Curves & Arches

Slow down!

I’ve been spending lots of time enjoying our 2014 trip down 300 miles of the Blueridge Mountain Parkway so when Cee announced her photography theme of curves and arches I was ready – I knew just the ones I wanted to use. The speed limit was 35 miles/hour on the Parkway but the road is so curvy that I dare anyone to go faster. It is a slow drive but not a problem because there is so much beauty to see along the way and interesting stops to make.

A double bonus: an arch & a curve

The Parkway was built as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression and it helped many families get employment in Virginia and Nouth Carolina. It is an unusual National Park because it is basically a long road along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes only incorporating the road and shoulders with private property blending in with property that was bought by the National Park Service at other places. It really feels like an outdoor museum of the culture and heritage of this region. In one section where property was purchased, The Park Service preserved and rebuilt sections of the narrow-gage rail system that once took lumber down the mountain to the saw mills.

Narrow-gage rails going over a little stream. A small water fall is to the left of the frame.
Mid-October is peak color season at upper elevations. I have always described the maple leaf as having points, but obviously the outer shape consists of curves.
I said, slow down please. It is a long way down on my side of the road.

Art Show on the Beach

The beach beckons from the edge of the road.

When we drove over the Mighty Mac bridge into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we turned right onto highway U.S. 2 that goes along the southern part of the peninsula towards Wisconsin and beyond. The first 48 miles runs along the upper shore of Lake Michigan, with sandy beaches beaconing people to stop for some beach time. Looking south across Lake Michigan you can see Chicago – if you have really good vision (300 miles or so) or good imagination. Sorry but I didn’t have a long enough lens to see it in the photo above, but it would be to the right.

This is a two lane, heavily used stretch of road but there is enough of a shoulder on the south side of the road to pull over. In the summer months the cars are parked bumper to bumper and there are lots of people scattered along the beach. In September there were only a few vehicles and we pulled across both lanes to park the truck and camper.

The above photo looks west and the boulders were place there to protect against wave erosion that would quickly undercut the road. This is the Hiawatha National Lakeshore so it is protected but there is always a tension between protecting the environment and maintaining/building for infrastructure and commerce. In this case nature frequently wins as it blows sand and snow across the highway.

But I wasn’t thinking political on the beautiful day. I was seeing nature’s art everywhere I looked. Would you like a peek at the gallery? Click on a photo for a slide show with the title of each of Nature’s creations. I would also love to hear how you would title each one.

The gentle waves had built a little cliff face, and when I stepped down onto the wet sand and bent over I saw the delightful artistry of the water along that face.

I had so much fun just being alone with my camera on the beach. Looking and being in the moment and clicking my shutter when nature made itself known to me. As I left I turned and took another (several?) more photos of the beach before hopping into the truck and heading for Lake Superior.

Going Wide

This week’s Lens-Artist theme is wide-angle photography and I immediately thought of our trip to southern Alaska out of Juneau and cruising the inland waterway in a very small ship. Thirty-two passenger small (click here for my post describing this small ship.) It was wonderful because the captain was a photographer so he made sure we knew when we would be going by some area of importance that was camera worthy. However, I don’t think there was ever a moment of daylight that didn’t seem worthy of a click of my shutter.

Morning light on the Inland Waterway in southern Alaska.

Even a wide-angle lens and stepping way back doesn’t seem to capture the grandeur of a mountain landscape. On a small ship there isn’t much room to step back to widen the view through a lens but usually the captain kept us back from the coast. We were visiting Dawes Glacier the first day out but couldn’t dawdle because the captain wanted to anchor in a small fjord with a very narrow, shallow entrance. Because of the high tides in this area he had a 15 minute window of opportunity to go through at high slack tide. This fjord is called Ford’s Terror for a reason that I wrote about here.

Ford’s Terror, Alaska

The Costal Temperate Rainforest of North American starts in the thin strip along the Pacific Ocean of southern Alaska (that we were touring), then goes south along the coast of British Columbia, Canada, and into the U.S. – Washington State, Oregon State and northern California. It is the largest intact temperate rainforest remaining on earth and in Alaska the Tongess National Rain Forest encompasses 17 million acres. A rainforest implies there is lots of rain so I knew to expect clouds and rain and was always alert for spots of sun breaking through the clouds and landing somewhere on this beautiful 360 degrees of scenery.

Tongess National Rain Forest
No “going wide” here – just dig in.

My favorite land excursion was at the small town of Tenakee Springs (pop. 91). It was a Sunday morning so not much was happening. The town’s restaurant-bakery-gift shop-movie theater-dance hall-coffee house-meeting place opened especially for us and had hot cinnamon rolls ready. The captain had special permission to bring us on shore and the only other way to get there is by sea-plane, the mail ferry, or private boat. Being a ways off shore while still on the boat I could only get half of town. This is the portion along West Tenakee Avenue.

Tenakee Springs, Alaska

And this is along East Tenakee Avenue at low tide. This seems to be the newer, more prosperous end of town.

These wide angle images of this town make me smile big as I supplement them with my memories. The avenue runs behind the houses and buildings and there are also side streets (named from A to J) leading to the houses you see going up the mountain. Wide angle doesn’t work when walking down the avenues of town, but this “long” angle will give you a different “image.” It will add to the town’s story.

