Day 6 – 9/29/14 Monday


Overnight at around 1

The Sorento Hotel

The Sorento Hotel

230am the pounding on the roof sounded like

The Throng Overflow @ Maroon Lake

The Throng Overflow @ Maroon Lake

the clouds had won out with what was either very heavy rain, hail, or both. Then again around 330am the same thing. I was just glad I’m near civilization if it’s going to rain all day. Around 4am cars started flowing into the parking lot here and there. Got out of the car around 520am not hearing any raindrops and looked up at a sky filled with stars!! The weather here can change as fast as a woman’s mood (artistic license).


Day 5 – 9/28/14 Sunday – Our Anniversary


Day 5 9/28 Sunday – Our Anniversary
Actually woke up with the alarm today because

Approaching Storm - Independence Pass

Approaching Storm – Independence Pass

I kept seeing stars and figured it would be a duplicate of the past two days: cloudless sunrise without any drama. Didn’t even care that the lot would be full because I would just go to the small lake as yesterday again instead, but was shocked to find that the lot was not full !!

Over the mountaintop there were plenty of clouds with the eastern sky kind of clear, so there was potential for a dramatic sky this morning; to say the least, I was excited with the possibilities. Went to the same spot and saw Dennis, one of the photographers from the previous two days and the throngs did eventually materialize and as usual they kept lining up along the lake and intruded in our shots. But it didn’t matter too much because all the action in the sky was behind us to the east and almost nothing happened above the celebrated peaks. I managed a couple of shots of the eastern sky but there was such a difference in light values, I’ll have to blend them later. I did take some shots of the peaks with the clouds but they didn’t have much color, just subtle tones. By then the sky was completely overcast and Dennis and I went to McDonalds for a late breakfast and talked of the possibility of going over Kebler pass together, the only question was when. We both still wanted a better shot of the Bells than we had gotten so we decided to stay in the area today and give it one more shot tomorrow morning before heading to the pass.

We ended up splitting up during the day, agreeing to meet up again at McDonald’s, and after going up toward Independence Pass a bit, it started to rain pretty good, so I decided to take advantage of the information Dennis’s wife gave him that the Aspen Recreation Center had showers available. So I went there and took a shower, which opened up the next few days away from civilization on the Kebler Pass road. I was in desperate need of a shower, and didn’t like the option of not having one for another two or three days; that would have been a week. Maybe I can check into a motel on Wednesday and watch Survivor.

After the shower, I headed up toward Independence Pass again, this time under only cloudy skies. When I got to a spot with a lot of thin, tall aspens, I found that there was also no breeze, so I spent quite a bit of time there. In fact I ended up perseverating on one shot in particular, so I guess I liked it quite a bit. However, it was a motion blur, so others may not care too much for it. I was able to isolate an evergreen in the grove of aspen trunks and yellow/green aspen leaves filling the frame and then blurred it. I found that with a two second exposure, I held still for one second to really get a good form of the evergreen and then blurred it for the second half of the exposure. I began using my jacket as a large cloth over my head to better see the latest shot when it’s bright out, otherwise you can’t really see what is on the screen and make proper judgements about any adjustments that need to be made. This method may be part of my regular routine in the future.
Later I stopped at a small waterfall in kind of a bowl of stone that was pretty neat, along with some cascades in front of what I think may be willows, and then onto the pass where the temperature was really cold and the wind was howling!!! The sky was pretty dramatic with loads of interesting clouds speeding by and there are several small ponds up there for reflections, but the clouds never really lit up like this morning and the color again was pretty muted as well; but it was a kind of unreal color between peach and tan. After it seemed what little light show there was, was over, I got back to McDonald’s and Dennis was already there working on his pictures from this morning on his laptop. He is very good at Photoshop and getting everything out of a photo that you can with many subtle changes to improve what was already a good shot. He did a five minute exposure to blur the streaking clouds above the Bells this morning creating a really great image and then made it even better. After McDonald’s, we’ll end up back near the Bells camping so we’ll be close by for the final attempt of an iconic shot in the morning. I see stars and clouds, we’ll see which wins out tomorrow morning.

