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Big Pine Lakes and Palisades Glacier

Temple Crag, Second Lake, and Kurt

Temple Crag, Second Lake, and Kurt

Wow! Really that is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about this trip. It was truly amazing. My first ever summertime backpacking trip really rocked my world. We went to an area called Big Pine Lakes to camp. This is a wonderful set of lakes some of which are fed by glacial waters from higher up. The glacial sediments suspended in the water make the water an incredible shade of blue. It’s just amazing to see.

Not a bad place to camp!

Not a bad place to camp!

Along the banks of the North Fork of Big Pine Creek

Along the banks of the North Fork of Big Pine Creek

From the trailhead, we hiked 6 miles or so to our camp at Third Lake. From here, at around 10,000 feet, we would camp and set out for the Palisades Glacier the next day.

Sunrise over Third Lake

Sunrise over Third Lake

Sam Mack Meadow

Sam Mack Meadow

Sam Mack Meadow is a beautiful stopover on the way up to the glacier. We stopped here to take a few moments to refill our water supplies before heading on up. Elevation here is about 11,000 feet.

Sam Mack Meadow from above

Sam Mack Meadow from above

First, Second and Third Lakes from above

First, Second and Third Lakes from above

As we climbed, we got a good view of First, Second and Third lakes (top to bottom in the above pic).

Snow at the base of Temple Crag's face

Snow at the base of Temple Crag's face

The Palisades Glacier

The Palisades Glacier

Finally, we got the view we were working towards. The Palisades Glacier. This glacier is the largest in the Sierras, and they are amongst the southernmost in North America. This was a truly breathtaking sight. Our view was from a ridge above the terminal lake at about 12,300 feet. We were essentially standing on the terminal moraine of the glacier when it extended much further.

Palisades Glacier Panorama

Click on the above panorama for a larger version on flickr.

Above the Glacier are several 14,000 foot peaks (and some a little bit less), including North Palisade, Starlight Peak, Thunderbolt Peak, Mount Sill and Polemonium Peak. It’s a magnificent area.

North Palisade (left) and Starlight Peak

North Palisade (left) and Starlight Peak

Sunrise reflections in Third Lake

Sunrise reflections in Third Lake

I was really captivated by Temple Crag, which loomed above our campsite. I could probably spend a week photographing this single mountain.

Clouds casting shadows directly onto nearby Temple Crag

Clouds casting shadows directly onto nearby Temple Crag

Temple Crag reflected in Third Lake

Temple Crag reflected in Third Lake

Finally, the Perseid Meteor Shower was happening at the time we were there, and I tried to capture a few of them while looking at the amazing Temple Crag.

Perseid Meteor over Temple Crag

Perseid Meteor over Temple Crag

Tent Trails

Tent Trails

It was an amazing trip. I hope to go back and explore the glacier up close, something our group voted not to do. It really was some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen with my own eyes.

November 15, 2011 - 4:37 pm

Fabian - hi kurt, its fabian, we did this trip together and hiked mt baldy together! man these pictures are great but i remember it being more beautiful! i want to plan a trip to the area next year and make it to the glacier for sure! i think you, big mike and myself were the only ones wanting to make it to the glacier despite being probably the most out of shape!!!! haha! arnold sent me the link just now of the lighted switch back up whitney, how you came up with the idea of the picture is pretty amazing. well did arnold tell you about our trip on the high sierra trail in sequoia? man, i think it beats palisades! i got to photograph precipice lake, one of ansel’s most famous pictures. anyways, glad your still hiking, keep up the good work!!!

fabian

November 17, 2011 - 8:31 am

Kurt - Hey Fabian. It’s always more beautiful in person. I want to go back there. I also really want to go to Precipice Lake there on the High Sierra Trail like you and Arnold went to. Perhaps next year.

May 30, 2012 - 10:35 pm

fabian - Hey Kurt! My friend and myself will be doing Palisades Glacier this weekend, we will leave Friday at 7 PM and hike Saturday and Sunday, we just came up with the idea to do it yesterday. Lmk if you’re interested!

