Phil and his Shadow

On the morning of February 2, 2019 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a groundhog named Phil emerged from his hole and did not see his shadow. Not seeing his shadow means we can expect an early spring. Phil has predicted the arrival of spring since 1887, but his accuracy leaves something to be desired. According to statistics, the groundhog is only right about 39 percent of the time. Let’s hope he’s right this time because I’m about done with this winter!

historical sites in Tucson

Shadow – a photo prompt

So with groundhog Phil in mind, let’s share images of shadows. Shadows are fun to play around with and can enrich a photograph. Shadows can be subtle and accentuate details or they can be the focal point. Shadows can strengthen a photo by adding a sense of balance, contrast, or dimensionality to a composition.

One of my favorite images of a shadow was caused from a saguaro cactus. I happened to be hiking at the perfect time for the sun to cast the saguaro’s shadow on the trail making it look like a fork. How about that … a fork in the road trail.

shadow of a saguaro cactus casting a fork on a trail
A fork on the trail!

How to improve your photography skills

Travel and photography seem to go hand in hand. After all, don’t we want to preserve memories of all those beautiful places we visit? I know I do, and I’ve been working diligently at improving my photography skills over the past few years. Ah, my photos are still hit and miss, in my opinion, and I occasionally succumb to the “point and pray” method of shooting, but I continue to practice.

One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to engage in photo challenges or sometimes referred to as photo prompts. These prompts, challenges,  themes (whatever we want to call them) give me a purpose to get out and shoot or, at the very least, go through my photo archives to analyze what worked and what didn’t.

By picking up my camera regularly, I continue to practice, and by practicing photography consistently, I’ve become better acquainted with my gear and vision. I’m still best friends with that delete button, but continue to enjoy my photographic hobby.

Missions in Tucson, Arizona. Mission San Xavier.

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Wednesday is the day I like to share a photograph(s) centered around a theme. Photo challenges/themes are a great way for us to share our love of photography and engage with other like-minded people. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR, or something in-between, I hope you’ll join in on the challenge. Share and connect!

tips on how to improve your photography skills

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Flowers

I don’t know about you, but I love flowers. They bring a smile to my face, and have a way of brightening up my day.

flower gardens in Denver Colorado
Denver, Colorado

I used to enjoy gardening when we lived in a sticks and bricks home, but living a nomadic life isn’t conducive to gardening. So to fulfill my passion for flowers, I enjoy visiting public gardens of all kinds as well as seek out fields of wildflowers in nature wherever I can.

roses

Wandering Wednesday Photo inspiration

For this weeks photo inspiration, prompt, challenge, theme (still haven’t decided what to call this 🤣) …. let’s share images of flowers.

Wandering Wednesday ….

Next weeks photo theme is – Patriotic and the following Wednesday will be – Food.  Start searching through your archives or get out there and shoot. Let’s share and connect!

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Wandering Wednesday – Water

With temperatures heating up and an abundance of sunshine gracing the skies, it’s time to hit the water. I love hanging around a picturesque lake or soft sandy ocean beach. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but I do enjoy and embrace all kinds of boating. You’ll even see me jump at the chance to float down a meandering river on an inner tube … throw in some tiny rapids, and the ten year old within me will emerge complete with giggles and screams.

Oh yeah, I never tire of the sight of a beautiful body of water!

reflection at the Grand Tetons Wyoming
Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Considering nearly 40% of the United States population live in coastal counties, counties directly on the shoreline, I’d say I’m not alone in my passion for water.

Jackson Lake Grand Tetons Wyoming
Jackson Lake – Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Photo inspiration

For this weeks photo inspiration … theme … challenge (whatever we want to call it) I’ve chosen WATER. Let’s share some favorite water images.

Lake Havasu Arizona sunset
sunset over Lake Havasu, Arizona
San Diego cruise ship pulling into port
San Diego – cruise ship pulling into port

From my archives

Digging through my archives I came across a couple of old photos that brought back fond memories ….

Boundary Waters Canoe Area northern Minnesota Canoe trip
Canoeing – Boundary Waters Canoe Area – northern Minnesota

We loved our canoe trips to northern Minnesota …. especially to Gunflint Lake which is located north of the town of Grand Marais and Lake Superior. I wish the quality of this photograph was better. If you look close, our 2 year old daughter is sitting between my legs while our 4 year old son sits in the center of the canoe. The white blob behind our son is our first Brittany Spaniel dog, Dallas … great dog who loved these adventures.

We started these camping / canoeing vacations to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area years before we had children. Once the children arrived, they added another element and joy to our adventures and never stopped us from embarking on these excursions.

open bow boat
I loved this little boat – so many fun times spent out on the water. Me driving while Bear sits behind me.
Horsetooth reservoir Fort Collins Colorado
I’m not sure who enjoyed the boat rides more – Bear or me!

Share and connect …

Feel free to join in – comment and share your “water” photos!

Upcoming prompts to keep in mind …

  • Next Wednesday – Flowers
  • the following Wednesday – Patriotic (think fireworks, picnic, flags, etc)
  • then – Food
Lake Powell
Lake Powell

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What do you do with all those photos?

Can you believe I shot over 4,800 photographs during our five week stay camped near the Arizona – Utah border? That’s almost 1,000 photos a week. Yikes! Thank goodness digital photography is free, but then again, if I were paying for film I assure you that shutter wouldn’t have clicked nearly that often.

I’ll admit, I am bad at culling and deleting photographs which does present a problem for my poor laptop. So as the hard-drive on my computer fills up, I transfer the files to a couple of external drives which frees up the laptop … much to my computer’s delight.

During the past week, I’ve been hard at work performing this task of photo file transfer, and while at it, I started reviewing some photographs from years past. Oh what fond memories, and I realized I need a reason to sift through these photos more often.

slot canyon

Question of the day

So the big question of the day is what should I do with all these photographs? What do YOU do with all your photographs? Since I live in a RV, space is obviously an issue. Therefore, I rarely print out any of my photographs, but I do like to share them. Although I have shared a great number of photographss here on the blog, there are still bunches of photographs that haven’t been shared, and photos I’ve even forgotten about. Hmm! The wheels in my head started turning ….

Through the Lens

Looking at life and landscapes through the lens of my camera has made me more observant. I see and notice things more acutely. My camera and this blog have given me added purpose … reason to explore, reason to photograph, reason to visit new places, reason to connect with YOU.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to make Wednesday’s my day to post photos with a theme in mind … kind of like the photo challenges and prompts we’ve been exposed to via blogging on WordPress. I’ll come up with an inspiration and share photos from either my archives or go in search with camera in hand – a purpose. I’m hoping you’ll join in and share your own photos pertaining to the weeks inspirational subject.

taking a selfie with the self timer on a digital camera

Let’s share and connect … join me in sharing photographs every Wednesday. Feel free to link back to this site, and/or leave a comment, but be sure your Gravatar is linked correctly so we can easily pop over and visit your site!

If you don’t write a blog, that’s okay, I’d still love for you to join in the Wandering Wednesday photo inspiration and hopefully leave a comment. Perhaps the inspiration will give you purpose to pick up your camera or smart phone for a little shutter clicking or maybe it’ll serve as the impetus to go through your own collection of photographs.

Shutter Time

For my first photo inspiration, let’s post a photograph (s) of an animal / wildlife. This could be a simple photograph of a cute little bunny rabbit in your backyard, or your favorite pet, or that of a wild animal seen in nature or at a zoo. More than anything else, I hope the photograph is an image that’s special to you … an image that provokes emotion, or a fond memory, or the making of the image challenges you in some way.

Ingrid’s Inspiration

We’ve been camped in a RV Park in Prescott, Arizona for the past six weeks and I’ve barely touched my camera. Far cry from my shutter clicking in April, huh! RV Parks are usually not my preferred method of accommodation. I’d much rather be in a national park, national forest or state park surrounded by nature, but sometimes life dictates otherwise …. and those full hook-ups are awfully nice…. oh yeah, love the hook-ups!

pronghorn aka antelope in Arizona

Even though a RV Park is not normally at the top of my list, I’m extremely happy with my summer ‘home’.  I’m beyond pleased with my RV site as well as my view here in Prescott Valley, Arizona. There’s a fenced open field just across the road from my RV site where cattle and antelope graze.

pronghorn in ArizonaTaken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200   106mm (35mm equivalent 590mm)

I was ecstatic to capture a couple of images of this sweet pregnant gal grazing. Antelope (proper name is pronghorn) are usually skittish and capturing a closeup image can be challenging, but with my zoom lens and a very slight crop, I think this photograph of her turned out well. Check out those eyelashes!

The day after these photos were taken, I didn’t see her again. I’m sure she delivered her little one by now and is staying hidden. But trust me, I’m forever on the lookout.

Wandering Wednesday’s Photo Inspiration

I’ve put together a list of upcoming photo inspirations (or should I call them themes, challenges, prompts 🤔) for the next few Wednesday’s. I hope you’ll join me by sharing your photos.

  • Water
  • Flowers
  • Patriotic
  • Food

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PANASONIC LUMIX FZ300
JOBY GorillaPod

Wildlife on the Trail?

Would you know what to do if you came face to face with wildlife on the trail? Obviously, a lot depends on exactly what kind of animal we’re talking about.  A marmot would have me stopping in my tracks to snap a bunch of photos all the while baby talking to it and letting him know how darn cute he is.

A snake on the other hand gets my heart pounding while exclaiming, “Oh sh*t!” but of course still managing to take a quick snapshot 🐍😮 (which I don’t recommend)

rattlesnake
coming face to face with a rattlesnake on the trail

Even though I should already know the answer(s) considering my past wildlife encounters, lately I find the need to evaluate my trail safety savviness and ask myself, “What should I do if ….. ?” The reason for my review pertains to my recent encounter with a rattlesnake on the trail last week. This was my second time having a close encounter with a diamondback and I’m hoping it’s my last, but when you spend as much time hiking in their habitat as I do, chances are we’ll meet again.

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona
Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

So what did I do when I heard that unmistakable sound only a diamondback rattlesnake can make? My tale about his tail ….

Willow Lake, Prescott, ArizonaLast Thursday was a glorious day offering a much wanted reprieve from the every day rainstorms. However, it is monsoon season here in Arizona and the moisture is very much-needed in this arid climate.

With the sunny blue skies, it didn’t take me long to lace up my hiking shoes and head on over to the Granite Dells area for an exploratory hike with the camera.

I chose an out and back hike at Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona. The trail started off like any other dirt hiking trail, but soon I found myself scrambling across huge boulders and using the white spray painted dots to guide me along the trail.

hiking Willow Lake, Prescott trails, Arizona
white dots highlighting trail

I was a mere fifteen minutes into the hike when the trail went up rather steeply and I began wondering what I had gotten myself into.

To maintain my balance, I leaned forward toward the boulder and steadied myself with one hand on the ground as I climbed following the white spray painted dots.

I continued to pay close attention to those dots as to not veer off the trail. I was focused on my footing and my where abouts and of course the obligatory photo taking.

About 20 to 25 minutes into the hike, the trail had taken me up and over some beautiful scenery. I was enjoying myself and getting in a great workout. The trail had dipped down only for it to head back up over a rock outcropping. I was slightly winded as I climbed and just as the boulder leveled off, there was an unmistakable sound to my right.

diamondback rattlesnake
Is it just me, but I see shoes? I find his skin beautiful … the repetitive pattern, texture, and color is stunning.

“Oh sh*t, not again!!!” There off to my right about 10 to 12 feet away was a rather large diamondback rattlesnake in strike position. Tail was up and rattling. Head was up with tongue dancing. I slowly and gingerly kept walking (which I felt was my safest and quickest option).

Within seconds, he settled down and both of us no longer felt threatened. I quickly, and I mean quickly, snapped a couple of photos while admiring his unique beauty.  Hmm, years ago I owned a pair of snake skin shoes with a similar texture. At the time, I lived in the Chicago area and had never seen a snake in the wild.

For some reason, I kept thinking about those shoes and soon came to the conclusion that it would somehow feel very wrong to me owning a pair of snake skin shoes. Although I didn’t appreciate the encounter on the trail, I do appreciate wildlife and that beautifully textured skin belongs in the wild and not on my feet.

diamondback rattlesnake
I was hiking from left to right when I met Mr. Diamondback
diamondback snake
guess I wasn’t the only one on the move.
rattlesnake
As I was hiking from the left and coming over the ridge, I was more focused on my footing and potential critters in the rock crevices which is why I didn’t immediately notice the snake sunning himself near the ledge.

For a brief second, I thought about hanging around for more photo-ops. He was rather large and a good-looking snake at that, but thank goodness my better judgement took over.  Although he and I seemed to have come to an understanding, you never know what might provoke the guy. He is a snake after all and unpredictable. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of being bitten by a snake.

I continued on my hike and once I was on the other side of the ravine, I looked back to see if the snake was still there.

Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona
Looking across the ravine to see if the snake is still on the trail.

I certainly felt somewhat relieved seeing Mr. Diamondback on the move. Remember, I have to hike back this way 😲 This rattlesnake encounter did take some of the joy out of the rest of my hike and I was almost ready to call it quits, but I’m a stubborn gal and I was on a mission to see the red bridge. Thus, it was onward and upward …. figuratively AND literally.

hiking Prescott trails, Arizona
Eek – all those nifty places for snakes to hide. “Please Lord no more diamondback encounters”.
Red Bridge Willow Lake Prescott, Arizona
The red bridge looks more pinkish than red thanks to the Arizona sun

I made it to my destination; the red bridge. I was tempted to continue hiking a little further, and probably would have had it not been for the snake encounter. It was already 85 degrees Fahrenheit at ten in the morning. With the heat and sun shining, this was ideal snake weather and one diamondback meet up was more than enough.

Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona
Red Bridge – Willow Lake, Prescott, Arizona

After a little rest and several photographs later, it was time to turn around and retrace my steps. To say I was on edge or a little jumpy would be an understatement. Each little rustling of vegetation from lizards or grasshoppers would have me whipping my head around in search for the cause of said movement, and lets not even talk about the sounds of crickets or birds.

lizardgrasshopper

 

 

 

 

 

It really was a beautiful day and Willow Lake is a wonderful place to hike, but I couldn’t relax and enjoy the return hike. I was on edge and just wanted to get back to my car.

Prescott trails
I laid my pack down next to the white trail marker to help show the grade – steepness

I navigated the areas of the trail where I was concerned about the steepness of the boulders with a quickness and ease that surprised me. And to think, earlier I thought I’d be scooching back down this trail on my derriere.

Willow Lake trail Prescott, Arizona
follow the white dots – hiking up to see if Mr. Snake is still there!!!

When I retraced my steps on the trail near the rattlesnake encounter, I felt nervous and heard a large sound in my ears. It was a familiar sound, yet unfamiliar. It was so loud that it nearly drowned out the sounds of birds chirping. I stopped for a second to figure out what it was and soon realized it was the pounding of my heart.  “Geez, Ingrid. Get a grip. It’s only a snake”.  “Ah, but not any old snake”, I replied to myself.

critters on the trail
careful of sneaky critters on the trail!

Okay, now I’m talking to myself.  I vowed, when I got home, I’d do some Googling and investigate what to do when encountering wildlife. I felt pretty sure of myself and what to do, but a little review might be helpful and perhaps make me feel a bit more confident in the future.

hiking in Prescott, Arizona
The stick on the trail made me jump thinking it was a snake

I made it past the rattlesnake sighting only to have a hornet keep buzzing around me. Must’ve been the sweet nectar oozing from my pores. Between the heat, blazing sun, and nervous fear this gal, who normally doesn’t sweat, was sweating indeed.

And although I managed to avoid a snake bite or hornet sting, I did return to the RV with a dozen itchy tiny welts from mosquitoes.

At least these were itty bitty mosquitoes when compared to the huge ones found in Minnesota.

hiking in Prescott Arizona

So here are my thoughts on safety guidelines. Although today I’m talking about wildlife, I use the same personal guidelines when visiting a city. Thus, whether I’m in the wilderness surrounded by boulders and vegetation or in a metropolitan area surrounded by concrete and roads, a little street smarts goes a long way.

  • learn an animals habits and potential dangers
  • stay calm and back away slowly
  • appear tall and confident
  • allow a wide berth
  • do NOT turn your back
  • do NOT act threatening or provoke
  • be prepared and always have an exit strategy
  • carry pepper spray/bear spray

I know this is a basic  guideline and each animal reacts differently, but in all cases, I’d say most important is not acting threatening or provoking. So what would I have done if bitten by that rattlesnake?

  • First, distance myself from the snake
  • Second, sit down and stay calm. Try not to move.
  • Third, call 911 (when I’m out and about, I’m always checking my phone for reception) If my phone won’t work, use my whistle or scream for help (I try never to hike remotely when by myself. Although this day, I didn’t run into another hiker on the trail. Thank goodness I had good cell service)
  • Always be familiar with your location and surroundings so you can give good directions should you need rescuing. I stopped at every trail post noting my location.
  • If not dizzy, slowly make my way back to the trailhead
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • Additional info on snake bites here and here

Willow Lake Prescott Arizona

Have you ever come across wildlife unexpectedly and feared for your safety?

Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife, A Guide to When, Where, and How

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Danger in the Desert

With the temperatures rising and starting to surpass 100 degrees, it was time for us to raise the jacks and get the wheels rolling in a northerly direction.  Our two month stay in Phoenix, Arizona, was filled with lots of socializing, some home maintenance projects, and plenty of hiking surrounded by beautiful scenery, vegetation and interesting critters.

I don’t know about you, but I never tire of fantastic scenery dotted with wildflowers. During our first week back in the valley of the sun, we hiked at the Superstition Mountains as much as possible, which wasn’t nearly enough.  It never is.  If I haven’t already told you, well even if I have ….. I love, love, love hiking here .

We were first introduced to this area about five years ago during our six-week road trip with our brand new 5th Wheel.  It was also during this trip back in 2012 when we were enlightened on the concept of full-time RVing.  My how time flies ….  fond memories!

I truly enjoy my time in the desert southwest, but it’s not for everyone and there are dangers to be aware of.

As the temperatures soar, the snakes come out making me a very cautious hiker.  Last spring I had a rather close call that rattled me.

And then of course, the extreme temperatures are not to be taken lightly.  Folks seem to underestimate how dangerous the sun and heat can be and hiking trail rescues become a regular occurrence during spring and summer.

I love it when the saguaro cactus bloom
I love my dear friend, but he can be a prick  😆
The desert feels so alive during spring time!
Watch where you step – the desert can be a dangerous place!

Our time in Phoenix may have come to a temporary end, but our time in Arizona has not. We’re now comfortably parked in Prescott Valley, a mere one hour plus drive north of Phoenix and are settled into a nice campsite for the next couple of months.  I have some favorite places around here that I’m looking forward to revisiting.

More of this to come!

 

 

 

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

 

Oh, and one final thought……
Happy Cinco de Mayo – what’s for dinner? I made these delicious hatch chili hamburgers and they were so yummy especially paired with grilled asparagus and a tall margarita. If anyone’s interested, I’ll share the recipe in an upcoming post.  All you have to do is ask 😉

A Calm Morning

I had one of the most amazing mornings yesterday.  For some reason, I woke up earlier than normal. I jumped out of bed energetic, and was ready to tackle a new day.  By 6:30 a.m. I was already on my second cup of coffee.calm

Sunrise wouldn’t be for another forty-five minutes and I contemplated hopping in the truck to capture a few sunrise photos along the Texas Gulf Coast.  The RV was dripping with dew and the windows were coated with moisture rich humidity blocking any potential view.  I needed to open the RV door to check the sky for cloud coverage.black and white photography

The past couple of weeks have been a total bust for sunrise photography.  The sky was either totally cloudless (boring) or covered in a thick layer … blocking any notice of a sunrise.  The mornings when the skies did cooperate, my body didn’t, and my sluggish exit out of bed found me missing the opportunity to capture those perfect skies.foggy morning

Yesterday morning when I stuck my head out the RV door, I was greeted with nothingness.  I could barely make out the shape of the tree just five feet away.  Fog … a thick layer of fog engulfed the landscape.  The assault of humidity had its way with my natural curly hair.  Nothing a baseball cap couldn’t fix.  The moist sea air upon my face made my skin feel ten years younger.  Frizzy hair and dewy skin … oh well 😏  Texas Gulf Coast

Wow …. I had to get out there, even if the lighting wasn’t good for photography.  The atmosphere was amazing.  I threw on some clothes.  Topped off my coffee and jumped in the truck.  I wasn’t sure if I’d find anything worth photographing, but I didn’t care.  I reveled in the quiet.  In the solitude.  In the peacefulness.  Aaah, how wonderfully calming, yet eerie and mysterious!calm

By 7:30 the sun had been up fifteen minutes, yet I saw no signs of her presence.  I didn’t mind.  I was enjoying a glorious morning by myself.  And although I may have been alone, I was not alone.

