We’re Back!

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Hello, friends.

We know, we know…long time, no write. Our bad. Is anyone still out there?

We don’t want to make excuses for our poor blogging etiquette, but we thought that the very least we could do is to let you know what we have been up to lately to help explain the long absence. So here goes...We wrote a book!

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We spent most of the fall of 2016 writing the manuscript for our book Hiking Photography. We wrote our little hearts out, sharing everything we know about photography, how all those rules and tricks can be applied specifically to hiking photography and then sorting through thousands of images to find the perfect photographs to illustrate our ideas. It was intense, and it didn’t stop there. The editing process lasted for months, and, by the time the book was finally published last March, we were really proud of the accomplishment. But we were also seriously spent!

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Even so, we pushed through, trying to catch up on the summer of 2016 when we backpacked the Chicago Basin, the John Muir Trail and the Northside Figure 8. Once that was done, we finally took the long break we had been looking for.

We joined Instagram

After an initial resistance, we finally joined Instagram, and we have to admit that it has been a lot of fun for us. One of the primary reasons that we got into blogging in the first place was to share our photography, and Instagram has been a great outlet for doing that. Duh…

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I don’t know what took us so long to come around, but, in all seriousness, we’ve really enjoyed Instagram. It’s allowed us to share our work in a more timely and less time-consuming manner—one photo and one caption at a time—without the lengthy process of writing up a full blog post. Our handle is @takeahikephotography, and we have posted lots of our hiking photos from past trips, but we also use it as a platform for sharing some of our non-hiking adventures, including our newfound obsession with birds. We hope you will check us out there and even follow along.

We lost our beloved cat, Moose.

We adopted Moose from a shelter and had him for nearly 12 years. He was a really cool, impressively sized, black cat with a ton of personality, and we loved him dearly. Moose suffered from diabetes, and, for practically all of the time we had him, we needed to give him two insulin shots per day that were ideally supposed to be as close to twelve hours apart as possible. Twelve years. Twice a day.

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We made it work, but trust us when we say the logistics of having a diabetic cat wasn’t always easy. If we had evening plans, one of us always had to run home to give him his shot before going out. We could never really sleep in too late on the weekends because we had to get up to give him his morning shot. For our long summer trips we had to find renters who would agree to take care of him, including administering his shots, in exchange for a great deal on rent. Smaller trips were problematic, too. Once the neighbor kids got old enough, we trained them to give him shots, so we could get away every now and then during the school year. But most of the time, we tended to shy away from little getaways because of the added expense and hassle.

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Last February, Moose developed a tumor near his eye that finally got the better of him by June, and we had to have him put down. We miss our sweet boy terribly, but we are also enjoying the newfound freedom we now have. This fall, we were finally able to take those weekend camping trips to Wisconsin that we always talked about doing.

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In early February, we even made it up to Sax-Zim Bog in Northern Minnesota to photograph Great Grey Owls, a trip we’ve wanted to do for years but couldn’t make happen. 

They little getaways are small consolation, but they have helped ease the pain a bit.

We have been traveling!

This is what it is all about for us, and this past year has been our busiest travel year to date. Hooray! We ended 2016 and started 2017 with a trip to New Zealand! Three weeks hiking and photographing the stunning landscapes of Middle Earth was a dream come true for us, and we came home in January scheming ways we could move there permanently. If anyone hears of a Kiwi school looking for a Latin teacher, please let us know!

In early April, it was back down to South Texas for some excellent spring bird photography. This was the third time in three years we’ve headed to Texas for Spring Break, and it has quickly become a favorite photographic destination for us.

Once Matt’s school year was out, he led a group of high school students to Greece and Italy for a tour of ancient Classical sites. I joined the group in Rome as soon as my year ended, and we had one day together in the Eternal City before taking the kids to the airport and sending them back to the US with the other adult chaperones.

After hugging our goodbyes, we boarded a plane to Tirana, Albania, where we started a 10-day hike known as the Peaks of the Balkans that would take us across the Dinaric Alps and lead us into Kosovo and Montenegro before crossing back into Albania again. Along the way, we stayed in guesthouses in the small mountain villages and ate delicious home-cooked meals with our friendly hosts.

Peaks of the Balkans is a relatively new hike with very few people knowing about it, much less doing it. It was amazing to have such beautiful scenery practically all to ourselves.

From there, we flew to Switzerland and began our crash course in European hut hiking by attempting three of the world’s Classic Hikes all in a row: the Tour du Mont Blanc (through Switzerland, Italy and France), the Haute Route (from Chamonix to Zermatt) and the Alta Via 2 (in the Italian Dolomites). While planning this tent-free summer we thought we might miss the gruel of backpacking, schlepping all of our gear with us and sleeping outside, but hiking with manageable-sized packs, eating delicious, multi-course meals, drinking fine wines and sleeping in cozy huts wasn’t all that bad. In fact, it was so enjoyable that hut hiking just might have ruined us forever. Did we forget to mention the cappuccinos? We know. It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it…

In September, it was back to school, but, for the first year ever, Matt’s school decided to take the entire week of Thanksgiving off. Of course, we took full advantage of the week-long break and headed south to the cloud forests of Ecuador to commune with the birds.

Did you know that Ecuador is home to 132 species of hummingbirds? 132?!?! That’s crazy! Just for comparison’s sake, we only have 20 species in the United States. We had a super intense week of photographing these colorful little birds, and it was a blast!

And we ended the year strong with a two-week self-drive safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where we celebrated Christmas and rang in the new year watching giraffes, elephants, lions and a whole assortment of birds to our heart’s content. We came home with thousands of amazing wildlife photos to edit and process. No wonder we haven’t had time to write!

