A few weeks ago, Cobalt and I visited one of the ghost forests along the PNW coast. These forests were formed as a result of the great Cascadia earthquake on January 26, 1700 (super interesting story for how they figured out that date). During the quake, pieces of forests along the coast dropped away and the trees found their roots in salt marshes. These trees don’t like salty water, so they died, leaving behind eerie tree skeletons that remain to this day.
I first found out about ghost forests from reading Sandi Doughton’s book “Full Rip 9.0” and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. Unfortunately, the closest ghost forest to Cobalt and me requires a boat to get to it, so we haven’t visited that one yet. The easiest ghost forest to get to in the area is the Neskowin Ghost Forest because it’s just hanging out on Neskowin Beach on the coast of Oregon. Anyone who’s willing to cross a shallow creek can see those ghost trees. So when Cobalt and I decided to take a vacation to the Oregon coast, I made sure we paid them a visit.
This ghost forest is interesting because apparently the trees were completely buried until the epic 1997-1998 storm season exposed them. Now they host an assortment of mussels and barnacles, and sometimes even tide pools, so it’s double fun — see the ghost forest AND sea stars (can you find the sea star in the top photo?).
Cobalt and I got there just after low tide and spent the next hour or so meandering through the forest and searching for crabs (crab pictures coming soon). The weather was perfect: cool and misty, which made our ghost forest experience even more creepy. It was unfortunately pretty crowded, despite it being 8 a.m. on a Thursday. I guess everyone was excited about ghost forests and/or tide pools.
This was not the first ghost forest we’ve seen. We found our first one on accident. In 2019, Cobalt and I were exploring the area of Alaska near Anchorage and we drove past the Girdwood ghost forest. This ghost forest is much newer than the Neskowin ghost forest though, it was formed during an earthquake in 1964.
Move over, aspens. There’s a new fall tree in town.
This weekend, Cobalt and I went on an epic hike in search of larches, trees I had never heard about until a few weeks ago. These needley trees look like your typical evergreens during the summer, but then in the fall the needles turn yellow and fall off, like your typical deciduous trees. So cool!
In addition, it’s been two years since Cobalt and I have lived in Colorado, and we missed our fall tradition of seeing the glorious aspens turn yellow against the bright blue Colorado sky.
So when we found out that the Pacific Northwest has larches, we knew we had to go find them.
It’s not exactly easy. Larches in the state of Washington live at high elevation (~5,000 ft) in the northern part of the Cascade mountain range. So we had about a three-hour drive to wiggle northeast to the Cascades and then up.
But it turned out to be a beautiful day for a drive. To get to the Cascades, we drove through tunnels of orange and yellow trees that were shrouded in fog. Perfect for people who love fall and Halloween. Then as we climbed into the mountains, the sun came out and we were surrounded by outstanding views of the craggy mountains in this mountain range. Seriously, it was jaw-dropping.
My co-worker had recommended that we do the Cutthroat Pass trail, because it would definitely get us high enough to see larches (the trailhead is about 4,000 feet), and it would possibly be less crowded than other popular hikes in the area. The weather was too perfect though, so I think half of the state of Washington had the same idea we did.
Anyway, the trail was great! It was coated in snow, which ranged from a little dusting at the beginning to more prominent snow as we climbed. But the sun was out, so we weren’t too cold. We had INCREDIBLE views of the surrounding mountains, and we started to see larches nestled on them as the trail went on. Then suddenly, at about 6,000 feet, we found ourselves surrounded by these beautiful turning-yellow trees…. and all the other humans who had come out to find them.
Cobalt and I wandered around the larches for a while, taking pictures and getting to know them.
Their needles are thinner than those of other needled trees I’ve encountered, so they felt feathery and soft. Their softness and the way they were organized on the branches made the branches look like yellow pipe cleaners jutting out of the trunks. For some reason, the twisty nature of the larch branches made me think of skeletons. Not sure why.
