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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Entries in national park (28)


When you see this much creation... 

There has to be a God because man is not smart enough to create such diversity in the landscape and its inhabitants!

A picture sometimes stands as a reminder for an entire trip...

This picture does it for us!


Will update this post and pictures and videos over the next few weeks.. Have 1200 + rough photos to edit and check out!

Tonight we sleep when it is dark outside. The last four days it was light out till Midnight! 

Here is to life..


Pinnacles National park - a day trip

We went on a day trip to Pinnacles National park (Monument as it is called) with the cousins. The weather report said 85 F and we thought it would be nice weather to go on a 2+ mile hike and maybe another 2+ mile hike.

The park website promised interesting views, including a network of bat caves. 

 The first trail to Bear Gulch was great. The rock faces were really colorful..

 we got to descend into the caves through narrow crevices and the temperature drop was a palpable 30+ degrees. There is water running under those caves and it is really cool down there!

It was not easy to take pictures without a tripod but the bouncing lights off the water and rocks did make for some interesting pictures!

We were hit by 106 F heat as we exit the caves through a near vertical staircase carved into the side of the caves. It truly reminded me of the Batman movie when we looked up towards the exit!

Poor bats, no wonder they are blind. We were blinded for a few seconds when we went from nice cool darkness to scorching heat and bright sunlight! 

We went on to see a beautiful resevoir which was abuzz with all types of dragonflies!

and one type of butterfly in the 100's or thousands! This guy posed for me without realizing it. Caught him with a 400 mm Zoom (which is why the background is all Bokeh'ed out).

It was an enjoyable trip. Next time we shoud hit it earlier in the year when peak temperatures are closer to 70's or 80's. The park pamphlet promises views of great falls and rock formations, but guess those are longer hikes and will have to wait till the adults are in better shape. The kids seem to be doing fine with the trails. 

Even the little one managed to walk for 4 hours with a countable "daddy, please thooki(carry) me!" instances.

Will definitely recommend this place for  day trip. 

ps. Apparently the caves will be closed soon for bat baby season.. so check before you go.

pps. Take a flashlight. It is dark in those caves and another visitor in front of us said they saw snakes in the caves which is not surprising. We used one flashlight and one iPhone app to navigate the caves. Two or three flashlights would have been better.


Death Valley trip Panoramas

Day 4 trip photos are here..

Day 5 of the trip was our return from Ridgecrest to San Jose with a stop at Lake Isabella for 15 minutes to enjoy the serene waters. There were two other vehicles there and the rest of the way we did not cross a single vehicle on either side for almost a good 20 miles!

It was a beautiful drive along the Kern river which at places was moving rapidly and having calm waters to catch reflections of mountains.

These stitch shots are actually really large. Each of them is ~ 100 Mb and the originals are 12000 to 16000 pixels wide by 3000 to 5500 pixels in length. Have resized them to a 1200 pixel max width for the website. 

They were all made by composite merging 8-21 photos all taken in portrait orientation while panning the landscape in full manual mode with the same setting for all the photographs. 

An example is below:

You get one gigantic image from which you crop the right section and play with it to get this...

Plan to print one of these as a 8 foot by 2 foot poster which should still be good at 96dpi ! 

Hope you enjoyed the pictures. We sure will go back and look at these pictures as our new screensaver.

Would definitely recommend an extra day or two for Death valley trips to enjoy the Kern river, the lake etc. on the way in and see other things like Titus canyon, Racetrack Playa etc. 

Knowing what we know now, next time we will probably stay inside death valley at the expensive furnace creek inn for at least two of the 5 days and will be renting a jeep in advance!


Day by day breakdown

The only way in my head to describe the Death valley National Park trip in pictures is to go day by day. Have finally finished processing all pictures from Day 1, uploaded the people pictures to Facebook to make the Mrs. and kids happy (they sit together at bedtime and surf facebook and this seems) and now uploading the nature stuff here. 

It does not make sense to visit death valley for a day or two. When Balaji told me we needed to take an extra day off for this plan, was initially not for it. We have never done a national park trip for more than 3 days. Then we did the internet learning and figured that 4 days in the park might just about cut it. 

