Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge

National and State Parks offer many options as to which way to go–or even “if to go!”

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Should we continue? (Bryce Canyon trail)

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Through There. (Red Canyon, Utah)

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That Way! (Shakespeare Arch Trail, Kodachrome Basin, Utah)

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Anything with Numbers on It

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Numbers: Anything with Numbers on It

The following images are in response to Cee’s challenge. Traveling is a good way to accumulate numbers. Here are several encountered on a recent trip.

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On the rim of Bryce Canyon, Utah.

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Roadside sign in Wyoming identifying the type and age of the rock formations along the highway.

This is the first time I have ever seen road signs dedicated to labeling geologic features along the highway.

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Aircraft 125: A WWII era Navy PB4Y-2, a redesigned B-24 Bomber, originally used by the Navy primarily for reconnaissance and as a countermeasures platform. Here converted to a firefighting aircraft.

Aircraft are always a good source of numbers.

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Photo of the Week – Pony Express Rider

The “Photo of the Week” is back…at least for a while.

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Pony Express Rider

There are several Pony Express Rider silhouettes along US 36 through Missouri. This highway roughly follows the route of Pony Express riders.

Between April 1860 and October 1861, the Pony Express was the fastest way to send a letter from the eastern United States to California. The route started at St. Joseph, Missouri, and terminated at Sacramento, California. There were more than 150 stations along the 1500-plus mile distance. The stations were spaced about ten miles apart. When a rider reached a station, he got on a fresh horse and continued. Each rider averaged more than 100 miles and more than 10 hours per day.

The maximum weight each horse was to carry was 165 pounds. The saddle, mail pouch, and the rider’s gun weighed 45 pounds. That meant that each rider could be no more than 125 pounds.

When it first started operation, it cost $5.00 for a one-half ounce letter. $5.00 was equivalent to about $160.00 today. The price eventually went down to $1.00 per half ounce (only about $25.00 today). The Pony Express reduced the time for a letter to travel to California by 10 days.

During its operation, it was the main link between California and the rest of the United States, until the telegraph was established. The official museum of the Pony Express is in Marysville, Kansas.

This photo was taken near St. Joseph, Missouri.

 

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Wildlife Encounters

Animals we saw on our trip.

Special to: Travel as I Have Envisioned It Could Be

One of the things I was looking forward to on our trip was seeing, and hopefully photographing wild creatures. There were limited spotting opportunities traveling along Interstates and major highways, so, we did not see, nor did I expect to see many animals until we got out to Utah and later when we would be camping and spending serious time in parks.

Still to provide a complete list, I’ll begin with the geese we encountered at the Lions park in Atwood, Kansas.  I suspect these are resident geese, as opposed to migrating birds, especially since they had several goslings in the group. They also seemed quite acclimated to people, although they did not like that I approached them. When I did, they quickly rounded up the young ones and marched away, loudly.

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Geese in Atwood Park, Kansas

Of course, traveling through the west or Midwest, cattle and horses are common, but I am not including them.

We stopped at a wayside park in Kansas. I captured a sparrow-sized bird in a tree and got some good, close photos. I have been unable to identify it precisely. It could be the female of several species from grosbeaks to larger sparrows. Or it could have been a juvenile of other species. It was very patient while I snapped several photos.

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Sparrow-like Bird in a Roadside Park in Kansas

 

Our first sighting of true western animals was a heard of buffalo (bison) seen from US 36 as we cruised by on the highway. While I cannot be sure, I suspect this was a commercial herd of bison in fenced pasture land. Someone must be raising them for meat to supply all of those bison burgers and bison meatloaf on the menus (and that I ordered).

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Herd of Bison in Fenced Pasture in Eastern Colorado

The first truly “wild” creatures I saw were mule deer. I saw them walking down a campground road—tents and campers on either side—as I walked to the bathhouse (hence no camera/photos). So, while I am sure they were wild, they were certainly acclimated to people.

My first wild “capture” was a pronghorn antelope grazing along a park road in Bryce Canyon. I slowed as I grabbed the camera on the seat beside me, and pointed without looking through the viewfinder, and clicked off several shots, getting at least one printable copy.

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Pronghorn Antelope in Bryce Canyon National Park

The first day in Yellowstone, driving along a thickly wooded area, we spotted an elk—nearly stepping out in front of us. Not time for a photo, and really not a good view. We did see one other elk, grazing at some distance from a busy stretch of road, with nowhere to stop safely.

