September 14, 2014

A blue sky forecast, need for fresh air, and a finished kitchen combined for a late decision to go camping for the weekend. Looking for a combination of mountain hikes, lots of campground options (for those lacking reservations), and some water to fish, we settled on the Mountain Loop Highway between Granite Falls and Darrington. New to us, the Mountain Loop Highway delivered this weekend.

The happy hiker, always shouting “more, more” in my ear while climbing.

Reflections on Independence Lake before the sufferfest began.

This is why my calves feel sore today. 35+ pounds of kiddo and stuff, with 1200′ of climbing straight up the mountainside.

Fall light catching some trailside webs.

Rest-stop overlooking North Lake. Thea discovers the huckleberry motherload!

Getting to be a pretty good hiker on her own now.

Step 1: Harvest huckleberries.

Step 2: Squeal with delight.

Step 3: Eat all of the huckleberries.

Lounging around this morning at camp.

Helping dad with some fishing.

Sunday hike to Big Four Mountain’s Ice Caves. A pretty short hike, but perfect for the day. The caves are sculpted out by water falling from up high on the rock cirque.

Enjoying the cool breezes at the mouth of the caves.

Very cold and wet inside, so this was as far as Thea got, while Lulu and I traded off to explore and take photos.

Closeup of a thin wall between two sections.

Not bad for a quick weekend adventure and first exploration of a new zone!

  • Open says:

    Very cool night shot. Before I read the text beneath the photo, I was tnyrig to figure out how in the heck you were able to get a long enough exposure in broad daylight to blur the clouds that much! I was initially thinking f/32 at ISO 50 with about a dozen ND filters stacked on top of each other. I’m glad to see that I wasn’t totally crazy. There must have been zero wind because the trees appear so sharp. Very nice job.

We’ve been eager for a while to take Thea out camping. For all of our own adventures and time spent living out of tents, it’s amazing that it could still come with such apprehension. I like to think that we’re easy-going, adventure-ready parents, but the idea of camping with an 11-month old still puts that to the test a bit. Not quite sure what to do with eating dirt all the time, or whether she’d sleep in the tent, or what all to prepare, we just decided to bring everything and go for it. Backpacking this would not be, and I was really hoping that if things went well, we’d go for two nights. At least two nights might help justify the sheer volume of stuff that we brought with us! We took off early Friday afternoon, packed up the car and Thea, and were the last car pulling onto the ferry across the sound, watching them pull the gate closed just behind us. Mini-vacation time was on! Paolo, Amanda, and Jaclyn met us Friday evening at Clallam County Campground outside of Sequim, and we had a great weekend exploring Dungeness Spit and the surrounding trails.

In the end, it all worked out easily. Thea taste-tested a lot of the rocks, but we kept her out of the firepit and didn’t worry about the dirt. She was a great camper, loved crawling all over the ground, ate with us out in the open, and slept great in the tent. Three days later, we had a camper on our hands, and an exhausted baby that slept really, really soundly Sunday night after all the excitement at the end of the weekend. More adventures to come!

All smiles for a sunny Friday on Puget Sound.

Thea, super happy in her outdoor dining perch.

First night’s sunset over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the Olympic Mountains on the left.

Beautiful evening on the trails.

Ready to play in the dirt and taste-test all the rocks.

Pine-fresh baby.

Thea’s buddy Greta.

A delicious spread for breakfast Saturday morning.

Dungeness Spit, sticking 5 miles out into the Strait with a tenuous hold against the seas.

Loving the baby backpack.

Picking up someone’s left-behind frisbee.

Ready to slackline already.

Out on the bluff trails for another sunset.

Happy little explorer, happy dad.

April 19, 2014

Today dawned with a 100% chance of rain. Not showers, but full on rain. But with Mom and Dad in town, we figured we’ve give it a shot and make an early run north to the Skagit Valley for the Tulip Festival, which we’ve never been around to see for the last few years. The weather was, well, very PNW. Fifty-five degrees, very windy, and raining. But the tulips were stunning to see, stretching on forever on the big tulip fields beneath the Cascades.

August 19, 2013

Even when you want to be the most easy-going parents, it’s easy to get caught up in how tough it sometimes seems to get everything together, into the car, and lately, to the destination without a meltdown. Car rides haven’t been particularly liked by Thea, but we had it all working right this weekend for a run out to the mountains. First trip for her, and she slept all the way out there. The rushing water proved relaxing for everyone, letting us hang on the river, do some reading outside, and enjoy a bit of fishing. I wandered the banks for a while hooking a bunch of small-medium cutthroats and rainbows, but Lulu gets the award for hooking a trout with Thea in the moby-wrap on her chest! Still got that cast down…

July 19, 2013

Crazy how fast the time has flown over three weeks. Thea’s gotten so much bigger right before our eyes, her cheeks filling in, her belly sprouting into a little Buddha form, her noises and grunts changing daily, and her alert times getting longer. We’ve had great support with family in town for the last two weeks, and it’s helped us catch our breath, and capture a few more snapshots of everyone.

