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As I’ve done most years, this fall I made a few road trips into the mountains for the fall leaves. My first trip was my first time taking the S2000 up to the mountains for this purpose, and I left everyone else at home. Taking in the fall leaves with the top down was a fantastic experience. My trip took me through Morrison and Evergreen, then to Squaw Pass, down to Idaho Springs, up to Central City and Nederland before coming down Boulder Canyon to go home.

Squaw Pass was definitely the highlight of the trip. There was little traffic, and there was enough fall color to be interesting. From there, I tried to find a quick bite to eat for lunch, which turned into an adventure by itself. Idaho Springs had nothing that was open and not sit-down, so I left hungry. I found a promising BBQ place in Central City, only to find it closed with a sign saying to check out their food truck at the town’s farmers’ market, so I did. The market was barely a market at all, and the food truck had only two things on the menu, neither of which was BBQ; I had a shrimp po’ boy. Central City itself has a lot of colorful aspen trees, but I was mostly distracted by trying to find food. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there. The aspen along Peak to Peak Highway were all either past peak or still green, so there wasn’t much to see. I could have kept going up toward Allenspark, but I was ready to go home at that point. Unfortunately, I made the terrible decision to go down Boulder Canyon instead of peeling off just before to Coal Creek. Traffic at the roundabout in Nederland was backed up for 30 minutes, and things weren’t much better in the canyon. But I did finally make it down to Boulder and then home.

My second trip up to the mountains was considerably further. I had been wanting to visit Crystal Mill for some time, but doing so requires going up an 8-mile rough 4x4 road. Felix had also been asking when we could stay in a Tiny House again. I decided to combine the two, and asked my brother Taylor if he’d take us in his 4Runner. We left for the Tiny House in Leadville on a Friday evening, making it up late that night. The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we made for Independence Pass. This is one of my favorite spots for leaves in the entire state, and this year it did not disappoint. After a few stops there, we made for Marble, which is the gateway to Crystal Mill. The road is quite rocky and narrow almost the entire way. The sheer number of vehicles making their way up to the mill made the drive challenging. At one point, we had to stop with four other vehicles to let a half dozen pass going the other way. It was definitely slow-going, but the entire drive was breathtaking, and the view at the top did not disappoint. At the mill, there were 20+ vehicles, and we managed to snag one of the last parking spots. The mill is privately owned, but they had employees to direct traffic, and also to make sure people stayed on the road, which is public. Going past the rope onto their property was not allowed unless you paid them and signed a waiver. Doing so costs $10, unless you happen to have “heavy” camera equipment, and then it’s $50. I had to pay the $50. It was certainly expensive for the extra 30 feet it afforded me, but I didn’t have much choice, and the view from the river was truly fantastic. After we were done enjoying the scenery, we made the slog back down. Originally I had hoped to go back to Leadville by way of Kebler and Cottonwood passes, but we didn’t have time and went back on I-70 instead, just in time to grab some fantastic prime rib at Quincy’s. We made for home the following morning.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 9:51 AM
Filed under: Colorado, Fall Leaves, Photos

Another long hiatus between posts! Much has been happening in my life, and I have not had the time to post. In September, my girlfriend Nhu and I ventured into the mountains to see the fall leaves. We spent the night in Glenwood Springs, and then woke up before the sun to see sunrise at the Maroon Bells. It was my first time there, and I must say it is truly a sight to behold! Despite arriving before sunrise, the parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. There were dozens of photographers lining Maroon Lake, waiting for the sun to come up. When it did, we were greeted with a beautiful, though fleeting, reflection of the mountains on the lake, complete with beautiful golden aspen trees.

After spending some more time in the area, we ate breakfast in Aspen, in one of only two restaurants open on Sunday morning. We then took the beautiful Independence Pass, which was also lined with golden aspens. After passing Twin Lakes, we then went north through Leadville, making our way through another beautiful golden mountain pass, eventually ending up in Vail. We made our way home from there, but not before hitting some pretty ugly Sunday evening traffic in the mountains.

