Category Archives: Outdoors

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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Kihei and South Maui with a Toddler

Kamaole Beach Park III, Kihei, Maui, Hawaii

After Hana, we traveled around the empty and rugged southern end of Maui, up over the shoulder of Haleakala and back to Kahului, where we then proceeded south to Kihei, one of the most touristified places in all of Hawaii. Our trip was winding to a close, but we came for one reason: humpback whales. Continue reading

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How to Photograph the Hana Highway

The Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

(Click on each image for a larger view)

Running 42 miles from Paia to Hana, the Hana Highway is considered one of the top scenic byways in America. But I think that’s misleading. It’s not really a highway, and “scenic” doesn’t do it justice.

Frequently, two lanes become one, and for several stretches, 15 miles an hour seems too fast. Blind curves segue into fleeting waterfall views, and for nearly its whole stretch, dense tropical forest enshrouds the steep hills. In fact, I’d bet that if the Hawaii Department of Transportation left the highway alone for a month, the forest would swallow the pavement. From start to finish, its wild, unkempt, and wonderfully free of everything that defines the rest of Maui.

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Backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado

Savage Peak and one of the Missouri Lakes, Holy Cross Wilderness, Colorado

Halfway down a broken hill — where the trail under my feet was gnarled with roots and busted slabs of granite — I came to a realization of sorts: Backpacking was a coming of age. As a 20-year-old, I found an exercise in manhood. It required setting off into the wilderness with a backpack loaded up on essentials. It required a friend or two or three for companionship and shared endeavors. And it required that I dig a hole and poop in it when I felt the urge.

Welcome to manhood, Young Kevin. No wonder I was so in love with hiking and camping in the backcountry.

On that broken hill, it occurred to me that this not only explained why I embraced backpacking with such gusto back then. It explained the enthusiasm deficit I had experienced on this entire trip. From its inception to its conclusion, there was a lingering voice saying do I really want to do this anymore? It had been so long since I’d last done it (2007) and life had gone in such a new and exciting direction (fatherhood) … I just didn’t feel the desire like I used to. What was going on? Continue reading

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Photographing Great Sand Dunes National Park – Part 2 (Into the Dune Field)

Footprints in the sand, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

So I set forth into the Great Sand Dunes with 32 ounces of water and my camera backpack. Climbing into the dunes is an exercise in deception. The approach is easy — perhaps a quarter mile over tightly packed sands. The first incline is like a slap in the face. “Oh yeah. I forgot … one step forward, half step back in sinking sand.” Continue reading

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Photographing Great Sand Dunes National Park – Part 1 Medano Creek

Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park

(click on images for a larger view)

Colorado is having a lean year. Not in terms of the economy, or even sports (yes, the Rockies are a farcical shit show, but we now have Peyton Manning). No, I’m talking about the most important resource where we’re coming up short: water. The summer of 2012 has so far been eerily like the summer of 10 years ago when “all of Colorado was burning.”

Whether this year is worse or not depends on perspective. The most destructive fire in our state’s history is still burning, and there have been four deaths. Just yesterday, two new fires erupted in heavily populated areas. But in 2002, monster wildfires were everywhere: Durango, Glenwood Springs, the Flat Tops, Trinidad, Cortez, and the one we all remember, the Hayman Fire, which simultaneously put the suburbs of both Denver and Colorado Springs on high alert and remains the largest fire in our history. In the end, which year is worse doesn’t matter. Summers like this are humbling. Continue reading

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How to Photograph the Matterhorn

how to photograph the matterhorn

Imagine you took the world’s 50 most famous mountains — Everest, K2, Denali, Fuji — and put their image on a flash card. Now imagine that you’ve flipped through the entire deck and quizzed yourself. Could you name most of these mountains based on their profile alone? The unique silhouette they cut into the sky? Odds are, only two of those mountains would be gimmes. Kilimanjaro and the Matterhorn. Even Kilimanjaro might be a maybe, but the Matterhorn? Their ain’t another mountain on earth that rivals its facade.

On the train ride into Zermatt last summer, I had my back to the town as we rolled up the tracks. What I saw in reverse was the sight of every passenger leaning out the train windows seeking their first glance of the Matterhorn. At one point, I turned around, looked up the hillside, and bam: there it was. The sight of it made my heart skip a beat. I’m not kidding.

Photographing the Matterhorn is easy. Creating a unique image that hasn’t been done before … now that’s hard. Here are some things I learned on how to photograph the Matterhorn during my all-too-brief stay in Zermatt last June. Continue reading

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The Moment: New Year’s Day, Roxborough Park

Half moon, Roxborough State Park, Colorado

Roxborough State Park — located about 45 minutes southwest of Denver — has long been a favorite stomping ground for me, especially in the last 11 years, since my parents moved out that way. It’s quiet, filled with wildlife, and defined by a series of sandstone fins rising upwards of 175 feet over the valley. This is the same geological formation as Red Rocks Amphitheater and Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods, only it rises up from the hogbacks in a more hidden, lesser traveled part of the Front Range, making it more intimate and — in my mind — more spectacular.

I had very close friends from Tennessee visiting for New Years, and since we didn’t have time for a run up to Steamboat Springs — or any of the mountains for that matter — I opted to take them out to my parent’s house and walk into the park. As soon as we set off from the house, we were greeted by this scene, of the half moon positioned right in the midst of a formation we’ve always called The Molar. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the Matterhorn eclipsing the moon, but it was cool nonetheless.

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Switzerland: Desaturated, and in Black and White

A banner cloud drapes around the summit of the Matterhorn near Zermatt, Switzerland.

(Click on images for a larger view)

I recently spent two weeks touring around Switzerland with my wife and our one-year-old daughter. It was a magnificent trip — one of those get-it-out-of-my-system-now kinds of trips while Varenna is young and portable. Ha! That’s at least what we thought when we booked the trip in January. She’s a bit more … mobile, shall we say.

But we had a very good time, and ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised with the images I returned home with. In the moment, we both were a bit distracted trying to keep our daughter entertained, engaged, and safe. We worked hard every hour of the trip, just not on photography. Or so it seemed.

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The Road to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park

Red dirt cascade descending from the Waimea Canyon area, Kauai.

On the Friday morning before Thanksgiving, I had a feeling my brother was trying to talk us out of going to Waimea Canyon. It was a long drive, he noted. Time on Kauai was precious, and Varenna — our 8-month-old daughter — would be facing backwards for the whole ride. Poipu had a baby beach.

But I acted like the typical younger brother: the more he discouraged it, the more determined I was to go. This was a verdant miniature Grand Canyon, and at the end of the road was a window to the Na Pali Coast. Yes, time on Kauai is precious. But for me, that meant not letting a week slip by without seeing this magnificent sight.

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