Peaceful in sleep

DanDan gets the first grandparent hold, 1 week in.

Gigi enjoying naptime with Thea.

Babies turn out to be tough photo subjects, even when they’re asleep. Lulu and I catch a lucky break.

Lulu & Thea

Hanging with dad.

Grandpa Jeff meets Thea, 2 weeks in.

Grandma Marty with another nap.

Lulu and the little kangaroo nugget.

Quiet alert at night.

Drying off after her first real bath.

Brushing Thea’s hair and employing the Magic Baby Hold.

  • Your Dad says:

    Great shots Graham and Lulu. Keep them coming as they’ll soon be our lifeline. You two are a great team. You are already great parents and Thea will provide the rest of your training.

  • Gigi says:

    Gigi says that she can’t wait to teach Thea the Birthday Song, and to sit out on the edge of cliffs, like her mother did.

  • Paolo says:

    Great shots, Graham! Shoot wide, shoot often!

July 6, 2013

Our family is now a family of three! Lulu and I welcomed little Althea Ruth Gephart at 8:08am on June 30, 2013. A healthy and happy Thea weighed in at 7lbs 13.5oz and 18.5″ long, with a full head of hair and beautiful long feet. It’s hard to put it all into words… the last three weeks have been incredible, rewarding, challenging, exhausting, filled with wonder, and full of love. With a little time off from work, and great support from friends and family, we’ve been adjusting to life at home really well, and we’re just trying to soak it all in. Anyway, enough with the words, here are the photos…

One happy mom and her daughter, June 30th.

Instantly hooked.

Weighing in before heading home.

A fair assessment of exhaustion for a couple weeks.

Hanging out with Susan, who helped guide Lulu through an amazing labor and Thea to a great delivery.

After investing in glass the last few years, I finally upgraded camera bodies recently, and it’s been amazing. I had a ton of great photos and adventures with my 30D over the last 6 years, but it was time to move on to something with a bit more power. After shooting on a crop sensor, I decided to forgo a little of the burst rate in favor of going full frame with a Canon 6D. Wow. I know things had changed a lot in the last few years, but the difference between bodies was staggering. Staggeringly awesome. I know I’ll lose a little off the top end for zoom and action stuff, but the full frame with my wide angle lenses is amazing, and the clarity, color, and low-noise/high ISO abilities are fantastic. Not to mention wifi for using my iPhone to control or download and post photos immediately…

A couple images from the first evening out with the camera  with some friends on Lake Union.

Lulu waits for the boat to pick us for an evening

Floating BBQ along Lake Union with friends & kids!

April 1, 2013

Sitting at my laptop late Thursday night, I clicked away from work over to Facebook, when a flood of posts on a friend’s page slammed my heart into my throat. Half a world away in Hokkaido, an avalanche of snow slid down the mountain, turning violent the pristine snow that drew Toby, Lulu, and me together. Through those posts, I learned that Toby was caught in that slide, and later succumbed to his injuries.

It’s heart-breaking, and I can’t believe that he’s gone.

Toby’s helmet brought to the summit of Asahidake by his friends, March 2013.

Lulu and I were lucky enough to meet Toby in Hokkaido when we joined a longtime friend of his on a trip to Japan for skiing in 2011. A Washington native, Toby lived in Hokkaido with his wife, Maiko, and the two of them graciously opened their house to our ragtag group of skiers and boarders. Counting the days, I spent a little over a week in Japan with Toby, and a night visiting here in Seattle. But to meet Toby for an evening was to become a lifelong friend. Before we’d arrived, Toby had planned out half of our adventures to come, and his excitement for our own trip was palpable. In Japan, his hospitality was incredible, sharing with us not only his ski secrets, but teaching us about Japanese culture, talking late into the night, and giving us an experience we couldn’t have dreamed of.

Maiko, Tom, Jason, me, Julia, and Toby (from upper left, clockwise), Higashikawa, February 2011.

I’ve worked in the ski industry for 10 years, and Toby’s enthusiasm for snow and skiing remains unparalleled. Toby was the ultimate powderhound, but instead of drawing that inward and keeping it for himself, Toby wanted to share it all – every part of the experience. And the places he showed us in Japan were magical. In that week, Toby shared his home, his “Deep North” Hokkaido powder snow, his favorite onsen to soak in, his food and drink, and many of his stories. As the week drew down, the rest of the group left for the States. Lulu and I would continue on for another week in Japan, and Toby drove 4.5hrs down to Niseko with us for one more day of skiing, just to show us around his former mountain. After another great day of skiing and before hopping on the bus back home, he swore us to secrecy and gave Lulu and me a hand-drawn map of the mountain, with all of his routes and stashes labeled on it. While Toby shied away from revealing the awesomeness of these mountain places across the anonymity of the internet, in person he wanted nothing more than to share them, and he exuded energy in doing so.

