Cuverville Island – Arctowski Peninsula

P-50901_curvervilleisland14Morning dawned cold with a gray overcast sky. The wind was fairly calm. I was a bit paranoid about being exposed to the elements again because I will be out for a day at Cuverville Island. I’d been given my clearance, but with a caveat – not to be out if it is exceptionally cold or very windy. On my way to the zodiacs, I kind of put my head down as I walked by expedition leaders, all of who knew my status. No one said anything, so I just kept walking and was loaded onto one of the first boats to go ashore.P-50896_curvervilleisland13Cuverville Island is a dark, rocky island lying in Errera Channel between the Arctowski Peninsula and the northern part of Rongé Island, off the west coast of Graham Land in Antarctica. It is one of the largest Gentoo penguin rookeries in the region. 20 years ago there were around 3500 pairs nesting on the island. Today there are upwards of 9000 breeding pairs. Gentoos are the third-largest of the penguin species.P-50856_curvervilleisland3Before actually getting to the island, our zodiac driver toured us around the iceberg choked inlet. This was an added bonus I wasn’t expecting. I’d lost an earlier opportunity to do this while stuck onboard, so I was feeling pretty good about it.P-50848_curvervilleisland1 P-50854_curvervilleisland2 P-50862_curvervilleisland4 P-50859-2_curvervilleisland4The shapes, textures and other worldly colors of these bergs never ceases to amaze me. Our driver would find an interesting subject and circle around slowly. The low overcast skies had risen enough to brighten up the entire area. Moving around a berg like this really showcased how light transmitted through the ice.P-50866_curvervilleisland6 P-50867_curvervilleisland5 P-50868_curvervilleisland7 P-50870_curvervilleisland8The only real difficulty comes when trying to compose an image. This isn’t the thoughtful contemplative process I normally try to employ. We are moving and bobbing all the time. At times we’d just drift, and the twisting motion of the zodiac would move me away from the right spot. I had to recognize something, compose, check exposure, shoot. That’s life on a boat though. I eventually learned it was best to not compose so tightly. I lost several potential images just because something got cut off or was too crooked. Rather, I would zoom out more than usual, knowing the image I wanted was in there somewhere. Later I could crop and straighten the image to more like what I wanted. I lose a little resolution, but gain a better image.P-50872_curvervilleisland8 P-50877_curvervilleisland9 P-50886_curvervilleisland10 P-50889_curvervilleisland11 P-50895_curvervilleisland12 P-50903_curvervilleisland15Our driver eventually managed to pry me away from the final berg and we headed for the landing. As we skirted the rocky shore, I could already see Gentoos everywhere there wasn’t snow. These birds stand up to 3′ in hight, and they were everywhere. We watched from offshore as a group made ready to enter the water. It was a great way to observe their behavior when approaching a dive. They all walk up close, but none will jump in. They are waiting for someone else to go first. There are several predators lurking in the waters, so none of the penguins want to be the first to find out what is waiting for them underneath. Eventually one will dive and that signals the rest to get in quick.P-50907_curvervilleisland16 P-50915_curvervilleisland17We moved further up the shore to a nice level area to make the landing. From there, support teams made paths in the snow that we were to keep to as much as possible. Part of being here means having as little impact as possible on the environment and wildlife. When people walk through the snow haphazardly, the deep impressions left are very difficult for penguins to navigate.P-51021_curvervilleisland32The created paths moved right along several of the rookeries. I could step off the path if I wanted to linger in a spot for a while. The birds are remarkably tolerant of humans. While we were restricted to staying no less the 15 ft from them, if they decided to come closer, that was OK. Several did, but only to a point.P-50926_curvervilleisland18My first reaction was something like, Oh wow, they are so cute!

