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, March 29, 2014

Yellowstone Flashback - Bison Watching

In my last flashback post I mentioned that we camped at the Fishing Bridge RV park in Yellowstone.  The morning we arrived to check in (make sure you have a reservation, they fill up months in advance!) the ranger told us we had just missed the bison herd coming through the parking lot.  That would have been a welcome!  They cross Fishing Bridge quite often, we saw them at least once a day.  The picture in the header of the above link to the RV park is an accurate depiction of the sites available.  Kind of tight, but not a big deal because you spend all day out in the park anyway.  Sites can accommodate RVs up to 40 long, are full hook-up, and the laundry facility was convenient though always busy.  Best to bring as much supplies into the park as you can ahead of time, it's a long way back out to the grocery store and the General Stores in the park are quite pricey.

Don't forget to click on any of the pictures to see them bigger and better.  Some are really worth it!

The bison were everywhere, when you visit the park be prepared to see them often.  No need to jump out of your car, even with a point and shoot.  Please be safe and stay in your vehicle.  We had to tell one little old lady to get back in her car when she got out to take a picture of one in the road.   While bison may seem docile they are unpredictable wild animals and when they're under pressure they can attack suddenly.   If you've never seen footage before, take a look at some of the videos at the bottom of the page at this link.

This park visitor got a surprise when he tried to exit his cabin.  The door shut quite quickly.

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.  It is one of the few herds free of cattle genes.  Depending on the year there are anywhere from 2,300 to 5,000 bison that live in two different sub-populations within the park.

Don't let their gentle look fool you.  They can run up to 35mph and pivot quickly.  And don't forget about those horns.  Still not convinced to stay 50 feet away?  Read this report.

There were a few bulls who were being quite attentive to the females.  While the bulls are sexually mature at the age of 2, it's usually the older, proven  males that get to breed.

The rut begins in July and goes through August usually.  Things seemed pretty tame during our visit in September, but maybe there were a few gals a little late to the party still about.  Calves are born mostly in late April and May, but that's a dicey time to visit Yellowstone as much of it is still snowbound.

What about that big hump on their back?  It's all muscle, making their neck strong so they can plow through snow to get at food in winter.  I have a copy of the book "Yellowstone Winterscapes" by Jeff Henry that I bought online.  Great pictures of winter bison among other things.  I highly recommend it, but I don't know if I'm hardy enough for a winter visit myself.  I'm not a fan of noisy snowmobile travel and wouldn't want to disturb the wildlife by trying to view them in such an intrusive way.

Speaking of Yellowstone bison in winter, in some harsh winters bison may attempt to migrate outside the park to forage.  Bison management has been hotly debated on this issue for some time, mainly due to concerns over brucellosis which can spread to domestic cattle.  Elk may also transmit this disease, but no plan is in place at this time to prevent their roaming.  When I first learned of this topic I was drawn in immediately.  Seems like pure and simple bison discrimination to me.  From 1985 to 1991 licensed hunters lined up outside the park to kill wandering bison.  This practice was eliminated due to public outcry (power to the people!) but roaming bison are still culled to some degree.

  Recently the Montana Supreme Court ruled that bison have the right to roam outside the park.  Want to learn more on this topic?  The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has ways you can help.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Yellowstone Flashback - Springs and Things

Time for another Yellowstone flashback!  It's not all geysers in America's first National Park. Click the link here to find out more about the park's geothermal systems. Click on any of the pictures to see them clearer and bigger.

Hot springs are actually the most common geothermal system in the park, not geysers.

Illustration of a hot spring.

Morning Glory

Anybody who's been to visit Morning Glory knows it's tragic story.  People have thrown literally tons of coins, trash, rocks, and logs into the pool over the years. Much of the debris subsequently became embedded in the sides and vent of the spring, affecting water circulation and accelerating the loss of thermal energy. Through the years Morning Glory's appearance has changed as its temperature dropped. Orange and yellow bacteria that formerly colored only the periphery of the spring now spread toward its center.

We were amazed at how much trash we saw littered along the boardwalks in the park.  Much of it obviously thrown as it was a decent distance away. So sad.

