Scenes from South Dakota

On September 1, my Hubby and I got into our car, and drove to South Dakota, for a Ricochet meetup with members from all over the US.  Our drive took us through Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota finally.  It was an uneventful drive, and the scenery we saw was spectacular.  We had been that way before, and we didn’t stop much on the way.  We did stop at the first rest area in SD.

SD Rest area

And we saw some beautiful land.

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Thursday night, when we hit Rapid City, we had very little time to sightsee, just met the gang for a great dinner.

On Friday, we did a lot of driving new roads, and picture-taking.  We met some members at the Powder House restaurant just after breakfast, and got a chance to check out the cars our friends would drive in to the Sturgis Mustang Rally the next day.  There were two Mustangs and a Toyota MR2.

 

Next, we drove the roads to Custer State Park, along what is known as the “Needles Highway”. Needles, indeed!

There was a tunnel along the highway.

What a beautiful view through the end of that tunnel! Recognize it?

I remember being fascinated by the trees I saw, growing rough up out of the rocks. Those trees are helping to break down the granite of the Black Hills, eventually reducing the mountains to broken stone (in a few million years!).

Along the road, I held up my phone, and took some video of the turns we went through. You need a strong stomach to drive the Needles Highway.


Between the Needles was a very beautiful vista of the Black Hills.

On Saturday, we visited the Mammoth Site. It was spectacular, and deserves a post of its own, which I will publish later.

On Sunday, we drove the Spearfish Highway, which was supposed to be spectacular. It was nice, but we were basically not too impressed. We have scenery just as good on our North Cascades Highway in Washington. However, in the town of Lead, we visited Roughlock Falls, which turned out to be very beautiful. Most of the falls are at just below ground level, and the water is very clear. I found it relaxing.

And if you walk further down the path, you find the Lower Falls, different from the Upper Falls.

And, on the way back to Rapid City, we discovered something we were not expecting to find. We discovered a lake that we didn’t know was even there. It is a reservoir on Rapid Creek, known as the Pactola Reservoir. Rapid City gets its water from that reservoir. And if you follow the link, you can learn its secret.

We also did the obligatory tour of Mount Rushmore, with some other Rico friends. My readers will know that we went there before, and I posted many pictures then, so I didn’t take very many this year.

On Monday, we headed toward home, via North Dakota. But we saw some nice country on our way out of South Dakota. Now, the rest of the weekend had been sunny and warm, but Monday was rainy, and the forecast for the more mountainous areas was…wait for it…Snow! We didn’t see any.

Lens-Artists Challenge #112, Pick a Word

For this week, bloggers pick one or more of the following words, to illustrate with their photos.  The words are: Growing, Crowded, Tangled, Exuberant, and Comfortable.

I think I can find at least one photo that illustrates each word for the week.

Let’s start with Comfortable.

People who are owned by a cat know that most household pet cats spent the majority of their day sleeping.  Or relaxing.  Or peering out the window.  Cats are the world’s best seekers of comfort, and my owner, Kikyo, is no exception.  Here she is, curled up on the unmade bed.

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On the path next to Snoqualmie Falls, I found this pretty bush,  growing near a stand of trees.

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And, now that I look at it closer, more than one kind of plant is tangled together!  And here’s another visualization of Tangled.  In this case, cactus plants are tangled in the branches of the tree that grows in the same plot at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Cacti attacking the tree

 

On a trip to Colorado, we took a tour through the Garden of the Gods park, with its winding trails among the red rock cliffs.  This climber looked pretty exuberant to me!

Rock climber’s elation

As for Crowded, at the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration, there are vendors’ tables outside the Festhalle, where the shows and competitions take place.  Those tables can get pretty crowded with accordions for sale.

And, in my back yard one year, our suet feeder was crowded with Common Bushtits looking for lunch.

Thirteen Common Bushtits on our Suet Feeder, January 2012

You know how they say that one reason real estate is so valuable is “they’re not making any more land”?  Well, actually, Mother Nature IS making more land.  Due to the lava flowing from the Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, more land is being created, and we got to watch it off the deck of the Crystal Symphony cruise ship in 2018.  So you can say that Hawaii is Growing more landmass.

Link

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #110..Creativity in the time of Covid

First of all, let me say that the Government-required “lockdown”, mandating that free citizens of the United States remain at home under modified “house arrest” has affected me, personally, only minimally.  I am employed in an Essential Industry, Aerospace, and I have been going to my job at my company’s factory every single workday, except for the one day of vacation I took, and the two-week plant shutdown that everyone took.  I actually enjoyed the lack of traffic on my daily commute to and from work.  I have also been enjoying the nearly-empty parking lot at work.  I never have to worry about finding a good parking space!

It was a major inconvenience not being able to get a haircut or a pedicure, but I managed  to work around those issues (a friend whose hairdresser works out of his home was able to wangle me a haircut, and I just had to re-learn how to cut my own toenails).  When the  state lockdown was announced, I thumbed my nose at “Dimslee” in Olympia, got in my car, and drove up to the Skagit Valley to look at the scenery.

I have been able to do some photography in the last six months-my creativity was not really impacted at all.

