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Cool Pakul

Cool Pakul


Red Tide – Malibu

IMG_6798 - red tide


Eastbound and Down

I arrived in Los Angeles late last October with the idea of spending a few weeks before heading south to Baja for the winter and then working my way back east and home to Virginia. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. And I’ve been in LA ever since. I’ve yet to change my voting registration and driver’s license but I’ve come to think of this beautiful place as home. For a died-in-the-wool Virginian that’s hard to believe – but it is what it is. Still, there are places back east I need to be in the near future – principally my daughter’s wedding in September – and people scattered between here and there I need to see so next week after dawdling lo these many months in the SoCal sun I begin the long trek eastward.

One of my projects, not that I’m burdened with many, is to visit and photograph each of our National Parks at least once. There are 59 all told and so far I’ve taken in 27. Nine of those by the way are in California, the state which is home to the largest number of national parks. The trip back will consume 37 days primarily because I intend visiting a few more along the way. Eleven in fact. This project gets tougher as the number increases simply because at some point it’s no longer possible to drive to my destination: there are parks in America Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. And eight in Alaska!

I’ll figure it out.

For now I thought I’d share the itinerary in word and image:


  1. 10 July                       Depart Los Angeles, CA
  2. 10 – 12                       Mono Lake, CA
  3. 12                               South Lake Tahoe, CA
  4. 13                               Ely, NV – Layover Point
  5. 14                               Great Basin NP, Baker, NV
  6. 14 – 16                        Capitol Reef NP, Torrey, UT
  7. 16                               Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. 16 – 17                        Blanding, UT – Layover Point
  9. 17                               Hovenweep National Monument, UT
  10. 17 – 18                        Mesa Verde NP, Cortez, CO
  11. 18 – 19                        Heron Lake State Park, NM
  12. 19 – 22                        Taos, NM – Summer Writer’s Conference
  13. 22 – 23                        Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa, CO
  14. 23 – 25                        Black Canyon of Gunnison NP, Montrose, CO
  15. 25 – 27                        Rocky Mountain NP, Estes Park, CO
  16. 27 – 28                        Wind Cave NP, Custer, SD
  17. 28                                Badlands NP, SD – Stopover
  18. 28 – 29                        Jamestown, ND – Layover Point
  19. 29 – 31                        Voyageurs NP, International Falls, MN
  20. 31 July – 2 Aug            Isle Royale NP, Grand Portage, MN
  21. 2 – 3                             Ironwood, MI – Layover Point
  22. 3 – 4                             Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
  23. 4 – 5                             Saginaw, MI – Layover Point
  24. 5 – 6                             Parma Heights, OH – Layover
  25. 6 – 7                             Cuyahoga Valley NP, Brecksville, OH
  26. 7 – 12                           Elizabethtown, KY – Layover
  27. 12 – 14                         Great Smoky Mountain NP, Gatlinburg, TN
  28. 14 – 16                         Triad, NC – Layover
  29. 16 – 17                         UVA, Charlottesville, VA
  30. 17 Aug                         Arrive Reston, VA

The trip covers a little over 6,000 miles and will consume about 115 driving hours. I’m won’t get to spend as much time in each of the parks as I’d like but I know I’ll get back to many of them over the next several years.

I’m looking forward to visiting my longtime friends and maybe to making a few new ones along the way. More about the wedding later. For now I’ll just say I’m probably looking forward to it as much as any father does when it comes to his one and only (and favorite) daughter. But I’ve known my future son-in-law now for half a dozen years or more and he’s a wonderful young man. I’m sure AnnaSummer will mold him into something workable. 🙂

And next winter?  Baja, of course.


South Coast Botanic

I’ve come to find that Groupons lead me to places I might otherwise not find, or not find so easily. That’s certainly the case with South Coast Botanic. It popped up on a daily deal a couple of weeks back offering a one year family membership for $20. I’ve really come to enjoy visits to botanic gardens and arboretum so I took the deal.

It was a very good decision. For one, as you’ll see, this is an extremely well-presented garden and well worth the price of admission. As it is that $20 will allow for visits throughout the seasons – such as they are here in SoCal – for the next twelve months.

And a Bonus! It seems there are 23 reciprocating gardens located here in California and over a hundred throughout the country. My membership is good for all of them. If you’re in the area you might want to look into this. With or without a Groupon it’s hard to beat.

International Readers: Google “Groupon” 🙂

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe

The Pier at Sugar Pine Point


Pulled Into San Pedro Early One Night

I have to admit: Until last night my only exposure to the City of San Pedro came from a reference in a Commander Cody (and His Lost Planet Airmen) song published back in ancient times.  The town’s come up in conversation between Mitzi and me since  we’ve been scheduled off and on since February to go on a whale watching trip that launches from the harbor there. I guess I knew vaguely that San Pedro’s the sort of place that Jimmy Buffett would have, back in the day, referred to as a Pirate Town (Arrrrgggghhh), but that’s it.

Not exactly a Hot Rod Lincoln but you get the idea

Then came these photo walks. The previous post was about a walk I tagged onto in San Francisco mid-April and last weekend I participated in a Drink and Click (TM) walk around Old Downtown Los Angeles. These things are fun. And they are wonderful photog mixers. The photography community on Google + has embraced the concept full force.

Last night was a variation on that theme: The First Thursday Art Walk in Old Town San Pedro. And it was really a blast!

Tools Of The Trade

Unless you’ve lived on another planet for the past decade or so you know that these types of events have become regular affairs usually underwritten by the local Chamber for boosting interest and commercial return in the center city. There are First Fridays and Second Tuesdays and Fourth Wednesdays and so on in almost every town in the country. And though they’re not specifically designed to focus on the artist community, they usually do. Certainly that’s so when they’re “Art Walks”. And they are excellent excuses for doing photography.

Despite being aware of this trend and for that matter even having arranged participation at the one in Greensboro, NC for a local photography group  a couple of years (and a couple of lifetimes) past, I had never personally attended one – of any type. So I got through two firsts last night.

Well, really three firsts. Since I knew that most of my shooting would be in low light I equipped the camera with my 50 mm f/1.4 prime lens and committed to using it exclusively. I’d never done that before. (Thank you Dave Powell.) In fact I don’t use this lens very often, even though it’s the fastest one I own.  It worked wonderfully – when I did. Funny how that is. Since I had no personal experience, it’s hard for me to assess how well this event stacked up in comparison to other of its ilk, but I have a reasonably good idea the effort that goes into pulling it off. Impressive!

On The Air

There are art studios of various size and description everywhere within this roughly 3 square block area of Old Downtown San Pedro, with a few theaters and clubs scattered in their midst for good measure.

Last night food trucks ringed the place – a SoCal institution I’ve come to learn  – and taken as a whole it had much a carnival atmosphere.

The Principal Artist and Owner at Studio 347

The studio artists and owners were warm and welcoming and many of them had wine, cheese, cookies and the like awaiting our arrival. And they all had smiles. How they do it I’m not sure. Hundreds if not thousands of lookers wander through these places tediously asking  the same questions couched in different accents and perhaps one in a thousand of them buy anything. The business of art at this level is fun for the lookers and exceedingly annoying for the artists. But they abide. I have to admire that.

I should have asked what this window decoration was but I’ll leave it up to you.

For me it seemed a constant struggle between looking for a good shot – oh come on! Sorting through the tsunami of good shots available –  or getting completely immersed in the scene around me. Mitzi kept me moving. That helped.

I believe we spent the most amount of time at a place called The Loft at 4th and Mesa. It’s a four-story building devoted entirely to artists from Redondo Beach. They produce work in almost every medium imaginable. Truth is one could probably spend the entire evening in this  one spot. I could have spent much more time with Carol Hungerford. Didn’t, but it was tempting.

This is one of my favorite pieces from The Loft and it’s followed by one of my favorite shots on the walk.

Sunset Under Glass – rgharrison

All told this ran for three hours and we capped it off with dinner at Neil’s Pasta and Seafood Grill (recommended). AND,  one of the artists tipped us that on every Third Thursday on Main Street in Huntington Beach a similar event takes place.

Huntington Beach is yet another place I’ve wanted to get to. I was there only once, back in the 70’s, having been guided by a California Girl I met on a business trip. She drove a red Alfa Romeo Spyder, the sun shone in her exotic blue eyes and the wind made a magical streamer of her long blonde hair. Elton John was on the radio with Bennie and the Jets. Just one of those scenes that finds a comfortable spot in your head and, in my case. pops up anytime either Huntington Beach or Bennie and her electric boots and mohair suit are mentioned. They’ve probably changed Huntington a bit since then. I’m sure I’ll adjust.

If you’re so inclined, you can take in all the photos at

Thanks for dropping in! Come back again soon.