I spent some time watching two ravens gliding on updrafts along the high rim of Bryce Canyon. The entire time, I never saw them flap their wings—they were simply “surfing” the air currents above the canyon walls.

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Ravens sail on rising wind currents forced upward by the canyon walls

The first genuinely wild bison were seen in Yellowstone National Park. Grazing about 50 yards from a park road. Later that day, we saw two more crossing a road—and holding up traffic—elsewhere in the park.  We had a third sighting the day we were leaving the Yellowstone area, grazing along the shores of Lake Yellowstone.

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A lone Bison grazing along the river.

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We saw bison throughout the park. A good telephoto lens lets me get close without getting too close.

Of course, the persistent hope was to see and be able to photograph a bear. On our first day in Yellowstone, we came upon a group of cars pulled off to the side of the road—not in a parking area. That was a sign of something. Someone said something about a bear and pointed toward the trees, maybe 100 yards distant. Perhaps I saw something, and perhaps it was a bear, but as for a photo…well I have attended too many travel slide shows where someone says, “It is hard to see, but there is a bear there in those trees”—and the trees are so far away that they are not clear. No, I needed a definitive bear photo.

That photo opportunity occurred on the day we were leaving the Yellowstone area. Again, we saw a dozen or so cars stopped along a park road. We went around them to a legitimate pull-off and I planned walk back for possible photos. The bears were between the gaggle of people and the shore of a lake. As it was, there were two bears, a big sow and a half-grown cub, and they were taking their time coming in my direction.

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The Mama Bear

I waited until they got about 50 yards away and started taking photos about the same time a park ranger cautioned me to move back. I moved back at about the same pace as the bears were advancing, setting the tripod down every few steps to aim and shoot more photos. They may not be “National Geographic” quality photos, but there is no doubt that we saw bears!

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The Cub

During one stop in Yellowstone, I talked with a ranger, and asked him about moose in the park. He said he had seen everything but moose. They were not common in the park, so I mentally crossed “moose” of the bucket list for this trip. However, once we left the park on the way to Cody, Wyoming, we saw both a bull moose, and some miles later, a female (cow?) moose. Both provided photo opportunities—not ideal, but good enough.

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A young bull moose.

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Our second Moose of the day

Just after entering Badlands National Park, we passed a group of ewes and juvenile bighorn sheep grazing along the road. Traffic was busy, but I managed to shoot photos from the moving truck.

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A small group of Bighorn ewes and juvenile sheep grazed peacefully as we drove by. There were no Rams in this group.

Leaving Devils Tower National Monument, we stopped at the gift shop. Along the parking lot and the exit road there was a huge prairie dog town. They were willing subjects for photos, anticipating a snack in return. They squeaked (barked?) and stood as tall as they could to get attention. There was a bus load of international tourists behind us, and I suspect the prairie dogs there had a good meal (despite the “Do Not Feed the Prairie Dog” signs every fifty feet.

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One eager prairie dog took up his position at the edge of the parking area.

Oh, not sure this counts but we saw a jackalope in Wall, South Dakota!

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A human-sized jackalope for photos. Wall Drug is a major tourist destination. (Skipped the animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex.)

Perhaps someday, I will get a chance to go back for more photos.

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Cee’s Photo Challenge – Yellow

Posted in response to Cee’s Photo Challenge – Yellow.

Photos were taken at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky during the very first day of our 21-day trip to Utah and Wyoming and back. This was our very first stop.

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1955 Corvette at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky

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2012 Corvette at the National Corvette Museum, Bowling Green Kentucky

To see more about the Corvette Museum, go to Corvette Museum.

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Our Final Day of Pop-Up Adventures

Wall Drug, The Badlands National Park, and the Minuteman Missile Historic Site

Day 19Travel as I Have Envisioned It Could Be

Visiting the Badlands of South Dakota was never on our “radar.” Chatting with neighboring campers at the KOA in Custer, they mentioned going through the Badlands on their way to Custer. We asked about it, and they explained that it was right on our way, and only a little detour off our primary route.

Wall Drug

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Wall Drug was our first stop after leaving Custer

But first things first. Have you ever driven I-95 through the Carolinas and seen the progressive signs for “South of the Border”? Well Wall Drug signs aren’t quite as big, but just as regular on I-90 through South Dakota. I vaguely recalled a television travel program about Wall Drug and suggested we had to at least stop there.

There was no chance of missing it with their signage. Wall Drug has become a must-see stop on I-90.

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An animated T-rex entertained, and then frightened a group of younger children. Most enjoyed the experience.

Wall Drug became well known advertising free ice water to hot and weary travelers. They still provide free ice water and coffee is still a nickel a cup. It has grown into a major tourist stop with dozens of shops of all kinds, an excellent source of souvenirs, several eateries, and their very own Tyrannosaurus rex. If the streets weren’t paved, it would be like walking around an old west town. We shopped and had lunch there (and had both the water and the coffee). I had to visit the Tyrannosaurus compound!

The Badlands

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The entrance to the Badlands is just a few miles beyond Wall Drug.

Just east of Wall is an entrance to the Badlands National Park. The magic Senior Pass worked again. Almost as soon as we left the entrance gate, we were greeted by a small herd of Big Horn Sheep ewes and juveniles. It was also clear that we were entering a different world. Unlike most of the other major parks we visited, I had not researched the Badlands—actually, I had no idea where they were. Now we were in the midst of something akin to a moonscape.

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A small group of Bighorn sheep ewes and juvenile grazed peacefully as we drove by. There no Rams in this group.

The Badlands were described by conservation writer Freeman Tilden as “peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors—colors that shift in the sunshine.” I can imagine that to truly appreciate the colors, it is necessary to be there at sunrise and sunset. But it was still impressive a midday.

There are broad areas of ridges and gullies, surround by higher peaks—all areas with the sparsest—if any—vegetation. Then there a broad, flat valleys of prairie land, out of which grow additional badlands mountains.

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Any questions about the source of the name “Badlands”?

The national park is an area of varied habitats that support prairie dogs, bison, coyotes, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black-tailed and mule deer. There is even a population of black-footed ferrets which were once thought to be extinct.

Driving through the area, the textures, colors and shape of the formations constantly change, but all have the common quality of being austere, foreboding places to exist. There are many turnouts and places to park and explore parts of the park. It was, indeed, a memorable experience.

The Visitor Center is near the Northeast entrance, or in our case, exit. One of the features in the center are videos of interviews with people who live and work in the Badlands. These accounts, by ranchers and Native Americans, are very engaging and shows that even the Badlands can be a home.

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The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Visitor Center on I-90.

Minuteman Missile Historic Site

On the same road that exits the Badlands, where it crosses I-90, the Minuteman Missile Historic Site. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union maintained a military posture of Mutually Assured Destruction (appropriately called MAD). This was based on a triad of nuclear missile platforms: nuclear armed aircraft and submarines, and missile silos spread across the country. Most of those silos have been deactivated and the missiles removed and disarmed as part of treaty agreements with Russia.

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One of many exhibits of Cold War displays in the Minute Man Missile visitor center.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site protects two facilities that were once part of a Minuteman Missile field that covered the far western portion of South Dakota from 1963 through the early 1990s. There were 15 Launch Control Facilities that commanded and controlled 150 Launch Facilities (Missile Silos) holding Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. The park preserves two of these facilities in their historic state—Launch Control Facility Delta-01 with its corresponding underground Launch Control Center and Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09. These two sites, along with the Minuteman Missile Visitor Center, comprise Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Time and the fact that the two preserved sites were in the wrong direction allowed to visit only the visitor center.

Beeline for Home

07-Missouri River

Eastbound, now, we crossed the Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota on our way to Plankinton.

From there, we headed east on I-90 to Plankinton, SD, where we had dinner and boondocked at another Coffee Cup Fuel Stop.

By this time, we had already added one day to the total trip and we felt it necessary to make best time to home, thus, the last two days of our trip were limited to travel. At the end of day 20, we spent most of the night at another truck stop, about 30 minutes west of St. Louis.

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Boondocking at the Coffee Cup Fuel Stop near Plankinton, South Dakota.

On day 21, we left the truck stop about 3:00 in the morning so that we could get through the city before morning traffic. Home was a relatively easy, and familiar, drive from St. Louis.We arrived home in the mid-afternoon.

This concludes the chronicles of our odyssey. I may add another post or two recapping certain aspects of this trip that span the timeline, or highlight special features and events.

Finally, I want to thank the folks at Riverside RV in Indiana for designing such “cool little camper” as the Whitewater Retro 177. It is easy to pull, easy to set up, and comfortable to live in for extended trips. It made this trip possible for us.

