A Whole Lot of Sand

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan, Michigan

We have been visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes for many years, beginning when our children were small and they tried to climb the big dune so they could walk across it’s top to where they could see the water of Lake Michigan. I remember hearing one daughter yelling in panic to me. She was almost half way up and couldn’t proceed because she was afraid she was going to fall of. I had to climb up to hold her tight as we slid down the very big sandy hill.

It is now a National Shoreline and it is possible to drive to the top and walk along a boardwalk to view down the long, steep face of the dunes to the water below. People can go down this hill, but there are warning about the 2 1/2 hour walk back up and the cost that climbers would incur if they needed to be rescued. I can’t comprehend how many grains of sand are making up these massive dunes. These are high dunes!

I was amazed when I processed these photos they triggered my height anxiety. I know I was safe when I took the photos but when I look at them I feel the fear my daughter felt – I experience the fear of falling down the hill.

I hope this is enough sand for Cee’s CFFC: Sand or Dirt.

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.

Shadows on a Montana Wheat Field

Shade and shadows are so very commonplace that I spent the past week looking through files of photos looking for something that excited me. Today I spent some time enjoying my photos from our last trip through the Canadian Rockies and the U.S. Northwest. I remember taking this photo. I remember the beauty of the shadows cast by moving clouds across the ripening wheat, making a continually evolving scene. People who have lived or driven through the vast wheat fields of the Great Plains understands how surprising and unexpected a captivating evolving wheat field is.

Leya is hosting the Lens-Artists Challenge with the theme of Shade and Shadows.

One Word Sunday: Feelings

Sweet Water Strand, Florida Everglades

I was looking for calm and quiet – I found it. You may register other feelings at the 25-30 alligators we observed along and in the road.

Taken on Loop Road (off U.S. 41- Tamiami Trail) in the Big Cypress National Park.

One Word Sunday: Feeling