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A glimpse of New York City

This is New York, or at least a glimpse of it.  In a city this dense, it feels that one might never explore all of her nooks and crannies, so here I’ll focus on the city itself.  A post on the culture of food and drink will be saved for another time on Liquid Meets Solid.

NYC Approach

First sight of New York City.  This moment had a strange excitement to it that isn’t always there when arriving in a new city.  There is an immediate sense of familiarity, probably from the city’s prominent place in western culture.

Jersey City shore

Flying into Newark, we spent a couple nights in Jersey City.  Located just across the Hudson River from New York City, there are beautiful views of west Manhattan’s iconic skyline all along the shore.

Hudson River fish evidence

Evidence that there is still life in the Hudson River.

Statue of Liberty

Obligatory Lady Liberty photo, from Liberty Park.

Freedom Tower in the clouds

The peak of the Freedom Tower comes in and out of view high up in the rolling clouds.

NYC subway

The subway system proved to be a good way to get around.  A quick ride through the PATH tunnel and we found ourselves in the bustle of Manhattan proper…

Brooklyn brownstone houses

…and from there it was just a short (albeit disorienting) ride to Brooklyn.  Emerging from the underground after a twisting, unfamiliar route tends to throw off one’s sense of direction.  Here, we dropped our bags in a classic brownstone and set up base camp for the rest of the trip.

Fresh eggs

One of the many charms of our new home was fresh eggs from the backyard.

Backyard chicken coop

The egg creators…

Breakfast in the sun

…and the egg cooker.  Most mornings we enjoyed breakfast in our host’s sunny backyard.  It was wonderful to have a sanctuary to come home to after long days exploring the city.

Central Park entrance sign

Central Park was a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, but I imagine it’s only the tourists that would get lost: be sure to get your bearings upon entering Central Park, as it’s easy to get turned around on its many winding trails.

Central Park sheep meadow

Grass and sky, people and buildings.  Central Park is right in the center of bustling Manhattan.  Opened in 1857, it is a remarkable transformation of 778 acres of swampland into a much appreciated refuge.

Central Park Carousel

Despite the modern culture takeover, bits of New York City’s past are still scattered around the city.  Here, a carousel from Coney Island’s heyday is still used, though now it resides in Central Park.

Metropolitan Museum Entrance

At the eastern edge of Central Park stands the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Indicative of the collection within the walls, incredible pieces of art stand above the entrance.  Every nook and cranny is packed with a treasure here…

Metropolitan Museum Map

…and there are a lot of nooks and crannies!  In the entire time we spent here we only saw two small sections of the museum: the Lost Kingdoms exhibit and the Japanese wing.  It seems to be a central theme of New York: there is so much to see, but you never will see it all.

Lone people wander the collections.

This labyrinth is a perfect place to wander in wonder all by yourself, and let your imagination take you all over the world.

Almost Manhattanenge - Taxi in Manhattan

Most days, street level in Manhattan is shrouded in shadows of looming buildings.  Twice a year, on what is known as Manhattanhenge, the sun aligns with the east-west streets and lights up the streets at sunset.  This photo was taken at sunset three days before Manhattanhenge, and you can see hints of the light that will emanate from the west.

Fleet Week in NYC

Active military ships recently deployed in overseas operations dock for some fun every year during Fleet Week, and this time New York City was the port of choice.  It wasn’t uncommon to see sailors wandering the streets in their garb (or to have a local girl walking hand-in-hand wearing one of their hats)!

Times Square

People and lights of Times Square.

Times Square Photographers

The slow-motion video ads above and bustling crowds below were an odd dichotomy.  I found myself more interested in the people than the lights and advertising.

Times Square - Fun Family Photo

Seriously, Times Square is a great place for people watching.

Times Square to Coney Island

Foot weary, we hopped on the subway to escape to Coney Island and take a break from the big city.

Swing amusement park ride

Coney Island feels like a place that is stuck in time.

Old and Modern Technology

Upon closer examination however, there are blends of old and modern technology.

Painting the Tilt-a-whirl sign

Still, that old attention to detail prevails.

Fishinig on Coney Island

Beyond the amusement parks, boardwalk, and beach is the pier.  Residents push their carts, pedal their bicycles and tote their fishing rods, lining the edges to try their hand at catching some lunch.

Superstorm Sandy Relief Tile Mural Project

Birds feed next to a Superstorm Sandy Relief Tile Mural Project.  Coney Island was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  The indomitable spirit of its residents is evidenced here: in this particular project seniors involved in community rebuilding each created a tile to contribute to this art installation one year after the hurricane.