In October, I stayed the weekend on the east coast to see the leaves here. I went with Abhijit, a coworker, to see the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shanendoah National Park in peak color. The drive was not a short one; we drove 550 miles in one evening to get to the southern end, and then took three days to drive back up on Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. Of course, the elevation along the route was far from constant, and trees at different elevations were in varying conditions. The higher elevations were almost invariably dead, but much of the medium and lower elevations were in their prime, and some areas were truly spectacular. Of course, I did my best to capture the best areas with my camera, and Abhijit did the same. We had a great time; I introduced Abhijit to Waffle House and Texas Road House, both of which he enjoyed. He re-introduced me to his incredible snoring. To sleep, I had to put headphones on and play white noise music, fairly loudly. I was able to sleep though, thankfully!

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 7:43 PM

Well, it's been quite a long time since I posted here, and I think it's time for an update. Since my last post, I've been to plenty of places, which are of course reflected in my photos. I've been doing a much better job of keeping those up to date than posting here.

My first trip was an extended weekend in Yellowstone, which was pretty amazing. I have been there before, but it's been a while. As is so easy to do there, I stumbled upon many beautiful photo opportunities. I stayed in Jackson, which made for a long drive to the park, and to compound the issue there was even construction on the road there. Still, I managed to see everything that I wanted, including making the drive all the way around the park's main loop. In doing so, I saw the beautiful canyon, many of the hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, and of course Old Faithful. I was also lucky enough to come across a moose, a black bear, and a brown bear in my short stay.

My next trip was another weekend in Seattle, to see my college roommate Matt. We took a ferry to Victoria to spend the weekend there, which was quite enjoyable. Victoria is a very nice little city, especially the harbor. We also made it up to Butchart Gardens, which is every macro photographer's dream.

In September, I went all the way to Buffalo to see Niagara Falls. I had never been there before, but it has been on my list for a while. I went there with Huy, a coworker who is on my current project (and the same guy that I went with to Vietnam). We visited both the American and Canadian sides of the falls, and I have to say that the Canadian side does offer a much better view. With that said, both sides offer a very unique experience, and I must say I do not approve of the over-commercialization of the Canadian side. The falls are really quite beautiful, though, and I was afforded some very stunning photos, and a fantastic time. It was perfect for a weekend trip.

Next on the list was a trip to Mono Lake via Reno. Mono Lake is a much-photographed location, despite being very much out of the way. It's located just to the east of the Sierras and Yosemite National Park, and a few hours south of Reno. I decided to fly to Reno to get there, though it probably wouldn't have taken much longer to drive from San Jose. I got there in the mid afternoon, took some photos and then waited for sunset. The place was then hopping with photographers, though it was still quite easy to find some wonderfull shooting opportunities. I managed to get quite a few that I liked. I also stayed past sunset, as someone there told me there would be a harvest moon, which turned out to be pretty spectacular. It was dark enough that you could see the glow in the horizon before the moon itself appeared, and it made for a great experience, especially with the coyotes howling nearby. The next day I went to the rather unique Devil's Postpile before leaving for Reno and the airport.

In October, I took another extended weekend trip, this time to New England to see the fall leaves. I had never been to New England before, and I had a great time. I flew into Boston, but wasted no time and went straight up to Vermont. I drove all around, from Smuggler's Notch to Montgomery to Burlington to Montpelier. I also hit up Franconia Notch, the Kancamagus Highway, Conway, Mount Washington and Lake Winnipesaukee. According to Hertz, I covered over a thousand miles in my five days there. The leaves were quite beautiful, and unlike anything I had seen before. Colorado obviously has beautiful leaves as well, but almost all of them are yellow and gold. New England has a broader spectrum, including oranges and very rich reds, which are quite spectacular. The small towns in Vermont add quite a bit to the experience as well.

Still not done! My most recent was a weekend trip to Sedona. I flew into Phoenix, and was lucky enough to be given a convertible Mustang. I then drove up to Sedona, and was greated with some of the most beautiful rock formations I have seen outside of the Grand Canyon. The small town is nestled against them, with many spectacular trails and vistas nearby. I spent a good deal of time at Redrock Crossing, another popular photo location. I also climbed the trail up Cathedral Rock, hiked a bit around Bell Rock, and drove out to see the Oak Creek vista. Additionally, I took my poor rental car up Schnebly Hill Road, a very rough dirt/rock road recommended only for trucks, but with a spectacular view. It was slow-going, but I made it to the vista point, which was well worth it.

That brings my blog up to date with all of my recent adventures. I've also had some other positive developments in my life recently, though I will save them for the time being.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 9:49 AM