West 2018 Day 12 – Yosemite Day 2

Thursday 5/24/18

We could only afford the $200/night yurt for one night, so we checked out in the morning and drove out to the “end” of the valley near the Upper Pines campground.  The goal was to hike one or both of Vernal and Nevada falls, an area of the park we had not explored at all on the last visit.

The day almost got derailed when I dragged the car across a rather large but inconspicuous rock in the parking lot.  I didn’t see any oil leaks, but it is possible that the life of the oil pan was reduced slightly by the mishap.

Vernal falls is the first falls heading up the Merced river out of Yosemite Valley.  It’s steep, but paved up to a bridge where you can view the falls, so it gets a lot of foot traffic.  The trail to the falls itself was a bit more rugged, but there were still a lot of people, particularly as things slowed down right around the falls.  The slower moving also meant it was going to be nearly impossible to get through without getting pretty wet from the falls.  We both had raincoat options with us, and it was a relatively warm day so it wasn’t really an issue. Continue reading

West 2018 Day 11 – Yosemite Day 1

Wednesday 5/23/18

We knew that Yosemite was going to be busy even though it was early in the season, every information website we found told us so.  But, they have first-come camping at Camp 4 that we thought we’d get in line for when they opened as we had done at the Grand Canyon.  So, we got up early, dumped the tent in the car and headed up to Yosemite.

We pulled in just before 9:00 when they opened only to discover that the line had apparently started some time before.  We got in line anyway.  The story from the others in line was that there were 69 spots and numbers had been given out up to 65.  Counting, we were somewhere in the low 70’s in line.  It appeared they were assigning spots as people checked out for the day, so we would have had to wait until 11:00 or so just to see if we could get a spot.  This forced the big splurge of the trip in booking one of the Yurts in Half Dome Village for the night at almost $200 / night.

There is no way the Yurts or staying in the village was worth $200, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it.  The biggest benefit was access to the showers (also accessible for $5 regardless of campsite), which was admittedly nice since we had camped the two nights prior.  The benefits to having established a place to stay was that we weren’t going to have to drive an hour or more out of the park to find somewhere to sleep that night and we were free to actually make use of the day rather than stand in line to play the odds on getting a camp site. Continue reading

West 2018 Day 10 – Kings Canyon

Tuesday 5/22/18

We planned to stay a couple nights in King’s Canyon with one day of hiking, so after making coffee and breakfast we went to register the site and hit up the visitor center and figure out what trails to hike.  Our first hike was to be a quick loop of Big Stump Trail.  We did the loop, and found some stumps, but we never found the one that looked like the pictures or that was labeled big stump (the pictures showed a staircase up it, so it should have been obvious).

Second stop was back near camp and the village – the General Grant Tree loop (it’s maybe a mile loop from the parking lot, and I think fully paved).  This is King’s Canyon’s competition to the General Sherman Tree and is second largest in volume, but largest by diameter if I recall.  There’s also a fallen tree around that’s hollowed out as a tunnel and makes up a portion of the path.

Third was driving down into Kings Canyon via the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.  We were intending to do a hike at the end (some loop of the Copper Creek Trail) but it started lightly raining less than ¼ mile into the hike and we turned back.  It continued to rain for much of the afternoon, so not being on a 6 mile hike was probably good.  We drove back up the byway poking out at a few viewpoints.  There’s a good number of trails and hike-in campgrounds at the end of the drive, so it could definitely be an interesting one to revisit in the future with a bit more planning for overnights. Continue reading



One of the waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains on the trail to Rainbow Falls.  This has been about the only place I’ve visited where I really like the warmer tone to the pictures.  Typically, I seem to like everything to lean toward the blue-magenta area of the color triangle.

Picture taken with Canon 60D, EF-S 17-85mm @ 26mm, 0.6 sec shutter, f/11, ISO 100

Oregon – Day 3 – Crater Lake

Day 3 was mostly spent at Crater Lake.  I like to relax on vacation by demanding that we wake up in time for sunrise and go to take pictures.  In light of this, we got up early to head to Watchman overlook with our coffee, but finding clouds there, backtracked to Discover Point and arrived just moments after the sun peeked out.  Unfortunately, or fortunately if you like the look of it, there was a cloud in the direct path of the sun coming up.  Either way, we were only there for one morning, so I took a bunch of pictures and then we headed back to the campground to pack up and move out.

Sunrise over Crater Lake

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Oregon – Day 2 – Crater Lake

Day 2 was our started by completing the drive to Crater Lake.  Like a lot of the National Parks, the area you want to get to ends up being rather remote and it was about a 45 minute drive from the nearest town into the closest visitor center.  With that in mind, I should have stopped for gas at that nearest town…  Fortunately, the park is pretty well developed and has a small general store with fuel near Mazama Village where the campsite was (3).

Crater Lake

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Oregon – Day 1 – Portland

It started with a notion that Portland, Oregon would be a nice city to visit.  With the house search happening, the notion was not receiving much commitment nor planning.  But, since the house dealings were all in order and there wasn’t really anything for me to do but wait, Janet and I took a week vacation and did an extreme last minute trip.  Last minute flights – literally booked 60 hours before departure – were cheap enough to go.  So, we headed out from GRR to PDX for a week nearer the Pacific.

Multnomah Falls

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Ramsey Falls

Ramsey Falls

A second picture of Ramsey Falls – this one maybe more ‘interesting’ than particularly good.  I had read about a technique of compiling multiple pictures to gain the effect of using a ND filter and slow shutter.  This was the outcome of 21 pictures, all taken at 1/250 shutter and then compiled with StarStaX.  As you might infer from the name,  the program was written to compile star track images by (among other methods) taking the brightest pixel from each of the 21 images for the final.

Pictures taken with Sony a6000, SEL 18-200mm lens @ 18mm, 1/250 sec, f/9, ISO 100