Stay Focused

Like us on Facebook

voi.ci - url shortening

Recent Posts

More Places to Go

Archives

Tags

Vacation Time

24th July 2014

Documenting the Memories

I have to admit that I like vacations.

I especially like the ones where we drive and see many different scenic parts of our vast country. Having just returned from another such jaunt, I’ve already recovered from being away from home these past few weeks. Here’s a look back to some of the photos that I took on the trip.

On this vacation we drove some 6300 miles and took in some wonderfully gorgeous areas including the Tetons, Yellowstone, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, San Diego, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mesa Verde and finally Rocky Mountain National Park.

My wife Kris and I left Grand Rapids and at this time in our lives, instead of traveling with our children we had four grandkids in tow. One of our goals was to drop off two of the grandkids in Reno. But these two also had a wish to see Yellowstone, so we set the GPS to guide us to Old Faithful. Afterwards we would meet up with several of our adult children and additional grandchildren as we made our way to additional destinations.

Naturally I had several cameras with me to record our travels. And while I thoroughly enjoy photographing the amazing mountains, canyons, monuments, waterways, forests, sites and scenery, more importantly are the photos that let me recall the precious time that we spent with our family.

Here’s some of the pictures that illustrate those moments.


Admiring Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton Nat’l Park
Waiting for Old Faithful in Yellowstone

In awe of Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
cooling off in the Firehole River in Yellowstone

at the swimming pool in Reno
aggressive paddleboarding at Lake Tahoe

inspecting the tufa at Mono Lake
colorful wildflowers of Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

surfing the Pacific in San Diego
catching a mermaid in San Diego

picking grapefruit in Phoenix
sitting on the edge of Grand Canyon

among the wonders of Monument Valley
straddling NM, AZ, UT and CO at Four Corners

As you can see, we visited some very gorgeous landscapes: incredible mountains, pristine wildernesses, jaw-dropping gorges, crystal clear lakes, raging rivers, enormous farmlands, five sensational national parks – just a vast array of features that make up our amazing country.

And while I have many more images that record these places that we visited, I’m just as content to see the faces of the grandkids, many of which we get to see but once a year.

house warming at Mesa Verde

How lucky we are to be able to capture the smiles on their faces like this.

above the snow and clouds at Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park

 

 
Photographs are certainly a powerful way to record memorable events.

Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to keep the most meaningful memories as part of my photos.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

National Park Shutdown

20th October 2013

Just Slightly Disappointed

My plan was to photograph scenery and wildlife in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I aimed the car towards the west, drove the 1900 miles to Jackson Hole and arrived on Sunday. I would spend a day in the Tetons and the evening in West Yellowstone, MT., explore the Lamar Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs on Monday, get some rest in Gardiner, MT. and then drive a short distance to Norris Geyser Basin to marvel at its thermal features on Tuesday. Of course neither I nor the hundreds of other visitors had an inkling that the parks would be closed.

On Tuesday (October 1, 2013) morning at 7:30am, I left Gardiner and passed through the grand arch on my way to the north entrance of Yellowstone. The ranger at the gate informed me that all entrances would be closing at 8:00am due to the government shutdown.

I thought, how lucky I am: “Since I’ve made it into the park, I’m going to be able to hike through the geyser basin at Norris.” I’d soon find out otherwise.


As a drove past the all of the turnoffs – Mammoth Terraces, Midway Geyser Basin, Biscuit Basin, West Thumb – I found orange cones barricading the entrance ways. Apparently, the park service anticipated the shutdown before the 8 o’clock gate closing and were already set to abide by the orders from Washington, DC.

While I was disappointed that I would not be able to visit Norris, I realized that all was not lost. There were plenty of places along the Grand Loop Road at which to stop to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.


There’s plenty of wildlife in Yellowstone and as far as I can tell none are aware that the park is closed so they’re out doing their own thing.

As I was driving in the northern part of the park just north of Obsidian Cliff, I saw this bison grazing in the field against the snow-covered mountains.

This was a lone bison, but during my short stay, I saw more bison in the park than any other species.


Continuing down the road a few miles, I pulled over at Roaring Mountain. It’s adjacent to the highway so anyone passing by can stop to admire the view.

The huge hillside is packed with dozens of fumaroles spewing steam and water into the air. It’s an amazing site.


My next stop was at Nymph Lake which is also adjacent to the highway.

Here I spotted another bison that was warming himself by the thermals and offered a picturesque view.

Although the bison was about 150 yards distant, one of my cameras had a long telephoto lens and was able to produce this capture.


Then I turned around to see another nice view.

This is Nymph Lake which also has thermals surrounding it. You can see how the trees towards the middle have been stripped of their needles and the trunk and branches absorbed the minerals from the hot springs.


Driving to just past the Midway Geyser Basin I pulled aside the highway again.

This is the Firehole River. Do you know how the river gets its name?