The Rockefeller Building

After a meandering afternoon on Coney Island, back to the big city we went, particularly the Rockefeller Building – 30 Rock for all of you fans of the television show.  The top of this building is recommended as the best rooftop lookout in New York City.  Moreover, I would add that it is well worth paying the extra $10 to take the hour-long guided tour around the neighbourhood: there is a lot of history and art to this part of New York, and it is great to have someone share its stories.

Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.

“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” -Isaiah 33:6
The immortalization of this Bible verse above one of the Rockefeller entrances is indicative of the optimism and sincerity that people felt about the emergence of radio and television communication.  If they were still around, the founders might frown upon what kind of things are being glorified on television these days.

Turn to clear vision

Turn to clear vision.

Top of the Rock - Overlooking Central Park

After a tour of Rockefeller Centre, we enjoy the rooftop view.  From above, it is even more evident how Central Park defines Manhattan.

Empire State Building in distance

The Empire State Building draws the eyes.

Top of the Rock - Looking out to Empire State Building

Looking from one rooftop to another.

Vertical Panorama from the Top of the Rock

Buildings sprouting up in every direction.

View on Central Park at night

As the sun falls, the city lights appear.

NYC skyline at night

After walking the streets for many days, getting above it all helps give perspective on its sheer density.

Brooklyn ferry

Impressed but overwhelmed by Manhattan, we spent some time exploring Brooklyn.  A ferry took us from one Brooklyn port to another, affording a view of Manhattan from the east side.

Love locks on fence

Love locks and the tall masts of Manhattan.

Brooklyn Bridge walkway

A pedestrian walkway over the Brooklyn Bridge from which to enjoy our last glimpse of the big city.

Brooklyn Bridge view of Manhattan

The yellow taxicabs and skyline that define New York.

Brooklyn Bridge Panorama

One final panoramic look at Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Homeward bound flight

Homeward bound for a city that seems smaller than when we last left it.

July 23, 2014 - 7:21 am

Karenia - Interesting photo essay… it does seem like a place that would overwhelm. My favourite image (although one of the simpler ones) was the fish sign with the real fish overlayed.

The road to California: Desert.

Heading south from Montana, mountains give way to plains, plains give way to canyons, and finally the canyons give way to desert.  Elevation drops, temperature rises, and RVs start to fill up the campgrounds everywhere.

Desert edge at sunrise.

After spending a while in the mountains, the desert sunrise was a happy surprise.  Big skies here, just like on the prairies.

Runaway truck ramp. 1/2 mile.

Continuing south past Salt Lake City, Utah, we were surprised by the long steep grades on the highways. Every few miles were runaway truck ramps – emergency exits so that trucks that ran into brake problems could run themselves into a large pile of sand, stopping a little more gracefully than the alternative of reaching mach speeds as they continued downwards on the never-ending road.

Ground opens to canyons.

Then, all of a sudden the ground opened up into canyons carved by ancient rivers. It was amazing how quickly the landscape changed throughout Utah; every hour of driving, completely different scenery.

"New" luggage at Scipio Merc.

“New” luggage at Scipio Merc.  A random stop at the only shop in Scipio (population: 80) yielded new luggage for me.  One of them would eventually necessitate a reupholstery project, but otherwise these relics were in great shape.  “Ms. Pierson” of Salt Lake City (the old luggage tag still had her address on it) took good care of them in their previous lives.

Summer is for family road trips.

A boy takes a photo of the meandering road that now slips through Spotted Wolf Canyon.  For years, this edge of the San Rafael Reef blocked explorers, the railroad, pretty much everyone except the few who were able to navigate its slot canyons.  A massive undertaking n the 1970s made this 8-mile stretch of road a reality.  Engineers and surveyors used harnesses and ropes to work as much as 400 feet off the canyon floor during the three year excavation.

Entering Arches National Park.

Entering Arches National Park, Utah.

Varied desert landscape.

Again, I never expected the desert landscape to be so varied.

Late light, driving through the desert.

In reality, driving distances often are much longer than they appear on the map, especially when taking scenic routes.  As the sun set, we were unable to find anywhere to pitch our tent – the campground was full of RVs.

Desert portrait against stone.

Trying not to worry too much about where we’d spend the night, we still took advantage of the beautiful waning light.  Arches is set up to be a great place to see from your car, with short hikes off the road to various attractions.  Normally these would be packed, but since it was late in the day, people were few and far between.  There is something very humbling about walking through this extreme landscape.

