacular. And then we came to the town of Aspendell, where we were greeted by a stunning display of yellow aspens.


Sunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of TreesSunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of TreesSunshine Peaking Through the Clouds Intensifies Color of Trees White Trunks and Yellow LeavesWhite Trunks and Yellow LeavesWhite Trunks and Yellow Leaves


After lunch, we drove further south and east up into the White Mountains to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. This Bureau of Land Management area contains the oldest living things in the world, with the oldest tree there being more than 3,000 years old. There were two trails through the forest. With the elevation being near 11,000 feet, we opted to take the shorter trail, which contained the second-oldest living tree in the world (the other, longer trail had the oldest tree). For preservation reasons, the BLM doesn't say which of the trees you are seeing along the path are the oldest ones.


Ancient TreeAncient TreeAncient Tree - Seems to be smiling and saying, "Hey, you looking at me?"


The third day in the Eastern Sierras greeted us with continued rain at the hotel, but it looked like it would diminish during the day. We visited Lundy Canyon and Virginia Lakes to the north and drove the June Lake Loop on our way back south. To the north, we saw snow in the mountains surrounding Lundy Lake and the last bits of color holding onto some of the trees. Around June Lake, the aspens had more of an orange hue to their leaves. Again, the color was spectacular. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.


Snow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy LakeSnow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy LakeSnow in the Mountains and Color Around Lundy Lake First Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June LakeFirst Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June LakeFirst Snow in the Mountains Surrounding June Lake


The last place we visited on the eastern side of the Sierras was Alabama Hills, another BLM recreation area. The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The rounded hills and rock formations, including a number of arches, are in stark contrast to the rugged mountains that stand to the west. The most notable mountain that can be seen from this area is Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.


Mt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada Range from Alabama HillsMt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada Range from Alabama Hills Mobius ArchMobius ArchMobius Arch with Mount Whitney in the background


Click here for even more pictures from the Eastern Sierras.

]]> (DJR Photography) Alabama Hills Bishop Bristlecone Pine trees California Eastern Sierras Lee Vining Canyon Lundy Canyon Mono Lake Mt. Whitney Sierra Nevada Mountains White Mountains Thu, 19 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Yosemite National Park Yosemite National Park: a landscape photographer's paradise made famous by Ansel Adams. The views are ...well... there aren't enough adjectives to describe them. All I know is I had fun. Like no other place I've been, the time of day, weather conditions, and the light can make the mood and the color of the scene completely different. Weather also resulted in something largely missing from our time in Yosemite, and that was waterfalls. This summer Yosemite had only one rain event of over one hour in duration from June through mid-October (after which they had sufficient rainfall to put water back in Yosemite Falls--we missed it by two days). The long California drought is also causing other notable changes in the park and surrounding areas. Pines trees are dying at an alarming rate. We were amazed at the number of dead trees in Yosemite Valley.


Yosemite is the third oldest national park in the U.S. (Yellowstone and Sequoia are older). It is most well known and recognized by the glacially-carved valley and soaring granite cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome. The high Sierra and Sequoia groves are two other examples of Yosemite's grandeur. One could spend weeks hiking its hundreds of miles of trails. Each of the four seasons brings something different to make the park spectacular. I can't wait to go back.


Here are some of my favorite images from Yosemite. You can see more here.


Tunnel View: Early AfternoonTunnel View: Early AfternoonTunnel View: Early Afternoon Half Dome from Cook's MeadowHalf Dome from Cook's MeadowHalf Dome from Cook's Meadow Valley View ReflectionValley View ReflectionValley View Reflection Twilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya LakeTwilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya LakeTwilight Over Polly Dome, Mt. Conness, and Tenaya Lake

]]> (DJR Photography) California Cooks Meadow El Capitan Gates of the Valley Half Dome Tunnel View Valley View Yosemite National Park Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Pinnacles National Park About an hour southeast of Salinas, California, lies Pinnacles National Park. The Pinnacles area was named a national monument in 1908 and gained national park status in 2013. Its 26,000 acres look nothing like the area around it, where foothills make up much of the landscape. In addition to the monoliths seen in the photos below, the park also has sheer-walled canyons, a reservoir, and boulder-covered "caves" (more like a narrow passage through boulders that have been heaped into a pile) where bats have made their home.


