Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The 50th State

In just a few short hours I'm off to Hawaii! I tried to get some autoposting entries for while I was gone, but just didn't have enough time between now and my return from California Tuesday night. Rest assured, when I come back in early November, I'll (finally) finish my Italian trip, post about California, and of course blanket the blog in gorgeous photos of Hawaii!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The View from the Campanile

After ascending to the top of the Dome, we decided to get some more exercise, and walk to the top of the Campanile (Bell Tower). Between the two high spots, we climbed a ton of stairs that day. Ironically, everybody queues up for the trip up to the top of the dome, but to really see the dome itself, you have to go up the bell tower, which was almost empty.

Fillipo Brunelleschi's statue looks forever towards his greatest accomplishment.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The View from the Dome

The first thing we did after dropping off our bags was make a bee-line towards the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo of Florence. How could I not go straight for the dome, after reading Brunelleschi's Dome? Seeing the dome up close, and actually walking through the structures, was amazing. The views of the city were so beautiful we didn't want to come down!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gone Again

Everybody has four Grandparents. When you are young, they spoil you rotten and are altogether more fun to hang out with than your parents. Then, as you grow older, they grow older. And then, you start to lose them. My paternal Grandmother, Dorothy (Dot) Ekelund, passed away Wednesday morning. She was 87 years old. She had been in poor health for a while, but no matter how 'ready' you are, you are never ready. I know I wasn't. I'm off to California for the weekend, to do what I couldn't do a year and a half ago. Be there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Falling for Firenze

Pompeii was our last excursion in southern Italy. The next morning we bade farewell to Rome, and boarded a Eurostar for Florence. I wasn't sure quite what to expect in Florence, though I knew it would be an amazing city to see.

What I didn't know was just how beautiful the city really is. Less polluted, more compact and absolutely gorgeous. Cooler than Rome and Pompeii, though still plenty hot in the July sun.

And of course, the Duomo. How could I not be drawn to the star, the greatest Dome in Italy? It was our first stop, but that is a tale for another post. (Note, since I didn't have a wide angle lens capable of photographing the face of the Duomo, I made do with three exposures and the Photoshop panorama tool)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Rocky Mountains in High Dynamic Range

Here we have a selection of HDR images from some of the hikes I did this past summer. The first two are from a trail that head south of Berthoud Pass along the continental divide.

The next two are from a high lake just off of highway 91 near the Climax Molybdenum Mine. (Thank god for spell check)

These last two were shot from the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, looking towards Mt. Evans and the famous Sawtooth ridge that connects the two summits.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Mt. Bierstadt

In August I convinced three of the people I work with to climb one of Colorado's 54 14ers. For those not from Colorado, a 14er is a mountain that rises above 14,000 feet above sea level, and Colorado has the highest concentration of such peaks in the nation (excepting Alaska.)

Being I'm eating a lot of Chipotle and working at a desk all day, anything terribly strenuous was out. Mt Bierstadt, at 14,060 feet above sea level provided a hike that was easy(ish) and very close to home.

Anytime you go hiking above timberline is fairly strenuous, even on an easy mountain like Bierstadt, so it took our group (me) a while to get to the top. Really, we couldn't have asked for a better day, the weather was spotless, even hot, which is rare in an area that can hold on to patches of snow year round.

Anytime you go hiking you see beautiful views, but climbing tall peaks really is like being on the roof of the world. I just love being able to look out over miles and miles of ridges, cirques, peaks and valleys.

I have actually been to the top of Bierstadt several times (3 or 4?), but I never get tired of climbing 14ers, though the climb itself is pretty tiring. None of my cohorts had done a hike like this before, so despite being tail end charlie I was still the elder sage.

I even got to tell them, "back in my day, this climb was a lot harder!" Which is true, climbers once had to deal with a thick, muddy patch of willows in the drainage between the parking lot and the climb. This made for a tricky early morning, as nobody wants to get icy water dumped down their boots on the way up a mountain! Luckily, some years ago the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado built a wonderful system of catwalks over the worst parts, making the whole thing a breeze.

It's always nice, at the end of the day, to look back at what you accomplished and be happy. Of course, any readers who have conquered one of the more difficult 14ers will now take this moment to giggle quietly. Bierstadt may not be Longs Peak, but it was a good trip, one I'll probably do again.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall in the Rocky Mountains

While I'm not quite finished with my epic chronicle of this year's tour of Europe, I figured I should take a quick detour to get caught up with my doings as of late.

Last weekend mom, dad and myself headed to the mountains to get a glimpse of this year's fall color. The aspen's were gorgeous along US 40, so we stopped there for a photo op.

Mom stuck around to paint for a bit, while dad and I went for hike a little further up the road. Winter is certainly coming soon, but for a while we will have a wonderful fall to enjoy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pompeii: The City

Back in about 5th Grade, I bought a two pack of books from the Scholastic Catalog that was sent around every month to us impressionable kids. I got the set because it had a book about the Titanic, and I was a huge Titanic nut as kid. The second book was initially just a throw away book.

Soon though The Secrets of Vesuvius captured my grade school imagination, and sparked a fascination with the lost towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. I even remember a conversation with my mother where I expressed a strong desire to travel to Naples, far from Italy's most beautiful city, solely to see the ruins.

I wasn't going to travel all the way to Italy and NOT make it down to Pompeii. Nick and I checked the train schedule, got up early, and caught a Eurostar train from Rome to Naples, than hopped on a smaller local train to Pompei station.

More than any other bit of the Roman empire, Pompeii really humanized the ancient Italians. I would be hard pressed to come up with another archaeological site that so compellingly shows the day to day lives of a people from so long ago. As you wander the city you can see homes, temples, shops, streets, baths, theaters, graffiti and more. You see that while fashions and tastes change, people stay people.

Of course, the other lesson of Pompeii is a bit more somber. The glimpse of a city destroyed in the blink of an eye, it's citizens frozen in their final agony. It is sobering material, and a good lesson for us all.

I'll admit to being a tad disappointed in the restrictions placed on visitors. Many of the structures were off limits. I also would have liked the guide book to be a bit more detailed. It was sometimes difficult to figure out where in the maze of ruined streets we were, and finding specific building was almost impossible.

Despite that, I had a wonderful time meandering through the roofless buildings, even in the late July heat. I'd love to go back, and take in the smaller neighbor city of Herculaneum, as well as make the trip to the top of Mt. Vesuvius.

Though I'll be ok if I don't have to deal with the stench from the bathroom on the local train between Napoli and Pompei stations. Whoa.