Another kind of spring is featured at the Mammoth Terraces in the northern section of the park.  The limestone deposits make for a very interesting landscape.  Liberty Cap pictured above was formed from limestone deposited from a single water source that has long since found another escape route.

Springs that were once active may appear to be lifeless now, but may become active again at any time.

The springs aren't the only sources of water in the park.  The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States at 692 miles long.  We saw a lot of people fishing in it when we visited and we took a walk along it near our campground at Fishing Bridge, spying deer tracks as well as a bald eagle flying overhead.  We attended a ranger talk at Fishing Bridge about the endangered Cutthroat Trout and the non-native lake trout that they are constantly battling in an attempt to preserve this species.

Even with all the water in the park, in places it seems as if the land is on fire with all the smoke and steam.

Norris Geyser Basin

So much to see and do in Yellowstone, but bison watching was probably my favorite.  Guess I'll have to tell you all about it next time!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Boring and Not So Boring

I just woke up from dreaming about slip covers and trying to find matching throw pillows.  First of all, I have dust mite allergies and would never own these items.  Secondly, so HORRIFYINGLY BORING that I forced myself to wake up and get out of bed even though this is the morning I usually sleep in a little.  I worked 11 hours yesterday and stayed up late rewatching the first season of "Game of Thrones" since the new season starts soon.  I highly recommend the HBO show and the books.

I missed Monday Mural yesterday.  I'm just way off this week!  More murals by Joe Rock from Nevada.  It's a shame these nicely done murals are hidden out back by the garbage dumpster.  Cory and I sampled some of the chocolate and thought it was pretty good.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Almost Spring Hitch Itch

Been busy all week with work and my parents.  I got my new camera lens in the mail but haven't taken it out for a spin yet.  We had two days this week the temps got over forty but the forecast shows we won't see that again until Tuesday.  After that it's a steady gradual climb to above 50F!  I don't know what we'll all do around here.  Probably break out the tank tops and flip flops.  Wayne's been talking about getting the fifth wheel out of the back yard every day and starting the spring shakedown.  I think hitch itch has set in for him...for me it never goes away.

I used to grumble that we didn't leave it in the driveway all winter, now I'm happy it sits out back so I don't see it all the time.  I don't drive in that direction when I leave the house and I can't see it out any of the 3 windows I ever look out of so I'm not reminded of what I'm missing.  It sits adjacent to our neighbor's garage, one of Wayne's favorite hangouts when he's not in an ice shack over the winter.

Most of our snow has melted with the days we've gotten over 40F here and there.  I forgot what the ground looked like.  Something else I'm not used to seeing - blue skies and sunshine!  Forecast today high of 29F with mostly sunny skies.  Still too cold for a walk with the wind, but I just got back from the gym and after I eat my turkey gouda panini I'll take a sunny drive down into the suburban Sunday madness to get a few things at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.  Cory's favorite Trader Joe's item is their peanut butter cups, Wayne's is their frozen haddock filets and mine is their frozen mac 'n cheese or maybe their oranges.  What's your favorite Trader Joe's find?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Go For a Swim

As if kids needed any further encouragement to make their way to the local public pool, right?  I loved this mural though.  It's one of the Youth ArtWorks pieces in Reno.  Since 1997, Youth ArtWorks has been providing artistically inclined young people with rewarding summer employment. The young artists work as paid apprentices to established professional artists, who provide training and guidance. All of the conceptual and physical labor of Youth ArtWorks projects is done by the young artists.

The program began as a collaboration among the Sierra Arts Foundation, the Reno Police Department and the Nevada Museum of Art. The program initially was aimed at young people involved with graffiti crimes as a positive way to channel their creative energy without illegally defacing private property.  Gotta love it when people solve problems creatively.  In this case, literally.

