Friday, February 28, 2014

Where to Go

Togetheristhebest_20091219_0010 poster

Our original plan was to spend May visiting the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and Utah parks; June at Yellowstone; July at the Grand Tetons; August at Glacier-Waterton; September at the Washington national parks; October in California. However, the fall colors are spectacular in Yellowstone and the Grand Teton, so we decided to return there in September instead of continuing west to California and Oregon.

While planning the itinerary, we drove over the California mountain passes every other weekend, spending two night at each site. We discovered that changing locations every two days wasn't long enough to settle in, photograph in different lights, and left us exhausted. So, we replaced two night at each of the Utah parks with a week at the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, I e-mailed the park rangers.

Grand Teton replied, "Camping in May is definitely feasible, although the weather is generally pretty varied during that time of year. Make sure that you are prepared for cold weather and potential rain or snow as you make camping preparations. It will hopefully be nice, but with mountain weather you never know! Below is a link to some average temperatures and precipitation measures for each month. http://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/weather.htm. As far as the time frame for seeing cubs and calves, it depends on the year, but I would say that you have a good chance of seeing baby animals beginning in late April and throughout the month of May."

Yellowstone replied, "I suggest you came later in May or early June. While we can still have snow and temporary road closures there will be more roads and services open and available. Bears are frequently sighted later in May, especially in the northern part of the park, and bison calves are readily visible. Much of the bison calving season is in May. Elk calves may begin to appear around late May as well, though they aren't seen as much as bison until they get older. Bears are sighted with less frequency beginning the middle of June as they start moving away from roads and into higher elevations as the snow disappears. Even if you came the first couple weeks in June you should still have some opportunities to see them, though sightings become less frequent. Even in May there are no guarantees but there are lots of sightings in May. Coming later in May or early June would also give you the opportunity to better enjoy the park. Even then we can have cool, wet weather, including snow. But early through mid May many roads are still closed and in some areas there is typically still snow cover."

It seemed that spending the month of May at the Grand Canyon may result in missing the bear cubs and, if we saw them, we would miss some of their youth.

Next, I made a chart of park temperatures so that we could easily compare park to park and month to month. During the day, the temperature variance was about ten degrees. 70 degrees (Grand Canyon) is more pleasant than 61 in the Grand Tetons. And, the 61 is just the average high. Snowstorms can occur in all months at Yellowstone and the Grand Teton.

But, we have experience camping in snow and really want to photograph the youth, so we dropped the Grand Canyon.

Next, I began researching the animals so that we would know when and where to find them. Guess what? The bison rut is late July and August. Oh no! Miss that? Good-bye Glacier.

Together is the best place to be and it will be in Wyoming.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The trick is to enjoy the journey

The trick is to

We have an airline mileage plan, so our first consideration was how to use the miles. Mule thought he would like to enjoy photographing the wildlife preserves in Kenya, so we began investigating them and the possibility of stop over in Europe. The airline rules are that we must return within one year.

It turned out that the time in the Kenya sites would be limited and required an escort. That makes sense. We know nothing about African wildlife. But, it made the trip less attractive. Nevertheless, we continued to plan an itinerary and researching the European sites. The more we looked at the time, effort, and cost involved, the less enthusiastic we became.

It is so much easier for us to travel in the United States. There is a lot of the US that Mule hasn't seen and if we spent the rest of our lives photographing the sites, there would still be more to photograph. So we decided to focus on the US sites, with maybe a sojourn into Canada. (For example, Glacier in the United States is adjunct to Waterton in Canada and Jasper-Baniff is both of Waterton.)

Canadian Rockies World Heritage sites (the contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks): "Criterion (vii): The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems and deeply incised canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess exceptional natural beauty, attracting millions of visitors annually."

Carlsbad Caverns National Park World Heritage site, New Mexico: "The park’s primary caves, Carlsbad and Lechuguilla, are well known for the abundance, diversity, and beauty of their decorative rock formations. Lechuguilla Cave exhibits rare and unique speleothems, including a great abundance of large calcite and gypsum formations, including the largest accumulation of gypsum “chandeliers,” some of which extend more than six meters (18 feet) in length." I've been to Carlsbad on several occasions.

Grand Canyon World Heritage site Arizona: "Widely known for its exceptional natural beauty and considered one of the world's most visually powerful landscapes, the Grand Canyon is celebrated for its plunging depths; temple-like buttes; and vast, multihued, labyrinthine topography. Scenic wonders within park boundaries include high plateaus, plains, deserts, forests, cinder cones, lava flows, streams, waterfalls, and one of America’s great whitewater rivers." We visited the Grand Canyon once and are looking forward to capturing it beauty in a variety of light.

Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek: "Criterion (vii): The joint properties encompass the breadth of active tectonic, volcanic, glacial and fluvial natural processes from the ocean to some of the highest peaks in North America. Coastal and marine environments, snow-capped mountains, calving glaciers, deep river canyons, fjord-like inlets and abundant wildlife abound. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty." We cruised through Glacier Bay, but we haven't spent any time on land.

