Travel

Bears, Bikes, and Denali

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

In May 2010, I took one of the funnest trips I logged during my six-year stay living and working in Alaska. I joined a group of some adventurous and fun outdoor-loving Alaskans for a mountain-bike day trip into Denali National Park.

Before the National Park Service opens the main park road to tourist buses, it allows cyclists to pedal up this mostly dirt road. On that trip, I went with a group of four other mountain bikers, getting as far as the Polychrome Overlook. I didn’t see Denali. Clouds will cover the majestic peak more than half the tourist season, so I didn’t expect to see it. I did expect wildlife, maybe some waking grizzly bears, other wild animals, and beautiful terrain. On that front, the trip was a stunning success.

Denali by Mountain Bike, the Only Way to Travel in Mid-May

The adventure began, as you can expect, around a campfire after all of us had driven up from Anchorage (amazing drive, by the way). We secured a camping spot at the Riley Creek Campground, near the main entrance. This is still a surprisingly wild and beautiful area. Staying up late in the arctic night, we talked story around a fire and planned for an early start on a Friday morning in mid-May.

The next morning, we drove as far as the park service allows, not far from the Savage River Campground. From here, you bike in,

A group of five of us cycled ahead of most of the other mountain bikers that day and reached the overlook, 31 miles from the Savage River parking area. It’s a beautiful stretch of road that climbs up 1,500 feet vertically, with a few long up and down hills. The terrain is mostly brown and still snow-covered that time of year. Along the way, we had to stop because of traffic, namely, a grizzly mother and her two cubs. We laughed a lot as she and her young one slowly walked down the hill, calmly crossed the road, and then ambled down the hillside. We saw another pair close to this group, of a mother and just one cub, on a ridge, framed against a mastic mountain backdrop. That’s five bears in less than one hour!

Respecting, Not Fearing, the Bears

For people who don’t live in Alaska or those who pack guns to kill wild critters, this would appear to be a terrifying moment. It was not, and is not.

Bears are relatively predictable, but still lethal. If you respect their space, don’t threaten their food source or young, and don’t startle them, they mostly will leave you alone. Mostly, respect them and their home. And I can say that having travelled hundreds of hours and many more miles in Alaska’s wild bear country, by bike and foot, not once having been threatened.

I have not published these shots on my websites before and forgot until I saw them again how amazingly breathtaking the “Great Land” (that’s what Alaskans call their state) is. I miss it, particularly this time of year, when the snow begins to melt and the big critters begin to explore, eat, hunt, fish, and be wild–the way they were meant to be.

Here’s the video I published almost exactly eight years ago today from that great trip.

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Sunbeam at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

St. Peter’s Basilica is the heart of global Catholicism and the main house of worship for the Catholic Church in the Vatican City, the tiny but influential nation-state located in beautiful Rome.

I took this shot in 2006. I had a basic point and shoot camera. The lighting as magical inside the massive building, which was designed by Italian architect Donato Bramante, in the early 1500s.

I first remember seeing a painting of the interior of the cavernous and enormous basilica at the St. Louis Art Museum as a kid. That painting, Interior of St. Peter’s, Rome, by Paul Panini Romae from 1731, was on my mind as I wandered in the sanctuary, with thousands of other visitors on a hot October day.

One of the lessons I took away from visiting St. Peter’s and the Vatican City was a simple one. Never underestimate the power of the Catholic Church.

Oregon surf style: single fins and VW Squareback

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I recently returned from a four-day surf trip to the central Oregon coast. The safari included visits to Florence South Jetty, Newport South Jetty, Agate Beach, and Otter Rock. I had the best rides at Florence South Jetty, but I think Newport South Jetty had the nicest reef bottom. I will come back.

Rudy Owens at Agate Beach

The real “scene” was at Agate Beach, a well-known break next to Yaquina Head on the north side of the port city of Newport. That is where I captured this iconic Squareback, loaded with two single fins. What a classic look.

A lot of surfers of all skill levels gathered for some nice waves on a Saturday morning, before the winds picked up and led to some rough pounding near-shore breaks that pummeled me for two hours.

I  enjoyed every minute and will return to Newport.

Family and the holidays

I have not shared Thanksgiving with my family now for nearly  30 years. Living at opposite ends of the continent, and in my case Alaska for a half-dozen years, makes travel on the busiest travel time of the year just about impossible. We may not be able to share another one together like we did when we were a unit, when I was younger. This makes me think of them even more this year. So, enjoy the time you spend with family. You might never know if it is the last time you do. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

 

 

Here, kitty kitty … here, kitty kitty

This is an oldie, dating my from trip to Africa in 1997. I took this picture inside of the magnificent Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania. What you don’t see are the four other jeeps filled with Wazungus like me clicking away and gawking. Seeing them lick their paws makes you realize that a cat is a cat, and were your household cat any bigger, you might be fair game for a meal too. Maybe. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

You never forget the first time you step foot in Greenland

 

Yesterday I discovered some nice photos taken of east Greenland, in fjords near the air hub of Kulusuk. This is the sparsely inhabited region of Greenland, a home rule territory still within the Kingdom of Denmark. I landed in Kulusuk in June 1998. I will never forget this flight, from Reykjavik, Iceland. I flew on the very tough Bombardier Dash-8 prop plane, and my captain was a wonderful Greenlander who I then hired to charter a boat trip up a fjord near Nuuk, the capital, to find Viking archaeological ruins. The air when I stepped off for the refueling stop was crisp. Those arctic low hanging fog clouds shrouded the mountains. My fellow passengers were all delighted to be back home. I was in heaven. This trip changed my life.

You can see more of my photos shot in 1998, 1999, and 2000 on my Greenland picture gallery. (Click on photograph to open a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Oregon backroad in Wasco County

 

With stock images, one normally is supposed to provide some sort of cliché phrase about the road less travelled, the path to wisdom, finding one’s place involves windy roads, or a variation on this theme. For me, this was just a nice moment on a very seldom used highway (Oregon Hwy. 197), just south of The Dalles. It was early June, the crops were still growing, and the evening light was hitting the hills and casting shadows on the road. I pulled over and snapped this photo. I simply loved the scenery. This area is one of the premiere bicycle touring areas of the country. (Click on the photo to see a larger photograph on a separate picture page.)

Taking detours and discovering hidden treasures in Oregon

 

During a short road trip to central Oregon the first week of June, I accidentally discovered this amazing fishing area on the Deschutes River, north of Maupin. It is called Sherars Falls. I camped here, and I was in heaven. The fishing area is managed by the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and I’m fairly certain Native fishermen have been visiting these falls for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This shot was taken shortly before 6 a.m. as the morning crew arrived to cast lines for spring Chinook. The night before, the guys did not stop fishing until about 10 p.m. I love salmon fishing and passion it brings out in anglers. And this was one of the prettiest fishing locations I have ever seen. (For a larger photo, click on the picture to open a separate picture page.)

Cappuccino, a modern work of art

The thing I remember best about Italia? Cappuccino, every morning. Normally I do not drink coffee. I am a tea person. But in Italy, there was no choice but to render unto Caesar. And every cup is treated and prepared with care. Beautiful. (Click on the photo for a larger image on a separate picture page.)

Morning Tea in Hoi An, Vietnam

I included this photo of two men I met for morning tea in Hoi An, Vietnam, in my series called Being Themselves. Nothing earth-shattering here other than a nice moment with some guys who welcomed a visitor to their town and wore very large smiles. My kinda people. See more of my photos from Vietnam on my web site.