2015 Year In Review – Part 2

I hope that everyone enjoyed Part 1 of the 2015 Year In Review … but the year wasn’t over where we left off … oh no, far from it.  So make yourself comfortable and enjoy the ride of June through December.

“Road Trip!”  Not just any road trip, but a cycling one with friends across country and back.  First stop, Virgina.  There Tom, Todd, and John had the honor to represent Team USA in the 2015 World Police & Firefighter Games.  They were competing in the mountain biking and road cycling events.  I know that it was quite an honor to march in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Countries, featuring these skilled athletes from all over the world.DSC_4724Tom competed in the road criterium race and was awarded 3rd Place.  Not bad for a guy who doesn’t ever compete in road cycling events.  🙂  Shout out to his sponsor Tune Cycles in Boca Raton, FL.  DSC_3753In the mountain biking event, Tom took top honors and was awarded the Gold Medal for his effort.  A nice repeat from his last appearance at the World Games in Indianapolis, where he also finished first.  So proud of my World Champion hubby!  Yes, he’s my sherpa, but also quite the athlete.DSC_4812I never made it to the road race, since I had something even more important to do.  See, my daughter Kelli was having her “White Coat Ceremony” for her Physician Assistant program, so off I went to Jacksonville to support her honor.  Such a proud momma.  :-)MIMG_2677The guys continued on their way out west, stopping to ride the trails along the way.  I met back up with them in Park City, with much anticipation for some photo shoots, but the weather had other ideas.  Either way, it was gorgeous.DSC_4862No trip to Utah is ever complete with visiting the Moab area, especially if you’re with 3 cycling fanatics.  No worries, Arches NP and Canyonlands were just down the street for me.DSC_4886

While in Canyonlands NP, the guys mountain biked the Shafer Overlook Trail, a place Tom & I had visited before and I told him “no way, no how would I drive down that thing”.  Well, you guessed it, that’s just what I did … well, not me driving … thanks Rachel.DSC_5059On our way east again, we stopped at Grand Junction & Fruita, CO – also a mecca for cyclists.  For me, there was the beauty of the Grand Mesa area, as well as Colorado National Monument.  I have a feeling that we might be seeing more of this area again.DSC_5184DSC_5346-HDRMy only request on this road trip was Mt. Evans and those mountaintop mountain goats.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived to a closed sign for some major road repairs lasting months.  Since this was a cycling trip, Tom took one for the team and road the 15 mile winding road, in the high winds and cold, with about 4500 foot vertical elevation climb, all in an effort to get me those mountain goats.  What a guy!  IMG_2799-2IMG_0898The World Champion not only made it to the top, but got some world class images to prove it!  So grateful to him.DSC_5550Not having enough mountain climbing, Tom and his buddies decided to give Pikes Peak a try.  As you can see, the weather was threatening … wind, rain, sleet, snow … they had it all.DSC_5292Back in Colorado Springs, of course The Garden Of The Gods is a must.DSC_5351Along the way, we stopped along the Bourbon Trail, and I learned more about bourbon than I ever thought was possible!  Such an amazing process and beautiful countryside.DSC_5784When we returned home, it wasn’t long before our 9th return trip to … you guessed it … Alaska.  _DSC5938Katmai National Park & Preserve is always a MUST when making the journey out there and the bears didn’t disappoint.  Dave of AK Adventures and Wes of Beluga Air once again treated us to some spectacular inflight views and amazing bear encounters.DSC_6195DSC_7677DSC_8370Each visit to Alaska is so different from any other, so it always makes the trip exciting.  This year we were treated to very nice weather.  By that I mean, cold, but for the most part sunny._DSC3327Though we generally see the sea otters, seals, and sea lions while there, no previous encounters were of this level.  I mean, the marine life practically presented themselves to us… with their salmon offering as well.  🙂_DSC6332Now that I don’t “stalk” the aurora like I used to, I find that it presents itself more readily!  Probably the most spiritual phenomenon that I have ever witnessed, there’s nothing like witnessing the northern lights.  Sure, it’s frigid cold while out there, but honestly, I get carried away by natures light show and I don’t even feel it.  If I could wish something for everyone to witness, it would be the aurora borealis!DSC_6995We’re usually pretty lucky when it comes to seeing “the mountain” out in its full glory, this year was even more special.  See, we were there for the official return of the name “Denali” to the mountain (previously known as Mt. McKinley, though previously to that, Denali).  I felt so proud to be a part of that history and as you can see, the mountain was proud too and really showed off as if in graditude._DSC3553The moose rut season was getting close, as the bulls were almost shed of their velvet and congregating with the other bulls, all following the ladies.DSC_381413 days after returning home from Alaska, I had a special treat for myself in store … a return to Alaska.  This time, Kaktovik was my destination and the stars of my trip were the amazing polar bears of the arctic.  It was a dream of a lifetime and I had to pinch myself often to be sure that I was actually living that dream._DSC6749_DSC1471_DSC9445_DSC7514If I had two more wishes, I would have wished that Tom was there with me.  No, not to carry my gear, but to experience their beauty, silly antics, and share in the awe of it all.  The other wish would be that everyone could also see the polar bears of the arctic and judge for themselves the importance of preserving their home for them and us as well.  Hey, you can, as we did, see the northern lights there too, so it could be just one trip!  🙂_DSC0014OK, now I’m feeling a bit spoiled … but we also treated ourselves to some autumn glory, as seen off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ashesville, NC area.  Such a treat to this Florida girl._DSC4161_DSC4136Yes, 2015 was a dream come true on all levels.  Now that I have more time to fully enjoy travel, photography, and personal business pursuits, who knows where the road will lead.  Life is such a journey … its path is often unknown … its duration is even more unsure.  The only thing that I know for certain is that I will live life to the fullest and challenge myself with new experiences and adventures along the way.  It will be hard to top 2015, but … “challenge accepted”.  Thanks to all who made 2015 possible and shared moments with us along the way … especially Jen, Liz, Jess, Amy M, Cris, Kathleen, Kim, Kelli & Mitchell, Nicole, Violet, Bob, Maria, Todd, John, Rachel, Amy H, Rick, Dave, Phil, Rebecca, Renee & Al, Alex & the gang from Kaktovik, Kem & John, my mom & Murray, and of course, Tom.