Toby and me, Niseko, February 2011.

Since the trip, constant chatter about adventures filled the last two years. When I sent him gear from our basement, he documented all the deep powder it skied. Toby always seemed to be the first to like or comment on one of our adventures, and late night emails or messages were like catching up with an old friend or current ski partner. He was leaving the school where he taught elementary kids in April this year, to start a coffee roasting/craft brewing business with some small scale lodging for visitors. Hearing that, I can’t help but think of it as a slightly larger extension of the experience staying at Toby’s house (in both camaraderie and quality of beverages).

The time spent with Toby was so short, but his impact was huge. Toby touched so many people — it’s apparent in the incredible outpouring online from friends and family all across Japan and the United States, as well as people who had crossed paths with him on their travels. I can’t imagine the loss felt by friends and family who were so lucky to spend more time with him, and my deepest condolences go out to Toby’s family, in particular.

Toby headed for more powder, Daisetsuzan, February 2011.

I still struggle to process the fact that Toby was taken from all of us, suddenly, and way too soon. Through her tears Friday morning, Lulu asked me why we had to enjoy something so much that can be so dangerous. We’ve spent a lot of time managing risk in the things that we love, working through the joys and the frightening moments, but for the first time, I didn’t really have an answer. Weighing the pain and loss of a friend and feeling that fetal kick inside Lulu’s belly through the morning, the incredible joy I’ve always felt in the mountains suddenly couldn’t be reconciled, not in that moment.

Leading the way to last tracks, Niseko, February 2011.

There is an enormous void in the energy today without Toby, but there is also inspiration reading through the stories and posts that everyone is sharing. There is no easy answer, neither in grief, nor in that balance of risk and reward. It will take a while to resolve. I miss Toby, but I am incredibly happy that I got to know him. Thanks for the adventures, Toby, and I can only hope emulate your energy, enthusiasm, and care in friendship with others.

Last run in Niseko, Toby, Lulu & Graham, February 2011.

  • Ronna Dansky says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and beautiful photos. I worked with Toby in Seattle. I went on to visit Japan to help Toby and Maiko build their straw bale house, Square One. Only someone as magnetic and inspiring as Toby could have drawn me to that hot August in Japan to make what I had hoped to be the first of many visits. This loss is so painful to so many, but Toby would be kicking all of our butts if we spend too many days of our precious lives grieving over him instead of getting outdoors and enjoying life. Namaste to you and Lulu.

  • Jeff Gephart says:

    As Toby frequently commented on your activities, I could see that he was a great friend and kindred spirit. Sorry for your loss.

  • Graham, thank you. I hope it’s OK if I link to this on my own blog. I want to keep some of these things to remember him by in the future, before they get buried on his Facebook page.

  • Jana Claxton says:

    Beautiful photos and words Graham, thank you for sharing. It is easy to see why Toby cherished his friendship wait you and Lulu. Congratulations on the baby on its way.

March 24, 2013

The Slot Couloir on Snoqualmie Pass is far from a secret, but it still holds a fair amount of wonder for me. One of the most aesthetic lines in the area, the Slot cleanly cleaves through a massive cliff wall off the back of Snoqualmie Peak. Skiing both north and south aspects, it’s what Charlie termed the Ying/Yang Tour for snow. Today was definitely the entire mixed bag. Starting up Snoqualmie, Matt, Charlie and I were shortly neck-deep in sporty climbing. Yesterday’s sun in the mountains glazed the southern slopes with a slick, breakable crust, making for challenging climbing. Expectations of good snow on the north side kept us moving upward, and we weren’t disappointed in the line.

Matt heading up the Phantom in the early dawn of a beautiful day.

Snack break looking out with Alpental Backcountry in the background.

Looking down into the Slot… just need to mind the giant cliff exposure out of sight to the left on your entrance.

In the gut of the line, ready for leftover powder.

Charlie riding the steep, smooth snow of the Slot.

Matt under the sheer walls of the Slot, headed toward the Middle Fork basin.

Matt heads toward the exit, last climb up held sheltered snow, kind of tease for the descent back down to the car.

There was no avoiding the return to the southern snow on the way out, and we all knew what was coming. Still psyched from the Slot run, the descent down the Phantom became an exercise in comedy, using hyper-exaggerated turns down breakable sun crust on anything in the open. Searching out tight, shaded trees, we found a few good turns, but were mostly happy to make it back out unscathed. All in all, a pretty solid adventure.

March 16, 2013

It might just be my favorite month, for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball.