Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Final Four -- well maybe. . .

This good looking group is the Huff family.  Dave (youngest brother) and his wife Kathy, Carol and me - and my big brother Dan. This picture was taken at Rick's Cafe in Omaha last Saturday night where Dave treated us all to a very nice dinner. Thanks little brother. The next morning we flew back to New England, and it was a completely uneventful day of travel - everything worked like it was supposed to.  But let's get caught up to date.  We we were last traveling we were in Deadwood which is a long way from Omaha.  Overnight the wind began to howl once again and we awoke to about 2 or more inches of snow and ice on the car and the roads covered and slippery. Carol and I got underway early and took route 14 back up to Sturgis where we got coffee, but only after I spilled my cup all over the store... Once on 90 East we decided to stop at the Wall Drug Store (link to their site) in Wall, South Dakota for breakfast. We had heard about Wall Drug from just about everyone and had seen signs all along 90. As it turns out it is the only thing to see from Deadwood to Omaha. They serve a pretty good breakfast and coffee is only a nickle... and I didn't even spill any.

Wall Drug Store Outside

Wall Drug Inside

Once we got beyond Wall, SD things began to flatten out and even though there wasn't a lot to look at it was still an interesting ridge, albeit a long one. East of Wall we turned south on Big Foote road to get away from the highway and take a look.  Not much here either...

Big Foote Road

Late in the afternoon out little GPS took us across a small piece of Iowa, (Pottawattamie County) and into Nebraska and right to David's door where my brothers were waiting outside for us. It was so good to catch up with them as we all hadn't been together for a while.

At Dave's

We had a wonderful visit and a great vacation all around. Special thanks to Jason out on the west coast and to all his friends who welcomed us with open arms and showed us such a great time, and to Dave for his generous hospitality, and to Dan for making the trip from Illinois so we could all be together. Thanks to all the folks back at Vibco for picking up the slack while I was away and thanks Karl for for the time off at this busy time, (I'm afraid I missed more than one circus) and especially the loan of the big lens.... so many cool shots. Keep an eye on the blog as I will continue to post and am working on a picture gallery of the trip - start to finish.  I also took a 78 shot panorama of San Francisco with the large telephoto which I haven't stitched yet and many other panoramas... so there are still things to be done.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cody to Deadwood

Mount Rushmore - Looks like they are crying

As you can see by the image above, our good weather is beginning to run  out.  While here a Mount Rushmore today we had fog and snow and rain.  Later it cleared and even later it snowed again.  Temps ranged from 21 in Spearfish Canyon to 45 in Keystone... go figure. So our journey began with family in San Francisco, Jason, Megan, Dan, Ben and Gracie and tomorrow we journey to Omaha and join my two brothers Dan and Dave, so we end with family. This is a great trip.  Thanks for all the feedback from everyone who has kept in touch.  We often curse technology but it has really enhanced our experience on this trip, so to the folks at work, friends at home and away and family across the country, thanks for being a great part of this trip. OK, enough sappy stuff, here is what you really want - the photos.  First off - it is a long drive from Cody to Deadwood, but we liked the Cody Historical Museum so much we went back for a while before heading out on the road.  This first shot I took in the firearms part of the museum - wow what a collection. They didn't allow tripods and I didn't have my 8mm lens so I shot this one hand held, six shots with a 10.5 mm lens. It didn't stitch all that well and since I had a lot to stitch I didn't fuss with it too much but you can see some of the issues that arise when doing this stiff.

Cody Museum Firearms collection

Once on the road we settled into landscape watching and it didn't disappoint.  This is a varied landscape.
Here is a sampling from along the route (s)

Routes 14-16-20 - a Barren spot off the road

Museum of Flight - a bit west of Greybull - this place was littered with dead aircraft

Routes 14-16-20 - Near Shell, approaching the Bighorn Mountains

As I had mentioned before, Carol isn't too keen on heights and the Bighorn Mountains kept her alert...
Climbing up the Bighorn Mountains we followed Shell Creek (My brother Dave suggested that we stop at the falls -- they were closed to repair the facilities) where we found this overlook and met a happy camper named Terry and his dog Wiley who has been there in his trailer for a while, (couple of months) hiking the mountains looking for antlers.  He said he gets $8 a pound. This was a beautiful spot.

