Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pioneer Mountains

The Pioneer Mountains contain Idaho's third-highest peak, Hyndman Peak.  These are the mountains one sees to the east of the Sun Valley ski resort, and in fact, before ski lifts became what they are today (due to their invention in Sun Valley) people would ride on horseback up to a cabin in these mountains and ski on the summer snowfields and canoe in the cold alpine lakes.

The ski lift was invented by a fellow watching bananas being loaded onto ships.  He mounted a chair on the front of a car and drove it toward a person (from behind).  The person was wearing skis, and the impact broke their legs.  It was decided that the experiment should have been done on snow.

There is a trio of peaks that hold a special place in many a heart, mine included:  Hyndman, Old Hyndman, and Cobb.  These peaks were glaciated and you can find horns (as in "Matterhorn") and spitzels in the Pioneer Mountains.  Hyndman is a bit over 12,000 feet in elevation.

Below is Hyndman Peak in July.  I would often trek to the mountains on my birthday, and the wildflowers were often near their peak at that time.  I carried both 35mm and 4"x5" camera equipment on this trek, so have this image on 4"x5" film as well.

Here is another view of Hyndman, looking at it from the north, looming over Wildhorse Creek with Old Hyndman just visible to the left of Hyndman's massive pyramid.

Below is Old Hyndman with its distinctive notch at the left.  This peak is a fin, very narrow in one direction.  At the edge of the clear meltwater Bitterroot are in bloom.

Below you can see Old Hyndman at the left and the massive pyramid of Cobb at the right.  My friend Karl and I climbed Old Hyndman with his dog Max.

Can you believe that I would get on my bicycle on Friday after work, pedal out the dirt roads, leave my bike and backpack toward the peaks, camping and hiking and soaking in the cold (very cold) meltwater streams, picking the forget-me-not burrs from my socks, getting baked in the sun until I would begin to climb these giants?  I would come to some sheer cliff and turn back.  Or get mired in stinging nettles in the creek bottoms.  One day I decided to splurge the $5.95 it would cost to purchase a topographic map, and went to the local sporting goods store.  The fellow behind the counter asked me, "Are you going to the backcountry?"

"No," I replied, "just to those mountains over there."

That was me, some very long time ago, on the side of Hyndman, with Old Hyndman in the background.  Silk shirt and rock climbing shoes.  No mountain in Idaho is a technical climb, by which I mean one never needs a rope.  They're all a long, hard, tiring walk and scramble to the top.

So, now that I have introduced you to the peaks that dominate this range, perhaps you can see them near the middle of the photo below, taken from a ridge to the south of the East Fork of the Big Wood River at sunset. 

The basin between the peaks was (and still is) an enchanting place.  The barren rock and ice morph into a wet, green, subarctic environment of lichen and heather, divided by deep, clear, meandering streams.  In the distance one sees the fertile earth of trees and sagebrush, but here life struggles in a harsh environment, just gaining a foothold.

Arctic White Heather.  Cassiope tetragona

Lewis's Monkeyflower.  Mimulus lewisii

Elephanthead.  Pedicularis groenlandica

Put them all together with Bistort and Paintbrush and Lupine and Cinquefoil and too many others to name ... and you get a slice of heaven.

Friday, July 4, 2014


I just scanned some of my old 35mm slides, not wanting them to fade into obscurity.  I put a lot of effort into creating these transparencies, imaging that upon retirement I would have a collection of "stock photos" that would have value.  These days, photographers who collected stock images on film are finding it easier, quicker and cheaper to go remake the images in digital format.  Sounds like fun, but I do not have a lot of free time these days.  I was not ready to part with some of these images and memories, so I have here converted them for web viewing.

This picture is the caterpillar of a Cercropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia, North America's largest moth.  A fascinating creature in its own right, but observe, to the right, the tiny spider.  Cool.  The spider has a mite, most likely a parasite, attached to its leg.  The mite is the red creature.  So, there are three creatures in this nice macro image.  I took this photo in my back yard in Maine.

Speaking of Maine, and thinking of fresh Atlantic lobster ... .

College was in Massachusetts, and I had interests in photography and plant natural history.  I watched the seasons change, and the photo above is taken in the spring as the maple trees pushed forth new buds and flowers.  Though I was a fan of Kodachrome, the above image was exposed on 35mm Agfachrome film.  It has a marvelous grainy texture and warming tones.

The New England woods are dense and cool in the summer.  This image was taken near dawn in the late summer.  Sunrise, sunset, a hazy day after a rainstorm ... there, now I've given away the secret to an excellent photograph.  "f8 and be there."

I used f8 as little as possible, aiming more in the f16 to f22 range.  Ansel Adams was a member of the f64 group, but my Fujica camera didn't stop down for that kind of depth of field.  I closed it down as much as possible, using a tripod and in the above photo a sunset breeze gently moves the autumn leaves in front of white Birch trunks.

It's Ektachrome in this image.  It was the first roll of color film I ever developed.  Title:  After the Fall.

My college education included a January Term class called "Backpacking in the Slickrock Desert."  About 10 of us drove in a van across the country to Utah and spent 2 weeks backpacking in the Escalante Canyon.  We visited a few nearby parks and vistas.  This one, above, is the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.

In the summertime I was employed in Central City, Colorado ... see my earlier post for some images of that town at 8,500 feet elevation.  I watched the aspen leaf out in the spring, and turn yellow in the autumn.

This is a melting snowbank in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I took this image while visiting my buddy Eric in Chicago.  I believe it works because yellow and blue are complimentary colors.  Title: White Collar Worker.

I traveled to Scotland during my college years and took this photo of the ocean waters encroaching on a sandy beach.

The reason I went to Scotland is because I was the recipient of an Earthwatch scholarship to participate in an archaeological excavation of neolithic stone circles on the Isle of Arran in Scotland under the direction of Dr. Aubry Burl from the Hull College of Prehistory.  There is a low circle made of rounded stones in the foreground and a taller circle made of flat stones in the distance.  The excavation is taking place toward the mountain.

After graduation from college I moved West, finding myself in the Wood River Valley at the base of Bald Mountain, in the ski resort town of Ketchum, Idaho.  This frost was on my window, when I woke up at dawn.  As a kid I slept in an unheated bedroom in Maine.  During a snowstorm the cold, dry flakes would blow through cracks around the windows and melt against my face like tiny pinpricks.  So, it was not impossible to live the frugal life of a ski bum, sleeping in an unheated bedroom.  It was a royal pain, though, when the pipes froze and burst inside the house.

I moved West with my college buddy Murray.  That's him.  We hiked a trail we were later told was called, "Poison Oak Loop."  Kids, what morons.  Well, I don't think this was Poison Oak.  We didn't itch afterward.

As we worked our way West, we stopped in Salt Lake City for a while, where Murray's brother Spencer lives.  We climbed Mount Olympus for the view.  Murray is in this photo, too.  He is seen against the hazy inversion covering Salt Lake City.  I later saw a Japanese woodcut that used a nearly identical composition.  I was very influenced by Eastern art and philosophy.

I traveled around Idaho often, ranging far and wide.  This image shows a Whooping Crane.  As part of the attempt to save them from extinction, some Whooping Crane were placed in the foster care of a flock of Sandhill Cranes.  I went to the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge to see one.  It is a white speck just a bit left of center.  The first snows of fall are dusting the autumn hills.

The Wood River Valley is home to many very active folks, and there are many sporting events.  I was very partial to cycling, and even entered one race with my clunky Schwinn Continental.  Mostly, though, I was a spectator.

This last image is a beautiful waterfall in the Olympic National Park.  I had a strong desire to see the temperate rain forest, so after a winter of working in the ski resort I hitchhiked from Idaho to the Olympic peninsula and hiked into the forest and camped for a few days.  As I look back and reflect upon it, I am always thankful that I'm still alive.  Hitchhiking alone is risky business and scrambling up steep, wet, mossy hillsides for that perfect vantage point is problematic, too.  It was all worth it, and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't change a thing.  These are the experiences and views that create a lifetime of memories.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Washington, DC (Happy Fourth of July)

If you ever get the chance to visit our nation's capitol, I do recommend it.  You can stop by the office of your elected representatives and share your good ideas with them.  Participatory democracy is the best, in my opinion, perhaps because of my experience growing up with New England Town Meeting governance.  There is a saying, "If you don't vote, don't gripe."  I take it one step further, "If you don't get involved in the process, don't gripe."

Many of the museums are open for free, such as the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art.

The building below is the United States Supreme Court.  I'd like to be a Supreme Court Justice, but that's not going to happen.

Below is the statue of Freedom.  She normally sits atop the capitol dome, but when I was in DC she had been transported to the ground for cleaning.  It was a rare opportunity to see her close up.

If you visit in the spring, you might just have the opportunity to see the cherry blossoms in bloom.  Climate change has made the date less predictable.  They used to always bloom in the spring.

It was recently brought to my attention that due to my socialist leanings I should "move to Russia."  Not gonna happen.  

Have a wonderful Fourth of July.  

Oh, and to restore Democracy, support campaign finance reform.  Money is not speech, and corporations are not people.  America has the best politicians money can buy.  If you love the United States, make an effort to improve upon the foundation.