Big Fun in Big Bend

Big Bend National Park in far west Texas is an amazing place. Snuggled into a big bend of the Rio Grande on the US-Mexico border, this park is known for striking sun-kissed scenery where its three distinct habitats of mountains, desert and river meet.

Mountains, Desert, River

Even though this park is undeniably gorgeous, it seems to be a well-kept secret. At over 800,00 acres, like all things Texas, Big Bend is huge, yet it only sees an average of 300,000 visitors per year. Compare this to the 8-10 million people who visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you’ll feel like you have this desert paradise all to yourself.

Why such a difference, you ask? In a word: Isolation. (more…)

Exploring the Natural Wonders of the Evergreen State

Iron Creek Falls, Mount St. Helens

For those of you needing a quick brush up on your state trivia, the nickname of Washington is the Evergreen State. While I am fairly confident that the moniker was intended to honor the abundant amounts of evergreen trees found in the state’s natural areas, sometimes I’m not so sure. Could it be that the forefathers of that great state had me in mind when the epithet was chosen?

You see, although I love spending time in Washington state, I have to admit that deep inside I am crazy jealous whenever I am there. Washington is a dream come true for any nature-loving, photograph-taking, outdoor-seeking person, and being there makes me “ever-green with envy.” Do Washingtonians realize how fortunate they are to live in such a beautiful place? Is it really fair for one state to have so much?

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The Wonderland Diaries: Exploring the Enchanting East Side

The Enchanting East Side The east side of Mount Rainier was the final four-day segment of our Wonderland adventure, and, in many ways, it felt like we had saved the best for last. Beginning on the south side of the park, we admired many beautiful trail-side waterfalls in the forested lower elevations before climbing back into the higher elevations of the east where a veritable alpine paradise awaited us. Spending our last two nights on the trail at Indian Bar and Summerland, two of the most beautiful camps in the park (if not the entire country), was a fitting end to the amazing experience of completing the Wonderland Trail. By the time we were through exploring Rainier’s enchanting east side, we wished we could turn around and do it all over again! (more…)

The Wonderland Diaries: The West Side Wander

The West Side Wander

The Wonderland Trail on Mount Rainier’s west side has a lot to offer the intrepid backpackers who venture here. This section of the trail is not easily accessed by road,  so few day hikers reach this quiet corner of paradise. A couple of monster ascents through old growth forest will have you huffing and puffing, and the stunning views of the mountain from Klapatche Park and Emerald Ridge will take your breath away. St. Andrew’s Lake offers a picture-perfect chance to cool off in ice-cold waters while a couple of dramatic river crossings are sure to get your adrenaline flowing. If you’re lucky, you might catch a gorgeous sunset from above the tranquil Golden Lakes. Wildflowers abound as you stroll through Indian Henry’s old hunting grounds on your way to your next cache and a well-deserved hot meal at Longmire.
A wander down the west side is well worth your while! (more…)

The Wonderland Diaries: Navigating the North Side

Desolate Pass Tarn

We began our Wonderland adventure traveling counter-clockwise on the north side of Mount Rainier from White River Campground heading toward South Mowich River. Filled with sweeping vistas, enchanting alpine meadows, photogenic lakes and a few hair-raising bear encounters to boot, this alluring section of the trail was the perfect introduction to the Wonderland—a magnificent visual feast from beginning to end. It had us at hello… (more…)

Hitting the Trails in Iceland

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If you are traveling independently in Iceland and have the time to spare, there is no better way to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the country’s varied landscapes than by foot. When you take the time to get out of the car (or bus) and see the world without the filter of auto glass shielding you, nature assaults you with its sounds, sights and smells all working together. Besides, as a favorite Chicago band of ours, Poi Dog Pondering, sings: “You get to know things better when they go by slow.” At Take a Hike Photography, you could pretty much guess this is our theme song and motto!

Iceland has so many different topographical features to explore that you cannot possibly exhaust the list of trails in a single trip. Even so, we did our best to put some kilometers on our hiking boots. Here are a few of our favorite treks. (more…)

Your Ticket to Iceland’s Puffin-Palooza

Puffins at Látrabjarg

Every summer, music fans in Chicago look forward to the annual return of one of rock’s annual mega-festivals, Lollapalooza. For sheer people watching, not to mention the variety of music on offer over three consecutive days, the Lollapalooza Festival cannot be beat. For the nature enthusiast, however, who perhaps prefers the birds to The Byrds, this type of concert scene can be a bit overwhelming. We at Take A Hike would like to offer an alternative Summer Tour, lovingly-entitled Puffin-Palooza. The following is your concert guide to four of Iceland’s greatest stops on a summer tour of the country’s most beloved band bird, The Puffins! So grab your (concert) ticket and don’t forget the camera for those groupie fan photos, because you, my friend, are on Summer Tour.

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Photographing Iceland’s Waterfalls: Part I

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Iceland is a nature photographer’s paradise, and there is a plethora of fantastic subjects to shoot practically everywhere you look.  Sometimes we felt there just weren’t enough hours in the day to shoot it all, and, with 20+ hours of sunlight, that’s really saying something! From lunar landscapes to rugged seaside cliffs, from grandiose glaciers to gushing geysers, Iceland has it all. And, if that weren’t enough, the country is teeming with waterfalls. Everywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes, and many that would warrant state park status in the US hardly get a mention in the guidebooks or a spot on the map. In fact, there are so many waterfalls in Iceland that many of them aren’t even named.   (more…)