Here you can see the hot waters from the uphill geysers flowing over the rocks and feeding the river. The rocks gain their color from the various bacteria that inhabit these hot waters.


My next stop was at Old Faithful. I’ve been here many times but never have I seen as empty a parking area as today – fewer than 50 cars. Inside the Inn only the gift and coffee shops remained opened serving just a few visitors. Back outside I found a sign announcing the closing of the Old Faithful viewing boardwalk. The visitors ignored the sign and Old Faithful erupted as usual.

I walked around the boardwalk and snapped a few photos including this one of the Blue Star Spring.


Having lost hope that most of my favorite stop off areas were closed, I thought it was time to depart.

I continued on the highway towards the south entrance. When I reached the Lewis Falls area, I again stopped to admire the calm yet colorful foliage along the Lewis River.


As I exited Yellowstone at the south entrance, I stopped to take a souvenir photo of my shortened trip to my two favorite national parks.

I actually have a second photo that shows a closed Grand Teton National Park.


Before heading home, I made one final stop at another of my favorite places. Oxbow Bend is just outside the Grand Teton park boundary.

Here the Snake River makes an abrupt turn in a large flat that exposes the gorgeous Teton Range.

I’m thankful that this location was not barricaded.

Unfortunately, I saw buses of visitors that were unable to enter the park. I’m sure they are very disappointed by the shutdown. Although my visit was cut short, I still had a few days to enjoy my two favorite national parks and take back a few memorable photographs.

On the other hand, there were hundreds of thousands of government workers who were furloughed. And then there were the employees of the private enterprises that rely on park visitors – hotels, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations, more. Compared to these others, I suffered only minor inconvenience. I hope this doesn’t happen again to any of us.

Please feel free to leave your comments or observations.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 


 
 

Photography While On Vacation

21st September 2013

I’ve visited many of our National Parks over the years. I have had Glacier National Park in my sites for at least the last ten. This year as I planned our month long vacation, I made it a point to include Glacier on the itinerary.

This vacation was a family affair with my wife Kris, her sister Karen and two of our grandchildren. Yes, I would like this to have been a photographic journey. But when traveling with these familial others, my photographic endeavors are reined in. Of course I used the camera along the way, but most of the photographs that I took aren’t ones that will wind up in the Stay Focused Gallery.

Instead, most of my photos were taken to record the family fun activities. Here’s a few of these outtakes:


The first day we started early and stopped at a hiking trail leading to a waterfall. The trail wasn’t difficult but it was slightly rocky. Unfortunately, my wife’s sister encountered some of these rocks and twisted her ankle. Luckily, a fast moving stream fed by snowmelt was nearby to help ease the pain.

My wife felt compelled to join her sister by removing her shoes to enjoy the cool water. After our hike, we climbed back into the car and followed the park’s “Going-To-The-Sun Road” to the summit at Logan Pass.


At the summit we spotted a stealth marten bringing home some dinner. And there was other wildlife as well. The mountain goat on the right was foraging after descending from higher snow-covered levels on the nearby mountains.



Although it’s July, there’s still abundant snow at the 6,600 feet elevation. One of our granddaughters then proved to us that the snow packs well during the summer.

My Keepers

Yes, I was able to squeeze in a couple of photographs that I consider “keepers”. Both were shot in between my duties as a husband and grandfather.


I spotted this daucus corota (wild carrot) in a clearing along a hiking trail. On the right you can seetThe picturesque stream of water that was close to the road near the park’s “Triple Arches”.

The mountain goat was making his way down the snowy slopes. I think he’s going to remove his ragged coat and go shopping for a new one for the upcoming winter.


 
I try to keep photography in perspective. Yes, photography important to me, but the other family members aren’t along to watch me take photographs – they’re along to have a great vacation. I acknowledge and acede to their wishes. Once again I’ve returned from another vacation and the family is still happy!
 
 

Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 



 
 
 

We just returned home after spending the last several weeks on the road. This was our annual summer vacation and as is customary, this outing was another cross-country road trip.

From July 6 to August 3 (that’s 4 weeks), we traveled by auto from our home in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the west coast and southwest to explore many of the scenic areas and to attend several family events.

From our starting point in Michigan (latitude 42.9633° N longitude 85.6681° W), we drove in a wide loop around several of the western states (exactly 17 states).

We followed the Interstate highways (I-196, I-94, I-294, I-90, I-84, I-5, I-15, I-70, I-76, I-80) for about 75% of our route. Twenty percent of the route was over excellent US highways (US 2 and US 34) and only a small portion (5% or so) on horrible, unimproved roads (CA 58, for example).

Our vehicle was a Honda mini-van for three adults (my wife, her sister and myself) and two of our grandchildren (ages 7 and 8).

There was plenty of room for the five of us when we snapped this tongue-in-cheek photo of the rear luggage area (38 cu ft). The remaining front passenger area actually had lots of room (172 cu ft).

As an avid fan of our National Park system, I was armed with my Senior Pass. Those of us who are 62-years and older can purchase a lifetime pass for only $10. This is a substantial discount from the $75 annual or $20 per entry pass for younger visitors (61-years and below).

We visited six National Parks on this roadtrip and the two grandkids earned several Junior Ranger badges by completing the requirements during these stays.


I used a pad to keep track of the fuel usage. Here’s some of the travel statistics –

Duration: 28 days
Lodging: Madison, WI; Bismarck, ND; Shelby, MT; Kalispell, MT; Oregon City, OR; Reno, NV; Sonora, CA; Coarsegold, CA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Las Vegas, NV; Moab, UT; Glenwood Springs, CO; Sterling, CO;
Distance traveled: 7040 miles
Fuel consumed: 285 gallons
Fuel efficiency: 24.6 mpg
Ave price of fuel: $3.75/gal
Highest price of fuel: $4.19/gal
Lowest price of fuel: $3.34/gal
Total cost of fuel: $1070.00
National Parks visited: 6 – Theodore Roosevelt NP; Glacier NP; Crater Lake NP; Yosemite NP; Arches NP; Rocky Mountain NP


 
 
 

Another statistic pertains to photography. With six National Parks under our belts and the many other places that we visited along the way, I kept busy shooting pictures. In all I recorded more than 1500 keepers.

I used two cameras – a Sony NEX7 with 18-200mm lens and a Canon 6D with 8-15mm fisheye and 100-400mm telephoto lenses.

The Sony NEX7 has a built-in panorama feature which I used frequently. I also enjoyed working with an Eye-Fi SD card in the Sony NEX7. The Eye-Fi card transmits images from the Sony NEX7 directly to my iPhone automatically. This let me review the photos at my convenience. And while the Canon 6D has built-in Wi-Fi capability, I did not use it on this roadtrip.

Below are my picks from each one of the National Parks.



Theodore Roosevelt NP

Glacier NP

Crater Lake NP


Yosemite NP

Arches NP

Rocky Mountain NP

 

Of course, these boring statistics hide the real roadtrip.

Our vacation was not only about spending time together in the vehicle (we clocked roughly 140 hours driving) as we visited with family in Oregon City and Reno (which are 530 miles apart). Reno is nearby our favorite Lake Tahoe (an easy 50 mile drive) where we spent 2 days swimming its crystal clear waters (albeit a little chilly at 65 degrees). Also in Reno we invested a cool $120 at the arcade in Circus Circus to bring home 27 stuffed animals – what a deal! In Yosemite we hiked the Merced Grove trail to pay our respect to the 2000+ year old Sequoias that reach more than 250 ft towards the heavens. A two-day jaunt to Moro Bay on the Pacific coast gave the grandkids the opportunity to collect rocks and sea shells (120 of them weighing twelve pounds). Then onto a family reunion (would you believe 90+ relatives) in Las Vegas. Believe me when I say that July is not most opportune time to be in Las Vegas (the temperature was 106 degrees). As if the heat there wasn’t enough, we stopped at a hot springs in Colorado to bask in its healthy but soothing waters (104-degree pool). And in a moment of driving indecision we backtracked (more than 200 miles) to visit our last National Park. There we climbed the tundra at the top of Trail Ridge Pass which is 11,800 ft above sea level. Anxious to get home, we made the final leg home from Sterling, CO to Grand Rapids (1050 miles in 17 hours).

While I’d like to share the other 1494 photos with you, these will have to wait for another article.

Roadtrip! There’s still several more weeks to enjoy the summer vacations. I hope you can get out there to enjoy our fabulous country. Did I hear roadtrip?
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

Experiencing the Environment

03rd September 2012

and keeping the environment “a thing of importance”

Our family has been enjoying the outdoors for many years. Some of our adult children were mere babies when we trekked long distance to experience and camp in far away places like Mono Lake, Yellowstone and Acadia. We were attracted by tight knit forests, tumbling waterfalls, golden meadows, majestic mountains, winding hiking trails, abundant wildlife, trickling streams and shimmering nighttime skies.

The love of nature has been in my blood from childhood. At the University of Michigan I studied natural resource economics. The year was 1970 and the call for ecology had gone out with the first Earth Day and notable proponents such as author Rachel Carson, politician Senator Gaylord Nelson, futurist Buckminster Fuller, economist E.F. Schumacher. With my studies, I was counting on a future career that would revolve around conservation and ecology. But as often happens, this career plan didn’t come to pass. Nonetheless, I’ve been trying to keep nature and the environment close to my heart all the years since.

Wouldn’t you guess that photography has been one of my hobbies also since childhood? So it’s only natural that I would arm myself with a camera as our family traveled far and wide. And while family snapshots comprise an important part of my picture taking activities, the other part are the photos that I take to record the many amazing places that we visit.
(more…)