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NateKat · Friends

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Acadia National Park has been on our must-see list since we moved to the East Coast and we decided to make a trip in October, trying to time our visit with the fall colors. Of course, the fall colors were unusually late, so we missed the peak color, but we still had a great trip and enjoyed exploring the park.

We spent 3 days and two nights in the park. We stayed in Bar Harbor since the weather can be a bit unpredictable and the potential of camping in cold fall rain didn’t sound too appealing. But Bar Harbor is a really cute town, and very convenient for accessing the park, so it turned out to be a great choice and allowed us to experience a small coastal New England town. Also, lobster for dinner!

 

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

Hikes to lighthouses, waterfalls, peaks, and sunsets

We also spent a couple half-days in Portland with Katharine’s friend Kate. She gave us a tour of the city with stops for blueberry beer, and we made a trip out to the famous Portland Head Light.

 

We really enjoyed the ocean views and challenging hikes of Acadia. Another National Park checked off the list!

In June we took advantage of living on the east coast and took a bus to NYC for the weekend. We met up with our friends, Mike and Dar, who were completing their round-the-world trip!  The last time we had seen them was at their send off party in San Diego, which was coincidentally also the weekend we started our Epic Trip.

We spent the evening catching up with them on their travels and decided to meet the next morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum has some interesting exhibits beyond the traditional paintings and sculptures.

Mike got a couple chuckles from other onlookers

 

In addition to the weapons and armor exhibit we checked out the musical instruments. We wished there was an audio component to the exhibit though, it seemed such a shame to see so many beautiful and unique instruments but not get to hear what they sound like.

As we were walking out, the classic painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware caught our eye.  A fitting painting to end our visit.

We took a quick stroll through Central Park before parting ways.

And in the end, Nathan still hasn’t had a burger from Shake Shack… maybe next time? [a bit of an inside joke…]

Day 33-35: Chicago, IL (9/6-9/8)

 

After Glacier NP, we drove to Jackson, WY to park our car and fly to Chicago. Katharine’s good friends from Kenyon, Kathryn & Joe, were getting married and we couldn’t miss the wedding!

We arrived on Friday morning and got to spend the day with Katharine’s friend from study abroad in Munich, Melissa. We had a great time just hanging out in the city, eating excellent sushi, and enjoying some delicious wine that Melissa selected. We also appreciated having a friend’s place to stay Friday night after the Rehearsal dinner!

 

The wedding was on Saturday in a beautiful chapel in downtown Chicago. Then we headed to the Ravenswood district to the Architectural Artifacts for the reception. The Architectural Artifacts was a really great venue with tons of interesting items for sale, most out of our price range, but it was such a cool collection. We had a lot of fun exploring while the wedding party took photos during cocktail hour.

 

Great guestbook idea

 

 

 

 

 

The reception was really fun with lots of dancing and a chance to catch up with some old friends from Kenyon.

 

It was great to see old friends and well worth the side trip!

 

Epic Trip Stats:

  • Days: 35
  • Number of airplanes used on our road trip: 2

 

On Memorial Day weekend, we originally planned to go backpacking, but life sort of got in the way so we decided to do a local hike up to Inspiration Point with some of Nathan’s coworkers. We followed Modern Hiker’s route, which is a strenuous 10.5 miles with 2700′ gain. We’ve been up as far as Echo Mountain before, but we’ve always wanted to go all the way to Inspiration Point, especially since the trailhead is only 10 minutes from our apartment.

Luckily we got an early start and enjoyed the shade most of the way up. The climb was tough, but the group kept a nice pace and made good time.

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The view from Inspiration Point really is great and worth the extra effort although it was pretty foggy when we were up there. There are a bunch of viewing tubes which would have been fun on a clearer day.

 

View-tube humor

We also appreciated that there are much fewer people willing to go so far, so you can enjoy some peace and quiet (while Echo Mountain is more of a zoo).

The hike back down felt a bit long, but the views overlooking Pasadena were great and kept us going.

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It was a perfect day in the local mountains, thanks to Nathan’s coworkers for joining us!

We headed to Dana Point with Nathan’s parents to try to observe bioluminescence organisms with the Ocean Institute.  It was a new moon and the weather was cooperating, but in the end the night cruise turned up a bit disappointing display of bioluminescence.  There is always some bioluminescence, but to really get the ‘wow factor’ you need a bloom of organisms that make the water glow instead of just a few sparks in the water.  The fog quickly surrounded us making it hard to see any faint horizon line at night.  We then got a little sea sick as the boat turned parallel to the waves and rolled back in forth in the fog. We were quite happy to make it back to calmer waters. On the way out to sea they pointed out some curious animals that are active at night including a few different types of birds and some new seal babies. The trip was a little expensive for a night cruise in the fog, but the crew was knowledgable, and if there was a way to predict that there would be a bioluminescence bloom happening on a particular night, then we would definitely recommend it.

Several weeks later, Katharine was camping at the beach north of Malibu (Thornhill Broome Beach) with two of her friends who were visiting LA. The waves were huge and crashing with quite a lot of force on the steep beach. As the sun began to set, we noticed that the waves seemed to be glowing and once it was fully dark, it was an amazing, indescribable show. The white water portion of every wave would glow in a very brilliant blue/green, then dissipate as the waves settled. It was probably a once in a lifetime experience; we talked to other campers who had been there for a whole week and only saw it that one night. Unfortunately Nathan wasn’t there to see it or capture it with his camera. Kim managed to get these photos of the waves and our tent with her camera; it’s a bit blurry, but it gives an idea of how bright the glowing was.

 

Other photos from the Ocean Institute boat trip:

 

 

Our friend and coworker, Jim celebrated his 60th birthday with a day full of outdoor sports.  Since he’s Irish, it was only fitting the celebration was on St. Patrick’s Day.  The day was perfectly planned and scheduled chock full of various outdoor activities, one right after another. Jim outdid everyone, completing each event with energy to spare while the rest of us played tag team trying to keep up with him.

The morning started with open ocean swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding in Malibu.

Followed by kayaking with friends.

Although some gave it their best shot, no one capsized

Slightly more dramatic than in real life

It’s good to have friends that enjoy the same hobbies you do

We then drove ahead of the group and hiked a little ways down a nice trail and played on a rope swing waiting for the rest to bike by.

It’s amazing how just a simple rope swing can keep you entertained for hours…it’s fun to be a kid again

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The final activity was a 4 mile hike in Temescal Canyon ending at Jim’s house for drinks, food, and storytelling.

Coming down the final switchbacks of Temescal Canyon

We thought it was a great way to celebrate a birthday, we only hope we will be as fit and energetic when we turn 60! Happy Birthday to Jim!

 

It’s officially an annual tradition!  Second year in a row that my dad and I have left sunny southern California for a wintry Iowa to do some pheasant hunting.

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Last year we tried to visit some old hunting grounds that we used to cover while I was a kid, but recently there has been a sudden decline in the pheasant population so we ended up at a pheasant reserve.  This year we decided to stack the deck in our favor and just head for the reserve for two half day hunts.  This allowed us to go in early March, which is a nice time after all the holidays, but if you know Iowa the weather doesn’t always cooperate.  Some how we got lucky picking a weekend with 40 degree temperatures, a few inches of snow on the ground and blue skies!

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We arrived late Friday night/ Saturday morning got a few hours of sleep before we picked up Ken and headed to the reserve!  Ken is an old friend, local Iowan, and avid big game hunter, but is always up for the challenge of knocking down a pheasant.

Ken taking his best shot at a passing rooster

The reserve guarantees birds in the field, but Paul Wehr our professional guide and his dogs guarantees birds within range. Although it wasn’t guaranteed we got our limit both days and gave the meat to a couple local friends.

Paul Wehr and his German short-haired pointers

Can you spot the hen in the brushes?