My next reaction was, Holy crap, there’s a lot of them!P-50939_curvervilleisland19 P-51014_curvervilleisland30After the initial rush of being here among these waddling creatures wore off a bit, I began to spend more time just watching their behavior. I stepped off the path near one of the “Penguin Highway’s” that connect the various rookeries to each other and to the water. Penguin Highway you ask? Turns out they do much the same thing we do. Create paths. They’re’s are a bit smoother though.P-50995_curvervilleisland27 P-51034_CurvervilleIsland34From this vantage I could sit and make portraits of the birds as they marched past.P-51043_curvervilleisland35 P-51073_curvervilleisland38 P-51074_CurvervilleIsland39 P-51096_curvervilleisland41I moved to a point closer to one of the rookeries and again sat down in the snow to watch. In this way I really got a sense of their behaviors. Often they would crow. Sometimes in syncopation with very elegant movements.P-50964_CurvervilleIsland23 P-51067_curvervilleisland37 P-50987_curvervilleisland26Also in the rookeries, I could witness the constant struggle between penguin and predator. A number of South Polar Skuas – sort of a gull-like bird, were constantly harassing the penguins. Skuas are after eggs and chicks. They fly overhead trying to distract the penguins sitting on nests. They stand just out of reach which makes the penguins pull off the nest. Then the quicker skuas dart in and steal an egg or chick. Confrontations are common.P-50945_curvervilleisland20 P-50951_curvervilleisland21 P-50957_curvervilleisland22Most often, the penguins are sitting on nests. Their mates are busy stealing rocks from other nests to put on theirs. When not looking for food, this seems to be the activity they do most.P-51001_curvervilleisland28 P-50978_curvervilleisland24Another drawback to the heavier than normal lingering snow was that it delayed the start of the hatching period. There should have been far more eggs hatching by now. I did find one nest with chicks. Just a joy to watch the interaction.P-51006_curvervilleisland29I walked up along our human path to get a vantage point for our surroundings. Just as I reached the top, a group of kayakers paddled around the bend. This was another outdoor activity arranged by management. I would have loved paddling around the icebergs, but that activity was not open to me. Being onshore was just fine with me though.P-51082_curvervilleisland40 P-50985_curvervilleisland25 P-51106_curvervilleisland42I spent several hours walking up and down along the paths near the rookeries, but eventually it was time to get back.P-51109_curvervilleisland43The trip back to ship was not a direct route. Again we moved in and around icebergs. This time however, our driver found wildlife basking on bergs. Several Crab Eater seals (they don’t actually eat crabs) were lounging about.P-51142_curvervilleisland46P-51148_curvervilleisland47 P-51155_curvervilleisland48 P-51138_curvervilleisland46 P-51123_curvervilleisland45We were escorted partway back by a flotilla of Gentoos, then finished up with a few more bergs.P-51058_curvervilleisland36 P-51113_curvervilleisland44P-51156_curvervilleisland48 P-51162_curvervilleisland49 P-51179_curvervilleisland51 P-51174_curvervilleisland50

Next post will be Dallman Fjords to Palmer Station.

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Lemaire Channel

P-50709_lemarie1Christmas morning I was up and out by 5 AM. Dazzlingly bright sunshine and no wind greeted me when I hit the top deck. The sun had been up for several hours already, and seeing this sight, I found myself wishing I’d not slept at all. We’d begun our passage through the Lemaire Channel that morning.

Lemaire Channel is a strait off Antarctica, between Kiev Peninsula in the mainland’s Graham Land and Booth Island. Nicknamed “Kodak Gap” by some, it is one of the top tourist destinations in Antarctica; steep cliffs hem in the iceberg-filled passage, which is 6.8 miles long and just 1,700 yards wide at its narrowest point. I was outside on deck very early watching and photographing this amazing place as we slowly moved through the passage. The water was glassy smooth and reflected the deep blue nearly cloudless sky. Snow and glacier covered mountains plunged into the sea all around us.P-50717_lemarie3Icebergs were everywhere as we slowly cruised along. Some had groups of penguins moving about.P-50720_lemarie4On this morning it struck me just how monochromic most of what I’d seen so far has been. Everything is covered in deep snow and ice, with the exception of the occasional patch of rock. There is no soil really. The exception might be the beach landing on Deception Island a few days ago, but that was volcanic ash from past eruptions. Almost nothing grows here. Color is so subtle – pale shades of blue in ice and water, white and shades of grays, the earthy ochres of the sparse rock outcropping, and whatever color the water happens to be at the moment. But when the clouds break and sun shines, ice crevasses begin to glow an unearthly ancient blue and what look to be featureless expanses of snow and ice are coaxed into revealing amazing textures. It is a world transformed from the merely unbelievable to nearly indescribable.P-50725_lemarie5 P-50726_lemarie6 P-50731_lemarie7 P-50737_lemarie8Way off in the distance we began to hear a faint voice. What could this be? As we approached one particular iceberg, we could make out 3 small figures all dressed in red. Ho, Ho, Ho. Can you give us a lift? It was Santa and his helpers adrift on an iceberg! A zodiac was dispatched to pick them up, and once onboard, Santa held court in the main commons area of the ship, handing out gifts to the 30 or so children aboard. I have to say, management really takes care of these folks.P-50747_lemarie9 P-50762_lemarie11 P-50766_lemarie12I was still a little frustrated, having to miss the afternoon landing on Petermann Island. I’m not cleared until tomorrow. On Petermann, folks got to see nesting Adelie penguins and their chicks. These were seen nowhere else on this trip. Unfortunately we won’t be making landings again until we reach Cuverville Island along the Arctowski Peninsula in another day.P-50755_lemarie10 P-50790_lemarie16Later in the day the ship anchored off Petermann Island, which lies just south of the Lemaire Channel and to the southwest of Hovgaard Island in the Wilhelmina Archipelago. It was discovered by the Dallman expedition of 1873-1874 and named after August Petermann, a German geographer and supporter of polar exploration. On the beach near the cove is an Argentinian refuge hut, built in 1955. The hut is now surrounded by breeding penguins. Petermann Island is home to Adélie penguins (~500 breeding pairs), the most southerly colony of gentoo penguins (2,000 breeding pairs) and blue-eyed shags.

A cross stands as a memorial to three British Antarctic Survey scientists who disappeared in the early 1980s. They hiked across the pack ice for several miles in the hopes of climbing a nearby mountain. They were turned back by the weather and took refuge in this hut on Petermann Island.

There was (and is) food and water in the hut to last for at least fifty days, and the three scientists took up residence, while remaining in radio contact with their base, a mere 6 miles away, but impassible by ship or on foot due to poor ice conditions. After about 30 days, the men were not heard from again. Their station mates were able to reach the hut after about 50 days and the men were not to be found. It was clear that they had been at the hut. The rescuers found their journal, which indicated that the three men had taken off across the ice to get back to the station. They have not been heard from since.P-50770_lemarie13While residents were out exploring the memorial and penguin colonies on the island, I was for the final time, confined to the ship. Still, the long days we were experiencing now meant endless opportunities to make landscape (icescape?) images from the deck along the way. I spent as much time as possible doing that.P-50775_lemarie14 P-50782_lemarie15The original itinerary included points further south along the peninsula to Danco Coast, but unusually heavy sea ice meant the ship couldn’t get through, so we stayed in the area for the day before turning around and slowly making our way back the way we came. This time in the evening hours. Clouds had formed and settled low, making the light very cold and heavy feeling. Only an occasional bit of light could break through. The way out, while still amazing, was not quite so impressive.P-50797_lemarie17 P-50798_lemarie18 P-50799_lemarie19 P-50800_lemarie20 P-50805_lemarie21 P-50826_lemarie22P-50835_lemarie23There were only a few other ships seen our entire time around the peninsula. This one was a Chilean research vessel.P-50840_lemarie24Tomorrow we move to Cuverville Island, home to one of the largest Gentoo penguin rookeries in the region. I will be on this landing.

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Paradise Bay and Neko Harbor

P-50543_nekoharbor1Todays excursions consisted of touring iceberg filled Paradise Bay and a landing at nearby Neko Harbor. To get there, we sailed along the peninsula under a mostly cloudy sky. All along the way, amazing views of the snow covered shoreline mountains were reveled. Despite it’s deepness in places, snow and ice seemed fluffy as whipped cream.P-50545_nekoharbor2 P-50551_nekoharbor3 P-50553_nekoharbor4Cruising into and around Neko was about all I was allowed to do though.