It did not! We still missed a few spots after spending four full days in the park. That means the the next time we go, it has to be either :

- Rent and RV and stay inside the park or

- Stay at the one or two lodges inside the park and book it months in advance so we get a spot

We drove to a place called Ridgecrest after an 8 hour journey and rested that night. The next day (Day 1) we started at 8AM thinking that we will have time till 6PM to see things. The sun set at 4:15! We did course correct for this the rest of the trip. 

We went first to the Panamint area. There is a small store/ Visitor center with very helpful people and a very clean restroom there. You can also pickup things like moisturizers, sunscreen lotions etc.. there if you run out. 

There are beautiful views as you drive to this area

When you have a ND filter and you can do HDR.. you can almost.. almost make it look like what your eye sees.. but still it is only "almost". The human eye is the most amazing wide angle HD HDR ready thing and we usually do not realize it!

You keep walking through parched ground for a long time and 

then suddenly Darwin Falls!!!

We went on a dirt road for about a 2 1/2 miles and then went on a hike that definitely was more than a mile to see Darwin Falls ! There was lots of water flowing, considering we were in the middle of the desert and it was nice because we walked on the shade of the rock face. You are better off driving there in a Jeep or SUV instead of a minivan as your vehicle has to go real slow if it has low clearance! We did 10-15 miles / hour speeds throughout on dirt roads. 

It was really worth the effort as we got great photo ops on the way and at Darwin falls. Then we came back to the Store and had lunch.

Here is one with my two little bear cubs in a little cave! 

For comparision see bearcubs from Yellowstone many years ago..

It was already close to 1PM when we started lunch and we left the Panamint area by 2PM to go to Stovepipe Wells area.

That is almost an hours drive and we registered there at the Ranger station. That is when we were told "Sunset in an hour!". So off we went to Mosaic canyon which was the closest thing to see from the Ranger station. 

It was another 1/2 mile hike inside a canyon with smooth polished walls of marble and rocks of many colors and given that the sun was going down, it was like being in the Mckennas Gold movie! 

We have seen many canyons, but nothing like this! The kids could slide off some marble slopes.  We came out of Mosaic canyon and the sun had gone down but it was still bright out.

Started driving out of the park at 4:30 and it took us a good 2 hours plus to get back to Ridgecrest and got some fantastic views..The next day we started early amid protests from the kids! "This is a vacation, why do we have to wake up at 6 every day ?! Not fair" etc. etc. 

Wake up at 6 we did.. will share pictures from Day 2 in a few days.


Could it be...

The last 5 days saw what was definitely our best National Park trip in recent memory. The family got Daddy Narayanan a L series wide angle lens and a Neutral Density filter kit and volunteered to walk behind for pictures in heat and cold, on dry desert beds to badwater wetlands at the Death Valley National Park.

In the middle of this trip which spanned almost 1600 miles of driving over the five days, an important milestone was reached. Daddy turned 40!

We had a great time driving to and from the park as well as seeing some amazing views. 

When everyone was wishing daddy on his birthday, we happened to be at the sand dunes. 

When daddy Narayanan looked up to catch the dunes he saw an almost unbelievable site. A beautiful woman that very closely resembled his wife was looking down at him with a beatific smile..

"We are in the middle of the desert and it is freaking hot.. Could this be... a mirage?" he thought to himself and clicked away. To his surprise the smile stayed through that day and the next and the next.. and it changed into the stare and frown only after reaching back home and Daddy declared that he had caught a stomach bug! 

Now life is back to normal again.. Daddy is still as immature as ever and the magic day that had such hopes of turning dad into some kind of older mature person having ended, the usual routine continues. 

Death Valley was totally worth the drive and the Cousin family made it all the more exciting! 

Have been hiccuping for 8 hours now with no end in sight. These four photos are the only ones I managed to edit yesterday. The other 3000+ have to wait a few weeks. 

The trail through Golden Canyon, aptly named!

The beautiful Kern river that runs along the freeway 178 on our way to Death Valley..

Darwin falls in the middle of a desert reached after a 1.5 mile hike. Truly spectacular!

Thanks to everyone for wishing me a happy 40th. Your wishes and prayers were definitely answered !