Adventure Journal

  • Social Photography: Road Tripping With Friends

    Check out the video I put together from a recent bout of photo-wandering I did in California with my good buds, Zack and David. Apologies for all dorkiness in advance.




  • Exploring Hart Mountain Wildlife Refuge In Winter

    Admittedly, winter is not my most prolific photography season. Cold, darkness and unpredictable weather often get the better of my psyche and I find myself making excuses or prioritizing office work. However, once or twice a winter I do manage to gear up and head someplace windswept and snowy with my camera. This winter Chuck Porter, one of my oldest and best friends, and I spent a couple days exploring the lonesome high desert in the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge. Back when we were more energetic Chuck and I spent a lot of time climbing cliffs and mountains all over the western US and spurring each other on to complete questionable feats of endurance. Once we hiked the entire length of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River Trail, all 40 plus miles, in a day. Another time we climbed Mt. Shasta, Mt. McLoughlin and Mt. Thielsen in a 21 hour push. These days we are happy just to get out and camp for a weekend and do a little ski touring.

    Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a national wildlife refuge on Hart Mountain in southeastern Oregon, which protects more than 422 square miles and more than 300 species of wildlife, including pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer, sage grouse, and redband trout. The refuge, created in 1936 as a range for remnant herds of pronghorn antelope, spans habitats ranging from high desert to shallow playa lakes, and is among the largest wildlife habitats containing no domestic livestock. Located in a remote region of southeastern Oregon at an elevation over 6,000 feet, Hart Mountain is a wild and desolate place any time of year. In winter, blanketed by snow, it becomes a quite and seemingly endless surreal landscape.

    During our visit, Chuck and I skied through a couple of different areas, both very small in the total scale of the refuge. We talked about coming back one winter and skiing all the way across, but we'll see if I ever get the winter motivation to take that on. The two areas we explored on this visit were the hot springs basin below Warner Peak and Petroglyph Lake. Petroglyph Lake is sheltered on one side by a low cliff band that houses several panels of Native American rock art.

    Instead of going on at length about the skiing, sleeping in the car, eating bad food and all the other standard tales from a trip like this I'll just let the photos speak for themselves. You can click on each image to see it larger and then hit the back button to return to the article.

    Hart Mountain rising out of the clouds above Hart Lake.

    Old building at park headquaters.

    Winter Landscape

    Rok Chuk

    Hotsprings basin black and white

    Meandering hotsprings stream

    Skiing toward Petroglyph Lake

    Desolate and windswept

    Warner Peak above the high desert plain

    Skiing around Petroglyph Lake




    Wind sculpted snow

    Skiing in a snow shower

  • Tour of California Super Fans

    Riders along the Big Sur coast in 2008

    Riders along the Big Sur coast in 2008

    In about two hours my brother, his girlfriend and I are hitting the road to be super fans at the Tour of California professional bike race. This will be our third year in a row sleeping on the side of the road, eating fast food and chasing the peleton as it makes its way from one end of California to the other over the course of nine days.

    How is this photography related? Largely it isn't, but I will have my full camera kit and will shoot lots of photos, even if they are mostly for my own gratification. I would love to be one of the press photographers riding along on the back of a motorcycle and getting right up close to the action. It would be great to see my photos in the pages of Velo News. I can only imagine the life of Grahm Watson, traveling to the biggest races all over the world and taking famous calendar and poster photos of people like Lance Armstrong, Jan Ulrich and Tom Boonen. But I'm content being able to pretend for one week each year. With the camera around my neck I even look official enough to get into some of the post race press conferences without being questioned.

    This Tour of California should be one for the books. Lance Armstrong will continue his comeback, racing on US soil for the first time in several years. Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Ivan Basso will also make their combacks after serving bans for doping. All the biggest teams from around the world will be there and the line up will feature more Tour de France, world, olympic and national champions than have ever raced in the US before.

    We will be posting videos of our adventure. Watch for some here, but the main viewing station will be the website for my brother's bike shop FLYWHEEL BICYCLE SOLUTIONS in Talent, Oregon.

