July 10, 2017, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

I had been waiting quite a while to revisit Crater Lake National Park here in Oregon, located about 100 miles south of Bend, where I am currently staying. First visited way back in 1993 on a month long excursion up the west coast, I had been wanting to return since the loop road around the lake had been closed due to snow on my first trip up there.

What's Left of 548 Inches of Snow
What’s Left of 548 Inches of Snow

So, sitting here in the Saint Charles Hospital camping area, I have been online checking the road conditions in the park for the past two months, waiting for the all clear before doing the 200 mile round trip. The park’s website said that the north entrance road would finally be open around the 6th of July, so I waited until the Monday after the holiday week to make the trip.

I read somewhere that the park received more than 548 inches of snow this winter, a little more than normal, thus the later than usual opening of the north entrance road, the south entrance, I believe, is always kept open.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

The loop road was still partially closed, only 9 miles on the northern end of the lake was open to traffic. If planning a trip here this summer, or actually anytime in the next three years, be aware that there are some pretty long construction delays you will encounter due to heavy road work scheduled over that period.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

The lake has some of the purest water found anywhere, being fed entirely by rain and snowfall only, no rivers or streams enter the lake.

Crater Lake, That's Water, Not Sky Behind the Rocks
Crater Lake, That’s Water, Not Sky Behind the Rocks

You pretty much have to see it to believe it, the blue of the water is something to behold, due to water clarity and extreme depths, this is also the deepest lake in North America. The shot above is taken looking down on that rock formation and that is the lake in the background, not the sky. I have experienced nothing but blue sky days like this every day for the past six weeks, no clouds, no rain, just sun and blue skies every day. Boring, but beautiful.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park

Surrounded by coniferous forests, the surface of the lake today was just covered by pollen in places along the north shore.

Nothing new to report on the health front, now in my third four week round  of chemo and still suffering no side affects with weekly test results still running very positive, leaving me more optimistic about the future every week. Keeping my fingers crossed!

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June 28, 2017, Bend, Oregon

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Some Good News!

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

First off, I would like to thank all of you that have sent encouraging comments regarding my current health situation, it is greatly appreciated. I originally had no intention of posting progress reports on that front, but several readers suggested I should, so I will keep you posted.

But since the main purpose of this blog is to showcase the landscapes and wildlife of this continent, let’s proceed in that direction first.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I am currently camped along the loop road around the Saint Charles Hospital Campus in Bend. The hospital has a small, eleven space campground with full hookups that it graciously supplies to it’s patients and their families, free of charge. And for me, it has been a lifesaver! The Bend area has a few very nice, and very expensive RV Parks, and the surrounding area also has several public and private campgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … they all are booked pretty much solid throughout the summer months. And, until I was allowed to park my rig here, I was out of luck trying to find a place to stay for my chemo treatments. So, thank you, Saint Charles !

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I have been here undergoing weekly treatment now for seven weeks and really haven’t had the emotional, or at times, the physical energy to get out and explore the area.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

A couple weeks ago, on a ninety plus degree day, I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the Prius, turned the AC on and did the 100 mile drive east to the John Day area of central Oregon. I only made it to the painted hills section of John Day, but that alone was worth the trip as I hope some of these shots may show.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Earlier this month, I made a return trip to Malhuer NWR in the Prius to check out what the refuge had to offer in early summer. I was really hoping to be able to explore the Stines Mountain area and perhaps get a chance to see some of the wild horses there, but the road was still gated.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

The refuge certainly looked different than on my previous visits, both of which were in very early spring. There was very little bird activity, and the roadside shrubs and bushes were now all leaved out and the fields were now covered with three and four foot high grasses, so even if there was anything there, it would be impossible to see anything.

The only shot I even took was of this common nighthawk sitting in the middle of the refuge road.

Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor

Memorial Day weekend, I drove up to Mount Bachelor, only 20 miles out of Bend. Base depths on the hill were still at eight feet at the end of May and the parking lot was quite crowded, with many RV’s and folks staying in tents below the high parking lot snow banks.

Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor

Seventy-five degrees and sunny, ideal weather for golf or fishing down in town, yet perfect spring asking weather half an hour away, not hard to see why this area is so popular. Just an incredible amount of building going on and housing is very expensive here.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

OK, Here’s the Progress Report

Hood Canal Action
Hood Canal Action

I have forced myself to resume painting and just completed my first acrylic painting on canvas. This is a composite of a few photos from the Hood Canal in Washington, where Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons congregate in late spring to take advantage of the sculpin spawn in the oyster beds along the shore where  Big Beef Creek enters the canal.

