Upstate New York Trip, 2015: Letchworth Middle/Upper Falls Hike

These photos are from my hike along the Middle and Upper Falls of Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York. As I’ve mentioned before, Letchworth is one of my favorite parks, rivaling some of the national parks in splendor.

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Posted in North America, Photography, United States

California Trip, 2014: Around San Francisco

Some miscellaneous photos from my walks around San Francisco, including visits to the ferry marina, city hall, Ghirardelli Square, and the Westfield Mall.

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Posted in North America, Photography, United States

Glacier National Park, 2019: Avalanche Lake Trail

Greetings, readers, it’s been a while, but this post is hopefully the start of my renewed dedication to this blog.

Back in September I took another trip out west, this time to Glacier National Park and then Seattle. The photos below are from my final hike on my last day in Glacier. I had almost quit the Avalanche Lake Trail before the end because it was late in the day, the woods were getting dark, and I was hiking through grizzly country with very few other hikers on the trail, but I’m glad I stuck it out because the reward at the end was more than worth it: a pristine hidden lake casting a perfect mirror image of the earth and sky above, including a pair of waterfalls in the distance.

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Posted in North America, Photography, Travel, United States

In Memory of Mr. Dilks

Tonight I received sad news of the passing of my high school band director and music teacher, David Dilks. He will be sorely missed. In his memory, I want to share this essay I wrote for his retirement 10 years ago.


Celebrating the Career of Mr. Dilks

When I moved to Pennsville in the summer before 9th grade, one of the first people I met was Mr. Dilks. My father brought me into the school to meet him–he had been a favorite teacher of his growing up, and would soon become a favorite of mine as well. To say Mr. Dilks was the best band director and most talented music teacher I ever had is an understatement. He clearly could have been a professional musician if he had wanted to be, but instead chose to teach and inspire generations of students, which I think says a lot about him as a person.

What I remember most about him from my marching band days were his intensity and perfectionism–and I mean that in a good way. I never felt intimidated by him, but I also knew that he was not going to tolerate you giving any less than your best effort. I remember once he was so fed up with the way the band was practicing that he declared practice over and stormed off the field. None of us left the field. Everybody stood there and waited until he eventually returned. That’s how much respect everybody had for him.

What also struck me from the marching/concert band days was his incredible ear. He could pinpoint a sour note out of a 500-piece orchestra from ten miles away. A few of us liked to mess around sometimes during practice and start playing other people’s parts–you might have been able to get away with that with other directors, but not with Mr. Dilks. I think we tried it once and never again.

On a lighter note, I remember my parents telling Mr. Dilks that my sister’s childhood nickname was Nib. Sure enough, and much to her chagrin, that was the name he would call her from that point on, as in: “Nib, move to the left!”

My favorite memories by far with Mr. Dilks were playing with him for four years in the student/faculty jazz band. Not only was it great to be able to let loose and play quality music with talented musicians, but it was an absolute treat every day just to hear him play the trumpet. When I say he could have been a professional, I am not exaggerating. Nevertheless, as extremely talented as he was, he was always a teacher first. He encouraged us to push ourselves to the limit and beyond, and trusted us enough to give us ad-lib solos–nothing felt better during a performance than hearing Mr. Dilks shout, “Yeah!” in the middle of one of your solos.

I also had great fun taking music theory with him as a senior. As one of only five people in the class, it was an intimate, laid-back, yet challenging course, where I learned a lot. But graduation wouldn’t be the end of my association with Mr. Dilks. As a student at Rowan University, I noticed he was teaching a music theory class and I jumped at the chance to take it. At the beginning of the class, he made it clear that it was a class for music majors only, and asked any non-music majors to raise their hands. I raised my hand, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, “you’re fine, you should know this stuff anyway.” So I remained in the class as the only non-music major and did quite well.

The last time I saw Mr. Dilks was at the band reunion we had a few years back. Of course he remembered me and asked how I’d been and also asked about my parents. He looked like he was having the time of his life reminiscing with former students. I hope we can have another reunion soon, and perhaps make it a celebration of Mr. Dilks’ career. I don’t know if he realizes the level of impact he has had on so many people, but we should make that sure he does.

Congratulations on your retirement, Mr. Dilks. You’ve earned it.

Michael Rappa
Alto/Tenor Sax, 1985-1989


Sadly, we never did have another reunion but I know that he felt the love and appreciation of generations of students upon his retirement. Rest in peace, Mr. Dilks.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: The Movie

This compilation of the videos I shot on my trip last summer features footage of Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion national parks, as well as Cedar Breaks National Monument and driving footage through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, including Route 66.

