Tag Archives: hiking

Appreciating Stillness

As I waited for the passengers to board my flight home, my inbox delivered an article on stillness and its benefits…and the ways that we avoid stillness…by using our devices (to read that article, ironically enough) and keeping ourselves busy, busy, busy.

This weekend has been a nice exercise in stillness for me. Somehow, with my camera in my hand, I find myself watching and waiting, listening to my own breath and noticing nature’s breath too (even in the city). There’s so much around me that I don’t capture in photos, but because I am looking for interesting photos, I notice.  (I have written about this idea before here.)

A hike yesterday took us out in the rain and wind into a park in Seattle. Not quite knowing where we were going, we headed out for a shore hike hoping to catch a glimpse of a lighthouse way out on a point of land that we couldn’t drive to. The wind and rain made me zip my jacket up to my chin and tuck my camera inside my coat for a while. Bare trees swayed, rubbing branches against branches, creaking and groaning. Most seemed to flex, but there was also evidence of breakage along the way. We made our way down some steep twists and turns and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that elusive lighthouse. Knowing we’d have to climb back up however far we went down kept us from going all the way to the bottom for a closer view.

lighthouse in the distance

We got back to a trail that would loop us back toward our car and continued to listen to the wind, feel drops of rain bounce off our hoods, and notice winter’s rainy splendor of leave littered ground, bare branches, and evergreens shaking off some excess water drops. Geoff’s eagle eye spotted a bright yellow mushroom and some local hikers were amused as we squatted low to the ground to photograph this beauty.

another mushroom

Earlier in the day, as we left Port Angeles, we took a bit of a side trip out to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge. Alone in the stillness, we noticed how weather batters the trees and cliffs and off in the distance we could see the mountains we had climbed the day before wrapped in fog.

clouds in the distance

We headed into the city center of Bainbridge Island to find a place to relax with a cup of coffee and check in for today’s flight home. Even in the bustle of the coffee shop, I found a bit of stillness as I watched people, sipped coffee and nibbled on a crispy ginger cookie. My mind felt relaxed, not racing ahead to the next thing that needed to be done. We wandered around the island a bit, finding a walking trail around the marina, watching sea birds glide on the currents as everyone else seemed to be hunkered down in preparation for the big game. Seattle Seahawks were playing the Green Bay Packers for the divisional title…at home. We tried to time our arrival in Seattle for after the game had begun.

As we waited for the ferry, parked in our rental car, the rain poured down, creating a little bubble of solitude around us. I noticed the bright yellow slickers and tall rubber boots that must be the uniform for ferry workers…having the right kind of clothes for the weather makes all the difference!

The rain stopped right before we drove onto the ferry, and once parked, we headed up onto the viewing decks. While it was warm and cozy with lots of comfy chairs inside, I feel better outside on a boat…and the picture taking is better there too! We found a spot under an overhang, with a bit of protection from the wind where we could watch Seattle come into view. The whistling wind sounded almost like native American flutes in the distance, welcoming us to the city.

seattle skyline

We checked into the hotel just as the football game went into overtime and by the time we were on the 14th floor, we could hear the roar that signaled that the Seahawks had won! Horns honked, people danced in the streets dressed in blue and green waving flags with a 12 on them (the city is clearly part of the team…the 12th member on the field at all times!). As we walked down to our favorite doughnut and coffee place a couple of blocks away, we could feel the camaraderie of the city, gathering together to celebrate this win that almost didn’t happen.

Strangers chatted and re-hashed the game as we navigated the powdered sugar and dripping jelly of the most delicious doughnuts…and even better coffee. There is stillness even in the hustle and bustle of the city, if you stop to find it.

top pot donuts

And we went to sleep to an amazing view of the Space Needle from the window in our room, knowing we would make one more trip to Top Pot in the morning to gorge on doughnuts and coffee before heading to the airport.

space needle at night

And after reading that article as people boarded the plane this morning, I gazed out the window, lost in my thoughts, watching planes coming and going, thinking about stillness. I’m grateful for a weekend of stillness, of quiet and reflection, and for the opportunity to spend time just being…with someone I love.

I’ll be looking for some moments of stillness to squeeze into my everyday life…and remind myself not to turn to my devices to fill that precious down time.

Exploring in the Rain

When you visit a rainforest, especially in January, you should probably expect rain.  I could hear the light rain falling even before I was quite awake this morning, lightly tapping on the roof of the lovely Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in the tiny town of Forks (of Twilight fame).  Light comes late here, with sunrise around 8am!

