Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Panoramas of the Olympic Peninsula

New: The Virtual Guidebook to the Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Today I posted a new edition of my virtual guidebook to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. There are now 112 panoramas (up from 83). I have replaced some very old panos taken on negative film a decade ago with new high resolution cubics (so you can look straight up and down). Compare one of the the old ones to a new version (standard size or fullscreen) taken in almost the same location.

I had several days of beautiful weather in August 2007 when I revisited the north side of Olympic National Park - great new images of Lake Crescent, the forest at Marymere, and Hurricane Ridge. My favorite was taken from the end of the pier at Crescent Lake Lodge, with a rustic bench offering serene views in two directions (standard size or fullscreen).

Then a cloudy day gave me perfect conditions to shoot the Hoh Rain Forest. There are rain forests in each of the major west-facing valleys on the peninsula (Sol Duc, Bogachiel, Hoh, Queets, and Quinalt), but the Hoh is the most famous by far. Two short loop trails from the visitor center at the end of the road show off the Hall of Mosses area with its bigleaf maples, and the towering Sitka spruce rain forest.

I'm not nearly done with the Olympic Peninsula. Most importantly, I hope to backpack up the Queets River again to photograph its superb wilderness rainforests. My wife Nora and I did this years ago (before I started taking panoramic photos) with her sister Barbara and brother-in-law Mike, who have been hiking it annually for many years. Mike grew up in nearby Hoquiam, and the Queets is his family's special place - we even met two of his cousins while hiking there. One of the allures of the Queets is the small number of people, largely due to the fact that the trail begins with an often daunting ford of the river. Once across there are miles of nearly flat trail through prime Sitka spruce forest, maple and alder groves, with good camping on the river bars.

I have other high priority destinations on my Olympic trip planning list. When I was still in high school I hiked (alone) up the Hoh River all the way to the Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus, an adventure I hope to repeat. And as a waterfall fancier (see my site Waterfalls of Western North America) I have always wanted to visit the Enchanted Valley. This is a lush steep-sided valley high up on the Quinalt River, a two day hike from the roadhead. It has glacier and snow-fed waterfalls all along the valley walls, and is sometimes called the "Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls". I also have always wanted to backpack the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park and I need to revisit Cape Flattery on a non-foggy day. And finally, I hope to explore some of the short steep valleys on the east side of the Olympic Mountains above Hood Canal.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Finally, Some VR Panoramas of Colorado

New - Virtual Guidebook to the Colorado Rockies

I am based in Berkeley, California, and there are practical limits to how well I can cover the huge region encompassed by the Virtual Guidebooks. Colorado is right out on the edge of my area, an 18 hour drive from the Bay Area to Denver. Also, being mountainous, many areas are best visited only in the summer (unless I start doing ski resorts and snowshoe routes). So I have been a bit slow in building my coverage of this beautiful state.

My first effort was in May 2006 when I drove across the San Juan Mountains, through Ouray and Silverton. Great scenery and interesting towns - but too early in the year for the high altitudes - I will have to go back in mid-summer.

In the summer of 2007 I made another effort to photograph the Colorado Rockies. My initial itinerary, to include Wyoming, the Dakotas, and the high plains, was just too much driving for the time available. So I decided to concentrate on the central Rockies, plus two days in Denver. Even that didn't work out - bad weather and forest fires - so I never made it to Rocky Mountain National Park, or to Denver.

I really had only one day in the central Rockies, so I made a loop over Loveland Pass to Leadville, then across the headwaters of the Arkansas River to Independence Pass. Then I had to start home. Maybe next summer...

(NOTE: a future blog will tell the whole story of "On My Way to Leadville", but first I need to finish all the panoramas used to illustrate it.)

Greatly Expanded - Virtual Guidebook to Western Colorado

Many people are unaware of how much of Colorado is desert, some of it the sort of red rock country we associate with Utah. It is closer to my home base than the Rockies, and the weather is better, so I now have pretty good coverage.

Some of my earliest digital photography was done at Mesa Verde National Park in May 2000. It is a fabulous place to do VR panoramas, but problematic. There are crowds of people, and most of the ruins can only be toured as part of a group. Doing VR with a crowd of 70 people is just about impossible, the panos end up being about the people, not the ruins. The only way to do it right is to hire an off-duty ranger to give you a personal tour - I may try it out some day.

In 2006 I spent a day down in the Four Corners area investigating the scattered sites of Hovenweep National Monument (Hovenweep's main site and the monument headquarters are across the state line in Utah).

On my trip in summer 2007 I added a lot to this guidebook: the Harpers Corner Road in the eastern part of Dinosaur National Monument, the upper Yampa River, Colorado National Monument, the high country of Grand Mesa, the Land O'Lakes on the south side of the mesa, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

I plan to return to Colorado in summer of 2008, and hope to visit Aspen, Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Great Sand Dunes National Monument.