After meandering through larches and humans, we found a large rock in the sun and decided to stop for lunch. We enjoyed our excellent views of the larches and the light breeze that swept across the area while we munched on carrots and cheese.
Then it was time to head back down. :(
These trees are magical. I can’t wait to go back and visit them again next year — or maybe next week. I miss them already.
Helllooooo friends! I hope you have been enjoying spring (or autumn if I have any southern hemisphere friends). Cobalt and I have been having a good time getting to know our new city. There’s always something fun going on on the weekends. We participated in Independent Bookstore Day one weekend and Free Comic Book Day the next! But while we’ve been having tons of fun with all of that, we really wanted to get out and explore the wilderness too.
So last weekend we went on an adventure to a ghost town with our friend Titanium! This particular ghost town only existed in Washington for ~20 years! It sprung up with a coal mine in 1900 and then it slowly started dying 15 years later when the nearby trains switched away from coal. Then a fire wiped out most of what was left of the town. Yikes. Bad news. So don’t get too excited, the only town-y parts left are a few walls and a foundation here and there. But it was still cool to wander around and wonder what it would have been like to live there.
Also, it was really incredible to see how nature has slowly reclaimed all of the remaining human-made objects in the area. Moss is not deterred, folks. It will grow on anything it seems.
Happy Day After Labor Day, everyone! I hope you all had relaxing holidays!
This weekend, Cobalt and I headed to Montana to see Glacier National Park. Our visit was kind of ill-timed, however, because the park currently has an epic fire ripping through it. In fact, just an hour or so after that picture was taken, this part of the park was closed and evacuated. So we got a bit of a smoky tour of the park. But seriously guys, even with smoke around, this park is gorgeous. We’re definitely going to have to come back some time under less smoky conditions.
So what is it about this park that makes it so fantastic, you ask? Well the answer is in the name. The glaciers. Giant glaciers left behind these incredible towers and valleys when they melted. Plus there are still some glaciers hanging out there today!
Glaciers also formed a lot of the geographical features of one of my other favorite national parks, Yosemite. I think I have a thing for glaciers. They do cool things to rocks.
So anyway, Cobalt and I really wanted to meet a glacier, but they are a bit of an oddity at this point because so few are left. So instead we decided to venture to Iceberg Lake because if you can’t get to a glacier, a lake filled with water that used to be frozen is almost as good.
The trail to Iceberg lake starts on the east side of the park, which also looked like it was a little less smoky. Cobalt and I were staying in a hotel on the west side of the park so to get to our trailhead, we either had to
enter the park at the west side, drive through the whole park, drive out of the park, go around another lake, and then drive into the east side entrance or
drive alllllllllll the way around the whole park and then drive in the east side entrance
We opted for option 1) because it meant getting to see the park on our way to/from our hike.
So we got to the west side entrance around 9 am. It was a little smoky but not too bad. It was actually a little chilly outside too, a welcome feeling after melting all summer in the Tri-Cities. It was perfect day for exploring a national park! We wound our way through the park, stopping here and there to take pictures and marvel at the beauty of the park. It wasn’t until we entered the east side of the park that the ranger told us that the west entrance had been closed and evacuated at 10! Yikes! So much for going back through the park on our way back to the hotel…
Anyway, it was time to find that Iceberg Lake! The east side of the park was way less smoky than the west side (though it got smokier as the day continued). So we filled our backpacks with food and water, slapped on some sunscreen, and headed up the trail. It’s a really pretty 5 mile (each way) hike! My favorite part about the trail is that you can actually see the top of the basin that holds the lake pretty early on. Then we weaved in and out of forests and over waterfalls to get up there.
I think it was worth the hike! So pretty (even with the smoke). We ate our lunch by the lake, even though it meant chasing away some pretty fat and sneaky chipmunks. I attempted to get into the lake but the water was really really really cold (though other tourists did make it all the way in). For the record, Cobalt got his feet in too.
Then it started to get much more smoky and we decided it was time to bid our new lake and chipmunk friends goodbye. Don’t worry, Iceberg Lake! We’ll be back soon!
