Oregon Adventures: Crater Lake National Park

Next on our Oregon adventure, we drove four hours south of Portland to Crater Lake National Park. The drive in was breathtaking in itself! Crater Lake National Park is home to America’s deepest lake, a lake so blue it almost doesn’t look real. Surrounding the lake is an old-growth forest and cliffs with sheer drop offs. There are many options to get the most of your trip to Crater Lake including, a road that goes around the entirety of the lake (depending on the time of year), hiking trails, boat tours and trolley tours. We chose to drive around the lake, which took approximately two and a half hours. During the drive there are many lookouts to view the lake at different perspectives. The day we went it was extremely windy, with winds from the north. That made the temperature, with wind chill, a lovely 36 degrees with occasional freezing rain and snow flurries. Even with the cold weather the views were incredible and definitely worth the occasional numb fingers. Tip: Bring gloves.

So what should you see?  If you have half a day to a day, I would recommend driving around the lake. If you plan to stay longer than a day, hike down the Cleetwood Trail. It’s the only trail that safely goes down to the lake surface. There you can take a boat tour to Wizard Island. No matter what you do, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty of this place.
IMG_8010 IMG_8011 diptych2 IMG_7992 IMG_7997 IMG_8031 IMG_8069 IMG_8046 diptych1cropped-blogsignature.jpgwww.samanthakurtz.com

Please do not crop, edit, or alter the image(s) in any way. All images and their copyright are property of Samantha Kurtz Photography, LLC. All rights reserved.

National Parks: Carlsbad Caverns + Guadalupe Mountains

A few weeks ago two of my friends and I drove down to New Mexico and west Texas to went to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Seeing all the National Parks in the United States is one of the items on my bucket list. (I’ve seen 7/59, Woo!) Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains are approximately 50 minutes away from each other, so we decided to visit both in a weekend. Both of these national parks provide unique experiences for both the extremely adventurous and not-so-adventurous folk.

Carlsbad Caverns offers self-guided cave tours, ranger guided tours (some include spelunking), a bat flight program and a night sky program. We did a self-guided tour down the natural entrance, which led into The Big Room. Approximately a three-mile trek. Sadly, we didn’t do either the bat flight program or night sky program due to time.

The Guadalupe Mountains offers many hiking trails both for the extreme hiker and the beginner hiker. Trails range from half a mile to 11.3 miles. This national park is not for the faint of heart (if you get ambitious, like we did) and requires some preparation for the hike.

So which one should you visit? Depends on what you want to see. If you have the time both are definitely worth seeing.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park


There are two options to get down into the cave: the natural entrance or you could ride an elevator down to The Big Room. We decided to take the natural entrance down to the cavern. It was steep, but was worth the extra views. (Left: Natural Entrance, Right: View of the “Twilight Zone” once inside the cave)cIMG_7363Once you get into the cave you are surrounded by incredible views, including some famous stalagmites and stalactites formations.cIMG_7373This is one of the many formations in the Hall of Giants.cIMG_7335 cIMG_7412The Big Room, the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America, is a 1.25 mile route. According to the National Park Service website, “roughly 6.2 football fields would fit into the Big Room.” So it is definitely a sight to see!cUntitled-2


Guadalupe Mountains National Park

cUntitled-1cGuadalupe Mountains National Park, home of El Capitan (not to be confused with El Capitan of Yosemite) and Guadalupe Peak, the highest peak in Texas (8,751 ft). We chose to do the Devil’s Hall Trail due to time, weather (end of July in west Texas equals HOT), and lack of hiking experience. Ha!cIMG_7487 cUntitled-1Being in the desert (specifically the Chihuahua Desert) there were plenty of cacti. I was in love!cIMG_7484 cIMG_7477 cIMG_7455 cIMG_7479The last 2.5ish miles of the Devil’s Hall trail required some serious boulder climbing as it was in a river wash.

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad, the town, is definitely a town because of the nearby national park. As a typical small town, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. They have a small downtown with many antique shops. Nearby is the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, which we didn’t have time to see. We ended finding some delicious restaurants and an awesome ice cream place (we went to it every day, it was that good).

carlsbaddLucy’s Mexicali Restaurant: (Rating 2/5 stars)
Right off the main road through Carlsbad, Lucy’s was a delicious Mexican restaurant choice. I have a sampler platter of Mexican dishes with lots of green chile.
Kaleidoscoops Ice Cream & More: (Rating 5/5 stars)
Best ice cream I’ve ever had! The handmade waffle cones are amazing. Definitely a must visit.
YellowBrix: (Rating 4/5 stars)
This restaurant was my favorite of the trip! It was cozy and slightly fancy. The food was amazing! Sarah and I both had Mexican dishes (when in New Mexico, green chile for every meal). Cecily had the Margarita Chicken and it was the best Margarita chicken I’ve ever had!
Danny’s Place BBQ: (Rating 3/5 stars)
Being from Oklahoma, I was a little skeptical of “new mexican” barbecue, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had a green chile burger (can you see my theme here) and it was really good! Definitely could taste the green chiles.

Roswell, New Mexico


Carlsbad, NM was only an hour-and-a-half from Roswell, NM., also known as “the alien city.” So of course we took a little detour to see the aliens. This quaint town has really embraced the alien theme, as the International UFO Museum attracts many tourists a year. It also holds a yearly festival, the Roswell UFO Festival. Worth checking out, especially if you’re in to aliens.

For more information about Carlsbad National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park visit the national park service website.
Carlsbad Caverns website
Guadalupe Mountains website


Please do not crop, edit, or alter the image in any way. All images and their copyright are property of Samantha Kurtz Photography, LLC. All rights reserved.

Albuquerque + International Balloon Fiesta

The beginning of October a few of my best friends went on a road trip to visit one of our dear friends Sarah. After graduation, Sarah moved out to ABQ to work for a church that we do missions with. How cool! We strategically planned to visit during the weekend of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It was a surreal experience seeing hundreds of hot air balloons fill up the sky. I’d definitely recommend going.

Our first half day in ABQ we had some time to kill, so we went and found Walter White’s house from the show Breaking Bad. The family who owns the house has lived there for more than 30 years. Note all the NO TRESPASSING signs. They were serious about it.

We also found Jesse Pinkman’s house (supposedly). My friends Sarah and Callista were a little excited.

We got to the fairgrounds for the mass ascension at 4 a.m. It was so worth it despite being a little cold and tired. This shot was before sunrise.

The Sandia mountains before sunrise.

Right before the mass ascension

Finally the mass ascension!

Marshall Wallace {September 27, 2014}

This handsome fellow is Marshall. I took Marshall’s sister, Emily, senior photos when she graduated from high school in 2011. Little did I know I’d be contacted by the Wallace family again for Marshall’s senior photos a few years later. For Marshall’s shoot, we roamed around downtown OKC, a place where I am still fairly unfamiliar with, even though I venture down there quite often. Luckily, his parents knew where some cool spots were and now I do too! Marshall was a natural poser and has such a genuine smile. Thanks Marshall and the rest of the Wallace clan for the fun and adventurous shoot. See you guys soon!

Here are some photos from the shoot:


Copyright © Samantha Kurtz. All rights reserved. My images may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission.