Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

Jedediah Smith State Park

"The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like Amy trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time."
:John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park & Wizard Island
What's better than a vacation to a national park? A vacation to TWO national parks! Brenda and Sophia, my travel companions, had never been to Oregon and wanted to at least step foot on Oregon soil. The Oregon-California border was not far from Crescent City; a closer look at the map revealed that we could make a day trip to Crater Lake National Park. How could we not go? As Sophia said, "We're taking a vacation from our vacation!"

Getting there required going through some white-knuckle-inducing but gorgeous mountain passes. The guardrails were there only to give you an illusion of safety. The scenic drive offered glimpses of the Rogue River, and I admit I fell a little more in love with Oregon. (I visited Portland and the Oregon coast in spring 2013 -- see this post.)

Steel Visitor Center
Crater Lake's main attraction is, well, the lake. It's not just any lake, but the bluest lake you'll ever see. It really is as blue as it looks in these photos -- no Photoshop. There were seven active wildfires around the park when we visited July 18, and my photos are a little hazy in places.  

Red Cone (I think!) The haze is from wildfires. 

Another perspective of Wizard Island. Note the snow on the right bank --in July! Crater Lake averages 533 inches of snow per year.  
All the overlooks are scenic. Note the pollen accumulation at the lower right shoreline of the lake.

Phantom Ship -- a natural rock formation.
We opted to take the Crater Lake Trolley for the 33-mile loop around the lake. While the $25 fee is reasonable, especially if you don't want to drive, keep in mind you won't have any say over which stops you'll make. Also, if you're a single traveler, you may end up being asked to move from your window seat for someone who was late, even if you showed up for the tour on time. (Can you tell they won't get a 5-star TripAdvisor review from me?)

It was an amazing national park, and I'm really glad we made the trek there. I'd gladly go again and take one of the hikes down to the lake. There's another item to add to the bucket list! 

Vidae Falls
Just me, blocking the view of the lake! 

One last look at Crater Lake. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fern Canyon & Avenue of the Giants

The second full day of our Redwoods vacation centered around a day trip to the natural wonder that is Fern Canyon. Nestled within Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, this canyon is filled with ferns in the summer. It's spectacular, with walls that are 50 feet high and carpeted with five different kinds of ferns. If you think the photos look a little familiar, it's because Fern Canyon was used as a location for the filming of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.  

To get to the canyon, you need to take a long, winding dirt road, then hike about 1/4 mile to reach the canyon entrance. Even if you're not a hiker, it's an easy walk and worth it for the view alone. A word of warning if you have small children: keep your kids under control! Apparently someone's kid behind me went AWOL and tumbled down a small ravine. Lucky for him, it wasn't very steep, and he didn't get hurt. I only noticed because the people walking in front of me turned around abruptly and look in my direction (I suppose there was some yelling going on). Curiosity aroused, I looked behind me, and saw the frantic parents hauling a frightened kid back up on the path. I bet he didn't wander too far from safety after that. 

There weren't as many people in the canyon as I expected, which was nice because it meant I was able to grab some photos without any people in them. But some of the photos I've included needed people in them just to show the immense scale of the canyon! 

The entrance to Fern Canyon
Tiny people: see them? That's Brenda & Sophia! 
Logjam near the end of the Fern Canyon trail

Banana slugs were everywhere. They were pretty cool. 
After checking out Fern Canyon, we picnicked on the beach and headed further south to check out the Avenue of the Giants. This 31-mile stretch of road is full of groves of redwoods and stops where you can get out and walk among the giants. We could have spent days exploring the area!  
Human vs. timer shot. 

I really, really wanted to go stand in the middle of the road and take a photo. But I didn't. 

Founders Grove -- Brenda is in the photo for scale. If you look really carefully, you can see Sophia's sitting on the bench! 

Experimenting with the camera from the car window! 

We were treated to a gorgeous sunset as we drove north along the coast! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Volunteering with TOMS

Instagram has opened up so many things for me in Chicago. I've met a lot of people who have become friends. Experienced and tried my hand at photographing ChicagohengeWon a season pass on the Chicago Water Taxi. Seen neighborhoods I never would have explored on my own. And now I can add another experience to that list: volunteering at a school on Chicago's south side. 

I'm lucky that my schedule allows me to spend time giving back to the community as the social media chair for Partners For Progress, and that I can (sometimes) take off when an opportunity arises. I saw a post on my Instagram feed last week about an IG friend hosting a meetup with TOMS at Tilden High School. The purpose? To assemble a truckload of Bretford furniture for a classroom and library at the school. 

I set off Thursday morning with the address plugged into my GPS. I had a general idea of where I was going, but didn't want to get off-track, since it was an unfamiliar neighborhood. I only knew one person who was going to be there: the organizer, Nick Gerber. It's hard to put yourself out there like that, sometimes, but it's also one of the best ways to experience life. 

The only real problem I had was getting inside the school. I had to buzz in, and I could hear someone talking to me via the intercom, but had no clue what s/he was saying. Luckily, Nick was nearby and heard me telling the speaker I couldn't hear, and he let me in. It was kind of funny, actually. Door intercoms are NOT set up to be deaf-friendly. I can't tell you how many times I've yanked on locked doors, pressed intercom buttons, and otherwise frustrated people on the other side of the door because I "won't" identify myself. 
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Photo: TOMS isn't all shoes. It's also good coffee & volunteering opps! #TOMSRoasting #TOMSInstameet #igerschicago
TOMS now does coffee! 

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One of the many tables we assembled. 

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Some projects were more complicated than others. 
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We filled a hallway with cardboard boxes! (Don't worry -- they were recycled!)
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The proud group, post-work!
Photo: Had a great time volunteering at Tilden High School on the south side of Chicago,  helping assemble furniture for a classroom & library with some fellow Instagrammers, TOMS, and Convergence Academies. Even won some uber-cool TOMS swag!
Bonus: I won some TOMS swag in a prize drawing! Thanks, TOMS! 

When we were finished, we'd assembled more than two dozen tables, unpacked about four dozen chairs, taken a ton of photos -- and most of all, had a lot of fun. Thanks TOMS, for putting this together, Nick Gerber for coordinating the Instagrammers, and to Tilden HS for their warm welcome! I'm looking forward to the next opportunity! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

Photo taken at Crater Lake National Park, July 18, 2014. 
"Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry." Jack Kerouac was right when he wrote that. Keep it simple, folks. Live without regrets. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ocean Views

I love the water. Next to being around horses, being in or near the water is my second-favorite place. The Redwoods vacation did not disappoint -- there were plenty of ocean views, overlooks and beach stops. Add in some tide pool exploration, a lighthouse, and a picnic lunch in the sand, and it's pretty much perfect. (Except for the snake I saw slither by our first picnic stop. Don't worry -- we moved pretty quickly!) 

The first day (the day my camera battery died!), we explored Jedediah Smith State Park (see this post) and then after getting a late lunch at the Good Harvest Cafe, we drove south on 101 to explore a little more! It didn't disappoint. 

Highway 101 is winding and steep and goes off into the redwood forest in parts of the drive. It's a beautiful, scenic drive. There are a lot of turn-offs, roads to trails, and camp roads and it's very tempting to take every. single. one. of them! The ones we chose were beautiful, even when it was foggy. There were times when we were above the blanket of fog, and it was neat to see. 
Crescent Beach Overlook 7.15.2014
Klamath River Overlook 7.15.2014
Wilson's Creek Beach 7.15.2014
Wilson's Creek Beach 7.15.2014
Wilson's Creek Beach 7.19.2014
Wilson's Creek Beach -- the black sand was awesome! 7.19.2014
Sunset at Crescent City Harbor. There's nothing like an ocean sunset. 7.15.2014 I didn't get a lot of sunset photographs because it was foggy most of the time the sun was setting! 
Battery Point Light in Crescent City, during high tide. You can walk up to the islet during low tide, which we did. The lighthouse was built in 1856 and is still in operation, although as a private aid to navigation.
Crabby (found in the tide pools near the lighthouse) 7.17.2014
Anemone in the tide pool. And no, I didn't drop my camera in the water! 7.17.2014 
Last view of the Pacific beaches 7.20.2014
Next blog: Fern Canyon and Avenue of the Giants!