Emerging from slot canyon at sunset.

Emerging from a sandstone slot canyon at sunset, we decided to roll into Moab, a small town a few minutes from Arches.  With its bright lights blazing through our dusty windshield, we were hopeful in finding a hotel room for the night.  Stumbling into the closest Super 8, the manager gave us last room in the place, at a late night discount.  And what a suite: with a living room, internet, air conditioning, a bathtub to clean our weary feet (and do our laundry too!), and a bed, it felt like a palace after weeks on the road.

Wilson Arch at noon.

Wilson Arch at noon.  That’s right, we slept in.

Hog Spring oasis.

This spot of green is Hog Spring Oasis, Utah.  It is amazing how so much life can survive on just a little water.  I would have loved to explore this area more, but it was very remote and not well marked.  Best to come back with a map one day.


Ancient petroglyphs.

Forest above the desert.

Approaching Bryce Canyon, Utah, we were again surprised by a lush forest: in gaining just a little bit of elevation, the climate changed dramatically.

Caution: stay left.

Caution: stay left.

Desert, sky, and a winding road.

Desert, sky, and a winding road.

Bryce Canyon at night.

After a late night camp setup, our first glimpse of Bryce Canyon was well after dark.  We headed over to Sunset Point with our headlamps to see what we could see.  To the human eye, it was nothing but black.  But with a long exposure on my camera we were able to glimpse what lay beyond the edge of the canyon on the back of the little LCD screen.

Bryce Canyon, night and day.

Bryce Canyon, night and day.

Bryce Amphitheater.

Looking up along the Wall Street section of the Navajo Trail.

Douglas fir tree in slot canyon.

A Douglas fir tree reaches for sunlight high above the slot canyon.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel window.

Next stop: Zion National Park, Utah, and its towering canyon walls that can be glimpsed through a window in the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

Zion National Park road.

This road is incredible.

Choose your walking stick.

If you take a shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, the furthest stop in Zion’s vehicle restriction area, you will find a nicely groomed trail along the riverside.  After a couple miles, a set of stairs leads into the river and a sign warns you of the flash flood forecast.  This is the bottom of The Narrows, and the point where you choose a walking stick to help you ford your way up the slot canyon from here.

Walking The Narrows.

Happy to be out of the car and on our feet.  After days in the desert, the cool water was much appreciated.

Hiking The Narrows.

Being late in the day, and with the light fading quickly, we had The Narrows almost completely to ourselves.

Deer approaches in The Narrows.

On our way out we stopped for a quiet moment as a deer approached us.

Deer in The Narrows.

The ardent hiker came quite close as he passed by.

The road to Death Valley.

Onward to Death Valley, California.

Car temperature rising.

Death Valley was experiencing record temperatures, and we crossed through during the high heat of the day.  Combined with the daunting warning sign of no services over the next 200 miles of extremity, or some ridiculous number like that, we drove very carefully and kept a close watch on the car gauges.  Here, the outside temperature maxed out at 48 Celsius.

Badwater Basin.

After hours of driving and seeing only two other vehicles, we were relieved to come upon people at Badwater Basin.  This salt flat is the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, wide.

Given the heat, we didn’t stop and get out of the car much in Death Valley.  Even in the car the heat was near unbearable since we couldn’t drive with the air conditioning on or risk overheating the motor.  This is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the only stop we made for a short hike.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, footprints.

I have heard motorcyclists describe a hot wind before, but here was the first place I experienced it.  The idea is that when the temperature rises past a certain point, the effect of the wind switches from being cooling to heating.  At 48 Celsius and with an 80 km/h wind, it felt like we were in a convection oven.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, abstract.

But beauty tends to go hand in hand with extremity.  One day I will have to go back and spend a longer time in this National Park.  Besides the two main roads, much of this place is inaccessible unless you have a 4×4 with a few spare tires, or the will to hike it on foot (night hikes may be the solution).


Out of Death Valley and into the California’s Central Valley, a random intersection stop amidst seemingly endless fruit orchards yielded the best burritos that have ever graced our lips.  Tony’s Tacos: eating with the Mexican field workers was definitely one of the best roadside stops of the entire trip.  Oddly, the name tag on the fellow working the truck read “Rick”.  It will forever be a mystery who really served us.

Previous: Mountains.
Next: Land of the Giants. (coming soon!)

If winter was a feeling.

“Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
-Yoko Ono

A couple months ago, my partner and I sought out respite from the urban jungle and holed up in a quiet cabin in the woods.  When a storm blew in, quiet quickly became isolation.  Footprints were covered, visibility all but disappeared, and even the birds were nowhere to be found.  But with nature as our entertainer, and a large pile of firewood just a short walk away from the cabin, we settled in to be humbled by the power of the elements.

A few weeks ago I put together a photoessay on different perspectives of winter, which covered these same moments:

With all the movement in the scenes, it only seemed natural to capture it in video as well.  And so, here is some b-roll of a season that sends shivers down my spine.  Enjoy!

April 25, 2014 - 6:43 am

Karenia - Shivers is right… this really grabbed me by the way.

Winter perspectives.

This year, winter in Winnipeg has been brutal.  I have held off on this post for a while now, because the cold is one of those things that you really don’t want to draw attention to, at least while you’re still going through it.  Instead, it’s better to just focus yourself on getting through it day by frigid day, breath by frosty breath.

But – we survived!  I sat on the frozen riverbank just the other morning basking in the sun’s forgotten warmth, and it seriously felt like I was getting a tan at -4 Celsius.

But for all its extremity, winter is also beautiful and should be appreciated.  If nothing else, the contrasting season makes us appreciate the others even more.  The presence of the birds and squirrels;  the smell of the thaw; the feel of the wind on bare skin…these small things are a sensory delight after months of hibernation.

For respite, a lot of people living here follow the birds’ lead and fly south to the Caribbean, to lay on the beach and have a love affair with the sunshine.  Contrarily, I like to rent a cabin in the woods and find a quiet beauty next to the perpetually stoked wood stove.  This year was exceptionally cold, with temperatures hovering between -40 and -25 Celsius, not even accounting for the wind gusting to 80 km/h.  Humbled, through the windows we watched visibility come and go, thankful for our warm little sanctuary.

Desolate Prairie Highway

Who says driving on the prairies always induces yawns?  A road that drifts in and out of view certainly keeps you alert.

Distant island, sometimes visible.

Arrived at the cabin, a distant island fades in an out of view as gusts of wind whip snow up on Falcon Lake.

Ski trail closed.

Despite the conditions board still saying that this cross country ski trail was groomed and good shape, I think the trail was closed for the day.

Sun shadows across windswept ice.

After a day of stormy weather, a high pressure system settled. Despite the rays, the temperature plummeted even further. Notice the trail marker in the bottom right. Also notice the lack of trail amidst the shadows cast across the windswept ice.

Frosty Thermometer

The air temperature reads -35 degrees Celsius at this point. It’s cold out there. And no, that’s not even the lowest we saw the mercury drop.

Icicles on roof

Icy contrast.

Warmth in a coffee cup.

We actually spent quite a bit of time outside, but knowing we could return to a warm and cozy cabin to warm our bones sure helped. A good cup of coffee every day was also part of the thawing-out routine.

Bare footprints in snow.

It was a cold dash to the hot tub on the porch…

Winter hot tubbing.

…but once settled in it was so worth it.

Falcon Trails Sunset Cabin.

Falcon Trails’ Sunset Cabin at sunset. It is nicely nestled in amongst the trees and wildlife.

Outer layers.

A solid outer layer is essential. So is a base layer and something thick in the middle. Getting dressed takes a considerable amount of time in the winter.

Snowshoeing together.

We knew of a shelter on the edge of High Lake, and decided to snowshoe out to it one day. Look, we made it!

Blue jay watching.

Usually there are lots of birds in this area, even in the winter. This year only the larger birds were out though – I think the smaller ones would have blown away had they done the same. Here, a blue jay watches closely through the falling snow.

Snow, on snow, on snow.

Snow, on snow, on snow. Watching it slowly accumulate.

Snow drifts.

Snow drifts form miniature skylines everywhere you look.

A moody sunset.

A moody sunset to bid us farewell.

Northern Lights Vertical

Despite the cloudy horizon, the Northern Lights were still dimly visible.  Their whimsical dancing made me realize just how long it has been since I have seen a good Aurora show on a dark sky.

Northern Lights Wide

A lone cabin on the horizon lit against the sky, also lit.

Stoked wood stove.

And of course, our perpetually stoked wood stove that warmed our hands and dried our clothes many times over these days.

March 26, 2014 - 5:18 pm

Chuck Leibert - Stillness is much appreciated this day.

March 31, 2014 - 1:24 pm

Dimitri Tishchenko - These are beautiful!

April 1, 2014 - 10:05 am

Fran Gropp - How stunning!