A walk through Teufen, Switzerland

Above: Rolling hills occupied with farm houses and fields weave toward the Swiss Alps, July 24, 2013.

On the northern edge of the Swiss Alps, Teufen is one of many small villages situated along a rail line and parallel two-lane highway.  Quaint sights were common while walking the main road. Farms, fields, flowers and felines, mountains, meteorological stations, clouds and signs all spoke of Switzerland. 

Directly off the train a colorful sign post and Lambrecht Polymeter, a hygrometer-thermometer instrument that can measure humidity, dew-point temperature, saturation temperature and partial pressure of water vapor. 

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A short walk was abound with great sights.

Train to St. Galen

Above: Beautiful vineyards and lake landscape shot through a train window in Switzerland. When photographing from any moving object a fast shutter speed is the number one factor to a good image. This was shot at 1/800 of a second, f 5.6, ISO 400.

After taking the cable car to the top of Europe on the Aiguille du Midi it was time to change countries. A brief trip through Switzerland was next on the list.

In my post Train Station Stretch I talked about the pleasures of riding on trains. Fantastic, constantly changing scenery and a intimate view of locals living day-to-day often made getting from A to B very enjoyable. This train was en route to St. Galen, northern Switzerland.

Yukon Quest day one

Above: Straight down view from the parking garage during the start of the 2014 Yukon Quest international sled dog race.

The Yukon Quest kicked off February 1, a world famous 1,000 mile sled dog race between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon.  Dog teams pull sleds and handlers along the namesake Yukon River, up and down summits and through treacherous trails in some of the worst weather imaginable. A true endeavor for dog and man alike.

The race alternates start and finish between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, this year was Fairbanks. The Chena River in downtown Fairbanks is the usual starting spot, but due to unseasonably warm temperatures the ice was deemed unstable and the race started on 2nd Avenue. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people lined the street to send off racers.

I wasn’t on assignment so I casually photographed the race from the top of the parking garage. I love the chance to combine rugged dog mushing with a city scape – particularly from a high perspective. 

Rapid Ascent 2 – Aiguille du Midi

Above: Steep, craggy peaks dwarf a steady stream of climbers en route to Mont Blanc base camp. Sun flares intensify an already dramatic scene. July 23, 2013. 

My last post – Rapid Ascent 1 – took us to 7,800 feet. It was the first of two gondola rides, and the second climbs to 12,605 feet without a single support tower. The trip started early, at 6:30 a.m., and the line of mountaineers meant waiting for the third car. The views and sunrise proved well worth the wait.

The Aiguille du Midi – meaning “Needle of the Middle” – is the perfect start for someone trying to summit Mont Blanc, taking climbers to within 1000 meters of the 4,810 meter summit. Mont Blanc, translated into “White Mountain,” is the highest peak in Europe. 

There are multiple viewing platforms embedded in rock to challenge one’s vertigo. Cross a seemingly precarious steel-grate bridge, walk through a carved out mountain, and take an elevator to the highest point – “ohs,” and “ahs,” can be heard as people take pictures and peer over guard rails. Eye-filling views of Mont Blanc the incredible Alps make this a truly unique experience. 

The first viewing platform seen from the highest point -  the town of Chamonix nearly invisible in the background.

The first viewing platform seen from the highest point – the town of Chamonix nearly invisible in the background.

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Mont Blanc -Europe’s highest peak – fills the frame from the Aiguille du Midi, 3,842 meters. Note base camp in the lower left of the image.

A close-up of base camp on Mont Blanc. People, tents and walking paths mixed with the sheer scale of the mountain lend a very celestial feel.

A close-up of base camp on Mont Blanc. People, tents and walking paths mixed with the sheer scale of the mountain lend a very celestial feel.

Town of Adventure – Chamonix, France

Above: View of flower boxes, mountains and the river that runs through the town of Chamonix, France, July 20, 2013. 

Following the fantastic bike ride through Burgundy wine country, the adventure town of Chamonix, France, only 190 miles south-east, was a logical next stop. Surrounded by mountain fortresses, Chamonix is situated right on the border with Italy and Switzerland. It is perhaps the most accessible and popular gateway to explore the vast Alps.

Under foot a cold, silty, glacial-fed river bisects town. Overhead clouds veil and expose mountain peaks, gondolas whisk explorers in a web-like maze, climbers tackle treacherous peaks, and dozens of paragliders waft down and around in strong wind-currents.

The town itself is a resort town – crowded, lots of shopping, and lots of people tromping around in mountaineering gear. Needless to say the reason for visiting was not to explore then town – but the surroundings.  Those surroundings will be featured in future posts – particularly the Aiguille du Midi, an intense, two-gondola trip that ascends sheer-rock faces to an astounding 12,605 ft. (3,842 m,) in roughly 40 minutes.

Paragliders pepper the sky, cable-car wires hardly be seen stretching from one mountain peak to the other.

Paragliders pepper the sky, cable-car wires can hardly be seen stretching from one mountain peak to the other.

Being pulled on a bicycle through the main square in Chamonix, mountain peaks projecting in the background.

Being pulled on a bicycle through the main square in Chamonix, mountain peaks projecting in the background.

Beautiful Burgundy Bike – Sunset Scenery

Above: A tree silhouetted amongst wheat fields at sunset, Bourgognes region, France. 

It’s time for the third and final installment of the bike through Bourgognes region of france. Part One portrayed some of the many small villages and vast vineyards. Part Two  took a closer look at some of the facades of rural French architecture. Today we’ll take another look at Rochepot Castle, some dramatic scenery during a stunning sunset, and a  few more looks at grape vines. 

Unfortunately my Alaskan blood deals poorly with warm temperatures. The three liters of water I took was insufficient for 22 miles, and by the end I didn’t have any fluids to sweat out. The result was a suspected case of heat shock. All in all nothing too serious, does make me glad we waited to start the bike until afternoon when it was cooling off, rather then heating up in the morning. 

Beautiful Burgundy Bike – Facades

Above: Château de la Rochepot perched above Rochepot village. Parts of the castle date from the 13th century.

Believe it or not Château de la Rochepot is for sale – complete with drawbridge and barbican! The real estate listing has a lot interesting information and awesome photos, especially the meticulous tile roof. I would like to own a castle.

It’s time for Beautiful Burgundy Region Bike Ride – part two. Part one started us on a bike path leaving Beaune, Bourgognes. The 22-mile bike wound through beaucoup villages and vineyards on a hot and hazy July 17, 2013.

Fantastic architecture abound, culture seamlessly blended with scenery, and rolling hills like tides continually changed perspectives.