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Camping Equipment Shopping Spree

It's been quite a week around here. While my mom made a couple of trips up to the ER to deal with a virus that turned into bronchitis and then pneumonia, my dad suffered a COPD exacerbation that landed him in the hospital for a couple of days.  While there they discovered his blood sugar level was quite high, which wasn't a big surprise as we've watched his A1C (and his weight) climb over the past year and a half.  For awhile he was following a diet plan that I outlined for them, and his A1C fell below 7.  Needless to say, the Diet Nazi descended upon their home again, cleaning out cupboards, buying groceries and making a few meals to hold them over until they get well enough to cook on their own.  I'll be back out to their house again on Tuesday to cook again and help get a weekly meal plan re-instated.  This time I intend to go by at least once a week for longer than the 6 week period that I did last time.  We're talking months, maybe even a year.  Accountability can make all the difference, and who wants their crazy daughter standing in their living room lecturing them about healthy eating every week? Shut her up by following the plan and get her talking about things that don't turn her into a  joyless nag, right?

That's a lot of orange.  I have an orange bike and water bottle too.  I don't know why.

As a break from all the medical drama I decided that today was the day to set up the tent I bought from Amazon a couple of weeks ago.  I normally shy away from spending money on myself, a habit left over from all those years staying at home with the kids.  This year we had a big surplus of funds when Wayne returned to work and the overtime was plentiful, so I decided it was time to get all those items on my wish list that I usually feel too guilty to splurge on.  I already told you about my new camera and my first ever laptop purchase, but it didn't end there.  After reading a lot of reviews I bought a Eureka Copper Canyon tent, too.  It's too heavy and bulky to take along on hiking trips, but it'll be great for having guests on my normally solo camping trips to Wisconsin's great state parks.

kit lens that wouldn't focus in use

Check out how tall it is!  And I set it up all by myself, after almost taking out the chandelier a couple of times that is.  No more changing clothes behind the car after checking to make sure no one is around.

Goofy wanted to "help"

In addition to the tent that I can't wait to use, I got a trekking pole, a serious Osprey backpack for some overnight camping on the Ice Age Trail here in Wisconsin this year and a Lowepro camera backpack too.  The trekking pole's knob-like handle detaches and you can mount a camera onto it, turning it into a monopod.  I bought the backpack and the trekking pole at REI along with a water reservoir and am very happy with the expert advice I got from REI's staff.

It almost killed me to put all this away after setting it up

The Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW backpack that I bought was very easy to use on my recent trip up to Menominee. (Click on the link and watch the video!)  I hated the one I had before, (see header photo) my back was always drenched in sweat, and it was difficult to access the camera.  Putting the bag on the ground to get at my equipment has led to equipment falling out onto the ground, or dirt getting in like during my recent trip to Reno.  I think I ruined my kit lens (no big loss) when sand got in the bag.  I'm still working at getting it to work right (autofocus won't engage) since I passed that camera body and lens down to Cory.  I wish the new bag had a touch more room for non-camera items, but I figured out that I can lash my Keen sandals onto the outside for water crossings which was a dilemma with my old bag as well.  It also has a spot for a 1 liter water reservoir and a place for a tripod.  By the way, in case you want to buy one too, the Flipside was way cheaper on Amazon than anywhere else, like $50 cheaper!  My only complaint is that I wish there was more padding on the straps.  If I find I need more padding I'm sure I can come up with a solution though.

When the Canon 70D and the ND grad filters go in it's full

Today I ordered a Canon 17-40mm lens online after reading a bunch of reviews.  I was tempted by the 18-35mm...but I just couldn't justify paying $1700 for a lens.  As it is the one I ordered still cost more money than my original Canon EOS DSLR did.

Now, if only the weather would co-operate so I can use all this stuff! Right now it's 19F and the wind is blowing so it feel like it's on 7F.  No camping weather in sight, I'm not that crazy.  But,  Mom and I are heading to Gatlinburg next month, and I'm so excited that I might even bring the tent if there's room in the car!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Smoke Shop Murals

I'll be showing Reno murals on Monday Mural for awhile yet, and this one was easily spotted from the road.

