30 September 2011

The Adventure Continues!

Lembert Dome
On the morning of day three, I woke feeling much better (though still a bit off) after a good night's sleep.  I drove up over Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park with the sunrise.  At nearly 10,000 feet high, the early morning was chilly.  I was glad I had packed sweaters and a jacket!  What a change from two days before in Death Valley!  Here, there was frost on the ground and mist rising from the lakes.  The autumn colors were starting to glow as you can see in this photo of Lembert Dome.

Lupine with Frost Drops
As always, I love the details of a place as well as the big picture.  How delightful to find a whole bank of these wild lupine still blooming!  Each leaf and petal was covered in frosty droplets.

Tenaya Lake
The view at Tenaya Lake was stunning.  I had the beach to myself and enjoyed a leisurely walk across it.  So beautifully peaceful at this early hour of the morning!

Granite Slick Rock
In various parts of the southwest, one comes across a type of sandstone known as slick rock.  This hillside of granite made me think of that, though the geology of it is completely different.  Amazing to see these broad smooth mountainsides of rock either way!

Siesta Lake
What is it about ponds that draws our attention to them?  I find myself wanting to stop at every little bit of water I see. At this lovely spot, I watched enormous blue dragonflies performing aerial acrobatics as hunted for their breakfast.  On the far side, there were lily pads.  All around was birdsong!

Tuolumne Meadows
At Tuolumne Meadows, I sat and listened to a Beldings Ground Squirrel.  His call was clear and piping, echoing across the meadow like a ringing bell.  It was so musical, that at first I thought it was a bird.

Yosemite Valley evening
Eventually I made it down to the valley floor.  The views, as one can imagine from all the magnificent photos taken of it, don't begin to express the immensity and grandiosity of the formations here.  I took lots of photos, that look just like all those that everyone takes.  But it wasn't until late in the day as the sun was setting, that I finally took a photo that captured the light that in my mind, I saw all day.  It's no wonder that so many artists have been drawn to paint masterpieces here.

Olmstead Point Sunset
In the evening, I drove back towards Lee Vining and reached Olmstead Point just as the last light of the sunset was hitting the peaks.  A beautiful view to end the day with!

Yosemite Valley
The next morning, I needed to head towards home.  With a tummy still not quite normal, I didn't want to rush, and somehow, the idea of driving into the sun all day across the desert was more than I could handle.  So I decided to take a more lingering way home and travel down the western side of the Sierra.    I started the day with a look at Mono Lake, which I'll post about tomorrow.  Then I headed back into Yosemite.  As I headed toward the southern end of the park, I was surprised at the Tunnel View overlook, to suddenly see the view of the valley that has become so famous, so of course, I had to get out with a million other tourists and take a shot of the view.  Gorgeous!  Even if everyone else who visits Yosemite takes the exact same picture!

Mariposa Grove Sequoia
I was really looking forward to seeing the big trees again, so a stop at Mariposa Grove was must.  Somehow, time had gotten away from me on this drive (too many distractions!) and so it was late afternoon already by the time I arrived.  Taking the "tram" tour allowed me to see all of the grove.  I love this shot of the little cabin back in the woods framed by the sequoia.  It helps to put them in proper scale!

Sunlight in Mariposa Grove
The evening sun coming through the trees was glorious.  Every now and then, something comes along that fills one with a sort of primal awe.  Something so primal, so powerful, so... amazing.  I feel that way about watching an ocean when the waves are at their peak, about watching a powerful fire rip through a forest,  watching, listening and feeling an intense thunder and lightning storm, or watching a new life being born.  I feel that way about the Sequoia trees too.  The Irish gentleman who sat next to me on the tram tour put it perfectly.  We waited for him after one of our stops and when he got back on at last, his friends ribbed him about wanting to stay in the forest.  He stood up, flung his arms out and looking up into the tall trees cried, "I love the trees!  I love the sequoia!  I... Am A Tree Hugger!!!"

