It’s Fun Fact Friday, and since the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is set to open this month, I thought I’d put a few fun facts out here about this part of Grand Canyon National Park:
The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the South Rim. That means it’s cooler, wetter, and there are far more trees – so many, in fact, that I found it difficult to get an unencumbered photo of the canyon landscape because of all the trees.
If you are standing at the South Rim looking toward the North Rim, the distance (as the crow flies) is about 10 miles. If you choose to hike from the South Rim to the North Rim, the distance to get there is 21 miles. And if you want to drive from the south to the north, you’ll be taking the “scenic route” and it will take you about five hours to get to the North Rim.
Only about 10% of all visitors to this national park ever make it up to the North Rim, so it’s much less visited – although that doesn’t mean it won’t be crowded at times. Plus, there is only one lodge up there: Grand Canyon Lodge, and one campground (although there are other campgrounds outside the park boundary).
This image was captured at one of the two small view areas below the Grand Canyon Lodge. I spent a couple of days at the North Rim during my move from Texas to Washington state.
Click on the image above if you are interested in purchasing a print.
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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I visited Yellowstone National Park back in mid February 2022. It was a fantastic trip and I came home with memories of wonderful experiences and great photos. I also returned with a somewhat lower-than-usual opinion of people who visit this national park and leave marks and trash like those you see in the photos above. I guess people are either ignorant of park etiquette, or they think they are above it all and none of the rules apply to them.
Regarding the human foot prints among the wildlife foot prints at both Crested Pool and Grand Prismatic Pool: bison and foxes and wolves and coyotes cannot read the signs the national park has posted warning of the dangers of straying off the boardwalk in the geyser basins. People, on the other hand, can read the signs – they just don’t want to follow the warnings and are what I consider willfully ignorant. What these people don’t realize is that the crust really is thin around thermal features. Proof of that can be found at spots like Blue Star Spring in Upper Geyser Basin. Look into that searing hot, saturated aqua-blue pool and you’ll see the bones of a young bison who made a misstep back in the 80s.
This brings to mind my 2019 autumn visit to Yellowstone. Among the idiots who walked up to Old Faithful Geyser that year was one moron who decided it would be awesome to walk right up to Old Faithful that night – around midnight, I think. The burns he ultimately sustained made him decide to seek medical help, no matter how much trouble he might get himself in. The next day, as I was wandering along the boardwalks up there, I noticed rangers and other orange-vested people out there walking around near Old Faithful, retrieving articles of clothing that guy left behind, and checking to see if there was any damage to the geyser and surrounding area. These thermal ecosystems – and really, all ecosystems within any national park – are fragile and it doesn’t take much to screw them up. If they can be healed, it takes a looonnnnggg time. The snowcoach guide who took me and four other people through Midway Basin told us it takes a very long time for hoof, paw, and human foot prints to disappear from those shallow terraces around the edges of Grand Prismatic.
And let’s get to the face mask issue. This is yet another form of trash that people carelessly leave behind. Ok, more than likely, the mask either slips off the face or slips out of a vest or pant pocket when a person is pulling out something else, but they are sloppy at keeping track of things like face masks. Certainly mars the view, don’t you think? Sure, I can clone out the offending trash, but I have it here so you can see what I saw when I pointed my camera in that direction. It made me sad and angry at the same time.
Most photographer whose pages you visit on some platform like Facebook are pretty careful to not say anything political or otherwise incendiary to alienate prospective purchasers of their work. I suppose I should do the same, but I’ve never kowtowed to conventional practices and am of the belief that there are times when you have to take a stand one way or another. I don’t fence sit when I believe in something strongly enough.
Many people don’t care if they “foul their own nest” when it comes to visiting a national park, rather than leaving no trace so future visitors can appreciate the wild beauty. As such, I have very little patience with people, nowadays. I’m sure my attitude does not win me any fans or photo purchases, but I’ve never been one to shy away from writing (or saying) what I think, regardless of how it may irritate people. I point out human ignorance, stupidity, and hate where ever I see it. I find the people who write to tell me what a bitch I am are generally the ones who have committed the sins about which I write.
I hope the idiots who left that face mask trash and marked up the fragile areas within and around the hot springs were not photographers. That kind of cretin gives the rest of us photographers a bad name. I’m thankful there are still photographers out there who respect the land and the wildlife they photograph. I just wish they would speak up a little louder in defense of these ecosystems.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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I know I’ve written this before, and I tend to hammer it in to the readers of my photo column on the National Parks Traveler. But, I’m not going to stop hammering it in, so here we go again: it’s always a great idea to revisit and rephotograph a favorite national park spot, because – depending upon the season, time of day, and weather – things can look quite different from the last time you visited. If you are using a newer/different camera, the level of detail can look quite different, as well.
Take these shots of Myrtle Falls in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state). Each of the three photos were actually captured in September, from late summer to autumn, and during the morning (I didn’t realize they were all captured in September until I looked at the file info). However, these images were photographed in different years (2016, 2020, 2021) and under different weather conditions. Makes quite a difference, doesn’t it?
The first image shows a sort of veiled mountain view that I photographed with my Sony a7riv. Smoke from a wildfire had wafted in that morning, when the previous morning was crystal clear. The second image is the most recent, captured the day after official autumn and conditions were perfect for a clear photo of everything and was photographed with my Fujifilm GFX100. The last photo was taken during a rainy day when The Mountain was completely hidden from view by fog/mist/low-hanging clouds, so I focused on the waterfall rather than the gray background with my Canon 5DSR. And the really nice thing is that during each of those photo sessions, I had the place all to myself (I may forget what I ate for breakfast the other day, but stuff like that, I tend to remember). Most people up there at that time of year tend to want to sleep in, I guess.
Anyway, look at these images and compare them to one another, then take my advice and revisit your favorite spots for more photos.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography column. This month’s column is all about capturing iconic as well as new perspectives of this particular national park. To read the article, click on the image above.
As for this image: I drove into Yosemite Valley several times during my week’s stay in the park. Every time, I’d pass by this one spot along the road – a small pullout large enough for a vehicle, right next to the rocky banks of the Merced River, which was a trickle of its former self. So finally, I stopped, took out my camera and tripod, and gingerly picked my way to a spot to photograph forest, river, and El Capitan (I believe that’s El Cap) all beneath a blue sky with wispy clouds.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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I’d left Ely (pronounced Eee-lee), Nevada, around 6:30 a.m. for an hour’s drive to Great Basin National Park. I was about 30-ish miles south of Ely when I rounded a corner and started heading down into this wide, flat valley. The wind turbines, ribbon of road that looks like it goes way up into the mountains on the other side of the valley, and the sunlight highlighting the veil of haze captured my photographer’s eye and I just had to pull over and get a few photos.
In reality, that long road going up into the mountains is actually a dirt road on someone’s private property (lucky them). This paved road takes an almost sharp turn to the left and parallels the mountains before rounding the corner to the right.
And those wind turbines made a great geographic marker for me on the way from the park back toward Ely on the day I headed back home to Washington state. I’d left the Baker area at 2 a.m. so it was dark heading toward Ely. Distances are difficult to discern in the dark because you can’t see the landscape. However, when I saw the synchronous blinking red lights, I knew I was driving toward and past that small wind turbine farm and that Ely was closer than I thought.
Nevada has some amazing landscape and geology, and the roads are very good, but the stretches of road through the state are long and out in the middle of nowhere, seemingly far away from civilization (and gas stations).
It’s #TriviaTuesday ! So, what do Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park all have in common? They are all a part of the National Park System (no duh, right?). And the National Park System is overseen by the National Park Service. And who helped persuade Congress to create the National Park Service? One Stephen Tyng Mather, born July 4. So, in addition to celebrating Independence Day on July 4, we should also have lit a birthday candle to this man who “laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved, unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good he has done …”
And, speaking of Stephen Mather, today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has published my latest quiz and trivia piece. It’s all about July notables, including Stephen Mather.
To test your national parks knowledge and maybe learn a little something, too, just click on any of the images above.
Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.
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It’s been almost three decades since my last visit to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Since moving back to Washington state, I’ve been thinking about a little return trip there to see what has changed in the ensuing years. I figured a May day visit to celebrate 41 years since the volcano’s eruption would be a great opportunity to field test a couple of new cameras (Sony Alpha 1, Fujifilm GFX 100).
It takes four hours to reach the Johnston Ridge Observatory from where I live in central Washington. In my case, it took a little longer, since I stopped at various view areas along the way. There are actually two ways to get to the volcano. There’s the slightly shorter route to Windy Ridge, on the northwestern side of Mt. St. Helens, with a great view of Spirit Lake (the road which is still closed due to snow). And then, there’s the slightly longer route along Spirit Lake Memorial Highway up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, slightly northeast of the crater.
The first view area at which I stopped was the Hoffstadt Bridge area. There are 14 bridges built along the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway leading up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This bridge pictured here is the tallest of them and is located at the edge of the blast zone in this area, about 22 miles away from the volcano. The trees and green foiliage you see in the images have grown since Mt. St. Helens’ eruption 41 years ago.
After photographing the bridge, I noticed this lovely leading line of a trail creating a yin-yang feel to the scene, with the bare white tree trunks on one side and the heavier, green foliage on the other side. No, I didn’t take the trail, so I don’t know where it ultimately led. I was trying to get closer to the volcano while decent morning light remained.
I stopped at a couple more view areas, including the one above, with a side view of Mt. St. Helens and what I assume is Castle Lake to the center right of the composition. FYI, it’s reaaaalllly windy at this view spot as well as the Elk Rock Viewpoint, a stop before the Castle Lake Viewpoint. I was glad my tripod was heavy but still worried about camera shake because of the wind. I was also glad I had ear flaps to my Tilley hat, otherwise it would have blown off my head and far away.
All along the road up to the observatory, there are great stands of trees all about the same height, with signs denoting the type of tree and when they were planted. Most were planted between 1983 and 1986. This stand of noble firs was planted 1983, three years after the eruption.
The first really good, head-on view of Mt. St. Helens, imo, is at the Loowit View Area, probably a mile – more or less – down from Johnston Ridge Observatory. As you can see from the image above, even at 8 a.m., good morning light doesn’t last very long, as the vista was becoming hazy with a slight blue cast to it. Take a moment to note that contrail in the upper left corner. Every single plane I watched flying over me made a beeline to the mountain. I imagine pilots include this view in their flight plan for the benefit of the plane passengers?
This view area (as well as the observatory area) was totally devoid of the chilly wind I’d experienced on the way up, which was a nice change. No real tripod shake and I didn’t have to worry about my hat flying away.
It was interesting to see the growth that’s occurred in 41 years, yet still see very obvious signs of blast devastation. The cliff walls near the top of the image tower over the Toutle River (or what is left of it, after ash and mud spread out, flooded down, and clogged parts of the river.
I think I spent a good 45 minutes there before heading on up to Johnston Ridge Observatory. The observatory is closed, to date, and there are no restrooms or water, but the parking lot and view points are open. The last place for restrooms and water are at Coldwater Lake, some 8 miles back down elevation (or, if you look at a map, further north in distance) from the observatory.
It was after 9 a.m. by the time I reached the Johnston Ridge Observatory. The volcano was in my face as I walked up the paved rampway.
As you can see from the image above, the atmosphere around Mt. St. Helens was hazy and had quite the blue cast to it. Regardless of lighting conditions, to see up close this volcano and the devastated area around it is truly impressive.
There is a paved walkway in both directions from the observatory’s main view area, so I walked up to this view of what remains of trees that were 150 feet tall. These blasted stumps are what is left of trees blown by the power of the eruption back to the valley you see in the background.
Before I left to head toward Longview and attempt an early check in, I walked the paved trail in the other direction from the image of the blasted trees. Lo and behold, right there on the hillside where the observatory building stood was a trio of mountain goats. I’d been given a heads up by a local photographer that I might see elk, so I’d attached my Sony a1 to my 100-400mm lens. I did see elk along the route to Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (aka Hwy 504), but they weren’t in the national monument proper and I was trying to get to the volcano while there was still decent morning light. I’d switched out lenses while photographing at Loowit View Area, so I had my 24-105mm lens attached, with which I ultimately had to make do for the photos I captured of the mountain goats. This image has been cropped from the original and it was the only one showing this goat’s front end (rather than the butt ends of the other two goats on the hill).
I was able to get early check in for my reservation at the Quality Inn & Suites in Longview, a little over an hour’s drive away from the observatory. In retrospect, I wish I would have stayed at the Comfort Inn, right next to the Three Rivers Mall and closer to places for take out options. The hotel at which I stayed is in Longview’s industrial section and is a bit dated. My room had cracks in the sink and the toilet, plus my room’s door wouldn’t automatically lock after shutting. Thankfully, that issue was fixed promptly, or else I would have asked for a different room. The hotel staff was very friendly, which was a plus to an otherwise meh hotel stay. I only stayed one night, so the room was fine enough.
I returned to Mt. St. Helens later in the afternoon and the lighting was considerably better. I also noticed steam rising from a couple of vents in the lava dome that I had not detected early that morning. That was pretty cool.
I made my way from the Loowit View Area back up to the observatory (see image at the very top of this post). Once again, as I was getting ready to return to my vehicle, I saw the same three mountain goats I’d spotted earlier that morning. And of course, my Sony still had the 24-105mm lens on it. The goats were closer to the paved walkway, but I didn’t want to get too near as one of the three was rather aggressive and I sure as heck didn’t want to be on the receiving end. So, I did what any good photographer would do with a wide-angle lens on their camera instead of a telephoto lens (left back in the car): I made the wildlife a part of my landscape scene.
What did I think of my cameras? I love them both! That GFX 100 is the landscape camera of my dreams, although I sure wish they had a wider selection of lenses. Fujifilm apparently figured the GFX 100 would be used only for portraiture and architecture. That’s probably true for what the current majority of photographers who own this camera use it. But with the advent of the GFX 100s, I would imagine there are a great many more landscape photographers out there who will use this medium format for their work. Hopefully, the people at Fujifilm will take note and create more lenses.
The Sony a1 is an exceptional camera, as is the rest of its line. This one combines the resolution I like for my landscapes, along with a shutter frame rate (up to 30 fps) perfect for wildlife and sports photography. I’m hoping to get more wildlife action from this camera during an upcoming visit to Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite national parks. Yes, I’ll be keeping a long lens attached to this particular camera during that trip.
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I’ve been working on a series of short articles for the National Parks Traveler, titled “Traveler’s Checklists.” These are bulleted lists with tips on what to do, where to go, where to stay, what to eat, etc. for national parks and other protected lands I’ve visited. I’ve finished three already (Redwood National and State Parks, Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Park) and each one is scheduled to show up weekly on a Wednesday.
I’m now working on my 4th Checklist, which deals with Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve already found the images I’ll use for this Checklist, but as I was perusing the files, I noticed a number of images I have never worked on and thus never posted. So, I thought I’d do a little photo editing today, in addition to writing.This image was captured during my short hike along the Fairyland Loop Trail, in Fairyland Canyon, a separate amphitheater in Bryce Canyon National Park.
My one regret is that I never completed the 8-mile loop trail – I only hiked parts of it. Someday, when I return to this national park, I’m going to make it a priority to actually finish hiking the entire damned trail. It’s a well-maintained trail, and all I need to really remember (aside from bringing camera gear) is to take plenty of water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold out there – the dry atmosphere will suck the moisture from your body in the blink of an eye before you even realize you might be dehydrated.
According to one of my twin nephews, nobody uses wall calendars anymore when they can keep everything digitally on their computer and smartphones. I guess I’m old school, because I (and my sister, at least) still use calendars onto which we write everything. Plus, we love the beautiful scenes for each month.
So, here, for 2021, are four 12-month wall calendars filled with gorgeous images (at least, I think so) captured at three national parks, one national monument, and one national recreation area this year. I ended up safely traveling around to more places than I imagined I would this year, and four of those five places were new to me.
All images on these posts are the exclusive property of Rebecca L. Latson and Where The Trails Take You Photography. Please respect my copyright and do not use these images on Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat or any other business, personal or social website, blog site, or other media without my written permission. Thank you.
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