Back to work today.  High of 46F today and 42F tomorrow.  It's about time!  Maybe enough of the snow around here will melt that the curbside drains will be exposed and all the water piling up everywhere can start draining away.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Out and About in Appleton

The downside to life in Menominee for Katrina is there aren't a lot of places to go for entertainment.  Once our plan for the ice caves went out the window we didn't have a lot of other options, especially in the winter.  Even Green Bay doesn't have much to do, strangely enough.  So we drove an hour and a half to Appleton for a shopping trip to the Fox River Mall and a visit to the History Museum at the Castle.

The History Museum at the Castle has been on my list for awhile.  After our visit I'm glad I never made a special trip for it.  While the building looks like it will be interesting from the outside, there wasn't much going on inside.

The "Metamorph Lion," a part of the public art project, "Lions of the Valley," was donated to the museum and began its display on the front lawn in 2007.  I looked for more information online but wasn't able to determine where any of the other lions are located except throughout the Fox Valley area.

Admission to the museum is $7.50 each for adults.  I love a small museum, but this one was very dry and dull, unfortunately.  We tried to drag it out, but I don't think we were inside more than 15 minutes.  The permanent exhibit on Houdini was somewhat interesting.  Houdini was not born in Appleton but claims it as his hometown.

If you had kids along it could be fun trying out all the interactive exhibits.

The other exhibits in the museum were of good quality, but just not very interesting.

With the kind of weather we've been having I did find this photograph inspiring.  At least our winter hasn't looked quite like that one!

There was a display box with vintage Valentines inside by the entrance.  Time for them to get their Easter related exhibit out, but I did get a kick out of seeing them.

The mall was jam-packed, we were not the only ones who felt it was the only thing around to do on a Saturday.  After our shopping was done we ate dinner at the Stone Cellar Brew Pub.  Very crowded, but very good too.  Katrina has been there multiple times now and enjoys their beer as well as their organic meals.

Today I'm back home and it's all about cooking and cleaning.  No more cupcakes around so I made a batch of Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie bars to enjoy while watching "Catching Fire" which I bought a copy of yesterday.  I'll have to wait until November to see "The Mockingjay" in theaters.  I've been watching "True Detective" on HBO and am realizing that Woody Harrelson is a much more versatile actor than I ever gave him credit for.  Big difference between goofy Woody from Cheers, alcoholic mentor Haymitch in "The Hunger Games" and detective Marty Hart with his complex mix of personal flaws and moral dedication to protecting children in the line of his police work.  Haven't watched it yet?  Catch it on HBO, you won't be sorry.  I think the finale for the first season airs tonight, as well as a new episode of "Girls".  Sunday is the best night for TV this time of year, I won't miss Matt LeBlanc on "Episodes" or "Shameless" on Showtime either!  And all while Wayne works second shift tonight so he doesn't have to wonder why I watch dramas when he'll only watch comedies.

A big thanks to those who commented on my Raynaud's situation, as well as those who've been chiming in with photography tips.  One of the reasons for writing this blog is to connect with others out there and it's great to be finding people who share my interests as well as those who can relate to life's little irritating surprises!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

You Can't Buy Happiness, But You Can Buy Cupcakes

Yesterday I met Katrina at her office after spending a few hours at the Stephenson Library in Marinette playing with my new camera and laptop.  We had a long drive out to the other end of Marinette County for a presentation on domestic violence to a group of second graders.

Not all domestic violence agencies are lucky enough to have programs for youth education like Rainbow House does.  Katrina visits kids from 2nd grade on up to high school, talking about domestic violence and teen dating violence.  The kids got pretty excited about the description of Rainbow House except for the fact that they don't have an Xbox!  She had to remind them that as nice as Rainbow House can be people are there because scary things are happening at home.  The main emphasis of her presentation for kids of this age group is knowing who "safe" people are that you can go talk to if domestic violence happens at your home.

After her presentation we headed back to Marinette and made two other stops.  She was excited to show me a new restaurant in town called The Ironworks on Main.  The building was built in 1889 and was the home of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for many years.  I loved the sculpture they had commissioned for the top of the building.