Shell Creek Overlook 1

Shell Creek Overlook 2 with Carol and Terry

This is where the climb really began and we reached 9033 feet at the summit

Bighorn Summit

Bighorn Overlook 1 - Called Fallen City because of a landslide

Bighorn Overlook 2 - The missing trees on the far hillside is from a tornado in 1959 - that's what the sign said!!!

Once out of the mountains and we were eager to get to Sheridan as we had seen signs for Dan's Western Wear and I needed a western shirt.  Sheridan didn't disappoint and we had lunch at the local brew pub, food was great - the local beer was not so hot. Just east of Sheridan we crossed a huge coal strip mining operation and saw many oil wells pumping.  In the shot below far in the distance is a train full of coal and it is behind an oil well...lots of energy out here.

Route 90 near Sheridan

As the day progressed, and because of our late start we hemmed and hawed over going to Devils Tower but decided to go even though it would be late in the day.  We arrived just before 7 pm as it was getting dim if not dark.  We saw many deer, pronghorns, turkeys and prairie dogs along the way.  The decision was the right one as we loved Devils Tower and wish we could have arrived earlier in the day.  The light was poor and we didn't have too much time for hiking.  We hiked up to the base of the skree but it was getting darker so we opted to head out toward Deadwood, an hour away.

Devils Tower from the approach

Devils Tower from the visitors center.

We arrived in Deadwood just after dark and just before it began to snow. Perfect timing.  We are at Cadillac Jack's casino which came recommended - thanks Missy. This is a good spot although there seems to be an age and weight requirement for the women here this week -- lot of old fat ladies.... maybe it is a club or secret order or something.  Today we struck out in the snow to climb to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery and visit the graves of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane and other notables of the old west.

The grave of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane

From there we went back down into town and did a bit of shopping, found some jewelry and even visited the local museum (doesn't compare with the Cody Museum) and then took off for Mount Rushmore and of course the snow began.  We took the scenic route down along 385 and it was spectacular.  We had Mountain Goats at the entrance to Mount Rushmore.  Here is a shot from the viewing area - they really are big, but don't look it here.  I talked to my friend Bob today and he told me that the market took a nose dive... it looks like these guys are crying, maybe it is about the market.

Mount Rushmore

The small village of Keystone at the base of Mount Rushmore caters to us tourists.  We had a turkey melt at the family restaurant here - pretty good. If you ever need a Mt Rushmore/South Dakota/Black Hills souvenir - this is the place.

Keystone, SD

On the return from Rushmore we took a swing through Sturgis.  My brothers ride over here every summer for the great gathering -- I felt like such a poser walking around here driving a Ford....... Cool town and with the countryside I understand why people return year after year.  There is a lot of really really nice sculpture here.  The shot below doesn't do justice to this piece but I tried.  I love this.  Zoom in and check out that it is made from saw blade and wrenches and leaf springs... so nice.

Sturgis sculpture

After returning to Deadwood I dropped Carol off at Cadillac Jacks as she needed to use the exercise room, it has been a sedentary vacation.  Spurts of hiking and long time sitting in the car.  Should have been the other way around.  Anyway, I took a drive up through Spearfish Canyon which is as beautiful as just about anything we have seen.  I hiked down to photograph Spearfish Falls... very cool spot.

Spearfish Falls

Near Spearfish Falls

So that is about all I have for now.  I shot a lot more images than I am posting here tonight - time is the limiting factor today as we will be up at 5:00 to head out early tomorrow. Am eager to visit with brothers and catch up on everything. No gallery today.... maybe over the weekend.....

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yellowstone to Cody

The drive to Yellowstone from Idaho Falls was an uneventful relaxing drive.  When we arrived it was a cold and windy day, later as you will see in the photos it began to snow and rain.  The hot springs and mudpots and the whole geothermal nature of Yellowstone was amazing.

