Posts Tagged ‘US travel’

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Portland and Seattle with High School Students

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UHS Faculty member Maggie Beckman hiking Portland’s Forest Park

I’ve long held the belief that travel is the best kind of education. So when my friend Wes Priest, an English teacher at University High School in Indiana, told me that he was bringing a group of students to the Pacific Northwest with his colleague, art teacher Tasha Barger, I agreed to join them and give a few photography tips.

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Wes and the JTerm students at the Witches Castle in Forest Park (photo credit: Maggie Beckman)

These 23 teenagers spent the first part of January studying the art, photography and literature of the Pacific Northwest with Wes, Tasha, and faculty member Maggie Beckman during their school’s January Term (J-Term). During J-Term, the students take a break from their normal studies to immerse themselves in a single subject that interests them. This interdisciplinary class culminated in a trip to Portland and Seattle.

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PDX snowpocalypse in Forest Park

I met up with the group in Portland, Oregon while the city was still pretty much shut down after experiencing the biggest snowstorm in 20 years. As a seasoned traveler, I know plans how often plans go awry and you need to embrace that. But I had no idea how a group of teenagers would handle it. Their upbeat attitudes and lack of complaints caught me off guard. It was refreshing. There really is nothing you can do about the weather and the students got to see Portland in a really unique way.

Time lapse of the students working on zines in Portland. What a cool class.

Spending time with this group taught me a lot of great things to do with teenagers in Portland. We hiked through snowy Forest Park to the Pittock Mansion to get a view of the city. We hit legendary Portland institutions including Powell’s City of Books and Voodoo Donuts.

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Hiking the Upper Macleay Trail in Forest Park

I learned donuts are very popular with high school students. Top Pot Donuts in Seattle was also on the week’s agenda. The students documented their trip with cameras and used photos and found items to create hand bound zines. It was fun to watch so many young creative minds get busy making art.

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Snoqualmie Falls

Spending the week with this group of students was both exhausting and inspiring. They appreciated both cities as well as the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest and they reminded me of what it is like to have a youthful perspective.

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Eating Ramen at Pine Market in Portland (photo credit: Wes Priest)

Eating Ramen at Pine Street Market was a big hit with this crew on a cold night in Portland.

Watching the students document their trip made me want to include some of their photos and impressions on this blog. Featured below are some images the UHS students shot on their trip to the PNW and their own captions.

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I took this photograph of my friends’ and my feet right before our hike at Twin Falls.”- Kathryn Papp

These students came prepared and learned the best way to handle the Pacific Northwest’s moody weather is by dressing correctly. Every one of these students was wearing appropriate footwear. It made for a cute photo opportunity and I was excited that one of the students captured it.

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Lily in Capitol Hill in front of graffiti- Erin Webb

The students wandered through Portland, checking out local record stores, thrift shops, and the Portland Art Museum.

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I took it because its kind of a perfect depiction of the Seattle vibe. Everyone and everything is accepted, except for lack of acceptance- Lily Hunter

The students broke up into groups and explored different neighborhoods in Seattle, which prides itself on being progressive and a Sanctuary City. I wasn’t surprised the teenagers loved Pike Place Market and my personal favorite, MoPop  (formerly known as the EMP).

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 Gorgeous water fall at Snoqualmie falls in Washington” – Kenzie Binford

Seattle’s weather cooperated with us and the group got to visit Snoqualmie Falls and went for a great hike in Twin Falls.

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 “A different perspective of a piece of wood art at Portland Art Museum”- Drej Cosby

It was my first visit to the Portland Art Museum and I thought it was both user friendly and a nice size. There was lots to see without it being too overwhelming.

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 “Meowtropolitan cat taking some time to chill”- Drej Cosby

Some of the students visited Seattle’s Meowtropolitan, a Japanese-style cat cafe. I’m allergic to cats but was interested in their take. They really enjoyed it, and seemed to think it was quite a bit of fun for the price point!

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 Red and Boji”- Maddie Compton

I was impressed by the student’s genuine appreciation for the post-modern architecture of the the Seattle Central Library. They made me remember just how cool the Rem Koolhas and Joshua Ramus-designed building is.

