Day 1: Fife Coastal Path

My first day in Saint Andrews was full of fun. My sister had one final left to pass, so while she was testing I took off on a jaunt along the Fife Coastal Path (Map).  I started in Saint Andrews (point 79) and ended up walking about 3 miles east past rocky beaches, golf courses, and wildflowers (to about point 76).


Saint Andrews from a foggy beach

The beaches included some amazing folds and loops easily visible from the cliffs and satellite imagery back home.  The Carboniferous sandstone layers were deposited by an ancient delta, and then warped and tilted over time to their current positions.


Carboniferous folds

Some of the rocks showed previous fracturing and cementing, visible as different levels of erosion creating raised seams on the surface.


Seams of rock

On the other side of the cliffs sat golf course after golf course.  Saint Andrews is the birthplace of golf, so this isn’t really a surprise.  The walls enclosing the courses were just over a meter tall on average, and probably existed in some form even before the fairways existed.


Old walls

The trail constantly bounced from sea level to the top of the bluff, and many stone stairs were involved to deal with the elevation changes.


Winding stairway

Of the many pictures of stairs I took these two was my favourites.


Between a wall and flowers

On the way back I found a small memorial hanging on a fencepost.  The cross read “In Remembrance” but no story or name was provided.  I created numerous individuals and reason to explain the memorial, but perhaps this was done on purpose to provide any passerby the chance to remember those lost.


In Remembrance

Back in town I found a building with a two-toned blue facade I had to photograph.  I thought it epitomized Scotland’s history, architecture, and culture, plus I didn’t have any pictures of what a typical building in Saint Andrew’s looked like yet.


Saint Andrews Sailing Club

So there you have it… day one complete.
Onward to day two.

Photos taken 19 May, 2014

Flight to Fife

So I’m in now in Scotland. My flight from Vancouver to Edinburgh was pretty uneventful but did include some neat images.  I always forget there is no filter quite like the window of an airplane.


Leaving Vancouver’s beauty behind

The view while taking off from YVR (Vancouver airport) is one of the best I’ve seen from an airport.  This was only my second time doing so, but each time the lighting makes the various city centres stand out in front of the surrounding peaks.  This is just one more reason why I’d love to live in this city.


A set sun still shinning

As we flew farther east the sun quickly started setting.  For a time it appeared to be visible below the horizon due to thick upper layers of clouds diffusing the light.


Last of the sun

Soon after the sun reappeared as the clouds dissipated, but only to be swallowed again by even denser clouds on the horizon.  No light was passing through, so at first I thought it was behind a mountain somewhere in the Northwest Territories, but that would be one MASSIVE mountain.  It never got very dark out as we were near the Arctic Circle at 40,000ft.  After a few hours the sun was back shinning brightly as we passed over Greenland and Iceland… which unfortunately I slept over.  At least I have one more chance on the way back.


The London Olympic site

After a layover at London’s mess of a mall (I mean airport) Heathrow it was back in the air toward Edinburgh.  Then there was a series of bus, train, and bus (which I was 1.5£ short for) to get to my sister in Saint Andrews.


Arthur’s Seat and downtown Edinburgh

After leaving YVR at 8pm local time Saturday I arrived at my sister’s door at 8pm local time Sunday, having travelled about 5,131 miles.  But an 8 hour time difference was thrown in there somewhere so it wasn’t 24 hours of travel.
Now for the real adventure beginning with day one.

Photos taken 17-18 May, 2014

Scotland: An Island Tale

In a few hours I leave North America for the first time since 2012.  Just like last time I’m headed for Scotland.  Unlike last time I’m not there to help my sister move to a new country., it’s all fun and games.  By now my sister will know (or at least should know) everything there is to do in and around Saint Andrews for the three days until my dad arrives , at which point we are off to explore the Shetland Islands for about a week.  Then it’s to Poland for another 4 days in a new nation.  To start off the trip I’ve assembled a few pictures from the other Scottish islands I visited in 2008: the Inner Hebrides (mainly the Isle of Skye) and the Outer Hebrides.


The rugged landscape of Skye

The Isle of Skye has some of the most amazing hills and cliffs I’ve ever seen.  I still remember being in awe of the spires rising around the trails and country roads we travelled.


Amazing geology on display

The geography is in constant motion, being formed by slumping hillsides slowly giving in to the force of gravity.