After we left the park, we had to drive all the way around it to get back to the hotel. It seemed to take a lot longer (especially when I was driving on crazy twisty narrow mountain roads) but when we actually did the math, it took us the same amount of time as it did for us to drive through the park. Good to know.
In other news, the smoke was pretty terrible on the way back to the hotel and on Monday morning. In fact, we drove back to Washington through a smoky haze. It’s bad, guys. These fires are outta control.
Hello everyone! How are you? Cobalt and I went camping last weekend! On Saturday afternoon, we and our friends M and E (and their dog Bear) and K (and her dog Josie) piled into two cars with tons of camping supplies and hit the road to go camping in Umatilla National Forest!
So I like car camping because you don’t have to carry all of your stuff on your back and you have plenty of room for all the fun camera supplies you want. I had an extra bag full of a tripod, a variety of lenses, and my trusty DSLR because I was hoping to photograph the Perseid meteor shower.
While I gave myself a crazy photo challenge of trying to catch meteors streaking across a random spot in the sky, I think that camping offers a fun environment to try night time photography. It’s usually way darker out there since one point of camping is to get away from the city. And wow you can see so many stars (unless the moon is out…)! Plus it’s just fun to play with light when it’s dark. So I thought I’d talk a little about that, show off some crazy night sky pictures, and then we’ll top it all off with some fun hike pictures from the next day. Sound good?
Great. Let’s get started. So for those of you have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that Cobalt and I love taking weird photos at night. There are some creepy ones like this one of him sneaking up on me. There’s a romantic one of us with the Big Dipper. Plus there are some weird ones like this one with the moon making weird patterns in the sky.
The thing I like about night time photography is that you have to be creative about what kind of light your camera sees. So sometimes I use the flash followed by ambient light. Sometimes I use just ambient light. And sometimes I use ambient light to convey motion. That is the most fun.
Check out my crazy star pictures from this weekend. Both of them have a pretty long exposure — I left the shutter open for a long time to try to capture a meteor in action. Look at how the stars are swirling around. Cooool.
I ended up getting pretty frustrated with this whole process because the remote control I usually use with my camera to start and stop loooooong exposures was on the fritz. I think it needs a new battery. Also we kept seeing AMAZING meteors in the opposite direction from where my camera was pointing. Oh well… that is life. Plus, it’s important to remember to actually experience life too. Not just stare at it through a camera lens.
P.S. Do you see all those weird specks of light all over my pictures? Pretty sure it was still smokier than we thought out there. :p
While the night sky was perfect for star watching, we woke up Sunday morning to rain. Not big fat drops but just enough to make for a wet, cold morning. After hot oatmeal and coffee, five damp humans — and two soggy pups — shuffled up the trail for a 5 mile hike. I decided to leave the DSLR in the car though because I didn’t want to get it wet. So the iPhone got to take pictures instead.
Check out this fun panorama with Cobalt and M. I think they need to start making music together because it looks like an album cover to me. What do you think? Something indie, most likely.
If I had brought my DSLR, I think I would have liked to do some jumping pictures like I have in this blog post about the Maroon Bells. Those are always fun to do but they require some playing around with settings that makes them best suited for a DSLR instead.
I like to test the limits of my iPhone camera anyway though so here is my attempt to photograph this wet bee that was clinging to a flower. I got the camera close enough to the bee that you can make out her spiky fur while the background is a blur.
Finally, I got one of my favorite hiking photos: Cobalt with the trail in front of him. I take this type of photo a lot. I like it because it shows off some scenery but then Cobalt’s there to put it all in perspective and make it interesting. Plus he’s always so determined on hikes. Here he’s wearing my amazing shark backpack. Also, isn’t this trail gorgeous? We’ve really been missing our trees over here.
That’s all for now. Who’s excited about the eclipse in LESS THAN A WEEK!?!?! What percentage totality is it where you live?
