Tag: Len Rue

Feeling Blue – in the Smoky Mountains

We are once again going back to 2008. This is our first Photo Safari Tour with the Van Os group. As we have mentioned before, we were scheduled to go to Antarctica in 2007, then Cemex decided to generously buy out Rinker Materials. This meant we needed to move back to the US from Australia, and the timing wasn’t right for a three week vacation. Fortunately, Van Os Photo Safaris didn’t stick us with the cost of the trip. They allowed us to trade for the equivalent value, which is how we ended up with this trip to the Smoky Mountains, Lou’s fall trip to Denali, and our trip to Spitsbergen in the Arctic.

20 April 2008

We joined up with the photo tour group at a nice hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I don’t recall a lot of details from this trip, except I do remember Lou had no underwear. In fact, Lou had no clothes because the airline lost his baggage (why is it always Lou’s stuff that gets lost?). We managed to make our first visit to a Bass Pro Shop, and get him enough clothes so he didn’t have to go naked in the woods.

This was also the first time we had ever participated in a Photo Tour of any kind. I had a little Panasonic camera that I played around with and ended up having lots of fun. I was really only there to accompany Lou, but this turned out to be the beginning of my interest in photography. Most of the photos in this report will be from Lou. He took these photos with his beloved Canon 1Ds DSLR – which unfortunately was stolen by baggage handlers on a later trip.

The first morning of the tour started before the crack of dawn. This was our introduction to Photo Tours with Len Rue, Jr. Len believes in getting up early, very early to go catch the light before and during sunrise. The photos that follow are Lou’s, taken from 5:30 to 6:30 am. And, we had to drive at least 30 minutes to get to this special spot.

Clicking on the images will bring up a larger version

And this next photo is one I snapped … Lou was either explaining something or waving a magic wand over the camera. You can see how dark it actually was this early in the morning when we started.

We will be back during the next few days with more from our tour of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (henceforth just the “Smoky Mountains”). It is another beautiful part of the country, and we would definitely like to return for an extended visit, instead of just a quick drive through.

NOTE: You can follow a specific trip – in this case, the Photo Tour of the Smoky Mountains National Park – by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. It will take you to the next post about this trip, even if it wasn’t posted to the blog in chronological order.

Click HERE to see the rest of the day.

Denali in the Fall

30 August 2015, Sunday

Note – if you arrived here via a link we provided to read about our 2015 Denali in the Fall Adventure, you will find a link at the bottom of each post that takes you to the next post in the series.

Denali National Park. Alaska. Fall Colors. Epic.

Let’s time warp back to 2015. Its been four short years since we set off on a road trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park. This was the second week of our Awesome Alaska Adventure. The first week took us to Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park. We stayed at the Alaska Homestead Lodge and danced with bears – maybe we didn’t dance, but only because we didn’t want to scare the bears.


We had one day to recuperate between journeys, and I recall most of that being taken up with napping and doing laundry. Fortunately, both of our tours were with Van Os Photo Safaris, and both used the same anchorage hotel – the Lakefront Hotel on Lake Ho0d. We met up with our Denali tour group for dinner on Saturday night, then all met up the next day to board our bus enroute to Denali. Our favorite tour leader, Len Rue, Jr. was handling the Denali trip. He has been going to Denali for years, and was also the leader when Lou took this trip back in 20o8.


We had good weather for most of the trip. We had the bus to ourselves, so Len had the driver stop anytime there might be a good photo op. We could see Denali, which doesn’t always happen. There wasn’t much evidence of Fall Color on the early part of the road trip.



Our bus was called The Magic Bus. It was nice to have lots of empty seats, room to spread out, and a driver who stopped when we wanted. This was a nice perk, since the Van Os Tours haven’t always had the best transport vehicles. Lou said this was the same bus they had on his previous trip.


We stopped for lunch along the way, and enjoyed the view point set up outside the restaurant. By now it had started to cloud over, and our view of Denali was obstructed by clouds.

Perfect Cloud Cover! Right on top of Denali.


The scenery along the Glenn Highway is spectacular, especially on a mostly clear day like we had. The scenic views are much like you see on the train ride, and you see the tracks along much of the highway. We took the train to Denali NP in 2013, and enjoyed the journey.

Now we are starting to see some evidence of fall having arrived in Alaska. From the research I had done, I was concerned we might be a week or two early. Unfounded worries.

It was quite cloudy by early evening when we pulled up to the Denali Park Village, and it rained off and on during the evening. We had dinner at the restaurant, not memorable but not bad. We overnighted here, leaving after breakfast the next day. Our goal was to meet up with another bus at noon. It was only a few miles to the entrance to Denali National Park, so we had some time to sight see the next morning. God forbid Len would let us sleep in!

Click HERE to follow our journey to Denali National Park.