I was bushwhacking strolling through damp grasses and weeds amongst a grove of oak trees that serve as the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and Egrets.  I could hear their rustling, grunts, and squawks in the trees above me.  When one of the birds would take flight, I could even hear their wing movement.  I know …. how cool was that!peace, calmAnd then there were the ducks and Coot swimming in the pond.  Rumor has it, there’s even an alligator that calls this place home.  Such company, I can do without.  Birds yes, gators no!

What a wonderful morning it was, and although I didn’t photograph the kind of images I originally set out to capture, I was pleased with the photographs I did make.  By 10:00 a.m. the fog had burned off, my stomach was growling, and it was time to return to the RV … feeling refreshed, renewed, and happy.solitude

Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans

 

 

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

It was a good year!

It’s that time of year again. The old calendar is in the trash and the new one is hanging on the wall.  I’m not sure why putting up that new calendar made me smile.  2016 cardinalwas actually a pretty good year for me and I was in no hurry to bring on any change.

But as I gaze at the semi-glossy calendar sporting a beautiful landscape photo, I note the lack of scribble on any of the dated boxes …. a clean slate.  Oh, the possibilities!

You know that feeling you get after cleaning out a closet?  (Well at least the feeling I get) Not only do I feel a sense of accomplishment, there’s a feeling of being refreshed, out with the old, in with the new.  It’s a positive feeling that brings a smile to my face.  I kind of got that same feeling when I threw out the old calendar and replaced it with a new one.

The dawning of a new day, a new year
The dawning of a new day, a new year!

Al and I have just recently started talking about our travel plans for 2017.  I know, kind of late for us considering the new year is upon us already.  Quite frankly, I’m still relishing in the memories from some of last years excursions.

Today I’m sitting in Rockport, Texas, back in the very same spot I was in a year ago. As I type, I’ll occasionally gaze out an RV window admiring the unique and resilient oak trees.  I contemplate the twists and turns of the tree trunks while listening to the pleasant chirping of cardinals.fog

Last years travel plans started out relatively organized and well laid out, but as the year unfolded,  we encountered unexpected twists and turns.  And just like I may not understand why those mighty oak trees grow in a hither and yon manor, I don’t fully comprehend how our well organized travel plans went astray in a similar hither and yon way.

"The Big Oak Tree" said to be over 1,000 years old.
“The Big Oak Tree” said to be over 1,000 years old.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the year turned out to be one heck of a fun ride.  Sure, there were a few negatives thrown in here and there, but that’s life, isn’t it!

A few memorable experiences of 2016 ….. After our regular January stint of birding along the Texas Gulf Coast, we returned to Phoenix, Arizona for a little desert dwelling and hanging with the kids. In April we moved on down to Yuma, Arizona for a short stay to tend to some business which included having the RV and truck washed and hand waxed all for $150.  In Phoenix, we paid $400 for the same type of work.  That was a memorable price difference, wouldn’t you agree?  I foresee regular visits to Yuma in our future 😉

Then it was time for a day trip across the border to Los Algodones, Mexico for dental work.  I was a little apprehensive about this at first, and reached out to a few of my full-time RVing friends for recommendations.  In the end, I had two crowns and a filling done for a total cost of $750 and thus far no complaints.  Normally, I wouldn’t include dental work as a highlight or memorable event, but eating without discomfort allowed me to enjoy our travels the rest of the year that much more.  Plus, it was a new and interesting experience that was all positive.Bryce Canyon

Also in April, I had my mind blown away by some of the most perplexing and boggling scenery in southern Utah.  I’ve always loved visiting Utah, but the fascinating hoodoos that make up Bryce Canyon National Park had eluded me until that day.  Trust me when I say, pictures do not do the park justice.  It’s one of those places you really do need to see in person. Bryce Canyon National Park was definitely a highlight of my year and goes toward the top of the list.

Then there was our two month work camping gig in Idaho.  I had a great time, Al not so much.  I found myself doing things I never thought I could.  I spent my time working in the RV Park restaurant and office.  I waitressed, I cooked, and I checked campers in and sometimes I was the only one available to do all three.  Oh yeah, I was hopping and as much as I impressed myself with my abilities, I was glad the job was temporary.  You know Lilacswhat, that was the best thing about it – the job was temporary and I wasn’t in charge.

After running my own business for years, it was wonderful for me to say, “Let me get the owner. I just work here”.

Overall, it was an enlightening experience on many levels.  Would I work camp again?  I’m not sure.  It boils down to risk/reward and every scenario is different.  If I had permanently injured myself on the commercial grill, which was hubby’s constant concern, it sure wouldn’t have been worth it.  While building picnic tables, Al ended up tweaking an old back injury, which took a while to realign and hampered his fun most of the summer.  Risk vs. reward, definitely something to consider when contemplating work camping.

