Catskills New York with a Dog in a Van=Perfection

In October 2021 I took my best girlfriend and my new Storyteller Overland Van to the Catskills in New York. Emmy Lou the Puppy was such a trooper. I hope she had a nice time, and wish she had a way to tell me. We set off from home with plans to take sunrise pictures at Overlook Mountain near Woodstock, New York. From there we went further north, and into southern Vermont. We stopped for a  lot of fun geocaches along the way, and played frisbee golf in another new state. If ever there has been a success story, this is it. I took some pictures of sunrises, pictures of our visit to the land of Oz (yes, from the Wizard of Oz), and Emmy Lou being extra pretty.
Interested? Those pictures are HERE.
     

McAfee Knob and a Juggalo Wedding

Recently I was invited to a wedding in the mountains of West Virginia. I was not going to miss it. A beautiful place, the most magical time of year, autumn with the leaves changing, and a chance to take a road trip in the Storyteller Van. Sign me up. The wedding was adorable, a cute little family of Juggalos. It was absolutely perfect by all standards. These young kids today kill me with their creative ideas. I spent a few days in the area, around the wedding date. I woke and hiked in the dark up to McAfee Knob in Virginia for sunrise one morning. The Knob is spelled Mc and not Mac, so it is pronounced with the common Irish Mc pronunciation. Some of my idiot friends say it with Mac in front, like some kind of Scottish garbage people. McAfee Knob is one of the most iconic and photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. I have seen all kinds of pictures and I wanted to make my own. I did OK with the photographs, but I had a blast doing it. I also played a few rounds of frisbee with some other wedding-going pals. It was a 100% successful trip. There are a bunch of pictures located HERE.

Alaska Northern Lights October 2021

I was recently in Alaska for what was supposed to be a 4 night Northern Lights photography trip. The night skies were mostly terrible for the week I was there. I was lucky with 1 great night to see the Aurora. Other than that I had nothing to commit my time. So I wandered Alaska between Anchorage, up to Fairbanks and beyond, then almost to Seward. I can’t wait to do it again.

I took a bunch of pictures, and have a few great memories I am trying to get the courage to share. Pictures are HERE if you are interested. Thanks for reading.

Anyone ever been abandoned on a glacial mountain? I have.

