Sunday, December 21, 2014

Using my Bryce Canyon coupon

Every year KPCW,  our local radio station, has an auction as a fundraiser.  They get all sorts of donations and Julie and I normally find something useful to bid on.  This year I got a two night stay at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel.  It is a decent Best Western, but I am not sure where they got the idea to call it Grand.  Never the less, it is right near the entrance to the national park so I figured it would be good for a photography trip.

This is one of my favorite times of year for Bryce Canyon.  With the sun so low in the sky, the lighting can be tough, but if you get snow on the hoodoos, it can be spectacular.  I waited until southern Utah got some snow and the forecast was for mostly sunny, and headed down.  In the summer, it is busting with people.  This time of year, no one is there so reservations are a 10 seconds phone call away.

On the way there I did a quick stop in Red Canyon.  Even though this is just a tiny park along the highway, it could be easy to mistake it for a fantastic landmark.
This is the traditional view of the Bryce Canyon. The hoodoos are spectacular.  This was taken before the sun came up.  That gave it more even lighting, but you didn't get the warm glow.
Now we get the morning's warm glow, but also the very strong shadows.  Have to come back closer to summer to get the best morning shots.
There wasn't a lot of snow, but what was there was pretty.

It is hard to see all the detail, but there are so many forms of rock and types of erosion going on.
The bad news is that the weather forecasters were as erroneous as they normally are.  They forecast "mostly sunny" for a day and a half.  What that apparently meant was 3 hours of clear skies, followed by very overcast skies, followed by a storm coming in.  The red rock doesn't look as awesome in flat light, so I switched subjects, starting with some wildlife.
There were about 30 wild turkeys, running along feeding.  They kept getting close to my truck, but when they heard the shutter click they would scatter.
Then I ran across some deer, one of which was showing some real attitude. When he heard the shutter click, he ignored it completely.
The highest elevation in Bryce is about 9000 feet which is good habitat for ravens.  They are big and smart, but I think they get very bored when there are so few visitors in the park. I ran across two at different locations and each seemed happy just visiting.
Hard to tell with no real scale, but that beak is about the size of my little finger.
In addition to wildlife, I decided to take  shots of trees. Some were coated with ice from the clouds and storm the days before.
Everything on the ridge was subject to the icing and high winds simultaneously.  That generates interesting patterns and textures.
I love the star bursts in the icicles.
The trees in Bryce live a very tough life.  Trying to grow in such rough, constantly eroding soil, with hot summers and cold, snowy winters results in some very stunted trees.  This one looked like it was ready to walk off and find a nicer place to grow up.
This one has a very nice, almost manicured shape.Even so, it was growing at a 45 degree angle.

This was my favorite of the pitiful trees.  While it looks like it is barely clinging to life, the shape reminded me of a dancer.  Can't explain it.
I also found a collection of tree silhouettes to capture. This one was from Bryce Point before the sun came up.
I was challenged on the grey, very overcast day.  I found that by shooting back towards the sun, I could get some shots that looked black and white, even though they were shot in full color.
And another.
And my favorite, probably of the whole trip.  There is no post processing done here.  Just shoot straight  towards the sun with the tree in the way.  Make sure you don't look the wrong way and blind yourself.

And we end with a bit of a depressing view for someone in charge of trail repair.  How is it that the one on the bottom, probably the hardest to replace, is the one that fell out? If they don't fix it soon, there will be a big pile of them in the path.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Weird looking birds

Today we had some really odd looking birds at the feeders. This is the feeder right outside the office window.  This is a fawn, trying to pack on some pounds before the worst of winter arrives.
Then the whole family piled in, mom and the two little ones.
They are cute but I imagine they are going to consume the sunflower seeds of a thousand chickadees.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If you can't ski, elk

The skiing is pretty mediocre so far this year.  There isn't enough terrain open yet to keep it interesting.  I got a call from Chad Rexroad asking if I wanted to go hiking and trying to find elk to photograph. 

We left at 6:45 to get an early start and went  into a canyon a few miles east of Heber.  The hiking is a bit of a challenge.  You start on some road, but most of the real elevation gain (about 1600 feet) is done up the sides of steeps hills with no paths.  If you're lucky, you can follow a wildlife trail for a while.