Having photographed glaciers and sea ice in Alaska many years ago, I was really looking forward to being out among them again here in Antarctica. I would have been too, but I was still stuck onboard. It was far too windy and cold for my poor lungs, so I busied myself with exploring the ship a bit. I found the disco bar and gambling rooms, located and did laundry. I still had to be available during our usual consulting times to meet with people needing instruction, but most people were out on the zodiacs. I’d removed the motion sickness patch 2 days before, but was still feeling overheated and dehydrated, so staying put really was the best for me.P-50392b_iphone P-50392c_iphone8 P-50392d_iphone8 P-50587_nekoharbor9P-50661_nekoharbor23From time to time, I did sneak out topside to look around. It would have been foolish to believe that I wouldn’t. Even though I was confined to ship, I was still in the middle of a spectacular landscape and I had an amazing platform from which to photograph. 22 hours of daylight and the constantly changing quality of light and swirling clouds meant there was no shortage of inspiration. I was compelled to venture out at least a little. As soon as my nose started to moisten though, I’d dash back in and recover.P-50554_nekoharbor5 P-50572_nekoharbor7P-50565_nekoharbor6 P-50592_nekoharbor9Later in the afternoon, the ship moved out of Paradise Bay and over to Neko Harbor. Neko is an inlet on the Antarctic Peninsula on Andvord Bay, situated on the west coast of Graham Land. The Harbor was discovered by Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache in the early 20th century. It was named for a Scottish whaling boat, the Neko, which operated in the area between 1911 and 1924.P-50602_nekoharbor13This was a landing I sorely wish I could have taken part. On shore were hundreds of nesting Gentoo penguins perched on rocky outcroppings. Again, I was restricted to photographing from the ship and watching the zodiacs come and go. I managed quite a few really nice landscapes during that time, but I still really missed being able to get close to the penguins.P-50614_nekoharbor15 P-50593_nekoharbor10 P-50595_nekoharbor11 P-50598_nekoharbor12Happily, I responded quickly to the antibiotics over the 2 days since getting grounded. I was given a tentative clearance on Christmas day to resume all activities on the 26th. I still wasn’t feeling perfect, but with care I hoped to make it through the trip without any further problems.P-50634_nekoharbor18 P-50632_nekoharbor17 P-50667_nekoharbor24 P-50770_iphone6Christmas eve onboard was pleasant but subdued. A lot of us were feeling a little homesick for family and friends. All the residents seemed to stay inside their rooms, while the crew staff were treated to an extra special dinner. Slabs of prime rib, turkey and ham with all the trimmings were included. They did feed us well during the entire trip. The expedition team members were allowed to eat in the officers mess, which was a cut above the crew mess, but still a few notches below the resident restaurants above. We were not allowed to eat up there unless invited by a resident. Actually, that worked for the best. Eating sort of became that thing you do somewhere between consulting, photographing, meeting, lectures, socializing and, oh yes, drinking! Did I mention our alcohol was included? Later, the band that was along for the excursion provided music in the crew nightclub, so, you know, we did alright.IMG_3236A look out the port holes made me jump up. The light was getting good again, so before turning in I made another round around the top deck for a few more images.IMG_3215P-50651_nekoharbor22 P-50674_nekoharbor25 P-50702_nekoharbor26 P-50703_nekoharbor27Tomorrow we will be traveling through the Lemaire Channel. It’s really getting good now.

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Summer in Antarctica

Well, 2 weeks anyway.satellite-image-of-antarcticaThe email my friend Steve sent was short but tantalizing: Dave, interested in an all- expense paid trip to Antarctica?

My reply was even shorter: Um, YES!

So began the preparations for a 2-week expedition to our southernmost continent during the Christmas and New Year holidays. We were to travel on The World. The ship is what is known as a “private residential community at sea”. Rooms are owned by the residents, with many actually living year-round on board. Residents vote on where in the world to go, and include special expeditions to various points during the year. In this case, summer in Antarctica.

