Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Exploring Northern California: Redwood National and State Parks

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Light rays streaming through the Avenue of the Giants

Northern California has so much of the Golden State’s beauty. There are stunning beaches as well as some of the most magnificent, mature and tallest coastal redwood trees in the world. If you’re into natural beauty, and enjoy a good forest hike Redwood National Park is great place to spend a few days.

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Sunset view in along the coast in the Del Norte section of Redwood National Park

And visiting in the winter means mild weather and virtually no crowds.

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Even the stumps are impressive at Redwood National Park

The trees are so tall they are challenging to photograph!

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A fallen log the the Boy Scout Tree Trail 

Redwood National Park consists of three California state parks–  Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. If you’re visiting the area, it’s also worth visiting The Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 31 mile drive through the old growth forest of  Humboldt Redwoods State Park off the 101 Freeway.

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Looking up at some redwoods

There are a lot of great hikes in the area.  The easy 1. 4 mile Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop hike  is relatively flat but a nice place to start and gives you a sense of the park. My favorite hike was the moderately difficult 2.8mile Boy Scout Tree Trail Hike, where we only passed one other pair of hikers in early December.

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Dwarfed by trees

We flew into the Arcata Eureka airport (ACV) in Humboldt County, rented an SUV and drove up the coast to the Jedediah Smith Information Center to plan our days. SUVs are recommended as not all the roads in the parks are paved.

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Trees of Mystery

Forest hikes aren’t all Redwood National Park has to offer. The Del Norte section of the park includes some spectacular west coast scenery, sandy and almost empty beaches and fabulous moody sunsets. I visited Redwood National Park with my friend Zan in December and enjoyed the area’s extremely chill vibe.

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Looking up the trunks of giant redwoods

In addition to the Redwood Coast’s National Park, there are some fun other tourist attractions including the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.

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A humorous sign on the Redwood Coast

If you’re planning a visit, Crescent City can make a great base to explore the northern parts of the park. It’s also a good place to grab a bite to eat.

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Hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

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Giant Redwoods have shallow roots

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Left: Zan is little compared to the giant sequoia tree stumps Right: Pine needles make the trails springy 

45% of all remaining Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are in the area that stretches through Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

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A quiet moment on the Boy Scout Tree Trail

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Zan enjoying the pleasant climate in the Jedediah Smith section of the park

Roosevelt elk and sea lions can also be found in the park.

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Heart shaped stump in Prarie Creek Redwoods state Park

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Moss on the trunk of a giant redwood

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Enjoying the beach in Redwood National Park

If you want to #findyourpark in Northern California, check out Redwood National Park.

 

Redwood National Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

and don’t miss the scenic Avenue of the Giants drive through  Humboldt Redwoods State Park

 

Crescent City Visitors Center

1111 Second Street, Crescent City, Calif. (Corner of 2nd and K Streets)

Hours of Operation.

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm.

Winter: Open 9am to 4pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Closed: New Years day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Phone707-465-7306.

Jedediah Smith Visitor’s Center

US Highway 199 at Hiouchi, Calif.

Hours of Operation

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm

Winter: Subject to staffing.

Phone 707-458-3496.

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Road to Hana Highlights– the Venus Pool

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Jumping for Joy at the Venus Pools

Some the best highlights on Maui’s famed Road to Hana are beyond the town of Hana. While most guide books will claim you can do this scenic Hawaiian road trip in 3 hours, I’d suggest taking at least two days. Spend a night (or three) in the Hana area so you can explore the area at your own pace and linger at the places you like.

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Hiking through sugar cane to the Venus Pool

One of the definite highlights of the area is Waioka pond, better known as the Venus Pool. The trail to this beautiful spot can be found on the ocean side of the Hana Highway, just past Mile Marker 48 and before the bridge. The hike is easy and interesting and it takes about 10-15 minutes of walking through sugar cane and lush greenery and past a weird looking shelter (that is an old bread oven) before you see the stunning blue pool fringed by rock.

Slo motion Venus pool goodness

If you plan on visiting the Venus Pool, be sure you bring shoes that can handle water and have traction. Some of the rocks can get slippery. Sunscreen and a towel are also useful.

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Splash at the Venus Pool (waioka)

We visited in late morning it was glorious. Based on the number of locals who showing off their cliff diving prowess, it is a gem appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

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rock climb, dive, repeat

The Venus Pool is a stunning shade of blue in the late morning light. The water here is slightly brackish since it partially filled by a spring and not just the ocean.

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It’s one of the most magical swimming holes I’ve ever seen. The Venus pond is deep enough that visitors jump and dive from various rock outcroppings

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Into the blue of Waioka (aka the Venus Pool)

I loved the Venus Pool so much I wanted to come back again. It’s a great spot for swimming, hanging out, or having a picnic. If you didn’t bring lunch, head back towards Hana and grab a bite at Bruddah Hutts BBQ, one of the best food trucks in the area.

Waioka (the Venus Pool)

Trail head located just past Mile Marker 48 on the Hana Highway.

Hana, Hawaii 96713

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Norway’s Lofoten Islands: a Photo Essay

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Ana walking around the Bend in Fredvang

When I was planning my trip to the Lofoten Islands of  Norway, I wanted to see (and photograph) the Northern Lights. But like much of life, it’s not the big highlights that make up all of my memories of the trip. Part of the charm of the Lofoten Islands is that they are small, scenic and sparsely populated. This combo can make them a dream for photographers.

