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By the Light of the Moon

Pear Lake - Sequoia National Park (CA)

Normally when one thinks of Sequoia national park, they think of massive redwood trees. It has those, but a good 85% of the park is mountainous backcountry wilderness dotted with high alpine lakes. It's an amazing place to backpack, so I figured why not do my first backpacking trip ever here? It was 11.7 miles round trip with 3000 feet of elevation gain and considered "difficult." It was really funny - within 50 feet of starting my bear canister full of our food fell off my pack and punctured a hole in a can of coffee I brought, causing everything to be covered in sticky brown liquid. Great start to the trip! Luckily we were able to just go back to the car and clean it up. After that, it went well most of the way and the views were absolutely breathtaking. Toward the end I wasn't doing so hot and I was woozy and felt like passing out. We had just gotten to camp where I ate a meal and drank a lot of water, and then I felt better. We arrived a couple hours before sunset, so I decided to take a nap. When I woke up, the first thing I saw when I looked out of the tent was a gorgeous display of alpenglow - these peaks were glowing orange. I'd always seen photos of it but suspected that they were somewhat edited to look like they were glowing orange - but no, they really do glow orange and it's a sight to behold. Alyssa was still sleeping but I hassled her out of bed so she could see too. We agreed it was worth it :)

We watched the last sunlight from the west disappear from the mountains, and then the moon began to rise in the east. It was a waxing crescent moon so it was pretty bright (though not full moon bright). That is the light coming from the right side of the frame in this photo. I hadn't done any planning for a milky way shot for this trip, but as luck would have it the milky way rose right up and over the mountains in line with our view from the lake. I lucked out. We laid down together on the smooth rocks by the lake and watched the millions of stars twinkling in the clear night sky. My mind felt very calm, yet a lot was running through it - my aching muscles and joints, how in the last 36 hours I'd flown 1800 miles, driven 250, and hiked 6 steep miles just to see this one view, and how I was just a few days away from marrying the woman next to me that had done it all with me. It was one of the best and surreal moments of my life. Just so happened to score a decent picture out of it too :)

The next day, the hike back was downhill the whole way which was easy on the muscles but tough on the joints. Getting back to the car and eating pizza and beer felt pretty amazing. I can't wait to backpack again, and hopefully do a multi-night trip somewhere.

This is a blending of two photos in photoshop. One exposure was 244 seconds long to capture the mountains and lake, which luckily don't move very much. The other was 20 seconds to capture the stars and milky way - any longer of an exposure and you'd see star trails indicating the rotation of the earth in relation to the stars. The title is inspired by the lyric in the song "If you want to be a Badger," which is drunkenly sung by University of Wisconsin students and sporting events.

More photos and prints available at brentgoesoutside.com!

Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35mm
Settings: ISO800, 16mm, f/4, 244 seconds AND 20 seconds blended together

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