Sequoia National Park

I love trees. I love big, massive trees even more. And it’s a bonus if my entire life will amount to less than 2% of it’s lifespan. To stand in the presence of such living things is humbling. And the giant sequoia trees are truly majestic in their immense presence on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The General Sherman Tree. The largest tree on Earth.

The General Sherman Tree. The largest tree on Earth.

Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman tree, which is the single largest tree on Earth measured by the sheer volume of its trunk. I do assert that “General Sherman” is a horrible name for such a tree, given Sherman’s role in the Indian Wars, but I digress. The tree is an awe-inspiring sight. A sign indicates you are proportionally the same standing before this tree as a mouse is standing before a 6 foot tall human.

Gorgeous Sierra scenery

Gorgeous Sierra scenery

The Sun flares through a hole in a Sequoia

The Sun flares through a hole in a Sequoia

Sequoias are just magnificent trees. They are truly an American tree, and should have been made our national tree along with other redwoods.

Marble Fork, Kaweah River

Marble Fork, Kaweah River

Redwoods in the Giant Forest

Redwoods in the Giant Forest

More Redwoods in the Giant Forest

More Redwoods in the Giant Forest

Our trip to Sequoia was not all about flora. We did see our share of fauna there as well, including a couple of deer and no less than 6 different black bears.

Buck along the Generals Highway

Buck along the Generals Highway

Black bear in the Giant Forest from close range

Black bear in the Giant Forest from close range

This black bear was right in the middle of the tourist-centric Giant Forest. Just a couple hundred feet from the General Sherman tree. It looked to be somewhat juvenile, and was foraging for insects in various logs while a crowd of people acted as bear paparazzi just 15 feet away.

The Great Western Divide from Moro Rock

The Great Western Divide from Moro Rock

Since it was a nice day, we headed up Moro Rock to check out the view from its granite dome. From Moro Rock we could see Little Baldy, a nearby peak we would summit later that day.

Little Baldy as seen from Moro Rock

Little Baldy as seen from Moro Rock

Moro Rock as seen from Little Baldy

Moro Rock as seen from Little Baldy

Great Western Divide from Little Baldy

Great Western Divide from Little Baldy

Layers of LIght

Layers of LIght

Fellow Hikers on the summit of Little Blady

Fellow Hikers on the summit of Little Blady

Sunset from Little Baldy's summit

Sunset from Little Baldy's summit

Big Baldy as seen from Little Baldy

Big Baldy as seen from Little Baldy

The trek up Little Baldy was nice. It’s not a long hike and the scenic rewards are well worth it. It’s nice away from the much more touristy areas like Moro Rock. Looking at Big Baldy from here, I thought that next time I should have climbed to the top of that as well. Big Baldy is a similar hike in length as Little Baldy. I’ll save that for a future trip.

In Crystal Cave

In Crystal Cave

Sequoia is not all trees and mountains. It actually has a large number of caves as well. One of these caves has been partially made accessible to park visitors by guided tour. This allows everyone to get a taste of what it is like to explore such places. It was a nice trip by flashlight.

The General Sherman Tree

The General Sherman Tree

Finally, one last look at the General Sherman tree. This picture was taken with the Canon Tilt/Shift 24mm lens which allows fine control over the focal plane. This is what has made the in focus area in this picture to be shifted. Many of the pictures I took on this trip were with this incredibly sharp lens, though most did not utilize the special talents that this lens offers. I look forward to returning to this magical park. I am once again made to be incredibly grateful that we have the National Park System.

September 24, 2010 - 10:35 am

Gritty - Beautiful pictures Kurt! Definitely my favorite National Forest that I have been to so far, the trees are just amazing! Last time I was there I went for a trail run and came within 15 feet of a mother bear and her cub. I saw the cub and didn’t realize mom was on the otherside of the trail, thankfully my husband saw mom and got my attention to stop, it was awesome though!!

