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We spent the week of July 4th in Idaho backpacking in the Sawtooth Mountains – at 6 days, it was our longest backpack ever. We covered about 50 miles with a lot of elevation gain and loss as we traversed over various passes and into valleys. The Sawtooths are full of alpine lakes and we saw our fair share, over 10 named lakes, each pristine and full of trout. Except for our last day as we hiked out on the Saturday of the July 4th weekend, we hardly saw more than a few people each day, which is why we came to the Sawtooths: stunning mountain scenery without the National Park crowd levels.

We were mostly lucky with weather the whole week – no rain, but it was much hotter than we expected. And we were not fully prepared for the vicious mosquitoes that seemed to get worse every night. By the last night, once the sun began to set, all we could do was hide in our tent and listen to the amazingly loud hum around us. We actually ran out of DEET on our second day, but lucked out with a bit of trail magic and found a bottle of picaradin-based repellent left on the trail, which wasn’t quite as effective, but far better than nothing. Without it, Nathan certainly would have come home with far more bites, and he got quite enough as it was.

Despite the bugs and the unexpected heat, we had a great trip! With some suggestions and help from local blogger Michael Lanza of The Big Outside, we put together a nice itinerary hitting the best of the Sawtooths. Our plan for the second day ended up being a bit over-zealous, in part because the trail was quite overgrown, so we had to stop early and camp along a stream instead of at Baron Lakes. But we were able to make up most of the distance the next day and get back on track.

Our first night at Sawtooth Lake was our favorite with a beautiful sunset and moonlight.


The views from the ridge lines and mountain passes were amazing.


We had a great spontaneous swim break at Hidden Lake one afternoon. Katharine swam out to this rocky island.



The mosquitoes limited our fishing time, but we had some success a couple mornings.


We used rocks, dams, and logs for numerous water crossings.  Some were more stable than others.


The wildflowers were at their peak.


The scenery of the Sawtooths was truly stunning – it was a great week in the wilderness!


If you’re curious, this was our itinerary:

Day 1: Iron Creek Trailhead to Sawtooth Lake

Day 2: Hiked along North fork of Baron Creek to Baron Creek, camped along Baron Creek below the final climb to Baron Lakes

Day 3: To Cramer Lakes via Baron Lakes and Alpine Lake

Day 4: To Edna Lake via Hidden Lake

Day 5: To Twin Lakes via Toxaway Lake

Day 6: To our car at Tin Cup trailhead (Petit Lake Campground) via Alice Lake, Petit Lake

We used Sawtooth Transportation to shuttle us to the trailhead.


More photos:

Our Thanksgiving tradition is to visit Nathan’s family in San Diego.  It’s only a 4-day weekend, but we always try to make the most of it.  San Diego is a great city to visit, packed with a variety of activities.

San Diego La Jolla Tour

Nathan’s dad is also a certified tour guide so we took a great informative tour of the La Jolla coastline learning about the history, geography and current events in San Diego.





Wild Animal Park

We’ve been to the famous San Diego Zoo many times, so we thought it would be interesting to see the Wild Animal Park this time.  The exhibits are more spread out, so it was pretty exhausting, but we saw more young animals since this is the zoo’s breeding facility. The new tiger exhibit was also pretty cool in that it really let you see the Tigers close up.




Lobster Fishing

A few years ago we went lobster fishing and were really successful, catching several lobsters per person.  Ever since then, we’ve been trying to beat that experience, or at least match it. Unfortunately this year it was unusually windy, which meant we had to stay closer to the shore, likely hurting our chances. We caught three legal sized lobsters, but had more fun playing cards in the cabin between pulling pots.




Horseback Riding on the Beach

As a special treat, Nathan’s dad arranged for us all to go horseback riding on the beach! There are only a few places that still allow you to ride horses on the beach in California, so we were glad to get the opportunity.  We took a 2 hour ride along the Mexico border and out on to the beach.  It was fun to see how the horses personalities played out during the ride, even following the same track they always take. Despite our inexperience and some conflicting horse-human personalities, we all managed to stay safe and enjoy the ride. But two hours was more than enough for our unconditioned butts… we couldn’t get out of the saddle fast enough!



