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In the Summertime

Summer started a couple of weeks ago, and it's finally starting to feel that way where I live. Whatever your weather, it's time to go out and see what you can find.

I tend to be a bit obsessive in researching potential destinations, but only put together a rough itinerary before leaving for a trip. Conditions on the ground end up dictating my exact route. As fickle as my weather may be, it's even less predictable in the mountains. The snow melts out differently every year. Some years, snow may still blanket Paradise Valley on Mt. Rainier, with not a wildflower to be seen. Other times, summer comes early, and the flowers may already be past their prime. But within some latitude, I can use elevation to find the stage of bloom I'm seeking, so it all works out. The more I learn about a place, the better I can predict things, but ultimately, I have to go with the flow.

In addition to what is available online, I have shelves of books and maps covering some areas. The printed page may seem old-fashioned today, but many back roads still have poor internet coverage. I like carrying a portion of my reference library with me. And I make it a point to stop at visitors' centers and ranger stations to see if I can add any suitable reference material to my pile. One would expect that every map of Mt. Rainier would show pretty much the same features, but each one is a bit different. I've discovered a couple of waterfalls and other landmarks after first seeing them on a new map. I like that.

Things can get crowded at popular destinations, what with schools out of session for the summer. I travel as light as possible and don't mind camping most anywhere to be close to the action without worrying about making reservations. If reservations are required where you're headed this summer, make them early. Or go some place less popular and become best friends with it. There are fascinating pictures to be made all over that aren't on every postcard. Consider having a backup plan as well to avoid disappointment. We've all learned that things have been a bit unpredictable in recent years.

It's nice to take a hot shower every few days, but I learned I had to choose between fine lodging and fine photographs long ago. The best hotels and restaurants don't tend to be located at the trailhead for prime photo locations. Or, if they are, they cost as much as a new telephoto lens. And if you stay in town where the amenities are, you're facing a long drive to that trailhead. But I sure do like to treat myself to dinner at the Paradise Inn while camping at Mt. Rainier or Klaloch Lodge when I'm on the Olympic Coast. A vacation shouldn't be all work and no play.

Spend some time cleaning and checking your gear before packing for your trip. There's nothing worse than finding out something isn't right only after arriving on site. And double-check that you have everything when you get to packing. It may sound like a lot of work, but it sure beats finding some problem the first time you take the lens cap off on your trip.

It's cloudy most of the winter in the Pacific Northwest. It's only now each year that we discover there's a big bright thing called the sun up in the sky. I'm exaggerating a bit here, but I do seem to forget something that should be equally obvious each year. I sunburn easily, yet at least every few years, I celebrate the start of the sunny season with a nasty burn by neglecting to use sunscreen. Whether this is a thing for you isn't necessarily my point. Remember to take care of yourself, not just your gear. It's all part of getting the most out of your time in the sun.

I couldn't get away this weekend myself, but I hope some of you could. As it says in the 1970s Mungo Jerry song that this article is named for, "in the summertime, when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky." Life's for living, so here's to grabbing your camera and taking a stretch.

Date posted: July 17, 2022


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