Gallery Showing

I’m way overdue in posting this, but there is a large selection of my prints on display at the Langhinrichs gallery at the Fort Wayne, Indiana Unitarian Universalist church. The prints are on display every Sunday through mid-late October. Stop by and check out some of my prints in person!
5310 Old Mill Road
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46807

Old Baldy

In preparation for an ascent of Mount Whitney, I twice went up the summit of the local 10,000 footer, Mount San Antonio, also known as Mount Baldy or Old Baldy. This is a nice fairly demanding hike that helped me get into shape for the much larger climb I would be doing in a few months. On both trips, I brought my photo gear to capture beautiful images along the way and also just to have some extra weight for conditioning.

Old Baldy destroying clouds

Old Baldy destroying clouds

Of particular note on the first trip were the crazy cloud patterns. I watched as clouds passed over the summit and were seemingly destroyed by the crazy air currents circulating overhead. It reminded me of a photo by the famous Galen Rowell called Split Rock and Cloud (you can see a copy at amazon on a poster here). Having seen a print of this picture in person, I had always pondered the clouds, and even thought they were somehow unreal. But, here on the slopes of Mount Baldy I was witnessing the same phenomenon right before my eyes. I set up the camera on my tripod and captured a little video of the phenomenon.




The wind and cloud patterns also produced a couple of UFOs over Mount Harwood.

UFOs over Mount Harwood

UFOs over Mount Harwood

Crazy Clouds

Crazy Clouds

Looking north-ish from Old Baldy's summit

Looking north-ish from Old Baldy's summit

A Mountain Moment

A Mountain Moment

On the second trip up I captured this couple sitting by the Sierra Club Ski Hut enjoying the mountain environment.

Mountain wildflowers and creek

Mountain wildflowers and creek

The second ascent also yielded some nice wildflower displays

On the Devil's Backbone

On the Devil's Backbone

And finally a quick shot of the Devil’s Backbone section of the trail from the ski lift. Climbing Baldy allows for a diverse selection of mountain landscapes, and a big broad summit where you can hang out and eat lunch. It’s a strenuous enough workout to help get you into mountaineering shape and I will be going back again and again next summer for sure.

Some Hot Air

Heat

Heat

Let there be light! At the end of July, the town of Santa Paula, California hosted the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival. Like many people, I had never actually seen a hot air balloon up close. They were always things that I saw in the distance while driving on the highway or in pictures that other people had taken. Driving up on a Friday evening I took up my photo gear and headed into this unknown territory. It turned out to be really amazing.

View from the inside

View from the inside

Essentially, the event has a large field in which the balloons set up. Each balloon is rolled out onto the ground and carefully unfolded. To start the inflation process, large fans start blowing into the balloons on their side to get some air in there. Here you see the view of the inside of a balloon that is being inflated by fans. Once the ballon gets enough air from the fans, the basket is tilted and the burners can be fired. This is what you see in the first picture. I had no idea the burners produced such massive flames.

Bringing on the heat

Bringing on the heat

Like moths to the flame

Like moths to the flame

Going up

Going up

Mushroom cloud of flame

Mushroom cloud of flame

The main event of the evening was called the “Evening Glow.” For this event, the balloon captains fire their burners in unison to illuminate all the balloons at once. It was really quite a sight.

Evening glow I

Evening glow I

Evening glow II

Evening glow II

Standing in awe

Standing in awe

Finally, when it’s time to pack up one of the balloon captains flew his balloon into the trailer (with the help of several people holding it down). After this they would pull the balloon down with ropes so that it laid down straight to be folded up until the next time.

Flying into the trailer

Flying into the trailer

It was a really fun event to shoot. The light levels were really challenging and in every direction there was something to shoot.

September 8, 2010 - 11:04 am

Kristen - These are gorgeous, Kurt! I love the illuminated balloons against that blue, blue sky.

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