After years of dreaming, I finally made it to the Grand Tetons … not once, but twice.  The first time was in early June and the second time was mid July.Grand Teton

I loved all the spring blooms in early June.  Grand Teton National Park did not disappoint and remains a place I hope to revisit time and again.

At the end of July, we returned to our former home town of Pueblo West, Colorado.  I like to return once a year to hug my stuff in storage.  I’m just not at a point where I’m ready to let go of everything and give up the storage units (yes, plural 🤔).  I retrieved some stuff and left other stuff behind.  As I looked into the storage units, my thoughts were mixed.  Some things I’m glad I’ve kept and others make me wonder whatever was I thinking.  We really do need to think about consolidating and purging.  But not today!  I know it’s only stuff, but I like my stuff and I like embracing it once a year.  Hug, hug, kiss, kiss moving on ….

We had the opportunity to see Al’s sister’s new condo in the Denver area.  In the spring of ’16 she moved from northern Illinois to Denver, Colorado and hasn’t looked back.  She’s loving every minute of her new home state.  It was also very convenient for us to spend the night with her so Al could drop me off at the airport for my early morning flight from Denver to Chicago.

While camped at Lake Pueblo State Park, the A/C needed some maintenance.
While camped at Lake Pueblo State Park, the A/C needed some maintenance. That’s why Al’s on the roof.   My photo is not crooked, the lay of the land was.  It was a sloping site but offered delightful views.

During our stay in Denver, the RV was comfortably parked at the Lake Pueblo State Park, a two hour drive south of Denver.

DadMy visit with my 89 year old dad was very special as I escorted him to his grandson’s  wedding (my nephew).  Dad beamed as he watched the first of five grandchildren get married.  The wedding was beautiful and the day was absolutely perfect.

Initially, I wasn’t exactly excited about returning to Illinois, but little did I realize, I was in for a special treat ……

I flew back to Chicago on a Wednesday.  The Monday before, I received an interesting email.  Turns out my bestfriend from junior high and high school was trying to track me down.  We’d lost touch twenty-eight years ago and after several failed attempts she finally succeeded in finding my correct address.  Talk about timing.  That Thursday we enjoyed a four hour lunch filled with non stop talking. After all, we had a lot of catching up to do.  How fun was that!  Now we stay in touch via Facebook.

The day dad and I did a little yard work together was laughable.  It was literally a frick and frack moment.  Words like hootchie and jigma jig were used in regards to starting the lawn mowers. At 89 Dad’s brain is as sharp as a tack but he occasionally has trouble finding the right words and as far as I’m concerned, you can call it a primer, a gas thingy, or a jigma jig … I didn’t care.  I just wanted to get the things started.Lawn mowind

And once we had both the rider and push mowers started, the necessary sign language used to communicate with one another over the loud engine noise was incomprehensible to each other.  I guess I don’t need to tell you which one of us used the pusher 😎  Yep, a lot of laughing took place that day and the yard work eventually got done.  Without a doubt, it was a wonderful and memorable trip.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National MonumentBut I encountered the highlight of my year in mid August near Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I’m convinced travel is all about timing.  Ever read someone’s blog post where they gush about a place and then when you visit you just don’t get it?  Sure, it might be a nice place, but not over the top ‘oh my gosh gotta visit’ worthy.  I firmly believe it’s all about what’s going on in one’s personal life that makes a place resonate with ones soul.

Another year, another time and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument may not have touched me in the same way it did.  Guess it was just what I needed at the time.  As much as I was enjoying the summer, it was filled with many stressful moments.  Unexpected twists and turns can be a ton of fun, but they can also be a trigger for stress.

I really should have my arms out stretched as I sing "Let it Go". Yes, I was having an "Elsa" moment! (Disney animated movie, 'Frozen')
I really should have my arms out stretched as I sing “Let it Go”. Yes, I was having an “Elsa” moment! (reference=Disney animated movie, ‘Frozen’)

So you could say, by this point in our travels, I needed to recharge.  Santa Fe and Kasha-Katuwe were my salvation, just what the doctor ordered, and remains my all time favorite moment of the year.  I’m sure it was all about the timing for me.

How about politics?  Although I wasn’t exactly stressed by the political climate, the commercials and news stories became an irritating annoyance.  But it did make for one heck of an entertaining and memorable year in America!Route 66

Although the rest of 2016 brought about some fun adventures worth writing about, I’ll leave those tales for another post.

In the meantime, keep in mind, life may take a bunch of unexpected twists and turns and we may not always understand why, but remember, we are a resilient thriving bunch just like those mighty oak trees.

Light at the end of the tunnel
A light at the end of the tunnel 🙂

I send you warm wishes for a wonderful New Year.  Let’s start filling in our calendars with intriguing travel adventures … cheers!

1,000 Places to See Before You Die: Revised Second Edition

A Mirror of Reflections

I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe it’s September already.  Our summer flew by, and although our travels didn’t exactly go as planned, we are not complaining.  Actually, we couldn’t have planned our summer any better.  Sometimes winging it can turn into an amazing adventure.

