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Life... ya gotta be doin' something...

 

2015 Adventures

Updated:10-Jan-2016

January

Didn't take any photos in the entire month! I was busy working on this web site, moving from a troublesome Plesk-based server to a bare-metal server having only a Linux operating system, initially lacking useful features such as email and web server. It was a lot of work, requiring several weeks of intense effort, but this will be a much more reliable server.

 

February

Beautiful Northern Harrier hawk shopping for breakfast in my back yard on a cold February morning:

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March

The first of the Pasque flowers have begun to bloom. An encouraging sign that spring is arriving.

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April

Red Fox near a hiking trail in Boulder, Colorado. Getting ready to pounce on an afternoon snack:

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May

Spring pilgrimage to the wonderful red-rock areas around Moab, Utah. There is something about these red-rock colors and shapes which is so spectacular!

Thin slivers of rock. I wonder why they don't just fall down...

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Harsh life in the high desert:

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Three friends wandering through the high desert, cast in sandstone:

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Corona Arch, a massive 40m (120 ft) high natural sandstone arch:

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Delicate Arch, spectacular 20 m (65 ft) natural sandstone arch :

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A few of the late-April/early-May wildflowers around Moab, Utah:

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Then off to Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo lands in northeastern Arizona. We hired a Navajo guide to give us a three hour tour of the canyon. Our guide was born and raised in the canyon, and he told us stories from his early days in the canyon as well as his trips to far away boarding schools for his education.

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In the canyon there are no street signs, so they refer to places, and give directions, according to the shapes which they see in the rock formations, such as Two Owls:

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Our Navajo guide had a name for virtually every feature in the entire canyon! Some of which I never could quite understand.

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Fortunately it is fairly easy to travel on the sand in the canyon, even when the sand is wet.

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There are many ancient cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly:

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And places which are inscribed to celebrate special events, like here in Antelope Canyon:

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Canyon de Chelly is a spectacular place to visit!

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Canyon de Chelly must have been (and still seems to be) a very challenging place to raise a family, raise crops and eke out a living in a deep canyon which is hot in the summer, full of rushing water in the spring and very cold in the winter.

 

Back home now.

Oh my... this was much too close for comfort. Almost walked right up to this rattlesnake on a hiking trail north of Boulder, Colorado.

I was walking along looking at the scenery, and heard the sound of the snake's rattle, but didn't recognize the sound immediately. Luckily my friend Peggy saw something move, and she jumped backwards, giving me a clue that there was something important to pay attention to.

Just another step or two would have likely meant a trip to the hospital (or worse):

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Conference of the Pelicans, along Lake McIntosh in Longmont, Colorado. Dozens of pelicans come through here every summer, about 1500 km (a thousand miles) from the nearest ocean:

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June

The following photo collection was taken in the Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington, New Mexico. What an amazing place! A splendidly odd collection of other-worldly shapes eroded into the landscape. I went hiking in this spectacular area on two consecutive days (a total of about 12 hours), and was continually surprised by the awesome variety.

The Bisti is a wilderness area, which means that there are no marked trails and no signs to follow. Fortunately, I found a map and some GPS waypoints on the internet. Without an annotated map and GPS waypoints it would be very difficult to stumble onto some of the most spectacular sights.

There was so much to see, I took nearly 400 photos in the Bisti Bandlands. Here are 21 of my favorites (you can swipe the image or use the arrow buttons):

What a fantastic place!

 

Next, a visit to Devil's Tower in northeastern Wyoming. The tower is not a big as I had expected, but it is quite spectacular. Here's a photo taken on a walking trail which circles the base of the tower:

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The area around Devils Tower is widely considered as scared land, and brings up an interesting topic: What is it that makes a place sacred? Or perhaps: What does it mean for a place to be sacred?

When I headed up to Devil's Tower, I had an inner feeling that I would learn something there, and for some reason I expected the place to have a strongly mystical aura and perhaps take me on some sort of a "trip". But when I arrived at the Tower in the long golden light of late afternoon, it seemed to be just another of many wondrous sights in the vast, and largely unpopulated, expanses of northern Wyoming. As I walked around and sat at various locations around the Tower, there was an inner sense of disappointment that the place did not seem to speak to me. So, after a couple of hours, I went into the little nearby town of Hulett, and had a good night's sleep.

By 9 AM the next morning, I was back at Devil's Tower, walking around to various locations, and just listening quietly. But alas, after a couple more hours, the mountain remained, for the most part, just a lovely and highly unusual sight. So, I left the Tower and headed off into the Black Hills, wondering why nothing "special" had seemed to have happened.