  • In Search Of A Winter Full Moon Rise

    Some friends and I skied out into the Siskiyou Mountain Range back country behind Mt. Ashland last weekend during the full moon. On cue, it rose directly over Mt. Ashland. As the moon was rising the light from the setting sun illuminated the sky to our east. By taking three images and stitching them together I was able to create a panorama showing Mt. McLoughlin, Pelican Butte, Brown Mountain and Mt. Ashland.

    After the moon climbed up in the sky a bit I composed this next photo. My goal was to capture the amazing atmosphere, calmness and clarity of winter camping. I thought the headlamps in the tent and the moonlight on the snow really helped capture the mood. I put in a fair amount of Photoshop time blending multiple exposures to try to balance out all the various light sources (back lighting from moon, front lighting from the fading sunset glow, the moon itself and the light in the tent).

    It is always fun on outdoor adventures to also take some photos of your buddies trying to look like hardened outdoorsmen.

  • 2008 Amgen Tour of California

    tour of california

    Photography is my hobby and my job, so it commands a good portion of my attention. Even though it is strictly a hobby, bicycle racing is a close second. One day I hope to travel in Europe during the racing season and be a spectator at some of the classic world-famous races. Until then, I am very glad that the Amgen Tour of California offers a week of professional cycle racing with some of the best riders and teams in the world, just a few hours drive from where I live.

    levi leipheimer

    This year, my brother Ian, Owner of Flywheel Bicycles in Talent, Oregon, and I followed all eight days of the Tour, camping in Walmart parking lots, eating burritos, cheering on our favorite riders and just being general bike racing geeks. We also had some fun making very low quality videos which we posted on his website for the southern Oregon cycling community to enjoy. If you want to see what the life of die hard cycling fans is like you can see the videos HERE. The videos are posted in reverse chronological order.

    tour of california

    In Just three years, the Tour of California has become the biggest and most prestigious bike race in the US. It draws the biggest European pro tour teams such as Astana, CSC, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Credit Agricole, as well as top US teams such as Slipstream Chipotle, Rock Racing and Toyota United. This year's roster included the Road World Champion, Paolo Bettini and the Time Trial World Champion and Paris Roubaix winner, Fabian Cancellara, as well as many national champions and other top pro riders such as Tom Boonan, Stewart O'Grady, George Hincapie, David Millar and Mario Cipollini. Levi Leipheimer, who was last year's overall winner and third place finisher in the Tour de France, defended his title with a convincing second win.

    tour of california

    I managed to take a few photos of the racers, but someday I'll have to work on getting a press pass so that I can access the press areas, support cars and photo motorcycles, which is where the best shots come from.

    tour of california
  • Southern Oregon's Best Fall Color

    Rogue River Fall Color

    Compared to the aspen groves in the Rockies or the large deciduous forests in the north east, Oregon isn't particularly known for its fall color. However, just because it doesn't blanket the countryside doesn't mean that pockets of great fall color don't exist in Oregon. Many towns have planted maple, ash, birch, alder and elm trees, creating capsules of reds, yellows and oranges within city limits. There are also numerous parks and Asian gardens around the state that are brilliant in the fall. One of the best places to search out fall color is along the banks of mountain streams, lakes and rivers.

    Rogue River Fall Color

    In southern Oregon, one of the best shows of fall flare is along the upper Rogue River between Prospect and Union Creek early in the month of October. The conifer forest that lines Hwy. 62 is full of dogwood which turns pleasant but subdued hues of red and orange. The real show is to be found right on the river banks where the vine maples can make it look like the forest is on fire. The Rogue River Trail follows the Rogue River along this entire section and makes for excellent hiking in the fall when the temperatures are cool and the air is crispy. However, keep in mind that fall color season is also deer hunting season, so wear bright colors, announce yourself as you hike and be prepared to see camouflaged sportsmen toting rifles coming out of the underbrush.