Quiraing View

The splendor of the Quiraing

One of my most vivid memories from Skye was a walk we took along the top of the plateau.  The hike started out fine as we wove our way up the crags, but shortly after making it to the ridge we encountered a problem, a huge bog where ever step was another puddle waiting to swallow your foot.  We were past the midpoint of our loop and already uncomfortable, so we decided to abandon the trail and make the path as short as possible.  The views were stunning though, so that slightly improved our spirits.


Trekking the cold marshlands

Most of this trip was spent on the Isle of Skye, but we were able to take a day excursion to the Outer Hebrides via a number of ferries.


Leaving Uig and Skye

Our first destination was North Uist, where we only had enough time to do the island loop road before needing to catch the next ferry to the Isle of Harris.


Lighting the rugged outer isles

Harris also has some unique landscapes including rough hillsides and amazingly clear, blue waters which look to be more at home in the Caribbean then Northwest Scotland.


Crystal waters

After a few hours of exploration it was back on a ferry to our cabin on Skye.


Returning to Skye

The Shetland Islands are significantly farther out to see then the Hebrides, leading to an even more rugged landscape (hopefully), but also preventing views of mainland Scotland and the highlands.


Looking back on the highlands

Needless to say I’m very excited to see what awaits me on the other side of the Atlantic.  Posts will most likely be few and far between, but I’ll try to at least provide a glimpse or two every so often.  Until then!

Photos taken 10-13 April, 2008.

Defying Mount Defiance

This week’s weather has been superb! Since Sunday the highs have been in the mid eighties, so I figured it was a great opportunity for the first long alpine hike of the season. Mount Defiance‘s 11 mile trek beckoned, but it was not to be.


North facing snow

We ended up doing almost 10 miles on the ridges, but not how we expected (map of our route).  The trail starts out fairly wide and gradually narrows as it meanders up the ridge.  At the Bandera Mountain junction we turned left, heading for Mason Lake and the defiant peak beyond.


Ira Spings Trail terminus

All of the Ira Springs Trail (up to point B on the map) faces south and was thus free of any snowpack; however, as soon as you cross over the ridgeline the tricky part begins as the path is steep, narrow, and snow-covered.  We were perfectly fine, but I would not recommend it for the less adventurous for another month or so.


Frozen Mason Lake

As we arrived at Mason Lake we passed a few well prepared hikers with heaps of snow gear.  They told us their goal had been Mount Defiance as well, but could not locate the turnoff due to the deep snow and had given up.  As we were in shorts and hiking boots with no gear we decided to trust them, turn around, and head for Bandera Mountain farther back on the trail.


Looking down on Mason Lake from the Bandera Mountain Trail

Once again, the first part of the Bandera Mountain Trail is south-facing with no snow.  As soon as we reached the ridge the going got slower, and not just because we were taking in the views.


Very blue snow/ice


Ridgeline with I-90 snaking away toward (a very faint) Seattle

I think I mentioned the weather was amazing… and some of us might have gotten sunburnt (I won’t mention any names).


True Cascade peaks…


…with multiple cloud layers

It was a great weekend for a hike, and despite a forced change of plans I couldn’t have asked for a better time.  The snow was actually a refreshing change of pace, and we were both very glad to have purchased new waterproof hiking boots the day before.  Mount Defiance might have defied us this time, but we’ll be back later this summer once our new boots are fully broken in.


Water crossing early on

Photos taken on 11 May, 2014 with a Nikon D7100

Awash on Mt. Washington

Once again the week was beautiful, but the weekend weather was not. The trailhead for the Mount Washington trail is in Olallie State Park, about a half mile east from where I turned around on the Iron Horse trail last weekend.  The Washington Trail Association page for the hike says it is five miles round trip, but Google Maps states four miles one-way, so who knows how far we went.  I chose this trek because the peak is only 4000ft up, so I was hoping it would be below both the snowline and cloud level…


Snow AND clouds, oh my.

I was very wrong on both accounts.  At times the snow must have been five feet deep, but the surface was hard enough we didn’t fall through… much.  After making it most of the way up our shoes were soaked though, which made the rest of the hike less comfortable but we dealt with it as best we could.


The only snow left in parts is on the path…

I’m sure the views are pretty amazing in clear weather, with higher peaks in a semicircle to the east.  We had to use our imagination to unfurl the clouds floating in the valleys and around the peaks.


Creeping mists galore

For a brief time the weather did cooperate as the sun came out the layers came off… only to be put back on about ten minutes later as the mists and drizzle encompassed the area again.


Rock outcrop neat the peak

Shortly after arriving at the peak the hailstorm began.  We took cover under a stand of trees where we found a geocashing box, which brightened our spirits before starting the journey down.  If you wish to do this hike I recommend going in a few weeks, allowing more snow to melt off the trail… unless you want a slightly more difficult hike.


Meltwater marsh

Photos taken 3 May, 2014 with a Nikon D7100

Photo of the Month: April 2014

Yet again, picking just one pictures of the 470 taken in April proved to be extremely difficult.  So difficult that this week I’m going to provide links to my top seven.

Here is my list of favourites…

7. Spring Hills taken 19 April
6. Flowerbed taken 12 April
5. Cloudbeam taken 25 April
4. Cloudy Peak taken 28 April
3. A senior picture taken 13 April
2. Rainbow taken 17 April
1. Cairn taken 12 April

Like I said, it’s hard to pick just one.  I wanted to highlight pictures not in a previous post, so when it came down to a draw for first I sided with the one that had yet to see the light of day (or your computer screen).

Which picture was your favourite?

Riding the Iron Horse Trail

I took 90 pictures on Sunday’s hike along a converted railway line, so this post will be largely photo based.


Mount Si reaches into the clouds

The appropriately named Iron Horse Trail travels through (and under) the Cascades and ends in Eastern Washington.  In my research I learned there is a 2.3 mile long tunnel under Snoqualmie Pass that you can now walk/bike though, while will be a future hike I am eagerly awaiting.  This trip didn’t get me quite that far along the trail, as I only did a 5 mile section plus a spur trail down to Twin Falls State Park, for a total just over 10 miles.


Undergrowth shinning in a rare sunbeam

I admit I didn’t comprehend the meaning of the name until I parked at the trailhead, even though I knew it was an old railway it just didn’t click that the “Iron Horse” was the train engine.  The evidence of the trails history is everywhere… trusses and old stops have been maintained for the use of the hikers and make for some unique pictures.


An old bridge glad the trains are gone


Railroad ties at Ragnar

As this is a rail grade it is very easy to hike and bike on, with minimal elevation gain.  The trail seems to get a good amount of use, which it can easily handle due to its width.  Bikers whizzed by with ease while a constant stream of bedraggled ultra marathon runners plodded past (there was a regional race Sunday).


Ultra runners on the rail trail


The rail-bed

The weather was misty almost all day, with 15 minutes of heavy rain and hail at the halfway point.  I had just pulled out my camera to take pictures at upper Twin Falls when the downburst hit.  I ran for cover, waiting out the storm in an idyllic setting amongst the trees.


Winding stream and greenery


Looking into the gully

As the weather began to clear I tentatively ventured further along the trail, not satisfied with the waterfalls I had already found.  Around the bend and down a flight of soggy stairs I was not to be disappointed…


The true Twin Falls

The brief storm provided me some solitude, so I ate lunch and took a myriad of pictures of a strange tree.  It looked like some huge reptile/Ent emerging from the ground beneath a boulder, its roots grasping for any sort of leverage.  The following shot was my favourite of the lot.


A tree crawls out from hiding

I took my time on the way back, exploring any side trail I found, including a few flowering plants with an amazing view over a dappled forest canopy.


New growth shinning all around


The best of the few flowering plants

This is a great hike for those days when the April showers won’t leave us alone.  Mountains visible at times with clouds swirling around and over them, exploring the history of the Milwaukee Road, cheering extreme runners on as they passed, seeing some stunning waterfalls, and soaking up as much sun as possible when the clouds broke.  All in a day’s walk.


Impact in action


Mists swirl around the cedars

Photos taken 27 April, 2014 with a Nikon D7100

Surprises on Squak Mountain

A few weekends ago one of my old roommates from Bellingham came down to visit the Kirkland area and we decided to hike up Squak Mountain in the Issaquah Alps.  This marks the fourth of five main mountains I have now gone hiked on/around in the range, but after making it to the top I was rather disappointed (and not just because the low clouds blocked the view).  However, before I complain any more lets see some of the highlights…


Woody debris everywhere

About halfway along the path we encountered an area with significant windfall scattered across the forest floor.  Within the span of 3 meters it went from a normal looking second-growth region to looking like a hurricane had ripped everything apart.  The change was so abrupt it startled us.

There were multiple snags as well, looking more like broken toothpicks stuck in the ground than the living organisms they once were.  Some of those showed significant fire damage as well.  If I had to guess I’d say a small fire broke out and was quickly contained last summer, then a huge windstorm blew in and wrecked havoc in the weakened forest… or Sasquatch became very angry and went on a rampage.


Signs of fire and wind damage

Some of the fallen trees had interesting protrusions on their trunks.  The marks were caused by the extreme stress contorting the wood as it hit the ground.  The built up pressure needed to escape somehow so it ruptured the fibers at the weakest point, creating a tiny mountain range of jagged splinters.