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park

The travel God’s smiled on us regularly as we changed directions on a whim.  I mean literally from one second to another we were changing our minds on where we should go and pulling into campgrounds without reservations…. not ideal in the peak of tourist season.  One minute we were in crisis mode pointing the RV in an easterly direction, and the next, with the crisis averted, we found ourselves turning around and heading north; traveling with no real rhyme or reason other than some impending obligations.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

The flexibility and freedom of traveling in a RV can be liberating, exciting, stressful, wonderful, scary, perplexing, and of course, relaxing …… it’s kind of like a rollercoaster of emotions, but minus the word relaxing.  As much as I love a good rollercoaster ride, I’ve never found one to be relaxing – exhilarating yes, relaxing no!  And RVing can be an exhilarating journey.

Jackson Lake, Wyoming
Jackson Lake, Wyoming

Along with seeing spectacular scenery this summer, we met some wonderful people.  More than once we were referred to as “seasoned”.  On July 1st, we entered our fourth year of full-time RV living.  Our one to two year intention of living in the RV full-time has since turned into year four.  I’m not sure when we progressed from “newbie” RV’er to “seasoned” RV’er, but here we are,  still enjoying the journey, and willing to share our school of hard knocks knowledge with any “RV newbie” who asks.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado

I’ll admit, three years ago as a relative ‘newbie’, I would never have handled the winging it style of travel we embarked on this summer.  I’ve always been a planner and usually have a game plan laid out weeks in advance, and most times, months in advance.  I think, over time, we’ve developed a level of RVing confidence. We have confidence in knowing we’ll always manage to find a place to overnight, even if it’s just a parking lot.

Loved visiting the ducks at Schbacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Loved visiting the ducks at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There are days I do miss a home base.  A place to go back to and regroup, but I still haven’t found that spot I’d like to call home.  So the search shall continue.  I do know it won’t be Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Although amazingly beautiful, and I look forward to returning, my blood is too thin to tackle that weather.  More than once we awoke to temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range along with a fresh dusting of snow on the peaks and this was in mid July …. beautiful BUT brrrr!

I don't think I'd ever tire of this view, but I couldn't live here - too cold...brrrr!
I don’t think I’d ever tire of this view, but I couldn’t live here – too cold…brrrr!

The moment I realized this weeks photo challenge was mirror, I knew I had to share some images from our summer excursion ….. photographs depicting reflections.  I’m still struggling with my computer issues, thus my lack of blogosphere presence may continue, but now that we’ve decided to slow our travels down a tad and spend the next two months hanging in Prescott, Arizona, I’m hoping to finally upgrade this dinosaur of a laptop.

Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho
Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho

Once I bring home that new laptop, I’ll start writing about our interesting travel stops.  Not only do these photographs depict reflections, as I review them, I reflect on our memories, on our journey, on the adventure.

Grand Junction, Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado
Slate River Road, Crested Butte, Colorado

My biggest dilemma was narrowing down the photographs to just a few, which was not an easy task for me.  We managed to visit some stunningly beautiful places during the past few months.  We started in Arizona last April then ventured into Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and now, five months later, have returned to Arizona.

I was excited to see a Pelican fly by - Pelicans in Wyoming?
I was excited to see a Pelican fly by – Pelicans in Wyoming?
Lots of ducks
Lots of ducks
Mountains and Wildlife - love it!
Mountains and Wildlife – love it!

Yep, we had one heck of a rollercoaster ride this summer ….. wouldn’t change a moment….. not the highs, the lows, or the upside downs.  Stay tuned for all the stories!

Hoodoo You See?

When it comes to traveling, one of my greatest joys is immersing myself in a new place.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a city or some remote wilderness that I’m visiting for the first time, setting off on foot allows me to discover things up close.

I see the face of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Do you?
I see the face of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. What face do you see?

Whether I’m hiking, walking, strolling, meandering, or whatever pace I’m keeping at the moment, I love allowing my legs to transport me to exciting new visual delights .

hiking Red Canyon was a delight
hiking Red Canyon

Years ago, my son and I visited my parents in the Chicago suburbs and took the train into the city for a day of sightseeing.  We walked, and walked, and walked some more…. no cab rides for us.  According to my dad (who knows the city of Chicago like the back of his hand), Logan and I must have walked at least ten miles.  By doing so, he and Bryce Canyon National ParkI observed so many unique details in this bustling city – from architecture, to art, to the beautiful parks and shops, to the sounds and smells. It was a memorial day spent with my son along with discovering the city’s special character.

My week spent in Bryce Canyon Country was equally memorable and just like that day in Chicago, I knew I had to get out on foot to immerse myself in this mesmerizing landscape.

Each overlook is breathtaking!
Each overlook is breathtaking!

I started off my Bryce Canyon National Park visit by stopping at every single overlook and getting a feel for the lay of the land.

I see you!
This hoodoo sees you!

Seeing Mother Nature’s work of art from the rim of the canyon is breathtaking, but hiking in the depths of her creation left me awe-struck and speechless.  Around every corner was another perplexing sculpture.  So many of the rocks seem to have faces and personalities.   Then there are rocks that resemble people, things, or even a queen – Queen Victoria to be exact.Bryce Canyon

And now we know why the trail is called the Queen’s Garden Trail.  It took me a moment to grasp the resemblance, and of course, the aid of a sign was helpful.