    Rogue River Fall Color

    To get to the upper Rogue River, take Hwy. 62 from Medford. You can also get there coming the other way on Hwy. 62 from Fort Klamath or on Hwy 138 which runs between Roseburg and Hwy 97. Accessing the trail is easy. Several side roads along Hwy. 62 between Prospect and Union Creek provide access to the river and the trail. Traveling from Prospect the river is off the left side of the highway. The roads that will take you down to the river are River Bridge, Woodruff Bridge and Natural Bridge. On each of these roads the river is two miles or less from hwy. 62. Where each road meets the river there is a parking area and access to the Rogue River Trail. The distance on the trail between each of the three roads is about four miles. The distance from River Bridge all the way up to Union Creek is between 15 and 20 miles, but it is very easy to day hike shorter sections of trail. For shorter hikes or with a single car it is great to make one or two mile, out-and-back treks. In this way it is possible to hike a section of trail from each of the bridges in a single day, covering a fair portion of the river. With two cars you can also leave a shuttle and hike point to point as far as you like.The trail is mostly flat as it follows the river and never strays far from the river bank.

    Rogue River Fall Color

    My favorite section of the trail is upstream from River Bridge where it ducks through glowing tunnels of vine maple and stands of large fir trees. Along sections that have a view up and down the river both banks are fringed with reds and oranges bright enough to hurt your eyes. After about two and a half miles you arrive at Takelma Gorge. At more than a mile long and, in places, only 20 feet wide and 80 feet deep, the gorge is a fantastic geological feature. Take care along this section. The trail follows the rim of the gorge, there are no railings or signs and many of the rocks are moss covered and slick. A fall into the rapids below would be nearly impossible to survive. In most places the water carved canyon is so deep and narrow that it isn't possible to see down to the bottom. Along the gorge itself the fall color isn't particularly dense, but there are some great patches close by.

    One of the most visited spots on the river is Natural Bridge. As the name implies, the entire river flows through an underground lava tube which forms a natural bridge. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per minute disappear into a large hole in the riverbed and then come bursting from the rock again a hundred feet or so down stream. There walls of the canyon at Natural Bridge are mostly basalt rock, so there aren't many trees with color growing near the river, but a short hike upstream or downstream will reveal more crimson and yellow lined banks.

    Rogue River Fall Color

    Just past Union Creek is the Rogue River Gorge viewing area. While not as long or as deep as Takelma Gorge, the Rogue River Gorge is very dramatic, with steep basalt cliffs and a series of waterfalls entering the canyon where the terrain drops radically. The parking for the Rogue River Gorge is only a few feet off the highway and there are paved paths, railings and viewing platforms, making it an easy stop even if you are just passing through.

    Rogue River Fall Color

    Past Union Creek toward Diamond Lake there is a pretty good gain in elevation and the color producing deciduous trees mostly give way to high altitude confiers and the color becomes much less intense. However, the hiking is still great and the river becomes more rugged and cascading. National Creek Falls is worth the short drive back into the woods and Muir falls makes a great five mile round trip hike.

  • Adventure: Climbing Bear Creek Spire

    bear creek spire

    Galen Rowell was one of the best-known photographers of the last 30 years, and he has been a major influence on me and my photography since the 1990's. However, before I knew of him as a photographer I was aware of his exploits as a climbing pioneer, first in Yosemite Valley, then in the high Sierra and eventually in the greater ranges around the world. In July my long time climbing partner, Chuck Porter, and I ventured down highway 395 to the east side of the Sierras to try our hand at climbing a classic Galen Rowell route, the North Arete of Bear Creek Spire (5.8, 10 pitches).
    Galen climbed the North Arete in the early 1970's after he decided it was time to take the climbing skills he had developed in Yosemite to the higher reaches of the backcountry.

    north arete

    To get to Bear Creek Spire we took the Tom's Place exit off of Hwy. 395 south of Mammoth Lakes and followed Rock Creek Road up to Mosquito Flat. At 10,200 feet, the trailhead is one of the highest in the entire range. Chuck and I began our approach at 4:15 AM hoping to be back at the car in the mid afternoon. The first three or four miles of the hike follows flat trails along numerous lakes in the Rock Creek Valley, a popular backpacking destination. The second half of the approach was more difficult, and involved traversing a couple of miles of steeper talus slopes. All along the approach we had excellent views of Bear Creek Spire sitting in its lofty location at the head of the valley.


