Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten
Our Christmas Letter 20

Dear Friends and Family,

Like you, we are glad the election is over (no more robo calls and emails from candidates) and, like most people, we are happy with results. Now, if we keep from going over the fiscal cliff, life will be good.

We remain fortunate to have the energy and health to travel to interesting places, near and far. Elizabeth says she is practicing up for retirement (she said this last year, too). She has gone back to school (seven weekend photography workshops this year) and traveling to some pretty exotic places.

Tiger's Nest Monastery, Bhutan
Elizabeth and her friend Barbara Butler enjoyed their trip to Bhutan (why Bhutan you might ask - because no one they know has ever been to this Buddhist country in the Himalayan Mountains). The monastery (left) sits almost 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The hike up is on a steep trail about 2.5 miles long. Elizabeth discovered that the hike down is even harder than going up.
While Elizabeth was trekking around Bhutan at the base of the Himalayan Mountain, Brian and his camera were photographing beautiful Southern Utah with its deep blue skies, red rock canyons and desert landscape. One adventure was fording the Freemont River. This meant driving into the river, hugging the bank upstream, and turning sharply across the ford. Doing this was an act of faith.
Capitol Reef National Park
Blue-footed Booby bird is feeding his chick. Both male and female Booby birds tend their chicks.
Blue-footed Booby feeding chick
Three weeks after returning from Bhutan, Elizabeth took a cruise with her friend Harriet Taylor to the Galapagos Islands. The wildlife, birds, and sea life were extraordinary. She was impressed with how well Ecuador is managing this incredible place as a pristine National Park and World Heritage site. Charles Darwin discovered natural selection while studying the wild life in Galapagos Islands.
Earlier in the year, we went to West Virginia to Blackwater Falls State Park and Dolly Sods Wilderness area. We did not realize just how beautiful West Virginia is and how close the state parks are to D.C.  Thanks to President Obama's stimulus initiative  (opposed by most West Virginians) there are new super highways throughout the state.   
Blackwater Falls, West Virginia
Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

We celebrated Elizabeth's birthday in Colorado where we got to add some National Parks and Monuments to our list of visited places (Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Monument, Chimney Rock National Monument, Pikes Peak) as well as old favorites (Rocky Mountain National Park and Maroon Bells.) 
Maroon Bells, Colorado
We were pleased that Dan and Michelle joined us for Elizabeth's birthday. While Dan went off on some incredible hikes, Michelle and Elizabeth took lovely gentler walks to waterfalls and lakes, and Brian photographed peaks and streams.  While in the Rocky Mountain NP area, we stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies which has a whole range of accommodations for a family reunion.  Hint!

Elizabeth continues to work at the National Science Foundation, which remains an exciting place and sends her on interesting trips to Lexington, Park City, Vancouver, Nashville, Toronto and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. 

The latter really is a fascinating island in Lake Superior reachable by a six hour ferry ride or a half hour float plane. The project she visited involves earth science high school teachers using GPS to map trails in the wilderness area.  Brian's been developing photo books based on our travels, and remains our condo web master and keeps up various web pages for the family and friends,
Isle Royal  National Park

Now in the dream world, we are considering going to the Gobi Desert or the Sahara, Kalahari, and Namibia deserts on a photo trip (yes, Brian and Elizabeth). The African trip we like includes a five hour drive in a jeep and then a three hour ride on a camel to reach the dunes (Elizabeth says "gulp" about that as she is afraid of horses) and staying in a bunch of yurts or tents. Anyone want to join us?

We wish you a happy and healthy new year with chances to live your dreams.

Elizabeth VanderPutten and Brian Larkin
Christmas 2012, Washington DC