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!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Making Friends and Silvermine Arch

I made some new friends!  This is quite an event for me.  Cory even documented it with a photograph to prove that they were not imaginary.

From left: Darlene, me and Nicole in front of their home on wheels "Annie"

I love having an excuse to come down to Red River Gorge and hike, but knowing that Darlene and Nicole from Where the Wind Goes were camp hosting at Koomer Ridge Campground through February made heading this way an easy decision.

Peaceful woods at Koomer Ridge

These ladies are my heroes; retiring early, living frugal and green, and spending a lot of their time volunteering in parks and forests around the country.  Cory opted to read in the car and Darlene had leisure pursuits she wanted to follow as well, but Nicole was up for a hike and we had lots to talk about on our way out to Silvermine Arch.

We saw a lot of different tracks that included squirrel or chipmunk tracks that led up to trees and disappeared, deer walking straight down the trail, and the above tracks that looked like a large dog track but crossed the trail through the woods and were not accompanied by human tracks like dog tracks usually are.  Online research makes me think either a stray dog or a large coyote.  Anyone know more please feel free to inform us!

lime green foliose lichen

One area of interest that Nicole and I share is our fondness for lichen and fungi.  Don't judge us.

bracket fungi just beginning?

The Silvermine Arch trail is about 1.5 miles from the campground out to the arch, and includes a stairway that Nicole says has 80 steps.  I trusted her and didn't count them myself.

There was some up and down involved but overall is was a fairly easy trail for the area. With all we had to talk about the time passed quickly and after scurrying under a downed tree we got to the good stuff.

The sandstone had stories to tell, and I was happy to try to recognize its layers and complexities but even though I read the geological brochure the only thing I felt a little confident identifying was some jutting layers of shale.  Maybe shale.  I need to befriend a geologist to find out for sure.

Whatever it is, the rock in this area is just plain cool.

The icicle formations were pretty stellar as well.

My favorite shot of the outing though was this one that got the black and white treatment.  

Nicole and Darlene have big plans to explore Newfoundland this summer.  I am so jealous.  They get to spend the summer picking berries and watching icebergs - someday Wayne and I will too, but we'll just have to be satisfied with following them along on their blog for now.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Return to Angel Windows

Cory just is not into hiking, but I did get him out of the car to walk the quarter mile down to Angel Windows.  The snow made things much different than when Sharon and I walked to them a little over a year ago.

There was a downed tree across the trail that we had to decide how we wanted to tackle.  I figured it would be better if we just braced ourselves between it and the cliff, and I think it turned out to be safer than trying to go over it on the trail and possibly fall off the side of the snow drop-off.  Just one girl's opinion.  Cory eventually got over the fact that I took his picture...I think.

And hey, I'm wearing the same orange jacket that I had on the last time I was here!  This time I was the one goofing around in the "window" while someone else took the picture.  Cory said, "Mom, you are so weird."  Or something like that.  I'm so weird I forgot his exact choice of words.

I'm also so weird that I wanted to freeze the moment when the sun shone down on the trail and everything was sparkling and the air was so fresh and clean.  The picture below is the best I could do, and it's a pretty good way to momentarily recapture the feel of the winter sun as we crunched through the snow while the water dripped off the sandstone...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Nada Tunnel Ice Curtains

I saw the sign for the Nada Tunnel when Cory and I were on our way in to Stanton for supplies and we made a quick dart over to check it out.  The narrow 900 foot long tunnel was originally built for the railroad to bring out timber in the early 1900's.

The tunnel was really cool but is only 12 feet wide and 13 feet high so don't plan on bringing your RV or large truck through it.  So much water was running down the one entrance that it was almost like passing through a waterfall.  The view into the Red River Gorge was simply stunning when we came out the other side.  Imagine this spot in the fall!

Of course it turns out that there are some basic petroglyphs nearby so when I come back next time I will have to hunt those down.  Not the best weather for wandering around beneath the sandstone rock shelters looking for markings, might get taken out by a giant icicle!

