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Wild Mosaic! Yellowstone National Park. 2021.

“Tell me what you yearn for and I shall tell you who you are. We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wandering.”

James Hillman

Simple words evoke feelings, moods, a place, or a need. Since I started my photo blog in October 2020, words such as appreciation, gratitude, flow, elevation, and gradient have captured my feelings about life, travels, adventures, and everyday situations.

For the past six weeks I just have not been able to get out with my camera. Not only longer adventures, but even mornings out in my home county, down in the Skagit, or up in the Cascades. Over that time, I have realized just how much of a need I have to get out, to surround myself with beauty and wilderness, and to continuously drink in the wonders of this world.

Road to the Beartooth Mountainss! Montana.

Today’s word is anticipation. Anticipation II to be exact, as I wrote about “Evocation & Anticipation” in June of last year on a spring trip to Yellowstone National Park. It is no coincidence that this “anticipation” is also about Yellowstone, as, if plans hold up, I will get a quick trip there in the next few weeks. It will not be much time, a two-day drive, two days (sunup to sundown) in the park, and then back home. But it is really not about the destination. My adventure starts the moment I pull out of my driveway. It ends only when I enter my final trip miles and close my logbook in the dark with the sounds of my dog barking at me from the living room -- Where have you been? What did you see? Why are you still in the car? The trip there and back, no matter what the end point, is always just as fascinating and wonderful as the time in the park.

West Summit, at 10, 47 feet of elevation, is the highest point on the Beartooth Highway. 2020

I could go somewhere closer. But everyone has their favorite places, and after so many weeks at home, I need to go somewhere that will refresh my soul. To really get away. For me, that equals large-scale wilderness and wildlife, and that, outside of British Columbia and Alaska, means Yellowstone. There are far too few places where you can see bears, wolves, elk, foxes, and otters – all often in the same landscape and sometimes even in a single frame.

When I close my eyes, and the travel bug is upon me, I see Yellowstone. That is the idealized image that most often drives my wandering. When I sing lullabies to my granddaughter, they are about bears, wolves, pikas, goats, and sheep. Last year, I drew my vison of being in the wild on the baby-room wall. It is not Yellowstone, but it has its makings! Climbing bears, paddling pikas, mountains, sheep, and a tent in the trees. A visual and a promise to show her all the wonderful places that surround us.

Top of the Mountain! Beartooth Mountains, Montana. 2020

The park has been my go-to-place for so many years. Well over a dozen visits starting when Stephanie and I were first married and on our first trip to see the west together. Several family trips to watch and learn about wolves and continue our national parks tour. Recently, trips just with Stephanie in all seasons, and more often now, when two schedules do not match up, solo trips to keep my spirits elevated and my connection with nature strong. Two years ago, I was in and around Yellowstone in winter, spring, and fall. Last year, we were there just before the flooding, and have not been back since. Anticipation!

Fierce Creatures! Yellowstone National Park. 2021.

It only takes a few days to recharge the spirit, camping in the truck with my sleeping bag and an open window, and spending quality time behind the lens. After that, I am happy, even needing, to come back home. But that wanderlust does not give up, and after getting home it is not long before I am again anticipating the next trip.

Lamar Coyote. Yellowstone National Park. 2020.

Stephanie once asked me how long I could stay away? While I was in Alaska for over a month, that was an anomaly. When my daughter was in middle school, and we were new to the west, Danna and I enjoyed almost two entire summers camping and on the road.

High Desert Light! Yellowstone National Park. 2021

But when on my own the answer to that has been proven many times – a week is my max. After that, I miss my family, my dog, bathrooms, showers, and my bed. With Steph along and meeting up with friends and family in amazing places, that would be the best of all worlds. And then, I could be gone a long-long time.

“Wander a whole summer if you can. Time will not be taken from the sum of life.”

John Muir


  • A few years ago, I met up with some photographers in Yellowstone. One was talking about Nature First, an organization promoting responsible nature photography. They created a core set of principles that communicate how to have a sustainable and minimal impact that helps preserve some of our most beautiful locations. After looking them over, I immediately became a member! Here is the link to a short video on responsible nature photography.


Descent! Dropping off the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. Just outside Hurricane, Utah.

“Rivers are the lifeblood of our planet and they need to flow.”

Katie Lee, 2016

A few weeks ago, in early April, I got a call from a good friend. “Did you know it’s been two years since we were in Kanab (Utah)?”

