Philadelphia by iPhone

We headed to Pennsylvania last weekend to attend a wedding and decided to spend 24 hours in Philly before heading to the wedding site.   I debated taking my DSLR but decided to leave it behind.  Then I thought about bringing my G12 P&S but after being less than impressed with my photos from the last time I used it, I decided to leave that behind too.  So these photos are from my iPhone 5s.  

We had a blast in Philly playing tourist, walking (and segway-ing) around Old City, eating in different places, standing on the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum and walking along Boathouse Row.  

These photos weren't edited at all EXCEPT some resizing and a smidge of sharpening.

Ben Franklin Bridge from the Hyatt at Penn's Landing

Ben Franklin Bridge from the Hyatt at Penn's Landing

I didn't take these photos...they were taken by our Segway guide (they don't let you take your own photos for safety reasons).  

One of the many large murals in Old City

One of the many large murals in Old City

Perhaps my favorite photo -- showing that G lagged behind just a bit!

Perhaps my favorite photo -- showing that G lagged behind just a bit!

October Mini Road Trip: OBX and Bear Island Camping

September and October turned out to be really busy, but in a good way.  I was able to go on my first ever backpacking trip to South Mountains State Park and also head out to the Outer Banks a few days later for a 3 night camping trip.   I'm not sure there's a single photo from the backpacking trip that's worth sharing (I only took my P&S), but I did take a few photos on my car camping trip that I'll post.

My trip was a big loop starting/ending in Raleigh (naturally).  I drove from Raleigh to the National Park Campground in Frisco, NC ($20). The following day I took the ferry (free) from Hatteras Village to Ocracoke Island.  I spent the next night at the NPS Ocracoke Campground ($23).  The next morning I took the Ocracoke->Cedar Island Ferry ($15) and then met G at the Hammocks Beach State Park visitor center.  We took the 3:30pm passenger ferry ($5/person) to Bear Island for an overnight ($10).  I was lucky to have perfect weather and finally knocked a few items off my camping wishlist.

I took lots of photos, but realized that I'm pretty rusty and making silly mistakes or oversights (like bringing my polarizing filter but forgetting to put it on for half the trip).  The much talked about OBX bugs (huge mosquitoes) were still active in October (can't imagine the summer months) and drove me into my tent pretty quickly so I only snapped a few night photos, which I regret now.



Ocracoke Sunrise

Ferry From Ocracoke to Cedar Island -- somewhere in the Pamlico Sound

Looking Toward Emerald Isle from Bear Island

Bear Island Campsite Behind the Dunes

Sunrise on Bear Island

I definitely want to go back to Ocracoke and I hope to make an annual overnight on Bear Island.  There is something very cool about sharing a 3.5 mile long island with only 20 or so people, getting to watch the sunset, the stars come out, a huge moon rise, and then the sun rise the next morning....all just steps from your tent. 



Bear Island

It's been two years since I've made a trip out to Bear Island and we finally got a chance to make the drive down after two very rainy Saturdays that washed out prior plans.  What a beautiful place.  We made the walk down the beach to find our site (#9) that we have reserved for October.  There were campers on the site, so we didn't bother them to take a peek, so we walked into site #7 and kind of peered down towards our site.  Climbing the dune and seeing the interior marsh is gorgeous and always makes us say "oh wow". 

Bear Island Interior, Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro, NC

Throwback Photo: Yosemite Sept '13

A few weeks ago our Cablevision went out due to a nearby lightning strike.  We decided to hook up the laptop to the TV and look at photos from our Yosemite and Yellowstone trips.  I came upon this photo and realized that I really liked it.  It was a smoky morning in the Valley due to the nearby Rim Fire.  We were so lucky to have a gorgeous day for our Panoroma/Mist trail hike just the day prior. 

On this morning, we were moving slow and really sore so we just puttered around the Valley and G fished in the Merced River.  I brought out my tripod and tried  taking photos here and there, but the smoke obscured any of the iconic granite peaks.  

But I like this photo for whatever reason.  It's not the greatest reflection, but nice enough.  And it includes the hazy/smoky atmosphere.