    We reached the base of the North Arete at nearly 13,000 feet by about 8:00 AM. From here we roped up and began climbing the arete from its lowest point. We had hoped to complete the climbing portion of the day in four or five hours, but quickly ran into sections of the climb that were too narrow to climb easily with packs on. This necessitated climbing some short pitches and hauling the packs past the narrow areas. These delays combined with the affects of altitude stretched our time on the rock to eight hours. However, the rock was excellent and the position on the steep buttress was amazing. The weather was warm and stable, so we were not too concerned about being behind schedule.


    Further up we were able to simul-climb the 4th class and easy 5th class ridge to the top. The summit of Bear Creek Spire consists of a small pointed block with only enough room for one person to perch on at a time. Chuck carefully made the last few moves and pulled himself up to stand on the highest point in this portion of the Sierra.


    Safely down on the lower angled west side of the mountain we ate our lunch and began the descent, which would prove to be the most strenuous part of the day. The upper part of the descent requires steep down climbing on dangerous loose boulders covered with dirt. Further down the angle lessened and the boulders became more stable, but there was still another three miles of rugged scree fields to cross before reaching the trail. We trudged back to the car right as the last light of the day was fading after 17 hours on the go.


    My best landscape photography is often captured in a slow and thoughtful process, spending time finding the right composition and waiting for the right light, as many of Galen's classic Sierra images were. However, for this trip it was Galen's love of adventure and climbing that provided inspiration more than his photos. I was more than satisfied with documenting the climb in photographs as best I could while enjoying a day in the mountains with a good friend.

  • Featured Photo: Prayer Flags in the Fog

    prayer flags

    This photo was taken at the summit of 17,500-foot Gokyo Ri in the Mt. Everest Region of the Himalayas in Nepal. Gokyo Ri, while much higher than any mountain in the US outside of Alaska is really just a small hill in the Himalayas. It is located above the third lake in the Gokyo Valley which lies directly to the west of the Khumbu Valley, the main drainage leading from the base of Mt. Everest's south side. From the Gokyo Valley Mt. Everest is obscured from view by a high ridge of peaks running between the two valleys. However, those who make the additional effort to ascent Gokyo Ri are rewarded with a grand view over the intermediate peaks to the world's highest peak beyond. At least they are when the summit of Gokyo Ri is not enveloped in thick clouds as it was when I arrived. Shivering in the cold wind and physically exhausted by the steep climb at such a high altitude I was disappointed not to see the vista I had been anticipating. However, it was still powerful knowing that I was standing on the brink of a great drop and that the large peaks of the Himalayas spread out beyond my feet. I could almost feel the gravitational pull of Mt. Everest's huge mass out there in the fog.

    Even without the view of the mountains, the strings of Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the swirling wind and fog and isolated from their surroundings created a powerful image in my mind. Despite cold and fatigue I set up my camera and took several shots. I think the one above best captures the sense of windy isolation I experienced on top of Gokyo Ri that day.

    On the descent the fog thickened and it began to snow. For a while I lost the trail and veered off course before coming out below the clouds and making my way back to the village at dark.

    Fortunately I was able to stay in Gokyo for a while longer. Two days later I made the climb again before dawn under clear skies. The sun rose directly behind Mt. Everest sending out rays of light across the valleys and peaks. The second photo is one I took that morning not far from where I had taken the one in the fog two days earlier.