That call took me back to our time together on the Colorado Plateau – slot canyons, sunrise at Bryce Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a quick side trip into Zion, and a stop at the Colorado River put-in at Lee’s Ferry. Thinking about that trip, I wanted to share just a few images in this post.

Losing the Light! Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona.

Since my friend is a fellow photographer, a river runner, and a no-holds barred advocate for wild rivers, his call took me back even further, to my time working on river conservation across the country and the formation of my love for rivers, gradient, and wild waters.

Overlook. Bryce Canyon. Utah.

My friend has also been down the Grand Canyon some seventeen times – which always reminds me that I have never paddled in the Canyon. I have kayaked and worked on so many rivers, from tiny Moxie Stream in Northern Maine, surfing at Rocky on the Potomac, trips to the Emory-Obed system in the Southeast, to dynamic, high water runs on British Columbia’s Thompson and Idaho’s Hells Canyon. I worked on Gore Canyon (way beyond my skills to paddle), ran the Pumphouse Run with family, playboated on the Shoshone section, and had a few trips through Westwater Canyon, all on the Upper Colorado. But a trip through the Canyon has thus far eluded me.

Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado. Arizona.

But I have met so many people, who, like my friend, have spent quality time there. In some cases, a lifetime paddling, protecting the river, and fighting for access to this national treasure. One of those was Katie Lee, sometimes referred to as the Goddess of the Canyon (and the Grand-Dame-of-Dam-Busting) because of her undying advocacy for wilderness and rivers, and her time spent in Glen Canyon and on the waters of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. For me, and anyone who loves rivers (or a specific river) Katie was and remains an inspiration. Never demure, feisty, and impassioned, and usually profane in her passion and defense of the Colorado and San Juan rivers. Especially the drowning of Glen Canyon, and Katie’s continued efforts to restore that Canyon. Whenever faced with daunting conservation challenges, I would often query “what would Katie do – what would she do to protect this river?”

“Today I know your magic call Will lead me back to the canyon wall. And the music in your rapids roar Make this boatman’s song from his soul outpour.”

Katie Lee, Song of the Boatman

Driving through America's Southwest.

I met Katie many years ago at a dam removal presentation at the Aspen Opera House. We both presented and then had time to talk after the show. It was the only time we met, but I never forgot that discussion, that evening, or Katie!

Desert Colors! Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona.

I figured that she had forgotten about me after that, but years later I switched jobs in conservation, and ended a weekly update that I sent out to a wide audience of river lovers and those who saw dams as killing and drowning the rivers we loved. Katie called me one morning, asking how I was and how she would find out what was going on without the update? After that call, I spent a long time thinking about Katie, and how my work might affect and assist others, the value of partnerships, and how Katie Lee took the time to call and tell me that I (and my work) was valuable. It was a special highlight of my life in conservation.

Drive through the Desert! Valley of the Gods. Mexican Hat, Utah.

In 2014, I and my coalition partners were in the process of removing a number of unwanted and uneconomic dams in the Pacific Northwest. We worked with Patagonia staff early on with their Damnation Documentary that chronicled the history of dams in the US, and that showed that removal can be a strategy for restoring rivers. Of course, if you are talking about removing dams, you would interview river runner and desert advocate Katie. If you watch the documentary, hang in there for the final credits which is where Katie is at her best, shows you exactly who she was and what she thinks, and (for many river advocates including me) steals the show!

Sand, Water & Ice! Wire Pass, Utah.

Katie passed away in 2017 at the age of ninety-eight. She remains today one of my strongest reminders of the power of grass-roots activism and the value, beauty, and fragility of rivers. I know she has never left the river she loved, and I envision Katie still rowing the rapids at high flows and hiking Glen Canyon under a full desert moon. I think of her every time I paddle or sit beside a river, and any time I visit the Southwest. When I finally get my shot at paddling the Grand Canyon, I hope her spirit will be sitting beside me and whispering her knowledge and passion as we work our way downstream.

“Eden couldn’t have touched this place…some of the vistas were so beautiful, we just stood there and cried.”

Katie Lee, The River Woman



Light In the Desert! Anza Borrego Desert State Park. CA.

