Category Archives: Video

Video: A quick trip to Stansbury Island

Last night I took the kids for a quick trip to the Great Salt Lake’s Stansbury Island.  Here are a few clips from the trip– filmed and edited on my phone. Man, mobile tech is getting awesome!


Video: Hike to South Willow Lake

Here are some clips from our recent hike to South Willow Lake in Utah’s Stansbury Mountains.  The angelic voice issuing from my phone in one clip belongs to Miss Zee Avi.  If you must listen to music in the wilderness, it must be hers.


Best Sleepover Ever: Video wrap up

Well here it is– the final installment of Best Sleepover Ever!

For those of you who’ve been coming here to see what these little-publicized sleepover events are all about, I hope these articles have been helpful.  The SeaWorld marketing team is in the process of republishing the series at the SeaWorld Parks Blog.

To wrap things up, here’s a montage of scenes from the Best Sleepover Ever that I shot with my Flip UltraHD camcorder.  You’ll have to forgive the over-simplistic editing.  Flip shoots a format that is only editable using their severely hamstrung application.  You can’t do much more than string clips together and add giant font titles.

But you’re not interested in the technical gripes of a frustrated video hobbyist.  Onto the montage!

Much thanks to the SeaWorld San Diego Education staff for a wonderful experience!


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Best Sleepover Ever: Orcas, rays, and a comatose moonlight excursion

Morning view

This post continues my report on the SeaWorld Adventure Camps’ Fathers Day Sleepover that my 8 year old son and I attended at the San Diego park back in June. If you missed previous installments,  check them out here, here, here, and here.

When it came to getting the best sleeping spot in Wild Arctic, skipping the teeth brushing turned out to have been an excellent idea.  But skipping the bathroom part of that last bathroom break?  Eh, not so much.

It hit me at about 2:00 am.  Or at least that was the point when ignoring nature’s call was no longer an option.  Answering it wouldn’t be simple.  We’d have to get up, tip-toe to the exit, take a flight of stairs, wake our chaperone, and trek over to a building by the Penguin Encounter.  First, though, I’d have to wake Boo.

“Hey pal, do you need to go to the bathroom?”  (It would be slightly less embarrassing for me if Boo was the reason we were going.)

“Nope,” came his comatose response.  Wonderful.

He slowly came to as we trudged up the stairway to check out with the doorman.  The balmy air outside contrasted starkly with our virtual igloo.  I walked slowly in order to take in the SeaWorld that very few humans ever see–  middle-of-the-night SeaWorld—when the path lights have been dimmed and that infamous elevator music quieted.

Boo resumed his slumber immediately upon our return.  As I arranged his blanket I noticed that his clenched fist still held a stingray tooth he had found earlier in the evening.  I carefully pulled it away and secured it in a zipper pouch in my backpack.  If he lost it during the night I’d never hear the end of it.  After all, this was no ordinary stingray tooth.

I continued to replay the evening’s events in my head– picking up after the Shamu Rocks show.  After the crowds filtered out of the park, the education staff had gathered us to the orca habitat’s underwater viewing area for a little Whales 101. While a staffer named Erin demonstrated the insulating qualities of whale blubber using clay and ice water, I walked over to the massive viewing window.  Hovering on the other side was 12 year old Sumar.  Sumar seemed to enjoy interacting with me and the other parents.  Like the belugas, his song was audible through the acrylic.

“I heard you can use some of the moves the trainers use to make the whales interact with you,” one father asked.

“Well, we can ask them to interact with us,” James censured.  “Then if they want to, they might.”

SeaWorld campers get a close-up of Shamu and friends in this extraordinarily cheesy photo from SeaWorld Public Relations (copyright All rights reserved.)

Despite his wiry figure and youthful gait, James carried a certain gravitas with the kids and amongst his fellow SeaWorld staffers.  He employed the same sarcastic finesse both to coax the bashful kids from their shells and repress Annoying Kid’s loud interjections.  And though his primary duty was to keep the larger flock together, he still found a way to make each kid feel important.  When Boo lost the polar bear claw keychain he had made, James ducked out of the Shamu show to make him a new one—with the same color beads arranged the same pattern.

The last activity of the night was a visit to the Forbidden Reef, where a few dozen stingrays and a sturgeon that thinks he’s a stingray solicit fish and rub-downs from visitors.  After feeding the rays, Boo spotted a stingray tooth at the bottom of the pool and James fished it out for him with a large net.

“I can’t lose this stingray tooth,” he said.  “It’s a special stingray tooth.”

Boo’s tooth now secure in my backpack and nature’s call finally answered, I finally bid good night to the belugas.

Here are a few clips I shot when I woke up in the morning.  Notice how quiet it is in there.  If you listen closely, you can hear whale song:


The next (and last) installment in this series will feature a video summary of the sleepover.

*Sadly, Sumar passed away earlier this month of unknown causes.  I’m glad we got a few minutes with him that night.


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Best Sleepover Ever: Snoring to Whale Song

Claim staked.

This post continues my report on the SeaWorld Adventure Camps’ Fathers Day Sleepover that my 8 year old son and I attended at the San Diego park back in June. If you missed previous installments,  check them out here, here, and here.

I don’t consider myself the over competitive type, at least not usually.  But when it comes to something big (like getting the best sleeping spot in Wild Arctic), look out.

It seemed like there was plenty of room in the exhibit’s lower level to ensure a satisfactory spot for all parties, but Boo and I weren’t about to take chances.  We had scoped out the area during polar bear class earlier and had set our minds on a fine patch of concrete next to the beluga whale tank.

I saw other families eying that spot too, and I wondered what their plans were.  Is it going to get hairy?  Would anybody try to crowd us out?  Was there some secret to securing the holy grail of all Wild Arctic spots?

