Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Along Back Country Roads

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Far off the major highways, in deep woods and high mountain forests, lie some of my favorite back country roads.

Paved roads in remote places in the American West lead to canyons and deserts where the human population is minimal and natural landscapes stand out.

Sometimes a back country road is a little more than your vehicle can handle. Use caution!

My very favorite back country road is the gravel lane where my mailbox stands. I’m grateful to have a home far from the heavy thoroughfares where noise and stress oppress the environment.

Thank you to the Lens-Artists guest hosts this week, Wandering Dawgs, for inviting us to share our back road adventures. Happy travelling, all, and safe home again!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Getting Away

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
…”

Not being a city girl, I have never escaped the hustling crowd by climbing the stairs to find solitude “Up on the Roof”, like the Carole King/Gerry Goffin song describes. I prefer to travel to and explore places of natural quiet where there is (ideally) no human presence. Wilderness is my favorite Get Away. I am heading out tomorrow to Strawberry Mountain Wilderness in the Mahleur National Forest on my very first backpacking trip. I will not be tethered to a powered vehicle or a “civilized” infrastructure for three whole days. I will be relying on my own two feet and the company of a few experienced hikers. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for more than 40 years!

I have done day hikes in designated Wilderness before, but never an overnight. It is extremely important that our group Leave No Trace of our visit. Keeping wild spaces as pristine as possible ensures that conservation and spiritual values are not compromised.

If we lose the ability to get away from the impact of human domination, we may lose sight of humility and perspective altogether.

Thank you to this week’s hosts, Rusha and Bert of Oh the Places We See.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Wonder-filled World

I love that Amy chose Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” for this week’s challenge theme! That was the key quote I chose as my response to the “Happiness Is…” challenge that Lens-Artists posted back in December of 2018. Here’s the link to that post: https://scillagrace.com/2018/12/01/lens-artists-photo-challenge-happiness-is/

Of course, there are always new opportunities to wonder at this wide, beautiful world!

Yesterday, I hiked for the first time in the Cascades of central Oregon. Snow-capped mountain peaks and colorful wildflowers graced every scenic view. It was truly spectacular!

Iron Mountain has a volcanic plug or lava neck at its top – that’s the rocky protrusion just to the left of the peak. It was formed when lava in a vent hardened. As we climbed up to the top of that formation, we could see the porous features of the lava itself and the rust-colored iron in it. It made me wonder at how this was once an active volcano, as were the other peaks in the Cascade chain on this Pacific ring of fire.

Fire, snow, sunshine, trees…this is a world filled with wonders that shape the future and tell the past. We have so much to enjoy and so much to learn!

Photo credit: Wendy Fekkers

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Park

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Wallace Stegner, 1983

For this week’s photo challenge, Ann-Christine invites us to pick our own theme. I am pleased to show my enthusiasm for the National Park system here in the United States and choose “Pick a Park” as my theme. I have visited many of them across the nation, from Acadia National Park in Maine when I was a preschooler to Pinnacles National Park in California, which was designated a National Park rather than a National Monument in January 2013, the year before I visited. I have also visited a number of other nationally preserved sites – monuments, shores, riverways, caves…but not battlefields. I have participated in citizen science finding fossils at Badlands National Park; gone spelunking at Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, and Wind Cave; witnessed geothermal activity at Yellowstone and Hawaii Volcanoes; rode a horse through Bryce Canyon; sailed around the Apostle Islands; camped in the Canyon of the Ancients; picnicked at Capital Reefs; hiked around the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains; and taken pictures at all those sites. And that’s just a small sampling of ways to interact with these astonishing Earth displays. Perhaps you may be planning a visit to one of our Parks yourself to do an activity I’ve never even tried!

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government’s important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans–millions of them at first-hand–to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation…. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country.”
Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, 1940-1951

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Going Back

“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed.
Some forever, not for better;
Some have gone but some remain.”
~ ‘In My Life’ by The Beatles

During this time of staying “Safer At Home”, I have begun a photo project converting snapshots in my family albums to digital files so that I can share them online with my loved ones, most of whom live on the West Coast while I live in Wisconsin. Scanning these precious images, I keep returning to a very special vacation spot that has been in the family for four generations.

We call it simply The Cottage. It’s a beach house built on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan some time in the 1940s by my father’s parents. My father first brought my mother there when they were courting as college students at Harvard/Radcliffe in the mid 1950s. I spent long weekends and extended weeks there in the summers while I was growing up. Here are some images from the party we had for my third birthday.

I last visited The Cottage with my mother, my sister and brother, my husband, and my four children in 2007, following my oldest daughter’s college graduation. 

To me, The Cottage will always be about the feeling of summer freedom. Walking right out the front door onto the beach at any time, free to explore the sand, the water, the endless horizon, the numerous bits of driftwood and stone, I felt that my life was my own to create. We built sand castles, buried each other up to our chins in sand, jumped waves, collected “glassies”, scared seagulls, threw balls and Frisbees, and lit campfires. I wanted my children to have that same freedom.

We also challenged ourselves to bigger adventures, like canoeing down the White River and riding over the huge dunes, and treated ourselves to local summer pleasures, like root beer and ice cream. 

Freedom and fun are the summer hopes of many children. In the present climate, these are threatened. But these are not frivolous dreams, these are the experiences that demand and build real growth. The ability to make choices and the motivation to make choices for joy must be modeled for the next generations. Limiting choices to staying insular, to keeping things as they are out of fear, is a dangerous example to give our children.