In June, we took a day trip over the Cascades to Leavenworth.  I wanted to see if the entire town was shut down.  It wasn’t.  There were people walking the streets, and some of the shops were open.  And on the way back to the car…

Rainbow-Leavenworth

That’s the Festhalle, where they have the competitions and concerts at the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.  It was cancelled this year.

On my way home from work every day, I drive the perimeter of Paine Field, the Snohomish County Airport.  I have been dying to take these pictures, and finally I had the time.

Trees on horizon

Horizon

Creativity in the time of Covid does not have to differ from creativity at any other time.  Do not fear going outdoors, because Nature is not your enemy.  Neither is your fellow man or woman.  Get in your car and take a drive.  And don’t forget your camera!

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Lens-Artists Challenge #109 Under the Sun…Around the West

The same Sun shines on us all.  Everyone on Planet Earth gets their sustenance from the same Sun.  That Sun shines over Alaska, as well as over the Hawaiian Islands.  I spent two years in Minneapolis in grad school, and I especially appreciated that sunshine in Winter, when it was bitter cold.

In 2016, Hubby and I went on a cruise to Alaska with Hillsdale College.  The sun shone on our ship, the Crystal Serenity.

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That pool looks pretty inviting, doesn’t it?

When we got to Skagway, the sun was shining, and it was about 70 degrees out.  A beautiful day, surrounded by mountains.

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Now that I look at this photo, it looks like the ship is about to run right over all those vans in front of it.

And on the way home, among the Gulf Islands of Canada…

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This is actually an intersection of two perpendicular streams of water, and that makes for some treacherous cross-currents.

Farther West, in Hawaii-

The sun shines a lot in tropical Hawaii, and it was pretty nice while we were there.  But it’s often prudent to have shade available.  These beautiful ladies were doing their traditional hula dance for us.  They just looked so happy!

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Yeah, it’s almost a cliche, but they were delightful to watch.

In 2014 we went to Arizona for another Hillsdale function.  Arizona is even hotter than Hawaii in the summer, and the sun shines most of the time.  When you think of Arizona, does cactus come to mind?

Forest of Cacti!
Forest of Cacti

When you think of the Pacific Northwest, does “rain” come to mind?  Yes, but the sun does shine too around here.

Mount Baker, seen from San Juan Ferry
Mount Baker, seen from San Juan Ferry, Puget Sound, WA

There may be “nothing new under the Sun”, but when it shines, we go outside to enjoy it.

 

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Lens-Artists Challenge #108 Sanctuary

A sanctuary is someplace you want to be.  It’s often a quiet place, or a less-quiet place with no one else around.  It’s a place to retreat to, when you have had your fill of the honking horns, boomy bass coming from someone’s hot-rod, or just backups in traffic.

Not far from my home is the Narbeck Wetland, a real sanctuary, designed to preserve a tiny portion of wilderness in the city.  Actually, it’s right across the street from the world’s largest factory building, which is remarkable in itself.  Just last week, I packed up my big camera (well, bigger than my phone), and headed over there for a nice taste of nature.  There are two separate paths around the wetland, one with alternating forest path and boardwalk, and one along the perimeter closer to the street.

This time, I took the inner path.  Just at the edge of the parking lot at the start of the path, there is a pool, with trees overhanging, and I started there.  Boy, was I glad that I had brought my phone, which I have found takes just excellent video.  This particular pool was very pretty, but I felt it really needed video to capture its real beauty.

 

The water was just shimmering so enchantingly, I had to capture that.  But only later when I got home and uploaded this to my computer, did I really hear the background noise.  I guess when you’re across the street from an airplane assembly factory, and just a short distance from the county airport, you can expect to hear overhead aircraft!

On I walked, down the path.

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During that entire walk, I met just one other person.  The air was cool, the breeze welcome, and the path inviting.  Just a bit farther on, I reached the boardwalk over the water.

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Just down from here, I stopped and spent a few minutes just leaning on the railing over this pool, just listening to the wind in the trees, and the trickling of the water-it was mesmerizing, and hard to come back to reality.

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A few yards on down the boardwalk, my eye was caught by something on the railing itself.  I looked a bit closer, and was treated to an almost artistic arrangement.  If you pay attention to the little things, you might see something extraordinary.

Lacework

Lichens, lacework on the half-decomposed leaf, and a dead leaf almost as pretty as the live one must have been.  Ah, the details!

Right at the end of the boardwalk, I found a pool that looked like a piece of abstract art.

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And so ended my walk in the wilderness, only a short drive from home.

Speaking of home, my little sanctuary at home is my bedroom.  I do spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on my bed reading.  Today, as many days, I was joined by my cat, Kikyo.  She just loves to sit on me.

Me-n-kitty

I think I am her sanctuary.  That is one relaxed, happy kitty.

Link to Xenia’s Original Post

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #107 Winter

Lens-Artists Challenge #107 Winter

I like Winter.  I went to Minnesota to grad school in the early 1970s, and I quickly decided I much preferred winter to summer (98 degrees, 98% humidity-ugh!).  In Minnesota, winter is bitter cold, with temperatures as low as -45 at night, but the sun is shining most days.  There’s no more beautiful sight than the sun making the snowy scene sparkle like diamonds.  I regret that I have no photos from that time, but the memories linger.

