Monday, October 31, 2011

Once Upon a Halloween.....

Every year around this time, I can feel my artistic side come to life, specifically my ability to draw.
Unlike most people, my drawing skills do not occur on paper or other normal mediums, I draw on pumpkins.  Like a Halloween zombie, ghost, or goblin, it does not stay around very long, but it does not matter to me, because for a brief moment, I am an artist.  For the other 364 days of the year, I can't draw a straight line with a ruler or draw with any sort of perspective, but for Halloween....I'm good.  :)

I bet now you are wondering, how did this all start?  I'll tell ya.  When I was in college, I worked at St Mark's Hospital and for Halloween they decided to have a pumpkin decorating contest between all of the different departments.  I was chosen for my department, mainly I think because I was not in the meeting, since I worked in the evenings.  For some insane reason, I chose to carve 'Beast' from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  The big furry guy with a ton of detail, yeah that one.  What I was thinking I have no idea, but I do know that it turned out.  :)  I even carved part of it when I was out to dinner with my mom and aunt and cousin in Bountiful.

That started the tradition and my 2 to 3 hour block of carving the day before Halloween.  It can be frustrating, tiring, cramping fun and I don't think I will ever stop doing it.  My only regret, I do not have pictures of the early years.....  :(

But for 2011, I got them..
First up Yoda.  Yes, the Star Wars Yoda.  I'm a big fan of his....
Tip of the day, when viewing photos on my blog, click on them and they get bigger and you can see more details.  Yoda was one of the more frustrating ones to do, because of all of the squiggy lines that make up his face.

Number 2, Lightning McQueen from Pixar 'Cars'
He's not as detailed as Yoda, which is why I chose him for my second pumpkins,  Quite frankly, my hands are still recovering.

Anyway,
Have a Safe, Happy, Release your Inner Child Halloween!!!
Melissa

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Favorite Photographs of the Road Trip

A herd of Buffalo grazing in the afternoon sun.  Yellowstone National Park
Tetons reflecting in the Snake River
Old Faithful going off.....  I know it's not the most original photograph ever, but I shot it in full manual mode.  :)

an Epic Road Trip....part two

Well, it's time to continue....
I left off after the experience of driving the Beartooth Pass that got us to Cooke City, Montana near the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  It's a small town that is completely geared in getting you to the outdoors and nature, and it lived up to it's billing when in the morning, we got up and got going and there was a wild buffalo in the parking lot of the hotel.  :)
Tip of the day, plan it so you don't have to buy gas there though, it was $4.52 a gallon..  the highest I saw all trip.

So off to Yellowstone, and they aren't kidding when they say there is wildlife on the road.  I turned the corner after the entrance gate and drove for maybe 100 yards and saw this...




Yep, that's wildlife on the road.  I backed up and let him have right of way.....  He was HUGE!!! and fortunately, not the last buffalo we saw in the park.

The plan for the last 2 days of the trip was to explore Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.  It was enough time to drive the roads and do a bit of hiking, but not enough to say I explored everthing I wanted to do.  Another trip is needed...  :)

The beauty of Yellowstone needs no introduction and the last week of September had the park in full splendor and free of crowds, so it was a beginning photographers dream!!!  So, without further ado, here's Yellowstone.

A coyote playing in a field.  He was stalking and toying with his lunch of field mice.  His tail was wagging and he would pounce and just run around like crazy. 
What I am calling Hot Springs Coral from Crystal Geyser near Mammoth Hot Springs.
A lone buffalo grazing near the Petrified Tree, Yellowstone National Park.
Lower Yellowstone Falls, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park

Visting the Mud Volcano, Dragon's Breath and other icky smelling sulphur stuff....
My first elk sighting.  They were very patient and let me get a ton a pictures of them, but the 1st needed to be posted.

That's my very brief photo summary of Yellowstone.  I could post hundreds more, it was just that great of a trip, but to save you from utter boredom, I won't.....

Now onto Grand Teton National Park....
I had never explored it or even really driven thru it, which is kind of hard to do if you go to Yellowstone from Jackson Hole (which is my normal route in).  Oh well, no time like the present.

Here are the highlights,
A massive elk who was playing in a field early one morning........

My first glimpse of the Tetons.....
Another great view, taken from the side of the road.... Grand Teton National Park

A bit of background on this photo of a Black Bear....
When I left on this trip, I wanted to see a Bear, an Elk, and a Moose....  By the photos, I've posted, obviously I saw an elk and a bear.  The moose remained elusive.  :(  The road where I took the picture of this bear (I'm a mere 4 feet away) is known for Moose!  It's even nicknamed the Moose Highway.  I drove it 3 different times at 3 different times of day and NEVER SAW A MOOSE, but I did see a bear.  Life is goofy.

The nitty gritty details of the 2 days exploring Yellowstone and Teton are a bit fuzzy, due to the wildlife and nature that dominates my mind, but here are a few that you may want to know...
In Jackson, we stayed at the Pony Express Hotel.  It's a great place to rest your head and easy to find after a long day on the road.  The other travel tip, if you are heading to Jackson from SLC, try taking WYO-89 instead of Utah 89 thru Bear Lake.  It takes almost an hour off of driving and it's an easier drive.

