Friday, December 16, 2016

This winter of my life

I am off work today, bundled inside watching the winter storm work its way in with deepening grey skies, wind whipping the leaf-less trees and dried brown grasses, with the temperature continuing to drop.  It was 9 degrees at sunup today, now it is a balmy 23 degrees, and today's high of 27 was hours ago.  It is forecast to snow later this afternoon, through the overnight and into tomorrow, then slowly clear, with a sunny high of nearly 50 degrees Saturday.
I leave for vacation next week.  This is another quick drive to Florida, to see our son for the holidays, and bring back what stuff we can in my small car.  The 2-day drive will be quick, for sure.  Two 13+ hour days, driving about 1820 miles each way through two time zones, a bunch of major cities, travelling all Interstates will leave us 5 days to visit with family and friends near Orlando.  Then repeat the drive back here with a loaded car.
The weather looks good with no snow or major storms each way.  When we get back, we will both work through the holidays in Colorado, just like we did the past 2 years, and probably will the next 3 to 5.
I will try to write about the trip, as I have before.  Perhaps we will stop someplace cool, or visit a neat site with a story to tell, or catch some photos of a place not seen by us before.
So whether you stay home or travel, please enjoy this holiday season and celebrate it the best you can.  Happy Holidays to you and yours and have a great New Year!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A New Hat

After a long, long fall, winter is finally here in Colorado this year.  While the small amount of snow we have received may be worrisome for those down the Colorado river who depend on our water next spring, it can still be a heavy snow year.  Storms are lined up about every 2-3 days, but sunny days are in between them, melting what little snow we get.  We will have to see.
With the cooling weather, my head was cold whenever I was outside.  My hair has thinned a lot this last decade, and I am wearing it shorter now so it doesn't look like a comb-over.  And my older knit hats just are not as warm as they used to be and they don't cover my ears well.
So I bought a new hat.
A Polartec 200 Fleece Beanie in black from REI.  Usually only $19.50, I got about $3.50 off with the REI winter sale coupon.  The hat is warm and the fits-all size actually covers my ears.  While wearing it out in the wind the other day, the lower 30 degree air reached neither my head nor my ears. Wearing it under my wind jacket hood was just perfect.  It also didn't mess up my hair too much, though my hair is hard to mess up now.  The REI Beanie is available in gray also.
So far, I am very pleased with the new beanie.  It shoves into my coat pocket pretty well, is very light weight, and keeps me warm as toast.  Not a lot to ask of an under $20 item, plus it was on sale!
I purchased this item with my own funds and have not been coerced into reviewing this product by or for anyone.
Remember to "Opt Outside" this black Friday with REI, friends, family and your pets.  This movement is growing and there are many more outdoor groups involved this year; walking, hiking, canoeing and spending time "not in a store".  Unfortunately, I have to work (in media) but will be outdoors in the morning hours Friday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Longest Indian Summer

"This is the longest Indian Summer ever," the waitress said.  She is right, too.  It is November first, the day after Halloween, when it has typically been so cold here in Colorado, that the children have to cover their costumes with winter parkas and stomp through the cold snow and freezing temperatures just to collect candy while saying "Trick or Treat".
I spent several Halloweens in Colorado with my children, freezing while I followed them from house to house with other moms and dads trailing behind.  Sometimes it snowed.  Sometimes there was no snow, but the main constant was cold.  Very cold.  30 degrees, 20 degrees, teens, even colder once, I think.  I remember my hands being so cold I couldn't feel them them anymore.  My feet, too. That was a year it was snowing.  Some parents drank to keep warm.  Those of us not drinking watched after both them and their children.  Finally, we all went home, warming ourselves in front of the gas fireplaces while children checked and ate candy.
I'm sitting with my friend David in a small bar/coffee shop/restaurant in a smaller town in a county as large as an Atlantic state.  David and I had just finished an autumn hike of 5.5 miles at a nearby mountain.  This is one of my favorite local-ish hikes that climbs to 7500 feet, a trail surrounded by spruce trees, a mountain island surrounded by meadows. Yes, this is Spruce Mountain, an open space park in Douglas County, Colorado I have written about here many times.
We had gone for lunch afterwards at a favorite place of David's.  We both enjoyed our lunches, the coffee and latte, the service and local history.  There was a photo on the wall of a man and motorcycle standing among piled boards with a caption about a June 1965 storm, telling how the tornado had taken down the garage, but left no scratches on his motorcycle inside.  That kind of local history.


