Monday, October 16, 2006
On the way down, I stopped at one of my favorite areas for nature-- Land Between the Lakes just southeast of Paducah, Kentucky. The lakes produce a wonderful fog every morning in the fall, and lots of birds stop there on their migrations south. This was a blue heron out for a morning flight just before sunrise.
I had last been to the Smokeys a couple years ago for a photo workshop in Townsend, just south of Gatlinburg. I liked that it was smaller, quieter, and less commercial than Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, so I decided it'd make a great place to camp. I stayed at a terrific RV park called Little River Village just a mile or so from the park entrance.
Inside the park, the colors were rather muted and not quite turned yet. But, it's still a beautiful, peaceful place anyway. Here are a few photos from the river that runs alongside the road between Townsend and Gatlinburg.
I decided one night to drive up to Clingman's Dome for the sunset. It had been sunny and about 50 down in the forest, but once I got up to the summit, it was about 30 and extremely windy. So, I did what all the other photographers were doing--- planted my tripod out where I wanted to shoot my sunset shots, and then retreated to my warm car to wait for the sun to go down.
It was well worth the wait! Simply amazing color from up there.
The next morning, I did the drive through Cades Cove at sunrise. I had remembered from my last visit that mornings were foggy there and that the stables usually let their horses graze in the pasture in the early morning, so they did not disappoint this time around!
My final stop was to return to the Roaring Forks Motor Tour drive just north of Gatlinburg. Most tourists wiz through this short drive not thinking much about it (just looks like a pretty forest). But off the side of the road in one section, down a ravine, is this wonderful creek with moss-covered rocks. I had gotten some good shots here during my Spring photo workshop, and it was still equally as nice to photograph in the fall.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
They say T@Bs are Airstream wanna-bees because they're both made by the same company (Thor) and both are silver.
I just thought it looked like "Me and Mini-me"! Maybe one day the little T@B will grow up to become an Airstream!
I decided to try camping at Wally World for the first time. Wal-Marts allow RVers to park in their lots overnight, and at this Wal-Mart in North Platte, Nebraska (only about a 1/2 mile off the interstate), there were plenty of RVs staying that night.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The next morning, I went to Arches National Park to take all these photographs. The sunrise created a very neat donut hole shadow in the section of the park called "The Windows"
I then hiked the trail up to Delicate Arch. Not the long, strenuous trail that takes you directly to the arch, but the slightly shorter, moderately difficult one that leads you to a point directly across a canyon from the arch. You never see this canyon until you reach the summit of the trail, and then, boom, it reveals itself in this amazing scene!
Here's what it looks like a little lower from the summit (where you can't yet see the canyon). A couple of us photographers sat up on the summit to rest and take in the spirituality of this wonderful place. This was the last thing I saw before walking back down the trail to start my long drive back home to Chicago.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
It turns out, he was on a mission to WALK coast to coast to raise money to help kids with cancer. He wasn't some hobo or hippie, but a married man with 6 children, one of whom had cancer. So, I made a donation to his site.
Well, here's the weird part---- we actually had quite a few similarities. Our last names were nearly identical (Barden and Braden); he was originally from Libertyville, IL (where my company is located), and we both share the same birthday--- March 11.
How weird is that! I bet we probably had other similarities had I taken the time to stop and talk to him a while longer. I'll stop to read the book next time rather than just judge it's cover.
This was the scene I had stopped to photograph:
Saturday, September 23, 2006
I assumed that the snowfall had been a freak occurance and that the rest of the week would be nice, as it said in the last forecast I'd seen a few days ago. Well.... the Rockies can be very unpredictable in September. The next morning, I woke up to 6 inches of snow on the camper, and the snow was continuing to fall at a very rapid rate!
I was unable to get any radio or TV reception, but one of the fellow campers had a satellite dish and he said they were calling for continued heavy snow all day at elevations above 4,000 feet. Hmm, the campground was only about 5000 feet, and I had remembered that the town of Montrose about 30 minutes away was at 4000 feet. So, I quickly decided to pack up and leave camp a day early to head down to lower elevations. A couple of the retired men near the campground said "you're going to drive a trailer in this???" But I had a good feel for what I was about to do. I knew my trailer towed well without swaying, and knew Montrose was an all down hill 30 minute drive. So I went for it!
As the weather report predicted, by the time I got down to Montrose, it was all rain. I continued to drive northwest to lower elevations, and by mid-afternoon, made the snap decision to drive out west a couple hours to Moab, Utah where I was hoping it'd be clear and dry. Turns out, I made a VERY wise decision! I found out later that day that Hwy 550's upper elevations near Silverton, had received 36" of snow, and at Ridgeway where I'd been camping, they received 18" of snow. Had I stayed, I would have been snowed-in and stuck for days!
Friday, September 22, 2006
Perhaps the most spectacular and frightening 25 miles I have ever driven in my life is Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. The mountains in this region are giant and literally vertical (unlike the mountains near Denver and Vail that are much more spread out). My brother said Ouray reminded him of the Alps in Switzerland. Ouray is rich in history and architecture with lots of historic mining buildings, hotels, and shops.
At the top is an old mining camp at Red Mountain Pass. Another spectacular spot for photos.