Day 4 – 9/27/14 Saturday

Small Lake and Maroon Bells

Small Lake and Maroon Bells

Set the alarm for 545am but woke up around 5am and noticed that two people left the campground (there are only 4 spots) and headed toward the parking lot for Maroon Lake, so I quickly got dressed and did the same and found the lot already full!!! Luckily someone must have stayed there overnight and told me he was leaving and I could have his spot, what a blessing. I walked up to the lake and found a larger throng than yesterday but I went to the same spot where there were a few rocks for foreground and Mike and Richard were both there again. There must have been 200 people easily, and so many people went way to far up the lake and were in all our shots. So many were just horsing around making lots of noise, it just killed the sanctity of the spot. But it was really enjoyable sitting on a rock talking to them in the darkness and the time went  by quickly talking about all things photography. As the sky began to brighten, we were all disappointed that the storm yesterday had not left any snow for us and there were no clouds, so it was a duplicate of yesterday’s dull sunrise and I didn’t take too many shots of it but did retake some of the other shots from yesterday because of the ISO problem and a few others as well. Some other photographer had come over and was telling us about a small lake down the road, so I went to look for and found it. I got there just as the grass was lit by the sun coming over the eastern peaks and managed a few shots, but it may be better with it in shade. Great reflections though. Took some more aspen shots and tried some blurred images before heading into town for some lunch and trying to get some pictures up on the blog, but all my battery power was down and I still couldn’t get it done. But when I walked into McDonalds, who was sitting there but Mike from the lake for the past few days, and he was happy to see me and we sat with our lunches and talked a while. After that I headed up Clear Creek Road?? Just to see what was there, but ended up only taking the camera out for one shot of the creek and just got back to the car as it started to rain. More thunderstorms so I thought I’d go back up to Independence Pass in hopes of a clearing storm at sunset, but was disappointed just as I was yesterday. But I took some shots on the way up and some more in the dwindling light on the way down. Dined at McDonalds again, 3rd time having the same meal. I have to come here because no one bothers you how long you stay and they have free wi-fi. I also charged one of my camera batteries because it was almost empty and during the day managed to charge my phone with the back up power and charged the iPad from the car. This will be the third night camping here and may stay another night before going somewhere to get into a shower; my hair is a mess. Maybe I can hold out until Wednesday night so I can see Survivor!! That’s only Monday and Tuesday and I will have a week under my belt.

I have heard that Kebler pass is not yet peak which is why I stayed here an extra night, and I also want to go on the SilverThread Highway as a minimum before clearing out of Colorado. But if the aspens are still gold, then I can stay as an option as well. But I like shots of bare trees too. The bad thing of having no itinerary is that you have to make decisions all the time about where to go next, when to go or to stay to see some more places that others have mentioned. And that’s on top of the minute by minute decisions about if something you have seen is worthy of stopping or turning around to get to some pull-off nearby. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around on this trip already, but that is the way its always been on a trip.
Hopefully, something will happen for the sunrise at Maroon Lake tomorrow or I’ll just go back to the small lake and do a few more things before I decide where to go next. It all hangs in the balance of tomorrow’s sunrise. If I leave, I will do so without getting the major shot of this stop. A bit if a disappointment.

Day 3 – 9/26/14 Friday


Got up super early this morning after sleeping so so; figured I would head up to Maroon Lake really early since I probably wouldn’t sleep any more and maybe try some star photography. I was in total shock when I got to the parking lot because it was completely filled!!!

I got the absolute last spot there, everyone was packing up their photo gear and heading to the lake in pitch darkness!!! I guess they wanted to get the prime spot and you need to get there early, like the previous night. When I got there, there were probably only about 75 other photographers and as it finally started to get light, there must have been well over 100 standing shoulder to shoulder. Some had chairs, some passed the time playing video games on their iPad, it was a zoo and it wasn’t even a weekend. Anyway, the sky was without clouds and there was no snow on the Maroon Bells but the aspens were perfect. I took the obligatory shot when the light first hit the peaks with that red glow, but not much afterward. Did have problems with people just plopping their butts on a rock in front of me and when I asked if they could slide over a bit, they were a bit indignant and moved but were still in the shot and they were there just to look!! They weren’t even photographers. Took a lot of other shots because the place was amazing and when the light worked its way down the valley to light up the aspens, the reflections were amazing.