This past weekend, Cobalt and I embarked on an epic day trip to Yosemite National Park. Over the past year, we’ve been to five other national parks and monuments and we thought we could sneak one more in before 2016 ends. Plus my family and I used to go to Yosemite National Park every summer when I was growing up and I was itching to get back.
Having spent at least a week in Yosemite when I went with my family, I had to do some careful planning for our short day trip. It helped that a lot of the stuff that I enjoyed seeing in the summer (Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, etc.) is not open in the winter so I had a shorter list of things to choose from.
It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from here so we left at 7:30 a.m. to make sure we would have time to spend in the park. Our first stop: Yosemite Valley. It’s often super overcrowded in the summer but there’s a good reason for it. It’s simply spectacular to be surrounded on all sides by huge slabs of rock, rushing water, and impressive waterfalls. Cobalt is not one for crowds so I figured that by going to the valley in December, he’d still get to see the awesomeness without being surrounded by people. It was kind of a dreary day — rainy and cold — but there were still quite a few people in the valley. We headed to the Happy Isles trail head to go see Vernal Falls. You can’t drive to the trail head so we had to park the car and hike in. We got a little lost of our way to the trail head and wandered around the Happy Isles for a bit but it paid off because we saw a deer family! Here is a picture of the buck. I think this might be the best deer picture I have ever taken. Enjoy:
We eventually found the trail head and wandered up the short trail to the footbridge below Vernal Falls. It’s a nice trail, with amazing views of the river crashing around below and waterfalls sneaking down the walls of the valley. In the summer, I enjoy hiking past the footbridge via the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls but it is closed in the winter (mist = ice = slippery!) and we had a lot of other stuff to see! So we headed back down the trail to the car where we had a quick lunch before heading back to see the rest of the valley.
The rain was starting to come down harder by this point but that didn’t stop our fellow tourists from having fun on the valley floor. We had to stop to take pictures of the Yosemite Falls because I loved seeing the people playing in the snow through the mist. There was so much going on! People were taking Christmas pictures in Santa hats or throwing snowballs at each other. Some people were even getting out sleds to slide around the icy snow.
After touring the rest of the valley mostly by car, we set off towards Wawona, which is on the southern edge of the park. To get there, you head up out of the Valley through a long tunnel. Right before you leave the valley, there is a “Tunnel View” parking area where you can get one last glimpse of the entire valley. It was a family tradition to stop and take a picture so Cobalt and I stopped and asked a family to take our picture.
It was pouring and starting to get dark by the time we reached Wawona but I had one required stop left. My family used to stay in Wawona when we visited Yosemite and we loved hiking the Chilnualna Falls trail. It’s about a 10 minute hike to the lower fall so we parked at the trail head and ran up the trail. It was incredible! We usually go in August, which is when the water is at a pretty low point but the fall was just gushing this weekend. Forget the rain, Cobalt and I got majorly misted as we scuttled down toward the fall. It was so great to see an old family favorite again. Can’t wait to come back here with my whole family one day (hopefully soon!).
Let’s get some humans in that photo.
How are you? What are you up to? This week, I have to report at the American Geophysical Union’s national conference. Should be fun but also scary!
Hello everyone! How were your weekends?! I hope they were good. We are on spring break so Cobalt and I headed up to Steamboat Springs to hang out with our friends L and B and their kiddos. We had tons of fun eating, playing pool, skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, game-playing, hot springs-ing, etc! It was so awesome to get away from Boulder and relax a little in great company. Plus I think I am finally succeeding in teaching myself how to snowboard!
One night, B set up his telescope so that we could see Jupiter up close and personal. I have only seen Jupiter from earth without the aid of a telescope or in books that show it waaaaaaay up close with its huge spot that can fit 3 (!!!) earths in it. That night, I got to see a middle version – Jupiter with two rings around it! So cool. I tried to take some pictures with my cell phone camera but it was hard to point the tiny phone camera into the eyepiece of the telescope. I ran upstairs to grab my big DSLR so I could try that instead. It still turned out to be a bit of a challenge. Jupiter was moving around in the sky so B had to readjust the telescope frequently and I had to hover with my camera around the vicinity of the eyepiece to try to catch Jupiter in the eyepiece of my camera! Plus, autofocus was not working (it has a hard time in the dark) so I had to hover around the eyepiece while constantly fiddling with the focus to try to bring Jupiter’s cute little rings slightly more into focus. Whew… 50 pictures later, I think this picture (which is actually one of the first ones I took) takes the cake! Introducing my new friend: JUPITER!!
