NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Custer Park's Sylvan Lake and The Needle's Eye

Even if you don't realize it, you've probably seen Sylvan Lake.  I recognized it in a commercial recently.  It looks a little something like this.

Wayne and I hiked the 1.5 mile loop trail around the lake in 2009, and the pictures above are from that hike.  My Mom and I hiked around it in 2011 in the early morning.  My advice would be to check it out in the late morning or in the afternoon as it was too shadowy and chilly before the sun got a chance to reach it.

Both Sylvan Lake and the Needle's Eye are located along the Needles Highway.  Don't bring your RV on this road, tight turns and narrow rock tunnels are part of the 14 miles of breathtaking scenery. It was completed in 1922 and definitely isn't for anyone in a hurry, so slow down and enjoy the ride.  Going through the 8' 4" wide by 12' 0" high Needles tunnel  we had to pull in the mirrors on our truck and hold our breath, but seeing the Needle's Eye granite formation on the other side was worth it. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Custer State Park Bison Bonanza, 2009

We first got acquainted with South Dakota in the fall of 2009 on a three week trip that included a short stay in the Custer area and then we moved on to Yellowstone and then Moab.  It was our first western outing and we couldn't wait to see wildlife we don't have in the Midwest.  We were in Custer State Park for less than 10 minutes before we saw our first bison crossing the road.

We were so excited! It wasn't long before a car pulled alongside us coming from the other direction and told us there was a whole herd up ahead. He wasn't kidding.

When we returned on another day the bison bonanza went on and on.  We even saw a little action.

But mostly we found the bison to be wary but calm. We didn't take their calm demeanor for granted and respected the fact that they are wild animals.  One thing we learned on this trip is there is always a fool getting out of their car with a little point and shoot getting way too close.  Completely ridiculous while in Custer State Park since the animals come right out to the road and at times I even leaned backward in my seat when we passed them because they were inches from the window.  Plenty of good shots to be had from the safety of your car, folks, including the nursing mother who wouldn't leave the road!

Custer State Park has more than bison, they also have a network of hiking trails.  One of the trails we took advantage of is the one mile long Badger Clark Historic Trail.  The trail is located behind the historic Badger Hole, home of Charles Badger Clark, South Dakota's first Poet Laureate. The country behind his cabin was very special to Badger and became the inspiration for some of his poetry.

The trail winds through a mixed pine and hardwood forest and along rocky hillsides - a portion of the rock-lined trail was built by the poet himself. Interpretive signs along the trail further explain the trail system.  Just after we got off the trail we glimpsed a bison moving onto it at the exit point.  Just a few minutes delay at any point and we would have had a very large surprise!

I've been thinking about all those unexplored trails that we just didn't have time for all winter long.  I'm sure I've mentioned this already, but if I have time for a longer solo trip this summer, the Custer area is where I'll be heading!  We also hiked the Little Devil's Tower trail, which I covered in another post, and the Sylvan Lake trail which I'll discuss in my next South Dakota post.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Louisville's Theater District, Ya'll

Since we were not far from downtown Louisville yesterday I swung in to eye a bit of the city's architecture.  One way streets, no place to park, and a sporting event just letting out drove me back out in no time.  Before I left I parked illegally and snapped a few photos on the block that houses the Palace Theatre.  A nice gentleman gave me a  free sample of a dark chocolate bourbon truffle so it was worth the trip!  I was also delighted to find these murals on the old Ohio Theatre facade to contribute to Mural Monday.

The Palace Theatre, first known as Loew’s State Theater, was considered one of Louisville’s most elaborate movie palaces.  It was built in 1928 for a reported $1.2 million and was originally designed to show silent films.  The theater was once equipped with a one-thousand pipe Wurlitzer organ that would lift over the stage and provide sound effects.

Although the building has had several renovations in its 81 years, today the theater has been restored to its original design and is used mainly for concerts and other performing arts events.  I couldn't get inside, but this is what I saw from the sidewalk.  If you're dying to see what the inside looks like, the photos at Bluegrass Baobob's blog are fantastic.


