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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Photos from the Smokies

When we took our driving tour of the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail on Saturday, we hiked a short nature trail at one of the old cabin sites. Here are a few photos from that walk.

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What do you think...woodpeckers?

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This wildflower was growing in the woods.

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This tree fungus was growing on the lower portion of a fallen log.

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And this tree fungus was growing on the upper portion of the same fallen log.

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Violets were out in abundance.
Even when the weather isn't great, there is beauty to be found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Smokies and Friends

The weather in the Smokies has been much cooler than anticipated and has included rain most every day. Some friends from Indiana came to spend the weekend with us during our vacation, and we've managed to find fun things to do together in spite of the weather.

Our friends like to use restaurant.com to get coupons for restaurants in cities they visit. They had gotten coupons for two restaurants in Gatlinburg, so we used one of those on Friday night and the other on Saturday night.

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Doug, Linda, K, and D
During the day on Saturday, we took a drive up the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail, just outside of Gatlinburg. It's a good way to see a little bit of the mountains and the national park, even if you don't have time to really get out and do some exploring. It's very scenic, and there are a few old home sites where you can stop and take a walk back in time.

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D, K, Doug, and Linda at Cabin Site on Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail
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The same cabin from a different angle
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The Place of a Thousand Drips on Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail
I have a confession to make about the above photo of the Place of a Thousand Drips: it wasn't taken this week. It was actually taken in April of 2006. The water was flowing much better that year, and it just made a prettier picture than Saturday's photo.

Since it doesn't appear that there's going to be a break in the weather in the next couple of days, and since our friends are going home on Monday, we've decided to do the same, cutting our trip a little shorter than planned. I do have a few more photos from our vacation that I'll probably share later, though.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Turkey Vulture and Mystery Critter

Doug still isn't fully recovered from his surgery of six weeks ago, and he hasn't really felt like hitting the trails on this visit to the Smokies. We did a couple of short hikes yesterday, but he wasn't really feeling the desire to walk today. It was a little too chilly to indulge in our other favorite activity, which is sitting in the woods or beside a river and reading a good book. So we went for a drive.

We thought we'd drive out to Douglas Dam, where we could park at the overlook and enjoy the view while sitting in our vehicle to read. When we reached the overlook, though, we saw that the restrooms were closed for repairs. Well, we weren't going to be able to stay there long without the availability of a restroom, so we decided to drive back to town and, from there, on into the national park.

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Douglas Dam
A storm had come through the area last night, so we drove to one of the campgrounds, just to see if the river had flooded it and forced the campers out as it sometimes does in that area. The only damage we saw, though, was a couple of downed trees.

We did, however, manage to capture a photo of a turkey vulture in a tree. We had seen him enjoying a tasty snack of roadkill, but he flew into the tree when we came along. The photo lacks good detail because of the distance, but I just had to share this charming fellow with you.

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Turkey Vulture
After the experience with the turkey vulture, we went to a favorite picnic area, parked the van, and enjoyed a short nap. My nap was shorter than Doug's, and I was reading when I heard a grunting noise that sounded for all the world like a pig right next to the van. I looked up from my book in time to see an animal running toward the river at top speed. It was small-to-medium size, brownish, with stripes similar to the stripes on a chipmunk.

I woke Doug, calling "Doug...a pig, a pig!" Well, he caught only a glimpse of the mystery critter before it disappeared, and that glimpse was without the aid of his glasses. Of course, being without glasses doesn't mean the same for Doug as it would for me. I need glasses to find my glasses. He, on the other hand, is naturally far sighted and can manage quite well without them.

We got out and walked around, looking for the animal itself or at least for its tracks, but we found nothing. That momentary glimpse we had of its fleeing back hadn't looked like any wild pig we had ever imagined, but the sound was so pig-like that I couldn't imagine what else it could have been.

So, when we got back to our hotel tonight, I went online and searched for information on wild pigs in the Smoky Mountains. I learned that they are usually smaller than other wild pigs, that the young have "longitudinal" stripes until they are about four months old, and that the piglets are usually weaned between the third and fourth months. Even though the piglets are then independent of the sow, they usually stay in the family group for about a year.

So I'm guessing that the one we saw, if indeed that's what we saw, was at the upper end of the stripe-sporting stage and past the weaning stage. But I'm at a loss as to why it appeared to be out there alone. Unfortunately, the whole thing happened so fast that I don't even have a blurry image to share with you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Springtime in the Smokies

Yes, we decided to take a little get-away to one of our favorite vacation spots: Smoky Mountains National Park. We're a little early for many of the flowering trees, although the redbud are blooming throughout the park. Here are a few pictures from today's outing.

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The look of layers in the mountains is part of what this park is known for.

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A tiny violet, shot with a macro setting.