We spent our time making a couple of hikes in the Bear Gulch area of the park. We took the Condor Gulch Trail up to the observation point so we could get a good look at the High Peaks. Our second hike was through the Bear Gulch Cave down to the Bear Gulch Reservoir. We didn't get to see any bats because the area of the cave where the bats breed was closed off so as not to disturb them.


High PeaksHigh PeaksHigh Peaks Blue Oaks in Condor GulchBlue Oaks in Condor Gulch Bear Gulch ReservoirBear Gulch ReservoirBear Gulch Reservoir - Is that a face in the rock?


You can see more pictures from Pinnacles National Park by clicking here.


]]> (DJR Photography) California Pinnacles National Park Sun, 15 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Around the Pacific Coast Highway After visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon, we headed west to Salinas, which would be our base of operations for a couple days. We arrived in Salinas in time to go to Point Lobos for sunset. With no clouds to speak of, it wasn't going to be a great sunset, but as you can see, we did get some nice colors. And can there be a bad sunset on the coast?

The next morning we drove the Pacific Coast Highway from south of Monterey down to McWay Falls. Unfortunately for us, there was fog clinging to the coastline much of the way down to McWay Falls. Still, it made for some interesting photography that you can see in the gallery, here.


Point Lobos SunsetPoint Lobos SunsetPoint Lobos Sunset One Lone CypressOne Lone CypressOne Lone Cypress McWay FallsMcWay FallsMcWay Falls


On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at one of the newest national monuments, Fort Ord National Monument, created in 2012. The monument, a US Army facility from 1917 - 1994 covering over 14,000 acres, remains undeveloped but provides 86 miles of trails, some of which we hiked while we were there for the afternoon.




]]> (DJR Photography) Fort Ord National Monument McWay Falls PCH Pacific Coast Highway Fri, 13 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Kings Canyon National Park Kings Canyon National Park is adjacent to Sequoia National Park and the two are usually mentioned at the same time, as in "Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks." Kings Canyon is largely a wilderness park, with only two relatively small sections accessible by cars.


We spent most of our time near the Cedar Grove Visitor Center after driving Highway 180 (a twisty-turny scenic byway) through the steep-walled Kings Canyon to Roads End. We hiked about a mile up Copper Creek Trail for nice views of the end of the canyon. Then we descended to the floor of the canyon and hiked the Zumwalt Meadow Trail, a loop over the South Fork of the King River, around the meadow, and over a rock pile formed by a mountain slide.


The other popular section of the park adjoins Sequoia National Park and contains Grant Grove and Redwood Mountain Grove, two large areas of sequoia trees.


Roaring River FallsRoaring River FallsRoaring River Falls South Fork of Kings RiverSouth Fork of Kings RiverSouth Fork of Kings River The road into Kings CanyonThe road into Kings CanyonThe road into Kings Canyon Zumwalt MeadowZumwalt MeadowZumwalt Meadow - the most popular trail in Kings Canyon goes around this meadow


You can see more photo from Kings Canyon in the gallery here.

]]> (DJR Photography) Calfornia Kings Canyon National Park Zumwalt Meadow Wed, 11 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Sequoia National Park Sequoia National Park is the country's second oldest national park (Yellowstone was the first). From atop Moro Rock you can get a good overview of the park (after climbing 400 or so steps). To the north lies the biggest tree in the world: the General Sherman Tree. While the California coastal redwoods might be taller, sequoias are bigger around and weigh more. To the east are the high Sierras, where peaks up to 13,802 feet are visible (Mount Whitney, at 14,494 feet is just out of sight).


The climb to the top of Moro RockThe climb to the top of Moro RockThe climb to the top of Moro Rock General Sherman TreeGeneral Sherman TreeGeneral Sherman Tree Bug's-eye View of the SenateBug's-eye View of the SenateBug's-eye View of the Senate The HouseThe HouseThe House Sequoia SunriseSequoia SunriseSequoia Sunrise

More photos from Sequoia National Park can be found here.