We ended up seeing over a dozen elk, but none close enough to photograph very well.  This one is about a half mile away.  Elk are very frustrating.  Even though they are quite large, they are very timid.  In Park City, we have to let Jasper out to chase the deer out of the yard. 
 While we were out, the moon was setting behind a ridge-line.
Once we were high enough, we could see Mount Timpanogos. 
 At one point we could see 11 elk. These three were the closest, about 400 yards away.  We were trying to sneak up closer, but the snow on the ground had been through freeze-thaw cycles and every step made a huge crunch.  These were all bulls and they had pretty impressive racks.
 The scenery looking back into the town of Heber was nice.  This may be about the prettiest view I have ever had of that town.
Good exercise.  Goo scenery.  Lots of impressive elk.   Quite the morning!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Living in nature - kinda gross

I take lots of photos of nature when it is at its prettiest.  Sometimes nature just doesn't work that way though.  The other day Jasper and I were out for a walk when he wandered off and started sniffing something.  It turned out it was a dead deer, not that far behind our house.  It had already been snacked on, so I couldn't tell the cause of death.  Over the next few days, I saw a lot of Magpies flying around, doing their scavenger thing.  Then one morning I saw that something had dragged what was left down to our front porch.

There were several chunks that looked like this.  Picked over so there was no meat left.

And then I found the deer's head down at our retaining wall.
I know that nature involves things constantly being born and dying, that whole circle of life,  but I would like to request that nature find someplace other than our front steps to deposit the carcasses.  Yuck!

Before anyone else saw the mess, I put it in a garbage bag and into the trash bin.

Thanksgiving dinner

This year, we didn't have family in town for Thanksgiving and most of our friends were on the road somewhere.  We decided to have some nice restaurant provide us with turkey dinner instead of Julie slaving for two days.  We started with our default, Stein Erikson's buffet.  We had a reservation, but we also had reservations about our reservation.  It is fabulous but you eat your weight in food and at quite a price.  We eventually changed to Ruth's Chris.  They had a simple three course meal.  It was the perfect amount of food, all cooked to perfection. 

But then we discovered the best part, they send you home with leftovers!  We had already discussed the downside of eating out, but I guess they had heard that enough times and fixed it.  The picture below is from home, eating our doggie bag leftovers. Another great turkey meal!
Park Citians, if you are looking for a Thanksgiving meal out, I give Ruth's Chris 2 thumbs up!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Back to North Carolina

Julie and I went out to NC for our normal Fall visit.  She went out a few days early because I had a Planning Commission meeting I didn't want to miss.  It is always a busy visit for us, running from event to event and friend to family to friend.

We always try to schedule the weekend around a NC State football game.  This week it was Wake Forest, which is one of the few teams in the ACC worse than State.  One of the great mysteries of my football tickets is that without increasing the amount of money I donate, my parking pass keeps getting closer and closer to the stadium.  This is the shot from our car to the gate we go in.  I have no idea how in a stadium of 58,000 people, I park 100 feet from the entrance.   At the rate my space is improving, I should be parking inside the stadium pretty soon.
We have had a standing invite to join our friends Norman and Dick for tailgating before a game.  This year we were able to take them up on it.  Norman, who used to own the Wine and Things store is in charge of bringing wine.  Dick is the chef.  This is some serious food.   Here we start with a wonderful curry flavored soup served with real dishes and a nice white wine in real wine glasses.
Then to the salad course, which was interesting because of the sliced octopus.  I have never seen octopus being cooked on a grill before, especially at a football game. Norman, Julie and I were all fairly uncertain, but it was delicious.
Then on to the pork tenderloin with potatoes and brazed kale. The people in the background are having the standard NCSU tailgate food: Bojangles chicken.  Needless to say, we were dining on a different planet.  Norman's Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape was superb!
The game was a bit cold, so we left when NC State was up 42-6.  This win means that State qualifies for a "bowl".  I include the quotes because our likely bowl choices will be bowls you have never heard of, probably played long before January rolls around.