Right next door is the Theatre Building and my eyes gobbled up their doorway.  Their door was locked, too.   Apparently this gorgeous entrance is the only part of the building done in the art deco style.  If the interior was art deco I might have considered learning the art of lock picking.  I don't know as many architectural terms as I would like to, but I sure recognize art deco when I see it.

Unintentional Selfie! Happy Monday, Ya'll!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whoo Says You Can't Have a Great Hike in the Mud?

Things are a bit muddy here in north central Kentucky.  Boot scraping and shoe changing before getting into the car is a must.  It was even muddier at Jefferson Memorial Forest yesterday, and the trails not as enticing as those at the Bernheim Arboretum, but we slogged on down the trail in the Paul Yost Rec Area anyway because we were in awe of the sunshine.

I didn't even think I was going to turn on my camera on this hike, and then I saw a swoosh of big bird wing out of the corner of my eye.  Not the giant yellow PBS guy, but a gorgeous owl!  It might have been a celebrity like Big Bird for how excited I got.  Here's my photographic proof.

Okay, I'm not the birder some of you others are since this is the first owl I've seen in the wild, but it's a Barred Owl, right? Someone let me know if I'm wrong.  I'm not used to having video capability on my camera, if I'd remembered I should have switched over to it after I got this shot because it was just as beautiful flying away.  I may now be officially in love with my Canon SX50.  I would have never got this shot with my DSLR. By the time I got it set up the owl probably would have been gone, and due to the heavier lens camera shake probably would have been noticeable.

It's a good thing I'm skinny these days! Eight years ago this might have been a problem, but then again, eight years ago I wouldn't have hiked a muddy trail for the pure love of the sunshine and endorphins either.  Even though you can't see my face,  proof that I was on the trail, just like the owl.

The neighbor by the parking lot had some cute horses. The neigh-bor, get it? Yeah, I know. The white one's coat was kind of long and fuzzy like a stuffed animal.

One more image before I drag Cory out of bed.  I liked it, you can feel the sunshine.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bernheim Arboretum

I had to resort to jumping up and down and pleading to finally get Cory out of bed and out of the cabin, but by late morning Friday we were on our way to the Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont, Kentucky.

Just inside the entrance we pulled into the parking lot of a pond to check out some Canada Geese, and also admire this London Planetree.  As they grow, they shed their bark in large patches, creating mottled trunks of cream, tan, and olive green, a sort of calico bark.  The brown fuzzy seed balls on this tree were amusing to me as we have nothing like this in southeastern Wisconsin.

There are some sculpture pieces on the propery, and also a cool stickwork piece by Patrick Dougherty called Snake Hollow.  We were like a couple of kids exploring the twists and turns.

The staff at the visitor center suggested we check out the Canopy Tree Walk and the Jackson  Yoe Loop hiking trail.  The bridge for the Canopy Tree Walk was interesting but this time of year there wasn't really much to see from it.

The Jackson Yoe Loop was more rewarding, with Cory stopping to explore a creek, and lots of opportunities to try photographing fungi and other forest scenes.  It started off easy but about halfway through turned into a steep endurance challenge for a 1.5-2 mile hike.


We saw a few birds and the flashing tail of a white tailed deer, but otherwise it was pretty uneventful critter-wise.  Today, however, I finally checked something off my "wildlife wish list".  Tell ya about it tomorrow!

Friday, February 22, 2013

No Shepherds Here

Yesterday we drove from the Illinois-Wisconsin border to Sherpherdsville just south of Louisville in Kentucky.  It started raining about 10 minutes before we arrived and rained most of the night, but what do we care?  We were snug in our little KOA cabin for only $57 a night and slept like babies.  The campground is like most KOA parks I've been to, but they do have a nature trail on the property which is a nice bonus.