West Tenakee Avenue

Alaska gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice both wide angle and close up photography, especially as I was working at capturing the personality or essence of what I was being introduced to.

If you would like to explore information about this Costal Temperate Rainforest of North America, here is an excellent brochure.

Lynn, on her blog “Bluebrightly,” posts her beautiful nature photography and narrates her walks through the rainforests of northwest Washington (state).

If you are interested in conservancy of our rainforests here is a link to The Nature Conservancy that is working to conserve the Tongass National Forest. This site provides some interesting information about this huge area and some really nice photographs.

Getting Away

Our B&B at Son Kul, Kyrgyzstan

This week I was once again thinking about getting away. Not going far, not getting away from people, just getting away from a few small worries and responsibilities that I’m carrying on my right shoulder, making it sag a little. Sometimes we get away for a few nights with our camping trailer and that will be happening in early August. I’m also planning a longer trip to northern New England in September but right now that is feeling more like a worry of planning than an excitement of “getting away.” Usually I get that feeling of wanting to ‘get away’ that doesn’t have a destination, that is a close cousin to wanting to ‘run away.’

Mountain Pass to Son Kul that almost wasn’t passable in early June.

When I saw this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Getting Away I smiled, almost chuckled, because I think they read my mind – and maybe a few million other minds. I started thinking of all the little getting away trips, maybe even day trips, and thinking of all the “big” trips we have taken over the years. I even started looking at some of my photos but my spirit just couldn’t connect with my brain to bring on the excitement necessary to do the writing. This topic was too much fun to have it get delegated to my unfinished-posts-that-may-get-finished-before-I-die heap. During the past couple of weeks I have also been enjoying the photos I took in 2009 when I visited my daughter who was working in Kyrgyzstan. We took a private tour, with a Russian driver and a Kyrgyz guide, around the countryside, including going to Son Kul, a mountain top pasture and lake where farm families from the arid villages take their herds to graze in the summertime. This was a trip that was a whole different kind of “getting away.”

Taking herds over the mountain to highland pastures for summer grazing.
This truck is bringing another family, their yurts, and all they will need for the summer season.

The only infrastructure was two tire paths that were used only by the trucks that brought family members and their belongings up to their summer pastures. The only other vehicles were our van and a van of Swedish birders who went into the mountains during the day. Water was obtained from mountain streams and the lake, the only fuel would be dried dung from their livestock and a small amount of kerosene brought up from the village. There is no electricity or modern means of communication.

Neighbors communicating.

This is a place where getting away means getting away from all modern conveniences. These modern day nomads are there to maintain their livestock and care for their families – tourists are an aside that brings in a little cash but isn’t supported by an infrastructure. There are no gift shops, no grocery stores, no gas (petro) stations, no museums, no fudge shops, no tee-shirt shops. And no hotels or restaurants. We slept in a yurt that was like the one the family sleeps in and by chance (the birders didn’t want us to join them in the dining tent) we were invited to eat a simple supper and breakfast in the family’s living yurt.

The tour company had made reservations with a family for us to spend the night but when we arrived our tour guide couldn’t find them (did I mention there are no street signs or lot markers). They hadn’t arrived yet. Asermat (our guide) stopped at this site and asked if they could accommodate us and they graciously said yes, but the birders had the official reservation and they were there to talk birds, not socialize with unplanned guests.

Simple meal of soup and bread, with candy and cookies for dessert.
Ensuite, nomad style.

We walked here and there although the view was mostly the same. What I noticed was the silence – no motor noise, no mowers, no phones ringing and no wind blowing through trees or birds singing. Just a silence that somehow made the world seem larger than life. And I noticed how quickly I felt short of breath because of the altitude. As the sun descended behind the mountains and the temperature dropped we went to bed, with only the light of flashlights (torches) to help us navigate our bedtime activities of laying out bedding and deciding how much of our clothing we would keep on. We woke when light started coming through a small opening at the top of the yurt covered with thinner felted wool. That day it snowed.

Evening entertainment.

I wanted to know how they milked their mares so the next day our guide stopped at a group of yurts on the other side of the stream (no bridge) to ask who was milking mares. These were mares who were first-time mamas and they had just started milking them so all (horse and human) were skittish and it appeared to be a dangerous activity. They offered me the pail of fresh milk to try and I didn’t let this opportunity pass. It was very good.

Milking a mare.

This trip to Son Kul was much more than “getting away” to a different culture. It felt more like getting away to another world. You can read more post on my trip to Kyrgyzstan by scrolling to the bottom of this page, clicking on “choose category” and then click on Kyrgyzstan.

Silver and White on Manitoulin Island

The month of June is about over meaning that Jude will soon be changing her “white & silver” Life in Coulor to something else for July. I have been paralyzed by options as I scanned some of my favorite files. Today I told myself to just do it – so I picked a day on Manitoulin Island in Canada’s side of the Great Lakes. We have been thinking of returning but can’t until both countries decide that the pandemic is controlled enough to open the border. Doing this post seemed to sooth my soul’s need to soak in the calming atmosphere of the island.

Morning “Rush Hour” on a Quiet Manitoulin Island Lake in Canada
Bridal Falls
Silver Tin Roof on a Red Barn
A White Boat Waiting

I hope these photos helped you get a feel of this space in time and colour.