Falling can be stressful

Another tree had fallen across the path and had recently been cleared by the trail crew we passed at the trailhead.  The newly cut wood oozed glistening sap while the bright “flesh” almost glowed in the soft lighting.  All the while the smell of pine lingered irresistibly in the air.


About 55 years since the last logging

As you can tell there were plenty of neat things to see and explore on the trail, and up to this point the trail was great.  But after coming around the last bend a new type of forest we there to greet us instead of a vista.


A steel forest


The tallest in the cluster

These huge towers were not at all what we expected to see, along with an access road we had initially crossed at the base of the mountain.  We half jokingly considered climbing the stairs on a shorter tower to get a 360° view but eventually thought better of it for obvious reasons.


The first tower at the peak

The one redeeming quality of the summit was the old abandoned radio tower found just below the others.  There was a barbed wire fence encircling the building, but the gate was open so a snapped a few shots in the grounds.  You can just make out the tower int eh branches to the left of the shed.  The next photo is one of my favourites from the weekend.  I think it truly conveys that this building has been forgotten for ages as the world’s technology has rendered it obsolete.


An open gateway to the past…

We ended up walking back down the service road to save time and explore some new territory.  All in all not a bad hike, but it would have been nice to know about the surprise ending beforehand.

Photos taken 29 March, 2013 with a Nikon D7100

On the unexpected…

You never know what you might stumble upon, even in normal everyday activities.  That is the main reason I almost always have a camera on my person.  Today my dad was in Seattle giving a talk at the University of Washington about geothermal energy.  I left work early to make it there on time, but as parking was a nightmare the extra time I had allotted myself for picture taking at the University was eaten up.  I arrived at the talk with seconds to spare and I thought I had missed my only photo opportunity, but that’s just how it goes sometimes and there is nothing you can do about it.


Pink blossoms on a sea-foam Fiat

Typically in academia the visiting professor is taken out to dinner afterward, where further relevant (or not so relevant) discussion is had in a more relaxed setting, so I tagged along with the geology group to a nearby Italian restaurant just off campus.  We parked next to a light green car, which in itself is odd in the world of drab car colours in Seattle.  Sprinkled across the hood were light pink petals contrasting perfectly in the lighting.  I did a double take, stopping in the lot to get at least one picture out of the trip.  Then halfway into dinner we all noticed a faint rainbow struggling to shine through the mist and low clouds.


Tiny prisms in the sky

Over the course of a minute it grew in brilliance until a second smaller one was visible as well.  At this point it was so vibrant I excused myself from the table and wandered outside to take pictures.  It turned out the small section we could see from our table was only a fraction of a complete double rainbow, the first of which was the second brightest I have ever seen.


Double rainbow all the way!

Little did I know that going to dinner would provide me with so many great pictures, most of which occurred after dinner had already started.  This just goes to show you that always being prepared for the unexpected can pay off in big ways, especially in the field of photography.


The red umbrella fells right at home

Photos taken 18 April, 2014 with a Nikon D7100

On Opening Day…

The MLB season opened last week, so I thought I’d share some pictures I took at the last professional game I attended.  Baseball was the first sport I fell in love with as a child, and is still dear to me today even if other sports (soccer) have since passed it as my favourite.  Some people call it boring and at times it is hard to argue against them; however, growing up with the sport gives you an appreciation of all parts of the game, including the slower ones.


While on a family trip to Traverse City, Michigan last summer to visit my aunt and uncle we took some time attend a local game.  The Midwest is known to love baseball, and this small town is no different.  The Traverse City Beach Bums of the unaffiliated Frontier League get their name from the nearby Lake Michigan sand dunes and play in Wuerfel Park, a small stadium reminiscent of a horse racing venue crossed with beachfront condos.


A summer’s day at Wuerfel Park

The game was a lot of fun, helped by the fact our adopted home team crushed the visiting Lake Erie Crushers by a score of 8-0 on a beautiful summer day.  The nice thing about minor league games is the stadiums and attendance are smaller so you can easily get right next to the action.  It would be nearly impossible for me to get these kinds of shots at a major league game.


One of many hits

Taking pictures of action can be very difficult and it took a great number of attempts to get the timing right in these few.  It helps a great deal being in the first row.  I look forward working on my action photography skills again at local baseball and soccer games this coming summer, especially at the minor and amateur levels.


Suspended in time

Photos taken 30 June, 2013 with a Nikon D7100

Page 3 of 10