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 “The Seattle Room at the Seattle Public Library”- Elise Zaniker

Seattle’s Central Library is also a great location to take photographs and the kids got some eye catching shots.

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 The modern built Seattle Public Library is home to many of writers and artists that open a portal of literary bliss to anyone. I felt that this was a good representation of the modern architecture that houses the classic tales of our time.”- Serena Patel

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  “This was on the bus ride from Portland to Seattle. It was just a nice, quiet moment I wanted to capture.”-Kathryn Papp

The students impressed me with their keen interest in the Pacific Northwest, their manners and the general lack of drama. Travelers have always been de facto ambassadors, and this group certainly made University High School look good.

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This bridge that served as our entry point into Forest Park felt like a gateway or portal into another world. Once I crossed under this bridge, I felt like I was in an entirely different universe of snowy bliss. Almost like Narnia.”- Livi Nichols

Spending a week with these kids strengthened my belief that travel is great education. It forces you out of your comfort zone, makes you to think on your feet and switches up your perspective. It was fun being able to share the experience of exploring the Pacific Northwest with these students. Their enthusiasm and curiosity was contagious.

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  Michaela laughed as she hoisted herself up to get a better view of Elliott Bay. It was our first day in Seattle and the rain and fog only added to our ‘authentic’ Seattle experience.“- Livi Nichols

I did not just learn from the students. Wes, Tasha, and Maggie are passionate educators who are dedicated to helping young minds develop. They worked hard to plan this trip and make it a positive experience for all involved. I hope these students know how lucky they are to have such fantastic and accessible teachers.

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“It was really spiritual and one of the best moments of my life because everybody was helping everybody else. People were cold and tired, but everybody stayed positive and struggled together to get the best feeling once we hit the very top.”- Eli DeBrota

The whole J-Term concept is a really cool idea. Where were classes like this when I was in high school?

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The JTerm Crew on the waterfront in Seattle

I have to confess I missed this group once they left Seattle. Hopefully some of them with return to visit. I promise Portland is an entirely different experience without all the snow.

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Wes and Tasha at Snoqualmie Falls

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Exploring Southern California: Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

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Colorful sunrise in Joshua Tree

I have a fondness for desert landscapes and love to visit Joshua Tree National Park during the winter. The weather is pleasant and the park never seems too crowded. I find it particularly peaceful to get up before dawn to watch the sunrise.

I shot this time lapse video on my iPhone 7 plus at Joshua Tree National Park

On my most recent trip, I had my two labs with me. Since activities with dogs are limited in the park, I stayed in Palm Springs at the pet friendly Ace Hotel Palm Springs. The Ace Hotel also two dedicated Tesla chargers, which made this road trip easy since since I drive a Tesla.

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Bristled Joshua Trees

If I was traveling without my two dogs, I would have stayed closer to the park. I’m a big fan of the Mojave Sands at Joshua Tree (check out this previous post about a stay at Mojave Sands), but they only allow small dogs.

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Twisted, surreal Joshua Trees

If you’re heading to Joshua Tree National Park from Palm Springs, I suggest coming in through the West Entrance.  Each morning I drove towards Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Keys Ranch until I found a spot I wanted to watch the sunrise.

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Here comes the desert sun

If you are driving from Palm Springs, and want to watch the sunrise, allow at least 90 before sunrise to drive to the West Entrance of the park and find a spot to watch and set up your equipment. It can get windy at times, and you might want to use a tripod.

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Colors change dramatically just after dawn in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree has been a favorite spot of mine to just chill. After photographing the sunrise, it’s nice to explore the cholla cactus garden, an easy quarter mile loop with a dense population of cholla cactus.

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Sunrise panorama shot on my iPhone 7 plus

Pet owners should note that activities with dogs are limited and animals must be leashed at all times. You can check out what activities you can do with your dog in Joshua Tree National Park here.

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The last super moon of 2016 seen through a Joshua Tree

My trip occurred during the last supermoon of 2016, so that made both the sunrise and moon interesting to photograph.

