Eastern Washington trip 4/20/18 - 4/22/18

With my 20's rearing it's head, I needed one final trip before i turned 30! I was considering going to Mt Rainier, but some of the parts are still not open yet. It's been really rainy in Portland so I wanted some sun. Hmmm... go to Wallowas? Nope, still too snowy. What about Eastern WA?? There's so much uncharted territory for me out there. My friend Savannah's boyfriend lives on the Idaho border in Pullman, so I decided to head out that way to see Palouse Falls, and some other things in the area. Join my adventure to see the weird side of Washington.

We left late on Friday and headed to Boardman, OR. We stopped at a really good thai place in The Dalles, of all places.Montira's was the name of it. I recommend it! 

 

Our first stop was to get up for sunrise and head over to Umatilla WIldlife refuge. Savannah and I saw some ospreys, and some other wildlife, and a pack of (Mule?) deer with huge ears there. 

We met up with Savannah's boyfriend. and we took the long, boring drive through Tri-cities to twin sisters rock. Kinda cool little pitstop.

#thatnwbus - I've always wanted to go, but it's just been to far! This bus is kind of on the way to Palouse falls, and has been a graffiti icon, that constantly changes.

Next up was the main event: Palouse Falls!

Unfortuanately 3 people in their 20s were swimming down at the bottom and all got sucked into the current of the falls. 2 of them surfaced, but a 23 year old from Spokane never surfaced. They are still waiting for the body to surface, but it's too dangerous to send the dive team down. It's been one week, and the park is still closed. The body has yet to be found :( http://keprtv.com/news/local/richland-witness-shares-account-of-possible-drowning-at-palouse-falls

look at all the water flowing! some sparrows were flying around nearby

 I think this is the Wallowas in the distance!

I think this is the Wallowas in the distance!

 Palouse Falls at sunset. We were allowed to walk around on top, but obviously no to the bottom, as that would interfere with rescuers.

Palouse Falls at sunset. We were allowed to walk around on top, but obviously no to the bottom, as that would interfere with rescuers.

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 our weird motel in Connell, WA. A bored cop creeped past me three times while I was out night shooting 

our weird motel in Connell, WA. A bored cop creeped past me three times while I was out night shooting 

Next we headed up to Moses Lake. We were going to check out the dunes, but they were mainly dirtbike/atv riders. We went to potholes state park, but were a bit underwhelmed. Luckily it was earth day and all of the parks were free!

we left Moses lake and were driving through Hood River at sunset, so we stopped at Panarama Point for some pics. 

Final Days - Arthur's Pass, Oamaru, and Akaroa

I headed east after leaving Westport via Arthur's Pass. This pass was one of my favorites of the trip, and definitely not one to miss! 

Just look how jaw-droppingly moody and beautiful this is!

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I got tons of recomendations to do Devil's punchbowl falls. It sure was a thighburner getting up there though! I think the ranger said there was 212 stairs? it was 250 ft elevation gain in only 1.4 miles, but seemed like a lot more :D

Back in the town of Arthur's Pass, I ran into a couple of Kea! These mischievous parrots will steal your food, wallets, whatever for laughs. These smart, cheeky birds have been caught on camera moving traffic cones to redirect traffic in Milfords Pass! NZ have since setup roadside jungle gyms to keep them distracted/occupied.

I ended up camping just east of town, and the weather changed very fast. In the mountains, it was 40ish degrees, and socked in. At campground, it was about 60degrees and sunny! The drive was about 5 minutes. 

The next day I dropped a pin on a hike that looked like it would be pretty cool, and I was not wrong! It took me into the mountains right away, and I was literally the only one around for miles. I literally live for these types of secluded hikes. It followed upstream and the sun even popped out for a few minutes and a (faint) rainbow appeared!

The Hike was Otira Velley Track

Views up and down the alpine valley are framed by jagged peaks and enchanting cascades. The hike up Otira Valley Track is 3.8 kilometers round trip with 125 meters of elevation change (or 2.35 miles round trip with 410 feet of elevation change)

The next day I made the decision to drive from Arthur's Pass to Oamaru, to get my last chance to see a penguin. It was a 5.5 hour trip, so I stopped a few times along the way. The first was Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. Just a quick jaunt around and then back on the road. I then stopped in a small town of Geraldine and was starting to get hangry. I ordered a hamburger and fries at a local cafe (Country cafe) and Idk if I was just really hungry, but it had to be one of the best burgers I've ever had! It came on a gluten free bun (I'm intolerant) with 2 patties, a fried egg, beetroot, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. I finished it before i remembered to take a photo :D

 Springfield, NZ - Simpsons themed town. A girl stuck her head in the hole and photobombed me before i was ready to take it haha. 

Springfield, NZ - Simpsons themed town. A girl stuck her head in the hole and photobombed me before i was ready to take it haha. 

When I arrived in Oamaru, I was pleasantly surprised at not only the architecture, but the steampunk installations all over town! This was a quirkly, cool town that I had no idea was this cool. Came for the penguins, stayed for the art.

I checked into my airbnb and went exploring.

The blue penguin watch sounded super touristy-sit in bleachers and watch them come up. I understand that they use the proceeds to benefit the penguins, but they wouldn't allow photography. Hat-tip to Nathan, my airbnb host for helping me find a penguin in the wild!

 put your flippers in the air if you've seen a penguin in the wild!

put your flippers in the air if you've seen a penguin in the wild!

I was sitting on this beach motionless for about 45 minutes, hoping that they would come. As it was just about dark (9:45pm) this guy popped up! I had to do a double take, as it blended in so well 

The next day I drove up to Akaroa to swim with dolphins! It was pretty cold and drizzly, as there was a big storm that hit the west coast.The town of Hokitika where I was 2 days prior was under feet of water!

These dolphins were completely wild. what's especially special about them, is that they are the worlds smallest at 3 feet long, and also the rarest! Those of you who know me, know I hate going in the water, but this was totally worth it. 

I mosied my way back to Christchurch for my final days in NZ. I started out exploring the gardens:

This curious little fantail was chillin with me for like 15 minutes! These images were not cropped, and I didn't even need my Telephoto!

I went downtown Christchurch for some streetart and to see the 185 white chairs. Each chair represents each person that lost their lives in the earthquakes in 2010.

I stopped at willowbank wildlife preserve to see some kiwi, etc, but I was really cutting it close to my flight, so I took some pictures from the parking lot, and headed out to fly out

That concludes my NZ trip. I hope you guys enjoyed the adventure, and hope you can visit some of this beautiful country! If you would like prints of anything you see, please let me know! Anything you see here can be printed in sizes like 8x10, 16x20, 11x14, etc, and will not have a watermark on it.

Cheers!

Kevin 

day 31-34 West coast part 2

I left Haast to check out the glaciers (fox and Franz). Fox ( below) was a little underwhelming. This was also receding, and you couldn't get anywhere near it without a tour. It seemed like a tourist trap, so i skipped it. The parking lot to get closer was also full, so I moved onto Fox glacier.

 Fox Glacier - rainforest to glaciers

Fox Glacier - rainforest to glaciers

I opted for a top 10 holiday park to pitch my tent down in Franz Joseph Glacier. Holiday parks give you a shared kitchen, showers, water, nice bathroom, etc. It's nice to have these things when dirtbagging around :). That night I hiked around Lake Matheson at sunset. This was a photographer's playground! unfortunately some rude people staked out the whole platform for 15-20 minutes and wouldn't move.

when the sun dropped, the sky turned all sorts of amazing colors!

I waited till about 10pm to head over to the glowworm dell in Franz Joseph Glacier. These were super hard to capture with how dark it was and how reletively little light they produced.  It was also super eerie walking through this forest surrounded by glow worms. I kept getting chills down my back like a ghost or something was watching me. I B-lined it out of there after that happened!

"Arachnocampa luminosa, commonly known as New Zealand glowworm or simply glowworm, is a species of fungus gnat endemic to New Zealand. Both the larval stage and the imago are luminescent. The species is known to dwell in wet caves, grottoes and sheltered, humid places in forests. Its Māori name is titiwai, meaning "projected over water"."

 

The next day I did the Tatare tunnels hike. It was super hot and humid outside, as it is in a rainforest. (This is one of the only places in the world with a rainforest and glaciers in such close proximity.) Inside the tunnels, it was nice and cool. There was some history behind the tunnels: 

"Pioneer miners drove a 500 metre tunnel system through from the Tatare Gorge to pipe water to the Waiho terrace. While the gold recovered did not cover mining costs, Franz Josef township was established on the operation site. From 1911 the sluice pipes provided water supply for the old Graham Hotel.
The high-pressure water drove a Pelton wheel in the town and generated electricity for a sawmill during the day and lights for the town at night. In 1938 water from the Tatare Tunnels powered a small hydro station in the Tatare Gorge until it was destroyed by a slip in 1982. "
 Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph

Next up I headed out to Hokitika. Hokitika was a small town, but large compared to what I've been seeing the past couple weeks! Cell service was available in towns (Vodafone SIM), but the moment you left town it went down to no service. I took advantage in towns to do all my internet usage, and texting. 