After B and I had so much fun trying to get cool pictures of Jupiter, he decided to set up the telescope to look at the moon. It was REALLY bright and also REALLY COOL. I was completely floored by how much detail we could see! Again, I am used to looking at the moon without the aid of a telescope or seeing pictures of moon craters in a book. I couldn’t believe that all the rocks and crags that I was looking at through the telescope belonged to the same moon that I usually see outside my house! Photographing the moon through the telescope eyepiece had its own interesting set of challenges. First of all, it was much brighter than Jupiter so I could mess with some of my camera settings to decrease the chance that I would make the moon blurry by all my hovering around. I learned that I could change some camera settings but not others (e.g. the f stop, or how much light you let into the camera, had to stay the same). Second of all, the moon is BIG and my camera was limited to how much it could see through the eyepiece of the telescope. It was really hard to get the entire moon into frame with the lens I had chosen to use (a 50 mm prime lens). That was kind of okay with me though because I really liked focusing on various parts of the moon and didn’t really feel the need to have ALL MOON in my pictures. Finally, the focusing – still hard. Even with a bright moon, I was still messing with my focus to try to get the moon details as sharp as possible while hovering around the telescope eyepiece. None the less, I really like a lot of my pictures, including these awesome ones:
Another fun thing – we also looked at sunspots during the day (obviously not through the eyepiece). B held a piece of paper up by the eyepiece so that the BRIGHT light from the sun was projected onto it. There we could see tiny little sunspots hanging out with the sun. Before I got a chance to look, apparently a plane flew in front of the sun and Cobalt and B saw a tiny plane projected onto the sun on the paper. Jealous…
Anyway, that’s all for now too. Do you get a spring break? Are you doing anything fun? It seems that the most popular options for spring break are: a) go to the beach, b) go to the mountains, or c) staycation/sleep. What did you choose? Back to work for me today – technically postdocs don’t get spring breaks. :(
PS – If you remember me talking about the moon in my Top Books of 2015 post, yes I am still unhealthily obsessed with the moon (you try reading a book in which the moon blows up without warning and then having a normal relationship with the moon after that…).
Never fear science readers… I have some ideas for a new post (think – what kinds of jobs can scientists have?!) coming soon. But for today, let’s put science on hold and talk about something else I am passionate about – photography! I miss my photo blog! The end of the year is coming up really soon and I have been thinking back about everything that happened this year. One really cool part of this year was that Cobalt and I got to go to Hawaii with my family for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary! My aunt and uncle live there so we stayed with them for a lot of our trip, which was really awesome because I haven’t seen them since I was in high school (or even younger?!). Plus I got to hang out with my cousin, whom I also haven’t seen in forever. Yay family!
Anyway – so we were in Hawaii surrounded by so much stuff to photograph. Really it was kind of overwhelming for the photographer in me. Part of me just wanted to experience everything not from behind the lens of a camera and part of me wanted to take a picture of everything so I wouldn’t forget it. Also, it was the first time I’d pulled out the DSLR in a while (So sad…) so there was a lot of remembering what to do under various lighting conditions. It was also fun to challenge myself to take unique photos. A photographer once told me that all photographers need to find their own style so I like to take these opportunities to figure out what my photography style is. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite DSLR pictures with you from our trip.
Some creatures of Hawaii
Playing with lights
That’s all for today but never fear! There are tons of pictures left for me to share with you! We did so much in Hawaii that this first post barely scratches the surface (clearly… as there are no pictures of food in here!)! Be prepared to see more Hawaii sprinkled into my posts soon! Plus Cobalt and I also went to Germany so there will be some Germany pictures sneaking into the mix too!