Well, I'm off to plan my next trip.
Melissa

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

an Epic Road Trip...part one

I've been trying to figure out how to write about the road trip I went on without having it be too long or get too boring, and as a result, I've been home for almost two weeks and not a word has been written.
oops.

First of all, who went?  My mom and I.....
The plan 7 days, 5 states, 2 National Parks, 2 National Monuments and 1 State Park.....

and here we go,
Day one:  Drive from Salt Lake City to Keystone, South Dakota.  536 miles, most of it in Wyoming on state roads.  FYI, Wyoming has well maintained and easy to drive routes with amazing scenery.  We arrived in South Dakota early enough to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial before checking into our hotel.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is just outside Custer, South Dakota.  It is a privately funded project that has been under construction for over 50 years.  It's going to be massive when complete and is still impressive even though it's not done.  There is Native American museum and information center there as well.  It was very interesting and well worth the stop.

Day 2, Keystone, South Dakota.
Up early and off we went to Mount Rushmore.  It is simply inspiring and beautiful.  The beauty of those 4 faces in the granite is just amazing.  The photos don't really do it justice, but I tried....
We walked the President's Trail, which I think makes the visit and got a ton of information that we would of missed otherwise.  For instance, that is not Jefferson's original nose..it broke off and they had to do it.  Another fun fact, the monument is not completed in the way it was intended--the sculptor, Borglum, died in 1941 and his children didn't want anyone else to get credit, so they stopped construction.  Here is a photo of the 'small scale replica' (it's over 20 feet tall) that they used as a guide and you'll see what the original plan was.
If you look at the monument, you can see the beginnings of George's collar and coat.  If you travel to Mount Rushmore, don't miss the movies and the exhibits of the tools and gadgets they used to make it.  It's amazing.

In the afternoon, we continued onto Custer State Park about 20 minutes away.  It's a great state park!  I would of loved to of spent more time there hiking and just enjoying the scenery....
A deer I saw in a meadow.......
The burros, which make a trip to Custer mandatory..., they are hysterical.  It's one of the rare exception where you are allowed to feed the wildlife, so when you stop and if your windows are down, they just stick their heads in the car and hunt for food.  We knew ahead of time that you could feed them, so we were prepared, but were completely unprepared for how pushy they are.  It was hysterical.

Day Three:  Keystone, Hill City, and Deadwood South Dakota

It was a day to see what we had missed and to ride a train.  The 1800 Train is a bit of a movie and television star....if a train is in a Western, chances are, it's the 1800 Train.  It runs on old mining lines and goes from Keystone to Hill City.  It's a steam engine and one of the only ones of it's kind still running in the world.
After the train ride, we drove over to Deadwood and never even got out of the car.  Not being a big western fan, I didn't want to take a tour of the cemetery and the town is a series of casinos and bars.  Apparently during the summer, they have re-enactors of famous Deadwood characters on the streets, but after Labor Day, nope. 
One note about the Keystone, Mount Rushmore area, the crowds are gone after Labor Day, but a lot of the businesses and restaurants are also closed for the season, so be prepared.


Day Four, driving from Keystone, South Dakota to Cooke City, Montana....
What a long drive!!!!  Most of it on I-90, but it was long and straight until we got of the freeway in Billings, Montana, then the adventure began.  I'm getting ahead of myself, though, because before we reached Montana, we stopped in Wyoming and went to Devil's Tower National Monument.

My obnoxious photo of the trip..... The sign that say's Devils Tower is acutally the Devils Tower Trading Post Sign, I just framed it so that's all you can see.  :)
There is a trail that goes all around it and we took a break from driving to take it.  It's interesting to see it from another angle.  Funny tidbit, as we were walking around, every so often you could hear someone humming the Close Encounter music.  Sadly, I never saw an alien, however,  there were rock climbers all over the rock and very friendly prairie dogs, especially when people feed them contraband.

We also learned the Native American legend of Devil's Tower.  7 little girls were playing near their tribe when a bear came upon them.  Running and praying for help, the girls saw a rock in the area and ran to it and climbed onto it.  Praying still, the rock began to grow out of the ground keeping them safe from the bear.  The girls went all the way to the stars where they became the 7 sisters, or Pleiades.  When the Native American's told the story to an interpreter, there was a miss communication and Devils was substituted in.

Now, back to the drive, after turning off I-90 in Billings, we were back on state roads, completely unaware of what we were headed for...
BEARTOOTH PASS!!!!!!!  It's one of the highest roads in North America and a series of switchbacks.  If you are afraid of heights, like my mom, I wouldn't recommend this road.  She started leaning towards the middle of the car, because she was so afraid.  There are VERY steep drops and it's not a really wide road, but it really wasn't that hard of a drive.  My only problem was that I got laughing so hard, I know not nice, at the antics of my mom and her fear of heights.....
 A very small portion of the Beartooth Pass....

Ok, even split in half, this has become a massive entry,
so I will end it here...
I hope you're enjoying the ride...
Melissa