1. Good Morning from North Dakota (at Painted Canyon Rest Area North Dakota)

     

  2. Nice day for a walk (at Woodbridge North Lake Gazebo)

     

  3. Breakfast at the grizzly manor cafe: The Blob 🍳 #blob #bigbear #breakfast #yummy #overeasy (at Grizzly Manor Cafe)

     

  4. Eating dinner with Teko #bigbear #leftovers #germanshepherd 🍰🐺

     

  5. Big bear observatory #bigbear #observatory (at Big Bear Solar Observatory)

     

  6. @Big Bear with Raini and her dog Teko #bpsphotos #dog #germanshepherd #bigbear #bigbear #outdoors (at Alpine Trail Path Big Bear Lake Trail Head)

     

  7. Day 3 Photos of Chapel and 3 Brothers

     


  8. Yosemite: An Unexpected 99 Cent Pint ~ Day 3

    Although I was tempted to start off the day with another breakfast at the Ahwahnee hotel, we decided just to munch on the bread and honey we had brought along as snacks, as well as Raini’s homemade gingerbread cookies!  We stopped at a pullout next to the Merced River near the entrance to the park, a spot we had passed by the last couple days and made a mental note to stop at this time.  It had an excellent example of snowcapped rocks reflected in the calm stream.  To get at parts of the river, you had to walk on the side of the road next to a ledge with a little shoulder, so one had to be careful not to be run over.  One car got a little too close to Raini, so she elected to hop from rock to rock near the stream’s edge instead.

    Another spot we had passed several times but now had time to take pictures of was the cute little chapel in Yosemite Valley.  It looks so small compared to the granite Cathedral Spires behind it.  We took a peek inside the Indian museum, which had been closed before (next to the Indian Village).  There were eighty year old woven baskets that were fairly large. We then went by the village grocery store one last time, for I had not picked up my souvenir cup.  I usually go for pint sized glass cups, but shops don’t always carry those.  In its place I will pick up a mug instead.  That’s what I did this time, not seeing a glass cup.  Just as I purchased a mug, I spied a small section that had clearance items.  Sure enough there was a glass cup there.  It was 99 cents, so I went ahead and bought it as well.

    The rest of the morning we walked the small hike around Cook’s meadow, right next to Yosemite Village, that provided more views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.  I got another reflective shot of Half Dome.  On our last little outing, we stopped at the Cathedral Picnic area in order to get a shot of the Three Brothers Peaks, the last granite formation I had not photographed.  We then left Yosemite Valley at about 1pm, tired but happy.  Another seven hours and I was back to home, sweet home, in Tustin.  I hope you enjoyed reading these adventures as much as I had living them! 

     

  9. Day 2 Yosemite Photos: “Little Rebel”, Half Dome Reflected, Lower Yosemite Falls

     


  10. Yosemite: An Unexpected James Franco ~ Day 2

    We left the hotel a little before 8am and gassed up at the El Portal gas station.  Its about a dollar more a gallon than normal prices.  There are no gas stations in Yosemite Valley.  From reading my travel books I heard about an awesome breakfast location in the park, so thats where we were headed when Raini pointed out a deer on the side of the road.  I slowed down, as to not scare it off.  Luckily there was a pull off about twenty feet away.

    It was deer stalking time!  I parked our car and slowly made our way to the deer, edging ever so closer, but not too close that they could charge us.  We ended up getting too close eventually, but that was not our fault … really … I blame the deer.  There were three deer, all males.  I had never been this close to male deer before.  I have gotten good shots of deer in the past, but they were always groups of females.

    There was one male who had a large pair of antlers, who seemed to be the father of the two other younger deer.  Raini anthropomorphizes practically every animal she comes into contact with, and this was no exception.  She grew attached to the youngest of the deer, which she named “Little Rebel”.  It seemed to be the most curious of the deer and it looked like it had been poked by antlers, probably from the father when he got out of line.  If it was feasible and not illegal, we probably would have ended up taking Little Rebel back home. (Thank God it was not feasible or legal).  The two younger deer stayed together while the father kept a watchful distance.  We even saw the two young ones butting heads while playing.

    When I parked the car I had not locked it from fear of scaring the deer with the “alarm set” chime.  However as we stalked the deer farther away from the car, I became paranoid, went back and locked the car.  When I came back I noticed Raini start to slowly walk back towards me, with the two younger deer following her curiously.  They were a little too close for my comfort, but Raini didn’t seem to mind.  We took pictures of them for half an hour or more by ourselves.  The park was much less crowded and trafficky since today was a weekday.  For a few minutes we felt alone in this natural wonder, probably a rare feeling in the uber popular Yosemite.

    Eventually we were spotted by tourists and they pulled over as well to take pictures of the deer.  There is nothing that screams tourist more than watching teenage girls taking a group selfie with deer as background.  Within a few minutes, a large bus also saw what was happening, stopped near the deer and scared them off.  It was fun while it lasted.  We got into the car, back to Yosemite Village, still in search of breakfast.