Can you spot the Queen?
Can you spot the Queen?  Can you also see the hiking trail? Yep, I was down in there!

The Queen’s Garden trail is a fantastic hike that put me in the center of some of the most bizarre and interesting terrain that I’ve ever seen.  It’s obvious why it’s the parks most popular trail.  We saw hikers of all ages and ability on the trail, although I will say the 600 foot elevation climb back out of the canyon seemed to be a challenge for some, especially for those not accustomed to the 8,000 plus foot altitude.  Note the pointy hoodoo in the photos below.  The trailhead is high above that hoodoo.

We had to climb out of the valley above the pointy hoodoo
We had to climb out of the valley above the pointy hoodoo seen on the left.

Bryce Canyon

Al and I enjoyed this hike so much so that we actually hiked it twice.  On our first day, we started the hike at the Navajo Loop trailhead which will eventually meet up with the Queens Garden trail.  The term “loop” is a bit of a misnomer because the return part of the Navajo trail loop has been damaged and eroded to the point it had to be closed off for safety reasons. Thus, no hiking loop at the time of this writing.Bryce Canyon

This land never rests due to weather and erosion.   These statuesque limestone rock formations called hoodoos are caused by the extreme weather changes… from snow and ice melt, to soaring heat.  The constant contraction and expansion causes cracks, collapses, and further sculpting. You won’t find any rock climbers around here considering the rock is soft, unstable, and ever-changing.  Because of this instability, its vital hikers stay on the trails and wear proper footwear for traction.

Evidence of instability are easily seen. I wonder how deep that crack is?
Evidence of instability are easily seen. I wonder how deep that crack is?

Starting off at Sunset Point, we headed down the Navajo trail into the canyon floor via a series of switchbacks, and found ourselves hiking in a pine forest.  The crisp fresh air scented with pine made for a very pleasurable hike.

hiking with pines
hiking with pines

 

Hikers will find several tunnels along the trail
Hikers will find several tunnels along the trail

Once we veered onto the Queens Garden trail, we exited the pine forest and the terrain became more stark and barren, but those hoodoos were up close and personal.

The next day, Al and I hiked the trail in reverse; starting at the Queens Garden trailhead and exiting at the Navajo trailhead.  Is one way better than the other?  No!  Regardless of the starting and ending point, the scenery is out of this world and I can’t recommend this hike enough.  The first day it took us a little over two hours to complete the hike because someone kept stopping to take photos 😉  The second go around took us less than two hours to hike, even though an equal amount of photos were taken!

hikers can be seen on the Queens Garden Trail
hikers can be seen on the Queens Garden Trail

BUT, if you’d like to start out with a couple of super easy hikes that are still beautiful, but won’t have the elevation change……

hoodoo you see?
hoodoo you see?

On highway 12 just east of highway 89 is the Red Canyon Visitor Center.   There’s a series of short trails that interconnect allowing one to hike the short interpretative trail only or add a little more distance by continuing onto the Pink Ledges trail and/or the Birds Eye trail.

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

The scenery here is beautiful and worth the stop.  Since we were camped just a few miles down the road, I found myself meandering around here a couple of times.  It’s amazing the new sights I saw each time I hiked the same trail.  The more I looked at the rocks, the more faces I saw.

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

 

Red Canyon
Red Canyon

Continuing east on Highway 12 past the turn off to Bryce Canyon National Park are more hiking trails.  Year’s ago (I’m talking more than twenty plus), Al and I traveled Highway 12 through this part of Utah.  It’s a stretch of road I’ve longed to revisit, but alas the weather this day would not cooperate.

Mossy Cave and Waterfall trail
Mossy Cave and Waterfall trail

I stopped in at the great visitor center in the town of Cannonville and picked up some local information then returned to the truck in a steady stream of rain.  Feeling somewhat disappointed, I decided to head home.  My exploration of Highway 12 will need to wait for another visit.

Highway 12
Highway 12
Mossy Cave and Waterfall Trail
Mossy Cave and Waterfall Trail

However, on my way home, the weather cleared just long enough for me to take a quick one mile (out and back) hike.  Any disappointment I may have felt was quickly lifted after a brisk walk in this beautiful setting.  The Mossy Cave Waterfall Trail was definitely a worthwhile hike in between rain clouds.Bryce Canyon

So that about wraps up my fabulous week spent in Bryce Canyon Country.  Oh, we can’t forget the beautiful faces of wildlife……

Pronghorn aka antelope
Pronghorn aka antelope

Chipmunk

Bryce CanyonFYI… the trails around here can get slick, gooey, and dangerous.  Proper hiking shoes are a must.  The weather can fluctuate to extremes and change rapidly.  A 40 degree (Fahrenheit) change throughout the day is not unusual.  Dressing in layers is a good idea.  Bring plenty of water and expect high winds.  Being prepared, allowed us to have a fantastic and memorable visit.

Fairyland trail will need to wait for my next visit!
Fairyland trail will need to wait for my next visit – a more challenging trail that I can’t wait to tackle!
The many faces of Bryce Canyon
The many faces of Bryce Canyon

I’ll be back!