Fire and ice

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

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Cobalt on the hike to Iceberg Lake. I think the walls surrounding the lake look a bit like the Black Gate of Mordor. So jagged…

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.

This little fatty tried to steal our cheese!

This is as far in as I could go. Photo credit: Cobalt.

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!

Some sharks and a whale made the trek up with us. Luckily the water was too cold for them too so they didn’t try to swim away! Photo credit: Cobalt.

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.

One rainy Yosemite adventure

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:

I love how regal he looks…

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.

The upper Yosemite fall sits above the mist on the valley floor.

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.

The mist covered up the valley minutes after this picture was taken.

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!

With the cat in the car?!

Cobalt and I have moved to California! We migrated across the country with a (rather large) Uhaul containing all our stuff, two cars, and a cat! Luckily my parents flew out to Colorado to help us make the move back to CA! My dad and Cobalt drove the truck (with my car towed behind it) and my mom and I drove Cobalt’s car (with a cat inside).

Cobalt can tell you all about the newfound respect he has for people driving large trucks and/or towing cars but today I’m going to tell you about moving with a cat. Tarantula is a pretty chill cat so the vet thought she wouldn’t need sedatives for the drive. Instead she gave us a sample of “Composure,” which Cobalt describes as “cat-herbal tea,” and told us to give Tarantula half a Composure treat for every 12 hours of traveling.

Let’s discuss what happened:

  • Day 0:
    On the day we moved all of our stuff into the Uhaul, Tarantula got to spend the day and night with our friend Titanium. Titanium’s cat Meow and Tarantula had previously met and weren’t huge fans of each other (see below) so we gave both Meow and Tarantula half a Composure. The day passed relatively smoothly with Tarantula and Meow meowing at each other through the door of Titanium’s spare room, where Tarantula was staying. Tarantula seemed a little loopy though and even missed the litter box (this is something she has never done!).

    Flashback to 2014 when we introduced Tarantula and Meow. There was a lot of hissing and growling followed by Tarantula taking over Meow’s stuff, including this chair.
  • Day 1:
    Our first day of driving was the most epic – we had planned to end the day in Winnemucca, NV (~13 hours driving with no cat/big Uhaul truck). Mom and I picked up Tarantula from Titanium’s house and set her up in a giant cat carrier the backseat of the car. The carrier contained a litterbox, some toys, and a bowl of water. After the loopiness of the day before, we decided to try no Composure first. As soon as we got on the road, Tarantula spilled her water all over herself, the litterbox, and the toys making a wet, crunchy mess in the backseat. Then she howled miserably for the next hour and a half while Mom and I desperately tried to reach a rest stop. Once at the rest stop, we gave Tarantula a third of Composure and let her out of the cat carrier while things dried. She liked this much better because why be trapped in a stinky cat carrier when there are humans to cuddle? She finally fell asleep in the back of the car between some boxes and backpacks, which was great for all of us because it’s kind of stressful having a cat meandering around the car while you are trying to drive.

    She slept like this for hours. I don’t get it.

    We stopped in Salt Lake City where some family friends met us at a park and brought us dinner! Loopy Tarantula got to escape her car prison and hang out in the park on a leash. Don’t let the picture fool you, she’s not that great on a leash.

    After dinner, we locked her in her cat carrier once more and she fell asleep for the remainder of the drive to Winnemucca. We arrived about 12:30 am (!!!) and Tarantula spent the night exploring our hotel room and trying to convince us that she needed to leave the room to see what else was beyond the door.


  • Day 2:
    The second day of driving was relatively short (~8 hours). Mom and I decided to give Tarantula a small chunk of Composure before getting in the car because we didn’t want a repeat of the howling incident. We also put her in her cat carrier again, much to her disappointment. Tarantula then proceeded to cry for the next 100 miles or so before passing out and waking up close to my parents’ home town where we stopped for the night. She spent the next two nights hanging out at my parents’ house, which she loved exploring, minus the “scary” ceramic cat she found in the living room.

  • Day 4 (we skipped Day 3 because it was Labor Day and everyone deserves a day off – even kitties):
    This day was the best driving day ever! We only had a 2.5 hour drive from my parents’ house to our new apartment! Cobalt drove the truck and I drove the car containing the cat! Because it seemed to take Tarantula an hour or so to calm down after taking the Composure, Cobalt and I fed Tarantula the tiniest sliver of Composure with her breakfast (~an hour before we left) with the idea that she would sleep during the drive. FALSE. She was unhappy about being in the cat carrier again and spent the first hour and a half mewling at me and trying to break out of the cat carrier. Somewhere in the middle of a huge traffic jam in San Francisco, she finally calmed down and we arrived at the new apartment an hour later. I set her up in the bathroom while the movers helped us drag all our belongings out of the truck and up three flights of stairs. She tried to stage multiple escapes until we unpacked one of our desk chairs, which I rolled into the bathroom for her. She jumped up onto it and promptly fell asleep. Once the movers had left and we had organized the boxes a little, she was allowed to escape and explore her new home!

She’s a California cat now!

Before we get to your comments, I want to talk about the fate of this blog. As many of you know, this blog was wearing a few hats for a while – it was both a photo blog and a science blog. I found the whole thing a bit confusing so this blog is going to go back to what it is best at – showcasing photography! Never fear, my science readers. I have made a new home for science-y posts on my website! It’s not too exciting now but I am sure it will be filled with interesting stories soon enough… I start my Science Communication Program at UC Santa Cruz this week!

Lots of changes going on here – including a new layout for the blog! Ooo so crisp and clean! I hope you like it as much as I do!