But perhaps that question was indeed the message of the place! What is it that causes some places to be so sacred? Is it an inherent property of the place, or is it we ourselves who imbue the place with the desired attributes? We are mere mortals, here for only a moment, and we seem to long for permanence and for a manifestation of the divine. Is it our desperate inner longing for these things which makes such attributes appear, even though the place itself offers no intrinsic experience of hierophany?

Obviously there's no way to positively prove any particular answer such questions, yet as I read N. Scott Momaday's essay entitled Sacred and Ancestral Ground (New York Times, March 13, 1988) which a friend recently sent to me, there were a couple of sentences which really spoke to me:

"Only later did I begin to understand the extraordinary character of that friendship. It was the friendship of those who come together in recognition of the sacred. "

Perhaps that is the very answer for which I was searching, it was the gift of the Tower. The depths of sacred experience are not really determined merely by the place, and are not simply due to the solitude of the place, but rather the experience of the place is about becoming fully human through the perfection of friendship of those who choose to willfully and joyfully come together in recognition of the sacred. Yes! I like that idea!

What a wonderful experience it is to "come together in recognition of the sacred."

And as I was departing, a photo of Devils Tower from a bit farther away:

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After hiking around the area around Devils Tower for one afternoon and the next morning, I headed over to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, which I had last visited as a child 60-some years earlier. Oh my... Mount Rushmore looks like a theme park! Very busy. This place gets as many as 46,000 visitors per day!

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Nonetheless, the presidents still seem quite content to gaze off into the distance... as if to try not to notice the ridiculous array of shops and eateries at the base of the mountain:

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Next... off to the South Dakota Badlands, a rugged landscape that must been nearly impenetrable for the early settlers. So far I've only seen a dozen people here today. Very peaceful.  Mostly gray and shades of brown in this area:

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But a lot of yellow and red in this nearby area of the Badlands:

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Big-Horn sheep playing King-of-the-Mountain in the badlands :

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On the next day, my little adventure headed over to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a work in progress... very, very slow progress.  The memorial was begun after the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was asked in 1939 by Henry Standing Bear, who was chief of the Lakota at the time, to create it. “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also.” (Note that nearby Mount Rushmore was begun in 1927 and completed in 1941.)

The work on the Crazy Horse Memorial has been going on since 1948, and apparently is going to take quite a number of additional years before being finished... if ever:

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In a brilliant move, after the sculptor died in 1982, his wife eventually began directing the efforts toward finishing the face so that there would be something to attract tourists in order to raise the money required to finish the project. So, in 1998 they completed the face:

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Currently, the Crazy Horse Memorial claims to have over a million visitors each year, and they charge $11 per person (or $28 per car-load).  That's a lot of money, yet there is very slow progress on the mountain. Some call it a blatant money-making scam for the sculptor's family, others just say it's very expensive to turn a mountain into a sculpture.

 

July

Wild turkey trying to hide in the grass along Lumpy Ridge Trail near Estes Park, Colorado:

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Some Colorado wildflowers in July:

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Splendid field of wildflowers on the south side of Long Lake, near Ward, Colorado:

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And in that same field of flowers is this interesting Angelica plant which is pollinated by flies!

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Now, to help get that photo of the flies out your mind and cleanse your mental palette, here's a pretty little flower called Queen's Crown:

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August

Still many wildflowers blooming this month, but the mountains have been too wet and rainy to visit them! Here are a few:

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aug_wildflower_7 aug_wildflower_9 aug_wildflower_8
aug_wildflower_10 aug_wildflower_11 aug_wildflower_12
aug_wildflower_13 aug_wildflower_14 aug_wildflower_15
aug_wildflower_19 aug_wildflower_16 aug_wildflower_17
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September:

Time for my annual fall pilgrimage to the glorious red-rock countryside around Moab, Utah.

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Here are four sandstone arches... Landscape Arch:

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Partition Arch:

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Navajo Arch:

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Double-O Arch:

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A few wildflowers still blooming in September:

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Strolling along the top of a sandstone fin:

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Heading back into Colorado, via the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction:

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Then Kebler Pass near Crested Butte. Unfortunately, there was no sunshine, so the brilliant fall colors are a bit flat in these photos:

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October:

A trail along Guanella Pass, near Georgetown, as the Aspen leaves are falling:

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A nice fall day, the view out my kitchen window:

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There are still a few wildflowers blooming around here in mid-October:

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This is a telephoto view of clouds of snow blowing in the mountains about 50 km (30 miles) away.... very nasty up there today:

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December:

Hmmm... it seems that there are no birds in the bird-bath today:

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