Here is a video of our trip back through, note the big chunk of rock on the right hand side as we approach the other end of the tunnel.  Glad one of those rocks or icicles didn't fall on the roof of my car!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Osborne Bend Trail

The main roads are clear after the recent snow, but the parking lots and side roads are still snowy in Red River Gorge, making finding a place to pull over and hike a little difficult.

The lot for the Osborne Bend Trail that climbs above the Red River was partially plowed so I pulled in and started up.  After a few days in a row over 40F it is very mushy and wet work. But I'll take it any day since this is not what winter is like in Wisconsin.  I'll say it again WIND MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!  The same temps back home feel 20 degrees colder when the wind chill is factored in.  Walking in this kind of weather felt like a blessing and not a curse.  I even took my gloves off for minutes at a time!

Only footprints are mine - no one has been here in at least 4 days!

It's kind of hard to find fungi under all that snow, so I looked up instead of down.  Those blowdowns across the trail were great sources of lichen and fungi.



Downed trees weren't the only things I walked underneath.

And tiny quartz pebbles are fun to find too.  Not sure but I think it is sandstone and not limestone.

Though there are 150 arches within the Red River Gorge I haven't seen any of them yet.

I only went up about 3/4 of a mile, which was plenty in the slushy snow.  Back down at the trailhead I admired the view of the Red River but definitely wasn't tempted to go for a swim.

Cory skipped the wet hike, but next up we're hitting the area art scene in search of some cool sculptures.  Maybe we'll even take one home with us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Last Minute

As I mentioned before, Cory and I decided to hit the road and drive down to Kentucky at the last minute.  We arrived yesterday at Natural Bridge State Park and the trail up to the arch looks a little different than the last time I hiked up there with my Mom and Katrina.

Checking in to the State Park Lodge a little after 4:00 gave me just enough time to throw my boots and snow pants on and climb on up to try to catch the last light of the day.

I made it just in time to get the last minute of good daylight before the sun slipped behind the clouds.

Light on the ridge, smile on my face!

With nothing but clouds on the horizon and daylight fading fast I headed back down, mindful of where I placed my feet on the snowy trail.  The area caught the edge of winter storm Jonas and received a foot, and though it soared up to 50F yesterday the ravines don't get much sun so a lot of snow hasn't started melting yet.  So weird that Kentucky has more snow than we do in Wisconsin!  It's been pretty snow free since early December, hope we don't have to worry about drought up in the Midwest this summer.

One short but strenuous hike and I'm feeling more like myself already.  Sometimes the last minute is the one that really counts!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day at the Domes

Somehow I talked the whole family into meeting at the Mitchell Park Domes in Milwaukee yesterday afternoon.  The history of the domes and the land for the park goes all the way back to the turn of the century but the current horticultural domes were opened to the Milwaukee public in the 1960's.

Wayne at far left, Charlie, Katrina and Cory follow behind

The first dome we checked out was the desert environment, which contained palms, succulents, cacti and grasses from the American Southwest, Africa, Madagascar, South America and Mexico.

I bought a new tripod so was experimenting with using it, and have to admit it was easier to change my lenses with the tripod keeping me a little more "hands free".  My shots turned out a little sharper, too.

The light wasn't the greatest in the domes, I found that even when I tweaked the shots the color feels a little flat to me.  Natural light would make the plants look better, but we did save all that time and gas money by not having to go to the real desert.

The tropical dome supposedly contains live birds, frogs and lizards but even though we looked we did not find any except the fake frog in the pond.

Katrina found a big bunch of bananas.  No monkeys, unfortunately.

And there were a few nice looking orchids to brighten things up.

In the Show Dome the current exhibit features model trains, which is how I talked the men into this outing in the first place.

As you can see in the above shot, the domes are not really that big.  I'd say 75% of the floor space of the Show Dome is in the picture.  The kids were having a good time though, and of course the star of the show was Thomas.

The details were fun to search out, I liked the fact that there was a hiker in the park scene.