Hot springs

Mudpots - just boiling bubbling and stinky mud

Geysers Mudpots and Fumeroles - Oh my

We stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge which is just across from the famous Geyser.  We arrive about ten minutes before Old Faithful was scheduled to blow so I set up my camera and waited. This is of course the precise moment it began to rain and snow and the clouds  moved in and the flakes got big
and well, damn, I took about the worst panorama ever... bugger!

Old Faithful

The Snow lodge was a beautiful building.  Carol and I loved the architecture and the way they decorated the whole place.  We had some really bad service but when we checked out, I had a chat with the manager, who was very gracious and the result was a complete refund for our stay. I don't normally complain but this time was a bit too much.  Anyway - Here are a couple of pix from the Snow Lodge.

Snow Lodge Lobby

Room 1010

This morning after all the hubbub at the registration desk I scraped the ice off the windshield and we got underway right at 8:00 - on the snow and ice covered roads.  More snow was predicted but we had blue skies and still had the high winds. The route to Cody (112 miles east) was closed so we had to drive 100 miles north to Livingston then 120 miles east and then 75 miles south - some detour. It is 50 miles to the north exit in Gardiner, MT and these 50 miles took us two and half hours because of the snow and ice, and some road construction too. The roads were awful until the last five miles where the snow completely disappeared, the sun came out, and the temps went into the forties... go figure.

A branch of the Yellowstone in the park - many animal tracks in the dirt here, I saw deer, elk and maybe wolf tracks.

The exit

Near the gate in the panorama above you can maybe make out an Elk and to the left of the sign there is a small herd of deer - white tails. We had also just passed wolves working on a carcass of something.

The wind was high and when we were on route 90 heading east we saw a tractor-trailer blown over on the other side of the highway. Leaving route 90 and heading back south toward Cody we traveled route 72

Route 72 - somewhere in Wyoming

Clark Fork of the Yellowstone - a tributary

We arrived in Cody at about 4:30 and checked into the Irma Hotel.  This is the hotel the Buffalo Bill Cody built in 1902 in this town he founded.  The bar in the restaurant was a gift from Queen Victoria and valued at $100,000.00 in 1902.

Irma Hotel

Irma Hotel Restaurant and Bar

We visited the Buffalo Bill Museum which is home to the Whitney's Museum of Western Art.  Spectacular. We only had time for a tour of the art gallery but so may paintings and sculptures of the west by Remington, Russell, Catlin and others.  Amazing.  We are going back in the morning before heading to Deadwood.

And of course a gallery, this one of shots from around Yellowstone - yesterday and today


Hope you enjoy these photos

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grand Canyon Time Lapse

This is a time lapse I shot while at the Grand Canyon at Yavapai Point.  I shot this with a Nikon D300s  with my 10.5 mm fisheye lens at an interval of 5 seconds and it is plays back at a rate of 15 frames per second. This is best viewed in HD at full screen.

Bryce Canyon to Idaho Falls

 Standing on the rim at Bryce in the snow - 24 degrees out!

This morning we got an early start, well, earlier start.  We checked out from Ruby's Inn and began a tour of Bryce Canyon.  It had snowed during the night and the temps dropped to the low 20's. Hiking the trails was an impossibility as they were covered in ice and snow.  The scenery with the snow was spectacular.

After leaving Bryce Canyon proper we drove in blowing snow for a few hours. The driving conditions were deplorable.  Once we traveled about 50 miles on Interstate 15 the snow began to diminish and the sun tried to come out but it wasn't until we were north of Salt Lake city that the weather really cleared. We had planned on stopping in Salt Lake city to visit an old friend and his family but decided to press on as the weather is beginning to box us in. Sorry Shane, next time. . .

Typical gas stop along Utah I-15 with snow squalls

North of Salt Lake City we made a quick side stop at the Willard Bay Marina... had to shoot a pix of the lake.

We drove on to Idaho Falls and arrived at about 7:00 pm so it was a long day of driving indeed... and we still didn't finish another book CD.  Idaho Falls took us by surprise as it is quite a quaint and picturesque town.  We found a great  motel, The Driftwood Inn, right at the falls. Before supper we walked along the Snake River River Walk and shot several views of the falls and of the river.