Now it’s your turn!
What did you guys think of that post? What is your favorite picture? Have you been to Hawaii? Did you like it? What was your favorite part? Where did you go on vacation this year? What are you doing for the holidays? So many questions…
Whew… I hope you all had happy Thanksgiving weeks last week! I took last week off from posting because it was technically vacation at school… grad students don’t really get vacations from lab (those darn cells, always needing something….) so I took a vacation from my other activities (such as writing in here) instead.
So what have I been up to?
Well besides reading a bunch of young adult books (I read 3 books in about as many days… :-/) and eating (over the past week, yours truly has helped eat 1 turkey breast, 1 turkey, and 2 ducks… not to mention a ridiculous amount of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other delicious Thanksgiving favorites), I did lot of arts and crafts. These include a super secret crochet project, fun crafts from a “Crafternoon” with my sis in law and other friends, whale drawings, and (of course) photography. My friend Jem was in town for Thanksgiving so she and I gave ourselves various photography tasks. So in the next few days/weeks/etc, look forward to posts about all those crafts up there plus more star photography, pictures of our friend A modeling for us (see pic above for an example of that), and cool water droplet pictures similar to this one by Patrick Latter.
In other news, I am starting an informal class that meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at school. Depending on what my homework is like, I might have to switch these posts to Tuesdays and Thursdays for a bit so I can spend Sunday and Tuesday nights doing my homework instead of planning fun blog posts… :-/
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you do any Black Friday shopping? Are you doing any Cyber Monday shopping right now? What is your favorite activity to do to relax? I loooooove being creative (or reading).
This past Saturday, Cobalt and I went up to Aspen with our friends A, J, K, T, and L to continue our search for fall (which officially started this weekend). The seven of us checked into our condo and immediately headed for the fancy hot tubs and pool.
Then we spent the rest of the evening feasting on Chinese delicacies mostly made by T, J, and K, though we all helped. There was sooooo much food that we all totally overstuffed ourselves.
In the morning, L and K made us an epic breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, pancake balls stuffed with red beans, and Korean pancakes. Oh and Cobalt found this crazy Dragonfruit when we were shopping on Friday night so we ate that too. Then we headed up to the Maroon Bells (two mountains near Aspen) to check out the beautiful changing aspens (all that gold in that top picture comes from the aspens). It turned out to be a wonderful day for running around and being silly in the midst of these gorgeous trees and mountains. I ended up being a crazy photographer who would lie down in the middle of the trail just to get the perfect shot.
The first set of pictures I took were pictures of everyone jumping up and down. T was especially good at it as you can see in this picture.
Then we decided to take some “Hunger Games” shots, so named because I would focus on the aspens and hold my camera steady while everyone else ran through the trees, getting slightly blurred, not unlike the way the Hunger Games movie was filmed.
Finally, here is a picture of part of our group towards the end of the trip, J and K had already left at this point.
This trip was so much fun. The drive to and from Aspen was beautiful (the changing trees made the scenery look painted gold), I had a ton of fun with my friends, I got to see the Maroon Bells (which I had never seen before), and I got to have a lot of fun being really creative with my DSLR. I was talking to A today about “life changing experiences” and how I feel like I’ve had a lot of them this year (getting married was obviously one). I think this trip was definitely a life changing experience too. It was so neat to see everything come together – from shopping for food with T, A, and Cobalt on Friday night, to riding the bus up to the Maroon Bells, to running around like crazy people through the aspens… I think it all lead to me feeling at peace with myself and the world for a bit and that was awesome.
Because I posted this today and not on Monday, all bets are off on what the rest of the week will look like. Also, if you want to hear more about the trip/see more pictures/learn about how I took some of them, I have about 173 more pictures left so I can always post more in another post if anyone is interested.
Now it’s your turn. Is fall happening where you are right now? Do the trees change color? What is one of the best life changing experiences that has happened for you recently? Let’s discuss.