Another favorite was the "Tremblerz" tableau which was a take on the movie monsters from "Tremors", one of Wayne's beloved "B" movies.

Earl Bassett: Hey, Rhonda you ever seen anything like this before?
Valentine McKee: Oh, sure Earl. Everyone knows about them we just didn't tell you.

Wayne also spotted coyotes.  See the one on top of the rock in the shot below?

I'm glad we went, but I wouldn't go again.  We've been to so many nicer garden exhibits in our travels.  I've been meaning to get to the Chicago Botanical Gardens for the last couple of summers, (ever since Judy showcased in on her blog!) maybe this will be the year I finally get around to it

After we got back home yesterday Cory and I packed up my little car and headed for Kentucky.  Red River Gorge with a bit of snow from that big winter storm should make for an interesting winter hiking trip, and I'm hoping the roads are clear enough later in the week that Sharon can stop by and hit a trail or two with us!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kitty Tested, Kitty Approved

The kittens have settled in to their new home nicely.  If anything I think they are feeling a little too comfortable.

And we've never had so many cat toys and towers in our lives.

The long-time residents are finally letting down their guard.

I know the video of the kitties was fun, but here's a Kitty video of another sort, this one featuring Betty White as Kitty's mom on "That 70's Show".

And now Judy can see who Topher Grace is since she commented months ago that she didn't know him when I mentioned he'd made a stop in Kenosha! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Strolling Michigan Avenue- The Wrigley Building to The Chicago Athletic Association

There's a lot to see from the Michigan Avenue bridge, former site of Fort Dearborn.  It's hard to believe that this area belonged solely to the Native Americans until almost 1800.  Fort Dearborn was built in 1804 and only lasted until the War of 1812 when the Potawatomi burned it to the ground.

But of course that was only the beginning and not the end of the story and this spot has seen a lot of action including the Great Fire which is memorialized in sculpture on one of the four bridge houses.


I'll have to go back to this spot and get the other sculptures as well as pictures of the bridge itself.  It always amazes me how much I miss when I'm in the moment.  I was busy being awed by the buildings that dominate this crossing of the Chicago River, including the iconic Wrigley Building and its glorious clock tower.  The sun even came out for a few minutes, maybe angels were even singing, who knows?

Can you blame me for being a little too distracted to pay proper attention to the bridge?

The London Guarantee Building sits opposite the Wrigley Building across the river.  It is currently being renovated and will open this year as the London House hotel.. the sneak photos I found online took my breath away.  There will even be a rooftop restaurant and bar with incredible city and river views.

I didn't look as high as the cupola on the roof, my eyes were too busy on the lower levels trying to take in all the Beaux Arts ornamental details. I can't wait to get inside when it reopens, but I'm sure I'm not the only one and the crowds will be as monumental as the building is.

I know I already posted a picture of the doorway for 333 N. Michigan Avenue on the other corner, but how about a closer look at the design over the door?  The Roman god Neptune eluded me when I walked by, what a delightful surprise to see him when I reviewed the photos.

And a few floors above Neptune a series of panels circles the building depicting the time when the early settlers of the area were occupying Fort Dearborn.  More Art Deco bas relief adorn the elevators but when I went inside I was stopped from exploring.  Perhaps another entrance, it seemed that one led to private residences.  The Blackhawks store is in this building so public access is available somewhere.

Not on Michigan Avenue but around the corner on Wacker along the river I spotted Father Time hanging out on The Jewelers Building. I'll have to take a closer look at that "gem" on another visit!

Back on Michigan Avenue I headed away from the Chicago River toward the Art Institute to check out what the hotel business has done for the Chicago Athletic Association Building.

Things were a bit modest inside, but the pool floor with painted lanes was neat, and the checkered floor off the lobby contrasted nicely with the elaborate ceiling.  Want to see more than I did?  Check out this link.

I'm so eager to go back and see all that I missed.  Maybe when the London House opens Wayne and I can go have lunch at that rooftop restaurant....