Last year I tried to juggle a shotgun and a 5 pound camera and ended up missing a lot of good photos.  So this year I made the tough decision, on the first sweep of the field to leave the gun in the truck and head out into the field with only my camera.  The photos that I got this year were well worth the sacrifice.

Dogs on Point

My Dad Knocking Down a Rooster (full sequence in the gallery below)

Retrieving A Chukar

The second time out in the field I traded my Canon for a Beretta and had no problem knocking down my limit of birds.  The first day was perfect; good weather, lots of roosters and good company.  We spent every hour out of the field traveling house to house seeing old friends and catching up on the local news.

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The second day my Dad and I spent the day shooting birds over Paul’s dogs.  I’m guessing we were the most dedicated photographers Paul has ever guided in the field, but luckily he’s also a photographer and was patient with us as we traded the shotgun for the camera back and forth getting some great action shots, we could have only wished for more roosters.  Although it’s legal to shoot hens on a reserve the feeling and photos just aren’t the same.

Hen Busting Through the Weeds

Hen Jumping Out in Front

You have to click on this picture to see the hen flying up behind me!

Leaving No Tree Line Untouched

We kept the tradition of hiking mile after mile leaving no bush or tree line untouched and after returning to the lodge we were teased by the elusive rooster that always knows when the hunt is over.  I think next year if there are more roosters in the field I might have a chance at a Pheasants Forever photo submission!

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Even though we traveled thousands of miles and spent lots of money to recreate a weekend past time the memory for this year is the hours spent in the airports.  Of course the plane delays and layovers were miserable, but if anyone knows my parents they are goofy and when goofy is mixed with hours of waiting and an audience, hilarity will ensue.

This time it was my dad and I playing on the moving walkways in the Denver airport.  We theorized, could two long-lost friends see each other on opposing moving walkways and some how maintain a conversation?  We soon found ourselves walking in-place on opposing treadmills trying to keep a conversation while weaving between confused stationary travelers.  I’m sure we got a few looks, but it was hard to tell trying to look to the side while dodging people.

Per usual my dad wanted to see if he could get a reaction out of any of the serious travelers so he briskly walked against the flow of traffic on the moving walkway with serious, but worried look on his face mumbling “I’m not going to make my flight” as he kept looking at his watch.  He got a couple puzzled glances, but in today’s society most people are trained not to show any expression.  All was not lost as we boarded our plane and while standing in the plane’s aisle a lady pointed at us and said “you two are hilarious and made my day!”  We smiled and thanked her as we loaded ourselves in the last row of the sardine can.

Some of the photos in the gallery are a series of shots and are best viewed in order, enjoy!

Back in November we went to San Diego for my birthday weekend. We spent Friday night with Nathan’s parents and then on Saturday I participated in a color run with some friends from work.

The color run was a 5k in the Qualcomm Stadium (home of the San Diego Chargers) parking lot so the course itself wasn’t that interesting, but it’s the color that everyone comes for – basically throughout the race there are a few color ‘stations’ where volunteers throw colored cornstarch at you and you end up covered in color! Everyone starts with a white t-shirt so that the color stands out.

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Some people got into the color more than us.

At the end of the race they have a ‘color party’ with a DJ and such where everyone has packets of the color and continues to douse each other trying to get as much of your favorite color as possible.

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We got split up into 2 groups during the run and had trouble finding each other in the giant crowd at the end, but overall it was a fun experience. And no question we got plenty of color!

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After the run, the girls and I checked into the Hilton Bayfront for a girls night out in San Diego. They picked an amazing place for dinner (Searsucker) and then we went out dancing. It was a great birthday celebration!

 

By Nathan

I had never heard of cyclocross until my friend Paul mentioned he was competing in a cyclocross race at the Fairplex.  It’s an interesting concept – racing “road bikes” (not quite the same, but they are much closer to road bikes than mountain bikes) on a course with different terrain and various obstacles.

