Tag Archives: national park
At the end of June I was lucky enough to be able to escape up to Mt Desert Island and Acadia National Park for a long weekend. When I was a kid I used to spend at least a week every summer in Acadia visiting my grandparents but it had been four years since I’d been back this time. This was also my first “photography” trip to Acadia and I now have one more reason to love the place.
After getting in to our campsite late at night following the quite long drive up north from the Cape, we slept in on our first morning and totally missed the sunrise. The day ended up being a beautiful, cool, bluebird summer day and the weather was perfect for our hike up Cadillac Mountain.
View Cadillac Mtn 6-22-2013 in a larger map
By (un)happy coincidence we were in Acadia over the summer solstice. On the morning of the Solstice, which is the day with the longest amount of daylight, I woke up at 3:15 and drove up to the top of Cadillac Mountain for sunrise. For a good part of the year, Cadillac is where the sun first strikes the continental United States. It’s a popular location for sunrise and I was surprised by the sheer number of people (and families!) who managed to haul themselves out of bed for the sunrise.
As the sun rose to the horizon, it became clear that this was going to be a ripper of a sunrise. I scrambled around the summit area like mad trying to find decent compositions amid the jumbled blocks of granite and stunted trees and came away with a few shots that I was happy with.
As the sun rose higher into the sky and the color died away, we retreated back to the campsite and got another couple hours of sleep. The rest of the day ended up being misty and overcast. We explored the Park Loop Road and hiked a good length of the coastline from Thunder Hole to Otter Cliffs.
That night we drove across the island to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. This light is another of the more famous Acadia attractions and it was suitably crowded with tourists and other photographers. The misty clouds stuck around and robbed the sunset of any remarkable color but I still managed to grab a few good shots of the iconic lighthouse and the rocky Maine coastline.
The next morning we returned to the summit of Cadillac Mountain for another sunrise. I had a slightly better handle on the summit area and was able to quickly find several of the spots I’d wanted to shoot the previous morning. This area is crammed full of interesting compositions and I’m sure I could spend a month of sunrises on the summit without getting bored. The light was a little calmer than the previous morning and the still-present mist added an interesting element.
After a quick breakfast, we broke camp, packed the car, and drove back to Cape Cod. This trip left me extremely anxious to return to Acadia, however, to explore more of the interior of the park and more of the coastline along the Park Loop Road and Otter Cliffs.
After shooting waterfalls on my first day in Glacier National Park, I shot the sunset at Goose Island Overlook. This is one of the most famous sunset spots in the park and although the view was excellent, I was treated to a total no-show of a sunset. A black and white treatment turned out reasonably well.
I spent a calm, cool night at a campground just outside the gates and woke up bright and early to beat the crowds to Logan Pass. Labor Day Weekend is one of the last weekends that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open and the crowds were out in full force. I secured my parking spot and then set off quickly up the Hidden Lake Overlook trail. The boardwalk cut a jagged line through a meadow of wildflowers and wrapped around the base of Mt. Reynolds towards a ridge. At the top of the ridge, the trail cut through some stubby pine trees and ended at a stunning vista of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.
The haze visible behind the mountain is smoke from the brand new wildfire near Avalanche Lake. More on that later.
Descending from the overlook, I quickly ducked off the trail and into the Hanging Valley area. For a couple weeks at the end of the summer the park service opens up Hanging Valley to off-trail exploration. Tightly gripping my bear spray, I set off down the valley, following a rocky, slimy stream bed. I was looking for Triple Falls, a popular but hard to find slot canyon near Logan Pass. Three streams empty into the small canyon, making for an engaging foreground to go with the stellar mountain backgrounds all around. After about an hour of mucking around in stream beds and snowfields, I finally stumbled upon the falls. This late in the summer, only two of the falls were running, but it was still a blast to find and explore an area I’d seen and heard so much about. I covered Triple Falls in my Waterfalls of Glacier National Parkpost and you can check out the rest of my shots there.
I hiked out following the stream downhill and back to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. I drove west and downhill, heading for the Avalanche area. The western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was as magnificent and scary as the east side. The road is carved into the side of the mountains and at many places there are barely enough room for two cars to pass side-by-side. Couple this with attention-stealing views and it’s a bit risky.
I arrived at the parking lot for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake only to find that a fresh wildfire had closed the trail to Avalanche Lake. I was beginning to get a bit fed up with the crowds, totally booked campgrounds, and the wildfires and decided that I was going to head back to Bozeman that night. Fortunately, I decided to walk the Trail of the Cedars first. Trail of the Cedars is a wide, accessible path that winds for less than a mile through towering cedars (surprisingly…) and along the banks of Avalanche Creek. At the end of the path I found one of the classic views of Avalanche Gorge that I had been hoping to shoot. I scrambled out onto a rock outcropping and managed to salvage a little bit of my afternoon in the shot that heads up this post and the portrait orientation to the left.