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Posted in North America, Travel, United States, Videos

American Southwest Trip, 2018: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

These photos are from my downtime at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where I volunteered in Dogtown (you can also volunteer with cats, horses, pigs, bunnies, etc.). It was a rewarding experience; I would love to return one day.

When I wasn’t volunteering, I explored the Angel Canyon area, where Best Friends is located. Unfortunately it was a mostly rainy couple of days and I wasn’t able to explore the majority of the canyon as the roads were closed for flooding, but I still managed to get a few decent shots.

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Posted in North America, Photography, Travel, United States

Virginia Trip, 2018: The Farmhouse

This past October we took a road trip down to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to try and catch the fall foliage. Unfortunately, extended warm weather and a very heavy season of rain meant that everything was still green when we got down there (not that there’s anything wrong with green, just not what we were hoping for). Despite that, it was still a nice getaway.

These photos are from the charming farmhouse we rented in the town of Luray in the Shenandoah Valley. The grounds and interior were beautiful; I could totally get used to living like that, though the location was a little too remote for my wife’s taste. I, on the other hand, loved the privacy, and we both dug the feeling of staying in a historic place while still enjoying modern amenities. I would definitely recommend the farmhouse if you’re planning a trip to the area. Just do a google search for “luray modern farmhouse.”

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Posted in North America, Photography, United States

London Trip, 2016: Buckingham Palace and St. James Park

Back in February of 2016, my wife Jen and I traveled to London for her sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, I fell deathly ill on the second night, forcing us to cancel a planned excursion to Bath. I had already visited Bath in 2014, but I wanted to take Jen there (since a trip to the Scottish Highlands was out of the question in the middle of February). Instead, I slept in our hotel bed on the third day while she walked around Picadilly Circus looking for medicine.

By the end of our trip Jen had caught the bug and was too sick to fly, so we had to extend our stay by a day at a hotel not far from Victoria Station. I was still recovering myself but felt well enough to do a little walking while Jen slept in the hotel.

The hotel was literally a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, so I walked around there, through St. James Park, and back along The Mall. I also visited nearby Westminster Cathedral and the Horse Guards Parade area. These photos are from that walk.

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Posted in Europe, Photography, Travel, United Kingdom

Canada Trip, 2016: Cape Enrage and Fundy National Park

The photos below are from my visits to Cape Enrage and Fundy National Park on August 29, 2016.

My wife and I first drove to Cape Enrage, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch next to the lighthouse before taking a walk around the grounds. They have rappelling and ziplining at Cape Enrage, but unfortunately the zipline from the cliff down the the beach was closed due to the wind. Bummer.

After leaving Cape Enrage we drove to Hopewell and hiked out to the beach among the famous rocks at low tide (this experience will be recounted in a forthcoming post).

During our hike back from the beach at Hopewell the skies opened and drenched us, but by the time we got back to our chalet in Alma, it was sunny again, so we headed out to nearby Fundy National Park for an early evening hike along a small waterfall trail. It was beautiful, like a stroll through Middle Earth, and peaceful—we had the entire trail to ourselves.

Later that evening we enjoyed one of the best pasta meals I’ve ever had (yes, in Canada!) at a place called An Octopus’ Garden Cafe. Pasta is made fresh with sauce customized exactly how you want it (I chose a spicy red sauce). Highly recommended. I would make a trip back to Alma just to eat there again.

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Posted in Canada, North America, Photography, Travel

Eurotrip 2014, Part 18: In Bruges (Briefly)

At long, long last, I’m sharing the final chapter of my 2014 Eurotrip, nearly three years after the previous installment. I suppose that I delayed this entry for so long because of how disappointing the day was. I had originally planned an extensive recounting of the problems encountered on this tour (which I alluded to earlier in this series), but in the end I decided it’s not worth it, especially since the company did give me a partial refund, so I’m just going to briefly summarize the events of the day.

July 13, 2014: We got a late start when we departed Amsterdam for Bruges because we had to wait roughly 30 minutes on the bus for our guide to arrive with the group from the hostel. When we finally reached Bruges, the bus driver drove around for another 20 minutes not knowing where to park. He eventually figured it out but then got into an argument with the guide about how much time we would spend there, which the bus driver apparently won. So by the time we finally departed the bus, we had already lost about an hour.

Then, after hustling to the center of the city, we were informed that we had to meet back at the bus in just over two hours. I was stunned. Two hours? What was the point of even stopping here? That was barely enough time to grab a bite to eat and run around to snap a few photos. I certainly didn’t have time to wait in line and climb to the top of the famous bell tower. To make matters worse, it was raining pretty heavily, so I decided to eat first in the hope that the rain would clear. For the most part it continued to rain, though it did finally clear during the last half-hour of my visit, so I hustled around to fit in as many rainless photos as I could.

Bruges had been the entire reason I booked this particular tour, so to barely spend any time there was a massive disappointment. Needless to say, I (and many others on the tour) felt a bit ripped off. On top of that, it was my last day in Europe before flying home the following morning, so an otherwise fantastic trip ended on a sour note, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Such is travel.

Oh well, I guess I’ll have to make a special trip to Belgium in the future so I can take my time and really experience this lovely city. In the meantime, here are a few of the photos I managed to take during my short visit. Click on any photo to open a gallery.

View more of my photos from Amsterdam and Bruges.

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Posted in belgium, Europe, Travel
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. Letchworth State Park, New York - September, 2015 Upper Falls #geneseeriver #hiking #landscapes #LetchworthStatePark #nature #NewYork #NorthAmerica #Photography #rivers #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
. Letchworth State Park, New York - September, 2015 Up close and personal with one of the locals. #LetchworthStatePark #nature #NewYork #NorthAmerica #Photography #scenery #Travel #UnitedStates #spiders
. Letchworth State Park, New York - September, 2015 Gazing toward the gorge from the top of the Middle Falls. #geneseeriver #hiking #landscapes #LetchworthStatePark #nature #NewYork #NorthAmerica #Photography #rivers #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls #gorges
. Letchworth State Park, New York - September, 2015 This was shot during my hike along the Middle and Upper Falls of Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York. As I’ve mentioned before, Letchworth is one of my favorite parks, rivaling some of the national parks in splendor. #geneseeriver #hiking #landscapes #LetchworthStatePark #nature #NewYork #NorthAmerica #Photography #rivers #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #UnitedStates #waterfalls
. San Francisco, California - October, 2014 City Hall #California #cities #NorthAmerica #Photography #SanFrancisco #Travel #UnitedStates #buildings #architecture
San Francisco, California - October, 2014 The old and the new: Marriott Marquis and St. Patrick Church. #California #cities #NorthAmerica #Photography #SanFrancisco #Travel #UnitedStates #buildings #architecture
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 One final Avalanche Lake reflection photo. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #lakes #mountains #nature
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 Shot at the end of my hike of the Avalanche Lake Trail. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #lakes #mountains #nature
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 Avalanche Lake reflection. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #lakes #mountains #nature
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 Shot toward the end of my hike of the Avalanche Lake Trail. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #lakes #mountains #nature
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 This was shot at the end of my hike of the Avalanche Lake Trail. I had almost quit the trail before finishing because it was late in the day, the woods were getting dark, and I was hiking through grizzly country with very few other hikers on the trail, but I’m glad I stuck it out because the reward at the end was more than worth it: a pristine hidden lake casting a perfect mirror image of the earth and sky above, including a pair of waterfalls in the distance. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates
Glacier National Park, Montana - September, 2019 Shot during my hike of the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier. #AvalancheLake #GlacierNationalPark #hiking #landscapes #Montana #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates
Angel Canyon, Utah - August, 2018 Shot during my visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. #americansouthwest #angelcanyon #bestfriendsanimalsanctuary #landscapes #mountains #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #utah
Angel Canyon, Utah - August, 2018 Shot during my visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. #americansouthwest #angelcanyon #bestfriendsanimalsanctuary #landscapes #mountains #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #utah
Angel Canyon, Utah - August, 2018 These photos are from my downtime at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where I volunteered in Dogtown (you can also volunteer with cats, horses, pigs, bunnies, etc.). It was a rewarding experience; I would love to return one day. When I wasn’t volunteering, I explored the Angel Canyon area, where Best Friends is located. Unfortunately it was a mostly rainy couple of days and I wasn’t able to explore the majority of the canyon as the roads were closed for flooding, but I still managed to get a few decent shots. #americansouthwest #angelcanyon #bestfriendsanimalsanctuary #landscapes #mountains #roadtrips #scenery #Travel #utah
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