Previous: Mount Rushmore

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Mount Rushmore National Monument

Day 18 – Travel as I Have Envisioned It Could Be

In addition to Devils Tower, I also insisted that we include Mount Rushmore in our return itinerary—another place I had never been.

Getting There

I had done some research, mostly on when and how it was created, and not on admissions and costs. So, armed with our Senior Pass, we headed toward the mountain. Mount Rushmore is located about 25 miles from Custer—an easy drive. We followed US 16 north out of Custer and followed signs. Soon we were in a short line for parking. Unlike the National Parks, there is no daily use admission fee, but rather a parking fee, and the Senior Pass is not good for parking. Parking costs $10.00; $5.00 for seniors. One benefit is that the parking permit is good for one year.

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The Entrance added in the 1990s

Parking was in a multi-level garage typical of city parking. There were plenty of parking spaces.  Elevators and stairs provide access to the park entrance. A long avenue connects the entrance to the Grand View Terrace. Along the avenue there is an Information Center, Gift Shop, Café, the Avenue of Flags, ending at the Grand View Terrace with the Visitor Center, a theater, and an amphitheater. The day that we were there, youth singing groups were performing at the amphitheater.

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The View from the Grand Viewing Terrace

Brief History

Mount Rushmore was named for a New York Attorney who had gone to the Black Hills to inspect mining claims, well before the sculpture was proposed. John Gutzon del la Mothe Borglum was born to Mormon Danish immigrant parents in 1867 in Idaho. He eventually studied art in Paris and New York and became an accomplished and well know portrait sculptor. He was working on the sculpture on Stone Mountain, Georgia, when he was recruited to work on yet undefined sculptures in the Black Hills.

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The View from the Grand Viewing Terrace (with Telephoto Lens)

Borglum selected the site for the carving based on of its orientation to morning and midday light, and for the quality of the granite that was ideal for sculpture. Borglum selected the presidents whose likenesses would be carved into the face of the mountain based on specific contributions each had made in the creation and growth of the United States.

The Grand View Terrace, at the end of the Avenue of State Flags, is the main viewing area for the sculpture, and the first stop for most visitors. Everything from the parking garages to the amphitheater were completed in 1998. Prior to that, the main viewing area was the Borglum View Terrace, accessible by a trail and stairway from the Grand View Terrace.

Visiting

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Borglum’s 1/12th Scale Model in the Sculptor’s Studio. Note Washington’s coat, Lincoln’s and Jefferson’s hands that were never finished.

First, allow at least four hours to take in all the site has to offer. When visiting the site, take advantage of the museum and theater in the Visitor Center. The story of the workmen at the site is quite interesting. Most of the carving work was done by workers slung over the mountain face in bosun chairs, either setting dynamite charges or using jackhammers to complete the details of each sculpture. Despite the apparent hazards, no one died during the work that began in 1929, and there were very few injuries. There is a movie that includes interviews with the men who worked on the sculpture.

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Detail of Washington

I also suggest you take the trail to the Borglum view terrace—the original terrace used before the new Visitor Center complex was completed. The sculpture is nicely framed by trees and is the view that was most commonly seen on pre-1990 postcards, etc.

Perhaps, one of the most interesting aspects of the site is the Sculptor’s studio where Borglum had created a 1/12th scale model of the complete sculpture. Using a very simple pointing system, the scale measurements could be transferred to the full-size sculpture on the mountain with amazing accuracy, allowing the work crews to replicate the details of the scale model. Park rangers also present programs on various topics during the day.

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Detail of Jefferson and Roosevelt

The sculpture of Roosevelt’s head, the last to be completed, was dedicated on July 2, 1939, and the memorial was officially transferred to the National Park Service. Borglum had planned to have more detail of Washington’s uniform in the sculpture, and work continued until October 1941. Further work ceased at the outbreak of World War II.

The same trail continues on a circular route up to the base of the mountain below the sculptures and back to the Grand View Terrace. This is a moderately strenuous hike, including some 422 steps to the rocky slope below the sculpture.

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Detail of Lincoln

The facilities have several well stocked shops, with an excellent selection of books on the history of the site and other relevant topics. The gift shop has almost every conceivable item imaginable. Prices are comparable to other National Park gift shops. The café serves full meals and also has an ice cream counter.

On the access road, there is a turnout with parking at a point where Washington’s profile is clearly visible. We had missed this on the way in.

Previous: Devils Tower

Next: A Trip through the Badlands

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