It was gray and wet as we ventured out, heading toward the Hoh rainforest and the Hall of Mosses.  But we weren’t the only rainy day adventurers.  As we registered at the ranger station I couldn’t resist this shot of the hiking boots from the other side of the sign.


All this rain results in spectacular displays of mosses.  Everything that stands still is covered in velvety coats of shaggy moss.  You can see the magnitude of the mosses in this shot of Geoff dwarfed by the mossy trees.

mossy tree

And of course, I continued to be on the lookout for mushrooms.  I wasn’t disappointed.  There were enormous shelf mushrooms that grew tall above my head and tiny mushrooms sprouting from cracks in logs.  This tiny fairy village of mushrooms caught my fancy today growing among the mosses.

mushroom village

As we left the rainforest my eye was drawn to the way the fog hung low behind the treeline.  It almost looks like snow out beyond the river.

low lying fogLeaving the rainforest, we headed north toward Port Angeles and another part of the park.  And after an unfortunate encounter with a park ranger (going too fast along the road near the lake) that resulted in a speeding ticket, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge.  This is the highest part of the park at over 5,000 feet in elevation.  We could see snow capped peaks as we wound our way up and could feel the temperature dropping.  And Hurricane Ridge lives up to its name, the winds were vicious as we got out of the car!  The fog and snow blended as we looked out across the ridge.

hurricane ridge

Away from the ridge, the winds calmed and it was fun to stomp around in the crunchy snow as the rain continued.  Geoff caught this picture of me enjoying my third visit to the snow in the last three weeks.  I think that is a record for me!  (I may not have spent as much time in the snow in the last decade as I have in the last three weeks!)

in the snow

On our way back down the mountain, we noticed a deer family crossing the road in front of us. We slowed to a stop, camera in hand, snapping pictures as they crossed…and then seemed to freeze in an effort to appear invisible to us.  This shot makes the deer almost look like a museum model rather than a living, breathing animal.  I got pictures of all three…

deer near Hurricane Ridge

We ended our adventure with a delicious and relaxing dinner at Next Door GastroPub…even sharing a rich and decadent dessert.  Before heading back to our hotel we took an evening drive around the seaport to try our hand at some nighttime photography.  I’ll end with this shot through the rainy car window of a small coffee shop.

coffee shop through raindrops

Another wonderful day exploring, can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Taking Time to Explore

I’ve been debating on a word to call on as a muse for 2015.  I’ve been looking for a word that is active…that will push me to move out of my comfort zone, challenge me mentally and physically, and will work for both my professional and personal life.

And today’s adventures pushed me to decide.

We knew we wanted to squeeze one more hike into these precious days off…something a bit out of our ordinary choices.  And when we left the house this morning in our hiking gear, with cold weather layers ready, we thought we were heading up into our local mountains.  But at the gas station, we changed our minds and headed off on a two-hour trek to Palm Springs and the aerial tramway.

tram to the mountaintop

The tram takes you from the bottom of the mountain near Palm Springs to near the top of San Jacinto at over 7000 feet.  What we didn’t anticipate were the crowds…or the snow.  Each tram holds about 80 people and takes about 15 minutes to go from the valley to the mountain station…and there are two.  We were lucky and only waited 90 minutes for our turn to go to the top.  By the time we boarded the tram people were waiting more than three and half hours!

Once we got to the top, we headed off on a five plus mile hike…in the snow!  And ah, it was breathtaking!  As we walked away from the lodge, we moved away from the throngs of people who had come solely to throw some snowballs and slide in the snow.  The sun shone brightly on the clean, white snow.  We could hear birds chirping and our own breath as we climbed the mountain.  We happened by this family of snowpeople as we headed out on our hike.

snowman family

We reached our destination at 9100 feet!  Crisp and white and fresh…Round Valley (the peak is another three miles up, we’re saving that for another day!).

at altitude

The views were gorgeous!  I had that same feeling of peace and relaxation that I get when I walk on the beach–a sense of the power and beauty of nature.

tree on San Jacinto

From the magnificence of the trees, rocky mountainside, and enormous boulders, to the fragile elegance of icicles and the reminders of what is yet to come from the pinecones…the wonders of Mother Nature surrounded us and wrapped us in her arms.

pinecone in the snow

And for the cherry on top, as we got back into the tram for the trip back down the mountain, the sun was setting with the full moon in view.  As the tram floor rotated 360 degrees during our descent, we were treated to amazing and colorful views of the entire valley below.

full moon at sunset in the tram

A friend reminded me that I could actually stick with my word from last year for more than a year…play has plenty more potential.  I could probably stay with it for a lifetime.  (And I think it will remain with me!)

But I’m ready to add to play…and this year my word will be explore.  I want to explore possibilities and places, new ideas and old habits.  I want my explorations to take me in new directions, to push me to try things I haven’t imagined I would ever do, like hike up a mountain in the snow!  I look forward to exploring this year…physically, intellectually, imaginatively, and playfully.  Hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Zigzagging Through Yellowstone

A trip to Montana for some work inspired a side trip to Yellowstone National Park–a place neither my husband nor I have ever visited.  And after a long day of hiking and exploring and photographing…zigzagging through Montana and Wyoming, on boardwalks, winding roads, and dirt trails, it’s nice to take a little time to reflect (and to put my feet up!).

What trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a trip to Old Faithful?  This world renown geyser is iconic.  It erupts pretty reliably about every 90 minutes…and draws a large crowd that gathers, jockeying for front row seats.  I’ve been interested in taking photos of people lately…and this crowd gave me ample opportunity!

viewers of old faithful

And somehow, we managed to arrive at Old Faithful moments before it erupted.  I was able to walk right up and move into a great place for experiencing the eruption.  It starts slow, burping steam and spewing water, gathering momentum and height as each burp shoots water and steam higher and higher into the air.  At its height, I could feel the warm drops on my body, like a gentle sprinkle.

old faithful

One of my favorite times of the day was the quiet time we found out on a trail away from most of the thermal action.  We hiked through a forest, over a river, up and down trails, enjoying the quiet magic and natural beauty.  We heard the loud clicks of insects and watched a chipmunk nibble the leaves of a plant growing up near a fallen tree.  I loved watching these butterflies light on the plant in front of me.

butterflies in yellowstoneAs we continued back toward the trail head, we caught a glimpse of Old Faithful…from the back, through trees, far from the crowds gathered.

Old faithful through trees

Later in the day we continued our explorations as we headed back in the direction of our hotel. We almost missed this amazing display of color…thinking we had already seen geysers.  And this unedited photo only captures a fraction of what you see in person!

unexpected colors

As we headed further down the road to catch a glimpse of some paint pots, the light was beginning to change as clouds gathered and the sun dipped behind them.  I love the way the light and shadow plays with these bare trees with the clouds as a dramatic backdrop.

light and bare treesThe sky continued to darken as we came around the corner to find this geyser spewing.  It seemed to be in continuous action, with water and steam shooting high into the air.

sky and geyserIt probably won’t surprise you to learn that we soon found ourselves in a huge downpour. Luckily, we had made it to the car before the sky unleashed.  And after a pretty good soaking, the skies began to clear and sun emerged again.  As we got closer to the North entrance of the park, the sky was bright and the clouds once again white and puffy.

light and river

And the sun was in a great position to take a perfect picture of the historic arch, marking Yellowstone as our first National Park.  What a beautiful place!  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds as we set off on another zigzagging Yellowstone adventure!

arch at yellowstone

**A side note…I decided on zigzagging for this photo essay because of the zigzagging boardwalks and walkways in the park.  Here’s one example:

zigzag walkways


Summer Lovin’: Hiking

Sweat, dust, steep trails, panoramic vistas, photo ops, heart pounding, more sweat, more dust…

Hiking has become my new favorite activity this summer, summer lovin’ for the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  And in spite of feeling like I am going to die at some points, I’m enjoying the exertion, exploring the county with my hubby, and the amazing opportunities for photography.

Today was a tough one.  We headed off bright and early to avoid the heat…but not early enough.  An 8am start meant we ended our nearly 8 mile hike at noon, and it was hot!  The early morning light was beautiful as we headed out and we noticed a group of children fishing from the pier.

fishing dock

The trail definitely got more trying as we climbed and climbed.  We could see views of hikes we had done in previous weeks–and could also see that this one was longer and more strenuous. At one point, I thought I might have to stop and turn back.  But a rest at this tree almost two miles from the summit convinced me that I could muster the strength to go on.