28 September 2011

Road Trip Day 2 or Where Things go Awry

Lone Pine Mt Whitney
On day two of my road trip, I was up with the dawn and spent a lovely hour watching the sun come up and the jack rabbits playing in the field adjacent to my hotel room. The morning view of the high Sierra peaks was amazing! This shot was taken just across the street from my hotel.   

Hotel Bear Lone Pine
As I was leaving, I noticed this fun bear carved in stone in front of the hotel! He made me smile!

Mt Whitney
I drove up toward the Whitney Portal, where the trailheads leave to climb the peaks. This photo of Mt. Whitney was taken on the way up.  I never made it to the portal. Just after taking this photo, I was beset by horrible diarrhea and vomiting. Ugh! After re-routing to a campground with a bathroom (and returning several times), I finally felt a bit better and decided to head up the road towards my next hotel.

Rather than stopping to see the Manzanar Historic Site and visiting Devils Postpile National Monument and Lake Mono as planned, I realized that I needed to see a Dr instead.  I spent the afternoon in the emergency department at the hospital in Bishop, California. I was so glad to be there and they took such great care of me, that missing the sights was fine by me!  I was terribly afraid that the c-diff I'd had back in March had returned, so was grateful and relieved to find that it hadn't.  More likely, I just picked up a bug or had a case of food poisoning.  Imagine being happy about that!  I truly was!   

 Lake Crowley
By early evening, I was on the road again, feeling much better (and well medicated!) so I drove on towards my hotel. Lake Crowley in the evening light was just lovely. I got glimpses along the way of more amazing ranges of mountain peaks, but by then the light was too low for photos. Just as dusk gave way to night, I made it to my hotel in Lee Vining. How relieved I was to finally settle in for the night!

26 September 2011

A Little Road Trip!

Red Rock cliffs
It has been a while since I've been able to get away on a little road trip to see a new place!  So when I saw a newspaper article on the Eastern Sierra last week, just before a long stretch of days off, I knew I had to go!  Heading west from Flagstaff, I traveled through Kingman, Arizona, up to Las Vegas and then west towards Pahrump.   These colorful cliffs just west of Las Vegas are in the Wild Horse and Burro conservation area.

Ashford Mill Ruins
From Pahrump, I took the road to Shoshone and into Death Valley.  These ruins are left from the Ashford Mill.  They made a nice frame for the colorful mountain in the distance!  It was hot ~ about 92 degrees at this location.  Not much grows here, mostly just some creosote bush.

Badwater Basin
As the road dropped in elevation, the temperatures kept rising.  By the time I got to the Lowest Point in the U.S., it was 101 degrees F!

Salt Flats
The salt flats were amazing.  Taking the first step out onto them, I felt like I should have ice skates on as the impression was like stepping out onto an ice rink.  But the traction was great.  On the path where many had walked, the salt was worn smooth.   Off to the sides of the path, the salt was rugged.  I'd have loved to explore a bit more, but it was just too darn hot!

Desert Holly
One of the plants I love in Death Valley is this Desert Holly.  It reflects the light in almost a prismatic way.

Golden Hills
The colors of the mountains and hills around Death Valley are ever changing.  These yellow ochre hills just glowed with light!  It was even hotter here at 106 degrees F!  It's the end of September ~ I'm sure glad I didn't try this trip in the midst of summer!

Dune
When I was in Elementary School, we watched a number of films about Death Valley, which all seemed to focus on the nocturnal wildlife of the dunes ~ particularly the sidewinder rattlesnakes and kangaroo rats. How surprised I was to find that the dunes exist only in fairly small areas, though they do rise to a good height!  Since I was there in the middle of the day, I didn't get to see any wildlife!  I'd have loved to see a kangaroo rat, but I'll pass on the rattlesnakes!  There is so much to see and do here, that I wish I'd had more time.

Sierra Nevada
As the first day of my road trip came to an end, I headed into the town of Lone Pine, which sits at the eastern base of the Sierra.  The low hills in front are the Alabama Hills.  In back, the Sierra rise vertically nearly 10,000 feet from the valley floor!  The peak underneath the butterfly shaped cloud on the right is Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous U.S. at 14, 495 feet high!  Beyond the peaks to the west is Sequoia National Park, where unfortunately, you can't see the peaks without backpacking in a good ways.  How wonderful to see these glorious peaks at last!

