Tag Archives: travel

Overlooked Gems Of The National Park System

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park / courtesy of the National Park Service

Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles, and Theodore Roosevelt national parks were just a few of the overlooked gems within the National Park System that were discussed during the National Parks Traveler’s first-ever webinar.

You missed it? Well, you can watch the recorded webinar on your own time by clicking on the image above.

Who knows – maybe at some point in time ahead, I and my national parks photography will be featured on one of these monthly webinars.

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National Parks Traveler Webinar: Exploring Overlooked Jewels

Sunrise at the Mather Overlook area, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Ok, I’m not certain that Great Basin National Park in Nevada is an overlooked jewel or not, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is out in the middle of nowhere, and during my late summer visit, while the park was busy, the crowds were definitely fewer than, say, Yosemite or Yellowstone or any of the other of the most-visited park units back in 2021. The infrastructure at Great Basin is small, and the town of Baker has a population of about 98 people, so lodging there is pretty sparse. The closest town of any real size is Ely, Nevada, about 1-1/2 hours’ drive from the park. This national park is located in basin-and-range country, so getting there means your vehicle had best be in good shape, because a breakdown out there would definitely ruin your day.

That said, there are definitely other places within the National Park System with fewer summer crowds that can offer great park experiences, and the National Parks Traveler will be hosting a webinar on April 12, 2022, to discuss those park units.

To read more and register for the webinar, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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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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Foot Prints And Face Mask Trash In Yellowstone National Park

Footprints And A Face Mask At Crested Pool
I Spy With My Little Eye A Discarded Face Mask At Biscuit Basin
Boot, Paw, And Hoof Prints On The Shallow Terraces Of Grand Prismatic Spring

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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Happy 150th Birthday To Yellowstone National Park!

Old Faithful At Sunrise

Happy 150th Birthday to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park! From originally believing the amazing wonders in this park were just a figment of mountainmen’s imaginations (remember my post about “Colter’s Hell”), to a place that approached a record of almost 5 million visitors in 2021, this 2,221,766-acre national park (nicknamed the “American Serengeti”) has a little bit of something for everybody, from amazing geology to 92 trailheads to 15 miles of boardwalks to mountains and valleys and wildlife. Five percent of the park is covered in water, 15% in grasslands, and 80% in forests. Of that 80% of forests, 80% are lodgepole pines. How’s that for your #TriviaTuesday ?

This image was captured just around sunrise on one recent freezing winter morning. Old Faithful was in the final throes of erupting and I was the only one out there in that spot. There were maybe 7 other people waaaay down at the other end near the Old Faithful Lodge and Cabins.

Speaking of Yellowstone, all through this month, I’ll have articles published in the National Parks Traveler about this park: a Traveler Checklist for winter in Yellowstone, a quiz and trivia piece dedicated to Yellowstone, and winter photography in Yellowstone. So, stay tuned and I’ll let you know when those articles have been published.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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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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Photography In The National Parks: My 10 Fave Photos From 2021

The First Kiss Of Sunrise At Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

Everybody has a favorite photo (or two or three or more) they’ve captured in a national park, right? I certainly have mine. Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has published what was officially supposed to be my first Photography in the National Parks column for 2022 (but it got superseded by my Fort Clatsop article). Anyway, today’s article is a look back at my 10 fave images from 2021.

To read the photo column, see my other nine favorite photos, why I like them and how I got each shot, click on the image above.

This image, captured just at the beginning of sunrise on a frosty, snowy morning in Mount Rainier National Park, is one of those 10 favorites. For me, it was a culmination of trying to get just the right sunrise composition of this spot overlooking Tipsoo Lake, over which “The Mountain” towers. Sunrises are, of course, always gorgeous here, but they can often look waaaay oversaturated. In truth, that’s *exactly* the way sunrise looks, for maybe a minute, before the sunrlight then turns white on the snowcapped mountain. The colors for that one moment almost scream at the eye. So, for this shot, I waited for the perfect moment to photograph the composition just as the sun kissed the top of the mountain, leaving the rest of the scene looking cold in the blue/purple shadows of the morning.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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National Parks Quiz And Trivia #45

Surrounded by gold in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

True or false: you can tell a bison’s mood by looking at its tail. That’s one of the questions in my latest National Parks Quiz and Trivia piece published in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. And no, I’m not going to tell you the answer. You’ll have to click on the link and take the quiz yourself (ok, ok, answers are at the bottom of the quiz, but really, see how much you know about the units in the National Park System before peeking at the answers).

To take the quiz and read the trivia, click on the image above.

As for this image, it was captured during my autumn 2019 visit to this national park. I was driving along the park road heading toward the turnoff to West Yellowstone and I saw this lone bison standing in a field of golden grass. I pulled off onto a wide shoulder to get the photo before continuing on to my destination of Fountain Flat Drive (where I ultimately dropped camera and lens and broke the teleconverter but thankfully, not the camera or lens 🙄).

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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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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