Our hike had been quite fine.  It was cool today, in the upper 40's when we started on the trail.  It was windy here too, the windiest I had seen yet while on Spruce Mountain.  Windy enough to blow me around at Windy Point, maybe 50-60 mile per hour gusts there.  It is all part of the Palmer Divide weather phenomenon there, where storms stream either north or south at the last minute, confounding meteorologists statewide.  Once back in the trees, the wind was not so bad, the path was wide and sandy.  The climb up to the top loop was very cool along the stony edge, but the temperature warmed up to the low 60's when we got back to the car.  We were the third car here, now there are 11 and one of them is a retirement community bus (seriously active seniors).
So about that Indian Summer thing.  I believe that Global Warming has now reached us and is staring us squarely in the face while we wonder what to do about it.  We cannot turn the calendar back. Maybe we cannot even slow Global Warming, science doesn't really know.  Some don't even acknowledge it, others won't care until their homes are underwater, while others are running around yelling hateful things about it.
I think one thing we can do that can help is to change from heavy, industrial international farming to a local permaculture system where we grow all our food locally and organically without using chemicals, GMO's, or semi-trucking it around the world with logistic networks. Voting for renewable wind/solar/geo energy world-wide, and demanding that we must use it now can help. Making the change to electric vehicles will make a big difference too, but only when we can replace every gasoline vehicle on the planet, cease pumping oil from the ground and giving so much money and power toward it.  Then we must equalize the social differences that create our imbalance of wealth with too few rich and too many poor.  Meet people halfway and share. Then reduce our wasteful get, get, getting and constant consuming and the need for everything to be "profitable".  Part of this is an internal change where we must learn to choose not to hate, choose not to consume, choose food for its locality and healthiness, choose people over profit while treating everyone nice, choose peace over war, choose community with others, choose happiness over pain, just choose to do the right thing.
Perhaps after all those changes and choosing, Global Warming may slow enough, just enough for us to live peaceably together.  That's my opinion.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Camping in the Old Days Photo

While browsing the Internet this weekend, I found a site which featured old black and white photos of the 1920's through 1940's "Tin Can" campers, campgrounds and the sites from that time.  Called "Camping In The Old Days" the site link is available HERE.  
This is truly a collection of picnic photos, including family camping, fishing, hunting, big family and church group events, trailers, tents over old cars, sports photos, business advertisements from all around America, taken earlier this century.
I found one photo that spoke to me.  It is of a specifically designed picnic table which I pictured in my recent blog about my South Dakota Road Trip.  This B&W photo was made in 1957, the year I was born, and was taken at Badlands National Monument.  
Badlands National Monument was authorized in March 1929 but was not "established" until January 25, 1939.  It was designated as a National Park November 10, 1978, just after I graduated College.  The visitor center was constructed in 1957-58, possibly when the park roads, campground and picnic tables were built.
When I saw the picnic table a few weeks ago, it appealed to me in a practical, 'keep your paper plate from blowing onto your chest' sort of way.  I share the photo I took below so you can compare it to the black and white photo above and enjoy its simple, and profound function.  Though the locations in the park are different, the tables are the same unique design.  All the way back to when I was born, up to now, it still functions as intended.  All through my life, and probably more.  Almost 60 years.  That's cool!

Friday, October 21, 2016

South Dakota Trip - Mount Rushmore

So we decided to visit Mount Rushmore again and a new Road Trip was born!  We had been there many years ago and had enjoyed it so much.  I remember it was neat to walk up to see the carved heads of four great presidents, and quite cool to learn about how hard the work had been.
Our drive north on I-25 went to just north of Cheyenne, where we switched onto US Highway 85 at exit 17.  Then we drove into the great Wyoming empty.  The emptiness continued for miles and miles. We teased about UFO's and kidnappings in the night, discussed what used to be in the empty and abandoned buildings en-route, counted cows and birds along the way while driving north through miles and miles of empty.

