Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Homemade hairbrush

In a pinch you can always make your own brush Posted by Picasa

I think the mother and daughter are pretty. Or are they sisters?

The Anasazi Indians settled in the Mesa Verde (means green table in English) area in Colorado in about 550 A.D. They suddenly left in 1300 A.D. and no one knows why or where they went. It's a mystery. The wondering has always tickled my mind since my first visit here when I was sixteen.

The yucca plant has really sharp leaves. Hikers give the yucca plant a wide berth to avoid those long, sharp leaves.

Today's fuel, yesterday's price

Yesterday we fueled up the truck at $2.74 per gallon. Today we drove by the same gas station and diesel is up fifteen cents to $2.89 a gallon. Heard it's $3.55 in Long Island, NY.

Great Sand Dunes N.P. in Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park Posted by Picasa

This and the next nine photos are all taken during our stay at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

We drove a mere 80 miles from Pueblo to Alamosa, Colorado. We originally intended to go to Mesa Verde National Park and noticed Great Sands is on the way. This campground must be one of the best kept secrets of the national park system. It's only twelve bucks a night and with my husband's senior discount it's $6.00. Such a deal. There are no hook-ups but that's okay. We'll fill our tank with 40 gallons of fresh water and we'll be good to go for two or three days.

These dunes are the highest in North America. The sand is beautiful. It was only about 78 degrees today but the sand was hot, hot, hot! I know because I was wearing flip flops. They warn you that the sand gets up to 140 degrees in the sun. Tomorrow I intend to exercise a measure of intelligence and wear hiking boots.

About 400 years ago the Spanish came and gave lovely names to many of the natural features here. The mountains behind the dunefield are the Sangre de Cristo mountain range which means blood of Christ.

Colorado's biggest sandbox

Running uphill Posted by Picasa

The best thing about the dunes: No fences, no stay-on-trail signage. You can go anywhere you want on these dunes!

We met and made friends with our neighbor in the next campsite who had a son. Above is our son and his friend Claude, running up the dunes in late morning. They had a great time digging in the sand with their shovels and pails. The boys were fast friends and we all hiked together up the dunes this day. We made it two thirds of the way up. The elevation is high here, over 8000 feet, and we were suckin' air trying to walk through the sand! The air is thin and so dry. I kept getting thirsty during our entire stay at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Blowout grass

Blowout grass survives in small clumps Posted by Picasa

The seeds of this grass are the favorite food of the Ord's kangaroo rat and the kangaroo rats are the only mammal that make their home in the dune field. In the left forefront of this pic you can see a bit of Indian rice grass. I was in disbelief when the ranger explained that the Native Indians collected the ricegrass seeds and ground them to make bread. Man, those seeds are teensy. That was some hardcore gathering.


Grasslands growing on sand sheet Posted by Picasa

This sand sheet consists of old sand dunes stabilized by lots of grasses and shrubs and flowers. There's a difference between the dunes and the sand sheet. Dunes (aka dune field) are just the dunes. Now you're looking at the sand sheet. See the dunes are in the background. Yep.

Mamma and her two fawns

Mamma and her two fawns Posted by Picasa

Isn't the one looking at the camera cute! Love those ears. They quickly leaped away after they saw me but they were a sight to behold. They leap with sure speed, beauty and grace. The doe looks thin and raggedy and I can see her ribs. It's hard work giving birth to twins and taking care of them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sand verbena close-up

Sand verbena Posted by Picasa

After a rain, a small flower sand verbena. We were fascinated by this plant because it feels waxy. The waxy outside is a moisture saving feature, er, characteristic.


Exodus 32:19 Posted by Picasa

The clouds look like what Moses must have felt like when he came down from Mount Sinai and heard singing saw the golden calf and his own sister partying hearty.


Gorgeous sunset Posted by Picasa

Fiery orange peeks over the dunes. Oh I love these sunsets.