David, Steve and Reid

David, Steve and Reid

Steve was invited to be the photographic instruction aspect of the expedition team that included geologists, naturalists, historians and other experts in outdoor recreation. He was also able to include 2 assistants. So along with myself, he invited another fine photographer and instructor, Reid Elem, who he met at the Maine Media Workshops. Reid and I hit it off well. A good thing since our shared accommodations amounted to bunk beds, a desk, and a bathroom in a very narrow space – a far cry from the luxury just a couple of decks above us, but certainly serviceable. Sitting at the desk meant the path to the bunks was blocked. Two people really couldn’t be moving around at the same time. We didn’t plan on spending much time in quarters though, so it really didn’t matter. These are crew quarters. When the ship is on expedition, it is usually at full capacity, which means that crew members have to be doubled up to make room for the visiting expedition team members. We take their rooms for the duration. They get extra pay to vacate.P-50355a_uschria7What you won’t see or hear much about, is the ship itself. By contractual agreement, I am discouraged from showing much in the way of photos taken aboard the ship that include the ship. These folks value their privacy. In fact they claim ownership of any image where the ship appears, but don’t be surprised if you see a few included in this narrative.P-50314_iphone1So after 17 hours of flying time, from S.F. to Miami to Buenos Aires in Argentina, then Uschria, and another 14 hours or so sitting in airports, I arrived at my destination. The ship is an amazing piece of work. Luxury at it’s finest. If I was ever able to travel to Antarctica, I always envisioned it would be on a former Russian trawler or spy ship. This was not that.P-50320_uschria1 P-50324_uschria2For us, this was a working trip. I had only a vague idea about what was expected of us while onboard. I knew we were there to facilitate the residents and their guests with improving their photography. Because of the volatility of weather and ice conditions in Antarctica, the schedule was completely flexible. Not good for us because we never knew until the last moment, when we could schedule our classes and meetings.

Explaining to people how to use their cameras took up a surprisingly large amount of time. A fair number of folks bought new expensive cameras just before  departure and hadn’t spent much time testing or using them. Many people had never changed their cameras from the original factory settings, so lots of what we did was make recommendations for camera settings, and showing them where items were in the camera menus. Not always an easy task because every camera manufacturer does things differently.P-50321_iphone2We were to be available for advice and teachable moments on deck while traveling from stop to stop, be available inside for one-on-one sessions for advice and review, and conduct classes on various photography-related subjects (RAW processing, composition, storage and back-up strategies, etc). We were also charged with accompanying groups in the zodiacs for excursions both on shore and for wildlife viewing trips around the icebergs.

After getting onboard and settled, our work began. Steve had arranged to show some of his huge prints from his New Eye and Exquisite Earth projects in the gallery area of the ship. He had 2 framed prints shipped onboard and another 8 or so loose prints that we had to find a way to hang. That necessitated a trip into the town of Uschria for hardware (and a little sight-seeing).P-50334_iphone3 P-50334_uschria3 P-50342_Uschria4 P-50345_uschria5We were to leave later that evening, so we really didn’t get much of a chance to look around before having to be back onboard, but the town felt authentic in it’s grittiness. The had time to find the hardware we needed, look around a bit and stop in for a beer before heading back to the ship.P-50392_iphone5P-50392a_decption2Once underway, we got the two framed prints hung, consulted with the carpentry shop onboard, formed our plan for hanging the loose prints, then headed topside to see the last of the green landscape of Uschria fade off into the distance.

Leaving Uschria

Leaving Uschria

P-50367_headingout1 P-50369_headingout2 P-50379_headingout3A day later, about halfway to Antarctica, we spied our first iceberg. It took a few moments to comprehend what we were seeing. Low fog had descended over us during the night, but as we looked out now, it began to lift, and just off in the distance a huge shape emerged, then took a more definite form.P-50416_decption1It is difficult to describe the size of things in this environment. Everything is so extraordinarily immense. The iceberg above is sea ice – as opposed to a calved glacier iceberg. Easy to spot because of it’s flat top. I think our ship could have probably fit inside the ice cave formed in this one. Maybe we were larger than that. Low clouds and fog obscured most of the second day of the crossing, but on Day 3, we reached our first stop.

Deception IslandP-50433_decption4Deception Island is located just near the tip of the peninsula in the lower left corner of the image that begins this post. All of our travel destinations in Antarctica are located in and around the tip of this peninsula. Deception Island is part of the South Shetland Islands archipelago, with one of the safest harbors in Antarctica.P-50476_decption14 P-50471_decption11This island is actually the caldera of an active volcano, which seriously damaged local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969. The island previously held a whaling station –  evidence of which is still preserved onshore. Descriptions of this place all describe it as a slaughtering ground for whales and seals. Large factory ships would anchor in the bay, dumping their waste into the pristine waters. The bay itself was said to often turn red from the gore.

Whale oil holding tanks.

Whale oil holding tanks.

