The 2012 Calendar is HERE!!! pre-order now for a discount!

The 2012 “Celebrating the Pacific Northwest” Calendar is now available for pre-order at a discounted rate of only $18. Shipping anywhere in the US or Canada is an additional $5.

You can order at this link. Click Here To Order



Last Chance to Order a Calendar

I’m placing one last calendar order

You can pre-pay me in person, or better yet use the link provided below and pay with credit card or pay pal.

Sorry, I can’t “hold one for you” any more.

I have to pay for these when I order and people still owe me money for the last batch of calendars.  I’m a single person with a mortgage, this stuff adds up.

I will place the order on Friday.

You can order by clicking here




*please feel free to pass this along/repost…

After a lot of nagging from several people who are noticing that there aren’t very many pages left on theirs…

The 2011 “Celebrating the Wild Pacific Northwest” Calendar is finished and the sample being printed.

You can order here make with the clicky clicky to order the calendar

I’m taking pre orders now. Calendars ordered by November 20th should arrive in plenty of time to mail out for holiday gifts.


Mood: Excited


In Search of Larch in the North Cascades or Holy Crap it’s Cold Up Here!!!

This weekend’s Larch Hunting Expedition to the North Cascades ran the gamut from being a comedy of errors to a crisis of epic proportions and back and that was before I ever left for the trip.

Here it is in bullet points:

~I try to plan an easy day hike (rehabbing an injured ankle bone), can’t find any takers.

~A friend wants to backpack to Larch Lake

~We discover that since we can’t get a shuttle to High Camp, it would be 24 miles round trip.

~We decide that Larch Lake is not going to happen this trip.

~We spend a couple days tossing ideas back and forth and doing research

~We settle on Blue Lake in the North Cascades

~We are excited

~I call the Methow Ranger Station-Okanagan National Forest and the person who answered the phone assures me we can backpack/camp there as long as we’re 200 feet off trail/away from water (the Okanagan National Forest could learn a thing or two from the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie Naitonal Forest about how to make information easily available.

~I get a call back two days later from the person that really knows what’s going on telling me that it’s a day use area and that there’s really nowhere to camp in that area and be ¼ mile away from the lake. (there are a couple climber’s camps up high and one camp low)

~Get warned by ranger station about a large, aggressive marauding bear in the area, ripping apart tents even with no food inside and breaking into cars.

~I ask office type ranger station person if it’s a “brown” bear or a “black bear” to differentiate species. I get a lecture on the fact that not all black bears are black. DUH! That’s not what I asked, you said “brown bear” (which means Grizzly or Kodiak further North) and I want to know if I’m dealing with a species that might bite me because I’m in it’s way or that considers me a possible entree.

~Starts to wonder if the woman on the phone at the ranger station has ever seen a bear or if she has ever spoken to someone who isn’t stupid. I don’t care what color the bear is, I want to know the species.

~Still not clear on species of bear, they “think” it’s a black bear, brown in color, but it has been reported as a griz by some scared people. (confirmations that the bear has torn apart tents in clean camps garnered from WTA, whatever it is, it’s bad news)

~We decide to camp ten miles East in a Forest Service campground; I don’t like car camping, but it would make a good base camp and we’d have to haul less gear to go take pictures-also, Lone Fir is at the far eastern edge of the “Bad Bear”’s territory and I know that others in that campground do not keep as clean a camp as I do, so I’m good even if it does show up. (even car camping, I use a bear can)

~We’re both excited about the trip

~The weather forecast calls for an arctic blast to bring record low temperatures to the region on Saturday night.

~We’re excited anyway.

~I yap about said trip all week, turn down party invites and trips to the coast, stay up late to get ready

~I go to pick up my magazine check (to fund the trip) and it’s not signed (the only person who can sign has a family emergency)

~I can’t afford to drive my truck, even with two people because my money is not there

~Friend agrees to drive (I can afford half of the gas for her new little car) but we can’t have a fire because she doesn’t want to haul firewood in her new car.