It was always going to be a quick strike. Not the winter months that so many of our friends are now spending in the Southwest soaking up the sun, and photographing birds, amphibians, and cacti. Fly into Los Angeles, drive to San Diego, then to Palm Springs, dive into the nearby desert and back home. A few days away in Southern California, time to see a Western Washington Woman’s basketball game, visit with friends, and spend time with the soft textures and colors of sand, clay and maybe -- orange, yellow and purple from the first start of spring blooms?

Dissipating Marine Layer. SoCal.

We had to factor in weather as the California coast, foothills, and mountains are weather central right now. Heavy rains, flooding, and grey clouds were the norm at this time, so different than what we usually think of when we think of sunny Southern California. In fact, it was warmer and less wet in Bellingham while we were away.

Unfortunately, the woman’s team made a rare early exit from the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II Championships West Regional. A bummer after a sterling season and watching these women grow as both athletes and role-models.

Desert Bloom! Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

So, after visiting with old and good friends we headed east. From San Diego, just under a three-hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park – at least for normal drivers. For Stephanie and me, based on experience, we figured closer to six hours as we drove down new roads and made multiple stops to see the scenery. We crossed over low passes within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains (and National Monument), drove along the Salton Sea (something I’m not sure I knew existed!), through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and, by evening, arriving for Sunset in Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert.

Desert Bloom 2. Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

We were hoping to be in time for an early start of that rare botanical explosion, the “super bloom.” Fueled by years of drought and dormant seeds, and now deluged by two successive atmospheric rivers (vast airborne corridors of water vapor) that brought record rain, snow and winds across the state, we anticipated full displays of brickellbush, lupines, ocotillos, phacelia, evening primrose, desert lilies, goldfields and poppies. We were a bit early but caught the start at both Anza-Borrego and at Joshua Tree.

Fading Light! Joshua Tree National Park. CA.

It has been more than thirty years since we last spent time in Joshua Tree, before our daughter was born, and we remember watching coyotes chase jackrabbits through the pinyon pine and cholla and hiking a number of its hidden canyons. This time we had just one evening and wanted to make the very best of it. And while we saw no wildlife on our brief visit (not even a lonely Gambel’s quail), sunset and nighttime in the desert is, to use my granddaughter’s favorite word – wonderful!

End of Day! Joshua Tree National Park. CA.

We came in through the west entrance, above three-thousand feet and into the Mojave Desert. Mojave yuccas, prickly pear cacti, and of course Joshua trees were everywhere. We did not make it further East, into the lower elevation of the Colorado Desert, a part of the larger Sonoran Desert that spreads into southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. Home to the jumping or teddy bear cholla.

Late Afternoon. Joshua Tree National Park.

I too rarely get to spend time in the desert, but I do love it. On this trip we spent our one evening at Quail Rocks and Hidden Valley, as far as we could get in the fading light. We watched piles of red and tan rock backlit by the setting sun, and the slow creep of darkness spreading over the desert sand. All too quickly, the sun was just an orange beam along the horizon, with fading rays highlighting the arms of the Joshua Trees and spines of the cholla. Mere seconds later, alone in the dark with the night sky, its stars and planets glittering above us, and the winter constellations of Orion, Sirius, Gemini, and Taurus.

Cholla! Joshua Tree National Park.

We couldn’t see them, but in our imaginations, we envisioned the desert nightlife, black-tailed jackrabbits, kit foxes, and desert wood rat, come out to share the nocturnal environment and to enjoy watching the skies along with us.

All too soon, we were headed back to Los Angeles to beat the traffic and make an early morning flight home – discussing once again an earlier (and now far too late) conversation about needing a few more days for our trip. Thinking about our desert night as we managed multiple lanes of highway, wind, and heavy trucks. Life is so much simpler in the desert!

If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.”

Terry Tempest Williams


· California’s largest inland lake, the Salton Sea, is a not-so-wonderful study in climate change, stream flow, and the agricultural use of water. Now considered the state’s most polluted endorheic inland lake (meaning water comes in but does not go out), the pollution is affecting birds, fish and humans as respiratory issues increase from the lakebed turning to dust. Also, it has, over the last two decades, lost a third of its water. Theories for this range from heat to irrigation and other diversions, to far less water coming into the sea from the Colorado River.

· Boasting some of the darkest nights in Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park.

And, not the desert:

· Grizzly mama of the Tetons sets out to break a record.

· Bellingham named one of the most beautiful cities in the PNW.

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