Whale bones

Whale bones

P-50450_decption8 P-50469_decption10

Whale boats

Whale boats

P-50509_decption20 It is now a tourist destination and scientific outpost, with Argentine and Spanish research bases. While various countries have asserted sovereignty, it is still administered under the Antarctic Treaty System

Shawn. Early researcher on Deception Island.

Shaun Norman. Early researcher on Deception Island.

We happened to have one of the researchers onboard who was there that day in 1967 when the volcano blew. One of his mates stepped outside for a smoke then came running back in screaming about “a bloody giant mushroom cloud” rising overhead, blocking out the sun. Total darkness in a place where in summer, the sun never sets. Fortunately for them all, a supply ship had just left and was able to return to evacuate them.P-50481_decption15
P-50455_decption9As it happened, it was also the worst weather we encountered on the trip. On the morning of our first landing, we had sub-freezing temperatures mixed with high winds blowing snow horizontally.  This was weather I kind of expected here. In fact, I’d worried this would be actually be the norm, but this was still a new kind of cold for me. Fortunately, in the caldera, the water was not so choppy and our zodiac landings went well.P-50473_decption13

Even the birds weren't particularly happy with the weather.

Even the birds weren’t particularly happy with the weather.

P-50505_decption19P-50492_decption18 On shore I saw the first of many penguins to come, both gentoo and chinstrap. Only just a few on the island, but it really began to sink in that I was actually here in Antarctica.P-50447_decption7 P-50482_decption16One of the advantages of being part of the Expedition Team was that I was allowed to stay on the island much longer than any of the residents. Only 100 visitors are allowed on any particular landing spot on the continent at any one time, and the policy is strictly enforced. So residents and guests could only spend a hour or so on land before going back to the ship so another group could land. I could stay longer.

photo by Stephen Johnson

Me toward the end of my stay on the island.                                                        photo by Stephen Johnson

In this case, it didn’t work out so well for me (above). My long flight days resulted in my having developed some congestion in my chest. The two days traveling to Deception saw the tightness improve a bit, but after about 4 hours on the island, my throat and chest got much worse. The freezing air and cold wind are apparently THE worst thing for compromised lungs. I returned to the ship early for a visit to the doctor who confirmed what I’d feared – Bronchitis. The doc told me he had to shut me down for 5 days. Meaning I could not step outside the ship – not even on deck if it was overly cold. It didn’t help that the motion sickness patch I wore caused some dreadful side effects like severe dry mouth and dizziness and hot flashes. I didn’t even need it, our crossing was so smooth, but if the patch isn’t applied before feeling the need, it’s too late.P-50441_decption6We discussed it for awhile, he checked my oxygen level, blood pressure, listened to my chest, then made me a bargain. Since we seemed to have caught it early on, if I took the antibiotics and stayed indoors for 2 days, he was willing to revisit my condition and perhaps, give me some freedom – if I respond well. Having little choice, I agreed. This was complete torture for me. Sure, I was warm and cozy, but I was stuck inside watching zodiac after zodiac take people to landing sites in Neko Harbor and Paradise Bay.

Next post: Neko Harbor and Paradise Bay (As seen from the ship).

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Final Day in Yellowstone, Day 10