Mammoth Cave National Park: "Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. The long passages with huge chambers, vertical shafts, stalagmites and stalactites, splendid forms of beautiful gypsum flowers, delicate gypsum needles, rare mirabilite flowers and other natural features of the cave system are all superlative examples of their type. No other known cave system in the world offers a greater variety of sulfate minerals."

Smoky Mountains National Park World Heritage site "The site is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams." "Includes almost as many trees as in all of Europe."

Olympic National Park World Heritage siteWashington: "Olympic National Park is of remarkable beauty, and is the largest protected area in the temperate region of the world that includes in one complex ecosystems from ocean edge through temperate rainforest, alpine meadows and glaciated mountain peaks. It contains one of the world’s largest stands of virgin temperate rainforest, and includes many of the largest coniferous tree species on earth." We visited this park once and are looking forward to photographing and exploring it.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. This site was submitted in 2008, but it has not yet been added to the list. "This park, with its scenic vistas and spectacles of colorful rocks, is one of the premier places in the world for the study of the ecosystem of the Late Triassic Epoch. It contains the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world, as well as important fossils of plants and animals, including early dinosaurs, all in a detailed stratigraphic setting that allows changes in the ecosystem and biota to be effectively traced through the end of the Triassic. Fossil discoveries at Petrified Forest National Park have shaped the understanding of the late Triassic world, and new discoveries continue to highlight its global significance."

Redwoods National and State Parks World Heritage site, California: "Redwood National Park comprises a region of coastal mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean, equidistant (560 kilometers or 350 miles) from San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. It is covered with a magnificent forest of Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest living things and among the most impressive trees in the world. Several of the world's tallest known trees grow within the property." We like the Redwoods so much that we lived in Arcata and left only due to career opportunities.

Waterton Glacier International Park, Montana and Canada, Montana: “Both sites were originally designated by their respective nations because of their superlative mountain scenery, their high topographic relief, glacial landforms, and abundant diversity of wildlife and wildflowers.” Neither of us have visited these parks. Going to the Sun Road You Tube Videos prompted me to refresh my driving skills through mountain passes. So, we drove all the major California mountain passes, including the steep, windy Ebbets Pass without center lines and the Sonora Pass with its 25% grade.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico: This site was submitted in 2008, but it has not yet been approved. "White Sands National Monument is the world's largest and best protected surface deposit of gypsum sand, unlike the far more abundant lake and seashore quartz sand dunes. Elsewhere in the world, most large gypsum-sand deposits have been heavily mined. Despite the current aridity of White Sands, which evolved over eons, it is biologically rich and diverse, with endemic species of animals, which afford exceptional opportunities for scientific research into evolution. The geology is an analog to that of Mars." I spent my childhood in Alamogordo and have been to White Sands as a child and an adult.

Yellowstone National Park World Heritage siteWyoming: "The extraordinary scenic treasures of Yellowstone include the world’s largest collection of geysers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, numerous waterfalls, and great herds of wildlife." Grand Teton National Park is not a World Heritage site, but due to its scenic value and wildlife, we'll include it when we visit Yellowstone. I have been to both parks twice. Mule has been to neither. We'd like to spend an extended time in each, photographing scenery and wildlife. The area is known as the American Serengeti.

Yosemite National Park World Heritage site, California: "Yosemite has exceptional natural beauty, including five of the world's highest waterfalls, a combination of granite domes and walls, deeply incised valleys, three groves of giant sequoia, numerous alpine meadows, lakes, diversity of life zones and variety of species." We have been to Yosemite too many times to count and still get excited about going. Between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day is the worst time to visit because it becomes a city of visitors. The dogwood starts to bloom in mid-April; the waterfalls are their best in May; and the fall colors are wonderful in October and November. However, some areas are only open during the summer.

This list is getting narrower. Which of the US criteria 7 sites appeal to you?

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!” Dr. Suess

weather chart

World Heritage Sites - Criteria Seven

We love to take photographs and always wanted to photograph the UN designated World Heritage sites, especially the ones nominated for their exceptional beauty.

The World Heritage List isn't static, but currently includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the UNESCO World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding, universal cultural or natural value. The properties are selected based on ten criteria: "(1) to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; (2) to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; (3) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; (4) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history; (5) to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change; (6) to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria); (7) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance; (8) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; (9) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals; (10) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Although we still would like to photograph all of the sites, time and finances prevent us from visiting all of the sites, so we need to select the ones for which we would receive the most "bang" for our time, effort, and money.

The current complete list of criteria seven is listed below. Where would you go?