That night, I was treated to another fantastic sunset. Look at those colors!

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 Right before I went to see the Hokitika Glow worms. These ones were behind a fence, and couldn't get close enough to get any shots that were worth sharing.

Right before I went to see the Hokitika Glow worms. These ones were behind a fence, and couldn't get close enough to get any shots that were worth sharing.

The next day I took a drive out to the Hokitika Gorge. Look at that water color! 

I headed out to Goldsborough Camping Area to grab a campsite. Hokitika is an old gold mining town. They also have a ton of Jade rock here. I picked up a couple of Jade necklaces-one for my sister, one for my mother. Maori Tradition has the gifter wear it for 24 hours. The different designs mean different things  If you would like to know the different meanings, visit https://www.mountainjade.co.nz/about-jade/greenstone-meanings-and-designs/ 

My campground was also a trailhead for some gold panning trails. Below was the tunnel terrace walk.

I hung out on a beach relaxing most of the day and came to this old railroad section for another great sunset.

The next day I headed up to methport, er...westport. It was a boring sleepy town, but I wanted to see the seal colony. I was disappointed that there was only about 10 seals there, and very far away, at that. Nothing like Kaikoura!

A quick stop at pancake rocks:

Seal Colony:

After checking in with my airbnb host, I asked her where to find penguins. She referred me to this spot, cape foulwind (below) I did not catch any penguins, but did get another great sunset!

That's all for now! The next posting will be the final post. I'll be going through the jaw dropping Arthur's Pass, The steampunk town of Oamaru, (where I finally spot a penguin!) and swimming with dolphins in Akaroa.

Day 26- 30 Wanaka and West Coast (part 1)

I left my campsite behind to go to a music festival on New Years eve, called Rhythm and Alps. I had a great time and discovered some great new bands! Lots of Australian and European bands played. Got to enjoy the fireworks there as well. They played music till 7am, but I am no longer 21, so I bounced at 1am.

 I didn't have my big boy camera, so here was an uneditted phone photo.

I didn't have my big boy camera, so here was an uneditted phone photo.

After the show, I headed back to my campground for one last night before heading out to Wanaka. The next morning, I stopped by Queenstown Hill to do a bit of that hike, and then made the drive to Wanaka.

 Queenstown Hill hike - I didn't have the energy to do the whole hike, but still was beautiful

Queenstown Hill hike - I didn't have the energy to do the whole hike, but still was beautiful

After exploring Albertstown a bit, I headed down to lake Wanaka for sunset. The sky turned all sorts of lovely colors! This tree was awefully popular, and there was about 30 people around snapping pictures of this tree!

The next day was another beautiful bluebird day. It was really dry and in the upper 70s/low 80s! I did the Mt Iron hike .I really wanted to do the Roy's Peak hike, but wasn't ready to do more than 4 mile hikes. (was 8 miles if i recall). A couple days after this, there were wildfires that broke out on the Roy's Peak hike unfortunately.

That night I hung out around camp in Albertstown. Another Stunning sunset that lit up the mountains in a pink shade (called alpenglow). While walking around, I found a dumped wallet. Everything was taken, except for his countdown card and a credit card. I figured he'd at least want some closure, so I dropped it off at the local bank before I headed out to the west coast. The bankers were thrilled, and I felt good.

The drive around the lake Hawea was both incredibly moody and jaw dropping. Some say it's the most scenic in NZ.

I stopped at the incredibly busy Blue Pools for my first stop in Mt Aspiring National Park. The water really was THAT blue! The water is glacier run off water, so as you can imagine, it was quite frigid. I did not jump in. This place also was very thick with sandflies. They really like the swimmers that come out of the water :O. As refreshing as I'm sure it was, I'm good.

I honestly don't remember the name of this hike. It was ranked as "30 minutes" so I gave it a try, figuring I'd be back in the car 30 minutes later. Well, surprise! it was extremely steep, and pretty much climbing stairs the whole way up. I was dripping in sweat, and heart beating like crazy. Not what I was expecting at all! Good views at the top, but probably not worth it.

Next stop was fantail falls. Check out all the cairns lined up!

I grabbed a campsite in Haast, and headed out to Munro Beach to see if I could find any penguins. The Hike goes through an old growth rainforest, to a secluded beach with nobody except deer, dreaded sandflies, and and

I made it to ship creek for sunset. West Coast sure has the best sunsets! This beach was right off of highway 6.