One major problem though was all of a sudden the camera went into auto- ISO and I couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. I tried everything, so I finally went over to the guys I was near who were definitely major photographers just listening to them and asked if they could help. They put on their collective thinking caps and still couldn’t figure it out, but they said “she should know” She looked at the camera, and since she had the same one, said just push this button and turn the wheel and Whammo, it was fixed!! I couldn’t be happier. So I continued my shooting and was about to leave, but noticed the outlet for Maroon Creek and walked along the trail a bit and ended up taking some good long exposure shots of the water and some moss covered rocks along the stream. I was pretty happy with them.
I did finally leave since the light was filtering into everything by now, and wanted to work my way up to Independence Pass and see what was going on along that road. It was pretty and stopped a few times to take some shots, and had lunch at a great overlook of the whole valley, and then onto the pass which was well above tree line, but it was another throng of people. I guess the time spent at Bisti was the only solitude so far for this trip. I imagine it will continue this way until I reach the remote places in Utah. At the pass, I saw some angry clouds coming and thought they may light up at sunset because it was mostly clear on the western horizon. So I hung around for what would be about two hours waiting, and sure enough the sun filtered onto the pass with the black clouds south. However, as they say, always look around because you might see something better. Well, another storm was approaching and I didn’t think it would miss us, so I took a few quick iPhone Photos and headed back to the car just as it let loose with heavy rain, lightening and hail !! I watched all the tourists doing stupid things, like standing in front of the Independence Pass sign for a picture, or driving their car in front of the sign and taking photos of it from the car. It was a real sideshow. When the storm stopped for a bit, the mountains now had a light dusting of snow/hail, so hopefully, the Maroon Bells should have some tomorrow morning to make them just a bit more interesting.
After waiting until almost 630, I finally gave up and headed down in the rain only to see the sun break through for a brief minute and light up the mountainside, but it was still raining…it was one of those things to enjoy seeing, but not being able to photograph it in any decent way. Drove into Aspen and used the GPS to find a McDonalds but it couldn’t help me find a parking spot; I had to drive around and around until I found one several blocks away. It didn’t have its own lot, it was more like a store in town, but I finally got something to eat instead of the staple of these trips which I had for lunch: tuna, crackers and a can of fruit cocktail. Had a lot of problems with trying to get pictures to post and ended up doing it in a separate post and couldn’t make them smaller like I wanted, so only did 3 because of all the problems.
I ended up getting another night at the campsite, which is really a parking area, but I don’t mind since I sleep in the Hotel Sorento. It’s a bit cramped, but good enough for a few days at a time. You can’t beat the campsite price: only $7.50 for us senior citizens. Free would be better, but they will be few, I still like to know there are other members of civilization somewhere not too far.
Back at the campsite, when I arrived, someone was in my spot, so I parked in another, but a girl came out and asked if I wanted them to move, they just didn’t have any other place to camp. I said no problem, but because I was out for a minute, I noticed the stars were surprisingly out since I thought the sky would be cloudy. I could actually see the Milky Way, so out came the camera and I slapped on the 28mm so I could easily focus at infinity and included some fir trees that were right behind the car. I’m sure my neighbors didn’t like all the car door closing and my headlamp shining a lot of the time, but I managed to get some shots of the Milky Way which was a first for me. This mornings star shots at Maroon Lake, just to pass the time, were all duds.
One other note: although I had no headache this morning, it came back this afternoon and again did not respond to Tylenol, but it seemed better after one Alieve, dinner and lower altitude. If I wasn’t feeling better by the time I got back to the campground, I probably would not have even attempted the Milky Way shots.

Still attempting to get some photos up but so far have been unsuccessful.

