Shots in the Dark // GLACIER, MT 2014

I feel sort of like a high-class vagabond sometimes, jumping from group to group of travelling family and friends. After making my way to Seattle to join Brianna for a road trip up and down the West Coast, I took a bus to Pasco, WA to hop in the car with some relatives driving north to Montana. This wagon train was headed for Glacier National Park. On the agenda was hiking, hiking and more hiking. I was a happy camper (pun intended).

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A happy camper equipped with water, snacks and a guide to Montana wildflowers.

The beauty of Glacier is paradoxical. Fantastic views greet the eyes in all directions, and it’s hard to tell where one incredible landscape ends and another begins. The infinities between each scene made framing photos a struggle. However, I took a few shots in the dark.  Or more appropriately, in the light.

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Logan’s Pass, Hidden Lake Trail

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Grinnell Glacier Hike at Many Glacier

I can’t wait to return for some longer hikes.  For inspiring views and a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise (and huckleberry ice cream, pie, caramel, syrup, licorice, or whatever else suits your fancy), Glacier National Park is the place to be.

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Wild Wild // PACIFIC NORTHWEST 2014

I studied the map the night before departure.  I took note of routes and junctions and picked what I thought would be a simple trip down and around America’s (northern) West Coast.  We took the 5 to the 101, detoured on 116 to 1, traveled hundreds of miles north on 395 and made excellent time the whole way.  But it wasn’t as simple as it seemed on paper.  The 2-dimensional map I studied failed to capture the steep grade and windiness along the coastal cliffs of Mendocino and the mountains marked “Eastern Sierras.”  What was a terrifying drive for a newly licensed driver (me) was more than that: an exhilarating and fantastically beautiful trip for the senses.  The views were incredible and the air smelled so fresh.

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Two of my tripmates stretching their legs in scenic California

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The other half of the party posing with the snow-capped mountains.

On our way south, we camped in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

First stop: Jessie Honeyman SP, OR

A picnic spot at  Jessie Honeyman SP in Florence, OR

Panther Flat Campground in Gasquet, CA

Panther Flat Campground in Gasquet, CA

View of the reservoir from our tent at Paradise Shores RV Park in Bridgeport, CA

View of the reservoir from our tent at Paradise Shores RV Park in Bridgeport, CA

Our meals consisted mostly of peanut butter (and sometimes banana) sandwiches with the occasional takeout meal.  Oh, and nightly s’mores.

One of many PB sandwiches on the best sliced bread I've ever tasted

One of many PB sandwiches on the best sliced bread I’ve ever tasted

Pizza from a food truck in Portland.  Wow.

Pizza from a food truck in Portland. Wow.

S'mores around the fire

S’mores around the fire

The trip took two weeks.  At times the heat was stifling and the mosquitoes maddening.  Sleeping on the hard ground left us sore and chilly and long drives led to leg cramps and hunger.  But I fell in love every day with this piece of America.  The sights, the sounds, the smells… I mean it, I’m in love.  The West is a place full of wilderness and adventure, and  I want a piece of it.  Someday soon, I will return.  In the meantime, I’m thinking that being on the couch is sometimes just as good as being on the road.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

 

Take Me Back // JAPAN

I can’t remember what I dreamt last night, but I woke up with a single thought in my head: “I have to go back to Japan.”

Someday I will.  I miss it all the time.  The food, the people, the sights and sounds.  I miss everything.  I want to eat real ramen, shop for candy and trinkets at the Daiso, snack on onigiri, ride my bike along the Tama, run up and down Mt. Ome, see the coast, the mountains, the city, take in the colors of the local festivals, everything.

Japan was the place I first made a conscious decision to travel.  I spent my school breaks in places like Thailand and Indonesia, and at home I would hop on the train with no set destination in mind, stepping off into unknown territory.

I spent the summers running with the cross country team through paddy fields and along the Tama river, stopping once in a while to jump in the water and cool off or to get a drink from a vending machine (special note to runners:  Japan has vending machines and toilets EVERYWHERE.  If you have yen, you’ll never bonk hard.  And you’ll never have to explain why you left for a run with two socks and returned with one).  After 8-12 miles in the bright, sticky heat we’d make a stop at 7-11 to get cold drinks to enjoy in the shade, giddy and happy and tired.

I was lucky enough to have family just a two-hour train ride away.  My aunt and uncle took my all over the country, from the mountains of Nozawa for the annual fire festival to the foggy beaches of the Izu Peninsula to quirky tourist attractions like the Ramen Museum or a Roppongi club called Abbey Road where Beatles cover bands take the stage.  We slept on tatami mats and ate fish at nearly every meal and always said Oishikatta (“It was delicious”) afterwards, although after a while I yearned for something simple and American like a PB&J.

Unfortunately, I did not start documenting my travel moments through photography until after I had left Japan.  One more reason to go back!  Here are a few from my facebook archives:

Ramen and Milk Tea

Ramen and Milk Tea

Festival Lights

Festival Lights

Climbing Fuji-San on a Perfect Day

Climbing Fuji-San on a Perfect Day

In other news, I finished my final exams today.  Let the summer adventures begin!

Favorites // FLAGSTAFF, AZ

They say it’s a small world, but Earth is a pretty big place.  I am under no impression that I’ve truly seen the world.  I’ve seen 19 countries of 200+ in existence, and how much of these countries have I really been exposed to?  I haven’t even experienced all that my own home country has to offer.

While I have many places left to explore, I have a few favorites.  One of them is Flagstaff, Arizona.  I’ve written before that home is a difficult concept for me, but in my heart, Flagstaff feels like home.  My aunt and uncle have retired from their jobs as travelling educators and settled in the area.  But maybe “settled” is the wrong word.. They are still very much on the move, and I love joining them on their adventures.

One such adventure: the nearby Chocolate Falls, located in the Painted Desert on Navajo land.  We took a bumpy drive through the dirt and dust to hike and explore and climb on the rocks.

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But there’s more to Arizona than desert.  Last summer we took a trip to Lockett Meadow for some (more) hiking and stargazing.

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It was a beautiful clear night and I saw my first shooting star!  Morning was just as pleasant.  I slept in the bed of the truck and woke with the morning light to a peaceful forest scene.  I warmed up with a cup of bitter black tea.

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Flagstaff, I hope to see you again soon.

Lomography // CINQUE TERRE 2011

Cinque Terre is a cluster of five colorful coastal towns and one of my all-time favorite destinations in Europe.  In the summer, the air is hot and sticky and the water is cool and clear.  There are plenty of shops around to grab some delicious focaccia or a scoop of gelato.  And for thrill-seekers like my friends, there are lots of cliffs and bridges to jump off of.  For me, the latter was a great opportunity to try out my Lomography Action Sampler.  Here are the results:

Jumping at Cinque Terre

Jumping at Cinque Terre

Aaaand More Jumping at Cinque Terre

Jumping at Cinque Terre Again

Jumping at Cinque Terre Again

Aaand More Jumping at Cinque Terre

Diving (!) at Cinque Terre

Diving (!) at Cinque Terre

Not the greatest photos, but fun nonetheless.  Traveling with these guys was a blast, I hope we get to do it again soon!

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The Group at Cinque Terre

Dreaming of Summer // AUSTRIA 2013

As I impatiently wait for the beginning of this summer, I reflect on my last European adventure of summer 2013.  It was a family trip to Salzburg, about a six hour drive from our home in southwest Germany.  Salzburg is a beautiful, historical city with a love for its most famous former resident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Apologies to the history buffs and music fans, but my attention was focused mainly on the wonderful food of the city.

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Sachertorte, chocolate cake with apricot filling, from the famous Cafe Tomaselli

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Carrot Cremesuppe with my hungry brother’s hand

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Broccoli Cremesuppe with a roll

The cake was amazing, as were the soups. Another highlight of our trip was a side trip to Hallstatt, a picturesque Austrian city boasting the oldest known salt mine in the world.  Visitors can tour the depths of the salt mine, provided they agree to wear protective clothes (which look more like pajamas than anything a miner would wear).  Of course, we took full advantage!

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Hamming it up in our miner’s outfits

A more serious shot inside the mine - my brother is much more photogenic than I!

A more serious shot inside the mine – my brother is much more photogenic than I

A couple other side trips: a day spent cycling with my brother around the lakes of the area with plenty of breaks for swimming, and a visit to Sigmund-Thun Klamm, where I used my German to ask if a student discount was available to which the lady at the booth replied, “Nein, aber ich mach’ das.”  Which I understood as “No, but I’ll do it anyways.”  It’s always good to use the local language as much as possible – sometimes it pays off in unexpected ways!

Morning swim at the lake

Morning swim at the lake

Sigmund-Thun Klamm

Sigmund-Thun Klamm

It was a wonderful trip, but by far my favorite part was the part that no one had planned.  As a family we took a hike around Hallstaetter See, one of the many crystal blue lakes of the Salzburg area.  We stopped at a bridge to take a rest, when I looked down at the water and saw some kind of wooden plank protruding from a spot under the bridge.  Upon closer inspection we found a dirt path to the underside of the bridge, where there was another plank which we recognized  as an improvised diving board as well as a makeshift ladder for climbing up from the water.  We had stumbled upon a hidden gem, an golden opportunity for some spontaneous fun that we simply could not pass up.  So the family went on walking, and my brother and I started gearing up for an afternoon of jumping.

The high jump

The high jump

My brother is much more photogenic than I, as well as much braver

My brother is much more photogenic than I, as well as much braver

A Schmetterling (butterfly) friend I made while waiting for my turn to jump

A Schmetterling (butterfly) friend I made while waiting for my turn to jump

An exhilarating experience

An exhilarating experience

Basking in the glory of a perfect afternoon

Basking in the glory of a perfect afternoon

We spotted the police patrolling the waters in the boat.  He sailed towards us and yelled, “Springen Sie?” (“Are you jumping?).  I was ready to flee the scene until he pointed to the bridge overhead and said something like, “Sie koennen von oben!” (“You can jump from up there!”).  Probably the best experience I’ve ever had with the police while abroad. Not every place I visit leaves me with the desire to return, but Austria has had me dreaming of my next trip there since I left last July.  So many lakes to swim in, so many mountains and forests to hike through.. Is it summer yet?