The next day I headed south to check out a really remote section of NZ - Jacksons Bay. I did a short hike, and again-had the trail and beach (at the end) to myself. After the hike, I did something extremely dumb. unlocked the trunk (with key), and tossed my keys down while I grabbed some stuff, and shut the trunk, locking my keys behind -.- Luckily I ran into a local woman who got her husband, to help me. he had a mechanic coming to visit him anyways, so we waited for him, as our efforts to break in failed. After a couple hours, his friend shows up, tries a few things that didn't work, and then we put our brains together and broke into the rental. I will not be sharing what we did, just in case the wrong person reads this.

Thats all for now! stay tuned for west coast part 2!

Day 20-22 Queenstown and Te Anau

After exploring the Tasman Lake, I headed down to Queenstown, where I apparently got caught by speed camera going crazy fast. 

....

108

.....

kph

....

in a

....

100kph zone!!

I don't think I've ever eye-rolled harder in my life. BTW this was also on Christmas Day. WUT

 A nice lady that didn't speak any English offered to take my photo. I'm not one for my photo being taken, but this was my favorite part of NZ and didn't have any of me, so I went with it.

A nice lady that didn't speak any English offered to take my photo. I'm not one for my photo being taken, but this was my favorite part of NZ and didn't have any of me, so I went with it.

Above- A pitstop on the way to Queenstown - Roaring Meg

I arrived at 12 mile delta campground, and it was pretty busy but I'm lucky I got there when i did! Apparently everyone in NZ and the rest of the world had the same idea as me as it became filled to the brim later! Oh by the way...Christmas in Queenstown is insane. They estimated 80,000 person surge, in a town that only normally has 15,000! So as you can imagine, traffic was a nightmare, as was parking, and places to stay? HA! Everything was completely booked except for one room that was $750 a night.

I was lucky enough to get approached by a fellow camper Sam to hang out with her boyfriend Ian on Christmas! We had some drinks, I had some quick and easy camp food for dinner and we ended up becoming pretty good friends! They were traveling from the UK. They bought a van, and are hopping around place to place to pick up work here and there. Living the dream!!

Ian and I went for a hike the next day at Bob's cove. The trailhead started at the campground and ended at the cove below. Super scenic!

 Even though the rain held off for us, we were treated to a killer rainbow when we got back to camp! 

Even though the rain held off for us, we were treated to a killer rainbow when we got back to camp! 

That night, I took a drive out to Glenorchy. This is the town that Top of the Lake was filmed in. Elizabeth Moss stars in this crime/thriller TV series about a missing girl. Lots of mystery gets unveiled about the girl and locals. Very good watch.

The town was super desolate. Just me and a couple other photographers showed up for sunset. It's also hard to describe just how cold it was here. The wind was howling (enough to make white caps in some spots). It was probably low 50s out there. Crazy for middle of summer! The lake, Lake Wakatipu, is the longest lake and third largest lake. Because of the shape, it actually takes on tide changes!

 

 I said bye to Queenstown for a couple days, and headed down to the wonderful Milford Sound. I forget were the first 2 photos were taken. I wanna say it was an experimental forest or so? It was a good pitstop before I got to my campground in Te Anau. 

 This little guy came onto my tent and chilled there for a bit. Side note- the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (my most used lens) does some incredible close focusing! Almost Macro territory.

This little guy came onto my tent and chilled there for a bit. Side note- the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (my most used lens) does some incredible close focusing! Almost Macro territory.

Sunset from my campground - Henry Creek Campground. Amazing. I hung out here on Te Anau Lake with a few other campers for hours and sipped my favorite NZ cider - harvest cider - scrumpy. I even jumped in. It was cold, but I was long overdue for a shower at this point, so i didn't mind too much, haha. 

 Moon and the mountains @ sunset

Moon and the mountains @ sunset

That's all for now! I'll dedicate my next post to Milford Sound, and the Key summit Hike I did nearby. Jaw droppingly beautiful!

Day 15-19 Rakaia Gorge, Tekapo, and Mount Cook

I dropped Julian off at the Christchurch airport (flew CHCH to Auckland to SF to NJ to BUF!). I start my journey here out solo, and mainly tent camping (which is super easy! most hotels/airbnbs were booked up around the holidays...not so easy. The next few weeks were incredible! There's a reason everyone says to spend the majority of your time in the South Island. I will attempt to show you how dramatic and beautiful the South Island is. 

I camped at the Rakaia Gorge campground for the first night. The water was really that blue! I explored the area and had found my own special lunch place with nobody around. 

I took the backroads to Lake Coleridge. I didn't have any cell coverage, but I had maps downloaded. This was a scenario where It looked like it could be cool based on the map, and was pleasantly surprised! 

I went on some short walks in the area. I was the only one around for miles! Just me and the sheep/cows. You simply can't find that kinda peace and quiet in the states.

From Coleridge Lake, I drove a few hours west to get to Lake Tekapo. Talk about jaw dropping! I headed to Lake McGregor Campsite, set up camp and headed out on a "shingle" road to explore some of the area. I was truly in my happy place. What was even more exciting? The region is reknowned for lack of light pollution, which make it some of the darkest skies in the world! The weather here was pretty warm, despite being in the mountains.

 At the campground (which got completely full BTW), the campground host had this unique duck following him around. apparently one day he showed up, and he started feeding him, and the duck hasn't left his side. He squacks people away if they get too close to him! The guy was even petting him.   

At the campground (which got completely full BTW), the campground host had this unique duck following him around. apparently one day he showed up, and he started feeding him, and the duck hasn't left his side. He squacks people away if they get too close to him! The guy was even petting him.

 

I timed it perfectly to get a new moon while I was in the area. I also didn't have any clouds in the sky! I had to wait until about midnight for the skies to get completely dark. But when it did, it sure was mesmerizing! Above is my rental car, my little backpacking tent under a zillion stars! Unfortunately Milky Way season is in the summertime (same as the states) so I missed out on the galactic core, BUT did get to see some new constellations!

 Lupine fields near Tekapo

Lupine fields near Tekapo

The drive to Lake Pukaki was about an hour. This was probably one of my favorite places in NZ. Hands down the most beautiful place I've ever been to. Despite the crowds at the village/campground/hikes, it didn't even bother me. It also spoiled me, and that nothing will ever compare to this place :D 

The first day (above) I did the Hooker Valley Track. It was 70s or 80s and the sun burns fast here! There's apparently a big hole in the ozone over NZ/AUS that makes skin burn really fast. Skin cancer is a big problem in NZ.

 IS THIS REAL LIFE? 

IS THIS REAL LIFE? 

More Crazy Dark skies! My older camera struggled on the star shots. I'm sure my newer cam would've handled the noise alot better. If you're curious on my setup, I used an Olympus EM1 and Laowa 7.5mm F2. 30 second exposures @ F2 ISO 1250. I used my MeFoto Roadtrip tripod and used a remote shutter as well.

This was Tasman Lake. You climb tons of stairs to get to this viewpoint, but it's worth it! There used to be a huge glacier there, but it has receded quite a bit. 

 One of my favorite photos (I was pulled over)

One of my favorite photos (I was pulled over)

Kea Point trail - I didn't see any Keas, but it was still incredible!

Day 12 - 14 - Nelson to Christchurch

There was a large earthquake last year was just north of Kaikoura, and it destroyed many roads on the east coast. Apparently the ground moved up 9 feet in under a minute! We were lucky enough to time it so that it reopened the day before we were planning to drive through it! many stretches were still under construction, so it was very slow moving. 

these  birds were on the way down to the Kaikoura peninsula. Once we got into Kaikoura, we checked into our cabin and took a drive out to the peninsula. One of the best meals I had (and cheapest too!) was at a roadside BBQ joint - Kaikoura Seafood BBQ Kiosk. Don't drive past it! It's amazing fresh seafood! I got salmon and Julian got a giant crayfish. Watch out for the seagulls, they WILL steal your food any opportunity they get...and yes, speaking from experience, they stole the last bite of my salmon :curses:

stomping around doing seagull things

We drove out the the tip of the peninsula - Point Kean Viewpoint, and were a bit underwhelmed at the wildlife. we saw a seal here and there, but nothing that everyone was raving about. so we kept walking along the shoreline, and OMG. There was a nesting seagull colony of 1000's. talk about scary. Then, we saw hundreds of fur seals! These guys are hilarious to watch, and the babies are the adorbs. We probably hung out with them for a couple hours!

 like is this real life??

like is this real life??

 this one waddled up to us and made a little howl and then shuffled away!

this one waddled up to us and made a little howl and then shuffled away!

listen with the sound on! it makes the best noise

After Kaikoura, we made our way down to Christchurch for Julian's final days before taking off our first stop (below was Waikuku Beach. A pretty empty beach, but saw a few dogs on the beach that we stopped and played with while the owner was surfing :) We ended up talking to the owner quite a bit when he came back.

We arrived in Christchurch, checked into our Airbnb and was greeted by the sweetest 9 month old chocalate lab, layla. She was the best. We headed downtown to check out some architecture. Christchurch was interesting in that they had 2 earthquakes in a 3 year period , almost 10 years ago. It sounds like it wiped out most of the city, and it's still rebuilding. It was a mix of brand new buildings, and old architecture. overall I was underwhelmed by the city, and didn't like it very much. 

We drove up to the top of the gondola before heading to Godley Pass