This morning I left Cory sleeping and made tracks for the nature trail  that leads to a "cave" formed by a rock outcropping that was reported to have been used by the Native Americans as far back as 16,000 B.C. There was some soggy sights along the way.


Saw a crane low over the trees and that led me to this serene spot.

I'm still fooling around with the settings on my new camera and finally found the white balance and auto bracketing functions just in time to spy some fungi!

The rock outcropping ain't much, but it was definitely drier than everywhere else here this morning!

When I climbed up onto the top of the "cave" I discovered it was located right behind our cabin!  My hiking boots are muddy, I saw not another soul on my walk...great way to start the day!  Now if we can only find a Starbucks on our way to the Bernheim.....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Say Cheese!

Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet in DeForest had a cute mural related to cheese making.  Unfortunately I couldn't find any information about it on the internet. Apparently cheese tasting is allowed at Ehlenbach's, a fact I did not know while there or would have certainly indulged.  I bought a sampler pack and wasn't too impressed with two of the cheddars I've tried, nor with the pesto gouda.

I get my gouda at Tenuta's in Kenosha normally, along with other delicious Italian grocery items...I know this is supposed to be about Ehlenbach's, but as I've said before GET TO TENUTA'S if you're zipping down the interstate past Kenosha.  So worth the detour!!

This post is linked to Mural Monday.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Here Fishy, Ice Fishy

Wayne's having some technical difficulty with his ice shack and it's not out on the lake, but he couldn't wait to test out his new quad so he towed a buddy's shack out for him this morning.

I asked Wayne how thick the ice should be to have these shacks out there and he said he likes to wait until it's 12 inches.  It was only 16 degrees this morning and the ice is at 16 inches.

The wind off the ice was sooooo cold that I had Wayne take me back out off the lake as soon as our little photo shoot wrapped up. I know they had stoves out in those ice shacks, but damn!  Wayne caught five crappies last night. Yum? Not sure, but he was pretty proud.

Friday, February 15, 2013

New Toys for Valentine's Day

Well, I bought the Canon SX50 and have 30 days to try it out.  My main complaints with my current Canon Rebel EOS DSLR are that it takes overexposed indoor photos if you use the flash, and underexposed it you don't; that using a 75-300mm zoom still didn't give me the reach I needed for bird shots, not to mention that the shots I did get the lens was so heavy I couldn't get a good one without a tripod; and that lugging around all those extra lenses for different situations got tiresome. 

I drove around the neighborhood to find some birds yesterday and finally got a shot of some at a bird feeder from the car.  Turned out pretty good! I was across the street and a house back from the birds and didn't need a tripod!

When Wayne got home from work we went out to purchase a quad.  He's been working on my approval for this purchase for a couple of years and I finally cracked.  He plans to use it to tow his ice shack on and off the lake and for trails at some point.  Cory is going to use it also so he tagged along.

Much better indoor shots and the flash didn't even go off! The buttons are all in different places and I have to see how much control I'll have once I move beyond the auto settings, but so far I like the camera.  It was $70 less at Best Buy than at our local camera store and Best Buy was a 30 day no questions asked return policy as long as the item isn't damaged.  The camera store told me I could only take "a few" photos or they wouldn't take it back.  Way to help put yourself out business, in my opinion. Even though I would rather spend local, Best Buy won this round with a much better return policy and much better price.

As for the quad, we ended up with a different model than the one Cory is contemplating in the above photo.  I'll post a picture this weekend of the quad when Wayne uses it to tow his shack back out onto the lake.  The weather has been so up and down here this winter that he keeps having to take it off the ice!  We got a great deal on the quad at Nielsen Enterprises in Lake Villa, Illinois and recommend them to anyone looking to buy.

Cory and I are heading to Kentucky to do some hiking on Thursday and I can't wait to see how the new camera performs for landscapes and hiking.  If all looks good at the end of the trip I'll keep it and look into the add-on lenses you can buy with the adapter.  Anyone have any experience with the add-ons?