Recently I was part of a photography and hiking adventure, courtesy of REDACTED. I had the time of my life. It was a blast hanging out with a group of strangers, all in Glacier to take pictures, and a couple guides who knew all about the park, the light, and a wealth of photography knowledge to pass along. On the final evening together we hiked Grinnell Glacier up and away from Many Glaciers Lodge. It was 3 miles, 1 way up, to a lookout, over the lake, where the sun would be amazing to photograph as it set behind the mountain/glacier, and over the lake below. I knew there was a virtual Geocache along the trail, and the guides knew it is something I would be setting my sites on, once at the top. Turns out, 3 miles to the lookout is only half way to the top, where I ultimately wanted to be.
Our guide Michael told us that we made it to the overlook spot much quicker than the last hiking group he brought up here. So much so, that we would be another 2 hours before the light was any good for taking pictures. I knew what I must do, grab a can of bear spray from our guide Kenton, dash all the way to the top, get my pics, claim my virtual geocache, then brag to everyone how much cooler I am. I had 2 hours, it was another 3 miles 1-way, so 6 more miles round trip. I set my telephone alarm for 1 hour and started moving up the mountain. If at an hour (the half way point) I was not close, I would reassess and maybe come back down to the group gathering spot. Jumping way ahead, I was actually on my way back down as the 1-hour alarm sounded. No possible way this story could go wrong from here.
I make it to the top of Grinnell Glacier. It is going to be 12 miles round trip now. the last 3 miles was almost all up, the entire way, along the ridge line of the mountain. It was stupendous, some of the most amazing views I was treated to during my trip. As I get close to the top, I pop off my 40+ pound water and camera backpack, and place it gently on the ground. As I do this, I exclaim, ‘shit!’ I could have left this entire pack down below with the group, and just brought my single camera. Oh well, too late now, smooth move Exlax. I snap a bunch of pictures, take a ton of mental memories, and set off back down to the group. It is all downhill from here, I can jog quite a bit. Almost immediately when starting down, I get roadblocked by a mountain goat. I wait him out for a few minutes, then another group comes up from behind, looking to pass. This guy didn’t hesitate, he immediately tossed some rocks, and went toward the goat with a big stick. I was so prepared to photograph and film a man get murdered by a mountain goat. There was a pretty intense stare down, but ultimately, the human won and we were on our way down again. The newcomers downhill were a young couple from Montana, they were making a great pace downhill, so I stuck close behind. Conversation picked up almost immediately, pleasantries exchanged, and a nice rapport was set quickly. A few more minutes in, I am asked if I had a first aid kit. I was embarrassed to say I did not, but I was only meant to have been separated from a larger group (which included a first aid kit) for at most, 2 hours. I inform them that I did not, but at this pace, they were going to pass a group of 7 photographers, with first aid kids there. Tell the group Jimmy said to ask for a bandage. Or, if we keep up this pace, we will get there together, very soon. About 30 minutes goes by, we all know that downhill is easily twice as fast as uphill. I blurt out, “We are almost there! Just around this corner!” We get around that corner, everything looks kind of familiar, except there is no humans to be seen, other than our small group of 3 travelling quickly downhill. In the back of our minds, it was sunset, daylight would be leaving us very soon and we were miles from the trailheads and parking areas. I had the luxury of knowing there was a group of 7 waiting for me below, I would not be nearly alone traveling down this mountain in the dark. You know the old joke…I don’t have to outrun a bear…
I must be wrong. It is the wilds of the Rockies, a lot of spot looks alike. It must be the next corner, or the next corner, or the next corner.
That corner never came.
About 10 minutes past the spot I thought to be the correct photography gathering spot, I stop and looked around. We are far below the overlook view, which means I was correct about the spot I should have seen 7 photographers setup to take sunset pictures over Grinnell Glacier. A bit of panic sets in, how could I have missed 7 people?! I ask my new best friends, they assure me that we did NOT see any other people since the top. I politely tell them, I am a bit unsure what happened, but sorry, I have to abandon them and start to run down the hill now. They completely understand, given the circumstances.
A few different possibilities ran through my mind, as my body ran through the bear-infested forest of Glacier National Park. First, they hated me. This was their excuse to get rid of me completely. Second, they forgot I existed. That is about the correct impression I am sure I leave behind. Third, someone got hurt, and they had to evacuate to the bottom. That one I ruled out pretty quickly. Most of these thoughts were going through me rather quickly. My final possibility was the most likely. As I looked around the sunset was a complete bust for photography. Just a miserable scene. They packed up the site and headed back to the Sprinter Van, or a bar for drinks more likely. The guides had full confidence in me as an outdoorsman, and a man who could handle himself if the need arise. They were basing their decisions on knowing me for the past week. I did a good job presenting myself as a mostly normal person. Not someone riddled with social anxieties and fears of judgement.
Turns out that final option was exactly what happened. One of them wrote a note for me in the dirt, but I didn’t see it as I jogged past. In all honesty, leaving me is possibly the hugest compliment I have been paid in my adult life. Other adults thought I was a competent human being, and could care for myself. I was 100% completely flattered. I caught up to the group just a few minutes after starting to jog on my own. I caught the group just in time to do a naked cannonball, off a boat dock, into glacier water! Very refreshing.

All the pictures from my wild west trip can be seen HERE if you are interested.

August 2020 Stir Crazy Cross Country Drive

Apparently I never posted anything here about this Cannonball Run. The pictures have been up since I got back. Last august I went stir crazy, had enough, and drove cross-country with a couple friends. We made it as far west as West Yellowstone, and then spent about a week in Yellowstone. Those two bozos flew home after a week, and I took my time driving back. If it was up to me, I’d have never made it. Sadly, I can’t convince my wife to get the dogs and horses and join me. I stopped in and visited many National Parks and Monuments on the way back home through, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Sadly the California wildfires of the time ruined most of the trip for photography. I was able to get a few days in the beginning, but after that, the skies were wrecked.

