Tourists, I love them… they’re delicious!

You know, there are good images everywhere.  Even in kitschy, roadside tourist-traps.  This guy is a very large advertising prop for a kid’s fun park and dinosaur museum along the main road into Moab, Utah.  We stopped here on our way back toward Moab after visiting Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park.

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On this trip, the only dinosaurs we saw other than this big guy were on gas station signs.  We never see Sinclair stations in Georgia.

I thought they had gone the way of the dinosaur but, they were actually plentiful out here.

 

 

There are true sites where dinosaur bones and fossils have been found in this area and I would love to visit those.  Maybe next time around.

Paleo Safari Moab Giants
112 West UT SR-313
Moab, Utah, USA

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Trail Ridge Road – a must see!

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Our traveling gnome doesn’t mind the weather

So, we’re in Rocky Mountain National Park in May.  In Atlanta, we are long past the days of choking yellow pine pollen that highlight our Spring weather and are well on our way to Summer.  But in Colorado, it’s a different story!

 

Trail Ridge Road is a high mountain pass that runs 48 miles through Rocky Mountain National Park from its East side across to the West.  An amazing Highway to the Sky, the brochures tout this as the most scenic road there is.

Of course, that is when it is open…

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Traffic on the Trail Ridge Road

I knew that the road was closed due to snow but, we wanted to at least see part of it so my wife Joyce, and I drove up to Rainbow Curve which was as far as the road had been cleared.  I assume that this spot is named for what must be amazing vistas that can be seen here.  Apparently, no one told Mother Nature that it is supposed to be Spring and we drove through what looked like a blizzard as we made our way up the road.  Undoubtedly, things would clear up and we would see those great sights when we got to Rainbow Curve, right?

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View from Rainbow Curve (No, I didn’t Photoshop this!)

At the point where the road was closed, we found heavy winds with stinging snow and sleet blowing in our faces and near white-out conditions.  You could see well enough but, except for a few fleeting moments when the sun peeked through, there was no sign of that fabulous view of the Rocky Mountains.  I would have to wait till later in the day and at much lower elevation (Rainbow Curve is 10,829 feet) to see Horseshoe Park, where we shot the night sky later on.

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We got a lot of variety in weather on this trip.  In Rocky Mountain National Park there is always considerable variation when you go into the higher elevations but the “spring” weather here has surprising contrasts.  Don’t laugh but, I thought about renting snowshoes at a couple of points.  It is actually a nice time to be in the park since traffic is light but you need to be ready for the weather.  Think about bringing sunglasses and shorts but also protection from rain, snow and cold.  Yeah, just pack everything.

How does your garden grow?

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It was Silver Bells and Cockle Shells for the Mary of nursery rhyme fame but the Devil apparently, prefers huge limestone fins and columns and arches!  The Devil’s Canyon section of Arches National Park is quite a sight to see.  Yes, there are some lovely wildflowers scattered around but, the real attraction are the profusion of fins (like those shown above) that jut up out of the landscape and a whole series of arches that can be seen from the trail which winds for over 7 miles through the northern-most portion of the park.

I probably should have planned this out better because this was the last place we visited at Arches and it might have been better if we had gone here first.

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Walking through the canyon that leads into Devils Garden (there are 2 hikers at the far end)

Taking the foolish tourist approach of course, I started at the Visitor’s Center and bounced around, pulling off at every formation that we went past.  We got to see alot but there were also many places that we didn’t have time to explore fully.  Since Devils Garden is at the very end of the road that winds through the park, we didn’t get here until our last day.  I had thought we were making one last swing through the park and since it was rainy, I didn’t expect to get anything good.

So, on this dark dreary day that was obviously a wash-out, we spent 4 hours re-visiting the Windows Section of the park and going to Fiery Furnace and Devils Garden and getting some of my favorite images of the trip.

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As soon as we left, I was planning another visit to Arches so that I could actually walk the many miles of the Devils Garden trail that we didn’t see as well as so many other places that we only touched on.  Anybody up for a field trip?

Broken Arch
Broken Arch

Colorado Ghost Town – Silver Plume

It’s not a big place and there are no flashing signs saying SEE SILVER PLUME.  So, you may ask why my wife and I would stop here in the middle of a National Parks trip.  The answer is it is part of our family history.

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Calvin Ingrum (left) and  Jim Coughlin set a manual rock drilling record.  This photo hangs in the George Rowe Museum in Silver Plume.

My wife’s great-grandfather – Calvin Ingrum and his family moved here from Wisconsin around 1880 to get in on the Silver Rush.  He was a miner and for several years the constable of the town.

While visiting, we were able to see the home where he lived and visit the family gravesite.

 

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The Silver Plume Jail (1875-1915)

The silver was so abundant here that it bust out of the rock in feathery deposits giving the town it’s name – Silver Plume.   Just after the Civil War, this was a bustling silver mining camp but now with a population of about 200, it is little more than a Ghost Town.  Some of the original buildings still line the streets where you can walk around and soak in the history.

The town is about 50 miles west of Denver just off of I-70 in Clear Creek county. The slightly larger city of Georgetown a couple of miles east was closely associated and many of the wealthier families lived there away from the dusty mining camp. The two cities and the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park are jointly designated as the Georgetown-Silver Plume Historic District.

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Georgetown Loop Railroad – Silver Plume Station

We were here in the off season and almost everything was closed up which made it even more so, a Ghost Town!  The tourist season is Memorial Day thru Labor Day which is in line with most things in this area (other than ski resorts) .  The weather was great when we stopped but our trip proved why the place doesn’t open up earlier.

We thought we were experiencing the seven plauges when we first arrived – snow, sleet, rain, dust, wind with skies sometimes as black as night and then as white as a sheet.  And that was just the first day.

Ah, May in the Rockies.  Always a surprise in store!

 

 

A different point of view

It’s always a challenge for me to go to a site that has been photographed a million times from the same point of view.  There’s that one shot.  The one Ansel Adams did or the one that has been in all the travel magazines.  You just got to get that one, right?

Well, when it is the first time being at this place for me and that shot has been in my mind all along, yeah I need that one.  At the same time, it’s been done a million times. It’s easy for the conditions to be wrong and that is a setup for disappointment, or inspiration!

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Mesa Arch from the side with a view of the Mesa beyond

When we went to see Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, it was not at that perfect time of sunrise or sunset and there were lots of people walking around and posing for their tourist shot in front of the arch.  These situations usually frustrate me initially, then I start looking around for alternates to what I originally had in mind.  It’s amazing what is right in front of you when you open your eyes.

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Lupines in bloom along the trail to Mesa Arch

I know it is always a good idea to plan for where you want to go and try to get there when the light and conditions are right but, that is not always possible.  When faced with that situation when you plans go astray, you always have a choice.  Walk away complaining about how fate has wronged you again or, look for that hidden gem that was put there just for you to find.

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The more traditional view (wish I was there at sunrise!)

Look at the detail rather than the big picture.  Walk around to the back or side or try a higher or lower vantage point.  Include those annoying people in your shot.  Sometimes that gives scale to what you are seeing and sometimes, they’re just darned funny.  The point I’m trying to make here is, there is no 1 perfect spot for any location.  There are many.  Looking at a place from a different point of view is often the source of the best pictures and a way to keep yourself from going crazy from all those irritating things that spoil your plans!

Mesa Arch
Canyonlands National Park
Southeastern Utah, USA

The history of shopping

It’s a fact of life that any place that attracts a lot of people must have some kind of town to offer all the important things like t-shirts, souvenirs and candy!   In the case of Rocky Mountain National Park, that town is Estes Park, Colorado.  The downtown area is filled with little shops and restaurants including a few old-timers like this one.

The vintage neon sign is what attracted me to this in the first place.  Interestingly, when you do a search for images of this place, the neon sign isn’t there.  I don’t know if they got this made and installed to look like it is old or if they found the old sign in storage somewhere and put it back up but it is pretty cool.

Caramel Crisp
108 E. Elkhorn Avenue
Estes Park, Colorado, USA

Nikon D7000
Nikkor 18-105 zoom
36 mm 1/250 sec at f/8  ISO 400
Processed with Adobe Lightroom and Nik – Color Effects Pro 4

Life happens while we’re making other plans

If there is one thing I learned from my trip to Colorado and Utah it is this: Don’t put your camera away just because you think the weather is turning ugly!  All through the week we were out visiting the National Parks, the weather was what I would usually call un-cooperative.  It was rainy, cloudy and sometimes, downright cold.  The surprising thing is, those conditions gave me some of my best pictures.

Rain produces rainbows, clouds reflect light and color and add dimension to flat-blue skies and cold conditions often make everything look sharper.  The shot above is in Arches National Park.  We were walking back from our hike out to see Delicate Arch at sunset.  Of course, my plan was to get that icon of Utah with a glorious sunset sky.  That didn’t happen.

So, we walked slowly down the steep slope hoping to make it back to our car before the approaching storm opened up the skies again.  The image above is the result of these “disappointing” weather conditions.  Wow!  Disappoint me more often.

Cache Valley Wash
Arches National Park
Southeastern, Utah, USA

Nikon D7000
Nikkor 18-105 zoom @ 18mm
1/60 sec at f/4  ISO 400
Processed with Adobe Lightroom and Nik – Color Effects Pro 4