June 649915_DaisyWaldOur last full day in the park today. Mary is feeling better each day, so we took advantage of a dry morning and set out again for some final walks around some of the geyser basins. This whole area is pretty flat so the walking should be easy. The only problem might be rain later, but hey, we like that. Mary concocted a loop hike that will take us from Biscuit Basin through some of the less visited features between here and Old Faithful, and then back. First though was Biscuit Basin. It was so crowded when we’ve passed before, that we didn’t stop. This early, there were many fewer people.49921_DaisyWaldThis area has some of the more colorful hot pools and geysers. I look for things to silhouette against the steamy glacier colored hot pools. Other areas were absolutely boast brilliantly colored mineral lined terraces.49917_DaisyWald 49925_DaisyWald 49926_DaisyWaldAll along the boardwalk are of pools are liquid rainbows and geysers of various intensities.49942_DaisyWald 49939_DaisyWald 49958_DaisySapphire 49928_DaisyWald 49949_DaisyWaldAs we walked over the bridge above the Firehole River on the way out of the basin, we paused awhile to watch fly fishermen casting about.49975_fishing49980_DaisyWalkWe moved on to Black Sand Basin and seemed to arrive between busses. Just a few cars here. This area hasn’t changed much since previous visits. Visibility was much better than previous visits because these nice spring days are warmer so far less steam present to obscure views. We got some nice views of Emerald Pool, Sunset Lake, and Opalescent Pool.49987_DaisyWalk 49996_DaisyWalk 50002_DaisyWalk 50020_DaisyWalk 50011_DaisyWalk 50026_DaisyWalk 50038_DaisyWalk 50043_BlackSandPoolWe found the Daisy Trailhead – a hiking trail that leaves from Black Sand Basin and will take us to a few other pools and geysers over in the Upper Geyser Basin near Old Faithful. The trail first crosses the highway and goes into a scrubby pine area. The trail first passes Black Sand Pool. It’s another big hot pool. So what, we’re getting pretty jaded I guess. We paused here awhile, just because. A a particularly quiet, calm moment, I felt a mild thump underground. That was a little weird. 20 seconds later, the pool started bubbling and steaming much more. Then calmed down again. It happened repeatedly over the next few minutes. Just made me think about the forces deep underground. This place is supposed to explode again someday.50054_PunchbowlFurther on were Punch Bowl Spring and Grotto Geyser.50062_DaisyWalk 50067_DaisyWalkBeyond that, a favorite, Morning Glory Pool. A plaque there chastises those who would throw money or rocks into the pool. So of course a close inspection reveals money on the edges of the pool. This pool (and probably others) must be closed and cleaned out every year from people doing this.50088_DaisyWalk 50096_DaisyWalkBack tracking a bit, we moved into the Upper Geyser Basin. We didn’t do this part of the walk the last time here, so we figured we’d get it in now. We seemed to have missed most of the geyser eruptions around here. Many are quite regular in a 2-3 hour window. We just hope we blindly stumble upon one.50101_DaisyWalkFrom quite a distance, we could see Grand Geyer going off. We didn’t hurry because we though it would be finished momentarily. But it just kept going and going. It had turned to mostly steam by the time we got over, but still it made for some nice scenes.50103_DaisyWalk 50111_DaisyWalk 50121_DaisyWalkMost of the rest of the walk was backtracking. It was getting very overcast again by the time we got close to the trailhead, but no rain. We paused awhile along the Firehole River again to photograph flowers. I think we both don’t want to go, but we’ve run out of time. I’m glad this trip has finished so well. Back at camp we sat outside and enjoyed the warm air. Later, we took a final stroll down to the meadow that borders the campground – a final search for bison.50125_DaisyWalkWe are back in San Francisco now, busy catching up on homelife. We had a pretty uneventful sprint home right into a heat wave. Well, everywhere but San Francisco. We drove up to a lovely wall of fog cascading over our neighborhood.

Some changes hopefully in store for our summer. Stay tuned…

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Firehole River & South Rim, Day 9

June 549610-firehole2Mary was still not quite up to early morning treks, so I went out on my own out to the Firehole River for another look at the river from along the drive. I wanted softer light than what we had on the last visit and getting up and out early is the best way to do it.49605-firehole2 49608-firehole2 49633-firehole2There was some early morning fog which made the drive interesting, but by the time I got to the river, it was beginning to lift. I stopped at several places I’d picked out last time and spent a good while turing the yellowish turbulent cascades of the river into soft and feathery flows.49716-firehole2 49736-firehole2 49708-firehole2 49679-firehole2I found a favorite spot right at the end of the drive and tried to recreate an image I did here in 2006. I tried to set it up from memory, just where I stood and how I composed the shot. It’s always interesting to see how I remember it. I am always wrong. The light was not nearly what it was that day either.8153_CompareFirehole 49759-firehole2I wanted to also check out a part of the river right above the cascades, so I got back on the main road and stopped just a little bit further upstream. Here the water runs calm, but swift. I was taken with the undulating river grasses and experimented with a polarizer to cut glare.49753-firehole2As I was finishing up, a van full of interestingly dressed Japanese tourist pulled up and all got out. They were really fun to watch as they pulled out the selfie sticks and walked along the riverbank. They did actually take a few minutes looking at the river and surroundings, but mostly it was selfies.49767-fireholeSelfie249769-fireholeSelfie2V49776-fireholeSelfie2South Rim
After that interlude, I drove back to camp to pick-up Mary. We want to do another drive/hike along areas of the South Rim Drive. This way, we can hike some and drive/rest some in between. That should keep Mary going for the day. There will probably be loads of people at the overlooks, but we’re hoping the 1/2-mile out rule will apply and the trail portions will be lightly traveled.49785-SouthRimOur first stop was at the Uncle Tom Trail to the viewpoint. Before we even got out of the parking lot, we came across a beauty of an elk with a big felt covered rack. He was just calmly eating grass, so we loitered a bit, watching and photographing.49791-SouthRim49798-SouthRimOut on the trail to Artists point, we began getting views of the falls. They are indeed an impressive sight to see. From our vantage point, we could easily see the folks across the chasm standing on the brink at the overlook.49827-SouthRim 49829-SouthRimAs we suspected, it was crazy crowded here. We set out pretty quickly on the trail to Clear Lake. We didn’t realize it ran along the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for so long. All along the trail were amazing views of the canyon.49860-SouthRim49897-SouthRim49894-SouthRimThe walls on both sides seem nearly vertical here as they plummet down to the river. Colors bleed into one another and all the time, breaks in overhead clouds would cast constantly changing light onto the scene.49870-SouthRim49825-SouthRim49864-SouthRimThe trail eventually turned away into the forest. We passed by marshy bug filled areas and as we neared Clear Lake, we began to feel the plunk of big drops again. Sometimes it is brief shower, sometime not. This one started off light, but got heavy fast. We donned our rain gear and found some cover in a small stand of trees next to the lake.49901-SouthRimIt soon turned to pea sized hail. But it was still just dropping straight down. No sever winds or dropping temperatures. The lake became a roiling cauldron as the cloudburst increased.49906_YellowstoneHailWe were good though, in our tree. Just photographing and watching.

Next post is our last full day in Yellowstone.

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Back to Norris, Day 8

Thursday, June 449477-norrisWe originally planned to camp down in the big campground at Madison, but when we talked with reservations, we learned there were only single day reservations open and the walk-up is too iffy. We opted for Norris again – an extra 10 miles to get down to the geyser basin we’re interested in visiting near Madison. No matter, we also wanted to get up to Norris Geyser Basin just a couple miles from the campground.49478-norrisIt was afternoon by the time we finished bumping our way back down the under construction road, and got ourselves set-up again at Norris. Mary was feeling more energetic today, so we went to Norris Geyser Basin for a short walk around the boardwalk. I wasn’t expecting much – I guess I just didn’t remember it well. It could have been the lighting, but the color combinations of water and mineral was so alluring.49481-norrisWe first walked around and through the Porcelain Basin area. Here I found some amazing abstracts with melting colors and steam spouting out of holes and cracks in the surface. These might be some of my favorite images of the trip so far.49483-norris49501-norrisAs we ventured out further onto the exposed boardwalk, the clouds thickened and we started feeling the occasional large raindrop plunk down on our heads. Then began a light rain of heavy drops. The crowds began hasty retreats. We opted for some scraggly pines along a slightly forested portion of the now dirt trail. Five minutes later, the rain stopped and the people were gone. We continued on our walk.49515-norris 49520-norrisMary was dressed pretty lightly, so we finished this portion of the walk and returned to the Rav for heavier clothing and a little snack. We picked up at the Back Basin Trail (also mostly a boardwalk). This area has still more interesting features, like Steamboat and Green Dragon Geysers.49553-norris 49561-norrisWe walked up to one little dry geyser and paused for a while. An older asian couple arrived. We each just paused a while.49573-norrisSuddenly it just erupted to a hight of about 10’. It had a number of short bursts then just stopped. We all just looked at each other and burst out laughing with shock and surprise! It was a nice cross-culture experience.49574-norrisWe knew our loop hike was nearly done when we arrived back at Cistern Spring. The wind had changed just enough so that I could actually see the pool. Heavier clouds had come over again and it created a really nice composition. Another favorite of today.49594-norris49597-norrisWe were done hiking for the day. Heavy clouds again, but another very full fun day.

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