Merced River in Yosemite Valley, Smoky from Rim Fire

Last Minute 48 Hour "Vacation", Mt. LeConte

I have probably been thinking about making a hike to LeConte Lodge for 2+ years.  Actually, I'd probably been thinking about it longer than that, but thinking it was doable for the last few.  I actually made reservations for June 2013 back in October of 2012, but I realized how far out it was and that the odds of me picking a proper and doable weekend that far in advance (including the kids) was basically 0, so I let the reservations lapse.

Sometime this spring I realized that the Lodge announces last minute cancellations via Twitter and I thought that maybe this would work if we could be really flexible.  I decided if we could snag a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, we'd somehow make it work.  Meanwhile, we had targeted the end of June for a few days off (with no particular plans since we'd postponed our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip until next summer). 

I called LeConte Lodge reservations to figure out the best way to snag a cancellation that overlapped with our planned days off.  They indicated that 10-15 days in advance is a good time to start calling...that's when people need to get their cancellation in before they are charged no matter what.  They said the twitter cancellations are usually REALLY last minute.  I called every no avail. 

Around 1pm on June 25th, I learned that there had been a cancellation for the very next night (I had set the LeConte twitter account to text me so I'd know instantly).   After a quick call to G, I called them to say we'd take it.  Decision made in about 10 minutes and now we'd have to head out a few hours later to get closer to the trailhead for our hike up the next morning.

After quickly packing...we headed out.  We stopped at a motel in Maggie Valley, leaving an hour or so to get to the trailhead the next morning.   We hit the Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead at 9:50am and made it up to LeConte Lodge Cabins around 1:30pm. 

It's a great hike...from the shady wooded hike along the Balsam Creek to the rocky narrow path that peeks out from the canopy...just a beautiful, uphill hike. 

I really wanted to bring my DSLR on this hike, but realized I didn't have a pack that would accommodate my clothing needs (rain jacket, change of clothes, extra layer), my water, and the other small items we were bringing.  I could definitely have lashed it to my pack, but the fear of rain and no where to stow it made me decide to just leave it at home.  I grabbed my Canon G12 instead.  Except I didn't charge the battery.   So...the photos are somewhat lacking from the upper portion and top.

Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

Balsam Creek at Alum Cave Trailhead

Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

Balsam Creek along Alum Cave Trail (lower portion)

Alum Cave Trail with Cables

Alum Cave Trail with Cables

LeConte Lodge is really a series of buildings and cabins that accommodate approximately 60 guests each night.  They provide dinner, breakfast, and clean bedding in your cabin.  There is no electricity in the cabin or main dining hall or office (which is supplied with tables/chairs/books/puzzle/games) so once the sun goes down, you are using oil lamps for light.  The fact that it didn't get dark until 9pm, coupled with a long day of hiking (we made 2 smaller hikes once we go to the top), left us going to bed pretty early.  We even forgot to go out and look at the night sky!

Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Our Cabin, 2 queen bunk beds inside

Highly recommended hike and experience.   Again we found ourselves hiking in a hurry (maybe that's natural) both on the way up and the way down.   We definitely stopped many times on the way up to catch our breath, but we didn't linger anywhere very long.  Maybe one day we'll change that.

View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge

View on hike to Myrtle Point, about 1 mile beyond the Lodge

Running at Fort Pickens

I only ended up getting 1 run in on #myspringbreak, but considering the weather, I suppose that'll work. This is a collage made on my iPhone using photos I took along the way and the app, Diptic. It was really, really windy when running West, but still fun to run in a new place. I ran the length of the seawall around the Fort, Park Buildings, and a Battery (whose name escapes me...think it's just a number). I'm not sure I'd ever been on the gulf facing section on the seawall even after all these decades. It was 2.something miles. For whatever reason, my Nike+ app wouldn't load. I randomly picked a run from my old Couch 2 5K app, but it ended before I was done.



This was one of the "nicer" days I was there. Probably the 2nd "nicest" day, and you can see it wasn't all that nice!

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens

Probably the worst weather I've ever experienced in 30+ years of going to Fort Pickens, but very glad I made the trip anyway! Only one nice day (both for comfort and photography) the whole time, and I used that to visit with family. I only took 63 exposures with my 7D and that was split between Blue Angels and Ospreys. The rest of the time I snapped a few photos with my G12.

Here's one from the G12 as I exited the park on my way to the was turning out to be a nice day as I left.


T-minus 1 Day

It'll be after dark when I pass this sign tomorrow night....looking forward to a 4 night "spring break" of my own.

Yosemite: Panorama & Mist Trails

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to post photos from this hike on our CA trip in September. It's definitely a highlight (if not THE highlight) of the entire trip. We were very fortunate that we took the hike when we did, as it turned out to be the only totally smoke free day while we were there (other than our arrival day). The smoke from the Rim Fire went north from Yosemite, but occasional shifts brought it south in to the Valley area. We could see the smoke on the horizon on this hike but it was a gorgeous day.

If you want to hike the Panorama Trail in the downhill direction, you can take a bus (fee) from the Yosemite Lodge one-way to Glacier Point. The bus trip was guided so we got a lot of info about geology and wildlife on the way up. Once we were at Glacier Point, we spent some time at the overlook and then set off to the Panorama Trail trailhead. It's all downhill for 2-3 miles down to Illouette Creek, before you start a short uphill section. This part is mostly exposed, but it's just awesome to spend that time hiking and being able to glance over and see Half Dome the entire time.


here's Vernal Fall, where we would end up later in the day


deer along the path, we waited for a few moments and it scampered up the hill to the right


another shot of where we were headed, you can see the small switchbacks across the way, and later we would descend from Nevada Fall and next to Liberty Cap, which is the large round rock at the top left of the photo below


this is probably a better shot of where we were headed, we would continue to descend down to Illouette Falls (out of photo to the right), then ascend that ridge in the center, then we'd continue around the point, into some woods and eventually connect with the John Muir Trail briefly to end up at the top of Nevada Fall (not viewable) before using the Mist Trail down past Liberty Cap (in photo) to Vernal Fall (in photo) and then down to the Valley floor.


this is what we called "the mishap"...I slipped on a small damp spot on a big rock (no where near a ledge thankfully) and ended up bruised and dirty, but no broken skin (or bones) and the hike continued

below Illouette Falls


the uphill portion, smoke from the Rim Fire viewable on the horizon to the north


backside of Half Dome


descending back into the woods


stop for lunch at the top of Nevada Fall, it was getting pretty hot, so we found a spot in the shade...4.5 miles down, another 4 or so to go


here's where I wish I had a photo of the sign at the top of the Mist Trail that suggested hikers use the John Muir Trail to descend to the valley due to steep, rocky, slick footing with steep drop offs, but on we went

this is top of the Mist, looking up at Liberty Cap, as we descended next to Nevada Fall -- this was the hardest and scariest part & I was too focused on my footing to stop and take a photo of the trail itself -- wish I had


this is Emerald Pool which is above Vernal Fall


the bottom of Vernal Fall, you can see brave (crazy?) people jumping off rocks and swimming below


steps, steps, and more steps -- this is when we were really hurting.... probably hiking without enough rests or enough food (we'd split a sandwich). we found ourselves rushing the second half of this trip and still wonder why


And at the bottom waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to the lodge -- tired and happy (left to right, lol). Looking back, I really didn't take many photos of the Mist Trail due to being hot and tired and just focusing on putting on foot in front of the other.


California: Elkhorn Slough Kayaking

September 13th: Another moody, grey day on the central coast of California. We'd reserved a 3 hour guided kayak trip from Moss Landing via Kayak Connection. We paddled up Elkhorn Slough. From their website:
The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves established nationwide as field laboratories for scientific research and estuarine education. The Reserve is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
It was a nice trip with a great leader and easy paddling. We saw tons of birds, sea lions, harbor seals, and otters. Again it would have been nice to have blue skies, but I won't complain.

Ready to go!



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