    Canon EOS 5D

    28-135mm lens

    First Image .6 sec @ f/36

    Second Image 1/60 sec @ f/6.3 with fill flash

    Gitzo Carbon Tripod

  • Walking With Giants: Images From Nepal

    For most of my life I have been strongly attracted to mountains. When I was nine years old my dad took me on my first climb of Mt. Thielsen in the Oregon Cascades. Since then I have spent a lot of time looking at them, reading about them, climbing them and photographing them. No mountains have captured my imagination more than the Himalayas where all of the highest peaks in the world are located. For years I have read about the geology, geography, people, culture and exploration of the high Himalayas, particularly the area around Mt. Everest, like I was reading of a fictional land in a fantasy novel. With vicarious anxiety I have experienced the feats of heroic survival and agonizing tragedy that have played out over the last 100 years on peaks reaching so high in to the atmosphere that humans can only survive there for short periods of time. In 1999 I took part in a trek through the Himalayas to Mt. Kailas in Tibet, but our route took us far west of the highest peaks in Nepal and monsoon clouds prevented me from seeing the big summits even from a distance.

    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â In April and May of this year I finally visited the mountain range of my imagination when I had the opportunity to go on a solo photography expedition in to the heart of the Khumbu region and right up to the base of Mt. Everest itself.

               It turned out that my trip precisely coincided with a particularly difficult time in Nepal's recent history. I flew to Kathmandu, the capitol of Nepal, smack in the middle of several weeks of strikes and protests aimed at dethroning the King, who in the last few years had steadily been dismantling the democratic government, violating human rights, taking power of the military and generally making things difficult in an already struggling country. He responded to peaceful protests with tear gas, rubber bullets, police beatings and enforced curfews.

               After a couple of days of avoiding burning tires and flying rocks and sympathizing with the troubled citizens of Kathmandu I was able to catch my flight to the mountains to begin my trek. For two weeks I hiked six to twelve hours a day, soaking up the views, meeting the people and taking photographs. I dined with a reincarnate lama, joked with school kids, joined Buddhist nuns conducting their daily prayers, helped an elderly woman fix her rock wall and watched Buddhist monks lead a funeral procession into the mountains for a high altitude cremation.  Strikes and weather kept me from meeting up with my friend Laurie Bagley before she departed for her attempt to climb the north side of Mt. Everest.  But it was exciting to monitor her progress and subsequent success via the Internet knowing that she was just a few miles away on the other side of the hill.

               Significantly humbled by my experiences in the mountains I returned to Kathmandu to find a completely changed Nepal. The King had wisely relinquished most of his power and avoided exile or worse, opening the door for the restoration of the democratic government, a cause for widespread celebrating all over the country. It was great to see people looking happy and optimistic about the future. I hope to see great improvements in Nepal’s quality of life in the months ahead.

               The entire expedition was a mind-expanding journey, one that has even depended my connection with Nepal and the Himalayas. I hope that the photos I brought back capture a slight portion of the experience. You can view a collection of images from my trip HERE…

  • Denali Expedition: Cheese Wizardry

    On June 18, 2005 my climbing partner, Brock Rowley, and I will be flying to Alaska for a climbing expedition on North America’s highest mountain, Denali. At 20,320 feet above sea level, Denali is also the highest mountain close to the Artic Circle and is infamous for big glaciers, seriously cold temperatures and nasty weather. Brock and I were members of a 1998 six-man expedition to Denali and reached the summit on that trip. This time around it is just the two of us. We have named our expedition Cheese Wizardry in anticipation of the creative ways we will fit cheese in to our diet during the three-week climb. It also alludes to our climbing abilities (or lack there of). We will attempt a route called the West Rib, but if it isn’t in good condition or if we are too chicken the plan is to shift over to the West Buttress Route, the most popular route on the mountain and the route we took in 1998. There is a chance that we won't even be able to reach the mountain at all. Low snow pack and warm spring temperatures may close the Kahiltna Glacier to ski plane landing early this season. Without air transportation to the glacier reaching Denali is extremely difficult. If the climbing season ends early this year, plan B is to explore and climb in an area near Denali called the Ruth Gorge. "The Ruth" is an amazing alpine environment with 4,000-foot granite walls. It is often referred to as Yosemite Valley with glaciers. Either way, a fantastic adventure is in the making with many opportunities for stunning photography. Stay tuned for the story and photos later this summer.

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