A sensitive amphibian

A sensitive amphibian Posted by Picasa

Our son is holding a Barred Tiger Salamander. This is following a ranger talk. See how he's wearing plastic gloves? This is because amphibians have highly permeable skin. They are extremely sensitive to soaps, lotions, bug spray, sunscreen; stuff that doesn't bother us, but can be deadly to them. That's why in polluted areas your amphibians are the first creature to show the effects of toxins in the environment. They start growing extra legs and eyes, then die.

This one is named Sally Mander. Cute! As we all know it's illegal to take animals, rocks, plants, etcetera from a national park so Sally's not really from the park. Salamanders do live in the dunes but Sally...she was bought at the bait shop. It was her luckiest day ever when Ranger Patrick picked her to help him with his interpretive talks out of all the salamanders at the BAIT shop! Yes, indeedy.


This bird visited the amphitheater Posted by Picasa

I think it's a she. She's a Dusky Grouse.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The evil cold sores

How am I ever going to be a genuine wilderness woman when every time I hike outdoors in the sun I get a cold sore. I wear a cap. I put on 45 sunscreen and still, here comes a cold sore the next day. This morning I wake with the tingling of not just one, but two coming on. It frustrates me to no end.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Educator's Guide to Great Sand Dunes

At the bookstore I found a book on clearance called Educator's Guide to Great Sand Dunes. It was only $4.50, marked down from $9.50. I'm going to use if for homeschooling while we're here Great Sand Dunes National Park. Here is a quote in it from Thomas Henry Huxley:
"The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance."
Then the author goes on to say that in today's world of ecological ignorance, overpopulation and high consumption, it is essential that we make an effort to keep people in touch with the Earth and its natural rhythms. I can't wait to read more.

I've been reading a book about Lewis and Clark and it's taking me a long time to finish. It's not the easiest reading.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

This is huge (once a week shampoo news)

I'm now washing my hair once a week per se, technically once every five days. I've been doing it for three weeks running so this is no fly-by-night, possibly, maybe, perchance, give it a try sort of thing. This is for reals. This is for all the marbles.

I wash my hair on all dates ending with a 5 or a 0. My scalp is happy. My hair has adjusted exceedingly well. I'm blowdrying less and that bodes well for long term hair health. And I never forget my schedule! Is this brilliant or what. I may patent my idea. My updated routine includes:
  1. Applying a vinegar and water solution to maintain ph balance and
  2. No creme rinse on the top o' my head
The only hitch in the git-a-long I foresee is that when the month has 31 days I'll have to decide to either 1) go an extra day while I wait for the fifth to arrive, or 2) throw in an exta wash. Decisions, decisions. Or I could do just a scalp wash too and leave my ends alone.

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
February has twenty-eight alone,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap year, that's the time
When February's days are twenty-nine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Me playing outside for a change

Hangin' on the jungle gym Posted by Picasa

I've been cooped up with this headcold for two days. Today we played outside on the jungle gym but only our eight year old could make it across the entire span of six rungs. My husband and I got a case of the laughies each time we tried it. Plus, my rotator cuff! I forgot about my sore rotator cuff! I could've really hurt myself!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Betty's bad hair day

Copyright Archie Comic Publications (ISSN 10591907) Posted by Picasa

Our son reads Archie comics like they're going out of style. I have to attribute his desire to read to Archie Comics.

I happened to pick up the September 2005 issue and thumb through it. I was, shall we say, impressed by the shape that Betty is in. I showed my husband this page and commented upon what excellent shape Betty is in after all these years, and how very odd it is that Betty appears to be in exactly the same shape as she was when I was reading Archie comics 1968 when I was nine.

My husband replied "Well obviously Betty takes very good care of herself."

Yeah, right! Bwa-hahaha!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Whole milk, made by God, it's good for you

Drink milk Posted by Picasa

She's posing. Ain't she purty! And such a nice life she has. I wish that when I drink milk it could always be her milk.

