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.

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.

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.

The new moon at the Pinnacle in Holtwood, PA

My buddy John and I went to the Pinnacle in Holtwood, PA for the last new moon a couple weeks ago. This is one of the highlight spots of the Conestoga Trail. The hopes were to find some place dark enough for star photos. We did not get anything amazing because the clouds kept coming through. But we did end up with a couple of lightening strikes and some nice dark sky shots. It wasn’t the greatest, but we had a lot of fun goofing off and I did end up with a few decent photos.


You’re not going to believe what my wife did

Recently we went to the mountains of West Virginia to a place called Nelson Rock. Nelson Rock is set up like an outdoor adventure park where hiking meets rock climbing. It is a feature made popular in WWII by the Italians in the Dolomites called a Via Ferrata. It is a series of steel cables, ladders, and fixed anchors around a mountain that allow human beings to climb around ‘easier’. It was amazing, the best thing I have ever done. It is a perfect combination of doing something that feels risky or adventurous while still remaining completely safe…that is if you are not afraid to look down into the abyss. I can’t wait to do it again and again. More than anything, I can’t believe my wife did this! I am so proud of her.
While we were down in West Virginia we also visited Seneca Rock. Someplace I have wanted to go for a long time, but found it hard to drive 5 hours 1-way for a short walk up Seneca Rock. We were only 20 minutes away and also checked out Seneca Rock. It was great, especially the rock scramble after the path to the top.
Here are some pictures if you are interested.

I found a Geocache this weekend – GC2K765

I find a lot of Geocaches, but this one is a big deal. It has plagued me and my close friends since 2013. It made me cry. Here is what a wrote in the internet about it for the community to read:

GC 2K765 – LOST81 (4.5/4.5) Walk Don’t Run

“I hugged and kissed my wife goodbye, possibly for the very last time. It was well known that I was going out to search for this geocache, and I would die in those woods before I came back without my name on the log. I packed up Friday afternoon after playing hooky from a half day of work. I put on my geocaching in the woods costume, brought 3 liters of water, a bag of nuts, a pen, and a morbid attitude. This geocache owns at least 5 hours of my life dating back to the very beginning of my Geocaching hobby. I have searched stage 1 at least 6 or 7 times, going back to 2013, and 2 dogs ago in my life. Most times it was with my best, well-seasoned, geocaching pals JoshInChains & Cinnamon. Other times my old best pal Charlie the Dog was with us. To this day I believe it is our failures at stage 1 that led to my old dogs cancer, he just couldn’t take the disappointment. None of us ever found it. I have also been here alone, and most recently with MyWifeTheMuggle. After that last failure, I had enough. All stages had been found very recently for the first time in years. So I knew (like I always did) that it was definitely there and ready to be found.

So I headed out onto the road with my gear, ready for the end of my world if it came to that. Once at the parking lot I left a note in my car and the car unlocked. Just in case it sat there overnight a ranger would know who to contact to come and retrieve the car. Out on the trail I found myself at a very familiar stage 1, I didn’t even turn my GPS machine on until I reached stage 1, it’s location was burnt like a middle-finger-shaped brand onto my brain. Surprisingly I only spent about 10-15 minutes at stage 1 this time. I arrived at stage 1 with a corn on the cob mentality. I was going to search this area the way I eat a piece of corn on the cob, start at the top, work to the side like a typewriter, and then press the carriage return button.

I was off to stage 2. Having done this hike numerous times my GPS machine has this trail well defined, so I knew basically where I would end up. Sure enough, that is where I ended up.

After a mid-day costume change I was off to find stage 2. I spent about 20-30 minutes here, I was very pleased with the time. Once I focused on the proper area I was rewarded fairly quickly. I spent a lot of time in the wrong places looking for the wrong things.

After my final costume change of the day I was off to stage 3. Again, the trail on my GPS machine showed me where I would end up. I got there fairly quickly, my body pulsing with adrenaline. Once very close to centering in on the coordinates I got a little discouraged. Not that I would not find it, just that I was all alone. When I do stupid things I usually have someone else nearby, or at least on standby with a 9 and a 1 already punched into a telephone. I saw where I might need to end up and then remembered the ratings of the adventure. No problem. I made my way to GZ the hardest way possible (in hindsight). I was getting close, I felt like the ozone levels in the air change as my head swirled with the ideas of how I was going to tell this story to my friends, enemies, and every stranger I encountered. I saw some obvious GZ spots. I set down my GPS machine to let it settle in on a signal. I walked over to a spot. Wide-eyed, mouth gaping, I poked my head in quickly, like I was entering a surprise party in my honor that I had gained advanced knowledge of. My head quickly dropped and hung like ripe, ready to be picked and eaten Pawpaw fruit, the Appalachian Banana. As my eyes gazed down and sideways I saw another spot, just like this spot a few feet away. I walked over with my fingers crossed and praying to other people’s imaginary Gods. I looked and saw nothing. I got down on my knees and looked further and wouldn’t you know it….WOOOOO FREAKING HOOOOOO!!

TSTF (twenty sixth to find)

I sat all the way down, reached for the container and pulled it out. I imagine the way I removed this container is the inspiration for the tree stump, wood monster scene in Flash Gordon. I opened up the container and basked in the smell that was released. It smelled like cotton candy infused with redemption. I can’t lie, a single tear rolled down my face when I first laid eyes on the container. I sat there, delighted with my day and savored the find for about 10 minutes. I read every log in the log book dating back to 2011. I don’t think I have ever done this. Never has an original log book, so old, been in such perfect condition. I was honored to scribble my nonsense in there and replace as found.

Thanks for the great hide and amazing adventure.

Thank you to everyone that has anything to do with these hides. Thank you to those that came before me and gave me the strength and encouragement to never give up. This one is for you Charlie the Dog.”

Galapagos Islands Ecuador & Machu Picchu Peru August 2019

We were lucky enough to go to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Machu Picchu in Peru. We spent a week on a boat in the Galapagos, and almost a week bouncing around Peru, culminating in the finale at Machu Picchu. Some pictures are HERE.

It is no secret that this trip is not what I expected. I thought the Galapagos Islands were going to be an adventure trip. I am super happy to have been there, and that we are lucky enough to be able to go places like this. It was really unique to see the Galapagos Islands and the animals that only live there. But the trip was anything but adventurous. It was a lot of very short nature walks and the edges of the islands. Just not what I expected to be doing for a week. The entire trip was worth it for the single day we spent at Machu Picchu. The highlight was the hike up to Huayna Picchu, and from there looking over and down at the entire Machu Picchu village and valley. The Andes Mountains in South America make the Rockies look like sissies. Machu Picchu itself was just completely overrun with people and felt like a cattle wrangle at times. Again, tremendously grateful to have been able to even be there. The experience loses appeal each time I see some slut doing hair and makeup for a selfie at Machu Picchu.

I decided I would much rather spend 12 hours with 1 other person, walking to the top of a mountain, just to be the only people there.

 

 

 

 

Some pictures are HERE.