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Warm skies in Joshua Tree

After exploring the park for a few hours after sunrise, I like to head to the funky Joshua Tree Saloon for breakfast. The service is friendly and the place is packed after 7:30 with climbers and desert dwellers. They make a mean Bloody Mary, and the potato pancakes are quite tasty.

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Morning walk through the cholla cactus garden

If you head to the Joshua Tree Saloon, don’t miss the vintage photo of Johnny Cash near the front door.

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Rocky landscape at Joshua Tree National Park

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Morning in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park

I’m a big fan of National Parks and Joshua Tree is the one I am most comfortable exploring on my own. It’s pretty user friendly.

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Funky roadside Joshua tree

If you’re visiting Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or the Coachella Valley, I’d definitely recommend spending a morning exploring the surreal desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s one of those special places in California that has a “vibe.”

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Morning sunlight in the cholla cactus garden

Joshua Tree National Park

74485 National Park Dr.
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day and may be visited at any time of the year.

Entrance Fee – $20.00 (7-day vehicle permit, admitting the passengers of a single, non-commercial vehicle on the day of purchase and for the next six days).

Motorcycle or Bicycle Entrance Fee/ Walk-In Fee – $10.00 (7-day entrance permit, per motorcycle or bicycle/per person on foot).

Joshua Tree Saloon

61835 Twentynine Palms Hwy.
P.O. Box 289 Joshua Tree
CA 92252 USA

1-760-366-2250

Hours Open:
Sunday – Thursday 7:00 am-12:00 Midnight
Friday & Saturday 7:00 am – 2:00 AM

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Exploring Southern California During the Holidays: Robolights in Palm Springs

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Giant inflatable santa on the roof of this year’s RoboLights display

If you are going to be in Southern California during the holidays and are looking for an outside-the-box holiday experience, consider heading to Palm Springs to see artist Kenny Irwin Jr’s 32nd year of RoboLights, an upcycled holiday lights display unlike any other.

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Robo reindeer outside the RoboLights display

Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s more is more aesthetic has been putting on an increasing complex mixed media holiday lights art installation at his father’s home since he was 12. Now in it’s 32nd year, RoboLights is truly something to behold.

Video of the RoboLights reindeer

Visiting RoboLights is like walking through a surreal winter wonderland.

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Surreal winter wonderland at RoboLights

Built on the outdoor property of the artist’s father’s home, the greeter outside RoboLights told us the display has over 4 Acres of lights. It’s wildly impressive in a Watts Towers meets Willy Wonka sort of way. Sculptures are made from repurposed toilets and mannequins, and old dog crates re-worked into Sci-Fi art containing giant spiders, all bedecked with holiday lights.

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Sleigh pulled by team of jackalope

Visiting RoboLights, I felt I was walking through a surreal winter wonderland. Some of the sculptures seemed better suited for a haunted house or dystopian futuristic film set than a holiday light show but that’s what makes RoboLights so interesting.

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Left: Upside down Santa Clause Right: Bunny driving a sleigh straight out of Mad Max

I spoke with some locals who visit RoboLights every year and asked them how much the display changes from year to year. They guessed about 30%– sometimes new elements like color schemes or themes get introduced, or the layout changes.

Video of one of the displays of lights at the 2016 RoboLights

This year’s addition of an inflatables on the roof, including a Santa and a Godzilla with a candy cane,  bit of an uproar. The City of Palm Springs attempted to close down this year’s RoboLights citing safety concerns but the artist prevailed in court last week and the city was denied a restraining order that would only allow residents of the property and contractors to access the robotics and light displays.

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Walls of dolls and fairy lights at RoboLights

RoboLights is open to the public and accepts donations ($5 is recommended).

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Dangling mannequin installation at RoboLights

Sensory overload comes with the territory and some of the subject matter is non-traditional enough that I think adults will enjoy RoboLights more than children with more traditional expectations.