Criteria VI World Heritage Sites

Algeria: Tassili n'Ajjer #
Argentina: Los Glaciares National Park
Argentina: Iguazu National Park
Australia: Great Barrier Reef
Australia: Kakadu National Park
Australia: Lord Howe Island Group
Australia: Tasmanian Wilderness
Australia: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Australia: Wet Tropics of Queensland
Australia: Shark Bay, Western Australia
Australia: Fraser Island
Australia: Macquarie Island
Australia: Purnululu National Park
Australia: Ningaloo Coast
Belarus: Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest *
Belize: Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System
Brazil: Iguaçu National Park
Brazil: Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves
Brazil: Pantanal Conservation Area
Brazil: Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves
Bulgaria: Pirin National Park
Canada: Nahanni National Park #
Canada: Dinosaur Provincial Park
Canada: Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek # * 5
Canada: Wood Buffalo National Park
Canada: Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks # 6
Canada: Gros Morne National Park
Canada: Waterton Glacier International Peace Park *
Canada: Chad
Canada: Lakes of Ounianga
China: Mount Taishan
China: Mount Huangshan
China: Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
China: Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area
China: Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
China: Mount Wuyi
China: Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas
China: South China Karst
China: Fujian Tulou
China: Mount Sanqingshan National Park
China: China Danxia
Colombia: Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary
Costa Rica: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park *
Côte d'Ivoire: Taï National Park
Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park #
Cuba: Desembarco del Granma National Park
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Virunga National Park #
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Garamba National Park
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Salonga National Park
Denmark: Ilulissat Icefjord
Ecuador: Galápagos Islands
Ecuador: Sangay National Park #
Ethiopia: Simien National Park
France: Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve #
France: Pyrénées - Mont Perdu *
France: Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems
France: Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island
Greece: Meteora
Greece: Mount Athos
Honduras: Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve
India: Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
India: Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
Indonesia: Komodo National Park
Indonesia: Ujung Kulon National Park
Indonesia: Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
Italy: The Dolomites
Japan: Yakushima
Jordan: Wadi Rum Protected Area
Kenya: Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
Kenya: Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley
Kiribati: Phoenix Islands Protected Area
Korea, Republic of: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Madagascar: Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve
Malawi: Lake Malawi National Park
Malaysia: Gunung Mulu National Park
Mali: Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)
Mexico: Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California
Mexico: Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Montenegro: Durmitor National Park
Nepal: Sagarmatha National Park
Nepal: Chitwan National Park
New Zealand: Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand
New Zealand: Tongariro National Park
Niger: Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves
Norway: West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord
Palau: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon
Panama: Darien National Park
Panama: Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park
Peru: Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
Peru: Huascarán National Park
Peru: Río Abiseo National Park
Philippines: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Philippines: Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Poland: Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Białowieża Forest
Romania: Danube Delta
Russian Federation: Virgin Komi Forests
Russian Federation: Lake Baikal
Russian Federation: Volcanoes of Kamchatka
Russian Federation: Putorana Plateau
Saint Lucia: Pitons Management Area
Senegal: Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
Seychelles: Aldabra Atoll
Seychelles: Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve
Slovenia: Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve
South Africa: iSimangaliso Wetland Park
South Africa: uKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park
Spain: Garajonay National Park
Spain: Doñana National Park
Spain: Pyrénées - Mont Perdu
Spain: Teide National Park
Sweden: Laponian Area
Switzerland: Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch
Tanzania: Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Tanzania: Serengeti National Park
Tanzania: Kilimanjaro National Park
Thailand: Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Natural and Cultural Heritage of the Ohrid region
Turkey: Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Turkey: Hierapolis-Pamukkale
Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Uganda: Rwenzori Mountains National Park
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland : Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland : St Kilda
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland : Henderson Island
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland : Gough and Inaccessible Islands
United States: Yellowstone
United States: Grand Canyon
United States: Olympic
United States: Redwoods
United States: Great Smoky Mountains
United States: Klurane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek
United States: Glacier
United States: Carlsbad Cavern
United States: Mammoth Caves
United States: Yosemite
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of): Canaima National Park
Vietnam: Ha Long Bay
Zambia: Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe: Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas
Zimbabwe: Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Exchanging a Day of Life

You are exchanging

We want to go for a walk. A very long walk.

I read Barefoot-Sisters-Southbound-Adventures-Appalachian Trail and the journals about hiking the Appalachian Trail. The rocks of Pennsylvania didn’t sound fun.

I read Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: One Woman's Journey and the journals about the Continental Divide Trail. Carve my path in ice?  We backpacked and enjoyed it, but carving an ice trail is a little more rugged than we like. 

The Pacific Crest Trail --- Cheryl Strand  in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail wrote about seeing her shoe fall off the edge --- uh, I’m not that found of heights.

The California Coastal Trail involves walking along freeways, beating the tide on the Lost Coast, and --- not being discovered while crossing a Marine base.  

All of the the above trails involve significant portions of the trail that we wouldn’t enjoy. Also, if we tried to complete the trail in one season, we wouldn’t be able to spend as long as we might want at one site.



So, we began to look at other options.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

If you don’t like the path you’re on

If you dont like the path 

Well, it’s been decided.  I’m resigning from my job and we’re starting down a new path. So here we are . . . having made the decision that will change our lives.  Do we have plans. Yes. Do we have the money? A little.  Do we have health? We hope.  Is it too late?  Is it too soon? We’ll find out.