It was another great trip to San Diego, we are already thinking of what to do this year… maybe a trip out to the desert in Anza Borrego Park.

We are currently backpacking in the Havasupai Indian Reservation (near Grand Canyon) which luckily is not affected by the government shutdown. We were fortunate to finish our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim backpack before the shutdown, and we are hoping the parks will be open by Sunday so that we can finish the rest of the trip as planned!

Day 37-39: Grand Teton National Park, WY (9/9-9/11)

We spent over a week in the Tetons since it’s one of our favorite parks and Katharine’s family and close family friends met us there.  This trip report only covers the wildlife we saw during our trip and some fishing on the Snake River.  There will be a couple more posts to come.

Grand Teton is one our favorite parks because it’s where we got engaged just over three years ago, but there’s a lot to like, especially all the wildlife.  In the mornings and evenings we would drive the park roads and keep an eye out for elk, moose, or bears.  This year we saw all three and then some.






Katharine’s dad and brother are avid fly fishermen and will jump at the idea of spending time in Jackson Hole.  We were lucky to join them on a float trip down the South Fork of the Snake river.  We started early in the morning catching fish in the river mist.





We spent so much time focused on the river and our flies drifting downstream that we often would forget to look up at the beautiful surroundings.  Osprey and Bald Eagles stalked the trout below, and every once in a while we’d see a bird flying off with a catch.



Nathan even got a chance at the oars while our guide started up the motor.


 Trout Fishing Pirates

After fishing we stopped at our guide’s house and were impressed by the domestic turkey and all the chickens.


There was one feisty rooster that didn’t like the looks of one of the guides hats.  Eventually the hat won and the rooster was caught.



Wildlife photography and fly fishing in the Grand Tetons… it doesn’t get much better than that!


Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 39
  • Miles driven: 5189
  • Fish caught: 3
  • Pronghorn Antelope: Numerous
  • Bison: Numerous
  • Elk: Some
  • Moose: 4
  • Bears:1


Day 27-29: Seattle, WA (8/30-9/1)

While in Washington we also visited Nathan’s grandparents and his parents, who flew up from San Diego.  We met up with everyone at the Space Needle for lunch with a unique view of the city.  We celebrated Nathan (30 yrs), his dad (60 yrs) and his grandpa’s (80 yrs) birthdays this year. The ice cream dessert was in a dry ice bowl, which caught a lot of attention.



The skies were clear and the dinning area rotated several times during the lunch giving us a 360 view of the city.  After lunch we headed to the sky deck to take some photos.  We recommend the package deal of the lunch and sky deck tickets – it was well worth it.



The next day we visited the Pike’s Place Market, where we watched the famous fish throw.


We also had fish and chips at Ivar’s seafood bar, which in our opinion has the most unorganized ordering system in which you just yell out your order from the crowd and some how it all works out.  It’s not our style, but we got our food without any issue so we can’t complain too much.  We ate outside and watched kids feed the seagulls and when we say kids we are also including Nathan’s parents.



Nathan’s mom wasn’t so keen on the idea after the seagull took the french fry.

We also visited the first Starbucks, various craft booths, and the gum wall.


It is more of a gum alley than just a wall

The next morning we got up early to go salmon fishing in the Puget Sound.

Photo taken by Nathan’s Mom (family of artists)

When we got there the first impression of the boat was a little worrisome, but after a couple of hours we were anchored and casting our fishing lines over the rail.


Nathan was the only one to catch a salmon…but it was a little too small to keep.


Katharine caught the biggest fish, a rockfish, but we couldn’t keep it either.


We did catch a ton of flounder though, which the deckhand filleted and grilled with cheese while we motored back.  It was surprisingly pretty good, but then again what isn’t with cheese on top!


Although we didn’t catch any salmon it was fun spending time with Nathan’s family and listening to the endless jokes, banter, and stories.