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Paul, who is a professional photographer, also let me use his 300mm 2.8 L lens, which alone made the trip worth it.  It’s an amazingly sharp lens that I will probably never be able to afford, so this was a unique opportunity.
 
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It took some getting used to since I own and use mainly zoom lens allowing me to be more flexible on my shooting location.  I spent the first hour before the race scouting out different positions around the track.  These races are also very impromptu and at first glace the track is complicated and confusing as there isn’t an official/ accurate map.  I tried to focus on the obstacles since I felt that would make the most interesting shots and easiest to visually identify as I ran from location to location.
 
The Stairs
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The second complication was there were so many cyclist and race classes that there was always a race in progress mixed with people just practicing for their up-coming race.  You had to be careful as you ducked under multiple tape lines asking yourself, “am I on or off the track now?”… then a brightly colored spandex blur would race past… “yep I’m on the track.”
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Keeping it Interesting
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The races have a set time of ~30 minutes and the cyclists try to complete as many laps of the course as they can in the allotted time. After the racer in first place finishes, everyone else just finishes the lap they are on. Since everyone was making about 3-4 laps per race, I had the chance to maneuver and re-position myself to capture multiple obstacles that were close together.
 
Brutal Sand
 
The Hurdles
 
Banked Dirt S Turn
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These races are also quite informal, and since the sport is looking to expand, they welcome photographers.  It’s always nice when you can have free rein of the course and take unique positions.
 
The Start
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It’s so informal that there were a couple kids taking advantage of the empty BMX dirt ramps between racers.
 
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There was also an interesting bike polo gaming going on, which was another first for me.
 
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Overall cyclocross was a pretty fun activity to photograph so a few weeks later I joined Paul at another race in Glendale’s Verdugo Park.  This was a more difficult venue to race and photograph since the area was much smaller and it weaved around trees and playground equipment.  It was also sunny, which was nice but created awkward shady areas or blown out backgrounds.
 
Push to the Finish
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Luckily shooting in RAW and using Lightroom allows me to lighten the dark areas without blowing out the entire photo.
 
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This time Paul wore yellow which was easy to spot among the other spandex billboards.
The track also didn’t have as many obstacles as the previous since it was in a city park and not a rented arena.
 
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For instance a swing set sandbox was flanked on both sides with the cyclocross sand pits.  So there were lots of kids playing on the swings while packs of cyclists whizzed past.  I was surprised there weren’t any playground collisions.
 
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Cyclocross is very interesting for photographers, but I’m also interested in competing someday…but I should get a bike first.  Although it’s another expensive hobby at least I would get some good exercise. Speaking of expensive, the 300mm 2.8L is incredible and was good practice using a fixed lens.  I still like my zooms though…  I actually just bought the 70-300mm L lens and hope to use it on an upcoming whale watching trip.
Thanks again, Paul!
 
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Check out the other photos from these two events.

Maine

by Katharine

While Nathan headed to San Diego for a fishing trip in October, I traveled to Portland, ME to visit my friend Kate. It was great to spend a long weekend with her and get to experience the beginning of Fall on the East Coast.

On Saturday we went to an excellent fall fair to see the livestock (pigs and alpaca were my favorites), handmade crafts, and eat traditional fair food (fried dough!).

Sunday we went apple picking and got fresh apple cider doughnuts, something I definitely miss in CA that was a tradition for my family growing up.

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Then we went to Wolf’s Neck State Park for some sea-side hiking. The trees were just starting to turn and the woods smelled amazing. I loved the mushrooms! Afterwards we even got to stop at the L.L. Bean store which is always fun even if you don’t buy anything.

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On my last day we visited a bunch of lighthouses and stopped for classic crab sandwiches which were of course delicious.

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Speaking of food, I have to say that Kate treated me to some amazing home-cooked meals and I got to try some new vegetables that I haven’t been adventurous for enough in the past. Beets are really good – and now I know how to cook them 🙂

It was a great vacation, mostly getting to see Kate, but the beautiful Fall in Maine didn’t hurt!

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