Day 2 – 9/25/14 Thursday


I got up @ 315am local time because of the expected two hour drive to the Bisti Badlands and arrived pretty much just when I wanted; it was still dark and ready to get on with trying to find the Egg Factory, which was my first goal here. Luckily, I had already inserted the GPS coordinates for several locations at home so all I had to do was look it up and punch Go To and I was on my way. Unfortunately, I had lost a lot of valuable time with a slight call of nature so when I got all the gear together, it was already getting a bit light out. I followed the GPS and the notes I had researched and managed to get some interesting shots just as the sun began to kiss some of the unusual formations I had run across having not reached the eggs yet; I was luckily there were some interesting formations nearby when it happened. I also went to the left of a small black hill with small bright red stones that was really interesting, but I ventured on. When I seemed to be getting close, I did see a lot of small hoodoos over a pretty large area, but felt it wasn’t’ the eggs, so I looked around another small rise toward the south and there they were!!! I found them on the first try, when I’ve read that many people can’t seem the find them on several attempts. But I lucked out, although the sun had already hit them, so the shots were not what I had wanted, there were no clouds for any color in the sky, but nonetheless, interesting. I stayed longer than I should have and headed back knowing I had a long drive to Aspen, but on the way back, I found a small spot that was super; it was what I called the Little Wings and I think if I get back there like I hope later in the trip, it will be great just as the sun hits them and then I can get on over to the eggs again before the sun hits them. I also stopped at the little black hill with red stones, and most of it was in sunlight now, but took a few shots anyway. Finally got back to the car, sweating but happy….4 miles of hiking round trip.
While at the car packing up my gear, I also set up the car for sleeping, putting things in some kind of order and trying to create a space for the sleeping bag with all this stuff!!! So, I spent quite a while doing that before I finally headed out for Aspen going through Durango and over the Million Dollar Highway and then on through McClure Pass. While I was in Farmington, my wife called and said she could follow exactly where I was with my phone, telling me I was coming up to a Sonic, and sure enough, there it was!! That simply amazed me.
Route 550 between Durango and Ouray is simply awesome. The aspens were at peak, whereas the last time I was through the area, most of the leaves were gone except the lower elevations and the sun was shining with a few puffy clouds that created moving shadows on the mountains…just spectacular. I really wanted to stop so many times to do some photography, but I managed to limit it to one spot, telling myself that there will be plenty of time once I get to Aspen and I’ll take my time each day thereafter. As it was, I would be lucky to get to the campground before nightfall and did just get in a view of the famous Maroon Bells and lake in the fading light.
It was a very varied day, hiking in a flat desolate wilderness of rock, to mountains and valleys filled with sunlit golden aspens. The only way it might have been better was if there were snow on the peaks. But usually the way you get that is if it is raining in the valleys, which is what happened most of my last trip, very little sunshine.
I did pretty good on the number of photos, probably only about 60 shots, but I did take quite a few with the iPhone which I hope to post tomorrow if I find some service in town.

Day 1 – 9/24/14 Wednesday


Today is the first day of the rest of the trip which began in the rain, and I don’t ever remember going on one of these trips in anything but clear skies. But we took off on time, got above the clouds quickly and with the sky getting lighter with the dawn, you could make out all the wonderful cloud formations, and it continued on through a beautiful sunrise. It cleared soon after and you could see fog in the valleys of rivers and streams, making wild shapes with fingers of fog spreading out into the areas around these waterways. The sun was really low as we approached Chicago and there seemed to be a lot of lakes that were calm and mirrored the clouds as we passed over them. No problem with connections, although had to walk a mile from one end of the terminal to the other end. Got to Phoenix on time, my bags were in the first few to come out and I was on my way to the rental area. Everything was going smoothly, and I thought I might make Bisti before sundown for some photos and just to get a feel for a morning shoot tomorrow. However, things did not go smoothly at Alamo. I asked about the 10% discount from COSCO that I was supposed to get when I got to the counter, and he said no problem, spent a lot of time typing on the computer, writing things down, printing it all out, explaining the insurance options (which would have added $600 to the cost of the rental) and then wanted me to sign the agreement at $100 more!!! Where is the discount? More banging on the computer, puzzled looks and finally got it done, but only after about 45 minutes!!! It was not looking good to get to Bisti by 6pm, but I had a shot. I went down to get the car and was told to choose either a Dodge Journey (which did not look like it was very high off the ground and small) or the Nissan Xterra, which looked like the perfect car for this trip…BUT I couldn’t get the seats down nor get the headrest off to get the seats flat!!! Called someone over to help out and we finally figured it out, but that took quite a while and I lost more time. I figured the nightmare was over and went to exit and the guy says that I can’t take the car because it has to get back to Canada!! I’ll have to get another car !!!! Now it was out of the question and ended up making a Motel 6 reservation for Gallup instead of Farmington. Very disappointed to say the least.
The drive out of Phoenix was interesting; it started out with 100 degree temps and huge tree like cacti, almost like a forest growing on mountains as I drove over what seemed to be several mountain ranges. Finally ended up on the very flat Mogholland Rim with Ponderosa pine growing tall and temps around 80, but as I headed away from the edge of the rim, it became very flat grassland. I hooked up with I-40 and headed east to Gallup where I went to WalMart ( really like being on another planet) to get all my provisions, including flip flops since I had forgotten mine, and then to Home Depot for 2x8x8 cut into 4
two foot pieces for possible help if I get stuck in mud (I read that somewhere). Over to McD for dinner and back for a shower and rest. Getting up early tomorrow to drive 2 hours to Bisti for the sunrise. Popped tonight. Have been battling a bad headache all day having taken Tylenol twice, but for some reason, it has persisted despite the pills. Hope it goes away overnight.



So….(I thought I would begin this adventure blog/diary with the word that everyone seems to use to begin a sentence nowadays in my meager attempt to give it a more up to date feel rather than beginning with “Well….” as President Reagan might have done since he began almost every answer to a question with that word, and therefore encumbering it with a stodgy, stately feel, or just beginning with something like “Today…..” which will end up sounding repetitious after a few weeks go by, requiring me to be much more creative with the beginning of each post than I actually am, when in all likelihood, I will be somewhat exhausted, both physically and mentally, each day and not really be in the mood for creativity, being taxed enough to just recall all the events of the day much less wax poetic like Ernest Hemingway !!) ….I began to pack most of the non-clothing items for the trip (camping gear, tripod, sleeping bag and pads, etc) meticulously placing each item into a spot within the bag so as to utilize the space as efficiently as possible, all the while being keenly aware that even with all the gear squeezed into it, it should still allow the bag to be zipped closed and buckled securely while still falling below the 50 pound weight limit imposed by the airlines, but nonetheless, although I did manage, with a valiant effort and breaking into a sweat, buckle and secure everything within the bag, I would ultimately fail miserably having to remove my hiking boots to achieve said weight limit, but leaving me with the perplexing quandary of: Where the hell do I put the boots now !?!?! If memory serves me, the following is a list of what went into this poor, hapless although cavernous, bag: tripod, large umbrella and an attachment for tripod, cane (for hiking the Virgin River in Zion), camp stove, camp pots, lighter, eye dropper, funnel, gas bottle (empty), railroad lamp, freeze-dried food (8), sleeping bag, blow up pillow (2), foam sleeping pads (2), plastic bottles for water, plastic bottles for food, full hiking backpack, Leatherman tool, Swiss Army knife, cleaning kit for my glasses, bath towel, plastic bags, garbage bags, toilet paper, river walking shoes with wick socks, spare AA batteries and a few other small items I’m sure I’ve already forgotten about and will probably never need, but will ultimately scratch my head and wonder when I’m finally back home and unpacking saying, “Why in the world did I pack that?”

Troy meadows, nj

my iconic image



Troy meadows, nj

meadow of loosestrife

loosestrife and fog

loosestrife and fog

If I ever had an iconic image, it would be “meadow of loosestrife”. This location was discovered just passing by in the family car while driving my daughter to summer camp and had we driven by a week earlier, the flowers would not have been in bloom. Or I might have been looking in the rear view mirror or something related to driving and not even noticed the scene. But I did happen to catch a glimpse of the line of flowers and the solitary tree and immediately knew I had to return there to somehow record what I saw for just those few seconds.