This painting measures 24″ x 16″ and depicts the way the Bald Eagles harass the herons to give up their catch. The eagles perch in tall pines along the shore and watch while the herons hunt through the oyster beds looking for the spawning sculpins. As soon as a heron plucks a fish from the water, the eagles swoop down from the pines and force them to give up their catch. You can right click on the image if you would like to see a larger version of the painting.

On the myeloma front, I just completed round two of my multi-drug chemo therapy, and my oncologist is very pleased with the results thus far! My kidney function, not that long ago at a stage four kidney disease level, just a hair’s breath away from requiring dialysis, has already returned to completely normal function. My red blood cell count is slowly increasing and all the bad stuff is rapidly decreasing, indicating that the chemo is doing it’s job. Other than some severe fatigue initially, the result of the disease and the aggressive chemo approach, I really have had very little, if any, adverse side affects, no nausea, no pain, no hair falling out, etc., and the last couple of weeks, even the fatigue has gone away, as the red blood cells continue to increase.

My oncologist says I am, in his words, ” way up on the good side of the bell curve “, as far as my chances of having a good outcome to this process. He says the fact that I have had such a rapid reversal of the progression of the disease, along with my bodies ability to tolerate the potent drugs, bodes very well for my immediate future.

He assures me that I am a very viable candidate for a stem cell transplant and that procedure could possibly be done as soon as August. He has also suggested that perhaps, and he says he is about at a 50/50 position on this, I may be one of the folks that may be able to keep the disease in remission without the transplant because of how my body has responded so far, but the final decision will be made after another round of drug therapy.

But the overall prognosis has decidedly changed in a positive way, and for that, I am most grateful.

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July 24, 2015 Wasilla to Cantwell, Alaska

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

A Few Surprises Heading North to Denali

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse

Since I awoke to rain at my wonderful boondocking spot in the Wasilla Walmart parking lot, I decided to forego loading the Prius and getting soaked and so decided to make a final drive along some of the back roads in the area. I found this neat horse along the Farm Loop Road, grazing alone amongst the fireweed and knee high grasses.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse
Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

These colorful mosses along the roadside also caught my eye and I managed to snap a couple shots as the sun was starting to poke through the rain clouds here and there.

Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

By 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the sun was drying things out so I returned to camp and loaded up the Prius, did my last minute stocking up on groceries for Denali at Walmart, and headed north on the Parks Highway.

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

North to Denali

About an hour or two into my drive north, the skies clouded over once again and I ran through some intermitant showers. As I passed the Mount McKinley Viewing Areas, both South and North, all I could see were low hanging clouds, clinging to the mountains to the west, no possible sighting of McKinley.

Pot of Gold ?
Pot of Gold ?

As the rain became a little more serious, I decided to pull off the highway around MM 203.5, a little south of Cantwell, and make camp for the night. I knew that the intersection with the Denali Highway was just a few more miles north of here and I figured this pulloff would be a good place to unload the Prius and explore the road conditions on the Denali Highway to see if I wanted to take the motorhome in there to boondock.

It turned out to be a bit of good fortune that I stopped at this particular spot as a rainbow appeared not long after I got myself setup. I wish I could have gotten some better shots of it, but I was really struggling trying to keep my equipment from getting too wet as this particular rainbow presented itself accompanied by the heaviest rains I have encountered so far here in Alaska. And when the rains subsided, the rainbow disappeared. Oh well, nice to see one after a long dry spell between rainbows for me. Though quite unexpected, I managed to pick up a pretty good Verizon data signal here and was able to do some blog posts from this location.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Finally, Mount McKinley Appears !

The very next morning, I was up a little late, for me, and when I went outside with the dogs at 7 AM, I was stunned by this view back south along the Parks Highway … Mount McKinley ! Absolutely clear blue sky and not even any mountain created clouds starting to show around the base or the peak of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell
Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

This was shot from my campsite with my 600mm lens from about 40 or 50 miles away. So since I never even saw the mountain in my two weeks in the area back on my last trip to Alaska, and since the extended weather forecast for my time here this year does not look too promising, I had no choice but to unload the Prius and backtrack 70 miles to try and get some shots of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area

This is a shot of the tip of McKinley taken afrom the North Viewing Area along the Parks Highway at MM 162.7. Not the best place to get a shot of the mountain as other shorter mountains block the view. There is a large parking lot with side by side camping here, not my cup of tea for sure.

From the North Viewing Area
From the North Viewing Area

These are some of the mountains south of McKinley shot from the North Viewing Area.

MM 134.8 Denali Viewpoint South

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

Finally, a shot of Mount McKinley, 22 years in the making for me! This shot was taken from the parking area of this turnoff. Simply a spectacular sight.