]]> (DJR Photography) California Moro Rock Sequoia National Park trees Mon, 09 Jan 2017 13:00:00 GMT
Joshua Tree National Park This past October, Denise and I ventured to California for 18 days. During that time, our primary objective was to see 6 national parks, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System. We flew from Raleigh to Las Vegas and, spending as little time in the city as possible, we started driving southwest toward the first national park on our agenda: Joshua Tree.


Joshua Tree National Park is located east of Los Angeles, California at the convergence of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The western half is Mojave Desert habitat. Amid boulder stacks are pinyon pines, junipers, and the wild-armed Joshua tree, which isn't really a tree, but a species of yucca. The eastern half of the park, below 3,000 feet above sea level, lies in the Colorado Desert. Amongst the habitat in this area of the park is the jumping cholla cactus, also called teddy bear cholla. But you don't want to get too close to these fellas because they will cling to you, and they are painfully difficult to get out of you skin.


Below are several pictures from our time in Joshua Tree National Park. You can see more in the gallery here.


DJRb_34958Balanced Rock and Lone Juniper DJRb_34958Jumbled Rocks DJRb_34958Joshua Trees at Sunset DJRb_34958Cholla Cactus DJRb_34958Cap Rock


Stay tuned for future blog posts featuring, among other places, the following national parks: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Yosemite, and Death Valley.


]]> (DJR Photography) California Joshua Tree National Park boulders cactus trees Sat, 07 Jan 2017 18:10:10 GMT
Hanging Rock State Park, Part 2 Picking up from the end of the last post, we had gotten back to the parking lot after visiting Hidden and Window Falls and our legs were starting to ache. By this point we had hiked about six and a half miles, but we weren't done yet. "Hey, let's go see the Upper Cascades. They're just 0.3 miles away and it's an 'easy' trail." The trail was nice and there was a viewing platform overlooking the cascades. But who takes a picture from there? I scrambled down the stairs and rocks to get to the base of the falls. Much better from there.


Upper CascadesUpper CascadesHanging Rock State Park


As we got to the base of the falls/cascades, we noticed people were walking in the water downstream from the cascades. Since it involved walking through water, we weren't about to follow them, so we walked back up to the platform and to the trail. I noticed a spot off to the left of the trail that looked like a faint trail, heading downhill, and I thought I could hear water. Of course, I had to see where it went. I figured there must be another set of cascades down there somewhere. Sure enough, once we got down off some large boulders and around another huge boulder, we found what I call the "Middle Cascades." Denise thought these were the best falls we had seen all day.


Middle Cascades (Lower part of Upper Cascades)Middle Cascades (Lower part of Upper Cascades)Hanging Rock State Park


We got back up to the truck, rested a while, and looked at the park map. A relatively new trail (since we had first been there nine years ago) had been developed down next to the Dan River. Another "easy" loop trail and only 1.3 miles. "What the heck, may as well do it while we're here, and then we can drive over to the other waterfall we hadn't seen on the other side of the park."


The Riverbluffs Trail is one that isn't visited much. It's a narrow track through..."short vegetation." After a half mile or so, it gets close to the river and bluffs on the other side of the river can be seen through the trees. A little further a short spur takes you to the river at a point where there are some "rapids." Since the trail isn't visited much, and since I was leading on this walk, I encountered a number of unseen spider webs along the trail. But then I saw a huge one. At that time I picked up a stick and knocked it down. For the rest of the way on that trail, I waved that stick in front of me. I wasn't interested in staying on that trail any longer than I had to, so we walked faster than we did all day. I would not recommend that trail to anyone.


We got back to the parking lot and headed over to the other side of the park to see Tory's Falls. The waterfall was less than a quarter mile down a well-used trail. Unfortunately, it was another trickle. Oh well. Now we know what it looks like. 


We managed to drag ourselves back up to the truck and make our way back home. Nine miles. Seven trails. Four waterfalls. My calves ached for three days afterward. But it was a fun day. I look forward to going back to Hanging Rock State Park soon. I might not hike as far though. Maybe just five miles.

]]> (DJR Photography) Hanging Rock State Park North Carolina hiking photography waterfalls Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:00:00 GMT