    We arrived at the Ahwahnee hotel.  I saw several places that called themselves lodges at Yosemite, but the Ahwahnee was closest to one of those grand wilderness lodges with big fireplaces and vault-like ceilings.  I don’t even want to know what it costs to stay a night there. They also have a large dining room, which has a dress code for dinner.  For breakfast however, it is casual ware and reservations are not needed.  They provide a $13 continental buffet (pastries and fruits) and a full breakfast buffet for $25.  It was definitely a treat and I recommend doing it at least once during a Yosemite trip.  The eggs benedict were really good.  Nothing hits the spot like really good homemade OJ.  We had a window view with a field of snow outside.

    Afterwards I hit the restroom.  Nothing memorable about the restroom … at least that I saw …  We went through the back exit of the hotel, and got some nice shots of a lit up orange leafed tree.  I was slightly impatient, waiting for a couple to get out of my shot so I could get a picture of the tree, fiddling with my camera settings.  Raini on the other hand got a perfect shot of the couple holding hands next to the tree … figures.

    As we got back in the car, she asked out of nowhere about the name of an actor, in a movie we saw titled “This Is The End”.  “James Franco,” I replied, “what about him?”  She says “You know when you went to the restroom, you had to go around someone … well that was him.”  Incredulous that I missed him, I of course asked was she positive.  She said she wasn’t sure at first. It looked like him, but then he spoke and she recognized his voice.  He was even talking about a movie he was in, telling his two fiends what it really was about.  Now Raini has her head on straight better than anyone I know, but still some small part of me doubted her, not much mind you.  I admit to myself that my small doubt was mostly for my own benefit, so I didn’t have to believe I missed something like that.  But of course, I was very wrong.  A little googling later proved that: “James Franco to release the movie ‘Yosemite’ in 2014.”

    We finally got down to the business of picture taking, stopping at points the ranger highlighted on the map from the day before.  We hit a lot of bridges and streams that day, including Pohono Bridge and Sentinel Bridge.  Sentinel Bridge is where Ansel Adams took one of his famous shots of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River.  I got my own version of this shot.  We then drove up to the Tunnel View Point, where one can see the entire valley, truly breath taking.

    We had enough time to take two short hikes.  One was to Bridalveil Falls, with the entire hike being less than half a mile for the full trip around.  Raini being Raini, scrambled up some of the rocks near the falls.  Since it was so dry, the falls looked like water from a garden hose, with most of the water misting before hitting the ground.  We then went on the lower Yosemite Falls hike, approximately a mile round trip.  Both trails were paved and had little elevation gain.  We spotted a few more deer in the distance on the trail. The Lower Yosemite Falls trail provided a slightly better waterfall for photographing.

    We ate dinner in Camp Curry where they had a pizza cafeteria.  The prices for the custom pizzas seemed a little expensive but reasonable and certainly tasted great.  The ride back to our hotel was mostly uneventful. We spotted a coyote, which was probably the largest and fullest one I had ever seen.  (I lived in the desert for 25 years). Raini mentioned they must have grown thicker coats for the winter.  We again had hot cocoa before it was off to dreamland.

     

  11. El Capitan @ Golden Hour

     


  12. Yosemite: An Unexpected Vacation ~ Day 1

    About a month ago I found out that my company would be shutting down between Christmas and New Years.  Of course I took this opportunity to take my camera someplace new.  I had been wanting to go to Yosemite for quite a while and I had not been there for more than a decade, when I went on summer vacations as a kid with the family and the RV.  Several photography friends had been to Yosemite and come back with awe inspiring pictures, so I thought this would be as good as time as any to go.  I went with my photo partner in crime, Raini Armstrong (raini.smugmug.com).

    The drive up the 5 freeway wasn’t anything special. It took about six and half hours to get to the hotel (the Cedar Hotel, I’ll talk more about it later), but we were too early for check in. Close to our hotel there was a detour due to a nasty landslide.  It must have happened a while ago because the detour bridges look like they have been there for a while.  They are one lane bridges so you will be delayed up to 15 minutes waiting for oncoming traffic.  We then drove another 20 minutes to the park entrance, where we gained entry using my Annual National Parks Pass.

    Initially I was afraid there was going to be almost no snow since it had not snowed since I don’t know how long.  Luckily we began to see snow-caps on the rocks of the Merced river as we continued to climb.  I found out later that this has been the driest year in Yosemite for 100 years.  It was nice not having to deal with snow chains.

    The road system in Yosemite Valley is a little confusing.  Basically you get used to trusting the road signs to take you to where you want to go.  Most of the roads are two lane one-way roads that basically make a loop around the valley floor.  We drove to the main Yosemite Village parking.  Unfortunately most of the parking lot was still completely iced over, the snow compressed from all the cars.  It was also very lumpy, so one did a little bit of sliding here and there, up and down the lumps.

    Since we arrived in the afternoon our goal for the day was just to gather intel about tomorrows hikes and gather the smashed pennies in the area.  At Yosemite Village first we took a stroll through the busy grocery store, unable to find the smashed penny machines that should have been there.  We visited the Indian village as the actual Indian museum was closed.  The Ansel Adams Gallery also had some beautiful prints.  We stopped by the visitor center where a ranger highlighted good views of half dome and other sights on a map.  We then drove to Yosemite Lodge, one of the main hotels inside the park.  The reason of course was to obtain some smashed pennies.  

    Similarly we went to Curry Village, a major campsite for backpackers in the park.  They also have their own set of grocery stores and food places where I obtained another set of four pennies.  We parked near the recreational center which had a an ice skating rink for the kiddies. There was also a cute sitting room with rocking chairs, where kids played board games after a hike, and most importantly where there was a slow wifi point.

    With it getting late, we headed back to the Cedar Lodge, but on the way back we saw some beautiful snow capped rocks in the Merced River.  It was golden hour and amazingly El Capitan was glowing and being reflected in the stream.  It was rather tough to get to the stream with so much ice.  I slipped a little and nearly dropped my camera, but I got there and got the shot.  Then I looked over and saw this awesome looking tree that had fallen over and was snowcapped.  The way down to the tree looked very slick.  I watched as an older gentleman navigated the ice, so I said, “for sure I can do it.”  I took one step on the ice carefully … and fell back on my butt like the bungling burglars from Home Alone.  I somehow managed to hold my Nikon D600 up while falling, and it stopped literally 2 inches off the ground.  With my pride and body parts hurt, I scrambled on all fours off the ice and wobbled a little back to the car, realizing I should stop while I was ahead.  My friend tried to cheer me up, saying I must be a ninja to have saved my camera from destruction.

    So we arrived at the hotel feeling like it was 8:30 pm but it was only 5:30 pm.  The hotel room was very nice with a fridge and 2 queen beds for $100 a night.  A good savings since it would normally would be $250 a night.  It has an indoor pool and hot tub as well that I never got to use, just too tired from hiking.   They also make hot cocoa available from 6:30 pm to 9 pm, which really hit the spot every night.  Unfortunately the internet costs $10 per device, hence why these posts came out late.  We ate at their local hotel grill for dinner.  A burger and fries without a drink was about $12.  The burger was very good but the fries were overly salty.  Well off to sleep, dreaming of adventures of tomorrow.

     


  13. Got a couple more updates for you.  When I was in Death Valley, the skies did not disappoint and they danced with colors.  Death Valley Sunsets: http://www.bpsphotos.com/Landscapes/Death-Valley-Sunsets-2013


    And the last of my Alaska pics.  They included some stunning landscapes as well as fields of fire weed, which can be found all over Alaska.  http://www.bpsphotos.com/Landscapes/Alaskan-Landscapes

    Enjoy!

     

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  15. Death Valley day 3 & 4

    So after another cold coffee run it was off to the Death Valley visitor center at Furnace Creek.  My mom enjoyed the exhibit about the Borax mines and the 20 mule teams.  I has never heard of the 20 mule brand until last year when I was In death valley and now I notice it in museums or seeing old timey films.

    We picked up some sandwiches at the general store for a picnic lunch (day 7 for my turkey streak).  We headed to the badwater basin.  Walking on what once was a huge salt sea was pretty neat.  Also its the location of the lowest point in North America.  You can take pictures next to the sign that marks the lowest spot.  They actually moved the sign from the lowest point to the bordwalk because the sign used to be located in the water, and they did not want people out there.  Our shoes were caked with salt, which we scraped off on the side walk before messing up the car.

    Next we headed to Artist’s drive.  The mountains here are alive with deep red and yellow colors.  The area was a point of some personal vexation last year.  I was distracted by some of the scenes and missed the turn for the best part of artists drive known as the artists palette.  Not only does it have reds, but it also has a mixture of greens.  Since artists loop is one way, it would take 30 mins to loop all the way around.  I was getting hungry and I didn’t want to miss sunset so I skipped it for another time.  The turkey dinner wasn’t worth it :(.  So this was that other time, I  finally got pics of the palette and it was very pretty.

    Our final death valley destination was Dantes View.  That’s going from -200 feet to 5000+ feet.  It was chilly but the view reminds me of looking out onto the grand canyon, seeing the entire valley from so way up in the sky.  The sky lit up again for sunset and we made our way back to Beatty.

    So I was up for something different for dinner and according to yelp the restaurant in the back of the local casino was pretty good.  As a foodie I am up for something local (as you can tell since I mention food so much).  To my dismay I found the casino restaurant had been converted to a Dennys…  Well we were there and I was hungry and we went in knowing this would be nothing special, but of course I was very wrong.  I had the prime rib cobb salad for $10, and it was a better meal than the $30 prime rib the night before.

    The next morning we had breakfast at Dennys again and took off for home.  We stopped off at the Amorgosia hotel,  which is supposed to be haunted.  The paint is chipping and in disrepair and definitely has a creepy feel to the place.  The inside however is nice with an old timey feeling.  Well, we hit the Mad Greek for some Baklava to put a book end on our trip.  Until next trip!