Tag Archives: travel

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

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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Photography In The National Parks: A Great Time At Great Basin National Park

Waiting For Sunrise Along The Wheeler Peak Scenic Road, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

The National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography column. This one is all about tips, techniques, and places to photograph within Great Basin National Park, in Nevada.

To read the article, click on the image above.

As for this image, I had started out on the narrow, winding Wheeler Peak Scenic Road at dark-thirty, probably an hour and a half or so before sunrise. It’s a good idea to get started along this road early, because you really, really need to drive slowling along the curvy and did I mention narrow (?) road with plenty to time to get to where you want to set up for sunrise. I placed my camera on a tripod as the light was beginning to glow a little above the horizon. That helped me with focusing on the distant scenery.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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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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Photography in The National Parks: Yosemite Tried, True, and New

Yosemite Valley Landscape, Yosemite National Park (California)

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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Nevada Basin And Range Landscape

A Long Ribbon Of Road From Ely To Great Basin National Park
A Hazy Summer Morning Over Wind Turbines And Nevada Valley And Mountain Landscape

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).

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under leading lines, Nevada, Photography