Over the start of the new year, I spent a week of vacation with my family on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. We stayed at the town of Princeville, on the north shore of the island. Kauai is often nicknamed the "Garden Island" because of its lush vegetation created by the abundant rainfall. It rained at least part of each day I was there. Sometimes, the rain was soft and light. Other times, the rain was heavy enough to produce flooding. The proximity of the sharp cliffs next to the warm ocean encourages humid air to rise quickly into a repeating cycle of condensation and rain. The interior portion of Kauai is considered to be the one of the wettest places in the United States, and among the top 10 in the world. In case you were wondering, the highest mountains in Kauai see an average of 384 inches of rain a year. The top 10 wettest places in the world can be found here.
If you look closely in the photo above, you can see waterfalls pouring off the steep cliffs.
We had a beautiful view from our rental overlooking Hanalei Bay that included rainbows and sunsets.
With its unique landscapes, many films and TV shows have been filmed here. Among some of the most famous movies are Jurassic Park, King Kong, Avatar and Lord of the Flies.
This beach (pictured above) was part of the film South Pacific. A couple of the more famous TV shows filmed on Kauai were Fantasy Island and Gilligan's Island.
My favorite part of island is the Napoli Coast. Here, you will see a rugged coastline that is only accessible by either boat, plane or foot. I hiked a section of the famous Kalalau Trail that starts at Haena State Park.
I also recommend taking the drive along the top of Waimea Canyon that leads to the overlook pictured above, known as the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. This lookout gives a higher perspective of the Napoli Coast.
On a personal note, I thought I would take a little time to announce that my 5-month-old daughter has recently been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. She will soon be undergoing surgery to have much of the malignant tumor removed from her chest. If you are the praying type, please pray for her to have a safe surgery and for a quick recovery.
It's been awhile since I have last written. It has been a busy last few months for me. My wife and I had our first baby, Helicity, on September 14th.
I haven't taken many pictures the last few months, but routines are starting to re-normalize again. I hope to get back into travel and photography again in 2022. I have trips planned to Kauai, Utah and Montana over the next year...as well as a few other states to be determined. I will also get back into my usual routine of taking more pictures of Arkansas.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy 2022 to you and your family.
Earlier this summer, I went to Colorado. I highlighted my trip to the Flat Tops Wilderness in my previous blog post, but here are some of the my favorites to other destinations in Colorado.
During the last weekend of June, a colder than normal weather disturbance brought a mix of rain and snow to South Zapata Lake, elevation 11,900 feet. If you closely in the photo above, you might see the raindrops hitting the lake and a light dusting of fresh snow on the peaks above. It was good timing for me to do my semi-regular tradition of climbing a 14,000 foot mountain each summer. This year, I decided to tackle Mount Lincoln. At 14,293 feet, Mount Lincoln is the highest peak in Park County and about 10 miles south of Breckenridge. There was still about a 1/2 inch of snow leftover from the previous day. This is the view from Mount Lincoln with a small coating fresh snow mixed in with the bigger patches of snow, leftover from the winter and spring.
After a couple of tough hikes in tough conditions it was time to recover with some easier hikes in lower elevations. One of the my favorite hikes was in the Routt National Forest, northeast of Steamboat Springs. It was here where I came across the best combination of large flowers in an aspen forest that I have ever seen!
These showy flowers are known as "Mulesear".
I would return to being above the treeline. My favorite time to be at or above treeline is at dawn to watch the night turn into day.
The two pictures above are from Rocky Mountain National Park. The one below is from State Forest State Park.
You are also more likely to be treated to seeing some wildlife. On my last trip to Colorado in 2019, I would have a close encounter with some mountain goats. This year, I would see moose and bighorn sheep.
My favorite destination was to Mirror Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It involves a lengthy hike of about 15 miles roundtrip from the nearest parking lot. However, if you are willing to hike that far, you are rewarded to one of the most photogenic mountains in Colorado. The sharp point is called Lone Eagle Peak and it reflects well in the aptly named Mirror Lake.
I would also spend the night here on this clear moonless night and photograph The Milky Way. I'll hopefully have those pictures up soon in another blog post.
In 2019, and again earlier this month, I made a couple of visits to the Flat Tops Wilderness. Located in the northern part of Colorado, southwest of Steamboat Springs, the Flat Tops were formed by a combination of volcanic and glacial forces over a very long period of time. The Flat Tops’ unique shape is the result of millions of years of erosion that has stripped away ancient layers of softer sedimentary rock and exposed a hard basalt cap. Along the edges of the mountaintops, glacial activity more than 10,000 years ago scraped out stacks of sheer cliffs hundreds of feet tall.
The crest of the Flat Tops is an enormous plateau of mostly flat balsaltic lava, largely above timberline. This rock feature in the picture above is called The Chinese Wall.
The Devil's Causeway is probably the most popular hiking destination in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The causeway is a narrow neck of the plateau where eroding glaciers on both sides almost met.
A section of the causeway is only about 4 feet wide with a sheer drop of 400 feet on both sides!
As a result of all the glacier activity, there are numerous small lakes such as the ones you see here.
Such goregous reflections! I will have more new pictures from elsewhere in Colorado soon. That will be my next blog post that comes out later this summer.
Earlier this month, my wife and I vacationed to the Asheville area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Although photography wasn't the primary goal of the trip, I still managed to take some nice pictures on our drives and shorter hikes in the area.
Of course, a trip to Asheville would not be complete without a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The picture below was taken at 5,600 feet above sea level, close to some of the highest elevations in the eastern United States. In this picture, you can see the change in green hues between the highest elevations where the trees had not fully leafed out yet and the lower elevations where the trees had already fully leafed out.
There were a couple of mornings where I was greeted with fog in the valleys. You may have noticed that the fog is more likely to have a blue color to the landscape, which leads to the topic of how did the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains get there name? The Cherokee referred to the area as “Schconage” (Sha-Kon-O-Hey), which means “land of the blue smoke.” Early white settlers took inspiration from the Cherokee when they named the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The "smoke" is actually fog that comes from the area’s vegetation.
While the Smoky Mountains are not the only place you can find blue smoke, they do have ideal conditions for creating this picturesque fog. The trees containing turpentine in East Tennessee and West North Carolina have high concentrations of vapor molecules called VOC's (volatile organic compounds) that scatter blue light. We all know that plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. What we hear less about is how plants also have this exhale process in volatile organic compounds. VOC's may sound scary, but when they are released from plants, they are completely natural. Have you ever enjoyed the piney smell that comes from an evergreen tree? That scent comes from the tree giving off VOCs as it breathes. The Smokies also benefit from abundant rainfall, plenty of sunlight, and high levels of humidity. Taken all together, these factors produce a breathtaking fog that is worthy of the name “land of the blue smoke.”
The Rhododendrons were also in bloom in the higher elevations and there are numerous waterfalls in the region. Below are Skinny Dip Falls and Looking Glass Falls, both southwest of Asheville.
After my wife went back home, I went on a backpacking trip to the Shining Rock Wilderness, where the highlight is the this quartz rock outcrop known as "Shining Rock" that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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© Damon Shaw
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