~Get a text message at 6:00 AM the next morning that friend lost her wallet and can’t go (understandable, not her fault, but this is work for me and I need to go)

~I have a hissy fit (not directed at friend, she’s got enough worry and stress) because I’m pissed that my magazine check is a month late (seriously, what kind of business has only one person that can sign a check?)

*note, this WAS a big deal because I have to photograph my magazine articles a YEAR ahead of time. Waiting until next year was not an option, this photo shoot was for next year.’s issue. The larch are at peak and the weather is turning. Next weekend (when I have other plans anyway) will be too late; the needles will drop and/or the weather will suck pond water and roads/trails may be closed or dangerous.

~Another friend (also a photographer) feels my pain and saves the day by loaning me gas money so that I can go.

~Friend finds wallet but decides not to go after all, at least not overnight.

~I head out, five hours late (already mentally exhausted)

And our story continues…

We find our heroine driving North, nearly to the Canadian border eh? (Canada’s only two hours from here, so it’s not that big a deal)

Then she cuts East and heads into the heart of the North Cascades.

Said heroine (who has spent time in a LOT of spectacular mountain ranges) loses her heart to the North Cascades.

So there I am, after crossing Rainy Pass, heading over Washington Pass. Since, I was running five hours late, I didn’t have time to stop and bag a lake on the way in. I already decided that I might stay a 2nd night since I was flying solo, but wanted to get to the campground in time to get camp set up and a fire burning before the Arctic blast hit.

The fact that the lakes along the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) were frozen and the waterfalls were icicles before the Arctic Blast hit, did not bode well for it to be a warm evening.

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But I had to stop at the Washington Pass Overlook; the trail was only ¼ mile long and I needed to stretch my legs.

I took a few pictures and took in the views.

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It was there I met Debbie and Tom. They were traveling in an RV and where happy to hear about Lone Fir where I was going to be staying.

As I was driving down the East side of Washington Pass, I saw them, on the mountainside… LARCH!!! They were what I had come for!

I was so excited to finally be in a larch rich environment, that I started to sing a happy larch song (OK, “I was pretty much just yelling larch Larch LARCH!!! I’ve got LARCH” at the top of my lungs). They are elusive (they only turn golden for a short time and it’s usually when the weather turns to crap; planning larch expeditions is difficult)

I arrived at the campground, left a note for some friends that were going to pull in late and got camp set up and a fire started. (Debbie and Tom pulled in a bit later)

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There was a cheeky Stellar Jay that wanted to see if I was going to drop any food. (see my previous not about bears and keeping a clean camp) Every time I got my camera ready the dirty little bird would fly off into the shrubbery. He was not very cooperative and we played this game for a while.

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I got a good fire going and was quite pleased with how nice it is to do a solo trip, relying on no one but myself, being able to do anything I need to do and having peace and quiet to just be.

I made use of a treat that my friend Daria sent me last holiday season, white hot chocolate, with a dark chocolate dipped spoon and marshmallows. (I had wine as well, this was a quick warm up before bed)

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It was a lovely evening in a spectacular setting.

As the temperature began to plummet and the fire could no longer fight the freezing temperature, I retreated to my tent and my 15 degree (F) rated down sleeping bag (wearing long underwear, wool socks, wool hat, neck gaiter and fleece gloves; at one point I even put on my neoprene facemask) where I did some reading before hunkering down. Since I was car camping, I was able to take the big fat 3.5 inch thick sleeping pad.

*note, the “comfort” rating of a sleeping bag is subjective at best. I think it would more accurately be called a “you won’t freeze stiff and die but will still be miserable” rating.

One of the most important factors in preventing hypothermia is not only proper nutrition, but proper hydration, which unfortunately leads to one getting up in the middle of the night to leave the (relative) warmth of their tent to answer the call of nature. (NOT fun)

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with my wool sock clad feet aching from cold even in the 15 degree down sleeping bag. I kicked my legs around and flexed my muscles to make certain that blood was flowing and drifted back off to sleep) (*note to self, order some down booties for cold weather backpacking.

