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Season of light

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  October 2015.

Shenandoah, I hear you calling

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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  October 2015.

Moro Rock

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A last minute and unexpectedly delightful stop, the climb up Moro Rock was heart-pounding, and the sheer drops over the side of the rock made my knees wobbly if I looked down too long.  At 6,700 ft, the views were stunning, shifting and opening-up again and again as you zigzagged your way up the rock.  It was lovely to look out over the expanse of forest and valley, and to have a last glimpse at the Sierra Nevadas in the distance.

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The giant forest

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One of the more magical afternoons we’ve had in California was spent hiking in a quiet forest of glowing giants.  The air was crisp and the light was golden, and every time we came upon another giant copse of sequoia, it was all I could do not to lie down on the springy pads of pine needles at their feet, and, surrounded by my fortress of giants, stare up at the treetops until I drifted off to sleep

Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

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Girl in the grove

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Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

Roots

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Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

Fallen giants

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King’s Canyon National Park, California.  March 2015.

I don’t fear the light

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Sequoia National Park, California.  March 2015.

Touch the sky

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Having fun with reflections in the water on a short hike out to Mirror Lake.

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Skiing at Badger Pass

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We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day to spend on the snowy slopes of Badger Pass.  I’m new to skiing and it was a bit icy out that day, so after sliding around on the little hills for a while, I retreated to the decks of the day lodge to enjoy the sunshine and the views.  While sipping on hot chocolates, it was relaxing to watch the other skiers speed down the mountains, especially the Mister, who’s been skiing since he was very young.  Every few minutes I’d spot his bright red jacket hurtling down the slope, and when he’d reach the bottom, he’d give me a little wave before happily hopping on another lift to head back up the slopes.

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Underneath my California stars

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The dark dark skies of Yosemite were perfect for practicing our star photography, and so on a few frosty nights, we ventured out to the open meadows with my camera and a tripod, our hearts racing as we tried not to think too hard about mountain lions, coyotes, and bears.

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Yosemite Falls

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There are so many breathtaking sights in Yosemite National Park, but the one that looms most in my memory is Yosemite Falls.  At nearly 2,500 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the seventh highest in the world, an impressive spectacle located just above the cozy lodge in which we stayed.  The falls were the first thing we saw when we opened our door in the morning, they loomed over us as we ate our meals at the lodge restaurant and had drinks in the lounge, and even in the pitch black of night, we could hear the roar of their waters crashing down over the granite mountainside.  One frosty morning, we made our way up the Yosemite Falls Trail, a grueling hike of rocky switchbacks and sheer drops that I’ve heard equated to climbing the stairwells of two Empire State Buildings.  In the winter, if you leave early enough, the trail is quiet and lonely, and its easy to imagine you are alone with the mountains and the valley.  The hike affords beautiful views of the snow pile left at the base of the upper falls where the sunlight pulls rainbows out of the misty air, and when the rocky switchbacks break into flat trail, there are often stunning views of the valley and Half-Dome, often along cliff-sides so high up that my knees went wobbly every time I looked out on the valley spread out below.

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Winter Scenes

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El Capitan

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We felt very lucky to be staying in Yosemite during the final week of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s historic free climb of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, a smooth, steep rockface that is considered by many to be the longest and most difficult free climb anywhere.  In fact, they finished on the final day of our visit.

El Cap’s 3000-ft face is a challenging favorite among climbers, though the smooth expanse of the eastern-facing Dawn Wall had never been successfully free climbed (utilizing only hands and feet, with ropes attached merely as a safety precaution in the event of a fall) until Caldwell and Jorgeson’s 19-day effort.  It was fun to be in the Valley as it buzzed with excitement over the climb, and we enjoyed overhearing the climbing chatter everywhere from the Valley shuttle to the hiking paths, at dinner at the Alwahnee and over drinks at the Mountain Room Lounge, as well as seeing dozens of media trucks gathered in a meadow near El Cap on the final day of the climb.  One afternoon, we hiked over to the base of El Capitan to get a closer view of the climbers camp halfway up the mountain and were thrilled to see the tiny figure of Tommy Caldwell working his way up the wall for that evening’s ascent (he is visible as a tiny yellow form in the left-center photo, two shots down.)  Here are a couple of great articles from National Geographic, if you’d like to read more:

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Wanderings: Yosemite

DSC_1593You come to love places in different ways.  Some places reveal themselves slowly, rooting their way bit-by-bit into your heart, until you find you’ve fallen in love.  Other places dazzle you and grip your heart from the first moment, leaving you breathless and at a loss for words.  Yosemite was the latter.  Driving there, you twist and turn around mountainside curves, which are perfectly lovely, but then suddenly the valley opens up before you and your heart is gone along with your ability to find adequate words.


Over the days we spent in Yosemite Valley, I often found myself standing in a meadow, staring up at the mountains that seem to rise up straight out of the valley floor, and wondering how there was still enough space for the sky to seem so big.

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We tore the stars down from the sky

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Dark, dark nights and strange landscapes in Joshua Tree.  I have a lot of work to do on my starscape photography, but it was so exhilarating to drive around the desert at night, snapping long exposures and listen to the coyotes howl.

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Let’s not talk about fare-thee-wells now

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29 Palms Inn, Joshua Tree, California.  October 2014.

29 Palms Inn

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Sometimes you stumble into an oasis just when you need it most.  The plan was to stay only one night in Joshua Tree, drive around the park, and then head back to LA.  We drove through the desert for hours, physically and emotionally exhausted and low on morale.  It was late when we pulled into the dusty drive at 29 Palms Inn, but it only took a few moments for it to wrap us up in it’s warm, calming arms, promising to make everything better.

Built on an actual oasis, 29 Palms Inn is so cool, so chic, and so so chill.  That first night, we watched the moon rise over our little private patio and listened to the coyote calls echo across the desert.  Soon we were ringing the front desk to ask about a longer stay.  This was where we needed to be; to rest, to heal, to get back to ourselves again.

 

Wanderings: Joshua Tree

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It’s winter now, a full three months since I left Joshua Tree, and all I dream of is the desert.


I’ve always only thought of myself as a city person.  I longed for the crush of buildings, the noise, the chaos of a crowd of people.  New York, London, Rome, Paris, Chicago, LA, any city at all, I was ready to devour it.  Then, this year, I visited the desert and found a new hollow part of my heart that wants to be filled with not just canyons and cactus and dust, but also mountains, starry skies, and wide open places.  A dry, hot visit to Sonoma in June gave me a taste, but driving around this otherworldly place where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet, threw the door wide open, enchanting me with strange landscapes, dark dark nights, and a hot, unrelenting sun.


Today, I’m skiing in Yosemite, attempting to embrace winter and the hygge we’ve all been reading about, but for the next two weeks I’ll be sharing photos from Joshua Tree, a little peek into my desert dreams.

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Blue Ridge Mountains

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Shenandoah National Park, VA.  October 2014.

What a life I lead when the wind, it breathes

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Shenandoah mountains, VA.  October, 2014.

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