So, the good news is that we have lots and lots of incredible past and future hiking adventures to share. The bad news is that we have such a backlog of trips that it is feeling a little overwhelming to get it all out there for you, especially because we have another summer of fantastic adventures planned that will be here before we know it.

Nevertheless, we do hope to get it all done with the caveat that our future posts may not look as polished or be quite as detailed as what we have produced in the past. If there is any information that we leave out that you would like to know, please feel free to ask us in a comment. Don’t be shy. If we can’t actually be out on the trail at the moment, then there’s nothing we love more than talking travel, hiking, photography, gear, trail logistics, etc.

See you again soon!

24 thoughts on “We’re Back!

    1. Thanks, Leah. We lost Moose right before we left for the summer, so we really felt his absence in the fall when we came home and settled back in. We both still look for him to come running to the back door when we get home from work everyday. We really miss his company…

  1. Hello! Funny you should post this today as I am sitting at the computer trying to figure out a hiking tour of Ireland and Scotland (via train stops) and I thought to myself “I wonder if Matt and Alison did this already”. Very impressed with all your travels!! What a wonderful life of adventure.

    1. That’s so cool! We have not been hiking in Scotland and Ireland yet, but they are both definitely on our list. We will look forward to getting your tips on this one! Best wishes to you!

  2. I have been following your posts since our trip to SE Asia in 2005. These last pics you posted are the best yet. Such an amazing gift and life. Keep on truckin’ and sharing.
    Love, Jacquie

  3. An incredible offering to those of us who love your photos and who follow your wanderings.The book looks stunning. Poor Moose — our own shelter dog Bella has just become unable to walk and must have a knee operation.

  4. So much to comment on from this post! First and most importantly, Moose. My heart hurt for both of you reading about his passing, but the veterinarian in me is beyond touched and impressed with your dedication to his diabetic care. Even owners who aren’t as active as you are struggle with diabetic treatment plans, so your commitment to his well being is heartwarming. Second, the photos are just amazing, as always, and I will confess to opening my Instagram app and always hoping I’ll find another of your posts in my feed. Third, your book is outstanding and I’ve learned volumes by reading it. And finally, I loved reading the words “Latin teacher.” I helped open and still govern a school here in western NC with a classical and project based focus, and I’ve seen first hand the impact Latin has on students, including my own kids. I can’t wait to see where you guys head next and if you’re ever in WNC (beyond Burnsville!), know you have a place to sleep before heading out to explore! 🙂

    1. I don’t even know where to start with thanking you for all of this, Nancy! Your constant support and enthusiasm for our work–the blog, our Instagram account, and our book–means so much to us. So much of the time it feels like we are just putting our stuff “out there” and not really knowing how it is being received, which can be discouraging at times. We always look forward to your thoughtful comments and do hope that we will get to meet some day in person in NC or in some other great spot. Matt will definitely look forward to talking Latin with you!
      And thank you for your kind words about Moose. He was definitely a lot of work, but we loved him so…

  5. Wow! You two are amazing! Congrats on the new book! Sorry to hear about Moose. Will be looking forward to anything you post- just go out and have a great adventure while you can.

  6. So glad to get this post! The Wonderland Trail reservation season is upon us and I’ve been sharing your site with fellow WT wannabe hikers. But I did wonder if you were still “out there”. So glad to know you are! I enjoy your adventures! Take care and I really really hope to be hearing more from you in the coming months.

    From where I sit, I’m not needing long elaborate posts as a usual. But I would really enjoy tickler posts. “Look where we are!” with a short story would be great! Your photography is inspiring! The longer posts with more detail are great for your epic journeys though.

    1. Thank you so much, Laurie! We hope that you are able to get a permit for the Wonderland Trail. It is still one of our very favorite backpacking trips, and you will love it. Thanks for sharing our WT posts. We hope that they prove useful, and, if you have any questions before you set out, please let us know. Maybe you could share a few tips on the new permit system with us!
      That’s a great suggestion about the ticket posts. I would really like to try blogging from the trail so we don’t end up with such a backlog of posts in the future, so we may be doing that soon!

    1. Thank you, Ingrid! We can’t complain about the travels, except for the fact that we would like to do even more of it. We have many more years to go, but we are already dreaming of retirement when we can be on the road in one way or another full time. Cheers!

  7. A&M
    I have to tell you that while Instagram may be much easier, I find it a zillion times less interesting and compelling. What you have mastered here is excellently illustrating a great story. The story is the glue that gives the images context, sparks travel imagination, and invites the readers to join you as you make your way up those trails. Instagram photos with quick captions are a dime a dozen, a well-told and illustrated story is a rare treasure. I don’t want to toss glacial water on your enthusiasm, but praise you for creating an excellent outdoor photography blog, and especially one that did not try and sell every item you touched. Good luck and I hope to read about your past adventures soon.

    1. Thank you so much for this. Just knowing that even one person out there really values what we are doing on this blog makes such a difference and provides the encouragement we need to keep at it. Thank you for your support!

  8. These are some of the most amazing photos I’ve seen in a wordpress blog. The way you photographed the birds is amazing.

    I’m sorry for your cat Moose, I have a black cat as well and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to lose a family member that has been with you for years.

    Kind regards

    1. Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you to say and quite a compliment. We are in the midst of the spring bird migration here in Chicago, which is a lot of fun. Those birds are providing just the dose of nature photography that these two teachers need to make it to the end of the school year when we can finally hit the trail again.
      We are definitely still missing our sweet boy, Moose. Saying good-bye to a pet is never easy. We hope that you have many wonderful years together with your black kitty.

  9. Amazing photos as always. Really sorry to hear about Moose. Moose was so lucky to have such giving parents. Your blog makes us smile and we hope to have the chance to join you two on some more epic adventures! See you guys on the trail!

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