That night, we had a nice dinner with Nathan’s grandma and got to share some photos of our epic trip so far.  It was fun to re-live the trip memories and realize all the places we’ve been so far.

It was a great visit with family and fun to see the city, but we were also eager to get back to the national parks and camping.

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 29
  • Nights in a tent: 19
  • Miles driven: 3826
  • Seagulls fed: 2
  • Salmon caught: 1
  • Flounder caught: 10+

I tried out my new Canon 70-300L lens while the guys spent their Christmas afternoon fishing.



 Fish on the Line




Robins Taking a Bath


70-300L @140mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/250, 7D Body

I took this photo handheld, standing 10 yards away, knee high in a running creek… gotta love image stabilization.

Cropped from the photo above.

The sharp lens combined with the 7D sensor allows me to crop without losing too much quality.  The fact that you can see the scales on this fish is amazing.  I can’t wait to take some wildlife photos this year!

By Nathan

While Katharine traveled to the east coast I headed down the coast to San Diego to visit my family.  I met up with my brother, dad and grandpa for a half day of deep sea fishing of the coast.  I find most activities I enjoy require me to wake up before sunrise: fishing, hunting, long hikes, and wildlife photography.  Luckily I’m a morning person and if there is something worth waking up for I don’t even need an alarm clock.  We loaded up on the boat before sunrise and headed to the bait docks to load up on sardines.


It was a beautiful fiery sunrise as the sky turned from purple to pink to orange and red.  The ocean was calm with no wind and a sunny forecast for the day ahead.  A couple years ago we went fishing for father’s day and it was cold and rainy. So, even if we didn’t catch much, as long as the weather was nicer we would consider it a success.


The bait of the day was chopped up frozen squid!  We baited our hooks and dropped the lines overboard 200+ feet to the bottom.


(This is where my mom is grossed out and stops reading the post)


It didn’t take long before my grandpa was hauling in the first fish of the day.


The bright orange rock fish would only put up fight for the first 10-20 feet of line.  This was understandable once you brought the fish on board and could see their bodies couldn’t handle the rapid pressure change.


Pretty soon we were all catching them – in fact the entire boat of 50 or so people were catching the spiny fish.  We weren’t too keen on the idea of rock fish for dinner so when the deck hands asked what bag number we had, we just picked random numbers, basically giving out fish to unsuspecting fisherman until my grandpa caught by a deck hand who remembered his first fake number.  We were busted, but to keep the boat count up the deck hands went along with the idea of distributing the fish amongst the other people.


After catching a decent amount of fish we took a break to share jokes and stories while others kept dropping their lines over hoping for the big one.  There was some commotion from the back of the boat and as I got a closer look it was a pale looking sea monster thrashing in the water.

Wolf Eel

The fisherman broke the line and the monster slithered back to the bottom of the sea.  The eel was probably 5 feet long and it made you wonder what else was down there and I was glad to be on the boat. Later the boat jumped in excitement when a young guy next to us hooked onto a yellow fin tuna.  It gave him a good 30 minute fight and ended up being almost 30 pounds.  It was the largest fish I’ve ever seen caught in real life and was pretty amazing how the thin fishing line could have the strength to hold a fish that strong.  To top off the great story, the guy was from Arizona and this was the first time he’s seen the ocean!  I’m sure he’ll be telling that story for the rest of his life.


After a long morning of fishing and storytelling we headed back to the docks.  While headed back to shore, the deck hands clean the fish and throw the unwanted parts overboard creating a feeding frenzy for the seagulls and pelicans.  I used the oppotunity to get some close up photos of pelicans flying next to the boat.


That afternoon we headed to the beach to watch my dad surf with his new board.


My dad grew up in San Diego and spent many days surfing so this was nothing new, but the last time we took photos and video it was on actual film and VHS.  The waves were okay, but it’s hard to capture a lifetime hobby in a 2 hour window.


I’m sure I’ll be taking many photos and videos in the future and hopefully next time I’ll have a new telephotos lens!


It was a fun weekend packed full of fishing, surfing, jokes and best of all old stories.


There are some events you hear about, but you’ve never seen it done – like fish stocking!  We’ve always heard “oh this lake is stocked every year” but who sees it, how do they do it?  During our visit in Pennsylvania the timing worked out that we got to see the White Clay Creek get stocked with 2,000 trout!  The White Clay Fly Fishers raised the money for the fish stocking and were there to help introduce the fish into the creek.

Katharine’s Dad, Paul, White Clay Fly Fisherman

The trout were netted out of a truck and into large buckets.


The fly fisherman lined up in a bucket brigade and passed the fish down to the water’s edge.


There they were transfered to floating barrels which had small holes to allow water to flow in and out while they moved down the river.


There were actually two locations the fish were introduced but we just followed these barrels down the river.  The fish were then netted again and placed in areas they may normally be found.


By introducing the fish in smaller quantities throughout the stream it improves their chances of survival and has less of an impact on the creek’s habitat.


Most of the fly fisherman were older but it was fun to see the younger generation get in on the fun.


These types of events are always interesting and fun to see the behind the scenes of how people support their hobbies and interests.


We had another wonderful Christmas with Katharine’s family in PA. This year we couldn’t arrive until the morning of Christmas Eve so we missed some pre-Christmas traditions like the famous cookie making extravaganza, but we were still able to take part in a coupe other traditions. We pricked cranberries while watching the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original, of course) and we also made the miniature tree center piece.


Christmas morning was full of presents starting with fun science toys in the stockings.

Others were funny and slightly cruel

After singing some carols together we got to unwrap tree presents. There were some unique gifts like a level that was wrapped as a 4 foot tall snowman from Katharine’s aunt Lisa or the signed family tree from Katharine’s grandma, Edna. During our rehearsal dinner we had handed out family trees to everyone and Edna had everyone on Nathan’s side of the family sign it.


And it wouldn’t be Christmas without Katharine’s mom working her magic in the kitchen for days to prepare 4 or 5 delicious meals. We feasted well… Favorites like quiche, cranberry sauce, roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding, and berry pie were amazing, as usual.


After eating pounds of rich food we headed to the White Clay Creek Preserve to walk it off. Let’s be honest, some of us walked while others fished…


All in all we had a great time together. Wish we got some snow though… Maybe next year!

This outing with Rick (Katharine’s brother) had two purposes: to take photos of Rick fishing and a chance for Rick to fish (most important).  On a Saturday at the end of September Katharine and I decided to join Rick on a expedition up Santa Anita Canyon to catch small trout in the pools of the stream along the trail.


Rick brought his Tenkara (collapsible fly rod which doesn’t include a reel) to compare against ours because they have different lengths and stiffness.


Before heading out Katharine and I tried to figure out which shots we wanted.  One we discussed was a macro shot of the fly sitting on the water. Low light and moving water always complicates the shot a little bit trying to catch the subject and not dip your camera in the stream.


Then there are some unplanned shots to just capture the activity and the moment.


While standing behind Rick, not to startle the fish I saw a great future Tenkara advertisement.  Katharine posed with our Tenkara so I could position the rod better.  The idea was to capture their logo on the end of the rod in the foreground while the tip of the rod extended out into the background.


After going home I looked at Tenkara’s website to see if they had any stock ad photos, sure enough someone else already thought of that shot.  It is the sixth photo in their gallery.  Although it’s discouraging to see my idea already used it’s nice to know my eye is picking the right arrangements.

While hiking we also took some photos of mountain bikers and the scenery.


Overall we had a lot of fun and it is always nice to escape to these little havens of nature just outside of LA. And little did we know a month later Rick and his wife would decide to move to the East Coast, making this likely our last fishing trip together in the Los Angeles area.



