On the second of my two trysts with New Zealand, one enclave in particular attracted my attention, despite the weather being uncooperative both days of my stay. This year, when I should be galavanting around Europe to take in all I can before I commit myself to the insane asylum of localizing a manufacturing line to Charleston, I admitted defeat to there being too many unvisited places in Europe and booked a flight to New Zealand instead. I landed scrutinizing a rain shower and double rainbows to the north, but Auckland airport — and my luggage — remained, incredibly, dry.
The Dolomites might have been the first mountain range after “the Alps” and the North Cascades that entered my vocabulary, but for one reason or another I really haven’t been able to bring myself there. I visited Vinschgau in 2015, and it turns out the western flank of the Dolomites ends more or less at the valley the eastern edge of Vischgau runs into. This time, instead of finding myself facing the Ortler group, I was instead looking at the Geisler group. Figuring out the nomenclature and geography of this area might have been the most confusing exercise in map-poring ever: my hotel was in the Aferertal, or Valle die Eores in Italian, which runs parallel to the Villnößtal, or Val di Funes. Both valleys are part of the broader Eisacktal, or Valle Isarco, which joins with the Etschtal (Val d’Adige) as the primary separation between the South Tyrolean Alps and their Vinschgau region to the west and the Dolomites to the east. Small world, multiple languages… endless Alps.
They call Singapore a “little red dot,” a reference to how it looks on some maps as being no bigger than a pinhead south of Malaysia. There’s an archipelago, however, whose locator dot nearly obliterates the islands from the map; halfway longitudinally between Norway and Iceland, north even of the Shetland Islands, are the Faroe Islands. More or less centered around 62° N latitude, this remote cluster of dots is supposed to be a hidden treasure in the North Atlantic. Eager to explore destinations laughably impractical from the US while I’m still in Europe (n.B.: Singapore, of course, is not at all laughably impractical), I set out northbound from Munich the day after I arrived back from my work trip to China.
Thirty days of vacation sounds like — and is — a lot of time off, and to prevent everyone from requesting the same thirty days we need to plan our vacation for the year by January 31. It’s no surprise that planning this far out means the weather doesn’t cooperate with intention, so fittingly despite my wishes to go visit that wily alpine lake on a long weekend in late September, the forecast just days before the approaching time off didn’t look so positive. I was stuck between expensive airplane tickets to somewhere in Europe or sitting still and using the long weekend for rest. I probably should have chosen the second. As it turns out, I wanted rather neither, and ended up driving ten hours to Croatia and its deep turquoise lakes instead.
It’s been two years since I was last in Europe, and there are certainly things I miss about it: the camaraderie, the beer, the bread, the exact pricing on store shelves, die Autobahnen, a lack of humidity. Oh, and the mountains. So it was with great anticipation that I left for my lead plant in the middle of June.
It seems that everywhere I go, I end up chasing the sun — either as a sunrise or sunset, it’s almost a sure bet that I’ll be pining to be at “the” right spot for a photo. As pervasive as digital photography is today, it’s quite easy for someone to be at the right spot at the right time of the right day: but going out of town with the goal of taking a certain photo can always be elusive.
It wouldn’t be me to give up on a sunrise photo, however, so I decided I’d give it attempt this trip, too. The forecast predicted clearing on Friday and Saturday, and with my being unable to get out of bed at 2:30 AM on Friday my only chances for a sunrise photo at Mt. Rainier were for Saturday. Chinook Pass — one of my favorite spots in the Park — opened just after noon on Friday, so it was there that I planned to take a sunrise photo; ideally, with Tipsoo Lake in the foreground. I hadn’t visited this quiet version of Paradise since August 11, 2007, but my goal had one small flaw: in late May 2012, Tipsoo was still under 13′ of snow.
At the University of Illinois, “North of Green” refers to the College of Engineering — the biggest college that is, naturally, north of Green Street. I actually enjoyed my time in classes that were south of Green. It was nice to be able to exercise more than just formulae and mathematics and physics; it was relaxing to practice French, or have gymnastics Tuesdays and Thursdays for an entire semester. Football games and most flash frisbee mobs were south of Green.
Norway is not.
I got the urge to go to Norway with the coaxing of [mostly] two people. One has a blog that I’ll mention in a future post — probably tomorrow or Wednesday — and the other is generally a travel buff who encouraged me to enjoy travel and not focus only on the cost of the trip. When I figured out I could get to and around Norway for less than I had originally anticipated, I jumped on the chance. Weather was an unknown, total trip cost was an unknown, what exactly I would do — other than the reason I wanted to go in the first place — was an unknown. Whether I would be able to see the Northern Lights was an unknown. Sounded like a good engineering problem, then: lots of unknowns and just a few assumptions to go on.
I landed in Tromsø, the Gateway to the Arctic, sometime after 9:30 PM on a cold, drizzly Friday night. I had been on three planes already, none of them Boeing, so I took a picture of a Boeing plane. Midnight sun had ended nearly a month ago, but even this late it was still quite light out.