Just an impromptu iPhone picture of Jim Saunders.  Julie stayed with Jennifer Polleck for a few days and then we moved in with Jim and Carmella Saunders.  Both houses have beautiful views in the back yard and we really appreciate the hospitality.
After visiting with lots of friends and family, Julie returned to Utah and I took a few days to poke around Beaufort (NC, not SC), where we used to own a home.  I have been wanting to get back there for years but we have always been so rushed trying to see everyone (although we never do).

If you are looking for a fairly inexpensive business opportunity, the Mr. Waffles is for sale.  I think it was just outside Kinston.  You'll probably want to start with some Round-Up in the parking lot.
When I rolled into Beaufort, I gave Gene Riggs a call.  Gene and Pat were fantastic next door neighbors the entire time we had our place in Beaufort.  He still lives in the same house and I was lucky to be able to come out and spend a few hours catching up.  As much as everything in life changes, Gene and Pat haven't.
I stayed down on Beaufort's Front Street at the Inlet Inn.  The first night I went up to Clawson's to get a beer and some food.  The Shrimp and Grits were to die for, and very inexpensive.  Yumm!
I love staying on the waterfront.  There are just so many things to watch and photograph.  There was a fairly steady stream of nice boats moving from the Northeast down to Florida for the winter.  They would show up one afternoon and be gone the next morning.
One morning the entire east coast was breaking records for nightly low temperatures.  Beaufort, even though it is right on the water, was down into the low 20s.  Most of the water on the docks runs through exposed PVC pipe, which is easy to freeze and crack so they left all the hose bibs dipping.  One was dripping just slow enough to create a stalagmite of ice on the dock.  Kind of interesting with the sun rising behind it.
As best I could tell, this Great Blue Heron was hired by the Chamber of Commerce to attract tourists.  He was just soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching people go by.  By the way, I was reading a book and learned the word for that warmth you get when the sun shines on you:  apricity.  Since it plays such a crucial role in dressing in Park City I should feel worse for not knowing it, but even as I type, the spell checker is telling me it is wrong.
Beaufort has always been an interesting mix of historic homes, 2nd home rebuilds, and locals housing.  This is a big house, with a big yard, right across the street from the water.  I was not surprised that I couldn't find one of those signs saying "Renovations by XXX company".  Don't think this would be a good reference for a yard service either.
This boat was beautiful.  It looked roomy and very comfortable, except for the poor guy who has to keep the wood stained.  I was waiting for the sun to go down when the flag caught my attention.  When the wind would blow it it straight, the sun would backlight it.
Finally, the sunset.  This was taken from my balcony at the Inlet Inn.
I drove down to the Cedar Island Ferry, which leads over to Cape Hatteras.  There isn't much to see along the way, but I do like running across Spanish Moss.  That is definitely one we don't see out west.
And some more with a star burst thrown in.
I went back to our neighborhood one more time to take some quick shots of our house.  It looks remarkably similar.  That's our old grill and our indestructible porch furniture. 

The dock looks about the same with the lift for the old jet ski.  I was surprised to see the roof I put over the boat lift still there.  I think I was the only one for miles who put a roof on, so I figured there was some good reason not to.  Gus, the new homeowner, said his boat was still looking new when all the others around looked bleached out by the sun. I do like the little Christmas tree on the right end of the dock.  It lights up every night.
Gus and Deb had replaced the shingles and put in new heat pumps and AC units, but everything else was almost identical. Some of our art work is still hanging on the walls.
Even the fire ants in the yard were just like I remembered them.  This is one thing I am happy not to see in Utah.  I hope that our rocky soil and cold winters will prevent that from ever happening. These buggers are vicious.
My last night there was a good one for sunsets.
About 15 minutes later
And right at the very end.  Quite the pretty evening.  The water would have been a lot prettier if the winds hadn't been blowing at 20+ mph.  A smooth evening would have made some nice reflections.  It also would have permitted me to stay warm.
And a parting note from the Atlanta airport on the way home.  I have seen a lot of different warning signs, but this one was new to me.  Perhaps it was because I was flying out of the international terminal.

This was our last trip for the fall.  Nothing else scheduled for two months, so now we settle in for winter and skiing.