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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.