18 September 2011

Downsizing!

Organized closet
Several of you have asked how things are going after my surgery back in April and I'm pleased to say that they are going very well!  I'm down over 75 lbs from where I was in January!  I have so much more energy and I move so much faster than I used to!  This weekend, I took half a day to go through my closet, trying every single item on.  I was able to get rid of 4 large trash bags full of clothes that are way too big!  How nice to get everything all sorted out and downsize in such a positive way!  Everything that is left in the closet fits for now! (Provided you don't count things like suitcases and pillows, which are also stored here! )

Organized shirts
See all those empty hanger to the right?  I'm wondering how they all fit in the closet with clothes on them!  Now I've got things sorted by color, which makes it easy to find things that go together.  In another 20 lbs or so, I'll have to do this again as many of these shirts are just borderline too big.  How nice to have this problem rather than the old one of things getting too tight!

Hail!
Last week, we had some tremendous thunderstorms move through.  One of them left us with lots of hail, up to 4 inches deep in some places in town!  The leaves on the trees are looking mighty beat up and much thinner than they had been!  I took this picture a couple of hours after the storm when I got home from work.  I can only imagine what it must have looked like right after!

11 September 2011

Lap Afghan Finished!

Afghan done!
One of my goals this year was to complete a number of unfinished projects.  I'm making good headway and am so happy to have another large project completed!  I started this lap afghan last year from some wool from my mother's weaving stash.  I'm a slow knitter, so it's doubly satisfying to see a large project like this get finished!

Lap Afghan
The lap afghan measures 34" x 44".  Just the right size to curl up with in a chair while reading (or stitching)!

Basketweave Pattern
Trying to plan this project was the hardest part as I knew I had a limited amount of yarn to work with and wanted to make the most of it.  I ended up using the yarn calculator on Ravelry to help plan. For the most part, it worked fairly well.  I didn't end up with the square afghan I was hoping for, but the size still works out great, so I'm happy with it!

Afghan corners
With hindsight, I'd have planned the borders a bit differently so they came out the same width on all sides.  But I started off with a narrow border on the leading edge and so I finished with a narrow one on the top edge as well (though it's two rows short of the leading edge as I ran out of yarn!), while both sides are a bit wider.  I ended up with just a foot or two extra of yarn!  I still need to block it, but that's a job for tomorrow!

08 September 2011

Two Days in Rocky

Mountain Cabin After all the wedding festivities of the past week (and all the preparation!), I treated myself to two days in Rocky Mountain National Park before heading back to Arizona.  I stayed in a lovely little rustic cabin in Estes Park.  It was nice to be so close to all the beauties the park had to offer and not have to drive the 45 miles up and down the mountain each day.

One of my goals was to spend some time doing some watercolor sketches, but as usual, I took many more photographs than I did watercolor sketches!  Rather than post them all here, you may view the set of photographs on Flickr, including some from previous visits. The most current photos are at the end of the set.

Horseshoe Park
The first day was lovely, sunny and warm.  The Labor Day crowds were out in force, so I opted for a lesser traveled route, Old Fall River Road.  The view of Horseshoe Park was lovely!  Horseshoe Park is named for the horseshoe bends that St. Vrain Creek makes as it winds through the valley.

Perfect Jewels
As always, it is as much the details of a place that enthrall me as well as the grand views.  These lovely jewel bright berries hung so perfectly from the stalks.  Little treasures!

Wildflowers on Old Fall River Road
Since it was September and the summer was very hot here, I didn't expect to see many wildflowers, but was surprised by hillsides of them again and again!

Fireweed with Bumblebee
A late bumblebee was dining on the Fireweed!

Distant Waterfall
Across the canyon, little rivulets of water cascade down the rocks.  While the scale of this appears quite small, I'm certain that the distance fools the eye and the waterfall is much larger than it appears!  There were many of them to enjoy!