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Sheep in the Lofoten Islands

The pastoral scenery of Northern Norway is lovely. Fjords with small clusters of fishing cottages and small farms filled with sheep. There were several places worth pulling over to the side of the road to take a photograph or wander a bit.

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Fall frost in the Lofoten Islands

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Portrait of Ana near the Fjords in Northern Norway

Renting a car (or having access to one) is essential in this part of Norway. As the days grow shorter, many businesses tend to close for the season so you’ll need a vehicle to get from place to place. Norwegians do the sunbird thing and flock to the Canary islands for sunshine and a lower cost of living.

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Ana on sandy Ramberg Beach

I was most surprised by the white sandy beaches in the Lofoten Islands. They add some unexpected atmosphere and charm to the dramatic landscapes and were delightful places to walk even on a windy autumn afternoon.
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Ana stopping traffic in the Lofoten Islands

Businesses in Svolvær are more likely to be open year round, and it makes sense to stay here off seasons. Many of the smaller restaurants and rorbu (fishing cottages) in smaller towns like Reine and Hamnoy close seasonally for some or all of the winter. If you are visiting during the off-season, be sure to take some snacks with you. Ana and I found our hunger kicked in during off hours and the nearest open grocery store was some distance away.

 

 

 

 

 

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Scenes from a Day Trip to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania

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An elephant in the Ngorogoro Conservation area

During my stay at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge in the Serengeti, the staff arranged for me to take a full day trip to the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area. The Ngorogoro is one of Tanzania’s great treasures, and a stunning place to see unique landscape and wildlife.

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Red earth, white clouds, and saline lakes in the Ngorogoro Crater

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The crater is the centerpiece for the area. It’s the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. So the landscape is rather unique.

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Grey Crowned Crane

The Ngorogoro Crater is stark and beautiful, with the vast landscape dotted with wildlife. While I do not consider myself much of a birdwatcher, the birds in the area are stunning. During certain times of the year, flocks of flamingos are present in the saline lakes.

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Rocky roads leading into salt flats and canyons of the Ngorogoro

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area is large, and it was a long (and bumpy) three hour drive from the Serengeti Lodge. I found the area interesting enough that I wish I had more time there. On my next trip to Tanzania I hope to stay in the area longer to learn more about it and see more of the interesting and unique ecosystem.

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Zebra were plentiful on the grasslands of the Ngorogoro Crater

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Zebra feeding on the grasslands

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Hippos in a lake in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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Much cleaner Hippos than in the muddy hippo pools of the Serengeti

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Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa

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Ostrich in the Ngorogoro grasslands

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Wildebeest

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Wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater

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Ponds and trees in the Ngorgorgo Crater

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Superb starling

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Hyena walking 

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Giraffe in the Ngorgoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania

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Masked Weaver

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The Ngorogoro’s oddly beautiful landscape

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Giraffe in the bushes

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Obligatory “tourists taking a selfie” pic in the Ngorogoro Conservation area

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Stark landscape + Giraffes in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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Exploring Stockholm, Sweden: a Photo Essay

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The view from Södermalm

I recently returned from an Arctic Adventure to Swedish and Finnish Lapland with Photo Enrichment Adventures. My first stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where I spent a few days getting over jet lag and exploring the “Capital of Scandinavia.”

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Love locks- they’re not just for Paris

Some of my favorite things about Stockholm were exploring the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. I enjoyed the charming cafes and interesting old streets in the area.
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Swedish still life in Södermalm

Södermalm was my favorite area of Stockholm, with it’s trendy restaurants, cafes and creative vibe.

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Taking a boat tour is a classic way to see Stockholm

If you’re into boats, don’t miss the Vasa Museum, one of the best experiences you’ll ever have with a sunken ship. I did not get to visit the Abba Museum, but I’m big on saving something for the next trip.

Swedish Zen at the Miss Clara Hotel

I stayed at the Miss Clara Hotel the first few nights. Located in a gorgeous 1910 Art Nouveau building that used to house a girls school, the vibe was modern and quiet, and had a lovely sauna in the basement.

Window shopping in Gamla Stan (old town)

Stockholm is chilly in the spring, with it’s waterfront location bringing winds off the Baltic sea.

A cute Stockholm native

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a Swedish Frenchie in old town

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Salmon, salmon and more salmon

I got to try a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord with all the trimmings at the Grand Hotel. Lingonberry jam, smoked fish, and the house 1874 Grand Aquavit to wash it down.

Skål! I’m a fan of the Aquavit

Flavored with caraway, anise and fennel, the aquavit reminded me of the Brennivín I tasted in Iceland.

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Stockholm at night

I did some night shooting in Stockholm in preparation for heading to Lapland and chasing the Aurora Borealis. I was colder during the night shoot in Stockholm than anytime during the lapland part of my trip, due to winds. But I do like I the images I got of the city at night.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in gorgeous Stockholm window light

The light in Stockholm was beautiful at times and flat at others. But the window light was so delicious I couldn’t resist taking a selfie on my iPhone 6s.

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