The weather looks dicy and we have discovered that the East Entrance to Yellowstone is closed until May 7th -  this may add several hours to our drive to Cody.... we will see how it all works out.  Up early tomorrow and off the the Snow Lodge in Yellowstone, across the street from Old Faithful and to see how all the road conditions are. . . . We may be out of contact as the internet connections and cellphone service was non-existant at the Grand Canyon and at this point it is an unknown at Yellowstone, so until next time, so long for now.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Catching Up -- Sedona to Bryce Canyon

Carol and I on the rim of the Grand Canyon

OK, so it has been a while since I posted due to lack of internet connection... it also gave me an evening off from stitching images and such. So let me catch you up on things. (12 panoramas and a photo gallery linked below) That last morning in Sedona, after the sunrise shoot, Carol went for a walk in one direction and I in another.  I shot the following image on the back side of Cathedral Rocks while hiking there.

Backside of Cathedral Rocks, Sedona

We then took off toward the Grand Canyon and had a great time riding through the Coconino National Forest and came upon this fantastic overlook. Many Navajo ladies were selling jewelry and Carol almost bought some turquoise that was native made, but she restrained herself thinking that she would buy some as we drove through the Navajo reservation.

Coconino National Forest, Route 89, Arizona

The drive from here to the Grand Canyon was uneventful. We pulled off the main road and went down a dirt road somewhere off of route 64 to eat lunch and were greeted by a herd of elk. After lunch we had a short drive and arrived at the canyon at about 4:00. We had supper in the Bright Angel Lodge and stayed the night in the Yavapai Lodge. (More elk by the Bright Angel Lodge) This morning we got a good start and stopped may times along the rim. Here is a couple of panoramas. (More to come soon, I hope.  I have shot so many and they do take a while to create.)

Grand Canyon evening arrival

Grand Canyon Morning

After leaving the canyon we traveled east on route 64 and arrived at the town of Cameron, AZ, where we had breakfast at the Cameron Trading post. I shot these two after we ate.  I also found out that Navajo Bread, which I ordered, is apparently the western name for Doughboys, definitely not on my diet.

Cameron Trading Post

Old bridge on Little Colorado River

A few miles north of Cameron, back on Arizona route 89 we came across a strange land formation which looked like a bunch of desert boobs... so we went offroad once again to drive around in this unusual landscape.

Desert Boobies -somewhere in Arizona

A bit further up the road we traveled up and over this high pass... the Navajo were selling their jewelry along this high bluff. Carol missed her chance to get Navajo jewelry as she was not too keen about getting out of the car at this precarious location. The natives wouldn't let me take pictures of their work or of them but I got the shot of the view.

Amazing Overlook of valley - No really this is amazing.

As a side note, we have brought along several audio books knowing that long hours in the car would lend itself to listening to books as we do when we travel around New England. The scenery here is so fantastic that we haven't made it through the first couple of discs of the first of six books. . .
Anyway a while later we arrived at the Glen Canyon Dam which creates Lake Powell. Now this is an amazing shot.

Glen Canyon Dam - Way cool shot

And now into Utah. One of our stops in Utah was to have lunch - once again way off on a side road. This time it was near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  We found a coyote head along side of the road with it's ears cut off - maybe for a bounty or something??? Here is the view from where we stopped.

Long and winding (?) road

Finally we approach Bryce Canyon and the landscape once again changes completely.

Approaching Bryce Canyon

And into the Park proper.  We registered at Ruby's Inn, which we think is appropriate for a fortieth wedding anniversary, since ruby is supposed to be the gift, and then on into the canyon. We were greeted at the entrance of the Park by a heard of mule deer and later saw whitetails near the same location

Bryce Canyon Trail

OK, so I have just about bored you completely -- but wait that's not all, if you order now --- I also have a gallery with photos taken along the way, ending of course with a Cowboy Dinner Show.

Todays Photo Gallery

It is nearing 1:00 am so am going to sign off, so in the spirit of the cowboy, Happy Trails, until we meet again.