So, the first time I drove Hwy 550, it was raining on the bottom and lightly snowing on the top of the pass. By the time I turned around to drive back, however, it had started to get dark, with blinding snow and fog, and very slick hairpin turns. Even though I had 4WD, I drove about 10mph the whole way home....scared to death!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The next morning was sunny as expected. I drove just west of Ridgeway to the Dallas Divide to shoot a "postcard" mountain shot with aspens in the foreground. This northern edge of the San Juans was on the border of western Colorado's arid high mesa region, so the fall colors here were still a bit spotty, but still breathtakingly beautiful.
Later in the morning, I decided to drive the Last Dollar Road to Telluride. What an incredible 4WD drive! There were a couple nearly-impassable large mud puddles, but otherwise, the road was in fairly good shape. It took me way up to the top of the moutain range shown here and after about 40 miles ended up in Telluride. By the time we reached Telluride, it was starting to cloud up and get colder so I didn't take many pictures, but Telluride is a gem of a little skiing village with lots of historic buildings. Well worth another visit!
By afternoon, it had started to rain steadily in the lower elevations. I decided to drive the spectacular Hwy 550 from Ridgeway to Silverton. In the upper elevations, it had snowed a little as the clouds slowly passed across the mountaintops and this was just perfect for photography.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Randy manages the Christy Sports ski shop in Vail. He had to work one day, so Mom, Dolores, Millie and I decided to pay him a visit. This was the first store other than Petsmart that Millie had ever been to, so she kept seeming to hunt around for the store for milk bones. Randy tried to sell her a pair of ski boots, but she wasn't buying, and was much more interested in continuing her milk bone hunt!
On another day, our Dad's cousin Dorothy came up the mountain for a mini-reunion. Dorothy has been a life-long Coloradoan and still skis even though she's nearly 80! I snapped a quick pic of her, Randy, and my mom. Even managed to capture camera-shy Dolores in the background.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Everybody in Vail seems to have a cool laid back dog that calmly walks amidst the crowded streets or calmly waits outside the restaurant while their owners eat lunch.
That is, except for my dog. She wanted to run up and kiss all other dogs and children, and generally wanted to keep a 10 foot distance from any man, that is unless the man happens to have beer (her real name is Miller, after all!).
One couple came to pet her and I was surprised to see her quite pleasant to the man. His wife then mentioned that he had just spilled a beer all over his hands, so that certainly explained why Millie was lavishing him with slobbery kisses!
Vail was celebrating their annual Oktoberfest, so the streets were pretty jammed with beer-toting cheerful singing and dancing folks. Since it's a skiing mecca, there were real Germans and Austrians leading their Oktoberfest (as opposed to the less authentic fests we have in the Midwest).
Good music, food, and beer was had by all!
Monday, September 18, 2006
The second night there, Randy had come over to go out to dinner with us. When we returned to the condo, we noticed someone had come in and put a bag of golf clubs in the middle of one of the bedrooms! Randy called the owner to see if he might know what was going on. The generous owner had apparently gotten his lending dates mixed up and thought he'd leant the condo to one of his golfing buddies the week after us, but alas, the guy was in town now and had apparently just dropped his clubs off before going out for a bite to eat.
Fortunately, the young man, Angelo, could not have been a nicer guy, and we all had a great couple of days as gypsies at "the boarding house." Angelo was a golf club pro from Montrose who had come up to Edwards/Vail for a golf tournament. He had left his wife at home with the two small kids while he was surely looking forward to some peace and quite at his buddy's condo. Instead he got mothered by Dolores and Mom for two non-stop evenings of stories and jokes. The only one who didn't seem to like Angelo too much was Millie. She decided to put on her "I hate men" act and quietly growled or shyed away from him almost the whole time. Maybe it was the golf hat, or maybe the big shoes and low voice....who knows what that demented little dog was thinking!
Sunday, September 17, 2006
I was last in Omaha back in 2001 doing a software installation project for a physician practice there. The customer was a real dud, but I enjoyed the visits there with the other consultant I was working with. He was originally from India and introduced me to Indian food for the first time in Omaha of all places.
We used to frequent a great Indian restaurant downtown in Omaha's Old Market district (a very cool historic/trendy area with lots of restaurants and shops---http://www.oldmarket.com/), so when my mom and I started planning to spend the evening in Omaha, that was the first place I thought about going back to.
The restaurant (Indian Oven) was the same as I remembered. It was a warm evening, so Mom, Dolores and I decided to eat at one of the sidewalk tables beneath the tin-roof canopies that cover all the sidewalks in the Old Market. We ordered the things I'd remembered my Indian friend ordering for me (samosas and tandoori chicken) and a few other things the waitress recommended. A greenish sauce came with the samosas, so all of us being adventurous, decided to dunk our samosas right into it. It tasted great at first....but then some kind of chili or curry kicked in and Dolores claimed not be able to feel her lips again for another hour or so. Where was my expert Indian guide when we needed him?!! Well, the rest of the meal was great, and I've yet to eat Indian food in any other town except Omaha, Nebraska!
Sunday, August 6, 2006
Well, I've done it.... gone out and have started a blog. In the next few weeks, I'll be traveling the U.S. to photograph nature images and anything else that happens to look interesting. I'll be joined by my spoiled rotten yellow lab, Millie, and we'll be living (hopefully comfortably) from Millie's new rolling doghouse (otherwise known as my new T@B trailer).
This blog will be a way to keep all my friends & family updated on our discoveries and whereabouts. Stay tuned!