It was a long, smoky, six hour drive back to Bozeman but well worth it. I can’t wait to get back to Glacier, hopefully with some other photographers, to explore the miles of trails and countless landscapes that I missed out on. I’m pretty sure I could spend a whole summer shooting and hiking here and not get bored.
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I finally made it to Glacier National Park last weekend. I’ve been dying to go ever since I moved to Montana three years ago. It’s a 6 hour drive through lots of empty farm coutnry from Bozeman, but it was completely worth it.
I pulled into the park just after 1pm on Saturday. Predictably, all the campgrounds were full so I drove around the tiny gateway town of St. Mary, MT and found Johnson’s of St Mary, a large private campground on a hill overlooking the town and St Mary Lake. I staked out my campsite, dropped off some gear, and drove back into the park.
St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls
My first objective was St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. I only had the afternoon to hike and I was solo. Not being particularly thrilled with venturing too far into the woods without a partner, I stuck close to the road. The trailhead for St. Mary Falls is 10 miles down the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the head of St Mary Lake. The trail quickly plunges through deep forest down to an intersection with the Continental Divide Trail. After barely a mile and a half of hiking, the trail crosses the river at St Mary Falls. It’s a gorgeous, albeit crowded location. It’s well worth leaving the trail and common viewpoints and scrambling around on the rocky banks of the river to get closer and different views of the falls.
The top of the falls are a little tight and choked off by the surrounding rock walls. In order to eliminate this restriction and to get a different composition, I crossed back over the bridge and walked underneath.
Past St Mary Falls, the trail continues uphill for less than a mile. The hike follows the river and there are numerous waterfalls along the edges of the trail that are not marked or frequented.
After a total of about 2.25 miles of hiking, the trail levels off at Virginia Falls. These falls are much higher and much more dramatic than St Mary Falls. There are multiples levels and steps to the falls, and tons of small pools and drop-offs. It’s a fun area to explore around, although it was mobbed with kids and their families when I was there.
You can check out the GPS tracks for my hike to St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls here: 9.1.2012 St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls on Garmin Connect.
The next day I woke up early and drove up the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. The parking lot fills quickly and I was trying to beat the crowds for my morning hike. I set off up the Hidden Lake Trail at around 9:30 AM. I topped out at the Hidden Lake Overlook and then turned around and started back down to the trail. My objective for the morning was Triple Falls, an awesome set of three creeks that all spill into one small slot in the bedrock. The location is a somewhat closely guarded secret and no one will quite tell you where it is. After about an hour and a half of tramping around in creeks and on snowfields, tensely looking over my shoulder for bears, I finally stumbled onto Triple Falls. The leading image in this post is one of the first shots I took. The water was absolutely frigid and the spray inside the slot was intense, so I didn’t linger very long. I can’t wait to get back though, as this would have been a killer location for a sunrise or a sunset.
I’ve got a ton more pictures from Glacier that I’m still working on processing and those should be posted within the next couple days (Posted Here!)as I find the time.
I made my first trip since November back to Yellowstone yesterday. The first set of park roads opened for the spring on Friday, clearing the way for travel between Mammoth and Old Faithful, including the road to Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was a gorgeous day right with not a cloud in the sky until late in the afternoon. The wildlife were out and about en masse and we spotted the Lamar Canyon wolf pack and the ensuing pack of rabid, insane wolf-watchers, countless buffalo, some pronghorn antelope, some elk, a fox, and a bald eagle.
We started the morning driving out to Cooke City through the Lamar Valley. At one section of the road where the Lamar River runs quite close to the Northeast Entrance road, there were two large packs of photographers packed into the side of the road watching the Lamar Canyon wolf pack on a kill on the river bank. We parked and pulled over and, figuring that there was no reason to be standing shoulder to shoulder with 40 other people in the middle of a huge National Park, started to walk down the road away from the crowd. We were immediately yelled and waved at by an amazingly translucent creepy old man wearing an orange flag vest with “Yellowstone Wolf Project” emblazoned on it. He sneered condescendingly at us that we had just entered the “No Standing” zone and would have to return to the pack. A minute later he was back yelling at another couple who dared to try to walk up the road and entered the “No Walking” zone.
I have no problem with protecting wildlife and managing the human impact on the park. However, one of things that I enjoy the most about the National Parks is that, as long as they aren’t actively breaking any federal laws, visitors are pretty much free to do whatever they want. Not so in Yellowstone near a wolf pack. I have no idea if this guy was affiliated with the National Park Service in any way, but he plainly thought that he was in charge of this wolf pack viewing and appeared baffled that we didn’t know to respect his authority. I have never encountered that kind of managed, controlled experience in a National Park before and it was very off-putting. If I want to view animals from defined areas under the watchful eyes of people on a power trip, I’ll go to the zoo.
Despite our encounter with translucent wolf man, the rest of the day was extremely enjoyable. After driving the Lamar Valley, we hooked south to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Norris Geyser Basin. There is still a pretty decent snowpack in the higher elevations of the park, but hopefully the rest of the roads will be open soon.