We found gas in Torrington, laughed at local bar signs in Lingle, passed the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk (didn't stop), finally turning right onto US 18 at the rest area at Mule Creek Junction.  We turned north onto South Dakota 89, stopping for photos at the Bicycle Sculpture in Pringle, SD, before picking up US 385 in Custer.  We passed the Crazy Horse Memorial, talking about how it didn't look so different than it did on our last trip.  The weather had been wonderful all day with the deep blue skies and a few puffy clouds.  Turning right onto SD 244, we followed that to Mount Rushmore.  This is where we found differences since our last trip.

View of the court with state flags
Photo from the railing with the amphitheater
Starting the Presidential Trail
Closer photo from the P Trail
First, you now pay for parking, where before there was no charge.  This was OK because they have built 2 multi-story parking garages, now holding almost 3-4 times the cars they used to.  New also were the first 2 buildings along the causeway, the Amphitheater, and the Presidential Trail.  The carved heads still amazed me like they used to and the state flags by the causeway were a nice feature.

Presidential Trail is all TREX
Lincoln peaks out
Looking up to George
Trail side rocks and trees
The steps down
Roosevelt in the shade 
Looking back at the causeway, restaurants and stores
We did enjoy the Presidential Trail as it rambled under shade trees first down, then across, then back up.  The trail is only half a mile long, but provides many different photo viewpoints, rest stops and even has a children's area.  It also gave a view of the behind the scenes National Park Headquarters and support.  We also visited the Carver's Studio on the way back up having missed that on our last trip.

One of the compressors used on the mountain
And the story about it
View on the way back up
Getting ready to leave
My only close-up photo
Well, we really enjoyed Mount Rushmore again and hope to return some day.  From here, we drove into the riot of Keystone, the National Parks closest village of brightly lit hotels, motels and swag. Picking up US 16 there, we then continued our road trip to Rapid City where we saw the Berlin Wall, then to Wall SD and The Badlands.
Getting to Mount Rushmore had us driving north through Denver on I-25 to US 85 at Cheyenne, then US 18 at Mule Creek Junction to SD 89 at Pringle to US 385 at Custer then east on SD 244.
Total Road Trip miles were just over 1500 and we felt we saw a lot in those 2 days and really got away from home/work.

Friday, October 14, 2016

South Dakota Trip - Deadwood

I like Road Trips!  Especially when legally driving 80 MPH on the Interstates!  This is along I-90, heading west toward our next adventure at Deadwood, SD.  Yes, Deadwood is a REAL place, not just a dream spun by HBO writers.
Named for all the dead trees found in its gulch, Deadwood was originally on land granted to the Native Americans in 1868.  Once gold was found there, people didn't seem to care whose land it was. Prospectors, along with gamblers, prostitutes and gunmen arrived and an outlaw town began.  Well that was the 1870's and the Black Hills Gold Rush, triggered by General George Custer from gold found along French Creek, was fully and roughly underway.
I'm not a gambler, so my interest to go there was the downtown Adams Museum and the Midnight Star, Kevin Costner's bar, restaurant and gambling hall which also holds a collection of Costner's movie memorabilia.

Adams Museum
Adams Museum from US 85
Adams Museum was built in the 1930's donated by pioneer businessman WE Adams.  It was created to preserve the local history of Deadwood and has quite a few pieces of memorabilia.  It has free entry with a donation and all 3 floors have lots of interesting things to look at.  They include items like Potato Creek Johnny's gold nugget, a fossilized plesiosaur, and NC Wyeth's pencil sketch of legend Wild Bill Hickok.  Look for the bordello door and a B&W photo of Deadwood after a major fire.

Midnight Star
Midnight Star belongs to Kevin Costner and his brother.  Upstairs in the restaurant are collections of Costner's films preserved behind glass from Dances with Wolves to Waterworld, the Guardian, the Postman, Field of Dreams and more.  These costumes, props and affects tell some of the story of Costner's successful career in film, with over 57 films, TV shows and shorts and maybe more to come.  They show most of the memorabilia online but left out a couple bicyclists would know, like American Flyers...