We were barely unpacked from Alaska and had just started school but we couldn’t pass up a three day weekend backpack for Labor Day. We decided to go to Jennie Lakes Wilderness, which is in the Sequoia National Forest, between Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks.  Because it wasn’t in a Nat’l Park we were allowed to have campfires using the dead wood found around our campsite.  Also we would be camping next to lakes where we could fish…backpacking, campfires, and fishing sounds like an amazing weekend!!! Katharine as usual planned the entire trip mapping out each day, researching permits and calculating our travel times.

We left early Saturday morning and drove through King’s Canyon National Park, to gain access to the Jennie Lakes area.  The park was full of confused campers that were forced to “dispersion camp” along side the road because all the campsites were taken. One good thing about backpacking is it filters out a lot of people- even on a 3 day weekend you might only see a few other parties on the trail.

The plan was to do a 3 day loop: first day to Weaver lake, second day to Jennie Lake, then last day back to the car.  The first leg to Weaver lake was shorter which was appropriately chosen after spending almost 5 hours driving.  It was a quick 3 mile hike to Weaver lake and we were able to find a nice camping spot along the lake.

Weaver Lake

We sterilized water with our new Adventurer Opti Steripen (3.6 oz) which uses UV light to kill viruses and bacteria rather than using a filter.  It is much smaller and lighter than our Katadyn Hiker filter pump (11 oz) but the Steripen can only purify1/2 liter of water at a times and takes about 5 minutes each time.  The Katadyn pump is much easier to filter 7-8 liters for hydration packs, cooking, and cleaning, but we’re looking at ways to keep our pack weight down so the Steripen was a nice option.

As soon as we finished dinner the sun was setting so we thought we would try our Tenkara fly rod and see if we couldn’t catch a few fish.

After a few casts we caught a fish but soon after the sunset behind the mountains and it was hard to see the fly on top of the water.

The blur is the fish, I swear

Weaver Lake Sunset

We probably could have had better luck by rolling up our pants and wadding out in the shallow, cold, mountain water but staying dry was also nice.

Of course with all campfires you have to have marshmallows so we packed 10 marshmallows which we throughly enjoyed.  Eating marshmallows around a fire near a lake with the next campers over 100 yards away on a 3-day weekend…pretty awesome.


We also packed our iPad and tried to use the Star Walk app to identify constellations amongst the thousands of stars.  As the fire dwindled we headed for bed knowing tomorrow we had to hike 9 miles with some elevation gain.


We hiked 9 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 6 hours which is unusually fast for us.  Considering we were hiking uphill with our packs and stopped for lunch that would normally take us close to 8+ hours.  We didn’t take as many photos which may have played a part in our quick pace.

Jo Pass 9,400 feet

We only saw one other couple on the entire 9 mile trail and they were headed the other direction.  When we arrived at Jennie Lake it was apparent that most people just hike directly to Jennie Lake and don’t attempt the loop through Weaver Lake.  Many of the campsites were taken from the previous day but we were still able to find a nice campsite with a rock fire ring.  We spent the evening fishing and caught at least 4 fish, which probably frustrated the guy next to us who had brought complicated spinning rods and extensive tackle boxes but didn’t seem to be having much luck.

Fishing Off a Log in Jennie Lake

Although next time I should bring my Leatherman fishing instead of leaving it in my pack.



We ended the evening with another fire under the stars.



Sunrise at Jennie Lake

We packed up our camp and headed to “Poop Out Pass” which is a difficult up hill hike coming into Jennie Lake luckily we were headed out down hill.

Packing the Rainfly

There were some interesting flowers along the way but the vistas were not as amazing as Alaska which may have resulted in another day of very few photos and a quicker than average pace.  We covered 6 miles in a couple hours allowing us some time to visit King’s Canyon.

We visited the General Grant sequoia tree, second largest tree in the world next to the General Sherman, which we’ve seen in Sequoia National Park.  It stands at 267 feet tall and is estimated to be 1,650 years old.  There was also an old fallen sequoia that you can walk through but beware of the active bee hive in the roots!

Katharine Walking Through a Fallen Sequoia

Overall it was a nice and relaxing trip with fishing, campfires and 18 miles of hard earned exercise.

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