A terrible accident

In the middle of nowhere Posted by Picasa

A semi-truck and a motorhome collided. My husband talked to an emergency worker who said several people were airlifted to the hospital. We saw the helicopter take off. All traffic was stopped for over an hour and people began to get out of their cars, talk, and wander about.

The RV destroyed

The RV  Posted by Picasa

The RV was a motorhome type and they were towing a vehicle as well. The impact crushed it like an accordian and threw it across both lanes. On the periphery of this photo their belongings are strewn all about. It was awful. It may have been a young family because most seniors don't tow an van. It was very sobering. The emergency tech didn't really know, but it was thought that the motorhome was passing the semi-truck, clipped the front left side of the semi, and caused the accident. I pray for the victims and we all prayed together for them that night. There was no one in sight when the accident happened, just miles and miles of empty road.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We leave Yellowstone

Tonight we had a thunderous hail storm. We three jumped in the truck and went for a drive in the weather.

Our son got his Junior Ranger patch today. Sometimes it's tantamount to pulling that kid through a keyhole to get him to do the Junior Ranger program but when he receives his patch he's all smiles. We got a great ranger today. He had our son read some of his answers out loud, he actually recognized the picture our son drew of a bison (hilarious drawing by the way!) and told him he did a good job. He made an announcement on the loudspeaker congratulating our son, and everyone applauded for him. It's was a good experience! I think the ranger checks so many activity papers (that the kids fill out) that they easily recognize which kids did the work themselves and which ones got their answers from mom and dad. There were two kids in front of our son, they didn't even have mom or dad with them, it was a babysitter, and he didn't do the same for them. This is important life moment material. I'd never send a sitter in my place and miss it.

Tomorrow we leave Yellowstone. We're going to mosey down to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

I submitted my oxbow bend photo to PhotoSig this afternoon and got one response. I'm lucky I got one response. And the person who critiqued my photo gave me some superb pointers.

I have my new camera. It's a Canon Powershot S2 IS! I'm majorly thrilled with it but it has a bigger learning curve than my Olympus C-720. I feel I have so much to learn and I'm in such a hurry to learn it. All the hard thinking ought to help keep the Alzheimer's away.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Motorcycle chick (poseur)

Self-portrait Posted by Picasa

I've always wanted to be a motorcycle girl. My husband rode a motorcycle when I met him twenty years ago. Once, when we were dating, he brought me a dozen red roses secured by bungee cords on the back of his bike. People all smiled at him as he rode by.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Photog vocab

My first photography lesson Posted by Picasa

Kodak sends a guy to Yellowstone every year to give beginning beginner photography tips. He gets to stay at the park for four weeks. Nice. I learned some new words so I can actually, slightly talk the talk now.

Fill flash - this is when you are in daylight and you use your flash too. See the photo example above. My picture is crummy but it shows the effect. I'm sure I can do something with this effect with some practice!

Framing - my fill flash example is also an example of using something in your foreground and sides to frame your shot. Even if you have just a tree branch sticking out on the side, it can provide a nice frame.

Rule of thirds - by having elements of interest intersect at the rule of thirds points, you can compose a more aesthetically pleasing photograph. I like the photo examples here better.

Bracketing - you take three pics of the same thing; one normal exposure, one lighter exposure, one darker exposure. The reason is your eyes see a wider range of greys than your camera does. In digital photography the too light data and too dark data is just lost, unlike film where the information is still on the film you just have to tell the photo finisher what you want. So you take a too light photo and a normal one and a too dark one and you can merge them if you wish.

Implied motion - if you're photographing an elk that's walking, don't crop it too close. Allow some negative space (you know, the empty meadow to the side for example) and the photo imparts the feeling that the animal is walking even though it's a still photo.

Backlighting - lighting is determined by how it hits the subject. Backlighting hits your subject from the back, front lighting from the front, and side lighting from the side. So even though the sun is in my eyes in front of me, if my subject is in front of me and the light is behind her, it's called backlighting. Try fill flash technique and get a nice photo or sometimes a silhouette is beautiful.