Tree Mt WoodsonMaybe it was the shade, maybe it was the views…whatever it was, I continued to climb.  Dust clung to my sweat covered arms and legs, my hat provided some much needed shade, and regular stops for sips of water kept me going.  The trail was rocky, switchbacks zigzagging toward the summit.  We went through this boulder path as we neared the top.

Boulder path

I was surprised as we crested the summit to find a line of people waiting for a photo opportunity on “the chip,” an interesting rock formation near the top of Mt Woodson.  When the person got their “turn,” they would head out toward the end of the chip and pose while a hiking companion took their picture.  We didn’t wait in line, but I did get a few shots of the comedy of watching others.

Waiting for photo op Mt Woodson

But the chip isn’t quite the top of the mountain.  We continued up a fairly steep asphalt path to the pinnacle where all the communication towers jutted high above the peak.

Selfie Mt Woodson

There were also beautiful pine trees and amazing views of the valleys below.  And it was the perfect place to stop and rest a bit before heading back.  Here is picture of my husband with the breathtaking views behind him.

Geoff Mt Woodson

I thought it would easier heading down…and I was right for a good portion of the trip.  The rest at the top was energizing, and there were cool breezes up at the heights.  But it got a lot hotter and a lot harder as the lake came into view.

Lake Poway

At nearly 7 miles into the hike, our reserves of energy had run low and the noon-time heat was brutal.  The one more uphill near the end of the hike was excruciating!

And in spite of the challenges, I’m loving hiking this summer.  I love the time my husband and I spend out in the countryside exploring and testing our physical limits (he’s a much more experienced hiker than I am!).  I love testing the limits of my body…even when I am hating it! There is a wonderful camaraderie on the trail…and unexpected diversity of age, ethnicity, language, physical ability…with people cheering each other on.  And there are amazing numbers of people out hiking on weekends, at times these trails resemble our local freeways (without the road rage!).  I love the hours on the trail looking for interesting photos, noticing the wildlife (we watched a bird of prey float on the wind currents at the summit today…it seemed almost within arm’s reach) and the resilience of the drought resistant plant life.  We observed areas previously ravaged by fire returning to their natural beauty and places where nature is reclaiming what men tried to tame.  My next hike will be in Montana…I can’t wait!

What are you lovin’ this summer?




A Learning Walk: Relics

Inspired by an upcoming trip to Montana and an opportunity to explore Yellowstone National Park, I have taken up hiking.  It’s a pastime my husband has enjoyed–without me– for quite some time.  And yet, inspired by play and my photography, we make an effort to include some kind of adventure–with an opportunity to explore through my lens–on our days off from work. So for the past three weeks we have hiked, exploring the local backcountry with our feet.

What I like best about hiking is being outdoors, enjoying the sun, the natural terrain, noticing the native flora and fauna, and finding views and interesting photo subjects that aren’t available without hiking in at some distance.  It gets hot in the backcountry around here, so we headed out pretty early this morning to hike before the mid-day heat.  After climbing some distance, I looked out to see this view of the mountains in the distance veiled by the clouds that were just beginning to yield to the sun.

sky over the mountains

And there are relics of days gone by in these wide open spaces.  Evidence of the native peoples who lived here before the white settlers, knowing that the native plants served as a food source and pharmacy…that this arid place sustained life long before our modern conveniences.


Tucked up in the hills of the Daley Ranch, on an offshoot of the Sage Trail, we found this rusted old water tower.

water tower

After a much longer hike than we had anticipated (at about our 7 mile mark), we came across the old ranch buildings from the days when this land was a working ranch.  It’s interesting to me to think about how much smaller buildings tended to be in days gone by.  Compared to some of the surrounding homes, these buildings are barely the size of a single room of modern buildings.

ranch house

old house


But it was this relic that made me take a second look.  More than a mile from the trail head, near these old buildings, sat a more modern relic, something that is seldom used these days…a pay phone!

pay phone

We ended up hiking more than 8 miles today!  Much longer than we planned, but also entirely enjoyable.  The weather was warm, but not hot.  The trails were varied and interesting, but not incredibly steep.  It was a perfect learning walk and photographic adventure…with some exercise and fresh air thrown in as well.  And who can resist a shadow selfie…this one is a hiking shadow selfie!

Shadow selfie hiking

I wonder what relics future generations will find as they hike and look at evidence left from our lives.  How will our remains help them understand a life they haven’t experienced?  What will amuse and confuse them?