When I finally exited my tent at 7:00 AM the next morning, I discovered that my water (that was inside the tent with me) had frozen and that there was ice on the inside of the tent. I also discovered that any bits of me (mostly hair sticking out from under my hat) that were exposed to air had ice on them)

I tried to take a picture of this, but my camera was very unhappy with the cold and it didn’t want to auto focus and the shutter didn’t want to work.

No problem I thought, the “joy” of car camping (which I normally avoid) is that you can start the truck, crank up the heater and defrost things.

So I cranked over the ignition…

Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, Mrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.


I tried again, more moaning, groaning and whining from the truck

The third try was a charm (barely). I kept the truck running for a good half hour to warm the engine block and charge the battery (which is the original battery that came in the truck 8 years ago and probably should be replaced)

As soon as I tried to move the truck, it died again.

That’s when I decided that I wasn’t going to stay a 2nd night.

I would be asking for trouble.

I told my emergency contact where I would be camping, where I would be hiking, and when I would be back (and what ranger station to call if I’m not heard from by a certain date and time)

But I thought about it. If I couldn’t get the truck to start on Monday, no one would think to call the ranger station until Monday night; I’d likely get checked on very late Tuesday (when the campground would be deserted) when food, firewood and fuel were running out. I would have hiked out to the highway and flagged down a passing motorist, but it’s a long way to any phones in sub freezing temperatures (I didn’t yet know exactly how cold it was)

It not only would have been trouble, it would have been dangerous and very very stupid.

I headed up the road (the truck died once) back over Washington Pass and stopped a few places along side the road to take pictures. (leaving the truck running of course) I figured that I was reasonably safe on the highway because people were driving by and I had jumper cables.

I ran into another guy who was photographing a waterfall wall full of icicles who said it was the coldest he’d ever been. Normally he sleeps in the back of his truck (he had a shell/topper/canopy) but he had slept in the cab last night and still nearly froze. I felt kinda badass for sticking it out in the tent. We joked about how similar our trucks looked with the maps in the windows, sleeping bags and photo gear all over the place and had to get back in our respective trucks because we could not feel our fingers.

I took a few sunrise larch shots on Washington Pass and headed over to the Blue Lake trail head.

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Debbie and Tom were there joking about how I was “following them” they headed up the trail ahead of me.

On the way up the first set of switchbacks, I heard a “whoosh” and looked to my left (down the hill) and saw that I had been buzzed by a HUGE owl. I couldn’t tell what kind, but he was HUGE, maybe a Great Horned Owl. I suppose I disrupted his or her hunting.

I was not far behind Tom and Debbie and spent most of the trek to Blue Lake getting to know them.

We warmed up on the 1,100 foot climb.

I darn near had a larchgasm. The further up the trail we went, the more and more spectacular the larch were.

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Blue Lake did not disappoint. It was a stunning deep blue green. Morning light is not the best for catching the rock formations behind it (shooting into the light) but I made it work and the back lit larch were spectacular.

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After wandering around the lake with Debbie, Tom and one other couple taking pictures, I sat on a rock in the sun. It didn’t take long to get cold again once I stopped moving (it was no more than 15 degrees (F) at this time)

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I ran into some other people on the trial who said it was 15 degrees (F) at Mazama so it was likely only 10 (F) degrees at Lone Fir where we camped. I checked Weather Underground, and it was 11 degrees (F) at Mazama, so who knows how cold it was at Lone Fir. I was starting to feel more and more badass by the minute, My hands and feet were also starting to get numb again.

I met my NW Hikers and blog friend Ingunn & her hubby and another friend on the way down. We missed each other in camp last night because they got in very late and didn’t see my note. At least we saw each other on the trial. They told me it was 15 degrees when they were having breakfast (well after the sun came up) so that 10 degrees seems to be a generous estimate of the temperature.

I got back down to the trail head after stopping to chat with not only them, but some other photo types and people who had camped at Lone Fir. I stopped off and exchanged contact information with Tom and Debbie (it’s always nice to make new friends with common interests)

I thought about trying to bag another lake (Ann), but it was a bit late for that, and at the rate I was going, I was never going to warm up, especially not on an icy trial mostly in shadow, so I called it a good trip and headed back home.

It was a great trip and well worth freezing my butt off for.

I’m bummed that my friend wasn’t able to make it (we haven’t been able to spend time together since the Tulip Pedal last April), but sometimes a solo trip is very nice and good for the spirit. I’m surprised how many women I met couldn’t imagine doing a backpack trip/hike/camping trip/road trip alone.

They ask me if I’m afraid, thinking I must be very brave. (no, I’m just prepared, experienced and am used to it; heck I used to be a backcountry ranger)

I explain to them, that I’m much safer out in the wilderness than I feel in the city, that I am well equipped, trained and experienced and make sure my emergency contacts know where I am camped, where I will hike, when I should be back and what ranger station to call.

But most important, I don’t take stupid chances. I know that something as simple as a sprained ankle can be life threatening in the wilderness (especially in the conditions we had) so I’m careful where I go, I watch my steps carefully, I don’t over estimate my capabilities and stay well within them. I’m at greater risk driving on I-5.

I love my friends, but there will always be a place for solo trips and the peace and chance for reflection that they provide.

The rest of the pictures are available here:

Or as a slide show here:



Road Trip Teton Report

I had an amazing road trip.

I hadn’t done one in a very long time (2003) and was overdue.

I forgot how much I love the open road and the freedom and perspective that a solo road trip gives me.

After my mother’s death, getting so sick (first the flu then the sinus infection) work stress, and making the final decision that a certain relationship wasn’t going to work out, (oh, and I haven’t had a vacation since 2007) I needed to hit the road to find “me” again.

I also wanted to see my dear, dear friend Black George who is currently in Grand Teton National Park.

Stop by the White Grass ranger station, and he’ll make you a rootbeer float and tell you some stories.

Oh, and for my older lady friends… He’s available (discriminating, but available) He is well traveled, speaks several languages and always has fine Portuguese wine and good tequila available. He’s a “catch”, let me know if you’d like an introuduction.

NPR bit on Black George

High Country News bit on Black George at Grand Teton

George is a long time Park Service volunteer and is 86 years young this year.

I worked with him at Canyonlands National Park 15 (that’s FIFTEEN years ago)

Here’s a picture of the two of us then.

and a picture of us taken last Friday

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We decided that we look pretty darn good after 15 years.

It must be clean living… HA!!!

It was an awesome trip that involved trips to visit other good friends.

First, my friend Jim (also a friend from Canyonlands National Park) and his lovely wife LT in Moscow Idaho on Wednesday night, we had a lovely walk, dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, and some visiting time at their lovely home.

After that, I headed out to Hardin Montana to visit my best friend from my senior year of high school Erin and her family.

It took a lot longer than I anticipated to get there due to my taking the Hwy 12 scenic byway and lots of road construction, but I finally made it and we did get some time to visit and catch up (our first time seeing each other in 30 years)

I drove out to Yellowstone on Friday morning and was in the park by 10:00 AM.

The high route into the Northeast entrance via Red Lodge and the Shosone National Forest was fabulous (despite the road construction)

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I passed on opportunities to stop on the side (or in the cases of real idiot park visitors in the middle of the road) to take pictures of pronghorns (there are more of them than people in Wyoming as I discovered when I lived there) or herds of bison on the distance.

I was rewarded with awesome bison photographic opportunity when one almost lumbered in front of my truck just north of the Canyon Visitor Center (were the ranger on duty was kind enough to call Teton dispatch to let Black George know I was in the park and heading that direction)

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and later near Yellowstone Lake

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I look too close, but I made sure that my truck was between the bison and I and had a wonderful new 70-300mm lens thanks to my wonderful friend Gar (the biggest supporter of my photography habit/career) who gifted me with a lens that didn’t work for his needs.