Water bottle mister - What! You can do this? You sure can. Have a dark background, mist a spider web with your water bottle to give it dew drops, and snap you picture. It's not cheating. Really! This is the inside scoop I got from an experienced and successful photographer.

Light - Morning and evening are best. Midday is bright and you can get vibrant color and beautiful pictures but they are also flat. No that flat is bad it's just that you get more drama and mood and shape from morning and evening light. The light can be the difference between a good picture and an awesome one.

Vantage point - Don't take every single picture from eyeball height. Stand on a rock to get higher, get on your knees to get lower. Take a couple minutes and walk around and look before you shoot.

And the teacher said break any rules you want. You can still create a wonderful photograph. He said you have to get out of the house and you have to take lots of pictures.

I had such a good day today. And my hair! I washed it and dried it before I went out at 8:00am, wore it down and straight. I had an all around good hair day. Amen!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Buffalo hold up traffic Posted by Picasa

I used this one in my calendar. Every one liked it!

And everyone waits

We are all stuck in traffic  Posted by Picasa

Traffic! Gotta expect it in the summer season. Nobody is really grumpy though. See a guy even waved at me. The buffalo walk verrrry sloooowly. We are 45 minutes driving 2-3 mph because they were walking on the road. They have the whole park. Why are they on the road!?

A photography class tomorrow

I'm going to a little photography lesson tomorrow morning. It's called a Photo Walk and it's an easy 1 to 1 1/2 mile walk near Yellowstone Lake to learn techniques for capturing excellent photos in early morning light. Sounds really great. I just wish the early morning walk wasn't so...early.

Yellowstone NP - Bacterial beds

Yellowstone NP - Bacterial beds Posted by Picasa

I am standing in in the caldera of one of the world's most active volcanoes! (Well, actually, technically, I'm standing on a boardwalk.)

It looks like the surface of Mars, but this is a most extremely fragile environment. This is a bacterial bed. The water is scalding hot. You can see the steam. The colors are as vibrant in real life as they are depicted by this photo. This place, it is called Grand Prismatic Spring. It is aptly named!

At Yellowstone National Park, it's a bit of a challenge to find a picture to take that hasn't already been taken millions of billions of times by every other park visitor with a camera.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Bison and buffalo

The naturalist said that buffalo are now called bison.

The scientific term for buffalo is bison but I don't care for the word bison. I like to say "buffalo."

And anyway, who ever heard of Bison Bill Cody?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Our trip to Grand Teton Nat'l Park, WY

Tippy top of Grand Teton Posted by Picasa

This and the following seven photos were taken during our week long stay in the park.

Photo taken August 7, 2005

Short tailed weasel

It's a baby short tailed weasel Posted by Picasa

My prized photo. These creatures are very little. They're fairly common yet seldom seen, and this is a young one. They turn all white in winter! but right now he's brown on top and a rich, deep yellow color on his belly. We thought he was a ferret, then we thought he was a marmot, then we figured out he was a short tailed weasel. We city folks are learning a lot about wildlife out here!

In 1805, Sacajawea gave Captain William Clark two dozen pure white ermine tails for Christmas. She must have been very fond of him and he must have been very kind to her for her to give him such a gift. I wish there was more information about their relationship in the journals.

After the expedition, if an Indian had to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the white man, he would most always ask for William Clark to accompany him. This was because Clark had a genuine respect for the native Indians and he worked on their behalf whenever he could. He had red hair, blue eyes, and was outgoing whereas Meriwether Lewis was much more introspective.

Oxbow bend

Reflections Posted by Picasa

I've always been fascinated by oxbows. This one is has been cut off from the Snake River. It looks so peaceful and quiet, doesn't it? My eyes never tired of it.

Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake Posted by Picasa

This is the biggest lake in the park. Jackson Lake as well, as the other smaller ones, were gouged out by glaciers.,