Your turn! Have you ever moved with a cat? What did you do?! Was your cat pretty chill like Tarantula or more skittish? Btw – if you want to leave a comment and you don’t see the comment field below the post, there is a button on the top of this post now.

Dallas Day 1 – ROAD TRIP!

Fernando in the car. If you look closely at the steering wheel, you should be able to see Gustav…

We’re back from Dallas! It was an awesome trip full of good friends, tasty food, LOTS of photographs (I just uploaded 1.6 GB of photos from my DSLR and I have more on my iPhone…..), warmth, flip flop wearing, and a lot of driving. Yay. We did so much exploring my legs are sore from walking. Seriously, even when we drove somewhere, it was usually just to walk around more. Awesome. Anyway, it was apparently warm in Colorado the whole time we were in Dallas but now that we’re back, it’s decided to start snowing again… Thanks Colorado… :p

I am kind of in a picture coma right now because I get really overwhelmed with anything over 100 photos and I have ~700 from the DSLR alone so I have been doing a lot of sorting and trying to figure out how I want to present everything on here. Regardless of what I decide, the Dallas trip has earned its right to have multiple posts. We’ll start with a day to day summary (complete with pictures) and then maybe certain days will get extra posts because of the LARGE amount of photographs that accompany them. Are you excited? I am… I’ve already narrowed my ~700 pictures down to a “mere” 80…

Today’s post is primarily going to be about the first day of our trip but before we get there, I want to tell you my dear readers that you have a say in how the next few posts will go. We went to the Ft. Worth Zoo and the Dallas World Aquarium so if you have a favorite animal you’d like to see, leave me a comment and I’ll see if I have any pictures of it for you. :) In related news, I kind of had a camera love affair with a toucan at the zoo and the shark tank at the aquarium (who’s surprised about that one?) so they might be getting their own posts or at least large chunks of the zoo/aquarium posts. Yay!

Okay… let’s start at the top.


was mostly spent driving. I also spent a good chunk of it sneezing (thanks Colorado for another cold…). Cobalt and I picked up our friend A at 6:00 am and we rolled out of town around 6:15 am after a brief stop at Einstein’s Bagels for some tasty breakfast. Mmm…

We stopped in Burlington, Colorado for our first coffee/bathroom break. I used my fancy phone to tell us where a coffee shop was and it picked out this amazing local coffee shop. We ended up chatting with the barista for a while about farming and GMOs, etc and then she gave us a few sheets of monster and owl stickers that she uses to put over the lid of her coffee cups (the adhesive is non toxic!). She said they are very popular in town but that she wasn’t going to use those colors. Cobalt’s car is decorated with stickers now….

Then we entered Kansas and it took forever…….. Btw, shout out to my friend E if you’re reading this. We wanted to go see you but I think you live too far away from where we were… :( I made Cobalt look it up though just to make sure…

Potassium and A and their respective sharks (Gustav, Scrarmpl, and Fernando) at a rest stop in Kansas

Once we got to Oklahoma, we headed to OKC for dinner with our friend/Cobalt’s best man T. We ate at this restaurant called Nhinja which you should totally check out if you live in the OKC area and like sushi. It was tasty and kind of a neat little restaurant. Plus it was good to see T. Then we were back on the road for the last ~4 hours to Dallas….

Here’s where we started to go a little car crazy after spending so much time in the car… When we stopped next for gas, it was at this station that was across from a huge casino with all these bright lights and colors. A and I were mesmerized by the colors and lights and we dragged Cobalt across the street to the casino for our bathroom break. We thought it’d be funny to take a picture of us in the casino as if we actually went there to gamble (which we didn’t… we like our money thank you very much!). See below…

Warning: these people are CRAZY

After another hour or so of A and I giggling every 5 minutes and Cobalt trying to ignore us, we settled down into impatient waiting… Luckily it wasn’t too long until we reached Dallas and got to Jem’s house (around 11 pm)! We unpacked the car and then proceded to stay up until almost 1 am catching up with Jem before crashing into well earned sleep.

One other thing: my favorite conversation with a random lady in Oklahoma. We were washing our hands in a gas station bathroom and she turned to me and asked “What is it about driving that makes us look so tired and ragged?! We’re just sitting there…” Yes… it’s so true.

Now it’s your turn. When was the last crazy road trip you went on? Where did you go? How long were you in the car? Did you feel like you were going to go insane by the end?! Don’t forget to tell me what animals I should be posting in the coming posts (most likely next week)…

And it begins…

Oooo Sunday post! Well… this Wedding Wednesday post is so late it is almost on time for next Wednesday’s post… Anyway… with less than two weeks before the wedding things are really starting to shape up!

The grant is written and turned in. Sounds like it will be submitted on Monday as long as everything goes well with the school. I feel like a whole new person with that weight off my shoulders. I yawned for a half hour straight while driving through Utah today either due to my extreme exhaustion or the fact that I am finally maybe actually relaxing a little? Probably both. Only time will tell…
The T (MOH) successfully arrived in CO last week and we started our epic road trip home yesterday. Some pictures…

(up there) The T and I (and Gustav) at the salt flats in Utah. It was quite windy…

Wind Turbines in WY. Pretty much the only interesting thing about WY in our opinion. No offense to anyone who likes it… :-/

Salt Flats go on forever…

Gustav and me at the salt flats


It’s crazy how real everything is getting…. Not that it hasn’t been real this whole time or anything but now everything is coming together. These next few weeks are going to fly by and I have so much left to do (Though Cobalt and the T did an awwwwesome job getting a bunch of things ready while I was freaking out about the grant all week… happiness. Thanks guys!)

How’s everyone else? Is there anything special you want me to post about or do you like these impromtu little gems?