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National Mall and Memorial Parks – so many stamps!

National Mall and Memorial Parks – so many stamps!

Last week I had the chance to visit DC, 11 years after I first lived in the area, and 9 after I left. It was the week leading up to Memorial Day, so the city was bustling with school field trips, tourists, and of course, workers in suits. The stage was set for the annual PBS Memorial Day concert on the Capitol Lawn (filmed Sunday evening, dress rehearsal Saturday). The summer heat suddenly appeared after weeks of cold rain, with daytime temperatures in the mid 80’s, but thankfully – no humidity. Summer gets pretty muggy, which is why the spring and fall seasons are so popular. Winter can be beautiful, especially the peace and calm right after a snow storm, but it’s really only accessible if you are staying downtown. Roads and the metro are a nightmare for a while after snow.

Korean War Memorial
The Korean War Memorial
Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Wall
Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking along the National Mall was one of my favorite activities on a day off.  It is such a peaceful green space in the midst of a busy city, with so many monuments to visit. Back in 2005/2006, the Washington Monument was closed for renovations. It reopened in 2007 just before I moved away. It’s a wonderful, extremely popular, view of the National Mall and monuments. Timed entry tickets are FREE the day of so get to the visitor center by 8:30am daily to try to get one, or you can pay a fee to reserve online in advance (limited supply here).

Washington Monument western view
The view from the west windows of the Washington Monument

Many of the National Mall and Memorial Parks passport stamps can be found at the Washington Monument bookstore, which is not attached to the actual monument but on the east side. Other bigger memorials (Jefferson, Lincoln) that have gift shops will also have a passport cancellation on site. For me, I was thankful for the trove of stamps at the Washington Monument bookstore. I had visited all of these sites in DC well before I bought my first passport book, and due to my limited time this visit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to each monument for the stamps.

Getting to the National Mall is easy by metro, if you are willing to walk a little bit. Take the red line to Farragut North or Metro Center and walk in from the White House, take the Orange/Silver/Blue Line to Smithsonian, Federal Triangle or even Foggy Bottom, or the Green/Yellow line to L’Enfant Plaza.

Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Attention all outdoor enthusiasts! The Official Recreational Federal Lands Photo Contest – Share the Experience – is now open! They are seeking photos from amateur photographers that highlight the best of America’s federal lands, national parks and historical sites. The winner will grace the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Pass in 2017.

Here is a basic rundown of the details.

  • There are six categories for photo entries: Adventure & Outdoor Recreation; Historical & Cultural; Scenic, Seasons & Landscapes; Every Kid In A Park; Wildlife; Night Skies.
  • The photos must be taken on the lands or within the facilities of these participating agencies: National Park Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Photographs must be taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016 and contest entries are accepted from April 28, 2016 to December 31, 2016.
  • Eligible to legal residents of the 50 United States and DC, who are at least 13 years of age or older as of April 28, 2016.  Amateur Photographers (less than 20% of your total income is from photography)only. Photographs must be taken by you and you must have the rights to the photo.
  • Prizes include more than $30,000 in cash and other great prizes sponsored by ACTIVE Network, Celestron and Historic Hotels of America. Winners will be announced Spring 2017.

For more information, or to enter, visit the Share the Experience website here.

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

So you are planning a trip to Maui and you want to capture some great photos of the stars and sunrise on Haleakala. What should you bring?

-A camera capable of taking long exposures. Any DSLR, GoPro, point and shoot with a manual mode, and even an iPhone (with the right app) will suffice. This trip I used an Olympus Tough TG-4 and a GoPro.  Photo above taken with the Olympus Tough TG-4, Live Capture mode. Exposure was only about 8-10 minutes since the sky was becoming lighter close to sunrise.  Arrive 2-4 hours before scheduled sunrise for dark skies and light trail photos.

-A tripod & camera mount. There are tons of options out there, from tiny Gorillapods to traditional Manfrotto tripods. Just be sure you have the mount you need for the camera.

-A cable/remote release. You don’t want to ruin your stable photo on the tripod by stopping the photo with an unsteady hand. Newer point and shoot cameras (including the TG-4 Tough) can be controlled with your smartphone. DSLRs typically have associated cable releases that cost $15.

-A headlamp, preferably with a red light option, to preserve your night vision and everyone else around you!

-Any time lapse tools. GoPro Hero 3 and newer have a Time Lapse Photo mode, which takes sequential timed photos, which you can import in the GoPro software to make a time lapse video. The newer GoPro Hero 4 models also have a nice Time Lapse Video feature, which will stitch all your photos together in camera and make an MP4 file in GoPro Studio. If you want all of the individual photos and a higher res video, you should use Time Lapse Photo mode.

-A snack and water. There are no restaurants in the park, so you must pack food in and out. You can grab pre-packaged food at local grocery stores the day before your trip, or stop at the 24-hr Zippy’s in Kahului before you head up the mountain. Also, at 10,000 ft elevation, you will become dehydrated much faster so be sure you have plenty of water, especially if you are sticking around a while.

-Something soft to sit on. The lava rocks are pretty sharp and if you get tired of standing you will be grateful for something to sit/lay on.

-A hat, gloves, jacket, long pants, closed toe shoes and hand warmers. It is very cold at 10,000 ft every night.  Even colder if it’s windy.  You likely won’t want to leave your camera, so you will be glad you have something to help keep you warm.

-Patience, an extra camera and something to keep you occupied!  Time lapse shots take a long time for nice star trails – 30 minutes minimum.  You will want a second camera for taking other shorter shots as the light improves.

Meteor Shower Viewing

Meteor Shower Viewing

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is hosting an Eta Aquarid meteor shower viewing on Saturday, May 7th. Even though the meteors do not fall quite as abundantly for us here in the northern hemisphere, we are still able to view the quick moving and often bright meteors during predawn hours. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower typically favors the southern hemisphere and is annually visible from April 19th-May 20th. This year, May 6th brings with it a new moon, supplying us with an intensely darkened sky with which to optimize our meteor viewing. This annual event doesn’t necessarily offer distinct peaks of meteors, but rather plateaus. The greatest number of predawn meteors has been predicted between May 4th and May 7th.

Now for a little background on this particular meteor shower. Eta Aquarid is named after a star, Eta Aquarii, which lies in the Aquarius constellation. The radiant point (the point in the sky from which meteors appear to originate) seems to lie very near this bright star. There is no need to keep your eyes focused on the Aquarius constellation as meteors can be seen all over the darkened sky.

What is the source of this brilliant shower? Halley’s Comet! What do we know about Halley’s Comet in conjunction with Eta Aquarid? The wake of a comet is littered with trails of dust and debris which often causes a meteor shower. The orbital path of Halley’s Comet is annually crossed by Earth in late April-May. Earth is deepest in Halley’s Comet debris field typically around May 6th. When the dust and debris collides with Earth’s atmosphere it results in the predawn showers.

Obviously, that was an extraordinarily general summary of the interactions between Earth, Halley’s Comet, and the resulting meteor shower. I am by no means an expert on the subject. If you want to know more please visit with the park rangers at the Petrified Forest, consult your local astronomer or astrophysicist. Neil deGrasse Tyson, anyone? If you are able to make it to the viewing please let us know about your experience.

Event Information:

Who:   You and your fellow meteor fans/knowledge seekers

What:  Meteor Shower Viewing

When: 7pm on May 7th

Where: Petrified Forest National Park – Chinde Point

Why:  Because you are curious

Park Contact Information: Kip Woolford   928-524-6288 x273

 

Adventure on Earthlings ~ Tiffany