After just under three years in Southern California, I’m happy to say that I’ve moved (back) to the Pacific Northwest to start a postdoc at University of Washington in biophysics and data science.

Aubrey and I did not take a very direct route from Los Angeles to Seattle, though, and I have a few images to share from our 5-week road trip. It started with two weeks in the Mono Lake area, where I spent some time collecting images for my research project about the alkali flies that inhabit the shoreline of the lake. Unfortunately, I can’t share these just yet, but hope to soon. I will miss this area (and the California deserts in general) now that I’m up north again. I’ll have to decorate our home with a few images from the sage scented landscape found along highway 395 so I can reminisce, perhaps like this one I took while we were camping near Mono Lake.

Pine Cones, Sagebrush, Owens Valley

Of Sage and Pine : Prints Available

Pinecones, sagebrush, and sunshine - the quintessential I-395 Owens Valley experience! In the distance you can see Mono Lake.

Following Mono Lake we embarked on a scenic route to Seattle with the goal of exploring some of the best mountain biking trails along the way. Unfortunately our schedule made it difficult to photograph much along the way, so you’ll have to make do with a few iPhone snaps.

Mountain biking compilation. Clockwise from the top left: Munger Mountain (Jackson, WY), Thunder Mountain (Bryce, UT), Pinkerton-Flagstaff (Durango, CO), Gooseberry Mesa (Hurricane, UT), Phillips Ridge (Jackson, WY), Gooseberry Mesa, Pinkerton-Flagstaff. Mix of my and Aubrey’s images.

Our biking tour started in the Bay Area (before getting to Mono Lake) with Camp Tamarancho (Marin, CA). Then near Mono Lake we rode Lower Rock Creek (Bishop, CA). Then we made our way to the southwest, for as long as we could bear the heat, riding Deadringer and Gooseberry Mesa (Hurricane, UT), Thundermountain (Bryce, UT), and Phil’s World (Cortez, CO). In an attempt to escape the 100 degree weather we hit the last 10 miles of the Colorado Trail near Durango, CO, and then some some higher country on the Pinkerton-Flagstaff – Dutch Creek loop. Then we made our way over the Million Dollar Highway to Jackson, WY, with a quick pit stop at the Zippity Loop near Grand Junction, CO.

In Jackson we were welcomed by cooler temperatures, and I finally had the chance to take a couple photos. The first trail we rode in Wyoming, at Munger Mountain, made a beautiful loop through cool aspen forest filled with blooming pink sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum). The combination really struck me, and for the next couple days I looked for an attractive grouping, ultimately settling on this scene from near one of our campsites.

Aspen Forest, Blooming Flowers, Jackson Wyoming

Geranium Summer : Prints Available

Geranium flowers (sticky purple geranium, Geranium viscosissimum) bloom in the midst of a young aspen forest as the sun slowly sets on Shadow Mountain, near Jackson, Wyoming.

Along our trip we tried our best to stick to free disperse camp sites. These days finding them is made relatively easy, especially with the help of websites like Campendium.com and the ever present 4G networks…a very different experience from my 3 month road trip 9 years ago when the best internet was found outside motels with unsecured WiFi networks! Our most scenic (but certainly not the quietist) was on Shadow Mountain, with a view of the Tetons.

Shadow Mountain, Camping, Jackson Wyoming

Glamping

One of the most spectacular car camping sites I've ever had the fortune to stay at, on Shadow Mountain with a view of the Tetons near Jackson, Wyoming.

One of my favorite rides from the whole trip was made possible thanks to a meet up with my friend and fellow photographer and mountain biker, Jay Goodrich. Jay and his wife took us down Phillips Ridge near Wilson, WY, for a never-ending wildflower studded flowy downhill ride I’ll be dreaming of for a while. Thanks Jay and Heather!

The 2016 / 2017 winter was a big one for the west, and most of the alpine areas were about 3 weeks behind normal in melting out. Despite the high snow levels, we decided to go for a short backpacking trip into the famous Cirque of Towers region of the Wind River Range. High snow levels did have one upside: no bugs above 10,000 feet, and very few people. We found a small patch of dirt in a grove of pine trees and set up camp. Nearby, on the steep rocky slopes of Mitchell Peak, I found a few early flowers: my consolation for not synchronizing our trip with the peak wildflower season.

Cirque of Towers, Wind River Range, Flowers

Early Bloomers : Prints Available

Two early spring Old-Man-of-the-Mountain flowers (Tetraneuris grandiflora) bloom as an afternoon storm clears over the Cirque of Towers in the Wind River Range of the Wyoming alpine backcountry.

Meanwhile, Aubrey practiced her fly fishing skills on the North Popo Agie River, catching 11 cutthroat and brook trout over the course of three days. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque fishing experience, with nice weather (between snow storms), epic views, hungry fish, and no competing fisherman.

Aubrey, a cutthroat, and Pingora Peak.

We kept one of the bigger fish, and improvised a cooking system with our MSR Whisperlite. First we wrapped the fish in aluminum foil with olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano, and then wrapped it once more in foil, this time including a short stick (for support). Then we set up the wind screen around the stove and lay the fish packet on top and cooked it to perfection. Delicious!

Cutthroat, cooking, and ready to enjoy!

After two nights in the snowy cirque we were ready for some dry land, and made our way back over Jackass Pass, past the mosquito plagued Big Sandy Lake, and on to Clear Lake. Here we were just barely ahead of the bugs, but had plenty of snow-free space for relaxing as we watched the sun set on Haystack Mountain and East Temple Peak.

Campfire in the Wind Rivers.

After Wyoming, we had one more ride in Helena, MT (Helena Ridge to Show Me The Horse), before getting on I-90 for a straight shot to Seattle, where we arrived 1 day after the unofficial start of summer (July 5th).

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3 Comments to “Taking The Scenic Route to Seattle”

  1. Boyan says:

    My condolences on the move. Not only are you going from endless sky, dirt trails, and sparsely populated deserts to a beautiful middle gray from November to July, but you are no longer even getting a cost of living benefit. After moving from. Portland to San Diego a few years ago the reverse move would be brutal :=)

  2. I will certainly miss the deserts – I did the first time I moved from CA to Seattle – but everything else about the northwest I much prefer 🙂 I happen to like bushwhacking up 50 deg slopes to remote alpine lakes just 2 hours from home, and have missed that dearly.

  3. Brenda Tharp says:

    Happy Move, Floris! The NW is beautiful, too, as you know, but what a drastic shift, eh? I keep saying I’m going to move north, but can’t seem to pull my roots out of CA at the moment…

    All the best to you both, and keep sharing your photos and experiences here!

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