I fervently wish for this global pandemic to teach us the moral lessons we need to learn about continuing exploration and adaptation while treating all living things with compassion and wisdom. May each of you be safe and healthy while you look forward to freedom and fun.

Thank you, John, for hosting this week’s challenge and inviting us to go back into our travels, to remember fondly and to learn.

Lens-Artists Challenge: Pick a Place

Tina at Travels and Trifles hosts this week’s challenge with an invitation for us to pick a place to which we’ve traveled and feature it in our post.
I have not traveled abroad since the death of my husband 11 years ago, but I have done a bit of traveling throughout the western portion of the United States. I am particularly fascinated by canyon country, places where the geology of the place takes center stage an overwhelms the senses, leaving you awestruck.

“When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in the old land, feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving waters, the simplicity of sand and grass, the silence of growth.” — August Frugé 

 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Sand Canyon, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado

“Beauty in front of me, Beauty behind me,
Beauty Above me, Beauty below me,
Beauty all around me,
I walk in Beauty…” — Navaho prayer

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

 

Lens-Artist Challenge: My Travels

I met Steve eight months after I was widowed. In the tumult of grief and transition, he offered me something that was transformational – a chance to go camping. My husband and four kids and I did not camp together. I hadn’t been camping for years, but I consider myself a lifetime Girl Scout. Getting back into the outdoors, practicing self-reliance and adaptability, and surrounding myself with the beauty and non-judgmental, non-moral embrace of Nature was just what I needed to consider Life worthwhile again. Steve’s style of camping has a distinct difference from mine: his motto is not “Be Prepared”. His motto is “Be Open”. My instinct to make lists and consult maps was challenged at the very outset. We spent the first hour of one of our early trips parked at the curb outside my house in a deep philosophical discussion of what it means to be on an adventure. 

Steve also introduced me to the wonder of the National Forests of the U.S.A. There is no fee for camping in the National Forests, but there are Leave No Trace rules. A world of freedom opened up for us when I discovered we could easily make camp, cook, clean up, sleep and deal with personal waste (!) outside of crowded developed campsites.

We have, however, depended on either his former Toyota or my late husband’s Honda to transport all our gear.I would love to be able to experience the freedom of going into even more remote wilderness areas, either with a 4-wheel drive vehicle with higher clearance or a backpack. (The latter would be more realistic if I were ten years younger and in better shape…)

We have enjoyed the diversity, the grandeur, and the autonomy of places not dominated by human impact. I find those sacred spaces truly inspiring… and extremely photogenic.

(I had to include that last photo just to prove I’m not kidding about the Girl Scout bit…)
I thank Amy for sharing her inspirational Travel stories and for inviting us into this Travel Challenge. 

Lens Artist Photo Challenge: Changeable

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Alan Wilson Watts

Steve and I woke up yesterday to a brilliant autumn ballet of frost and color, sun and wind. We said goodbye to the sandhill cranes in our backyard and drove up to Door County to dance with the colors at Peninsula State Park on Green Bay.
Living in Wisconsin does have its benefits. 

Thanks to Amy at The World is a Book for this challenge.

At Wounded Knee

The southern portion of Badlands National Park is jointly managed by the National Park and by the Oglala Lakota. The hope was that one day this section of the park would be the first Tribal National Park in the country. Those plans have not yet become a reality. The northern unit of the park hosts the scientific interpretation of the land and holds all of the associated resources you’d expect at a National Park.

The southern unit is entirely within the Pine Ridge Reservation. At the White River Visitor Center, you can hear the historical interpretation of the people of this area, from paleo-Indians to European settlers to US Army Air Force troops in WWII who used the reservation land for a gunnery range and bombing practice. Just under 350,000 acres were acquired by eminent domain from the Oglala Lakota in 1942 on the pretext that it was “unused, unoccupied, and blighted”. 

Wounded Knee is not within the boundaries of the Park. Its history is told in signs, tombstones, graffiti and the living words of people who live in extreme poverty, mistrustful of neighbors and governments and directly impacted by changes in climate and habitat for the animals that provide their sustenance. I am grateful to Mr. Apple (age 25) and Mr. Fast Horse (age 13) for sharing their story. 

My heart aches for these people, for their wounded dignity, for their invisibility, for their spoiled livelihood. That “living off the land” was ever possible for humans in this place year-round is doubtful, especially after the buffalo herds were decimated by European immigrants. This is an area of seasonal extremes, a place to which you’d make a sacred pilgrimage, spend a time in awe, and respectfully vacate. 

To see the land as sacred, wild, and autonomous allows an attitude of humility to flourish and banishes thoughts of domination, extraction and exploitation.  It brings truer balance and harmony to the relationship. Perhaps from this new understanding, a more sustainable future will develop for our species. 

New Photo Challenge: Lens-Artists “Look Up”

I have been suffering with Photo Challenge withdrawal symptoms, but it’s good to know I’m not alone and that new challenges are always out there. The Lens-Artist group is posting weekly challenges on Saturdays, so I’ve signed up. If you’re interested in joining, HERE is more info. 

This week’s challenge is to “look up”. I just got back from a trip to Badlands National Park, where we enjoyed a marvelous sunset from atop the crest of one of the many ridges. Looking up at the sunset while looking down into the layers of colored rock was a sort of “mirrored” view. 

Thanks, Pati of Pilotfish Blog, for this challenge!