“I’ll tell you what,” one staff member offered.  “When it’s time to brush teeth and change in to pajamas, whoever gets done first picks their spot first.”

We’d have to brush teeth and change quickly, then.

Or, as Boo and I thought simultaneously, we could skip that step altogether.

“I won’t say anything to Mom if you won’t,” the spirited 8 year old assured me.  In high stakes games, you do what you gotta do.

I should pause here to describe the anatomy of Wild Arctic.  Wild Arctic is a flight simulator/walkthru combo attraction that showcases Arctic wildlife.  Typically, visitors enter the attraction via the simulator ride—a “Star Tours” style helicopter flight to a research station deep in the Arctic.

After disembarking, visitors find themselves inside Base Station Wild Arctic, a double-level structure built around the remains of an old shipwreck.  The station is heavily themed with randomly placed crates (a must for all adventure-centric theme park attractions), electronic research equipment, and other 80’s-era stuff that one might see lying around a real Arctic base.

Here’s a short promo video from SeaWorld:

Central to the experience are the multilevel polar bear and beluga whale exhibits, which provide both above and underwater viewing of the pools.  Naturally, our group would set up camp in the underwater viewing area.  I don’t care what age you are—this was beyond cool.

By the time our freshly brushed and jammied friends returned to Wild Arctic, Boo and I had staked our claim and were sitting comfortably on our fleece throws, watching beluga whales dance 2 feet from our pillows.

Soon, the entire underwater viewing space hummed with the sound of battery-powered mattress pumps.  Beach blankets were spread and heavy sleeping bags unrolled on top.  We quietly mocked the mattress campers as we studied Allua and Ferdinand, the two belugas on the quiet side of the acrylic.

When the clamor died down, James gave a parting briefing and answered a few questions.  There was no bathroom in the exhibit.  And no, there was no A/C they could turn off, nor heating system to make things warmer.  It’s called Wild Arctic for a reason.  The constant cold, James explained, comes from the frigid water outside.  I glanced at our Wal-Mart fleece throws, which would double as mattresses and sleeping bags.  Suddenly the mattress campers didn’t seem so dumb.

James and crew bid us good night and the row of dim ceiling lights was extinguished.  It was about 1:00 am.  A good 30 seconds passed before we heard the first snorer.  He (I’m assuming it was a he) was loud and steady, and as the minutes passed he led a burgeoning chorus of a half-dozen more nocturnal lumberjacks.

Boo was determined to stay up all night to talk and watch the whales, but his voice faded as he chatted.  I don’t blame him—it had been a long day packed with enough excitement to drain any kid.  Allua and Ferdinand were mostly still, their white forms reflecting the moonlight above.  They appeared as streaks of blue in the darkened pool, and their whale song was audible through the paneling.  I’m not sure what made me happier: the situation itself or Boo’s delightful immersion in it.

Boo’s all-nighter lasted until about 1:45.  I pulled his hood over his head and straightened his covers, then tried to find a comfortable position on my concrete bed.  At some point I joined the snoring chorus myself, though it wouldn’t be for long.


Coming up: Sting rays, Moray eels, and a moonlight excursion.  In the mean time, here’s a short clip from the next day showing where we slept:


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Remembering Katrina

5 years ago yesterday, Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the American Gulf Coast.

A year after the flood waters had receded, New Orleans was still a ghost town.  I walked alone through the famed Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood, along what used to be a paved residential street.

Most houses had been completely washed away.  Those that still stood– in some mangled form– bore bright orange symbols spray-painted by search teams to indicate things like check date and body count.

This was my first visit to the place that had been dubbed in less harrowing times the “Big Easy.” I was anything but at ease.

In fact I still find it difficult to describe the goings on in my head and heart as I passed heaps of brick, abandoned cars, and makeshift front yard graves.  It was a combination of awe and soul-wrenching sorrow so heavy that all I could think about was leaving.

But I couldn’t.  New Orleans hadn’t been our destination, but Meadow and I ended up staying there three days longer than we had planned.   It was in our blood now.

I left the politics of Katrina to the pundits when I wrote my Dispatches from the Gulf Coast series.  Instead, I focused on my own apolitical observations during that road trip.  I haven’t been back since, so I don’t know how everything looks today.  No matter– my impressions of that region will always be colored by that first visit.

Below is a video montage I put together a few years ago of the trip.  It’s choppy and of sub-par quality (I think it was my first attempt at video editing), but I thought it a good day to re-post it.

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Posted by on August 30, 2010 in American South, Video


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A hike in the Uintas

The family and I spent some time last week in the Uinta Mountains.  Here are some video highlights from a hike between Washington and Haystack Lakes that I took with Boo, West, and Deedle (the hefty mancub rode on my back).

A storm turned us around just shy of Haystack, but you’ll see some decent footage of Washington, Tail, and Shadow Lakes.  Ever wonder why fathers and sons need these kinds of hikes?  Listen closely to West talking about his “best dream ever” in the final clip (transcript below the video box).


WESTON: Once I had a best dream ever.

DAD: Tell me about it, West

WESTON: There were these kids that- they didn’t have a house or a mom and they had to cry themselves to sleep.  And I came walking along and saw them, and then in a couple of days I helped them out.


Here’s  a map of the Washington-Haystack area:

Click to see interactive map of the area on ACME Mapper

By the way, I shot this video with a refurbished Flip Ultra HD camcorder that I bought cheap online.  Video quality is pretty good, though the editing tool for it leaves quite a bit to be desired.  I have yet to figure out how to convert mp4 to a format I can edit with real software.  Until I do, you’ll have to live with the oversized titles and simple cuts.


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