Category Archives: Travel

Canada’s Most (And Least) Visited National Parks And Sites For 2021

A lovely spring morning at Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada

Back in 2016, I spent about a week visiting Canada’s Banff and Jasper national parks. I hadn’t visited in decades – not since I was a little girl maybe not quite nine years old (perhaps a little older, I can’t really remember) – we might have already moved to Kentucky when we went.

Anyway, spring is a beautiful time to see the rugged mountain landscapes, but be aware there is still plenty of snow up there to cover many of the trails.

And, speaking of Banff and Jasper national parks, today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has an article about Canada’s most (and least) visited national parks and sites for 2021. If you are curious, or planning your own Canadian park trip, then check out that article.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Banff National Park, Canada, National Parks, Photography, Seasons, Spring, Travel

Photography In The National Parks: The Lewis And Clark National Historic Trail Part 3

Crashing Waves At Cape Disappointment Along The Lewis And Clark National Historic Trail

It’s National Park Week and Trivia Tuesday! Wanna know what a king tide is and where to see one? Then check out my latest photography article published in the National Parks Traveler to find out the answers, in addition to tips and techniques for photographing king tides and other sights you’ll see if you travel along the Washington state portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Trivia Tuesday, Washington State

Trivia Tuesday And Photography In The National Parks: Traveling Along The Lewis And Clark National Historic Trail – Part 2

Looking up at Beacon Rock
Going up the switchbacks on the Beacon Rock Trail
Savoring a view of the Columbia River landscape while hiking up Beacon Rock

It’s #TriviaTuesday ! How many of you have ever hiked up Beacon Rock at Beacon Rock State Park in Washington state? It’s a park found right along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail on the Washington side of the Columbia River. The park is centered around an eroded volcanic plug of a volcano that erupted about 57,000 years ago and where Captain William Clark first noticed the tidal influence of the Pacific Ocean (although it’s not really very noticeable now).

Beacon Rock and what you can see and photograph is the subject of my continuing photo column about traveling the Washington side of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which has been published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.

To read the article, click on any one of the images above.

I never thought I’d be writing and photographing something for the Traveler about this state park because – well – state vs. national park, right? But I should know better. State parks work together with national parks quite often. Just think about Redwood National and State Parks in California.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, State Parks, Washington State

National Parks Traveler Checklist: Yellowstone In The Winter

Taking a stroll along the boardwalks at Upper Geyser Basin
Following the tour leader in Porcelain Basin
Meeting up with one of the Yellowstone locals
Geyser gazing is a nice winter activity in Yellowstone

Thinking of a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park? There’s still time to go this year, but 2023 looks like a better option. Before you go, check out the latest Traveler Checklist I’ve written for the National Parks Traveler. It’s all about planning for your winter trip to this national park, getting there, where to stay and eat, and what to do once you’re there.

To read the Checklist, just click on any of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel, Traveler's Checklist, winter, Yellowstone National Park

Photography In The National Parks: Following In The Footsteps Of Lewis And Clark

A View Down The Columbia River Toward Horsethief Butte (center right}

In all the hustle and bustle upon my return from Yellowstone National Park, I’d forgotten until now that the National Parks Traveler published my latest photography column. This month’s column is all about traveling along the Washington state portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. It’s a three-part photo column and this Part 1 is about visiting and photographing Horsethief Butte and a portion of Columbia Hills Historical State Park. You’ll learn some photography tips and techniques and a little bit of history about Lewis and Clark, too.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Travel, Washington State

Reader Participation Day: What Is The “National Park Experience” To You?

Bison In A Snowstorm At Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

I just returned from a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park. It was full of bucket list items I was able to check off. An amazing experience about which I’ll be writing in upcoming articles for the National Parks Traveler.

And, speaking of the Traveler, today’s edition has a Reader Participation Day article asking what the “national park experience” means to YOU. Why not go over, read the article and the questions asked, and leave a comment at the end of the article. The Traveler uses these things as pointers to what articles to next write and publish.

To read the article and leave a comment, click on the image above.

As for the image itself, it was serendipitous. I was staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and got up early that morning to do photography along the Upper Geyser Basin. It was snowing, and as I approached Old Faithful, I saw a small herd of bison grazing right there. Luckily for me I’d brought along my long lens (Sony 100-400mm) and captured some iconic shots that you’ll be seeing in upcoming Traveler articles.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Seasons, Travel, Travel and Photography, winter, Yellowstone National Park

Funding Questions Arise Over Padre Island’s Sea Turtle Program

Nacho-sized, sand-encrusted Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings heading out to the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas

Back in 2017, I had the privilege of photographing up close and personal a release of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings as they “swam” across the sandy beach of Padre Island National Seashore and into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to begin their life.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Donna Shaver, the expert in her field, and the head (at least, back then) of this national seashore’s sea turtle rescue program. Dr. Shaver has put her heart, soul, and smarts into the program to make it world-renown.

I find the article published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler very troubling. Like other aspects of life, nowadays, it would seem the non-experts are trying to force out the actual expert. I’m not the least bit impressed with the National Park Service’s superintendent for this national seashore and it makes me sad, angry, and disappointed over the muzzling of Dr. Shaver to keep her from doing the work which has made that program what it is.

To read the article, click on the image above.

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Filed under National Parks, national seashore, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Texas, Travel, Wildlife

Welcome To Fort Clatsop

I will be the first to admit, visiting forts or other historical parks was never on my top things to do with my cameras. But, after a visit to this very small fort at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon, where Lewis, Clark, and their Corps of Discovery spent a monotonous winter, I have changed my mind.

It’s one thing to read about forts and such, but it’s another thing completely to actually be standing there in the footsteps of history, exploring the nooks and crannies of what he/she/they built so many decades / centuries ago. You get a feel for what it was like to live in a place like this, out in the forest of the Pacific Northwest, near a river, during a wet, cold, dreary winter.

I included a visit to this national historical park during my photo trip along the Pacific Northwest portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and my resulting article has been published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. If you ever have a chance to explore a historic(al) site like a fort or home or battlefield, I urge you to take the time to do so, and try to imagine what life must have been like in that spot so long ago.

To read the article, just click on the image at the top of this post.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under history, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, National Parks Traveler, Oregon, Photography

Happy New Year 2022! A Year In Review Of My Photographic Travels

High tide and harsh light, but a beautiful image, nonetheless – a metaphore for 2022, perhaps?

Every photographer I have been seeing on my Facebook photography page has been running some sort of “year in review” post. I hate those reviews, so here I am, doing one of my own (insert wink emoji here).

The font for the “Happy New Year 2022” is small, in keeping with the way things were and might become. The year is young, you know, and I’m not even going to be cautiously optimistic about anything at this point in time. 2022 has just started and we are still in the pandemic morass we’ve been in for the past couple of years (or has it been three years?).

A late-afternoon view of Mount St. Helens

I didn’t do much traveling during the first half of 2021, although I still had plenty of material to keep up my photo columns for the National Parks Traveler. I did take a short, 2-day trip to photograph in Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument in May, but my pandemic travels didn’t really begin until August. I’d originally planned on a Sequoia / Yosemite national parks trip in late June, only to be sidelined by a torn retina requiring surgery that took a month to heal. Luckily for me, I am retired from my corporate job so it’s easy for me to reschedule … providing there is lodging available near or within the parks at which I want to visit.

The view at Glacier Overlook in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

So, my first park trip was actually in late July, to the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park. It was a sort of test trip for me. As I huffed and puffed up to Glacier Overlook, I was scared shitless of something happening to the eye that underwent surgery. Nothing occurred, but I now realize eyes are delicate instruments and I like to have both of them in working order for my photography.

A smoky sunrise at Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park (California)

I finally made it into California in mid-late August to visit Yosemite National Park for a week. I’d had to cancel my June reservations for Sequoia and couldn’t get any August lodging, so Sequoia was out (it was in the midst of peak summer season, after all). Area wildfires were in full swing, which meant smoky days inserted themselves in between clear days. Due to the season and ongoing drought, all the waterfalls were totally dried up, so you don’t see Bridalveil Fall in this Tunnel View image of Yosemite Valley. Nonetheless, I’m so glad I went. In all my years of photography, plus my 9 years of contributing images and articles for the Traveler, I’d never visited Yosemite until 2021.

Hiking the Bristlecone Grove Trail in Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
A room full of speleothems in Lehman Caves, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Directly from Yosemite, I drove six hours across the stark, isolated, lonely, amazing basin-and-range landscape of Nevada to spend three days at Great Basin National Park. Although it was a busy park, it was nowhere as busy or as crowded as Yosemite during that time of year, and it felt like a breath of fresh air. It seems to be a sort of overlooked national park and it’s definitely out in the middle of nowhere. The nearby town of Baker, NV, has a population of 58, so lodging is slim to none. I stayed in a motel-style room at the Hidden Canyon Retreat across state lines in Utah, accessed by a 7-mile gravel road off of the main highway. It truly is located in a hidden canyon and my room was wonderful, although the available wifi was pretty much non-existent and cell service was pretty spotty.

The colors of Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)
A frosty morning at Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

In late September and early October, I returned to Mount Rainier National Park for some autumn color photography. The September trip provided amazing color in the Paradise area of the park. The October trip was cold, frosty, and beautiful. Plus, I finally got the shots I wanted: sunrise over “The Mountain” framed by the autumn-hued huckleberry bushes, and a sunrise over Tipsoo Lake that didn’t look oversaturated. In truth, the colors of sunrise at Tipsoo Lake are always saturated, but one would think as they look at a sunrise photo that the photographer really overdid it, even though that’s not the case. So the frost and new snow helped me with some gorgeous, very chilly, sunrise imagery.

A trail toward Horsethief Butte, Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
The Beacon Rock, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
High tides and a ship around the corner, Cape Disappointment State Park, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

As I was driving back home along WA State Route 14 from my May Mount St. Helens photo session, with a stop at Beacon Rock State Park to hike up that eroded volcanic plug, I kept noticing signs marking the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. That piqued my interest enough to look it up once I returned to my laptop.

Again, in all those years of contributing articles and photos for the Traveler, I’ve really only focused on national parks. I’d started investigating national monuments around 2020, and certainly I’d never visited a national historical park or even thought to follow along a national historic trail. But once I decided to follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark in November and December, during their Pacific Northwest explorations of their 16-state, 4,900 trek from Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean, I was hooked. One of the most interesting things is how many state parks work in concert with the National Park System. If you visit the NPS.gov page for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, and click on their State-By-State Guide, you’ll see all sorts of points of interest, some modern that the Corps of Discovery would never have encountered or even imagined, but much of it landscape just the way the 33-member expedition saw it.

From there, I penned three different photo columns all about this national historic trail, scheduled for publication this year in the Traveler. And I’m not finished. I’m going to change some of my current travel plans so I can continue exploring along the footsteps of Lewis and Clark (using cushy, 21st century things such as my Toyota 4Runner, my mirrorless digital cameras, fleece, Gore-Tex, and other accoutrements not available to the Lewis and Clark expedition) from eastern Washington into Idaho and Montana. As long as nothing unforeseen occurs to me or my family, that is.

Some of you may be interested in knowing how I travel during the pandemic. First of all, I am a total believer in science and the vaccine, so I have both Moderna vaccine shots plus the booster. In addition to that, wherever I travel, I do the same thing: drive not fly, take all my own food so I don’t have to eat out (the food is either canned, like Vienna sausage or tuna, or freeze-dried, like Mountain House-brand foods), take my own coffee, coffee maker, hot pot (to heat up those freeze-dried meals), and cream (for the coffee – real cream, not fake creamer), plenty of masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes to wipe down my lodge rooms, and most importantly, I stay as far away from people as I possibly can. I’m not a people person to begin with, so that’s relatively easy unless it’s at a popular view area.

There you have it: my 2021 photo trips in a nutshell. Hopefully, 2022 will be just as fruitful regarding photography.

I hope all of you have a good start to the New Year. Time for me to go check on the traditional New Year’s Day dinner I’m cooking: Hoppin’ John (a stew of black-eye peas, onions, garlic, sausage and rice) and boiled cabbage.

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National Parks Traveler Checklist: Great Basin National Park

A Mid-Morning View Of Stella Lake, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest Checklist. This one’s for Great Basin National Park in Nevada. To read the article, click on the image above.

As for the image above, this was my first day and first hike in this national park. I’d driven up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and managed to snag a parking spot at a pullout across the narrow road from the actual Wheeler Peak Summit Trail parking lot, which was almost full (the parking lots are small in that park and they fill up quickly).

I knew I was not going to hike the 8-mile round trip up to and back down from Wheeler Peak summit – I wanted to, but didn’t feel I was in good enough shape nor as acclimatized for a hike up to 13,000 feet, even though my visit to Yosemite National Park the prior week helped some with that aspect. Instead, I opted for the 2.6-mile roundtrip hike to Stella Lake, which is accessed via the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail but with a 0.1-mile turnoff to the lake. It’s a beautiful hike through stands of quaking aspen, some of which sported leaves already turning gold. It is, however, a narrow, uneven, rocky trail and would be easy to take a fall if one is not watching their step. No, I didn’t fall, but one little girl I watched almost did, because she was wearing sneakers with no tread and not paying attention to the trail.

At this time of year, Stella Lake looks more like Stella “Pond.” You can even see a sort of “bathtub ring” of different colored grass and bits of driftwood around the lake to indicate a higher water level during an earlier part of the season.

The mountains you see behind you are Wheeler Peak, to the right, and Doso Doyabi (formerly Jeff Davis Peak), to the center.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Great Basin National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Nevada, Photography, Travel, Traveler's Checklist