The industrial theme was continued throughout the restaurant, including a metal lunch tin holding silverware on the table, and Katrina's fries even came in a little bucket.  The fries were AMAZING...the rest of the food mediocre.  I ordered a plain cheese pizza that was practically flavorless...except for the insane amount of onions used for the sauce.  It was more like salsa than pizza sauce.  The crust and the cheese were bland, it was the weirdest pizza I think I've ever ordered.

Our second stop was the Night Owl Bakery.  Let me tell ya, no complaints there!  When I arrived on Thursday night Katrina had already stopped there and picked up four cupcakes for us to sample.  We tried lemon almond, boston cream, cappucino and an interesting spicy strawberry.  When we went back yesterday we grabbed four new flavors to try.

This time we sampled a suzy Q, lavendar honey, dark chocolate and a strawberry rose.  The dark chocolate was my favorite of the 8 cupcakes we sampled, but the honey lavendar was delicious as well.  I was happily shocked at the price, only $9.92 after tax for all 4!

Today's plans have changed.  We were supposed to drive up to Munising and visit the Eben Ice Caves.  I've been struggling with hands and feet that easily get painfully cold for the last few years and have been wondering whether I suffer from Raynaud's.  Yesterday my hands and feet never got warm all day it seemed, and when we arrived at The Ironworks my left pinky was numb.  As I rubbed my hands trying to warm them I noticed the tip was completely white.  A few more minutes of rubbing and it finally turned bright red before returning to normal color and sensation.  I've also had the opposite problem occasionally where my toes will be bright red and hot for awhile.  Once the temperature falls below 50 I'm wearing lightweight gloves, and it seems no amount of Smartwool socks or gloves can keep me warm once winter sets in.  After yesterday's episode I decided that maybe I need to be done exposing myself to extreme cold as I'm likely just making things worse and might someday regret the damage I'm doing to my annoyed circulatory system.

 As if I needed a real reason to want to live somewhere warmer, right?  Luckily I've never been a fan of cold weather or cold weather activities so I'm not missing much...except getting through the confinement of winter has been hard enough and now I'm going to confine myself more, most likely.  Oh well, there are always cupcakes to console me! Today we're going shopping in Appleton instead, and maybe we'll hit a museum or something.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Heat Wave in Menominee

I drove 4 hours after work yesterday to get to Menominee, Michigan to visit Katrina for the weekend.  High today is supposed to hit's a heat wave, even the waitress at the Serving Spoon told me so this morning.

The snowbound cow above needs glasses even though it doesn't seem to have eyes.  Ponder that a moment.

When I drove to breakfast I passed the old First National Bank and remembered to stop and get a shot of it showing the great architecture that I missed on the side when I saw it in December.

I tossed off a few shots on full auto on my NEW CANON 70D.

I'm still trying to adapt to how fast that shutter flies when I hit the button.  I drove all the way down First Street along the water to see what might be out there and ran across a few icebound boats.

I'm not happy with the exposure, but standing on the bridge with the frigid wind blowing right through you is not the time to figure out your controls on your new camera.  I also bought a laptop just a few weeks ago and haven't uploaded a photo editing program to it yet so all I was able to do to was crop, which so far is more than I'm able to do on Wayne's work laptop!

So, here I sit in the Spies Public Library, trying not to become snowblind from the huge windows that overlook the lakefront while gulls wheel past.  I arrived 15 minutes before opening so I had a little time to read my camera manual.  This "Q" button idea is pretty awesome, I can quickly get to all my favorite setting options like white balance, continuous shooting, and lighting.  Later today I'm meeting Katrina at her work and we're going to a school for me to shoot one of her presentations for the kids.  Had to find that setting for florescent light!  When I ordered the camera I also ordered a 50mm lens but when I gave it a quick try the other day I didn't feel it did anything my zoom wasn't doing.  Maybe I was shooting the wrong subjects, but I bought it for architecture and when I shot the front of my work building with both lenses I didn't see a lot of difference.  I returned it yesterday and am going to try something else instead.

Smells like they recently shampooed the carpets in here so I'm wrapping this up and heading back out into what constitutes a heat wave in the Upper Midwest. I need to figure out how to shoot with the snow by tomorrow because we're heading up to the Munising area to find those ice caves!