Below are a few, but if you want to see all the pictures, they are HERE if you are interested.

North of Norway March 2020

We recently returned home from Norway (after a quick stopover in London to see Magic Goes Wrong) just in the nick of time. With the onset of this pandemic knowing as the Toyota Corolla Virus, air travel was shut down and US citizens were not welcome anywhere. We landed in JFK late in the evening after being flown home from Heathrow, basically on a private plane. It was the giant 2 story plane (747 I think), and we were 2 of only about 50 passengers. I think there was more staff on the plane than paid passengers. Team Sellers unparalleled luck strikes again. Our time in Norway was wonderful, truly a magical and beautiful place. At least the very tiny portion we saw in North of Norway was. We were treated to the Northern Lights on 2 different evenings, including our first night there. A comical young Portuguese man named Marcos Sobrel took us on a private hunt about 2 hours north of Tromso. He set up a base camp in the middle of the snow with a big camp fire to make dinner, roast marshmallows, and keep warm. It was on the edge of a lake with no irritating artificial light around. We stayed in this spot for about 6 hours, until the wee hours of the morning. Got a ton of great Northern Lights shots, and had an all-around fun time hanging out in the cold and snow around a roaring camp fire. Of course, we strolled around each of the towns we stayed finding Geocaches. That always adds to the fun and adventure of any travel. 

Our second night there we went dog sledding at Camp Tamok. I believe wifey found her new calling in life. As of now all future travel must include dog sled mushing. She is thinking about getting a few here to train and try for the Iditarod in a couple years. There was only one crash and it was because while I was mushing, she did not heed my instructions on which way to lean. Her story is different than mine, feel free to go read her blog where she says mean things about me. We also happened to be in North of Norway during their annual giant Dog Sled race, the Finnmarkslopet. It was probably like being in Brazil during the World Cup, everyone talks about it constantly. 

Then we got on a boat from Tromso to Kirkenes for 2 nights, the Hurtigruten Nordnorge. It was not at all like being on a cruise, it was like a floating hotel. This boat company is used as transportation by a lot of people to get to port cities that don’t have roads connecting. It was a different experience. While onboard we got to visit The North Cape, or Nordkapp. This is the northern most point on the European continent, pretty cool! The boat dropped us off in Kirkenes a couple days later. We did not know it until we got there, but we were only a few KM’s, as the crow flies, from the Russian border! We were not allowed there, maybe next time. 

Thus, begins our time and stay at the famous Snow Hotel in Kirkenes…WOW! This is easily the most unique place we have visited, let alone stayed overnight. It is a giant compound with all the Nordic activities you could imagine, sled dogs, snowmobiling, skiing, puppy walks, king crab fishing, and king crab eating. They have about 20 little cabins for overnight stays. They also have a Snow Hotel! This is a hotel made completely of snow and ice and some low voltage electrical wires for lighting. No plumbing, no heat. There are about 20 of these rooms as well. This is where we slept on a nice mattress, all bundled up in giant military grade sleeping bags. The temperature was not a problem at all, it stays just a few degrees below zero all the time. I was much colder on my last backpacking trip in New Jersey a few months ago. I actually got hot in the giant bag long before I was ever cold. Each room has a unique theme, most of them Disney related. Of course there are pictures of all these rooms HERE. After the night in the Snow Hotel it was an overnight in a hotel in the nearby town of Kirkenes. We were treated to another great showing of the Northern Lights that evening. The lights were viewable over the water just outside our hotel, so convenient. The last day was all day of traveling, 3 planes, not 1 delay, lost bag, or quarantine because of viruses. Somehow we made it home on time and unharmed.

I might do a little more detail on some of the activities in the future, in case you care.

Some pictures of the entire London and Norway trip are in a gallery OVER HERE.

London for a Magic Show? That sounds like me in March 2020

Thank you virus for waiting long enough to kick in so that we could still travel as planned. We went to London (and Norway) recently, solely to see a new show. Magic Goes Wrong just opened in London and I have completely fell in love with the Goes Wrong Gang. Then they teamed up with Penn & Teller to make a new show? Of course I am flying to London. The show was amazingly funny. Magic and comedy done completely wrong, yet somehow still doing actual magic. I wish they’d have me in their cast. Maybe when the local show comes to Cecil College.

We have been home from London and Norway for about 10 days, now in social distance mode. Neither of us have any symptoms of the virus. We did get home to the USA just in time. The day after we landed is when they stopped allowing flights and shutting down the countries we were just in. Just by the hair on my chinny chin chin.

HERE is a link to a few pictures from London of the stereotypical tourist attractions.

Coudersport, PA Cherry Springs Park – New Moon Astrophotography

I went all the way north to Potter County, Coudersport, PA a few weeks ago for the last new moon. Me and my favorite Juggalo, John, drove the 5+ hours each way to try and take pictures of the dark sky, stars, and the galactic center and band. We got up there a day early and the weather was nice, but the sky was completely cloudy with no chance of seeing stars. The next day, which was the actual new moon night was perfect. Clear skies all day and night. We woke up bright and early from our sleeping bags and tent and spent the entire day driving around the area looking for places and times to take pictures. The scouting was a huge success. We found a few geocaches during the day, which lead us to some great spots to photograph the night sky goodness. We ended up at 4 different locations throughout the night, as the galactic band/center moved across the sky. I am very pleased with some of the astro-photos I was able to make, being so new to astrophotography. There are some pictures HERE if you are interested.

A short day on the Mason Dixon Trail

Went out with a couple of new hiking friends last weekend. I got invited to do what I love most and just could not say no. In a happy addition they were going to one of my favorite, local places. We spent the day on the Mason Dixon Trail along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. We did about a 10 miles out and back, with the first few miles in the dark using a head lamp. The leader of this hike is Glynn, and he is a ‘get it in’ type fella. I am much more about looking around, taking pictures, and searching for hidden treasures in the form of geocaches. We were done by 10:30am, WOW! The other 2 split, but I stuck around for another 5 hours and about 8 more miles. I also found a few geocaches along the way that I have wanted to search out for a while. It made for a great half-day, close to home adventure. Here are a couple pictures of the sunrise over the Susquehanna River with some mist I really enjoyed.

Worlds most unique post office in the Galapagos Islands

Located on the island of Floreana in the Galapagos Islands is a barrel on a stick just inland enough to not be impacted by the tides. This barrel (or one like it) has been used as a post station dating back to the whalers of the 1700’s. Sailors would drop off post for home and pick up anything that was heading to their next destination for hand delivery.

This practice still happens today, but in the form of postcards from tourists. Anyone that stops by is encouraged to leave a post card behind, and take any that are addressed to someone ‘near’ your own home. We took 2 postcards with us addressed for Maryland. Not close, but not far either, it is just Maryland. I am happy to say that we did our duty and dropped off our postcards last weekend during our drive home from West Virginia. The story of how it went down couldn’t get better if I sat and wrote a script of the perfect scenario.

We took 2 postcards from the Galapagos Islands that were in the same handwriting and addressed to 2 homes that were about 15 minutes apart, Gaithersburg and Derwood, Maryland. I wrote up a little note that explained who we were and what we did, in case nobody was home. We stopped at the first house and rang the doorbell. Nothing. Quite a disappointment. We left the postcard and the note in between 2 Amazon packages on the front porch. We loaded up to head to the next address. Someone was outside as we pulled up. I asked if so-and-so lived here and she skeptically said yes. As quickly as I could I explained I was here to hand deliver a post card from the Galapagos Islands. She caught on quickly and said it was from her son, to his sister, the lady’s daughter. She got really excited, started laughing and invited us in. As we were walking in the house I mentioned having just left another post card behind at another address in Derwood. She got a crooked face on while thinking and then exclaimed, “That’s my parents! They are inside right now!”

So we went inside for a few minutes and a few pictures. She text messaged her son in Boston while we were there to let him know his post cards showed up. It was truly a magical moment that gave hope to any happiness in humanity. So glad I was able to be a part of something so unique, special, and that brought so much joy to a bunch of people.