In the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised, and live now, winters can be predictable-gray clouds, rain, and gloom most of the time.  But, as I heard somewhere, no one ever died shoveling two feet of “partly cloudy” off their doorstep!  In Minneapolis, we would hear regularly about people coming home, drunk, at 2AM, and falling asleep on their porch and freezing to death.

We do, however, get snow sometimes, and when we do, it turns our neighborhood, and our city, into a winter wonderland (and a driving nightmare).  I tend to go outside with my camera, starting with my own backyard.  2019 was actually a good year for snow.

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This avian visitor is a Varied Thrush, and he has an insect in his beak.  We have two pairs who visit the yard pretty much year-round, as they live in the mini-forest to the west of our house.

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Our Song Sparrows are also frequent visitors.  I end up refilling our bird feeder often in winter.

We can tell how much snow we get by checking out the stationary objects in the yard, and measuring the snowcaps.  We got the concrete pagoda for a wedding present, and it does hold quite a bit of snow.

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That’s a bird-bath in front, and our Japanese Maple on the right.  And out the front door:

Icicles

Those icicles are pretty, but an indication of trouble with the gutters.  We got that fixed earlier this year.  You can see that when it snows here, the sky stays normal, Pacific Northwest gray.  We natives are used to it, but our local university was a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Seattle Depression.

At least once a year, we try to get up to Leavenworth, just on the East side of the Cascades, for their weekend Tree Lighting ceremony.  Now Leavenworth, a “tourist trap” that made itself into Washington’s Bavarian Village, does things up proud in the winter, with all the buildings, and trees downtown, strung with colorful lights.  To get there, you head east on US Highway 2.

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And when you get there…

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Leavenworth Tree Lighting-Before

 

I also have my little camera in my work bag, just to capture unexpected beauty in mundane things.  On my way to work, I drive around the perimeter of Paine Field, the county airport.  Who would have thought that a simple concrete-block wall would look this interesting?

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And when I got to work, it was still snowing.  When I went out for lunch…

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In October of 2013, we drove to Las Vegas and back for a Ricochet meetup.  On the way back, we drove by the Grand Canyon, and Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  It was just gorgeous at Bryce.  Those red-rock features look majestic with their snow caps.

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon NP
View from Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Natural Bridge, Bryce
“Natural Bridge”, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Mother Nature likes winter, too, and makes such beautiful landscapes for us to see and appreciate.

 

 

Link

Lens-Artists Challenge #106-Autumn

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  Warm weather does not agree with me, and I prefer the crisp air of autumn to heat and humidity.  Here on the West Coast, we don’t have the hardwood forests found on the East Coast, but we do get some of the fall colors.

We went to Victoria, BC for our honeymoon in October of 2003, and a friend gave us an idea of where to stay.  We booked a room at the Inn at Laurel Point, where we had a wonderful view of the famed Inner Harbour.  We could watch the little harbor-taxi boats plying their way across the water.

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Water taxi, and tall ship. Victoria Inner Harbour

And we were fortunate to be right over the pretty Japanese-style garden.

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Pond and Garden, Inn at Laurel Point

Dusk is a particularly peaceful time of day in this autumn environment.  We had the special treat of watching the float-planes land, right opposite our balcony.  That’s the only route from our Washington State home to Victoria that we haven’t taken yet.

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Harbour Air Plane landing at Sunset, Victoria Inner Harbour

Seattle’s Kenmore Air has regular service to Victoria, and we might just take it someday, if the border opens again.

In the morning, we often take a walk around the neighborhood of the hotel.  Not too far away is the Inner Harbour Marina, where there are all kinds of boats docked.  Some are day-sailers and power boats, and there ere even some houseboats. That wooden boat with the square stern is a houseboat.

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Boats at Marina, Victoria

On our honeymoon, part of our package tour was a trip to the famous Butchart Gardens.  The gorgeous fall colors are at their best, and we try to go there whenever we celebrate our anniversary in Victoria.  The gardens never fail to display their showy colors, and inspired design.

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Valley Garden

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Japanese Garden Path

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Fountain

Literally, beauty wherever you look.

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Walls of Garden

In our own Cascade Mountains, we get some fall colors, even with our preponderance of evergreen trees (not for nothing is Washington called the Evergreen State).  Just over Stevens Pass, in Chelan County, is the Tumwater Canyon, on US Highway 2.  We drive this way many times during the year, because we love to go to Leavenworth on a day trip.  Along the Wenatchee River, if you get there at exactly the right time, you can see the brightly-colored trees reflected in the water.

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Fall Colors on the Wenatchee River, west of Leavenworth, WA

I am happiest when the autumn air is crisp, the leaves on the trees turn yellow and red, and I can be out in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Even right near my home, autumn makes its appearance.  This beautiful red-leafed tree was found in the parking lot of our local Costco store!

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And every year, I notice this line of trees right behind our house, on the property of the Silver Lake Water District.

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Autumn-I can hardly wait until it gets here again.  Simple pleasures, close to home.

 

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