I also enjoyed a visit to the “Super Caldera”

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and the Dragons Mouth

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I finished up my Yellowstone visit with a stop at Lewis Falls

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The Rockerfeller parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton was under construction (oh and all the pavement had been torn up) so between the half hour delays and the 20mph traffic on the ripped up sections it took a good long time to get down there.

I pulled into the White Grass Ranger Station at the Death Canyon Trailhead (the oldest trail in the park) at around 4:30 PM.

Since I was a “special guest” I got to pitch my tent right outside the station, which is an old horse patrol cabin.

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George cooked us a lovely dinner of garlic and ribeye steak with baked potatoes and a salad (OK, I made the salad) and some good Portuguese wine.

The next morning after coffee in front of the wood stove in my moose jammies, I was up with the sun to get some photos of my beloved Tetons (I spent a lot of time there when I lived in Wyoming) at sunrise. (there was a fire burning and it smoked up the view the day before, I was hoping that the fire would lay down overnight and it did)

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I then hiked out to Taggart Lake for some more photo opportunities (where I lost the lens cap to my new lens, the Tetons demanded a sacrafice)

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After that, I hike around Jenny Lake

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I was hoping to bag a peak or two, but bagged lakes instead, due to the ankle injury I sustained in the Olympic distance triathlon I did last week. The ankle isn’t sprained, but I think the bone in injured because I can’t stand any pressure on it. (not rolling over onto that side when I sleep and certainly not a hiking boot being laced up)

After that, I made a trip out to Teton Village (haven’t skied Jackson Hole for 18 years) a grocery run to Wilson and a trip to the Laurance S. Rockerfeller Preserve which is an amazing place.

Wile heading out that direction, I had the moose encounter that I’d been hoping for (I kept the big lends on the camera just in case) Moose-Wilson Road was the place I saw my first moose over 20 years ago.


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and yearling

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I look like I’m too close (good lens) but there were stupid people closer than I was and I was sure that even with a sore ankle I could outrun out tree climb them. (you don’t have to outrun the moose, just the stupid people)

After a full day of adventure I headed back to the ranger station for another lovely dinner and an early night tucked into my down sleeping bag (hoping not to be kept awake all night again by the “party elk” and other critters including wolves and how knows what else was crashing through the brush, snorting, pawing, etc…)

The rest of the pictures are available here:

Or here as a slide show.

The next morning (after coffee in front of the wood stove of course) I headed out at 6:00 AM (5:00 AM Pacific time) for the drive to Missoula where I was going to spend the night (halfway point)

Taking the Moose-Wilson Road (slowing down before sunrise for moose and elk of course) and out through Idaho Falls was an amazingly fast route and I got to Missoula at 1:00 PM where I was planning on camping. That wasn’t really worth an overnight stay in a place that I had nothing I wanted to do, so I kept driving West (until I got tired of driving)

I remembered the (three states worth) of road construction on I-90 and decided that it would be smarter to just push through on Sunday when the crews weren’t working than to spend twice the time to go half the distance on Monday. I used to be quite the “road warrior” on long trips and it was nice to see that I still “had it”.

I made it home by 8:00 PM. (15 hours on the road for 904 miles) and had today to sleep in, rest and get ready for the work week. (oh and write trip reports by fresh food/groceries/upload photos)

Here’s the route I took.

Yesterday was the longest drive I’ve done in one stretch; here’s how it compares to previous road trips…

Moose Wyoming to Tacoma WA 904 miles

St Louis MO to Boulder CO, 870 miles

Ventura CA to Castle Valley UT, 802 miles

Moab UT to Pendleton OR, 792 miles

Moab UT to Cheyenne WY, 451 miles

Now, I really should get back to resting; it is after all, the last day of my vacation.

Mood: Tired but Happy