DREAMING ABOUT SPERRY CHALET

Yesterday, I got the text from Zach's mom. Sperry Chalet lodge, after standing strong for more than 100 years up in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, has burned down. My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach and I jumped online to try and find out what had happened. It turns out firefighters have been fighting a lightning-sparked fire near the chalet and Lake McDonald for the past two weeks, and it finally succumbed to the flames yesterday. So sad.

Exactly two years ago today, we had the great fortune of hiking up to this magical place and spending two nights. Built in 1912 by the Great Northern Railway and opened the following year to guests, Sperry Chalet has provided a base for hikers heading up to see the amazing Sperry Glacier for 100+ years. A National Historic Landmark, the chalet was built from simple rock, rubble, and timber in an homage to the alpine architectural style that the Railway was using for all of its buildings in the area: Montana would be the Switzerland of North America.

 

On our previous trip to Glacier, we stayed with Zach's parents at the more rustic of the Great Northern Railway chalets - Granite Park. At Granite Park, they provide communal facilities in which you can pack in your meals and prepare them yourself, as well as participate in fun ranger-led talks every night. All aspects of the trek are more family-friendly, including the hike in via the Highline Trail which is about 8 miles and less than 1000' of elevation gain.

Sperry Chalet, on the other hand, feels luxurious by comparison - or at least as luxurious as anything can feel when bear-proof pit toilets are in the equation. While rustic, the accommodations are full service - beds and linens provided in the main lodge, along with full catering and hearty mountain fare prepared by the friendly staff in the separate kitchen building. Hot breakfasts, lunches packed for you to take on your hike, freshly-baked homemade cookies and pies, delicious multi-course dinners - the works. It's backcountry hiking at its ultimate best, even if you have to think really long and hard about that 2am emergency hike to the bathroom.

Each night we were there, we drank hot chocolate and apple cider, played games until late and listened to stories from other guests about how they've been coming to Sperry for 20+ years with their families. The chalet is so well-loved.

The best part of Sperry - beyond the delicious meals and friendly staff - was its location. The hike in is about 3500' up over 7 miles, and we shared the trail with the pack horses that bring supplies up to the chalet. Another 4 miles and 2000' above is Sperry Glacier, and one of the most stunning day hikes I've ever experienced, including a run of granite stairs dynamited out of the side of the mountain. We made the trip at the end of the season, which provided awe-inspiring vistas and dramatic fog. I'm so grateful to have experienced this amazing place and so thankful for all those who tried to save it.

Here's to the Sperry Chalet rebuild so future generations can see the few glaciers left in the park, and experience the humbling beauty of places such as these.

All photos shot with either my Nikon D750 or my iPhone.

DRIVING DOWN THE COAST OF PORTUGAL

Last year, I took a little trip to Portugal and thought Lisbon was the bee's knees. And yes - it's a super cool city with endless design shops, amazing food, and plenty of sunshine. I can't wait to find a good excuse to go back. But what I might've left out was how completely in love I fell with the countryside down south in Alentejo and along the Algarve coast.

 

On our way south from Lisbon, we stopped at every parque natural we could find and every last one was as gorgeous as the last. Coming home every night to a farm in Odemira, we explored the coast from Sines to Lagos. We hiked out to see the pounding surf and took long walks along the dunes. We drove through so many tiny whitewashed villages and took the long way home. We ate simply grilled fish and hearty seafood stews. Did I mention the wine?

You should find an excuse to go there, too. Be still my heart.

All photos shot with either my Pentax 645N & Kodak Portra 400 or my iPhone.

Portra just loves that Portuguese sunshine.

HIKING IN OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

Last November, I traveled to Seattle for the first time to help out with a new client for work. Though I've passed through the airport a number of times, I'd never actually gotten out and explored the area and all it has to offer - despite the encouragement of one of my closest photo-friends Peter, who packed up and headed from Brooklyn to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago. By the way - if you're not following his work or the adventures he and Emily have with their dog Aldo - you're totally missing out!

I made a snap decision to extend my trip into a long weekend and head west to explore at least one of the many national parks in the Seattle area. I also realized I could intercept the months-long road trip of my friend Jen, who has been a great partner in crime over the years as we have headed to crazy places like Alaska and Portugal. After getting a resounding 'Yes, let's go!' from Jen, and a successful round of client meetings, we decided to head for the hills and go exploring!

 

After hopping in the car on a Saturday morning and taking the ferry across to Bainbridge Island for an early brunch at Cafe Nola, we headed into the National Park and stopped into the lovely visitor's center at Hurricane Ridge. While some unexpected early-season snow (and a lack of on-duty plows) prevented us from making the drive up to see the ridge, we were content to drive through the dramatic mist and fog to check in at one of the few hotels inside the national park - the Lake Crescent Lodge.

The lodge is situated on the banks of the glacially carved Lake Crescent, and its water has very low nitrogen levels which results in exceptionally blue waters. We took a couple of lovely walks around the lake and enjoyed the gorgeous views - what an incredible place. Dinner at the lodge was also a great opportunity to catch up on lots of road trip news and plan our route for the next day. After lots of conversation to the tune of 'what am I going to do when I grow up?' (see also: extended road trip), we decided to start the next day with a short rainforest walk near the lodge, and then make the long drive down the bay roads to the lesser-visited southeastern part of the park. Our destination would be the Staircase entrance. 

Along the way, we stopped at lots of little state parks and bay beaches like Pleasant Harbor, Seal Rock and Triton Cove to enjoy the scenery. Lunch included a stop for some delicious Mexican at a tiny spot with an incredible view called El Puerto de Angeles. After fueling up, we drove back into the park at the Staircase entrance and laced up our hiking boots. We explored the North Fork of the Skokomish River for a few hours, including a hike out to see the Staircase Rapids and 4 Stream trails. Waterfalls, rapids, suspension bridges, old cedar forests - it was such a great reminder of the rejuvenating power of nature.

After getting our hike in, we drove back along the beautiful Lake Cushman at sunset, and as the light slowly faded, our last treat was to see incredible colors on our way back into the city. More to come about our adventures in Seattle!

All photographs shot with one of my crazy vintage cameras and expired film. Just kidding. IPHONE 6, BABY!