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I'm not sure why, but my photographs of the violets make them look a royal blue color instead of the beautiful violet color of the actual flower. In this photo, you can see a bit of the violet color around the edges of the petals, but the overall color is still royal blue. It's pretty, but not quite accurate.

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I have no idea what this little darling is.

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This was growing on a bush where someone had had a homestead in years past.

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These, too, were growing on a bush near the same site as the red flower above.
Spring hasn't fully arrived in the Smokies yet, but little flowering beauties like these are here, waiting to be found along the trails.

Monday, March 21, 2011

While we're on the subject...

Since the moon has been the topic of much conversation this week, as well as the object of many photographs, I just thought I'd carry it a day further. It was shining brightly into my bedroom window last night, just calling to me to get the camera out again. So I did, and here are the results:

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A reflection in the window gives the illusion of a second moon.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super Moon

We've all been hearing about the Super Full Moon scheduled to make an appearance tonight. I'm sure I wasn't the only one watching eagerly for it to make its appearance. When it did rise, it was indeed beautiful; but I honestly didn't see the illusion of a larger size. Of course, that didn't stop me from photographing it.

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It was a lovely orange color early in its ascent.

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Just a few minutes later, the orange color was already fading.

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Later still, it's glowing brightly without a trace of orange. I realize that this is not a good picture of the moon; I just liked the "halo" around it.

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This one's a little better while still showing the "halo."

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I zoomed way in for this one, so no "halo" but clearer detail.
I love any excuse to tackle moon shots. I haven't mastered them yet, but maybe by the next Super Moon, in 18 years or so...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunbeams, Peanuts, and Critters

The photograph below was shot last Saturday afternoon, as Doug and I were on our way to meet some friends for supper in another town. The sunbeams piercing the clouds were just so pretty.

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And here are few pictures of some little critters enjoying peanuts on our back patio. There was a cardinal out there yesterday, but he was too fast for me.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hilary

My friend, Hilary, posted a "mystery image" on her blog, which went up shortly after midnight last night (or should that be "this morning"?) She challenged her readers to guess what the image is. After staring at the image until my eyes crossed, I sent her an e-mail, which led to a humorous exchange. Those of you who read Hilary's blog are already well aware of her quick wit and way with words. The following is just a small example:

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Linda wrote at 12:44 a.m.:

Well, you’ve got me stumped with that confusing image. My first thought was that it might be the cribbage board that you and CA used last weekend. Now, I’ve never even seen a cribbage game, so I didn’t know what it looked like. I just spent several minutes searching through images of cribbage boards to see if I could spot anything that looked like your image. I didn’t, but I thought you’d get a kick out of this image that I did find: 

Linda

(I wasn't sure if I had the right to include the image on this blog, so I'll just tell you that it was a cribbage board in the shape of a toilet seat.)
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Hilary responded at 12:57 a.m.:

Ha.. now that looks more like it should be for poker.. it's a royal flush. ;)

Hilary
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Linda wrote at 12:57 a.m.:

You did it again! I’m sitting here laughing. I’m going to bed now. :)

Linda
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Hilary responded at 1:03 a.m.:

Me too. The potty's over. It's time to call it a day... ;)

G'nite, Linda. :)

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Linda gets the last word at 1:04 a.m.:

I hope your driver’s license allows the donation of your mind to science.

Good night. :)

Linda
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One of the joys of blogging has been getting to "virtually" meet so many interesting people. And Hilary certainly falls into that category.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Big Horn Mountains

Wrapping up the travelogue for our trip west in the spring of 2009...

We packed up and left Afton, Wyoming the next morning, going through Thayne, where we had breakfast at...of all places...a pizza place. But this pizza place also served a very traditional and very delicious breakfast. Our route then took us on through Etna and Alpine.

Outside of Alpine, we took U.S. 26 northeast to Swan Valley, Idaho. There were lots of Osprey in that area, many with nests on the tops of poles or in the cliffs along the highway. Since they are fishing hawks, the large Palisades Reservoir and the Snake River were certainly part of the attraction for them.

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Osprey
At Swan Valley, we took Idaho 31 to Victor, Idaho and Idaho 22 to Wilson, Wyoming. Then we took 390 to Teton Village and on into Grand Teton National Park. We'd never seen that section of the park before, so that was interesting, in spite of the nasty weather.

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Grand Tetons
We drove on through the Tetons and entered Yellowstone National Park through the south entrance. It was June 2, and we had never visited Yellowstone this early in the season. We were a little surprised to find deep snow still lining the sides of the road and ice still on Lewis Lake.

We drove on to West Yellowstone, Montana, where we got a room and spent the night.

It was pretty cold and dreary the next morning, so we decided not to linger in Yellowstone but to start for home, taking time to visit a few of our favorite sites on the way out of Yellowstone, including the Artist's Point overlook of Yellowstone Canyon and Lower Falls.

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Yellowstone Canyon and Lower Falls
We left the Yellowstone by way of the east exit, which is a beautiful drive. Much of the beauty was hidden by low clouds that day, but we did see some wildlife.

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Duck
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Big Horn Sheep
When we reached Cody, Doug stopped at the Cody Dam to stretch his legs and to get some pictures.

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At Cody Dam
By the time we left Cody, the clouds were breaking up; and blue sky and sunshine were showing through. But that ended when we reached the Big Horn Mountains. The clouds and drizzle returned, making for a harried trip over and through the mountains. But the upside was that the foggy haze seemed to bring the wild animals out in abundance up there.

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Moose in Big Horn Mountains
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Elk in Big Horn Mountains
Our stop that night in Sheridan, Wyoming officially ended our vacation. For the next two days, we were "homing," with no stops for photographs.

It's been fun sharing this trip here on the blog. It was one of our best vacations to date, and it was fun reliving it as I posted about it here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

From Moab, Utah to Afton, Wyoming

Upon leaving Moab, Utah, on our spring, 2009, vacation, we took a little side trip to see the Sego Canyon Petroglyphs. That was very interesting, but the black flies were driving us crazy. So we made a quick photo stop of it and got back onto the highway.

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Sego Canyon Petroglyphs
There were a number of scenic overlooks and photo opportunities, and we took advantage of most of them, especially since there were no services at all for over a hundred miles, except for the restrooms at the scenic overlooks.

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San Rafael Reef
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San Rafael Swell
We spent that night in Ogden, Utah. The next day, we took another scenic byway towards Yellowstone National Park. We passed through the city of Logan, Utah, which lay in a beautifully scenic valley. The road then followed the Logan River through the Logan Canyon, a gorgeous trip, which took us past a large natural spring called "Ricks Spring."

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Rick's Spring
We continued on to Bear Lake, where we stopped at the large parking lot at a Visitor Center and ate our lunch.

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Bear Lake
One of the signs that we saw on the highway talked about a "periodic spring," one which ebbs and flows instead of flowing constantly. The sign said it was the third largest such spring in the world. It was located east of Afton, a little town yet ahead of us. So, when we arrived in Afton, we couldn't resist following the road to the spring.

It was about a four-mile drive on an unpaved road, followed by a 3/4-mile hike to the spring. When we got to the end of the trail, we could see a sign and a picnic table across the flood-stage Swift Creek. There didn't appear to be any way to get to it. But Doug was determined. He found a way, which involved rock hopping along the side of the creek and going up and over where the rocks were under water.

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Periodic Spring
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Trail to Periodic Spring
By the time we hiked back to the car and drove back to Afton on the unpaved road, it was about 6:00 p.m. So we found a nice little motel and decided to spend the night there.

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Elk Horn Arch in Afton, Wyoming

Friday, March 11, 2011

Arches National Park

I had visited Arches National Park back when it was just a National Monument, many years ago, and had loved it. I was anxious to share it with my hubby when we took our western vacation in 2009.

It was early afternoon when we entered the national park. As I had hoped, Doug was in awe over the magnificent and unique rock formations that were everywhere we looked. It was hard to know where to point the camera. 

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Looking down at the Visitor Center and the road into the National Park
We drove the 18-mile scenic drive through the park, stopping at nearly every scenic viewing area and walking to the overlook. Most of those were very short walks, but a few were longer.

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Balanced Rock
The temperature was in the upper eighties, with a mighty hot sun beating down on us; so, in spite of being approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, it was HOT! But we had a great time anyway. We slathered on the sun screen and wore our straw hats and got by all right.

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Turret Arch
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North and South Windows
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Double Arch
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Delicate Arch
The walk to the base of Delicate Arch would have been a three-mile round trip. We would have loved to do it, but we hadn't planned for it. So the above photo was made possible by a zoom lens.

On our way to see Landscape Arch, a round trip of 1.6 miles, we got caught in a surprise rain shower. We were carrying the digital camera and the camcorder and hadn't brought their cases with us. So we were trying very hard to keep them dry, but we kept walking. The rain didn't last long and it never did become a downpour. The cameras survived all right, but we won't do that again.

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Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch is considered to be the second longest natural arch in the world, measuring more than 290 feet. Since 1991, three slabs of sandstone have fallen from the thinnest section of Landscape Arch, prompting the Park Service to close the trail that once passed beneath it.

It was 8 PM by the time we left the Park. We returned to Moab and had supper at a fast-food restaurant. Then we drove around town a little. The stores were mostly still open, and the restaurants and bars appeared to be hopping. We parked on the street and got out and joined the crowds for a little while, browsing in a few shops, before calling it a day and heading back to the Apache Motel.
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