Corner building on Sherman Street, love the hand cut stonework
Main Street looking north
I love these Ghost Signs
And this Ghost Sign across the street from Midnight Star
The Silverado Hotel and Gambling Hall
Funny, seeing Deadwood painted on the water tower

Afterward we walked around Deadwood, enjoying the older preserved buildings and architecture. We tried to find the historic Mount Moriah cemetery above town, but got lost on the very steep streets.
Our time was up.  From Deadwood, we drove west/south on US 85 through the Black Hills National Forest.  The clear view and steep drop from the forested mountains all the way down to the plains at Four Corners was awesome!  We drove through the big empty again all the way back to Lusk, where we turned west onto US 18.  One town we passed through was Shawnee, which except for one resident, was abandoned.
At I-25 we drove south back to Castle Rock, arriving around 9:30 PM.  There is one more chapter of this Road Trip coming next week.
Deadwood is located on US 85.  From Rapid City, go west on I-90 to exit 17 and go south on US 85 which becomes Main Street in town.

Friday, October 7, 2016

South Dakota Trip - Badlands & Wall

Badlands National Park
They call Wall, SD "Wall" after the great wall of the Badlands, where the terrain rises over a hundred plus feet for miles to the upper prairie.  Wall is a small town next to a big National Park, which has one big store (Wall Drug) and a hand full of hotels.  On the north side of town is an impressive grain elevator system. They have railroad tracks and a grocery store, some national park and forest offices, a museum of Wounded Knee, a couple of gas stations, a green cement 40 foot brontosaurus by I-90 and little else.

Wall Drug
Wall Drug is a well known tourist destination; a whole city block full of locally historic items mixed with klitzy tourist stuff, a nice travelers chapel, cowboy just about everything, restaurants, and the Jackalope outside in the back.  The ice water has been cold and free since 1931 and coffee is still 5 cents.  I didn't try the home-style cooking, but it sure smelled good.  I can now say I have been there.
We checked into the motel and drove in to Badlands National Park, paid the $15 fee (good for 1 week) and drove from west to east stopping at all the overlooks we passed.  This was a great road trip.

Endless Erosion

Dances With Wolves movie scene, shot from the right of my viewpoint
We recognized some of Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves" film scenery near the Pinnacles Overlook, and enjoyed the colored bands of sediment all along the way.  The view is into the Badlands Wilderness Area and is well worth the drive here.  The upper prairie to our left seemed to go on for miles to the north with nothing but swaying grass and Prairie Dog Towns on it.  After Yellow Mounds, Conata Basin, Burns Basin, Panarama Point overlooks, the road drops down to the lower ground below the cliffs where camping and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and the Cedar Pass Lodge are.  The sun was setting now, so we drove on back up the cliffs and stopped at the Big Badlands Overlook, watching the setting sun reflect off the far buttes, looking through the Door and Windows to the east along the trails there.

Endless Enigma
Note the white color of the late afternoon
Combinations of shadow and light
Lots of layers
Describing Badlands is difficult as it seems to change in the light or the angle of view.  Multiple striations of pink, white, buff, brown, even black with sheer spires rising high above you, impossible shapes of erosion, deep gullies, meandering streams, mounds of yellow, black and white, flat topped cliffs, all shapes receding away from you in the impossible distance.

Sun setting behind the National Park sign near the welcome center

Near the campsite
Trail to the door, sunset on the rocks
Nearly full moon
Returning in the morning, we came through the east Park entrance (for free) to shoot photos with the sun behind us.  The scenes to the south included the Buffalo Gap National Grassland with the White River running through it.  The colors were better in today's photos.  I also shot video of this trip and will add a link to the site once edited.

Shot on day 2, driving east to west
Note cactus on top of the mound
Layer detail
Continuing layers of stone
Deep erosion
Canyon and the distance
Included to show you the wind, and how your picnic plate will be in your lap without this windbreak
Our first and last endless overlook
We had only seen the emptiness and natural eroded beauty of the north unit of Badlands National Park.  I plan to return in the future to see the Stronghold unit in the south and make the drive through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the north unit again, maybe visiting the historic Minuteman Sites nearby.  There are also a few hiking trails to still see, and picnic areas to picnic at.  Camping here would also be nice.
All these photographs from this Road Trip are straight from my 16 MP camera, none have been modified, treated or adjusted in any way.
To get there, follow I-90 East from Rapid City about an hour to Wall, SD at exit 110.  Also in the area are the Minuteman Missile sites along I-90 at exits 116, 127 and 131.  Wounded Knee is about 60 miles south inside the reservation.