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

To the right of the parking lot viewing area, there is a trail that takes you up a hill to another, even better viewing area, overlooking the Chulitna River. If you get here on a day when the mountain is visible, BE SURE to take the short walk up to this second viewpoint, it should not be missed. ( Also, be sure to click on some of these images to see the larger, sharper version )

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area

The jagged peaks of the mountains surrounding McKinley are quite impressive in their own right.

Jagged Peaks
Jagged Peaks

After spending an hour or so here ( I even put the camera down for a bit, sat back and just drank in the grandeur of the scene in front of me, something I often forget to do ), I turned around and headed the 70 miles back to my roadside campsite.

Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway

What a difference a day can make! These three images above are of just one of the multi-colored mountainsides that were completely concealed along the Parks Highway by yesterdays inclement weather. They were passed by yesterday without even a second glance, and today, just breathtaking.

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April 6, 2015 Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

An Afternoon Tour of the Park

Made the short trip to Petrified Forest National Park and set up at the gift shop free camping area.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.Petr

Petrified Forest Free Gift Shop Campground
Petrified Forest Free Gift Shop Campground

I did not expect to find this free spot to boondock, so this was a welcome surprise. The gift shop is located right at the intersection of Route 180 and the Petrified Forest Park Road. The sites are flat and easily accessed by any size rig. I spoke with the woman in the gift shop and she said there is a 4 day stay limit. Turned out to be a quiet place to stay with minimal light disturbance, and very convenient for access to the park.

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

My original plans were to bypass this park, one of the few National Parks I had never before visited. Petrified trees just aren’t something that has a whole lot of appeal to me, but, with temperatures north of here still getting below freezing at night, I figured, why not check it out. And turns out, I am glad I did.

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

The landscapes along the 28 mile Park Road are quite spectacular, to me at least, much more of an attraction than the thousands of pieces of petrified wood scattered throughout the park.

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

The photo opportunities are numerous, as are the number of photographers here. My only gripe with this park is that it closes the gates at 7 PM and doesn’t open them until 7 AM, thus a photographer misses most of the ” Golden Hours ” at both ends of the day. I imagine the colors of these desert landscapes would be breathtaking a little earlier in the morning or later in the evening, than I was able to capture.

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

Subtle colors and textures, while visible in these shots, would be more obvious if taken when the light wasn’t quite so strong. The other issue I had shooting during the day was the WIND ! Wind advisories were in effect all during my stay here. That meant steady winds of 30-40 mph with gusts sometimes exceeding 50 mph. The wind died every evening around 8 PM and then started picking up again around 7 AM. All these images are taken handheld, because the wind was strong enough to make using a tripod impractical.

Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.
Petrified Forest N. P.

The Painted Desert

Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert

The park is bisected by I-40 at about the 20 mile mark of the 28 mile Park Road, and the landscape changes dramatically once north of I-40.

Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert

The subtle cool pastel tones of the rock formations on the south side of I-40 change to the warm red sandstone tones, more typical of the desert southwest colors.

Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert
Petrified Forest N. P. Painted Desert

Petrified Wood

Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood

Although I did say I was not drawn to this park by the namesake petrified forests, I did do due diligence and attempt to find something interesting in all the chunks of petrified wood lying scattered throughout this park.

From Wikipedia “Petrified wood (from the Greek root petro meaning “rock” or “stone”; literally “wood turned into stone”) is the name given to a special type of fossilized remains of terrestrial vegetation. It is the result of a tree or tree-like plants having completely transitioned to stone by the process of permineralization. All the organic materials have been replaced with minerals (mostly a silicate, such as quartz), while retaining the original structure of the stem tissue. Unlike other types of fossils which are typically impressions or compressions, petrified wood is a three-dimensional representation of the original organic material. The petrifaction process occurs underground, when wood becomes buried under sediment and is initially preserved due to a lack of oxygen which inhibits aerobic decomposition. Mineral-laden water flowing through the sediment deposits minerals in the plant’s cells; as the plant’s lignin and cellulose decay, a stone mould forms in its place. The organic matter needs to become petrified before it decomposes completely.[1] A forest where such material has petrified becomes known as a petrified forest.

Elements such as manganese, iron, and copper in the water/mud during the petrification process give petrified wood a variety of color ranges. Pure quartz crystals are colorless, but when contaminants are added to the process the crystals take on a yellow, red, or other tint. “

Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood

The result of this process does yield some interesting, almost abstract, images.

Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood
Petrified Wood

Final note, if you are passing anywhere near this park I would recommend stopping for a day or two and exploring, it turned out to be a pleasant suprize for me.

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