Alpine Hairbells
Up on the tundra, things were moister than at lower elevations and despite the cool temperatures, these hairbells were blooming beautifully!

Wind Groomed Tree
At this altitude, the wind blows continuously.  How anything can survive is one of God's miracles.  In protected spots, a tree will grow, but you can see that it doesn't venture far from the protection of the rock, staying within it's wind shadow!

Wapiti
During the summer, the elk frequent the tundra.  Within the next few weeks however, they will make their way down to the large meadows like Horseshoe Park and Moraine Park where the main rutting season will take place.  In the meantime, up here on the tundra, this bull has gathered a small harem and is doing his best to keep them in line.  Here he bugles quietly, communicating with his cows.

Bugler's Domain
Standing guard and looking out over the edge of his domain, full bugling commenced, the sound echoing back and forth over the landscape!  A sure warning to any other bulls in the area that he was king in his domain!

Glacial Cirque
While enjoying the background echoes of bugling, I did a watercolor sketch of the large glacial cirque near the top of Trail Ridge.

Moraine Park
The next morning, I woke to mist and rain.  A disappointment as it made the hike I intended to go on pretty miserable.  So instead, I opted to visit the lower regions of the park by car to see what wildlife I could see and maybe do some more watercolor sketching from the car.  The elk were mostly tucked away in the woods, but as the clouds lifted a little, this stunning scene came into view in Moraine Park, one of my favorite areas of the Park.

Hallet's Peak
In the light mist, I thought I might be able to walk around the easy trail of Bear Lake, but by the time I reached it, it was pouring!  Instead, I sat in the car and sketched this scene of Hallet's Peak from the parking lot.  The light gray sky belies the heavy rain falling from it!

Raindrops on Branches
Big drops hung from every branch.  These large shrubby willows are abundant in the wetland areas of the park and a favorite habitat for the elk.

Big Thompson River
Big Thompson River starts high up in the mountains until it reaches Moraine Park, where it winds gently through the willows before reaching the more open grassland of the park.  The rain continued on, so I sketched this one through the window of the car as well. It is my favorite sketch of the trip!  How nice to return to my snug little cabin at the end of the day and enjoy the dry warmth of a nice log fire in the fireplace!

Misty Trees at Treeline
I awoke early in order to get started on the journey home.  Rather than head back down the mountain through Boulder and Denver, I opted to go up over Trail Ridge and through the mountains back towards I-70.  The rain was still falling and near the top of Trail Ridge Road the clouds hugged the ground making for a misty landscape.

Rock Walls in Rocky
There are so many things I love about Rocky Mountain National Park from the large amazing landscapes to the smallest details in the flora and fauna.  But I also have love the way the park is managed and cared for.  That care shows up in details like the rock walls used along the road ways, often with trees growing right over the top of them.  As they have repaved most of the roads in the past couple years, they have also rebuilt many of these rock walls.  I love how on this steep bank they "paved" the hillside by dry stacking the rock to provide stability to the steep slope.  At first glance, these banks go almost un-noticed.  I love that they used the indigenous rock and didn't transport in rock from elsewhere.

Kewaneechee Valley in the rain
On the western slope of the park, Autumn is advancing more noticeably as evidenced by the changing grass in the Keewaneechee Valley.  I was sad to leave, but as always, I look forward to returning another day!

03 September 2011

Married!

The Wedding Party
September 3 ~ a beautiful day for a wedding!  My parents were married on the same day in 1955 and were married for 56 years.  Stephen and Amanda choose to be married on the same day!  May they be blessed with as many wonderful years of marriage!

Amanda and Stephen
The beautiful bride Amanda and the handsome groom Stephen!

Amanda and Stephen
Relaxing after the ceremony!

My Kids and I
We had to get in a few family pictures as well!

Amanda and Stephen
The happy couple!

It was a perfect day!  Beautiful weather, not too hot, just enough breeze, lots of friends and family to celebrate with and special moments throughout the day!

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