Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ski Day Shenanigans

Yahoo, it's winter, it's winter again!  And those who've followed me for awhile know this means one thing.....time to head to the slopes - it's ski season!

If there's one thing I love more than anything else, it's strapping on a pair of boards and sliding down a steep, snowy slope.  This post is a compilation of some of the fun I've been having these past few weeks with my ski buddies.

Fun on the slopes!  (Photo by Grant Myrdal)

My resort of choice is Mt. Hood Meadows, and every Thursday, and most weekends you'll find me on one of their runs, enjoying some snowy goodness.  And speaking of snow - what a great season we've had here in the Pacific NW.  After suffering through a terrible low snow winter last year, 2016 has more than made up for things.

Visiting my favorite tree

A day on the slopes is a chance to unwind.  And be a little silly with my skiing buddies.  Meadows has an old weather-beaten tree that a few years ago, someone decided to decorate with a few bras (read about my discovery here).  The poor bras were becoming quite weather-beaten, and I remarked to my friends that the tree really needed a bit of sprucing up.

Don't know how those bras got there.....

Well, lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago, two new bras appeared on it's branches.  Hmm....I don't know how they got there (wink, wink).

Selfie photo fail

Sundays I've been heading to the mountain with my long-time best ski buddy Kim.  Taking advantage of my GoPro camera's super wide angle lens, one day I tried to get a good selfie.  But....not only did I get a shadow across my face, we got photobombed by some guy bending over.

Much better this time!

Okay, let's try this again.....yeah!  Success!  (And this time no one's butt got in the way)

Kim...Kim....look over here!

I also like to put my GoPro on a pole.  It's a wonderful way to get chairlift photos.  Only one problem...trying to get Kim's attention to turn around and face the camera!  (Uh, Kim.....Kim....)

Chairlift selfie success!

Lesson learned - put the camera in front of your friend....this is how you get a good chairlift selfie.

Sunny patio lunch with the girls

Although there were some wonderful snowy days, we also got a few days of sun.  When those happen, it's always nice to have lunch out on the patio with my friends Kim and Hollie.

Mt. Jefferson views

Other days, I love to take in the fantastic scenery from high vantage points.  And Mt. Hood has some awesome views!

Happy to be skipping work!

Every Thursday in January and February I play hooky from work and ride the midweek ski bus.  There's nothing better than skiing on a weekday - no crowds to speak of, and the break in the workweek is wonderful.

Me and my skiing buds on a wet, snowy day

Unless it's raining on the mountain, I'm skiing - even during wet snowy storm days.  (And FYI - I just love my new polka-dot neck gaiter, even though Kim says it looks like Disneyland exploded)

Tackling Nettie's Run (Photo by Glen)

Storm skiing sometimes produces the best conditions - the constant snowfall fills in your tracks so you get fresh lines every time!  My friend Glen caught this great photo of me charging down Nettie's Run.

Yep, this smiley face says it all

My ski bus buddies are the best.  I've ridden the bus with them so many years, we've become like family.

Apres-ski liquid refreshments

After a day on the slopes it's become a tradition to gather in the bar for some liquid refreshment.

Dave shares his "Zombie Zin"

And if you miss out on the apres-ski gathering, there's always plenty of vino on board for the ride home! 

I've been promoted to bathroom monitor!

One of my bus mates sits next to the restroom, and we jokingly started calling him the "bathroom monitor" after passengers kept asking him how to turn on the restroom light.  Another bus rider (who happens to be a retired art teacher) decided to make things official, and created some special hats.  I don't know how I got roped into this, but I ended up with a hat too.  Guess I've been promoted!

Yep, so far it's been a wonderful winter, full of laughs, powder turns, lovely mountain views, and good friends.  Hope some of my ski day shenanigans have brought a smile to a face or two, and inspired some of you to take up skiing!  :)

Sharing with:  Through My Lens

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

It had been a busy first day at Bryce Canyon National Park.  My hubby and I hiked Queens Garden and Navajo Loop and then explored the Bryce Canyon scenic drive.  Now, tired and hungry, we were ready for some dinner and rest. 

Bryce Canyon, minutes before sunset park map showed two lookouts on the main canyon rim, named Sunrise and Sunset Point.  Per my guidebook, experiencing the sun rising and falling at these overlooks was not to be missed.

Crowds at the overlook

So what's a photographer to do?  Of course, I wasn't about to pass up a possible opportunity for some spectacular shots!

Glowing orange hoodoos

After checking into our camper cabin, Roger worn out and suffering from scenery overload, chose a rest before dinner over experiencing the sunset.  So, I set out to Sunset Point with only my camera and tripod for company.

Another view of the orange canyon

However, I soon discovered I'd be far from alone.  The narrow overlook platform was crammed with people - photographers of all types jockeying their tripods for the prize spot.  Mixed in with the more serious camera buffs were other tourists, wiggling amongst the tripods, holding their smartphones high.  To top it off, a few tour buses full of Asian visitors unloaded at the last minute, and these people swarmed the walkways, chattering loudly in their native tongues.

Right after sunset

It was far from the peaceful scene I had imagined.  Adding to my disappointment, that night's sunset was a total dud.  Clouds obscured the skies, and the canyon's hoodoos glowed orange only briefly before darkness descended like a thick blanket.

Sunrise sky the next morning

After the sunset debacle, I wasn't too excited about waking up early to catch sunrise.  But my hubby convinced me to give it another try.

First light on the hoodoos

So I set my phone alarm for o'dark hundred.  When it first chimed, I was sorely tempted to roll back over and sleep in.  But I knew this might be my only chance to capture a sunrise over Bryce Canyon and roused myself.

Sunshine explodes over the horizon

Only a half mile down the rim trail from it's companion Sunset Point, I arrived at Sunrise Point in predawn darkness.  A half dozen sleepy photographers had staked claims along the railing and were bundled up against the morning chill.  I picked what I hoped to be a good spot and prepared to wait for daylight.

Glowing rock formations

But just like Sunset Point the previous evening, I wasn't alone for long.  Crowds of people began arriving, some setting up tripods, others hovering between the more serious photographers, clutching smartphone cameras.  I was amazed at the number of people willing to get up at such an early hour!

Day breaks

Sunrise Point was just as much of a circus as Sunset Point had been the night before.  As I patiently waited for the sun to show it's face, people crowded in front of my camera.  Although I didn't care at that moment, I shooed them away when the sun began to peep over the horizon.

Another view of the canyon

That morning's sunrise was much better than the sunset.  A few wispy clouds illuminated into a soft pink color.  And then, hearing the crowd gasp, I watched the first rays of daylight break over Bryce Canyon.

Rosy pink rocks

I concentrated on one area of the canyon, a unique formation of arches and narrow cliff edges.  A small group of photographers had set up across from these hoodoos, and in a minute I saw why.  The rising sunlight bathed this rock in a warm, pink glow.

Spectacular!  I took copious images, from many different angles and focal lengths.  Then I trained my tripod on some of the other columnar hoodoos lit up in brilliant shades of orange.

Hoodoo highlights

Totally glad I'd gotten up early, I left Sunrise Point with a memory card full of keepers.  Arriving back at the cabin, Roger informed me he wasn't feeling well.  The high altitude was bothering him, affecting his sleep.  Since we'd seen most of Bryce Canyon the previous day, there wasn't much else to do, so my hubby suggested we head home a day early. 

So long Bryce Canyon!

Under a brilliant blue sky (finally a sunny day!) we packed our car and bid Bryce Canyon National Park, and Utah, goodbye.  Despite the soggy weather changing a few plans, it had been a wonderful trip.  I'd finally been able to check a few of my "must see" national parks off the bucket list.

This ends my National Park vacation recaps!  Hope you've enjoyed them.  Now to catch up on all the other things I've been doing in the past couple of months.....  :)

Sharing with:  Through My Lens

Monday, February 15, 2016

Bryce Canyon Driving Tour

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

My hubby and I had a great time exploring the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park.  But with the other park trails deemed impassible due to rockfall or quicksand-like mud, we were left trying to figure out what else to see.

Hoodoos in a line!

When in doubt, consult the guide!  Our handy-dandy Bryce Canyon newspaper mentioned a scenic drive south of the main park area.  A winding road took visitors 18 miles past seven overlooks, the highest over 9000 feet in elevation.  After hiking for three hours, a driving tour was sounding good.

Looks like a huge melted candle

So into the car and off we went!  The first stop wasn't too far away.  We probably could've hiked to Bryce Point, but by then my hubby and I were ready to let our car do the traveling.

The line between white and red

Bryce Point was breathtaking!  Another great panorama of red-striped hills and hoodoos.  Also, a side canyon had interesting formations that appeared to be more eroded than we'd seen in Queen's Canyon.

Knobby hoodoos

The rock was more of a cream color, and contrasted sharply with the predominantly red hues seen everywhere else. 

These look like old castles

Wind and water had sculpted this soft, light-colored rock into fantastic formations.  They reminded me of ancient castle towers.

Bryce Point

Looking down into the canyon, I saw paths worn into the red dirt.  Due to the lack of hikers, I assumed it was one of the many trails closed by wet weather (insert frowny face).

Looking down on hiking trails (that we couldn't visit!)

After soaking in the views at Bryce Point, it was back to the car and off to the next attraction.  We stopped briefly at Swamp Canyon, and then on to Whiteman Bench.

Roger admires the view

These overlooks were more of the same - red layered canyons, more cool hoodoo formations.  (Ho-hum, more fantastic scenery.....)

Hole in the wall

Don't get me wrong - the views were fabulous.  But it began to feel like I was taking photos of the same stuff over and over again.

Friendly raven

The next pullout, Natural Bridge was different.  It provided a great view of an eroded archway.  Something different from the endless hoodoos!  Not only was this fun to photograph, we were also visited by a friendly raven (I'm not good with birds, but I think that's what it was) who was more than willing to model for my camera.

Natural Bridge

The next stop, Agua Canyon, had a large rock balancing on top of a tall column.

Balanced rock at Agua Canyon

Again, I was happy to have something different to photograph!

Another view of Agua Canyon

It was funny, at every stop we encountered the same cars in the small parking lots, and the same people crowded each overlook.  With limited hiking options, it appeared everyone had the same idea.

Striped canyon wall

The higher we climbed in elevation, the colder the temperatures became, and the stronger the wind.  By the time we'd reached Rainbow Point, elevation 9,115 feet, conditions were hovering near freezing.

The highest overlook

By then, I was suffering from scenery overload.  All the canyon viewpoints, hoodoos, striped rocks, and eroded cliffs were beginning to look the same.

Rainbow Point overlook

Still, Roger and I rolled out of our car, bundled up against the cold wind, and made another trek to check out this final viewpoint.

Wonderful panorama at Rainbow Point

The sky was overcast.  Thickening clouds seemed to indicate another rainstorm wasn't far away.  But I was glad we hadn't bypassed this final panorama.

Hoodoo overview

Perched high on the canyon's edge, I felt on top of the world.  And boy, did the views stretch for miles!  As I looked towards the darkening clouds, I spied a faint rainbow hanging in the air.  Although my attempts at photography failed, it was a wonderful ending to a scenery-packed afternoon.

Cold, windy, and wonderful

Despite closed trails, we'd made the most of our first day in Bryce Canyon National Park.  Heading back down the steep canyon road, it was time to check into our camper cabin (at 8000 feet in elevation, there would be no tent camping tonight!) and get some supper. 

But I'd noticed a viewpoint called "Sunset Point" along the main canyon rim.  Of course I wasn't going to miss a chance at capturing a sunset here!  I'll share what I found in my next post.

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bryce Canyon

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

Two National Parks down - one to go!

National Park number three!

Despite the damp weather, so far our Southwestern US trip had been a success.  My hubby and I had spent time at both Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon's North Rim.  Now it was time to head north again to visit the final National Park on our agenda - Bryce Canyon.

First panorama

Leaving Jacob Lake, Arizona, we headed back into Utah.  And for once it wasn't raining!  Although a few low clouds still hung in the sky, at least they weren't dropping moisture.  It was a dry, uneventful three hour drive to Bryce Canyon. 

Interesting rock formations

After the requisite park sign photos (hey, it's a tradition!) we headed to the visitor center.  Not only needing to use the little girl's room, I also wanted to get some hiking recommendations.

Super muddy trail!

Turned out it was a good thing we stopped by the visitor center.  I learned:  1.)  The park shuttle system was done for the season and  2.) 5 inches of rain that fell over the past week had rendered most of the hiking trails impassible, either by rockfall or thick gooey mud.  The only ones still open were the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loops.

These hoodoos looked like ship masts

Darn!  Foiled by rain once again!  And on a non-stormy day....

Looking down on Queen's Garden

But we'd traveled all the way for Oregon to see this National park, and see it we would, despite the trail closures.

Trees growing on narrow ridge

So Roger and I headed to the Queen's Garden Trailhead.  A short walk from one of the many parking lots led us to Bryce Canyon's edge.  Looking out over the rim, I gasped at the multitudes of colorful rock spires stretching out in all directions, as far as the eye could see.

Peek-a-boo canyon

These tall, slender spires, known as hoodoos, were formed by water and ice erosion.  Bryce Canyon is composed of limestone, siltstone and dolomite layers.  An uplift of the Colorado Plateau created cracks in these layers, enabling water to flow into the rock.  Over time, the water's action widened these cracks into deep slot canyons.  Variations in rock layers created the interesting shapes of these strange features.

The trail down into Queen's Garden

A Paiute Indian legend tells of a people who lived in a beautiful city built by Coyote.  When these people began behaving badly towards Coyote, he transformed them all into stone. (The endless rows of hoodoos do kind of resemble a crowd of people...)

Narrow rock gap

A sign pointed towards a nearby viewpoint.  Of course I wanted to see it!  Following the rim trail, Roger and I had our first encounter with Bryce Canyon's famous sticky mud.  The consistency of peanut butter, it clung to our shoes like glue.  Luckily it wasn't very deep, or our boots would have stayed behind.  Now I understood the reason for so many trail closures.

Heading towards a tunnel

After oohing and aahhing at the viewpoint (and trying in vain to scrape mud off our boot soles!)  we turned around and headed back through the mud to the Queen's Garden trailhead.  The trail dived down into the canyon itself, passing by lots of tall, impressive hoodoos.

View through the tunnel

Oh there was so much to see!  Every bend in the path brought another group of spectacular rock carvings.  They rose from the canyon's bottom, like colorful church steeples.  The bright earthtones of pink, orange, and cream made for lovely photo subjects (despite the cloudy gray skies).

Tall spires above

Since this was one of the few trails still open, it was extremely busy.  We definitely were not alone.  People of all ages, shapes, and sizes streamed up and down the path.  Sometimes I had to wait my turn to get a photo.  I was surprised to see so many people still here in mid-October.

Taking in the scenery subjects!  There was always something catching my eye, and I lagged far behind my hubby.  Poor Roger was forced to wait for me many times.

We added the Navajo Loop to our hike

After a mile and a half, we came upon a junction with the Navajo Loop.  It advertised a short half mile jaunt to Sunset Point, so of course we decided to check it out.

The steep climb out

This trail took visitors back up the canyon.  A steep path that wound through a narrow canyon, we traversed sets of never-ending switchbacks until finally reaching the rim.

The rewards of our climb

Although this climb got our hearts thumping, I didn't mind at all - the views were fantastic!

Thor's Hammer

We passed by a tall hoodoo with a square rock perched upon a slender column.  Named "Thor's Hammer" it was one of the park's more well-known attractions.

Windy trail to the rim

Once again back on the rim, Roger and I followed another path, hugging the very edge.  Oh was the scenery spectacular!

Admiring the view at the canyon's rim

I couldn't get enough of these colorful hoodoos.  Even Roger got in on the action, taking shots with his little camera.

The hoodoos go forever!

The rock pillar shapes changed depending upon location.  In some places the rock spires were smooth with pointy tops.  Other places, the hoodoos were more uniform in thickness, with lots of cracks circling their sides. 

Interesting formations

To me, the rock formation shapes and colors reminded me of prehistoric times.  They looked like something you'd see on a "Flintstones" cartoon (Yabba, Dabba, Doo!)

No place like Bryce Canyon!

Although short and crowded, I totally enjoyed our trip through the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loops.  But once we'd explored these trails, it was still early afternoon.  With most of the other trails closed, what else could we see?  Happily my hubby and I did find another cool place.  I'll share that, and more of Bryce Canyon's wondrous scenery in my next post.

Stay tuned!