Camping with Kids at Pearl Lake State Park, Colorado

Camping with kids, Colorado

Each summer as a kid, I could always count on at least one family camping trip to Pearl Lake State Park north of Steamboat Springs. It would usually be the highlight of my summer break. Deep in the woods where the cranes call at dusk and dawn —and the only thing that could wake you up at night was the call of a great horned owl — I found my family at its happiest. Dad could fish as much as he wanted, Ben could capture crawdads all day, Mom could look for birds or identify wildflowers, and I could venture off down the sawgrass-laden shore and play pretend.

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Steamboat Springs & Eagle Rock Ranch, Colorado

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It’s the summer that won’t start! Now, only in Colorado!

Seriously: as I write this, it is snowing on Berthoud Pass. Aspen Mountain opened to skiers … on Memorial Day. We cancelled our Mother’s Day plans to drive to Colorado Springs because it was too dangerous driving through a winter storm over Monument Hill. Meanwhile, California bakes and dries out. Having endured droughts before, I’ll grudgingly take dump-trucks of moisture any day.

I bring this up because last weekend, we finally — finally — left Denver and went somewhere with our daughters. Our first trip with four-month-old Lamorra. We drove up I-70 to Steamboat Springs for a night, then reconnected with my extended family at a fishing and hunting ranch outside Yampa. What has the moisture brought?

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Opening a Bottle – Wine, Food and the Places it Takes Us

 

Nebbiolo grapes

I’m on a bit of a hiatus right now from travel photography, so the Tanager Blog has slowed down significantly. What hasn’t slowed down, is interest in these blog posts. Thanks to all of you … I’m honored that so many people continue to read about these trips.

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Introducing Lamorra Sage Day

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It’s been three months since our second daughter was born. On January 27, Lamorra Sage Day and her fiery red hair arrived in a hurry. We got to the hospital with plenty of time, and at first, things progressed smoothly — dare I say, normally. The nurses even dismissed me to grab dinner from the cafeteria — “we’ll need you to be in top form, so fill your stomach”  they said. “There’s plenty of time.”

I was at the cash register buying a couple of bananas when my phone started to ring. At the top of the elevator, a nurse was waiting for me. “You need to run,” is all she said. In the delivery room, I washed my hands, took Hailey’s palm, and the doctor immediately said to me “OK, Dad, are you ready to announce the gender?”

What? Hailey was in active labor for 15 minutes. I was there for the final three.

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Maternity Henna for Our Second Born

Maternity photo with older sister

Four years ago today, I published a post about my wife getting a henna design on her pregnant belly. She was seven-and-a-half months along, and we didn’t know the gender of the child. The baby was a mystery, a hidden identity that we couldn’t formulate until his/her birth. So the design that our artist, the talented Amy Haderer-Swagman, created on that day embodied some of that mystery. It centered on a gallant, masculine peacock within an expanding, feminine sunflower. On March 7, our little girl was born, and everything about our life has been better since.

In two weeks or so, we’re going to welcome our second born — another little mystery, an anonymous kicker and roller who keeps Hailey up at night, but delights her with little motions. Varenna will be a big sister, and life will get doubly good. To celebrate, Hailey had another henna design commissioned for her pregnant belly, and this time, Amy created an unfathomable masterpiece.

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Top Towns to Visit on the Middle Mosel River

Ürzig and Ürziger Würtzgarten, Germany

To wrap up on the Mosel River in Germany, I thought I’d cheat and just compile a quick guide to the places worth visiting in between the major attractions of Cochem, Burg Eltz and Bernkastel-Keus. All of these places were within easy reach of each other, especially if you base camp it at Senhalser Höfe in Senhals. And since most of them have a famous wine associated with them, I thought I’d throw in some suggested riesling pairings as well.

Ürzig & the Ürziger Würtzgarten

Why go there: Only a handful of villages along the Mosel can even challenge the beauty of Ürzig. The justly famous Ürziger Würtzgarten vineyard — with its severe pitch and unusual red-clay soil — serves as a dramatic backdrop to the north of town. With the vineyard and its cozy buildings tucked together, I could have spent a full day photographing Ürzig and its surroundings.

Suggested pairing: Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Ürziger Würtzgarten Riesling 2012. Of all the wines I sampled along the Mosel, this one was the best example of minerality in a riesling. Continue reading

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A Cruise Tour on the Mosel River: Cochem to Beilstein

Boat touring the Mosel River near Beilstein, Germany

Along with the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone, the Mosel sees a ton of cruise traffic. The sheer volume of boats slipping in and out of the docks along Cochem’s waterfront surprised me. Along with the simple cross-the-river ferries operated by the local municipalities, there were day-trip cruises as well as multi-day mega-liners — long pearly-white craft that were crammed with hotel rooms and sapped of personality. They’re stiffness made them resemble floating logs. They looked about as much fun. Continue reading

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A Visit to Burg Eltz, Germany

Burg Eltz, Germany

Just beyond Treis-Karden and Müden we turned at a sign indicating Burg Eltz, one of the most famous castles in the world, which was hailed by PBS’ boy wonder Rick Steeves as his “favorite castle in Europe.” Comprised of three households (four after the 1500s), the massive, eight-story castle has managed to remain intact with minimal damage from fires and wars since the 11th century. In fact, it is still owned by descendants of one of these families, some 33 generations later. Continue reading

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Bernkastel-Keus: The Prettiest Place on the Mosel River

Bernkastel Doctor, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

Wandering the streets of Bernkastel-Keus, its hard not to feel like you are on a treasure hunt. For one, there’s the countless storefront window displays, many of them showing off wine bottles of nearby producers, their labels bedecked with Gothic script and a stodginess that paradoxically counters the happy and saccharine flavors of the Riesling inside. There’s also the half-timbered buildings, many of them leaning as though they’re about to fold over like a house of cards. And then, there are those glimpses — usually over a roofline or between two buildings — of the Bernkasteler Doctor, one of the most prized vineyards in all of Europe, stretching up the hill side like a dwarf emerald forest.

Cyclists, Bernkastel Doctor vineyard, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

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Visiting Cochem, Germany

Cochem, Germany at dusk on Mosel River

We started our first day in Germany slowly. My daughter clearly needed to sleep in from the jet lag, and so did my wife. So my mom and I opted to cross the river to Bakerei Stenz and load up on goodies for breakfast. By 10:30am, we were alert, satiated and ready for a little exploration, and with zero hesitation, we headed north, down the river to the city of Cochem. For months, I had been trolling Flickr, seeking inspiration and locales for how to shoot the area. Images of this city — with its Imperial castle vaulting skyward, looming over a quaint city like a domineering bully — seemed to make up 50% of the search results, apparently for good reason. Continue reading

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