Monday, August 5, 2013

The Big AAPT Summer Loop 2013

Summer Travels: Leg 1 - Sacramento to Portland
This summer’s American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Summer Meeting was in Portland, OR this year. I took this as an invitation to create a summertime roadtrip with travel to the meeting as my first leg. Not as impressive as 2008’s roadtrip to Edmonton, AB, but we do what we can. This one had stops in Yreka, Bandon, and Astoria. Yreka so I could shoot some Northern California waterfalls and make attempts at a Mount Shasta shot worth keeping. Bandon so I could shoot sea stacks on Oregon’s lovely Pacific coast. Astoria as a transition from the coast to the Columbia Gorge. I also zipped a nearby zip-line circuit. There was physics!

California and Oregon
Summer Travels: Leg 2 - Portland to Glacier National Park
With the close of the AAPT meeting, I was off to points east via the Columbia Gorge/ I missed meeting up with Riverside alum, Pam (Krai) Pyrc in Spokane, but enjoyed lunch at Frank’s Diner. Spent a night at an awful hotel in Kennewick before heading off to Kalispell. My MacBook Pro decided it wanted to go on vacation and refused to start up. Apparently, one of the memory modules went bad. I had a second MBP with, and my iPad. And a local hardware store had the mini-screwdriver needed to get at the MBP’s innards. No data was lost, but I had to hobble along with 4GB (instead of the full 8) of RAM for the duration of the trip. I know: First World Problems! Glacier was the awesome spectacle that it always is, but there was very little sky drama that photographers hope for. I hiked out to Iceberg Lake to remind myself how non-trivial a 10+mile mountain hike can be (sometimes I forget). Spritely Zoe Zulakis would laugh at my geezerness. A subsequent walk along The Garden Wall put me up close and personal with a mountain goat.
Summer Travels: Leg 3 - Glacier to Yellowstone
It’s a good long drive from Glacier to Yellowstone. YNP’s North Entrance puts you near Mammoth Hot Springs, Rustic Falls, and various other treasures. I moved on to accommodations in West Yellowstone (late planning kept me out of in-park lodging). I crisscrossed the park in my days there and eventually met up with fellow skeptical teacher (and TAM veteran), Barbara Drescher and her family. They were in the park seeking out wildlife sightings and had done quite well. They tipped me off to the hike up (and I mean three miles of steep grade, lung-busting up) to the Mount Washburn fire lookout. I walked it near sunset and frolicked among the herd of bighorn sheep that grazed to mountain slopes. They were adolescents, so no big racks to shoot, but they weren’t exactly camera shy. I had never seen YNP so completely overrun with visitors. And these were well-fed, American visitors driving big Fords and Dodges, speaking with southern drawls. The economy is officially back!


Summer Travels: Leg 4 - Yellowstone to Grand Tetons
The Tetons were not so overrun as Yellowstone was. There was a bit of unhelpful haze that obscured some of the contrast in the views of the Tetons. But I found a nice new view to photograph, one that required a four wheels of my 4WD Nismo. And I tried my hand shooting a different dilapidated Mormon Row barn. Oxbow Bend wasn’t in full cooperation mode, and Schwabacher Landing was off limits due to the sequester. That would sting less if I had ever been down there for a shot. Restaurant find: Bubba’s BBQ—it’s a real-deal kind of place with a free-standing smokehouse, and they run out of meat if you show up too late on a busy night.