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Mannequins on display at RoboLights

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One of the more light hearted sculptures at RoboLights

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Christmas trees at RoboLights

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Dog crate sculpture at the 2016 RoboLights

Artist Kenny Irwin Jr. has really gone above and beyond and RoboLights is unlike any other holiday lights display I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the Palm Springs area, I’d recommend checking it out. The display runs through January 1, 2017.

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Dystopian holiday spirit on display at RoboLights

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tunnel of lights at RoboLights

Opening hours for RoboLight are from  4-9:30 pm but the display is capacity controlled. If you don’t want to wait in line, consider getting to the outdoor light show when they open.

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RoboLights exterior is hard to miss

 

ROBOLIGHTS is OPEN to the public from Thanksgiving to January 1st 4:00-9:30PM 
The installation – free to the public, but donations are suggested to help defray costs.
Address:
1077 E Granvia Valmonte
Palm Springs, California
(Located in a very residential part of Palm Springs, Robo Lights is in/around the 1077 Property).

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Twilight and Sunsets on First Beach La Push, Washington

 

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Sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington 

The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State has some gorgeous beaches. Ruby Beach is my usual go-to, so I made a point of heading to First Beach and Rialto Beach to check them out for myself.

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A summer afternoon on First Beach

Rialto Beach is part of Olympic National Park but First Beach is not. First Beach is accessible by car, and is located within the Quileute Nation . The Quileute Oceanside Resort is the nearest lodging. I stayed at the pet-friendly Forks Motel, located about 15 miles away.

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Boat passing Little James Island as seen from First Beach

First Beach is sometimes known as La Push Beach. It has a crescent-shaped swatch of sand as rocky points and views of James Island and Little James Island. It’s a favorite of both surfers and vampires (the location is featured in the Twilight series of books). La Push is one of the most popular destinations for Twihard tourists.

Summer sunset at First Beach in La Push, Washington

The Forks chamber of commerce has seen a 600% increase in tourism since 2000, and Stephanie Meyer’s YA series of books is often credited as a major factor. Fortunately, my visit was vampire free.

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 Stylish totem outside the Lonesome Creek Store in La Push

The Forks Chamber of Commerce has set up a First Beach Webcam so you can visit virtually if you can’t make it in real life.

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Pacific Northwest Surfer Girl

First Beach is a great place to watch the sunset and take in the twilight. I enjoyed watching the sun dip below the horizon between James Island and Little James Island.

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A panorama of sunset seekers enjoying the view from First Beach

First Beach is also a favorite of storm watchers and one of the most popular stops on the Twilight Tours. La Push is where Bella learns the tale of the Cullens and later goes cliff diving and almost drowns

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First Beach driftwood frames trees on Little James island  

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Pacific Northwest Summer evening on First Beach

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Clouds and sunset on First Beach

Only members of the Quileute Tribe are allowed on James Island. But there is a James Island webcam.

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Twilight view from First Beach in La Push

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Dusk view of Little James Island from First Beach

First Beach is easily accessible and open to all. Located near LaPush (about 15 miles west of Forks). Put the Quileute Oceanside Resort in your GPS as your destination and you’ll find it.

Quileute Oceanside Resort

330 Ocean Drive

La Push, WA 98350

 

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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: The Palouse in Black and White

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 Dramatic clouds above an abandoned house in Pullman, Washington

The Palouse Region of Southeast Washington is best known for it’s vibrant colors and vivid landscapes, but some of my favorite images from my recent trip to Southeast Washington work better in black and white.

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France photographing her favorite tree near Steptoe Butte

The rolling agricultural landscape of the area can be striking in black and white when it plays up the graphic lines, dramatic clouds, and light of the area.

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Treads on a tractor and striped fields

I like how the treads on this tractor mimic the striped fields in the background.

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Vintage Truck in Garfield, WA

Editing in black in white can also help when skies are a bit flat, like in the shot below of the crumbling grainery just off the Palouse Scenic Byway.

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Crumbling grainery in Pullman

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Photo above by France Freeman

My black and white edits were inspired by this shot my friend, photographer France Freeman, took of me in Pullman. Who knew Pullman had street art?

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