Here’s to 2016!

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Next Up:  More from Alaska

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy     (www.tnwaphotography.com)

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Autumn … What’s That?

In celebration of the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays, I thought that I would take a break and share some fall inspired images.  See, having grown up, for the most part, in south Florida, I really have never been accustomed to extreme seasonal changes.  By “extreme”, I pretty much mean “any” seasonal changes, for I have basically 2 seasons … hot & muggy or slightly less hot & slightly less muggy.  I wish I was joking.  🙂

Some friends of ours had recently moved to North Carolina and we’ve been trying to get up there for a visit, but I never had the time of work.  Now, I do (#TYN), so we timed our trip to coincide with the fall color explosion of the Appalachian Mountains.  Boy, did we ever time it just right!  Our first drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway, we were greeted to scenes like this …_DSC3943 _DSC3947 Those color burst of red, oranges, yellows, and some still green were such a reward for any outdoor activities in which we indulged.  We decided to hike the Devil’s Courthouse Trail, which our friends (John & Kem) promised we give us a great viewpoint to see the colorful landscape.  The hike was a bit challenging, though not a long hike, so it was good … even for my sensitive foot.  It was definitely worth the effort!  As an added bonus, it was also nice and cool, which Tom & I greatly appreciated._DSC3868 _DSC3859 _DSC3879

A few days later, Tom & I got up really early one morning to catch the pre-sunrise hour, as well as the early monring light.  The clouds were out more than they had been the two earlier days._DSC3903

It was fascinating to see the beautiful colors lighting up those clouds in the sky.

_DSC3959Again, the variety of colors present was mind-boggling.  I found that the only way to capture it was by a “look up to the sky” perspective.  So beautiful.  At one point, Tom & I just parked underneath a canopy of trees and waited for the wind to blow and rain its leaves upon us.
IMG_0152 Yes, there was beauty all around and I wondered … do I really have to leave in the near future?  I found myself trying to soak it all in and nourish the soul._DSC4012 _DSC4031Every time we would leave their gorgeous cabin home, this was our view down their driveway.  So very beautiful!
IMG_0149 The tall trees, so golden, reddish, and orange-ish, were signaling the seasonal changes of the area.  In a symphony of falling leaves all around us, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be until the last leaf finally dropped … how it would look … and when it would begin to blossom again with the green of spring and summer.IMG_0171

The guys, avid mountain and road cyclists, were usually off cycling somewhere.  One day we went to Bent Creek Experimental Forest and I ventured off on my own for some exploration.  I have to admit that I was a bit taken back though because there was a plethora of signs about the bear hunt taking place most of the year and warnings about staying on trail and wearing bright colored clothing.  I looked down at my black vest and dark gray shirt … and my gray pants.  I hoped that I would be OK and seriously doubted that there would be any bears, since we had been seeing lots of hunters seemingly everywhere.  It was at that moment I thought of our own bears in Florida who were about to undergo their own bear hunt … don’t even get me going on that one.

_DSC4129 I was fine on my hike and the next day, we all hiked together on the Dupont Forest Trails, which connect 3 beautiful waterfalls along the way and amidst the fall colored landscape.IMG_0180 IMG_0179

Yes, it was a wonderful, yet brief, week of visiting with some very good friends, good food, lots of laughs, and who could forget, all of that fabulous fall landscape.  Ahh, it was wonderful!  🙂
IMG_0184Thanks so much to John & Kem for hosting us … it was a blast and we will be back!  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Next up:  More from Alaska!!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography